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The Sayings of Confucius.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.


YEN YÜAN asked, What is love?
The Master said: “Love is to conquer self and turn to courtesy. Could we conquer self and turn to courtesy for but one day, all mankind would turn to love. Does love flow from within, or does it flow from others?”
Yen Yüan said: “May I ask what are its signs?”
The Master said: “To be ever courteous of eye and ever courteous of ear; to be ever courteous in word and ever courteous in deed.”
Yen Yüan said: “Dull as I am, I hope to live by these words.”Chung-kung asked, What is love?
The Master said: “Without the door to behave as though a great guest were come; to treat the people as though we tendered the high sacrifice; not to do unto others what we would not they should do unto us; to breed no wrongs in the state and breed no wrongs in the home.”
Chung-kung said: “Dull as I am, I hope to live by these words.”Ssu-ma Niu asked, What is love?
The Master said: “Love is slow to speak.”
“To be slow to speak! Can that be called love?”
The Master said: “That which is hard to do, can it be lightly spoken?”Ssu-ma Niu asked, What is a gentleman?
The Master said: “A gentleman knows neither sorrow nor fear.”
“No sorrow and no fear! Can that be called a gentleman?”
The Master said: “He finds no sin in his heart, so why should he sorrow, what should he fear?”Ssu-ma Niu cried sadly: “All men have brothers, I alone have none!”
Tzu-hsia said: “I have heard that life and death are allotted, that wealth and honours are in Heaven’s hand. A gentleman is careful and does not trip; he is humble towards others and courteous. All within the four seas are brethren; how can a gentleman mourn his lack of them?”Tzu-chang asked, What is insight?
The Master said: “To be unmoved by lap and wash of slander, or by plaints that pierce to the quick, may be called insight. Yea, whom lap and wash of slander, or plaints that pierce to the quick cannot move may be called far-sighted.”Tzu-kung asked, What is kingcraft?
The Master said: “Food enough, troops enough, and a trusting people.”
Tzu-kung said: “Were there no help for it, which could best be spared of the three?’
“Troops,” said the Master.
“And were there no help for it, which could better be spared of the other two?”
“Food,” said the Master. “From of old all men die, but without trust a people cannot stand.”Chi Tzu-ch´eng said: “A gentleman is all nature: what can art do for him?”
“Alas! my lord,” said Tzu-kung, “how ye speak of a gentleman! No team overtakes the tongue! Nature is no more than art; art is no more than nature. Without the fur, a tiger or a leopard’s hide is as the hide of a dog, or goat.”Duke Ai said to Yu Jo: “In this year of dearth I have not enough for my wants; what should be done?”
“Ye might tithe the people,” answered Yu Jo.
“A fifth is all too little,” said the duke; “how could a tenth avail?”
“When the people all live in plenty,” answered Yu Jo, “will the king alone be in want? If the people are all in want, can the king alone live in plenty?”Tzu-chang asked how to raise the mind and scatter delusions.
The Master said: “Make faithfulness and truth thy masters, and follow the right; the mind will be raised. We wish life to things we love, death to things we hate. To wish them both life and death is a delusion.
  • ‘Whether prompted by wealth,
  • Yet ye made a distinction.’”
  • Ching, Duke of Ch´i asked Confucius, What is kingcraft?
    Confucius answered: “When the king is king and the minister is minister; when the father is father and the son is son.”
    “True indeed!” said the duke. “Were the king no king and the minister no minister, were the father no father and the son no son, could I get aught to eat, though the grain were there?The Master said: “To stint a quarrel with half a word Yu is the man.”
    Tzu-lu never slept over a promise.The Master said: “At hearing lawsuits I am no better than another. What is needed is to stay lawsuits.”Tzu-chang asked, What is kingcraft?
    The Master said: “To be tireless of spirit and faithful at work.”The Master said: “Breadth of reading and the ties of courtesy will also keep a man from error’s path.”The Master said: “A gentleman shapes the good in man; he does not shape the bad in him. Contrariwise the vulgar.”Chi K´ang asked Confucius how to rule.
    Confucius answered: “To rule is to set straight. If we give an upright lead, sir, who will dare walk crooked?”Chi K´ang being vexed by robbers spake of it to Confucius.
    Confucius answered: “But for your greed, sir, though ye rewarded thieves, no man would steal.”Chi K´ang, speaking of kingcraft, said to Confucius: “To help the good, should we kill the bad?”
    Confucius answered: “Sir, what need has a ruler to kill? Were ye set on good, sir, your people would do good. The king’s mind is the wind, and grass are the minds of the people: whither the wind blows, thither the grass bends.”Tzu-chang asked, When may a scholar be called eminent? The Master said: “What dost thou mean by eminence?” Tzu-Chang answered: “To be famous in the state, and famous in his home.”The Master said: “That is fame, not eminence. The eminent man is plain and straight. He loves right, weighs men’s words, and scans their looks. At pains to step down to them, he will be eminent in the state, and eminent in his home. The famous man wears a mask of love, but his deeds belie it. He knows no misgivings, and fame will be his in the state and fame be his in his home.”Whilst wandering through the Rain God’s glade with the Master, Fan Ch´ih said to him: “May I ask how to raise the mind, amend evil, and scatter errors?”
    The Master said: “A good question! Rate the task above the prize; will not the mind be raised? Fight thine own faults, not the faults of others; will not evil be mended? One angry morning to forget both self and kin, is that no error?”Fan Ch´ih asked, What is love?
    The Master said: “To love mankind.”
    He asked, What is wisdom?
    The Master said: “To know mankind.”
    Fan Ch´ih did not understand.
    The Master said: “Exalt the straight, put aside the crooked; the crooked will grow straight.”
    Fan Ch´ih withdrew, and meeting Tzu-hsia, said to him: “I was received by the Master and asked him ‘What is wisdom?’ The Master answered: ‘Exalt the straight, put aside the crooked; the crooked will grow straight.’ What did he mean?”
    “How rich a saying!” said Tzu-hsia. “When Shun was lord of the earth, he chose Kao-yao from the many, exalted him, and evil vanished. When T´ang was lord of the earth, he chose Yi-yin from the many, exalted him, and evil vanished.”Tzu-kung asked about friends.
    The Master said: “Talk faithfully to them: guide them with skill. If this prove vain, stop. Do not court shame.”
    Tseng-tzu said: “A gentleman gathers friends by culture and props love with friendship.”