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Concepts

Background information

Many culture-moulding doctrines from ancient China were compiled after the death of Confucius (551-479 BC), the philosopher and teacher. In essence he taught something like, "Cling to your own principles, but be willing to subordinate your personal desires to the good of a group."

Confucius (Kongzi) became a center of enourmous influence, and his teaching served to make people commit to one another both in whole-hearted ways and through responsibilites. His teachings helped various forms of bonding.

Salient points from the introduction to The Sayings of Confucius - translated by Lionel Giles, and originally published in 1907 by John Murray, London - have been gathered, shuffled and made use of further down.

The translator Lionel Giles (1875-1958), son of the sinologist Herbert Giles, is most famous for his 1910 translation of The Art of War by Sun Tzu and The Analects of Confucius. His translations of Chinese texts have had a deep impact on Western interpretation of Far Eastern philosophy. [WP "Lionel Giles"]

In Brief

Confucius is known as the first teacher in China who wanted to make education available to all men and who was instrumental in establishing the art of teaching as a vocation and a way of life.

He travelled around hoping to restore the glory of the Chou dynasty (ca. 1100-201 BC) with its system-fixed feudalism. That formed part of the crusader's strivings at a time where lots of people in ancient China cried out for a purpose.

Confucius looked to the classics. He also believed that massive schooling in the right way could make a complete (integrated) man. Moral parts of it were as important as those of book learning. And his rhetoric drew a growing band of followers.

Confucianism was to survive, grow and surpass other schools of thought in 140 BC, when it was officially recognised as the only philosophy. Belief in self-cultivation is deeply rooted in its ways of thinking.

Confucius - also:

(Pinyin:) Kongfuzi, or Kongzi,

(Wade-Giles:) K'ung-fu-tzu, or K'ung-Tzu.

Original name: K'ung Ch'iu,

Literary name Chung-ni

The Life of Confucius

Only the barest sketch can be given here. (p. 13, 14)

Confucius was born at a time when the feudal system, established several centuries earlier by the founder of the Chou dynasty, was showing unmistakable signs of disruption and decay.

A Wu Wang divided his realm into a large number of vassal states, which he bestowed upon his own kith and kin who had helped him to the throne . . . But the central government gradually lost all effective control over its unruly children . . . The state of things that ensued may be likened (though on a far larger scale) to several Wars of the Roses going on at the same time. (p. 14)

In the midst of . . . prevailing disorder, Confucius comported himself with . . . dignity, tact and outspoken courage (p. 15).

Knowing the futility of protests unbacked by force, he kept himself aloof for the most part, and devoted himself to a long course of study and teaching, gathering, it is said, as many as three thousand disciples around him. This is a palpable exaggeration, but there can be no doubt that he had become a marked man and gained great fame as a moralist and teacher many years before he actually took office.

In 501 BC at the age of fifty, he at last made his entry on the political stage by accepting the governorship of a small town in Lu. Here he is said to have been eminently successful in the work of reform, and he rapidly rose to be the most trusted adviser of Duke Ting . . . the weak and fickle character [who,] carefully manipulated by rivals to Confucius, [soon] brought about a catastrophe. (p. 16)

Confucius felt compelled to resign. Then began the weary years of wandering from state to state, (p. 17)

[Maybe] the ensuing period of homeless exile, hardships and danger, did more to spread the fame of the great reformer than either the few brilliant years of office or those spent as a teacher in the comparative seclusion of Lu. (p. 17)

The conception of a " higher type of man" was for him no empty ideal, but the worthy object of practical endeavour. (p. 17)

As an old man, worn out by years of travel, privation and anxiety, at a time of life when the physical frame begins to demand a certain measure of quiet and repose [he] returned to his native state with flying colours [and] devoted the rest of his life to literary labours . . . collecting and editing of certain old national ballads known to us as the Odes, and the penning of the Spring and Autumn Annals of Lu, which may be regarded as [a] record of authentic facts (p. 18)

How He Was

[Confucius] was uniformly cheerful in demeanour, and he evidently unbent to quite an unusual extent with his disciples, considering the respect and deference universally shown to age and learning in China. [He attracted] round him hundreds of disciples, with whom he was on terms of most intimate . . . living with them, eating, drinking, sleeping and conversing with them, until all their idiosyncrasies, good or bad, were better known to him to their own parents . . . (p. 23)

During the sage's short period of office as Minister of Crime, a father came to him bringing some serious charge against his son. Confucius kept them both in prison for three months, without making any difference in favour of the father, and then let them go. . . . Confucius' [view] was, that the father had never taught his son to be filial, and that therefore the guilt really rested with him (p. 30).

Moral teachings

Let a man be but thoroughly imbued with the altruistic spirit, and he may be termed "good" without qualification." - Lionel Giles (p. 28)

Over and over again [Confucius] gave proof of the highest and noblest moral courage in ignoring the narrow rules of conventional morality and etiquette when these conflicted with good feeling and common sense, and setting up in their stead the grand rule of conscience which, by asserting the right of the individual to judge such matters for himself, pushed liberty to a point which was quite beyond the comprehension of his age (p. 22).

The Way preached by the Chinese sage knows neither the sanction of punishment nor the stimulus of reward in an after-life (p. 27).

[Yet] he was not blind to the danger of liberty degenerating into license. The new fetters, therefore, that he forged for mankind were those of an iron self-discipline and self-control, unaccompanied, however, by anything in the shape of bodily mortification, a practice which he knew to be at once more showy and less troublesome than the discipline of the mind (p. 22).

"Virtue for virtue's sake" is the maxim which, if not enunciated by him in so many words, was evidently the corner-stone of his ethics and the mainspring of his own career (p. 26).

His whole system is based on . . . knowledge of human nature (p. 28).

The Sayings

The sayings . . . together with the invaluable biography by Ssû-ma Ch'ien, which is largely built upon them, form the only really reliable source of information about Confucius and his doctrines. The Chinese title Lun Yü may be rendered Conversations " or " Discussions " but neither work (p. 18). [Analects is often used instead.]

They are [largely elevated] replies to questions put by various disciples on subjects chiefly moral or personal. These sayings . . . Legge has shown sufficient reason to believe that they were transmitted orally at first . . . until at least two generations after the Master's death. [They give his thoughs in a] crisp, concise and epigrammatic style. (p. 19)

[Ah,] the glittering compactness of these sayings in the original [!] . . . They appear to have been repeatedly ground and polished, and shorn of every redundancy, until they shone like diamonds fresh from the hands of the cutter - (p. 19)

Expressing the essence of what the Master thought and the substance of what he said, it is with good reason that they are to be found inscribed on hundreds of thousands of scrolls and tablets in every corner of the Empire. These gems, however, are unsorted [and] there is very little attempt at orderly arrangement. (p. 19)

[There are, however,] connecting principles which serve to bind the Confucian teachings into one rounded system . . . It needed the penetration of Tsêng Tzû to tell . . . that the Master's Way was, after all, simple in its diversity, and might be summed up in two words: duty to oneself and charity to one's neighbour. Unhappily, owing to the misinterpretation of these important words, the beautiful simplicity of the Confucian doctrine has long passed unrecognised. (p. 20)

It pays to get warned

IN THE West, well over a hundred years ago, the teaching of Confucius "was found to be shallow, disjointed, unsatisfying. He was blamed for his rigid formalism, for his poverty of ideas, for his lack of spiritual elevation." (p 10) [1.1]

THINKERS stand up in their own time, and some of them reflect their periods and cultures. Others seem to modify and even change their times. Confucius was one of the latter sort.

The choicest pearls of his wisdom are still extant, after some thousand years. (cf p 9) [2.3]

A MAN'S greatness may be measured by the consensus of opinion in his own country; the judgment of foreigners can be given second place. And then there is proverbial Arab wisdom: "To find out the truth of the man, reverse what his enemies say about him". (cf p 7)

In Europe there were enthusiastic reports too: Confucius was the prince of philosophers, the wisest and most consummate of sages, the loftiest moralist, the most subtle and penetrating intellect that the world had ever seen. He was a statesman, a bard, an historian and an antiquary rolled into one, writes Lionel Giles (p 9). ◊

THE WORKS and reputation of the ancient social reformer has suffered much and long from stupidity, misstatements and misrepresentations, and from lack of sympathy and generosity, and, in some points, from pure ignorance of critics (cf p 8). (5)

ANYWAY, he was often considered the greatest and noblest representative of the greatest, happiest, and most highly civilised people on the face of the earth, endorsing such as patience and discrimination. (p 9) - before the circumstances of his career had been studied, (p 10) and before the very book which contained his authentic sayings had been translated with understanding, - or with a faint realisation of its numerous difficulties and pitfalls (p 10).

James Legge's translation

Was something like rigid missionary ruthlessness involved?

James Legge set to work on his translation of the Confucian Canon. He was good at it in many ways in his day, but standards have improved since then.
       Legge was found to be on firm ground when it came to hard facts. It was far otherwise when he came to draw inferences from these facts, to sum up the salient principles of Confucian ethics, and to pass judgment on the character of Confucius himself. (p. 11) His opinion was based chiefly on his own interpretation of the more important sayings in the Analects, in translating which he had the oral help of native scholars etc. (cf p 11-12)

A certain inelasticity of mind showed itself in the way in which he approached the work of translation. He was too apt to look upon a Chinese word as something rigid and unchanging in its content. Delicate shades of meaning he too often ruthlessly ignored. (cf p 12)

It may seem strange that the great sinologue should have strayed and missed the very core and essence of the doctrines he wanted to elucidate, but according to Giles, Legge felt like being a Christian missionary with a creed superior to Confucius at every point in the first place. This preconceived idea acted as a drag on the free use of his understanding, Giles considers. (cf p 12)

There is a certain number of Chinese terms which mirror Chinese ideas, that must be translated with the aid of circumlocution, and in such a way as to suit the context and the general spirit of the passage. "It is in such terms, unfortunately, that the very essence and inner significance of the Confucian teaching are contained," writes Lionel Giles (p 12-13).

Such an indispensable process is "doubly so when words have to be transplanted, as it were, from their native soil to one differing". (p 13)

Such an operation can only be successful if carried out with the utmost delicacy and care (p. 13).

James Legge's complete translation of the Analects is here: [Link>]

Li and Jen of Confucius

"Rotten wood cannot be carved." - Confucius (p. 34).

Propriety, says Legge, "was a a great stumbling-block in the way of Confucius. His morality was the result of the balancings of his intellect, fettered by the decisions of the men of old, and not the gushings of a loving heart, responsive to the promptings of Heaven, and in sympathy with erring and feeble humanity." It is high time that an effective protest was made against such an amazing piece of misrepresentation (such a libellous, grotesque and far from true accusation) (p. 21).

We may retort that "propriety" - that is, the Chinese word li which has been cruelly saddled with this absurd rendering - has indeed been a stumbling-block, but a stumbling-block not so much to Confucius as to Dr. Legge himself. The whole tenor of the Master's teaching cries aloud against such wilful and outrageous distortion. (p. 21)

One thing more than another which distinguishes Confucius from the men of his day is the supreme unportance which he attached jên, the feeling in the heart, as the source of all right conduct, the stress which he laid on the internal as opposed to the external, and even on motives rather than outward acts, except in so far as these might be taken as an index to character (p. 21). Giles writes:

Jên, the term [often] translated "virtue," is perhaps the most important single word in the Analects, and the real corner-stone of Confucian ethics. Its primary meaning, in accordance with the etymology, is "humanity" in the larger sense, i.e. natural goodness of heart as shown in intercourse with one's fellow-men. Hence it is sometimes best translated "loving-kindness" or "charity" in the biblical sense, though in many cases a more convenient, if vaguer, rendering is "virtue", "moral virtue", or even, as in Legge, "perfect virtue. [52n]

Then there is the ideal to try for; it is "the superior man", as he is called in some translations:

[A princely man] is the much-discussed chün tzü, an expression of which the stereotyped English equivalent is "the superior man." But in this there is, unhappily, a tinge of blended superciliousness and irony absolutely foreign to the native phrase, which in my opinion makes it unsuitable. "Princely man" is as nearly as possible the literal translation, and sometimes, as we shall me, it actually means "prince". But in the majority of cases the connotation of rank or authority lis certainly not explicit, and as a general rendering I have preferred "the higher type of man", "the nobler sort of man", or sometimes more simply, "the good man" . . . [of] high mental and moral qualities ... [52n]

The Family Man Taken Further

"Like unto wind; like unto grass." . . . It is the nature of grass to bend when the wind blows upon it (p. 32).

Confucius saw that . . . principles which govern the family are applicable to that greatest of families, the State . . . The Emperor . . . functions exactly analogous to those of the father of a family [and also] identifies himself with the good of the people (p. 31).

The family, in Chinese eyes, is a microcosm of the Empire, or rather . . . it is the pattern on which the greater organism has moulded itself . . . The Emperor had, in theory at least, paternal authority over his feudal princes, who in turn, standing to one another in the relation of elder and younger brothers, were regarded as the fathers of their respective peoples . . .

The way to ensure that a machine as a whole may run smoothly and well, is to see that each part shall fulfil its own [resiprocal] function . . . How is this result achieved in the family? Obviously through the [wit and governing] will of the father, who has supreme authority over all the other members.

This authority [is not brute]. It is based firstly on natural order of things . . . [The parent is] the protector of his children. As a consequence of this, love and respect will normally spring up in the minds of the children for their protector (p. 29). Such is the genesis of filial poety, which plays so large a part in Chinese ethics. (see p 29)

For the harmonious working of a family, then, we need respect for authority on one side, and a certain amount of self-sacrifice on the other. And the father's object must be the good of his dear family (cf p. 30).

The . . . element which makes possible the working of the family machine, the lubricating oil . . . is not merely filial piety . . . but rather a certain subtle principle of harmony and self-control permeating every member of the family group, which restrains egoistic propensities and promotes the common good. This is the Chinese term li, in the sense of a quality of the soul . . . [The term] is certainly not to be rendered by any such atrocious phrase as "the rules of propriety" (p. 30-31).

Principal Disciples

Lionel Giles:

"One and the same person is often referred to in several different ways—by his surname and name, by his "style" or by a combination of the two, while among intimates the personal name only is employed . . . I give the name of the principal disciples as they appear in the Chinese . . . An asterisk denotes the name most frequently used."

Surname and personal name StyleMixed appellation
Yen Hui Tzü Yüan Yen Yüan*
Min Sun (Min Tzü) Tzü Ch'ien Min Tzü-ch'ien*
Jan Kêng Po Niu* Jan Po-niu
Jan Yung Chung Kung*  
Jan Ch'iu Tzü Yu Jan Yu*
Chung Yu Tzü Lu* - Chi Lu  
Tsai Yü Tzü Wo Tsai Wo*
Tuan-mu Tz'ü Tzü Kung*  
Yen Yen Tzü Yu* Yen Yu
Pu Shang Tzü Hsia*  
Chuang-sun Shih Tzü Chang*  
Tseng Shen (Tseng Tzü) Tzü Yü  
Fan Hsü Tzü Ch'ih Fan Ch'ih*
Ssü-ma Keng Tzü Niu Ssü-ma Niu*
Kung-hsi Ch'ih Tzü Hua Kung-hsi Hua*
Yu Jo (Yu Tzü) Tzü Jo  


Source: (Giles 1907, p. 37-38)

The first chapter of Dr. Giles' translation follows:

TO TOP


1 – Government and Public Affairs

THE MASTER said: In ruling a country of a thousand chariots there should be scrupulous attention to business, honesty, economy, charity, and employment of the people at the proper season.

A virtuous ruler is like the Polestar, which keeps its place, while all the other stars do homage to it.

People despotically governed and kept in order by punishments may avoid infraction of the law, but they will lose their moral sense. People virtuously governed and kept in order by the inner law of self-control will retain their moral sense, and moreover become good.

Duke Ai asked, saying: What must I do that my people may be contented? - Confucius replied: Promote the upright and dismiss all evildoers, and the people will be contented. Promote {39] the evil-doers and dismiss the upright, and the people will be discontented.

Chi K'-ang Tzü [*] asked by what means he might cause his people to be respectful and loyal, and encourage them in the path of virtue. The Master replied: Conduct yourself towards them with dignity, and you will earn their respect; be a good son and a kind prince, and you will find them loyal; promote the deserving and instruct those who fall short, and they will be encouraged to follow the path of virtue.

Someone, addressing Confucius, said: Why, Sir, do you take no part in the government?—The Master replied: What does the Book of History say about filial piety?—Do your duty as a son and as a brother, and these qualities will make themselves felt in the government. This, then, really amounts to taking part in the government. Holding office need not be considered essential.

The people can be made to follow a certain path, but they cannot be made to know the reason why.

Tzü Kung asked for a definition of good government. The Master replied: It consists in providing enough food to eat, in keeping enough soldiers to guard the State, and in winning the confidence of the people.—And if one of these three things had to be sacrificed, which should go first?—The Master replied: Sacrifice the soldiers.—And if of the two remaining things one had to be sacrificed, which should it be?—The master said: Let it be the food. From the beginning, men have always had to die. But without the confidence of the people no government can stand at all.

NOTE: Chi K'ang Tsü succeeded to the headship of the great Chi family in 491, when Chi Huan died, by whom he was advised to recall Confucius from his long wanderings. The sage, however, did not return until eight years later. {40]

Ching, Duke of the Ch'i State, questioned Confucius on the art of government. Confucius replied: Let the sovereign do his duty as a sovereign, the subject his duty as a subject, the father his duty as a father, and the son his duty as a son.--A good answer! said the Duke; for unless sovereign and subject, father and son do their respective duties, however much grain there may be in the land, I could obtain none to eat.

Tsû Chang put a question about the art of governing. The Master said: Devote yourself patiently to the theory, and conscientiously to the practice, of government.

K'ang Tzu asked Confucius for advice on the subject of government. Confucius replied: To govern is to keep straight. [*] If you, Sir, lead {41] the people straight, which of your subjects will venture to fall out of line?

NOTE: The point of the original lies partly in the fact that the Chinese words for "govern" and "straight" are similar and identical in sound.

Chi K'ang Tzu, being vexed by robbers, asked Confucius for his advice. Confucius replied, saying: If you, sir, can cheek your own cupidity, there will be no stealing, even though rewards should be offered for theft.

Chi K'ang Tzü questioned Confucius on a point of government, saying: Ought not I to cut out off the lawless in order to establish law and order? What do you think?--Confucius replied: Sir, what need is there of the death penalty in your system of government? If you showed a sincere desire to be good, your people would likewise be good. The virtue of the prince is like unto wind; that of the people, like unto grass. For it is the nature of grass to bend when the wind blows upon it.

Tzu Lu asked for a hint on the art of governing. The Master replied: Take the lead and set the example of diligent toil.--Asked for a further hint, he said: Be patient and untiring.

Chung Kung, being Prime Minister to the head of the Chi clan, asked for advice on governing. The Master said: Make a point of employing your subordinates, overlook trifling mistakes, raise to office worthy and able men.--But, said Chung Kung, how am I to discover these {42] worthy men and single them out for promotion?--Promote those that you know, was the reply. As for those that you do not know, will not their claims be brought before you by others?

Tzü Lu said: The Prince of Wei is waiting, Sir, for you to take up the reins of government. Pray what is the first reform you would introduce?--The Master replied: I would begin by defining terms and making them exact. [*]--Oh, indeed! exclaimed Tzü Lu. But how can you possibly put things straight by such a circuitous route?--The Master said: How unmannerly you are, Yu! In matters which he does not understand, the wise man will always reserve his judgement. If terms are not correctly defined, words will not harmonise with things. If words {43] do not harmonise with things, public business will remain undone. If public business remains undone, order and harmony will not flourish. If order and harmony do not flourish, law and justice will not attain their ends. If law and justice do not attain their ends, the people will be unable to move hand or foot. The wise man, therefore, frames his definitions to regulate his speech, and his speech to regulate his actions. He is never reckless in his choice of words.

NOTE: The hidden meaning of this saying in made clear by the context to be found in Ssü-ma Ch'ien's biography of Confucius. The Prince of Wei at this time was the young man mentioned on p. 128 as holding the throne against his own father. By so doing he had in some sort inverted the relationsship which should have subsisted between them, and each was in a false position, the father being deprived of his proper parental dignity, and the son no longer "doing his duty as son" (see p. 41). Confucius then is administering a veiled rebuke to the young ruler, for in saying that the first reform necessary is the correct definition of names, he implies in effect that the terms "father" and "son", among others, should be made to resume their proper significance. An alternative rendering of cheng ming as "rectification of the written character", though backed by the great authority of M. Chavannes, can only be described as feeble and far-fetched, and has been ably confuted by Herr Franke in the T'oung Pao for July, 1906.

Fan Ch'ih asked to be taught the art of husbandry. The Master said: Any farmer can teach you that better than I can. He then asked to be taught gardening. The Master said: Any gardener will teach you that better than I can. Fan Ch'ih having gone out, the Master said: What a small-minded man is Fan Hsü! If the ruler is addicted to modesty and self-control, his people will not permit themselves to be irreverent. If the ruler loves justice and duty, his people will not venture to be unruly. If the ruler loves sincerity and good faith, the people will not be slow to respond. Such being his qualities, the people will flock to him from all quarters, with their babes strapped to their backs. What need for him to know the art of husbandry? [*] {44]

NOTE Confucius is . . . insisting on the principle of division of labour, and not . . . depreciating the value of husbandry or other useful arts. It is not the ruler's business to make himself proficient in these, because the task of governing and setting an example to the governed will claim all his attention. Compare . . . Confucius' remarks on his own skill in various arts (p. 88).

The Master said: If the ruler is personally upright, his subjects will do their duty unbidden; if he is not personally upright, they will not obey, whatever he is bidding.

When the Master went to Wei, Jan Yu drove his carriage. The Master said: What an abundant population!--Jan Yu said: Now that the people are so abundant, what is the next thing to be done?--Enrich them, said said Confucius.--And having enriched them, what then?--Teach them, was the reply.

The Master said: If a country had none but good rulers for a hundred years, crime might be stamped out and the death-penalty abolished. How true this saying is!

If a kingly sovereign were to appear, by the end of one generation natural goodness would prevail.

If a man can reform his own heart, what should hinder him from taking part in government? But if he cannot reform his own heart, what has he to do with reforming others?

Duke Ting [*] asked if there was a single sentence {45] by which a country might be made to flourish. Confucius answered: No single sentence can be expected to have such a virtue as this. But there is the common saying: "To be a good king is difficult; to be a good minister is not easy." He who realises the difficulty of being a good king--has he not almost succeeded in making his country prosper by a single sentence?--Is there a single sentence, continued the Duke, by which a country can be ruined?--Confucius answered: No such power can reside in any single sentence. But there is a saying: "I have no joy in kingly rule, I rejoice only because none can oppose my will." Now if the king's will is good, and none opposes it, all may be well; but if it is not good, and yet none opposes it, has he not almost succeeded in ruining his country be a single sentence?

NOTE: The weak ruler of the Lu State (510-494 BC), who lost the services of Confucius by his infatuation in accepting the insidious gift of eighty beautiful singing-girls from the Ch'i State. See Giles' Introduction, p. 16.

The Duke of Shê [*] asked about the conditions {46] of good government. The Master said: Government is good when it makes happy those who live under it and attracts those who live far away.

NOTE: Shê was a district of the Ch'u State, which Confucius visited in 488 BC. The following anecdote, told by T'an Kung, is a striking illustration of the above saying. Travelling with his disciples, the Master came across a woman weeping and wailing beside a grave, and inquired the cause of her grief. "Alas!" she replied. "My father-in-law was killed here by a tiger; after that, my husband; and now my son has perished by the same death."--"But why, then, do you not go elsewhere?"--"The government here is not harsh" answered the woman.--"There!" cried the Master, turning to his disciples, "remember that. Bad government in worse than a tiger."

Hsia, when governor of Chü-fu, [1] asked for advice on government. The Master said: Do not try to do things in a hurry. Do not be intent on small gains. What is done quickly is not done' thoroughly; and if small gains are considered, great things remain unaccomplished.

Lu asked about the service due to a prince. The Master said: Use no deceit, but if you oppose him, oppose him openly.

The Master said: If the ruler cherishes the principle of self-control, the people will be docile to his commands. [2]

Shun [3] was one who did nothing, yet governed well. For what, in effect, did he do? Religiously self-observant, he sat gravely on his throne, and that is all. [4] {47]

[1] A small city in Lu.

[2] Legge translates: "When rulers love to observe the rules of propriety (!), the people respond readily to the calls on them for service." All the other translators seem likewise to have missed the point, which is elsewhere insisted on by Confucius--that no man is fit to govern others who cannot govern himself. On the meaning of li, see Introduction pp. 30 seqq. And note on p. 60.

[3] A legendary,Emperor.

[4] This saying might have come straight from the mouth of a Taoist philosopher. Nor is it the only place where Confucius seems to advocate quietism. Cf. p. 108.

In serving your prince, make the actual service your first care, and only put the emolument second.

The head of the Chi clan was on the point of attacking the small principality of Chuan-yü. Jan Yu and Chi Lu came to see Confucius, and said: Our lord is going to have trouble with Chuan-yü--Confucius said: Is it not you, Ch'iu, who are to blame in this? The ancient kings long ago made Chuan--yü the centre of the worship of the Eastern Mêng mountain, and moreover it is situated within the territory of Lu. Its ruler has independent priestly functions. [1] What right have you to attack it?--Jan Yu replied: It is the will of our master; we, his ministers, have neither of us any wish to act thus.--Ch'iu, said Confucius, Chou Jên [2] had a saying: "If you are capable of displaying energy, hold office; if not, resign." Of what use is that minister likely to be, who does not sustain his master in the presence of danger, or support him when about to fall? Besides, what you say is wrong. If a tiger or a wild buffalo escapes from its cage, if a tortoise-shell or jade ornament is smashed in its casket, whose fault is it, pray? Jan Yu replied: But Chuan-yü is strongly fortified, and close to our own town of Pi. If we {48] do not take it now, it will cause trouble to our descendants in a later generation.--Confucius rejoined: Ch'iu, an honest man hates your hypocrite who will not openly avow his greed, but tries instead to excuse it. I have heard that the ruler of a state or of a clan is troubled not by the smallness of its numbers but by the absence of even-handed justice; not by poverty but by the preresence of discontent; for where there is justice there will be no poverty; where there is harmony there will be no lack in numbers; where there is content there will be no revolution. This being the case then, if outlying communities resist your authority, cultivate the arts of refinement and goodness in order to attract them; and when you have attracted them, make them happy and contented. Now you two, Yu and Ch'iu, are aiding and abetting your master; here is an outlying community which resists your authority, and you are unable to attract it. Partition and collapse are imminent in your own State, and you are unable to preserve it intact. And yet you are planning military aggression within in the borders of your country! Verily I fear that Chi-sun's [2] troubles will come, not from Chuan-yü, but from the interior of his own palace.

[1] Literally, "a minister of the altars to the spirits of the land and grain"; i.e. a direct vassal of the Emperor, and responsible only to him.

[2] An ancient historiographer, of whom very little in known.

When the Master came to Wu-ch'êng, he heard the sound of singing and stringed instruments. [49] He was pleased, but said with a smile: Is it necessary to take a pole-axe to kill a fowl?--Tzu Yu replied: Some time ago, Sir, I heard you say that the study of true principles made the ruler beneficent and men of the lower class easy to govern.--My children, said the Master, Yen is right. What I said was only in jest. [1]

[1] The head of the Chi clan mentioned above.

Tzü Chang asked Confucius, saying: What are the essentials of good government?--The Master said: Esteem the five excellent, and banish the four evil things; then you will become fit to govern.--Tzu Chang asked: What are the five excellent things?--The Master replied: The wise and good ruler is benevolent without expending treasure; he lays burdens on the people without causing them to grumble; he has desires without being covetous; he is serene without being proud; he is awe-inspiring without being ferocious.--He is benevolent without expending treasure: what does that mean?--The Master replied: He simply follows the course which naturally brings benefit to the people. [2] Is {50] he not thus benevolent without expending treasure? In imposing burdens, he chooses the right time and the right means, and nobody can grumble. His desire is for goodness, and he achieves it; how should he be covetous? The wise and good ruler never allows himself to be negligent, whether he is dealing with many men or with few, with small matters or with great. Is this not serenity without pride? He has his cap and robe properly adjusted, and throws a noble dignity into his looks, so that his gravity inspires onlookers with respect. Is he not thus awe-inspiring without being ferocious?--Tzü Chang then asked: What are the four evil things? [3] --The Master said: Cruelty: leaving the people in their native ignorance, yet punishing their wrong-doing with death. Oppression: requiring the immediate completion of tasks imposed without previous warning. Ruthlessness: giving vague orders, and then insisting on punctual fulfilment. Peddling husbandry: stinginess in conferring the proper rewards on deserving men. {51]

NOTES

[1] Wu-ch'êng means " Martial city", so called from its impregnable position. Tzü Yu, when appointed governor, had succeeded in weaning the people from their warlike propensities, and in introducing the milder arts of peace. This is what made the Master glad, though he could not help being amused at the application of the loftiest principles to such a tiny community. About ancient Chinese music we know unfortunately next to nothing, but it seems to have played as important a part under the Chou dynasty as in Plato's ideal State.

[2] That is to say, the ruler will always keep the welfare of his people in view, but without indulging in indiscriminate largess. The ever-increasing doles of money and corn with which the Roman Emperors were obliged to buy the favour of the populace would thus have fallen under the condemnation of Confucius.

[3] The "four evil things" really turn out to be reducible to two, namely (1). Cruelty--covering the first three; and (2) Meanness.

TO TOP

Virtue

Chün tzü . . . is "the superior man". [Better:] "Princely man", . . . and sometimes . . . it actually means "prince". But in the majority of cases . . . as a general rendering I have preferred "the higher type of man", "the nobler sort of man", or sometimes more simply, "the good man" . . . because that implies high mental and moral qualities . . .

Jên, the term here translated "virtue," is perhaps the most important single word in the Analects, and the real corner-stone of Confucian ethics. [It suggests] "humanity" . . . i.e. natural goodness of heart [etc., ] "loving-kindness" or "charity" in the biblical sense, . . . in many cases a more convenient . . . rendering is "virtue", "moral virtue", or even . . . "perfect virtue."

Compare these translations of Analects, Book 4, Paragraph 3:

  • Lionel Giles: Only he who has the spirit of goodness within him is really able either to love or to hate.
  • James Legge: The Master said, 'It is only the virtuous man, who can love, or who can hate, others.'
  • Lin Yutang: Confucius said, "Only a true man knows how to love people and how to hate people."
  • Ezra Pound: He said: Only the complete man can love others, or hate them.
  • Arthur Waley: Of the adage 'Only a Good Man knows how to like people, knows how to dislike them,' the Master said, He whose heart is in the smallest degree set upon Goodness will dislike no one.


Confucian Analects, Literature  

Giles, Lionel, tr. The Sayings of Confucius. London: John Murray, 1907. ⍽▢⍽ Reprint: Twickenham: Senate, 1998. Two more reprints are at Google Books.

Confucian sayings, Confucian Concepts with Analect Chapters Translated by Lionel Giles, To top Section Set Next

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