Analects of Confucius Book 5: new English translation

Richard Brown
6 min readApr 29, 2019


Read this new English translation of the Analects of Confucius Book 5 to learn more about the teachings of China’s most famous philosopher. It provides colorful insights into the character and abilities of many of Confucius’s followers as well as other contemporary and historical figures.

Chapter 1
Confucius said of Gongye Chang: “He would make a good husband. Although he has spent time in prison, he was innocent.” He gave him his daughter’s hand in marriage.

Chapter 2
Confucius said of Nan Rong: “In a well-governed state, he will not be overlooked for an official position. In a badly-governed state, he will avoid punishment and disgrace.” Confucius arranged for him to marry his niece.

Chapter 3
Confucius said of Zijian: “He is a true leader! If there were indeed no leaders in the state of Lu, how would he have reached this level?”

Chapter 4
Zigong asked: “What do you think of me?” Confucius said: “You’re a vessel.” “What sort of vessel?” “A precious sacrificial vessel.”

Chapter 5
Someone said: “Ran Yong is good but not eloquent.” Confucius said: “What use is eloquence? A smooth tongue creates many enemies. I don’t know whether Ran Yong is good; but he definitely has no need for eloquence.”

Chapter 6
When Confucius recommended that Qidiao Kai should seek an official position, he replied: “I’m not ready to be trusted for such a responsibility yet.” Confucius was delighted.

Chapter 7
Confucius said: “If the way doesn’t prevail, I’ll take a raft and put out to sea. I’m sure Zilu will come with me.” When he heard this, Zilu was delighted. Confucius said: “Zilu is much braver than I am, but he brings no materials to make the raft with.”

Chapter 8
Meng Wubo asked “Is Zilu a good person?” Confucius said: “I don’t know.” When he asked once again, Confucius said: “In a middle-sized country, he could be entrusted with military recruitment. But whether he’s a good person, I don’t know.” “And what about Ran Qiu?” Confucius said: “Ran Qiu? He could be the governor of a small city or the manager of a large estate. But whether he’s a good person, I don’t know.” “And what about Gongxi Chi?” Confucius said: “Gongxi Chi? Standing resplendent with his sash, he could entertain distinguished guests. But whether he’s a good person, I don’t know.”

Chapter 9
Confucius asked Zigong: “Who is better, you or Yan Hui?” Zigong replied: “How can I compare myself with Yan Hui? When he learns one thing, he gets to understand ten more things; but if I learn one thing, I only get to understand two more things.” Confucius said: “You are certainly not his equal and neither am I.”

Chapter 10
Zai Yu was asleep during the day. Confucius said: “Rotten wood cannot be carved; dung walls cannot be troweled. What’s the point of scolding him anymore?” Confucius said: “There was a time when I used to listen to what people had to say and trusted that they would act on their word, but now I have to listen to what they say and watch what they do. It’s my dealings with Zai Yu that have forced me to change.”

Chapter 11
Confucius said: “I’ve never seen a person who is truly resolute.” Someone replied: “How about Shen Cheng?” Confucius said: “Shen Cheng is a slave to his desires. How can he be called resolute?”

Chapter 12
Zigong said: “I wouldn’t want to do to others what I wouldn’t want them to do to me.” Confucius said: “Ah, Zigong! That’s beyond your reach.”

Chapter 13
Zigong said: “The teachings of the master can be learned; but his views on the nature of things and the way of heaven can’t be learned.”

Chapter 14
Whenever Zilu learned something new but hadn’t had the chance to put it into practice, he was afraid that he might learn something else before he did so.

Chapter 15
Zigong asked: “Why was ‘Kong-the-Refined’ given the posthumous name of ‘Refined’?” Confucius said: “He was smart, fond of learning, and wasn’t ashamed to listen and learn from people of a lower social status: that is why he was given the name.”

Chapter 16
Confucius said of Zichan: “He had four essential qualities of a leader: in his personal conduct he was gracious; in serving his superiors he was respectful; in caring for the common people he was generous; in employing them for public service he was just.”

Chapter 17
Confucius said: “Yan Pingzhong was adept at cultivating relationships with other people: the longer he knew them, the greater the respect they would show towards him.”

Chapter 18
Confucius said: “Zang Wenzhong kept a giant tortoise in a pavilion featuring pillars patterned with mountains and posts above the rafters decorated with duckweed motifs. What does this say of his wisdom?”

Chapter 19
Zizhang asked: “Ziwen was appointed chief minister three times, but he never showed the least sign of elation. He was dismissed three times, but he never showed the least sign of disappointment. On each occasion, he briefed his successor on the status of the affairs of his office. What do you think of him?” Confucius said: “He was loyal.” Zizhang asked: “Was he a good person?” Confucius said: “I’m not sure; how can he be said to be a good person?”

“When Cuizi assassinated the ruler of the state of Qi, Chen Wenzi abandoned his large estate of ten chariots and left Qi. Having settled in another state, he said: ‘They are no better than Cuizi,’ and left. Having settled in yet another state, he said once again: ‘They are no better than Cuizi,’ and left once again. What do you think of him?” Confucius said: “He was pure.” Zizhang said: “Was he a good person?” “I’m not sure; how can he be said to be a good person?”

Chapter 20
Ji Wenzi always thought three times before taking action. When he heard this, Confucius said: “Twice is quite sufficient.”

Chapter 21
Confucius said: “When the way prevailed in his state, Ning Wuzi acted wise. When his state lost the way, Ning Wuzi acted dumb. Others may match his wisdom but not his dumbness.”

Chapter 22
When Confucius was in the state of Chen, he said: “Let’s go home, let’s go home! Our young people are full of fire and bursting with talent, but they have no idea how to use it.”

Chapter 23
Confucius said: “Boyi and Shuqi never bore grudges, so they rarely aroused any resentment from others.”

Chapter 24
Confucius said: “Who said that Weisheng Gao was as straight as a die? When someone begged him for vinegar and he didn’t have any, he begged a neighbor for some and gave it to the person who asked him for it.”

Chapter 25
Confucius said: “Smooth talk, pretentiousness, and obsequiousness: Zuoqiu Ming detested such behavior, and I detest it too. Acting friendly towards a person you secretly resent: Zuoqiu Ming detested such behavior, and I detest it too.”

Chapter 26
When Yan Hui and Zilu were sitting together with him, Confucius said: “How about telling me what you would most like to do?” Zilu said: “I would like to share my carriages, horses, clothes, and furs with my friends without getting upset if they damage them.” Yan Hui said: “I would like to avoid boasting about my abilities or causing trouble for others.” Zilu said: “We would love to hear what our master would most like to do.” Confucius said: “I would like to provide comfort to the elderly, be faithful to my friends, and cherish the young.”

Chapter 27
Confucius said: “I give up! I have yet to meet a person capable of seeing their own faults and taking themselves to task in the court of their own heart.”

Chapter 28
Confucius said: “In a hamlet of ten houses, you’re certain to find someone as loyal and trustworthy as I am, but you won’t find a single person who loves learning as much as I do.”



Richard Brown

I live in Taiwan and am interested in exploring what ancient Chinese philosophy can tell us about technology and the rise of modern China.