Read this new English translation of the Analects of Confucius Book 7 to learn more about the teachings of China’s most famous philosopher. It provides a vivid portrait of the sage’s personality and motivations, as well as his opinions on various followers and other contemporary and historical figures.
Confucius said: “I transmit but I don’t create. I am faithful to and love the past. In this respect, I dare to compare myself with Old Peng.”
Confucius said: “Quietly absorbing knowledge, learning and yet never growing weary, teaching and yet never becoming tired — how can any of these be difficult for me?”
Confucius said: “Failure to nurture my virtue, failure to discuss what I have learned, failure to follow what I know to be right, and failure to correct my faults: these are the worries that plague me.”
When relaxing at home, Confucius was comfortable and leisurely and cheerful and agreeable.
Confucius said: “I am becoming terribly weak. It has been a long time since I last saw the Duke of Zhou in a dream.”
Confucius said: “Set your heart on the way; act in accordance with virtue; hold fast to goodness; enjoy the arts.”
Confucius said: “I have never refused to teach anyone who has asked me to, even if they were too poor to offer no more than a token offering of a bundle of dried meat for their tuition.”
Confucius said: “I instruct only the passionate. I enlighten only the fervent. If a student cannot return with the other three corners of the square after I have shown them the first one, I will not repeat the lesson.”
When Confucius dined with someone in mourning, he never ate his fill. On a day when he had been weeping, Confucius never sang.
Confucius said to Yan Hui: “To take office when needed and to stay out of sight when dismissed: only you and I can do this.” Zilu said: “If you had command of the Three Armies, who would you appoint to help you?” Confucius said: “I wouldn’t choose someone who wrestles tigers barehanded or swims across rivers without fearing death. But I would choose someone who approaches difficulties with due caution and achieves victories through careful planning.”
Confucius said: “If wealth was worth pursuing, I’d go after it even if it meant working as a lowly official. But if not, I’d rather follow my own interests.”
Confucius was cautious about these matters: fasting; war; disease.
When Confucius was in Qi, he heard Shao music. For three months, he didn’t know the taste of meat. He said: “I never imagined that music could reach such heights as this.”
Ran Qiu said: “Does the Master support the Duke of Wei?” Zigong said: “Well, I’m going to ask him.” Zigong went in and asked Confucius: “What sort of people were Boyi and Shuqi?” “They were virtuous men of old.” “Did they complain?” “They sought goodness and attained goodness. Why should they have complained?” Zigong left and said to Ran Qiu: “The Master does not support the Duke of Wei.”
Confucius said: “Even if you have only coarse grain to eat, water to drink, and your bent elbow to use as a pillow, you can still find joy in these things. But wealth and honors obtained by improper means are like passing clouds to me.”
Confucius said: “If I was given a few more years, I would devote fifty to the study of the Book of Changes so that I may be free from serious mistakes.”
Occasions when Confucius used standard pronunciation: when reciting the Book of Songs and the Book of Documents, and when carrying out ritual ceremonies. On all these occasions, he used standard pronunciation.
The Duke of She asked Zilu about Confucius. Zilu did not reply. Confucius said: “Why didn’t you say, ‘He’s the kind of man who gets so lost in his passions that he forgets to eat and so caught up in his happiness that he forgets his worries and doesn’t even notice he’s growing old?’”
Confucius said: “I wasn’t born with innate knowledge. I simply love the past and am assiduous in seeking it there.”
Confucius never talked of strange phenomena, feats of strength, disorder, or spirits.
Confucius said: “Let me take a stroll with any two people, and I can always be sure of learning something from them. I can take their good points and emulate them, and I can take their bad points and correct them in myself.”
Confucius said: “Heaven has bestowed me with virtue. What do I have to fear from Huan Tui?”
Confucius said to his followers: “My friends, do you think I’m hiding something from you? I’m hiding nothing at all. There’s nothing I do without sharing it with you. That’s my way.”
Confucius covered four subjects in his teaching: culture; conduct; loyalty; and trustworthiness.
Confucius said: “I have no hope of ever meeting a great sage; I suppose I would be content to meet a true leader.” Confucius said: “I cannot ever hope to meet a perfect person; I suppose I would be content to meet someone who sticks to their principles. Yet in an age when nothing masquerades as something, emptiness masquerades as fullness, and penury masquerades as affluence, it is hard enough just to stick to your principles.”
Confucius fished using a line — not a net. When hunting, he never shot at a bird that was nesting.
Confucius said: “Perhaps there are some people who can create something new without really understanding what they’re doing, but I’m not one of them. I listen a lot, pick the best of it, and follow it; I observe a lot and take note of it. This is the best way for me to learn.”
The people of Hu Village were difficult to communicate with, so when a boy from there came to visit Confucius his followers didn’t know what to think. Confucius said: “Just because I approve of his desire to improve himself doesn’t mean that I approve of his past mistakes. Why be so hard on him? If people make the effort to improve themselves, we should approve of their progress and ignore their previous missteps.”
Confucius said: “Is goodness really so far away? No sooner do I desire goodness than it’s at hand.”
The Minister of Justice of Chen asked: “Did Duke Zhao understand ritual?” Confucius said: “Yes, he understood the rites.” Confucius withdrew. With a bow, the minister invited Wuma Qi to come forward and said to him: “I’ve heard it said that a true leader is never biased. But isn’t your master biased after all? The duke took a wife from the state of Wu; but because she had the same family name, he called her Wu Mengzi. If the duke understood ritual, who doesn’t understand it?” Wuma Qi reported this to Confucius. Confucius said: “I’m fortunate indeed: whenever I make a mistake, there’s always someone on hand to let me know about it.”
Whenever Confucius was together with other people who were singing and they sang a song well, he always asked them to repeat it before joining in the harmony.
Confucius said: “Although my commitment is as strong as anyone’s when it comes to cultural knowledge and refinement, I haven’t yet hit the target of becoming a true leader in how I conduct myself.”
Confucius said: “How could I possibly dare to claim that I’m a man of great wisdom and goodness? All that can be said of me is that I never grow weary of learning and never get tired of teaching others.” Gongxi Chi said: “This is exactly what we students are unable to grasp.”
When Confucius fell seriously ill, Zilu asked permission to pray. Confucius said: “Does such a practice exist?” Zilu replied: “Certainly. The liturgy says: ‘We pray to the spirits from above and the spirits from below.’” Confucius said: “If that’s the case, I’ve been praying for myself for a long time now.”
Confucius said: “Just as extravagance leads to arrogance, frugality leads to meanness. It’s better to be mean rather than arrogant.”
Confucius said: “A leader is calm and at ease; a petty person is anxious and on edge.”
Confucius was gracious but serious; commanding but not severe; respectful but at ease.