Analects of Confucius Book 8: new English translation

Richard Brown
4 min readAug 29, 2019

Read this new English translation of the Analects of Confucius Book 8 to learn more about the teachings of China’s most famous philosopher, including his thoughts on the qualities of the ancient sage kings who laid the foundations of Chinese civilization.

Chapter 1
Confucius said: “It can truly be said of Tai Bo that he was a man of supreme virtue. Three times he gave up the throne of his state without giving the people the opportunity to praise him.”

Chapter 2
Confucius said: “Reverence unregulated by ritual descends into indifference; cautiousness unregulated by ritual descends into timidity; boldness unregulated by ritual descends into disorder; frankness unregulated by ritual descends into hurtfulness. If a leader is devoted to their family, the people are inclined towards goodness; if a leader doesn’t forget about their old friends, the people will not shirk their obligations to others.”

Chapter 3
When Zengzi was seriously ill, he called his followers together and said: “Look at my feet! Look at my hands! It’s said in the Book of Songs:
‘We should be vigilant and cautious,
As if we are standing on the edge of an abyss,
As if we are treading on thin ice.’
But now, my little ones, I know that I’m escaping whole now and forever after.”

Chapter 4
When Zengzi was seriously ill, Meng Jingzi came to visit him. Zengzi said: “When a bird is about to die, its song is mournful; when a man is about to die, his words are kind. In following the way, leaders cherish three things: by maintaining a dignified demeanor, they stay far from violence and arrogance; by maintaining a sincere countenance, they show they can be trusted; by choosing their words carefully, they avoid vulgarity and mistakes. As for the details of ritual, these will be taken care of by the functionaries.”

Chapter 5
Zengzi said: “Capable but willing to listen to those who are not capable; talented but willing to listen to those without talent; viewing having as the same as not having; viewing fullness as the same as emptiness; accepting insults without bearing a grudge: long ago, I had a friend who practiced these things.”

Chapter 6
Zengzi said: “You can entrust him with the care of a teenage orphan; you can entrust him with the management of a small estate; when faced with a crisis, he will remain steadfast in resolving it. Is he a leader? Of course, he’s a leader.”

Chapter 7
Zengzi said: “A scholar-official must be strong and resolute because his burden is heavy and his road is long. He takes goodness as his burden: is it not heavy? His journey ends only with death: is it not long?”

Chapter 8
Confucius said: “Find inspiration with the Book of Songs; establish character with ritual; achieve perfection with music.”

Chapter 9
Confucius said: “The common people can be made to follow the way, but they cannot be made to understand it.”

Chapter 10
Confucius said: “If people with a courageous streak find themselves trapped in poverty, chaos will ensue. If people without a trace of goodness decide their sufferings are too great, chaos will ensue.”

Chapter 11
Confucius said: “Even if someone has all the outstanding talents of the Duke of Zhou, if they’re arrogant and mean all their other qualities aren’t worth looking at.”

Chapter 12
Confucius said: “Someone willing to study for three years without taking up an official position is hard to find.”

Chapter 13
Confucius said: “Commit yourself sincerely to the love of learning. Defend the great way with your life. Do not enter an unstable state or live in a country that is in chaos. Take office when the way prevails in the world; withdraw from office when it disappears. In a state that has adopted the way, be ashamed if you remain poor and obscure; in a state that has lost the way, be ashamed if you become rich and achieve high rank.”

Chapter 14
Confucius said: “Don’t concern yourself with the affairs of an office that you don’t hold.”

Chapter 15
Confucius said: “What rich and beautiful music fills my ears when Zhi, the music master, is conducting — right from the opening passage through to the finale of the Cry of the Ospreys!”

Chapter 16
Confucius said: “I don’t understand people who are reckless and insincere, ignorant and irresponsible, and naïve and untrustworthy.”

Chapter 17
Confucius said: “Learn as if you’ll never be able to catch up with everything you need to know and as if you’re afraid you’ll lose everything that you’ve already gained.”

Chapter 18
Confucius said: “Shun and Yu were so majestic! They reigned over the world but never profited from it.”

Chapter 19
Confucius said: “What a great ruler Yao was! Absolutely majestic! Only heaven is great, and only Yao was able to emulate it. His virtue was so great that the people could find no words to describe it. How stunning were his achievements, and how brilliant the culture was that he created!”

Chapter 20
Shun ruled his empire with only five ministers. King Wu of Zhou said: “I have ten able ministers to keep everything in order.” Confucius said: “Talented people are hard to find: are they not? The times of Yao and Shun were said to be rich in talent, but King Wu was only able to find nine such men because one of his ministers was a woman. Although the Zhou controlled over two-thirds of the empire, it still served the Shang. You can truly say that the virtue of the Zhou was supreme.”

Chapter 21
Confucius said: “I can find no flaw in Yu. He drank and ate simple fare, but he showed complete devotion in his offerings to the ghosts and spirits; he wore humble clothes, but his ritual vestments were magnificent; he lived in a modest palace, but he devoted all his strength to draining the floodwaters. I can find no flaw in Yu.”



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.