Analects of Confucius: passages on loyalty

Loyalty (忠/zhōng) involves taking into account the interests of others as central to your conduct. Some commentators classify loyalty as one of the secondary values of Confucius; it is often mentioned together with trustworthiness (信/xìn), another so-called secondary value. In some contexts, loyalty can also be rendered as “faithfulness” and even “doing your utmost.”

Here are all the passages in the Analects that discuss loyalty, plus links to related articles.

Analects Book 1: Passages on loyalty
Chapter 4

曾子曰:「吾日三省吾身,為人謀而不忠乎?與朋友交而不信乎?傳不習乎?」
Zengzi said: “I examine myself three times every day. Have I been true to other people’s interests when acting on their behalf? Have I been sincere in my interactions with friends? Have I practiced what I have been taught?”

Chapter 8
子曰:「君子不重,則不威,學則不固。主忠信,無友不如己者,過則勿憚改。」
Confucius said: “A leader who has no seriousness of purpose lacks dignity and a solid foundation for learning. Hold loyalty and trustworthiness as your highest principles; don’t make friends with people who are not your equal. When you make a mistake, don’t be afraid to correct yourself.”

Analects Book 1: Links
Book 1, Chapter 4
Book 1, Chapter 8

Analects Book 2: Passages on loyalty
Chapter 20
季康子問:「使民敬忠以勸,如之何?」子曰:「臨之以莊則敬,孝慈則忠,舉善而教不能則勸。」
Ji Kangzi asked: “What should I do to make the people respectful, loyal, and diligent? Confucius said: “Treat them with dignity, and they will be respectful. Be filial to your parents and kind to the young, and they will be loyal. Promote those who are capable and teach those who are not, and they will be diligent.”

Analects Book 2: Links
Book 2, Chapter 20

Analects Book 3: Passages on loyalty
Chapter 19

定公問:「君使臣,臣事君,如之何?」孔子對曰:「君使臣以禮,臣事君以忠。」
Duke Ding asked: “How should a lord treat his ministers? How should ministers serve their lord?” Confucius replied: “A lord should treat his ministers in accordance with ritual; ministers should serve their lord with loyalty.”

Analects Book 3: Links
Book 3, Chapter 19

Analects Book 4: Passages on loyalty
Chapter 15

子曰:「參乎!吾道一以貫之。」曾子曰:「唯。」子出。門人問曰:「何謂也?」曾子曰:「夫子之道,忠恕而已矣。」
Confucius said: “Shen, my way is woven into a single thread.” Zengzi replied: “Indeed.” After Confucius had left, the other followers asked: “What did he mean?” Zengzi said: “The way of the Master is based on loyalty and reciprocity; that and nothing more.”

Analects Book 4: Links
Book 4, Chapter 15

Analects Book 5: Passages on loyalty
Chapter 19

子張問曰:「令尹子文三仕為令尹,無喜色;三已之,無慍色。舊令尹之政,必以告新令尹。何如?」子曰:「忠矣。」曰:「仁矣乎?」曰:「未知,焉得仁!」「崔子弒齊君,陳文子有馬十乘,棄而違之。至於他邦,則曰,『猶吾大夫崔子也。』違之,之一邦,則又曰:『猶吾大夫崔子也。』違之。何如?」子曰:「清矣。」曰:「仁矣乎?」子曰:「未知,焉得仁?」
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?”

Chapter 28
子曰:「十室之邑,必有忠信如丘者焉,不如丘之好學也。」
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.”

Analects Book 5: Links
Book 5, Chapter 19
Book 5, Chapter 28

Analects Book 7: Passages on loyalty
Chapter 24

子以四教:文,行,忠,信。
Confucius covered four subjects in his teaching: culture; conduct; loyalty; and trustworthiness.

Analects Book 7: Links
Book 7, Chapter 24

Analects Book 9: Passages on loyalty
Chapter 25

子曰:「主忠信,毋友不如己者,過則勿憚改。」
Confucius said: “Hold loyalty and trustworthiness as your highest principles; don’t make friends with people who are not your equal. When you make a mistake, don’t be afraid to correct yourself.”

Analects Book 9: Links
Book 9, Chapter 25

Analects Book 12: Passages on loyalty
Chapter 10

子張問「崇德,辨惑。」子曰:「主忠信,徒義崇德也。愛之欲其生,惡之欲其死;既欲其生,又欲其死,是惑也!」誠不以富,亦祗以異。
Zizhang asked about the phrase “accumulate virtue, resolve confusion”. Confucius said: “Place loyalty and trustworthiness above everything and follow the path of rightness to accumulate virtue. When you love someone, you want them to live; when you hate someone, you want them to die. But if you want someone to live and to die at the same time, that’s confusion.”
It may not be just because she is wealthy,
It may also be out of a need for variety.

Chapter 14
子張問「政」。子曰:「居之無倦,行之以忠。」
Zizhang asked about governance. Confucius said: “Execute the responsibilities of your office tirelessly. Carry out your duties faithfully.”

Chapter 23
子貢問「友」。子曰:「忠告而善道之,不可則止,毋自辱焉。」
Zigong asked about friends. Confucius said: “Advise them loyally and guide them tactfully. If that fails, stop: do not open yourself up to being snubbed.”

Analects Book 12: Links
Book 12, Chapter 10
Book 12, Chapter 14
Book 12, Chapter 23

Analects Book 13: Passages on loyalty
Chapter 19

樊遲問仁。子曰:「居處恭,執事敬,與人忠,雖之夷狄,不可棄也。」
Fan Chi asked about goodness. Confucius said: “Be considerate in your private life, diligent in your public affairs, and loyal to others. Even when you are among the Yi and Di tribes, do not deviate from these principles.”

Analects Book 13: Links
Book 13, Chapter 19


Analects Book 14: Passages on loyalty
Chapter 7

子曰:「愛之,能勿勞乎?忠焉,能勿誨乎?」
Confucius said: “Can you truly care for someone if you’re not demanding towards them? Can you be truly loyal to someone if you refrain from admonishing them?”

Analects Book 14: Links
Book 14, Chapter 7

Analects Book 15: Passages on loyalty
Chapter 6

子張問「行」。子曰:「言忠信,行篤敬,雖蠻貊之邦行矣;言不忠信,行不篤敬,雖州里行乎哉?立則見其參於前也,在輿則見其倚於衡也,夫然後行!」子張書諸紳。
Zizhang asked about getting on in the world. Confucius said: “If your words are sincere and trustworthy and your actions are honorable and respectful, you will get on in the world even among the Man and Mo tribes. If your words are insincere and untrustworthy, if you act without honor and respect, how can you possibly get on in the world even in your own village? When you stand, you should always have this principle in front of you. When you drive you should have it carved upon the yoke of your carriage; only then will you truly be able to move ahead.” Zizhang wrote this down on his sash.

Analects Book 15: Links
Book 15, Chapter 6

Analects Book 16: Passages on loyalty
Chapter 10

孔子曰:「君子有九思:視思明,聽思聰,色思溫,貌思恭,言思忠,事思敬,疑思問,忿思難,見得思義。」
Confucius said: “A leader focuses their thoughts in nine ways: when looking they focus on seeing clearly; when listening they focus on hearing properly; in their facial expression, they focus on appearing friendly; in their demeanor, they focus on being respectful; in their speech, they focus on sincerity; when at their duties, they focus on being respectful; when they have doubts, they focus on asking questions; when angry, they focus on the negative consequences; when faced with an opportunity for profit, they focus on rightness.”

Analects Book 16: Links
Book 16, Chapter 10

Note: This image was taken in Tainan Confucius Temple.

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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.