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

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
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
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

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

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

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
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

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

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

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
Zizhang asked about governance. Confucius said: “Execute the responsibilities of your office tirelessly. Carry out your duties faithfully.”

Chapter 23
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

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

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

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

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.