Analects of Confucius: passages on trustworthiness

Trustworthiness (信/xìn) means being true to your word and being a dependable support for others. In some contexts it can be translated as ‘’faith”, “faithfulness”, or “sincerity”.

Here are all the passages in the Analects of Confucius on trustworthiness, plus links to related articles.

Related Reading
Analects of Confucius Book 1: Confucius on trustworthiness

Analects Book 1: Passages on trustworthiness
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 5
Confucius said: “The way to rule a thousand-chariot state is to devote yourself to its affairs and fulfill your commitments; be economical in expenditure and love your people; and mobilize the common people for labor at the right times of the year.”

Chapter 6
Confucius said: “A young man should be devoted to his parents at home and respectful to his elders outside it. He should be cautious and truthful, love everyone, but only develop close relationships with good people. If he still has energy to spare after all this, he should study the classics.”

Chapter 7
Zixia said: “A man who values virtue over beauty, who devotes all his energy to serving his father and mother, who is willing to sacrifice his life for his ruler, and who is true to his word in his dealings with his friends: even though some may say he is not learned, I will insist he is a learned man.”

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.”

Chapter 13
Youzi said: “If your commitments conform to what is right, you will be able to keep your word. If your manners conform to ritual, you will be able to avoid shame and disgrace. Only if you associate with reliable people will you be successful.”

Analects Book 1: Links
Book 1, Chapter 4
Book 1, Chapter 5
Book 1, Chapter 6
Book 1, Chapter 7
Book 1, Chapter 8
Book 1, Chapter 13

Analects Book 2: Passages on trustworthiness
Chapter 22

Confucius said: “I wouldn’t know what to do with someone whose word cannot be trusted. How would you drive a wagon without a yoke or a chariot without a crossbar?”

Analects Book 2: Links
Book 2, Chapter 22

Analects Book 5: Passages on trustworthiness
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 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 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 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 6
Book 5, Chapter 10
Book 5, Chapter 26
Book 5, Chapter 28

Analects Book 7: Passages on trustworthiness
Chapter 1
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.”

Chapter 24
Confucius covered four subjects in his teaching: culture; conduct; loyalty; and trustworthiness.

Analects Book 7: Links
Book 7, Chapter 1
Book 7, Chapter 24

Analects Book 8: Passages on trustworthiness
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 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 16
Confucius said: “I don’t understand people who are reckless and insincere, ignorant and irresponsible, and naïve and untrustworthy.”

Analects Book 8: Links
Book 8, Chapter 4
Book 8, Chapter 13
Book 8, Chapter 16

Analects Book 9: Passages on trustworthiness
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 trustworthiness
Chapter 7

Zigong asked about governance. Confucius said: “Enough food, enough weapons, and the trust of the people.” Zigong said: “If you had to go without one of these three, which one would you give up?” Confucius replied: “Weapons.” Zigong asked: “If you had to go without one of the remaining two, which one would you give up?” Confucius replied: “Food. From ancient times, death has been the fate of everyone. But without the trust of the people, the government cannot stand.”

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.

Analects Book 12: Links
Book 12, Chapter 7
Book 12, Chapter 10

Analects Book 13: Passages on trustworthiness
Chapter 4

Fan Chi asked to learn about cultivating grain. Confucius said: “You’d be better off asking an old farmer.” Fan Chi asked to learn about raising vegetables. Confucius said: “You’d be better off asking an old gardener.” After Fan Chi had left, Confucius said: “What a petty person! When a ruler loves ritual, the people don’t dare to be disrespectful. When a ruler loves rightness, the people don’t dare to be disobedient. When a ruler loves trustworthiness, the people don’t dare to be deceitful. If such a ruler existed, people would flock to them from everywhere with their children strapped to their backs. What need would there be to learn about farming?”

Chapter 18
The Lord of She declared to Confucius: “Among my people, there’s a man we call ‘Upright Gong.’ When his father stole a sheep, he informed on him.” Confucius said: “Among my people, the ones we consider to be ‘upright’ are different. Fathers watch the backs of their sons and sons watch the backs of their fathers. ‘Uprightness’ can be found in this.”

Chapter 20
Zigong asked: “What qualities must you possess to be called a true scholar-official?” Confucius said: “A person who maintains a sense of humility and can be sent on a mission to the four corners of the earth without bringing disgrace to their ruler can be called a true scholar-official.” “May I ask what type of person ranks one step below that?” “A person who is praised by their relatives for their filial devotion and who is known by the people of their neighborhood for being respectful towards their elders.” “May I ask what type of person ranks one step below that?” “A person whose word can be trusted and who completes whatever task they undertake. In their stubborn determination, they may resemble a petty person, but they could still probably qualify as a scholar-official of a lower rank.” “How would you rate the people currently involved in public affairs?” “Sadly, these are people you measure by a bucket or scoop. They’re not even worth mentioning.”

Analects Book 13: Links
Book 13, Chapter 4
Book 13, Chapter 18
Book 13, Chapter 20

Analects Book 15: Passages on trustworthiness
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.

Chapter 18
Confucius said: “A leader takes rightness as their essence, puts it into practice through ritual, manifests it through humility, and brings it to fruition through trustworthiness. This is how a leader behaves.”

Analects Book 15: Links
Book 15, Chapter 6
Book 15, Chapter 18

Analects Book 17: Passages on trustworthiness
Chapter 6

Zizhang asked Confucius about goodness. Confucius said: “Whoever is capable of putting five qualities into practice throughout the world can be considered good.” “And what are those?” “Respectfulness, tolerance, trustworthiness, diligence, and generosity. If you are respectful, you will not be insulted by others; if you are tolerant, you will win people’s hearts; if you are trustworthy, people will entrust you with responsibility; if you are diligent, you will achieve results; if you are generous, you will be capable of managing other people.”

Chapter 8
Confucius said: “Zilu, have you heard of the six virtues and their six attendant vices?” “No, I haven’t.” “Sit down, and I will tell you. Loving goodness without loving learning leads to ignorance. Loving knowledge without loving learning leads to foolishness. Loving trustworthiness without loving learning leads to criminality. Loving frankness without loving learning leads to offensiveness. Loving valor without loving learning leads to chaos. Loving steadfastness without loving learning leads to recklessness.”

Analects Book 17: Links
Book 17, Chapter 6
Book 17, Chapter 8

Analects Book 19: Passages on trustworthiness
Chapter 2

Zizhang said: “If you fail to embrace virtue with all your spirit and fail to follow the way with all your heart, does it really matter whether you live or die?”

Chapter 10
Zixia said: “A leader only mobilizes the people for labor after earning their trust. If the leader hasn’t earned their trust, the people will feel they are being exploited. A leader only offers criticism to their lord after earning his trust. If the leader hasn’t earned his trust, the lord will feel he is being slandered.”

Analects Book 19: Links
Book 19, Chapter 2
Book 19, Chapter 10

Analects Book 20: Passages on trustworthiness
Chapter 1

Yao said: Oh, Shun! The heavenly succession was bestowed upon you; hold faithfully to the middle way; if the people within the four seas fall into suffering and penury, the honors bestowed on you by heaven’s gift will be taken away from you forever.

Shun passed the same message to Yu.

Tang said, “I, the humble Lu, dare to sacrifice a black bull and dare to make this declaration before my great lord. I dare not pardon those who are guilty. Your servants cannot hide anything from you. You have already judged them in your heart. If I am guilty, please do not punish the people of the myriad states because of me; but if the people of the myriad states are guilty, let the responsibility lie with me alone.”

“The House of Zhou is greatly blessed. Great men are its riches.” “Although I have my own kinsmen, I prefer to rely on good men. If the common people do wrong, let their faults fall on my head alone. If I set the standards for weights and measures, carefully examine the laws and regulations, and restore the offices that have been abolished, the authority of the government will reach everywhere. If I restore the states that have been destroyed, revive the broken dynastic lines, and bring back to office great men who were sent into exile, I will win the hearts of the people throughout the world. I will give priority to the people; food; mourning; and sacrifice. If I am tolerant I will win the masses. If I am trustworthy, the people will entrust me with responsibility. If I am enthusiastic, I will achieve success. If I am fair and just, I will bring happiness to the people.”

Analects Book 20: Links
Book 20, Chapter 1



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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.