Confucius

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Great souls have wills; feeble ones have only wishes.
Chinese Proverb
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The superior man is quiet and calm, waiting for the appointments of Heaven...

Confucius [Chinese: 孔夫子, transliterated Kong Fu Zi or K'ung-fu-tzu, literally "Master Kong"] (traditionally 28 September 551 B.C. – 479 B.C.) Chinese social philosopher, whose teachings deeply influenced East Asian life and thought.

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The Analects

Chapter I

学而(學而)篇

  • 學而時習之、不亦說乎。有朋自遠方來、不亦樂乎。人不知而不慍、不亦君子乎。
    • Translation: Isn't it a pleasure to study and practice what you have learned? Isn't it also great when friends visit from distant places? If people do not recognize me and it doesn't bother me, am I not a Superior Man?
    • The opening of the Analects and thus the first phrase of Chapter I after which the Chinese title of this book is named 學而.
  • 巧言令色、鮮矣仁。
    • Translation: Fine words and an insinuating appearance are seldom associated with true virtue.
    • Variant translation: Someone who is a clever speaker and maintains a 'too-smiley' face is seldom considered a humane person.
  • 不患人之不己知,患不知人也。
    I am not bothered by the fact that I am unknown. I am bothered when I do not know others.
  • 主忠信。毋友不如己者。過,則勿憚改。
    • Translation: Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles. Then no friends would not be like yourself (all friends would be as loyal as yourself). If you make a mistake, do not be afraid to correct it.
  • 道千乘之國,敬事而信,節用而愛人,使民以時。
    • Translation: If you would govern a state of a thousand chariots (a small-to-middle-size state), you must pay strict attention to business, be true to your word, be economical in expenditure and love the people. You should use them according to the seasons.
  • 君子食无求飽,居无求安,敏於事而慎於言,就有道而正焉,可謂好學也已。
    • Translation: When the Superior Man eats he does not try to stuff himself; at rest he does not seek perfect comfort; he is diligent in his work and careful in speech. He avails himself to people of the Tao and thereby corrects himself. This is the kind of person of whom you can say, 'he loves learning.'
Chapter II

為政篇

  • 吾十有五而志於學,三十而立,四十而不惑,五十而知天命,六十而耳順,七十而从心所欲,不逾矩。
    • Translation: At fifteen my heart was set on learning; at thirty I stood firm; at forty I had no more doubts; at fifty I knew the mandate of heaven; at sixty my ear was obedient; at seventy I could follow my heart's desire without transgressing the norm.
    • Retrospection of his own life. From this phrase, alternative names for each decades of human life are derived in Chinese.
  • 溫故而知新,可以為師矣。
    • Translation: Reviewing what you have learned and learning anew, you are fit to be a teacher.
  • 君子周而不比,小人比而不周。
    • Translation: The Superior Man is all-embracing and not partial. The inferior man is partial and not all-embracing.
  • 學而不思則罔,思而不學則殆。
    • Translation: To study and not think is a waste. To think and not study is dangerous.
  • 攻乎異端,斯害也己。
    • Translation: To throw oneself into strange teachings is quite dangerous.
    • Note: The word translated "strange teachings" means literally another end [of textile]. There are two different understandings about "strange teachings" or heretical. One possible understanding is "strange from the authentic teaching", another understanding is simply different subjects, just as two authors or two scholastic fields literature and politics.
  • 由、誨女知之乎、知之為知之、不知為不知、是知也。
    • Translation: Yu [a disciple], shall I teach you about knowledge? What you know, you know, what you don't know, you don't know. This is true wisdom.
  • 視其所以,觀其所由,察其所安。人焉叟哉?人焉叟哉?
    • Translation: See a person's means (of getting things). Observe his motives. Examine that in which he rests. How can a person conceal his character? How can a person conceal his character?
  • 多闻阙疑,慎言其馀,则寡尤。多见阙殆,慎行其馀,则寡悔。言寡尤,行寡悔,禄在其中矣。
    • Translation: Listen widely to remove your doubts and be careful when speaking about the rest and your mistakes will be few. See much and get rid of what is dangerous and be careful in acting on the rest and your causes for regret will be few. Speaking without fault, acting without causing regret: 'upgrading' consists in this.
  • 非其鬼而祭之,谄也。见义不为,无勇也。
    • Translation: To worship to other than one's own ancestral spirits is brown-nosing. If you see what is right and fail to act on it, you lack courage.
      Variant translation: To see what is right, and not to do it, is want of courage or of principle.
Chapter III

八佾篇

  • 人而不仁、如礼何。人而不仁、如楽何。
    • Translation: If a man has no humaneness what can his propriety be like? If a man has no humaneness what can his happiness be like?
  • 君子無所争、必也射乎、揖譲而升下、而飲、其争也君子。
    • Translation: The Superior Man has nothing to compete for. But if he must compete, he does it in an archery match, wherein he ascends to his position, bowing in deference. Descending, he drinks (or has [the winner] drink) the ritual cup.
    • Note: Bowing is a courtesy for the host who invites him as well drinking a cup.
  • 殷因於夏礼,所损益,可知也;周因於殷礼,所损益,可知也。其或继周者,虽百世,可知也。
    • Translation: The Shang based its propriety on that of the Yin, and what it added and subtracted is knowable. The Zhou has based its propriety on that of the Shang and what it added and subtracted is knowable. In this way, what continues from the Chou, even if 100 generations hence, is knowable.
Chapter IV

里仁篇

  • 里仁為美、択不処仁、焉得知。
    • Translation: Being in humaneness is good. If we select other goodness and thus are far apart from humaneness, how can we be the wise?
    • The opening phrase of this chapter after which the chapter is named in Chinese.
  • 朝聞道、夕死可矣。
    • Translation: If I hear the Way [of truth] in the morning, I am content even to die in that evening.
  • 父在,觀其志;父殁,觀其行;三年无改於父之道,可謂孝矣。
    • Translation: When your father is alive, observe his will. When your father is dead observe his former actions. If, for three years [after the death of your father] you do not change from the ways of your father, you can be called a 'real son (xiào/hsiao)'.
  • 以約失之者,鮮矣。
    • Translation: The cautious seldom err.
  • 君子欲訥於言而敏於行。
    • Translation by James Legge: The superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions.
    • Variant translations: The superior man acts before he speaks, and afterwards speaks according to his actions.
      The greater man does not boast of himself, But does what he must do.
      A good man does not give orders, but leads by example.
  • 德不孤,必有鄰。
    • Translation: Virtue (or the man of virtue) is not left to stand alone. He who practices it will have neighbors.
  • 君子喻於义,小人喻於利。
    • Translation: The Superior Man is aware of Righteousness, the inferior man is aware of advantage.
Chapter VI

雍也篇

  • 知之者不如好之者,好之者不如楽之者。
    • Translation: They who know the truth are not equal to those who love it, and they who love it are not equal to those who delight in it.
  • 中人以上、可以語上也、中人以下、不可以語上也。
    • Translation: To those whose talents are above mediocrity, the highest subjects may be announced. To those who are below mediocrity, the highest subjects may not be announced.
  • 知者楽水,仁者楽山。知者動,仁者静。知者楽,仁者寿。
    • Translation: The wise find pleasure in water; the virtuous find pleasure in hills. The wise are active; the virtuous are tranquil. The wise are joyful; the virtuous are long-lived.
  • 務民之義、敬鬼神而遠之。可謂知矣。
    • Translation: To give one's self earnestly to the duties due to men, and, while respecting spiritual beings, to keep aloof from them, may be called wisdom.
  • 君子博学於文、約之以礼、亦可以弗畔矣夫。
    • Translation: The superior man, extensively studying all learning, and keeping himself under the restraint of the rules of propriety, may thus likewise not overstep what is right.
  • 仁者先难而後获,可谓仁矣。
    • Translation: The man of virtue makes the difficulty to be overcome his first business, and success only a subsequent consideration: this may be called perfect virtue.
Other chapters
  • 為政以德,譬如北辰居其所而眾星共之。
    • He who exercises government by means of his virtue may be compared to the north polar star, which keeps its place when all the stars are rotating about it.
  • 君子坦荡荡,小人常戚戚。
    • The superior man is satisfied and composed; the mean man is always full of distress.
  • 事父母几谏,见志不从,又敬不违,劳而不怨。
    • When you serve your mother and father it is okay to try to correct them once in a while. But if you see that they are not going to listen to you, keep your respect for them and don't distance yourself from them. Work without complaining.
  • 三人行,必有我师焉:择其善者而从之,其不善者而改之。
    • When I walk along with two others, they may serve me as my teachers. I will select their good qualities and follow them, their bad qualities and avoid them.
      As translated by James Legge
  • 弟子,入則孝,出則弟,謹而信,凡愛眾,而親仁。行有餘力,則以學文。
    • A young man should serve his parents at home and be respectful to elders outside his home. He should be earnest and truthful, loving all, but become intimate with humaneness. After doing this, if he has energy to spare, he can study literature and the arts.
  • 君子不重,則不威。學則不固。主忠信。无友不如己者。國,則勿憚改。
    • If the Superior Man is not serious, then he will not inspire awe in others. If he is not learned, then he will not be on firm ground. He takes loyalty and good faith to be of primary importance, and has no friends who are not of equal (moral) caliber. When he makes a mistake, he doesn't hesitate to correct it.
  • 默而识之,学而不厌,诲人不倦,何有於我哉?
    • The silent treasuring up of knowledge; learning without satiety; and instructing others without being wearied: which one of these things belongs to me?
  • 德之不修,学之不讲,闻义不能徒,不善不能改,是吾忧也。
    • Leaving virtue without proper cultivation; not thoroughly discussing what is learned; not being able to move towards righteousness of which a knowledge is gained; and not being able to change what is not good: — these are the things which occasion me solicitude.
  • 见贤思齐焉;见不贤而内自省也。
    • When you see a good person, think of becoming like her/him. When you see someone not so good, reflect on your own weak points.
  • 君子安而不忘危,存而不忘亡,治而不忘乱。是以身安而国家可保也。
    • The superior man, when resting in safety, does not forget that danger may come. When in a state of security he does not forget the possibility of ruin. When all is orderly, he does not forget that disorder may come. Thus his person is not endangered, and his States and all their clans are preserved.
  • 己所不欲,勿施于人
    • What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.


His presenting himself with his institutions before spiritual beings, without any doubts arising about them, shows that he knows Heaven. His being prepared, without any misgivings, to wait for the rise of a sage a hundred ages after, shows that he knows men.

The Doctrine of the Mean

  • What Heaven has conferred is called The Nature; an accordance with this nature is called The Path of duty; the regulation of this path is called Instruction. The path may not be left for an instant. If it could be left, it would not be the path. On this account, the superior man does not wait till he sees things, to be cautious, nor till he hears things, to be apprehensive.
  • There is nothing more visible than what is secret, and nothing more manifest than what is minute. Therefore the superior man is watchful over himself, when he is alone.
  • Let the states of equilibrium and harmony exist in perfection, and a happy order will prevail throughout heaven and earth, and all things will be nourished and flourish.
  • Perfect is the virtue which is according to the Mean! Rare have they long been among the people, who could practice it!
  • I know how it is that the path of the Mean is not walked in — The knowing go beyond it, and the stupid do not come up to it. I know how it is that the path of the Mean is not understood — The men of talents and virtue go beyond it, and the worthless do not come up to it.
  • There is no body but eats and drinks. But they are few who can distinguish flavors.
  • Men all say, 'We are wise'; but being driven forward and taken in a net, a trap, or a pitfall, they know not how to escape. Men all say, 'We are wise'; but happening to choose the course of the Mean, they are not able to keep it for a round month.
  • The kingdom, its states, and its families, may be perfectly ruled; dignities and emoluments may be declined; naked weapons may be trampled under the feet; but the course of the Mean cannot be attained to.
  • To show forbearance and gentleness in teaching others; and not to revenge unreasonable conduct — this is the energy of southern regions, and the good man makes it his study. To lie under arms; and meet death without regret — this is the energy of northern regions, and the forceful make it their study. Therefore, the superior man cultivates a friendly harmony, without being weak — How firm is he in his energy! He stands erect in the middle, without inclining to either side — How firm is he in his energy! When good principles prevail in the government of his country, he does not change from what he was in retirement. How firm is he in his energy! When bad principles prevail in the country, he maintains his course to death without changing — How firm is he in his energy!
  • The superior man accords with the course of the Mean. Though he may be all unknown, unregarded by the world, he feels no regret — It is only the sage who is able for this.
  • The way which the superior man pursues, reaches wide and far, and yet is secret. Common men and women, however ignorant, may intermeddle with the knowledge of it; yet in its utmost reaches, there is that which even the sage does not know. Common men and women, however much below the ordinary standard of character, can carry it into practice; yet in its utmost reaches, there is that which even the sage is not able to carry into practice. Great as heaven and earth are, men still find some things in them with which to be dissatisfied. Thus it is that, were the superior man to speak of his way in all its greatness, nothing in the world would be found able to embrace it, and were he to speak of it in its minuteness, nothing in the world would be found able to split it.
  • The way of the superior man may be found, in its simple elements, in the intercourse of common men and women; but in its utmost reaches, it shines brightly through Heaven and Earth.
  • The Path is not far from man. When men try to pursue a course, which is far from the common indications of consciousness, this course cannot be considered The Path.
  • The superior man governs men, according to their nature, with what is proper to them, and as soon as they change what is wrong, he stops.
  • When one cultivates to the utmost the principles of his nature, and exercises them on the principle of reciprocity, he is not far from the path. What you do not like when done to yourself, do not do to others.
  • Earnest in practicing the ordinary virtues, and careful in speaking about them, if, in his practice, he has anything defective, the superior man dares not but exert himself; and if, in his words, he has any excess, he dares not allow himself such license. Thus his words have respect to his actions, and his actions have respect to his words; is it not just an entire sincerity which marks the superior man?
  • The superior man does what is proper to the station in which he is; he does not desire to go beyond this. In a position of wealth and honor, he does what is proper to a position of wealth and honor. In a poor and low position, he does what is proper to a poor and low position. Situated among barbarous tribes, he does what is proper to a situation among barbarous tribes. In a position of sorrow and difficulty, he does what is proper to a position of sorrow and difficulty. The superior man can find himself in no situation in which he is not himself. In a high situation, he does not treat with contempt his inferiors. In a low situation, he does not court the favor of his superiors. He rectifies himself, and seeks for nothing from others, so that he has no dissatisfactions. He does not murmur against Heaven, nor grumble against men. Thus it is that the superior man is quiet and calm, waiting for the appointments of Heaven, while the mean man walks in dangerous paths, looking for lucky occurrences.
  • In archery we have something like the way of the superior man. When the archer misses the center of the target, he turns round and seeks for the cause of his failure in himself.
  • The way of the superior man may be compared to what takes place in traveling, when to go to a distance we must first traverse the space that is near, and in ascending a height, when we must begin from the lower ground.
  • How abundantly do spiritual beings display the powers that belong to them! We look for them, but do not see them; we listen to, but do not hear them; yet they enter into all things, and there is nothing without them.
  • Heaven, in the production of things, is sure to be bountiful to them, according to their qualities. Hence the tree that is flourishing, it nourishes, while that which is ready to fall, it overthrows.
  • The administration of government lies in getting proper men. Such men are to be got by means of the ruler's own character. That character is to be cultivated by his treading in the ways of duty. And the treading those ways of duty is to be cultivated by the cherishing of benevolence.
  • Benevolence is the characteristic element of humanity.
  • To be fond of learning is to be near to knowledge. To practice with vigor is to be near to magnanimity. To possess the feeling of shame is to be near to energy.
  • By the ruler's cultivation of his own character, the duties of universal obligation are set forth. By honoring men of virtue and talents, he is preserved from errors of judgment.
  • In all things success depends on previous preparation, and without such previous preparation there is sure to be failure. If what is to be spoken be previously determined, there will be no stumbling. If affairs be previously determined, there will be no difficulty with them. If one's actions have been previously determined, there will be no sorrow in connection with them. If principles of conduct have been previously determined, the practice of them will be inexhaustible.
  • Sincerity is the way of Heaven. The attainment of sincerity is the way of men. He who possesses sincerity is he who, without an effort, hits what is right, and apprehends, without the exercise of thought — he is the sage who naturally and easily embodies the right way. He who attains to sincerity is he who chooses what is good, and firmly holds it fast. To this attainment there are requisite the extensive study of what is good, accurate inquiry about it, careful reflection on it, the clear discrimination of it, and the earnest practice of it.
  • The superior man, while there is anything he has not studied, or while in what he has studied there is anything he cannot understand, Will not intermit his labor. While there is anything he has not inquired about, or anything in what he has inquired about which he does not know, he will not intermit his labor. While there is anything which he has not reflected on, or anything in what he has reflected on which he does not apprehend, he will not intermit his labor. While there is anything which he has not discriminated or his discrimination is not clear, he will not intermit his labor. If there be anything which he has not practiced, or his practice fails in earnestness, he will not intermit his labor. If another man succeed by one effort, he will use a hundred efforts. If another man succeed by ten efforts, he will use a thousand. Let a man proceed in this way, and, though dull, he will surely become intelligent; though weak, he will surely become strong.
  • When we have intelligence resulting from sincerity, this condition is to be ascribed to nature; when we have sincerity resulting from intelligence, this condition is to be ascribed to instruction. But given the sincerity, and there shall be the intelligence; given the intelligence, and there shall be the sincerity.
  • It is only he who is possessed of the most complete sincerity that can exist under heaven, who can give its full development to his nature. Able to give its full development to his own nature, he can do the same to the nature of other men. Able to give its full development to the nature of other men, he can give their full development to the natures of animals and things. Able to give their full development to the natures of creatures and things, he can assist the transforming and nourishing powers of Heaven and Earth. Able to assist the transforming and nourishing powers of Heaven and Earth, he may with Heaven and Earth form a ternion.
  • Sincerity becomes apparent. From being apparent, it becomes manifest. From being manifest, it becomes brilliant. Brilliant, it affects others. Affecting others, they are changed by it. Changed by it, they are transformed. It is only he who is possessed of the most complete sincerity that can exist under heaven, who can transform.
  • It is characteristic of the most entire sincerity to be able to foreknow. When a nation or family is about to flourish, there are sure to be happy omens; and when it is about to perish, there are sure to be unlucky omens.
  • Sincerity is that whereby self-completion is effected, and its way is that by which man must direct himself.
  • Sincerity is the end and beginning of things; without sincerity there would be nothing. On this account, the superior man regards the attainment of sincerity as the most excellent thing.
  • To entire sincerity there belongs ceaselessness. Not ceasing, it continues long. Continuing long, it evidences itself. Evidencing itself, it reaches far. Reaching far, it becomes large and substantial. Large and substantial, it becomes high and brilliant. Large and substantial; this is how it contains all things. High and brilliant; this is how it overspreads all things. Reaching far and continuing long; this is how it perfects all things. So large and substantial, the individual possessing it is the co-equal of Earth. So high and brilliant, it makes him the co-equal of Heaven. So far-reaching and long-continuing, it makes him infinite. Such being its nature, without any display, it becomes manifested; without any movement, it produces changes; and without any effort, it accomplishes its ends.
  • The way of Heaven and Earth may be completely declared in one sentence: They are without any doubleness, and so they produce things in a manner that is unfathomable.
  • How great is the path proper to the Sage! Like overflowing water, it sends forth and nourishes all things, and rises up to the height of heaven. All-complete is its greatness! It embraces the three hundred rules of ceremony, and the three thousand rules of demeanor. It waits for the proper man, and then it is trodden. Hence it is said, "Only by perfect virtue can the perfect path, in all its courses, be made a fact."
  • The superior man honors his virtuous nature, and maintains constant inquiry and study, seeking to carry it out to its breadth and greatness, so as to omit none of the more exquisite and minute points which it embraces, and to raise it to its greatest height and brilliancy, so as to pursue the course of the Mean. He cherishes his old knowledge, and is continually acquiring new. He exerts an honest, generous earnestness, in the esteem and practice of all propriety. Thus, when occupying a high situation he is not proud, and in a low situation he is not insubordinate. When the kingdom is well governed, he is sure by his words to rise; and when it is ill governed, he is sure by his silence to command forbearance to himself.
  • To no one but the Son of Heaven does it belong to order ceremonies, to fix the measures, and to determine the written characters.
  • The institutions of the Ruler are rooted in his own character and conduct, and sufficient attestation of them is given by the masses of the people. He examines them by comparison with those of the three kings, and finds them without mistake. He sets them up before Heaven and Earth, and finds nothing in them contrary to their mode of operation. He presents himself with them before spiritual beings, and no doubts about them arise. He is prepared to wait for the rise of a sage a hundred ages after, and has no misgivings. His presenting himself with his institutions before spiritual beings, without any doubts arising about them, shows that he knows Heaven. His being prepared, without any misgivings, to wait for the rise of a sage a hundred ages after, shows that he knows men.
  • All things are nourished together without their injuring one another. The courses of the seasons, and of the sun and moon, are pursued without any collision among them. The smaller energies are like river currents; the greater energies are seen in mighty transformations. It is this which makes heaven and earth so great.
  • It is only he, possessed of all sagely qualities that can exist under heaven, who shows himself quick in apprehension, clear in discernment, of far-reaching intelligence, and all-embracing knowledge, fitted to exercise rule; magnanimous, generous, benign, and mild, fitted to exercise forbearance; impulsive, energetic, firm, and enduring, fitted to maintain a firm hold; self-adjusted, grave, never swerving from the Mean, and correct, fitted to command reverence; accomplished, distinctive, concentrative, and searching, fitted to exercise discrimination. All-embracing is he and vast, deep and active as a fountain, sending forth in their due season his virtues. All-embracing and vast, he is like Heaven. Deep and active as a fountain, he is like the abyss. He is seen, and the people all reverence him; he speaks, and the people all believe him; he acts, and the people all are pleased with him.
  • It is only the individual possessed of the most entire sincerity that can exist under Heaven, who can adjust the great invariable relations of mankind, establish the great fundamental virtues of humanity, and know the transforming and nurturing operations of Heaven and Earth; — shall this individual have any being or anything beyond himself on which he depends? Call him man in his ideal, how earnest is he! Call him an abyss, how deep is he! Call him Heaven, how vast is he! Who can know him, but he who is indeed quick in apprehension, clear in discernment, of far-reaching intelligence, and all-embracing knowledge, possessing all Heavenly virtue?
  • It is the way of the superior man to prefer the concealment of his virtue, while it daily becomes more illustrious, and it is the way of the mean man to seek notoriety, while he daily goes more and more to ruin. It is characteristic of the superior man, appearing insipid, yet never to produce satiety; while showing a simple negligence, yet to have his accomplishments recognized; while seemingly plain, yet to be discriminating. He knows how what is distant lies in what is near. He knows where the wind proceeds from. He knows how what is minute becomes manifested. Such a one, we may be sure, will enter into virtue.
  • The superior man examines his heart, that there may be nothing wrong there, and that he may have no cause for dissatisfaction with himself. That wherein the superior man cannot be equaled is simply this — his work which other men cannot see.
  • The superior man, even when he is not moving, has a feeling of reverence, and while he speaks not, he has the feeling of truthfulness.
  • It is said in the Book of Poetry, 'In silence is the offering presented, and the spirit approached to; there is not the slightest contention.' Therefore the superior man does not use rewards, and the people are stimulated to virtue. He does not show anger, and the people are awed more than by hatchets and battle-axes.
  • Among the appliances to transform the people, sound and appearances are but trivial influences.

The Great Learning

  • What the great learning teaches, is to illustrate illustrious virtue; to renovate the people; and to rest in the highest excellence.
    The point where to rest being known, the object of pursuit is then determined; and, that being determined, a calm unperturbedness may be attained to. To that calmness there will succeed a tranquil repose. In that repose there may be careful deliberation, and that deliberation will be followed by the attainment of the desired end.
  • Things have their root and their branches. Affairs have their end and their beginning. To know what is first and what is last will lead near to what is taught in the Great Learning.
  • The ancients who wished to illustrate illustrious virtue throughout the Kingdom, first ordered well their own states. Wishing to order well their states, they first regulated their families. Wishing to regulate their families, they first cultivated their persons. Wishing to cultivate their persons, they first rectified their hearts. Wishing to rectify their hearts, they first sought to be sincere in their thoughts. Wishing to be sincere in their thoughts, they first extended to the utmost their knowledge. Such extension of knowledge lay in the investigation of things.
    Things being investigated, knowledge became complete. Their knowledge being complete, their thoughts were sincere. Their thoughts being sincere, their hearts were then rectified. Their hearts being rectified, their persons were cultivated. Their persons being cultivated, their families were regulated. Their families being regulated, their states were rightly governed. Their states being rightly governed, the whole kingdom was made tranquil and happy.
    From the Son of Heaven down to the mass of the people, all must consider the cultivation of the person the root of everything besides.

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  • He who speaks without modesty will find it difficult to make his words good.
  • He with whom neither slander that gradually soaks into the mind, nor statements that startle like a wound in the flesh, are successful — may be called intelligent indeed.
  • I am not one who was born in the possession of knowledge; I am one who is fond of antiquity, and earnest in seeking it there.
  • I have not seen a person who loved virtue, or one who hated what was not virtuous. He who loved virtue would esteem nothing above it.
  • If a man takes no thought about what is distant, he will find sorrow near at hand.
  • If a man withdraws his mind from the love of beauty, and applies it as sincerely to the love of the virtuous; if, in serving his parents, he can exert his utmost strength; if, in serving his prince, he can devote his life; if in his intercourse with his friends, his words are sincere — although men say that he has not learned, I will certainly say that he has.
  • Is virtue remote? I wish to be virtuous, and lo! Virtue is at hand.
  • Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous.
  • Recompense injury with justice, and recompense kindness with kindness.
  • The determined scholar and the man of virtue will not seek to live at the expense of injuring their virtue. They will even sacrifice their lives to preserve their virtue complete.
  • The essence of knowledge is, having it, to apply it; not having it to confess your ignorance.
  • The firm, the enduring, the simple, and the modest are near to virtue.
  • The man who in view of gain thinks of righteousness; who in the view of danger is prepared to give up his life; and who does not forget an old agreement however far back it extends — such a man may be reckoned a complete man.
  • The people may be made to follow a path of action, but they may not be made to understand it.
  • The scholar who cherishes the love of comfort is not fit to be deemed a scholar.
  • The superior man cannot be known in little matters, but he may be entrusted with great concerns. The small man may not be entrusted with great concerns, but he may be known in little matters.
  • The superior man... does not set his mind either for anything, or against anything; what is right he will follow.
  • There are three things which the superior man guards against. In youth, lust. When he is strong, quarrelsomeness. When he is old, covetousness.
  • Things that are done, it is needless to speak about. Things that are past, it is needless to blame.
    • Variant translation: Whats done is done, move on.
  • To be able to practice five things everywhere under heaven constitutes perfect virtue: gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness, and kindness.
  • To go beyond is as wrong as to fall short.
  • Virtue is more to man than either water or fire. I have seen men die from treading on water and fire, but I have never seen a man die from treading the course of virtue.
  • What the superior man seeks is in himself; What the mean man seeks is in others.
    • Variant translation: A superior man is himself as himself; A lesser man must define himself through others
  • When a man's knowledge is sufficient to attain, and his virtue is not sufficient to enable him to hold, whatever he may have gained, he will lose again.
  • When we see men of worth, we should think of equaling them; when we see men of a contrary character, we should turn inwards and examine ourselves.
  • When you have faults, do not fear to abandon them.
  • When you know a thing, to hold that you know it; and when you do not know a thing, to allow that you do not know it — this is knowledge.
  • With coarse rice to eat, with water to drink, and my bended arm for a pillow — I have still joy in the midst of these things. Riches and honors acquired by unrighteousness are to me as a floating cloud.
  • Without an acquaintance with the rules of propriety, it is impossible for the character to be established.
  • While you are not able to serve men, how can you serve spirits... While you do not know life, how can you know about death?
  • An oppressive government is more to be feared than a man-eating tiger.
  • Be not ashamed of mistakes and thus make them crimes.
  • Everything has its beauty but not everyone sees it.
  • Forget injuries, never forget kindnesses.
  • He who will not economize will have to agonize.
  • If a man sets his heart on benevolence he will be free from evil.
  • Ignorance is the night of the mind, but a night without moon and star.
  • It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.
  • It does not matter the number of times we fall but the number of times we rise when we fall.
  • Respect yourself and others will respect you.
  • Study the past if you would divine the future.
  • The commander of the forces of a large State may be carried off, but the will of even a common man cannot be taken from him.
  • They must often change who would be constant in happiness or wisdom.
  • To lead uninstructed people to war is to throw them away.
  • To love a thing is to want it to live.
  • To see the right and not to do it is cowardice.
  • When anger rises, think of the consequences.
  • When things are investigated, then true knowledge is achieved;
    When true knowledge is achieved, then the will becomes sincere;
    When the will is sincere, then the heart is set right;
    When the heart is set right, then the personal life is cultivated;
    When the personal life is cultivated, then the family life is regulated;
    When the family life is regulated, then the national life is orderly;
    And when the national life is orderly, then there is peace in the world.
  • Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.
  • I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.
  • The superior man is a man with ideal characteristics.


  • The father who does not teach his son his duties is equally guilty as the son who neglects them.

Misattributed

  • The journey of one thousand miles begins with a single step.
    • From Lao-Tzu

Not Chinese

  • Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.
  • When embarking on the journey of revenge, dig two graves.
  • A single grain of rice can feed an entire army, forever.

External links

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