The Analects
3:31 h Confucian 98.0 mb
The Analects is an ancient Chinese book composed of a collection of sayings and ideas attributed to the Chinese philosopher Confucius and his contemporaries, traditionally believed to have been compiled and written by Confucius's followers.

The Analects of Confucius

William Jennings, tr.


The strangest figure that meets us in the annals of Oriental thought isthat of Confucius. To the popular mind he is the founder of a religion,and yet he has nothing in common with the great religious teachers ofthe East. We think of Siddartha, the founder of Buddhism, as the veryimpersonation of romantic asceticism, enthusiastic self-sacrifice, andfaith in the things that are invisible. Zoroaster is the friend of God,talking face to face with the Almighty, and drinking wisdom andknowledge from the lips of Omniscience. Mohammed is represented assnatched up into heaven, where he receives the Divine communicationwhich he is bidden to propagate with fire and sword throughout theworld. These great teachers lived in an atmosphere of the supernatural.They spoke with the authority of inspired prophets. They brought theunseen world close to the minds of their disciples. They spokepositively of immortality, of reward or punishment beyond the grave. Thepresent life they despised, the future was to them everything in itspromised satisfaction. The teachings of Confucius were of a verydifferent sort. Throughout his whole writings he has not even mentionedthe name of God. He declined to discuss the question of immortality.When he was asked about spiritual beings, he remarked, “If we cannoteven know men, how can we know spirits?” Yet this was the man the impress of whose teaching has formed thenational character of five hundred millions of people. A temple toConfucius stands to this day in every town and village of China. Hisprecepts are committed to memory by every child from the tenderest age,and each year at the royal university at Pekin the Emperor holds afestival in honor of the illustrious teacher. The influence of Confucius springs, first of all, from the narrownessand definiteness of his doctrine. He was no transcendentalist, and nevermeddled with supramundane things. His teaching was of the earth, earthy;it dealt entirely with the common relations of life, and the Golden Rulehe must necessarily have stumbled upon, as the most obvious canon of hissystem. He strikes us as being the great Stoic of the East, for hebelieved that virtue was based on knowledge, knowledge of a man’s ownheart, and knowledge of human-kind. There is a pathetic resemblancebetween the accounts given of the death of Confucius and the death ofZeno. Both died almost without warning in dreary hopelessness, withoutthe ministrations of either love or religion. This may be a merecoincidence, but the lives and teachings of both men must have led themto look with indifference upon such an end. For Confucius in histeaching treated only of man’s life on earth, and seems to have had noideas with regard to the human lot after death; if he had any ideas hepreserved an inscrutable silence about them. As a moralist he prescribedthe duties of the king and of the father, and advocated the cultivationby the individual man of that rest or apathy of mind which resembles somuch the disposition aimed at by the Greek and Roman Stoic. Even as amoralist, he seems to have sacrificed the ideal to the practical, andhis loose notions about marriage, his tolerance of concubinage, theslight emphasis which he lays on the virtue of veracity — of which indeedhe does not seem himself to have been particularly studious in hishistoric writings — place him low down in the rank of moralists. Yet hetaught what he felt the people could receive, and the flat mediocrity ofhis character and his teachings has been stamped forever upon a peoplewho, while they are kindly, gentle, forbearing, and full of familypiety, are palpably lacking not only in the exaltation of Mysticism, butin any religious feeling, generally so-called.

The second reason that made the teaching of Confucius so influential isbased on the circumstances of the time. When this thoughtful, earnestyouth awoke to the consciousness of life about him, he saw that theabuses under which the people groaned sprang from the feudal system,which cut up the country into separate territories, over which the powerof the king had no control. China was in the position of France in theyears preceding Philippe-Auguste, excepting that there were no places ofsanctuary and no Truce of God. The great doctrine of Confucius was theunlimited despotism of the Emperor, and his moral precepts were intendedto teach the Emperor how to use his power aright. But the Emperor wasonly typical of all those in authority — the feudal duke, the judge onthe bench, and the father of the family. Each could discharge his dutiesaright only by submitting to the moral discipline which Confuciusprescribed. A vital element in this system is its conservatism, itsadherence to the imperial idea. As James I said, “No bishop, no king,”so the imperialists of China have found in Confucianism the strongestbasis for the throne, and have supported its dissemination accordingly. The Analects of Confucius contain the gist of his teachings, and isworthy of study. We find in this work most of the precepts which hisdisciples have preserved and recorded. They form a code remarkable forsimplicity, even crudity, and we are compelled to admire the force ofcharacter, the practical sagacity, the insight into the needs of thehour, which enabled Confucius, without claiming any Divine sanction, toimpose this system upon his countrymen. The name Confucius is only the Latinized form of two words which mean“Master K’ung.” He was born 551 B.C., his father being governor ofShantung. He was married at nineteen, and seems to have occupied someminor position under the government. In his twenty-fourth year heentered upon the three years’ mourning for the death of his mother. Hisseclusion gave him time for deep thought and the study of history, andhe resolved upon the regeneration of his unhappy country. By the time hewas thirty he became known as a great teacher, and disciples flocked tohim. But he was yet occupied in public duties, and rose throughsuccessive stages to the office of Chief Judge in his own country of Lu.His tenure of office is said to have put an end to crime, and he becamethe “idol of the people” in his district. The jealousy of the feudallords was roused by his fame as a moral teacher and a blameless judge.Confucius was driven from his home, and wandered about, with a fewdisciples, until his sixty-ninth year, when he returned to Lu, afteraccomplishing a work which has borne fruit, such as it is, to thepresent day. He spent the remaining five years of his life in editingthe odes and historic monuments in which the glories of the ancientChinese dynasty are set forth. He died in his seventy-third year, 478B.C. There can be no doubt that the success of Confucius has beensingularly great, owing especially to the narrow scope of his scheme,which has become crystallized in the habits, usages, and customs of thepeople. Especially has it been instrumental in consolidating the empire,and in strengthening the power of the monarch, who, as he every yearburns incense in the red-walled temple at Pekin, utters sincerely theinvocation: “Great art thou, O perfect Sage! Thy virtue is full, thydoctrine complete. Among mortal men there has not been thine equal. Allkings honor thee. Thy statutes and laws have come gloriously down. Thouart the pattern in this imperial school. Reverently have the sacrificialvessels been set out. Full of awe, we sound our drums and bells.”

Editor's Note
Pronunciation of Proper Names

j, as in French. ng, commencing a word, like the same letters terminating one. ai or ei, as in aisle or eider. au, as in German, or like ow in cow. é, as in fęte. i (not followed by a consonant), as ee in see. u (followed by a consonant), as in bull. iu, as ew in new. ui, as ooi in cooing. h at the end of a name makes the preceding vowel short. i in the middle of a word denotes an aspirate (h), as K’ung=Khung.


On Learning — Miscellaneous Sayings:

“To learn,” said the Master, “and then to practice opportunely what onehas learnt — does not this bring with it a sense of satisfaction?

“To have associates in study coming to one from distant parts — does notthis also mean pleasure in store?

“And are not those who, while not comprehending all that is said, stillremain not unpleased to hear, men of the superior order?”

A saying of the Scholar Yu: —

“It is rarely the case that those who act the part of true men in regardto their duty to parents and elder brothers are at the same time willingto turn currishly upon their superiors: it has never yet been the casethat such as desire not to commit that offence have been men willing topromote anarchy or disorder.

“Men of superior mind busy themselves first in getting at the root ofthings; and when they have succeeded in this the right course is open tothem. Well, are not filial piety and friendly subordination amongbrothers a root of that right feeling which is owing generally from manto man?”

The Master observed, “Rarely do we meet with the right feeling due fromone man to another where there is fine speech and studied mien.”

The Scholar Tsang once said of himself: “On three points I examinemyself daily, viz., whether, in looking after other people’s interests,I have not been acting whole-heartedly; whether, in my intercourse withfriends, I have not been true; and whether, after teaching, I have notmyself been practising what I have taught.”

The Master once observed that to rule well one of the larger Statesmeant strict attention to its affairs and conscientiousness on the partof the ruler; careful husbanding of its resources, with at the same timea tender care for the interests of all classes; and the employing of themasses in the public service at suitable seasons.

“Let young people,” said he, “show filial piety at home, respectfulnesstowards their elders when away from home; let them be circumspect, betruthful; their love going out freely towards all, cultivating good-willto men. And if, in such a walk, there be time or energy left for otherthings, let them employ it in the acquisition of literary or artisticaccomplishments.”

The disciple Tsz-hiá said, “The appreciation of worth in men of worth,thus diverting the mind from lascivious desires — ministering to parentswhile one is the most capable of so doing — serving one’s ruler when oneis able to devote himself entirely to that object — being sincere inone’s language in intercourse with friends: this I certainly must callevidence of learning, though others may say there has been ‘nolearning.’”

Sayings of the Master: —

“If the great man be not grave, he will not be revered, neither can hislearning be solid.

“Give prominent place to loyalty and sincerity.

“Have no associates in study who are not advanced somewhat likeyourself.

“When you have erred, be not afraid to correct yourself.”

A saying of the Scholar Tsang: —

“The virtue of the people is renewed and enriched when attention is seento be paid to the departed, and the remembrance of distant ancestorskept and cherished.”

Tsz-k’in put this query to his fellow disciple Tsz-kung: said he, “Whenour Master comes to this or that State, he learns without fail how it isbeing governed. Does he investigate matters? or are the facts givenhim?”

Tsz-kung answered, “Our Master is a man of pleasant manners, and ofprobity, courteous, moderate, and unassuming: it is by his being suchthat he arrives at the facts. Is not his way of arriving at thingsdifferent from that of others?”

A saying of the Master: —

“He who, after three years’ observation of the will of his father whenalive, or of his past conduct if dead, does not deviate from thatfather’s ways, is entitled to be called ‘a dutiful son.’”

Sayings of the Scholar Yu: —

“For the practice of the Rules of Propriety, one excellent way is tobe natural. This naturalness became a great grace in the practice ofkings of former times; let everyone, small or great, follow theirexample.

“It is not, however, always practicable; and it is not so in the case ofa person who does things naturally, knowing that he should act so, andyet who neglects to regulate his acts according to the Rules.

“When truth and right are hand in hand, a statement will bearrepetition. When respectfulness and propriety go hand in hand, disgraceand shame are kept afar-off. Remove all occasion for alienating those towhom you are bound by close ties, and you have them still to resort to.”

A saying of the Master: —

“The man of greater mind who, when he is eating, craves not to eat tothe full; who has a home, but craves not for comforts in it; who isactive and earnest in his work and careful in his words; who makestowards men of high principle, and so maintains his own rectitude — thatman may be styled a devoted student.”

Tsz-kung asked, “What say you, sir, of the poor who do not cringe andfawn; and what of the rich who are without pride and haughtiness?” “Theyare passable,” the Master replied; “yet they are scarcely in the samecategory as the poor who are happy, and the rich who love propriety.”

“In the ‘Book of the Odes,’” Tsz-kung went on to say, “we read of one

Polished, as by the knife and file,
The graving-tool, the smoothing-stone.

Does that coincide with your remark?”

“Ah! such as you,” replied the Master, “may well commence a discussionon the Odes. If one tell you how a thing goes, you know what ought tocome.”

“It does not greatly concern me,” said the Master, “that men do not knowme; my great concern is, my not knowing them.”


Good Government — Filial Piety — The Superior Man

Sayings of the Master: —

“Let a ruler base his government upon virtuous principles, and he willbe like the pole-star, which remains steadfast in its place, while allthe host of stars turn towards it.

“The ‘Book of Odes’ contains three hundred pieces, but one expression init may be taken as covering the purport of all, viz., Unswervingmindfulness.

“To govern simply by statute, and to reduce all to order by means ofpains and penalties, is to render the people evasive, and devoid of anysense of shame.

“To govern upon principles of virtue, and to reduce them to order by theRules of Propriety, would not only create in them the sense of shame,but would moreover reach them in all their errors.

“When I attained the age of fifteen, I became bent upon study. Atthirty, I was a confirmed student. At forty, nought could move me frommy course. At fifty, I comprehended the will and decrees of Heaven. Atsixty, my ears were attuned to them. At seventy, I could follow myheart’s desires, without overstepping the lines of rectitude.”

To a question of Mang-i, as to what filial piety consisted in, themaster replied, “In not being perverse.” Afterwards, when Fan Ch’i wasdriving him, the Master informed him of this question and answer, andFan Ch’i asked, “What was your meaning?” The Master replied, “I meantthat the Rules of Propriety should always be adhered to in regard tothose who brought us into the world: in ministering to them whileliving, in burying them when dead, and afterwards in the offering tothem of sacrificial gifts.”

To a query of Mang Wu respecting filial piety, the Master replied,“Parents ought to bear but one trouble — that of their own sickness.”

To a like question put by Tsz-yu, his reply was this: “The filial pietyof the present day simply means the being able to support one’sparents — which extends even to the case of dogs and horses, all of whichmay have something to give in the way of support. If there be noreverential feeling in the matter, what is there to distinguish betweenthe cases?”

To a like question of Tsz-hia, he replied: “The manner is thedifficulty. If, in the case of work to be done, the younger folks simplytake upon themselves the toil of it; or if, in the matter of meat anddrink, they simply set these before their elders — is this to be taken asfilial piety?”

Once the Master remarked, “I have conversed with Hwui the whole daylong, and he has controverted nothing that I have said, as if he werewithout wits. But when his back was turned, and I looked attentively athis conduct apart from me, I found it satisfactory in all its issues.No, indeed! Hwui is not without his wits.”

Other observations of the Master: —

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