The Analects of Confucius 論語
Translated by A. Charles Muller
[20-1] 堯曰。咨。爾舜。天之曆數在爾躬、允執其中。四海困窮、天祿永終。舜亦以命禹。曰。予小子履、敢用玄牡、敢昭吿于皇皇后帝。有罪不敢赦、帝臣不蔽、簡在帝心。朕躬有罪、無以萬方。萬方有罪、罪在朕躬。周有大賚、善人是富。雖有周親、不如仁人。百姓有過、在予一人。謹權量、審法度、修廢官、四方之政行焉。興滅國、繼絕世、擧逸民、天下之民歸心焉。所重、民、食、喪、祭。寛則得衆、信則民任焉。 敏則有功、公則說。
[20:1] Yao said, “Ah, Shun, the heavenly succession has fallen on you. Hold firm to the center. If the whole realm falls into dire straits, the heavenly stipend will disappear forever.” Shun similarly instructed Yu. [Tang] said, “I, the inconsequential Lü, dare to sacrifice the black bull, and dare to report to the illustrious Lord. When a crime is done, I will not dare to pardon it. I will I cover up for your servants, but leave the decision up to your discretion.
When I am guilty of a fault, I will not blame it on all the people, and they are at fault, I will take responsibility myself.” Zhou had great gifts, which he used to enrich good men. Although he was surrounded by close relatives, they were not treated on a par equal with the Good. If there are faults among the officials, 57 I will take the blame myself. Be careful with weights and measures, scrutinize well the legal code, and restore offices that have fallen into disuse — then all the lands in the four directions will be well-governed. Raise up failed states, re-establish broken lineages, empower those had avoided service, and all the common people in the realm will put their trust in you. Place value on the common people, food, mourning for the dead, and ritual sacrifice. If you are generous you will gain the hearts of the people; if you are trustworthy, they will rely on you; if you are diligent, you will get results; if you are fair, they will be happy.
[20:2] Zi Zhang asked Confucius, saying “How should one best handle the affairs of government?” The Master said, “There are five points of excellence to be respected, and four bad points to be avoided. If you can follow these, you can handle the affairs of government.”
Zi Zhang asked, “What are the five points of excellence?” The Master said, “The Noble Man is generous without being wasteful, works hard without resentment, desires without being avaricious, is proud without being arrogant, strict without being severe.” Zi Zhang said, “What does it mean, to be generous without being wasteful?”
The Master said, “If you see a way to bring benefit to the common people and you carry it out, is this not being generous without being wasteful? If you select the matters where it is appropriate to work and have people work hard at them, who will be resentful? If you desire Goodness and attain it, where will there be greed? Whether dealing with the many or the few, the young or the old, the Noble Man does not dare to be conceited. Is this not indeed the meaning of being proud but not being arrogant?
The Noble Man, straightening his robe and cap, is respectful in his gaze; he is severe in the gazes of the people, yet is in awe of them. Is this not the meaning of being strict without being severe?” Zi Zhang said, “What are the four bad points?” The Master said, “To execute someone without explaining what they did wrong is cruelty; to expect achievements without admonishment is tyrannical; to be late in giving orders yet expecting punctuality is injurious; to be stingy in bestowing on people their due remuneration is petty officiousness.”
[20:3] The Master said: “If you do not understand destiny, there is no way you will be regarded as a Noble Man. If you do not understand propriety, there is no way for you to be established. If you do not understand words, there is no way for you to understand people.”
1. Shijing. The Book of Odes. One of the five Chinese classics 五經; also commonly referred to in Chinese as the Mao shi 毛詩. Also translated as the Book of Poetry, or Book of Songs. It is a collection of poems, written during the 500 years between the beginning of the Zhou dynasty and the middle of the Spring and Autumn period. It is believed that Confucius selected 305 from more than 3,000 pieces and edited them into a book to be used for education. Of the 305 poems, each is usually known by its title, which are drawn from phrases found in its opening passage.
2. This simile for the process of self-perfection is found often in Confucian texts.
3. In other words: “I give him a hint and he gets the whole point.”
4. Legge's note to this passage says (with conversion to Pinyin): “The Tai mountain is the first of the ‘five mountains’ which are celebrated in Chinese literature, and have always received religious honors. It was in Lu, or rather on the borders between Lu and Ji, about two miles north of the present department city of Tai-an in Shandong. According to the ritual of China, sacrifice could only be offered to those mountains by the sovereign, and by the princes in whose States any of them happened to be. For the chief of the Ji family, therefore, to sacrifice to the Tai mountain was a great usurpation. Lin Pang, — see chap. iv, from which the reason of this reference to him may be understood. Ran You was one of the disciples of Confucius, and is now third, in the hall, on the west. He entered the service of the Ji family, and was a man of ability and resource. ”
5. The Guanju ( “The Cry of the Ospreys”) is the first poem in the Book of Odes. It begins by describing a lover's grief at being separated from his lady and ends by describing their joyful union. (Waley, 99)
6. 管仲: Guan Zhong. (? –645 BCE) Spring and Autumn period 春秋時代 statesman, originally from the area of Yingshui 潁水. Familiar name was Yi Wu 夷吾, styled Zhong 仲, also known as Jing 敬, thus also known as Guan Zingzhong 管敬仲 and Guanzi 管子. He the prime minister 宰相 who switched loyalties after the assassination of his original lord to serve Duke Huan 桓公 of Qi 齊. He is considered to be responsible for many of the duke's administrative achievements. It was based upon the recommendation of his friend Bao Shu 鮑叔 that Duke Huan took him into his service, and Huan would go on to become known as one of the Five Hegemons 五覇. He is reputed to be the author of the Guanzi 管子.
7. Legge translates: “If the will be set on virtue, there will be no practice of wickedness.” But we rarely see 惡 as an entity of “evil” or “wickedness” in texts of this period. Ames and Rosemont say: “If indeed one's purposes are set on authoritative conduct, one could do no wrong.” But 惡 is not generally used to indicate “wrongdoing.” It usually means ugliness, hatefulness, to be ugly, be hateful, or hated, etc. Arthur Waley tries — rightly I think — to maintain continuity with the previous passage by saying “He whose heart is in the smallest degree set on Goodness will dislike no one.” I prefer (as I usually do), the reading of Bruce Brooks: “If once he sets his mind on ren, he will have no hatred.”
8. James Legge takes 與 as “I grant . . .” indicating agreement, and thus: “I grant you, you are not equal to him.”
9. For the meaning of “wild” here, please see the discussion of the term guang in the comment on 13:21.
10. I.e., fit the specifications for a sacrificial animal.
11. Legge says: “The father of Zhong Gong (See V. ii.) was a man of bad character and some would have visited this upon his son, which drew forth Confucius' remark.” (186)
12. Which was out of the range of Qi's influence.
13. Legge says (p. 199): “[Bo Yi and Shu Qi] having given up their throne, and finally their lives, rather than doing what was wrong, and Confucius, fully approving of their conduct, it was plain he could not approve of a son's holding by force what was the rightful inheritance of the father.”
14. A high official of the Song, who was trying to assassinate Confucius.
15. This is probably a reference to Yanhui, Confucius' favorite among his disciples, who died young.
16. “Wen” means literature or culture. King Wen was traditionally recognized as a teacher of culture to the ancient Chinese.
17. “The noble man is not a utensil.”
18. I have diverged from Legge and Waley in taking “completely empty-like” to refer positively to the condition of Confucius' mind, rather than negatively to the mind of the simple man who is questioning.
19. Commentators and translators understand this chart/diagram variously. The most thorough and convincing explanation that I have found is that by Bruce Brooks which says: “… the phoenix omen. . . and the River Diagram (the reference is to the Yellow River). The latter is not interpreted as the magic square of order three until Han times (we are grateful to Nathan Sivin for this clarification); in the late 4c it may have been a 3 x 3 array representing the nine parts of China in Dzou Yen's geography; a symbol of universal dominion. ” (Comment to passage 9:9)
20. I.e., he wanted, in the case of Confucius' death, for it to appear that Confucius had been of high status.
21. Book of Poems, number 67.
22. According to Zhu Xi 朱煕, the logograph 瓜 here is a corruption of 必.
23. 阼階: The steps leading to the eastern door of the hall. The place where the host stands when greeting guests.
24. Following Bruce Brooks.
25. In a Tang stone engraving, this is written as 不客.
26. This passage is given a wide range of interpretations by commentators and translators. I take it as an episode in the midst of an excursion (perhaps for the explicit purpose of hunting, or not) by Zi Lu and Confucius where the opportunity shows itself for them to catch a hen pheasant.
27. A verse from the Book of Odes (256): “A flaw in a white jade tablet may be polished away; but nothing can be done for a flaw in one's words.”
28. For example, Wing-tsit Chan translates:
“If a man (the ruler) can for one day master himself and return to propriety, all under heaven will return to humanity” (Source Book, p. 38)
This rendering makes the assumption that the only way to make the people “humane” is through the enforcement of political power. There is no doubt that Confucius himself sought the employment of a king to help bring peace to the world. But there is also no indication that he is speaking to a king here, nor does the word wang appear in the sentence. James Legge says:
If a man can for one day subdue himself and return to propriety, all under heaven will ascribe virtue to him. (Legge 250)
This rendering damages the force of the passage even further by interpreting the word gui (which clearly means “return” in Chinese) as “ascribe to him,” a thoroughly unnatural reading of the word. D.C. Lau stays fairly close to Legge when he translates:
If for a single day a man could return to the observance of rites through overcoming himself, then the whole Empire would consider benevolence to be his. (Lau 112)
29. Waley (166) indicates that this line comes from the Book of Odes #105, from a tale of a man who leaves his wife for another woman: an example of “confusion.”
30. Other translations, following Chu-hsi, render this last line as “he never slept on a promise.” I based my interpretation on a more literal reading of the text, and on the fact that Tzu-lu, throughout the Analects, is shown to be a person who speaks his mind immediately and directly.
31. Here Confucius is punning on the fact that in Chinese, the words “government” 政 and “to rectify” 正 are pronounced the same (zhèng).
32. Please see discussion of da in reference to 12:20.
33. The rulers of Lu and Wei ( Zhougong Jidan 周公姫旦 and Kang Shu 康叔) were actually brothers, whose military tactics were similar. Confucius. Commentators suggest that Confucius was disillusioned to find that things in Wei were no better than in Lu.
34. Yi and Ao are ancient legendary figures famous for their superhuman feats.
35. Translators and interpreters of the Analects are divided into the group that takes 久要 as “an old promise” and those who take it as “enduring difficulty” with a slightly greater number preferring the former interpretation. However, we feel that this interpretation accords more closely with the thought of Confucius. See, for example, Analects 4:2: 不仁者、不可以久處約. Furthermore, the logograph 久 is not commonly used to represent something “old” or “former” (古, 故, 昔). Rather, it means to maintain an activity over a long period of time. Confusion on the part of modern interpreters may be influenced by the homophony of 久and 舊.
36. 晉文公: Jìn Wen Gong. (Reign 637-628 BCE) Duke Wen of Jin 晉. The second of the Five Hegemons 五覇 of the Spring and Autumn period 春秋時代. The second son of Duke Xian 獻公, he went into exile for 19 years to avoid the plots of his mother-in-law Concubine Li 驪姫. As duke, with the assistance of able ministers as Zhao Cui 趙衰 and Gu Yan 狐偃, he established the supremacy of Jin as the leader of the states in central China to oppose Chu 楚. Also called 晉文 and often paired with Duke Huan 桓公 of Qi 齊 as 齊桓晉文.
37. 齊桓公: Qi Huan Gong. Duke Huan of Qi 齊, who died in 643 BCE. He was one of the “five hegemons” 五霸 who held power in the 7th century. Younger brother of Xiang Gong 襄公, first name Xiao Bai 小白, also known as Huan 桓. Since his older brother Xiang Gong was in the business of assassinating those around him, the younger brothers escaped to neighboring states, with Huan taking refuge in Ju 莒. When Xiang Gong was assassinated by his people, he was invited to return, and take up the throne. At the recommendation of Bao Shuya 鞄叔牙 he took the clever Guan Zhong 管仲 as his prime minister. Respecting the royal house of Zhou 周室, he vanquished Yi Qiu 夷秋, and assembling all the nobles, unified the realm. 論語, 憲問
38. 公子糾:Gong Zijiu. A man of Qi 齊 during the Spring and Autumn period. Young brother of Xiang Gong 襄公. When Xiang began executing those around him, the younger brothers escaped from the country, with Jiu 糾 going to Lu 魯 and Xiao Bai 小白 going to Ju 莒. When Xiang was assassinated by his people, Xiao Bai was asked to return to take the throne, and Lu raised a force and sent Jiu away, allowing Xiao Bai to arrive to Qi first and take the throne as Huan Gong 桓公. In the end, the people of Lu killed Zi Jiu in Shengdu 笙瀆. In Analects 14:16, Confucius seems to be saying that he was killed by his older brother Huang Gong. 左氏、荘、八
39. 召忽: Zhao Hu. A grandmaster of Qi 齊 during the Spring and Autumn period 春秋時代, a colleague of Guan Zhong 管仲. He was originally loyal to the older brother of Duke Huan 桓公, so when his lord was assassinated by Huan, he took his own life as well. 論語, 憲問 (DDB)
40. See note on 3:22 for bio of Guan Zhong.
41. 左衽: Fastening one's garment on the left side; a style of the nomadic tribes on the fringes of China. The Chinese (as well as Koreans and Japanese) fastened their garments on the right side. 微管仲､吾其被髪左衽矣論語, 憲問 [左袵]
42. The dictionaries gloss 驥 as “a horse that can run a thousand li in a single day.” Arthur Waley departs from the other translators by taking it to be the name of a great horse of antiquity. This seems to be to make sense, but he does not provide textual support for this interpretation, and we have not been able to locate it ourselves. It is not clear why Confucius is quoted as having said this here, but perhaps he would like to imply that even an animal has this kind of inner fortitude and dedication, so how much more in the case of human beings?
43. Also translated elsewhere, by context, as “rightness.”
44. The Xia, the Yin and the Zhou.
45. Most translators render 兕 according to its modern meaning of “rhinoceros”, in early classical Chinese this refers to a wild bovine beast with a single horn. We can also no doubt presume that there were not all that many rhinoceroses in ancient China during the Warring States period.
46. The stronghold of the Ji family.
47. As commentators and other translators have noted, and as can be discerned by the context, the logographs 寡 and 貧 have obviously been transposed here.
48. Three chief ministers 三卿 in the state of Lu 魯 during the Spring and Autumn 春秋 periods. They are Mengsun 孟孫, Shusun 叔孫, and Jisun 季孫. These three influential families were all the descendents of Huangong 桓公, also called San Huan. After the death of Wengong 文公, these three major families controlled the political power of the state of Lu.
49. A town in Wei, captured by the Jin.
50. Jade and silk clothing. In antiquity, a formal gift when the feudal lords met each other or the king. Also used as an offering to gods.
51. For a discussion of this saying, see Mencius 7B:37.
52. For the meaning of guang, please see the discussion connected to 13:21.
53. The “sounds of Zheng” 鄭聲 are also criticized in Analects 15-11.
54. I.e., the music of Ya 雅樂. I hate clever speech, because it undermines the state and the clans.
55. 改火. This refers to the various kinds of wood used traditionally as drill for making fire. The early Chinese used elm or willow in spring, jujube or apricot tree in early summer, mulberry in late summer, oak in autumn, and pagoda or sandalwood tree in winter. This is called a full cycle.
56. Those translators who read 孰 here as “mature,” seem to be ignoring basic Chinese grammatical sensibilities, as its position at the head of the phrase makes it obvious that its basic meaning of “who” is implied.
57. Most translators take 百姓 as “the common people.” However, the earlier meaning of this term is 百官. During earlier periods, the common people did not have their own surnames, and so used that of their local lord or official. Since we are speaking of Yao and Shun, this is certainly one of the earliest recorded periods in Chinese history.