1. Confucius remarked, “I transmit the old truth and do not originate any new theory. I am well acquainted and love the study of Antiquity. In this respect I may venture to compare myself with our old Worthy Pang.”
2. Confucius then went on to say, “To meditate in silence; patiently to acquire knowledge; and to be indefatigable in teaching it to others: which one of these things can I say that I have done?”
3. Lastly, Confucius said, “Neglect of godliness; study without understanding; failure to act up to what I believe to be right; and inability to change bad habits: these are things which cause me constant solicitude.”
4. But notwithstanding what he said above, Confucius in his disengaged hours was always serene and cheerful.
5. Only once in his old age Confucius was heard to say:”How my mental powers have decayed! For a long time now I have not dreamt, as I was wont to do, of our Lord of Chou.”
6. Confucius said to his disciples: “Seek for wisdom; hold fast to godliness; live a moral life; and enjoy the pleasures derived from the pursuit of the polite arts.”
7. Confucius remarked, “In teaching men, I make no difference between the rich and the poor. I have taught men who could just afford to bring me the barest presentation gift in the same way as I have taught others.”
8. Confucius then went on to say: “In my method of teaching, I always wait for my student to make an effort himself to find his way through a difficulty, before I show him the way myself. I also make him find his own illustrations before I give him one of my own. When I have pointed out the bearing of a subject in one direction and found that my student cannot himself see its bearings into other directions, I do not then repeat my lesson.”
9. When Confucius dined in a house of morning he never ate much.
10. On the same day in which he had occasion to mourn for the death of a friend, the sound of music was never heard in his house.
11. Confucius once said to his disciple, the favourite Yen Hui, “To act when called upon to act, in public life, and, when neglected, to be content to lead out a private life: –that is what you and I—we both have made up our minds upon.”
When his other disciple, the intrepid Chung Yu, heard the remark, he said to Confucius: “But if you were in command of an army, whom would you have with you?”
“I would not have him,” replied Confucius, “who is ready to seize a live tiger with his bare arms, or jump into the sea, without fear of death. The man I would have with me would be a man who is conscious of the difficulties of any task set before him, and who, only after mature deliberation, proceeds to accomplish it.”
12. Confucius once remarked, “If there is a sure way of getting rich, even though one had to be a groom and keep horses, I would be willing to be one. But as there is really no sure way of getting rich, I prefer to follow the pursuits congenial to me.”
13. There were three cases in life in which Confucius considered a man was called upon to exercise the most mature deliberation: in case of worship, of war and of sickness.
14. When Confucius on his travels was in a certain State he, for the first time, heard played a piece of ancient music (the oldest then known in China). Thereupon he gave himself up to the study of it for three months, to the entire neglect of his ordinary food. He was then heard to say, “I should never have thought that music could be brought to such perfection.”
15. A disciple who was with Confucius on his travels while in a certain State, –speaking of the reigning prince of that State who, while his father was driven to exile, succeed, on his grandfather’s death, to the throne, and was then opposing the attempts of his father to return to the country, –said to another disciple: “Is the master in favour of the son, the present ruler?”
“Oh,” replied the other disciple, “I will ask him.”
The other disciple accordingly went in where Confucius was, and said to him: “What kind of men were Po-yi and Shuh-ts’i?” “They are ancient worthies,” answered Confucius. “But,” asked the disciple, “did they complain of the world?” “No,” replied Confucius, “What they sought for in life was to live a high moral life, and they succeeded in living a high moral life. What had they then to complain of the world?” the disciple then went out and said to the other disciple, “No, the master is not in favour of the present ruler.”
16. Confucius remarked, “Living upon the poorest fare with cold water for drink, and with my bended arms for a pillow, –I could yet find pleasure in such a life, whereas riches and honours acquired through the sacrifice of what is right, would be to me as unreal as a mirage.”
17. Confucius once remarked, after he had begun the study of the I-king, “If I could hope to live some years more, long enough to complete my study of the I-king, I should then hope to be without any great shortcomings in my life.”
18. The subjects upon which Confucius loved to talk were: Poetry, history, and the rules of courtesy and good manners. He frequently talked on these subjects.
19. The reigning prince of a small principality asked a disciple of Confucius, the intrepid Chung Yu, to give his opinion of Confucius. The disciple did not say anything in reply. When Confucius afterwards heard of the enquiry, he said to his disciple: “Why did you not say to him thus: ‘He is a man who, in the efforts he makes to overcome the difficulty in acquiring knowledge, neglects his food, and, who thus absorbed, becomes oblivious that old age is stealing on him?'”
20. Confucius remarked, “I am not one born with understanding. I am only one who has given himself to the study of Antiquity and is diligent in seeking for understanding in such studies.”
21. Confucius always refused to talk of supernatural phenomena; of extraordinary feats of strength; of crime of unnatural depravity of men; or of supernatural beings.
22. Confucius remarked, “when three men meet together, one of them who is anxious to learn can always learn something of the other two. He can profit by the good example of the one and avoid the bad example of the other.”
23. Confucius, on one occasion of great personal danger to his person from an enemy, was heard to say, “God has given me this moral and intellectual power in me: what can that man do to me?”
24. But on another occasion Confucius remarked to his disciples, “Do you think, my friends, that I have some mysterious power within me? I have really nothing mysterious in me, –to you, of all others. For if there is anyone who shows to you everything which he does, I am, you know, my friends, that person.”
25. Confucius through his life and teaching taught only four things: a knowledge of literature and the arts, conduct, conscientiousness and truthfulness.
26. Confucius once, speaking of the men and state of the society of his time, remarked, “Holy, sainted men I do not expect to see; if I could only meet with wise and good men I would be satisfied.”
“Perfectly honest men I do not expect to see; if I could only meet with scrupulous men I would be satisfied. But in a state of society in which men must pretend to possess what they have really nothing; and pretend to be in affluence when they are in actual want: –in such a state of society, it is difficult to be even a scrupulous man.”
27. Confucius sometimes went out fishing, but always with the rod and angle; he would never use a net. He sometimes went out shooting, but he would never shoot at a bird except on the wing.
28. Confucius once remarked, “There are, perhaps, men who propound theories which they themselves do not understand. That is a thing I never do. I read and learn everything and, choosing what is excellent, I adopt it; I see everything and take note of what I see: that is, perhaps, next to having a great understanding.”
29. A certain place was noted for the bad character of the people in it. When Confucius allowed a young man of that place to be presented to him, his disciples were astonished. But Confucius said, “Why should one be too severe? When a man reforms and comes to me for advice, I accept his present reformation without inquiring what his past life has been. I am satisfied if I find that, for the present, he has really reformed, without being able to guarantee that he will not relapse again. But why should one be too severe?”
30. Confucius then went on to remarks, “Is moral life something remote or difficult? If a men will only wish to live a moral life—there and then his life becomes moral.”
31. A minister of justice in a certain State enquired of Confucius, while he was in that State on his travels, if the reigning prince in Confucius’ native State was a man of propriety in his life. “Yes,” answered Confucius, “he is.”
After a while, when Confucius had left, the minister beckoned to a disciple of Confucius to approach, and said to him: “I have always been taught to believe that a good and wise man is impartial in his judgment. But now I find it is not so. The reigning prince of your State married a princess from the reigning house of a State whose family surname is the same as that of your prince; and, to conceal the impropriety, your prince changed her surname in the title given to her a Court. Now if, after his, your prince can be considered a man of propriety in life, who may not be considered so?”
Afterwards when the disciple told Confucius of what the minister said, Confucius remarked, “I am glad that whenever I make a mistake, people always know it.”
32. When Confucius asked a man to sing, if he sang well, Confucius would make him sing again the same song, accompanying him with his own voice.
33. Confucius remarked, “In the knowledge of letters and the arts, I may perhaps compare myself with other men. But as the character of a good and wise man who carries out in his personal conduct what he professes, –that is something to which I have not yet attained.”
34. Confucius then went on to say, “And as for the character of a holy, sainted man or even a moral character, –how should I dare to pretend to that. That I spare no pains in striving after it and am indefatigable in teaching others to strive for it, –that, perhaps, may be said of me.”
A disciple, who heard what was said, thereupon remarked, “That is where we, your disciples, cannot follow you.”
35. On one occasion when Confucius was sick, a disciple asked that he would allow prayers to be offered for his recovery. “Is it the custom?” asked Confucius. “Yes,” replied the disciple, “in the Book of Rituals for the Dead it is written, ‘Pray to the Powers above and pray to the Powers below.'”
“Ah,” said Confucius then, “my prayer has been a long—lifelong—one.”
36. Confucius remarked, “Extravagance leads to excess; thrift to meanness: but it is better to be mean than to be guilty of excess.”
37. Confucius remarked, “A wise and good man is composed and happy; a fool is always worried and full of distress.”
38. Confucius, in his book, was gracious but serious; he was awe-inspiring but not austere; he was earnest but unaffected.