How does Confucius formulate the equivalent of the Golden Rule ("do unto others as you would have them do unto you")? Is his a stronger injunction or a less demanding one?
Ziyou asked what filial piety is. The Master said, "The filial piety of now-a-days means providing nourishment for one's parents. But dogs and horses likewise are able to do something along that line for their own kind. Without reverence, what is there to distinguish the one support given from the other?"
The Master said, "With coarse rice to eat, with water to drink, and my bended arm for a pillow, I still have joy in the midst of these things. Riches and honours acquired by unrighteousness are to me as a floating cloud."
Zhonggong asked about perfect virtue. The Master said, "When abroad, behave to everyone as if you were receiving an important guest; treat people as if you were assisting at a great sacrifice; do not do to others as you would not wish done to yourself. Thereby you will let no murmuring rise against you in the country, and none in the family. . . ."
Why is ritual supposed to be important? What happens to otherwise virtuous traits without such ritual?
The Master said, "A gentleman, well studied in literature, and abiding by the rules of ritual, will not go very wrong."
"When gentlemen perform well all their duties to their relations, the people are inspired to virtue. When they remain true to their old friends, the people are preserved from irresponsible behavior."
The Master said, "A gentleman points out the admirable qualities of men and does not point out their bad qualities. A petty man does just the opposite."
The Master said, "A gentleman is distressed by his lack of ability, but he is not distressed by men's not knowing him."
The Master said, "What the gentleman demands is something of himself. What the petty man demands is something of others."
A gentleman does not wear a deep purple or a puce color, nor in his at-home clothes does he wear red. In warm weather, he wears a single-layered garment, either of coarse or fine texture, but when going out he wears it over another garment. He wears lambskin with a garment of black, fawn with white, and fox with yellow. His fur dressing gown should be long, but with the right sleeve short. His night clothes must be half again as long as his body. When staying at home, he wears thick furs of the fox or the badger. So long as he is not in mourning, he wears all the trimmings of his girdle. . . . He does not wear lamb's fur or a black cap when making a visit of condolence. And on the first day of the month he must put on his court robes and present himself at court.
The Master said, "Respectfulness, without the rules of ritual becomes laborious bustle; carefulness, without the rules, becomes timidity; boldness becomes insubordination; straightforwardness becomes rudeness.
The Master said, "It is by the Odes that a man's mind is aroused, by the rules of ritual that his character is established, and by music that he is perfected [finished]. . . ."
Which is more important for an orderly state: food, weapons, or a government that one can trust.
The Master said, "Yu, shall I teach you what knowledge is? When you know a thing, to realize that you know it; and when you do not know a thing, to allow that you do not know it: this is knowledge." The Master said, [I have been] "a transmitter and not a maker, believing in and loving the ancients. . ."
When the Master went to Wei, Ran Yu acted as driver of his carriage. The Master observed, "How numerous the people are!" Ran Yu asked, "When they are more numerous, what more shall be done for them ?" "Enrich them," was the reply. "And when they have been enriched, what more shall be done?" The Master said, "Instruct them."
The Master said, "If the people are governed by laws and punishment is used to maintain order, they will try to avoid the punishment but have no sense of shame. If they are governed by virtue and rules of propriety [ritual] are used to maintain order, they will have a sense of shame and will become good as well."
Ji Kang Zi asked Confucius about government, saying, "What do you say to killing those who are unprincipled [i.e., the immoral] for the good of those who are principled?" Confucius replied, "Sir, in carrying on your government, why should you use killing at all? Let your obvious desires be for what is good, and the people will be good. The relation between superiors and inferiors is like that between the wind and the grass: the grass is bound to bend when the wind blows across it."
Zigong asked about government. The Master said, "The requisites of government are that there be sufficient food, sufficient military equipment, and the confidence of the people in their ruler." Zigong said, "If one had to dispense with one of those three, which should be given up first?" "The military equipment, " said the Master. Zigong again asked, "If on had to dispense with one of the two remaining, which should be given up?" The Master answered, "Give up the food. From of old, death has always been the lot of men; but if the people have no faith in their rulers, they cannot stand."
Zilu asked about serving the ghosts of the dead. The Master said, "Until you are able to serve men, how can you serve their ghosts?" When Zilu ventured to ask about death, the answer was: "While you do not know life, how can you [hope to] know about death?"
Translated by James Legge (1887), revised by Michael Neville
This is an excerpt from Reading
About the World, Volume 1, edited by Paul Brians, Mary Gallwey, Douglas Hughes, Azfar Hussain, Richard Law, Michael Myers
Michael Neville, Roger Schlesinger, Alice Spitzer, and Susan Swan and published by
Harcourt Brace Custom Publishing.
The reader was created for use in the World Civilization course at Washington State
University, but material on this page
may be used for educational purposes by permission of the editor-in-chief:
This is just a sample of Reading About the World, Volume 1. If, after examining the table of contents of the complete volume, you are interested in considering it for use at your own campus, please contact Paul Brians.
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