Book XVII: Yang Ho
Confucius’s polite but dignified treatment of a powerful, but usurping and unworthy, officer.
1. Yang Ho wished to see Confucius, but Confucius would not go to see him. On this, he sent a present of a pig to Confucius, who, having chosen a time when Ho was not at home, went to pay his respects for the gift. He met him, however, on the way.
2. Ho said to Confucius, “Come, let me speak with you.” He then asked, “Can he be called benevolent who keeps his jewel in his bosom, and leaves his country to confusion?” Confucius replied, “No.” “Can he be called wise, who is anxious to be engaged in public employment, and yet is constantly losing the opportunity of being so?” Confucius again said, “No.” “The days and months are passing away; the years do not wait for us.” Confucius said, “Right; I will go into office.”
The differences in the characters of men are chiefly owing to habit.
The Master said, “By nature, men are nearly alike; by practice, they get to be wide apart.”
Only two classes whom practice cannot change.
The Master said, “There are only the wise of the highest class, and the stupid of the lowest class, who cannot be changed.”
However small the sphere of government, the highest influences of proprieties and music should be employed.
1. The Master, having come to Wû-ch’ang, heard there the sound of stringed instruments and singing.
2. Well pleased and smiling, he said, “Why use an ox knife to kill a fowl?”
3. Tsze-yû replied, “Formerly, Master, I heard you say, — ‘When the man of high station is well instructed, he loves men; when the man of low station is well instructed, he is easily ruled.'”
4. The Master said, “My disciples, Yen’s words are right. What I said was only in sport.”
The lengths to which Confucius was inclined to go, to get his principles carried into practice.
1. Kung-shan Fû-zâo, when he was holding Pi, and in an attitude of rebellion, invited the Master to visit him, who was rather inclined to go.
2. Tsze-lû was displeased. and said, “Indeed, you cannot go! Why must you think of going to see Kung-shan?”
3. The Master said, “Can it be without some reason that he has invited ME? If any one employ me, may I not make an eastern Châu?”
Five things the practice of which constitutes perfect virtue.
Tsze-chang asked Confucius about perfect virtue. Confucius said, “To be able to practice five things everywhere under heaven constitutes perfect virtue.” He begged to ask what they were, and was told, “Gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness, and kindness. If you are grave, you will not be treated with disrespect. If you are generous, you will win all. If you are sincere, people will repose trust in you. If you are earnest, you will accomplish much. If you are kind, this will enable you to employ the services of others.
Confucius, inclined to respond to the advances of an unworthy man, protests against his conduct being judged by ordinary rules.
1. Pî Hsî inviting him to visit him, the Master was inclined to go.
2. Tsze-lû said, “Master, formerly I have heard you say, ‘When a man in his own person is guilty of doing evil, a superior man will not associate with him.’ Pî Hsî is in rebellion, holding possession of Chung-mâu; if you go to him, what shall be said?”
3. The Master said, “Yes, I did use these words. But is it not said, that, if a thing be really hard, it may be ground without being made thin? Is it not said, that, if a thing be really white, it may be steeped in a dark fluid without being made black?
4. “Am I a bitter gourd? How can I be hung up out of the way of being eaten?”
Knowledge, acquired by learning, is necessary to the completion of virtue, by preserving the mind from being beclouded.
1. The Master said, “Yû, have you heard the six words to which are attached six becloudings?” Yû replied, “I have not.”
2. “Sit down, and I will tell them to you.
3. “There is the love of being benevolent without the love of learning;– the beclouding here leads to a foolish simplicity. There is the love of knowing without the love of learning;– the beclouding here leads to dissipation of mind. There is the love of being sincere without the love of learning;– the beclouding here leads to an injurious disregard of consequences. There is the love of straightforwardness without the love of learning;– the beclouding here leads to rudeness. There is the love of boldness without the love of learning;– the beclouding here leads to insubordination. There is the love of firmness without the love of learning;– the beclouding here leads to extravagant conduct.”
Benefits derived from studying the Book of Poetry.
1. The Master said, “My children, why do you not study the Book of Poetry?
2. “The Odes serve to stimulate the mind.
3. “They may be used for purposes of self-contemplation.
4. “They teach the art of sociability.
5. “They show how to regulate feelings of resentment.
6. “From them you learn the more immediate duty of serving one’s father, and the remoter one of serving one’s prince.
7. “From them we become largely acquainted with the names of birds, beasts, and plants.”
The importance of studying the Châu-nan and Shâo-nan.
The Master said to Po-yü, “Do you give yourself to the Châu-nan and the Shâo-nan. The man who has not studied the Châu-nan and the Shâo-nan is like one who stands with his face right against a wall. Is he not so?”
It is not the external appurtenances which constitute propriety, nor the sound of instruments which constitute music.
The Master said, “‘It is according to the rules of propriety,’ they say. — ‘It is according to the rules of propriety,’ they say. Are gems and silk all that is meant by propriety? ‘It is music,’ they say. — ‘It is music,’ they say. Are bells and drums all that is meant by music?”
The meanness of presumption and pusillanimity conjoined.
The Master said, “He who puts on an appearance of stern firmness, while inwardly he is weak, is like one of the small, mean people;– yea, is he not like the thief who breaks through, or climbs over, a wall?”
Contentment with vulgar ways and views injurious to virtue.
The Master said, “Your good, careful people of the villages are the thieves of virtue.”
Swiftness to speak incompatible with the cultivation of virtue.
The Master said, “To tell, as we go along, what we have heard on the way, is to cast away our virtue.”
The case of mercenary officers, and how it is impossible to serve one’s prince along with them.
1. The Master said, “There are those mean creatures! How impossible it is along with them to serve one’s prince!
2. “While they have not got their aims, their anxiety is how to get them. When they have got them, their anxiety is lest they should lose them.
3. “When they are anxious lest such things should be lost, there is nothing to which they will not proceed.”
The defects of former times become vices in the time of Confucius.
1. The Master said, “Anciently, men had three failings, which now perhaps are not to be found.
2. “The high-mindedness of antiquity showed itself in a disregard of small things; the high-mindedness of the present day shows itself in wild license. The stern dignity of antiquity showed itself in grave reserve; the stern dignity of the present day shows itself in quarrelsome perverseness. The stupidity of antiquity showed itself in straightforwardness; the stupidity of the present day shows itself in sheer deceit.”
See Book I Chapter III.
The Master said, “Fine words and an insinuating appearance are seldom associated with virtue.”
Confucius’s indignation at the way in which the wrong overcame the right.
The Master said, “I hate the manner in which purple takes away the luster of vermilion. I hate the way in which the songs of Chang confound the music of the Ya. I hate those who with their sharp mouths overthrow kingdoms and families.”
The actions of Confucius were lessons and laws, and not his words merely.
1. The Master said, “I would prefer not speaking.”
2. Tsze-kung said, “If you, Master, do not speak, what shall we, your disciples, have to record?”
3. The Master said, “Does Heaven speak? The four seasons pursue their courses, and all things are continually being produced, but does Heaven say anything?”
How Confucius could be “not at home,” and yet give intimation to the visitor of his presence.
Zû Pei wished to see Confucius, but Confucius declined, on the ground of being sick, to see him. When the bearer of this message went out at the door, (the Master) took his lute and sang to it, in order that Pei might hear him.
The period of three years’ mourning for parents; it may not on any account be shortened; the reason of it.
1. Tsâi Wo asked about the three years’ mourning for parents, saying that one year was long enough.
2. “If the superior man,” said he, “abstains for three years from the observances of propriety, those observances will be quite lost. If for three years he abstains from music, music will be ruined.
3. “Within a year the old grain is exhausted, and the new grain has sprung up, and, in procuring fire by friction, we go through all the changes of wood for that purpose. After a complete year, the mourning may stop.”
4. The Master said, “If you were, after a year, to eat good rice, and wear embroidered clothes, would you feel at ease?” “I should,” replied Wo.
5. The Master said, “If you can feel at ease, do it. But a superior man, during the whole period of mourning, does not enjoy pleasant food which he may eat, nor derive pleasure from music which he may hear. He also does not feel at ease, if he is comfortably lodged. Therefore he does not do what you propose. But now you feel at ease and may do it.”
6. Tsâi Wo then went out, and the Master said, “This shows Yü’s want of virtue. It is not till a child is three years old that it is allowed to leave the arms of its parents. And the three years’ mourning is universally observed throughout the empire. Did Yü enjoy the three years’ love of his parents?”
The hopeless case of gluttony and idleness.
The Master said, “Hard is it to deal with who will stuff himself with food the whole day, without applying his mind to anything good! Are there not gamesters and chess players? To be one of these would still be better than doing nothing at all.”
Valour to be valued only in subordination to righteousness; its consequences apart from that.
Tsze-lû said, “Does the superior man esteem valor?” The Master said, “The superior man holds righteousness to be of highest importance. A man in a superior situation, having valor without righteousness, will be guilty of insubordination; one of the lower people having valor without righteousness, will commit robbery.”
Characters disliked by Confucius and Tsze-kung.
1. Tsze-kung said, “Has the superior man his hatreds also?” The Master said, “He has his hatreds. He hates those who proclaim the evil of others. He hates the man who, being in a low station, slanders his superiors. He hates those who have valor merely, and are unobservant of propriety. He hates those who are forward and determined, and, at the same time, of contracted understanding.”
2. The Master then inquired, “Ts’ze, have you also your hatreds?” Tsze-kung replied, “I hate those who pry out matters, and ascribe the knowledge to their wisdom. I hate those who are only not modest, and think that they are valorous. I hate those who make known secrets, and think that they are straightforward.”
The difficulty how to treat concubines and servants.
The Master said, “Of all people, girls and servants are the most difficult to behave to. If you are familiar with them, they lose their humility. If you maintain a reserve towards them, they are discontented.”
The difficulty of improvement in advanced years.
The Master said, “When a man at forty is the object of dislike, he will always continue what he is.”