Confucius the Man

 Selections from The Analects

translated by Randall Nadeau, Trinity University


  1. Confucius said:  "When I was 15 years old, I became serious about my studies.  When I was 30, I was established in my career.  When I was 40, I was no longer uncertain about right and wrong.  When I was 50, I understood the will of Heaven (Tian-ming).  At 60, my ear was attuned to the truth, and at 70, I could do whatever my heart desired without overstepping the bounds of decorum."

  2. Speaking to Confucius' disciples, someone said:  "The kingdom has been without the Dao for a long time.  Tian intends to use your master as a bell with a wooden clapper."

  3. Confucius said:  "In every village of ten households, there is undoubtedly someone who is as conscientious and trustworthy as I am, but no one who loves learning as much as I do."

  4. Confucius once made this vow:  "For all of my wrongs, may Tian punish me!  May Tian punish me!"

  5. Confucius said:  "I transmit but do not create:  I put my trust in my love for antiquity."

  6. Confucius said:  "I can find happiness even in eating course food, drinking plain water, and sleeping with my arm as my pillow.  To be wealthy and honored without yi is like a floating cloud to me."

  7. Confucius was gentle, but stern; distinguished, but not overbearing; deferential to others, but at ease with himself.

  8. Confucius was threatened with his life in the state of Kuang.  He said:  "Since the death of King Wen, hasn't the responsibility for preserving civilization fallen on my shoulders?  If Tian intended for civilization to die out, it would not have been preserved for later generations.  But if Tian does not intend for civilization to die out, what can the people of Kuang do to me?"

  9. If his mat was not straight, Confucius would not sit on it.

  10. A stable was destroyed in a fire.  Confucius asked:  "Was anyone hurt?"  He did not inquire about the horses.

  11. When Yan Yuan, his favorite student, died, Confucius cried:  "Alas!  Tian is destroying me!  Tian is destroying me!"

  12. Confucius said:  "There are three ways to be a jün-zi, but I have been unable to fulfill any of them.   A man of ren has no worries; a man of wisdom has no confusion; a man of courage has no fear."  Zi-gong said:  "But you are talking about yourself!"

  13. Confucius said:  "Alas!  No one understands me!  I do not curse Tian or bear a grudge against other men for my own shortcomings.  By studying things on a lower level, I reach to a higher level.  The one who understands me is Tian!"

  14. Zi-lu was staying overnight at the Stone Gate outside the city.  The gate-keeper for the morning watch asked him, "Who sent you?"  "Confucius," Zi-lu replied.  "Oh, isn't he the one who knows full well that something can't be done, but goes ahead and does it anyway?"

  15. The hermits Chang-zhu and Jie-ni were pulling a plow.  Confucius was passing by and sent Zi-lu to ask them where he could cross the river.  Jie-ni asked, "Aren't you a disciple of Confucius of Lu?"  "Yes, I am."  Jie-ni said, "The world is as chaotic as a flood.  Who can change it?  Instead of following someone who avoids certain particular men, why don't you become a disciple of someone who avoids society altogether?"  He went back to his hoeing.

Zi-lu reported this conversation to Confucius.  Impatiently, Confucius said, "Men cannot flock with birds and beasts.  If I do not associate with men, with whom should I associate?  The world has a certain Dao -- who am I to change it?"