Skip to content

17. Yang Huo (陽貨)

1. Yang Huo (陽貨) wanted to see Confucius but Confucius refused. He then sent Confucius a gift of pig. Confucius chose a moment when Yang Huo was not around and went there to express his appreciation for the gift. But he came across Yang Huo on the way. Yang Huo said to Confucius, "Come! I would like to speak with you." "To keep the treasure to oneself and let the country go astray. Can it be regarded as ethical resolve?" Confucius replied, "No, it cannot." "To love to carry out the work and yet often miss the timing. Can it be regarded as wisdom?" Confucius replied, "No, it cannot." "Days and months go by. They do not wait for me." Confucius replied, "All right. I will take up a position some day."

2. The Master said, "We are born with a similar nature. What we acquire later tends to set us apart."

3. The Master said, "Only the most intelligent and the most stupid are not susceptible to change."

4. The Master arrived in the village of Wu Cheng (武城). He heard the sound of stringed instruments and singing. Well pleased and smiling, he said, "Why use an ox knife to kill a chicken?" Zi You replied, "Formerly, Sir, I heard you say, 'When a noble man has learned the Way, he loves men; when the petty and the lowly have learned the Way, it is easy to put them to service.'" The Master said, "Hey guys, Yan (偃) is right. What I said earlier was only a joke."

5. Gong Shan Fo Rao (公山弗擾) launched a rebellion from Mr Ji's village of Fei. He invited Confucius, who wanted to come. Zi Lu was not happy. He said, "Don't go there. Why do you have to go to Mr. Gong Shan of all people?" The Master said, "He who invites me would not do so for nothing, would he? If there is someone who would hire me, I would make that country Zhou of the East."

6. Zi Zhang asked Confucius about ethical resolve. Confucius said, "If you can carry out five things whever you go in the whole world, you would be fulfilling the ethical resolve." Zi Zhang inquired further. The Master said, "Politeness, open-mindedness, trustworthiness, diligence and generosity. If you are polite you won't be be treated with disrespect. If you are open-minded, you will win many people's heart. If you are trustworthy, people will entrust you with a task. If you are diligent, you will achieve a lot. If you are generous, people will work for you."

7. Bi Xi (佛肸) invited Confucius, who wanted to come. Zi Lu said, "I once heard you say, 'If you are close to someone who does bad things, you won't become a noble man.' Bi Xi launched a rebellion in the village of Zhong Mou (中牟) and you want to go there! What is this?" The Master said, "You are right. I said those words. But if one does not become thin despite grinding, wouldn't you call that firm? If one does not become dirty despite besmirching, woundn't you call that pure? Am I merely a piece of gourd, only to be hung to dry and not eaten?"

8. The Master said, "You (由), have you heard about six dead-ends of six words?" Zi Lu replied, "No, I haven't." The Master said, "Sit down. I will tell you. To cherish ethical resolve and to neglect learning, you end up being stupid; To cherish wisdom and to neglect learning, you end up being undisciplined. To cherish trustworthiness and to neglect learning, you end up being a gangster; To cherish honesty and to neglect learning, you end up being caught in a straightjacket; To cherish courage and to neglect learning, you end up being disruptive; To cherish firmness and to neglect learning, you end up being crazy."

9. The Master said, "Guys, why you are not studying poetry? Poetry will move you, make you see, bring people together and let you express grievances. It will teach you how to serve your father and serve your ruler. You will also be well versed in the names of birds, animals, plants and trees."

10. The Master told Bo Yu (伯魚), "Have you studied 'Zhou Nan' and 'Shao Nan'? If one does not study Zhou Nan and Shao Nan, one would be like a person who stands facing a wall, you see?"

11. The Master said, "Li, Li! Do you think I am talking about jade and silk? Music, music! Do you think I am talking about bells and drums?"

12. Those who appear to be firm but actually weak inside, are similar to the petty and the lowly. They are like a thief who bores a hole in the wall, you see?"

13. The Master said, "The do-gooders of your home town, they are the enemies of virtue."

14. The Master said, "To regurgitate uncritically what you just heard is to abandon virtue."

15. The Master said, "Side by side with a mean person, can you serve your boss? If there is something which he hasn't got, his concern is how to get it. If he has got it, his concern is how not to lose it. If you are afraid of losing what you have, there is no limit to what you would do."

16. In olden days, people had three weaknesses. These days, they are perhaps no longer to be found. In olden days, wild people were at least daring. These days, wild people are licentious. In olden days, proud people were at least incorruptible. These days, proud people are irritable. In olden days, simple people were at least honest. These days, simple people are fraudulent."

17. The Master said, "Soothing words and pleasant face; there can hardly be any ethical resolve there."

18. The Master said, "I hate it when purple takes the place of vermillion. I hate it when songs of Zheng (鄭) debase the classical music of Zhou (周). I hate it when attractive eloquence overthrows countries and households."

19. The Master said, "I wish to speak no more." Zi Gong said, "If you speak no more, what are we, students, to record?" The Master said, "Does heaven speak? Four seasons take their course; all sorts of things come into existence. But does heaven speak?"

20. Ru Bei (孺悲) wanted to see Confucius. Confucius declined, saying he was unwell. When Ru Bei's messenger was about to leave the house gate, Confucius grabbed the lute, played a tune and sang so that the messenger could hear.

21. Zai Wo asked about three year mourning period, saying "One year is long enough. If a noble man does not practice Li for three years, Li will be ruined. If music is not performed for three years, music will be lost. One year is long enough for old grains to be used up, new grains to ripen and the wood to make fire with a flint will have changed in a year." The Master said, "Would you feel comfortable eating fine rice and wearing fine cloth [after one year of mourning]?" Zai Wo said, "Yes, I would." The Master said, "If you feel comfortable doing it, then do it! When a noble man is in mourning, he would not feel the taste even when he has nice food, he would not feel joy even when he hears good music, he would not feel comfortable regardless of the dwelling. That's why he does not eat fine rice or wear fine cloth. But if you feel comfortable doing it, then do it!" Zai Wo left. The Master said, "It shows Yu (予) lacks ethical resolve. When a child is born, it takes three years before it can leave the parents' arms. Three year mourning is normally practised everywhere. Did Yu ever have the benefit of his parents' love for three years?"

22. The Master said, "To stuff yourself all day without applying your mind to anything, that's bad! Aren't there chess and go games? Play them. It would be better than doing nothing."

23. Zi Lu said, "A noble man would look up to courage, wouldn't he?" The Master said, "A noble man regards righteousness as the highest value. If a noble man with courage lacks the sense of righteousness, he will be a rebel. If the petty and the lowly with courage lack the sense of righteousness, they will be thieves."

24. Zi Gong said, "Does a noble man also have hatred?" The Master said, "Of course. He hates those who speak ill of others. He hates those who live a lowly life and slander their superiors. He hates those who have courage and yet fail to abide by Li. He hates those who are bold and yet have a closed mind." The Master then said, "Ci (賜), do you also have hatred?" Zi Gong replied, "I hate those who beat around the bush and treat it as wisdom. I hate those who are rude and think that they have courage. I hate those who rat on others and think that they are honest."

25. The Master said, "Women and the petty and the lowly are difficult to deal with. If you are close to them, they become unruly. If you keep a distance, they become resentful."

26. The Master said, "If, at the age of 40, you are hated by others, you will be like that till the end."

Published on Categories ACLP