Smooth talkers

子曰:「巧言令色鮮矣仁。」
Confucius said: “Smooth talk and an affected manner are seldom signs of goodness.”

It wouldn’t be difficult to figure out what Confucius would think of today’s crop of politicians given his almost pathological suspicion of smartly-dressed smooth talkers.

No doubt he was speaking from bitter experience. For he must have come across more than his fair share of such individuals among the retinues of the benighted rulers he visited as he traipsed from state to state offering the benefits of his wisdom only to be politely but firmly told to move on.

These exact words are repeated in Chapter VII of Book 17. The rest of The Analects is littered with admonitions against such behavior, including Chapter V of Book 5, Chapter III of Book 12, and Chapter IV of Book 16.

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