Analects of Confucius: on filial piety

Filial piety (孝/xiào) is one of the best known Confucian virtues, and governs intra-family relationships – most notably between parents and their offspring. Numerous references to it can be found in the Analects.

Book 1, Chapter II
Book 1, Chapter VI
Book 1, Chapter IX
Book 2, Chapter V
Book 2, Chapter VI
Book 2, Chapter VIII
Book 2, Chapter XX
Book 2, Chapter XXI
Book 4, Chapter XVIII
Book 4, Chapter XIX
Book 4, Chapter XX
Book 4, Chapter XXI
Book 8, Chapter II
Book 8, Chapter III
Book 8, Chapter XXI
Book 9, Chapter XVI
Book 11, Chapter V
Book 12, Chapter XI
Book 12, Chapter XXI
Book 13, Chapter XVIII
Book 13, Chapter XX
Book 13, Chapter XXVIII
Book 16, Chapter XIII
Book 17, Chapter XXI
Book 19, Chapter XVII
Book 19, Chapter XVIII

Book 1
Chapter II
有子曰:「其為人也孝弟,而好犯上者,鮮矣;不好犯上,而好作亂者,未之有也。君子務本,本立而道生。孝弟也者,其為仁之本與!」
Youzi said: “A man who respects his parents and elders is not likely to question the authority of his superiors. Such a man will never provoke disorder. A leader focuses on the fundamentals; once these are established the Way appears. Respect for parents and elders constitutes the essence of goodness.”

Chapter VI
有子曰:「其為人也孝弟,而好犯上者,鮮矣;不好犯上,而好作亂者,未之有也。君子務本,本立而道生。孝弟也者,其為仁之本與!」
Youzi said: “A man who respects his parents and elders is not likely to question the authority of his superiors. Such a man will never provoke disorder. A leader focuses on the fundamentals; once these are established the Way appears. Respect for parents and elders is the essence of goodness.”

Chapter XI
子曰:「父在觀其志,父沒觀其行,三年無改於父之道,可謂孝矣。」
Confucius said: “When the father is alive, observe his son’s intentions. When the father is dead, watch his son’s conduct. If after three years he has not deviated from his father’s path, then he may be called a dutiful son.”

Book 2
Chapter V
孟懿子問孝。子曰:「無違。」樊遲御,子告之曰:「孟孫問孝於我,我對曰,『無違。』」樊遲曰:「何謂也?」子曰:「生,事之以禮;死,葬之以禮,祭之以禮。」
Meng Yizi asked Confucius about filial piety. Confucius said: “Never disobey.” While Fan Chi was driving him in his chariot, Confucius told him: “Meng Yizi asked me about filial piety and I replied: ‘Never disobey.’” Fan Chi asked: “What does that mean?” Confucius replied: “When your parents are alive, serve them according to the rites. When they die, bury them according to the rites, and make sacrifices to them according to the rites.”

Chapter VI
孟武伯問孝。子曰:「父母唯其疾之憂。」
Meng Wubo asked about filial piety. Confucius said: “The only time a son should make his parents worried is when he is sick.”

Chapter VII
子游問孝。子曰:「今之孝者,是謂能養。至於犬馬,皆能有養;不敬,何以別乎。」
Ziyou asked about filial piety. Confucius said: “These days, men regard themselves as dutiful sons simply by feeding their parents. But they also feed their dogs and horses. Unless they show their parents due respect, what’s the difference?”

Chapter VIII
子夏問孝。子曰:「色難。有事,弟子服其勞;有酒食,先生饌,曾是以為孝乎?」
Zixia asked about filial piety. Confucius said: “It is the attitude that counts. If young people just offer their help when there is work to do, or serve their elders wine and food when they need to drink and eat, how could this ever be considered as filial piety?”

Chapter XX
季康子問:「使民敬忠以勸,如之何?」子曰:「臨之以莊則敬,孝慈則忠,舉善而教不能則勸。」
Ji Kangzi asked: “What should I do to make the people respectful, loyal, and eager to follow me? Confucius said: “Treat them with dignity, and they will be respectful. Show you are a good son and a loving father, and they will be loyal. Promote the good and teach those who lack ability, and they will be eager to follow you.”

Chapter XXI
或謂孔子曰:「子奚不為政?」子曰:「書云:『孝乎惟孝,友于兄弟,施於有政。』是亦為政,奚其為為政?」
Someone asked Confucius: “Sir, why don’t you take part in government?” Confucius replied: “In the Book of Documents it says: ‘Simply by acting as a good son and being kind to your brothers, you will be contributing to the smooth running of the government.’ In doing this, you are already engaging in government; why do you need to make a conscious effort to actively take part in government?”

Book 4
Chapter XVIII
子曰:「事父母幾諫,見志不從,又敬不違,勞而不怨。」
Confucius said: “When serving your parents, you may gently remonstrate with them. If you notice that they do not take your advice, remain respectful and do not contradict them. Don’t let your efforts turn to resentment.”

Chapter XIX
子曰:「父母在,不遠遊,遊必有方。」
Confucius said: “While your parents are alive, do not travel far. If you do have to travel, you must keep to a fixed itinerary.”

Chapter XX
子曰:「三年無改於父之道,可謂孝矣。」
Confucius said: “If for three years after his death the son does not alter his father’s ways, he is a good son indeed.”

Chapter XXI
子曰:「父母之年,不可不知也:一則以喜,一則以。」
Confucius said: “Always keep the age of your parents in mind. Let this knowledge be both a source of joy and dread.”

Book 8
Chapter II
子曰:「恭而無禮則勞,慎而無禮則葸,勇而無禮則亂,直而無禮則絞。君子篤於親,則民興於仁。故舊不遺,則民不偷。」
Confucius said: “Reverence without the rites descends into indifference; cautiousness without the rites descends into timidity; boldness without the rites descends into disorder; frankness without the rites descends into hurtfulness. If a leader is devoted to his family, the people are inclined towards goodness; if he doesn’t forget about his old friends, the people will not shirk their obligations to others.”

Chapter III
曾子有疾,召門弟子曰:「啟予足!啟予手!詩云:『戰戰兢兢,如臨深淵,如履薄冰。』而今而後,吾知免夫!小子!」
When Zengzi was ill, he called his disciples together and said: “Look at my feet! Look at my hands! It is said in the Book of Songs:
We should be vigilant and careful,
As if we are standing on the edge of an abyss,
As if we are treading on thin ice.
But now, my little ones, I know that I am escaping whole now and forever after.”

Chapter XXI
子曰:「禹吾無間然矣,菲飲食,而致孝乎鬼神,惡衣服,而致美乎黻冕,卑宮室,而盡力乎溝洫,禹吾無間然矣。」
Confucius said: “I can find no flaw in Yu. He drank and ate simple fare, but showed complete devotion in his offerings to the ghosts and the spirits; he wore humble clothes, but his ritual vestments were magnificent; he lived in a modest palace, and he spent all his strength in draining floodwaters. I can find no flaw in Yu.”

Book 9
Chapter XVI
子曰:「出則事公卿,入則事父兄,喪事不敢不勉,不為酒困,何有於我哉!」
Confucius said: “I have never found it difficult to serve ministers and high officials abroad; show respect to my elders at home; mourn the dead with proper reverence; and not allow myself to be overcome with wine.”

Book 11
Chapter V
子曰:「孝哉閔子騫,人不間於其父母昆弟之言。」
Confucius said: “Min Ziqian is such a filial son! Nobody can find fault with the praise that his parents and brothers have for him.”

Book 12
Chapter XI
齊景公問政於孔子。孔子對曰:「君君,臣臣,父父,子子。」公曰:「善哉!信如君不君,臣不臣,父不父,子不子,雖有粟,吾得而食諸?」
Duke Jing of Qi asked Confucius about governance. Confucius replied: “Let lords be lords; ministers be ministers; fathers be fathers; and sons be sons.” The Duke said: “Excellent! If lords are not lords, ministers are not ministers, fathers are not fathers, and sons are not sons, would I be able to eat even if I had food?”

Chapter XXI
樊遲從遊於舞雩之下。曰:「敢問崇德、修慝、辨惑?」子曰:「善哉問!先事後得,非崇德與?攻其惡,無攻人之惡,非修慝與?一朝之忿,忘其身以及其親,非惑與?」
Fan Chi was strolling with Confucius around the Rain Dance Terrace. He said: “May I ask how you can accumulate virtue, correct evil thoughts, and recognize confusion?” Confucius said: “An excellent question! To always put service before reward: isn’t this the way to accumulate virtue? To attack the evil in yourself rather than the evil in other people: isn’t this the way to correct evil thoughts? To forget yourself in a moment of anger and bring ruin upon yourself and your family: isn’t this is a case of confusion?”

Book 13
Chapter XVIII
葉公語孔子曰:「吾黨有直躬者,其父攘羊而子證之。」孔子曰:「吾黨之直者異於是,父為子隱,子為父隱,直在其中矣。」
The Duke of She declared to Confucius: “Among my people, there is a man of unwavering integrity. When his father stole a sheep, he informed on him.” Confucius said: “Among my people, people of integrity are different. Fathers watch the backs of their sons and sons watch the backs of their fathers. Integrity can be found in this.”

Chapter XX
子貢問曰:「何如斯可謂之士矣?」子曰:「行己有恥,使於四方,不辱君命,可謂士矣。」曰:「敢問其次?」曰:「宗族稱孝焉,鄉黨稱弟焉。」曰:「敢問其次?」曰:「言必信,行必果;硜硜然,小人哉!抑亦可以為次矣。」曰:「今之從政者何如?」子曰:「噫!斗筲之人,何足算也!」
Zigong asked: “What qualities must one possess to be called a true gentleman?” Confucius said: “A man who maintains a sense of humility and can be sent on a mission to the four corners of the earth without bringing disgrace to his ruler can be called a true gentleman.” “May I ask what type of man ranks one step below that?” “A man who is praised by his relatives for his filial piety and who is known by the people of his neighborhood for being respectful towards his elders.” “May I ask what type of man ranks one step below that?” “A man whose word can be trusted and who completes whatever task he undertakes. In his stubborn determination, he may resemble a petty person, but he could still probably qualify as a gentleman of a lower rank.” “How would you rate the men currently involved in public affairs?” “Sadly, these are men you measure by a bucket or scoop. They’re not even worth mentioning.”

Chapter XXVIII
子路問曰:「何如斯可謂之士矣?」子曰:「切切偲偲,怡怡如也,可謂士矣。朋友切切偲偲,兄弟怡怡。」
Zilu asked: “What qualities must one possess to be called a true scholar-official?” Confucius said: “Supportive, encouraging, and affectionate: such a man deserves to be called a true scholar-official. Supportive and encouraging towards his friends and affectionate towards his brothers.”

Book 16
Chapter XIII
陳亢問於伯魚曰:「子亦有異聞乎?」對曰:「未也。嘗獨立,鯉趨而過庭。曰:『學詩乎?』對曰:『未也。』『不學詩,無以言。』鯉退而學詩。他日,又獨立,鯉趨而過庭。曰:『學禮乎?』對曰:『未也。』『不學禮,無以立。』鯉退而學禮。聞斯二者。」陳亢退而喜曰:「問一得三,聞詩、聞禮,又聞君子之遠其子也。」
Chen Gang asked Confucius’s son Boyu: “Has your father given you any special teaching?” Boyu replied: “No, he hasn’t. Once, when he was standing on his own and I was hurrying across the courtyard, he asked me: “’Have you studied the Book of Songs?’ I replied: ‘Not yet.’ He said: “If you don’t study the Book of Songs, you won’t be able to speak.’ I retired and studied the Book of Songs. On another day, when he was again standing on his own and I was hurrying across the courtyard, he asked me: “Have you studied the rites?” I replied: ‘Not yet.’ He said: ‘If you don’t study the rites, you won’t be able to take your place in society.’ I retired and studied the rites. These are the two lessons I received from him.” Chen Gang left delighted and said: “I asked one thing and learned three. I learned about the Book of Songs, I learned about the rites, and I learned how an exemplary person keeps their distance from their son.”

Book 17
Chapter XXI
宰我問:「三年之喪,期已久矣!君子三年不為禮,禮必壞;三年不為樂,樂必崩。舊穀既沒,新穀既升;鑽燧改火,期可已矣。」子曰:「食夫稻,衣夫錦,於女安乎?」曰:「安!」「女安則為之。夫君子之居喪,食旨不甘,聞樂不樂,居處不安,故不為也。今女安,則為之。」宰我出。子曰:「予之不仁也!子生三年,然後免於父母之懷。夫三年之喪,天下之通喪也;予也,有三年之愛於其父母乎?」
Zai Yu asked: “Three years of mourning for your parents: this is a long time. If a leader doesn’t practice the rites for three years, the rites are sure to decay; if he doesn’t practice music for three years, music is sure to collapse. As the grain from last year’s crop is used up, grain from this year’s crop ripens, and the flint for lighting the fires is changed with each season. One year of mourning is surely enough.” Confucius said: “Would you be comfortable eating your fine food and wearing your fine clothes then?” “Absolutely.” “In that case, go ahead! When a leader is in mourning fine food is tasteless to him, music offers him no pleasure, and the comforts of home give him no peace, so he prefers to do without these pleasures. But if you think you will be able to enjoy them, go ahead.” Zai Yu left. Confucius said: “Zai Yu has no goodness! During the first three years after a child is born, he doesn’t leave the arms of his parents. Three years of mourning is a custom that is followed throughout the world. Didn’t Zai Yu receive three years of love from his parents?”

Book 19
Chapter XVII
曾子曰:「吾聞諸夫子:『人未有自致者也,必也親喪乎!』
Zengzi said: “I heard this from the Master: If a man ever reveals his true nature, it’s when he mourns his parents.”

Chapter XVIII
曾子曰:「吾聞諸夫子:『孟莊子之孝也,其他可能也,其不改父之臣與父之政,是難能也。」
Zengzi said: “I heard this from the Master: The one facet of Lord Meng Zhuang’s filial piety that others couldn’t emulate was that he retained his father’s officials and continued his father’s policies.”

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