Analects of Confucius: on trustworthiness

Trustworthiness (信/xìn) means being true to your word and being a dependable support for others. In some contexts it can be translated as ‘’faith”, “faithfulness”, or “sincerity”. A number of references to trustworthiness can be found in the Analects.

Book 1, Chapter IV
Book 1, Chapter VI
Book 1, Chapter VII
Book 1, Chapter VIII
Book 1, Chapter XIII
Book 2, Chapter XXII
Book 5, Chapter VI
Book 5, Chapter X
Book 5, Chapter XXVI
Book 5, Chapter XXVIII
Book 7, Chapter I
Book 7, Chapter XXIV
Book 8, Chapter IV
Book 8, Chapter XIII
Book 8, Chapter XVI
Book 9, Chapter XXV
Book 12, Chapter VII
Book 13, Chapter IV
Book 13, Chapter XVIII
Book 13, Chapter XX
Book 14, Chapter XVII
Book 15, Chapter VI
Book 15, Chapter XVIII
Book 17, Chapter VI
Book 17, Chapter VIII
Book 19, Chapter II
Book 19, Chapter X
Book 20, Chapter I

Book 1
Chapter IV
曾子曰:「吾日三省吾身,為人謀而不忠乎?與朋友交而不信乎?傳不習乎?」
Zengzi said: “I examine myself three times every day. Have I been true to other people’s interests when acting on their behalf? Have I been sincere in my interactions with friends? Have I practiced what I have been taught?”

Chapter V
子曰:「道千乘之國,敬事而信,節用而愛人,使民以時。」
Confucius said: “To govern a medium-size country, you must pay strict attention to its affairs and fulfill your promises; be economical and love your people; and only mobilize them for labor at the right times of the year.”

Chapter VI
子曰:「弟子入則孝,出則弟,謹而信,汎愛眾,而親仁。行有餘力,則以學文。」
Confucius said: “At home, a young man should respect his parents. Outside, he should respect his elders; talk little but truthfully; and love everyone but only associate with those who are good. If he still has time and energy to spare after all this, he can study the cultural arts.”

Chapter VII
子夏曰:「賢賢易色,事父母能竭其力,事君能致其身,與朋友交言而有信,雖曰未學,吾必謂之學矣。」
Zixia said: “A man who values virtue over beauty, who devotes all his energy to serving his father and mother, who is willing to sacrifice his life for his ruler, and who is true to his word in his dealings with his friends: even though some may say he is not learned, I will insist he is a learned man.”

Chapter VIII
子曰:「君子不重,則不威,學則不固。主忠信,無友不如己者,過則勿憚改。」
Confucius said: “If a leader isn’t serious he will inspire no awe and lack a solid foundation for learning. Hold loyalty and trustworthiness as your highest principles; don’t make friends with people who are not your equal; and when you make a mistake, don’t be afraid to correct yourself.”

Chapter XIII
有子曰:「信近於義,言可復也。恭近於禮,遠恥辱也。因不失其親,亦可宗也。」
Youzi said: “Trustworthiness is close to rightness because it means that your word can be counted on. Reverence is close to the rites because it means that you avoid shame and disgrace. Never losing sight of these virtues is worthy of respect.”

Book 2
Chapter XXII
子曰:「人而無信,不知其可也。大車無輗,小車無軏,其何以行之哉?」
Confucius said: “I wouldn’t know what to do with someone whose word cannot be trusted. How would you pull a wagon without a yoke-bar or a chariot without a collar-bar?”

Book 5
Chapter X
宰予晝寢。子曰:「朽木不可雕也,糞土之牆不可杇也。於予與何誅?」子曰:「始吾於人也,聽其言而信其行;今吾於人也,聽其言而觀其行。於予與改是。」
Zai Yu was asleep during the day. Confucius said: “Rotten wood cannot be carved; dung walls cannot be trowelled. What’s the point of scolding him anymore?” Confucius said: “There was a time when I used to listen to what people had to say and trusted that they would act on their word, but now I have to listen to what they say and watch what they do. It’s my dealings with Zai Yu that have forced me to change.”

Chapter XXVIII
子曰:「十室之邑,必有忠信如丘者焉,不如丘之好學也。」
Confucius said: “In a hamlet of ten houses, you are certain to find people as loyal and trustworthy as I am, but you will not find a single person who loves learning as much as I do.”

Book 7
Chapter I
子曰:「述而不作,信而好古,竊比於我老彭。」
Confucius said: “I transmit but I don’t create. I am faithful to and love the past. In this respect, I dare to compare myself with Old Peng.”

Chapter XXIV
子以四教:文,行,忠,信。
Confucius covered four subjects in his teaching: culture; conduct; loyalty; and trustworthiness.

Book 8
Chapter IV
曾子有疾,孟敬子問之。曾子言曰:「鳥之將死,其鳴也哀;人之將死,其言也善。君子所貴乎道者三:動容貌,斯遠暴慢矣;正顏色,斯近信矣;出辭氣,斯遠鄙倍矣。籩豆之事,則有司存。」
When Zengzi was ill, Meng Jingzi came to visit him. Zengzi said: “When a bird is about to die, his song is sad; when a man is about to die, his words are good. In following the Way, a leader cherishes three things: in his demeanor, he stays far from violence and arrogance; in his countenance, he invites trustworthiness; in his speech, he avoids vulgarity. As for the details of the ritual, these will be taken care of by the functionaries.”

Chapter XIII
子曰:「篤信好學,守死善道。危邦不人,亂邦不居,天下有道則見,無道則隱。邦有道,貧且賤焉,恥也,邦無道,富且貴焉,恥也。」
Confucius said: “Be sincere and trustworthy, love learning, and defend the Good Way with your life. Do not enter an unstable state or live in a country that is in chaos. When the Way prevails in the world appear; when it disappears hide away. In a country that has adopted the Way, be ashamed if you remain poor and obscure; in a country that has lost the Way, be ashamed if you become rich and achieve high rank.”

Chapter XVI
子曰:「狂而不直,侗而不愿,悾悾而不信,吾不知之矣。」
Confucius said: “People who are reckless and insincere; ignorant and irresponsible; naïve and untrustworthy: I simply don’t understand them.”

Book 9
Chapter XXV
子曰:「主忠信,毋友不如己者,過則勿憚改。」
Confucius said: “Hold loyalty and trustworthiness as your highest principles; don’t make friends with people who are not your equal; and when you make a mistake, don’t be afraid to correct yourself.”

Book 12
Chapter VII
子貢問「政」。子曰:「足食,足兵,民信之矣。」子貢曰:「必不得已而去,於斯三者何先?」曰:「去兵。」子貢曰:「必不得已而去,於斯二者何先?」曰:「去食。自古皆有死,民無信不立。」
Zigong asked about governance. Confucius said: “Enough food, enough weapons, and the trust of the people.” Zigong said: “If you had to go without one of these three, which one would you give up?” Confucius replied: “Weapons.” Zigong asked: “If you had to go without one of the remaining two, which one would you give up?” Confucius replied: “Food; from ancient times, death has been the fate of all men. But without the trust of the people, the government cannot stand.”

Book 13
Chapter IV
樊遲請學稼,子曰:「吾不如老農。」請學為圃,曰:「吾不如老圃。」樊遲出,子曰:「小人哉,樊須也!上好禮,則民莫敢不敬;上好義,則民莫敢不服;上好信,則民莫敢不用情。夫如是,則四方之民,襁負其子而至矣;焉用稼!」

Fan Chi asked to learn about cultivating grain. Confucius said: “You’d be better off asking an old farmer.” Fan Chi asked to be taught about raising vegetables. Confucius said: “You’d be better off asking an old gardener.” After Fan Chi had left, Confucius said: “What a small-minded man! If a ruler loves the rites, the people would not dare to be disrespectful. If a ruler loves rightness, the people would not dare to be disobedient. If a ruler loves trustworthiness, the people would not dare to be deceitful. If such a ruler existed, people would flock to him from everywhere with their children strapped to their backs. What need would there be to know about farming?”

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 XVII
子貢曰:「管仲非仁者與?桓公殺公子糾,不能死,又相之。」子曰:「管仲相桓公,霸諸侯,一匡天下,民到于今受其賜。微管仲,吾其被髮左衽矣!豈若匹夫匹婦之為諒也,自經於溝瀆,而莫之知也!」
Zigong said: “Surely Guan Zhong was not a good person. After Duke Huan had Prince Jiu put to death, he not only chose to live but also served as the Duke’s prime minister.” Confucius said: “By serving as Duke Huan’s prime minister, Guan Zhong imposed his authority over all the states and brought order to the world; the people still reap the benefits of his actions until this day. Without Guan Zhong, we would still be wearing our hair loose and folding our robes on the wrong side. Or would you prefer it if he had drowned himself in a ditch like some wretched husband or wife in their small-minded faithfulness and died with nobody knowing about it?”

Book 15
Chapter VI
子張問「行」。子曰:「言忠信,行篤敬,雖蠻貊之邦行矣;言不忠信,行不篤敬,雖州里行乎哉?立則見其參於前也,在輿則見其倚於衡也,夫然後行!」子張書諸紳。
Zizhang asked about getting on in the world. Confucius said: “If your words are sincere and trustworthy and your actions are honorable and respectful, you will get on in the world even among the barbarian tribes. If your words are insincere and untrustworthy, if you act without honor and respect, how can you possibly get on in the world even in your own village? When you stand, you should always have this principle in front of you. When you drive you should have it carved upon the yoke of your carriage; only then will you truly be able to move ahead.” Zizhang wrote this down on his sash.

Chapter XVIII
子曰:「君子義以為質,禮以行之,孫以出之,信以成之,君子哉!」
Confucius said: “A leader takes rightness as his essence, practices it in conformity with the rites, enacts it with humility, and faithfully brings it to fruition. This is how a leader behaves.”

Book 17
Chapter VI
子張問「仁」於孔子。孔子曰:「能行五者於天下,為仁矣。」「請問之?」曰:「恭、寬、信、敏、惠。恭則不侮,寬則得眾,信則人任焉,敏則有功,惠則足以使人。」
Zizhang asked Confucius about goodness. Confucius said: “Whoever is capable of putting five qualities into practice throughout the world is good.” “And what are those?” “Respectfulness, tolerance, trustworthiness, enthusiasm, and generosity. If you are respectful, you will not be insulted by others; if you are tolerant, you will win people’s hearts; if you are trustworthy, people will entrust you with responsibility; if you are enthusiastic, you will be successful; if you are generous, you will be capable of managing other people.”

Chapter VIII
子曰:「由也,女聞六言六蔽矣乎?」對曰:「未也。」「居!吾語女。好仁不好學,其蔽也愚;好知不好學,其蔽也蕩;好信不好學,其蔽也賊;好直不好學,其蔽也絞;好勇不好學,其蔽也亂;好剛不好學,其蔽也狂。」
Confucius said: “Zilu, have you heard of the six virtues and their six attendant vices?” “No, I haven’t.” “Sit down, and I will tell you. Loving goodness without loving learning leads to ignorance. Loving knowledge without loving learning leads to foolishness. Loving trustworthiness without loving learning leads to criminality. Loving frankness without loving learning leads to offensiveness. Loving valor without loving learning leads to chaos. Loving steadfastness without loving learning leads to recklessness.”

Book 19
Chapter II
子張曰:「執德不弘,信道不篤,焉能為有?焉能為亡?」
Zizhang said: “If a man fails to embrace virtue with all his spirit and fails to follow the Way with all his heart, does it really matter whether he exists or not?”

Chapter X
子夏曰:「君子信而後勞其民,未信則以為厲己也。信而後諫,未信則以為謗己也。」
Zixia said: “A leader only mobilizes the people for labor after earning their trust. If he hasn’t earned his trust, the people will feel they are being exploited. He only offers criticism to his lord after earning his trust. If he hasn’t earned his trust, the lord will feel he is being slandered.”

Book 20
Chapter I
堯曰:「咨!爾舜!天之歷數在爾躬,允執其中!四海困窮,天祿永終。」舜亦以命禹。曰:「予小子履,敢用玄牡,敢昭告于皇皇后帝,有罪不敢赦,帝臣不蔽,簡在帝心!朕躬有罪,無以萬方;萬方有罪,罪在朕躬。」「周有大賚,善人是富。」「雖有周親,不如仁人;百姓有過,在予一人。謹權量,審法度,修廢官,四方之政行焉。興滅國,繼絕世,舉逸民,天下之民歸心焉。所重民,食喪祭。寬則得眾,信則民任焉。敏則有功,公則說。」
Yao said: Oh, Shun! The Heavenly succession was bestowed upon you; hold faithfully to the middle way; if the people within the Four Seas fall into suffering and penury, the honors bestowed on you by Heaven’s gift will be taken away from you forever.

Shun passed the same message to Yu.

Tang said, “I, the humble Lu, dare to sacrifice a black bull and dare to make this declaration before my great Lord. I dare not pardon those who are guilty. Your servants cannot hide anything from you. You have already judged them in your heart. If I am guilty, please do not punish the people of the myriad states because of me; but if the people of the myriad states are guilty, let the responsibility lie with me alone.”

“The House of Zhou is greatly blessed. Good men are its riches.” “Although I have my own kinsmen, I prefer to rely on good men. If the common people do wrong, let their faults fall on my head alone. If I set the standards for weights and measures, carefully examine the laws and regulations, and restore the offices that have been abolished, the authority of the government will reach everywhere. If I restore the states that have been destroyed, revive the broken dynastic lines, and bring back to office great men who were sent into exile, I will win the hearts of the people throughout the world. I will give priority to the people; food; mourning; and sacrifice. If I am tolerant I will win the masses. If I am trustworthy, the people will entrust me with responsibility. If I am enthusiastic, I will achieve success. If I am fair and just, I will bring happiness to the people.”

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