A trial of strength?

子曰:「射不主皮,為力不同科,古之道也。」
Confucius said: “In archery, it does not matter whether you pierce the target, because some archers are stronger than others. This was the view of the ancients.”

While Confucius may have taken archery seriously as a ritual practice, there were no doubt many others who saw it as a trial of power and strength even when practiced as part of a ceremony. By repeating this ancient saying, he is calling – no doubt in vain – for participants to observe the true spirit of the ritual rather than treat it as a contest of manliness.
Confucius also commented on archery in Chapter 7 of Book III of the Analects.

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