Tag Archives: trustworthiness

Analects Book 1: on loyalty


Loyalty (忠/zhōng) is one of what some commentators classify as the secondary virtues and is often mentioned together with trustworthiness (信/xìn). The first instance of this pairing can be found in Chapter VIII of Book 1 in which Confucius advised that a leader (君子) should, “Hold loyalty and trustworthiness as your highest principles.” Continue reading Analects Book 1: on loyalty


Zixia said: “A petty person always tries to gloss over his mistakes.”

Zixia said: “A leader has three different aspects: from a distance, he looks stern; close up, he looks warm; when you hear his voice, he sounds serious.

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.”

Zixia is certainly on a roll, though he is merely recycling points already made by Confucius rather than adding any fresh new insights to them or developing them any further. Continue reading Recycling

A fine line

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.”

I wish I could find a better way of rendering the first sentence (言/yán literally means “words”) but the point that Confucius makes to Zilu is clear: even the most positive personal qualities need to be carefully cultivated in order make sure they don’t turn into negatives. Continue reading A fine line

Doing well by doing good

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.”

The practical reasons for cultivating “goodness” are at least as strong as the altruistic ones. To use the common English idiom that may or not have been coined by Benjamin Franklin, it’s about doing well by doing good. Continue reading Doing well by doing good

Short shrift

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?”

Some modern critics seized on these comments from Confucius as proof that that he held back the technological development of China with his alleged disdain for practical subjects such as agriculture. Continue reading Short shrift

Loyalty and trustworthiness


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.”

Presumably this is the kind of advice Confucius had in mind in the previous chapter. This is a repeat of the second half of Chapter VIII of Book 1.