When Confucius was at home in his native village, he was unassuming and warm and seemed reluctant to speak. When he was in the ancestral temple or at court, however, he spoke with eloquence but due caution.
When he was at court chatting with officials in the lower ranks, he was genial; when he was chatting with officials in the upper ranks, he was respectful. When the ruler was present, he looked dignified and serene.
When the ruler ordered him to welcome guests to court, he assumed a serious expression on his face and walked at a rapid pace. As he bowed and saluted to the left and the right, he made sure that his gown flowed backwards and forwards in perfect rhythm with the movements of his body. When he rushed forward, his sleeves fluttered like the wings of a bird. After seeing off the guests, he always returned to announce: “The guests have gone.”
When entering the gate of the duke’s palace, he walked in stealthily. He never stood in the middle of the gateway, nor did he step on the threshold. When he passed in front of the duke’s throne, he adopted a serious expression on his face, quickened his step, and showed great reluctance to speak. When he lifted up the hem of his gown in preparation for walking up the steps of the audience hall, he inhaled deeply as if he didn’t dare to breathe. On leaving, after descending the first step, an expression of relief enveloped his face. When he reached the bottom step, he walked swiftly, as if on wings. On returning to his original position, he assumed a respectful look again.
When carrying a jade tablet, he bowed as if bending under its weight. When he held it high, he looked as if he was bowing, and when he held it low he looked as if he was going to make an offering. He adopted a solemn expression, and he walked in short steps as if following a straight line. When participating in a ritual ceremony, he looked refined. When in a private meeting, he looked happy.
A leader does not wear purple or maroon decorations on his gown; red and purple should not be used for casual wear at home. During the summer, he wears a fine or coarse linen singlet, but never goes out without wearing a gown. With a black robe, he wears lamb skin; with a white robe, he wears fawn skin; and with a yellow robe, he wears fox skin. The fur robe he wears at home is long and has a shorter right sleeve. His nightgown is very long. Thick furs such as fox and badger are worn at home. Except when he is in mourning, he wears all the ornaments on his girdle. Apart from his ceremonial robe, the layers of his other robes are cut to different lengths. At funerals, he does not wear lamb skin or black caps. On New Year’s Day, he attends court dressed in full court attire.
During periods of abstinence, he wore a plain robe made of coarse linen. During periods of abstinence, he changed his diet and did not sit in his usual place when at home.
He ate high-quality rice and finely-cut meat. If the food was rotten or rancid, if the fish wasn’t fresh, and if the meat was spoiled, he didn’t eat it. If the food was off-color, he didn’t eat it. If it smelled bad, he didn’t eat it. If it was undercooked, he didn’t eat it. If it was not served at the proper time, he didn’t eat it. If it was not cut properly, he didn’t eat it. If it was not served in its proper sauce, he didn’t eat it. Even if there was plenty of meat, he didn’t eat more meat than rice. As for wine, however, there was no limit as long as he remained sober. He didn’t consume wine or meat bought from the market. He was never without ginger when he ate, but used it only in moderation.
After assisting at the duke’s sacrificial ceremony, he didn’t keep the meat overnight. When carrying out routine sacrifices at home, he didn’t keep the meat for more than three days. After the third day, he didn’t eat it.
When eating, he did not talk. When retiring to bed, he did not speak.
Even if the food only consisted of coarse rice, vegetable soup, and melons, he made a sacrificial offering in a grave and respectful manner.
He didn’t sit on a mat unless it was straight.
When the villagers were drinking together, he didn’t leave until the elders had departed.
When the villagers carried out an exorcism ceremony, he put on his court dress and stood on the eastern steps.
When sending his greetings to someone in another state, he would bow twice before sending the messenger on his way.
When Ji Kangzi sent him some medicine, Confucius bowed as he accepted the gift but said: “Since I don’t know what this substance is, I dare not taste it.”
When the stables burned, Confucius left court and asked: “Was anyone hurt?” He did not ask about the horses.
When his ruler sent him a gift of pre-cooked food, he straightened his mat and was the first person to taste it. When his ruler sent him a present of raw meat, he cooked it and offered it to the spirits of his ancestors. When his ruler gave him a live animal, he reared it. When dining with his ruler, he was the first one to taste the food after the ruler had performed the sacrificial offering.
When he fell ill and his ruler came to visit him, he had himself laid with his head facing the east and his body covered by his court dress with a sash laid across it.
Whenever his ruler summoned him, he would set off without waiting for the horses to be harnessed to his carriage.
When visiting the Grand Ancestral Temple, he asked about everything.
When a friend died and there was no one to take care of their funeral, he said: “Let me look after it.”
When receiving a gift from a friend, he wouldn’t bow even if it was something as valuable as a horse and carriage. The only gift he would bow for was one of sacrificial meat.
In bed, he did not lie stiffly like a corpse; at home, he was informal and relaxed.
When he saw someone in mourning clothes, he adopted a solemn expression on his face and remained distant even if he knew them well. When he saw someone wearing a ceremonial cap or a blind person, he was courteous even if they were in an agitated state. When riding in his carriage, he expressed his condolences to anyone he passed who was in mourning, even if they were a mere street hawker. When offered rich delicacies at a banquet, he showed his deep appreciation. When he heard a sudden clap of thunder or a ferocious wind an expression of awe came over his face.
When climbing into his carriage, he stood and faced it squarely and then grasped the hand strap. Once in the carriage, he didn’t turn to look at those standing behind him, talk loudly, or point with his finger.
Startled by a sudden movement, the bird flew off and then landed again. It is said: “The hen pheasant on the mountain bridge; what perfect timing, what perfect timing!” Zilu motioned towards the bird, which sniffed three times and flew away.