Analects of Confucius Book 13: new English translation

Read this new English translation of the Analects of Confucius Book 13 to learn more about the teachings of China’s most famous philosopher.

Chapter1
子路問「政」。子曰:「先之,勞之。」請益。曰:「無倦。」
Zilu asked about governance. Confucius said: “Lead the people by example. Work hard for them.” Zilu asked him for further instruction. Confucius said: “Tirelessly.”

Chapter 2
仲弓為季氏宰,問「政」。子曰:「先有司,赦小過,舉賢才。」曰:「焉知賢才而舉之?」曰:「舉爾所知,爾所不知,人其舍諸!」
When Ran Yong was serving as a steward of the Ji Family, he asked about governance. Confucius said: “First appoint your senior officials. Forgive small mistakes. Promote people of talent.” Ran Yong asked: “How do I recognize that someone has talent and deserves to be promoted?” Confucius said: “Promote those you know. Those you don’t know won’t be passed over.”

Chapter 3
子路曰:「衛君待子而為政,子將奚先?」子曰:「必也正名乎!」子路曰:「有是哉?子之迂也!奚其正?」子曰:「野哉,由也!君子於其所不知,蓋闕如也。名不正,則言不順;言不順,則事不成;事不成,則禮樂不興;禮樂不興,則刑罰不中;刑罰不中,則民無所措手足。故君子名之必可言也,言之必可行也。君子於其言,無所茍而已矣!」
Zilu asked: “If the Duke of Wei were to entrust you with the government of his state, what would be your first priority?” Confucius said: “It most definitely would be to rectify the names.” Zilu said: “Really? Isn’t that a little strange? How would that make things right?” Confucius said: “How dense can you get! If a leader doesn’t understand what they’re talking about, they should remain silent. If the names aren’t correct, language doesn’t accord with the truth of things. When language doesn’t accord with the truth of things, nothing can be carried out successfully. When nothing can be carried out successfully, ritual and music won’t flourish. When ritual and music don’t flourish, punishments and penalties miss their mark. When punishments and penalties miss their mark, the people don’t know where to place their hands and feet. Therefore, a leader must be able to give the appropriate name to whatever they want to talk about, and must also make sure they do exactly as they say. When it comes to speaking, a leader doesn’t allow any carelessness.”

Chapter 4
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 learn about raising vegetables. Confucius said: “You’d be better off asking an old gardener.” After Fan Chi had left, Confucius said: “What a petty person! When a ruler loves ritual, the people don’t dare to be disrespectful. When a ruler loves rightness, the people don’t dare to be disobedient. When a ruler loves trustworthiness, the people don’t dare to be deceitful. If such a ruler existed, people would flock to them from everywhere with their children strapped to their backs. What need would there be to learn about farming?”

Chapter 5
子曰:「誦詩三百,授之以政,不達;使於四方,不能專對。雖多,亦奚以為?」
Confucius said: “Imagine someone who can recite the three hundred poems of the Book of Songs by heart but is unable to carry out their job when given an official post or proves to be incapable of responding on their own initiative when sent on a mission to another state. No matter how many poems they may have memorized, what use would they be?”

Chapter 6
子曰:「其身正,不令而行;其身不正,雖令不從。」
Confucius said: “If a leader behaves in the correct manner everything will operate smoothly even if they don’t issue orders. If a leader doesn’t behave in the correct manner, nobody will listen even if they do issue orders.”

Chapter 7
子曰:「魯衛之政,兄弟也。」
Confucius said: “In their form of government, the states of Lu and Wei are like older and younger brothers.”

Chapter 8
子謂衛公子荊善居室:「始有,曰『苟合矣』;少有,曰『苟完矣』;富有,曰『苟美矣。』」
Confucius commented that Prince Jing of Wei knew how to manage the finances of his household well: “When he began to accumulate some wealth, he said ‘this is truly an ideal fit.’ As his wealth increased, he said ‘this is truly complete.’ When his wealth became considerable, he said ‘this is truly beautiful.’”

Chapter 9
子適衛,冉有僕。子曰:「庶矣哉!」冉有曰:「既庶矣,又何加焉?」曰:「富之。」曰:「既富矣,又何加焉?」曰:「教之。」
Confucius traveled to Wei, with Ran Qiu driving his carriage. Confucius said: “There are so many people!” Ran Qiu said: “When there are so many people, what should be done next?” “Enrich them.” “When they are rich, what should be done next?” “Educate them.”

Chapter 10
子曰:「苟有用我者,期月而已可也,三年有成。」
Confucius said: “If a ruler were to employ me, I would have everything under control in one year and in three years the results would show.”

Chapter 11
子曰:「『善人為邦百年,亦可以勝殘去殺矣。』誠哉是言也!」
Confucius said: “‘When the most able people govern a country for a hundred years, cruelty can be overcome and killing eliminated.’ How true this saying is!”

Chapter 12
子曰:「如有王者,必世而後仁。」
Confucius said: “Even with a true king, it would still take one generation for goodness to prevail.”

Chapter 13
子曰:「苟正其身矣,於從政乎何有?不能正其身,如正人何?」
Confucius said: “If you behave in the correct manner, what difficulties will you meet when in government service? If you are unable to behave in the correct manner, how can you possibly make sure that others behave in the correct manner?”

Chapter 14
冉子退朝,子曰:「何晏也?」對曰:「有政。」子曰:「其事也!如有政,雖不吾以,吾其與聞之!」
When Ran Qiu returned from court, Confucius said: “What kept you so long?” Ran Qiu replied: “Government affairs.” Confucius said: “Surely you mean private affairs. If it had been government affairs I would have heard about them, even though I’m not in office.”

Chapter 15
定公問:「一言而可以興邦,有諸?」孔子對曰:「言不可以若是其幾也!人之言曰:『為君難,為臣不易。』如知為君之難也,不幾乎一言而興邦乎?」曰:「一言而喪邦,有諸?」孔子對曰:「言不可以若是其幾也!人之言曰:『予無樂乎為君,唯其言而莫予違也。』如其善而莫之違也,不亦善乎?如不善而莫之違也,不幾乎一言而喪邦乎?」
Duke Ding asked: “Is there one single saying that can ensure the prosperity of a state?” Confucius replied: “No single saying could have such an effect. There is a saying, however: ‘It’s difficult to be a ruler; it isn’t easy to be a minister.’ A saying that could make the ruler understand the difficulty of his task would come close to ensuring the prosperity of the state.” “Is there one single saying that can ruin a state?” Confucius replied: “No single saying could have such an effect. There is a saying, however: ‘There’s nothing I love more about being a ruler than never having to be contradicted.’ If you’re right and nobody contradicts you, that’s great; but if you’re wrong and nobody contradicts you, wouldn’t this come close to being a case of ‘one single saying that can ruin a state?’”

Chapter 16
葉公問政。子曰:「近者說,遠者來。」
The Lord of She asked about governance. Confucius said: “If you make the people near to you happy, others will come to you from afar.”

Chapter 17
子夏為莒父宰問政。子曰:「無欲速,無見小利。欲速則不達,見小利則大事不成。」
When Zixia was governor of Jufu he asked about governance. Confucius said: “Don’t try to rush things. Ignore matters of minor advantage. If you try to rush things, you won’t achieve success. If you pursue matters of minor advantage, you won’t succeed in major affairs.”

Chapter 18
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 Lord of She declared to Confucius: “Among my people, there’s man we call ‘Upright Gong.’ When his father stole a sheep, he informed on him.” Confucius said: “Among my people, the ones we consider to be ‘upright’ are different. Fathers watch the backs of their sons and sons watch the backs of their fathers. ‘Uprightness’ can be found in this.”

Chapter 19
樊遲問仁。子曰:「居處恭,執事敬,與人忠,雖之夷狄,不可棄也。」
Fan Chi asked about goodness. Confucius said: “Be considerate in your private life, diligent in your public affairs, and loyal in your relationships with others. Even when you’re among the Yi and Di tribes, don’t deviate from these principles.”

Chapter 20
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 you possess to be called a true scholar-official?” Confucius said: “A person who maintains a sense of humility and can be sent on a mission to the four corners of the earth without bringing disgrace to their ruler can be called a true scholar-official.” “May I ask what type of person ranks one step below that?” “A person who is praised by their relatives for their filial devotion and who is known by the people of their neighborhood for being respectful towards their elders.” “May I ask what type of person ranks one step below that?” “A person whose word can be trusted and who completes whatever task they undertake. In their stubborn determination, they may resemble a petty person, but they could still probably qualify as a scholar-official of a lower rank.” “How would you rate the people currently involved in public affairs?” “Sadly, these are people you measure by a bucket or scoop. They’re not even worth mentioning.”

Chapter 21
子曰:「不得中行而與之,必也狂狷乎?狂者進取,狷者有所不為也。」
Confucius said: “If you can’t find people who take a balanced approach to associate with, you’ll have to settle for the wild or the fastidious. The wild dare to do anything to achieve their goals, while the fastidious won’t get their hands dirty.”

Chapter 22
子曰:「南人有言曰:『人而無恒,不可以作巫醫。』善夫!『不恒其德,或承之羞。』」子曰:「不占而已矣。」
Confucius said: “Southerners have a saying: ‘A person who lacks constancy is unfit to be a shaman.’ This is so true! The Book of Changes says, ‘if you’re not constant in virtue, you’ll suffer disgrace.’” Confucius added: “Not even a divination will be of any use for a person like that.”

Chapter 23
子曰:「君子和而不同,小人同而不和。」
Confucius said: “A leader strives for harmony but not conformity. A petty person strives for conformity but not harmony.”

Chapter 24
子貢問曰:「鄉人皆好之,何如?」子曰:「未可也。」「鄉人皆惡之,何如?」子曰:「未可也。不如鄉人之善者好之,其不善者惡之。」
Zigong asked: “If a person is liked by all the people in their village, what would you think?” Confucius said: “That’s not good enough.” “And if this person is loathed by all the people in the village, what would you think?” “That’s not good enough either. It would be better if the good people in the village liked them and the bad people loathed them.”

Chapter 25
子曰:「君子易事而難說也,說之不以道,不說也,及其使人也,器之。小人難事而易說也,說之雖不以道,說也,及其使人也,求備焉。」
Confucius said: “A leader is easy to work for but hard to please. If you try to please them without following the proper way they won’t be happy, but they’ll only give you tasks you have the ability to carry out. A petty person is hard to work for, but easy to please. If you try to please them, even without following the proper way, they’ll be happy, but they’ll demand that you have the ability to do anything.”

Chapter 26
子曰:「君子泰而不驕,小人驕而不泰。」
Confucius said: “A leader is confident but never arrogant. A petty person is arrogant but never confident.”

Chapter 27
子曰:「剛毅木訥,近仁。」
Confucius said: “Firmness, determination, simplicity, modesty: these bring us closer to goodness.”

Chapter 28
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 you possess to be called a true scholar-official?” Confucius said: “Supportive, candid, and warm: such a person deserves to be called a true scholar-official. Supportive and candid with their friends and warm towards their brothers.”

Chapter 29
子曰:「善人教民七年,亦可以即戎矣。」
Confucius said: “If a good leader instructs the people for seven years they’re ready for just about anything, even taking up arms.”

Chapter 30
子曰:「以不教民戰,是謂棄之。」
Confucius said: “Sending people to war who have not been properly instructed is called ‘throwing them away.’”

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