A shabby hemp gown

BSP20

子曰:「衣敝縕袍,與衣孤貉者立,而不恥者,其由也與!不忮不求,何用不臧?」子路終身誦之。子曰:「是道也,何足以臧!」
Confucius said: “Only Zilu can stand in his shabby hemp gown next to people wearing fox and badger furs without feeling a trace of embarrassment: ‘free of envy, free of greed, he must be a good man.’” When Zilu continuously chanted these lines, Confucius said: “These two qualities cannot possibly be sufficient to reach the pinnacle of perfection.”

Confucius greatly enjoyed teasing his disciple Zilu, so he is probably setting him up here with his compliment, the latter part of which is a direct quotation from Poem 33 of the Book of Songs.

As is his wont, Zilu eagerly falls into the trap, only to be duly rewarded with a reprimand from Confucius after adopting the lines as his mantra. This is no time for Zilu to be complacent; he has plenty of room for improvement.

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