Carrying a jade tablet

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.

Carrying a jade tablet refers to being on some kind of official business, though the exact nature of this is unclear.

Some commentators speculate that such tablets were taken by envoys on diplomatic missions as a symbol of their ruler’s power and authority. Since Confucius never acted in such a capacity, it is likely that this passage was “borrowed” from a ritual manual for reasons known only to the editor concerned.

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