Confucius greets a guest

When the ruler instructed 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.”

Ancient Chinese rituals such as greeting a guest required a demanding combination of precision and grace. Confucius, of course, carried them out with perfect aplomb.

This was not the easiest of passages to translate.

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