Observing the rites

When he fell ill and the 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 a horse and carriage. The only gift he would bow for was one of sacrificial meat.

Some revealing if less than riveting descriptions of Confucius’s character: here is a man who walks the walk as well as talks the talk.

Even at times of great personal discomfort, he still makes sure he fully observes the rites.

He’s perhaps a little too eager to serve his ruler when he is summoned by him, but then again he probably doesn’t have much choice in the matter.

He’s generous to friends even after they have died, but doesn’t let the generosity of his living ones prevent him from adhering to the appropriate rituals.

Chapter XXI (When visiting the Grand Ancestral Temple, he asked about everything) is an oddity. It repeats most the first line of Book 3, Chapter XV, and looks like it was thrown in at random.

When Confucius visited the Grand Ancestral Temple, he asked about everything that was happening there. Someone said: “Who said this guy was an expert on the rites? When he visited the Grand Ancestral Temple, he had to ask about everything that was happening.” Hearing this, Confucius said: “Exactly, this is the rites.”

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