Pines and cypresses


Confucius said: “It is only in the cold of winter that you realize that the pines and cypresses are the last to wither.”

This is a lyrical way of saying that people only reveal their true colors in times of adversity and has become a popular Chinese proverb.

Some commentators suggest that this chapter is linked to the previous one or even part of it, by further emphasizing Confucius’s warning to Zilu that he should not be complacent.

This would require a different interpretation of the phrase “是道也,何足以臧” to something like: “It is not sufficient to repeat these words” instead of “These two qualities cannot possibly be sufficient to reach the pinnacle of perfection.”

Here’s the full rendition. I’m not sure I’m entirely convinced, but I suppose it is possible.

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: “It is not sufficient to repeat these words.”

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