Analects of Confucius Book 8: new English translation

Read this new English translation of the Analects of Confucius Book 8 to learn more about the teachings of China’s most famous philosopher, including his thoughts on the qualities of the ancient sage kings who laid the foundations of Chinese civilization.

Chapter 1
Confucius said: “It can truly be said of Tai Bo that he was a man of supreme virtue. Three times he gave up the throne of his state without giving the people the opportunity to praise him.”

Chapter 2
Confucius said: “Reverence unregulated by ritual descends into indifference; cautiousness unregulated by ritual descends into timidity; boldness unregulated by ritual descends into disorder; frankness unregulated by ritual descends into hurtfulness. If a leader is devoted to their family, the people are inclined towards goodness; if a leader doesn’t forget about their old friends, the people will not shirk their obligations to others.”

Chapter 3
When Zengzi was seriously ill, he called his followers together and said: “Look at my feet! Look at my hands! It’s said in the Book of Songs:
‘We should be vigilant and cautious,
As if we are standing on the edge of an abyss,
As if we are treading on thin ice.’
But now, my little ones, I know that I’m escaping whole now and forever after.”

Chapter 4
When Zengzi was seriously ill, Meng Jingzi came to visit him. Zengzi said: “When a bird is about to die, its song is mournful; when a man is about to die, his words are kind. In following the way, leaders cherish three things: by maintaining a dignified demeanor, they stay far from violence and arrogance; by maintaining a sincere countenance, they show they can be trusted; by choosing their words carefully, they avoid vulgarity and mistakes. As for the details of ritual, these will be taken care of by the functionaries.”

Chapter 5
Zengzi said: “Capable but willing to listen to those who are not capable; talented but willing to listen to those without talent; viewing having as the same as not having; viewing fullness as the same as emptiness; accepting insults without bearing a grudge: long ago, I had a friend who practiced these things.”

Chapter VI
Zengzi said: “You can entrust him with the care of a teenage orphan; you can entrust him with the management of a small estate; when faced with a crisis, he will remain steadfast in resolving it. Is he a leader? Of course, he’s a leader.”

Chapter VII
Zengzi said: “A scholar-official must be strong and resolute because his burden is heavy and his road is long. He takes goodness as his burden: is this not heavy? His journey ends only with death: is this not long?”

Chapter VIII
Confucius said: “Find inspiration with the Book of Songs; establish your character with the rites; reach fulfillment with music.”

Chapter IX
Confucius said: “The common people can be made to follow the Way, but they cannot be made to understand it.”

Chapter X
Confucius said: “If people with a courageous streak find themselves trapped in poverty, chaos will ensue. If people without a trace of goodness decide their sufferings are too great, chaos will ensue.”

Chapter XI
Confucius said: “Even if a man has all the outstanding talents of the Duke of Zhou, if he is arrogant and mean all his other qualities are not worth looking at.”

Chapter XII
Confucius said: “A man willing to study for three years without taking up an official position is hard to find.”

Chapter XIII
Confucius said: “Be sincere and trustworthy, love learning, and defend the Good Way with your life. Do not enter an unstable state or live in a country that is in chaos. When the Way prevails in the world appear; when it disappears hide away. In a country that has adopted the Way, be ashamed if you remain poor and obscure; in a country that has lost the Way, be ashamed if you become rich and achieve high rank.”

Chapter XIV
Confucius said: “Do not concern yourself with the policies of an office that you do not hold.”

Chapter XV
Confucius said: “What rich and beautiful music fills my ears when Zhi, the master of music, is conducting – right from the opening passage through to the finale of the Ospreys!”

Chapter XVI
Confucius said: “People who are reckless and insincere; ignorant and irresponsible; naïve and untrustworthy: I simply don’t understand them.”

Chapter XVII
Confucius said: “Learn as if you will never be able to catch up and as if you are afraid you’ll lose what you’ve already gained.”

Chapter XVIII
Confucius said: “How majestic was the manner in which Shun and Yu ruled over the world but treated none of it as their own.”

Chapter XIX
Confucius said: “What a great ruler Yao was! Absolutely majestic! Only Heaven is great, and only Yao was able to emulate it. His virtue was so great that the people could find no words to describe it. How stunning were his achievements, and how marvelous the culture was that he created!”

Chapter XX
Shun ruled his empire with only five ministers. King Wu of Zhou said: “I have ten able ministers to keep everything in order.” Confucius said: “Talented people are hard to find: are they not? The times of Yao and Shun were said to be rich in talent, but King Wu was only able to find nine such men because one of his ministers was a woman. Although the Zhou controlled over two-thirds of the empire, it still served the Shang. You can truly say that the virtue of the Zhou was supreme.”

Chapter XXI
Confucius said: “I can find no flaw in Yu. He drank and ate simple fare, but showed complete devotion in his offerings to the ghosts and the spirits; he wore humble clothes, but his ritual vestments were magnificent; he lived in a modest palace, and he spent all his strength in draining floodwaters. I can find no flaw in Yu.”

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