Analects of Confucius Book 9: new English translation

Read this new English translation of the Analects of Confucius Book 9 to learn more about the teachings of China’s most famous philosopher, including his thoughts on how to observe ritual and his hopes for the younger generation.

Chapter 1
子罕言利,與命與仁。
Confucius disapproved of profit, but he approved of fate and goodness.

Chapter 2
達巷黨人曰,「大哉孔子,博學而無所成名。」子聞之,謂門弟子曰,「吾何執?執御乎,執射乎?吾執御矣。」
A man from Daxiang said: “What a great man Confucius is! Despite his vast learning, he still hasn’t managed to make a name for himself in any particular field.” When Confucius heard of this, he said to his followers: “Which skill should I master? Should I master charioteering? Should I master archery? I think I’ll master charioteering.”

Chapter 3
子曰:「麻冕,禮也。今也純儉,吾從眾。拜下,禮也。今拜乎上,泰也,雖違眾,吾從下。」
Confucius said: “According to ritual, the ceremonial cap should be made of hemp; these days it’s made of silk. This is more economical and I follow the general practice. According to ritual, you should make your bow at the bottom of the steps; nowadays people make their bow at the top of the steps. This is arrogant, and even though it goes against the general practice I make my bow at that bottom of the steps.”

Chapter 4
子絕四,毋意,毋必,毋固,毋我。
Confucius avoided four things: conjecture, arbitrariness, stubbornness, and egotism.

Chapter 5
子畏於匡。曰:「文王既沒,文不在茲乎,天之將喪斯文也。後死者不得與於斯文也。天之未喪斯文也。匡人其如予何。」
When Confucius was trapped in Kuang, he said: “King Wen is dead, but the civilization he created lives on with me, doesn’t it? If heaven wished civilization to be destroyed, why was it entrusted to me? If heaven doesn’t wish civilization to be destroyed, what do I have to fear from the people of Kuang?”

Chapter 6
大宰問於子貢曰:「夫子聖者與!何其多能也?」子貢曰:「固天縱之將聖,又多能也。」子聞之曰:「大宰知我乎?吾少也賤,故多能鄙事。君子多乎哉?不多也!」
The Grand Steward asked Zigong: “Your master’s a true sage, isn’t he? He’s skilled in so many things.” Zigong replied: “Heaven indeed made him a sage, but he also happens to have many different skills.” When he heard of this, Confucius said: “What does the Grand Steward know about me? In my youth I was poor, so I had to learn a number of menial skills. Does a leader need to have so many different skills? No, they don’t.”

Chapter 7
牢曰:「子云:『吾不試,故藝。』
Lao stated: “Confucius said: ‘Since I was never appointed to high public office I mastered the arts.’”

Chapter 8
子曰:「吾有知乎哉?無知也。有鄙夫問於我,空空如也;我叩其兩端而竭焉。」
Confucius said: “Am I knowledgeable? No, I’m not. When a humble farmer asked me for advice about a problem, my mind went blank; but I attacked the problem from both ends until I found the solution.”

Chapter 9
子曰:「鳳鳥不至,河不出圖,吾已矣乎!」
Confucius said: “The phoenix doesn’t appear; the river doesn’t yield its diagram. It’s over for me!”

Chapter 10
子見齊衰者,冕衣裳者,與瞽者見之,雖少必作,過之必趨。」
Whenever Confucius saw someone in mourning dress, a grandee in ceremonial robes, or a blind person, he would always rise to his feet even if they were younger than him and quicken his step when he passed by them.

Chapter 11
顏淵喟然嘆曰:「仰之彌高,鑽之彌堅,瞻之在前,忽焉在後!夫子循循然善誘人,博我以文,約我以禮。欲罷不能,既竭吾才,如有所立,卓爾。雖欲從之,末由也已!」
Yan Hui said with a heavy sigh: “The more I contemplate it, the higher it seems; the deeper I probe it, the harder it becomes; when I catch a glimpse of it in front of me, it’s suddenly behind me. Our master knows how to guide people skillfully and methodically. He broadens my mind with culture and restrains me with ritual. Even if I wanted to stop, I could not. Just as all my talents are exhausted, there seems to be something new towering above me. But although I long to follow it, I can’t find a way to it.”

Chapter 12
子疾病,子路使門人為臣,病間曰:「久矣哉,由之行詐也!無臣而為有臣,吾誰欺?欺天乎?且予與其死於臣之手也,無寧死於二三子之手乎?且予縱不得大葬,予死於道路乎?」
Confucius was seriously ill. Zilu had his followers act as if they were retainers of a lord. When his illness went into remission, Confucius said: “Zilu, this deception has lasted long enough. Who do I deceive with these bogus retainers? Do I deceive heaven? Rather than die among retainers, I would prefer to die in the arms of my followers. I may not receive a grand funeral, but I’ll hardly die by the roadside.”

Chapter 13
子貢曰:「有美玉於斯,韞 而藏諸?求善賈而沽諸?」子曰:「沽之哉!沽之哉!我待賈者也!」
Zigong said: “If you had a precious piece of jade, would you hide it in a box for safekeeping or would you try and sell it for a good price?” Confucius said: “I would sell it! I would sell it! All I’m waiting for is the right price.”

Chapter 14
子欲居九夷。或曰:「陋,如之何?」子曰:「君子居之,何陋之有!」
Confucius wanted to live among the nine Yi tribes. Someone said: “It’s wild there. How would you cope?” Confucius replied: “How could it be wild once a leader goes to live there?”

Chapter 15
子曰:「吾自衛反魯,然後樂正,雅頌,各得其所。」
Confucius said: “It was only after I returned to Lu from Wei that I revised the Book of Music and put the Court Songs and Sacrificial Hymns in the proper order.”

Chapter 16
子曰:「出則事公卿,入則事父兄,喪事不敢不勉,不為酒困,何有於我哉!」
Confucius said: “Serving the duke and his ministers at court; serving my elders at home; mourning the dead with proper reverence; not being troubled by drink: how could I find any of these things difficult?”

Chapter 17
子在川上曰:「逝者如斯夫!不舍晝夜。」
Standing on the bank of a stream, Confucius said: “Thus it flows, never ceasing day and night.”

Chapter 18
子曰:「吾未見好德如好色者也。」
Confucius said: “I’ve never met anyone who loves virtue as much as physical beauty.”

Chapter 19
子曰:「譬如為山,未成一簣,止,吾止也!譬如平地,雖覆一簣,進,吾往也!」
Confucius said: “Let’s take piling up earth to build a mound as an example: even if I stop when I only need to pile on one last basket of earth, I have still stopped. Let’s take filling a hole in the ground as another example: if I have emptied the first basket of earth, I only need to keep on emptying more in order to continue to make progress.”

Chapter 20
子曰:「語之而不惰者,其回也與?」
Confucius said: “If anyone could listen to me without growing weary, who else could it be than Yan Hui?”

Chapter 21
子謂顏淵曰:「惜乎!吾見其進也,吾未見其止也!」
Confucius said of Yan Hui: “What a tragedy! I watched him make progress; I never saw him stop improving.”

Chapter 22
子曰:「苗而不秀者,有矣夫!秀而不實者,有矣夫!」
Confucius said: “There are some plants that grow but never blossom; there are others that blossom but never bear fruit.”

Chapter 23
子曰:「後生可畏,焉知來者之不如今也?四十五十而無聞焉,斯亦不足畏也已!」
Confucius said: “We should hold young people in high esteem: how do we know that the next generation will not equal the current one? But those who reach the age of forty or fifty without distinguishing themselves are no longer worthy of being treated with esteem.”

Chapter 24
子曰:「法語之言,能無從乎?改之為貴!巽與之言,能無說乎?繹之為貴!說而不繹,從而不改,吾末如之何也已矣!」
Confucius said: “How can we turn a deaf ear to pertinent words of advice? But they only have any value if we act on them. How can we fail to be delighted by words of praise? But they only have any value if we understand their true purpose. People who are delighted by praise but don’t understand the reason for it and people who accept words of advice without acting on them – I have absolutely no idea what to do with them!”

Chapter 25
子曰:「主忠信,毋友不如己者,過則勿憚改。」
Confucius said: “Hold loyalty and trustworthiness as your highest principles; don’t make friends with people who are not your equal. When you make a mistake, don’t be afraid to correct yourself.”

Chapter 26
子曰:「三軍可奪帥也,匹夫不可奪志也。」
Confucius said: “You may seize the commander-in-chief of an army, but you cannot remove the sense of purpose of the humblest person.”

Chapter 27
子曰:「衣敝縕袍,與衣孤貉者立,而不恥者,其由也與!不忮不求,何用不臧?」子路終身誦之。子曰:「是道也,何足以臧!」
Confucius said: “Only Zilu can stand in his shabby hemp gown next to people wearing fox and badger furs without feeling embarrassed: ‘free of envy, free of greed, he must be a good man.’” When Zilu continuously chanted these lines, Confucius said: “You’re moving in the right direction, but is that a good reason to be so self-satisfied?”

Chapter 28
子曰:「歲寒,然後知松柏之後彫也。」
Confucius said: “It’s only in the cold of winter that you realize that the pines and cypresses are the last to wither.”

Chapter 29
子曰:「知者不惑,仁者不憂,勇者不懼。」
Confucius said: “The wise are never perplexed; the good are never anxious; the brave are never afraid.”

Chapter 30
子曰:「可與共學,未可與適道;可與適道,未可與立;可與立,未可與權。
Confucius said: “Those who learn together won’t necessarily take the same path; those who take the same path won’t necessarily stand together; those who stand together won’t necessarily exercise their judgment in the same manner.”

Chapter 31
「唐棣之華,偏其反而,豈不爾思?室是遠而。」子曰:「未之思也,未何遠之有?」
“The flowers of the cherry tree,
Flutter and turn.
How could it be that I don’t long for you?
But your house is so far away!”
Confucius said: “He doesn’t really long for her. If he did, would he care about the distance?”

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