Ritual (禮/lǐ) is one of the most important themes in the Analects. It consists of a combination of elaborate ceremonies and unwritten rules of conduct that govern smooth social interactions and provide people with models of behavior and demeanor to emulate. The term is also translated as “rites”, “rules”, “rules of proprietary”, “rules of behavior”, “courtesy”, “manners”, “etiquette” or “ethics”.
Confucius was one of the leading members of a class of experts in ritual practices known as rujia (儒家). His knowledge of the subject was so deep that it stretched further back than the beginnings of the Zhou to the preceding Shang and Xia dynasties, and he was often requested by state rulers and members of the nobility to conduct ritual ceremonies. Indeed, the Chinese term for Confucianism is rujiao (儒教), which literally means the doctrine of the scholar/refined person.
Here is a collection of all the key passages in the Analects of Confucius on ritual plus links to related articles.
Analects of Confucius Book 1: Confucius and Youzi on ritual
Analects of Confucius Book 2: Confucius on ritual
Analects of Confucius Book 3: Confucius on ritual ceremonies
Analects of Confucius Book 1 – 5: eleven quotes on ritual from Confucius
Analects of Confucius Book 9: Confucius on ritual integrity
Analects of Confucius Book 6 – 10: five remarks on ritual from Confucius
Analects of Confucius Book 10 on ritual behavior: Confucius at court
Analects Book 1: Passages on Ritual
Youzi said: “A person who practices filial and fraternal devotion is unlikely to question the authority of their superiors. Such a person will never provoke disorder. A leader focuses on the root; once this takes hold the way appears. Filial and fraternal devotion is the root of goodness.”
Youzi said: “When practicing ritual, harmony matters most. This is what made the way of the ancient kings so admirable and inspired their every action, no matter how great or small. But they also knew where to draw the line: seeking harmony for its own sake without it being regulated by ritual won’t work.”
Youzi said: “If your commitments conform to what is right, you will be able to keep your word. If your manners conform to ritual, you will be able to avoid shame and disgrace. Only if you associate with reliable people will you be successful.”
Zigong said: “’Poor but not subservient; wealthy but not arrogant.’ What do you think of that?” Confucius said: “Not bad, but this would be better still: ‘Poor but content; wealthy but loves ritual.’” Zigong said: “In the Book of Songs it is said: ‘Like carving and polishing stones, like cutting and grinding gems.’ Is this not the same idea?” Confucius said: “Wonderful, Zigong! At last I can discuss the Book of Songs with you! Based on what I’ve already said, you can work out what’s coming next!”
Analects Book 1: Links
Analects Book 2: Passages on Ritual
Confucius said: “If you lead through laws and regulations and maintain order through punishments, people will avoid them but won’t develop a sense of shame. If you lead through virtue and keep them in line with ritual, they will develop a sense of shame and unite behind you.”
Meng Yizi asked Confucius about filial devotion. Confucius said: “Never disobey.” While Fan Chi was driving him in his chariot, Confucius told him: “Meng Yizi asked me about filial devotion and I replied: ‘Never disobey.’” Fan Chi asked: “What does that mean?” Confucius replied: “When your parents are alive, serve them according to ritual. When they die, bury them according to ritual and make sacrifices to them according to ritual.”
Zizhang asked: “Can we predict the future ten generations from now?” Confucius said: “The Yin Dynasty adopted the rites of the Xia Dynasty; we know what was dropped and what was added. The Zhou Dynasty borrowed from the ritual of the Yin Dynasty: we know what was dropped and what was added. If the Zhou Dynasty has successors, we know what they will be like, even a hundred generations from now.”
Analects Book 2: Links
Analects Book 3: Passages on Ritual
When he heard that the head of the Ji Family used eight rows of dancers to perform in the ceremonies at his ancestral temple, Confucius commented: “If he is capable of that, what isn’t he capable of?”
When the Three Families had the Yong ode performed while the ceremonial vessels were being removed at the end of their ancestral sacrifices, Confucius said: “‘The lords are in attendance, the son of heaven sits solemnly on his throne.’ How can such words be used in the halls of the Three Families?”
Confucius said: “If someone has no goodness, what can they have to do with ritual? If someone has no goodness, what can they have to do with music?”
Lin Fang asked: “What is the essence of ritual?” Confucius said: “That’s a big question! For festive ceremonies, simplicity is better than extravagance; for funerals, genuine grief is better than excessive formality.”
The Ji Family was setting off to carry out a sacrifice on Mount Tai. Confucius said to Ran Qiu: “Can you not stop this?” Ran Qiu replied: “I cannot.” Confucius said: “This is outrageous! Can it really be true that the spirit of Mount Tai has even less knowledge of ritual than Lin Fang?”
Confucius said: “A leader does not engage in competition. But if you can’t avoid it, you should practice archery. You bow and exchange courtesies with your opponent before entering the range and enjoy drinks with him after leaving it. Even when engaged in competition, you remain a leader.”
Zixia asked: “What do these verses mean: ‘Ah, the lovely dimples of her artful smile! Ah, the black and white of her beautiful eyes! It’s on plain white silk that colors sparkle.’” Confucius said: “Painting comes after plain white silk.” Zixia said: “Is ritual also something that comes afterwards?” Confucius said: “You’ve opened up my eyes to the true meaning of these verses! It’s only with a man like you that I can discuss the Book of Songs!”
Confucius said: “I could talk about Xia Dynasty ritual, but the state of Qi hasn’t preserved sufficient evidence. I could talk about Yin Dynasty ritual, but the state of Song hasn’t preserved sufficient evidence. There aren’t enough written records and learned men; if there were, I could obtain evidence from them.”
Confucius said: “Once the first libation has been performed at the sacrifice to the great imperial ancestor, I don’t want to watch the rest of the ceremony.”
When someone asked Confucius to explain the meaning of the sacrifice to the great imperial ancestor, he replied: “Whoever knows that would rule the world as easily as I can place this here.” Then he pointed his finger towards the palm of his hand.
Sacrifice requires presence: you should sacrifice to the spirits as if they are there. Confucius said: “If I’m not fully present at the sacrifice, it’s as if I didn’t attend the sacrifice at all.”
Whenever Confucius visited the Grand Ancestral Temple, he asked about everything that was happening there. Someone said: “Who said this son of a man from Zou is an expert on ritual? When he visits the Grand Ancestral Temple, he has to ask about everything that’s happening.” Hearing this, Confucius said: “Exactly, this is ritual.”
Zigong wished to do away with the sacrifice of a live sheep for the ceremony welcoming the new moon. Confucius said: “You love the sheep; I love ritual.”
Confucius said: “When you serve your lord in full accordance with ritual, people regard you as a sycophant.”
Duke Ding asked: “How should a lord treat his ministers? How should ministers serve their lord?” Confucius replied: “A lord should treat his ministers in accordance with ritual; ministers should serve their lord with loyalty.”
Confucius said: “Guan Zhong had his limitations.” Someone objected: “Do you mean that Guan Zhong wasn’t frugal?” Confucius replied: “Guan Zhong had three households, each one staffed by a huge retinue. How could he be called frugal?” “But didn’t he know ritual?” “Even though only the ruler of a state can place a screen to mask the view of his gate, he also had one installed. Even though only the ruler of a state can use a special stand to place his inverted cup on when meeting with another ruler, Guan Zhong had one too. If you say Guan Zhong knew ritual, then who doesn’t know it?”
Confucius said: “How can I bear to even contemplate someone who lacks tolerance when in high office, reverence when performing ritual, and grief when in mourning?”
Analects Book 3: Links
Book 3, Chapter 1
Book 3, Chapter 2
Book 3, Chapter 3
Book 3, Chapter 4
Book 3, Chapter 6
Book 3, Chapter 7
Book 3, Chapter 8
Book 3, Chapter 9
Book 3, Chapter 10
Book 3, Chapter 11
Book 3, Chapter 12
Book 3, Chapter 15
Book 3, Chapter 17
Book 3, Chapter 18
Book 3, Chapter 19
Book 3, Chapter 22
Book 3, Chapter 26
Analects Book 4: Passages on Ritual
Confucius said: “If a ruler is able to govern a state by observing ritual and showing deference, what more does he need to do? If a ruler fails to accomplish this, what use is ritual to him?”
Analects Book 4: Links
Analects Book 6: Passages on Ritual
Confucius said: “A leader who expands their learning through culture and keeps their behavior in check through ritual is unlikely to go wrong.”
Analects Book 6: Links
Analects Book 7: Passages on Ritual
When Confucius dined with someone in mourning, he never ate his fill. On a day when he had been weeping, Confucius never sang.
Occasions when Confucius used standard pronunciation: when reciting the Book of Songs and the Book of Documents, and when carrying out ritual ceremonies. On all these occasions, he used standard pronunciation.
The Minister of Justice of Chen asked: “Did Duke Zhao understand ritual?” Confucius said: “Yes, he understood ritual.” Confucius withdrew. With a bow, the minister invited Wuma Qi to come forward and said to him: “I’ve heard it said that a true leader is never biased. But isn’t your master biased after all? The duke took a wife from the state of Wu; but because she had the same family name, he called her Wu Mengzi. If the duke understood ritual, who doesn’t understand it?” Wuma Qi reported this to Confucius. Confucius said: “I’m fortunate indeed: whenever I make a mistake, there’s always someone on hand to let me know about it.”
Analects Book 7: Links
Analects Book 8: Passages on Ritual
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.”
Confucius said: “Find inspiration with the Book of Songs; build character with ritual; achieve perfection with music.”
Analects Book 8: Links
Analects Book 9: Passages on Ritual
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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?”
Analects Book 9: Links
Analects Book 10: Passages on Ritual
When Confucius was in his home village, he was unassuming and warm as if at a loss for words. When he was in the ancestral temple or at court he spoke with eloquence but due caution.
When he was at court chatting with officials in the lower ranks, he was genial; when he was chatting with officials in the upper ranks, he was direct but respectful. When the ruler was present, he was reverent but composed.
When the ruler instructed him to welcome guests to court, he assumed a serious expression on his face and walked at a rapid pace. He clasped his hands in front of his chest and bowed towards those standing beside him, turning to the left and the right, and made sure that his gown flowed backwards and forwards in perfect rhythm with the movements of his body. He approached the guests in quick, small steps, his sleeves fluttering like the wings of a bird. After seeing off the guests, he always returned to announce: “The guests have gone.”
When entering the gate of the duke’s palace, he bowed his head respectfully as if it were not high enough. He never paused in the middle of the gateway, nor did he step on the threshold. When he passed in front of the duke’s throne, he adopted a serious expression on his face, quickened his step, and showed great reluctance to speak. When he lifted up the hem of his gown in preparation for walking up the steps of the audience hall, he inhaled deeply as if he didn’t dare to breathe. On leaving, after descending the first step, an expression of ease enveloped his face. When he reached the bottom step, he walked swiftly, as if on wings. On returning to his original position, he assumed a respectful and cautious demeanor once again.
When carrying a jade tablet, he bowed as if it was too heavy to lift. When he held it high, he looked as if he was going to give a greeting; when he held it low he looked as if he was going to make an offering. He adopted a solemn expression as if he was going off into battle, and he walked in short measured steps as if he was following a straight line. When participating in a ritual ceremony, he looked dignified. When in a private meeting, he looked happy and relaxed.
A leader doesn’t wear purple or maroon for the embroidered borders on his gown; he doesn’t use red or purple either for casual wear. During the summer, he wears a fine or coarse linen singlet, but never goes out without wearing an undergarment beneath it. He wears a black robe over a lambskin coat; a white robe over a fawn fur coat; and a yellow robe over a fox fur coat. His casual fur robes are long and have a shorter right sleeve. His nightgown is very long. He uses thick furs such as fox and badger as cushions. Except when he is in mourning, he can wear any type of adornment ornament on his girdle. Apart from his ceremonial robes, the layers of his other robes are cut to different lengths. At funerals, he doesn’t wear lambskin coats or black caps. On the day of the Auspicious Moon Ceremony, he attends court dressed in full court attire.
During periods of purification, he wore a plain robe made of coarse linen. During periods of purification, he simplified his diet and did not sit in his usual place when at home.
He didn’t eat too much finely milled rice and finely cut meat. If the food was rotten or rancid, if the fish wasn’t fresh, and if the meat was spoiled, he didn’t eat it. If the food was off-color, he didn’t eat it. If it smelled bad, he didn’t eat it. If it was undercooked, he didn’t eat it. If it wasn’t served at the proper time, he didn’t eat it. If it wasn’t butchered properly, he didn’t eat it. If it wasn’t served in its proper sauce, he didn’t eat it. Even if there was plenty of meat, he didn’t eat more meat than rice. As for liquor, however, there was no limit as long as he remained sober. He didn’t consume liquor or meat bought from the market. He was never without ginger when he ate, but used it only in moderation.
After assisting his duke at a sacrificial ceremony, he didn’t keep the meat bestowed on him overnight. After carrying out a family sacrificial ceremony, he didn’t keep the meat for more than three days. After the third day, he didn’t eat it.
When eating, he did not talk. When retiring to bed, he did not speak.
Even if the food only consisted of coarse rice or vegetable soup, he made a sacrificial offering with the same level of respect as when he was fasting.
He didn’t sit on a mat unless it was straight.
When the villagers were drinking together, he didn’t leave until the elders had departed.
When the villagers carried out the ceremony to exorcize pestilent spirits and ghosts, he put on his court dress and stood on the eastern steps.
When sending his greetings to someone in another state, he would bow twice before sending the messenger on his way.
When Ji Kangzi sent him some medicine, Confucius bowed as he accepted the gift but said: “Since I don’t know what this substance is, I dare not taste it.”
When his ruler sent him a gift of pre-cooked food, he straightened his mat and was the first person to taste it. When his ruler sent him a present of raw meat, he cooked it and made an offering to his ancestors. When his ruler gave him a livestock, he reared it. When dining with his ruler, he was the first one to taste the food after the ruler had performed the sacrificial offering.
When he fell ill and his 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.
Whenever he visited the Grand Ancestral Temple, he asked about everything that was happening there.
When a friend died and there was no one to take care of his funeral, he said: “Let me look after it.”
When receiving a gift from a friend, he wouldn’t bow even if it was something as valuable as a horse and carriage. The only gift he would bow for was one of sacrificial meat.
In bed, he didn’t lie stiffly like a corpse; at home, he was informal and relaxed.
When he saw someone in mourning clothes, he adopted a solemn expression on his face and remained distant even if he knew them well. When he saw someone wearing a ceremonial cap or a blind person, he was courteous even if he was familiar with them. When he came across someone in mourning garments while riding in his carriage, he leaned over the stanchion to greet them; he would do the same when he encountered someone carrying official documents. When he was served rich delicacies at a banquet, he adopted a gracious expression on his face and rose to his feet to show his appreciation. When he heard a sudden clap of thunder or a ferocious wind an awe-struck expression came over his face.
Before mounting his carriage, he stood straight and grasped the hand strap. Once in the carriage, he didn’t turn to look back, talk loudly, or point with his finger.
Analects Book 10: Links
Book 10, Chapter 1
Book 10, Chapter 2
Book 10, Chapter 3
Book 10, Chapter 4
Book 10, Chapter 5
Book 10, Chapter 6
Book 10, Chapter 7
Book 10, Chapter 8
Book 10, Chapter 9
Book 10, Chapter 10
Book 10, Chapter 11
Book 10, Chapter 12
Book 10, Chapter 13
Book 10, Chapter 14
Book 10, Chapter 15
Book 10, Chapter 16
Book 10, Chapter 18
Book 10, Chapter 19
Book 10, Chapter 20
Book 10, Chapter 21
Book 10, Chapter 22
Book 10, Chapter 23
Book 10, Chapter 24
Book 10, Chapter 25
Book 10, Chapter 26
Analects Book 11: Passages on Ritual
Confucius said: “Those who learn ritual and music before taking up an official position are the common people; those who learn ritual and music after taking up an official position are the nobility. If I were to employ them, I would employ the former.”
顏淵死，顏路請子之車以為之 。子曰：「才不才，亦各言其子也。鯉也死，有棺而無 ；吾不徒行，以為之 ，以吾從大夫之後，不可徒行也。」
When Yan Hui died, his father Yan Lu asked Confucius if he could sell his carriage so that he could pay for an outer coffin for his son. Confucius said: “Talented or not, a son is a son. When my son Li died, he was buried in an inner coffin but there was no outer coffin. I wouldn’t go on foot in order to give him one because it wasn’t proper for me as a former minister to go on foot.”
When Yan Hui died, Confucius wailed bitterly with grief. His followers said: “Master, such grief is excessive.” Confucius said: “Is it excessive? If I don’t grieve for this man, who else should I grieve for?”
When Yan Hui died, his fellow followers wanted to give him a grand burial. Confucius said: “This isn’t right.” When the followers gave him a grand burial, Confucius said: “Yan Hui treated me like a father, but I was not given the chance to treat him like a son. This is not my fault, but yours, my friends.”
Zilu, Zeng Dian, Ran Qiu, and Gongxi Chi were sitting with Confucius. Confucius said: “Forget for a moment that I’m your elder. You often say: ‘Nobody recognizes our talents.’ But if you were given the opportunity, what would you wish to do?”
Zilu eagerly replied first: “Give me a middle-sized state wedged between powerful neighbors that is under attack from invading armies and gripped by drought and famine. If I were to govern it, within three years I would give its people courage and set them in the right direction.”
Confucius smiled at him: “Ran Qiu, what about you?”
Ran Qiu replied: “If I was allowed to run a territory of sixty or seventy or, say, fifty to sixty li, within three years I would secure the prosperity of its people. As for ritual and music, they would have to wait for a true leader to take over.”
“Gongxi Chi, what about you?”
“I’m not saying that I would be able to do this, but I would like to try: in the ceremonies at the Grand Ancestral Temple, such as a diplomatic conference, wearing a ceremonial cap and robes, I would like to act as a junior official.”
“And what about you, Zeng Dian?” Zeng Dian plucked one final chord of the zither he’d been playing and put it down by his side. He replied: “My wish is very different than those of my three companions.”
Confucius said: “What harm is there in that? After all, each one is simply speaking from his heart.”
Zeng Dian said: “In late spring, after all the spring clothes have been made, I would like to go out together with five or six companions and six or seven children to bathe in the Yi River, enjoy the breeze on the Rain Dance Terrace, and then return home singing.”
Confucius let out a wistful sigh and said: “I’m with Dian!”
After the other three followers had left, Zeng Dian stayed behind and said: “What did you think of their wishes?” Confucius said: “Each was indeed speaking from his heart.”
Zeng Dian asked: “Why did you smile at Zilu?” Confucius said: “You should govern a state according to ritual, but his words showed no such restraint. That’s why I smiled.”
“But wasn’t Ran Qiu also talking about governing a state?” “Of course. Have you ever seen ‘a territory of sixty to seventy, or fifty to sixty li?’”
“And Gongxi Chi? Wasn’t he also talking about running a state as well?” “A diplomatic conference in the Grand Ancestral Temple! What could this be but an affair of state? And if Gongxi Chi were there merely to act as a junior official, who could possibly be qualified to act as the senior one?”
Analects Book 11: Links
Analects Book 12: Passages on Ritual
Yan Hui asked about goodness. Confucius said: “Exercising self-discipline and returning to ritual constitute goodness. If you manage to exercise self-restraint and return to ritual for just one single day, goodness will prevail throughout the world. You can only achieve goodness through your own efforts. How can it come from anybody else?” Yan Hui said: “May I ask what specific steps I should follow?” Confucius said: “Don’t look at anything that goes against ritual; don’t listen to anything that goes against ritual; don’t say anything that goes against ritual; don’t do anything that goes against ritual.” Yan Hui said: “Although I may not be quick to understand it, with your blessing I will strive to live up to your guidance.”
Ran Yong asked about goodness. Confucius said: “When you’re away from home, act towards everyone as if you’re meeting an important guest. Manage people as if you’re conducting a great sacrifice. Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want done to yourself. Allow no resentment to enter your public affairs; allow no resentment to enter your family affairs.” Ran Yong said: “Although I may not be quick to understand it, allow me to live up to your guidance.”
Sima Niu was full of sorrow: “All men have brothers; I alone have none.” Zixia said: “I have heard this: life and death are ordained by fate; wealth and honors are assigned by heaven. A leader always shows respect and courtesy to others. Within the four seas all men are brothers. How could a leader complain that he has no brothers?”
Confucius said: “If you expand your learning through culture and keep your behavior in check through ritual you’re unlikely to go wrong.”
Analects Book 12: Links
Analects Book 13: Passages on Ritual
Zilu asked: “If the ruler of Wei were to entrust you with the government of his state, what would be your first priority?” Confucius said: “It most definitely would be to rectify the names.” Zilu said: “Really? Isn’t that a little strange? How would that make things right?” Confucius said: “How dense can you get! When a leader doesn’t understand what they’re talking about, they should remain silent. When the names aren’t correct, language doesn’t accord with the truth of things. When language doesn’t accord with the truth of things, nothing can be carried out successfully. When nothing can be carried out successfully, ritual and music won’t flourish. When ritual and music don’t flourish, punishments and penalties miss their mark. When punishments and penalties miss their mark, the people don’t know where to place their hands and feet. Therefore, a leader must be able to give the appropriate name to whatever they want to talk about and must also make sure they do exactly as they say. When it comes to speaking, a leader doesn’t allow any carelessness.”
Fan Chi asked to learn about cultivating grain. Confucius said: “You’d be better off asking an old farmer.” Fan Chi asked to learn about raising vegetables. Confucius said: “You’d be better off asking an old gardener.” After Fan Chi had left, Confucius said: “What a petty person! When a ruler loves ritual, the people don’t dare to be disrespectful. When a ruler loves rightness, the people don’t dare to be disobedient. When a ruler loves trustworthiness, the people don’t dare to be deceitful. If such a ruler existed, people would flock to them from everywhere with their children strapped to their backs. What need would there be to learn about farming?”
Analects Book 13: Links
Analects Book 14: Passages on Ritual
Zilu asked how to define a “complete person”. Confucius said: “Take someone as wise as Zang Wuzhong, as free from desire as Gongchuo, as brave as Zhuangzi of Bian, and as cultured as Ran Qiu, as well as being accomplished in ritual and music, and they may be considered a complete person.” Then he added: “But must a complete person be exactly like this today? Someone who thinks of what is right at the sight of profit, who is ready to risk their life when faced with danger, and who can endure hardship without forgetting the teachings that have guided their daily life may also be considered a complete person.”
Zizhang said: “In the Book of Documents it is written: ‘When Gaozong was mourning his father, he did not speak for three years.’ What does this mean?” Confucius said: “This did not apply only to Gaozong; all the ancients did the same. When a king died, all the officials gathered together and took their orders from the chief minister for three years.”
Confucius said: “When their rulers love ritual, the common people are easy to manage.”
A boy from the village of Que came bearing a message. Someone asked about him, saying: “Is he likely to improve himself?” Confucius said: “I have noticed that he seats himself among others and walks alongside people older than himself. He is not looking to improve himself; he wants to grow up too fast.”
Analects Book 14: Links
Analects Book 15: Passages on Ritual
Confucius said: “A leader takes rightness as his essence, practices it in conformity with the rites, enacts it with humility, and faithfully brings it to fruition. This is how a leader behaves.”
子曰：「知及之，仁不能守之，雖得之，必失之。知及之，仁能守之，不莊以 之，則民不敬。知及之，仁能守之，莊以 之，動之不以禮，未善也。」
Confucius said: “Power acquired through knowledge that cannot be maintained through goodness will inevitably be lost. Power acquired through knowledge and maintained through goodness will not be respected by the people if it is not exerted with dignity. Power acquired through knowledge, maintained through goodness, and exerted with dignity is still not perfect if it is not implemented in accordance with the rites.”
Mian, the (blind) music master, came to visit. When he reached the steps, Confucius said: “Mind the steps.” When he reached the mat, Confucius said: “Here is the mat.” When everyone was seated, Confucius told him: “This person is here; that person is there.” After the music master had left, Zizhang asked: “Is this the way to talk to a music master?” Confucius said: “Yes, this is the way to assist a music master.”
Analects Book 15: Links
Analects Book 16: Passages on Ritual
Confucius said, “When the Way prevails in the world, the rites, music, and punitive military campaigns are initiated by the Son of the Heaven. When the Way does not prevail in the world, the rites, music, and punitive military campaigns are initiated by the feudal lords. When they are initiated by the feudal lords, it is rare if they have not lost power after ten generations. When they are initiated by the grand families, it is rare they have not lost the power after five generations. Once junior officials take control of the fate of the state, it is rare that they have not lost power after three generations. When the Way prevails in the world, governance does not lie in the hands of the grand officials. When the Way prevails in the world, the common people do not criticize governance.”
Confucius said: “Three kinds of pleasure are beneficial to you; three kinds of pleasure are harmful to you. The pleasure of performing the rites and music properly, the pleasure of praising the qualities of other people, and the pleasure of having many wise friends; these are all beneficial. The pleasure of wild extravagance, the pleasure of idle wandering, the pleasure of lavish feasting; these are all harmful.”
Chen Gang asked Confucius’s son Boyu: “Has your father given you any special teaching?” Boyu replied: “No, he hasn’t. Once, when he was standing on his own and I was hurrying across the courtyard, he asked me: ‘Have you studied the Book of Songs?’ I replied: ‘Not yet.’ He said: ‘If you don’t study the Book of Songs, you won’t be able to speak.’ I retired and studied the Book of Songs. On another day, when he was again standing on his own and I was hurrying across the courtyard, he asked me: ‘Have you studied the rites?’ I replied: ‘Not yet.’ He said: ‘If you don’t study the rites, you won’t be able to take your place in society.’ I retired and studied the rites. These are the two lessons I received from him.” Chen Gang left delighted and said: “I asked one thing and learned three. I learned about the Book of Songs, I learned about the rites, and I learned how a leader keeps his distance from his son.”
Analects Book 16: Links
Analects Book 17: Passages on Ritual
Yang Huo wanted to see Confucius, but Confucius would not see him. Yang Huo sent him a suckling pig. Confucius chose a time when Yang Huo was not at home to call on him and give his thanks, but ran into him on the way. Yang Huo said to Confucius: “Come! I have something to say to you.” He continued: “Can a person be called good if they keep their talents hidden while their country has gone astray? I don’t think so. Can a person be called wise if they are eager to take part in public affairs, but constantly miss the opportunity to do so? I don’t think so. The days and months fly by; time is not on our side.” Confucius said: “All right, I shall take office.”
Confucius went to Wucheng. When he heard the sound of stringed instruments and singing, he was amused and broke out into a smile: “Why use an ox cleaver to kill a chicken?” Ziyou replied: “Master, in the past I have heard you say: ‘an exemplary person who has been instructed in the Way loves all people; common people who have been instructed in the Way are easy to govern.’” Confucius said: “My friends, Ziyou is right. The remarks I made a moment ago were just a joke.”
Confucius said: “The rites, the rites, surely there is more to them than just jade and silk! Music, music, surely there is more to it than just bells and drums!”
Ru Bei wanted to see Confucius. Confucius declined due to illness. As Ru Bei’s messenger was leaving, Confucius picked up his zither and sang loudly enough for him to hear.
Zai Yu asked: “Three years of mourning for your parents: this is a long time. If a leader doesn’t practice the rites for three years, the rites are sure to decay; if he doesn’t practice music for three years, music is sure to collapse. As the grain from last year’s crop is used up, grain from this year’s crop ripens, and the flint for lighting the fires is changed with each season. One year of mourning is surely enough.” Confucius said: “Would you be comfortable eating your fine food and wearing your fine clothes then?” “Absolutely.” “In that case, go ahead! When a leader is in mourning fine food is tasteless to him, music offers him no pleasure, and the comforts of home give him no peace, so he prefers to do without these pleasures. But if you think you will be able to enjoy them, go ahead.” Zai Yu left. Confucius said: “Zai Yu has no goodness! During the first three years after a child is born, he doesn’t leave the arms of his parents. Three years of mourning is a custom that is followed throughout the world. Didn’t Zai Yu receive three years of love from his parents?”
Zigong said: “Does a leader have things that he can’t stand?” Confucius said: “Yes. He can’t stand those who point out the evils in others. He can’t stand those in inferior positions who slander their superiors. He can’t stand those whose courage is not tempered by the rites. He can’t stand those who are impulsive and stubborn.” Confucius continued. “Do you have things that you can’t stand?” “I can’t stand those who pretend to be learned by plagiarizing. I can’t stand those who pretend to be brave by acting arrogant. I can’t stand those who pretend to be frank by being malicious.”
Analects Book 17: Links
Analects Book 20: Passages on Ritual
Confucius said: “If you don’t understand fate you cannot become a leader. If you don’t understand the rites, you cannot become a complete person. If you don’t understand the meaning of words, you cannot understand people.”