Tag Archives: rites

Analects Book 3 by numbers

As in the previous book,  Confucius is featured in all the chapters of Book 3 of the Analects.  Three new disciples also appear in the form  of the rather dim-witted Lin Fang,  the grasping Ran Qiu,  and the clever but arrogant Zai Yu, along with Zixia and ZigongContinue reading Analects Book 3 by numbers

Book 3 of the Analects in presentation format

My new translation of Book 3 of the Analects is now available for download from SlideShare. This features some  memorable rants from Confucius attacking his political foes for attempting to boost their social prestige by holding ritual ceremonies that should by right have been the exclusive preserve of the Son of Heaven and other hereditary rulers. Continue reading Book 3 of the Analects in presentation format

The final chapter

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.”

The Analects finishes with three final nuggets of advice for an aspiring leader. Learn to focus on what you can control rather than concerning yourself with the vagaries of fate. Learn how to behave appropriately in order to make a full contribution to society. And learn how to judge the true character of other people by knowing when they are speaking truthfully or lying. Continue reading The final chapter

Venting their spleen

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.”

Confucius and Zigong certainly don’t hesitate to vent their spleen on people who act in a hypocritical fashion. They have no time for the backstabbers who stir the pot with their unwarranted criticism of others or the phonies who mask their ignorance and weakness by pretending to be what they are not. Continue reading Venting their spleen

Three years of mourning

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?”

The three-year mourning period after the death of a parent was a tradition from the Zhou Dynasty, though it must have been honored significantly more in breach rather than in practice. Even sons from the richest and most powerful of families would have found it extremely difficult to take so much time out of their official, military, or family responsibilities – unless of course they wanted to establish a reputation as a beacon of morality or needed to spend some time in the background to cook up some nefarious scheme to further their interests. Continue reading Three years of mourning

More than just jade and silk

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!”

Confucius regarded ritual ceremonies and music as the ultimate embodiment of civilization and tradition, and urged his contemporaries to treat them with due sincerity and respect. Continue reading More than just jade and silk

Fatherly advice

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.”

This is only the second reference in the Analects to Confucius’s son Boyu, or Kong Li (孔鲤) as he is more formally known. Continue reading Fatherly advice

All the threes

Confucius said: “Three kinds of friends are beneficial to you; three kinds of friends are harmful to you. Friends who are straightforward, sincere, and wise are beneficial. Friends who are devious, insincere, and superficial are harmful.”

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.”

These two passages are very formulaic with their forced symmetry, but useful advice nonetheless: choose your friends wisely and enjoy simple and fulfilling pleasures rather than extravagant and empty ones.