Chapter 8

Sayings of Tsang

by Confucius

T’ai-pih might be pronounced a man of the highest moral excellence, for he allowed the empire to pass by him onwards to a third heir.

The people were ignorant of his motives and were unable to admire him for doing so.

Without the Proprieties, we have these results:

  • for deferential demeanor, a worried one
  • for calm attentiveness, awkward bashfulness
  • for manly conduct, disorderliness
  • for straightforwardness, perversity.
Confucius When men of rank show genuine care for those nearest to them in blood, the people rise to the duty of neighborliness and sociability. When old friendships among them are not allowed to fall off, there will be a cessation of underhand practices among the people.

The Scholar Tsang was once unwell. He called his pupils to him and said to them:


The Ode says:

  • ‘Act as from a sense of danger,
  • With precaution and with care,
  • As a yawning gulf overlooking,
  • As on ice that scarce will bear,’

At all times, my children, I know how to keep myself free from bodily harm.

Again, during another illness of his, the official Mang-King went to ask after him.


‘Doleful the cries of a dying bird, Good the last words of a dying man,’

There are 3 points which a man of rank in the management of his duties should remember:

  1. A lively manner and deportment, banishing both severity and laxity
  2. A frank and open expression of countenance, allied closely with sincerity
  3. A tone in his utterances utterly free from any approach to vulgarity and impropriety.

As to matters of bowls and dishes, leave such things to those who are charged with the care of them.


I once had a friend who had ability, but would go questioning men of no ability. He would:

  • ask isolated individuals
  • appear to not have whatever he might have.
  • act as his mind were a mere blank despite its substantial acquirements.

When he was insulted, he would not retaliate.


The ‘superior man’ is someone:

  • who can be entrusted with the charge of a minor on the throne,
  • who can be given authority over a large territory,
  • who cannot be forced out of his position during the important term of his superintendence.

The learned official must not be without breadth and power of endurance. The burden is heavy, and the way is long.

Suppose that he take his duty to his fellow-men as his peculiar burden, is that not indeed a heavy one? And since only with death it is done with, is not the way long?

  • From the ‘Book of Odes’ we receive impulses
  • From the ‘Book of the Rules,’ stability
  • From the ‘Book on Music,’ refinement.

The people may be put into the way they should go, though they may not be put into the way of understanding it.


The man who likes bravery, and yet groans under poverty, has mischief in him. So, too, has the misanthrope, groaning at any severity shown towards him.

Even if a person were adorned with the gifts of the Duke of Chow, yet if he were proud and avaricious, all the rest of his qualities would not indeed be worth looking at.

Not easily found is the man who, after three years’ study, has failed to come upon some fruit of his toil.

The really faithful lover of learning holds fast to the Good Way till death.

He will not go into a State in which a downfall is imminent, nor take up his abode in one where disorder reigns. When the empire is well ordered he will show himself; when not, he will hide himself away. Under a good government it will be a disgrace to him if he remain in poverty and low estate; under a bad one, it would be equally disgraceful to him to hold riches and honors. If not occupying the office, devise not the policy.


When the professor Chi began his duties, how grand the finale of the First of the Odes used to be! How it rang in one’s ears!

I cannot understand persons who are enthusiastic and yet not straightforward; nor those who are ignorant and yet not attentive; nor again those folks who are simple-minded and yet untrue.

Learn, as if never overtaking your object, and yet as if apprehensive of losing it.

How sublime was the handling of the empire by Shun and Yu!�it was as nothing to them! How great was Yau as a prince! Was he not sublime!

Say that Heaven only is great, then was Yau alone after its pattern! How profound was he!

The people could not find a name for him. How sublime in his achievements! How brilliant in his scholarly productions!"


Shun had 5 ministers through which he ran the empire.

King Wu (in his day) stated that he had 10 assistants to promote peace and order.


Ability is hard to find. Is it not so indeed?

During the 3 years’ interregnum between Yau and Shun, there was more of it than in the interval before this present dynasty appeared. There were, at this latter period, 1 woman and 9 men only.

When 2/3 of the empire were held by King Wan, he served with that portion the House of Yin. We speak of the virtue of the House of Chow; we may say, indeed, that it reached the pinnacle of excellence.

I can find no flaw in Yu. He:

  • lives on meagre food and drink yet provides to the utmost in his filial offerings to the spirits of the dead!
  • dresses in coarse garments yet most elegant when vested in his sacrificial apron and coronet!
  • dwells in a poor palace yet exhausting his energies over those boundary-ditches and watercourses!

[Footnote 20= Comparison of three of the Classics= the “Shi-King,” the “Li Ki,” and the “Yoh.” The last is lost.]


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