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1What Heaven has conferred is called the Nature. An accordance with this nature is called the Path of Duty; the regulation of this path is called the System of Instruction.

The path should not be left for an instant; if it could be left, it would not be the path.

On this account the superior man does not wait till he sees things to be cautious, nor till he hears things to be apprehensive.

There is nothing more visible than what is secret, and nothing more manifest than what is minute. Therefore the superior man is watchful over himself when he is alone.

When there are no stirrings of pleasure, anger, sorrow, or joy, we call it the State of Equilibrium. When those feelings have been stirred, and all in their due measure and degree, we call it the State of Harmony. This Equilibrium is the great root (from which grow all the human actings) in the world; and this Harmony is the universal path (in which they should all proceed).

Let the State of Equilibrium and Harmony exist in perfection, and heaven and earth would have their (right) places, (and do their proper work), and all things would be nourished (and flourish) 2.

Kung-nî 3 said, 'The superior man (exhibits) the state of equilibrium and harmony 4; the small man presents the opposite of those states. The superior man exhibits them, because he is the superior man, and maintains himself in them; the small man presents the opposite of them, because he is the small man, and exercises no apprehensive caution.'

The Master said, 'Perfect is the state of equilibrium and harmony! Rare have they long been among the people who could attain to it!'

The Master said, 'I know how it is that the Path is not walked in. The knowing go beyond it, and the stupid do not come up to it. The worthy go beyond it, and the unworthy do not come up to it. There is nobody but eats and drinks; but they are few who can distinguish the flavours (of what they eat and drink) 5.'

The Master said, 'Ah! how is the path untrodden!'

The Master said, 'Was not Shun grandly wise? Shun loved to question others, and to study their words though they might be shallow. He concealed what was bad (in them), and displayed what was good. He laid hold of their two extremes, determined the mean 6 between them, and used it in (his government of) the people. It was this that made him Shun!'

The Master said, 'Men all say, "We are wise;" but being driven forward and taken in a net, a trap, or a pitfall, not one of them knows how to escape. Men all say, "We are wise;" but when they have chosen the state of equilibrium and harmony, they are not able to keep in it for a round month.'

The Master said, 'This was the character of Hui:--Having chosen the state of equilibrium and harmony, when he found any one thing that was good, he grasped it firmly, wore it on his breast, and did not let it go 7.'

The Master said, 'The kingdom, its states, and clans may be perfectly ruled; dignities and emoluments may be declined; but the state of equilibrium and harmony cannot be attained to.'

Dze-lû 8 asked about fortitude.

The Master said, 'Do you mean the fortitude of the South, the fortitude of the North, or your fortitude?'

To show forbearance and gentleness in teaching others; and not to return conduct towards one's self which is contrary to the right path:--this is the fortitude of the South, and the good man makes it his study.

To lie under arms, and to die without regret:--this is the bravery of the North, and the bold make it their study.

Therefore, the superior man cultivates a (friendly) harmony, and is not weak;--how firm is he in his fortitude! He stands erect in the middle, and does not incline to either side;--how firm is he in his fortitude! If right ways prevail in (the government of his state), he does not change from what he was in retirement;--how firm is he in his fortitude! If bad ways prevail, he will die sooner than change;--how firm is he in his fortitude!'

The Master said, 'To search for what is mysterious 9, and practise marvellous (arts), in order to be mentioned with honour in future ages:--this is what I do not do.

The good man tries to proceed according to the (right) path, but when he has gone half-way, he abandons it; I am not able (so) to stop.

The superior man, acting in accordance with the state of equilibrium and harmony, may be all unknown and unregarded by the world, but he feels no regret:--it is only the sage who is able for this 10

'The way of the superior man reaches far and wide, and yet is secret.

Common men and women, however ignorant, may intermeddle with the knowledge of it; but in its utmost reaches there is that which even the sage does not know. Common men and women, however much below the ordinary standard of character, can carry it into practice; but in its utmost reaches, there is that which even the sage cannot attain to.

Great as heaven and earth are, men still find things in their action with which to be dissatisfied 11.

'Therefore, if the superior man were to speak (of this way) in its greatness, nothing in the world would be able to contain it; and if he were to speak of it in its smallness, nothing in the world would be found able to divide it.It is said in the Book of Poetry (III, i, ode 5),telling how (the way) is seen above and below.The way of the superior man may be found in its simple elements among common men and women, but in its utmost reaches it is displayed in (the operations of) heaven and earth 12.'

The Master said, 'The path is not far from man. When men try to pursue a path which is far from what their nature suggests, it should not be considered the Path.

It is said in the Book of Poetry (I, xv, ode 5), We grasp one axe-handle to hew the other; but if we look askance at it, we still consider it far off.

Therefore the superior man governs men according to their humanity; and when they change (what is wrong), he stops.

Fidelity to one's self and the corresponding reciprocity are not far from the path. What you do not like when done to yourself, do not do to others.

In the way of the superior man there are four things, to not one of which have I, Khiû 13, as yet attained.--To serve my father as I would require my son to serve me, am not yet able; to serve my ruler as I would require my minister to serve me, I am not yet able; to serve my elder brother as I would require a younger brother to serve me, I am not yet able; to set the example in behaving to a friend as I would require him to behave to me, I am not yet able.

In the practice of the ordinary virtues, and attention to his ordinary words, if (the practice) be in anything defective, (the superior man) dares not but exert himself; if (his words) be in any way excessive, he dares not allow himself in such license. His words have respect to his practice, and his practice has respect to his words.

Is not the superior man characterised by a perfect sincerity?

'The superior man does what is proper to the position in which he is; he does not wish to go beyond it. In a position of wealth and honour, he does what is proper to a position of wealth and honour. In a position of poverty and meanness, he does what is proper to a position of poverty, and meanness. Situated among barbarous tribes, he does what is proper in such a situation. In a position of sorrow and difficulty, he does what is proper in such a position. The superior man can find himself in no position in which he is not himself.

In a high situation, he does not insult or oppress those who are below him; in a low situation, he does not cling to or depend on those who are above him.

'He rectifies himself, and seeks for nothing from others; and thus none feel dissatisfied with him. Above, he does not murmur against Heaven; below, he does not find fault with men.

Therefore the superior man lives quietly and calmly, waiting for the appointments (of Heaven); while the mean man does what is full of risk, looking out for the turns of luck.'

The Master said, 'In archery we have something like (the way of) the superior man. When the archer misses the centre of the target, he turns round and seeks for the cause of his failure in himself.

'The way of the superior man may be compared to what takes place in travelling, when to go far we must traverse the space that is near, and in ascending a height we must begin from the lower ground.

It is said in the Book of Poetry (II, i, ode 4, 7, 8),

The Master said, 'How complacent are parents (in such a state of things)!'

The Master said, 'How abundant and rich are the powers possessed and exercised by Spiritual Beings! We look for them, but do not see them; we listen for, but do not hear them; they enter into all things, and nothing is without them 14.

They cause all under Heaven to fast and purify themselves, and to array themselves in their richest dresses in order to attend at their sacrifices. Then, like overflowing water, they seem to be over the heads, and on the left and right (of their worshippers).

It is said in the Book of Poetry (III, iii, ode 2, 7),

'Such is the manifestness of what is minute. Such is the impossibility of repressing the outgoings of sincerity!'

The Master said, 'How greatly filial was Shun! His virtue was that of a sage; his dignity was that of the son of Heaven; his riches were all within the four seas; his ancestral temple enjoyed his offerings; his descendants preserved (those to) himself.

Thus it was that with his great virtue he could not but obtain his position, his riches, his fame, and his long life.

Therefore Heaven, in producing things, is sure to be bountiful to them according to their qualities.

Thus it nourishes the tree that stands flourishing, and that which is ready to fall it overthrows.

It is said in the Book of Poetry (III, ii, ode 5, 1), Hence (we may say that) he who is greatly virtuous is sure to receive the appointment (of Heaven).'

The Master said, 'It is only king Wan of whom it can be said that he had no cause for grief! His father was king Kî, and his son was king Wû. His father laid the foundations of his dignity, and his son transmitted it.

King Wû continued the line and enterprise of kings Thâi, Kî, and Wan. Once for all he buckled on his armour, and got possession of all under heaven; and all his life he did not lose the illustrious name of being that possessor. His dignity was that of the son of Heaven; his riches were all within the four seas; his ancestral temple enjoyed his offerings; and his descendants preserved those to himself.

It was in his old age that king Wû received the appointment (to the throne), and the duke of Kâu completed the virtuous achievements of Wan and Wû. He carried back the title of king to Thâi and Kî, sacrificing also to all the dukes before them with the ceremonies of the son of Heaven. And the practice was extended as a rule to all the feudal princes, the Great officers, all other officers, and the common people. If the father were a Great officer, and the son an inferior officer, the former was buried with the ceremonies due to a Great officer, and sacrificed to with those due by an inferior officer. If the father were an ordinary officer, and the son a Great officer, the burial was that of an ordinary officer, and the sacrifices those of a Great officer. The one year's mourning extended up to Great officers; the three years' mourning extended to the son of Heaven (himself). In the mourning for a father or mother no difference was made between the noble and the mean;--it was one and the same for all.'

The Master said, 'How far-extending was the filial piety of king Wû and the duke of Kâu! Now filial piety is the skilful carrying out of the wishes of our forefathers, and the skilful carrying on of their undertakings. In spring and autumn 15 they repaired and beautified the temple-halls of their ancestors, set forth their ancestral vessels, displayed their dresses, and presented the offerings of the several seasons.

By means of the ceremonies of the ancestral temple, they maintained the order of their ancestors sacrificed to, here on the left, there on the right, according as they were father or son; by arranging the parties present according to their rank, they distinguished between the more noble and the less; by the arrangement of the various services, they made a distinction of the talents and virtue of those discharging them; in the ceremony of general pledging, the inferiors presented the cup to the superiors, and thus something was given to the lowest to do; at the (concluding) feast, places were given according to the hair, and thus was made the distinction of years.

They occupied the places (of their forefathers); practised their ceremonies; performed their music; showed their respect for those whom they honoured; and loved those whom they regarded with affection. Thus they served the dead as they served them when alive, and served the departed as they would have served them if they had been continued among them:--all this was the perfection of filial duty.

'By the ceremonies of the border sacrifices (to Heaven and Earth), they served God, and by those of the ancestral temple they sacrificed to their forefathers 16.

If one understood the ceremonies of the border sacrifices and the meaning of the sacrifices of the ancestral temple, it would be as easy for him to rule a state as to look into his palm 17.'


1. See the introductory notice, vol. xxvii, pp. 42, 43.

2. These six short paragraphs may be considered a summary of the Confucian doctrine, and a sort of text to the sermon which follows in the rest of the Treatise;--the first chapter of it. The commencing term, Heaven, gives us, vaguely, the idea of a supreme, righteous, and benevolent Power; while 'heaven and earth,' in paragraph 6, bring before us the material heaven and earth with inherent powers and capabilities, by the interaction of which all the phenomena of production, growth, and decay are produced. Midway between these is Man; and nothing is wanting to make a perfectly happy world but his moral perfection, evidenced by his perfect conformity to the right path, the path of duty. 'The superior man,' in paragraph 3, has evidently the moral signification of the name in its highest degree. He is the man 'who embodies the path (體道之人).' The description of him in paragraph 4, that 'he is watchful over himself when alone,' is, literally, that 'he is watchful over his solitariness,--his aloneness,' that 'solitariness' being, I conceive, the ideal of his own nature to which every man in his best and highest moments is capable of attaining.

3. See the introductory notice of Book XXV.

4. Formerly I translated this by 'The superior man (embodies) the course of the mean.' Zottoli gives for it, 'Sapiens vir tenet medium;' Rémusat, 'Le sage tient invariablement le milieu,' and 'Sapiens medio constat.' The two characters Kung yung (中庸), however, are evidently brought on from the preceding chapter, yung (庸) being used instead of the ho (和) in paragraphs 5 and 6. In the Khang-hsî dictionary, we find that yung is defined by ho, among other terms, with a reference to a remark of Kang Hsüan, preserved by Lû Teh-ming, that 'the Book is named the Kung Yung, because it records the practice of the Kung Ho.' Kang was obliged to express himself so, having defined the yung of the title by another yung (用), meaning 'use' or 'practice.' But both kung and yung are adjectival terms used substantively.

5. Men eat and drink without knowing why or what.

6. Here Kung has the signification of 'the mean,' the just medium between two extremes.

7. Dze-hui was Yen Yüan, Confucius' favourite disciple.

8. Dze-lû was Kung Yû, another celebrated disciple, famous for his bravery. 'Your fortitude,' in paragraph 16, is probably the fortitude which you ought to cultivate, that described in paragraph 19.

9. This is translated from a reading of the text, as old as the second Han dynasty.

10. With this ends the second chapter of the Treatise, in which the words of Confucius are so often quoted; specially it would appear, to illustrate what is meant by 'the state of equilibrium and harmony.' Yet there is a great want of definiteness and practical guidance about the utterances.

11. Who does not grumble occasionally at the weather, and disturbances apparently of regular order in the seasons?

12. With this chapter commences, it is commonly and correctly held, the third part of the Treatise, intended to illustrate what is said in the second paragraph of it, that 'the path cannot be left for an instant.' The author proceeds to quote sayings of Confucius to make his meaning clear, but he does so 'in a miscellaneous way,' and so as to embrace some of the widest and most difficult exercises of Chinese thought.

13. The name first given to Confucius by his parents.

14. We hardly see the relevancy of pars. 44-47 as illustrating the statement that 'the path cannot be left.' They bear rather on the next statement of the first chapter, the manifestness of that which is most minute, and serve to introduce the subject of 'sincerity,' which is dwelt upon so much in the last part of the Treatise. But what are the Spirits or Spiritual Beings that are spoken of? In paragraphs 45, 46, they are evidently the spirits sacrificed to in the ancestral temple and spirits generally, according to our meaning of the term. The difficulty is with the name in paragraph 44, the Kwei Shan there. Rémusat renders the phrase simply by 'les esprits,' and in his Latin version by 'spiritus geniique,' as also does Zottoli. Wylie gives for it 'the Spiritual Powers.' Of course Kâu Hsî and all the Sung scholars take it, according to their philosophy, as meaning the phenomena of expansion and contraction, the displays of the Power or Powers, working under Heaven, in nature.

15. Two seasons, instead of the four, as in the title of the Khun Khiû.

16. The phraseology of this paragraph and the next is to be taken in accordance with the usage of terms in the chapters on Sacrifices.

17. With this ends, according to the old division of the Treatise, followed by the Khien-lung editors, the first section of it; and with it, we may say, ends also the special quotation by the author of the words of Confucius to illustrate what is said in the first chapter about the path being never to be left. The relevancy of much of what we read from paragraph 24 downwards to the purpose which it is said to serve, it is not easy for us to appreciate. All that the Master says from paragraph 48 seems rather to belong to a Treatise on Filial Piety than to one on the States of Equilibrium and Harmony.

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IATHPublished by The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, © Copyright 2003 by Anne Kinney and the University of Virginia