<Previous Section>
<Next Section>


1These were the words of the Master:--'Let us return 2.' The superior man, in obscurity, yet makes himself manifest; without giving himself any airs, his gravity is acknowledged; without the exercise of severity, he inspires awe; without using words, he is believed.

The Master said, 'The superior man takes no erroneous step before men, nor errs in the expression of his countenance, nor in the language of his speech. Therefore his demeanour induces awe, his countenance induces fear, and his words produce confidence. It is said in The Punishments of Fû (The Shû, V, xxvii, ii): "They were all reverence and caution. They had no occasion to make choice of words in reference to their conduct."'

The Master said, 'The dress and the one worn over it do not take the place, the one of the other, it being intimated to the people thereby that they should not trouble or interfere with one another.'

The Master said, 'When a sacrifice has come to the point of greatest reverence, it should not be immediately followed by music. When the discussion of affairs at court has reached its utmost nicety, it should not be immediately followed by an idle indifference.'

The Master said, 'The superior man is careful (in small things), and thereby escapes calamity. His generous largeness cannot be kept in obscurity. His courtesy keeps shame at a distance.'

The Master said, 'The superior man, by his gravity and reverence, becomes every day stronger (for good); while indifference and want of restraint lead to a daily deterioration. The superior man does not allow any irregularity in his person, even for a single day;--how should he be like (a small man) who will not end his days (in honour)?'

The Master said, 'Vigil and fasting are required (as a preparation) for serving the spirits (in sacrifice); the day and month in which to appear before the ruler are chosen beforehand:--these observances were appointed lest the people should look on these things without reverence.'

The Master said, '(The small man) is familiar and insolent. He may bring death on himself (by being so), and yet he stands in no fear 3.'

The Master said, 'Without the interchange of the formal messages, there can be no reception of one party by another; without the presenting of the ceremonial (gifts), there can be no interview (with a superior):--these rules were made that the people might not take troublesome liberties with one another! It is said in the Yî, "When he shows (the sincerity that marks) the first recourse to divination, I instruct him. If he apply a second and third time, that is troublesome, and I do not instruct the troublesome 4."'

These were the words of the Master: '(Humanity, of which the characteristic is) Benevolence, is the Pattern for all under Heaven; Righteousness is the Law for all under Heaven; and the Reciprocations (of ceremony) are for the Profit of all under Heaven.'

The Master said, 'When kindness is returned for kindness, the people are stimulated (to be kind). When injury is returned for injury, the people are warned (to refrain from wrong-doing). It is said in the Book of Poetry (III, iii, ode 26):--'It is said in the Thâi Kiâ (Shû, IV, v, sect. 2, 2), "Without the sovereign, the people cannot enjoy repose with one another; without the people, the sovereign would have none to rule over in the four quarters (of the kingdom)."'

The Master said, 'They who return kindness for injury are such as have a regard for their own persons. They who return injury for kindness are men to be punished and put to death 5.'

The Master said, 'Under heaven there is only a man (here and there) who loves what is proper to humanity without some personal object in the matter, or who hates what is contrary to humanity without being apprehensive (of some evil). Therefore the superior man reasons about the path to be trodden from the standpoint of himself, and lays down his laws from the (capabilities of the) people.'

The Master said, '(The virtues of) humanity appear in three ways. (In some cases) the work of humanity is done, but under the influence of different feelings. In these, the (true character of the) humanity cannot be known; but where there is some abnormal manifestation of it, in those the true character can be known 6. Those to whom it really belongs practise it easily and naturally; the wise practise it for the sake of the advantage which it brings; and those who fear the guilt of transgression practise it by constraint.

Humanity is the right hand; pursuing the right path is the left 7. Humanity comprehends the (whole) man; the path pursued is the exhibition of righteousness. Those whose humanity is large, while their exhibition of righteousness is slight, are loved and not honoured. Those whose righteousness is large and their humanity slight are honoured and not loved.

There is the perfect path, the righteous path, and the calculated path. The perfect path conducts to sovereignty; the righteous path, to chieftaincy; and the calculated path, to freedom from error and failure 8.

These were the words of the Master:--'Of humanity there are various degrees; righteousness is now long, now short, now great, now small. Where there is a deep and compassionate sympathy in the heart, we have humanity evidenced in the love of others; where there is the following of (old) examples, and vigorous endeavour, we have the employment of humanity for the occasion. It is said in the Book of Poetry (III, i, ode 10, 6),'That was a humanity extending to many generations. In the Lessons from the States it is said (I, iii, ode 10, 3),'That was a humanity extending (only) to the end of the speaker's life.'

The Master said, 'Humanity is like a heavy vessel, and like a long road. He who tries to lift the vessel cannot sustain its weight; he who travels the road cannot accomplish all its distance. There is nothing that has so many different degrees as (the course of) humanity; and thus he who tries to nerve himself to it finds it a difficult task. Therefore when the superior man measures men with the scale of righteousness, he finds it difficult to discover the men (whom he seeks); when he looks at men and compares them with one another, he knows who among them are the more worthy.'

The Master said, 'It is only one man (here and there) under heaven, who with his heart of hearts naturally rests in humanity. It is said in the Tâ Yâ, or Major Odes of the Kingdom (III, iii, ode 6, 6),

'In the Hsiâo Yâ, or Minor Odes of the Kingdom, it is said (II, vii, ode 4, 5),The Master said, 'So did the poets love (the exhibition of) humanity. (They teach us how) one should pursue the path of it, not giving over in the way, forgetting his age, taking no thought that the years before him will not be sufficient (for his task), urging on his course with earnestness from day to day, and only giving up when he sinks in death.'

The Master said, 'Long has the attainment of a perfect humanity been difficult among men! all men err in what they love;--and hence it is easy to apologise for the errors of those who are seeking this humanity 9.'

The Master said, 'Courtesy is near to propriety; economy is near to humanity; good faith is near to the truth of things. When one with respect and humility practises these (virtues), though he may fall into errors, they will not be very great. Where there is courtesy, the errors are few; where there is truth, there can be good faith; where there is economy, the exercise of forbearance is easy:--will not failure be rare in the case of those who practise these things? It is said in the Book of Poetry (III, iii, ode 2, 9),

The Master said, 'Long has the attainment of perfect humanity been difficult among men; it is only the superior man who is able to reach it. Therefore the superior man does not distress men by requiring from them that which (only) he himself can do, nor put them to shame because of what they cannot do. Hence the sage, in laying down rules for conduct, does not make himself the rule, but gives them his instructions so that they shall be able to stimulate themselves to endeavour, and have the feeling of shame if they do not put them in practice. (He enjoins) the rules of ceremony to regulate the conduct; good faith to bind it on them; right demeanour to set it off; costume to distinguish it; and friendship to perfect it:--he desires in this way to produce a uniformity of the people. It is said in the Hsiâo Yâ (V, ode 5, 3), "Shall they unblushing break man's law? Shall they not stand of Heaven in awe?"

'Therefore, when a superior man puts on the dress (of his rank), he sets it off by the demeanour of a superior man. That demeanour he sets off with the language of a superior man; and that language he makes good by the virtues of a superior man. Hence the superior man is ashamed to wear the robes, and not have the demeanour; ashamed to have the demeanour, and not the style of speech; ashamed to have the style of speech, and not the virtues; ashamed to have the virtues, and not the conduct proper to them. Thus it is that when the superior man has on his sackcloth and other mourning, his countenance wears an air of sorrow; when he wears the square-cut dress and square-topped cap, his countenance wears an air of respect; and when he wears his mail-coat and helmet, his countenance says that he is not to be meddled with. It is said in the Book of Poetry (I, xiv, ode 2, 2),

These were the words of the Master:--'What the superior man calls righteousness is, that noble and mean all have the services which they discharge throughout the kingdom. The son of Heaven himself ploughs the ground for the rice with which to fill the vessels, and the black millet from which to distil the spirit to be mixed with fragrant herbs, for the services of God, and in the same way the feudal lords are diligent in discharging their services to the son of Heaven.'

The Master said, 'In serving (the ruler) his superior, (an officer) from his position has great opportunity to protect the people; but when he does not allow himself to have any thought of acting as the ruler of them, this shows a high degree of humanity. Therefore, the superior man is courteous and economical, seeking to exercise his benevolence, and sincere and humble in order to practise his sense of propriety. He does not himself set a high value on his services; he does not himself assert the honour due to his person. He is not ambitious of (high) position, and is very moderate in his desires. He gives place willingly to men of ability and virtue. He abases himself and gives honour to others. He is careful and in fear of doing what is not right. His desire in all this is to serve his ruler. If he succeed in doing so (and obtaining his ruler's approbation), he feels that he has done right; if he do not so succeed, he still feels that he has done right:--prepared to accept the will of Heaven concerning himself. It is said in the Book of Poetry (III, i, ode 5, 6),Might not this have been said of Shun, Yü, king Wan, or the duke of Kâu, who had the great virtues (necessary) to govern the people, and yet were (only) careful to serve their rulers? It is said again in the same Book of Poetry (III, i, ode 2, 3),

The Master said, 'The practice of the ancient kings in conferring honorary posthumous names was to do honour to the fame (of the individuals); but they limited themselves to one excellence (in the character);--they would have been ashamed if the name had been beyond the actions (of the life). In accordance with this the superior man does not himself magnify his doings, nor himself exalt his merit, seeking to be within the truth; actions of an extraordinary character he does not aim at, but seeks to occupy himself only with what is substantial and good. He displays prominently the good qualities of others, and celebrates their merits, seeking to place himself below them in the scale of worth. Therefore, although the superior man abases himself, yet the people respect and honour him.'

The Master said, 'The meritorious services of Hâu Kî were the greatest of all under Heaven; could his hands and feet be described as those of an ordinary man? But all which he desired was that his doings should be superior to his name, and therefore he said of himself that he was simply "a man useful to others 11."'

These were the words of the Master:--'Difficult is it to attain to what is called the perfect humanity of the superior man! It is said in the Book of Poetry 12,Happy, he (yet) vigorously teaches them; courteous, he makes them pleased and restful. With all their happiness, there is no wild extravagance; with all their observance of ceremonial usages, there is the feeling of affection. Notwithstanding his awing gravity, they are restful; notwithstanding his son-like gentleness, they are respectful. Thus he causes them to honour him as their father, and love him as their mother. There must be all this before he is the father and mother of his people. Could any one who was not possessed of perfect virtue be able to accomplish this?

'Here now is the affection of a father for his sons;--he loves the worthy among them, and places on a lower level those who do not show ability; but that of a mother for them is such, that while she loves the worthy, she pities those who do not show ability:--the mother deals with them on the ground of affection and not of showing them honour; the father, on the ground of showing them honour and not of affection. (So we may say of) water and the people, that it manifests affection to them, but does not give them honour; of fire, that it gives them honour, but does not manifest affection; of the ground, that it manifests affection, but does not give honour; of Heaven, that it gives them honour, but does not manifest affection; of the nature conferred on them, that it manifests affection, but does not give them honour; and of the manes of their departed, that they give honour, but do not manifest affection 13.'

'Under the Hsiâ dynasty it was the way to give honour to the nature conferred on men; they served the manes of the departed, and respected Spiritual Beings, keeping them at a distance, while they brought the people near, and made them loyal; they put first the (attraction) of emolument, and last the terrors of power; first rewards, and then punishments; showing their affection (for the people), but not giving them honour. The bad effect on the people was, that they became stupid and ignorant, proud and clownish, and uncultivated, without any accomplishments.'Under the Yin dynasty, they honoured Spiritual Beings, and led the people on to serve them; they put first the service of their manes, and last the usages of ceremony; first punishments, and then rewards; giving honour (to the people), but not showing affection for them. The bad effect on the people was, that they became turbulent and were restless, striving to surpass one another without any sense of shame.'Under the Kâu dynasty, they honoured the ceremonial usages, and set a high value on bestowing (favours); they served the manes and respected Spiritual Beings, yet keeping them at a distance; they brought the people near, and made them loyal; in rewarding and punishing they used the various distinctions and arrangements of rank; showing affection (for the people), but not giving them honour. The bad effects on the people were, that they became fond of gain and crafty; were all for accomplishments, and shameless; injured one another, and had their moral sense obscured.'

The Master said, 'It was the method of the Hsiâ dynasty not to trouble (the people) with many notices; it did not require everything from the people, nor (indeed) look to them for great things; and they did not weary of the affection (between them and their rulers).'Under the Yin dynasty, they did not trouble (the people) with ceremonies, and yet they required everything from them.'Under the Kâu dynasty, they were rigorous with the people, and not troublesome in the services to the spirits; but they did all that could be done in the way of awards, conferring rank, punishments, and penalties.'

The Master said, 'Under the methods of (the dynasties of the line of) Yü 14 and Hsiâ, there were few dissatisfactions among the people. The methods of Yin and Kâu were not equal to the correction of their errors.'

The Master said, 'The plain and simple ways of (the dynasties of the line of) Yü and Hsiâ, and the multiplied forms of Yin and Kâu were both extreme. The forms of Yü and Hsiâ did not neutralise their simplicity, nor was there sufficient simplicity under Yin and Kâu to neutralise their forms.'

These were the words of the Master:--'Although in subsequent ages there arose (distinguished sovereigns), yet none of them succeeded in equalling the Tî of (the line of) Yü. He ruled over all under heaven, but, while he lived, he had not a selfish thought, and when he died, he did not make his son great (with the inheritance). He treated the people as his sons, as if he had been their father and mother. He had a deep and compassionate sympathy for them (like their mother); he instructed them in loyalty and what was profitable (like their father). While he showed his affection for them, he also gave them honour; in his natural restfulness, he was reverent; in the terrors of his majesty, he yet was loving; with all his riches, he was yet observant of the rules of propriety; and his kindness was yet (rightly) distributed. The superior men who stood in connexion with him gave honour to benevolence, and stood in awe of righteousness; were ashamed of lavish expenditure, and set little store by their accumulation of substance; loyal, but not coming into collision with their sovereign; righteous, and yet deferential to him; accomplished, and yet restful; generous, and yet discriminating. It is said in Fû on Punishments, "He sought to awe the people by his virtue, and all were filled with dread; he proceeded to enlighten them by his virtue, and all were enlightened." Who but the Tî of (the line of) Yü could have been able to do this 15?' (Shû, V, xxvii, 7.)

These were the words of the Master:--'(A minister) in the service of his ruler will first offer his words of counsel, and (when they are accepted), he will bow and voluntarily offer his person to make good his sincerity. Hence, whatever service a ruler requires from his minister, the minister will die in support of his words. In this way the salary which he receives is not obtained on false pretences, and the things for which he can be blamed will be more and more few.'

The Master said, 'In the service of a ruler, when great words are spoken to (and accepted by) him, great advantages (to the state) may be expected from them; and when words of small importance are presented to him, only small advantages are to be looked for. Therefore a superior man will not for words of small importance receive great emolument, nor for words of great importance small emolument. It is said in the Yî, "He does not enjoy his revenues in his own family, (but at court); there will be good fortune 16."'

The Master said, 'In the service of a ruler, (a minister) should not descend to subjects beneath him, nor set a high value on speeches, nor accept an introduction from improper individuals. It is said in the Hsiâo Yâ (II, vi, ode 3, 4),

The Master said, 'In the service of a ruler, for (a minister) whose place is remote from (the court), to remonstrate is an act of sycophancy; for one whose place is near the ruler, not to remonstrate is to hold his office idly for the sake of gain.'

The Master said, 'Ministers near (the ruler) should (seek to) preserve the harmony (of his virtues). The chief minister should maintain correctness in all the departments. Great ministers should be concerned about all parts (of the kingdom).'

The Master said, 'In the service of a ruler there should be the wish to remonstrate, but no wish to set forth (his faults). It is said in the Book of Poetry (II, viii, ode 4, 4),

The Master said, 'In the service of a ruler, when it is difficult to advance and easy to retire, there is a proper order maintained in the occupancy of places (according to the character of their holders). If it were easy to advance and difficult to retire, there would be confusion. Hence a superior (visitor) advances (only) after he has been thrice bowed to, while he retires after one salutation on taking leave; and thus confusion is prevented.'

The Master said, 'In the service of a ruler, if (an officer), after thrice leaving the court (on his advice being rejected), do not cross the borders (of the state), he is remaining for the sake of the profit and emolument. Although men say that he is not trying to force (his ruler), I will not believe them.'

The Master said, 'In the service of a ruler, (an officer) should be careful at the beginning, and respectful to the end.'

The Master said, 'In the service of a ruler, one may be in a high position or a low, rich or poor, to live or to die (according to the will of the ruler), but he should not allow himself to be led to do anything contrary to order or right.'

The Master said, 'In the service of a ruler, if it be in the army, (an officer) should not (try to) avoid labour and danger; if it be at court he should not refuse a mean office. To occupy a post and not perform its business is contrary to order and right. Hence, when a ruler employs him on any duty, if it suit his own mind, he thinks carefully of what it requires, and does it; if it do not suit his own mind, he thinks the more carefully of what it requires, and does it. When his work is done, he retires from office:--such is an officer who well discharges his duty. It is said in the Yî (vol. xvi, p. 96), "He does not serve either king or feudal lord, but in a lofty spirit prefers (to attend to) his own affairs."'

The Master said, 'It is only the son of Heaven who receives his appointment from Heaven; officers receive their appointments from the ruler. Therefore if the ruler's orders be conformed (to the mind of Heaven), his orders to his ministers are also conformed to it; but if his orders be contrary (to that mind), his orders to them are also contrary to it. It is said in the Book of Poetry (I, iv, ode 5, 2),

The Master said, 'The superior man does not consider that his words (alone) show fully what a man is. Hence when right ways prevail in the kingdom, the branches and leaves (from the stem) of right conduct appear; but when there are not right ways in the kingdom, the branches and leaves of (mere) words appear.'In accordance with this, when a superior man is by the side of one occupied with the mourning rites, and cannot contribute to assist him in his expenditure, he does not ask him what it is; when he is by the side of one who is ill, and cannot supply him with food, he does not ask what he would like; when he has a visitor for whom he cannot provide a lodging, he does not ask where he is staying. Hence the intercourse of a superior man may be compared to water, and that of a small man, to sweet wine. The superior man seems insipid, but he helps to perfection; the small man seems sweet, but he leads to ruin. It is said in the Hsiâo Yâ (II, v, ode 4, 3),

The Master said 17, 'The superior man does not confine himself to praising men with his words; and so the people prove loyal to him. Thus, when he asks about men who are suffering from cold, he clothes them; or men who are suffering from want, he feeds them; and when he praises a man's good qualities, he (goes on to) confer rank on him. It is said in the Lessons from the States (I, xiv, ode 1, 3),"I grieve; would they but lodge with me!"'

The Master said, 'Dissatisfaction and calamity will come to him whose lip-kindness is not followed by the corresponding deeds. Therefore the superior man will rather incur the resentment arising from his refusal than the charge of promising (and then not fulfilling). It is said in the Lessons from the States (V, ode 4, 6),

The Master said, 'The superior man is not affectionate to others with his countenance (merely) as if, while cold in feeling, he could assume the appearance of affection. That belongs to the small man, and stamps him as no better than the thief who makes a hole in the wall.'

The Master said, 'What is required in feeling is sincerity; in words, that they be susceptible of proof 18.'

These were the words of the Master:--'The ancient and intelligent kings of the three dynasties all served the Spiritual Intelligences of heaven and earth, but invariably used the tortoise-shell and divining stalks. They did not presume to employ their own private judgment in the service of God. In this way they did not transgress in the matter of the day or month, for they did not act contrary to the result of the divination. The tortoise and the shell were not consulted in succession on the same point.

'For the great (sacrificial) services there were (fixed) seasons and days; for the smaller services these were not fixed. They fixed them by divination (near the time). (In divining) about external affairs they used the odd days; and for internal affairs, the even. They did not go against the (intimations of the) tortoise-shell and stalks.'

The Master said, 'With the victims perfect, the proper ceremonies and music, and the vessels of grain, (they sacrificed); and thus no injury was received from the Spiritual Powers, and the people had no occasion for dissatisfaction.'

The Master said, 'The sacrifices of Hâu Kî were easily provided. His language was reverential; his desires were restricted; and the blessings received extended down to his descendants. It is said in the Book of Poetry (III, ii, ode 1, 8),

The Master said, 'The shell and stalks employed by the great men 19 must be held in awe and reverence. But the son of Heaven does not divine by the stalks. While the princes are keeping guard in their states, they divine by the stalks. When the son of Heaven is on the road (travelling), he (also) divines by the stalks. In any other state but their own they do not divine by the stalks. They consult the tortoise-shell about the chambers and apartments of the houses (where they lodge). The son of Heaven does not so consult the tortoise-shell; he stays always in the grand ancestral temples.'

The Master said, 'The men of rank, on occasions of special respect, use their sacrificial vessels. On this account they do not fail to observe the set seasons and days, and do not act contrary to the intimations of the shell and stalks; thus seeking to serve with reverence the ruler and their superiors. In this way superiors are not troublesome to the people, and the people do not take liberties with their superiors 20.'


1. See the introductory notice, vol. xxvii, pp. 44, 45.

2. Compare Analects, V, 22. When Confucius thus spoke, he was accepting his failure in the different states, and saying in effect that his principles and example would ultimately win their way, without his being immediately successful.

3. The text of this short paragraph is supposed to the defective.

4. See the explanation of the 4th Hexagram, Mang, vol. xvi, pp. 64, 65,--with this paragraph ends the first section of the Treatise. It seems to be extended to exhibit the necessity of reverence in the superior man, who is to be an example to others.

5. Comparing this utterance with the decision of Confucius in the Analects, XIV, 36, Khan Hâo thinks it doubtful that we have here the sentiment or words of the sage.

6. In illustration of this point there is always adduced the case of the duke of Kâu, who erred, under the influence of his brotherly love, in the promotion of his brothers that afterwards joined in rebellion.

7. The right hand is used most readily and with greatest effect.

8. With this paragraph ends the second section of the Treatise. It is occupied with the subject of humanity, or the whole nature of man, of which benevolence is the chief element and characteristic, as the most powerful form of example.

9. This seems to be the meaning, about which there are various opinions.

10. With this paragraph ends the 3rd section of the Book. 'It speaks,' say the Khien-lung editors, 'of the perfect humanity, showing that to rest naturally in this is very difficult, yet it is possible by self-government to advance from the practice of it, with a view to one's advantage, to that natural resting in it; and by means of instruction to advance from the practice of it by constraint to the doing so for its advantages.'

11. With this ends the 4th section of the Book, 'On the service of his ruler by an inferior, showing the righteousness between them, and how that righteousness completes the humanity.'

12. The ode here quoted from can hardly be any other than III, ii, 7. The first character in the former of the two lines in that ode, however, is only the phonetic part of that in the text here, and the meaning of 'force or vigour' which the writer employs seems incongruous with that belonging to it in the Shih, where it occurs several times, in combination with the character that follows it, used as a binomial adjective. I need not say more on the difficulty. The meaning of the paragraph as a whole is plain:--'The superior man,' the competent ruler, must possess, blended together, the strength of the father and the gentleness of the mother.

13. The ruler-father of the previous paragraph is here contrasted with the ordinary parent; but the second half of the text is not easily translated, and is difficult to comprehend.

14. 'The line of Yü' was Shun, who succeeded to Yâo. He did not found a dynasty; but he is often spoken of as if he had done so.

15. With this paragraph it is understood that the 5th section of the Book ends, 'illustrating the perfect humanity of the superior man in the government of the people.' Every fresh section thus far, however, has commenced with a--'These were the words of the Master,' and in no case ended with that phraseology. Paragraph 35 rightly begins with it. It is out of place, or rather misplaced, in this; and belongs, I believe, to another place, as we shall see. We should read here, instead of it, 'The Master said.' With regard to the greater part of the section, its genuineness is liable to suspicion, and is indeed denied by the majority of commentators, including the Khien-lung editors. The sentiments are more Tâoistic than Confucian. See the introductory notice of the Book.

16. See the Thwan, or first of the appendixes of the Yî, on Hexagram 26, vol. xvi, page 234.

17. With this commences the 7th section of the Book, but it commences irregularly with 'the Master said,' instead of 'The words of the Master were;' see note above, on page 344.

18. Here ends the 7th section, showing how the superior man strives to be sincere in his words and looks.

19. The king and feudal lords.

20. Paragraphs 52 to 57 from the last section of the Book. They are not so interesting as the previous sections, nor do they hang closely together. 'The section,' say the Khien-lung editors, 'treats of the two models of divination, and also of reverence. Reverence is the subject of the first section, and here again it occurs in the end of the Treatise. Reverence is the beginning and end of the learning of the superior man.'

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