Confucius – The Analects Chapter 2

The Analects (论语)

孔子 (Confucius)


为政第二 (Chapter 2)

Verse 1: 子曰:为政以德,譬如北辰,居其所,而众星共之。

The Master said:

“He who exercises government by means of his virtue may be compared to the north polar star, which keeps its place and all the stars turn towards it.” 


Verse 2: 子曰:诗三百篇,一言以蔽之,曰:“思无邪。”

The Master said:

“In the Book of Poetry (shijing) are three hundred pieces, but the design of them all may be embraced in one sentence ‘Have no depraved thoughts.’”


Verse 3: 子曰:导之以政,齐之以德,民免而无耻。导之以德,齐之以礼,有耻且格。

The Master said:

“If the people be led by laws, and kept order by means of  punishments, they will try to avoid the punishment, but lack sense of shame."

“If they be led by virtue, and kept order by the rules of propriety, they will have the sense of shame, and moreover will become good.”


Verse 4:  子曰:吾十有五而志于学,三十而立,四十而不惑,五十而知天命,六十而耳顺,七十而从心所欲不逾矩。

The Master said:

 “At fifteen, I set my heart on learning.

  At thirty, I could stand.
  At forty, I had no doubts.
  At fifty, I knew the decree of the Heaven.
  At sixty, my ears are in accord (to the reception of truth).
  At seventy, I could follow what my heart desired, without overstepping the boundaries (of what is right).”


Verse 5: 

Mengyi asked what filial piety was. The Master said, “It is not being disobedient.”

Soon after, as Fanchi was driving him, the Master told him, saying, “Mengsun asked me what filial piety was, and I answered him,-’not being disobedient.’”

Fanchi said, “What did you mean?” The Master replied, “That parents, when alive, be served according to propriety; that, when dead, they should be buried according to propriety; and that they should be sacrificed to according to propriety.”


 Verse 6: 孟武伯问孝。子曰:“父母,唯其疾之忧。”


Mengwu asked what filial piety was. The Master said, “Parents are anxious lest their children should be sick.”


 Verse 7: 子游问孝。子曰:“今之孝者,是谓能养,至于犬马,皆能有养,不敬,何以别乎?”


Ziyou asked what filial piety was. The Master said, “The filial piety nowadays means the support of one’s parents. But dogs and horses also receive something in the way of support;-without reverence, what is there to distinguish the one support given from the other?”

Verse 8: 子夏问孝。子曰:“色难。有事,弟子服其劳,有酒食,先生馔,曾是以为孝乎?”


Zixia asked what filial piety was. The Master said, “The difficulty is with the demeanour. If there are works to be done and the young take the works from the elders, and if, when the young have wine and food, they set them before their elders, is THIS to be considered filial piety?”

Verse 9: 子曰:吾与回言终日,不违如愚,退而省其私,亦足以发。回也不愚。


The Master said, “I have talked with Hui for a whole day, and he has not countered anything I have said -as if he were stupid. He has retired, and having examined his conduct when he was away, I found him capable of setting examples. Hui  is not stupid.”

Verse 10: 子曰:视其所以,观其所由,察其所安,人焉叟哉!人焉叟哉!


The Master said,
“See what a man does.
 Mark his ways.
 Examine what he is satisfied with.
 How can a man remain inscrutable? How can a man remain inscrutable?

 Verse 11: 子曰:温故而知新,可以为师矣。


The Master said, “If by keeping old knowledge warm and continually  acquiring new one, he may be a teacher of others.”


 Verse 12: 子曰:君子不器。


The Master said, “The junzi is not a utensil (K Chew note: in a nutshell a gentleman training should be well rounded and not confined to narrow field).”


 Verse 13:  子贡问君子。子曰:“先行其言而后从之。


Zigong  asked what constituted the junzi. The Master said, “He acts before he speaks, and afterwards speaks according to his actions.”  (K chew note: rather puzzling, i suppose it mean one should not do empty talks – i.e one should act on one’s accord instead of just telling or boasting to others, and that one should then act in accordance to  the guidelines already established)


Verse 14: 君子周而不比,小人比而不周


The Master said, “The junzi has universal sympathies and not partisan. The small man is partisan and does not have universal sympathies.”


Verse 15: 子曰:学而不思则罔,思而不学则殆。


The Master said, “Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous.”


Verse 16: 子曰:攻乎异端,斯害也已。


The Master said, “Application of unorthodox doctrines is damaging indeed!” (K Chew note: this is rather obscure and could mean  political, spiritual, philosophical issues etc, I think)


Verse 17: 子曰:由,诲汝知之乎!知之为知之,不知为不知,是知也。


The Master said, “You, shall I teach you about knowledge? When you understand a thing, to recognise that you understand  it; and when you do not  understand it, to recognise  that you do not understand  it – this is knowledge .”



Verse 18: 子张学干禄。子曰:“多闻阙疑,慎言其余,则寡尤。多见阙殆,慎行其余,则寡悔。言寡尤,行寡悔,禄在其中矣。


Zizhang was learning with a view to having  career as official.

The Master said, “Hear much and put aside doubtful points, while you speak cautiously at the same time of the others – then you will  seldom be blamed. See much and put aside the things which seem perilous, while you are cautious at the same time in carrying the others into practice: then you will seldom feel regret. When one gives few occasions for blame in his words, and few occasions for regrets in his conduct, then an official career is for you.”


Verse 19: 哀公问曰:“何为则民服?”孔子对曰:“举直错诸枉,则民服;举枉错诸直,则民不服。”


The Duke Ai asked, “What should be done in order to secure the submission of the people?” Confucius replied, “Advance the upright and set aside the crooked, then the people will submit. Advance the crooked and set aside the upright, then the people will not submit.”


Verse 20: 季康子问:“使民敬忠以劝,如之何?”子曰:“临之以庄则敬,孝慈则忠,举善而教不能则劝。”


Jikangzi asked how to have respectful  and faithful people, and to encourage the virtues. The Master said, “If you oversee them with dignity, they will be respectful. If you are filial, then they will be loyal. Promote the good and teach the incompetent -then they will be encouraged.”


Verse 21: 或谓孔子曰:“子奚不为政?”子曰:“书云:孝乎!惟孝友于兄弟,施于有政。是亦为政。奚其为为政!”


Someone addressed Confucius, saying, “Sir, why are you not engaged in the government?”

The Master said, “What does the Book of History (shuqing) say of filial piety? -Only be filial and friendly toward your  brothers, and you will contribute to the government.’ This then also constitutes the exercise of government. Why must there be that particular activity be regarded as being engaged in the government?”


Verse 23:



Zizhang asked whether the affairs of ten generations could be known about.

Confucius said, “The Yin dynasty followed the regulations of the Xia: wherein it took from or added to them may be known. The Zhou dynasty has followed the regulations of Yin: wherein it took from or added to them may be known. Some other may follow the Zhou, but though it should be at the distance of a hundred generations, its affairs may be known.”


Verse 24: 子曰:非其鬼而祭之,谄也。见义不为,无勇也。


The Master said, “For a man to sacrifice to a spirit of ancestrors which does not belong to him is flattery / fawning.

“To see what is right and not to do it is cowardice.”





About kchew

an occasional culturalist
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