The Analects of Confucius - Book

Comparative Worth of the Disciples of Confucius

This is Book 11 of the Analects of Confucius.

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Sunset Landscape, 1254 A.D.


Comparative Worth of His Disciples

"The first to make progress in the Proprieties and in Music," said the
Master, "are plain countrymen; after them, the men of higher standing.
If I had to employ any of them, I should stand by the former."

"Of those," said he, "who were about me when I was in the Ch'in and
Ts'ai States, not one now is left to approach my door."

"As for Hwui," [26] said the Master, "he is not one to help me on: there is nothing I say but he is not well satisfied with."

"What a dutiful son was Min Tsz-k'ien!" he exclaimed. "No one finds occasion to differ from what his parents and brothers have said of him."

Nan Yung used to repeat three times over the lines in the Odes about the white sceptre. Confucius caused his own elder brother's daughter to be given in marriage to him.

When Ki K'ang inquired which of the disciples were fond of learning, Confucius answered him, "There was one Yen Hwúi who was fond of it; but unfortunately his allotted time was short, and he died; and now his like is not to be found."

When Yen Yuen died, his father, Yen Lu, begged for the Master's carriage in order to get a shell for his coffin. "Ability or no ability," said the Master, "every father still speaks of 'my son.' When my own son Li died, and the coffin for him had no shell to it, I know I did not go on foot to get him one; but that was because I was, though retired, in the wake of the ministers, and could not therefore well do so."

On the death of Yen Yuen the Master exclaimed, "Ah me! Heaven is ruining me, Heaven is ruining me!"

On the same occasion, his wailing for that disciple becoming excessive, those who were about him said, "Sir, this is too much!"—"Too much?" said he; "if I am not to do so for him, then—for whom else?"

The disciples then wished for the deceased a grand funeral. The Master could not on his part consent to this. They nevertheless gave him one. Upon this he remarked, "He used to look upon me as if I were his father. I could never, however, look on him as a son. Twas not my mistake, but yours, my children."

Tsz-lu propounded a question about ministering to the spirits of the departed. The Master replied, "Where there is scarcely the ability to minister to living men, how shall there be ability to minister to the spirits?" On his venturing to put a question concerning death, he answered, "Where there is scarcely any knowledge about life, how shall there be any about death?"

The disciple Min was by his side, looking affable and bland; Tsz-lu also, looking careless and intrepid; and Yen Yu and Tsz-kung, firm and precise. The Master was cheery. "One like Tsz-lu there," said he, "does not come to a natural end."

Some persons in Lu were taking measures in regard to the Long Treasury House. Min Tsz-k'ien observed, "How if it were repaired on the old lines?" The Master upon this remarked, "This fellow is not a talker, but when he does speak he is bound to hit the mark!"

"There is Yu's harpsichord," exclaimed the Master—"what is it doing at my door?" On seeing, however, some disrespect shown to him by the other disciples, he added, "Yu has got as far as the top of the hall; only he has not yet entered the house."

Tsz-kung asked which was the worthier of the two—Tsz-chang or Tsz-hiá. "The former," answered the Master, "goes beyond the mark; the latter falls short of it."

"So then Tsz-chang is the better of the two, is he?" said he.

"To go too far," he replied, "is about the same as to fall short."

The Chief of the Ki family was a wealthier man than the Duke of Chow had been, and yet Yen Yu gathered and hoarded for him, increasing his wealth more and more.

"He is no follower of mine," said the Master. "It would serve him right, my children, to sound the drum, and set upon him."

Characteristics of four disciples:—Tsz-káu was simple-minded; Tsang Si, a dullard; Tsz-chang, full of airs; Tsz-lu, rough.

"As to Hwúi," said the Master, "he comes near to perfection, while frequently in great want. Tsz-kung does not submit to the appointments of Heaven; and yet his goods are increased;—he is often successful in his calculations."

Tsz-chang wanted to know some marks of the naturally Good Man.

"He does not walk in others' footprints," said the Master; "yet he does not get beyond the hall into the house."

Once the Master said, "Because we allow that a man's words have something genuine in them, are they necessarily those of a superior man? or words carrying only an outward semblance and show of gravity?"

Tsz-lu put a question about the practice of precepts one has heard. The Master's reply was, "In a case where there is a father or elder brother still left with you, how should you practise all you hear?"

When, however, the same question was put to him by Yen Yu, his reply was, "Yes; do so."

Kung-si Hwa animadverted upon this to the Master. "Tsz-lu asked you, sir," said he, "about the practice of what one has learnt, and you said, 'There may be a father or elder brother still alive'; but when Yen Yu asked the same question, you answered, 'Yes, do so.' I am at a loss to understand you, and venture to ask what you meant."

The Master replied, "Yen Yu backs out of his duties; therefore I push him on. Tsz-lu has forwardness enough for them both; therefore I hold him back."

On the occasion of that time of fear in K'wang, Yen Yuen having fallen behind, the Master said to him (afterwards), "I took it for granted you were a dead man." "How should I dare to die," said he, "while you, sir, still lived?"

On Ki Tsz-jen putting to him a question anent Tsz-lu and Yen Yu, as to whether they might be called "great ministers," the Master answered, "I had expected your question, sir, to be about something extraordinary, and lo! it is only about these two. Those whom we call 'great ministers' are such as serve their prince conscientiously, and who, when they cannot do so, retire. At present, as regards the two you ask about, they may be called 'qualified ministers.'"

"Well, are they then," he asked, "such as will follow their leader?"

"They would not follow him who should slay his father and his prince!" was the reply.

Through the intervention of Tsz-lu, Tsz-kau was being appointed governor of Pi.

"You are spoiling a good man's son," said the Master.

Tsz-lu rejoined, "But he will have the people and their superiors to gain experience from, and there will be the altars; what need to read books? He can become a student afterwards."

"Here is the reason for my hatred of glib-tongued people," said the

On one occasion Tsz-lu, Tsang Sin, Yen Yu, and Kung-si Hwa were sitting near him. He said to them, "Though I may be a day older than you, do not (for the moment) regard me as such. While you are living this unoccupied life you are saying, 'We do not become known.' Now suppose some one got to know you, what then?"

Tsz-lu—first to speak—at once answered, "Give me a State of large size and armament, hemmed in and hampered by other larger States, the population augmented by armies and regiments, causing a dearth in it of food of all kinds; give me charge of that State, and in three years' time I should make a brave country of it, and let it know its place."

The Master smiled at him. "Yen," said he, "how would it be with you?"

"Give me," said Yen, "a territory of sixty or seventy li square, or of fifty or sixty square; put me in charge of that, and in three years I should make the people sufficiently prosperous. As regards their knowledge of ceremonial or music, I should wait for superior men to teach them that."

"And with you, Kung-si, how would it be?"

This disciple's reply was, "I have nothing to say about my capabilities for such matters; my wish is to learn. I should like to be a junior assistant, in dark robe and cap, at the services of the ancestral temple, and at the Grand Receptions of the Princes by the Sovereign."

"And with you, Tsang Sin?"

This disciple was strumming on his harpsichord, but now the twanging ceased, he turned from the instrument, rose to his feet, and answered thus: "Something different from the choice of these three." "What harm?" said the Master; "I want each one of you to tell me what his heart is set upon." "Well, then," said he, "give me—in the latter part of spring—dressed in full spring-tide attire—in company with five or six young fellows of twenty, [27] or six or seven lads under that age, to do the ablutions in the I stream, enjoy a breeze in the rain-dance, [28] and finish up with songs on the road home."

The Master drew in his breath, sighed, and exclaimed, "Ah, I take with you!"

The three other disciples having gone out, leaving Tsang Sin behind, the latter said, "What think you of the answers of those three?"—"Well, each told me what was uppermost in his mind," said the Master;—"simply that."

"Why did you smile at Tsz-lu, sir?"

"I smiled at him because to have the charge of a State requires due regard to the Rules of Propriety, and his words betrayed a lack of modesty."

"But Yen, then—he had a State in view, had he not?"

"I should like to be shown a territory such as he described which does not amount to a State."

"But had not Kung-si also a State in view?"

"What are ancestral temples and Grand Receptions, but for the feudal lords to take part in? If Kung-si were to become an unimportant assistant at these functions, who could become an important one?"

[Footnote 26: The men of virtuous life were Yen Yuen (Hwúi), Min Tsz-k'ien, Yen Pihniu, and Chung-kung (Yen Yung); the speakers and debaters were Tsai Wo and Tsz-kung; the (capable) government servants were Yen Yu and Tsz-lu; the literary students, Tsz-yu and Tsz-hiá.]

[Footnote 27: Lit., capped ones. At twenty they underwent the ceremony of capping, and were considered men.]

[Footnote 28: I.e., before the altars, where offerings were placed with prayer for rain. A religious dance.]

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