Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Confucius 孔丘

(Kongzi, Kǒng Zǐ)

551 – 479 BCE

History's most influential "failure"

Probably the most influential failure in history, Confucius wanted to be a political advisor, found only one job doing that but unsuccessfully as was the rest of his life attempts at being an administrator. Early Confucian scholars were killed and their books burned. After he died though, his teaching shaped the next 2300 years of Chinese educational, governmental, and cultural practice. He was the first in recorded history to set up an educational program to train people for governmental roles. Calling himself a "transmitter who invented nothing,” his tradition did not become a religion but instead a non-theistic, humanistic understanding of secular morality that stressed having rulers appointed based on merit rather than birth, rule by personal example rather than fiat, acting out of awareness and experience rather than only following rules.

Eras

Sources

Analects

Book of Rites

Chungyung

Ta Chuan: The Great Treatise

Unlisted Sources

Life and Teachings of Confucius

Quotes by Confucius (57 quotes)

“A superior man in dealing with the world is not for anything or against anything.”

Chapters: 73. Heaven’s Net

Themes: Middle Way

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“As the water shapes itself to the vessel that contains it, so a wise man adapts himself to circumstances.”

Chapters: 8. Like Water

Themes: Water Wisdom

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“At 15, I set my mind and heart on learning. At 30, I stood on my own. At 40 I had no doubts. At 50 I knew heaven’s decree. At 60 my ears were in accord. At 70 I followed the desires of my mind -and-heart.”

Chapters: 2. The Wordless Teachings

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“Be not ashamed of mistakes and thus make them crimes.”

Chapters: 43. No Effort, No Trace

Themes: Crime Mistakes

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“Do not do to others what you don’t want done to yourself.”

Chapters: 63. Easy as Hard

Themes: Golden Rule

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“Give a bowl of rice to a man and you will feed him for a day. Teach him how to grow his own rice and you will save his life.”

Chapters: 59. The Gardening of Spirit

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“Good government is that which resorts least to laws and punishments.”

Chapters: 60. Less is More

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“I do not want a friend who smiles when I smile, who weeps when I weep. My shadow in a pond can do better than that.”

Chapters: 35. The Power of Goodness

Themes: Friendship

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“If there were an honorable way to get rich, I’d do it, even if it meant being a stooge standing around with a whip. But there isn’t an honorable way, so I just do what I like.”

Chapters: 75. Greed

Themes: Wealth Integrity

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“If what one has to say is not better than silence, then one should keep silent.”

Chapters: 56. One with the Dust

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“If you look into your own heart, and you find nothing wrong there, what is there to worry about? What is there to fear?”

Chapters: 63. Easy as Hard

Themes: Basic Goodness

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“If your plan is for one year plant rice. If your plan is for ten years plant trees. If your plan is for one hundred years educate children.”

Chapters: 78. Water

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“In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.”

Chapters: 53. Shameless Thieves

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“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance.”

Chapters: 65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

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“Roads were made for journeys not destinations.”

Chapters: 45. Complete Perfection

Themes: Travel

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“The green reed which bends in the wind is stronger than the mighty oak which breaks in a storm.”

Chapters: 76. The Soft and Flexible

Themes: Openness

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“The man who asks a question is a fool for a minute, the man who does not ask is a fool for life.”

Chapters: 67. Three Treasures

Themes: Mistakes

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“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”

Chapters: 64. Ordinary Mind

Themes: Less is More

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“Those who govern with virtue are like the North Star, which remains in its place while the myriad stars revolve around it.”

Chapters: 17. True Leaders

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“To be wealthy and honored in an unjust society is a disgrace.”

Chapters: 18. The Sick Society

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“To be wronged is nothing, unless you continue to remember it.”

Chapters: 79. No Demands

Themes: Memory

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“To know, is to know that you know nothing, that is the meaning of true knowledge.”

Chapters: 67. Three Treasures

Themes: Wisdom

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“To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order; we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.”

Chapters: 54. Planting Well

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“We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one.”

Chapters: 10. The Power of Goodness

Themes: Appreciation

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“When a wise man points at the moon the imbecile examines the finger.”

Chapters: 64. Ordinary Mind

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“When in early antiquity Fu Xi ruled the world, he looked upward and contemplated the images in the heavens; he looked downward and contemplated the patterns on earth… He proceeded directly from himself and indirectly from objects. Thus he invented the eight trigrams”

from Ta Chuan: The Great Treatise

Chapters: 33. Know Yourself

Themes: Contemplation

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“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”

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“Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”

Themes: Hate Crime

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“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Themes: Livelihood

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“A sovereign is to be called a sovereign only when he comports himself as a 'true' sovereign should.”

from Analects

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“Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.

from Book of Rites

Themes: Music

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“The great mountain must crumble,
The strong beam must break,
And the wise man wither away like a plant.”

Themes: Old Age

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“In their dealings with the world, great people are neither for nor against anyone. They follow whatever is right.”

Themes: Moral Freedom

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“In their dealings with the world, great people are neither for nor against anyone. They follow whatever is right.”

Themes: Warriors

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“Life and Death are indeed changes of great moment but they cannot affect the sage's mind which he lets wander in the moral harmony of things. He does not notice the loss of particular objects.”

Chapters: 1. The Unnamed

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“Do not worry that people do not know you. Worry that you may not be worth knowing.”

Themes: Fame Integrity

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“Admit that you do not know what you do not know—that is knowledge.”

Themes: Truth

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“When young, beware of the desire to fight. When in manhood, beware of sex. When one has grown old, beware of the desire for possessions.”

Themes: Sex Strategy

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“A man loses his character through the desire for fame... in the struggle for fame, men crush each other”

Themes: Fame

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“The Tao is what we can never leave. What we can leave isn't the Tao.”

from Chungyung

Themes: Continuity

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“There is a oneness that strings my Way together.”

Themes: Oneness

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“Birds have wings to fly, fish fins to swim, wild beats feet to run and for feet there are traps, for fins nets, for wings arrows. But who know how dragons surmount wind and cloud into heaves? Today I have seen Lao Tzu and he is a dragon.”

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“The superior man thinks of virtue; the small man thinks of comfort.”

from Analects

Themes: Entertainment

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“He who learns but does not think is lost. He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger.”

from Analects

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“Wisdom means when you know something, recognizing that you know it; when you do not know, recognizing that you don't know.”

from Analects

Themes: Wisdom

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“One who is by nature daring and is suffering from poverty will not long be lawful.”

from Analects

Themes: Poverty

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“In vain have I looked for one whose desire to build up his moral power was as strong as his sexual desire.”

from Analects

Themes: Sex

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“When a student asked Confucius about returning good for evil, he replied: 'With what then will you recompense kindness? Return good for good, and for evil, justice.'”

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“I know how birds can fly, fishes swim, and animals run. But the runner may be snared, the swimmer hooked, and the flyer shot by the arrow. But there is the dragon—I cannot tell how he mounts on the wind through the clouds, and rises to heaven. Today I have seen Lao Tzu, and can compare him only to the dragon.”

from Life and Teachings of Confucius

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“The time of long ago is just like the present. Actually there is no such thing as long ago and the present or the beginning and the end... Both life and death are dependent on something else and find their unity elsewhere.”

Chapters: 40. Returning

Themes: Time

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“We do not yet know how to serve man, how can we know about serving the spirits?”

Themes: Religion

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“We don't know yet about life, how can we know about death?”

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“From the time that Duanmu Ci arrived, scholars from a distance came daily resorting to me.”

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“When anger rises, think of the consequences.”

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“It is impossible to withdraw from the world and associate with birds and beasts that have no affinity with us. The disorder that prevails is what requires my efforts. If right principles ruled through the kingdom, there would be no necessity for me to change its state.”

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“Surely it is the maxim of loving-kindness: Do not unto other that you would not have them do unto you.”

from Analects

Themes: Kindness

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“Tradesmen that would perfect their work must first sharpen their tools.”

Themes: Technology

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Quotes about Confucius (17 quotes)

“Superior and alone, Confucius stood
Who taught that useful science,—to be good.”

Alexander Pope 1688 – 1744 CE
Second most quoted English writer
from Temple of Fame

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“Among the great creators, the great spokesmen of ethical ideals, none is more miraculous than Confucius himself. He claimed no divine source for his teachings nor any inspiration not open to everyone… he proclaimed no Commandments and it is easy to see him as an ancient Don Quixote. But his lifelong, unsuccessful tilting against the evils of the chaotic Chinese states of his day somehow awakened his people and eventually commanded two thousand years of Chinese culture.”

Daniel J. Boorstin 1914 – 2004 CE
American intellectual Paul Revere
from The Creators, 1992

Themes: Culture

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“When we asked our school teacher why he took naps, he said 'Like Confucius who dreamed about ancient sages, I go to dreamland and meet them.' When we took naps however he would get angry so we told him that we also went to meet Confucius and the sages. When he challenged us asking what they said, one of us told him, 'We asked them if our schoolmaster met them every afternoon but they said they had never met any such fellow.'”

Mujū Dōkyō 無住道曉 1227 – 1312 CE via Paul Reps, Shan Dao
(Ichien Dōkyō )
”The Non-Dweller”
from Shaseki-shu (Collection of Stone and Sand)

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“No one knows the art of living better than Confucius. I know that because he did not sleep like a corpse or sit like a statue.”

Lǐ Yú 李漁 1610 – 1680 CE via Lin Yutang, Shan Dao
(Li Liweng)
from Art of Living

Themes: Confucianism

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“Like Confucius of old, I am absorbed in the wonder of earth, and the life upon it, and I cannot think of heaven and the angels. I have enough for this life... a faith in the human heart and its power to grow toward the light, I find here reason and cause enough for hope and confidence in the future of mankind.”

Pearl Buck 1892 – 1973 CE
from This I Believe (1951)

Themes: Sacred World

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“China's most revered teacher of doctrines emphasizing the harmony of human relations. His teachings, along with those of certain disciples... until recently formed the basis of moral education in China.”

Red Pine 1943 CE –
( Bill Porter)
Exceptional translator, cultural diplomat
from Lao-Tzu's Taoteching

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“One of he essential figures to be considered in connection with any history of China… There can be do doubt that Confucius has had a greater influence on the development of the Chinese national character than many emperors taken together.”

Friedrich Hirth 1845 – 1927 CE
Ancient History of China
from Ancient History of China

Themes: Confucianism

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“The world has known innumerable princes and worthies who enjoyed fame and honor in their day but were forgotten after death, while Confucius, a commoner, has been looked up to by scholars for ten generations and more. From the emperor, princes and barons downwards, all in China who study the Six Arts take the master as their final authority. Well is he called the Supreme Sage!”

Sima Qian 司馬遷 145 – 86 BCE
(Ssu-ma Ch'ien)
Father of Chinese historians

Themes: Confucianism Fame

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“The differences between Confucius and Lao Tzu are no more significant than the preference for wheat in North China and rice in the South.”

Li Hungfu 1574 – 1574 CE
from Lao-tzu-chieh

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“This burst of spiritual activity... the Confucian humanism of the 5th century BCE... was ephemeral. It degenerated from a study of human nature into a system of ritualized etiquette. In the administrative sphere it became a tradition that every administrative act required the sanction of historical precedent.”

Arnold Toynbee 1889 – 1975 CE
from A Study of History

Themes: Confucianism

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“Confucius stresses social responsibility, Lao Tzu praises spontaneity and naturalness… Confucius roams within society, Lao Tzu wanders beyond.”

Huston Smith 1919 – 2016 CE
from World's Religions

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“Though you have talent, do not trust in it. Confucius himself was unsuited to his times... Do not trust in promises. Truth is rare.”

Yoshida Kenkō 兼好 1284 – 1350 CE via Sir George Bailey Sansom
Inspiration of self-reinvention

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“As I read Plato, philosoply began with some sense of its essentially political basis and mission—a recognition that its problems were those of the organization of a just social order. But it soon got lost in dreams of another world.”

John Dewey 1859 – 1952 CE
The "Second Confucius"
from The Influence of Darwin on Philosoply, 1910

Themes: Philosophy

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“a moral philosopher rather than a preacher of religious faith [Confucius] far more resembles Socrates than Jesus… His followers foresaw the timeless influence he was to have in molding the courtesy and poise and placid wisdom of the Chinese.”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time, 1968

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“I must confess that I am unable to appreciate the merits of Confucius. His writings are largely occupied with trivial points of etiquette, and his main concern is to teach people how to behave correctly on various occasions. When one compares him, however, with the traditional religious teachers of some other ages and races, one must admit that he has great merits... It certainly has succeeded in producing a whole nation possessed of exquisite manners and perfect courtesy. Nor is Chinese courtesy merely conventional; it is quite as reliable in situations for which no precedent has been provided.”

Bertrand Russell 1872 – 1970 CE
“20th century Voltaire”

Themes: Confucianism

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“His life has some interesting parallelism with that of some of the more political of the Greek philosophers... He was far more of a constructive political thinker than the Buddha or Lao Tzu. His mind was full of the condition of China, and he sought to call the Aristocratic Man into existence very largely in order to produce the noble state.”

H. G. Wells 1866 – 1946 CE
A father of science fiction and One World Government apostle
from Outline of History

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“Confucius saw in their wisdom a guide for statesmen, prime ministers and people like that. So his commentaries are very much concerned with how a man who has mastered the I Ching and mastered himself can be of use to his emperor or ruler in helping him to guide the State.”

Anagarika​ (Lama) Govinda 1898 – 1985 CE
(Ernst Hoffmann)
Pioneer of Tibetan Buddhism to the West

from Inner Structure of the I Ching

Themes: Confucianism

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