Analects: Book 4

Book 4. Le Jin 里仁第四: Living in Brotherliness

[4:1] The Master said, "It is virtuous manners which constitute the excellence of a neighborhood. If a man in selecting a residence, do not fix on one where such prevail, how can he be wise?"

[4:2] The Master said, "Those who are without virtue cannot abide long either in a condition of poverty and hardship, or in a condition of enjoyment. The virtuous rest in virtue; the wise desire virtue."

[4:3] The Master said, "It is only the (truly) virtuous man, who can love, or who can hate, others."

[4:4] The Master said, "If the will be set on virtue, there will be no practice of wickedness."

[4:5] The Master said, "Riches and honors are what men desire. If it cannot be obtained in the proper way, they should not be held. Poverty and meanness are what men dislike. If it cannot be avoided in the proper way, they should not be avoided.

"If a superior man abandon virtue, how can he fulfil the requirements of that name?

"The superior man does not, even for the space of a single meal, act contrary to virtue. In moments of haste, he cleaves to it. In seasons of danger, he cleaves to it."

[4:6] The Master said, "I have not seen a person who loved virtue, or one who hated what was not virtuous. He who loved virtue, would esteem nothing above it. He who hated what is not virtuous, would practice virtue in such a way that he would not allow anything that is not virtuous to approach his person.

"Is any one able for one day to apply his strength to virtue? I have not seen the case in which his strength would be insufficient.

"Should there possibly be any such case, I have not seen it."

[4:7] The Master said, "The faults of men are characteristic of the class to which they belong. By observing a man's faults, it may be known that he is virtuous."

[4:8] The Master said, "If a man in the morning hear the right way, he may die in the evening without regret."

[4:9] The Master said, "A scholar, whose mind is set on truth, and who is ashamed of bad clothes and bad food, is not fit to be discoursed with."

[4:10] The Master said, "The superior man, in the world, does not set his mind either for anything, or against anything; what is right he will follow."

[4:11] The Master said, "The superior man thinks of virtue; the small man thinks of comfort. The superior man thinks of the sanctions of law; the small man thinks of favors which he may receive."

[4:12] The Master said: "He who acts with a constant view to his own advantage will be much murmured against."

[4:13] The Master said, "If a prince is able to govern his kingdom with the complaisance proper to the rules of propriety, what difficulty will he have? If he cannot govern it with that complaisance, what has he to do with the rules of propriety?"

[4:14] The Master said, "A man should say, I am not concerned that I have no place, I am concerned how I may fit myself for one. I am not concerned that I am not known, I seek to be worthy to be known."

[4:15] The Master said, "Shan, my doctrine is that of an all-pervading unity." The disciple Tsang replied, "Yes."

The Master went out, and the other disciples asked, saying, "What do his words mean?" Tsang said, "The doctrine of our master is to be true to the principles of our nature and the benevolent exercise of them to others, this and nothing more."

[4:16] The Master said, "The mind of the superior man is conversant with righteousness; the mind of the mean man is conversant with gain."

[4:17] The Master said, "When we see men of worth, we should think of equalling them; when we see men of a contrary character, we should turn inwards and examine ourselves."

[4:18] The Master said, "In serving his parents, a son may remonstrate with them, but gently; when he sees that they do not incline to follow his advice, he shows an increased degree of reverence, but does not abandon his purpose; and should they punish him, he does not allow himself to murmur."

[4:19] The Master said, "While his parents are alive, the son may not go abroad to a distance. If he does go abroad, he must have a fixed place to which he goes."

[4:20] The Master said, "If the son for three years does not alter from the way of his father, he may be called filial."

[4:21] The Master said, "The years of parents may by no means not be kept in the memory, as an occasion at once for joy and for fear."

[4:22] The Master said, "The reason why the ancients did not readily give utterance to their words, was that they feared lest their actions should not come up to them."

[4:23] The Master said, "The cautious seldom err."

[4:24] The Master said, "The superior man wishes to be slow in his speech and earnest in his conduct."

[4:25] The Master said, "Virtue is not left to stand alone. He who practices it will have neighbors."

[4:26] Tsze-yu said, "In serving a prince, frequent remonstrances lead to disgrace. Between friends, frequent reproofs make the friendship distant."

Book 4. Lǐ Rén 里仁: Living in Brotherliness

[4:1] The Master said, Humaneness is the beauty of the community. If you can choose but do not make humaneness your home, how can you be called wise?

[4:2] The Master said, A person lacking in humaneness cannot endure straightened circumstances for long, nor can he enjoy favorable circumstances for long. The humane person rests in humaneness, the wise person profits from humaneness.

[4:3] The Master said, Only the humane person is able to like others and is able to hate others.

[4:4] The Master said, Truly set your mind on humaneness, and you will be without evil.

[4:5] The Master said, Wealth and eminence are what people desire, but if one can’t get them by means that accord with the Way, one will not accept them. Poverty and low position are what people hate, but if one can’t avoid them by means that accord with the Way, one will not reject them.

If the gentleman rejects humaneness, how can he be worthy of the name of gentleman? The gentleman never departs from humaneness even for the space of a meal — in confusion and distress he holds fast to it; stumbling, faltering, he holds fast to it.

[4:6] The Master said, I have never seen a person who really loved humaneness or a person who really hated the lack of humaneness. A person who really loved humaneness would have no one who surpassed him. A person who really hated the lack of humaneness would conduct himself humanely, never allowing those who lack humaneness to affect his behavior.

Is there someone who for a whole day is willing to use all his strength to achieve humaneness? I’ve never seen anyone who lacked the strength to do so — there may be such a person, but I’ve never seen one. [F1]

[4:7] The Master said, People’s errors vary with the category they belong to. Look at the errors, and you know the degree of humaneness.

[4:8] The Master said, Hear the Way in the morning, and it won’t matter if you die that evening.

[4:9] The Master said, A man of station whose will is set on the Way but who is ashamed of poor clothing and poor food — not worth talking to!

[4:10] The Master said, With regard to worldly affairs, the gentleman has no strong likes and no strong dislikes — he sides with what is right.

[4:11] The Master said, The gentleman has his mind fixed on virtue; the petty man has his mind fixed on land. The gentleman has his mind fixed on penalties; the petty man has his mind fixed on bounty.

[4:12] The Master said, Act only with profit in mind, and you face much rancor.

[4:13] The Master said, Can you govern the state with ritual and a deferential approach? Then you will have no difficulty. If you cannot govern the state with ritual and a deferential approach, then what use is ritual alone?

[4:14] The Master said, Don’t worry that you have no position [F2] — worry about how you can qualify for one. Don’t worry that people don’t know you — look for some reason to become known.

[4:15] The Master said, Shen (Master Zeng), my Way has one theme running throughout!

Master Zeng said, Yes.

After the Master left, the disciples asked, What did he mean?

Master Zeng said, The Master’s Way consists of loyalty and reciprocity [F3] alone.

[4:16] The Master said, The gentleman is alert to what is right. The petty man is alert to what is profitable.

[4:17] The Master said, When you see a worthy person, think about how you can equal him. When you see an unworthy person, reflect on your own conduct.

[4:18] The Master said, In serving your father and mother, you may gently admonish them. But if you see they have no intention of listening to you, then be respectful as before and do not disobey them. You might feel distressed but should never feel resentful.

[4:19] The Master said, While his father and mother are alive, a son should not go on distant journeys. If he travels, he must have a fixed destination.

[4:20] The Master said, If after three years [a son] has not changed his father’s way of doing things, then you can call him filial. [F4]

[4:21] The Master said, You must not be ignorant of the age of your father and mother! For one thing, it is a cause for rejoicing; for another, a cause for fear.

[4:22] The Master said, People in old times were sparing in their words. They were ashamed to think that their actions might not measure up.

[4:23] The Master said, Those who go wrong by holding back are few.

[4:24] The Master said, The gentleman desires to be hesitant in speech but prompt in action.

[4:25] The Master said, Virtue is not alone. It invariably has neighbors.

[4:26] Ziyou said, Be too censorious in serving the ruler, and you will end up in disgrace. Be that way with your friends, and you will lose them.


[F1] What we lack is not the strength but the determination to do so.

[F2] Confucius probably means a position in government, but the saying has much broader implications.

[F3] Fellow feeling, doing to others as you would have them do to you.

[F4] A truncated version of 1:11.

Book 4

[4:1] The Master said, Love makes a spot beautiful: who chooses not to dwell in love, has he got wisdom?

[4:2] The Master said, Loveless men cannot bear need long, they cannot bear fortune long. Loving men find peace in love, the wise find profit in it.

[4:3] The Master said, Love alone can love others, or hate others.

[4:4] The Master said, A will set on love is free from evil.

[4:5] The Master said, Wealth and honors are what men desire; but do not go from the Way, to keep them. Lowliness and want are hated by men; but do not go from the Way, to escape them.

Shorn of love, is a gentleman worthy of the name? Not for one moment may a gentleman sin against love; he must not do so in flurry and haste, nor do so in utter overthrow.

[4:6] The Master said, I have seen no one that loves love and hates uncharity. He that loves love will set nothing higher. The hater of uncharity is so given to love that no uncharity can enter into his life. If a man were to give his strength to love for one day, I have seen no one whose strength would fail him. There may be such men, but I have not seen one.

[4:7] The Master said, A man and his faults are of a piece. By watching his faults we learn whether love be his.

[4:8] The Master said, To learn the Way at daybreak and die at eve were enough.

[4:9] The Master said, A knight [F36] in quest of the Way, who is ashamed of bad clothes and bad food, it is idle talking to.

[4:10] The Master said, A gentleman has no likes or dislikes below heaven. He follows right.

[4:11] The Master said, The gentleman cherishes mind, the small man cherishes dirt. Gentlemen trust in the law, the small man trusts in favor.

[4:12] The Master said, The chase of gain is rich in hate.

[4:13] The Master said, What is it to sway a kingdom by courteous yielding? If we cannot sway a kingdom by courteous yielding, what is our courtesy worth?

[4:14] The Master said, Care not for want of place; care for thy readiness to fill one. Care not for being unknown, but seek to be worthy of note.

[4:15] The Master said, One line, Shen, [F37] runs through my Way.

Yes, said Tseng-tzu.

After the Master had left, the disciples asked what was meant.

Tseng-tzu said, The Master's Way is no more than faithfulness and fellow-feeling.

[4:16] The Master said, The gentleman is learned in right; the small man is learned in gain.

[4:17] The Master said, At sight of worth, think to grow like it; at sight of baseness, search thyself within.

[4:18] The Master said, A father or a mother may be gently chidden. If thou seest they have no will to follow thee, be the more lowly, but do not give way; nor murmur at the trouble they give thee.

[4:19] The Master said, Whilst thy father and mother are living, do not wander afar. If thou must travel, hold a set course.

[4:20] The Master said, He that changes nothing in his father's ways for three years may be called pious.

[4:21] The Master said, A father and mother's years must be borne in mind; with gladness on the one hand and fear on the other.

[4:22] The Master said, The men of old were loth to speak, for not to live up to their words would have shamed them.

[4:23] The Master said, We shall seldom get lost if we hold to main lines.

[4:24] The Master said, A gentleman wishes to be slow to speak and quick to do.

[4:25] The Master said, A great soul is never friendless: he has always neighbors.

[4:26] Tzu-yu said, Nagging at kings brings disgrace, nagging at friends estrangement.


[F36] Shih: a gentleman entitled to bear arms, not a knight in armor.

[F37] The disciple Tseng-tzu.

Book 4. Li Ren 里仁: Living in Brotherliness

[4:1] The Master said: “As for a neighborhood, it is its ren that makes it beautiful. If you choose to live in a place that lacks ren, how can you grow in wisdom?”

[4:2] The Master said: “If you lack ren you can't handle long periods of difficulty or long periods of comfort. Humane men are comfortable in ren. The wise take advantage of ren.”

[4:3] The Master said: “Only the humane person is able to really like others or to really dislike them.”

[4:4] The Master said: “If you are really committed to ren, you will not have resentments.” [C4]

[4:5] Confucius said, “Riches and honors are what all men desire. But if they cannot be attained in accordance with the Way they should not be kept. Poverty and low status are what all men hate. But if they cannot be avoided while staying in accordance with the Way, you should not avoid them. If a noble man departs from his fundamental goodness, how can he be worthy of that name? A noble man never leaves his fundamental goodness for even the time of a single meal. In moments of haste he acts according to it. In times of difficulty or confusion he acts according to it.”

[4:6] The Master said: “I have never seen one who really loves ren or really hates non-ren. If you really loved ren you would not place anything above it. If you really hated the non-ren, you would not let it near you. Is there anyone who has devoted his strength to ren for a single day? I have not seen anyone who has lacked the strength to do so. Perhaps there has been such a case, but I have never seen it.”

[4:7] The Master said: “People err according to their own level. It is by observing a person's mistakes that you can know his/her goodness.” [C7]

[4:8] The Master said: “If I can hear the Way in the morning, in the evening I can die content.”

[4:9] “A shi who is set on the way, but is ashamed of old clothes and coarse food, is not worth consulting.” [C9]

[4:10] The Master said: “When the noble man deals with the world he is not prejudiced for or against anything. He does what is Right.” [F7]

[4:11] The Master said: “The noble man cares about virtue; the inferior man cares about material things. The noble man seeks discipline; the inferior man seeks favors.”

[4:12] The Master said: “If you do everything with a concern for your own advantage, you will be resented by many people.”

[4:13] The Master said: “If you can govern the country by putting propriety first, what else will you need to do? If you can't govern your country by putting propriety first, how could you even call it propriety?”

[4:14] The Master said: “I don't worry about not having a good position; I worry about the means I use to gain position. I don't worry about being unknown; I seek to be known in the right way.”

[4:15] The Master said: “Shan, my Way is penetrated by a single thread.” Ceng Zi said, “Yes.” When the Master left, some disciples asked what he meant. Ceng Zi said, “Our master's Way is to be loyal and have a sense of reciprocity, and that's it.”

[4:16] The Master said: “The noble man is aware of fairness, the inferior man is aware of advantage.”

[4:17] The Master said: “When you see a good person, think of becoming like her/him. When you see someone not so good, reflect on your own weak points.”

[4:18] The Master said: “When you serve your mother and father it is okay to try to correct them once in a while. But if you see that they are not going to listen to you, keep your respect for them and don't distance yourself from them. Work without complaining.”

[4:19] The Master said: “While your parents are alive, it is better not to travel far away. If you do travel, you should have a precise destination.”

[4:20] The Master said: “If, for three years (after your father's death) you don't alter his ways of doing things, you can certainly be called ‘filial.’”

[4:21] The Master said: “Your parents' age should not be ignored. Sometimes it will be a source of joy, and sometimes it will be a source of apprehension.”

[4:22] The Master said: “The ancients were hesitant to speak, fearing that their actions would not do justice to their words.”

[4:23] The Master said: “If you are strict with yourself, your mistakes will be few.”

[4:24] The Master said: “The noble man desires to be hesitant in speech, but sharp in action.”

[4:25] The Master said: “If you are virtuous, you will not be lonely. You will always have friends.”

[4:26] Zi You said: “In serving your prince, frequent remonstrance will lead to disgrace. With friends, frequent remonstrance will lead to separation.”


[F7] Cf. Daodejing Ch. 79: “The Heavenly Way has no favorites: It always raises up the Good.” 天道無親、常與善人。

[F8] Legge translates: “If the will be set on virtue, there will be no practice of wickedness.” But we rarely see as an entity of “evil” or “wickedness” in texts of this period. Ames and Rosemont say: “If indeed one's purposes are set on authoritative conduct, one could do no wrong.” But is not generally used to indicate “wrongdoing.” It usually means ugliness, hatefulness, to be ugly, be hateful, or hated, etc. Arthur Waley tries — rightly I think — to maintain continuity with the previous passage by saying “He whose heart is in the smallest degree set on Goodness will dislike no one.” I prefer (as I usually do), the reading of Bruce Brooks: “If once he sets his mind on ren, he will have no hatred.”


[C4] In the prior passage, it has been stated that the man of ren is capable of hating people. Here it would seem that although he has that capability, if he makes an effort to exercise his innate goodness, he will not hold that malice. [F8]

[C7] No one is perfect, free from error. But when someone makes a mistake in a human relationship, we can tell by the type of mistake, and by the person's way of dealing with it, what her/his true character is like.

[C9] The title shi is translated into English with such terms as “elite”, “knight”, “scholar,” etc. While the shi of later Chinese history is more definitely a scholar than a knight, in the Analects, what Confucius is referring to is a level of spiritual/moral development, as well as academic and martial cultivation which is clearly above that of the average person. Thus, we can understand the shi to be a person who is well on the way toward becoming a “noble man,” but is not quite there yet. I am reluctant to render shi, as either “scholar” or “knight” because of the limitations in meaning that occur with these English words.




























Confucius (Kǒng Fūzǐ (孔夫子; Kong Qui) traveled the country in an ox cart observing and teaching his numerous disciples on the subjects of civics, ethics, literature, music and science. Of course, he claimed no divine inspiration and so naturally the writings attributed to him, recorded by his disciples, also make no such claim.

  • Evening Company, by Terry Redlin: 1985 (original uncropped image)
  • Animations: Dragonset, Matters of Grave Concern, The Pillars of Barad-Dur, Heart of Stone, Golden Leaves, Gravity, and Dragons in Moonlight, by Steven David Bennett

Dragonset, by Steven David Bennett Matters of Grave Concern, by Steven David Bennett The Pillars of Barad-Dur, by Steven David Bennett Heart of Stone, by Steven David Bennett Golden Leaves, by Steven David Bennett Gravity, by Steven David Bennett Dragons in Moonlight, by Steven David Bennett