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said: “Since men existed, there has never been one to be compared to Confucius.” “As the heavens cannot be scaled, even by the highest ladder, so no man can attain to Confucius. Were he to obtain the throne, he would establish the people, and they would be correct.” “He may be compared to heaven and earth, in their supporting, containing, and overshadowing all things; to the regular revolutions of the seasons, and the alternate shining of the sun and moon.” But it is not likely that such transcendent merit would have been accorded to him in any other country.
The formality of Chinese etiquette is stamped on all that is related of him. His moral teachings are mixed with many rules how to regulate the countenance, and how to stand or walk in the presence of elders, or superiors in rank. It is recorded, as very important, that on the first of every month he always put on his court robes, and waited on the prince. “When he entered the palace door he crouched down, as if the door could not admit him. Holding up his robes, he ascended the hall, bending his body, repressing his breath, as if he did not dare to breathe. When he passed by the empty throne, his countenance changed suddenly, and he walked with grave and meas. ured steps, as if fettered. When he went out, and descended one step, he relaxed his countenance a little, and assumed a mild and pleasing deportment. When he reached the foot of the stairs, he let fall his robes, and expanded his arms like a bird's wings.” “When he met any person in mourning, he bowed even to the front cross-beam of his carriage; he did the same to a person bearing the census of the people. If the mat was not laid straight, he sat not down. When old men, who walked with canes, withdrew from a feast, he rose and retired also.” He never drank wine enough to confuse his mind; and whatsoever he ate or drank, he first offered a portion to the gods. It is rocorded that he turned back from a journey, on account of meeting unlucky omens by the way. He was fond of music, and often recommended its cultivation; particularly
that of their famous monarch, Shun, which so excited him, when he first heard it, that he knew not the taste of his food for three months after. His doctrines are based on the idea that human nature is good and beautiful, unless obscured by the darkness of ignorance, or sullied by the contagion of vice. As the best means of restoring its ori. ginal lustre, he inculcates reverence toward the Supreme Ruler, justice and kindness toward others, temperate indulgence of the appetites, and a due regard to the medium of propriety in all things. His respect for parental authority was carried to such an extreme, that he thought parents had a right to sell their children. He encouraged marriage and agriculture, but was less favourable to commerce. On religious subjects his recorded sayings are very indefinite. He appears to have conformed to the usages of his country as he found them. He alludes reverently to a Supreme Ruler, and it may be inferred that he had belief of some kind in the immortality of the soul. He inculcates the worship of Spirits, and ceremonial observances to the souls of ancestors.
He wrote no books, and his literary merit, as he himself says, is merely that of a compiler. Being desirous to hand down to posterity the worship and the principles of political wisdom, practised by their pattern-princes, Yaou and Shun, who lived fifteen hundred years before him, he collected and arranged the scattered fragments of old books relating to the laws and manners of ancient times. Therefore, the Chinese consider him superior even to those revered monarchs; for “they benefitted one age only by their wise and benevolent government; while Confucius, by transmitting their principles to ten thousand ages, possesses ten thousand times their merit."
The Chinese sage lived seventy-three years, and toward the close of his life mourned much over modern degeneracy. A few days before his death, he said to his disciples : “Kings refuse to follow my maxims, and since I am no longer useful in the world, it is best I should depart from it." Many of his disciples erected a tent near his grave, and remained there three years, mourning for him, and offering prayers and sacrifices; one of them lingered six years. His descendants inherit the office and title of Man. darins, and, to this day, religious honours are paid to his memory, as if he were an illustrious ancestor lately deceased. The following are samples of his maxims, as recorded by his disciples :
“Not to correct our faults is to commit new ones.”
“Be rigid to yourself and gentle to others, and you will have no enemies."
"The wise man loves to be by himself, the fool seeks company."
"By the very errors of men, we may judge whether they are virtuous or not. If a good man errs, it is generally through excess of affection or gratitude ; but the errors of a vicious man commonly proceed from excess of hatred and ingratitude."
“Life and death depend on the law of Tien, which is immutable. Poverty and riches are dispensed by Tien, who cannot be compelled. A wise man reveres the dispensations of Tien, and thus enjoys inward tranquillity and peace.”
" How vast is the power of Spirits! An ocean of invisible Intelligences surround us everywhere. If you look for them, you cannot see them. If you listen, you cannot hear them. Identified with the substance of all things, they cannot be separated from it. They cause men to purify and sanctify their hearts; to clothe themselves with festive garments, and offer oblations to their ancestors. They are everywhere above us, on the right and on the left. Their coming cannot be calculated. How important that we should not neglect them !"
“Worship the gods, as though they were visibly present. Sacrifice to ancestors as if they were here."
"He who knows right principles is not equal to him who loves them; nor is he who loves them equal to him who delights in them.”
“Coarse rice for food, water for drink, and one's bended
arm for a pillow, even in the midst of these there is happiness; but riches and honours gained by injustice are to me like fleeting clouds."
"To know that a thing is right and not to do it, is weakness."
“Have not a friend morally inferior to yourself.” "If you err, fear not to reform.”
“Be not sorry that men do not know you, but be sorry that you are ignorant of men.”
“The highest exercise of benevolence is tender affection for relatives."
“Teach all, without regard to what class they belong."
"To be thoroughly instructed in music and rites, to teach others principles of virtue, to possess the friendship of many wise men, these are useful satisfactions. But satisfactions derived from pride, vanity, idleness, and sensual pleasures, are injurious.”
"How wise is Hwuy! He has only a bamboo vase for his rice, a cup to drink from, and a mean narrow lane for his habitation. Other men could not endure such privations; but it disturbs not the serenity of Hwuy!"
"Fix the thoughts on duty, practise without ceasing the virtue of humanity, and, if you have leisure, cultivate the
“To keep invariably in the due medium constitutes vir tue; men rarely persevere in it.”
“The nature of man is upright. If in the course of his life he loses this natural uprightness, he removes far from him all happiness."
"If wise and virtuous men were to govern a state for a hundred years, they could put an end to tyranny and punishments."
"Abroad, do your duty to your prince and his magistrates. At home, obey your father, mother, and elder brothers. In funeral and sacrificial rites, do not permit any negligence. Allow yourself no excess in the use of wine."
" I see no defect in the character of Yu. He was sober in eating and drinking, and eminently pious toward Spirits and ancestors. His common apparel was coarse, but his sacrificial robes were beautifully adorned. He lived in an humble dwelling, but employed his strength in making ditches and water-courses for the good of the people."
There was an old tradition that the Yu here referred to by Confucius was born of a virgin, who conceived him from the rays of a star. He is said to have been employed by the emperor to drain off the waters of a great deluge, which, according to Chinese chronology, occurred two thousand two hundred years before Christ.
When Confucius was asked what might be said in favour of rewarding hatred by kindness, he replied: “In that case, with what will you reward kindness ? Return bad treatment with equity, and recompense kindness with kindness.” One of his disciples begged that he would teach him to die well. He answered: “You have not yet learned to live well; when you have learned that, you will know how to die well.” Some person inquired of him what one maxim expressed the conduct proper for a whole life. He rejoined: “Never do to others what you do not wish them to do to you.” One day, when he had gone out from among his scholars, a question arose concerning the general purport of his teaching. One of them said: “The doctrine of our master consists solely in integrity of heart, and treating his neighbour as he himself wishes to be treated.” There is a tradition that Confucius was often heard to repeat: "In the Land of the West will the holy one be found.” This declaration coincides with a prophecy in their old Sacred Books, and was afterward brought into general notice when the religion of Fo was introduced from India, which they are accustomed to designate as the Land of the West.
The compilation of ancient history and laws made by Confucius is called, by way of pre-eminence, “The Five Volumes.” They date four hundred years before Moses, about two thousand years before the Christian era, and refer continually to a religion long established at the time