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The Book of Rites 禮記

《儒行》 The Conduct of the Scholar

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》 The Conduct of the Scholar

Duke Ai of Lu asked Confucius, saying, 'Is not the dress, Master, which you wear that of the scholar?' Confucius replied, 'When I was little, I lived in Lu, and wore the garment with large sleeves; when I was grown up, I lived in Song, and was then capped with the kang-fu cap. I have heard that the studies of the scholar are extensive, but his dress is that of the state from which he sprang. I do not know any dress of the scholar.'

The duke said, 'Allow me to ask what is the conduct of the scholar.' Confucius replied, 'If I were to enumerate the points in it summarily, I could not touch upon them all; if I were to go into details on each, it would take a long time. You would have changed all your attendants-in-waiting before I had concluded.' The duke-ordered a mat to be placed for him.

Confucius took his place by his side. He then said, 'The scholar has a precious gem placed upon its mat, with which he is waiting to receive an invitation (from some ruler); early and late he studies with energy, waiting to be questioned. He carries in his bosom leal-heartedness and good faith, waiting to be raised (to office); he is vigorous in all his doings, waiting to be chosen (to employment): so does he establish his character and prepare himself (for the future).

'The scholar's garments and cap are all fitting and becoming; he is careful in his undertakings and doings: in declining great compliments he might seem to be rude, and in regard to small compliments, hypocritical; in great matters he has an air of dignity, and in small matters, of modesty; he seems to have a difficulty in advancing, but retires with ease and readiness; and he has a shrinking appearance, as if wanting in power - such is he in his external appearance.

'The scholar, wherever he resides, ordinarily or only for a time, is grave as if he were apprehensive of difficulties; when seated or on foot, he is courteous and respectful; in speaking, his object is, first of all, to be sincere; in acting, he wishes to be exact and correct; on the road, he does not strive about the most difficult or easiest places; in winter and summer, he does not strive about the temperature, the light and shade; he guards against death that he may be in waiting (for whatever he may be called to); he attends well to his person that he maybe ready for action - such are his preparations and precautions for the future.

'The scholar does not consider gold and jade to be precious treasures, but leal-heartedness and good faith; he does not desire lands and territory, but considers the establishment of righteousness as his domain; he does not desire a great accumulation of wealth, but looks on many accomplishments as his riches; it is difficult to win him, but easy to pay him; it is easy to pay him, but difficult to retain him. As he will not show himself when the time is not proper for him to do so, is it not difficult to win him? As he will have no fellowship with what is not righteous, is it not difficult to retain him? As he must first do the work, and then take the pay, is it not easy to pay him?--such are the conditions of his close association with others.

'Though there may be offered to the scholar valuable articles and wealth, and though it be tried to enervate him with delights and pleasures, he sees those advantages without doing anything contrary to his sense of righteousness; though a multitude may attempt to force him (from his standpoint), and his way be stopped by force of arms, he will look death in the face without changing the principles (which) be maintains; (he would face) birds and beasts of prey with their talons and wings, without regard to their fierceness; he would undertake to raise the heaviest tripod, without regard to his strength; he has no occasion to regret what he has done in the past, nor to make preparations for what may come to him in the future; he does not repeat any error of speech; any rumours against him he does not pursue up to their source; he does not allow his dignity to be interrupted; he does not dread to practise (beforehand) the counsels (which he gives) - such are the things in which he stands out and apart from other men.

'With the scholar friendly relations may be cultivated, but no attempt must be made to constrain him; near association with him can be sought, but cannot be forced on him; he may be killed, but he cannot be disgraced; in his dwelling he will not be extravagant; in his eating and drinking he will not be luxurious; he may be gently admonished of his errors and failings, but he should not have them enumerated to him to his face - such is his boldness and determination.

'The scholar considers leal-heartedness and good faith to be his coat-of-mail and helmet; propriety and righteousness to be his shield and buckler; he walks along, bearing aloft over his head benevolence; he dwells, holding righteousness in his arms before him; the government may be violently oppressive, but he does not change his course - such is the way in which he maintains himself.

'The scholar may have a house in (only) a mu of ground - a (poor) dwelling each of whose (surrounding) walls is (only) ten paces long, with an outer door of thorns and bamboos, and openings in the wall, long and pointed; within, the inner door stopped up by brushwood, and little round windows like the mouth of a jar; the inmates may have to exchange garments when they go out; they may have to make one day's food serve for two days; if the ruler respond to him, he does not dare to have any hesitation (in accepting office); if he do not respond, he does not have recourse to flattery - such is he in the matter of taking office, (however small).

'The scholar lives and has his associations with men of the present day, but the men of antiquity are the subjects of his study. Following their (principles and example) in the present age, he will become a pattern in future ages. If it should be that his own age does not understand and encourage him, that those above him do not bring him, and those below him do not push him, forward, or even that calumniators and flatterers band together to put him in danger, his person may be placed in peril, but his aim cannot be taken from him. Though danger may threaten him in his undertakings and wherever he is, he will still pursue his aim, and never forget the afflictions of the people, (which he would relieve) - such is the anxiety which he cherishes.

'The scholar learns extensively, but never allows his researches to come to an end; he does what he does with all his might, but is never weary; he may be living unnoticed, but does not give way to licentiousness; he may be having free course in his acknowledged position, but is not hampered (by it); in his practice of ceremonial usages he shows the value which he sets on a natural ease; in the excellence of his leal-heartedness and good faith, he acts under the law of a benignant playfulness; he shows his fond regard for men of virtue and ability, and yet is forbearing and kind to all; he (is like a potter who) breaks his square (mould), and his tiles are found to fit together - such is the largeness and generosity of his spirit.

'The scholar recommends members of his own family (to public employment), without shrinking from doing so, because of their kinship, and proposes others beyond it, without regard to their being at enmity with him; he estimates men's merits, and takes into consideration all their services, selecting those of virtue and ability, and putting them forward, without expecting any recompense from them; the ruler thus gets what he wishes, and if benefit results to the state, the scholar does not seek riches or honours for himself - such is he in promoting the employment of the worthy and bringing forward the able.

'The scholar when he hears what is good, tells it to (his friends), and when he sees what is good, shows it to them; in the view of rank and position, he gives the precedence to them over himself; if they encounter calamities and hardships, he is prepared to die with them; if they are long (in getting advancement), he waits for them; if they are far off, he brings them together with himself - such is he in the employment and promotion of his friends.

'The scholar keeps his person free from stain, and continually bathes (and refreshes) his virtue; he sets forth what he has to say (to his superior by way of admonition), but remains himself in the back-ground, trying thus quietly to correct him; if his superior do not acknowledge (his advice), he more proudly and clearly makes his views known, but still does not press them urgently; he does not go among those who are low to make himself out to be high, nor place himself among those who have little (wisdom) to make himself out to have much; in a time of good government, he does not think little (of what he himself can do); in a time of disorder, he does not allow his course to be obstructed; he does not (hastily) agree with those who think like himself, nor condemn those who think differently - so does he stand out alone among others and take his own solitary course.

'The scholar sometimes will not take the high office of being a minister of the son of Heaven, nor the lower office of serving the prince of a state; he is watchful over himself in his retirement, and values a generous enlargement of mind, while at the same time he is bold and resolute in his intercourse with others; he learns extensively that he may know whatever should be done; he makes himself acquainted with elegant accomplishments, and thus smoothes and polishes all his corners and angles; although the offer were made to share a state with him, it would be no more to him than the small weights of a balance; he will not take a ministry, he will not take an office - such are the rules and conduct he prescribes to himself.

'The scholar has those with whom he agrees in aim, and pursues the same objects, with whom he cultivates the same course, and that by the same methods; when they stand on the same level with him, he rejoices in them; if their standing be below his, he does not tire of them; if for long he has not seen them, and hears rumours to their prejudice, he does not believe them; his actions are rooted in correctness, and his standing in what is right; if they proceed in the same direction with him, he goes forward with them, if not in the same direction, he withdraws from them - so is he in his intercourse with his friends.

'Gentleness and goodness are the roots of humanity; respect and attention are the ground on which it stands; generosity and large-mindedness are the manifestation of it; humility and courtesy are the ability of it; the rules of ceremony are the demonstration of it; speech is the ornament of it; singing and music are the harmony of it; sharing and distribution are the giving of it. The scholar possesses all these qualities in union and has them, and still he will not venture to claim a perfect humanity on account of them - such is the honour (he feels for its ideal), and the humility (with which) he declines it (for himself).

'The scholar is not cast down, or cut from his root, by poverty and mean condition; he is not elated or exhausted by riches and noble condition; he feels no disgrace that rulers and kings (may try to inflict); he is above the bonds that elders and superiors (may try to impose); and superior officers cannot distress him. Hence he is styled a scholar. Those to whom the multitude now-a-days give that name have no title to it, and they constantly employ it to one another as a term of reproach.'

When Confucius came (from his wanderings to Lu) to his own house, duke Ai gave him a (public) lodging. When the duke heard these words, he became more sincere in his speech, and more righteous in his conduct. He said, 'To the end of my days I will not presume to make a jest of the name of scholar.'

Source: Chinese Text Project English translation "Sacred Books of the East, volume 28, part 4: The Li Ki", James Legge, 1885

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