The Doctrine of the Mean
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The Doctrine of the Mean
Written ca. 500 B.C.E
What Heaven has conferred is called The Nature; an accordance with this
nature is called The Path of duty; the regulation of this path is called
The path may not be left for an instant. If it could be left, it
would not be the path. On this account, the superior man does not wait
till he sees things, to be cautious, nor till he hears things, to be
There is nothing more visible than what is secret, and nothing
more manifest than what is minute. Therefore the superior man is watchful
over himself, when he is alone.
While there are no stirrings of pleasure, anger, sorrow, or joy,
the mind may be said to be in the state of Equilibrium. When those feelings
have been stirred, and they act in their due degree, there ensues what
may be called the state of Harmony. This Equilibrium is the great root
from which grow all the human actings in the world, and this Harmony is
the universal path which they all should pursue.
Let the states of equilibrium and harmony exist in perfection,
and a happy order will prevail throughout heaven and earth, and all things
will be nourished and flourish.
Chung-ni said, "The superior man embodies the course of the Mean;
the mean man acts contrary to the course of the Mean.
"The superior man's embodying the course of the Mean is because
he is a superior man, and so always maintains the Mean. The mean man's
acting contrary to the course of the Mean is because he is a mean man,
and has no caution."
The Master said, "Perfect is the virtue which is according to the
Mean! Rare have they long been among the people, who could practice
The Master said, "I know how it is that the path of the Mean is
not walked in:-The knowing go beyond it, and the stupid do not come up
to it. I know how it is that the path of the Mean is not understood:-The
men of talents and virtue go beyond it, and the worthless do not come up
"There is no body but eats and drinks. But they are few who can
The Master said, "Alas! How is the path of the Mean
The Master said, "There was Shun:-He indeed was greatly wise! Shun
loved to question others, and to study their words, though they might be
shallow. He concealed what was bad in them and displayed what was good.
He took hold of their two extremes, determined the Mean, and employed it
in his government of the people. It was by this that he was
The Master said "Men all say, 'We are wise'; but being driven forward
and taken in a net, a trap, or a pitfall, they know not how to escape.
Men all say, 'We are wise'; but happening to choose the course of the Mean,
they are not able to keep it for a round month."
The Master said "This was the manner of Hui:-he made choice of
the Mean, and whenever he got hold of what was good, he clasped it firmly,
as if wearing it on his breast, and did not lose it."
The Master said, "The kingdom, its states, and its families, may
be perfectly ruled; dignities and emoluments may be declined; naked weapons
may be trampled under the feet; but the course of the Mean cannot be attained
Tsze-lu asked about energy.
The Master said, "Do you mean the energy of the South, the energy of
the North, or the energy which you should cultivate
"To show forbearance and gentleness in teaching others; and not
to revenge unreasonable conduct:-this is the energy of southern regions,
and the good man makes it his study.
"To lie under arms; and meet death without regret:-this is the
energy of northern regions, and the forceful make it their
"Therefore, the superior man cultivates a friendly harmony, without
being weak.-How firm is he in his energy! He stands erect in the middle,
without inclining to either side.-How firm is he in his energy! When good
principles prevail in the government of his country, he does not change
from what he was in retirement. How firm is he in his energy! When bad
principles prevail in the country, he maintains his course to death without
changing.-How firm is he in his energy!"
The Master said, "To live in obscurity, and yet practice wonders,
in order to be mentioned with honor in future ages:-this is what I do not
"The good man tries to proceed according to the right path, but
when he has gone halfway, he abandons it:-I am not able so to
"The superior man accords with the course of the Mean. Though he
may be all unknown, unregarded by the world, he feels no regret.-It is
only the sage who is able for this."
The way which the superior man pursues, reaches wide and far, and
yet is secret.
Common men and women, however ignorant, may intermeddle with the
knowledge of it; yet in its utmost reaches, there is that which even the
sage does not know. Common men and women, however much below the ordinary
standard of character, can carry it into practice; yet in its utmost reaches,
there is that which even the sage is not able to carry into practice. Great
as heaven and earth are, men still find some things in them with which
to be dissatisfied. Thus it is that, were the superior man to speak of
his way in all its greatness, nothing in the world would be found able
to embrace it, and were he to speak of it in its minuteness, nothing in
the world would be found able to split it.
It is said in the Book of Poetry, "The hawk flies up to heaven;
the fishes leap in the deep." This expresses how this way is seen above
The way of the superior man may be found, in its simple elements,
in the intercourse of common men and women; but in its utmost reaches,
it shines brightly through Heaven and earth.
The Master said "The path is not far from man. When men try to
pursue a course, which is far from the common indications of consciousness,
this course cannot be considered The Path.
"In the Book of Poetry, it is said, 'In hewing an ax handle, in
hewing an ax handle, the pattern is not far off. We grasp one ax handle
to hew the other; and yet, if we look askance from the one to the other,
we may consider them as apart. Therefore, the superior man governs men,
according to their nature, with what is proper to them, and as soon as
they change what is wrong, he stops.
"When one cultivates to the utmost the principles of his nature,
and exercises them on the principle of reciprocity, he is not far from
the path. What you do not like when done to yourself, do not do to
"In the way of the superior man there are four things, to not one
of which have I as yet attained.-To serve my father, as I would require
my son to serve me: to this I have not attained; to serve my prince as
I would require my minister to serve me: to this I have not attained; to
serve my elder brother as I would require my younger brother to serve me:
to this I have not attained; to set the example in behaving to a friend,
as I would require him to behave to me: to this I have not attained. Earnest
in practicing the ordinary virtues, and careful in speaking about them,
if, in his practice, he has anything defective, the superior man dares
not but exert himself; and if, in his words, he has any excess, he dares
not allow himself such license. Thus his words have respect to his actions,
and his actions have respect to his words; is it not just an entire sincerity
which marks the superior man?"
The superior man does what is proper to the station in which he
is; he does not desire to go beyond this.
In a position of wealth and honor, he does what is proper to a
position of wealth and honor. In a poor and low position, he does what
is proper to a poor and low position. Situated among barbarous tribes,
he does what is proper to a situation among barbarous tribes. In a position
of sorrow and difficulty, he does what is proper to a position of sorrow
and difficulty. The superior man can find himself in no situation in which
he is not himself.
In a high situation, he does not treat with contempt his inferiors.
In a low situation, he does not court the favor of his superiors. He rectifies
himself, and seeks for nothing from others, so that he has no dissatisfactions.
He does not murmur against Heaven, nor grumble against
Thus it is that the superior man is quiet and calm, waiting for
the appointments of Heaven, while the mean man walks in dangerous paths,
looking for lucky occurrences.
The Master said, "In archery we have something like the way of
the superior man. When the archer misses the center of the target, he turns
round and seeks for the cause of his failure in himself."
The way of the superior man may be compared to what takes place
in traveling, when to go to a distance we must first traverse the space
that is near, and in ascending a height, when we must begin from the lower
It is said in the Book of Poetry, "Happy union with wife and children
is like the music of lutes and harps. When there is concord among brethren,
the harmony is delightful and enduring. Thus may you regulate your family,
and enjoy the pleasure of your wife and children."
The Master said, "In such a state of things, parents have entire
The Master said, "How abundantly do spiritual beings display the
powers that belong to them!
"We look for them, but do not see them; we listen to, but do not
hear them; yet they enter into all things, and there is nothing without
"They cause all the people in the kingdom to fast and purify themselves,
and array themselves in their richest dresses, in order to attend at their
sacrifices. Then, like overflowing water, they seem to be over the heads,
and on the right and left of their worshippers.
"It is said in the Book of Poetry, 'The approaches of the spirits,
you cannot sunrise; and can you treat them with indifference?'
"Such is the manifestness of what is minute! Such is the impossibility
of repressing the outgoings of sincerity!"
The Master said, "How greatly filial was Shun! His virtue was that
of a sage; his dignity was the throne; his riches were all within the four
seas. He offered his sacrifices in his ancestral temple, and his descendants
preserved the sacrifices to himself.
"Therefore having such great virtue, it could not but be that he
should obtain the throne, that he should obtain those riches, that he should
obtain his fame, that he should attain to his long life.
"Thus it is that Heaven, in the production of things, is sure to
be bountiful to them, according to their qualities. Hence the tree that
is flourishing, it nourishes, while that which is ready to fall, it
"In the Book of Poetry, it is said, 'The admirable amiable prince
displayed conspicuously his excelling virtue, adjusting his people, and
adjusting his officers. Therefore, he received from Heaven his emoluments
of dignity. It protected him, assisted him, decreed him the throne; sending
from Heaven these favors, as it were repeatedly.'
"We may say therefore that he who is greatly virtuous will be sure
to receive the appointment of Heaven."
The Master said, "It is only King Wan of whom it can be said that
he had no cause for grief! His father was King Chi, and his son was King
Wu. His father laid the foundations of his dignity, and his son transmitted
"King Wu continued the enterprise of King T'ai, King Chi, and King
Wan. He once buckled on his armor, and got possession of the kingdom. He
did not lose the distinguished personal reputation which he had throughout
the kingdom. His dignity was the royal throne. His riches were the possession
of all within the four seas. He offered his sacrifices in his ancestral
temple, and his descendants maintained the sacrifices to
"It was in his old age that King Wu received the appointment to
the throne, and the duke of Chau completed the virtuous course of Wan and
Wu. He carried up the title of king to T'ai and Chi, and sacrificed to
all the former dukes above them with the royal ceremonies. And this rule
he extended to the princes of the kingdom, the great officers, the scholars,
and the common people. If the father were a great officer and the son a
scholar, then the burial was that due to a great officer, and the sacrifice
that due to a scholar. If the father were a scholar and the son a great
officer, then the burial was that due to a scholar, and the sacrifice that
due to a great officer. The one year's mourning was made to extend only
to the great officers, but the three years' mourning extended to the Son
of Heaven. In the mourning for a father or mother, he allowed no difference
between the noble and the mean.
The Master said, "How far-extending was the filial piety of King
Wu and the duke of Chau!
"Now filial piety is seen in the skillful carrying out of the wishes
of our forefathers, and the skillful carrying forward of their
"In spring and autumn, they repaired and beautified the temple
halls of their fathers, set forth their ancestral vessels, displayed their
various robes, and presented the offerings of the several
"By means of the ceremonies of the ancestral temple, they distinguished
the royal kindred according to their order of descent. By ordering the
parties present according to their rank, they distinguished the more noble
and the less. By the arrangement of the services, they made a distinction
of talents and worth. In the ceremony of general pledging, the inferiors
presented the cup to their superiors, and thus something was given the
lowest to do. At the concluding feast, places were given according to the
hair, and thus was made the distinction of years.
"They occupied the places of their forefathers, practiced their
ceremonies, and performed their music. They reverenced those whom they
honored, and loved those whom they regarded with affection. Thus they served
the dead as they would have served them alive; they served the departed
as they would have served them had they been continued among
"By the ceremonies of the sacrifices to Heaven and Earth they served
God, and by the ceremonies of the ancestral temple they sacrificed to their
ancestors. He who understands the ceremonies of the sacrifices to Heaven
and Earth, and the meaning of the several sacrifices to ancestors, would
find the government of a kingdom as easy as to look into his
The Duke Ai asked about government.
The Master said, "The government of Wan and Wu is displayed in the
records,-the tablets of wood and bamboo. Let there be the men and the government
will flourish; but without the men, their government decays and
"With the right men the growth of government is rapid, just as
vegetation is rapid in the earth; and, moreover, their government might
be called an easily-growing rush.
"Therefore the administration of government lies in getting proper
men. Such men are to be got by means of the ruler's own character. That
character is to be cultivated by his treading in the ways of duty. And
the treading those ways of duty is to be cultivated by the cherishing of
"Benevolence is the characteristic element of humanity, and the
great exercise of it is in loving relatives. Righteousness is the accordance
of actions with what is right, and the great exercise of it is in honoring
the worthy. The decreasing measures of the love due to relatives, and the
steps in the honor due to the worthy, are produced by the principle of
"When those in inferior situations do not possess the confidence
of their superiors, they cannot retain the government of the
"Hence the sovereign may not neglect the cultivation of his own
character. Wishing to cultivate his character, he may not neglect to serve
his parents. In order to serve his parents, he may not neglect to acquire
knowledge of men. In order to know men, he may not dispense with a knowledge
"The duties of universal obligation are five and the virtues wherewith
they are practiced are three. The duties are those between sovereign and
minister, between father and son, between husband and wife, between elder
brother and younger, and those belonging to the intercourse of friends.
Those five are the duties of universal obligation. Knowledge, magnanimity,
and energy, these three, are the virtues universally binding. And the means
by which they carry the duties into practice is singleness.
"Some are born with the knowledge of those duties; some know them
by study; and some acquire the knowledge after a painful feeling of their
ignorance. But the knowledge being possessed, it comes to the same thing.
Some practice them with a natural ease; some from a desire for their advantages;
and some by strenuous effort. But the achievement being made, it comes
to the same thing."
The Master said, "To be fond of learning is to be near to knowledge.
To practice with vigor is to be near to magnanimity. To possess the feeling
of shame is to be near to energy.
"He who knows these three things knows how to cultivate his own
character. Knowing how to cultivate his own character, he knows how to
govern other men. Knowing how to govern other men, he knows how to govern
the kingdom with all its states and families.
"All who have the government of the kingdom with its states and
families have nine standard rules to follow;-viz., the cultivation of their
own characters; the honoring of men of virtue and talents; affection towards
their relatives; respect towards the great ministers; kind and considerate
treatment of the whole body of officers; dealing with the mass of the people
as children; encouraging the resort of all classes of artisans; indulgent
treatment of men from a distance; and the kindly cherishing of the princes
of the states.
"By the ruler's cultivation of his own character, the duties of
universal obligation are set forth. By honoring men of virtue and talents,
he is preserved from errors of judgment. By showing affection to his relatives,
there is no grumbling nor resentment among his uncles and brethren. By
respecting the great ministers, he is kept from errors in the practice
of government. By kind and considerate treatment of the whole body of officers,
they are led to make the most grateful return for his courtesies. By dealing
with the mass of the people as his children, they are led to exhort one
another to what is good. By encouraging the resort of an classes of artisans,
his resources for expenditure are rendered ample. By indulgent treatment
of men from a distance, they are brought to resort to him from all quarters.
And by kindly cherishing the princes of the states, the whole kingdom is
brought to revere him.
"Self-adjustment and purification, with careful regulation of his
dress, and the not making a movement contrary to the rules of propriety
this is the way for a ruler to cultivate his person. Discarding slanderers,
and keeping himself from the seductions of beauty; making light of riches,
and giving honor to virtue-this is the way for him to encourage men of
worth and talents. Giving them places of honor and large emolument. and
sharing with them in their likes and dislikes-this is the way for him to
encourage his relatives to love him. Giving them numerous officers to discharge
their orders and commissions:-this is the way for him to encourage the
great ministers. According to them a generous confidence, and making their
emoluments large:-this is the way to encourage the body of officers. Employing
them only at the proper times, and making the imposts light:-this is the
way to encourage the people. By daily examinations and monthly trials,
and by making their rations in accordance with their labors:-this is the
way to encourage the classes of artisans. To escort them on their departure
and meet them on their coming; to commend the good among them, and show
compassion to the incompetent:-this is the way to treat indulgently men
from a distance. To restore families whose line of succession has been
broken, and to revive states that have been extinguished; to reduce to
order states that are in confusion, and support those which are in peril;
to have fixed times for their own reception at court, and the reception
of their envoys; to send them away after liberal treatment, and welcome
their coming with small contributions:-this is the way to cherish the princes
of the states.
"All who have the government of the kingdom with its states and
families have the above nine standard rules. And the means by which they
are carried into practice is singleness.
"In all things success depends on previous preparation, and without
such previous preparation there is sure to be failure. If what is to be
spoken be previously determined, there will be no stumbling. If affairs
be previously determined, there will be no difficulty with them. If one's
actions have been previously determined, there will be no sorrow in connection
with them. If principles of conduct have been previously determined, the
practice of them will be inexhaustible.
"When those in inferior situations do not obtain the confidence
of the sovereign, they cannot succeed in governing the people. There is
a way to obtain the confidence of the sovereign;-if one is not trusted
by his friends, he will not get the confidence of his sovereign. There
is a way to being trusted by one's friends;-if one is not obedient to his
parents, he will not be true to friends. There is a way to being obedient
to one's parents;-if one, on turning his thoughts in upon himself, finds
a want of sincerity, he will not be obedient to his parents. There is a
way to the attainment of sincerity in one's self; -if a man do not understand
what is good, he will not attain sincerity in himself.
"Sincerity is the way of Heaven. The attainment of sincerity is
the way of men. He who possesses sincerity is he who, without an effort,
hits what is right, and apprehends, without the exercise of thought;-he
is the sage who naturally and easily embodies the right way. He who attains
to sincerity is he who chooses what is good, and firmly holds it
"To this attainment there are requisite the extensive study of
what is good, accurate inquiry about it, careful reflection on it, the
clear discrimination of it, and the earnest practice of
"The superior man, while there is anything he has not studied,
or while in what he has studied there is anything he cannot understand,
Will not intermit his labor. While there is anything he has not inquired
about, or anything in what he has inquired about which he does not know,
he will not intermit his labor. While there is anything which he has not
reflected on, or anything in what he has reflected on which he does not
apprehend, he will not intermit his labor. While there is anything which
he has not discriminated or his discrimination is not clear, he will not
intermit his labor. If there be anything which he has not practiced, or
his practice fails in earnestness, he will not intermit his labor. If another
man succeed by one effort, he will use a hundred efforts. If another man
succeed by ten efforts, he will use a thousand.
"Let a man proceed in this way, and, though dull, he will surely
become intelligent; though weak, he will surely become
When we have intelligence resulting from sincerity, this condition
is to be ascribed to nature; when we have sincerity resulting from intelligence,
this condition is to be ascribed to instruction. But given the sincerity,
and there shall be the intelligence; given the intelligence, and there
shall be the sincerity.
It is only he who is possessed of the most complete sincerity that
can exist under heaven, who can give its fun development to his nature.
Able to give its full development to his own nature, he can do the same
to the nature of other men. Able to give its full development to the nature
of other men, he can give their full development to the natures of animals
and things. Able to give their full development to the natures of creatures
and things, he can assist the transforming and nourishing powers of Heaven
and Earth. Able to assist the transforming and nourishing powers of Heaven
and Earth, he may with Heaven and Earth form a ternion.
Next to the above is he who cultivates to the utmost the shoots
of goodness in him. From those he can attain to the possession of sincerity.
This sincerity becomes apparent. From being apparent, it becomes manifest.
From being manifest, it becomes brilliant. Brilliant, it affects others.
Affecting others, they are changed by it. Changed by it, they are transformed.
It is only he who is possessed of the most complete sincerity that can
exist under heaven, who can transform.
It is characteristic of the most entire sincerity to be able to
foreknow. When a nation or family is about to flourish, there are sure
to be happy omens; and when it is about to perish, there are sure to be
unlucky omens. Such events are seen in the milfoil and tortoise, and affect
the movements of the four limbs. When calamity or happiness is about to
come, the good shall certainly be foreknown by him, and the evil also.
Therefore the individual possessed of the most complete sincerity is like
Sincerity is that whereby self-completion is effected, and its
way is that by which man must direct himself.
Sincerity is the end and beginning of things; without sincerity
there would be nothing. On this account, the superior man regards the attainment
of sincerity as the most excellent thing.
The possessor of sincerity does not merely accomplish the self-completion
of himself. With this quality he completes other men and things also. The
completing himself shows his perfect virtue. The completing other men and
things shows his knowledge. But these are virtues belonging to the nature,
and this is the way by which a union is effected of the external and internal.
Therefore, whenever he-the entirely sincere man-employs them,-that is,
these virtues, their action will be right.
Hence to entire sincerity there belongs ceaselessness.
Not ceasing, it continues long. Continuing long, it evidences
Evidencing itself, it reaches far. Reaching far, it becomes large
and substantial. Large and substantial, it becomes high and
Large and substantial;-this is how it contains all things. High
and brilliant;-this is how it overspreads all things. Reaching far and
continuing long;-this is how it perfects all things.
So large and substantial, the individual possessing it is the co-equal
of Earth. So high and brilliant, it makes him the co-equal of Heaven. So
far-reaching and long-continuing, it makes him infinite.
Such being its nature, without any display, it becomes manifested;
without any movement, it produces changes; and without any effort, it accomplishes
The way of Heaven and Earth may be completely declared in one sentence.-They
are without any doubleness, and so they produce things in a manner that
The way of Heaven and Earth is large and substantial, high and
brilliant, far-reaching and long-enduring.
The Heaven now before us is only this bright shining spot; but
when viewed in its inexhaustible extent, the sun, moon, stars, and constellations
of the zodiac, are suspended in it, and all things are overspread by it.
The earth before us is but a handful of soil; but when regarded in its
breadth and thickness, it sustains mountains like the Hwa and the Yo, without
feeling their weight, and contains the rivers and seas, without their leaking
away. The mountain now before us appears only a stone; but when contemplated
in all the vastness of its size, we see how the grass and trees are produced
on it, and birds and beasts dwell on it, and precious things which men
treasure up are found on it. The water now before us appears but a ladleful;
yet extending our view to its unfathomable depths, the largest tortoises,
iguanas, iguanodons, dragons, fishes, and turtles, are produced in it,
articles of value and sources of wealth abound in it.
It is said in the Book of Poetry, "The ordinances of Heaven, how
profound are they and unceasing!" The meaning is, that it is thus that
Heaven is Heaven. And again, "How illustrious was it, the singleness of
the virtue of King Wan!" indicating that it was thus that King Wan was
what he was. Singleness likewise is unceasing.
How great is the path proper to the Sage!
Like overflowing water, it sends forth and nourishes all things, and
rises up to the height of heaven.
All-complete is its greatness! It embraces the three hundred rules
of ceremony, and the three thousand rules of demeanor.
It waits for the proper man, and then it is
Hence it is said, "Only by perfect virtue can the perfect path, in
all its courses, be made a fact."
Therefore, the superior man honors his virtuous nature, and maintains
constant inquiry and study, seeking to carry it out to its breadth and
greatness, so as to omit none of the more exquisite and minute points which
it embraces, and to raise it to its greatest height and brilliancy, so
as to pursue the course of the Mean. He cherishes his old knowledge, and
is continually acquiring new. He exerts an honest, generous earnestness,
in the esteem and practice of all propriety.
Thus, when occupying a high situation he is not proud, and in a
low situation he is not insubordinate. When the kingdom is well governed,
he is sure by his words to rise; and when it is ill governed, he is sure
by his silence to command forbearance to himself. Is not this what we find
in the Book of Poetry,-"Intelligent is he and prudent, and so preserves
The Master said, Let a man who is ignorant be fond of using his
own judgment; let a man without rank be fond of assuming a directing power
to himself; let a man who is living in the present age go back to the ways
of antiquity;-on the persons of all who act thus calamities will be sure
To no one but the Son of Heaven does it belong to order ceremonies,
to fix the measures, and to determine the written characters.
Now over the kingdom, carriages have all wheels, of the-same size;
all writing is with the same characters; and for conduct there are the
One may occupy the throne, but if he have not the proper virtue,
he may not dare to make ceremonies or music. One may have the virtue, but
if he do not occupy the throne, he may not presume to make ceremonies or
The Master said, "I may describe the ceremonies of the Hsia dynasty,
but Chi cannot sufficiently attest my words. I have learned the ceremonies
of the Yin dynasty, and in Sung they still continue. I have learned the
ceremonies of Chau, which are now used, and I follow
He who attains to the sovereignty of the kingdom, having those
three important things, shall be able to effect that there shall be few
errors under his government.
However excellent may have been the regulations of those of former
times, they cannot be attested. Not being attested, they cannot command
credence, and not being credited, the people would not follow them. However
excellent might be the regulations made by one in an inferior situation,
he is not in a position to be honored. Unhonored, he cannot command credence,
and not being credited, the people would not follow his
Therefore the institutions of the Ruler are rooted in his own character
and conduct, and sufficient attestation of them is given by the masses
of the people. He examines them by comparison with those of the three kings,
and finds them without mistake. He sets them up before Heaven and Earth,
and finds nothing in them contrary to their mode of operation. He presents
himself with them before spiritual beings, and no doubts about them arise.
He is prepared to wait for the rise of a sage a hundred ages after, and
has no misgivings.
His presenting himself with his institutions before spiritual beings,
without any doubts arising about them, shows that he knows Heaven. His
being prepared, without any misgivings, to wait for the rise of a sage
a hundred ages after, shows that he knows men.
Such being the case, the movements of such a ruler, illustrating
his institutions, constitute an example to the world for ages. His acts
are for ages a law to the kingdom. His words are for ages a lesson to the
kingdom. Those who are far from him look longingly for him; and those who
are near him are never wearied with him.
It is said in the Book of Poetry,-"Not disliked there, not tired
of here, from day to day and night tonight, will they perpetuate their
praise." Never has there been a ruler, who did not realize this description,
that obtained an early renown throughout the kingdom.
Chung-ni handed down the doctrines of Yao and Shun, as if they
had been his ancestors, and elegantly displayed the regulations of Wan
and Wul taking them as his model. Above, he harmonized with the times of
Heaven, and below, he was conformed to the water and
He may be compared to Heaven and Earth in their supporting and
containing, their overshadowing and curtaining, all things. He may be compared
to the four seasons in their alternating progress, and to the sun and moon
in their successive shining.
All things are nourished together without their injuring one another.
The courses of the seasons, and of the sun and moon, are pursued without
any collision among them. The smaller energies are like river currents;
the greater energies are seen in mighty transformations. It is this which
makes heaven and earth so great.
It is only he, possessed of all sagely qualities that can exist
under heaven, who shows himself quick in apprehension, clear in discernment,
of far-reaching intelligence, and all-embracing knowledge, fitted to exercise
rule; magnanimous, generous, benign, and mild, fitted to exercise forbearance;
impulsive, energetic, firm, and enduring, fitted to maintain a firm hold;
self-adjusted, grave, never swerving from the Mean, and correct, fitted
to command reverence; accomplished, distinctive, concentrative, and searching,
fitted to exercise discrimination.
All-embracing is he and vast, deep and active as a fountain, sending
forth in their due season his virtues.
All-embracing and vast, he is like Heaven. Deep and active as a
fountain, he is like the abyss. He is seen, and the people all reverence
him; he speaks, and the people all believe him; he acts, and the people
all are pleased with him.
Therefore his fame overspreads the Middle Kingdom, and extends
to all barbarous tribes. Wherever ships and carriages reach; wherever the
strength of man penetrates; wherever the heavens overshadow and the earth
sustains; wherever the sun and moon shine; wherever frosts and dews fall:-all
who have blood and breath unfeignedly honor and love him. Hence it is said,-"He
is the equal of Heaven."
It is only the individual possessed of the most entire sincerity
that can exist under Heaven, who can adjust the great invariable relations
of mankind, establish the great fundamental virtues of humanity, and know
the transforming and nurturing operations of Heaven and Earth;-shall this
individual have any being or anything beyond himself on which he
Call him man in his ideal, how earnest is he! Call him an abyss,
how deep is he! Call him Heaven, how vast is he!
Who can know him, but he who is indeed quick in apprehension, clear
in discernment, of far-reaching intelligence, and all-embracing knowledge,
possessing all Heavenly virtue?
It is said in the Book of Poetry, "Over her embroidered robe she
puts a plain single garment," intimating a dislike to the display of the
elegance of the former. Just so, it is the way of the superior man to prefer
the concealment of his virtue, while it daily becomes more illustrious,
and it is the way of the mean man to seek notoriety, while he daily goes
more and more to ruin. It is characteristic of the superior man, appearing
insipid, yet never to produce satiety; while showing a simple negligence,
yet to have his accomplishments recognized; while seemingly plain, yet
to be discriminating. He knows how what is distant lies in what is near.
He knows where the wind proceeds from. He knows how what is minute becomes
manifested. Such a one, we may be sure, will enter into
It is said in the Book of Poetry, "Although the fish sink and lie
at the bottom, it is still quite clearly seen." Therefore the superior
man examines his heart, that there may be nothing wrong there, and that
he may have no cause for dissatisfaction with himself. That wherein the
superior man cannot be equaled is simply this,-his work which other men
It is said in the Book of Poetry, "Looked at in your apartment,
be there free from shame as being exposed to the light of Heaven." Therefore,
the superior man, even when he is not moving, has a feeling of reverence,
and while he speaks not, he has the feeling of truthfulness.
It is said in the Book of Poetry, "In silence is the offering presented,
and the spirit approached to; there is not the slightest contention." Therefore
the superior man does not use rewards, and the people are stimulated to
virtue. He does not show anger, and the people are awed more than by hatchets
It is said in the Book of Poetry, "What needs no display is virtue.
All the princes imitate it." Therefore, the superior man being sincere
and reverential, the whole world is conducted to a state of happy
It is said in the Book of Poetry, "I regard with pleasure your
brilliant virtue, making no great display of itself in sounds and appearances."
The Master said, "Among the appliances to transform the people, sound and
appearances are but trivial influences. It is said in another ode, 'His
Virtue is light as a hair.' Still, a hair will admit of comparison as to
its size. 'The doings of the supreme Heaven have neither sound nor smell.
'That is perfect virtue."