Excerpts from the Analects of Confucius

On Government

XII.7: Tzu-kung asked about government. The Master said, “The requisites of government are that there be sufficiency of food, sufficiency of military equipment, and the confidence of the people in their ruler.” Tzu Kung said, “If it cannot be helped, and one of these must be dispensed with, which of the three should be foregone first?” “The military equipment,” said the Master. Tzu Kung again asked, “If it cannot be helped and one of the remaining two must be dispensed with, which of them should be foregone?” The Master answered, “Part with the food. From of old, death has been the lot of humanity; but if the people have no faith in their rulers, there is no standing for the state.”

XII.14: Tzu-chang asked about government. The Master said, “The art of governing is to keep its affairs before the mind without weariness, and to practice these affairs with undeviating consistency.”

XII.19: Chi K’ang-tzu asked Confucius about government, saying, “What do you say to killing unprincipled people for the sake of principled people?” Confucius replied, “Sir, in carrying on your government, why should you use killing at all? Let your evinced desires be for what is good, and the people will be good. The relation between superiors (ch√ľn-tzu) and inferiors is like that between the wind and the grass. The grass must bend, when the wind blows across it.”

XIII.6: The Master said, “When a prince’s personal conduct is correct, his government is effective without the issuing of orders. If his personal conduct is not correct, he may issue orders, but they will not be followed.”

VII.10: The Master said to Yen Yuen, “When called to office, undertake its duties; when not so called, then lie retired . . . Tzu-lu said, “If you had the conduct of the armies of a great state, whom would you have to act with you?” The Master said, “I would not have him to act with me, who will unarmed attack a tiger, or cross a river without a boat, dying without any regret. My associate must be the man who proceeds to action full of caution, who is fond of adjusting his plans, and then carries them into execution.”

XIV.23: Tzu-lu asked how a sovereign should be served. The Master said, “Do not impose on him, and, moreover, withstand him to his face.”

III.18: The Master said, “The full observance of the rules of propriety in serving one’s prince is accounted by people to be flattery.”

XI.23: “What is called a great minister, is one who serves his prince according to what is right, and when he finds he cannot do so, retires.”

XIV.1: Hsien asked what was shameful. The Master said, “When good government prevails in a state, to be thinking only of one’s salary. When bad government prevails, to be thinking, in the same way, only of one’s salary. That is what is shameful.”

IX.13: “When a country is well governed, poverty and mean condition are things to be ashamed of. When a country is poorly governed, riches and honor are things to be ashamed of.”

XIV.20: The Master was speaking about the unprincipled actions of the duke Ling of Wei, when K’ang Tzu said, “Since he is of such a character, how is it he does not lose his throne?” Kung Fu-Tzu said, “Chung-shu Yu has the superintendence of his guests and strangers; the litanist, T’uo, has the management of his ancestral temple; and Wang-sun Chia has the direction of the army and forces: with such officers as these, how should he lose his throne?”

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