CONFUCIUS AND HIS IMMEDIATE DISCIPLES.
LIFE OF CONFUCIUS.
1. 'And have you foreigners surnames as well?' This question has
often been put to me by Chinese. It marks the ignorance which belongs to
the people of all that is external to
[Sidebar] His ancestry.
themselves, and the pride of antiquity which enters largely as an
element into their character. If such a pride could in any case be
justified, we might allow it to the family of the K'ung, the descendants
of Confucius. In the reign of K'ang-hsi, twenty-one centuries and a half
after the death of the sage, they amounted to eleven thousand males. But
their ancestry is carried back through a period of equal extent, and
genealogical tables are common, in which the descent of Confucius is
traced down from Hwang-ti, in whose reign the cycle was invented, B.C.
The more moderate writers, however, content themselves with
exhibiting his ancestry back to the commencement of the Chau dynasty,
B.C. 1121. Among the relatives of the tyrant Chau, the last emperor of
the Yin dynasty, was an elder brother, by a concubine, named Ch'i ,
who is celebrated by Confucius, Ana. XVIII. i, under the title of the
viscount of Wei. Foreseeing the impending ruin of their family, Ch'i
withdrew from the court; and subsequently he was invested by the emperor
Ch'ang, the second of the house of Chau, with the principality of Sung,
which embraced the eastern portion of the present province of Ho-nan,
that he might there continue the sacrifices to the sovereigns of Yin.
Ch'i was followed as duke of Sung by a younger brother, in whose line
the succession continued. His great-grandson, the duke Min , was
l See MĀ?moires concernant les Chinois, Tome XII, p. 447 et seq.
Father Amiot states, p. 501, that he had seen the representative of the
family, who succeeded to the dignity of 衍聖公 in the ninth year of Ch'ien-
lung, A.D. 1744. The last duke, not the present, was visited in our own
time by the late Dr. Williamson and Mr. Consul Markham. It is hardly
necessary that I should say here, that the name Confucius is merely the
Chinese characters 孔夫子 (K'ung Fu-tsze, 'The master K'ung') Latinized.
followed, B.C. 908, by a younger brother, leaving, however, two sons,
Fu-fu Ho  and Fang-sze . Fu Ho  resigned his right to the
dukedom in favour of Fang-sze, who put his uncle to death in B.C. 893,
and became master of the State. He is known as the duke Li , and to
his elder brother belongs the honour of having the sage among his
Three descents from Fu Ho, we find Chang K'ao-fu , who was a
distinguished officer under the dukes Tai, Wu, and Hsuan  (B.C. 799-
728). He is still celebrated for his humility, and for his literary
tastes. We have accounts of him as being in communication with the
Grand- historiographer of the kingdom, and engaged in researches about
its ancient poetry, thus setting an example of one of the works to which
Confucius gave himself . K'ao gave birth to K'ung-fu Chia , from
whom the surname of K'ung took its rise. Five generations had now
elapsed since the dukedom was held in the direct line of his ancestry,
and it was according to the rule in such cases that the branch should
cease its connexion with the ducal stem, and merge among the people
under a new surname. K'ung Chia was Master of the Horse in Sung, and an
officer of well-known loyalty and probity. Unfortunately for himself, he
had a wife of surpassing beauty, of whom the chief minister of the
State, by name Hwa Tu , happened on one occasion to get a glimpse.
Determined to possess her, he commenced a series of intrigues, which
ended, B.C. 710, in the murder of Chia and of the ruling duke Shang
. At the same time, Tu secured the person of the lady, and hastened
to his palace with the prize, but on the way she had strangled herself
with her girdle.
An enmity was thus commenced between the two families of K'ung and
Hwa which the lapse of time did not obliterate, and the latter being the
more powerful of the two, Chia's great-grandson withdrew into the State
of Lu to avoid their persecution. There he was appointed commandant of
the city of Fang , and is known
2 魴(al. 方) 祀.
3 I drop here the 父 (second tone), which seems to have been used in
those times in a manner equivalent to our Mr.
5 正考甫; 甫 is used in the same way as 父; see note 3.
6 戴, 武, 宣, 三公.
7 See the 魯語, and 商頌詩序; quoted in Chiang Yung's (工永) Life of Confucius,
which forms a part of the 鄉黨圖考.
in history by the name of Fang-shu . Fang-shu gave birth to Po-hsia
, and from him came Shu-liang Heh , the father of Confucius. Heh
appears in the history of the times as a soldier of great prowess and
daring bravery. In the year B.C. 562, when serving at the siege of a
place called Peh-yang , a party of the assailants made their way in
at a gate which had purposely been left open, and no sooner were they
inside than the portcullis was dropped. Heh was just entering; and
catching the massive structure with both his hands, he gradually by dint
of main strength raised it and held it up, till his friends had made
Thus much on the ancestry of the sage. Doubtless he could trace his
descent in the way which has been indicated up to the imperial house of
Yin, nor was there one among his ancestors during the rule of Chau to
whom he could not refer with satisfaction. They had been ministers and
soldiers of Sung and Lu, all men of worth, and in Chang K'ao, both for
his humility and literary researches, Confucius might have special
2. Confucius was the child of Shu-liang Heh's old age. The soldier
had married in early life, but his wife brought him only
[Sidebar] From his birth to his first public employments. B.C.
daughters,-- to the number of nine, and no son. By a concubine he had
a son, named Mang-p'i, and also Po-ni , who proved a cripple, so
that, when he was over seventy years, Heh sought a second wife in the
Yen family , from which came subsequently Yen Hui, the favourite
disciple of his son. There were three daughters in the family, the
youngest being named Chang-tsai . Their father said to them, 'Here is
the commandant of Tsau. His father and grandfather were only scholars,
but his ancestors before them were descendants of the sage sovereigns.
He is a man ten feet high , and of extraordinary prowess, and I am
very desirous of his alliance. Though he is old and austere, you need
have no misgivings about him. Which of you three will be his wife? 'The
two elder daughters were silent, but Chang-tsai said, 'Why do you ask
us, father? It is for you to determine.' 'Very well,' said her father in
reply, 'you will do.' Chang-tsai, accordingly, became Heh's wife, and in
due time gave
5 孟皮, 一字伯尼.
8 其人, 身長十尺. See, on the length of the ancient foot, Ana. VIII. vi, but
the point needs a more sifting investigation than it has yet received.
birth to Confucius, who received the name of Ch'iu, and was
subsequently styled Chung-ni . The event happened on the twenty-first
day of the tenth month of the twenty-first year of the duke Hsiang, of
Lu, being the twentieth year of the emperor Ling, B.C. 552 . The
birth-place was in the district of Tsau , of which Heh was the
governor. It was somewhere within the limits of the present department
of Yen-chau in Shan-tung, but the honour of being the exact spot is
claimed for two places in two different districts of the department.
The notices which we have of Confucius's early years are very scanty.
When he was in his third year his father died. It is related of him,
that as a boy he used to play at the arrangement of
1 名邱, 字仲尼. The legends say that Chang-tsai fearing lest she should
not have a son, in consequence of her husband's age, privately ascended
the Ni-ch'iu hill to pray for the boon, and that when she had obtained
it, she commemorated the fact in the names -- Ch'iu and Chung-ni. But
the cripple, Mang-p'i, had previous been styled Po-ni. There was some
reason, previous to Confucius's birth, for using the term ni in
the family. As might be expected, the birth of the sage is surrounded
with many prodigious occurrences. One account is, that the husband and
wife prayed together for a son in a dell of mount Ni. As Chang-tsai went
up the hill, the leaves of the trees and plants all erected themselves,
and bent downwards on her return. That night she dreamt the black Ti
appeared, and said to her, 'You shall have a son, a sage, and you must
bring him forth in a hollow mulberry tree.' One day during her
pregnancy, she fell into a dreamy state, and saw five old men in the
hall, who called themselves the essences of the five planets, and led an
animal which looked like a small cow with one horn, and was covered with
scales like a dragon. This creature knelt before Chang-tsai, and cast
forth from its mouth a slip of jade, on which was the inscription,--
'The son of the essence of water shall succeed to the decaying Chau, and
be a throneless king.' Chang-tsai tied a piece of embroidered ribbon
about its horn, and the vision disappeared. When Heh was told of it, he
said, 'The creature must be the Ch'i-lin.' As her time drew near, Chang-tsai
asked her husband if there was any place in the neighborhood called 'the
hollow mulberry tree.' He told her there was a dry cave in the south
hill, which went by that name. Then she said, 'I will go and be confined
there.' Her husband was surprised, but when made acquainted with her
former dream, he made the necessary arrangements. On the night when the
child was born, two dragons came and kept watch on the left and right of
the hill, and two spirit-ladies appeared in the air, pouring out
fragrant odors, as if to bathe Chang-tsai; and as soon as the birth took
place, a spring of clear warm water bubbled up from the floor of the
cave, which dried up again when the child had been washed in it. The
child was of an extraordinary appearance; with a mouth like the sea, ox
lips, a dragon's back, &c. &c. On the top of his head was a remarkable
formation, in consequence of which he was named Ch'iu, &c. See the 列國志,
Bk. lxxviii.--Sze-ma Ch'ien seems to make Confucius to have been
illegitimate, saying that Heh and Miss Yen cohabited in the wilderness
(野合 ). Chiang Yung says that the phrase has reference simply to the
disparity of their ages.
2 Sze-ma Ch'ien says that Confucius was born in the twenty-second year
of duke Hsiang, B.C. 550. He is followed by Chu Hsi in the short sketch
of Confucius's life prefixed to the Lun Yu, and by 'The Annals of the
Empire' (歷代統紀表), published with imperial sanction in the reign of
Chia-ch'ing. (To this latter work I have generally referred for my
dates.) The year assigned in the text above rests on the authority of
Ku-liang and Kung- yang, the two commentators on the Ch'un-Ch'iu. With
regard to the month, however, the tenth is that assigned by Ku-liang,
while Kung-yang names the eleventh.
3 Tsau is written 郰, 鄹, 陬, and 鄒.
sacrificial vessels, and at postures of ceremony. Of his schooling we
have no reliable account. There is a legend, indeed, that at seven he
went to school to Yen P'ing-chung , but it must be rejected as
P'ing-chung belonged to the State of Ch'i. He tells us himself that at
fifteen he bent his mind to learning ; but the condition of the
family was one of poverty. At a subsequent period, when people were
astonished at the variety of his knowledge, he explained it by saying,
'When I was young, my condition was low, and therefore I acquired my
ability in many things; but they were mean matters .'
When he was nineteen, he married a lady from the State of Sung, of
the Chien-kwan family , and in the following year his son Li was
born. On the occasion of this event, the duke Chao sent him a present of
a couple of carp. It was to signify his sense of his prince's favour,
that he called his son Li (The Carp), and afterwards gave him the
designation of Po-yu  (Fish Primus). No mention is made of the
birth of any other children, though we know, from Ana. V. i, that he had
at least one daughter. We know also, from an inscription on her grave,
that he had one other daughter, who died when she was quite young. The
fact of the duke of Lu's sending him a gift on the occasion of Li's
birth, shows that he was not unknown, but was already commanding public
attention and the respect of the great.
It was about this time, probably in the year after his marriage, that
Confucius took his first public employment, as keeper of the stores of
grain , and in the following year he was put in charge of the public
fields and lands . Mencius adduces these employments in illustration
of his doctrine that the superior man may at times take office on
account of his poverty, but must confine himself in such a case to
places of small emolument, and aim at nothing but the discharge of their
humble duties. According to him. Confucius, as keeper of stores, said,
'My calculations must all be right:-- that is all I have to care about;'
and when in charge of the public fields, he said, 'The oxen and sheep
must be fat and strong and
2 Ana. II. iv.
3 Ana. IX. vi.
5 名曰鯉, 而字伯魚.
6 為委吏. This is Mencius's account. Sze-ma Ch'ien says 嘗為季氏吏, but his
subsequent words 料量平 show that the office was the same.
7 Mencius calls this office 乘田, while Sze-ma Ch'ien says 為司職吏.
superior:-- that is all I have to care about .' It does not appear
whether these offices were held by Confucius in the direct employment of
the State, or as a dependent of the Chi family in whose jurisdiction he
lived. The present of the carp from the duke may incline us to suppose
3. In his twenty-second year, Confucius commenced his labors as a
public teacher, and his house became a resort for young and inquiring
spirits, who wished to learn the doctrines of antiquity.
[Sidebar] Commencement of his labors as a teacher. The death
of his mother. B.C. 531-527.
However small the fee his pupils were able to afford, he never
refused his instructions . All that he required, was an ardent desire
for improvement, and some degree of capacity. 'I do not open up the
truth,' he said, 'to one who is not eager to get knowledge, nor help out
any one who is not anxious to explain himself. When I have presented one
corner of a subject to any one, and he cannot from it learn the other
three, I do not repeat my lesson .'
His mother died in the year B.C. 527, and he resolved that her body
should lie in the same grave with that of his father, and that their
common resting-place should be in Fang, the first home of the K'ung in
Lu. But here a difficulty presented itself. His father's coffin had been
for twenty years where it had first been deposited, off the road of
The Five Fathers, in the vicinity of Tsau:-- would it be right in
him to move it? He was relieved from this perplexity by an old woman of
the neighborhood, who told him that the coffin had only just been put
into the ground, as a temporary arrangement, and not regularly buried.
On learning this, he carried his purpose into execution. Both coffins
were conveyed to Fang, and put in the ground together, with no
intervening space between them, as was the custom in some States. And
now came a new perplexity. He said to himself, 'In old times, they had
graves, but raised no tumulus over them. But I am a man, who belongs
equally to the north and the south, the east and the west. I must have
something by which I can remember the place.' Accordingly he raised a
mound, four feet high, over the grave, and returned home, leaving a
party of his disciples to see everything properly completed. In the
meantime there came on a heavy storm of rain, and it was a considerable
time before the disciples joined him. 'What makes you so late?' he
asked. 'The grave in Fang fell down,' they said. He made no reply, and
they repeated their
1 Mencius, V. Pt. II. v. 4.
2 Ana. VII. vii.
3 Ana. VII. viii.
answer three times, when he burst into tears, and said, 'Ah! they did
not make their graves so in antiquity .' 'Confucius mourned for his
mother the regular period of three years,-- three years nominally, but
in fact only twenty-seven months. Five days after the mourning was
expired, he played on his lute, but could not sing. It required other
five days before he could accompany an instrument with his voice .
Some writers have represented Confucius as teaching his disciples
important lessons from the manner in which he buried his mother, and
having a design to correct irregularities in the ordinary funeral
ceremonies of the time. These things are altogether 'without book.' We
simply have a dutiful son paying the last tribute of affection to a good
parent. In one point he departs from the ancient practice, raising a
mound over the grave, and when the fresh earth gives way from a sudden
rain, he is moved to tears, and seems to regret his innovation. This
sets Confucius vividly before us,-- a man of the past as much as of the
present, whose own natural feelings were liable to be hampered in their
development by the traditions of antiquity which he considered sacred.
It is important, however, to observe the reason which he gave for
rearing the mound. He had in it a presentiment of much of his future
course. He was 'a man of the north, the south, the east, and the west.'
He might not confine himself to any one State. He would travel, and his
way might be directed to some 'wise ruler,' whom his counsels would
conduct to a benevolent sway that would break forth on every side till
it transformed the empire.
4. When the mourning for his mother was over, Confucius remained in
Lu, but in what special capacity we do not know. Probably he continued
to encourage the resort of
[Sidebar] He learns music; visits the court of Chau; and
returns to Lu. B.C. 527-517.
inquirers to whom he communicated instruction, and pursued his own
researches into the history, literature, and institutions of the empire.
In the year B.C. 525, the chief of the small State of T'an , made his
appearance at the court of Lu, and discoursed in a wonderful manner, at
a feast given to him by the duke, about the names which the most ancient
sovereigns, from Hwang-ti downwards, gave to their
1 Li Chi, II. Sect I. i. 10; Sect. II. iii. 30; Pt. I. i. 6. See also
the discussion of those passages in Chiang Yung's 'Life of Confucius.'
2 Li Chi, II. Sect. I. i. 23.
3 See the Ch'un Ch'iu, under the seventh year of duke Chao,-- 秋, 郯子來朝 .
ministers. The sacrifices to the emperor Shao-hao, the next in
descent from Hwang-ti, were maintained in T'an, so that the chief
fancied that he knew all about the abstruse subject on which he
discoursed. Confucius, hearing about the matter, waited on the visitor,
and learned from him all that he had to communicate .
To the year B.C. 525, when Confucius was twenty-nine years old, is
referred his studying music under a famous master of the name of Hsiang
. He was approaching his thirtieth year when, as he tells us, 'he
stood ' firm, that is, in his convictions on the subjects of learning
to which he had bent his mind fifteen years before. Five years more,
however, were still to pass by, before the anticipation mentioned in the
conclusion of the last paragraph began to receive its fulfillment ,
though we may conclude from the way in which it was brought about that
he was growing all the time in the estimation of the thinking minds in
his native State.
In the twenty-fourth year of duke Chao, B.C. 518, one of the
principal ministers of Lu, known by the name of Mang Hsi, died.
Seventeen years before, he had painfully felt his ignorance of
ceremonial observances, and had made it his subsequent business to make
himself acquainted with them. On his deathbed, he addressed his chief
officer, saying, 'A knowledge of propriety is the stem of a man. Without
it he has no means of standing firm. I have heard that there is one
K'ung Ch'iu, who is thoroughly versed in it. He is a descendant of
sages, and though the line of his family was extinguished in Sung, among
his ancestors there were Fu-fu Ho, who resigned the State to his
brother, and Chang K'ao-fu, who was distinguished for his humility.
Tsang Heh has observed that if sage men of intelligent virtue do not
attain to eminence, distinguished men are sure to appear among their
posterity. His words are now to be verified, I think, in K'ung Ch'iu.
After my death, you must
1 This rests on the respectable authority of Tso Ch'iu-ming's
annotations on the Ch'un Ch'iu, but I must consider it apocryphal. The
legend-writers have fashioned a journey to T'an. The slightest
historical intimation becomes a text with them, on which they enlarge to
the glory of the sage. Amiot has reproduced and expanded their
romancings, and others, such as Pauthier (Chine, pp. 121-183) and
Thornton (History of China, vol. i. pp. 151-215), have followed in his
2 師襄. See the 'Narratives of the School,' 卷三, art 辯樂解; but the account
there given is not more credible than the chief of T'an's expositions.
3 Ana. II. iv.
4 The journey to Chau is placed by Sze-ma Ch'ien before Confucius's
holding of his first official employments, and Chu Hsi and most other
writers follow him. It is a great error, and arisen from a
misunderstanding of the passage from the 左氏傳 upon the subject.
tell Ho-chi to go and study proprieties under him .' In
consequence of this charge, Ho-chi , Mang Hsi's son, who appears in
the Analects under the name of Mang I , and a brother, or perhaps
on]y a near relative, named Nan-kung Chang-shu , became disciples of
Confucius. Their wealth and standing in the State gave him a position
which he had not had before, and he told Chang-shu of a wish which he
had to visit the court of Chau, and especially to confer on the subject
of ceremonies and music with Lao Tan. Chang-shu represented the matter
to the duke Ch'ao, who put a carriage and a pair of horses at
Confucius's disposal for the expedition .
At this time the court of Chau was in the city of Lo . in the
present department of Ho-nan of the province of the same name. The
reigning sovereign is known by the title of Chang , but the
sovereignty was little more than nominal. The state of China was then
analogous to that of one of the European kingdoms during the prevalence
of the feudal system. At the commencement of the dynasty, the various
states of the kingdom had been assigned to the relatives and adherents
of the reigning family. There were thirteen principalities of greater
note, and a large number of smaller dependencies. During the vigorous
youth of the dynasty, the sovereign or lord paramount exercised an
effective control over the various chiefs, but with the lapse of time
there came weakness and decay. The chiefs -- corresponding somewhat to
the European dukes, earls, marquises, barons, &c. -- quarrelled and
warred among themselves, and the stronger among them barely acknowledged
their subjection to the sovereign. A similar condition of things
prevailed in each particular State. There there [sic] were hereditary
ministerial families, who were continually encroaching on the authority
of their rulers, and the heads of those families again were frequently
hard pressed by their inferior officers. Such was the state of China in
Confucius's time. The reader must have it clearly before him, if he
would understand the position of the sage, and the reforms which, we
shall find, it was subsequently his object to introduce.
Arrived at Chau, he had no intercourse with the court or any of
1 See 左氏傳, 昭公七年.
5 The 家語 makes Chang-shu accompany Confucius to Chau. It is difficult to
understand this, if Chang-shu were really a son of Mang Hsi who had died
7 敬王 (B.C. 519-475)
the principal ministers. He was there not as a politician, but as an
inquirer about the ceremonies and maxims of the founders of the existing
dynasty. Lao Tan , whom he had wished to see, generally acknowledged
as the founder of the Taoists, or Rationalistic sect (so called), which
has maintained its ground in opposition to the followers of Confucius,
was then a curator of the royal library. They met and freely
interchanged their views, but no reliable account of their conversations
has been preserved. In the fifth Book of the Li Chi, which is headed
'The philosopher Tsang asked,' Confucius refers four times to the views
of Lao-tsze on certain points of funeral ceremonies, and in the
'Narratives of the School,' Book XXIV, he tells Chi K'ang what he had
heard from him about 'The Five Tis,' but we may hope their conversation
turned also on more important subjects. Sze-ma Ch'ien, favourable to
Lao-tsze, makes him lecture his visitor in the following style:-- 'Those
whom you talk about are dead, and their bones are moldered to dust; only
their words remain. When the superior man gets his time, he mounts
aloft; but when the time is against him, he moves as if his feet were
entangled. I have heard that a good merchant, though he has rich
treasures deeply stored, appears as if he were poor, and that the
superior man whose virtue is complete, is yet to outward seeming stupid.
Put away your proud air and many desires, your insinuating habit and
wild will . These are of no advantage to you. This is all which I
have to tell you.' On the other hand, Confucius is made to say to his
disciples, 'I know how birds can fly, how fishes can swim, and how
animals can run. But the runner may be snared, the swimmer may be
hooked, and the flyer may be shot by the arrow. But there is the dragon.
I cannot tell how he mounts on the wind through the clouds, and rises to
heaven. Today I have seen Lao-tsze, and can only compare him to the
While at Lo, Confucius walked over the grounds set apart for the
great sacrifices to Heaven and Earth; inspected the pattern of the Hall
of Light, built to give audience in to the princes of the kingdom; and
examined all the arrangements of the ancestral temple and the court.
From the whole he received a profound
1 According to Sze-ma Ch'ien, Tan was the posthumous epithet of this
individual, whose surname was Li (李), name R (耳), and designation
3 See the 史記, 列傳第三, and compare the remarks attributed to Lao-tsze in
the account of the K'ung family near the beginning.
impression. 'Now,' said he with a sigh, 'I know the sage wisdom of
the duke of Chau, and how the House of Chau attained to the royal sway
.' On the walls of the Hall of Light were paintings of the ancient
sovereigns from Yao and Shun downwards, their characters appearing in
the representations of them, and words of praise or warning being
appended. There was also a picture of the duke of Chau sitting with his
infant nephew, the king Ch'ang, upon his knees, to give audience to all
the princes. Confucius surveyed the scene with silent delight, and then
said to his followers, 'Here you see how Chau became so great. As we use
a glass to examine the forms of things, so must we study antiquity in
order to understand the present time .' In the hall of the ancestral
temple, there was a metal statue of a man with three clasps upon his
mouth, and his back covered over with an enjoyable homily on the duty of
keeping a watch upon the lips. Confucius turned to his disciples and
said, 'Observe it, my children. These words are true, and commend
themselves to our feelings .'
About music he made inquiries at Ch'ang Hung, to whom the following
remarks are attributed:-- 'I have observed about Chung-ni many marks of
a sage. He has river eyes and a dragon forehead,-- the very
characteristics of Hwang-ti. His arms are long, his back is like a
tortoise, and he is nine feet six inches in height,-- the very semblance
of T'ang the Completer. When he speaks, he praises the ancient kings. He
moves along the path of humility and courtesy. He has heard of every
subject, and retains with a strong memory. His knowledge of things seems
inexhaustible.-- Have we not in him the rising of a sage ?'
I have given these notices of Confucius at the court of Chau, more as
being the only ones I could find, than because I put much faith in them.
He did not remain there long, but returned the same year to Lu, and
continued his work of teaching. His fame was greatly increased;
disciples came to him from different parts, till their number amounted
to three thousand. Several of those who have come down to us as the most
distinguished among his followers, however, were yet unborn, and the
statement just given may be considered as an exaggeration. We are not to
conceive of the disciples as forming a community, and living together.
1 2 3 See the 家語, 卷二, art. 觀周.
4 Quoted by Chiang Yung from the 'Narratives of the School.'
of them may have done so. We shall find Confucius hereafter always
moving amid a company of admiring pupils; but the greater number must
have had their proper avocations and ways of living, and would only
resort to the Master, when they wished specially to ask his counsel or
to learn of him.
5. In the year succeeding the return to Lu, that State fell into
great confusion. There were three Families in it, all connected
irregularly with the ducal House, which had long kept the rulers in a
condition of dependency. They appear frequently in the Analects as the
Chi clan, the Shu, and the Mang; and while Confucius freely spoke of
[Sidebar] He withdraws to Chi and returns to Lu the following
year. B.C. 515, 516.
usurpations , he was a sort of dependent of the Chi family, and
appears in frequent communication with members of all the three. In the
year B.C. 517, the duke Chao came to open hostilities with them, and
being worsted, fled into Ch'i, the State adjoining Lu on the north.
Thither Confucius also repaired, that he might avoid the prevailing
disorder of his native State. Ch'i was then under the government of a
ruler (in rank a marquis, but historically called duke) , afterwards
styled Ching , who 'had a thousand teams, each of four horses, but on
the day of his death the people did not praise him for a single virtue
.' His chief minister, however, was Yen Ying , a man of
considerable ability and worth. At his court the music of the ancient
sage-emperor, Shun, originally brought to Ch'i from the State of Ch'an
, was still preserved.
According to the 'Narratives of the School,' an incident occurred on
the way to Ch'i, which I may transfer to these pages as a good specimen
of the way in which Confucius turned occurring matters to account, in
his intercourse with his disciples. As he was passing by the side of the
Tai mountain, there was a woman weeping and wailing by a grave.
Confucius bent forward in his carriage, and after listening to her for
some time, sent Tsze-lu to ask the cause of her grief. 'You weep, as if
you had experienced sorrow upon sorrow,' said Tsze-lu. The woman
replied, 'It is so. My husband's father was killed here by a tiger, and
my husband also; and now my son has met the same fate.' Confucius asked
her why she did not remove from the place, and on her answering,' There
is here no oppressive government,' he turned to his disciples, and said,
1 See Analects, III. i. ii, et al.
3 Ana. XVI. xii.
4 晏嬰. This is the same who was afterwards styled 晏平仲.
children, remember this. Oppressive government is fiercer than a
As soon as he crossed the border from Lu, we are told he discovered
from the gait and manners of a boy, whom he saw carrying a pitcher, the
influence of the sages' music, and told the driver of his carriage to
hurry on to the capital . Arrived there, he heard the strain, and was
so ravished with it, that for three months he did not know the taste of
flesh. 'I did not think,' he said, 'that music could have been made so
excellent as this .' The duke Ching was pleased with the conferences
which he had with him , and proposed to assign to him the town of
Lin-ch'iu, from the revenues of which he might derive a sufficient
support; but Confucius refused the gift, and said to his disciples, 'A
superior man will only receive reward for services which he has done. I
have given advice to the duke Ching, but he has not yet obeyed it, and
now he would endow me with this place! Very far is he from understanding
On one occasion the duke asked about government, and received the
characteristic reply, 'There is government when the ruler is ruler, and
the minister is minister; when the father is father, and the son is son
.' I say that the reply is characteristic. Once, when Tsze-lu asked
him what he would consider the first thing to be done if entrusted with
the government of a State, Confucius answered, 'What is necessary is to
rectify names .' The disciple thought the reply wide of the mark, but
it was substantially the same with what he said to the marquis Ching.
There is a sufficient foundation in nature for government in the several
relations of society, and if those be maintained and developed according
to their relative significancy, it is sure to obtain. This was a first
principle in the political ethics of Confucius.
Another day the duke got to a similar inquiry the reply that the art
of government lay in an economical use of the revenues; and being
pleased, he resumed his purpose of retaining the philosopher in his
State, and proposed to assign to him the fields of Ni-ch'i. His
1 See the 家語, 卷四, art. 正論解. I have translated, however, from the Li
Chi, II. Sect. II. iii. 10, where the same incident is given, with some
variations, and without saying when or where it occurred.
2 See the 說苑, 卷十九, p. 13.
3 Ana. VII. xiii.
4 Some of these are related in the 'Narratives of the School;'-- about
the burning of the ancestral shrine of the sovereign 釐, and a one-footed
bird which appeared hopping and flapping its wings in Ch'i. They are
plainly fabulous, though quoted in proof of Confucius's sage wisdom.
This reference to them is more than enough.
5 家語, 卷二, 六本.
6 Ana. XII. xi.
7 Ana. XIII. iii.
chief minister Yen Ying dissuaded him from the purpose, saying,
'Those scholars are impracticable, and cannot be imitated. They are
haughty and conceited of their own views, so that they will not be
content in inferior positions. They set a high value on all funeral
ceremonies, give way to their grief, and will waste their property on
great burials, so that they would only be injurious to the common
manners. This Mr. K'ung has a thousand peculiarities. It would take
generations to exhaust all that he knows about the ceremonies of going
up and going down. This is not the time to examine into his rules of
propriety. If you, prince, wish to employ him to change the customs of
Ch'i, you will not be making the people your primary consideration .'
I had rather believe that these were not the words of Yen Ying, but
they must represent pretty correctly the sentiments of many of the
statesmen of the time about Confucius. The duke of Ch'i got tired ere
long of having such a monitor about him, and observed. 'I cannot treat
him as I would the chief of the Chi family. I will treat him in a way
between that accorded to the chief of the Chi, and that given to the
chief of the Mang family.' Finally he said, 'I am old; I cannot use his
doctrines .' These observations were made directly to Confucius, or
came to his hearing . It was not consistent with his self-respect to
remain longer in Ch'i, and he returned to Lu .
6. Returned to Lu, he remained for the long period of about fifteen
years without being engaged in any official employment. It
[Sidebar] He remains without office in Lu, B.C. 516-501.
was a time indeed of great disorder. The duke Chao continued a
refugee in Ch'i, the government being in the hands of the great
Families, up to his death in B.C. 510, on which event the rightful heir
was set aside, and another member of the ducal House, known to us by the
title of Ting , substituted in his place. The ruling authority of the
principality became thus still more enfeebled than it had been before,
and, on the other hand, the chiefs of the Chi, the Shu, and the Mang,
could hardly keep their ground against their own officers. Of those
latter, the two most conspicuous were Yang Hu , called also Yang Ho
1 See the 史記, 孔子世家, p. 2.
2 Ana. XVIII. iii
3 Sze-ma Ch'ien makes the first observation to have been addressed
directly to Confucius.
4 According to the above account Confucius was only once, and for a
portion of two years, in Ch'i. For the refutation of contrary accounts,
see Chiang Yung's Life of the Sage.
Kung-shan Fu-zao . At one time Chi Hwan, the most powerful of the
chiefs, was kept a prisoner by Yang Hu, and was obliged to make terms
with him in order to obtain his liberation. Confucius would give his
countenance to none, as he disapproved of all, and he studiously kept
aloof from them. Of how he comported himself among them we have a
specimen in the incident related in the Analects, XVII. i.-- 'Yang Ho
wished to see Confucius, but Confucius would not go to see him. On this,
he sent a present of a pig to Confucius, who, having chosen a time when
Ho was not at home, went to pay his respects for the gift. He met him,
however, on the way. "Come, let me speak with you," said the officer.
"Can he be called benevolent, who keeps his jewel in his bosom, and
leaves his country to confusion?" Confucius replied, "No." "Can he be
called wise, who is anxious to be engaged in public employment, and yet
is constantly losing the opportunity of being so?" Confucius again said,
"No." The other added, "The days and months are passing away; the years
do not wait for us." Confucius said, "Right; I will go into office."'
Chinese writers are eloquent in their praises of the sage for the
combination of propriety, complaisance and firmness, which they see in
his behavior in this matter. To myself there seems nothing remarkable in
it but a somewhat questionable dexterity. But it was well for the fame
of Confucius that his time was not occupied during those years with
official services. He turned them to better account, prosecuting his
researches into the poetry, history, ceremonies, and music of the
nation. Many disciples continued to resort to him, and the legendary
writers tell us how he employed their services in digesting the results
of his studies. I must repeat, however, that several of them, whose
names are most famous, such as Tsang Shan, were as yet children, and Min
Sun  was not born till B.C. 500.
To this period we must refer the almost single instance which we have
of the manner of Confucius's intercourse with his son Li. 'Have you
heard any lessons from your father different from what we have all
heard?' asked one of the disciples once of Li. 'No,' said Li. 'He was
standing alone once, when I was passing through the court below with
hasty steps, and said to me, "Have you learned the Odes?" On my
replying, "Not yet," he added, "If you do not learn the Odes, you will
not be fit to converse with." Another day,
1 公山佛擾(史記, 狃).
in the same place and the same way, he said to me, "Have you read the
rules of Propriety?" On my replying, "Not yet," he added, "If you do not
learn the rules of Propriety, your character cannot be established." I
have heard only these two things from him.' The disciple was delighted
and observed, 'I asked one thing, and I have got three things. I have
heard about the Odes. I have heard about the rules of Propriety. I have
also heard that the superior man maintains a distant reserve towards his
I can easily believe that this distant reserve was the rule which
Confucius followed generally in his treatment of his son. A stern
dignity is the quality which a father has to maintain upon his system.
It is not to be without the element of kindness, but that must never go
beyond the line of propriety. There is too little room left for the play
and development of natural affection.
The divorce of his wife must also have taken place during these
years, if it ever took place at all, which is a disputed point. The
curious reader will find the question discussed in the notes on the
second Book of the Li Chi. The evidence inclines, I think, against the
supposition that Confucius did put his wife away. When she died, at a
period subsequent to the present, Li kept on weeping aloud for her after
the period for such a demonstration of grief had expired, when Confucius
sent a message to him that his sorrow must be subdued, and the obedient
son dried his tears . We are glad to know that on one occasion the
death of his favourite disciple, Yen Hui -- the tears of Confucius
himself would flow over and above the measure of propriety .
7. We come to the short period of Confucius's official life. In the
[Sidebar] He holds office. B.C. 500-496.
year B.C. 501, things had come to a head between the chiefs of the
three Families and their ministers, and had resulted in the defeat of
the latter. In that year the resources of Yang Hu were exhausted, and he
fled into Ch'i, so that the State was delivered from its greatest
troubler, and the way was made more clear for Confucius to go into
office, should an opportunity occur. It soon presented itself. Towards
the end of that year he was made chief magistrate of the town of Chung-tu
1 Ana. XVI. xiii.
2 See the Li Chi, II. Pt. I. i. 27.
3 Ana. XI. ix.
4 中都宰. Amiot says this was 'la ville meme ou le Souverain tenoit sa Cour'
(Vie de Confucius, p. 147). He is followed of course by Thornton and
Pauthier. My reading has not shown me that such was the case. In the
notes to K'ang-hsi's edition of the 'Five Ching,' Li Chi, II Sect. I.
iii. 4, it is simply said-- 'Chung-tu,-- the name of a town of Lu. It
afterwards belonged to Ch'i when it was called Ping-lu (平陸).'
Just before he received this appointment, a circumstance occurred of
which we do not well know what to make. When Yang-hu fled into Ch'i,
Kung-shan Fu-zao, who had been confederate with him, continued to
maintain an attitude of rebellion, and held the city of Pi against the
Chi family. Thence he sent a message to Confucius inviting him to join
him, and the Sage seemed so inclined to go that his disciple Tsze-lu
remonstrated with him, saying, 'Indeed you cannot go! why must you think
of going to see Kung-shan?' Confucius replied, 'Can it be without some
reason that he has invited me? If any one employ me, may I not make an
eastern Chau ?'
The upshot, however, was that he did not go, and I cannot suppose
that he had ever any serious intention of doing so. Amid the general
gravity of his intercourse with his followers, there gleam out a few
instances of quiet pleasantry, when he amused himself by playing with
their notions about him. This was probably one of them.
As magistrate of Chung-tu he produced a marvellous reformation of the
manners of the people in a short time. According to the 'Narratives of
the School,' he enacted rules for the nourishing of the living and all
observances to the dead. Different food was assigned to the old and the
young, and different burdens to the strong and the weak. Males and
females kept apart from each other in the streets. A thing dropped on
the road was not picked up. There was no fraudulent carving of vessels.
Inner coffins were made four inches thick, and the outer ones five.
Graves were made on the high grounds, no mounds being raised over them,
and no trees planted about them. Within twelve months, the princes of
the other States all wished to imitate his style of administration .
The duke Ting, surprised at what he saw, asked whether his rules
could be employed to govern a whole State, and Confucius told him that
they might be applied to the whole kingdom. On this the duke appointed
him assistant-superintendent of Works , in which capacity he surveyed
the lands of the State, and made many improvements in agriculture. From
this he was quickly made minister of Crime , and the appointment was
enough to put an end to crime. There was no necessity to put the penal
laws in execution. No offenders showed themselves .
1 Ana. XVII. v.
2 家語, Bk. I.
3 司空. This office, however, was held by the chief of the Mang Family. We
must understand that Confucius was only an assistant to him, or perhaps
acted for him.
5 家語, Bk. I.
These indiscriminating eulogies are of little value. One incident,
related in the annotations of Tso-shih on the Ch'un-Ch'iu , commends
itself at once to our belief, as in harmony with Confucius's character.
The chief of the Chi, pursuing with his enmity the duke Chao, even after
his death, had placed his grave apart from the graves of his
predecessors; and Confucius surrounded the ducal cemetery with a ditch
so as to include the solitary resting-place, boldly telling the chief
that he did it to hide his disloyalty . But he signalized himself
most of all in B.C. 500, by his behavior at an interview between the
dukes of Lu and Ch'i, at a place called Shih-ch'i , and Chia-ku ,
in the present district of Lai-wu, in the department of T'ai-an .
Confucius was present as master of ceremonies on the part of Lu, and the
meeting was professedly pacific. The two princes were to form a covenant
of alliance. The principal officer on the part of Ch'i, however,
despising Confucius as 'a man of ceremonies, without courage,' had
advised his sovereign to make the duke of Lu a prisoner, and for this
purpose a band of the half-savage original inhabitants of the place
advanced with weapons to the stage where the two dukes were met.
Confucius understood the scheme, and said to the opposite party, 'Our
two princes are met for a pacific object. For you to bring a band of
savage vassals to disturb the meeting with their weapons, is not the way
in which Ch'i can expect to give law to the princes of the kingdom.
These barbarians have nothing to do with our Great Flowery land. Such
vassals may not interfere with our covenant. Weapons are out of place at
such a meeting. As before the spirits, such conduct is unpropitious. In
point of virtue, it is contrary to right. As between man and man, it is
not polite.' The duke of Ch'i ordered the disturbers off, but Confucius
withdrew, carrying the duke of Lu with him. The business proceeded,
notwithstanding, and when the words of the alliance were being read on
the part of Ch'i,-- ' So be it to Lu, if it contribute not 300 chariots
of war to the help of Ch'i, when its army goes across its borders,' a
messenger from Confucius added, 'And so be it to us, if we obey your
orders, unless you return to us the fields on the south of the Wan.' At
the conclusion of the ceremonies, the prince of Ch'i wanted to give a
grand entertainment, but Confucius demonstrated that such a thing would
1 左傳, 定公元年.
2 家語, Bk. I.
5 泰安府, 萊蕪縣.
contrary to the established rules of propriety, his real object being
to keep his sovereign out of danger. In this way the two parties
separated, they of Ch'i filled with shame at being foiled and disgraced
by 'the man of ceremonies;' and the result was that the lands of Lu
which had been appropriated by Ch'i were restored .
For two years more Confucius held the office of minister of Crime.
Some have supposed that he was further raised to the dignity of chief
minister of the State , but that was not the case. One instance of
the manner in which he executed his functions is worth recording. When
any matter came before him, he took the opinion of different individuals
upon it, and in giving judgment would say, 'I decide according to the
view of so and so.' There was an approach to our jury system in the
plan, Confucius's object being to enlist general sympathy, and carry the
public judgment with him in his administration of justice. A father
having brought some charge against his son, Confucius kept them both in
prison for three months, without making any difference in favour of the
father, and then wished to dismiss them both. The head of the Chi was
dissatisfied, and said, 'You are playing with me, Sir minister of Crime.
Formerly you told me that in a State or a family filial duty was the
first thing to be insisted on. What hinders you now from putting to
death this unfilial son as an example to all the people?' Confucius with
a sigh replied, 'When superiors fail in their duty, and yet go to put
their inferiors to death, it is not right. This father has not taught
his son to be filial; to listen to his charge would be to slay the
guiltless. The manners of the age have been long in a sad condition; we
cannot expect the people not to be transgressing the laws .'
At this time two of his disciples, Tsze-lu and Tsze-yu, entered the
employment of the Chi family, and lent their influence, the former
especially, to forward the plans of their master. One great cause of
disorder in the State was the fortified cities held by the three chiefs,
in which they could defy the supreme authority, and were in turn defied
themselves by their officers. Those cities were like the castles of the
barons of England in the time of the Norman
1 This meeting at Chia-ku is related in Sze-ma Ch'ien, the
'Narratives of the school,' and Ku-liang, with many exaggerations. I
have followed 左氏傳, 定公十年.
2 The 家語 says Bk. II, 孔子為魯司寇, 攝相事. But he was a 相 only in the sense of
an assistant of ceremonies, as at the meeting in Chia-ku, described
3 See the 家語, Bk. II.
kings. Confucius had their destruction very much at heart, and partly
by the influence of persuasion, and partly by the assisting counsels of
Tsze-lu, he accomplished his object in regard to Pi , the chief city
of the Chi, and Hau , the chief city of the Shu.
It does not appear that he succeeded in the same way in dismantling
Ch'ang , the chief city of the Mang ; but his authority in the
State greatly increased. 'He strengthened the ducal House and weakened
the private Families. He exalted the sovereign, and depressed the
ministers. A transforming government went abroad. Dishonesty and
dissoluteness were ashamed and hid their heads. Loyalty and good faith
became the characteristics of the men, and chastity and docility those
of the women. Strangers came in crowds from other States .' Confucius
became the idol of the people, and flew in songs through their mouths
But this sky of bright promise was soon overcast. As the fame of the
reformations in Lu went abroad, the neighboring princes began to be
afraid. The duke of Ch'i said, 'With Confucius at the head of its
government, Lu will become supreme among the States, and Ch'i which is
nearest to it will be the first swallowed up. Let us propitiate it by a
surrender of territory.' One of his ministers proposed that they should
first try to separate between the sage and his sovereign, and to effect
this, they hit upon the following scheme. Eighty beautiful girls, with
musical and dancing accomplishments, and a hundred and twenty of the
finest horses that could be found, were selected, and sent as a present
to duke Ting. They were put up at first outside the city, and Chi Hwan
having gone in disguise to see them, forgot the lessons of Confucius,
and took the duke to look at the bait. They were both captivated. The
women were received, and the sage was neglected. For three days the duke
gave no audience to his ministers. 'Master,' said Tsze-lu to Confucius,
'it is time for you to be going.' But Confucius was very unwilling to
leave. The spring was coming on, when the sacrifice to Heaven would be
offered, and he determined to wait and see whether the
4 In connexion with these events, the 'Narratives of the School' and Sze-ma
Ch'ien mention the summary punishment inflicted by Confucius on an able
but unscrupulous and insidious officer the Shaou chang, Maou (少正卯). His
judgment and death occupy a conspicuous place in the legendary accounts.
But the Analects, Tsze-sze, Mencius, and Tso Ch'iu-ming are all silent
about it, and Chiang Yung rightly rejects it as one of the many
narratives invented to exalt the sage.
5 See the 家語, Bk. II.
6 See 孔叢子, quoted by Chiang Yung.
solemnization of that would bring the duke back to his right mind. No
such result followed. The ceremony was hurried through, and portions of
the offerings were not sent round to the various ministers, according to
the established custom. Confucius regretfully took his departure, going
away slowly and by easy stages . He would have welcomed a message of
recall. But the duke continued in his abandonment, and the sage went
forth to thirteen weary years of homeless wandering.
8. On leaving Lu, Confucius first bent his steps westward to the
State of Wei, situate about where the present provinces of Chih-li and
[Sidebar] He wanders from State to State. B.C. 497-484.
He was now in his fifty-sixth year, and felt depressed and
melancholy. As he went along, he gave expression to his feelings in
'Fain would I still look towards Lu,
But this Kwei hill cuts off my view.
With an axe, I'd hew the thickets through:--
Vain thought! 'gainst the hill I nought can do;'
'Through the valley howls the blast,
Drizzling rain falls thick and fast.
Homeward goes the youthful bride,
O'er the wild, crowds by her side.
How is it, O azure Heaven,
From my home I thus am driven,
Through the land my way to trace,
With no certain dwelling-place?
Dark, dark; the minds of men!
Worth in vain comes to their ken.
Hastens on my term of years;
Old age, desolate, appears ,'
A number of his disciples accompanied him, and his sadness infected
them. When they arrived at the borders of Wei at a place called I, the
warden sought an interview, and on coming out from the sage, he tried to
comfort the disciples, saying, 'My friends, why are you distressed at
your master's loss of office? The world has been long without the
principles of truth and right; Heaven is going to use your master as a
bell with its wooden tongue .' Such was the thought of this friendly
stranger. The bell did indeed sound, but few had ears to hear.
1 史記, 孔子世家, p. 5. See also Mencius, V. Pt. II. i. 4.; et al.
2 See Chiang Yung's Life of Confucius, 去魯周遊考.
3 Ana. III. xxiv.
Confucius's fame, however, had gone before him, and he was in little
danger of having to suffer from want. On arriving at the capital of Wei,
he lodged at first with a worthy officer, named Yen Ch'au-yu . The
reigning duke, known to us by the epithet of Ling , was a worthless,
dissipated man, but he could not neglect a visitor of such eminence, and
soon assigned to Confucius a revenue of 60,000 measures of grain .
Here he remained for ten months, and then for some reason left it to go
to Ch'an . On the way he had to pass by K'wang , a place probably
in the present department of K'ai-fung in Ho-nan, which had formerly
suffered from Yang-hu. It so happened that Confucius resembled Hu, and
the attention of the people being called to him by the movements of his
carriage-driver, they thought it was their old enemy, and made an attack
upon him. His followers were alarmed, but he was calm, and tried to
assure them by declaring his belief that he had a divine mission. He
said to them, 'After the death of king Wan, was not the cause of truth
lodged here in me? If Heaven had wished to let this cause of truth
perish, then I, a future mortal, should not have got such a relation to
that cause. While Heaven does not let the cause of truth perish, what
can the people of K'wang do to me ?' Having escaped from the hands of
his assailants, he does not seem to have carried out his purpose of
going to Ch'an, but returned to Wei.
On the way, he passed a house where he had formerly lodged, and
finding that the master was dead, and the funeral ceremonies going on,
he went in to condole and weep. When he came out, he told Tsze-kung to
take the outside horses from his carriage, and give them as a
contribution to the expenses of the occasion. 'You never did such a
thing,' Tsze-kung remonstrated, 'at the funeral of any of your
disciples; is it not too great a gift on this occasion of the death of
an old host?' 'When I went in,' replied Confucius, 'my presence brought
a burst of grief from the chief mourner, and I joined him with my tears.
I dislike the thought of my tears not being followed by anything. Do it,
my child .' On reaching Wei, he lodged with Chu Po-yu, an officer of
1 顏讎由. See Mencius, V. Pt. I. viii. 2.
3 see the 史記, 孔子世家, p. 5.
6 Ana. IX. v. In Ana. XI. xxii, there is another reference to this time,
in which Yen Hui is made to appear.
7 See the Li Chi, II. Sect. I. ii. 16.
honourable mention is made in the Analects . But this time he did
not remain long in the State. The duke was
[Sidebar] B.C. 495.
married to a lady of the house of Sung, known by the name of Nan-tsze,
notorious for her intrigues and wickedness. She sought an interview with
the sage, which he was obliged unwillingly to accord . No doubt he
was innocent of thought or act of evil, but it gave great
dissatisfaction to Tsze- lu that his master should have been in company
with such a woman, and Confucius, to assure him, swore an oath, saying,
'Wherein I have done improperly, may Heaven reject me! May Heaven reject
me !' He could not well abide, however, about such a court. One day
the duke rode out through the streets of his capital in the same
carriage with Nan-tsze, and made Confucius follow them in another.
Perhaps he intended to honour the philosopher, but the people saw the
incongruity, and cried out, 'Lust in the front; virtue behind!'
Confucius was ashamed, and made the observation, 'I have not seen one
who loves virtue as he loves beauty .' Wei was no place for him. He
left it, and took his way towards Ch'an.
Ch'an, which formed part of the present province of Ho-nan, lay south
from Wei. After passing the small State of Ts'ao , he approached the
borders of Sung, occupying the present prefecture of Kwei-teh, and had
some intentions of entering it, when an incident occurred, which it is
not easy to understand from the meagre style in which it is related, but
which gave occasion to a remarkable saying. Confucius was practising
ceremonies with his disciples, we are told, under the shade of a large
tree. Hwan T'ui, an ill-minded officer of Sung, heard of it, and sent a
band of men to pull down the tree, and kill the philosopher, if they
could get hold of him. The disciples were much alarmed, but Confucius
observed, 'Heaven has produced the virtue that is in me; what can Hwan
T'ui do to me ?' They all made their escape, but seem to have been
driven westwards to the State of Chang , on arriving at the gate
conducting into which from the east, Confucius found himself separated
from his followers. Tsze-kung had arrived before him, and was told by a
native of Chang that there was a man standing by the east gate, with a
forehead like Yao, a neck like Kao- yao, his shoulders on a level with
those of Tsze-ch'an, but wanting, below the waist, three
1 Ana. XIV. xxvi; XV. vi.
2 See the account in the 史記, 孔子世家, p. 6.
3 Ana. VI. xxvi.
4 Ana. IX. xvii.
6 ana. IX. xxii.
inches of the height of Yu, and altogether having the disconsolate
appearance of a stray dog.' Tsze-kung knew it was the master, hastened
to him, and repeated to his great amusement the description which the
man had given. 'The bodily appearance,' said Confucius, 'is but a small
matter, but to say I was like a stray dog,-- capital! capital!' The stay
they made at Chang was short, and by the end of B.C. 495, Confucius was
All the next year he remained there, lodging with the warder of the
city wall, an officer of worth, of the name of Chang , and we have no
accounts of him which deserve to be related here .
In B.C. 494, Ch'an was much disturbed by attacks from Wu , a large
State, the capital of which was in the present department of Su-chau,
and Confucius determined to retrace his steps to Wei. On the way he was
laid hold of at a place called P'u , which was held by a rebellious
officer against Wei, and before he could get away, he was obliged to
engage that he would not proceed thither. Thither, notwithstanding, he
continued his route, and when Tsze-kung asked him whether it was right
to violate the oath he had taken, he replied, 'It was a forced oath. The
spirits do not hear such .' 'The duke Ling received him with
distinction, but paid no more attention to his lessons than before, and
Confucius is said then to have uttered his complaint, 'If there were any
of the princes who would employ me, in the course of twelve months I
should have done something considerable. In three years the government
would be perfected .'
A circumstance occurred to direct his attention to the State of Tsin
, which occupied the southern part of the present Shan-hsi, and
extended over the Yellow river into Ho-nan. An invitation came to
Confucius, like that which he had formerly received from Kung-shan Fu-zao.
Pi Hsi, an officer of Tsin, who was holding the town of Chung-mau
against his chief, invited him to visit him, and Confucius was inclined
to go. Tsze-lu was always the mentor on such occasions. He said to him,
'Master, I have heard you say,
1 See the 史記, 孔子世家, p. 6.
2 司城貞子. See Mencius, V. Pt. I. viii. 3.
3 Chiang Yung digests in this place two foolish stories,-- about a large
bone found in the State of Yueh, and a bird which appeared in Ch'ia and
died, shot through with a remarkable arrow. Confucius knew all about
6 This ia related by Sze-ma ch'ien 孔子世家, p. 7, and also in the
'Narratives of the School.' I would fain believe it is not true. The
wonder is, that no Chinese critic should have set about disproving it.
7 Ana. XII. x.
that when a man in his own person is guilty of doing evil, a superior
man will not associate with him. Pi Hsi is in rebellion; if you go to
him, what shall be said?' Confucius replied, 'Yes, I did use those
words. But is it not said that if a thing be really hard, it may be
ground without being made thin; and if it be really white, it may be
steeped in a dark fluid without being made black? Am I a bitter gourd?
Am I to be hung up out of the way of being eaten ?'
These sentiments sound strangely from his lips. After all, he did not
go to Pi Hsi; and having travelled as far as the Yellow river that he
might see one of the principal ministers of Tsin, he heard of the
violent death of two men of worth, and returned to Wei, lamenting the
fate which prevented him from crossing the stream, and trying to solace
himself with poetry as he had done on leaving Lu. Again did he
communicate with the duke, but as ineffectually, and disgusted at being
questioned by him about military tactics, he left and went back to Ch'an.
He resided in Ch'an all the next year, B.C. 491, without anything
occurring there which is worthy of note . Events had transpired in
Lu, however, which were to issue in his return to his native State. The
duke Ting had deceased B.C. 494, and Chi Hwan, the chief of the Chi
family, died in this year. On his death-bed, he felt remorse for his
conduct to Confucius, and charged his successor, known to us in the
Analects as Chi K'ang, to recall the sage; but the charge was not
immediately fulfilled. Chi K'ang, by the advice of one of his officers,
sent to Ch'an for the disciple Yen Ch'iu instead. Confucius willingly
sent him off, and would gladly have accompanied him. 'Let me return!' he
said, 'Let me return !' But that was not to be for several years yet.
In B.C. 490, accompanied, as usual, by several of his disciples, he
went from Ch'an to Ts'ai, a small dependency of the great fief of Ch'u,
which occupied a large part of the present provinces of Hu-nan and
Hu-pei. On the way, between Ch'an and Ts'ai, their provisions became
exhausted, and they were cut off somehow from obtaining a fresh supply.
The disciples were quite overcome with want, and Tsze-lu said to the
master, 'Has the superior man indeed to endure in this way?' Confucius
answered him, 'The superior man may indeed have to endure want; but the
l Ana. XVII. vii.
2 Tso Ch'iu-ming, indeed, relates a story of Confucius, on the report of
a fire in Lu, telling whose ancestral temple had been destroyed by it.
3 Ana. V. xxi.
when he is in want, gives way to unbridled license .' According to
the 'Narratives of the School,' the distress continued seven days,
during which time Confucius retained his equanimity, and was even
cheerful, playing on his lute and singing . He retained, however, a
strong impression of the perils of the season, and we find him
afterwards recurring to it, and lamenting that of the friends that were
with him in Ch'an and Ts'ai, there were none remaining to enter his door
Escaped from this strait, he remained in Ts'ai over B.C. 489, and in
the following year we find him in Sheh, another district of Ch'u, the
chief of which had taken the title of duke, according to the usurping
policy of that State. Puzzled about his visitor, he asked Tsze-lu what
he should think of him, but the disciple did not venture a reply. When
Confucius heard of it, he said to Tsze-lu. 'Why did you not say to
him:-- He is simply a man who in his eager pursuit of knowledge forgets
his food, who in the joy of its attainment forgets his sorrows, and who
does not perceive that old age is coming on ?' Subsequently, the
duke, in conversation with Confucius, asked him about government, and
got the reply, dictated by some circumstances of which we are ignorant,
'Good government obtains, when those who are near are made happy, and
those who are far off are attracted '
After a short stay in Sheh, according to Sze-ma Ch'ien, he returned
to Ts'ai, and having to dross a river, he sent Tsze-lu to inquire for
the ford of two men who were at work in a neighboring field. They were
recluses, men who had withdrawn from public life in disgust at the
waywardness of the times. One of them was called Ch'ang-tsu, and instead
of giving Tsze-lu the information he wanted, he asked him, 'Who is it
that holds the reins in the carriage there?' 'It is K'ung Ch'iu.' 'K'ung
Ch'iu of Lu?' 'Yes,' was the reply, and then the man rejoined, 'He
knows the ford.'
Tsze-lu applied to the other, who was called Chieh-ni, but got for
answer the question, 'Who are you, Sir?' He replied, 'I am Chung Yu.'
'Chung Yu, who is the disciple of K'ung Ch'iu of Lu?' 'Yes,' again
replied Tsze-lu, and Chieh-ni said to him, 'Disorder, like a swelling
flood, spreads over the whole kingdom,
1 Ana. XV. i. 2, 3.
2 家語, 卷二, 在危, 二十篇.
3 Ana. XI. ii.
4 Ana. VII. xviii.
5 Ana. XIII. xvi.
and who is he that will change it for you? Than follow one who merely
withdraws from this one and that one, had you not better follow those
who withdraw from the world altogether?' With this he fell to covering
up the seed, and gave no more heed to the stranger. Tsze-lu went back
and reported what they had said, when Confucius vindicated his own
course, saying. 'It is impossible to associate with birds and beasts as
if they were the same with us. If I associate not with these people,--
with mankind,-- with whom shall I associate? If right principles
prevailed through the kingdom, there would be no need for me to change
its state .'
About the same time he had an encounter with another recluse, who was
known as 'The madman of Ch'u.' He passed by the carriage of Confucius,
singing out, 'O phoenix, O phoenix, how is your virtue degenerated! As
to the past, reproof is useless, but the future may be provided against.
Give up, give up your vain pursuit.' Confucius alighted and wished to
enter into conversation with him, but the man hastened away .
But now the attention of the ruler of Ch'u -- king, as he styled
himself -- was directed to the illustrious stranger who was in his
dominions, and he met Confucius and conducted him to his capital, which
was in the present district of I-ch'ang, in the department of Hsiang-yang
, in Hu-pei. After a time, he proposed endowing the philosopher with
a considerable territory, but was dissuaded by his prime minister, who
said to him, 'Has your majesty any officer who could discharge the
duties of an ambassador like Tsze-kung? or any one so qualified for a
premier as Yen Hui? or any one to compare as a general with Tsze-lu? The
kings Wan and Wu, from their hereditary dominions of a hundred li,
rose to the sovereignty of the kingdom. If K'ung Ch'iu, with such
disciples to be his ministers, get the possession of any territory, it
will not be to the prosperity of Ch'u ? On this remonstrance the king
gave up his purpose; and, when he died in the same year, Confucius left
the State, and went back again to Wei.
The duke Ling had died four years before, soon after Confucius
[Sidebar] B.C. 489.
had last parted from him, and the reigning duke, known to us by the
title of Ch'u , was his grandson, and was holding the principality
against his own father. The relations
1 Ana. XVIII. vi.
2 Ana XVII. v.
4 See the 史記, 孔子世家, p. 10.
between them were rather complicated. The father had been driven out
in consequence of an attempt which he had instigated on the life of his
step-mother, the notorious Nan-tsze, and the succession was given to his
son. Subsequently, the father wanted to reclaim what he deemed his
right, and an unseemly struggle ensued. The duke Ch'u was conscious how
much his cause would be strengthened by the support of Confucius, and
hence when he got to Wei, Tsze-lu could say to him, 'The prince of Wei
has been waiting for you, in order with you to administer the
government;-- what will you consider the first thing to be done ?'
The opinion of the philosopher, however, was against the propriety of
the duke's course , and he declined taking office with him, though he
remained in Wei for between five and six years. During all that time
there is a blank in his history. In the very year of his return,
according to the 'Annals of the Empire,' his most beloved disciple, Yen
Hui, died, on which occasion he exclaimed, 'Alas! Heaven is destroying
me! Heaven is destroying me !' The death of his wife is assigned to
B.C. 484, but nothing else is related which we can connect with this
9. His return to Lu was brought about by the disciple Yen Yu, who, we
have seen, went into the service of Chi K'ang, in B.C. 491.
[Sidebar] From his return to Lu to his death. B.C. 484-478.
In the year B.C. 483, Yu had the conduct of some military operations
against Ch'i, and being successful, Chi K'ang asked him how he had
obtained his military skill;-- was it from nature, or by learning? He
replied that he had learned it from Confucius, and entered into a
glowing eulogy of the philosopher. The chief declared that he would
bring Confucius home again to Lu. 'If you do so,' said the disciple,
'see that you do not let mean men come between you and him.' On this
K'ang sent three officers with appropriate presents to Wei, to invite
the wanderer home, and he returned with them accordingly .
This event took place in the eleventh year of the duke Ai , who
succeeded to Ting, and according to K'ung Fu, Confucius's descendant,
the invitation proceeded from him . We may suppose that
1 Ana. XIII. iii. In the notes on this passage, I have given Chu
Hsi's opinion as to the time when Tsze-lu made this remark. It seems
more correct, however, to refer it to Confucius's return to Wei from
Ch'u, as is done by Chiang Yung.
2 Ana. VII. xiv.
3 Ana. XI. viii. In the notes on Ana. XI. vii, I have adverted to the
chronological difficulty connected with the dates assigned respectively
to the deaths of Yen Hui and Confucius's own son, Li. Chiang Yung
assigns Hui's death to B.C. 481.
4 See the 史記, 孔子世家.
6 See Chiang Yung's memoir, in loc.
while Chi K'ang was the mover and director of the proceeding, it was
with the authority and approval of the duke. It is represented in the
chronicle of Tso Ch'iu-ming as having occurred at a very opportune time.
The philosopher had been consulted a little before by K'ung Wan , an
officer of Wei, about how he should conduct a feud with another officer,
and disgusted at being referred to on such a subject, had ordered his
carriage and prepared to leave the State, exclaiming, 'The bird chooses
its tree. The tree does not choose the bird.' K'ung Wan endeavoured to
excuse himself, and to prevail on Confucius to remain in Wei, and just
at this juncture the messengers from Lu arrived .
Confucius was now in his sixty-ninth year. The world had not dealt
kindly with him. In every State which he had visited he had met with
disappointment and sorrow. Only five more years remained to him, nor
were they of a brighter character than the past. He had, indeed,
attained to that state, he tells us, in which 'he could follow what his
heart desired without transgressing what was right ,' but other
people were not more inclined than they had been to abide by his
counsels. The duke Ai and Chi K'ang often conversed with him, but he no
longer had weight in the guidance of state affairs, and wisely addressed
himself to the completion of his literary labors. He wrote a preface,
according to Sze-ma Ch'ien, to the Shu-ching; carefully digested the
rites and ceremonies determined by the wisdom of the more ancient sages
and kings; collected and arranged the ancient poetry; and undertook the
reform of music . He has told us himself. 'I returned from Wei to Lu,
and then the music was reformed, and the pieces in the Songs of the
Kingdom and Praise Songs found all their proper place .' To the Yi-ching
he devoted much study, and Sze-ma Ch'ien says that the leather thongs by
which the tablets of his copy were bound together were thrice worn out.
'If some years were added to my life,' he said, 'I would give fifty to
the study of the Yi, and then I might come to be without great faults
.' During this time also, we may suppose that he supplied Tsang Shan
with the materials of the classic of Filial Piety. The same year that he
returned, Chi Kang sent Yen Yu to ask his opinion about an
1 孔文子, the same who is mentioned in the Analects, V. xiv.
2 See the 左傳, 哀公十一年.
3 Ana. II. iv. 6.
4 See the 史記, 孔子世家, p. 12.
5 Ana. IX. xiv.
6 Ana. VII. xvi.
additional impost which he wished to lay upon the people, but
Confucius refused to give any reply, telling the disciple privately his
disapproval of the proposed measure. It was carried out, however, in the
following year, by the agency of Yen, on which occasion, I suppose, it
was that Confucius said to the other disciples, 'He is no disciple of
mine; my little children, beat the drum and assail him .' The year
B.C. 483 was marked by the death of his son Li, which he seems to have
borne with more equanimity than he did that of his disciple Yen Hui,
which some writers assign to the following year, though I have already
mentioned it under the year B.C. 489.
In the spring of B.C. 481, a servant of Chi K'ang caught a Ch'i-lin
on a hunting excursion of the duke in the present district of
Chia-hsiang . No person could tell what strange animal it was, and
Confucius was called to look at it. He at once knew it to be a lin,
and the legend-writers say that it bore on one of its horns the piece of
ribbon, which his mother had attached to the one that appeared to her
before his birth. According to the chronicle of Kung-yang, he was
profoundly affected. He cried out, 'For whom have you come? For whom
have you come?' His tears flowed freely, and he added, 'The course of my
doctrines is run .'
Notwithstanding the appearance of the lin, the life of
Confucius was still protracted for two years longer, though he took
occasion to terminate with that event his history of the Ch'un Ch'iu.
This Work, according to Sze-ma Ch'ien, was altogether the production of
this year, but we heed not suppose that it was so. In it, from the
standpoint of Lu, he briefly indicates the principal events occurring
throughout the country, every term being expressive, it is said, of the
true character of the actors and events described. Confucius said
himself, 'It is the Spring and Autumn which will make men know me, and
it is the Spring and Autumn which will make men condemn me .' Mencius
makes the composition of it to have been an achievement as great as Yu's
regulation of the waters of the deluge:-- 'Confucius completed the
Spring and Autumn, and rebellious ministers and villainous sons were
struck with terror .'
Towards the end of this year, word came to Lu that the duke
1 Ana. XI. xvi.
3 公羊傳, 哀公十四年. According to Kung-yang, however, the lin was found
by some wood-gatherers.
4 Mencius III. Pt. II. ix. 8.
5 Mencius III. Pt. II. ix. 11.
of Ch'i had been murdered by one of his officers. Confucius was moved
with indignation. Such an outrage he felt, called for his solemn
interference. He bathed, went to court, and represented the matter to
the duke, saying, 'Ch'an Hang has slain his sovereign, I beg that you
will undertake to punish him.' The duke pleaded his incapacity, urging
that Lu was weak compared with Ch'i, but Confucius replied, 'One half
the people of Ch'i are not consenting to the deed. If you add to the
people of Lu one half the people of Ch'i, you are sure to overcome.' But
he could not infuse his spirit into the duke, who told him to go and lay
the matter before the chiefs of the three Families. Sorely against his
sense of propriety, he did so, but they would not act, and he withdrew
with the remark, 'Following in the rear of the great officers, I did not
dare not to represent such a matter .'
In the year B.C. 479, Confucius had to mourn the death of another of
his disciples, one of those who had been longest with him, the
well-known Tsze-lu. He stands out a sort of Peter in the Confucian
school, a man of impulse, prompt to speak and prompt to act. He gets
many a check from the master, but there is evidently a strong sympathy
between them. Tsze- lu uses a freedom with him on which none of the
other disciples dares to venture, and there is not one among them all,
for whom, if I may speak from my own feeling, the foreign student comes
to form such a liking. A pleasant picture is presented to us in one
passage of the Analects. It is said, 'The disciple Min was standing by
his side, looking bland and precise; Tsze-lu (named Yu), looking bold
and soldierly; Yen Yu and Tsze-kung, with a free and straightforward
manner. The master was pleased, but he observed, "Yu there!-- he will
not die a natural death ."'
This prediction was verified. When Confucius returned to Lu from Wei,
he left Tsze-lu and Tsze-kao  engaged there in official service.
Troubles arose. News came to Lu, B.C. 479, that a revolution was in
progress in Wei, and when Confucius heard it, he said, 'Ch'ai will come
here, but Yu will die .' So it turned out. When Tsze-kao saw that
matters were desperate he made his escape, but Tsze-lu would not forsake
the chief who had treated
1 See the 左傳, 哀公十四年 and Analects XIV. xxii.
2 Ana. XI. xii.
3 子羔, by surname Kao (高), and name Ch'ai (柴).
4 See the 左傳, 哀公十五年.
him well. He threw himself into the melee, and was slain. Confucius
wept sore for him, but his own death was not far off. It took place on
the eleventh day of the fourth month in the same year, B.C. 479 .
Early one morning, we are told, he got up, and with his hands behind his
back, dragging his staff, he moved about by his door, crooning over,--
'The great mountain must crumble;
The strong beam must break;
And the wise man wither away like a plant.'
After a little, he entered the house and sat down opposite the door.
Tsze-kung had heard his words, and said to himself, 'If the great
mountain crumble, to what shall I look up? If the strong beam break, and
the wise man wither away, on whom shall I lean? The master, I fear, is
going to be ill.' With this he hastened into the house. Confucius said
to him, 'Ts'ze, what makes you so late? According to the statutes of
Hsia, the corpse was dressed and coffined at the top of the eastern
steps, treating the dead as if he were still the host. Under the Yin,
the ceremony was performed between the two pillars, as if the dead were
both host and guest. The rule of Chau is to perform it at the top of the
western steps, treating the dead as if he were a guest. I am a man of
Yin, and last night I dreamt that I was sitting with offerings before me
between the two pillars. No intelligent monarch arises; there is not one
in the kingdom that will make me his master. My time has come to die.'
So it was. He went to his couch, and after seven days expired .
Such is the account which we have of the last hours of the great
philosopher of China. His end was not unimpressive, but it was
melancholy. He sank behind a cloud. Disappointed hopes made his soul
bitter. The great ones of the kingdom had not received his teachings. No
wife nor child was by to do the kindly offices of affection for him. Nor
were the expectations of another life present with him as he passed
through the dark valley. He uttered no prayer, and he betrayed no
apprehensions. Deep-treasured in his own heart may have been the thought
that he had endeavoured to serve his generation by the will of God, but
he gave no sign. 'The mountain falling came to nought, and the rock was
1 See the 左傳, 哀公十六年, and Chiang Yung's Life of Confucius, in loc.
2 See the Li Chi, II, Sect. I. ii. 20.
out of his place. So death prevailed against him and he passed; his
countenance was changed, and he was sent away.'
10. I flatter myself that the preceding paragraphs contain a more
correct narrative of the principal incidents in the life of Confucius
than has yet been given in any European language. They might easily have
been expanded into a volume, but I did not wish to exhaust the subject,
but only to furnish a sketch, which, while it might satisfy the general
reader, would be of special assistance to the careful student of the
classical Books. I had taken many notes of the manifest errors in regard
to chronology and other matters in the 'Narratives of the School,' and
the chapter of Sze-ma Ch'ien on the K'ung family, when the digest of
Chiang Yung, to which I have made frequent reference, attracted my
attention. Conclusions to which I had come were confirmed, and a clue
was furnished to difficulties which I was seeking to disentangle. I take
the opportunity to acknowledge here my obligations to it. With a few
notices of Confucius's habits and manners, I shall conclude this
Very little can be gathered from reliable sources on the personal
appearance of the sage. The height of his father is stated, as I have
noted, to have been ten feet, and though Confucius came short of this by
four inches, he was often called 'the tall man.' It is allowed that the
ancient foot or cubit was shorter than the modem, but it must be reduced
more than any scholar I have consulted has yet done, to bring this
statement within the range of credibility. The legends assign to his
figure 'nine-and-forty remarkable peculiarities ,' a tenth part of
which would have made him more a monster than a man. Dr. Morrison says
that the images of him which he had seen in the northern parts of China,
represent him as of a dark, swarthy colour . It is not so with those
common in the south. He was, no doubt, in size and complexion much the
same as many of his descendants in the present day. Dr. Edkins and
myself enjoyed the services of two of those descendants, who acted as
'wheelers' in the wheelbarrows which conveyed us from Ch'u-fau to a town
on the Grand Canal more than 250 miles off. They were strong, capable
men, both physically and mentally superior to their companions.
2 Chinese and English Dictionary, char. 孔. Sir John Davis also mentions
seeing a figure of Confucius, in a temple near the Po-yang lake, of
which the complexion was 'quite black' (The Chinese, vol. ii. p. 66).
But if his disciples had nothing to chronicle of his personal
appearance, they have gone very minutely into an account of many of his
habits. The tenth Book of the Analects is all occupied with his
deportment, his eating, and his dress. In public, whether in the
village, the temple, or the court, he was the man of rule and ceremony,
but 'at home he was not formal.' Yet if not formal, he was particular.
In bed even he did not forget himself;-- 'he did not lie like a corpse,'
and 'he did not speak.' 'He required his sleeping dress to be half as
long again as his body.' 'If he happened to be sick, and the prince came
to visit him, he had his face set to the east, made his court robes be
put over him, and drew his girdle across them.'
He was nice in his diet,-- 'not disliking to have his rice dressed
fine, nor to have his minced meat cut small.' 'Anything at all gone he
would not touch.' 'He must have his meat cut properly, and to every kind
its proper sauce; but he was not a great eater.' 'It was only in drink
that he laid down no limit to himself, but he did not allow himself to
be confused by it.' 'When the villagers were drinking together, on those
who carried staffs going out, he went out immediately after.' There must
always be ginger at the table, and 'when eating, he did not converse.'
'Although his food might be coarse rice and poor soup, he would offer a
little of it in sacrifice, with a grave, respectful air.'
'On occasion of a sudden clap of thunder, or a violent wind, he would
change countenance. He would do the same, and rise up moreover, when he
found himself a guest at a loaded board.' 'At the sight of a person in
mourning, he would also change countenance, and if he happened to be in
his carriage, he would bend forward with a respectful salutation.' 'His
general way in his carriage was not to turn his head round, nor talk
hastily, nor point with his hands.' He was charitable. 'When any of his
friends died, if there were no relations who could be depended on for
the necessary offices, he would say, "I will bury him."
'The disciples were so careful to record these and other
characteristics of their master, it is said, because every act, of
movement or of rest, was closely associated with the great principles
which it was his object to inculcate. The detail of so many small
matters, however, hardly impresses a foreigner so favourably. There
rather seems to be a want of freedom about the philosopher.