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Confucius Says... and other Chinese Proverbs


Smooth words and fawning looks are seldom found with love.


To guide a land of a thousand chariots, honor business and be true; spend little and love men; time thy calls on the people.


The young should be dutiful at home, modest abroad, careful and true, overflowing in kindness for all, but in brotherhood with love. And if they have strength to spare they should spend it on the arts.


A gentleman will not be looked up to unless he is staid, nor will his learning be sound. Put faithfulness and truth first; have no friends unlike thyself; be not ashamed to mend thy faults.


Whilst thy father lives look for his purpose; when he is gone, look how he walked. To change nothing in thy father's ways for three years may be called pious.


A gentleman that does not seek to eat his fill, nor look for ease in his home, who is earnest at work and careful of speech, who walks with those that keep the Way, and is guided by them, may be said to love learning.


Not to be known is no sorrow. My sorrow is not knowing men.


He that rules by mind is like the north star, steady in his seat, whilst the stars all bend to him.


The three hundred poems are summed up in the one line, Think no evil.


Guide the people by law, aline them by punishment; they may shun crime, but they will want shame. Guide them by mind, aline them by courtesy; they will learn shame and grow good.


At fifteen, I had the will to learn; at thirty, I could stand; at forty, I had no doubts; at fifty, I understood the heavenly Bidding; at sixty, my ears were opened; at seventy, I could do as my heart lusted without trespassing from the square.


He that can feed his parents is now called a good son. But both dogs and horses are fed, and unless we honour our parents, what is the difference?


To keep old knowledge warm and get new makes the teacher.


Learning without thought is naught; thought without learning is dangerous.


To know what we know, and know what we do not know, is wisdom.


A man without love, what is courtesy to him? A man without love, what is music to him?


A big question! At high-tides, thrift is better than waste; at burials, grief is worth more than nicety.


Love makes a spot beautiful: who chooses not to dwell in love, has he got wisdom?


Loveless men cannot bear need long, they cannot bear fortune long. Loving men find peace in love, the wise find profit in it.


Love alone can love others, or hate others.


A will set on love is free from evil.


The gentleman is learned in right; the small man is learned in gain.


At sight of worth, think to grow like it; at sight of baseness, search thyself within.


We shall seldom get lost if we hold to main lines.


A gentleman wishes to be slow to speak and quick to do.


A great soul is never friendless: he has always neighbors.


Who can go out except by the door? Why is it no one keeps to the Way?


Man is born straight. If he grows crooked and yet lives, he is lucky to escape.


To rank the effort above the prize may be called love.


Wisdom delights in water; love delights in hills. Wisdom is stirring; love is quiet. Wisdom is merry; love grows old.


A holy man I shall not live to see; enough could I find a gentleman! A good man I shall not live to see; enough could I find a steadfast one! But when nothing poses as something, cloud as substance and want as riches, it is hard indeed to be steadfast!


There may be men that do things without knowing why. I do not. To hear much, pick out the good and follow it; to see much and think it over; this comes next to wisdom.


How dare I lay claim to holiness or love? A man of endless craving, who never tires of teaching, I might be called, but that is all.


A gentleman is calm and spacious; the small man is always fretting.


Other Chinese Proverbs

Worldly fame and pleasure are destructive to the virtue of the mind; anxious thoughts and apprehensions are injurious to the health of the body.



In learning, age and youth go for nothing; the best informed take the precedence.


Unsullied poverty is always happy, while impure wealth brings with it many sorrows.


The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.


Good fortune is a benefit to the wise, but a curse to the foolish.


A wise man adapts himself to circumstances, as water shapes itself to the vessel that contains it.


The best thing is to be respected, the next, is to be loved; it is bad to be hated, but still worse to be despised.


A foolish husband fears his wife; a prudent wife obeys her husband.


A vacant mind is open to all suggestions, as the hollow mountain returns all sounds.


By nature all men are alike, but by education very different.


He who toils with pain will eat with pleasure.


The fame of good men’s actions seldom goes beyond their own doors, but their evil deeds are carried a thousand miles’ distance.


The doctrine that enters only into the ear is like the repast one takes in a dream.


Do not anxiously expect what is not yet come; do not vainly regret what is already past.


Do not consider any vice as trivial, and therefore practise it; do not consider any virtue as unimportant, and therefore neglect it.


It is not easy to stop the fire when the water is at a distance; friends at hand are better than relations afar off.


When the man of a naturally good propensity has much wealth it injures his advancement in wisdom; when a worthless man has much wealth it increases his faults.


The man of worth is really great without being proud; the mean man is proud without being really great.


Let every man sweep the snow from before his own doors, and not busy himself about the frost on his neighbour’s tiles.


Modesty is attended with profit, arrogance brings on destruction.


Those who cause dissensions in order to injure other people are preparing pitfalls for their own ruin.


The man of first rate excellence is virtuous in spite of instruction; he of the middle class is so after instruction; the lowest order of men are vicious in spite of instruction.


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