Analects 19.12

Original Text:



Other Translations:

Ziyou said, “Among the disciples of Zixia, the younger ones are fairly competent when it comes to tasks such as mopping and sweeping, answering summons, and entering and retiring from formal company, but these are all superficialities. They are completely at a loss when it comes to mastering the basics. Why is this?”

When Zixia heard of this, he remarked, “Alas! Ziyou seems to have missed the point. Whose disciples will be the first to be taught the Way of the gentleman, and then in the end grow tired of it? It is like the grass and the trees: you make distinctions between them according to their kind. The Way of the gentleman, how can it be slandered so? Starting at the beginning and working through to the end—surely this describes none other than the sage!”

Confucius, & Slingerland, E. (2003). Analects: With selections from traditional commentaries. Hackett Publishing.

Ziyou said, The young men who are followers of Zixia are competent at sprinkling and sweeping, receiving and responding to guests, advancing and retiring. But these are minor affairs. Question them on fundamentals, and they have no answer. How can that be?

When Zixia heard this, he said, Ah—Ziyou is mistaken. In the Way of the gentleman, what is to be taught first, what can be put aside until later? It’s like the case of plants or trees, which require different types of handling. But the Way of the gentleman—how can it be handled incorrectly? And who understands it from beginning to end?—only the sage can do that!

Confucius, & Watson, B. (2007). The Analects of Confucius. Columbia University Press.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *