Analects 20.2

Original Text:





Other Translations:

Zizhang asked Confucius, “What must a person be like before he can be employed in government service?”

The Master replied, “He must respect the five virtues, and get rid of the four vices. Then he can be employed in government service.”

Zizhang asked, “What are the five virtues?”

The Master replied, “The gentleman is benevolent without being wasteful, imposes labor upon the people without incurring their resentment, desires without being covetous, is grand without being arrogant, and is awe-inspiring without being severe.”

Zizhang asked, “What does it mean to be benevolent but not wasteful?”

The Master replied, “Benefiting the people based on an understanding of what is truly beneficial to them—is this not ‘benevolent without being wasteful’? Imposing labor upon the people only at the rights times and on the right projects—who will resent it?7 Desiring Goodness and attaining it—what is there left to covet? Whether he is dealing with a few or with many, with the great or with the humble, the gentleman does not dare to be casual—is this not ‘grand without being arrogant’? The gentleman straightens his robe and cap, adopts a respectful gaze, and is so dignified in appearance that people look upon him with awe—is this not ‘awe-inspiring without being severe?”

Zizhang asked, “What are the four vices?”

The Master replied, “Executing the people without having instructed them—this is cruelty. Expecting perfection without having warned people when they are about to make a mistake—this is oppressive. Demanding punctuality without having yourself issued proclamations in a timely fashion—this is to be a pest. Being consistently stingy when it comes to disbursing funds and rewarding people—this is officious.”

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

Zizhang questioned Confucius about government, saying, How should one proceed in order to govern effectively?

The Master said, Honor the five desirables, avoid the four evils—then you can govern effectively.

Zizhang said, What are the five desirables?

The Master said, The gentleman is bountiful but not extravagant, exacts labor but rouses no resentment, has desires but is not covetous, is self-possessed but not arrogant, dignified but not oppressively so.

Zizhang said, What do you mean by bountiful but not extravagant?

The Master said, In bestowing benefit, go by what benefits the people—is this not what is meant by bountiful but not extravagant? Select those appropriate for the task and exact labor from them—then who can feel resentment? Desire humaneness, and you will achieve humaneness—how can you be called covetous? The gentleman does not discriminate between the many and the few, the little and the big, and would never be overbearing—is this not what is meant by self-possessed but not arrogant? The gentleman straightens his clothing and cap and is careful how he looks at others, so that just viewing him from a distance, people are impressed—is this not what is meant by dignified but not oppressively so?

Zizhang said, What are the four evils?

The Master said, To execute people without first instructing them—this is called tyranny. To demand to see results without first giving warning—this is called unreasonableness. To be lax in issuing orders and then suddenly call for results—this is called brigandage. When something has to be allotted anyway, to be stingy in allotting it—this is called the habit of government clerks.

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 *