Analects 18.7

Original Text:



Other Translations:

Zilu was traveling with Confucius, but had fallen behind. He encountered an old man carrying a wicker basket suspended from his staff. Zilu asked, “Have you seen my Master?”

The old man answered,

“ ‘Won’t soil his dainty hands

Can’t tell millet from corn.’

Who, then, might your master be?”

He then planted his staff in the ground and began weeding.

[Not knowing how to reply], Zilu simply remained standing with his hands clasped as a sign of respect.

The old man subsequently invited Zilu back to his house to stay the night. After killing a chicken and preparing some millet for Zilu to eat, he presented his two sons to him. The next day, Zilu caught up to Confucius and told him what had happened.

“He must be a scholar recluse,” the Master said. He sent Zilu back to the old farmer’s house to meet with him again, but by the time Zilu got there the man had already disappeared. Zilu then remarked, “To avoid public service is to be without a sense of what is right. Proper relations between elders and juniors cannot be discarded—how, then, can one discard the rightness that obtains between ruler and minister? To do so is to wish to keep one’s hands from getting dirty at the expense of throwing the great social order into chaos. The gentleman takes office in order to do what is right, even though he already knows that the Way will not be realized.”

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

Zilu was accompanying the Master but had fallen behind when he came upon an old man carrying a pole with a basket dangling from it. Zilu said, Have you seen my Master?

The old man said, Don’t know how to move your four limbs, can’t tell the five grains apart?—who is your “Master”? Then he stuck the pole in the ground and went to weeding. Zilu folded his hands in a gesture of respect and stood waiting.

The old man put Zilu up for the night, killed a chicken and cooked millet for a meal, and introduced him to his two sons.

The following day, Zilu caught up with Confucius and reported what had happened. The Master said, He’s a recluse! and sent Zilu to look for the man again, but when he got to the place, the man was gone.

Zilu said, If you fail to serve the ruler, you lack rightness. You understand that the etiquette between elder and younger cannot be set aside. How, then, can the right relations between ruler and subject be set aside? You want to keep yourselves unsullied, but you bring confusion to a much greater relationship. The gentleman, in serving the ruler, is carrying out his rightful duty. That the Way does not prevail today—we know that already!

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