The Doctrine of the Mean
What Heaven has conferred is called The nature; an accordance with this nature is called The Path of duty; the regulation of this path is called Instruction.
The path may not be left for an instant. If it could be left, it
would not be the path. On this account, the superior man does not wait
till he sees things, to be cautious, nor till he hears things, to be
There is nothing more visible than what is secret, and nothing
more manifest than what is minute. Therefore the superior man is
watchful over himself, when he is alone.
While there are no stirrings of pleasure, anger, sorrow, or joy, the
mind may be said to be in the state of Equilibrium. When those
feelings have been stirred, and they act in their due degree, there
ensues what may be called the state of Harmony. This Equilibrium is
the great root from which grow all the human actings in the world, and
this Harmony is the universal path which they all should pursue.
Let the states of equilibrium and harmony exist in perfection, and a
happy order will prevail throughout Heaven and Earth, and all things
will be nourished and flourish.
Chung-ni said, "The superior man embodies the course of the Mean;
the Mean man acts contrary to the course of the Mean.
"The superior man's embodying the course of the Mean is because he
is a superior man, and so always maintains the Mean. The Mean man's
acting contrary to the course of the Mean is because he is a Mean man,
and has no caution."
The Master said, "Perfect is the virtue which is according to the
Mean! Rare have they long been among the people, who could practice
The Master said, "I know how it is that the path of the Mean is
not walked in:-The knowing go beyond it, and the stupid do not come up
to it. I know how it is that the path of the Mean is not
understood:-The men of talents and virtue go beyond it, and the
worthless do not come up to it.
"There is no body but eats and drinks. But they are few who can
The Master said, "Alas! How is the path of the Mean untrodden!"
The Master said, "There was Shun:-He indeed was greatly wise! Shun
loved to question others, and to study their words, though they
might be shallow. He concealed what was bad in them and displayed what
was good. He took hold of their two extremes, determined the Mean, and
employed it in his government of the people. It was by this that he
The Master said "Men all say, 'We are wise'; but being driven
forward and taken in a net, a trap, or a pitfall, they know not how to
escape. Men all say, 'We are wise'; but happening to choose the course
of the Mean, they are not able to keep it for a round month."
The Master said "This was the manner of Hui:-he made choice of the
Mean, and whenever he got hold of what was good, he clasped it firmly,
as if wearing it on his breast, and did not lose it."
The Master said, "The kingdom, its states, and its families, may
be perfectly ruled; dignities and emoluments may be declined; naked
weapons may be trampled under the feet; but the course of the Mean
cannot be attained to."
Tsze-lu asked about energy.
The Master said, "Do you Mean the energy of the South, the energy of
the North, or the energy which you should cultivate yourself?
"To show forbearance and gentleness in teaching others; and not to
revenge unreasonable conduct:-this is the energy of southern
regions, and the good man makes it his study.
"To lie under arms; and meet death without regret:-this is the
energy of northern regions, and the forceful make it their study.
"Therefore, the superior man cultivates a friendly harmony,
without being weak.-How firm is he in his energy! He stands erect in
the middle, without inclining to either side.-How firm is he in his
energy! When good principles prevail in the government of his country,
he does not change from what he was in retirement. How firm is he in
his energy! When bad principles prevail in the country, he maintains
his course to death without changing.-How firm is he in his energy!"
The Master said, "To live in obscurity, and yet practice wonders, in
order to be mentioned with honor in future ages:-this is what I do not
"The good man tries to proceed according to the right path, but when
he has gone halfway, he abandons it:-I am not able so to stop.
"The superior man accords with the course of the Mean. Though he may
be all unknown, unregarded by the world, he feels no regret.-It is
only the sage who is able for this."
The way which the superior man pursues, reaches wide and far, and
yet is secret.
Common men and women, however ignorant, may intermeddle with the
knowledge of it; yet in its utmost reaches, there is that which even
the sage does not know. Common men and women, however much below the
ordinary standard of character, can carry it into practice; yet in its
utmost reaches, there is that which even the sage is not able to carry
into practice. Great as Heaven and Earth are, men still find some
things in them with which to be dissatisfied. Thus it is that, were
the superior man to speak of his way in all its greatness, nothing
in the world would be found able to embrace it, and were he to speak
of it in its minuteness, nothing in the world would be found able to
It is said in the Book of Poetry, "The hawk flies up to Heaven;
the fishes leap in the deep." This expresses how this way is seen
above and below.
The way of the superior man may be found, in its simple elements, in
the intercourse of common men and women; but in its utmost reaches, it
shines brightly through Heaven and Earth.
The Master said "The path is not far from man. When men try to
pursue a course, which is far from the common indications of
consciousness, this course cannot be considered The Path.
"In the Book of Poetry, it is said, 'In hewing an ax handle, in
hewing an ax handle, the pattern is not far off. We grasp one ax
handle to hew the other; and yet, if we look askance from the one to
the other, we may consider them as apart. Therefore, the superior
man governs men, according to their nature, with what is proper to
them, and as soon as they change what is wrong, he stops.
"When one cultivates to the utmost the principles of his nature, and
exercises them on the principle of reciprocity, he is not far from the
path. What you do not like when done to yourself, do not do to others.
"In the way of the superior man there are four things, to not one of
which have I as yet attained.-To serve my father, as I would require
my son to serve me: to this I have not attained; to serve my prince as
I would require my minister to serve me: to this I have not
attained; to serve my elder brother as I would require my younger
brother to serve me: to this I have not attained; to set the example
in behaving to a friend, as I would require him to behave to me: to
this I have not attained. Earnest in practicing the ordinary
virtues, and careful in speaking about them, if, in his practice, he
has anything defective, the superior man dares not but exert
himself; and if, in his words, he has any excess, he dares not allow
himself such license. Thus his words have respect to his actions,
and his actions have respect to his words; is it not just an entire
sincerity which marks the superior man?"
The superior man does what is proper to the station in which he
is; he does not desire to go beyond this.
In a position of wealth and honor, he does what is proper to a
position of wealth and honor. In a poor and low position, he does what
is proper to a poor and low position. Situated among barbarous tribes,
he does what is proper to a situation among barbarous tribes. In a
position of sorrow and difficulty, he does what is proper to a
position of sorrow and difficulty. The superior man can find himself
in no situation in which he is not himself.
In a high situation, he does not treat with contempt his
inferiors. In a low situation, he does not court the favor of his
superiors. He rectifies himself, and seeks for nothing from others, so
that he has no dissatisfactions. He does not murmur against Heaven,
nor grumble against men.
Thus it is that the superior man is quiet and calm, waiting for
the appointments of Heaven, while the Mean man walks in dangerous
paths, looking for lucky occurrences.
The Master said, "In archery we have something like the way of the
superior man. When the archer misses the center of the target, he
turns round and seeks for the cause of his failure in himself."
The way of the superior man may be compared to what takes place in
traveling, when to go to a distance we must first traverse the space
that is near, and in ascending a height, when we must begin from the
It is said in the Book of Poetry, "Happy union with wife and
children is like the music of lutes and harps. When there is concord
among brethren, the harmony is delightful and enduring. Thus may you
regulate your family, and enjoy the pleasure of your wife and
The Master said, "In such a state of things, parents have entire
The Master said, "How abundantly do spiritual beings display the
powers that belong to them!
"We look for them, but do not see them; we listen to, but do not
hear them; yet they enter into all things, and there is nothing
"They cause all the people in the kingdom to fast and purify
themselves, and array themselves in their richest dresses, in order to
attend at their sacrifices. Then, like overflowing water, they seem to
be over the heads, and on the right and left of their worshippers.
"It is said in the Book of Poetry, 'The approaches of the spirits,
you cannot sunrise; and can you treat them with indifference?'
"Such is the manifestness of what is minute! Such is the
impossibility of repressing the outgoings of sincerity!"
The Master said, "How greatly filial was Shun! His virtue was that
of a sage; his dignity was the throne; his riches were all within
the four seas. He offered his sacrifices in his ancestral temple,
and his descendants preserved the sacrifices to himself.
"Therefore having such great virtue, it could not but be that he
should obtain the throne, that he should obtain those riches, that
he should obtain his fame, that he should attain to his long life.
"Thus it is that Heaven, in the production of things, is sure to
be bountiful to them, according to their qualities. Hence the tree
that is flourishing, it nourishes, while that which is ready to
fall, it overthrows.
"In the Book of Poetry, it is said, 'The admirable amiable prince
displayed conspicuously his excelling virtue, adjusting his people,
and adjusting his officers. Therefore, he received from Heaven his
emoluments of dignity. It protected him, assisted him, decreed him the
throne; sending from Heaven these favors, as it were repeatedly.'
"We may say therefore that he who is greatly virtuous will be sure
to receive the appointment of Heaven."
The Master said, "It is only King Wan of whom it can be said that he
had no cause for grief! His father was King Chi, and his son was
King Wu. His father laid the foundations of his dignity, and his son
"King Wu continued the enterprise of King T'ai, King Chi, and King
Wan. He once buckled on his armor, and got possession of the
kingdom. He did not lose the distinguished personal reputation which
he had throughout the kingdom. His dignity was the royal throne. His
riches were the possession of all within the four seas. He offered his
sacrifices in his ancestral temple, and his descendants maintained the
sacrifices to himself.
"It was in his old age that King Wu received the appointment to
the throne, and the duke of Chau completed the virtuous course of
Wan and Wu. He carried up the title of king to T'ai and Chi, and
sacrificed to all the former dukes above them with the royal
ceremonies. And this rule he extended to the princes of the kingdom,
the great officers, the scholars, and the common people. If the father
were a great officer and the son a scholar, then the burial was that
due to a great officer, and the sacrifice that due to a scholar. If
the father were a scholar and the son a great officer, then the burial
was that due to a scholar, and the sacrifice that due to a great
officer. The one year's mourning was made to extend only to the
great officers, but the three years' mourning extended to the Son of
Heaven. In the mourning for a father or mother, he allowed no
difference between the noble and the Mean.
The Master said, "How far-extending was the filial piety of King
Wu and the duke of Chau!
"Now filial piety is seen in the skillful carrying out of the wishes
of our forefathers, and the skillful carrying forward of their
"In spring and autumn, they repaired and beautified the temple halls
of their fathers, set forth their ancestral vessels, displayed their
various robes, and presented the offerings of the several seasons.
"By means of the ceremonies of the ancestral temple, they
distinguished the royal kindred according to their order of descent.
By ordering the parties present according to their rank, they
distinguished the more noble and the less. By the arrangement of the
services, they made a distinction of talents and worth. In the
ceremony of general pledging, the inferiors presented the cup to their
superiors, and thus something was given the lowest to do. At the
concluding feast, places were given according to the hair, and thus
was made the distinction of years.
"They occupied the places of their forefathers, practiced their
ceremonies, and performed their music. They reverenced those whom they
honored, and loved those whom they regarded with affection. Thus
they served the dead as they would have served them alive; they served
the departed as they would have served them had they been continued
"By the ceremonies of the sacrifices to Heaven and Earth they served
God, and by the ceremonies of the ancestral temple they sacrificed
to their ancestors. He who understands the ceremonies of the
sacrifices to Heaven and Earth, and the meaning of the several
sacrifices to ancestors, would find the government of a kingdom as
easy as to look into his palm!"
The Duke Ai asked about government.
The Master said, "The government of Wan and Wu is displayed in the
records,-the tablets of wood and bamboo. Let there be the men and
the government will flourish; but without the men, their government
decays and ceases.
"With the right men the growth of government is rapid, just as
vegetation is rapid in the Earth; and, moreover, their government
might be called an easily-growing rush.
"Therefore the administration of government lies in getting proper
men. Such men are to be got by means of the ruler's own character.
That character is to be cultivated by his treading in the ways of
duty. And the treading those ways of duty is to be cultivated by the
cherishing of benevolence.
"Benevolence is the characteristic element of humanity, and the
great exercise of it is in loving relatives. Righteousness is the
accordance of actions with what is right, and the great exercise of it
is in honoring the worthy. The decreasing measures of the love due
to relatives, and the steps in the honor due to the worthy, are
produced by the principle of propriety.
"When those in inferior situations do not possess the confidence
of their superiors, they cannot retain the government of the people.
"Hence the sovereign may not neglect the cultivation of his own
character. Wishing to cultivate his character, he may not neglect to
serve his parents. In order to serve his parents, he may not neglect
to acquire knowledge of men. In order to know men, he may not dispense
with a knowledge of Heaven.
"The duties of universal obligation are five and the virtues
wherewith they are practiced are three. The duties are those between
sovereign and minister, between father and son, between husband and
wife, between elder brother and younger, and those belonging to the
intercourse of friends. Those five are the duties of universal
obligation. knowledge, magnanimity, and energy, these three, are the
virtues universally binding. And the means by which they carry the
duties into practice is singleness.
"Some are born with the knowledge of those duties; some know them by
study; and some acquire the knowledge after a painful feeling of their
ignorance. But the knowledge being possessed, it comes to the same
thing. Some practice them with a natural ease; some from a desire
for their advantages; and some by strenuous effort. But the
achievement being made, it comes to the same thing."
The Master said, "To be fond of learning is to be near to knowledge.
To practice with vigor is to be near to magnanimity. To possess the
feeling of shame is to be near to energy.
"He who knows these three things knows how to cultivate his own
character. Knowing how to cultivate his own character, he knows how to
govern other men. Knowing how to govern other men, he knows how to
govern the kingdom with all its states and families.
"All who have the government of the kingdom with its states and
families have nine standard rules to follow;-viz., the cultivation
of their own characters; the honoring of men of virtue and talents;
affection towards their relatives; respect towards the great
ministers; kind and considerate treatment of the whole body of
officers; dealing with the mass of the people as children; encouraging
the resort of all classes of artisans; indulgent treatment of men from
a distance; and the kindly cherishing of the princes of the states.
"By the ruler's cultivation of his own character, the duties of
universal obligation are set forth. By honoring men of virtue and
talents, he is preserved from errors of judgment. By showing affection
to his relatives, there is no grumbling nor resentment among his
uncles and brethren. By respecting the great ministers, he is kept
from errors in the practice of government. By kind and considerate
treatment of the whole body of officers, they are led to make the most
grateful return for his courtesies. By dealing with the mass of the
people as his children, they are led to exhort one another to what
is good. By encouraging the resort of an classes of artisans, his
resources for expenditure are rendered ample. By indulgent treatment
of men from a distance, they are brought to resort to him from all
quarters. And by kindly cherishing the princes of the states, the
whole kingdom is brought to revere him.
"Self-adjustment and purification, with careful regulation of his
dress, and the not making a movement contrary to the rules of
propriety this is the way for a ruler to cultivate his person.
Discarding slanderers, and keeping himself from the seductions of
beauty; making light of riches, and giving honor to virtue-this is the
way for him to encourage men of worth and talents. Giving them
places of honor and large emolument. and sharing with them in their
likes and dislikes-this is the way for him to encourage his
relatives to love him. Giving them numerous officers to discharge
their orders and commissions:-this is the way for him to encourage the
great ministers. According to them a generous confidence, and making
their emoluments large:-this is the way to encourage the body of
officers. Employing them only at the proper times, and making the
imposts light:-this is the way to encourage the people. By daily
examinations and monthly trials, and by making their rations in
accordance with their labors:-this is the way to encourage the classes
of artisans. To escort them on their departure and meet them on
their coming; to commend the good among them, and show compassion to
the incompetent:-this is the way to treat indulgently men from a
distance. To restore families whose line of succession has been
broken, and to revive states that have been extinguished; to reduce to
order states that are in confusion, and support those which are in
peril; to have fixed times for their own reception at court, and the
reception of their envoys; to send them away after liberal
treatment, and welcome their coming with small contributions:-this
is the way to cherish the princes of the states.
"All who have the government of the kingdom with its states and
families have the above nine standard rules. And the means by which
they are carried into practice is singleness.
"In all things success depends on previous preparation, and
without such previous preparation there is sure to be failure. If what
is to be spoken be previously determined, there will be no
stumbling. If affairs be previously determined, there will be no
difficulty with them. If one's actions have been previously
determined, there will be no sorrow in connection with them. If
principles of conduct have been previously determined, the practice of
them will be inexhaustible.
"When those in inferior situations do not obtain the confidence of
the sovereign, they cannot succeed in governing the people. There is a
way to obtain the confidence of the sovereign;-if one is not trusted
by his friends, he will not get the confidence of his sovereign. There
is a way to being trusted by one's friends;-if one is not obedient
to his parents, he will not be true to friends. There is a way to
being obedient to one's parents;-if one, on turning his thoughts in
upon himself, finds a want of sincerity, he will not be obedient to
his parents. There is a way to the attainment of sincerity in one's
self; -if a man do not understand what is good, he will not attain
sincerity in himself.
"Sincerity is the way of Heaven. The attainment of sincerity is
the way of men. He who possesses sincerity is he who, without an
effort, hits what is right, and apprehends, without the exercise of
thought;-he is the sage who naturally and easily embodies the right
way. He who attains to sincerity is he who chooses what is good, and
firmly holds it fast.
"To this attainment there are requisite the extensive study of
what is good, accurate inquiry about it, careful reflection on it, the
clear discrimination of it, and the earnest practice of it.
"The superior man, while there is anything he has not studied, or
while in what he has studied there is anything he cannot understand,
Will not intermit his labor. While there is anything he has not
inquired about, or anything in what he has inquired about which he
does not know, he will not intermit his labor. While there is anything
which he has not reflected on, or anything in what he has reflected on
which he does not apprehend, he will not intermit his labor. While
there is anything which he has not discriminated or his discrimination
is not clear, he will not intermit his labor. If there be anything
which he has not practiced, or his practice fails in earnestness, he
will not intermit his labor. If another man succeed by one effort,
he will use a hundred efforts. If another man succeed by ten
efforts, he will use a thousand.
"Let a man proceed in this way, and, though dull, he will surely
become intelligent; though weak, he will surely become strong."
When we have intelligence resulting from sincerity, this condition
is to be ascribed to nature; when we have sincerity resulting from
intelligence, this condition is to be ascribed to instruction. But
given the sincerity, and there shall be the intelligence; given the
intelligence, and there shall be the sincerity.
It is only he who is possessed of the most complete sincerity that
can exist under Heaven, who can give its fun development to his
nature. Able to give its full development to his own nature, he can do
the same to the nature of other men. Able to give its full development
to the nature of other men, he can give their full development to
the natures of animals and things. Able to give their full development
to the natures of creatures and things, he can assist the transforming
and nourishing powers of Heaven and Earth. Able to assist the
transforming and nourishing powers of Heaven and Earth, he may with
Heaven and Earth form a ternion.
Next to the above is he who cultivates to the utmost the shoots of
goodness in him. From those he can attain to the possession of
sincerity. This sincerity becomes apparent. From being apparent, it
becomes manifest. From being manifest, it becomes brilliant.
Brilliant, it affects others. Affecting others, they are changed by
it. Changed by it, they are transformed. It is only he who is
possessed of the most complete sincerity that can exist under
Heaven, who can transform.
It is characteristic of the most entire sincerity to be able to
foreknow. When a nation or family is about to flourish, there are sure
to be happy omens; and when it is about to perish, there are sure to
be unlucky omens. Such events are seen in the milfoil and tortoise,
and affect the movements of the four limbs. When calamity or happiness
is about to come, the good shall certainly be foreknown by him, and
the evil also. Therefore the individual possessed of the most complete
sincerity is like a spirit.
Sincerity is that whereby self-completion is effected, and its way
is that by which man must direct himself.
Sincerity is the end and beginning of things; without sincerity
there would be nothing. On this account, the superior man regards
the attainment of sincerity as the most excellent thing.
The possessor of sincerity does not merely accomplish the
self-completion of himself. With this quality he completes other men
and things also. The completing himself shows his perfect virtue.
The completing other men and things shows his knowledge. But these are
virtues belonging to the nature, and this is the way by which a
union is effected of the external and internal. Therefore, whenever
he-the entirely sincere man-employs them,-that is, these virtues,
their action will be right.
Hence to entire sincerity there belongs ceaselessness.
Not ceasing, it continues long. Continuing long, it evidences
Evidencing itself, it reaches far. Reaching far, it becomes large
and substantial. Large and substantial, it becomes high and brilliant.
Large and substantial;-this is how it contains all things. High
and brilliant;-this is how it overspreads all things. Reaching far and
continuing long;-this is how it perfects all things.
So large and substantial, the individual possessing it is the
co-equal of Earth. So high and brilliant, it makes him the co-equal of
Heaven. So far-reaching and long-continuing, it makes him infinite.
Such being its nature, without any display, it becomes manifested;
without any movement, it produces changes; and without any effort,
it accomplishes its ends.
The way of Heaven and Earth may be completely declared in one
sentence.-They are without any doubleness, and so they produce
things in a manner that is unfathomable.
The way of Heaven and Earth is large and substantial, high and
brilliant, far-reaching and long-enduring.
The Heaven now before us is only this bright shining spot; but
when viewed in its inexhaustible extent, the sun, moon, stars, and
constellations of the zodiac, are suspended in it, and all things
are overspread by it. The Earth before us is but a handful of soil;
but when regarded in its breadth and thickness, it sustains
mountains like the Hwa and the Yo, without feeling their weight, and
contains the rivers and seas, without their leaking away. The mountain
now before us appears only a stone; but when contemplated in all the
vastness of its size, we see how the grass and trees are produced on
it, and birds and beasts dwell on it, and precious things which men
treasure up are found on it. The water now before us appears but a
ladleful; yet extending our view to its unfathomable depths, the
largest tortoises, iguanas, iguanodons, dragons, fishes, and
turtles, are produced in it, articles of value and sources of wealth
abound in it.
It is said in the Book of Poetry, "The ordinances of Heaven, how
profound are they and unceasing!" The meaning is, that it is thus that
Heaven is Heaven. And again, "How illustrious was it, the singleness
of the virtue of King Wan!" indicating that it was thus that King
Wan was what he was. Singleness likewise is unceasing.
How great is the path proper to the Sage!
Like overflowing water, it sends forth and nourishes all things, and
rises up to the height of Heaven.
All-complete is its greatness! It embraces the three hundred rules
of ceremony, and the three thousand rules of demeanor.
It waits for the proper man, and then it is trodden.
Hence it is said, "Only by perfect virtue can the perfect path, in
all its courses, be made a fact."
Therefore, the superior man honors his virtuous nature, and
maintains constant inquiry and study, seeking to carry it out to its
breadth and greatness, so as to omit none of the more exquisite and
minute points which it embraces, and to raise it to its greatest
height and brilliancy, so as to pursue the course of the Mean. He
cherishes his old knowledge, and is continually acquiring new. He
exerts an honest, generous earnestness, in the esteem and practice
of all propriety.
Thus, when occupying a high situation he is not proud, and in a
low situation he is not insubordinate. When the kingdom is well
governed, he is sure by his words to rise; and when it is ill
governed, he is sure by his silence to command forbearance to himself.
Is not this what we find in the Book of Poetry,-"Intelligent is he and
prudent, and so preserves his person?"
The Master said, Let a man who is ignorant be fond of using his
own judgment; let a man without rank be fond of assuming a directing
power to himself; let a man who is living in the present age go back
to the ways of antiquity;-on the persons of all who act thus
calamities will be sure to come.
To no one but the Son of Heaven does it belong to order
ceremonies, to fix the measures, and to determine the written
Now over the kingdom, carriages have all wheels, of the-same size;
all writing is with the same characters; and for conduct there are the
One may occupy the throne, but if he have not the proper virtue,
he may not dare to make ceremonies or music. One may have the
virtue, but if he do not occupy the throne, he may not presume to make
ceremonies or music.
The Master said, "I may describe the ceremonies of the Hsia dynasty,
but Chi cannot sufficiently attest my words. I have learned the
ceremonies of the Yin dynasty, and in Sung they still continue. I have
learned the ceremonies of Chau, which are now used, and I follow
He who attains to the sovereignty of the kingdom, having those three
important things, shall be able to effect that there shall be few
errors under his government.
However excellent may have been the regulations of those of former
times, they cannot be attested. Not being attested, they cannot
command credence, and not being credited, the people would not
follow them. However excellent might be the regulations made by one in
an inferior situation, he is not in a position to be honored.
Unhonored, he cannot command credence, and not being credited, the
people would not follow his rules.
Therefore the institutions of the Ruler are rooted in his own
character and conduct, and sufficient attestation of them is given
by the masses of the people. He examines them by comparison with those
of the three kings, and finds them without mistake. He sets them up
before Heaven and Earth, and finds nothing in them contrary to their
mode of operation. He presents himself with them before spiritual
beings, and no doubts about them arise. He is prepared to wait for the
rise of a sage a hundred ages after, and has no misgivings.
His presenting himself with his institutions before spiritual
beings, without any doubts arising about them, shows that he knows
Heaven. His being prepared, without any misgivings, to wait for the
rise of a sage a hundred ages after, shows that he knows men.
Such being the case, the movements of such a ruler, illustrating his
institutions, constitute an example to the world for ages. His acts
are for ages a law to the kingdom. His words are for ages a lesson
to the kingdom. Those who are far from him look longingly for him; and
those who are near him are never wearied with him.
It is said in the Book of Poetry,-"Not disliked there, not tired
of here, from day to day and night tonight, will they perpetuate their
praise." Never has there been a ruler, who did not realize this
description, that obtained an early renown throughout the kingdom.
Chung-ni handed down the doctrines of Yao and Shun, as if they had
been his ancestors, and elegantly displayed the regulations of Wan and
Wul taking them as his model. Above, he harmonized with the times of
Heaven, and below, he was conformed to the water and land.
He may be compared to Heaven and Earth in their supporting and
containing, their overshadowing and curtaining, all things. He may
be compared to the four seasons in their alternating progress, and
to the sun and moon in their successive shining.
All things are nourished together without their injuring one
another. The courses of the seasons, and of the sun and moon, are
pursued without any collision among them. The smaller energies are
like river currents; the greater energies are seen in mighty
transformations. It is this which makes Heaven and Earth so great.
It is only he, possessed of all sagely qualities that can exist
under Heaven, who shows himself quick in apprehension, clear in
discernment, of far-reaching intelligence, and all-embracing
knowledge, fitted to exercise rule; magnanimous, generous, benign, and
mild, fitted to exercise forbearance; impulsive, energetic, firm,
and enduring, fitted to maintain a firm hold; self-adjusted, grave,
never swerving from the Mean, and correct, fitted to command
reverence; accomplished, distinctive, concentrative, and searching,
fitted to exercise discrimination.
All-embracing is he and vast, deep and active as a fountain, sending
forth in their due season his virtues.
All-embracing and vast, he is like Heaven. Deep and active as a
fountain, he is like the abyss. He is seen, and the people all
reverence him; he speaks, and the people all believe him; he acts, and
the people all are pleased with him.
Therefore his fame overspreads the Middle Kingdom, and extends to
all barbarous tribes. Wherever ships and carriages reach; wherever the
strength of man penetrates; wherever the heavens overshadow and the
Earth sustains; wherever the sun and moon shine; wherever frosts and
dews fall:-all who have blood and breath unfeignedly honor and love
him. Hence it is said,-"He is the equal of Heaven."
It is only the individual possessed of the most entire sincerity
that can exist under Heaven, who can adjust the great invariable
relations of mankind, establish the great fundamental virtues of
humanity, and know the transforming and nurturing operations of Heaven
and Earth;-shall this individual have any being or anything beyond
himself on which he depends?
Call him man in his ideal, how earnest is he! Call him an abyss, how
deep is he! Call him Heaven, how vast is he!
Who can know him, but he who is indeed quick in apprehension,
clear in discernment, of far-reaching intelligence, and
all-embracing knowledge, possessing all Heavenly virtue?
It is said in the Book of Poetry, "Over her embroidered robe she
puts a plain single garment," intimating a dislike to the display of
the elegance of the former. Just so, it is the way of the superior man
to prefer the concealment of his virtue, while it daily becomes more
illustrious, and it is the way of the Mean man to seek notoriety,
while he daily goes more and more to ruin. It is characteristic of the
superior man, appearing insipid, yet never to produce satiety; while
showing a simple negligence, yet to have his accomplishments
recognized; while seemingly plain, yet to be discriminating. He
knows how what is distant lies in what is near. He knows where the
wind proceeds from. He knows how what is minute becomes manifested.
Such a one, we may be sure, will enter into virtue.
It is said in the Book of Poetry, "Although the fish sink and lie at
the bottom, it is still quite clearly seen." Therefore the superior
man examines his heart, that there may be nothing wrong there, and
that he may have no cause for dissatisfaction with himself. That
wherein the superior man cannot be equaled is simply this,-his work
which other men cannot see.
It is said in the Book of Poetry, "Looked at in your apartment, be
there free from shame as being exposed to the light of Heaven."
Therefore, the superior man, even when he is not moving, has a feeling
of reverence, and while he speaks not, he has the feeling of
It is said in the Book of Poetry, "In silence is the offering
presented, and the spirit approached to; there is not the slightest
contention." Therefore the superior man does not use rewards, and
the people are stimulated to virtue. He does not show anger, and the
people are awed more than by hatchets and battle-axes.
It is said in the Book of Poetry, "What needs no display is
virtue. All the princes imitate it." Therefore, the superior man being
sincere and reverential, the whole world is conducted to a state of
It is said in the Book of Poetry, "I regard with pleasure your
brilliant virtue, making no great display of itself in sounds and
appearances." The Master said, "Among the appliances to transform
the people, sound and appearances are but trivial influences. It is
said in another ode, 'His virtue is light as a hair.' Still, a hair
will admit of comparison as to its size. 'The doings of the supreme
Heaven have neither sound nor smell. 'That is perfect virtue."