For more than 2,000 years, the people of China, and of Japan and Korea, have lived in societies profoundly influenced by the thought and ideals of the great Chinese sage Confucius.  Confucius was no prophet or mystic.  Instead, he saw himself as a civilized gentleman and taught that benevolence toward fellow human beings, moral behavior and sound family relationships are the essence of a harmonious and well-ordered society.  Confuciushimself avoided religious speculation, but recognized the importance of ancestor worship and believed that he was guided by a higher power that he called heaven.

Confucius was a great philosopher, educationist, and moralist, and the founder of Confucianism, which was the accepted political philosophy that has a profound influence in Chinese history.  The hierarchic structured family was preserved with children told to respect their parents, who were supposed to pass on knowledge and worldly wisdom.  He emphasized the value of education and life-long learning.  Confucius’s teachings were implemented only after his death, while they continue to have a  significant influence  today.

Confucius is highly   respected by Chinese people. His social and moral teachings, collected in the Analects, emphasized personal control, adherence to a social hierarchy, and social and political order, and tried to replace former religious observances. Confucius believed in the innate goodness of human nature.  Although the original human goodness can become corrupted through contact with an evil environment, it can be restored through moral cultivation.

One of the  famous sayings of the Chinese Sage Confucius is: “Whatever you do not wish for yourself, do not do it to others.  Whatever you do not like to have, do not give it to others.  Do not give to others what you yourself do not desire.  Do not do to others what you would not like them to do to you.”  (According to the records, September 28, 2008 was the two thousand five hundred fifty eighth (2558) birthday of Confucius.)


“Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you.”

“What I do not wish upon myself, I do not do to others.”


“If you shoot for the stars and hit the moon, it’s OK.

But you’ve got to shoot for something.

A lot of people don’t even shoot.”


Happiness consists not in having what you want,

But in wanting what you have.


Our greatest glory is not in never falling,

but in rising every time we fall.


Virtue is not left to stand alone.


Desire what is good and the people will be good.


Taking care of one’s elders, as well as the elders of others;

And by looking after one’s own children, as well as the children of others.


When others are drowning, it seems oneself is drowning;

And when others are starving, it seems that oneself is starving.

The “Confucius” was a Latinized version of the Sage’s name.  It can be traced back to Jesuit missionaries in 17th China. The Sage’s Chinese name was  “Kung Tzu,” or “Kung Fu Tzu” who was a great teacher of his people due to his attempts to restore order to a political world that had fallen into disorder.  The Sage supposedly said of his own life:

“When I was fifteen years old, my entire will was directed toward learning.  At thirty, I took stand.  At forty, I no longer had doubts.  At fifty, I knew the will of the heavens.  At sixty, everything sounded pleasant to my ears.  At seventy, I follow all the desires of my heart without breaking any rules.”

“I was not born with knowledge.  I am but one who loves antiquity and traditions.  And, I devoted myself to intense study of the customs and conventions of the past.”

Kung Tzu summed up the essence of his wisdom in the book Analects, in which he conveyed his teachings in pedagogical style.  After his death, Kung‘s disciples spread his teachings throughout the country.  Centuries later, ensuing generations venerated Kung Fu Tzu, and a temple was built in his honor in his hometown.  Over the course of centuries, Master Kung achieved an almost divine status and he was revered as a Sage.  His disciples said:  “Heaven cannnot speak in words; therefore it ordered  Master Kung to deliver its message instead.”

Master Kung taught four things:  how to understand the old texts; how to act rightly, to be loyal and steadfast, to be honest and credible.  His interest in preserving and passing on old traditions — without actively seeking innovation — made his teachings a boon for many rulers.  Obedience to those in power is an important pillar of Confucian teaching.

The goal is to achieve harmony with everything, so a person who follows these teachings should, through effort and force of will, be able to bring perfect order into the chaos of life.  For Confucius‘ followers, respect for others is the most important thing in life.  After ConfuciusMencius (or Meng Zi) (372 – 289 BC) is considered to be the second important founder of  Confucianism.  His life’s work consisted of making Kung Fu Tzu’s teachings known in the royal courts.

Mencius said:  “A man who knows his own nature will know Heaven.”  “The sole concern of learning to to seek one’s original heart.”

Both Confucianism and Taoism perceive individuals as merely a tiny part of a large whole; the more the individual is in harmony with the laws of heaven, the better the world functions.

Modern Confucianism serves as a pragmatic guideline for young people, especially in areas such as marriage, partnership, career planning and child raising.    Everyone should strive for modesty.  Each should be friendly, restrained, loyal, moderate, reliable, and sincere.

Among many classic texts of Confucianism, the “Lun Yu” is the most popular and important  book.  The other classic  texts of Confucianism are the “Shu Jing” (the Book of Documents, containing government texts and certificates), the “Shi Jing” (the Book of Songs), the “Li Ji” (the Book of Rites), and the “Chun Chiou” (the Annals of Spring and Autumn).

The following are my translation of some of  the famous sayings of Confucius in his book “Lun Yu.”.  These Chinese characters are in the traditional form and are to be read from left to right.  If there are more than one rows, then the order to read it is: The first row, left to right; then the second row,  left to right.


1.  In education, there should be no discrimination of classes.

2.  Men are nearly alike by nature; but they become wide different and apart by nurture.

Brought so close to each other by nature, yet kept so far apart by practice.

3.  If three of us travel together, I am sure that someone may serve as my teacher.  I will pick out their good qualities and follow them; and I will draw lessons from their bad qualities.

Even when walking in a party of three I can always be certain of learning from those I am with.  There will be good qualities that I can learn to improve myself and bad ones that will teach me what requires correction in myself.

4.  One is quick and fond of learning, and  is not ashamed to ask those beneath onself.

5.  Learning without thinking is vain; thinking without learning is confused.

To learn without thinking is fatal.  But to think without learning is very dangerous.

Learning without thinking is useless.  Thinking without learning is stupid.

6.  If a man keeps cherishing his old knowledge, and adding new knowledge to it, he is suitable to be a teacher.

7.  There were four subjects which the Master taught:  Ancient civilization,  practice, faithfulness and sincerity.

8.  It is a pleasure to acquire true knowledge and at the due time to apply it to practice.

9.  It is delightful to have friends with similar ideals coming from far away.

10.  When you know a thing, hold that you know it; and when you don’t know it, admit that you don’t know it.  This is knowledge.

11.  Whatever you do not wish for yourself, do not do it to others.

Whatever you do not like to have, do  not give it to others.

Do not give to others what you yourself do not desire.

What I do not wish upon myself, I do not do to others.

Do not impose on others what you yourself do  not desire.

Do not do to others what you would not like them to do to you.

Never do to others what you would not like them to do to you.


1.  Do not blame everyone and everything, but yourself.  Do not blame everyone but yourself for what has happened.

2.  Exaggeration is the same as inadequacy.

To go beyond is as bad as to fall short.

3.  Can there be love without worries?  Is it possible to love someone without worrying about him/her?

4.  If a man doesn’t have a long-term plan, he will find worries near at hand.  Without  long-term planning, there will be short-term worries.

Plan ahead or you will find troubles on the doorstep.

5.   To have faults and not to correct the faults, it is a real fault.

To make a mistake and not to correct it is indeed a mistake.

6.  Lack of  patience, even on small issues, can ruin a sound plan.  No patience on small matters can mess up a big job.

7.  Extravagance leads one to be arrogant and thrift leads one to be humble.  It is better to be humble than to be arrogant.

8.  The wise are free from confusions; the benevolent are free from worries; and those with moral courage are free from fear.

9.  He who demands much from himself and little from others will avoid resentments.

10.  When we see men of virtue, we should think of following their examples; and when we see men of bad characters, we should turn inward to do self-examination.

11. We should make the old folks enjoy happy and comfortable life, keep faith with friends, and  show loving care for the young ones.

12.  The young generation are to be regarded with respect.  How do we know if they will not  exceed our expectation?

13.  Faithfully persuade your friends, and guide them with good intention.  But stop, if they don’t accept it; don’t invite humiliation.

14.  If everybody hates someone, it is necessary to investigate the case.  If everybody likes someone, it is also necessary to investigate the case.

15.  It is needless to make excuse for things that are being done;  it is needless to remonstrate things that  have their course;  and it is also needless to blame things that are past.

Things that are done, it is needless to speak about.  Things that are past, it is needless to blame.

(Spring Liao, 4/22/07)

“With coarse rice to eat, with only plain water to drink, and my bended arm for a pillow, I find joys in these things and I feel happy.”  This saying implies that complete happiness comes from a rich inner life, rather than from material possessions.

a.  Confucius had eliminated himself  from the following four weaknesses: Jealousy, arbitrariness, stubbornness, and arrogance.

b.  Be not concerned about having no high position; but be concerned about how to fit yourself for one.

c.  Be not concerned about being unknown; but be concerned about being incompetent.

Do not be concerned about others not appreciating you.  Be concerned about your not appreciating others.

Do not worry about people not knowing your ability; worry about not having it.

d.  The commander in chief may be taken away from the troops; but the will power of an ordinary man can not be taken away from him.

e.  The virtuous ones are sure to express their views; but those who express their views may not be virtuous.

f.  The benevolent and compassionate ones are sure to be courageous; but those who are courageous may not be benevolent and compassionate.

g.  A perfect gentleman does not seek to have a big meal and does not seek to have the comfort in his living place.  He does work diligently and is cautious of his words.

h.  The talents of a perfect gentleman (or a noble person) is not fixed like a container or tool, which  has only specific usage.  A perfect gentleman (or a noble person) is broad-minded, knowledgeable and versatile.

(Spring Liao, 1/3/09)


J.  People are born good, and that humanity is a quality we possess from the very beginning.  (It is only through life and its experiences that people —  if they are weak — become corrupt.)


K.  Clever talk and a neat appearance are seldom signs of benevolence.


L.  Do not discuss matters relating to a position that is not your own.


M.  “I was not born with knowledge.  I am but one who loves antiquity and traditions, and I devoted myself to the intense study of the customs and conventions of the past.”


N.  Put one’s words into deed first, and then speak according to one’s actions.

He only preaches that which he has already put into practice himself.

One practices what one preaches.


O.  A man’s existence relies on his righteousness.  If a man loses his righteousness, and yet survives, he merely escapes ruin by luck.


P.  Benevolent men will not seek to live at the expense of injuring their virtue.  They would rather sacrifice their lives to preserve their virtue.

” I like life and I also like righteous behavior.  If I cannot have both at the same time, I will forgo life and choose righteous behavior.”

“No matter what happens to people in their lives, they must not stray from the right path.”


Q.  Each day, I examine myself on three counts:  have I been loyal to those on behalf on whom I act?  Was I trustworthy in my dealings with my friends?  Have I myself practiced what I have preached?

(Spring Liao, 11/14/09)


R.  The noble man seeks what is right; the inferior one (or the common man)  seeks what is profitable.


S.  To see what is right and not to do it is a lack of moral courage.


T.  Is virtue a thing remote?  I wish to be virtuous, and… virtue is at hand.


U.  The firm, the enduring, the simple, and the modest are near to virtue.


V.  If you don’t know how to serve men, why worry about serving the gods?


W.  Since it is already here, why shouldn’t  it stay and make the best of the place.  It conveys a positive attitude toward life.