Extracts from the Analects of Confucius (c200BC)


These extracts are taken from the Analects of Confucius – a text finalised around 200BC that contained the core values and tenets of Confucianism:


“The Master said, ‘He who practises government through virtue can be compared to the north polar star: while it stays stationary in its place, the mass of stars turn towards it’… The Master said, ‘If you try to enforce good behaviour through laws and punishments, the people will do their utmost to avoid the punishments, but they will not have any sense of shame. If you lead by virtue and encourage good behaviour by propriety, they will develop a sense of shame and become good.”
(Book II, Chapters I and III)

“When alive, parents should be served according to the proper rules, when dead they should be buried according to the proper rites and their children should sacrifice to them in the proper way… The filial piety of today means merely the support of parents. But dogs and horses are also capable of support. If there is no reverence and respect, how can one distinguish the kind of support people offer their parents from that animals can give?”
(Book II, Chapters V and VII)

“People have a moral nature. Adequate food, clothing and shelter may be essential but unless they have education as well, they will become like the birds and animals. Because he cared about this matter, one of the great sages [of ancient times] made an appointment… to teach the main human relationships: affection between father and son, righteous conduct between ruler and subject, distinction between husband and wife, proper order between the old and the young, and fidelity between friends.”
(Book III, Chapter IV)

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