Confucius, The Confucian Analects
By nature, men are nearly alike; by practice, they get to be wide apart.
Fine words and an insinuating appearance are seldom associated with true virtue.
Have no friends not equal to yourself.
He who exercises government by means of his virtue may be compared to the north polar star, which keeps its place and all the stars turn towards it.
He who speaks without modesty will find it difficult to make his words good.
He with whom neither slander that gradually soaks into the mind, nor statements that startle like a wound in the flesh, are successful may be called intelligent indeed.
Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles.
I am not one who was born in the possession of knowledge; I am one who is fond of antiquity, and earnest in seeking it there.
I have not seen a person who loved virtue, or one who hated what was not virtuous. He who loved virtue would esteem nothing above it.
If a man takes no thought about what is distant, he will find sorrow near at hand.
If a man withdraws his mind from the love of beauty, and applies it as sincerely to the love of the virtuous; if, in serving his parents, he can exert his utmost strength; if, in serving his prince, he can devote his life; if in his intercourse with his friends, his words are sincere - although men say that he has not learned, I will certainly say that he has.
Is virtue a thing remote? I wish to be virtuous, and lo! Virtue is at hand.
Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous.
Recompense injury with justice, and recompense kindness with kindness.
The cautious seldom err.
The determined scholar and the man of virtue will not seek to live at the expense of injuring their virtue. They will even sacrifice their lives to preserve their virtue complete.
The firm, the enduring, the simple, and the modest are near to virtue.
The man of virtue makes the difficulty to be overcome his first business, and success only a subsequent consideration.
The man who in view of gain thinks of righteousness; who in the view of danger is prepared to give up his life; and who does not forget an old agreement however far back it extends - such a man may be reckoned a complete man.
The people may be made to follow a path of action, but they may not be made to understand it.
The scholar who cherishes the love of comfort is not fit to be deemed a scholar.
The superior man cannot be known in little matters, but he may be entrusted with great concerns. The small man may not be entrusted with great concerns, but he may be known in little matters.
The superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions.
The superior man is satisfied and composed; the mean man is always full of distress.
The superior man...does not set his mind either for anything, or against anything; what is right he will follow.
There are three things which the superior man guards against. In youth...lust. When he is strong...quarrelsomeness. When he is old...covetousness.
Things that are done, it is needless to speak about...things that are past, it is needless to blame.
To be able to practice five things everywhere under heaven constitutes perfect virtue...[They are] gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness, and kindness.
To go beyond is as wrong as to fall short.
Virtue is more to man than either water or fire. I have seen men die from treading on water and fire, but I have never seen a man die from treading the course of virtue.
Virtue is not left to stand alone. He who practices it will have neighbors.
What the superior man seeks is in himself. What the mean man seeks is in others.
What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.
When we see men of worth, we should think of equaling them; when we see men of a contrary character, we should turn inwards and examine ourselves.
When you have faults, do not fear to abandon them.
When you know a thing, to hold that you know it; and when you do not know a thing, to allow that you do not know it - this is knowledge.
While you are not able to serve men, how can you serve spirits [of the dead]?...While you do not know life, how can you know about death?
With coarse rice to eat, with water to drink, and my bended arm for a pillow - I have still joy in the midst of these things. Riches and honors acquired by unrighteousness are to me as a floating cloud.
Without an acquaintance with the rules of propriety, it is impossible for the character to be established.
[The superior man] acts before he speaks, and afterwards speaks according to his actions.