Lun Yu Introduction Table of content – The Analects of Confucius

The Master discusses with his disciples and unveil his preoccupations with society. Tr. Legge (en), Lau (en) and Couvreur (fr).

Lunyu XI. 26. (293)



The aims of Tsze-lû, Tsang Hsî, Zan Yû, and Kung-hsû Hwâ, and Confucius's remarks about them.
1. Tsze-lû, Tsang Hsî, Zan Yû, and Kung-hsû Hwâ were sitting by the Master.
2. He said to them, "Though I am a day or so older than you, do not think of that.
3. "From day to day you are saying, 'We are not known.' If some ruler were to know you, what would you like to do?"
4. Tsze-lû hastily and lightly replied, "Suppose the case of a state of ten thousand chariots; let it be straitened between other large states; let it be suffering from invading armies; and to this let there be added a famine in corn and in all vegetables:– if I were intrusted with the government of it, in three years' time I could make the people to be bold, and to recognize the rules of righteous conduct." The Master smiled at him.
5. Turning to Yen Yû, he said, "Ch'iû, what are your wishes?" Ch'iû replied, "Suppose a state of sixty or seventy lî square, or one of fifty or sixty, and let me have the government of it;– in three years' time, I could make plenty to abound among the people. As to teaching them the principles of propriety, and music, I must wait for the rise of a superior man to do that."
6. "What are your wishes, Ch'ih," said the Master next to Kung-hsî Hwâ. Ch'ih replied, "I do not say that my ability extends to these things, but I should wish to learn them. At the services of the ancestral temple, and at the audiences of the princes with the sovereign, I should like, dressed in the dark square-made robe and the black linen cap, to act as a small assistant."
7. Last of all, the Master asked Tsang Hsî, "Tien, what are your wishes?" Tien, pausing as he was playing on his lute, while it was yet twanging, laid the instrument aside, and "My wishes," he said, "are different from the cherished purposes of these three gentlemen." "What harm is there in that?" said the Master; "do you also, as well as they, speak out your wishes." Tien then said, "In this, the last month of spring, with the dress of the season all complete, along with five or six young men who have assumed the cap, and six or seven boys, I would wash in the Î, enjoy the breeze among the rain altars, and return home singing." The Master heaved a sigh and said, "I give my approval to Tien."
8. The three others having gone out, Tsang Hsî remained behind, and said, "What do you think of the words of these three friends?" The Master replied, "They simply told each one his wishes."
9. Hsî pursued, "Master, why did you smile at Yû?"
10. He was answered, "The management of a state demands the rules of propriety. His words were not humble; therefore I smiled at him."
11. Hsi again said, "But was it not a state which Ch'iû proposed for himself?" The reply was, "Yes; did you ever see a territory of sixty or seventy lî or one of fifty or sixty, which was not a state?"
12. Once more, Hsî inquired, "And was it not a state which Ch'ih proposed for himself?" The Master again replied, "Yes; who but princes have to do with ancestral temples, and with audiences but the sovereign? If Ch'ih were to be a small assistant in these services, who could be a great one

Legge XI.25.

When Tzu-lu, Tseng Hsi, Jan Yu and Kung-hsi Hua were seated in attendance, the Master said, 'Do not feel constrained simply because I am a little older than you are. Now you are in the habit of saying, "My abilities are not appreciated," but if someone did appreciate your abilities, do tell me how you would go about things.'
Tzu-lu promptly answered, 'If I were to administer a state of a thousand chariots, situated between powerful neighbours, troubled by armed invasions and by repeated famines, I could, within three years, give the people courage and a sense of direction.'
The Master smiled at him.
'Ch'iu, what about you?'
'If I were to administer an area measuring sixty or seventy li square, or even fifty or sixty Ii square, I could, within three years, bring the size of the population up to an adequate level. As to the rites and music, I would leave that to abler gentlemen.' 'Ch'ih, how about you?' 'I do not say that I already have the ability, but I am ready to learn. On ceremonial occasions in the ancestral temple or in diplo- matic gatherings, I should like to assist as a minor official in charge of protocol, properly dressed in my ceremonial cap and robes.' 'Tien, how about you?' After a few dying notes came the final chord, and then he stood up from his lute. 'I differ from the other three in my choice.' The Master said, 'What harm is there in that? After all each man is stating what he has set his heart upon.' 'In late spring, after the spring clothes have been newly made, I should like, together with five or six adults and six or seven boys, to go bathing in the River Yi and enjoy the breeze on the Rain Altar, and then to go home chanting poetry.' The Master sighed and said, '1 am all in favour of Tien.' When the three left, Tseng Hsi stayed behind. He said, 'What do you think of what the other three said?'
'They were only stating what they had set their hearts upon.' 'Why did you smile at Yu?' 'It is by the rites that a state is administered, but in the way he spoke Yu showed a lack of modesty. That is why I smiled at him.' 'In the case of Ch'iu, was he not concerned with a state?' 'What can justify one in saying that sixty or seventy ii square or indeed fifty or sixty h square do not deserve the name of "state"?' 'In the case of Ch'ih, was he not concerned with a state?' 'What are ceremonial occasions in the ancestral temple and diplomatic gatherings if not matters which concern rulers of feudal states? If Ch'iu plays only a minor part, who would be able to play a major role?'

Lau [11:26]

Le Maître dit à Tzeu lou, à Tseng Si, à Jen Iou et Koung si Houa, qui étaient assis à ses cotés : « Parlez-moi : franchement, sans considérer que je suis un peu plus âgé que vous. Laissés dans la vie privée, vous vous dites : “Les hommes ne reconnaissent pas mes mérites”. Si les hommes les reconnaissaient, que feriez-vous ? » Tseu lou se hâta de répondre : « Supposons qu'une principauté, possédant mille chariots de guerre, soit tenue en servitude entre deux principautés voisines très puissantes, que, de plus, elle soit envahie par une armée nombreuse ; qu'ensuite les grains et les légumes viennent à lui manquer ; si j'étais chargé de la gouverner, en trois ans, je pourrais inspirer du courage au peuple ; et leur faire connaître l'orientation à prendre. » Le Maître sourit.
« Et toi, K'iou, dit-il, que ferais-tu ? » Jen Iou répondit : « Si j'avais à gouverner un petit pays de soixante a soixante-dix stades, ou de cinquante à soixante, en trois ans, je pourrais mettre le peuple dans l'aisance. Pour ce qui concerne les rites et la musique, j'attendrais la venue d'un homme honorable. »
Confucius dit : « Toi, Tch'eu, que ferais-tu ? » Koung si Houa répondit : « Je ne dis pas que j'en sois capable, mais je désirerais l'apprendre. Je désirerais, portant la tunique noirâtre et le bonnet noir, remplir l'office de petit aide dans les cérémonies en l'honneur des ancêtres, et, dans les réunions des vassaux. »
Confucius dit : « Toi, Tien, que ferais-tu ? » Tseng Si cesse de jouer de la cithare dont les cordes vibrent encore. Il la dépose, se lève, et répond : « Je ne partage pas les aspirations des trois autres disciples. » Le Maître dit : « Quel mal y a-t-il ? Chacun peut exprimer ses intentions. » Tseng Si reprit : « À la fin du printemps, quand les vêtements de la saison sont achevés, aller avec cinq ou six jeunes gens en âge de porter le bonnet viril, avec six ou sept jeunes garçons, me baigner dans la rivière I, respirer l'air frais sur la terrasse des Danses pour la Pluie, puis revenir en chantant des vers, voilà ce que j'aimerais. » Le Maître dit en soupirant : « J'approuve le sentiment de Tien. » Quand les trois autres disciples se furent retirés, Tseng Si, resté seul, dit : « Que faut-il penser de ce qu'ont dit ces trois disciples ? » Le Maître répondit : « Chacun d'eux a exprimé son intention, et voilà tout. » Tseng Si dit : « Pourquoi le Maître a-t-il souri, après avoir entendu Iou ? » Le Maître répondit : « On gouverne un État selon les bienséances. Le langage de Iou n'a pas été modeste. Voilà pourquoi j'ai souri. » Tseng Si dit, : « K'iou n'a-t-il pas aussi parlé du gouvernement d'un État1 ? » Confucius répondit : « Existe-t-il un territoire de soixante à soixante-dix stades, ou de cinquante à soixante stades qui ne soit pas un État2 ? » Tseng Si dit : « Tch'eu n'a-t-il pas aussi parlé du gouvernement d'un État ? » Confucius répondit : « Les offrandes aux ancêtres, les réunions des vassaux, qui concernent-elles, si ce n'est les princes3 ? Si Tch'eu n'est qu'un petit assistant, qui pourra être grand assistant ? »

1. Pourquoi sa réponse ne vous a-t-elle pas fait sourire ?
2. Sans doute, K'iou a parlé d'un Etat, mais pas avec la même suffisance que Tzeu lou.
3. Tch'eu a donc parlé du gouvernement d'un État, mais il l'a fait avec modestie ; car...

Couvreur XI.25.

Lun Yu XI. 26. (293) IntroductionTable of content
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Alias the Lunyu, the Lun Yü, the Analects, les Entretiens du maître avec ses disciples.

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