Literary Notes - The Confucian Analects

“The superior man acts before he speaks, and afterwards speaks according to his actions” (II.XIII).

All translations are by James Legge, corresponding to the Barnes & Noble Classics version. Direct quotes are in quotations, while paraphrases are not.

“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” (II.XVII).

“The superior man does not set his mind either for anything, or against anything; what is right he will follow” (IV.X).

“The superior man wishes to be slow in his speech and earnest in his conduct” (IV.XXIV).

“The superior man helps the distressed, but does not add to the wealth of the rich” (VI.III.2).

“Riches and honors acquired by unrighteousness are to me as a floating cloud” (VII.XV).


“The scholar who cherishes the love of comfort is not fit to be deemed a scholar” (XIV.III).

“The superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions” (XIV.XXIX).

“The way of the superior man is threefold. Virtuous, he is free from anxieties; wise, he is free from perplexities; bold, he is free from fear” (XIV.XXX).

“In teaching there should be no distinction of classes” (XV.XXXVIII).

“Those who are born with the possession of knowledge are the highest class of men. Those who learn, and so, readily, get possession of knowledge, are the next. Those who are dull and stupid, and yet compass the learning, are another class next to these. As to those who are dull and stupid and yet do not learn—they are the lowest class of the people” (XVI.IX).