Confucius Quotes



Confucius (551–479 BC) was a Chinese teacher, editor, politician, and philosopher of Chinese history.

The philosophy of Confucius emphasized personal and governmental morality, correctness of social relationships, justice and sincerity. His followers competed successfully with many other schools.

Confucius’s principles had a basis in common Chinese tradition and belief. He championed strong family loyalty, ancestor worship, respect of elders by their children and of husbands by their wives. He also recommended family as a basis for ideal government. He espoused the well-known principle “Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself”, an early version of the Golden Rule.

One of the deepest teachings of Confucius may have been the superiority of personal exemplification over explicit rules of behavior. His moral teachings emphasized self-cultivation, emulation of moral exemplars, and the attainment of skilled judgment rather than knowledge of rules. Confucian ethics may be considered a type of virtue ethics.
Confucianism is an ethical and philosophical system, on occasion described as a religion, developed from the teachings of the Confucius.

The Analects are a collection of Confucius’s sayings brought together by his pupils shortly after his death in 497 BC. Together they express a philosophy, or a moral code, by which Confucius, one of the most humane thinkers of all time, believed everyone should live. Upholding the ideals of wisdom, self-knowledge, courage and love of one’s fellow man, he argued that the pursuit of virtue should be every individual’s supreme goal. And, while following the Way, or the truth, might not result in immediate or material gain, Confucius showed that it could nevertheless bring its own powerful and lasting spiritual rewards.

His best quotes are listed below.

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

“Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.”

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

“He who knows all the answers has not been asked all the questions.”

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”

“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”

“The funniest people are the saddest once”

“Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”

“Study the past if you would define the future.”

“Respect yourself and others will respect you.”

“What the superior man seeks is in himself; what the small man seeks is in others.”

“Attack the evil that is within yourself, rather than attacking the evil that is in others.”

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”

“The man who asks a question is a fool for a minute, the man who does not ask is a fool for life.”

“It is not the failure of others to appreciate your abilities that should trouble you, but rather your failure to appreciate theirs.”

“The man of wisdom is never of two minds;
the man of benevolence never worries;
the man of courage is never afraid.”

“The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.”

“Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change.”

“The hardest thing of all is to find a black cat in a dark room, especially if there is no cat.”

“If what one has to say is not better than silence, then one should keep silent.”

“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”

“Forget injuries, never forget kindnesses.”

“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.”

“It is more shameful to distrust our friends than to be deceived by them.”

“Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles.”

“To see what is right and not do it is the worst cowardice.”

“Time flows away like the water in the river. ”

“If your plan is for one year plant rice. If your plan is for ten years plant trees. If your plan is for one hundred years educate children. ”

“Don’t complain about the snow on your neighbor’s roof when your own doorstep is unclean.”

“Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.”

“Have no friends not equal to yourself.”

“The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.”

“To be wealthy and honored in an unjust society is a disgrace.”

“When a wise man points at the moon the imbecile examines the finger.”

“Courtesy, generosity, honesty, persistence, and kindness.
If you are courteous, you will not be disrespected;
if you are generous, you will gain everything.
If you are honest, people will rely on you.
If you are persistent you will get results.
If you are kind, you can employ people.”

“A true gentleman is one who has set his heart upon the Way. A fellow who is ashamed merely of shabby clothing or modest meals is not even worth conversing with.”

“Never give a sword to a man who can’t dance.”

“It is easy to hate and it is difficult to love. This is how the whole scheme of things works. All good things are difficult to achieve; and bad things are very easy to get.”

“The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.”

“By nature, men are nearly alike; by practice, they get to be wide apart.”

“Roads were made for journeys not destinations.”

“A true teacher is one who, keeping the past alive, is also able to understand the present.”

“The noble-minded are calm and steady. Little people are forever fussing and fretting.”

“Behind every smile there’s teeth.”

“Settle one difficulty, and you keep a hundred away.”

“The Man who says he can, and the man who says he can not.. Are both correct.”

“Knowledge is merely brilliance in organization of ideas and not wisdom. The truly wise person goes beyond knowledge.”

“Ignorance is the night of the mind, but a night without moon or star.”

“Never contract friendship with a man that is not better than thyself. ”

“Fix your mind on truth, hold firm to virtue, rely on loving kindness, and find your recreation in the Arts.”

“You will never know how sharp a sword is unless it’s drawn from its sheath”

“Without feelings of respect, what is there to distinguish men from beasts?”

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”

”The superior man is quiet and calm, waiting for the appointments of Heaven.”

”I am not bothered by the fact that I am unknown. I am bothered when I do not know others.”

”At fifteen my heart was set on learning; at thirty I stood firm; at forty I had no more doubts; at fifty I knew the mandate of heaven; at sixty my ear was obedient; at seventy I could follow my heart’s desire without transgressing the norm.”

”See a person’s means … Observe his motives. Examine that in which he rests. How can a person conceal his character?”

”The Superior Man is all-embracing and not partial. The inferior man is partial and not all-embracing.”

”If you see what is right and fail to act on it, you lack courage.”

”Being in humaneness is good. If we select other goodness and thus are far apart from humaneness, how can we be the wise?”

”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.”



”The man of virtue makes the difficulty to be overcome his first business, and success only a subsequent consideration: this may be called perfect virtue.”

”He who exercises government by means of his virtue may be compared to the north polar star, which keeps its place when all the stars are rotating about it.”

”What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.”

”What Heaven has conferred is called The Nature; an accordance with this nature is called The Path of duty; the regulation of this path is called Instruction. The path may not be left for an instant. If it could be left, it would not be the path.”

”The way which the superior man pursues, reaches wide and far, and yet is secret. Common men and women, however ignorant, may intermeddle with the knowledge of it; yet in its utmost reaches, there is that which even the sage does not know.”

”The superior man does what is proper to the station in which he is; he does not desire to go beyond this.”

”In archery we have something like the way of the superior man. When the archer misses the center of the target, he turns round and seeks for the cause of his failure in himself.”

”His presenting himself with his institutions before spiritual beings, without any doubts arising about them, shows that he knows Heaven. His being prepared, without any misgivings, to wait for the rise of a sage a hundred ages after, shows that he knows men.”

”It is the way of the superior man to prefer the concealment of his virtue, while it daily becomes more illustrious, and it is the way of the mean man to seek notoriety, while he daily goes more and more to ruin.”

”Be loyal and trustworthy. Do not befriend anyone who is lower than yourself in this regard. When making a mistake, do not be afraid to correct it.”

”If you would govern a state of a thousand chariots , you must pay strict attention to business, be true to your word, be economical in expenditure and love the people. You should use them according to the seasons.”

”When the Superior Man eats he does not try to stuff himself; at rest he does not seek perfect comfort; he is diligent in his work and careful in speech. He avails himself to people of the Tao and thereby corrects himself. This is the kind of person of whom you can say, “he loves learning.”

”Reviewing what you have learned and learning anew, you are fit to be a teacher.”

”The Superior Man is all-embracing and not partial. The inferior man is partial and not all-embracing.”

”To study and not think is a waste. To think and not study is dangerous.”

”To throw oneself into strange teachings is quite dangerous.”

”Listen widely to remove your doubts and be careful when speaking about the rest and your mistakes will be few. See much and get rid of what is dangerous and be careful in acting on the rest and your causes for regret will be few. Speaking without fault, acting without causing regret: ‘upgrading’ consists in this.”

”If a man has no humaneness what can his propriety be like? If a man has no humaneness what can his happiness be like?”

”When you meet someone better than yourself, turn your thoughts to becoming his equal. When you meet someone not as good as you are, look within and examine your own self.”


”The superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions.”

”They who know the truth are not equal to those who love it, and they who love it are not equal to those who delight in it.”

”When I walk along with two others, from at least one I will be able to learn.”

”I do not open up the truth to one who is not eager to get knowledge, nor help out any one who is not anxious to explain himself. When I have presented one corner of a subject to any one, and he cannot from it learn the other three, I do not repeat my lesson.”

”The virtuous is frank and open; the non-virtuous is secretive and worrying.”

”When you serve your mother and father it is okay to try to correct them once in a while. But if you see that they are not going to listen to you, keep your respect for them and don’t distance yourself from them. Work without complaining.”

”A young man should serve his parents at home and be respectful to elders outside his home. He should be earnest and truthful, loving all, but become intimate with humaneness. After doing this, if he has energy to spare, he can study literature and the arts.”

”If the Superior Man is not serious, then he will not inspire awe in others. If he is not learned, then he will not be on firm ground. He takes loyalty and good faith to be of primary importance, and has no friends who are not of equal (moral) caliber. When he makes a mistake, he doesn’t hesitate to correct it.”

”The superior man, when resting in safety, does not forget that danger may come. When in a state of security he does not forget the possibility of ruin. When all is orderly, he does not forget that disorder may come. Thus his person is not endangered, and his States and all their clans are preserved.”

”A man living without conflicts, as if he never lives at all.”

”Recompense injury with justice, and recompense kindness with kindness.”

”A scholar who loves comfort is not worthy of the name.”

The man of virtue makes the difficulty to be overcome his first business, and success only a subsequent consideration.

Confucius and his students.

Confucius and his students

”When you have faults, do not fear to abandon them.”

”The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell.
Guide the people by law, subdue them by punishment; they may shun crime, but will be void of shame. Guide them by example, subdue them by courtesy; they will learn shame, and come to be good.”

”Only after Winter comes do we know that the pine and the cypress are the last to fade.”

”There is nothing more visible than what is secret, and nothing more manifest than what is minute. Therefore the superior man is watchful over himself, when he is alone.”

”Let the states of equilibrium and harmony exist in perfection, and a happy order will prevail throughout heaven and earth, and all things will be nourished and flourish.”

”There is no body but eats and drinks. But they are few who can distinguish flavors.”

”Men all say, “We are wise”; but being driven forward and taken in a net, a trap, or a pitfall, they know not how to escape. Men all say, “We are wise”; but happening to choose the course of the Mean, they are not able to keep it for a round month.”

”The kingdom, its states, and its families, may be perfectly ruled; dignities and emoluments may be declined; naked weapons may be trampled under the feet; but the course of the Mean cannot be attained to.”

”The superior man governs men, according to their nature, with what is proper to them, and as soon as they change what is wrong, he stops.”

”How abundantly do spiritual beings display the powers that belong to them! We look for them, but do not see them; we listen to, but do not hear them; yet they enter into all things, and there is nothing without them.”

”Benevolence is the characteristic element of humanity.”

”In all things success depends on previous preparation, and without such previous preparation there is sure to be failure.”

”Sincerity is the way of Heaven. The attainment of sincerity is the way of men.
Sincerity is the end and beginning of things; without sincerity there would be nothing.”

“Only by perfect virtue can the perfect path, in all its courses, be made a fact.”

”The superior man, even when he is not moving, has a feeling of reverence, and while he speaks not, he has the feeling of truthfulness.”

“In silence is the offering presented, and the spirit approached to; there is not the slightest contention.”

See Also:
Lao Tzu Quotes

Love Letters in the Sand Some Quotes of Kahlil Gibran


Confucius quotes

Confucius quotes

Confucius quotes

Confucius quotes

Confucius quotes

11 thoughts on “Confucius Quotes

  1. Nicholas C. Rossis

    This is excellent, thanks for sharing! One question though; I find it strange that Confucius mentions the Tao. Could it be that the following quote is actually by Lao Tzu? I seem to remember it as part of the Tao Te Ching.

    ”When the Superior Man eats he does not try to stuff himself; at rest he does not seek perfect comfort; he is diligent in his work and careful in speech. He avails himself to people of the Tao and thereby corrects himself. This is the kind of person of whom you can say, “he loves learning.”


    1. the alchemist Post author

      Nicholas C. Rossis, this quote is not the part of Tao Te Ching. It is from the book The Analects. The Analects are a collection of Confucius’s sayings brought together by his pupils shortly after his death in 497 BC.


      1. Nicholas C. Rossis

        I found the part I was referring to: in #12, Lao Tzu says:

        “Colour’s five hues from the eyes their sight will take;
        Music’s five notes can make the ears as deaf;
        The five flavours deprive the mouth of taste”

        It was that last line the Confucian quote reminded me of. 🙂


  2. Pingback: Confucius Quote | antryump

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