Chinese Language Blog

Confucius Say Posted by on May 2, 2012 in Culture, Vocabulary

Philosopher, teacher, politician, and much more, Confucius (孔子 – kǒng zǐ) is one of the most revered people in China’s long history. Born Kong Qiu (孔丘 – kǒng qiū) in 551 BC in the city of Qufu (曲阜 – qū fù), he came to be known simple as “Master Kong.” His thoughts were eventually developed into a school of thought known as Confucianism (儒家 – rú jiā – lit. “school of the scholars”), which was at one point in time the official ideology of China (after the Qin Dynasty and before the Republic of China). Sadly, more Westerners these days probably associate this legendary thinker with the modern Internet meme bearing his name. While these “Confucius say…” pictures are good for a laugh, Master Kong’s real quotes are full of wisdom, and we can all learn something from them. Keep an eye on the blog for more on the teaching of Confucius and his life in the future; for now, here are some of his best quotes, both in Chinese and English:

What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others.

(己所不欲,勿施於人 – jǐ suǒ bù yù, wù shī yú rén)

I am not bothered by the fact that I am unknown; I’m bothered when I do not know others.

(不患人之不己知,患不知人也 – bù huàn rén zhī bù jǐ zhī, huàn bù zhī rén yě)

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.

(吾十有五而志於學,三十而立,四十而不惑,五十而知天命,六十而耳順,七十而从心所欲,不逾矩 – wú shí yǒu wǔ ér zhì yú xué, sān shí ér lì, sì shí ér bù huò, wǔ shí ér zhī tiān mìng, liù shí ér ěr shùn, qī shí ér cóng xīn suǒ yù, bù yú ju)

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

(不怕慢,就怕站 – bù pà màn, jiù pà zhàn)

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

(學而不思則罔,思而不學則殆 – xué ér bù sī zé wǎng, sī ér bù xué zé dài)

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

(君子欲訥於言而敏於行 – jūn zǐ yù nè yú yán ér mǐn yú xíng)

Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in getting up every time we do.

(我们最大的荣耀不是永不跌倒,而是每次跌倒了都能爬起来 – wǒ men zuì dà de róng yào bù shì yǒng bù dié dǎo, ér shì měi cì dié dǎo le dōu néng pá qǐ lái)

When you see a good person, think of becoming like her/him. When you see someone not so good, reflect on your own weak points.

(見賢思齊焉; 見不賢而內自省也 – jiàn xián sī qí yān; jiàn bù xián ér nèi zì xǐng yě)

The superior man is satisfied and composed; the mean man is always full of distress.

(君子坦蕩蕩,小人長戚戚 – jūn zǐ tǎn dàng dàng, xiǎo rén zhǎng qi qi)

Everything has its beauty, but not everyone can see it.

(诸事有其好的一面,但不是人人都能看到 – zhū shì yǒu qí hǎo de yī miàn, dàn bù shì rén rén dōu néng kàn dào)

Part One of the A&E Biography on Confucius. Find the rest of the series on YouTube.

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About the Author: sasha

Sasha is an English teacher, writer, photographer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently trying the digital nomad lifestyle across Latin America.


  1. Steven C. Poling Jr.:

    Not all of these are direct quotes (some are in Modern Chinese). A great post, regardless.

  2. Ben Hedges:

    Check out our video on Confucius!

    Feel free to share or embed.

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