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Confucius is one of the most quoted personalities ever. He is so popular that there is a special “Confucius says …” joke-selection, I mean who can say to have this kind of achievement ;)

Confucius, whose name literally means “Master Kong”, lived 551-479 BCE. He was a Chinese thinker and philosopher, whose teachings have deeply influenced not only Asian thought and life. He presented himself as a “transmitter who invented nothing” and he really pointed out the importance of learning, which is one reason he is seen by Chinese people as “The Greatest Master”.

One of the best known sources of Confucius are The Analects, a collection of his teachings, which was compiled many years after his death. A fountain of extremely mindful and wise Confucius quotes springs from these ancient descriptions.

Many of them are universal and timeless in their beautiful and simple truth and they are as valid today as on the day they left Confucius’ mouth. Here we take a look at 10 of the most inspiring quotes by Confucius.

Confucius says …

1. “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.” [Tweet this!]

It’s the “Golden Rule” and the essence of real compassion. Not compassion as in looking down on someone and have pity for another, this is no real compassion. Compassion means seeing another person 100% equal to yourself (in value, not in differentials on the surface which ultimately do not matter). In fact it is seeing yourself in every other person. And therefore you cannot harm anyone without also harming yourself.

It doesn’t mean to lose individuality or self-worth, on the contrary – but the other person earns the same gift.

2. “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.” [Tweet this!]

That’s my personal favorite quote since it expresses something very profound which also is very useful to know: Ignorance is a willful neglect or refusal to acquire knowledge. It is to not widen one’s own perspective in order to see a broader truth. An example it would be to have racist thoughts and not realizing that all men are equal.

The ultimate truth therefore is where there is absolutely no ignorance, meaning where the perspective or consciousness has become one with all that there is. In Buddhism ignorance (Avidyā) is seen as the primary cause of suffering. Liberation is Enlightenment. Another quote by Confucius here is “Ignorance is the night of the mind, but a night without moon and star.”

3. “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” [Tweet this!]

Those quotes are just perfect. What he is expressing here is that we have to experience something ourselves in order to really understand it. If we are hearing something it might be interesting. If we are seeing something it might be beautiful. But only if we have it happening to ourselves – actively doing it – we can really know how it is.

Picture something nice as winning an Olympic gold medal or picture something terrifying as the loss of a loved one. Can you know this by hearing it or by seeing it? Or do you have to do it and experience it yourself to really know it?

Along with this realization comes the awareness that you cannot understand someone or his actions from hearing or seeing it from the outside. You have to feel empathic compassion for him to really know what it is like. To know and not to do is really not to know. Only by applying our knowledge we can validate it’s harmony with reality, it’s truth.

4. “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” [Tweet this!]

Amazing. It calls for dropping the inner mask through which we constantly see and evaluate the world, distorted by our wants and belief-systems. Here we have to look at things as they are. Just like a newborn child would look at things. Then we are able to really see again, without instant labeling of what we see and therefore only really seeing our label. If we become able to do this – just for a second without judgment, we can see that everything in nature is as it should be. And in this natural perfection lies beauty.

5. “The Superior Man is aware of Righteousness, the inferior man is aware of advantage.” [Tweet this!]

Another quote is “The object of the superior man is truth.” It is the value of integrity: Do we act to our best knowledge of truth or do we bend ourselves and violate our integrity in order to gain an advantage? Do we play fair game or use perfidious tactics?

To be truthful to ourselves is also important to the development of (good) character. And it is the only straight way to liberation.

6. “Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.” [Tweet this!]

Whatever you do and whatever you commit to, do it fully, give your all – one hundred percent. It is the essence of Carpe Diem – Seizing the day and it’s surely the best way to be satisfied with what we do and get the best results.

7. “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in getting up every time we do.” [Tweet this!]

There is no failure, there are only valuable learning experiences. Or as Thomas Edison about inventing the light bulb said: “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” The important thing is not giving up, but learning and then improving by using this feedback to get better and ultimately succeed.

A quote expressing the same principle is “A man who has committed a mistake and doesn’t correct it, is committing another mistake.”

8. “He who learns but does not think, is lost. He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger.” [Tweet this!]

Confucius explains the connection of learning and reflection. Reflection of that what we learned by thinking or of the results we get by applying the knowledge. “Study without reflection is a waste of time; reflection without study is dangerous” is a similar quote by Confucius. Learning is only useful if we connect the learning within our own minds, with what we already know and what is useful for us. This reflection of any knowledge also saves us from blindly following any knowledge without checking its truthfulness and validity to us.

I think everybody experienced learning when we really want this knowledge and interweave it with what we already know. If there is a need or problem we want to solve, we consume knowledge much more effective than it happens for students in many universities.

9. “He that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools.” [Tweet this!]

Confucius tombThe tomb of Confucius in China. Photo by Rolf Müller.

This quote calls for planning and preparation. This includes getting and improving the personal skills we need to be successful. If we want to hold speeches we have to become good with communication skills. If we want to win a race we have to train for it. If we want to do a big project we need knowledge in project management. Steven Covey calls it Sharpening the saw, read about it here .

10. “If you look into your own heart, and you find nothing wrong there, what is there to worry about? What is there to fear?” [Tweet this!]

It shows that our primary work lies within ourselves: to work on ourselves and improve will automatically take care of the outside world if we use our abilities then. “When we see men of a contrary character, we should turn inwards and examine ourselves.” The solution to problems is not “out there”. It is the Inside-Out approach: success and happiness can only be found by working on ourselves. It also entails the spiritual message to look inside and to discover ourselves fully.

46 comments

  1. D00dikov Reply September 18, 2008 at 1:21 am

    Now those are really inspiring sayings, my favorite being “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” Thank you for this selection!

  2. Myrko Reply September 18, 2008 at 1:23 am

    Hi D00dikov, yes #4 is also one of my favorite quotes that I like to remember over the day!

    However #2 is unbeaten if it comes to the need to ponder about those quotes … :)

  3. ResilientHeart Reply September 18, 2008 at 5:02 am

    This is really quite beautiful, deeply meaningful and peaceful. Thank you for a great, thought-provoking post.
    Blessings,
    RH

    ResilientHeart’s last blog post: Update on House

  4. Evelyn Lim Reply September 18, 2008 at 8:21 am

    I believe that I have also written an article previously on sayings by Confucius. I am pretty much awed by the wise sayings from a person who lived so long ago, which still make a lot of sense even during modern times. My kids who are taking Chinese lessons have to learn how to recite some of his sayings now.

    Thanks for sharing!
    Evelyn

    Evelyn Lim’s last blog post: Blessings For Healing

  5. Psiplex Reply September 18, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    #10 is so important. We really act from what is in our hearts toward everything external from us. knowing that one’s own heart is free from the illusions of the mind helps us to bring more light to external matters. Thanks for the wonderful post!

    Psiplex’s last blog post: Infections and Other Wonders

  6. Emma Reply September 18, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    Beautiful sayings. Some of the interpretations seem a little off though. I particularly noticed number 2. I believe the quote means that that the truly wise man knows that he doesn’t know everything. I’m interested in your interpretation as it seems to say something completely different to the actual quote.

  7. Myrko Reply September 18, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    Emma, yes I think this is a very valid interpretation and I think what you say is what the quote is expressing, you wrote: I believe the quote means that that the truly wise man knows that he doesn’t know everything.

    Confucius also said “To know, is to know that you know nothing. That is the meaning of true knowledge.”

    I looked more at the consequence of the quote: “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.” What is this ignorance and what does it mean, how does it show in our thinking and actions. For me ignorance is the staying in one perspective of seperation, although we could know better but are denying it willingly.

  8. Lance Reply September 18, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    This is a great list of quotes. I really love “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”. That says a lot to me. Thanks for putting this list together.

    Lance’s last blog post: Cheerful Wins!

  9. gregory baker Reply October 3, 2008 at 11:14 am

    It always necessary for a person to have a spiritual impact in his life to get successful.Spiritualism is the act by which an individual becomes more and more confident and gets the hints on how to stay a happy life. Your post reminds me of one another post i have seen at http://www.succcess.org/2008/09/01/the-belief-tree-why-success-is-binary/#comments which was also depicting the success in life.

  10. silveramini Reply January 7, 2009 at 6:56 am

    “If you look into your own heart, and you find nothing wrong there, what is there to worry about? What is there to fear?”

    I really like this quote.

  11. Jonathan | EnlightenYourDay.com Reply March 24, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    Amazing post! Thanks, it made a subscriber out of me… Cheers

    Jonathan | EnlightenYourDay.com´s last blog post: Create your own Personal Creed today.

  12. Robert Reply August 18, 2009 at 1:18 am

    “He who learns but does not think, is lost. He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger.”
    cheers to this quote and you know what?
    i realy pity the one who does NoNe!

  13. Sensual photography Reply September 3, 2009 at 4:00 pm

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

  14. kelowna Reply September 8, 2009 at 7:25 pm

    Very True.. “If you look into your own heart, and you find nothing wrong there, what is there to worry about? What is there to fear?”

    I really like this quote.

  15. G SEKHAR BABU Reply April 24, 2010 at 9:02 am

    Grateful for the quotes. I am searching for the first quote for past 20 years. Because I read that quote in my child hood in my mother tongue Telugu in a story book. But I can’t able to translate it as it in my mind. Once again thanks.
    In my opinion it is the best quote ever.

  16. Property Marbella Reply June 18, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    These quotes are beautiful and mean a lot. I don’t know if that’s because I am European and understand them from a much different perspective. They are wise quotes indeed.

  17. Ivy Reply August 25, 2011 at 10:42 am

    Very nice quotes… true wisdom.. really.. here, I will share my fav. “Life is not a destination, it’s a journey. We all come upon unexpected curves and turning points, mountaintops and valleys. Everything that happens to us shapes who we are becoming. And in the adventure of each day, we discover the best in ourselves.” -from a book The Power of Life (LifeMax)

    Enjoy life, Explore more :)

  18. textbook rental Reply August 26, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    Great list of quotes from Confucius. He truly was a great man. It is no surprise that he and his teachings have lived throughout time.

  19. Kim Reply November 18, 2011 at 12:40 am

    These are some of my favorite quotes as well, especially number 5:
    “The Superior Man is aware of Righteousness, the inferior man is aware of advantage.”

    Thanks for sharing, enjoyed reading your page.

  20. Tilepine Reply March 4, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    i never knew such an inspirin man lived until i watched the movie “confucious” great man he was. I soo much like this quote “everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it”.

  21. mystery Reply March 6, 2012 at 12:10 am

    This really helped me, I am doing an essay on these. Thank you for sharing these with me. I truly like these.

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  23. Derek Reply September 10, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    Myrko,

    Love it. Regarding #3 “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” I’ve heard a modified form of this lesson expressed as: LEARN, DO, TEACH. I dug that one because it’s true, you have so much more mastery of a topic after you teach it to someone else. I guess that’s what you’re doing with this blog. Keep up the good work.

    ~Derek

  24. Myrko Reply September 10, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    Derek, yes, as Einstein put it: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

  25. Roshmi Reply October 1, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    I really liked your blogs and found it very interesting and useful Thanks so much!

    • Myrko Reply October 1, 2012 at 4:14 pm

      You’re welcome Roshmi! Glad to hear that.

  26. Catherine Cabal Reply December 17, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    i totally agree with you. Confucius is really great not only on his works but especially in his words .

  27. liong jun fuk Reply December 29, 2012 at 11:16 pm

    Please share the wisdom from our ancester…

  28. Arianna Reply May 29, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    I love those quotes. Thank you for making this page.
    at

  29. Viktoria Reply May 30, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    Thank you for this blog post. Just what I was looking for. Starting out with my business I was told to never never ever give up. And it is true. Experiences of great people and of those that achieved greatness teach you to not expect success all at once. It is about a path of mistakes, taking steps forward, correcting the path and finally reaching your dream.

  30. sulaiman abdullah Reply June 19, 2013 at 3:22 am

    the strange thing about quotes is that we like to read them but not put them into action in our lifes.

  31. Helen Reply June 25, 2013 at 9:18 am

    I am ashamed to say I did not know these sayings have been around for so long and originated so far away. I wish my boss would take on board #1….!

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  33. tom link Reply August 1, 2013 at 11:37 pm

    #1 is great. We should let the congressmen and senators know. They pass laws for all of us, and then exempt themselves from the laws.

  34. Indridcold Reply August 6, 2013 at 12:33 am

    Unfortunately, quotes can enable those with dangerous personality traits, like narcissistic psychopaths, to justify their destructive behavior unto others.

  35. Pingback: Confucius quotes | Blissfulblurbs

  36. Caleb Reply December 18, 2013 at 6:18 pm

    I need a direct quote from Confucius for class. It has to be a real direct quote from him that isn’t changed in any way. Are these reliable?

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  38. Pratik SHah Reply February 18, 2014 at 3:19 am

    @Evelyn Lim: So true Evelyn Lim Very nice ..

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  40. Hemu Reply April 5, 2014 at 8:01 pm

    love the way you explained these quotes, i was searching for something related to everything has beauty and which led me to your site. I am now thankful, that i am here. keep the good work going :)

  41. Jennifer Reply June 11, 2014 at 1:23 am

    I will have to say that my favorite quote here is actually the one that says “Ignorance is the night of the mind, but a night without moon and star,” as stated in your comment about quote #2. With all of the intolerance we have right now with gay rights and marriage, abortion rights, race issues, it feels like so many people feel like they are doing the right thing by imposing their intolerance onto other people. I wonder what Confucious would have to say about our society today?

  42. Pingback: Confucius says: The Top 10 Wise Confucius Quotes « China Books

  43. Teekay Reply July 26, 2014 at 11:04 am

    All are pearls, if you see with the inner eyes….. Hope to direct the world in right way…..

  44. Pingback: | The Wisdom of Confucius: 10 Quotes From the Master, Explained

  45. Pingback: Confucius says: The Top 10 Wise Confucius Quotes |DOUBLEPACK TV |

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