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Ten Nuggets of Wisdom from Confucius

Confucius is one of history’s most phenomenal men. Even now, anyone familiar with China can easily see that many of his teachings and philosophies remain deeply welded in the fabric of the culture. Today, we will explore some of the greatest life lessons that the legendary Chinese icon left us with.

Here are Ten Nuggets of Wisdom from Confucius

1. 里仁为美,择不处仁,焉得知?

(Everything has beauty but not everyone sees it.)

Even in the unpleasant things of life, one can find pleasantries. Not everything about everything can be wholly good or bad. Each person, place, situation and problem has things about it that are beautiful. Confucius wants to remind us that we should strive to look for this beauty rather than dismissing things too quickly.

2. 君子之过也,如日月之食焉:过也,人皆见之;更也,人皆仰之。

(Our greatest glory is not in never failing but in rising every time we fall.)

Most people have heard some variation of this phrase but the key point is quite clear. Failure is inevitable. Failure is a fact. Accept it, and develop resilience.

3. 学而不思则罔,思而不学则殆。

(Learning without thought is labor lost, thought without learning is perilous.)

This is a tricky one to interpret so I’d like to preface my interpretation by warning that it might be highly subjective. If you disagree, please write some notes for me in the comments. Basically, I believe that he is saying that we can’t just learn things without soaking them in, grappling with them and really figuring out what they mean. This would be the equivalent of memorizing a textbook, or knowing something only within theoretical, superficial confines.

Conversely, to deeply ponder a topic you haven’t even learned theoretically or at a basic level is a never-ending task because you have skipped a step in a situation where skipping a step is impossible. In summary, neither is useful on its own. First learn, and then engage with what you learned deeply.

4. 知之为知之,不知为不知,是知也。

(When you know a thing, to hold that you know it; when you do not know a thing, to allow that you do not know it. This is true knowledge.)

True knowledge is being certain about things that you do know, and being humble and accepting of what you do not. No one knows everything so accept what you do not know and be willing to learn it. At the same time, own the things that you do know confidently.

5. 不聞不若聞之,聞之不若見之,見之不若知之,知之不若行之;學至于行之而止矣。

( I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.)

Experience will be your greatest teacher in life. Theoretical knowledge and what society tells you will only get you so far.

6. 三人行,必有我师焉;择其善者而从之,其不善者而改之。

(If I am walking with two other men, each of them will serve as my teacher. I will pick out the good parts of one and imitate them, and the bad parts of the other and correct them in myself.)

Most of this is quite straightforward. However, a hidden message there is that there is something to learn from everyone you encounter in your life.

7. 学而时习之,不亦说乎?有朋自远方来,不亦乐乎?人不知而不愠,不亦君子乎?

The Master said: “Is it not pleasant to learn with a constant perseverance and application? “Is it not delightful to have friends coming from distant quarters? “Is he not a man of complete virtue, who feels no discomposure though men may take no note of him?”

8. 譬如為山,未成一簣,止,吾止也!譬如平地,雖覆一簣,進,吾往也!

(It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.)
We’ve all heard different variations of this one. The main point is to keep going, and putting one step in front of the other without focusing on the finish line.

9. 射有似乎君子,失诸正鹄,反求诸其身。

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

Once again, instead of giving up, one should change their approach. In today’s modern mindset, I interpret that to mean you should either work smarter or work harder.

10. 既来之,则安之。

(Wherever you go, go with all your heart.)

This one most clearly means that one should give everything they choose in life their best. You only have one life so don’t hold anything back.

There you have it: Ten nuggets of wisdom from the great ascended master Confucius, himself. For a better quality of life, start working on these things instantly!

Dhruv Chatterjee

Dhruv Chatterjee is currently in his third year in China. After spending two years as an English and Music teacher in a small village in Guangdong, he has spent the last year living and working in Shanghai. He enjoys writing, Chinese, music and exploring all the wonderful things Shanghai has to offer.

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