It is only he, possessed of all sagely qualities that can exist
under heaven, who shows himself quick in apprehension, clear in
discernment, of far-reaching intelligence, and all-embracing
knowledge, fitted to exercise rule; magnanimous, generous, benign, and
mild, fitted to exercise forbearance; impulsive, energetic, firm,
and enduring, fitted to maintain a firm hold; self-adjusted, grave,
never swerving from the Mean, and correct, fitted to command
reverence; accomplished, distinctive, concentrative, and searching,
fitted to exercise discrimination.
All-embracing is he and vast, deep and active as a fountain, sending
forth in their due season his virtues.
All-embracing and vast, he is like Heaven. Deep and active as a
fountain, he is like the abyss. He is seen, and the people all
reverence him; he speaks, and the people all believe him; he acts, and
the people all are pleased with him.
Therefore his fame overspreads the Middle Kingdom, and extends to
all barbarous tribes. Wherever ships and carriages reach; wherever the
strength of man penetrates; wherever the heavens overshadow and the
earth sustains; wherever the sun and moon shine; wherever frosts and
dews fall:-all who have blood and breath unfeignedly honor and love
him. Hence it is said,-"He is the equal of Heaven."
It is only the individual possessed of the most entire sincerity
that can exist under Heaven, who can adjust the great invariable
relations of mankind, establish the great fundamental virtues of
humanity, and know the transforming and nurturing operations of Heaven
and Earth;-shall this individual have any being or anything beyond
himself on which he depends?
Call him man in his ideal, how earnest is he! Call him an abyss, how
deep is he! Call him Heaven, how vast is he!
Who can know him, but he who is indeed quick in apprehension,
clear in discernment, of far-reaching intelligence, and
all-embracing knowledge, possessing all Heavenly virtue?
It is said in the Book of Poetry, "Over her embroidered robe she
puts a plain single garment," intimating a dislike to the display of
the elegance of the former. Just so, 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. It is characteristic of the
superior man, appearing insipid, yet never to produce satiety; while
showing a simple negligence, yet to have his accomplishments
recognized; while seemingly plain, yet to be discriminating. He
knows how what is distant lies in what is near. He knows where the
wind proceeds from. He knows how what is minute becomes manifested.
Such a one, we may be sure, will enter into virtue.
It is said in the Book of Poetry, "Although the fish sink and lie at
the bottom, it is still quite clearly seen." Therefore the superior
man examines his heart, that there may be nothing wrong there, and
that he may have no cause for dissatisfaction with himself. That
wherein the superior man cannot be equaled is simply this,-his work
which other men cannot see.
It is said in the Book of Poetry, "Looked at in your apartment, be
there free from shame as being exposed to the light of Heaven."
Therefore, the superior man, even when he is not moving, has a feeling
of reverence, and while he speaks not, he has the feeling of
It is said in the Book of Poetry, "In silence is the offering
presented, and the spirit approached to; there is not the slightest
contention." Therefore the superior man does not use rewards, and
the people are stimulated to virtue. He does not show anger, and the
people are awed more than by hatchets and battle-axes.
It is said in the Book of Poetry, "What needs no display is
virtue. All the princes imitate it." Therefore, the superior man being
sincere and reverential, the whole world is conducted to a state of
It is said in the Book of Poetry, "I regard with pleasure your
brilliant virtue, making no great display of itself in sounds and
appearances." The Master said, "Among the appliances to transform
the people, sound and appearances are but trivial influences. It is
said in another ode, 'His Virtue is light as a hair.' Still, a hair
will admit of comparison as to its size. 'The doings of the supreme
Heaven have neither sound nor smell. 'That is perfect virtue."
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