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Analects | Book 6 | Summary



Book 6, particularly the beginning, contains more of the Master's comments on a number of people and situations, including some that employ symbolism. In Chapter 1 he says his follower Yong (Yung) is capable of ruling, represented by facing south. He later compares Yong, also called Zhonggong (Chung-kung), to a sacrificial ox. By saying it doesn't matter that a pure red ox, which can be sacrificed to the spirits of hills and streams, is the offspring of a brindled (spotted) ox, the Master tells Yong that his humble origins don't prevent him from aspiring to higher things.

Another section of Book 6 focuses on wisdom versus humaneness. Wisdom is clearly an admirable quality, but humaneness is undoubtedly the higher ideal. In Chapter 23, we read that although "the wise will find joy," the humane will find the greater reward of "long life." The Master associates the humane with mountains, which symbolized the essential energy of chi and were believed to contain gateways to paradises of eternal life.

Chapter 29 contains The Analects's only reference to the concept of the Mean (zhongyong), to which a later book of Confucian philosophy is dedicated. It is essentially a principle of moderation—always taking the center path. A preference for moderation does run through The Analects, but it is unclear whether this chapter references the same concept as developed later.


In this book in particular, Hui is held up as a model of humaneness. The Master says in Chapter 7 he could achieve humaneness for three months at a time, whereas other followers could only do so occasionally, and in Chapter 11 readers learn he didn't let his poverty affect his happiness. Perhaps the highest compliment of all, he was the only follower whom the Master would call fond of learning, a quality that seems to be essential for achieving the ideal virtue of humaneness. Chapter 3 also reveals Hui died before the Master and hints at the grief he must have felt.

Some clarification on what is needed to be a gentleman is offered in Chapter 18, in which the Master says substance, such as the practice of humaneness, and refinement, achieved through the practices of ritual and culture, are needed to qualify. Either one without the other produces a negative result.

An extension of the meaning of The Way can also be seen. Although it usually refers to the individual's ideal path to a virtuous life, it is also used with some frequency related to the governance of a state. In these passages, such as Chapter 24, The Way refers more to the ideal path of a virtuous state. The two concepts are interdependent—a virtuous state is necessarily led by a virtuous ruler, the installation of a good ruler perhaps being the "one change" referred to in this chapter.

The Master and his followers also use a number of legendary sage-kings, supposed to have ruled in the third millennium BCE, as examples to make their points. Yao and Shun, mentioned in Chapter 30, are two of these, along with Yu, who founded of the legendary Xia (Hsia) dynasty. They are usually cited as examples of ideal rulers since attaining the title of sage required achievements above and beyond the humaneness of a gentleman.

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