translation of Zhu Xi commentary on the annalects of Confucius

Today we are looking at a section from the first chapter of Zhu xi’s commentary on the analects of Confucius. Zhu Xi was a Song Dynasty Confucian who believed in the idea of combining Confucian and Daoist philosophy to create a new self cultivation school which was steeped in both Confucian ideas about social propriety and Daoist ideas about self development through meditation and cosmological philosophy.

We will now review a comment on a piece of original text from the Confucian analects.

original text:

You zi said: “those who have the quality of being filial and fraternal and loves to become angry and aggressive are few.
Those who do not like to express anger and aggression and like to commit themselves to wildness do not exist!

Zhu Xi comment:

“di” and “hao” are pronounced with a leaving tone. “Xian” and “Shang” have a falling tone. You Zi is the disciple of Confucius, his name was Ruo.

善事父母为孝,善 事兄长为弟。犯上,谓干犯在上之人。鲜,少也。

Those who commit good acts for their parents are called filial, those who commit good acts for their siblings are called fraternal.
Anger and aggression is committed by people who find it easy to become angry.
They are few, as to be considered very fresh.


“committing wild acts” refers to being malicious, going against, fighting and quarreling.


This refers to people who are able to be filial and fraternal must be harmonious of heart and smooth in action, so few of them can become aggressive, and they cannot, as such, engage in wildness.

original text:
君子务本,本立而道生。孝 弟也者,其为仁之本与!”

“the gentleman takes on work as his basic,
when the basic is set upright, the way can be born. Filial and fraternal, this can be considered to be the root of humanity.

Zhu xi comment:


“yu” has a flat tone. “work” refers to using strength.
“basic” refers to a root.
“humanity” refers to the principle of love and the virtue of the heart. To engage in humanity also refers to going forth in a humane fashion.

与者,疑辞,谦退不敢质言也。言君子凡事专用力于 根本,根本既立,则其道自生。

The person meeting with this, if questioning the edict (of parents and senior siblings) should humbly step back and not be so brave as to speak about the essence of the subject. The gentleman always uses his power to establish the basic (the basic needs of the family) and when the basic is set upright, the correct way will be born of its own accord.


The above article about filial and fraternal piety is actually the root of humanity. He who studies this must take it as his work and then the way of being humane will emerge of this.


Cheng Zi said: “filial and fraternal is the virtue of smoothing, thus it isn’t easy to beome annoyed so who could return to going against the principle (of virtue) and engage in any wild action on a regular basis?

德 有本,本立则其道充大。孝弟行于家,而后仁爱及于物,所谓亲亲而仁民也。

Virtue has its root, its root is made upright and thus the Dao becomes vast and connected. The filial and fraternal child acts for his family and then achieved humane love for all beings. Thus he becomes a fatherly figure and acts humanely toward all people.

故为仁以孝弟为本。论性,则以仁为孝弟之本。”或问:“孝弟为仁之本,此是由孝弟 可以至仁否?”曰:“非也。

So people who act humanely take filiality and fraternity as their core principle. Speaking of its nature, humanity must take filial and fraternal piety as its root.
So it is asked: “if the root of humanity is found in filial and fraternal piety, does it mean that if one is filial and fraternal, they have achieved humanity?”
The answer no.


If someone acts humanely, they take filial and fraternal piety as the beginning. Filial and fraternal piety are one activity of humanity. So in order to act with humanity, they should have this as their basic. They cannot expect that this will automatically make them rooted in humanity.

盖仁是性也,孝弟是用也,性中只有个仁、义、礼、智四 者而已,曷尝有孝弟来。然仁主于爱,爱莫大于爱亲,故曰孝弟也者,其为仁之本与!”

if they have humanity as their true nature, then filial and fraternal piety is how they manifest it. From the centre of their nature they have humanity, law, courtesy, and wisdom, all four together. They can experience how this works through being filial and fraternal. The work of humanity is controlled by love, and there is no love as great as that of the family. Thus it is said that one who is filial and fraternal has the root of humanity.

The Joy of Confucius.

“學而時習之,不亦說乎?有朋自遠方來,不亦樂乎?人不知而不慍,不亦君子乎?” 我突然发现孔子很主动开心的心理。研究儒家的人应该已经很清楚孔子的快乐注意,不过,今天看我好吃惊了!

Tonight I saw something while reading the Analects of Confucius that I hadn’t previously thought about.
The first chapter of the Analects says:
“Study and constant review, will not this be a pleasure?
Friends who come from afar, is this not a joy?
People don’t know me and I am not angry, is this not the mark of a gentleman?”
Upon reading this, I suddenly came to the realization that Confucius is discussing the philosophy of happiness.
People who are already quite clear about Confucianism doubtless aleady know this, but anyway, I was surpised.


So why was I surprised?


To be honest, the quality of Confucian study in the west is a bit lacking in comparison to Daoism. Maybe the mystique of Daoist philosophy and religion are more appealing to the western mind, I don’t know for sure. In any event, many people outside of China look at Confucian thought incorrectly.


This is especially true among people who are interested in the Daoist philospher Zhuangzi. I have heard many people say that Confucius is too serious and too conservative, so even if they haven’t looked at Confucius, they already know he isn’t good. When they look at it, they have already formed a stubborn opinion and won’t change it.


I like to think that I’m not so stubborn, and certainly I like Confucian thought very much. Even though i haven’t sought out a teacher of the Confucian arts, I’ve still spent considerable time with the classical literature and explanations of the genre.

But today I saw something that surprised and pleased me, and I would like to introduce it below:



the first passage of the Analects says “Study and constant review, will not this be a pleasure?
Friends who come from afar, is this not a joy?
People don’t know me and I am not angry, is this not the mark of a gentleman?”


originally, I thought the meaning was that Confucius was suggesting three life habits:

1: 主动学习可以让人生活更美了。

1: focusing on study will make your life more beautiful.

2: 大方接受朋友可以让生活更有爱。

2: being generous when you receive fiends will make your life more full of love.

3: 做谦虚的人就是让你当君子了。

3: being a humble person will make you into morally superior human being.


“悦” “乐” “不恼”.

I still think these three points are correct, but today I also stumbled across one new meaning in the text.
This meaning is found in the following words:

“pleasure,” “joy” and “not angry.”


So what are these words trying to convey?


“pleasurable” and “joyful” are meant to indicate a happy psychological world view. “not angry” suggests that we don’t find it easy to be bothered by the events around us.


These three things together illustrate a happy life, so Confucius must have been a happy and joyful person.
Also, he put his philosophy of contentment right at the first passage of the fist section of his book, so we must assume that his most fundamental teachings all spring from this philosophy.


I still think that my original idea about it being important to study well, be generous with guests, and to be a gentleman are right, but how should we interpret them now?


Simply put, these are the basic practices of a happy life.


Confucius believed that in order to be a contended person, you must first cultivate good habits.


世界上有好学习的人,也有不好学习的人。有大方接朋友的人,也有小气的人。有理解对象的人,也有贪心名利的人。世界上每种都有。一看人才可以了解谁开心不 开心。在生活中你的习惯跟你的生活方式是很相同的东西。习惯没好,生活方式也不是很好,可能发生的事情也会不完美,就容易痛哭了。

So here is what I think:
This world has people who are good at study and people who are not. There are people who are gracious with friends and people who are petty and small. There are people who go forth trying to understand others, and those who are only greedy to gain their own benefit and fame. In our world, we have every kind of person, and often, all you have to do is look once to see who is happy and not happy.
In life, our habits and our lifestyle are inextricable things.
If you don’t have good habits, you won’t have a good lifestyle.
If something nasty happens, life won’t be perfect and you will find it easy to become embittered.


If you have good habits, then you will have mastered the basics of life. After this, it doesn’t matter if you are lucky or not, you already have the most basic ability to engage in beneficial activities, so how could you live anything other than a happy life?


The first Chapter of Confucius is simply telling us that cultivating good habits is the way to be a delighted gentleman, and that is just great!

什么是丹田/what is the dantian?

This article is the first attempt at what I hope to be an ongoing series of articles about daoism, tea and other subjects written both in English and Chinese. Chinese is not my first language and so this series of articles is also meant to be a chance for me to practice writing in Chinese in hopes of eventually being able to write coherent and interesting Chinese language articles.
As such, please feel free to critique my writing, as it will help me to make progress as I develop this skill.









Recently some classmates studying the immortality school of meditation asked me

the question “what is Dantian?” (the elixir field). It gave me pause to think about

how to answer them.

In the Chinese Daoist arts, Dantian has many different meanings.

If we want to talk about the real meaning of Dantian, we must first be somewhat

specific about the field of study under discussion.



Every type of art in Daoism has its own interpretation of Dantian, and when first

studying basic methods we might think they are different from one another.




For instance, people who practice the martial arts might believe that dantian is a

collection of muscle in the centre of our waist, just under the belly button. This is

what we might call the physical aspect of the lower Dantian.

People who practice the martial arts need to use this area of the body to help them

connect the upper and lower aspects of their bodies while executing movements.



However, people who do Qi Gong might believe that the Dantian isn’t something

that we find in the physical centre of the body, rather it is associated with the

energy of the physical form.



This energetic body could emerge in many different places, or it could be the three

major centres of the head, chest, and lower abdomen which make up what are

called the “three elixir fields.”

These Dantian in Qi Gong are all correctly defined as such.




As a final consideration, let’s take the internal alchemy school as an example.

People who practice internal alchemy seated meditation have many different

interpretations of the word dantian. Maybe the Dantian is the same one practiced

in martial arts and Qi Gong, or perhaps it refers to the entire energetic body of

humanity and the universe. The different ways of interpreting it are tremendously



So understanding exactly what a Dantian is is really not that simple. Dantian

seems to refer to too many different things!



However, there is one completely correct interpretation of Dantian and after saying

it, all of our classmates and friends ought to be totally clear about its true meaning.

Dantian refers to energy and wherever there is energy, there is dantian. Wherever

there isn’t energy, there also isn’t dantian.



So what is energy?

Don’t spend too much time complicating your thought processes over this. Energy

is the core characteristic of all living things in nature. If you have energy, you can

live, if you don’t have energy, you will die.




Therefore if we want to study dantian, qi, or life, we must start from the

term “living” in order to understand the basic concept of our study. Life

isn’t an organism and it doesn’t have a specific shape or form. You can’t

isolate it and look at it or perceive it, but it is contained in the basic spirit

of all living things. Anything that is alive, has a body, a person, a plant or

anything all have this basic energy. The more that something has it, the

more it seems to grow healthy and luxuriantly.




Even though you can’t see its basic energy, you can still see quite clearly whether

someone does or doesn’t have very much spirit.

For instance, a young child with bright eyes will often be called clever, while a tired

looking, dull child seems to have a dis-spirited look.






So when we think about what dantian really is, we can’t forget that the quality we

are trying to identify isn’t part of the body, it is a type of formless, imageless

energetic strength and we all have it in our entire bodies. So we shouldn’t ask

“where is dantian,” we would be better to ask where it isn’t.

This question is very important because anywhere that doesn’t have dantian

doesn’t have life.




Researching where life comes from and what is dead is the central concern of the

study of life, longevity, and every major type of scientific research.

If we can discover where our vital energy comes from, then we may be able to

grasp every living person’s deepest wish, to be a long living person who does not

become feeble with age and to protect our fundamental essence, become

enlightened and ascend the mundane realm.



please share this to help friends and classmates find their direction and live a

better, happier life.

Thank you!