220 Quotes from Confucius to Check Out!

Quotes from Confucius have marked Chinese history and continue to inspire the world! In this article, you’ll find over 220 of the Chinese philosopher’s greatest phrases revealing his incredible wisdom!

Confucius, Chinese Humanist Philosopher

Confucius’ Life

  • From education to politics

Confucius (real name: K’ung Fu-Tzu) was born in China in 551 BC. JC, in Shandong, 400 km south of Beijing. At the age of 17, the young man became a tutor. Two years later, he gets married. He would then have three children (a son and two daughters).

Early in his life, Confucius became involved in politics. He would advocate a moral and philosophical system based on humanist ideas. Little by little, his career evolves: Confucius becomes a magistrate, then occupies, in 498 B.C., the function of Minister of Justice for four years.

  • Exile

When he is 56, Confucius goes into exile for 12 years. During all these years, his ideas spread, and many disciples join him. Finally, at 67, Confucius returns to his hometown and settles there to write, study and teach. There he would lead a retired life until his death in 479 B.C.

Confucius quotes

Confucianism, a Humanist Political and Social Doctrine

Legend has it that Confucius had the opportunity to speak at length with Lao Tzu, the father of Taoism. Although he was and still is extremely influential, Confucius led a life of exemplary simplicity. Educated by his mother, he distinguished himself, throughout his life, by a tireless desire to learn.

Confucius is the founder of Confucianism, a political and social doctrine set up as a religion, which has influenced all civilizations in the Far East (mainly China) from its time until today. Confucianism, more simply described as a humanist philosophy, firmly believes in the ability of ordinary people to change their destiny.

The Work and Teaching of Confucius

The idea of Confucius was essentially passed on through the “Analects”, or “Interviews”, a collection of his words, his disciples’, and their discussions among themselves. His teaching is based on six Confucian books: the “Classic of Poetry“, The “Book of Documents“, The “Book of Changes“, The “Book of Rites“, The “Spring and Autumn Annals“, and The “Classic of Music”. This teaching was mainly intended for the training of future men of power, but was finally open to all, and not only to the sons of princes.

Confucius Quotes

Famous Confucius Quotes

  • “We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one.”
  • “When a man is hungry, it is better to teach him to fish than to give him a fish.”
  • “Solve one problem and you keep a hundred others away.”
  • “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
  • “I’m not looking for the answers, I’m trying to understand the questions.”
  • “He who knows how to obey will then be able to command.”
  • “Between two things, one is more necessary than the other.”
  • “Two men who follow different paths cannot meet.”
  • “The greatest glory is not to never fall, but to get up with each fall.”
  • “People have two ears and a mouth; they must listen twice as much as they speak”
  • “The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”
  • “It takes three years to learn to speak, and a lifetime to learn to listen.”
  • “Nature makes men similar. Life makes them different.”
  • “What is important is not what happens to you, but how you respond.”
  • “The greatest traveler is not the one who has made 10 trips around the world, but the one who did it once around himself.”
  • “When you bang your head against a pot and it sounds hollow, it is not necessarily the pot that is empty.”

Short Confucius Quotes

  • “To build high, you have to dig deep.”
  • “Rotten wood cannot be carved.”
  • “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”
  • “Do your best to keep the happy medium in everything.”
  • “By doing evil you do not expect good.”
  • “The superior man does not torment himself.”
  • “Forget injuries, never forget kindness.”
  • “A man without faith: I don’t know what to do with him.”
  • “An injustice is nothing if we can forget it.”
  • “By trying to hasten things, you miss the point.”
  • “I can do nothing for someone who does not ask questions.”
  • “Excess is no better than insufficiency.”
  • “The perfect man speaks little.”
  • “Luck is very often a coincidence that provokes itself.”
  • “Silence is a friend who never betrays.”
  • “The whole is greater than the sum of parts.”
  • “The wise man is firm; he is not obstinate.”
  • “Better a diamond with a flaw than a flawless pebble.”
  • “Wherever you go, go with all your heart.”
  • “Plan for the worst. Hope for the best. Take what comes.”
  • “Time flows away like the water in a river.”
  • “A truly great general does not like war.”
  • “Give the young flower time to flourish.”
  • “When the wind blows, the grass bends.”
  • “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”
  • “A bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives roses.”
  • “Only great minds and fools never change.”
  • The wise man sees his duty. The fool sees his interest.”
  • “Our eyes see too much the world and not enough the heart and the soul.”
  • “The wise man respects everything. Above all, he respects himself.”
  • “Act with kindness, but don’t expect recognition.”
  • “Kindness to others is great kindness to yourself.”

Confucius Quotes on Humanity, Humanism and the Human Condition

Confucius Quotes on Humanity

  • “To love and take care of others is to act humanely. To understand them is to act with virtue.”
  • “Having enough self-control to judge others by comparison with ourselves, and to treat them as we ourselves would like to be treated, this is what we can call the doctrine of humanity; there is nothing beyond. ”
  • “The first axiom of Confucian humanism is: – Study, learn from experience.”
  • “Make it a point to practice the virtue of humanity, and don’t give it up.”
  • “First, we must do what is hard for us, then what we like. This is the virtue of humanity.”
  • “The virtue of humanity is more beneficial to men than water and fire.”
  • “A man of heart, a man who is fully a man, does not seek to survive at the expense of his humanity. If necessary, he gives his life to preserve his humanity.”
  • “Do you want to learn to live well, learn first to die well.”
  • “Whoever does not care about the distant future, condemns himself to immediate worries.”
  • “Whoever lets himself be guided by only his profit attracts hatred and bitterness.”
  • “Recompense injury with justice, and recompense kindness with kindness.”
  • “If the hair is scraped, a tiger or leopard skin is no different from a dog skin.”
  • “If you can love the good things in life, you can also love virtue.”
  • “When everyone hates a person, you should investigate thoroughly, and when everyone loves a person, you should also investigate thoroughly.”
  • “Let us strive to be fully human and there will be no room for evil.”
  • “Anyone who has heard the cries of an animal being killed can never eat its flesh again.”

Confucius Quotes on Knowledge

  • “Listening and choosing between opinions is the first step to knowledge.”
  • “Knowledge is the key to power, to wisdom.”
  • “He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.”
  • “Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.”
  • “A true teacher is one who, keeping the past alive, is also able to understand the present.”
  • “Acquire new knowledge whilst thinking over the old, and you may become a teacher of others.”
  • “True knowledge is knowing the extent of one’s ignorance.”
  • “The more we learn, the more we see that we are ignorant.”
  • “To know what we know what we know; and that we do not know what we do not know; that is true knowledge.”
  • “Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous.”
  • “If a man comes to understand Tao in the morning, everything is fine for him, even if he dies in the evening.”
  • “Consciousness is the light of intelligence to distinguish good from evil.”

Confucius Quotes on Joy and Happiness

  • “A happy man is a man who is content with little.”
  • “Joy is in everything; you have to know how to extract it.”
  • “People think that happiness is to be found at the top of the mountain, while in fact it resides in the way of climbing it.”
  • “One joy dispels a hundred cares.”
  • “Man is born ready for pain, with a hereditary apparatus of transformation and resistance, of which the major part is joy.”
  • “Rather than curse the darkness, light a candle, however small it may be.”
  • “In the cadences of music is hidden a secret; if I revealed it, it would turn the world upside down.”

Confucius Quotes on Poverty and Wealth

  • “What we gain in wealth, we lose in terms of rest and happiness.”
  • “As wealth adorns and embellishes a house, pure and sincere intentions, likewise, adorn and embellish the person.”
  • “To be poor without bitterness is easy; to be rich without arrogance is hard.”
  • “The man without virtue only finds in riches the means of satisfying his vices.”
  • “Contentment brings happiness, even in poverty. Discontent brings poverty, even in wealth.”
  • For one who is poor, it is difficult to be without bitterness. For one who is wealthy, it is easy to be arrogant.”
  • “It is more difficult to protect oneself from bitterness in poverty than from pride in opulence.”
  • “The smallest of huts contains more virtues than the palaces of kings.”
  • “The prince should not be afraid of not having a large population, but rather of not having a fair distribution of goods.”
  • “The honorable man seeks the Way, not material goods.”

Confucius Quotes on Wisdom

  • “He who in the morning has understood the teachings of wisdom, in the evening can die happy.”
  • “The wise man regards the root.”
  • “The wise man is calm and serene. The small man is always overwhelmed with worries.”
  • “The wise man does not grieve that men do not know him; he grieves not to know men.”
  • “One who never anticipates deceit or expects duplicity, and yet is the first to recognize such things – is that not a sage indeed?”
  • “The wise man learns from his mistakes; the wiser man learns from the mistakes of others.”
  • “As the water shapes itself to the vessel that contains it, so a wise man adapts himself to circumstances.”
  • “What the wise man seeks is in himself; what the small man seeks is in others.”
  • “The wise man is slow in his words and earnest in his conduct.”
  • “The superior man is all-embracing and not partial. The inferior man is partial and not all-embracing.”
  • “By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”
  • “Not too much isolation, not too many relationships; the middle ground is wisdom.”
  • “For a word, a man is considered wise; for a word, a man is judged foolish.”
  • “When does the wise man stop studying? When you shut his coffin.”
  • “To be human is to love fellow man. To be wise is to know them.”
  • “With regard to the world, the wise man has neither prejudice nor predilection. He is for all that is just.”

Confucius Quotes on Work and Experience

  • “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
  • “Experience is a lantern that you carry on your back and that only lights up the path you have traveled.”
  • “The worker who wants to do his job must start by sharpening his instruments.”
  • “Don’t worry about being without a job; rather worry about being worthy of a job.”
  • “When you work for others, do it with as much ardor as if it were for yourself.”
  • “Work tirelessly as if you never have to reach the goal.”
  • “The superior man cannot be known in little matters, but he may be entrusted with great concerns. The small man may not be entrusted with great concerns, but he may be known in little matters.”
  • “He who understands his duty and does not fulfill it is a coward.”
  • “Looking at small advantages prevents great affairs from being accomplished.”
  • “The fundamental quality of a leader is kindness.”
  • “No stone can be polished without friction; no man can perfect his experience without trial.”
  • “To get something done, give it to someone busy.”
  • “There is no point in talking about things that have already been accomplished, in remonstrating with things that are already far advanced, or in blaming what has happened.”

Confucius Quotes on Studying and Teaching

  • “Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I’ll understand.”
  • “Is there a precept that can guide the action of a lifetime? Love.”
  • “I don’t teach the one who doesn’t try to understand.”
  • “He who loves to learn is very close to knowledge.”
  • “The honorable man begins by applying what he wants to teach; then he teaches.”
  • “Take three random men from the streets ; they will necessarily have something to teach me. The qualities of one will serve as a model for me, the faults of the other, as a warning.”
  • “When we want to know, we question. When we want to do, we study. Keep reviewing what you already know. Constantly study new things. Then you will become a master.”
  • “When a person should be spoken with, and you don’t speak with them, you lose them. When a person shouldn’t be spoken with and you speak to them, you waste your breath. The wise do not lose people, nor do they waste their breath.”
  • “Learning without thinking is useless. Thinking without learning is dangerous.”
  • “When you plant a seed once, you get one crop. When you educate people, you get a hundred.”
  • “It is better to study than to fast all day and stay up all night to meditate in vain.”
  • “Have teachings for everyone, regardless of class or rank.”
  • “Each truth has four corners: as a teacher, I give you a corner and it’s up to you to find the other three.”

Confucius Quotes on Justice and Honesty

  • “The good man is straight and just, but not stiff and inflexible; he can bend, but not break.”
  • “I do not know what good a man who lacks sincerity can do.”
  • “The honest man has authority, but not arrogance. The vulgar man has arrogance but no authority.”
  • “The superior man makes equity and justice the basis of all his actions.”
  • “To be able to practice five things everywhere under heaven constitutes perfect virtue… They are gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness, and kindness.”
  • “Vicious men disguise their faults under a certain appearance of honesty.”
  • “When nature prevails over culture, you get a savage; when culture prevails over nature, you get a pedant. And when nature and culture are in balance, you get a gentleman.”
  • “The honest man waits only for justice; the vulgar man awaits favors.”
  • “Fine words and an insinuating appearance are seldom associated with true virtue.”
  • “May your words be sincere and faithful; may your actions be honorable and dignified.”
  • “A man devoid of sincerity and loyalty is an incomprehensible being in my eyes.”
  • “He who is respectful without measure is tiring. He who is frank without measure is insolent.”
  • “The good man places justice above everything. A good man who is brave but who ignores justice will be a rebel. The mediocre man who has bravery but ignores justice will be a thief.”
  • “The honorable man considers things through justice, and the small man through his interest.”

Confucius Quotes on Friendship and Relationships with Others

    • There are three friendships which are advantageous, and three which are injurious. Friendship with the upright; friendship with the sincere; and friendship with the man of much observation: these are advantageous. Friendship with the man of specious airs; friendship with the insinuatingly soft; and friendship with the glib-tongued: these are injurious.”
    • “Do not think you are so important that others seem insignificant to you.”
    • “The superior man is one who has equal benevolence for all, and who is without selfishness and without partiality.”
  • “Act towards others as you would like them to act towards you.”

    • “There are three things to beware of through life: when a man is young, let him beware of his appetites; when he is middle-aged, of his passions; and when old, of covetousness, especially.”
    • “Have no friend who is not your equal.”
    • “Never contract friendship with a man that is not better than thyself.”
    • “Love should not be confused with passion, the first is in detachment and the second in attachment. And one must not confuse detachment and indifference, the first cultivates difference, the second destroys it.”
    • “The good man demands nothing but himself; the small man asks everything of the others.”
    • “If you expect great things of yourself and demand little of others, you’ll keep resentment far away.”
    • “The superior man is friendly without being conversant; the inferior man is conversant without being friendly.”
    • “To look at yourself scrupulously, to look only discreetly at others.”
    • “The problem for men is that they neglect their own field to go and sow that of others.”
    • “When you do something, know that you will have against you those who would like to do the same, those who wanted to do the opposite, and the vast majority of those who would not do anything.”
    • “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”

Confucius Quotes on Willpower, Habits, Goals and Self-Discipline

  • “A little impatience ruins a great project.”
  • “The man chasing two rabbits at once catches none.”
  • “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”
  • “Whoever does not go forward each day goes backward each day.”
  • “You rarely become lost by imposing stringent rules upon yourself.”
  • “A master who does not follow his own discipline is worth infinitely less than a disciple who does not listen to his master.”
  • “Bad habits are more easily overcome today than tomorrow.”
  • “Give a lot of scope to your education and maintain a firm and constant will towards it.”
  • “Man’s life depends on his will; without will, it would be abandoned at random.”
  • “The goal is not everything. Every step towards the goal is a goal. It’s all the little goals that make the goal.”
  • “Everyone must be the last master and the first disciple for himself.”
  • “Do not fear going slow, fear stopping.”
  • “Whoever does not care about the distant future, condemns himself to immediate worries.”
  • “Be harsh on yourself and forgive others.”
  • To go beyond is as wrong as to fall short.”
  • “As the principles of conduct are different, we cannot help each other with advice.”

Confucius Quotes on Self and Self-Development

  • “Do not speak of yourself, not even for good, because we would not believe you, nor ill, because we would believe you all too much.”
  • “A man who has committed a mistake and doesn’t correct it is committing another mistake.”
  • “Doing something notable is better than being noticed.”
  • “If you ever had to transform yourself, do it a little each day.”
  • “All men cannot be great; all can be good.”
  • “Anyone who has gotten into a bad patch can get back on track.”
  • “He with whom neither slander that gradually soaks into the mind, nor statements that startle like a wound in the flesh, are successful may be called intelligent indeed.”
  • “He who is still hated at forty will remain hated until the end of his life.”
  • “The superior man is modest in his speech but exceeds in his actions.”
  • “Nor do I seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe that I may understand.”
  • “The superior man regrets seeing his life go by without leaving praiseworthy actions after him.”
  • “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”
  • “If we want to die well we must learn to live well.”
  • “Being possessed by yourself is the worst obsession.”
  • “Do not grieve to be known to anyone but work to make yourself worthy of being known.”
  • “One can know the virtue of a man by observing his flaws.”
  • “Everyone can be important because everyone can be useful for something.”
  • “When we see men of worth, we should think of equaling them; when we see men of a contrary character, we should turn inwards and examine ourselves.”

Confucius Quotes on Politics

  • “In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of.”
  • “It is not the weeds that suffocate the seeds, but the negligence of the peasant.”
  • “If you want to judge the mores of a people, listen to their music.”
  • “You can force people to obey. You can’t force them to understand.”
  • “Without common language, business cannot be concluded.”
  • “Without common principles, there is no point in arguing.”
  • “You don’t know how to serve men. How can you serve the gods?”
  • “There is no community except the illusion of being together.”
  • “Power: If a superior cannot trust lower-ranking men, then the people cannot be administered properly.”
  • “To put the world in order to the world, we must first put the nation in order; put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order; we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.”
  • “Guide the people by law, subdue them by punishment; they may shun crime, but will be void of shame. Guide them by example, subdue them by courtesy; they will learn shame, and come to be good.”
  • “The honorable man cultivates harmony and not conformism. The small man cultivates conformism rather than harmony.”
  • “When everyone hates a person, you should investigate thoroughly before judging.”

Confucius Quotes on Family


  • “The superior man keeps his son away from him.”
  • “A father hides the guilt of his son, and a son hides the guilt of his father.”
  • “Although your father and mother are dead, if you propose to yourself any good work, only reflect how it will make their names illustrious, and your purpose will be fixed.”
  • The father who does not teach his son his duties is equally guilty with the son who neglects them.”
  • “You can only govern your family well by setting an example.”
  • “While your parents are alive, reverently nourish them; and, when they are dead, reverently sacrifice to them.”
  • “A father does not know the faults of his son.”
  • “Remember that your son is not your son, but the son of his time.”
  • “The surest support is that which is found with those close to you.”
  • “A father’s and a mother’s age must be borne in mind; with joy on the one hand, fear on the other.”

What about you, is there a quote from Confucius that you would like to share in the comments? And what does it mean to you?

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