114 Confucius Quotes That Represent His Moral Doctrine

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Confucius (551 – 479 BC) was a Chinese teacher, editor, politician, and philosopher.

His philosophy emphasized morality, fidelity of social relationships, justice, and sincerity. His thoughts were honored official sanction after the collapse of Qin and continued to be developed into a system in the West called Confucianism.

Confucius’s principles had a basis in common Chinese tradition and belief. He championed strong family loyalty and respect of elders by their children and of husbands and wives, recommending filial piety as the groundwork for ideal government.

You’ve probably heard one of his well-known principles—The Golden Rule—hundreds of times:

Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself.

These Confucius quotes represent the nature of his moral doctrine and timeless wisdom for better living.

Confucius Quotes

Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.

“The perfecting of one’s self is the fundamental base of all progress and all moral development.” – Confucius

He who speaks without modesty will find it difficult to make his words good.

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

Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.

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

“He that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools.” – Confucius

Virtue is more to man than either water or fire. I have seen men die from treading on water and fire, but I have never seen a man die from treading the course of virtue.

Be not ashamed of mistakes and thus make them crimes.

Isn’t it a pleasure to study and practice what you have learned?

Isn’t it also great when friends visit from distant places? If one remains not annoyed when he is not understood by people around him, isn’t he a sage?

It is not possible for one to teach others who cannot teach his own family.

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” – Confucius

Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.

Without feelings of respect, what is there to distinguish men from beasts?

It is not possible for one to teach others who cannot teach his own family.

He who excels in study can follow an official career.

Forget injuries, never forget kindnesses.

“What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.” – Confucius

We should feel sorrow, but not sink under its oppression.

Recompense injury with justice, and recompense kindness with kindness.

Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.

To love a thing means wanting it to live.

To go beyond is as wrong as to fall short.

“The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trial.” – Confucius

In a country well governed poverty is something to be ashamed of.

Things that are done, it is needless to speak about…things that are past, it is needless to blame.

Learn as though you would never be able to master it; hold it as though you would be in fear of losing it.

Do not be desirous of having things done quickly. Do not look at small advantages. Desire to have things done quickly prevents their being done thoroughly.

“If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of ten years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people.” – Confucius

Looking at small advantages prevents great affairs from being accomplished.

The people may be made to follow a path of action, but they may not be made to understand it.

When you have faults, do not fear to abandon them.

The cautious seldom err.

“The superior man is modest in his speech, but excels in his actions.” – Confucius

Men’s natures are alike, it is their habits that carry them far apart.

It is only the wisest and the stupidest that cannot change.

The object of the superior man is truth.

The essence of knowledge is, having it, to apply it not having it, to confess your ignorance.

A man who does not plan long ahead will find trouble right at his door.

“Silence is the true friend that never betrays.” – Confucius

Humility is the solid foundation of all the virtues.

With coarse rice to eat, with water to drink, and my bended arm for a pillow – I have still joy in the midst of these things. Riches and honors acquired by unrighteousness are to me as a floating cloud.

When anger rises, think of the consequences.

Study the past if you would define the future.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Confucius

To be wronged is nothing unless you continue to remember it.

The scholar who cherishes the love of comfort is not fit to be deemed a scholar.

Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.

The real fault is to have faults and not amend them.

When we see men of a contrary character, we should turn inwards and examine ourselves.

“It does not matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop.” – Confucius

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.

The faults of a superior person are like the sun and moon. They have their faults, and everyone sees them; they change and everyone looks up to them.

A fool despises good counsel, but a wise man takes it to heart.

He who will not economize will have to agonize.

“Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.” – Confucius

I am not concerned that I am not known, I seek to be worthy to be known.

They must change who would be constant in happiness and wisdom.

Without an acquaintance with the rules of propriety, it is impossible for the character to be established.

Mankind differs from the animals only by a little and most people throw that away.

“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” – Confucius

To see what is right, and not to do it, is want of courage or of principle.

It is better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness.

Respect yourself and others will respect you.

When prosperity comes, do not use all of it.

Ignorance is the night of the mind, but a night without moon and star.

“Do not use a cannon to kill a mosquito.” – Confucius

I am not one who was born in the possession of knowledge; I am one who is fond of antiquity, and earnest in seeking it there.

They must often change who would be constant in happiness or wisdom.

The more man meditates upon good thoughts, the better will be his world and the world at large.

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.” – Confucius

When you know a thing, to hold that you know it; and when you do not know a thing, to allow that you do not know it – this is knowledge.

We take greater pains to persuade others that we are happy than in endeavoring to think so ourselves.

To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must cultivate our personal life; and to cultivate our personal life, we must first set our hearts right.

“Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.” – Confucius

To be able to practice five things everywhere under heaven constitutes perfect virtue…They are gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness, and kindness.

If a man takes no thought about what is distant, he will find sorrow near at hand.

Behave toward everyone as if receiving a great guest.

What the superior man seeks is in himself; what the small man seeks is in others.

“The firm, the enduring, the simple, and the modest are near to virtue.” – Confucius

The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.

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.

When you see a worthy person, endeavor to emulate him. When you see an unworthy person, then examine your inner self.

When a man’s knowledge is sufficient to attain, and his virtue is not sufficient to enable him to hold, whatever he may have gained, he will lose again.

“Have no friends not equal to yourself.” – Confucius

Wealth and rank are what people desire, but unless they be obtained in the right way they may not be possessed.

The wheel of fortune turns round incessantly, and who can say to himself, I shall today be uppermost.

The father who does not teach his son his duties is equally guilty with the son who neglects them.

The parents age must be remembered, both for joy and anxiety.

When I walk along with two others, from at least one I will be able to learn.

“Faithfulness and sincerity are the highest things.” – Confucius

If you look into your own heart, you find nothing wrong there, what is there to fear?

Study the past if you would divine the future.

Virtue is not left to stand alone. He who practices it will have neighbors.

Think no vice so small that you may commit it, and no virtue so small that you may over look it.

“Without knowing the force of words, it is impossible to know men.” – Confucius

Do not worry about holding high position; worry rather about playing your proper role.

Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire.

Acquire new knowledge whilst thinking over the old, and you may become a teacher of others.

Sincerity and truth are the basis of every virtue.

Review the old and deducing the new makes a teacher.

Act with kindness, but do not expect gratitude.

“A man who has committed a mistake and doesn’t correct it is committing another mistake.” – Confucius

Worry not that no one knows of you; seek to be worth knowing.

He who conquers himself is the mightiest warrior.

Ability will never catch up with the demand for it.

To see and listen to the wicked is already the beginning of wickedness.

Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.

A youth is to be regarded with respect. How do you know that his future will not be equal to our present?

“A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace.” – Confucius

Fix your mind on truth, hold firm to virtue, rely on loving kindness, and find your recreation in the Arts.

Boldness, without the rules of propriety, becomes insubordination.

To be able under all circumstances to practice five things constitutes perfect virtue; these five things are gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness, and kindness.

Fine words and an insinuating appearance are seldom associated with true virtue.

The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.

We hope these Confucius quotes put you on a virtuous path! Let us know if there are any of your favorites that we missed!

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Hannah Hutyra

Hannah is a digital marketer with extensive experience in blogging and B2B software. She holds a BBA in Marketing from the University of Texas and has written online for over five years. Hannah enjoys sharing knowledge on productivity, motherhood, and how to maintain mental and physical health.