47 Confucius Quotes That Still Ring True Today

Get a Moral Awakening With These Confucius Quotes

Three panels depicting a traveler with a backpack in a forest. Confucius quotes are displayed above the traveler. "Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it." "Silence is a true friend who never betrays." "Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart."

ThoughtCo / Jaime Knoth

Fame, as they say, is fickle. It may take years to reap it and, when you do, you may not have the time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. This was the case for Confucius, an ancient Chinese philosopher whose ideas still resonate today.

Who Was Confucius?

Kong Qiu, or Master Kong as he was known, did not live to see his days of glory. During his lifetime, his views were received with scorn. But that was about 2,500 years ago. Following his death, a handful of his dedicated followers passed on Confucius' teachings to future generations in the book, The Analects of Confucius.

Confucius' philosophies remained in the archives of ancient Chinese history. As his teachings spread far and wide, his philosophies gained ground. It took many years after Confucius' death for his philosophies to be appreciated and revered, but today, Confucianism is an ethical school of thought adopted by many thinkers around the world.

Confucius's Political Life

Though Confucius served the Duke of Lu, a Chinese state, he made many enemies with the nobles of the land. His views antagonized the powerful nobles, who wanted the Duke to be a puppet in their hands. Confucius was exiled from the State of Lu for more than two decades, so he lived in the countryside, spreading his teachings.

Confucius's Ideologies and Philosophy

Confucius gave great importance to education. He devoted his time to gain new insights and learned from renowned scholars of his time. He started his own school at the age of 22. At that time, China was undergoing a state of ideological turmoil; all around there was injustice, war, and evil. Confucius established a moral code of conduct based on human principles of mutual respect, good conduct, and familial ties. Confucianism along with Taoism and Buddhism became the three religious pillars of China. Today, Confucius is revered not just as a moral teacher, but a divine soul who saved the world from moral degradation.

Confucianism in the Modern World

There is a growing interest in Confucianism in China and other parts of the world. More and more followers of Confucianism are advocating a deeper study of his philosophies. Confucius' ideals stand true even today. His philosophy on how to be a Junzi or the perfect gentleman is based on the simple ideology of love and tolerance.

47 Sayings From Confucius

Here is one of Confucius's sayings: "It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop." In a few words, Confucius teaches us about patience, perseverance, discipline, and hard work. But if you probe further, you will see more layers. Confucius's philosophies, which are similar to humanist thought, have significantly influenced spiritual and social thought. His views bear insight and depth of wisdom, you can apply his teachings in every sphere of life. 

Confucian proverbs have the power to transform lives, but they are not for casual reading. When you read them once, you feel the power of his words; read twice, and you will appreciate his deep thought; read them over and over again, and you will be enlightened. Let these Confucian quotes guide you in life.

  1. "Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it."
  2. "They must often change who would be constant in happiness or wisdom."
  3. "What the superior man seeks is in himself; what the small man seeks is in others."
  4. "In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of."
  5. "It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop."
  6. "When anger rises, think of the consequences."
  7. "When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don't adjust the goals; adjust the action steps."
  8. "Faced with what is right, to leave it undone shows a lack of courage."
  9. "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."
  10. "To see what is right, and not to do it, is want of courage or of principle."
  11. "Fine words and an insinuating appearance are seldom associated with true virtue."
  12. "Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves."
  13. "Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation, there is sure to be failure."
  14. "Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire."
  15. "Men's natures are alike, it is their habits that carry them far apart."
  16. "Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."
  17. "Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance."
  18. "Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles."
  19. "I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand."
  20. "Respect yourself and others will respect you."
  21. "Silence is a true friend who never betrays."
  22. "The superior man, when resting in safety, does not forget that danger may come. When in a state of security he does not forget the possibility of ruin. When all is orderly, he does not forget that disorder may come. Thus his person is not endangered, and his States and all their clans are preserved."
  23. "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."
  24. "Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without."
  25. "Study the past if you would define the future."
  26. "Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart."
  27. "Wisdom, compassion, and courage are the three universally recognized moral qualities of men."
  28. "Forget injuries, never forget kindnesses."
  29. "Have no friends not equal to yourself."
  30. "He who exercises government by means of his virtue may be compared to the north polar star, which keeps its place and all the stars turn towards it."
  31. "He who learns but does not think is lost! He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger."
  32. "He who speaks without modesty will find it difficult to make his words good."
  33. "Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated."
  34. "A superior man is modest in his speech but exceeds in his actions."
  35. "Be not ashamed of mistakes and thus make them crimes."
  36. "The more man meditates upon good thoughts, the better will be his world and the world at large."
  37. "The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell."
  38. "By nature, men are nearly alike; by practice, they get to be wide apart."
  39. "He who will not economize will have to agonize."
  40. "When we see men of a contrary character, we should turn inwards and examine ourselves."
  41. "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."
  42. "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."
  43. "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life."
  44. "If you look into your own heart, and you find nothing wrong there, what is there to worry about? What is there to fear?"
  45. "Ignorance is the night of the mind, but a night without moon and star."
  46. "It is easy to hate and it is difficult to love. This is how the whole scheme of things works. All good things are difficult to achieve, and bad things are very easy to get."
  47. "Without feelings of respect, what is there to distinguish men from beasts?"
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Khurana, Simran. "47 Confucius Quotes That Still Ring True Today." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/best-confucius-quotes-2833291. Khurana, Simran. (2023, April 5). 47 Confucius Quotes That Still Ring True Today. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/best-confucius-quotes-2833291 Khurana, Simran. "47 Confucius Quotes That Still Ring True Today." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/best-confucius-quotes-2833291 (accessed June 5, 2023).