Excuse Me: Confucius said . . . what?

By Bruce Humes, published

cover image

Ever notice that enigmatic renditions of Chinese text find their way into current China-related news?

In Missing Wuhan citizen journalist reappears after two months, one finds this closing quote:

The human heart is unpredictable, restless. Its affinity to what is right is small. Be discriminating, be uniform so that you may hold fast

Please advise: To which "Confucian" text is the author referring, and is there a better translation out there somewhere?

Comments

# 1.   

The original video in the link is helpfully subtitled, so it's pretty straightforward to locate the original text, “人心惟危,道心惟微惟精惟一,允执厥中”, source it to the Book of Documents, and find the canonical Legge translation, which was lightly edited for the article.

jdmartinsen, April 23, 2020, 5:19a.m.

# 2.   

Many thanks, Joel!

I did not find James Legge version, but you said it was only "lightly edited for the article."

I found another translation in a book entitled A Topography of Confucian Discourse by Seung-Hwan Lee:

The mind of man is restless --- prone to err; its affinity for the right way is small. Be discriminating, be undivided, that you may sincerely hold fast the Mean.

And here, for comparison's sake, is what was printed at the close of the Guardian article:

The human heart is unpredictable, restless. Its affinity to what is right is small. Be discriminating, be uniform so that you may hold fast

Personally, I find the first version above much more illuminating.

Also of interest, if you know Mandarin, is the YouTube video of the reporter, recorded after his quarantine at his home ended. He is a well-spoken journalist, and delivers in rapid-fire northern-accented Chinese what seems to be fair-minded reportage of his arrest and quarantine:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m4vNPnvEREc&feature=youtu.be

Bruce Humes, April 23, 2020, 7:45a.m.

# 3.   

成事不说 遂事不谏 既往不咎 ” - That was Teacher's criticism towards his student's not reporting BACK to teacher or that was towards all eventful dissenting from the young towards the old tradition as embodied in public official's private conviction? I am still pondering about that. Currently reading 毛澤東品《論語》 作者董志新

sue ye, May 1, 2020, 11:28a.m.

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