Confucius noticed in the ancestral temple of Duke Huan of the Lu State certain vessels which stood awry, and enquired of the verger what these vessels were; to which the verger replied that they were goblets for use at banquets. ” I have been told,” said Confucius, “that when these goblets are empty they stand awry, that when they are half full they stand up straight, and that when filled up they topple right over. A wise ruler would use them as a warning, and see that such were always placed alongside of his guests.” Then turning to his disciples, the Sage said, “Let us try them with water;” and accordingly water was poured in until the goblets were half full, when they stood up straight. They were then filled up, and at once toppled over. ” Alas! ” cried Confucius, heaving a deep sigh, ” there are men who are full of wickedness, but they do not topple over.”

(by Wang Su, found in the book Gems of Chinese Literature, by H. A. Giles)

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: