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Confucius paid a visit to the ancestral temple of Chou

Confucius paid a visit to the ancestral temple of Chou, where they had a vessel that leaned at an angle. Confucius asked the caretaker of the temple, "What vessel is that?"

The caretaker replied, "Why that, I believe, is a Warning Vessel."

Confucius said, "I have heard that a Warning Vessel, when full, turns over, when empty it leans at an angle, and when half full it stands straight. Is this true?"

"It is."

Confucius had Tzŭ-lu bring water to try it. Full, it turned over; half full, it stood straight; empty, it leaned at an angle. Confucius heaved a sigh and said, "Ah, does it ever happen that those who are full do not turn over!"

Tzŭ-lu said, "I should like to ask whether there is a method for controlling fullness?"

Confucius said, "The method of controlling fullness is to repress and diminish it."

Tzŭ-lu said, "Is there a method for diminishing it?"

Confucius said, "Let those whose virtuous conduct is ample preserve it by being reverent. Let those whose territory is extensive preserve it by economy. Let those whose pay is rich and whose rank is elevated preserve them by humility. Let those whose people are many and whose weapons are strong preserve them by fear. Let those possessed of intelligence and knowledge preserve them through an air of stupidity. Let those with great learning and strong memories preserve them through an air of shallowness. Now this is what I mean by repressing and diminishing." The Ode says,

T’ang was not born too late,
And his wisdom and virtue daily advanced.



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