Confucius and Idioms


Book IV, The Analects, Translated by D.C. Lau: ” It is rare for a man to miss the mark through holding on to essentials.”

Book XI: “Tzu Kung asked, ‘Which is better, Shih or Shang?’  The Master said, ‘Shih overshoots the mark;  Shang falls short.’

‘Does that mean that Shih is in fact better?’  The Master said, ‘There is little to choose between over shooting the mark and falling short.”

The Analects are a collection of  Confucious’ sayings by his pupils shortly after his death in 497 B.C.  They are at least 2600 years old.

The Chinese did indeed use bows and arrows at that time.   Confucious used this metaphor to illustrate his point about not hitting the mark, that there is no difference. Of course, one wants to hit the mark, either in sport or battle. And he says in Book IV that by holding on to essentials it us rare or unusual to miss the mark.



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