Thoughts from Reading “Confucius on the Virtue of Water”

Lu Zhen

PureInsight | August 26, 2008

Confucius was enjoying himself as he attentively watched the river rushing towards the east.

Zi Gong asked him, “Whenever a gentleman sees water like this, he will surely take pleasure in watching it. Why is that?”

Confucius said, “Because great water can continuously move forward without stopping. It is so kind as to irrigate the lands everywhere it goes, yet it does not regard itself as having performed outstanding feats. It’s just like virtue.”

“When it flows, although sometimes in low places and sometimes in high places, it certainly follows one principle. It’s just like justice.”

“Mighty water flows forever without drying up or stopping. It’s just like the Dao.”

“When it should flow into a deep valley of ten thousand zhang (an ancient Chinese unit of measure equal to 10 chi, or 11 feet 9 inches—3.58 meters), it dashes forward without fear. It’s just like courage.”

“It is always self-leveling. It’s just like the Fa (Law).”

“When water fills something, it naturally flows over without the need to be cut down. It’s just like righteousness.”

“It is so considerate that it goes wherever it should. It’s just like discovering the smallest details in everything.”

“It starts from the source and immediately rushes towards the east. It’s just like having lofty goals.”

“It can go in and come out and no matter where it goes, it can purify everything there. It’s just like a sage who is good at teaching.”

“Water has so many virtues, so when people with virtue see it, they will for sure observe it carefully and feel joy.” (From: The Analects of Confucius)

I have seen many rivers but never noticed that water has so many great virtues, which could be called neglecting while watching, having eyes yet not seeing, and for this, I truly feel ashamed.

A foreign artist said, “There is no lack of beauty in life but there is a lack of eyes that see the beauty in things.”

A philosopher in China said, “There is no lack of immortals in the world, but there is a lack of wise eyes that discover immortals.”

The Dao School says, “Man follows the earth, the earth follows heaven, heaven follows the Dao, and the Dao follows what is natural.” Today, after reading “Confucius on the Virtue of Water,” I have come to understand this saying a little better.

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