Tsze-lu, Tsang Hsi, Zan Yu, and Kung-hsi Hwa were sitting by the Master.
He said to them, 'Though I am a day or so older than you, do not think of that.
'From day to day you are saying, "We are not known." If some ruler were to know you, what would you like to do?'
Tsze-lu hastily and lightly replied, 'Suppose the case of a State of ten thousand chariots; let it be straitened between other large States; let it be suffering from invading armies; and to this let there be added a famine in corn and in all vegetables:- if I were intrusted with the government of it, in three years' time I could make the people to be bold, and to recognise the rules of righteous conduct.' The Master smiled at him.
Turning to Yen Yu, he said, 'Ch'iu, what are your wishes?' Ch'iu replied, 'Suppose a state of sixty or seventy li square, or one of fifty or sixty, and let me have the government of it;- in three years' time, I could make plenty to abound among the people. As to teaching them the principles of propriety, and music, I must wait for the rise of a superior man to do that.'
'What are your wishes, Ch'ih,' said the Master next to Kung- hsi Hwa. Ch'ih replied, 'I do not say that my ability extends to these things, but I should wish to learn them. At the services of the ancestral temple, and at the audiences of the princes with the sovereign, I should like, dressed in the dark square-made robe and the black linen cap, to act as a small assistant.'
Last of all, the Master asked Tsang Hsi, 'Tien, what are your wishes?' Tien, pausing as he was playing on his lute, while it was yet twanging, laid the instrument aside, and rose. 'My wishes,' he said, 'are different from the cherished purposes of these three gentlemen.' 'What harm is there in that?' said the Master; 'do you also, as well as they, speak out your wishes.' Tien then said, 'In this, the last month of spring, with the dress of the season all complete, along with five or six young men who have assumed the cap, and six or seven boys, I would wash in the I, enjoy the breeze among the rain altars, and return home singing.' The Master heaved a sigh and said, 'I give my approval to Tien.'
The three others having gone out, Tsang Hsi remained behind, and said, 'What do you think of the words of these three friends?' The Master replied, 'They simply told each one his wishes.'
Hsi pursued, 'Master, why did you smile at Yu?'
He was answered, 'The management of a State demands the rules of propriety. His words were not humble; therefore I smiled at him.'
Hsi again said, 'But was it not a State which Ch'iu proposed for himself?' The reply was, 'Yes; did you ever see a territory of sixty or seventy li or one of fifty or sixty, which was not a State?'
Once more, Hsi inquired, 'And was it not a State which Ch'ih proposed for himself?' The Master again replied, 'Yes; who but princes have to do with ancestral temples, and with audiences but the sovereign? If Ch'ih were to be a small assistant in these services, who could be a great one?