I'm learning some of Confucius' sayings, and I've had trouble with this one: 己所不欲,勿施于人. I looked on a dictionary online, and it said both "do not do to others what you would not have them do to you" and "doing is better than saying". Which one is it?

  • see jukuu (it is #1): jukuu.com/… literally: 己所不欲,勿施于人 what self not wanted not onto others
    – user6065
    Apr 20, 2017 at 23:43

8 Answers 8


I have a poor English expression level, so I can give you answers in Chinese:

“己所不欲,勿施于人”是指:自己不想要的东西,切勿强加给别人。孔子所强调的是,人应该宽恕待人,应提倡“恕”道,唯有如此才是仁的表现。“恕”道是“仁”的消极表现,而其积极表现便是“己欲立而立人,己欲达而达人”。孔子所阐释的仁以“爱人”为中心,而爱人这种行为当然就包括着宽恕待人这一方面。《论语》中提到:夫子之道,忠恕而已矣。   这句话所揭晓的是处理人际关系的重要原则。孔子所言是指人应当以对待自身的行为为参照物来对待他人。人应该有宽广的胸怀,待人处事之时切勿心胸狭窄,而应宽宏大量,宽恕待人。倘若自己所讨厌的事物,硬推给他人,不仅会破坏与他人的关系,也会将事情弄得僵持而不可收拾。人与人之间的交往确实应该坚持这种原则,这是尊重他人,平等待人的体现。人生在世除了关注自身的存在以外,还得关注他人的存在,人与人之间是平等的,切勿将己所不欲施于人。

For example, there is something annoying me, I should not shove it on my friend or other people, treat friends in the way treat myself....


己所(things that one self)不欲(don't want),

勿(don't)施于(do to)人(others)


'you yourself don't want to be insulted, therefore you don't insult others'

You have to know being insulted hurt to not want to be insulted; if you know being insulted hurt and still do it to others, then you are a horrible person. The phrase 己所不欲,勿施于人 is a Confucius teaching giving a guild line for people to be decent and moral-- ' if you don't know either you should or should not do something to other people, simply ask yourself if you want the same thing to be done to you, if the answer is 'no' then it is most likely wrong to do it to other people.

  • @ Tang Ho: But you don't mean this is just about insults, right?
    – Gangosa
    Apr 21, 2017 at 1:01
  • Being insulted is just one example of things people don't want. We also don't want to be robbed, beaten or murdered,
    – Tang Ho
    Apr 21, 2017 at 3:19


This phrase simply translates to: if you yourself do not want something/wish to do something, you should not push it onto others.

A simple example would be: I have a bag that I do not desire. I think it is horrendous and ugly. Therefore, I decided to just give it to one of my friends. Here someone can use this phrase. 己所不欲勿施于人。 If I myself think that the bag is ugly and undesirable, how can I think of giving it to one of my friends. If I think it's ugly, why would I give it to my friend? He/She could feel the same. Hence, it is wrong and I should not do that.

This is just an example of a physical item, it can also be an action and the way you treat another person.

Another example would be: Someone appointed me to be a leader of a project. I think it is a tiring and difficult job. I do not want to be burdened to do it. In turn, I decided to recommend (push) my friend to do it instead of me. This is when you can once again use the phrase. 己所不欲勿施于人。If I myself think it is an undesirable position, how selfish am I to push it onto my friend when he/she could have felt exactly the way I did. Thus, again it is wrong and I should not do that.

hope this helps :)


己所不欲,勿施于人 literally: self thatwhich not desire, not bestow on other people

"Do as you would be done by."

  • translate Literally: If you don't want or willing to do something by yourself, you should not force others to do these things.

  • It told us: One should be able to look at questions or things through somebody else's eyes and stand in their shoes.


For the deeper understanding of this meaning is that “Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself.”


treat others the way you want to be treated


It simply is the Golden Rule. Don't do unto others what you don't want others do unto you.

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