Confucius and the hermits

Two anecdotes from the historian Szma Ch’ien about Confucius:

  1. A father and son were ploughing a field when Confucius passed by with his disciples. A disciple went to ask for directions, introducing himself as a follower of Confucius. They said to him, “Rather than follow one who avoids certain people, why not follow someone who avoids society altogether.”
  2. Separated from Confucius one day, a disciple stopped an old man and asked him if he had seen the Master. The old man replied, “Master? You mean someone who does not work with his arms and legs and cannot tell one grain from another?” The disciple later related this exchange to Confucius, who said, “That man must have been a retired philosopher.”