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Stuff yourself with food all day, never give your mind anything to do, and you’re a problem! There’s chess, isn’t there? There’s weiqi, isn’t there? — wiser at least to busy yourself with these.


Confucius (c. 551- c. 479 BC) Chinese philosopher, sage, politician [孔夫子 (Kǒng Fūzǐ, K'ung Fu-tzu, K'ung Fu Tse), 孔子 (Kǒngzǐ, Chungni), 孔丘 (Kǒng Qiū, K'ung Ch'iu)]
The Analects [論語, 论语, Lúnyǔ], Book 17, verse 22 (17.22) (6th C. BC – AD 3rd C.) [tr. Watson (2007)]

There is varied discussion in footnotes as to the specific identity and nature of the game(s) Confucius references. The phrase bo yi or po yi (博弈) can be translated either as "to play chess" or "the game of bo and the game of yi." The game of bo was similar to weiqi (wei-ch'i) (or, in Japan, go; the game of yi was a game like chess, or a board game played with dice (shuanglu), the rules of which have been forgotten. There are also translators who assert it's the other way around, that bo or liubo is the game of chance, and yi was weiqi (go).

(Source (Chinese) 1, 2). Alternate translations:

Hard is it to deal with him, who will stuff himself with food the whole day, without applying his mind to anything good! Are there not gamesters and chess players? To be one of these would still be better than doing nothing at all.
[tr. Legge (1861)]

Ah, it is difficult to know what to make of those who are all day long cramming themselves with food and are without anything to apply their minds to! Are there no dice and chess players? Better, perhaps, join in that pursuit than do nothing at all!
[tr. Jennings (1895)]

It is a really bad case when a man simply eats his full meals without applying his mind to anything at all during the whole day. Are there not such things as gambling and games of skill? To do one of those things even is better than to do nothing at all.
[tr. Ku Hung-Ming (1898)]

How hard is the case of the man who stuffs himself with food the livelong day, never applying his mind to anything! Are there no checker or chess players? Even to do that is surely better than nothing at all.
[tr. Soothill (1910)]

Stuffing in food all day, nothing that he puts his mind on, a hard case! Don't chess players at least do something and have solid merit by comparison?
[tr. Pound (1933)]

Those who do nothing all day but cram themselves with food and never use their minds are difficult. Are there not games such as draughts? To play them would surely be better than doing nothing at all.
[tr. Waley (1938)]

I really admire a fellow who goes about the whole day with a well-fed stomach and a vacuous mind. How can one ever do it? I would rather that he play chess, which would seem to me to be better.
[tr. Lin Yutang (1938)]

It is no easy matter for a man who always has a full stomach to put his mind to some use. Are there not such things as po and yi? Even playing these games is better than being idle.
[tr. Lau (1979)]

It is surely difficult to spend the whole day stuffing oneself with food and having nothing to use one's mind on. Are there not people who play bo and yi? Even such activity is definitely superior, is it not?
[tr. Dawson (1993), 17.20]

I cannot abide these people who fill their bellies all day long, without ever using their minds! Why can't they play chess? At least it would be better than nothing.
[tr. Leys (1997)]

Eating all day without thinking about anything, such persons are hard to be trained. Are not there some games? Even if playing some games, it is also better than having nothing to do.
[tr. Cai/Yu (1998), No. 462]

There are troubles ahead for those who spend their whole day filling their stomachs without ever exercising their heart-and-mind (xin). Are there not diversions such as the board games of bo and weiqi? Even playing those games would be better than nothing.
[tr. Ames/Rosemont (1998)]

One who eats his fill all day long, and never uses his mind on anything, is a difficult case. Are there not such things as gammon and chess? Would it not be better to play them?
[tr. Brooks/Brooks (1998), 17.20]

All day eating and never thinking: such people are serious trouble. Aren't there games to play, like go and chess? Even that is better than nothing. [tr. Hinton (1998), 17.21]

Spending the entire day filling himself with food, never once exercising his mind -- someone like this is a hard case indeed! Do we not have the games Bo and Yi? Even playing these games would be better than doing nothing.
[tr. Slingerland (2003)]

To spend the whole day stuffing yourself and not to put your mind to use at all -- this is hopeless behavior. Are there not such games as bo and yi? It would be better to play these games [than to do nothing at all].
[tr. Annping Chin (2014)]

If a person is well fed the whole day and does not use his brain on anything, it will be difficult for him to be of value in life. Are there poker games and chess? Playing these games is still more beneficial than doing nothing.
[tr. Li (2020)]

Added on 19-Sep-22 | Last updated 19-Sep-22
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The greatest skill in cards is to know when to discard; the smallest of current trumps is worth more than the ace of trumps of the last game.

Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658) Spanish Jesuit priest, writer, philosopher
The Art of Worldly Wisdom [Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia], § 31 (1647) [tr. Jacobs (1892)]
Added on 31-Jan-20 | Last updated 4-Apr-22
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Man is a gaming animal. He must be always trying to get the better in something or other.

Charles Lamb (1775-1834) Welsh-English essayist
“Mrs. Battle’s Opinions on Whist,” The Essays of Elia (1823)
Added on 14-Oct-19 | Last updated 14-Oct-19
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You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.

Plato (c.428-347 BC) Greek philosopher

Frequently attributed to Plato, starting in the 1950s, but not found in his works. Earliest citation is as a Portuguese proverb, in A Polyglot of Foreign Proverbs, tr. Henry G. Bohn (1857): "Mais descobre huma hora de jogo, que hum anno de conversação." For more see here.
Added on 28-Feb-19 | Last updated 28-Feb-19
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We must take note that the games of children are not games in their eyes; and we must regard these as their most serious actions.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
Essays, Book 1, ch. 22 (1580-88)
Added on 29-Nov-16 | Last updated 29-Nov-16
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The important thing in life is not the victory but the contest; the essential thing is not to have won but to have fought well.

[L’important dans la vie ce n’est point le triomphe, mais le combat, l’essentiel ce n’est pas d’avoir vaincu mais de s’être bien battu.]

Pierre Frédy, Baron de Coubertin (1863-1937) French pedagogue, historian, founder of the International Olympic Committee
Olympic Creed, Speech, Olympic Games, London (24 Jul 1908)

Alt. trans: "The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle, the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."

Original phrasing by de Coubertin: "The importance of these Olympiads is not so much to win as to take part."

De Coubertin was drawing from a sermon by Bp. Ethelbert Talbot at St Paul's Cathedral, London (19 Jul 1908): "We have just been contemplating the great Olympic Games. What does it mean? It means that young men of robust physical life have come from all parts of the world. It does mean, I think, as someone has said, that this era of internationalism as seen in the Stadium has an element of danger. Of course, it is very true, as he says, that each athlete strives not only for the sake of sport, but for the sake of his country. Thus a new rivalry is invented. If England be beaten on the river, or America outdistanced on the racing path, or that American has lost the strength which she once possessed. Well, what of it? The only safety after all lies in the lesson of the real Olympia -- that the Games themselves are better than the race and the prize. St. Paul tells us how insignificant is the prize, Our prize is not corruptible, but incorruptible, and though only one may wear the laurel wreath, all may share the equal joy of the contest. All encouragement, therefore, be given to the exhilarating -- I might also say soul-saving -- interest that comes in active and fair and clean athletic sports."
Added on 4-Apr-11 | Last updated 15-Jul-20
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You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.

Plato (c.428-347 BC) Greek philosopher
The Republic
Added on 16-Aug-07 | Last updated 24-Sep-14
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If you must play, decide on three things at the start: the rules of the game, the stakes, and the quitting time.

(Other Authors and Sources)
Chinese proverb
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 11-Feb-20
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“Perhaps this isn’t just a test of the world,” said Crowley. “It might be a test of you people, too. Hmm?”

“God does not play games with His loyal servants,” said the Metatron, but in a worried tone of voice.

“Whooo-eee,” said Crowley. “Where have you been?”

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Good Omens, “Saturday” (1990) [with Neil Gaiman]
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 20-Jan-23
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