mù nè 木讷
Simple and Sparing of Words
The first of these two Chinese characters means simple and honest. The second one means sparing of words. People should embrace moral standards with all their hearts rather than cultivate an ostentatious appearance in an attempt to seek fame and gain. To be simple and sparing of words underscores a determination to reject vanity, avoid pretentious behavior and rhetoric, and to concentrate on cultivating one’s moral character. Confucian scholars regard being simple and honest and sparing of words as an important virtue, close to what is required for being benevolent. In this particular context, being “simple and sparing of words” has no connotation of dull-mindedness or being reticent.
Confucius said, “Being firm, resolute, simple and sparing of words comes close to being benevolent.” (The Analects)