Disciples of Confucius: Youzi

Youzi (有子), or Zi Ruo (子若) or You Ruo (有若) to use his courtesy and given names, was regarded for a short period after the death of Confucius as his spiritual heir – mainly, it seems, because he bore a remarkable resemblance to the sage.

However, while Youzi’s looks may have been similar to those of Confucius, his talents came nowhere near to matching those of the sage, and he soon lost the confidence of the other disciples.

A native of Confucius’s home state of Lu, Youzi lived from around 518 BC – 457 BC and was said to have had a very good memory and a love of antiquity. After the other disciples of Confucius left him, he set up his own school and his students are believed to have written at least part of Book 1 of the Analects. This is probably why he features in the first book three times, while making only one other appearance in the rest of the Analects.

Appearances in the Analects of Confucius
Book 1, Chapter II
Book 1, Chapter XII
Book 1, Chapter XIII
Book 12, Chapter IX

Book 1
Chapter II
有子曰:「其為人也孝弟,而好犯上者,鮮矣;不好犯上,而好作亂者,未之有也。君子務本,本立而道生。孝弟也者,其為仁之本與!」
Youzi said: “A man who respects his parents and elders is not likely to question the authority of his superiors. Such a man will never provoke disorder. A leader focuses on the fundamentals; once these are established the Way appears. Respect for parents and elders constitutes the essence of goodness.”

Chapter XII
有子曰:「禮之用,和為貴。先王之道,斯為美,小大由之,有所不行,知和而和,不以禮節之,亦不可行也。」
Youzi said: “When practicing the rites, harmony is the key. This is what made the Way of the ancient kings so beautiful and inspired their every action, no matter how great or small. But they also knew where to draw the line, recognizing that if harmony is not governed by the rites everything will fall out of balance.”

Chapter XIII
有子曰:「信近於義,言可復也。恭近於禮,遠恥辱也。因不失其親,亦可宗也。」
Youzi said: “Trustworthiness is close to rightness because it means that your word can be counted on. Reverence is close to the rites because it means that you avoid shame and disgrace. Never losing sight of these virtues is worthy of respect.”

Book 12
Chapter IX
哀公問於有若曰:「年饑,用不足,如之何?」有若對曰:「盍徹乎!」曰:「二,吾猶不足,如之何其徹也?」對曰:「百姓足,君孰與不足?百姓不足,君孰與足?」
Duke Ai asked Youzi: “In years of famine when I don’t make enough to cover my expenses, what should I do?” Youzi replied: “Why not set the tax at ten percent?” Duke Ai said: “Even twenty percent would not be sufficient to meet my needs; how could I manage at ten percent?” Youzi replied: “If the people have enough to support themselves, how could their lord not have enough to meet his needs? If the people do not have enough to support themselves, how could their lord have enough to meet his needs?”

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