Disciples of Confucius: Zengzi

Although he was only twenty-six years of age when Confucius died in 479 BC, Zengzi (曾子) quickly rose to prominence as one of the leading proponents of the sage’s teaching and is said to have written or edited at least ten books, including the rip-roaring Classic of Filial Piety (孝經/xiaojing).

Zengzi also set up his own school in Confucius’s home state of Lu (魯國) and, as was the case with Youzi, his disciples made sure that he was prominently featured in the Analects. Extremely successfully, in fact, given that he is mentioned a total of 14 times.

Zengzi lived from 505 to 436 BC, and traced his ancestry back over a thousand years to a king from the Xia (夏) dynasty. His father Zeng Dian (曾點) was a friend of Confucius and sent him to study with the sage at the age of sixteen. His given name was Zeng Shen (曾參), and he was also called Zeng Ziyu (曾子輿) or simply Ziyu (子輿/子與).

Appearances in the Analects of Confucius
Book 1, Chapter IV
Book 1, Chapter IX
Book 4, Chapter XV
Book 8, Chapter III
Book 8, Chapter IV
Book 8, Chapter V
Book 8, Chapter VI
Book 8, Chapter VII
Book 11, Chapter XVIII
Book 12, Chapter XXIV
Book 14, Chapter XXVI
Book 19, Chapter XVI
Book 19, Chapter XVII
Book 19, Chapter XVIII
Book 19, Chapter XIX

Book 1
Chapter IV
曾子曰:「吾日三省吾身,為人謀而不忠乎?與朋友交而不信乎?傳不習乎?」
Zengzi said: “I examine myself three times every day. Have I been true to other people’s interests when acting on their behalf? Have I been sincere in my interactions with friends? Have I practiced what I have been taught?”

Chapter IX
曾子曰:「慎終追遠,民德歸厚矣。」
Zengzi said: “When the dead are shown proper reverence and the memory of distant ancestors is kept alive, the people’s virtue is at its highest.”

Book 4
Chapter XV
子曰:「參乎!吾道一以貫之。」曾子曰:「唯。」子出。門人問曰:「何謂也?」曾子曰:「夫子之道,忠恕而已矣。」
Confucius said: “Shen, my doctrine is all woven into a single thread.” Zengzi replied: “Indeed.” After Confucius had left, the other disciples asked: “What did he mean?” Zengzi said: “The doctrine of the Master is based on loyalty and reciprocity; that and nothing more.”

Book 8
Chapter III
曾子有疾,召門弟子曰:「啟予足!啟予手!詩云:『戰戰兢兢,如臨深淵,如履薄冰。』而今而後,吾知免夫!小子!」
When Zengzi was ill, he called his disciples together and said: “Look at my feet! Look at my hands! It is said in the Book of Odes:
We should be vigilant and careful,
As if we are standing on the edge of an abyss,
As if we are treading on thin ice.
But now, my little ones, I know that I am escaping whole now and forever after.”

Chapter IV
曾子有疾,孟敬子問之。曾子言曰:「鳥之將死,其鳴也哀;人之將死,其言也善。君子所貴乎道者三:動容貌,斯遠暴慢矣;正顏色,斯近信矣;出辭氣,斯遠鄙倍矣。籩豆之事,則有司存。」
When Zengzi was ill, Meng Jingzi came to visit him. Zengzi said: “When a bird is about to die, his song is sad; when a man is about to die, his words are good. In following the Way, a leader cherishes three things: in his demeanor, he stays far from violence and arrogance; in his countenance, he invites trustworthiness; in his speech, he avoids vulgarity. As for the details of the ritual, these will be taken care of by the functionaries.”

Chapter V
曾子曰:「以能問於不能,以多問於寡,有若無,實若虛,犯而不校,昔者吾友,嘗從事於斯矣。」
Zengzi said: “Capable but willing to listen to those who are not capable; talented but willing to listen to those without talent; viewing having as the same as not having; viewing fullness as the same as emptiness; accepting insults without bearing a grudge: long ago, I had a friend who practiced these things.”

Chapter VI
曾子曰:「可以託六尺之孤,可以寄百里之命,臨大節而不可奪也,君子人與,君子人也。」
Zengzi said: “You can entrust him with the care of a teenage orphan; you can entrust him with the government of a small state; when faced with a serious crisis, he will remain steadfast in resolving it. Is he a true leader? He is a true leader, indeed.”

Chapter VII
曾子曰:「士不可以不弘毅,任重而道遠。仁以為己任,不亦重乎,死而後已,不亦遠乎。」
Zengzi said: “A scholar-official must be strong and resolute because his burden is heavy and his road is long. He takes goodness as his burden: is this not heavy? His journey ends only with death: is this not long?”

Book 11
Chapter XVIII
柴也愚,參也魯,師也辟,由也喭。
Zigao is simple; Zengzi is dull; Zizhang is extreme; Zilu is reckless.

Book 12
Chapter XXIV
曾子曰:「君子以文會友,以友輔仁。」
Zengzi said: “A leader attracts friends through his cultural refinement, and looks to his friends for support in nurturing his goodness.”

Book 14
Chapter XXVI
子曰:「不在其位,不謀其政。」曾子曰:「君子思不出其位。」Confucius said: “Do not concern yourself with the policies of an office that you do not hold.” Zengzi said: “A leader would never consider overstepping the bounds of his position.”

Book 19
Chapter XVI
曾子曰:「堂堂乎張也,難與并為仁矣。」
Zengzi said: “Zizhang is so full of himself that it is difficult to cultivate goodness by his side.”

Chapter XVII
曾子曰:「吾聞諸夫子:『人未有自致者也,必也親喪乎!』
Zengzi said: “I heard this from the Master: If a man ever reveals his true nature, it’s when he mourns his parents.”

Chapter XVIII
曾子曰:「吾聞諸夫子:『孟莊子之孝也,其他可能也,其不改父之臣與父之政,是難能也。」
Zengzi said: “I heard this from the Master: The one facet of Lord Meng Zhuang’s filial piety that others couldn’t emulate was that he retained his father’s officials and continued his father’s policies.”

Chapter XIX
孟氏使陽膚為士師,問於曾子。曾子曰:「上失其道,民散久矣!如得其情,則哀矜而勿喜。」
The Meng Family appointed Yang Fu as a judge. Yang Fu asked for advice from Zengzi. Zengzi said: “The authorities have lost the Way; the common people have been left to their own devices for too long. When you succeed in getting the true facts of a case, respond with compassion but never take any pleasure from it.”

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