Disciples of Confucius: Zigong

Zigong (子貢) was known by a variety of different names, including Duanmu Ci (端木賜), Duanmu Zigong (端木子貢), Duanmu Zigan (端木子贛), and Wei Ci (衛賜).

Born in 520 BC, Zigong was a native of the state of Wei and had already established himself as a successful and wealthy businessman in the states of Cao and Lu by the time he met Confucius.

With his sharp mental acuity and great enthusiasm, Zigong was quick to grasp the key elements of Confucius’s philosophy and soon became one of the sage’s closest confidantes. Indeed, Zigong is one of the most often-quoted disciples in the Analects, making frequent appearances throughout the book as he questions Confucius on all manner of subjects.

After his time with Confucius, Zigong became an accomplished official and statesman in his own right, assuming high-level offices in the states of Wei and Lu at various times and traveling extensively to other states. As a result of his diplomacy, he secured an invitation for Confucius from the king of Chu, and persuaded the Duke of Qi to return to Lu the towns he had occupied.

Following the death of Confucius, Zigong lived for six years near the sage’s tomb – twice as long as the other disciples. He then devoted himself to promoting Confucius’s thought, mostly in the state of Qi, where he died.

Appearances in the Analects of Confucius
Book 1, Chapter X
Book 1, Chapter XV
Book 2, Chapter XIII
Book 3, Chapter XVII
Book 5, Chapter IV
Book 5, Chapter IX
Book 5, Chapter XII
Book 5, Chapter XIII
Book 5, Chapter XV
Book 6, Chapter VIII
Book 7, Chapter XIV
Book 9, Chapter VI
Book 9, Chapter XIII
Book 11, Chapter III
Book 11, Chapter XIII
Book 11, Chapter XVI
Book 11, Chapter XIX
Book 12, Chapter VII
Book 12, Chapter VIII
Book 12, Chapter XXIII
Book 13, Chapter XX
Book 13, Chapter XXIV
Book 14, Chapter XVII
Book 14, Chapter XXVIII
Book 14, Chapter XXIX
Book 14, Chapter XXXV
Book 15, Chapter III
Book 15, Chapter X
Book 15, Chapter XXIV
Book 17, Chapter XIX
Book 17, Chapter XXIV
Book 19, Chapter XX
Book 19, Chapter XXI
Book 19, Chapter XXII
Book 19, Chapter XXIII
Book 19, Chapter XXIV
Book 19, Chapter XXV

Book 1
Chapter X
子禽問於子貢曰:「夫子至於是邦也,必聞其政,求之與?抑與之與?子貢曰:「夫子溫良恭儉讓以得之,夫子之求之也,其諸異乎人之求之與?」
Ziqin asked Zigong: “When the Master arrives in another state, he always manages to find out about how it is governed. Does he have to ask for this information or do people give him it of their own accord?” Zigong replied: “The Master obtains it by being warm, kind, courteous, unassuming, and deferential. He has a quite a unique way of seeking out information, hasn’t he?”

Chapter XV
子貢曰:「貧而無諂,富而無驕,何如?」子曰:「可也,未若貧而樂,富而好禮者也。」子貢曰:「詩云:『如切如磋,如琢如磨』,其斯之謂與?」子曰:「賜也,始可與言詩已矣,告諸往而知來者。」
Zigong said: “’Poor but not subservient; wealthy but not arrogant.’ What do you think of that?” Confucius said: “Not bad, but this would be better still: ‘Poor but content; wealthy but loves ritual.’” Zigong said: “In the Book of Songs it is said: ‘Like carving and polishing stones, like cutting and grinding gems.’ Is this not the same idea?” Confucius said: “Wonderful, Zigong! At last I can discuss the Book of Songs with you! I only have to tell you what came before, and you can work out what comes next!”

Book 2
Chapter XIII
子貢問君子。子曰:「先行其言,而後從之。」
Zigong asked what constitutes a leader. Confucius said: “Someone who practices what he preaches.”

Book 3
Chapter XVII
子貢欲去告朔之餼羊。子曰:「賜也!爾愛其羊,我愛其禮。」
Zigong wished to do away with the sacrifice of a sheep for the ceremony welcoming the new moon. Confucius said: “You love the sheep; I love the rites.”

Book 5
Chapter IV
子貢問曰:「賜也何如?」子曰:「女器也。」曰:「何器也?」曰:「瑚璉也。」
Zigong asked: “What do you think of me?” Confucius said: “You are a vessel.” “What sort of vessel?” “A precious sacrificial vessel.”

Chapter IX
子謂子貢曰:「女與回也,孰愈?」對曰:「賜也,何敢望回?回也,聞一以知十,賜也聞一知二。」子曰:「弗如也,吾與女,弗如也。」
Confucius asked Zigong: “Who is better, you or Yan Hui?” Zigong replied: “How can I compare myself with Yan Hui? He has only to hear ten percent in order to understand everything about a subject while if I hear ten per cent I only understand twenty percent.” Confucius said: “You are certainly not his equal, and neither am I.”

Chapter XII
子貢曰:「我不欲人之加諸我也,吾亦欲無加諸人。」子曰:「賜也,非爾所及也。」
Zigong said: “I wouldn’t want to do to others what I wouldn’t want them to do to me.” Confucius said: “Ah, Zigong! That’s beyond your reach.”

Chapter XIII
子貢曰:「夫子之文章,可得而聞也;夫子之言性與天道,不可得而聞也。」
Zigong said: “We get to hear our master’s cultural brilliance, but not his views on the nature of things and the Way of Heaven.”

Chapter XV
子貢問曰:「孔文子何以謂之文也?」子曰:「敏而好學,不恥下問,是以謂之文也。」
Zigong asked: “Why was ‘Kong-the-Cultured’ called ‘cultured’?” Confucius said: “He had an active mind, was fond of learning, and was not ashamed to listen and learn from his inferiors: that is why he was given the name.”

Book 6
Chapter VIII
季康子問:「仲由可使從政也與?」子曰:「由也果,於從政乎何有?」曰:「賜也可使從政也與?」曰:「賜也達,於從政乎何有?」曰:「求也可使從政也與?」曰:「求也藝,於從政乎何有?」
Ji Kangzi asked: “Is Zilu fit to be appointed to government office?” Confucius said: “Zilu is resolute. Why isn’t he fit to be appointed to government office?” Ji Kangzi asked again: “Is Zigong fit to be appointed to government office?” Confucius said: “Zigong is intelligent. Why isn’t he fit to be appointed to government office?” Ji Kangzi asked again: “Is Ran Qiu fit to be appointed to government office?” Confucius said: “Ran Qiu has many talents. Why isn’t he fit to be appointed to government office?”

Chapter XXX
子貢曰:「如有博施於民,而能濟眾,何如?可謂仁乎?」子曰:「何事於仁,必也聖乎!堯舜其猶病諸!夫仁者,己欲立而立人,己欲達而達人。能近取譬,可謂仁之方也已。」
Zigong said: “What if far-reaching policies were implemented among the people that benefited the masses? Could that be described as goodness?” Confucius said: “Such an action labeled as goodness could almost be described as perfection. Even Yao and Shun would not be able to match it! Good people help others get on their feet before themselves and empower them to achieve their goals before they achieve their own. When good examples can be followed in your immediate vicinity, it can be said that you are on the right track to goodness.”

Book 7
Chapter XIV
冉有曰:「夫子為衛君乎?」子貢曰:「諾,吾將問之。」入曰:「伯夷、叔齊何人也?」曰:「古之賢人也。」曰:「怨乎?」曰:「求仁而得仁,又何怨?」出曰:「夫子不為也。」
Ran Qiu said: “Does our Master support the Duke of Wei?” Zigong said: “Well, I am going to ask him.” Zigong went in and asked Confucius: “What sort of people were Boyi and Shuqi?” “They were virtuous men of old.” “Did they complain?” “They sought goodness and attained goodness. Why should they have complained?” Zigong left and said to Ran Qiu: “Our Master does not support the Duke of Wei.”

Book 9
Chapter VI
大宰問於子貢曰:「夫子聖者與!何其多能也?」子貢曰:「固天縱之將聖,又多能也。」子聞之曰:「大宰知我乎?吾少也賤,故多能鄙事。君子多乎哉?不多也!」
The Grand Steward asked Zigong: “Your master is a true sage, isn’t he? He is skilled in so many things.” Zigong replied: “Heaven indeed made him a sage, but he also happens to have many different skills.” When he heard of this, Confucius said: “What does the Grand Steward know about me? In my youth, I was poor; so I had to learn a number of lowly skills. Does a leader need to have so many different skills? No, he does not.”

Chapter XIII
子貢曰:「有美玉於斯,韞 而藏諸?求善賈而沽諸?」子曰:「沽之哉!沽之哉!我待賈者也!」
Zigong said: “If you had a precious piece of jade, would you hide it safely in a box, or would you try and sell it for a good price?” Confucius said: “I would sell it! I would sell it! All I am waiting for is the right offer.”

Book 11
Chapter III
德行:顏淵、閔子騫、冉伯牛、仲弓;言語:宰我、子貢;政事:冉有、季路;文學:子游、子夏。
Virtuous conduct: Yan Hui, Min Ziqian, Ran Boniu, Ran Yong. Eloquent speech: Zai Yu, Zigong. Government and administration: Ran Qiu, Zilu. Cultural accomplishments: Ziyou, Zixia.

Chapter XIII
閔子侍側,誾誾如也;子路,行行如也;冉有、子貢,侃侃如也。子樂。若由也,不得其死然。
When at Confucius’s side, Min Ziqian looked respectful; Zilu looked feisty; Ran Qiu and Zigong looked relaxed. Confucius joked. “A man like Zilu will not die a natural death.”

Chapter XVI
子貢問:「師與商也孰賢?」子曰:「師也過,商也不及。」曰:「然則師愈與?」子曰:「過猶不及。」
Zigong asked: “Who is better: Zizhang or Zixia?” Confucius said: “Zizhang overshoots the mark and Zixia falls short of the mark.” Zigong said: “Then Zizhang must be better?” Confucius said: “Both miss the mark.”

Chapter XIX
子曰:「回也其庶乎!屢空,賜不受命,而貨殖焉;億則屢中。」
Confucius said: “Yan Hui nearly reached perfection, but he constantly lived in poverty. Zigong refuses to accept his fate and indulges in business speculation, and is frequently correct in his conjectures.”

Book 12
Chapter VII
子貢問「政」。子曰:「足食,足兵,民信之矣。」子貢曰:「必不得已而去,於斯三者何先?」曰:「去兵。」子貢曰:「必不得已而去,於斯二者何先?」曰:「去食。自古皆有死,民無信不立。」
Zigong asked about governance. Confucius said: “Enough food, enough weapons, and the trust of the people.” Zigong said: “If you had to go without one of these three, which one would you give up?” Confucius replied: “Weapons.” Zigong asked: “If you had to go without one of the remaining two, which one would you give up?” Confucius replied: “Food; from ancient times, death has been the fate of all men. But without the trust of the people, the government cannot stand.”

Chapter VIII
棘子成曰:「君子質而已矣,何以文為?」子貢曰:「惜乎,夫子之說君子也,駟不及舌!文猶質也,質猶文也;虎豹之鞹,猶犬羊之鞹。」
Ji Zicheng said: “Nature determines whether or not you are a leader. What use is culture?” Zigong said: “What a pity you have chosen to describe a leader in this way. ‘A team of horses cannot catch up with a tongue.’ Culture is nature, nature is culture. Without their hair, the pelts of tigers and leopards are just the same as those of a dog or a sheep.”

Chapter XXIII
子貢問「友」。子曰:「忠告而善道之,不可則止,毋自辱焉。」
Zigong asked about friends. Confucius said: “Advise them loyally and guide them tactfully. If that fails, stop: do not open yourself up to being snubbed.”

Book 13
Chapter XX
子貢問曰:「何如斯可謂之士矣?」子曰:「行己有恥,使於四方,不辱君命,可謂士矣。」曰:「敢問其次?」曰:「宗族稱孝焉,鄉黨稱弟焉。」曰:「敢問其次?」曰:「言必信,行必果;硜硜然,小人哉!抑亦可以為次矣。」曰:「今之從政者何如?」子曰:「噫!斗筲之人,何足算也!」
Zigong asked: “What qualities must one possess to be called a true gentleman?” Confucius said: “A man who maintains a sense of humility and can be sent on a mission to the four corners of the earth without bringing disgrace to his ruler can be called a true gentleman.” “May I ask what type of man ranks one step below that?” “A man who is praised by his relatives for his filial piety and who is known by the people of his neighborhood for being respectful towards his elders.” “May I ask what type of man ranks one step below that?” “A man whose word can be trusted and who completes whatever task he undertakes. In his stubborn determination, he may resemble a petty person, but he could still probably qualify as a gentleman of a lower rank.” “How would you rate the men currently involved in public affairs?” “Sadly, these are men you measure by a bucket or scoop. They’re not even worth mentioning.”

Chapter XXIV
子貢問曰:「鄉人皆好之,何如?」子曰:「未可也。」「鄉人皆惡之,何如?」子曰:「未可也。不如鄉人之善者好之,其不善者惡之。」
Zigong asked: “If a man is liked by all the people in his village, what would you think?” Confucius said: “That’s not good enough.” “And if he is loathed by all the people in the village, what would you think?” “That is not good enough either. It would be better if the good people in the village liked him and the bad people loathed him.”

Book 14
Chapter XVII
子貢曰:「管仲非仁者與?桓公殺公子糾,不能死,又相之。」子曰:「管仲相桓公,霸諸侯,一匡天下,民到于今受其賜。微管仲,吾其被髮左衽矣!豈若匹夫匹婦之為諒也,自經於溝瀆,而莫之知也!」
Zigong said: “Surely Guan Zhong was not a good person. After Duke Huan had Prince Jiu put to death, he not only chose to live but also served as the Duke’s prime minister.” Confucius said: “By serving as Duke Huan’s prime minister, Guan Zhong imposed his authority over all the states and brought order to the world; the people still reap the benefits of his actions until this day. Without Guan Zhong, we would still be wearing our hair loose and folding our robes on the wrong side. Or would you prefer it if he had drowned himself in a ditch like some wretched husband or wife in their small-minded faithfulness and died with nobody knowing about it?”

Chapter XXVIII
子曰:「君子道者三,我無能焉:仁者不憂,知者不惑,勇者不懼。」子貢曰:「夫子自道也!」
Confucius said: “A leader adheres to three principles that I have been unable to live up to: the good are never anxious; the wise are never perplexed; the brave are never afraid.” Zigong said: “Master, you have just described yourself.”

Chapter XXIX
子貢方人。子曰:「賜也,賢乎哉?夫我則不暇!」
Zigong was in the habit of criticizing other people. Confucius said: “Zigong must already be perfect. I have no free time for that.”

Chapter XXXV
子曰:「莫我知也夫!」子貢曰:「何為其莫知子也?」子曰:「不怨天,不尤人,下學而上達。知我者,其天乎!」
Confucius said: “No one understands me!” Zigong said: “How is it that no one understands you?” Confucius said: “I neither complain about Heaven nor do I blame men. Here below I am learning so that I can reach enlightenment up above. If there is anyone who understands me, it must be Heaven.”

Book 15
Chapter III
子曰:「賜也,女以予為多學而識之者與?」對曰:「然,非與?」曰:「非也!予一以貫之。」
Confucius said: “Zigong, do you take me for someone who learns a lot and then stores it all up in my head?” Zigong replied: “Yes, is that not the case?” Confucius said: “No. I weave it all together into a single thread.”

Chapter X
子貢問為仁。子曰:「工欲善其事,必先利其器。居是邦也,事其大夫之賢者,友其士之仁者。」
Zigong asked how to practice goodness. Confucius said: “A craftsman who wishes to do outstanding work must first sharpen his tools. No matter which state you settle in, offer your services to the wisest ministers and make friends with others who cultivate goodness.”

Chapter XXIV
子貢問曰:「有一言而可以終身行之者乎?」子曰:「其怒乎!己所不欲,勿施於人。」
Zigong asked: “Is there one single word that can guide you through your entire life?” Confucius said: “Should it not be reciprocity? Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself.”

Book 17
Chapter XIX
子曰:「予欲無言!」子貢曰:「子如不言,則小子何述焉?」子曰:「天何言哉!四時行焉,百物生焉,天何言哉?」
Confucius said: “I wish to speak no more.” Zigong said: “Master, if you don’t speak, how will your disciples be able to pass on any of your teachings?” Confucius said: “Does Heaven speak? The four seasons turn and all the creatures continue to be born, but does Heaven speak?”

Chapter XXIV
子貢曰:「君子亦有惡乎?」子曰:「有惡。惡稱人之惡者,惡居下流而訕上者,惡勇而無禮者,惡果敢而窒者。」曰:「賜也亦有惡乎?」「惡徼以為知者,惡不孫以為勇者,惡訐以為直者。」
Zigong said: “Does a leader have things that he can’t stand?” Confucius said: “Yes. He can’t stand those who point out the evils in others. He can’t stand those in inferior positions who slander their superiors. He can’t stand those whose courage is not tempered by the rites. He can’t stand those who are impulsive and stubborn.” Confucius continued. “Do you have things that you can’t stand?” “I can’t stand those who pretend to be learned by plagiarizing. I can’t stand those who pretend to be brave by acting arrogant. I can’t stand those who pretend to be frank by being malicious.”

Book 19
Chapter XX
子貢曰:「紂之不善,不如是之甚也。是以君子惡居下流,天下之惡皆歸焉。」
Zigong said: “Zhouxin can’t have been as evil as people say. That is why a leader hates to dwell downstream. All the world’s effluent finds its way to him.”

Chapter XXI
子貢曰:「君子之過也,如日月之食焉。過也,人皆見之;更也,人皆仰之。」
Zigong said: “The errors of a leader are like an eclipse of the sun or the moon. When he makes an error, everyone notices; when he corrects his error everyone looks up to him in admiration.”

Chapter XXII
衛公孫朝問於子貢曰:「仲尼焉學?」子貢曰:「文武之道,未墜於地,在人。賢者識其大者,不賢者識其小者,莫不有文武之道焉。夫子焉不學,而亦何常師之有!」
Gongsun Chao of Wei asked Zigong: “From whom did Confucius learn?” Zigong said: “The Way of King Wen and King Wu has never disappeared; it has remained alive among the people. The wise have retained its most important elements; the ignorant have retained its least Save significant details. There is not a single person who doesn’t have some elements of the Way of King Wen and King Wu. There is not a single person from whom our Master could not have learned something; and there is not a single person who could have been our Master’s only teacher.”

Chapter XXIII
叔孫武叔語大夫於朝曰:「子貢賢於仲尼。」子服景伯以告子貢。子貢曰:「譬之宮牆。賜之牆也及肩,窺見屋家之好;夫子之牆數仞,不得其門而入,不見宗廟之美,百官之富。得其門者或寡矣!夫子之云,不亦宜乎!」
Shusun Wushu said to the ministers at court: “Zigong is superior to Confucius.” Zifu Jingbo told this to Zigong. Zigong said: “Let us take the surrounding wall of a residence as a comparison. My wall is only shoulder-height; so you can simply peer over it to see the beauty of the house inside. Our Master’s wall would tower many yards higher; so unless you are allowed through the gate, you cannot imagine the magnificence of the ancestral temple and the majesty of the other buildings. But since very few people have been allowed through the gate, it’s not surprising that your colleague would make such a comment.”

Chapter XXIV
叔孫武叔毀仲尼。子貢曰:「無以為也!仲尼不可毀也。他人之賢者,丘陵也,猶可踰也。仲尼,日月也,無得而踰焉。人雖欲自絕,其何傷於日月乎?多見其不知自量也!」
Shusun Wushu vilified Confucius. Zigong said: “It doesn’t matter. Confucius cannot be vilified. The worthiness of other people is like a hill that you can climb over; but Confucius is like the sun or the moon, which are impossible to climb over. Even if someone wished to cut himself off from their light, how would this harm the sun and the moon? At most, it would show that he had no sense of his own value.”

Chapter XXIV
叔孫武叔毀仲尼。子貢曰:「無以為也!仲尼不可毀也。他人之賢者,丘陵也,猶可踰也。仲尼,日月也,無得而踰焉。人雖欲自絕,其何傷於日月乎?多見其不知自量也!」
Shusun Wushu vilified Confucius. Zigong said: “It doesn’t matter. Confucius cannot be vilified. The worthiness of other people is like a hill that you can climb over; but Confucius is like the sun or the moon, which are impossible to climb over. Even if someone wished to cut himself off from their light, how would this harm the sun and the moon? At most, it would show that he had no sense of his own value.”

Chapter XXV
陳子禽謂子貢曰:「子為恭也,仲尼豈賢於子乎?」子貢曰:「君子一言以為知,一言以為不知,言不可不慎也!夫子之不可及也,猶天之不可階而升也。夫子之得邦家者,所謂立之斯立,道之斯行,綏之斯來,動之斯和。其生也榮,其死也哀,如之何其可及也?」
Chen Ziqin said to Zigong: “Sir, you are just being polite; how could Confucius be considered to be your superior?” Zigong said: “A leader can reveal his wisdom with a single phrase, and can betray his ignorance with a single phrase. That is why he must be careful about what he says. The Master’s achievements cannot be equaled, just as there are no steps that you can climb to reach the sky. If the Master been entrusted with running a country or a family estate, he would have lived up to the old adage: ‘If he helps them to stand they will stand up; if he leads them they will march; if he gives them peace they will flock to him; if he mobilizes them to work they will follow his call. In life, he is glorified; in death, he will be mourned.’ How can his achievements ever be equaled?”

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponEmail this to someone

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *