Disciples of Confucius: Ziyou

Ziyou (子游), whose given name was Yan Yan (言偃), was also known as Yan Ziyou (言子游), Yan You (言游), Yanzi (言子), and Shu Shi (叔氏).

Born in the state of Wu in around 506 BC, Ziyou became a disciple of the sage when Confucius was already an old man. Confucius had a high regard for his literary knowledge and skills, and subsequently praised Ziyou for the work that he did in educating the local people in the rites and music after he was appointed as an official in Wucheng (武城), modern-day Feixian (費縣) in Shandong.

After Confucius died, Ziyou became a teacher himself. But after his works were savaged by the philosopher Xunzi (荀子) [312 – 230 BC], he was never able to achieve the same levels of prominence as other disciples of Confucius.

Appearances in the Analects of Confucius
Book 2, Chapter VII
Book 4, Chapter XXVI
Book 6, Chapter XIV
Book 11, Chapter III
Book 17, Chapter IV
Book 19, Chapter XII

Book 2
Chapter VII
子游問孝。子曰:「今之孝者,是謂能養。至於犬馬,皆能有養;不敬,何以別乎。」
Ziyou asked about filial piety. Confucius said: “These days, men regard themselves as dutiful sons simply by feeding their parents. But they also feed their dogs and horses. Unless they show their parents due respect, what’s the difference?”

Book 4
Chapter XXVI
子游曰:「事君數,斯辱矣;朋友數,斯疏矣。」
Ziyou said: “In the service of a lord officiousness inevitably brings disgrace; in the company of friends, it brings estrangement.”

Book 6
Chapter XIV
子游為武城宰。子曰:「女得人焉爾乎?」曰:「有澹臺滅明者,行不由徑,非公事,未嘗至於偃之室也。」
When Ziyou became governor of Wucheng, Confucius asked him: “Have you managed to get hold of the right sort of people there?” He replied: “There is one called Tantai Mieming. He takes no shortcuts and he has never visited me at home, except on official business.”

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.

Book 17
Chapter IV
子之武城,聞弦歌之聲,夫子莞爾而笑曰:「割雞焉用牛刀?」子游對曰:「昔者,偃也聞諸夫子曰:『君子學道則愛人,小人學道則易使也。』」子曰:「二三子!偃之言是也,前言戲之耳!」
Confucius went to Wucheng. When he heard the sound of stringed instruments and singing, he was amused and broke out into a smile: “Why use an ox cleaver to kill a chicken?” Ziyou replied: “Master, in the past I have heard you say: ‘A leader who has been instructed in the Way loves all people; common people who have been instructed in the Way are easy to govern.’” Confucius said: “My friends, Ziyou is right. The remarks I made a moment ago were just a joke.”

Book 19
Chapter XII
子游曰:「子夏之門人小子,當洒掃,應對,進退,則可矣。抑末也;本之則無,如之何?」子夏聞之曰:「噫!言游過矣!君子之道,孰先傳焉?孰後倦焉?譬諸草木,區以別矣。君子之道,焉可誣也?有始有卒者,其惟聖人乎!」
Ziyou said: “The disciples of Zixia are well trained for sprinkling and sweeping the floor, responding to instructions, and greeting guests. But these are only details. When it comes to the fundamentals, they are totally lost. How is this possible?” When Zixia heard this he said: “No! Ziyou is badly mistaken! When it comes to the Way of the exemplary person, who is to decide what should be taught first and what should be taught last? Disciples should be taught according to their characteristics in the same way plants and trees are sorted. How can it be the Way of the exemplary person to turn them into fools? Only a sage, however, would be able to master everything from the beginning to the end.”

Chapter XIV
子游曰:「喪致乎哀而止。」
Ziyou said: “When mourning, give full expression to your grief and then stop.”

Chapter XV
子游曰:「吾友張也,為難能也,然而未仁。」
Ziyou said: “My friend Zizhang is a man of great ability, but he has not yet achieved goodness.”

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