Acting dumb

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子曰:「甯武子,邦有道則知,邦無道則愚。其知可及也,其愚不可及也。」
Confucius said: “When the Way prevailed in his state, Ning Wuzi acted wise. When his state lost the Way, Ning Wuzi acted dumb. Others may match his wisdom but not his dumbness.”

Ning Wuzi was a minister of Duke Cheng of Wei during the seventh century BC, and kept his head down after his ruler was overthrown by acting dumb while secretly engineering his return to power.

Confucius is paying Ning a backhanded-compliment for his loyalty and ingenuity. He might even be making a joke about Ning’s play-acting skills.

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