Zigong is befuddled

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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.”

Kong-the-Cultured (孔文子) was the posthumous title given to Kong Yu (孔圉) a minister of the state of Wei, who was ironically known for being rather an unsavory character. No wonder Zigong is so befuddled by the news that the old rogue has been given such an honor.

He’s probably befuddled too by Confucius’s decision to emphasize the positive aspects of Kong’s character. Perhaps this was the sage’s way of telling his disciple not to speak ill of the dead.

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