Confucius laments the death of Yan Hui


Confucius said: “If anyone can listen to me without growing weary, who else can that be other than Yan Hui?”

Confucius said of Yan Hui: “What a tragedy! I watched him progress; I never saw him stop short.”

Confucius said: “There are shoots that never come to flower, and there are flowers that never bear fruit.”

I have written before about Confucius’s affection for his protégé Yan Hui, who died at the age of only 32 and left him heartbroken.

These three passages serve to further emphasize Confucius’s grief at the loss of his favorite disciple. No doubt Confucius’s memories of Yan Hui became even more idealized as he got older.

Chapter XXI is a little tricky. The character 止 (zhǐ) literally means “stop”, which could mean either “stop to rest” or “stop short of reaching his goals”. Either interpretation is possible.

With its juxtaposition to the two previous chapters, the metaphor in Chapter XXII clearly refers to Yan Hui as the shoot that never came to flower and the flower that never bore fruit.

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