An unnatural death

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.”

Some succinct pen portraits that neatly crystalize the characters of four of Confucius’s closest disciples.

Confucius had a tempestuous relationship with the brave but reckless Zilu because of his close links with his political enemy, Ji Kangzi, the powerful regent of his home state of Lu. Although he was probably only joking when he said “a man like Zilu will not die a natural death”, his words turned out to be prophetic for Zilu was killed in a coup d’état in the state of Wei in 480 BCE when attempting to rescue his sponsor after ignoring advice from others not to intervene.

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