Homonyms and bandits

Ji Kangzi asked Confucius about governance. Confucius replied: “To govern is to be correct. If you show yourself to be correct, who would dare not to be correct?”

Ji Kangzi was troubled by bandits in the state of Lu and asked Confucius how to sort out the problem. Confucius replied: “If you were not avaricious yourself they wouldn’t rob you even if you paid them to.”

Leadership by example: Confucius returns to the subject time and time again in the Analects. What a pity that none of the worthies that he pitched the concept to never bothered to take it seriously.

In Chapter XVII of Book 12, Confucius tries to emphasize his message with a somewhat labored pun based around the characters 政 (governance/zhèng) and 正 (zhèng). In addition to being homonyms, they both contain the same element (正) and are closely related in meaning.

In Chapter XVIII, Confucius is at his pugilistic best with his scalding rejoinder to Ji Jangzi’s question about how to deal with local bandits. Given that Ji was such a powerful figure in Confucius’s home state of Lu, it’s a wonder that the sage was able to keep his head attached to his shoulders after challenging him like this.

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