Government affairs

冉子退朝,子曰:「何晏也?」對曰:「有政。」子曰:「其事也!如有政,雖不吾以,吾其與聞之!」
When Ran Qiu returned from court, Confucius said: “What kept you so long?” Ran Qiu replied: “Government affairs.” Confucius said: “Surely you mean private affairs. If it had been any government affairs I would have heard about them, even though I’m not in office.”

Confucius had a rather contentious relationship with his disciple Ran Qiu, who stayed on in the state of Lu after the sage went into exile in 497 BC and was subsequently appointed to a senior government position by  Ji Kangzi (季康子).

In this capacity, Ran Qiu helped revive the local economy and by a no-doubt fortunate coincidence also managed to make a huge amount of money for his boss and himself in the process.

Even though Ran Qiu leveraged his relationship with Ji Kangzi to secure an invitation for Confucius to return to the state of Lu in 484 BC, the sage never truly forgave him for working for a man he regarded as having usurped power illegitimately. Hence Confucius’s pointed questioning whether Ran Qiu was discussing government or private affairs at court.

The true answer of course was probably that, like many a politician before and after him, he was discussing both.

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