An awkward situation

齊景公待孔子曰:「若季氏則吾不能,以季、孟之間待之。」曰:「吾老矣。不能用也。」孔子行。
Duke Jing of Qi was preparing to receive Confucius and said: “I cannot accord him the same level treatment as the Ji family receives. I shall treat him at a level between the Ji family and the Meng family.” Then he said: “I am too old. I cannot employ him.” Confucius left.

Talk about an awkward situation! Although it would have been impolite of Duke Jing to directly refuse to meet with Confucius, he couldn’t risk upsetting the powerful Ji family from the neighboring state of Lu by according him the same level of welcome. He therefore places Confucius in a rank below them and adds insult to injury by saying that he is too old to employ the sage in any case.

Confucius thus has no choice but to leave without meeting the duke. The question is why he bothered to visit him in the first place.

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