A convoluted metaphor

叔孫武叔毀仲尼。子貢曰:「無以為也!仲尼不可毀也。他人之賢者,丘陵也,猶可踰也。仲尼,日月也,無得而踰焉。人雖欲自絕,其何傷於日月乎?多見其不知自量也!」
Shusun Wushu vilified Confucius. Zigong said: “It doesn’t matter. Confucius cannot be vilified. The worthiness of other people is like a hill that you can climb over; but Confucius is like the sun or the moon, which are impossible to climb over. Even if someone wished to cut himself off from their light, how would this harm the sun and the moon? At most, it would show that he had no sense of his own value.”

Zigong certainly shows himself to be the master of the convoluted metaphor in his defense of Confucius. I suppose it’s no coincidence that his passionate paeans of praise for the sage come very close to the end of the Analects.

It would be interesting to know why exactly Shusun Wushu had it in so much for Confucius, but unfortunately there are no records of this. It’s worth remembering that Confucius was by no means universally admired during his lifetime. His canonization as a great philosopher didn’t really start until a few hundred years after his death with the arrival of the Han Dynasty in the second century BC.

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