Lifelong learning

子夏曰:「仕而優則學,學而優則仕。」
Zixia said: “When an official has time to spare from his duties, he should study. When a student has time to spare from his studies, he should undertake official duties.”

The meaning of this passage isn’t entirely clear. The key message appears to be that learning and officialdom are inextricably linked. To be a truly excellent official, you need to continue learning. To be a truly excellent student, you need to serve as an official in order to practice the principles you have learned.

These are the final words from Zixia in the Analects. Despite or because of his austere teaching methods he founded a successful school in the state of Wei after Confucius’s death and became an important promulgator of the sage’s teachings. Reportedly he lived to a ripe old age, serving at the court of Prince Wan of Wei in 406 BC at the ripe old age of ninety-nine.

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