The myth of Confucius as a superman begins

Chen Ziqin said to Zigong: “Sir, you are just being polite; how could Confucius be considered to be your superior?” Zigong said: “A leader can reveal his wisdom with a single phrase, and can betray his ignorance with a single phrase. That is why he must be careful about what he says. The Master’s achievements cannot be equaled, just as there are no steps that you can climb to reach the sky. If the Master been entrusted with running a country or a family estate, he would have lived up to the old adage: ‘If he helps them to stand they will stand up; if he leads them they will march; if he gives them peace they will flock to him; if he mobilizes them to work they will follow his call. In life, he is glorified; in death, he will be mourned.’ How can his achievements ever be equaled?”

There is little doubt that the final two chapters of Book 19 were added to the Analects at a late stage with the specific aim of creating a myth around Confucius as a superman rather than a mere mortal.

In Chapter XXV, for example, Zigong allegedly promotes the idea that if only Confucius had achieved high political office, he would have restored the golden age that supposedly existed when the Zhou Dynasty was at its peak and brought peace and prosperity back to the country. The language he uses, however, is far too hyperbolic to be convincing. Surely we are not meant to believe that, “the Master’s achievements cannot be equaled, just as there are no steps that you can climb to reach the sky.”

This is the final appearance of Zigong in the Analects. It’s the last one for Chen Ziqin, too, who featured in Chapter X of Book 1 as well as (probably) Chapter XIII of Book 16.

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