Disciples of Confucius: Min Ziqian

Min Ziqian (閔子騫), also known by the formal name of Min Sun (閔損), was another of Confucius’s compatriots from the state of Lu and one of his favorite disciples.

Min Ziqian lived from 523-487 BC, and was renowned for the filial piety he was said to have shown during his miserable childhood. After the untimely death of his own mother, he suffered terrible abuse from his father’s second wife, almost dying of cold on one occasion after she had lined his clothes with weeds rather than warm cotton. But when his father threatened to throw his step-mother out of the house, Min Ziqian interceded on her behalf, telling him that if he did that three of his sons would suffer while if she stayed on only one would go cold. The stepmother was so touched by his kindness that she never treated him badly afterwards.

No doubt influenced by Confucius, Min Ziqian became a philosopher himself, espousing a conservative creed focused on restoring old traditions rather than implementing new reforms. Like Confucius, he was highly critical of the of Ji Kangzi (季康子) the regent of the state of Lu, and yearned for a return to the no-doubt mythical golden age under the Duke of Zhou.

Appearances in the Analects of Confucius
Book 6, Chapter IX
Book 11, Chapter III
Book 11, Chapter V
Book 11, Chapter XIII
Book 11, Chapter XIV

Book 6
Chapter IX
季氏使閔子騫為費宰。閔子騫曰:「善為我辭焉!如有復我者,則吾必在汶上矣。」
When the head of the Ji Family sent an invitation to Min Ziqian to become governor of the town of Bi, he replied to the messenger: “Please convey my regrets. If anyone comes with a second invitation, I will be obliged to go and live on the other side of the River Wen.”

Book 11
Chapter III
德行:顏淵、閔子騫、冉伯牛、仲弓;言語:宰我、子貢;政事:冉有、季路;文學:子游、子夏。
Virtuous conduct: Yan Hui, Min Ziqian, Ran Boniu, Ran Yong. Eloquent speech: Zai Yu, Zigong. Government and administration: Ran Qiu, Zilu. Cultural accomplishments: Ziyou, Zixia.

Chapter V
子曰:「孝哉閔子騫,人不間於其父母昆弟之言。」
Confucius said: “Min Ziqian is such a filial son! Nobody differs from his parents and brothers in their praise of him.”

Chapter XIII
閔子侍側,誾誾如也;子路,行行如也;冉有、子貢,侃侃如也。子樂。若由也,不得其死然。
When at Confucius’s side, Min Ziqian looked respectful; Zilu looked feisty; Ran Qiu and Zigong looked relaxed. Confucius joked. “A man like Zilu will not die a natural death.”

Chapter XIV
魯人為長府。閔子騫曰:「仍舊貫,如之何?何必改作!」子曰:「夫人不言,言必有中。」
Certain people in Lu were planning to demolish the Long Treasury and rebuild it. Min Ziqian said: “Why not just repair the old structure? Why build a new one?” Confucius said: “This man rarely speaks, but when he does he hits the mark.”

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