Disciples of Confucius: Yuan Xian

Yuan Xian (原憲) was also known by the courtesy name of Zisi (子思) and the name of Yuan Si (原思). Born in either in the state of Song (宋) or state of Lu (魯) in around 586 BC, he was over thirty years younger than Confucius and was noted for the excessive, some might say ostentatious, zeal with which pursuing a path of fastidious purity. Even Confucius was moved to criticize him for going too far, telling him that he shouldn’t decline the salary he was offered for an official position in Chapter V of Book 6.

After the death of Confucius, Yuan Xian lived in obscurity in the state of Wei (魏). Book 14 of the Analects is traditionally attributed to his disciples.  He is also identified as the character Lao (牢) in Chapter VII of Book 9.

Appearances in the Analects of Confucius
Book 6, Chapter V
Book 9, Chapter VII
Book 14, Chapter I

Book 6
Chapter V
原思為之宰,與之粟九百,辭。子曰:「毋!以與爾鄰里鄉黨乎!」
When Yuan Xian was made an official, he was offered a salary of nine hundred measures of grain but declined it. Confucius said: “Please don’t! Surely you can give it to your neighbors and the people in your village.”

Book 9
Chapter 7
牢曰:「子云:『吾不試,故藝。』
Lao stated: “Confucius said: ‘Since I was never tested in high public office I became skilled in the arts.’”

Book 14
Chapter I
憲問恥。子曰:「邦有道穀,邦無道穀,恥也。」「克伐怨欲,不行焉,可以為仁矣。」子曰:「可以為難矣,仁則吾不知也。」
Yuan Xian asked about shame. Confucius said: “Caring only about your official salary no matter whether good or bad government prevails in the state. That is shameful.” “If you can overcome aggressiveness, arrogance, bitterness, and greed can you be said to have achieved true goodness?” Confucius said: “You can be said to have achieved something difficult; but I don’t know whether it is true goodness.”

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