Analects Book 1: on loyalty

Loyalty

Loyalty (忠/zhōng) is one of what some commentators classify as the secondary virtues and is often mentioned together with trustworthiness (信/xìn). The first instance of this pairing can be found in Chapter VIII of Book 1 in which Confucius advised that a leader (君子) should, “Hold loyalty and trustworthiness as your highest principles.”

Confucius saw loyalty as one of the guiding principles for governing relationships with friends and other associates from outside the family unit. This interpretation is reflected by his disciple Zengzi in Chapter IV when he says that one of the questions he asks when he examines himself three times every day is: “Have I been true to other people’s interests when acting on their behalf?”

The term 忠 (zhōng) can also be translated as “faithfulness” or “being true to someone.” Filial piety (孝/xiào) would be the equivalent guiding principle for governing a person’s relations with other family members, though of course it embodies a much stronger sense of hierarchy than loyalty does.

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