Chapter I of Book 16 is one of the longest passages in the Analects and is written a narrative style that is very different from the short pithy anecdotes and aphorisms that comprise most of the rest of the tome. Continue reading Justifying the unjustifiable
Zilu asked how to define a “complete man”. Confucius said: “Take a man as wise as Zang Wuzhong, as abstemious as Gongchuo, as brave as Zhuangzi of Bian, and as proficient in the arts as Ran Qiu, as well as being accomplished in the rites and music, and he may be considered a complete man.” Then he added: “But must a complete man be exactly like this today? Someone who thinks of what is right at the sight of profit, who is ready to risk their life when faced with danger, and who can endure hardship without forgetting the teachings that have guided his daily life may also be considered a complete man.”
This is the first and only time that the term “complete man” (成人/chéngrén) appears in the Analects. The moniker that Confucius usually uses to describe someone with such superhuman qualities is君子 (jūnzǐ), which I normally translate as “leader”. Continue reading A complete man
When Ran Qiu returned from court, Confucius said: “What kept you so long?” Ran Qiu replied: “Government affairs.” Confucius said: “Surely you mean private affairs. If it had been any government affairs I would have heard about them, even though I’m not in office.”
Confucius had a rather contentious relationship with his disciple Ran Qiu, who stayed on in the state of Lu after the sage went into exile in 497 BC and was subsequently appointed to a senior government position by Ji Kangzi (季康子). Continue reading Government affairs
Zilu, Zeng Dian, Ran Qiu, and Gongxi Chi were sitting with Confucius. Confucius said: “Forget for a moment that I am your elder. You often say: ‘People do not recognize our talents.’ But if you were given the opportunity, what would you wish to do?” Continue reading The softer side of Confucius?
Ji Ziran asked: “Would you say that Zilu and Ran Qiu are great ministers?” Confucius said: “I thought you were going to talk about something different, but you are just asking about Zilu and Ran Qiu. A great minister serves his lord by following the Way, and resigns if there is no possibility of doing so. As for Zilu and Ran Qiu, they might just be qualified to serve as ministers of state.” Ji Ziran said: “Do you mean that they would just follow their orders?” Confucius said: “They wouldn’t go quite so far as murdering their father or their lord.”
Although most of Confucius’s disciples not doubt followed him to learn the sage’s timeless wisdom, a not inconsiderable benefit of studying at the school of Confucius was that it opened up tremendous opportunities for lucrative job offers from assorted lords, dukes, and wealthy landowners anxious to snap up eager young talent to staff their bureaucracies and manage their financial and business affairs. Indeed, it’s not too fanciful to suggest that the Confucius brand was every bit as strong in its heyday as that of, say, Harvard Business School is today in terms of the doors it opened. Continue reading Great ministers?
Zilu asked: “If I hear of something that needs to be done, should I immediately take care of it?” Confucius said: “Your father and your elder brother are still alive. How could you take care of it immediately?” Ran Qiu said: “If I hear of something that needs to be done, should I immediately take care of it?” Confucius said: “Take care of it immediately” Gongxi Chi said: “When Zilu asked whether or not he should take care of something that he has heard needs to be done, you told him that his father and elder brother are still alive. But when Ran Qiu asked the very same question, you told him to take care of it immediately. I am confused. May I ask for an explanation?” Confucius said: “Ran Qiu holds himself back, so I push him forward; Zilu has enough energy for two, so I hold him back.”
One of the greatest crimes committed against Confucius was the establishment of the one-size-fits-all rote-learning education system in his name hundreds of years after his death. Continue reading Tailored learning
The head of the Ji Family was wealthier than the Duke of Zhou ever was, but Ran Qiu still assisted him with the collection of taxes to further increase his wealth. Confucius said: “He is no longer my disciple. You may beat the drum and attack him, my young friends.”
I don’t know if any specific incident sparked this threat of violence from Confucius, but it must have constantly galled the sage to see his disciples such as Ran Qiu and Zilu make their fortunes by working for his political nemesis Ji Kangzi while he struggled in relative poverty. So much for all the hard work he put into teaching them ethical principles! Continue reading Beat the drum!
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.”
Some succinct pen portraits that neatly crystalize the characters of four of Confucius’s closest disciples. Continue reading An unnatural death
Ran Qiu (冉求) is also known and Ziyou (子有) and Ran You (冉有). Born in 522 BC, he grew up in a poor household, which probably led to his strong interest in money and financial affairs. Indeed, he looked after Confucius’s own finances for a period of time, and when Lord Meng Wu (孟武伯) asked the sage about Ran Qiu’s qualities, Confucius praised his administrative abilities by saying: “He could be the mayor of a small city or the manager of a large estate.” Continue reading Disciples of Confucius: Ran Qiu