Analect Diaries: what’s in a name?

Recognizing the names of people in the Analects can be quite tricky given that various compilers of the tome didn’t strive to achieve any consistency in the text.

Youzi, for example, is an honorific title bestowed by his disciples and means “Master You”. His given name (ie the one he was given at birth) was Zi Ruo (子若), though this isn’t used in the Analects, while his so-called courtesy name of You Ruo (有若) is featured in Chapter IX of Book 12. This was given to him when he reached adulthood and it was the name his peers would have used to address him.

Like the editors of the Analects, I don’t have any hard and fast rules on which name to use for each person in the Analects. However, once I have settled on one I stick to it throughout the translation no matter which version is used in the particular chapter of the text.

Confucius is generally called Zi (子), which literally means “The Master” in the Analects. For reasons of simplicity I translate this as Confucius, which is the Romanized version of his honorific title Kongfuzi (孔夫子) and literally means “Master Kong”. His given name was Kong Qiu (孔丘) while his courtesy name was Zhongni (仲尼).

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