A truly learned man

Zixia said: “A man who values virtue over beauty, who devotes all his energy to serving his father and mother, who is willing to sacrifice his life for his ruler, and who is true to his word in his dealings with his friends: even though some may say he is not learned, I will insist he is a learned man.”

The seventh chapter of Book 1 of The Analects explores the same theme as the sixth one, with Zixia, one of Confucius’s disciples, giving his own spin on the qualities that a man should possess.

To Zixia, the key to being learned is based on conducting the four main relationships with your spouse, parents, ruler, and friends in the right manner. It is how you interact with others in society that counts, rather than your knowledge of the arts and literature.

Please note that the meaning of the opening phrase 賢賢易色 is rather ambiguous to put it mildly. Given that the subsequent sections refer to how a man should behave towards his parents, ruler, and friends, I am assuming that this one refers to how he should act towards his wife.

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