Analects of Confucius: peripheral characters

Many peripheral characters pop up in The Analects like members of a large supporting cast for an epic movie or stage production. They are listed here in the order of their first appearance in the book.

Book 2
Meng Yizi/孟懿子

Meng Wubo/孟武伯

Duke Ai/哀公

Ji Kangzi/季康子

Book 3
Wangsun Jia/王孫賈

Book 5
Kong Wenzi/孔文子

Book 1

Meng Yizi
Meng Yizi (孟懿子) was one of two young nobles of the state of Lu who were entrusted by their father to a young Confucius for tutoring – thus enabling the sage to launch a career as a teacher. Meng is said to have subsequently risen to become head of one of the notorious Three Families that were the real power in the state of Lu. In Chapter 5 of Book 2, Confucius criticizes him obliquely for holding over-elaborate ritual ceremonies that violated the conventions of the rites.

Appearances in the Analects
Book 2, Chapter V

Book 2
Chapter V
Meng Yizi asked Confucius about filial piety. Confucius said: “Never disobey.” While Fan Chi was driving him in his chariot, Confucius told him: “Meng Yizi asked me about filial piety and I replied: ‘Never disobey.’” Fan Chi asked: “What does that mean?” Confucius replied: “When your parents are alive, serve them according to the rites. When they die, bury them according to the rites, and make sacrifices to them according to the rites.”

Meng Wubo
Meng Wubo was the son of Meng Yizi (孟懿子). He is featured in Chapter 6 of Book 2 of the Analects, in which he asks Confucius about filial piety, and Chapter 8 of Book 5 in which he asks him for his opinions on three of his disciples.

Appearances in the Analects
Book 2, Chapter VI
Book 5, Chapter VIII

Book 2
Chapter VI
Meng Wubo asked about filial piety. Confucius said: “The only time a son should make his parents worried is when he is sick.”

Book 2

Duke Ai
Duke Ai (哀公) was the hereditary ruler of the state of Lu, but had little actual power because it was concentrated in the hands of the Three Families, the Jisun (季孫), Mengsun (孟孙), and Shusun (叔孫). During the course of his reign (495 to 465 BC), the Duke attempted to restore the primacy of his family, but was forced to flee from Lu towards the end of it, ending up in the state of Yue (越). Soon after arriving there he went back to Lu, but never returned to the court and lived out his finals days at the home of a family called Shan (山).

Appearances in the Analects
Book 2, Chapter XIX

Book 2
Chapter XIX
Duke Ai asked: “What should I do to win the support of the people?” Confucius replied: “Promote the ethical and place them above the unethical, and the people will support you. Promote the unethical and place them above the ethical, and the people will not support you.”

Ji Kangzi
Ji Kangzi (季康子) is the posthumous title given to Jisun Fei (季孫肥), the chief minister of Lu between 491 and 468 BC and head of the Ji (季) clan, one of the notorious Three Families that ran the state. Although Confucius criticized him heavily for disrespecting the rites and introducing a field tax, Ji Kangzi invited the sage to return to Lu from his long exile at the request of his counselor Ran Qiu.

Appearances in the Analects
Book 2, Chapter XX
Book 3, Chapter I

Book 2
Chapter XX
Ji Kangzi asked: “What should I do to make the people respectful, loyal, and eager to follow me? Confucius said: “Treat them with dignity, and they will be respectful. Show you are a good son and a loving father, and they will be loyal. Promote the good and teach those who lack ability, and they will be eager to follow you.”

Book 3
Chapter I
When he heard that the head of the Ji Family used eight rows of dancers to perform in the ceremonies at his ancestral temple, Confucius commented: “If he is capable of that, what isn’t he capable of?”

Book 3

Wangsun Jia
Wangsun Jia (王孫賈) was the chief minister of Duke Ling of Wei, the ruler of one of the states that Confucius visited in his fruitless quest for engagement as an advisor. No doubt feeling threatened by the arrival of the sage, he obliquely warned Confucius to go through him rather than directly to his ruler by quoting an old proverb.

Appearances in the Analects
Book 3, Chapter XIII

Book 3
Chapter XIII
Wangsun Jia asked: “What does this saying mean: ‘Better pray to the kitchen god rather than the house god.’?” Confucius said: “This is nonsense. If you sin against Heaven, you have no god you can pray to.”

Book 5

Kong Wenzi
Kong Wenzi (孔文子) was the posthumous title given to Kong Yu (孔圉) a minister of the state of Wei who died in around 480 BC. It literally means Kong-the-Civilized, which was rather ironic given that Kong was said to be rather an unsavory character notorious for his disloyalty and dissoluteness. No wonder Zigong was so befuddled by the news that the old rogue has been given such an honor in his one and only appearance in the Analects!

Appearances in the Analects
Book 5, Chapter XV

Book 5
Chapter XV
Zigong asked: “Why was “Kong-the-Civilized” called civilized?” Confucius said: “He had an active mind, was fond of learning, and was not ashamed to listen and learn from his inferiors: that is why he was given the name.”

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