A border official at the town of Yi requested a meeting with Confucius. He said: “Whenever a gentleman has come to these parts, I have never failed to meet him.” The disciples arranged the meeting, and coming out of it the official said: “Sirs, why worry about his dismissal? The world has been without the Way for a long while. Heaven is going to use your master like the wooden clapper of a bell.”
This encounter is generally understood to have taken place when Confucius left the state of Lu for exile in in 497 BC after supporting the failed attempt by Duke Ding to raze the fortified city walls of the Three Families.
Unfortunately, the official’s confidence in Heaven was misplaced. During his fourteen years of wandering, Confucius was never able to secure an influential position with any of the rulers of the states he visited; and it took hundreds of years after his death before his teachings achieved any sort of influence.