Confucius laments

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伯牛有疾,子問之,自牖執其手,曰:「亡之,命矣夫!斯人也,而有斯疾也!斯人也,而有斯疾也!」
When Boniu fell ill, Confucius went to inquire after him. Holding Boniu’s hand through the window, he said: “He is dying. Such is fate, alas! That such a man should have an illness like this! That such a man should have an illness like this!”

Nobody knows the exact disease that Boniu (literally “elder ox”) was suffering from, though it must have been a contagious one to stop Confucius paying his full respects to his friend and disciple on his deathbed.

The best he can do is hold Boniu’s hand through the window or perhaps screen around his bed and lament his impending loss and powerlessness against the vagaries of fate.

Known by the given name of Ran Geng (冉耕), Boniu was a contemporary of Confucius who also hailed from Lu. Their relationship was so close in fact that when Confucius was given the position of Attorney General (大司寇) for the state, he appointed Boniu to his previous post as governor of Zhongdu (中都宰), a small city in what is now Wenshang County in Shandong province.

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