Although Ran was said to have come from a difficult family background, Confucius didn’t let that count against him, employing him as his personal representative to rulers of various states. Confucius didn’t mind about his poor oratorical skills, either, asking “What use is eloquence? A smooth tongue creates many enemies.”
Ji Kangzi (季康子), the chief minister of the state of Lu, recognized the abilities of Ran Yong, too, and appointed him as the governor of one of his fiefs – though unlike his clansman Ran Qiu, he doesn’t seem to have aroused the ire of Confucius for taking up this position. In any case, Ran soon became disillusioned with the corruption of the Ji Family and resigned his post.
Appearances in the Analects of Confucius
Someone said: “Ran Yong is good but not eloquent.” Confucius said: “What use is eloquence? A smooth tongue creates many enemies. I don’t know whether Ran Yong is good; but he definitely has no need for eloquence.”
Confucius said: “Ran Yong could take a seat facing south.”
Ran Yong asked about Zisang Bozi. Confucius said: “His simple approach is fine.” Ran Yong said: “Taking your duties seriously while adopting a simple approach towards the people might be OK. But taking a simple approach towards your duties and your own conduct is going too far. Am I right?” Confucius said: “You are right.”
Confucius said of Ran Yong: “Some might hesitate to choose the offspring of a plow ox for a sacrifice, but if a bullock has fine horns and sports a ruddy coat would the spirits of the hills and rivers reject it?”
Virtue: Yan Hui, Min Ziqian, Ran Geng, Ran Yong. Eloquence: Zai Yu, Zigong. Administration: Ran Qiu, Zilu. Letters: Ziyou, Zixia.
Ran Yong asked about goodness. Confucius said: “When you’re away from home, act towards everyone as if you’re meeting an important guest. Manage people as if you’re conducting a great sacrifice. Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want done to yourself. Allow no resentment to enter your public affairs; allow no resentment to enter your family affairs.” Ran Yong said: “Although I may not be quick to understand it, allow me to live up to your guidance.”
When Ran Yong was serving as a steward of the Ji Family, he asked about governance. Confucius said: “First appoint your senior officials. Forgive small mistakes. Promote people of talent.” Ran Yong asked: “How do I recognize that someone has talent and deserves to be promoted?” Confucius said: “Promote those you know. Those you don’t know won’t be passed over.”