Ran Yong (冉雍), also known as Zhonggong (冉仲弓), was born in 522 BC and came from the same clan as his fellow disciples Ran Geng (冉耕) and Ran Qiu (冉求).
Although he was said to have come from a bad 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 regent of the state of Lu, recognized the abilities of Ran Yong, too, appointing him to the post of counselor (宰/zai) – though unlike his clansman Ran Qiu, he doesn’t seem to have aroused the ire of Confucius for taking up this position.
Someone said: “Ran Yong is good but not eloquent.” Confucius said: “What use is eloquence? A smooth tongue creates many enemies. I do not know whether Ran Yong is good; but he definitely has no need for eloquence.”
Confucius said: “Ran Yong could be given a seat facing south.”
Ran Yong asked about Zisang Bozi. Confucius said: “He has a simple approach. That makes him acceptable.” Ran Yong said: “Taking a sophisticated approach to your duties while implementing simple measures: is this not the right spirit in which to govern the people? But taking a simple approach to your duties while implementing simple measures: isn’t this going too far?” Confucius said: “That is correct.”
Confucius said of Ran Yong: “If the calf of a plough ox sports a sorrel coat and fine horns would the spirits of the hills and rivers reject it, even if men felt it was not good enough to be used for sacrifice?”
Virtuous conduct: Yan Hui, Min Ziqian, Ran Boniu, Ran Yong. Eloquent speech: Zai Yu, Zigong. Government and administration: Ran Qiu, Zilu. Cultural accomplishments: Ziyou, Zixia.
Ran Yong asked about goodness. Confucius said: “When you are away from home, act towards everyone as if you are meeting an important guest. Manage people as if you are conducting a great sacrifice. Do not do to others what you would not 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, with your blessing I will strive to follow 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 will not be passed over.”