Pretentiousness and obsequiousness

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子曰:「巧言、令色、足恭,左丘明恥之,丘亦恥之。匿怨而友其人,左丘明恥之,丘亦恥之。」
Confucius said: “Smooth talk, pretentiousness, and obsequiousness: Zuoqiu Ming detested such behavior, and I detest it too. Acting friendly with a man you secretly resent: Zuoqiu Ming detested such behavior, and I detest it too.”

Tradition has it that Zuoqiu Ming was a contemporary of Confucius and the court historian for the state of Lu, who went on to write the Commentary of Zuo (左傳/zuǒzhuán) – one of the earliest Chinese narrative histories and reportedly a gem of Chinese classical prose.

Some commentators, however, dispute that claim and say that he was simply a well-known figure who lived before the sage.

Whatever his true identity, Zuoqiu Ming shared the same distaste as Confucius for the unctuousness they witnessed from the self-proclaimed great and good wheeling and dealing for advancement and favors at court.

Confucius regularly makes his contempt for smarmy social climbers known throughout the Analects, starting with Chapter III of Book 1:

子曰:「巧言、令色,鮮矣仁!」
Confucius said: “Clever talk and an affected manner are seldom signs of goodness.”

Other references can be found in Chapter III of Book 12, and Chapter IV of Book 16.

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