Zai Yu was asleep during the day. Confucius said: “Rotten wood cannot be carved; dung walls cannot be trowelled. What’s the point of scolding him anymore?” Confucius said: “There was a time when I used to listen to what people had to say and trusted that they would act on their word, but now I have to listen to what they say and watch what they do. It’s my dealings with Zai Yu that have forced me to change.”
This is my favorite rant from Confucius: like “rotten wood” and “dung walls” the raffish Zai Yu is totally beyond redemption. He simply doesn’t have the moral fiber to become a true leader.
Still, despite his frustration with Zai Yu, Confucius did ask him to act his personal ambassador on at least couple of occasions. Perhaps there was hope for him after all.