The right sort of people

LFG11

子游為武城宰。子曰:「女得人焉爾乎?」曰:「有澹臺滅明者,行不由徑,非公事,未嘗至於偃之室也。」
When Ziyou became governor of Wucheng, Confucius asked him: “Have you managed to get hold of the right sort of people there?” He replied: “There is one called Tantai Mieming. He takes no shortcuts and he has never visited me at home, except on official business.”

No matter how talented you are as an individual you need to be supported by a strong team of the right sort of people if you are to be successful. This is the advice that Confucius gives to his disciple Ziyou when he assumes the position of governor of Wucheng, a city in the southern part of the state of Lu.

There is some controversy over the exact identity of Tantai Mieming. According to the Records of the Historian (not always the most reliable source), he was so ugly that the first time Confucius met him he mistook him for being stupid. It was only later that the sage realized his error and grew to appreciate him for his exemplary moral conduct.

Tantai Mieming, also known by the courtesy name of Ziyu (子羽), obviously forgave him for he went on to become an important disciple of Confucius and established his own school to promote the teachings of the sage.

Intriguingly, some scholars speculate that Tantai Mieming was an alternative name for the disciple Zengzi, who also hailed from Wucheng. Whatever the truth surrounding Tantai Mieming, Ziyou did a pretty good job as governor of the city, earning a backhanded compliment from Confucius himself in Chapter IV of Book 17 for the way in which he was educating the common people. Perhaps this was because he took the sage’s advice to heart and surrounded himself with a team of able and upright officials.

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