A true leader


Zengzi said: “You can entrust him with the care of a teenage orphan; you can entrust him with the government of a small state; when faced with a serious crisis, he will remain steadfast in resolving it. Is he a true leader? He is a true leader, indeed.”

Zengzi is reassuring an unknown nobleman on his deathbed that he has chosen the right man to look after his son and estate after he passes away.

In the text, the orphan is described as being six-feet (六尺) tall, which would suggest that he is in at least his mid-teens. The nobleman’s estate is described as being one hundred square li (百里) in size – roughly 33 square miles – so he must have been quite lowly ranked.

Nobody seems to have any idea who the nobleman actually was. The point seems to be that a leader (君子/jūnzǐ) is able to deal appropriately with any task he is asked to carry out no matter how large or small it is.


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