Fasting, war, and disease


The issues Confucius was most concerned about: fasting; war; disease.

Although terse in tone, this chapter neatly summarizes Confucius’s concern for the welfare of the individual and society as a whole. 

Fasting refers to the dietary and other purification rites that people were required to follow in order to prepare themselves properly for important sacrificial ceremonies, such as paying respects to ancestors and mourning. These involved giving up meat and other fancy foods and eating plainly so that people could cleanse themselves physically, mentally, and spiritually for the ritual.  War and disease require little explanation, except to say that they were particularly common during the tumultuous times of the Spring and Autumn Period in which Confucius lived. War threatened the very survival of the state and hence the welfare of the people, while disease was an all-too common source of individual suffering and pain.

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