Purple praise


Yan Hui said with a heavy sigh: “The more I contemplate it, the higher it seems; the deeper I probe it, the harder it becomes; when I catch a glimpse of it in front of me, it is suddenly behind me. Our master knows how to lure people skillfully and methodically. He broadens my mind with literature and culture and restrains me with the rites. Even if I wanted to stop, I could not. Just as all my talents are exhausted, there seems to be something new towering above me. But although I long to follow it, I cannot find it.”

Confucius’s favorite disciple Yan Hui is being a tad, shall we say, sycophantic with his praise of the sage here.

Or perhaps, given that Yan Hui wasn’t normally given to such loquaciousness, he didn’t actually say these words at all and they were “reimagined” by an over-enthusiastic contributor or editor eager to burnish the sage’s reputation.

Whatever its origin, the purple prose in this passage seems more fitted to a Harlequin Romance than the Analects.

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