True to the end


Confucius was seriously ill. Zilu had the disciples act as if they were retainers of a lord. When his illness went into remission, Confucius said: “Zilu, this deception has lasted long enough. Who do I deceive with these bogus retainers? Do I deceive Heaven? Rather than die among retainers, I would prefer to die in the arms of my disciples. I may not receive a grand funeral, but I shall not die by the side of the road.”

Poor old Zilu: for all his enthusiasm and loyalty, he still doesn’t “get” Confucius’s teachings even when his master is on his deathbed. He wants to give his master face by having his disciples attend to him as if he is a feudal lord; but Confucius stays true to his principles to the end and refuses to allow this violation of the rites, preferring in any case to die in the arms of his disciples.

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