Older and younger brothers

子曰:「魯衛之政,兄弟也。」
Confucius said: “The governments of the states of Lu and Wei are like older and younger brothers.”

Even though Confucius’s home state of Lu (魯) was quite weak compared to the surrounding feudal states such as Qi (齊), Chu (楚), and Wei (衛), it did exercise a certain level of what we would today call “soft power” over them as a result of having been granted to the legendary Duke of Zhou and his descendants as a fiefdom and hence becoming the bastion of traditional Zhou culture.

Wei was given to one of the duke’s younger siblings and his descendants – hence Confucius’s description of the governments of the two states as being “like older and younger brothers.”

Given that Wei was much larger and more powerful than Lu, the relationship between the two states may be likened to the one that exists between the US and the UK. While the older brother may have had the stronger culture heritage, the younger one went on to outshine him.

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