Disciples of Confucius: Gongye Chang

Gongye Chang (公冶長), also known as Zichang (子長), Zizhi (子之), or Gongye Zhi (公冶芝), was born either in the state of Lu or the state of Qi. Despite having been imprisoned as a criminal, Confucius believed he was innocent and gave his daughter to him in marriage.

Nothing else is known about him, unless you count some fantastical tales of his amazing supernatural abilities based on his ability to understand the language of birds and other animals. Continue reading Disciples of Confucius: Gongye Chang

Lead by example

Zilu asked about governance. Confucius said: “Lead the people by example. Work hard for them.” Zilu asked him for further instruction. Confucius said: “Tirelessly.”

Like Book 12, Book 13 of the Analects mainly covers the subject of governance. One of its key themes is leadership by example – though judging by the frequency with which Confucius raises the subject this quality must have been as rare among the political classes of his times as it is among our own today.

Friendship advice

Zigong asked about friends. Confucius said: “Advise them loyally and guide them tactfully. If that fails, stop: do not expose yourself to humiliation.”

Zengzi said: “A leader attracts friends through his cultural refinement, and looks to his friends for support in nurturing his goodness.”

Book 12 of the Analects finishes with some advice on friendship from Confucius and his disciple Zengzi.

The key is to provide each other with mutual guidance and support in the pursuit of goodness without risking “humiliation” and, as Ziyou warned in Chapter XXVI of Book 4, “estrangement”, by going too far.

Both Confucius and Zengzi were, of course, talking about the “right” sort of friends who shared the same values and commitment to cultivating their virtue. Who know friendship could be so serious?

Goodness and wisdom

Fan Chi asked about goodness. Confucius said: “Love all people.” He then asked about wisdom. Confucius said: “Know all people.” Fan Chi didn’t understand. Confucius said: “Raise the straight and place them above the crooked, so that they can straighten the crooked.” Fan Chi left. When he met Zixia he asked: “A short while ago when I saw Confucius I asked him about wisdom. He said: ‘Raise the straight and place them above the crooked, so that they may straighten the crooked.’ What does this mean?” Zixia said: “These are rich words indeed! When Shun ruled the world and was choosing from among the masses, he selected Gaoyao and those without goodness disappeared. When Tang ruled the world and was choosing from among the masses, he selected Yi Yin and those without goodness disappeared.”

This passage features a reprise of Book 2, Chapter XIX: if the ethical are put in positions of power then the unethical surely will follow their example. Continue reading Goodness and wisdom

Virtue, evil, and confusion

Fan Chi was strolling with Confucius around the Rain Dance Terrace. He said: “May I ask how you can accumulate virtue, correct evil thoughts, and recognize confusion?” Confucius said: “An excellent question! To always put service before reward: isn’t this the way to accumulate virtue? To attack the evil in yourself rather than the evil in other people: isn’t this the way to correct evil thoughts? To forget yourself in a moment of anger and bring ruin upon yourself and your family: isn’t this is a case of confusion?”

Fan Chi’s question is similar to the one that Zizhang posed to Confucius in Chapter XII of Book 10 about the phrase “accumulate virtue, recognize confusion” (崇德,辨惑。). Continue reading Virtue, evil, and confusion