Material comforts

子曰:「士而懷居,不足以為士矣!」
Confucius said: “A scholar-official who cherishes his material comforts is not worthy of the name.”

Confucius would be appalled by the consumerist excesses of modern day society – though no doubt they were just as prevalent in his own times, particularly among the ruling classes that he courted in his fruitless quest for a high-level official position. I wonder what the Classical Chinese term is for “Black Friday”.

Confucius wasn’t a fully paid-up member of the hair-shirt brigade, but his needs were said to be relatively modest compared to many of his (wealthier) contemporaries. He even suffered great poverty during his years spent in exile.

Many people translate 士 (shì) here as “scholar”, but since scholars were meant to be gentlemen and gentlemen were meant to be scholars in traditional Chinese society the difference is only semantic.

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