Min Ziqian (閔子騫), also known by the formal name of Min Sun (閔損), was another of Confucius’s compatriots from the state of Lu and widely renowned as a model of filial devotion.
After the untimely death of his own mother, he suffered terrible abuse from his father’s second wife, almost dying of cold on one occasion after she had lined his clothes with reed catkins instead of the warm cotton she used for the garments of her own two sons.
When Ziqian nearly caused an accident while driving an oxcart because his hands were frozen stiff from the cold, his father tore his son’s jacket open while whipping him for his carelessness and sent the catkins flying out of it. He was so angry at his wife’s ill-treatment of his son that he threatened to throw her out of the house. But Min Ziqian interceded on her behalf, telling him that if he did that three of his sons would suffer while if she stayed on only one would go cold. Not surprisingly perhaps, Ziqian’s stepmother and stepbrothers were so touched by his kindness that they never treated him badly afterwards.
No doubt influenced by Confucius, Min Ziqian became a philosopher himself, espousing a conservative creed focused on restoring old traditions rather than implementing new reforms. Like Confucius, he was highly critical of Ji Kangzi (季康子), the regent of the state of Lu, and yearned for a return to the no-doubt mythical golden age under the Duke of Zhou.
Appearances in the Analects of Confucius
When the head of the Ji Family sent an invitation to Min Ziqian to become governor of the town of Bi, he replied to the messenger: “Please convey my regrets. If anyone comes with a second invitation, I will be obliged to go and live on the other side of the River Wen.”
Virtue: Yan Hui, Min Ziqian, Ran Geng, Ran Yong. Eloquence: Zai Yu, Zigong. Administration: Ran Qiu, Zilu. Letters: Ziyou, Zixia.
Confucius said: “Min Ziqian is a model of filial devotion! Nobody doubts the praise given to him by his parents and brothers.”
When at Confucius’s side, Min Ziqian was straightforward but respectful; Zilu was bold and intense; Ran Qiu and Zigong were frank but amiable. Confucius was happy but said: “A man like Zilu won’t die a natural death.”
The leadership of Lu was planning to demolish the Long Treasury and rebuild it. Min Ziqian said: “Why not just repair the old structure? Why build a new one?” Confucius said: “This man rarely speaks, but when he does he hits the mark.”