Ran Geng (冉耕), also known by the courtesy name of Boniu (百牛), was a native of the state of Lu like Confucius and was born about seven years after him in 554 BCE. He came from the same clan as two other followers of the sage, Ran Yong (冉雍) and Ran Qiu (冉求). Some sources even claim that he was Ran Yong’s father.
When Confucius was given the position of Minister of Justice (大司寇) for the state of Lu, he appointed Ran Geng to his previous post as governor of Zhongdu (中都宰), a small city in what is now Wenshang County in Shandong province.
Confucius greatly admired Ran for his kindness and virtuous conduct. He was grief-stricken when he died from an unknown contagious disease, possibly leprosy, bitterly lamenting in Chapter 10 of Book 6: “He is dying. Such is fate, alas! That such a man should have an illness like this! That such a man should have an illness like this!”
When Boniu fell ill, Confucius went to inquire after him. Holding Boniu’s hand through the window, he said: “He is dying. Such is fate, alas! That such a man should have an illness like this! That such a man should have an illness like this!”
Virtue: Yan Hui, Min Ziqian, Ran Geng, Ran Yong. Eloquence: Zai Yu, Zigong. Administration: Ran Qiu, Zilu. Letters: Ziyou, Zixia.