Ran Boniu (冉百牛), also known as Ran Geng (冉耕), was a native of the state of Lu like Confucius and was born about seven years after him in 554 BC. Boniu, whose name literally meant “elder ox”, was also the father of another of Confucius’s disciples Ran Yong (冉雍), also known as Zhonggong (冉仲弓).
When Confucius was given a position as a senior magistrate (大司寇) in Lu, he appointed Boniu 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 Boniu for his kindness and virtuous conduct. He was grief-stricken when he died from an unknown contagious disease, bitterly lamenting in Chapter X 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 enquire 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!”
Virtuous conduct: Yan Hui, Min Ziqian, Ran Boniu, Ran Yong. Eloquent speech: Zai Yu, Zigong. Government and administration: Ran Qiu, Zilu. Cultural accomplishments: Ziyou, Zixia.