Zichan (子產) was the courtesy name of Gongsun Qiao (公孫僑), who was renowned for the brilliance of his leadership as the chief minister of the state of Zheng (鄭) from ca. 544 BC until his death in ca. 521 BC.

As chief minister, Zichan managed to expand the territory of Zheng even though it was bordered by the much larger and more powerful states of Chu (楚) and Jin (晉). At the same time, he was successful in carrying out a series of legal, political, economic, and social reforms that strengthened the state and solidified the rule of law.

Confucius was a great admirer of Zichan, and is said to have wept when he heard of his death. However, particularly when it came to the law, their philosophies were quite different, with Zichan favoring a much harsher approach than Confucius. Indeed, some historians regard him as an early proponent of what would be later called the Legalist school (法家) of thought which was later adopted as the foundation of the repressive Qin dynasty (秦朝) established by the autocratic Qin Shi Huang (秦始皇) in 221 BC.

Appearances in the Analects of Confucius
Book 5, Chapter XVI

Book 5
Chapter XVI
Confucius said of Zichan: “He had four essential qualities of a leader: in his private conduct he was courteous; in serving his superiors he was respectful; in caring for the people he was generous; in employing the people for public service he was just.”


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