Leadership lessons from Confucius: welcoming the new moon

new moon

Zigong wished to do away with the sacrifice of a live sheep for the ceremony welcoming the new moon. Confucius said: “You love the sheep; I love ritual.” (1)

How to react when someone opposes a much-needed change? Do you back down or do you find other ways of making sure it’s implemented? Unfortunately, this passage doesn’t tell us whether Zigong caved in to Confucius or continued to fight his corner. I hope he took the former tack – but given Zigong’s devotion to the sage I suspect he adopted the latter one.


This article features a translation of Chapter 17 of Book 3 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 3 here.

(1) According to a long-held Zhou dynasty tradition, the ruler of a state would hold a ceremony to mark the arrival of each lunar month which included the sacrifice of a live sheep. Even though the practice had declined in popularity by Confucius’s times, he naturally argued against making any changes to it that would, in his eyes at least, reduce the meaning of it.

I took this image at the Confucius Temple on Nishan (尼山) – the hill on which, according to popular belief, Confucius was born and possibly even conceived. You can read more about Nishan here.

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