Wangsun Jia (王孫賈) was a noted general and the chief minister of Duke Ling of Wei, the ruler of one of the states that Confucius visited in his fruitless quest for employment during his exile from his home state of Lu. No doubt feeling threatened by the arrival of the sage in in 496 BCE, he obliquely warned Confucius to go through him rather than directly to his ruler by quoting an old proverb about praying to the kitchen god. Despite his opposition to the sage, Confucius applauds him in 14.19 for the role he played along with his two fellow ministers Zhu Tuo and Kong Wenzi in keeping the state of Wei functioning under the capricious rule of the duke and his consort Nanzi.
Appearances in the Analects of Confucius
Book 3, Chapter 13
Book 14, Chapter 19
Wangsun Jia asked: “What does this saying mean: ‘Better pray to the kitchen god rather than the household gods’?” Confucius said: “This is nonsense. If you sin against heaven, you have no god you can pray to.”
Confucius said that Duke Ling of Wei didn’t follow the way. Ji Kangzi said: “If this is the case, how come he hasn’t lost his state?” Confucius said: “He has Kong Wenzi looking after guests and foreign delegations, Zhu Tuo taking care of the ancestral temple, and Wangsun Jia in charge of defense. With such officials as these, how could he possibly lose his state?”