Zijian (子賤), also known by his courtesy name of Fu Buji (宓不齊), was born in 521 BCE in the state of Lu and was 49 years younger than Confucius.
After studying under the sage, he served as the chief magistrate (宰/zǎi) of Danfu (單父) in modern-day Shandong province and achieved such a good reputation that Confucius describes him as a true leader in Chapter 3 of Book 5 of the Analects.
Zijian was renowned for taking a relaxed hands-off approach to his duties, preferring to spend his time playing music on the qin, a seven-string zither, rather than rather than putting his nose to the bureaucratic grindstone or surrounding himself with hangers-on. When his successor Wuma Qi (巫馬期) asked Zijian how he had been so successful without having to work too hard, he is said to have replied that people who rely on strength labor hard but those who rely on other people can relax.
His leadership style provides a perfect example, in other words, of the power of effortless action (無為/wúwéi), a term that is usually much more closely identified with the teachings of Laozi than Confucius.
Appearances in the Analects of Confucius
Book 5, Chapter 3
Confucius said of Zijian: “He is a true leader! If there were indeed no leaders in the state of Lu, how would he have reached this level?”