Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Old Peng

The identity of Old Peng (老彭), who Confucius “dares” to compare himself with in Chapter 1 of Book 7 of the Analects, is the source of a great deal of controversy.

Some commentators suggest he was a high-ranking official of the Shang dynasty who was known for transmitting true historical facts without any fabrications or adornments. Confucius therefore invokes his name to show his own commitment to preserving the authenticity of ancient historical documents.

Others identify him as the legendary Daoist sage Pengzu (彭祖), also from the Shang dynasty (1556 to 1046 BCE). Pengzu is said to have lived for more than 800 years as a result of the stringent meditation, nutrition, and sexual techniques he practiced. During his extended time on earth, he is reputed to have outlived 49 wives and sired 54 sons.

Another theory goes that Old Peng may even have been Laozi (老子), the author of the classic Daoist text, the Daodejing (道德經).  Like Confucius, he was a great scholar of historical and classical texts. Take your pick!

Appearances in the Analects of Confucius

Book 7, Chapter 1

Book 7
Chapter 1
子曰:「述而不作,信而好古,竊比於我老彭。」
Confucius said: “I transmit but I don’t create. I am faithful to and love the past. In this respect, I dare to compare myself with Old Peng.”

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