Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Zang Wenzhong

Zang Wenzhong (藏文仲) is the courtesy name of Zang Sunchen, a high-ranking minister of the state of Lu who served four rulers during the 7th Century BCE. Zang played a critical role in the economic development of Lu and was greatly admired for his learning, wisdom, and devotion to duty by his contemporaries.

One famous story about him was that he stepped in to defend a disfigured man who was blamed for causing a severe drought in 639 BCE because he was born with his face looking into the sky all the time. According to the charges, this meant that heaven refused to let any rain fall to prevent all the water from flowing into the poor guy’s nostrils!

If that weren’t sufficient, Confucius goes on to lambast Zang in 15.14 for stealing the position of a fellow minister called Liuxia Hui (柳下惠) even though he knew had great ability.

The sage isn’t entirely complimentary about Zang Wenzhong’s grandson Zang Wuzhong (臧武仲), who appears twice in Book 14, either despite being impressed by his wisdom. In 14.14 he questions his sense of morality for the unsavory tactics he employed to force the Duke Xiang of Lu to allow his family to keep its fiefdom, the walled city of Fang, after being sent into exile.

Appearances in the Analects of Confucius
Book 5, Chapter 18
Book 15, Chapter XIV

Book 5
Chapter 18
子曰:「藏文仲居蔡,山節藻梲,何如其知也?」
Confucius said: “Zang Wenzhong kept a tortoise in a house featuring pillars patterned with mountains and posts above the rafters decorated with duckweed motifs. What does this say of his wisdom?”

Book 15
Chapter XIV
子曰:「臧文仲,其竊位者與?知柳下惠之賢而不與立也。」
Confucius said: “Zang Wenzhong stole his position! He knew that Liuxia Hui had great ability but wouldn’t share the position with him.”

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