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!

Confucius clearly didn’t share this favorable opinion of Zang. In Chapter 8 of Book 5, he reproaches him (depending on which interpretation you find more credible) for his impertinence in usurping royal privilege by keeping tortoises in elaborate accommodation, or for adding beautiful decorations in order to inspire the spirits to give out a favorable reading when the shells of the poor beasts were smashed apart for the purpose of divination.

If that weren’t sufficient, Confucius goes on to lambast Zang in Chapter 14 of Book 15 for stealing the position a fellow minister called Liuxia Hui (柳下惠) even though he knew had great ability.

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

Book 5
Chapter XVIII
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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