Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Ziwen

Ziwen (子文) was chief minister of the state of Chu (楚), taking office for the first time in 663 BCE. He was famous for his integrity and loyalty to the state, despite being dismissed from the position of chief minister on three occasions.

According to legend, Ziwen was the love child of a noble from Chu and was looked after by a tigress after he was left in a swamp after his birth. Subsequently, he was discovered by a man from another noble family who brought him up as if he was his son. Later on, he was welcomed back to his own family and made its heir.

Appearances in the Analects of Confucius
Book 5, Chapter 19

Book 5
Chapter 19
子張問曰:「令尹子文三仕為令尹,無喜色;三已之,無慍色。舊令尹之政,必以告新令尹。何如?」子曰:「忠矣。」曰:「仁矣乎?」曰:「未知,焉得仁!」「崔子弒齊君,陳文子有馬十乘,棄而違之。至於他邦,則曰,『猶吾大夫崔子也。』違之,之一邦,則又曰:『猶吾大夫崔子也。』違之。何如?」子曰:「清矣。」曰:「仁矣乎?」子曰:「未知,焉得仁?」
Zizhang asked: “Ziwen was appointed chief minister three times, but he never showed the least sign of elation. He was dismissed three times, but he never showed the least sign of disappointment. On each occasion, he briefed his successor on the status of the affairs of his office. What do you think of him?” Confucius said: “He was loyal.” Zizhang asked: “Was he a good person?” Confucius said: “I’m not sure; how can he be said to be a good person?”

“When Cuizi assassinated the ruler of the state of Qi, Chen Wenzi abandoned his large estate of ten chariots and left Qi. Having settled in another state, he said: ‘They are no better than Cuizi,’ and left. Having settled in yet another state, he said once again: ‘They are no better than Cuizi,’ and left once again. What do you think of him?” Confucius said: “He was pure.” Zizhang said: “Was he a good person?” “I’m not sure; how can he be said to be a good person?”

“When Cuizi assassinated the ruler of the state of Qi, Chen Wenzi abandoned his large estate and left Qi. Having settled in another state, he said: ‘They are no better than Cuizi,’ and left. Having settled in yet another state, he said once again: ‘They are no better than Cuizi,’ and left once again. What do you think of him?” Confucius said: “He was pure.” Zizhang said: “Was he good?” “I’m not sure; how can he be said to be good?”

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *