Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Duke Chu of Wei

Duke Chu of Wei (衛出公) only became the ruler of the state because his father, the former crown prince Ji Kuaikui (姬蒯瞶), had been forced to flee the state after failing in an attempt to kill Nanzi (南子), the notorious consort of his father, Duke Ling (衛靈公), in 499 BCE.

After assuming the throne when Duke Ling died in 492 BCE, Duke Chu refused to allow his father to go back to Wei to pay his respects to the deceased Duke Ling, no doubt out of concerns that his legitimacy would be challenged. Not surprisingly, Kuaikui was less than delighted at this state of affairs and spent over a decade plotting a triumphant return to his homeland.

In 480 BC, Kuaikui saw his opportunity when he found out that Hun Liangfu (渾良夫), a bondservant of Kong Wenzi (孔文子), a deceased noble, was having an affair with Kong’s widow, Boji (伯姬).

Boji was also Kuaikui’s eldest sister, and he promised to pardon Hun and make him a high official if he would help him gain power. After succeeding in entering the capital of Wei, Kuaikui hid in the garden of his sister’s mansion while she persuaded her son, Kong Kui (孔悝), to join her in an alliance with her brother to overthrow his son. When Duke Chu heard about the plot he made his escape to the state of Lu, while Kong Kui proclaimed Kuaikui as Duke Zhuang of Wei (衛莊公).

For all his scheming, Kuaikui only managed to stay in power for a couple of years, before being sent into exile once again in 478 BCE.

Duke Chu’s personal name was Ji Zhe (姬輒). In the Analects, he is simply referred to as the Duke of Wei (衛君). Confucius was drawn into the struggle between father and son when he visited the state of Wei. Wisely, he didn’t allow himself to get directly involved, though his comments in Chapter 14 of Book 7 suggest that he thought that Duke Chu should cede the throne to his father.

Appearances in the Analects of Confucius
Book 7, Chapter 14
Book 13, Chapter 3

Book 7
Chapter 14
冉有曰:「夫子為衛君乎?」子貢曰:「諾,吾將問之。」入曰:「伯夷、叔齊何人也?」曰:「古之賢人也。」曰:「怨乎?」曰:「求仁而得仁,又何怨?」出曰:「夫子不為也。」
Ran Qiu said: “Does the Master support the Duke of Wei?” Zigong said: “Well, I’m going to ask him.” Zigong went in and asked Confucius: “What sort of people were Boyi and Shuqi?” “They were virtuous men of old.” “Did they complain?” “They sought goodness and attained goodness. Why should they have complained?” Zigong left and said to Ran Qiu: “The Master does not support the Duke of Wei.”

Book 13
Chapter 3
子路曰:「衛君待子而為政,子將奚先?」子曰:「必也正名乎!」子路曰:「有是哉?子之迂也!奚其正?」子曰:「野哉,由也!君子於其所不知,蓋闕如也。名不正,則言不順;言不順,則事不成;事不成,則禮樂不興;禮樂不興,則刑罰不中;刑罰不中,則民無所措手足。故君子名之必可言也,言之必可行也。君子於其言,無所茍而已矣!」
Zilu asked: “If the Duke of Wei were to entrust you with the government of his state, what would be your first priority?” Confucius said: “It most definitely would be to rectify the names.” Zilu said: “Really? Isn’t that a little strange? How would that make things right?” Confucius said: “How dense can you get! If a leader doesn’t understand what they’re talking about, they should remain silent. If the names aren’t correct, language doesn’t accord with the truth of things. When language doesn’t accord with the truth of things, nothing can be carried out successfully. When nothing can be carried out successfully, ritual and music won’t flourish. When the ritual and music don’t flourish, punishments and penalties miss their mark. When punishments and penalties miss their mark, the people don’t know where to place their hands and feet. Therefore, a leader must be able to give the appropriate name to whatever they want to talk about, and must also make sure they does exactly as they says. When it comes to speaking, a leader doesn’t allow any carelessness.”

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