Leadership lessons from Confucius: the best you can be

the best you can be

升車,必正立執綏。車中不內顧,不疾言,不親指。
Before mounting his carriage, he stood straight and grasped the hand strap. Once in the carriage, he didn’t turn to look back, talk loudly, or point with his finger. (1)

Put your best foot forward. Screen out the noise and distractions. Focus on the here and now. Even if you’re just taking a short trip from A to B, proceed with grace, precision, and purpose. You never know what might happen or who you might meet along the way. Or what you might learn or experience if you’re paying full attention to everything that’s happening around you. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: the best you can be

Notes from the field: the Temple of the Duke of Zhou

Temple of the Duke of Zhou

No visit to Qufu should be complete without a visit to the Temple of the Duke of Zhou. The traditional Zhou dynasty rituals that were carried out at the temple in honor of Confucius’s great hero were the primary source of inspiration for the sage’s philosophy and teachings. They provided the living and breathing symbols that fueled his calls for a return to the golden age at the beginning of the Zhou dynasty when China reached its zenith under the duke’s wise and benign leadership.

The Duke of Zhou (周公) was the fourth son of King Wen of Zhou (周文王), the spiritual founder of the Zhou dynasty. He played an instrumental role in helping his second oldest brother, King Wu (周武王), to defeat the Shang dynasty (商朝) at the Battle of Muye (牧野之戰) in around 1046 BCE and formally establish the dynasty. Continue reading Notes from the field: the Temple of the Duke of Zhou

Notes from the field: Zhusi Academy

Zhusi Academy

Like the Cemetery of Confucius’s Parents, the Zhusi Academy probably isn’t on the must-see list for Qufu, but it’s worth checking out if you have the time.

The Zhusi Academy marks the place where Confucius is said to have taught and edited ancient canonical texts, including the so-called Five Classics (1) and the Book of Music, after returning to his home state of Lu in 484 BCE after spending fourteen years in exile. It provides an elegant and graceful symbol of the importance attached to learning in Chinese culture. Continue reading Notes from the field: Zhusi Academy

Notes from the field: the Cemetery of Confucius’s Parents

cemetery of Confucius's parents

The Cemetery of Confucius’s Parents has none of the stunning natural beauty of the ones dedicated to Mencius and his redoubtable mother. The tree count stands at a mere 467 compared to around 10,000 and 12,000 for the other two locations.

The cemetery is also nowhere near as old either. Construction on the main Sacrificial Hall began in 1179 and the complex only reached its current scale in 1755. Naturally, the main structures have also undergone extensive reconstruction and refurbishment over the centuries. Continue reading Notes from the field: the Cemetery of Confucius’s Parents

Notes from the field: checking out the potential of LSEVs

LSEV

Unable to find a taxi or bus to my hotel from the Confucius Museum in Qufu, I had just about reconciled myself to a long walk back when an old guy driving a small red contraption beeped his horn from behind and asked me if I wanted a ride.

It was only when I got inside the cramped rear of it that I realized I was sitting in a so-called LSEV (Low Speed Electric Vehicle). These small battery-powered vehicles are mainly manufactured in Shandong province, of which Qufu is the capital, and are touted by some observers such as David Li and Clayton Christenson for their disruptive potential because of their low cost (below $5,000), ease of design and manufacturing, and multiple potential last-mile mobility applications. It is estimated that 1.75 million LSEVs were sold in China in 2017. Continue reading Notes from the field: checking out the potential of LSEVs

Notes from the field: Mencius Cemetery & Cemetery of Mencius’ Mother

 

Entrance to Mencius Cemetery

One of the most delightful surprises I had on my first trip to Qufu a couple of years ago was an unplanned visit to the Temple of Mencius, second only to Confucius in the Confucian Pantheon. This time I decided to double down by taking a trip out to see his tomb at the Mencius Cemetery and the tomb of his redoubtable mother at the Cemetery of Mencius’ Mother.

The two cemeteries are located close to each other about a thirty-minute drive away from Qufu. The Mencius Cemetery (孟子林/Mengzi Lin) is covered by a pristine forest comprising around 10,000 cypress, oak, elm, and maple trees that were mainly planted during the latter part of the Song dynasty (960 – 1279). Continue reading Notes from the field: Mencius Cemetery & Cemetery of Mencius’ Mother

Notes from the field: Confucius Museum in Qufu

Confucius museum in Qufu

Having recently read about the opening of the new Confucius Museum in Qufu, I decided it would be worth having a look at it during this trip to China and so took a train here from Wuzhen this morning.

The museum is located about 5km south of the center of Qufu. A taxi there from the city center cost me 20RMB and took about 15 minutes. The building housing the museum looks stunning from the outside with its ultra-modern design. Its interior is also very attractive with a circular tower of books arranged in patterns forming the centerpiece. Continue reading Notes from the field: Confucius Museum in Qufu

Leadership lessons from Confucius: lessons in etiquette

lessons in etiquette

見齊衰者,雖狎必變。見冕者與瞽者,雖褻必以貌。凶服者式之;式負版者,有盛饌,必變色而作。迅雷風烈必變。
When he saw someone in mourning clothes, he adopted a solemn expression on his face and remained distant even if he knew them well. When he saw someone wearing a ceremonial cap or a blind person, he was courteous even if he was familiar with them. When he came across someone in mourning garments while riding in his carriage, he leaned over the stanchion to greet them; he would do the same when he encountered someone carrying official documents. When he was served rich delicacies at a banquet, he adopted a gracious expression on his face and rose to his feet to show his appreciation. When he heard a sudden clap of thunder or a ferocious wind an awe-struck expression came over his face.

Every day is full of encounters with other people in different contexts – from the person you sit next to on the bus or train to work and the barista who serves you coffee to your colleagues in the office and the friend you meet for lunch. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: lessons in etiquette

Notes from the field: the ancient water town of Wuzhen

wuzhen

A great pleasure to visit the ancient water town of Wuzhen for the first time and take a brief stroll among the beautiful old buildings that line its picturesque lanes and charming canals.

Wuzhen owed its bustling prosperity during the Soong, Yuan, and Ming dynasties to its location along the Grand Canal, which was once the main trade route connecting Hangzhou and Beijing. Nowadays, much of its economy is dependent on the tourist industry. Following major renovations that were completed in 2013, it now reportedly receives over 1.5 million visitors per year. Continue reading Notes from the field: the ancient water town of Wuzhen

Leadership lessons from Confucius: the blurring of the lines

blurring of the lines

寢不尸,居不容。
In bed, he didn’t lie stiffly like a corpse; at home, he was informal and relaxed. (1)

We are living at a time when the distinction between our working and personal lives has never been more blurred. Thanks to ubiquitous connectivity, we are increasingly expected to be available at all times – no matter what day or time it is. Even if we aren’t answering email, our minds are still busy spinning over work issues in the background like the cogs and wheels of a clock. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: the blurring of the lines