Leadership lessons from Confucius: coarse and unappetizing fare

unappetizing fare

Even if the food only consisted of coarse rice or vegetable soup, he made a sacrificial offering with the same level of respect as when he was fasting. (1) (2)

Be grateful for the meal in front of you even if it consists of coarse and unappetizing fare. Remember that it’s a gift from nature and everyone who worked to bring it to your table. Remember, too, that there are still billions of people in the world who struggle to fight hunger and diseases resulting from an inadequate diet.

Before you begin your meal, take a few seconds to give a silent prayer of thanks. Appreciate that you are truly blessed.


This article features a translation of Chapter 11 of Book 10 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 10 here.

(1) It was the custom for people in ancient China to take a small portion of the meal they were about to eat and place it in a separate dish on the table to show their respect for their ancestors. When the fare was meager and of poor quality, this custom was usually ignored – though as a stickler for observing the conventions of ritual, Confucius is said to have stuck to it no matter what food he was served.

(2) Confucius must have endured some pretty awful food during his period of exile from his home state of Lu between 496 BCE and 484 BCE. During his travels, there were times when he and his followers went close to starving to death. Perhaps growing up in a poor household also gave him a healthy respect for food.

I took this image at the Temple of Confucius in Yilan, Taiwan.

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