Leadership lessons from Confucius: respect for the elderly

respect for the elderly

When the villagers were drinking together, he didn’t leave until the elders had departed.

Show respect for other people and their customs. It’s not for you to question them. They’ve welcomed you as an honored guest. Enjoy their hospitality and observe their way of life. You’ll be sure to learn a lot from them – not least how to be a good host when others come and visit you.

Show respect for the elderly. They’ve earned their status by working hard to raise their families and contributing to the community. Listen to what they have to say about the past and how things have changed during their lifetime. Soak in the wisdom that they’ve picked up along the way as a result of both positive and negative experiences. You’ll be sure to learn a lot from them – not least how precious life is and the importance of making the most of it because of how fast it passes by.


This article features a translation of Chapter 13 of Book 10 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 10 here.

(1) The phrase 杖者 (zhàngzhě) literally means “those carrying a staff or walking stick”. According to the conventions governing drinking ceremonies, the oldest person present was given the seat of honor. At the end of the ceremony ended, the oldest people were allowed to leave first out of respect for their status (and possibly to let the younger ones continue with their drinking).

(2) This passage and the next one may be describing how Confucius conducted himself in his home village.

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

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