Notes from the field: exploring multiple pathways

multiple pathways

One of the great delights of hiking around the Four Beasts Scenic Area (四獸山) is that there are lots of smaller pathways to follow that take you away from the main trails deeper into the lush vegetation covering the mountainside.

This morning I happened along this delightful little shrine when I took a different route down the mountain before arriving at a nearby temple. There are in fact, a lot of temples in the Four Beasts dedicated to an eclectic array of Buddhist, Daoist, and other Chinese deities. One day, I keep telling myself, I’ll be able to identify all of them…

multiple pathways

Not until I’ve finished my Analects of Confucius project of course. This isn’t too different than the Four Beasts given the multiple pathways that the main text invites you to explore as you make your way through it. Book 11, for example, is full of references to many of Confucius’s most closest followers. The only way to understand the context of his comments about them is to dig deeper into their backgrounds and previous interactions with him. Although I’ve posted brief profiles of most of the followers featured in the Analects, a lot of additional work needs to be done on them. I’m planning an upgrade once I’ve completed Book 11.

Another pathway that I’ve been exploring this week is Confucius’s family life. Nudged by the reference to his only son Boyu in Chapter 8, I’ve been writing a series of biography of his family members, including not just his son but also his step brother Mengpi, and his wife Qiguan, as well as updating the one of his father Shuliang He. I hope to complete the biographies of his redoubtable mother Yan Zhengzai and grandson Zisi by the end of next week.

multiple pathways

As I mention in the biographies, one of the great ironies about Confucius is that for all his advocacy of the virtues of filial devotion, he was hardly a model husband or father. His marriage with Qiguan was not a particularly happy union and according to some accounts ended in divorce, while his relationship with the unexceptional Boyu was cold and distant. There are no records of how he got on with his two daughters, one of whom is said to have died at an early age, but he did go on to marry the surviving one off to a convicted felon (though, to be fair, Confucius was convinced he was innocent).

Does Confucius’s failure to live up to the ideals he espoused about family values invalidate his teachings about them? This is an interesting question that I don’t have an answer to. But it’s fair to say that he didn’t live up to the high standards he set for himself and failed to act as a good role model for others to follow.

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