Followers of Confucius: Zigao

Zigao (子羔/子皋) gets a bad rap in the two appearances he makes Book 11 of the Analects. In 11.18, he is described as “dumb” or “simple-minded” (愚/yú), presumably by Confucius. Then in 11.25, Confucius goes on to castigate Zilu for appointing him as steward or governor of the town of Bi because of his lack of learning.

Confucius appears to have based his judgment of Zigao because he was ugly and short; reportedly he was less than five feet in height. However, he is said to have performed well as an official in the governments of the states of Lu and Wei and gained a reputation for delivering harsh but fair justice in the towns and districts he governed.

He was greatly trusted by his friend and mentor Zilu. Unfortunately, the closeness of their relationship wasn’t quite enough for Zilu to follow his advice to flee a violent coup that engulfed state of Wei in 480 BCE where they were working together. While Zilu was cut down defending his lord, Zigao had to escape on his own.

Zigao was also known by the name of Gao Chai (高柴). He was born in 521 BCE in the state of Qi, and came from a prominent noble family.

Appearances in the Analects of Confucius
Book 11, Chapter 18
Book 11, Chapter 25

Book 11
Chapter 18
Zigao is dumb; Zengzi is dull; Zizhang is frivolous; Zilu is reckless.

Chapter 25
Zilu appointed Zigao as governor of Bi. Confucius said: “You’re harming another man’s son.” Zilu said: “There are people there for him to learn from as well as the altars of the spirits of the land and grain where he can learn how to perform ritual ceremonies. Why should learning consist only of reading books?” Confucius said: “It’s this kind of remark that makes me hate people with a smooth tongue.”

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