The Analects of Confucius Book 5 opens with a remarkable statement from Confucius when he declares that Gongye Chang would make a good husband even though he has spent time in prison. Given that convicted criminals were social outcasts in ancient China, Confucius is demonstrating his contempt for the corrupt and arbitrary manner in which justice was administered during the turbulent times he lived in. By taking the extraordinary step of marrying his own daughter to Gongye Chang, he’s making a powerful statement of his determination to challenge existing social conventions and restore what he saw as the strict but fair judicial code established in the glory days of the Zhou dynasty.
In 5.2 Confucius continues in the matchmaking business, marrying the daughter of his crippled stepbrother Mengpi to the cautious, and apparently wealthy and privileged, Nan Rong. In line with the custom of the times, we don’t even know the names of the sage’s daughter and niece. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 5 overview: a long and winding path
I was greeted by the traditional cacophony of fire crackers heralding the first day of work after the Lunar New Year Holiday when I reached the office this morning. As is the custom, people gathered to express their wishes for a healthy and prosperous Year of the Rat as they gave their offerings and prayers to the deities and spirits. Given how ominously the new year has started, let’s hope that they were listening!
Over the holiday, I spent quite a bit of time reading a pile of articles and reports purporting to predict the key technology trends that will have the deepest economic and social impact over the next decade. What struck me most about them was their startling lack of originality. It’s almost as if they were written from the same set of talking points prepared by the marketing department of a silicon vendor for time-pressured journalists and journalists. Yes, yes, we get it. 5G is going to be revolutionary and disruptive. So too is, AI, IoT, VR, AR, and a host of other new technologies… Of course, they’re going to transform the way we live. Continue reading Notes from the field: the next big thing?
Profit (利/lì) was a dirty word for Confucius. He strongly opposed the pursuit of personal gain or advantage, arguing that it tempted people into wrongdoing and led to social instability. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 4: Confucius on profit
Filial devotion doesn’t require blind obedience to your parents – at least not the version of it that Confucius taught. In 4.18, he says that you may “gently remonstrate” with your mother and father if you think that they are not conducting themselves in the right manner. He does go on to caution, however, that if they choose to ignore your advice, you should “remain respectful” and not let “your efforts turn to resentment.” In the final analysis, maintaining harmony within the family is more important than being right.
Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 4: Confucius on filial devotion
Taipei’s still pretty quiet even though the Lunar New Year holiday finishes tomorrow. I suspect that a lot of people will take Thursday and Friday off and return to work next Monday.
I’ve been spending most of my break pounding the pathways of the Four Beasts Scenic Area while working my way through the wonderful back catalog of In Our Time podcasts hosted by the inimitable Melvin Bragg. I know I’m not the first person to remark on this, but the AirPods that came with my new iPhone have given me a greater appreciation of the power of the spoken word and led me to read less and listen more. Continue reading Notes from the field: pounding the pathways of the Four Beasts
Confucius made regular use of the device of comparing the lofty values of a leader (君子/jūnzǐ) with the base instincts of a petty person (小人/xiǎorén). In 4.11, for example, he comments that while the former pursues virtue and justice, the latter only cares about the accumulation of material possessions and gaining favors. Leaders thus focus on improving themselves in order to better contribute to the common good of society, while petty or small-minded people are only concerned with extracting as many personal benefits as possible from it. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 4: virtue never stands alone
Goodness is such an ambiguous concept that even Confucius shied away from attaching an exact meaning to it. He found it much easier to describe the benefits that the cultivation of a strong internal sense of goodness can bring to people rather than defining its precise features. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 4: the benefits of goodness
Confucius can certainly never be accused of sugarcoating the difficulties that any would-be student would face if he chose to follow his path. He promises no seven-step plan to guaranteed success or shortcut to fame and fortune with his approach to learning. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 4: Confucius’s approach to learning
Happy Lunar New Year of the Rat! Let’s hope it improves quickly after such an inauspicious start in China.
Our Lunar New Year’s Eve celebrations were low-key, mainly I suspect because all our kids have grown up so there was none of the previous excitement that accompanied the distribution of red envelopes filled with shiny new notes. The food, on the other hand, was great. That’s one tradition that never changes no matter who is present. Continue reading Notes from the field: Happy Lunar New Year of the Rat!
The ability to assess a given situation objectively and take the most appropriate action based on the facts of it is one of the key leadership qualities that Confucius highlights in Book 4 of the Analects. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 4: Confucius on leadership qualities