Analects of Confucius Book 11: Confucius and Min Ziqian

Confucius and Min Ziqian

Confucius shows his great admiration of Min Ziqian, one of his lesser known followers, in Book 11 of the Analects. He praises Ziqian to the skies in 11.5 as a “model of filial devotion” because he lives up to the reputation that he built up as a young man when he begged his father not to throw his evil stepmother and stepbrothers out of the house after they had treated abominably.

In 11.14, Confucius goes on to commend Ziqian for his political astuteness when his follower suggests that it would be better if the leadership of the state of Lu repaired the existing structure of the Long Treasury rather than go to the time and expense of demolishing and rebuilding it. In contrast to the voluble Zilu, for example, Ziqian “rarely speaks, but when he does he hits the mark.”

By saying that the “straightforward but respectful” (11.13) Min Ziqian “hits the mark”, Confucius is noting that he is one of a very small number of his followers who has achieved the right balance in their conduct. In contrast, when Zigong asks Confucius in 11.16 which one of Zizhang or Zixia is better, Confucius pointedly remarks: “Both miss the mark.”

Despite his obvious respect for Min Ziqian, the relationship Confucius had with him was nowhere as close as the ones he had with the likes of Zilu, Zigong, and Ran Qiu. Perhaps the sage felt that Ziqian was in much less need of his guidance because he had already hit the mark.

11.14 marks the last of just five appearances by Min Ziqian in the Analects. You can read more about him here.

Notes

I took the top image at the Zhusi Academy in Qufu. Confucius is said to have taught his students here after returning to Lu from exile in in 848 BCE, as well as compiling the Book of Songs, Book of History, Book of Ritual, Book of Music, and Book of Changes.

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