Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Prince Jiu of Qi

Prince Jiu of Qi (公子糾) would have become the ruler of the state if an arrow fired at his younger brother Prince Xiaobai (公小白) had struck home as intended. But instead of sitting triumphantly on the throne, the prince ended up being executed at the orders of his sibling who was consolidating his power over the state and later became known as Duke Huan of Qi (齊桓公).

As the second and third sons of Duke Xi of Qi (齊僖公), neither Prince Jiu nor Prince Xiaobai were directly in line to succeed their father to the throne. When Duke Xi died in 698 BCE, their oldest brother Zhuer (諸兒) assumed power. He ruled until 686 BCE and was given the posthumous title of Duke Xiang (齊襄公). Continue reading Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Prince Jiu of Qi

Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Duke Huan of Qi

Duke Huan of Qi (齊桓公) was the ruler of Qi from 685 to 643 BCE. Together with his long-time chief minister Guan Zhong, he transformed the state into a military, economic, and political superpower that dominated China and fought off invasions from peoples living outside it. Towards the end of his long reign, however, the duke’s power declined as he grew ill and the court became embroiled in factional strife. Following his death in 643 BCE, Qi lost its dominance even more quickly than the duke and Guan Zhong had established it.

The duke was a son of Duke Xi of Qi (齊僖公) and was known by the personal name of Xiaobai (小白). Since he had at least two older brothers, he was not in line to succeed his father to the throne. Continue reading Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Duke Huan of Qi

Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Zifu Jingbo

Zifu Jingbo (子服景伯) was a high-level official in the government of the state of Lu, who was so outraged by the accusations made against Zilu by Ji Family retainer Gongbo Liao (公伯寮) that in 14.36 he boasts that he still possesses enough power “to have Liao’s corpse splayed open in the market and court” for slander.

In 19.22, he rats out his fellow minister Shusun Wushu (叔孫武叔) to Zigong for claiming that Zigong was superior to Confucius. Zigong puts his attempt at mischief-making firmly in its place by telling Jingbo that since very few people really knew Confucius he isn’t surprised by such a comment. Continue reading Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Zifu Jingbo

Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Duke Ling of Wei

Duke Ling of Wei (衛靈公) was one of the most decadent rulers of the Autumn and Spring period and perhaps in all of Chinese history. As the son of a lowly concubine of Duke Xiang of Wei, he wasn’t even first in line for the throne. But when his father died in 535 BCE without anointing a successor, the chief minister Kong Zhengchi put him in power after consulting the oracles of the Book of Changes and Kang Shufeng (康叔封), the founder of the state of Wei.

Duke Ling had little interest in the affairs of government, preferring to spend his time carousing in his palaces and embarking on occasional military adventures. In 522 BCE he was forced to flee from Wei following a rebellion led by his retainer Qi Bao, who had been angered by the humiliating treatment given to him by the duke’s brother. It was only after Qi was assassinated that the duke was able to return to his homeland. Continue reading Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Duke Ling of Wei

Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Yuan Rang

Yuan Rang (原壤) was either a young acquaintance of Confucius whom he rapped on the shin for his rudeness or an eccentric old friend of the sage whom he indulgently chided for his casualness.

According to a famous story in the Book of Ritual, the latter persona of Yuan Rang was such a free spirit that he jumped on his mother’s coffin and sang before her funeral while Confucius walked away pretending not to have heard him. Probably this is an entirely fictional incident. Continue reading Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Yuan Rang

Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Duke Jian of Qi

Duke Jian (齊簡公) was the ruler of the powerful but volatile state of Qi for just three years, from 484 to 481 BCE. The duke’s short reign was consumed by a vicious power struggle with Chen Heng (陳恒), a high ranking official and the head of the Chen Family who was fighting for complete control of the state.

When Chen Heng learned that Duke Jian and his chief minister Kan Zhi (闞止) were planning to expel him and the rest of his family from Qi, he had both of them killed in a violent coup d’état. Continue reading Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Duke Jian of Qi

Notes from the field: happy Xmas from Taipei!

Happy Xmas from Taipei

Happy Xmas from Taipei and best wishes for the year ahead! Let’s hope that it will be an improvement on this one.

More by serendipity than design, I have managed to complete all my Leadership Lessons posts for Book 14 of the Analects just in time for the festive season. However, given that I had originally planned to complete Book 15 by the end of the year, I am not exactly in the mood to pop open the champagne! Continue reading Notes from the field: happy Xmas from Taipei!

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: like a social butterfly

social butterfly

A boy from the village of Que came bearing a message. Someone asked about him, saying: “Is he likely to improve himself?” Confucius said: “I have noticed that he seats himself among others and walks alongside people older than himself. He is not looking to improve himself; he wants to grow up too fast.”
闕黨,童子將命。或問之曰:「益者與?」子曰:「吾見其居於位也,見其與先生並行也;非求益者也,欲速成者也。」

It takes time and care to build up an effective personal network. Hanging out at parties or making noise on social media might be enough to trigger some attention from the makers and shakers, but unless you prove yourself to be sincere and to have something of value to offer they’ll soon lose their interest in you. Better to focus your time on building something great rather than flitting around like a social butterfly.

Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: like a social butterfly

Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Qu Boyu

Qu Boyu (蘧伯玉) was the courtesy name of Qu Yuan, a high-ranking official in the state of Wei, who was celebrated for his never-ending quest for self-improvement and his refusal to serve unprincipled rulers. Such was his renown that he is featured in many of the great historical and philosophical texts of the Warring States period, including the Zuo Commentary, the Zhuangzi, and the Huainanzi.

Some commentators speculate that Confucius may have stayed with Qu Boyu, who was nearly forty years older than him, during the time he spent in Wei – but there is no historical evidence to support this claim. However, it is very clear from Confucius’s comments in 14.25 and 15.7 that he was a great admirer of him. Continue reading Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Qu Boyu