Analects Book 14: a wealth of colorful stories

With forty-four chapters, Analects Book 14 is the longest in the entire work. The dizzying number of contemporary and historical figures the book features adds to the challenge of working your way through the text. What to make of 14.15, for example, without at least a cursory knowledge of the emergence of the so-called hegemons who dominated the China during various times of the Spring and Autumn period? As our social media betters never tire of telling us these days, context is everything (unless of course it doesn’t conform to the point they’re trying to make).

Researching the minor figures in Analects Book 14 can take almost as much time as it does for the more prominent ones like Duke Huan of Qi and Duke Wen of Jin because there is so little information about them available in either Chinese or English sources. There have been times when I have been tempted to skip over them, but that would defeat the point of my project. It would also mean missing out on some of the more colorful stories that add further degrees of light and shade to the rich Analects tapestry.

One good example is that of the redoubtable Zang Wuzhong, who Confucius criticizes in 14.14 for the hardball tactics he employed to keep his hereditary fief of Fang in his family’s hands after he had been unjustly sent into exile. Even though the sage is appalled by Zang’s unspoken yet flagrant disregard for the authority of his ruler, the Duke of Lu, I can’t help holding a sneaking regard for his ingenuity and toughness. No matter how much Confucius wished it so, it wasn’t as if showing respect for ritual propriety would have enabled him to hold on to the property!

Watch out for plenty more colorful stories in Analects Book 14.

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