Category Archives: Confucius

Analects of Confucius Book 7: resources

Here is a list of resources covering Book 7 of the Analects of Confucius. You can click on the links below to learn more about the main themes of the book:

Analects of Confucius Book 7: translation

Here is a list of articles I have written about each chapter in the book. Again, click on the links to learn more. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 7: resources

Leadership lessons from Confucius: a constant state of readiness

readiness

曾子曰:「可以託六尺之孤,可以寄百里之命,臨大節而不可奪也,君子人與,君子人也。」
Zengzi said: “You can entrust him with the care of a teenage orphan; you can entrust him with the management of a small estate; when faced with a crisis, he will remain steadfast in resolving it. Is he a leader? Of course, he’s a leader.”

Unlike an athlete who has a calendar of events to optimize their training for, a leader has to be in a constant state of readiness in order to be able to step up to take on a vital job or deal with a crisis at any time. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a constant state of readiness

Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Meng Jingzi

Meng Jingzi (孟敬子) was the son of Meng Wubo (孟武伯), who first appeared in Chapter 6 of Book 2 of the Analects. Like his father he became a high-ranking minister of the state of Lu, but gained a reputation for micromanagement and an inability to focus on the big picture.

Zengzi, a follower of Confucius, scolds Meng for this from his deathbed in Meng’s only appearance in the Analects. He also upbraids Meng for failing to pay attention to how he appeared and acted towards other people.
Continue reading Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Meng Jingzi

Leadership lessons from Confucius: final words of wisdom

final words of wisdom

曾子有疾,孟敬子問之。曾子言曰:「鳥之將死,其鳴也哀;人之將死,其言也善。君子所貴乎道者三:動容貌,斯遠暴慢矣;正顏色,斯近信矣;出辭氣,斯遠鄙倍矣。籩豆之事,則有司存。」
When Zengzi was seriously ill, Meng Jingzi came to visit him. Zengzi said: “When a bird is about to die, its song is mournful; when a man is about to die, his words are kind. In following the way, leaders cherish three things: by maintaining a dignified demeanor, they stay far from violence and arrogance; by maintaining a sincere countenance, they show they can be trusted; by choosing their words carefully, they avoid vulgarity and mistakes. As for the details of ritual, these will be taken care of by the functionaries.”

If you have the chance to impart some final words of wisdom while lying on your deathbed, what will they be? Will you rebuke someone you don’t even like for their failings or will you talk about your love for your family and friends? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: final words of wisdom

Analects of Confucius Book 8: new English translation

Read this new English translation of the Analects of Confucius Book 8 to learn more about the teachings of China’s most famous philosopher, including his thoughts on the qualities of the ancient sage kings who laid the foundations of Chinese civilization.

Chapter 1
子曰:「泰伯其可謂至德也已矣。三以天下讓,民無得而稱焉。」
Confucius said: “It can truly be said of Tai Bo that he was a man of supreme virtue. Three times he gave up the throne of his state without giving the people the opportunity to praise him.”
Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 8: new English translation

Leadership lessons from Confucius: displays of moral superiority

曾子有疾,召門弟子曰:「啟予足!啟予手!詩云:『戰戰兢兢,如臨深淵,如履薄冰。』而今而後,吾知免夫!小子!」
When Zengzi was seriously ill, he called his followers together and said: “Look at my feet! Look at my hands! It’s said in the Book of Songs:
‘We should be vigilant and cautious,
As if we are standing on the edge of an abyss,
As if we are treading on thin ice.’
But now, my little ones, I know that I’m escaping whole now and forever after.” (1)

Better to leave your great virtue unspoken rather than attempt to signal it to others. If it’s half as strong as you think it is, they’ll pick up on it. Ostentatious displays of moral superiority are more likely to repel people than persuade them to follow your example. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: displays of moral superiority

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: the invisible line

invisible line

子曰:「恭而無禮則勞,慎而無禮則葸,勇而無禮則亂,直而無禮則絞。君子篤於親,則民興於仁。故舊不遺,則民不偷。」
Confucius said: “Reverence unregulated by ritual descends into indifference; cautiousness unregulated by ritual descends into timidity; boldness unregulated by ritual descends into disorder; frankness unregulated by ritual descends into hurtfulness. If a leader is devoted to their family, the people are inclined towards goodness; if a leader doesn’t forget about their old friends, the people will not shirk their obligations to others.”

Nobody’s an island. If you focus solely on improving your own performance you without any form of external mediation, the law of unintended consequences will inevitably kick in and you’ll find the strengths you’ve worked so hard hone becoming weaknesses. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: the invisible line

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: a man of supreme virtue

man of supreme virtue

子曰:「泰伯其可謂至德也已矣。三以天下讓,民無得而稱焉。」
Confucius said: “It can truly be said of Tai Bo that he was a man of supreme virtue. Three times he gave up the throne of his state without giving the people the opportunity to praise him.”

When you know that there’s someone more suitable for the job you’ve been promised, politely decline it so that they get on with it. Other opportunities will come if you work to create them. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: a man of supreme virtue

Analects of Confucius Book 7: new English translation

Read this new English translation of the Analects of Confucius Book 7 to learn more about the teachings of China’s most famous philosopher. It provides a vivid portrait of the sage’s personality and motivations, as well as his opinions on various followers and other contemporary and historical figures.

Chapter 1
子曰:「述而不作,信而好古,竊比於我老彭。」
Confucius said: “I transmit but I don’t create. I am faithful to and love the past. In this respect, I dare to compare myself with Old Peng.”
Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 7: new English translation

Leadership lessons from Confucius: gracious but serious

gracious but serious

子溫而厲,威而不猛,恭而安。
Confucius was gracious but serious; commanding but not severe; respectful but at ease.

The problem with optimizing a single aspect of your behavior is that very quickly the law of diminishing returns will kick in and ultimately your efforts will backfire. Take graciousness as an example. Although it is of course important to be polite to people, if you take your politeness too far they will soon regard your behavior as fake or even a sign of weakness. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: gracious but serious