Category Archives: Confucius

Seen and Not Heard

Confucius said: “At home, a young man should respect his parents. Outside, he should respect his elders; talk little but truthfully; and love everyone but only associate with those who are good. If he still has time and energy to spare after all this, he can study the cultural arts.”

The sixth chapter of Book 1 of The Analects brought some long-buried admonitions from my childhood bubbling to the surface of my brain as I worked my way through the words. What was it about little children? Oh yes, shouldn’t they be seen but not heard? Continue reading Seen and Not Heard

Governing a medium-size country

Confucius said: “To govern a medium-size country, you must pay strict attention to its affairs and fulfill your promises; be economical and love your people; and only mobilize them for labor at the right times of the year.”

Although Confucius is best known as a teacher and philosopher, he was at heart a politician or perhaps even the ancient Chinese equivalent of a modern-day think tank policy wonk ever eager to grab the ear of any ruler willing or desperate enough to listen to his opinions. Continue reading Governing a medium-size country

The Straight and Narrow

Zengzi may have been a prolific author during his lifetime, but like Confucius he was a strong believer that practical application was a more important aspect of education than the simple acquisition of theoretical knowledge. What would be the point of learning about key ethical principles such as loyalty and sincerity if you are not going to follow them? Continue reading The Straight and Narrow

Zengzi opines

Zengzi said: “I examine myself three times every day. Have I been true to other people’s interests when acting on their behalf? Have I been sincere in my interactions with friends? Have I practiced what I have been taught?”

Although he was only twenty-six years of age when Confucius died in 479 BC, Zengzi (曾子) quickly rose to prominence as one of the leading proponents of the sage’s teaching and is said to have written or edited at least ten books, including the rip-roaring Classic of Filial Piety (孝經/xiàojīng). Continue reading Zengzi opines

Youzi speaks

Chapter Two of Book One of the Analects features the first quotation from one of Confucius’s disciples. Youzi (有子), or Zi Ruo (子若) or You Ruo (有若) to use his courtesy and given names, apparently bore such a remarkable physical resemblance to the sage that for a short period after Confucius’s death he was regarded as his successor. Unfortunately for Youzi, however, his talents didn’t match those as of the sage and he went off to set up his own school after losing the confidence of Confucius’s other remaining disciples. Continue reading Youzi speaks

Narrative arcs and social media fodder

Youzi said: “A man who respects his parents and elders is not likely to question the authority of his superiors. Such a man will never provoke disorder. A leader focuses on the fundamentals; once these are established the Way appears. Respect for parents and elders constitutes the essence of goodness.”

One of the pleasures – and frustrations – of reading the Analects is that it has no coherent narrative arc and instead comprises a random collection of pithy sayings from the sage and his disciples as well as some curt mini-dialogs between them. Continue reading Narrative arcs and social media fodder