The Analects of Confucius Book 13 has a limited supporting cast of just four of the sage’s contemporaries. But what it lacks in terms of numbers, it more than makes up for in terms of the status of its members, who include two rulers of Wei and Lu, one prince, and a lord with his personal fiefdom.
Duke Chu of Wei had the unique distinction of ruling the state while his father was still alive and being deposed by him in a bloody palace coup. With his opening question in 13.3, Zilu is implying that if Confucius chooses to recognize the duke as the legitimate ruler of Wei, he has a great chance of being appointed his chief minister. To Zilu’s incredulity, Confucius refuses to play ball no matter how great the prize may be. Although he does not state it directly, the sage regards Duke Chu as illegitimate because his father is still living and believes that he is planting the seeds for even greater chaos in Wei by basing his rule on a falsehood: “When language doesn’t accord with the truth of things, nothing can be carried out successfully.” Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 13: supporting cast
Five followers of Confucius are featured in Analects Book 13, including Fan Chi and Ran Yong for the final time.
While Confucius patiently gives Ran Yong some useful advice on how to progress in his career in 13.2, he can barely conceal his frustration with Fan Chi for the obtuseness of his questions about cultivating grain and vegetables in 13.4. After Fan Chi departs, he goes as far as to label his keen but dull-witted follower as a “petty person” because of his failure to grasp the fundamental point of his teachings. Confucius is, at least, more patient when Fan Chi asks him about goodness in 13.19, telling him: “Be considerate in your private life, diligent in your public affairs, and loyal in your relationships with others.” Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 13: followers
Analects Book 7 features a wealth of quotes from Confucius on himself that give us a deeper appreciation of his passion for learning and teaching. He was a man who could always see room for improvement no matter how much progress he made along the path of self-cultivation.
Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 7: Confucius on himself
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Analects Book 9 provides a rich source of quotes from Confucius on Confucius that give us some fascinating insights into his character and motivations. The show him to be a man who grew up poor and was driven by a fierce determination to better himself through continuous learning and hard work. He also displays a hint of confidence, perhaps even arrogance, in his claim that heaven had entrusted in him to preserve civilization. Continue reading Analects Book 9: Confucius on Confucius
I have completed, for now at least, my exploration of the epic lives of Duke Huan of Qi and Duke Wen of Jin.
Of the two, Duke Huan was certainly the most tragic figure. Despite his early success in transforming Qi into a veritable superpower and repelling foreign invaders who threatened the Zhou kingdom, he left the state in just as chaotic a mess as when he assumed the throne. While his corpse lay rotting in his bed chamber, his six sons from six different mothers fought each other for his throne. Even though the duke’s intended successor Zhao finally triumphed, the damage caused by the power struggle meant that Qi was never again able to regain the preeminent position that it rose to under the duke and Guan Zhong. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius Project: week 6, 2021 updates
For all his doubts about the competence of his contemporaries to run a state, Confucius had no such reservations about his own ability to govern effectively. In 13.10, he roundly declares: “If a ruler were to employ me, I would have everything under control in one year and in three years the results would show.”
Confucius is believed to have made this comment while he was in the state of Wei looking to secure a position with the court after hastily departing from his home state of Lu in 497 BCE. One key reason for the sage’s rather confident appraisal of his own abilities must have been the success he enjoyed after being appointed chief magistrate of the small city of Zhongdu in 502 BCE and transforming it into a model of order and prosperity within a year. No doubt, he also included his stints as Minister of Works and Minister of Justice in the Lu government in the equation as well. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 13: if a ruler were to employ me…
Governance is one of the main Analects Book 13, building on the discussion of this topic in the previous book. When Zilu kicks it off in the first chapter, Confucius stresses the importance of leading people by example and working hard for them.
In the second chapter, Confucius advises Ran Yong of the need to hire and promote talented people to fill official positions and allow them room to make the occasional mistake. When Ran Yong asks how to recognize that someone has talent, Confucius tells him to promote people he knows: namely individuals he can trust to carry out their duties diligently and responsibly. Continue reading Analects Book 13 themes: Confucius on governance
The most obvious result of elite overproduction during the Spring and Autumn period was the network of huge noble families that ruled the many different states comprising the Zhou kingdom. With a patriarch at the head of each of them, these grand families featured an assortment of wives, consorts, sons, daughters, and other more distant relatives who lived together in a rich and complex web of relationships.
In theory a strict hierarchical structure determined the status and role of each member of the family, with the ruler and his primary wife at the apex of it and their eldest son the heir apparent. In practice, however, family dynamics were a lot more fluid and complicated as wives and sons fell out of favor with the ruler and brothers and half-brothers vied with each other for the succession. Continue reading Spring and Autumn period elite family feuds: exile, fratricide, and regicide
Happy Lunar New Year of the Ox! Let’s hope that it proves to be at least a tad more auspicious than the Year of the Rat.
I turned to the Yi Jing (Book of Changes) for some guidance for the year ahead. My reading came up with Hexagram 41, signifying sun and decrease. The hexagram combines a lake on the bottom and a mountain on the top. It cautions you to rein in your ego and restrain your desires in order to bring a sense of equilibrium to your life: that calm and peaceful place where the two contrasting elements meet. Continue reading Happy Lunar New Year of the Ox!