Book 11 of the Analects highlights two dangerous scrapes that Confucius got himself and his followers into during his period of exile from the state of Lu from 496 BCE to 483 BCE.
In 11.23, Confucius and Yan Hui are reunited in the rough border town of Kuang, where the sage and his band of merry men had been detained by the locals for five days after being mistaken for Yang Huo (楊貨), a notorious outlaw from the state of Lu nicknamed Tiger Yang who had previously ransacked the town. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 11: Confucius in danger in the borderlands
Even though Confucius is critical of several of his most loyal followers in Book 11, most notably Zilu, he reserves his most virulent scorn for Ran Qiu. In 11.17 he famously rips into him for helping the Lu strongman Ji Kangzi to levy yet more taxes on the common people by loudly declaring: “He’s no longer my follower. You may beat the drum and attack him, my young friends.”
While Confucius is justifiably upset at Ran Qiu for ignoring his advice not to impose any more unnecessary burdens onto the impoverished peasantry, he never uses such violent language towards Zilu and other followers who also helped the corrupt and venal Ji Family enrich themselves at the expense of the downtrodden Lu population. Indeed, even though Confucius often chides Zilu for his indiscretions and impetuousness, he generally adopts a much more indulgent tone towards him than Ran Qiu. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 11: Confucius and Ran Qiu
Confucius shows his great admiration of Min Ziqian, one of his lesser known followers, in Book 11 of the Analects. He praises Ziqian to the skies in 11.5 as a “model of filial devotion” because he lives up to the reputation that he built up as a young man when he begged his father not to throw his evil stepmother and stepbrothers out of the house after they had treated abominably.
In 11.14, Confucius goes on to commend Ziqian for his political astuteness when his follower suggests that it would be better if the leadership of the state of Lu repaired the existing structure of the Long Treasury rather than go to the time and expense of demolishing and rebuilding it. In contrast to the voluble Zilu, for example, Ziqian “rarely speaks, but when he does he hits the mark.” Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 11: Confucius and Min Ziqian
Unlike the quasi father and son combo of Confucius and Yan Hui, Confucius and Zilu were more like an elder and young brother who love each other deeply but aren’t afraid to enter into the occasional argument when the occasion demands it.
In Book 11 of the Analects Confucius shows how much he cares for “bold and intense” (11.13) Zilu with his repeated attempts to rein in his recklessness. In 11.12 he famously responds to Zilu’s questions about how to serve the spirits and gods and what he thought of death by telling him to keep his feet firmly planted on the ground: “’If you’re not yet able to serve other people, how are you able to serve the spirits? … If you don’t understand life yet, how can you understand death?’” Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 11: Confucius and Zilu
Why was Confucius so devastated by the death of Yan Hui that his followers felt compelled to take the extraordinary step of admonishing their master for displaying excessive grief? Book 11 of the Analects not only poses this question with its vivid portrayal of Confucius’s anguish at the untimely passing of his favorite follower. It also answers it by showing how close the relationship between Confucius and Yan Hui was and the high regard the sage had for the man he had seen as his protégé and eventual successor.
Indeed, in 11.4 Confucius sounds exactly like a humble-bragging dad when he claims that Yan Hui is of no help to him at all because “he delights in everything I say.” In 11.7, he goes on to tell the strongman Ji Kangzi that the only follower of his who loved learning was Yan Hui (1). In 11.19 he tops that by declaring that he “just about achieved perfection”. Not even a life of grinding poverty can tempt the virtuous Yan Hui to stray from the strict moral path that he follows. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 11: Confucius and Yan Hui
One of the most intriguing questions about Confucius is how he managed not only to build a large base of followers (traditionally numbered at 77), but more importantly how he managed to sustain their loyalty over, in some cases, many decades.
While Confucius’s great charisma, learning, and connections with senior government figures and members of the nobility were no doubt instrumental in attracting many young people to go and study with him, that doesn’t explain why the likes of Zilu, Zigong, Ran Qiu, Yan Hui, and others stuck with him through the lean times, most notably during his 14 years of exile tramping from state to state in search of employment. In a couple of notorious incidents (see 11.2 and 11.23) they even went close to losing their lives because of the scrapes Confucius got them into, but still remained faithful to him. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 11: Confucius and his followers
There are a couple of other incidents in Book 11 of the Analects that reveal what I will euphemistically call the human side of Confucius.
The first one takes place in Chapter 15 when Confucius complains about the racket Zilu is making while playing his zither. Although he probably didn’t mean any harm with this comment, his followers start giving Zilu such a hard time that Confucius has to step in and retrieve his friend’s lost pride by saying that his musical talents aren’t all that bad considering. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 11: the human side of Confucius?
For all his sharp critiques of his followers in Book 11 of the Analects, Confucius hardly shows himself to be a paragon of virtue either – particularly in his emotional, some might say hysterical, reaction to the untimely death of Yan Hui, which is covered from Chapter 7 to Chapter 11.
His obvious distress at the passing of his protégé doesn’t excuse his attempt to dictate how the funeral of Yan Hui should be conducted. According to the rules of ritual propriety that he so assiduously promoted, no matter how important the role Confucius played in his follower’s life as his teacher, this should have been the sole responsibility of Yan Hui’s father, Yan Lu. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 11: human after all?
Very little is known about Ji Ziran (季子然) except that he was a member of the powerful Ji clan and may have been the younger brother of Ji Kangzi, the chief minister of the state of Lu. He appears only once in the Analects of Confucius when he asks the sage in 11.24 if he thinks Zilu and Ran Qiu are great ministers.
Confucius responds with a veiled warning to him and his family against launching a coup to overthrow the legitimate ruler of the state, the Duke of Lu. Whether Ji Ziran understood the unspoken message Confucius was aiming to deliver is open to question. Continue reading Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Ji Ziran
Book 11 of the Analects provides the most detailed collection of Confucius’s thoughts on the abilities and characters of his followers. No less than sixteen of them go under the microscope, with – surprise, surprise – the usual favorites Yan Hui (9 appearances), Zilu (9 appearances), Ran Qiu (5 appearances), and Zigong (4 appearances) receiving the lion’s share of the sage’s attention.
The lesser-known Min Ziqian and the arrogant but talented Zizhang come in next with three appearances. Three followers also make their debuts on the Analects, in the form of the “dumb” Zigao, the father of Yan Hui, Yan Lu, and the father of Zengzi, Zeng Dian – the latter two for the first and final time. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 11 themes: learning and death