Born in the early part of the 11th century BCE, Boyi (伯夷) and Shuqi (叔齊) were the sons of a ruler of the minor state of Guzhu (孤竹) during the time when the ruling Shang dynasty (商朝) was collapsing under the dissolute rule of its last emperor Di Xin (帝辛).
When their father chose the younger Shuqi his successor, Shuqi declined the offer. His elder brother Boyi then refused the throne as well, insisting that his younger brother take it. Rather than fight with each other over who was the rightful ruler, the two brothers fled to the nearby state of Zhou (周). Continue reading Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Boyi and Shuqi
Ning Wuzi (甯武子) was chief minister under two rulers of the state of Wei (衛) during the seventh century BCE. Serving under the first one, Duke Wen (衛文公), Ning proved to be a wise and effective administrator.
When Duke Wen was succeeded by Duke Cheng (衛成公) in 634 BCE, however, the state started to fall apart as a result of Cheng’s chaotic rule and the looming threat of invasion from the powerful neighboring state of Jin (晉). The only way that Ning could hold everything together over the course of ten years was by acting dumb in public while quietly working in the background to keep everything under control. Confucius is thus speaking ironically when he remarks in Chapter 21 of Book 5: “Others may match his wisdom but not his dumbness.” Continue reading Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Ning Wuzi
Ji Wenzi (季文子) was the posthumous title given to Jisun Xingfu (季孫行父), the most influential minister in Confucius’s home state of Lu (魯) serving three dukes between 600 and 568 BCE.
Ji was the head of the the Jisun (季孫) clan, one of the notorious Three Families that ran Lu in reality if not in name, though he is reported to have governed the state with great integrity during a very tumultuous period of its history. Continue reading Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Ji Wenzi
Chen Wenzi (陳文子) was a high-ranking minister in Qi (齊), who left the state after his fellow minister Cuizi (崔子) arranged the assassination of Duke Zhuang (齊莊公) in 548 BCE for conducting an adulterous affair with his wife.
When Chen Wenzi moved to other states, however, he discovered that the officials there were no better than those in Qi and thus had to keep moving on.
Continue reading Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Chen Wenzi
Cuizi (崔子) was a high-ranking minister in the state of Qi (齊) and is said to have assassinated its ruler Duke Zhuang (齊莊公) in 548 BCE after discovering that the duke was having a secret affair with his wife Tang Jiang (棠姜).
Although he ensured the succession of the dead duke’s brother, Duke Jing (齊景公), to the throne and thus maintained his ministerial position, Cuizi lost out in a political struggle against a fellow collaborator in the murder called Qing Feng (慶封), who ordered his whole family to be killed. In 546 BCE, Cuizi committed suicide.
Continue reading Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Cuizi
Ziwen (子文) was chief minister of the state of Chu (楚), taking office for the first time in 663 BCE. He was famous for his integrity and loyalty to the state, despite being dismissed from the position of chief minister on three occasions.
According to legend, Ziwen was the love child of a noble from Chu and was looked after by a tigress after he was left in a swamp after his birth. Subsequently, he was discovered by a man from another noble family who brought him up as if he was his son. Later on, he was welcomed back to his own family and made its heir.
Continue reading Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Ziwen
Zang Wenzhong (藏文仲) is the courtesy name of Zang Sunchen, a high-ranking minister of the state of Lu who served four rulers during the 7th Century BCE. Zang played a critical role in the economic development of Lu and was greatly admired for his learning, wisdom, and devotion to duty by his contemporaries.
One famous story about him was that he stepped in to defend a disfigured man who was blamed for causing a severe drought in 639 BCE because he was born with his face looking into the sky all the time. According to the charges, this meant that heaven refused to let any rain fall to prevent all the water from flowing into the poor guy’s nostrils! Continue reading Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Zang Wenzhong
Yan Pingzhong (晏平仲) was the courtesy name of Yan Zhong (晏仲), a chief minister of the state of Qi (齊) who was famous for his ability to forge close relationships with people of all social stations during the course of a career that spanned over four decades and the reigns of three dukes. Continue reading Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Yan Pingzhong
Tradition has it that Zuo Qiuming (左丘明) was a contemporary of Confucius and court historian for the state of Lu. He is remembered as the author of the Commentary of Zuo (左傳/zuǒzhuán), one of the earliest narrative histories of China and reportedly a gem of classical Chinese prose.
This famous work has traditionally been regarded as a commentary on another ancient Chinese chronicle the Spring and Autumn Annals (春秋/Chūnqiū) – which, according to Mencius, were edited by none other than Confucius himself. Continue reading Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Zuo Qiuming
When Gongxi Chi was sent on a mission to the state of Qi, Ran Qiu requested an allowance of grain for Gongxi’s mother. Confucius said: “She should receive a measure.” When Ran Qiu asked for more, Confucius said: “She should receive a double measure.” Ran Qiu gave her five double measures. Confucius said: “Gongxi Chi is traveling to Qi with sleek horses and fine furs. I’ve always heard that a leader helps those in need; he does not make the rich even richer.”
The more successful you become, the more you feel entitled to special treatment at no extra personal cost. That’s why frequent flyer and VIP guest programs for airlines and hotels have become so extraordinarily popular. Who doesn’t enjoy having access to exclusive lounges, fast check-in and boarding privileges, and occasional upgrades just for flying a certain number of miles on the same airline? And who would say no if you were offered a free luxury weekend getaway in an exotic resort simply for staying in your favorite hotel chain whenever you hit the road. Despite what others might believe, business travel is hard work. You’ve earned your little treats, haven’t you? You’ll certainly never succeed in prising my precious Eva Air gold card away from my cold-dead hands! Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: an allowance of grain