Confucius said of Gongye Chang: “He would make a good husband. Although he has spent time in prison, he was innocent.” He gave him his daughter’s hand in marriage. (1) (2)
Everyone has said or done something dumb in the past. Does that mean that they should be denied the chance of a job or perhaps even have their current livelihood taken away from them because someone has dredged up a drunken post or image from the murky depths of the internet? Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: a second chance
Book 5 is a very different beast to the previous four books of the Analects. Rather than the usual aphorisms of the Master, it features a compilation of Confucius’s opinions on a dozen of his followers and fourteen contemporary and historical figures.
He certainly doesn’t hold back on his criticisms either. In Chapter 10, he famously castigates his young and rather conceited follower Zai Yu (宰予) when he finds him asleep one day: “Rotten wood cannot be carved; dung walls cannot be troweled. What’s the point of scolding him anymore?”
Even Zigong (子貢), one of his closest and most loyal followers, is given a frank and bruising appraisal when he asks Confucius what he thinks of him in Chapter 4 and receives the response that he is a “vessel” (器/qì) and thus still has a long way to go before becoming a leader (君子/jūnzǐ).
At least Confucius is candid about his own limitations as well, admitting to Zigong in Chapter 9 that neither of them are the equal of his protégé Yan Hui (顏回). He also shows quite astonishing courage (or bullheadedness) in his willingness to flout social conventions by marrying his daughter to a convicted criminal called Gongye Chang (公冶長) in Chapter 1 because he believed him to be innocent. I very much doubt that he consulted the poor girl before making this decision.
To help you understand the context of Confucius’s comments about all the other people featured in Book 5, I have posted a series of pen portraits of them. You can find links to them on the Contemporary Figures and Historical Figures pages.
Weisheng Gao (微生高) was the subject of a famous story in the Zhuangzi (莊子) that depending on how you view it was either a tragic tale of unrequited love or a warning about the dangers of excessive rectitude.
According to the Zhuangzi, Weisheng arranged an assignation with a fair maiden under a bridge and promised to wait for her until she arrived. Even when it started pouring with rain and the floodwaters began rising, he stubbornly held on to one of the pillars of the bridge in the vain hope that she would arrive until he was swept away by the torrent and drowned. Continue reading Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Weisheng Gao
Gongxi Chi (公西赤), also known as Gongxi Hua (公西華) and Zihua (子華), was famous for his expertise in ritual etiquette. So much so that in Chapter 8 of Book 5 of the Analects, Confucius comments: “standing resplendent with his sash, he could entertain distinguished guests.” Continue reading Followers of Confucius: Gongxi Chi