Yi Yin ( 伊尹) was the right-hand man of Tang, the founder of the Shang dynasty, helping him to overthrow Jie, the despotic last ruler of the Xia dynasty, and build the foundations of his new government.
According to one popular legend, Yi Yin was the slave of a man called (有莘), who instructed him to accompany his daughter when he sent her to marry Tang. After being made Tang’s chef, Yi Yin spiced up the meals he served his king with his thoughts on how he should overthrow Jie and gradually became a trusted member of his retinue. Other stories about him differ greatly with this account, suggesting that Yi Yin was a wise man whom Tang had to approach many times before he finally decided to join him. Continue reading Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Yi Yin→
Gao Yao (皋陶) was a member of court of the sage king Shun and served as a minister responsible for justice and music. So great did his reputation become that he was worshipped as the God of Justice in ancient China and the house of Li, which established the Tang dynasty, claimed him as an ancestor.
Although Gao was an advocate of capital punishment for perpetrators of fraud, corruption, and murder, he argued against the ancient tradition of punishing their whole families for their crimes. He also urged that the law should be applied fairly, so that no innocent defendants were punished unjustly. This was a revolutionary principle given the harsh and arbitrary nature of the justice system at the time. Continue reading Historical Figures in the Analects of Confucius: Gao Yao→
After a decidedly unpromising start to his reign, Duke Jing of Qi (齊景公) restored the wealth and power of the state while working in tandem with his great chief minister Yan Ying (晏嬰) – only to send it spinning back into rapid decline after succumbing to the manifold temptations of a life of lavish luxury and unbridled pleasure.
As a huge fan of William Gibson I feel a little guilty in confessing that I’m having a hard time working my way through his latest novel, Agency. Although the writing is of the usual high quality, it lacks the sharp edge and raw energy of the prose in his earlier works. Perhaps I’m being a little harsh here, but I can’t help feeling as if it’s a gentrified Cyberpunk. Sure, in places the book is clever and witty, but it tastes more like a cup of caffeine-free latte than a mug of freshly-roasted coffee.
Or, to borrow from 6.18 of the Analects of Confucius, it has a little too much cultural refinement (文/wén) and not enough native substance (質/zhì). For all his love of ritual and propriety, even the great sage himself believed that it was better to err on the side of the latter rather than the former lest you become too fake and foppish. Continue reading Notes from the field: gentrified Cyberpunk in Agency?→
One of the great delights of hiking around the Four Beasts Scenic Area (四獸山) is that there are lots of smaller pathways to follow that take you away from the main trails deeper into the lush vegetation covering the mountainside.
This morning I happened along this delightful little shrine when I took a different route down the mountain before arriving at a nearby temple. There are in fact, a lot of temples in the Four Beasts dedicated to an eclectic array of Buddhist, Daoist, and other Chinese deities. One day, I keep telling myself, I’ll be able to identify all of them… Continue reading Notes from the field: exploring multiple pathways→
Read this new English translation of the Analects of Confucius Book 4 to learn more about the teachings of China’s most famous philosopher. Its main themes include goodness, leadership, filial devotion, and the need for restraint.
Before you read a single word of the Analects, it is important to understand that the work comprises a collection of conversations and aphorisms rather than a manifesto. Each of its twenty books features multiple exchanges between multiple characters discussing multiple topics – much like a modern-day social media feed. There are no linear arguments based on carefully-marshaled facts that build up to a resounding conclusion. It is left to you, the reader, to pick through the various threads of the text and connect them to the others to build up your overall understanding of the teachings contained in it. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 1: Overview→
子曰：「三人行，必有我師焉：擇其善者而從之，其不善者而改之。」 Confucius said: “Let me take a stroll with any two random people, and I can always be sure of learning something from them. I can take their good points and emulate them; and I can take their bad points and correct them in myself.”
You can feel Confucius’s outgoing nature and zest for life in these famous words. To him, any situation he encounters is an opportunity to learn something and anybody he meets has something to teach him. Continue reading A learning opportunity→