Confucius said: “Only Zilu can stand in his shabby hemp gown next to people wearing fox and badger furs without feeling embarrassed: ‘free of envy, free of greed, he must be a good man.’” When Zilu continuously chanted these lines, Confucius said: “You’re moving in the right direction, but is that a good reason to be so self-satisfied?” (1)
Don’t rest on your laurels. There’s always room for improvement. Just because you’re making progress doesn’t mean that you can relax. You can always do better. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: you can always do better
Confucius said: “It was only after I returned to Lu from Wei that I revised the Book of Music and put the Court Songs and Sacrificial Hymns in the proper order.” (1) (2)
Have you finalized your retirements plans? I’m not just talking about making sure you have made sufficient financial provision for it, but also working out how you’ll spend your time. Endless rounds of golf might sound fun in theory, but will they provide the same levels of intellectual and emotional stimulation as well as sense of purpose that you’re used to at work? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: making the most of your golden years
King Wen of Zhou (周文王) is honored as the founder of the Zhou dynasty (周朝), even though in actual fact it was his son who actually established it after defeating the last Shang dynasty (商朝) king Zhouxin (紂辛) at the bloody battle of Muye (牧野之戰) in ca. 1046 BCE.
Born Ji Chang (姬昌) in 1152 BCE, King Wen took over as ruler of the then small state of Zhou after his father had been executed by the Shang king Wen Ding (文丁) in the late 12th century BCE. As the new king’s power and influence grew, the Shang king Zhouxin began to see him as a threat and had him thrown in prison in Youli (羑里) in modern-day Henan province, only agreeing to release him after being plied with lavish gifts from King Wen’s supporters. Continue reading Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: King Wen of Zhou
Read this new English translation of the Analects of Confucius Book 8 to learn more about the teachings of China’s most famous philosopher, including his thoughts on the qualities of the ancient sage kings who laid the foundations of Chinese civilization.
Confucius said: “It can truly be said of Tai Bo that he was a man of supreme virtue. Three times he gave up the throne of his state without giving the people the opportunity to praise him.”
Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 8: new English translation
Music Master Zhi (師摯) was a famous court musician of Lu, and may also have been the conductor of the state orchestra. Like most musicians of the time, he was blind. Confucius was a huge fan, commenting in Chapter 15 of Book 8: “What rich and beautiful music fills my ears when Zhi, the music master, is conducting…” Continue reading Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Music Master Zhi
Confucius said: “Find inspiration with the Book of Songs; establish character with ritual; achieve perfection with music.” (1)
If you’re serious about inspiring creativity and innovation in your team or organization, you could do a lot worse than making poetry a key element of your efforts. Poetry not only teaches us how to express ourselves more eloquently; it can also give us a lifelong love of language and literature. Its ability to encapsulate complex and often conflicting emotions in powerful and evocative phrases provides powerful fuel for our imaginations – not to mention a powerful antidote to anodyne official language. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: poetic inspiration
When Zengzi was seriously ill, he called his followers together and said: “Look at my feet! Look at my hands! It’s said in the Book of Songs:
‘We should be vigilant and cautious,
As if we are standing on the edge of an abyss,
As if we are treading on thin ice.’
But now, my little ones, I know that I’m escaping whole now and forever after.” (1)
Better to leave your great virtue unspoken rather than attempt to signal it to others. If it’s half as strong as you think it is, they’ll pick up on it. Ostentatious displays of moral superiority are more likely to repel people than persuade them to follow your example. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: displays of moral superiority
Occasions when Confucius used standard pronunciation: when reciting the Book of Songs and the Book of Documents, and when carrying out ritual ceremonies. On all these occasions, he used standard pronunciation.
Language provides a unifying force in the communities we live in, the institutions we learn in, and the organizations we work in. A common lexicon that everyone is fluent in is vital if we are to live harmoniously, learn effectively, and work efficiently with each other. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a common lexicon
Confucius quotes from two of the so-called Five Classics of ancient Chinese literature in Book 2 of the Analects: namely, the Book of Songs and the Book of Documents. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 2: Confucius on culture
The character 文 (wén) originally meant “patterns”, though it is more often translated as “culture” or “civilization” as it refers to arts such as literature, calligraphy, music, ritual, mathematics, and even archery and charioteering. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 1: Confucius on culture