Tag Archives: Book of Songs

Leadership lessons from Confucius: before opening your mouth

before opening your mouth

南容三復白圭,孔子以其兄之子妻之。
Nan Rong constantly repeated a refrain from the poem White Jade Scepter. Confucius gave him his elder brother’s daughter in marriage. (1)

Pause and take a deep breath before opening your mouth or tapping the publish or send key on your smartphone screen. Once you’ve said or written something you may come to regret, it’s impossible to take it back. No matter how much you apologize later on, the memory of it will always linger somewhere deep in the recipient’s mind together with the feelings of hurt and anger that it may have caused. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: before opening your mouth

Leadership lessons from Confucius: you can always do better

do better

子曰:「衣敝縕袍,與衣孤貉者立,而不恥者,其由也與!不忮不求,何用不臧?」子路終身誦之。子曰:「是道也,何足以臧!」
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

Leadership lessons from Confucius: making the most of your golden years

golden years

子曰:「吾自衛反魯,然後樂正,雅頌,各得其所。」
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

Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: King Wen of Zhou

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

Analects of Confucius Book 8: new English translation

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.

Chapter 1
子曰:「泰伯其可謂至德也已矣。三以天下讓,民無得而稱焉。」
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

Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Music Master Zhi

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

Leadership lessons from Confucius: poetic inspiration

poetry

子曰:「興於詩,立於禮,成於樂。」
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

Leadership lessons from Confucius: displays of moral superiority

曾子有疾,召門弟子曰:「啟予足!啟予手!詩云:『戰戰兢兢,如臨深淵,如履薄冰。』而今而後,吾知免夫!小子!」
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

Leadership lessons from Confucius: a common lexicon

common lexicon

子所雅言,詩、書、執禮,皆雅言也。
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