Tag Archives: Confucius on ancestral worship

Leadership lessons from Confucius: a horse and carriage

horse and carriage

朋友之饋,雖車馬,非祭肉,不拜。
When receiving a gift from a friend, he wouldn’t bow even if it was a horse and carriage. The only gift he would bow for was one of sacrificial meat.

Customs change along with the times. Long-established conventions like wearing a suit and tie to the office give way to more casual forms of dress and behavior. Centuries-old church services are spiced up to appeal to younger audiences. Do you stick to the old ways and decry the loss of age-old traditions? Or do you keep up with the times and celebrate the latest social innovations? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a horse and carriage

Leadership lessons from Confucius: in person

in person

祭如在,祭神如神在。子曰:「吾不與祭,如不祭。」
Sacrifice to your ancestors as if they are present; sacrifice to the deities as if they are present. Confucius said: “If you don’t attend a sacrifice in person, you’re not there in spirit either.” (1) (2) Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: in person

Leadership lessons from Confucius: the first libation

first libation

子曰:「禘自既灌而往者,吾不欲觀之矣。」
Confucius said: “Once the first libation has been performed at the sacrifice to the great imperial ancestor, I don’t want to watch the rest of the ceremony.” (1)

Do you really want to stick around for the rest of an event when you know it’s about to descend into a squirm-inducing fest of self-congratulation and status-signaling? Of course, some people may accuse you of being impolite, but why waste your precious time watching the great and good spouting self-serving platitudes on the stage when you could be doing something more productive? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: the first libation

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: cultural appropriation and cowardice

cultural appropriation

子曰:「非其鬼而祭之,諂也。見義不為,無勇也。」
Confucius said: “Sacrificing to spirits that don’t belong to your ancestors is presumptuous. Doing nothing when rightness demands action is cowardice.” (1)

Cultural appropriation: this is the phrase that immediately sprang to mind when I read Confucius’s opening comment in the final chapter of Book 2 of The Analects. And yes, “sacrificing to spirits that don’t belong to your ancestors” is indeed “presumptuous.” The best way to respect another culture is to learn as much as you can about it and only take part in its traditional ceremonies and festivities when you are invited to do so. There’s no excuse for insensitivity. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: cultural appropriation and cowardice