Tag Archives: Confucius on ritual

Leadership lessons from Confucius: sufficient evidence

sufficient evidence

子曰:「夏禮,吾能言之,杞不足徵也;殷禮,吾能言之,宋不足徵也。文獻不足故也。足,則吾能徵之矣。」
Confucius said: “I could talk about Xia Dynasty ritual, but the state of Qi hasn’t preserved sufficient evidence. I could talk about Yin Dynasty ritual, but the state of Song hasn’t preserved sufficient evidence. There aren’t enough written records and learned men; if there were, I could obtain evidence from them.” (1) (2)

In an age when information is so abundant and accessible, it can be very tempting to voice an opinion on a subject after carrying out a cursory Google search and scanning a few secondary sources. If you choose to do that at least have the courtesy to let people know that your views are based on limited knowledge, or better still keep your lips pursed while the real experts do the talking. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: sufficient evidence

Leadership lessons from Confucius: plain white silk

plain white silk

子夏問曰:「巧笑倩兮,美目盼兮,素以為絢兮。何謂也?」子曰:「繪事後素。」曰:「禮後乎?」子曰:「起予者商也!始可與言詩矣。」
Zixia asked: “What do these verses mean: ‘Ah, the lovely dimples of her artful smile! Ah, the black and white of her beautiful eyes! It’s on plain white silk that colors sparkle.’” Confucius said: “Painting comes after plain white silk.” Zixia said: “Is ritual also something that comes afterwards?” Confucius said: “You have opened up my eyes to true meaning of these verses! It is only with a man like you that I can discuss the Book of Songs!” (1)

Even the greatest ideas are useless without a foundation for implementing them on. You can’t build an awesome new product, for example, without getting investment to fund the project, designers and engineers to develop it, a factory to manufacture it, and marketing and sales people to promote it. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: plain white silk

Leadership lessons from Confucius: achieving a state of flow

flow

子曰:「君子無所爭,必也射乎!揖讓而升,下而飲。其爭也君子。」
Confucius said: “A leader does not engage in competition. But if you can’t avoid it, you should take part in an archery contest. You bow and exchange courtesies with your opponent before entering the range and enjoy drinks with him after leaving it. Even when engaged in competition, you remain a leader.” (1)

Like archery, leadership involves achieving such a state of flow that every action you take comes so naturally that you don’t even have to think about it. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: achieving a state of flow

Leadership lessons from Confucius: forging your own path

forging your own path

季氏旅於泰山,子謂冉有曰:「女弗能救與?」對曰:「不能。」子曰:「嗚呼!曾謂泰山不如林放乎?」
The Ji Family was setting off to carry out a sacrifice on Mount Tai. Confucius said to Ran Qiu: “Can you not stop this?” Ran Qiu replied: “I cannot.” Confucius said: “This is outrageous! Can it really be true that the spirit of Mount Tai has even less knowledge of ritual than Lin Fang?” (1) (2)

Leadership means forging your own path rather than following in the footsteps of others. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: forging your own path

Leadership lessons from Confucius: the essence of ritual

essence of ritual

林放問禮之本。子曰:「大哉問!禮,與其奢也,寧儉;喪,與其易也,寧戚。」
Lin Fang asked: “What is the essence of ritual?” Confucius said: “That’s a big question! For festive ceremonies, simplicity is better than extravagance; for funerals, genuine grief is better than excessive formality.” (1) (2)

There’s no need to lavish huge amounts of money on a fancy event just to impress other people. Keep things simple. Authenticity beats lavishness. Moderation trumps ostentation. Speak from your heart – not from your wallet. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: the essence of ritual

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: your choice

your choice

三家者以雍徹。子曰:「『相維辟公,天子穆穆』,奚取於三家之堂?」
When the Three Families had the Yong ode performed while the ceremonial vessels were being removed at the end of their ancestral sacrifices, Confucius said: “‘The lords are in attendance, the son of heaven sits solemnly on his throne.’ How can such words be used in the halls of the Three Families?” (1) (2)

Do you follow a traditional career path, perhaps taking a few liberties on the way to the top to show your importance? Or do you create your own path so that you can make your own rules? Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: your choice

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: eight rows of dancers

eight rows of dancers

孔子謂季氏,「八佾舞於庭,是可忍也,孰不可忍也?」
When he heard that the head of the Ji Family used eight rows of dancers to perform in the ceremonies at his ancestral temple, Confucius commented: “If he is capable of that, what isn’t he capable of?” (1)

The higher you rise in your career, the easier it is to let your growing influence, power, and status go to your head and decide that the normal rules and conventions no longer apply to you. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: eight rows of dancers

Leadership lessons from Confucius: adhering to the rites

adhering to the rites

It’s good to be back in the peace and quiet of the Lincolnshire Fens. I’m hoping that the fog that has gathered in my head will lift so that I can forge ahead with my Leadership Lessons from Confucius project. This has stalled over the last few weeks thanks – I like to tell myself at least – a heavy working schedule. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: adhering to the rites

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