Even though Confucius is critical of several of his most loyal followers in Book 11, most notably Zilu, he reserves his most virulent scorn for Ran Qiu. In 11.17 he famously rips into him for helping the Lu strongman Ji Kangzi to levy yet more taxes on the common people by loudly declaring: “He’s no longer my follower. You may beat the drum and attack him, my young friends.”
While Confucius is justifiably upset at Ran Qiu for ignoring his advice not to impose any more unnecessary burdens onto the impoverished peasantry, he never uses such violent language towards Zilu and other followers who also helped the corrupt and venal Ji Family enrich themselves at the expense of the downtrodden Lu population. Indeed, even though Confucius often chides Zilu for his indiscretions and impetuousness, he generally adopts a much more indulgent tone towards him than Ran Qiu. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 11: Confucius and Ran Qiu
Confucius shows his great admiration of Min Ziqian, one of his lesser known followers, in Book 11 of the Analects. He praises Ziqian to the skies in 11.5 as a “model of filial devotion” because he lives up to the reputation that he built up as a young man when he begged his father not to throw his evil stepmother and stepbrothers out of the house after they had treated abominably.
In 11.14, Confucius goes on to commend Ziqian for his political astuteness when his follower suggests that it would be better if the leadership of the state of Lu repaired the existing structure of the Long Treasury rather than go to the time and expense of demolishing and rebuilding it. In contrast to the voluble Zilu, for example, Ziqian “rarely speaks, but when he does he hits the mark.” Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 11: Confucius and Min Ziqian
Unlike the quasi father and son combo of Confucius and Yan Hui, Confucius and Zilu were more like an elder and young brother who love each other deeply but aren’t afraid to enter into the occasional argument when the occasion demands it.
In Book 11 of the Analects Confucius shows how much he cares for “bold and intense” (11.13) Zilu with his repeated attempts to rein in his recklessness. In 11.12 he famously responds to Zilu’s questions about how to serve the spirits and gods and what he thought of death by telling him to keep his feet firmly planted on the ground: “’If you’re not yet able to serve other people, how are you able to serve the spirits? … If you don’t understand life yet, how can you understand death?’” Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 11: Confucius and Zilu
Why was Confucius so devastated by the death of Yan Hui that his followers felt compelled to take the extraordinary step of admonishing their master for displaying excessive grief? Book 11 of the Analects not only poses this question with its vivid portrayal of Confucius’s anguish at the untimely passing of his favorite follower. It also answers it by showing how close the relationship between Confucius and Yan Hui was and the high regard the sage had for the man he had seen as his protégé and eventual successor.
Indeed, in 11.4 Confucius sounds exactly like a humble-bragging dad when he claims that Yan Hui is of no help to him at all because “he delights in everything I say.” In 11.7, he goes on to tell the strongman Ji Kangzi that the only follower of his who loved learning was Yan Hui (1). In 11.19 he tops that by declaring that he “just about achieved perfection”. Not even a life of grinding poverty can tempt the virtuous Yan Hui to stray from the strict moral path that he follows. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 11: Confucius and Yan Hui
Zigao (子羔/子皋) gets a bad rap in the two appearances he makes Book 11 of the Analects. In 11.18, he is described as “dumb” or “simple-minded” (愚/yú), presumably by Confucius. Then in 11.25, Confucius goes on to castigate Zilu for appointing him as steward or governor of the town of Bi because of his lack of learning.
Confucius appears to have based his judgment of Zigao because he was ugly and short; reportedly he was less than five feet in height. However, he is said to have performed well as an official in the governments of the states of Lu and Wei and gained a reputation for delivering harsh but fair justice in the towns and districts he governed. Continue reading Followers of Confucius: Zigao
Although Zeng Dian (曾點) only makes a single appearance in the Analects, he packs quite a punch with the contrarian stance he adopts in 11.26. When Confucius asks Zilu, Ran Qiu, Gongxi Chi, and him what he would do if he were given the opportunity to exercise his talents, he says he would like to bathe in the Yi River and enjoy the breeze on the Rain Dance rather than govern a middle-sized state, run a large territory, or preside over an important diplomatic conference.
After listening to each of his follower’s aspirations Confucius famously agrees with him, inspiring thousands of years of scholarly debate over whether this means that the sage was a Daoist at heart. Continue reading Followers of Confucius: Zeng Dian
Yan Lu (顏路) was one of the earliest followers of Confucius and the father of the sage’s favorite follower and protégé Yan Hui (顏回).
Otherwise known as Yan Wuyou (顏無繇), he was born in the state of Lu six years after Confucius in 545 BCE and led a humble existence. He was so poor that when Yan Hui died he had to ask Confucius to sell his carriage to buy an exterior coffin for his son’s burial. Confucius had to refuse the request because Yan Hui achieved sufficient status to merit such an honor. In addition, as a former minister it would have been a serious breach of ritual propriety for Confucius to participate in a funeral procession on foot. Continue reading Followers of Confucius: Yan Lu
Virtue: Yan Hui, Min Ziqian, Ran Geng, Ran Yong. Eloquence: Zai Yu, Zigong. Administration: Ran Qiu, Zilu. Letters: Ziyou, Zixia. (1)
What is your greatest strength? What do you wish to be known for? Is it your sense of morality or eloquence? Or perhaps your leadership abilities or literary talents. Whatever it is, keep on working to improve it. No matter how good you are at it already, there’s always room for improvement. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: your greatest strength
When Zengzi was seriously ill, Meng Jingzi came to visit him. Zengzi said: “When a bird is about to die, its song is mournful; when a man is about to die, his words are kind. In following the way, leaders cherish three things: by maintaining a dignified demeanor, they stay far from violence and arrogance; by maintaining a sincere countenance, they show they can be trusted; by choosing their words carefully, they avoid vulgarity and mistakes. As for the details of ritual, these will be taken care of by the functionaries.”
If you have the chance to impart some final words of wisdom while lying on your deathbed, what will they be? Will you rebuke someone you don’t even like for their failings or will you talk about your love for your family and friends? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: final words of wisdom
Very little is known about the follower Wuma Qi (巫馬期), who makes only a single appearance in the Analects of Confucius. Some sources suggest that he was the successor to the follower Zijian (子賤) as the chief magistrate (宰/zǎi) of Danfu (單父) located in modern-day Shandong province. Continue reading Followers of Confucius: Wuma Qi