The Analects of Confucius Book 13 has a limited supporting cast of just four of the sage’s contemporaries. But what it lacks in terms of numbers, it more than makes up for in terms of the status of its members, who include two rulers of Wei and Lu, one prince, and a lord with his personal fiefdom.
Duke Chu of Wei had the unique distinction of ruling the state while his father was still alive and being deposed by him in a bloody palace coup. With his opening question in 13.3, Zilu is implying that if Confucius chooses to recognize the duke as the legitimate ruler of Wei, he has a great chance of being appointed his chief minister. To Zilu’s incredulity, Confucius refuses to play ball no matter how great the prize may be. Although he does not state it directly, the sage regards Duke Chu as illegitimate because his father is still living and believes that he is planting the seeds for even greater chaos in Wei by basing his rule on a falsehood: “When language doesn’t accord with the truth of things, nothing can be carried out successfully.” Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 13: supporting cast
Duke Ling of Wei (衛靈公) was one of the most decadent rulers of the Autumn and Spring period and perhaps in all of Chinese history. As the son of a lowly concubine of Duke Xiang of Wei, he wasn’t even first in line for the throne. But when his father died in 535 BCE without anointing a successor, the chief minister Kong Zhengchi put him in power after consulting the oracles of the Book of Changes and Kang Shufeng (康叔封), the founder of the state of Wei.
Duke Ling had little interest in the affairs of government, preferring to spend his time carousing in his palaces and embarking on occasional military adventures. In 522 BCE he was forced to flee from Wei following a rebellion led by his retainer Qi Bao, who had been angered by the humiliating treatment given to him by the duke’s brother. It was only after Qi was assassinated that the duke was able to return to his homeland. Continue reading Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Duke Ling of Wei
Zilu asked: “If the ruler of Wei were to entrust you with the government of his state, what would be your first priority?” Confucius said: “It most definitely would be to rectify the names.” Zilu said: “Really? Isn’t that a little strange? How would that make things right?” Confucius said: “How dense can you get! When a leader doesn’t understand what they’re talking about, they should remain silent. When the names aren’t correct, language doesn’t accord with the truth of things. When language doesn’t accord with the truth of things, nothing can be carried out successfully. When nothing can be carried out successfully, ritual and music won’t flourish. When ritual and music don’t flourish, punishments and penalties miss their mark. When punishments and penalties miss their mark, the people don’t know where to place their hands and feet. Therefore, a leader must be able to give the appropriate name to whatever they want to talk about and must also make sure they do exactly as they say. When it comes to speaking, a leader doesn’t allow any carelessness.”
Say what you mean. Mean what you say. The further you deviate from the truth, the greater the problems you’ll cause – not just for you but everyone around you. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: say what you mean