Women were excluded from holding formal positions of power by the Zhou dynasty operating system, though a small minority were able to wield it informally as wives, consorts, concubines, and mothers. The most famous or infamous example during the Spring and Autumn period was Nanzi, the wife or consort of the dissolute Duke Ling of Wei.
Some historians portray Nanzi as being as depraved as her husband, going as far as accusing her of conducting an incestuous affair with her brother. Even in the unlikely event that the stories about her scandalous behavior are true, that does not mean she was not an effective ruler. Although Confucius fails to mention it, it was almost certainly she who assembled and managed the team of officials that the sage mentions in 14.19. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius Project: Week 2, 2021 updates
When Ji Kangzi asks Confucius in 14.19 why Duke Ling of Wei was able to hold on to power despite his failure to follow the moral way, the sage replies that it was because the old reprobate had a strong team of ministers to support him.
Although Confucius is telling Ji the truth with his answer, he fails to mention one important detail: namely, who oversaw the team of ministerial mavens that kept the state running smoothly while the dissolute duke cavorted in his palaces and hunting grounds. Continue reading Analects Book 14: Confucius fails to mention his audience with Nanzi
Quite a productive start to the year with the Leadership Lessons from Confucius project. In addition to some articles analyzing a few of the key themes of Analects Book 14, I have also added some profiles of historical figures that appear in the supporting cast. Here are the links: Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius Project: Week 1, 2021 updates
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
Gongshu Wenzi (公叔文子) was the posthumous title given to Gongsun Ba/Gongsun Zhu, a highly respected minister of Wei. According to the Book of Ritual, he was given the honorific title of Wenzi (文子), meaning ‘the Refined’, ‘the Civilized’ or ‘the Cultured’, by Duke Ling of Wei in recognition of his great loyalty to the state and the improvements he made to the system for ranking officials.
There appear to have been questions raised by some officials as to whether Gongshu truly merited this honor. By praising him for allowing his steward to be promoted to the same position as him in the duke’s court in 14.18, Confucius is likely aiming to counter these claims. In ancient China, most high-ranking officials would consider it a humiliation to be equal in rank with a former subordinate, so Confucius no doubt also considered this to be a rare and generous act that deserved great recognition.
Continue reading Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Gongshu Wenzi
Kong Wenzi (孔文子) was the posthumous name given to Kong Yu (孔圉) a minister of the state of Wei who died about a year before Confucius in around 480 BCE.
Kong’s posthumous name literally means Kong-the-Refined or Kong-the-Cultured. Many people at the time considered this to be rather ironic given that he was said to have been an unsavory character notorious for his disloyalty and dissoluteness. No wonder Zigong is so befuddled in 14.19 by the news that Kong had been given such an honor! Continue reading Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Kong Wenzi
Confucius said that Duke Ling of Wei didn’t follow the way. Ji Kangzi said: “If this is the case, how come he hasn’t lost his state?” Confucius said: “He has Kong Wenzi looking after guests and foreign delegations, Zhu Tuo taking care of the ancestral temple, and Wangsun Jia in charge of defense. With such officials as these, how could he possibly lose his state?”
You’re only as good as the people you have around you. Be careful to ensure that you put the right person in each job and that their personalities and abilities mesh with each other. When you have everyone in place and the team is functioning smoothly, resist the temptation to take things easy. That’s the time to start planning how to take things to the next level and unleash everyone’s full potential. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: unleash everyone’s full potential
Confucius said: “I’ve never met anyone who loves virtue as much as sensual beauty.”
Don’t delude yourself: appearances matter. If you can’t be bothered to dress for the role you’re being interviewed for, why should your prospective employer be bothered to hire you? If a company that’s trying to do business with you can’t be bothered to have a clean and attractive website, why should you be bothered to give them an order? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: appearances matter
Duke Chu of Wei (衛出公) only became the ruler of the state because his father, the former crown prince Ji Kuaikui (姬蒯瞶), had been forced to flee the state after failing in an attempt to kill Nanzi (南子), the notorious consort of his father, Duke Ling (衛靈公), in 499 BCE. Continue reading Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Duke Chu of Wei
Nanzi (南子) was the consort or wife of Duke Ling of Wei (衛靈公) and took part in the most scandalous incident of Confucius’s life. She gained an unsavory reputation for political scheming and loose morals and was widely believed to have been the real power behind the throne during the tumultuous later years of the duke’s reign (543 – 493 BCE).
Nanzi was at the height of her powers when Confucius arrived in Wei after leaving his home state of Lu for exile in 496 BCE. She was anxious to meet the famous sage but had to send multiple invitations before he finally agreed to attend an audience with her. Continue reading Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Nanzi