Confucius didn’t “do god” in the sense of worshiping a specific deity or religion, but he did subscribe to a belief in the idea of an all-seeing and all-knowing “heaven” (天/tiān) that acted as a sort of moral guide for the world and bestowed its will or mandate (命/mìng) on virtuous individuals to rule the world wisely and benignly. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 2: Confucius on the mandate of heaven
Book 8 of the Analects of Confucius features only one of the sage’s followers. Thanks no doubt to some editorial skullduggery from his own followers, who played in important role in compiling the Analects, the young pretender Zengzi is given five chapters to spout his wisdom. Even though, in first two at least, he is lying on his death bed, it’s hard to summon up any sympathy for him given the pretentiousness of his utterances.
The book isn’t exactly filled with contemporary figures either, featuring only two. Meng Jingzi, a member of the Meng clan, one of the notorious Three Families that ran the state of Lu, receives a rollicking from Zengzi in 8.4 for his tendency towards micromanagement in his one and only appearance in the Analects. Music Master Zhi fares much better in 8.15 when Confucius praises his “rich and beautiful music” to the skies. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 8: by numbers
What were the hopes and dreams of Confucius? What kept him plugging away despite the many setbacks he suffered during his career as a government official in his home state of Lu and his subsequent fourteen years of exile?
The first chapter of Book 7 of the Analects gives us a hint when he famously declares: “I transmit but I don’t create. I am faithful to and love the past.” On the surface, Confucius may appear to be speaking modestly about his own abilities and ambitions, but in reality he’s revealing that his ultimate dream is to restore the lost glories of the early Zhou dynasty when it was ruled by his great hero, the Duke of Zhou. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 7: hopes and dreams of Confucius
Walking around the center of modern-day Qufu, it can be difficult to appreciate the influence that this small city had on the early political and cultural development of China. Not only is it said to be the home of the legendary Yellow Emperor, one of the mythical five Emperors who is regarded by some as the creator of Chinese culture. It also wielded tremendous soft power during the Zhou dynasty as the capital of the state of Lu, which was granted to Confucius’s great hero, the Duke of Zhou, as a fiefdom by the grateful young King Cheng for the dedication he showed in building the foundations of the nascent dynasty during his regency.
Although the duke never actually visited Qufu because he had far more important affairs at the Zhou court to take care of, his association with the city elevated its importance to previously unimaginable heights. The construction of a magnificent temple to honor him further helped to promote the image of Qufu throughout the land and to enable the state of Lu to punch above its weight on the Zhou dynasty political and cultural stage. Continue reading 2019 Highlights: on the trail of the Duke of Zhou and the Yellow Emperor
The head of the Ji Family was wealthier than the Duke of Zhou ever was, but Ran Qiu still assisted him with the collection of taxes to further increase his wealth. Confucius said: “He’s no longer my follower. You may beat the drum and attack him, my young friends.”
There’s no point in exploding with anger when someone has done something that upsets you – particularly if they’re not actually there to hear you. It might make you feel good for a couple seconds, but pretty soon you’ll be left feeling sheepish along with everyone else who was there to witness your outburst. How do you think you would make them feel if you went as far as to call for violence against someone you’re a close friend of?
Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: an extraordinary outburst
King Wen of Zhou (周文王) is honored as the founder of the Zhou dynasty (周朝), even though in actual fact it was his son who actually established it after defeating the last Shang dynasty (商朝) king Zhouxin (紂辛) at the bloody battle of Muye (牧野之戰) in ca. 1046 BCE.
Born Ji Chang (姬昌) in 1152 BCE, King Wen took over as ruler of the then small state of Zhou after his father had been executed by the Shang king Wen Ding (文丁) in the late 12th century BCE. As the new king’s power and influence grew, the Shang king Zhouxin began to see him as a threat and had him thrown in prison in Youli (羑里) in modern-day Henan province, only agreeing to release him after being plied with lavish gifts from King Wen’s supporters. Continue reading Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: King Wen of Zhou
When Confucius was trapped in Kuang, he said: “King Wen is dead, but the civilization he created lives on with me, doesn’t it? If heaven wished civilization to be destroyed, why was it entrusted to me? If heaven doesn’t wish civilization to be destroyed, what do I have to fear from the people of Kuang?”
How to boost your personal brand? This is becoming a tougher challenge than ever before in the raucous and rancorous times we live in. A few mood shots in an exotic location posted on Instagram are nowhere near enough to cut through the noise. Not even a regular stream of thought leadership pieces is likely to be noticed amid the relentless cacophony that roils the online world – unless (and even this approach isn’t guaranteed) you’re willing to stoop to posting something incredibly offensive or stupid. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: the chosen one?
King Wu’s name (周武王) literally means “Martial King”. He founded the Zhou dynasty (周朝) after defeating the last Shang dynasty (商朝) ruler, Zhouxin (紂辛), in the bloody battle of Muye (牧野之戰) in ca. 1046 BCE. Continue reading Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: King Wu of Zhou
Confucius said: “Learn as if you’ll never be able to catch up with everything you need to know and as if you’re afraid you’ll lose everything that you’ve already gained.”
There’s no substitute for hard work in the pursuit of excellence. It isn’t important how brilliant you think your ideas are. The only way you’ll succeed in implementing them is by putting your nose to the grindstone. Inspiration is useless without perspiration. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: an indomitable spirit
Confucius said: “Even if someone has all the outstanding talents of the Duke of Zhou, if they’re arrogant and mean all their other qualities aren’t worth looking at.”
Do you have the right character to make the most of your talent? This is an uncomfortable question to ask yourself, but also an extremely important one. After all, it’s impossible to achieve long-term success based on your abilities alone. You need to be able to complement them with diligence, integrity, modesty, generosity, and a host of other traits that will enable you to become a well-rounded person – or, as Confucius termed it, a leader (君子/jūnzǐ). Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: an uncomfortable question