Born in the early part of the 11th century BCE, Boyi (伯夷) and Shuqi (叔齊) were the sons of a ruler of the minor state of Guzhu (孤竹) during the time when the ruling Shang dynasty (商朝) was collapsing under the dissolute rule of its last emperor Di Xin (帝辛).
One of the most important themes of Book 1 of the Analects is that the focus of learning is on practical applications rather than dry academic theory. Its main objective was to ensure that a young man was inculcated with the right values and behaviors to ensure that he made a positive contribution to society by interacting positively with its other members. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 1: Confucius on relationships→
Read this new English translation of the Analects of Confucius Book 2 to learn more about the teachings of China’s most famous philosopher. Its main themes include leadership, filial devotion, learning, thinking, and trust.
子夏問孝。子曰：「色難。有事，弟子服其勞；有酒食，先生饌，曾是以為孝乎？」 When Zixia asked about filial devotion, Confucius said: “It’s the attitude that counts. If young people just offer their help when there’s a job to do or serve their elders wine and food when they need to drink and eat, how could this ever be considered as filial devotion?”
子游問孝。子曰：「今之孝者，是謂能養。至於犬馬，皆能有養；不敬，何以別乎。」 When Ziyou asked about filial devotion, Confucius said: “These days filial devotion simply means keeping your parents fed. But that’s also how dogs and horses are looked after. Unless you treat your parents respectfully, what’s the difference?”
While it’s important to meet people’s material needs by providing them with a good salary, benefits, and working environment, showing them appreciation and respect for their abilities and contributions to the organization is even more vital for building a strong and harmonious culture. People don’t come to work simply to make money; they also want to feel that they are a valued member of a team and forge close connections with the people they engage with both inside and outside the office. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: lip service→
有子曰：「其為人也孝弟，而好犯上者，鮮矣；不好犯上，而好作亂者，未之有也。君子務本，本立而道生。孝弟也者，其為仁之本與！」 Youzi said: “A man who practices filial and fraternal devotion is unlikely to question the authority of his superiors. Such a man will never provoke disorder. A leader focuses on the root; once this takes hold the way appears. Filial and fraternal devotion is the root of goodness.”
Confucius was a master of talent development, training thousands of students and followers (1) who went on to take official positions and run businesses in the patchwork quilt of states that comprised China during his lifetime. (2)