Zigong asked: “What qualities must you possess to be called a true scholar-official?” Confucius said: “A person who maintains a sense of humility and can be sent on a mission to the four corners of the earth without bringing disgrace to their ruler can be called a true scholar-official.” “May I ask what type of person ranks one step below that?” “A person who is praised by their relatives for their filial devotion and who is known by the people of their neighborhood for being respectful towards their elders.” “May I ask what type of person ranks one step below that?” “A person whose word can be trusted and who completes whatever task they undertake. In their stubborn determination, they may resemble a petty person, but they could still probably qualify as a scholar-official of a lower rank.” “How would you rate the people currently involved in public affairs?” “Sadly, these are people you measure by a bucket or scoop. They’re not even worth mentioning.”
How many hard-working and trustworthy people of a “lower rank” do you have in your organization with the potential to take on a leadership role? What steps are you taking to provide them with the experience and training they need to show what they’re really made of? As technologies like AI proliferate, you are going to need far more people who can act like a “true scholar-official” than ever before. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: a true scholar-official
Filial devotion doesn’t require blind obedience to your parents – at least not the version of it that Confucius taught. In 4.18, he says that you may “gently remonstrate” with your mother and father if you think that they are not conducting themselves in the right manner. He does go on to caution, however, that if they choose to ignore your advice, you should “remain respectful” and not let “your efforts turn to resentment.” In the final analysis, maintaining harmony within the family is more important than being right.
Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 4: Confucius on filial devotion
The Analects of Confucius Book 4 begins with an exploration of the meaning of goodness. Only people who practice it constantly in their daily lives without a desire for personal profit are able to enjoy true satisfaction and contentment.
Even though Confucius claims that he has never seen “anyone whose strength is insufficient” to devote themselves to goodness for a single day, he despairs that he hasn’t ever seen anyone who “truly loves goodness and truly detests evil” either. The path to goodness that he urges everyone to follow is indeed a lonely and difficult one! Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 4: overview
One of the great delights of hiking around the Four Beasts Scenic Area (四獸山) is that there are lots of smaller pathways to follow that take you away from the main trails deeper into the lush vegetation covering the mountainside.
This morning I happened along this delightful little shrine when I took a different route down the mountain before arriving at a nearby temple. There are in fact, a lot of temples in the Four Beasts dedicated to an eclectic array of Buddhist, Daoist, and other Chinese deities. One day, I keep telling myself, I’ll be able to identify all of them… Continue reading Notes from the field: exploring multiple pathways
Boyu (伯魚) was the only son of Confucius and his wife Qiguan Shi (亓官氏), and was born in around 530 BCE, about a year of his parents’ marriage when Confucius was twenty. When Duke Zhao, the ruler of the state of Lu, sent him a prize carp to congratulate him on the birth of his son, Confucius gave the infant the formal name of Kong Li (孔鯉), which literally means “Kong-Carp.” He also gave his son the more informal name of Boyu, which literally means “Oldest-Son-Fish.”
Little is known about the details of Boyu’s childhood except that he had two younger sisters, one of whom is believed to have died at an early age. It appears, however, that the relationship between him and Confucius was a distant one, perhaps because his intellectual powers nowhere near matched those of his father. Continue reading Biography of Boyu: the only son of Confucius
When Zengzi was seriously ill, he called his followers together and said: “Look at my feet! Look at my hands! It’s said in the Book of Songs:
‘We should be vigilant and cautious,
As if we are standing on the edge of an abyss,
As if we are treading on thin ice.’
But now, my little ones, I know that I’m escaping whole now and forever after.” (1)
Better to leave your great virtue unspoken rather than attempt to signal it to others. If it’s half as strong as you think it is, they’ll pick up on it. Ostentatious displays of moral superiority are more likely to repel people than persuade them to follow your example. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: displays of moral superiority
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).
When their father chose the younger Shuqi his successor, Shuqi declined the offer. His elder brother Boyi then refused the throne as well, insisting that his younger brother take it. Rather than fight with each other over who was the rightful ruler, the two brothers fled to the nearby state of Zhou (周). Continue reading Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Boyi and Shuqi
Confucius said: “Boyi and Shuqi never bore grudges, so they rarely aroused any resentment from others.” (1)
Forgive and forget. The only person you’ll hurt by holding a grudge against is yourself. Revenge is a dish best never served at all. The taste of it will leave you bitter and sore. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: forgive and forget
What is the meaning of filial devotion? From Chapter 5 to Chapter 8 of Book 2 of the Analects, Confucius gives five different answers to the very same question to five different people. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 2: Confucius on the meaning of filial devotion
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