Shen Cheng (申棖) is said to have come from Confucius’s home state of Lu and may possibly have been the follower called Shen Dang in the Records of the Grand Historian by Sima Qian.
Shen is featured only once in the Analects. He was known for his love of argument and refusal to concede defeat even when he was on the losing side. Some of Shen’s peers saw this as a sign of strength and resoluteness, but Confucius saw his need to win at all costs as a sign of weakness because it demonstrated his inability to control his internal desires and compulsions.
Continue reading Followers of Confucius: Shen Cheng
Although Qidiao Kai (漆雕開) only makes a single appearance in the Analects, he was a highly influential disciple who went to establish his own school, which became one of the eight branches of Confucianism identified by the philosopher Han Fei (韓非) in the third century BCE. Continue reading Followers of Confucius: Qidiao Kai
Zijian (子賤), also known by his courtesy name of Fu Buji (宓不齊), was born in 521 BCE in the state of Lu and was 49 years younger than Confucius.
After studying under the sage, he served as the chief magistrate (宰/zǎi) of Danfu (單父) in modern-day Shandong province and achieved such a good reputation that Confucius describes him as a true leader in Chapter 3 of Book 5 of the Analects. Continue reading Followers of Confucius: Zijian
Gongye Chang (公冶長), also known as Zichang (子長), Zizhi (子之), or Gongye Zhi (公冶芝), was born either in the state of Lu or the state of Qi. Even though he spent some time in prison, Confucius believed he was innocent and gave his daughter to him in marriage.
Nothing else is known about Gongye, unless you count some fantastical tales of his amazing supernatural abilities based on his ability to understand the language of birds and other animals. Continue reading Followers of Confucius: Gongye Chang
Confucius attracted quite a following during his lifetime as a result of his reputation as a great teacher. It is traditionally believed that he had as many as three thousand students, though only seventy-two were said to have truly mastered his teachings. In Sima Qian’s Records of the Grand Historian (史記/shǐjì) Confucius himself is quoted as saying that he had seventy-seven “scholars of extraordinary ability” who were able to understand his “instructions.” Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 1: young pretenders and old companions
Lin Fang was from Lu, the home state of Confucius. Aside from his interest in ritual matters, there is no concrete information about him. Apparently, he was known for being rather slow-witted. Perhaps that’s the reason why he only appears twice in the Analects. Continue reading Followers of Confucius: Lin Fang
Ran Yong (冉雍), also known as Zhonggong (冉仲弓), was born in 522 BCE and came from the same clan as his fellow followers Ran Geng (冉耕) and Ran Qiu (冉求). Continue reading Followers of Confucius: Ran Yong
The identity of Nan Rong (南容), who was also known by the courtesy name of Nangong Kuo (南宮适), is uncertain, though Confucius thought highly enough of him to arrange for him to marry his niece.
Some commentators speculate that Nan Rong was Nangong Jingshu (南宮敬叔), the younger son of Meng Xizi (孟僖子), the head of one of the notorious Three Families that were the real power in the state of Lu. If this claim is true, Nan Rong would have been the first private student of Confucius along his elder brother Meng Yizi (孟懿子). Continue reading Followers of Confucius: Nan Rong
Ran Qiu (冉求) is also known and Ziyou (子有) and Ran You (冉有). Born in 522 BCE, he grew up in a poor household, which probably led to his strong interest in money and financial affairs. Indeed, he looked after Confucius’s own finances for a period of time, and when Meng Wubo (孟武伯) asked the sage about Ran Qiu’s qualities, Confucius praised his administrative abilities by saying: “He could be the mayor of a small city or the manager of a large estate.” Continue reading Followers of Confucius: Ran Qiu
Zilu (子路) [542-480 BCE], whose given name was Zhong You (仲由), was also known as Zhong Zilu 仲子路 or Jilu (季路).
Zilu was an honest, courageous, and impetuous individual who wasn’t afraid of speaking his mind to Confucius. On one occasion, he even criticized the sage for going to see Nanzi (南子), the concubine of Duke Ling of the state of Wei (衛靈公). He was also of a generous disposition, telling Confucius that his personal wish “is to share my carriages, horses, clothes, and furs with my friends without getting upset if they damage them.” Continue reading Followers of Confucius: Zilu