Tag Archives: Followers of Confucius

Analects of Confucius Book 11: Confucius and Ran Qiu

Confucius and Ran Qiu

Even though Confucius is critical of several of his most loyal followers in Book 11, most notably Zilu, he reserves his most virulent scorn for Ran Qiu. In 11.17 he famously rips into him for helping the Lu strongman Ji Kangzi to levy yet more taxes on the common people by loudly declaring: “He’s no longer my follower. You may beat the drum and attack him, my young friends.”

While Confucius is justifiably upset at Ran Qiu for ignoring his advice not to impose any more unnecessary burdens onto the impoverished peasantry, he never uses such violent language towards Zilu and other followers who also helped the corrupt and venal Ji Family enrich themselves at the expense of the downtrodden Lu population. Indeed, even though Confucius often chides Zilu for his indiscretions and impetuousness, he generally adopts a much more indulgent tone towards him than Ran Qiu. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 11: Confucius and Ran Qiu

Analects of Confucius Book 11: Confucius and Min Ziqian

Confucius and Min Ziqian

Confucius shows his great admiration of Min Ziqian, one of his lesser known followers, in Book 11 of the Analects. He praises Ziqian to the skies in 11.5 as a “model of filial devotion” because he lives up to the reputation that he built up as a young man when he begged his father not to throw his evil stepmother and stepbrothers out of the house after they had treated abominably.

In 11.14, Confucius goes on to commend Ziqian for his political astuteness when his follower suggests that it would be better if the leadership of the state of Lu repaired the existing structure of the Long Treasury rather than go to the time and expense of demolishing and rebuilding it. In contrast to the voluble Zilu, for example, Ziqian “rarely speaks, but when he does he hits the mark.” Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 11: Confucius and Min Ziqian

Analects of Confucius Book 11: Confucius and Zilu

Confucius and Zilu

Unlike the quasi father and son combo of Confucius and Yan Hui, Confucius and Zilu were more like an elder and young brother who love each other deeply but aren’t afraid to enter into the occasional argument when the occasion demands it.

In Book 11 of the Analects Confucius shows how much he cares for “bold and intense” (11.13) Zilu with his repeated attempts to rein in his recklessness. In 11.12 he famously responds to Zilu’s questions about how to serve the spirits and gods and what he thought of death by telling him to keep his feet firmly planted on the ground: “’If you’re not yet able to serve other people, how are you able to serve the spirits? … If you don’t understand life yet, how can you understand death?’” Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 11: Confucius and Zilu

Analects of Confucius Book 11: Confucius and Yan Hui

Confucius and Yan Hui

Why was Confucius so devastated by the death of Yan Hui that his followers felt compelled to take the extraordinary step of admonishing their master for displaying excessive grief? Book 11 of the Analects not only poses this question with its vivid portrayal of Confucius’s anguish at the untimely passing of his favorite follower. It also answers it by showing how close the relationship between Confucius and Yan Hui was and the high regard the sage had for the man he had seen as his protégé and eventual successor.

Indeed, in 11.4 Confucius sounds exactly like a humble-bragging dad when he claims that Yan Hui is of no help to him at all because “he delights in everything I say.” In 11.7, he goes on to tell the strongman Ji Kangzi that the only follower of his who loved learning was Yan Hui (1). In 11.19 he tops that by declaring that he “just about achieved perfection”. Not even a life of grinding poverty can tempt the virtuous Yan Hui to stray from the strict moral path that he follows. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 11: Confucius and Yan Hui

Analects of Confucius Book 11: Confucius and his followers

Confucius and his followers

One of the most intriguing questions about Confucius is how he managed not only to build a large base of followers (traditionally numbered at 77), but more importantly how he managed to sustain their loyalty over, in some cases, many decades.

While Confucius’s great charisma, learning, and connections with senior government figures and members of the nobility were no doubt instrumental in attracting many young people to go and study with him, that doesn’t explain why the likes of Zilu, Zigong, Ran Qiu, Yan Hui, and others stuck with him through the lean times, most notably during his 14 years of exile tramping from state to state in search of employment. In a couple of notorious incidents (see 11.2 and 11.23) they even went close to losing their lives because of the scrapes Confucius got them into, but still remained faithful to him. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 11: Confucius and his followers

Analects of Confucius Book 11 themes: learning and death

Analects of Confucius Book 11 themes

Book 11 of the Analects provides the most detailed collection of Confucius’s thoughts on the abilities and characters of his followers. No less than sixteen of them go under the microscope, with – surprise, surprise – the usual favorites Yan Hui (9 appearances), Zilu (9 appearances), Ran Qiu (5 appearances), and Zigong (4 appearances) receiving the lion’s share of the sage’s attention.

The lesser-known Min Ziqian and the arrogant but talented Zizhang come in next with three appearances. Three followers also make their debuts on the Analects, in the form of the “dumb” Zigao, the father of Yan Hui, Yan Lu, and the father of Zengzi, Zeng Dian – the latter two for the first and final time. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 11 themes: learning and death

Followers of Confucius: Zigao

Zigao (子羔/子皋) gets a bad rap in the two appearances he makes Book 11 of the Analects. In 11.18, he is described as “dumb” or “simple-minded” (愚/yú), presumably by Confucius. Then in 11.25, Confucius goes on to castigate Zilu for appointing him as steward or governor of the town of Bi because of his lack of learning.

Confucius appears to have based his judgment of Zigao because he was ugly and short; reportedly he was less than five feet in height. However, he is said to have performed well as an official in the governments of the states of Lu and Wei and gained a reputation for delivering harsh but fair justice in the towns and districts he governed. Continue reading Followers of Confucius: Zigao

Followers of Confucius: Zeng Dian

Although Zeng Dian (曾點) only makes a single appearance in the Analects, he packs quite a punch with the contrarian stance he adopts in 11.26. When Confucius asks Zilu, Ran Qiu, Gongxi Chi, and him what he would do if he were given the opportunity to exercise his talents, he says he would like to bathe in the Yi River and enjoy the breeze on the Rain Dance rather than govern a middle-sized state, run a large territory, or preside over an important diplomatic conference.

After listening to each of his follower’s aspirations Confucius famously agrees with him, inspiring thousands of years of scholarly debate over whether this means that the sage was a Daoist at heart. Continue reading Followers of Confucius: Zeng Dian

Leadership lessons from Confucius: putting someone under a cloud

under a cloud

子曰:「由之瑟,奚為於丘之門?」門人不敬子路。子曰:「由也升堂矣!未入於室也!」
Confucius said: “What is Zilu doing playing his zither inside my gate?” His other followers ceased to treat Zilu with respect. Confucius said: “Zilu may not have entered the inner chamber yet, but he has at least ascended to the hall.” (1) (2)

If you have reason to criticize a member of your team, make sure you do so in private. This is not only respectful to the person concerned, but it also prevents gossip and rumors spreading through the office like wildfire. Loose lips can not only sink ships but also people’s reputations and even careers. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: putting someone under a cloud

Leadership lessons from Confucius: close to the edge

close to the edge

閔子侍側,誾誾如也;子路,行行如也;冉有、子貢,侃侃如也。子樂。若由也,不得其死然。
When at Confucius’s side, Min Ziqian was straightforward but respectful; Zilu was bold and intense; Ran Qiu and Zigong were frank but amiable. Confucius was happy but said: “A man like Zilu won’t die a natural death.”

How well do you know your colleagues? Not just how good they are at their work, but their personal strengths, weaknesses, and character traits. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: close to the edge