Tag Archives: Gongxi Chi

Leadership lessons from Confucius: the Rain Dance Terrace

Rain Dance Terrace

子路、曾皙、冉有、公西華侍坐。子曰:「以吾一日長乎爾,毋吾以也。居則曰:「不吾知也!」如或知爾,則何以哉?」子路率爾而對曰:「千乘之國,攝乎大國之間,加之以師旅,因之以饑饉,由也為之,比及三年,可使有勇,且知方也。」夫子哂之。「求,爾何如?」對曰:「方六七十,如五六十,求也為之,比及三年,可使足民;如其禮樂,以俟君子。」「赤,爾何如?」對曰:「非曰能之,願學焉!宗廟之事,如會同,端章甫,願為小相焉。」「點,爾何如?」鼓瑟希,鏗爾,舍瑟而作。對曰:「異乎三子者之撰。」子曰:「何傷乎?亦各言其志也。」曰:「莫春者,春服既成;冠者五六人,童子六七人,浴乎沂,風乎舞雩,詠而歸。」夫子喟然嘆曰:「吾與點也!」三子者出,曾皙後。曾皙曰:「夫三子者之言何如?」子曰:「亦各言其志也已矣!」曰:「夫子何哂由也?」曰:「為國以禮,其言不讓,是故哂之。」「唯求則非邦也與?」「安見方六七十,如五六十,而非邦也者。」「唯赤,非邦也與?」「宗廟會同,非諸侯而何?赤也為之小,孰能為之大!」
Zilu, Zeng Dian, Ran Qiu, and Gongxi Chi were sitting with Confucius. Confucius said: “Forget for a moment that I’m your elder. You often say: ‘Nobody recognizes our talents.’ But if you were given the opportunity, what would you wish to do?”

Zilu eagerly replied first: “Give me a middle-sized state wedged between powerful neighbors that is under attack from invading armies and gripped by drought and famine. If I were to govern it, within three years I would give its people courage and set them in the right direction.”

Confucius smiled at him: “Ran Qiu, what about you?”

Ran Qiu replied: “If I was allowed to run a territory of sixty or seventy or, say, fifty to sixty li, within three years I would secure the prosperity of its people. As for ritual and music, they would have to wait for a true leader to take over.”

“Gongxi Chi, what about you?”

“I’m not saying that I would be able to do this, but I would like to try: in the ceremonies at the Grand Ancestral Temple, such as a diplomatic conference, wearing a ceremonial cap and robes, I would like to act as a junior official.”

“And what about you, Zeng Dian?” Zeng Dian plucked one final chord of the zither he’d been playing and put it down by his side. He replied: “My wish is very different than those of my three companions.”

Confucius said: “What harm is there in that? After all, each one is simply speaking from his heart.”

Zeng Dian said: “In late spring, after all the spring clothes have been made, I would like to go out together with five or six companions and six or seven children to bathe in the Yi River, enjoy the breeze on the Rain Dance Terrace, and then return home singing.”

Confucius let out a wistful sigh and said: “I’m with Dian!”

After the other three followers had left, Zeng Dian stayed behind and said: “What did you think of their wishes?” Confucius said: “Each was indeed speaking from his heart.”

Zeng Dian asked: “Why did you smile at Zilu?” Confucius said: “You should govern a state according to ritual, but his words showed no such restraint. That’s why I smiled.”

“But wasn’t Ran Qiu also talking about governing a state?” “Of course. Have you ever seen ‘a territory of sixty to seventy, or fifty to sixty li?’”

“And Gongxi Chi? Wasn’t he also talking about running a state as well?” “A diplomatic conference in the Grand Ancestral Temple! What could this be but an affair of state? And if Gongxi Chi were there merely to act as a junior official, who could possibly be qualified to act as the senior one?”

Sit back in a comfortable chair, close your eyes, and ask yourself the question: “where do I want to be in five years?” Visualize the scene and savor the feelings of excitement and anticipation that come over you. It doesn’t matter whether you see yourself working in a high-powered job or simply “enjoy(ing) the breeze on the Rain Dance Terrace”. That’s for you and only you to decide. It’s your dream. It’s your life.

When you have a complete picture, open your eyes, go sit down at your desk, and ask yourself the question: “how can I get there in five years?” Then put pen to paper and write down the steps you need to take in order to achieve your dream.

Without a clear execution plan to anchor it, the dream will float away from your grasp like so many of the others you’ve had in the past.

Notes

This article features a translation of Chapter 26 of Book 11 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 11 here.

(1) Zeng Dian (曾皙) was a friend of Confucius and the father of the follower Zengzi (曾子), one of the leading proponents of Confucius’s teachings after the sage’s death.

(2) There has been a lot of speculation over why Confucius shares the same dream as Zeng Dian of “enjoy(ing) the breeze on the Rain Dance Terrace” rather than, for example, expressing a desire to achieve his goal of returning China to its glory days under the Duke of Zhou. Perhaps Confucius is implying that if he had time to enjoy the pleasures of life this would mean that he had already accomplished that objective.

I took this image of these ancient Zhou dynasty ritual vessels at the new Confucius Museum in the sage’s home town of Qufu. You can read more about the museum here.

Leadership lessons from Confucius: tailoring your management style

tailoring your management style

子路問:「聞斯行諸?」子曰:「有父兄在,如之何其聞斯行之!」冉有問:「聞斯行諸?」子曰:「聞斯行之!」公西華曰:「由也問『聞斯行諸?』,子曰:『有父兄在』;求也問,『聞斯行諸?』子曰:『聞斯行之』。赤也惑,敢問?」子曰:「求也退,故進之;由也兼人,故退之。」
Zilu asked: “When I learn something new, should I put it into practice immediately?” Confucius said: “Your father and your elder brother are still alive. How could you put it into practice immediately?” Ran Qiu said: “When I learn something new, should I put it into practice immediately?” Confucius said: “Put it into practice immediately.” Gongxi Chi said: “When Zilu asked whether or not he should put into practice something new that he’s learned, you told him that his father and elder brother are still alive. But when Ran Qiu asked the very same question, you told him to put it into practice immediately. I’m confused. May I ask for an explanation?” Confucius said: “Ran Qiu holds himself back, so I push him forward; Zilu has enough energy for two, so I hold him back.” (1)

There’s no magic algorithm for managing people. What works for one won’t work on another. There’s no substitute for spending time to really get to know each person you work with and tailoring your management style in line with their personality. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: tailoring your management style

Leadership lessons from Confucius: the best thing since sliced bread

best thing since sliced bread

子曰:「若聖與仁,則吾豈敢?抑為之不厭,誨人不倦,則可謂云爾已矣。」公西華曰:「正唯弟子不能學也。」
Confucius said: “How could I possibly dare to claim that I’m a man of great wisdom and goodness? All that can be said of me is that I never grow weary of learning and never get tired of teaching others.” Gongxi Chi said: “This is exactly what we students are unable to grasp.”

Better not to blow your own trumpet. If you’re anywhere near as good as you think you are, others will no doubt sing your praises. Just don’t let all the compliments go to your head, that’s all. Even if everyone else thinks that you’re the best thing since sliced bread, you know deep down that the moment you rest on your laurels complacency will set in and the downward slide will begin. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: the best thing since sliced bread

The softer side of Confucius?

子路、曾皙、冉有、公西華侍坐。子曰:「以吾一日長乎爾,毋吾以也。居則曰:「不吾知也!」如或知爾,則何以哉?」
Zilu, Zeng Dian, Ran Qiu, and Gongxi Chi were sitting with Confucius. Confucius said: “Forget for a moment that I am your elder. You often say: ‘People do not recognize our talents.’ But if you were given the opportunity, what would you wish to do?” Continue reading The softer side of Confucius?

Tailored learning

子路問:「聞斯行諸?」子曰:「有父兄在,如之何其聞斯行之!」冉有問:「聞斯行諸?」子曰:「聞斯行之!」公西華曰:「由也問『聞斯行諸?』,子曰:『有父兄在』;求也問,『聞斯行諸?』子曰:『聞斯行之』。赤也惑,敢問?」子曰:「求也退,故進之;由也兼人,故退之。」
Zilu asked: “If I hear of something that needs to be done, should I immediately take care of it?” Confucius said: “Your father and your elder brother are still alive. How could you take care of it immediately?” Ran Qiu said: “If I hear of something that needs to be done, should I immediately take care of it?” Confucius said: “Take care of it immediately” Gongxi Chi said: “When Zilu asked whether or not he should take care of something that he has heard needs to be done, you told him that his father and elder brother are still alive. But when Ran Qiu asked the very same question, you told him to take care of it immediately. I am confused. May I ask for an explanation?” Confucius said: “Ran Qiu holds himself back, so I push him forward; Zilu has enough energy for two, so I hold him back.”

One of the greatest crimes committed against Confucius was the establishment of the one-size-fits-all rote-learning education system in his name hundreds of years after his death. Continue reading Tailored learning

Followers of Confucius: Gongxi Chi

Gongxi Chi (公西赤), also known as Gongxi Hua (公西華) and Zihua (子華), was famous for his expertise in ritual etiquette. So much so that in 5.8 of the Analects, Confucius comments: “Standing resplendent with his sash, he could entertain distinguished guests.” Continue reading Followers of Confucius: Gongxi Chi