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
Ning Wuzi (甯武子) was chief minister under two rulers of the state of Wei (衛) during the seventh century BCE. Serving under the first one, Duke Wen (衛文公), Ning proved to be a wise and effective administrator.
When Duke Wen was succeeded by Duke Cheng (衛成公) in 634 BCE, however, the state started to fall apart as a result of Cheng’s chaotic rule and the looming threat of invasion from the powerful neighboring state of Jin (晉). The only way that Ning could hold everything together over the course of ten years was by acting dumb in public while quietly working in the background to keep everything under control. Confucius is thus speaking ironically when he remarks in Chapter 21 of Book 5: “Others may match his wisdom but not his dumbness.” Continue reading Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Ning Wuzi
Ji Wenzi (季文子) was the posthumous title given to Jisun Xingfu (季孫行父), the most influential minister in Confucius’s home state of Lu (魯) serving three dukes between 600 and 568 BCE.
Ji was the head of the the Jisun (季孫) clan, one of the notorious Three Families that ran Lu in reality if not in name, though he is reported to have governed the state with great integrity during a very tumultuous period of its history. Continue reading Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Ji Wenzi
Chen Wenzi (陳文子) was a high-ranking minister in Qi (齊), who left the state after his fellow minister Cuizi (崔子) arranged the assassination of Duke Zhuang (齊莊公) in 548 BCE for conducting an adulterous affair with his wife.
When Chen Wenzi moved to other states, however, he discovered that the officials there were no better than those in Qi and thus had to keep moving on.
Continue reading Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Chen Wenzi
Cuizi (崔子) was a high-ranking minister in the state of Qi (齊) and is said to have assassinated its ruler Duke Zhuang (齊莊公) in 548 BCE after discovering that the duke was having a secret affair with his wife Tang Jiang (棠姜).
Although he ensured the succession of the dead duke’s brother, Duke Jing (齊景公), to the throne and thus maintained his ministerial position, Cuizi lost out in a political struggle against a fellow collaborator in the murder called Qing Feng (慶封), who ordered his whole family to be killed. In 546 BCE, Cuizi committed suicide.
Continue reading Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Cuizi
Ziwen (子文) was chief minister of the state of Chu (楚), taking office for the first time in 663 BCE. He was famous for his integrity and loyalty to the state, despite being dismissed from the position of chief minister on three occasions.
According to legend, Ziwen was the love child of a noble from Chu and was looked after by a tigress after he was left in a swamp after his birth. Subsequently, he was discovered by a man from another noble family who brought him up as if he was his son. Later on, he was welcomed back to his own family and made its heir.
Continue reading Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Ziwen
Read this new English translation of the Analects of Confucius Book 5 to learn more about the teachings of China’s most famous philosopher. It provides colorful insights into the characters and abilities of many of Confucius’s followers as well as other contemporary and historical figures.
Confucius said of Gongye Chang: “He would make a good husband. Although he has spent time in prison, he was innocent.” He gave him his daughter’s hand in marriage.
Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 5: new English translation
Confucius said: “When the way prevailed in his state, Ning Wuzi acted wise. When his state lost the way, Ning Wuzi acted dumb. Others may match his wisdom but not his dumbness.”
Appearances can be deceptive. Just because someone acts differently than the other members of your team, it doesn’t mean that they are any less effective. Perhaps they simply prefer to work alone or do their best thinking away from the noise of the office. Judge them by the results they achieve, not by how they fit in. The most gregarious people are not necessarily the best performers. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: appearances can be deceptive
The Duke of Zhou (周公) is a legendary figure in Chinese history and Confucius’s hero for the pivotal role he played in unifying the country under the Zhou Dynasty (周朝) and putting the foundations in place for its social, economic, and cultural development while acting as regent until his nephew assumed the throne as King Cheng (周成王). Continue reading Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Duke of Zhou
Guan Zhong (管仲) was the chief minister of the state of Qi (齊) during the seventh century BC. He was born in c. 720 BCE and died in c. 645 BCE, just over a hundred years before Confucius was born. Continue reading Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Guan Zhong