Book 8 of the Analects of Confucius features only one of the sage’s followers. Thanks no doubt to some editorial skullduggery from his own followers, who played in important role in compiling the Analects, the young pretender Zengzi is given five chapters to spout his wisdom. Even though, in first two at least, he is lying on his death bed, it’s hard to summon up any sympathy for him given the pretentiousness of his utterances.
The book isn’t exactly filled with contemporary figures either, featuring only two. Meng Jingzi, a member of the Meng clan, one of the notorious Three Families that ran the state of Lu, receives a rollicking from Zengzi in 8.4 for his tendency towards micromanagement in his one and only appearance in the Analects. Music Master Zhi fares much better in 8.15 when Confucius praises his “rich and beautiful music” to the skies. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 8: by numbers
What were the hopes and dreams of Confucius? What kept him plugging away despite the many setbacks he suffered during his career as a government official in his home state of Lu and his subsequent fourteen years of exile?
The first chapter of Book 7 of the Analects gives us a hint when he famously declares: “I transmit but I don’t create. I am faithful to and love the past.” On the surface, Confucius may appear to be speaking modestly about his own abilities and ambitions, but in reality he’s revealing that his ultimate dream is to restore the lost glories of the early Zhou dynasty when it was ruled by his great hero, the Duke of Zhou. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 7: hopes and dreams of Confucius
The greatest love that Confucius preferred to pursue rather than wealth was music (see 7.11). He is said to have been a fairly decent musician himself, and in 7.13 is described as being so enraptured by a performance of Shao music that he saw during a visit to the state of Qi that he “didn’t know the taste of meat” for three months.
Confucius didn’t just love music for its aesthetic beauty. He also saw it as the ultimate embodiment of cultural sophistication and civilization with its power to elevate people’s senses and thoughts to ever greater levels of harmony with each other and their surrounding environment. When combined with ritual, it exemplified the values that everyone could achieve if they followed the way he laid out for them. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 7: Confucius’s love of music
Tai Bo (泰伯), which literally means Great Uncle, was the eldest son of King Wen of Zhou (周文王), the founding father of the Zhou dynasty (周朝).
When he realized that his younger brother Jili (季歷) had much greater wisdom than he possessed, Tai Bo voluntarily left the then minor kingdom of Zhou to enable his father to designate him as heir to the throne. This was an almost unimaginable act in the hereditary feudal system that reigned at the time and one that has only been very rarely repeated in Chinese – or indeed world – history. No wonder Confucius described him as a man of “supreme virtue” (至德/zhìdé). Continue reading Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Tai Bo
King Wen of Zhou (周文王) is honored as the founder of the Zhou dynasty (周朝), even though in actual fact it was his son who actually established it after defeating the last Shang dynasty (商朝) king Zhouxin (紂辛) at the bloody battle of Muye (牧野之戰) in ca. 1046 BCE.
Born Ji Chang (姬昌) in 1152 BCE, King Wen took over as ruler of the then small state of Zhou after his father had been executed by the Shang king Wen Ding (文丁) in the late 12th century BCE. As the new king’s power and influence grew, the Shang king Zhouxin began to see him as a threat and had him thrown in prison in Youli (羑里) in modern-day Henan province, only agreeing to release him after being plied with lavish gifts from King Wen’s supporters. Continue reading Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: King Wen of Zhou
When Confucius was trapped in Kuang, he said: “King Wen is dead, but the civilization he created lives on with me, doesn’t it? If heaven wished civilization to be destroyed, why was it entrusted to me? If heaven doesn’t wish civilization to be destroyed, what do I have to fear from the people of Kuang?”
How to boost your personal brand? This is becoming a tougher challenge than ever before in the raucous and rancorous times we live in. A few mood shots in an exotic location posted on Instagram are nowhere near enough to cut through the noise. Not even a regular stream of thought leadership pieces is likely to be noticed amid the relentless cacophony that roils the online world – unless (and even this approach isn’t guaranteed) you’re willing to stoop to posting something incredibly offensive or stupid. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: the chosen one?
Shun ruled his empire with only five ministers. King Wu of Zhou said: “I have ten able ministers to keep everything in order.” Confucius said: “Talented people are hard to find: are they not? The times of Yao and Shun were said to be rich in talent, but King Wu was only able to find nine such men because one of his ministers was a woman. Although the Zhou controlled over two-thirds of the empire, it still served the Shang. You can truly say that the virtue of the Zhou was supreme.”
Is it true that talented people are hard to find? It can be tempting to think so when you read about skills shortages in hot new fields like data science and hear your colleagues complain about how tough it is to hire qualified staff. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: are talented people hard to find?
Confucius said: “It can truly be said of Tai Bo that he was a man of supreme virtue. Three times he gave up the throne of his state without giving the people the opportunity to praise him.”
When you know that there’s someone more suitable for the job you’ve been promised, politely decline it so that they get on with it. Other opportunities will come if you work to create them. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: a man of supreme virtue
Confucius described Shao music as being perfectly beautiful and perfectly good and Wu music as being perfectly beautiful but not perfectly good.
Is there a moral component to deciding whether someone or something has attained perfection? Confucius certainly thought so. That’s why he gives Shao music the edge over Wu music in this passage. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: considering the moral component