Although this may come as a surprise to people who have experienced or even just heard about the rigors of China’s so-called “Confucian” education system, Confucius himself believed that learning should involve much more than simply imbibing and regurgitating the ancient classics. Rather, it should be focused on the practical application of the timeless principles found in the texts to your daily life so that you can make a positive contribution to your family, your community, and ultimately the whole society you live in. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 1: Confucius on learning
Confucius is almost universally (and unfairly) blamed for the style of rote-learning that has plagued Chinese education for millennia. In reality, however, he advocated a balanced and intellectually-rigorous approach to learning that remains highly relevant even today. Continue reading Analects Book 2: Confucius on balanced learning
In the famous snapshot he gives of his life in Chapter 4 of Book 2, Confucius summarizes the four-step process that he followed on what we might these days describe as his “lifelong learning journey.” Continue reading Analects Book 2: Confucius on learning
In Book 2 of The Analects, Confucius continues his exploration of the qualities required by a leader (君子/jūnzǐ). Continue reading Analects Book 2: on leadership qualities
Zixia said: “A man who values character over beauty, who devotes himself to serving his parents, who dedicates his life to his ruler, and who is true to his word with his friends: I’ll insist he’s learned even if others think otherwise.” (1)
Actions speak louder than words. As a leader you should focus on people who go about their daily work with quiet determination rather than those who attempt to grab your attention by saying all the right words and pushing themselves to the center stage by grabbing all the highest-profile assignments.
Confucius can certainly never be accused of sugarcoating the difficulties that any would-be student would face if he chose to follow his path. He promises no seven-step plan to guaranteed success or shortcut to fortune and fame. Continue reading Analects Book 4: on learning
Zixia said: “When an official has time to spare from his duties, he should study. When a student has time to spare from his studies, he should undertake official duties.”
The meaning of this passage isn’t entirely clear. The key message appears to be that learning and officialdom are inextricably linked. To be a truly excellent official, you need to continue learning. To be a truly excellent student, you need to serve as an official in order to practice the principles you have learned. Continue reading Lifelong learning
Confucius said: “When there is education, there are no distinctions.”
This passage literally means: have>teach(ing)>no>types/ distinctions. Continue reading Education for all!
Confucius said: “Do I possess knowledge? No, I don’t. Even when a humble peasant asks me a question, my mind goes blank; but I keep on hammering away at the two sides of the question until I work out the answer.”
It’s difficult to determine the exact meaning of this passage without any additional context. Presumably Confucius is saying that you should give careful thought to any question that someone poses to you, no matter how lowly their social station. Such an interpretation would fit in with the description of him in Chapter IV of Book 9: “Confucius avoided four things: preconceptions, arbitrariness, stubbornness, and egoism.” Continue reading Keep on hammering away
The Grand Steward asked Zigong: “Your master is a true sage, isn’t he? He is skilled in so many things.” Zigong replied: “Heaven indeed made him a sage, but he also happens to have many different skills.” When he heard of this, Confucius said: “What does the Grand Steward know about me? In my youth, I was poor; so I had to learn a number of lowly skills. Does a leader need to have so many different skills? No, he does not.”
As a young man, Confucius had to take on a number of minor clerical and book keeping posts in order to support his family. Continue reading Real world experience