What is goodness (仁)? This is a question that confounded the followers of Confucius just as much as it has generation after generation of scholars hoping to capture the sage’s secret ingredient and wrap it up in a pretty package with a bow on top.
In the first chapter of Analects Book 14, Confucius’s follower Yuan Xian shows that he considers goodness to be the ethical gold standard when he asks the sage if you can be said to have achieved it if you overcome “aggressiveness, arrogance, bitterness, and greed.” Continue reading Goodness in Analects Book 14: more than just an ethical gold standard
Shao Hu (召忽) is known for the extreme, some would say excessive, devotion he showed to his master Prince Jiu of Qi (公子糾). After the prince was executed as a result of losing out in a power struggle against his younger brother, Duke Huan of Qi, the grief-stricken Shao Hu committed suicide rather than return to his homeland together with his comrade-in-arms Guan Zhong (管仲) as the duke ordered.
Although many people like Zilu admired Shao Hu for what they considered to be the ultimate act of loyalty of a retainer towards their master, others such as Confucius strongly defended Guan Zhong’s decision to defy the convention that Shao Hu followed and return to Qi. As Confucius argues in 14.16 and 14.17, Guan Zhong’s subsequent achievements as Duke Huan’s chief minister far outweighed his violation of a rarely observed rule of ritual propriety. Continue reading Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Shao Hu
Duke Huan of Qi (齊桓公) was the ruler of Qi from 685 to 643 BCE. Together with his long-time chief minister Guan Zhong, he transformed the state into a military, economic, and political superpower that dominated China and fought off invasions from peoples living outside it. Towards the end of his long reign, however, the duke’s power declined as he grew ill and the court became embroiled in factional strife. Following his death in 643 BCE, Qi lost its dominance even more quickly than the duke and Guan Zhong had established it.
The duke was a son of Duke Xi of Qi (齊僖公) and was known by the personal name of Xiaobai (小白). Since he had at least two older brothers, he was not in line to succeed his father to the throne. Continue reading Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Duke Huan of Qi