Tag Archives: Three Families

Meng Wubo

Meng Wubo (孟武伯) was the son of Meng Yizi (孟懿子). He is featured in Chapter 6 of Book 2 of the Analects, in which he asks Confucius about filial devotion, and Chapter 8 of Book 5 in which he asks him for his opinions of three of his followers. Meng Wubo was a minister of the state of Lu, as was his son Meng Jingzi (孟敬子), who is featured in Chapter 6 of Book 8 of the Analects. Continue reading Meng Wubo

Analects of Confucius Book 3: Confucius on ritual ceremonies


Confucius never defines exactly what he means by ritual in Book 3 of the Analects. Instead, he spends most of his energy on criticizing others, most notably members of the Three Families, the true powers behind the throne of his home state of Lu, for their violations of the unwritten rules governing important ritual ceremonies that had existed since at least the beginnings of the Zhou dynasty in the early 11th century and probably even before that. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 3: Confucius on ritual ceremonies

Duke Ding of Lu

Duke Ding (魯定公) was the predecessor of Duke Ai (哀公) as the ruler of Lu, and reigned from around 509 to 495 BCE. Although responsible for elevating Confucius to his highest official position as Minister of Justice (大司寇) of Lu, the duke was ultimately at least indirectly responsible for Confucius’s decision to go into exile because of his inability to control the Three Families, who were the de facto rulers of the state. Indeed, Duke Ding was said to be so weak that he was the kind of ruler who “held the blade of the sword and offered the handle to his enemies.” Continue reading Duke Ding of Lu

Meng Yizi

Meng Yizi (孟懿子) is said to have been one of two young nobles from the state of Lu who were entrusted by their father Meng Xizi (孟僖子) to Confucius for tutoring when he was starting out as a teacher. Meng subsequently rose to become head of the Mengsun (孟孙) clan, one of the notorious Three Families that were the real power in behind the throne of the state of Lu. In Chapter 5 of Book 2, Confucius criticizes him obliquely for holding over-elaborate ceremonies that violated the conventions of ritual. Continue reading Meng Yizi

Leadership lessons from Confucius: on tokenism


Confucius said: “If someone has no goodness, what can they have to do with ritual? If someone has no goodness, what can they have to do with music?” (1) (2)

Going to church every Sunday morning doesn’t make you a good Christian unless you’re committed to learning and applying the values that are being taught at the service. Not even the most inspiring hymns will be able to stir your soul if your only reason for being there is to make yourself look good in front of the community. You might as well stay in bed at home for all the good it will do you.

Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: on tokenism

Leadership Lessons from Confucius: your choice

your choice

When the Three Families had the Yong ode performed while the ceremonial vessels were being removed at the end of their ancestral sacrifices, Confucius said: “‘The lords are in attendance, the son of heaven sits solemnly on his throne.’ How can such words be used in the halls of the Three Families?” (1) (2)

Do you follow a traditional career path, perhaps taking a few liberties on the way to the top to show your importance? Or do you create your own path so that you can make your own rules? Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: your choice

Duke Ai of Lu

Duke Ai (魯哀公) was the hereditary ruler of the state of Lu, but had little actual power because it was concentrated in the hands of the Three Families, the Jisun (季孫), Mengsun (孟孙), and Shusun (叔孫). During the course of his reign (ca. 494 to ca. 467 BCE), the duke attempted to restore the primacy of his family, but was forced to flee from Lu towards the end of it.  Soon after arriving in the state of Yue (越), he went back to Lu but never returned to the court and lived out his finals days at the home of a family called Shan (山). Continue reading Duke Ai of Lu