Yi Yin ( 伊尹) was the right-hand man of Tang, the founder of the Shang dynasty, helping him to overthrow Jie, the despotic last ruler of the Xia dynasty, and build the foundations of his new government.
According to one popular legend, Yi Yin was the slave of a man called (有莘), who instructed him to accompany his daughter when he sent her to marry Tang. After being made Tang’s chef, Yi Yin spiced up the meals he served his king with his thoughts on how he should overthrow Jie and gradually became a trusted member of his retinue. Other stories about him differ greatly with this account, suggesting that Yi Yin was a wise man whom Tang had to approach many times before he finally decided to join him. Continue reading Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Yi Yin
Tang (湯) founded the Shang dynasty after overthrowing Jie (桀), the tyrannical last ruler of the Xia dynasty, in around 1600 BCE. He is also known as Cheng Tang (成湯), which literally means “Tang the Successful/Accomplished”.
Shang was the name of the small vassal state that Tang ruled for 17 years before his victory over Jie. During the course of his reign, he gradually built up alliances with rulers of other states that were also part of the Xia dynasty. Appalled by Jie’s cruelty and depravity, these rulers supported Tang in his efforts to oust him, which culminated in a famous victory at the battle of Mingtiao (鳴條) amid a driving thunderstorm. Continue reading Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Tang, founder of the Xia dynasty
King Wu’s name (周武王) literally means “Martial King”. He founded the Zhou dynasty (周朝) after defeating the last Shang dynasty (商朝) ruler, Zhouxin (紂辛), in the bloody battle of Muye (牧野之戰) in ca. 1046 BCE. Continue reading Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: King Wu of Zhou
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
Confucius said: “The Zhou dynasty modeled itself upon the two previous dynasties. What a great civilization! I am a follower of Zhou!”
Look to the past as well as the future. Respect its great traditions and draw on its well of great wisdom. Learn from the mistakes that were made to avoid repeating them. Continue reading leadership lessons from Confucius: a follower of Zhou!
Confucius said: “I could talk about Xia Dynasty ritual, but the state of Qi hasn’t preserved sufficient evidence. I could talk about Yin Dynasty ritual, but the state of Song hasn’t preserved sufficient evidence. There aren’t enough written records and learned men; if there were, I could obtain evidence from them.” (1) (2)
In an age when information is so abundant and accessible, it can be very tempting to voice an opinion on a subject after carrying out a cursory Google search and scanning a few secondary sources. If you choose to do that at least have the courtesy to let people know that your views are based on limited evidence, or better still keep your lips pursed while the real experts do the talking. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: sufficient evidence