Confucius attracted quite a following during his lifetime as a result of his reputation as a great teacher. It is traditionally believed that he had as many as three thousand students, though only seventy-two were said to have truly mastered his teachings. In Sima Qian’s Records of the Grand Historian (史記/shǐjì) Confucius himself is quoted as saying that he had seventy-seven “scholars of extraordinary ability” who were able to understand his “instructions.” Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 1: young pretenders and old companions
Book 1 is one of the shortest books in the Analects with just sixteen chapters. In addition to Confucius, it introduces five of his followers including two of his most faithful companions, Zigong and Zixia.
Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 1: by numbers
Reverence (恭/gōng) is one of the smaller stars in Confucius’s moral firmament, and can also be translated as “respectfulness”, “solemnity”, “gravity”, or simply “manners”.
Reverence entails working hard at your studies and career and acting in a humble and serious manner when interacting with other people and attending ritual ceremonies. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 1: Confucius on reverence
Trustworthiness (信/xìn) is another of the so-called secondary values promoted by Confucius. It means remaining true to your word and being a dependable support for others. In some contexts it can also be translated as “faithfulness”, “sincerity”, “truthfulness”, or “honesty”. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 1: Confucius on trustworthiness
Ritual (禮/lǐ) is a flexible term that describes the loosely connected web of formal religious, political, and cultural ceremonies and unwritten rules of behavior that govern smooth interactions between people and ensure social stability. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 1: Confucius on ritual
Filial devotion (孝/xiào) is one of the best known of the values taught by Confucius, not least because it was so heavily promoted by a succession of imperial dynasties starting with the Han who drew a direct link between obedience to parents and obedience to the ruler. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 1: Confucius on filial devotion
Confucius never provides a single unified definition of what he means by goodness (仁/rén) – the supreme value that he believed everyone should work towards – in the Analects. Instead, he explores its many different facets throughout the text, either with simple statements or in response to questions from his followers and contemporaries. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 1: Confucius on goodness
Before you read a single word of the Analects, it is important to understand that the work comprises a collection of conversations and aphorisms rather than a manifesto. Each of its twenty books features multiple exchanges between multiple characters discussing multiple topics – much like a modern-day social media feed. There are no linear arguments based on carefully-marshaled facts that build up to a resounding conclusion. It is left to you, the reader, to pick through the various threads of the text and connect them to the others to build up your overall understanding of the teachings contained in it.
Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 1: Overview
Read this new English translation of the Analects of Confucius Book 1 to learn more about the teachings of China’s most famous philosopher. Its main themes include learning, filial devotion, self-cultivation, and leadership.
Confucius said: “Isn’t it a pleasure to study and constantly apply the lessons that you’ve learned? Isn’t it a joy to have friends visit from afar? Isn’t it the mark of a leader to remain unconcerned when others don’t recognize your talents?” Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 1: New English Translation
Youzi said: “If your commitments conform to what is right, you will be able to keep your word. If your manners conform to ritual, you will be able to avoid shame and disgrace. Only if you associate with reliable people will you be successful.”
Making rash promises that you have no hope or intention of fulfilling is a sure way of eroding the trust that people have in you. You might be able to get away with it for a while through sheer force of personality or verbal dexterity, but eventually the chickens will come home to roost and your credibility will be destroyed. Continue reading Leadership Lessons from Confucius: rash promises