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 Book 1: Confucius on learning
Zengzi said: “When the dead are shown proper reverence and the memory of distant ancestors is kept alive, the people’s virtue is at its highest.” (1) (2)
It can be very easy to take the culture of your organization for granted. But showing respect for its history and the people who established and built it is vital for forming a common bond among everyone who joins it.
Zengzi said: “I examine myself three times every day. Have I been true to other people’s interests when acting on their behalf? Have I been sincere in my interactions with friends? Have I practiced what I have been taught?”(1)
Introspection or self-reflection is critical for a leader. It can be all too easy to lose touch with reality when you’re in your cocoon surrounded by people whose careers and livelihoods depend on making sure you’re satisfied. Very few people have the courage to call you out if they think you’re making the wrong decision or going beyond the bounds of acceptable behavior.
Trustworthiness (信/xìn) is another of the 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 Book 1: Confucius on trustworthiness
Loyalty (忠/zhōng) is one of what some commentators classify as the secondary values of Confucius. It is often mentioned together with trustworthiness (信/xìn). The first instance of this pairing can be found in Chapter 8 of Book 1 in which Confucius advised that a leader (君子) should, “Hold loyalty and trustworthiness as your highest principles.” Continue reading Analects Book 1: Confucius on loyalty
Filial devotion (孝/xiào) is one of the best known of the values taught by Confucius, probably 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 Book 1: Confucius on filial devotion
Virtue (德/dé) and goodness (仁/rén) are both at the summit of Confucius’s moral hierarchy. The main difference between the two is that while goodness is the highest value that a normal person can aspire to, virtue is the highest state that a ruler can aim for. Continue reading Analects Book 1: on virtue
There is a lot controversy over the exact identity of Tantai Mieming (澹臺滅明). According to the Records of the Historian (not always the most reliable of sources), he was so ugly that the first time Confucius met him, he mistook him for being stupid. It was only later that the sage realized his error and grew to appreciate him for his exemplary moral conduct. Continue reading Disciples of Confucius: Tantai Mieming
The Meng Family appointed Yang Fu as a judge. Yang Fu asked for advice from Zengzi. Zengzi said: “The authorities have lost the Way; the common people have been left to their own devices for too long. When you succeed in getting the true facts of a case, respond with compassion but never take any pleasure from it.”
Zengzi takes his final bow in the Analects with his call for his disciple Yang Fu to show compassion when dispensing justice. Rather than seeing the successful conclusion of a case as triumph, Zengzi cautions, Yang should regard it as a reflection of the failure of the government to set the right example to the common people and inculcate the proper values in them. Continue reading Zengzi takes his final bow