Tag Archives: Zengzi

Analects of Confucius Book 8: resources

Here is a list of resources covering Book 8 of the Analects of Confucius. You can click on the links below to learn more about the main themes of the book:

Analects of Confucius Book 8: translation
Analects of Confucius Book 8: overview 
Analects of Confucius Book 8: by numbers

Here is a list of articles I have written about each chapter in the book. Again, click on the links to learn more. Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 8: resources

Followers of Confucius: Zeng Dian

Although Zeng Dian (曾點) only makes a single appearance in the Analects, he packs quite a punch with the contrarian stance he adopts in 11.26. When Confucius asks Zilu, Ran Qiu, Gongxi Chi, and Dian what each of them would do if they were given the opportunity to exercise their talents, he says he would like to bathe in the Yi River and enjoy the breeze on the Rain Dance rather than govern a middle-sized state, run a large territory, or preside over an important diplomatic conference.

After listening to each of his follower’s aspirations Confucius famously agrees with Dian, inspiring thousands of years of scholarly debate over whether this means that the sage was a Daoist at heart. Continue reading Followers of Confucius: Zeng Dian

Leadership lessons from Confucius: the Rain Dance Terrace

Rain Dance Terrace

子路、曾皙、冉有、公西華侍坐。子曰:「以吾一日長乎爾,毋吾以也。居則曰:「不吾知也!」如或知爾,則何以哉?」子路率爾而對曰:「千乘之國,攝乎大國之間,加之以師旅,因之以饑饉,由也為之,比及三年,可使有勇,且知方也。」夫子哂之。「求,爾何如?」對曰:「方六七十,如五六十,求也為之,比及三年,可使足民;如其禮樂,以俟君子。」「赤,爾何如?」對曰:「非曰能之,願學焉!宗廟之事,如會同,端章甫,願為小相焉。」「點,爾何如?」鼓瑟希,鏗爾,舍瑟而作。對曰:「異乎三子者之撰。」子曰:「何傷乎?亦各言其志也。」曰:「莫春者,春服既成;冠者五六人,童子六七人,浴乎沂,風乎舞雩,詠而歸。」夫子喟然嘆曰:「吾與點也!」三子者出,曾皙後。曾皙曰:「夫三子者之言何如?」子曰:「亦各言其志也已矣!」曰:「夫子何哂由也?」曰:「為國以禮,其言不讓,是故哂之。」「唯求則非邦也與?」「安見方六七十,如五六十,而非邦也者。」「唯赤,非邦也與?」「宗廟會同,非諸侯而何?赤也為之小,孰能為之大!」
Zilu, Zeng Dian, Ran Qiu, and Gongxi Chi were sitting with Confucius. Confucius said: “Forget for a moment that I’m your elder. You often say: ‘Nobody recognizes our talents.’ But if you were given the opportunity, what would you wish to do?”

Zilu eagerly replied first: “Give me a middle-sized state wedged between powerful neighbors that is under attack from invading armies and gripped by drought and famine. If I were to govern it, within three years I would give its people courage and set them in the right direction.”

Confucius smiled at him: “Ran Qiu, what about you?”

Ran Qiu replied: “If I was allowed to run a territory of sixty or seventy or, say, fifty to sixty li, within three years I would secure the prosperity of its people. As for ritual and music, they would have to wait for a true leader to take over.”

“Gongxi Chi, what about you?”

“I’m not saying that I would be able to do this, but I would like to try: in the ceremonies at the Grand Ancestral Temple, such as a diplomatic conference, wearing a ceremonial cap and robes, I would like to act as a junior official.”

“And what about you, Zeng Dian?” Zeng Dian plucked one final chord of the zither he’d been playing and put it down by his side. He replied: “My wish is very different than those of my three companions.”

Confucius said: “What harm is there in that? After all, each one is simply speaking from his heart.”

Zeng Dian said: “In late spring, after all the spring clothes have been made, I would like to go out together with five or six companions and six or seven children to bathe in the Yi River, enjoy the breeze on the Rain Dance Terrace, and then return home singing.”

Confucius let out a wistful sigh and said: “I’m with Dian!”

After the other three followers had left, Zeng Dian stayed behind and said: “What did you think of their wishes?” Confucius said: “Each was indeed speaking from his heart.”

Zeng Dian asked: “Why did you smile at Zilu?” Confucius said: “You should govern a state according to ritual, but his words showed no such restraint. That’s why I smiled.”

“But wasn’t Ran Qiu also talking about governing a state?” “Of course. Have you ever seen ‘a territory of sixty to seventy, or fifty to sixty li?’”

“And Gongxi Chi? Wasn’t he also talking about running a state as well?” “A diplomatic conference in the Grand Ancestral Temple! What could this be but an affair of state? And if Gongxi Chi were there merely to act as a junior official, who could possibly be qualified to act as the senior one?”

Sit back in a comfortable chair, close your eyes, and ask yourself the question: “where do I want to be in five years?” Visualize the scene and savor the feelings of excitement and anticipation that come over you. It doesn’t matter whether you see yourself working in a high-powered job or simply “enjoy(ing) the breeze on the Rain Dance Terrace”. That’s for you and only you to decide. It’s your dream. It’s your life.

When you have a complete picture, open your eyes, go sit down at your desk, and ask yourself the question: “how can I get there in five years?” Then put pen to paper and write down the steps you need to take in order to achieve your dream.

Without a clear execution plan to anchor it, the dream will float away from your grasp like so many of the others you’ve had in the past.

Notes

This article features a translation of Chapter 26 of Book 11 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 11 here.

(1) Zeng Dian (曾皙) was a friend of Confucius and the father of the follower Zengzi (曾子), one of the leading proponents of Confucius’s teachings after the sage’s death.

(2) There has been a lot of speculation over why Confucius shares the same dream as Zeng Dian of “enjoy(ing) the breeze on the Rain Dance Terrace” rather than, for example, expressing a desire to achieve his goal of returning China to its glory days under the Duke of Zhou. Perhaps Confucius is implying that if he had time to enjoy the pleasures of life this would mean that he had already accomplished that objective.

I took this image of these ancient Zhou dynasty ritual vessels at the new Confucius Museum in the sage’s home town of Qufu. You can read more about the museum here.

Leadership lessons from Confucius: the dreaded annual review process

annual review process

柴也愚,參也魯,師也辟,由也喭。
Zigao is dumb; Zengzi is dull; Zizhang is frivolous; Zilu is reckless. (1)

How seriously do you take the annual review process for your staff? Do you approach it as a box-ticking exercise to keep HR and senior management off your back? Or do you use it as an opportunity to have a frank and serious conversation with each member of your team in order to let them know what you think about their performance and come up with ways of addressing any shortcomings in them that you’ve identified? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: the dreaded annual review process

Analects of Confucius Book 8: new English translation

Read this new English translation of the Analects of Confucius Book 8 to learn more about the teachings of China’s most famous philosopher, including his thoughts on the qualities of the ancient sage kings who laid the foundations of Chinese civilization.

Chapter 1
子曰:「泰伯其可謂至德也已矣。三以天下讓,民無得而稱焉。」
Confucius said: “It can truly be said of Tai Bo that he was a man of supreme virtue. Three times he gave up the throne of his state without giving the people the opportunity to praise him.”
Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 8: new English translation

Leadership lessons from Confucius: strong and resolute

strong and resolute

曾子曰:「士不可以不弘毅,任重而道遠。仁以為己任,不亦重乎,死而後已,不亦遠乎。」
Zengzi said: “A scholar-official must be strong and resolute because his burden is heavy and his road is long. He takes goodness as his burden: is it not heavy? His journey ends only with death: is it not long?” (1)

Before you embark on a new path or project, make sure that you’re fully aware of what it entails. In the rush of initial excitement, it’s all too easy to underestimate the physical, mental, and emotional resources you’ll be required to draw on if you’re to successfully complete it. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: strong and resolute

Leadership lessons from Confucius: a constant state of readiness

readiness

曾子曰:「可以託六尺之孤,可以寄百里之命,臨大節而不可奪也,君子人與,君子人也。」
Zengzi said: “You can entrust him with the care of a teenage orphan; you can entrust him with the management of a small estate; when faced with a crisis, he will remain steadfast in resolving it. Is he a leader? Of course, he’s a leader.”

Unlike an athlete who has a calendar of events to optimize their training for, a leader has to be in a constant state of readiness in order to be able to step up to take on a vital job or deal with a crisis at any time. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: a constant state of readiness

Leadership lessons from Confucius: balanced and calm

balanced and calm

曾子曰:「以能問於不能,以多問於寡,有若無,實若虛,犯而不校,昔者吾友,嘗從事於斯矣。」
Zengzi said: “Capable but willing to listen to those who are not capable; talented but willing to listen to those without talent; viewing having as the same as not having; viewing fullness as the same as emptiness; accepting insults without bearing a grudge: long ago, I had a friend who practiced these things.”

Modesty and openness are the keys to achieving the golden mean. Whenever you meet someone, ignore your preconceptions about them and listen to what they have to say. Chances are that they have an interesting perspective to share with you and something useful to teach you. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: balanced and calm

Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Meng Jingzi

Meng Jingzi (孟敬子) was the son of Meng Wubo (孟武伯), who first appeared in Chapter 6 of Book 2 of the Analects. Like his father he became a high-ranking minister of the state of Lu, but gained a reputation for micromanagement and an inability to focus on the big picture.

Zengzi, a follower of Confucius, scolds Meng for this from his deathbed in Meng’s only appearance in the Analects. He also upbraids Meng for failing to pay attention to how he appeared and acted towards other people.
Continue reading Contemporary figures in the Analects of Confucius: Meng Jingzi

Leadership lessons from Confucius: final words of wisdom

final words of wisdom

曾子有疾,孟敬子問之。曾子言曰:「鳥之將死,其鳴也哀;人之將死,其言也善。君子所貴乎道者三:動容貌,斯遠暴慢矣;正顏色,斯近信矣;出辭氣,斯遠鄙倍矣。籩豆之事,則有司存。」
When Zengzi was seriously ill, Meng Jingzi came to visit him. Zengzi said: “When a bird is about to die, its song is mournful; when a man is about to die, his words are kind. In following the way, leaders cherish three things: by maintaining a dignified demeanor, they stay far from violence and arrogance; by maintaining a sincere countenance, they show they can be trusted; by choosing their words carefully, they avoid vulgarity and mistakes. As for the details of ritual, these will be taken care of by the functionaries.”

If you have the chance to impart some final words of wisdom while lying on your deathbed, what will they be? Will you rebuke someone you don’t even like for their failings or will you talk about your love for your family and friends? Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: final words of wisdom