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History of Zhengzhou: Confucius' Thoughts On Zichan

Popularity 1Viewed 2245 times 2015-1-2 20:57 |Personal category:History|System category:News| difficult, political, country, through, family

From 'Confucius: A Life of Thought and Politics' by Annping Chin, pp. 56-58

Around the same time, in the state of Zheng, an eminent man by the name of Zichan was approached by the political governors after their ruler was killed by a cousin in a family brawl “on the street where the lamb vendors had their stalls.” They asked Zichan to help them pull through this difficult period. “Do you think you are in my league?”, he quipped. “Who knows how to put an end to the calamities in our country? If only those who are in charge could be strong and just, out troubles would not have started in the first place. For the time being, I am going to tend to my business.” Only after the most prominent of the hereditary counselors offered Zichan his own job did Zhichan begin to give the idea some thought. But he remained skeptical, telling the counselors, “The hereditary families are large. Many people need favors, so nothing can get accomplished.” When he was assured that he ‘was free to govern as he liked,’ he decided to give it a try.

In the Analects, Confucius says of Zichan of Zheng: “He was respectful in the manner in which he conducted himself, reverent in the service of his lord, generous in caring for the common people, and just in employing them for work.” People who knew Zichan thought that he understood propriety (li) and even under duress would not compromise any of its principles. Yet this same Zichan would bribe the powerful to get things done, saying, “It is hard not to be covetous, but once a person’s desires are satisfied, then he is ready to work and get things done.” During the Spring and Autumn period, there was probably no finer counselor than Zichan.

He had subtlety and flexibility, and was a genius at adapting to the situation at hand, “without swerving from the track.” Yet words such as “devotion” and “scrupulosity” are not fit to describe him.

In the sixth century BC, there was no one in Lu who tried to do what Zichan had done for Zheng, and there was no one from the hereditary families who cared enough about Lu to invite an outside talent- someone with the skills and learning - to help them steer their country. Away from disasters. Confucius’ disciple, Zigong, who was interested in “grading people,” once asked Confucius what sort of men he ‘would consider as good enough to be in government.’ Zing was hoping that if given a standard, he could better assess the political figures in Lu, who were his contemporaries, and he could weigh them against those with true qualifications. Confucius replied that men who are fit to be in government ‘have self-awareness in the way they conduct themselves and, when sent abroad, will bring not disgrace to the mission their ruler has entrusted to them.’ The conversation continued: “What would be the next best?” “Those who are good sons in the eyes of their kin and fine young men in the eyes of their neighbors and villagers.” “And the level below that?” “Men who insist on keeping their word and seeing their action to the end. They have stones for brains and are inferior indeed. But I suppose you can say that they come next.” “And what about those who are in public life right now?” “Unh? They are puny vessels, men with hardly any capacity. They don’t even count!”

From this conversation, we learn along with Zigong what Confucius looked for in a counselor and why he would admire someone like Zichan……"

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)


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MichaelM

Michael is the author of the transformational book, Powerful Attitudes. He is a professional educator, an educational consultant, an author. He lives in Zhengzhou, Henan Province. He enjoys playing guitar and writing poetry. He loves China.

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