Analects Book 14: Confucius delivers his verdict on Duke Wen of Jin

Why does Confucius describe Duke Wen of Jin as “crafty and improper” in Analects 14.15 in pointed contrast to the “proper and not crafty” Duke Huan of Qi?

The sage’s major beef with the duke was the disrespect he showed to King Xiang of Zhou when restoring him to the throne after he was deposed by his brother. He regarded the summons Duke Wen gave to the king to attend a hunt with him at his own court as a flagrant breach of ritual propriety. Even if he was the most powerful man in the kingdom, the duke was still subordinate to the Zhou king and had no right to ask or tell his sovereign to do anything. The summons was an unforgivable display of arrogance and a blatant attempt to usurp the legitimacy of the Zhou court.

By riding roughshod over the sovereignty of the king, Duke Wen was showing the world that he was the true power in the land and challenging the very foundations that the Zhou dynasty was built on. If the duke was allowed to get away with his egregious misconduct, others would follow his example and the Zhou kingdom would collapse into chaos.

Even though Confucius may have been technically correct in his condemnation of Duke Wen for his admittedly serious violation of the rules of propriety, his singling out of just one ruler for criticism suggests an unwillingness or inability on his part to acknowledge the harsh reality of his age. The Zhou dynasty had already entered its death spiral thanks to a collective breakdown of traditional norms and values rather than as a result of the actions of a single individual and it was already too late to save it.

I took this image at the cemetery of Mencius near Qufu, China.

--

--

--

I live in Taiwan and am interested in exploring what ancient Chinese philosophy can tell us about technology and the rise of modern China.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

The Interlopers

The Changing of the Guard and Long-Term Success

The campaign for a university of Manchester

6 important events in Europe that changed history

Great Minds

Castle on the Water

How to use my mnemonic order for South America and some other memorable stuff.

How Medicine is Manufactured | Eixampliada News

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Richard Brown

Richard Brown

I live in Taiwan and am interested in exploring what ancient Chinese philosophy can tell us about technology and the rise of modern China.

More from Medium

The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Why There are So Many Skeptical Persons About VTOL Advanced Air Mobility?

American Highways and the Pursuit of Perfection

Human Singularity-What is it?