Ziqin is one of the lesser-known followers of Confucius and features only three times in the Analects. In 16.13, he makes his second appearance in the text under the name of Chen Gang and quizzes Confucius’s son Boyu to find out if the sage is giving him any “special teaching.”
When Boyu goes on to recount how his father encouraged him to study the Book of Songs in order to learn how to speak effectively and practice ritual in order to take his place in society, Ziqin is described as being “delighted.” “I asked on thing and learned three,” he concludes. “I learned about the Book of Songs, I learned about ritual, and I learned how an exemplary person keeps the appropriate distance from their son.”
As Ziqin suggests, the relationship between Confucius and Boyu was a formal one. Although Boyu seems to have been quite intelligent judging by his responses to Ziqin’s questions, he lived in the shadow of his father. Upon his son’s early death at the age of fifty in 480 BCE, Confucius showed none of the grief he displayed at the passing of his protégé Yang Hui, insisting on a simple ceremony strictly governed by the dictates of ritual. “When my son Li died, he was buried in an inner coffin but there was no outer coffin,” Confucius explains in 11.8. “I would not go on foot in order to give him one because it was not proper for me as a former minister to go on foot.”
Boyu left a son called Zisi, who inherited much more of his grandfather’s brilliance. He went on to write the Doctrine of the Mean, one of the four great classics of Chinese philosophy, and is rather improbably accredited with passing on the teachings of Confucius to Mencius.
Boyu appears three times in the Analects in 11.8, 16.13, and 17.10. Ziqin can be found in 1.10 and 19.25 as well as 16.13.