Analects Book 18 historical figures: father and son

Confucius’s great hero, the Duke of Zhou makes what many commentators believe to be a random appearance in the 18.10 together with his son Bo Qin. The duke was the younger brother of King Wu and served as a close aide to him during the campaign to topple Zhouxin, the last Shang sovereign.

In recognition of his service (and no doubt to expand the territory of the new Zhou dynasty), King Wu granted his younger brother the fiefdom of Lu, located in modern-day Shandong province. The duke, however, remained in the new Zhou capital much further west to assist his brother in setting up his new government and had his eldest son Bo Qin appointed as Duke of Lu. The quote in 18.10 is believed to come from the speech given by the Duke of Zhou during the ceremony marking his son’s appointment. No doubt inspired by his father’s stirring words, Bo Qin went on to rule the state of Lu for nearly fifty years from 1042 to 997 BCE.

The Duke of Zhou never stepped foot in Lu. As the regent for Cheng, the son of King Wu, he set about the even greater challenge of unifying the country under the Zhou and laying the foundations for its long-term growth and prosperity. When Cheng reached the age of majority, the duke gracefully (and unusually for the time) stepped aside to allow the young king to assume the throne.

It is for these great achievements that the Duke of Zhou was not only greatly admired by Confucius but also became recognized is one of the most admired figures in Chinese history.

This image of the entrance to the Temple of the Duke of Zhou in Qufu, the capital of Lu.

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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.