Leadership Lessons from Confucius: fasting; war; disease

Richard Brown
2 min readJun 16, 2019

Confucius was cautious about these matters: fasting; war; disease.

Purification is the key to giving a great presentation. That means slimming down your narrative by removing all its extraneous threads and practicing until you know it so well that you can deliver it without having to look at your slides. Only then can you convey its full meaning and stir the emotions of the audience.

Purification is the key to experiencing the majesty and meaning of an ancient Chinese ritual. Only by giving up meat and spicy food, abstaining from alcohol, and avoiding close contact with your spouse are you be able to cleanse yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually for the rite and fully immerse yourself in the ceremony.

Purification is also the key to enjoying a productive day. Even when you are pressed for time, a simple act like making the bed before you leave for the office or taking a long deep breath when you are feeling stressed can cleanse your body and mind so that you are ready to deal with the challenges ahead.


This article features a translation of Chapter 12 of Book 7 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 7 here.

(1) Fasting refers to the dietary and other purification rites that people were required to follow in order to prepare themselves properly for important sacrificial ceremonies, such as paying respects to ancestors and mourning.

(2) War and disease require little explanation, except to say that they were pervasive during the tumultuous times of the Spring and Autumn Period in which Confucius lived. War threatened the very survival of the nation and hence the welfare of the people, while disease was an all-too-common source of individual suffering and pain.

I took this image at the Temple of Confucius in Changhua, Taiwan.



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.