Leadership Lessons from Confucius: like the sun or the moon

Shusun Wushu vilified Confucius. Zigong said: “It does not matter. Confucius cannot be vilified. The worthiness of other people is like a hill that you can ascend; but Confucius is like the sun or the moon, which are impossible to climb over. Even if people wished to cut themselves off from his light, how would this harm the sun and the moon? At most, it would show that they had no sense of their own limitations.”
叔孫武叔毀仲尼。子貢曰:「無以為也!仲尼不可毀也。他人之賢者,丘陵也,猶可踰也。仲尼,日月也,無得而踰焉。人雖欲自絕,其何傷於日月乎?多見其不知自量也!」

Do not put too much faith in your heroes. They are never as great as their publicists and supporters make them out to be. The grander the hyperbole that surrounds them, the likelier they are to disappoint you.

Notes

This article features a translation of Chapter 24 of Book 19 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 19 here.

(1) Again, it is worth remembering that Confucius was by no means universally admired during his lifetime. Shusun Wushu was by no means the only prominent person to question his abilities and teachings. Given that Confucius described himself as an ordinary many who loved the past, it is highly unlikely that Zigong would have attempted to deify Confucius by comparing him to the sun and the moon.

I shot this image in the Confucius Temple in Shanghai.

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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.