Confucius Visits


Yang Huo was a minister in the state of Lu, which was Confucius’s home state. Mindful of Confucius’s reputation as a wise man, Yang wanted Confucius to join his administration. Confucius, however, thought that Yang was too autocratic an official, so he resisted Yang’s advance. One day Yang came to Confucius’s residence to see the philosopher, but Confucius hid from him. Leaving disappointed, Yang left behind a roasted suckling pig as a gift to Confucius.

Ever a man conscious of propriety, Confucius felt that he was obligated to reciprocate Yang’s gesture. He found a time when he knew Yang was not at home and went over to pay Yang a visit.

Confucius’s scheme did not go well because on his way to Yang’s home, he ran into the man in the street. Not to miss his chance, Yang immediately launched an effort to persuade Confucius to join his government. 

“A state is in chaos, but a man of abilities would not do anything about it. Would you can consider such behavior humane?” Yang asked Confucius.

“No, I would not,” Confucius replied.

“Being interested in politics but keeping missing chances to take part in it – would you consider this wise?” Yang asked again.

“No, I would not,” Confucius responded.

Yang then said, “Time passes like the sun and the moon revolve – they do not wait for us.”

“True. I think I’ll join officialdom now.”

Confucius was a man of principles. He did not want to cooperate with those whom he deemed to be insufficiently virtuous. At the same time, Confucius valued correctitude in interactions among people. Trying to pay Yang a visit at time when Yang was not in was Confucius’s way to reconcile two different considerations – his reservation on Yang as a good man and his need to repay Yang’s nice gestures. Except that in this case Confucius’s ploy did not work.
Yang was also a smart man. He knew that Confucius, as a philosopher, emphasized the idea of obligation. He also knew that Confucius was interested in politics. So, in his effort to persuade Confucius to join his administration, he stressed a gentleman’s responsibility to his state and the need to take quick actions when opportunities present themselves. (

(The inscription on the painting: The Greatest Sage Confucius, name Qiu and courtesy name Zhongni, a native of Qufu County, Yanzhou Prefecture, Shandong)
(, 09/24/2021)