Confucian Analects Quotes and Commentary 為政 Wei Zheng #1








Confucian Analects Quotes and Commentary 為政 Wei Zheng #1


Confucian Analects Quotes and Commentary 為政 Wei Zheng #1

(PD) Patriarchs of Zen cropped, sized, color enhanced, and text added by Larry Neal Gowdy.

Larry Neal Gowdy

Copyright ©2019 June 01, 2019



Similar to other books within the Analects, the title of 為政 Wei Zheng was apparently taken from amongst the book's first words. Depending on how an individual interprets the topics within 為政 Wei Zheng, the title can imply Act-as Politics, Serve-as Government, Be Rule, Have Precept, and numerous others, including Create Administrative Affairs of Family.

By how the word is commonly used in other Confucian books, it implies a fluid concept of behaviorisms and personal duties to one's self and to others. Perhaps modern people might better think of the word's definition as being like the example of a large school's over-all activities of all of the people in the school, including personalities, behaviors, interactions, scheduled events, responsibilities of each individual's, etc., all occurring simultaneously. The word's concept is wide, alive of motion, like thinking of all of one's own relatives simultaneously while also thinking of all of the interactions occurring between each other, all within the one thought. There is no suitable English word for the large active mental thought, and so the tiny English knowledge-word 'affairs' is chosen because there is no other known suitable choice.

The book's chosen collection of quotes do not dwell upon governments, nor upon government laws, but rather dwell upon creative family and filial behaviors, and, so, since other Confucian books also often use the same word to infer 'family affairs', then a fitting title for today's English might be something similar to how 為政 best fits the first sentence: Create Family-Affairs.


子曰為政以德

譬如北辰

居其所而眾星共之


A direct word-per-word translation that has English punctuation added so as to suggest where pauses between concepts might be most beneficial:

Zi say: Create family-affairs with virtue... analogy similar north star... home-residence it place while many star share it.

Within modern conversational English:

Zi said: "Create family affairs with virtue... an analogy is similar to the north star... one's home, its place has many stars share it."

Note that 北辰 separately imply 'north early-morning', while together imply 'north star'. The meaning of the combination of words is obvious.

The second and third portions of the sentence are an analogy of either [1] one's home (residence) being the center of family members' lives, or [2] virtue itself being the center of one's family, but the three words 'Create family-affairs with' are very flexible of translation. By how the words are translated, they can, and do, change the sentence's over-all meaning.

Amongst the first questions of the three words are [1] were the words influenced by Daodejing's ideas of dao, [2] were the words' phrasing common throughout the ancient era, or [3] were the words in harmony with the greater portion of all Confucian books combined?

If the three words were translated similarly as how they were used within Daodejing, then the quote flows deep of meaning, very lucid, and points to a very pleasing concept, but, the concept would exceed what the quote likely intended, and would not harmonize well with the other quotes within 為政 Wei Zheng. Some of us sincerely do want the sentence to be parallel to 'Laozi's' words, but, being realistic, and accepting what is written in other Confucian books, it is believed best to permit the translation to point to external behaviors that are judged to be 'virtue', and to not point at internal natures of 'virtue'.



Therefore, perhaps the favored answer, is that the words 'Create family-affairs with virtue' are a good enough fit to permit the remainder of the sentence to rest comfortably with most other Confucian quotes.

As a comparison are three public domain translations:

"The Master said, "He who exercises government by means of his virtue may be compared to the north polar star, which keeps its place and all the stars turn towards it."" (James Legge, 1890)

"Let a ruler base his government upon virtuous principles, and he will be like the pole-star, which remains steadfast in its place, while all the host of stars turn towards it. (Anonymous, 1900)

The Master said, He that rules by mind is like the north star, steady in his seat, whilst the stars all bend to him. (Leonard A. Lyall, 1909)

The public domains' ideological ideas, of 'keeps its place', 'remains steadfast', and 'steady in his seat'' remove family members' participation (no 'stars sharing'), while leaving all choices to be those of the one man... effectively preventing harmony within the family... effectively enabling and creating a tyrant who rules over his own family. There is no 'virtue' within the behavior of being a tyrant...

I myself see no reason to lower the sentence down into a master-slave relationship of unjust laws, tyrannical governments, harsh rules, overt injustice, and the common modern cultural belief that all 'teachings' must be of authoritarianistic demands of 'thou must do this, thou must do that, else be punished'. Known modern public translations mirror the public domain versions'.

Confucian writings lean heavily upon what is rational, of what is practical, and of what is possible in the real world. The idea of one government man's outward behavior of 'virtue' somehow causing all of the nation's people to circle and to also become virtuous, is ideological... excessive 'visionary speculation; vain theorizing'... not possible in the real world. While it might be a valid point that some citizens may indeed 'circle and follow' a politician's (or any other ideology's leader's) behavior, still, the percentage will be small, while the greater population will still follow their own self-interests.

Also, within other Confucian texts, the rational, and repeated idea of sequence, is that a man first chooses to cultivate his own life, then chooses to cultivate his own family's life, then chooses to cultivate his own community's life, then chooses to cultivate his own nation. The common translations of 為政 Wei Zheng 1 appear to suggest that an uncultivated man is able to leap to govern a nation without first having the firsthand experience and ability to 'govern' one's self, nor even able to 'govern' one's own family's affairs.

One of the many favored natures of Confucian texts is that they speak of constructive ideas, ideas that people can ponder on, and choose to include within their own lives... and there, there is the key word, 'choose'. Ideologies all but universally remove personal choice, instead inserting tyrannical demands... but, within all of Nature, following a demand, never has, and never will, better a man, better a people, nor better a nation.

Virtuous behavior includes many ingredients, including honesty, fairness, kindness, thoughtfulness, patience, soft spoken words, and warmth of heart towards other people (care about other people). One of the ideals within the Confucian texts is that families would express virtuous behavior to each other, creating family affairs that are harmonious, and, thus, creative of itself.

The idea of inserting one's own 'leap of virtue' into one's own behavior as a law-making government employee, would not be as stars revolving around and sharing the north star... it would be, instead, stars following without choice.


Underlying Concept:


'Zi said: "Create family affairs with virtue... an analogy is similar to the north star... one's home, its place has many stars share it."'

Family affairs, created with virtue, is like the stars sharing the north star's place... one's home is where all family members share virtue.