Kung-î family

Kung-î family was powerful in the state of Lû, Kung-î Hsiû was priminister in the reign of Duke Mû. He liked eating fish, but once he rejected some fishes offered as bribery. The briber asked the reason, he said:”I am the priminister of the state, I don’t lack means of getting good fish. If I accept yours, I might get punished and lose my position. Who would send me fish any more?

Another famous person of the Kung-î family, was Kung-î Chung-tsu. Though we don’t know his real name, Chung-tsu was just a courtsey name, his case of choosing younger brother as successor instead of his grandson in the line of rightful heir has been discussed for thousands of years.

In ancient China as in the rest of the civilized world, the rule of succession to position and property was that the first born was the proper heir. If the eldest son died, the succession should be descended to the grandson in the line of rightful heir.

Histroy didn’t tell us if Chung-tsu’s eldest son was alive at the time, but we suppose he was dead. Anyway, when Kung-î Chung-tsu died, his younger son, who was by a different wife, and whose position was inferior, was made the head of the family.
At the mourning rites for Kung-î Chung-tsu, Than Kung was there, wearing the mourning cincture for the head, which mourning dress was proper for a friend. In the ceremony, Than Kung noticed that Chung-tsu had passed over his grandson, and appointed one of his younger sons as his successor and head of the family. Than Kung said to himself, ‘How is this? I never heard of such a thing;’ and he hurried to Tsu-fû Po-tsu at the right of the door, and said, ‘How is it that Chung-tsu passed over his  grandson, and made a younger son his successor?’ Po-tsu replied, ‘Chung-tsu perhaps has done in this, like others, according to the way of antiquity. Anciently, king Wăn of Chou passed over his eldest son Yî-khâo, and appointed king Wû; and the count of Wei passed over his grandson Tun, and made Yen, his own younger brother, his successor. Chung-tsu perhaps did also in this according to the way of antiquity.’

Than Kung was not disciple of Confucius, but he was a friend of Tsu-yû. Tsu-yû asked Confucius about the matter, and Confucius did not hesitate to speak out the truth, he said, ‘Nay, the rule is to appoint the grandson.’

How Confucius buried his mother in the same grave with his father at Fang

Confucius was born by ‘illicit union’. When he was three years old, his father Kong He died, and he was raised by his mother Yen zhengzai.

When he was twenty-four, his mother died. According to the ancient rules of propriety, he wanted to bury his mother in the same grave with his father, but the problem is, he did not know his father’s grave, it might be because  his mother never told him where his father’s grave was. So Confucius had his mother’s body coffined in the street of Wû-fû. He stayed beside the coffin in mourning dress, with his lame brother Meng Pi. Those who saw it all thought that it was to be interred there, so carefully was everything done, but it was only the coffining. By inquiring of the mother of Man-fû of Zâu, he succeeded in learning his father’s grave was at Fang.

When Confucius had succeeded in burying his mother in the same grave with his father at Fang, he said, ‘I have heard that the ancients made graves only, and raised no mound over them. But I am a man, who will be travelling east, west, south, and north. I cannot do without something by which I can remember the place.’ On this, he resolved to raise a mound over the grave four feet high. He then first returned, leaving the disciples behind. A great rain came on; and when they rejoined him, he asked them what had made them so late. ‘The earth slipped,’ they said, ‘from the grave at Fang.’ They told him this thrice without his giving them any answer. He then wept freely, and said, ‘I have heard that the ancients did not need to repair their graves.’

Confucius conducting an archery meeting

Once, when Confucius was conducting an archery meeting in a vegetable garden at Kio-hsiang, the lookers-on surrounded it like a wall. When the proceedings reached the point when a Master of the Horse should be appointed, he directed Dze-lû to take his bow and arrows, and go out to introduce those who wished to shoot, and to say, ‘The general of a defeated army, the Great officer of a ruler-less state, and any one who has schemed to be the successor and heir of another, will not be allowed to enter, but the rest may all enter.’ On this, one half went away, and the other half entered.

After this, wishing to send the cup round among all the company, he further directed Kung-wang Khiû and Hsü Tien to raise the horns of liquor, and make proclamation. Then Kung-wang Khiû raised his horn, and said, ‘Are the young and strong here observant of their filial and fraternal duties? Are the old and men of eighty here such as love propriety, not following licentious customs, and resolved to maintain their characters to death? If so, they may occupy the position of guests.’ On this, one half of those who had entered went away, and the other half remained.

Hsü Tien next raised his horn, and proclaimed, ‘Are you fond of learning without being tired? are you fond of the rules of propriety, and unswerving in your adherence to them? Do those of you who are eighty, ninety, or one hundred, expound the way of virtue without confusion or error? If so, you can occupy the position of visitors.’ Thereupon hardly any remained.

The Birth of Confucius

Confucius’ father Shü-leang Heih was a soldier of great prowess and daring bravery. In the year B.C. 562, when serving at the siege of a place called Peih-yang, a party of the assailants made their way in at a gate which had purposely been left open, and no sooner were they inside than the portcullis was dropped. Heih was just entering, and catching the massive structure with both his hands, he gradually by dint of main strength raised it and held it up, till his friends had made their escape.

Shuh-leang Heih had married in early life, but his wife brought him only daughters, to the number of nine, and no son. By a concubine he had a son, named Mang-p’e, and also Pih-ne, who proved a cripple, so that, when he was over seventy years, Heih sought a second wife in the Yen family, from which came subsequently Yen Hwuy, the favourite disciple of his Confucius. There were three daughters in the family, the youngest being named Ching-tsae. Their father said to them, “Here is the commandant of Tsow. His father and grandfather were only scholars, but his ancestors before them were descendants of the sage emperors. He is a man ten feet high, and of extraordinary prowess, and I am very desirous of his alliance. Though he is old and austere, you need have no misgivings about him. Which of you three will be his wife ? ” The two elder daughters were silent, but Ching-tsae said, “Why do you ask us, father ? It is for you to determine.” “Very well,” said her father in reply, “you will do.” Ching-tsae, accordingly, became Heih’s wife.

She prayed for a son in the dell of mount Ne

Ching-tsae, fearing lest she should not have a son, in consequence of her husband’s age, privately ascended the Ne-k’ew hill to pray for the boon. As Ching-tsae went up the hill, the leaves of the trees and plants all erected themselves, and bent downwards on her return. That night she dreamt the God Black Te appeared, and said to her, “You shall have a son, a sage, and you must bring him forth in a hollow mulberry tree.” One day during her pregnancy, she fell into a dreamy state, and saw five old men in the hall, who called themselves the essences of the five planets, and led an animal which looked like a small cow with one horn, and was covered with scales like a dragon. This creature knelt before Ching-tsae, and cast forth from its mouth a slip of gem, on which was the inscription, “The son of the essence of water shall succeed to the withering Chow, and be a throneless king.” Ching-tsae tied a piece of embroidered ribbon about its horn, and the vision disappeared. When Heih was told of it, he said, ” The creature must be the K’e-lin Unicorn.”

A Unicorn Sent a Slip of Gem

As her time drew near, Ching-tsae asked her husband if there was any place in the neighbourhood called “The hollow mulberry tree.” He told her there was a dry cave in the south hill, which went by that name. Then she said, “I will go and be confined there.” Her husband was surprised, but when made acquainted with her former dream, he made the necessary arrangements. On the night when the child was born, two dragons came and kept watch on the left and right of the hill, and two spirit-ladies appeared in the air, pouring out fragrant odours, as if to bathe Ching-tsae : and as soon as the birth took place, a spring of clear warm water bubbled up from the floor of the cave, which dried up again when the child had been washed in it. The child was of an extraordinary appearance ; with a mouth like the sea, ox lips, a dragon’s back, on the top of his head was a remarkable formation. Heih and Ching-tsae cohabited in the dell of mount Ne and prayed together for a son, and that when she had obtained it, she commemorated it in the names K’ew and Chung-ne.

The Star K’uei

A scholar, as famous for his literary skill as his facial deformities, had been admitted as first academician at the metropolitan examinations. It was the custom that the Emperor should give with his own hand a rose of gold to the fortunate candidate. This scholar, whose name was K’uei, presented himself according to custom to receive the reward which by right was due to him. At the sight of his repulsive face the Emperor refused the golden rose. In despair the miserable rejected one went and threw himself into the sea. At the moment when he was being choked by the waters a mysterious fish monster called Ao raised him on its back and brought him to the surface. K’uei ascended to Heaven and became arbiter of the destinies of men of letters, or the God of Literature.

Two Children arguing about the sun

One day, Xiang Tuo was arguing with another child. Confucius asked them what’s about. One child thought that the sun is nearer to us at daybreak and far away from us at noon, because in the morning it is as big as the canopy of a carriage, but at noon only the size of a plate or a bowl. The other contended that the sun was far away at dawn and nearby at midday, because when the sun comes out, it is very cool, but at midday it is as hot as putting your hand in boiling water. Confucius was unable to settle the matter for them.

How Tzu Lu met a recluse

Once when Tzu Lu was following the Master on a journey he happened to fall behind. Meeting an old man carrying a basket on his staff, Tzu Lu asked him, “Have you seen my Master, sir?” “You,” said the old man, “whose four limbs know not toil, and who cannot distinguish the five grains, who may your Master be? ” With that he planted his staff in the ground and commenced weeding.

Tzu Lu joined his hands together in salutation and stood waiting.

The old man kept Tzu Lu for the night, killed a fowl, prepared millet, and gave him to eat, introducing also his two sons.

Next morning Tzu Lu went his way and reported his adventure; “He is a recluse,” said the Master, and sent Tzu Lu back again to see him, but on his arrival the old man had gone.

Whereupon Tzu Lu said to the sons: “It is not right to refuse to serve one’s country. If the regulations between old and young in family life may not be set aside, how is it that he sets aside the duty that exists between a Prince and his ministers? In his desire to maintain his own personal purity, he subverts one of the main principles of society. A wise man in what ever office he occupies, fulfils its proper duties, even though he is well aware that right principles have ceased to make progress.”


A man of the Lu State lived alone in a cottage, and a neighbour, who was a widow, lived alone in another.

One night, there was a terrific storm of wind and rain; the widow’s cottage was destroyed, and she herself ran across to the man and asked to be taken in. The man, however, bolted his door and refused to admit her; whereupon the widow called to him, saying, “Where, sir, is your charity of heart, that you do not let me in?”

“I have heard,” replied he, ” that until a man is sixty, he may not share a house with a woman. Now, you are young, and I too am young; so that I dare not receive you.”

“Sir,” said the widow, ” why not play the part of Liu-hsia Hui? Besides, I am an old dame, and not a damsel of doubtful reputation; there would be no scandal talked about us.”

“Liu-hsia Hui,” answered the man, “was a man of eminent virtue, and could hold a lady in his lap without the slightest imputation on his moral character, but I am unable to do so. I will follow my own inability in striving to imitate the ability of Liu-hsia Hui.”

When Confucius heard this, he said, ” Good indeed! Can a desire to be good, without the attempt to succeed, be accounted wisdom?”

Kong Rong yields the bigger pears

孔融 K’ung Jung, died A.D. 208, a descendant of Confucius in the 20th generation. He has five elder brothers, and one younger brother.

When K’ung Jung at four years of age was asked why he chose all the small pears and left the bigger ones for the rest of the family he replied, “I am a small boy, so I take the small pears.”

The King of Chu Lost His Bow

Once upon a time, the king of Ch’u State went on hunting in his Yün-mêng Park, he drew his bow, and put on arrows to shoot snakes and rhinoceroses, but he lost his bow.

His attendants wished to search for it, but the king stopped them, saying,

–The king of Ch’u has lost the bow, and a man of Ch’u will get it, what need to search for it?

When Confucius heard of this, he said,

–The king of Chu is good and kind, but not quite perfect.

And he went on saying,

— When a man gets rid of his bow, and another man finds it, it is all right. But why must it be a man of Ch’u?

Does Confucius object to the ‘local patriotism’? The king of Ch’u would leave his bow to an inhabitant of Ch’u only, Confucius commented that the king of Ch’u is good and kind, but he was not a sage, his love didn’t extended to embraces all mankind, so he was not quite perfect. What if the King of Ch’u lost his throne?