Early Confucians

Line drawing of a manPortrait convener

Winnie Sung
UCL and Nanyang Technological University

Introductory readings (mp3 file)



Introduction to readings

Ancient Confucian thinkers harshly criticized a kind of people called “village worthies (xiang yuan 鄉 原).” When the ancient Confucians used this term, they referred to people who typically held a political position in their village. These village worthies were popular because they were eager to please those around them. They projected the image that they have the kind of character idealized by people in the village when in fact they did not. Confucius (5-6th century BCE) explicitly condemned the village worthies as “thieves of virtue.” Mencius (4th century BCE) later on elaborated on this idea of thieves of virtue and raised the worry that the presence of these village worthies would confuse people’s conception of what is truly ethical. Mencius also expressed frustration with the fact that since the conduct of these village worthies agrees with the norms and customs of the society, it is difficult to locate their fault and allege what exactly they have done wrong.

[For information about the Portraits of Integrity project, click here]

1 Response to Early Confucians

  1. ack77 says:

    The audio recording of Winnie Sung’s introduction to the reading group session on early confucians is now available here on the website.

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