Do Confucius’ three thousand disciples really have seventy-two sages?

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“The prime minister has no seed. A man should strive for self-improvement. There are threethousand disciples and seventy-two sages.” This is from ancient times


In the classic collection of famous scholars, the two sentences “threethousand disciples, seventy-two sages” refer to Confucius’ disciples. The so-called “threethousand disciples, seventy-two sages”. Due to the “Enlightenment” status of the collection of famous scholars, it has been widely spread since its publication in the Southern Song Dynasty, making generations of people unknowingly form a misunderstanding——

Confucius was a famous thinker, educator, politician and the founder of Confucianism in the late spring and Autumn period. His name is Qiu and his character is Zhongni. He was born in 551 B.C. and died in 479 B.C. his predecessor was an aristocrat of the state of song. Confucius had successively done the work of “appointing officials” and “riding the field”. There is no regular teacher. It is said that he once asked Lao Tzu for courtesy, was happy to learn from Chang Hong, and studied piano from Shixiang. At the age of 50, he served as the commander of the State Council of Lu, took photos, and later traveled around the world. Because political ideas could not be implemented, he devoted himself to education. How many disciples did this great educator, who was famous not only in China but also in the history of world education, receive in his life? How many of the disciples became famous sages is still a mystery.

372 or——

Ma Qian of Taishi company was probably the first person to discover this problem.

In the historical records of Confucius family, he said: “Confucius taught with poetry, calligraphy, etiquette and music. His disciples covered threethousand Yan. There were two out of seventy people who knew the six arts.”

This passage is probably the origin of Mingxian Ji.

However, similarly, in the biographies of Zhongni’s disciples in historical records, Sima Qian put forward another statement in Confucius’ own words.

“Biographies of Zhongni’s disciples in historical records”: “Confucius said: ‘there are seven out of seventy people who have received karma and have good physical skills, all of whom are powerful people.”—— It is believed that there are 77 true sages among Confucius’ disciples.

Which seventy-seven are they?

Sima Qian recorded:

Yan Hui (Ziyuan), min Shang (Ziqian), rangeng (boniu), ran Yong (Zhonggong), zhonggongfu, ran Qiu (Ziyou), Zhongyou (Zilu), Zaiyu (Zii), duanmuci (Zigong), Yan Yan (Ziyou), bu Shang (Zixia), Zhuan sunshi (Zizhang), Zeng can (Ziyu), dantai mieming (Ziyu), MI Buqi (Zijian), Yuanxian (Zisi), gongyechang (Zichang), Nangong Kuo (Zirong), Gong Xiai (jici) Zeng Sheng (Zi XI), Yan Wuyao (Zi Lu), Shang Qu (Zi mu), Gao chai (Zi Yang), Qi Diaoke (Zi Kai), Gong boliao (Zi Zhou), simageng (Zi NIU), fan Xu (Zi chi), you Ruo, Gong Xichi (Zi Hua), wumashi (Zi Qi), Liang Shan (Shu Yu), Yan Xing (Zi Liu), ran Ru (Zi Lu), Cao Ying (Zi Xun), Bo Qian (Zi Xie), Gong sunlong (Zi Shi), ran Ji (Zi Chan), Gong Zu Juzi (Zi Zhi),the Qin Zu (zi’nan), Qi Diao Duo (zi’lian), Yan Gao (zi’jiao), Qi Diao tufu, Tu Sichi (zi’tu), Shang Ze, Shi zuoshu (zi’ming), Ren Buqi (zi’xuan), Gong LiangRu (zi’zheng), Hou Chu (zi’li), Qin ran (zi’kai), Gong xiashou (zi’cheng), Xi Rongzhen (zi’xi), Gong Jianding (zi’zhong), Yan Zu (Xiang), Pang Dan (zi’jia), Ju Jingjiang, Han fuhei (zi’suo), Qin Shang (zi’pi), Shen Dang (zhou) Yan Zhifu (Zi Shu), Rong Qi (Zi Qi), Xian Cheng (Zi Qi), zuorenji (Zi Xing), Yan zhe (Zi SI), Zheng Guo (Zi TU), Qin Fei (Zi Zhi), Shi Zhichang (Zi Heng), Yan zhe (Zi Sheng), Le Shucheng (Zi Che), Yuan Kangji, Le Ke (Zi Sheng), Lian Xun (Zi Yong), Shu Zhonghui (Zi Qi), Yan He (RAN), di Hei (Yi), bang Xun (Zi Lian), Kong Zhong, gong xi and Ru (Zi Zi above), gongxisheng (above).

“Disciple threethousand” doesn’t seem to have much problem, but are seventy-two or seventy-seven sages?

Chengyunsheng, a man from the late Ming Dynasty and early Qing Dynasty, also said in the chapter “new articles” in his book “learning from qionglin for young people”: “Ma Rong set up a red curtain, teaching students in the former and women’s music in the latter; Confucius lived in the apricot altar, with 70 sages and 3000 disciples.”

So, in addition to seventy-two and seventy-seven, another seventy came out. Which is right or wrong?

Seventy seven real sages with names and surnames

Chengyunsheng’s “learning from qionglin at an early age” says that Confucius’ disciples “are seventy sages” in order to unify the number of words with the previous sentence “former students”, which is not a lesson.

Among the seventy-two sages and seventy-seven sages, the latter should be taken according to Confucius’ original intention.

Only thirty-five of the seventy-seven sages can really be called great sages.

Sima Qian said in the biographies of Zhongni’s disciples in the historical records that “thirty-five people from the right of Zishi have obvious years of fame and experience, which can be seen in the book biography. Two of them are forty, and those who have no years and do not see the book biography are on the left.”

This passage makes it clear that only 35 of Confucius’ 77 eldest disciples have real names and age deeds.

These 35 people are: Yan Hui (Zi Yuan), min Shang (Zi Qian), rangeng (Bo NIU), ran Yong (Zhong Gong), Zhong Gong’s father, ran Qiu (Zi you), Zhong You (Zi Lu), Zai Yu (Zi I), Duanmu CI (Zi Gong), Yan Yan (Zi you), bu Shang (Zi Xia), Zhuan sun Shi (Zi Zhang), Zeng can (Zi Yu), dantai mieming (Zi Yu), MI Buqi (Zi Jian), Yuanxian (Zi SI), Gong Yechang (Zi Chang), Nangong Kuo (Zi Rong) Gong xi’ai (word Jici), Zeng Xiao (word XI), Yan Wuyao (word Lu), Shang Qu (word Zimu), Gao chai (word Ziyang), lacquer carving Kai (word Zikai), Gong boliao (word Zizhou), simageng (word Ziniu), fan Xu (word zichi), youruo, Gong Xichi (word Zihua), wumashi (word Ziqi), Liang Shan (word Shuyu), Yan Xing (word Zilu), ran Ru (word Zilu), Cao Jin (word Zixun), Bo Qian (word zixie), Gongsunlong (word Zishi). The top thirty-five are:

Yan Yuan, min Ziqian, ran boniu, Zhong Gong – Confucius thought they had virtue.

Ran you and Ji Lu – Confucius believed that they were good at handling political affairs.

Kill me and Zigong – Confucius thought they were good at diplomatic rhetoric.

Ziyou and Zixia – Confucius believed that they were proficient in ancient Chinese documents.

Except for these ten people, all the other senior disciples of Confucius have various shortcomings, such as (in the words of Confucius), Zhuan sun’s extreme teacher, Zeng Shen’s dullness, Gao Chai’s ignorance and corruption, and Zhong You’s rudeness.

Therefore, based on the relevant discussions in the historical records of Taishi Gong and Confucius’ Analects of Confucius, it is not difficult to find that among the disciples of Confucius, there are 77 people who have “learned from their deeds” and only 10 people whom Confucius specially praised for their outstanding deeds.

Of course, this is just the words of the author. In any case, it is somewhat arbitrary to conclude that Confucius has 3000 disciples and 72 sages based on the words of the collection of famous sages. As the saying goes, “ten years of trees, a hundred years of people”, it is not an easy job to educate people, and it is even more difficult to cultivate people into sages. Only with Confucius’ great talents and virtues, can they devote their life energy to achieve such results. Those who can’t wait to add the prefix “family” to their heads with a little achievement deserve it?

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