Stories from History: Dealing with People by Being Trustworthy

Hong Yi

PureInsight | October 26, 2006

[] Confucianism
teaches that people should deal with each other with good faith,
respect, understanding and trust instead of suspicion. Only then can
people get along with each other harmoniously.


In ancient times, Confucius and his disciples were once trapped in the
wilderness bordering the state of Chen and the state of Cai. They had
to stay in very simple and crude cabins. Quickly, the grain supplies
they had taken with them all ran out. For seven consecutive days, they
had to eat vegetable soup without a single grain of rice in it.
Everybody was at the end of his tether.

One day, Zi Gong, a student of Confucius, took his belongings and
managed to sneak out of the trap. He went through a lot before he was
able to exchange his possessions with a local farmer for a dan (an
ancient unit of dry measure for grain, about 100 liters, 22 gallons) of
rice and came back. Confucius was very happy and he asked Yan Yuan and
Zi Lu to cook some rice in a cabin next to his. When Zi Lu went to
fetch water, he saw Yan Yuan grabbing some rice from the rice pot,
putting it into his mouth, and eating it. Zi Lu was very upset. He
walked to Confucius and asked, "Will a true gentleman change his
integrity in adverse circumstances?"

Confucius was not expecting the question. But he still answered him,
"If he had changed his integrity, how could he have been called a
gentleman in the first place?"

 "Then do you think whether someone like Yan Yuan would change or
not?" Zi Lu continued. Confucius answered, "No. He would not."

Zi Lu then told Confucius about what he had seen. Confucius said, "I
trust Yan Yuan is a gentleman. Although you are quite sure of what you
have seen, I believe he must have his reasons for doing that. Let me
ask him."

Confucius then called Yan Yuan and asked him, "I dreamed of my late
father just now. If the food is clean and untouched, I would like to do
a sacrificial offering."

Yan Yuan said, "No. Dust fell into the rice just now. As it's inauspicious to throw food away, I grabbed it and ate it."

Upon hearing this, Confucius said, "My faith and belief in Yan Yuan didn't start from today."

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