When Zilu Met Confucius

Zilu was a famous warrior in the Spring-Autumn Period. He lived in the Lu (鲁) State. At that time, Confucius tried his best to propagate his thoughts about restoring the systems and rites of the Western Zhou Dynasty in the capital of Lu State. Confucius was born in a family of a brave warrior, but he was more interested in books than in martial skills. Many bellicose men didn’t like him. Zilu was a bellicose warrior, and he thought Confucius was not worthy to be supported. So he decided to humiliate Confucius.

One day, Zilu dressed in warrior clothing and went to visit Confucius. Confucius watched this young man who seemed to want to provoke him, and he asked Zilu, “What do you like to do?” Zilu said, “I like long swords.” Then Zilu took his long sword out and performed sword dance. Confucius smiled and said, “I don’t think it is a good answer. I’d like to know whether you are glad to improve your ability by scholarship.” Zilu asked, “Can I benefit from scholarship?” Confucius said to him, “If a monarch has no ministers who admonish him, he won’t be righteous. If a warrior has no friends who admonish him, he won’t be intelligent. We rein a wild horse with a whip, and we straighten a wood with a yardstick. If we often accept others’ advice, we will be wise. So it is a pleasant thing to learn from others, isn’t it? A gentleman doesn’t refuse to study.”

Zilu smiled, and he said, “In the Southern Mountain, there are many bamboos. They are straight naturally. If we cut them and use them as weapons, they even can pierce the leather of a rhinoceros. So I am wondering whether scholarship is useful.” Confucius said, “If we add plume wings and metal arrowheads to those cut bamboos, and sharpen the metal arrowheads, they will pierce deeper, right?” Zilu felt Confucius was a wise man, and started to admire him. This young man did obeisance two times and said to Confucius, “I am willing to accept your advice cordially.”

When Zilu was going to leave, Confucius asked him, “Do you want me to present something to you, a chariot or a word?” Zilu said, “Please give a word to me.” Confucius said, “OK, please remember my words. When you want to do something, if you don’t try your best, you won’t finish your goal. And if you don’t work hard, you will get nothing, too. If you are not loyal, you will lose trusted followers. If you can’t realize your promise, others won’t trust you any longer. And, please remember, when you want others to be respectful to you, you should be respectful to them first.” Zilu said, “I will remember your admonitions forever.”

Afterwards, Zilu became one of the students of Confucius. Confucius had three thousand students throughout his life. The famous students were seventy-two, and Zilu was one of them. If someone slandered Confucius, Zilu often taught a violent lesson to that man, so many dissenters had to stop slandering Confucius. At the age of 83, Confucius heard the bad news that Zilu was killed in the Wei (卫) State. The old man said sadly, “Since now, more and more calumnies will come into my ears.”

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