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The Gentleman

Robert Oxnam :: Confucius sought to restore peace and order in China, such as that enjoyed under the Zhou dynasty, where leaders had been drawn from a hereditary aristocracy that governed according to certain traditions. Faced with the turmoil and change of his own day, Confucius held that the key to social order lay in the cultivation of the virtuous person, the moral leader, and he set about defining the attributes of the Gentleman, the Noble Man, who would lead society accordingly.

Wm. Theodore de Bary :: Confucius is talking with members of this relatively leisured, educated leadership class. And he's addressing their concern as to what is the real meaning of being a noble person in very changed circumstances from those that originally gave rise to the tradition that he is working in.

The leadership class is also, they are also the educators, they are the teachers, they instruct the people, direct their activities. And there isn't any other significant class that performs this function.

[Excerpts from the Analects of Confucius]

Zi Gong asked about the gentleman. Confucius said: "The gentleman first practices what he preaches and then preaches what he practices."

"The gentleman understands what is right; the inferior man understands what is profitable."

"The gentleman makes demands on himself; the inferior man makes demands on others."

Excerpts from Sources of Chinese Tradition, Wm. Theodore de Bary, ed. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1960), Analects 2:13; 4:16; and 15:20.