What is the jūnzǐ 君子 from the point of view of rhetoric?




Javier Caramés Sánchez

IE University

 Roger Ames observes that what is usually associated with Confucius is a view of the world shared by others Chinese thinkers. For this reason, he ask why we should called it Confucianism rather than Chineseness (Roger T. 2002). In my opinion, Confucianism may be associated with the figure of jūnzǐ 君子 that may be compared with the philosopher. Why do I think that this comparison is pertinent? The jūnzǐ 君子 and philosopher embody the ideals of the person who should lead the society and defend it from deceivers skilled in persuasion. One of the core qualities of both was the way of speaking. Both of them must be persuasive to let their ideals prevail over teachings based on deceiving that lead the society to the chaos.

In ancient Greece there were two disciplines related with persuasion: oratory and rhetoric. The first were the speeches of famous persuaders and the second were treatises of speaking. As Xing Lu states (Lu 1998), there is not a specific term for rhetoric understood as literary gender. However, in principal Schools of thought there are texts with many reflexions on rhetoric as can be seem in the mentioned book of Lu Xing. She also did an analysis of the historical documents as Shan Shu 尚書, Guo Yu 國語, Zuo Zhuan 左傳 and Zhan Guo Ce 戰國策 that transmits speeches of rulers and ministers (Lu 1998 pp.) I consider that the last of these, the  Zhan Guo Ce 戰國策, is a valuable source of rhetoric.

As its names indicates, the Zhan Guo Ce 戰國策 is a book composed by   策 of the Warring States zhànguó 戰國. What is   策 means? The original meaning of   策 is whip for the houses. In a figurative sense, it refers to the way by that the ruler can lead a mass of people for a purpose, for example, to attack an enemy. For this reason, it is usually translated as « strategies». The protagonists of this book are know are person who were usually successful in persuading a ruler by giving him a   策. That is, a way of leading a country successfully. According to Liu Xiang, the plans of them  were very useful to save the army from critical situations bīnggé jiùjízhī shì 兵革救急之勢 but the were not suitable to educate a country lín guó jiàohuà 臨國教化. These persuaders of the Zhan Guo Ce were classified by posterity in the category of School of Zongheng zònghéng jiā 縱橫家.

In sum, the philosophers in Ancient Greece were defined in opposition to the sophists. Philosophers seek to truth even if it can cause him troubles. The Sophists are seemed as persuaders who teach other how to lie in order to get their own benefit. In the same way, in ancients texts the jūnzǐ 君子’s way of addressing the ruler was opposed to the way of the people of zònghéng jiā  縱橫家, also known with names as yóushì  游士 or nìngrén 佞人, all of them are kind of  xiǎorén 小人, the people that embodies the opposite features of jūnzǐ 君子. The jūnzǐ seeks the righteousness yì  義 when they persuade the ruler. By contrast the yóushì seeks the benefit lì  利 and do not care to harm others if it is necessary.


Lu, X., 1998. Rhetoric in Ancient China , fifth to third century B . C . E, Columbia: University of South Carolina Press.

Roger T., A., 2002. Thinking through Comparisons: Analytical and Narrative Methods for Cultural Understanding. In S. Shankman & D. Stephen, eds. Early China/ancient Greece: thinking through comparisons. Albany: State University of New York Press, pp. 93–110.

4 comentarios sobre “What is the jūnzǐ 君子 from the point of view of rhetoric?

  1. Shen Haobo
    300 POEMS

    Whatever Plato wanted to banish from his Republic
    is exactly what Confucius culled from his Book of Songs.
    When I suddenly thought of this point,
    I felt the hairs stand up on my neck.
    “The Master didn’t speak of ghosts and demons. ”
    All those strange beings, mysterious bodies, brave and resilient beauties
    culled clean from the books?
    If it was really like that,
    then he must be my enemy, goddamn bastard executioner!

    Tr. MW, Jan. 2017

    Me gusta

    1. Thank You for your comment. Confucius is principally interesting in humans affair. I don’t think he reject the ghosts and the demons. It is not the core feature of his thought. Dislike Plato, what Confucius and his followers reject is not the irrational but an uncultivated behavior that leads people to do bad things. I am trying to find the original text. It may be interesting to read what is exactly says the Book of Song.

      Me gusta


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