Confucius said, “Guan Zhong was a small vessel.”

Someone asked, “So, you mean he was frugal?”

Confucius replied, “He had three different residences and kept a separate member of staff to perform each duty. You call that frugal?”

“So, then, do you mean that Guan Zhong understood ritual?”

Confucius replied, “The princes kept a ritual screen in front of their gates–and so did Guan Zhong. The princes, when entertaining other heads of state, had a bar to hold their drinks–and so did Guan Zhong. If Guan Zhong understands ritual, who doesn’t?”


Someone asked about Zichan.

Confucius replied, “He was generous.”

“And what about Zixi?”

Confucius replied, “That guy? Don’t even mention him.”

“And how about Guan Zhong?”

Confucius answered, “He was a man! He seized a territory of three hundred households in Pian from the Bo family. Although the head of the family was reduced to eating coarse rice for the rest of his life, he didn’t utter a single word of complaint against him.”


Zigong said, “Surely, Guan Zhong was not humane? After Duke Huan killed his Prince Jiu, not only did Guan Zhong not die along with him—he actually became Duke Huan’s prime minister!”

“With Guan Zhong as his Prime Minister, Duke Huan became leader of the nobles and brought order to the realm,” Confucius replied. “Down to this day, we still benefit from this. Without Guan Zhong, we’d be wearing our hair down and buttoning our clothes on the left side like barbarians.

“What should we expect? That he act out the petty virtues of a country rube and hang himself in some ditch, anonymously?”