Analects | Study Guide


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Analects | Key Figure Analysis



The Master depicted in The Analects valued learning and believed in teaching any who were interested in learning (and not teaching those who don't bother to make inquiries). It is difficult to determine his character exactly, since he is depicted in numerous ways throughout the collection in text from many different sources. He often refers to his followers by their given names rather than their public names.

Master Zeng

Not much is shown of Master Zeng's personality in The Analects, but the fact that he not only passes on the Master's teachings but also interprets them shows his importance to the ongoing Confucian tradition. He clearly is keenly interested in the ideal of filial piety since many of his own statements focus on the topic.

Ran You

Ran You is a steward, or high official, for the Ji family. Along with Zilu, he is blamed by Confucius for failing to prevent the Ji family from attacking Zhuanyu. He arranges the return of Confucius to Lu.


Zigong is one of the Master's most outwardly successful followers, becoming a successful diplomat in Lu during his time as a follower of the Master. After that he succeeds as a merchant, a profession the Master looks down on. The Master sometimes gives him a hard time because of this, but it is clear he also has great affection for him.


Unlike many other close followers of the Master, Hui is talked about more than his words are preserved. Nearly every reference praises him; he is noted for his humaneness and fondness for learning despite having humble origins. The Master points out more than once Hui died much too early, and the Master is shown grieving the loss deeply.


Zilu's character comes through most clearly of all the people in The Analects. He is impulsive and hasty and prefers action to learning, and the Master often teases him and takes him to task for these traits. He eventually serves as a steward for the Ji family, who rule Lu illegitimately, which the Master also disapproves of. Zilu ultimately dies violently in a coup.

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