Where Men Can Become Better Gentlemen

Origins: Confucius

The Chinese Gentleman

Historical Definition

Junzi literally means “Ruler’s Son” (son = Zi, of a Lord = Jun). As the ruler’s son and future leader it is important for this person to be raised with superior ethics and morals to ensure the future generation is able to rule with wisdom, justice, harmony and peace. The political role of an ideal Junzi was to enforce their rule by virtuous example rather than by using negative tools such as fear, punishment etc.

Revised Definition

Confucius took the term “Junzi” and used it to describe the ideal person, with any righteous man being capable of attaining a virtuous life for the good of their family, the nation and mankind. Junzi thus took on a new meaning with many possible translations, including: “Noble person”, “Superior person”, “Man of honor”, or “Exemplary person”. The westernized phrase is translated as “Gentleman” and this gives a better backdrop to Chinese culture, creating an ideal we can understand or be more familiar with.

Opposite of Junzi

The reverse of Junzi is Xiaoren, which translates as “small” or “petty” person. The petty person does not seek virtue, only immediate gains and is egotistical. Their actions and words are taken without thought, with no reference to an overall long-term plan or idea.

Becoming & Being a Junzi

The Chinese gentleman is a role model (“Fa”) of ritual propriety (“Li”) and correct conduct (“Yi”). To become a Junzi or gentleman is not easy and Confucius provided advice and guidance, written down by his followers in “Edited Conversations” called the Analects. These writings identify the proper conduct of Junzi and the ways for an aspiring gentleman to determine his own fate.

A free online copy to read is provided by MIT or a relatively inexpensive copy can be bought from Amazon for more intimate study.

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