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Yu Zi Statue
Statue of Yu Zi

Who is Yu Zi? - Father of Chu State and Teacher of King Wen and King Wu of Zhou

Yu Zi
Portrait of Yu Zi

Yu Zi(鬻子) whose full name was Mi Xiong(芈熊)was said to be one of the oldest ancestors of Chu State or Chu Region in ancinet China. Also he was the descendant of Ji Lian(季连). At the time that the whole region was under the cruel reign of King Zhou of Shang, Yu Zi heard that King Wenwang, the father of King Wu of Zhou and the highly-respected figure advocated by Confucianism, quite respected the old people and knew how to serve the old people better. He arrived in Zhou at the age of 90. At the first meeting, King Wenwang said"Your Lord, you are so old!". Yu Zi replied"Yes, I am indeed an old man in the realm of hunting but still young in the aspect of policymaking and solution-making ". Meanwhile, Bo Yi(伯夷)and Shu Qi (叔齐)were also the goers to Zhou like Yu Zi. Living in Zhou, Yu Zi in fact acted as the teacher of King Wen and Wu. King Wen treated him pretty politely and respectfully as Yu Zi had been his teacher. Compared to Yu Zi, Bo Yi and Shu Qi just were not respected as equal as Yu Zi. and others like Taidian Hongyao(太颠闳夭), San Yisheng(散宜生), Nangong Kuo(南宫括), Xinjia Zhitu(辛甲之徒) were all assigned to be the officials in Kingdom of Zhou. Since King Wen, all kings including King Wu and King Cheng all consulted him when they met something important or urgent till he passed away. All of these kings learnt enormous lessons from Yu Zi, which surely were beneficial for the administration of Zhou Kingdom. And these teachings indirectly modeled the earlier configuration of Confucianism. Yu Zi lived a long life, roughly 200 years, in this aspect, Yu Zi was quite similar to Peng Zu(彭祖, Father of Peng, another legendary figure and father of Chu in history of primitive China and he was said to be more than 700 years old, furthermore, nobody got knew where he went), Yu Zi was crowned as the Father of Chu Region by Authority of Zhou Kingdom.

Yu Zi’s Academic Achievements

Yu Zi's work was comprised of 22 chapters and named Yu Zi as well. Approximately, it was mainly concerned about the way of nation administration. Advocating education and extending benevolence for the benefits of all the people, which was called Dao. and this definition was surely different from that of Taoism. In his view, Harmony and Peace were originated from the intimacy and friendliness between the upper and the lower; the sense of faith was from the needs of the people could be satisfied without speaking out what they want and benevolence was just eliminating the evil for the people. What is more, benevolence, faith, harmony and dao were all the measures and tools of the dominators to govern the country. If they were not taken, the administration could not be effective at all. Some portions in his books are full characterized of the primitive democracy and equality. He thought: although the mass was illiterate and innocent, the brilliant governor would still select those who were accepted and advocated by the mass as officials. Who the mass welcomed would be promoted and who the mass hated would be dismissed. In a word, the officials selected should be agreed by the people and for the people. Furthermore, Yu Zi also defined what irrationality and confusion were. He thought the act that people knew what kindness was but did not practice it seriously was called irrationality; the behavior that people knew what the mistake was but did not correct it at all was called confusion. Two of them should be learnt by dominant governors in the world.

Influence of Yu Zi’s Thoughts

Many scholars commented his articles were chiefly featured of Confucianism and partially mixed with some thoughts of Daoism. Lie Zi, also named Lie Yukou(列御寇, another important representative inferior to Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi), learnt a lot from his book. Since Han Dynasty, Jia Yi(贾谊, a quite talented, famous but short-life litterateur in early period of West Han Dynasty) particularly preferred his articles, and in many parts of his masterpieces, readers can see plenty of the sentences directly quoted from the book of Yu Zi. In Later Han Dynasty, Liu Xin(刘歆, a son of Liu Xiang,刘向, an important book collector and academic scholar in later period of West Han Dynasty) categorized him into the list of Daoism and compiled his book into his collection named Qiu Lue(七略, which could be the first professional catalogue of classics formed before Qin Dynasty, but unluckily, this collection was lost and today Chinese scholars just can see its basic structure via studying Yi Wen Zhi in Han Shu, which is the second government-sponsored history-centered book).

Yu Zi Masterpeice
Partial show of Yu Zi's masterpiece named Yu Zi by later generation

Source Edited From The Biography of Confucian Teachers in Chu State
Hubei People’s Publishing House, 1999