The evil life of Confucius


An anti-Confucius poster from the Cultural Revolution

Translated 20 March 2005


“Wantonly distorting the past” (Dasi cuangai lishi 大肆篡改歷史)

Confucius here is called Kong Lao’er 孔老二 which literally means “Kong Old Number Two,” the reasons behind this name given in the narrative that follows, but lao’er is really a Beijing slang term either for a particular alcoholic drink or, much worse, for a man’s private parts.  To be blunt, this poster title could be rendered “The evil life of that Dickhead Confucius.”

            I bought this poster a couple years ago on eBay from a woman living on an army base in Germany.  The small blue print in the poster’s lower right corner indicates that Shanghai Renmin Chubanshe (Shanghai People’s Press) printed the first 700,000 of these posters in October 1974 at the price of 0.11 yuan each.  I here translate the captions.



1.      Two thousand five hundred years ago was the era when our society was transitioning from a slave state to a feudal state.   Like a raging fire, the slave uprising struggled against a newly emergent landlord class, violently pounding away at the foundations of the slave system.  The social class struggle was extremely intense.

2.      Amidst this great social revolution, the government of the slaveholding class was represented by Confucius.  In 551 B.C.E. in the state of Lu, Confucius was born into a declining slaveholding family.  He was second eldest among his siblings [and hence the name “Old Number Two”].  Confucius constantly bore in mind the fact that he himself was of a later generation of the slaveholding aristocracy.  When he was young, he loved to set up little bowls and dishes as sacrificial vessels and imitate the kowtowing rituals to his aristocratic ancestry.

3.      Confucius once ascended the government dancing terrace hoping to make the acquaintance of influential officials.  A newly emergent landlord in Lu by the name of Ji Sun was hosting his guests with a grand feast.  Wearing clothing made of hemp because his mother had just died, Confucius obstinately wanted to participate in the banquet, but Mr. Ji’s retainers ejected Confucius from the main gate.  Confucius realized:  if a new power is to gain ground, the slaveholding aristocracy would need to be overturned.  Gnashing his teeth, he dedicated his life to restoring the slaveholding system.

4.      Part of Confucius wanted the restoration, but part of him also wanted official employment.  When he was twenty-six or twenty-seven, he at last got the opportunity and served as an overseer of government fields, his duties being to manage the cattle and sheep.  Later he also became the overseer of the grain stores in which he checked the granary volumes.  Confucius carelessly bragged how everything was going so well for himself.  He thought that from now on he would be moving up, having laid his foundations.

5.      When Confucius was about thirty years old, he began a private school, collecting disciples far and wide.  He strictly regulated the social class restrictions of who could enroll, extorting tuitions from all his students.  At that time, a person of slave ancestry who lacked personal freedoms had no right to receive an education; the children of the aristocracy and of the officialdom came to study one after another.  Confucius made use of oral instruction, gathering disciples and forming factions, training faithful lackeys who would restore the slavery system.

6.      Confucius was scared to death of slave revolts and hated them with all his life.  Once there was a large slave insurrection in the state of Zheng, and the slave owners ruthlessly slaughtered the revolting slaves.  With a murderous look on his face, Confucius with a continuous cry howled something like, “We’re so magnanimous toward our slaves, and now they just want to revolt.  It would be better to seriously suppress them because only then would we be able to destroy this problem root and branch!”  Such completely lays bare his vile countenance when it comes to his opposition to revolution.

7.      All his life, Confucius did all he could to propagate his sinister message of “rectifying names” in that “rulers should behave as rulers, subjects as subjects, fathers as fathers and sons as sons.”  The ringleader of the slave owners in the state of Qi, Duke Jing, added his admiration to this statement, saying something to the effect that “if rulers didn’t resemble rulers or subjects, then I’d never be able to eat the rice of the great peace!”[1]  He hit the nail on the head because this “rectifying names” upheld the reactionary essence of the slave system.

8.      In order to restore the slave system fully, Confucius advocated, “Restore annexed states, revive broken lineages and elevate people who have withdrawn from society.”[2]  At the same time he abandoned the reactionary principle of “Overcoming the self to return to ritual so that the world would regard him as the source of benevolence.”[3]  In one breath, he’d preach, “The benevolent love others”[4]; in the next, he’d clamor, “The benevolent are sure to possess courage, and they only treat slaves and revolutionaries with viciousness so that they are able to safeguard the slave-owner system.”[5]  In his two-faced policy, each served its purpose.

9.      In 513 B.C.E., revolutionaries in the state of Jin carried out “rule by law,” taking the text of laws that would restrict the interests of the slave owners and casting them on caldrons, thereby making them public to everyone.  In a great rage, Confucius said, “The punishments do not extend upward to the grandees, and the rituals do not extend downward to the common people.  If the state of Jin casts these punishment caldrons, then it will suffer from losing the distinctions between the worthy and the unworthy, and the state won’t resemble a state anymore!”  He vehemently opposed the Legalist advocacy of “rule by law.”

10.  Confucius also trumpeted, “Life and death are fated; riches and honors are due to heaven,”[6] and he wanted his students to memorize the following:  “Only the most wise and the most foolish can never be budged.”[7]  That is to say, the slave owners were naturally people of the highest grade of intelligence, whereas the slaves were the lowest grade of fools, and such distinctions could never be changed.  He propagated an idealistic fatalism and innate ability, a sinister message that served as the basis of his reasoning to restore the slave system.

11.  Obsessed with his lust for office, Confucius after the age of fifty finally held the post of Director against Brigands, acting on behalf of the prime minister.  The moment he ascended to his new position, he thoroughly suppressed the revolutionary powers, and in collusion with his master, Duke Ding of Lu, he sent out troops to attack the capitals where the burgeoning landlords Ji Sun, Shu Sun and Meng Sun had set themselves up.  With a wolf’s heart and a ruthless hand, he wiped out the three capitals.

12.  Confucius arrested the Lu revolutionary and Legalist Shao Zhengmao on the unreasonable charge of “forming associations, preaching heterodox doctrines and confusing right and wrong.”  He had Shao Zhengmao murdered and displayed his corpse for three days as a message to everyone, thereby bullying the revolutionaries and implementing a dictatorship of the slave-owning class.

13.  Because he was going against the historical trend, Confucius had to leave office after a few months.  He dreamed of touring through the various states and peddling his sinister message of restoring slavery, but when he reached the city of Kuang on the border of Wei, he was unexpectedly surrounded by several hundred farmers.  These farmers were recently freed slaves, and they had learned that Confucius desired to restore the slavery system and so they wanted to get even with him.  Confucius was in danger of losing his life at Kuang.[8]

14.  When Confucius arrived at Wei, he did everything in his power to curry favor with the authorities and met with Duke Ling of Wei, peddling his restoration message of “overcoming the self to return to ritual.”  Duke Ling didn’t appreciate his message at all and instead wanted to talk about engaging in warfare.  Confucius responded that one should not engage in warfare and should only carry out the rituals.  Duke Ling didn’t pay him any attention, turned around and craned his neck to watch the large geese flying by overhead.  Confucius was extremely angry.

15.  Because Confucius couldn’t find his footing in Wei, he scurried into Song.  A newly emergent landlord in Song by the name of Huan Tui threatened to kill Confucius being that Confucius was a faithful lackey of the slave owners.[9]  Confucius hemmed and hawed, on one hand muttering, “I possess the innate qualities of heaven, so I have no fear of him killing me,” and on the other hand he immediately took to his heels and made himself scarce.

16.  After that, Confucius left for the states of Chen, Cai and Chu, but “the world was in great chaos” everywhere, and his sinister message of restoration basically had no market.  In Zheng, Confucius got separated from his disciples, and alone, he squatted forlornly at the eastern city gate.  The populace of Zheng scolded him like a stray dog.[10]  He was unable to admit to himself that he was “like a stray dog about which no one bothers.”

17.  Laborers very much disdained and abhorred Confucius who was being such a diehard.  He got lost on the road to the state of Cai and dispatched his disciples everywhere to inquire about where the ferry was, but a pair of ploughman working in a field cruelly satirized him right to his face.  They scolded him, this reactionary diehard, laughing at him because, if he really were one who “possessed the innate qualities of heaven,” then he should know where the ferry was and shouldn’t need to ask anyone else!

18.  His disciple was snubbed, and after he despondently headed back for the crossroads, he couldn’t find Confucius.  He then asked an old ploughman, “Have you seen my teacher?”  The old ploughman knew he was looking for Confucius and spat out, “What?  You’ve never toiled with your limbs or know one grain from another.  What kind of teacher could you ever have!”[11]  From the perspective of the laborers, Confucius was just a parasite of the most ignorant kind.

19.  For several years, Confucius traveled around the various states, everyone always yelling at him like a rat in the streets.  In 484 BCE, Confucius was already sixty-eight years old after having obstinately fled here and scurried there in hopes of restoring the slave system.  In the end, there he was sitting in a broken horse cart in the dusk of the setting sun, in the awkward position of being unwilling to return to his home in the capital of Lu (today Qufu in Shandong Province).

20.  But Confucius’s heart so bent on the restoration wouldn’t die, and after he returned to Lu, he heard about a celebrated head of a slave uprising by the name of Liuxia Zhi who led a rebel army of nine thousand men across the length and breadth of the world.  In the end, Confucius went to face Liuxia Zhi so as to lure him to surrender.  To his face, Liuxia Zhi bitterly accused Confucius in the strongest terms, saying that “someone who eats but never ploughs, wears clothes but never weaves, flaps his lips and wags his tongue, decides for himself what is right and what is wrong, makes a performance in front but rouses up ghosts in back – such a man is an ultimately downright deceitful and false person, a parasite!”  

21.  “Beat it!  You are a criminal of the worst type!”  With angry eyes, Liuxia Zhi gripped his sword and shouted to his aids to drive Confucius away.  While Liuxia Zhi cursed Confucius, Confucius became ghastly pale and trembled from head to foot.  As he confusedly grabbed his horse’s reigns, they slipped from his grip over and over again.  He cradled his head, all the time yelling “Run away!  Run away!” as two of his disciples were close on his heels, running with all their might to save their lives.

22.  Old, useless and on his deathbed, Confucius took advantage of the opportunity to compose historical records in order to make a name for himself.  Wantonly distorting the past, he concocted a history called the Spring and autumn annals to serve as a set of records that justified the comeback of the slave system.  In 479 BCE, Confucius at the age of seventy-three took his ossified thinking to the grave.  His delusions of restoration were pulverized under the rolling wheels of history.

23.  All reactionaries praise Confucians.  That traitor Lin Biao who sold out our nation was a close follower of Confucius.  No different than any other reactionaries in history who were on the verge of being destroyed, he praised Confucius and opposed the law, using Confucius and Mencius in his scheming to usurp power and in his reactionary ideological arsenal bent on restoring capitalism.  The consequences were no different than that of any reactionary group – the revolution of the masses relegated him to the garbage heap of history.  The mass of workers always stand at the vanguard in the struggle to oppose Confucius; they are the main attack force in criticizing Confucius.  From Chen Sheng and Wu Guang[12] all the way to the Taiping Rebellion,[13] all the previous revolutionary struggles of peasants in our nation’s history violently struck out against the reactionary ideologies of Confucius and his kind.  In our nation’s history of the workers’ revolutionary struggle, their anti-Confucius revolutionary essence has always radiated an undying brilliance.[14]



Go back to Title Page.

[1] Analects, 12.11 (“Yan Yuan” 顏淵).

[2] Analects, 20.1 (“Yao yue” 堯曰).

[3] Analects, 12.1 (“Yan Yuan” 顏淵), but portions have been deleted.

[4] Mencius 4B.28 (“Li Lou 離婁).

[5] Analects, 14.4 (“Xian wen” ), but “The benevolent are sure to possess courage” only.

[6] Analects, 12.5 (“Yan Yuan” 顏淵).

[7] Analects, 17.3 (“Yang Huo” 陽貨).

[8] Confucius’s danger is briefly mentioned in Analects 9.5 (“Zi han” 子罕), 11.23 (“Xian jin” 先進) and elaborated upon in the Shi ji.  It bears no resemblance to this account.

[9] Analects, 7.23 (“Shu er” 述而).

[10] Shi ji, 47.1921.

[11] Analects, 18.7.

[12] In 209 BCE, Chen Sheng and Wu Guang were responsible for transporting convicts to a work site, and because they knew the consequences for their being late, they decided it would be better to start an uprising against the Qin instead.  Chen Sheng and Wu Guang are often praised by Marxist historians as early peasant revolutionaries.  

[13] Led by Hong Xiuquan who saw himself as the son of God and younger brother of Jesus Christ, the Taiping Rebellion (1850-1864) resulted in casualties of at least twenty million.

[14] Note that Confucius’s ancestral tablet lies among the Classicist books (including the Analects) being trampled in the picture.  Note also the body language, namely that Confucius in every picture is hunched – either bowing, leaning over on a mat or just exhibiting bad posture – whereas the commoners stalwartly stand upright.