Why an Upright Son Does Not Disclose His Father Stealing a Sheep: A Neglected Aspect of the Confucian Conception of Filial Piety
In the Analects, Confucius recommends to not disclose one’s father stealing a sheep, claiming that zhi 直lies within it. This passage has become the focus of a heated and prolonged debate among Chinese scholars in the last decade. A proper understanding of zhi, which is central to understanding this whole passage, is to straighten the crooked, or uprighten the non-upright. So what Confucius means is that the upright son ought to make his non-upright father upright; the best way to do so is to remonstrate his father against his wrongdoing, and the best environment for the successful remonstration can be provided by non-disclosure of his father’s wrongdoing.
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