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The junzi (Chinese: 君子, p jūnzǐ, lit. "lord's son") is a Chinese philosophical term often translated as "gentleman" or "superior person"[1] and employed by both the Duke of Wen in the I-ching and Confucius in his works to describe the ideal man.


In Confucianism, the ideal personality is the sheng, translated as sage. However, sagehood is hard to attain and so Confucius created the junzi, gentleman, which more individuals could achieve. Zhu Xi defined junzi as second only to the sage. 'Junzi has many characteristics. Junzi can live with poverty; Junzi does more and speaks less. A junzi is loyal, obedient and knowledgeable. Junzi disciplines himself. Among these, Ren is the core of becoming junzi.[2](Chinese)

As the potential leader of a nation, the son of the ruler is raised to express superior ethical and moral positions while gaining inner peace through virtue. To Confucius, the junzi sustained the functions of government and social stratification through his ethical values. Despite its literal meaning, any righteous man willing to improve himself can become a junzi.

By contrast the xiaoren (小人, xiăorén, "small or petty person") does not grasp the value of virtues and seeks only immediate gain. The petty person is egotistic and does not consider the consequences of his actions. Should the ruler be surrounded by xiaoren as opposed to junzi, his governance and his people will suffer due to their small-mindness. Examples of such xiaoren individuals can range from those who continually indulge in sensual and emotional pleasures to the career politician who is interested merely in power and fame; neither sincerely aims for the long-term benefit of others.

The junzi rules by acting virtuously himself. It is thought that his pure virtue would lead others to follow his example. The ultimate goal is that government behaves much like family. Thus at all levels filial piety promotes harmony and the junzi acts as a beacon for this piety.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sometimes "exemplary person".Ames, Roger T.; Roesmonet, Jr., Henry (24 November 2010). The Analects of Confucius: A Philosophical Translation. Random House Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-307-77571-9.  Paul R. Goldin translates it "noble man" in an attempt to capture both its early political and later moral meaning. Cf. "Confucian Key Terms: Junzi".
  2. ^ 君子——儒学的理想人格 (Gentleman - Ideal Personality of Confucianism)