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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, Sage is the ideal personality, however, it is very hard to become and so Confucius created the junzi, gentleman, which can be achieved by an individual. Later, Zhu Xi defined junzi as second only to the sage. There are many characteristics of junzi. 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 the junzi. [2]

As the potential leader of a nation, a son of the ruler is raised to have a superior ethical and moral position while gaining inner peace through his 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.

On the contrary, the xiaoren (小人, xiăorén, "small or petty person") does not grasp the value of virtues and seeks only immediate gains. The petty person is egotistic and does not consider the consequences of his action in the overall scheme of things. 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 all day to the career politician who is interested merely in power and fame; neither sincerely aims for the long-term benefit of others.

The junzi enforces his rule over his subjects 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.

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  1. ^ Sometimes "exemplary person". Roger T. Ames and Henry Rosemont, Jr., The Analects of Confucius: A Philosophical Translation. Paul Goldin translates it "noble man" in an attempt to capture both its early political and later moral meaning. Cf. "Confucian Key Terms: Junzi".
  2. ^ (Chinese) 君子——儒学的理想人格