Junzi and Its Five Virtues


Junzi, which denotes an ideal of human excellence in Confucianism, is also the epithet given to a person who observes the highest standard of Confucian ethics; likewise, the name “Junzi Corporation” is assigned to a business corporation which conduct operations in accordance with the Confucian ethics. In Chinese tradition, the “Five Virtues” refer to “Benevolence, Rightness, Propriety, Wisdom and Trustworthiness”, which are the core values of Confucianism, and in a business context, the principles for Junzi Corporations to adhere to.

“Benevolence”, in a business context, implies a loving heart and kindness in operations. Mr. Liang Shuming regarded “Benevolence” the most important concept in the teachings of Confucius.  In Chapter 22 of Book XI “Yan Yuan” of the Analects of Confucius, when Fan Chi, who was one of the disciples of Confucius, asked about benevolence, the Master replied that “It is to love all men.” Thus, loving everyone equals “Benevolence”.  In the perspective of business management, a corporation who shows caring to its customers and stakeholders with a benevolent heart can be regarded as a benevolence-oriented Junzi Corporation.

According to “the Doctrine of the Mean” of Zhongyong, Chapter 20 (ii), “Rightness” means “setting things appropriate, or fit”.  At the Book of “San Zi JIng” (The Three Character Classic), it depicts the meaning of “Rightness” as “what people should do is rightness.  Anything that is appropriate and what is good for the public is rightness.”.  Therefore, a rightness-oriented corporation operates in accord with reasonable business practices.

The “Propriety” in Junzi corporations refers to corporations being devoted to attaining the individual goals of each stakeholder with the achievement of an all-win situation and mutual benefit and assistance as the guiding principle. In the book “Of Honor and Disgrace” in Xunzi, “Propriety” is “the way to make the whole populace live together in harmony and unity”. In Chapter 12 of Book I “Xue Er” in Confucian Analects, the philosopher You said, “In practicing the rules of propriety, a natural ease is to be prized”. A good example of achieving an all-win situation with propriety is Fair Trade Coffee. Under the Fair Trade Coffee programme, not only can the income of the farmers be increased, but they can also learn and adopt more environmentally friendly and sustainable farming techniques. The farmers’ neighbourhoods can receive additional funding to improve their medical facilities, among other social amenities. In addition, consumers of Fair Trade Coffee have a sense of satisfaction when they contribute to the social charity.

Wisdom” is the capacity to be wise and insightful, to acquire knowledge, analyze, judge, create and think. Chapter 28 of Book XIV “Xian Wen” in Confucian Analects describes Junzi as “wise, he is free from perplexities”, which means that wise people are able to deeply understand issues and the connection between issues.  In face of problems, they are free from indecisiveness. In daily corporate operation, “Wisdom” includes the management of corporate knowledge, which is illustrated in a sequential activity, i.e. first, conducting marketing research, then the management of marketing information system for study, and at last the analysis of major trends of the market. On a deeper level, “Wisdom” also reflects the operational policy and philosophy of a corporation which focus on consumer needs and satisfying those needs with benevolence and love.  A wise corporation must analyze and understand the fundamental changes in the macro environment in order to satisfy consumer needs accordingly.  For example, an aging population has become a dominant trend which has brought considerable implications for the operation of corporations.  To put it at the catering industry for illustration, managers should consider the following actions in order to attract more elderly customers, i.e. to print a menu with a larger font size, locate a magnifying glass on each table, provide brighter lighting, apply an anti-skid surface at the floor of the dining area and toilets, install handrails along the walls, and adopt a longer cooking time so as to  ease the eating process of the elderly.

Sincerity” for corporations refers to honest and trustworthy behaviour. In Chapter 7 of Book XII “Yan Yuan” in Confucian Analects, Zi Gong asked about government. Confucius, the Master, said, ‘The requisites of government are that there be sufficiency of food, sufficiency of military equipment, and the confidence of the people in their ruler.’ Then Zi Gong said, ‘If it cannot be helped, and one of these must be dispensed with, which of the three should be foregone first?’ ‘The military equipment,’ said the Master. Zi Gong again asked, ‘If it cannot be helped, and one of the remaining two must be dispensed with, which of them should be foregone?’ The Master answered, ‘Part with the food. From of old, death has been the lot of all men; but if the people have no faith in their rulers, there is no standing for the State.’

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