China the Beautiful

Be humble, and never hesitate to ask

ZiGong asked, saying, "On what ground did KungYu get that title of Wen?"

The Master said, "He was of an active nature and yet fond of learning, and he was not ashamed to ask and learn of his inferiors! -On these grounds he has been styled Wen."

tr. James Legge

Analect or Lun Yun, 1-15

During the time known in the Chinese history as 'Spring and Autumn' , there lived an aristocrat by the name of Kung Yu (Kung was his last name, and Yu first name). He as a learned and humble man. After his death, the Duke of Wei awarded him the honorific title of 'Wen'. Thus he became known as Kung WenZi.

ZiGong, a student of Confucius who also came from Wei, didn't think Kung Yu was worthy of such high honor. One day, he asked Confucius, "Why was he given the title of 'Wen'?"

Confucius replied, "Kung Yu was diligent in learning and very smart. Yet he was humble and not afraid to ask questions of people who are not as smart or learned as he was. That is why he deserved the title of 'Wen'."

The story is told in Analect, Chapter 5, Section 15. Ever since, the phrase, "Be humble and not hesitate to ask those who may be lesser than you are." [bu chi xia wen] has been a motto to one and all.

What is the moral of this story?
Have you heard a similar story in the Western literature?

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