This is a Chinese name; the family name is Zeng.
Statue of Zengzi (right) and his mother
Chinese 曾子
Literal meaning "Master Zeng"

Zengzi (Chinese: 曾子; literally: "Master Zeng", 505–435 BC), born Zeng Shen or Zeng Can (), courtesy name Ziyu (輿), was an influential Chinese philosopher and disciple of Confucius.[1] He later taught Zisi (Kong Ji), the grandson of Confucius, who was in turn the teacher of Mencius, thus beginning a line of transmitters of orthodox Confucian traditions.[1] He is revered as one of the Four Sages of Confucianism.[2]


Zeng Shen was 46 years younger than Confucius.[3] He was a native of South Wu City in the State of Lu, and was the son of Zeng Dian, one of the earliest disciples of Confucius.[1]

When he was sixteen, he was sent by his father to study under Confucius. Confucians later considered him to be his second most senior student, after Yan Hui. Duanmu Ci said of him, "There is no subject which he has not studied. His appearance is respectful. His virtue is solid. His words command credence. Before great men he draws himself up in the pride of self-respect. His eyebrows are those of longevity." He was noted for his filial piety, and after the death of his parents he could not read the rites of mourning without being led to think of them and being moved to tears. He was a voluminous writer. He composed ten books, compiled in the Rites of the Elder Dai (大戴禮). He was said to have composed and/or edited the Classic of Filial Piety under the direction of Confucius. He was also associated with transmission of the Great Learning. He was first associated with the sacrifices to Confucius in 668 AD, but in 1267 he was advanced to be one of Confucius' Four Assessors. His title, "Exhibitor of the Fundamental Principles of the Sage", dates from the reign of the Jiajing Emperor, when he was associated with Yan Hui.[2]

Zengzi established his own school, and taught Zisi (Kong Ji), the grandson of Confucius, who was in turn the teacher of Mencius, thus beginning a line of transmitters of orthodox Confucian traditions.[1] Along with Yan Hui, Zisi, and Mencius, Zengzi is considered to be one of the Four Sages of Confucianism.[2]

Filial piety

Zeng Shen was known for his filial piety. After the deaths of his parents, he was unable to read the rites of mourning without bursting into tears.[2]

A famous legend about Zeng Shen, called Nie Chi Tong Xin (Chinese: 齧指痛心), is included in the influential Yuan dynasty text The Twenty-four Filial Exemplars. In the story, Zeng Shen was one day out gathering firewood, when some visitors unexpectedly showed up at his home. His mother bit her finger, and Zeng felt a sharp pain in his heart. He immediately knew his mother needed him and rushed home.[4]


Zengzi was a descendant of the Xia dynasty Kings through Shao Kang.[5][6]

Zengzi's offspring held the title of Wujing Boshi (五经博士; 五經博士; Wǔjīng Bóshì).[7][8][9][10]

In 1452 Wujing Boshi was bestowed upon the offspring of Mengzi-Meng Xiwen 孟希文 56th generation and Yan Hui-Yan Xihui 顔希惠 59th generation, the same was bestowed on the offspring of Zhou Dunyi-Zhou Mian 週冕 12th generation, the two Cheng brothers (Cheng Hao and Cheng Yi-Chen Keren 程克仁 17th generation), Zhu Xi-Zhu Ting 朱梴 (Zhu Chan?) 9th generation, in 1456-1457, in 1539 the same was awarded to Zeng Can's offspring-Zeng Zhicui 曾質粹 60th generation, in 1622 the offspring of Zhang Zai received the title and in 1630 the offspring of Shao Yong.[11][12]

In the Republic of China there is an office called the "Sacrificial Official to Zengzi" which is held by a descendant of Zengzi, like the post of "Sacrificial Official to Mencius" for a descendant of Mencius, "Sacrificial Official to Yan Hui" for a descendant of Yan Hui, and the post of "Sacrificial Official to Confucius", held by a descendant of Confucius.[13][14][15][16]

The descendants of Zengzi still use generation poems for their names given to them by the Ming and Qing Emperors along with the descendants of the other Four Sages 四氏, Confucius, Mencius, and Yan Hui.

The Temple of Zengzi 曾廟.

List of descendants of Zengzi


  1. 1 2 3 4 Huang 1997, p. 204.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Legge 2009, pp. 117–8.
  3. Han 2010, p. 4610.
  4. Li 2011, p. 205.
  5. 《宗聖志》,(清)曾國荃續修,宗聖奉祀官府,1974年
  6. 《武城曾氏重修族譜》,(清)曾繁墫纂,1807年
  7. H.S. Brunnert; V.V. Hagelstrom (15 April 2013). Present Day Political Organization of China. Routledge. pp. 493–494. ISBN 978-1-135-79795-9.
  8. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on April 25, 2016. Retrieved May 20, 2016.
  9. https://archive.org/stream/presentdaypoliti00brun#page/492/mode/2up
  10. H.S. Brunnert; V.V. Hagelstrom (15 April 2013). Present Day Political Organization of China. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-135-79794-2.
  11. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/248653434_The_Ritual_Formation_of_Confucian_Orthodoxy_and_the_Descendants_of_the_Sage p. 571.
  12. Wilson, Thomas A.. 1996. “The Ritual Formation of Confucian Orthodoxy and the Descendants of the Sage”. The Journal of Asian Studies 55 (3). [Cambridge University Press, Association for Asian Studies]: 559–84. doi:10.2307/2646446. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2646446 p. 571.
  13. http://news.xinhuanet.com/tw/2009-07/24/content_11764658.htm
  14. http://news.sina.com.cn/o/2009-07-23/101716000328s.shtml
  15. http://www1.rfi.fr/actucn/articles/115/article_15023.asp
  16. http://blog.xuite.net/ahhsiang/TYDA/20446373-【文史雜記】大成至聖先師奉祀官


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