Confucius on reclusion I

From the Analects of Confucius comes this hallmark statement of reclusion: “Best of all is to withdraw from one’s generation; next to withdraw to another land; next to leave because of a look; next to leave because of a word.” (14.39)
Reclusion (withdrawal) is most successful when understood as one’s statement about society as such, “one’s generation.” Next best is to recluse from one’s community or province or to go to another where one is not known, “another land,” with the implication of a sense of escape from a social crisis. For ancient China this meant disappearing not necessarily into mountains but into villages of another province. The last two phrases are specific to a court official who foresees trouble: a menacing glance or a verbal hint dropped with or without doubt as to meaning. The first two motives for reclusion are best for the reflective person concerned with integrity. The latter two are at least options for the stubborn and proud who have nevertheless finally realized their expendability in the eyes of the powerful.