Mencius

Mencius

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Mencius'
Start a new discussion about 'Mencius'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
Ancestral name
Chinese name
Personal names in Chinese culture follow a number of conventions different from those of personal names in Western cultures. Most noticeably, a Chinese name is written with the family name first and the given name next, therefore "John-Paul Smith" as a Chinese name would be "Smith John-Paul"...

 (姓):
Ji
Ji (surname)
姬=Ji is the family name of the family in control of the Zhou Dynasty , which followed the Shang Dynasty and preceded the Qin Dynasty in China.Thirty-nine members of the family ruled over China during this period.Ji has...

 ' onMouseout='HidePop("87966")' href="http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Pinyin">Pinyin
Pinyin
Pinyin is the official system to transcribe Chinese characters into the Roman alphabet in China, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan. It is also often used to teach Mandarin Chinese and spell Chinese names in foreign publications and used as an input method to enter Chinese characters into...

: Jī)
Clan name
Chinese surname
Chinese family names have been historically used by Han Chinese and Sinicized Chinese ethnic groups in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and among overseas Chinese communities. In ancient times two types of surnames, family names and clan names , existed.The colloquial expressions laobaixing...

 (氏):
Meng
Meng
Meng can refer to the following:* Master of Engineering , an academic or professional master's degree in the field of engineering, the symbol used for the labiodental nasal consonantal sound...

 (Ch: 孟; Py: Mèng)
Given name
Chinese given name
Chinese given names are generally made up of one or two characters, and are written after the family name, therefore "John-Paul Smith" as a Chinese name would be read "Smith John-Paul". Chinese names can consist of any character and contain almost any meaning...

 (名):
Ke (Ch: 軻; Py: Kē)
Courtesy name (字): Unknown
Posthumous name
Posthumous name
A posthumous name is an honorary name given to royalty, nobles, and sometimes others, in East Asia after the person's death, and is used almost exclusively instead of one's personal name or other official titles during his life...

 (謚):
Master Meng the Second Sage (Ch: 亞聖孟子; Py: Yàshèng Mèngzǐ)
Styled: Master Meng (Ch: 孟子; Py: Mèngzǐ)


Mencius was a Chinese
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 philosopher
Chinese philosophy
Chinese philosophy is philosophy written in the Chinese tradition of thought. The majority of traditional Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn and Warring States era, during a period known as the "Hundred Schools of Thought", which was characterized by significant intellectual and...

 who was arguably the most famous Confucian after Confucius
Confucius
Confucius , literally "Master Kong", was a Chinese thinker and social philosopher of the Spring and Autumn Period....

 himself.

Life



Mencius, also known by his birth name Meng Ke or Ko, was born in the State of Zou, now forming the territory of the county-level city
County-level city
A county-level city is a county-level administrative division of mainland China. County-level cities are usually governed by prefecture-level divisions, but a few are governed directly by province-level divisions....

 of Zoucheng
Zoucheng
Zoucheng is a county-level city in the south of Shandong province in China. Historically, the name Zouxian, in a variety of transcriptions, was used for the city as well....

 (originally Zouxian), Shandong
Shandong
' is a Province located on the eastern coast of the People's Republic of China. Shandong has played a major role in Chinese history from the beginning of Chinese civilization along the lower reaches of the Yellow River and served as a pivotal cultural and religious site for Taoism, Chinese...

 province, only thirty kilometres (eighteen miles) south of Qufu
Qufu
Qufu is a city in southwestern Shandong province, People's Republic of China. It is located at 35° 36′ northern latitude and 117° 02′ east, about south of the provincial capital Jinan and northeast of the prefecture seat at Jining...

, Confucius
Confucius
Confucius , literally "Master Kong", was a Chinese thinker and social philosopher of the Spring and Autumn Period....

' birthplace.

He was an itinerant Chinese
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 philosopher and sage, and one of the principal interpreters of Confucianism
Confucianism
Confucianism is a Chinese ethical and philosophical system developed from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius . Confucianism originated as an "ethical-sociopolitical teaching" during the Spring and Autumn Period, but later developed metaphysical and cosmological elements in the Han...

. Supposedly, he was a pupil of Confucius' grandson, Zisi. Like Confucius, according to legend, he travelled China for forty years to offer advice to rulers for reform. During the Warring States Period
Warring States Period
The Warring States Period , also known as the Era of Warring States, or the Warring Kingdoms period, covers the Iron Age period from about 475 BC to the reunification of China under the Qin Dynasty in 221 BC...

 (403–221 BCE), Mencius served as an official and scholar at the Jixia Academy in the State of Qi (1046 BCE to 221 BCE) from 319 to 312 BCE. He expressed his filial devotion
Filial piety
In Confucian ideals, filial piety is one of the virtues to be held above all else: a respect for the parents and ancestors. The Confucian classic Xiao Jing or Classic of Xiào, thought to be written around 470 BCE, has historically been the authoritative source on the Confucian tenet of xiào /...

 when he took an absence of three years from his official duties for Qi to mourn his mother's death. Disappointed at his failure to affect changes in his contemporary world, he retired from public life.

Mencius is buried in the "Mencius Cemetery" (孟子林, Mengzi Lin, also known as 亚圣林, Yasheng Lin), which is located 12 km to the northeast of Zoucheng's central urban area. A stele carried by a giant stone tortoise
Bixi (tortoise)
Bixi , also called guifu or baxia , is a stone tortoise, used as a pedestal for a stele or tablet. Tortoise-mounted stelae have been traditionally used in the funerary complexes of Chinese emperors and other dignitaries. Later, they have also been used to commemorate an important event, such as...

 and crowned with dragons stands in front of his grave.

Mencius' mother


Mencius' mother is often held up as an exemplary female figure in Chinese culture. One of the most famous traditional Chinese four-character idioms is 孟母三遷 (mèng mǔ sān qiān; literal translation: "Mencius' mother, three moves").

This saying refers to the legend that Mencius' mother moved house three times before finding a location that she felt was suitable for the child's upbringing. As an expression, the idiom refers to the importance of finding the proper environment for raising children.

Mencius's father died when he was very young. His mother Zhang (仉) raised her son alone. They were very poor. At first they lived by a cemetery, where the mother found her son imitating the paid mourners in funeral processions. Therefore the mother decided to move. The next house was near a market in the town. There the boy began to imitate the cries of merchants (merchants were despised in early China). So the mother moved to a house next to a school. Inspired by the scholars and students, Mencius began to study. His mother decided to remain, and Mencius became a scholar.

Another story further illustrates the emphasis that Mencius' mother placed on her son's education. As the story goes, once when Mencius was young, he was truant from school. His mother responded to his apparent disregard for his education by taking up a pair of scissors and cutting the cloth she had been weaving in front of him. This was intended to illustrate that one cannot stop a task midway, and her example inspired Mencius to diligence in his studies.

She is one of 125 women of which biographies have been included in the Lienü zhuan
Lienü zhuan
The Lienü Zhuan is a ca. 18 BCE book compiled by the famous Han Dynasty scholar Liu Xiang. It includes 125 biographical accounts of women exemplars in early China, taken from Chinese histories like the Chun Qiu, Zuo Zhuan, and Shiji...

, written by Liu Xiang.

Descendants


One of Mencius's direct descendants was Dr. Meng Chih, former director of China House, and director of the China Institute in 1944. Time
Time (magazine)
Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...

magazine reported Dr. Meng's age that year as 44. North Carolina's Davidson College and Columbia University were his alma mater. He was attending a speech along with Confucius descendant H. H. Kung
H. H. Kung
K'ung Hsiang-hsi , often known as Dr. H. H. Kung, was a wealthy Chinese banker and politician in the early 20th century. He was highly influential in determining the economic policies of the KMT government in the 1930s and 1940s...

.

Influence



Mencius' interpretation of Confucianism has generally been considered the orthodox version by subsequent Chinese philosophers, especially by the Neo-Confucians
Neo-Confucianism
Neo-Confucianism is an ethical and metaphysical Chinese philosophy influenced by Confucianism, that was primarily developed during the Song Dynasty and Ming Dynasty, but which can be traced back to Han Yu and Li Ao in the Tang Dynasty....

 of the Song dynasty
Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...

. Mencius' disciples included a large number of feudal lords, and he was actually more influential than Confucius had been. The Mencius (also spelled Mengzi or Meng-tzu), a book of his conversations with kings of the time, is one of the Four Books that Zhu Xi
Zhu Xi
Zhū​ Xī​ or Chu Hsi was a Song Dynasty Confucian scholar who became the leading figure of the School of Principle and the most influential rationalist Neo-Confucian in China...

 grouped as the core of orthodox Neo-Confucian thought. In contrast to the sayings of Confucius, which are short and self-contained, the Mencius consists of long dialogues, including arguments, with extensive prose.

View on human nature


While Confucius himself did not explicitly focus on the subject of human nature, Mencius asserted the innate goodness of the individual, believing that it was society's influence – its lack of a positive cultivating influence – that caused bad moral character
Moral character
Moral character or character is an evaluation of a particular individual's durable moral qualities. The concept of character can imply a variety of attributes including the existence or lack of virtues such as integrity, courage, fortitude, honesty, and loyalty, or of good behaviors or habits...

. "He who exerts his mind to the utmost knows his nature" and "the way of learning is none other than finding the lost mind".

His translator James Legge
James Legge
James Legge was a noted Scottish sinologist, a Scottish Congregationalist, representative of the London Missionary Society in Malacca and Hong Kong , and first professor of Chinese at Oxford University...

 finds a close similarity between Mencius' views on human nature and those in Bishop Butler
Joseph Butler
Joseph Butler was an English bishop, theologian, apologist, and philosopher. He was born in Wantage in the English county of Berkshire . He is known, among other things, for his critique of Thomas Hobbes's egoism and John Locke's theory of personal identity...

's Sermons on Human Nature.

The Four Beginnings (or Sprouts)


To show innate goodness, Mencius used the example of a child falling down a well. Witnesses of this event immediately feel

Human nature has an innate tendency towards goodness, but moral rightness cannot be instructed down to the last detail. This is why merely external controls always fail in improving society. True improvement results from educational cultivation in favorable environments. Likewise, bad environments tend to corrupt the human will. This, however, is not proof of innate evil because a clear thinking person would avoid causing harm to others. This position of Mencius puts him between Confucians such as Xunzi who thought people were innately bad, and Taoists who believed humans did not need cultivation, they just needed to accept their innate, natural, and effortless goodness. The four beginnings/sprouts could grow and develop, or they could fail. In this way Mencius synthesized integral parts of Taoism into Confucianism. Individual effort was needed to cultivate oneself, but one's natural tendencies were good to begin with. The object of education is the cultivation of benevolence, otherwise known as Ren
Ren (Confucianism)
Ren is a Confucian notion denoting, as rough approximation, the good feeling a virtuous human experiences when behaving rightly, especially toward others...

.

Education


According to Mencius, education must awaken the innate abilities of the human mind. He denounced memorization and advocated active interrogation of the text, saying, "One who believes all of a book would be better off without books" (尽信书,则不如无书, from 孟子.尽心下). One should check for internal consistency by comparing sections and debate the probability of factual accounts by comparing them with experience.

Destiny


Mencius also believed in the power of Destiny in shaping the roles of human beings in society. What is destined cannot be contrived by the human intellect or foreseen. Destiny is shown when a path arises that is both unforeseen and constructive. Destiny should not be confused with Fate. Mencius denied that Heaven would protect a person regardless of his actions, saying, "One who understands Destiny will not stand beneath a tottering wall". The proper path is one which is natural and unforced. This path must also be maintained because, "Unused pathways are covered with weeds." One who follows Destiny will live a long and successful life. One who rebels against Destiny will die before his time.

View on politics



Mencius emphasized the significance of the common citizens in the state. While Confucianism generally regards rulers highly, he argued that it is acceptable for the subjects to overthrow or even kill a ruler who ignores the people's needs and rules harshly. This is because a ruler who does not rule justly is no longer a true ruler. Speaking of the overthrow of the wicked King Zhou of Shang
King Zhou of Shang
Emperor Xin of Shang was the last king of the Shang Dynasty. He was later given the pejorative posthumous name Zhòu . He is also called Zhou Xin or King Zhou . He may also be referred to by adding "Shang" in front of any of his names...

, Mencius said, "I have merely heard of killing a villain Zhou, but I have not heard of murdering [him as] the ruler."

This saying should not be taken as an instigation to violence against authorities but as an application of Confucian philosophy to society. Confucianism requires a clarification of what may be reasonably expected in any given relationship. All relationships should be beneficial, but each has its own principle or inner logic. A Ruler must justify his position by acting benevolently before he can expect reciprocation from the people. In this view, a King is like a steward. Although Confucius admired Kings of great accomplishment, Mencius is clarifying the proper hierarchy of human society. Although a King has presumably higher status than a commoner, he is actually subordinate to the masses of people and the resources of society. Otherwise, there would be an implied disregard of the potential of human society heading into the future. One is significant only for what one gives, not for what one takes.

Comparisons to contemporaries


His alleged years make him contemporary with Xun Zi
Xun Zi
Xun Zi was a Chinese Confucian philosopher who lived during the Warring States Period and contributed to one of the Hundred Schools of Thought. Xun Zi believed man's inborn tendencies need to be curbed through education and ritual, counter to Mencius's view that man is innately good...

, Zhuangzi
Zhuangzi
Zhuangzi was an influential Chinese philosopher who lived around the 4th century BCE during the Warring States Period, a period corresponding to the philosophical summit of Chinese thought — the Hundred Schools of Thought, and is credited with writing—in part or in whole—a work known by his name,...

, Gaozi, and Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

.

Xun Zi


Xun Zi
Xun Zi
Xun Zi was a Chinese Confucian philosopher who lived during the Warring States Period and contributed to one of the Hundred Schools of Thought. Xun Zi believed man's inborn tendencies need to be curbed through education and ritual, counter to Mencius's view that man is innately good...

 was a Confucian who believed that human nature is originally bad, and the purpose of moral cultivation is to develop our nature into goodness. Obviously, Mencius was at odds with him. Zhu Xi
Zhu Xi
Zhū​ Xī​ or Chu Hsi was a Song Dynasty Confucian scholar who became the leading figure of the School of Principle and the most influential rationalist Neo-Confucian in China...

 declared his views to be unorthodox, supporting Mencius' stance that human nature is inherently good.

Plato


Mencius' argument that unjust rulers may be overthrown is reminiscent of Socrates
Socrates
Socrates was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher. Credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, he is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and the plays of his contemporary ...

' argument in Book I of Plato's Republic
Republic (Plato)
The Republic is a Socratic dialogue written by Plato around 380 BC concerning the definition of justice and the order and character of the just city-state and the just man...

.

See also


  • Confucianism
    Confucianism
    Confucianism is a Chinese ethical and philosophical system developed from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius . Confucianism originated as an "ethical-sociopolitical teaching" during the Spring and Autumn Period, but later developed metaphysical and cosmological elements in the Han...

  • Four Books
  • Confucius
    Confucius
    Confucius , literally "Master Kong", was a Chinese thinker and social philosopher of the Spring and Autumn Period....

  • Xun Zi
    Xun Zi
    Xun Zi was a Chinese Confucian philosopher who lived during the Warring States Period and contributed to one of the Hundred Schools of Thought. Xun Zi believed man's inborn tendencies need to be curbed through education and ritual, counter to Mencius's view that man is innately good...

  • Neo-Confucianism
    Neo-Confucianism
    Neo-Confucianism is an ethical and metaphysical Chinese philosophy influenced by Confucianism, that was primarily developed during the Song Dynasty and Ming Dynasty, but which can be traced back to Han Yu and Li Ao in the Tang Dynasty....

  • Cheng Yi (philosopher)
    Cheng Yi (philosopher)
    Cheng Yi , courtesy name Zhengshu , also known as Mr. Yichuan , was a Chinese philosopher born in Luoyang during the Song Dynasty. He worked with his older brother Cheng Hao . Like his brother, he was a student of Zhou Dunyi, a friend of Shao Yong, and a nephew of Zhang Zai...

  • Zhu Xi
    Zhu Xi
    Zhū​ Xī​ or Chu Hsi was a Song Dynasty Confucian scholar who became the leading figure of the School of Principle and the most influential rationalist Neo-Confucian in China...

  • Lu Jiuyuan
    Lu Jiuyuan
    thumb|200px|Lu JiuyuanLu Jiuyuan was a Chinese scholar and philosopher who founded the school of the universal mind, the second most influential Neo-Confucian school...

  • Wang Yangming
    Wang Yangming
    Wang Yangming was a Ming Chinese idealist Neo-Confucian philosopher, official, educationist, calligraphist and general. After Zhu Xi, he is commonly regarded as the most important Neo-Confucian thinker, with interpretations of Confucianism that denied the rationalist dualism of the orthodox...


External links