Mencius (Mengzi)


Mencius (mĕn´shəs), Mandarin Meng-tzu, 371?–288? BC, Chinese Confucian philosopher. The principal source for Mencius' life is his own writings. He was born in the ancient state of Ch'ao, in modern Shandong prov. He lost his father as a child and was reared by his mother, who, in Chinese folklore, is synonymous with maternal devotion. Appalled at the anarchic condition of society, he traveled through several petty states urging the rulers to practice the doctrines of Confucius. Central to the philosophy of Mencius was the belief that man is by nature good. His innate moral sense can be developed by cultivation or perverted by an unfavorable environment. The duty of the ruler is to ensure the prosperous livelihood of his subjects. He should particularly eschew warfare except for defense. If the ruler's conduct reduces his subjects to penury and self-seeking, he must be deposed. Many of the specific reforms in landholding and other economic relations that Mencius proposed are difficult to understand from the sole text of his works, The Book of Mencius, which is one of the Shih Shu [four books] (see Chinese literature). Not until the late 11th cent. AD was Mencius regarded with veneration. Since then his image has been placed in temples dedicated to Confucius, and his work is considered second only to that of Confucius. The complete text of Mencius was translated by James Legge (1861; 2d ed. 1895, repr. 1970), L. A. Lyall (1935), Lionel Giles (1942), and D. C. Lau (1970). Excerpts were translated by Arthur Waley in Three Ways of Thought in Ancient China (1939).

See A. F. Verwilghen, Mencius: The Man and His Ideas (1967); F. C. Wei, The Political Principles of Mencius (1977).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Mencius (Mengzi): Selected full-text books and articles

Mencius: A New Translation Arranged and Annotated for the General Reader By Mencius; W. A. C. H. Dobson Penguin Books, 1963
A primary source is a work that is being studied, or that provides first-hand or direct evidence on a topic. Common types of primary sources include works of literature, historical documents, original philosophical writings, and religious texts.
Confucius & Confucianism: The Essentials By Lee Dian Rainey Wiley-Blackwell, 2010
Librarian's tip: Chap. 6 "Mencius"
Transformations of the Confucian Way By John H. Berthrong Westview Press, 1998
Librarian's tip: Especially "Challenges to the Confucian Way and Mencius' Defense," which begins on p. 23
Early Confucian Ethics: Concepts and Arguments By Kim-Chong Chong Open Court, 2007
Librarian's tip: Especially Chap. 3 "Debating Human Nature: Mencius and Gaozi, "Chap. 4 "Mencius on Ren and the Problem of 'Extending,'" Chap. 5 "Xunzi's Critique of Mencius"
Confucian Moral Self Cultivation By Philip J. Ivanhoe Hackett Publishing, 2000
Librarian's tip: Chap. 2 "Mengzi ('Mencius')"
Three Ways of Thought in Ancient China By Arthur Waley Doubleday, 1956
Librarian's tip: "Mencius" begins on p. 81
Fifty Eastern Thinkers By Diané Collinson; Kathryn Plant; Robert Wilkinson Routledge, 2000
Librarian's tip: "Mencius (Mengzi) 371-289 B.C.E." begins on p. 233
Mengzi and Virtue Ethics * By Van Norden, Bryan W Journal of Ecumenical Studies, Vol. 40, No. 1-2, Spring 2003
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