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Translated by Irene Bloom
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Known throughout East Asia as Mengzi, or "Master Meng," Mencius (391-308 B.C.E.) was a Chinese philosopher of the late Zhou dynasty, an instrumental figure in the spread of the Confucian tradition, and a brilliant illuminator of its ideas. Mencius was active during the Warring States Period (403-221 B.C.E.), in which competing powers sought to control the declining Zhou empire. Like Confucius, Mencius journeyed to one feudal court after another, searching for a proper lord who could put his teachings into practice. Only a leader who possessed the moral qualities of a true king could unify China, Mencius believed, and in his defense of Zhou rule and Confucian philosophy, he developed an innovative and highly nuanced approach to understanding politics, self-cultivation, and human nature, profoundly influencing the course of Confucian thought and East Asian culture.

    Mencius is a record of the philosopher's conversations with warring lords, disciples, and adversaries of the Way, as well as a collection of pronouncements on government, human nature, and a variety of other philosophical and political subjects. Mencius is largely concerned with the motivations of human actors and their capacity for mutual respect. He builds on the Confucian idea of ren, or humaneness, and places it alongside the complementary principle of yi, or rightness, advancing a complex notion of what is right for certain individuals as they perform distinct roles in specific situations. Consequently, Mencius's impact was felt not only in the thought of the intellectual and social elite but also in the value and belief systems of all Chinese people.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52058-4
    Subjects: Philosophy, Religion, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Philip J. Ivanhoe
    (pp. ix-xxiv)
    Philip J. Ivanhoe

    Mencius records the teachings of the Chinese philosopher whose surname was Meng 孟 and personal name Ke 軻. Throughout East Asia, he is better known as Mengzi 孟子, or “Master Meng” (391–308 b.c.e.); “Mencius” is the Latinized version of this more widely used appellation. Mencius lived during the later part of the Zhou dynasty (traditional dates: 1122–249 b.c.e.), in a time known as the Warring States period (403–221 b.c.e.). This was an age in which the older feudal order of the Zhou dynasty had deteriorated. The Zhou king ruled in name only and his former empire was...

  5. BOOK 1A
    (pp. 1-12)

    [1a1] Mencius met with King Hui of Liang.¹

    The king said, “Venerable sir, you have not considered a thousand li² too far to come. Surely you have some means to profit our state?”

    Mencius replied: “Why must the king speak of profit? I have only [teachings concerning] humaneness and rightness. If the king says, ‘How can I profit my state?’ the officers will say, ‘How can I profit my house?’ and the gentlemen and the common people will say, ‘How can I profit myself?’ Those above and those below will compete with one another for profit, and the state will...

  6. BOOK 1B
    (pp. 13-26)

    [1b1] On seeing Mencius, Zhuang Bao said, “When I met with the king he spoke to me of his enjoyment of music. I did not know how to respond.”

    Then he added, “What do you think about the enjoyment of music?”

    Mencius replied, “If the king truly enjoyed music, the state of Qi would be doing quite well.”

    Another day, when Mencius went to see the king, he said, “Is it true that Your Majesty told Master Zhuang you enjoy music?”

    Flushing with embarrassment, the king said, “Incapable of enjoying the music of the former kings, I only enjoy the...

  7. BOOK 2A
    (pp. 27-37)

    [2a1] Gongsun Chou asked, “If you, Master, were to hold high office in Qi, could you promise to replicate the achievements of a Guan Zhong or a Yanzi?”

    Mencius said, “Truly, you are a man of Qi. You know only of Guan Zhong and Yanzi, nothing more.

    “Someone asked Zeng Xi, ‘As between you and Zilu, who is the more worthy?’ Looking discomfited, Zeng Xi said, ‘He was one for whom my father had profound respect.’ ‘As between you and Guan Zhong, who is the more worthy?’ His countenance changing to an expression of displeasure, Zengzi said, ‘How is it...

  8. BOOK 2B
    (pp. 38-48)

    [2b1] Mencius said, “Heaven’s seasons are less crucial than earth’s advantages, and earth’s advantages less crucial than human accord. There is a city with an inner wall of three li in circumference and an outer wall of seven li: it may be surrounded and attacked but cannot be taken. To surround and attack it requires Heaven’s seasonableness; that it cannot be taken is because Heaven’s seasons are less crucial than earth’s advantages. There is another city: it is not that its walls are not high, it moats deep, its weapons potent, or its food supply abundant, but it must be...

  9. BOOK 3A
    (pp. 49-60)

    [3a1] Duke Wen of Teng, Shizi,¹ on his way to Chu, passed by Song in order to see Mencius. Mencius spoke about human nature being good, constantly commending Yao and Shun.² When Shizi was returning from Chu, he again went to see Mencius.

    Mencius said, “Do you doubt my words? The Way is one and one only.”

    Cheng Jian said to Duke Jing of Qi, “They were men. I too am a man. Why need I be in awe of them?”

    Yan Yuan³ said, “What kind of man was Shun? What kind of man am I? One who exerts effort...

  10. BOOK 3B
    (pp. 61-72)

    [3b1] Chen Dai said, “There is a certain smallness involved in not going to see the lords. If you were to go and see them now, your influence, if great, might cause one of them to become a king, and, even if it were small, it might cause one of them to become a hegemon. The Record speaks of ‘bending the foot to straighten the yard.’¹ Surely this is worth trying?”

    Mencius said, “Once when Duke Jing of Qi was hunting, he summoned his gamekeeper with a flag. The gamekeeper did not come, and the duke was about to have...

  11. BOOK 4A
    (pp. 73-85)

    [4a1] Mencius said, “If one had the eyesight of Li Lou¹ and the dexterity of Master Gongshu² but lacked the compass and square, one would not be able to form squares and circles. If one had the keen ear of Music Master Kuang³ but lacked the six pitch pipes, one would not be able to adjust the five notes correctly. If one had the Way of Yao and Shun but lacked humane government, one would not be able to rule the world. Though he may have a humane heart and a reputation for humaneness, one from whom the people receive...

  12. BOOK 4B
    (pp. 86-96)

    [4b1] Mencius said, “Shun was born in Zhufeng, moved to Fuxia, and died in Mingtiao—a man of the Eastern Yi. King Wen was born at Mount Qi, in Zhou, and died at Biying—a man of the Western Yi. In terms of place, they were separated from one another by more than a thousand li, and in terms of time, by more than a thousand years. But when they realized their intentions and implemented them in the Middle Kingdom, it was like uniting the two halves of a tally: the sage who came earlier and the sage who came...

  13. BOOK 5A
    (pp. 97-109)

    [5a1] Wan Zhang¹ asked, “When Shun went to the fields, weeping and crying out to merciful Heaven, why was it that he wept and cried?”

    Mencius said, “It was from grief and longing.”

    Wan Zhang said, “When his father and mother love him, he should be glad and never forget them. If his father and mother hate him, ‘though he may suffer, he should not be aggrieved.’² Was Shun then aggrieved?”³

    Mencius said, “Chang Xi asked Gongming Gao,⁴ ‘As to Shun’s going to the fields, I have heard your instructions, but I do not know about his weeping and crying...

  14. BOOK 5B
    (pp. 110-120)

    [5b1] Mencius said, “Boyi would not allow his eyes to look at a bad sight or his ears to listen to a bad sound. If he did not approve of a ruler, he would not serve him.¹ If he did not approve of a people, he would not lead them. When conditions were orderly, he would advance; when conditions were disorderly, he would retire. He could not bear to live in a court from which corrupt government emanated or in a place where corrupt people dwelled. He thought that being in the same place as a villager was like sitting...

  15. BOOK 6A
    (pp. 121-131)

    [6a1] Gaozi said, “Human nature is like the willow tree; rightness is like cups and bowls. To make humaneness and rightness out of human nature is like making cups and bowls out of the willow tree.”

    Mencius said, “Are you able to make cups and bowls while following the nature of the willow tree? You must do violence to the willow tree before you can make cups and bowls. If you must do violence to the willow tree in order to make cups and bowls, must you also do violence to human beings in order to bring forth humaneness and...

  16. BOOK 6B
    (pp. 132-143)

    [6b1] A man from Ren asked Wuluzi, “As between the rites and food, which is more important?”

    “The rites are more important.”

    “As between sex and the rites, which is more important?”

    “The rites are more important.”

    “If by observing the rites of eating one will die of starvation, while by not observing them one is able to eat, must one still observe the rites? If the requirement that one go in person to meet his bride means that he cannot get a wife, while not observing that requirement means that he can get a wife, must he observe the...

  17. BOOK 7A
    (pp. 144-155)

    [7a1] Mencius said, “By fully developing one’s mind, one knows one’s nature. Knowing one’s nature, one knows Heaven. It is through preserving one’s mind and nourishing one’s nature that one may serve Heaven. It is through cultivating one’s self in an attitude of expectancy, allowing neither the brevity nor the length of one’s life span to cause any ambivalence, that one is able to establish one’s destiny.”

    [7a2] Mencius said, “There is, for everything, a destiny, but one should follow and accept only what is proper for oneself. Therefore, one who knows destiny does not stand under a wall in...

  18. BOOK 7B
    (pp. 156-168)

    [7b1] Mencius said, “How inhumane was King Hui of Liang! The humane begin with what they love and proceed to what they do not love. The inhumane begin with what they do not love and proceed to what they love.”

    Gongsun Chou said, “What do you mean?”

    “For the sake of territory, King Hui of Liang pulverized his people and propelled them into war.¹ In the wake of a great defeat, he engaged again, fearful he would not prevail. He importuned the son whom he loved until he buried him along with them. When I spoke of beginning with what...

    (pp. 169-174)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 175-184)