Meaning of MENCIUS in English

born c. 372 BC, ancient state of Tsou, China died c. 289, China Mencius, detail, ink and colour on silk; in the National Palace Museum, Taipei (Latin), Chinese (Wade-Giles) Meng-tzu, or (Pinyin) Mengzi, original name (Wade-Giles) Meng K'o, posthumous name Tsou Kung, or Duke of Tsou early Chinese philosopher whose development of orthodox Confucianism earned him the title second sage. Chief among his basic tenets was an emphasis on the obligation of rulers to provide for the common people. The book Mencius records his doings and sayings and contains statements on the innate goodness of human nature, a topic warmly debated by Confucianists up to modern times. ( (Latin), ) Chinese (Wade-Giles) Meng-tzu, or (Pinyin) Mengzi, Chinese Confucian text, named for its author, that earned for the 4th-century-bc philosopher Mencius the title ya sheng (second sage). Though the book was not generally recognized as a classic until the 12th century, a doctoral chair was established as early as the 2nd century BC to teach the Mencius. When Chu Hsi, a great Neo-Confucian philosopher, published the Mencius together with three other Confucian texts (1190), he created the classic known as Ssu shu (Four Books). The book concerns government and maintains that the welfare of the common people comes before every other consideration. When a ruler no longer practices benevolence (jen) and righteousness (i), the mandate of Heaven (t'ien ming) has been withdrawn, and he should be removed. Mencius also declared filial piety (hsiao) to be the foundation stone of Chinese society. For him, the greatest act of hsiao was to honour parents, the greatest lack of hsiao was to have no offspring (thus ancestral rites were not perpetuated). The fame of the Mencius is largely based on a doctrine novel in Chinese thought, namely, that because man is endowed by Heaven his nature tends toward good as naturally as water flows downhill. As proof, Mencius cited the natural love of children for their parents, man's universal sense of right and wrong, and the spontaneous alarm one experiences when one sees a small child in danger. This doctrine of man's natural goodness was vigorously attacked in the 3rd century BC by Hsn-tzu who taught (in a work called Hsn-tzu) that man is selfish and evil by nature and must learn goodness through proper education. Mencius's philosophical position has long been accepted as an orthodox interpretation of Confucianism. See also Ssu shu. Additional reading Studies of his life and thought include Albert F. Verwilghen, Mencius: The Man and His Ideas (1967); Fung Yu-lan (Yu-lan Feng), A History of Chinese Philosophy, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (1952, reissued 1983); and Philip J. Ivanhoe, Ethics in the Confucian Tradition: The Thought of Mencius and Wang Yang-ming (1990).

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