Mencius – born in the principality of Tsau

Mang tzu (370-286 BCE)

known to the West as Mencius, was born in the principality of Tsau, located in what is now the province of Shantung (Shandong). Shortly after he was born, his father died, and he was subsequently brought up by his mother alone. A traditional account of her provides a rare opportunity to acknowledge the influence of a mother on a famous son.


Mencius served as counselor to princes in the state of Ch’i and later visited other states to advise on government. He received substantial gifts for this, which he considered proper for a man of his abilities [an opposing school of philosopy under Mo Tzu did not]. After about 15 years he appears to have concluded that while treated with respect, he was offering advice that was ignored. Many of the local kings and princes in China were interested in pleasure and conquest rather than theories of good government. Mencius therefore retired from active life and turned to philosophy and the compilation of the substantial book that bears his name. Before he died at age 84, he also said to have completed the editorial work of Confucius. Mencius argued that all men have a mind that cannot bear to see the suffering of others. From this it follows that the feeling of commiseration, the feeling of shame and dislike, the feeling of modesty and complaisance, and the feeling of approving and disapproving are all essential to a human being. Mencius asserted that the feeling of commiseration is the principle of benevolence. The feeling of shame and dislike is the principle of righteousness. The feeling of modesty and complaisance is the principle of propriety. The feeling of approving and disapproving is the principle of knowledge.

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