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Mencius was a sage in the Confucian tradition, a tradition that has shaped Chinese culture for over 2000 years.

Mencius taught in the 4th Century B.C.E. Very few specifics are known about Mencius' life. He was born in Tsou, a dependency of Lu - the homeland of Confucius. His name in Chinese was Meng K'o, and later known as Meng Tzu (Master Meng). From this, the Latinized Mencius is formed. According to tradition, Mencius first learned under the tutelage of his mother who was a sage in her own right. Later, he became a disciple of Master Szu - the grandson of Confucius and author of The Doctrine of the Mean.

In this time in China, philosophers shared also a political mission. Mencius traveled with his followers to the states of China and advised rulers with the hope that his ideas would be adopted and lead to a better society. Many rulers welcomed him, but few put his ideas into practice - they were very radical for the time.

The works that survive to this day of Mencius represent his mature thought. It is composed of long and developed passages unlike The Analects of Confucius which is made of short fragments without any context. Also, the Mencius (as the book is called now) is likely to be almost entirely authentic and represent his ideas faithfully.

As a departure from Confucian philosophy, Mencius looked to the self cultivation and spiritual realm rather than the practical and political realm of Confucius. It is the rise of Neo-Confucianism where Mencius was brought to prominence - 1,500 years after his death. Mencius brought the spiritual depth that Neo-Confucianists felt that Confucian needed; a spiritual depth that made Zen Buddhism compelling in the culture.

Mencius believed in the inherent nobility of humanity. His teachings focus on the responsibility of rulers and intellectuals to create a society where that nobility can flourish in all. The Mandate of Heaven is reveled through the will of the people.

Heaven sees through the eyes of the people. Heaven hears through the ears of the people.
(IX.5)

Mencius said: "If you try to love people but keep them distant, turn back to your Humanity. If you try to govern people but they resist, turn back to your wisdom. If you try to honor people, but they don't reciprocate, turn back to your reverence.

When you attempt something and fail, always turn back to yourself for the reason. Rectify yourself, and all beneath Heaven will return home to you. The Songs say:

Alwyas worth of Heaven's Mandate,
he found great prosperity in himself
(VII.4)

The standard English translation of the book Mencius (or the Mencius) is by the Scots divine James Legge, first published in 1861 and revised in 1895. I am preparing to node it here. Let me apologize in advance for the very cursoring linking done in the text.

I have created a separate node with a digest of famous or interesting passages, in case you find the full monty too much to handle.


Legge's version is quite accurate, but may seem a bit stilted to modern taste. If so, please consult the modern versions of D. C. Lau (published by Penguin) and David Hinton (published by Counterpoint). Hinton's version is especially readable, although scholars may bemoan its casual quality.

Each book has a title, taken from the first few distinctive words of the opening chapter. (That is a common practice in ancient Chinese texts, as well as in other traditional cultures where memorization was an important part of learning.) In Mencius, each book is divided into two parts. Each part has a number of "chapters", and Legge has numbered the subsections of each chapter as well. I have noded each chapter separately.

Legge adds a little comment at the head of each chapter about its content. Also, be aware that Legge invented his own romanization system, which does not correspond to anything we use today. And be aware that without Legge's rich notes, much that is in this text may be hard to understand.

Legge's text was originally prepared as etext by Stephen R. McIntyre and independently noded by schist. Please msg schist if you have suggestions for useful hard-links.


Book I: King HÛi of Liang.

Part I.

  Chapter I       Chapter II      Chapter III     Chapter IV  
Chapter V Chapter VI Chapter VII

Part II.

  Chapter I       Chapter II      Chapter III     Chapter IV  
Chapter V Chapter VI Chapter VII Chapter VIII
Chapter IX Chapter X Chapter XI Chapter XII
Chapter XIII Chapter XIV Chapter XV Chapter XVI

Book II: Kung-sun Ch'âu.

Part I.

  Chapter I       Chapter II      Chapter III     Chapter IV  
Chapter V Chapter VI Chapter VII Chapter VIII
Chapter IX

Part II.

  Chapter I       Chapter II      Chapter III     Chapter IV  
Chapter V Chapter VI Chapter VII Chapter VIII
Chapter IX Chapter X Chapter XI Chapter XII
Chapter XIII Chapter XIV

Book III: T'ang Wan Kung.

Part I.

  Chapter I       Chapter II      Chapter III     Chapter IV  
Chapter V

Part II.

  Chapter I       Chapter II      Chapter III     Chapter IV  
Chapter V Chapter VI Chapter VII Chapter VIII
Chapter IX Chapter X

Book IV: Lî Lâu.

Part I.

  Chapter I       Chapter II      Chapter III     Chapter IV  
Chapter V Chapter VI Chapter VII Chapter VIII
Chapter IX Chapter X Chapter XI Chapter XII
Chapter XIII Chapter XIV Chapter XV Chapter XVI
Chapter XVII Chapter XVIII Chapter XIX Chapter XX
Chapter XXI Chapter XXII Chapter XXIII Chapter XXIV
Chapter XXV Chapter XXVI Chapter XXVII Chapter XXVIII

Part II.

  Chapter I       Chapter II      Chapter III     Chapter IV  
Chapter V Chapter VI Chapter VII Chapter VIII
Chapter IX Chapter X Chapter XI Chapter XII
Chapter XIII Chapter XIV Chapter XV Chapter XVI
Chapter XVII Chapter XVIII Chapter XIX Chapter XX
Chapter XXI Chapter XXII Chapter XXIII Chapter XXIV
Chapter XXV Chapter XXVI Chapter XXVII Chapter XXVIII
Chapter XXIX Chapter XXX Chapter XXXI Chapter XXXII
Chapter XXXIII

Book V: Wan Chang.

Part I.

  Chapter I       Chapter II      Chapter III     Chapter IV  
Chapter V Chapter VI Chapter VII Chapter VIII
Chapter IX

Part II.

  Chapter I       Chapter II      Chapter III     Chapter IV  
Chapter V Chapter VI Chapter VII Chapter VIII
Chapter IX

Book VI: Kâo Tsze.

Part I.

  Chapter I       Chapter II      Chapter III     Chapter IV  
Chapter V Chapter VI Chapter VII Chapter VIII
Chapter IX Chapter X Chapter XI Chapter XII
Chapter XIII Chapter XIV Chapter XV Chapter XVI
Chapter XVII Chapter XVIII Chapter XIX Chapter XX

Part II.

  Chapter I       Chapter II      Chapter III     Chapter IV  
Chapter V Chapter VI Chapter VII Chapter VIII
Chapter IX Chapter X Chapter XI Chapter XII
Chapter XIII Chapter XIV Chapter XV Chapter XVI

Book VII: Tsin Sin.

Part I.

  Chapter I       Chapter II      Chapter III     Chapter IV  
Chapter V Chapter VI Chapter VII Chapter VIII
Chapter IX Chapter X Chapter XI Chapter XII
Chapter XIII Chapter XIV Chapter XV Chapter XVI
Chapter XVII Chapter XVIII Chapter XIX Chapter XX
Chapter XXI Chapter XXII Chapter XXIII Chapter XXIV
Chapter XXV Chapter XXVI Chapter XXVII Chapter XXVIII
Chapter XXIX Chapter XXX Chapter XXXI Chapter XXXII
Chapter XXXIII Chapter XXXIV Chapter XXXV Chapter XXXVI
Chapter XXXVII Chapter XXXVIII Chapter XXXIX Chapter XXXX
Chapter XXXXI Chapter XXXXII Chapter XXXXIII Chapter XXXXIV
Chapter XXXXV Chapter XXXXVI

Part II.

  Chapter I       Chapter II      Chapter III     Chapter IV  
Chapter V Chapter VI Chapter VII Chapter VIII
Chapter IX Chapter X Chapter XI Chapter XII
Chapter XIII Chapter XIV Chapter XV Chapter XVI
Chapter XVII Chapter XVIII Chapter XIX Chapter XX
Chapter XXI Chapter XXII Chapter XXIII Chapter XXIV
Chapter XXV Chapter XXVI Chapter XXVII Chapter XXVIII
Chapter XXIX Chapter XXX Chapter XXXI Chapter XXXII
Chapter XXXIII Chapter XXXIV Chapter XXXV Chapter XXXVI
Chapter XXXVII Chapter XXXVIII

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