Asian Pacific American Heritage: Mencius

Offers a biographical profile on the Chinese philosopher Mencius, who lived during the Warring State period.

  • Grades: 6–8, 9–12


The Chinese philosopher Mencius (Chinese: Mengzi), c.372–c.289, was a leading exponent of Confucianism. Born in what is today Shandong (Shantung) province, he lived during the period of the Warring States (403–222), when a handful of competing states were fighting one another for the hegemony of China. Traveling from one state to another as a roving political advisor, Mencius spent 40 years trying to persuade the contending kings to be righteous rulers rather than to rely on military conquests. Disappointed in this effort, he devoted the remaining 20 years of his life to teaching.

The chief doctrine of Mencius is the original goodness of human nature, which is bestowed by heaven and possessed by everyone. Mencius argued that every person has four innate feelings: commiseration, shame and dislike, respect and reverence, and right and wrong. These four feelings can be further developed into the four moral virtues: benevolence, righteousness, propriety, and wisdom. After his death, his teachings were compiled in the Book of Mencius, a work of classic Confucian philosophy that has greatly influenced Chinese philosophy.

Dobson, W. A., Mencius (1963);
Lau, D. C., trans., Mencius (1970);
Legge, James, trans., The Life and Philosophy of Mencius, 2 vols. (1985);
Richards, I. A., Mencius on Mind (1932; repr. 1989);
Verwilghen, A. F., Mencius: The Man and His Ideas (1967);
Ware, J. R., trans., The Sayings of Mencius (1960);
Wei, Francis C., The Political Principles of Mencius (1977);
Yearly, L. H., Mencius and Aquinas (1990).

  • Subjects:
    Asian and Asian American

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