Essay: Mencius

Known in East Asia as Mengzi, or Mater Meng, Mencius is an outstanding thinker and educator of the Warring Sates period of Chinese history, one of the principle Confucius interpreters and an instrumental figure in his tradition illumination, who spent all his life bouncing from one feudal court to another attempting to find a ruler who could follow his teachings (Hooker).

The philosopher who was raised to the rank of a “classic” and was considered to be the “Second Sage”, second only to the “Supreme Sage”, Confucius himself, lived and worked in the period of great transformations, the turbulent time which witnessed the emergence of such branches of science as philosophy, economics, law, political science, literature, geography, physics, engineering, astronomy, medicine, etc. The Chinese Spring and Autumn as well as the Warring States were the period of transition from slavery to feudalism (Zhengming). Culture ceased to be regarded as a privilege of the rich and an educated class emerged, this gave an impetus for the development of new ideas.

Generally, it was a time of extraordinary progress in the history of China. The period gave rise to remarkable philosophers and philosophical movements, the Confucian tradition in particular. The philosophers, including Mencius, questioned the way the ruler ought to reign the state and considered power limitations as well as principles he ought to be guided with, religious ceremonies and rituals he had to keep to. Therefore, in terms of political unity insufficiency and social mobility increase young representatives of shi class succeeded in public life and searched for audience to promote their ideas and put them into practice (Richey).

Mencius, being such a representative, originated from Zou in the land of Lu. According to the evidence gathered by the scholars, and his biography the Shiji, compiled by Sima Qian, which is supposed to be the major source of data about the thinker, he lived a long life and died at the age of eighty-three. As his father died when he was young, Mencius was brought up by his mother who made a great sacrifice to educate him. According to the legend, like Confucius, Mencius traveled China for about forty years and proposed rulers to reform. He believed that only a leader who possessed the moral qualities could unify China and defend the Zhou rule. However, Mencius received the position of a state minister of one of the feudal princes. But the ruler refused to follow the counsels of the thinker. So, Mencius was received by Prince Hui who supported his ideas. After the prince’s death, in the twilight of his life, Mencius returned to motherland and spent the rest of his life writing and teaching, or “transmitting the gifts received from Heaven” which he did with pleasure. Not in vain is he considered one of the greatest moral philosophers and prominent figures in education of the time (Zhengming).

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