CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Mencius
Many of his allegories have become Chinese proverbs, such as the story of one who tried to catch fish by climbing on a tree, meaning an impossible task. The centrality of the family in the moral state.
Much of Mencian writings are about government administration. In one instance he said a sign of social prosperity was 70 year olds eating meat and wearing silk, and the humaneness of the king was shown through how well a person's parents and family could be taken care of. Repeatedly, Mencius emphasized the importance of filial piety and self-preservation as a form of filial piety: to him the most important service was serving one's parents, and the greatest vigilance was to preserve oneself. To Mencius, the good ruler rules from the family to the state: the extended family. He quoted from the Odes Book of Songs : He set an example for his wife; It extended to his brothers, And from there to the family of the state.
Mencius commented: "This speaks of taking this mind and extending it to others. Thus if one extends his kindness it will be enough to protect all within the four seas, whereas if one fails to extend it, he will have no way to protect his wife and children. Emphasis on rule by humaneness, instead of war. Instead of focusing on war, Mencius advised the King of Qi, one of the nine large states in China then, to focus on humaneness in his administration.
Mencius said to the king of Qi: a hegemon needs a large state, but a humane king does not. A ruler just needs to take care of the people, acting like parents. Then nobody would want to attack him.
Mencius, however, was no democrat. Like Confucius, Mencius distinguished between ordinary people and gentlemen: while the latter would be able to "have a constant mind despite being without a constant means of livelihood," the ordinary people, without a constant livelihood, would succumb to all kinds of problems. On the other hand, because ordinary people did not have such constancy of mind, their rulers must appeal to their material needs.
Developing on the Confucian ethical human nature. If one nourishes the qi with uprightness and does not injure it, it will fill the space between heaven and earth. If one's action causes the mind to be disquieted, it starves. Here, Mencius means the qi and rightness were integral parts of the human being and, at their best, humans could constitute moral universes on their own, with or without external approval.
These moral universes were tied to the very physical life force of the human being, therefore they were the physical universe as well. For many people searching for the Chinese origins of humanism or respect for the individual, they often came to Mencius. It is not surprising, since Mencius, as shown above, gave individuals so much moral power!
Unlike Confucius who was preoccupied with the correct practice of ancient rituals, Mencius was less concerned about rituals. To him, ritual propriety was not to depart from serving one's parents and older brother. Like Confucius, Mencius believed human nature was inherently ethical.
The Advice of Mencius
Therefore all moral virtues originated from natural human sentiments:. Humaneness originates from human compassion; shame is the beginning of rightness; modesty and compliance is the beginning of propriety; and sense of right and wrong is the beginning of wisdom. To Prince Hui, whom he found living in careless luxury, while his people were perishing for lack of economic reforms, he said: "In your kitchen there is fat meat, and in your stables there are sleek horses, while famine sits upon the faces of your people, and men die of hunger in the fields.
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This is to be a beast and prey on your fellow men. His treatise is one of the most noteworthy attempts to teach morality independently of religion. The "Book of Mencius" is generally accepted as genuine, though the evidence of its Mencian authorship is of a kind that would not be judged sufficient if it fell within the scope of modern historic criticism. In a Chinese history dating from B. There are extant portions of literary works composed as early as B. There remains still, somewhat more than a century to bridge over, but the reputation for accuracy of the Chinese annals is taken as a warrant that the work goes back to the days of Mencius and issued from his pen.
A partial acquaintance with the teachings of Mencius was obtained by European scholars through the writings of the Jesuit missionaries to China in the eighteenth century. The "Book of Mencius" was translated into Latin by Stanislaus Julien in the early part of the last century. English readers have ready access to the sayings of Mencius in the admirable edition and version of the "Chinese Classics", by J. APA citation. Aiken, C. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
MLA citation. Aiken, Charles Francis. New York: Robert Appleton Company, This article was transcribed for New Advent by Bruce C. Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat.
October 1, Remy Lafort, S.