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Mencius, the Revolutionary Confucian Philosopher

“The great man is he who does not lose his childlike heart.”
– Mencius

After Confucius, comes the respectable second sage Mencius, an ancient Chinese philosopher who is responsible for the development of orthodox Confucianism

“Mencius” is a Latinization that was coined by Jesuit missionaries in the 17th century of the Chinese term, “Mengzi,” meaning “Master Meng.” He is best known for his strong philosophy that “human nature is good,” along with the emphasis on the obligation of rulers to provide for the common people. 


His upbringing

Mencius was born around 372 BCE as he and his family settled in the minor state of Zou, which we know today as the province of Shantung. At the age of three, he lost his father. And his mother raised him alone. It’s been said that she had to move their home several times just so that young Mencius could get the proper kind of environmental influence and education. All of her hard work paid off as Mencius has become one of the most prominent and influential sages in history, contributing to Chinese ethics, virtues, and culture.



The book titled, Mencius, is a collection of his very own conversations, debates, anecdotes, views, and imagined interviews that were recorded by him and were said to have been compiled by his disciples. These records are centered on his statements on the goodness of human nature, ethical cultivation, and political idealism.

As an idealist who emphasized justice and humanity in his teachings, Mencius’ philosophy was always compared to Confucius’. Confucius emphasized that the government is an extension of the family, thus it must be treated as such to cultivate a just and ideal society. But for Mencius, to achieve that, the government must be seen as the people’s servants with a duty to fulfill.

He publicly advocated that people can legally overthrow a tyrant because they have the right to pick the leader that they deem worthy. And even if Confucianism centers on personal cultivation and filial piety, Mencius developed the concept into something universal since benevolence is naturally part of our instinct and core as human beings.


Curious about other Chinese philosophies? You can read about Taoism here and about Laozi, the philosopher who started it, here.

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