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MENCIUS

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Originally appearing in Volume V18, Page 114 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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MENCIUS, the latinized form of Mang-tsze, " Mr Mang," or " Mang the philosopher," a Chinese moral teacher whose name stands second only to that of Confucius. His statue or spirit-tablet (as the case may be) has occupied, in the temples of the sage, since our 11th century, a place among " the four assessors," and since A.D. 1530 his title has been " the philosopher Mang, sage of the second degree." The Mangs or Mang-suns had been in the time of Confucius one of the three great clans of L6 (all descended from the marquis Hwan, 711–694 B.C.), which he had endeavoured to curb. Their power had subsequently been broken, and the branch to which Mencius belonged had settled in Tsau, a small adjacent principality, the name of which remains in Tsau hsien, a district of Yenchau Shan-tung. A magnificent temple to Mencius is the chief attraction of the district city. The large marble statue of Mencius in the courtyard shows much artistic skill, and gives the impression of a man strong in body and mind, thoughtful and fearless. His lineal representative lives in the city, and thousands of Mangs are to be. found in the neighbourhood. Mencius, who died in the year 289 B.C., had lived to a great age—some say to his eighty-fourth year, placing his birth in 372 B.C., and others to his ninety-seventh, placing it in 385. All that we are told of his father is that he died in the third year of the child, who was thus left to the care of his mother. Her virtues and dealings with her son were celebrated by a great writer in the 1st century before our era, and for two thousand years she has been the model mother of China. Mencius is more than forty years old when he comes before us as a public character. He must have spent much time in study, investigating questions as to the fundamental principles of morals and society, and brooding over the condition of the country. The history, the poetry, the institutions and the great men of the past had received his attention. He intimates that he had been in communication with men who had been disciples of Confucius. That sage had become to him the chief of mortal men, the object of his untiring admiration; and in the doctrines which he had taught Mencius recognized the truth for want of an appreciation of which the bonds of order all round him were being relaxed, and the kingdom hastening to anarchy. When he first comes forth from Tsau, he is accompanied by several eminent disciples. He had probably imitated Confucius in becoming the master of a school, and encouraging the reso.t to it of inquiring minds that he might resolve their doubts and unfold to them the right methods of government. One of his sayings is that it would. be a greater delight to the superior man to get the youth of brightest promise around him and to teach and train them than to enjoy the revenues of the kingdom. His intercourse with his followers was not sb intimate as that of Confucius had been with the members of his selected circle; and, while he maintained his dignity among them, he was not able to secure from them the same homage and reverent admiration. More than a century had elapsed since the death of Confucius, and during that period the feudal kingdom of Chan had been showing more and more of the signs of dissolution, and portentous errors that threatened to upset all social order were widely disseminated. The sentiment of loyalty to the dynasty had disappeared. Several of the marquesses and other feudal princes of earlier times had usurped the title of king. The smaller fiefs had been absorbed by the larger ones, or reduced to helpless dependence on them. Tsin, after greatly extending its territory, had broken up into three powerful kingdoms, each about as large as England. Mencius found the nation nominally one, and with the traditions of two thousand years affirming its essential unity, but actually divided into seven monarchies, each seeking to subdue the others under itself. The consequences were constant warfare and chronic misery. In Confucius's time we meet with recluses who had withdrawn in disgust from the world and its turmoil; but these had now given place to a class of men who came forth from their retirements provided with arts of war or schemes of policy which they recommended to the contending chiefs, ever ready to change their allegiance as they were moved by whim or interest. Mencius was once asked about two of them, "Are they not really great men? Let them be angry, and all the princes are afraid. Let them live quietly, and the flames of trouble are everywhere extinguished." He looked on them as little men, and delighted to proclaim his idea of the great man in such language as the following: " To dwell in love, the wide house of the world, to stand in propriety, the correct seat of the world, and to walk in righteousness, the great path of the world; when he obtains his desire for office, to practise his principles for the good of the people, and when that desire is disappointed, to practise them alone; to be above the power of riches and honours to make dissipated, of poverty and mean condition to make swerve from the right, and of power and force to make bend—these characteristics constitute the great man." Most vivid are the pictures which Mencius gives of the condition of the people in consequence of the wars of the states. " The royal ordinances were violated; the multitudes were oppressed; the supplies of food and drink flowed away like water." It is not wonderful that, when the foundations of government were thus overthrown, speculations should have arisen that threatened to overthrow what he considered to be the foundations of truth and all social order. " A shrill-tongued barbarian from the south," as Mencius called him, proclaimed the dissolution of ranks, and advocated a return to primitive simplicity. He and his followers maintained that learning was quackery, and statesmanship craft and oppression, that prince and peasant should be on the same level, and every man do everything for himself. Another, called Yang-ch0, denied the difference between virtue and vice, glory and shame. It was the same with all at death. The conclusion there-fore was: " Let us eat and drink; let us gratify the ears and eyes, get servants and maidens, , beauty, music, wine; when the day is insufficient, carry it on through the night. Each one for himself." Against a third heresiarch, of a very different stamp, Mencius felt no less indignation. This was Mo Ti, who found the source of all the evils of the time and of all time in the want of mutual love. He taught, therefore, that men should love others as themselves; princes, the states of other princes as much as their ovQn; children, the parents of others as much as their own. Mo, in his gropings, had got hold of a noble principle, but he did not apprehend it distinctly nor set it forth with discrimination. To our philosopher the doctrine appeared contrary to the Confucian orthodoxy about the five relations of society; and he attacked it without mercy and with an equal confusion of thought. " Yang's principle," he said, " is `each one for himself,' which does not acknowledge theclaims of the sovereign. Mo's is ` to love all equally,' which does not acknowledge the peculiar affection due to a father. But to acknowledge neither king nor father is to be in the state of a beast. Theway of benevolence and righteousness is stopped up," On this ocean of lawlessness, wickedness, heresies and misery Mencius looked out from the quiet of his school, and his spirit was stirred to attempt the rescue of the people from misrule and error. "If Heaven," he said, "wishes that the kingdom should enjoy tranquillity and good order, who is there besides me to bring it about? " He formed his plan, and proceeded to put it in execution. He would go about among the different kings till he should find one among them who would follow his counsels and commit to him the entire administration of his government. That obtained, he did not doubt that in afew years there would be a kingdom so strong and so good that all rulers would acknowledge its superiority, and the people hasten from all quarters to crown its sovereign as monarch of the whole of China. This plan was much the same as that of Confucius had been; but, with the bolder character that belonged to him, Mencius took in one respect a position horn which " the master " would have shrunk. The former was always loyal to Chan, and thought he could save the country by a reformation; the latter saw the day of Chau was past, and the. time was come for a revolution. Mencius's view was the more correct, but he was not wiser than the sage in fore-casting for the future. They could think only of a reformed dynasty or of a changed dynasty, ruling according to the model principles of a feudal constitution, which they •described in glowing language. They desired a repetition of the golden age in the remote past; but soon after Mencius disappeared from the stage of life there came the sovereign of Ch'in, and solved the question with fire and sword, introducing the despotic empire which has since prevailed. The question may be asked, " How, in the execution of his plan, was Mencius, a scholar, without wealth or station, to find admission to the courts of lawless, and unprincipled kings, and acquire the influence over them which he expected?" The answer can only be found by bearing in mind the position accorded from the earliest times in China to men of virtue and ability. The same written character denotes both scholars and officers. They are at the top of the social scale-the first of the four classes into which the population has always been divided. This appreciation of learning or culture has exercised a powerful influence over the government under both conditions of its existence; and out of it grew the system of making literary merit the passport to official employment. The ancient doctrine was that the scholar's privilege was from Heaven as much as the sovereign's right; the modern system is a device of the despotic rule to put itself in Heaven's place, and have the making of the scholar in its own hands. The feeling and conviction out of which the system grew prevailed in the time of. Mencius. The dynasties that had successively ruled over the kingdom had owed their establishment not more to the military genius of their founders than to the wisdom and organizing ability of the learned men, the statesmen, who were their bosom friends and trusted counsellors. Why should not he become to one of the princes of his day what I Yin had been to Thang, and Thai-kung Wang to King Wan, and the duke of Chan to Wil and Ch'ang? But, though Mencius might be the equal of any of those worthies, he knew of no prince like Thang and the others, of noble aim and soul, who would adopt his lessons. In his eagerness he overlooked this condition of success for his enterprise. He might meet with, such .. a ruler as he looked for, or he might reform a bad one, and make him the coadjutor that he required. On the strength of these peradventures, and attended by several of his disciples, Mencius went for more than twenty years from one court to another, always baffled, and always ready to try again. He was received with great respect by kings and princes. He would not enter into the service of any of them, but he occasionally accepted honorary offices of distinction; and he did not scruple to receive large gifts which enabled him to live and move about as a man of wealth. In delivering his message he was as fearless and outspoken as John Knox. He lectured great men, and ridiculed them. He unfolded the ways of the old sage kings, and pointed out the path to universal sway; but it was all in vain. He' could not stir any one to honourable action. He confronted heresy with strong arguments and exposed it with withering sarcasm; but he could work no deliverance in the earth. The last court at which we find him was that of LO, probably in 310 B.C. The marquis of that state had given office to Yo-chang, one of Mencius's disciples, and he hoped that this might he the means of a favourable hearing for himself. So it had' nearly happened. On the suggestion of Yo-chang the marquis had ordered his carriage to be yoked, and was about to step into it and proceed to bring Mencius to his palace, when an unworthy
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