(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)


The primary sources for information regarding the life of Mencius (MEHN-shee-uhs) are the book Menzi (first transcribed in the early third century b.c.e.; English translation in The Confucian Classics, 1861; commonly known as Mencius), the Han Shi Waizhuan (second century b.c.e.; Han Shih Wai Chuan, 1952), and the Shiji (first century b.c.e.; Records of the Grand Historian of China, 1960) of Sima Qian. Legend identifies Mencius as from the Meng family of the state of Lu. Historian Sima Qian claims that Mencius came from Zou, a state bordering Lu in Shandong.

Mencius studied with followers of Confucius’s grandson, Zi Si, and eventually found himself among the class of philosophers in China who were maintained as councilors, with no official responsibilities for government. Like others of this class, Mencius traveled from state to state seeking an agreeable position. Though details about the sequence of Mencius’s travels conflict among historical accounts, it is generally agreed that he spent a good deal of this time in the states of Liang and Qi. According to Sima Qian, Mencius visited the Jixia Academy (founded by King Wei of Qi in the fourth century b.c.e.), presumably to debate with other philosophers who gathered there, and was eventually made a minister in the state of Qi.


The Mencius came to be regarded as one of the four classics during the Song Dynasty (960-1279 c.e.), and from this time onward, it has been regarded as a major expression of many of the ideals of Confucianism....

(The entire section is 668 words.)