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of the boy to his widow Changshi. 66 The care of this prudent and attentive mother," to quote from Rémusat, “ has been cited as a model for all virtuous parents. The house that she occupied was near that of a butcher. She observed at the first cry of the animals that were being slaughtered, the little Măng ran to be present at the sight, and that on his return he sought to imitate what he had seen. Fearful that his heart might become hardened, and be accustomed to the sight of blood, she removed to another house, which was in the neighborhood of a cemetery.
The relations of those who were buried there came often to weep upon their
and make the customary libations. Mencius soon took pleasure in their ceremonies, and amused himself in imitating them. This was a new subject of uneasiness to Changshí; she feared her son might come to consider as a jest what is of all things the most serious, and that he would acquire a habit of performing with levity, and as a matter of routine merely, ceremonies which demand the most exact attention and respect. Again, therefore, she anxiously changed her dwelling, and went to live in the city opposite to a school, where her son found examples the most-worthy of imitation, and soon began to profit by them. I should not have spoken of this trifling anecdote, but for the allusion which the Chinese constantly make to it in the common proverb, “Formerly the mother of Mencius chose out a neighborhood.'” On another occasion, her son seeing persons slaughtering pigs, asked her why they did it. “ To feed you,” she replied ; but reflecting that this was teaching her son to lightly regard the truth, went and bought some pork and gave him.
Mencius devoted himself early to the classics, and became the disciple of Tsz’-sz', the grandson and not unworthy imitator of Confucius. After his studies were completed, he offered his services to the feudal princes of the country, and was received by Hwui wang, king of Wei: but though much respected by this ruler, his instructions were not regarded. He saw too, ere long, that among the numerous petty rulers and intriguing statesmen of the day, there was no prospect of restoring tranquillity to the empire, and that discourses upon the mild government and peaceful virtues of Yau and Shun, king Wăn and Chingtang, offered little to interest persons whose minds were engrossed with schemes of conquest or pleasure. He therefore, at length, returned to his own country; and in concert with his disciples, employed himself in composing the work which bears his name, and in completing the editorial labors of his great predecessor. He died about 314 B.C., aged eighty-four years.
His own treatise on political morality is divided into two parts, which together contain fourteen short chapters, as they stand arranged in the Four Books of the Chinese. After his death, Mencius was honored by public act with the title of Holy Prince of the country of Tsau, and in the temple of the literati he receives the same honors as Confucius ; his descendants bear the title of Masters of the Traditions concerning the classics, and he himself is called A-shing, which signifies the Second Saint, Confucius being regarded as the first. His writings are in the form of dialogues held with the great personages of his time, and abound with irony and ridicule directed against vice and oppression, which only makes his praises of virtue and integrity more weighty. He contests nothing with his adversaries, but while he grants their premises,
he seeks to draw from them consequences the most absurd, which cover the opponents with confusion.
The will of the people is, by Mencius, always referred to as the supreme power in the State, and he warns princes that they must both please and benefit their people, observing that “if the country is not subdued in heart, there will be no such thing as governing it;" and, also, “He who gains the hearts of the people, secures the throne, and he who loses the people's hearts, loses the throne.”
His estimate of human nature, like many of the Chinese sages, is high, believing it to be originally good, and “that all men are naturally virtuous as all water flows downward. All men have compassionate hearts, and feel ashamed of vice.” But he says, also, “ Shame is of great moment to men; it is only the designing and artful that find no use for shame."
His own character presents traits widely differing from the servility and baseness usually ascribed to Asiatics, and especially to the Chinese ; and he seems to have been ready to sacrifice everything to his principles. "I love life, and I love justice,” he observes, “but if I cannot preserve both, I would give up life, and hold fast justice. Although I love life, there is that which I love more than life ; although I hate death, there is that which I hate more than death.” And, as if referring to his own integrity, he elsewhere says, “The nature of the superior man is such that, although in a high and prosperous situation, it adds nothing to his virtue ; and although in low and distressed circumstances, it impairs it in nothing." In many points, especially in the importance he gives to filial duty, his reverence for the ancient
books and princes, and his adherence to old usages, Mencius imitated and upheld Confucius ; in native vigor and carelessness of the reproaches of his compatriots, he excelled him.
Mencius, like Confucius, made large use of ancient illustrious examples, hoping thus to awaken a desire in the rulers of his own time to imitate the virtues of former ages. He often taught by means of parables, and sometimes was drawn into disputation, as appears from the following quotation :
“ The disciple Kung-too said to Mencius, ' Master, the people beyond our school all speak of you as being fond of disputing. I venture to ask whether it be so. Mencius replied, 'Indeed I am not fond of disputing, but I am compelled to do it.'”
It may be interesting to notice how Mencius was appreciated by Chinese philosophers, as compared with Confucius.
The philosopher Ching said, "I do not dare to say altogether that he was a sage, but his learning had reached the extremest point.” And again, “ The merit of Mencius in regard to the doctrine of the sages
is than can be told. Confucius only spoke of benevolence, but as soon as Mencius opens his mouth, we hear of benevolence and righteousness. Confucius only spoke of the will or mind, but Mencius enlarged also on the nourishment of the passion nature. In these two respects his merit was great." "Mencius" (says Ching) “did great service to the world by his teaching the goodness of man's nature."
“Yen Yuen was but a hair's-breadth removed from a
sage, while Mencius must be placed in a lower rank, a great worthy, an inferior sage."
Choo-He said, “Mencius when compared with Confucius, always appears to speak in too lofty a style ; but when we hear him proclaiming the goodness of man's nature, and celebrating Yaou and Shun, then we likewise perceive the solidity of his discourses."