Mencio  Biography

Ji M’ngk, which can be translated literally as Master Meng, known in the West as Mencio, Meng Tzu or Meng K’o (State of Zou [present-day Shan-tung] in 372 BC – ibid., 289 BC). Chinese philosopher, considered one of the most important thinkers of Confucianism.

Mencio is recognized for having dedicated his life to preaching, thinking and renewing the concepts previously established by Confucius.  influential philosophers in history.He is credited with writing the Mengzi, a book that constitutes one of the four pillar texts of neo-Confucianism. He is listed as one of the most important and

Personal life

From his life little is known, the main source of information being the biography written by the former Chinese historian Sima Qian, who collects it in his work Proceedings of the Great Historian (Shiji). According to Qian, Mencio was born in 372 BC in the small state of Zou, located in present-day Shan-tung.

Mencius would have lived at the time of the Warring States, a period in which China was not unified in a single territory, but was divided into states that sought power and fought among themselves for the domination of the territories. In the same way it is attributed a noble origin.

According to tradition, Mencio would have received his training from confucius’ grandson, Tzu-ssu, although other historians point out this incorrect fact. There is also a historical debate as to whether or not he actually became a minister of Qi’s state.

In an era characterized by the turbulence of constant wars, Mencio, like most contemporary philosophers at him, became interested in how the ruler should be aware of moral limits in exercising power, which was achieved to through tradition, religious practices and responsibility for subjects.

He devoted himself to traveling throughout China and interviewing numerous princes and nobles, in order to spread his ideas and theological, political, human and social conceptions.

The Mengzi

His philosophical concerns are reflected in a text known as Mengzi, in which his various meetings with several rulers, which took place in his old age, are recorded in the form of dialogue.

However, there is a historical debate about his true authorship, for while most of the specialists point out that the text was written almost entirely by Mencio, and ended by his disciples immediately after his death, there is a group that thinks it was completely written by his disciples after the physical departure of this philosopher.

However, the controversy over his authorship is much less than that of the Anacletas of Confucius. Today, his Mengzi or Book of Mencio is part of the Shu Ssu (Four Books) of neo-Confucianism, alongside the Lun Yu, the Ta Hs-eh and Chung Yung.


Basically, in his philosophy, Mencio raises the kind nature of man, which has two options: that of cultivating himself through discipline that involves good behavior; or getting lost through vices, though not entirely.

Mencio points out that within the heart of all human beings are four feelings: compassion, shame, respect and modesty, and the feeling of those who are right and wrong, which are the ones who are guiding man on the right path.

For this philosopher the center of thought and self-cultivation in man is the Xin, which can be translated as the organ of the heart – mind, where everything begins and ends. In the light of his doctrine, as the four feelings residing in the Xin are cultivated, man will develop the virtues of goodness, righteousness, coexistence, and wisdom.

As for his political ideas, Mencio believed that the Ruler had an obligation to create the most suitable conditions for the development of his subjects, so that they could secure the modes of subsistence, based on food production abundant and constant, and then be oriented in the cultivation of righteousness. Reasons that would also lead the people to follow him.

Likewise, Mencio’s thinking is distinguished by being early democratic, attaching utmost importance to the people and their will. In this sense, it departs a little from the original Confucianism, who attached the utmost importance to the ruler.

Mencio beyond placing the emphasis on the people, even point out that the people have the complete right to depose or eliminate that ruler who ignores his needs and governs them harshly, for this would indicate that he is not a ruler. However, he considered that there was no war that was fair, and the only form of it he justified was defensive.

Likewise, Mencio proposes a utopian system of coexistence based on a “primitive agrarian communism”, which he calls jingtian (which can literally be translated as “field in the form of a well”) which would be divided into nine parts, giving eight to the families for cultivation, while one would be worked for the benefit of the ruling prince.

For Mencio those who cultivate the same jing will seal together union, love and harmony. This thought greatly influenced Marxist currents during the twentieth century, which did not hesitate to mark it as a form of primitive communism.


According to historical sources, Mencio is believed to have died in zou State, which is in northeastern China’s Sandong Peninsula, in 372 BC.

His ideas were not recognized by his contemporaries, however years later they were rediscovered and highly valued, greatly influencing the shaping of neo-Confucianism. He is now considered the most important philosopher of this discipline, after its founder, Confucius.

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Mencio  Biography
Source: Education  
July 31, 2019

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