Ancient China in Context
China's Second Sage
E Bruce Brooks and A Taeko Brooks


Cover: MenciusFor many, the Mencius represents the highpoint of Confucianism. Its self-cultivation aspect has proved especially popular in modern times. In its own time, and for a thousand years afterward, it was regarded primarily as a statecraft text. This translation of key passages brings out both aspects. Of several treatments of the Mencius, only this one distinguishes what can be attributed to the founder, and what is the record of not one but two successor schools, a northern one at Dzou, Mencius' native place, developing the philosophical aspect of Mencianism, including its close relation to the Chinese meditation tradition; and a southern one at Tvng, the minor state where Mencius had held his last government position, and which continued the political side of his doctrines.

Mencius, born to a noble Lu family then resident in Dzou, was the most widely acquainted man of his time. He studied in the Lu meditation school, where he met Li Dan, the future head of that school; he imbibed the socially radical ideas of the Micians, he traveled to Chi and familiarized himself with current Chi statecraft writings, he spent some years as an important figure at the Confucian School of Lu, and contributed to several chapters of its house text, the Analects. He then set out for a career of his own, advising the rulers of his time how to succeed in the business of ruling their own people well, and eventually becoming supreme over all the other states.

In this he failed, most conspicuously at Chi, where in 0314 his advice brought on a disaster for the Chi armies, which had attempted to annex the neighboring state of Yen. He finished his career at the negligible court of Tvng, where his disciples maintained a successor school, down to the year 0250. Another successor school, more interested in philosophy than in politics, broke off to settle in Dzou, Mencius' birthplace. The two schools developed the public and private sides of Mencian theory, disputing some points with the rival schools of the time. This rich inner history makes the story of Mencius and his ideas absorbing reading. The passages in Mencius which champion the right of the people to have a voice in government, which caused the book to be censored or banned in later China, Korea, and Japan, are of obvious continuing relevance in our contemporary world.

This book follows Mencius through his intellectual antecedents, his career as an advisor to rulers, and his posthumous survival in the writings of two successor schools, in extracts from the Mencius text and from some of the texts with which Mencius or his followers were in dialogue. Texts are given in Chinese as well as English, for those who wish to include the Mencius among the rudiments of a Sinological education.

For an overview of the entire classical period, which treats Mencius and his successor schools in the context of state modernization, see the survey volume, The Emergence of China.



See the complete Table of Contents, including downloadable samples

Subject Categories: Mencius, Chinese Philosophy
LCCN: Pending

E BRUCE BROOKS is Research Professor of Chinese, and A TAEKO BROOKS is Research Associate, at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Mencius: China's Second Sage
Approximately 256 pages
Tentative $46.95 cloth. ISBN 978-1-936166-30-5
Tentative $23.95 paper. ISBN 978-1-936166-70-1
Tentative $22.95 Ebook. ISBN 978-1-936166-90-0
Expected: Late 2018


When announced, this book may be ordered from the University Press of New England.

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