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Mencius, active during 372-289 B.C, was a native of Zhou. His personal name was Ke and courtesy name ZIyu. His life experience was similar to that of Confucius. He too was a private teacher and took his students with him while touring the various states. While traveling, he was at one time accompanied by several hundred disciples and scores of chariots. He was also received with courtesy by rulers of various states, but none accepted his political ideas. His teachings were contained in a book entitled Mencius.

Mencius condemned tyranny, describing it as a system that “directs beasts to eat people”. He was concerned with the sharpening of social contradictions, especially the fleeing of labor from productive pursuits. He inherited the Confucian the concept of benevolence and developed it further by emphasizing its importance as a government policy. He believed that every person should have his own immovable property. A family of eight should have 100 mu( a unite of area) lands in order to grow enough food to eat. It should raise domestic animals for meat, and plant mulberry trees and cultivate silk worms for clothing. In addition, there should be schools to teach people to be dutiful towards their parents and respectful towards all elders. If all this was done, people would be “friendly towards one another, helping one another in difficulties or in poor health.” In that case, they would have no desire to move to other places all their lives. All this, in Mencius’ opinion, would beneficial to the building of a strong state. The purpose of having immovable property for everyone, as proposed by Mencius, was to combine tilling with weaving to create a small-scale agricultural economy where labor would be permanently tied to land. This meant the feudalization of the socio-economy that had apparently taken place during the time of Mencius. He wanted to promote it by administrative method.

The basis for Mencius theory of a government by benevolence was that man was born with goodness. Man possessed the inherent quality of benevolence, righteousness, propriety and wisdom, which some people were able to preserve, while others could not. In Mencius’s view, every sovereign was able to rule by a policy of benevolence, and every citizen was able to accept it. Both the ruler and the ruled were able to be good. In other words, the moral standards for two different classes were preordained. He made this point even clearer class preordained. He made this point even clearer when he said that those who labor with their minds govern others: those who labor with their hands are governed by others.

The constant wars of annexation were strongly opposed by Mencius. He maintained that those who loved to wage wars should be severely punished. As he realized that the trend during the period of the Warring States was towards unification, he stated “only those who hate killing will be able to unify the country”. He meant that one could unify the country only through benevolence, not by the violence.

Mencius advocated the democratic principle that the people were more important than king. A king enjoying popular support deserved to be a lonely tyrant, who deserved to be put to death by anyone. A king who had done harm to the state should be replaced.



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