This ancient text records the teachings of Mencius (4th c. B.C.E.), the second originary sage in the Confucian tradition which has shaped Chinese civilization for over two thousand years. In a culture that makes no distinction between those realms we call the heart and the mind, Mencius was the great thinker of the heart, and it was he who added the profound inner dimensions to the Confucian vision. Given his emphasis on the heart, it isn’t surprising that his philosophical method is very literary in nature: story and anecdote full of human drama and poetic turns of thought. Indeed, the text is considered a paragon of literary eloquence and style.Mencius’ strikingly contemporary empiricism represented a complete secularization of the spiritualist concepts of governance that had dominated China for over a millenia. He invested the humanist Confucian vision with its inner dimensions by recognizing that the individual is an integral part of a self-generating and harmonious cosmos. He saw all the spiritual depths of that cosmology inside us, and this led to a mystical faith in the inherent nobility of human beings. In his chaotic and war-ravaged times, he was therefore passionate in his defense of the people. Indeed, he advocated a virtual democracy in which a government’s legitimacy depended upon the assent of the people. Such is the enduring magic of the Mencian heart– full of compassionate and practical concern for the human condition, and yet so empty that it contains the ten thousand transformations of the entire cosmos.
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DAVID HINTON's many translations of ancient Chinese poetry have earned wide acclaim for creating compelling English poetry that conveys the actual texture and density of the originals. He has held numerous fellowships from The National Endowment for the Arts and The National Endowment for the Humanities. And in 1997, his work was awarded the Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets. He lives in East Calais, Vermont. MENCIUS (372-298 BC) was one of the greatest Chinese philosophers, focusing on political theory and practice. Mencius, like Confucius, believed that rulers were divinely placed in order to guarantee peace and order among the people they rule. Unlike Confucius, Mencius believed that if a ruler failed to bring peace and order about, then the people could be absolved of all loyalty to that ruler and were justified to revolt. D. C. Lau is a Professor at the University of Hong Kong.