Mencius was a sage in the Confucian tradition, a tradition that has shaped Chinese culture for over 2000 years.
Mencius taught in the 4th Century B.C.E. Very few specifics are known about Mencius' life. He was born in Tsou, a dependency of Lu - the homeland of Confucius. His name in Chinese was Meng K'o, and later known as Meng Tzu (Master Meng). From this, the Latinized Mencius is formed. According to tradition, Mencius first learned under the tutelage of his mother who was a sage in her own right. Later, he became a disciple of Master Szu - the grandson of Confucius and author of The Doctrine of the Mean.
In this time in China, philosophers shared also a political mission. Mencius traveled with his followers to the states of China and advised rulers with the hope that his ideas would be adopted and lead to a better society. Many rulers welcomed him, but few put his ideas into practice - they were very radical for the time.
The works that survive to this day of Mencius represent his mature thought. It is composed of long and developed passages unlike The Analects of Confucius which is made of short fragments without any context. Also, the Mencius (as the book is called now) is likely to be almost entirely authentic and
represent his ideas faithfully.
As a departure from Confucian philosophy, Mencius looked to the self cultivation and spiritual realm rather than the practical and political realm of Confucius. It is the rise of Neo-Confucianism where Mencius was brought to prominence - 1,500 years after his death. Mencius brought the spiritual depth that Neo-Confucianists
felt that Confucian needed; a spiritual depth that made Zen Buddhism compelling in the culture.
Mencius believed in the inherent nobility of humanity. His teachings focus on the responsibility of rulers and intellectuals to create a society where that nobility can flourish in all. The Mandate of Heaven is reveled through the will of the people.
Heaven sees through the eyes of the people. Heaven hears
through the ears of the people.
Mencius said: "If you try to love people but keep them distant, turn back to your
Humanity. If you try to govern people but they resist, turn back to your wisdom. If you try to honor people, but they don't reciprocate, turn back to your reverence.
When you attempt something and fail, always turn back to yourself for the reason. Rectify yourself, and all beneath Heaven will return home to you. The Songs say:
Alwyas worth of Heaven's Mandate,
he found great prosperity in himself