In this post, we’ll delve into the world of Mencius quotes who is one of the most important figures in Confucianism, a philosophical and ethical system based on the teachings of Confucius.
Mencius, also known as Mengzi or Meng-tzu, was an ancient Chinese philosopher who lived during the Warring States period (around 372–289 BCE), which was a time of political and social turmoil in China.
Mencius is often referred to as the “second sage” of Confucianism as he was a follower of Confucius himself. He focused on the development of moral virtues and the importance of cultivating one’s innate goodness. He believed that humans are good by nature, and he argued that people can become virtuous by following their natural tendencies and by their moral qualities.
His work has had a lasting impact on contemporary philosophy, and he is considered one of the leading figures in analytic philosophy.
So, let’s read some of the most famous Mencius quotes about heaven, human nature, kindness and more.
Mencius Quotes on Heaven
1. “So it is that whenever Heaven invests a person with great responsibilities, it first tries his resolve, exhausts his muscles and bones, starves his body, leaves him destitute, and confound his every endeavor. In this way his patience and endurance are developed, and his weaknesses are overcome. We change and grow only when we make mistakes. We realize what to do only when we work through worry and confusion. And we gain people’s trust and understanding only when our inner thoughts are revealed clearly in our faces and words.”
2. “Sincerity is the way to heaven.”
3. “Mankind fears an evil man but heaven does not.”
Mencius Famous Quotes
1. “He who loves others is constantly loved by them. He who respects others is constantly respected by them.”
2. “If someone slights a person they should treat generously, they’ll slight anyone. And if someone races ahead, they retreat in a hurry.”
3. “Secure property in hand leads to peace in mind.”
4. “Truth uttered before its time is always dangerous.”
5. “Without effective protection of the citizens’ right to property, it will be difficult to attract and accumulate valuable capital.”
6. “A trail through the mountains, if used, becomes a path in a short time, but, if unused, becomes blocked by grass in an equally short time.”
7. “Every duty is a charge, but the charge of oneself is the root of all others.”
8. “We live, not as we wish to, but as we can.”
9. “The way is near, but men seek it afar. It is in easy things, but men seek for it in difficult things.”
10. “It is not difficult to govern. All one has to do is not to offend the noble families.”
Mencius Quotes on Human Nature
1. “Let not a man do what his sense of right bids him not to do, nor desire what it forbids him to desire. This is sufficient. The skillful artist will not alter his measures for the sake of a stupid workman.”
2. “Only when a man will not do some things is he capable of doing great things.”
3. “A man must not be without shame, for the shame of being without shame is shamelessness indeed.”
4. “Don’t do what should not be done, and don’t desire what should not be desired. Abide by this one precept, and everything else will follow.”
5. “I understand what lies hidden beneath beguiling words. I understand the trap beneath extravagant words. I understand the deceit beneath depraved words. And I understand the weariness beneath evasive words.”
6. “There are people dying from famine on the roads, and you do not issue the stores of your granaries for them. When people die, you say, ‘it is not owing to me, it is owing to the year.’ In what does this differ from stabbing a man and killing him, and then saying, ‘it was not I, it was the weapon?”
7. “Human nature is disposed to do good.”
8. “Trying to meet a worthy man in the wrong way is as bad as closing the door on an invited guest.”
9. “Never has a man who has bent himself been able to make others straight.”
10. “The disease of men is that they neglect their own fields and go to weed the fields of others.”
11. “The way of truth is like a great road. It is not difficult to know it. The evil is only that men will not seek it.”
Mencius Quotes on Kindness
1. “Kindly words do not enter so deeply into men as a reputation for kindness.”
2. “The heart of compassion is the germ of benevolence; the heart of shame, of dutifulness; the heart of courtesy and modesty, of observance of the rites; the heart of right and wrong, of wisdom. Man has these four germs just as he has four limbs. For a man possessing these four germs to deny his own potentialities is for him to cripple himself.
3. “If you love men and they are unfriendly, look into your love; if you rule men and they are unruly, look into your wisdom; if you are courteous to them and they do not respond, look into your courtesy. If what you do is vain, always seek within.”
4. “He who wishes to be benevolent will not be rich.”
5. “The feeling of compassion is the beginning of humanity.”
6. “Treat others as you would be treated. Devote yourself to that, for there’s no more direct approach to Humanity.”
7. “A real man is he whose goodness is a part of himself.”
Mencius Quotes on Righteousness & Evil
1. “Human-heartedness is man’s mind. Righteousness is man’s path. How sad that he abandons that path and does not rely on it; that he loses that mind and does not know to seek it. When a man has lost a cock or a dog, he knows to seek it, but having lost his (proper) mind, he does not know to seek it. The Way of Learning is nothing other than seeking the lost mind.”
2. “If you know that a thing is unrighteous, then use all dispatch in putting an end to it – why wait till next year?”
3. “Evil exists to glorify the good. Evil is negative good. It is a relative term. Evil can be transmuted into good. What is evil to one at one time, becomes good at another time to somebody else.”
4. “The great man does not think beforehand of his words that they may be sincere, nor of his actions that they may be resolute;– he simply speaks and does what is right.”
5. “There’s only one way to know if people are good or evil: look at the choices they make. We each contain precious and worthless, great and small. Never injure the great for the sake of the small, or the precious for the sake of the worthless. Small people nurture what is small in them; great people nurture what is great in them.”
6. “I like fish, and I also like bear’s paws. If I cannot have the two together, I will let the fish go, and take the bear’s paws. So, I like life, and I also like righteousness. If I cannot keep the two together, I will let life go, and choose righteousness.”
Inspirational Mencius Quotes
1. “People are distressed by their inability to do it. The problem, however, is simply that they don’t do it.”
2. “Let men decide firmly what they will not do, and they will be free to do vigorously what they ought to do.”
3. “People are eager to comment on something when they themselves are not in the situation of doing it.”
4. “The root of the kingdom is in the state. The root of the state is in the family. The root of the family is in the person of its head.”
5. “It’s simple: To say anything about the nature of things, you must attend to the facts, facts in their original form. The trouble with knowledge is that it keeps chiseling things away.”
6. “Getting something done is like digging a well. You can dig a well seventy feet deep, but if you don’t hit water it’s just an abandoned well.”
7. “If you know the point of balance, You can settle the details. If you can settle the details, You can stop running around. Your mind will become calm. If your mind becomes calm, You can think in front of a tiger. If you can think in front of a tiger, You will surely succeed.”
Mencius Quotes on Friendship
1. “Friendship is one mind in two bodies.”
2. “Friends are the siblings God never gave us.”
3. “Friendship with a man is friendship with his virtue.”
4. “The best things in life come in threes, like friends, dreams, and memories.”
Mencius Wisdom Quotes
1. “The feeling of right or wrong is the beginning of wisdom.”
2. “He who attends to his greater self becomes a great man, and he who attends to his smaller self becomes a small man.”
3. “There are things a person wants more than life and there are also things he or she loathes more than death.”
4. “Words that defy reality are ominous. And it’s ominous reality that confronts those who would obscure the wise and worthy.”
5. “In abundance prepare for scarcity.”
6. “Integrity, wisdom, skill, intelligence – such things are forged in adversity.”
7. “When men are subdued by force, they do not submit in their minds, but only because their strength is inadequate. When men are subdued by power in personality they are pleased to their very heart’s core and do really submit.”
8. “The great man is he who does not lose his child’s-heart.”
9. “Words that speak of things close at hand and carry far-reaching implications – those are the good words.”
These Mencius quotes greatly reflect his ideas on human nature, morality, and governance as his ideas had a lasting influence on Confucian thought.
One of his key ideas is the concept of “ren” or “humaneness,” which emphasizes compassion, empathy, and benevolence. Mencius believed that rulers had a moral obligation to provide for the well-being of their subjects and that if a ruler failed in their duty, the people had the right to rebel.
In short, his teachings and interpretations of Confucianism played a significant role in shaping Chinese philosophy and ethics.
Spread nuggets of wisdom by sharing these Mencius quotes with your loved ones <3