Din Cheuk Lau (1921-2010) was a British born Chinese academic and Chinese scholar. Being fluent in both English and Chinese, Lau was able to produce clear and concise English translations of important Chinese texts that are academically reliable. Mencius, a Latin interpretation of the Chinese name of the Confucian sage Mengzi (372-289BC), lived around a hundred years after Confucius, and is believed to have been a student of the Zi Si - the grandson of Confucius. This book, simply known as the 'Mengzi' in Chinese, is considered one of the four most important books on philosophy ever produced. Along with the Analects (Lun Yu), the Great Learning (Daxue), and the Doctrine of the Mean (Zhongyong), the Mengzi defines, preserves and transmits the teachings of Confucian school.
Mencius very much conveys the Confucian sense of 'humanity' and 'duty'. Unlike the Work of Xun Tzu (3rd century BC), there is no sense of severity or unnatural force. A gentle persuasion persists throughout which Lau has preserved in his masterful translation. Mencius has become associated with the idea that human nature is essentially 'good', (which may be contrasted with the teachings of Xun Tzu - who taught that human nature is 'evil'). In the time of social strife within which Mencius lived, it is a poignant testament to the character of the man that he believed that humnity had the potential not to be limited to its particular outward circumstances
Lau attaches 5 appendices to this work.
Appendix 1. The Dating of Events in the Life of Mencius. Appendix 2. Early Traditions about Mencius. Appendix 3. The text of the Mencius. Appendix 4. Ancient History as Understood by Mencius. Appendix 5. On Mencius' Use of the method of Analogy in Argument.
The text of the book itself includes the 7 books of Mencius, with each separated into two parts. Like his translation of 'Confucius', the appendices offer a profound contextualisation of the time period of history in question, and crucial extra insights into the life of the personage under scrutiny. A work of pure brilliance.
Regardless of my rating, if you wish to understand Chinese thought in that era you must read this book. Mencius is considered only second to Confucius himself.
In this book, translated by David Hinton, is a compilation of teachings of Chinese sage Mencius, who the book claims trained with the grandson of Confucius in the fourth century B.C.E. Here we have fourteen chapters that highlight Mencius's central belief in inherent goodness of human nature.
Mencius is easier to read then most other Chinese sages because of his use analogies and his optimistic point of view. And the translator's introduction provides us with historical background to place the writings into the correct perspective.
On the whole, a very good and readable translation, the only snag being the use of Wade-Giles in Romanization of Chinese names. However, the structure and commentary of D.C. Lau's translation is very well put together, and provides necessary illumination on Mencius's texts. While it's well known that Mencius is second to Confucius himself as the most famous of the Confucians, his work is much more readable and well constructed than Confucius's Analects, which can become tiring at times. Mencius provides insight into noble intentions and conduct, as much as Confucius. Confucius's works frequently refer to the conduct of a gentleman, to the point that it becomes rather tiresome, however, Mencius uses accounts and analogies to essentially deliver the message of his philosophy. Mencius concerns himself with human nature, and states that the man who rescues a baby from crawling into a well does so not out of interest of pleasing the parents or societal prestige, but out of the genuine feeling of pity one feels in the heart. A decent proverb later in the book is "He who puts reputation and real achievement first is a man who tries to benefit others; he who puts reputation and real achievement last is a man who tries to benefit himself." On the whole, a much more readable work of Legalist philosophy than The Analects, and worth a read for those who want to understand Chinese philosophy and social organization.
I read this book in conjunction with the analects of Confucius to round out an area of philosophy I needed to become more familiar with. I heartily recommend this approach to the text as the Mencius fleshes out and provides contextual understanding of the core tenets laid out in the analects. It is an enjoyable read and gives much pause for thought, it is well worth returning to earlier sections for a second look once you have read the controversy notes towards the rear of the text.
I love this book because it is really down to earth theology. It is written by a thoughtful man who is at the top of politics and goes round trying to improve the awful dictators he was working with, very patiently. He has not really got much of a religion, but that does not stop him. And it is a good translation too.
I came across this by chance whilst in that wonderful bookship in Oxford - Blackwells - and was captivated by it. D.C.Lau's translation is immediately accessible to the modern reader - even those whom, like this reviewer, are without a grounding in Chinese philosophy or history - and the lucid Introduction gives an excellent summation of Mencius' influence, dialogues and expansion of Confucius. The seven books (two parts to each) deal with Meng K'e's understanding of jen and yi, his theory on the natural goodness of human nature so opposed to that of Hsun Tzu's belief in the fundamental mendacity of human nature, his qualification of punitive war (I found the statement that 'punishment is for the criminal, war for the state' raised a good hour of discussion amongst friends), and his sage instruction as to the proper place and benevolence of rulers for the common good of the people. D.C.Lau's dissembling of Mencius' almost Socratic argument about the meaning of 'natural' in the context of 'white' was clearly explained and it is refreshing to see a modern counter of philosophy where the logic of semantics has resulted in the given conclusion. That said, it makes you itch to understand the original language, a fact Lau makes abundantly clear with his contextual translation of jen and yi. The books themselves have a tendency to being analogies with each predominantly having an allegorical opening with a question usually posed either indirectly or directly to a man or a king who needs enlightenment. An enlightenment that can only be provided by Mencius. We conclude with five appendicies placing Mencius within the historical context of the fourth century B.C. and a brief study of his skilful use of analogy though he is at pains to point out that Mencius is not one to debate in the abstract about benevolence nad yi. Lau ends his Introduction by saying that "[Mencius] great achievement is that he not only successfully defended the teachings of Confucius against the corrosive influence of new ideas, butin the process, add to Confucianism a depth it did not possess before." I think it fair to say that D.C. Lau has contributed to bringing the words of this great Chinese philosopher in a manner to the English world that is both clear, richly intelligent, and widely accessible. This certainly captured my attention and any reader, be they scholarly or just for interest would do well to be introduced to Mencius by D.C. Lau's translation.