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Mencius (Penguin Classics) Paperback – June 28, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0140449716 ISBN-10: 014044971X Edition: Reprint

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Editorial Reviews


Irene Bloom is a sensitive and well-trained scholar. Her translation of Mencius, one of the most influential philosophical works ever written in China, marks an important step forward for Asian and Confucian studies.

(Harold D. Roth, professor of religious and East Asian studies and director, Contemplative Studies Initiative, Brown University)

Irene Bloom's book is an exemplification of the best Sinological scholarship. Its interpretive brilliance will be a source of inspiration for years to come.

(Tu Weiming, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Peking University, and senior research fellow, Harvard University)

While Mencius may be generally more 'accessible' when compared with other classical Chinese texts, as P. J. Ivanhoe observes, it is still a challenge to capture in translation the flavor of its fine prose and the force of its arguments. This, I think, is precisely what Bloom sets out to do, and we are richly rewarded for her effort. Her translation is eminently reliable and has a graceful directness and simplicity. Ivanhoe's introduction helpfully highlights key ethical, political, and religious views and relates them to relevant contemporary philosophical debates. This book will be widely used and consulted by scholars.

(Alan K. L. Chan, National University of Singapore)

A tremendous accomplishment that crowns Bloom's exemplary career.... Essential.


Accurate and very fluid; in addition to their other strengths, Bloom and Ivanhoe are both gifted writers of English

(Journal of Chinese Studies 1900-01-00) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Book Description

A sophisticated and critically rich translation of the most eloquent book in the Confucian canon.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (June 28, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014044971X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140449716
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #77,722 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Mencius is most famous for his claim that human nature is good.
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.
Regardless of my rating, if you wish to understand Chinese thought in that era you must read this book.
M. A. Ramos

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 54 people found the following review helpful By DocCaligari on January 18, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very few people in the West have heard of Mencius. However, in East Asia he is known as "the second sage" of Confucianism -- second only to Confucius himself. The eponymous _Mencius_ is a collection of his sayings and dialogues with disciples, rulers, and rival philosophers. It is unfortunate that this work is not more widely read outside of Asia. It is more accessible than the often cryptic _Analects_ of Confucius. Furthermore, Mencius is arguably a deeper philosophical thinker than Confucius. Buy this book and you'll get a fine translation of a classic of world literature and philosophy.
Mencius is most famous for his claim that human nature is good. He illustrates this by asking us to imagine a person who suddenly sees a child about to fall into a well. Anyone, Mencius claims, would have a feeling of alarm and compassion at this sight. This feeling is a manifestation of our innate tendency toward benevolence. Mencius is aware that, despite having this innate tendency toward virtue, most people fail to act in a benevolent manner. But he claims that this is due to bad environmental factors, as well as a failure to cultivate one's "sprouts" of virtue. (Lau translates "sprout" as "germ," a minor infelicity.)
Lau's _Mencius_ is probably the best complete translation of this work in English. It also includes extensive supporting material: an interpretive introduction, a glossary, and appendices on events in the life of Mencius, early traditions about Mencius, the text of the _Mencius_, ancient history as understood by Mencius, and Mencius's method of argumentation.
James Legge also did a complete translation, _The Works of Mencius_, which is a little dated (it was completed in the late 19th century), but it is still a good translation, and includes the Chinese text, along with extensive notes. I did a partial translation of the _Mencius_ for _Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy_.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Michael Fridman on January 7, 2004
Format: Paperback
For those who don't know, Mencius was a disciple of Confucius's philosophy - probably the most famous. He helped spread it by adding his own flavour to the theories. This book presents them. It is easier to read than the Analects, in my opinion, as it presents much longer and more coherent paragraphs many of which are like stories. As a result, less time is spent getting acquainted with the background.

One of the key features of Mencius that separates him from Confucius is the book of Mencius has a lot of philosophical argument and rhetoric that is quite sophisticated from a cursory reading (with Confucius, much of the sophistication is apparent only if you know the text EXTREMELY well). Mencius was a keen maker of illustrations in arguments. This is the book that contains the famous argument taht human nature is fundamentally good because a person seeing a child on the edge of a well about to fall in will initially be compelled to run and save the child.

Basically, there was a sort of split in the interpretation of Confucianism. Xunzi believed that humans are essentially evil (or at least selfish) and therefore it is necessary to have ren (benevolence), li (ritual/propriety) and fa (law) to enable them to develop themselves and overcome their base urges. Mencius went the other way, considering people essentially good (as can be seen in the well example). He would see evil as a result of corruption by society, and ren and li as tools to enable one to develop their true nature. From reading his work though, I think he was far from naive and he certainly did not have an idyllic view of humanity. Rather, Xunzi and Mencius seemed to be advocating the same kind of philosophy and there is not actually that much difference between them.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By frumiousb VINE VOICE on February 19, 2005
Format: Paperback
Having read the Analects, I wanted to read further in Chinese philosophy. It was recommended that I pick up the Lau translation of Mencius, as it was widely considered the best.

Even as a reader approaching his thinking for the first time, I was able to get quite a bit from reading the seven books. They were thought-provoking and crisp. I was interested in the notions of morality and good as treated in his analogies. This point is the famous difference between Confucius and Mencius and alone makes this book valuable reading.

The Penguin edition may well be the best available translation and I am sure that the essays at the beginning and end are useful for more knowledgeable scholars. Unfortunately, as a reader largely unfamiliar with his life and work (beyond knowing his role as a student of Confucius) these essays assumed a level of knowledge beyond that which I actually possessed. It would have been helpful for me if the introduction had been more concerned with basic context setting.

The appendices bound with the book contain essays on dating events in the life of Mencius, early traditions about Mencius, textual notes, history as depicted in the text, and the use of analogy as argument.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By W. F. Rucker on September 4, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have read a great deal of Chinese history. I have also read many of the philosophy classics; Confucius Analects, the Tao Te Ching, the I Ching, and the Chuang Tsu. Chinese philosophy does not set forth ideas as directly as Western philosophy. You can read three sentences and search for the meaning for fifteen minutes. The writing conveys ideas in what is to me an abstruse fashion. I briefly studied the Chinese language and it conveys a lot of ideas in a short space.

After the thinking I do get an idea. It is amazing what is conveyed in a few words. There is no attempt to set forth an ordered set of ideas. What I understand are thoughts that form a point of view. That is what I mean by inscrutable.

Mencius is not nearly as minimalist as the Analects. He tells short tales with a moral. To that extent he is easier to understand. The same ideas appear with different emphasis in tales. The writing does not present a clear direct system of ideas, such as Aristotle. My interpretation may be much different than yours.

I enjoyed Mencius. I felt it was worth while and gave me insight into Chinese thought. It must be remembered that he is second only to Confucius in Confucian thought.

What worked for me was to read slowly and take notes. I had to invest a great deal of time in reading what is a short book. I still feel I need to read some type of treatise to get a better understanding of the philosophy of Mencius. Reading Mencius first gives the basis to build a greater understanding of Chinese philosophy and the Chinese point of view.
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