Classical Confucianism II: Mencius and Zunzi

Manyul Im

in The Oxford Handbook of World Philosophy

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780195328998
Published online September 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Classical Confucianism II: Mencius and Zunzi


This article provides an introduction to Confucianism. Mencius (ca. 370–289 bce) and Xunzi (ca. 310–220 bce) are the only two early scholars in the Confucian lineage (known as the ru, or “Ritualists,” in the period) whose teachings were handed down in relatively complete, eponymous form. Additionally, the high quality of their teachings has led the tradition to regard them as the two most prominent Confucians after Confucius. Their teachings are directed toward improving the justification of Confucian social and political norms during a time when philosophical challenges to traditional mores and institutions were proliferating. However, they proceed through very different strategies of justification. Mencius argues that Confucian norms are best suited to express innate, central facets of human psychological dispositions. Xunzi appeals to the transformative effect of Confucian ritual training and education in producing the most desirable state of affairs—a state in which both intrapersonal and interpersonal desire-satisfaction is efficient, harmonious, and orderly.

Keywords: Confucianism; Mencius; Xunzi; Chinese philosophers; Chinese philosophy; Confucian norms; ritual training

Article.  4422 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Non-Western Philosophy

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribeRecommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »