Chinese Stories: Mencius’ Mother Moves Three Times

Mencius (Meng Zi 孟子 372 – 289 BC) was a Chinese philosopher and probably the most famous Confucian after Confucius himself – he is called “the second sage” after all! The story of Mencius’ Mother Moves Three Times (in Chinese 孟母三遷 mèng mǔ sān qiān) was intended to show the importance of the right environment to a child’s upbringing.

Read on to find out more about the story and listen to our narration!

Mencius, in Half Portraits of the Great Sage and Virtuous Men of Old (至聖先賢半身像)

Press play to hear AJ narrate the story to you!

Mencius, also known by his birth name Meng Ke (孟軻), was born in the State of Zou (邹), now the county-level city of Zoucheng in Shandong Province, not far from Confucius’ birthplace, Qufu. As a student of Confucius’ grandson, Zisi, he was a fourth-generation disciple of Confucius. Due to the advice he gave many of the rulers he advised over a forty-year period of travelling throughout China, he is often regarded as more influential than Confucius himself.

Mencius mother, now known as Meng Mu, is included in the book The Biographies of Exemplary Women (列女傳 Liènǚ Zhuàn) by Liu Xiang c. 18 BCE. In it are 125 biographical accounts of the most exemplary women in ancient China. There are several other stories of Meng Mu and her excellent parenting despite her poverty. When she died, Mencius mourned her for three years.

Statue of Mencius in the Mencius Temple at Zoucheng

One of Mencius’s main teachings was that human nature has an innate tendency towards goodness, but this cannot always be taught. That is why external controls usually fail in improving society. True improvement results from educational cultivation in favorable environments, whereas bad environments tend to corrupt. So, if the story is true, it is clear that Mencius’ mother’s method worked!

Which classic Chinese tale should we read next? Let us know in the comments below. We always love hearing your thoughts and insights! 

Photo Credits
– ColBase; National Palace Museum; Wikipedia

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