Keiqian Xu, Professor of the School of Chinese Language and Literature of Nanjing Normal University, was invited to Journey of Civilization, a program of CCTV-4 to give his interpretation to the wisdom in the Mencius.
The Mencius was compiled in the mid Warring States period more than two thousand years ago. Different from the Analects of Confucius, the Great Learning and the Doctrine of the Mean, the Mencius consists of a lot of interesting and thoughtful allegories and philosophical stories. Mencius boasted trenchant language and speculative and profound thinking. In his book, his thinking about the ancient Chinese politics, culture, history and even human nature are all recorded; thus the Mencius has been having a far-reaching effect on all ages.
Professor Keiqian Xu focused on the good nature of man, the differentiation between men and animals, the differentiation between righteousness and interest and the ideal personality, the “true man” to clarify the wisdom in the Mencius.
At the beginning, Professor Keiqian Xu pointed out that the Mencius has been compiled by focusing on an important core idea, good nature. He stated further that Mencius insisted his viewpoint that man is good in nature. However, not everyone is born to be good and it is a prototype. Whether the prototype can develop into real moral goodness, it is closely related to the environment. One needs to cultivate and nourish it so that it can grow and both self-cultivation and education are advocated. But there is one more important point, that is, Mencius greatly stresses personal self-reflection.
Then when it comes to the differentiation between men and animals, Professor Keiqian Xu indicated that without education, human beings will live as animals do. By dignity and the sense of shame men are distinguished from animals. Men cannot just focus on immediate interests and still uphold righteousness. Righteousness refers to the sense of shame. A principle shall be adhered to, that is, one cannot just aim at interests when one does something. When asked about the contradiction between righteousness and interest, Professor Keiqian Xu stated that righteousness means something reasonable or reasonable and legal interests that we say today, so suitable interest is righteousness. To strike a balance between them, Professor Keiqian Xu suggested that it is a matter of conscience. As to the ideal personality of Mencius, Professor Keiqian Xu pointed out that Mencius upheld the word “true man” and its standards are none of richness, poverty and power can upset, shake and surrender a “true man”. “True man” also refers to one with ideals, beliefs, principles and morality.
Although the Mencius was written over 2000 years ago, through the interpretation of Professor Keiqian Xu, contemporary people can be inspired by the wisdom and use the wisdom for reference in the modern society.