One cannot discuss Confucianism without at least mentioning the man the Chinese call "The Second Sage," Meng Tzu, or, in Latinized form, Mencius (372-289 B.C.) Mencius, like Confucius and Mo Tzu before him, concerned himself entirely with political theory and political practice; he spent his life bouncing from one feudal court to another trying to find some ruler who would follow his teachings. Like Confucius and Mo Tzu before him, he was largely unsuccessful in his endeavor. In fact, China had degenerated precipitously in Mencius's time: individual states were preying on and conquering others and the rulers of the time had no patience for what they considered prattling about the ancients and their ways. Also, rival schools, especially the Moist schools (see "Mo Tzu" below), were putting up a good fight as far as bending the ears of rulers are concerned.

As a Confucian, Mencius based his entire system of thought on the concept of jen : "humaneness," "humanity," "benevolence," etc. To this basic doctrine he added the concept of i : "righteousness," or "duty." What does this mean? Mencius believed that the "humaneness" or "benevolence" that you show to individuals should in some way be influenced by the type of personal relationship you have to that person. One displayed jen to a person based on that person's position (as well as your own) and the obligations you owe to that person, so that you owe more jen to your immediate family than you do, say, to the Prime Minister of Canada. I , then, means that we have obligations to people that arise from social relations and social organization, not because there is some divine law mandating these obligations.

Mencius several times throughout Chinese history has been regarded as a potentially "dangerous" author, leading at times to outright banning of his book. This is because Mencius developed a very early form of what was to be called in modern times the "social contract." Mencius, like Confucius, believed that rulers were divinely placed in order to guarantee peace and order among the people they rule. Unlike Confucius, Mencius believed that if a ruler failed to bring peace and order about, then the people could be absolved of all loyalty to that ruler and could, if they felt strongly enough about the matter, revolt.
Richard Hooker