Mencius, also known by his birth name Meng Ke or Ko, was a famous thinker and educator in the Warring States period (475-221 B.C.). Mencius is regarded as the most famous Confucian after Confucius himself.
As a disciple of Kong Ji, grandson of Confucius, Mencius carried forward Confucianism and forged ahead into the future. His doctrines on “valuing the people more than the emperor”, “being good by nature and cultivating one’s moral character” blazed his own path, surpassing the ancients as well as amazing the contemporaries. Since ancient times, Confucius and Mencius have been mentioned in the same breath when Confucius is known as the “Greatest Sage”, and Mencius, “Second Sage” (It means Yasheng in Chinese). Scholars of the past ages maintained that if one wants to be proficient in Confucianism, one must start with the study of Mencius’ doctrines.
Mencius was born in Zoucheng, Jining, in southwestern Shandong province, where he finished The Doctrine of the Mean and Mencius, two of the four major Confucian classics. There are four famous sites in Zoucheng relating to Mencius, including the Mencius Temple, the Mencius Family Mansion, the Mencius Cemetery and the Cemetery of Mencius’ Mother.
The Mencius Temple, also known as the Yasheng Temple, is located in Nanguan, Zoucheng City, and is where the emperors of the past ages offered sacrifices to Mencius. The temple was first constructed in 1,037, and was expanded and renovated in the Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. With red walls and green tiles, this rectangle temple has five courtyards, 64 halls, two imperial tablet pavilions, and one wooden memorial archway. With the Yasheng Hall as the center, all the architectural structures in the temple are arranged symmetrically along a south-north axis. The Yasheng Hall is the main hall for offering sacrifices to and worshipping Mencius.
The Mencius Temple also has over 350 tablets of the past ages, such as “Site Where Mencius’ Mother Broke the Loom to Show Her Son That the Learning Effort Should Not Be Interrupted”, “Engraved Stones from Qinyi Mountain”, “Stone Inscription by Duke Laizi of the Western Han Dynasty”, and “Inscription on the Tombstone of Su Yuhua” by Ouyang Xun of the Tang Dynasty. The temple luxuriantly grows ancient trees that block the sunlight. It is very interesting that a huge Chinese scholar tree grows out of an ancient cypress – a miracle indeed.
The Mencius Family Mansion adjacent to the Mencius Temple is also known as the Yasheng Mansion, and is where the descendants of Mencius lived and handled official affairs. With a history of over 1,000 years, this elegant and magnificent mansion used to be a yamen (aka: ancient Chinese. It means government), and later became a residence. It consists of four courtyards, and 116 halls and rooms, being one of the best-preserved ancient architectural structures in China. Today, it contains a large number of excavated cultural relics, and the antiques left by the Mansion of Mencius.
The Mencius Cemetery, located 12.5 kilometers to the northeast of Zoucheng, is a cemetery for Mencius and his descents. In front of the cemetery there is a sacred way, stretching about 1.5 kilometers and leading to the gate of the Xiang Hall in five bays. Behind the hall is the tomb of Mencius. A stele carried by a giant stone tortoise and crowned with dragons stands in front of his grave. Now, the cemetery has over 10,000 lushly growing cypress trees, which were all planted in the Ming and Qing dynasties. All of them are tall, straight and luxuriant.
The Cemetery of Mencius’ Mother lying in Nanfu Village covers an area of almost a hundred acres. Mencius’ mother, whose surname is Zhang, was buried here, hence the name. Later, it became a cemetery of the Meng clan. Mencius’ Mother was good at educating her son, having moved three times to find a good and educated neighbor for her son, In the Ming Dynasty, she was granted an honorable title.
The 2,000-year-old cemetery has numerous tombs scattered in and at the foot of the mountain, and lushly grows pine and cypress trees. The tomb of Mencius’ mother sits behind a hall. In front of her tomb, there is a stone tablet, an altar, and stone incense burners.