While cleaning out old notes from my locker the other day, I found an old article I wrote titled: “Mencius’ Mother.”
You know the saying, “Behind every great man there’s a great woman,” right? Mencius’ mother is the perfect example.
I remember reading about her back in my Chinese Civilization class and thinking: “Whoa, finally, amongst the abundance of men recorded in Chinese history, we have an outstanding woman!” And perhaps this is just one example of how the women of China’s history weren’t as insignificant as they’re sometimes made out to be, and deserve a bit more credit for their contributions.
And so I would like to use this blog entry to praise Mencius’s mum and tell everyone why she’s so awesome.
Her name was Zhang. She became a widow when Mencius was young, and legend has it she moved homes three times in search for a location suitable for raising her son.
When Mencius was a child, he came home early one day, obviously cutting class. He walked in to find his mother weaving at her loom. Surprised to see him back, she asked if school was out early. “I left because I felt like it,” he said. This usually calm mother suddenly took a knife and slashed her finished cloth, shaking the living daylights out of Mencius. After recovering, he asked her why she did that. She then replied that his skipping school was like her destroying her cloth—all the hard work put in comes to naught if you become slack just because “you feel like it.”
Her advice hit the spot. Mencius became responsible in his studies and, with his mother’s nurture and wisdom, eventually emerged as one of the greatest philosophers in China and beyond. He was one of the most notable men in Chinese history, but not without the help of a special woman.