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Related Entries 1. This work was probably compiled by his disciples or disciples of his disciples. It was subsequently edited and shortened by Zhao Qi in the second century C. This version of the text was used by subsequent scholars and is the version available to us nowadays.
Mencius lived in the second half of the Zhou dynasty c. The Zhou king had become merely a figurehead, and real power lay in the hands of the rulers typically dukes of the different states into which the realm was divided. These rulers increasingly usurped the power and prerogatives of the Zhou king, and also waged war against each other. Those in positions of power lived in fear of execution or assassination, while peasants suffered under the burden of heavy taxation, the depredations of bandits, and the devastation of invading armies.
Consequently, it is helpful in understanding Mencius to know something about the basic themes of Confucianism. Confucius is the first individual thinker we know of to advocate a systematic vision of the Way.
The Analects is traditionally viewed as a reliable source of his sayings, but in contemporary scholarship there is considerable controversy over its historical accuracy. In particular, the Confucius of the Analects emphasizes the importance of 1 revivalistic traditionalism; 2 rule through Virtue rather than brute force; 3 ritual as a model for ethical behavior; 4 the family; and 5 ethical cultivation.
However, Confucius himself called for changes, sometimes radical ones, to contemporary practice. Like revivalists of modern times such as Martin Luther King, Jr. Mencius similarly took inspiration from the ancient sages. However, Mencius also stressed the need to read the classics creatively and critically.