January 9, 2015
The Mengzi 孟子 (The Book of Mencius) served as a constant model of doctrinal argumentation and style for centuries. One of the distinctive traits that emerges from the work is the image of Mencius struggling against the disorder arising from the increasing influence of the heretical doctrines of Yang Zhu 楊朱 (ca. 4 th century BC) and Mo Di 墨翟 (ca . 480–390 BC). It deserves particular attention, as the authors of the Mengzi – or perhaps even Mencius himself – carved a rhetorical strategy of strong emotional impact, hyperbolic in its very nature, based on the “moral balance” ( zhong 中) of the Ru 儒 (Classicists) tradition compared to both the egoism ( wei wo 為我) promoted by Yang Zhu and the vitiated form of indiscriminate and unbalanced concern for others supported by Mo Di's followers. To date, the Mengzi seems to be the first text in which the “Yang Mo 楊墨” symbol for Yang (Zhu) and Mo (Di) occurs. It became proverbial in Chinese literature for the two prototypes of ethical drift from which traditions that had allegedly strayed from the Ru should be retracted. The importance of both thinkers within a Mencian framework is evident: it is around these two figures that the text structures a highly sophisticated rhetorical framework, characterized by implicit and explicit strategies of inventio and dispositio .