The Concept of Ming in the Mengzi

Vol. 49 No. 1  3/2019


The Concept of Ming in the Mengzi


Li Cuiqin









Key words

Mengzi 孟子, ming 命, zhengming 正命, siming 俟命, liming 立命


    This article examines the concept of ming 命 in the context of the history of ideas. It first elaborates the original conceptual framework of ming in the classical texts of the Shijing 詩經 and the Shujing書經. The formulation of ming in these works made it plausible for Mengzi 孟子 to use the term in a complex and somewhat puzzling way. Second, this article addresses the broad social changes and philosophical considerations behind the concept, such as the connections between heaven and man, the self and others, virtue and happiness, belief and autonomy, and ideal existence. It draws the conclusion that there is no one simple idea of ming in the Mengzi and that it is necessary to distinguish between at least three aspects in the concept: zhengming 正命, siming 俟命, and liming立命, which respectively denote the rational demarcation between heaven and man, the positive expectation of a “calling,” and the resolved self-commitment to a moral existence. These three aspects can be understood from three different perspectives – that of an ordinary person, that of an intellectual, and that of an intellectual who aims at a moral life.


Author: Li Cuiqin
Genre: Article