What is the Nature of “the Unperturbed Mind-heart” in Mencius 2A:2?

Chinese Studies 漢學研究 39 (2):1-37 (2021)
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「不動心」的本質是甚麼? ─《孟子》〈知言養氣章〉的文理與義理 / 漢學研究 39.2 (2021): 1-37. Scholars have tended to focus on the implications of such philosophical terms as “flood-like qi” 浩然之氣 and “unperturbed mind-heart” 不動心 in Mencius 2A:2, but have failed to identify the common thread of this rather long chapter. This article argues that Mencius 2A:2 frequently alludes to Analects 2.4, and that this allusion is precisely the common thread holding 2A:2 together. According to Mencius’s interpretation, Confucius’s achievements in different ages as stated in Analects 2.4 are all related to the political consideration of whether one ought to remain in a state and serve as its minister. In light of this, and with the support of other evidence from within the Mencius, it is argued that the question “would your mind-heart be perturbed?” at the beginning of the chapter can only mean “would your intention of leaving Qi 齊 be shaken by the fact that you had been appointed as its minister?” but not “would your intention of putting the Way into practice be shaken,” as suggested by Zhao Qi 趙岐 (?-210). Furthermore, it is shown that after the death of Mencius, his act of valor, namely leaving Qi despite having already been appointed as a Qi minister, had become a shared cultural memory of early Chinese intellectuals. Whenever mentioning “unperturbed mind-heart” in their works, early intellectuals consistently evoked Mencius’s unmoved determination to reject any inappropriate political appointment even though the position could bring them fame and material comfort. The rise of Zhao Qi’s misreading in his commentary to Mencius, however, has led to the loss of this cultural memory.

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Peter Wong
Princeton University


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