Mencius Mother, Three Moves

In honor of Mother’s Day, here’s an adaptation of a traditional Chinese folktale.

When Mencius was just a little boy, his father died. Mencius’ mother, Zhǎng, had to raise Mencius all alone and they were very poor. At first, Mencius and his mother lived near a cemetery. Over time, Zhǎng noticed that her little boy was imitating the funeral directors and mourners. Even worse, he and his friends were playing with the offerings left at the graves.

Determined to find a more wholesome environment for her son, Zhǎng moved near a busy marketplace. Once again, young Mencius began imitating the adults around him. He imitated the loud sales pitches of the merchants and made clay pigs to “butcher.” Again, Zhǎng set out to find a better place to raise her son.

Their next home was near a school. This time, young Mencius imitated the students and teachers working hard at their studies and carrying out scholarly rituals. Finally, Zhǎng knew that she had found a proper neighborhood for her son. They were home.

Zhǎng’s love and care for her son were rewarded. He grew up to be one of the most respected thinkers in the history of the world. Zhǎng has been revered as a model of motherhood in China ever since. In fact, she inspired a common saying in China: 孟母三遷. Translated: Mencius’ Mother, Three Moves.

About the Author

Ben Butina, Ph.D.
Ben is the President and co-founder of the Ruist Association of America, Inc. and Friends from Afar, an English-speaking Ruist discussion group on Facebook. He's also the creator of Stone Chimes, a modern English adaptation of the Analects of Confucius.