Mencius Four Sprouts/Seeds

Mencius Four Sprouts/Seeds

Mencius Four Sprouts/Seeds

(PD) Intimate Scenery of Pomegranate Blossoms by Lu Zhi — modifications by Larry Neal Gowdy

All ingredients in life give sprout to new self-natures.

Larry Neal Gowdy

Copyright ©2023 - May 13, 2023

When the topic of Mencius' four sprouts is raised, it is almost universal that different people will describe the sprouts differently. The purpose of this article is to very briefly touch on the texts while giving focus on what the four sprouts are, how the sprouts occur, and of enabling the reader to form their own decisions of the four sprouts.


Regardless of what Mencius, Confucius, Xunzi, Plato, or anyone else might claim, the laws of Nature still rule man, and a man's claims cannot be true if his claims do not agree with the laws of Nature. One law of Nature is that all things are composed of ingredients. Bread has ingredients, as does everything else have ingredients, including thoughts, benevolence, morality, and emotions.

The only known ancient writing of ingredients is Daodejing, of which accurately (albeit vaguely) spoke of virtue being the product of other virtues that are not virtue. It is plausible that Mencius may have arrived at some of his ideas after having read Daodejing.

The value of Mencius' four sprouts will depend on whether or not his four sprouts agree with the laws of Nature.

Mencius' four sprouts are most directly spoken of within the Mencius books Gong Sun Chou 1 (2A paragraph 6) and Gaozi 1 (6A paragraph 6).

Book Gong Sun Chou I - 2A:6

Original text of the four sprouts/seeds:


Rough word-per-word draft translation:

heart-felt-caring conceal it heart, benevolence it extreme-tip {also}

cautious *e* it heart, morality it extreme-tip {also}

confession(words? Ci poetry?) permit(consensus?) it heart, manners it extreme-tip {also}

right wrong it heart, comprehend it extreme-tip {also}

people it have right four extreme-tip {also}

Note that 'e' is not given a translation within the draft version. All known scholar-philosophers claim that implies "hate", "hatred", "evil", and several other extremely negative terms. It is useful to the reader to observe that cannot imply a negativity as it was given in the sentence. Hate, hatred, and evil are not ingredients of morality.

James Legge's translation: "The feeling of commiseration is the principle of benevolence. The feeling of shame and dislike is the principle of righteousness. The feeling of modesty and complaisance is the principle of propriety. The feeling of approving and disapproving is the principle of knowledge. Men have these four principles..."

Legge's choice for was the negative English word "dislike", whereas he normally always chose "hate" and "evil" for the definition. Legge also chose the negative word "shame" as another ingredient of his "righteousness". Legge purposefully fully omitted the 'yin' word, which rendered the topic nonsensical. Literally nothing that Legge wrote was coherent.

The 'extreme-tip' might could metaphorically imply a sprout, but within Nature-based reasoning, the 'extreme-tip' would imply the ingredients' product. As blending specific ingredients in specific sequences will produce the extreme-tip product of bread, so likewise does the act of blending specific inner attributes produce the extreme-tip product of what the ingredients enable. However, there is no final 'extreme-tip' within Nature: all forms of emotions and virtue are able to be increased of quantity and quality through use of blending additional ingredients of attributes.

Book Gaozi I - 6A:6

Original text of the four sprouts/seeds:


Rough word-per-word draft translation:

heart-felt-caring conceal it heart, benevolence {also}

cautious *e* it heart, morality {also}

polite respect it heart, manners {also}

right wrong it heart, comprehend {also}

Note that 'e' was again purposefully omitted in the draft translation. Also note that the Gaozi book changed 辭讓 "permission permit" to 恭敬 "polite respect" (or visa versa). If consistency was a high standard in the Confucian era, then the question naturally arises: who was the one who was inconsistent? Were the words written by one of Mencius' followers, or written by Mencius himself, or were the words changed by a scholar? It is common for texts to have been altered by scholars, and so it cannot be determined who was the inconsistent person.

James Legge's translation: "The feeling of commiseration implies the principle of benevolence; that of shame and dislike, the principle of righteousness; that of reverence and respect, the principle of propriety; and that of approving and disapproving, the principle of knowledge."

Again Legge's choices of words are dank of negativity. The words chosen by Legge describe his own heart and mind.


"Heart-felt-caring": 惻 (ce) Ce is self-descriptive of meaning, but [1] there is no parallel English word, and [2] the word's meaning cannot be comprehended by an individual if the individual has not themselves felt the emotion. For use of this abbreviated article, the draft translation's phrase 'heart-felt-caring' was chosen because of it being an English phrase that has a vaguely harmonious tone to one of the original word's ingredients. Scholar-philosophers do not know what ce infers, so the scholar philosophers chose to use words like "commiseration" and "concern" which are not similar to ce, nor are the words' ingredients parallel to nor capable of enabling 'heart-felt-caring'.

"Cautious": Scholar-philosophers chose words like "shame" and "humility", which are not related to the original Chinese word, nor are shame and humility able to be an inner ingredient of morality. Legge's choices of words repeatedly proved that he held no concept of what benevolence, virtue, righteousness, morality, and manners are, nor did he exhibit evidence of knowing what the act of thinking entails.

"E": For the purpose of this article, the word's translation has been removed. Information about e can be viewed at Analects 17:24-25 陽貨 - Yang Huo - Three Important Words.

"Right wrong": The ingredients of continuous analyses of right and wrong, may produce the product of self-learned convictions, but if the convictions are not also toned of the ingredients of the other three 'sprouts-seeds', then the convictions will still be unwise and without understanding. A form of knowledge might exist if 'right and wrong' are not harmonious with the other three sprout-seeds, but the knowledge would be false. Wisdom implies learning from the hindsight of having lived one's life, and therefore wisdom cannot be obtained through reasoning alone. Similarly, understanding requires firsthand experience, and cannot be obtained through reasoning. Therefore, for the moment the best English synonym is "comprehend", even if the comprehension itself may have flaws.

From "The Book of Mencius" by Lionel Giles 1942: "The feeling of compassion—that is benevolence; the feeling of shame and repugnance—that is righteousness; the feeling of reverence—that is propriety; the feeling of discrimination between right and wrong—that is wisdom." Giles' translation has several qualities, but still the translation omitted words and missed the Nature-based concept of ingredients.

Again, Legge chose to use the word "dislike" instead of "hate" and "evil" for the word (e) as he normally did in other books. Legge's translations are always inconsistent, and thus fraudulent. Legge's "righteousness" word relies upon Abrahamic religious ideas, and therefore cannot be relative to the Mencius era.


All things are composed of ingredients. Music is composed of the ingredients of different tones. The tone of commiseration cannot lead to the creation of the music of benevolence. The tones of shame and dislike, are not able to create the music of righteousness, nor of morality. The tones of reverence and respect, cannot create the music of manners nor of propriety. The acts of approving and disapproving, cannot lead to wisdom nor to a knowledge beyond imaginations.

If each of Mencius' 'four sprouts' are viewed as having two of the countless ingredients creating a single product, then Mencius' statements have some validity. If, as many scholar-philosophers have claimed, that Mencius' four sprouts produce the ingredients (i.e. benevolence produces compassion), then Mencius' statements are crazy-false.

Each of the four sprouts' ingredients rely upon other ingredients, especially those of [1] past firsthand experiences, [2] self-thinking, [3] self-effort, and [4] self-participation in one's own life. None of the four sprouts' ingredients magically pop into existence at nor before birth. Each of the four sprouts' ingredients are self-learned, self-taught, self-reasoned, and self-chosen. Prodigy Myths Autism and History lends additional information of how modern psychology has invented false claims that infants possess specific emotions "at birth". Mencius' "people it have right four extreme-tip" was also a false claim. Xunzi made similar errors.

Almost everyone on earth claims to believe in science and science's physics, but almost no one on earth believes in science nor in science's physics. Science's physics is a simplified topic of how all things are composed of ingredients, but almost no one on earth 'right wrong' analyses how their own thoughts and behaviors are the ingredients of their own personalities. Everyone is the product of their own choices, but almost everyone denies it.

As given within the many ancient and modern texts, no 'sage' person was ever recorded to have recognized that all things are composed of ingredients. Mencius' four sprouts-seeds do have value for giving people an idea about how different ingredients combine to create specific products, but Mencius' claim that everyone has the ingredients, is false; obviously false.