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The figure of the sage (sheng/sheng jen)a has occupied a position of paramount importance in the Confucian tradition. Such sages in classical Confucianism were culture heroes and kings, each a paradigm of virtue and model for emulation. There is a sense, however, in which these sages were remote and distant; most were far removed in time. The virtues of such sages also seem strangely removed from the capabilities of the vast majority of persons. Mencius can express the optimistic stance that anyone is capable of becoming a Yaob or Shunc,1 but it seems far more accurate to describe this as an ideal rather than a practical goal of cultivation and learning.