Just picked up Popular Religious Movements and Heterodox Sects in Chinese History by Hubert Seiwert (In collaboration with Ma Xisha) and was kind of caught aback by the idea of Confucian messianism. Here's what the book says:
Google Books Page 20 of the book:
One of these elements, which gave Han Confucianism a particular religious flavour, was the expectation of a sage-emperor who would realize the coming of a new era in which the world will enjoy peace and prosperity. These ideas were not confined to the Confucians of the New Text School but were widespread among different schools of the Former Han. Especially the fangshi 方士 (“master of recipes,” “magicians”), who were closely related to the Huang-Lao teaching, promoted the idea of a golden age that would be inaugurated by an emperor who responds to the cosmic order by enacting the proper rituals and cultivating his personality.10 Confucian scholars of the Former Han shared these ideas. They seem to have been inspired by a prophecy already alluded to in the Book of Mencius, namely the appearance of a sage every five hundred years who would transmit the true teaching and thereby restore order to the world.11 The Han emperor Wudi apparently referred to this tradition when he deplored the fact that for five hundred years the erudites had not been able to bring back the principles of the ancient kings.12 Wudi regarded himself as the one who should reinstall the cosmic order and become the sage-emperor preordained by Heaven. This is the background of the various ritual measures that he enacted during his reign.13
The expectation of a sage-emperor who would bring about the ideal state of the world that supposedly had existed in high antiquity occupied the thought of the New Text scholars. It was this same expectation on which Wang Mang relied when he styled himself as the fulfilment of this expectation. Thus, the historical and political theories of Former Han Confucianism contained an element that could properly be called Confucian messianism. This Confucian messianism, of course, was intimately related to the belief in prophecies and omens popular with the New Text School. Following the failure of Wang Mang’s rule it lost much of its appeal and was eventually suspended. After the Han, messianic expectations no longer played a prominent role within the Confucian tradition.14
10 Cf. Anna K. Seidel, La divinisation de Lao Tseu dans le Taoïsme des Han (Publications de l’École Française d’Extrême Orient; 71), Paris: École Française d’Extrême-Orient, 1969, p. 25.
11 Mengzi yizhu 孟子譯注, 盡心章句, xia, Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1960, vol. 2, p. 344.
12 Hanshu 漢書, by Ban Gu 班固, Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1962 (1975), j. 56, p. 2496.
13 Cf. E.B. Ord, State sacrifices in the Former Han dynasty according to the official histories, Ph.D. thesis, University of California, 1987, pp. 112 ff.
Mengzi talks of 尧 and 舜 a lot throughout 盡心章句 - I would imagine it has something to do with this...?
What exactly is the prophecy being spoken of here, i.e.: the appearance of a sage every five hundred years who would transmit the true teaching and thereby restore order to the world in the original Chinese?
Is there a name for this, so-called, prophecy?
What is the Chinese for the sage-emperor? (圣王 (?) )
What is entailed in the idea of a golden age that would be inaugurated by an emperor who responds to the cosmic order by enacting the proper rituals and cultivating his personality?
What did Wudi (武帝) do during his reign that is considered to fit into this prophecy? E.g.: Wudi regarded himself as the one who should reinstall the cosmic order and become the sage-emperor preordained by Heaven. This is the background of the various ritual measures that he enacted during his reign.13 (this question might be off topic for this site, sorry.)