1. Mencius went to
see the king Hsiang of Liang.
2. On coming out
from the interview, he said to some persons, 'When I looked at
him from a distance, he did not appear like a sovereign; when I
drew near to him, I saw nothing venerable about him. Abruptly he
asked me, "How can the kingdom be settled?" I replied, "It will
be settled by being united under one sway."
3. '"Who can so
4. 'I replied, "He
who has no pleasure in killing men can so unite it."
5. "'Who can give
it to him?"
6. 'I replied, "
All the people of the nation will unanimously give it to him.
Does your Majesty understand the way of the growing grain?
During the seventh and eighth months, when drought prevails, the
plants become dry. Then the clouds collect densely in the
heavens, they send down torrents of rain, and the grain erects
itself, as if by a shoot. When it does so, who can keep it back?
Now among the shepherds of men throughout the nation, there is
not one who does not find pleasure in killing men. If there were
one who did not find pleasure in killing men, all the people in
the nation would look towards him with outstretched necks. Such
being indeed the case, the people would flock to him, as water
flows downwards with a rush, which no one can repress."'
1. The king Hsüan
of Ch'î asked, saying, 'May I be informed by you of the
transactions of Hwan of Ch'î, and Wan of Tsin?'
replied, 'There were none of the disciples of Chuncg-nî who
spoke about the affairs of Hwan and WAn, and therefore they have
not been transmitted to these after-ages ;-- your servant has
not heard them. If you will have me speak, let it be about royal
3. The king said,
'What virtue must there be in order to attain to royal sway?'
Mencius answered, 'The love and protection of the people; with
this there is no power which can prevent a ruler from attaining
4. The king asked
again, 'Is such an one as I competent to love and protect the
people?' Mencius said, 'Yes.' 'How do you know that I am
competent for that?' 'I heard the following incident from Hû
Ho:-- "The king," said he, "was sitting aloft in the hall, when
a man appeared, leading an ox past the lower part of it. The
king saw him, and asked, Where is the ox going? The man replied,
We are going to consecrate a bell with its blood. The king said,
Let it go. I cannot bear its frightened appearance, as if it
were an innocent person going to the place of death. The man
answered, Shall we then omit the consecration of the bell ? The
king said, How can that be omitted? Change it for a sheep." I do
not know whether this incident really occurred.'
5. The king
replied, 'It did,' and then Mencius said, 'The heart seen in
this is sufficient to carry you to the royal sway. The people
all supposed that your Majesty grudged the animal, but your
servant knows surely, that it was your Majesty's not being able
to bear the sight, which made you do as you did.'
6. The king said,
'You are right. And yet there really was an appearance of what
the people condemned. But though Chî be a small and narrow
State, how should I grudge one ox? Indeed it was because I could
not bear its frightened appearance, as if it were an innocent
person going to the place of death, that therefore I changed it
for a sheep.'
pursued, 'Let not your Majesty deem it strange that the people
should think you were grudging the animal. When you changed a
large one for a small, how should they know the true reason? If
you felt pained by its being led without guilt to the place of
death, what was there to choose between an ox and a sheep? The
king laughed and said, 'What really was my mind in the matter? I
did not grudge the expense of it, and changed it for a sheep!--
There was reason in the people's saying that I grudged it.'
8. 'There is no
harm in their saying so,' said Mencius. 'Your conduct was an
artifice of benevolence. You saw the ox, and had not seen the
sheep. So is the superior man affected towards animals, that,
having seen them alive, he cannot bear to see them die; having
heard their dying cries, he cannot bear to eat their flesh.
Therefore he keeps away from his slaughter-house and cook-room.'
9. The king was
pleased, and said, 'It is said in the Book of Poetry, "The minds
of others, I am able by reflection to measure;" -- this is
verified, my Master, in your discovery of my motive. I indeed
did the thing, but when I turned my thoughts inward, and
examined into it, I could not discover my own mind. When you,
Master, spoke those words, the movements of compassion began to
work in my mind. How is it that this heart has in it what is
equal to the royal sway?'
replied, 'Suppose a man were to make this statement to your
Majesty:-- "My strength is sufficient to lift three thousand
catties, but it is not sufficient to lift one feather;-- my
eyesight is sharp enough to examine the point of an autumn hair,
but I do not see a waggon-load of faggots;-- "would your Majesty
allow what he said?' 'No,' was the answer, on which Mencius
proceeded, 'Now here is kindness sufficient to reach to animals,
and no benefits are extended from it to the people.-- How is
this? Is an exception to be made here? The truth is, the feather
is not lifted , because strength is not used; the waggon-load of
firewood is not seen, because the eyesight is not used; and the
people are not loved and protected, because kindness is not
employed. Therefore your Majesty's not exercising the royal
sway, is because you do not do it, not because you are not able
to do it.'
11. The king
asked, 'How may the difference between the not doing a thing,
and the not being able to do it, be represented? Mencius
replied,'In such a thing as taking the T'âi mountain under your
arm, and leaping over the north sea with it, if you say to
people-- "I am not able to do it," that is a real case of not
being able. In such a matter as breaking off a branch from a
tree at the order of a superior, if you say to people-- "I am
not able to do it," that is a case of not doing it, it is not a
case of not being able to do it. Therefore your Majesty's not
exercising the royal sway, is not such a case as that of taking
the T'âi mountain under your arm, and leaping over the north sea
with it. Your Majesty's not exercising the royal sway is a case
like that of breaking off a branch from a tree.
12. 'Treat with
the reverence due to age the elders in your own family, so that
the elders in the families of others shall be similarly treated;
treat with the kindness due to youth the young in your own
family, so that the young in the families of others shall be
similarly treated:-- do this, and the kingdom may be made to go
round in your palm. It is said in the Book of Poetry, "His
example affected his wife. It reached to his brothers, and his
family of the State was governed by it."-- The language shows
how king Wan simply took his kindly heart, and exercised it
towards those parties. Therefore the carrying out his kindness
of heart by a prince will suffice for the love and protection of
all within the four seas, and if he do not carry it out, he will
not be able to protect his wife and children. The way in which
the ancients came greatly to surpass other men, was no other but
this:-- simply that they knew well how to carry out, so as to
affect others, what they themselves did. Now your kindness is
sufficient to reach to animals, and no benefits are extended
from it to reach the people.-- How is this? Is an exception to
be made here?
13. 'By weighing,
we know what things are light, and what heavy. By measuring, we
know what things are long, and what short. The relations of all
things may be thus determined, and it is of the greatest
importance to estimate the motions of the mind. I beg your
Majesty to measure it.
14. 'You collect
your equipments of war, endanger your soldiers and officers, and
excite the resentment of the other princes;-- do these things
cause you pleasnre in your mind?'
15. The king
replied, 'No. How should I derive pleasure from these things? My
object in them is to seek for what I greatly desire.'
16. Mencius said,
'May I hear from you what it is that you greatly desire?' The
king laughed and did not speak. Mencius resumed, 'Are you led to
desire it, because you have not enough of rich and sweet food
for your mouth? Or because you have not enough of light and warm
clothing for your body? Or because you have not enough of
beautifully coloured objects to delight your eyes? Or because
you have not voices and tones enough to please your ears? Or
because you have not enough of attendants and favourites to
stand before you and receive your orders? Your Majesty's various
officers are sufficient to supply you with those things. How can
your Majesty be led to entertain such a desire on account of
them?' 'No,' said the king; 'my desire is not on account of
them.' Mencius added, 'Then, what your Majesty greatly desires
may be known. You wish to enlarge your territories, to have
Ch'in and Ch'û wait at your court, to rule the Middle Kingdom,
and to attract to you the barbarous tribes that surround it. But
doing what you do to seek for what you desire is like climbing a
tree to seek for fish.'
17. The king said,
'Is it so bad as that?' 'It is even worse,' was the reply. 'If
you climb a tree to seek for fish, although you do not get the
fish, you will not suffer any subsequent calamity. But doing
what you do to seek for what you desire, doing it moreover with
all your heart, you will assuredly afterwards meet with
calamities.' The king asked, 'May I hear from you the proof of
that?' Mencius said, 'If the people of Tsâu should fight with
the people of Ch'û, which of them does your Majesty think would
conquer?' 'The people of Ch'û would conquer.' 'Yes;-- and so it
is certain that a small country cannot contend with a great,
that few cannot contend with many, that the weak cannot contend
with the strong. The territory within the four seas embraces
nine divisions, each of a thousand lî square. All Ch'î together
is but one of them. If with one part you try to subdue the other
eight, what is the difference between that and Tsâu's contending
with Ch'û? For, with such a desire, you must turn back to the
proper course for its attainment.
18. 'Now if your
Majesty will institute a government whose action shall be
benevolent, this will cause all the officers in the kingdom to
wish to stand in your Majesty's court, and all the farmers to
wish to plough in your Majesty's fields, and all the merchants,
both travelling and stationary, to wish to store their goods in
your Majesty's market-places, and all travelling strangers to
wish to make their tours on your Majesty's roads, and all
throughout the kingdom who feel aggrieved by their rulers to
wish to come and complain to your Majesty. And when they are so
bent, who will be able to keep them back?'
19. The king said,
'I am stupid, and not able to advance to this. I wish you, my
Master, to assist my intentions. Teach me clearly; although I am
deficient in intelligence and vigour, I will essay and try to
carry your instructions into effect.'
replied, 'They are only men of education, who, without a certain
livelihood, are able to maintain a fixed heart. As to the
people, if they have not a certain livelihood, it follows that
they will not have a fixed heart. And if they have not a fixed
heart, there is nothing which they will not do, in the way of
self-abandonment, of moral deflection, of depravity, and of wild
license. When they thus have been involved in crime, to follow
them up and punish them;-- this is to entrap the people. How can
such a thing as entrapping the people be done under the rule of
a benevolent man?
21. 'Therefore an
intelligent ruler will regulate the livelihood of the people, so
as to make sure that, for those above them, they shall have
sufficient wherewith to serve their parents, and, for those
below them, sufficient wherewith to support their wives and
children; that in good years they shall always be abundantly
satisfied, and that in bad years they shall escape the danger of
perishing. After this he may urge them, and they will proceed to
what is good, for in this case the people will follow after it
22. 'Now, the
livelihood of the people is so regulated, that, above, they have
not sufficient wherewith to serve their parents, and, below,
they have not sufficient wherewith to support their wives and
children. Notwithstanding good years, their lives are
continually embittered, and, in bad years, they do not escape
perishing. In such circumstances they only try to save
themselves from death, and are afraid they will not succeed.
What leisure have they to cultivate propriety and
23. 'If your
Majesty wishes to effect this regulation of the livelihood of
the people, why not turn to that which is the essential step to
mulberry-trees be planted about the homesteads with their five
mâu, and persons of fifty years may be clothed with silk. In
keeping fowls, pigs, dogs, and swine, let not their times of
breeding be neglected, and persons of seventy years may eat
flesh. Let there not be taken away the time that is proper for
the cultivation of the farm with its hundred mâu, and the family
of eight mouths that is supported by it shall not suffer from
hunger. Let careful attention be paid to educatlon in schools,--
the inculcation in it especially of the filial and fraternal
duties, and grey-haired men will not be seen upon the roads,
carrying burdens on their backs or on their heads. It never has
been that the ruler of a State where such results were seen,--
the old wearing silk and eating flesh, and the black-haired
people suffering neither from hunger nor cold,-- did not attain
to the royal dignity.'