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Mencius 孟子

公孫丑下 Gong Sun Chou II

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Mencius said, 'Opportunities of time vouchsafed by Heaven are not equal to advantages of situation afforded by the Earth, and advantages of situation afforded by the Earth are not equal to the union arising from the accord of Men. There is a city, with an inner wall of three li in circumference, and an outer wall of seven. The enemy surround and attack it, but they are not able to take it. Now, to surround and attack it, there must have been vouchsafed to them by Heaven the opportunity of time, and in such case their not taking it is because opportunities of time vouchsafed by Heaven are not equal to advantages of situation afforded by the Earth. There is a city, whose walls are distinguished for their height, and whose moats are distinguished for their depth, where the arms of its defenders, offensive and defensive, are distinguished for their strength and sharpness, and the stores of rice and other grain are very large. Yet it is obliged to be given up and abandoned. This is because advantages of situation afforded by the Earth are not equal to the union arising from the accord of Men. In accordance with these principles it is said, "A people is bounded in, not by the limits of dykes and borders; a State is secured, not by the strengths of mountains and rivers; the kingdom is overawed, not by the sharpness and strength of arms." He who finds the proper course has many to assist him. He who loses the proper course has few to assist him. When this - the being assisted by few - reaches its extreme point, his own relations revolt from the prince. When the being assisted by many reaches its highest point, the whole kingdom becomes obedient to the prince. When one to whom the whole kingdom is prepared to be obedient, attacks those from whom their own relations revolt, what must be the result? Therefore, the true ruler will prefer not to fight; but if he do fight, he must overcome.'

As Mencius was about to go to court to see the king, the king sent a person to him with this message: 'I was wishing to come and see you. But I have got a cold, and may not expose myself to the wind. In the morning I will hold my court. I do not know whether you will give me the opportunity of seeing you then.' Mencius replied, 'Unfortunately, I am unwell, and not able to go to the court.'

Next day, he went out to pay a visit of condolence to some one of the Dong Guo family, when Gong Sun Chou said to him, 'Yesterday, you declined going to the court on the ground of being unwell, and to-day you are going to pay a visit of condolence. May this not be regarded as improper?' 'Yesterday,' said Mencius, 'I was unwell; to-day, I am better - why should I not pay this visit?'

In the mean time, the king sent a messenger to inquire about his sickness, and also a physician. Meng Zhong replied to them, 'Yesterday, when the king's order came, he was feeling a little unwell, and could not go to the court. To-day he was a little better, and hastened to go to court. I do not know whether he can have reached it by this time or not.' Having said this, he sent several men to look for Mencius on the way, and say to him, 'I beg that, before you return home, you will go to the court.'


On this, Mencius felt himself compelled to go to Jing Chou's, and there stop the night. Mr. Jing said to him, 'In the family, there is the relation of father and son; abroad, there is the relation of prince and minister. These are the two great relations among men. Between father and son the ruling principle is kindness. Between prince and minister the ruling principle is respect. I have seen the respect of the king to you, Sir, but I have not seen in what way you show respect to him.'

Mencius replied, 'Oh! what words are these? Among the people of Qi there is no one who speaks to the king about benevolence and righteousness. Are they thus silent because they do not think that benevolence and righteousness are admirable? No, but in their hearts they say, "This man is not fit to be spoken with about benevolence and righteousness." Thus they manifest a disrespect than which there can be none greater. I do not dare to set forth before the king any but the ways of Yao and Shun. There is therefore no man of Qi who respects the king so much as I do.'

Mr. Jing said, 'Not so. That was not what I meant. In the Book of Rites it is said, "When a father calls, the answer must be without a moment's hesitation. When the prince's order calls, the carriage must not be waited for." You were certainly going to the court, but when you heard the king's order, then you did not carry your purpose out. This does seem as if it were not in accordance with that rule of propriety.'

Mencius answered him, 'How can you give that meaning to my conduct? The philosopher Zeng said, "The wealth of Jin and Chu cannot be equalled. Let their rulers have their wealth - I have my benevolence. Let them have their nobility - I have my righteousness. Wherein should I be dissatisfied as inferior to them?" Now shall we say that these sentiments are not right? Seeing that the philosopher Zeng spoke them, there is in them, I apprehend, a real principle. In the kingdom there are three things universally acknowledged to be honourable. Nobility is one of them; age is one of them; virtue is one of them. In courts, nobility holds the first place of the three; in villages, age holds the first place; and for helping one's generation and presiding over the people, the other two are not equal to virtue. How can the possession of only one of these be presumed on to despise one who possesses the other two? Therefore a prince who is to accomplish great deeds will certainly have ministers whom he does not call to go to him. When he wishes to consult with them, he goes to them. The prince who does not honour the virtuous, and delight in their ways of doing, to this extent, is not worth having to do with. Accordingly, there was the behaviour of Tang to Yi Yin: he first learned of him, and then employed him as his minister; and so without difficulty he became sovereign. There was the behaviour of the duke Huan to Guan Zhong: he first learned of him, and then employed him as his minister; and so without difficulty he became chief of all the princes. Now throughout the kingdom, the territories of the princes are of equal extent, and in their achievements they are on a level. Not one of them is able to exceed the others. This is from no other reason, but that they love to make ministers of those whom they teach, and do not love to make ministers of those by whom they might be taught. So did Tang behave to Yi Yin, and the duke Huan to Guan Zhong, that they would not venture to call them to go to them. If Guan Zhong might not be called to him by his prince, how much less may he be called, who would not play the part of Guan Zhong!'

Chen Zhen asked Mencius, saying, 'Formerly, when you were in Qi, the king sent you a present Of 2,400 taels of fine silver, and you refused to accept it. When you were in Song, 1,680 taels were sent to you, which you accepted; and when you were in Xue, 1,200 taels were sent, which you likewise accepted. If your declining to accept the gift in the first case was right, your accepting it in the latter cases was wrong. If your accepting it in the latter cases was right, your declining to do so in the first case was wrong. You must accept, Master, one of these alternatives.'

Mencius said, 'I did right in all the cases. When I was in Song, I was about to take a long journey. Travellers must be provided with what is necessary for their expenses. The prince's message was, 'A present against travelling-expenses." Why should I have declined the gift? When I was in Xue, I was apprehensive for my safety, and taking measures for my protection. The message was, "I have heard that you are taking measures to protect yourself, and send this to help you in procuring arms." Why should I have declined the gift? But when I was in Qi, I had no occasion for money. To send a man a gift when he has no occasion for it, is to bribe him. How is it possible that a superior man should be taken with a bribe?'

Mencius having gone to Ping Lu, addressed the governor of it, saying, 'If one of your spearmen should lose his place in the ranks three times in one day, would you, Sir, put him to death or not?'

'I would not wait for three times to do so,' was the reply.

Mencius said, 'Well then, you, Sir, have likewise lost your place in the ranks many times. In bad calamitous years, and years of famine, the old and feeble of your people, who have been found lying in the ditches and water-channels, and the able-bodied, who have been scattered about to the four quarters, have amounted to several thousand.'

The governor replied, 'That is a state of things in which it does not belong to me Ju Xin to act.'

'Here,' said Mencius, 'is a man who receives charge of the cattle and sheep of another, and undertakes to feed them for him - of course he must search for pasture-ground and grass for them. If, after searching for those, he cannot find them, will he return his charge to the owner? or will he stand by and see them die?'

'Herein,' said the officer, 'I am guilty.'

Another day, Mencius had an audience of the king, and said to him, 'Of the governors of your Majesty's cities I am acquainted with five, but the only one of them who knows his faults is Kong Ju Xin.' He then repeated the conversation to the king, who said, 'In this matter, I am the guilty one.'

Mencius said to Qi Wa, 'There seemed to be reason in your declining the governorship of Ling Qiu, and requesting to be appointed chief criminal judge, because the latter office would afford you the opportunity of speaking your views. Now several months have elapsed, and have you yet found nothing of which you might speak?'

On this, Qi Wa remonstrated on some matter with the king, and, his counsel not being taken, resigned his office and went away. The people of Qi said, 'In the course which he marked out for Qi Wa he did well, but we do not know as to the course which he pursues for himself.'

His disciple Gong Du told him these remarks. Mencius said, 'I have heard that he who is in charge of an office, when he is prevented from fulfilling its duties, ought to take his departure, and that he on whom is the responsibility of giving his opinion, when he finds his words unattended to, ought to do the same. But I am in charge of no office; on me devolves no duty of speaking out my opinion - may not I therefore act freely and without any constraint, either in going forward or in retiring?'

Mencius, occupying the position of a high dignitary in Qi, went on a mission of condolence to Teng. The king also sent Wang Huan, the governor of Gai, as assistant-commissioner. Wang Huan, morning and evening, waited upon Mencius, who, during all the way to Teng and back, never spoke to him about the business of their mission.

Gong Sun Chou said to Mencius, 'The position of a high dignitary of Qi is not a small one; the road from Qi to Teng is not short. How was it that during all the way there and back, you never spoke to Huan about the matters of your mission?'

Mencius replied, 'There were the proper officers who attended to them. What occasion had I to speak to him about them?'

Mencius went from Qi to Lu to bury his mother. On his return to Qi, he stopped at Ying, where

Chong Yu begged to put a question to him, and said, 'Formerly, in ignorance of my incompetency, you employed me to superintend the making of the coffin. As you were then pressed by the urgency of the business, I did not venture to put any question to you. Now, however, I wish to take the liberty to submit the matter. The wood of the coffin, it appeared to me, was too good.'

Mencius replied, 'Anciently, there was no rule for the size of either the inner or the outer coffin. In middle antiquity, the inner coffin was made seven inches thick, and the outer one the same. This was done by all, from the sovereign to the common people, and not simply for the beauty of the appearance, but because they thus satisfied the natural feelings of their hearts. If prevented by statutory regulations from making their coffins in this way, men cannot have the feeling of pleasure. If they have not the money to make them in this way, they cannot have the feeling of pleasure. When they were not prevented, and had the money, the ancients all used this style. Why should I alone not do so? And moreover, is there no satisfaction to the natural feelings of a man, in preventing the earth from getting near to the bodies of his dead? I have heard that the superior man will not for all the world be niggardly to his parents.'

Shen Tong, on his own impulse, asked Mencius, saying, 'May Yan be smitten?'

Mencius replied, 'It may. Zi Kuai had no right to give Yan to another man, and Zi Zhi had no right to receive Yan from Zi Kuai. Suppose there were an officer here, with whom you, Sir, were pleased, and that, without informing the king, you were privately to give to him your salary and rank; and suppose that this officer, also without the king's orders, were privately to receive them from you - would such a transaction be allowable? And where is the difference between the case of Yan and this?'

The people of Qi smote Yan. Some one asked Mencius, saying, 'Is it really the case that you advised Qi to smite Yan?'

He replied, 'No. Shen Tong asked me whether Yan might be smitten, and I answered him, "It may." They accordingly went and smote it. If he had asked me, "Who may smite it?" I would have answered him, "He who is the minister of Heaven may smite it." Suppose the case of a murderer, and that one asks me, "May this man be put to death?" I will answer him, "He may." If he ask me, "Who may put him to death?" I will answer him, "The chief criminal judge may put him to death." But now with one Yan to smite another Yan - how should I have advised this?'

The people of Yan having rebelled, the king of Qi said, 'I feel very much ashamed when I think of Mencius.'

Chen Jia said to him, 'Let not your Majesty be grieved. Whether does your Majesty consider yourself or Zhou Gong the more benevolent and wise?'

The king replied, 'Oh! what words are those?'

'The duke of Zhou,' said Jia, 'appointed Guan Shu to oversee the heir of Yin, but Guan Shu with the power of the Yin State rebelled. If knowing that this would happen he appointed Guan Shu, he was deficient in benevolence. If he appointed him, not knowing that it would happen, he was deficient in knowledge. If the duke of Zhou was not completely benevolent and wise, how much less can your Majesty be expected to be so! I beg to go and see Mencius, and relieve your Majesty from that feeling.'

Chen Jia accordingly saw Mencius, and asked him, saying, 'What kind of man was the duke of Zhou?'

'An ancient sage,' was the reply.

'Is it the fact, that he appointed Guan Shu to oversee the heir of Yin, and that Guan Shu with the State of Yin rebelled?'

'It is.'

'Did the duke of Zhou know that he would rebel, and purposely appoint him to that office?'

Mencius said, 'He did not know.'

'Then, though a sage, he still fell into error?'

'The duke of Zhou,' answered Mencius, 'was the younger brother. Guan Shu was his elder brother. Was not the error of Zhou Gong in accordance with what is right? Moreover, when the superior men of old had errors, they reformed them. The superior men of the present time, when they have errors, persist in them. The errors of the superior men of old were like eclipses of the sun and moon. All the people witnessed them, and when they had reformed them, all the people looked up to them with their former admiration. But do the superior men of the present day only persist in their errors? They go on to apologize for them likewise.'

Mencius gave up his office, and made arrangements for returning to his native State. The king came to visit him, and said, 'Formerly, I wished to see you, but in vain. Then, I got the opportunity of being by your side, and all my court joyed exceedingly along with me. Now again you abandon me, and are returning home. I do not know if hereafter I may expect to have another opportunity of seeing you.' Mencius replied, 'I dare not request permission to visit you at any particular time, but, indeed, it is what I desire.'

Another day, the king said to the officer Shi, 'I wish to give Mencius a house, somewhere in the middle of the kingdom, and to support his disciples with an allowance of 10,000 zhong, that all the officers and the people may have such an example to reverence and imitate. Had you not better tell him this for me?'

Shi took advantage to convey this message by means of the disciple Chen, who reported his words to Mencius. Mencius said, 'Yes; but how should the officer Shi know that the thing could not be? Suppose that I wanted to be rich, having formerly declined 100,000 zhong, would my now accepting 10,000 be the conduct of one desiring riches? Ji Sun said, "A strange man was Zi Shu Yi. He pushed himself into the service of government. His prince declining to employ him, he had to retire indeed, but he again schemed that his son or younger brother should be made a high officer. Who indeed is there of men but wishes for riches and honour? But he only, among the seekers of these, tried to monopolize the conspicuous mound. "Of old time, the market-dealers exchanged the articles which they had for others which they had not, and simply had certain officers to keep order among them. It happened that there was a mean fellow, who made it a point to look out for a conspicuous mound, and get up upon it. Thence he looked right and left, to catch in his net the whole gain of the market. The people all thought his conduct mean, and therefore they proceeded to lay a tax upon his wares. The taxing of traders took its rise from this mean fellow."'

Mencius, having taken his leave of Qi, was passing the night in Zhou.

A person who wished to detain him on behalf of the king, came and sat down, and began to speak to him. Mencius gave him no answer, but leant upon his stool and slept. The visitor was displeased, and said, 'I passed the night in careful vigil, before I would venture to speak to you, and you, Master, sleep and do not listen to me. Allow me to request that I may not again presume to see you.'

Mencius replied, 'Sit down, and I will explain the case clearly to you. Formerly, if the duke Mou had not kept a person by the side of Zi Si, he could not have induced Zi Si to remain with him. If Xie Liu and Shen Xiang had not had a remembrancer by the side of the duke Mou, he would not have been able to make them feel at home and remain with him. You anxiously form plans with reference to me, but you do not treat me as Zi Si was treated. Is it you, Sir, who cut me? Or is it I who cut you?

When Mencius had left Qi, Yin Shi spoke about him to others, saying, 'If he did not know that the king could not be made a Tang or a Wu, that showed his want of intelligence. If he knew that he could not be made such, and came notwithstanding, that shows he was seeking his own benefit. He came a thousand li to wait on the king; because he did not find in him a ruler to suit him, he took his leave, but how dilatory and lingering was his departure, stopping three nights before he quitted Zhou! I am dissatisfied on account of this.'

The disciple Gao informed Mencius of these remarks. Mencius said, 'How should Yin Shi know me! When I came a thousand li to wait on the king, it was what I desired to do. When I went away because I did not find in him a ruler to suit me, was that what I desired to do? I felt myself constrained to do it. When I stopped three nights before I quitted Zhou, in my own mind I still considered my departure speedy. I was hoping that the king might change. If the king had changed, he would certainly have recalled me. When I quitted Zhou, and the king had not sent after me, then, and not till then, was my mind resolutely bent on returning to Cao. But, notwithstanding that, how can it be said that I give up the king? The king, after all, is one who may be made to do what is good. If he were to use me, would it be for the happiness of the people of Qi only ? It would be for the happiness of the people of the whole kingdom. I am hoping that the king will change. I am daily hoping for this. Am I like one of your little-minded people? They will remonstrate with their prince, and on their remonstrance not being accepted, they get angry; and, with their passion displayed in their countenance, they take their leave, and travel with all their strength for a whole day, before they will stop for the night.'

When Yin Shi heard this explanation, he said, 'I am indeed a small man.'

When Mencius left Qi, Chong Yu questioned him upon the way, saying, 'Master, you look like one who carries an air of dissatisfaction in his countenance. But formerly I heard you say, "The superior man does not murmur against Heaven, nor grudge against men."'

Mencius said, 'That was one time, and this is another. It is a rule that a true royal sovereign should arise in the course of five hundred years, and that during that time there should be men illustrious in their generation. From the commencement of the Zhou dynasty till now, more than seven hundred years have elapsed. Judging numerically, the date is past. Examining the character of the present time, we might expect the rise of such individuals in it. But Heaven does not yet wish that the kingdom should enjoy tranquillity and good order. If it wished this, who is there besides me to bring it about? How should I be otherwise than dissatisfied?'

When Mencius left Qi, he dwelt in Xiu.

There Gong Sun Chou asked him, saying, 'Was it the way of the ancients to hold office without receiving salary?'

Mencius replied, 'No; when I first saw the king in Chong, it was my intention, on retiring from the interview, to go away. Because I did not wish to change this intention, I declined to receive any salary. Immediately after, there came orders for the collection of troops, when it would have been improper for me to beg permission to leave. But to remain so long in Qi was not my purpose.'

English translation: Legge 1861

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