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Mencius 孟子

離婁上 Li Lou I

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Mencius said, 'The power of vision of Li Lou, and skill of hand of Gong Shu, without the compass and square, could not form squares and circles. The acute ear of the music-master Kuang, without the pitch-tubes, could not determine correctly the five notes. The principles of Yao and Shun, without a benevolent government, could not secure the tranquil order of the kingdom. There are now princes who have benevolent hearts and a reputation for benevolence, while yet the people do not receive any benefits from them, nor will they leave any example to future ages - all because they do not put into practice the ways of the ancient kings.

'Hence we have the saying: "Virtue alone is not sufficient for the exercise of government; laws alone cannot carry themselves into practice." It is said in the Book of Poetry, "Without transgression, without forgetfulness, Following the ancient statutes." Never has any one fallen into error, who followed the laws of the ancient kings. When the sages had used the vigour of their eyes, they called in to their aid the compass, the square, the level, and the line, to make things square, round, level, and straight: the use of the instruments is inexhaustible. When they had used their power of hearing to the utmost, they called in the pitch-tubes to their aid to determine the five notes - the use of those tubes is inexhaustible. When they had exerted to the utmost the thoughts of their hearts, they called in to their aid a government that could not endure to witness the sufferings of men - and their benevolence overspread the kingdom.

'Hence we have the saying: "To raise a thing high, we must begin from the top of a mound or a hill; to dig to a great depth, we must commence in the low ground of a stream or a marsh." Can he be pronounced wise, who, in the exercise of government, does not proceed according to the ways of the former kings? Therefore only the benevolent ought to be in high stations. When a man destitute of benevolence is in a high station, he thereby disseminates his wickedness among all below him. When the prince has no principles by which he examines his administration, and his ministers have no laws by which they keep themselves in the discharge of their duties, then in the court obedience is not paid to principle, and in the office obedience is not paid to rule. Superiors violate the laws of righteousness, and inferiors violate the penal laws. It is only by a fortunate chance that a State in such a case is preserved.

'Therefore it is said, "It is not the exterior and interior walls being incomplete, and the supply of weapons offensive and defensive not being large, which constitutes the calamity of a kingdom. It is not the cultivable area not being extended, and stores and wealth not being accumulated, which occasions the ruin of a State." When superiors do not observe the rules of propriety, and inferiors do not learn, then seditious people spring up, and that State will perish in no time. It is said in the Book of Poetry, "When such an overthrow of Zhou is being produced by Heaven, Be not ye so much at your ease!" " At your ease;" - that is, dilatory. And so dilatory may those officers be deemed, who serve their prince without righteousness, who take office and retire from it without regard to propriety, and who in their words disown the ways of the ancient kings. Therefore it is said, "To urge one's sovereign to difficult achievements may be called showing respect for him. To set before him what is good and repress his perversities may be called showing reverence for him. He who does not do these things, saying to himself, My sovereign is incompetent to this, may be said to play the thief with him."'

Mencius said, 'The compass and square produce perfect circles and squares. By the sages, the human relations are perfectly exhibited. He who as a sovereign would perfectly discharge the duties of a sovereign, and he who as a minister would perfectly discharge the duties of a minister, have only to imitate - the one Yao, and the other Shun. He who does not serve his sovereign as Shun served Yao, does not respect his sovereign; and he who does not rule his people as Yao ruled his, injures his people. Confucius said, "There are but two courses, which can be pursued, that of virtue and its opposite." A ruler who carries the oppression of his people to the highest pitch, will himself be slain, and his kingdom will perish. If one stop short of the highest pitch, his life will notwithstanding be in danger, and his kingdom will be weakened. He will be styled "The Dark," or "The Cruel," and though he may have filial sons and affectionate grandsons, they will not be able in a hundred generations to change the designation. This is what is intended in the words of the Book of Poetry, "The beacon of Yin is not remote, It is in the time of the (last) sovereign of Xia."'

Mencius said, 'It was by benevolence that the three dynasties gained the throne, and by not being benevolent that they lost it. It is by the same means that the decaying and flourishing, the preservation and perishing, of States are determined. If the sovereign be not benevolent, he cannot preserve the throne from passing from him. If the Head of a State be not benevolent, he cannot preserve his rule. If a high noble or great officer be not benevolent, he cannot preserve his ancestral temple. If a scholar or common man be not benevolent, be cannot preserve his four limbs. Now they hate death and ruin, and yet delight in being not benevolent - this is like hating to be drunk, and yet being strong to drink wine!'

Mencius said, 'If a man love others, and no responsive attachment is shown to him, let him turn inwards and examine his own benevolence. If he is trying to rule others, and his government is unsuccessful, let him turn inwards and examine his wisdom. If he treats others politely, and they do not return his politeness, let him turn inwards and examine his own feeling of respect. When we do not, by what we do, realise what we desire, we must turn inwards, and examine ourselves in every point. When a man's person is correct, the whole kingdom will turn to him with recognition and submission. It is said in the Book of Poetry, "Be always studious to be in harmony with the ordinances of God, And you will obtain much happiness."'

Mencius said, 'People have this common saying, "The kingdom, the State, the family." The root of the kingdom is in the State. The root of the State is in the family. The root of the family is in the person of its Head.'

Mencius said, 'The administration of government is not difficult - it lies in not offending the great families. He whom the great families affect, will be affected by the whole State; and he whom any one State affects, will be affected by the whole kingdom. When this is the case, such an one's virtue and teachings will spread over all within the four seas like the rush of water.'

Mencius said, 'When right government prevails in the kingdom, princes of little virtue are submissive to those of great, and those of little worth to those of great. When bad government prevails in the kingdom, princes of small power are submissive to those of great, and the weak to the strong. Both these cases are the rule of Heaven. They who accord with Heaven are preserved, and they who rebel against Heaven perish. The duke Jing of Qi said, "Not to be able to command others, and at the same time to refuse to receive their commands, is to cut one's self off from all intercourse with others." His tears flowed forth while he gave his daughter to be married to the prince of Wu.

'Now the small States imitate the large, and yet are ashamed to receive their commands. This is like a scholar's being ashamed to receive the commands of his master. For a prince who is ashamed of this, the best plan is to imitate king Wen. Let one imitate king Wen, and in five years, if his State be large, or in seven years, if it be small, he will be sure to give laws to the kingdom. It is said in the Book of Poetry, "The descendants of the sovereigns of the Shang dynasty, Are in number more than hundreds of thousands, But, God having passed His decree, They are all submissive to Zhou. They are submissive to Zhou, Because the decree of Heaven is not unchanging. The officers of Yin, admirable and alert, Pour out the libations, and assist in the capital of Zhou." Confucius said, "As against so benevolent a sovereign, they could not be deemed a multitude." Thus, if the prince of a state love benevolence, he will have no opponent in all the kingdom. Now they wish to have no opponent in all the kingdom, but they do not seek to attain this by being benevolent. This is like a man laying hold of a heated substance, and not having first dipped it in water. It is said in the Book of Poetry, "Who can take up a heated substance, Without first dipping it (in water)?"'

Mencius said, 'How is it possible to speak with those princes who are not benevolent? Their perils they count safety, their calamities they count profitable, and they have pleasure in the things by which they perish. If it were possible to talk with them who so violate benevolence, how could we have such destruction of States and ruin of Families? There was a boy singing, "When the water of the Cang Lang is clear, It does to wash the strings of my cap; When the water of the Cang Lang is muddy, It does to wash my feet." Confucius said, "Hear what he sings, my children. When clear, then he will wash his cap-strings; and when muddy, he will wash his feet with it. This different application is brought by the water on itself." A man must first despise himself, and then others will despise him. A family must first destroy itself, and then others will destroy it. A State must first smite itself, and then others will smite it. This is illustrated in the passage of the Tai Jia, "When Heaven sends down calamities, it is still possible to escape them. When we occasion the calamities ourselves, it is not possible any longer to live."'

Mencius said, 'Jie and Zhou's losing the throne, arose from their losing the people, and to lose the people means to lose their hearts. There is a way to get the kingdom: get the people, and the kingdom is got. There is a way to get the people: get their hearts, and the people are got. There is a way to get their hearts: it is simply to collect for them what they like, and not to lay on them what they dislike. The people turn to a benevolent rule as water flows downwards, and as wild beasts fly to the wilderness. Accordingly, as the otter aids the deep waters, driving the fish into them, and the hawk aids the thickets, driving the little birds to them, so Jie and Zhou aided Tang and Wu, driving the people to them. If among the present rulers of the kingdom, there were one who loved benevolence, all the other princes would aid him, by driving the people to him. Although he wished not to become sovereign, he could not avoid becoming so. The case of one of the present princes wishing to become sovereign is like the having to seek for mugwort three years old, to cure a seven years' sickness. If it have not been kept in store, the patient may all his life not get it. If the princes do not set their wills on benevolence, all their days will be in sorrow and disgrace, and they will be involved in death and ruin. This is illustrated by what is said in the Book of Poetry, "How otherwise can you improve the kingdom? You will only with it go to ruin."'

Mencius said, 'With those who do violence to themselves, it is impossible to speak. With those who throw themselves away, it is impossible to do anything. To disown in his conversation propriety and righteousness, is what we mean by doing violence to one's self. To say "I am not able to dwell in benevolence or pursue the path of righteousness," is what we mean by throwing one's self away. Benevolence is the tranquil habitation of man, and righteousness is his straight path. Alas for them, who leave the tranquil dwelling empty and do not reside in it, and who abandon the right path and do not pursue it?'

Mencius said, 'The path of duty lies in what is near, and men seek for it in what is remote. The work of duty lies in what is easy, and men seek for it in what is difficult. If each man would love his parents and show the due respect to his elders, the whole land would enjoy tranquillity.'

Mencius said, 'When those occupying inferior situations do not obtain the confidence of the sovereign, they cannot succeed in governing the people. There is a way to obtain the confidence of the sovereign: if one is not trusted by his friends, he will not obtain the confidence of his sovereign. There is a way of being trusted by one's friends: if one do not serve his parents so as to make them pleased, he will not be trusted by his friends. There is a way to make one's parents pleased: if one, on turning his thoughts inwards, finds a want of sincerity, he will not give pleasure to his parents. There is a way to the attainment of sincerity in one's self: if a man do not understand what is good, he will not attain sincerity in himself. Therefore, sincerity is the way of Heaven. To think how to be sincere is the way of man. Never has there been one possessed of complete sincerity, who did not move others. Never has there been one who had not sincerity who was able to move others.'

Mencius said, 'Bo Yi, that he might avoid Zhou, was dwelling on the coast of the northern sea. When he heard of the rise of king Wen, he roused himself, and said, "Why should I not go and follow him? I have heard that the chief of the West knows well how to nourish the old." Tai Gong, that he might avoid Zhou, was dwelling on the coast of the eastern sea. When he heard of the rise of king Wen, he roused himself, and said, "Why should I not go and follow him? I have heard that the chief of the West knows well how to nourish the old." Those two old men were the greatest old men of the kingdom. When they came to follow king Wen, it was the fathers of the kingdom coming to follow him. When the fathers of the kingdom joined him, how could the sons go to any other? Were any of the princes to practise the government of king Wen, within seven years he would be sure to be giving laws to the kingdom.'

Mencius said, 'Qiu acted as chief officer to the head of the Ji family, whose evil ways he was unable to change, while he exacted from the people double the grain formerly paid. Confucius said, "He is no disciple of mine. Little children, beat the drum and assail him." Looking at the subject from this case, we perceive that when a prince was not practising benevolent government, all his ministers who enriched him were rejected by Confucius - how much more would he have rejected those who are vehement to fight for their prince! When contentions about territory are the ground on which they fight, they slaughter men till the fields are filled with them. When some struggle for a city is the ground on which they fight, they slaughter men till the city is filled with them. This is what is called "leading on the land to devour human flesh." Death is not enough for such a crime. Therefore, those who are skilful to fight should suffer the highest punishment. Next to them should be punished those who unite some princes in leagues against others; and next to them, those who take in grassy commons, imposing the cultivation of the ground on the people.'

Mencius said, 'Of all the parts of a man's body there is none more excellent than the pupil of the eye. The pupil cannot be used to hide a man's wickedness. If within the breast all be correct, the pupil is bright. If within the breast all be not correct, the pupil is dull. Listen to a man's words and look at the pupil of his eye. How can a man conceal his character?'

Mencius said, 'The respectful do not despise others. The economical do not plunder others. The prince who treats men with despite and plunders them, is only afraid that they may not prove obedient to him - how can he be regarded as respectful or economical? How can respectfulness and economy be made out of tones of the voice, and a smiling manner?'

Chun Yu Kun said, 'Is it the rule that males and females shall not allow their hands to touch in giving or receiving anything?'


Mencius replied, 'It is the rule.'

Kun asked, 'If a man's sister-in-law be drowning, shall he rescue her with his hand?'

Mencius said, 'He who would not so rescue the drowning woman is a wolf. For males and females not to allow their hands to touch in giving and receiving is the general rule; when a sister-in-law is drowning, to rescue her with the hand is a peculiar exigency.'

Kun said, 'The whole kingdom is drowning. How strange it is that you will not rescue it!'

Mencius answered, 'A drowning kingdom must be rescued with right principles, as a drowning sister-in-law has to be rescued with the hand. Do you wish me to rescue the kingdom with my hand?'

Gong Sun Chou said, 'Why is it that the superior man does not himself teach his son?'

Mencius replied, 'The circumstances of the case forbid its being done. The teacher must inculcate what is correct. When he inculcates what is correct, and his lessons are not practised, he follows them up with being angry. When he follows them up with being angry, then, contrary to what should be, he is offended with his son. At the same time, the pupil says, 'My master inculcates on me what is correct, and he himself does not proceed in a correct path." The result of this is, that father and son are offended with each other. When father and son come to be offended with each other, the case is evil. The ancients exchanged sons, and one taught the son of another. Between father and son, there should be no reproving admonitions to what is good. Such reproofs lead to alienation, and than alienation there is nothing more inauspicious.'

Mencius said, 'Of services, which is the greatest? The service of parents is the greatest. Of charges, which is the greatest ? The charge of one's self is the greatest. That those who do not fail to keep themselves are able to serve their parents is what I have heard. But I have never heard of any, who, having failed to keep themselves, were able notwithstanding to serve their parents. There are many services, but the service of parents is the root of all others. There are many charges, but the charge of one's self is the root of all others. The philosopher Zeng, in nourishing Zeng Xi, was always sure to have wine and flesh provided. And when they were being removed, he would ask respectfully to whom he should give what was left. If his father asked whether there was anything left, he was sure to say, "There is." After the death of Zeng Xi, when Zeng Yuan came to nourish Zengzi, he was always sure to have wine and flesh provided. But when the things were being removed, he did not ask to whom he should give what was left, and if his father asked whether there was anything left, he would answer "No;" - intending to bring them in again. This was what is called "nourishing the mouth and body." We may call Zengzi's practice "nourishing the will." To serve one's parents as Zengzi served his, may be accepted as flial piety.'

Mencius said, 'It is not enough to remonstrate with a sovereign on account of the mal-employment of ministers, nor to blame errors of government. It is only the great man who can rectify what is wrong in the sovereign's mind. Let the prince be benevolent, and all his acts will be benevolent. Let the prince be righteous, and all his acts will be righteous. Let the prince be correct, and everything will be correct. Once rectify the ruler, and the kingdom will be firmly settled.'

Mencius said, 'There are cases of praise which could not be expected, and of reproach when the parties have been seeking to be perfect.'

Mencius said, 'Men's being ready with their tongues arises simply from their not having been reproved.'

Mencius said, 'The evil of men is that they like to be teachers of others.'

The disciple Yue Zheng went in the train of Zi Ao to Qi. He came to see Mencius, who said to him, 'Are you also come to see me?' Yue Zheng replied, 'Master, why do you speak such words?' 'How many days have you been here?' asked Mencius. 'I came yesterday.' 'Yesterday! Is it not with reason then that I thus speak?' 'My lodging-house was not arranged.' 'Have you heard that a scholar's lodging-house must be arranged before he visit his elder?' Yue Zheng said, 'I have done wrong.'

Mencius, addressing the disciple Yue Zheng, said to him, 'Your coming here in the train of Zi Ao was only because of the food and the drink. I could not have thought that you, having learned the doctrine of the ancients, would have acted with a view to eating and drinking.'

Mencius said, 'There are three things which are unfilial, and to have no posterity is the greatest of them. Shun married without informing his parents because of this, lest he should have no posterity. Superior men consider that his doing so was the same as if he had informed them.'

Mencius said, 'The richest fruit of benevolence is this: the service of one's parents. The richest fruit of righteousness is this: the obeying one's elder brothers. The richest fruit of wisdom is this: the knowing those two things, and not departing from them. The richest fruit of propriety is this: the ordering and adorning those two things. The richest fruit of music is this: the rejoicing in those two things. When they are rejoiced in, they grow. Growing, how can they be repressed? When they come to this state that they cannot be repressed, then unconsciously the feet begin to dance and the hands to move.'

Mencius said, 'Suppose the case of the whole kingdom turning in great delight to an individual to submit to him. To regard the whole kingdom thus turning to him in great delight but as a bundle of grass - only Shun was capable of this. He considered that if one could not get the hearts of his parents he could not be considered a man, and that if he could not get to an entire accord with his parents, he could not be considered a son. By Shun's completely fulfilling everything by which a parent could be served, Gu Sou was brought to find delight in what was good. When Gu Sou was brought to find that delight, the whole kingdom was transformed. When Gu Sou was brought to find that delight, all fathers and sons in the kingdom were established in their respective duties. This is called great filial piety.'

English translation: Legge 1861

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