Click on any word to see more details.孟子曰：「盡其心者，知其性也。知其性，則知天矣。存其心，養其性，所以事天也。夭壽不貳，修身以俟之，所以立命也。」
Mencius said, 'He who has exhausted all his mental constitution knows his nature. Knowing his nature, he knows Heaven. To preserve one's mental constitution, and nourish one's nature, is the way to serve Heaven. When neither a premature death nor long life causes a man any double-mindedness, but he waits in the cultivation of his personal character for whatever issue; this is the way in which he establishes his Heaven-ordained being.'
Mencius said, 'There is an appointment for everything. A man should receive submissively what may be correctly ascribed thereto. Therefore, he who has the true idea of what is Heaven's appointment will not stand beneath a precipitous wall. Death sustained in the discharge of one's duties may correctly be ascribed to the appointment of Heaven. Death under handcuffs and fetters cannot correctly be so ascribed.'
Mencius said, 'When we get by our seeking and lose by our neglecting - in that case seeking is of use to getting, and the things sought for are those which are in ourselves. When the seeking is according to the proper course, and the getting is only as appointed - in that case the seeking is of no use to getting, and the things sought are without ourselves.'
Mencius said, 'All things are already complete in us. There is no greater delight than to be conscious of sincerity on self-examination. If one acts with a vigorous effort at the law of reciprocity, when he seeks for the realization of perfect virtue, nothing can be closer than his approximation to it.'
Mencius said, 'To act without understanding, and to do so habitually without examination, pursuing the proper path all the life without knowing its nature - this is the way of multitudes.'
Mencius said, 'A man may not be without shame. When one is ashamed of having been without shame, he will afterwards not have occasion to be ashamed.'
Mencius said, 'The sense of shame is to a man of great importance. Those who form contrivances and versatile schemes distinguished for their artfulness, do not allow their sense of shame to come into action. When one differs from other men in not having this sense of shame, what will he have in common with them?'
Mencius said, 'The able and virtuous monarchs of antiquity loved virtue and forgot their power. And shall an exception be made of the able and virtuous scholars of antiquity, that they did not do the same? They delighted in their own principles, and were oblivious of the power of princes. Therefore, if kings and dukes did not show the utmost respect, and observe all forms of ceremony, they were not permitted to come frequently and visit them. If they thus found it not in their power to pay them frequent visits, how much less could they get to employ them as ministers?'
Mencius said to Song Gou Jian, 'Are you fond, Sir, of travelling to the different courts? I will tell you about such travelling. If a prince acknowledge you and follow your counsels, be perfectly satisfied. If no one do so, be the same.'
Gou Jian said, 'What is to be done to secure this perfect satisfaction?'
Mencius replied, 'Honour virtue and delight in righteousness, and so you may always be perfectly satisfied. Therefore, a scholar, though poor, does not let go his righteousness; though prosperous, he does not leave his own path. Poor and not letting righteousness go - it is thus that the scholar holds possession of himself. Prosperous and not leaving the proper path - it is thus that the expectations of the people from him are not disappointed. When the men of antiquity realized their wishes, benefits were conferred by them on the people. If they did not realize their wishes, they cultivated their personal character, and became illustrious in the world. If poor, they attended to their own virtue in solitude; if advanced to dignity, they made the whole kingdom virtuous as well.'
Mencius said, 'The mass of men wait for a king Wen, and then they will receive a rousing impulse. Scholars distinguished from the mass, without a king Wan, rouse themselves.'
Mencius said, 'Add to a man the families of Han and Wei. If he then look upon himself without being elated, he is far beyond the mass of men.'
Mencius said, 'Let the people be employed in the way which is intended to secure their ease, and though they be toiled, they will not murmur. Let them be put to death in the way which is intended to preserve their lives, and though they die, they will not murmur at him who puts them to death.'
Mencius said, 'Under a chief, leading all the princes, the people look brisk and cheerful. Under a true sovereign, they have an air of deep contentment. Though he slay them, they do not murmur. When he benefits them, they do not think of his merit. From day to day they make progress towards what is good, without knowing who makes them do so. Wherever the superior man passes through, transformation follows; wherever he abides, his influence is of a spiritual nature. It flows abroad, above and beneath, like that of Heaven and Earth. How can it be said that he mends society but in a small way!'
Mencius said, 'Kindly words do not enter so deeply into men as a reputation for kindness. Good government does not lay hold of the people so much as good instructions. Good government is feared by the people, while good instructions are loved by them. Good government gets the people's wealth, while good instructions get their hearts.'
Mencius said, 'The ability possessed by men without having been acquired by learning is intuitive ability, and the knowledge possessed by them without the exercise of thought is their intuitive knowledge. Children carried in the arms all know to love their parents, and when they are grown a little, they all know to love their elder brothers. Filial affection for parents is the working of benevolence. Respect for elders is the working of righteousness. There is no other reason for those feelings - they belong to all under heaven.'
Mencius said, 'When Shun was living amid the deep retired mountains, dwelling with the trees and rocks, and wandering among the deer and swine, the difference between him and the rude inhabitants of those remote hills appeared very small. But when he heard a single good word, or saw a single good action, he was like a stream or a river bursting its banks, and flowing out in an irresistible flood.'
Mencius said, 'Let a man not do what his own sense of righteousness tells him not to do, and let him not desire what his sense of righteousness tells him not to desire - to act thus is all he has to do.'
Mencius said, 'Men who are possessed of intelligent virtue and prudence in affairs will generally be found to have been in sickness and troubles. They are the friendless minister and concubine's son, who keep their hearts under a sense of peril, and use deep precautions against calamity. On this account they become distinguished for their intelligence.'
Mencius said, 'There are persons who serve the prince; they serve the prince, that is, for the sake of his countenance and favour. There are ministers who seek the tranquillity of the State, and find their pleasure in securing that tranquillity. There are those who are the people of Heaven. They, judging that, if they were in office, they could carry out their principles, throughout the kingdom, proceed so to carry them out. There are those who are great men. They rectify themselves and others are rectified.'
Mencius said, 'The superior man has three things in which he delights, and to be ruler over the kingdom is not one of them. That his father and mother are both alive, and that the condition of his brothers affords no cause for anxiety; this is one delight. That, when looking up, he has no occasion for shame before Heaven, and, below, he has no occasion to blush before men; this is a second delight. That he can get from the whole kingdom the most talented individuals, and teach and nourish them; this is the third delight. The superior man has three things in which he delights, and to be ruler over the kingdom is not one of them.'
Mencius said, 'Wide territory and a numerous people are desired by the superior man, but what he delights in is not here. To stand in the centre of the kingdom, and tranquillize the people within the four seas - the superior man delights in this, but the highest enjoyment of his nature is not here. What belongs by his nature to the superior man cannot be increased by the largeness of his sphere of action, nor diminished by his dwelling in poverty and retirement - for this reason that it is determinately apportioned to him by Heaven. What belongs by his nature to the superior man are benevolence, righteousness, propriety, and knowledge. These are rooted in his heart; their growth and manifestation are a mild harmony appearing in the countenance, a rich fullness in the back, and the character imparted to the four limbs. Those limbs understand to arrange themselves, without being told.'
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, to avoid Zhou, was dwelling on the coast of the eastern sea. When he heard of the rise of king Wen, he said, "Why should I not go and follow him? I have heard that the chief if the West knows well how to nourish the old." If there were a prince in the kingdom, who knew well how to nourish the old, all men of virtue would feel that he was the proper object for them to gather to. Around the homestead with its five mau, the space beneath the walls was planted with mulberry trees, with which the women nourished silkworms, and thus the old were able to have silk to wear. Each family had five brood hens and two brood sows, which were kept to their breeding seasons, and thus the old were able to have flesh to eat. The husbandmen cultivated their farms of 100 mu, and thus their families of eight mouths were secured against want. The expression, "The chief of the West knows well how to nourish the old," refers to his regulation of the fields and dwellings, his teaching them to plant the mulberry and nourish those animals, and his instructing the wives and children, so as to make them nourish their aged. At fifty, warmth cannot be maintained without silks, and at seventy flesh is necessary to satisfy the appetite. Persons not kept warm nor supplied with food are said to be starved and famished, but among the people of king Wen, there were no aged who were starved or famished. This is the meaning of the expression in question.'
Mencius said, 'Let it be seen to that their fields of grain and hemp are well cultivated, and make the taxes on them light - so the people may be made rich. Let it be seen to that the people use their resources of food seasonably, and expend their wealth only on the prescribed ceremonies - so their wealth will be more than can be consumed. The people cannot live without water and fire, yet if you knock at a man's door in the dusk of the evening, and ask for water and fire, there is no man who will not give them, such is the abundance of these things. A sage governs the kingdom so as to cause pulse and grain to be as abundant as water and fire. When pulse and grain are as abundant as water and fire, how shall the people be other than virtuous?'
Mencius said, 'Confucius ascended the eastern hill, and Lu appeared to him small. He ascended the Tai mountain, and all beneath the heavens appeared to him small. So he who has contemplated the sea, finds it difficult to think anything of other waters, and he who has wandered in the gate of the sage, finds it difficult to think anything of the words of others. There is an art in the contemplation of water. It is necessary to look at it as foaming in waves. The sun and moon being possessed of brilliancy, their light admitted even through an orifice illuminates. Flowing water is a thing which does not proceed till it has filled the hollows in its course. The student who has set his mind on the doctrines of the sage, does not advance to them but by completing one lesson after another.'
Mencius said, 'He who rises at cock-crowing and addresses himself earnestly to the practice of virtue, is a disciple of Shun. He who rises at cock-crowing, and addresses himself earnestly to the pursuit of gain, is a disciple of Zhi. If you want to know what separates Shun from Zhi, it is simply this: the interval between the thought of gain and the thought of virtue.'
Mencius said, 'The principle of the philosopher Yang was "Each one for himself." Though he might have benefited the whole kingdom by plucking out a single hair, he would not have done it. The philosopher Mo loves all equally. If by rubbing smooth his whole body from the crown to the heel, he could have benefited the kingdom, he would have done it. Zi Mo holds a medium between these. By holding that medium, he is nearer the right. But by holding it without leaving room for the exigency of circumstances, it becomes like their holding their one point. The reason why I hate that holding to one point is the injury it does to the way of right principle. It takes up one point and disregards a hundred others.'
Mencius said, 'The hungry think any food sweet, and the thirsty think the same of any drink, and thus they do not get the right taste of what they eat and drink. The hunger and thirst, in fact, injure their palate. And is it only the mouth and belly which are injured by hunger and thirst? Men's minds are also injured by them. If a man can prevent the evils of hunger and thirst from being any evils to his mind, he need not have any sorrow about not being equal to other men.'
Mencius said, 'Hui of Liu Xia would not for the three highest offices of State have changed his firm purpose of life.'
Mencius said, 'A man with definite aims to be accomplished may be compared to one digging a well. To dig the well to a depth of seventy-two cubits, and stop without reaching the spring, is after all throwing away the well.'
Mencius said, 'Benevolence and righteousness were natural to Yao and Shun. Tang and Wu made them their own. The five chiefs of the princes feigned them. Having borrowed them long and not returned them, how could it be known they did not own them?'
Gong Sun Chou said, 'Yi Yin said, "I cannot be near and see him so disobedient to reason," and therewith he banished Tai Jia to Tong. The people were much pleased. When Tai Jia became virtuous, he brought him back, and the people were again much pleased. When worthies are ministers, may they indeed banish their sovereigns in this way when they are not virtuous?'
Mencius replied, 'If they have the same purpose as Yi Yin, they may. If they have not the same purpose, it would be usurpation.'
Gong Sun Chou said, 'It is said, in the Book of Poetry, "He will not eat the bread of idleness!" How is it that we see superior men eating without labouring?'
Mencius replied, 'When a superior man resides in a country, if its sovereign employ his counsels, he comes to tranquillity, wealth and glory. If the young in it follow his instructions, they become filial, obedient to their elders, true-hearted, and faithful. What greater example can there be than this of not eating the bread of idleness?'
The king's son, Dian, asked Mencius, saying, 'What is the business of the unemployed scholar?'
Mencius replied, 'To exalt his aim.'
The answer was, 'Setting it simply on benevolence and righteousness. He thinks how to put a single innocent person to death is contrary to benevolence; how to take what one has not a right to is contrary to righteousness; that one's dwelling should be benevolence; and one's path should be righteousness. Where else should he dwell? What other path should he pursue? When benevolence is the dwelling-place of the heart, and righteousness the path of the life, the business of a great man is complete.'
Mencius said, 'Supposing that the kingdom of Qi were offered, contrary to righteousness, to Chen Zhong, he would not receive it, and all people believe in him, as a man of the highest worth. But this is only the righteousness which declines a dish of rice or a plate of soup. A man can have no greater crimes than to disown his parents and relatives, and the relations of sovereign and minister, superiors and inferiors. How can it be allowed to give a man credit for the great excellences because he possesses a small one?'
Tao Ying asked, saying, 'Shun being sovereign, and Gao Yao chief minister of justice, if Gu Sou had murdered a man, what would have been done in the case?'
Mencius said, 'Gao Yao would simply have apprehended him.'
'But would not Shun have forbidden such a thing?'
'Indeed, how could Shun have forbidden it? Gao Yao had received the law from a proper source.'
'In that case what would Shun have done?'
'Shun would have regarded abandoning the kingdom as throwing away a worn-out sandal. He would privately have taken his father on his back, and retired into concealment, living some where along the sea-coast. There he would have been all his life, cheerful and happy, forgetting the kingdom.'
Mencius, going from Fan to Qi, saw the king of Qi's son at a distance, and said with a deep sigh, 'One's position alters the air, just as the nurture affects the body. Great is the influence of position! Are we not all men's sons in this respect?'
Mencius said, 'The residence, the carriages and horses, and the dress of the king's son, are mostly the same as those of other men. That he looks so is occasioned by his position. How much more should a peculiar air distinguish him whose position is in the wide house of the world! 'When the prince of Lu went to Song, he called out at the Die Shi gate, and the keeper said, "This is not our prince. How is it that his voice is so like that of our prince?" This was occasioned by nothing but the correspondence of their positions.'
Mencius said, 'To feed a scholar and not love him, is to treat him as a pig. To love him and not respect him, is to keep him as a domestic animal. Honouring and respecting are what exist before any offering of gifts. If there be honouring and respecting without the reality of them, a superior man may not be retained by such empty demonstrations.'
Mencius said, 'The bodily organs with their functions belong to our Heaven-conferred nature. But a man must be a sage before he can satisfy the design of his bodily organization.'
The king Xuan of Qi wanted to shorten the period of mourning. Gong Sun Chou said, 'To have one whole year's mourning is better than doing away with it altogether.'
Mencius said, 'That is just as if there were one twisting the arm of his elder brother, and you were merely to say to him "Gently, gently, if you please." Your only course should be to teach such an one filial piety and fraternal duty.'
At that time, the mother of one of the king's sons had died, and his tutor asked for him that he might be allowed to observe a few months' mourning. Gong Sun Chou asked, 'What do you say of this?'
Mencius replied, 'This is a case where the party wishes to complete the whole period, but finds it impossible to do so. The addition of even a single day is better than not mourning at all. I spoke of the case where there was no hindrance, and the party neglected the thing itself.'
Mencius said, 'There are five ways in which the superior man effects his teaching. There are some on whom his influence descends like seasonable rain. There are some whose virtue he perfects, and some of whose talents he assists the development. There are some whose inquiries he answers. There are some who privately cultivate and correct themselves. These five ways are the methods in which the superior man effects his teaching.'
Gong Sun Chou said, 'Lofty are your principles and admirable, but to learn them may well be likened to ascending the heavens - something which cannot be reached. Why not adapt your teaching so as to cause learners to consider them attainable, and so daily exert themselves!'
Mencius said, 'A great artificer does not, for the sake of a stupid workman, alter or do away with the marking-line. Yi did not, for the sake of a stupid archer, charge his rule for drawing the bow. The superior man draws the bow, but does not discharge the arrow, having seemed to leap with it to the mark; and he there stands exactly in the middle of the path. Those who are able, follow him.'
Mencius said, 'When right principles prevail throughout the kingdom, one's principles must appear along with one's person. When right principles disappear from the kingdom, one's person must vanish along with one's principles. I have not heard of one's principles being dependent for their manifestation on other men.'
The disciple Gong Du said, 'When Geng of Tang made his appearance in your school, it seemed proper that a polite consideration should be paid to him, and yet you did not answer him. Why was that?'
Mencius replied, 'I do not answer him who questions me presuming on his nobility, nor him who presumes on his talents, nor him who presumes on his age, nor him who presumes on services performed to me, nor him who presumes on old acquaintance. Two of those things were chargeable on Geng of Tang.'
Mencius said, 'He who stops short where stopping is acknowledged to be not allowable, will stop short in everything. He who behaves shabbily to those whom he ought to treat well, will behave shabbily to all. He who advances with precipitation will retire with speed.'
Mencius said, 'In regard to inferior creatures, the superior man is kind to them, but not loving. In regard to people generally, he is loving to them, but not affectionate. He is affectionate to his parents, and lovingly disposed to people generally. He is lovingly disposed to people generally, and kind to creatures.'
Mencius said, 'The wise embrace all knowledge, but they are most earnest about what is of the greatest importance. The benevolent embrace all in their love, but what they consider of the greatest importance is to cultivate an earnest affection for the virtuous. Even the wisdom of Yao and Shun did not extend to everything, but they attended earnestly to what was important. Their benevolence did not show itself in acts of kindness to every man, but they earnestly cultivated an affection for the virtuous. Not to be able to keep the three years' mourning, and to be very particular about that of three months, or that of five months; to eat immoderately and swill down the soup, and at the same time to inquire about the precept not to tear the meat with the teeth; such things show what I call an ignorance of what is most important.
English translation: Legge 1861
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