The Chinese Classics/Volume 2/The Works of Mencius/chapter03
Gong Sun Chou I
Gong Sun Chou asked Mencius, saying, 'Master, if you were to obtain the ordering of the government in Qi, could you promise yourself to accomplish anew such results as those realized by Guan Zhong and Yan?'
Mencius said, 'You are indeed a true man of Qi. You know about Guan Zhong and Yan, and nothing more. Some one asked Zeng Xi, saying, "Sir, to which do you give the superiority, to yourself or to Zi Lu?" Zeng Zi looked uneasy, and said, "He was an object of veneration to my grandfather." "Then," pursued the other, "Do you give the superiority to yourself or to Guan Zhong?" Zeng Zi, flushed with anger and displeased, said, "How dare you compare me with Guan Zhong? Considering how entirely Guan Zhong possessed the confidence of his prince, how long he enjoyed the direction of the government of the State, and how low, after all, was what he accomplished - how is it that you liken me to him?" Thus,' concluded Mencius, 'Zeng Xi would not play Guan Zhong, and is it what you desire for me that I should do so?'
Gong Sun Chou said, 'Guan Zhong raised his prince to be the leader of all the other princes, and Yan made his prince illustrious, and do you still think it would not be enough for you to do what they did?'
Mencius answered, 'To raise Qi to the royal dignity would be as easy as it is to turn round the hand.'
'So!' returned the other. 'The perplexity of your disciple is hereby very much increased. There was king Wen, moreover, with all the virtue which belonged to him; and who did not die till he had reached a hundred years - and still his influence had not penetrated throughout the kingdom. It required king Wu and the duke of Zhou to continue his course, before that influence greatly prevailed. Now you say that the royal dignity might be so easily obtained - is king Wen then not a sufficient object for imitation?'
Mencius said, 'How can king Wen be matched? From Tang to Wu Ding there had appeared six or seven worthy and sage sovereigns. The kingdom had been attached to Yin for a long time, and this length of time made a change difficult. Wu Ding had all the princes coming to his court, and possessed the kingdom as if it had been a thing which he moved round in his palm. Then, Zhou was removed from Wu Ding by no great interval of time. There were still remaining some of the ancient families and of the old manners, of the influence also which had emanated from the earlier sovereigns, and of their good government. Moreover, there were the viscount of Wei and his second son, their Royal Highnesses Bi Gan and the viscount of Qi, and Jiao Ge, all men of ability and virtue, who gave their joint assistance to Zhou in his government. In consequence of these things, it took a long time for him to lose the throne. There was not a foot of ground which he did not possess. There was not one of all the people who was not his subject. So it was on his side, and king Wen at his beginning had only a territory of one hundred square li. On all these accounts, it was difficult for him immediately to attain to the royal dignity. The people of Qi have a saying - "A man may have wisdom and discernment, but that is not like embracing the favourable opportunity. A man may have instruments of husbandry, but that is not like waiting for the farming seasons."
The present time is one in which the royal dignity may be easily attained. In the flourishing periods of the Xia, Yin, and Zhou dynasties, the royal domain did not exceed a thousand li, and Qi embraces so much territory. Cocks crow and dogs bark to one another, all the way to the four borders of the State - so Qi possesses the people. No change is needed for the enlarging of its territory; no change is needed for the collecting of a population. If its ruler will put in practice a benevolent government, no power will be able to prevent his becoming sovereign. Moreover, never was there a time farther removed than the present from the rise of a true sovereign: never was there a time when the sufferings of the people from tyrannical government were more intense than the present. The hungry readily partake of any food, and the thirsty of any drink. Confucius said, "The flowing progress of virtue is more rapid than the transmission of royal orders by stages and couriers." At the present time, in a country of ten thousand chariots, let benevolent government be put in practice, and the people will be delighted with it, as if they were relieved from hanging by the heels. With half the merit of the ancients, double their achievements is sure to be realized. It is only at this time that such could be the case.'
Gong Sun Chou asked Mencius, saying, 'Master, if you were to be appointed a high noble and the prime minister of Qi, so as to be able to carry your principles into practice, though you should thereupon raise the ruler to the headship of all the other princes, or even to the royal dignity, it would not be to be wondered at. In such a position would your mind be perturbed or not?'
Mencius replied, 'No. At forty, I attained to an unperturbed mind.'
Chou said, 'Since it is so with you, my Master, you are far beyond Meng Ben.'
'The mere attainment,' said Mencius, 'is not difficult. The scholar Gao had attained to an unperturbed mind at an earlier period of life than I did.'
Chou asked, 'Is there any way to an unperturbed mind?'
The answer was, 'Yes. Bei Gong You had this way of nourishing his valour: He did not flinch from any strokes at his body. He did not turn his eyes aside from any thrusts at them. He considered that the slightest push from any one was the same as if he were beaten before the crowds in the market-place, and that what he would not receive from a common man in his loose large garments of hair, neither should he receive from a prince of ten thousand chariots. He viewed stabbing a prince of ten thousand chariots just as stabbing a fellow dressed in cloth of hair. He feared not any of all the princes. A bad word addressed to him be always returned. Meng Shi She had this way of nourishing his valour: He said, "I look upon not conquering and conquering in the same way. To measure the enemy and then advance; to calculate the chances of victory and then engage - this is to stand in awe of the opposing force. How can I make certain of conquering? I can only rise superior to all fear." Meng Shi She resembled the philosopher Zeng. Bei Gong You resembled Zi Xia. I do not know to the valour of which of the two the superiority should be ascribed, but yet Meng Shi She attended to what was of the greater importance. Formerly, the philosopher Zeng said to Zi Xiang, "Do you love valour? I heard an account of great valour from the Master. It speaks thus: 'If, on self-examination, I find that I am not upright, shall I not be in fear even of a poor man in his loose garments of hair-cloth? If, on self-examination, I find that I am upright, I will go forward against thousands and tens of thousands.' Yet, what Meng Shi She maintained, being merely his physical energy, was after all inferior to what the philosopher Zeng maintained, which was indeed of the most importance.'
Gong Sun Chou said, 'May I venture to ask an explanation from you, Master, of how you maintain an unperturbed mind, and how the philosopher Gao does the same?'
Mencius answered, 'Gao says, "What is not attained in words is not to be sought for in the mind; what produces dissatisfaction in the mind, is not to be helped by passion-effort." This last, when there is unrest in the mind, not to seek for relief from passion-effort, may be conceded. But not to seek in the mind for what is not attained in words cannot be conceded. The will is the leader of the passion-nature. The passion-nature pervades and animates the body. The will is first and chief, and the passion-nature is subordinate to it. Therefore I say, Maintain firm the will, and do no violence to the passion-nature.'
Chou observed, 'Since you say "The will is chief, and the passion-nature is subordinate," how do you also say, "Maintain firm the will, and do no violence to the passion-nature?"'
Mencius replied, 'When it is the will alone which is active, it moves the passion-nature. When it is the passion-nature alone which is active, it moves the will. For instance now, in the case of a man falling or running, that is from the passion-nature, and yet it moves the mind.'
'I venture to ask,' said Chou again, 'wherein you, Master, surpass Gao.'
Mencius told him, 'I understand words. I am skilful in nourishing my vast, flowing passion-nature.'
Chou pursued, 'I venture to ask what you mean by your vast, flowing passion-nature!'
The reply was, 'It is difficult to describe it. This is the passion-nature: It is exceedingly great, and exceedingly strong. Being nourished by rectitude, and sustaining no injury, it fills up all between heaven and earth. This is the passion-nature: It is the mate and assistant of righteousness and reason. Without it, man is in a state of starvation. It is produced by the accumulation of righteous deeds; it is not to be obtained by incidental acts of righteousness. If the mind does not feel complacency in the conduct, the nature becomes starved. I therefore said, "Gao has never understood righteousness, because he makes it something external." There must be the constant practice of this righteousness, but without the object of thereby nourishing the passion-nature. Let not the mind forget its work, but let there be no assisting the growth of that nature. Let us not be like the man of Song. There was a man of Song, who was grieved that his growing corn was not longer, and so he pulled it up. Having done this, he returned home, looking very stupid, and said to his people, "I am tired to-day. I have been helping the corn to grow long." His son ran to look at it, and found the corn all withered. There are few in the world, who do not deal with their passion-nature, as if they were assisting the corn to grow long. Some indeed consider it of no benefit to them, and let it alone - they do not weed their corn. They who assist it to grow long, pull out their corn. What they do is not only of no benefit to the nature, but it also injures it.'
Gong Sun Chou further asked, 'What do you mean by saying that you understand whatever words you hear?'
Mencius replied, 'When words are one-sided, I know how the mind of the speaker is clouded over. When words are extravagant, I know how the mind is fallen and sunk. When words are all-depraved, I know how the mind has departed from principle. When words are evasive, I know how the mind is at its wit's end. These evils growing in the mind, do injury to government, and, displayed in the government, are hurtful to the conduct of affairs. When a Sage shall again arise, he will certainly follow my words.'
On this Chou observed, 'Zai Wo and Zi Gong were skilful in speaking. Ran Niu, the disciple Min, and Yan Yuan, while their words were good, were distinguished for their virtuous conduct. Confucius united the qualities of the disciples in himself, but still he said, "In the matter of speeches, I am not competent." Then, Master, have you attained to be a Sage?'
Mencius said, 'Oh! what words are these? Formerly Zi Gong asked Confucius, saying, "Master, are you a Sage?" Confucius answered him, "A Sage is what I cannot rise to. I learn without satiety, and teach without being tired." Zi Gong said, "You learn without satiety - that shows your wisdom. You teach without being tired - that shows your benevolence. Benevolent and wise - Master, you ARE a Sage." Now, since Confucius would not allow himself to be regarded as a Sage, what words were those?'
Chou said, 'Formerly, I once heard this: Zi Xia, Zi You, and Zi Zhang had each one member of the Sage. Ran Niu, the disciple Min, and Yan Yuan had all the members, but in small proportions. I venture to ask, With which of these are you pleased to rank yourself?'
Mencius replied, 'Let us drop speaking about these, if you please.'
Chou then asked, 'What do you say of Bo Yi and Yi Yin?'
'Their ways were different from mine,' said Mencius. 'Not to serve a prince whom he did not esteem, nor command a people whom he did not approve; in a time of good government to take office, and on the occurrence of confusion to retire - this was the way of Bo Yi. To say "Whom may I not serve? My serving him makes him my ruler. What people may I not command? My commanding them makes them my people." In a time of good government to take office, and when disorder prevailed, also to take office - that was the way of Yi Yin. When it was proper to go into office, then to go into it; when it was proper to keep retired from office, then to keep retired from it; when it was proper to continue in it long, then to continue in it long - when it was proper to withdraw from it quickly, then to withdraw quickly - that was the way of Confucius. These were all sages of antiquity, and I have not attained to do what they did. But what I wish to do is to learn to be like Confucius.'
Chou said, 'Comparing Bo Yi and Yi Yin with Confucius, are they to be placed in the same rank?'
Mencius replied, 'No. Since there were living men until now, there never was another Confucius.'
Chou said, 'Then, did they have any points of agreement with him?'
The reply was, 'Yes. If they had been sovereigns over a hundred li of territory, they would, all of them, have brought all the princes to attend in their court, and have obtained the throne. And none of them, in order to obtain the throne, would have committed one act of unrighteousness, or put to death one innocent person. In those things they agreed with him.'
Chou said, 'I venture to ask wherein he differed from them.'
Mencius replied, 'Zai Wo, Zi Gong, and You Ruo had wisdom sufficient to know the sage. Even had they been ranking themselves low, they would not have demeaned themselves to flatter their favourite. Now, Zai Wo said, "According to my view of our Master, he was far superior to Yao and Shun." Zi Gong said, "By viewing the ceremonial ordinances of a prince, we know the character of his government. By hearing his music, we know the character of his virtue. After the lapse of a hundred ages I can arrange, according to their merits, the kings of a hundred ages - not one of them can escape me. From the birth of mankind till now, there has never been another like our Master." You Ruo said, "Is it only among men that it is so? There is the Qi-lin among quadrupeds, the Feng-huang among birds, the Tai mountain among mounds and ant-hills, and rivers and seas among rain-pools. Though different in degree, they are the same in kind. So the sages among mankind are also the same in kind. But they stand out from their fellows, and rise above the level, and from the birth of mankind till now, there never has been one so complete as Confucius."'
Mencius said, 'He who, using force, makes a pretence to benevolence is the leader of the princes. A leader of the princes requires a large kingdom. He who, using virtue, practises benevolence is the sovereign of the kingdom. To become the sovereign of the kingdom, a prince need not wait for a large kingdom. Tang did it with only seventy li, and king Wen with only a hundred. When one by force subdues men, they do not submit to him in heart. They submit, because their strength is not adequate to resist. When one subdues men by virtue, in their hearts' core they are pleased, and sincerely submit, as was the case with the seventy disciples in their submission to Confucius. What is said in the Book of Poetry, "From the west, from the east, From the south, from the north, There was not one who thought of refusing submission," is an illustration of this.'
Mencius said, 'Benevolence brings glory to a prince, and the opposite of it brings disgrace. For the princes of the present day to hate disgrace and yet to live complacently doing what is not benevolent, is like hating moisture and yet living in a low situation. If a prince hates disgrace, the best course for him to pursue, is to esteem virtue and honour virtuous scholars, giving the worthiest among them places of dignity, and the able offices of trust. When throughout his kingdom there is leisure and rest from external troubles, let him, taking advantage of such a season, clearly digest the principles of his government with its legal sanctions, and then even great kingdoms will be constrained to stand in awe of him. It is said in the Book of Poetry, "Before the heavens were dark with rain, I gathered the bark from the roots of the mulberry trees, And wove it closely to form the window and door of my nest; Now, I thought, ye people below, Perhaps ye will not dare to insult me." Confucius said, "Did not he who made this ode understand the way of governing?" If a prince is able rightly to govern his kingdom, who will dare to insult him? But now the princes take advantage of the time when throughout their kingdoms there is leisure and rest from external troubles, to abandon themselves to pleasure and indolent indifference - they in fact seek for calamities for themselves. Calamity and happiness in all cases are men's own seeking. This is illustrated by what is said in the Book of Poetry - Be always studious to be in harmony with the ordinances of God, So you will certainly get for yourself much happiness;" and by the passage of the Tai Jia, "When Heaven sends down calamities, it is still possible to escape from them; when we occasion the calamities ourselves, it is not possible any longer to live."'
Mencius said, 'If a ruler give honour to men of talents and virtue and employ the able, so that offices shall all be filled by individuals of distinction and mark - then all the scholars of the kingdom will be pleased, and wish to stand in his court. If, in the market-place of his capital, he levy a ground-rent on the shops but do not tax the goods, or enforce the proper regulations without levying a ground-rent - then all the traders of the kingdom will be pleased, and wish to store their goods in his market-place. If, at his frontier-passes, there be an inspection of persons, but no taxes charged on goods or other articles, then all the travellers of the kingdom will be pleased, and wish to make their tours on his roads. If he require that the husbandmen give their mutual aid to cultivate the public feld, and exact no other taxes from them - then all the husbandmen of the kingdom will be pleased, and wish to plough in his fields. If from the occupiers of the shops in his market-place he do not exact the fine of the individual idler, or of the hamlet's quota of cloth, then all the people of the kingdom will be pleased, and wish to come and be his people. If a ruler can truly practise these five things, then the people in the neighbouring kingdoms will look up to him as a parent. From the first birth of mankind till now, never has any one led children to attack their parent, and succeeded in his design. Thus, such a ruler will not have an enemy in all the kingdom, and he who has no enemy in the kingdom is the minister of Heaven. Never has there been a ruler in such a case who did not attain to the royal dignity.'
Mencius said, 'All men have a mind which cannot bear to see the sufferings of others. 'The ancient kings had this commiserating mind, and they, as a matter of course, had likewise a commiserating government. When with a commiserating mind was practised a commiserating government, to rule the kingdom was as easy a matter as to make anything go round in the palm. When I say that all men have a mind which cannot bear to see the sufferings of others, my meaning may be illustrated thus: even now-a-days, if men suddenly see a child about to fall into a well, they will without exception experience a feeling of alarm and distress. They will feel so, not as a ground on which they may gain the favour of the child's parents, nor as a ground on which they may seek the praise of their neighbours and friends, nor from a dislike to the reputation of having been unmoved by such a thing. From this case we may perceive that the feeling of commiseration is essential to man, that the feeling of shame and dislike is essential to man, that the feeling of modesty and complaisance is essential to man, and that the feeling of approving and disapproving is essential to man. The feeling of commiseration is the principle of benevolence. The feeling of shame and dislike is the principle of righteousness. The feeling of modesty and complaisance is the principle of propriety. The feeling of approving and disapproving is the principle of knowledge. Men have these four principles just as they have their four limbs. When men, having these four principles, yet say of themselves that they cannot develop them, they play the thief with themselves, and he who says of his prince that he cannot develop them plays the thief with his prince. Since all men have these four principles in themselves, let them know to give them all their development and completion, and the issue will be like that of fire which has begun to burn, or that of a spring which has begun to find vent. Let them have their complete development, and they will suffice to love and protect all within the four seas. Let them be denied that development, and they will not suffice for a man to serve his parents with.'
Mencius said, 'Is the arrow-maker less benevolent than the maker of armour of defence? And yet, the arrow-maker's only fear is lest men should not be hurt, and the armour-maker's only fear is lest men should be hurt. So it is with the priest and the coffin-maker. The choice of a profession, therefore, is a thing in which great caution is required. Confucius said, "It is virtuous manners which constitute the excellence of a neighbourhood. If a man, in selecting a residence, do not fix on one where such prevail, how can he be wise?" Now, benevolence is the most honourable dignity conferred by Heaven, and the quiet home in which man should awell. Since no one can hinder us from being so, if yet we are not benevolent - this is being not wise. From the want of benevolence and the want of wisdom will ensue the entire absence of propriety and righteousness;-- he who is in such a case must be the servant of other men. To be the servant of men and yet ashamed of such servitude, is like a bowmaker's being ashamed to make bows, or an arrow-maker's being ashamed to make arrows. If he be ashamed of his case, his best course is to practise benevolence. The man who would be benevolent is like the archer. The archer adjusts himself and then shoots. If he misses, he does not murmur against those who surpass himself. He simply turns round and seeks the cause of his failure in himself.'
Mencius said, 'When any one told Zi Lu that he had a fault, he rejoiced. When Yu heard good words, he bowed to the speaker. The great Shun had a still greater delight in what was good. He regarded virtue as the common property of himself and others, giving up his own way to follow that of others, and delighting to learn from others to practise what was good. From the time when he ploughed and sowed, exercised the potter's art, and was a fisherman, to the time when he became emperor, he was continually learning from others. To take example from others to practise virtue, is to help them in the same practice. Therefore, there is no attribute of the superior man greater than his helping men to practise virtue.'
Mencius said, 'Bo Yi would not serve a prince whom he did not approve, nor associate with a friend whom he did not esteem. He would not stand in a bad prince's court, nor speak with a bad man. To stand in a bad prince's court, or to speak with a bad man, would have been to him the same as to sit with his court robes and court cap amid mire and ashes. Pursuing the examination of his dislike to what was evil, we find that he thought it necessary, if he happened to be standing with a villager whose cap was not rightly adjusted, to leave him with a high air, as if he were going to be defiled. Therefore, although some of the princes made application to him with very proper messages, he would not receive their gifts. He would not receive their gifts, counting it inconsistent with his purity to go to them. Hui of Liu Xia was not ashamed to serve an impure prince, nor did he think it low to be an inferior officer. When advanced to employment, he did not conceal his virtue, but made it a point to carry out his principles. When neglected and left without office, he did not murmur. When straitened by poverty, he did not grieve. Accordingly, he had a saying,"You are you, and I am I. Although you stand by my side with breast and aims bare, or with your body naked, how can you defile me?" Therefore, self-possessed, he companied with men indifferently, at the same time not losing himself. When he wished to leave, if pressed to remain in office, he would remain. He would remain in office, when pressed to do so, not counting it required by his purity to go away.'
Mencius said, 'Bo Yi was narrow-minded, and Hui of Liu Xia was wanting in self-respect. The superior man will not manifest either narrow-mindedness, or the want of self-respect.'