The Chinese Classics/Volume 2/The Works of Mencius/chapter09
Wan Zhang I
Wan Zhang asked Mencius, saying, 'When Shun went into the fields, he cried out and wept towards the pitying heavens. Why did he cry out and weep?'
Mencius replied, 'He was dissatisfied, and full of earnest desire.'
Wan Zhang said, 'When his parents love him, a son rejoices and forgets them not. When his parents hate him, though they punish him, he does not murmur. Was Shun then murmuring against his parents?'
Mencius answered, 'Chang Xi asked Gong Ming Gao, saying, "As to Shun's going into the fields, I have received your instructions, but I do not know about his weeping and crying out to the pitying heavens and to his parents." Gong Ming Gao answered him, "You do not understand that matter." Now, Gong Ming Gao supposed that the heart of the filial son could not be so free of sorrow. Shun would say, "I exert my strength to cultivate the fields, but I am thereby only discharging my office as a son. What can there be in me that my parents do not love me?" The Di caused his own children, nine sons and two daughters, the various officers, oxen and sheep, storehouses and granaries, all to be prepared, to serve Shun amid the channelled fields. Of the scholars of the kingdom there were multitudes who flocked to him. The sovereign designed that Shun should superintend the kingdom along with him, and then to transfer it to him entirely. But because his parents were not in accord with him, he felt like a poor man who has nowhere to turn to. To be delighted in by all the scholars of the kingdom, is what men desire, but it was not sufficient to remove the sorrow of Shun. The possession of beauty is what men desire, and Shun had for his wives the two daughters of the Di, but this was not sufficient to remove his sorrow. Riches are what men desire, and the kingdom was the rich property of Shun, but this was not sufficient to remove his sorrow. Honours are what men desire, and Shun had the dignity of being sovereign, but this was not sufficient to remove his sorrow. The reason why the being the object of men's delight, with the possession of beauty, riches, and honours were not sufficient to remove his sorrow, was that it could be removed only by his getting his parents to be in accord with him. The desire of the child is towards his father and mother. When he becomes conscious of the attractions of beauty, his desire is towards young and beautiful women. When he comes to have a wife and children, his desire is towards them. When he obtains office, his desire is towards his sovereign - if he cannot get the regard of his sovereign, he burns within. But the man of great filial piety, to the end of his life, has his desire towards his parents. In the great Shun I see the case of one whose desire at fifty year's was towards them.'
Wan Zhang asked Mencius, saying, 'It is said in the Book of Poetry, "In marrying a wife, how ought a man to proceed? He must inform his parents." If the rule be indeed as here expressed, no man ought to have illustrated it so well as Shun. How was it that Shun's marriage took place without his informing his parents?'
Mencius replied, 'If he had informed them, he would not have been able to marry. That male and female should dwell together, is the greatest of human relations. If Shun had informed his parents, he must have made void this greatest of human relations, thereby incurring their resentment. On this account, he did not inform them!'
Wan Zhang said, 'As to Shun's marrying without informing his parents, I have heard your instructions; but how was it that the Di Yao gave him his daughters as wives without informing Shun's parents?'
Mencius said, 'The Di also knew that if he informed them, he could not marry his daughters to him.'
Wan Zhang said, 'His parents set Shun to repair a granary, to which, the ladder having been removed, Gu Sou set fire. They also made him dig a well. He got out, but they, not knowing that, proceeded to cover him up. Xiang said, "Of the scheme to cover up the city-forming prince, the merit is all mine. Let my parents have his oxen and sheep. Let them have his storehouses and granaries. His shield and spear shall be mine. His lute shall be mine. His bow shall be mine. His two wives I shall make attend for me to my bed." Xiang then went away into Shun's palace, and there was Shun on his couch playing on his lute. Xiang said, "I am come simply because I was thinking anxiously about you." At the same time, he blushed deeply. Shun said to him, "There are all my officers - do you undertake the government of them for me." I do not know whether Shun was ignorant of Xiang's wishing to kill him.'
Mencius answered, 'How could he be ignorant of that? But when Xiang was sorrowful, he was also sorrowful; when Xiang was joyful, he was also joyful.'
Zhang said, 'In that case, then, did not Shun rejoice hypocritically?'
Mencius replied, 'No. Formerly, some one sent a present of a live fish to Zi Chan of Zhang. Zi Chan ordered his pond-keeper to keep it in the pond, but that officer cooked it, and reported the execution of his commission, saying, "When I first let it go, it embarrassed. In a little while, it seemed to be somewhat at ease, then it swam away joyfully." Zi Chan observed, "It had got into its element! It had got into its element!" The pond-keeper then went out and said, "Who calls Zi Chan a wise man? After I had cooked and eaten the fish, he says, "It had got into its element! It had got into its element!" Thus a superior man may be imposed on by what seems to be as it ought to be, but he cannot be entrapped by what is contrary to right principle. Xiang came in the way in which the love of his elder brother would have made him come; therefore Shun sincerely believed him, and rejoiced. What hypocrisy was there?'
Wan Zhang said, 'Xiang made it his daily business to slay Shun. When Shun was made sovereign, how was it that he only banished him?'
Mencius said, 'He raised him to be a prince. Some supposed that it was banishing him?'
Wan Zhang said, 'Shun banished the superintendent of works to You Zhou; he sent away Huan Dou to the mountain Chong; he slew the prince of San Miao in San Wei; and he imprisoned Gun on the mountain Yu. When the crimes of those four were thus punished, the whole kingdom acquiesced - it was a cutting off of men who were destitute of benevolence. But Xiang was of all men the most destitute of benevolence, and Shun raised him to be the prince of You Bei - of what crimes had the people of You Bei been guilty? Does a benevolent man really act thus? In the case of other men, he cut them off; in the case of his brother, he raised him to be a prince.'
Mencius replied, 'A benevolent man does not lay up anger, nor cherish resentment against his brother, but only regards him with affection and love. Regarding him with affection, he wishes him to be honourable: regarding him with love, he wishes him to be rich. The appointment of Xiang to be the prince of You Bei was to enrich and ennoble him. If while Shun himself was sovereign, his brother had been a common man, could he have been said to regard him with affection and love?'
Wan Zhang said, 'I venture to ask what you mean by saying that some supposed that it was a banishing of Xiang?'
Mencius replied, 'Xiang could do nothing in his State. The Son of Heaven appointed an officer to administer its government, and to pay over its revenues to him. This treatment of him led to its being said that he was banished. How indeed could he be allowed the means of oppressing the people? Nevertheless, Shun wished to be continually seeing him, and by this arrangement, he came incessantly to court, as is signified in that expression: "He did not wait for the rendering of tribute, or affairs of government, to receive the prince of You Bei.
Xian Qiu Meng asked Mencius, saying, 'There is the saying, "A scholar of complete virtue may not be employed as a minister by his sovereign, nor treated as a son by his father. Shun stood with his face to the south, and Yao, at the head of all the princes, appeared before him at court with his face to the north. Gu Sou also did the same. When Shun saw Gu Sou, his countenance became discomposed. Confucius said, At this time, in what a perilous condition was the kingdom! Its state was indeed unsettled." - I do not know whether what is here said really took place.'
Mencius replied, 'No. These are not the words of a superior man. They are the sayings of an uncultivated person of the east of Qi. When Yao was old, Shun was associated with him in the government. It is said in the Canon of Yao, "After twenty and eight years, the Highly Meritorious one deceased. The people acted as if they were mourning for a father or mother for three years, and up to the borders of the four seas every sound of music was hushed." Confucius said, "There are not two suns in the sky, nor two sovereigns over the people." Shun having been sovereign, and, moreover, leading on all the princes to observe the three years' mourning for Yao, there would have been in this case two sovereigns.'
Xian Qiu Meng said, 'On the point of Shun's not treating Yao as a minister, I have received your instructions. But it is said in the Book of Poetry, Under the whole heaven, Every spot is the sovereign's ground; To the borders of the land, Every individual is the sovereign's minister;" - and Shun had become sovereign. I venture to ask how it was that Gu Sou was not one of his ministers.'
Mencius answered, 'That ode is not to be understood in that way - it speaks of being laboriously engaged in the sovereign's business, so as not to be able to nourish one's parents, as if the author said, "This is all the sovereign's business, and how is it that I alone am supposed to have ability, and am made to toil in it?" Therefore, those who explain the odes, may not insist on one term so as to do violence to a sentence, nor on a sentence so as to do violence to the general scope. They must try with their thoughts to meet that scope, and then we shall apprehend it. If we simply take single sentences, there is that in the ode called "The Milky Way," - "Of the black-haired people of the remnant of Zhou, There is not half a one left." If it had been really as thus expressed, then not an individual of the people of Zhou was left. Of all which a filial son can attain to, there is nothing greater than his honouring his parents. And of what can be attained to in the honouring one's parents, there is nothing greater than the nourishing them with the whole kingdom. Gu Sou was the father of the sovereign - this was the height of honour. Shun nourished him with the whole kingdom - this was the height of nourishing. In this was verified the sentiment in the Book of Poetry, "Ever cherishing filial thoughts, Those filial thoughts became an example to after ages." It is said in the Book of History, "Reverently performing his duties, he waited on Gu Sou, and was full of veneration and awe. Gu Sou also believed him and conformed to virtue." This is the true case of the scholar of complete virtue not being treated as a son by his father.'
Wan Zhang said, 'Was it the case that Yao gave the throne to Shun?'
Mencius said, 'No. The sovereign cannot give the throne to another.'
'Yes - but Shun had the throne. Who gave it to him?'
'Heaven gave it to him,' was the answer.
'" Heaven gave it to him:" - did Heaven confer its appointment on him with specific injunctions?'
Mencius replied, 'No. Heaven does not speak. It simply showed its will by his personal conduct and his conduct of affairs.'
"It showed its will by his personal conduct and his conduct of affairs" - how was this?'
Mencius's answer was, 'The sovereign can present a man to Heaven, but he cannot make Heaven give that man the throne. A prince can present a man to the sovereign, but he cannot cause the sovereign to make that man a prince. A great officer can present a man to his prince, but he cannot cause the prince to make that man a great officer. Yao presented Shun to Heaven, and Heaven accepted him. He presented him to the people, and the people accepted him. Therefore I say, "Heaven does not speak. It simply indicated its will by his personal conduct and his conduct of affairs."'
Zhang said, 'I presume to ask how it was that Yao presented Shun to Heaven, and Heaven accepted him; and that he exhibited him to the people, and the people accepted him.'
Mencius replied, 'He caused him to preside over the sacrifices, and all the spirits were well pleased with them; thus Heaven accepted him. He caused him to preside over the conduct of affairs, and affairs were well administered, so that the people reposed under him; thus the people accepted him. Heaven gave the throne to him. The people gave it to him. Therefore I said, "The sovereign cannot give the throne to another. Shun assisted Yao in the government for twenty and eight years - this was more than man could have done, and was from Heaven. After the death of Yao, when the three years' mourning was completed, Shun withdrew from the son of Yao to the south of South river. The princes of the kingdom, however, repairing to court, went not to the son of Yao, but they went to Shun. Litigants went not to the son of Yao, but they went to Shun. Singers sang not the son of Yao, but they sang Shun. Therefore I said, "Heaven gave him the throne." It was after these things that he went to the Middle Kingdom, and occupied the seat of the Son of Heaven. If he had, before these things, taken up his residence in the palace of Yao, and had applied pressure to the son of Yao, it would have been an act of usurpation, and not the gift of Heaven. This sentiment is expressed in the words of The Great Declaration: "Heaven sees according as my people see; Heaven hears according as my people hear."'
Wan Zhang asked Mencius, saying, 'People say, "When the disposal of the kingdom came to Yu, his virtue was inferior to that of Yao and Shun, and he transmitted it not to the worthiest but to his son." Was it so?'
Mencius replied, 'No; it was not so. When Heaven gave the kingdom to the worthiest, it was given to the worthiest. When Heaven gave it to the son of the preceding sovereign, it was given to him. Shun presented Yu to Heaven. Seventeen years elapsed, and Shun died. When the three years' mourning was expired, Yu withdrew from the son of Shun to Yang Cheng. The people of the kingdom followed him just as after the death of Yao, instead of following his son, they had followed Shun. Yu presented Yi to Heaven. Seven years elapsed, and Yu died. When the three years' mourning was expired, Yi withdrew from the son of Yu to the north of mount Ji. The princes, repairing to court, went not to Yi, but they went to Qi. Litigants did not go to Yi, but they went to Qi, saying, "He is the son of our sovereign;" the singers did not sing Yi, but they sang Qi, saying, "He is the son of our sovereign. That Dan Zhu was not equal to his father, and Shun's son not equal to his; that Shun assisted Yao, and Yu assisted Shun, for many years, conferring benefits on the people for a long time; that thus the length of time during which Shun, Yu, and Yi assisted in the government was so different; that Qi was able, as a man of talents and virtue, reverently to pursue the same course as Yu; that Yi assisted Yu only for a few years, and had not long conferred benefits on the people; that the periods of service of the three were so different; and that the sons were one superior, and the other superior - all this was from Heaven, and what could not be brought about by man. That which is done without man's doing is from Heaven. That which happens without man's causing is from the ordinance of Heaven. In the case of a private individual obtaining the throne, there must be in him virtue equal to that of Shun or Yu; and moreover there must be the presenting of him to Heaven by the preceding sovereign. It was on this account that Confucius did not obtain the throne. When the kingdom is possessed by natural succession, the sovereign who is displaced by Heaven must be like Jie or Zhou. It was on this account that Yi, Yi Yin, and Zhou Gong did not obtain the throne. Yi Yin assisted Tang so that he became sovereign over the kingdom. After the demise of Tang, Tai Ding having died before he could be appointed sovereign, Wai Bing reigned two years, and Zhong Ren four. Tai Jia was then turning upside down the statutes of Tang, when Yi Yin placed him in Tong for three years. There Tai Jia repented of his errors, was contrite, and reformed himself. In Tong be came to dwell in benevolence and walk in righteousness, during those threee years, listening to the lessons given to him by Yi Yin. Then Yi Yin again returned with him to Bo. Zhou Gong not getting the throne was like the case of Yi and the throne of Xia, or like that of Yi Yin and the throne of Yin. Confucius said, "Tang and Yu resigned the throne to their worthy ministers. The sovereign of Xia and those of Yin and Zhou transmitted it to their sons. The principle of righteousness was the same in all the cases."'
Wan Zhang asked Mencius, saying, 'People say that Yi Yin sought an introduction to Tang by his knowledge of cookery. Was it so?'
Mencius replied, 'No, it was not so. Yi Yin was a farmer in the lands of the prince of Xin, delighting in the principles of Yao and Shun. In any matter contrary to the righteousness which they prescribed, or contrary to their principles, though he had been offered the throne, he would not have regarded it; though there had been yoked for him a thousand teams of horses, he would not have looked at them. In any matter contrary to the righteousness which they prescribed, or contrary to their principles, he would neither have given nor taken a single straw. Tang sent persons with presents of silk to entreat him to enter his service. With an air of indifference and self-satisfaction he said, "What can I do with those silks with which Tang invites me? Is it not best for me to abide in the channelled fields, and so delight myself with the principles of Yao and Shun?" Tang thrice sent messengers to invite him. After this, with the Zhange of resolution displayed in his countenance, he spoke in a different style, "Instead of abiding in the channelled fields and thereby delighting myself with the principles of Yao and Shun, had I not better make this prince a prince like Yao or Shun, and this people like the people of Yao or Shun? Had I not better in my own person see these things for myself? "Heaven's plan in the production of mankind is this: that they who are first informed should instruct those who are later in being informed, and they who first apprehend principles should instruct those who are slower to do so. I am one of Heaven's people who have first apprehended; I will take these principles and instruct this people in them. If I do not instruct them, who will do so?" He thought that among all the people of the kingdom, even the private men and women, if there were any who did not enjoy such benefits as Yao and Shun conferred, it was as if he himself pushed them into a ditch. He took upon himself the heavy charge of the kingdom in this way, and therefore he went to Tang, and pressed upon him the subject of attacking Xia and saving the people. I have not heard of one who bent himself, and at the same time made others straight; how much less could one disgrace himself, and thereby rectify the whole kingdom? The actions of the sages have been different. Some have kept remote from court, and some have drawn near to it; some have left their offices, and some have not done so - that to which those different courses all agree is simply the keeping of their persons pure. I have heard that Yi Yin sought an introduction to Tang by the doctrines of Yao and Shun. I have not heard that he did so by his knowledge of cookery. In the "Instructions of Yi," it is said, "Heaven destroying Jie commenced attacking him in the palace of Mu. I commenced in Bo."'
Wan Zhang asked Mencius, saying, 'Some say that Confucius, when he was in Wei, lived with the ulcer-doctor, and when he was in Qi, with the attendant, Qi Huan; was it so?'
Mencius replied, 'No; it was not so. Those are the inventions of men fond of strange things. When he was in Wei, he lived with Yan Chou You. The wives of the officer Mi and Zi Lu were sisters, and Mi told Zi Lu, "If Confucius will lodge with me, he may attain to the dignity of a high noble of Wei." Zi Lu informed Confucius of this, and he said, "That is as ordered by Heaven." Confucius went into office according to propriety, and retired from it according to righteousness. In regard to his obtaining office or not obtaining it, he said, "That is as ordered." But if he had lodged with the attendant Qi Huan, that would neither have been according to righteousness, nor any ordering of Heaven. When Confucius, being dissatisfied in Lu and Wei, had left those States, he met with the attempt of Hwan, the Master of the Horse, of Song, to intercept and kill him. He assumed, however, the dress of a common man, and passed by Song. At that time, though he was in circumstances of distress, he lodged with the city-master Chang, who was then a minister of Zhou, the marquis of Chen. I have heard that the characters of ministers about court may be discerned from those whom they entertain, and those of stranger officers, from those with whom they lodge. If Confucius had lodged with the ulcer-doctor, and with the attendant Qi Huan, how could he have been Confucius?'
Wan Zhang asked Mencius, 'Some say that Bai Li Xi sold himself to a cattle-keeper of Jin for the skins of five rams, and fed his oxen, in order to find an introduction to the duke Mu of Qin - was this the case?'
Mencius said, 'No; it was not so. This story was invented by men fond of strange things. Bai Li Xi was a man of Yu. The people of Jin, by the inducement of a round piece of jade from Chui Ji, and four horses of the Qu breed, borrowed a passage through Yu to attack Guo. On that occasion, Gong Zhi Qi remonstrated against granting their request, and Bai Li Xi did not remonstrate. When he knew that the duke of Yu was not to be remonstrated with, and, leaving that State, went to Qin, he had reached the age of seventy. If by that time he did not know that it would be a mean thing to seek an introduction to the duke Mu of Qin by feeding oxen, could he be called wise? But not remonstrating where it was of no use to remonstrate, could he be said not to be wise? Knowing that the duke of Yu would be ruined, and leaving him before that event, he cannot be said not to have been wise. Being then advanced in Qin, he knew that the duke Mu was one with whom he would enjoy a field for action, and became minister to him; could he, acting thus, be said not to be wise? Having become chief minister of Qin, he made his prince distinguished throughout the kingdom, and worthy of being handed down to future ages; could he have done this, if he had not been a man of talents and virtue? As to selling himself in order to accomplish all the aims of his prince, even a villager who had a regard for himself would not do such a thing; and shall we say that a man of talents and virtue did it?'