The Wisdom of Confucius

Page 27 of 49

[Pg 124] "Treat with reverence due to age the elders in your own family, so that those in the families of others shall be similarly treated; treat with the kindness due to youth the young in your own family, so that those in the families of others shall be similarly treated—do this and the kingdom may be made to go round in your palm. It is said in the 'Book of Poetry,'

'His example acted on his wife,
Extended to his brethren,
And was felt by all the clans and States;'

telling us how King Wan simply took this kindly heart, and exercised it towards those parties. Therefore the carrying out of the feeling of kindness by a ruler will suffice for the love and protection of all within the four seas; and if he do not carry it out, he will not be able to protect his wife and children. The way in which the ancients came greatly to surpass other men was no other than this, that they carried out well what they did, so as to affect others. Now your kindness is sufficient to reach to animals, and yet no benefits are extended from it to the people. How is this? Is an exception to be made here?

"By weighing we know what things are light, and what heavy. By measuring we know what things are long, and what short. All things are so dealt with, and the mind requires specially to be so. I beg your Majesty to measure it.

"Your Majesty collects your equipments of war, endangers your soldiers and officers and excites the resentment of the various princes—do these things cause you pleasure in your mind?"

The king said, "No. How should I derive pleasure from these things? My object in them is to seek for what I greatly desire."

Mencius said, "May I hear from you what it is that your Majesty greatly desires?"

[Pg 125] The king laughed, and did not speak. Mencius resumed, "Are you led to desire it because you have not enough of rice and sweet food for your mouth? or because you have not enough of light and warm clothing for your body? or because you have not enough of beautifully colored objects to satisfy your eyes? or because there are not voices and sounds enough to fill your ears? or because you have not enough of attendants and favorites to stand before you and receive your orders? Your Majesty's various officers are sufficient to supply you with all these things. How can your Majesty have such a desire on account of them?" "No," said the king, "my desire is not on account of them." Mencius observed, "Then what your Majesty greatly desires can be known. You desire to enlarge your territories, to have Ts‘in and Ts‘oo coming to your court, to rule the Middle States, and to attract to you the barbarous tribes that surround them. But to do what you do in order to seek for what you desire is like climbing a tree to seek for fish."

"Is it so bad as that?" said the king. "I apprehend it is worse," was the reply. "If you climb a tree to seek for fish, although you do not get the fish, you have no subsequent calamity. But if you do what you do in order to seek for what you desire, doing it even with all your heart, you will assuredly afterwards meet with calamities." The king said, "May I hear what they will be?" Mencius replied, "If the people of Tsow were fighting with the people of Ts‘oo, which of them does your Majesty think would conquer?" "The people of Ts‘oo would conquer," was the answer, and Mencius pursued, "So then, a small State cannot contend with a great, few cannot contend with many, nor can the weak contend with the strong. The territory within the seas would embrace nine divisions, each of a thousand li square. All Ts‘e together is one of them. If with one part you try to subdue the other eight, what is the difference between that and Tsow's contending with Ts‘oo? With the [Pg 126] desire which you have, you must turn back to the proper course for its attainment.

"Now, if your Majesty will institute a government whose action shall all be benevolent, this will cause all the officers in the kingdom to wish to stand in your Majesty's court, the farmers all to wish to plough in your Majesty's fields, the merchants, both travelling and stationary, all to wish to store their goods in your Majesty's market-places, travellers and visitors all to wish to travel on your Majesty's roads, and all under heaven who feel aggrieved by their rulers to wish to come and complain to your Majesty. When they are so bent, who will be able to keep them back?"

The king said, "I am stupid and cannot advance to this. But I wish you, my Master, to assist my intentions. Teach me clearly, and although I am deficient in intelligence and vigor, I should like to try at least to institute such a government."

Mencius replied, "They are only men of education, who, without a certain livelihood, are able to maintain a fixed heart. As to the people, if they have not a certain livelihood, they will be found not to have a fixed heart. And if they have not a fixed heart, there is nothing which they will not do in the way of self-abandonment, of moral deflection, of depravity, and of wild license. When they have thus been involved in crime, to follow them up and punish them, is to entrap the people. How can such a thing as entrapping the people be done under the rule of a benevolent man?"

"Therefore, an intelligent ruler will regulate the livelihood of the people, so as to make sure that, above, they shall have sufficient wherewith to serve their parents, and below, sufficient wherewith to support their wives and children; that in good years they shall always be abundantly satisfied, and that in bad years they shall not be in [Pg 127] danger of perishing. After this he may urge them, and they will proceed to what is good, for in this case the people will follow after that with readiness.

"But now the livelihood of the people is so regulated, that, above, they have not sufficient wherewith to serve their parents, and, below, they have not sufficient wherewith to support their wives and children; even in good years their lives are always embittered, and in bad years they are in danger of perishing. In such circumstances their only object is to escape from death, and they are afraid they will not succeed in doing so—what leisure have they to cultivate propriety and righteousness?

"If your Majesty wishes to carry out a benevolent government, why not turn back to what is the essential step to its attainment?

"Let mulberry trees be planted about the homesteads with their five acres, and persons of fifty years will be able to wear silk. In keeping fowls, pigs, dogs, and swine, let not their times of breeding be neglected, and persons of seventy years will be able to eat flesh. Let there not be taken away the time that is proper for the cultivation of the field-allotment of a hundred acres, and the family of eight mouths will not suffer from hunger. Let careful attention be paid to the teaching in the various schools, with repeated inculcation of the filial and fraternal duties, and gray-haired men will not be seen upon the roads, carrying burdens on their backs or on their heads. It has never been that the ruler of a State, where these results were seen, the old wearing silk and eating flesh, and the black-haired people suffering neither from hunger nor cold, did not attain to the Royal dignity."


[35] The title of this book in Chinese is—"King Hwuy of Lang; in chapters and sentences." Like the Books of the Confucian Analects, those of this work are headed by two or three words at or near the commencement of them. Each Book is divided into two parts. This arrangement was made by Chaou K‘e, and to him are due also the divisions into chapters, and sentences, or paragraphs, containing, it may be, many sentences.

[36] Sang was the son of King Hwuy. The first year of his reign is supposed to be B.C. 317. Sang's name was Hih. As a posthumous epithet, Sang has various meanings: "Land-enlarger and Virtuous"; "Successful in Arms." The interview here recorded seems to have taken place immediately after Hih's accession, and Mencius, it is said, was so disappointed by it that he soon after left the country.

[Books II, III, and IV are omitted]

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