Translation by Charles Muller
1A:1 Mencius went to see King Hui of Liang. The King said: "My good man, since you
haven't thought one thousand li to far to come and see me, may I presume that you
have something with which I can profit my kingdom?"
Mencius said: "Why must you speak of profit? What I have for you is jen and Righteousness, and that's all. If you always say 'how can I profit my kingdom?' your top officers will ask, 'how can we profit our clans?' The shih[* For the meaning of the term shih, see the commentary attached to Analects 4:9.*] and the common people will ask: 'how can we profit ourselves?' Superiors and inferiors will struggle against each other for profit, and the country will be in chaos."
"In a kingdom of ten thousand chariots, the murderer of the sovereign is usually from a clan of one thousand chariots. In a thousand-chariot kingdom, the murderer of the sovereign is usually from a clan of one hundred chariots. Now, to have a thousand in ten thousand, or one hundred in a thousand is not really all that much. But if you put Righteousness last and profit first, no one will be satisfied unless they can grab something."
"There has never been a jen man who neglected his parents, and there has never been a righteous man who put his prince last in his priorities. King, can't we limit our conversation to jen and Righteousness? Why must we discuss profit?"
1A:3 King Hui of Liang said: "I exert my whole consciousness towards my people.
When there is disaster in He-nei, I move the people to He-dong and bring grain to He-nei.
When there is disaster in He-dong, I do likewise.[* He-nei and He-dong were neighboring
regions separated by a large river.*] Now, if you look at the government in neighboring
kingdoms, there is no one who is as dedicated to his people as I. Yet why is it that the
people don't move from other states and come to mine?"
Mencius replied: "Your majesty, you like war, don't you? Let me make an example with war: The drummers have psyched the soldiers into the battlefield and the battle is engaged. Some soldiers throw off their heavy armor and flee, dragging their weapons. One fellow runs a hundred paces and stops. Another runs fifty paces and stops. What would you think if the one who ran fifty paces laughs at the one who ran a hundred?"
The King said: "No way. Even though he didn't run a hundred paces, he still ran."
Mencius said: "If you realize this, then you shouldn't expect people to move to your kingdom. If you don't interfere with the timing of the farmers, there will be more grain than can be eaten. If fine-mesh nets are kept out of the ponds and lakes, there will be more fish and turtles than you can eat. If loggers are regulated in their woodcutting, there will be more wood than can be used. When there is more grain, more fish and turtles than can be eaten, and more wood than can be used, the people will nourish the living and mourn the dead without resentment. Nourishing the living and mourning the dead without resentment is the beginning of the road to true kingship."
"If mulberry trees are planted around homesteads of an acre, then people fifty years old can be clothed in silk. If, in the raising of fowl, pigs, dogs and swine, their breeding times are not missed, then people seventy years old can eat meat. If you do not upset the farming schedule in a farm of twenty acres, then a large clan will never be hungry. Pay careful attention to education, basing it on the Righteousness of filial piety and respect for elders, and the gray-haired people will not be in the streets carrying heavy burdens on their backs. There has never been a case where the people of seventy were eating meat and the black-haired people were free from cold and hunger, where the king was not well regarded."
"But [in your kingdom], dogs and swine eat men's food, and you don't control it. People are dying of starvation in the streets and it doesn't occur to you to distribute grain from the storehouses. People die, and you say: 'It's not my fault; it was a bad harvest.' How is this different from stabbing a man to death and saying, 'It wasn't me, it was the knife.' If you would stop placing the blame on bad harvests, all of the people in the country would come to you."
1A:4 King Hui of Liang said: "I would like to quietly receive your
Mencius said: "Is there any difference between killing a man with a stick or a sword?"
The King replied: "No difference."
Mencius said: "Is there any difference between doing it with a sword and doing it with government?"
"No difference" was the reply.
Mencius said: "There are loads of fat meat in your kitchen while the people in the countryside are dying of starvation. Animals are even eating people. Now, men despise animals who feed on each other. And you say you want to be 'the parent of the people.' But in the actual handling of your government, you cannot even prevent animals from feeding on men. How can you be regarded as a 'parent of the people?'"
"Confucius said: 'Wasn't the first fellow who made wooden images for burial with the dead remembered forever?' This is because he made images of men and used them for such a purpose. What memory shall there be of the man who made his people die of starvation?"
1A:5 King Hui of Liang said: "As you know, venerable sir, there is not a stronger
state in the country than Chin. Since they attacked me, we have also lost on the east to
Ch'i, where my eldest son died. On the west, we have lost one hundred li of
territory to Ch'in and on the south we have been embarrassed by Ch'u. I have been shamed
by this and would like to clear the slate for my ancestors once and for all. How can I do
Mencius replied: "A territory one hundred li square is enough to constitute a viable kingship. Your majesty should give a humane government to the people, be careful in punishing crime; make the taxes light; plow the fields deeply and hoe them well. Then all the strong and healthy people can in their leisure time cultivate filial piety, sibling affection, loyalty and sincerity. If they do this, then when they are at home they can serve their fathers and elder brothers, and when they are out in the world they can serve their elders and superiors."
"These people will be able, with [only] sharpened sticks, to give a beating to Ch'in and Ch'u with their hard armor and sharp weapons. Those rulers snatch the people's time so that they are unable to do the plowing and hoeing which is necessary to support their parents. Older and younger brothers, wives and children are separated and scattered. In this way these rulers trap and bury their own people. If you, King, would go and chastise them, who will oppose you? Don't doubt the ancient proverb: 'The jen man has no one to oppose him.'
1A:6 Mencius had an audience with King Hsiang of Liang. When he came out, he said to
some people: "When I saw him at a distance, he did not look like a king, and when I
approached him, there was nothing to be in awe of. Abruptly he asked me: 'How can the
situation of the Central Kingdom be settled down?'
"I answered: 'It can be settled down by unification.'
He said: 'Who can unify it?'
"I replied: 'He who does not like killing men can unify it.'
"He asked: 'Who has the power to grant someone this ability?'
"I answered again, saying: 'There is no one in the land who would not grant it. Do you know anything about farming? During the seventh and eighth months it gets dry and the plants wither. When there is a sudden downpour of rain, the plants come vibrantly to life. Your situation being like this, who will oppose you? Now, among those who are leaders in this country, there are none who dislike killing men. If there were one who disliked killing men, all the people in the country would stick their necks out merely to get a glimpse of him. If you were really like this, the people would come to you like water running downhill. Who could oppose you?"
1A:7 King HsŁan of Ch'i asked: "Can give me your analysis of what happened
between Duke Huan of Ch'i and Duke Wen of Ch'in?[* Two somewhat infamous rulers of the 7th
Mencius answered: "None of Confucius' disciples talked about Huan and Wen, so I have no significant information on them. So since I can't talk about them, how about discussing kingship?"
The king said: "What kind of qualities are necessary for real kingship?"
Mencius said: "Take care of the people, and no one can oppose you."
The king said: "Is someone like me capable of taking care of the people?"
Mencius said: "Sure."
The king said: "How do you know?"
"I heard this story from Hu-ho: He said you were sitting up in the main hall and a man walked past the lower part leading an ox. You saw this and asked: 'What are you doing with the ox?' He replied: 'We are going to consecrate a bell with its blood.' You said: 'Let it go--I can't stand to see the agony on its face, like that of an innocent person going to execution!' The man then answered: 'Shall we forget the consecration of the bell?' You said: 'How can it be forgotten? Substitute it with a sheep!'"
Mencius then added: "I don't know if this is a true story."
The king said: "It is."
Mencius said: "If you possess this kind of mind, you are capable of true kingship. The people all accused you of being cheap, but I am convinced that you really could not stand the sight of the ox."
The king said: "You are right. Yet the people really did think I was being cheap. But the truth is, even though Ch'i is a fairly small kingdom, how could I begrudge a lousy ox? I really couldn't stand to see the fear in its face, like that of an innocent man going to his execution. That's why I changed it for a sheep."
Mencius said: "You should not think it strange that the people thought you were stingy. You changed a large animal for a small one, so how could they know your real motivation? If you were really pained at its innocently going to execution, what's the difference between an ox and a sheep?"
The king laughed and said: "What was I really thinking? But I didn't change it because of the expense--no wonder the people have called me cheap!"
Mencius said: "You have not done wrong. What you did was an act of jen. You saw the ox, but had not seen the sheep. When it comes to animals, if the Superior Man has seen them while alive, he cannot stand to watch them die. If he hears their screams, he cannot stand to eat their meat. Therefore he stays away from the kitchen."
The king was pleased and said: "It is said in the Book of Odes: 'People have their minds, I fathom them.' What you have just said is exactly what happened with me. But when I sought within myself, I couldn't really see my own motivations. As you have shown me, there is compassion in my heart, but how can this be sufficient for kingship?"
Mencius said: "Suppose someone said this to you: 'I am strong enough to lift six hundred kilos, but not strong enough to lift a feather; my eyesight is sharp enough to analyze the tip of autumn down, but I cannot see a wagon load of firewood. Can you go along with this?"
"Of course not."
"Then isn't it quite odd that your compassion reaches to animals, but not down to the people? If the single feather is not lifted, it is because your strength is not used, and when the wagon-load of firewood is not seen it is because your vision is not used. The people's not experiencing your care is because your compassion is not used. Therefore your majesty's lack of true kingship is because of a lack of effort, not a lack of ability."
The king asked: "Can you clarify the difference between non-effort and inability?"
Mencius replied: "If it is the case of taking Mt. T'ai under your arm and leaping over the North Sea with it, and saying: 'I am unable', then this is true inability. If it is the case of snapping a branch off a tree for an elder and you say 'I am unable,' this is non-effort, it is not inability. Thus, your majesty's not having a kingly hold over the people is not in the category of taking Mt. T'ai under your arm and leaping over the North Sea.' It is the type of not breaking a branch. If you take care of you own elders, the common people will do the same for their elders. If you are kind to your young, the common people will be kind to their young--you will hold the kingdom in the palm of your hand. The Book of Odes says:
His example affected his wife.
It reached to his brothers,
Such that he could manage
His clan and his state.
This means that if you just extend your heart to all others, and extend your
compassion, it will be enough to take care of all those in the continent. If you do not
extend your compassion, you will not even be able to take care of your own wife and
children. The Way in which the ancients have surpassed all others is none other than this:
Their goodness extended through everything they did, and nothing more."
"Now your compassion is sufficient to reach to animals, yet lacks the effectiveness to reach the people. Isn't that something? By weighing we know what is light and heavy. By measuring we know long and short. All things are like this, and especially the mind, so why don't you measure it, king? Nowadays you build up your armaments, endanger your soldiers and officers and instigate trouble with other heads of state. Does this give you pleasure?"
"No, how could I enjoy this? I do it to get what I really want."
Mencius said: "What is it that you really want?"
The king just smiled and kept his mouth shut.
Mencius continued: "Are all your rich and sweet foods not enough for your taste? Is your wardrobe of winter and summer clothes not enough for your body? Or do you not have enough fancy toys to satisfy your eyes? Or do you not have enough servants and concubines to come before you and satisfy you? All your numerous ministers can certainly get all these things for you, so how can you still want more of these?"
The king said: "No, I don't want these."
"Then it is obvious what it is you really want," said Mencius, "you want to expand your territory, make vassals of Ch'in and Ch'u, rule the Middle Kingdom, get control over the outlying tribes. Doing the kinds of things you have been doing to get what you want is like climbing a tree to catch fish."
"Is it that bad?"
"Even worse. If you climb a tree to catch fish, even though you won't catch anything, there will be no great calamity. But if you completely devote all of you energies to getting what you want in this way, you are sure to meet with disaster."
The king said: "Can you explain how?"
Mencius said: "If there is a war between Tsou and Ch'u, who do you think will win?"
"Ch'u will win."
"You are right, and that means that you know that a small state cannot go up against a large state, that a few cannot oppose many, that the weak cannot contend with the strong. The continental territories of one thousand square li are nine in number and Ch'i (your kingdom) only makes for one. If with one part you try to subdue the other eight, how is this different from Tsou's fighting Ch'u? Please reflect on this essential point."
"Now if you initiate a government based on goodness, all the officials in China will want to come to your court; all the farmers will want to plow your fields; the merchants will want to store their goods in your marketplaces; all the travelers will want to go by your roads, and all the people in the land who are hassled by their rulers will want to come to you for help. If they feel this way, who will be able to stop them?"
The king said: "I am dull-witted, and unable to carry this out. Please help me clarify my will by instructing me. Even though I am not so sharp, I will try to do it."
Mencius said: "Only a shih is able to keep a steady mind without a steady livelihood. If the common people lack a steady livelihood, they cannot be secure. If they are not secure, there is nothing they will not do in terms of criminal, depraved and selfish acts. For you to follow them up and punish them once they have committed crimes in this situation is entrapment. How could a benevolent man rule and at the same time entrap his people?"
"Therefore the intelligent ruler will regulate the livelihood of his people so that they have enough to support their parents and their own children. In good years they will eat their full, and in bad years they will never starve. After this you can goad them toward the good, because they will follow easily. As it stands now, you regulate the livelihood of the people in such a way that they do not have enough to take care of their parents or their children. They suffer even in the good years, and in the bad years they cannot escape death. All they can do is try to avoid starving to death, all the time fearing that they will not make it. What kind of free time will there be to cultivate propriety and Righteousness?"
"If you really want to bring this about, you'd better get back to the basics. If mulberry trees are planted on plots of one acre, people in their fifties can wear silk. If you do not pull the men away for battle during the breeding times of your livestock, people in their seventies can eat meat. If the proper planting, cultivation and harvesting times are not missed, the family of eight that lives off a twenty-acre farm will not go hungry. Pay careful attention to education, teaching the Righteousness of filial piety and fraternity, and the gray-haired will not be seen in the streets carrying heavy burdens on their backs."
"There has never been a case where the elderly wore silk and ate meat, and the black-haired people suffered from neither hunger nor cold, where the kingship was not genuinely respected."
1B:10 Preliminary note: Ch'i attacked the state of Yen in the northwest in the
autumn of 315 BC. Yen's prince, a weakling, had resigned his throne to his prime minister,
and great confusion ensued, so that the people welcomed the appearance of the troops of
Ch'i and made no resistance to them. K'uang Chang, the friend of Mencius mentioned in
4B:30 and 3B:10 led the Ch'i armies. The king and Heir Apparent of Yen were both killed.
Ch'i attacked Yen and conquered it. King HsŁan of Ch'i said to Mencius, "Some say I should occupy Yen and some say I shouldn't. For a major kingdom to overcome another major kingdom of approximately equal strength and do it within fifty days is beyond just the manpower of the conquering army. If I do not occupy Yen, I may experience some bad fate; but what will happen, on the other hand, if I occupy it?"
Mencius replied, "If you occupy it Yen and its people are really happy, then do so. In ancient times King Wu had this experience. If you try to occupy it and its people are against you, then you shouldn't occupy it. In ancient times King Wen had this experience."
"When a major power attacks another and its armies are greeted by the people with gifts of food, etc., how could there be any other reason except that they are trying to get out of awful circumstances under their own ruler? But if, on the other hand, the people see you as a greater evil than their own dictator, they will never stop their resistance."
1B:11 Ch'i, having attacked Yen, occupied it. The surrounding states began to plan to
come to the aid of Yen. King HsŁan of Ch'i said, "The surrounding powers are
planning to attack me. How should I deal with them?"
Mencius replied, "I have heard of a king with only seventy square li ruling the whole land--that was T'ang. But I have never heard of a King with a thousand square li (like you) having to be in fear. The Book of History says:
When T'ang first began his war of punishment, he started with (the kingdom of) Ko. The
whole world believed in him, and so as his campaign went east, the tribes of the west
became impatient, and as he went south, the tribes of the north became impatient. They all
said: 'Why does he liberate us last'?
The people waited for him the way we wait for rain after a long drought. The merchants continued their buying and selling and the farmers carried on their farming. (When he came to conquer,) T'ang punished their rulers, but took care of the common people. He was like the much-needed rainfall and the people were happy. Again, the Book of History says:
'We await our King. When he comes, all will be restored.'
"Now the prince of Yen was a tyrant, and you went and punished him. Yen's people
thought you were saving them from oppression and they greeted your army with gifts of
food. But now you murder Yen's family, chain up his younger relatives, destroy the
ancestral temples and rob people's treasures. How can you expect them to take this?"
"The world may fear your power, but if you keep trying to expand your influence and do not practice jen government, the armies of the rest of the land will rise up to oppose you. You must issue orders at once to release the captives and stop the looting. Confer with the people of Yen. Appoint a ruler for them and then get out of there. Then those who are capable of hurting you will not attack."
2A:2 Kung Sun Ch'ou asked Mencius: "Let's say you were to become the prime
minister of Ch'i and have the opportunity to set up a good government. Even though your
power would really not be different from that of a king, in handling this, wouldn't you
lose your mental stability?"
Mencius said, "No. I haven't lost my mental stability since I was forty."
Ch'ou said, "Then you have far surpassed Meng Pan."
Mencius said, "It is not so difficult. Kao-tzu attained mental stability at a younger age than I."
"Is there a method for attaining mental stability?" asked Ch'ou.
"There is. For example, Pi Kung Yu had a method of developing his courage. When attacked, he would neither flinch nor turn away his eyes. If someone touched a single hair on his body, he would regard it as if he had been publicly beaten in the marketplace. What he would not take from a bum, he would not take from a great prince. He regarded the stabbing of a prince just the same as the stabbing of a bum. He had no fear of the great nobles. If slanderous words reached his ears, he would never let it go by without revenge."
"Mang Shih She also had a method of developing his courage. He said: 'I regard victory and defeat as the same. To gauge the enemy and then attack; to plan the victory and then engage--this is to be afraid of the opposing army. How can I be sure of winning? I can only be fearless, and that's all."
"Mang Shih She was like Tseng Tzu. Pi Kung Yu was like Tzu Hsia. Among Pi Kung and Mang, I don't know who is better, but Mang Shih She focused on the essentials. For example, in former times, Tseng Tzu said to Tzu Hsiang: 'So, you like bravery, do you? I have heard from our Master about Great Bravery. If I reflect on myself and find that I am not right, then won't I even fear facing a bum off the street? But if I reflect on myself and find myself to be right, then even if it be an army of one hundred thousand, I will go forward.'
"But Mang Shih She's attention to his ch'i is still not equal to Tseng Tzu's attention to the essentials.
[Comment] The Chinese ideograph ch'i originally means "air,"
especially breath. Through Mencius' usage, and the usage of later Taoists, martial artists
and the Neo-Confucian school, its meaning becomes quite enhanced.
Here ch'i, as breath, is understood as the vital connection between body and mind. It is the life-force which animates the body to greater or lesser degrees, depending upon its cultivation toward the vigor and vitality of the individual. In the terms with which Mencius describes it, ch'i can be compared to the prana of some Indian yogic systems, which can be cultivated through breath control and various other yogic practices.
One of the most relevant points that Mencius makes in regard to the cultivation of ch'i, is that this cultivation is dependent, more than anything else, on the uninterrupted practice of Righteousness.
Ch'ou asked, "Will you please tell me about your 'mental stability' in relation to Kao Tzu's 'mental stability'?"
Mencius replied, "Kao Tzu says that what cannot be attained through words should not be sought for in the mind, and that what cannot be attained in the mind should not be sought for through the ch'i. This latter proposition is correct, but the first one is not. The will is the director of the ch'i, and the ch'i is something that permeates the body. So the will is primary and the ch'i is secondary. Therefore, it is said: 'Hold on to your will; do not scatter your ch'i.'
Ch'ou said, "You just said that the will is primary; and the ch'i is secondary. Now you say, 'hold on to your will; don't scatter your ch'i.' Why do you say this?"
Mencius said, "The will influences the ch'i and the ch'i influences the will. For instance, jumping and running, though most directly concerned with the ch'i, also have an effect on the mind."
"May I ask in what it is that you are superior?"
"I understand language, and I am good at nourishing my vast ch'i."
"What do you mean by 'vast ch'i'?"
"That is difficult to explain. Ch'i can be developed to great levels of quantity and stability by correctly nourishing it and not damaging it, to the extent that it fills the space between Heaven and Earth. In developing ch'i, if you are connected with Righteousness and the Tao, you will never be in want of it. It is something that is produced by accumulating Righteousness, and is not something that you can grab from superficial attempts at Righteousness. If you act without mental composure, you will become ch'i-starved."
"Therefore I would say that Kao Tzu has not yet understood Righteousness, since he regards it as something external. You must be willing to work at it, understanding that you cannot have precise control over it. You can't forget about it, but you can't force it to grow, either."
"You don't want to be like the man from Sung. There was a man from Sung who was worried about the slow growth of his crops and so he went and yanked on them to accelerate their growth. Empty-headed, he returned home and announced to his people: 'I am so tired today. I have been out stretching the crops.' His son ran out to look, but the crops had already withered. Those in the world who don't 'help their crops by pulling' are few indeed. There are also those who regard all effort as wasteful and don't even weed their crops. But those who think they can hurry their growth along by forcing it, are not only not helping their ch'i, but actually harming it!"
Ch'ou asked, "What do you mean when you say 'I understand language'?"
Mencius said, "When I hear deceptive speech, I know what it is covering up. When I hear licentious speech, I know its pitfalls. When I hear crooked speech, I know where it departs from the truth. When I hear evasive speech, I know its emptiness. Once born in a person's mind, these words harm the government. Spreading through the government, they damage all sorts of affairs. When a future sage appears, he will attest to my words."
Ch'ou said: "Tsai Wo and Tzu Kung were eloquent. Zan Niu, Min-tzu and Yen YŁan also spoke well but were known for their virtuous conduct. Confucius embodied both, but when questioned about it, said, 'When it comes to speeking, I am not so good.' In this case are you (Mencius) a sage?"
Mencius said: "How can you ask me this? When Tzu Kung asked Confucius if he was a sage, Confucius said, 'Sagehood is beyond me. I study without getting bored and teach without getting tired.' Tzu Kung said: 'Studying without boredom is wisdom, teaching without weariness is jen. Having jen and wisdom, you are a sage indeed, Master!'"
Now if Confucius could not accept the name of 'sage,' how can I?"
Ch'ou said, "I once heard this: Tzu Hsia, Tzu Lu and Tzu Chang all had one piece of sagehood, and Zan Niu, Min Tzu and Yen YŁan embodied it fully, though in an unmanifest way. May I ask where you stand among these men?"
"Let's leave this aside for now." said Mencius.
Ch'ou then asked, "What about Po Yi and I Yin?"
Mencius said, "They had different ways. The way of not serving a ruler he didn't respect, not taking charge of a people whom he didn't approve; coming forward when there was good government and retiring when there was disorder--this was the way of Po Yi."
"Serving any ruler, taking charge of any people; coming forward when there was good government, coming forward when there was disorder--this was the way of I Yin."
"Serving when it was proper to serve, retiring when it was proper to retire; continuing long when it was proper and finishing quickly where it was proper--this was the way of Confucius. I have not yet been able to conduct myself in the way of the ancient sages. But if I could study with one of them, I would choose Confucius."
"Were Po Yi and I Yin comparable to Confucius?"
"No way" Mencius replied. "Since the beginning of human existence, there has never been anyone like Confucius."
"But weren't there at least some ways in which these men were equal to him?"
"Sure. If any of them were to be the ruler of a territory of one hundred li, they would be able to get all the nobles to come to their court, and soon they would have control of the whole realm. And if the acquisition of the realm required a single unjust act, or the murder of one innocent man, they would not do it. In this, they would be the same."
"Then may I ask how they would differ?"
Mencius said: "Tsai Wo, Tzu Kung and Yu Jo all had enough wisdom to recognize a sage. If any one of them were in a low position, they would never have resorted to flattery to get something more desirable.
"Tsai Wo said, 'From what I have seen of our Master, he was far superior to Yao and Shun.'
Tzu Kung said, 'I have seen his propriety and have understood his ways of government. I have heard his music and recognize his virtue. From a hundred generations after, through a hundred generations of kings, none will be able to improve on him. From the beginning of human existence, there has never been anyone like the Master."
Yu Jo said, 'How it be so only among men? Among mammals there is the Ch'i-lin; among birds there is the phoenix; among hills, Mt. T'ai; among puddles and rivulets, the rivers and oceans. Now, each of these are of the same species, and the sage is of the same species as man, but he emerges from the group and stands out from the crowd. From the beginning of human existence, there has never been one as outstanding as Confucius.'"
2A:3 Mencius said, "He who uses force as a pretense of jen is the de-facto
strongman among the princes. But such a strongman must have a large state in order to be
effective. The man who uses his virtue to practice jen is the true king. To be a
real king you don't need an especially large territory. T'ang did it with only seventy li
and King Wen did it with only one hundred li. When you use your power to force
people into submission, they will never submit with their hearts; it is only because they
don't have enough strength to resist. When people submit to virtue, they are happy from
the bottom of their hearts, and they submit sincerely, the way the seventy disciples
submitted to Confucius. The Book of Odes says:
From the west, from the east,
From the south, from the north;
No one thought of not-submitting.
This is what I am talking about.
2A:4 Mencius said: "Jen brings glory and non-jen brings disgrace. So if you hate disgrace but still involve yourself in what is not jen, it is like hating moisture and living in a basement. If you really hate it, you should honor virtue and respect the good. Install good men into positions of rank and give jobs to people of ability. During the breaks in warfare, you should take the opportunity to clarify your governmental procedures and legal codes. If you do this, even larger states will have a healthy respect for you. In the Book of Odes there is the verse which goes:
Before the sky was dark with rain
I collected branches from the mulberry grounds
And built doors and windows for my nest.
Now, you all below,
Who will laugh at me?[* From Odes, 231. This verse is from a story about a small bird who is being harassed by an owl, and who used a moment of respite to provide some self-protection.*]
"Confucius said, 'Did not the writer of this poem understand the Tao of
government?' If you are able to govern well your state or clan, who will dare to take you
"But when modern princes have any kind of respite they spend it on indolent pleasure-seeking and gratification, which is to invite misfortune. Fortune and misfortune come from no place other than yourself. The Book of Odes says:
Always speak according to the Mandate
And you will invite much fortune. (Odes, 241)
The T'ai Chia (a section in the Book of History) says:
The calamities sent from Heaven can still be changed. But the calamities brought on
by yourself--from these you cannot escape with your life.
These two citations reflect my point.
2A:5 Mencius said: "Respect the worthy and employ the capable; put talented people
in key positions, then all the shih of the realm will be pleased and will want to
be members of your court."
"In the market-places, charge land-rent, but don't tax the goods; or make concise regulations and don't even charge rent. Do this, and all the merchants in the realm will be pleased, and will want to set up shop in your markets."
"At the borders, make inspections but don't charge tariffs, then all the travelers in the realm will be pleased and will want to traverse your highways.
"If the farmers merely have to help each other with the government fields, and do not have to pay an additional tax, then all the farmers in the realm will be pleased, and will want to till your fields.
"If you do not charge fines to the unemployed in your marketplaces, then all the people in the realm will be pleased, and will want to become your subjects."
"If you are really able to put these five points into practice, then the people from the neighboring states will look up to you as a parent. Now, there has never been a case of someone being able to consistently succeed in making children attack their own parents. This being the case, you will have no enemies in the realm. The one who has no enemies in the realm is the vicegerent of Heaven. There is no case of one who attained to this level, and who did not attain to true kingship."
2A:6 Mencius said: "All people have a heart which cannot stand to see the
suffering of others. The ancient kings had this heart which could not stand to see the
suffering of others, and, with this, operated a government which could not stand to see
the suffering of the people. If, in this state of mind, you ran a government which could
not endure people's suffering, you could govern the realm as if you were turning it in the
palm of your hand."
"Why do I say all human beings have a heart which cannot stand to see the suffering of others? Even nowadays, if an infant were about to fall into a well, anyone would be upset and concerned. This concern would not be due to the fact that the person wanted to get in good with the baby's parents, or because s/he wanted to improve his/her reputation among the community or among his/her circle of friends. Nor would it be because he/she was afraid of the criticism that might result from a show of non-concern."
"From this point of view, we can say that if you did lack concern for the infant, you would not be human. Also, to lack a sense of shame and disgust would not be human; to lack a feeling of humility and deference is to be "in-human" and to lack a sense of right and wrong is to be inhuman."
"The sense of concern for others is the starting point of jen. The feeling of shame and disgust is the starting point of Righteousness. The sense of humility and deference is the starting point of Propriety and the sense of right and wrong is the starting point of Wisdom."
"People's having these four basic senses is like their having four limbs. Having these four basic senses and yet claiming inability to act on them is to cheat yourself. To say that the ruler doesn't have them is to cheat the ruler. Since all people have these four basic senses within themselves, they should all understand how to enhance and develop them. It is like when a fire just starts, or a spring first bubbles out of the ground. If you are able to develop these four basic senses, you will be able to take care of everybody within the four seas. If you do not develop them, you won't even be able to take care of your own parents."
2A:7 Mencius said: "How is it that the arrow-maker is being less jen than
the armor-maker? The arrow maker is worried about people not getting hurt, while the
armor-maker is worried if people do get hurt. The situation is the same with the
healer and the coffin maker. Therefore, you should be careful about choosing your
"Confucius said: 'It is the degree of jen in a village that determines its beauty. If you choose not to abide in jen, how will you ever attain wisdom?'
"Now jen is that which Heaven prizes above all else, and it is the proper abode for human beings. Nobody can be hindered from being jen by anyone else--this is merely a hindrance to wisdom. To be not-jen and not wise is to lack propriety and Righteousness and become a slave to others. Being a slave to others and being ashamed of it is like the bow-maker being ashamed of making bows and the arrow-maker being ashamed of making arrows. If you are ashamed of these things you should work at your jen. The jen person is like an archer. The archer prepares himself before shooting. If, upon shooting, he misses the bull's--eye, he does not blame the man who beat him. He turns and reflects on himself."
2A:8 Mencius said: "When someone told Tzu Lu about one of his faults, he was
happy. When Yu heard words of goodness, he would bow in respect. The great Shun surpassed
even these men. He regarded the goodness of others to be the same as his. He let go of his
arbitrariness and followed others, happily learning from them in order to develop his
goodness. From the time when he was a farmer, a potter and a fisherman, up until he became
emperor, he never stopped learning from others."
"To learn from others to develop one's goodness is also to develop goodness together with others. Therefore, for the Superior Man, there is nothing greater than to develop goodness together with others."
2A:9 Mencius said: "Po Yi would not serve a ruler he did not respect, and would
not hang around with people he didn't like. He wouldn't attend the court of an evil prince
and wouldn't converse with an evil person. To attend the court of an evil prince, or
converse with an evil person, would be the same for him as wearing the ceremonial gown and
cap and sitting in mud and charcoal. Furthermore, if he were standing with a villager who
hat was on crooked, he would leave him in embarrassment, as if he would be polluted by
Therefore, even if one of the nobles sent him something with good intentions, he would often not accept it. Indeed, he would not let anything near him that he considered dirty."
Hui Liu Hsia was not ashamed to be associated with an impure prince, and was not embarrassed to hold a low-level job. He would show himself without concealing his worth, always keeping to what he considered to be the right way. When he was let go from a job, he did not get resentful, and when in dire straits, he did not complain. Therefore, he used to say: 'You are you and I am I. Even if you stand right next to me wearing no shirt, you cannot pollute me.' Thus he associated with people freely, without losing himself. When pressed to stay in government he would stay. In this lack of a need to escape, we can see that he did not need to avoid that which he considered unclean."
"Po Yi was rigid and Hui Liu Hsia was too relaxed. The Superior Man does not like to be too rigid or too relaxed."
3B:2 Ching Ch'un said: "Are not Kung Sun Yen and Chang I great men? If they get
angry just once, all the nobles are afraid. If they are relaxed, then the realm is
Mencius said: "How can you call them great just because of this? Have you not studied the Record of Rites? When a young man is capped (reaches manhood) his father instructs him. At the marriage of a young woman, the mother instructs her as she walks her to the door. She admonishes her, saying, 'When you go to your husband's house, you must respect him and be careful not to be disagreeable. To be properly obedient is the way of wives and concubines."
"If you dwell in the great house of the world, are established in your correct position in the world, walk the great Path of the world; if you attain your ambitions for office, and then share your goodness with the people--or, not attaining your ambitions for office and walking alone on your own Path; if wealth and honor do not dissipate you, poverty and low status do not make you move from your principles; authority and might do not distort you: Then you can be called a 'great man.'
6A:1 Kao Tzu said: "Human nature is like a willow tree (the wood of which is good
for making vessels) and Righteousness is like the cups and bowls that are carved out of
the wood. To make human nature to be jen and Just is like making the willow wood
into cups and bowls."
Mencius said: "Can you make cups and bowls while keeping the nature of the willow? It is by destroying the willow that you make cups and bowls. If we destroy the willow to make cups and bowls, should we also destroy the human being to make jen and Righteousness? This kind of talk from you will certainly lead the people to see jen and Righteousness as anathema."
6A:2 Kao Tzu said: "Human nature is like whirling water. If you let it out on the
east side, it will go east. If you let it out on the west side, it will go west.
Similarly, human nature has no predisposition for good or evil, just as water has no
predisposition for east or west."
Mencius said: "It is true that water has no predisposition for east or west. But doesn't it have a predisposition for up and down? The goodness of the human nature is just like the downward tendency of water. Just as all water has a down-going tendency, all people have a tendency toward goodness."
"Now you can splash water and make it fly over your head, or you can dam it and force it uphill, but these are after all, forcing it. You can push people into doing evil, but that is not their basic nature."
6A:3 Kao Tzu said: "What we mean by life is nature."
Mencius said: "If life is nature, then this the same as saying white is whiteness?"
"Then is the whiteness of a feather the same as the whiteness of snow? And is the whiteness of snow the same as the whiteness of a pearl?"
"Then is the nature of a dog the same as the nature of a cow? And is the nature of a cow the same as the nature of a person?"
6A:4 Kao Tzu said: "By nature we desire food and sex. Jen is internal and
not external, Righteousness is external and not internal.
Mencius said: "How can you say jen is internal and Righteousness is external?"
Kao Tzu replied: "If there is an old man and I regard him as old, it is not because the age is in me. It is like seeing something white. I regard it as white because the whiteness is outside of me. Therefore, I say Righteousness is external.
Mencius said, "Maybe there is no difference in acknowledging the whiteness of a white horse and the whiteness of a white man, but is there no difference between the acknowledgement of the age of an old horse, and the age of an old man? And does Righteousness consist in perceiving the age or acknowledging it?"
Kao Tzu said: "I love my younger brother, but I might not love the younger brother of a man from Ch'in. This depends on me, so I call it `internal.' I respect the age of a man of Ch'u the same way I respect the age of a man of my family. Since this depends on the age, I say it is `external'."
Mencius said, "Our enjoyment of the roast beef of Ch'in does not differ from that of our own roast beef. If such a thing as roast beef is like this, then is our enjoyment of roast beef also 'external?'"
6A:6 Kung Tu-tzu said: "Kao Tzu says that human nature is neither good nor evil.
Others say that human nature can be made good or evil. That is why when Kings Wen and Wu
were in power, the people loved goodness, and when Yu and Li were in power, they enjoyed
"Still others say that some people are inherently good and some are inherently evil. Therefore, under a good ruler like Yao, there was such an evil man as Hsiang; and to such a bad father as Ku-sou, a good son Shun was born; and with a nephew of the senior branch as evil as Chou on the throne, such good uncles as Ch'i, Viscount of Wei, and Prince Pi Kan lived.
"Now you say that human beings are inherently good. Then are all the others wrong?"
Mencius said: "When I say human beings are inherently good, I am talking about their most fundamental emotional qualities. If someone does evil, it is not the fault of their natural endowment. Everyone has the feeling of concern for the well-being of others; everyone has the sense of shame and disgust at their own evil; everyone has the sense to treat others courteously and respectfully; everyone has the sense of right and wrong.
"The feeling of concern for the well-being of others is jen. The sense of shame and disgust is Righteousness; the sense to treat others with courtesy and respect is Propriety. The sense of right and wrong is Wisdom.
"Jen, Righteousness, Propriety and Wisdom are not forced onto us from the outside. They are our original endowments--you have really not thought it through, have you?
"Thus it is said: 'If you strive for it, you will gain it; if you ignore it, you will lose it.' Men differ in terms of actualization: some are double, some fivefold and some manifest it to an incalculable degree. This difference is because some are not able to fully develop their natural endowments. The Book of Odes says:
Heaven gives birth to all men
And each thing possesses its principle
When people maintain this norm
They come to love its splendid virtues.
"Confucius said, 'The writer of this poem certainly knew what he was talking
about.' Therefore, wherever there is anything, there is a concomitant principle. When the
people embrace the norms of goodness, they can enjoy its splendid virtues."
6A:7 Mencius said: "In years of good harvest the children are wholesome; in years
of bad harvest, they are incorrigible. This is not because Heaven sends down different
endowments of ability, but because their minds being sunk in depression.
"Now if you plant wheat and barley and cover them, and the soil is the same and the cultivation times are the same, they will all grow strongly. When it comes to their ripening time and there are differences, it is because of differences in soil fertility, the nourishment from rain or the amount of care-taking done by the farmers.
"So whenever things are of the same species, they will resemble each other. This being so, how could we doubt that it is the same with men? I and the sage are of the same species. Therefore, Lung-tzu said: 'Even if I don't know the foot-size when making sandals, I know enough that I won't make bushel baskets.' The similarity in sandals is because of the similarity in feet.
"We also have similarities in taste. That's how Yi Ya[*A legendary famous cook in ancient China.*] knows what I like beforehand. Imagine if his taste was inherently different than that of others like that of another species such as dog or horse. How could everybody love the taste of Yi Ya's cooking? The fact that everybody agrees that Yi Ya's cooking is the best shows the sameness in people's taste.
"It is the same with the ear. The fact that everyone takes the music of Conductor K'uang as the best, shows the sameness in the ears of everyone.
"It is the same with the eyes. Everyone knows that there is no one in the world as attractive as Tzu Tu. And if you don't think she is beautiful, you are blind.
"Therefore I say, there is a standard for taste, there is a standard for music, and there is a standard for beauty. Shouldn't it also be so with the things of the mind? What is it that is the same with people's minds? It is that they know the same principle and the same Righteousness. The sage knows the sameness of our minds beforehand. Therefore his principles and Righteousness fit to our minds, in the same way that the meat of grain-eating animals fits our taste."
6A:8 Mencius said, "The greenery on Niu Mountain was once beautiful, but since it
was near a large city, it was attacked by lumberjacks. How could it retain its beauty?
Still, by breathing in the sunlight and rain, how could new buds and sprouts not appear?
But then cattle and sheep came and fed themselves, and by the time they were done, it was
"If people saw this barrenness, they might have imagined that there had never been any greenery. How could the mountain be inherently like this?
"In the case of people, how could they lack the mind of jen and Righteousness? But the daily damaging of the goodness of their mind is just like the lumberjacks on the mountain. Being chopped down day after day, how can it manifest its natural beauty?
"One may breathe in fresh air day and night, but if you allow the enjoyment of evil doings with people to close in on you, the air gets thin, and your daytime activities stifle you. Because of this stifling, the fresh air is insufficient. Being insufficient, your goodness of mind is not nourished, and there will be little difference between you and the animals. People see our animalistic nature and assume that we have never had great endowments. How could this be our real nature?
"Therefore, if it is properly nourished, there is nothing that will not grow. If it is not nourished, there is nothing that will not die. Confucius said: 'Use it and you will keep it; ignore it and you will lose it. No one knows the times of its coming or going, nor its location.' What else could he be talking about but the mind?"
6A:9 Mencius said, "No wonder the king is not wise. With even the hardiest plants in the world, if you expose them to a day of heat and ten days of cold, they will not be able to grow. I rarely have a chance to see the king, and after I leave he is approached by the cold ones. How can I make his wisdom grow?"
"Now chess is actually a minor art, but if you don't concentrate well while learning it, you'll never be any good. Chessman Ch'iu is the best player in the country, and let's say two men are learning from him. One man concentrates completely on everything Ch'iu says, while the other one, while listening, is thinking about that goose over there and how he would string up a retrievable arrow and shoot it. Even though he is learning together with the other man, he will never be equal to him. Is this because of a difference in intelligence? Of course not."
6A:10 Mencius said, "I like fish and I like bear's paw, but if I have to choose
between them, I will let go of the fish and take the bear's paw. I like life and I like
Righteousness. But if I have to choose between them I will let go of life and take
I want life, but there are things more important to me than life. Therefore there are things that I won't do just to live. I hate death, but there are things that I hate more than death, and thus there are certain kinds of suffering that I won't avoid.
"If you teach a man to value nothing more than life, then what means will he not use in order to save his life? If you teach people to hate nothing more than death, then what will they not do, in order to avoid death?
"But there are some things that people will not do to save their lives and some things that people will not do to avoid death. This means that there are things more important to them than life, and more hateful to them than death. It is not only the worthy who have this capacity. All people have it, but the worthy are able to be consistent in it.
"When a bowl of rice or a cup of soup lies between life and death, and you offer it in a nasty way, even a bum off the street will not accept it. If you kick it at him with your feet, even a beggar will not take it.
"Yet a man will accept a huge sum of money without any consideration of propriety. What can the money add to his person? I can beautify my house, gain the favors of wives and concubines, or gain the attention of greedy acquaintances. Yet before, I would not receive a bowl of rice to save my life, but now I will accept lots of money for the beautification of my home, for the favors of wives and concubines or to give to greedy acquaintances. Was it also not possible to decline this?"
"This is called 'losing one's original mind.'"
6A:11 Mencius said, "Jen is the mind of human beings. Righteousness is
their path. To abandon the path and not follow it, or to lose the mind and not know enough
to seek it: this is a pity indeed!"
"When people lose their chickens and dogs, they know enough to look for them, but when they lose their mind, they do not know enough to seek it. The way of study and inquiry is none other than the search for the lost mind."
6A:12 Mencius said, "Let's say there is a man whose fourth finger is crooked and
will not straighten. It does not cause him pain or hinder his work, yet if he heard of
someone who could fix it, he would easily travel as far as Ch'u to get it fixed, so that
he might be like other men."
"We know enough to be bothered when our finger is not right, but don't know enough to be bothered when our mind is not right. This is called 'not knowing the relative importance of things.'
6A:15 Kung Tu Tzu said, "If all men are equal, how is it that there are greater
and lesser men?"
Mencius said, "Some follow their greater part and some follow their lesser part."
"Why do some follow their greater part and some follow their lesser part?"
Mencius said, "The organs such as the eye and ear cannot discriminate and are thus confused by things. Things are interconnected with other things, which lead one further away. The function of the mind is to discriminate--if you discriminate you will attain it. If you don't discriminate, you won't attain it. These are what Heaven has bestowed upon us. If you first establish yourself in the greater part, then the small part cannot be snatched away from you. This is the essential of being a great man."
6A:16 Mencius said: "There is a nobility that belongs to Heaven and a nobility
that belongs to man. Jen, Righteousness loyalty, truthfulness and a tireless
delight in the good--these are the nobility of Heaven. Duke, Premier and Minister--these
are the nobility of man.
"The ancients cultivated the Heavenly nobilities and the human nobilities naturally followed. Modern men cultivate the Heavenly nobilities in order to gain the human nobilities, and once they have these, they throw away the other. How mixed up they are! In the end they will lose everything."
6A:17 Mencius said, "All men desire honor, and though they all have something
truly honorable within themselves, they do not reflect on it. The honor dispensed by
people is not true honor. Those honored by Chao Meng can also be debased by Chao Meng. The
Book of Odes says:
He has made us drunk with his wine
And filled us with virtue.
"This means they have been satiated with jen and Righteousness, and
therefore they do not need to taste the fine foods of man. He has received broad and
far-reaching praise and therefore has no desire for the finery of men."
6A:18 Mencius said: "Jen overcomes non-jen just as water overcomes
fire. But those of modernity who attempt the practice of jen are like a person who
tries to put out a burning wagon-load of wood with a cup of water. When it doesn't work,
they say that water cannot put out fire. It is the same situation as those who attempt to
deal with non-jen in a similar fashion. In the end, they will be completely
6A:19 Mencius said: "The seeds of the five grains are the best. But if they do not
ripen, they are not even as good as wild grasses. The value of jen also resides in
its being brought to maturity."
6A:20 Mencius said: "When Yi taught archery, he always pulled the bow to its
maximum. His students also had to strive to do this. A master carpenter, when teaching,
always uses a compass and square. The students must also use a compass and square."
6B:2 . . . Mencius said, "The Tao is like a great road. How difficult is it to
know about it? The problem with people is that they do not even seek for it. If you just
return home and seek it, you will find teachers in excess."
6B:12 Mencius said, "If a Superior Man lacks integrity, to what shall he
6B:13 The prince of Lu invited Mencius' disciple Yo Chang to run his government.
Mencius said, "When I heard about it, I was so happy that I couldn't sleep."
Kung Sun Ch'ou asked, "Is Yo Chang so strong?"
Mencius said, "No."
"Is he so wise?"
"Is he broadly learned?"
"Then what made you so happy that you couldn't sleep?"
Mencius said, "He is a man who loves goodness."
"Is just loving goodness enough?"
"Loving goodness is enough to excel throughout the whole realm. How much more so in just the state of Lu! If the ruler loves goodness, then the people from within the whole area inside the four seas will not consider far to travel one thousand li in order to share their own goodness with him. But if he dislikes goodness, then people will say 'He's a scoundrel and we know it.'
"The speech and face of a rogue will keep people a thousand li away. If the good shih stay a thousand li away, then all the back-stabbers and brown-nosers in the realm will come to the ruler. Surrounded by back-stabbers and brown-nosers, can you really run a government?"
6B:15 Mencius said, "Shun rose up from the grain fields; Fu YŁeh was found as a
construction laborer, Chieh Ko was pulled up from his fish and salt; Sun Shu Ao from the
sea, and Pai Li Hsi from the marketplace.
"Thus, when Heaven is going to give a great responsibility to someone, it first makes his mind endure suffering. It makes his sinews and bones experience toil, and his body to suffer hunger. It inflicts him with poverty and knocks down everything he tries to build.
"In this way Heaven stimulates his mind, stabilizes his temper and develops his weak points. People will always err, but it is only after making mistakes that they can correct themselves. Only when you have been mentally constricted can you become creative. It will show in your face and be heard in your voice, such that you will affect others.
"In your own state, if you don't have legal specialists and impartial advisors, and outside your state, you don't have enemy states to harass you, your own state will certainly fall to ruin.
"From this we can know that life is stimulated from adversity and anxiety, and death results from relaxation and pleasure."
6B:16 Mencius said: "There are many kinds of teaching techniques. Sometimes I
teach by not teaching."
7A:1 Mencius said: "If you fully explore your mind, you will know your nature. If
you know your nature, you know Heaven. To preserve your mind and nourish your nature is to
"Not seeing duality between short life and long life, cultivate yourself by awaiting it. This is the way to set up your destiny."
7A:2 Mencius said: "There is nothing that does not have a destiny, so follow your
own and accept it as it is. If you do this, when you understand what destiny is, you will
not stand under the wall of a high cliff. To fully traverse one's course and then
die--this is correct destiny. To die in handcuffs and chains is not correct destiny."
7A:3 Mencius said: "Search for it and you gain it. Ignore it and you lose it: this
is the searching that has increase in its attainment, the seeking that adds to the self.
"Search for it, keeping the Tao, attain it, keeping with destiny. In this searching, there is no increase upon attainment. This is the searching through which you get rid of things."
7A:4 Mencius said: "All things are prepared within me. If I reflect on myself and
find that I am sincere, shouldn't I be overjoyed? If I conduct myself on the principle of
fairness, will my search for jen not be close at hand?"
7A:5 Mencius said: "Acting without being clear, practicing without close
observation: doing this to the end of their lives without ever understanding their own
course. This is the way most people are."
7A:6 Mencius said: "A person cannot do without shame. If you are ashamed of your
shamelessness, you will not need to be ashamed."
7A:7 Mencius said: "Shame is something important for people. Those who operate by
clever advantage-taking have no use for shame. Not having shame, you will not be like
others. What will you have in common with them?"
7A:8 Mencius said: "The worthy kings of antiquity were impressed by goodness and
not by power. How could the worthy shih be different? They delighted in their path
and were oblivious to power in others. Therefore, if a king or duke did not treat them
with full respect and thorough propriety, he would not have too many chances of seeing
them. Not having much chance to see them, how could he gain their services?"
7A:9 Mencius, speaking to Sung Kou Chien, said, "You like travelling to different
courts, don't you? Let me speak with you about this kind of travelling. If you are
acknowledged, just be content, and if you are not acknowledged, just be content."
Chien asked, "How do you go about 'just being content.'?"
Mencius said, "If you value virtue and enjoy Righteousness, you can be content. Hence the shih in dire straits does not lose his sense of Righteousness, and when successful, does not lose the Path. Since he does not lose his sense of Righteousness when in dire straits, the shih is able to keep a grasp on himself. Since he does not lose the Path when he becomes successful, the people are not disappointed in him."
"When the ancients achieved their aims, they shared it with the people. Not attaining their aims, their self-discipline was an example to succeeding generations. In dire straits they could only develop their own goodness. Successful, they could share their goodness with the whole world."
7A:10 Mencius said: "Almost all people wait for someone like King Wen to come and
uplift them. But the truly outstanding shih will uplift himself, even if a King Wen
7A:12 Mencius said: "If you employ people with a sincere motive to make their life
more comfortable, then even if they have to work hard, they won't blame you. If you
execute people with the true motive of saving lives, then even if there is death, no one
will blame the executioner."
7A:13 Mencius said: "When someone at least has control over the political
situation the people can be relaxed. If there is a true king, then they can be completely
content. He can conduct executions without blame, and make profit without their feeling
abused. The people return to the good every day, without knowing who is making them do
"So wherever the Superior Man passes through, people are transformed; the place where he stays is spiritualized and Heaven and Earth blend harmoniously. How could you say 'he is of little help'?"
7A:14 Mencius said: "Good words do not enter as deeply into a person as does a
reputation for Goodness. Good government is not as effective as good teaching in terms of
gaining the support of the people. If you have a good government, the people will be in
awe of you. If you teach them well, they will love you. Good government gains people's
wealth. Good teaching gains their hearts."
7A:15 Mencius said: "When people who have not studied have abilities, these are
inherent abilities. When people who have not deliberated have knowledge, this is inherent
knowledge. An infant carried in the arms has no lack of knowledge of how to love its
parents, and when it gets older, it knows automatically how to respect its older brothers.
Loving one's parents is jen, respecting one's older brothers is Righteousness. This
is for no other reason than that these principles penetrate all people."
7A:17 Mencius said: "Don't do what shouldn't be done and don't desire what
shouldn't be desired. That's all there is to it."
7A:18 Mencius said: "When people have penetrating wisdom and practical knowledge
it is usually because they have spent a long time in difficulty. The orphaned servant and
the concubine's son handle situations with caution and think deeply when in distress.
Therefore, they handle things well."
7A:19 Mencius said, "There are those who serve the prince, and do so to receive
his favor. There are those who serve the land, and do so because it makes them happy.
There are Heavenly people, who, once their excellence can be actualized in the world,
actualize it. There are great men who rectify themselves--and others are rectified.
7A:21 Mencius said, "The Superior Man may enjoy the possession of a large
territory with many people, but this is not what he takes delight in. He may delight in
being established in the realm and stabilizing the people within the four seas, but this
has nothing to do with the essence of his character. The essence of his character is not
something that can be enhanced by great success, or be hindered by poverty. These are
"The essentials of the Superior Man's character are Jen, Righteousness, Propriety and Wisdom, which are rooted in the mind, and give rise to one's external appearance. Their luster can be seen in his face, their fullness can be seen in his back and are released into his four limbs. The four limbs reveal this without speaking."
7A:26 Mencius said, "Yang-tzu believed in 'every man for himself.' If he could
have helped the whole world by plucking out a single hair, he would not have done it. Mo
Tzu believed in 'universal love.' If he had to rub his whole body smooth in order to
benefit the world, he would have done it. Tzu Mo believes in holding to the center. Now
'holding to the center' comes close, but still, if you hold to the center, you have no
adaptability, since you are just holding to one thing. What is bad about holding to one
thing is that it robs from the Tao. You hold to one, and let go of a hundred."
7A:27 Mencius said, "For the hungry any food is tasty and for the thirsty any
drink is tasty. But they are not getting the true taste of the food and the drink, since
their deprivation has perverted their sensitivity. How could only one's mouth and belly
suffer from the afflictions of hunger and thirst? Peoples' minds are also afflicted.
"When you are able to keep the afflictions of hunger and thirst from affecting your mental state, you need never be concerned about being the equal of others."
7A:29 Mencius said, "Working at a project is like digging a well. If you dig sixty
feet and stop without hitting water, you are just throwing away the whole well."
7A:33 The king's son, Tien, asked Mencius, "What does a shih do?"
Mencius said, "He elevates his motives."
"What does that mean?"
Mencius said, "To live by jen and Righteousness and nothing else. If you kill a single innocent man, you are not jen. If something is not yours and you take it, you are not Righteous. Wherever you dwell, make it jen; whatever course you travel, make it righteous. Abiding in jen and acting through Righteousness--this is how the great man completes his work."
7A:37 Mencius said, "To feed someone and not love them is the same as dealing with
swine. To love someone but not respect them is like raising domesticated animals. Now
courtesy and respect should come before the presentation of gifts. If courtesy and respect
are not genuine, the Superior Man will never be trapped by them.
7A:38 Mencius said, "Characteristics such as form and color are assigned by
Heaven. Only after you are a sage can you completely suit yourself to your own form."
7A:40 Mencius said, "The Superior Man in teaches in five general ways according to
these five types of students:
Those who are transformed by the deluge of a seasonal rain.
Those whose virtue he develops.
Those whose abilities he uncovers.
Those whose questions he answers.
Those who develop themselves by their own reflection.
According to these, the Superior Man teaches in five ways."
7A:41 Kung Sun Chou said: "The Tao is so lofty and exquisite, so when we try to
ascend to it, we cannot reach it. Can you not make the people feel that somehow they can
reach it so that they will keep trying every day?"
Mencius said, "A master carpenter does not give up using the plumb line because of a clumsy helper, and Archer Yi would never change his principles of bowmanship for a clumsy archer. The Superior Man leads the student along without giving away the whole thing. He dances lightly, established in the Tao. Those who can, follow him."
7A:42 Mencius said, "When the Tao prevails in the realm, the Tao should be
absorbed into the person. When the Tao is lost in the realm, the person should be absorbed
into the Tao. I have not heard of people who utilize the Tao being absorbed into other
7A:43 Kung Tu Tzu said: "When Kang of Tang last came to see you, even though his
approach was not improper, you would not answer him. May I ask why?"
Mencius said, "One who asks presuming upon his rank, his ability, his seniority; who presumes on what I might owe him, or presumes on our former acquaintance, I will not answer. In Kang Tang's case two of these apply."
7A:44 Mencius said, "If you stop once when you shouldn't, you will always stop
short. If you take one essential thing lightly, you will take everything lightly. If you
advance too sharply, you will subside quickly."
7A:45 Mencius said, "The Superior Man cares about creatures but does not love them
as if they are people. He loves people as people, but not in the intimate way he loves his
parents. He loves his parents intimately and loves people as people. He loves people as
people and cares about creatures."
7A:46 Mencius said, "There is nothing the wise cannot understand, but they will
focus on the important things. There is no one the jen person cannot love, but s/he
will focus on cultivation of intimacy with the Good. The understanding of Yao and Shun did
not include everything, but they took care of what was important. Their jen did not
extend to every single person, but they were concerned about being intimate with the
"Those who are meticulous about the details of minor mourning for distant relatives, but who can't carry out the heavy mourning required for their parents, or the people who suck down food and drink, yet ask questions about the propriety of tearing meat with the teeth--these are people who don't know what is important."
7B:1 Mencius said, "King Hui of Liang is the antithesis of jen. The jen
man takes what he loves and brings it to that which he does not love. The non-jen
man take what he does not love and brings it to that which he loves."
Kung Sun Ch'ou said, "What do you mean?"
Mencius said, "King Hui, just for the sake of gaining more territory, ravaged his own people and then sent them into battle. Even when they were being beaten badly, he would just send them back in again. Afraid of losing the engagement, he sent his beloved son into the fray, who was also killed. This is what I mean by 'taking that which you don't love and bringing it to that which you love.'"
7B:4 Mencius said, "There are men who say, 'I am good at arranging troops' and say
'I am good at military strategy.' They are great criminals. If the ruler of the state
loves jen, he will have no enemies in the realm . . . "
7B:5 Mencius said, "A carpenter or a carriage-maker can give someone a compass or
a square, but cannot give them skills."
7B:9 Mencius said, "If you don't practice the Tao yourself, it will not be
practiced in the family. If you don't use the Tao in your dealings with others, you will
not be able to use the Tao in your family life."
7B:10 Mencius said, "If you really understand how to take advantage of things, you
cannot die in a year of bad harvest. If you really understand virtue, you cannot be
subverted in an age of corruption."
7B:13 Mencius said, "There are cases of evil men possessing a kingdom, but there
has never been a case where an evil man got possession of the whole realm."
7B:15 Mencius said, "The Sage is a teacher of one hundred generations. For
example, Po Yi and Hui Liu Hsia. When people hear of the ways of Po Yi, the twisted become
clear and the dispirited arouse determination. When they hear of the ways of Hui Liu Hsia,
trivial people become people of substance and the narrow-minded become wide-open.[* Po Yi
fled from the tyrant Chou but returned to serve King Wen. Liu Hsia Hui was a statesman of
Lu, famous for his integrity (Analects. 18:2).*] They have encouraged people for
the last one hundred generations and those of the next hundred generations who hear of
them will certainly be aroused. Could they have such an effect if they were not sages? And
can you imagine the amount of influence they had on those closely associated with them?
7B:16 "Jen" means "humanity." The harmonious combination of
the two is called the Tao.
7B:20 Mencius said, "The worthies made people clear with their own clarity.
Nowadays the people are made clear through ignorance."
7B:21 Mencius said to the disciple Kao, "If mountain trails are well used, then
they will become like roads. But if they are not used for a while, they become overgrown
with weeds. Now weeds are overgrowing in your mind.
7B:24 Mencius said, "The enjoyment by the tongue of flavor, the enjoyment by the
eye of color, the enjoyment by the ear of music, the enjoyment by the nose of perfumes and
the enjoyment by the body of comfort, are natural and endowed by Heaven. But the Superior
Man doesn't regard these as his innermost nature.
The experience of love between parents and children, the practice of righteousness between ruler and minister, the observance of proper manners between host and guest, the possession of the wisdom for discerning Goodness and the sage's intimacy with the Tao are endowed and natural, but the Superior Man doesn't consider them as his endowments.
7B:25 Hao-shang Pu-Hai asked, "What kind of man is Yo Cheng Tzu?"
Mencius said, "He is good, and he is genuine."
"What do you mean by good, and genuine?"
"A man that people like to be with is good. A man who keeps this goodness in himself is genuine. One who fully develops his goodness is called `excellent'. One whose full development of goodness shines forth is called 'great'. One whose greatness transforms others is called a sage. A sage who is unfathomable is called 'transcendent'. Yo Cheng fits in the first two levels, but is not up to the last four.
7B:26 Mencius said, "Those who leave the Mo-ist school usually go to the school of
Yang. Those who leave the Yang school usually come to us.
"If they come, they should be received without hesitation. Those who participate in the current Yang--Mo debate are like someone chasing a stray pig and after it is in the pen, tying it up.
[Comment] Anyone who has worked on a farm and has had to get a hold of a stray pig and then try to tie it, can appreciate Mencius' simile.
7B:27 Mencius said, "There is tax by hemp and silk; there is tax by grain; and there is tax by manpower. The smart ruler will just use one and let the other two slide. If you use two of these, there will be starvation among the people; if you use all three, families will be torn apart.
7B:29 Pan Ch'ang Kuo obtained an official position in Ch'i. Mencius said: "He's a
goner, Pan Ch'ang Kuo."
Pan Ch'ang Kuo did indeed meet his death in Ch'i, so the disciples asked Mencius, "How did you know he would be killed?"
Mencius said: "He was a man of little ability who had not learned of the great Path of the Superior Man. Thus, he knew enough to get himself killed, and that's it."
7B:31 Mencius said, "All people have something that they cannot stand to see. When
this feeling penetrates to those things which they can stand, this is jen. All
people have something that they will not do. When this attitude penetrates to those things
that they will do, this is Righteousness. When people fully develop a heart which is
unable to harm others, then their jen is beyond the point of ever being challenged.
If they are able to fully develop the kind of constitution in which theft is
inconceivable, then their Righteousness is beyond the point of ever being challenged. When
a man can fully develop his dislike for being addressed, "Hey, you," there is no
place he will go and not be Righteous. When the shih should not speak, but does,
this is beguilement by speaking. When he should speak, but doesn't, this is beguilement by
silence. Both can be considered as thievery."
7B:32 Mencius said, "Down-to-earth speech, which has far-reaching meaning is good
speech. To preserve the essentials yet learn extensively--this is the good way. The words
of the Superior Man are not hidden, yet the Tao is contained in them. The Superior Man
concentrates on the cultivation of his own character. The common error of people is that
they forget about their own garden and try to cultivate the other man's garden. They
expect much from others and little from themselves."
7B:33 Mencius said, "What Yao and Shun had by nature, T'ang and Wu returned to.
When your every action and expression operate perfectly in propriety, your virtue will be
Grief at funeral ceremonies is not for the purpose of the living. Holding to virtue without lapse is not for the purpose of recognition by your superiors. Speech that is truly sincere is not so in order to be called 'right behavior.' The Superior Man acts according to the pattern of the world in order to summon forth his destiny. That's all he does."
7B:35 Mencius said, "For cultivating the mind, there is nothing better than to
lessen desire. If you have few desires, even if there are things you don't have, they will
seem few. If you have many desires, even if you attain them, they will seem few."
7B:37 Wan Chang asked: "When Confucius was staying in Ch'an and said 'Let me
return home, my student shih are ardent[* Wan Chang is referring to the story in Analects
5:21. For a discussion of the term "ardent" (kuang), see the comment to Analects
13:21.*] and impatient--they go and get what they want. I cannot forget that they are
beginners.' Now, what made Confucius worry about his ardent students in Lu?"
Mencius said, "When Confucius could not get a hold of students who followed the Middle Way, he had no recourse but to select from the ardent and the prudent. The ardent will go and get what they want. The prudent can limit themselves. Of course Confucius wanted students who could follow the Middle Way, but not necessarily being able to find such people, he had to think of his next option."
"May I ask who he was thinking of when he said 'ardent'?"
"Men like Ch'in Chang, Tsang Hsi and Mu Pei."
"Why did he call them 'ardent'?"
"With grandiose aspirations they would say 'The ancients did this, the ancients did that.' Boldly planning their actions, they often couldn't make good on them. Now, if the daring cannot be gotten hold of, then Confucius would try to find those shih who would not let themselves be defiled. These are the prudent, who are next best."
Chang asked, "Confucius said: 'When someone passes by my gate and does not enter, the only time I don't regret it is when it is a 'conventional townsman.' These conventional townsmen are thieves of virtue.' What sort of people were these, that he called 'conventional townsmen'?"
Mencius said, "They criticize the ardent, saying 'How can they be so grandiose such that their words do not reflect their actions and actions do not reflect their words, and how can they justify themselves with 'the ancients did this, and the ancients did that.'"
"And they criticize the prudent, saying, 'How can they be so aloof and cold? We are all born in this world, so we should be part of it. Being good here and now is sufficient.' They obsequiously flatter their contemporaries. These are the so-called 'conventional townsmen.'"
Wan Chang said, "The whole town calls them 'acceptable men'--there is no place where they can go where they will not be regarded as 'acceptable men.' Why did Confucius call them 'thieves of virtue?'"
Mencius answered: "If you want to blame them for something, there is nothing in particular that you can blame them for. If you want to correct them, there is nothing in particular that you can correct them for. They follow the current customs and consent to the vices of the age. They seem to abide in loyalty and honesty, and their actions seem pure. Everyone follows them and because people follow them, people become incapable of entering the Tao of Yao and Shun. Thus, they are called 'thieves of virtue.'"
"Confucius said, 'I don't like simulacra.[* Something which resembles closely something else, and can be mistaken for it.*] I don't like tares (grain weeds) because they can be confused with real grain. I don't like eloquence, because it can be confused with Righteousness. I don't like sharpness of tongue, because it might be confused with honesty. I don't like the music of Chang, because it might be confused with good music. I don't like purple, because it might be confused with vermilion and I don't like conventional townsmen, because they might be confused with the virtuous."
"The Superior Man returns to the constant and nothing more. Once the constant is properly apprehended, the people will be awakened. Once they are awakened, there will be no more of their evil deception."
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