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Mencius Chapter 24

1. Mencius said, 'The five chiefs of the princes were sinners against the three kings. The princes of the present day are sinners against the five chiefs. The Great officers of the present day are sinners against the princes.

2. 'The sovereign visited the princes, which was called "A tour of Inspection." The princes attended at the court of the sovereign, which was called "Giving a report of office." It was a custom in the spring to examine the ploughing, and supply any deficiency of seed; and in autumn to examine the reaping, and assist where there was a deficiency of the crop. When the sovereign entered the boundaries of a State, if the new ground was being reclaimed, and the old fields well cultivated; if the old were nourished and the worthy honoured; and if men of distinguished talents were placed in office: then the prince was rewarded,-- rewarded with an addition to his territory. On the other hand, if, on entering a State, the ground was found left wild or overrun with weeds; if the old were neglected and the worthy unhonoured; and if the offices were filled with hard taxgatherers: then the prince was reprimanded. If a prince once omitted his attendance at court, he was punished by degradation of rank; if he did so a second time, be was deprived of a portion of his territory; if he did so a third time, the royal forces were set in motion, and he was removed from his government. Thus the sovereign commanded the punishment, but did not himself inflict it, while the princes inflicted the punishment, but did not command it. The five chiefs, however, dragged the princes to punish other princes, and hence I say that they were sinners against the three kings.

3. 'Of the five chiefs the most powerful was the duke Hwan. At the assembly of the princes in K'wei-ch'iû, he bound the victim and placed the writing upon it, but did not slay it to smear their mouths with the blood. The first injunction in their agreement was,-- "Slay the unfilial; change not the son who has been appointed heir; exalt not a concubine to be the wife." The second was,-- "Honour the worthy, and maintain the talented, to give distinction to the virtuous." The third was,-- "Respect the old, and be kind to the young. Be not forgetful of strangers and travellers." The fourth was, "Let not offices be hereditary, nor let officers be pluralists. In the selection of officers let the object be to get the proper men. Let not a ruler take it on himself to put to death a Great officer." The fifth was,-- "Follow no crooked policy in making embankments. Impose no restrictions on the sale of grain. Let there be no promotions without first announcing them to the sovereign." It was then said, "All we who have united in this agreement shall hereafter maintain amicable relations." The princes of the present day all violate these five prohibitions, and therefore I say that the princes of the present day are sinners against the five chiefs.

4. 'The crime of him who connives at, and aids, the wickedness of his prince is small, but the crime of him who anticipates and excites that wickedness is great. The officers of the present day all go to meet their sovereigns' wickedness, and therefore I say that the Great officers of the present day are sinners against the princes.'

1. The prince of Lû wanted to make the minister Shan commander of his army.

2. Mencius said, 'To employ an uninstructed people in war may be said to be destroying the people. A destroyer of the people would not have been tolerated in the times of Yâo and Shun.

3. 'Though by a single battle you should subdue Ch'î, and get possession of Nan-yang, the thing ought not to be done.'

4. Shan changed countenance, and said in displeasure, 'This is what I, Kû-Lî, do not understand.'

5. Mencius said, 'I will lay the case plainly before you. The territory appropriated to the sovereign is 1,000 lî square. Without a thousand lî, he would not have sufficient for his entertainment of the princes. The territory appropriated to a Hâu is 100 lî square. Without 100 lî, he would not have sufficient wherewith to observe the statutes kept in his ancestral temple.

6. 'When Châu-kung was invested with the principalily of Lû, it was a hundred lî square. The territory was indeed enough, but it was not more than 100 lî. When T'âi-kung was invested with the principality of Ch'î, it was 100 lî square. The territory was indeed enough, but it was not more than 100 lî.

7. 'Now Lû is five times 100 lî square. If a true royal ruler were to arise, whether do you think that Lû would be diminished or increased by him?

8. 'If it were merely taking the place from the one State to give it to the other, a benevolent man would not do it;-- how much less will he do so, when the end is to be sought by the slaughter of men!

9. 'The way in which a superior man serves his prince contemplates simply the leading him in the right path, and directing his mind to benevolence.'

1. Mencius said, 'Those who now-a-days serve their sovereigns say, "We can for our sovereign enlarge the limits of the cultivated ground, and fill his treasuries and arsenals." Such persons are now-a-days called "Good ministers," but anciently they were called "Robbers of the people." If a sovereign follows not the right way, nor has his mind bent on benevolence, to seek to enrich him is to enrich a Chieh.

2. 'Or they will say, "We can for our sovereign form alliances with other States, so that our battles must be successful." Such persons are now-a-days called "Good ministers," but anciently they were called "Robbers of the people." If a sovereign follows not the right way, nor has his mind directed to benevolence, to seek to enrich him is to enrich a Chieh.

3. 'Although a prince, pursuing the path of the present day, and not changing its practices, were to have the throne given to him, he could not retain it for a single morning.'

1. Pâi Kwei said, 'I want to take a twentieth of the produce only as the tax. What do you think of it?'

2. Mencius said, 'Your way would be that of the Mo.

3. 'In a country of ten thousand families, would it do to have only one potter?' Kwei replied, 'No. The vessels would not be enough to use.'

4. Mencius went on, 'In Mo all the five kinds of grain are not grown; it only produces the millet. There are no fortified cities, no edifices, no ancestral temples, no ceremonies of sacrifice; there are no princes requiring presents and entertainments; there is no system of officers with their various subordinates. On these accounts a tax of one-twentieth of the produce is sufficient there.

5. 'But now it is the Middle Kingdom that we live in. To banish the relationships of men, and have no superior men;-- how can such a state of things be thought of?

6. 'With but few potters a kingdom cannot subsist;-- how much less can it subsist without men of a higher rank than others?

7. 'If we wish to make the taxation lighter than the system of Yâo and Shun, we shall just have a great Mo and a small Mo. If we wish to make it heavier, we shall just have the great Chieh and the small Chieh.'

1. Pâi Kwei said, 'My management of the waters is superior to that of Yü.'

2. Mencius replied, 'You are wrong, Sir. Yü's regulation of the waters was according to the laws of water.

3. 'He therefore made the four seas their receptacle, while you make the neighbouring States their receptacle.

4. 'Water flowing out of its channels is called an inundation. Inundating waters are a vast waste of water, and what a benevolent man detests. You are wrong, my good Sir.'

Mencius said, 'If a scholar have not faith, how shall he take a firm hold of things?'

1. The prince of Lû wanting to commit the administration of his government to the disciple Yo-chang, Mencius said, 'When I heard of it, I was so glad that I could not sleep.'

2. Kung-sun Ch'âu asked, 'Is Yo-chang a man of vigour?' and was answered, 'No.' 'Is he wise in council?' 'No.' 'Is he possessed of much information?' 'No.'

3. 'What then made you so glad that you could not sleep?'

4. 'He is a man who loves what is good.'

5. 'Is the love of what is good sufficient?'

6. 'The love of what is good is more than a sufficient qualification for the government of the kingdom;-- how much more is it so for the State of Lû!

7. 'If a minister love what is good, all within the four seas will count 1000 lî but a small distance, and will come and lay their good thoughts before him.

8. If he do not love what is good, men will say, "How self-conceited he looks? He is sayinq to himself, I know it." The language and looks of that self-conceit will keep men off at a distance of 1,000 lî. When good men stop 1,000 lî off, calumniators, flatterers, and sycophants will make their appearance. When a minister lives among calumniators, flatterers, and sycophants, though he may wish the State to be well governed, is it possible for it to be so?'

2. 'If received with the utmost respect and all polite observances, and they could say to themselves that the prince would carry their words into practice, then they took office with him. Afterwards, although there might be no remission in the polite demeanour of the prince, if their words were not carried into practice, they would leave him.

3. 'The second case was that in which, though the prince could not be expected at once to carry their words into practice, yet being received by him with the utmost respect, they took office with him. But afterwards, if there was a remission in his polite demeanour, they would leave him.

4. 'The last case was that of the superior man who had nothing to eat, either morning or evening, and was so famished that he could not move out of his door. If the prince, on hearing of his state, said, "I must fail in the great point,-- that of carrying his doctrines into practice, neither am I able to follow his words, but I am ashamed to allow him to die of want in my country;" the assistance offered in such a case might be received, but not beyond what was sufficient to avert death.'

1. Mencius said, 'Shun rose from among the channelled fields. Fû Yüeh was called to office from the midst of his building frames; Chiâo-ko from his fish and salt; Kwan Î-wû from the hands of his gaoler; Sun-shû Âo from his hiding by the sea-shore; and Pâi-lî Hsî from the market-place.

2. 'Thus, when Heaven is about to confer a great office on any man, it first exercises his mind with suffering, and his sinews and bones with toil. It exposes his body to hunger, and subjects him to extreme poverty. It confounds his undertakings. By all these methods it stimulates his mind, hardens his nature, and supplies his incompetencies.

3. 'Men for the most part err, and are afterwards able to reform. They are distressed in mind and perplexed in their thoughts, and then they arise to vigorous reformation. When things have been evidenced in men's looks, and set forth in their words, then they understand them.

4. 'If a prince have not about his court families attached to the laws and worthy counsellors, and if abroad there are not hostile States or other external calamities, his kingdom will generally come to ruin.

5. 'From these things we see how life springs from sorrow and calamity, and death from ease and pleasure.'