Benvolence and righteousness Mencius’s only topics with the princes of his time; and the only principles which can make a country prosperous.
Mencius went to see king Hûi of Liang.
The king said, ‘Venerable sir, since you have not counted it far to come here, a distance of a thousand lî, may I presume that you are provided with counsels to profit my kingdom?’
Mencius replied, ‘Why must your Majesty use that word “profit?” What I am provided with, are counsels to benevolence and righteousness, and these are my only topics.
‘If your Majesty say, “What is to be done to profit my kingdom?” the great officers will say, “What is to be done to profit our families?” and the inferior officers and the common people will say, “What is to be done to profit our persons?” Superiors and inferiors will try to snatch this profit the one from the other, and the kingdom will be endangered. In the kingdom of ten thousand chariots, the murderer of his sovereign shall be the chief of a family of a thousand chariots. In the kingdom of a thousand chariots, the murderer of his prince shall be the chief of a family of a hundred chariots. To have a thousand in ten thousand, and a hundred in a thousand, cannot be said not to be a large allotment, but if righteousness be put last, and profit be put first, they will not be satisfied without snatching all.
‘There never has been a benevolent man who neglected his parents. There never has been a righteous man who made his sovereign an after consideration.
‘Let your Majesty also say, “Benevolence and righteousness, and let these be your only themes.” Why must you use that word — “profit?”’
Rulers must share their pleasures with the people. They can only be happy when they rule over happy subjects.
Mencius, another day, saw King Hûi of Liang. The king went and stood with him by a pond, and, looking round at the large geese and deer, said, ‘Do wise and good princes also find pleasure in these things?’
Mencius replied, ‘Being wise and good, they have pleasure in these things. If they are not wise and good, though they have these things, they do not find pleasure.
‘It is said in the Book of Poetry,
“He measured out and commenced his marvellous tower; He measured it out and planned it. The people addressed themselves to it, And in less than a day completed it. When he measured and began it, he said to them — Be not so earnest: But the multitudes came as if they had been his children. The king was in his marvellous park; The does reposed about, The does so sleek and fat: And the white birds came glistening. The king was by his marvellous pond; How full was it of fishes leaping about!”
‘King Wan used the strength of the people to make his tower and his pond, and yet the people rejoiced to do the work, calling the tower “the marvellous tower,” calling the pond “the marvellous pond,” and rejoicing that he had his large deer, his fishes, and turtles. The ancients caused the people to have pleasure as well as themselves, and therefore they could enjoy it.
‘In the Declaration of T’ang it is said, “O sun, when wilt thou expire? We will die together with thee.” The people wished for Chieh’s death, though they should die with him. Although he had towers, ponds, birds, and animals, how could he have pleasure alone?’