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?’
Half measures are of little use. The great principles of royal government must be faithfully and in their spirit carried out.
King Hûi of Liang said, ‘Small as my virtue is, in the government of my kingdom, I do indeed exert my mind to the utmost. If the year be bad on the inside of the river, I remove as many of the people as I can to the east of the river, and convey grain to the country in the inside. When the year is bad on the east of the river, I act on the same plan. On examining the government of the neighboring kingdoms, I do not find that there is any prince who exerts his mind as I do. And yet the people of the neighboring kingdoms do not decrease, nor do my people increase. How is this?’
Mencius replied, ‘Your majesty is fond of war; — let me take an illustration from war. — The soldiers move forward to the sound of the drums; and after their weapons have been crossed, on one side they throw away their coats of mail, trail their arms behind them, and run. Some run a hundred paces and stop; some run fifty paces and stop. What would you think if those who run fifty paces were to laugh at those who run a hundred paces?’ The kind said, ‘They should not do so. Though they did not run a hundred paces, yet they also ran away.’ ‘Since your Majesty knows this,’ replied Mencius, ‘you need not hope that your people will become more numerous than those of the neighboring kingdoms.
‘If the seasons of husbandry be not interfered with, the grain will be more than can be eaten. If close nets are not allowed to enter the pools and ponds, the fishes and turtles will be more than can be consumed. If the axes and bills enter the hills and forests only at the proper time, the wood will be more than can be used. When the grain and fish and turtles are more than can be eaten, and there is more wood than can be used, this enables the people to nourish their living and mourn for their dead, without any feeling against any. This condition, in which the people nourish their living and bury their dead without any feeling against any, is the first step of royal government.
‘Let mulberry trees be planted about the homesteads with their five mâu, and persons of fifty years may be clothed with silk. In keeping fowls, pigs, dogs, and swine, let not their times of breeding be neglected, and persons of seventy years may eat flesh. Let there not be taken away the time that is proper for the cultivation of the farm with its hundred mâ, and the family of several mouths that is supported by it shall not suffer from hunger. Let careful attention be paid to education in schools, inculcating in it especially the filial and fraternal duties, and grey-haired men will not be seen upon the roads, carrying burdens on their backs or on their heads. It never has been that the ruler of a State, where such results were seen, — persons of seventy wearing silk and eating flesh, and the black-haired people suffering neither from hunder nor cold, — did not attain to the royal dignity.
‘Your dogs and swine eat the food of men, and you do not make any restrictive arrangements. There are people dying from famine on the roads, and you do not issue the stores of your granaries for them. When people die, you say, “It is not owing to me; it is owing to the year.” In what does this differ from stabbing a man and killing him, and then saying — “It was not I; it was the weapon?” Let your Majesty cease to lay the blame on the year, and instantly from all the nation the people will come to you.’
A continuation of the former chapter, carrying on the appeal, in the last paragraph, on the character of king Hû’s own government.
King Hûi of Liang said, ‘I wish quietly to receive your instructions.’
Mencius replied, ‘Is there any difference between killing a man with a stick and with a sword?’ The king said, ‘There is no difference!’
‘Is there any difference between doing it with a sword and with the style of government? ‘There is no difference,’ was the reply.
Mencius then said, ‘In your kitchen there is fat meat; in your stables there are fat horses. But your people have the look of hunger, and on the wilds there are those who have died of famine. This is leading on beasts to devour men.
‘Beasts devour one another, and men hate them for doing so. When a prince, being the parent of his people, administers his government so as to be chargeable with leading on beasts to devour men, where is his parental relation to the people?’
Chung-nî said, ‘Was he not without posterity who first made wooden images to bury with the dead? So he said, because that man made the semblances of men, and used them for that purpose: — what shall be thought of him who causes his people to die of hunger?’
How a ruler may best take satisfaction for losses which he has sustained. That benevolent government will raise him high above his enemies.
King Hûi of Liang said, ‘There was not in the nation a stronger State than Tsin, as you, venerable Sir, know. But since it descended to me, on the east we have been defeated by Ch’i, and then my eldest son perished; on the west we have lost seven hundred lî of territory to Ch’in; and on the south we have sustained disgrace at the hands of Ch’û. I have brought shame on my departed predecessors, and wish on their account to wipe it away, once for all. What course is to be pursued to accomplish this?’
Mencius replied, ‘With a territory which is only a hundred lî square, it is possible to attain to the royal dignity.
‘If Your Majesty will indeed dispense a benevolent government to the people, being sparing in the use of punishments and fines, and making the taxes and levies light, so causing that the fields shall be ploughed deep, and the weeding of them be carefully attended to, and that the strong-bodied, during their days of leisure, shall cultivate their filial piety, fraternal respectfulness, sincerity, and truthfulness, serving thereby, at home, their fathers and elder brothers, and, abroad, their elders and superiors, — you will then have a people who can be employed, with sticks which they have prepared, to oppose the strong mail and sharp weapons of the troops of Ch’in and Ch’û.
‘The rulers of those States rob their people of their time, so that they cannot plough and weed their fields, in order to support their parents. Their parents suffer from cold and hunger. Brothers, wives, and children are separated and scattered abroad.
‘Those rulers, as it were, drive their people into pit-falls, or drown them. Your Majesty will go to punish them. In such a case, who will oppose your Majesty?
‘In accordance with this is the saying, — “The benevolent has no enemy.” I beg your Majesty not to doubt what I say.’
Disappointment of Mencius with the king Hsiang. By whom the torn nation may be united under one sway.
Mencius went to see the king Hsiang of Liang.
On coming out from the interview, he said to some persons, ‘When I looked at him from a distance, he did not appear like a sovereign; when I drew near to him, I saw nothing venerable about him. Abruptly he asked me, “How can the kingdom be settled?” I replied, “It will be settled by being united under one sway.”
‘“Who can so unite it?”
‘I replied, “He who has no pleasure in killing men can so unite it.”
“‘Who can give it to him?”
‘I replied, “All the people of the nation will unanimously give it to him. Does your Majesty understand the way of the growing grain? During the seventh and eighth months, when drought prevails, the plants become dry. Then the clouds collect densely in the heavens, they send down torrents of rain, and the grain erects itself, as if by a shoot. When it does so, who can keep it back? Now among the shepherds of men throughout the nation, there is not one who does not find pleasure in killing men. If there were one who did not find pleasure in killing men, all the people in the nation would look towards him with outstretched necks. Such being indeed the case, the people would flock to him, as water flows downwards with a rush, which no one can repress.”’
Loving and protecting the people is the characteristic of royal government, and the sure path to the royal dignity.
The king Hsüan of Ch’î asked, saying, ‘May I be informed by you of the transactions of Hwan of Ch’î, and Wan of Tsin?’
Mencius replied, ‘There were none of the disciples of Chuncg-nî who spoke about the affairs of Hwan and WAn, and therefore they have not been transmitted to these after-ages; — your servant has not heard them. If you will have me speak, let it be about royal government.’
The king said, ‘What virtue must there be in order to attain to royal sway?’ Mencius answered, ‘The love and protection of the people; with this there is no power which can prevent a ruler from attaining to it.’
The king asked again, ‘Is such an one as I competent to love and protect the people?’ Mencius said, ‘Yes.’ ‘How do you know that I am competent for that?’ ‘I heard the following incident from Hû Ho: — “The king,” said he, “was sitting aloft in the hall, when a man appeared, leading an ox past the lower part of it. The king saw him, and asked, Where is the ox going? The man replied, We are going to consecrate a bell with its blood. The king said, Let it go. I cannot bear its frightened appearance, as if it were an innocent person going to the place of death. The man answered, Shall we then omit the consecration of the bell? The king said, How can that be omitted? Change it for a sheep.” I do not know whether this incident really occurred.’
The king replied, ‘It did,’ and then Mencius said, ‘The heart seen in this is sufficient to carry you to the royal sway. The people all supposed that your Majesty grudged the animal, but your servant knows surely, that it was your Majesty’s not being able to bear the sight, which made you do as you did.’
The king said, ‘You are right. And yet there really was an appearance of what the people condemned. But though Chî be a small and narrow State, how should I grudge one ox? Indeed it was because I could not bear its frightened appearance, as if it were an innocent person going to the place of death, that therefore I changed it for a sheep.’
Mencius pursued, ‘Let not your Majesty deem it strange that the people should think you were grudging the animal. When you changed a large one for a small, how should they know the true reason? If you felt pained by its being led without guilt to the place of death, what was there to choose between an ox and a sheep?’ The king laughed and said, ‘What really was my mind in the matter? I did not grudge the expense of it, and changed it for a sheep! — There was reason in the people’s saying that I grudged it.’
‘There is no harm in their saying so,’ said Mencius. ‘Your conduct was an artifice of benevolence. You saw the ox, and had not seen the sheep. So is the superior man affected towards animals, that, having seen them alive, he cannot bear to see them die; having heard their dying cries, he cannot bear to eat their flesh. Therefore he keeps away from his slaughter-house and cook-room.’