Translated by A. Charles Muller
1A. King Hui of Liang: Part One 梁惠王上
1A:1. Opening Question to Mencius
孟子見梁惠王。王曰、 叟、不遠千里而來、亦將有以利吾國乎。 孟子對曰、 王何必曰利。亦有仁義而已矣。 王曰、何以利吾國。大夫曰、何以利吾家。士庶人曰、何以利吾身。上下交征利、而國危矣。萬乘之國弒其君者、必千乘之家、千乘之國、弒其君者、必百乘之家。萬取千焉、千取百焉、不爲不多矣、苟爲後義而先利、不奪不饜。 未有仁而遺其親者也、未有義而後其君者也。 王亦曰仁義而已矣、何必曰利。
Mencius went to see King Hui of Liang. The King said: “My good man, since you haven't thought one thousand li too 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 humaneness and fairness, 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 elites (shi) 1 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 a small number. But if you put due-giving last and profit first, no one will be satisfied unless they can grab something.”
“There has never been a humane man who neglected his parents, and there has never been a just man who put his prince last in his priorities. King, can't we limit our conversation to humaneness and due-giving? Why must we discuss profit?”
1A:2. The Marvelous Pavilion
孟子見梁惠王、王立於沼上、顧鴻鴈麋鹿。曰、 賢者亦樂此乎。 孟子對曰、 賢者而後樂此。不賢者雖有此、不樂也。詩云。‘經始靈臺、經之營之、庶民攻之、不日成之。經始勿亟、庶民子來。王在靈囿、麀鹿攸伏、麀鹿濯濯、白鳥鶴鶴。王在靈沼、於牣魚躍。’文王以民力爲臺爲沼。而民歡樂之、謂其臺曰靈臺、謂其沼曰靈沼、樂其有麋鹿魚鱉。古之人與民偕樂、故能樂也。湯誓曰、‘時日害喪。予及女偕亡。’民欲與之偕亡、雖有臺池鳥獸、豈能獨樂哉。
When Mencius went to see King Hui of Liang, he was standing over his royal lake, watching the geese and deer. The King said: “Shall the Worthy also enjoy this kind of thing?” Mencius replied: “”After one is truly worthy he can enjoy this kind of thing. The unworthy, even if they have it, will not really enjoy it. The Book of Odes says:
He measured and commenced work on the marvelous pavilion.
He measured it and started it,
The people worked hard on it
[He told them] ‘Don't hurry in the work!’.
But all the people came like children to their parent.
When the King was at his wildlife preserve.
All kinds of deer lay down at ease,
Well-fed, with a glossy sheen to their fur.
The cranes were bright white.
When the King was at his marvelous lake,
It was alive with jumping fish
King Wen, using the strength of the people built a pavilion and a lake, and the people delighted in this. They called his pavilion the Marvelous Pavilion, and they called his lake the Marvelous Lake, and they enjoyed the deer, fish, and turtles that were kept there. The ancients were able to enjoy things together with their king. It was because of that that it was enjoyable. The Report of Tang says: “When will this Sun 2 see its demise? I will die together with you.” The people wanted to die together with him. Even though you have a pavilion and lake with birds and animals, how can you enjoy these by yourself?
1A:3. Exerting his Mind
曰、 不可。直不百步耳、是亦走也。 曰、 王如知此、則無望民之多於鄰國也。 不違農時、穀不可勝食也、數罟不入洿池、魚鼈不可勝食也、斧斤以時入山林、材木不可勝用也、穀與魚鼈不可勝食、材木不可勝用、是使民養生喪死無憾也、養生喪死無憾、王道之始也。
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. 3 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, right? 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 fairness 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 common people 4 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. Receiving Advice
King Hui of Liang said: “I would like to quietly receive your advice.”
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 and fat horses in your stables, while the people have gaunt appearances, and those 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: ‘Isn't it true that the first fellow who made wooden images for burial with the dead had no posterity?’ 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. 梁上: War with Jin
King Hui of Liang said: “As you know, venerable sir, there is not a stronger state in the country than Jin. Since they attacked me, we have also lost on the east to Qi, where my eldest son died. On the west, we have lost several hundred li of territory to Qin and on the south we have been embarrassed by Chu. I have been shamed by this and would like to clear the slate for my ancestors once and for all. How can I do it? ”
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 Qin and Chu 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. Mothers and fathers are cold and hungry; 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 Humane man has no one to oppose him.’ King, please don't doubt this!”
1A:6. King Xiang of Liang
Mencius had an audience with King Xiang 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. The heavens gradually gather clouds, and 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 Xuan of Qi
King Xuan of Qi asked: “Can give me your analysis of what happened between Duke Huan of Qi and Duke Wen of Qin? 5 ”
Mencius answered: “None of Confucius' disciples talked about Huan and Wen, so nothing was transmitted down to later generations, and so we haven't heard anything. 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: “If you become a king by taking care of the people, 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 that I can?”
曰、 臣聞之胡齕曰、王坐於堂上、有牽牛而過堂下者、王見之、曰、牛何之。對曰、 將以釁鐘。王曰、 舍之、吾不忍其觳觫、若無罪而就死地。對曰、 然則廢釁鐘與。曰、 何可廢也。以羊易之。不識有諸。
“I heard this story from Hu He: 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.”
曰、 有之。曰、 是心足以王矣。百姓皆以王爲愛也、臣固知王之不忍也。
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 Qi 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.”
曰、 王無異於百姓之以王爲愛也、以小易大、彼惡知之。王若隱其無罪而就死地、則牛羊何擇焉。王笑曰、 是誠何心哉。我非愛其財而易之以羊也、宜乎百姓之謂我愛也。
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 humaneness. You saw the ox, but had not seen the sheep. When it comes to animals, if the Noble 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 scrutinize 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. Tai 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? Do you not have enough music to satisfy your ears? Or do you not have enough servants and concubines to come before you and serve you? All your 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 Qin and Chu, 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 Zou and Chu, who do you think will win?”
“Chu 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 Qi (your kingdom) only makes for one. If with one part you try to subdue the other eight, how is this different from Zou's fighting Chu? Please reflect on this essential point.”
“Now if you initiate a government based on goodness, all the officials in the realm 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 oppressed 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 shi 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 fairness?”
“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 fairness 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.”