1B. King Hui of Liang: Part Two 梁惠王下
Preliminary note: Qi attacked the state of Yan in the northwest in the autumn of 315 BCE. 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 Qi and made no resistance to them. Kuang Chang, the friend of Mencius mentioned in 4B:30 and 3B:10 led the Qi armies. The king and Heir Apparent of Yan were both killed.
Qi attacked Yan and conquered it. King Xuan of Qi 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] Qi, having attacked Yan, occupied it. The surrounding states began to plan to come to the aid of Yan. King Xuan of Qi 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 Tang. 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 Tang first began his war of punishment, he started with (the kingdom of) Go. 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,) Tang 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 Humane 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.