Book: The Mencius
Author: James Legge





The Mencius By James Legge

Format: Global Grey free PDF, epub, Kindle ebook
Pages (PDF): 165
Publication Date: 1895

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Summary:

The Mencius, commonly called the Mengzi, is a collection of anecdotes and conversations of the Confucian thinker and philosopher Mencius. The work dates from the second half of the 4th century BC. It was ranked as a Confucian classic and its status was elevated in Song Dynasty. Zhu Xi, the scholar generally credited with the founding of Neo-Confucianism, included the Mengzi as one of the Four Books, and it became one of the canonical texts of Neo-Confucianism.



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Excerpt:

1. Mencius went to see king Hûi of Liang.

2. 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?'

3. 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.

4. '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.

5. '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.

6. 'Let your Majesty also say, "Benevolence and righteousness, and let these be your only themes." Why must you use that word -- "profit?".

1. 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?'

2. 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.

3. '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.

4. '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?'

1. 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?'

2. 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.

3. '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.