Loving and protecting the people is the characteristic of royal government, and the sure path to the royal dignity.
1. 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?'
2. 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.'
3. 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.'
4. 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.'
5. 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.'
6. 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.'
7. 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.'
8. '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.'
9. The king was pleased, and said, 'It is said in the Book of Poetry, "The minds of others, I am able by reflection to measure;" -- this is verified, my Master, in your discovery of my motive. I indeed did the thing, but when I turned my thoughts inward, and examined into it, I could not discover my own mind. When you, Master, spoke those words, the movements of compassion began to work in my mind. How is it that this heart has in it what is equal to the royal sway?'
10. Mencius replied, 'Suppose a man were to make this statement to your Majesty:-- "My strength is sufficient to lift three thousand catties, but it is not sufficient to lift one feather;-- my eyesight is sharp enough to examine the point of an autumn hair, but I do not see a waggon-load of faggots;-- "would your Majesty allow what he said?' 'No,' was the answer, on which Mencius proceeded, 'Now here is kindness sufficient to reach to animals, and no benefits are extended from it to the people.-- How is this? Is an exception to be made here? The truth is, the feather is not lifted , because strength is not used; the waggon-load of firewood is not seen, because the eyesight is not used; and the people are not loved and protected, because kindness is not employed. Therefore your Majesty's not exercising the royal sway, is because you do not do it, not because you are not able to do it.'
11. The king asked, 'How may the difference between the not doing a thing, and the not being able to do it, be represented? Mencius replied,'In such a thing as taking the T'âi mountain under your arm, and leaping over the north sea with it, if you say to people-- "I am not able to do it," that is a real case of not being able. In such a matter as breaking off a branch from a tree at the order of a superior, if you say to people-- "I am not able to do it," that is a case of not doing it, it is not a case of not being able to do it. Therefore your Majesty's not exercising the royal sway, is not such a case as that of taking the T'âi mountain under your arm, and leaping over the north sea with it. Your Majesty's not exercising the royal sway is a case like that of breaking off a branch from a tree.
12. 'Treat with the reverence due to age the elders in your own family, so that the elders in the families of others shall be similarly treated; treat with the kindness due to youth the young in your own family, so that the young in the families of others shall be similarly treated:-- do this, and the kingdom may be made to go round in your palm. It is said in the Book of Poetry, "His example affected his wife. It reached to his brothers, and his family of the State was governed by it."-- The language shows how king Wan simply took his kindly heart, and exercised it towards those parties. Therefore the carrying out his kindness of heart by a prince will suffice for the love and protection of all within the four seas, and if he do not carry it out, he will not be able to protect his wife and children. The way in which the ancients came greatly to surpass other men, was no other but this:-- simply that they knew well how to carry out, so as to affect others, what they themselves did. Now your kindness is sufficient to reach to animals, and no benefits are extended from it to reach the people.-- How is this? Is an exception to be made here?
13. 'By weighing, we know what things are light, and what heavy. By measuring, we know what things are long, and what short. The relations of all things may be thus determined, and it is of the greatest importance to estimate the motions of the mind. I beg your Majesty to measure it.
[Editor's Note: This chapter continues next page.]