The Works of Mencius

Book 3, Part 1 (cont.): T'ang Wan Kung


Chapter 3.

Mencius's counsels to the duke of T'ang for the government of the kingdom. Agriculture and education are the chief things that must be attended to, and the first as an essential preparation for the second.

1. The duke Wan of T'ang asked Mencius about the proper way of governing a kingdom.

2. Mencius said, 'The business of the people may not be remissly attended to. It is said in the Book of Poetry,

"In the day-light go and gather the grass,
And at night twist your ropes;
Then get up quickly on the roofs;--
Soon must we begin sowing again the grain."

3. 'The way of the people is this:-- If they have a certain livelihood, they will have a fixed heart; if they have not a certain livelihood, they have not a fixed heart. If they have not a fixed heart, there is nothing which they will not do in the way of self-abandonment, of moral deflection, of depravity, and of wild license. When they have thus been involved in crime, to follow them up and punish them:-- this is to entrap the people. How can such a thing as entrapping the people be done under the rule of a benevolent man?

4. 'Therefore, a ruler who is endowed with talents and virtue will be gravely complaisant and economical, showing a respectful politeness to his ministers, and taking from the people only in accordance with regulated limits.

5. 'Yang Hû said, "He who seeks to be rich will not be benevolent. He who wishes to be benevolent will not be rich."

6. 'The sovereign of the Hsiâ dynasty enacted the fifty mâu allotment, and the payment of a tax. The founder of the Yin enacted the seventy mâu allotment, and the system of mutual aid. The founder of the Châu enacted the hundred mâu allotment, and the share system. In reality, what was paid in all these was a tithe. The share system means mutual division. The aid system means mutual dependence.

7. 'Lung said, "For regulating the lands, there is no better system than that of mutual aid, and none which is not better than that of taxing. By the tax system, the regular amount was fixed by taking the average of several years. In good years, when the grain lies about in abundance, much might be taken without its being oppressive, and the actual exaction would be small. But in bad years, the produce being not sufficient to repay the manuring of the fields, this system still requires the taking of the full amount. When the parent of the people causes the people to wear looks of distress, and, after the whole year's toil, yet not to be able to nourish their parents, so that they proceed to borrowing to increase their means, till the old people and children are found lying in the ditches and water-channels:-- where, in such a case, is his parental relation to the people?"

8. 'As to the system of hereditary salaries, that is already observed in T'ang.

9. 'It is said in the Book of Poetry,

"May the rain come down on our public field, And then upon our private fields!"

It is only in the system of mutual aid that there is a public field, and from this passage we perceive that even in the Châu dynasty this system has been recognised.

10. 'Establish hsiang, hsü, hsio, and hsiâo,-- all those educational institutions,-- for the instruction of the people. The name hsiang indicates nourishing as its object; hsiâo, indicates teaching; and hsü indicates archery. By the Hsiâ dynasty the name hsiâo was used; by the Yin, that of hsü; and by the Châu, that of hsiang. As to the hsio, they belonged to the three dynasties, and by that name. The object of them all is to illustrate the human relations. When those are thus illustrated by superiors, kindly feeling will prevail among the inferior people below.

11. 'Should a real sovereign arise, he will certainly come and take an example from you; and thus you will be the teacher of the true sovereign.

12. 'It is said in the Book of Poetry,

Although Châu was an old country,
It received a new destiny."

That is said with reference to king Wan. Do you practise those things with vigour, and you also will by them make new your kingdom.'

13. The duke afterwards sent Pî Chan to consult Mencius about the nine-squares system of dividing the land. Mencius said to him, 'Since your prince, wishing to put in practice a benevolent government, has made choice of you and put you into this employment, you must exert yourself to the utmost. Now, the first thing towards a benevolent government must be to lay down the boundaries. If the boundaries be not defined correctly, the division of the land into squares will not be equal, and the produce available for salaries will not be evenly distributed. On this account, oppressive rulers and impure ministers are sure to neglect this defining of the boundaries. When the boundaries have been defined correctly, the division of the fields and the regulation of allowances may be determined by you, sitting at your ease.

14. 'Although the territory of T'Ang is narrow and small, yet there must be in it men of a superior grade, and there must be in it country-men. If there were not men of a superior grade, there would be none to rule the country-men. If there were not country-men, there would be none to support the men of superior grade.

15. 'I would ask you, in the remoter districts, observing the nine-squares division, to reserve one division to be cultivated on the system of mutual aid, and in the more central parts of the kingdom, to make the people pay for themselves a tenth part of their produce.

16. 'From the highest officers down to the lowest, each one must have his holy field, consisting of fifty mâu.

17. 'Let the supernumerary males have their twenty-five mâu.

18. 'On occasions of death, or removal from one dwelling to another, there will be no quitting the district. In the fields of a district, those who belong to the same nine squares render all friendly offices to one another in their going out and coming in, aid one another in keeping watch and ward, and sustain one another in sickness. Thus the people are brought to live in affection and harmony.

19. 'A square lî covers nine squares of land, which nine squares contain nine hundred mâu. The central square is the public field, and eight families, each having its private hundred mâu, cultivate in common the public field. And not till the public work is finished, may they presume to attend to their private affairs. This is the way by which the country-men are distinguished from those of a superior grade.

20. 'Those are the great outlines of the system. Happily to modify and adapt it depends on the prince and you.'