The Works of Mencius

Book 4, Part 1 (cont.): Li Lau


Chapter 6.

The importance to a ruler of securing the esteem and submission of the great houses.

Mencius said, 'The administration of government is not difficult;-- it lies in not offending the great families. He whom the great families affect, will be affected by the whole State; and he whom any one State affects, will be affected by the whole kingdom. When this is the case, such an one's virtue and teachings will spread over all within the four seas like the rush of water.'

Chapter 7.

How the subjection of one State to another is determined at different times. A prince's only security for safety and prosperity is in being benevolent.

1. Mencius said, 'When right government prevails in the kingdom, princes of little virtue are submissive to those of great, and those of little worth to those of great. When bad government prevails in the kingdom, princes of small power are submissive to those of great, and the weak to the strong. Both these cases are the rule of Heaven. They who accord with Heaven are preserved, and they who rebel against Heaven perish.

2. 'The duke Ching of Ch'î said, "Not to be able to command others, and at the same time to refuse to receive their commands, is to cut one's self off from all intercourse with others." His tears flowed forth while he gave his daughter to be married to the prince of Wû.

3. 'Now the small States imitate the large, and yet are ashamed to receive their commands. This is like a scholar's being ashamed to receive the commands of his master.

4. 'For a plince who is ashamed of this, the best plan is to imitate king Wan. Let one imitate king Wan, and in five years, if his State be large, or in seven years, if it be small, he will be sure to give laws to the kingdom.

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

"The descendants of the sovereigns of the Shang dynasty,
Are in number more than hundreds of thousands,
But, God having passed His decree,
They are all submissive to Châu.
They are submissive to Châu,
Because the decree of Heaven is not unchanging.
The officers of Yin, admirable and alert,
Pour out the libations, and assist in the capital of Châu."

Confucius said, "As against so benevolent a sovereign, they could not be deemed a multitude." Thus, if the prince of a state love benevolence, he will have no opponent in all the kingdom.

6. 'Now they wish to have no opponent in all the kingdom, but they do not seek to attain this by being benevolent. This is like a man laying hold of a heated substance, and not having first dipped it in water. It is said in the Book of Poetry,

"Who can take up a heated substance,
Without first dipping it (in water)?"'

Chapter 8.

That a prince is the agent of his own ruin by his vicious ways and refusing to be counselled.

1. Mencius said, 'How is it possible to speak with those princes who are not benevolent ? Their perils they count safety, their calamities they count profitable, and they have pleasure in the things by which they perish. If it were possible to talk with them who so violate benevolence, how could we have such destruction of States and ruin of Families?

2. 'There was a boy singing,

"When the water of the Ts'ang-lang is clear,
It does to wash the strings of my cap;
When the water of the Ts'ang-lang is muddy,
It does to wash my feet."

3. 'Confucius said, "Hear what he sings, my children. When clear, then he will wash his cap-strings; and when muddy, he will wash his feet with it. This different application is brought by the water on itself."

4. 'A man must first despise himself, and then others will despise him. A family must first destroy itself, and then others will destroy it. A State must first smite itself, and then others will smite it.

5. 'This is illustrated in the passage of the T'âi Chiâ, "When Heaven sends down calamities, it is still possible to escape them. When we occasion the calamities ourselves, it is not possible any longer to live."'

Chapter 9.

Only by being benevolent can a prince raise himself to be sovereign, or even avoid ruin.

1. Mencius said, 'Chieh and Châu's losing the throne, arose from their losing the people, and to lose the people means to lose their hearts. There is a way to get the kingdom:-- get the people, and the kingdom is got. There is a way to get the people:-- get their hearts, and the people are got. There is a way to get their hearts:-- it is simply to collect for them what they like, and not to lay on them what they dislike.

2. 'The people turn to a benevolent rule as water flows downwards, and as wild beasts fly to the wilderness.

3. 'Accordingly, as the otter aids the deep waters, driving the fish into them, and the hawk aids the thickets, driving the little birds to them, so Chieh and Châu aided T'ang and Wû, driving the people to them.

4. 'If among the present rulers of the kingdom, there were one who loved benevolence, all the other princes would aid him, by driving the people to him. Although he wished not to become sovereign, he could not avoid becoming so.

5. 'The case of one of the present princes wishing to become sovereign is like the having to seek for mugwort three years old, to cure a seven years' sickness. If it have not been kept in store, the patient may all his life not get it. If the princes do not set their wills on benevolence, all their days will be in sorrow and disgrace, and they will be involved in death and ruin.

6. 'This is illustrated by what is said in the Book of Poetry,

"How otherwise can you improve the kingdom?
You will only with it go to ruin."'

Chapter 10.

A warning to the violently evil, and the weakly evil.

1. Mencius said, 'With those who do violence to themselves, it is impossible to speak. With those who throw themselves away, it is impossible to do anything. To disown in his conversation propriety and righteousness, is what we mean by doing violence to one's self. To say-- "I am not able to dwell in benevolence or pursue the path of righteousness," is what we mean by throwing one's self away.

2. 'Benevolence is the tranquil habitation of man, and righteousness is his straight path.

3. 'Alas for them, who leave the tranquil dwelling empty and do not reside in it, and who abandon the right path and do not pursue it?'