The Works of Mencius

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


Chapter 19.

The right manner of serving parents, and the importance of watching over one's self, in order to do so.

1. Mencius said, 'Of services, which is the greatest? The service of parents is the greatest. Of charges, which is the greatest ? The charge of one's self is the greatest. That those who do not fail to keep themselves are able to serve their parents is what I have heard. But I have never heard of any, who, having failed to keep themselves, were able notwithstanding to serve their parents.

2. 'There are many services, but the service of parents is the root of all others. There are many charges, but the charge of one's self is the root of all others.

3. 'The philosopher Tsang, in nourishing Tsang Hsî, was always sure to have wine and flesh provided. And when they were being removed, he would ask respectfully to whom he should give what was left. If his father asked whether there was anything left, he was sure to say, "There is." After the death of Tsing Hsî, when Tsang Yüan came to nourish Tsing-tsze, he was always sure to have wine and flesh provided. But when the things were being removed, he did not ask to whom he should give what was left, and if his father asked whether there was anything left, he would answer "No;"-- intending to bring them in again. This was what is called-- "nourishing the mouth and body." We may call Tsang-tsze's practice-- "nourishing the will."

4. 'To serve one's parents as Tsang-tsze served his, may be accepted as flial piety.'

Chapter 20.

A truly great minister will be seen in his directing his efforts, not to correction of matters in detail, but of the sovereign's character.

Mencius said, 'It is not enough to remonstrate with a sovereign on account of the mal-employment of ministers, nor to blame errors of government. It is only the great man who can rectify what is wrong in the sovereign's mind. Let the prince be benevolent, and all his acts will be benevolent. Let the prince be righteous, and all his acts will be righteous. Let the prince be correct, and everything will be correct. Once rectify the ruler, and the kingdom will be firmly settled.'

Chapter 21.

Praise and blame are not always according to desert.

Mencius said, 'There are cases of praise which could not be expected, and of reproach when the parties have been seeking to be perfect.'

Chapter 22.

The benefit of reproof.

Mencius said, 'Men's being ready with their tongues arises simply from their not having been reproved.'

Chapter 23.

Be not many masters.

Mencius said, 'The evil of men is that they like to be teachers of others.'

Chapter 24.

How Mencius reproved Yo-chang for associating with an unworthy person, and being remiss in waiting on himself.

1. The disciple Yo-chang went in the train of Tsze-âo to Ch'î.

2. He came to see Mencius, who said to him, 'Are you also come to see me?' Yo-chang replied, 'Master, why do you speak such words?' 'How many days have you been here?' asked Mencius. 'I came yesterday.' 'Yesterday! Is it not with reason then that I thus speak?' 'My lodging-house was not arranged.' 'Have you heard that a scholar's lodging-house must be arranged before he visit his elder?'

3. Yo-chang said, 'I have done wrong.'

Chapter 25.

A further and more direct reproof of Yo-chang.

Mencius, addressing the disciple Yo-chang, said to him, 'Your coming here in the train of Tsze-âo was only because of the food and the drink. I could not have thought that you, having learned the doctrine of the ancients, would have acted with a view to eating and drinking.'

Chapter 26.

Shun's extraordinary way of contracting marriage justified by the motive.

1. Mencius said, 'There are three things which are unfilial, and to have no posterity is the greatest of them.

2. 'Shun married without informing his parents because of this,-- lest he should have no posterity. Superior men consider that his doing so was the same as if he had informed them.'

Chapter 27.

Filial piety and fraternal obedience in their relation to benevolence, righteousness, wisdom, propriety, and music.

1. Mencius said, 'The richest fruit of benevolence is this,-- the service of one's parents. The richest fruit of righteousness is this,-- the obeying one's elder brothers.

2. 'The richest fruit of wisdom is this,-- the knowing those two things, and not departing from them. The richest fruit of propriety is this,-- the ordering and adorning those two things. The richest fruit of music is this,-- the rejoicing in those two things. When they are rejoiced in, they grow. Growing, how can they be repressed? When they come to this state that they cannot be repressed, then unconsciously the feet begin to dance and the hands to move.'

Chapter 28.

How Shun valued and exemplified filial piety.

1. Mencius said, 'Suppose the case of the whole kingdom turning in great delight to an individual to submit to him.-- To regard the whole kingdom thus turning to him in great delight but as a bundle of grass;-- only Shun was capable of this. He considered that if one could not get the hearts of his parents he could not be considered a man, and that if he could not get to an entire accord with his parents, he could not be considered a son.

2. 'By Shun's completely fulfilling everything by which a parent could be served, Kû-sâu was brought to find delight in what was good. When Kû-sâu was brought to find that delight, the whole kingdom was transformed. When Kû-sâu was brought to find that delight, all fathers and sons in the kingdom were established in their respective duties. This is called great filial piety.'