The Works of Mencius

Book 4, Part 2: Li Lau


Chapter I.

The agreement of sages not affected by place or time.

1. Mencius said, 'Shun was born in Chû-fang, removed to Fû-hsiâ, and died in Ming-t'iâo;-- a man near the wild tribes on the east.

2. 'King Wan was born in Châu by mount Ch'î, and died in Pî-ying;-- a man near the wild tribes on the west.

3. 'Those regions were distant from one another more than a thousand lî, and the age of the one sage was posterior to that of the other more than a thousand years. But when they got their wish, and carried their principles into practice throughout the Middle Kingdom, it was like uniting the two halves of a seal.

4. 'When we examine those sages, both the earlier and the later, their principles are found to be the same.'

Chapter 2.

Good government lies in equal measures for the general good, not in acts of favour to individuals.

1. When Tsze-ch'an was chief minister of the State of Chang, he would convey people across the Chan and Wei in his own carriage.

2. Mencius said, 'It was kind, but showed that he did not understand the practice of government.

3. 'When in the eleventh month of the year the foot-bridges are completed, and the carriage-bridges in the twelfth month, the people have not the trouble of wading.

4. 'Let a governor conduct his rule on principles of equal justice, and, when he goes abroad, he may cause people to be removed out of his path. But how can he convey everybody across the rivers?

5. 'It follows that if a governor will try to please everybody, he will find the days not sufficient for his work.'

Chapter 3.

What treatment sovereigns give to their ministers will be returned to them by a corresponding behavior.

1. Mencius said to the king Hsüan of Ch'î, 'When the prince regards his ministers as his hands and feet, his ministers regard their prince as their belly and heart; when he regards them as his dogs and horses, they regard him as another man; when he regards them as the ground or as grass, they regard him as a robber and an enemy.'

2. The king said, 'According to the rules of propriety, a minister wears mourning when he has left the service of a prince. How must a prince behave that his old ministers may thus go into mourning?'

3. Mencius replied,'The admonitions of a minister having been followed, and his advice listened to, so that blessings have descended on the people, if for some cause he leaves the country, the prince sends an escort to conduct him beyond the boundaries. He also anticipates with recommendatory intimations his arrival in the country to which he is proceeding. When he has been gone three years and does not return, only then at length does he take back his fields and residence. This treatment is what is called a "thrice-repeated display of consideration." When a prince acts thus, mourning will be worn on leaving his service.

4. 'Now-a-days, the remonstrances of a minister are not followed, and his advice is not listened to, so that no blessings descend on the people. When for any cause he leaves the country, the prince tries to seize him and hold him a prisoner. He also pushes him to extremity in the country to which he has gone, and on the very day of his departure, takes back his fields and residence. This treatment shows him to be what we call "a robber and an enemy." What mourning can be worn for a robber and an enemy?'

Chapter 4.

Prompt action is necessary at the right time.

Mencius said, 'When scholars are put to death without any crime, the great officers may leave the country. When the people are slaughtered without any crime, the scholars may remove.'

Chapter 5.

The influence of the ruler's example.

Mencius said, 'If the sovereign be benevolent, all will be benevolent. If the sovereign be righteous, all will be righteous.'

Chapter 6.

The great man makes no mistakes in matters of propriety and righteousness.

Mencius said, 'Acts of propriety which are not really proper, and acts of righteousness which are not really righteous, the great man does not do.'

Chapter 7.

What duties are due from, and must be renedered by, the virtuous and talented.

Mencius said, 'Those who keep the Mean, train up those who do not, and those who have abilities, train up those who have not, and hence men rejoice in having fathers and elder brothers who are possessed of virtue and talent. If they who keep the Mean spurn those who do not, and they who have abilities spurn those who have not, then the space between them-- those so gifted and the ungifted-- will not admit an inch.'

Chapter 8.

Clear discrimination of what is wrong and right must precede vigorous right-doing.

Mencius said, 'Men must be decided on what they will NOT do, and then they are able to act with vigour in what they ought to do.'

Chapter 9.

Evil speaking is sure to bring with it evil consequences.

Mencius said, 'What future misery have they and ought they to endure, who talk of what is not good in others!'