Mencius. Book III: T'ang Wan Kung. Part I. Chapter V.

Legge's summary: How Mencius convinced a Mohist of his error, that all men were to be loved equally, without difference of degree.

1. The Mohist, Î Chih, sought, through Hsü Pî, to see Mencius. Mencius said, 'I indeed wish to see him, but at present I am still unwell. When I am better, I will myself go and see him. He need not come here again.'

2. Next day, Î Chih again sought to see Mencius. Mencius said, 'To-day I am able to see him. But if I do not correct his errors, the true principles will not be fully evident. Let me first correct him. I have heard that this Î is a Mohist. Now Mo considers that in the regulation of funeral matters a spare simplicity should be the rule. Î thinks with Mo's doctrines to change the customs of the kingdom;-- how does he regard them as if they were wrong, and not honour them? Notwithstanding his views, Î buried his parents in a sumptuous manner, and so he served them in the way which his doctrines discountenance.'

3. The disciple Hsü informed Î of these remarks. Î said, 'Even according to the principles of the learned, we find that the ancients acted towards the people "as if they were watching over an infant." What does this expression mean? To me it sounds that we are to love all without difference of degree; but the manifestation of love must begin with our parents.' Hsü reported this reply to Mencius, who said, 'Now, does Î really think that a man's affection for the child of his brother is merely like his affection for the infant of a neighbour? What is to be approved in that expression is simply this:-- that if an infant crawling about is likely to fall into a well, it is no crime in the infant. Moreover, Heaven gives birth to creatures in such a way that they have one root, and Î makes them to have two roots. This is the cause of his error.

4. 'And, in the most ancient times, there were some who did not inter their parents. When their parents died, they took them up and threw them into some water-channel. Afterwards, when passing by them, they saw foxes and wild-cats devouring them, and flies and gnats biting at them. The perspiration started out upon their foreheads, and they looked away, unable to bear the sight. It was not on account of other people that this perspiration flowed. The emotions of their hearts affected their faces and eyes, and instantly they went home, and came back with baskets and spades and covered the bodies. If the covering them thus was indeed right, you may see that the filial son and virtuous man, in interring in a handsome manner their parents, act according to a proper rule.'

5. The disciple Hsü informed Î of what Mencius had said. Î was thoughtful for a short time, and then said, 'He has instructed me.'


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Translated by James Legge, published in 1861 and revised for publication in 1895. Prepared as etext by Stephen R. McIntyre. Noded by schist. Please msg schist if you have suggestions for useful hard-links.

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