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

Legge's summary: The prince who will set himself to practise a benevolent government on the principles of the ancient kings has none to fear.

1. Wan Chang asked Mencius, saying, 'Sung is a small State. Its ruler is now setting about to practise the true royal government, and Ch'î and Ch'û hate and attack him. What in this case is to be done?'

2. Mencius replied, 'When T'ang dwelt in Po, he adjoined to the State of Ko, the chief of which was living in a dissolute state and neglecting his proper sacrifices. T'ang sent messengers to inquire why he did not sacrifice. He replied, "I have no means of supplying the necessary victims." On this, T'ang caused oxen and sheep to be sent to him, but he ate them, and still continued not to sacrifice. T'ang again sent messengers to ask him the same question as before, when he replied, "I have no means of obtaining the necessary millet." On this, T'ang sent the mass of the people of Po to go and till the ground for him, while the old and feeble carried their food to them. The chief of Ko led his people to intercept those who were thus charged with wine, cooked rice, millet, and paddy, and took their stores from them, while they killed those who refused to give them up. There was a boy who had some millet and flesh for the labourers, who was thus slain and robbed. What is said in the Book of History, "The chief of Ko behaved as an enemy to the provision-carriers," has reference to this.

3. 'Because of his murder of this boy, T'ang proceeded to punish him. All within the four seas said, "It is not because he desires the riches of the kingdom, but to avenge a common man and woman."

4. 'When T'ang began his work of executing justice, he commenced with Ko, and though he made eleven punitive expeditions, he had not an enemy in the kingdom. When he pursued his work in the east, the rude tribes in the west murmured. So did those on the north, when he was engaged in the south. Their cry was-- "Why does he make us last." Thus, the people's longing for him was like their longing for rain in a time of great drought. The frequenters of the markets stopped not. Those engaged in weeding in the fields made no change in their operations. While he punished their rulers, he consoled the people. His progress was like the falling of opportune rain, and the people were delighted. It is said in the Book of History, "We have waited for our prince. When our prince comes, we may escape from the punishments under which we suffer."

5. 'There being some who would not become the subjects of Châu, king Wû proceeded to punish them on the east. He gave tranquillity to their people, who welcomed him with baskets full of their black and yellow silks, saying-- "From henceforth we shall serve the sovereign of our dynasty of Châu, that we may be made happy by him." So they joined themselves, as subjects, to the great city of Châu. Thus, the men of station of Shang took baskets full of black and yellow silks to meet the men of station of Châu, and the lower classes of the one met those of the other with baskets of rice and vessels of congee. Wû saved the people from the midst of fire and water, seizing only their oppressors, and destroying them.'

6. 'In the Great Declaration it is said, "My power shall be put forth, and, invading the territories of Shang, I will seize the oppressor. I will put him to death to punish him:-- so shall the greatness of my work appear, more glorious than that of T'ang."

7. 'Sung is not, as you say, practising true royal government, and so forth. If it were practising royal government, all within the four seas would be lifting up their heads, and looking for its prince, wishing to have him for their sovereign. Great as Ch'î and Ch'û are, what would there be to fear from them?'


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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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