Mencius. Book II: Kung-sun Ch'âu. Part I. Chapter I.

Legge's summary: While Mencius wished to see a true royal government and sway in the kingdom, and could easily have realized it, from the peculiar circumstances of the time, he would not, to do so, have had recourse to any ways inconsistent with its ideas.

1. Kung-sun Ch'âu asked Mencius, saying, 'Master, if you were to obtain the ordering of the government in Ch'î, could you promise yourself to accomplish anew such results as those realized by Kwan Chung and Yen?'

2. Mencius said, 'You are indeed a true man of Ch'î. You know about Kwan Chung and Yen, and nothing more,

3. 'Some one asked Tsang Hsî, saying, "Sir, to which do you give the superiority,-- to yourself or to Tsze-lû?" Tsang Hsî looked uneasy, and said, "He was an object of veneration to my grandfather." "Then," pursued the other, "Do you give the superiority to yourself or to Kwan Chung?" Tsang Hsî, flushed with anger and displeased, said, "How dare you compare me with Kwan Chung? Considering how entirely Kwan Chung possessed the confidence of his prince, how long he enjoyed the direction of the government of the State, and how low, after all, was what he accomplished,-- how is it that you liken me to him?"

4. 'Thus,' concluded Mencius, 'Tsang Hsî would not play Kwan Chung, and is it what you desire for me that I should do so?'

5. Kung-sun Ch'âu said, 'Kwan Chung raised his prince to be the leader of all the other princes, and Yen made his prince illustrious, and do you still think it would not be enough for you to do what they did?'

6. Mencius answered, 'To raise Ch'î to the royal dignity would be as easy as it is to turn round the hand.'

7. 'So!' returned the other. 'The perplexity of your disciple is hereby very much increased. There was king Wan, moreover, with all the virtue which belonged to him; and who did not die till he had reached a hundred years:-- and still his influence had not penetrated throughout the kingdom. It required king Wû and the duke of Châu to continue his course, before that influence greatly prevailed. Now you say that the royal dignity might be so easily obtained:-- is king Wan then not a sufficient object for imitation?'

8. Mencius said, 'How can king Wan be matched? From T'ang to Wû-ting there had appeared six or seven worthy and sage sovereigns. The kingdom had been attached to Yin for a long time, and this length of time made a change difficult. Wû-ting had all the princes coming to his court, and possessed the kingdom as if it had been a thing which he moved round in his palm. Then, Châu was removed from Wû-ting by no great interval of time. There were still remaining some of the ancient families and of the old manners, of the influence also which had emanated from the earlier sovereigns, and of their good government. Moreover, there were the viscount of Wei and his second son, their Royal Highnesses Pî-kan and the viscount of Ch'î, and Kâo-ko, all men of ability and virtue, who gave their joint assistance to Châu in his government. In consequence of these things, it took a long time for him to lose the throne. There was not a foot of ground which he did not possess. There was not one of all the people who was not his subject. So it was on his side, and king Wan at his beginning had only a territory of one hundred square lî. On all these accounts, it was difficult for him immediately to attain to the royal dignity.

9. 'The people of Ch'î have a saying-- "A man may have wisdom and discernment, but that is not like embracing the favourable opportunity. A man may have instruments of husbandry, but that is not like waiting for the farming seasons." The present time is one in which the royal dignity may be easily attained.

10. 'In the flourishing periods of the Hsiâ, Yin, and Châu dynasties, the royal domain did not exceed a thousand lî, and Ch'î embraces so much territory. Cocks crow and dogs bark to one another, all the way to the four borders of the State:-- so Ch'î possesses the people. No change is needed for the enlarging of its territory: no change is needed for the collecting of a population. If its ruler will put in practice a benevolent government, no power will be able to prevent his becoming sovereign.

11. 'Moreover, never was there a time farther removed than the present from the rise of a true sovereign: never was there a time when the sufferings of the people from tyrannical government were more intense than the present. The hungry readily partake of any food, and the thirsty of any drink.'

12. 'Confucius said, "The flowing progress of virtue is more rapid than the transmission of royal orders by stages and couriers."

13. 'At the present time, in a country of ten thousand chariots, let benevolent government be put in practice, and the people will be delighted with it, as if they were relieved from hanging by the heels. With half the merit of the ancients, double their achievements is sure to be realized. It is only at this time that such could be the case.'

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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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