Mencius. Book VII: Tsin Sin. Part II. Chapter XXXVII.

Legge's summary: To call to the pursuit of the right medium was the object of Confucius and Mencius. Various characters who fail to pursue this, or are opposed to it.

1. Wan Chang asked, saying, 'Confucius, when he was in Ch'an, said: "Let me return. The scholars of my school are ambitious, but hasty. They are for advancing and seizing their object, but cannot forget their early ways." Why did Confucius, when he was in Ch'an, think of the ambitious scholars of Lû?'

2. Mencius replied, 'Confucius not getting men pursuing the true medium, to whom he might communicate his instructions, determined to take the ardent and the cautiously-decided. The ardent would advance to seize their object; the cautiously-decided would keep themselves from certain things. It is not to be thought that Confucius did not wish to get men pursuing the true medium, but being unable to assure himself of finding such, he therefore thought of the next class.'

3. 'I venture to ask what sort of men they were who could be styled "The ambitious?"'

4. 'Such,' replied Mencius, 'as Ch'in Chang, Tsang Hsî, and Mû P'ei, were those whom Confucius styled "ambitious."'

5. 'Why were they styled "ambitious?"'

6. The reply was, 'Their aim led them to talk magniloquently, saying, "The ancients!" "The ancients!" But their actions, where we fairly compare them with their words, did not correspond with them.

7. 'When he found also that he could not get such as were thus ambitious, he wanted to get scholars who would consider anything impure as beneath them. Those were the cautiously-decided, a class next to the former.'

8. Chang pursued his questioning, 'Confucius said, "They are only your good careful people of the villages at whom I feel no indignation, when they pass my door without entering my house. Your good careful people of the villages are the thieves of virtue." What sort of people were they who could be styled "Your good careful people of the villages?"'

9. Mencius replied, 'They are those who say, "Why are they so magniloquent? Their words have not respect to their actions and their actions have not respect to their words, but they say, "The ancients! The ancients! Why do they act so peculiarly, and are so cold and distant? Born in this age, we should be of this age, to be good is all that is needed." Eunuch-like, flattering their generation;-- such are your good careful men of the villages.'

10. Wan Chang said, 'Their whole village styles those men good and careful. In all their conduct they are so. How was it that Confucius considered them the thieves of virtue?'

11. Mencius replied, 'If you would blame them, you find nothing to allege. If you would criticise them, you have nothing to criticise. They agree with the current customs. They consent with an impure age. Their principles have a semblance of right-heartedness and truth. Their conduct has a semblance of disinterestedness and purity. All men are pleased with them, and they think themselves right, so that it is impossible to proceed with them to the principles of Yâo and Shun. On this account they are called "The thieves of virtue."

12. 'Confucius said, "I hate a semblance which is not the reality. I hate the darnel, lest it be confounded with the corn. I hate glib-tonguedness, lest it be confounded with righteousness. I hate sharpness of tongue, lest it be confounded with sincerity. I hate the music of Chang, lest it be confounded with the true music. I hate the reddish blue, lest it be confounded with vermilion. I hate your good careful men of the villages, lest they be confounded with the truly virtuous."

13. 'The superior man seeks simply to bring back the unchanging standard, and, that being correct, the masses are roused to virtue. When they are so aroused, forthwith perversities and glossed wickedness disappear.'

Previous chapter   main Mencius node   Next chapter

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.