Mencius. Book V: Wan Chang. Part I. Chapter VI.

Legge's summary: How the throne descended from Yü to his son, and not to his minister Yî; that Yü was not to be considered on that account as inferior in virtue to Yâo and Shun.

1. Wan Chang asked Mencius, saying, 'People say, "When the disposal of the kingdom came to Yü, his virtue was inferior to that of Yâo and Shun, and he transmitted it not to the worthiest but to his son." Was it so?' Mencius replied, 'No; it was not so. When Heaven gave the kingdom to the worthiest, it was given to the worthiest. When Heaven gave it to the son of the preceding sovereign, it was given to him. Shun presented Yü to Heaven. Seventeen years elapsed, and Shun died. When the three years' mourning was expired, Yü withdrew from the son of Shun to Yang-ch'ang. The people of the kingdom followed him just as after the death of Yâo, instead of following his son, they had followed Shun. Yü presented Yî to Heaven. Seven years elapsed, and Yü died. When the three years' mourning was expired, Yî withdrew from the son of Yü to the north of mount Ch'î. The princes, repairing to court, went not to Yî, but they went to Ch'î. Litigants did not go to Yî, but they went to Ch'î, saying, "He is the son of our sovereign;" the singers did not sing Yî, but they sang Ch'î, saying, "He is the son of our sovereign."

2. 'That Tan-chû was not equal to his father, and Shun's son not equal to his; that Shun assisted Yâo, and Yü assisted Shun, for many years, conferring benefits on the people for a long time; that thus the length of time during which Shun, Yü, and Yî assisted in the government was so different; that Ch'î was able, as a man of talents and virtue, reverently to pursue the same course as Yü; that Yî assisted Yü only for a few years, and had not long conferred benefits on the people; that the periods of service of the three were so different; and that the sons were one superior, and the other superior:-- all this was from Heaven, and what could not be brought about by man. That which is done without man's doing is from Heaven. That which happens without man's causing is from the ordinance of Heaven.

3. 'In the case of a private individual obtaining the throne, there must be in him virtue equal to that of Shun or Yü; and moreover there must be the presenting of him to Heaven by the preceding sovereign. It was on this account that Confucius did not obtain the throne.

4. 'When the kingdom is possessed by natural succession, the sovereign who is displaced by Heaven must be like Chieh or Châu. It was on this account that Yî, Î Yin, and Châu-kung did not obtain the throne.

5. 'Î Yin assisted T'ang so that he became sovereign over the kingdom. After the demise of T'ang, T'âi-ting having died before he could be appointed sovereign, Wâ'i-ping reigned two years, and Chung-zin four. T'âi-chiâ was then turning upside down the statutes of T'ang, when Î Yin placed him in T'ung for three years. There T'âi-chiâ repented of his errors, was contrite, and reformed himself. In T'ung be came to dwell in benevolence and walk in righteousness, during those threee years, listening to the lessons given to him by Î Yin. Then Î Yin again returned with him to Po.

6. 'Châu-kung not getting the throne was like the case of Yî and the throne of Hsiâ, or like that of Î Yin and the throne of Yin.

7. 'Confucius said, "T'ang and Yü resigned the throne to their worthy ministers. The sovereign of Hsiâ and those of Yin and Châu transmitted it to their sons. The principle of righteousness was the same in all the cases."'

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.