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PROLEGOMENA. - Mencius, The Chinese Classics: Vol. 2 The Life and Teachings of Mencius 
The Chinese Classics: Translated into English with Preliminary Essays and Explanatory Notes by James Legge. Vol. 2 The Life and Teachings of Mencius. (London: N. Trübner, 1875).
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OF THE WORKS OF MENCIUS.
THEIR RECOGNITION UNDER THE HAN DYNASTY, AND BEFORE IT.
1.In the third of the catalogues of Lew Hin,1 containing a list of the Works of Scholars which had been collected up to his time (about ad 1), and in the first subdivision, devoted to authors of the classical or orthodox School, we have the entry—“The Works of Mencius, in eleven Books.” At that date, therefore, Mencius’ writings were known and registered as a part of the literature of China.
2. A hundred years before Hin, we have the testimony of the historian Sze-ma Ts‘ẹen. In the seventy-fourth Book of his “Historical Records,” there is a brief memoir of Mencius, where he says that the philosopher, having withdrawn into private life, “with his disciples, Wan Chang and others, prefaced the She and the Shoo, unfolded the views of Confucius, and made ‘The Works of Mencius, in seven Books.’ ”
The discrepancy that appears between these testimonies, in regard to the number of the Books which went by the common name of Mencius, will be considered in the sequel. In the mean while it is shown that the writings of Mencius were recognized by scholars a hundred years before the Christian era, which takes us back to little more than a century and a half from the date assigned to his death.
3. Among writers of the Han dynasty earlier than Sze-ma Ts‘ëen, there were Han Ying, and Tung Chung-shoo, contemporaries, in the reigns of the emperors Wăn, King, and Woo, (bc 178—86). Portions of their Works remain, and in them are found quotations from Mencius. Later than these there were Yang Heung (bc 53—ad 18), who wrote a commentary on Mencius, which was existing under the Sung dynasty, and Wang Ch‘ung (died about ad 100), who left a chapter of animadversions on our philosopher, which still exists.
4. But we find references to Mencius and his Works anterior to the dynasty of Han. Between him and the rise of the Ts‘in dynasty flourished the philosopher Seun K‘ing, of whose writings enough is still preserved to form a large volume. By many he is regarded as the ablest of all the followers of Confucius. He several times makes mention of Mencius, and one of his most important chapters,—“That Human Nature is Evil,” seems to have been written expressly against Mencius’ doctrine of its goodness. He quotes his arguments, and endeavours to set them aside.
5. I have used the term recognition in the heading of this section, because the scholars of the Han dynasty do not seem to have had any trouble in forming or settling the text of Mencius such as we have seen they had with the Confucian Analects.
And here a statement made by Chaou K‘e, whose labours upon our philosopher I shall notice in the next section, deserves to be considered. He says:—“When Ts‘in sought by its fires to destroy the classical books, and put the scholars to death in pits, there was an end of the School of Mencius. His Works, however, were included under the common name of ‘Philosophical,’ and so the tablets containing them escaped destruction.” Ma Twan-lin does not hesitate to say that the statement is incorrect;1 and it seems strange that Mencius should have been exempted from the sweep of a measure intended to extinguish the memory of the most ancient and illustrious sovereigns of China and of their principles. But the same thing is affirmed in regard to the writings of at least one other author of antiquity, the philosopher Yuh; and the frequent quotations of Mencius by Han Ying and Tung Chung-shoo, indicating that his Works were a complete collection in their times, give some confirmation to K‘e’s account.
On the whole, the evidence seems rather to preponderate in its favour. Mencius did not obtain his place as “a classic” till long after the time of the Ts‘in dynasty; and though the infuriate emperor would doubtless have given special orders to destroy his writings, if his attention had been called to them, we can easily conceive their being overlooked, and escaping with a mass of others which were not considered dangerous to the new rule.
6. Another statement of Chaou K‘e shows that the Works of Mencius, once recognized under the Han dynasty, were for a time at least kept with a watchful care. He says that, in the reign of the emperor Hëaou-wăn (bc 178—154), “the Lun-yu, the Hëaou-king, Mencius, and the Urh-ya were all put under the care of a Board of ‘Great Scholars,’ which was subsequently done away with, only ‘The Five King’ being left under such guardianship.” Choo He has observed that the Books of the Han dynasty supply no evidence of such a Board; but its existence may be inferred from a letter of Lew Hin, complaining of the supineness with which the scholars seconded his quest of the scattered monuments of literature. He says:—“Under the emperor Heaou-wăn, the Shoo-king reappeared, and the She-king began to sprout and bud afresh. Throughout the empire, a multitude of books were continually making their appearance, and among them the Records and Sayings of all the Philosophers, which likewise had their place assigned to them in the Courts of Learning, and a Board of Great Scholars appointed to their charge.”1
As the Board of Great Scholars in charge of the Five King was instituted bc 135, we may suppose that the previous arrangement hardly lasted half a century. That it did exist for a time, however, shows the value set upon the writings of Mencius, and confirms the point which I have sought to set forth in this section,—that there were Works of Mencius current in China before the Han dynasty, and which were eagerly recognized and cherished by the scholars under it, who had it in charge to collect the ancient literary productions of their country.
CHAOU K‘E AND HIS LABOURS UPON MENCIUS.
1.It has been shown that the Works of Mencius were sufficiently well known from nearly the beginning of the Han dynasty; but its more distinguished scholars do not seem to have devoted themselves to their study and elucidation. The classics proper claimed their first attention. There was much labour to be done in collecting and collating the fragments of them; and to unfold their meaning was the chief duty of every one who thought himself equal to the task. Mencius was but one of the literati, a scholar like themselves. He could wait. We must come down to the second century of the Christian era to find the first great commentary on his writings.
In the Prolegomena to the Confucian Analects, Section i. 7, I have spoken of Ch‘ing Heuen or Ch‘ing K‘ang-shing, who died at the age of 74 some time between ad 190—220, after having commented on every ancient classical book. It is said by some1 that he embraced the Works of Mencius in his labours. If he did so, which to me is very doubtful, the result has not come down to posterity. To give to our philosopher such a treatment as he deserved, and compose a commentary that should descend to the latest posterity, was the Work of Chaou K‘e.
2. K‘e was born ad 108. His father was a censor about the court of the emperor Heaou-gan, and gave him the name of Këa, which he afterwards changed into K‘e for the purpose of concealment, changing also his original designation of T‘ae-k‘ing into Pin-k‘ing. It was his boast that he could trace his descent from the emperor Chuen-hëuh, bc 2510.
In his youth K‘e was distinguished for his intelligence and diligent study of the classics. He married a niece of the celebrated scholar and statesman Ma Yung, but bore himself proudly towards him and her other relatives. A stern independence and hatred of the sycophancy of the times were from the first characteristic of him, and proved the source of many troubles.
When he was over thirty, K‘e was attacked with some severe and lingering illness, in consequence of which he lay upon his bed for seven years. At one time, thinking he was near his end, he addressed a nephew who was with him in the following terms:—“Born a man into the world, in retirement I have not displayed the principles exemplified on mount Ke,1 nor in office achieved the merit of E and Leu.2 Heaven has not granted me such distinction. What more shall I say? Set up a round stone before my grave, and engrave on it the inscription,—‘Here lies a recluse of Han, by surname Chaou, and by name Këa. He had the will, but not the opportunity. Such was his fate. Alas!’ ”
Contrary to expectation, K‘e recovered, and in ad 154 we find him again engaged in public life, but in four years he is flying into obscurity under a feigned name, to escape the resentment of T‘ang Hang, one of the principal ministers, and of his partizans. He saved his life, but his family and relatives fell victims to the vengeance of his enemies, and for some time he wandered about the country of the Këang and Hwae, or among the mountains and by the sea-coast on the north of the present Shan-tung. One day, as he was selling cakes in a market-place, his noble presence attracted the attention of Sun Ts‘ung, a young gentleman of Gan-k‘ëw, who was passing by in a carriage, and to him, on being questioned, he made known his history. This proved a fortunate rencontre for him. Sun Ts‘ung took him home, and kept him for several years concealed somewhere, “in the centre of a double wall.” And now it was that he solaced his hard lot with literary studies. He wooed the muse in twenty-three poetical compositions, which he called “Songs of Adversity,” and achieved his commentary on Mencius.
On the fall of the T‘ang faction, when a political amnesty was proclaimed, K‘e emerged from his friendly confinement, and was employed in important offices, but only to fall a victim again to the intrigues of the time. The first year of the emperor Ling, ad 168, was the commencement of an imprisonment which lasted more than ten years; but nothing could crush his elasticity, or daunt his perseverance. In 185, when he had nearly reached fourscore, he was active as ever in the field of political strife, and wrought loyally to sustain the fortunes of the falling dynasty. He died at last in ad 201, in King-chow, whither he had gone on a mission in behalf of his imperial master. Before his death, he had a tomb prepared for himself, which was long shown, or pretended to be shown, in what is now the district city of Keang-ling in the department of King-chow in Hoo-pih.
3. From the above account of Chaou K‘e it will be seen that his commentary on Mencius was prepared under great disadvantages. That he, a fugitive and in such close hiding, should have been able to produce a work such as it is shows the extent of his reading and acquirements in early days. I have said so much about him, because his name should be added to the long roll of illustrious men who have found comfort in sore adversity from the pursuits of literature and philosophy. As to his mode of dealing with his subject, it will be sufficient to give his own account:—
“I wished to set my mind on some literary work, by which I might be assisted to the government of my thoughts, and forget the approach of old age. But the six classics had all been explained and carefully elucidated by previous scholars. Of all the orthodox school there was only Mencius, wide and deep, minute and exquisite, yet obscure at times and hard to see through, who seemed to me to deserve to be properly ordered and digested. Upon this I brought forth whatever I had learned, collected testimonies from the classics and other books, and divided my author into chapters and sentences. My annotations are given along with the original text, and of every chapter I have separately indicated the scope. The Books I have divided into two Parts, the first and second, making in all fourteen sections.
“On the whole, with regard to my labour, I do not venture to think that it speaks the man of mark, but, as a gift to the learner, it may dispel some doubts and resolve perplexities. It is not for me, however, to pronounce on its excellencies or defects. Let men of discernment who come after me observe its errors and omissions and correct them;—that will be a good service.”
1.All the commentaries on Mencius made prior to the Sung dynasty (ad 975) having perished, excepting that of Chaou K‘e, I will not therefore make an attempt to enumerate them particularly. Only three names deserve to be mentioned, as frequent reference is made to them in Critical Introductions to our philosopher. They were all of the T‘ang dynasty, extending, if we embrace in it what is called “The after T‘ang,” from ad 624 to 936. The first is that of Luh Shen-king, who declined to adopt Chaou K‘e’s division of the text into fourteen sections, and many of whose interpretations, differing from those of the older authority, have been received into the now standard commentary of Choo He. The other two names are those of Chang Yih and Ting Kung-choh, whose principal object was to determine the sounds and tones of characters about which there could be dispute. All that we know of their views is from the works of Sun Shih and Choo He, who have many references to them in their notes.
2. During the Sung dynasty, the commentators on Mencius were a multitude, but it is only necessary that I speak of two.
The most distinguished scholar of the early reigns was Sun Shih, who is now generally alluded to by his posthumous or honorary epithet of “The Illustrious Duke.” We find him high in favour and reputation in the time of T‘ae-tsung (977—997), Chin-tsung (998—1022), and Jin-tsung (1023—1063). By imperial command, in association with several other officers, he prepared a work in two parts under the title of “The Sounds and Meaning of Mencius,” and presented it to the court. Occasion was taken from this for a strange imposture. In the edition of “The Thirteen King,” Mencius always appears with “The Commentary of Chaon K‘e” and “The Correct Meaning of Sun Shih.” Under the Sung dynasty, what were called “correct meanings” were made for most of the classics. They are commentaries and annotations on the principal commentator, who is considered as the expounder of the classic, the author not hesitating, however, to indicate any peculiar views of his own. The genuineness of Shih’s “Correct Meaning of Mencius” has been questioned by few, but there seems to be no doubt of its being really a forgery, at the same time that it contains the substance of the true Work of “the Illustrious Duke,” so far as that embraced the meaning of Mencius and of Chaou K‘e. The account of it given in the preface to “An Examination of the Text in the Commentary and Annotations on Mencius,” by Yuen Yuen of the present dynasty, is—“Sun Shih himself made no ‘Correct Meaning;’ but some one—I know not who—supposing that his Work was really of that character, and that there were many things in the commentary which were not explained, and passages also of an unsatisfactory nature, he transcribed the whole of Shih’s Work on ‘The Sounds and Meaning;’ and having interpolated some words of his own, published it under the title of ‘The Annotations of Sun Shih.’ He was the same person who is styled by Choo He ‘A scholar of Shaou-woo.”’
In the 12th century Choo He appeared upon the stage, and entered into the labours of all his predecessors. He published one Work separately upon Mencius, and two upon Mencius and the Confucian Analects. The second of these,—“Collected Comments on the Analects and Mencius,” is now the standard authority on the subject, and has been the test of orthodoxy and scholarship in the literary examinations since ad 1315.
3. Under the present dynasty two important contributions have been made to the study of Mencius. They are both published in the “Explanations of the Classics under the Imperial dynasty of Ts‘ing.”1 The former, bearing the title of “An Examination of the Text in the Commentary and Annotations on Mencius,” forms the sections from 1039 to 1054. It is by Yuen Yuen, the Governor-general under whose auspices that compilation was published. Its simple aim is to establish the true reading by a collation of the oldest and best manuscripts and editions, and of the remains of a series of stone tablets containing the text of Mencius, which were prepared in the reign of Kaou-tsung (ad 1128—1162), and are now existing in the Examination Hall of Hang-chow. The second Work, which is still more important, is embraced in the sections 1117—1146. Its title is—“The Correct Meaning of Mencius, by Tsëaou Seun, a Keujin of Këang-too.” It is intended to be such a Work as Sun Shih would have produced, had he really made what has been so long current in the world under his name; and is really valuable.
INTEGRITY; AUTHORSHIP; AND RECEPTION AMONG THE CLASSICAL BOOKS.
1.We have seen how the Works of Mencius were catalogued by Lëw Hin as being in “eleven Books,” while a century earlier Sze-ma Ts‘ëen referred to them as consisting only of “seven.” The question has very much vexed Chinese scholars whether there ever really were four additional Books of Mencius which have been lost.
2. Chaou K‘e says in his preface:—“There likewise are four additional Books, entitled ‘A Discussion of the Goodness of Man’s Nature,’ ‘An Explanation of Terms,’ ‘The Classic of Filial Piety,’ and ‘The Practice of Government.’ But neither breadth nor depth marks their composition. It is not like that of the seven acknowledged Books. It may be judged they are not really the production of Mencius, but have been palmed upon the world by some subsequent imitator of him.” As the four Books in question are lost, and only a very few quotations from Mencius, that are not found in his Works which we have, can be fished up from ancient authors, our best plan is to acquiesce in the conclusion of Chaou K‘e. The specification of “Seven Books,” by Sze-ma Ts‘ëen is an important corroboration of it. In the two centuries preceding our era the four Books whose titles are given by him may have been made and published under the name of Mencius, and Hin would only do his duty in including them in his catalogue, unless their falsehood was generally acknowledged. K‘e, devoting himself to the study of our author, and satisfied from internal evidence that they were not his, only did his duty in rejecting them. There is no evidence that his decision was called in question by any scholar of the Han or the dynasties immediately following, when we may suppose that the Books were still in existence.
The author of “Supplemental Observations on the Four Books,”1 says upon this subject:—“ ‘It would be better to be without books than to give entire credit to them;’2 —this is the rule for reading ancient books laid down by Mencius himself, and the rule for us after men in reading about what purport to be lost books of his. The seven Books we have ‘comprehend [the doctrine] of heaven and earth, examine and set forth ten thousand topics, discuss the subjects of benevolence and righteousness, reason and virtue, the nature [of man] and the decrees [of Heaven], misery and happiness.’3 Brilliantly are these things treated of, in a way far beyond what any disciple of Kung-sun Ch‘ow or Wan Chang could have attained to. What is the use of disputing about other matters? Ho Sheh has his ‘Expurgated Mencius,’ but Mencius cannot be expurgated. Lin Kin-sze has his ‘Continuation of Mencius,’ but Mencius needs no continuation. I venture to say—Besides the Seven Books there were no other Works of Mencius.”
3. On the authorship of the Works of Mencius, Sze-ma Ts‘ëen and Chaou K‘e are agreed. They say that Mencius composed the seven Books himself, and yet that he did so along with certain of his disciples. The words of the latter are:—“He withdrew from public life, collected and digested the conversations which he had had with his distinguished disciples, Kung-sun Ch‘ow, Wan Chang, and others, on the difficulties and doubts which they had expressed, and also compiled himself his deliverances as ex cathedra;—and so published the Seven Books of his writings.”
This view of the authorship seems to have been first called in question by Han Yu, commonly referred to as “Han, the Duke of Literature,” a famous scholar of the eighth century (ad 768—824), under the T‘ang dynasty, who expressed himself in the following terms:—“The books of Mencius were not published by himself. After his death, his disciples, Wan Chang and Kung-sun Ch‘ow, in communication with each other, recorded the words of Mencius.”
4. If we wish to adjudicate in the matter, we find that we have a difficult task in hand. One thing is plain,—the book is not the work of many hands like the Confucian Analects. “If we look at the style of the composition,” says Choo He, “it is as if the whole were melted together, and not composed by joining piece to piece.” This language is too strong, but there is a degree of truth and force in it. No principle of chronology guided the arrangement of the different parts, and a foreigner may be pardoned if now and then the “pearls” seem to him “at random strung;” yet the collection is characterized by a uniformity of style, and an endeavour in the separate Books to preserve a unity of matter. This consideration, however, is not enough to decide the question. Such as the work is, we can conceive it proceeding either from Mencius himself, or from the labours of a few of his disciples engaged on it in concert.
The author of the “Topography of the Four Books”1 has this argument to show that the works of Mencius are by Mencius himself:—“The Confucian Analects,” he says, “were made by the disciples, and therefore they record minutely the appearance and manners of the sage. But the seven Books were made by Mencius himself, and therefore we have nothing in them excepting the words and public movements of the philosopher.” This peculiarity is certainly consonant with the hypothesis of Mencius’ own authorship, and so far may dispose us to adopt it.
On the other hand, as the princes of Mencius’ time to whom any reference is made are always mentioned by the honorary epithets conferred on them after their death, it is argued that those at least must have been introduced by his disciples. There are many passages, again, which savour more of a disciple or other narrator than of the philosopher himself. There is, for instance, the commencing sentences of Book III. Pt I.:—“When the Duke Wăn of T‘ăng was crown-prince, having to go to Ts‘oo, he went by way of Sung, and visited Mencius (lit., the philosopher Măng). Mencius discoursed to him how the nature of man is good, and when speaking, always made laudatory reference to Yaou and Shun. When the crown-prince was returning from Ts‘oo, he again visited Mencius. Mencius said to him, ‘Prince, do you doubt my words? The path is one, and only one.’ ”
5. Perhaps the truth after all is as the thing is stated by Sze-ma Ts‘ëen,—that Mencius, along with some of his disciples, compiled and composed the Work. It would be in their hands and under their guardianship after his death, and they may have made some slight alterations, to prepare it, as we should say, for the press. Yet allowing this, there is nothing to prevent us from accepting the sayings and doings as those of Mencius, guaranteed by himself.
6. It now only remains here that I refer to the reception of Mencius’ Works among the Classics. We have seen how they were not admitted by Lew Hin into his catalogue of classical works. Mencius was then only one of the many scholars or philosophers of the orthodox school. The same classification obtains in the books of the Suy and T‘ang dynasties; and in fact it was only under the dynasty of Sung that the works of Mencius and the Confucian Analects were authoritatively ranked together. The first explicitly to proclaim this honour as due to our philosopher was Ch‘in Chih-chae,1 whose words are—“Since the time when Han, the Duke of Literature, delivered his eulogium, ‘Confucius handed [the scheme of doctrine] to Mencius, on whose death the line of transmission was interrupted,’2 the scholars of the empire have all associated Confucius and Mencius together. The Books of Mencius are certainly superior to those of Seun and Yang, and others who have followed them. Their productions are not to be spoken of in the same day with his.” Choo He adopted the same estimate of Mencius, and by his “Collected Comments” on him and the Analects bound the two sages together in a union which the government of China, in the several dynasties which have succeeded, has with one temporary exception approved and confirmed.
MENCIUS AND HIS OPINIONS.
LIFE OF MENCIUS.
1.The materials for a Memoir of Mencius are very scanty. The birth and principal incidents of Confucius’ life are duly chronicled in the various annotated editions of the Ch‘un Ts‘ew, and in Sze-ma Ts‘ëen.Paucity and uncertainty of materials. It is not so in the case of Mencius. Ts‘ëen’s account of him is contained in half a dozen columns which are without a single date. That in the “Cyclopædia of Surnames” only covers half a page. Chaou K‘e is more particular in regard to the early years of his subject, but he is equally indefinite. Our chief informants are K‘ung Foo, and Lëw Heang in his “Record of Note-worthy Women,” but what we find in them has more the character of legend than history.
It is not till we come to the pages of Mencius himself that we are treading on any certain ground. They give the principal incidents of his public life, extending over about twenty-four years. We learn from them that in the course of that time he was in such and such places, and gave expression to such and such opinions; but where he went first and where he went last, it is next to impossible to determine. I have carefully examined three attempts, made by competent scholars of the present dynasty, to construct a Harmony that shall reconcile the statements of the “Seven Books” with the current chronologies of the time, and do not see my way to adopt entirely the conclusions of any one of them.1 The value of the Books lies in the record which they furnish of Mencius’ sentiments, and the lessons which these supply for the regulation of individual conduct and national policy. It is of little importance that we should be able to lay them down in the strict order of time.
With Mencius’ withdrawal from public life, all traces of him disappear. All that is said of him is that he spent his latter years along with his disciples in the preparation and publication of his Works.
From this paragraph it will be seen that there is not much to be said in this section. I shall relate, first, what is reported of the early years and training of our philosopher, and then look at him as he comes before us in his own pages, in the full maturity of his character and powers.
2. Mencius is the latinized form of Măng-tsze, “The philosopher Măng.”His surname, birth-place; parents; the year of his birth, bc 371. His surname thus connects him with the Măng or Măng-sun family, one of the three great Houses of Loo, whose usurpations were such an offence to Confucius in his day. Their power was broken in the time of duke Gae (bc 493—467), and they thenceforth dwindle into comparative insignificance. Some branches remained in obscurity in Loo, and others went forth to the neighbouring States.
The branch from which Mencius sprang found a home in the small adjacent principality of Tsow, which in former times had been made known by the name of Choo. It was absorbed by Loo, and afterwards by Ts‘oo, and its name is still retained in one of the districts of the department of Yen-chow in Shan-tung. Confucius was a native of a district of Loo having the same name, which many contend was also the birth-place of Mencius, making him a native of Loo and not of the State of Tsow. To my mind the evidence is decidedly against such a view.1
Mencius’ name was K‘o. His designation does not appear in his Works, nor is any given to him by Sze-ma Ts‘ëen or Chaou K‘e. The latter says that he did not know how he had been styled; but the legends tell that he was called Tsze-keu, and Tsze-yu. The same authorities—if we can call them such—say that his father’s name was Keih, and that he was styled Kung-e. They say also that his mother’s maiden surname was Chang. Nothing is related of the former but that he died when his son was quite young, but the latter must have a paragraph to herself. “The mother of Mencius” is famous in China, and held up to the present time as a model of what a mother should be.
The year of Mencius’ birth was probably the 4th of the emperor Lëeh, bc 371. He lived to the age of 84, dying in in the year bc 288, the 26th of the emperor Nan, with whom terminated the long sovereignty of the Chow dynasty. The first twenty-three years of his life thus synchronized with the last twenty-three of Plato’s. Aristotle, Zeno, Epicurus, Demosthenes, and other great men of the West, were also his contemporaries. When we place Mencius among them, he can look them in the face. He does not need to hide a diminished head.
3. It was his misfortune, according to Chaou K‘e, “to lose his father at an early period;2 but in his youthful years he enjoyed the lessons of his kind mother, who thrice changed her residence on his account.”Mencius’ mother.
At first they lived near a cemetery, and Mencius amused himself with acting the various scenes which he witnessed at the tombs. “This,” said the lady, “is no place for my son;”—and she removed to a house in the market-place. But the change was no improvement. The boy took to playing the part of a salesman, vaunting his wares, and chaffering with customers. His mother sought a new house, and found one at last close by a public school. There her child’s attention was taken with the various exercises of politeness which the scholars were taught, and he endeavoured to imitate them. The mother was satisfied. “This,” she said, “is the proper place for my son.”
Han Ying relates another story of this period. Near their house was a pig-butcher’s. One day Mencius asked his mother what they were killing the pigs for, and was told that it was to feed him. Her conscience immediately reproved her for the answer. She said to herself, “While I was carrying this boy in my womb, I would not sit down if the mat was not placed square, and I ate no meat which was not cut properly;—so I taught him when he was yet unborn.1 And now when his intelligence is opening, I am deceiving him;—this is to teach him untruthfulness!” With this she went and bought a piece of pork in order to make good her words.
As Mencius grew up, he was sent to school. When he returned home one day, his mother looked up from the web which she was weaving, and asked him how far he had got on. He answered her with an air of indifference that he was doing well enough, on which she took a knife and cut the thread of her shuttle. The idler was alarmed, and asked what she meant, when she gave him a long lecture, showing that she had done what he was doing,—that her cutting her thread was like his neglecting his learning. The admonition, it is said, had its proper effect; the lecture did not need to be repeated.
There are two other narratives in which Chang-she figures, and though they belong to a later part of Mencius’ life, it may be as well to embrace them in the present paragraph.
His wife was squatting down one day in her own room, when Mencius went in. He was so much offended at finding her in that position, that he told his mother, and expressed his intention to put her away, because of “her want of propriety.” “It is you who have no propriety,” said his mother, “and not your wife. Do not ‘the Rules of Propriety’ say, ‘When you are about to ascend a hall, raise your voice; when you enter a door, keep your eyes low?’ The reason of the rules is that people may not be taken unprepared; but you entered the door of your private apartment without raising your voice, and so caused your wife to be caught squatting on the ground. The impropriety is with you and not with her.” On this Mencius fell to reproving himself, and did not dare to put away his wife.
One day, when he was living with his mother in Ts‘e, she was struck with the sorrowfulness of his aspect, as he stood leaning against a pillar, and asked him the cause of it. He replied, “I have heard that the superior man occupies the place for which he is adapted, accepting no reward to which he does not feel entitled, and not covetous of honour and emolument. Now my doctrines are not practised in Ts‘e:—I wish to leave it, but I think of your old age, and am anxious.” His mother said, “It does not belong to a woman to determine anything of herself, but she is subject to the rule of the three obediences. When young, she has to obey her parents; when married, she has to obey her husband; when a widow, she has to obey her son. You are a man in your full maturity, and I am old. Do you act as your conviction of righteousness tells you you ought to do, and I will act according to the rule which belongs to me. Why should you be anxious about me?”
Such are the accounts which I have found of the mother of Mencius. Possibly some of them are inventions, but they are devoutly believed by the people of China;—and it must be to their profit. We may well believe that she was a woman of very superior character, and that her son’s subsequent distinction was in a great degree owing to her influence and training.
4. From parents we advance to be under tutors and governors. The moulding hand that has wrought upon us in the pliant years of youth always leaves ineffaceable traces upon the character.Mencius’ instructors; and early life. Can anything be ascertained of the instructor or instructors of Mencius? The reply to this inquiry must be substantially in the negative, though many have affirmed that he sat as a pupil at the feet of Tsze-sze, the grandson of Confucius. We are told this by Chaou K‘e, whose words are:—“As he grew up, he studied under Tsze-sze, acquired all the knowledge taught by ‘The Learned,’ and became thoroughly acquainted with ‘The Five King,’ being more especially distinguished for his mastery of the She and the Shoo.” A reference to dates, however, shows that this must be incorrect. From the death of Confucius to the birth of Mencius there were 108 years, and supposing—what is by no means probable—that Tsze-sze was born in the year his father died, he must have been 112 years old when Mencius was born. The supposition of their having stood to each other in the relation of master and scholar is inconsistent, moreover, with the style in which Mencius refers to Tsze-sze. He mentions him seven times, showing an intimate acquaintance with his history, but never once in a manner which indicates that he had personal intercourse with him.
Sze-ma Ts‘ëen’s account is that “Mencius studied with the disciples of Tsze-sze.” This may have been the case. There is nothing on the score of time to make it impossible, or even improbable; but this is all that can be said about it. No famous names from the school of Tsze-sze have been transmitted to posterity, and Mencius nowhere speaks as if he felt under special obligation to any instructor.
One short sentence contains all that he has said bearing on the point before us:—“Although I could not be a disciple of Confucius myself, I have endeavoured to cultivate [my virtue] by means of others [who were].”1 The chapter to which this belongs is rather enigmatical. The other member of it says:—“The influence of a sovereign sage terminates in the fifth generation. The influence of one who is merely a sage does the same.” By “one merely a sage” Mencius is understood to mean Confucius; and by extending his influence over five generations, he shows how it was possible for him to place himself under it by means of others who had been in direct communication with the Master.
We must leave the subject of Mencius’ early instructors in the obscurity which rests upon it. The first forty years of his life are little more than a blank to us. Many of them, we may be sure, were spent in diligent study. He made himself familiar during them with all the literature of his country. Its classics, its histories, its great men, had received his careful attention. Confucius especially became to him the chief of mortal men, the object of his untiring admiration; and in his principles and doctrines he recognized the truth for want of an appreciation of which the bonds of society all round him were being relaxed, and the empire hastening to a general anarchy.
How he supported himself in Tsow, we cannot tell. Perhaps he was possessed of some patrimony; but when he first comes forth from his native State, we find him accompanied by his most eminent disciples. He probably imitated Confucius by assuming the office of a teacher,—not that of a school-master in our acceptation of the word, but that of a professor of morals and learning, encouraging the resort of inquiring minds, in order to resolve their doubts and inform them on the true principles of virtue and society. These disciples would minister to his wants, though we may presume that he sternly maintained his dignity among them, as he afterwards did towards the princes of the time, when he appeared among them as a lecturer in another sense of the term. In Book VII. Pt II. xliii., and Book VI. Pt II. ii., we have two instances of this, though we cannot be sure that they belonged to the earlier period of his life.
5. The state of China had waxed worse and worse during the interval that elapsed between Confucius and Mencius. The elements of disorganization which were rife in the times of the earlier sage had gone on to produce their natural results.State of China in Mencius’ time. One feeble sovereign had followed another on the throne, and the dynasty of Chow was ready to vanish away. Men were persuaded of its approaching extinction. The feeling of loyalty to it was no longer a cherished sentiment; and the anxiety and expectation were about what new rule would take its place.
Many of the smaller fiefs or principalities had been reduced to a helpless dependence on, or been absorbed by, the larger ones. Of Loo, Ch‘ing, Wei, Woo, Ch‘in, and Sung, conspicuous in the Analects, we read but little in Mencius. Tsin had been dismembered, and its fragments formed the nuclei of three new and vigorous kingdoms,—Wei, Chaou, and Han. Ts‘e still maintained its ground, but was barely able to make head against the States of Ts‘in in the West and Ts‘oo in the South. The struggle for supremacy was between these two, the former, as it was ultimately successful, being the more ambitious and incessant in its aggressions on its neighbours.
The princes were thus at constant warfare with one another. Now two or more would form a league to resist the encroaching Ts‘in, and hardly would that object be accomplished before they were at war among themselves. Ambitious statesmen were continually inflaming their quarrels. The recluses of Confucius’ days, who withdrew in disgust from the world and its turmoil, had given place to a class of men who came forth from their retirements provided with arts of war or schemes of policy which they recommended to the contending chiefs. They made no scruple of changing their allegiance, as they were moved by whim or interest. Kung-sun Yen and Chang E may be mentioned as a specimen of those characters. “Are they not really great men?” it was once asked of Mencius. “Let them once be angry, and all the princes are afraid. Let them live quietly, and the flames of trouble are extinguished throughout the kingdom.”1
It is not wonderful that in such times the minds of men should have doubted of the soundness of the ancient principles of the acknowledged sages of the nation. Doctrines, strange and portentous in the view of Mencius, were openly professed. The authority of Confucius was disowned. The foundations of government were overthrown; the foundations of truth were assailed. Two or three paragraphs from our philosopher will verify and illustrate this representation of the character of his times.
“A host marches [in attendance on the ruler], and stores of provisions are consumed. The hungry are deprived of their food, and there is no rest for those who are called to toil. Maledictions are uttered by one to another with eyes askance, and the people proceed to the commission of wickedness. Thus the royal ordinances are violated, and the people are oppressed, and the supplies of food and drink flow away like water. The rulers yield themselves to the [bad] current, or they urge their [evil] way [against a good one]; they are wild; they are utterly lost.”2
“The five chiefs of the princes were sinners against the three kings. The princes of the present day are sinners against the five chiefs. The great officers of the present day are sinners against the princes. . . . The crime of him who connives at and aids the wickedness of his prince is small, but the crime of him who anticipates and excites that wickedness is great. The officers of the present day all go to meet their sovereigns’ wickedness, and therefore I say that they are sinners against them.”1
“Sage kings cease to arise, and the princes of the States give the reins to their lusts. Unemployed scholars indulge in unreasonable discussions. The words of Yang Choo and Mih Teih fill the empire. If you listen to people’s discourses, you will find that they have adopted the views either of Yang or of Mih. [Now,] Yang’s principle is—‘each one for himself,’ which does not acknowledge [the claims of] the sovereign. Mih’s principle is—‘to love all equally,’ which does not acknowledge [the peculiar affection due to] a father. But to acknowledge neither king nor father is to be in the state of a beast. Kung-ming E said, ‘In their kitchens there is fat meat. In their stables there are fat horses. But their people have the look of hunger, and on the wilds there are those who have died of famine. This is leading on beasts to devour men.’ If the principles of Yang and Mih are not stopped, and the principles of Confucius not set forth, those perverse speakings will delude the people and stop up [the path of] benevolence and righteousness. When benevolence and righteousness are stopped up, beasts will be led on to devour men, and men will devour one another.”2
6. It is in Ts‘e that we first meet with Mencius as a counsellor of the princes,3Mencius the first time in Ts‘e; some time between bc 332 and 323. and it was in this State that he spent much the greater part of his public life. His residence in it, however, appears to have been divided into two portions, and we know not to which of them to refer many of the chapters which describe his intercourse with the prince and his ministers; but, as I have already observed, this is to us of little moment. Our interest is in what he did and said. It matters little that we cannot assign to each saying and doing its particular date.
That he left Ts‘e the first time before bc 323 is plausibly inferred from Bk II. Pt II. xiv. 4;4 and assuming that the conversation in the same Book, Pt I. ii., took place immediately before or after his arrival,1 we can determine that he did not enter the State before bc 331, for he speaks of himself as having attained at forty years of age to “an unperturbed mind.” The two chapters contain the most remarkable expressions indicative of Mencius’ estimate of himself. In the first, while he glorifies Confucius as far before all other men who had ever lived, he declines having comparisons drawn between himself and any of the sage’s most distinguished disciples. In the second, when going away sorrowful because he had not wrought the good which he desired, he observes:—“Heaven does not yet wish that the empire should enjoy tranquillity and good order. If it wished this, who is there besides me to bring it about?”
We may be certain that Mencius did not go to Ts‘e uninvited. His approach was waited for with curious expectation, and the king, spoken of always by his honorary epithet of Seuen, “The Illustrious,” sent persons to spy out whether he was like other men.2 They had their first interview at a place called Ts‘ung, which was so little satisfactory to the philosopher that he resolved to make only a short stay in the State. Circumstances occurred to change this resolution, but though he remained, and even accepted office, yet it was only honorary;—he declined receiving any salary.3
From Ts‘ung he appears to have retired to P‘ing-luh, where Ch‘oo, the prime minister, sent him a present, wishing, no doubt, to get into his good graces. I call attention to the circumstance, though trifling in itself, because it illustrates the way in which Mencius carried himself to the great men. He took the gift, but subsequently, when he went to the capital, he did not visit the minister to acknowledge it. His opinion was that Ch‘oo might have come in person to P‘ing-luh to see him. “There was a gift, but no corresponding respect.”1
When Mencius presented himself at the capital of the State, he was honourably received by the king. Many of the conversations with the sovereign and officers which are scattered through the seven Books, though the first and second are richest in them, must be referred to this period. The one which is first in place,2 and which contains the fullest exposition of the philosopher’s views on government, was probably first likewise in time.3 It sets forth the grand essential to the exercise of royal government,—a heart on the part of the sovereign impatient of the sufferings of the people, and eager to protect them and make them happy; it brings home to king Seuen the conviction that he was not without such a heart, and presses on him the truth that his not exercising it was from a want of will and not from any lack of ability; it exposes unsparingly the errors of the course he was pursuing; and concludes by an exhibition of the outlines and happy issues of a true royal sway.
Of this nature were all Mencius’ communications with the sovereign; but he lays himself open in one thing to severe censure. Afraid apparently of repelling the prince from him by the severity of his lessons, he tries to lead him on by his very passions. “I am fond of beauty,” says the king, “and that is in the way of my attaining to the royal government which you celebrate.” “Not at all,” replies the philosopher. “Gratify yourself, only do not let your doing so interfere with the people’s getting similar enjoyment for themselves.”4 So the love of money, the love of war, and the love of music are dealt with. Mencius thought that if he could only get the good of the people to be recognized by Seuen as the great aim which he was to pursue, his tone of mind would be so elevated, that the selfish passions and gratifications of which he was the slave would be purified or altogether displaced. And so it would have been. Where he fails, is in putting his points as if benevolence and selfishness, covetousness and generosity, might exist together. Chinese moralists rightly find fault with him in this respect, and say that Confucius never condescended to such a style of argument.
Notwithstanding the apparent cordiality of the king’s reception of him, and the freedom with which Mencius spoke his mind at their interviews, a certain suspiciousness appears to have been maintained between them. Neither of them would bend to the other. Mencius would not bow to the royal state; Seuen would not vail bonnet to the philosopher’s cloak. We have one amusing instance of the struggles to which this sometimes gave rise. One day Mencius was preparing to go to court of his own free will, when a messenger arrived from the king, saying he had intended to come and see him, but was prevented by a cold, and asking whether Mencius would not appear at the audience next morning. Mencius saw that this was a device on the part of the king to avoid stooping to visit him, and though he had been about to go to court, he replied at once that he was unwell. He did not hesitate to meet the king’s falsehood with one of his own.
He did not wish, however, that the king should be ignorant of the truth, and went out next morning to pay a visit of condolence. He supposed that messengers would be sent from the court to inquire about his health, and that, when they took back word that he had gone out visiting, the king would understand how his sickness of the day before was only feigned.
It happened as he expected. The king sent a messenger, and his physician besides. Mencius being out, they were received by Măng Chung, either his son or cousin, who complicated the affair by an invention of his own. “To-day,” he said, “he was a little better, and hastened to go to court. I don’t know whether he has reached it by this time or not.” No sooner were the visitors gone with this story, than he sent several persons to look for the philosopher, and urge him to go to the court before he returned home.
It was now necessary that a full account of the matter should reach the royal ears; and to accomplish this, Mencius neither went home nor to the court, but spent the night at the house of one of the high officers. They had an animated discussion. The officer accused Mencius of showing disrespect to the king. The philosopher replied that no man in Ts‘e showed so much respect for the sovereign as he did, for it was only he who brought high and truly royal subjects under his notice.
“That,” said the officer, “is not my meaning. The rule is—‘When the prince’s order calls, the carriage must not be waited for.’ You were going to the court, but when you heard the king’s message, you did not do so. This seems not in accordance with that rule.” Mencius explained:—“There are three things universally acknowledged to be honourable,—nobility, age, and virtue. In courts, nobility holds the first place; in villages, age; and for helping one’s generation and presiding over the people, the other two are not equal to virtue. The possession of one of the three does not authorize the despising of one who has the other two.
“A prince who is to accomplish great deeds will have ministers whom he does not call to go to see him. When he wishes to consult with their, he goes to them. The prince who does not honour the virtuous, and delight in their ways of doing, to this extent, is not worth having to do with.
“There was T‘ang with E Yin:—he first learned of him, and then made him his minister; and so without difficulty he became sovereign. There was the duke Hwan with Kwan Chung:—he first learned of him, and then made him his minister; and so without difficulty he became chief of all the princes.
“So did T‘ang behave to E Yin, and the duke Hwan to Kwan Chung, that they would not venture to call them to go to them. If Kwan Chung might not be called to him by his prince, how much less may I be called, who would not play the part of Kwan Chung!”1
We are to suppose that these sentiments were conveyed to the king by the officer with whom Mencius spent the night. It is a pity that the exposition of them could only be effected in such a roundabout manner, and was preceded by such acts of prevarication. But where the two parties were so suspicious of each other, we need not wonder that they separated before long. Mencius resigned his honorary appointment, and prepared to return to Tsow. On this occasion king Seuen visited him, and after some complimentary expressions asked whether he might expect to see him again. “I dare not request permission to visit you [at any particular time],” replied Mencius, “but, indeed, it is what I desire.”2
The king made another attempt to detain him, and sent an officer, called She, to propose to him to remain in the State, on the understanding that he should have a house large enough to accommodate his disciples, and an allowance of ten thousand measures of grain to support them. All Mencius’ efforts had not sufficed to make king Seuen and his ministers understand him. They thought he was really actuated like themselves by a desire for wealth. He indignantly rejected the proposal, and pointed out the folly of it, considering that he had already declined a hundred thousand measures in holding only an honorary appointment.
So Mencius turned his back on Ts‘e; but he withdrew with a slow and lingering step, stopping three nights in one place, to afford the king an opportunity to recall him on a proper understanding. Some reproached him with his hesitancy, but he sufficiently explained himself. “The king,” he said, “is, after all, one who may be made to do good. If he were to use me, would it be for the happiness of Ts‘e only? It would be for the happiness of the people of the whole empire. I am hoping that the king will change; I am daily hoping for this.
“Am I like one of your little-minded people? They will remonstrate with their prince, and on their remonstrance not being accepted, they get angry, and, with their passion displayed in their countenance, they take their leave, and travel with all their strength for a whole day, before they will rest.”1
7. After he left Ts‘e, Mencius found a home for some time in the small principality of T‘ăng, on the south of Ts‘e, in the ruler of which he had a sincere admirer and docile pupil.Mencius in T‘ang;—from his leaving T‘se to bc 318. He did not proceed thither immediately, however, but seems to have taken his way to Sung, which consisted mostly of the present department of Kwei-tih in Ho-nan.2 There he was visited by the heirson of T‘ăng, who made a long detour, while on a journey to Ts‘oo, for the purpose of seeing him. The philosopher discoursed on the goodness of human nature, and the excellent ways of Yaou and Shun. His hearer admired, but doubted. He could not forget, however, and the lessons which he received produced fruit before long.
From Sung Mencius returned to Tsow, by way of Sëeh. In both Sung and Sëeh he accepted large gifts from the rulers, which help us in some measure to understand how he could maintain an expenditure which must have been great, and which gave occasion also for an ingenious exposition of the principles on which he guided his course among the princes.
“When you were in Ts‘e,” said one of his disciples, “you refused 100 yih of fine gold, which the king sent, while in Sung you accepted 70 yih, and in Seeh 50. If you were right in refusing the gift in the first case, you did wrong in accepting it in the other two. If you were right in accepting it in those two cases, you were wrong in refusing it in Ts‘e. You must accept one of these alternatives.” “I did right in all the cases,” replied Mencius. “When I was in Sung. I was about to undertake a long journey. Travellers must be provided with what is necessary for their expenses. The prince’s message was—‘a present against travelling-expenses;’ why should I have declined the gift? In Seeh I was under apprehensions for my safety, and taking measures for my protection. The message was—‘I have heard you are taking measures to protect yourself, and send this to help you in procuring arms.’ Why should I have declined the gift? But when I was in Ts‘e. I had no occasion for money. To send a man a gift when he has no occasion for it is to bribe him. How is it possible that a superior man should be taken with a bribe?”1
Before Mencius had been long in Tsow, the crown-prince of T‘ăng succeeded to the rule of the principality, and, calling to mind the lessons which he had heard in Sung, sent an officer to consult the philosopher on the manner in which he should perform the funeral and mourning services for his father.2 Mencius of course advised him to carry out in the strictest manner the ancient regulations. The new prince’s relatives and the officers of the State opposed, but ineffectually. Mencius’ counsel was followed, and the effect was great. Duke Wăn became an object of general admiration.
By and by Mencius proceeded himself to T‘ăng. We may suppose that he was invited thither by the prince as soon as the rules of mourning would allow his holding free communication with him. The chapters which give an account of their conversations are really interesting. Mencius recommended that attention should be chiefly directed to the encouragement of agriculture and education. He would have nourishment secured both for the body and the mind of every subject.1 When the duke was lamenting the danger to which he was exposed from his powerful and encroaching neighbours, Mencius told him he might adopt one of two courses;—either leave his State, and like king T‘ae go and find a settlement elsewhere, or be prepared to die for his patrimony. “If you do good,” said he, “among your descendants in after-generations there will be one who shall attain to the Royal dignity. But results are with Heaven. What is Ts‘e to you, O prince? Be strong to do good. That is all your business.”2
After all, nothing came of Mencius’ residence in T‘ăng. We should like to know what made him leave it. Confucius said that, if any of the princes were to employ him, he should achieve something considerable in twelve months, and in the course of three years the government would be perfected.3 Mencius taught that, in his time, with half the merit of former days double the result might be accomplished.4 Here in T‘ăng a fair field seemed to be afforded him, but he was not able to make his promise good. Possibly the good purposes and docility of duke Wăn may not have held out, or Mencius may have found that it was easier to theorize about government, than actually to carry it on. Whatever may have been the cause, we find him in bc 319 at the court of king Hwuy of Leang.
Before he left T‘ăng, Mencius had his rencounter with the disciples of the “shrike-tongued barbarian of the south,” one Heu Hing, who came to T‘ăng on hearing of the reforms which were being made at Mencius’ advice by the duke Wăn. This was one of the dreamy speculators of the time, to whom I have already alluded. He pretended to follow the lessons of Shin-nung, one of the reputed founders of the empire and the father of husbandry, and came to T‘ăng with his plough upon his shoulder, followed by scores of followers, all wearing the coarsest clothes, and supporting themselves by making mats and sandals. It was one of his maxims that “the magistrates should be labouring men.” He would have the sovereign grow his own rice, and cook his own meals. Not a few of “The Learned” were led away by his doctrines, but Mencius girt up his loins to oppose the heresy, and ably vindicated the propriety of a division of labour, and of a lettered class conducting the government. It is just possible that the appearance of Heu Hing, and the countenance shown to him, may have had something to do with Mencius’ leaving the State.
8. Lëang was another name for Wei, one of the States into which Tsin had been divided.Mencius in Leang;—bc 319, 318. King Hwuy, early in his reign, bc 364, had made the city of Taeleang, in the present department of K‘ae-fung, his capital, and given its name to his whole principality. It was the year before his death, when Mencius visited him.1 A long, stormy, and disastrous rule was about to terminate, but the king was as full of activity and warlike enterprise as ever he had been. At his first interview with Mencius, he addressed him in the well-known words, “Venerable Sir, since you have not counted it far to come here, a distance of a thousand le, may I presume that you are likewise provided with counsels to profit my kingdom?” Mencius in reply starts from the word profit, and expatiates eloquently on the evil consequences that must ensue from making a regard to profit the ground of conduct or the rule of policy. As for himself, his theme must be benevolence and righteousness. On these he would discourse, but on nothing else, and in following them a prince would obtain true and sure advantages.
Only five conversations are related between king Hwuy and the philosopher. They are all in the spirit of the first which has just been described, and of those which he had with king Seuen of Ts‘e. There is the same freedom of expostulation, or, rather, boldness of reproof, and the same unhesitating assurance of the success that would follow the adoption of his principles. The most remarkable is the third, where we have a sounder doctrine than where he tells king Seuen that his love of beauty and money and valour need not interfere with his administration of royal government. Hwuy is boasting of his diligence in the government of his State, and sympathy with the sufferings of his people, as far beyond those of any of the neighbouring rulers, and wondering how he was not more prosperous than they. Mencius replies, “Your Majesty is fond of war;—let me take an illustration from it. The drums sound, and the weapons are crossed, when suddenly the soldiers on one side throw away their coats of mail, trail their weapons behind them, and run. Some of them run a hundred paces, and some run only fifty. What would you think if those who run fifty paces were to laugh at those who run a hundred paces?” “They may not do so,” said the king; “they only did not run a hundred paces, but they also ran.” “Since your Majesty knows this,” was the reply, “you need not hope that your people will become more numerous than those of the neighbouring kingdoms.” The king was thus taught that half measures would not do. Royal government, to be effectual, must be carried out faithfully and in its spirit.
King Hwuy died in bc 319, and was succeeded by his son, the king Sëang. Mencius appears to have had but one interview with him. When he came out from it, he observed to some of his friends:—“When I looked at him from a distance, he did not appear like a sovereign; when I drew near to him, I saw nothing venerable about him.”1
It was of no use to remain any longer in Lëang; he left it, and we meet with him again in Ts‘e.
9. Whether he returned immediately to Ts‘e we cannot tell, but the probability is that he did, and remained in it till the year bc 311.2Mencius the second time in Ts‘e;—to bc 311. When he left it about seven years before, he had made provision for his return in case of a change of mind in king Seuen. The philosopher, I apprehend, was content with an insufficient assurance of such an alteration. Be that as it may, he went back, and took an appointment again as a high noble.
If he was contented with a smaller reformation on the part of the king than he must have desired, Mencius was not himself different from what he had been. In the court and among the high officers his deportment was equally unbending; he was the same stern mentor.
Among the officers was one Wang Hwan, called also Tsze-gaou, a favourite with the king, insolent and presuming. Him Mencius treated with an indifference and even contempt which must have been very provoking. A large party were met one time at the house of an officer who had lost a son, for the purpose of expressing their condolences. Mencius was among them, when suddenly Wang Hwan made his appearance. One and another moved to do him honour and win from him a smile,—all indeed but Mencius, who paid no regard to him. The other complained of the rudeness, but the philosopher could show that his conduct was only in accordance with the rules of propriety.1
Now and then he became the object of unpleasant remark and censure. At his instigation, an officer, Ch‘e Wa, remonstrated with the king on some abuse, and had in consequence to resign his office. The people were not pleased with Mencius, thus advising others to their harm, and yet continuing to retain his own position undisturbed. “In the course which he marked out for Ch‘e Wa,” they said, “he did well, but we do not know as to the course which he pursues for himself.” The philosopher, however, was never at a loss in rendering a reason. He declared that, as his office was honorary, he could act “freely and without restraint either in going forward or retiring.”2 In this matter we have more sympathy with the condemnation than with the defence.
Some time during these years there occurred the death of Mencius’ excellent mother. She had been with him in Ts‘e, and he carried the coffin to Loo, to bury it near the dust of his father and ancestors. The funeral was a splendid one. Mencius perhaps erred in having it so from his dislike to the Mihists, who advocated a spare simplicity in all funeral matters.1 His arrangements certainly excited the astonishment of some of his own disciples,2 and were the occasion of general remark.3 He defended himself on the ground that “the superior man will not for all the world be niggardly to his parents,” and that, as he had the means, there was no reason why he should not give all the expression in his power to his natural feelings.
Having paid this last tribute of filial duty, Mencius returned to Ts‘e, but he could not appear at court till the three years of his mourning were accomplished.4 It could not be long after this when trouble and confusion arose in Yen, a large State to the north-west of Ts‘e, in the present Chih-le. Its prince, who was a poor weakling, wished to go through the sham of resigning his throne to his prime minister, understanding that he would decline it, and that thus he would have the credit of playing the part of the ancient Yaou, while at the same time he retained his kingdom. The minister, however, accepted the tender, and, as he proved a tyrannical ruler, great dissatisfaction arose. Shin T‘ung, an officer of Ts‘e, asked Mencius whether Yen might be smitten. He replied that it might, for its prince had no right to resign it to his minister, and the minister no right to receive it. “Suppose,” said he, “there were an officer here with whom you were pleased, and that, without informing the king, you were privately to give him your salary and rank; and suppose that this officer, also without the king’s orders, were privately to receive them from you:—would such a transaction be allowable? And where is the difference between the case of Yen and this?”5
Whether these sentiments were reported to king Seuen or not, he proceeded to attack Yen, and found it an easy prey. Mencius was charged with having advised the measure, but he ingeniously repudiated the accusation. “I answered Shin T‘ung that Yen might be smitten. If he had asked me—‘Who may smite it?’ I would have answered him—‘He who is the minister of Heaven may smite it.’ Suppose the case of a murderer, and that one asks me—‘May this man be put to death?’ I will answer him—‘He may.’ If he ask me—‘Who may put him to death?’ I will answer him—‘The chief criminal judge may put him to death.’ But now with one Yen to smite another Yen:—how should I have advised this?” This reference to “The minister of Heaven” strikingly illustrates what was said about the state of China in Mencius’ time. He tells us in one place that hostile States do not correct one another, and that only the supreme authority can punish its subjects by force of arms.1 But there was now no supreme authority in China. He saw in the emperor but “the shadow of an empty name.” His conception of a minister of Heaven was not unworthy. He was one who, by the distinction which he gave to talents and virtue, and by his encouragement of agriculture and commerce, attracted all people to him as a parent. He would have no enemy under heaven, and could not help attaining to the Royal dignity.2
King Seuen, after conquering and appropriating Yen, tried to get Mencius’ sanction of the proceeding, alleging the ease and rapidity with which he had effected the conquest as an evidence of the favour of Heaven. But the philosopher was true to himself. The people of Yen, he said, had submitted, because they expected to find in the king a deliverer from the evils under which they groaned. If they were pleased, he might retain the State, but if he tried to keep it by force, there would simply be another revolution.3
The king’s love of power prevailed. He determined to keep his prey, and ere long a combination was formed among the neighbouring princes to wrest Yen from him. Full of alarm he again consulted Mencius, but got no comfort from him. “Let him restore his captives and spoils, consult with the people of Yen, and appoint them a ruler—so he might be able to avert the threatened attack.”4
The result was as Mencius had predicted. The people of Yen rebelled. The king felt ashamed before the philosopher, whose second residence in Ts‘e was thus brought to an unpleasant termination.
10. We do not know that Mencius visited any of the princes after this. On leaving Ts‘e, he took his way again to Sung, the duke of which had taken the title of king in bc 317.Mencius in Loo;—bc 309. A report also had gone abroad that he was setting about to practise the true royal government, but Mencius soon satisfied himself of its incorrectness.1
The last court at which we find him is that of Loo, bc 309. The duke P‘ing had there called Yoh-ching, one of the philosopher’s disciples, to his councils, and indeed committed to him the administration of the government. When Mencius heard of it, he was so overjoyed that he could not sleep.2
The first appearance (in point of time) of this Yoh-ching in the Seven Books is not much to his credit. He comes to Ts‘e in the train of Wang Hwan, the favourite who was an offence to the philosopher, and is very sharply reproved for joining himself to such a character “for the sake of the loaves and fishes.”3 Other references to him are more favourable. Mencius declares him to be “a good man,” “a real man.”4 He allows that “he is not a man of vigour,” nor “a man wise in council,” nor “a man of much information,” but he says—“he is a man that loves what is good,” and “the love of what is good is more than a sufficient qualification for the government of the kingdom;—how much more is it so for the State of Loo!”5
Either on his own impulse or by Yoh-ching’s invitation, Mencius went himself also to Loo, hoping that the prince who had committed his government to the disciple might be willing to listen to the counsels of the master. The duke was informed of his arrival by Yoh-ching, and also of the deference which he exacted. He resolved to go and visit him and invite him to the court. The horses were put to the carriage, and the duke was ready to start, when the intervention of his favourite, a worthless creature called Tsang Ts‘ang, diverted him from his good purpose. When told by the duke that he was going to visit the scholar Măng, Ts‘ang said, “That you demean yourself to pay the honour of the first visit to a common man, is, I apprehend, because you think that he is a man of talents and virtue. From such men the rules of ceremonial proprieties and right proceed; but on the occasion of this Măng’s second mourning, his observances exceeded those of the former. Do not go to see him, my prince.” The duke said, “I will not;”—and carriage and horses were ordered back to their places.
As soon as Yoh-ching had an audience of the duke, he explained the charge of impropriety which had been brought against Mencius; but the evil was done. The duke had taken his course. “I told him,” said Yoh-ching, “about you, and he was coming to see you, when Tsang Ts‘ang stopped him.” Mencius replied to him, “A man’s advancement is effected, it may be, by others, and the stopping him is, it may be, from the efforts of others. But to advance a man or to stop his advance is really beyond the power of other men; my not finding in the prince of Loo a ruler who would confide in me, and put my counsels into practice, is from Heaven. How could that scion of the Tsang family cause me not to find the ruler that would suit me?”1
Mencius appears to have accepted this intimation of the will of Heaven as final. He has a remarkable saying, that Heaven controls the development of a man’s faculties and affections, but as there is an adaptation in his nature for these, the superior man does not say—“It is the appointment of Heaven.”2 In accordance with this principle he had striven long against the adverse circumstances which threw his hopes of influencing the rulers of his time again and again in the dust. On his first leaving Ts‘e we saw how he said:—“Heaven does not yet wish that the empire should enjoy tranquillity and good order.” For about fifteen years, however, he persevered, if peradventure there might be a change in the Heavenly councils. Now at last he bowed in submission. The year after and he would reach his grand climacteric. We lose sight of him. He retired from courts and great officers. We can but think and conjecture of him, according to tradition, passing the last twenty years of his life amid the more congenial society of his disciples, discoursing to them, and compiling the Works which have survived as his memorial to the present day.
11. I have endeavoured in the preceding paragraphs to put together the principal incidents of Mencius’ history as they may be gathered from his Writings. There is no other source of information about him, and we must regret that they tell us nothing of his domestic life and habits. In one of the stories about his mother there is an allusion to his wife, from which we may conclude that his marriage was not without its bitternesses. It is probable that the Măng Chung, mentioned in Bk II. Pt II. ii., was his son, though this is not easily reconcileable with what we read in VI. Pt I. v., of a Măng Ke, who was, according to Chaou K‘e, a brother of Măng Chung. We must believe that he left a family, for his descendants form a large clan at the present day. He-wăn, the 56th in descent from Mencius, was, in the period Këa-tsing (ad 1522—1566), constituted a member of the Han-lin college, and of the Board in charge of the five King, which honour was to be hereditary in the family, and the holder of it to preside at the sacrifices to his ancestor.1 China’s appreciation of our philosopher could not be more strikingly shown. Honours flow back in this empire. The descendant ennobles his ancestors. But in the case of Mencius, as in that of Confucius, this order is reversed. No excellence of descendants can extend to them; and the nation acknowledges its obligations to them by nobility and distinction conferred through all generations upon their posterity.
HIS INFLUENCE AND OPINIONS.
1.Confucius had hardly passed off the stage of life before his merits began to be acknowledged. The duke Gae, who had neglected his counsels when he was alive, was the first to pronounce his eulogy, and to order that public sacrifices should be offered to him. His disciples proclaimed their estimation of him as superior to all the sages whom China had ever seen. Before long this view of him took possession of the whole nation; and since the Han dynasty, he has been the man whom sovereign and people have delighted to honour.
The memory of Mencius was not so distinguished. We have seen that many centuries elapsed before his Writings were received among the classics of the empire.Acknowledgment of Mencius’ inerits by the government It was natural that under the same dynasty when this was done the man himself should be admitted to share in the sacrifices presented to Confucius.
The emperor Shin-tsung,1 in ad 1083, issued a patent, constituting Mencius “duke of the State of Tsow,” and ordering a temple to be built to him in the district of Tsow, at the spot where the philosopher had been interred. In the following year it was enacted that he should have a place in the temple of Confucius, next to that of Yen Yuen, the favourite disciple of the sage.
In ad 1330, the emperor Wăn,2 of the Yuen dynasty, made an addition to Mencius’ title, and styled him “duke of the State of Tsow, Inferior Sage.” This continued till the rise of the Ming dynasty, the founder of which had his indignation excited in 1372 by one of Mencius’ conversations with king Seuen. The philosopher had said:—“When the ruler regards his ministers as his hands and feet, the ministers regard their ruler as their belly and heart; when he regards them as his dogs and horses, they regard him as any other man; when he regards them as the ground or as grass, they regard him as a robber and an enemy.”3 To apply such names as robber and enemy in any case to rulers seemed to the imperial reader an unpardonable outrage, and he ordered Mencius to be degraded from his place in the temples of Confucius, declaring also that if any one remonstrated on the proceeding he should be dealt with as guilty of “Contempt of Majesty.”
The scholars of China have never been slow to vindicate the memory of its sages and worthies. Undeterred by the imperial threat, Ts‘ëen T‘ang, a president of the Board of Punishments, presented himself with a remonstrance, saying—“I will die for Mencius, and my death will be crowned with glory.” The emperor was moved by his earnestness, and allowed him to go scathless. In the following year, moreover, examination and reflection produced a change of mind. He issued a second proclamation to the effect that Mencius, by exposing heretical doctrines and overthrowing perverse speakings, had set forth clearly the principles of Confucius, and ought to be restored to his place as one of his assessors.1
In 1530, the ninth year of the period Kea-tsing, a general revision was made of the sacrificial canon for the sage’s temple, and the title of Mencius was changed into—“The philosopher Măng, Inferior Sage.” So it continues to the present day. His place is the second on the west, next to that of the philosopher Tsăng. Originally, we have seen, he followed Yen Hwuy, but Hwuy, Tsze-sze, Tsăng, and Măng were appointed the sage’s four assessors, and had their relative positions fixed, in 1267.
2. The second edict in the period Hung-woo, restoring Mencius to his place in the temples of Confucius, states fairly enough the services which he is held to have rendered to his country.Estimate of Mencius by himself and by scholars. The philosopher’s own estimate of himself has partly appeared in the sketch of his Life. He seemed to start with astonishment when his disciple Kung-sun Ch‘ow was disposed to rank him as a sage;1 but he also said on one occasion—“When sages shall rise up again, they will not change my words.”2 Evidently, he was of opinion that the mantle of Confucius had fallen upon him. A work was to be done in his generation, and he felt himself able to undertake it. After describing what had been accomplished by the great Yu, by Chow-kung, and Confucius, he adds:—“I also wish to rectify men’s hearts, and to put an end to those perverse doctrines, to oppose their one-sided actions, and banish away their licentious expressions; and thus to carry on the work of the three sages.”3
3. The place which Mencius occupies in the estimation of the literati of China may be seen by the following testimonies, selected from those appended by Choo He to the prefatory notice of his Life in the “Collected Comments.”
Han Yu4 says, “If we wish to study the doctrines of the sages, we must begin with Mencius.” He also quotes the opinion of Yang Tsze-yun,5 “Yang and Mih were stopping up the way [of truth], when Mencius refuted them, and scattered their delusions without difficulty;” and then remarks upon it:—“When Yang and Mih walked abroad, the true doctrine had nearly come to nought. Though Mencius possessed talents and virtue, even those of a sage, he did not occupy the throne. He could only speak and not act. With all his earnestness, what could he do? It is owing, however, to his words, that learners now-a-days still know to revere Confucius, to honour benevolence and righteousness, to esteem the true sovereign and despise the mere pretender. But the grand rules and laws of the sage and sage-emperors had been lost beyond the power of redemption; only one in a hundred of them was preserved. Can it be said in those circumstances that Mencius had an easy task? Yet had it not been for him, we should have been buttoning the lappets of our coats on the left side, and our discourse would have been all-confused and indistinct;—it is on this account that I have honoured Mencius, and consider his merit not inferior to that of Yu.”
One asked the philosopher Ch‘ing6 whether Mencius might be pronounced to be a sage. He replied, “I do not dare to say altogether that he was a sage, but his learning had reached the extremest point.” The same great scholar also said:—“The merit of Mencius in regard to the doctrine of the sages is more than can be told. Confucius only spoke of benevolence, but as soon as Mencius opens his mouth, we hear of benevolence and righteousness. Confucius only spoke of the will or mind, but Mencius enlarged also on the nourishment of the passion-nature. In these two respects his merit was great.” “Mencius did great service to the world by his teaching the goodness of man’s nature.” “Mencius had a certain amount of the heroical spirit, and to that there always belong some jutting corners, the effect of which is very injurious. Yen Yuen, all round and complete, was different from this. He was but a hair’s-breadth removed from a sage, while Mencius must be placed in a lower rank, a great worthy, an inferior sage.” Ch‘ing was asked where what he called the heroical spirit of Mencius could be seen. “We have only to compare his words with those of Confucius,” he said, “and we shall perceive it. It is like the comparison of ice or crystal with a precious stone. The ice is bright enough, but the precious stone, without so much brilliancy, has a softness and richness all its own.”1 The scholar Yang Kwei-shan2 says:—“The great object of Mencius in his writings is to rectify men’s hearts, teaching them to preserve their heart and nourish their nature, and to recover their lost heart. When he discourses of benevolence, righteousness, propriety, and knowledge, he refers to the principles of these in the heart commiserating, feeling shame and dislike, affected with modesty and complaisance, approving and disapproving. When he speaks of the evils springing from perverted speakings, he says—‘Growing first in the mind, they prove injurious to government.’ When he shows how a prince should be served, he says—‘Correct what is wrong in his mind. Once rectify the prince, and the kingdom will be settled.’ With him the thousand changes and ten thousand operations of men all come from the mind or heart. If a man once rectify his heart, little else will remain for him to do. In ‘The Great Learning,’ the cultivation of the person, the regulation of the family, the government of the State, and the tranquillization of the empire, all have their root in the rectifying of the heart and the making the thoughts sincere. If the heart be rectified, we recognize at once the goodness of the nature. On this account, whenever Mencius came into contact with people, he testified that man’s nature is good. When Ow-yang Yung-shuh1 says, that, in the lessons of the sages, man’s nature does not occupy the first place, he is wrong. There is nothing to be put before this. Yaou and Shun are the models for ten thousand ages simply because they followed their nature. And to follow our nature is just to accord with Heavenly principle. To use plans and arts, away from this, though they may be successful in great achievement, is the selfishness of human desires, and as far removed from the mode of action of the sage, as earth is from heaven.” I shall close these testimonies with a sentence from Choo He himself. He says:—“Mencius, when compared with Confucius, always appears to speak in too lofty a style; but when we hear him proclaiming the goodness of man’s nature, and celebrating Yaou and Shun, then we likewise perceive the solidity of his discourses.”
4. The judgment concerning our philosopher contained in the above quotations will approve itself to every one who has carefully perused his Works.Correctness of the above testimonies. Mencius own peculiarities appear in his expositions of doctrine. The long passage from Yang Kwei-shan is especially valuable, and puts the principal characteristic of Mencius’ teachings in a clear light. Whether those teachings have the intrinsic value which is ascribed to them is another question. But Mencius’ position with reference to “the doctrines of the sages” is correctly assigned. We are not to look for new truths in him. And this does not lead his countrymen to think less highly of him. I ventured to lay it down as one grand cause of the position and influence of Confucius, that he was simply the preserver of the monuments of antiquity, and the exemplifier and expounder of the maxims of the golden age of China. In this Mencius must share with him.
But while we are not to look to Mencius for new truths, the peculiarities of his natural character were more striking than those of his master. There was an element of “the heroical” about him. He was a dialectician, moreover. If he did not like disputing, as he protested that he did not, yet, when forced to it, he showed himself a master of the art. An ingenuity and subtlety which we cannot but enjoy often mark his reasonings. We have more sympathy with him than with Confucius. He comes closer to us. He is not so awe-ful, but he is more admirable. The doctrines of the sages take a tinge from his mind in passing through it, and it is with that Mencian character about them that they are now held by the cultivated classes and by readers generally.
I will now call attention to a few passages illustrative of these remarks. Some might prefer to search them out for themselves in the body of the volume, and I am far from intending to exhaust the subject. There will be many readers, however, pleased to have the means of forming an idea of the man for themselves brought within small compass. My next object will be to review his doctrine concerning man’s mental constitution and the nourishment of the passion-nature, in which he is said to have rendered special service to the cause of truth. That done, I will conclude by pointing out what I conceive to be his chief defects as a moral and political teacher. To the opinions of Yang Choo and Mih, which he took credit to himself for assailing and exposing, it will be necessary to devote another chapter.
5. It was pointed out in treating of the opinions of Confucius, that he allowed no “right divine” to a sovereign, independent of his exercising a benevolent rule.Specimens of Mencius’ opinions, and manner of advocating them. This was one of the topics, however, of which he was shy. With Mencius, on the contrary, it was a favourite theme. The degeneracy of the times and the ardour of his disposition prompted him equally to the free expression of his convictions about it.
“The people,” he said, “are the most important element [in a country] the spirits of the land and grain are the next; the ruler is the lightest When the ruler endangers the altars of the spirits of the land and grain, he is changed, and another appointed in his place.On government.—The people more important than the ruler. When the sacrificial victims have been perfect, the millet in its vessels all pure, and the sacrifices offered at their proper seasons, if yet there ensure drought, or the waters overflow, the altars of the spirits of the land and grain are changed, and others appointed.”1
“The people are the most important element in a country, and the ruler is the lightest;”—that is certainly a bold and ringing affirmation.An unworthy ruler may be dethroned or put to death. Mencius was not afraid to follow it to the conclusion that the ruler who was exercising an injurious rule should be dethroned. His existence is not to be allowed to interfere with the general good. Killing in such a case is no murder King Seuen once asked, “Was it so that T‘ang banished Këeh, and that king Woo smote Chow?” Mencius replied, “It is so in the records.” The king asked, “May a minister then put his sovereign to death?” Our philosopher’s reply was:—“He who outrages the benevolence proper to his nature is called a robber; he who outrages righteousness is called a ruffian. The robber and ruffian we call a mere fellow. I have heard of the cutting off of the fellow Chow, but I have not heard in his case of the putting a ruler to death.”2
With regard to the ground of the relation between ruler and people, Mencius refers it very clearly to the will of God. In one place he adopts for his own purpose the language of king Woo in the Shoo-king:—The ground of the relation between ruler and people. “Heaven, having produced the inferior people, made for them rulers and instructors, with the purpose that they should be assisting to God, and therefore gave them distinction throughtout the four quarters of the land.”3 But the question arises—How can this will of Heaven be known? Mencius has endeavoured to answer it. He says:—“Heaven gives the empire, but its appointment is not conferred with specific injunctions. Heaven does not speak. It shows its will by a man’s personal conduct and his conduct of affairs.” The conclusion of the whole matter is:—“Heaven sees according as the people see; Heaven hears according as the people hear.”1
It may not be easy to dispute these principles. I for one have no hesitation in admitting them. Their application, however, must always be attended with difficulty.An unworthy ruler may be dethroned by his relatives. Here is a sovereign who is the very reverse of a minister of God for good. He ought to be removed, but who is to remove him? Mencius teaches in one passage that the duty is to be performed by his relatives who are also ministers.
King Seuen of Ts‘e asked him about the office of chief ministers. Mencius said, “Which chief ministers is your Majesty asking about?” “Are there differences among them?” inquired the king. “There are,” was the reply; “there are the chief ministers who are noble and relatives of the ruler, and there are those who are of a different surname.” The king said, “I beg to ask about the chief ministers who are noble and relatives of the ruler.” Mencius answered, “If the ruler have great faults, they ought to remonstrate with him, and if he do not listen to them when they have done so again and again, they ought to appoint another in his place.” The king on this looked moved, and changed countenance. Mencius said, “Let not your Majesty think what I say strange. You asked me, and I did not dare to reply but correctly.”2
This plan for disposing of an unworthy sovereign has been acted on in China and in other countries. It is the best that can be adopted to secure the throne in the ruling House.Virtuous ministers, and the minister of Heaven, may dethrone a ruler. But where there are no relatives that have the virtue and power to play such a part, what is to be done? Mencius has two ways of meeting this difficulty. Contrary to his general rule for the conduct of ministers who are not relatives, he allows that even they may, under certain conditions, take summary measures with their sovereign.
His disciple Kung-sun Ch‘ow said to him, “E Yin said, ‘I cannot be near so disobedient a person,’ and therewith he banished T‘ae-këah to T‘ung. The people were much pleased. When T‘ae-keah became virtuous, he brought him back, and the people were again much pleased. When worthies are ministers, may they indeed banish their rulers in this way when they are not virtuous?” Mencius replied, “If they have the mind of E Yin, they may. If they have not that mind, it would be usurpation.”3
His grand device, however, is what he calls “the minister of Heaven.” When the sovereign has become worthless and useless, his hope is that Heaven will raise up some one for the help of the people;—some one who shall so occupy in his original subordinate position as to draw all eyes and hearts to himself.1 Let him then raise the standard, not of rebellion but of righteousness,2 and he cannot help attaining to the highest dignity. So it was with the great T‘ang; so it was with the kings Wăn and Woo. Of the last Mencius says:—“There was one man”—i.e., the tyrant Chow—“pursuing a violent and disorderly course in the land, and king Woo was ashamed of it. By one display of his anger, he gave repose to all the people.”3 He would have been glad if any one of the princes of his own time had been able to vault in a similar way to the royal throne, and he went about counselling them to the attempt. “Let your Majesty,” said be to king Seuen, “in like manner, by one burst of anger, give repose to all the people of the empire.” This was in fact advising to rebellion, but the philosopher would have recked little of such a charge. The House of Chow had forfeited in his view its title to the kingdom. Alas! among all the princes he had to do with, he did not find one who could be stirred to so honourable an action.
We need not wonder that Mencius, putting forth the above views so boldly and broadly, should not be a favourite with the rulers of China. His sentiments, professed by the literati, and known and read by all the people, have operated powerfully to compel the good behaviour of “the powers that be.” It may be said that they encourage the aims of selfish ambition, and the lawlessness of the licentious mob. I grant it. They are lessons for the virtuous, and not for the lawless and disobedient, but the government of China would have been more of a grinding despotism, if it had not been for them.
On the readiness of the people to be governed Mencius only differs from Confucius in the more vehement style in which he expresses his views.The influence of personal character in a ruler. He does not dwell so much on the influence of personal virtue, and I pointed out, in the sketch of his Life, how he all but compromised his character in his communications with king Seuen, telling him that his love of women, of war, and of money might be so regulated as not to interfere with his exercise of true royal government. Still he speaks at tunes correctly and emphatically on this subject. He quotes Confucius’ language on the influence generally of superiors on inferiors,—that “the relation between them is like that between the wind and grass; the grass must bend when the wind blows upon it;”1 and he says himself:—“It is not enough to remonstrate with a ruler on account of the malemployment of ministers, nor to blame errors of government. It is only the great man who can correct what is wrong in the ruler’s mind. Let the ruler be benevolent, and all his acts will be benevolent. Let the ruler be righteous, and all his acts will be righteous. Let the ruler be correct, and all his acts will be correct. Once rectify the ruler, and the State will be firmly settled.”2
But the misery which he saw around him, in consequence of the prevailing anarchy and constant wars between State and State, led Mencius to insist on the necessity of what he called “a benevolent government.” The king Seang asked him, “Who can unite all under the sky under one sway?”Benevolent government, and its effects. and his reply was, “He who has no pleasure in killing men can so unite it.”3 His being so possessed with the sad condition of his time likewise gave occasion, we may suppose, to the utterance of another sentiment, sufficiently remarkable. “Never,” said he, “has he who would by his excellence subdue men, been able to subdue them. Let a ruler seek by his excellence to nourish men, and he will be able to subdue all under heaven. It is impossible that any one should attain to the true royal sway to whom the hearts of all under heaven are not subject.”4 The highest style of excellence will of course have its outgoings in benevolence. Apart from that, it will be powerless, as Mencius says. His words are akin to those of Paul:—“Scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.”
On the effects of a benevolent rule he says:—
“Keeh and Chow’s losing the kingdom arose from their losing the people: and to lose the people means to lose their hearts. There is a way to get the kingdom:—get the people, and the kingdom is got. There is a way to get the people:—get their hearts, and the people are got. There is a way to get their hearts:—it is simply to collect for them what they desire, and not to lay on them what they dislike. The people turn to a benevolent rule as water flows downwards, and as wild beasts run to the wilds. As the otter aids the deep waters, driving the fish into them, and as the hawk aids the thickets, driving the little birds to them, so Këeh and Chow aided T‘ang and Woo, driving the people to them. If among the present rulers throughout the kingdom there were one who loved benevolence, all the other rulers would aid him by driving the people to him. Although he wished not to exercise the royal sway, he could not avoid doing so.”
1 Two principal elements of this benevolent rule, much insisted on by Mencius, deserve to be made prominent. They are to be found indicated in the Analects, and in the older classics also, but it was reserved for our philosopher to set them forth, sharply defined in his own style, and to show the connexion between them. They are:—that the people be made well off, and that they be educated;To make the people prosperous, and to educate them, are important elements in a benevolent rule. and the former is necessary in order to the efficiency of the other.
Once, when Confucius was passing through Wei in company with Yen Yew, he was struck with the populousness of the State. The disciple said, “Since the people are thus numerous, what more shall be done for them?” Confucius answered, “Enrich them.” “And when they have been enriched, what more shall be done for them?” The reply was—“Teach them.”2 This brief conversation contains the germs of the ideas on which Mencius delighted to dwell.
We read in one place:—
“Let it be seen to that their fields of grain and hemp are well cultivated, and make the taxes on them light:—so the people may be made rich.
“Let it be seen to that they use their resources of food seasonably, and expend them only on the prescribed ceremonies:—so they will be more than can be consumed.
“The people cannot live without water and fire; yet if you knock at a man’s door in the dusk of the evening, and ask for water and fire, there is no man who will not give them, such is the great abundance of them. A sage would govern the kingdom so as cause pulse and grain to be as abundant as water and fire. When pulse and grain are as abundant as water and fire, how shall there be among the people any that are not virtuous?”3
Again he says:—
“In good years the children of the people are most of them good, and in bad years they are most of them evil.”4
It is in his conversations, however, with king Seuen of Ts‘e and duke Wăn of T‘ăng, that we find the fullest exposition of the points in hand.
“They are only men of education who, without a certain livelihood, are able to maintain a fixed heart. As to the people, if they have not a certain livelihood, it follows that they will not have a fixed heart. And if they have not a fixed heart, there is nothing which they will not do in the way of self-abandonment, of moral deflection, of depravity, and of wild license. When they have thus been involved in crime, to follow them up and punish them:—this is to entrap the people. Therefore an intelligent ruler will regulate the livelihood of the people, so as to make sure that, above, they shall have sufficient wherewith to serve their parents, and, below, sufficient wherewith to support their wives and children; that in good years they shall always be abundantly satisfied, and that in bad years they shall escape the danger of perishing. After this he may urge them, and they will proceed to what is good, for in this case the people will follow after that with readiness.”1
It is not necessary to remark here on the measures which Mencius recommends in order to secure a certain livelihood for the people. They embrace the regulation both of agriculture and commerce.2 And education should be directed simply to illustrate the human relations.3 What he says on these subjects is not without shrewdness, though many of his recommendations are inappropriate to the present state of society in China itself as well as in other countries. But his principle, that good government should contemplate and will be seen in the material well-being of the people, is worthy of all honour. Whether government should interfere to secure the education of the people is questioned by not a few. The religious denomination to which I have the honour to belong has distinguished itself by opposing such a doctrine in England,—more zealously perhaps than wisely.4 But when Mencius teaches that with the mass of men education will have little success where the life is embittered by a miserable poverty, he shows himself well acquainted with human nature. Educationists now seem generally to recognize it, but I think it is only within a century that it has assumed in Europe the definiteness and importance with which it appeared to Mencius here in China two thousand years ago.
We saw how Mencius, when he was residing in T‘ăng, came into contact with a class of enthusiasts, who advocated a return to the primitive state of society,
“When Adam delved and Eve span.”
They said that wise and able princes should cultivate the ground equally and along with their people, and eat the fruit of their labour,—that “to have granaries, arsenals, and treasuries was an oppressing of the people.”Necessity for a division of labour, and that government be conducted by a lettered class. Mencius exposed these errors very happily, showing the necessity to society of a division of labour, and that the conduct of government should be in the hands of a lettered class.
“I suppose,” he said to a follower of the strange doctrines, “that Heu Hing sows grain and eats the produce. Is it not so?” “It is so,” was the answer. “I suppose that he also weaves cloth, and wears his own manufacture. Is it not so?” “No; Heu wears clothes of haircloth.” “Does he wear a cap?” “He wears a cap.” “What kind of cap?” “A plain cap.” “Is it woven by himself?” “No; he gets it in exchange for grain.” “Why does Heu not weave it himself?” “That would injure his husbandry.” “Does Heu cook his food in boilers and earthen-ware pans, and does he plough with an iron share?” “Yes.” “Does he make those articles himself?” “No; he gets them in exchange for grain.” On these admissions Mencius proceeds:—“The getting those various articles in exchange for grain is not oppressive to the potter and the founder, and the potter and the founder in their turn, in exchanging their various articles for grain, are not oppressive to the husbandman. How should such a thing be supposed? But why does not Heu, [on his principles,] act the potter and founder, supplying himself with the articles which he uses solely from his own establishment? Why does he go confusedly dealing and exchanging with the handicraftsmen? Why does he not spare himself so much trouble?” His opponent attempted a reply:—“The business of the handicraftsman can by no means be carried on along with the business of husbandry.” Mencius resumed:—“Then, is it the government of the empire which alone can be carried along with the practice of husbandry? Great men have their proper business, and little men have their proper business. Moreover, in the case of any single individual, whatever articles he can require are ready to his hand, being produced by the various handicraftsmen:—if he must first make them for his own use, this way of doing would keep all the people running about upon the roads. Hence there is the saying:—‘Some men labour with their minds, and some with their strength. Those who labour with their minds govern others; those who labour with their strength are governed by others. Those who are governed by others support them; those who govern others are supported by them.’ This is a principle universally recognized.”1
Sir John Davis has observed that this is exactly Pope’s line,
“And those who think still govern those who toil.”1
Mencius goes on to illustrate it very clearly by referring to the labours of Yaou and Shun. His opponent makes a feeble attempt at the end to say a word in favour of the new doctrines he had embraced:—
“If Heu’s doctrines were followed there would not be two prices in the market, nor any deceit in the kingdom. If a boy were sent to the market, no one would impose on him; linen and silk of the same length would be of the same price. So it would be with bundles of hemp and silk, being of the same weight: with the different kinds of grain, being the same in quantity; and with shoes which were the same in size.” Mencius meets this with a decisive reply:—“It is the nature of things to be of unequal quality; some are twice, some five times, some ten times, some a hundred times, some a thousand times, some ten thousand times as valuable as others. If you reduce them all to the same standard, that must throw the empire into confusion. If large shoes were of the same price with small shoes, who would make them? For people to follow the doctrines of Heu would be for them to lead one another on to practise deceit. How can they avail for the government of a State?”
There is only one other subject which I shall here notice, with Mencius’ opinions upon it,—the position namely, which he occupied himself with reference to the princes of his time.Mencius’ position as “a Teacher.” He calls it that of “a Teacher,” but that term in our language very inadequately represents it. He wished to meet with some ruler who would look to him as “guide, philosopher, and friend,” regulating himself by his counsels, and thereafter committing to him the entire administration of his government. Such men, he insisted, there had been in China from the earliest ages. Shun had been such to Yaou; Yu and Kaou Yaou had been such to Shun; E Yin had been such to T‘ang; T‘ae-kung Wang had been such to king Wăn; Chow-kung had been such to the kings Woo and Shing; Confucius might have been such to any prince who knew his merit; Tsze-sze was such, in a degree, to the dukes Hwuy of Pe and Muh of Loo.2 The wandering scholars of his own day, who went from court to court, sometimes with good intentions and sometimes with bad, pretended to this character; but Mencius held them in abhorrence. They disgraced the character and prostituted it, and he stood forth as its vindicator and true exemplifier.
Never did Christian priest lift up his mitred front, or show his shaven crown, or wear his Geneva gown, more loftily in courts and palaces than Mencius, the Teacher, demeaned himself. We have seen what struggles sometimes arose between him and the princes who would fain have had him bend to their power and place.
“Those,” said he, “who give counsel to the great should despise them, and not look at their pomp and display. Halls several fathoms high, with beams projecting several cubits:—these, if my wishes were to be realized, I would not have. Food spread before me over ten cubits square, and attendant girls to the amount of hundreds:—these, though my wishes were realized, I would not have. Pleasure and wine, and the dash of hunting, with thousands of chariots following after me:—these, though my wishes were realized, I would not have. What they esteem are what I would have nothing to do with; what I esteem are the rules of the ancients.—Why should I stand in awe of them?”1
Before we bring a charge of pride against Mencius on account of this language and his conduct in accordance with it, we must bear in mind that the literati in China do in reality occupy the place of priests and ministers in Christian kingdoms. Sovereign and people have to seek the law at their lips. The ground on which they stand,—“the rules of the ancients,”—affords but poor footing compared with the Word of God; still it is to them the truth, the unalterable law of life and duty, and, as the expounders of it, they have to maintain a dignity which will not compromise its claims. That “scholars are the first and head of the four classes of the people,” is a maxim universally admitted. I do desiderate in Mencius any approach to humility of soul, but I would not draw my illustrations of the defect from the boldness of his speech and deportment as “a Teacher.”
The charge against him of living on the princes. But in one respect I am not sure but that our philosopher failed to act worthy of the character which he thus assumed. The great men to whom he was in the habit of referring as his patterns nearly all rose from deep poverty to their subsequent eminence.
“Shun rose to the Empire from among the channeled fields; Foo Yueh was called to office from the midst of his building-frames: Kaou Kih from his fish and salt”1 “E Yin was a farmer in Sin. When T‘ang sent persons with presents of silk, to entreat him to enter his service, he said, with an air of indifference and self-satisfaction, ‘What can I do with those silks with which T‘ang invites me? Is it not best for me to abide in the channeled fields, and there delight myself with the principles of Yaou and Shun?’ ”2
It does not appear that any of those worthies accepted favours while they were not in office, or from men whom they disapproved. With Mencius it was very different: he took largely from the princes whom he lectured and denounced. Possibly he might plead in justification the example of Confucius, but he carried the practice to a greater extent than that sage had ever done,—to an extent which staggered even his own disciples and elicited their frequent inquiries. For instance:—
P‘ang Kăng asked him, saying, “Is it not an extravagant procedure to go from one prince to another and live upon them, followed by several tens of carriages, and attended by several hundred men?” Mencius replied, “If there be not a proper ground for taking it, a single bamboo-cup of rice may not be received from a man. If there be such a proper ground, then Shun’s receiving the empire from Yaou is not to be considered excessive. Do you think it was excessive?” “No,” said the other, “but for a scholar performing no service to receive his support notwithstanding is improper.” Mencius answered, “If you do not have an intercommunication of the productions of labour, and an interchange of men’s services, so that one from his overplus may supply the deficiency of another, then husbandmen will have a superfluity of grain, and women will have a superfluity of cloth. If you have such an interchange, carpenters and carriage-wrights may all get their food from you. Here now is a man who, at home, is filial, and, abroad, respectful to his elders, and who watches over the principles of the ancient kings, awaiting the rise of future learners;—and yet you will refuse to support him. How is it that you give honour to the carpenter and carriage-wright, and slight him who practises benevolence and righteousness?” P‘ang Kăng said, “The aim of the carpenter and carriage-wright is by their trades to seek for a living. Is it also the aim of the superior man in his practice of principles to seek for a living?” “What have you to do,” returned Mencius, “with his purpose? He is of service to you. He deserves to be supported, and should be supported. And let me ask—Do you remunerate a man’s intention, or do you remunerate his service?” To this Kăng replied, “I remunerate his intention.” Mencius said, “There is a man here who breaks your tiles and draws unsightly figures on your walls;—his purpose may be thereby to seek for his living, but will you indeed remunerate him?” “No,” said Kăng; and Mencius then concluded: “That being the case, it is not the purpose which you remunerate, but the work done.”3
The ingenuity of Mencius in the above conversation will not be questioned. The position from which he starts in his defence, that society is based on a division of labour and an interchange of services, is sound, and he fairly hits and overthrows his disciples on the point that we remunerate a man not for his aim but for his work done. But he does not quite meet the charge against himself. This will better appear from another brief conversation with Kung-sun Ch‘ow on the same subject.
“It is said, in the Book of Poetry,” observed Chow,
How is it that we see superior men eating without labouring?” Mencius replied, “When a superior man resides in a country, if the sovereign employ his counsels, he comes to tranquillity, wealth, honour, and glory; if the young in it follow his instructions, they become filial, obedient to their elders, true-hearted, and faithful.—What greater example can there be than this of not eating the bread of idleness?”1
The argument here is based on the supposition that the superior man has free course, is appreciated by the sovereign, and venerated and obeyed by the people. But this never was the case with Mencius. Only once, the short time that he was in T‘ăng, did a ruler listen favourably to his counsels. His lessons, it may be granted, were calculated to be of the greatest benefit to the communities where he was, but it is difficult to see the “work done,” for which he could claim the remuneration. His reasoning might very well be applied to vindicate a government’s extending its patronage to literary men, where it recognized in a general way the advantages to be derived from their pursuits. Still more does it accord with that employed in western nations where ecclesiastical establishments form one of the institutions of a country. The members belonging to them must have their maintenance, independently of the personal character of the rulers. But Mencius’ position was more that of a reformer. His claims were of those of his personal merit. It seems to me that P‘ang Kăng had reason to doubt the propriety of his course, and characterize it as extravagant.
Another disciple, Wan Chang, pressed him very closely with the inconsistency of his taking freely the gifts of the princes on whom he was wont to pass sentence so roundly. Mencius had insisted that, where the donor offered his gift on a ground of reason and in a manner accordant with propriety, even Confucius would have received it.
“Here now,” said Chang, “is one who stops and robs people outside the city-gates. He offers his gift on a ground of reason and in a proper manner;—would it be right to receive it so acquired by robbery?” The philosopher of course said it would not, and the other pursued:—“The rulers of the present day take from their people just as a robber despoils his victim. Yet if they put a good face of propriety on their gifts, the superior man receives them. I venture to ask you to explain this.” Mencius answered:—“Do you think that, if there should arise a truly royal sovereign, he would collect the rulers of the present day and put them all to death? Or would he admonish them, and then, on their not changing their ways, put them to death? Indeed to call every one who takes what does not properly belong to him a robber, is pushing a point of resemblance to the utmost, and insisting on the most refined idea of righteousness.”1
Here again we must admire the ingenuity of Mencius; but it amuses us more than it satisfies. It was very well for him to maintain his dignity as “a Teacher,” and not go to the princes when they called him, but his refusal would have had more weight, if he had kept his hands clean from all their offerings. I have said above that if less awe-ful than Confucius, he is more admirable. Perhaps it would be better to say he is more brilliant. There is some truth in the saying of the scholar Ch‘ing, that the one is the glass that glitters, and the other the gem that is truly valuable.
Without dwelling on other characteristics of Mencius, or culling from him other striking sayings,—of which there are many,—I proceed to exhibit and discuss his doctrine of the goodness of human nature.
6. If the remarks which I have just made on the intercourse of Mencius with the princes of his day have lowered him somewhat in the estimation of my readers, his doctrine of human nature, and the force with which he advocates it, will not fail to produce a high appreciation of him as a moralist and thinker.Mencius’ view of human nature; its identity with that of Bishop Butler. In concluding my exhibition of the opinions of Confucius in the former volume, I have observed that “he threw no light on any of the questions which have a worldwide interest.” This Mencius did. The constitution of man’s nature, and how far it supplies to him a rule of conduct and a law of duty, are inquiries than which there can hardly be any others of more importance. They were largely discussed in the Schools of Greece. A hundred vigorous and acute minds of modern Europe have occupied themselves with them. It will hardly be questioned in England that the palm for clear and just thinking on the subject belongs to Bishop Butler, but it will presently be seen that his views and those of Mencius are, as nearly as possible, identical. There is a difference of nomenclature and a combination of parts, in which the advantage is with the Christian prelate. Felicity of illustration and charm of style belong to the Chinese philosopher. The doctrine in both is the same.
The utterances of Confucius on the subject of our nature were few and brief. The most remarkable is where he says:—“Man is born for uprightness.View of Confucius. If a man be without uprightness and yet live, his escape [from death] is the effect of mere good fortune.”1 This is in entire accordance with Mencius’ view, and as he appeals to the sage in his own support,2 though we cannot elsewhere find the words which he quotes, we may believe that Confucius would have approved of the sentiments of his follower, and frowned on those who have employed some of his sayings in confirmation of other conclusions.3 I am satisfied in my own mind on this point. His repeated enunciation of “the golden rule,” though only in a negative form, is sufficient evidence of it.
The opening sentence of “The Doctrine of the Mean,”—“What Heaven has conferred is called the nature;View of Tsze-sze. an accordance with this nature is called the path; the regulation of the path is called instruction,” finds a much better illustration from Mencius than from Tsze-sze himself. The germ of his doctrine lies in it. We saw reason to discard the notion that he was a pupil of Tsze-sze; but he was acquainted with his treatise just named, and as he has used some other parts of it, we may be surprised that in his discussions on human nature he has made no reference to the above passage.
What gave occasion to his dwelling largely on the theme was the prevalence of wild and injurious speculations about it. In nothing did the disorder of the age more appear. Kung-too, one of his disciples, once went to him and said:—Prevalent view of man’s nature in Mencius’ time.
“The philosopher Kaou says:—‘Man’s nature is neither good nor bad.’ Some say:—‘Man’s nature may be made to practise good, and it may be made to practise evil; and accordingly, under Wăn and Woo, the people loved what was good, while, under Yew and Le, they loved what was cruel.’ Others say:—‘The nature of some is good, and the nature of others is bad. Hence it was that under such a sovereign as Yaou there yet appeared Sëang; that with such a father as Koo-sow there yet appeared Shun; and that with Chow for their sovereign, and the son of their elder brother besides, there were found K‘e, the viscount of Wei, and the prince Pe-kan.’ And now you say:—‘The nature is good.’ Then are all those opinions wrong?”1
“The nature of man is good:”—this was Mencius’ doctrine. By many writers it has been represented as entirely antagonistic to Christianity; and, as thus broadly and briefly enunciated, it sounds startling enough. As fully explained by himself, however, it is not so very terrible. Butler’s scheme has been designated “the system of Zeno baptized into Christ.”2 That of Mencius, identifying closely with the master of the Porch, is yet more susceptible of a similar transformation.
But before endeavouring to make this statement good, it will be well to make some observations on the opinion of the philosopher Kaou.View of the philosopher Kaou. He was a contemporary of Mencius, and they came into argumentative collision. One does not see immediately the difference between his opinion, as stated by Kung-too, and the next. Might not man’s nature, though neither good nor bad, be made to practise the one or the other? Kaou’s view went to deny any essential distinction between good and evil,—virtue and vice. A man might be made to act in a way commonly called virtue and in a way commonly called evil, but in the one action there was really nothing more approvable than in the other. “Life,” he said, “was what was meant by nature.”3 The phenomena of benevolence and righteousness were akin to those of walking and sleeping, eating and seeing. This extravagance afforded scope for Mencius’ favourite mode of argument, the reductio ad absurdum. He showed, on Kaou’s principles, that “the nature of a dog was like the nature of an ox, and the nature of an ox like the nature of a man.”
The two first conversations1 between them are more particularly worthy of attention, because, while they are a confutation of his opponent, they indicate clearly our philosopher’s own theory.Mencius’ exposure of Kaou’s errors, and statement of his own doctrine. Kaou compared man’s nature to a willow tree, and benevolence and righteousness to the cups and bowls that might be fashioned from its wood. Mencius replied that it was not the nature of the willow to produce cups and bowls; they might be made from it indeed, by bending and cutting and otherwise injuring it; but must humanity be done such violence to in order to fashion the virtues from it? Kaou again compared the nature to water whirling round in a corner;—open a passage for it in any direction, and it will flow forth accordingly. “Man’s nature,” said he, “is indifferent to good and evil, just as the water is indifferent to the east and west.” Mencius answered him:—“Water indeed will flow indifferently to the east or west, but will it flow indifferently up or down? The tendency of man’s nature to good is like the tendency of water to flow downwards. There are none but have this tendency to good, just as all water flows downwards. By striking water and causing it to leap up, you may make it go over your forehead, and, by damming and leading it, you may force it up a hill; but are such movements according to the nature of water? It is the force applied which causes them. When men are made to do what is not good, their nature is dealt with in this way.”
Mencius has no stronger language than this, as indeed it would be difficult to find any stronger, to declare his belief in the goodness of human nature. To many Christian readers it proves a stumbling-block and offence. But I venture to think that this is without sufficient reason. He is speaking of our nature in its ideal, and not as it actually is,—as we may ascertain from the study of it that it ought to be, and not as it is made to become. My rendering of the sentences last quoted may be objected to, because of my introduction of the term tendency; but I have Mencius’ express sanction for the representation I give of his meaning. Replying to Kung-too’s question, whether all the other opinions prevalent about man’s nature were wrong, and his own, that it is good, correct, he said:—“From the feelings proper to it, we see that it is constituted for the practice of what is good. This is what I mean in saying that the nature is good. If men do what is not good, the blame cannot be imputed to their natural powers.”1 Those who find the most fault with him, will hardly question the truth of this last declaration. When a man does wrong, whose is the blame,—the sin? He might be glad to roll the guilt on his Maker, or upon his nature,—which is only an indirect charging of his Maker with it;—but it is his own burden, which he must bear himself.
The proof by which Mencius supports his view of human nature as formed only for virtue is twofold.Proofs that human nature is formed for virtue—First, from its moral constituents. First, he maintains that there are in man a natural principle of benevolence, a natural principle of righteousness, a natural principle of propriety, and a natural principle of apprehending moral truth. “These,” he says, “are not infused into us from without. We are certainly possessed of them; and a different view is simply from want of reflection.”2 In further illustration of this he argued thus:—
“All men have a mind which cannot bear to see the sufferings of others. My meaning may be illustrated thus:—Even now-a-days,” i. e., in these degenerate times, “if men suddenly see a child about to fall into a well, they will without exception experience a feeling of alarm and distress. They will feel so, not as a ground on which they may gain the favour of the child’s parents, nor as a ground on which they may seek the praise of their neighbours and friends, nor from a dislike to the reputation of having been unmoved by such a thing. From this case we may see that the feeling of commiseration is essential to man, that the feeling of shame and dislike is essential to man, that the feeling of modesty and complaisance is essential to man, and that the feeling of approval and disapproval is essential to man. These feelings are the principles respectively of benevolence, righteousness, propriety, and the knowledge [of good and evil]. Men have these four principles just as they have their four limbs.”3
Let all this be compared with the language of Butler in his three famous Sermons upon Human Nature. He shows in the first of these:—“First, that there is a natural principle of benevolence in man; secondly, that the several passions and affections, which are distinct both from benevolence and self-love, do in general contribute and lead us to public good as really as to private; and thirdly, that there is a principle of reflection in men, by which they distinguish between, approve and disapprove, their own actions.”1 Is there anything more in this than was apprehended and expressed by Mencius? Butler says in the conclusion of his first discourse that “men follow their nature to a certain degree but not entirely; their actions do not come up to the whole of what their nature leads them to; and they often violate their nature.” This also Mencius declares in his own forceful manner:—“When men having these four principles, yet say of themselves that they cannot develope them, they play the thief with themselves, and he who says of his prince that he cannot develope them, plays the thief with his prince.”2 “Men differ from one another in regard to the principles of their nature;—some as much again as others, some five times as much, and some to an incalculable amount:—it is because they cannot carry out fully their natural powers.”3
So much for the first or preliminary view of human nature insisted on by Mencius, that it contains principles which are disinterested and virtuous. But there wants something more to make good the position that virtue ought to be supreme,Second proof that human nature is formed for virtue:—that it is a constitution, where the higher principles should rule the lower. and that it is for it, in opposition to vice, that our nature is formed. To use some of the “licentious talk” which Butler puts into the mouth of an opponent:—“Virtue and religion require not only that we do good to others, when we are led this way, by benevolence and reflection happening to be stronger than other principles, passions, or appetites; but likewise that the whole character be formed upon thought and reflection; that every action be directed by some determinate rule, some other rule than the strength or prevalence of any principle or passion. What sign is there in our nature (for the inquiry is only about what is to be collected from thence) that this was intended by its Author? Or how does so various and fickle a temper as that of man appear adapted thereto? . . . . As brutes have various instincts, by which they are carried on to the end the Author of their nature intended them for, is not man in the same condition, with this difference only, that to his instincts (i.e., appetites and passions) is added the principle of reflection or conscience? And as brutes act agreeably to their nature in following that principle or particular instinct which for the present is strongest in them; does not man likewise act agreeably to his nature, or obey the law of his creation, by following that principle, be it passion or conscience, which for the present happens to be strongest in him? . . . . . Let every one then quietly follow his nature; as passion, reflection, appetite, the several parts of it, happen to be the strongest; but let not the man of virtue take it upon him to blame the ambitious, the covetous, the dissolute; since these, equally with him, obey and follow their nature.”1
To all this Butler replies by showing that the principle of reflection or conscience is “not to be considered merely as a principle in the heart, which is to have some influence as well as others, but as a faculty, in kind and in nature, supreme over all others, and which bears its own authority of being so;” that the difference between this and the other constituents of human nature is not “a difference in strength or degree,” but “a difference in nature and in kind;” that “it was placed within to be our proper governor; to direct and regulate all under principles, passions and motives of action:—this is its right and office; thus sacred is its authority.” It follows from the view of human nature thus established, that “the inward frame of man is a system or constitution; whose several parts are united, not by a physical principle of individuation, but by the respects they have to each other, the chief of which is the subjection which the appetites, passions, and particular affections have to the one supreme principle of reflection or conscience.”1
Now, the substance of this reasoning is to be found in Mencius. Human nature—the inward frame of man—is with him a system or constitution as much as with Butler. He says, for instance:—
“There is no part of himself which a man does not love; and as he loves all, so he should nourish all. There is not an inch of skin which he does not love, and so there is not an inch of skin which he will not nourish. For examining whether his way of nourishing be good or not, what other rule is there but this, that he determine by reflecting on himself where it should be applied?
“Some parts of the body are noble, and some ignoble; some great and some small. The great must not be injured for the small, nor the noble for the ignoble. He who nourishes the little belonging to him is a little man, and he who nourishes the great is a great man.”2
“Those who follow that part of themselves which is great are great men, those who follow that part which is little are little men.”3
The great part of ourselves is the moral elements of our constitution; the lower part is the appetites and passions that centre in self. He says finely:—
“There is a nobility of Heaven, and there is a nobility of man. Benevolence, righteousness, self-consecration, and fidelity, with unwearied joy in the goodness [of these virtues]:—these constitute the nobility of Heaven. To be a duke, a minister, or a great officer;—this constitutes the nobility of man.”4
There is one passage very striking:—
“For the mouth to desire tastes, the eye colours, the ear sounds, the nose odours, and the four limbs ease and rest:—these things are natural. But there is the appointment [of Heaven] in connexion with them; and the superior man does not say [in his pursuit of them], ‘It is my nature.’ [The exercise of] love between father and son, [the observance of] righteousness between ruler and minister, the rules of ceremony between host and guest, the [display of] knowledge in [recognizing] the able and virtuous, and [the fulfilling] the heavenly course by the sage:—these are appointed [by Heaven]. But there is [an adaptation of our] nature [for them]; and the superior man does not say, [in reference to them,] ‘There is a [limiting] appointment [of Heaven].’ ”1
From these paragraphs it is quite clear that what Mencius considered as deserving properly to be called the nature of man, was not that by which he is a creature of appetites and passions, but that by which he is lifted up into the higher circle of intelligence and virtue. By the phrase, “the appointment of Heaven,” most Chinese scholars understand the will of Heaven, limiting in the first case the gratification of the appetites, and in the second the exercise of the virtues. To such limitation Mencius teaches there ought to be a cheerful submission so far as the appetites are concerned, but where the virtues are in question, we are to be striving after them notwithstanding adverse and opposing circumstances. They are our nature, what we were made for, what we have to do. I will refer but to one other specimen of his teaching on this subject. “The will,” he said, using that term for the higher moral nature in activity,—“the will is the leader of the passion-nature. The passion-nature pervades and animates the body. The will is first and chief, and the passion-nature is subordinate to it.”2
My readers can now judge for themselves whether I exaggerated at all in saying that Mencius’ doctrine of human nature was, as nearly as possible, identical with that of Bishop Butler. Sir James Mackintosh has said of the sermons to which I have made reference, and his other cognate discourses, that in them Butler “taught truths more capable of being exactly distinguished from the doctrines of his predecessors, more satisfactorily established by him, more comprehensively applied to particulars, more rationally connected with each other, and therefore more worthy of the name of discovery, than any with which we are acquainted; if we ought not, with some hesitation, to except the first steps of the Grecian philosophers towards a Theory of Morals.”3 It is to be wished that the attention of this great scholar had been called to the writings of our philosopher. Mencius was senior to Zeno, though a portion of their lives synchronized. Butler certainly was not indebted to him for the views which he advocated; but it seems to me that Mencius had left him nothing to discover.
But the question now arises—“Is the view of human nature propounded by Mencius correct?” So far as yet appears, I see not how the question can be answered otherwise than in the affirmative. Man was formed for virtue.The proper use of Mencius’ views thus far considered. Be it that his conduct is very far from being conformed to virtue, that simply fastens on him the shame of guilt. Fallen as he may be,—fallen as I believe and know he is,—his nature still bears its testimony, when properly interrogated, against all unrighteousness. Man, heathen man, a Gentile without the law, is still a law to himself. So the apostle Paul affirms; and to no moral teacher of Greece or Rome can we appeal for so grand an illustration of the averment as we find in Mencius. I would ask those whom his sayings offend, whether it would have been better for his countrymen if he had taught a contrary doctrine, and told them that man’s nature is bad, and that the more they obeyed all its lusts and passions, the more would they be in accordance with it, and the more pursuing the right path? Such a question does not need a reply. The proper use of Mencius’ principles is to reprove the Chinese—and ourselves as well—of the thousand acts of sin of which they and we are guilty, that come within their sweep and under their condemnation.
From the ideal of man to his actualism there is a vast descent. Between what he ought to be and what he is, the contrast is melancholy.How Mencius admitted much actual evil, and how he accounted for it “Benevolence,” said our philosopher, “is the characteristic of man.”1 It is “the wide house in which the world should dwell,” while propriety is “the correct position in which the world should ever be found,” and righteousness is “the great path which men should ever be pursuing.”2 In opposition to this, however, hatred, improprieties, unrighteousness, are constant phenomena of human life. We find men hateful and hating one another, quenching the light that is in them, and walking in darkness to perform all deeds of shame. “There is none that doeth good; no, not one.” Mencius would have denied this last sentence, claiming that the sages should be excepted from it; but he is ready enough to admit the fact that men in general do evil and violate the law of their nature. They sacrifice the noble portion of themselves for the gratification of the ignoble; they follow that part which is little, and not that which is great. He can say nothing further in explanation of the fact. He points out indeed the effect of injurious circumstances, and the power of evil example; and he has said several things on these subjects worthy of notice:—
“It is not to be wondered at that the king is not wise! Suppose the case of the most easily growing thing in the world;—if you let it have one day’s genial heat, and then expose it for ten days to cold, it will not be able to grow. It is but seldom that I have an audience of the king, and when I retire, there come all those who act upon him like the cold. Though I succeed in bringing out some buds of goodness, of what avail is it?”1 “In good years the children of the people are most of them good, while in bad years the most of them abandon themselves to evil. It is not owing to their natural powers conferred on them by Heaven that they are thus different:—the abandonment is owing to the circumstances through which they allow their minds to be ensnared and drowned in evil. There now is barley:—let it be sown and covered up; the ground being the same, and the time of sowing likewise the same, it grows rapidly up, and when the full time is come, it is all found to be ripe. Although there may be inequalities [of produce], that is owing to [the difference of] the soil as rich or poor, the unequal nourishment afforded by the rains and dews, and to the different ways in which man has performed his business.”2
The inconsistencies in human conduct did not escape his observation. After showing that there is that in human nature which will sometimes make men part with life sooner than with righteousness, he goes on:—“And yet a man will accept of ten thousand chung without any consideration of propriety and righteousness. What can they add to him? When he takes them, is it not that he may obtain beautiful mansions, that he may secure the services of wives and concubines, or that the poor and needy may be helped by him?” The scalpel is used here with a bold and skilful hand. The lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life are laid bare, nor does he stop till he has exposed the subtle workings of the delusion that the end may sanctify the means, that evil may be wrought that good may come. He pursues:—“In the former case the offered bounty was not received though it would have saved from death, and now the emolument is taken for the sake of beautiful mansions. The bounty that would have preserved from death was not received, and the emolument is taken to get the services of wives and concubines. The bounty that would have saved from death was not received, and the emolument is taken that one’s poor and needy acquaintance may be helped. Was it then not possible likewise to decline this? This is a case of what is called—‘Losing the proper nature of one’s mind.’ ”1
To the principle implied in the concluding sentences of this quotation Mencius most pertinaciously adheres.Original badness cannot be predicated from actual evil. He will not allow that original badness can be predicated of human nature from any amount of actual wickedness.
“The trees.” said he, “of the Nëw mountain were once beautiful Being situated, however, in the suburbs of [the capital of] a large State, they were hewn down with axes and bills:—and could they retain their beauty? Still, through the growth from the vegetative life day and night, and the nourishing influence of the rain and dew, they were not without buds and sprouts springing forth;—but then came the cattle and goats, and browsed upon them. To these things is owing the bare and stript appearance [of the mountain], and when people see this they think it was never finely wooded. But is this the proper nature of the mountain? And so even of what properly belongs to man:—shall it be said that the mind [of any man] was without benevolence and righteousness? The way in which a man loses his proper goodness of mind is like the way in which those trees were denuded by axes and bills. Hewn down day after day, can the mind retain its excellence? But there is some growth of its life day and night, and in the [calm] air of the morning, just between night and day, the mind feels in a degree the desires and aversions which are proper to humanity; but the feeling is not strong, and then it is fettered and destroyed by what the man does during the day. This fettering takes place again and again; the restorative influence of the night is not sufficient to preserve [the proper goodness of the mind]; and when this proves insufficient for that purpose, the nature becomes not much different from that of the irrational animals, and when people see this, they think that it never had those powers [which I assert]. But does this condition represent the feelings proper to humanity?”2
Up to this point I fail to perceive anything in Mencius’ view of human nature that is contrary to the teachings of our Christian Scriptures, and that may not be employed with advantage by the missionary in preaching the Gospel to the Chinese. It is far from covering what we know to be the whole duty of man, yet it is defective rather than erroneous. Deferring any consideration of this for a brief space, I now inquire whether Mencius, having an ideal of the goodness of human nature, held also that it had been and could be realized? The answer is that he did.The actual perfection of the sages, and possible perfection of all. The actual realization he found in the sages, and he contended that it was within the reach of every individual.
“All things which are the same in kind,” he says, “are like one another;—why should we doubt in regard to man, as if he were a solitary exception to this? The sage and we are the same in kind. The feet, the mouths, the eyes of the sages were not different from those of other people, neither were their minds.”1 “Is it so,” he was once asked, “that all men may be Yaous and Shuns?” and he answered, “It is,” adding by way of explanation:—“To walk slowly, keeping behind his elders, is to perform the part of a younger brother, and to walk quickly and precede his elders is to violate that duty. Now, is it what a man cannot do,—to walk slowly? It is what he does not do. The course of Yaou and Shun was simply that of filial piety and fraternal duty. Do you wear the clothes of Yaou, repeat the words of Yaou, and do the actions of Yaou;—and you will just be a Yaou.”2
Among the sages, however, Mencius made a distinction. Yaou and Shun exceeded all the rest, unless it might be Confucius. Those three never came short of, never went beyond, the law of their nature. The ideal and the actual were in them always one and the same. The others had only attained to perfection by vigorous effort and culture. Twice at least he has told us this. “Yaou and Shun were what they were by nature; T‘ang and Woo were so by returning [to natural virtue].”3 The actual result, however, was the same, and therefore he could hold them all up as models to his countrymen of the style of man that they ought to be and might be. What the compass and square were in the hands of the workman, enabling him to form perfect circles and squares, that the sages, “perfectly exhibiting the human relations,” might be to every earnest individual, enabling him to perfect himself as they were perfect.4
Here we feel that the doctrine of Mencius wants an element which Revelation supplies. He knows nothing of the fact that “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed” (passed on, extended, διη̑λθεν) “to all men, because all sinned.”Mencius’ doctrine contains no acknowledgement of the universal proneness to evil. His ideal has been realized by sages, and may be realized by all. We have our ideal as well as he; but for the living reality of it we must go back to Adam, as he was made by God in His own image, after His likeness. In him the model is soon shattered, and we do not discover it again, till God’s own Son appears in the world, made in the likeness of sinful flesh, yet without sin. While He died for our transgressions, He left us also an example, that we should walk in His steps; and as we do so, we are carried on to glory and virtue. At the same time we find a law in our members warring against the law in our minds, and bringing us into captivity to sin. However we may strive after our ideal, we do not succeed in reaching it. The more we grow in the knowledge of Christ, and see in Him the glory of humanity in its true estate, the greater do we feel our own distance to be from it, and that of ourselves we cannot attain to it. There is something wrong about us; we need help from without in order to become even what our nature, apart from Revelation, tells us we ought to be.
When Mencius therefore points us to Yaou, Shun, and Confucius, and says that they were perfect, we cannot accept his statement. Understanding that he is speaking of them only in the sphere of human relations, we must yet believe that in many things they came short. One of them, the greatest of the three in Mencius’ estimation, Confucius, again and again confesses so of himself. He was seventy years old, he says, before he could follow what his heart desired without transgressing what was right.1 It might have been possible to convince the sage that he was under a delusion in this important matter even at that advanced age; but what his language allows is sufficient to upset Mencius’ appeal to him. The image of sagely perfection is broken by it. It proves to be but a brilliant and unsubstantial phantasm of our philosopher’s own imagining.
When he insists again, that every individual may become what he fancies that the sages were,—i.e., perfect, living in love, walking in righteousness, observant of propriety, approving whatsoever is good, and disapproving whatever is evil,—he is pushing his doctrine beyond its proper limits; he is making a use of it of which it is not capable. It supplies a law of conduct, and I have set it forth as entitled to our highest admiration for the manner in which it does so; but law only gives the knowledge of what we are required to do:—it does not give the power to do it. We have seen how when it was necessary to explain accurately his statement that the nature of man is good, Mencius defined it as meaning that “it is constituted for the practice of that which is good.” Because it is so constituted, it follows that every man ought to practise what is good. But some disorganization may have happened to the nature; some sad change may have come over it. The very fact that man has, in Mencius’ own words, to recover his “lost mind,”1 shows that the object of the constitution of the nature has not been realized. Whether he can recover it or not, therefore, is a question altogether different from that of its proper design.
In one place, indeed, Mencius has said that “the great man is he who does not lose his child’s-heart.”2 I can only suppose that, by that expression—“the child’s-heart,” he intends the ideal goodness which he affirms of our nature. But to attribute that to the child as actually existing in it is absurd. It has neither done good nor evil. It possesses the capacity for either. It will by and by awake to the consciousness that it ought to follow after the one, and eschew the other; but when it does so,—I should rather say when he does so, for the child has now emerged from a mere creature existence, and assumed the functions of a moral being, he will find that he has already given himself to inordinate affection for the objects of sense; and in the pursuit of gratification he is reckless of what must be acknowledged to be the better and nobler part, reckless also of the interest and claims of others, and whenever thwarted glows into passion and fury. The youth is more pliant than the man in whom the dominion of self-seeking has become ingrained as a habit; but no sooner does he become a subject of law, than he is aware of the fact, that when he would do good, evil is present with him. The boy has to go in search of his “lost heart,” as truly as the man of fourscore. Even in him there is an “old man, corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,” which he has to put off.
Butler had an immense advantage over Mencius, arising from his knowledge of the truths of Revelation. Many, admiring his sermons, have yet expressed a measure of dissatisfaction, because he does not in them make explicit reference to the condition of man as fallen and depraved.Butler’s advantage over Mencius, and that he does not make the same application of their common principles. That he fully admitted the fact we know. He says elsewhere:—“Mankind are represented in Scripture to be in a state of ruin;” “If mankind are corrupted and depraved in their moral character, and so are unfit for that state which Christ is gone to prepare for his disciples; and if the assistance of God’s Spirit be necessary to renew their nature, in the degree requisite to their being qualified for that state; all which is implied in the express, though figurative declaration, Except a man be born of the Spirit, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” . . . .1 How is it, then, that there is no mention of this in the sermons? Dissatisfaction, I have said, has been expressed on account of this silence, and it would have taken the form of more pointed utterance, and more decided condemnation, but for the awe of his great name, and the general appreciation of the service he rendered to Christianity in his work on The Analogy of Religion to the Course of Nature. But, in truth, dissatisfaction at all is out of place. Butler wrote his sermons as he wrote his Analogy, in consequence of the peculiar necessity of his times. More particularly against Hobbes, denying all moral sentiments and social affections, and making a regard to personal advantage the only motive of human action, it was his business to prove that man’s nature is of a very different constitution, comprehending disinterested affections, and above all the supreme element of conscience, which, “had it strength as it has right, would govern the world.” He proves this, and so accomplishes his work. He had merely to do with the ideal of humanity. It did not belong to him to dwell on the actual feebleness of man to perform what is good. He might have added a few paragraphs to this effect; but it was not the character of his mind to go beyond the task which he had set himself. What is of importance to be observed here is, that he does not make the application of their common principles which Mencius does. He knows of no perfect men; he does not tell his readers that they have merely to set about following their nature, and, without any aid from without, they will surely and easily go on to perfection.
Mencius is not to be blamed for his ignorance of what is to us the Doctrine of the Fall. He had no means of becoming acquainted with it. We have to regret, however, that his study of human nature produced in him no deep feeling on account of men’s proneness to go astray.Mencius’ lacking in humility and sympathy with human error. He never betrays any consciousness of his own weakness. In this respect he is again inferior to Confucius, and far from being, as I have said of him in another aspect of his character, “more admirable” than he. In the former volume I have shown that we may sometimes recognize in what the sage says of himself the expressions of a genuine humility. He acknowledges that he comes short of what he knows he ought to be. We do not meet with this in Mencius. His merit is that of the speculative thinker. His glance is searching and his penetration deep; but there is wanting that moral sensibility which would draw us to him, in our best moments, as a man of like passions with ourselves. The absence of humility is naturally accompanied with a lack of sympathy. There is a hardness about his teachings. He is the professor, performing an operation in the class-room, amid a throng of pupils who are admiring his science and dexterity, and who forgets in the triumph of his skill the suffering of the patient. The transgressors of their nature are to Mencius the “tyrants of themselves,” or “the self-abandoned.” The utmost stretch of his commiseration is a contemptuous “Alas for them!”1 The radical defect of the orthodox moral school of China, that there only needs a knowledge of duty to insure its performance, is in him exceedingly apparent. Confucius, Tsze-sze, and Mencius most strangely never thought of calling this principle in question. It is always as in the formula of Tsze-sze:—“Given the sincerity, and there shall be the intelligence; given the intelligence, and there shall be the sincerity.”
I said above that Mencius’ doctrine of human nature was defective, inasmuch as even his ideal does not cover the whole field of duty. He says very little of what we owe to God. There is no glow of natural piety in his pages.Mencius’ ideal of human nature does not embrace duty to God. Instead of the name God, containing in itself a recognition of the divine personality and supremacy, we hear from him more commonly, as from Confucius, of Heaven. Butler has said:—“By the love of God, I would understand all those regards, all those affections of mind, which are due immediately to Him from such a creature as man, and which rest in Him as their end.”1 Of such affections Mencius knows nothing. In one place he speaks of “delighting in Heaven,”2 but he is speaking, when he does so, of the sovereign who with a great State serves a small one, and the delight is seen in certain condescensions to the weak and unworthy. Never once, where he is treating of the nature of man, does he make mention of any exercise of the mind as due directly to God. The services of religion come in China under the principle of propriety, and are only a cold formalism; but, even here, other things come with Mencius before them. We are told:—“The richest fruit of love is this,—the service of one’s parents; the richest fruit of righteousness is this,—the obeying one’s elder brothers; the richest fruit of wisdom is this,—the knowing those two things, and not departing from them; the richest fruit of propriety is this,—the ordering and adorning those two things.”3 How different is this from the reiterated declaration of the Scriptures, that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom!” The first and great commandment, “Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart and soul and mind and strength,” was never thought of, much less delivered, by any Chinese philosopher or sage. Had Mencius apprehended this, and seen how all our duties to our fellow-men are to be performed as to God, he could not have thought so highly as he did of man’s powers; a suspicion might have grown up that there is a shadow on the light which he has in himself.
This absence of the recognition of man’s highest obligations from Mencius’ ideal of our nature is itself a striking illustration of man’s estrangement from God. His talking of Heaven has combined with the similar practice of his master to prepare the way for the grosser conceptions of the modern literati, who would often seem to deny the divine personality altogether, and substitute for both God and Heaven a mere principle of order or fitness of things. It has done more: it has left the people in the mass to become an easy prey to the idolatrous fooleries of Buddhism. Yea, the unreligiousness of the teachers has helped to deprave still more the religion of the nation, such as it is, and makes its services a miserable pageant of irreverent forms.
It is time to have done with this portion of my theme. It may be thought that I have done Mencius more than justice in the first part of my remarks, and less than justice at the last; but I hope it is not so. A very important use is to be made both of what he succeeds in, and where he fails, in his discoursing upon human nature. His principles may be, and, I conceive, ought to be, turned against himself. They should be pressed to produce the conviction of sin. There is enough in them, if the conscience be but quickened by the Spirit of God, to make the haughtiest scholar cry out, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from this body of death?” Then may it be said to him with effect, “Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world!” Then may Christ, as a new and true exemplar of all that man should be, be displayed, “altogether lovely,” to the trembling mind! Then may a new heart be received from Him, that shall thrill in the acknowledgment of the claims both of men and God, and girding up the loins of the mind, address itself to walk in all His commandments and ordinances blameless! One thing should be plain. In Mencius’ lessons on human duty there is no hope for his countrymen. If they serve as a schoolmaster to bring them to Christ, they will have done their part; but it is from Christ alone that the help of the Chinese can come.
7. Besides giving more explicit expression to the doctrine of the goodness of man’s nature than had been done before him, Mencius has the credit also of calling attention to the nourishment of the passion-nature. It may be questioned whether I translate his language exactly by this phrase. What I render the passion-nature, Julien renders by “vitalisspiritus.” The philosopher says himself that it is difficult to describe what he intends. Attempting such a description, he says:—“This is it:—It is exceedingly great and exceedingly strong. Being nourished by rectitude, and sustaining no injury, it fills up all between heaven and earth. This is it:—It is the mate and assistant of righteousness and reason. Without it man is in a state of starvation. It is produced by the accumulation of righteous deeds; it is not to be taken, as by surprise, by incidental acts of righteousness. If the mind does not feel complacency in the conduct, this is starved.”1 From such predicates we may be sure that it is not anything merely or entirely physical of which he is speaking. “The righteous,” said Solomon, “are bold as a lion.” The Hebrew saying is very much in Mencius’ style. That boldness is the result of the nourishment for which he thought he had a peculiar aptitude. Strong in it and in a knowledge of words, a faculty of discovering the moral aberrations of others from their forms of speech, he was able to boast of possessing “an unperturbed mind;” he could “sit in the centre” of his being, “and enjoy bright day,” whatever clouds and storms gathered around him.
The nourishment, therefore, of “the passion-nature,” “the vital spirit,” or whatever name we choose to give to the subject, is only an effect of general good-doing. This is the practical lesson from all Mencius’ high-sounding words. He has illustrated it amusingly:—
“There was a man of Sung, who was grieved that his growing corn was not longer, and pulled it up. Having done this, he returned home, looking very wearied, and said to his people, ‘I am tired to-day. I have been helping the corn to grow long.’ His son ran to look at it, and found the corn all withered. There are few in the world, who do not assist the corn [of their passion-nature] to grow long. Some consider it of no benefit to them, and let it alone:—they do not weed their corn. Those who assist it to grow long, pull out their corn. What they do is not only of no benefit to the nature, but it also injures it.”2
This portion of Mencius’ teaching need not detain us. He has put a simple truth in a striking way. That is his merit. It hardly seems of sufficient importance to justify the use which has been made of it in vindicating a place for him among the sages of his country.
8. I said I should end the discussion of Mencius’ opinions by pointing out what I conceive to be his chief defects as a moral and political teacher. His defects, however, in the former respect have been already not lightly touched on. So far as they were the consequence of his ignorance, without the light which Revelation sheds on the whole field of human duty, and the sanctions, which it discloses, of a future state of retribution, I do not advance any charge against his character. That he never indicates any wish to penetrate into futurity, and ascertain what comes after death; that he never indicates any consciousness of human weakness, nor moves his mind Godward, longing for more light:—these are things which exhibit strongly the contrast between the mind of the East and the West. His self-sufficiency is his great fault. To know ourselves is commonly supposed to be an important step to humility; but it is not so with him. He has spoken remarkably about the effects of calamity and difficulties. He says:—“When Heaven is about to confer a great office on a man, it first exercises his mind with suffering, and his sinews and bones with toil; it exposes his body to hunger, and subjects him to extreme poverty; it confounds his undertakings. By all these methods it stimulates his mind, hardens his nature, and supplies his incompetencies.”1 Such have been the effects of Heaven’s exercising some men with calamities; but if the issue has been a fitting for the highest offices, there has been a softening of the nature rather than a hardening of it. Mencius was a stranger to the humbling of the lofty looks of man, and the bowing down his haughtiness, that the Lord alone may be exalted.
His faults as a political teacher are substantially the same as those of Confucius. More than was the case with his sayings of a political character, the utterances of Mencius have reference to the condition and needs of his own age. They were for the time then being, and not for all time. He knew as little as Confucius of any other great and independent nation besides his own; and he has left one maxim which is deeply treasured by the rulers and the people of China at the present day, and feeds the supercilious idea which they are so unwilling to give up of their own superiority to foreigners. “I have heard,” said he, “of men using [the doctrines of] our great land to change barbarians, but I have never yet heard of any being changed by barbarians.” “I have heard of birds leaving dark valleys to remove to lofty trees, but I have not heard of their descending from lofty trees to enter into dark valleys.”1 Mongol and Tartar sway has not broken the charm of this dangerous flattery, because only in warlike energy were the Mongols and Tartars superior to the Chinese, and when they conquered the country they did homage to its sages. During the last four-and-thirty years, Christian Powers have come to ask admission into China, and to claim to be received as her equals. They do not wish to conquer her territory, though they have battered and broken her defences. With fear and trembling their advances are contemplated. The feeling of dislike to them arises from the dread of their power, and suspicion of their faith. It is feared that they come to subdue; it is known that they come to change. The idol of Chinese superiority is about to be broken. Broken it must be ere long, and a new generation of thinkers will arise, to whom Mencius will be a study but not a guide.
I have thought it would be interesting to many readers to append here the Essays of two distinguished scholars of China on the subject of Human Nature. The one is in direct opposition to Mencius’ doctrine; according to the other, his doctrine is insufficient to explain the phenomena. The author of the first, Seun K‘ing, was not much posterior to Mencius. He is mentioned as in office under king Seang of Ts‘e (bc 271-264), and he lived on to the times of the Ts‘in dynasty. His Works which still remain form a considerable volume. The second essay is from the work of Han Yu, mentioned above, Ch. I. Sect. IV. 3. I shall not occupy any space with criticisms on the style or sentiments of the writers. If the translation appear at times to be inelegant or obscure, the fault is perhaps as much in the original as in myself. A comprehensive and able sketch of “The Ethics of the Chinese, with special reference to the Doctrines of Human Nature and Sin,” by the Rev. Griffith John, was read before the North-China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, in November, 1859, and has been published separately. The essays of Seun and Han are both reviewed in it.
THAT THE NATURE IS EVIL.
The nature of man is evil; the good which it shows is factitious. There belongs to it, even at his birth, the love of gain, and as actions are in accordance with this, contentions and robberies grow up, and self-denial and yielding to others are not to be found; there belong to it envy and dislike, and as actions are in accordance with these, violence and injuries spring up, and self-devotedness and faith are not to be found; there belong to it the desires of the ears and the eyes, leading to the love of sounds and beauty, and as the actions are in accordance with these, lewdness and disorder spring up, and righteousness and propriety, with their various orderly displays, are not to be found. It thus appears, that the following man’s nature and yielding obedience to its feelings will assuredly conduct to contentions and robberies, to the violation of the duties belonging to every one’s lot, and the confounding of all distinctions, till the issue will be in a state of savagism; and that there must be the influence of teachers and laws, and the guidance of propriety and righteousness, from which will spring self-denial, yielding to others, and an observance of the well-ordered regulations of conduct, till the issue will be in a state of good government.—From all this, it is plain that the nature of man is evil; the good which it shows is factitious.
To illustrate.—A crooked stick must be submitted to the pressing-frame, to soften and bend it, and then it becomes straight; a blunt knife must be submitted to the grindstone and whetstone, and then it becomes sharp; so, the nature of man, being evil, must be submitted to teachers and laws, and then it becomes correct; it must be submitted to propriety and righteousness, and then it comes under government. If men were without teachers and laws, their condition would be one of deflection and insecurity, entirely incorrect; if they were without propriety and righteousness, their condition would be one of rebellious disorder, rejecting all government. The sage kings of antiquity understanding that the nature of man was thus evil, in a state of hazardous deflection, and incorrect, rebellious and disorderly, and refusing to be governed, they set up the principles of righteousness and propriety, and framed laws and regulations to straighten and ornament the feelings of that nature and correct them, to tame and change those same feelings and guide them, so that they might all go forth in the way of moral government and in agreement with reason. Now, the man who is transformed by teachers and laws, gathers on himself the ornament of learning, and proceeds in the path of propriety and righteousness, is a superior man; and he who gives the reins to his nature and its feelings, indulges its resentments, and walks contrary to propriety and righteousness, is a mean man. Looking at the subject in this way, we see clearly that the nature of man is evil; the good which it shows is factitious.
Mencius said, “Man has only to learn, and his nature becomes good;” but I reply,—It is not so. To say so shows that he had not attained to the knowledge of man’s nature, nor examined into the difference between what is natural in man and what is factitious. The natural is what the constitution spontaneously moves to:—it needs not to be learned, it needs not to be followed hard after; propriety and righteousness are what the sages have given birth to:—it is by learning that men become capable of them, it is by hard practice that they achieve them. That which is in man, not needing to be learned and striven after, is what I call natural; that in man which is attained to by learning, and achieved by hard striving, is what I call factitious. This is the distinction between those two. By the nature of man, the eyes are capable of seeing, and the ears are capable of hearing. But the power of seeing is inseparable from the eyes, and the power of hearing is inseparable from the ears;—it is plain that the faculties of seeing and hearing do not need to be learned. Mencius says, “The nature of man is good, but all lose and ruin their nature, and therefore it becomes bad;” but I say that this representation is erroneous. Man being born with his nature, when he thereafter departs from its simple constituent elements, he must lose it. From this consideration we may see clearly that man’s nature is evil. What might be called the nature’s being good would be if there were no departing from its simplicity to beautify it, no departing from its elementary dispositions to sharpen it. Suppose that those simple elements no more needed beautifying, and the mind’s thoughts no more needed to be turned to good, than the power of vision which is inseparable from the eyes, and the power of hearing which is inseparable from the ears, need to be learned, [then we might say that the nature is good, just as] we say that the eyes see and the ears hear. It is the nature of man, when hungry, to desire to be filled; when cold, to desire to be warmed; when tired, to desire rest:—these are the feelings and nature of man. But now, a man is hungry, and in the presence of an elder he does not dare to eat before him,—he is yielding to that elder; he is tired with labour, and he does not dare to ask for rest,—he is working for some one. A son’s yielding to his father and a younger brother to his elder, a son’s labouring for his father and a younger brother for his elder,—these two instances of conduct are contrary to the nature and against the feelings; but they are according to the course laid down for a filial son, and the refined distinctions of propriety and righteousness. It appears that if there were an accordance with the feelings and the nature, there would be no self-denial and yielding to others. Self-denial and yielding to others are contrary to the feelings and the nature. In this way we come to see how clear it is that the nature of man is evil; the good which it shows is factitious.
An inquirer will ask, “If man’s nature be evil, whence do propriety and righteousness arise?” I reply,—All propriety and righteousness are the artificial production of the sages, and are not to be considered as growing out of the nature of man. It is just as when a potter makes a vessel from the clay;—the vessel is the product of the workman’s art, and is not be considered as growing out of his nature. Or it is as when another workman cuts and hews a vessel out of wood;—it is the product of his art, and is not to be considered as growing out of his nature. The sages pondered long in thought and gave themselves to practice, and so they succeeded in producing propriety and righteousness, and setting up laws and regulations. Thus it is that propriety and righteousness, laws and regulations, are the artificial product of the sages, and are not to be considered as growing properly from the nature of man.
If we speak of the fondness of the eyes for beauty, or of the mouth for [pleasant] flavours, or of the mind for gain, or of the bones and skin for the enjoyment of ease;—all these grow out of the natural feelings of man. The object is presented and the desire is felt; there needs no effort to produce it. But when the object is presented, and the affection does not move till after hard effort, I say that this effect is factitious. Those cases prove the difference between what is produced by nature and what is produced by art.
Thus the sages transformed their nature, and commenced their artificial work. Having commenced this work with their nature, they produced propriety and righteousness. When propriety and righteousness were produced, they proceeded to frame laws and regulations. It appears, therefore, that propriety and righteousness, laws and regulations, were given birth to by the sages. Wherein they agree with all other men and do not differ from them, is their nature; wherein they differ from and exceed other men, is this artificial work.
Now to love gain and desire to get;—this is the natural feeling of men. Suppose the case that there is an amount of property or money to be divided among brothers, and let this natural feeling to love gain and desire to get come into play;—why, then the brothers will be opposing, and snatching from one another. But where the changing influence of propriety and righteousness, with their refined distinctions, has taken effect, a man will give up to any other man. Thus it is that if they act in accordance with their natural feelings, brothers will quarrel together; and if they have come under the transforming influence of propriety and righteousness, men will give up to other men, to say nothing of brothers. [Again], the fact that men wish to do what is good, is because their nature is bad. The thin wishes to be thick; the ugly wishes to be beautiful; the narrow wishes to be wide; the poor wish to be rich; the mean wish to be noble:—when anything is not possessed in one’s self, he seeks for it outside himself. But the rich do not wish for wealth; the noble do not wish for position:—when anything is possessed by one’s self, he does not need to go beyond himself for it. When we look at things in this way, we perceive that the fact of men’s wishing to do what is good is because their nature is evil. It is the case, indeed, that man’s nature is without propriety and benevolence:—he therefore studies them with vigorous effort and seeks to have them. It is the case that by nature he does not know propriety and righteousness:—he therefore thinks and reflects and seeks to know them. Speaking of man, therefore, as he is by birth simply, he is without propriety and righteousness, without the knowledge of propriety and righteousness. Without propriety and righteousness, man must be all confusion and disorder; without the knowledge of propriety and righteousness, there must ensue all the manifestations of disorder. Man, as he is born, therefore, has in him nothing but the elements of disorder, passive and active. It is plain from this contemplation of the subject that the nature of man is evil; the good which it shows is factitious.
When Mencius says that “Man’s nature is good,” I affirm that it is not so. In ancient times and now throughout the empire, what is meant by good is a condition of correctness, regulation, and happy government; and what is meant by evil, is a condition of deflection, insecurity, and refusing to be under government:—in this lies the distinction between being good and being evil. And now, if man’s nature be really so correct, regulated, and happily governed in itself, where would be the use for sage kings? where would be the use for propriety and righteousness? Although there were the sage kings, propriety, and righteousness, what could they add to the nature so correct, regulated, and happily ruled in itself? But it is not so; the nature of man is bad. It was on this account, that anciently the sage kings, understanding that man’s nature was bad, in a state of deflection and insecurity instead of being correct, in a state of rebellious disorder instead of one of happy rule, set up therefore the majesty of princes and governors to awe it; and set forth propriety and righteousness to change it; and framed laws and statutes of correctness to rule it; and devised severe punishments to restrain it:—so that its outgoings might be under the dominion of rule, and in accordance with what is good. This is [the true account of] the governance of the sage kings, and the transforming power of propriety and righteousness. Let us suppose a state of things in which there shall be no majesty of princes and governors, no influence of propriety and righteousness, no rule of laws and statutes, no restraints of punishment:—what would be the relations of men with one another, all under heaven? The strong would be injuring the weak, and spoiling them; the many would be tyrannizing over the few, and hooting them; a universal disorder and mutual destruction would speedily ensue. When we look at the subject in this way, we see clearly that the nature of man is evil; the good which it shows is factitious.
He who would speak well of ancient times must have certain references in the present; he who would speak well of Heaven must substantiate what he says out of man. In discourse and argument it is an excellent quality when the divisions which are made can be brought together like the halves of a token. When it is so, the arguer may sit down, and discourse of his principles; and he has only to rise up, and they may be set forth and displayed and carried into action. When Mencius says that the nature of man is good, there is no bringing together in the above manner of his divisions. He sits down and talks, but there is no getting up to display and set forth his principles, and put them in operation:—is not his error very gross? To say that the nature is good does away with the sage kings, and makes an end of propriety and righteousness; to say that the nature is bad exalts the sage kings, and dignifies propriety and righteousness. As the origin of the pressing-boards is to be found in the crooked wood, and the origin of the carpenter’s marking line is to be found in things’ not being straight; so the rise of princes and governors, and the illustration of propriety and righteousness, are to be traced to the badness of the nature. It is clear from this view of the subject that the nature of man is bad; the good which it shows is factitious.
A straight piece of wood does not need the pressing-boards to make it straight;—it is so by its nature. A crooked piece of wood must be submitted to the pressing-boards to soften and straighten it, and then it is straight;—it is not straight by its nature. So it is that the nature of man, being evil, must be submitted to the rule of the sage kings, and to the transforming influence of propriety and righteousness, and then its outgoings are under the dominion of rule, and in accordance with what is good. This shows clearly that the nature of man is bad; the good which it shows is factitious.
An inquirer may say [again], “Propriety and righteousness, though seen in an accumulation of factitious deeds, do yet belong to the nature of man; and thus it was that the sages were able to produce them.” I reply,—It is not so. A potter takes a piece of clay, and produces a dish from it; but are that dish and clay the nature of the potter? A carpenter plies his tools upon a piece of wood, and produces a vessel; but are that vessel and wood the nature of the carpenter? So it is with the sages and propriety and righteousness; they produced them, just as the potter works with the clay. It is plain that there is no reason for saying that propriety and righteousness, and the accumulation of their factitious actions, belong to the proper nature of man. Speaking of the nature of man, it is the same in all,—the same in Yaou and Shun, and in Këeh and in the robber Chih, the same in the superior man and in the mean man. If you say that propriety and righteousness, with the factitious actions accumulated from them, are the nature of man, on what ground do you proceed to ennoble Yaou and Yu, to ennoble [generally] the superior man? The ground on which we ennoble Yaou, Yu, and the superior man, is their ability to change the nature, and to produce factitious conduct. That factitious conduct being produced, out of it there are brought propriety and righteousness. The sages stand indeed in the same relation to propriety and righteousness, and the factitious conduct resulting from them, as the potter does to his clay:—we have a product in either case. This representation makes it clear that propriety and righteousness, with their factitious results, do not properly belong to the nature of man. [On the other hand], that which we consider mean in Keeh, the robber Chih, and the mean man generally, is that they follow their nature, act in accordance with its feelings, and indulge its resentments, till all its outgoings are a greed of gain, contentions, and rapine.—It is plain that the nature of man is bad; the good which it shows is factitious.
Heaven did not make favourites of Tsăng, K‘ëen, and Heaou-ke, and deal unkindly with the rest of men. How then was it that they alone were distinguished by the greatness of their filial deeds, that all which the name of filial piety implies was complete in them? The reason was that they were subject to the restraints of propriety and righteousness.
Heaven did not make favourites of the people of Ts‘e and Loo, and deal unkindly with the people of Ts‘in. How then was it that the latter were not equal to the former in the rich manifestation of the filial piety belonging to the righteousness of the relation between father and son, and the respectful observance of the proprieties belonging to the separate functions of husband and wife? The reason was that the people of Ts‘in followed the feelings of their nature, indulged its resentments, and contemned propriety and righteousness. We are not to suppose that they were different in their nature.
What is the meaning of the saying, that “Any traveller on the road may become like Yu?” I answer,—All that made Yu what he was was his practice of benevolence, righteousness, and his observance of laws and rectitude. But benevolence, righteousness, laws, and rectitude, are all capable of being known and being practised. Moreover, any traveller on the road has the capacity of knowing these, and the ability to practise them:—it is plain that he may become like Yu. If you say that benevolence, righteousness, laws, and rectitude, are not capable of being known and practised, then Yu himself could not have known, could not have practised them. If you will have it that any traveller on the road is really without the capacity of knowing these things, and the ability to practise them, then, in his home, it will not be competent for him to know the righteousness that should rule between father and son, and, abroad, it will not be competent for him to know the rectitude that should rule between ruler and minister. But it is not so. There is no one who travels along the road but may know both that righteousness and that rectitude:—it is plain that the capacity to know and the ability to practise belong to every traveller on the way. Let him, therefore, with his capacity of knowing and ability to practise, take his ground on the knowableness and practicableness of benevolence and righteousness;—and it is clear that he may become like Yu. Yea, let any traveller on the way addict himself to the art of learning with all his heart and the entire bent of his will, thinking, searching, and closely examining;—let him do this day after day, through a long space of time, accumulating what is good, and he will penetrate as far as a spiritual Intelligence, he will become a ternion with Heaven and Earth. It follows that [the characters of] the sages were what any man may reach by accumulation.
It may be said:—“To be sage may thus be reached by accumulation;—why is it that all men cannot accumulate [to this extent?]” I reply,—They may do so, but they cannot be made to do so. The mean man might become a superior man, but he is not willing to be a superior man. The superior man might become a mean man, but he is not willing to be a mean man. It is not that the mean man and the superior man may not become the one the other; their not becoming the one the other is because it is a thing which may be, but cannot be made to be. Any traveller on the road may become like Yu:—the case is so; that any traveller on the road can really become like Yu:—this is not a necessary conclusion. Though any one, however, cannot really become like Yu, that is not contrary at all to the truth that he may become so. One’s feet might travel all over the world, but there never was one who was really able to travel all over the world. There is nothing to prevent the mechanic, the farmer, and the merchant, from practising each the business of the others, but there has never been a case when it has really been done. Looking at the subject in this way, we see that what may be need not really be; and although it shall not really be, that is not contrary to the truth that it might be. It thus appears that the difference is wide between what is really done or not really done, and what may be or may not be. It is plain that these two cases may not become the one the other.
Yaou asked Shun what was the character of the feelings proper to man. Shun replied, “The feelings proper to man are very unlovely; why need you ask about them? When a man has got a wife and children, his filial piety withers away; under the influence of lust and gratified desires, his good faith to his friends withers away; when he is full of dignities and emoluments, his loyalty to his ruler withers away. The natural feelings of man! The natural feelings of man! They are very unlovely. Why need you ask about them? It is only in the case of men of the highest worth that it is not so.”
There is a knowledge characteristic of the sage; a knowledge characteristic of the scholar and superior man; a knowledge characteristic of the mean man; and a knowledge characteristic of the mere servant. In much speech to show his cultivation and maintain consistency, and though he may discuss for a whole day the reasons of a subject, to have a unity pervading the ten thousand changes of discourse;—this is the knowledge of the sage. To speak seldom, and in a brief and sparing manner, and to be orderly in his reasoning, as if its parts were connected with a string;—this is the knowledge of the scholar and superior man. Flattering words and disorderly conduct, with undertakings often followed by regrets;—these mark the knowledge of the mean man. Hasty, officious, smart, and swift, but without consistency; versatile, able, of extensive capabilities, but without use; decisive in discourse, rapid, exact, but the subject unimportant; regardless of right and wrong, taking no account of crooked and straight, to get the victory over others the guiding object:—this is the knowledge of the mere servant.
There is bravery of the highest order; bravery of the middle order; bravery of the lowest order. Boldly to take up his position in the place of the universally acknowledged Mean; boldly to carry into practice his views of the doctrines of the ancient kings; in a high situation, not to defer to a bad ruler, and, in a low situation, not to follow the current of a bad people; to consider that there is no poverty where there is virtue, and no wealth where virtue is not; when appreciated by the world, to desire to share in all men’s joys and sorrows; when unknown by the world, to stand up grandly alone between heaven and earth, and have no fears:—this is the bravery of the highest order. To be reverently observant of propriety, and sober-minded; to attach importance to adherence to fidelity, and set little store by material wealth; to have the boldness to push forward men of worth and exalt them, to hold back undeserving men, and get them deposed;—this is the bravery of the middle order. To be devoid of self-respect and set a great value on wealth; to feel complacent in calamity, and always have plenty to say for himself; saving himself in any way without regard to right and wrong; whatever be the real state of a case, making it his object to get the victory over others:—this is the bravery of the lowest order.
The fan-joh, the keu, and the shoo were the best bows of antiquity; but without their regulators, they could not adjust themselves. The tsung of duke Hwan, the keueh of T‘aekung, the luh of king Wăn, the hwuh of prince Chwang, the kan-tseang, moh-yay keu-keueh, and p‘eih-leu of Hoh-leu:—these were the best swords of antiquity; but without the grindstone and whetstone, they would not have been sharp; without the strength of the arms that wielded them, they would not have cut anything.
The hwa, the lew, the le, the k‘e, the sėen, the lei, the luh, and the urh:—these were the best horses of antiquity; but there were still necessary for them the restraints in front of bit and bridle, the stimulants behind of cane and whip, and the management of a Tsaou-foo, and then they could accomplish a thousand le in one day.
So it is with man:—granted to him an excellent capacity of nature and the faculty of intellect, he must still seek for good teachers under whom to place himself, and make choice of friends with whom he may be intimate. Having got good masters and placed himself under them, what he will hear will be the doctrines of Yaou, Shun, Yu, and T‘ang; having got good friends and become intimate with them, what he will see will be deeds of self-consecration, fidelity, reverence, and complaisance:—he will go on from day to day to benevolence and righteousness, without being conscious of it; a natural following of them will make him do so. On the other hand, if he live with bad men, what he will hear will be the language of deceit, calumny, imposture, and hypocrisy; what he will see will be the conduct of filthiness, insolence, lewdness, corruptness, and greed:—he will be going on from day to day to punishment and disgrace, without being conscious of it; a natural following of them will make him do so.
The Record says, “If you do not know your son, look at his friends; if you do not know your ruler, look at his confidants.” All is the influence of association! All is the influence of association!
AN EXAMINATION OF THE NATURE OF MAN.
The nature dates from the date of the life; the feelings date from contact with external things. There are three grades of the nature, and it has five characteristics. There are also three grades of the feelings, and they have seven characteristics. To explain myself:—The three grades of the nature are—the Superior, the Middle, and the Inferior. The superior grade is good, and good only; the middle grade is capable of being led: it may rise to the superior, or sink to the inferior; the inferior is evil, and evil only. The five characteristics of the nature are—Benevolence, Righteousness, Propriety, Sincerity, and Knowledge. In the Superior Grade, the first of these characteristics is supreme, and the other four are practised. In the Middle Grade, the first of these characteristics is not wanting: it exists, but with a little tendency to its opposite; the other four are in an ill-assorted state. In the Inferior Grade there is the opposite of the first characteristic, and constant rebelliousness against the other four. The grade of the nature regulates the manifestation of the feelings in it. [Again]:—The three grades of the feelings are the Superior, the Middle, and the Inferior; and their seven characteristics are—Joy, Anger, Sorrow, Fear, Love, Hatred, and Desire. In the Superior Grade, these seven all move, and each in its due place and degree. In the Middle Grade, some of the characteristics are in excess, and some in defect; but there is a seeking to give them their due place and degree. In the Inferior Grade, whether they are in excess or defect, there is a reckless acting according to the one in immediate predominance. The grade of the feelings regulates the influence of the nature in reference to them.
Speaking of the nature, Mencius said:—“Man’s nature is good;” the philosopher Seun said:—“Man’s nature is bad;” the philosopher Yang said:—“In the nature of man good and evil are mixed together.” Now, to say that the nature, good at first, subsequently becomes bad; or that, bad at first, it subsequently becomes good; or that, mixed at first, it subsequently becomes—it may be good, it may be bad:—in each of these cases only the nature of the middle grade is dealt with, and the superior and inferior grades are neglected. Those philosophers are right about one grade, and wrong about the other two.
When Shuh-yu was born, his mother knew, as soon as she looked at him, that he would fall a victim to his love of bribes. When Yang Sze-go was born, the mother of Shuh-hëang knew, as soon as she heard him cry, that he would cause the destruction of all his kindred. When Yueh-tsëaou was born, Tsze-wăn considered it was a great calamity, knowing that through him the ghosts of the Joh-gaou family would all be famished.—With such cases before us, can it be said that the nature of man (i.e., all men) is good?
When How-tseih was born, his mother had no suffering; and as soon as he began to creep, he displayed all elegance and intelligence. When king Wăn was in his mother’s womb, she experienced no distress; after his birth, those who tended him had no trouble; when he began to learn, his teachers had no vexation:—with such cases before us, can it be said that the nature of man (i.e., all men) is evil?
Choo was the son of Yaou, and Keun the son of Shun; Kwan and Ts‘ae were sons of king Wăn. They were instructed to practise nothing but what was good, and yet they turned out villains. Shun was the son of Koo-sow, and Yu the son of K‘wăn. They were instructed to practise nothing but what was bad, and yet they turned out sages.—With such cases before us, can it be said that in the nature of man (i.e., all men) good and evil are blended together?
Having these things in view, I say that the three philosophers, to whom I have referred, dealt with the middle grade of the nature, and neglected the superior and the inferior, that they were right about the one grade, and wrong about the other two.
It may be asked, “Is it so, then, that the superior and inferior grades of the nature can never be changed?” I reply,—The nature of the superior grade, by application to learning, becomes more intelligent, and the nature of the inferior grade, through awe of power, comes to have few faults. The superior nature, therefore, may be taught, and the inferior nature may be restrained; but the grades have been pronounced by Confucius to be unchangeable.
It may be asked, “How is it that those who now-a-days speak about the nature do so differently from this?” I reply,—Those who now-a-days speak about the nature blend with their other views those of Laou-tsze and Buddhism; and doing so, how could they speak otherwise than differently from me?
OF YANG CHOO AND MIH TEIH.
THE OPINIONS OF YANG CHOO.
1. “The words of Yang Choo and Mih Teih,” said Mencius, “fill the empire. If you listen to people’s discourses throughout it, you will find that they have adopted the views of the one or of the other. Now, Yang’s principle is—‘Each one for himself,’ which does not acknowledge the claims of the sovereign. Mih’s principle is—‘To love all equally,’ which does not acknowledge the peculiar affection due to a father. To acknowledge neither king nor father is to be in the state of a beast. If their principles are not stopped, and the principles of Confucius set forth, their perverse speakings will delude the people, and stop up the path of benevolence and righteousness.
“I am alarmed by these things, and address myself to the defence of the doctrines of the former sages, and to oppose Yang and Mih. I drive away their licentious expressions, so that such perverse speakers may not be able to show themselves. When sages shall rise up again, they will not change my words.”1
His opposition to Yang and Mih was thus one of the great labours of Mencius’ life, and what he deemed the success of it one of his great achievements. His countrymen generally accede to the justice of his claim; though there have not been wanting some to say—justly, as I think and will endeavour to show in the next section—that Mih need not have incurred from him such heavy censure. For Yang no one has a word to say. His leading principle as stated by Mencius is certainly detestable, and so far as we can judge from the slight accounts of him that are to be gathered from other quarters, he seems to have been about “the least erected spirit,” who ever professed to reason concerning the life and duties of man.
2. The generally received opinion is that Yang belonged to the period of “The Warring States,” the same era of Chinese history as Mencius. He was named Choo, and styled Tsze-keu. In a note, p. 159 of my larger work, I have supposed that he was of the times of Confucius and Laou-tsze, having then before me a passage of the Taouist philosopher Chwang, in which he gives an account of an interview between Laou-tsze and Yang Choo. That interview, however, must be an invention of Chwang. The natural impression which we receive from all the references of Mencius is that Yang must have been posterior to Confucius, and that his opinions had come into vogue only in the times of our philosopher himself. This view would be placed beyond doubt if we could receive as genuine the chapter on Yang, which is contained in the writings of the philosopher Leeh. And so far we may accept it, as to believe that it gives the sentiments which were attributed to him in the 1st century before our era. The leading principle ascribed to him by Mencius nowhere appears in it in so many words, but the general tenor of his language is entirely in accordance with it. This will appear from the following specimens:—
“Yang Choo said, ‘A hundred years are the extreme limit of longevity; and not one man in a thousand enjoys such a period of life. Suppose the case of one who does so:—infancy borne in the arms, and doting old age, will nearly occupy the half; what is forgotten in sleep, and what is lost in the waking day, will nearly occupy the half; pain and sickness, sorrow and bitterness, losses, anxieties, and fears will nearly occupy the half. There may remain ten years or so; but I reckon that not even in them will be found an hour of smiling self-abandonment, without the shadow of solicitude.—What is the life of man then to be made of? What pleasure is in it?
“ ‘[Is it to be prized] for the pleasure of food and dress? or for the enjoyments of music and beauty? But one cannot be always satisfied with those pleasures; one cannot be always toying with beauty and listening to music. And then there are the restraints of punishments and the stimulants of rewards; the urgings and the repressings of fame and laws:—these make one strive restlessly for the vain praise of an hour, and calculate on the residuary glory after death; they keep him, as with body bent, on the watch against what his ears hear and his eyes see, and attending to the right and the wrong of his conduct and thoughts. In this way he loses the real pleasure of his years, and cannot allow himself for a moment.—In what does he differ from an individual manacled and fettered in an inner prison? The people of high antiquity knew both the shortness of life, and how suddenly and completely it might be closed by death, and therefore they obeyed the movements of their hearts, refusing not what it was natural for them to like, nor seeking to avoid any pleasure that occurred to them. They paid no heed to the incitements of fame; they enjoyed themselves according to their nature; they did not resist the common tendency of all things to self-enjoyment; they cared not to be famous after death. They managed to keep clear of punishment; as to fame and praise, being first or last, long life or short life, these things did not come into their calculations.’ ”
“Yang Choo said, ‘Wherein people differ is the matter of life; wherein they agree is death. While they are alive, we have the distinctions of intelligence and stupidity, honourableness and meanness; when they are dead, we have so much stinking rottenness decaying away:—this is the common lot. Yet intelligence and stupidity, honourableness and meanness, are not in one’s power; neither is that condition of putridity, decay, and utter disappearance. A man’s life is not in his own hands, nor is his death; his intelligence is not his own, nor is his stupidity, nor his honourableness, nor his meanness. All are born and all die;—the intelligent and the stupid, the honourable and the mean. At ten years old some die; at a hundred years old some die. The virtuous and the sage die; the ruffian and the fool also die. Alive, they were Yaou and Shun; dead they were so much rotten bone. Alive they were Këeh and Chow; dead, they were so much rotten bone. Who could know any difference between their rotten bones? While alive, therefore, let us hasten to make the best of life; what leisure have we to be thinking of anything after death?’ ”
“Măng-sun Yang asked Yang-tsze, saying, ‘Here is a man who sets a high value on his life, and takes loving care of his body, hoping that he will not die:—does he do right?’ ‘There is no such thing as not dying,’ was the reply. ‘But if he does so, hoping for long life, is he right?’ Yang-tsze answered, ‘One cannot be assured of long life. Setting value upon life will not preserve it; taking care of the body will not make it greatly better. And, in fact, why should long life be made of? There are the five feelings with their likings and dislikings,—now as in old time; there are the four limbs, now at ease, now in danger,—now as in old time; there are the various experiences of joy and sorrow,—now as in old time; there are the various changes from order to disorder, and from disorder to order,—now as in old time:—all these things I have heard of, and seen, and gone through. A hundred years of them would be more than enough, and shall I wish the pain protracted through a longer life?’ Mang-sun said, ‘If it be so, early death is better than long life. Let a man go to trample on the pointed steel, or throw himself into the caldron or flames, to get what he desires.’ Yang-tsze answered, ‘No. Being once born, take your life as it comes, and endure it, and, seeking to enjoy yourself as you desire, so await the approach of death. When you are about to die, treat the thing with indifference and endure it; and seeking to accomplish your departure, so abandon yourself to annihilation. Both death and life should be treated with indifference; they should both be endured:—why trouble onesself about earliness or lateness in connexion with them?’ ”
“K‘in-tsze asked Yang Choo, saying, ‘If you could benefit the world by parting with one hair of your body, would you do it?’ ‘The world is not to be benefited by a hair,’ replied Yang. The other urged, ‘But suppose it could be, what would you do?’ To this Yang gave no answer, and K‘in went out, and reported what had passed to Măng-sun Yang. Măng-sun said, ‘You do not understand our Master’s mind:—let me explain it to you. If by enduring a slight wound in the flesh, you could get ten thousand pieces of gold, would you endure it?’ ‘I would.’ ‘If by cutting off one of your limbs, you could get a kingdom, would you do it?’ K‘in was silent; and after a little, Măng-sun Yang resumed, ‘To part with a hair is a slighter matter than to receive a wound in the flesh, and that again is a slighter matter than to lose a limb:—that you can discern. But consider:—a hair may be multiplied till it become as important as the piece of flesh, and the piece of flesh may be multiplied till it becomes as important as a limb. A single hair is just one of the ten thousand portions of the body;—why should you make light of it?’ K‘in-tsze replied, ‘I cannot answer you. If I could refer your words to Laou Tan or Kwan Yin, they would say that you were right; but if I could refer my words to the great Yu or Mih Teih, they would say that I was right.’ Măng-sun Yang, on this, turned round, and entered into conversation with his disciples on another subject.”
“Yang Choo said, ‘The empire agrees in considering Shun, Yu, Chow-kung, and Confucius to have been the most admirable of men, and in considering Këeh and Chow to have been the most wicked.
“ ‘Now, Shun had to plough the ground on the south of the Ho, and to play the potter by the Luy lake. His four limbs had not even a temporary rest; for his mouth and belly he could not find pleasant food and warm clothing. No love of his parents rested upon him; no affection of his brothers and sisters. When he was thirty years old, he had not been able to get the permission of his parents to marry. When Yaou at length resigned to him the throne, he was advanced in age; his wisdom was decayed; his son Shang-keun proved without ability; and he had finally to resign the throne to Yu. Sorrowfully came he to his death. Of all mortals never was one whose life was so worn out and empoisoned as his. K‘wăn was required to reduce the deluged land to order; and when his labours were ineffectual, he was put to death on mount Yu, and Yu [his son] had to undertake the task, and serve his enemy. All his energies were spent on his labours with the land; a child was born to him, but he could not foster it; he passed his door without entering; his body became bent and withered; the skin of his hands and feet became thick and callous. When at length Shun resigned to him the throne, he lived in a low, mean house, while his sacrificial apron and cap were elegant. Sorrowfully came he to his death. Of all mortals never was one whose life was so saddened and embittered as his. On the death of king Woo [his son], king Shing was young and weak. Chow-kung had to undertake all the imperial duties. The duke of Shaou was displeased, and evil reports spread through the empire. Chow-kung had to reside three years in the east; he slew his elder brother, and banished his younger; scarcely did he escape with his life. Sorrowfully came he to his death. Of all mortals never was one whose life was so full of hazards and terrors as his. Confucius understood the ways of the ancient emperors and kings. He responded to the invitations of the princes of his time. The tree was cut down over him in Sung; the traces of his footsteps were removed in Wei; he was reduced to extremity in Shang and Chow; he was surrounded in Ch‘in and Ts‘ae; he had to bend to the Head of the Ke family; he was disgraced by Yang Hoo. Sorrowfully came he to his death. Of all mortals never was one whose life was so agitated and hurried as his.
“ ‘Those four sages, during their life, had not a single day’s joy. Since their death they have had a [grand] fame that will last through myriads of ages. But that fame is what no one who cares for what is real would choose. Celebrate them;—they do not know it. Reward them;—they do not know it. Their fame is no more to them than to the trunk of a tree or a clod of earth.
“ ‘[On the other hand], Këeh came into the accumulated wealth of many generations; to him belonged the honour of the imperial seat; his wisdom was enough to enable him to set at defiance all below; his power was enough to shake the empire. He indulged the pleasures to which his eyes and ears prompted him; he carried out whatever it came into his thoughts to do. Brightly came he to his death. Of all mortals never was one whose life was so luxurious and dissipated as his. [Similarly], Chow came into the accumulated wealth of many generations; to him belonged the honour of the royal seat; his power enabled him to do whatever he would; his will was everywhere obeyed; he indulged his feelings in all his palaces; he gave the reins to his lusts through the long night; he never made himself bitter by the thought of propriety and righteousness. Brightly came he to his destruction. Of all mortals never was one whose life was so abandoned as his.
“ ‘These two villains, during their life, had the joy of gratifying their desires. Since their death, they have had the [evil] fame of folly and tyranny. But the reality [of enjoyment] is what no fame can give. Reproach them;—they do not know it. Praise them;—they do not know it. Their [ill]fame is no more to them than to the trunk of a tree, or to a clod of earth.
“ ‘To the four sages all admiration is given; yet were their lives bitter to the end, and their common lot was death. To the two villains all condemnation is given; yet their lives were pleasant to the last, and their common lot was likewise death.’ ”
3. The above passages are sufficient to show the character of Yang Choo’s mind and of his teachings. It would be doing injustice to Epicurus to compare Yang with him, for though the Grecian philosopher made happiness the chief end of human pursuit, he taught also that “we cannot live pleasurably without living virtuously and justly.” The Epicurean system is, indeed, unequal to the capacity, and far below the highest complacencies, of human nature; but it is widely different from the reckless contempt of all which is esteemed good and great that defiles the pages where Yang is made to tell his views.
We are sometimes reminded by him of fragmentary utterance in the Book of Ecclesiastes:—“In much wisdom is much grief; and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.” “As it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth even to me; and why was I then more wise? Then I said in my heart, that this also is vanity. For there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool for ever; seeing that which now is, in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And how dieth the wise man? As the fool. Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous to me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit.” “There is a man whose labour is in wisdom, and in knowledge, and in equity. . . All his days are sorrows, and his travail grief; yea, his heart taketh not rest in the night:—this is also vanity. There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour.” “That which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no pre-eminence over a beast: for all is vanity. All go to one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. . . Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?”
But those thoughts were suggestions of evil from which the Hebrew Preacher recoiled in his own mind; and he put them on record only that he might give their antidote along with them. He vanquished them by his faith in God; and so he ends by saying, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter.—Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” Yang Choo has no redeeming qualities. His reasonings contain no elements to counteract the poison that is in them. He never rises to the thought of God. There are, he allows, such ideas as those of propriety and righteousness, but the effect of them is merely to embitter and mar the enjoyment of life. Fame is but a phantom which only the fool will pursue. It is the same with all at death. There their being ends. After that there is but so much putridity and rottenness. With him therefore the conclusion of the whole matter is:—“Let us eat and drink; let us live in pleasure; gratify the ears and eyes; get servants and maidens, music, beauty, wine; when the day is insufficient, carry it on through the night; each one for himself.”
Mencius might well say that if such “licentious talk” were not arrested, the path of benevolence and righteousness would be stopped up. If Yang’s principles had been entertained by the nation, every bond of society would have been dissolved. All the foundations of order would have been destroyed. Vice would have become rampant, and virtue would have been named only to be scorned. There would have remained for the entire State only what Yang saw in store for the individual man—“putridity and rottenness.” Doubtless it was owing to Mencius’ opposition that the foul and dangerous current was stayed. He raised up against it the bulwark of human nature formed for virtue. He insisted on benevolence, righteousness, propriety, fidelity, as the noblest attributes of man’s conduct. More was needed, but more he could not supply. If he had had a living faith in God, and had been in possession of His revealed will, the present state of China might have been very different. He was able to warn his countrymen of the gulf into which Yang Choo would have plunged them; but he could direct them in the way of truth and duty only imperfectly. He sent them into the dark cave of their own souls, and back to the vague lessons and imperfect examples of their sages; and China has staggered on, waxing feebler and feebler, to the present time. Her people need to be directed above themselves and beyond the present. When stars shine out to them in heaven and from eternity, the empire will perhaps renew its youth, and go forward from strength to strength.
THE OPINIONS OF MIH TEIH.
1.Very different from Yang Choo was Mih Teih. They stood at the opposite poles of human thought and sentiment; and we may wonder that Mencius should have offered the same stern opposition to the opinions of each of them. He did well to oppose the doctrine whose watchword was—“Each one for himself;” was it right to denounce, as equally injurious, that which taught that the root of all social evils is to be traced to the want of mutual love?
It is allowed that Mih was a native and officer of the State of Sung; but the time when he lived is a matter of dispute. Sze-ma Ts‘ëen says that some made him to be a contemporary of Confucius, and that others placed him later. He was certainly later than Confucius, to whom he makes many references, not always complimentary, in his writings. In one of his Treatises, moreover, mention is made of Wăn-tsze, an acknowledged disciple of Tsze-hëa, so that he must have been very little anterior to Mencius. This is the impression also which I receive from the references to him in our philosopher.
In Lëw Hin’s third catalogue the Mihist writers form a subdivision. Six of them are mentioned, including Mih himself, to whom 71 p‘ëen, or Books, are attributed. So many were then current under his name; but 18 of them have since been lost. He was an original thinker. He exercised a bolder judgment on things than Confucius or any of his followers. Antiquity was not so sacred to him, and he did not hesitate to condemn the literati—the orthodox—for several of their doctrines and practices.
Two of his peculiar views are adverted to by Mencius, and vehemently condemned. The one is about the regulation of funerals, where Mih contended that a spare simphcity should be the rule.1 On that I need not dwell. The other is the doctrine of “Universal Love.”2 A lengthy exposition of this remains in the Writings which go by Mih’s name, though it is not from his own pen, but that of a disciple. Such as it is, with all its repetitions, I give a translation of it. My readers will be able, after perusing it, to go on with me to consider the treatment which the doctrine received at the hands of Mencius.
UNIVERSAL LOVE. PART I.
It is the business of the sages to effect the good government of the empire. They must know, therefore, whence disorder and confusion arise, for without this knowledge their object cannot be effected. We may compare them to a physician who undertakes to cure a man’s disease:—he must ascertain whence the disease has arisen, and then he can assail it with effect, while, without such knowledge, his endeavours will be in vain. Why should we except the case of those who have to regulate disorder from this rule? They must know whence it has arisen, and then they can regulate it.
It is the business of the sages to effect the good government of all under heaven. They must examine therefore into the cause of disorder; and when they do so, they will find that it arises from the want of mutual love. When a minister and a son are not filial to their sovereign and their father, this is what is called disorder. A son loves himself, and does not love his father;—he therefore wrongs his father and advantages himself: a younger brother loves himself, and does not love his elder brother;—he therefore wrongs his elder brother, and advantages himself: a minister loves himself, and does not love his sovereign:—he therefore wrongs his sovereign, and advantages himself:—all these are cases of what is called disorder. Though it be the father who is not kind to his son, or the elder brother who is not kind to his younger brother; or the sovereign who is not gracious to his minister:—the case comes equally under the general name of disorder. The father loves himself, and does not love his son;—he therefore wrongs his son, and advantages himself: the elder brother loves himself, and does not love his younger brother;—he therefore wrongs his younger brother, and advantages himself: the sovereign loves himself, and does not love his minister;—he therefore wrongs his minister, and advantages himself. How do these things come to pass? They all arise from the want of mutual love. Take the case of any thief or robber:—it is just the same with it. The thief loves his own house, and does not love his neighbour’s house;—he therefore steals from his neighbour’s house to advantage his own: the robber loves his own person, and does not love his neighbour;—he therefore does violence to his neighbour to advantage himself. How is this? It all arises from the want of mutual love. Come to the case of great officers throwing each other’s families into confusion, and of princes attacking one another’s States:—it is just the same with them. The great officer loves his own family, and does not love his neighbour’s;—he therefore throws his neighbour’s family into disorder to advantage his own: the prince loves his own State, and does not love his neighbour’s;—he therefore attacks his neighbour’s State to advantage his own. All disorder in the empire has the same explanation. When we examine into the cause of it, it is found to be the want of mutual love.
Suppose that universal mutual love prevailed throughout the kingdom;—if men loved others as they love themselves, disliking to exhibit what was unfilial. . . . . .1 And moreover would there be those who were unkind? Looking on their sons, younger brothers, and ministers as themselves, and disliking to exhibit what was unkind . . . . the want of filial duty would disappear. And would there be thieves and robbers? When every man regarded his neighbour’s house as his own, who would be found to steal? When every one regarded his neighbour’s person as his own, who would be found to rob? Thieves and robbers would disappear. And would there be great officers throwing one another’s families into confusion, and princes attacking one another’s States? When officers regarded the families of others as their own, what one would make confusion? When princes regarded other States as their own, what one would begin an attack? Great officers throwing one another’s families into confusion, and princes attacking one another’s States, would disappear.
If, indeed, universal mutual love prevailed throughout the kingdom; one State not attacking another, and one family not throwing another into confusion; thieves and robbers nowhere existing; rulers and ministers, fathers and sons, all being filial and kind:—in such a condition the kingdom would be well governed. On this account, how may sages, whose business it is to effect the good government of the kingdom, do other than prohibit hatred and advise to love? On this account it is affirmed that universal mutual love throughout the kingdom will lead to its happy order, and that mutual hatred leads to confusion. This was what our master, the philosopher Mih, meant, when he said, “We must not but advise to the love of others.”
UNIVERSAL LOVE. PART II.
Our Master, the philosopher Mih, said, “That which benevolent men consider to be incumbent on them as their business, is to stimulate and promote all that will be advantageous to the kingdom, and to take away all that is injurious to it. This is what they consider to be their business.”
And what are the things advantageous to the kingdom, and the things injurious to it? Our Master said, “The mutual attacks of State on State; the mutual usurpations of family on family; the mutual robberies of man on man; the want of kindness on the part of the sovereign and of loyalty on the part of the minister; the want of tenderness and filial duty between father and son:—these, and such as these, are the things injurious to the empire.”
And from what do we find, on examination, that these injurious things are produced? Is it not from the want of mutual love?
Our Master said, “Yes, they are produced by the want of mutual love. Here is a prince who only knows to love his own State, and does not love his neighbour’s;—he therefore does not shrink from raising all the power of his State to attack his neighbour. Here is the chief of a family who only knows to love it, and does not love his neighbour’s;—he therefore does not shrink from raising all his powers to seize on that other family. Here is a man who only knows to love his own person, and does not love his neighbour’s;—he therefore does not shrink from using all his strength to rob his neighbour. Thus it happens that the princes, not loving one another, have their battle-fields; and the chiefs of families, not loving one another, have their mutual usurpations; and men, not loving one another, have their mutual robberies; and sovereigns and ministers, not loving one another, become unkind and disloyal; and fathers and sons, not loving one another, lose their affection and filial duty; and brothers, not loving one another, contract irreconcileable enmities. Yea, men in general not loving one another, the strong make prey of the weak; the rich do despite to the poor; the noble are insolent to the mean; and the deceitful impose upon the stupid. All the miseries, usurpations, enmities, and hatreds in the world, when traced to their origin, will be found to arise from the want of mutual love. On this account, the benevolent condemn it.”
They may condemn it; but how shall they change it?
Our Master said, “They may change it by universal mutual love, and by the interchange of mutual benefits.”
How will this law of universal mutual love and the interchange of mutual benefits accomplish this?
Our Master said, “[It would lead] to the regarding another kingdom as one’s own; another family as one’s own; another person as one’s own. That being the case, the princes, loving one another, would have no battle-fields; the chiefs of families, loving one another, would attempt no usurpations; men, loving one another, would commit no robberies; rulers and ministers, loving one another, would be gracious and loyal; fathers and sons, loving one another, would be kind and filial; brothers, loving one another, would be harmonious and easily reconciled. Yea, men in general loving one another, the strong would not make prey of the weak; the many would not plunder the few; the rich would not insult the poor; the noble would not be insolent to the mean; and the deceitful would not impose upon the simple. The way in which all the miseries, usurpations, enmities, and hatreds in the world may be made not to arise, is universal mutual love. On this account, the benevolent value and praise it.”
Yes; but the scholars of the empire and superior men say, “True; if there were this universal love, it would be good. It is, however, the most difficult thing in the world.”
Our Master said, “This is because the scholars and superior men simply do not understand the advantageousness [of the law], and to conduct their reasonings upon that. Take the case of assaulting a city, or of a battle-field, or of the sacrificing one’s life for the sake of fame;—this is felt by the people everywhere to be a difficult thing. Yet, if the sovereign be pleased with it, both officers and people are able to do it:—how much more might they attain to universal mutual love, and the interchange of mutual benefits, which is different from this! When a man loves others, they respond to and love him; when a man benefits others, they respond to and benefit him; when a man injures others, they respond to and injure him: when a man hates others, they respond to and hate him:—what difficulty is there in the matter? It is only that rulers will not carry on the government on this principle, and so officers do not carry it out in their practice.
“Formerly, the duke Wăn of Tsin liked his officers to be badly dressed, and, therefore, they all wore rams’ furs, a leathern swordbelt, and a cap of bleached cotton. Thus attired, they went in to the prince’s levee, and came out and walked through the court. Why did they do this? The sovereign liked it, and therefore the ministers did it. The duke Ling of Ts‘oo liked his officers to have small waists, and, therefore, they all limited themselves to a single meal. They held in their breath in putting on them belts, and had to help themselves up by means of the wall. In the course of a year, they looked black, and as if they would die of starvation. Why did they do this? The sovereign liked it, and, therefore, the ministers were able to do it. Kow-tsëen, the king of Yueh, liked his ministers to be brave, and taught them to be accustomed to be so. At a general assembly of them, he set on fire the ship where they were, and to try them, said, “All the precious things of Yueh are here.” He then with his own hands beat a drum, and urged them on. When they heard the drum thundering, they rushed confusedly about, and trampled in the fire, till more than a hundred of them perished, when he struck the gong, and called them back.
“Now, little food, bad clothes, and the sacrifice of life for the sake of fame,—these are what it is difficult for people to approve of. Yet, when the sovereign was pleased with it, they were all able [in those cases] to bring themselves to them. How much more could they attain to universal mutual love, and the interchange of mutual benefits, which is different from such things! When a man loves others, they respond to and love him; when a man benefits others, they respond to and benefit him; when a man hates others, they respond to and hate him; when a man injures others, they respond to and injure him. It is only that rulers will not carry on their government on this principle, and so, officers do not carry it out in their practice.”
Yes; but now the officers and superior men say, “Granted; the universal practice of mutual love would be good; but it is an impracticable thing. It is like taking up the T‘ae mountain, and leaping with it over the Ho or the Tse.”
Our Master said, “That is not the proper comparison for it. To take up the T‘ae mountain, and leap with it over the Ho or the Tse, may be called an exercise of most extraordinary strength; it is, in fact, what no one, from antiquity to the present time, has ever been able to do. But how widely different from this is the practice of universal mutual love, and the interchange of mutual benefits!
“Anciently, the sage kings practised this. How do we know that they did so? When Yu reduced the empire to order:—in the west he made the western Ho and the Joo-tow, to carry off the waters of K‘eu-sun-wang; in the north, he made the Fang-yuen, the Koo, How-che-te, and the Tow of Foo-t‘o; setting up also the Te-ch‘oo, and chiselling out the Lung-mun, to benefit Yen, Tae, Hoo, Mih, and the people of the western Ho; in the east, he drained the waters to Luh-fang and the marsh of Măng-choo, reducing them to nine channels, to limit the waters of the eastern country, and benefit the people of K‘e-chow; and in the south, he made the Këang, the Han, the Hwae, the Joo, the course of the eastern current, and the five lakes, to benefit King, Ts‘oo, and Yueh, the people of the wild south. These were the doings of Yu; and I am now for practising the [same] universal [mutual love].
“When king Wăn brought the western country to good order, his light spread, like the sun or the moon, over its four quarters. He did not permit great States to insult small ones; he did not permit the multitude to oppress the fatherless and the widow; he did not permit violence and power to take from the husbandmen their millet pannicled millet, dogs, and swine. Heaven, as if constrained, visited king Wăn with blessing. The old and childless were enabled to complete their years; the solitary and brotherless could yet mingle among the living; the young and parentless found those on whom they could depend, and grew up. These were the doings of king Wăn; and I am now for practising the same universal [mutual love].
“King Woo tunneled through the T‘ae mountain. The Record says, ‘There is a way through the mountain, made by me, the descendant of the kings of Chow:—I have accomplished this great work. I have got my virtuous men, and rise up full of reverence for Shang, Hea, and the tribes of the south, the east, and the north. Though he has his multitudes of relatives, they are not equal to my virtuous men. If guilt attach to the people anywhere throughout the empire, it is to be required of me, the One man.’ This describes the doings of king Woo, and I am now for practising the [same] universal mutual love.
“If, now, the rulers of the kingdom truly and sincerely wish all in it to be rich, and dislike any being poor; if they desire its good government, and dislike disorder; they ought to practise universal mutual love, and the interchange of mutual benefits. This was the law of the sage kings; it is the way to effect the good government of the kingdom; it may not but be striven after.”
UNIVERSAL LOVE. PART III.
Our Master, the philosopher Mih, said, “The business of benevolent men requires that they should strive to stimulate and promote what is advantageous to the empire, and to take away what is injurious to it.”
Speaking, now, of the present time, what are to be accounted the most injurious things to the empire? They are such as the attacking of small States by great ones; the inroads on small families of great ones; the plunder of the weak by the strong; the oppression of the few by the many; the scheming of the crafty against the simple; the insolence of the noble to the mean. To the same class belong the ungraciousness of rulers, and the disloyalty of ministers; the unkindness of fathers, and the want of filial duty on the part of sons. Yea, there is to be added to these the conduct of the mean men, who employ their edged weapons and poisoned stuff, water and fire, to rob and injure one another.
Pushing on the inquiry now, let us ask whence all these injurious things arise. Is it from loving others and advantaging others? It must be answered “No;” and it must likewise be said, “They arise clearly from hating others and doing violence to others.” [If it be further asked] whether those who hate and do violence to others hold the principle of loving all, or that of making distinctions, it must be replied, “They make distinctions.” So then, it is this principle of making distinctions between man and man, which gives rise to all that is most injurious in the empire. On this account we conclude that that principle is wrong.
Our Master said, “He who condemns others must have whereby to change them.” To condemn men, and have no means of changing them, is like saving them from fire by plunging them in water. A man’s language in such a case must be improper. On this account our Master said, “There is the principle of loving all, to change that which makes distinctions.” If, now, we ask, “And how is it that universal love can change [the consequences of] that other principle which makes distinctions?” the answer is, “If princes were as much for the States of others as for their own, what one among them would raise the forces of his State to attack that of another?—he is for that other as much as for himself. If they were for the capitals of others as much as for their own, what one would raise the forces of his capital to attack that of another?—he is for that as much as for his own. If chiefs regarded the families of others as their own, what one would lead the power of his family to throw that of another into confusion?—he is for that other as much as for himself. If, now, States did not attack, nor holders of capitals smite, one another, and if families were guilty of no mutual aggressions, would this be injurious to the empire, or its benefit?” It must be replied, “This would be advantageous to the empire.” Pushing on the inquiry, now, let us ask whence all these benefits arise. Is it from hating others and doing violence to others? It must be answered, “No;” and it must likewise be said, “They arise clearly from loving others and doing good to others.” [If it be further asked] whether those who love others and do good to others hold the principle of making distinctions between man and man, or that of loving all, it must be replied, “They love all.” So then it is this principle of universal mutual love which really gives rise to all that is most beneficial to the empire. On this account we conclude that that principle is right.
Our Master said, a little ago, “The business of benevolent men requires that they should strive to stimulate and promote what is advantageous to the kingdom, and to take away what is injurious to it.” We have now traced the subject up, and found that it is the principle of universal love which produces all that is most beneficial to the kingdom, and the principle of making distinctions which produces all that is injurious to it. On this account what our Master said—“The principle of making distinctions between man and man is wrong, and the principle of universal love is right,” turns out to be correct as the sides of a square.
If, now, we just desire to promote the benefit of the kingdom, and select for that purpose the principle of universal love, then the acute ears and piercing eyes of people will hear and see for one another; and the strong limbs of people will move and be ruled for one another; and men of principle will instruct one another. It will come about that the old, who have neither wife nor children, will get supporters who will enable them to complete their years; and the young and weak, who have no parents, will yet find helpers that shall bring them up. On the contrary, if this principle of universal love is held not to be correct, what benefits will arise from such a view? What can be the reason that the scholars of the empire, whenever they hear of this principle of universal love, go on to condemn it? Plain as the case is, their words in condemnation of this principle do not stop;—they say, “It may be good, but how can it be carried into practice?”
Our Master said, “Supposing that it could not be practised, it seems hard to go on likewise to condemn it. But how can it be good, and yet incapable of being put into practice?”
Let us bring forward two instances to test the matter.—Let any one suppose the case of two individuals, the one of whom shall hold the principle of making distinctions, and the other shall hold the principle of universal love. The former of these will say, “How can I be for the person of my friend as much as for my own person? how can I be for the parents of my friend as much as for my own parents?” Reasoning in this way, he may see his friend hungry, but he will not feed him; cold, but he will not clothe him; sick, but he will not nurse him; dead, but he will not bury him. Such will be the language of the individual holding the principle of distinction, and such will be his conduct. The language of the other, holding the principle of universality, will be different, and also his conduct. He will say, “I have heard that he who wishes to play a lofty part among men, will be for the person of his friend as much as for his own person, and for the parents of his friend as much as for his own parents. It is only thus that he can attain his distinction? Reasoning in this way, when he sees his friend hungry, he will feed him; cold, he will clothe him; sick, he will nurse him; dead, he will bury him. Such will be the language of him who holds the principle of universal love, and such will be his conduct.
The words of the one of these individuals are a condemnation of those of the other, and their conduct is directly contrary. Suppose now that their words are perfectly sincere, and that their conduct will be carried out,—that their words and actions will correspond like the parts of a token, every word being carried into effect; and let us proceed to put the following questions on the case:—Here is a plain in the open country, and an officer, with coat of mail, gorget, and helmet, is about to take part in a battle to be fought in it, where the issue, whether for life or death, cannot be foreknown; or here is an officer about to be despatched on a distant commission from Pa to Yueh, or from Ts‘e to King, where the issue of the journey, going and coming, is quite uncertain:—on either of these suppositions, to whom will the officer entrust the charge of his house, the support of his parents, and the care of his wife and children?—to one who holds the principle of universal love? or to one who holds that which makes distinctions? I apprehend there is no one under heaven, man or woman, however stupid, though he may condemn the principle of universal love, but would at such a time make one who holds it the subject of his trust. This is in words to condemn the principle, and when there is occasion to choose between it and the opposite, to approve it;—words and conduct are here in contradiction. I do not know how it is, that, throughout the empire, scholars condemn the principle of universal love, whenever they hear it.
Plain as the case is, their words in condemnation of it do not cease, but they say, “This principle may suffice perhaps to guide in the choice of an officer, but it will not guide in the choice of a sovereign.”
Let us test this by taking two illustrations:—Let any one suppose the case of two sovereigns, the one of whom shall hold the principle of mutual love, and the other shall hold the principle which makes distinctions. In this case, the latter of them will say, “How can I be as much for the persons of all my people as for my own? This is much opposed to human feelings. The life of man upon the earth is but a very brief space; it may be compared to the rapid movement of a team of horses whirling past any particular spot.” Reasoning in this way, he may see his people hungry, but he will not feed them; cold, but he will not clothe them; sick, but he will not nurse them; dead, but he will not bury them. Such will be the language of the sovereign who holds the principle of distinctions, and such will be his conduct. Different will be the language and conduct of the other who holds the principle of universal love. He will say, “I have heard that he who would show himself a [virtuous and] intelligent sovereign, ought to make his people the first consideration, and think of himself only after them.” Reasoning in this way, when he sees any of the people hungry, he will feed them; cold, he will clothe them; sick, he will nurse them; dead, he will bury them. Such will be the language of the sovereign who holds the principle of universal love, and such his conduct. If we compare the two sovereigns, the words of the one are condemnatory of those of the other, and their actions are opposite. Let us suppose that their words are equally sincere, and that their actions will be made good,—that their words and actions will correspond like the parts of a token, every word being carried into effect; and let us proceed to put the following questions on the case:—Here is a year when a pestilence walks abroad among the people; many of them suffer from cold and famine; multitudes die in the ditches and water-channels. If at such a time they might make an election between the two sovereigns whom we have supposed, which would they prefer? I apprehend there is no one under heaven, however stupid, though he may condemn the principle of universal love, but would at such a time prefer to be under the sovereign who holds it. This is in words to condemn the principle, and, when there is occasion to choose between it and the opposite, to approve it;—words and conduct are here in contradiction. I do not know how it is that throughout the empire scholars condemn the principle of universal love, whenever they hear it.
Plain as the case is, their words in condemnation of it do not cease; but they say, “This universal [mutual love] is benevolent and righteous. That we grant, but how can it be practised? The impracticability of it is like that of taking up the T‘ae mountain, and leaping with it over the Keang or the Ho. We do, indeed, desire this universal love, but it is an impracticable thing!”
Our Master said, “To take up the T‘ae mountain, and leap with it over the Keang or the Ho, is a thing which never has been done, from the highest antiquity to the present time, since men were; but the exercise of mutual love and the interchange of mutual benefits,—this was practised by the ancient sages and six kings.”
How do you know that the ancient sages and the six kings practised this?
Our Master said, “I was not of the same age and time with them, so that I could myself have heard their voices, or seen their faces; but I know what I say from what they have transmitted to posterity, written on bamboo or cloth, cut in metal or stone, engraven on their vessels.”
It is said in “The Great Declaration,”—“King Wăn was like the sun or like the moon; suddenly did his brightness shine through the four quarters of the western region.”
According to these words, king Wăn exercised the principle of universal love on a vast scale. He is compared to the sun or moon which shines on all, without partial favour to any spot under the heavens;—such was the universal love of king Wăn.” What our Master insisted on was thus exemplified in him.
Again, not only does “The Great Declaration” speak thus;—we find the same thing in “The Declaration of Yu.” Yu said, “Ye multitudes, listen all to my words. It is not only I who dare to say a word in favour of war;—against this stupid prince of Mëaou we must execute the punishment appointed by Heaven. I am therefore leading your hosts, and go before you all to punish the prince of Mëaou.”
Thus Yu punished the prince of Meaou, not to increase his own riches and nobility, nor to obtain happiness and emolument, nor to gratify his ears and eyes;—he did it, seeking to promote what was advantageous to the empire, and to take away what was injurious to it. It appears from this that Yu held the principle of universal love. What our Master insisted on may be found in him.
And not only may Yu thus be appealed to;—we have “The words of T‘ang” to the same effect. T‘ang said, “I, the child Le, presume to use a dark-coloured victim, and announce to Thee, O supreme Heavenly Sovereign.—Now there is a great drought, and it is right I should be held responsible for it. I do not know but that I have offended against the Powers above and below. But the good I dare not keep in obscurity, and the sinner I dare not pardon. The examination of this is with Thy mind, O God. If the people throughout the empire commit offences, it is to be required of me. If I commit offences, it does not concern the people.” From these words we perceive that T‘ang, possessing the dignity of supreme king, and the wealth of the kingdom, yet did not shrink from offering himself as a sacrifice which might be acceptable to God and [other] spiritual Beings.” It appears from this that T‘ang held the principle of universal love. What our Master insisted on was exemplified in T‘ang.
And not only may we appeal in this way to the “Declarations,” “Charges,” and “The Words of T‘ang,”—we find the same thing in “The Poems of Chow.” One of those poems says,
Is not this speaking of the [Royal] way in accordance with our style? Anciently, Wăn and Woo, acting with exact justice and impartiality, rewarded the worthy and punished the oppressive, allowing no favouritism to influence them towards their own relatives. It appears from this that Wăn and Woo held the principle of universal love. What our Master insisted on was exemplified in them.—How is it that the scholars of the empire condemn this universal love, whenever they hear of it? Plain as the case is, the words of those who condemn the principle of universal love do not cease. They say, “It is not advantageous to the entire devotion to parents which is required;—it is injurious to filial piety.” Our Master said, “Let us bring this objection to the test:—A filial son, having [the happiness of] his parents at heart, considers how it is to be secured. Now, does he, so considering, wish men to love and benefit his parents? or does he wish them to hate and injure his parents?” On this view of the question, it must be evident that he wishes men to love and benefit his parents. And what must he himself first do in order to gain this object? If I first address myself to love and benefit men’s parents, will they for that return love and benefit to my parents? or if I first address myself to hate men’s parents, will they for that return love and benefit to my parents? It is clear that I must first address myself to love and benefit men’s parents, and they will return to me love and benefit to my parents. The conclusion is that a filial son has no alternative.—He must address himself in the first place to love and do good to the parents of others. If it be supposed that this is an accidental course, to be followed on emergency by a filial son, and not sufficient to be regarded as a general rule, let us bring it to the test of what we find in the Books of the ancient kings. It is said in the Ta Ya,
These words show that he who loves others will be loved, and that he who hates others will be hated. How is it that the scholars of the empire condemn this principle of universal love, when they hear it?
Is it that they deem it so difficult as to be impracticable? But there have been more difficult things, which yet have been done. [For instance], king Ling of King was fond of small waists. In his time, the officers of King restricted themselves to a handful of rice, till they required a stick to raise themselves, and in walking had to hold themselves up by the wall. Now, it is a difficult thing to restrict one’s-self in food, but they were able to do it, because it would please king Ling.—It needs not more than a generation to change the manners of the people, such is their desire to move after the pattern of their superiors.
[Again], Kow-tseen the king of Yueh, was fond of bravery. He spent three years in training his officers to be brave; and then, not knowing fully whether they were so, he set fire to the ship where they were, and urged them forward by a drum into the flames. They advanced, one rank over the bodies of another, till an immense number perished in the water or the flames; and it was not till he ceased to beat the drum, that they retired. Those officers of Yueh might be pronounced to be full of reverence. To sacrifice one’s life in the flames is a difficult thing, but they were able to do it, because it would please their king.—It needs not more than a generation to change the manners of the people, such is their desire to move after the pattern of their superiors. [Once more], duke Wăn of Tsin was fond of garments of coarse flax. In his time, the officers of Tsin wore wide clothes of that fabric, with rams’ furs, leathern swordbelts, and coarse canvas sandals. Thus attired, they went in to the duke’s levee, and went out and walked through the court. It is a difficult thing to wear such clothes, but they were able to do it, because it would please duke Wăn.—It needs but a generation to change the manners of the people, such is their desire to move after the pattern of their superiors.
Now, little food, a burning ship, and coarse clothes,—these are among the most difficult things to endure; but because the ruler would be pleased with the enduring them, they were able [in those cases] to do it. It needs no more than a generation to change the manners of the people. Why? Because such is their desire to move after the pattern of their superiors. And now, as to universal mutual love, it is an advantageous thing and easily practised,—beyond all calculation. The only reason why it is not practised is, in my opinion, because superiors do not take pleasure in it. If superiors were to take pleasure in it, stimulating men to it by rewards and praise, and awing them from opposition to it by punishments and fines, they would, in my opinion, move to it,—the practice of universal mutual love, and the interchange of mutual benefits,—as fire rises upwards, and as water flows downwards:—nothing would be able to check them. This universal love was the way of the sage kings; it is the principle to secure peace for kings, dukes, and great men; it is the means to secure plenty of food and clothes for the myriads of the people. The best course for the superior man is to well understand the principle of universal love, and exert himself to practise it. It requires the ruler to be gracious, and the minister to be loyal; the father to be kind, and the son to be filial; the elder brother to be friendly, and the younger to be obedient. Therefore the superior man, with whom the chief desire is to see gracious rulers and loyal ministers; kind fathers and filial sons; friendly elder brothers and obedient younger ones, ought to insist on the indispensableness of the practice of universal love. It was the way of the sage kings; it would be the most advantageous thing for the myriads of the people.
2. Notwithstanding the mutilations and corruptions in the text of the preceding Essay, its general scope is clearly discernible, and we obtain from it a sufficient account of Mih’s doctrine on the subject of “Universal Love.” We have now to consider the opposition offered to this doctrine by Mencius. He was not the first, however, to be startled and offended by it. The Essay shows that it was resented as an outrage on the system of orthodox belief during all the lifetime of Mih and his immediate disciples. Men of learning did not cease to be clamorous against it. From the allusions made by Mencius to its prevalence in his days, it would appear that it had overcome much of the hostility which it at first encountered. He stepped forward to do battle with it; and though he had no new arguments to ply, such was the effect of his onset, that “Universal Love” has ever since been considered, save by some eccentric thinkers, as belonging to the Limbo of Chinese Vanity, among other things “abortive, monstrous, or unkindly mixed.”
We may approach the question conveniently by observing that Mih’s attempts to defend his principle were in several points far from the best that could be made. His references to the examples of Yu, T‘ang, and the kings Wăn and Woo, are of this nature. Those worthies well performed the work of their generation. They punished the oppressor, and delivered the oppressed. Earnest sentiments of justice and benevolence animated their breasts and directed their course. But they never laid down the doctrine of “Universal Love,” as the rule for themselves or others.
When he insists, again, that the people might easily be brought to appreciate and practise his doctrine, if their rulers would only set them the example, he shows the same overweening idea of the influence of superiors, and the same ignorance of human nature, which I have had occasion to point out in both Confucius and Mencius. His references to duke Wăn of Tsin, king Ling of Ts‘oo, and Kow-tsëen of Yueh, and his argument from what they are said to have effected, only move us to smile. And when he teaches that men are to be awed to love one another “by punishments and fines,” we feel that he is not understanding fully what he says nor whereof he affirms.
Still, he has broadly and distinctly laid it down, that if men would only universally love one another, the evils which disturb and embitter human society would disappear. I do not say that he has taught the duty of universal love. His argument is conducted on the ground of expediency. Whether he had in his own mind a truer, nobler foundation for his principle, does not immediately appear. Be that as it may, his doctrine was that men were to be exhorted to love one another,—to love one another as themselves. According to him, “princes should be as much for the States of others as for their own. One prince should be for every other as for himself.” So it ought to be also with the heads of clans, with ministers, with parents, and with men generally.
Here it was that Mencius joined issue with him. He affirmed that “to love all equally did not acknowledge the peculiar affection due to a parent.” It is to be observed that Mih himself nowhere says that his principle was that of loving all equally. His disciples drew this conclusion from it. In the third Book of Mencius’ Works, we find one of them, E Che, contending that the expression in the Shoo-king, about the ancient kings acting towards the people “as if they were watching over an infant,” sounded to him as if love were to be without difference of degree, the manifestation of it simply commencing with our parents. To this Mencius replied conclusively by asking, “Does E really think that a man’s affection for the child of his brother is merely like his affection for the child of his neighbour?” With still more force might he have asked, “Is a man’s affection for his father merely like his affection for the father of his neighbour?” Such a question, and the necessary reply to it, are implied in his condemnation of Mih’s system, as being “without father,” that is, denying the peculiar affection due to a father. If Mih had really maintained that a man’s father was to be no more to him than the father of any other body, or if his system had necessitated such a consequence, Mencius would only have done his duty to his country in denouncing him, and exposing the fallacy of his reasonings. As the case is, he would have done better if he had shown that no such conclusion necessarily flows from the doctrine of Universal Love, or its preceptive form that we are to love our neighbour as ourselves.
Of course it belonged to Mih himself to defend his views from the imputation. But what he has said on the point is not satisfactory. In reply to the charge that his principle was injurious to filial piety, he endeavoured to show, that, by acting on it, a man would best secure the happiness of his parents:—as he addressed himself in the first place to love, and do good to, the parents of others, they would recompense to him the love of, and good-doing to, his parents. It might be so, or it might not. The reply exhibits strikingly in what manner Mih was conducted to the inculcation of “universal love,” and that really it had in his mind no deeper basis than its expediency. This is his weak point; and if Mencius, whose view of the constitution of human nature, and the obligation of the virtues, apart from all consideration of consequences, was more comprehensive and correct than that of Mih, had founded his opposition on this ground, we could in a measure have sympathized with him. But while Mih appeared to lose sight of the other sentiments of the human mind too much, in his exclusive contemplation of the power of love, he did not doubt but his principle would make sons more filial, and ministers more devoted, and subjects more loyal. The passage which I have just referred to, moreover, does not contain the admission that the love was to be without any difference of degree. The fact is, that he hardly seems to have realized the objection with which Mencius afterwards pressed the advocacy of his principle by his followers. If he did do so, he blinked the difficulty, not seeing his way to give a full and precise reply to it.
This seems to be the exact state of the case between the two philosophers.—Mih stumbled on a truth, which, based on a right foundation, is one of the noblest that can animate the human breast, and affords the surest remedy for the ills of society. There is that in it, however, which is startling, and liable to misrepresentation and abuse. Mencius saw the difficulty attaching to it, and unable to sympathize with the generosity of it, set himself to meet it with a most vehement opposition. Nothing, certainly, could be more absurd than his classing Yang Choo and Mih Teih together, as equally the enemies of benevolence and righteousness. When he tries to ridicule Mih, and talks contemptuously about him, how, if he could have benefited the kingdom, by toiling till he had rubbed off every hair of his body, he would have done it,—this only raises up a barrier between himself and us. It reminds us of the hardness of nature which I have elsewhere charged against him.
3. Confucius, I think, might have dealt more fairly and generously with Mih. In writing of him, I called attention to his repeated enunciation of “the golden rule” in a negative form,—“What you do not wish done to yourself, do not do to others.”1 In one place, indeed, he rises for a moment to the full apprehension of it, and recognizes the duty of taking the initiative,—of behaving to others in the first instance as he would that they should behave to him.2 Now, what is this but the practical exercise of the principle of universal love? “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them:”—this is simply the manifestation of the requirement, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Confucius might have conceded, therefore, to Mih, that the rule of conduct which he laid down was the very best that could be propounded. If he had gone on to remove it from the basis of expediency, and place it on a better foundation, he would have done the greatest service to his countrymen, and entitled himself to a place among the sages of the world.
On this matter I am happy to find myself in agreement with the “prince of literature,” Han Yu. “Our literati,” says he, “find fault with Mih because of what he has said on ‘The Estimation to be attached to Concord,’3 on ‘Universal Love,’ on ‘The Estimation to be given to Men of Worth,’ on ‘The Acknowledging of Spiritual Beings,’4 and on ‘Confucius’ being in awe of great men, and, when he resided in any State, not blaming its great officers.’1 But when the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw finds fault with assuming ministers, is not this attaching a similar value to concord? When Confucius speaks of ‘overflowing in love to all, and cultivating the friendship of the good,’ and of how ‘the extensive conferring of benefits constitutes a sage,’ does he not teach universal love? When he advises ‘the esteem of the worthy;’ when he arranged his disciples into ‘the four classes,’ so stimulating and commending them; when he says that ‘the superior man dislikes the thought of his name not being mentioned after death:’—does not this show the estimation he gave to men of worth? When ‘he sacrificed as if the spiritual Beings were present,’ and condemned ‘those who sacrificed as if they were not really sacrificing,’ when he said, ‘When I sacrifice, I shall receive blessing:’—was not this acknowledging spiritual Beings? The literati and Mih equally approve of Yaou and Shun, and equally condemn Keeh and Chow; they equally teach the cultivation of the person, and the rectifying of the heart, reaching on to the good government of the kingdom, with all its States and families:—why should they be so hostile to each other? In my opinion, the discussions which we hear are the work of their followers, vaunting on each side the sayings of their Teacher; there is no such contrariety between the real doctrines of the two Teachers. Confucius would have used Mih; and Mih would have used Confucius. If they would not have used each other, they could not have been K‘ung and Mih.”
4. It seems proper, in closing this discussion of Mih’s views, to notice the manner in which the subject of “universal love” appears in Christianity. Its whole law is comprehended in the one word—Love; but how wide is the scope of the term compared with all which it ever entered into the mind of Chinese sage or philosopher to conceive!
It is most authoritative where the teachers of China are altogether silent, and commands:—“Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind.” For the Divine Being Christianity thus demands from all men supreme love;—the love of all that is majestic, awing the soul; the love of all that is beautiful, wooing the heart; the love of all that is good, possessing and mastering the entire nature. Such a love, existing, would necessitate obedience to every law, natural or revealed. Christianity, however, goes on to specify the duties which every man owes, as the complement of love to God, to his fellow-men:—“Owe no man anything, but to love one another, for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this—‘Thou shalt not commit adultery,’ ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ ‘Thou shalt not steal,’ ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness,’ ‘Thou shalt not covet;’ and if there be any other commandment:—the whole is briefly comprehended in this saying, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.’ ” This commandment is “like to” the other, only differing from it in not requiring the supreme love which is due to God alone. The rule which it prescribes,—such love to others as we feel for ourselves,—is much more definitely and intelligibly expressed than anything we find in Mih, and is not liable to the cavils with which his doctrine was assailed. Such a love to men, existing, would necessitate the performance of every relative and social duty; we could not help doing to others as we would that they should do to us.
Mih’s universal love was to find its scope and consummation in the good government of China. He had not the idea of man as man, any more than Confucius or Mencius. How can that idea be fully realized, indeed, where there is not the right knowledge of one living and true God, the creator and common parent of all? The love which Christianity inculcates is a law of humanity; paramount to all selfish, personal feelings; paramount to all relative, local, national attachments; paramount to all distinctions of race or of religion. Apprehended in the spirit of Christ, it will go forth even to the love of enemies; it will energize in a determination to be always increasing the sum of others’ happiness, limited only by the means of doing so.
But I stop. These prolegomena are the place for disquisition; but I deemed it right to say thus much here of that true, universal love, which at once gives glory to God and effects peace on earth.
[1 ] See Vol. I., Proleg., pp. 4, 5.
[1 ] See his great work, Bk clxxxiv., upon Mencius.
[1 ] See the same work, Bk clxxiv. pp. 9, 10.
[1 ] In the “Books of the Suy dynasty” (ad 589—617), Bk xxxix., we find that there were then in the national Repositories three Works on Mencius,—Chaou K‘e’s, one by Ch‘ing Heuen, and one by Lëw He also a scholar of Han, but probably not earlier than Chaou K‘e. The same Works were existing under the T‘ang dynasty (624—907);—see the “Books of T‘ang,” Bk. xlix. By the rise of the Sung dynasty (ad 975), however, the two last were both lost. The entries in the Records of Suy and T‘ang would seem to prove that Ch‘ing Heuen had written on Mencius, but in the sketches of his life which I have consulted,—and that in the “Books of the After Han dynasty” must be the basis of all the rest,—there is no mention made of his having done so.
[1 ] It was to mount Ke that two ancient worthies are said to have withdrawn, when Yaou wished to promote them to honour.
[2 ] These are the well-known E Yin and T‘ae-kung Wang, ancestor of the lords of Ts‘e.
[1 ] See Vol. I., Proleg., p. 21.
[1 ] See Vol. I., Proleg., larger Work, p. 132.
[2 ] Mencius, VII. Pt II. iii.
[3 ] This is the language of Chaou K‘e.
[1 ] See Vol. I., Proleg., larger Work, p. 132.
[1 ] The name and the account I take from the “Supplemental Observations on the Four Books,” Art. I. on Mencius. Chih, I apprehend, is a misprint for Che, the individual referred to being probably Ch‘in Foo-lëang, a great scholar and officer of the 12th century, known also by the designations of Keun-keu and Che-chae.
[2 ] This eulogy of Han Yu is to be found subjoined to the brief introduction in the common editions of Mencius. The whole of the passage there quoted is:—“Yaou handed [the scheme of doctrine] down to Shun: Shun handed it to Yu; Yu to T‘ang; T‘ang to Wăn, Woo, and the Duke of Chow; Wăn, Woo, and the Duke of Chow to Confucius; and Confucius to Mencius, on whose death there was no farther transmission of it. In Seun and Yang there are snatches of it, but without a nice discrimination: they talk about it, but without a definite particularity.”
[1 ] The three attempts are—one by the author of “Supplemental Observations on the Four Books,” an outline of which is given in his Notes on Mencius, Art. III.; one by the author of the “Topography of the Four Books,” and forming the 24th section of the “Explanations of the Classics under the Ts‘ing dynasty;” and one prefixed to the Works of Mencius, in “The Four Books, with the Relish of the Radical Meaning” (Vol. I., Proleg., larger Work, p. 131). These three critics display much ingenuity and research, but their conclusions are conflicting.—I may be pardoned in saying that then learned labours have affected me just as those of the Harmonizers of the Gospel Narratives used to do in former years,—bewildering more than edifying. Most cordially do I agree with Dean Alford (New Testament, Vol. I., Proleg., I. vii. 5):—“If (? since) the Evangelists have delivered to us truly and faithfully the Apostolic Narratives, and if (? since) the Apostles spoke as the Holy Spirit enabled them, and brought events and sayings to their recollection, then we may be sure that, if we knew the real process of the transactions themselves, that knowledge would enable us to give an account of the diversities of narration and arrangement which the Gospels now present to us. But without such knowledge, all attempts to accomplish this analysis in minute detail must be merely conjectural, and must tend to weaken the Evangelic testimony rather than to strengthen it.”
[1 ] Yen Joh-keu and Ts‘aou Che-shing stoutly maintain the different sides of this question, the latter giving five arguments to show that the Tsow of Mencius was the Tsow of Loo. As Mencius went from Ts‘e on the death of his mother to bury her in Loo (Bk II. Pt II. vii.), this appears to prove that he was a native of that State. But the conclusion is not necessary. Loo was the ancestral State of his family, and on that account he might wish to inter his parent there, according to the custom of the Chow dynasty (see the Le Ke, Bk II. Pt I. i. 26). The way in which Tsow always appears as the residence of Mencius, when he is what we should say “at home,” appears to me decisive of the question, though neither of the disputants presses it into his service. Compare Bk III. Pt I. ii.; Bk VI. Pt II. i. and v. The point is really of no importance, for the States of Tsow and Loo adjoined. “The rattle of the watchman in the one was heard in the other.”
[2 ] The legend writers are more precise, and say that Mencius was only three years old when his father died. This statement, and K‘e’s as well, are difficult to reconcile with what we read in Bk I. Pt II. xvi., about the style in which Mencius buried his parents. If we accept the legend, we are reduced there to great straits.
[1 ] See Choo He’s “Education for the Young,” at the commencement of the chapter on “Instruction,” which begins with the educational duties of the mother, while the child is yet unborn.
[1 ] See Book IV. Pt II. xxii.
[1 ] Bk III. Pt II. ii.
[2 ] Bk I. Pt II. iv. 6.
[1 ] Bk VI. Pt II. vii. 1, 4.
[2 ] Book III. Pt II. ix. 9.
[3 ] In the “Annals of the Empire” (Vol. I., Proleg., larger Work, p. 134), Mencius’ visit to king Hwuy of Lëang is set down as having occurred in bc 335, and under bc 318 it is said—“Mencius goes from Leang to Ts‘e.” The visit to Lëang is placed too early, and that to Ts‘e too late. The disasters of king Hwuy, mentioned Bk I. Pt I. v. 1, had not all taken place in bc 318, and if Mencius remained 17 years in Leang, it is strange we have only five conversations between him and king Hwuy. So far from his not going to Ts‘e till bc 318, it will be seen from the next note that he was leaving Ts‘e before bc 323.
[4 ] Mencius’ words are—“From the commencement of the Chow dynasty till now more than 700 years have elapsed.” It was to the purpose of his argument to make the time appear as long as possible. Had 800 years elapsed, he would surely have said so. But as the Chow dynasty commenced in bc 1121, the year bc 322 would be its 800th anniversary, and Mencius’ departure from Ts‘e did not take place later that the year before bc 323.
[1 ] This chapter and the one before it have very much the appearance of having taken place on the way from Tsow to Ts‘e. Mencius has been invited to a powerful court. He is emerging from his obscurity. His disciples expect great things for him. Kung-sun Ch‘ow sees him invested with the government of Ts‘e, and in the elation of his heart makes his inquiries.
[2 ] Bk IV. Pt II. xxxii.
[3 ] Bk II. Pt II. xiv.
[1 ] Bk VI. Pt II. v.
[2 ] Bk I. Pt I. vii.
[3 ] I judge that this was the first set conversation between king Seuen and Mencius, because of the inquiry with which the king opens it,—“May I be informed by you of the transactions of Hwan of Ts‘e, and Wăn of Tsin?” A very brief acquaintance with our philosopher would have taught him that he was the last person to apply to about those characters.
[4 ] Bk I. Pt II. i. iii. v.; et al.
[1 ] Bk II. Pt II. ii.
[2 ] Bk II. Pt II. x. I consider that this chapter, and others here referred to, belong to Mencius’ first departure from Ts‘e. I do so because we can hardly suppose that the king and his officers would not have understood him better by the end of his second residence. Moreover, while Mencius retires, his language in x. 2 and xi. 5, 6 is of such a nature that it leaves an opening for him to return again.
[1 ] Bk II. Pt II. xii.
[2 ] This is gathered from Bk III. Pt I. i. 1, where the crown-prince of T‘ăng visits Mencius, and from Bk II. Pt II. iii., where his accepting a gift in Sung appears to have been subsequent to his refusing one in Ts‘e.
[1 ] Bk II. Pt II. iii.
[2 ] Bk III. Pt I. ii. The note of time which is relied on as enabling us to follow Mencius here is the intimation, Bk I. Pt II. xiv., that “Ts‘e was about to fortity Seeh.” This is referred to bc 320, when king Seuen appointed his brother T‘ëen Ying over the dependency of Seeh, and took measures to fortify it.
[1 ] Bk III. Pt I. iii.
[2 ] Bk I. Pt II. xiii. xiv. xv.
[3 ] Confucian Analects XIII. x.
[4 ] Bk II. Pt I. i. 13.
[1 ] There are various difficulties about the reign of king Hwuy of Lëang. Sze-ma Ts‘een makes it commence in 369 and terminate in 334. He is then succeeded by Seang whose reign ends in 318; and he is followed by Gae till 295. What are called “The Bamboo Books” extend Hwuy’s reign to bc 318, and the next 20 years are assigned to king Gae. “The Annals of the Empire” (which are compiled from “The General Mirror of History”) follow the Bamboo Books in the length of king Hwuy’s reign, but make him followed by Sëang: and take no note of a king Gae.—From Mencius we may be assured that Hwuy was succeeded by Sëang, and the view of his Life, which I have followed in this sketch, leads to the longer period assigned to his reign.
[1 ] Bk 1. Pt I. vi.
[2 ] This conclusion is adopted because it was in 311 that Yen rebelled, when the king said that he was very much ashamed when he thought of Mencius, who had strongly condemned his policy towards the State of Yen.—This is another case in which the chronology is differently laid down by the authorities, Sze-ma Ts‘een saying that Yen was taken by king Min the son and successor of Seuen.
[1 ] Bk IV. Pt II. xxvii.
[2 ] Bk II. Pt II. v.
[1 ] Bk III. Pt I. v. 2.
[2 ] Bk II. Pt II. vii.
[3 ] Bk I. Pt II. xvi.
[4 ] Some are of opinion that Mencius stopped all the period of mourning in Loo, but the more natural conclusion, Bk II. Pt II. vii. 1, seems to me that he returned to Ts‘e, and stayed at Ying, without going to court.
[5 ] Bk II. Pt II. viii.
[1 ] Bk VII. Pt II. ii.
[2 ] Bk II. Pt I. v.
[3 ] Bk I. Pt II. x.
[4 ] Bk I. Pt II. xi.
[1 ] See Bk III. Pt II. v. vi.
[2 ] Bk VI. Pt II. xiii.
[3 ] Bk IV. Pt I. xxv.
[4 ] Bk VII. Pt II. xxv.
[5 ] Bk VI. Pt II. xiii.
[1 ] Bk I. Pt II. xvi.
[2 ] Bk III. Pt II. xiv.
[1 ] See Morrison’s Dictionary, on Mencius.
[1 ]ad 1068—1085.
[2 ]ad 1330—1333.
[3 ] Bk IV. Pt II. iii.
[1 ] I have taken this account from “The Sacrificial Canon of the Sage’s Temples” (Vol. I. Proleg. p. 103). Dr. Morrison in his Dictionary, under the character Măng, adds that the change in the emperor’s mind was produced by his reading the remarkable passage in Bk VI. Pt II. xv., about trials and hardships as the way by which Heaven prepares men for great services. He thought it was descriptive of himself, and that he could argue from it a good title to the crown;—and so he was mollified to the philosopher. It may be worth while to give here the concluding remarks in “The Paraphrase for Daily Lessons, Explaining the Meaning of the Four Books” (Vol. I. Proleg. of larger Work, p. 131), on the chapter of Mencius which was deemed by the imperial reader so objectionable:—“Mencius wished that sovereigns should treat their ministers according to propriety, and nourish them with kindness, and therefore he used these perilous words in order to alarm and rouse them. As to the other side, the part of ministers, though the sovereign regaid them as his hands and feet, they ought notwithstanding to discharge most earnestly their duties of loyalty and love. Yea, though he regard them as dogs and horses, or as the ground and grass, they ought still more to perform their part in spite of all difficulties, and oblivious of their person. They may on no account make the manner in which they are regarded, whether it be of appreciation or contempt, the standard by which they regulate the measure of their grateful service. The words of Confucius, that the ruler should behave to his ministers according to propriety, and the ministers serve their sovereign with faithfulness, contain the unchanging rule for all ages” The authors of the Daily Lessons did their work by imperial order, and evidently had the fear of the court before their eyes. Their language implies a censure of our philosopher. There will ever be a grudge against him in the minds of despots, and their creatures will be ready to depreciate him.
[1 ] Bk II. Pt I. ii. 18, 19.
[2 ] Bk III. Pt II. ix. 10.
[3 ]Ib., par. 13.
[4 ] See above.
[5 ] Died ad 18.
[6 ] See Vol. I., Proleg., p. 24.
[1 ] This is probably the original of what appears in the “Memoires concernant les Chinois,” in the notice of Mencius, vol. iii., and which Thornton (vol. ii., pp. 216, 217) has faithfully translated therefrom in the following terms:—“Confucius, through prudence or modesty, often dissimulated; he did not always say what he might have said: Măng-tsze, on the contrary, was incapable of constraining himself; he spoke what he thought, and without the least fear or reserve. He resembles ice of the purest water, through which we can see all its defects as well as its beauties: Confucius, on the other hand, is like a precious gem, which though not so pellucid as ice, has more strength and solidity.” The former of these sentences is quite alien from the style of Chinese thinking and expression.
[2 ] One of the great scholars of the Sung dynasty, a friend of the two Ch‘ing. He has a place in the temples of Confucius.
[1 ] Also one of China’s greatest scholars. He has now a place in the temples of Confucius.
[1 ] Bk VII. Pt II. xiv.
[2 ] Bk I. Pt II. viii.
[3 ] Bk I. Pt II. iii. 7.
[1 ] Bk V. Pt I. v.
[2 ] Bk V. Pt II. ix.
[3 ] Bk VII. Pt I. xxxi.
[1 ] Bk II. Pt I. v.
[2 ] “Raise righteous soldiers;”—this is the profession of all rebel leaders in China.
[3 ] Bk I. Pt II. iii. 7.
[1 ] Bk III. Pt I. ii. 4.
[2 ] Bk IV. Pt I. xx.
[3 ] Bk I. Pt I. vi.
[4 ] Bk IV. Pt II. xvi.
[1 ] Bk IV. Pt I. ix.
[2 ] Con. Ana., XIII. ix.
[3 ] Bk VII. Pt I. xxiii.
[4 ] Bk VI. Pt I. vii.
[1 ] Bk I. Pt I. vii. 20, 21; Bk III. Pt I. iii. 3.
[2 ] Bk III. Pt I. iii.; Bk I. Pt II. iv.; Bk II. Pt I. v.: et al.
[3 ] Bk III. Pt I. iii. 10.
[4 ] Its views are now, in 1874, very different.
[1 ] Bk III. Pt iv.
[1 ] The Chinese, vol. ii. p. 56.
[2 ] See Bk V. Pt II. iii. vii.: et al.
[1 ] Bk VII. Pt II. xxxiv. This passage was written on the pillars of a hall in College street, East, where the gospel was first preached publicly in their own tongue to the people of Canton, in February, 1858.
[1 ] Bk VI. Pt II. xv. 1.
[2 ] Bk V. Pt I. vii. 2, 3.
[3 ] Bk III. Pt II. iv.
[1 ] Bk VII. Pt I. xxxii.
[1 ] Bk V. Pt II. iv.
[1 ] Ana., VI. xvii.
[2 ] Bk VI. Pt I. vi. 8; viii. 4.
[3 ] See the annotations of the editor of Yang-tsze’s works in the “Complete Works of the Ten Tsze.”
[1 ] Bk VI. Pt I. vi. 1—4.
[2 ] Wardlaw’s Christian Ethics, edition of 1833, p. 119.
[3 ] Bk VI. Pt I. iii.
[1 ] Bk VI. Pt I. i. ii.
[1 ] Bk VI. Pt I. vi. 5, 6.
[2 ] Bk VI. Pt I. vi. 7.
[3 ] Bk II. Pt I. vi. 3, 4, 5, 6.
[1 ] I am indebted to Butler for fully understanding Mencius’ fourth feeling, that of approving and disapproving, which he calls “the principle of knowledge,” or wisdom. In the notes on II. Pt I. vi. 5, I have said that he gives to this term “a moral sense.” It is the same with Butler’s principle of reflection, by which men distinguish between, and approve or disapprove, their own actions.—I have heard gentlemen speak contemptuously of Mencius’ case in point, to prove the existence of a feeling of benevolence in man. “This,” they have said, “is Mencius’ idea of virtue, to save a child from falling into a well. A mighty display of virtue, truly!” Such language arises from misconceiving Mencius’ object in putting the case. “If there be,” says Butler, “any affection in human nature, the object and end of which is the good of another, this is itself benevolence. Be it ever so short, be it in ever so low a degree, or ever so unhappily confined, it proves the assertion and points out what we were designed for, as really as though it were in a higher degree and more extensive.” “It is sufficient that the seeds of it be implanted in our nature.” The illustration from a child falling into a well must be pronounced a happy one. How much lower Mencius could go may be seen from his conversation with king Seuen, Bk I. Pt I. vii., whom he leads to a consciousness of his commiserating mind from the fact that he had not been able to bear the frightened appearance of a bull which was being led by to be killed, and ordered it to be spared. The kindly heart that was moved by the suffering of an animal had only to be carried out, to suffice for the love and protection of all within the four seas.
[2 ] Bk II. Pt I. vi. 6.
[3 ] Bk VI. Pt I. vi. 7.
[1 ] See Sermon Second.
[1 ] See note to Sermon Third.
[2 ] Bk VI. Pt I. xiv.
[3 ]Ib., ch. xv.
[4 ]Ib., ch. xvi.
[1 ] Bk VII. Pt II. xxiv.
[2 ] Bk II. Pt I. ii. 9.
[3 ] Encyclopædia Britannica, Second Preliminary Dissertation; on Butler.
[1 ] Bk VII. Pt II. xvi.
[2 ] Bk III. Pt II. ii. 3.
[1 ] Bk VI. Pt I. ix.
[2 ]Ib. ch. vii.
[1 ] Bk VI. Pt I. xii. 7, 8.
[2 ] Bk VI. Pt I. ch. viii. 1, 2.
[1 ] Bk VI. Pt I. ch. vii. 3.
[2 ]Ib. Pt II. ii. 1, 4, 5.
[3 ] Bk VII. Pt I. xxx. 1; Pt II. xxxiii. 1.
[4 ] Bk IV. Pt I. ii. 1.
[1 ] Con. Ana., II. iv. 6.
[1 ] Bk VI. Pt I. xi. 4.
[2 ] Bk IV. Pt II. xii.
[1 ] The Analogy of Religion; Part II. chap. I.
[1 ] Bk IV. Pt I. x.
[1 ] First Sermon Upon the Love of God.
[2 ] Bk I. Pt II. ii. 3.
[3 ] Bk IV. Pt I. xxvii. My friend, the Rev. Mr Moule, of Ningpo, has supplied me with the following interesting coincidence with the sentiments of Mencius in this passage, from one of the letters of Charles Lamb to Coleridge, dated Nov. 14th, 1796:—“Oh, my friend, cultivate the filial feelings; and let no one think himself relieved from the kind charities of relationship; these shall give him peace at the last; these are the best foundation for every species of benevolence.”
[1 ] Bk II. Pt I. ii. 13—15.
[2 ] Bk II. Pt I. ii. 16.
[1 ] Bk VI. Pt II. xv.
[1 ] Bk III. Pt I. iv. 12, 15.
[1 ] Bk III. Pt II. ix. 9, 10.
[1 ] Bk III. Pt I. v.
[2 ] In the phrase for this the former character represents a hand grasping two stalks of grain, so the phrase denotes, “a love that grasps or unites many in its embrace.” I do not know how to render it better than by “universal love.” Mencius and the literati generally find the idea of equality in it also, and it is with them—“To love all equally.”
[1 ] There are evidently some omissions and confusion here in the Chinese text.
[1 ] Vol. I., Proleg., p. 111.
[2 ] See Proleg. on the Doctrine of the Mean, p. 48.
[3 ] This is the title of one of Mih’s Essays,—forming the third Book of his Works. Generalizing after his fashion, he traces all evils up to a want of concord, or agreement of opinion; and goes on to assert that the sovereign must be recognized as the “Infallible Head,” to lay down the rule of truth and right, saying. “What the sovereign approves, all must approve; what the sovereign condemns, all must condemn.” It is an unguarded utterance; and taken absolutely, apart from its connexion, may be represented very much to Mih’s disadvantage. See “Supplemental Observations on the Four Books,” on Mencius, Book 1. art. lix. The coincidence between this saying and the language of Hobbes is remarkable,—“Quod legislator præceperit, id pro bono, quod vetuerit, id pro malo habendum esse.” (De Cive, cap. xii. 1.)
[4 ] This is found in the 8th Book of Mih. The first and second parts of the essay, however, are unfortunately lost. In the third he tells several queer ghost stories, and adduces other proofs, to show the real existence of spiritual Beings, and that they take account of men’s actions to reward or to punish them. He found another panacea for the ills of the kingdom in this truth. His doctrine here, however, is held to be inconsistent with Confucius’ reply to Fan Ch‘e, Ana. VI. xx., that wisdom consists in respecting spiritual Beings, but at the same time keeping aloof from them. As between Confucius and Mih, on this point we would agree rather with the latter. He holds an important truth, mingled with superstition; the sage is sceptical.
[1 ] Han avoids saying anything on this point.