Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER I.: OF THE WORKS OF MENCIUS. - The Chinese Classics: Vol. 2 The Life and Teachings of Mencius
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CHAPTER I.: OF THE WORKS OF MENCIUS. - 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).
Part of: The Chinese Classics
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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Book of his “Historical Records,” there is a brief memoir of Mencius, where he says that the philosopher, having withdrawn into private life, “with his disciples, Wan Chang and others, prefaced the She and the Shoo, unfolded the views of Confucius, and made ‘The Works of Mencius,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.
[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.”