Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECTION IV.: INTEGRITY; AUTHORSHIP; AND RECEPTION AMONG THE CLASSICAL BOOKS. - The Chinese Classics: Vol. 2 The Life and Teachings of Mencius
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SECTION IV.: INTEGRITY; AUTHORSHIP; AND RECEPTION AMONG THE CLASSICAL BOOKS. - 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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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.
[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.”