Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECTION II.: THE OPINIONS OF MIH TEIH. - The Chinese Classics: Vol. 2 The Life and Teachings of Mencius
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
SECTION II.: THE OPINIONS OF MIH TEIH. - 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
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
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.
THE WORKS OF MENCIUS.*
[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.
[* ] The title of the Work in Chinese is simply Măng-tsze, or “The Philosopher Măng,” thus simply bearing the name, or surname rather, of him whose conversations and opinions it relates, and which, it is said, were compiled in their present form by himself. He is always called Măng-tsze, or Mencius, throughout the work, and not “the Master,” which epithet is confined to Confucius. See on the Analects, I. i. See also the sketch of Mencius’ life in the Prolegomena.
[** ] The title of this Book in Chinese is—“King Hwuy of Lëang: in chapters and sentences. Parts I. and II.” Like the Books of the Confucian Analects, those of this work are headed by two or three words at or near the commencement of them. Each Book is divided into two parts. This arrangement was made by Chaou K‘e, who has been spoken of in the Prolegomena, and to him are due also the divisions into chapters, and sentences or paragraphs contaming, it may be, many sentences.