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Mencius. Book II: Kung-sun Ch'âu. Part II. Chapter II.

Legge's summary: How Mencius considered that it was slighting him for a prince to call him by messengers to go to see him, and the shifts he was put to to get this understood.

1. As Mencius was about to go to court to see the king, the king sent a person to him with this message,-- 'I was wishing to come and see you. But I have got a cold, and may not expose myself to the wind. In the morning I will hold my court. I do not know whether you will give me the opportunity of seeing you then.' Mencius replied, 'Unfortunately, I am unwell, and not able to go to the court.'

2. Next day, he went out to pay a visit of condolence to some one of the Tung-kwoh family, when Kung-sun Ch'âu said to him, 'Yesterday, you declined going to the court on the ground of being unwell, and to-day you are going to pay a visit of condolence. May this not be regarded as improper?' 'Yesterday,' said Mencius, 'I was unwell; to-day, I am better:-- why should I not pay this visit?'

3. In the mean time, the king sent a messenger to inquire about his sickness, and also a physician. Mang Chung replied to them, 'Yesterday, when the king's order came, he was feeling a little unwell, and could not go to the court. To-day he was a little better, and hastened to go to court. I do not know whether he can have reached it by this time or not.' Having said this, he sent several men to look for Mencius on the way, and say to him, 'I beg that, before you return home, you will go to the court.'

4. On this, Mencius felt himself compelled to go to Ching Ch'âu's, and there stop the night. Mr. Ching said to him, 'In the family, there is the relation of father and son; abroad, there is the relation of prince and minister. These are the two great relations among men. Between father and son the ruling principle is kindness. Between prince and minister the ruling principle is respect. I have seen the respect of the king to you, Sir, but I have not seen in what way you show respect to him.' Mencius replied, 'Oh! what words are these? Among the people of Ch'î there is no one who speaks to the king about benevolence and righteousness. Are they thus silent because they do not think that benevolence and righteousness are admirable? No, but in their hearts they say, "This man is not fit to be spoken with about benevolence and righteousness." Thus they manifest a disrespect than which there can be none greater. I do not dare to set forth before the king any but the ways of Yâo and Shun. There is therefore no man of Ch'î who respects the king so much as I do.'

5. Mr. Ching said, 'Not so. That was not what I meant. In the Book of Rites it is said, "When a father calls, the answer must be without a moment's hesitation. When the prince's order calls, the carriage must not be waited for." You were certainly going to the court, but when you heard the king's order, then you did not carry your purpose out. This does seem as if it were not in accordance with that rule of propriety.'

6. Mencius answered him, 'How can you give that meaning to my conduct? The philosopher Tsang said, "The wealth of Tsin and Ch'û cannot be equalled. Let their rulers have their wealth:-- I have my benevolence. Let them have their nobility:-- I have my righteousness. Wherein should I be dissatisfied as inferior to them?" Now shall we say that these sentiments are not right? Seeing that the philosopher Tsang spoke them, there is in them, I apprehend, a real principle.-- In the kingdom there are three things universally acknowledged to be honourable. Nobility is one of them; age is one of them; virtue is one of them. In courts, nobility holds the first place of the three; in villages, age holds the first place; and for helping one's generation and presiding over the people, the other two are not equal to virtue. How can the possession of only one of these be presumed on to despise one who possesses the other two?

7. 'Therefore a prince who is to accomplish great deeds will certainly have ministers whom he does not call to go to him. When he wishes to consult with them, 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.

8. 'Accordingly, there was the behaviour of T'ang to Î Yin:-- he first learned of him, and then employed him as his minister; and so without difficulty he became sovereign. There was the behaviour of the duke Hwan to Kwan Chung:-- he first learned of him, and then employed him as his minister; and so without difficulty he became chief of all the princes.

9. 'Now throughout the kingdom, the territories of the princes are of equal extent, and in their achievements they are on a level. Not one of them is able to exceed the others. This is from no other reason, but that they love to make ministers of those whom they teach, and do not love to make ministers of those by whom they might be taught.

10. 'So did T'ang behave to Î 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 he be called, who would not play the part of Kwan Chung!'


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Translated by James Legge, published in 1861 and revised for publication in 1895. Prepared as etext by Stephen R. McIntyre. Noded by schist. Please msg schist if you have suggestions for useful hard-links.

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