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Mencius : Chapter 17


1. Wan Chang asked Mencius, saying, 'When Shun went into the fields, he cried out and wept towards the pitying heavens. Why did he cry out and weep?' Mencius replied, 'He was dissatisfied, and full of earnest desire.'


2. Wan Chang said, 'When his parents love him, a son rejoices and forgets them not. When his parents hate him, though they punish him, he does not murmur. Was Shun then murmuring against his parents?' Mencius answered, 'Ch'ang Hs asked Kung-ming Ko, saying, "As to Shun's going into the fields, I have received your instructions, but I do not know about his weeping and crying out to the pitying heavens and to his parents." Kung-ming Ko answered him, "You do not understand that matter." Now, Kung-ming Ko supposed that the heart of the filial son could not be so free of sorrow. Shun would say, "I exert my strength to cultivate the fields, but I am thereby only discharging my office as a son. What can there be in me that my parents do not love me?"


3. 'The T caused his own children, nine sons and two daughters, the various officers, oxen and sheep, storehouses and granaries, all to be prepared, to serve Shun amid the channelled fields. Of the scholars of the kingdom there were multitudes who flocked to him. The sovereign designed that Shun should superintend the kingdom along with him, and then to transfer it to him entirely. But because his parents were not in accord with him, he felt like a poor man who has nowhere to turn to.


4. 'To be delighted in by all the scholars of the kingdom, is what men desire, but it was not sufficient to remove the sorrow of Shun. The possession of beauty is what men desire, and Shun had for his wives the two daughters of the T, but this was not sufficient to remove his sorrow. Riches are what men desire, and the kingdom was the rich property of Shun, but this was not sufficient to remove his sorrow. Honours are what men desire, and Shun had the dignity of being sovereign, but this was not sufficient to remove his sorrow. The reason why the being the object of men's delight, with the possession of beauty, riches, and honours were not sufficient to remove his sorrow, was that it could be removed only by his getting his parents to be in accord with him.


5. 'The desire of the child is towards his father and mother. When he becomes conscious of the attractions of beauty, his desire is towards young and beautiful women. When he comes to have a wife and children, his desire is towards them. When he obtains office, his desire is towards his sovereign:-- if he cannot get the regard of his sovereign, he burns within. But the man of great filial piety, to the end of his life, has his desire towards his parents. In the great Shun I see the case of one whose desire at fifty year's was towards them.'


1. Wan Chang asked Mencius, saying, 'It is said in the Book of Poetry, "In marrying a wife, how ought a man to proceed? He must inform his parents." If the rule be indeed as here expressed, no man ought to have illustrated it so well as Shun. How was it that Shun's marriage took place without his informing his parents?' Mencius replied, 'If he had informed them, he would not have been able to marry. That male and female should dwell together, is the greatest of human relations. If Shun had informed his parents, he must have made void this greatest of human relations, thereby incurring their resentment. On this account, he did not inform them!


2. Wan Chang said, 'As to Shun's marrying without informing his parents, I have heard your instructions; but how was it that the T Yo gave him his daughters as wives without informing Shun's parents?' Mencius said, 'The T also knew that if he informed them, he could not marry his daughters to him.'


3. Wan Chang said, 'His parents set Shun to repair a granary, to which, the ladder having been removed, K-su set fire. They also made him dig a well. He got out, but they, not knowing that, proceeded to cover him up. Hsiang said, "Of the scheme to cover up the city-forming prince, the merit is all mine. Let my parents have his oxen and sheep. Let them have his storehouses and granaries. His shield and spear shall be mine. His lute shall be mine. His bow shall be mine. His two wives I shall make attend for me to my bed." Hsiang then went away into Shun's palace, and there was Shun on his couch playing on his lute. Hsiang said, "I am come simply because I was thinking anxiously about you." At the same time, he blushed deeply. Shun said to him, "There are all my officers:-- do you undertake the government of them for me." I do not know whether Shun was ignorant of Hsiang's wishing to kill him.' Mencius answered, 'How could he be ignorant of that? But when Hsiang was sorrowful, he was also sorrowful; when Hsiang was joyful, he was also joyful.'


4. Chang said, 'In that case, then, did not Shun rejoice hypocritically?' Mencius replied, 'No. Formerly, some one sent a present of a live fish to Tsze-ch'an of Chang. Tsze-ch'an ordered his pond-keeper to keep it in the pond, but that officer cooked it, and reported the execution of his commission, saying, "When I first let it go, it embarrassed. In a little while, it seemed to be somewhat at ease, then it swam away joyfully." Tsze-ch'an observed, "It had got into its element! It had got into its element!" The pond-keeper then went out and said, "Who calls Tsze-ch'an a wise man? After I had cooked and eaten the fish, he says, "It had got into its element! It had got into its element!" Thus a superior man may be imposed on by what seems to be as it ought to be, but he cannot be entrapped by what is contrary to right principle. Hsiang came in the way in which the love of his elder brother would have made him come; therefore Shun sincerely believed him, and rejoiced. What hypocrisy was there?'


1. Wan Chang said, 'Hsiang made it his daily business to slay Shun. When Shun was made sovereign, how was it that he only banished him?' Mencius said, 'He raised him to be a prince. Some supposed that it was banishing him?'


2. Wan Chang said, 'Shun banished the superintendent of works to Y-chu; he sent away Hwan-tu to the mountain Ch'ung; he slew the prince of San-mio in San-wei; and he imprisoned Kwn on the mountain Y. When the crimes of those four were thus punished, the whole kingdom acquiesced:-- it was a cutting off of men who were destitute of benevolence. But Hsiang was of all men the most destitute of benevolence, and Shun raised him to be the prince of Y-p;-- of what crimes had the people of Y-p been guilty? Does a benevolent man really act thus? In the case of other men, he cut them off; in the case of his brother, he raised him to be a prince.' Mencius replied, 'A benevolent man does not lay up anger, nor cherish resentment against his brother, but only regards him with affection and love. Regarding him with affection, he wishes him to be honourable: regarding him with love, he wishes him to be rich. The appointment of Hsiang to be the prince of Y-p was to enrich and ennoble him. If while Shun himself was sovereign, his brother had been a common man, could he have been said to regard him with affection and love?'


3. Wan Chang said, 'I venture to ask what you mean by saying that some supposed that it was a banishing of Hsiang?' Mencius replied, 'Hsiang could do nothing in his State. The Son of Heaven appointed an officer to administer its government, and to pay over its revenues to him. This treatment of him led to its being said that he was banished. How indeed could he be allowed the means of oppressing the people? Nevertheless, Shun wished to be continually seeing him, and by this arrangement, he came incessantly to court, as is signified in that expression-- "He did not wait for the rendering of tribute, or affairs of government, to receive the prince of Y-p.


1. Hsien-ch'i Mang asked Mencius, saying, 'There is the saying, "A scholar of complete virtue may not be employed as a minister by his sovereign, nor treated as a son by his father. Shun stood with his face to the south, and Yo, at the head of all the princes, appeared before him at court with his face to the north. K-su also did the same. When Shun saw K-su, his countenance became discomposed. Confucius said, At this time, in what a perilous condition was the kingdom! Its state was indeed unsettled."-- I do not know whether what is here said really took place.' Mencius replied, 'No. These are not the words of a superior man. They are the sayings of an uncultivated person of the east of Ch'. When Yo was old, Shun was associated with him in the government. It is said in the Canon of Yo, "After twenty and eight years, the Highly Meritorious one deceased. The people acted as if they were mourning for a father or mother for three years, and up to the borders of the four seas every sound of music was hushed." Confucius said, "There are not two suns in the sky, nor two sovereigns over the people." Shun having been sovereign, and, moreover, leading on all the princes to observe the three years' mourning for Yo, there would have been in this case two sovereigns.'


2. Hsien-ch'i Mang said, 'On the point of Shun's not treating Yo as a minister, I have received your instructions. But it is said in the Book of Poetry, Under the whole heaven, Every spot is the sovereign's ground; To the borders of the land, Every individual is the sovereign's minister;" -- and Shun had become sovereign. I venture to ask how it was that K-su was not one of his ministers.' Mencius answered, 'That ode is not to be understood in that way:-- it speaks of being laboriously engaged in the sovereign's business, so as not to be able to nourish one's parents, as if the author said, "This is all the sovereign's business, and how is it that I alone am supposed to have ability, and am made to toil in it?" Therefore, those who explain the odes, may not insist on one term so as to do violence to a sentence, nor on a sentence so as to do violence to the general scope. They must try with their thoughts to meet that scope, and then we shall apprehend it. If we simply take single sentences, there is that in the ode called "The Milky Way,"-- Of the black-haired people of the remnant of Chu, There is not half a one left." If it had been really as thus expressed, then not an individual of the people of Chu was left.


3. 'Of all which a filial son can attain to, there is nothing greater than his honouring his parents. And of what can be attained to in the honouring one's parents, there is nothing greater than the nourishing them with the whole kingdom. K-su was the father of the sovereign;-- this was the height of honour. Shun nourished him with the whole kingdom;-- this was the height of nourishing. In this was verified the sentiment in the Book of Poetry, "Ever cherishing filial thoughts, Those filial thoughts became an example to after ages."


4. 'It is said in the Book of History, "Reverently performing his duties, he waited on K-su, and was full of veneration and awe. K-su also believed him and conformed to virtue."-- This is the true case of the scholar of complete virtue not being treated as a son by his father.'

Mencius : Chapter 17

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