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Mencius possessed talents and virtue, even those of a sage, he did not occupy the throne. He could only speak and not act. With all his earnestness, what could he do? It is owing, however, to his words, that learners now-a-days still know how to revere Confucius, to honour benevolence and righteousness, to esteem the true sovereign and despise the mere pretender. But the grand rules and laws of the sage and sage-sovereigns had been lost beyond the power of redemption; only one in a hundred of them was preserved. Can it be said in those circumstances that Mencius had an easy task? Yet had it not been for him, we should have been buttoning the lappets of our coats on the left side, and our discourse would have been all confused and indistinct;-it is on this account that I have honoured Mencius, and consider his merit not inferior to that of Yü.'
One asked the philosopher Ch'ăng1 whether Mencius might be pronounced to be a sage. He replied, 'I do not dare to say altogether that he was a sage, but his learning had reached the extremest point.' The same great scholar also said :-'The merit of Mencius in regard to the doctrine of the sages is more than can be told. Confucius only spoke of benevolence, but as soon as Mencius opens his mouth, we hear of benevolence and righteousness. Confucius only spoke of the will or mind, but Mencius enlarged also on the nourishment of the passion-nature. In these two respects his merit was great.' Mencius did great service to the world by his teaching the goodness of man's nature.' 'Mencius had a certain amount of the heroical spirit, and to that there always belong some jutting corners, the effect of which is very injurious. Yen Yüan, all round and complete, was different from this. He was but a hair's-breadth removed from a sage, while Mencius must be placed in a lower rank, a great worthy, an inferior sage.' Ch'ǎng was asked where what he called the heroical spirit of Mencius could be seen. 'We have only to compare his words with those of Confucius,' he said, 'and we shall perceive it. It is like the comparison of ice or crystal with a precious jade-stone. The ice is bright enough, but the precious stone, without so much brilliancy, has a softness and richness all its own. The scholar
2 This is probably the original of what appears in the 'Mémoires concernant les Chinois,' in the notice of Mencius, vol. iii, and which Thornton (vol. ii. pp. 216, 217) has faithfully translated therefrom in the following terms :-'Confucius, through prudence or modesty, often dissimulated; he did not always say what he might have said: Mäng-tsze, on the contrary, was incapable of constraining himself; he spoke what he thought, and without the
Yang' says 'The great object of Mencius in his writings is to rectify men's hearts, teaching them to preserve their heart and nourish their nature, and to recover their lost heart. When he discourses of benevolence, righteousness, propriety, and knowledge, he refers to the principles of these in the heart commiserating, feeling shame and dislike, affected with modesty and complaisance, approving and disapproving. When he speaks of the evils springing from perverted speakings, he says-"Growing first in the mind, they prove injurious to government." When he shows how a prince should be served, he says-" Correct what is wrong in his mind. Once rectify the prince, and the kingdom will be settled." With him the thousand changes and ten thousand operations of men all come from the mind or heart. If a man once rectify his heart, little else will remain for him to do. In "The Great Learning," the cultivation of the person, the regulation of the family, the government of the State, and the tranquillisation of the empire, all have their root in rectifying the heart and making the thoughts sincere. If the heart be rectified, we recognise at once the goodness of the nature. On this account, whenever Mencius came into contact with people, he testified that man's nature is good. When Au-yang Yung-shu' says, that in the lessons of the sages, man's nature does not occupy the first place, he is wrong. There is nothing to be put before this. Yao and Shun are the models for ten thousand ages simply because they followed their nature. And to follow our nature is just to accord with Heavenly principle. To use plans and arts, away from this, though they may be successful in great achievement, is the selfishness of human desires, and as far removed from the mode of action of the sage, as earth is from heaven.' I shall close these testimonies with a sentence from Chú Hst himself. He says:-Mencius, when compared with Confucius, always appears to speak in toc lofty a style; but when we hear him proclaiming the goodness of man's
least fear or reserve. He resembles ice of the purest water, through which we can see all its defects as well as its beauties: Confucius, on the other hand, is like a precious gem, which, though not so pellucid as ice, has more strength and solidity.' The former of these sentences is quite alien from the style of Chinese thinking and expression.
楊氏·This is 楊時, styled 中立, but more commonly referred to as
. He was one of the great scholars of the Sung dynasty, a friend of the two Chăng.
He has a place in the temples of Confucius. ·歐陽永叔. This was one of China's
greatest scholars. He has now a place in the temples of Confucius.
nature, and celebrating Yão and Shun, then we likewise perceive the solidity of his discourses1.'
the above testimonies.
cius's own pecuin his expositions
3. The judgment concerning our philosopher contained in the above qaotations will approve itself to every one who has carefully Correctness of perused his Works. The long passage from Yang Kwei-shan is especially valuable, and puts the principal characteristic of Mencius's teachings in a clear light. Whether those teachings have the intrinsic value which is ascribed to them is another question, which I will endeavour to discuss in the present section without prejudice. But Mencius's position with reference to the doctrines of the sages' is correctly assigned. We are not to look for new truths in him. And this does not lead his countrymen to think less highly of him. I ventured to lay it down as one grand cause of the position and influence of Confucius, that he was simply the preserver of the monuments of antiquity, and the exemplifier and expounder of the maxims of the golden age of China. In this Mencius must share with him.
But while we are not to look to Mencius for new truths, the peculiarities of his natural character were more striking than those of his master. There was an element of 'the heroical' about him. He was a dialectician, moreover. If he did not like disputing, as he protested that he did not, yet, when forced to it, he showed himself a master of the art. An ingenuity and subtlety, which we cannot but enjoy, often mark his reasonings. We have more sympathy with him than with Confucius. He comes closer to us. He is not so awe-ful, but he is more admirable. The doctrines of the sages take a tinge from his mind in passing through it, and it is with that Mencian character about them that they are now held by the cultivated classes and by readers generally.
I will now call attention to a few passages illustrative of these remarks. Some might prefer to search them out for themselves in the body of the volume, and I am far from intending to exhaust the subject. There will be many readers, however, pleased to have the means of forming an idea of the man for themselves brought within small compass. My next object will be to review his doctrine con cerning man's mental constitution and the nourishment of the passion-nature, in which he is said to have rendered special service
1 See 朱子全書, 卷二十
to the cause of truth. That done, I will conclude by pointing out what I conceive to be his chief defects as a moral and political teacher. To the opinions of Yang Chú and Mo, which he took credit to himself for assailing and exposing, it will be necessary to devote another chapter.
4. It was pointed out in treating of the opinions of Confucius, that he allowed no 'right divine' to a sovereign, independent of his exercising a benevolent rule. This was one of the
ions, and manner of advo. cating them.
Specimens of Mencius's opin- topics, however, of which he was shy. With Men cius, on the contrary, it was a favourite theme. The degeneracy of the times and the ardour of his disposition prompted him equally to the free expression of his convictions
'The people,' he said, 'are the most important element in a nation; the spirits of the land and grain are the next; the sovereign is the lightest. When a prince endangers the altars of the spirits of the land and grain, he is changed,
On govern. ment.-The people more impor
tant than the and another appointed in his place. When the sacrificial victims have been perfect, the millet in its vessels all pure, and the sacrifices offered at their proper seasons, if yet there ensue drought, or the waters overflow, the spirits of the land and grain are changed, and others appointed in their place'.'
dethroned or put to death.
'The people are the most important element in a nation, and the sovereign is the lightest ;'-that is certainly a bold and ringing An unworthy affirmation. Mencius was not afraid to follow it to Sovereign may be the conclusion that the sovereign who was exercising an injurious rule should be dethroned. His existence is not to be allowed to interfere with the general good. Killing in such a case is no murder. King Hsüan once asked, ' Was it so that T'ang banished Chieh, and that king Wû smote Châu?' Mencius replied, 'It is so in the records.' The king asked, ' May a minister then put his sovereign to death?' Our philosopher's reply was :'He who outrages the benevolence proper to his nature is called a robber; he who outrages righteousness is called a ruffian. The robber and ruffian we call a mere fellow. I have heard of the cutting off of the fellow Châu, but I have not heard in his case of the putting a sovereign to death","
With regard to the ground of the relation between ruler and
The ground of tween ruler and
people, Mencius refers it very clearly to the will of God. In one place he adapts for his own purpose the language of king Wa in the Shu-ching:- Heaven having produced the inferior people, appointed for them rulers and teachers, with the purpose that they should be assisting to God, and therefore distinguished them throughout the four quarters of the kingdom'.' But the question arises-How can this will of Heaven be known? Mencius has endeavoured to answer it. He says:'Heaven gives the throne, but its appointment is not conferred with specific injunctions. Heaven does not speak. It shows its will by a man's personal conduct and his conduct of affairs.' The conclusion of the whole matter is :-'Heaven sees according as the people see; Heaven hears according as the people hear??
It may not be easy to dispute these principles. I for one have no hesitation in admitting them. Their application, however, must An unworthy always be attended with difficulty. Here is a sovethroned by his reign who is the very reverse of a minister of God for good. He ought to be removed, but who is to remove him? Mencius teaches in one passage that the duty is to be performed by his relatives who are also ministers. The king Hsuan asked him about the office of chief ministers. Mencius said, 'Which chief ministers is your Majesty asking about?' 'Are there differences among them,' inquired the king. There are,' was the reply; 'there are the chief ministers who are noble and relatives of the prince, and there are those who are of a different surname.' The king said, I beg to ask about the chief ministers who are noble and relatives of the prince.' Mencius answered, 'If the prince have great faults, they ought to remonstrate with him, and if he do not listen to them after they have done so again and again, they ought to dethrone him.' The king on this looked moved, and changed countenance. Mencius said, 'Let not your Majesty be offended. You asked me, and I dare not answer but according to truth3.'
'Bk. I. Pt. II. iii. 7.
This plan for disposing of an unworthy sovereign has been acted on in China and in other countries. It is the best that can be
2 Bk. V. Pt. I. v.
Virtuous minis adopted to secure the throne in the ruling House. ters, and the minis- But where there are no relatives that have the dethrone a ruler. virtue and power to play such a part, what is to be done? Mencius has two ways of meeting this difficulty. Contrary
ter of Heaven, may
3 Bk. V. Pt. II. ix.