Hundred Schools‎ > ‎Lun Hêng‎ > ‎

35: CHAPTER XXXIV. Censures on Mencius



CHAPTER XXXIV. Censures on Mencius (T'se Meng). 


[When Mencius went to see King Hui of Liang, ^ the king said, 

" You have not counted it far to come here, a distance of a thousand 

Li, Sir. By what could you profit my kingdom? " — Mencius replied, 

" I have nothing but benevolence and justice. Why must Your 

Majesty speak of profit?"2] 


Now, there are two kinds of profit, the one consisting in 

wealth, the other in quiet happiness. King Hui asked, how he 

could profit his kingdom. How did Mencius know that he did not 

want the profit of quiet happiness, and straightway take exception 

to the profit by wealth? 


The Yiking says, " It will be advantageous to meet with 

the great man."3 "It will be advantageous to cross the great 

stream." 4 — " Chien represents what is great and originating, penetrating, advantageous, correct and firm." 5 And the Shuking remarks that the black-haired people still esteem profit.6 They all 

have the profit of quiet happiness in view. By practising benevolence and justice, one may obtain this profit. 


Mencius did not say that he inquired of King Hui, what he 

meant by profiting his kingdom. Had King Hui said: — " The profit 

of wealth," Mencius might have given him the proper answer. But 

though he did not know the purport of King Hui's question, 

Mencius at once replied about the profit of wealth. Had King Hui 

really inquired about it, Mencius adduced nothing in support of 

his view. If, on the other hand, he had asked about the profit 

of quiet happiness, and Mencius in his reply had spoken about the 




1 Mencius I, Pt. I, 1. For the quotations from Mencius I adopt Legge's renderings, as far as possible. 


2 This interview took place in 335 b.c. Liang was the capital of the Wei 

State, the modern K'ai-fêng-fu. 


3 Yiking Bk. I, I, 2. 


4 Yiking Bk. I, V, 1. 


5 Yiking Bk. 1, I, 1. Legge's translation (Sacred Books of the East Vol. XVI), 

p. 57 and 07. 


6 Shuking Pt. V, Bk. XXX, 6. 




Censures on Mencius. 419 


profit of wealth, he would have failed to give the prince the proper 

answer, and would not have acted in the proper way. 


[The king of Ch'i asked Shi Tse1 saying, " I wish to give 

Mencius a house, somewhere in the middle of the kingdom, and to 

support his disciples with an allowance of 10,000 chung,'2 that all 

the officers and the people may have such an example to reverence 

and imitate. Had you not better tell him this for me? " — Shi Tse 

conveyed this message to Mencius through Ch'ien Tse. 3 Mencius said, 

" How should Shi Tse know that this cannot be? Suppose that I 

wanted to be rich, having formerly declined 100,000 chung, would 

my now accepting 10,000 be the conduct of one desiring riches?"]4 


In declining 100,000 chung Mencius was wrongly disinterested, 

for wealth and honour is what man desires. Only he does not 

stick to them, if he cannot obtain them in the proper way.5 Therefore in the matter of rank and salary an honest man sometimes 

declines, and sometimes not, but why should he reject a present, 

which he ought to have taken, on the plea that he does not covet 

wealth or honour? 


[Ch'ên Chin 6 asked Mencius saying, " When you were in Ch'i, 

the king sent you a present of 100 yi 7 of the double metal, 8 and 

you refused to accept it. When you were in Sung, 70 yi were sent 

to you, which you accepted; and when you were in Hsieh,9 50 yi 

were sent, which you likewise accepted. If your declining to 

accept the gift in the first case was right, your accepting it in 

the latter cases was wrong. If your accepting it in the latter cases 

was right, your declining to do so in the first case was wrong. 

You must accept, Master, one of these alternatives." — Mencius said, 

" I did right in all the cases. When I was in Sung, I was about 

to take a long journey. Travellers must be provided with what 

is necessary for their expenses. The prince's message was, 'A 

present to defray travelling expenses.' Why should I have declined 

the gift? When I was in Hsieh, I was apprehensive of my safety, 

and taking measures for my protection. The message was ' I have 




1 An officer of Ch'i. 


2 A chung is an ancient measure. As to its capacity opinions differ. 100 000 

chung of rice was the customary allowance of a minister in a feudal State. 


3 A disciple of Mencius, his full name being Ch'en Chin. See below. 


4 Mencius U, Pt. U, 10. 


5 See above p. 395. 


6 The same as Ch'en Tse. 


7 One yi was about 24 taels. 


8 Double silver " worth twice as much as the ordinary '' (Legge). 


9 A small principality in the south of Shantung. 




420 Lun-hêng: E. Critique. 


heard that you are taking measures to protect yourself, and send 

this to help you in procuring arms. Why should I have declined the 

gift? But when I was in Ch'i, I had no occasion for money. To send 

a man a gift, when he has no occasion for it, is to bribe him. How 

is it possible that an honest man should be taken with a bribe?"]' 


Whether money offered as a gift can be accepted or not, always depends on some reason. We are not covetous, if we accept 

it, nor are we not covetous, if we do not accept it. There are 

certain rules, why money can be taken, and why not, and there 

are likewise certain principles on which a house can be accepted 

or not. Now, Mencius does not say that he does not deserve it, and 

that it would not be right for him as a non-official to take the house, 

but he replies that he is not craving for wealth, and adduces the 

100,000 chung which he had declined on a former occasion to draw a 

conclusion in regard to the subsequent 10,000 chung. Formerly he 

ought to have accepted the 100,000, how could he decline them? 


[P'êng Kêng 2 asked Mencius saying, "Is it not an extravagant 

procedure to go from one prince to another, and live upon them, 

followed by several tens of carriages, and attended by several 

hundred men? " — Mencius replied, " If there be not a proper ground 

for taking it, a single bamboo-cup of rice may not be received 

from a man. If there be such a proper ground, then Shuns receiving the empire from Yao is not to be considered excessive."] 3


How can the receiving of the empire from Yao be put on a 

level with the acceptance of 100,000 chung? Shun did not decline 

the empire, because there was a proper ground. Now Mencius does 

not contend that for receiving 100,000 chung there is no proper 

cause, but he says that he is not greedy of wealth and honour. 

That is not the right modesty, and it could not be an example 

for others. 


4 [Shên T'ung, 5 on his own impulse, asked Mencius, saying, 

"May Yen be smitten?" Mencius replied, " It may. Tse Kuei 6 had 


1 Mencius II, Pt. II, 3. 


2 Pêng Kêng was a disciple of Mencius. 


3 Mencius III, Pt. II, 4. 


4 Mencius II, Pt. II, 8. 


5 A high officer of Ch'i. 


6 Tse K'uei, King of Yen, a silly man, had ceded his throne to his minister 

Tse Chih, hoping that the latter would decline the offer, but he unexpectedly accepted, 

and Tse K'uei lost his throne. During the troubles caused in Yen by Tse K'uei's 

son seeking to recover the kingdom, the C'hi State made an unsuccessful attempt to 

conquer Yen. Shên T'ung had asked Mencius' advice about an invasion of Yen. 




Censures on Mencius. 421 


no right to give Yen to another man, and Tse Chi had no right 

to receive Yen from Tse K'uei. Suppose there were an officer here, 

with whom you, Sir, were pleased, and that, without informing 

the king, you were privately to give to him your salary and rank; 

and suppose that this officer, also without the king's orders, were 

privately to receive them from you: — would such a transaction be 

allowable? And where is the difference between the case of Yen 

and this? " 


The people of Ch'i smote Yen. Some one asked of Mencius, 

" Is it really the case that you advised Ch'i to smite Yen? " — He 

replied, " No. Shên T'ung asked me, whether Yen might be smitten, 

and I answered him, ' It may.' They accordingly went and smote 

it. If he had asked me, ' Who may smite it? ', I would have 

answered him, ' He who is the minister of Heaven 1 may smite it.' 

Suppose the case of a murderer, and that one asks me, ' May this 

man be put to death?' I will answer him, 'He may.' If he ask 

me, ' Who may put him to death? ' I will answer him, ' The 

chief criminal judge may put him to death.' But now with one 

Yen2 to smite another Yen — how should I have advised this? "] 


One might ask whether Mencius did not really advise the 

king to smite Yen. When Shên T'ung inquired, whether Yen could 

be smitten, he had his own designs, and wished to smite it himself. Knowing that he would be very pleased with the reply, 

Mencius ought to have answered that, although Yen could be smitten, 

it could not be done but by the minister of Heaven. Then Shên 

T'ung's plans would have collapsed, and his intention of smiting 

Yen been given up. If Mencius was not aware of these designs, 

and straightway made a reply, he did not pay attention to what 

he said, and did not understand words. 


[Kung Sun Ch'ou 4 inquired of Mencius, "I venture to ask 

wherein you, Master, excel? " Mencius replied, " I understand 

words." — The other pursued, "And what do you mean by saying 

that you understand words? " Mencius said, " When words are 

one-sided, I know how the mind of the speaker is clouded over; 

when they are extravagant, I know how the mind is fallen and 

sunk; when they are depraved, I know how the mind has departed 

from principle, and when they are evasive, I know how the mind 




1 A man entrusted by Heaven with the execution of its designs. 


2 The one Yen is Chi, which was not better than Yen, and therefore not fit 

to punish Yen as Heaven's delegate. 


3 Mencius II, Pt. I, 2. 


4 A disciple of Mencius. 




422 Lun-hêng: E. Critique. 


is at its wits' end. These evils growing in the mind, do injury 

to government, and, displayed in the government, are hurtful to 

the conduct of affairs. Should a Sage again arise, he would undoubtedly follow my words."] 


Mencius understood words and also knew, how a warning as 

to the catastrophe which Shêen T'ung was bringing about, would 

after all have been to his benefit. From the nature of the question 

he must have known the desire implied in the words of Shên T'ung. 

Knowing his aims, he must have had an idea of the disaster, in 

which the thing was doomed to end. 




Mencius said,1 ["It would be for the happiness of the people 

of the whole empire. I hope that the king will change. I am 

daily hoping for this."] 


Was the king whom Mencius left, the same on whom he did 

not wait at court formerly? 2 Why did he think so little of him 

first, and make so much of him afterwards? Had it not been the 

former king, he would not have abandoned him. If he quitted 

him later on, the second king must have been worse than the first. 

When he left the king, and stopped three days in Chou,3 it was 

a less drastic measure than his not going to court, and staying 

with Ching Ch'ou 4 Why was his behaviour not identical in the 

two instances? Why did he not treat the king in the same manner 

in both cases? 


When Mencius was in Lu, Duke P'ing of Lu was about to 

pay him a call, but his favourite Tsang Ts'ang slandered Mencius, 

and stopped him. Yo Chêng Tse 5 told Mencius about it, who said,6 

["A man's advancement is effected, it may be, by others, and the 

stopping him, may be, from the efforts of others. But to advance 

a man or to stop his advance is really beyond the power of men. 

My not meeting with the prince of Lu is from Heaven."] 


1 Mencius II, Pt.II, 12. 


2 The King of Ch'i wished Mencius to call on him at court, informing him, 

that he intended waiting upon Mencius himself, but had got a cold, and could not 

go out. Mencius knew this to be a pretence, and therefore declined to go to court 

on the pretence that he was unwell likewise. Cf. Mencius 11, Pt. II, 2. The king and 

the philosopher were both too jealous of their dignity to get along well. 


3 A small place in Chi, wiiore Mencius halted, expecting to be called I)ack. 


4 An officer of Ch'i, with whom Mencius stayed, while the king was waiting 

for him, at the former occasion. 


5 A disciple of Mencius. 


6 Mencius I, Pt. II, 16. 




Censures on Mencius. 423 


First he did not find favour with the prince of Lu and afterwards with that of Ch'i. There was no difference. But in the 

first instance he held Heaven alone accountable, in the second, the 

king. There is no stability in his reasoning. When the king of 

Ch'i disdained his services, and he did not advance, some fellow 

like Tsang Ts'ang must have slandered him. That was likewise 

stopping or keeping back, but in both cases it was Heaven's decree 

that he should not find employment, and beyond the power of men. 

Why then did he still linger three days, when he left, and not 

go straight on? Provided it was the fate of Heaven that he should 

not meet with the king of Ch'i, who would not listen to his words, 

could Heaven have changed this fate within the space of three 

days, and bring about the interview? In Lu he gave all the credit 

to Heaven, abandoned his schemes, and lost all hope. In Ch'i he 

counted solely on the king, and was full of hopes. Thus the missing of one interview would have been merely the result of insinuations of men. 


Some one may hold that Heaven's fate could not yet be settled 

first, and that for this reason Mencius hoped that within three days 

the king would call him back. This may be so, supposing that 

fate requires three days. But would, upon such a supposition, the 

fact that the king of C/ii first allow^ed him to leave not be due to 

fate? If it was fate, and the limit three days, then Duke Ping of 

Lu might as weW after three days time have rejected Tsang Ts'ang's 

proposal, and followed the advice of Yo Chêng Tse, and have called 

on Mencius. Wherefore was Mencius so hasty in attributing every 

thing to Heaven? Had the duke paid Mencius a visit within three 

days, how would the latter have justified his former utterance? 


1[When Mencius left Ch'i, Ch'ung Yü 2 questioned him on the 

way, saying, " Master, you look like one who carries an air of 

dissatisfaction in his countenance. But formerly I heard you say, 

' The superior man does not murmur against Heaven, nor bear a 

grudge against men.' " 


Mencius said, " That was one time, and this is another. It is 

a rule that a true Imperial sovereign should arise in the course of 

five hundred years, and that during that time there should be some 

one illustrious in his generation. From the commencement of the 

Chou dynasty till now, more than 700 years have elapsed. Judging 

numerically, the date is passed. Examining the time, we might 




1 Mencius U, Pt. U, 13. 


2 A follower of Mencius. 




424 Lun-hêng: E. Critique. 


expect the rise of such individuals in it. But Heaven does not yet 

wish that the empire should enjoy tranquillity and good order. 

If it wished this, who is there besides me to bring it about? How 

should I be otherwise than dissatisfied?" — ] 


What proof is there for the assertion of Mencius that in the 

course of five hundred years a true emperor should arise? Ti Ku 

was such a sovereign, and Yao also ruled over the empire as a true 

sovereign. Yao transmitted the empire to Shun, who was likewise 

a true emperor. He transmitted the empire to Yü, who reigned in 

the same style. These four Sages were true Imperial sovereigns, 

but they followed one another quite closely. 1 From Yü to T'ang 

there is an interval of a thousand years and from T'ang to Chou 

also.2 Wên Wang commenced the reign, and at his death handed it 

over to Wu Wang. When Wu Wang expired, Chêng Wang and Chou 

Kung together ruled over the empire. From the beginning of the 

Chou dynasty to the time of Mencius 700 years again had elapsed,3 

but no true emperor had arisen. In which period do we find then 

that in the course of five hundred years a true sovereign arises? 

Who has made this statement that there will be a true emperor 

every five hundred years? Mencius says something which has no 

foundation and no proof, and is based on some wild hypothesis. 

Not having found favour with the king, he left Ch'i, and wore a 

dissatisfied look. That does not show his wisdom, and places him 

on a level with ordinary scholars. 


Five hundred years is considered the period in which Heaven 

produces a Sage. Moreover, Mencius says that Heaven did not yet 

wish that the empire should enjoy tranquillity and good order. 

His idea is that, when Heaven is willing to bless the empire with 

tranquillity and good order, it must produce a wise emperor in 

the course of five hundred years. According to what Mencius says, 

Heaven produces a Sage on purpose. But are five hundred years 




1 Wang Ch'ung omits Ti Chih, who followed his father Ti K'u. Owing to 

his dissolute life, he was dethroned, and his brother Yao was elected in his place. 


2 Those are rather round numbers. According to the common chronology 

Yü reigned from 2205-2197, T'ang, the founder of the Shang dynasty from 1766-1753, 

and the Chou dynasty commenced in 1122. Wu Wang's reign lasted from 1122-1115, 

Ch'êng Wang's from 1115-1078. All these rulers are regarded by the Chinese as 

true emperors. The interval between Yü and T'ang is about 400 years, that between 

Tang and Wên Wang about 600 years. It is difficult to understand why Wang Ch'ung 

in both cases speaks of a thousand years. The remark of Mencius that every five 

hundred years a true sovereign arises, comes much nearer the truth. 


3 About 800 years in fact after the usual chronology. The Bamboo Annals 

reduce this space to about 700 years. 




Censures on Mencius. 425 


really the period within which it produces a Sage? If so, why 

did Heaven not send the Sage forth? — Because it was not the time 

for a wise emperor to arise, therefore Heaven did not produce him. 

Since Mencius believes in it nevertheless, he does not know Heaven. 


From the commencement of the Chou dynasty upwards of seven 

hundred years had elapsed. " Judging numerically, the date, therefore, was passed, but examining the time, it might be possible." 

What signifies that the date is passed, and what, that it is possible? 

Date is equivalent to time, and time to date. The date being passed, 

five hundred years are passed. From the beginning of the Chou 

epoch up to that time upwards of seven hundred years had elapsed 

i. e. two hundred years in excess. Should an emperor arise then, 

he would already have missed the proper time. Yet Mencius avers 

that considering the time, it might be possible. What does that mean? 


He says that in the course of five hundred years a true Imperial sovereign should arise, and further that during that time 

there should be some one illustrious in his generation. Is this somebody the same as the emperor or some one else? If he is, why 

mention him a second time, if not, what sort of man is it who is 

illustrious in his generation? Suppose the answer be: — "men like 

Confucius and scholars like Mencius, who will instruct the youth, 

and awaken the dullards and imbeciles," then Confucius has already 

lived, and Mencius himself also has been born. Should we say: — 

" wise ministers," they must live contemporaneously with a wise 

ruler, and a wise minister appear, when a wise emperor arises. 


Mencius speaks of five hundred years, but why does he say 

" during that time? " If he does not mean the space of five hundred 

years, but the time between, he must think of two or three hundred 

years. Then a Sage could not work together with a wise emperor 

arising after five hundred years, whom then has Mencius in view, 

saying that during that time there should be some one illustrious 

in his generation? " Heaven," says he, "does not yet wish that the 

empire should enjoy tranquillity and good order. If it wished this, 

who is there besides me to bring it about?" By these words 

Mencius does not intend saying that he himself ought to be emperor, but that, if there were an emperor, he would act as his 

minister. Whether there be an emperor and a minister, depends 

on Heaven. When fate did not allow the empire to enjoy tranquillity and good order, Mencius did not acquiesce with a good 

grace in Chi, but resented it, and wore a dissatisfied look. That 

was very wrong of him. 




426 Lun-hêng: E. Critique. 


1 [P'êng Kêng asked Mencius saying, ''Is it proper that a scholar 

doing no service should receive support?" — Mencius answered, "If 

you do not have an intercommunication of the productions of labour, 

and an interchange of men's services, so that one from his over plus 

may supply the deficiency of another, then husbandmen will have 

a superfluity of grain, and women will have a superfluity of cloth. 

If you have such an interchange, carpenters and carriage-wrights 

may all get their food from you. Here now is a man, who, at 

home, is filial, and abroad, respectful to his elders; who watches 

over the principles of the ancient kings, awaiting the rise of future 

learners — and yet you will refuse to support him. How is it that 

you give honour to the carpenter and carriage-wright, and slight 

him who practises benevolence and righteousness? " 


Pêng Kêng said, " The aim of the carpenter and carriage-wright 

is to seek for a living. Is it also the aim of the superior man 

in his practice of principles thereby to seek for a living? " — " What 

have you to do," returned Mencius, "with his purpose? He is of 

service to you. He deserves to be supported, and should be supported. And let me ask, ' Do you remunerate a man's intention, 

or do you remunerate his service? ' " To this P'êng Kêng replied, 

"I remunerate his intention." 


Mencius said, " There is a man here, who breaks your tiles, 

and draws unsightly figures on your walls; — his purpose may be 

thereby to seek for his living, but will you indeed remunerate 

him? " — "No," said P'êng Kêng; and Mencius then concluded, "That 

being the case, it is not the purpose which you remunerate, but 

the work done." — ] 


Mencius referred to the breaking of tiles and disfiguring of 

walls with the object of impugning the remarks of Pêng Kêng, 

knowing very well that he who breaks tiles or disfigures walls 

does no services, but has a purpose, and that P'êng Kêng under 

no circumstances would support him. However, with this reference 

to the breaking of tiles and disfiguring of walls Mencius cannot 

refute P'êng Kêng, because people acting in this way do not belong 

to those who are seeking a living. Such being the case, this argument cannot be but forward against P'êng Kêng. People who, 

without a reason, are breaking tiles and disfiguring walls, are either 

mad, or merely playing. The purpose of madmen is not to seek 

a living, and those who are disporting themselves, have not this 

intention either. 




1 Mencius III, Pt. II, 4. 




Censures on Mencius. 427 


From those who seek a living a great many persons have 

no advantage whatever. Therefore those wishing to support themselves sell things in the market as merchants, and live on the 

price which they receive in exchange for their wares. Now, the 

breakers of tiles and scribblers profit nobody, and cannot have this 

intention. Reasonable persons know that such acts would profit 

nobody, and consequently desist therefrom. The unreasonable are 

akin to madmen, and certainly would not have that purpose. 


Those who break tiles and disfigure walls, are like boys 

throwing mud on the road, or is there any difference? When they 

are dumping mud on the road, have they the intention of seeking 

a living thereby? — They are still children, and have no purpose. 


When old folks are playing, they behave like those who are 

disfiguring walls. Have players the intention to seek a living? 

Players rob each other of their money. When the sums won are 

very high, they may be used as a livelihood, and eventually there 

may be this intention. 


People who throw stones and leap over them, are also very 

much alike to those scribblers. Is the intention of those stone- 

throwers and jumpers directed to their living? In short, the 

criticisms brought forward by Mencius against P'êng Kêng are 

not very thorough. If P'êng Kêng trusted in Mencius' words, we 

may say that the latter " put him off with great smartness of 

speech."1 


2[K'iang Chang Tse 3 said, "Is not Ch'ên Chung Tse 4 a man of 

true self-denying purity? He was living in Wu-ling, 5 and for three 

days was without food, till he could neither hear nor see. Over 

a well grew a plum tree, the fruit of which had been more than 

half-eaten by worms. He crawled to it, and tried to eat some of 

the fruit, when, after swallowing three mouthfuls, he recovered 

his sight and hearing." 


Mencius replied, "Among the scholars of Ch'i, I must regard 

Ch'ên Chung Tse as the thumb among the fingers. But still, where 




1 A quotation from Analects V, 4, where Confucius condemns such smartness 

of speech. — Wang Ch'ung is much smarter here than Mencius. The arguments 

of Mencius are quite right, and Wang Chung only takes exception at the example 

adduced by him, which indeed is not very lucky. 


2 Mencius III, Pt. II, 10. 


3 A grandee of the State of Ch'i. 


4 A recluse. 


5 A poor place in modern Chi-nan-fu (Shantung). 




428 Lun-Hêng: E. Critique. 


is the self-denying purity he pretends to? To carry out the principles which he holds, one must become 'an earth-worm, for so 

only can it be done." 


" Now, an earthworm eats the dry mould above, and drinks 

from the yellow spring-water below. Was the house in which 

Ch'ên Chung Tse dwelt built by a Po Yi,1 or was it built by a robber 

like Chê? 2 Was the millet which he ate planted by a Po Yi, or 

was it planted by a robber like Chê? These are things which 

cannot be known." 


" But," said K'uang Chang Tse, " what does that matter? He 

himself weaves sandals of hemp, and his wife twists hempen thread, 

to barter them." 


Mencius rejoined, " Ch'ên Chung Tse belongs to an ancient and 

noble family of Ch'i. His elder brother Tai received from Ko a 

revenue of 10,000 chung,3 but he considered his brother's emolument 

to be unrighteous, and would not live on it, and in the same way 

he considered his brother's house to be unrighteous, and would not 

dwell in it. Avoiding his brother and leaving his mother, he went 

and dwelt in Wu-ling. One day afterwards, he returned to their 

house, when it happened that some one sent his brother a present 

of a live goose. He, knitting his brows, said, ' What are you 

going to use that cackling thing for?' — By-and-by his mother killed 

the goose, and gave him some of it to eat. Just then his brother 

came into the house, and said, ' It's the flesh of that cackling thing,' 

upon which he went out and vomited it. — Thus, what his mother 

gave him he would not eat, but what his wife gives him he eats. 

He will not dwell in his brother's house, but he dwells in Wu-ling. 

How can he in such circumstances complete the style of life which 

he professes? With such principles as Ch'ên Chung Tse holds, a 

man must be an earth-worm, and then he can carry them out."] 


Mencius in reprehending Ch'ên Chung Tse does not hit his weak 

point. When Ch'ên Chung Tse showed such a disgust for the goose, 

that he felt like vomiting, was it, because he would eat nothing 

that came from his mother? Previously already he had expressed 

his displeasure at the goose saying, " What are you going to use 

thatcackling thing for? " When, later on, his mother had killed 

it, and gave him some to eat, and his brother remarked, " It's the 

flesh of that cackling thing," he felt ashamed that he was acting 




1 The exemplar of purity cf. p. 168 Note 2 and below p. 435. 


2 Cf. p. 139. 


3 See above p. 419 Note 2. 




Censures on Mencius. 429


contrary to what he had said before, and vomited it. Had his 

brother not reminded him, he would not have vomited, and he 

would then have eaten what his mother offered him. Therefore to 

say that he would not eat anything coming from his mother conveys a wrong idea. 


Suppose that Ch'ên Chung Tse was determined not to eat anything from his mother, he ought not to have eaten of the dish of 

the goose, when it was brought. Now, after he had eaten it, and 

learned that it was the goose, he felt so disgusted, that he vomited 

it. Thus the vomiting was the effect of his being ashamed that 

he had eaten something in opposition to his determination, it was 

no want of affection between mother and son, nor a desire to eat 

nothing that came from his mother. 


" But still where is the self-denying purity Ch'ên Chung Tse 

pretends to? To carry out his nature, one must become an earth- 

worm, for so only can it be done. An earth-worm eats the dry 

mould above, and drinks from the yellow spring-water below." 

That would mean that an earth-worm is a paragon of purity, and 

that, unless he was like an earth-worm, he could not be pure and 

undefiled.1 Now, provided the house he was dwelling in was built 

by Po Yi, and the millet he ate planted by Po Yi, his dwelling and 

eating would be unstained purity. But perhaps he ate millet sown 

by robber Che, or lived in a cottage constructed by robber Che, then 

this circumstance would contaminate his purity. These strictures 

on Ch'ên Chung Tse are not to the point either. 


A house is built for man's sake to be lived in, and sandals 

and thread are bartered against millet. If it really was planted 

by a robber, or the house his building, at all events Ch'ên Chung Tse 

had no cognisance of it. His brother's unrighteousness, however, 

was apparent from his conduct. All saw his actions; they were 

quite notorious and commented upon. Hence Ch'ên Chung Tse retired 

to Wu-ling. He did not stop in his brother's house, and by the 

weaving of sandals and twisting of thread obviated the necessity 

of living on his salary. If Ch'ên Chung Tse stayed in Wu-ling, he 

shunned the house of that brother, and vomited his food. Because 




1 This seems not to have been the idea of Mencius. The tertium comparationis 

is not the purity of the earth-worm, but its independence and self-sufficiency. Having 

its earth to eat and some muddy water to drink, it has no further needs, as man 

has, who is never quite independent of others. Unless he break off all intercourse 

with his fellow-creatures, he cannot avoid all pollution. Thus the commentators and 

Legge understand the passage. Wang Ch'ung's interpretation is forced. 




430 Lun-hêng: E. Critique. 


these tilings could be heard with the ear and seen with the eye, 

and were so public, that there could be no doubt, it is evident 

that as a fact Ch'ên Chung Tse neither stayed with his brother nor 

partook of his meals. 


Now he had not seen who was the builder of his own house 

in Wu-ling, nor did he know who planted the millet. But how 

could he take the house, when it was just completed, or eat the 

millet, when it was just reaped? These criticisms of Mencius go 

too far. 


The house where Ch'ên Chung Tse was living, may perhaps 

have been built by the robber, so that Ch'ên Chung Tse would have 

dwelt there without knowing it. Now Mencius contends that " to 

carry out the principles which he holds, one must become an earth- 

worm, for so only can it be done." But in the earth underneath 

the house of the robber there are also earth-worms. They eat the 

dry mould in the robber's house and drink from the yellow spring- 

water there. Plow then would an earth-worm meet the requirements? 

To carry out the principles of Ch'ên Chung Tse to the satisfaction 

of Mencius one ought to be like a fish. A fish swims in the river 

or the sea, and feeds upon their earth. No robber can dig through 

the sea, or heap up its earth. 


Ch'ên Chung Tse has done a great wrong, but the adverse 

comments of Mencius do not hit it. Ch'ên Chung Tse left his mother, 

and avoided his elder brother, to take up his solitary abode in 

Wu-ling together with his wife. Because the house of his brother 

was an unrighteous house, and his income an unrighteous income, 

he did not care to stay and live with him, which was the height 

of self-denying purity. However, when after his emigration to 

Wu-ling he returned to wait upon his mother, it was his duty to 

abstain from eating anything and leave again. When the goose 

was brought in, there must have been other food besides, all prepared by his mother. This food was bought with his brother's 

money, for it was evident that his mother had not her own private 

millet which she could have offered him. Then Ch'ên Chung Tse 

partook of his brother's salary. 


Po Yi rather than eat the millet of Chou1 died of starvation 

below Shou-yang.2 Would a meal of the millet of Chou have defiled 

his purity? Ch'ên Chung Tse was not like Po Yi, but he came very 




1 The Chou dynasty which Po Yi regarded as usurpers of the throne of the 

legitimate emperors of the house of Shang. 


2 A mountain in Shensi. 




Censures on Mencius. 431 


near him. Saying that one must become an earth-worm to carry 

out those principles, Mencius uses a comparison which does not 

justice to Ch'ên Chung Tse at all. 




1[Mencius said, "There is a destiny for every thing. Those 

who act as they ought, receive the natural destiny. 2 Therefore, he who 

has the true idea of destiny, will not stand beneath a precipitous wall. 

Death sustained in the discharge of one's duties, is the natural destiny. 

Death under handcuffs and fetters is not the natural destiny."] 


The meaning of these words of Mencius is that a man should 

not run counter to his allotted fate. Through fair conduct he 

obtains the natural destiny, whereas with recklessness and perversity he does not receive the natural one. Accordingly Heaven's 

decree would depend on human actions.3 


Confucius 4 did not become an emperor, Yen Yuan died prematurely, Tse Hia 5 lost his eye-sight, Po Niu 6 got leprosy. Was the 

conduct of these four men not fair? Why did they not receive 

the right destiny? Pi Kan 7 was disemboweled, Tse Hsü 8 was cooked, 

Tse Lu 9 pickled. These were the most cruel modes of death on 

earth, otherwise painful than handcuffs and fetters. If handcuffs 

and fetters are really proving that the destiny of the person in 

question is not the right one, then the conduct of Pi Kan and 

Tse Hsü was not fair. 


Man receives his destiny, and may be doomed to be crushed 

to death, or to be drowned, or to be killed in battle, or to be 

burned. He may be ever so conscientious in his dealings and 

careful in his doings, it is of no avail. 


Tou Kuang Kuo was sleeping with a hundred persons below a 

mound of charcoal. 10 The charcoal collapsed, and all the hundred 




1 Mencim VII, Pt. I, 2. 


2 Legge understands this passage differently. 


3 Wang Ch'ung denotes by natural destiny something different from what 

Mencius expresses by it, which explains his polemic. Wang Ch'ung's natural destiny 

is not influenced by human actions, whereas the natural, right, or correct destiny of 

Mencius is the upshot of proper conduct. Cf. p. 138. 


4 Vid. p. 169. 


5 Cf. p. 164. 


6 On Yen Yuan and Po Niu see p. 165. 


7 Cf. p. 485 Note 6. 


8 Tse Hsu or Wu Tse Hsü, the same as Wu Yuan p. 140. 


9 Cf. p. 165. 


10 Vid. p. 179. 




482 Lun-Hêng: E. Critique. 


people were killed, only Ton Kuang Kuo was saved, because it was 

his destiny to be made a marquis. What difference is there between 

the heaped up charcoal and the precipitous wall? Provided that 

one is not doomed to be crushed, there may be a collapse, those 

who have the fate of Tou Kuang Kuo will escape withal. " A man's 

advancement may be effected by others, and the stopping him may 

be from the efforts of others." ' 1 He who is to be crushed, may 

perhaps be induced to stand below a wall. 


The son of the landlord into whose cottage K'ung Chia 2 

entered, was predestinated to a premature death and meanness. 

Though he was introduced into the palace, he still became a door- 

keeper. The not standing below a precipitous wall has the same 

result as K'ung Chia's carrying the child into the palace. 




1 3Iencius I, Pt. II, 16. 


2 During a tempest the Hsia emperor K'ung Chia, 1879-1848 B.C., sought 

shelter in a cottage. The landlord imagined that the visit of the son of heaven 

was a lucky augury for his son, and that no misfortune would befall him in future. 

Yet this son, later on, doing carpenter's work, accidentally broke his axe, and cut 

off his two legs. He then became a doorkeeper, the only office for which he was 

still fit (Lü Shi ch'un-ch'iu). 



Comments