1. The philosopher
Kâo said, 'Man's nature is like the ch'î-willow , and
righteousness is like a cup or a bowl. The fashioning
benevolence and righteousness out of man's nature is like the
making cups and bowls from the ch'î-willow.'
replied, 'Can you, leaving untouched the nature of the willow,
make with it cups and bowls? You must do violence and injury to
the willow, before you can make cups and bowls with it. If you
must do violence and injury to the willow in order to make cups
and bowls with it, on your principles you must in the same way
do violence and injury to humanity in order to fashion from it
benevolence and righteousness! Your words, alas! would certainly
lead all men on to reckon benevolence and righteousness to be
1. The philosopher
Kâo said, 'Man's nature is like water whirling round in a
corner. Open a passage for it to the east, and it will flow to
the east; open a passage for it to the west, and it will flow to
the west. Man's nature is indifferent to good and evil, just as
the water is indifferent to the east and west.'
replied, 'Water indeed will flow indifferently to the east or
west, but will it flow indifferently up or down? The tendency of
man's nature to good is like the tendency of water to flow
downwards. There are none but have this tendency to good, just
as all water flows downwards.
3. 'Now by
striking water and causing it to leap up, you may make it go
over your forehead, and, by damming and leading it you may force
it up a hill;-- but are such movements according to the nature
of water? It is the force applied which causes them. When men
are made to do what is not good, their nature is dealt with in
1. The philosopher
Kâo said, 'Life is what we call nature!'
2. Mencius asked
him, 'Do you say that by nature you mean life, just as you say
that white is white?' 'Yes, I do,' was the reply. Mencius added,
'Is the whiteness of a white feather like that of white snow,
and the whiteness of white snow like that of white jade?' Kâo
again said 'Yes.'
3. 'Very well,'
pursued Mencius. 'Is the nature of a dog like the nature of an
ox, and the nature of an ox like the nature of a man?'
1. The philosopher
Kâo said, 'To enjoy food and delight in colours is nature.
Benevolence is internal and not external; righteousness is
external and not internal.'
2. Mencius asked
him, 'What is the ground of your saying that benevolence is
internal and righteousness external?' He replied, 'There is a
man older than I, and I give honour to his age. It is not that
there is first in me a principle of such reverence to age. It is
just as when there is a white man, and I consider him white;
according as he is so externally to me. On this account, I
pronounce of righteousness that it is external.'
3. Mencius said,
'There is no difference between our pronouncing a white horse to
be white and our pronouncing a white man to be white. But is
there no difference between the regard with which we acknowledge
the age of an old horse and that with which we acknowledge the
age of an old man? And what is it which is called
righteousness?-- the fact of a man's being old? or the fact of
our giving honour to his age?'
4. Kâo said,
'There is my younger brother;-- I love him. But the younger
brother of a man of Ch'in I do not love: that is, the feeling is
determined by myself, and therefore I say that benevolence is
internal. On the other hand, I give honour to an old man of Ch'û,
and I also give honour to an old man of my own people: that is,
the feeling is determined by the age, and therefore I say that
righteousness is external.'
answered him, 'Our enjoyment of meat roasted by a man of Ch'in
does not differ from our enjoyment of meat roasted by ourselves.
Thus, what you insist on takes place also in the case of such
things, and will you say likewise that our enjoyment of a roast
1. The disciple
Mang Chî asked Kung-tû, saying, 'On what ground is it said that
righteousness is internal?'
replied, 'We therein act out our feeling of respect, and
therefore it is said to be internal.'
3. The other
objected, 'Suppose the case of a villager older than your elder
brother by one year, to which of them would you show the greater
respect?' 'To my brother,' was the reply. 'But for which of them
would you first pour out wine at a feast?' 'For the villager.'
Mang Chî argued, 'Now your feeling of reverence rests on the
one, and now the honour due to age is rendered to the other;--
this is certainly determined by what is without, and does not
proceed from within.'
4. Kung-tû was
unable to reply, and told the conversation to Mencius. Mencius
said, 'You should ask him, "Which do you respect most,-- your
uncle, or your younger brother?" He will answer, "My uncle." Ask
him again, "If your younger brother be personating a dead
ancestor, to which do you show the greater respect,-- to him or
to your uncle?" He will say, "To my younger brother." You can go
on, "But where is the respect due, as you said, to your uncle?"
He will reply to this, "I show the respect to my younger
brother, because of the position which he occupies," and you can
likewise say, "So my respect to the villager is because of the
position which he occupies. Ordinarily, my respect is rendered
to my elder brother; for a brief season, on occasion, it is
rendered to the villager."'
5. Mang Chî heard
this and observed, 'When respect is due to my uncle, I respect
him, and when respect is due to my younger brother, I respect
him;-- the thing is certainly determined by what is without, and
does not proceed from within.' Kung-tû replied, 'In winter we
drink things hot, in summer we drink things cold; and so, on
your principle, eating and drinking also depend on what is
1. The disciple
Kung-tû said, 'The philosopher Kâo says, "Man's nature is
neither good nor bad."
2. 'Some say,
"Man's nature may be made to practise good, and it may be made
to practise evil, and accordingly, under Wan and Wû, the people
loved what was good, while under Yû and Lî, they loved what was
3. 'Some say, "The
nature of some is good, and the nature of others is bad. Hence
it was that under such a sovereign as Yâo there yet appeared
Hsiang; that with such a father as Kû-sâu there yet appeared
Shun; and that with Châu for their sovereign, and the son of
their elder brother besides, there were found Ch'î, the viscount
of Wei, and the prince Pî-Kan.
4. 'And now you
say, "The nature is good." Then are all those wrong?'
5. Mencius said,
'From the feelings proper to it, it is constituted for the
practice of what is good. This is what I mean in saying that the
nature is good.
6. 'If men do what
is not good, the blame cannot be imputed to their natural
7. 'The feeling of
commiseration belongs to all men; so does that of shame and
dislike; and that of reverence and respect; and that of
approving and disapproving. The feeling of commiseration implies
the principle of benevolence; that of shame and dislike, the
principle of righteousness; that of reverence and respect, the
principle of propriety; and that of approving and disapproving,
the principle of knowledge. Benevolence, righteousness,
propriety, and knowledge are not infused into us from without.
We are certainly furnished with them. And a different view is
simply owing to want of reflection. Hence it is said, "Seek and
you will find them. Neglect and you will lose them." Men differ
from one another in regard to them;-- some as much again as
others, some five times as much, and some to an incalculable
amount:-- it is because they cannot carry out fully their
8. 'It is said in
the Book of Poetry,
Gave them their various faculties and relations with their
These are the invariable rules of nature for all to hold,
And all love this admirable virtue."
Confucius said, "The maker of this ode knew indeed the principle
of our nature!" We may thus see that every faculty and relation
must have its law, and since there are invariable rules for all
to hold, they consequently love this admirable virtue.'
1. Mencius said,
'In good years the children of the people are most of them good,
while in bad years the most of them abandon themselves to evil.
It is not owing to any difference of their natural powers
conferred by Heaven that they are thus different. The
abandonment is owing to the circumstances through which they
allow their minds to be ensnared and drowned in evil.
2. 'There now is
barley.-- Let it be sown and covered up; the ground being the
same, and the time of sowing likewise the same, it grows rapidly
up, and, when the full time is come, it is all found to be ripe.
Although there may be inequalities of produce, that is owing to
the difference of the soil, as rich or poor, to the unequal
nourishment afforded by the rains and dews, and to the different
ways in which man has performed his business in reference to it.
3. 'Thus all
things which are the same in kind are like to one another;-- why
should we doubt in regard to man, as if he were a solitary
exception to this? The sage and we are the same in kind.
4. 'In accordance
with this the scholar Lung said, "If a man make hempen sandals
without knowing the size of people's feet, yet I know that he
will not make them like baskets." Sandals are all like one
another, because all men's feet are like one another.
5. 'So with the
mouth and flavours;-- all mouths have the same relishes. Yî-yâ
only apprehended before me what my mouth relishes. Suppose that
his mouth in its relish for flavours differed from that of other
men, as is the case with dogs or horses which are not the same
in kind with us, why should all men be found following Yî-yâ in
their relishes? In the matter of tastes all the people model
themselves after Yî-yâ; that is, the mouths of all men are like
6. 'And so also it
is with the ear. In the matter of sounds, the whole people model
themselves after the music-master K'wang; that is, the ears of
all men are like one another.
7. 'And so also it
is with the eye. In the case of Tsze-tû, there is no man but
would recognise that he was beautiful. Any one who would not
recognise the beauty of Tsze-tû must have no eyes.
8. 'Therefore I
say,-- Men's mouths agree in having the same relishes; their
ears agree in enjoying the same sounds; their eyes agree in
recognising the same beauty:-- shall their minds alone be
without that which the similarly approve? What is it then of
which they similarly approve? It is, I say, the principles of
our nature, and the determinations of righteousness. The sages
only apprehended before me that of which my mind approves along
with other men. Therefore the principles of our nature and the
determinations of righteousness are agreeable to my mind, just
as the flesh of grass and grain-fed animals is agreeable to my
1. Mencius said,
'The trees of the Niû mountain were once beautiful. Being
situated, however, in the borders of a large State, they were
hewn down with axes and bills;-- and could they retain their
beauty? Still through the activity of the vegetative life day
and night, and the nourishing influence of the rain and dew,
they were not without buds and sprouts springing forth, but then
came the cattle and goats and browsed upon them. To these things
is owing the bare and stripped appearance of the mountain, and
when people now see it, they think it was never finely wooded.
But is this the nature of the mountain?
2. 'And so also of
what properly belongs to man;-- shall it be said that the mind
of any man was without benevolence and righteousness? The way in
which a man loses his proper goodness of mind is like the way in
which the trees are denuded by axes and bills. Hewn down day
after day, can it-- the mind-- retain its beauty? But there is a
development of its life day and night, and in the calm air of
the morning, just between night and day, the mind feels in a
degree those desires and aversions which are proper to humanity,
but the feeling is not strong, and it is fettered and destroyed
by what takes place during the day. This fettering taking place
again and again, the restorative influence of the night is not
sufficient to preserve the proper goodness of the mind; and when
this proves insufficient for that purpose, the nature becomes
not much different from that of the irrational animals, and when
people now see it, they think that it never had those powers
which I assert. But does this condition represent the feelings
proper to humanity?
3. 'Therefore, if
it receive its proper nourishment, there is nothing which will
not grow. If it lose its proper nourishment, there is nothing
which will not decay away.
said, "Hold it fast, and it remains with you. Let it go, and you
lose it. Its outgoing and incoming cannot be defined as to time
or place." It is the mind of which this is said!'