Every Day I Was Hoping the Lord of Qi Would Change His Mind!
Mencius went to the State of Qi twice to persuade the Lord of Qi to carry out a policy of benevolence, but he was rejected both times. When Mencius left Qi for the second time, a Qi official, Yin Shi, said to Mencius’ disciple Gaozi, “It is unwise not to know that the Lord of Qi will never be a benevolent monarch like Emperor Shang Tang or Emperor Zhou Wuwang. If knowing that the Lord of Qi cannot be convinced, yet Mencius still comes to Qi, then he must be hoping to gain benefits. After traveling a long distance to see the lord, he found that the lord could not be persuaded and thus left. Nevertheless, Mencius still stayed in the city of Zhou Yi for three nights before leaving. Why was he so reluctant to leave? I am very displeased of Mencius’ actions.” Gaozi told Mencius about Yin Shi’s remark.
Mencius said, “How could Yin Shi know my thoughts? I traveled a long way to expound the kingly way to the Lord of Qi and that was my wish. I remonstrated without success and left. Did I wish that? I had no alternative but to leave. I stayed for three nights in Zhou Yi before leaving. I still think that is too soon. I thought the lord might change his mind and ask me to return. If he called me back, I would have to make good use of the opportunity. After I left Zhou Yi, the lord did not send people to chase after me to ask me to return. I was thus determined to leave. Although I did, was I willing to give up on the lord? The Lord of Qi can still govern benevolently. If he carries out benevolent governance, not only the people of Qi will have peace, but also the people of the whole country. Every day I hope that he will change his mind! Do I look like a narrow-minded person? I was unable to remonstrate with a monarch, thus must I get angry and leave with resentment then travel a whole day before stopping for a night?” Upon hearing this, Yin Shi said, “I am really a lowly person.”
People Will Be Completely Won Over With One’s Virtue
Upon hearing that Lord Xuan of the Qi State intended to use force to conquer other countries, Mencius hurried to Qi for the third time. Lord Xuan asked him, “Are there principles when dealing with neighboring states?” Mencius replied, “Yes, there are. Only the benevolent monarch of a big country can serve a small country, just like Emperor Shang Tang served the Nation of Ge and Emperor Zhou Wenwang served the Kunyi. A clever monarch of a small country will serve a big country, just like King Tai of Zhou served Xunyu and Gou Jian served the State of Wu. A monarch with great power serving a small country is obeying the destiny of heaven, while a monarch of a small country serving a big power is fearing destiny. Being willing to obey the will of heaven can bring peace and stability to the world, while fearing destiny will allow one to hold on to his country.” The Book of Songs wrote, ‘only by fearing the dignity of heaven can a country maintain stability.’“ Lord Xuan said, “Masterful words! But I have a problem, as I like courage and combat.”
Mencius said, “My lord, don’t behave with trivial courage. When you hold a sword with a fierce look, ‘Who dares to oppose me!’ This is just personal courage. What is true bravery? The Book of Songs said, ‘Emperor Wen of the Zhou Dynasty suddenly became furious and geared up his army to protect the State of Ju. This added to the might of Zhou and this act to meet the people’s expectations.’ This is the courage of Emperor Wen of Zhou. His anger stabilized people’s hearts. The Book of Shang (the earliest compilation of historical documents) stated, ‘Heaven created all the people, set up monarchs and provided teachers to assist heaven to take good care of the people and follow the code of morality strictly. Who dares to go beyond one’s duty?’ When there was a person rampaging across the country, Emperor Wu of Zhou felt ashamed. This was the valor of Emperor Wu. His anger stabilized the country. Now if my lord can get angry and stabilize the country, people will be worried that my lord doesn’t like to be courageous!”
Mencius went on, “My lord should implement a policy of benevolence and reduce taxation. Have the people learn loyalty, righteousness, etiquette, and trustworthiness in their leisure time. Then people close by will live in peace and contentment, and people from distant places will come to join you. If another monarch does injustice to his people and puts them in misery, when my lord goes on crusade against that monarch, who can then oppose my lord? People will welcome your troops with food and drink. Would they have any other demands? They only want to avoid the abyss of suffering. Otherwise, people will look for someone else to rescue them. When a lord cares for the people and unifies the country, no one can stop him.” Lord Xuan nodded. Mencius elaborated on the kingly way with nature’s law and popular sentiment. Finally, Mencius persuaded Lord Xuan to abandon war and implement the policy of benevolence that achieved a great order in the State of Qi. People were very grateful for Mencius’ grace.
浩然之氣 至大至剛 (二)