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(NPPLC) Chapters #22, 23 & 24 孟子梁惠王上 (Sections 1, 3 & 6)

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This thread is for the discussion of chapters twenty-two, twenty-three and twenty-four in A New Practical Primer of Literary Chinese by Paul Rouzer.


So, here we are, finally at the philosophy.  Congratulations if you've made it this far and take careful note of Rouzer's advice: "keep calm and get used to the way the language works."  That is what I'll be doing, and there are plenty of lessons to get used to it.


As Rouzer explains, the Mencius comes in 7 chapters, each separated into 上 and 下 and here these are further divided up into smaller 'bite-size chunks'.  For 上 we will be looking at parts 1, 3, 6 & 7  and for 下 we will be looking at section 1 and 15 (it looks like Rouzer throws in an excerpt from another chapter towards the end, which I assume if of some relevance).


I'm not familiar with the Mencius so I'm not sure how much of the total work this constitutes but a quick calculation tells me we're looking at 6 sections from 23 (~1/3) of one chapter of 7 (~1/7).  Which, assuming all sections and chapters are the same length, works out at around ~1/20th of the whole thing.


Anyway, the text... here is section 1:





section 3:










and, finally, section 6:










It seems strange to me that Rouzer has chosen non-consecutive sections but I imagine this is because it would not expose us to a sufficiently wide range of vocab, grammar, style etc. Hopefully missing sections out will not find the piece too difficult to follow over all, although if you want to fill in the gaps you can find the whole thing here which, incidentally, is where I stole today's text from.



You'll hear from me in a week.

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Section 1:

Mencius had an audience with King Hui of Wei.  The King said to Mencius:


"Esteemed elder, you have travelled a long way, is it that you have something of benefit for my country?"


Mencius replied:


"Must the King speak to benefits?  It is merely that I possess benevolence and justice and that is all.  If the King asks, "What benefit do you have for my country?" Then the men in court will ask, "What benefit do you have for my family?" and the knights and commoners will ask, "What benefit do you have for myself?"  At all levels the people struggle for benefit and the country is at risk.  For a state of 10,000 carriages, a man requires 1,000 carriages to rise up against the ruler.  For a state of 1,000 carriages, a man requires 100 carriages to rise up against the ruler.  For 10,000, take only 1,000 from it.  For 1,000, take only 100 from it.  You can see that it does not take much.  If we place benefit above justice then the people will not be satisfied unless they are taking from others.  Never has there been a benevolent man who abandoned his relatives.  Never has there been a just man who thought little of his ruler.  You should only speak of benevolence and justice, why must you speak of benefits?"


  1. I've used 'benefits' for 利 throughout but I'm guessing its an idea along the lines of 'something which is of advantage to my country/family/personal self'
  2. Is there a connection between the use of 大夫 here and its modern day meaning of doctor?
  3. Mencius' point seems to me to be that it doesn't take much to overthrow the ruler.  That's why I've added the italicised only's in my translation.  This is consistent with Rouzer's translation of 不为不多 as "does not take much".  However, the translation into Chinese here has this part as 他们的拥有不算不多 which is the opposite, "What they use can not be considered to not be much."

Aside from this it seems pretty straightforward.  If I was King Hui I would not be impressed.  The modern day equivalent would seem to be a leading Professor of philosophy (let's say Michael Sandel as he's pretty famous, or maybe someone like Noam Chomsky) having a meeting with Barack Obama and telling him, "Look, just be nice to everyone and treat them fairly."  I think Barack Obama's response would be something more along the lines of "Get the hell out of my office you damned hippy."

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Section 3:

King Hui of Liang Wei said: "As for my relationship with my state, I exhaust my heart and mind and nothing else.  If there is disaster in Henei, I will move (some of) the people to Hedong and move grain to Henei (to feed the remaining people).  If there is disaster in Hedong, I will act similarly.  If you check the governance of neighbouring states, you will find none that governs with their heart and mind as I do.  However, the population of other states does not decrease and the population of my state does not increase.  Why is this?"


Mencius said to him: "You are fond of war, so let me use it as an analogy.  With a flourish the troops go into battle and swords have already clashed, then some troops who have lost their armour and dragging their weapons choose to flee.  Some will retreat 100 steps, while other will retreat 50 steps.  Is it possible for those who retreat only 50 steps to laugh at those who have retreated 100 steps?"


The King replied: "No, it is only that they haven't retreated to a distance of 100 steps, this still counts as fleeing."


Mencius said: "If the King understand this, then he will not hope that his country's population is greater than that of his neighbour's.  If you do not interfere with the harvest, there will be enough grain to eat.  If you do not fish with fine nets, there will be enough fish and turtles to eat.  If you go to the forest at the appropriate time then there will be enough wood to be used.  When there is enough grain and fish to eat and wood to use, this will make people provide for their lives and mourn the dead without resentment.  To provide for their lives and mourn the dead, this is foundation of good governance.


"A household of 5 mu with mulberry trees, the 50 year-olds can wear white cotton.  If they are raising chickens, pigs and dogs as livestock and they do not miss the appropriate time (for slaughter?) then the 70 year-olds will have meat to eat.  For a field of 100 mu, if you do not enlist the people during the harvest there will be few houses where people go hungry.  Take care in education and extend filial and brotherly respect, then the elderly will not have to take to the road with their burdens.  For 70 year-olds to wear white cotton and eat meat, commoners to not be hungry or cold, there has never been a King who does not know how to rule who has produced such circumstances.


"If animals are eating food intended for people and the ruler does not know to control this, or if there are people on the road starving to death and the ruler does not know to release emergency supplies, and then when people die, to say, "It is not me, it is old age."  How is this different to killing a man and saying, "It is not me, it is the weapon"?  As long as you do not commit errors in your harvest, then all of the people in the land will come to your state."


  1. 兵刃既接 "A meeting of swords"?  Indicating a battle is underway?
  2. 谷不可胜食 Literally this seems to say "The grain will not exceed what is eaten" but this is the opposite of what is being said, "What needs to be eaten will not exceed the supply of grain."
  3. Rouzer makes a comment about the fine meshed nets 数罟.  Is the point simply that nets with a finer mesh will catch more fish, and then supply will exceed demand?  Surely this is a good thing?  Or is Mencius worried about overfishing and stock being unable to replenish itself?
  4. I can't tell whether his point is that people shouldn't over-farm, as in the supply of grain should not exceed the demand, or that as long as he doesn't interfere then there will always be a surplus.
  5. What on earth does any of what follows have to do with his war analogy?  Running away to 50 steps is still running away, so you shouldn't laugh at people who have run away a little further?  How does this relate to the harvest?

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Section 6:

Mencius had an audience with King Xiang of Wei.  After he came out, he said to the people, "From afar, he did not look like a ruler of the people, and when I arrived in front of him I did not feel the respect for his position."  Eventually, he said to me: "What can pacify all under heaved?"


I said to him, "For all to be united."


He asked me, "Who can unite all?"


I replied, "A man who is not fond of killing can unite all."


He asked, "Who could possibly return to such a man?"


I replied, "There is nothing you can not give to him.  You are familiar with the growing of rice?  If there is a drought between the 7th and 8th months, the rice will dry and wither.  But then the sky will be plentiful and form clouds and a great rain will fall and the rice will suddenly rise up.  Consider this, is there anything which can stop it from happening?  In all of the lands, there it not one ruler who is not fond of killing people.  If there was a ruler who was not fond of killing people, then all of the people across the land would stretch out their necks in order to see him.  If this truly is the case, the people will return to that place, just as how water will return to the ground, with such abundance - who can prevent it from happening?""



  1. Rouzer misses out a comma after 出 in the first sentence.
  2. Rouzer has it as 定乎一 rather than 定於一 not that it matters as he has previously commented that 乎 is a colloquial form of 於 so it doesn't affect the meaning.'
  3. When they say 孰 it seems to imply "Who", rather than "What".  So I guess the first instance is in reference to the ruler ("Who can unite the people?") and the second instance refers to the people ("Which people would go to that ruler?")
  4. 油然,沛然,渤然,these are all adverbial uses of 然 right?  As in, plentifully, abundantly and suddenly... respectively.


So Mencius' point seems to be not that a kind ruler will attract the people to his state, but rather that a kind ruler in a land occupied by ruthless rulers will attract people to his state.  In a land where kings kill their subjects, everyone will go to the state where the king doesn't kill his subjects.  No wonder Mencius doesn't like this King Xiang guy if he's having to explain "Being a king 101" to this guy.


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谷不可胜食 Literally this seems to say "The grain will not exceed what is eaten" but this is the opposite of what is being said

No. 谷 is not subject but topic; 胜 is not "exceed".

胜 means to prevail, to be able to get to the end of a task.

so 谷不可胜食 means: "the corn, (one) cannot see the end of eating it".


You have the same meaning in common expressions such as 不可勝言, 數不勝數

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So the idea is that as long as the people have enough to eat and enough wood to burn then they will just busy themselves with their daily lives?  If they have to start worrying about shortages then they will soon start blaming the person in charge?

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While going through Rouzer I'm also going through the venerable A First Course in Literary Chinese by Harold Shadick (and some other books too, I'm in no hurry!). Shadick constructed a grammar which I suppose is the basis of the textbook, but I haven't studied his grammar very thoroughly, particularly because others such as Rouzer seem happy explaining things in a less daunting, less systematic way.


Anyway Shadick uses the first half of Mencius text in Rouzer's Chapter 23 (the one with running 50 paces). I thought I might as well paste his vocab and his commentary on the text in case anyone's interested. Any errors will be from my faulty transcription and I'm sure there will be some.




           bǎi          NUMERAL a hundred.

           Liáng      NAME of the capital city of the state of Wei . See map. Cf. 12(1).

           huì          NAME of the ruler of Wei.

梁惠王                 NAME Liáng Huì Wáng King Hui of Liang. Reigned 370-335. Like other feudal lords, the rulers of Wei in the 4th century arrogated to themselves the title of king. They had previously been (marquises) 11(27).

           guǎ         SV few; small in amount, short, in a small quantity. ADV in a few cases, rarely 29(6). N a resourceless person, especially a widow 26(55).

寡人      guǎrén  A self-depreciatoryterm used by kings in referring to themselves. Said to mean [德之] “this man of little virtue.”22(13).

           jìn           *TV to exhaust, use up; to empty, to give fully; to make full use of 30(11). PA exhaustively, entirely, completely 25(10) , 27(3.14).

           ěr            FINAL PARTICLE (Fusion of 而已 for which see 3(9) and 12(8)) and to end, and to be finished, and that's all. See 21(4), 23(30). Often best translated by “is nothing more than,” "only" earlier in the predicate . 22(13).

                      N a river. NAME The [Yellow] River.

           nèi          PLACEWORD interior, inside, within. Opposite of 14(27).

                        IV to move, change, alter. *TV (causative) to remove, transfer, shift.

                       N unthreshed grain, esp. rice or millet.

           chá         TV to examine, look into. For IV see A(4).

           lín            N a neighborhood;a member of a neighborhood - a neighbor.

           zhèng    N government, administration; political affairs, an administrative rule or law.

           yòng      *TV to use, to employ; to do. CV by means of. SUB CONJ [此故] for this reason; therefore 29(24). N [] implements, things used, necessities 14(13).

           jiā            TV to superimpose, put on top 26(43); to dominate 27(1.2); to add; to add to, to increase 20(7). *ADVERB (of degree) additionally, increasingly, more.

           duō        SV many, plentiful. *IV to increase, become more. ADV in many cases, for the most part, mostly 34(36).

           shǎo       SV few, small in quantity. *IV to become fewer. ADV to the smallest extent, in the slightest degree 33(18). N paucity. Opposite of N.b. shào 16(2.1).

           hào         TV to consider beautiful or good - to be fond of, to like, to love. Opposite of 11(47). Derived from SV hǎo. See 34(24).

           zhàn       IV to fight; to go into battle. N a battle; warfare.

                      IV to understand 34(62). *TV to cause to understand, to enlighten [by means of a parable or simile].

           tián         IV to boom like a drum. The graph is borrowed from TV tián to fill.

填然                      ADV (IV < SUFFIX) boominglike.

                      N a drum. *TV to drum [people] forward, to stimulate; to strike a musical instrument. In ancient times the TV had a distinctive graph, .

           bīng        N *a weapon, arms; a weapon wielder - a soldier. See 18(3) Text.

           rèn         N the edge of a blade.

           jiē           TV to come in contact with, be near to, receive, to follow close after 30(6). *IV to join, come in contact.

                        TV to throw down, discard.

           jiǎ            N a [turtle]shell; armor. NAME of the first of the ten celestial stems 天干 18(1).

                      TV to drag, to trail something.

           zǒu         IV to run, to go.

           zhí           SV straight, right. *PA simply, only 27(9.3). This graph is sometimes borrowed for the CV meaning "at", which properly is written . See 17(5), 29(11).

           wàng     wang TV (can govern an S-P object) to look or gaze at something in the distance 20(15,18); *to look forward to, hope, expect, long for. IV to gaze into the distance; the [full] moon facing [the sun]. From this comes the TIME NAME for the fifteenth of the lunar month.


Commentary on Text 10


(0)    In this passage Mencius applies the same principle for evaluating a ruler's conduct that he used in our Text 8. King Hui of the state of Wei whose capital was at Liang complains that his conscientious administration is not achieving the result which the sage kings of old enjoyed, of people flocking to them from other states. Mencius responds with a parable which provokes a number of pointed questions. Who is being compared to the fifty pacers and who to the hundred pacers? What shortcomings in a ruler are symbolized by running away? Is Mencius casting doubt on King Hui's honesty? On his intelligence? On his motives and scale of values? In Mencius' view was the king's prime concern the welfare of his people? Did the king have ulterior motives in desiring an increase of population? Why did Mencius draw his illustration from the battlefield?


(1)    梁惠王曰。寡人之於國也。盡心焉耳矣。

         The speech introduced by consists of the string of sentences ending with 何也 in (5).


         The first sentence in the speech has as its subject the nominal expression 寡人之於國. This is a new type of subject that needs to be identified. All subjects encountered in Texts 1-9 have been what we will call primary subjects. Their sole function is to present a topic on which the predicate is a comment. No part of the subject recurs in the predicate. Very often, however, the subject of a sentence is an expression that is repeated, or resumed in whole or in part by a substitute in the predicate. It can be viewed as having been extracted from a kernel sentence and preposed as a subject. This type of subject will be called a derived subject. There are several subtypes of derived subject. The commonest consists of a single constituent of the kernel sentence, preposed without change to itself. Our first examples of this type occur in Text 13(19,20). The second type involves the transformation into a composite nominal of the primary subject and part of the predicate of a kernel sentence, the residue of the kernel sentence becoming a new predicate. In the present case we have 寡人之於國也盡心焉耳矣: ''My [relation] to my state is to devote my mind to it and that is all." We posit a kernel sentence 寡人盡心於國耳矣: "I devote my mind to my state and that is all.” In the transform the primary subject 寡人 becomes adjunct in a nominal phrase with the complement of the kernel predicate 於國 as head: the original predicate remains, the complement being replaced by a substitute 焉. Cf. 31(19).


         耳矣 emphasizes the exclusiveness with which the king claims his "mind is devoted to the country."


(2)    河內凶。則移其民於河東。移其粟於河內。

         A complex sentence whose adjunct clause is loosely linked by to the head clause. The head is compound, the constituent clauses being linked by symmetry.


         The antecedents of the two are 河內 and 河東. For the areas denoted by these two place names see Map 1.


(3)    河東凶亦然。

         A complex clause loosely linked by the coordinative conjunction . with the sentence in (2) so that (2) and (3) together constitute a compound sentence:



(4)    察鄰國之政。無如寡人之用心者。

         has as its object a nominal ending in which is a transform of a kernel sentence with an S-P predicate, 此王也其用心如寡人之用心: "As for this king, his employment of his mind is like (sc. is as good as) my employment of my mind.” The nominal then means: "One who () [his employment of his mind] is as good as my employment of my mind."


(5)    鄰國之民不加少。寡人之民不加多。何也。        

         不加少: "are not increasingly few.”

         何也 equals 何故也 or 以何故也.


(7)    填然鼓之。兵刃既接。棄甲曳兵而走。

         This consists of three terse sentences intended to give a vivid description of a battle. The implied antecedent of . is "the soldiers of two armies drawn up for battle."


         既接: "have already met."


         A subject like . is understood before . marks a complex nucleus. Cf. 3 Abl.


(8)    或百步而後止。或五十步而後止。

         Two complex sentences of which the clauses are loosely linked by 而後.


         百步 functions as a verb with the meaning 走百步.


(9)    以五十步笑百步。則何如。

         Complex sentence, the clauses being loosely linked by . [17(12)]以五十步[之故]笑百步則何如: "[If these latter] on account of [only] running fifty paces laugh at running a hundred paces; then what is to be said about this?"


         何如. An interrogative pronoun object regularly precedes the verb or coverb. The literal meaning is: "[this] resembles what? - what is this like?" The implied meaning is: ''What is to be said about this? - What is your opinion of this?"


(10) 曰。不可。直不百步耳。是亦走也。


         []曰不可: "[The king] said, '[This] is impermissible."


         是亦走也: (equational sentence): "This is also running away." is a PA.


(11) 曰。王如知此。則無望民之多於鄰國也。

         Following is a complex conditional sentence tightly linked by and .

         can be viewed either as declarative: "there is no hoping for" or as imperative: "don't hope for - you should not hope that." With this latter meaning is interchangeable with .


         The object of is a nominal transform of the kernel sentence: [王之]民多於鄰國[之民] "[Your] subjects are more numerous than the neighboring states' [subjects]."

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