Mencius: Fish Is Something That I Desire
鱼我所欲也 (yú wǒ suǒ yù yě)
Mencius, 孟子 (mèng zǐ)
Written during the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (Spring and Autumn Warring States)

  鱼,我所欲也;熊掌,亦我所欲也。二者不可得兼,舍鱼而取熊掌者也。生,亦我所欲也;义,亦我所欲也。二者不可得兼,舍生而取义者也。生亦我所欲,所欲有甚于生者,故不为苟得也。

死亦我所恶,所恶有甚于死者,故患有所不辟也。如使人之所欲莫甚于生,则凡可以得生者何不用也?使人之所恶莫甚于死者,则凡可以辟患者何不为也?由是则生而有不用也,由是则可以避患而有不为也。是故所欲有甚于生者,所恶有甚于死者。非独贤者有是心也,人皆有之,贤者能勿丧耳。

一箪食,一豆羹,得之则生,弗得则死。呼尔而与之,行道之人弗受;蹴尔而与之,乞人不屑也。

万钟则不辩礼义而受之,万钟于我何加焉!为宫室之美,妻妾之奉,所识穷乏者得我欤?乡为身死而不受,今为宫室之美为之;乡为身死而不受,今为妻妾之奉为之;乡为身死而不受,今为所识穷乏者得我而为之;是亦不可以已乎?此之谓失其本心。

Fish, I desire it; bear's paw, I also desire it. If I cannot have them both, I will give up the fish in favor of the bear's paw. Life, I desire it, virtue, I also desire it. If I cannot have them both, I will give up life in favor of virtue. Life is something that I desire, but I have a greater desire for something other than life, so I will not betray my principles.

Death is something that I loathe, but I have a greater loathing for something other than death, so when faced with death I will not always flee. If a person does not have a desire that is greater than the desire for life, what prevents one from using any means to survive? If a person does not have a loathing that is greater than the loathing of death, what prevents one from using any means to flee death? There are ways to survive, but some do not use them; there are ways to avoid death, but some will not do that. This is because they have things that they desire more than life, they have things that they loathe more than death. Worthy people are not the only ones who have those values, all people have them, but only the worthy ones managed to act without losing those values.

A bowl of rice, a bowl of soup, obtaining them will allow one to live, failing to obtain them will result in death. Yell at the people to eat, and those passing by will refuse; step on the food that you are offering, and the beggars will refuse to touch it.

Some saw the wealth of an office and they accepted without regard for propriety and ethics, what good will the wealth of an office do for me? For a beautiful house, for the concubines' attentions, for the impoverished people to revere me? There used to be people who would rather die than submit (to something morally wrong), now some are willing to submit for a beautiful house; there used to be people who would rather die than submit, now some are willing to submit for the concubines' attentions; there used to be people who would rather die than submit, now some are willing to submit for the impoverished people to revere them. Shouldn't this kind of behavior be stopped? This kind of behavior shows a lack of human morals.

欲 /   yù  / desire / wish /


yù  / desire / longing / appetite / wish /


恶 /   ě  / nauseated /

è  / evil /


  mò  / do not / there is none who /


  bì  / king / emperor / monarch / royal / ward off /

pì  / law /


  huàn  / misfortune / suffer (from illness) / trouble / danger / worry / to contract (a disease) /


贤 /   xián  / worthy (person) /


  jiān  / double / twice / simultaneous / holding two or more (official) posts at the same time /


丧 /   sāng  / mourning / funeral /

sàng  / lose (by death) /


箪 /   dān  / round basket for cooked rice /


  cù  / carefully / kick / tread on / stamp /


  gēng  / soup /


辩 /   biàn  / dispute / debate / argue / discuss /


  yān  / where / how /


欤 /   yú  / (interrog. part.) /


  fèng  / to receive (from superior) / to offer / to revere /