Schulers Books Online

books - games - software - wallpaper - everything


Books Menu

Author Catalog
Title Catalog
Sectioned Catalog


- Ancient China Simplified - 10/61 -

themselves, and in any case were incapable of communicating it in writing to the frontier Chinese populations of the four buffer states above enumerated.



But the collapse of the imperial power in 771 B.C. led to restlessness in the south as well as in the north, north-western, and north-eastern regions: except for a few Chinese adventurers and colonists, these were exclusively inhabited by nomad Tartars, and perhaps some Tibetans, destitute of fixed residences, cities, and towns; ignorant of cultivation, agriculture, and letters; and roving about from pasture to pasture with their flocks and herds, finding excitement and diversion chiefly in periodical raids upon their more settled southern and western neighbours.

The only country south of the federated Chinese princes in Ho Nan province (as we now call it) was the "Jungle" or "Thicket," a term which vaguely designated the lower waters of the Han River system, much as, with ourselves, the "Lowlands" or the "Netherlands" did, and still does, designate the outlying marches of the English and German communities. "Jungle" is still the elegant literary name for Hu Peh, just as Ts'in, Tsin, and Ts'i are for Shen Si, Shan Si, and Shan Tung. The King of the Jungle, like the Warden of the Western Marches, traced his descent far back to the same ancient monarchs whose blood ran also in the veins of the imperial house of Chou; and moreover this Jungle King's ancestors had served the founders of the Chou dynasty in 1150 B.C., whilst they were still hesitating whether to accept the call to empire: hence in later times (530 B.C.) the King made it a grievance that his family had not received from the founder of the Chou dynasty presents symbolical of equality of birth, as had the Tsin and Lu (South Shan Tung) houses. If any tribes, south, south-east, or south-west of this vague Jungle, whose administrative centre at first lay within a hundred miles' radius of the modern treaty-port of Ich'ang, were in any way known to Central China, or were affected by orthodox Chinese civilization, it was and must have been entirely through this kingdom of the Jungle, and in a second-hand or indirect way. The Jungle was as much a buffer to the south as Ts'in was to the north-west, Tsin to the north, and Ts'i to the north-east. The bulk of the population was in one sense non- Chinese; that is, it was probably a mixture of the many uncivilized mountain tribes (all speaking monosyllabic and tonic dialects like the Chinese) who still survive in every one of the provinces south of the Yang-tsz Kiang; but the ruling caste, whose administrative centre lay to the north of these tribes, though affected by the grossness of their barbarous surroundings, were manifestly more or less orthodox Chinese in origin and sympathy, and, even at this early period (771 B.C.), possessed a considerable culture, a knowledge of Chinese script, and a general capacity to live a settled economical existence. As far back as 880 B.C. the King of the Jungle is recorded to have governed or conciliated the populations between the Han and the Yang-tsz Rivers; but, though he arrogated to himself for a time the title of "Emperor" or "King" in his own dominions, he confessed himself to be a barbarian, and disclaimed any share in the honorific system of titles, living or posthumous, having vogue in China, reserving it for his successors to assert higher rights when they should feel strong enough. Like an eastern Charlemagne, he divided his empire between his three sons; and this empire, which gradually extended all along the Yang-tsz down to its mouths, may have included in one of its three subdivisions a part at least of the Annamese race, as will be suggested more in detail anon.

The first really historical king, who once more arrogated the supreme title in 704 B.C., took advantage of imperial weakness to extend his conquests not only to the south but to the north of the River Han, attacking petty Chinese principalities, and boldly claiming recognition by the Emperor of equality in title. "I am a barbarian," said he, "and I will avail myself of the dissensions among the federal princes to inspect Chinese ways for myself." The Emperor displayed some irritation at this claim of equal rank, but the King retorted by referring to the services rendered by his (the King's) ancestor, some five hundred years earlier, to the Emperor's ancestor, virtual founder of the Chou dynasty. In 689 B.C. the next king moved his capital from its old site above the Ich'ang gorges to the commanding central situation now known as King-thou Fu, just above the treaty-port of Sha-shi': this place historically continues the use of the old word Jungle (_King_), and has been all through the present Manchu dynasty (1644-1908) the military residence of a Tartar-General with a Banner garrison; that is, a garrison of privileged Tartar soldiers living in cantonments, and exempt from the ordinary laws, or, at least, the application of them. It is only in 684 B.C. that the Jungle state is first honoured with mention in Confucius' history: it was, indeed, impossible then to ignore its existence, because, for the first time in the annals of China, Chinese federal princes between the Han River and the westernmost head-waters of the Hwai River had been deliberately annexed by these Jungle "barbarians." History for the next 450 years from this date consists mainly of the intricate narration how Ts'in, Tsin, Ts'i, and the Jungle struggled, first for hegemony, and finally for the possession of all China, The Jungle was now called Ts'u.



Having now shown, as shortly and as intelligibly as we can, how the germs of Chinese development were sown at the dawn of true history, let us proceed to examine how far that history, as it has come down to us, contains within it testimony to its own truth. We shall revert to the description of wars and ambitions in due course; but, as so obscure a subject as early Chinese civilization is only palatable to most Western readers in small, varied, and sugared doses, we shall for the moment vary the nourishment offered, and say a few words upon eclipses.

Confucius, whose bald "Spring and Autumn" annals, as expanded by three separate commentators (one a junior contemporary of himself), is really the chief authority for the period 722-468 B.C., was born on the 20th day after the eclipse of the sun which took place in the 10th month of 552 B.C., or the 27th of the 8th moon as worked out to-day (for 1908 this means the 22nd September). Confucius himself records thirty-seven eclipses of the sun between 720 and 481, those of 709, 601, and 549 being total. Of course, as Confucius primarily recorded the eclipses as seen from his own petty vassal state of Lu in Shan Tung province (lat. 35" 40' N., long, 117" E.), any one endeavouring to identify these eclipses, and to compare them with Julian or Gregorian dates, must, in making the necessary calculations, bear this important fact in mind. It so happens that nearly one-third of Confucius' thirty-seven eclipses are recorded as having taken place between the two total eclipses of 601 and 549. This being so, I referred the list to an obliging officer attached to the Royal Observatory, who has kindly furnished me with the following comparative list:-

CONFUCIUS' DATE. OPPOLZER'S JULIAN DATE. B.C. 601, 7th moon.---600, September 20. " 599, 4th " ---598, March 5. " 592, 6th " ---591, April 17. " 575, 6th " ---574, May 9. " 574, 12th " ---573, October 22. " 559, 2nd " ---558, January 14. " 558, 8th " ---557, June 29. " 553, 10th " ---552, August 31. " 552, 9th " " 552, 10th " ---551, August 20. " 550, 2nd " ---549, January 5. " 549, 7th " ---548, April 19.

It will be observed that there is no Oppolzer's date to compare with the first of the two eclipses of 552; this is because I omitted to notice that there had been recorded in the "Springs and Autumns" two so close together, and therefore I did not include it in the list sent to the Observatory; but with the exception of the total eclipse of 601, all the other eclipses, so far as days of the moon and month go, are as consistent with each other as are modern Chinese dates with European (Julian) dates. As regards the year, Oppolzer's dates are the "astronomical" dates, that is, the astronomical year--x is the same as the year (x + 1) B.C.; or, in other words, the year _of_ Christ's birth is, for certain astronomical exactitude purposes, interpolated between the years 1 B.C. and A.D. 1, as we vulgarly compute them: that is to say, the eclipses of the sun recorded 2,400 years ago by Confucius, from notes and annals preserved in his native state's archives as far back as 700 B.C., are found to be almost without exception fairly correct, with a uniform "error" of about one month, despite the fact that attempts were made by the First August Emperor to destroy all historical literature in 213 B.C. This being so in the matter of a dozen eclipses, there still remain two dozen for specialists to experiment upon, not to mention comets and other celestial phenomena. From this collateral evidence, imperfect though it be, we are reasonably entitled to assume that the three expanded versions of Confucius' history are trustworthy, or at the very least written in the best of faith.

Just as our mathematicians find no difficulty either in foretelling or retrospecting eclipses to a minute, so does the ancient "sixty" cycle, which the Chinese have from time immemorial used for computing or noting days and years, enable them, or for the matter of that ourselves, to calculate back unerringly any desired day. Thus, suppose the 1st January, 1908, is the 37th day of the perpetual cycle of sixty days; then, if the Chinese historians say that an eclipse took place on the first day of the new moon, which began the 9th Chinese month of the year corresponding in the main to our 800 B.C., and that the 1st day of the moon was also the 37th day of the sixty-day perpetual cycle, all we have to do is to take roughly six cycles for each year, six thousand cycles for each thousand years, allowing at the same time two extra cycles every third year for intercalary moons, and then dealing with the fractions or balance of days. If our calculation does not bring the two 37th cyclic days together accurately, we must of course go into the question of how and when the Chinese calendars were altered, a subject that will be treated of in a subsequent chapter. It must be remembered that there can never be any question of so much as a whole year being involved in the balance of error; for, with the Chinese as with us, one year, whenever modified, always means that space of time, however irregularly computed at each end of it, within which two solstices and two equinoxes have taken place, Voltaire, in the article on "China" of his Universal Dictionary, remarks that "of 32 ancient Chinese eclipses, 28 have been identified by Western mathematicians";

Ancient China Simplified - 10/61

Previous Page     Next Page

  1    5    6    7    8    9   10   11   12   13   14   15   20   30   40   50   60   61 

Schulers Books Home

 Games Menu

Dice Poker
Tic Tac Toe


Schulers Books Online

books - games - software - wallpaper - everything