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- Ancient China Simplified - 20/61 -


class owing obedience to its superior, and the highest of all owing obedience only to the gods or spirits. First, the Emperor; secondly, the "inner" dukes, or grandees of estates within the imperial domain: these grandees were dukes proper, not dukes by posthumous courtesy like the vassal princes after decease, and the Emperor used to send them on service, when required, to the vassal states; they were, in fact, like the "princes of the Church" or cardinals, who surround the Pope. Thirdly, "the marquesses," that is the semi-independent vassal states, no matter whether duke, marquess, earl, viscount, or baron; this term seems also to include the reigning lords of very small states which did not possess even the rank of baron, and which were usually attached to a larger state as clients, under protectorate; in fact, the recognized stereotyped way of saying "the vassal rulers" was "the marquesses." Then came what we should call the "middle classes," or bourgeoisie, followed by the artisans and cultivators: it will be noticed that the artisans are here given rank over the cultivators, which is not in accord with either very ancient or very modern practice; this, indeed, places cultivators before both traders and artisans. Lastly came the police, the carriers of burdens, the eunuchs, and the slaves. By "police" are meant the runners attached to public offices, whose work too often involves "squeezing" and terrorizing, torturing, flogging, etc. To the present day police, barbers, and slaves require three generations of purifying, or living down, before their descendants can enter for the public examinations; or, to use the official expression, their "three generations" must be "clear"; at least so it was until the old Confucian examination system was abolished as a test for official capacity a few years ago. Of eunuchs we shall have more to say shortly; but very little indeed is heard of private slaves, who probably then, as now, were indistinguishable from the ordinary people, and were treated kindly. The callous Greek and still more brutal Roman system, not to mention the infinitely more cowardly and shocking African slavery abuses of eighteenth- century Europe and nineteenth-century America, have never been known in China: no such thing as a slave revolt has ever been heard of there.

In the year 548 the kingdom of Ts'u ordered a cadastral survey, and also a general stock-taking of arms, chariots, and horses. Records were made of the extent and value of the land in each parish, the extent of the mountains and forests, and the resources they might furnish. Observation was also made of lakes and marshes suitable for sport, and it was forbidden to fill these in. Note was taken of such hills and mounds as might be available for tombs--a detail which shows that modern graves in China differ little if at all from the ancient ones; in fact in Canton "my hill," or "mountain," is synonymous with "my cemetery." In order to fix the taxes at a just figure, stock was taken of the salt- flats, the unproductive lands, and the tracts liable to periodical inundation. Areas rescued from the waters were protected by dykes, and subdivided for allotment by sloping banks, but without introducing the rigid nine-square system. Good lands, however, were divided according to the method introduced by the Chou dynasty; that is to say, six feet formed a "fathom," 100 fathoms an "acre," 100 "acres" the allotment of one family; these English terms are, of course, only approximately correct. Nine families still formed a hamlet or "well," and they cultivated together 1000 "acres," the central hundred going to pay the imposts. Taxes, direct and indirect, were fixed with exactitude, and also the number of war-chariots that each parish had to furnish; the number of horses; their value, age, and colour; the number of armoured troopers and foot soldiers, with a return of their cuirasses and shields. Regarding this colour classification, of the horses, it may be mentioned that the Tartars, in the second century B.C., were in the habit of equipping whole regiments of cavalry on mounts of the same colour, and it is, therefore, possible that this practice may have been imitated in South China; but Ts'u never once herself engaged in warfare with the Tartars; at all events with Tartars other than Tartars brought into Chinese settlements.

Long before this, the philosopher-statesman Kwan-tsz of Ts'i had so developed the agriculture, fisheries, trade, and salt gabelle, and had governed the country in such a way that his State, hitherto of minor importance, soon took the lead amongst the Chinese powers for wealth and for military influence. His classification of the people was into scholars, artisans, traders, and agriculturalists. He is generally credited with having introduced the "Babylonian woman" into the Ts'i metropolis, in order that traders, having sold their goods there, might leave as much as possible of their money behind in the houses of pleasure. There are many accounts of the luxury of this populous city, where "every woman possessed one long and one short needle," and where a premium levied upon currency, fish, and salt was applied to the relief of the poor and (!) to the rewarding of virtue. Kwan-tsz also maintained a standing army, or perhaps a militia force, of 30,000 men; but he was careful so to husband his strength that Ts'i should not have the external appearance of dominating; his aim was that she should rather hold her power in reserve, and only use it indirectly: as we have seen, his master was, in consequence of Kwan-tsz's able administration, raised to the high position of the first of the Five Protectors.

From this it will be plain that there was considerable commercial activity in China even before the time of Confucius: there was quite a string of fairs or market towns extending from the imperial reserve eastwards along the Yellow River to Choh-thou (still so called, south of Peking), which was then the most northernly of them: apparently each considerable state possessed one of these fairs. The headwaters of the River Hwai system were served by the great mart (now called Yii Chou) belonging to the state of Cheng. As with our own histories, Chinese annals consist chiefly of the record of what kings and grandees did, and mention of the people is only occasional; and, even then, only in connection with the policy of their leaders.

As soon as the second of the Protectors, the Marquess of Tsin, was seated on his ancestral throne (637), his first act was to reduce the tolls and make the roads safer; to facilitate trade, and to encourage agriculture. Also to "make friends of the eleven great families" (already mentioned twice in preceding pages), whose development, however, in time led to the collapse of this princely power, and to its division between three of the "great families." A century after this, a minister of the Ts'u state praised very highly the efficiency of the Tsin administration. "The common people are devoted to agriculture; the merchants, artisans, and menials are all dutiful." For the conveyance of grain between the Ts'in and the Tsin capitals, both carts and boats were requisitioned, from which we must assume that there were practicable roads of some sort for two-wheeled vehicles. In the year 546, when some important reserves were made by Tsin at the Peace Conference, an express messenger was sent from Sung to the Ts'u capital to take the king's pleasure: this means an overland journey from the sources of the Hwai to the modern treaty port of Sha-shr above Hankow.

It may be added that, five centuries before Kwan-tsz existed, the founder of the Ts'i state, as a vassal to the new Chou dynasty, had already distinguished himself by encouraging trade, manufactures, fisheries, and the salt production; so that Kwan-tsz was an improver rather than an inventor.

Thus we see that, from very early times, China was by no means a sleepy country of ignorant husbandmen, but was a place full of multifarious activities; and that her local rulers, at least from the time when the patriarchal power of the Emperors decayed in 771, were often men of considerable sagacity, quite alive to the necessity of developing their resources and encouraging their people: this helps us to understand their restlessness under the yoke of "ritual."

CHAPTER XVII

EDUCATION AND LITERARY

There is singularly little mention of writing or education in ancient times, and it seems likely that written records were at first confined to castings or engravings upon metal, and carvings upon stone. In the days when the written character was cumbrous, there would be no great encouragement to use it for daily household purposes. It is a striking fact, not only that writings upon soft clay, afterwards baked, were not only non-existent in China, but have never once been mentioned or conceived of as being a possibility. This fact effectually disposes of the allegation that Persian and Babylonian literary civilization made its way to China, for it is unreasonable to suppose that an invention so well suited to the clayey soil (of _loess_ mud with cementing properties) in which the Chinese princes dwelt could have been ignored by them, if ever the slightest inkling of it had been obtained.

In 770 B.C., when the Emperor, having moved his capital to the east, ceded his ancestral lands in the west to Ts'in on condition that Ts'in should recover them permanently from the Tartars, the document of cession was engraved upon a metal vase. Fifteen hundred years before this, the Nine Tripods of the founder of the Hia dynasty, representing tributes of metal brought to the Emperor by outlying tribes, were inscribed with records of the various productions of China: these tripods were ever afterwards regarded as an attribute of imperial authority; and even Ts'u, when it began to presume upon the Chou Emperor's weakness, put in a claim (probably based upon his ancestors' own ancient Chinese descent, as explained in Chapter IV.) to possess them.

In distributing the fiefs amongst relatives and friends, the first Chou emperors "composed orders" conferring rights upon their new vassals; but it is not stated what written form these orders took. Written prayers for the recovery of the first Emperor's health are mentioned, but here again we are ignorant of the material on which the prayers were written by the precentor. Four hundred years later, in 65, when Ts'in had assisted to the throne his neighbour the Marquess of Tsin, the latter gave a promise in writing to Ts'in that he would cede to her all the territory lying to the west of the Yellow River. The next ruler of Tsin, the celebrated wanderer who afterwards became the second Protector, is distinctly stated to have had an adviser who taught him to read; it is added that the same marquess also consulted this adviser about a suitable teacher for his son and heir. About the same time one of the Marquess's friends, objecting to take office, took to flight: his friends, as a protest, hung up "a writing" at the palace gate. In 584 a Ts'u refugee in Tsin sends a writing to the leading general of Ts'u, threatening to be a thorn in his side. It is presumed that in all these cases the writing was on wood. The text of a declaration of war against Ts'u by Ts'in in 313 B.C., at a time when these two powers had ceased to be allies, and were competing for empire, refers to an agreement made three centuries earlier between the King of Ts'u and the Earl of Ts'in; this declaration was carved upon several stone tablets; but it does not


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