Introduction

Outlines of China History from Mythology to the Three Kingdoms

Outlines of Early China History

by Li Ung Bing

Edited by Joseph Whiteside
 

Small Map of the Chinese Empire in the Three Kingdoms Period

Large Map

1. Origin of the People
(Antiquity)

The inhabitants of China are known to the world as Chinese. They speak ofthemselves as the "people of Han." As Han is name of a dynasty, ithardly denote the origin of the people. Many theories, based more or less uponreligious myths, have been advanced to show whence the first inhabitants ofChina came; but their correctness must necessarily await further scientificdiscoveries. All accounts, however, agree that the basin of the Yellow River wasthe cradle of the Chinese culture, and that their ancestors were a nomadicpeople who, some five or six thousand years ago, migrated from the north-westernpart of Asia and finally settled in the northern-central part of what is nowChina.

They soon learned how to till the ground and produce grain. As time went on,the settlers formed themselves into tribes ruled by chieftains. Wars with theaborigines and among the different tribes were frequent. The result was that theoriginal inhabitants were driven off in all directions, and the most powerfulchieftain became the acknowledged head. As to how long this state of affairs hadcontinued to exist, history is silent. What we do know of this period is foundedlargely upon the law of evolution, which is common to all peoples.
 

2. Mythological Era
(BC 5000-2200)

2.1. Age of the Three Divine Rulers

Given the first rank among the chieftains is Fuxi, or "Conqueror ofAnimals." He taught his subjects how to catch animals and fish with netsand to rear domestic animals for food. He is also the originator of the writingsystem which, with their improvements and modifications of ages, has been handeddown to us in the form of the modern Chinese characters.

Before Fuxi, there lived in the pre-historic times a ruler, called Sui Jen,"Producer of Fire." As the name implies, he is believed to have beenthe man who brought down fire from heaven for the first time and employed it inthe preparation of food. Before his time the people lived like wild beasts andate their food raw.

Some 1300 years after Fuxi, the throne fell to Shennong, or "God ofAgriculture," who taught the people the art agriculture and the use ofherbs as medicine.

The three foregoing rulers are commonly spoken of by historians as the"Three Divine Rulers."
 

2.2. The Yellow Sovereign

The successors of Shennong were all rulers of inferior ability, and unable tocheck the encroachments of the savage tribes whose subjugation was left to HuangDi, or the Yellow Emperor. He was a warrior as well as a statesman. He has beenimmortalized by the famous battle of Zhuo Lu, where he used a compass to locatehis chief enemy and defeat him. His chief enemy was among those killed in thebattle, and this victory is believed to have prepared the way for a permanentChinese settlement in the Middle Kingdom.

After this conquest of the aborigines, Huang Di was placed on the throne. Hetook his title from the color of the earth, believing that he had come intopower by its virtue. His kingdom spread north and west to the desert, east tothe ocean, and south to the Great River ((Yangtze River)). This was the largestempire hitherto known in China.

His rule lasted 100 years, a century of progress and enlightenment. He iscommonly believed to have been the inventor of boats, carts, bow, arrows, bamboomusical instruments, copper coins, calendar, and fixed standard weight andmeasures, and more. His ministers invented six kinds of writing, constructed aCelestial Globe, and recorded the movement of stars. His wife taught the peoplehow to rear silkworms and weave silk, and has been regarded as the goddess ofthe silk industry.

Huang Di, his grandson, his great-grand son, Yao, and Shun are commonlyspoken of as the Five Sovereigns.
 

2.3. Yao and Shun
(BC 2400-2200)

2.3.1. Yao: Chinese historians generally regard the accession of Yao as thedawn of authentic history. The first official act of Yao was to give his peoplea more correct calendar than that which had previously existed. This system hasbeen followed throughout all the succeeding ages. Every one had access to hiscourt either to offer a suggestion or to make a criticism. No importantappointment was ever made without the advice and consent of the chiefs of thefeudal lords; and, as the result, his administration was a great success.

The prosperity of the nation was, however, temporarily disturbed by athirteen-year flood which began in the sixty-first year of Yao's reign. It was aterrible disaster, and Yao was greatly grieved by the sufferings of his people.With some hesitation, the great task of reducing the waters was assigned to Gun,who failed, and for this failure and other crimes, was put to death by Shun,Yao's son-in-law and co-ruler. Strange as it may seem, Yu, son of Gun, wasrecommended to the throne by Shun.

It took Yu eight years to finish the work. Instead of building highembankments as his father had done, he deepened the beds of existing rivers andcut as many channels as were necessary to carry the water off to the sea. By hisgreat engineering success, he soon became the idol of the nation. "We wouldhave been fish but for Yu" is a saying which has come down to us from thosedays.

2.3.2. Shun: Yao ruled 100 years. From the seventy-third year of his reign,however, Shun was actually the head of the government and acted as regent. Yaodied at the age of 117; and, as he was not pleased with the conduct of his ownson, he left the throne to Shun.

After the death of Yao, Shun refused to take the throne which had been leftfor him. He evidently wished to give Yao's son an opportunity to succeed hisillustrious father. Public opinion, however, was so strong in favor of Shunthat, at the end of the three years of mourning, he reluctantly assumed theroyal title.

We have seen that Shun was the son-in-law of Yao. One naturally thinks that aman must be a prince, or high official, before he may become the son-in-law of asovereign. Shun was neither. He was but a farmer, and one whose early life wasnot at all happy. According to tradition, his mother died when he was young, andhis father married again and had more children. His stepmother never liked him;and, under her influence, the father, who was blind, and his half-brothers hatedhim. Shun never complained, and finally his filial piety overcame allprejudices.

His fame spread far and wide and soon reached the ear of Yao, who had begunto feel the burden of the government. Shun having been recommended to thesovereign by the feudal lords as the man best fitted to be his successor, Yaothereupon gave both of his daughters to him in marriage. Thus at the age of 30,Shun was obliged to give up a farmer's life to share the responsibilities ofgoverning an empire.

Shun's administrative abilities soon justified the confidence placed in himby Yao. He called from private life many capable people to take part in theadministration of the government, and did not hesitate for a moment to punishthose who were unworthy of trust. Among the former, Yu the Great was his primeminister. Shun was the author of the scheme by which all ministers directlyresponsible to the throne were required to give a strict account of theiradministration or department every third year. He further made the rule thatfeudal prince should report in person to the royal court every year and theoverlord or king make a tour of inspection every fifth year. Shun had ruled as emperor for 47 years and was succeeded by Yu the Great.

Yao and Shun are regarded as the ideal rulers in China. Much of theirunrivaled popularity is undoubtedly due to the eulogies of Confucius andConfucian scholars, who have endowed them with every virtue known to humans.They are worshipped not because of the deeds they performed, but because of thespotless lives they led. They are models as humans and rulers, and their daysare generally accepted as the Golden Age in Chinese history. No greater honorcan be paid to a Chinese emperor than to compare him to Yao and Shun.
 

3. The Xia Dynasty
(BC 2200-1700)

3.1. Yu the Great: Following theexample of Yao, Shun made Yu co-ruler in the twenty-third year of his reign. Yuwas, therefore, actually in power when Shun died; but being anxious to giveShun's son a chance, he made an attempt to retire. However, his great success inrestoring the flooded lands and his subsequent services to the State, had longeclipsed the would-be heir-apparent. When the people had to choose between atried statesman and one who had no other claim to the throne than that basedupon his birth, their preference was naturally for the former.

So, after the period of mourning, Yu was elected to the throne. He moved hiscapital to Anyi, and adopted the name of his former principality, Xia, as thename of the dynasty he now founded. To show his gratitude, he made the sons ofYao and Shun feudal lords over territories called Tang and Yu, respectively.

Yu, as ruler, desired to maintain the closest relations with hispeople, and caused to be hung at the entrance to his court five instruments---adrum, a gong, a stone instrument, a bell, and a rattle. The drum was to announcethe coming of a caller who desired to discourse with him upon any of the virtueswhich should adorn a monarch. By beating the gong, he who disapproved of theking's conduct could be admitted to audience. If any one had important news, orpersonal grievances to communicate, he had but to strike the stone instrument,or ring the bell, as the case might be, in order to gain admittance; while theking was always ready to hear any appeal from the judicial decisions of hisjudges whenever he heard the sound of the rattle. These instruments kept Yu sovery busy that, as historians inform us, he was always late at his midday meal.

The discovery of intoxicating spirits has been traced to Yu's time; but Yi Di,the discoverer, was dismissed from the public service by the sovereign, who saidin the presence of his ministers: "The day is coming when the liquor willcost someone a kingdom."

As a monument to his greatness, Yu, in the fourth year of his reign, castnine metal tripods, and engraved descriptions of the Nine Regions on each ofthem. These emblems of royalty, as the tripods have been regarded, were thenplaced in the ancestral temple of Yu. As Yu was ninety-three years when he cameto the throne, he did not rule long before death put an end to his distinguishedeight-year career.

The Xia Dynasty is worthy of note for the fact that after Yu thethrone ceased to be elective and became hereditary. No selfish motive, however,could be attributed to Yu. Gao Yu, to whom he would have gladly resigned thethrone, had died. As his own son, Ji, inherited many of his kingly virtues, itwas but natural that the people, who had so much to say in the matter, shouldinsist, as they did, upon Ji's inheriting the throne. Ji's reign was one ofprosperity and peace.

3.2. Jie and Mei Xi: Passing over some fourteenkings, we come to the days of the notorious Jie, the seventeenth and last kingof the house of Xia. Jie was a man of extraordinary strength, but was nostatesman. He conquered many tribes who had refused to submit to his authority;but his military achievements made him haughty, willful, and cruel, and hebecame both extravagant and immoral. He refused to heed the advice of the wise,and spent his time among bad women, of whom Mei Xi was the most notorious.

Mei Xi was beautiful but wicked. She had been given to Jie as ransom by anoble whom the king had humbled. It is commonly believed that she was largelyresponsible for the downfall of the Xia Dynasty. According to tradition, therewas a lake full of liquor in the palace of Jie. At a given signal, threethousand persons jumped into this lake and drank like cattle, for the drunkenconduct of such revelers was the principal amusement of the king and his royalconcubine. To please her, an underground palace was built at an immense cost.Here Jie enjoyed all kinds of vice by day and by night while the affairs ofstate were entirely neglected.

Extra taxation had to be resorted to, in order to provide means to meet theheavy expenditure of Jie; but this so alienated the hearts of the people that arebellion was started by a virtuous noble named Tang. Little resistance waspossible, and Jie, after having led a most wanton royal life for fifty-threeyears, died in exile.
 

4. The Shang Dynasty
(BC 1700-1050)

4.1. Tang, the Founder of the Dynasty: Tang, who was said to have descended from the minister of education underShun, was the founder of the Shang Dynasty, named after the principalitybestowed on him for his services. The capital was moved to Bo for this newfamily of rulers.

The battle of Ming Diao, which resulted in the overthrow of Jie, gave Tangthe title of "Victorious." In fact, his revolution wasthe first successful one recorded in Chinese history. It is stated that he neverfelt happy afterwards, because he feared that his action in taking up armsagainst Jie, his sovereign, might be viewed by succeeding ages in the light of ausurpation. One of his ministers tried, by an able address, to convince him thatwhat he did was in strict accord with the will of Heaven, since Jie had sinnedagainst Heaven and humans. This view is fully shared by Confucian scholars, whonot only exonerate Tang, but rank him with the celebrated rulers of antiquity.

A fearful drought commenced in the second year of Tang's reign and lastedseven years. The suffering among the people was beyond description. Money wascoined and freely distributed among the poor, but this hardly relieved thesituation. Having exhausted all means in his power, Tang finally appealed to Godby going to a mulberry grove and there offering his prayer. He confessed hissins and offered his own life for the benefit of the people. "Do notdestroy my people," said he, "because of my sins!" The reply tohis prayer was a copious rain. Tang was so much delighted with theresult of the appeal to Heaven, that he composed a new hymn to which he gave thename of "Mulberry Grove."

4.2. Tai Jia: Tang's son havingdied before him, Tai Jia, his grandson, came to the throne after his death. Thissovereign was weak and was soon led astray by bad ministers. Fortunately for himand the dynasty, Yi Yin, who had placed the crown upon the headof Tang, was close at hand.

Several times Yi Yin remonstrated with the young ruler by calling attentionto the good qualities which distinguished Tang and the causes of the downfall ofthe Xia Dynasty. To all this, Tai Jia turned a deaf ear. Yi Yin, who preferredto commit an irregularity rather than see the empire fall to pieces through thefollies of Tai Jia, made up his mind to take strong measures. Tai Jia wasdethroned and made to live near the tomb of Tang, while Yi Yin assumed the exercise of royal functions in the capacity of regent.

This unprecedented action on the part of Yi Yin had a most salutary effect,for the change of environment worked a complete reformation in Tai Jia, whoreturned at the end of three years to Bo, a thoroughly repentant man andcompetent ruler. To him Yi Yin gladly restored all royal powers.

It was this act of Yi Yin rather than his services inbuilding up an empire that has made him immortal. Whether he did right intemporarily dethroning the king was open to question, until a final verdict wasrendered by Mencius who thought that his ends amply justified his means. Thishistorical event attests the extent of the power exercised by a prime ministerin those days.

4.3. Wu Ding: Wu Ding, the twentieth ruler, isfamous for two things---the way in which he obtained the services of an ableminister and the expedition he led against the Tartars.

According to tradition, Wu Ding never spoke a word during the time ofmourning, but permitted, his prime minister to manage the state affairs for him.When the mourning was over, the prime minister resigned on account of age. Tofind a successor to such a brilliant man was no easy task. Wu Ding, therefore,appealed to God, and a man was revealed to him in a dream. He made a picture ofthe man of his dream and ordered a search to be made for him. A mason was atlength found who answered the description given and who was at once usheredbefore Wu Ding. The king was very much pleased with the words of the mason andmade him Prime Minister at once. This man was Fu Yue.

Modern historians think that Wu Ding had known Fu Yue well, and that thedream was a mere pretense on the part of the king who did not wish to raise amason to so important an office as that of prime minister without some betterexcuse than his own knowledge of the man. Fu Yue, however, proved to be theright man for the place; for, under his guidance, the country prospered withinand was respected without.

In the year BC 1293 there was an expedition sent against the Land of theDemon commonly believed to be the Tartars. This war lasted three years, andresulted in a temporary lease of new life to the Shang Dynasty. Nobles againflocked into the court of Wu Ding with tribute. Unfortunately Wu Ding'ssuccessors were not able to check the rising power of a western state which wasreaching its zenith.

4.4. King Zhou and Daji: The Shang Dynasty ended witha tyrant, the twenty-fourth king---King Zhou. He was a talented man,but utterly without principle. In character, he very much resembled Jie, thelast ruler of the house of Xia. Like him, King Zhou was aided to a great extentin the practice of vice by a woman. Her name was Daji. When he heard of thisbeauty, he led an army to attack her father, a noble of Su, and compelled him tosurrender her as a concubine to the sovereign.

King Zhou soon became a helpless slave to share her wicked will. She evidentlytook no fancy to an underground palace. To satisfy her vanity, King Zhou constructed the "Deer Tower," the highest structure known in his day.The work was completed in seven years and cost an incredible amount of money.Unfortunately, this great architectural work perished with King Zhou, who setfire to it and burned himself to death, when he saw no hope for himself.

King Zhou, who was even worse than Jie, permitted Daji to interfere with themanagement of his government, for she was "the hen that heralds the dawn ofthe day." To seal the lips of the timid, she caused all those who venturedto remonstrate with the king to be put to death by making them climb up ared-hot copper pillar. Even the uncle of the king lost his life.

Desertion and rebellion were the order of the day. Eight hundred noblesjoined the flag of Chou Fa, whose own army numbered only three thousand men.King Zhou was not a man who would give up his kingdom without a struggle. Animmense army was raised and the last stand was made at Mu Yie. The royalsoldiers refused to fight and the result was the death of King Zhou and the endof the Shang Dynasty.
 

5. The Zhou Dynasty
(BC 1050-221)

5.1. Introduction

The Zhou Dynasty marks the beginning of a new epoch in Chinese history. Withit the real authentic history begins. In it are to be found the origins andprinciples of Chinese civilization. The Zhou Dynasty was to China what Greecewas to Europe; for most of the customs, laws, and institutions which we seetoday have been handed down from this period. Its history resembles the historyof Europe during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The rise anddevelopment of philosophies during this period have also rendered the name ofZhou particularly memorable. For the sake of convenience, this longest Chinesedynasty may be divided into three periods: the first, Western Zhou, embraces therise of the dynasty and down to the removal of its capital to the east; thesecond, the age of Feudalism, or Spring and Autumn Period; and the third, theage of the Seven States, or Warring States Period.
 

5.2. Western Zhou
(BC 1050-770)

5.2.a. Its early history: The founder of the Zhou Dynasty, Wu Wang,the Military King, was of distinguished ancestry, being a descendant of Ji, theMinister of Agriculture under Shun. One of this Ji's descendants introduced theart of agriculture among the savage tribes in the western part of the empire andbuilt a town at Bin. Here his family continued to live in peace for hundreds ofyears. In the year BC 1326, they, having been harassed by the constantincursions of the barbarians, migrated eastward to Ji, and gave this newsettlement the name of Zhou.

Through the labors of a succession of good people, this little town in timebecame the center of civilization. Its growth was most rapid. By the time of WenWang, or Scholar King, father of the founder of the dynasty,it was a city of far greater importance than the capital of the empire, for itwas the capital of "two-thirds of the empire." The fruits of hisbenevolent government were finally reaped by his son, Wu Wang, or Military King.

5.2.b. Wu Wang: Having ascended the throne, made vacant bythe death of King Zhou, amid the acclamations of the nobles who had alliedthemselves with him, Wu Wang set himself to organize a peaceful government.

His first act was to set at liberty the unhappy people who had beenimprisoned by King Zhou for no fault of theirs. Among them was one named Qi Zi,who was King Zhou's uncle, and a man of great learning. He explained the rules ofgovernment, and then escaped to Korea, where he was elected ruler. He evidentlyhad no desire of becoming an official under the newly established dynasty.

By order of the king, Daji, who had caused so many innocent men and women tobe put death, paid the penalty with her life. The immense stores of grain whichhad been stored by King Zhou and the treasures he had accumulated weredistributed to the poor; soldiers were disbanded; horses and oxen given tofarmers for agricultural purposes; schools established; and houses built for theold. A new city was laid out at Hao, which was henceforth the capital of theempire. Wu Wang died at the age of ninety-three, alter having ruledas king for seven years.

5.2.c. Duke of Zhou: Of the numerous great people whoadorned the court of Wu Wang, the Duke of Zhou, his younger brother, must begiven the first place. It was he who completed what had been left undone by WuWang, for the latter's death left a boy of thirteen on the throne, and theresponsibility of the government rested with the Duke who was the regent.

As a statesman and lawyer, the Duke of Zhou wrote a classicknown as "The Rites of Zhou," which is a permanent monument to hisgreatness; as a general, he crushed a most stubborn rebellion headed by Wu Geng,son of King Zhou, and aided by other uncles of the boy-king, whom Wu Wang hadappointed to most responsible positions; and as a philosopher, succeeding ageshave pronounced him to be second only to Confucius. The name of this man isclosely associated with the early institutions of the Zhou Dynasty.

5.2.d. Divisions of the empire: The feudal system was undoubtedly anoutcome of the tribal government of the early ages. It existed during the Xiaand Shang Dynasties, but the Duke of Zhou perfected it by the introduction ofthe five orders of nobility, which are dukes, marquises, earls, viscounts, andbarons. A duke or a marquis was entitled to rule over a territory 100 milesquare; an earl, 70 mile square; and a viscount or baron, 50 mile square. Thesewere classified as the first, second, and third class states respectively.States, whose area was less than 50 mile square, had no direct representation atthe court of the emperor and were obliged to send their tribute through aneighboring first-class state.

There were nine regions in the empire. With the exception of the territoryreserved as the domain of the emperor, each region contained 30 first-class, 60second-class, and 120 third-class states, or a total of 210 feudal states. Thedomain of the emperor was divided among the executive ministers of his court andincluded nine first-class, twenty-one second-class, and sixty-three third-classstates.

At the beginning of the Zhou Dynasty, the total number of feudal states was1,773. Subsequent civil wars among these states finally reduced this number toseven. The Zhou Dynasty reaped much benefit from "the wall of feudal statesaround the House of the Emperor," built by the Duke of Zhou.It was the armies of these states that saved it from the horrors of a barbarianinvasion; and, when its power had sunk to the lowest ebb, it was the jealousyamong them that prolonged its existence.

5.2.e. Government: Of the political institutions of the two precedingdynasties, we know very little. The highest officials under the emperors of theZhou Dynasty were the Grand Tutor, the Grand Instructor, and the Grand Guardian,with an assistant under each. Their offices were purely didactic. Theadministration of the government was entrusted to a cabinet consisting of theheads of the following six departments: the Heavenly Minister or Minister of theInterior, the Earthly Minister or Minister of the Treasury, the Spring Ministeror Minister of Rites and Religion, the Summer Minister or Minister of War, theAutumn Minister or Minister of Jurisprudence, the Winter Minister or Minister ofWorks. Each cabinet minister had a corps of sixty subordinate officers underhim. The total number of executive officers, therefore, was 360, correspondingto the number of heavenly bodies known at that time.

Outside of the domain of the emperor, feudal chiefs were appointed. They wereof different grades, and the number of states subject to their supervisory powervaried from five, for one of the lowest grade, to 210 for one of the highestgrade, or Lord of a Region.

5.2.f. Taxation: Soon after the reduction of the waters by Yu theGreat, a system of taxation was inaugurated, known as the "TributeSystem." The Shang Dynasty introduced another familiar system called"Aid System." Each able-bodied man or a group of families receivedland from the government and was to pay to it as tax the produce of a part ofthe land. The system adopted by the Zhou Dynasty was a combination of the two,the "tribute system" for the more crowded cities and the "aidsystem" for the outlying districts. The Zhou people were also taxed bylabor, the length of time during which a man had to work for the governmentvarying according to the condition of the crop of each year.

5.2.g. Military equipment: Under the Zhou Dynasty the burden ofmilitary equipment rested entirely on the farmers. Every unit of 512 familieswas required to furnish four horses, one chariot, three charioteers, seventy-twofoot soldiers, and twenty-five other men. The emperor's domain was composed of64,000 units, hence its military strength was estimated at 10,000 chariots. Forthis reason, his realm is spoken of as "a state of ten thousandchariots."

5.2.h. Mu Wang: The Zhou Dynasty is famous for several able rulersimmediately after its founder. This line was broken when Mu Wang, the fifthemperor, came to the throne. He was more ambitious than wise. In the height ofhis passion for conquests, he led an immense army against the Jung Tribes in thewestern part of the country. This expedition must have been a failure, for hebrought back only four white wolves and four white deer. Unintentionally, hethus sowed the seed of hatred which culminated in an invasion of China in BC 771.

5.2.i. Xuan Wang: As the son of the fifth emperor, who died in exiledue to his vassals' rebellions against his misgoverning, Xuan Wang had evidentlylearned a good lesson from the misfortunes that had come upon his father.Placing himself under the guidance of experienced ministers, he soon saw thereturn of better days. The internal conditions improved and his arms weresuccessful everywhere.

Not only did Xuan Wang have good ministers, but he also had a good queen,Jiang Hou, who today ranks among the greatest women of antiquity. It is statedthat the emperor was less energetic when he saw that his state was in a bettercondition. He began to rise late and was indifferent to the affairs of state. Noadvice from ministers was heeded; but finally Jiang Hou hit upon an expedientwhich proved successful. One morning she deprived herself of all emblems ofroyalty, and sent word to Xuan Wang that she was no longer worthy to be hisqueen, since she had failed to prevent him from falling into the evils whichwould ultimately bring his government into difficulties.

5.2.j. Yu Wang: Unfortunately, Xuan Wang did not have a good son. Hewas succeeded by Yu Wang, in whose reign of eleven years we see the records ofJie and King Zhou repeated. Like them, Yu Wang was completely under the influenceof a beauty. By a well-planned stroke of policy, this woman had the queendegraded and the crown prince disinherited in favor of herself and her son. Thiswas the infamous Bo Su, whose smile cost Yu Wang his crown and his life.

Tradition says that Bo Su was hard to please, and that the king tried everymeans in his power to make her smile, but without success. He at length thoughtof a scheme. He had all the beacons lighted, which, it must be remembered, wasto be done only as a signal for the nobles to come to the defense of theiroverlord. The loyal nobles responded promptly with what forces they were able tocollect at short notice. To their dismay they discovered that no danger existedand that the whole thing was but a false cry of "wolf." Yu Wang wasindeed successful, for he saw a smile on the face of Bo Su.

The mistake he thus made, however, was a fatal one. Not long afterwards hisempire was invaded by the barbarians known as the Jung. As the country was by nomeans prepared for the attack, the emperor lighted the beacons again, but no oneresponded. The capital was easily taken, and Yu Wang slain. These barbarians hadinvaded China at the invitation of the Marquis of Shen, father of the formerqueen. In the court of this marquis, the disinherited crown prince had soughtrefuge. Instead of surrendering the unhappy exile, the marquis allied himselfwith the Jung to make war on Yu Wang.

5.2.k. Removal of the capital: For a time the Jung were permitted toplunder the country, but the allied troops of the more powerful nobles finallydrove them outside of China. The vacant throne was then restored by the alliesto the disinherited crown prince. The dynastic title of the new king was PingWang , or "The Pacifier," but he was not worthy of the name.

No sooner did he come to the throne than he transferred the seat ofgovernment to "The Eastern Metropolis," in Luoyi (near Luoyang), acity built by the famous Duke of Zhou, and hitherto used as the place formeeting the nobles, because of its central location. Henceforth the dynasty wasknown as "The Eastern Zhou."

With this event, which took place in BC 770, a period of weakness came uponthe Zhou Dynasty. During the remainder of some 500 years, it existed in nameonly. The weaker feudal states were an easy prey for the more powerful nobleswho only acknowledged allegiance to the emperor so long as it suited them. TheChina of this period may be described as an empire partitioned amongst thenobles.

5.2.l. The tribes: We have seen that the removal of the capital to theeast was due entirely to a dread of the growing power of the tribes in the west.These were not the only barbarians which existed then. Their kindred in thenorth and in the south also made constant inroads into China. The weakness ofthe reigning house was most favorable to their growth. As the Zhou Dynasty wasnot able to defend the country, the task fell to the lot of the nobles.Fortunately for China, the Mongolian Tartars were not strong enough then toharass the northern border, or they would have made short work of a weakenedempire.

5.2.m. Aborigines: The rulers of the Zhou Dynasty never troubledthemselves much about the aborigines. As long as they remained quiet, they werealways permitted to retain their customs and land in the heart of the empire.They were scattered here and there among feudal states. For several centuries,they remained uninfluenced by Chinese civilization. In view of their love ofwar, they became very valuable tools of the feudal states; but, as the lattergrew stronger, they were either conquered or disappeared through assimilation.
 

5.3. Eastern Zhou: The Age of Feudalism
(BC 770-476)

5.3.a. Introduction: The Feudalism in China furnishes a most importantstudy. The best record of this period has been preserved in the Spring andAutumn Classic, dating from BC 722 to BC 481, a work said to have been edited byConfucius. It is largely a record of civil wars among the feudal states, whichthe emperor was powerless to prevent. Annexations of weaker states by strongerones were of frequent occurrence. Of 1,773 states created by the founder of thisZhou Dynasty, only one hundred and sixty were left; and of this number onlytwelve were of importance. The rest merely rallied under the flags of theirleaders until they were swallowed up.

5.3.b. Interstate relations: In times of peace an exchange of envoyswas not uncommon, though none was ever appointed to reside at the capital of afriendly state. Free transit through a third state and personal immunity wereamong the privileges enjoyed by a diplomatic agent. An insult to such an agentwas sometimes a sufficient cause for declaring war.

A lame envoy was once subjected to ridicule at the court of the state towhich he was sent. In the war that ensued the offending state was beaten and theenvoy, who was now the commander-in-chief of the invading army, demanded, as acondition of peace, the surrender of the mother of the defeated prince ashostage, since she was thought to have been among the women who laughed at himon his former peaceful mission.

A peace concluded under the walls of the capital of a defeated state wasconsidered an unusual humiliation, while a sheep, presented by a defeated rulerin person and half naked, was a sign of submission.

The desire for leadership and preeminence was the cause of many a bloody warbetween rival states. Chu was always looking for opportunities of conquest. Todefeat Chu, therefore, was the stepping stone to supremacy. In times of need astate was obliged to go to the rescue of a friendly neighbor that looked to itfor leadership.

5.3.c. The five supreme powers: It seems there were five states morepowerful than the rest. As to which they were historians never agree. Thefollowing states are certainly worthy of mention, beside Chu.

     .1. Qi: The state of Qi came intoprominence through the efforts of Duke Huan. Before his time, Qiwas the scene of internal disorder and murder. In consequence of a disputedsuccession, Duke Huan put his half-brother to death. A devoted friend of thelatter was Guan Zhong, who shot an arrow at Duke Huan, but itwas arrested by the hook of the Duke's girdle.

Duke Huan, however, was more than ready, when he came to thethrone, to forgive this would-be assassin. He make Guan Zhong his primeminister. The finances of Qi were then in a very bad condition, and the army wasfar from efficient. Guan Zhong soon proved his worth. Heestablished a salt monopoly, encouraged commerce, opened iron mines, andreorganized the existing army. In a few years the internal conditions improved,and Qi was looked to by neighboring states as their leader in time of peace andtheir protector in time of war.

Duke Huan was now in a position to enter upon a war of conquest. What heneeded was a pretext that would receive universal approval. He did not wait longfor such a pretext. The emperor was too weak to enforce his authority and wasmore than glad to befriend any one of his vassals who could do it for him. DukeHuan was the man.

His army was soon seen punishing the northern tribes for their disrespect tothe reigning house of the empire. Nobles who refused to acknowledge hissupremacy shared the same fate. He reached the climax of his glory when hesucceeded in bringing the state of Chu over to his side. He led an expeditionconsisting of his own army and the picked armies of his allies against Chu, forthe alleged reason that the latter state had failed to present to the royalcourt a certain kind of plant, which grew in that territory. Chu preferred toagree to a condition so easy to fulfill rather than go to war, and so a treatyof peace was signed.

With the death of Guan Zhong the days of conquests andsupremacy seemed to have ended in Qi. Two years later, Duke Huan himself died,leaving a numerous progeny. The latter quarreled over the throne, and throughtheir follies, the leadership among the states was forever lost to Qi. Thesuccess of Duke Huan had its effect upon the neighboring states. Among thenobles who tried to follow his footsteps, was Duke Xiang of Song, who made apretty good start, but received a crushing defeat at the hands of Chu.

     .2. Jin: This feudal state occupied thewestern part of the empire. The defeat of Duke Xiang of Song gave Chu a freehand in the political affairs of the empire. She "absorbed all the statesalong the Han River," and her sway extended over the whole of HuashangMountains. She was a terror in the domain of the emperor until Jin arose.

Duke Wen of Jin passed his early days in exile, traveling fromstate to state. When he was in Chu, a feast was given in his honor by the Baronof Chu. "If you ever become the ruler of your own state, what will you doin return for the favors I have shown you?" asked the Baron.

Wen, afterwards Duke of Jin, replied that he really did not know what hecould do in that case. "Of servants, mistresses, precious stones, andsilks," he added, "your honor has had more than enough; and feathers,leather, and ivory are the produce of your soil; but should it ever become mygood luck to meet your honor in the battlefield at the head of an opposing army,I shall order a retreat of ten miles, in consideration of what you have done forme. And should you insist on further advance, I will certainly make astand."

These remarks of this ambitious young man offended many of the ministers ofthe baron, who advised him to kill Wen; but the advice was rejected as cowardly.The baron evidently little thought that Wen would ever be able to realize hisambition. But Duke Wen of Jin fulfilled his promise to the letterwhen he met the army of Chu at Chengpu, BC 632. He crippled the militarystrength of Chu for nearly half a century. The battle of Chengpu is especiallymemorable because one of the generals of Jin had the chariot horses covered withtigers' skins.

Duke Wen, being a member of the reigning family of Zhou, stoodin the closest relationship to the court at the "Eastern Metropolis" (Luoyi).After his success at Chengpu, he was received in audience by the emperor, wholoaded the royal "uncle" with honors and presents. The prestige of Jinwas maintained by successors to Duke Wen for nearly two hundred years.

     .3. Wu: The next state,which was able to weaken the strength of Chu, was a new rising power in thesouth called Wu. In the latter part of the sixth century BC, a certain fugitivefrom justice, Qu Wuchen, made his way from Chu to Wu, where he was the first toteach the people how to use a bow and arrow. He reorganized the army of Wu. Whatwas left undone by him was completed by another military genius who had fled ina similar manner from Chu some seventy years later.

This was the famous Sun Zi, the author of the Art of War, whose father and elder brother hadbeen wrongfully put to death by Ping Wang of Chu. His life was also in danger,and so he fled to Wu. His marvelous escape has often been acted on the Chinesestage, and his story is perhaps familiar to every Chinese schoolchild. He wasjust the man Wu needed. In BC 506, he entered the capital of Chu at the head ofa triumphant army, and had the remains of Ping Wang dug out and given 300 blows.

     .4. Yue: Sun Zi certainly did much for his newly adopted state, whichwas now the leader in the empire. Her army overran the state of Yue, and made ita vassal. Gou Jian, King of Yue, knew well that he could ruleonly at the pleasure of Fu Zha, King of Wu. Outwardly he did everything toplease Fu Zha, but at the same time went on with the reorganization of his ownstate. He made Fu Zha a present of Xi Shi, the famous beauty ofthe time.

This had a most astonishing effect. The girl, who "was washing silk bythe side of a brook in the morning and concubine of the king of Wu in theevening," soon became the favorite of Fu Zha. The King of Wu paid nofurther attention to what was going on in Yue. The year BC 472 saw the downfallof his state and his own death by suicide. Wu was added to the territory of Yue,but the latter was finally conquered by Chu.

5.3.d. Treaty-making: Treaties were always very solemn functions,invariably accompanied by the sacrifice of an animal. A part of the sacrifice,or of its blood, was thrown into a ditch in order that the spirit of the earthmay bear witness to the deed; the rest of the blood was rubbed upon the lips ofthe parties concerned, and also scattered upon the documents by way ofimprecation; sometimes, however, the imprecations instead of being uttered, werespecially written at the end of the treaty. Just as we say "the ink wasscarcely dry before etc., etc.," the ancients used to say "the bloodof the victim was scarcely dry before etc., etc."

5.3.e. Warfare: The armies of the various feudal princes consistedprincipally of charioteers and foot soldiers. We have seen that the strength andwealth of a state were measured by the number of war chariots it was able toplace in the field. These were made of leather and wood; and their use, it wouldseem, dates as far back as BC 1800. When in camp these chariots were oftenarranged in opposite rows with the ends of their shafts meeting above, so as toform a "shaft gate," over which a flag was kept flying. No mention ismade of cavalry during the true feudal time. In fact this arm of militaryservice was only introduced into China by the semi-Tartar states about the yearBC 307, after which no more war chariots were used.

Besides the war chariots, more comfortable conveyances drawn by horses oroxen were also in use. An eight-horse carriage or cart was the style used by aking. Confucius, in his famous travels, employed a two-horse carriage which wasalways driven by one of his disciples.

The offensive weapons of the warriors consisted of knives, swords, halberds,spears, pole-axes, and lances with crescent-shaped blades on the side. Thesewere all made of copper. Bows and arrows, much the same as those of today, werealso used. The defensive weapons were shields, cuirasses made of skins ofrhinoceroses, and helmets made of skins or copper. The soldiers marched to thesound of a drum and retreated at the sound of a gong. Before setting out on anexpedition, it was customary to rub the regimental drum with the blood of asacrifice, and to show the number of enemies slain, their left ears, instead oftheir heads, were often cut off by the victors.

5.4. Eastern Zhou: The Age of Seven States
(BC 475-221)

5.4.a. End of feudal leadership: In the preceding section we have seenhow the Zhou Dynasty, during the sixth and seventh centuries BC, was able tomaintain its shadow of power over the feudal states. The emperor always stroveto cultivate the good will of the strongest state, because its military strengthmaintained his authority; the latter was no less happy to be under theprotection of the royal scepter, because his name gave it moral support.

While this condition of affairs existed, both the emperor and the leadingstates reaped immense benefit therefrom. But it could not exist always. The ZhouDynasty was now on the decline. The royal name had lost all its value; the royaldomain had been greatly reduced by occasional grants of land for servicesrendered by the stronger states. Friendship with Zhou was without profit and soit was no longer sought.

5.4.b. Civil war within each state: Furthermore, the national life hadassumed a new phase. It must be borne in mind that, under the feudal system, theland granted by the emperor carried sovereignty with it. Each feudal lord wassovereign over his own domain which was subdivided into estates among hisministers. These ministers were executive officials in time of peace andcommanders in time of war. The standing army of a noble was under his immediatecontrol. The growth of estate holders, as was inevitable, always corresponded tothat of the state itself. So the strongest states had the most difficultinternal problems to face. According to the saying at the time, "the tailoften became so large that it could not be wagged at will."

5.4.c. The seven states: As the predominant states exercised the power of the emperor, so the estateholders exercised the power of a feudal lord. Civil warfare on a small scalecharacterized the internal condition of each state. Powerful estate holderscould depose their master whenever they pleased. This condition was especiallytrue in Jin, the most powerful of the feudal states. It had grown so large thatits duke was no longer able to maintain order. The three rival estate holders inthis state at length came to some kind of agreement, and the partition of Jintook place.

To the three new states, the founders gave their respective surnames of Wei,Zhao, and Han. This partition was fatal to the existence of Zhou. Had the stateof Jin remained intact, Qin would never have come into prominence. As it was,division caused weakness, and no one single state was strong enough to check theeastward advance and aggrandizement of Qin.

The three newly founded states and four of the older states, eachrepresenting the amalgamation of a number of smaller ones, made up the SevenStates, and this period of Chinese history is known as the Age of the SevenStates, or Warring States. The four older states were Qin in the west, Chu inthe south, Yan in the north, and Qi in the east.

Of the Seven States, or"Masculine Powers," as they were then called, Chu and Qin eachpossessed a third of the empire, while the remaining third was divided among theother five states.

5.4.d. Qin: Qin was first known in history as a fourth-class state.Out of gratitude to its chief for military aid in connection with the transferof the capital, Ping Wang of Zhou gave him permission to annex all territorywest of Jin, the earliest home of the dynasty. This easily raised Qin to afirst-class state, so far as the area was concerned, and brought it to theborder of Jin.

Jin was then the leader in the empire, and as its way to the east wasblocked, its rulers were obliged to seek expansion in the west. Intermarriagesbetween the ruling houses of these two states were frequent, but their wars werenot few. The decline of the military prowess of Jin gave Qin access to the greatempire in the east. Once this door was opened, there was nothing to arrest thetide of expansion which, checked in the west, had now begun to flow in theopposite direction.

Duke Shang of Qin was a wonderful man. By introducing administrative reforms,he succeeded in building the foundation of the first centralized empire inChina. The immediate cause of the greatness of Qin lay in the following facts:

(1) The state was in a better financial condition due to more than twocenturies of peace.

(2) Natural defense of streams and mountains formed a stronghold whichrequired but small garrisons to become well-nigh impregnable, and from thisstronghold, her generals could pour immense armies upon the plains on eitherside of the Yellow River.

(3) Constant collisions with the western barbarians had given her bettersoldiers who could carry everything before them.

(4) Her rulers had very little regard for the traditions of ages, butinsisted on reforms as the needs arose.

(5) Her rulers had been able to employ the best geniuses of the time for thebenefit of their country and people. Among the decrees issued by Duke Shang, oneis specially worthy of note, he not only granted official honors and lands tohis own subjects, but also invited able people from other states to come to thehelp of his government. In response to this call, many foreigners flocked to hiscourt. It was these "alien ministers" that helped build up a wealthyand powerful nation.

5.4.e. Yan: Yan was the territory given to Duke Zhao by Wu Wang of Zhou. Its earlier history is not known. It was north of Qi. During theperiod of strife between the leading states, she took no part whatever innational affairs, and it was said of her in BC 539: "She was never a strongpower in spite of her numerous horses."

The year BC 284 is a memorable one in her history, because one of hergenerals invaded Qi and captured more than sixty cities. Her success, however,was only temporary. This able General, Yue Yi by name, wasfalsely accused of treason and was superseded by a man of inferior ability.

As a consequence, she was deprived of all the fruits of her former victory.She owed her integrity not to her own standing army, but to her secludedposition. The three states of Jin stood between her and the powerful Qin. Thenorthern Tartars were not strong enough to harass her. In fact, she had obtaineda large tract of land from them.

5.4.f. Perpendicular and horizontal alliances: Qin had begun to castcovetous eyes on the immense territory that separated her from the sea. To checkher eastward-growing power, it was necessary for the remaining six states toform a chain of north and south alliances. The party that advocated this policyfound in Su Qin, an able leader. They styled themselves"Perpendicular Unionists." Su Qin traveled from one state to anotheruntil he was made Prime Minister of all the Six States and formed an allianceagainst Qin.

At the same time there existed another party who worked in the interest ofQin and who, in their eloquence, persuaded the other states to make peace withQin. They wanted to form a line of east and west alliances, hence they calledthemselves "Horizontal Unionists." This party was headed by Zhang Yi, a classmate of Su Qin.

In other words, Su Qin and his school may be called the War party; whileZhang Yi and his followers, the Peace party. These people flocked to the courtof every state. When the war party came into power, the armies of the six stateswere fighting their common foe in the west; but when the peace party directedaffairs, their envoys were seen at the capital of Qin, bearing tribute.

Qin had also another plan. By bribery, murder, and intrigues of all sorts,she was able to utilize one or more of the six states as a cat's paw to pullchestnuts out of the fire. In this manner, she exhausted the strength andtreasure of her rivals, and gave herself a little rest whilst gathering morestrength for the supreme effort.
 

5.5. The Famous Philosophers

5.5.a. Introduction: The most important event, which has rendered theZhou Dynasty especially conspicuous in Chinese history, is undoubtedly the birthof Confucius, the greatest of Chinese philosophers. A philosopher may bedescribed as a person who tries by his teaching to lay down general laws orprinciples. As a rule, philosophy in the earlier times had a background ofmystery, and Confucianism is no exception. As Confucius was a disciple of Laozi,the founder of Taoism, some knowledge of the latter system, coupled with that ofthe religious beliefs and moral standard of the contemporary Chinese teachers,is necessary to a proper understanding of Confucianism.

"In the early days three groups of divinities were recognized---those ofthe heaven, the earth, and human. Besides these, ancestral worship was largelypracticed. Various kinds of sacrifices were offered according to strictlyenforced rituals at appointed times. Oracles were consulted before even thesmallest undertakings." (Faber's "China in the Light ofHistory.")

The belief in astrology, fortune telling, and dreams was almost universal;but by the time of the Spring and Autumn Classic, considerable intellectualimprovements had been made. "The nation that listens to human is bound torise; that which listens to gods is doomed to ruin." "The will ofheaven is far off, but that of human near; how can one claim knowledge of thatwhich is beyond one's reach?"

These quotations suffice to show the intellectual tendency of the time. Thethought thus expressed was later greatly magnified by Laozi (or Laotze) in hisfamous Daode Jing (or Tao Te Ching, or The Way and Power Classic).

5.5.b. Taoism (Daoism): "Tao probably means impersonal Naturewhich permeates all things, and from which all things are evolved. According tothe teaching of Laozi, true peace comes from ceasing to strive and by living inharmony with the leadings of 'Tao.' The cause of disorder in the world is thedevelopment of what is artificial and unnatural, and the only remedy is a returnto 'Tao.'" (Pott's "A Sketch of Chinese History.")

His philosophy has been thoroughly understood by few, as it is beyond thecomprehension of the average Chinese. Tradition makes Laozi a librarian of theroyal court of Zhou. After the completion of his philosophical work, he retiredto an unknown place, leaving the all-important reform movement to be perfectedby Confucius.

5.5.c. Confucius: Confucius was born BC 551 in the feudal state of Lu.At fifteen his mind was set on learning; and at thirty, he stood firm in hisconvictions. In his twenty-second year, he began his career as a teacher.

In BC 501, Duke Ding of Lu made him minister of justice and acting primeminister. In the latter capacity, he accompanied Duke Ding to an interview thathad been arranged with the chief of Qi. He advocated the policy that the onlyway to maintain peace is to be prepared for war, and at his request the Duke'sretinue included two generals. The return of certain tracts of land, which hadbeen occupied by Qi, crowned his diplomatic effort.

Qi became jealous of Lu's prosperity, and corrupted the Duke by a present ofbeautiful courtesans. Confucius then left Lu to seek employment at the courts ofother nobles. He traveled from state to state but to no avail. At times his lifewas in danger. Seeing no further hope for himself, he returned to Lu and spenthis last days in literary work. He died in BC 479. Since his death, the worldhas come to understand his true worth.

5.5.d. Age of darkness: It must be borne in mind that the statesthrough which Confucius traveled were shrouded in ignorance. The moral standardof the people was low: Between the states there were intrigues of all kinds.Polygamy among the nobles gave rise to endless trouble. Monarchs often losttheir lives at the hands of their own children, and murder was frequentlyresorted to by an ambitious prince to put his brothers or half-brothers out ofthe way. A famous cook, in order to obtain favor with his sovereign, killed hisown son and prepared his flesh as food. It was not uncommon for the ruler of astronger state to wage war against a weaker one for the purpose of capturing abeautiful queen. If any reform was needed in a world of disorder and crimes ofthis kind, it certainly was in the matter of morality.

5.5.e. Confucianism: Confucius never sought to explain anything new,but to reinstate the old in a pure form. "He sought to guide his fellows byholding up to them the wisdom and virtue of the ancients. His teaching waspurely ethical and practical, confined to the daily life of humans as members ofthe state and of their family. He spoke little of God, and he avoided talkingabout the supernatural. For this reason it is often said that he cannot becalled a religious teacher, but only a moral philosopher, and that Confucianismis rather a system of morality than religion."

5.5.f. Influence of Confucianism: "Among the virtues demanded bythe Confucian ethics, propriety, reverence for tradition, and filial piety arethe most important." The last especially is the foundation upon which havestood the social life and security of the Chinese structure. Filial piety notonly means dutiful behavior of children towards parents, but it also includesloyalty to the government and respect for authority. Again, "lack ofbravery in battle is no true filialty."

"These precepts have molded Chinese society for more than two thousandyears. No other reformer has held such absolute sway over a great part ofhumanity for such a long period." Unfortunately, Confucianism has beencorrupted to a great extent by the commentaries and interpretations of Zhu Xiand his school. These commentaries and interpretations are dark clouds in abeautiful summer sky.

5.5.g. Mencius: "Mencius was also born in the feudal state of Lu(BC 372). While Confucius did not claim to be an originator but only atransmitter, Mencius was an independent and original thinker. He expounded theteachings of his Master, and also added his own reflections on the nature ofhuman. He held an extremely optimistic view as to the original goodness of humannature, and believed that it was possible for humans by their own efforts toreach the state of perfection. He is regarded by the Chinese as being second toConfucius." (Pott's "A Sketch of Chinese History.")

5.5.h. Sinzi: Sinzi was also a follower of Confucius, but held a viewentirely different from that of Mencius as regards the nature of human.According to him, human nature is bad, and it is only by living in accordancewith the requirements of righteousness and politeness that human can becomegood.

5.5.i. Mozi: This teacher was a native of the feudal state of Song butthe dates of his birth and death are not known. He is said to have been one ofthe disciples of the Great Sage. His teaching is entirely antagonistic toConfucianism. The main point of contention was on the Funeral Rites.Confucianism is silent respecting the immortality of the soul, and considersdeath as the end of a person, and funeral rites as the last honor one can do tohis parents or sovereign. But according to Mozi there is something immortalafter death, and funeral rites are a waste of money. Perhaps he was right.

He, however, mentioned no recompense for the good, or punishment for the bad.In other respects his system is a close approximation at Christianity. He taughtself-sacrifice for the good of humankind and sanctioned the "destruction ofone's self from head to foot for the benefit of the world." His systemgained many adherents at one time, but received a fatal blow at the hands ofMencius. His philosophical writings have been preserved to the present day.
 

5.6. Ancient Society, Laws, and Customs

5.6.a. Divisions: Four classes of people were recognized in the daysof the Zhou rulers, viz., scholars, husbandmen, mechanics, and merchants. A sonnecessarily followed the calling of his father. Only the scholars were eligibleto government offices which were more or less hereditary. Thus the officeholders and the educated formed the noble class and the rest were commoners. Thesaying of the time was "no penal code was ever above a noble while noritual was below a commoner." It appears from the Spring and Autumn Classicthat the only punishments which were received by nobles of those days, accordingto the nature of their crimes, were death, imprisonment, and banishment.

5.6.b. Eunuchs and their origin: The Zhou Dynasty is commonly creditedwith having introduced the custom of keeping eunuchs. The fact is, eunuchs hadexisted for centuries before the family became supreme in China.

"This class of men seems to have originated with the law's severityrather than from the callous desire on the part of any reigning house to securea craven and helpless medium and means for pandering to, and enjoying thepleasures of the harem without fear of sexual intrigue. Criminals whose feetwere cut off were usually employed as park-keepers, simply because there couldbe no inclination on their part to gad about and chase the game. Those who losttheir noses were employed as isolated frontier pickets where no children couldjeer at them, and where they could better survive their misfortune in quietresignation. Those branded in the face were made gate-keepers, so that theirlivelihood was perpetually marked out for them. It is sufficiently obvious whythe castrated were specially charged with the duty of serving females in amenial capacity. Eunuchs were so employed because they were already eunuchs bylaw."

Since the abolition of the law, BC 197, however, men have been purposely madeeunuchs in order that their services as menials could be conveniently rendered.

5.6.c. Publication of written laws: While various forms of punishmenthad been provided for, there had been no written laws published for theinformation of the public. The "Son of Heaven" (emperor) was the lawgiver and executive; and this sacred authority he could bestow on any one of hisministers.

The first publication of laws was made in the year BC 536 in the feudal stateof Cheng. Zi Zhan, who thought it advisable to cast the laws in metal for theinformation of his people, was a good friend of Confucius.

In the latter part of the Zhou Dynasty, there had grown up a party whoadvocated the enforcement of severe laws as the only means of securing peace inan empire. This party is known as "Legalists," among whom Wei Yang waspreeminent. He was a native of Wei, but was obliged to enter the service of Qin,and tradition makes him author of many cruel forms of punishment provided for inthe penal code of the latter state.

5.6.d. Polygamy: Polygamy has not only existed in China, but has beenlegalized by Confucianism. During the fifth and sixth centuries BC, it wascustomary for a feudal chief to marry his daughter to another chief with many ofher cousins or other relatives as maids (the number went up as high asnineteen), so that in case she should die one of them would succeed her at thehead of the harem.

The practice of making concubines wives was almost universal among thestates. For over two thousand years no one seems to have regarded this evil assin, and much less, as a crime, until one Li Kui, a legalist and statesman ofWei in the time of the Seven States, saw fit to declare polygamy a crimepunishable by death. While this has been the basis of later legislation, law hadnever been stronger than Confucianism. The reason why Confucianism sanctionspolygamy lies in a belief that death without an heir is a sin unpardonable.

5.6.e. Divorce: The ancients sanctioned seven reasons why a husbandcould divorce his wife, including inability to bear a child. How far divorce wasactually effected on this ground, we are not informed. It must not be understoodthat divorce in those days required legal proceedings as it now does. All thehusband had to do to get rid of an undesirable wife was to expel her by force.On the other hand, no ground ever existed in law for a wife to break away from awretch!

5.6.f. Respect for the old: The government of the Zhou Dynasty may bedescribed as follows: a father was supreme in a family, a king in a state, andold age in a village. Every three years the people of each village met, when abanquet was given, presided over by a representative of the Crown and withguests of honor seated according to their ages. This was one of the most solemnoccasions and detailed rituals were prescribed and followed.

5.6.g. Religion: Before the introduction of Buddhism into China (65AD) no religion in the true sense of the word was in existence among theancients. As already stated, Confucianism is not a religion but a system ofmorality. "No word for religion was known to the language; the notion ofchurch or temple served by a priestly caste had not entered human's mind."(Parker's "Ancient China Simplified.")

That the ancients had some knowledge of God, history abundantly attests. Hisworship, however, was one of the prerogatives of the reigning house or family;and, as "Son of Heaven," the king alone could offer sacrifice to theHighest Divinity on behalf of his nation. Lesser ranks worshipped lesserdivinities, such as the elements of nature, mountains, and streams. The worshipof the common people was confined to their own ancestors. It must be noted alsothat what the ancients did in the way of worship was nothing more than theperformance of prescribed rituals, such as that of sacrifices and prayers.

5.6.h. Burial of companions to the dead: This evil custom was almostuniversal during the sixth and seventh centuries BC. In the Book of Odes, weread an account of the funeral of Duke Mu of Qin. Before his death, he haddecreed that three of the ablest ministers of the time (brothers) should beinterred with him. Although the nation did not approve of the choice thus made,yet the decree was faithfully carried out, and the three "good men of Qin"accompanied the remains of Duke Mu to their last resting place.

5.6.i. Education and literature: There was a very good educationalsystem with schools for the nobles as well as for the common people. There was aprimary school for every 25 families; a higher school for every 500 families;and a college for every 12,500 families. Children were of school age when theyreached their eighth years. The higher branches of learning consisted of (1)rituals, (2) music, (3) archery, (4) horsemanship, (5) literature, and (6)mathematics. In other words, education embraced moral, military, andintellectual training.

"It is the father's fault if at the binding of the hair (eight years ofage) children (mostly boys) do not go to the teacher; it is their own fault ifafter having gone to the teacher they make no progress; it is their friends'fault if they make progress but get no repute for it; it is the executives'fault if they obtain repute but no recommendation to office; it is the prince'sfault if they are recommended for office but not appointed."

In the pre-Confucian period, books were comparatively few. The best known arethe Book of Record, Book of Odes, Book of Change, Rites of Zhou, and Guanzi (orKuan Tze) or Political Economy. Books were made of bamboo slips and thecharacters were painted on them. Interstate correspondence was confined to asmall area in the north, but the dialectical barrier was gradually overcome, andby the time of Mencius, even Chu could boast of its literary renown. The Stateof Qin never produced any famous literary person. In fact, those who didanything for her were all aliens. The period of the Seven States was a goldentime in Chinese literature. The influence of the Perpendicular and Horizontaldiplomats upon Chinese literature has been permanent and beneficial.

5.6.j. Astronomy and calendar: From the earliest times, the Chinesemonth has been lunar, that is, the days of the month are so arranged as to begineach new month with a new moon. The ancients had learned to divide the heavenlybodies into constellations and to observe the zodiacal signs.

5.6.k. Science and arts: The science of medicine and surgery weredeveloped to a considerable extent under the Zhous. It was the first dynastythat had official doctors and surgeons. During the feudal period, however, Qinsurpassed the rest of China in the number of able physicians it possessed.

During the days of Yao, the ranks of officials were denoted by the objectspainted on their official costumes; such as the sun, moon, stars,constellations, dragons, and other animals. Among the Zhou officials, we findpeople whose function was to paint official garments. The three dynasties of Xia,Shang, and Zhou had all made use of jade or malachite rings, tablets, scepters,and so on as marks of official rank.

Silk was universally known. That the women were mostly engaged in rearingsilkworms, the Book of Odes abundantly testifies. Even the queen had to set anexample in this industry at appointed times each year if she did not have to dothe actual work. No cotton was known, so the poorer classes wore garments ofhempen materials. In the cold weather, furs were used. Dyeing too was largelypracticed.

The Zhou Dynasty had regularly appointed officials whose business was toteach the people how to take ores out of the mines and to manure their land; butas to how far this useful knowledge had been acquired, we have very littleinformation.

Historians agree that the Shang mechanics were the best. This belief seems tohave been based upon a statement of Confucius that he preferred the statecarriage of the Shang Dynasty because of its workmanship.
 

6. The Qin Dynasty
(BC 221-206)

6.1. Background

6.1.a. General statement: We have seen that the Chinese establishedthemselves first in tribal groups here and there along the course of the YellowRiver at a remote period. In course of time the tribal government developed intoa feudal system with hundreds of petty states scattered throughout the landwhich they called the Middle Kingdom. The next movement was towardsconsolidation which reduced the number of states to seven. The union of theSeven States into one homogeneous whole was inevitable, and finally came in BC 221 as the result of the statesmanship of Prince Zheng of Qin. While his dynastylasted only fifteen years, still he left many permanent traces of his rule.

6.1.b. His early life: Very little is known of his early life, save thathe inherited his father's princely throne at a very tender age. Tradition saysthat Prince Zheng was not the son of Zhuang Xiang Wang, his reputed father. Thelatter, as the story goes, had been held as a hostage in the state of Zhao.While there he met a wealthy merchant named Lu Puwei, who, pretending to showhis devotion to the young prince, made him take to wife a beautiful woman,already pregnant.

It seems that this story was of later invention, and the work of personalprejudice. At any rate the son to whom Zhuang Xiang Wang's wife gave birth wasone of the greatest empire builders of antiquity. During his minority, Lu Puweiwas his first prime minister and in that capacity exercised much of the royalpower.

6.1.c. Conquest of the six states: The Zhou Dynasty with itseight-hundred years of power was already a thing of the past when Prince Zhengbecame king of the state of Qin. The last representative of the family of Zhouhad already been made away with by one of his predecessors. The work that wasleft for him to accomplish, therefore, was not the overthrow of the ruling housebut the conquest of the six sister states.

The policy pursued by Prince Zheng, or rather by his statesmen and generals,is best summed up in a statement of Xu Dai, a contemporary politician."This morning," said he, "when crossing the river, I saw a musselopen its shell to sun itself. Immediately an oyster catcher thrust its bill into eat the mussel; but the latter closed its shell and held the bird fast. 'Ifit doesn't rain today or tomorrow,' cried the oyster catcher, 'there will be adead mussel.' 'And if you don't get out of this by today or tomorrow, there willbe a dead oyster catcher,' retorted the mussel. Meanwhile up came a fishermanand carried off both of them. I fear that the state of Qin will some day be ourfisherman."

In other words, Qin played off one state against another till they were allexhausted and then conquered them one by one. Han, the smallest of the states,was annexed first and the rest were added in the following order: Wei, Chu, Zhao,Yan, and Qi, the last being the easternmost state.

6.2. The Dynasty

6.2.a. Shi Huangdi, or the First Emperor: Prince Zheng made a new titlefor himself. This title, Huangdi, signifies in his own words, that "theholder is equal to the Three Divine Rulers in virtue and the Five Emperors inachievements." It was retained by his successors down to the last of theManchus, and has been rendered "emperor" in English. He alsodiscontinued the practice of giving a deceased ruler a posthumous name. Hedecreed that thenceforth he was to be known as Shi Huangdi, or First Emperor,his immediate successor, Er Shi, or Second Emperor, and so on even down to theten-thousandth generation.

As regards the name of his dynasty, he let it be known under the old name ofhis state. "It is interesting to note," says the author of "ASketch of Chinese History," "that the name China is probably derivedfrom this name, Qin (pronounced Ch'in), for the first westerners who knewanything about the Chinese, spoke of them as the people of the land of Ch'in,which afterwards became the word 'China.'"

6.2.b. End of feudalism: Having built an empire on the ruins of the oldfeudal system, the question arose as to how this huge territory should begoverned. The majority of the statesmen, the slaves of tradition, would havepartitioned it out among a number of feudal lords as had been the custom withthe Zhous. Such an idea, of course, was offensive to a man who wanted history tobegin anew with himself. Divided it must be, but there must be no feudal lords.

Accordingly, Shi Huangdi divided it into thirty-six provinces, each of whichwas subdivided into districts, governed by agents directly responsible to him.One agent looked after civil matters, another after military affairs, and athird acted as a sort of inspector or intelligence officer of the Throne. Suchwas the form of government he introduced, and such has been the form ofgovernment that has come down to modern times, although in two thousand years,it has undergone many changes in name and detail. All ownership of land and itsinhabitants was vested in Shi Huangdi.

6.2.c. The burning of classics: No radical change call take place inChina without encountering the opposition of the literati. This was no less thecase then than it is now. To abolish feudalism by one stroke was a radicalchange indeed. Whether the change was for the better or the worse, the people ofletters took no time to inquire; whatever was good enough for their fathers wasgood enough for them and their children. They found numerous authorities in theclassics to support their contention, and these they freely quoted to show thatShi Huangdi was wrong. They continued to criticize the government to such anextent that something had to be done to silence the voice of antiquity.

As a consequence, an order came from the Throne, directing every subject inthe empire, under pain of branding and banishment, to send all the literature hepossessed, except works on agriculture, medicine, and divination, to the nearestofficial to be destroyed by fire.

As to how far this decree was enforced, it is hard to say. At any rate, itexempted all libraries of the government, or such as were in possession of aclass of officials called Learned Men. If any real damage was done to Chineseliterature under the decree in question, it is safe to say that it was not ofsuch a nature as later writers would have us believe. Still, this extrememeasure failed to secure the desired end, and a number of the people of lettersin Xianyang, the capital, was subsequently buried alive.

6.2.d. The Great Wall: The union of China was not effected a moment toosoon. In the north, a formidable foe had risen, whom the Chinese called Xiongnu.One Chinese authority seems to think that these tribespeople descended directlyfrom Xiong Yu, son of Jie, the last ruler of the House of Xia. He is said tohave taken to wife his father's concubines and to have migrated into the steppesnorth of the Mongolian Desert. If we may accept this suggestion, the Xiongnubegan to terrify the Chinese as early as the middle of the Zhou Dynasty, for inthe Book of Odes, we read of many expeditions against a tribe known as Xiong Yu.

The Xiongnu were a nomadic people, moving from place to place with theirflocks and herds and always in search of fresh pastures. They had no writtenlanguage. As soon as their children were able to ride on the back of the sheep,they were taught the use of bows and arrows and how to hunt down small animals.Thus they became skillful archers when they were grown up. They lived chiefly byhunting and used the skins of animals for clothing. Those who were in the primeof life received the best of everything while the old could eat only what wasleft by them.

It was because of this tribal people that the Great Wall was built by ShiHuangdi. This wall extends about 1,500 miles long. It must not be supposed thatthis gigantic work was done all at once. As a matter of fact, separate walls hadbeen erected by the states which bordered upon the territory of the Xiongnu.What was actually done by Shi Huangdi was the uniting, strengthening, andimproving of the existing structures; and this work was executed under thesupervision of General Meng Tian.

It is stated that the immediate cause of the completion of this wall was anoracle which Shi Huangdi consulted. It told him that it was Hu, or Xiongnu, wasdestined to overthrow the Qin empire. Shi Huangdi died in BC 210 while making atour through the northern country.

6.2.e. Some characteristics of the age: The art of sculpture had reacheda high stage of development. At the same time, the taste of the emperorundoubtedly gave a great impetus to the art. The style of writing known asLesser Seal, which was designed to take the place of the older and more cumbrousBig Seal, was an invention of his reign. Meng Tian, the generalof the Great Wall fame, is generally believed to have been the inventor of thebrush used in writing. The paper, so far as the cheaper bamboo is concerned, wasnot a product of this age (it came into use in the Han Dynasty); but accordingto the best information, the expensive paper made of silk was in existence whenthe brush was invented. The invention of convenient writing materials and thesimplification of the characters, marked the beginning of literary advancementin China.

Another characteristic of the age was the ascendency that had been attainedby the teachings of Xunzi. Almost all the statesmen who adorned the court of ShiHuangdi were people of that school. They believed that the nature of human wasbad and that peace and order were the result of fear. Human should be awed intosubmission, or there would be lawlessness. For the many unjust and cruel lawsand acts of tyranny with which the name of Shi Huangdi is closely associated, hein reality was not so much to blame as was the spirit of the age.

The same motive that led to the building of the splendid palaces, and to theerecting of huge and costly stone monuments, was responsible for the meting outof the severest sentences on the least show of offense. It was to impress thepeople at large with the greatness of the emperor and to make them stand in aweof him. If those measures succeeded in arousing the fear of the people, theyalso served to alienate their love, for the death of Shi Huangdi was followedalmost immediately by the breakup of the unity once the pride of his reign.

Another characteristic of the age was the regard in which a merchant ortrader was held. He was no better than a criminal. The first batches of men sentto work on the Great Wall and to serve on the southern frontier consisted ofcriminals and merchants. At a later date this punishment fell upon those whosefathers were known to have been merchants.

6.2.f. End of Qin Dynasty: Shi Huangdi desired to leave his throne tohis first son Fu Su. Unfortunately, this son, who had been banished beyond theGreat Wall because he had had the audacity to remonstrate with the all-powerfulemperor on the policy of his government, was not present at the time of hisfather's death.

Worse still, the decree of succession fell into the hands of Li Si, the prime minister, and Zhao Gao, a eunuch,who were devoted friends of the emperor's second son, Hu Hai. The death of ShiHuangdi was kept a secret until the imperial party reached Xianyang. A falsedecree was then promulgated in the name of the deceased Emperor. In accordancewith this Fu Su (together with Meng Tian) was put to death, and Hu Hai ascendedthe throne under the name of Er Shi, or Second Emperor.

Er Shi proved a worse tyrant than his father, whose vices he inherited butwithout his greatness. During his short reign, Zhao Gao became the real powerafter Li Si's execution (BC 208). A story which is familiar to every Chineseschoolchild well shows the position this eunuch occupied in the government. Oneday, so the story runs, Er Shi showed his courtiers a picture of a deer."It's a horse," cried Zhao Gao, and none of the crowd had the courageto contradict him, for the eunuch was more powerful than the sovereign.

Rebellion was rife throughout the empire. In less than two years thedescendants of the earlier Six States had planted small kingdoms alongside thoseof other rebel leaders. Er Shi in BC 206 was murdered by Zhao Gao, and ShiHuangdi's grandson was placed on the throne. He gave himself up to LiuBang---the first general who entered the Land Within the Pass, and afterwardsthe founder of the Han Dynasty---and brought with him the jade seal of state. Hehad been on the throne for less than 200 days; but in this brief time, however,he had succeeded in punishing Zhao Gao for the murder of hisuncle.
 

7. The Han Dynasty
(BC 206-AD 220)

7.1. The Strife between Chu and Han

The Qin empire, as we have seen, ended in BC 206. From BC 206 to BC 202, therewas actually no emperor in China; and the principal event in this period ofanarchy was what we call the Strife between Chu and Han. It was a continuousconflict between Xiang Yu and Liu Bang, theformer a native of Wu, and the latter of Pei. Both of them had been lieutenantsunder King Huai of Chu. This King was a descendant of the old ruling house ofthe state of Chu, and during the troubles attending the breakup of the Qinempire, he setup a kingdom on the ruins.

Through his valor and military renown, Xiang Yu was made Commander-in-Chiefnot only of the forces of Chu, but also of the contingents from each of theother states. Although he had by far the stronger army, yet the honor ofcapturing the capital of the Qin empire belonged to Liu Bang. According to thepromise of King Huai of Chu, Liu Bang, the first general to enter the capital,should have been made ruler of Guanzhong (Within the Pass), a strategic base;but it was here that the jealousy of Xiang Yu appeared. The latter on hisarrival at the capital, took the royal power into his own hands and began toappoint feudal lords without referring them to the King. Instead of the whole ofGuanzhong [Land Within the Pass], he gave Liu Bang only a portion of it, called Hanzhong (or Within Han), with the title of King of Han. As to himself, he preferred Guanzhong,and at once assumed the title of King of Western Chu.

Liu Bang did not like the manner in which he was treated, but policy requiredhim to accept less than his due. The circumstances, however, were by no meansentirely unfavorable to him. Xiang Yu soon withdrew his army to the east, and hisabsence from Guanzhong permitted Liu Bang to gather strength.

When Liu Bang felt himself strong enough to appeal to arms, hostilities brokeout between the two rivals. For a time victory was on the side of Xiang Yu, whomade prisoners of Liu Bang's father and wife. But about BC 202, fortune desertedXiang Yu, and he at once sued for peace. Meanwhile King Huai of Chu had beenmurdered, presumably by the agents of Xiang Yu.

Peace was at length concluded, and the Great Canal, by mutual consent, wasmade the dividing line between the kingdoms of Chu and Han. Assuming that warwas at an end, Xiang Yu, in good faith, returned to Liu Bang his father andwife, and began to retire into the south.

In so doing, he had evidently overestimated the character of his rival. Assoon as he departed, Liu Bang pursued him with the flower of his army. At Gaixia in Huaixi, the two armies met. The battle that ensued was a severe one and ended in thecomplete overthrow of Xiang Yu, whose once powerful army was now reduced to afew followers. To avoid falling into the hands of his enemy, he killed himselfwhile crossing the river Wujiang. His death left Liu Bang in undisputedpossession of China.
 

7.2. Western Han Dynasty
(BC 206-AD 24)

7.2.a. Accession of Liu Bang: When Liu Bang took the throne, thefamous city of Changan in the west became for the first time the capital. Thenew dynasty he thus founded was the Han Dynasty, in memory of whose greatness,the Chinese still call themselves "the Children ofHan."

To his credit, most of the unjust laws of the preceding dynasty wererepealed, though Liu Bang did nothing to exalt his own position. "I havenever realized the dignity of an emperor, until today," exclaimed he; andthis is sufficient to give us an idea of the character of his court. He revivedthe ancient law authorizing the conferring of a posthumous name on the emperor.As his temple names Gao Zu, or "Supreme Ancestor," we shall thereafterspeak of him by this name.

7.2.b. Revival of feudalism: We must not think that Gao Zu ruled aslarge an empire as that of Shi Huangdi (The First Emperor). The provinces south of the Great Riverwere virtually independent, and his authority was by no means supreme in thenorth, where the many feudal states gave nothing more than nominal submission atbest. These feudal states maybe divided into two classes; those held by membersof his house, and those held by others. The latter were the outgrowth of theprevious troubles, but the former were a necessity under the system of checksand balances. Thus after a comparatively short time the old feudal system wasagain an established fact.

The reign of Gao Zu was principally occupied with putting down rebellionsheaded by Han Xin, Peng Yue, and other feudallords, most of whom had been his best generals. In several cases his ingratitudewas the actual cause of the rebellions. Towards the end of his reign, all thefeudal states, with one or two exceptions, were held by members of his ownhouse.

7.2.c. An encounter with the Xiongnu: While China was again splittingherself into petty states, the Xiongnu in the north had arisen to the height oftheir power. Under the leadership of their chief, named Mouton, they not onlyconquered many of the neighboring tribes, but were also in a position to measurestrength with China---terrible and civilized China, the builder of the GreatWall.

At the head of a great horde, Mouton ravaged the northern part of the empire.The cause of this invasion was that the chief of the feudal state of Han wassuspected of disloyalty, and was driven to cast his lot with the northerntribes. Gao Zu now led an army to check the advance of his enemy; but he wasoutgeneraled and, falling into an ambuscade, lost the greater part of his army.In the hour of misfortune, he sought refuge within the walls of the city of PingCheng, which was closely besieged. It was only through judicious bribes that hesucceeded in making good his escape under cover of a dense fog.

The experience was enough for him, and he never again took the field himselfagainst the Xiongnu. He gave a beautiful lady of his harem in marriage to Moutonand endeavored to keep friendly with him by occasional presents. His originalplan was to give his own daughter to Mouton, but owing to the objection raisedby his wife he sent a substitute. A dangerous precedent was thus established.

7.2.d. Gao Zu's immediate successors: Gao Zu died BC 195, and left thethrone to his son, Emperor Hui. This feeble monarch died in BC 188, and hismother, Empress Lu, placed an adopted son on the throne. In thefollowing year, she caused the boy to be murdered and began to reign in her ownright, thus becoming the first woman ruler in China. Many princes and nobles ofher husband's house were mercilessly executed and members of her own familyappointed in their stead. The empire was on the point of falling to pieces, whendeath removed her. The next two successors to the throne improved significantlythe conditions of the empire.

7.2.e. Emperor Wu: The next reign of Emperor Wu, comprising the yearsBC 140 to BC 87, was one of the most important periods in Chinese history. It wasan age of great generals, brilliant statesmen, and people of letters.

During this reign, the Han Dynasty reached the zenith of its power, and theempire was greatly enlarged. In the south it included Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi,and northern Vietnam; in the southwest, all the tribes that had held sway in Yunnanand Guizhou now acknowledged the supremacy of the Han emperor; while in thenorth, the power of the Xiongnu was shattered, and the boundary of the empireincluded what is now Inner Mongolia, the northwest Xiliang, and the northeastLiaodong, and north Korea.

7.2.f. The usurpation of Wang Mang: The cause ofthe downfall of the Han Dynasty is to be traced to the ambition of its imperialwomen. In a country like China, where the separation of the two sexes is amatter of fixed custom, even an empress could not make friends among herhusband's ministers. Therefore when power fell into her hands, she knew of noone in whom she could place her confidence except her own people and theeunuchs.

The fact that Emperor Wu caused the mother of his son to be put to deathbefore he appointed him heir, is sufficient to show that the interference of anempress dowager in affairs of state had long been a matter to be dreaded. It wasthe undue influence of the imperial women that finally brought the house of Hanto ruin.

Wang Mang, the notorious usurper, was the nephew of one empress and thefather of another. The mother of Emperor Cheng (BC 32-AD 7) was from the Wangfamily; and when her son came to the throne, her brothers were at once raised topositions of great influence. Every one of them abused the power that fell intohis hands. Wang Mang, who was then a mere lad, was the reverse of his uncles inhis private character. He did everything he could to conceal his true characterand to cultivate the friendship of the literary class. As a result, he was aspopular as his uncles were unpopular.

It was not long before he succeeded to a most important position which hadbeen held by one of his uncles. During the short reign of Emperor Ai (BC 6-1) hewas obliged to retire; but upon the accession of the next emperor, Emperor Ping(AD 1-5), he returned to office, for this emperor was his son-in-law. Hisambition, however, knew no relative; and when his time arrived, he showed histrue character by murdering the emperor, forcing him to drink a cup of poison onNew Year's day. A lad was then placed on the throne, with Wang Mang acting as an"Assistant Emperor." Two years later the "Assistant Emperor"became a full emperor, and the Han Dynasty was no more.
 

7.3. Eastern Han Dynasty
(AD 25-220)

7.3.a. Wang Mang: If reverence for tradition may justly be regarded inthe light of a virtue, as is the case in China, Chinese history gives us no namewhich stands out more preeminently than that of Wang Mang, the Usurper. Onceupon the throne, he busied himself in bringing to life all laws and institutesthat experience had long since discarded as out-of-date and impracticable. Frommorning till late in the evening the "new" Emperor was seen at hisdesk reading, writing, and legislating. The Institutes of the Zhou Dynastybecame his guide. The ancient system of was revived, and many ridiculouscurrency laws were promulgated. It was quite as much a crime to buy or sell landas to depreciate the currency issued by the government.

At length, excessive taxation, unjust laws, incessant border warfare, severefamines, and the corruption of officials---all combined to arouse the people;and standards revolt were unfurled in more than one place in the empire.

Had Wang Mang taken wise measures, he might have been able to save himself;but he was superstitious and believed that by shedding tears towards the south,the rebellions would die a natural death.. Even at the last moment, when he wasdragged out of a tower in his palace, where he had been hiding, he still held inone hand a small knife said to have been handed down from King Shun, and in theother the symbolic instrument of the Taoist magicians.

Wang Mang was beheaded in AD 22; but peace did not come to the nation until amember of the House of Han, Liu Xiu by name, assumed the imperial title twoyears later. As Liu Xiu fixed his capital at Luoyang, about 150 miles east ofChangan, the capital of the Former Han Dynasty, the new dynasty has been knownunder the name of the Eastern Han.

7.3.b. Guang Wu: The dynastic name of Liu Xiu wasGuang Wu. When he ascended the throne, Changan was in the hands of the "RedEyebrows" rebels, who had placed another member of the Liu house on thethrone. Other rebels had also set up emperors, or declared independence in otherparts of the empire. It was by great exertion that Guang Wu succeeded inextinguishing every spark of rebellion in China.

As regards the Xiongnu who had again become active, Guang Wu felt that theirsubjugation was a task he had to leave to his successors. The empire needed restand the arts of peace were no longer to be neglected. He accordingly devoted theremainder of his reign to works of peace by patronizing learning and the arts.He got rid of his generals without bloodshed by retiring them on a liberalallowance. This act at least entitles him to a higher place in history than GaoSu, the Founder of the Former Han.

In his work of reorganizing the Latter Han, however, Guang Wugreatly enlarged the fieldof employment for eunuchs and thus sowed the seed of trouble, which was soondestined to bring ruin to the house that he had just restored. After reigningthirty-three years, Guang Wu died in AD 57, at the age of six-three, and lefthis empire to his son, Emperor Ming (AD 58-75).

7.3.c. Introduction of Buddhism into China: The most important eventof the reign of Emperor Ming was undoubtedly the official introduction ofBuddhism into China. We say official introduction because its unofficialintroduction dates as far back as the reign of the Han Emperor Wu, or soonthereafter. It is safe to say that soon after the opening up of communicationswith the west, there began to be an influx of Buddhist missionaries into landsthen subject to the sway of the Xiongnu.

There is a legend that Emperor Ming had a dream in which he saw a giant, andthat when he told his ministers what he had seen, one of them immediatelyinformed him that it was the Sage of the West, called Buddha. This shows thatBuddhism was not unknown at his court. The envoys that Emperor Ming sent toinquire into the faith returned in AD 65 with two Indian priests and a number oftheir classics. These priests were housed in the White Pony Temple, the firstBuddhist temple erected with imperial sanction in China, and named after thepony that brought back the Sutra, and here they continued to reside andtranslate the Buddhist literature until they died.

7.3.d. Buddhism: Buddhism, so far as its Hindu origin is concerned,was an offspring of Brahmanism, the earlier faith of the Hindus. This earlierfaith was a belief in a single god, Brahma as he was called, who was the causeand mover of all things. The soul, too, comes from Brahma and passes through allforms of animal life, until finally, having freed itself from all imperfection,it goes back to him. The great aim of existence was to reach this final stateand mingle with Brahma. Such was the substance of Brahmanism.

In course of time the old faith reached such a stage of decay that reformerswere required to remind the believers of its essential truths. "Of thesereformers the greatest was Prince Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha, or the'Enlightenment,' whose reforms were of such a radical nature as virtually tofound a new religion. Yet he did not quarrel with the old, but merelyinterpreted it anew, and gave it a more practical character.

"Buddha was born about the middle of the sixth century BC. He was amember of a royal house, but left his home, his wife, and a newly born child tofind religious peace and the way to salvation. He sought truth from the Brahmansin vain, and spent seven years in religious meditation. Finally he learned thetruth he had been seeking. It was summed up in the two ideas of self-culture anduniversal love.

"About BC 522 he proclaimed his creed at Benares. In the details ofworship, he left the ancient Brahmanism unchanged; but he taught that every actin this life bears its fruit in the next. Every soul passes through successivelives, or reincarnations, and its condition during one life is the result ofwhat it has done in a previous state. The aim of life is the attainment ofNirvana---a sinless state of existence, which requires constant self-culture.Four truths were especially taught: first, that all life is suffering; second,that this suffering is caused by the desire to live; third, that the sufferingceases with the cessation of this desire; fourth, that this salvation can befound by following the path of duty. A very high morality was preached,including the duties of chastity, patience, mercy, fortitude, and kindness toall entities." (Colby's "Outlines of General History.")

After his death Buddha was worshipped as a divine being. His disciplescarried the faith throughout India, and thence it spread to the northwest and tothe southeast of that country. About BC 377, there was a division among theBuddhists; the northern branch had their center in Kashmir, while the southernsection made Ceylon their headquarters. It was the northern creed that wasintroduced by Emperor Ming into China.

7.3.e. First contamination of Confucianism: In this connection, it isnecessary to say something as to the change Confucianism had undergone since thedays of Shi Huangdi [The First Emperor]. In the history of Confucianism, or Chinese literaryclassics (we can hardly separate the one from the other), the two Han Dynastiesform but a single period. Numerous commentaries of the Confucian Classics wereissued during this period, but the commentators were more or less under theinfluence of the Taoist magicians. Their tone of speculation was entirelyTaoist. Thus Taoist elements, foreign to Confucianism, became mingled with theteaching of the Great Sage. The Classics which contain their commentaries werelargely written from memory by the learned scholars of the Former Han. They areknown as "Modern Literature."

About the time of Wang Mang, however, some books, said to have been exhumed,were presented to the government. They contained a text slightly different fromthat of the "Modern Literature," and were called "AncientLiterature." Their authenticity, however, is a disputed point even at thepresent day. After the appearance of the "Ancient Literature," amovement was on foot to separate Taoism from Confucianism, with the result thatby the time of Emperor Huan the former became an independent creed.

7.3.f. Period of eunuch ascendency: This period commenced in the reignof Emperor He, who came to the throne at the age of ten. During his mother'sregency, his uncle, Dou Xian, was the real power. Being jealous of him, thefirst official act of the emperor on assuming the government himself was tocause his death. This was no easy task, for the court was made up of Dou Xian'sown creatures. Under these circumstances, Emperor He looked to his chief eunuch,Chen Chong by name, for help.

While the emperor succeeded in getting rid of his uncle, he did not improvematters. During the remainder of his reign, he never freed himself from theclutches of the eunuch. His infant son outlived him but a few months, and duringthis time and the minority of Emperor An, the next monarch, Empress Deng wasregent. She would see no minister of state, but suffered her eunuchs to be thesole medium of communication. It was not long before their influence was turnedinto real power. They had a voice in every question and had an important part toplay in every intrigue.

The destruction of Liang Ji, brother of the Empress Liang, and murder ofEmperor Shi gave the eunuchs undisputed control of the government. Five of themwere ennobled, a thing hitherto unknown in Chinese history, and no office wasnow too high for a eunuch. Those in power could exalt their friends and slaytheir enemies at pleasure. In the empire, the emperor was the state, but he wasa mere tool of the eunuchs in the successive reigns.

7.3.g. Decline of the Eastern Han: The Eastern Han Dynasty entered upon aperiod of decline for the reason stated in the last section. Whenever there wasa woman on the throne, the usurpation of power by eunuchs and her own relativeswas inevitable. This was no less true of the Latter Han than of the Former Han,though there is this much difference. During the former dynasty, the two partiesalways worked hand in hand; during the latter dynasty, they were constantlyengaged in bringing ruin to one another. In the main, the eunuchs were mastersof the situation, and their extermination was followed by the downfall of thedynasty only a few years later. But in this downfall arose the panoramic,dramatic period: THE THREE KINGDOMS.

<< Back to Commentary Main  Next to Overture >>