Ancient China Simplified
by Edward Harper Parker
Public Domain Books
Chapter XXVII - Foreign Blood
The history of China may be for our present purposes accordingly summed up as follows. The pure Chinese race from time immemorial had been confined to the flat lands of the Yellow River, and its one tributary on the south, the River Loh, the Tartars possessing most of the left bank from the Desert to the sea. However, from the beginning of really historical times the Chinese had been in unmistakable part-possession of the valleys of the Yellow River’s two great tributaries towards the west and north, the Wei (in Shen Si) and the Fen (in Shan Si). Little, if any, Chinese colonizing was done much before the Ts’in conquests in any other parts of Tartarland; none in Sz Ch’wan that we know of; little, if any, along the coasts, except perhaps from Ts’i and Lu (in Shan Tung), both of which states seem to have always been open to the sea, though many barbarian coast tribes still required gathering into the Chinese fold. The advance of Chinese civilization had been first down the Yellow River; then down the River Han towards the Middle Yang-tsz; and lastly, down the canals and the Hwai network of streams to the Shanghai coast. Old colonies of Chinese had, many centuries before the conquest of China by the Chou dynasty, evidently set out to subdue or to conciliate the southern tribes: these adventurous leaders had naturally taken Chinese ideas with them, but had usually found it easier for their own safety and success to adopt barbarian customs in whole or in part. These mixed or semi-Chinese states of the navigable Yang-tsz Valley, from the Ich’ang gorges to the sea, had generally developed in isolation and obscurity, and only appeared in force as formidable competitors with orthodox Chinese when the imperial power began to collapse after 771 B.C. The isolation of half-Roman Britain for several centuries after the first Roman conquest, and the departure of the last Roman legions, may be fitly compared with the position of the half-Chinese states. Ts’u, Wu, and Yueeh all had pedigrees, more or less genuine, vying in antiquity with the pedigree of the imperial Chou family; and therefore they did not see why they also should not aspire to the overlordship when it appeared to be going a-begging. Even orthodox Tsin and Ts’i in the north and north-east were in a sense colonial extensions, inasmuch as they were governed by new families appointed thereto by the Chou dynasty in 1122 B.C., in place of the old races of rulers, presumably more or less barbarian, who had previously to 1122 B.C. been vassal–in name at least–to the earlier imperial Hia and Shang dynasties: but these two great states were never considered barbarian under Chou sway; and, indeed, some of the most ancient mythological Chinese emperors anterior to the Hia dynasty had their capitals in Tsin and Lu, on the River Fen and the River Sz.
It is not easy to define the exact amount of “foreignness” in Ts’u. One unmistakable non-Chinese expression is given; that is kou-u-du, or “suckled by a tigress.” Then, again, the syllable ngao occurs phonetically in many titles and in native personal names, such as jo-ngao, tu-ngao, kia-ngao, mo-ngao. There are no Ts’u songs in the Odes as edited by Confucius, and the Ts’u music is historically spoken of as being “in the southern sound"; which may refer, it is true, to the accent, but also possibly to a strange language. The Ts’u name for “Annals,” or history, was quite different from the terms used in Tsin and Lu, respectively; and the Ts’u word for a peculiar form of lameness, or locomotor ataxy, is said to differ from the expressions used in either Wei and Ts’i. So far aspossible, all Ts’u dignities were kept in the royal family, and the king’s uncle was usually premier. The premier of Ts’u was called Zing-yin, a term unknown to federal China; and Ts’u considered the left-hand side more honourable than the right, which at that time was not the case in China proper, though it is now. The “Borough-English” rule of succession in Ts’u was to give it to one of the younger sons; this statement is repeated in positive terms by Shuh Hiang, the luminous statesman of Tsin, and will be further illustrated when we come to treat of that subject specially. The Lu rule was “son after father; or, if none, then younger after eldest brother; if the legitimate heir dies, then next son by the same mother; failing which, the eldest son by any mother; if equal claims, then the wisest; if equally wise, cast lots”: Lu rules would probably hold good for all federal China, because the Duke of Chou, founder of Lu, was the chief moral force in the original Chou administration. In the year 587 Lu, when coquetting between Tsin and Ts’u, was at last persuaded not to abandon Tsin for Ts’u, “who is not of our family, and can never have any real affection.” Once in Tsin it was asked, about a prisoner: “Who is that southernhatted fellow?” It was explained that he was a Ts’u man. They then handed him a guitar, and made him sing some “national songs.” In 597 a Ts’u envoy to the Tsin military durbar said: “My prince is not formed for the fine and delicate manners of the Chinese”: here is distinct evidence of social if not ethnological cleaving. The Ts’u men had beards, whilst those of Wu were not hirsute: this statement proves that the two barbarian populations differed between themselves. In 635 the King of Ts’u spoke of himself as “the unvirtuous” and the “royal old man"–designations both appropriate only to barbarians under Chinese ritual. In 880 B.C., when the imperial power was already waning, and the first really historical King of Ts’u was beginning to bring under his authority the people between the Han and the Yang-tsz, he said: “I am a barbarian savage, and do not concern myself with Chinese titles, living or posthumous.” In 706, when the reigning king made his first conquest of a petty Chinese principality (North Hu Peh), he said again: “I am a barbarian savage; all the vassals are in rebellion and attacking each other; I want with my poor armaments to see for myself how Chou governs, and to get a higher title.” On being refused, he said: “Do you forget my ancestor’s services to the father of the Chou founder?" Later on, as has already been mentioned, he put in a claim for the Nine Tripods because of the services his ancestor, “living in rags in the Jungle, exposed to the weather,” had rendered to the founder himself. In 637, when the future Second Protector and ruler of Tsin visited Ts’u as a wanderer, the King of Ts’u received him with all the hospitalities “under the Chou rites," which fact shows at least an effort to adopt Chinese civilization. In 634 Lu asked Ts’u’s aid against Ts’i, a proceeding condemned by the historical critics on the ground that Ts’u was a “barbarian savage” state. On the other hand, by the year 560 the dying King of Ts’u was eulogized as a man who had successfully subdued the barbarian savages. But against this, again, in 544 the ruler of Lu expressed his content at having got safely back from his visit to Ts’u, i.e. his visit to such an uncouth and distant court. Thus Ts’u’s emancipation from “savagery” was gradual and of uncertain date. In 489 the King of Ts’u declined to sacrifice to the Yellow River, on the ground that his ancestors had never presumed to concern themselves with anything beyond the Han and Yang-tsz valleys. Even Confucius, (then on his wanderings in the petty state of CH’EN) declared his admiration at this, and said: “The King of Ts’u is a sage, and understands the Great Way (tao)." On the other hand, only fifty years before this, when in 538 Ts’u, with Tsin’s approval, first tried her hand at durbar work, the king was horrified to hear from a fussy chamberlain (evidently orthodox) that there were six different ways of receiving visitors according to their rank; so that Ts’u’s ritual decorum could not have been of very long standing. The following year (537) a Tsin princess is given in marriage to Ts’u– a decidedly orthodox feather in Ts’u’s cap. Confucius affects a particular style in his history when he speaks of barbarians; thus an orthodox prince “beats” a barbarian, but “battles" with an orthodox equal. However, in 525, Ts’u and Wu “battle” together, the commentator explaining that Ts’u is now “promoted” to battle rank, though the strict rule is that two barbarians, or China and one barbarian, “beat” rather than “battle.” In 591 Confucius had already announced the “end” of the King of Ts’u, not as such, but as federal viscount. Under ordinary circumstances “death” would have been good enough: it is only in speaking of his own ruler’s death that the honorific word “collapse” is used. All these fine distinctions, and many others like them, hold good for modern Chinese. These (apparently to us) childish gradations in mere wording run throughout Confucius’ book; but we must remember that his necessarily timid object was to “talk at” the wicked, and to “hint” at retribution. Even a German recorder of events would shrink from applying the word haben to the royal act of a Hottentot King, for whom hat is more than good enough, without the allergnaedigst. And we all remember Bismarck’s story of the way mouth-washes and finger-bowls were treated at Frankfurt by those above and below the grade of serene highness. Toutes les vices et toutes les moeurs sont respectables.
In 531 the barbarian King of Ts’u is honoured by being “named” for enticing and murdering a “ruler of the central kingdoms.” The pedants are much exercised over this, but as the federal prince in question was a parricide, he had a lupinum caput, and so even a savage could without outraging orthodox feelings wreak the law on him. On the other hand, in 526, when Ts’u enticed and killed a mere barbarian prince, the honour of “naming” was withheld. This delicate question will be further elucidated in the Chapter on “Names.”
It will be observed that none of the testimony brought forward here to show that Ts’u was, in some undefined way, a non-Chinese state is either clear or conclusive: its cumulative effect, however, certainly leaves a very distinct impression that ’there was a profound difference of some sort both in race and in manners, though we are as yet quite unable to say whether the bulk of the Ts’u population was Annamese, Shan, or Siamese; Lolo or Nosu; Miao-tsz, Tibetan, or what. There is really no use in attempting to advance one step beyond the point to which we are carried by specific evidence, either in this or in other matters. It has been said that no great discovery was ever made without imagination, which may be true; but evidence and imagination must be kept rigidly separate. What we may reasonably hope is that, by gradually ascertaining and sifting definite facts and data touching ancient Chinese history, we shall at least avoid coming to wrong positive conclusions, even if the right negative ones are pretty clearly indicated. It is better to leave unexplained matters in suspense than to base conclusions upon speculative substructures which will not carry the weight set upon them.