Ancient China Simplified
by Edward Harper Parker
Public Domain Books
Chapter XL - Tombs and Remains
The Chinese, with the single exception of their Great Wall, have always been flimsy builders, and there is accordingly very little left in the way of monuments to prove the antiquity of their civilization. Mention has already been made of the tombs of the Emperors Shun and Yii (2200 B.C.). The tomb of another Hia dynasty emperor (1837 B.C.) lay twenty miles north of Yung-ning in Ho Nan,’ where Ts’in, in 627 B.C., was annihilated by Tsin (see p. 30). The tomb (long. 115o, lat. 33o) of the King of Ts’u who died in 689 B.C. was pillaged about 500 years later, but landslips defeated the thieves’ objects. The First Protector’s tomb, seven miles south of his capital in Shan Tung–the town still marked on the maps as Lin-tsz–was desecrated in A.D. 312. A small pond of mercury was found inside, besides arms, valuables, and the bones of those buried with him. The palace of the Ts’u king of 617 B.C.,–son of the one whose death that year was respectfully chronicled by Confucius–is still the yam&. or protorium of the district magistrate at King-thou Fu, and can perhaps even yet be seen from any passing steamers that circulate above the treaty- port of Sha-shf. There is a doubt about the date of this king’s tomb (d. 593); some place it near the palace, others over 100 miles north, near the modern city of Siang-yang. It is possible that, after the sacking of the capital by Wu, in 506, the bodies of former kings were at once removed to the new temporary capital (far to the north) to which the old name was given. For instance, it is certain that the king who died in 545 was buried quite close to the capital (King-thou Fu). Ki-chah’s tomb, with Confucius’ inscription upon it in ancient character, is still shown at a place ten miles west of Kiang-yin (where the modern forts are, below Nanking) and twenty miles east of Ch’ang-chou; probably the new “British” railway passes quite close to the place, as do the steamers: for the past 400 years sacrifices have been annually offered to Ki-chah’s memory: as Confucius never visited Wu, the inscription, if genuine, must have been sent thither. The tomb of Ki-chah’s nephew, King of Wu, is still to be seen outside one of the gates of Soochow; or, rather, the temple built on the site is there, for the tomb itself was desecrated and pillaged by the armies of Yueh, when they sacked the capital in 482. There was, originally, a triple copper coffin, a small pond, and some water birds made of gold (probably symbolic of sport), arms, valuables, etc.; but nothing is said of human beings having been sacrificed. It was said (2000 years ago) that elephants had been employed in carrying the earth and building materials for this tomb. In 506 the vengeful Ts’u officer who had fled to Wu, and had incited the King of Wu to do all he could to ruin Ts’u, actually opened the royal grave, in or near the capital, and flogged the corpse of the dead king who had so grievously offended him and his family.
In the year 501 the original bow and sceptre given by the warrior king to his brother, the Duke of Chou, founder of the State of Lu, was stolen from its resting-place, but was luckily recovered the following year. Incidentally this statement is of value; for when the King of Ts’u, as narrated above, was making his demands upon the Emperor, one of his grievances was that he possessed no relics of the founder such as the presents which had been made by him to Ts’i, Lu, Yen, Tsin, and other favoured states of no greater status than his own. The above are only a few instances out of many which show how, from age to age, the Chinese have seen with their own eyes things which in the vista of the distance now seem to us uncertain and incredible. As usual, Ts’in gives us nothing in the way of antiquity; another proof that, until she conceived the idea of conquering China, she was totally unknown (internally) to orthodox China. Confucius’ own house, temple, grave, and park form an absolutely unbroken link with the past. There are remains and the relics of the Duke of Chou in the immediate neighbourhood, and it must not be forgotten that the Duke of Chou and his ritual system were Confucius’ models: as Confucius insisted, “I am only a transmitter of antiquity.” Moderns, and especially foreigners, have forgotten or reck nothing about the Duke of Chou; yet his remains and temples were just as much a matter of visible history to Confucius as Confucius’ grounds are to us. Each successive generation in China alludes to existing antiquities, or to contemporaneous objects which have since become antiquities, with the quiet confidence of those who actually possess, and who doubt not of their possessions. The very lacunae are pointed out by themselves–no scepticism of ours is required; for whenever any historian, or any less formal writer, has outstepped the bounds of truth or probability, the critics are immediately there, and they always frankly say what they believe. In a word, the Chinese documents, be they iron, stone, wood, silk, paper, buildings, or graves; and their traditions, are the sole evidence we possess: Chinese critics were the sole critics of that evidence; and they are the sole light by which we foreigners can become critics. The great Chinese defect in criticism is the failure to work out general principles, and to criticize constructively as well as analytically. Their history is a rule of thumb, hand to mouth, diary sort of arrangement, like a vast museum of genuine but unclassified and unticketed objects. But there is no good reason whatever for our doubting the genuineness of either traditions or documents beyond the point of scepticism to which native Chinese doubts go, for it must be remembered that no foreigner possesses one tenth of the mass of Chinese learning that the professional literatus easily assimilates. All we can do is to re-group, and extract principles.