Ancient China Simplified
by Edward Harper Parker
Public Domain Books
Chapter XLI - The Tartars
It is important to insist on the very close relations that existed between the Chinese and the Tartars from the very earliest times. All that we are told for certain is that they were north and west of the older dynasties, and especially in occupation of the Upper Wei River, on the lower part of which the old metropolis of Si- ngan Fu lies; which means that they were exactly where we find them in Confucian times, and where we find them now, except that they have been pushed a little further back, and that Chinese colonists have appropriated most of the oases. The Chou ancestor who died in 1231, i.e. the father of the founders of Wu, and the great-grandfather of the founder of the Chou dynasty (1122), had to abandon to the encroaching Tartars his appanage on the Upper King River (a northern tributary of the Wei, which runs almost parallel with it, and joins it at Si-ngan Fu), and was obliged to move southwards to the Upper Wei River. For nearly 1000 years previous to this, his ancestors, who had originally been forced to fly to the Tartars in order to avoid the misgovernment of the third Hia emperor, had lived among and had, whilst continuing the Chinese art of cultivating, partly become Tartars; for in 1231 B.C. the migrating host is said to have renounced Tartar manners, and to have devoted themselves seriously to building and cultivating; from which it necessarily follows that Tartar manners must for some time have been definitely adopted by the Chou family. The grandson of the migrator, the father of the Chou founder, had various little wars with a tribe called the Dog Tartars. Over 1000 years after that first flight to Tartardom, we have seen that the Emperor Muh, great-grandson of the Chou founder, not only had brushes with the Tartars, but extended his tours amongst them to the Lower Tarim Valley, Turfan, Harashar, and possibly even as far as Urumtsi and Kuche; but certainly no farther. Two hundred years later, again, the then ruling Emperor was defeated by the Tartars in (modern) Central Shan Si province, and the descendant in the sixth generation of the Ts’in Jehu who had conducted the Emperor Muh’s chariot into Tartarland, only just succeeded in saving the Emperor’s life; but this family of Chao, which was thus (cf. p. 206) of one and the same descent with the Ts’in family, subsequently found its account in abandoning the imperial interest altogether, and in serving the rising principality of Tsin (Shan Si), where it became one of the “six families,” three of which six in 403 B.C. were ultimately recognized by the Emperor as independent rulers. As we have said over and over again, in 772 B.C. the Chou Emperor, through female intrigues, got into trouble with the Tartars, and was killed: his successor had to move the metropolis east to (modern) Ho-nan Fu, thus abandoning the western part of his patrimony–the semi-Tartar half–to Ts’in. Thus Ts’in in 771 B.C. was to the Chou Emperors what Chou, previous to 1200 B.C., had been to the Shang Emperors.
We now come to strictly historical times, and we shall have no difficulty in showing that even then–h fortiori in times not strictly historical–the various Tartar tribes were still in practical possession of the whole north bank of the Yellow River, all the way from the Desert to the sea. In fact, in 494 B.C., when the King of Wu sent a giant’s bone to Lu for further explanation, Confucius said that the “Long Tartars” (who had frequent fights with Lu in the seventh century B.C.) used to extend south-east into (modern) Kiang Su, almost as far as the mouth of the Yang-tsz River: he also says that, had it not been for the energy of the First Protector and his statesman adviser, the philosopher Kwan- tsz of Ts’i, orthodox China would certainly have become Tartarized. It was Confucius also whose learning enabled him to recognize a (Manchu) arrow found in the body of a migrating goose. In the eighth and seventh centuries B.C. the Tartars made repeated and obstinate attacks upon Yen (Peking plain), Ts’i (coast Chih Li and north Shan Tung), Wei (south Chih Li and north Ho Nan), Sung (extreme east Ho Nan), Ts’ao (central Ho Nan), and the Emperor’s territory (west Ho Nan). This situation explains to us why the Protector system arose in China, in competition with the waning imperial power. Ts’in and Tsin, being already half Tartar themselves, were always well able to cope with and even to annex the Tartar tribes in their immediate vicinity; but orthodox China was ever a prey to the more easterly Tartar attacks; and thus the Emperors, threatened by Ts’u to their south, and in a measure also by Ts’in and Tsin to their north and west, not only could not any longer protect their orthodox vassals lying towards the east from Tartar attacks, but could not even protect themselves.
It was Ts’i that drove back the Mongol-Manchu tribes and rescued Yen in 662; it was the Ts’i ruler who led a coalition of princes against other groups of Tartars and placed back on his ancestral throne the ruler of Wei, who had been driven from his country by Tartars in 658; it was the First Protector, ruler of Ts’i, who managed to pacify the more westerly Tartars we find persistently menacing the Emperor in 648; to whose rescue the Tartars came in 642, when a coalition of orthodox Chinese princes shamelessly took advantage of the First Protector’s death to attack Ts’i during the mourning period. Now it was that the Second Protector, still a refugee among his Tartar relatives, started for Ts’i, his original idea being to replace the philosopher Kwan-tsz as adviser to the First Protector; but, shortly after he reached Ts’i, the First Protector died, and it was only by stratagem that his friends succeeded in rescuing the future Second Protector from the arms of his Ts’i Delilah and his d’elices de Capue. His chief adviser, and at the same time his brother-in-law from a Tartar point of view, was the lineal descendant of the Chao man who had saved the Emperor in 800 B.C. He set out, via the orthodox states, for his own country. These petty orthodox states, such as Wei, Cheng, and Ts’ao, which did not then see their way to profit politically by the Pretender’s visit, paid the penalty of their meanness and their rudeness to him later on. Sung was polite, as at that time Sung and Ts’u were both aiming at the Protectorship. Ts’u’s hospitality was bluff and good-natured, the King being too strong to fear, and too unsophisticated to intrigue after Chinese fashion. Just then news coming from Ts’in that the Pretender’s brothers had all resigned or died, and that his chance had now come, the Pretender hurried to Tsin, regained his throne, and was acclaimed Protector of China exactly at the critical moment when a strong hand was urgently required to check the particular ambitions of Ts’in, Ts’i, and Ts’u. Ts’u was too barbarous; Sung was too pedantic; Tsin alone had unrivalled experience both of Tartars and Eastern barbarians, and also of Southern barbarians (Ts’u). Probably it was only the fact of the Tsin ruling family bearing the same clan-name as the Emperor that had decided Tsin throughout to be orthodox Chinese instead of Tartar. The Tartar family into which the Second Protector had married as a comparatively young man was, however, also of the imperial clan- name, i.e. it was of orthodox Chinese origin, but (even like the Chou imperial family at one time) it had adopted Tartar customs. A large number of the one thousand or more petty Chinese principalities, attached not directly to the Emperor, but to the greater vassals as mesne lords, were in the same predicament; that is to say, they were of Chinese origin, but they had found that it paid them best to adopt barbarian ways. It was exactly as though Scipio should settle in Carthage, and become a Carthaginian: C’sar in Gaul, and adopt Gallic customs; and so on with other Roman adventurers who should find a comfortable gite in Persia, Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt, or even in Britain and Germany.
The main point upon which to fix the attention is this. The Chinese nucleus was very small, and only by rudely thrusting aside incompetent emperors and fussy ritual did it succeed in emancipating itself from Tartar bondage. That this is not an exaggerated view is additionally plain from the fact that Tartars have, even since Confucian times, ruled more and longer than have Chinese over North China; the Mongols (1260-1368) were the first Tartars to rule over all China, and nominally over all West Asia; the Manchus (1643-1908) are the first Tartars to rule all China, all Manchuria, and all Mongolia, at all effectively; and they have even added parts of Turkestan, with Tibet, Nepaul, and other countries over which the Peking imperial Mongol influence was always very shadowy.