תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors][merged small]

power, which had been brought very low towards the end of the first half of the 9th century, B.C., and had only partially revived during the long reign of king Seuen. I doubt, indeed, whether it had been very strong in what is regarded as its golden age, after the duke of Chow had consolidated the dynasty, and introduced his code of ceremonial and political regulations. The theory was then good, but the practice was very indifferent.

The process of degeneracy and disintegration, however, was very marked from the beginning of the 9th century. It is an acknowledged fact that about B.C. 880 the chief of the powerful southern State of Ts'oo usurped for a time the title of king, and wished to declare himself independent of the kings of Chow. When the Ch'un Ts'ëw period opens upon us, we find existing an all but anarchal condition of things. There was virtually no king in China in those days, and the lord of each feudal State did what was right in his own eyes. In 706, the earl of Ch'ing the most recently established of all the States, if perhaps we should except Ts'in, engaged in hostilities with the king himself, who was wounded in the battle between them.

King Woo and the duke of Chow had parcelled out their conquest -the kingdom of Shang-among the scions of their own family and their adherents of other surnames, with the representatives of T'ang the Successful and other great Names in the previous history of the country. How many the feudal States, great and small, were at the most, I will not venture to say even approximately. The theory of the constitution left them very considerable liberty in the administration of their internal affairs, and in their relations with one another. They were to be content with their allotments of territory and not infringe on those of their neighbours, maintaining a good mutual understanding by means of court visits3 and visits of friendship or compliment,4 and by interchanging communications on all important events occurring within their borders. Any breaking of the peace or unjust attack of one State by another was to be represented to the royal court, and the king would then call into the field the unwieldy forces at his disposal, and deal justice on the offender.

But this beautiful theory of government presupposed a wonderful freedom from jealousy and ambition on the part of the feudal lords, and an overwhelming superiority of force on the part of the king; and, neither of these things existing, the constitution of the kingdom was torn into shreds. Instead of the harmony which the

朝 4聘

principles of benevolence and righteousness, carried out with courtesy and in accordance with the rules of propriety, should have produced, we find the States biting and devouring one another, while the large and strong oppressed and absorbed the small and weak. In the Chuen on IX. xxix. 7, during a dispute at the court of Tsin on some encroachments which Loo had made on the territory of K'e, an officer reminds the marquis of what Tsin itself had done in the same way.

“The princes,' said he, of Yu, Kwoh, Tsëaou, Hwah, Hoh, Yang, Han, and Wei were Kes, and Tsin's greatness is owing to its absorbing of their territories. If it had not encroached on the small States, where would it have found territory to take? Since the times of Woo and Hëen, we have annexed many of them, and who can call us to account for what we have done?' The fact was that Might had come to take the place of Right; and while statesmen were ever ready to talk of the fundamental principles of justice, benevolence, and loyalty, the process of spoliation went on. The number of States was continually becoming less, the smaller melting away into the larger. “The good old rule' came more and more

into yogue,

the simple plan,
That they should take who have the power,

And they should keep who can.' 3. To ameliorate the evils arising from this state of disorder and anarchy, and to keep it moreover in check, there arose during the Ch'un Ts'ëw period the singular device of presiding chiefs,—the

The system of presiding chiefs. system of one State taking the lead and direction of all the others, and exercising really royal functions throughout the kingdom, while yet there was a profession of loyal attachment to the House of Chow. The seeds of this contrivance were sown, perhaps, at the very commencement of the dynasty, when the dukes of Chow and Shaou were appointed viceroys over the eastern and western portions of the kingdom respectively, and other princes were made, on their first investiture, 'chiefs of regions, embracing their own States and others adjacent to them. These arrangements were disused as the kings of Chow felt secure in their. supreinacy over all the States, and the nominees in the first instance had been sincerely loyal and devoted to the establishment of the dynasty; but now in the Ch'un Ts'ëw period the kings were not

5 See the discourse of Ke Wán-tsze in the Chuen on VI. xviii. 9 as a specimen of the admirable sentiments which men, themselves of questionable character and course, could express.

iti 16

sufficiently sure of any of their vassals to delegate them to such an office. When one raised himself to the position, they were obliged unwillingly to confirm him in it.

Five of these presiding chiefs are named during the time under our review 2:-Hwan of Tse (683–642); Wăn of Tsin (634-627); Sëang of Sung (649–636); Muh of Ts'in (658–620); and Chwang of Ts‘oo (612–590). The first two, however, are the best, and I think the only representatives of the system. Hwan was endowed with an extraordinary amount of magnanimity, and Wăn had been disciplined by a long experience of misfortune, and was subtile and scheming. Both of then were fully acknowledged as directors and controllers of the States generally by the court of Chow; and it seems to me not unlikely that if Wăn had been a younger man when he came to the marquisate of Tsin, and his rule had been protracted to as great a length as that of Hwan, he would have gone on to supersede the dynasty of Chow altogether, and we should have had a dynasty of Tsin nearly nine hundred years earlier than it occurs in Chinese chronology. As it was, his successors, till nearly the end of the Ch'un Ts'ëw period, claimed for their State the leading place in the kingdom; and it was generally conceded to them. Though the system of which I am speaking be connected with the names of the five princes which I have mentioned, it yet continued to subsist after them. They were simply the first to vindicate, or to endeavour to vindicate, a commanding influence for the States to which they belonged throughout the kingdom; and though neither Hwan nor Wăn had any one among their successors fully equal to them, they had many who tried to assert a supremacy, and Tsin, as I have said, was long acknowledged to be lord of covenants.'

Sëang of Sung was not entitled to a place among the five chiefs, either from his own character, or from the strength and resources of his State. He appears rather as a madman than a man of steady purpose;

and
many

scholars exclude 'his name from the category, and introduce instead Hoh-leu of Woo or Kow-ts'ëen of Yueh. Nor is Muh of Ts'in much better entitled to the place assigned to him, for though he was a prince of very superior character to Sëang, his influence was felt only in the west of the kingdom, and not by the States generally. Chwang of Ts'oo, moreover, did certainly exercise the influence of a chief over several of the States, but he was not acknowledged as such by the king of Chow, and the

2 See Mencius, VI. Pt. ii. VII.

title of king which he claimed for himself sufficiently showed his feeling and purpose towards the existing dynasty. Still he and other kings of Ts'oo called the States frequently together, and many responded to their summons, knowing that a refusal would incur their reseniment, and be visited with direst punishment.

I am inclined to believe that the system of presiding chiefs, or rather of leading States, did in a degree mitigate the evils of the prevailing disorder. Ts'e and Tsin certainly kept in check the encroachments of Ts‘oo, which, barbarous as it was, would otherwise have speedily advanced to the overthrow of the House of Chow. Yet the system increased the misery that abounded, and if it retarded, perhaps, the downfall of the descendants of king Woo, it served to show that that was unavoidable in the end. It was most anomalous,an imperium in imperio,—and weakened the bond of loyal attachment to the throne. Of what use were the kings of Chow, if they could not do their proper work of government, but must be continually devolving it on one or other of their vassals? No line of rulers can continue to keep possession of the supreme authority in a nation, if their incompetency be demonstrated for centuries together. The sentimental loyalty of Confucius had lost its attractions by the time of Mencius, who was ever on the outlook for a minister of Heaven,' who should make an end of Chow and of the contentions among the warring States together.

But the system also increased the expenditure of the smaller States. There still remained their dues to the kings of Chow, even though they paid them so irregularly that we have instances of messengers being sent from court to Loo, and doubtless they were sent to other States as well, to beg for money and other supplies. But they had also to meet the requisitions of the ruling State, and sometimes of more than one at the same time. There are many allusions in the narratives of Tso to the arbitrariness and severity of those requisitions. On X. xiii. 5, 6, for instance, we find Tszech‘an of Ch‘ing disputing on this point with the ministers of Tsin.

Formerly,' said he, “the sons of Heaven regulated the amount of contribution according to the rank of the State. Ch‘ing ranks as the territory of an earl or a baron, and yet its contribution is now on the scale of a duke or a marquis. There is no regular rule for what we have to pay; and when our small State fails in rendering what is required, it is held to be an offender. When our contributions and offerings have no limit set to them, we have only to wait for our ruin.' It is evident, as we study the history of this system

6

« הקודםהמשך »