A history of China., [3d ed. rev. and enl.]
by Wolfram Eberhard
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by WOLFRAM EBERHARD of the University of California


UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS Berkeley and Los Angeles 1969

First published in U. S. A. by University of California Press Berkeley and Los Angeles California

Second printing 1955 Third printing 1956 Second edition (revised by the author and reset) 1960 Reprinted 1966 Third edition (revised and enlarged) 1969

To My Wife





1 Sources for the earliest history 7 2 The Peking Man 8 3 The Palaeolithic Age 8 4 The Neolithic Age 9 5 The eight principal prehistoric cultures 10 6 The Yang-shao culture 12 7 The Lung-shan culture 15 8 The first petty States in Shansi 16

Chapter II: THE SHANG DYNASTY (c. 1600-1028 B.C.)

1 Period, origin, material culture 19 2 Writing and Religion 22 3 Transition to feudalism 24


Chapter III: THE CHOU DYNASTY (c. 1028-257 B.C.)

1 Cultural origin of the Chou and end of the Shang dynasty 29 2 Feudalism in the new empire 30 3 Fusion of Chou and Shang 32 4 Limitation of the imperial power 36 5 Changes in the relative strength of the feudal states 38 6 Confucius 40 7 Lao Tzu 45

Chapter IV: THE CONTENDING STATES (481-256 B.C.):


1 Social and military changes 51 2 Economic changes 53 3 Cultural changes 57

Chapter V: THE CHIN DYNASTY (256-207 B.C.)

1 Towards the unitary State 62 2 Centralization in every field 64 3 Frontier Defence. Internal collapse 67


Chapter VI: THE HAN DYNASTY (206 B.C.-A.D. 220)

1 Development of the gentry-state 71 2 Situation of the Hsiung-nu empire; its relation to the Han empire. Incorporation of South China 75 3 Brief feudal reaction. Consolidation of the gentry 77 4 Turkestan policy. End of the Hsiung-nu empire 86 5 Impoverishment. Cliques. End of the Dynasty 90 6 The pseudo-socialistic dictatorship. Revolt of the "Red Eyebrows" 93 7 Reaction and Restoration: the Later Han dynasty 96 8 Hsiung-nu policy 97 9 Economic situation. Rebellion of the "Yellow Turbans". Collapse of the Han dynasty 99 10 Literature and Art 103


(A) The three kingdoms (A.D. 220-265)

1 Social, intellectual, and economic problems during the period of the first division 107 2 Status of the two southern Kingdoms 109 3 The northern State of Wei 113

(B) The Western Chin dynasty (265-317)

1 Internal situation in the Chin empire 115 2 Effect on the frontier peoples 116 3 Struggles for the throne 119 4 Migration of Chinese 120 5 Victory of the Huns. The Hun Han dynasty (later renamed the Earlier Chao dynasty) 121

(C) The alien empires in North China, down to the Toba (A.D. 317-385)

1 The Later Chao dynasty in eastern North China (Hun; 329-352) 123 2 Earlier Yen dynasty in the north-east (proto-Mongol; 352-370), and the Earlier Ch'in dynasty in all north China (Tibetan; 351-394) 126 3 The fragmentation of north China 128 4 Sociological analysis of the two great alien empires 131 5 Sociological analysis of the petty States 132 6 Spread of Buddhism 133

(D) The Toba empire in North China (A.D. 385-550)

1 The rise of the Toba State 136 2 The Hun kingdom of the Hsia (407-431) 139 3 Rise of the Toba to a great power 139 4 Economic and social conditions 142 5 Victory and retreat of Buddhism 145

(E) Succession States of the Toba (A.D. 550-580): Northern Ch'i dynasty, Northern Chou dynasty

1 Reasons for the splitting of the Toba empire 148 2 Appearance of the (Goek) Turks 149 3 The Northern Ch'i dynasty; the Northern Chou dynasty 150

(F) The southern empires

1 Economic and social situation in the south 152 2 Struggles between cliques under the Eastern Chin dynasty (A.D. 317-419) 155 3 The Liu-Sung dynasty (A.D. 420-478) and the Southern Ch'i dynasty (A.D. 479-501) 159 4 The Liang dynasty (A.D. 502-556) 161 5 The Ch'en dynasty (A.D. 557-588) and its ending by the Sui 162 6 Cultural achievements of the south 163


(A) The Sui dynasty (A.D. 580-618)

1 Internal situation in the newly unified empire 166 2 Relations with Turks and with Korea 169 3 Reasons for collapse 170

(B) The Tang dynasty (A.D. 618-906)

1 Reforms and decentralization 172 2 Turkish policy 176 3 Conquest of Turkestan and Korea. Summit of power 177 4 The reign of the empress Wu: Buddhism and capitalism 179 5 Second blossoming of T'ang culture 182 6 Revolt of a military governor 184 7 The role of the Uighurs. Confiscation of the capital of the monasteries 186 8 First successful peasant revolt. Collapse of the empire 189



(A) The period of the Five Dynasties (906-960)

1 Beginning of a new epoch 195 2 Political situation in the tenth century 199 3 Monopolistic trade in South China. Printing and paper money in the north 200 4 Political history of the Five Dynasties 202

(B) Period of Moderate Absolutism

(1) The Northern Sung dynasty

1 Southward expansion 208 2 Administration and army. Inflation 210 3 Reforms and Welfare schemes 215 4 Cultural situation (philosophy, religion, literature, painting) 217 5 Military collapse 221

(2) The Liao (Kitan) dynasty in the north (937-1125)

1 Sociological structure. Claim to the Chinese imperial throne 222 2 The State of the Kara-Kitai 223

(3) The Hsi-Hsia State in the north (1038-1227)

1 Continuation of Turkish traditions 224

(4) The empire of the Southern Sung dynasty (1127-1279)

1 Foundation 225 2 Internal situation 226 3 Cultural situation; reasons for the collapse 227

(5) The empire of the Juchen in the north (1115-1234)

1 Rapid expansion from northern Korea to the Yangtze 229 2 United front of all Chinese 229 3 Start of the Mongol empire 230


(A) The Mongol Epoch (1280-1368)

1 Beginning of new foreign rules 232 2 "Nationality legislation" 233 3 Military position 234 4 Social situation 235 5 Popular risings: National rising 238 6 Cultural 241

(B) The Ming Epoch (1368-1644)

1 Start. National feeling 243 2 Wars against Mongols and Japanese 244 3 Social legislation within the existing order 246 4 Colonization and agricultural developments 248 5 Commercial and industrial developments 250 6 Growth of the small gentry 252 7 Literature, art, crafts 253 8 Politics at court 256 9 Navy. Southward expansion 258 10 Struggles between cliques 259 11 Risings 262 12 Machiavellism 263 13 Foreign relations in the sixteenth century 264 14 External and internal perils 266

(C) The Manchu Dynasty (1644-1911)

1 Installation of the Manchus 270 2 Decline in the eighteenth century 272 3 Expansion in Central Asia; the first State treaty 277 4 Culture 279 5 Relations with the outer world 282 6 Decline; revolts 284 7 European Imperialism in the Far East 285 8 Risings in Turkestan and within China: the T'ai P'ing Rebellion 288 9 Collision with Japan; further Capitulations 294 10 Russia in Manchuria 296 11 Reform and reaction: The Boxer Rising 296 12 End of the dynasty 299

Chapter XI: THE REPUBLIC (1912-1948)

1 Social and intellectual position 303 2 First period of the Republic: The warlords 309 3 Second period of the Republic: Nationalist China 314 4 The Sino-Japanese war (1937-1945) 317


1 The growth of communism 320 2 Nationalist China in Taiwan 323 3 Communist China 327

Notes and References 335

Index 355


1 Painted pottery from Kansu: Neolithic. Facing page 48 In the collection of the Museum fuer Voelkerkunde, Berlin.

2 Ancient bronze tripod found at Anyang. 49 From G. Ecke: Fruehe chinesische Bronzen aus der Sammlung Oskar Trautmann, Peking 1939 plate 3.

3 Bronze plaque representing two horses fighting each other. Ordos region, animal style. 64 From V. Griessmaier: Sammlung Baron Eduard von der Heydt, Vienna 1936, illustration No. 6.

4 Hunting scene: detail from the reliefs in the tombs at Wu-liang-tz'u. 64 From a print in the author's possession.

5 Part of the "Great Wall". 65 Photo Eberhard.

6 Sun Ch'uean, ruler of Wu. 144 From a painting by Yen Li-pen (c. 640-680).

7 General view of the Buddhist cave-temples of Yuen-kang. In the foreground, the present village; in the background the rampart. 145 Photo H. Hammer-Morrisson.

8 Detail from the Buddhist cave-reliefs of Lungmen. 160 From a print in the author's possession.

9 Statue of Mi-lo (Maitreya, the next future Buddha), in the "Great Buddha Temple" at Chengting (Hopei). 161 Photo H. Hammer-Morrisson.

10 Ladies of the Court: Clay models which accompanied the dead person to the grave. T'ang period. 208 In the collection of the Museum fuer Voelkerkunde, Berlin.

11 Distinguished founder: a temple banner found at Khotcho, Turkestan. 209 Museum fuer Voelkerkunde, Berlin. No. 1B 4524, illustration B 408.

12 Ancient tiled pagoda at Chengting (Hopei). 224 Photo H. Hammer-Morrisson.

13 Horse-training. Painting by Li Lung-mien. Late Sung period. 225 Manchu Royal House Collection.

14 Aborigines of South China, of the "Black Miao" tribe, at a festival. China-ink drawing of the eighteenth century. 272 Collection of the Museum fuer Voelkerkunde, Berlin. No. 1D 8756, 68.

15 Pavilion on the "Coal Hill" at Peking, in which the last Ming emperor committed suicide. 273 Photo Eberhard.

16 The imperial summer palace of the Manchu rulers, at Jehol. 288 Photo H. Hammer-Morrisson.

17 Tower on the city wall of Peking. 289 Photo H. Hammer-Morrisson.


1 Regions of the principal local cultures in prehistoric times 13

2 The principal feudal States in the feudal epoch (roughly 722-481 B.C.) 39

3 China in the struggle with the Huns or Hsiung-nu (roughly 128-100 B.C.) 87

4 The Toba empire (about A.D. 500) 141

5 The T'ang realm (about A.D. 750) 171

6 The State of the Later T'ang dynasty (923-935) 205


There are indeed enough Histories of China already: why yet another one? Because the time has come for new departures; because we need to clear away the false notions with which the general public is constantly being fed by one author after another; because from time to time syntheses become necessary for the presentation of the stage reached by research.

Histories of China fall, with few exceptions, into one or the other of two groups, pro-Chinese and anti-Chinese: the latter used to predominate, but today the former type is much more frequently found. We have no desire to show that China's history is the most glorious or her civilization the oldest in the world. A claim to the longest history does not establish the greatness of a civilization; the importance of a civilization becomes apparent in its achievements. A thousand years ago China's civilization towered over those of the peoples of Europe. Today the West is leading; tomorrow China may lead again. We need to realize how China became what she is, and to note the paths pursued by the Chinese in human thought and action. The lives of emperors, the great battles, this or the other famous deed, matter less to us than the discovery of the great forces that underlie these features and govern the human element. Only when we have knowledge of those forces and counter-forces can we realize the significance of the great personalities who have emerged in China; and only then will the history of China become intelligible even to those who have little knowledge of the Far East and can make nothing of a mere enumeration of dynasties and campaigns.

Views on China's history have radically changed in recent years. Until about thirty years ago our knowledge of the earliest times in China depended entirely on Chinese documents of much later date; now we are able to rely on many excavations which enable us to check the written sources. Ethnological, anthropological, and sociological research has begun for China and her neighbours; thus we are in a position to write with some confidence about the making of China, and about her ethnical development, where formerly we could only grope in the dark. The claim that "the Chinese race" produced the high Chinese civilization entirely by its own efforts, thanks to its special gifts, has become just as untenable as the other theory that immigrants from the West, some conceivably from Europe, carried civilization to the Far East. We know now that in early times there was no "Chinese race", there were not even "Chinese", just as there were no "French" and no "Swiss" two thousand years ago. The "Chinese" resulted from the amalgamation of many separate peoples of different races in an enormously complicated and long-drawn-out process, as with all the other high civilizations of the world.

The picture of ancient and medieval China has also been entirely changed since it has been realized that the sources on which reliance has always been placed were not objective, but deliberately and emphatically represented a particular philosophy. The reports on the emperors and ministers of the earliest period are not historical at all, but served as examples of ideas of social policy or as glorifications of particular noble families. Myths such as we find to this day among China's neighbours were made into history; gods were made men and linked together by long family trees. We have been able to touch on all these things only briefly, and have had to dispense with any account of the complicated processes that have taken place here.

The official dynastic histories apply to the course of Chinese history the criterion of Confucian ethics; for them history is a textbook of ethics, designed to show by means of examples how the man of high character should behave or not behave. We have to go deeper, and try to extract the historic truth from these records. Many specialized studies by Chinese, Japanese, and Western scholars on problems of Chinese history are now available and of assistance in this task. However, some Chinese writers still imagine that they are serving their country by yet again dishing up the old fables for the foreigner as history; and some Europeans, knowing no better or aiming at setting alongside the unedifying history of Europe the shining example of the conventional story of China, continue in the old groove. To this day, of course, we are far from having really worked through every period of Chinese history; there are long periods on which scarcely any work has yet been done. Thus the picture we are able to give today has no finality about it and will need many modifications. But the time has come for a new synthesis, so that criticism may proceed along the broadest possible front and push our knowledge further forward.

The present work is intended for the general reader and not for the specialist, who will devote his attention to particular studies and to the original texts. In view of the wide scope of the work, I have had to confine myself to placing certain lines of thought in the foreground and paying less attention to others. I have devoted myself mainly to showing the main lines of China's social and cultural development down to the present day. But I have also been concerned not to leave out of account China's relations with her neighbours. Now that we have a better knowledge of China's neighbours, the Turks, Mongols, Tibetans, Tunguses, Tai, not confined to the narratives of Chinese, who always speak only of "barbarians", we are better able to realize how closely China has been associated with her neighbours from the first day of her history to the present time; how greatly she is indebted to them, and how much she has given them. We no longer see China as a great civilization surrounded by barbarians, but we study the Chinese coming to terms with their neighbours, who had civilizations of quite different types but nevertheless developed ones.

It is usual to split up Chinese history under the various dynasties that have ruled China or parts thereof. The beginning or end of a dynasty does not always indicate the beginning or the end of a definite period of China's social or cultural development. We have tried to break China's history down into the three large periods—"Antiquity", "The Middle Ages", and "Modern Times". This does not mean that we compare these periods with periods of the same name in Western history although, naturally, we find some similarities with the development of society and culture in the West. Every attempt towards periodization is to some degree arbitrary: the beginning and end of the Middle Ages, for instance, cannot be fixed to a year, because development is a continuous process. To some degree any periodization is a matter of convenience, and it should be accepted as such.

The account of Chinese history here given is based on a study of the original documents and excavations, and on a study of recent research done by Chinese, Japanese and Western scholars, including my own research. In many cases, these recent studies produced new data or arranged new data in a new way without an attempt to draw general conclusions. By putting such studies together, by fitting them into the pattern that already existed, new insights into social and cultural processes have been gained. The specialist in the field will, I hope, easily recognize the sources, primary or secondary, on which such new insights represented in this book are based. Brief notes are appended for each chapter; they indicate the most important works in English and provide the general reader with an opportunity of finding further information on the problems touched on. For the specialist brief hints to international research are given, mainly in cases in which different interpretations have been proposed.

Chinese words are transcribed according to the Wade-Giles system with the exception of names for which already a popular way of transcription exists (such as Peking). Place names are written without hyphen, if they remain readable.


Chapter One


1 Sources for the earliest history

Until recently we were dependent for the beginnings of Chinese history on the written Chinese tradition. According to these sources China's history began either about 4000 B.C. or about 2700 B.C. with a succession of wise emperors who "invented" the elements of a civilization, such as clothing, the preparation of food, marriage, and a state system; they instructed their people in these things, and so brought China, as early as in the third millennium B.C., to an astonishingly high cultural level. However, all we know of the origin of civilizations makes this of itself entirely improbable; no other civilization in the world originated in any such way. As time went on, Chinese historians found more and more to say about primeval times. All these narratives were collected in the great imperial history that appeared at the beginning of the Manchu epoch. That book was translated into French, and all the works written in Western languages until recent years on Chinese history and civilization have been based in the last resort on that translation.

Modern research has not only demonstrated that all these accounts are inventions of a much later period, but has also shown why such narratives were composed. The older historical sources make no mention of any rulers before 2200 B.C., no mention even of their names. The names of earlier rulers first appear in documents of about 400 B.C.; the deeds attributed to them and the dates assigned to them often do not appear until much later. Secondly, it was shown that the traditional chronology is wrong and another must be adopted, reducing all the dates for the more ancient history, before 900 B.C. Finally, all narratives and reports from China's earliest period have been dealt a mortal blow by modern archaeology, with the excavations of recent years. There was no trace of any high civilization in the third millennium B.C., and, indeed, we can only speak of a real "Chinese civilization" from 1300 B.C. onward. The peoples of the China of that time had come from the most varied sources; from 1300 B.C. they underwent a common process of development that welded them into a new unity. In this sense and emphasizing the cultural aspects, we are justified in using from then on a new name, "Chinese", for the peoples of China. Those sections, however, of their ancestral populations who played no part in the subsequent cultural and racial fusion, we may fairly call "non-Chinese". This distinction answers the question that continually crops up, whether the Chinese are "autochthonons". They are autochthonons in the sense that they formed a unit in the Far East, in the geographical region of the present China, and were not immigrants from the Middle East.

2 The Peking Man

Man makes his appearance in the Far East at a time when remains in other parts of the world are very rare and are disputed. He appears as the so-called "Peking Man", whose bones were found in caves of Chou-k'ou-tien south of Peking. The Peking Man is vastly different from the men of today, and forms a special branch of the human race, closely allied to the Pithecanthropus of Java. The formation of later races of mankind from these types has not yet been traced, if it occurred at all. Some anthropologists consider, however, that the Peking Man possessed already certain characteristics peculiar to the yellow race.

The Peking Man lived in caves; no doubt he was a hunter, already in possession of very simple stone implements and also of the art of making fire. As none of the skeletons so far found are complete, it is assumed that he buried certain bones of the dead in different places from the rest. This burial custom, which is found among primitive peoples in other parts of the world, suggests the conclusion that the Peking Man already had religious notions. We have no knowledge yet of the length of time the Peking Man may have inhabited the Far East. His first traces are attributed to a million years ago, and he may have flourished in 500,000 B.C.

3 The Palaeolithic Age

After the period of the Peking Man there comes a great gap in our knowledge. All that we know indicates that at the time of the Peking Man there must have been a warmer and especially a damper climate in North China and Inner Mongolia than today. Great areas of the Ordos region, now dry steppe, were traversed in that epoch by small rivers and lakes beside which men could live. There were elephants, rhinoceroses, extinct species of stag and bull, even tapirs and other wild animals. About 50,000 B.C. there lived by these lakes a hunting people whose stone implements (and a few of bone) have been found in many places. The implements are comparable in type with the palaeolithic implements of Europe (Mousterian type, and more rarely Aurignacian or even Magdalenian). They are not, however, exactly like the European implements, but have a character of their own. We do not yet know what the men of these communities looked like, because as yet no indisputable human remains have been found. All the stone implements have been found on the surface, where they have been brought to light by the wind as it swept away the loess. These stone-age communities seem to have lasted a considerable time and to have been spread not only over North China but over Mongolia and Manchuria. It must not be assumed that the stone age came to an end at the same time everywhere. Historical accounts have recorded, for instance, that stone implements were still in use in Manchuria and eastern Mongolia at a time when metal was known and used in western Mongolia and northern China. Our knowledge about the palaeolithic period of Central and South China is still extremely limited; we have to wait for more excavations before anything can be said. Certainly, many implements in this area were made of wood or more probably bamboo, such as we still find among the non-Chinese tribes of the south-west and of South-East Asia. Such implements, naturally, could not last until today.

About 25,000 B.C. there appears in North China a new human type, found in upper layers in the same caves that sheltered Peking Man. This type is beyond doubt not Mongoloid, and may have been allied to the Ainu, a non-Mongol race still living in northern Japan. These, too, were a palaeolithic people, though some of their implements show technical advance. Later they disappear, probably because they were absorbed into various populations of central and northern Asia. Remains of them have been found in badly explored graves in northern Korea.

4 The Neolithic age

In the period that now followed, northern China must have gradually become arid, and the formation of loess seems to have steadily advanced. There is once more a great gap in our knowledge until, about 4000 B.C., we can trace in North China a purely Mongoloid people with a neolithic culture. In place of hunters we find cattle breeders, who are even to some extent agriculturists as well. This may seem an astonishing statement for so early an age. It is a fact, however, that pure pastoral nomadism is exceptional, that normal pastoral nomads have always added a little farming to their cattle-breeding, in order to secure the needed additional food and above all fodder, for the winter.

At this time, about 4000 B.C., the other parts of China come into view. The neolithic implements of the various regions of the Far East are far from being uniform; there are various separate cultures. In the north-west of China there is a system of cattle-breeding combined with agriculture, a distinguishing feature being the possession of finely polished axes of rectangular section, with a cutting edge. Farther east, in the north and reaching far to the south, is found a culture with axes of round or oval section. In the south and in the coastal region from Nanking to Tonking, Yuennan to Fukien, and reaching as far as the coasts of Korea and Japan, is a culture with so-called shoulder-axes. Szechwan and Yuennan represented a further independent culture.

All these cultures were at first independent. Later the shoulder-axe culture penetrated as far as eastern India. Its people are known to philological research as Austroasiatics, who formed the original stock of the Australian aborigines; they survived in India as the Munda tribes, in Indo-China as the Mon-Khmer, and also remained in pockets on the islands of Indonesia and especially Melanesia. All these peoples had migrated from southern China. The peoples with the oval-axe culture are the so-called Papuan peoples in Melanesia; they, too, migrated from southern China, probably before the others. Both groups influenced the ancient Japanese culture. The rectangular-axe culture of north-west China spread widely, and moved southward, where the Austronesian peoples (from whom the Malays are descended) were its principal constituents, spreading that culture also to Japan.

Thus we see here, in this period around 4000 B.C., an extensive mutual penetration of the various cultures all over the Far East, including Japan, which in the palaeolithic age was apparently without or almost without settlers.

5 The eight principal prehistoric cultures

In the period roughly around 2500 B.C. the general historical view becomes much clearer. Thanks to a special method of working, making use of the ethnological sources available from later times together with the archaeological sources, much new knowledge has been gained in recent years. At this time there is still no trace of a Chinese realm; we find instead on Chinese soil a considerable number of separate local cultures, each developing on its own lines. The chief of these cultures, acquaintance with which is essential to a knowledge of the whole later development of the Far East, are as follows:

(a) The north-east culture, centred in the present provinces of Hopei (in which Peking lies), Shantung, and southern Manchuria. The people of this culture were ancestors of the Tunguses, probably mixed with an element that is contained in the present-day Paleo-Siberian tribes. These men were mainly hunters, but probably soon developed a little primitive agriculture and made coarse, thick pottery with certain basic forms which were long preserved in subsequent Chinese pottery (for instance, a type of the so-called tripods). Later, pig-breeding became typical of this culture.

(b) The northern culture existed to the west of that culture, in the region of the present Chinese province of Shansi and in the province of Jehol in Inner Mongolia. These people had been hunters, but then became pastoral nomads, depending mainly on cattle. The people of this culture were the tribes later known as Mongols, the so-called proto-Mongols. Anthropologically they belonged, like the Tunguses, to the Mongol race.

(c) The people of the culture farther west, the north-west culture, were not Mongols. They, too, were originally hunters, and later became a pastoral people, with a not inconsiderable agriculture (especially growing wheat and millet). The typical animal of this group soon became the horse. The horse seems to be the last of the great animals to be domesticated, and the date of its first occurrence in domesticated form in the Far East is not yet determined, but we can assume that by 2500 B.C. this group was already in the possession of horses. The horse has always been a "luxury", a valuable animal which needed special care. For their economic needs, these tribes depended on other animals, probably sheep, goats, and cattle. The centre of this culture, so far as can be ascertained from Chinese sources, were the present provinces of Shensi and Kansu, but mainly only the plains. The people of this culture were most probably ancestors of the later Turkish peoples. It is not suggested, of course, that the original home of the Turks lay in the region of the Chinese provinces of Shensi and Kansu; one gains the impression, however, that this was a border region of the Turkish expansion; the Chinese documents concerning that period do not suffice to establish the centre of the Turkish territory.

(d) In the west, in the present provinces of Szechwan and in all the mountain regions of the provinces of Kansu and Shensi, lived the ancestors of the Tibetan peoples as another separate culture. They were shepherds, generally wandering with their flocks of sheep and goats on the mountain heights.

(e) In the south we meet with four further cultures. One is very primitive, the Liao culture, the peoples of which are the Austroasiatics already mentioned. These are peoples who never developed beyond the stage of primitive hunters, some of whom were not even acquainted with the bow and arrow. Farther east is the Yao culture, an early Austronesian culture, the people of which also lived in the mountains, some as collectors and hunters, some going over to a simple type of agriculture (denshiring). They mingled later with the last great culture of the south, the Tai culture, distinguished by agriculture. The people lived in the valleys and mainly cultivated rice.

The origin of rice is not yet known; according to some scholars, rice was first cultivated in the area of present Burma and was perhaps at first a perennial plant. Apart from the typical rice which needs much water, there were also some strains of dry rice which, however, did not gain much importance. The centre of this Tai culture may have been in the present provinces of Kuangtung and Kuanghsi. Today, their descendants form the principal components of the Tai in Thailand, the Shan in Burma and the Lao in Laos. Their immigration into the areas of the Shan States of Burma and into Thailand took place only in quite recent historical periods, probably not much earlier than A.D. 1000.

Finally there arose from the mixture of the Yao with the Tai culture, at a rather later time, the Yueeh culture, another early Austronesian culture, which then spread over wide regions of Indonesia, and of which the axe of rectangular section, mentioned above, became typical.

Thus, to sum up, we may say that, quite roughly, in the middle of the third millennium we meet in the north and west of present-day China with a number of herdsmen cultures. In the south there were a number of agrarian cultures, of which the Tai was the most powerful, becoming of most importance to the later China. We must assume that these cultures were as yet undifferentiated in their social composition, that is to say that as yet there was no distinct social stratification, but at most beginnings of class-formation, especially among the nomad herdsmen.

6 The Yang-shao culture

The various cultures here described gradually penetrated one another, especially at points where they met. Such a process does not yield a simple total of the cultural elements involved; any new combination produces entirely different conditions with corresponding new results which, in turn, represent the characteristics of the culture that supervenes. We can no longer follow this process of penetration in detail; it need not by any means have been always warlike. Conquest of one group by another was only one way of mutual cultural penetration. In other cases, a group which occupied the higher altitudes and practised hunting or slash-and-burn agriculture came into closer contacts with another group in the valleys which practised some form of higher agriculture; frequently, such contacts resulted in particular forms of division of labour in a unified and often stratified new form of society. Recent and present developments in South-East Asia present a number of examples for such changes. Increase of population is certainly one of the most important elements which lead to these developments. The result, as a rule, was a stratified society being made up of at least one privileged and one ruled stratum. Thus there came into existence around 2000 B.C. some new cultures, which are well known archaeologically. The most important of these are the Yang-shao culture in the west and the Lung-shan culture in the east. Our knowledge of both these cultures is of quite recent date and there are many enigmas still to be cleared up.

The Yang-shao culture takes its name from a prehistoric settlement in the west of the present province of Honan, where Swedish investigators discovered it. Typical of this culture is its wonderfully fine pottery, apparently used as gifts to the dead. It is painted in three colours, white, red, and black. The patterns are all stylized, designs copied from nature being rare. We are now able to divide this painted pottery into several sub-types of specific distribution, and we know that this style existed from c. 2200 B.C. on. In general, it tends to disappear as does painted pottery in other parts of the world with the beginning of urban civilization and the invention of writing. The typical Yang-shao culture seems to have come to an end around 1600 or 1500 B.C. It continued in some more remote areas, especially of Kansu, perhaps to about 700 B.C. Remnants of this painted pottery have been found over a wide area from Southern Manchuria, Hopei, Shansi, Honan, Shensi to Kansu; some pieces have also been discovered in Sinkiang. Thus far, it seems that it occurred mainly in the mountainous parts of North and North-West China. The people of this culture lived in villages near to the rivers and creeks. They had various forms of houses, including underground dwellings and animal enclosures. They practised some agriculture; some authors believe that rice was already known to them. They also had domesticated animals. Their implements were of stone with rare specimens of bone. The axes were of the rectangular type. Metal was as yet unknown, but seems to have been introduced towards the end of the period. They buried their dead on the higher elevations, and here the painted pottery was found. For their daily life, they used predominantly a coarse grey pottery.

After the discovery of this culture, its pottery was compared with the painted pottery of the West, and a number of resemblances were found, especially with the pottery of the Lower Danube basin and that of Anau, in Turkestan. Some authors claim that such resemblances are fortuitous and believe that the older layers of this culture are to be found in the eastern part of its distribution and only the later layers in the west. It is, they say, these later stages which show the strongest resemblances with the West. Other authors believe that the painted pottery came from the West where it occurs definitely earlier than in the Far East; some investigators went so far as to regard the Indo-Europeans as the parents of that civilization. As we find people who spoke an Indo-European language in the Far East in a later period, they tend to connect the spread of painted pottery with the spread of Indo-European-speaking groups. As most findings of painted pottery in the Far East do not stem from scientific excavations it is difficult to make any decision at this moment. We will have to wait for more and modern excavations.

From our knowledge of primeval settlement in West and North-West China we know, however, that Tibetan groups, probably mixed with Turkish elements, must have been the main inhabitants of the whole region in which this painted pottery existed. Whatever the origin of the painted pottery may be, it seems that people of these two groups were the main users of it. Most of the shapes of their pottery are not found in later Chinese pottery.

7 The Lung-shan culture

While the Yang-shao culture flourished in the mountain regions of northern and western China around 2000 B.C., there came into existence in the plains of eastern China another culture, which is called the Lung-shan culture, from the scene of the principal discoveries. Lung-shan is in the province of Shantung, near Chinan-fu. This culture, discovered only about twenty-five years ago, is distinguished by a black pottery of exceptionally fine quality and by a similar absence of metal. The pottery has a polished appearance on the exterior; it is never painted, and mostly without decoration; at most it may have incised geometrical patterns. The forms of the vessels are the same as have remained typical of Chinese pottery, and of Far Eastern pottery in general. To that extent the Lung-shan culture may be described as one of the direct predecessors of the later Chinese civilization.

As in the West, we find in Lung-shan much grey pottery out of which vessels for everyday use were produced. This simple corded or matted ware seems to be in connection with Tunguse people who lived in the north-east. The people of the Lung-shan culture lived on mounds produced by repeated building on the ruins of earlier settlements, as did the inhabitants of the "Tells" in the Near East. They were therefore a long-settled population of agriculturists. Their houses were of mud, and their villages were surrounded with mud walls. There are signs that their society was stratified. So far as is known at present, this culture was spread over the present provinces of Shantung, Kiangsu, Chekiang, and Anhui, and some specimens of its pottery went as far as Honan and Shansi, into the region of the painted pottery. This culture lasted in the east until about 1600 B.C., with clear evidence of rather longer duration only in the south. As black pottery of a similar character occurs also in the Near East, some authors believe that it has been introduced into the Far East by another migration (Pontic migration) following that migration which supposedly brought the painted pottery. This theory has not been generally accepted because of the fact that typical black pottery is limited to the plains of East China; if it had been brought in from the West, we should expect to find it in considerable amounts also in West China. Ordinary black pottery can be simply the result of a special temperature in the pottery kiln; such pottery can be found almost everywhere. The typical thin, fine black pottery of Lung-shan, however, is in the Far East an eastern element, and migrants would have had to pass through the area of the painted pottery people without leaving many traces and without pushing their predecessors to the East. On the basis of our present knowledge we assume that the peoples of the Lung-shan culture were probably of Tai and Yao stocks together with some Tunguses.

Recently, a culture of mound-dwellers in Eastern China has been discovered, and a southern Chinese culture of people with impressed or stamped pottery. This latter seems to be connected with the Yueeh tribes. As yet, no further details are known.

8 The first petty States in Shansi

At the time in which, according to archaeological research, the painted pottery flourished in West China, Chinese historical tradition has it that the semi-historical rulers, Yao and Shun, and the first official dynasty, the Hsia dynasty ruled over parts of China with a centre in southern Shansi. While we dismiss as political myths the Confucianist stories representing Yao and Shun as models of virtuous rulers, it may be that a small state existed in south-western Shansi under a chieftain Yao, and farther to the east another small state under a chieftain Shun, and that these states warred against each other until Yao's state was destroyed. These first small states may have existed around 2000 B.C.

On the cultural scene we first find an important element of progress: bronze, in traces in the middle layers of the Yang-shao culture, about 1800 B.C.; that element had become very widespread by 1400 B.C. The forms of the oldest weapons and their ornamentation show similarities with weapons from Siberia; and both mythology and other indications suggest that the bronze came into China from the north and was not produced in China proper. Thus, from the present state of our knowledge, it seems most correct to say that the bronze was brought to the Far East through the agency of peoples living north of China, such as the Turkish tribes who in historical times were China's northern neighbours (or perhaps only individual families or clans, the so-called smith families with whom we meet later in Turkish tradition), reaching the Chinese either through these people themselves or through the further agency of Mongols. At first the forms of the weapons were left unaltered. The bronze vessels, however, which made their appearance about 1450 B.C. are entirely different from anything produced in other parts of Asia; their ornamentation shows, on the one hand, elements of the so-called "animal style" which is typical of the steppe people of the Ordos area and of Central Asia. But most of the other elements, especially the "filling" between stylized designs, is recognizably southern (probably of the Tai culture), no doubt first applied to wooden vessels and vessels made from gourds, and then transferred to bronze. This implies that the art of casting bronze very soon spread from North China, where it was first practised by Turkish peoples, to the east and south, which quickly developed bronze industries of their own. There are few deposits of copper and tin in North China, while in South China both metals are plentiful and easily extracted, so that a trade in bronze from south to north soon set in.

The origin of the Hsia state may have been a consequence of the progress due to bronze. The Chinese tradition speaks of the Hsia dynasty, but can say scarcely anything about it. The excavations, too, yield no clear conclusions, so that we can only say that it flourished at the time and in the area in which the painted pottery occurred, with a centre in south-west Shansi. We date this dynasty now somewhere between 2000 and 1600 B.C. and believe that it was an agrarian culture with bronze weapons and pottery vessels but without the knowledge of the art of writing.

Chapter Two

THE SHANG DYNASTY (c. 1600-1028 B.C.)

1 Period, origin, material culture

About 1600 B.C. we come at last into the realm of history. Of the Shang dynasty, which now followed, we have knowledge both from later texts and from excavations and the documents they have brought to light. The Shang civilization, an evident off-shoot of the Lung-shan culture (Tai, Yao, and Tunguses), but also with elements of the Hsia culture (with Tibetan and Mongol and/or Turkish elements), was beyond doubt a high civilization. Of the origin of the Shang State we have no details, nor do we know how the Hsia culture passed into the Shang culture.

The central territory of the Shang realm lay in north-western Honan, alongside the Shansi mountains and extending into the plains. It was a peasant civilization with towns. One of these towns has been excavated. It adjoined the site of the present town of Anyang, in the province of Honan. The town, the Shang capital from c. 1300 to 1028 B.C., was probably surrounded by a mud wall, as were the settlements of the Lung-shan people. In the centre was what evidently was the ruler's palace. Round this were houses probably inhabited by artisans; for the artisans formed a sort of intermediate class, as dependents of the ruling class. From inscriptions we know that the Shang had, in addition to their capital, at least two other large cities and many smaller town-like settlements and villages. The rectangular houses were built in a style still found in Chinese houses, except that their front did not always face south as is now the general rule. The Shang buried their kings in large, subterranean, cross-shaped tombs outside the city, and many implements, animals and human sacrifices were buried together with them. The custom of large burial mounds, which later became typical of the Chou dynasty, did not yet exist.

The Shang had sculptures in stone, an art which later more or less completely disappeared and which was resuscitated only in post-Christian times under the influence of Indian Buddhism. Yet, Shang culture cannot well be called a "megalithic" culture. Bronze implements and especially bronze vessels were cast in the town. We even know the trade marks of some famous bronze founders. The bronze weapons are still similar to those from Siberia, and are often ornamented in the so-called "animal style", which was used among all the nomad peoples between the Ordos region and Siberia until the beginning of the Christian era. On the other hand, the famous bronze vessels are more of southern type, and reveal an advanced technique that has scarcely been excelled since. There can be no doubt that the bronze vessels were used for religious service and not for everyday life. For everyday use there were earthenware vessels. Even in the middle of the first millennium B.C., bronze was exceedingly dear, as we know from the records of prices. China has always suffered from scarcity of metal. For that reason metal was accumulated as capital, entailing a further rise in prices; when prices had reached a sufficient height, the stocks were thrown on the market and prices fell again. Later, when there was a metal coinage, this cycle of inflation and deflation became still clearer. The metal coinage was of its full nominal value, so that it was possible to coin money by melting down bronze implements. As the money in circulation was increased in this way, the value of the currency fell. Then it paid to turn coin into metal implements. This once more reduced the money in circulation and increased the value of the remaining coinage. Thus through the whole course of Chinese history the scarcity of metal and insufficiency of production of metal continually produced extensive fluctuations of the stocks and the value of metal, amounting virtually to an economic law in China. Consequently metal implements were never universally in use, and vessels were always of earthenware, with the further result of the early invention of porcelain. Porcelain vessels have many of the qualities of metal ones, but are cheaper.

The earthenware vessels used in this period are in many cases already very near to porcelain: there was a pottery of a brilliant white, lacking only the glaze which would have made it into porcelain. Patterns were stamped on the surface, often resembling the patterns on bronze articles. This ware was used only for formal, ceremonial purposes. For daily use there was also a perfectly simple grey pottery.

Silk was already in use at this time. The invention of sericulture must therefore have dated from very ancient times in China. It undoubtedly originated in the south of China, and at first not only the threads spun by the silkworm but those made by other caterpillars were also used. The remains of silk fabrics that have been found show already an advanced weaving technique. In addition to silk, various plant fibres, such as hemp, were in use. Woollen fabrics do not seem to have been yet used.

The Shang were agriculturists, but their implements were still rather primitive. There was no real plough yet; hoes and hoe-like implements were used, and the grain, mainly different kinds of millet and some wheat, was harvested with sickles. The materials, from which these implements were made, were mainly wood and stone; bronze was still too expensive to be utilized by the ordinary farmer. As a great number of vessels for wine in many different forms have been excavated, we can assume that wine, made from special kinds of millet, was a popular drink.

The Shang state had its centre in northern Honan, north of the Yellow river. At various times, different towns were made into the capital city; Yin-ch'ue, their last capital and the only one which has been excavated, was their sixth capital. We do not know why the capitals were removed to new locations; it is possible that floods were one of the main reasons. The area under more or less organized Shang control comprised towards the end of the dynasty the present provinces of Honan, western Shantung, southern Hopei, central and south Shansi, east Shensi, parts of Kiangsu and Anhui. We can only roughly estimate the size of the population of the Shang state. Late texts say that at the time of the annihilation of the dynasty, some 3.1 million free men and 1.1 million serfs were captured by the conquerors; this would indicate a population of at least some 4-5 millions. This seems a possible number, if we consider that an inscription of the tenth century B.C. which reports about an ordinary war against a small and unimportant western neighbour, speaks of 13,081 free men and 4,812 serfs taken as prisoners.

Inscriptions mention many neighbours of the Shang with whom they were in more or less continuous state of war. Many of these neighbours can now be identified. We know that Shansi at that time was inhabited by Ch'iang tribes, belonging to the Tibetan culture, as well as by Ti tribes, belonging to the northern culture, and by Hsien-yuen and other tribes, belonging to the north-western culture; the centre of the Ch'iang tribes was more in the south-west of Shansi and in Shensi. Some of these tribes definitely once formed a part of the earlier Hsia state. The identification of the eastern neighbours of the Shang presents more difficulties. We might regard them as representatives of the Tai and Yao cultures.

2 Writing and Religion

Not only the material but also the intellectual level attained in the Shang period was very high. We meet for the first time with writing—much later than in the Middle East and in India. Chinese scholars have succeeded in deciphering some of the documents discovered, so that we are able to learn a great deal from them. The writing is a rudimentary form of the present-day Chinese script, and like it a pictorial writing, but also makes use, as today, of many phonetic signs. There were, however, a good many characters that no longer exist, and many now used are absent. There were already more than 3,000 characters in use of which some 1,000 can now be read. (Today newspapers use some 3,000 characters; scholars have command of up to 8,000; the whole of Chinese literature, ancient and modern, comprises some 50,000 characters.) With these 3,000 characters the Chinese of the Shang period were able to express themselves well.

The still existing fragments of writing of this period are found almost exclusively on tortoiseshells or on other bony surfaces, and they represent oracles. As early as in the Lung-shan culture there was divination by means of "oracle bones", at first without written characters. In the earliest period any bones of animals (especially shoulder-bones) were used; later only tortoiseshell. For the purpose of the oracle a depression was burnt in the shell so that cracks were formed on the other side, and the future was foretold from their direction. Subsequently particular questions were scratched on the shells, and the answers to them; these are the documents that have come down to us. In Anyang tens of thousands of these oracle bones with inscriptions have been found. The custom of asking the oracle and of writing the answers on the bones spread over the borders of the Shang state and continued in some areas after the end of the dynasty.

The bronze vessels of later times often bear long inscriptions, but those of the Shang period have only very brief texts. On the other hand, they are ornamented with pictures, as yet largely unintelligible, of countless deities, especially in the shape of animals or birds—pictures that demand interpretation. The principal form on these bronzes is that of the so-called T'ao-t'ieh, a hybrid with the head of a water-buffalo and tiger's teeth.

The Shang period had a religion with many nature deities, especially deities of fertility. There was no systematized pantheon, different deities being revered in each locality, often under the most varied names. These various deities were, however, similar in character, and later it occurred often that many of them were combined by the priests into a single god. The composite deities thus formed were officially worshipped. Their primeval forms lived on, however, especially in the villages, many centuries longer than the Shang dynasty. The sacrifices associated with them became popular festivals, and so these gods or their successors were saved from oblivion; some of them have lived on in popular religion to the present day. The supreme god of the official worship was called Shang Ti; he was a god of vegetation who guided all growth and birth and was later conceived as a forefather of the races of mankind. The earth was represented as a mother goddess, who bore the plants and animals procreated by Shang Ti. In some parts of the Shang realm the two were conceived as a married couple who later were parted by one of their children. The husband went to heaven, and the rain is the male seed that creates life on earth. In other regions it was supposed that in the beginning of the world there was a world-egg, out of which a primeval god came, whose body was represented by the earth: his hair formed the plants, and his limbs the mountains and valleys. Every considerable mountain was also itself a god and, similarly, the river god, the thunder god, cloud, lightning, and wind gods, and many others were worshipped.

In order to promote the fertility of the earth, it was believed that sacrifices must be offered to the gods. Consequently, in the Shang realm and the regions surrounding it there were many sorts of human sacrifices; often the victims were prisoners of war. One gains the impression that many wars were conducted not as wars of conquest but only for the purpose of capturing prisoners, although the area under Shang control gradually increased towards the west and the south-east, a fact demonstrating the interest in conquest. In some regions men lurked in the spring for people from other villages; they slew them, sacrificed them to the earth, and distributed portions of the flesh of the sacrifice to the various owners of fields, who buried them. At a later time all human sacrifices were prohibited, but we have reports down to the eleventh century A.D., and even later, that such sacrifices were offered secretly in certain regions of central China. In other regions a great boat festival was held in the spring, to which many crews came crowded in long narrow boats. At least one of the boats had to capsize; the people who were thus drowned were a sacrifice to the deities of fertility. This festival has maintained its fundamental character to this day, in spite of various changes. The same is true of other festivals, customs, and conceptions, vestiges of which are contained at least in folklore.

In addition to the nature deities which were implored to give fertility, to send rain, or to prevent floods and storms, the Shang also worshipped deceased rulers and even dead ministers as a kind of intermediaries between man and the highest deity, Shang Ti. This practice may be regarded as the forerunner of "ancestral worship" which became so typical of later China.

3 Transition to feudalism

At the head of the Shang state was a king, posthumously called a "Ti", the same word as in the name of the supreme god. We have found on bones the names of all the rulers of this dynasty and even some of their pre-dynastic ancestors. These names can be brought into agreement with lists of rulers found in the ancient Chinese literature. The ruler seems to have been a high priest, too; and around him were many other priests. We know some of them now so well from the inscriptions that their biographies could be written. The king seems to have had some kind of bureaucracy. There were "ch'en", officials who served the ruler personally, as well as scribes and military officials. The basic army organization was in units of one hundred men which were combined as "right", "left" and "central" units into an army of 300 men. But it seems that the central power did not extend very far. In the more distant parts of the realm were more or less independent lords, who recognized the ruler only as their supreme lord and religious leader. We may describe this as an early, loose form of the feudal system, although the main element of real feudalism was still absent. The main obligations of these lords were to send tributes of grain, to participate with their soldiers in the wars, to send tortoise shells to the capital to be used there for oracles, and to send occasionally cattle and horses. There were some thirty such dependent states. Although we do not know much about the general population, we know that the rulers had a patrilinear system of inheritance. After the death of the ruler his brothers followed him on the throne, the older brothers first. After the death of all brothers, the sons of older or younger brothers became rulers. No preference was shown to the son of the oldest brother, and no preference between sons of main or of secondary wives is recognizable. Thus, the Shang patrilinear system was much less extreme than the later system. Moreover, the deceased wives of the rulers played a great role in the cult, another element which later disappeared. From these facts and from the general structure of Shang religion it has been concluded that there was a strong matrilinear strain in Shang culture. Although this cannot be proved, it seems quite plausible because we know of matrilinear societies in the South of China at later times.

About the middle of the Shang period there occurred interesting changes, probably under the influence of nomad peoples from the north-west.

In religion there appears some evidence of star-worship. The deities seem to have been conceived as a kind of celestrial court of Shang Ti, as his "officials". In the field of material culture, horse-breeding becomes more and more evident. Some authors believe that the art of riding was already known in late Shang times, although it was certainly not yet so highly developed that cavalry units could be used in war. With horse-breeding the two-wheeled light war chariot makes its appearance. The wheel was already known in earlier times in the form of the potter's wheel. Recent excavations have brought to light burials in which up to eighteen chariots with two or four horses were found together with the owners of the chariots. The cart is not a Chinese invention but came from the north, possibly from Turkish peoples. It has been contended that it was connected with the war chariot of the Near East: shortly before the Shang period there had been vast upheavals in western Asia, mainly in connection with the expansion of peoples who spoke Indo-European languages (Hittites, etc.) and who became successful through the use of quick, light, two-wheeled war-chariots. It is possible, but cannot be proved, that the war-chariot spread through Central Asia in connection with the spread of such Indo-European-speaking groups or by the intermediary of Turkish tribes. We have some reasons to believe that the first Indo-European-speaking groups arrived in the Far East in the middle of the second millenium B.C. Some authors even connect the Hsia with these groups. In any case, the maximal distribution of these people seems to have been to the western borders of the Shang state. As in Western Asia, a Shang-time chariot was manned by three men: the warrior who was a nobleman, his driver, and his servant who handed him arrows or other weapons when needed. There developed a quite close relationship between the nobleman and his chariot-driver. The chariot was a valuable object, manufactured by specialists; horses were always expensive and rare in China, and in many periods of Chinese history horses were directly imported from nomadic tribes in the North or West. Thus, the possessors of vehicles formed a privileged class in the Shang realm; they became a sort of nobility, and the social organization began to move in the direction of feudalism. One of the main sports of the noblemen in this period, in addition to warfare, was hunting. The Shang had their special hunting grounds south of the mountains which surround Shansi province, along the slopes of the T'ai-hang mountain range, and south to the shores of the Yellow river. Here, there were still forests and swamps in Shang time, and boars, deer, buffaloes and other animals, as well as occasional rhinoceros and elephants, were hunted. None of these wild animals was used as a sacrifice; all sacrificial animals, such as cattle, pigs, etc., were domesticated animals.

Below the nobility we find large numbers of dependent people; modern Chinese scholars call them frequently "slaves" and speak of a "slave society". There is no doubt that at least some farmers were "free farmers"; others were what we might call "serfs": families in hereditary group dependence upon some noble families and working on land which the noble families regarded as theirs. Families of artisans and craftsmen also were hereditary servants of noble families—a type of social organization which has its parallels in ancient Japan and in later India and other parts of the world. There were also real slaves: persons who were the personal property of noblemen. The independent states around the Shang state also had serfs. When the Shang captured neighbouring states, they re-settled the captured foreign aristocracy by attaching them as a group to their own noblemen. The captured serfs remained under their masters and shared their fate. The same system was later practised by the Chou after their conquest of the Shang state.

The conquests of late Shang added more territory to the realm than could be coped with by the primitive communications of the time. When the last ruler of Shang made his big war which lasted 260 days against the tribes in the south-east, rebellions broke out which lead to the end of the dynasty, about 1028 B.C. according to the new chronology (1122 B.C. old chronology).


Chapter Three

THE CHOU DYNASTY (c. 1028-257 B.C.)

1 Cultural origin of the Chou and end of the Shang dynasty

The Shang culture still lacked certain things that were to become typical of "Chinese" civilization. The family system was not yet the strong patriarchal system of the later Chinese. The religion, too, in spite of certain other influences, was still a religion of agrarian fertility. And although Shang society was strongly stratified and showed some tendencies to develop a feudal system, feudalism was still very primitive. Although the Shang script was the precursor of later Chinese script, it seemed to have contained many words which later disappeared, and we are not sure whether Shang language was the same as the language of Chou time. With the Chou period, however, we enter a period in which everything which was later regarded as typically "Chinese" began to emerge.

During the time of the Shang dynasty the Chou formed a small realm in the west, at first in central Shensi, an area which even in much later times was the home of many "non-Chinese" tribes. Before the beginning of the eleventh century B.C. they must have pushed into eastern Shensi, due to pressures of other tribes which may have belonged to the Turkish ethnic group. However, it is also possible that their movement was connected with pressures from Indo-European groups. An analysis of their tribal composition at the time of the conquest seems to indicate that the ruling house of the Chou was related to the Turkish group, and that the population consisted mainly of Turks and Tibetans. Their culture was closely related to that of Yang-shao, the previously described painted-pottery culture, with, of course, the progress brought by time. They had bronze weapons and, especially, the war-chariot. Their eastward migration, however, brought them within the zone of the Shang culture, by which they were strongly influenced, so that the Chou culture lost more and more of its original character and increasingly resembled the Shang culture. The Chou were also brought into the political sphere of the Shang, as shown by the fact that marriages took place between the ruling houses of Shang and Chou, until the Chou state became nominally dependent on the Shang state in the form of a dependency with special prerogatives. Meanwhile the power of the Chou state steadily grew, while that of the Shang state diminished more and more through the disloyalty of its feudatories and through wars in the East. Finally, about 1028 B.C., the Chou ruler, named Wu Wang ("the martial king"), crossed his eastern frontier and pushed into central Honan. His army was formed by an alliance between various tribes, in the same way as happened again and again in the building up of the armies of the rulers of the steppes. Wu Wang forced a passage across the Yellow River and annihilated the Shang army. He pursued its vestiges as far as the capital, captured the last emperor of the Shang, and killed him. Thus was the Chou dynasty founded, and with it we begin the actual history of China. The Chou brought to the Shang culture strong elements of Turkish and also Tibetan culture, which were needed for the release of such forces as could create a new empire and maintain it through thousands of years as a cultural and, generally, also a political unit.

2 Feudalism in the new empire

A natural result of the situation thus produced was the turning of the country into a feudal state. The conquerors were an alien minority, so that they had to march out and spread over the whole country. Moreover, the allied tribal chieftains expected to be rewarded. The territory to be governed was enormous, but the communications in northern China at that time were similar to those still existing not long ago in southern China—narrow footpaths from one settlement to another. It is very difficult to build roads in the loess of northern China; and the war-chariots that required roads had only just been introduced. Under such conditions, the simplest way of administering the empire was to establish garrisons of the invading tribes in the various parts of the country under the command of their chieftains. Thus separate regions of the country were distributed as fiefs. If a former subject of the Shang surrendered betimes with the territory under his rule, or if there was one who could not be overcome by force, the Chou recognized him as a feudal lord.

We find in the early Chou time the typical signs of true feudalism: fiefs were given in a ceremony in which symbolically a piece of earth was handed over to the new fiefholder, and his instalment, his rights and obligations were inscribed in a "charter". Most of the fiefholders were members of the Chou ruling family or members of the clan to which this family belonged; other fiefs were given to heads of the allied tribes. The fiefholder (feudal lord) regarded the land of his fief, as far as he and his clan actually used it, as "clan" land; parts of this land he gave to members of his own branch-clan for their use without transferring rights of property, thus creating new sub-fiefs and sub-lords. In much later times the concept of landed property of a family developed, and the whole concept of "clan" disappeared. By 500 B.C., most feudal lords had retained only a dim memory that they originally belonged to the Chi clan of the Chou or to one of the few other original clans, and their so-called sub-lords felt themselves as members of independent noble families. Slowly, then, the family names of later China began to develop, but it took many centuries until, at the time of the Han Dynasty, all citizens (slaves excluded) had accepted family names. Then, reversely, families grew again into new clans.

Thus we have this picture of the early Chou state: the imperial central power established in Shensi, near the present Sian; over a thousand feudal states, great and small, often consisting only of a small garrison, or sometimes a more considerable one, with the former chieftain as feudal lord over it. Around these garrisons the old population lived on, in the north the Shang population, farther east and south various other peoples and cultures. The conquerors' garrisons were like islands in a sea. Most of them formed new towns, walled, with a rectangular plan and central crossroads, similar to the European towns subsequently formed out of Roman encampments. This town plan has been preserved to the present day.

This upper class in the garrisons formed the nobility; it was sharply divided from the indigenous population around the towns. The conquerors called the population "the black-haired people", and themselves "the hundred families". The rest of the town populations consisted often of urban Shang people: Shang noble families together with their bondsmen and serfs had been given to Chou fiefholders. Such forced resettlements of whole populations have remained typical even for much later periods. By this method new cities were provided with urban, refined people and, most important, with skilled craftsmen and businessmen who assisted in building the cities and in keeping them alive. Some scholars believe that many resettled Shang urbanites either were or became businessmen; incidentally, the same word "Shang" means "merchant", up to the present time. The people of the Shang capital lived on and even attempted a revolt in collaboration with some Chou people. The Chou rulers suppressed this revolt, and then transferred a large part of this population to Loyang. They were settled there in a separate community, and vestiges of the Shang population were still to be found there in the fifth century A.D.: they were entirely impoverished potters, still making vessels in the old style.

3 Fusion of Chou and Shang

The conquerors brought with them, for their own purposes to begin with, their rigid patriarchate in the family system and their cult of Heaven (t'ien), in which the worship of sun and stars took the principal place; a religion most closely related to that of the Turkish peoples and derived from them. Some of the Shang popular deities, however, were admitted into the official Heaven-worship. Popular deities became "feudal lords" under the Heaven-god. The Shang conceptions of the soul were also admitted into the Chou religion: the human body housed two souls, the personality-soul and the life-soul. Death meant the separation of the souls from the body, the life-soul also slowly dying. The personality-soul, however, could move about freely and lived as long as there were people who remembered it and kept it from hunger by means of sacrifices. The Chou systematized this idea and made it into the ancestor-worship that has endured down to the present time.

The Chou officially abolished human sacrifices, especially since, as former pastoralists, they knew of better means of employing prisoners of war than did the more agrarian Shang. The Chou used Shang and other slaves as domestic servants for their numerous nobility, and Shang serfs as farm labourers on their estates. They seem to have regarded the land under their control as "state land" and all farmers as "serfs". A slave, here, must be defined as an individual, a piece of property, who was excluded from membership in human society but, in later legal texts, was included under domestic animals and immobile property, while serfs as a class depended upon another class and had certain rights, at least the right to work on the land. They could change their masters if the land changed its master, but they could not legally be sold individually. Thus, the following, still rather hypothetical, picture of the land system of the early Chou time emerges: around the walled towns of the feudal lords and sub-lords, always in the plains, was "state land" which produced millet and more and more wheat. Cultivation was still largely "shifting", so that the serfs in groups cultivated more or less standardized plots for a year or more and then shifted to other plots. During the growing season they lived in huts on the fields; during the winter in the towns in adobe houses. In this manner the yearly life cycle was divided into two different periods. The produce of the serfs supplied the lords, their dependants and the farmers themselves. Whenever the lord found it necessary, the serfs had to perform also other services for the lord. Farther away from the towns were the villages of the "natives", nominally also subjects of the lord. In most parts of eastern China, these, too, were agriculturists. They acknowledged their dependence by sending "gifts" to the lord in the town. Later these gifts became institutionalized and turned into a form of tax. The lord's serfs, on the other hand, tended to settle near the fields in villages of their own because, with growing urban population, the distances from the town to many of the fields became too great. It was also at this time of new settlements that a more intensive cultivation with a fallow system began. At latest from the sixth century B.C. on, the distinctions between both land systems became unclear; and the pure serf-cultivation, called by the old texts the "well-field system" because eight cultivating families used one common well, disappeared in practice.

The actual structure of early Chou administration is difficult to ascertain. The "Duke of Chou", brother of the first ruler, Wu Wang, later regent during the minority of Wu Wang's son, and certainly one of the most influential persons of this time, was the alleged creator of the book Chou-li which contains a detailed table of the bureaucracy of the country. However, we know now from inscriptions that the bureaucracy at the beginning of the Chou period was not much more developed than in late Shang time. The Chou-li gave an ideal picture of a bureaucratic state, probably abstracted from actual conditions in feudal states several centuries later.

The Chou capital, at Sian, was a twin city. In one part lived the master-race of the Chou with the imperial court, in the other the subjugated population. At the same time, as previously mentioned, the Chou built a second capital, Loyang, in the present province of Honan. Loyang was just in the middle of the new state, and for the purposes of Heaven-worship it was regarded as the centre of the universe, where it was essential that the emperor should reside. Loyang was another twin city: in one part were the rulers' administrative buildings, in the other the transferred population of the Shang capital, probably artisans for the most part. The valuable artisans seem all to have been taken over from the Shang, for the bronze vessels of the early Chou age are virtually identical with those of the Shang age. The shapes of the houses also remained unaltered, and probably also the clothing, though the Chou brought with them the novelties of felt and woollen fabrics, old possessions of their earlier period. The only fundamental material change was in the form of the graves: in the Shang age house-like tombs were built underground; now great tumuli were constructed in the fashion preferred by all steppe peoples.

One professional class was severely hit by the changed circumstances—the Shang priesthood. The Chou had no priests. As with all the races of the steppes, the head of the family himself performed the religious rites. Beyond this there were only shamans for certain purposes of magic. And very soon Heaven-worship was combined with the family system, the ruler being declared to be the Son of Heaven; the mutual relations within the family were thus extended to the religious relations with the deity. If, however, the god of Heaven is the father of the ruler, the ruler as his son himself offers sacrifice, and so the priest becomes superfluous. Thus the priests became "unemployed". Some of them changed their profession. They were the only people who could read and write, and as an administrative system was necessary they obtained employment as scribes. Others withdrew to their villages and became village priests. They organized the religious festivals in the village, carried out the ceremonies connected with family events, and even conducted the exorcism of evil spirits with shamanistic dances; they took charge, in short, of everything connected with customary observances and morality. The Chou lords were great respecters of propriety. The Shang culture had, indeed, been a high one with an ancient and highly developed moral system, and the Chou as rough conquerors must have been impressed by the ancient forms and tried to imitate them. In addition, they had in their religion of Heaven a conception of the existence of mutual relations between Heaven and Earth: all that went on in the skies had an influence on earth, and vice versa. Thus, if any ceremony was "wrongly" performed, it had an evil effect on Heaven—there would be no rain, or the cold weather would arrive too soon, or some such misfortune would come. It was therefore of great importance that everything should be done "correctly". Hence the Chou rulers were glad to call in the old priests as performers of ceremonies and teachers of morality similar to the ancient Indian rulers who needed the Brahmans for the correct performance of all rites. There thus came into existence in the early Chou empire a new social group, later called "scholars", men who were not regarded as belonging to the lower class represented by the subjugated population but were not included in the nobility; men who were not productively employed but belonged to a sort of independent profession. They became of very great importance in later centuries.

In the first centuries of the Chou dynasty the ruling house steadily lost power. Some of the emperors proved weak, or were killed at war; above all, the empire was too big and its administration too slow-moving. The feudal lords and nobles were occupied with their own problems in securing the submission of the surrounding villages to their garrisons and in governing them; they soon paid little attention to the distant central authority. In addition to this, the situation at the centre of the empire was more difficult than that of its feudal states farther east. The settlements around the garrisons in the east were inhabited by agrarian tribes, but the subjugated population around the centre at Sian was made up of nomadic tribes of Turks and Mongols together with semi-nomadic Tibetans. Sian lies in the valley of the river Wei; the riverside country certainly belonged, though perhaps only insecurely, to the Shang empire and was specially well adapted to agriculture; but its periphery—mountains in the south, steppes in the north—was inhabited (until a late period, to some extent to the present day) by nomads, who had also been subjugated by the Chou. The Chou themselves were by no means strong, as they had been only a small tribe and their strength had depended on auxiliary tribes, which had now spread over the country as the new nobility and lived far from the Chou. The Chou emperors had thus to hold in check the subjugated but warlike tribes of Turks and Mongols who lived quite close to their capital. In the first centuries of the dynasty they were more or less successful, for the feudal lords still sent auxiliary forces. In time, however, these became fewer and fewer, because the feudal lords pursued their own policy; and the Chou were compelled to fight their own battles against tribes that continually rose against them, raiding and pillaging their towns. Campaigns abroad also fell mainly on the shoulders of the Chou, as their capital lay near the frontier.

It must not be simply assumed, as is often done by the Chinese and some of the European historians, that the Turkish and Mongolian tribes were so savage or so pugnacious that they continually waged war just for the love of it. The problem is much deeper, and to fail to recognize this is to fail to understand Chinese history down to the Middle Ages. The conquering Chou established their garrisons everywhere, and these garrisons were surrounded by the quarters of artisans and by the villages of peasants, a process that ate into the pasturage of the Turkish and Mongolian nomads. These nomads, as already mentioned, pursued agriculture themselves on a small scale, but it occurred to them that they could get farm produce much more easily by barter or by raiding. Accordingly they gradually gave up cultivation and became pure nomads, procuring the needed farm produce from their neighbours. This abandonment of agriculture brought them into a precarious situation: if for any reason the Chinese stopped supplying or demanded excessive barter payment, the nomads had to go hungry. They were then virtually driven to get what they needed by raiding. Thus there developed a mutual reaction that lasted for centuries. Some of the nomadic tribes living between garrisons withdrew, to escape from the growing pressure, mainly into the province of Shansi, where the influence of the Chou was weak and they were not numerous; some of the nomad chiefs lost their lives in battle, and some learned from the Chou lords and turned themselves into petty rulers. A number of "marginal" states began to develop; some of them even built their own cities. This process of transformation of agro-nomadic tribes into "warrior-nomadic" tribes continued over many centuries and came to an end in the third or second century B.C.

The result of the three centuries that had passed was a symbiosis between the urban aristocrats and the country-people. The rulers of the towns took over from the general population almost the whole vocabulary of the language which from now on we may call "Chinese". They naturally took over elements of the material civilization. The subjugated population had, meanwhile, to adjust itself to its lords. In the organism that thus developed, with its unified economic system, the conquerors became an aristocratic ruling class, and the subjugated population became a lower class, with varied elements but mainly a peasantry. From now on we may call this society "Chinese"; it has endured to the middle of the twentieth century. Most later essential societal changes are the result of internal development and not of aggression from without.

4 Limitation of the imperial power

In 771 B.C. an alliance of northern feudal states had attacked the ruler in his western capital; in a battle close to the city they had overcome and killed him. This campaign appears to have set in motion considerable groups from various tribes, so that almost the whole province of Shensi was lost. With the aid of some feudal lords who had remained loyal, a Chou prince was rescued and conducted eastward to the second capital, Loyang, which until then had never been the ruler's actual place of residence. In this rescue a lesser feudal prince, ruler of the feudal state of Ch'in, specially distinguished himself. Soon afterwards this prince, whose domain had lain close to that of the ruler, reconquered a great part of the lost territory, and thereafter regarded it as his own fief. The Ch'in family resided in the same capital in which the Chou had lived in the past, and five hundred years later we shall meet with them again as the dynasty that succeeded the Chou.

The new ruler, resident now in Loyang, was foredoomed to impotence. He was now in the centre of the country, and less exposed to large-scale enemy attacks; but his actual rule extended little beyond the town itself and its immediate environment. Moreover, attacks did not entirely cease; several times parts of the indigenous population living between the Chou towns rose against the towns, even in the centre of the country.

Now that the emperor had no territory that could be the basis of a strong rule and, moreover, because he owed his position to the feudal lords and was thus under an obligation to them, he ruled no longer as the chief of the feudal lords but as a sort of sanctified overlord; and this was the position of all his successors. A situation was formed at first that may be compared with that of Japan down to the middle of the nineteenth century. The ruler was a symbol rather than an exerciser of power. There had to be a supreme ruler because, in the worship of Heaven which was recognized by all the feudal lords, the supreme sacrifices could only be offered by the Son of Heaven in person. There could not be a number of sons of heaven because there were not a number of heavens. The imperial sacrifices secured that all should be in order in the country, and that the necessary equilibrium between Heaven and Earth should be maintained. For in the religion of Heaven there was a close parallelism between Heaven and Earth, and every omission of a sacrifice, or failure to offer it in due form, brought down a reaction from Heaven. For these religious reasons a central ruler was a necessity for the feudal lords. They needed him also for practical reasons. In the course of centuries the personal relationship between the various feudal lords had ceased. Their original kinship and united struggles had long been forgotten. When the various feudal lords proceeded to subjugate the territories at a distance from their towns, in order to turn their city states into genuine territorial states, they came into conflict with each other. In the course of these struggles for power many of the small fiefs were simply destroyed. It may fairly be said that not until the eighth and seventh centuries B.C. did the old garrison towns became real states. In these circumstances the struggles between the feudal states called urgently for an arbiter, to settle simple cases, and in more difficult cases either to try to induce other feudal lords to intervene or to give sanction to the new situation. These were the only governing functions of the ruler from the time of the transfer to the second capital.

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