Imatges de pàgina

when doing so that the descendants of the Prince of Tsin would drive his in ignominy from the throne. Centuries were to pass away before the fall came, but the abnegation of the duty of defending the frontier could only lead, sooner or later, to the loss of Imperial power and station.

The other great vassals were not slow to follow the example set them by the powerful Prince of Tsin. If Siangkong was the only one to assume regal honours by offering sacrifice on the tortoise, his peers were not backward in claiming the substance of authority in their own territories. During Ping Wang's reign, it was said, “the ancient religion perished, the sciences, learning, zeal for the public good were cast aside ; and men of talent, having lost their career, scattered themse over the face of the country.” The public mind was so much disturbed by the disunion in the Empire, and the incompetence of the prince, that fresh evidence of the imminent ruin of the dynasty was seen in the most trifling circumstances. The “

The “Chiking”—a wonderful collection of national ballads, translated by that admirable man and sinologue, the late Dr. Legge-is full of the complaints that rose at this time from the midst of the people to the foot of the throne ; and one high official reported as a momentous fact that "the ancestral burial-place of the House of Chow was in ruins, and that only a few sad relics remained as evidence of its having existed !” Ping Wang died in B.C. 720, after a reign of more than fifty years. Between that time and the year B.C. 606, seven Emperors of the dynasty of Chow succeeded each other. Their names were Hing Wang, Chang Wang, Li Wang, Hoei Wang, Siang Wang, King Wang, and Kwang Wang.

A few years after the death of the last-named ruler, Laoutse, the first religious and social reformer, was born.. With him commenced a new era in the history of China. The period of one hundred and twenty years thus covered was taken up with innumerable petty wars between the principal vassals of the crown. The Tartars of the West and of the North afforded permanent occupation for those on the frontier, and although the Chinese triumphed by dint of numbers and superior skill, they never ventured to wage more than a defensive war. The seven Emperors last named succeeded



in maintaining their position in Honan, and for a short distance in the surrounding region on account of the prevailing dissension; but their authority was but a faint semblance of what it once had been, and still claimed to be. Like the later Cæsars, the less able they became to wield the sword against the enemy, and to resist the arrogance of the proud, the closer they wrapt the purple round them, and sought in the pleasures of the palace to forget the duties of the council chamber. So far as the record of notable events or the exercise of Imperial power is concerned, the annals of the Chow rulers might be already closed; but the ability and virtues of Laoutse, and the genius of Confucius, gave a lustre to the last three centuries of their rule not unworthy of its earlier fame.

Before passing on to the consideration of the important epoch which we have now reached, and which forms the commencement of the regular history of China, it will be advisable to glance back for a moment at the vast space of time which has been traversed in the few preceding pages.* Originally a nomad people, following the free and untrammelled existence of the hunter and the shepherd, the necessities produced by increasing numbers compelled the Chinese to become agriculturists, and to settle in towns. They had their mythical ancestors, in common with the rest of mankind, who taught

• This is the more necessary as the antiquity of Chinese history has been challenged by several writers. There can be no question of its substantial accuracy from the time of Confucius, but that is only two thousand four hundred years ago. The balance of evidence is wholly in favour of the account given in these pages, but the remarks of so intelligent a critic as M. de Guignes may here be inserted and studied with profit. It is perthem the use of fire and of clothes, and who raised them gradually from the brute life which they were leading into a higher and nobler one. Then appeared the first conqueror Hwangti, to be followed by those three perfect, and probably ideal Emperors, Yao, Chun, and Yu, who left an example that none of their successors could hope to emulate. With the death of Yu the first stage in Chinese history closes. The principle that the ruler of the country should be the very best and ablest man in the community, carried out during four brilliant reigns, was set aside partly by the national sense of gratitude, partly because the progress of the age had led to the supersession of the purely public spirit of the patriarchal rulers, by the personal ambition of their descendants. The death of Yu was followed by the establishment of the first dynasty in the person of his son. After six centuries that dynasty was destroyed, to be succeeded by a second, which, when it had ruled for four centuries, was displaced by a third, still reigning at the period we have reached.

missible to believe that his critical faculty has proved too strong for his judgment of facts. “One of the causes which have led the Chinese into great errors with regard to the antiquity of their country is that they have given to the ancient characters the meaning which they acquired in much more recent times. The characters now translated by the words emperor, province, city, and palace meant no more in former times than chief of tribe, district, camp, and house. These simple meanings did no flatter their vanity sufficiently, and they therefore preferred employing terms which would represent their ancestors as rich and powerful, and their Empire as vast and flourishing in a durable manner before the year B.C. 529."

With the establishment of a distinct line of succession the country expanded its limits, and assumed all the proportions of an Empire. Its existence was acknowledged by the surrounding nations. It became an object of terror or of solicitude to its neighbours. Foreign embassies flocked to the capital; the princes of the desert, the rulers of the Jongs of the Amour, the kings of the Indo-Chinese peninsula, admitted that the countenance of the great Ti was the light which illumined Eastern Asia. And then, as all things human decline and fall—if they even arise with renewed strength like Antæus—there came a long period of decadence. Prince succeeded prince only to find the extent of his territory more limited, of his authority more circumscribed. The weakness of one ruler had led to the transfer of supreme power from the hands of the sovereign to those of the nobles, already too formidable, and it was not until the ranks of the nobles produced a man, in the third century before our era, capable of subduing his peers that the Emperor reacquired the old supremacy, which had belonged to him in days that may well be styled prehistoric. It was at this period that the feudal system was in most vigorous condition, although



under the later dynasties it was to show greater and more remarkable energy. This system had at least in its favour that the nobles were of the same race as the people of the soil, and that in their provincial capitals they set themselves to imitate not the vices and folly of the ruling Emperor, but the wisdom and irreproachable conduct of those earlier and wise princes who are held up as the pattern of every kingly virtue. By these means China, though under the sway of tyrants and incapable princes during the last five hundred years of the Chow dynasty, was well governed on the whole, and the people remained fairly contented. To this circumstance the ruling House undoubtedly owed its preservation. It had become contemptible in the eyes of the nation, but contempt is not hatred, and it was suffered to maintain a station which, by its own act, had been deprived of practical significance. Not until personal ambition was called into play, and the overthrow of the Emperor had become the special desire and object of a single noble, did the Chows receive the blow which destroyed them. It is the one instance in Chinese history of a dynasty surviving by several centuries the period of its utility-a proof, in its way, of the fact that the grandeur of the Empire as a fixed unit has been created since that time.*

Something may be said here of the origin of the name of China, which is at present wrapt in some doubt. It is probable that the root whence this name came is lost in a very remote antiquity, although the Chinese themselves are unaware of it, and apparently puzzled at the name being applied to their country, which they speak of by the title of the reigning family. It may be possible that the Sinim of Isaiah was identical with China ; but “in the laws of Manu and in the Mahabaratha” the country of Chinas or Shinas bears a closer resemblance, and it has been pointed out that they were probably a tribe in the country west of Cashmere, now known as Dardistan. The Romans spoke of the people of a far eastern country-the most remote in the world, and consequently beyond the India of Alexander—as Seres Sinenses, rich in silk and gold, and great traders. Later philologists have traced the name back to the Tsins (Tsina, Tchin, Tchina, China), and many other curious explanations have been given of its origin. In fact, every writer has had a theory to ventilate, and the reader may be referred to the works already quoted, and especially to the admirable article on China from the pen of Professor R. K. Douglas, in the ninth edition of the “Encyclopædia Britannica.” The late Sir Henry Yule, in a note on p. 210 of vol. ii. of “Marco Polo," VOL. I.


says, “We get the exact form 'China '-which is also used in Japanese -from the Malay." This ought to be decisive, and remove all necessity for further speculation. The fact may be noted that whereas this vast Empire became known as China to those who approached it by sea, or derived their information by intercourse from the south, Cathay, or Khitay (the Russian name), was the name given by those' coming overland from the north.

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