CHAPTER III. THE NORTHERN POWERS

We have already alluded to a princely family, of the same clan- name as the Chou Emperor, which had settled in the southern part of modern Shan Si province, and had thus acted as a sort of buffer state to the imperial domain by keeping off from it the Tartar- Turk tribes in the north. This family was enfeoffed by the new Chou dynasty in 1106 B.C. to replace the extremely ancient princely house which had reigned there ever since the earliest Emperors ruled from that region (2300 B.C.), but which had resisted the Chou conquest, and had been exterminated. Nothing definite is known of what transpired in this principality subsequently to the infeoffment of 1106 B.C., and prior to the events of 771 B.C., at which latter date the ruling prince, hearing of the disaster to his kinsman the Emperor, went to meet that monarch's fugitive successor, and escorted him eastwards to his new capital. This metropolis had, as we have explained already, been marked out some 340 years before this, and had continued to be one of the chief spiritual and political centres in the imperial domain; but for some reason it had never before 771 B.C. been officially declared a capital, or at all events the capital. Confucius, in his history, does not mention at all the petty semi-Tartar state of which we are now speaking before 671 B.C., and all that we know of its doings during this century of time is that rival factions, family intrigues, and petty annexations at the cost of various Tartar tribes, and of small, but ancient, Chinese principalities, occupied most of its time. It must be repeated here, however, that, notwithstanding Tartar neighbours, the valley of the River Fen had been the seat of several of China's oldest semi-mythical emperors-possibly even of dynasties,-and at no time do the Tartars seem to have ever succeeded in ousting the Chinese from South Shan Si. The official name of the region after the Chou infeoffment of 1106 B.C. was the State of Tsin, and it was roughly divided off to the west from its less civilized colleague Ts'in by the Yellow River, on the right bank of which Tsin still possessed a number of towns. It is particularly difficult for Europeans to realize the sharp distinction in sound between these two names, the more especially because we have in the West no conception whatever of the effect of tone upon a syllable It may be explained, however, that the sonant initial and even-voiced tone in the one case, contrasted with the surd initial and the scaled tone in the other, involves to the Chinese mind a distinction quite as clear in all dialects as the European distinction in all languages between the two states of Prussia and Russia, or between the two peoples Swedes and Swiss: it is entirely the imperfection of our Western alphabet, not at all that of the spoken sounds or the ideographs, that is at fault.

The Yellow River, running from north to south, not only roughly separated from each other these two Tartar-Chinese buffer states in the north-west, but the same Yellow River, flowing east, and its tributary, the River Wei, also formed a rough boundary between the two states of Tsin and Ts'in (together) to the north, and the innumerable petty but ancient Chinese principalities surrounding the imperial domain to the south. These principalities or settlements were scattered about among the head-waters of the Han River and the Hwai River systems, and their manifest destiny, if they needed expansion, clearly drove them further southwards, following the courses of all these head-waters, towards the Yang- tsz Kiang. But, more than that, the Yellow River, after thus flowing east for several hundred miles, turned sharp north in long. 114o E., as already explained, and thence to the north-east formed a second rough boundary between Tsin and nearly all the remaining orthodox Chinese states. Tsin's chief task was thus to absorb into its administrative system all the Tartar raiders that ventured south to the Yellow River.

But there was a third northern state engaged in the task of keeping back the Tartar tribes, and in developing a civilization of its own-based largely, of course, upon Chinese principles, but modified so as to meet local exigencies. This was the state of Ts'i, enclosed between the Yellow River to the west and the sea to the east, but extending much farther north than the boundaries of modern Shan Tung province, if, indeed, the embouchure of the Yellow River, near modern Tientsin, did not form its northern boundary; but the promontory or peninsula, as well as all the coast, was still in the hands of "barbarian" tribes (now long since civilized and assimilated), of which for many centuries past no separate trace has remained. We have no means of judging now whether these "barbarians" were uncultured, close kinsmen of the orthodox Chinese; or remote kinsmen; or quite foreign. When the Chou principality received an invitation by acclamation to conquer and administer China in 1122, an obscure political worthy from these eastern parts placed his services as adviser and organizer at the command of the new Chou Emperor, in return for which important help he received the fief of Ts'i. Although obscure, this man traced his descent back to the times when (2300 B.C.) his ancestors received fiefs from the most ancient Emperors. From that time down to the year 1122 B.C., and onwards to the events of 771 B.C., nothing much beyond the fact of the Chou infeoffment is recorded; but after the Emperor had been killed by the Tartar- Tibetans, this state of Ts'i also began to grow restive; and the seventh century before Christ opens with the significant statement that "Ts'in, Tsin, and Ts'i, now begin to be powerful states." Of the three, Tsin alone bore the imperial Chou clan-name of Ki.