CHAPTER X. THE SECOND PROTECTOR

We must now go back a little. The first of the so-called Five Tyrants, or the Five successive Protectors of orthodox China, had died in 643, his philosopher and friend, Kwan-tsz, having departed this life a little before him. Their joint title to fame lies in the fact that "they saved China from becoming a Tartar province," and even Confucius admits the truth of this - a most important factor in enabling us to understand the motive springs of Chinese policy. Under these circumstances the Duke of Sung, who, as we have seen, had special moral pretensions to leadership on account of his being the direct lineal representative of the Shang dynasty which perished in 1122 B.C., immediately put forward a claim to the hegemony. He rather prejudiced his reputation, however, by committing the serious ritual offence of "warring upon Ts'i's mourning," that is, of engaging the allies in hostilities with the late Protector's own country whilst his body lay unburied, and his sons were still wrangling over the question of succession. The Tartars, however, came to the rescue of, and made a treaty with, Ts'i - this is only one of innumerable instances which show how the northern Chinese princes of those early days were in permanent political touch with the horse-riding nomads. The orthodox Duke of Sung, dressed in his little brief authority as Protector, had the temerity to "send for" the ruler of Ts'u to attend his first durbar. (It must be remembered that the "king" in his own dominions was only "viscount" in the orthodox peerage of ruling princes.) The result was that the King unceremoniously took his would-be protector into custody at the durbar, and put in a claim to be Protector himself. During the military operations connected with this political manoeuvre, the Duke of Sung was guilty of the most ridiculous piece of ritual chivalry; highly approved, it is true, by the literary pedants of all subsequent ages, but ruinous to his own worldly cause. The Ts'u army was crossing a difficult ford, and the Duke's advisers recommended a prompt attack. "It is not honourable," said the Duke, "to take advantage even of an enemy in distress." "But," said his first adviser, "war is war, and its only object is to punish the foe as severely and promptly as possible, so as to gain the upper hand, and establish what you are fighting for."