CHAPTER XIII. ANCIENT DOCUMENTS FOUND

The reign of the Tsin marquess (628-635), second of the Five Protectors, only lasted eight years, and nothing is recorded to have happened during this period at all commensurate with his picturesque figure in history while yet a mere wanderer. But it is very interesting to note that the Bamboo Annals or Books, i.e. the History of Tsin from 784 B.C., and incidentally also of China from 1500 years before that date, are one of the corroborative authorities we now possess upon the accuracy of Confucius' history from 722 B.C., as expanded by his three commentators; and it is satisfactory to know that the oldest of the three commentaries, that usually called the Tso Chwan, or "Commentary of Tso K'iu-ming," a junior contemporary of Confucius, and official historiographer at the Lu Court, is the most accurate as well as the most interesting of the three. These Bamboo Books were only discovered in the year 281 A.D., after having been buried in a tomb ever since the year 299 B.C. The character in which they were written, upon slips of bamboo, had already become so obsolete that the sustained work of antiquarians was absolutely necessary in order to reduce it to the current script of the day; or, in other words, of to-day. Another interesting fact is, that whilst the Chou dynasty, and consequently Confucius of Lu (which state was intimately connected by blood with the Chou family), had introduced a new calendar, making the year begin one (Shang) or two (Hia) months sooner than before, Tsin had continued to compute (see page 27) the year according to the system of the Hia dynasty: in other words, the intercalary moons, or massed fractions of time periodically introduced in order to bring the solar and lunar years into line, had during the millennium so accumulated (at the rate apparently of, roughly, sixty days in 360,000, or, say, three half-seconds a day) that the Chou dynasty found it necessary to call the Hia eleventh moon the first and the Hia first moon the third of the year. A parallel distinction is observable in modern times when the Russian year (until a few years ago twelve days later than ours), was declared thirteen days later; and when we ourselves in 1900 (and in three-fourths of all future years making up a net hundred), omit the intercalary day of the 29th February, which otherwise occurs every fourth year of even numbers divisible by four. Thus the very discrepancies in the dates of the Bamboo Books (where the later editors, in attempting to accommodate all dates to later calendars, have accidentally left a Tsin date unchanged) and in the dates of Confucius' expanded history, pointed out and explained as they are by the Chinese commentators themselves, are at once a guarantee of fact, and of good faith in recording that fact.

But the neighbour and brother-in-law of the Tsin marquess (himself three parts Turkish), the Earl of Ts'in, who reigned from 659 to 621 B.C., and during that reign quietly laid the foundations of a powerful state which was destined to achieve the future conquest of all China, was himself a remarkable man; and there is some reason to believe that he, even at this period, also possessed a special calendar of his own, as his successors certainly did 400 years later, when they imposed their own calendar reckoning upon China. We have already seen (page 52) what powerful influence he exercised in bringing the semi-Tartar Tsin brethren to the Tsin throne in turn. He had invited several distinguished men from the neighbouring petty, but very ancient, Chinese principalities to settle in his capital as advisers; he was too far off to attend the durbars held by the, First Protector, but he sent one of these Chinese advisers as his representative, He is usually himself counted as one of the Five Protectors; but, although he was certainly very influential, and for that reason was certainly one of the Five Tyrants, or Five Predominating Powers, it is certain that he never succeeded in obtaining the Emperor's formal sanction to act as such over the orthodox principalities, nor did he ever preside at a durbar of Chinese federal princes. Long and bloody wars with his neighbour of Tsin were the chief feature of his reign so far as orthodox China was concerned; but his chief glory lies in his great Tartar conquests, and in his enormous extensions to the west. These extensions, however, must not be exaggerated, and there is no reason to suppose that they ever reached farther than Kwa Chou and Tun-hwang (long. 95o, lat. 40o), two very ancient places which still appear under those names on the most modern maps of China, and from which roads (recently examined by Major Bruce) branch off to Turkestan and Lob Nor respectively.