CHAPTER XLIII. WEALTH, SPORTS, ETC.
A traveller in modern China may still wonder at the utter absence of any sign of wealth or luxury except in the very largest towns. Fine clothes, jewels, concubines, rich food, aphrodisiacs, opium, land, cattle - these represent "wealth" as conceived by the Chinese rich man's mind. In 655 Ts'in is said to have paid five ram-skins to Ts'u in order to secure the services of a coveted adviser. Not many years after that, when the future Second Protector was making his terms with the King of Ts'u, he remarked: "What can I do for you in return? You already possess all the slaves, musicians, treasures, silks, feathers, ivory, and leather you can want." In 606 a magnificent turtle was sent as a new year's dinner present from Ts'u to Cheng; in modern China this form of politeness would never do at all, as the turtle has acquired an evil reputation as a term of abuse, akin to the Spanish use or abuse of the word "garlic": however, I myself once experienced, when inland, far away from the sea, a curious compliment in the shape of a live crab two inches long (sent to me as a great honour) in a small jar. Of course chairs were unknown, and even the highest sat or squatted on mats; not necessarily on the ground, but spread on couches. Hence the word survives the object, just as with us ("covers" at dinner are "provided" but never seen; thus in China a host is "east mat" and a guest "west mat.") In 626, when the ruler of Ts'in was talking politics with the Tartar envoy just mentioned above, he allowed him, as a special favour, to sit alongside of his own mat (on the couch). These couches probably resembled the modern settee, sofa, k'ang, or divan, such as all visitors to China have seen and sat on. Tea was quite unknown in those days, and is not mentioned before the seventh century A.D.; but possibly wine may have been served, as tea is now, on a low table between the two seats. "Tartar couches" (possibly Turkish divans) are frequently mentioned, even in the field of battle, and in comparatively modern times. In 300 B.C. Ts'u made a present to a distinguished renegade prince of the Ts'i house of an "elephant couch," by which is probably meant a couch inlaid with ivory, in the present well-known Annamese style.
In 589 B.C., when Tsin troops reached the Ts'i capital and the sea (as already related in Chapters VI. and XXXIX. under the heads of Armies and Geographical Knowledge), T'si endeavoured to purchase peace by offering to the victor the state treasure in the shape of precious utensils. In 551 a rich man of Ts'u was considered insolently showy because he possessed forty horses. In 545 the envoy from Cheng, acting under the Peace Conference agreement so often previously described and alluded to, brings presents of furs and silks to Ts'u; and in 537 Tsin speaks of such articles as often being presented to Ts'u. In 494, when the King of Yiieh received his great defeat at the hands of the King of Wu, his first desperate idea was to kill his wives and children, burn his valuables, and seek death at the head of his troops; but the inevitable wily Chinese adviser was at hand, and the King ended by taking his mentor's advice and successfully bribing the Wu general (a Ts'u renegade) with presents of women and valuables. When this shrewd Chinese adviser of the Yueh king had, by his sagacious counsels, at last secured the final defeat of Wu, he packed up his portable valuables, pearls, and jades, collected his family and clients, and went away by sea, never to come back. As a matter of fact, he settled in Ts'i, where he made an enormous fortune in the fish trade, and ultimately became the traditional Croesus of China, his name being quite as well known to modern Chinese through the Confucian historians, as the name of Croesus is to modern Europeans through Herodotus. He had, between the two defeats of Yiieh by Wu and Wu by Yiieh, served for several years as a spy in Wu, and the fact of his reaching Shan Tung by sea confirms in principle the story of the family of his contemporary, the King of Wu, having similarly escaped to Japan. The place where he landed was probably the same as where the celebrated pilgrim Fah Hien landed, after his Indian pilgrimage, in 415 A.D., i.e., at the German port of Ts'ing-tao.