CHAPTER XVIII. TREATIES AND VOWS

Treaties were always very solemn functions, invariably accompanied by the sacrifice of a victim. A part of the victim, or of its blood, was thrown into a ditch, in order that the Spirit of the Earth might bear witness to the deed; the rest of the blood was rubbed upon the lips of the parties concerned, and also scattered upon the documents, by way of imprecation; sometimes, however, the imprecations, instead of being uttered, were specially written at the end of the treaty. Just as we now say "the ink was scarcely dry before, etc., etc.," the Chinese used to say "the blood of the victim was scarcely dry on their lips, before, etc., etc." When the barbarian King of Wu succeeded for a short period in "durbaring" the federal Chinese princes, a dispute took place (as narrated in Chapter XIV.) between Tsin and Wu as to who should rub the lips with blood first - in other words, have precedence. In the year 541 B.C., sixty years before the above event, Tsin and Ts'u had agreed to waive the ceremony of smearing the lips with blood, to choose a victim in common, and to lay the text of the treaty upon the victim after a solemn reading of its contents. This modification was evidently made in consequence of the disagreement between Tsin and Ts'u at the Peace Conference of 546, when a dispute had arisen (page 47), as to which should smear the lips first. This was the occasion on which the famous Tsin statesman, Shuh Hiang, in the face of seventeen states' representatives, all present, had the courage to ignore Ts'u's treachery in concealing cuirasses under the soldiers' clothes. He said: "Tsin holds her pre-eminent position as Protector by her innate good qualities, which will always command the adhesion of other states; why need we care if Ts'u smears first, or if she injures herself by being detected in treachery?" It has already been mentioned that Confucius glosses over or falsifies both the above cases, and gives the victory in each instance to Tsin. Though these little historical peccadilloes on the part of the saint homme are considered even by orthodox critics to be objectionable, it must be remembered that it was very risky work writing history at all in those despotic times: even in comparatively democratic days (100 B.C.), the "father of Chinese history" was castrated for criticizing the reigning Emperor in the course of issuing his great work; and so late as the fifth century A.D. an almost equally great historian was put to death "with his three generations" for composing a "true history" of the Tartars then ruling as Emperors of North China; i.e. for disclosing their obscure and barbarous origin, Moreover, foreigners who fix upon these trifling specific and admitted discrepancies, in order to discredit the general truth of all Chinese history, must remember that the Chinese critics, from the very beginning, have always, even when manifestly biased, been careful to expose errors; the very discrepancies themselves, indeed, tend to prove the substantial truth of the events recorded; and the fact that admittedly erroneous texts still stand unaltered proves the reverent care of the Chinese as a nation to preserve their defective annals, with all faults, in their original condition.

At this treaty conference of 546 B.C., held at the Sung capital, the host alone had no vote, being held superior (as host) to all; and, further, out of respect for his independence, the treaty had to be signed outside his gates: the existence of the Emperor was totally ignored.