CHAPTER XXV. VASSALS AND EMPEROR
The greater powers undoubtedly had, nearly all of them, clusters of vassals and clients, and it is presumed that the total of 1800, belonging, at least nominally, to the Emperor, covered all these indirect vassals. Possibly, before the dawn of truly historical times, they all went in person to the imperial court; but after the debacle of 771 B.C., the Emperor seems to have been left severely alone by all the vassals who dared do so. So early as 704 B.C. a reunion of princelets vassal to Ts'u is mentioned; and in the year 622 Ts'u annexed a region styled "the six states," admittedly descended from the most ancient ministerial stock, because they had presumed to ally themselves with the eastern barbarians; this was when Ts'u was working her way eastwards, down from the southernmost headwaters of the Hwai River, in the extreme south of Ho Nan. It was in 684 that Ts'u first began to annex the petty orthodox states in (modern) Hu Peh province, and very soon nearly all those lying between the River Han and the River Yang- tsz were swallowed up by the semi-barbarian power. Ts'u's relation to China was very much like that of Macedon to Greece. Both of the latter were more or less equally descended from the ancient and somewhat nebulous Pelasgi; but Macedon, though imbued with a portion of Greek civilization, was more rude and warlike, with a strong barbarian strain in addition. Ts'u was never in any way "subject" to the Chou dynasty, except in so far as it may have suited her to be so for some interested purpose of her own. In the year 595 Ts'u even treated Sung and Cheng (two federal states of the highest possible orthodox imperial rank) as her own vassals, by marching armies through without asking their permission. As an illustration of what was the correct course to follow may be taken the case of Tsin in 632, when a Tsin army was marching on a punitory expedition against the imperial clan state of Ts'ao; the most direct way ran through Wei, but this latter state declined to allow the Tsin army to pass; it was therefore obliged to cross the Yellow River at a point south of Wei-hwei Fu (as marked on modern maps), near the capital of Wei, past which the Yellow River then ran.
Lu, though itself a small state, had, in 697, and again in 615, quite a large number of vassals of its own; several are plainly styled "subordinate countries," with viscounts and even earls to rule them. Some of these sub-vassals to the feudal states seem from the first never to have had the right of direct communication with the Emperor at all; in such cases they were called fu-yung, or "adjunct-functions," like the client colonies attached to the colonial municipia of the Romans. A fu-yung was only about fifteen English miles in extent (according to Mencius); and from 850 B.C. to 771 BC. even the great future state of Ts'in had only been a fu-yung, - it is not said to what mesne lord. Sung is distinctly stated to have had a number of these fu-yung. CH'EN is also credited with suzerainty over at least two sub- vassal states. In 661 Tsin annexed a number of orthodox petty states, evidently with the view of ultimately seizing that part of the Emperor's appanage which lay north of the Yellow River (west Ho Nan); it was afterwards obtained by "voluntary cession." The word "viscount," besides being applied complimentarily to barbarian "kings" when they showed themselves in China, had another special use. When an orthodox successor was in mourning, he was not entitled forthwith to use the hereditary rank allotted to his state; thus, until the funeral obsequies of their predecessors were over, the new rulers of Ch'en and Ts'ai were called "the viscount," or "son" (same word).
The Emperor used to call himself "I, the one Man," like the Spanish "Yo, el Rey." Feudal princes styled themselves to each other, or to the ministers of each other, "The Scanty Man." Ministers, speaking (to foreign ministers or princes) of their own prince said, "The Scanty Prince"; of the prince's wife, "The Scanty Lesser Prince"; of their own ministers, "The Scanty Minister." It was polite to avoid the second person in addressing a foreign prince, who was consequently often styled "your government" by foreign envoys particularly anxious not to offend. The diplomatic forms were all obsequiously polite; but the stock phrases, such as, "our vile village" (our country), "your condescending to instruct" (your words), "I dare not obey your commands" (we will not do what you ask), probably involved nothing more in the way of humility than the terms of our own gingerly worded diplomatic notes, each term of which may, nevertheless, offend if it be coarsely or carelessly expressed.