CHAPTER XXVI. FIGHTING STATE PERIOD

The period of political development covered by Confucius' history - the object of which history, it must be remembered, was to read to the restless age a series of solemn warnings - was immediately succeeded by the most active and bloodthirsty period in the Chinese annals, that of the Fighting States, or the Six Countries; sometimes they (including Ts'in) were called the "Seven Males," i.e. the Seven Great Masculine Powers. Tsin had been already practically divided up between the three surviving great families of the original eleven in 424 B.C.; but these three families of Ngwei, Han, and Chao were not recognized by the Emperor until 403; nor did they extinguish the legitimate ruler until 376, about three years after the sacrifices of the legitimate Ts'i kings were stopped. Accordingly we hear the original name Tsin, or "the three Tsin," still used concurrently with the names Han, Ngwei, and Chao, as that of Ts'u's chief enemy in the north for some time after the division into three had taken place.

Tsin's great rival to the west, Ts'in, now found occupation in extending her territory to the south-west at the expense of Shuh, a vast dominion corresponding to the modern Sz Ch'wan, up to then almost unheard of by orthodox China, but which, it then first transpired, had had three kings and ten "emperors" of its own, nine of these latter bearing the same appellation. Even now, the rapids and gorges of the Yang-tsz River form the only great commercial avenue from China into Sz Ch'wan, and it is therefore not hard to understand how in ancient times, the tribes of "cave barbarians" (whose dwellings are still observable all over that huge province) effectively blocked traffic along such subsidiary mountain-roads as may have existed then, as they exist now, for the use of enterprising hawkers.

The Chinese historians have no statistics, indulge in fen (few?) remarks about economic or popular development, describe no popular life, and make no general reflections upon history; they confine themselves to narrating the bald and usually unconnected facts which took place on fixed dates, occasionally describing some particularly heroic or daring individual act, or even sketching the personal appearance and striking conduct of an exceptionally remarkable king, general, or other leading personality: hence there is little to guide us to an intelligent survey of causes and effects, of motives and consequences; it is only by carefully piecing together and collating a jumble of isolated events that it is possible to obtain any general coup d'oeil at all: the wood is often invisible on account of the trees.

But there can be no doubt that populations had been rapidly increasing; that improved means had been found to convey accumulated stores and equipments; that generals had learnt how to hurl bodies of troops rapidly from one point to the other; and that rulers knew the way either to interest large populations in war, or to force them to take an active part in it. The marches, durbars, and gigantic canal works, undertaken by the barbarous King of Wu, as described in Chapter XXI., prove this in the case of one country. Chinese states always became great in the same way: first Kwan-tsz developed, on behalf of his master the First Protector, the commerce, the army, and the agriculture of Ts'i. He was imitated at the same time by Duke Muh of Ts'in and King Chwang of Ts'u, both of which rulers (seventh century B.C.) set to work vigorously in developing their resources. Then Tsz-ch'an raised Cheng to a great pitch of diplomatic influence, if not also of military power. His friend Shuh Hiang did the same thing for Tsin; and both of them were models for Confucius in Lu, who had, moreover, to defend his own master's interests against the policy of the philosopher Yen-tsz of Ts'i. After his first defeat by the King of Wu, the barbarian King of Yueh devoted himself for some years to the most strenuous life, with the ultimate object of amassing resources for the annihilation of Wu; the interesting steps he took to increase the population will be described at length in a later chapter. In 361, as we have explained in Chapter XXII., a scion of Wei went as adviser to Ts'in, and within a generation of his arrival the whole face of affairs was changed in that western state hitherto so isolated; the new position, from a military point of view, was almost exactly that of Prussia during the period between the tyranny of the first Napoleon, together with the humiliation experienced at his hands, and the patient gathering of force for the final explosion of 1870, involving the crushing of the second (reigning) Napoleon.