CHAPTER XXXVII. ETHICS

We propose to say a few words now about peculiar customs which had vogue all over or in certain parts of China; of course some of them may be traced back to the "Rites of Chou," and to what is prescribed therein; but general administrative schemes representing in general terms things as they ought to be, or as the Chou federal and feudal oligarchy would have liked them to be, do not give us such a life-like picture of ancient China as specific accounts of definite events which really did happen. Take, for instance, the peculiar formalities connected with abject surrender.

After a great defeat in 699 B.C., just when Ts'u was beginning to emerge from its narrow confines between the Han and Yang-tsz Rivers, the defeated Ts'u generals had themselves bound in fetters, or with ropes, in order to await their king's pleasure. In 654, when Ts'u had one of the small orthodox states (in the Ho Nan nucleus) at its mercy, the baron presented himself with his hands tied behind, a piece of jade in his mouth, followed by his suite in mourning, carrying his coffin. It is evident that at this date Ts'u was still "barbarous," for the king had to ask what it all meant. It was explained to him that, when the Chou founder conquered China, and mutilated the last Shang dynasty emperor, that emperor's elder brother by an inferior mother had presented himself before the founder half naked, with his hands tied behind his back, his left hand leading a ram (or goat), and his right carrying sedge for wrapping round the sacrificial victim; he was enfeoffed as Duke of Sung. In 537 the same thing happened to a later King of Ts'u in connection with another petty principality, and the king had to be reminded of the 654 precedent. Thus there must have been records of some kind in Ts'u at an early date. In 645 B.C., when the ruler of Ts'in took prisoner his brother-in- law, the ruler of Tsin, and was seriously contemplating the annexation of Tsin, together with the duty of discharging Tsin sacrifices, his own sister, with bare feet, wearing mourning, and bound with a mourning belt, intercedes successfully for her husband. In 597 B.C. the ruler of the important orthodox state of Cheng went through the form of dragging along, with the upper part of his own body uncovered, a ram or goat into the presence of the King of Ts'u. In 511, when the ruler of Lu had to fly the country and throw himself upon the generosity of Tsin, in order to escape from the dangerous machinations of the intriguing great families of Lu, the six Tsin statesmen (who were themselves at that moment, as heads of great private clans, gradually undermining their own prince's rights) sent for the arch-intriguer, and called upon him to explain his conduct. At that time Lu was coquetting between its two powerful neighbours, Tsin and Ts'i. The conspirator duly presented himself before the Areopagus of Tsin grandees, barefoot and attired in common cloth (i.e. not of silk, but of hemp), in order to explain to them the circumstances of the duke's exile: it is characteristic of the times, and also of the frankness of history, to find it added that he succeeded in bribing the grandees to give an unjust decision. When the Kings of Yueeh and Wu were in turn at each other's mercy, in 494 and 473 respectively, their envoys, in offering submission, in each case advanced to the conqueror "walking on the knees," with bust bared: this knee-walking suggests Annamese, Siamese, and possibly Japanese forms rather than Chinese. The Wu servants at dinner are said to have "waited" on their knees. The third and last August Emperor in 207 submitted to the conquering Han dynasty seated in an unadorned chariot, drawn by a white horse (with signs of mourning), carrying his seal-sash round his neck (figurative of hanging or strangling himself), and offered the seals of the Son of Heaven to the Prince of Han.