CHAPTER XXXVIII. WOMEN AND MORALS

So far as it is possible to judge from the concrete instances in which women are mentioned, it appears that in ancient Chinese times their confinement and seclusion was neither nominally nor actively so strict as it has been in later days, and they seem to have been much more companionable to men than they have been ever since the ridiculous foot-squeezing fashion came into vogue over a thousand years ago. When the Martial King addressed his semi- barbarous western allies, as he prepared his march upon the last Shang Emperor in 1122 B.C., he observed: "The ancient proverb says the hen crows not in the morn; when she does, the house will fall" - in allusion to the interference of the debauched Emperor's favourite concubine in public affairs; and we have seen, under the heading of Law in Chapter XX., how one of the imperial statutes, proclaimed or read regularly in the vassal kingdoms, prohibited the meddling of women in public business. But, in spite of this, so far as promoting the succession rights and political interests of their own children goes, wives and concubines certainly exerted considerable influence, whether legitimate or not, in all the states. The murder of an Emperor and flight of his successor in 771 B.C. was in its inception owing to the intrigues of women about Court. A few years only after that event, we find the orthodox ruler of Wei marrying a beautiful Ts'i princess (her beauty is a matter of history, and is celebrated in the Odes, which are themselves a popular form of history); and then, because she had no children, further marrying a princess of Ch'en. This princess unfortunately lost her offspring; but her sister also enjoyed the prince's favour, and her son was, after her death, given in adoption to the first childless Ts'i wife. This son succeeded to the Wei throne, but was ultimately murdered by a younger brother born of a concubine, who was next succeeded by still another younger brother, whose queen had also been one of his father's concubines. Thus in the most orthodox states (Wei was of the imperial clan), the rites often seem not to have counted for much in practice. - This book, it must here be repeated, deals with specific recorded facts, and not with civilization as it ought to have been under the Rites of Chou. - So, even in comparatively modern China, 1500 years later, the third emperor of the T'ang dynasty married his father's concubine, and she ultimately reigned as empress in her own right, which is in itself an outrage upon the "rites."

In 694 B.C. the ruler of Lu (also of the imperial clan) married a Ts'i princess, who, as has been stated in Chapter XXXIV., not only had incestuous relations with her brother of Ts'i, but led that brother to procure the murder of her husband. In connection with this woman's further visit to Ts'i two years later, the rule is cited: "Women, when once married, should not recross the frontier." The same rule is quoted in 655 when a Lu princess, who had married a petty mesne-vassal of Lu in 670, recrossed the Lu frontier in order to visit her son in Lu.

The Second Protector, during his wanderings, we know, married first a Tartar wife and then a Ts'i wife, both of whom showed disinterested affection for him, and genuine regard for his rights to the Tsin succession, Yet the ruler of Ts'in supplied him with five more royal girls, of whom one had already been married to the Second Protector's predecessor and nephew, the Marquess of Tsin. It is but fair to the memory of this uxorious Tsin ruler to say that he only took her over under protest, and under the immediate stress of political urgencies; he ultimately made her his principal spouse at the expressed desire of his ally the Ts'in ruler. He must have later married a daughter of the Emperor too, for, after the succession of a son and grandson, another of his sons named "Black Buttocks," being the youngest, and also "son of a Chou mother," came to the throne. Thus in those troublous times the honour of imperial princesses evidently did not count for very much at the great vassal courts. The readiness of Ts'in to induce the Tsin ruler to take over his nephew's wife (being a Ts'in princess) accentuates the semi-Tartar civilization of Ts'in at least, if not of Tsin too; for both Hiung-nu (200 B.C.) and Turks (A.D. 500) had a fixed rule that a Khan successor should take over all his predecessor's women, with the single exception of his own natural mother. In the year 630 the King of Ts'u married or carried off two CHENG sisters (of the imperial clan). The ruler of CHENG had been insolent to the future Second Protector during his wanderings in the year 637, and, in order to avoid that Protector's vengeance, had been subsequently obliged to throw himself under Ts'u protection. "This ignoring of the rites by the King of Ts'u will result in his failing to secure the Protectorship," it was said. However, these princesses, though of the imperial Ki clan by marriage into it, were really daughters of a CHENG ruler by two separate Ts'i and Ts'u wives: moreover, previous to the accession of the Hia dynasty (in 2205 B.C.), a Chinese elective Emperor had married the two daughters of his predecessor, whose own son was unworthy to succeed: and, generally, apart from this precedent, the rule against marrying two sisters, even if it existed, seems to have been loosely applied (cf. Chapter XXXIII.).