Л.C. Васильев

Древний Китай. Том 3. Период Чжаньго (V-III вв. до н.э.)

Abstract and some general conclusions


The opening chapters of the last volume are dedicated to the history of the warring states of the Chankuo period ("The Warring States", the 5th-3rd centuries B.C.). We provide a brief description of events in each of them, including the domain of the Son of Heaven (t'ien-tzu), i.e., the wang of Chou. A detailed account is given of wars and politico-diplomatic actions which accompanied that protracted and vehement strife between kingdoms and coalitions formed by them. The profound transformation of internal structure that changed the entire aspect of the Chou China is also discussed. Special attention is given to the process of defeudalization that had already begun in the late phases of Ch'unch'iu period.

The end of Ch'unch'iu period was marked by a number of important innovations. China saw the beginning of Iron Age. Cheaply produced iron tools were used for converting virgin lands into plowed fields. This contributed to the growth of farming population and its well-being. This was also the time of the rapid progress of cities with their crafts, trades, commerce and monetary relations. Coins of different kinds found by archaeologists and dated to the late Ch'unch'iu provide proof of that. Private property, well-developed market relations, affluent commoners—something previously unheard-of—appeared in cities. Agrarian countryside also started to be involved into market relations. Farmers were selling their extra production. All those changes and innovations in economy were accompanied by major shifts in the sphere of social relations.

Top-level aristocratic elite began losing its exceptional role, though it still retained its position in the upper echelons of social hierarchy. A new social stratum, shih, emerged—later, it would become extremely important for further development of Chinese society. It might be thought of as the Chinese "middle class", which originally incorporated members of nobility, primarily the tafu warriors. Not many of warriors' sons belonging to this class could inherit father's war chariot with a team of four horses. None of the states possessed a sufficient number of chariots. As is known, it was by this criterion that the main distinction between them was drawn: small kingdoms had 100 to 200 chariots, medium kingdoms had 400 to 800 chariots, and the larger ones, up to several thousand. In a word, during the late Ch'unch'iu, the shih—that lowest stratum of the ruling classes—became the most numerous one. The influx that swelled the ranks of the shih was coming both "from above" (sons of the tafu and of higher ranking aristocrats) and "from below" (warriors with a distinguished career). Besides, literate men and experts in ritual were also admitted into the ranks of the shih, since the behest to promote the intelligent and the capable was strictly followed in China.

For the most part, the volume is an account of the activity of Confucius (who was already partly discussed in Volume II) and other outstanding thinkers and reformers of the Chankuo period. This volume's main emphasis lies on the Master's activity as a reformer: he aimed at changing the fundamental principles of Chinese life by gradually creating a new basis of strict socio-ethical norms. Confucius fervently wished to leave behind all those evils which were so typical of the feuds waged by the ruling elite. To the reality of the past he opposed the ancient norm that he idealized and that had existed—more in words than in deeds—parallel to the world of intrigues and murders. He strove to restore the best traditions and to teach all the people to observe the ceremonies and norms of life that he unhallowed and transformed into a universally mandatory ethical standard.

Having adapted the masterfully reinterpreted tradition to serve his ends, Confucius turned out to be a great reformer. He put forward the idea of Tao as the great way of the truth and endless perfection, and he sang the "man of noble birth" (chun-tzu) as a paragon of following Tao. The primary meaning of the Master's ideas—which were revolutionary in their inmost essence—was the elimination of the social border dividing people of different descent; he wanted that border to be placed differently, viz. between the people and the rulers. The latter should be the most intelligent and capable men, like Confucius' disciples and their equals, not some opportunists who seized power by chance. As for the system of government, it must rest on those principles that he fostered: to care for the people, to understand their needs, to be able to win their trust and to lead them, and—perhaps, the most important of all—to seek no personal gain. Of course, all people loathe poverty and yearn for prosperity. However, a wise ruler must modify their wishes, moderate their ardor, and endeavor to achieve such a state of affairs when people would become accustomed to be content with what they have already, while constantly trying, by all legal means, to increase their wealth.

An admirer of things ancient, the Master was also a radical innovator. Though, to tell the truth, his compatriots failed to appreciate, let alone comprehend, this at one go. Rulers of the states who struggled for power and mostly used military strength had fully justified fears that, if they made people's welfare their priority, it would seriously handicap them. In the Chankuo period, wars occurred as often as before. However, their nature radically changed. The feudal battles of the chariot-mounted tafu "chivalry", with armor-clad infantry as auxiliary troops, were now a thing of the past. They were replaced by battles in which participated several dozen to several hundred thousand armor-clad infantrymen—armies that rulers found very expensive to sustain. This lead to imposing heavier taxes. Confucians, of all groups, opposed the increasing taxation of the people most ardently, be it the humble but steadfastly uncompromising Confucius or the unceremonious Meng-tzu (one of the most brilliant followers of the Master's cause) who shouted at rulers granting him audience.

One more important circumstance must be noted. During the Ch'unch'iu period, leaders of the pa rank (they were topmost among the chuhou rulers) used to prevent the stronger states from crushing the weaker ones, which was no longer the case. Having broken the fetters of feudal norms, rulers of the Chankuo period became ftill-fledged sovereigns of centralized states. Since their expansionist drive was now totally unchecked, they started pressing and crushing their neighbors, intending to weaken their armed forces and to annex desirable pieces of land. Free from feudal conflicts and internal strife, they were sometimes prepared to go to the stake for achieving their single aim: to defeat their equals in that struggle.

Instead of the tafu warriors and the ch'ing officials of the past, rulers of the Chankuo kingdoms had big armies and capable generals at their disposal. The latter were promoted for their personal merits and sometimes came from the ranks of the worthiest shih. Rulers consolidated their administrative apparatus by manning it with intelligent and capable shih. Unlike the feudal apparatus, it included those who—on account of having necessary qualifications—were capable of managing state affairs and who could be hired and dismissed like ordinary office workers. These officials of new kind were heading up new, gradually forming administrative-territorial structures that consisted of administrative units, not of feudal landed domains as earlier. Aristocrats continued to exist only as retainers and advisers of rulers and normally had to compete with clever administrators of the shih class, who sometimes hailed from different kingdoms. Who were the shih selected by rulers for this job? How, generally speaking, worked this new administrative class and what ideas formed its ideological basis?

Volume III pays attention to the exponents of a number of schools that competed with Confucianism, offering their own concepts of government. Mo-tzu was one of the earliest among them. He was born the year that Confucius died. He received his instruction from one of Confucius' disciples, and died in the late 5th century B.C. Having borrowed many ideas from Confucianism, Mo-tzu nonetheless differed with the Master on several vital points. Mo-tzu's primary concern was the creation of a society of equals. Loving one's parents and looking after one's children is not enough. One must love all people and look after them. Then the bonds of friendship would bind all the people together, and every man would always help his neighbor. Denouncing ancestor worship and hsiao (filial piety), Mo-tzu maintained that society must be free from both poverty and opulence, and that entertainment and exquisite pursuits available only to the chosen few are quite superfluous. Plain food, humble clothes, a small house and a simple tomb with a wooden coffin buried without elaborate and expensive funeral rites—this should suffice everyone.

Mo-tzu's fervent moralization is perfectly understandable, given the conditions of the defeudalized Chinese society, in which the pushy and greedy nouveaux riches (hsiao-jen) were eager to supplant the aristocrats who were quickly becoming history. The idea of taking property from the rich and distributing it evenly among the poor looked very attractive. So banal nowadays, it was quite fresh then. It seemed that Mo-tzu's proto-Socialist calls were supposed to stir society somehow and bring him a fair number of supporters. However, this never happened. People received his ideas with complete indifference. Firstly, the view that "blood is thicker than water" was both very popular and supported by tradition. Secondly, Mo-tzu's attempt to interest the authorities in his ideas (for which he devised an elaborate scheme of the administrative ladder, specifying the size of wages of officials on all levels and stressing that it was mandatory for them to inform against each other) failed, since it looked like a stupendous Utopia.

Mo-tzu sincerely intended to create a healthy, rational society of equals, with only a handful of those who would be "more equal" than others so as to make the functioning of the state possible. He vigorously condemned offensive wars that were waged quite often in his time. He wanted to achieve sensible government and good order, for which he encouraged among officials the practice of informing against each other. However, unlike Confucius, he despised tradition, and it was tradition that paid him back with a vengeance. Using tradition, Confucius brought about a revolution; rejecting tradition, Mo-tzu lost everything. The Taoist Chuang-tzu, giving his appraisal of Mo-tzu, remarked that the latter had no love for people—that was the whole point. This evaluation might seem unjust, on the face of it, for Mo-tzu's endeavors were devoid of self-interest. However, what really matters is the result, not the original motive—that was what Chuang-tzu meant.

The egocentric hedonist Yang Chu, a colorful if vague figure, was a direct opposite of Mo-tzu. Being a hedonist and a social parasite, Yang Chu asserted the priority of sensual pleasures and maintained that the only important thing was to spend the years granted you in comfort, because nothing but death awaits you beyond—the bones rotting in the dust that make the great and the humble equal. The actual role of Yang Chu's ideas is not quite clear. However, Meng-tzu—who decidedly condemned both Mo-tzu and Yang Chu—put them side by side, judging that their preposterous ideas were more or less equally harmful to the people.

A much more important part in the history of Ancient Chinese thought and in actual events was played by the followers of the fa school, the Legists. They had several factions and were successfully received among the ruling class. Shen Pu-hai (400-337 B.C.), a minister at the court of Han kingdom, held the art of masterful government supreme. He maintained that the ruler of the state should pick his words with care, avoid haste in his actions and control his feelings. In ruling the state he must rely on his numerous and carefully selected assistants, none of whom he nonetheless should trust completely. The ruler is the hub and the assistants, the spokes. The ruler must not demonstrate his wisdom needlessly. Besides, he must rule by exercising the wu-wei ("non-doing") principle; i.e., he must see, hear and know everything, but organize his government so as to allow events take the desired course naturally, giving them only the occasional corrective nudge. For all that, daily strict supervision and intelligent selection of personnel are an absolute necessity. Many of Shen Pu-hai's suggestions were subsequently taken into account. Suffice it to remind the reader about the competition system used at culling qualified officials. However, it was the rigid Legism of Yang of Wei, or Shang Yang (390-338 B.C.), that played a far greater part in the history of Ancient China and Chinese civilization as a whole.

Shang Yang was a relative of the ruler of the Wei kingdom; he came to Ch'in at the request of Ch'in's ruler Hsiao Kung, who dreamed of reforming and radically strengthening his vast, though sparsely populated and semi-barbarian state. The essence of Shang Yang's reform—which was decently expressed in his treatise and even better demonstrated in the course of the radical changes he started (they were described in the historical work of Ssu-ma Ch'ien)—is that the people ought to be ruled with a rod of iron. Initially, the reform involved only double taxation exacted from families having more than one grown man in order to force such families to move and settle uncultivated lands. Then the Ch'in authorities published the law that invited immigrants from different, overpopulated states of Chungkuo (the "Middle Kingdoms") to Ch'in, providing fairly favorable condition for them. Generally speaking, laws—i.e., orders given by the authorities—were to become the main tool of ruling the people. Failure to obey laws (it was officials' duty to circulate their main idea among the people) entailed punishment. Shang Yang prescribed severe punishments even for trifling offences so as to discourage people from transgressing seriously, with a view to eliminating grave crimes in Ch'in. Conduct of the people must be strictly controlled and its efforts must be channeled into "productive occupations", i.e., farming and soldiering. The pao-chia system that incorporated small groups of five and ten families, each headed by a responsible appointee, involved the practice of mutual help—and also of mutual spying. Everyone was responsible for everyone else. Warriors were rewarded for military exploits. Reward found expression primarily in the system of socio-administrative ranks (there were normally 18 to 20 of them) created by Shang Yang and currently well-known all over the world. The lower ranks of that system were assigned among villagers. You were born, married, procreated a child, became the head of a large family, the patriarch of a group of kindred families, you were elected or appointed the head of a pao-chia or a community—all these phases of your life correspond to ranks 1-8 of the system. Higher ranks were assigned bureaucrats and soldiers for their service and special merits. Ranks higher than the 8th one normally entailed a position with a good wage, while the holders of the top ranks were often granted, as part of their office, the privilege to live at the expense of local population.

Shang Yang, who for his great services was granted one of the very top ranks and a landed estate with a right to use revenues for his personal needs, could not abide "parasites". He filed under that heading the scholars of rival schools (mostly Confucians) and, first and foremost, the nouveaux riches (though he had no love for the old aristocrats either, stripping them of rewards and honors whenever they failed to exhibit military valor). The owner of private property is, by his very nature, an enemy of the state, since that which was once received—and which must be received—by the state goes to his pocket. Shang Yang suggested that all the rich must buy ranks for large sums of money, and no one refused such offers. Thus the buyer was losing his wealth, but obtained prestige, which was highly prized in the rank-divided society. Shang Yang strictly controlled the government apparatus and encouraged mutual spying and informing within it. Unlike Confucians, he was not of the opinion that the state machinery needed the intelligent and the capable. It really needed the mediocre, the assiduous, the law-abiding. According to Shang Yang, the people at large were just cattle—a view he never concealed. The basically true slogan, "The weaker the people, the stronger the state," was his favorite dictum. Shang Yang was extremely cynical, but to give him his due he worked expertly. Having taken the iron rod of power in his hands, he used it unceasingly, treating the people as submissive cattle, he proved capable of quickly transforming the backward state of Ch'in into a developed, well-ordered and wealthy kingdom whose military power was perhaps unrivaled in the Under-Heaven.

Philosophy of Taoism was one of the most intriguing trends in Ancient Chinese thought. It is important to keep in mind that, up to the late 4th and early 3rd centuries, China was not familiar with mythology, heroic epos, mysticism and metaphysics proper to religious doctrine, especially in the sphere of cos-mogonic constructs. As pointed out in Volumes I and II of this three-volume publication, all the main ideologemes, ceremonial rites and reforms were equally aimed at the same goal of creating in the Under-Heaven favorable conditions for achieving purely earthly, if sometimes very diverse, objectives. However, since the above-indicated point in time, many things begin to change. The Tso-chuan, a commentary on the Ch 'unch Чи chronicle, mentions the six primary elements, liu-fu (earth, water, fire, metal, wood, grain). In the Old Iranian Avesta, in the section dealing with Zoroaster's (fl. no later than the 7th century B.C.) reforms, we find a nearly identical group of six elements: earth, water, fire, metal, wood, cattle. In the semi-nomadic Iranian society, cattle was a really important substance, whereas in the Chou China it was practically absent. There are grounds to suspect that in the commentary in question cattle was replaced with grain; subsequently, the commentator reasoned logically that wood and grain represented a single substance and these two elements became supplanted with one—plants. Thus the Ancient Chinese thought acquired the notion of wu-hsing, the five proto-elements (the first five elements of the Iranian and Chou lists). The fact that these groups of five elements are completely identical is not accidental. Furthermore, this likeness goes much deeper, beyond the obvious. Zoroastrian dualism was based on the opposition of the forces of Good and Light to those of Evil and Darkness. The Tso-chuan also refers to yin and yang, and Ancient Chinese dictionaries clearly define them, respectively, as the northern, dark and the southern, bright sides of a mountain, not as metaphysical notions.

Chapter 74 of Ssu-ma Ch'ien's Shih Chi tells of the philosopher Tsou Yan (350-270 B.C.), who was noted for his profound speeches and unusual ideas that were highly esteemed by his contemporaries, especially rulers, who treated him with much greater respect than Confucius or Meng-tzu. Tsou Yan wrote many works that amounted to 100,000 characters and that have not survived. According to Ssu-ma Ch'ien, Tsou Yan "reached the very wellspring of life, when Heaven and Earth have not yet emerged and utter darkness reigned." Tsou Yan knew of "the overseas lands that men could not behold." He maintained that, "since the time when Heaven and Earth opened up and became divided, the five te virtues are in constant circulation..." and that Chungkuo, i.e., China, represented "only one eighty-first part of the Under-Heaven." But what mattered most was that Tsou Yan "thought deeply about the waxing and waning of the yang and у in forces, penetrated into the vicissitudes of all changes."

Here we have an extremely important text. For the first time, China produced a thinker who, contrary to the accepted norm and having no predecessors to lean upon, delved deeply into mysticism and created impressive metaphysi-cal-cosmogonic constructs. He has been to places that none of the Chinese has been to; he has seen that which none of them has seen. He spoke assuredly of the time when Heaven and Earth have not yet emerged and darkness prevailed; he stated that China was merely one eighty-first part of the Under-Heaven. Where Tsou Yan could have borrowed these ideas from? They were well known to Indian thinkers who wrote about the nine dvipa continents, each of which in turn consisted of nine parts. Tsou Yan discussed problems of cosmogony in earnest, though all earlier Chinese thinkers were completely indifferent to them. Besides, he spoke of the incessant circulation of certain "five te [substances]", which were obviously somehow related to the wu-hsing proto-elements. He also pondered over the rise and fall of the yang and yin forces, which corresponds so fully to the Iranian idea of the eternal struggle between the forces of Good and Evil, of Light and Darkness. The Tsou Yan phenomenon remains an enigma1, just like many things associated with Taoist philosophy, starting with Chuang-tzu (369-286 B.C.).

We mean here the mysterious origin of those ideas, including mythology, which appears for the first time in Chinese writings (we refrain from discussing oral tradition, as it is hard to say something definite regarding it) and is widely represented in the Chuang-tzu. The book in question is one of the most interesting in the Ancient China. In addition to profound metaphysical constructs that are entirely foreign to any earlier Chinese text, it contains a huge number of parables, anecdotes, myths and short essays on abstract topics.

Chuang-tzu's metaphysics and cosmogony proceed from the assumption that the Universe was created out of the original Chaos and that its creation is related to the Great Tao (the Tao of Taoism, which differs from the Tao of Confucius)—a certain Supreme Absolute, extrinsic to the phenomenal world and undetectable by the senses. Те is an emanation of Tao2. Tao is everywhere and nowhere, it pervades everything and it lies at the bottom of the cosmogonic process. The ideas of Chuang-tzu—like those of Tsou Yan—are very unorthodox for Ancient Chinese thought. It is very hard to believe that they could have popped up out of the blue, in a country where no one took interest in such things before. Well, there is no need to believe that. One has but to pick up, for instance, an unassuming chrestomathy titled Ancient Indian Philosophy (Drev-neindiyskaya filosofiya, Moscow, 1972; in Russian) to find very similar in nature—though much more refined and elaborated—constructs of the Rigveda and Upanishads. They contain the same ideas: the Great Brahman-Absolute and its emanation Atman, the existent and non-existent, Chaos and the emergence of the One, the latter's association with thought (the Word, Logos), the original emptiness so favored by Chuang-tzu.

Here is another important detail to be added to what was said above: the Chinese term ch 7 (lit. "air") was given by Taoists a new meaning: "vital force", "energy" and the like. According to them, the universe turned out to be permeated with the vigorously circulating ch 7 proto-substance. It is this ch 7 complex that Taoists equate with life. If such a complex disintegrates, then life ends. If a new complex of this kind forms, then a new life is created. The idea of reincarnation—which was so thoroughly developed in Ancient India and totally unknown in China until the time of Chuang-tzu's publication—was first clearly set forth in the just mentioned work. In addition to ch 7 "at large", Taoist text begin to mention "the finest/subtlest cA7" (pi.; ching-ch'i), whose presence enables spiritual life in man and in all animate beings. The Chandogya Upani-shad (VI, 7-8) states that food consists of three parts. The coarsest part eventually forms excreta, the intermediate part is digested by the body and feeds it, and the finest part becomes—in humans—their breath, thoughts and words. Another version of the text present the same idea in a somewhat different context: the fine substance is that which makes salt salt, a mosquito a mosquito, and a tiger a tiger; i.e., the finest is the base of the essence (the quality of being itself) in all things and of spirituality in man.

So, Taoist philosophy, as regards its basic innovative ideas—let us put it as gently as we can—is not entirely free (to say the least) from extraneous influences. The twofold source of that influence is the Indo-Iranian metaphysical thought. The content of the most widely known work of Taoist philosophy, the Tao-te ching ascribed to Lao-tzu, attests to the same. The pithy dicta of that extremely profound and structurally complex text are really impressive. Most likely, it was written later than the Chuang-tzu, though there are several versions that allow of different opinions. However, what really deserves attention is the problem of its authorship.

The work is attributed to Lao-tzu, there are no other "claimants" to its authorship. In this connection, it is extremely interesting that Lao-tzu—allegedly a senior contemporary of Confucius—seems to be, most likely, a figment of Chuang-tzu's imagination. No text mentions Lao-tzu's name prior to the work of Chuang-tzu. But there is more to it than just that. It is more important to realize why Chuang-tzu needed that old man, who subsequently became wrapped in legend. This is not difficult to realize. Chuang-tzu (like Tsou Yan, for that matter) put forward some ideas that were completely unheard-of in China. However, unlike Tsou Yan's ideas—that were, for all their cardinal importance, easy to understand,—Chuang-tzu's suggestions seemed rather vague. It appears that, initially, even the wisest ones were unable to grasp his ideas. So Chuang-tzu experienced an urgent need for a valid basis that would have very ancient roots, for the Chinese highly valued nothing but old tradition. So he invented a certain "Old Man" who was nearly Confucius' precursor (this temporal tie-in is most important), who had the nerve to lecture the Master haughtily, while the latter allegedly accepted with meekness wisdom thus imparted.

On the other hand, the above-mentioned does not mean that the new ideas were solely the result of extraneous influence. Two important additions must be made. Firstly, the Chinese, including Taoists, tended to mix foreign innovations with old, well-known stories and examples from Chou and even pre-Chou history, which greatly reduced the general bewilderment of those who read the Chuang-tzu for the first time. Secondly, they were expert in grasping and subtly perceiving extraneous ideas in their own individual way, making them Chinese "on the fly". Both the specifics of the hieroglyphic writing and Ле difficulty of rendering foreign words, let alone special terms, greatly contributed to this. Thus the Taoist philosophy, which was alien to the Ancient Chinese pragmatism, was establishing itself.

The latter half of the Changkuo period was not only the time of competition between different schools of Ancient Chinese thought but also the time of their co-operation. This resulted in a number of works of an encyclopedic nature different chapters of which were written by scholars of different schools. Among them are the Kuan-tzu and the Lui-shih ch'unch'iu encyclopedias. However, this did not lead to a success of Confucian ideas. It is noteworthy that the numerous followers of the ju school (this was a common name for Confucians) did everything humanly possible to increase the influence of their doctrine, which so complied with the spirit of tradition. However, the uncompromising stance taken by the most influential among them (especially Meng-tzu) put rulers of the states off Confucianism. It impeded the advance of Confucianism in comparison with other competing doctrines, primarily Legism, which demonstrated its advantages. It is hardly surprising, then, that Legism in a variety of versions—most often milder ones than Shang Yang's—occupied a very prominent place in the Kuan-tzu. This situation lead, in the late Chankuo period, to Hsiun-tzu's (the third greatest Confucian of Chinese antiquity) becoming nearly a direct opposite of Meng-tzu. The fact that the two sages differed on the vital issue of man's nature (Meng-tzu believed that man was essentially good but the hardships of life spoiled him; Hsiun-tzu, on the contrary, proceeded from the assumption that man was full of vice and only education made him decent) was only part of that opposition. What mattered much more was that Hsiun-tzu—as well as Meng-tzu, by the way,—perfectly realized that Confucianism was rapidly losing its former prestige at the end of the Chou era. Besides, Hsiun-tzu realized that the doctrine was going to disappear altogether, unless its adherents dropped the uncompromising attitude of Confucius and Meng-tzu. While Meng-tzu saw the salvation of the teaching in the harsh condemnation of its opponents, Hsiun-tzu managed to realize, just in time, that the true solution lay elsewhere.

The Hsiun-tzu informs us that, while young, Hsiun-tzu paid a visit to the state of Ch'in and found many things there worthy of imitation as examples of an acceptable norm. This referred, first of all, to the strict social discipline of the people who were trained to observe laws, order and norms. Of course, Confucians were all for norm and discipline. However, to attain strict adherence to them, they relied on upbringing and the ethical traditions established by the Master. At the same time, experience proved irrefutably that the "stick" was by far the most efficient part in the old "carrot-and-stick" formula. So Hsiun-tzu— who personally stood for the predominance of proper upbringing in the correction of people—managed to see this; moreover he realized that, unless some of the Legist "stick" was added to the Confucian "carrot", the ju school was doomed in the nearest future. So he had to resort to forgery. In his work, Hsiun-tzu showed a Confucius that somewhat differed from the man he really was.

Among other things, Hsiun-tzu concocted a story of a certain shao-cheng Mao who allegedly corrupted the minds of the youth of Lu with forbidden speeches, for which he was executed by Confucius' orders. However, it is known that Confucius never possessed political power. Besides, he would have never dreamed of killing anyone for wrong words. Finally, no texts of Confucius' time mention a shao-cheng called Mao. Hsiun-tzu knew all this better than anyone. So what was the matter? The answer is very simple. Hsiun-tzu wanted the Great Master to take a stick in his hands. This was necessary for imparting a certain strictness to the doctrine, without which it would not succeed. And Hsiun-tzu did the necessary thing, without which the doctrine of the Great Master would be unable to develop and spread in the late Chou society. By doing this, though, he took a step in Shang Yang's direction. It is small wonder that his two best disciples, in whom any sage could feel great pride, the theoretician Han Fei-tzu and the prime minister of the emperor Ch'in Shih-Huangti Li Ssu (he was the actual author of the strictly ordered structure of the Ch'in Empire) turned out to be Legists.

Hsiun-tzu's little trick saved Confucianism as a doctrine suitable for ruling the state; furthermore, it ensured (in combination with historical developments that, too, played a major part in this) its lasting success for more than two thousand years. And still, despite this great service to the doctrine, to which he (unlike his disciples) kept a lifelong loyalty, Hsiun-tzu dearly paid for having distorted the essence of the Master's image. His work, unlike the above-mentioned Meng-tzu, was never included into the Confucian canon.

Beside Hsiun-tzu, there were other Confucians who worked to adjust the doctrine to the political realities. By the end of the Chou period, they compiled two systematically arranged texts deserving attention. The first of those, Yili (Regulations and Rites), was dedicated to clearly embellished nostalgic reminiscences of the past, when the aristocrats allegedly adhered to the norms of rites and ceremonies and followed traditional customs. All the norms and ceremonies in question were painstakingly collected and described in the work to the minutest detail. On the whole, this text is to be regarded as a reminder of the lost past, written with the aim of extolling it, thereby enhancing the role of the tradition-defending Confucianism. The second work, Chouli (Rites of Chou, or Prescriptions of Chou), is an artificial reconstruction of the ideal imperial administrative system, which—though sung by tradition—never existed. The text enumerates ministries that consisted of numerous departments and offices full of innumerable bureaucrats and clerks, each of which is named by his office, with the sphere of his duties precisely delineated. However, these texts, which appeared too late, never played any significant part.

Having defeated his rivals, the last ruler of the Ch'in state unified the Un-der-Heaven in 221 B.C. and founded the first real empire of Chinese history, not a fancy of mythical tradition or Utopian reconstructions. That empire was created on the basis of a state that in many respects differed from most other states, in which the people honored age-old tradition revived and strengthened by Confucius in his day. Although in the time of Meng-tzu (and doubly so, of Hsiun-tzu), i.e., during the late Chou, the situation was quickly changing and many of Legist methods were already accepted in different states, in practice this borrowing lead to a combination of the two systems rather than to one replacing the other. No one dared to scorn tradition openly. And no one was able to do so even if he wished to. In a word, most of the empire was not ready to accept that severe anti-Confucian Legism, which was created in Ch'in by Shang Yang and continued to exist there.

However, this perturbed neither Ch'in Shih-Huang nor his prime minister Li Ssu. They were accustomed to use the stick and believed in its absolute power. Much was accomplished with the Legist stick for the brief 13 or 14 years of the Ch'in Empire's existence. The whole country was anew divided into 36 provinces headed by governors. When the question of supplying officials' relatives with landed estates arose (the normal practice of the early Chou), Li Ssu promptly reacted with a harsh denial. He realized all too well that this would have led to the emergence of destructive tendencies. Provinces were further subdivided into commanderies, prefectures, districts and other smaller administrative units. The heads of the six central ministries (military, judicial, financial, ceremonial, and of the court and of the emperor's protection), the officials of the all-powerful censorship branch as well as the local authorities held administrative ranks corresponding to their offices. The emperor ordered the populace of the states that warred against him to hand over all weapons and forcibly resettled about 120,000 rich and noble families from all over the empire to his capital in order to cut the ties between the aristocrats of the former states and their quondam subjects. All previously effective laws were repealed and supplanted with those of Shang Yang, which involved severe punishments for petty offences. The emperor standardized the measurements of length and weight and the writing system, which remains basically the same to this day. The administrative apparatus, including military units which constituted part of it, was strictly controlled and operated under double subordination (to local officials and to central ministry at the capital).

All peasants were provided with land, taxes and labor obligations were initially moderate, crafts and trade were given some leeway for development, the richest of merchants and craftsmen received the right to act as tax-farmers, thereby making the task of organizing the production of iron and wine and the extraction of salt easier for the state. The latter controlled prices of principal commodities—first of all, grain. A network of state-controlled enterprises and workshops was established, at which the best craftsmen were obliged to work for a term of time to fill the needs of the treasury and warehouses of the state. Peasants, as part of their corvee duty, and sometimes enslaved criminals, i.e., convicts, were employed in road construction—a sphere that enjoyed special attention of the emperor,—at mines, at the building of the new capital and the emperor's enormous tomb. Millions of peasants and convicts were mobilized for the construction of the Great Wall, which was completed in the shortest possible time and cost several hundred thousand lives.

On the whole, the rigid Legist system demonstrated great efficiency as regards economic matters. The unconditional Order, constantly upheld by the iron hand of the state, ruled the country. But—alas!—there was no Harmony, which the Confucians yearned for. Being unaccustomed to a life of daily hard work, the people sorely complained. Many malcontents, especially Confucians, protested openly, accusing the emperor of inhumanity. In 213 B.C., Ch'in Shih-Huangti reacted by ordering all ancient books burned (except those on such utilitari л subjects as medicine or mathematics). He also executed by burying alive 460 of his most ardent opponents. This inflamed the subjects to greater hatred toward the tyrant. Attempts on his life forced him to spend each night at a different palace. As if trying to justify his actions, the emperor took to setting up stone stelae with inscriptions, in which he "personally" addressed the people and, using the time-honored Confucian phraseology, tried to convince them that he acted for their own good. This hardly helped, however. China was on the brink of a crisis when, in 210 B.C., the emperor died suddenly during one of his tours.

The sudden death of the tyrant provoked a wave of insurrections. Neither the weak successor nor the top officials of the empire (Li Ssu and the eunuch Chao Kao) were able to control the situation that grew more and more complicated. They all shortly perished. In 207 B.C., the empire collapsed. Leaders of various military units started a civil war, which was finally won by a peasant leader called Liu Pang who became the founder of the new Han dynasty (202 B.C. — 220 A.D.). Liu Pang had the intelligence to realize that Order without Harmony degenerated into extreme and arbitrary rule and was doomed. Therefore he pursued a different policy. All severe practices of the former empire, especially punishments, were abolished. A general amnesty was granted in China. Each peasant who managed to survive the protracted blood bath was given a plot of land. Taxes became moderate once again and corvee became less exacting. For all that, Liu Pang preserved the basis of the Ch'in administrative apparatus, especially on lower and medium levels, while restricting its functions. His successors, notably Wen-ti (179-157 B.C.) and Wu-ti (140-87 B.C.), took further steps toward Confucianism and the much sought-after Harmony.

The Confucians, who at long last came to power, produced a favorable impression. They judiciously accepted those necessary methods of government which had been introduced by the Legists and which justified themselves. To these, they added everything that the Master once taught. This resulted in changes in "the rulers-the ruled" relationship. The process of a fruitful synthesis of Confucianism and Legism found its reflection in the official imperial Confucianism, which was introduced by Tung Chung-shu, the forth great Confucian of Chinese antiquity. That was an eclectic synthesis that absorbed everything valuable and beneficial to the land and the people from the legacy of the Chou sages. This variety of Confucianism exists in an almost unchanged form for more than two thousand years; and it is largely to it that the modern Chinese-Confucian world owes its achievements. At the turn of our era, the most exhaustive compendium of Confucianism—the systematized treatise Lichi— was created. Everything that Confucius taught, everything that constitutes the essence of the doctrine was collected and thoroughly described in it. By this time, Confucianism started performing the function of the dominant religion in a country that previously had no developed religious system.

Speaking of the foundations of the Chinese civilization, which were laid down in antiquity and continued to determine the norms of behavior of Chinese society and state to this day, one must pay attention to Chinese mentality and worldview. In other words, we mean the way the Chinese look upon certain things and the difference between their outlook and that of other peoples, primarily Europeans (or, more broadly, Westerners). Without going into detail, we offer here the main points:

First, what leaps to the eye immediately is the practical nature of thought resulting from many centuries of earthly orientation of the Chinese world outlook. Originally, the Chinese were not familiar with religion in any developed form, but they always revered Social Order and highly esteemed Harmony that was associated with it. Accordingly, they saw the ultimate goal of human existence in providing the well-being of ordinary people (which was the raison d'etre of the state), not in the extinguishing of nirvana or in the retreat of paradise. This is the welfare of the living and, naturally, of the deceased.

Second, they revered the authority of the sages of antiquity, who laid down the principles of Social Order and Universal Harmony. They also highly regarded those intelligent and capable, who are able to maintain that order and are therefore worthy to be promoted to the elite (subsequently, a system of competitive exams became the main tool for such promotion).

Third, this is the idea of natural equality of men. Widely accepted since Confucius' time, it became one of his greatest contributions. Chinese hierarchy is a function of that equality. One's worth on the whole corresponds to one's abilities; the more capable is man, the more fully he must exercise his abilities. This idea originates from the notion of Mandate of Heaven (t'ien-ming), from the practice of promoting the intelligent and the capable, though it was Confucius who applied this idea to all people.

Fourth, this is the cult of conservative stability and the readiness, for its sake, to reinterpret the past in accordance with the needs of today. Norm, ritual, ceremonies and seeing the past the way it is supposed to have been safeguard stability. Hence numerous texts full of interpolations and, sometimes, transparent falsifications.

Fifth, the Chinese always strive to measure up to a certain paragon and engage in unflagging pursuit of excellence. The main incentive here is not material gain (though well-being is valued and always follows success) but duty. This is duty to yourself, to your family, to everyone who expects something of you. Work with diligence, if you can, do not be a sluggard, achieve, compete!

Sixth, they have a penchant for mental associations, respecting—nay, worshiping the past, precedent and the word-sign that symbolizes it. This derives from the reverence for antiquity and ensures the above-mentioned inclination to stability. Hence the markedly correlative mentality.

Seventh, they can absorb foreign influences masterfully transforming and reinterpreting them. This mental property is extremely useful, for it enables them to enrich their mind with extraneous ideas without having to sacrifice anything of value in their own legacy. To tell the truth, it has more of vulgar eclecticism than of high-level synthesis. So what? It is the result that matters.

Eighth, they tend to construct classificatory schemata, to systematize ideas and typical situations, to engage in didactical hyperbole. These are all links of the same chain conducive to the training of the mind and to the perfection of thinking. The value of such constant training is indisputable.

Ninth and last (of course many things remain untold but we must keep ourselves within reasonable limits): in China, they most definitely follow their mind, not their heart (i.e., emotions). The ninth item of our list has much to do with the first one, it is another reminder of the fact that the priority of rational thinking is beyond question. Emotions, while they cause no problems for anyone (including the person who experiences them), have a right to exist—they normally find an expression ill literature, art, etc. However, as soon as they begin to contradict the dictates of the mind (which is interpreted very widely, ranging from the wishes of your elders and betters to the necessity to do your duty), they have to make way for reason. You have to subdue them. Any Chinese is accustomed to this. Chinese history, as far as we can judge, knows no instances of suicide on account of the conflict between reason and emotions.

1The second volume of J. Needham's famous work (J. Needham, Science and Civilization in China, 1956, pp. 236-268) adduces, referring the reader to Ma Kuo-han, a still longer list of Tsou Yan's ideas that were innovative in the Chou China. Needham (ibid., p. 274) attributes to Tsou Yan the authorship of the Hsichi-chuan (early 3rd century B.C.), the main commentary on the Yiching, in which all the lines of trigrams and hexagrams receive, for the first time, a philosophic interpretation. They are explained as combinations of the yin and yang symbols, which were by that time viewed as the female and the masculine principles.
2Here again, as in the case of Tao, Taoists borrow a well-established Confucian term (which was applied to the sacred virtue by the early-Chou Chou-kung, and to the desacralized virtue by Confucius) and give it a new meaning saturated with non-Chinese, as regards its origins, mysticism.
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