Sunday, August 24, 2008

Ancient China Ancient Japan

The development of China is not only elucidated by documents and events probably antecedent to the strictly historical period, such as the supposed voyage of an Emperor to the Far West, but it is also made easier to understand when we consider its possible indirect effects upon Japan. The barbarian kingdom of Wu does not really appear in Chinese history at all, even by name, until the year 585 B.C. It was found then that it had traditions of its own, and a line of kings extending back to the beginning of the Chou dynasty , and even farther beyond. In 585 B.C. the new King, Shou-mĂȘng, hitherto an unknown and obscure vassal of Ts'u, altogether beyond the ken of orthodox China, felt quite strong enough, as we have seen in Chapter VII., to strike out an independent line of his own. It is a singular thing that, when the Japanese set about constructing a nomenclature for their newly discovered back history in the eighth century A.D., they should have fixed upon exactly this year 585 B.C. for the death of their supposed first Mikado Jimmu . The next three Kings of Wu, all of whom, like himself, bore dissyllabic and meaningless barbarian names, were sons of Shou-mĂȘng, and a fourth son was the cultured Ki-chah, who visited orthodox China several times, both as a spy and in order to improve himself. Then follow two sons of the last and first, respectively, of the said three brothers. The second of these royal cousins was killed in battle, and his son Fu-ch'ai vowed a terrible, vengeance against Ts'u, whose capital he subsequently took and sacked in 506 B.C. Now appears upon the scene his own vassal, Yiieh, and at first Wu gets the best of it in battle. Bloodthirsty wars follow between the two, full of picturesque and convincing detail, until at last the King of Yiieh, in turn, has the King of Wu at his mercy; but he was, though a barbarian, magnanimously disposed, and accordingly he offered Fu-ch'ai the island of Chusan and three hundred married families to keep him company. But Fu-ch'ai was too proud to accept this Elba, the more especially so because he had it on his conscience that he had been acting throughout against the earnest advice of his faithful minister , whom he had put to death for his frankness. This adviser as he perished had cried out: "Don't forget to pluck my eyes out and stick them on the east gate, so that I may witness the entry of the Yiieh troops!" He therefore committed suicide, first veiling his face because, as he said: "I have no face to offer my adviser when I meet him in the next world; if, on the other hand, the dead have no knowledge, then it does not matter what I do." After the beginning of our Christian era, when the direct communication between Japan and China was first officially noticed by the historians, it was recorded by the Chinese annalists that part of Fu-ch'ai's personal following had escaped in ships towards the east, and had founded a state in Japan. But it must not be forgotten that then orthodox China had never yet heard of Japan in any form, though of course it is possible that the maritime states of Wu and Yiieh may have had junk intercourse with many islands in the Pacific.
We have already ventured upon a few remarks upon this subject in

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