Sunday, August 24, 2008

Ancient China Break-up Of China

) was a poor place, and is described as having consisted of low houses in narrow streets, with a vulgar palace; this was in 523. In 513 a new king moved to the site now occupied by Soochow, and he seems to have made of it the magnificent city it has remained ever since--the place, of course it will be remembered, where General Gordon and Li Hung-chang had their celebrated quarrel about decapitating surrendered rebels. There were eight gates, besides eight water-gates for boats; it was eight English miles in circuit, and contained the palace, several towers , kiosks, ponds, and duck preserves. The extensive arsenal and ship- yard was quite separate from the main town. No city in the orthodox part of China is so closely described as this one, nor is it likely that there were many of them so vast in extent.
Judging by the frequency with which Ts'in moved its capitals , they cannot have been very important or substantial places; in fact, there are no descriptions of early Ts'in economic life at all; and, for all we know to the contrary, the headquarters of Duke Muh, when he entered upon his reforms in the seventh century B.C., may have resembled a Tartar encampment. The _Kwoh-yü_ has no chapter devoted to Ts'in, which for 500 years lived a quite isolated life of its own. In later times, especially after the reforms introduced by the celebrated Chinese princely adventurer, Wei Yang, during the period 360--340, the land administration was reconstituted, the capital was finally moved to Hien-yang, and every effort was made to develop all the resources of the country. Ts'in then possessed 41 _hien,_ those with a population of under 10,000 having a governor with a lower title than the governors of the larger towns, Probably the total population of Ts'in by this time reached 3,000,000. A century later, when the First August Emperor was conquering China, armies of half a million men on each side were not at all uncommon. When his conquests were complete, he set about building palaces on both banks of the Wei in most lavish style, as narrated in the last chapter. It is said of him that, "as he conquered each vassal prince, he had a sketch made of his palace buildings," and, with these before him as models, he lined the river with rows of beautiful edifices,--evidently, from the description given, much resembling those lying along the Golden Horn at Constantinople; if not in quality, at least in general spectacular arrangement.
As to the minor orthodox states grouped along the Yellow River, they seem to have shifted their capitals on very slight provocation; scarcely one of them remained from first to last in the same place. To take one as an instance, the state of Hu, an orthodox state belonging to the same clan name as Ts'i. The history of this petty principality or barony is only exactly known from the time when Confucius' history begins, and it was continually being oppressed by Cheng and Ts'u, its more powerful neighbours; in 576, 533, 524 and onwards from that, there were incessant removals, so that even the native commentators say: "it was just like shifting a village, so superficial an affair was it." The accepted belles lettres style of saying "my country" is still the ancient _pi-yih_ or "unworthy village": the Empress of China once used this expression, even after the whole of China had been united, in order to reject politely the offer of marriage conveyed to her by a powerful Tartar king. The expression is particularly interesting, inasmuch as it recalls, as we have already pointed out, a time when the "country" of each feudal chief was simply his mud village and the few square miles of fields around it, which were naturally divided off from the next chief's territory by hills and streams. On the Burmo-Chinese frontier there are at this moment many Kakhyen "kings" of this kind, each of them ruling over his mountain or valley, and supreme in his own domain.
That there were walled cities in China is plain from the language used at durbars, which were always held "outside the walls." In the loess plains there could not have been any stone whatever for building purposes, and there is little, if any, specific mention of brick. Probably the walls were of adobe, i.e. of mud, beaten down between two rigid planks, removed higher as the wall dries below. This is the way most of the houses are still built in modern Peking, and perhaps also in most parts of China, at least where stone is not cheaper; the "barbarian" parts of China are still the best built; for instance, CH'ÊNg-tu in Sz Ch'wan, Canton in the south. Hankow is a comparatively poor place; Peking the dingiest of all. Chinkiang is a purely loess country.
At the time of the unification of China, during the middle of the third century B.C., the Ts'in armies found it necessary to flood Ta-liang or "Great Liang," the capital of Ngwei , corresponding to the modern K'ai-fêng Fu, the Jewish centre in Ho Nan province: the waters of the Yellow River were allowed to flood the country , the walls of which collapsed. It is evident that the ancient city walls could not have been such solid, brick-faced walls as we now see round Peking and Nanking, but simply mud ramparts.

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