Sunday, August 24, 2008

Ancient China Treaties And Vows

Treaties were always very solemn functions, invariably accompanied by the sacrifice of a victim. A part of the victim, or of its blood, was thrown into a ditch, in order that the Spirit of the Earth might bear witness to the deed; the rest of the blood was rubbed upon the lips of the parties concerned, and also scattered upon the documents, by way of imprecation; sometimes, however, the imprecations, instead of being uttered, were specially written at the end of the treaty. Just as we now say "the ink was scarcely dry before, etc., etc.," the Chinese used to say "the blood of the victim was scarcely dry on their lips, before, etc., etc." When the barbarian King of Wu succeeded for a short period in "durbaring" the federal Chinese princes, a dispute took place between Tsin and Wu as to who should rub the lips with blood first--in other words, have precedence. In the year 541 B.C., sixty years before the above event, Tsin and Ts'u had agreed to waive the ceremony of smearing the lips with blood, to choose a victim in common, and to lay the text of the treaty upon the victim after a solemn reading of its contents. This modification was evidently made in consequence of the disagreement between Tsin and Ts'u at the Peace Conference of 546, when a dispute had arisen , as to which should smear the lips first. This was the occasion on which the famous Tsin statesman, Shuh Hiang, in the face of seventeen states' representatives, all present, had the courage to ignore Ts'u's treachery in concealing cuirasses under the soldiers' clothes. He said: "Tsin holds her pre-eminent position as Protector by her innate good qualities, which will always command the adhesion of other states; why need we care if Ts'u smears first, or if she injures herself by being detected in treachery?" It has already been mentioned that Confucius glosses over or falsifies both the above cases, and gives the victory in each instance to Tsin. Though these little historical peccadilloes on the part of the saint homme are considered even by orthodox critics to be objectionable, it must be remembered that it was very risky work writing history at all in those despotic times: even in comparatively democratic days , the "father of Chinese history" was castrated for criticizing the reigning Emperor in the course of issuing his great work; and so late as the fifth century A.D. an almost equally great historian was put to death "with his three generations" for composing a "true history" of the Tartars then ruling as Emperors of North China; i.e. for disclosing their obscure and barbarous origin, Moreover, foreigners who fix upon these trifling specific and admitted discrepancies, in order to discredit the general truth of all Chinese history, must remember that the Chinese critics, from the very beginning, have always, even when manifestly biased, been careful to expose errors; the very discrepancies themselves, indeed, tend to prove the substantial truth of the events recorded; and the fact that admittedly erroneous texts still stand unaltered proves the reverent care of the Chinese as a nation to preserve their defective annals, with all faults, in their original condition.
At this treaty conference of 546 B.C., held at the Sung capital, the host alone had no vote, being held superior to all; and, further, out of respect for his independence, the treaty had to be signed outside his gates: the existence of the Emperor was totally ignored.
A generation before this another important treaty between the two great rivals, Tsin and Ts'u, had been signed by the high contracting parties outside the walls of Sung. The articles provided for community of interest in success or failure; mutual aid in every thing, more especially in war; free use of roads so long as relations remained peaceful; joint action in face of menace from other powers; punishment of those neglecting to come to court. The imprecation ran: "Of him who breaks this, let the armies be dispersed and the kingdom be lost; moreover, let the spirits chastise him." Although both orthodox powers professed their anxiety to "protect" the imperial throne, yet, seeing that the Emperor was quietly shelved in all these conventions, the reference to "court duty" probably refers to the duty of Cheng and the other small orthodox states to render homage to Tsin or Ts'u as settled by this and previous treaties. In fact, at the Peace Conference of 546, it was agreed between the two mesne lords that the vassals of Ts'u should pay their respects to Tsin, and vice versa. But, during the negotiations, a zealous Tsin representative went on to propose that the informal allies of the chief contracting powers should also be dragged in: "If Ts'in will pay us a visit, I will try and induce Ts'i to visit T'su." These two powers had ententes, Ts'i with Tsin, and Ts'u with Ts'in, but recognized no one's hegemony over them. It was this surprise sprung upon the Ts'u delegates that necessitated an express messenger to the king, as recounted at the end of

1 comment:

thorny said...

ssumseoPut more!