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A History of China by Wolfram Eberhard

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emperor of the second Han dynasty, also called the Later Han dynasty;
his name as emperor was Kuang-wu Ti (A.D. 25-57).

7 _Reaction and Restoration: the Later Han dynasty_

Within the country the period that followed was one of reaction and
restoration. The massacres of the preceding years had so reduced the
population that there was land enough for the peasants who remained
alive. Moreover, their lords and the moneylenders of the towns were
generally no longer alive, so that many peasants had become free of
debt. The government was transferred from Sian to Loyang, in the present
province of Honan. This brought the capital nearer to the great
wheat-producing regions, so that the transport of grain and other taxes
in kind to the capital was cheapened. Soon this cleared foundation was
covered by a new stratum, a very sparse one, of great landowners who
were supporters and members of the new imperial house, largely
descendants of the landowners of the earlier Han period. At first they
were not much in evidence, but they gained power more and more rapidly.
In spite of this, the first half-century of the Later Han period was one
of good conditions on the land and economic recovery.

8 _Hsiung-nu policy_

In foreign policy the first period of the Later Han dynasty was one of
extraordinary success, both in the extreme south and in the question of
the Hsiung-nu. During the period of Wang Mang's rule and the fighting
connected with it, there had been extensive migration to the south and
south-west. Considerable regions of Chinese settlement had come into
existence in Yuennan and even in Annam and Tongking, and a series of
campaigns under General Ma Yuan (14 B.C.-A.D. 49) now added these
regions to the territory of the empire. These wars were carried on with
relatively small forces, as previously in the Canton region, the natives
being unable to offer serious resistance owing to their inferiority in
equipment and civilization. The hot climate, however, to which the
Chinese soldiers were unused, was hard for them to endure.

The Hsiung-nu, in spite of internal difficulties, had regained
considerable influence in Turkestan during the reign of Wang Mang. But
the king of the city state of Yarkand had increased his power by
shrewdly playing off Chinese and Hsiung-nu against each other, so that
before long he was able to attack the Hsiung-nu. The small states in
Turkestan, however, regarded the overlordship of the distant China as
preferable to that of Yarkand or the Hsiung-nu both of whom, being
nearer, were able to bring their power more effectively into play.
Accordingly many of the small states appealed for Chinese aid. Kuang-wu
Ti met this appeal with a blank refusal, implying that order had only
just been restored in China and that he now simply had not the resources
for a campaign in Turkestan. Thus, the king of Yarkand was able to
extend his power over the remainder of the small states of Turkestan,
since the Hsiung-nu had been obliged to withdraw. Kuang-wu Ti had
several frontier wars with the Hsiung-nu without any decisive result.
But in the years around A.D. 45 the Hsiung-nu had suffered several
severe droughts and also great plagues of locusts, so that they had lost
a large part of their cattle. They were no longer able to assert
themselves in Turkestan and at the same time to fight the Chinese in the
south and the Hsien-pi and the Wu-huan in the east. These two peoples,
apparently largely of Mongol origin, had been subject in the past to
Hsiung-nu overlordship. They had spread steadily in the territories
bordering Manchuria and Mongolia, beyond the eastern frontier of the
Hsiung-nu empire. Living there in relative peace and at the same time in
possession of very fertile pasturage, these two peoples had grown in
strength. And since the great political collapse of 58 B.C. the
Hsiung-nu had not only lost their best pasturage in the north of the
provinces of Shensi and Shansi, but had largely grown used to living in
co-operation with the Chinese. They had become much more accustomed to
trade with China, exchanging animals for textiles and grain, than to
warfare, so that in the end they were defeated by the Hsien-pi and
Wu-huan, who had held to the older form of purely warlike nomad life.
Weakened by famine and by the wars against Wu-huan and Hsien-pi, the
Hsiung-nu split into two, one section withdrawing to the north.

The southern Hsiung-nu were compelled to submit to the Chinese in order
to gain security from their other enemies. Thus the Chinese were able to
gain a great success without moving a finger: the Hsiung-nu, who for
centuries had shown themselves again and again to be the most dangerous
enemies of China, were reduced to political insignificance. About a
hundred years earlier the Hsiung-nu empire had suffered defeat; now half
of what remained of it became part of the Chinese state. Its place was
taken by the Hsien-pi and Wu-huan, but at first they were of much less

In spite of the partition, the northern Hsiung-nu attempted in the years
between A.D. 60 and 70 to regain a sphere of influence in Turkestan;
this seemed the easier for them since the king of Yarkand had been
captured and murdered, and Turkestan was more or less in a state of
confusion. The Chinese did their utmost to play off the northern against
the southern Hsiung-nu and to maintain a political balance of power in
the west and north. So long as there were a number of small states in
Turkestan, of which at least some were friendly to China, Chinese trade
caravans suffered relatively little disturbance on their journeys.
Independent states in Turkestan had proved more profitable for trade
than when a large army of occupation had to be maintained there. When,
however, there appeared to be the danger of a new union of the two
parts of the Hsiung-nu as a restoration of a large empire also
comprising all Turkestan, the Chinese trading monopoly was endangered.
Any great power would secure the best goods for itself, and there would
be no good business remaining for China. For these reasons a great
Chinese campaign was undertaken against Turkestan in A.D. 73 under Tou
Ku. Mainly owing to the ability of the Chinese deputy commander Pan
Ch'ao, the whole of Turkestan was quickly conquered. Meanwhile the
emperor Ming Ti (A.D. 58-75) had died, and under the new emperor Chang
Ti (76-88) the "isolationist" party gained the upper hand against the
clique of Tou Ku and Pan Ch'ao: the danger of the restoration of a
Hsiung-nu empire, the isolationists contended, no longer existed;
Turkestan should be left to itself; the small states would favour trade
with China of their own accord. Meanwhile, a considerable part of
Turkestan had fallen away from China, for Chang Ti sent neither money
nor troops to hold the conquered territories. Pan Ch'ao nevertheless
remained in Turkestan (at Kashgar and Khotan) where he held on amid
countless difficulties. Although he reported (A.D. 78) that the troops
could feed themselves in Turkestan and needed neither supplies nor money
from home, no reinforcements of any importance were sent; only a few
hundred or perhaps a thousand men, mostly released criminals, reached
him. Not until A.D. 89 did the Pan Ch'ao clique return to power when the
mother of the young emperor Ho Ti (89-105) took over the government
during his minority: she was a member of the family of Tou Ku. She was
interested in bringing to a successful conclusion the enterprise which
had been started by members of her family and its followers. In
addition, it can be shown that a number of other members of the "war
party" had direct interests in the west, mainly in form of landed
estates. Accordingly, a campaign was started in 89 under her brother
against the northern Hsiung-nu, and it decided the fate of Turkestan in
China's favour. Turkestan remained firmly in Chinese possession until
the death of Pan Ch'ao in 102. Shortly afterwards heavy fighting broke
out again: the Tanguts advanced from the south in an attempt to cut off
Chinese access to Turkestan. The Chinese drove back the Tanguts and
maintained their hold on Turkestan, though no longer absolutely.

9 _Economic situation. Rebellion of the "Yellow Turbans". Collapse of
the Han dynasty_

The economic results of the Turkestan trade in this period were not so
unfavourable as in the earlier Han period. The army of occupation was
incomparably smaller, and under Pan Ch'ao's policy the soldiers were fed
and paid in Turkestan itself, so that the cost to China remained small.
Moreover, the drain on the national income was no longer serious
because, in the intervening period, regular Chinese settlements had been
planted in Turkestan including Chinese merchants, so that the trade no
longer remained entirely in the hands of foreigners.

In spite of the economic consolidation at the beginning of the Later Han
dynasty, and in spite of the more balanced trade, the political
situation within China steadily worsened from A.D. 80 onwards. Although
the class of great landowners was small, a number of cliques formed
within it, and their mutual struggle for power soon went beyond the
limits of court intrigue. New actors now came upon the stage, namely the
eunuchs. With the economic improvement there had been a general increase
in the luxury at the court of the Han emperors, and the court steadily
increased in size. The many hundred wives and concubines in the palace
made necessary a great army of eunuchs. As they had the ear of the
emperor and so could influence him, the eunuchs formed an important
political factor. For a time the main struggle was between the group of
eunuchs and the group of scholars. The eunuchs served a particular
clique to which some of the emperor's wives belonged. The scholars, that
is to say the ministers, together with members of the ministries and the
administrative staff, served the interests of another clique. The
struggles grew more and more sanguinary in the middle of the second
century A.D. It soon proved that the group with the firmest hold in the
provinces had the advantage, because it was not easy to control the
provinces from a distance. The result was that, from about A.D. 150,
events at court steadily lost importance, the lead being taken by the
generals commanding the provincial troops. It would carry us too far to
give the details of all these struggles. The provincial generals were at
first Ts'ao Ts'ao, Lue Pu, Yuean Shao, and Sun Ts'e; later came Liu Pei.
All were striving to gain control of the government, and all were
engaged in mutual hostilities from about 180 onwards. Each general was
also trying to get the emperor into his hands. Several times the last
emperor of the Later Han dynasty, Hsien Ti (190-220), was captured by
one or another of the generals. As the successful general was usually
unable to maintain his hold on the capital, he dragged the poor emperor
with him from place to place until he finally had to give him up to
another general. The point of this chase after the emperor was that
according to the idea introduced earlier by Wang Mang the first ruler of
a new dynasty had to receive the imperial seals from the last emperor
of the previous dynasty. The last emperor must abdicate in proper form.
Accordingly, each general had to get possession of the emperor to begin
with, in order at the proper time to take over the seals.

By about A.D. 200 the new conditions had more or less crystallized.
There remained only three great parties. The most powerful was that of
Ts'ao Ts'ao, who controlled the north and was able to keep permanent
hold of the emperor. In the west, in the province of Szechwan, Liu Pei
had established himself, and in the south-east Sun Ts'e's brother.

But we must not limit our view to these generals' struggles. At this
time there were two other series of events of equal importance with
those. The incessant struggles of the cliques against each other
continued at the expense of the people, who had to fight them and pay
for them. Thus, after A.D. 150 the distress of the country population
grew beyond all limits. Conditions were as disastrous as in the time of
Wang Mang. And once more, as then, a popular movement broke out, that of
the so-called "Yellow Turbans". This was the first of the two important
events. This popular movement had a characteristic which from now on
became typical of all these risings of the people. The intellectual
leaders of the movement, Chang Ling and others, were members of a
particular religious sect. This sect was influenced by Iranian Mazdaism
on the one side and by certain ideas from Lao Tz[)u] on the other side;
and these influences were superimposed on popular rural as well as,
perhaps, local tribal religious beliefs and superstitions. The sect had
roots along the coastal settlements of Eastern China, where it seems to
have gained the support of the peasantry and their local priests. These
priests of the people were opposed to the representatives of the
official religion, that is to say the officials drawn from the gentry.
In small towns and villages the temples of the gods of the fruits of the
field, of the soil, and so on, were administered by authorized local
officials, and these officials also carried out the prescribed
sacrifices. The old temples of the people were either done away with (we
have many edicts of the Han period concerning the abolition of popular
forms of religious worship), or their worship was converted into an
official cult: the all-powerful gentry extended their domination over
religion as well as all else. But the peasants regarded their local
unauthorized priests as their natural leaders against the gentry and
against gentry forms of religion. One branch, probably the main branch
of this movement, developed a stronghold in Eastern Szechwan province,
where its members succeeded to create a state of their own which
retained its independence for a while. It is the only group which
developed real religious communities in which men and women
participated, extensive welfare schemes existed and class differences
were discouraged. It had a real church organization with dioceses,
communal friendship meals and a confession ritual; in short, real piety
developed as it could not develop in the official religions. After the
annihilation of this state, remnants of the organization can be traced
through several centuries, mainly in central and south China. It may
well be that the many "Taoistic" traits which can be found in the
religions of late and present-day Mongolian and Tibetan tribes, can be
derived from this movement of the Yellow Turbans.

The rising of the Yellow Turbans began in 184; all parties, cliques and
generals alike, were equally afraid of the revolutionaries, since these
were a threat to the gentry as such, and so to all parties. Consequently
a combined army of considerable size was got together and sent against
the rebels. The Yellow Turbans were beaten.

During these struggles it became evident that Ts'ao Ts'ao with his
troops had become the strongest of all the generals. His troops seem to
have consisted not of Chinese soldiers alone, but also of Hsiung-nu. It
is understandable that the annals say nothing about this, and it can
only be inferred from the facts. It appears that in order to reinforce
their armies the generals recruited not only Chinese but foreigners. The
generals operating in the region of the present-day Peking had soldiers
of the Wu-huan and Hsien-pi, and even of the Ting-ling; Liu Pei, in the
west, made use of Tanguts, and Ts'ao Ts'ao clearly went farthest of all
in this direction; he seems to have been responsible for settling
nineteen tribes of Hsiung-nu in the Chinese province of Shansi between
180 and 200, in return for their armed aid. In this way Ts'ao Ts'ao
gained permanent power in the empire by means of these troops, so that
immediately after his death his son Ts'ao P'ei, with the support of
powerful allied families, was able to force the emperor to abdicate and
to found a new dynasty, the Wei dynasty (A.D. 220).

This meant, however, that a part of China which for several centuries
had been Chinese was given up to the Hsiung-nu. This was not, of course,
what Ts'ao Ts'ao had intended; he had given the Hsiung-nu some area of
pasturage in Shansi with the idea that they should be controlled and
administered by the officials of the surrounding district. His plan had
been similar to what the Chinese had often done with success: aliens
were admitted into the territory of the empire in a body, but then the
influence of the surrounding administrative centres was steadily
extended over them, until the immigrants completely lost their own
nationality and became Chinese. The nineteen tribes of Hsiung-nu,
however, were much too numerous, and after the prolonged struggles in
China the provincial administration proved much too weak to be able to
carry out the plan. Thus there came into existence here, within China, a
small Hsiung-nu realm ruled by several _shan-yue_. This was the second
major development, and it became of the utmost importance to the history
of the next four centuries.

10 _Literature and Art_

With the development of the new class of the gentry in the Han period,
there was an increase in the number of those who were anxious to
participate in what had been in the past an exclusively aristocratic
possession--education. Thus it is by no mere chance that in this period
many encyclopaedias were compiled. Encyclopaedias convey knowledge in an
easily grasped and easily found form. The first compilation of this sort
dates from the third century B.C. It was the work of Lue Pu wei, the
merchant who was prime minister and regent during the minority of Shih
Huang-ti. It contains general information concerning ceremonies,
customs, historic events, and other things the knowledge of which was
part of a general education. Soon afterwards other encyclopaedias
appeared, of which the best known is the Book of the Mountains and Seas
(_Shan Hai Ching_). This book, arranged according to regions of the
world, contains everything known at the time about geography, natural
philosophy, and the animal and plant world, and also about popular
myths. This tendency to systemization is shown also in the historical
works. The famous _Shih Chi_, one of our main sources for Chinese
history, is the first historical work of the modern type, that is to
say, built up on a definite plan, and it was also the model for all
later official historiography. Its author, Ss[)u]-ma Ch'ien (born 135
B.C.), and his father, made use of the material in the state archives
and of private documents, old historical and philosophical books,
inscriptions, and the results of their own travels. The philosophical
and historical books of earlier times (with the exception of those of
the nature of chronicles) consisted merely of a few dicta or reports of
particular events, but the _Shih Chi_ is a compendium of a mass of
source-material. The documents were abbreviated, but the text of the
extracts was altered as little as possible, so that the general result
retains in a sense the value of an original source. In its arrangement
the _Shih Chi_ became a model for all later historians: the first part
is in the form of annals, and there follow tables concerning the
occupants of official posts and fiefs, and then biographies of various
important personalities, though the type of the comprehensive biography
did not appear till later. The _Shih Chi_ also, like later historical
works, contains many monographs dealing with particular fields of
knowledge, such as astronomy, the calendar, music, economics, official
dress at court, and much else. The whole type of construction differs
fundamentally from such works as those of Thucydides or Herodotus. The
Chinese historical works have the advantage that the section of annals
gives at once the events of a particular year, the monographs describe
the development of a particular field of knowledge, and the biographical
section offers information concerning particular personalities. The
mental attitude is that of the gentry: shortly after the time of
Ss[)u]-ma Ch'ien an historical department was founded, in which members
of the gentry worked as historians upon the documents prepared by
representatives of the gentry in the various government offices.

In addition to encyclopaedias and historical works, many books of
philosophy were written in the Han period, but most of them offer no
fundamentally new ideas. They were the product of the leisure of rich
members of the gentry, and only three of them are of importance. One is
the work of Tung Chung-shu, already mentioned. The second is a book by
Liu An called _Huai-nan Tz[)u]_. Prince Liu An occupied himself with
Taoism and allied problems, gathered around him scholars of different
schools, and carried on discussions with them. Many of his writings are
lost, but enough is extant to show that he was one of the earliest
Chinese alchemists. The question has not yet been settled, but it is
probable that alchemy first appeared in China, together with the cult of
the "art" of prolonging life, and was later carried to the West, where
it flourished among the Arabs and in medieval Europe.

The third important book of the Han period was the _Lun Heng_ (Critique
of Opinions) of Wang Ch'ung, which appeared in the first century of the
Christian era. Wang Ch'ung advocated rational thinking and tried to pave
the way for a free natural science, in continuation of the beginnings
which the natural philosophers of the later Chou period had made. The
book analyses reports in ancient literature and customs of daily life,
and shows how much they were influenced by superstition and by ignorance
of the facts of nature. From this attitude a modern science might have
developed, as in Europe towards the end of the Middle Ages; but the
gentry had every reason to play down this tendency which, with its
criticism of all that was traditional, might have proceeded to an attack
on the dominance of the gentry and their oppression especially of the
merchants and artisans. It is fascinating to observe how it was the
needs of the merchants and seafarers of Asia Minor and Greece that
provided the stimulus for the growth of the classic sciences, and how on
the contrary the growth of Chinese science was stifled because the
gentry were so strongly hostile to commerce and navigation, though both
had always existed.

There were great literary innovations in the field of poetry. The
splendour and elegance at the new imperial court of the Han dynasty
attracted many poets who sang the praises of the emperor and his court
and were given official posts and dignities. These praises were in the
form of grandiloquent, overloaded poetry, full of strange similes and
allusions, but with little real feeling. In contrast, the many women
singers and dancers at the court, mostly slaves from southern China,
introduced at the court southern Chinese forms of song and poem, which
were soon adopted and elaborated by poets. Poems and dance songs were
composed which belonged to the finest that Chinese poetry can show--full
of natural feeling, simple in language, moving in content.

Our knowledge of the arts is drawn from two sources--literature, and the
actual discoveries in the excavations. Thus we know that most of the
painting was done on silk, of which plenty came into the market through
the control of silk-producing southern China. Paper had meanwhile been
invented in the second century B.C., by perfecting the techniques of
making bark-cloth and felt. Unfortunately nothing remains of the actual
works that were the first examples of what the Chinese everywhere were
beginning to call "art". "People", that is to say the gentry, painted as
a social pastime, just as they assembled together for poetry,
discussion, or performances of song and dance; they painted as an
aesthetic pleasure and rarely as a means of earning. We find philosophic
ideas or greetings, emotions, and experiences represented by
paintings--paintings with fanciful or ideal landscapes; paintings
representing life and environment of the cultured class in idealized
form, never naturalistic either in fact or in intention. Until recently
it was an indispensable condition in the Chinese view that an artist
must be "cultured" and be a member of the gentry--distinguished,
unoccupied, wealthy. A man who was paid for his work, for instance for a
portrait for the ancestral cult, was until late time regarded as a
craftsman, not as an artist. Yet, these "craftsmen" have produced in Han
time and even earlier, many works which, in our view, undoubtedly belong
to the realm of art. In the tombs have been found reliefs whose
technique is generally intermediate between simple outline engraving and
intaglio. The lining-in is most frequently executed in scratched lines.
The representations, mostly in strips placed one above another, are of
lively historical scenes, scenes from the life of the dead, great ritual
ceremonies, or adventurous scenes from mythology. Bronze vessels have
representations in inlaid gold and silver, mostly of animals. The most
important documents of the painting of the Han period have also been
found in tombs. We see especially ladies and gentlemen of society, with
richly ornamented, elegant, expensive clothing that is very reminiscent
of the clothing customary to this day in Japan. There are also artistic
representations of human figures on lacquer caskets. While sculpture was
not strongly developed, the architecture of the Han must have been
magnificent and technically highly complex. Sculpture and temple
architecture received a great stimulus with the spread of Buddhism in
China. According to our present knowledge, Buddhism entered China from
the south coast and through Central Asia at latest in the first century
B.C.; it came with foreign merchants from India or Central Asia.
According to Indian customs, Brahmans, the Hindu caste providing all
Hindu priests, could not leave their homes. As merchants on their trips
which lasted often several years, did not want to go without religious
services, they turned to Buddhist priests as well as to priests of Near
Eastern religions. These priests were not prevented from travelling and
used this opportunity for missionary purposes. Thus, for a long time
after the first arrival of Buddhists, the Buddhist priests in China were
foreigners who served foreign merchant colonies. The depressed
conditions of the people in the second century A.D. drove members of the
lower classes into their arms, while the parts of Indian science which
these priests brought with them from India aroused some interest in
certain educated circles. Buddhism, therefore, undeniably exercised an
influence at the end of the Han dynasty, although no Chinese were
priests and few, if any, gentry members were adherents of the religious

With the end of the Han period a further epoch of Chinese history comes
to its close. The Han period was that of the final completion and
consolidation of the social order of the gentry. The period that
followed was that of the conflicts of the Chinese with the populations
on their northern borders.

Chapter Seven


(A) The three kingdoms (220-265)

1 _Social, intellectual, and economic problems during the first

The end of the Han period was followed by the three and a half centuries
of the first division of China into several kingdoms, each with its own
dynasty. In fact, once before during the period of the Contending
States, China had been divided into a number of states, but at least in
theory they had been subject to the Chou dynasty, and none of the
contending states had made the claim to be the legitimate ruler of all
China. In this period of the "first division" several states claimed to
be legitimate rulers, and later Chinese historians tried to decide which
of these had "more right" to this claim. At the outset (220-280) there
were three kingdoms (Wei, Wu, Shu Han); then came an unstable reunion
during twenty-seven years (280-307) under the rule of the Western Chin.
This was followed by a still sharper division between north and south:
while a wave of non-Chinese nomad dynasties poured over the north, in
the south one Chinese clique after another seized power, so that dynasty
followed dynasty until finally, in 580, a united China came again into
existence, adopting the culture of the north and the traditions of the

In some ways, the period from 220 to 580 can be compared with the period
of the coincidentally synchronous breakdown of the Roman Empire: in both
cases there was no great increase in population, although in China
perhaps no over-all decrease in population as in the Roman Empire;
decrease occurred, however, in the population of the great Chinese
cities, especially of the capital; furthermore we witness, in both
empires, a disorganization of the monetary system, i.e. in China the
reversal to a predominance of natural economy after some 400 years of
money economy. Yet, this period cannot be simply dismissed as a
transition period, as was usually done by the older European works on
China. The social order of the gentry, whose birth and development
inside China we followed, had for the first time to defend itself
against views and systems entirely opposed to it; for the Turkish and
Mongol peoples who ruled northern China brought with them their
traditions of a feudal nobility with privileges of birth and all that
they implied. Thus this period, socially regarded, is especially that of
the struggle between the Chinese gentry and the northern nobility, the
gentry being excluded at first as a direct political factor in the
northern and more important part of China. In the south the gentry
continued in the old style with a constant struggle between cliques, the
only difference being that the class assumed a sort of "colonial"
character through the formation of gigantic estates and through
association with the merchant class.

To throw light on the scale of events, we need to have figures of
population. There are no figures for the years around A.D. 220, and we
must make do with those of 140; but in order to show the relative
strength of the three states it is the ratio between the figures that
matters. In 140 the regions which later belonged to Wei had roughly
29,000,000 inhabitants; those later belonging to Wu had 11,700,000;
those which belonged later to Shu Han had a bare 7,500,000. (The figures
take no account of the primitive native population, which was not yet
included in the taxation lists.) The Hsiung-nu formed only a small part
of the population, as there were only the nineteen tribes which had
abandoned one of the parts, already reduced, of the Hsiung-nu empire.
The whole Hsiung-nu empire may never have counted more than some
3,000,000. At the time when the population of what became the Wei
territory totalled 29,000,000 the capital with its immediate environment
had over a million inhabitants. The figure is exclusive of most of the
officials and soldiers, as these were taxable in their homes and so were
counted there. It is clear that this was a disproportionate
concentration round the capital.

It was at this time that both South and North China felt the influence
of Buddhism, which until A.D. 220 had no more real effect on China than
had, for instance, the penetration of European civilization between 1580
and 1842. Buddhism offered new notions, new ideals, foreign science, and
many other elements of culture, with which the old Chinese philosophy
and science had to contend. At the same time there came with Buddhism
the first direct knowledge of the great civilized countries west of
China. Until then China had regarded herself as the only existing
civilized country, and all other countries had been regarded as
barbaric, for a civilized country was then taken to mean a country with
urban industrial crafts and agriculture. In our present period, however,
China's relations with the Middle East and with southern Asia were so
close that the existence of civilized countries outside China had to be
admitted. Consequently, when alien dynasties ruled in northern China and
a new high civilization came into existence there, it was impossible to
speak of its rulers as barbarians any longer. Even the theory that the
Chinese emperor was the Son of Heaven and enthroned at the centre of the
world was no longer tenable. Thus a vast widening of China's
intellectual horizon took place.

Economically, our present period witnessed an adjustment in South China
between the Chinese way of life, which had penetrated from the north,
and that of the natives of the south. Large groups of Chinese had to
turn over from wheat culture in dry fields to rice culture in wet
fields, and from field culture to market gardening. In North China the
conflict went on between Chinese agriculture and the cattle breeding of
Central Asia. Was the will of the ruler to prevail and North China to
become a country of pasturage, or was the country to keep to the
agrarian tradition of the people under this rule? The Turkish and Mongol
conquerors had recently given up their old supplementary agriculture and
had turned into pure nomads, obtaining the agricultural produce they
needed by raiding or trade. The conquerors of North China were now faced
with a different question: if they were to remain nomads, they must
either drive the peasants into the south, or make them into slave
herdsmen, or exterminate them. There was one more possibility: they
might install themselves as a ruling upper class, as nobles over the
subjugated native peasants. The same question was faced much later by
the Mongols, and at first they answered it differently from the peoples
of our present period. Only by attention to this problem shall we be in
a position to explain why the rule of the Turkish peoples did not last,
why these peoples were gradually absorbed and disappeared.

2 _Status of the two southern Kingdoms_

When the last emperor of the Han period had to abdicate in favour of
Ts'ao P'ei and the Wei dynasty began, China was in no way a unified
realm. Almost immediately, in 221, two other army commanders, who had
long been independent, declared themselves emperors. In the south-west
of China, in the present province of Szechwan, the Shu Han dynasty was
founded in this way, and in the south-east, in the region of the present
Nanking, the Wu dynasty.

The situation of the southern kingdom of Shu Han (221-263) corresponded
more or less to that of the Chungking regime in the Second World War.
West of it the high Tibetan mountains towered up; there was very little
reason to fear any major attack from that direction. In the north and
east the realm was also protected by difficult mountain country. The
south lay relatively open, but at that time there were few Chinese
living there, but only natives with a relatively low civilization. The
kingdom could only be seriously attacked from two corners--through the
north-west, where there was a negotiable plateau, between the Ch'in-ling
mountains in the north and the Tibetan mountains in the west, a plateau
inhabited by fairly highly developed Tibetan tribes; and secondly
through the south-east corner, where it would be possible to penetrate
up the Yangtze. There was in fact incessant fighting at both these
dangerous corners.

Economically, Shu Han was not in a bad position. The country had long
been part of the Chinese wheat lands, and had a fairly large Chinese
peasant population in the well irrigated plain of Ch'engtu. There was
also a wealthy merchant class, supplying grain to the surrounding
mountain peoples and buying medicaments and other profitable Tibetan
products. And there were trade routes from here through the present
province of Yuennan to India.

Shu Han's difficulty was that its population was not large enough to be
able to stand against the northern State of Wei; moreover, it was
difficult to carry out an offensive from Shu Han, though the country
could defend itself well. The first attempt to find a remedy was a
campaign against the native tribes of the present Yuennan. The purpose of
this was to secure manpower for the army and also slaves for sale; for
the south-west had for centuries been a main source for traffic in
slaves. Finally it was hoped to gain control over the trade to India.
All these things were intended to strengthen Shu Han internally, but in
spite of certain military successes they produced no practical result,
as the Chinese were unable in the long run to endure the climate or to
hold out against the guerrilla tactics of the natives. Shu Han tried to
buy the assistance of the Tibetans and with their aid to carry out a
decisive attack on Wei, whose dynastic legitimacy was not recognized by
Shu Han. The ruler of Shu Han claimed to be a member of the imperial
family of the deposed Han dynasty, and therefore to be the rightful,
legitimate ruler over China. His descent, however, was a little
doubtful, and in any case it depended on a link far back in the past.
Against this the Wei of the north declared that the last ruler of the
Han dynasty had handed over to them with all due form the seals of the
state and therewith the imperial prerogative. The controversy was of no
great practical importance, but it played a big part in the Chinese
Confucianist school until the twelfth century, and contributed largely
to a revision of the old conceptions of legitimacy.

The political plans of Shu Han were well considered and far-seeing. They
were evolved by the premier, a man from Shantung named Chu-ko Liang; for
the ruler died in 226 and his successor was still a child. But Chu-ko
Liang lived only for a further eight years, and after his death in 234
the decline of Shu Han began. Its political leaders no longer had a
sense of what was possible. Thus Wei inflicted several defeats on Shu
Han, and finally subjugated it in 263.

The situation of the state of Wu was much less favourable than that of
Shu Han, though this second southern kingdom lasted from 221 to 280. Its
country consisted of marshy, water-logged plains, or mountains with
narrow valleys. Here Tai peoples had long cultivated their rice, while
in the mountains Yao tribes lived by hunting and by simple agriculture.
Peasants immigrating from the north found that their wheat and pulse did
not thrive here, and slowly they had to gain familiarity with rice
cultivation. They were also compelled to give up their sheep and cattle
and in their place to breed pigs and water buffaloes, as was done by the
former inhabitants of the country. The lower class of the population was
mainly non-Chinese; above it was an upper class of Chinese, at first
relatively small, consisting of officials, soldiers, and merchants in a
few towns and administrative centres. The country was poor, and its only
important economic asset was the trade in metals, timber, and other
southern products; soon there came also a growing overseas trade with
India and the Middle East, bringing revenues to the state in so far as
the goods were re-exported from Wu to the north.

Wu never attempted to conquer the whole of China, but endeavoured to
consolidate its own difficult territory with a view to building up a
state on a firm foundation. In general, Wu played mainly a passive part
in the incessant struggles between the three kingdoms, though it was
active in diplomacy. The Wu kingdom entered into relations with a man
who in 232 had gained control of the present South Manchuria and shortly
afterwards assumed the title of king. This new ruler of "Yen", as he
called his kingdom, had determined to attack the Wei dynasty, and hoped,
by putting pressure on it in association with Wu, to overrun Wei from
north and south. Wei answered this plan very effectively by recourse to
diplomacy and it began by making Wu believe that Wu had reason to fear
an attack from its western neighbour Shu Han. A mission was also
dispatched from Wei to negotiate with Japan. Japan was then emerging
from its stone age and introducing metals; there were countless small
principalities and states, of which the state of Yamato, then ruled by a
queen, was the most powerful. Yamato had certain interests in Korea,
where it already ruled a small coastal strip in the east. Wei offered
Yamato the prospect of gaining the whole of Korea if it would turn
against the state of Yen in South Manchuria. Wu, too, had turned to
Japan, but the negotiations came to nothing, since Wu, as an ally of
Yen, had nothing to offer. The queen of Yamato accordingly sent a
mission to Wei; she had already decided in favour of that state. Thus
Wei was able to embark on war against Yen, which it annihilated in 237.
This wrecked Wu's diplomatic projects, and no more was heard of any
ambitious plans of the kingdom of Wu.

The two southern states had a common characteristic: both were
condottiere states, not built up from their own population but conquered
by generals from the north and ruled for a time by those generals and
their northern troops. Natives gradually entered these northern armies
and reduced their percentage of northerners, but a gulf remained between
the native population, including its gentry, and the alien military
rulers. This reduced the striking power of the southern states.

On the other hand, this period had its positive element. For the first
time there was an emperor in south China, with all the organization that
implied. A capital full of officials, eunuchs, and all the satellites of
an imperial court provided incentives to economic advance, because it
represented a huge market. The peasants around it were able to increase
their sales and grew prosperous. The increased demand resulted in an
increase of tillage and a thriving trade. Soon the transport problem had
to be faced, as had happened long ago in the north, and new means of
transport, especially ships, were provided, and new trade routes opened
which were to last far longer than the three kingdoms; on the other
hand, the costs of transport involved fresh taxation burdens for the
population. The skilled staff needed for the business of administration
came into the new capital from the surrounding districts, for the
conquerors and new rulers of the territory of the two southern dynasties
had brought with them from the north only uneducated soldiers and
almost equally uneducated officers. The influx of scholars and
administrators into the chief cities produced cultural and economic
centres in the south, a circumstance of great importance to China's
later development.

3 _The northern State of Wei_

The situation in the north, in the state of Wei (220-265) was anything
but rosy. Wei ruled what at that time were the most important and
richest regions of China, the plain of Shensi in the west and the great
plain east of Loyang, the two most thickly populated areas of China. But
the events at the end of the Han period had inflicted great economic
injury on the country. The southern and south-western parts of the Han
empire had been lost, and though parts of Central Asia still gave
allegiance to Wei, these, as in the past, were economically more of a
burden than an asset, because they called for incessant expenditure. At
least the trade caravans were able to travel undisturbed from and to
China through Turkestan. Moreover, the Wei kingdom, although much
smaller than the empire of the Han, maintained a completely staffed
court at great expense, because the rulers, claiming to rule the whole
of China, felt bound to display more magnificence than the rulers of the
southern dynasties. They had also to reward the nineteen tribes of the
Hsiung-nu in the north for their military aid, not only with cessions of
land but with payments of money. Finally, they would not disarm but
maintained great armies for the continual fighting against the southern
states. The Wei dynasty did not succeed, however, in closely
subordinating the various army commanders to the central government.
Thus the commanders, in collusion with groups of the gentry, were able
to enrich themselves and to secure regional power. The inadequate
strength of the central government of Wei was further undermined by the
rivalries among the dominant gentry. The imperial family (Ts'ao Pei, who
reigned from 220 to 226, had taken as emperor the name of Wen Ti) was
descended from one of the groups of great landowners that had formed in
the later Han period. The nucleus of that group was a family named
Ts'ui, of which there is mention from the Han period onward and which
maintained its power down to the tenth century; but it remained in the
background and at first held entirely aloof from direct intervention in
high policy. Another family belonging to this group was the Hsia-hou
family which was closely united to the family of Wen Ti by adoption; and
very soon there was also the Ss[)u]-ma family. Quite naturally Wen Ti,
as soon as he came into power, made provision for the members of these
powerful families, for only thanks to their support had he been able to
ascend the throne and to maintain his hold on the throne. Thus we find
many members of the Hsia-hou and Ss[)u]-ma families in government
positions. The Ss[)u]-ma family especially showed great activity, and at
the end of Wen Ti's reign their power had so grown that a certain
Ss[)u]-ma I was in control of the government, while the new emperor Ming
Ti (227-233) was completely powerless. This virtually sealed the fate of
the Wei dynasty, so far as the dynastic family was concerned. The next
emperor was installed and deposed by the Ss[)u]-ma family; dissensions
arose within the ruling family, leading to members of the family
assassinating one another. In 264 a member of the Ss[)u]-ma family
declared himself king; when he died and was succeeded by his son
Ss[)u]-ma Yen, the latter, in 265, staged a formal act of renunciation
of the throne of the Wei dynasty and made himself the first ruler of the
new Chin dynasty. There is nothing to gain by detailing all the
intrigues that led up to this event: they all took place in the
immediate environment of the court and in no way affected the people,
except that every item of expenditure, including all the bribery, had to
come out of the taxes paid by the people.

With such a situation at court, with the bad economic situation in the
country, and with the continual fighting against the two southern
states, there could be no question of any far-reaching foreign policy.
Parts of eastern Turkestan still showed some measure of allegiance to
Wei, but only because at the time it had no stronger opponent. The
Hsiung-nu beyond the frontier were suffering from a period of depression
which was at the same time a period of reconstruction. They were
beginning slowly to form together with Mongol elements a new unit, the
Juan-juan, but at this time were still politically inactive. The
nineteen tribes within north China held more and more closely together
as militarily organized nomads, but did not yet represent a military
power and remained loyal to the Wei. The only important element of
trouble seems to have been furnished by the Hsien-pi tribes, who had
joined with Wu-huan tribes and apparently also with vestiges of the
Hsiung-nu in eastern Mongolia, and who made numerous raids over the
frontier into the Wei empire. The state of Yen, in southern Manchuria,
had already been destroyed by Wei in 238 thanks to Wei's good relations
with Japan. Loose diplomatic relations were maintained with Japan in the
period that followed; in that period many elements of Chinese
civilization found their way into Japan and there, together with
settlers from many parts of China, helped to transform the culture of
ancient Japan.

(B) The Western Chin dynasty (A.D. 265-317)

1 _Internal situation in the Chin empire_

The change of dynasty in the state of Wei did not bring any turn in
China's internal history. Ss[)u]-ma Yen, who as emperor was called Wu Ti
(265-289), had come to the throne with the aid of his clique and his
extraordinarily large and widely ramified family. To these he had to
give offices as reward. There began at court once more the same
spectacle as in the past, except that princes of the new imperial family
now played a greater part than under the Wei dynasty, whose ruling house
had consisted of a small family. It was now customary, in spite of the
abolition of the feudal system, for the imperial princes to receive
large regions to administer, the fiscal revenues of which represented
their income. The princes were not, however, to exercise full authority
in the style of the former feudal lords: their courts were full of
imperial control officials. In the event of war it was their duty to
come forward, like other governors, with an army in support of the
central government. The various Chin princes succeeded, however, in
making other governors, beyond the frontiers of their regions, dependent
on them. Also, they collected armies of their own independently of the
central government and used those armies to pursue personal policies.
The members of the families allied with the ruling house, for their
part, did all they could to extend their own power. Thus the first ruler
of the dynasty was tossed to and fro between the conflicting interests
and was himself powerless. But though intrigue was piled on intrigue,
the ruler who, of course, himself had come to the head of the state by
means of intrigues, was more watchful than the rulers of the Wei dynasty
had been, and by shrewd counter-measures he repeatedly succeeded in
playing off one party against another, so that the dynasty remained in
power. Numerous widespread and furious risings nevertheless took place,
usually led by princes. Thus during this period the history of the
dynasty was of an extraordinarily dismal character.

In spite of this, the Chin troops succeeded in overthrowing the second
southern state, that of Wu (A.D. 280), and in so restoring the unity of
the empire, the Shu Han realm having been already conquered by the Wei.
After the destruction of Wu there remained no external enemy that
represented a potential danger, so that a general disarmament was
decreed (280) in order to restore a healthy economic and financial
situation. This disarmament applied, of course, to the troops directly
under the orders of the dynasty, namely the troops of the court and the
capital and the imperial troops in the provinces. Disarmament could
not, however, be carried out in the princes' regions, as the princes
declared that they needed personal guards. The dismissal of the troops
was accompanied by a decree ordering the surrender of arms. It may be
assumed that the government proposed to mint money with the metal of the
weapons surrendered, for coin (the old coin of the Wei dynasty) had
become very scarce; as we indicated previously, money had largely been
replaced by goods so that, for instance, grain and silks were used for
the payment of salaries. China, from _c_. 200 A.D. on until the eighth
century, remained in a period of such partial "natural economy".

Naturally the decree for the surrender of weapons remained a
dead-letter. The discharged soldiers kept their weapons at first and
then preferred to sell them. A large part of them was acquired by the
Hsiung-nu and the Hsien-pi in the north of China; apparently they
usually gave up land in return. In this way many Chinese soldiers,
though not all by any means, went as peasants to the regions in the
north of China and beyond the frontier. They were glad to do so, for the
Hsiung-nu and the Hsien-pi had not the efficient administration and
rigid tax collection of the Chinese; and above all, they had no great
landowners who could have organized the collection of taxes. For their
part, the Hsiung-nu and the Hsien-pi had no reason to regret this
immigration of peasants, who could provide them with the farm produce
they needed. And at the same time they were receiving from them large
quantities of the most modern weapons.

This ineffective disarmament was undoubtedly the most pregnant event of
the period of the western Chin dynasty. The measure was intended to save
the cost of maintaining the soldiers and to bring them back to the land
as peasants (and taxpayers); but the discharged men were not given land
by the government. The disarmament achieved nothing, not even the
desired increase in the money in circulation; what did happen was that
the central government lost all practical power, while the military
strength both of the dangerous princes within the country and also of
the frontier people was increased. The results of these mistaken
measures became evident at once and compelled the government to arm

2 _Effect on the frontier peoples_

Four groups of frontier peoples drew more or less advantage from the
demobilization law--the people of the Toba, the Tibetans, and the
Hsien-pi in the north, and the nineteen tribes of the Hsiung-nu within
the frontiers of the empire. In the course of time all sorts of
complicated relations developed among those ascending peoples as well
as between them and the Chinese.

The Toba (T'o-pa) formed a small group in the north of the present
province of Shansi, north of the city of Tat'ungfu, and they were about
to develop their small state. They were primarily of Turkish origin, but
had absorbed many tribes of the older Hsiung-nu and the Hsien-pi. In
considering the ethnical relationships of all these northern peoples we
must rid ourselves of our present-day notions of national unity. Among
the Toba there were many Turkish tribes, but also Mongols, and probably
a Tungus tribe, as well as perhaps others whom we cannot yet analyse.
These tribes may even have spoken different languages, much as later not
only Mongol but also Turkish was spoken in the Mongol empire. The
political units they formed were tribal unions, not national states.

Such a union or federation can be conceived of, structurally, as a cone.
At the top point of the cone there was the person of the ruler of the
federation. He was a member of the leading family or clan of the leading
tribe (the two top layers of the cone). If we speak of the Toba as of
Turkish stock, we mean that according to our present knowledge, this
leading tribe (_a_) spoke a language belonging to the Turkish language
family and (_b_) exhibited a pattern of culture which belonged to the
type called above in Chapter One as "North-western Culture". The next
layer of the cone represented the "inner circle of tribes", i.e. such
tribes as had joined with the leading tribe at an early moment. The
leading family of the leading tribe often took their wives from the
leading families of the "inner tribes", and these leaders served as
advisors and councillors to the leader of the federation. The next lower
layer consisted of the "outer tribes", i.e. tribes which had joined the
federation only later, often under strong pressure; their number was
always much larger than the number of the "inner tribes", but their
political influence was much weaker. Every layer below that of the
"outer tribes" was regarded as inferior and more or less "unfree". There
was many a tribe which, as a tribe, had to serve a free tribe; and there
were others who, as tribes, had to serve the whole federation. In
addition, there were individuals who had quit or had been forced to quit
their tribe or their home and had joined the federation leader as his
personal "bondsmen"; further, there were individual slaves and, finally,
there were the large masses of agriculturists who had been conquered by
the federation. When such a federation was dissolved, by defeat or inner
dissent, individual tribes or groups of tribes could join a new
federation or could resume independent life.

Typically, such federations exhibited two tendencies. In the case of
the Hsiung-nu we indicated already previously that the leader of the
federation repeatedly attempted to build up a kind of bureaucratic
system, using his bondsmen as a nucleus. A second tendency was to
replace the original tribal leaders by members of the family of the
federation leader. If this initial step, usually first taken when "outer
tribes" were incorporated, was successful, a reorganization was
attempted: instead of using tribal units in war, military units on the
basis of "Groups of Hundred", "Groups of Thousand", etc., were created
and the original tribes were dissolved into military regiments. In the
course of time, and especially at the time of the dissolution of a
federation, these military units had gained social coherence and
appeared to be tribes again; we are probably correct in assuming that
all "tribes" which we find from this time on were already "secondary"
tribes of this type. A secondary tribe often took its name from its
leader, but it could also revive an earlier "primary tribe" name.

The Toba represented a good example for this "cone" structure of
pastoral society. Also the Hsiung-nu of this time seem to have had a
similar structure. Incidentally, we will from now on call the Hsiung-nu
"Huns" because Chinese sources begin to call them "Hu", a term which
also had a more general meaning (all non-Chinese in the north and west
of China) as well as a more special meaning (non-Chinese in Central Asia
and India).

The Tibetans fell apart into two sub-groups, the Ch'iang and the Ti.
Both names appeared repeatedly as political conceptions, but the
Tibetans, like all other state-forming groups of peoples, sheltered in
their realms countless alien elements. In the course of the third and
second centuries B.C. the group of the Ti, mainly living in the
territory of the present Szechwan, had mixed extensively with remains of
the Yueeh-chih; the others, the Ch'iang, were northern Tibetans or
so-called Tanguts; that is to say, they contained Turkish and Mongol
elements. In A.D. 296 there began a great rising of the Ti, whose leader
Ch'i Wan-nien took on the title emperor. The Ch'iang rose with them, but
it was not until later, from 312, that they pursued an independent
policy. The Ti State, however, though it had a second emperor, very soon
lost importance, so that we shall be occupied solely with the Ch'iang.

As the tribal structure of Tibetan groups was always weak and as
leadership developed among them only in times of war, their states
always show a military rather than a tribal structure, and the
continuation of these states depended strongly upon the personal
qualities of their leaders. Incidentally, Tibetans fundamentally were
sheep-breeders and not horse-breeders and, therefore, they always
showed inclination to incorporate infantry into their armies. Thus,
Tibetan states differed strongly from the aristocratically organized
"Turkish" states as well as from the tribal, non-aristocratic "Mongol"
states of that period.

The Hsien-pi, according to our present knowledge, were under "Mongol"
leadership, i.e. we believe that the language of the leading group
belonged to the family of Mongolian languages and that their culture
belonged to the type described above as "Northern culture". They had, in
addition, a strong admixture of Hunnic tribes. Throughout the period
during which they played a part in history, they never succeeded in
forming any great political unit, in strong contrast to the Huns, who
excelled in state formation. The separate groups of the Hsien-pi pursued
a policy of their own; very frequently Hsien-pi fought each other, and
they never submitted to a common leadership. Thus their history is
entirely that of small groups. As early as the Wei period there had been
small-scale conflicts with the Hsien-pi tribes, and at times the tribes
had some success. The campaigns of the Hsien-pi against North China now
increased, and in the course of them the various tribes formed firmer
groupings, among which the Mu-jung tribes played a leading part. In 281,
the year after the demobilization law, this group marched south into
China, and occupied the region round Peking. After fierce fighting, in
which the Mu-jung section suffered heavy losses, a treaty was signed in
289, under which the Mu-jung tribe of the Hsien-pi recognized Chinese
overlordship. The Mu-jung were driven to this step mainly because they
had been continually attacked from southern Manchuria by another
Hsien-pi tribe, the Yue-wen, the tribe most closely related to them. The
Mu-jung made use of the period of their so-called subjection to organize
their community in North China.

South of the Toba were the nineteen tribes of the Hsiung-nu or Huns, as
we are now calling them. Their leader in A.D. 287, Liu Yuean, was one of
the principal personages of this period. His name is purely Chinese, but
he was descended from the Hun _shan-yue_, from the family and line of Mao
Tun. His membership of that long-famous noble line and old ruling family
of Huns gave him a prestige which he increased by his great organizing

3 _Struggles for the throne_

We shall return to Liu Yuean later; we must now cast another glance at
the official court of the Chin. In that court a family named Yang had
become very powerful, a daughter of this family having become empress.
When, however, the emperor died, the wife of the new emperor Hui Ti
(290-306) secured the assassination of the old empress Yang and of her
whole family. Thus began the rule at court of the Chia family. In 299
the Chia family got rid of the heir to the throne, to whom they
objected, assassinating this prince and another one. This event became
the signal for large-scale activity on the part of the princes, each of
whom was supported by particular groups of families. The princes had not
complied with the disarmament law of 280 and so had become militarily
supreme. The generals newly appointed in the course of the imperial
rearmament at once entered into alliance with the princes, and thus were
quite unreliable as officers of the government. Both the generals and
the princes entered into agreements with the frontier peoples to assure
their aid in the struggle for power. The most popular of these
auxiliaries were the Hsien-pi, who were fighting for one of the princes
whose territory lay in the east. Since the Toba were the natural enemies
of the Hsien-pi, who were continually contesting their hold on their
territory, the Toba were always on the opposite side to that supported
by the Hsien-pi, so that they now supported generals who were ostensibly
loyal to the government. The Huns, too, negotiated with several generals
and princes and received tempting offers. Above all, all the frontier
peoples were now militarily well equipped, continually receiving new war
material from the Chinese who from time to time were co-operating with

In A.D. 300 Prince Lun assassinated the empress Chia and removed her
group. In 301 he made himself emperor, but in the same year he was
killed by the prince of Ch'i. This prince was killed in 302 by the
prince of Ch'ang-sha, who in turned was killed in 303 by the prince of
Tung-hai. The prince of Ho-chien rose in 302 and was killed in 306; the
prince of Ch'engtu rose in 303, conquered the capital in 305, and then,
in 306, was himself removed. I mention all these names and dates only to
show the disunion within the ruling groups.

4 _Migration of Chinese_

All these struggles raged round the capital, for each of the princes
wanted to secure full power and to become emperor. Thus the border
regions remained relatively undisturbed. Their population suffered much
less from the warfare than the unfortunate people in the neighbourhood
of the central government. For this reason there took place a mass
migration of Chinese from the centre of the empire to its periphery.
This process, together with the shifting of the frontier peoples, is one
of the most important events of that epoch. A great number of Chinese
migrated especially into the present province of Kansu, where a governor
who had originally been sent there to fight the Hsien-pi had created a
sort of paradise by his good administration and maintenance of peace.
The territory ruled by this Chinese, first as governor and then in
increasing independence, was surrounded by Hsien-pi, Tibetans, and other
peoples, but thanks to the great immigration of Chinese and to its
situation on the main caravan route to Turkestan, it was able to hold
its own, to expand, and to become prosperous.

Other groups of Chinese peasants migrated southward into the
territories of the former state of Wu. A Chinese prince of the house of
the Chin was ruling there, in the present Nanking. His purpose was to
organize that territory, and then to intervene in the struggles of the
other princes. We shall meet him again at the beginning of the Hun rule
over North China in 317, as founder and emperor of the first south
Chinese dynasty, which was at once involved in the usual internal and
external struggles. For the moment, however, the southern region was
relatively at peace, and was accordingly attracting settlers.

Finally, many Chinese migrated northward, into the territories of the
frontier peoples, not only of the Hsien-pi but especially of the Huns.
These alien peoples, although in the official Chinese view they were
still barbarians, at least maintained peace in the territories they
ruled, and they left in peace the peasants and craftsmen who came to
them, even while their own armies were involved in fighting inside
China. Not only peasants and craftsmen came to the north but more and
more educated persons. Members of families of the gentry that had
suffered from the fighting, people who had lost their influence in
China, were welcomed by the Huns and appointed teachers and political
advisers of the Hun nobility.

5 _Victory of the Huns. The Hun Han dynasty (later renamed the Earlier
Chao dynasty_)

With its self-confidence thus increased, the Hun council of nobles
declared that in future the Huns should no longer fight now for one and
now for another Chinese general or prince. They had promised loyalty to
the Chinese emperor, but not to any prince. No one doubted that the
Chinese emperor was a complete nonentity and no longer played any part
in the struggle for power. It was evident that the murders would
continue until one of the generals or princes overcame the rest and made
himself emperor. Why should not the Huns have the same right? Why should
not they join in this struggle for the Chinese imperial throne?

There were two arguments against this course, one of which was already
out of date. The Chinese had for many centuries set down the Huns as
uncultured barbarians; but the inferiority complex thus engendered in
the Huns had virtually been overcome, because in the course of time
their upper class had deliberately acquired a Chinese education and so
ranked culturally with the Chinese. Thus the ruler Liu Yuean, for
example, had enjoyed a good Chinese education and was able to read all
the classical texts. The second argument was provided by the rigid
conceptions of legitimacy to which the Turkish-Hunnic aristocratic
society adhered. The Huns asked themselves: "Have we, as aliens, any
right to become emperors and rulers in China, when we are not descended
from an old Chinese family?" On this point Liu Yuean and his advisers
found a good answer. They called Liu Yuean's dynasty the "Han dynasty",
and so linked it with the most famous of all the Chinese dynasties,
pointing to the pact which their ancestor Mao Tun had concluded five
hundred years earlier with the first emperor of the Han dynasty and
which had described the two states as "brethren". They further recalled
the fact that the rulers of the Huns were closely related to the Chinese
ruling family, because Mao Tun and his successors had married Chinese
princesses. Finally, Liu Yuean's Chinese family name, Liu, had also been
the family name of the rulers of the Han dynasty. Accordingly the Hun
Lius came forward not as aliens but as the rightful successors in
continuation of the Han dynasty, as legitimate heirs to the Chinese
imperial throne on the strength of relationship and of treaties.

Thus the Hun Liu Yuean had no intention of restoring the old empire of
Mao Tun, the empire of the nomads; he intended to become emperor of
China, emperor of a country of farmers. In this lay the fundamental
difference between the earlier Hun empire and this new one. The question
whether the Huns should join in the struggle for the Chinese imperial
throne was therefore decided among the Huns themselves in 304 in the
affirmative, by the founding of the "Hun Han dynasty". All that remained
was the practical question of how to hold out with their small army of
50,000 men if serious opposition should be offered to the "barbarians".

Meanwhile Liu Yuean provided himself with court ceremonial on the Chinese
model, in a capital which, after several changes, was established at
P'ing-ch'eng in southern Shansi. He attracted more and more of the
Chinese gentry, who were glad to come to this still rather barbaric but
well-organized court. In 309 the first attack was made on the Chinese
capital, Loyang. Liu Yuean died in the following year, and in 311, under
his successor Liu Ts'ung (310-318), the attack was renewed and Loyang
fell. The Chin emperor, Huai Ti, was captured and kept a prisoner in
P'ing-ch'eng until in 313 a conspiracy in his favour was brought to
light in the Hun empire, and he and all his supporters were killed.
Meanwhile the Chinese clique of the Chin dynasty had hastened to make a
prince emperor in the second capital, Ch'ang-an (Min Ti, 313-316) while
the princes' struggles for the throne continued. Nobody troubled about
the fate of the unfortunate emperor in his capital. He received no
reinforcements, so that he was helpless in face of the next attack of
the Huns, and in 316 he was compelled to surrender like his predecessor.
Now the Hun Han dynasty held both capitals, which meant virtually the
whole of the western part of North China, and the so-called "Western
Chin dynasty" thus came to its end. Its princes and generals and many of
its gentry became landless and homeless and had to flee into the south.

(C) The alien empires in North China, down to the Toba (A.D. 317-385)

1 _The Later Chao dynasty in eastern North China (Hun_; 329-352)

At this time the eastern part of North China was entirely in the hands
of Shih Lo, a former follower of Liu Yuean. Shih Lo had escaped from
slavery in China and had risen to be a military leader among
detribalized Huns. In 310 he had not only undertaken a great campaign
right across China to the south, but had slaughtered more than 100,000
Chinese, including forty-eight princes of the Chin dynasty, who had
formed a vast burial procession for a prince. This achievement added
considerably to Shih Lo's power, and his relations with Liu Ts'ung,
already tense, became still more so. Liu Yuean had tried to organize the
Hun state on the Chinese model, intending in this way to gain efficient
control of China; Shih Lo rejected Chinese methods, and held to the old
warrior-nomad tradition, making raids with the aid of nomad fighters. He
did not contemplate holding the territories of central and southern
China which he had conquered; he withdrew, and in the two years 314-315
he contented himself with bringing considerable expanses in
north-eastern China, especially territories of the Hsien-pi, under his
direct rule, as a base for further raids. Many Huns in Liu Ts'ung's
dominion found Shih Lo's method of rule more to their taste than living
in a state ruled by officials, and they went over to Shih Lo and joined
him in breaking entirely with Liu Ts'ung. There was a further motive for
this: in states founded by nomads, with a federation of tribes as their
basis, the personal qualities of the ruler played an important part. The
chiefs of the various tribes would not give unqualified allegiance to
the son of a dead ruler unless the son was a strong personality or gave
promise of becoming one. Failing that, there would be independence
movements. Liu Ts'ung did not possess the indisputable charisma of his
predecessor Liu Yuean; and the Huns looked with contempt on his court
splendour, which could only have been justified if he had conquered all
China. Liu Ts'ung had no such ambition; nor had his successor Liu Yao
(319-329), who gave the Hun Han dynasty retroactively, from its start
with Liu Yuean, the new name of "Earlier Chao dynasty" (304-329). Many
tribes then went over to Shih Lo, and the remainder of Liu Yao's empire
was reduced to a precarious existence. In 329 the whole of it was
annexed by Shih Lo.

Although Shih Lo had long been much more powerful than the emperors of
the "Earlier Chao dynasty", until their removal he had not ventured to
assume the title of emperor. The reason for this seems to have lain in
the conceptions of nobility held by the Turkish peoples in general and
the Huns in particular, according to which only those could become
_shan-yue_ (or, later, emperor) who could show descent from the Tu-ku
tribe the rightful _shan-yue_ stock. In accordance with this conception,
all later Hun dynasties deliberately disowned Shih Lo. For Shih Lo,
after his destruction of Liu Yao, no longer hesitated: ex-slave as he
was, and descended from one of the non-noble stocks of the Huns, he made
himself emperor of the "Later Chao dynasty" (329-352).

Shih Lo was a forceful army commander, but he was a man without
statesmanship, and without the culture of his day. He had no Chinese
education; he hated the Chinese and would have been glad to make north
China a grazing ground for his nomad tribes of Huns. Accordingly he had
no desire to rule all China. The part already subjugated, embracing the
whole of north China with the exception of the present province of
Kansu, sufficed for his purpose.

The governor of that province was a loyal subject of the Chinese Chin
dynasty, a man famous for his good administration, and himself a
Chinese. After the execution of the Chin emperor Huai Ti by the Huns in
313, he regarded himself as no longer bound to the central government;
he made himself independent and founded the "Earlier Liang dynasty",
which was to last until 376. This mainly Chinese realm was not very
large, although it had admitted a broad stream of Chinese emigrants from
the dissolving Chin empire; but economically the Liang realm was very
prosperous, so that it was able to extend its influence as far as
Turkestan. During the earlier struggles Turkestan had been virtually in
isolation, but now new contacts began to be established. Many traders
from Turkestan set up branches in Liang. In the capital there were whole
quarters inhabited only by aliens from western and eastern Turkestan and
from India. With the traders came Buddhist monks; trade and Buddhism
seemed to be closely associated everywhere. In the trading centres
monasteries were installed in the form of blocks of houses within strong
walls that successfully resisted many an attack. Consequently the
Buddhists were able to serve as bankers for the merchants, who deposited
their money in the monasteries, which made a charge for its custody; the
merchants also warehoused their goods in the monasteries. Sometimes the
process was reversed, a trade centre being formed around an existing
monastery. In this case the monastery also served as a hostel for the
merchants. Economically this Chinese state in Kansu was much more like a
Turkestan city state that lived by commerce than the agrarian states of
the Far East, although agriculture was also pursued under the Earlier

From this trip to the remote west we will return first to the Hun
capital. From 329 onward Shih Lo possessed a wide empire, but an
unstable one. He himself felt at all times insecure, because the Huns
regarded him, on account of his humble origin, as a "revolutionary". He
exterminated every member of the Liu family, that is to say the old
_shan-yue_ family, of whom he could get hold, in order to remove any
possible pretender to the throne; but he could not count on the loyalty
of the Hun and other Turkish tribes under his rule. During this period
not a few Huns went over to the small realm of the Toba; other Hun
tribes withdrew entirely from the political scene and lived with their
herds as nomad tribes in Shansi and in the Ordos region. The general
insecurity undermined the strength of Shih Lo's empire. He died in 333,
and there came to the throne, after a short interregnum, another
personality of a certain greatness, Shih Hu (334-349). He transferred
the capital to the city of Yeh, in northern Honan, where the rulers of
the Wei dynasty had reigned. There are many accounts of the magnificence
of the court of Yeh. Foreigners, especially Buddhist monks, played a
greater part there than Chinese. On the one hand, it was not easy for
Shih Hu to gain the active support of the educated Chinese gentry after
the murders of Shih Lo and, on the other hand, Shih Hu seems to have
understood that foreigners without family and without other relations to
the native population, but with special skills, are the most reliable
and loyal servants of a ruler. Indeed, his administration seems to have
been good, but the regime remained completely parasitic, with no
support of the masses or the gentry. After Shih Hu's death there were
fearful combats between his sons; ultimately a member of an entirely
different family of Hun origin seized power, but was destroyed in 352 by
the Hsien-pi, bringing to an end the Later Chao dynasty.

2 _Earlier Yen dynasty in the north-east (proto-Mongol; 352-370), and
the Earlier Ch'in dynasty in all north China (Tibetan; 351-394_)

In the north, proto-Mongol Hsien-pi tribes had again made themselves
independent; in the past they had been subjects of Liu Yuean and then of
Shih Lo. A man belonging to one of these tribes, the tribe of the
Mu-jung, became the leader of a league of tribes, and in 337 founded the
state of Yen. This proto-Mongol state of the Mu-jung, which the
historians call the "Earlier Yen" state, conquered parts of southern
Manchuria and also the state of Kao-li in Korea, and there began then an
immigration of Hsien-pi into Korea, which became noticeable at a later
date. The conquest of Korea, which was still, as in the past, a Japanese
market and was very wealthy, enormously strengthened the state of Yen.
Not until a little later, when Japan's trade relations were diverted to
central China, did Korea's importance begin to diminish. Although this
"Earlier Yen dynasty" of the Mu-jung officially entered on the heritage
of the Huns, and its regime was therefore dated only from 352 (until
370), it failed either to subjugate the whole realm of the "Later Chao"
or effectively to strengthen the state it had acquired. This old Hun
territory had suffered economically from the anti-agrarian nomad
tendency of the last of the Hun emperors; and unremunerative wars
against the Chinese in the south had done nothing to improve its
position. In addition to this, the realm of the Toba was dangerously
gaining strength on the flank of the new empire. But the most dangerous
enemy was in the west, on former Hun soil, in the province of
Shensi--Tibetans, who finally came forward once more with claims to
dominance. These were Tibetans of the P'u family, which later changed
its name to Fu. The head of the family had worked his way up as a leader
of Tibetan auxiliaries under the "Later Chao", gaining more and more
power and following. When under that dynasty the death of Shih Hu marked
the beginning of general dissolution, he gathered his Tibetans around
him in the west, declared himself independent of the Huns, and made
himself emperor of the "Earlier Ch'in dynasty" (351-394). He died in
355, and was followed after a short interregnum by Fu Chien (357-385),
who was unquestionably one of the most important figures of the fourth
century. This Tibetan empire ultimately defeated the "Earlier Yen
dynasty" and annexed the realm of the Mu-jung. Thus the Mu-jung Hsien-pi
came under the dominion of the Tibetans; they were distributed among a
number of places as garrisons of mounted troops.

The empire of the Tibetans was organized quite differently from the
empires of the Huns and the Hsien-pi tribes. The Tibetan organization
was purely military and had nothing to do with tribal structure. This
had its advantages, for the leader of such a formation had no need to
take account of tribal chieftains; he was answerable to no one and
possessed considerable personal power. Nor was there any need for him to
be of noble rank or descended from an old family. The Tibetan ruler Fu
Chien organized all his troops, including the non-Tibetans, on this
system, without regard to tribal membership.

Fu Chien's state showed another innovation: the armies of the Huns and
the Hsien-pi had consisted entirely of cavalry, for the nomads of the
north were, of course, horsemen; to fight on foot was in their eyes not
only contrary to custom but contemptible. So long as a state consisted
only of a league of tribes, it was simply out of the question to
transform part of the army into infantry. Fu Chien, however, with his
military organization that paid no attention to the tribal element,
created an infantry in addition to the great cavalry units, recruiting
for it large numbers of Chinese. The infantry proved extremely valuable,
especially in the fighting in the plains of north China and in laying
siege to fortified towns. Fu Chien thus very quickly achieved military
predominance over the neighbouring states. As we have seen already, he
annexed the "Earlier Yen" realm of the proto-Mongols (370), but he also
annihilated the Chinese "Earlier Liang" realm (376) and in the same year
the small Turkish Toba realm. This made him supreme over all north China
and stronger than any alien ruler before him. He had in his possession
both the ancient capitals, Ch'ang-an and Loyang; the whole of the rich
agricultural regions of north China belonged to him; he also controlled
the routes to Turkestan. He himself had a Chinese education, and he
attracted Chinese to his court; he protected the Buddhists; and he tried
in every way to make the whole country culturally Chinese. As soon as Fu
Chien had all north China in his power, as Liu Yuean and his Huns had
done before him, he resolved, like Liu Yuean, to make every effort to
gain the mastery over all China, to become emperor of China. Liu Yuean's
successors had not had the capacity for which such a venture called; Fu
Chien was to fail in it for other reasons. Yet, from a military point
of view, his chances were not bad. He had far more soldiers under his
command than the Chinese "Eastern Chin dynasty" which ruled the south,
and his troops were undoubtedly better. In the time of the founder of
the Tibetan dynasty the southern empire had been utterly defeated by his
troops (354), and the south Chinese were no stronger now.

Against them the north had these assets: the possession of the best
northern tillage, the control of the trade routes, and "Chinese" culture
and administration. At the time, however, these represented only
potentialities and not tangible realities. It would have taken ten to
twenty years to restore the capacities of the north after its
devastation in many wars, to reorganize commerce, and to set up a really
reliable administration, and thus to interlock the various elements and
consolidate the various tribes. But as early as 383 Fu Chien started his
great campaign against the south, with an army of something like a
million men. At first the advance went well. The horsemen from the
north, however, were men of the mountain country, and in the soggy
plains of the Yangtze region, cut up by hundreds of water-courses and
canals, they suffered from climatic and natural conditions to which they
were unaccustomed. Their main strength was still in cavalry; and they
came to grief. The supplies and reinforcements for the vast army failed
to arrive in time; units did not reach the appointed places at the
appointed dates. The southern troops under the supreme command of Hsieh
Hsuean, far inferior in numbers and militarily of no great efficiency,
made surprise attacks on isolated units before these were in regular
formation. Some they defeated, others they bribed; they spread false
reports. Fu Chien's army was seized with widespread panic, so that he
was compelled to retreat in haste. As he did so it became evident that
his empire had no inner stability: in a very short time it fell into
fragments. The south Chinese had played no direct part in this, for in
spite of their victory they were not strong enough to advance far to the

3 _The fragmentation of north China_

The first to fall away from the Tibetan ruler was a noble of the
Mu-jung, a member of the ruling family of the "Earlier Yen dynasty", who
withdrew during the actual fighting to pursue a policy of his own. With
the vestiges of the Hsien-pi who followed him, mostly cavalry, he fought
his way northward into the old homeland of the Hsien-pi and there, in
central Hopei, founded the "Later Yen dynasty" (384-409), himself
reigning for twelve years. In the remaining thirteen years of the
existence of that dynasty there were no fewer than five rulers, the
last of them a member of another family. The history of this Hsien-pi
dynasty, as of its predecessor, is an unedifying succession of
intrigues; no serious effort was made to build up a true state.

In the same year 384 there was founded, under several other Mu-jung
princes of the ruling family of the "Earlier Yen dynasty", the "Western
Yen dynasty" (384-394). Its nucleus was nothing more than a detachment
of troops of the Hsien-pi which had been thrown by Fu Chien into the
west of his empire, in Shensi, in the neighbourhood of the old capital
Ch'ang-an. There its commanders, on learning the news of Fu Chien's
collapse, declared their independence. In western China, however, far
removed from all liaison with the main body of the Hsien-pi, they were
unable to establish themselves, and when they tried to fight their way
to the north-east they were dispersed, so that they failed entirely to
form an actual state.

There was a third attempt in 384 to form a state in north China. A
Tibetan who had joined Fu Chien with his followers declared himself
independent when Fu Chien came back, a beaten man, to Shensi. He caused
Fu Chien and almost the whole of his family to be assassinated, occupied
the capital, Ch'ang-an, and actually entered into the heritage of Fu
Chien. This Tibetan dynasty is known as the "Later Ch'in dynasty"
(384-417). It was certainly the strongest of those founded in 384, but
it still failed to dominate any considerable part of China and remained
of local importance, mainly confined to the present province of Shensi.
Fu Chien's empire nominally had three further rulers, but they did not
exert the slightest influence on events.

With the collapse of the state founded by Fu Chien, the tribes of
Hsien-pi who had left their homeland in the third century and migrated
to the Ordos region proceeded to form their own state: a man of the
Hsien-pi tribe of the Ch'i-fu founded the so-called "Western Ch'in
dynasty" (385-431). Like the other Hsien-pi states, this one was of weak
construction, resting on the military strength of a few tribes and
failing to attain a really secure basis. Its territory lay in the east
of the present province of Kansu, and so controlled the eastern end of
the western Asian caravan route, which might have been a source of
wealth if the Ch'i-fu had succeeded in attracting commerce by discreet
treatment and in imposing taxation on it. Instead of this, the bulk of
the long-distance traffic passed through the Ordos region, a little
farther north, avoiding the Ch'i-fu state, which seemed to the merchants
to be too insecure. The Ch'i-fu depended mainly on cattle-breeding in
the remote mountain country in the south of their territory, a region
that gave them relative security from attack; on the other hand, this
made them unable to exercise any influence on the course of political
events in western China.

Mention must be made of one more state that rose from the ruins of Fu
Chien's empire. It lay in the far west of China, in the western part of
the present province of Kansu, and was really a continuation of the
Chinese "Earlier Liang" realm, which had been annexed ten years earlier
(376) by Fu Chien. A year before his great march to the south, Fu Chien
had sent the Tibetan Lue Kuang into the "Earlier Liang" region in order
to gain influence over Turkestan. As mentioned previously, after the
great Hun rulers Fu Chien was the first to make a deliberate attempt to
secure cultural and political overlordship over the whole of China.
Although himself a Tibetan, he never succumbed to the temptation of
pursuing a "Tibetan" policy; like an entirely legitimate ruler of China,
he was concerned to prevent the northern peoples along the frontier from
uniting with the Tibetan peoples of the west for political ends. The
possession of Turkestan would avert that danger, which had shown signs
of becoming imminent of late: some tribes of the Hsien-pi had migrated
as far as the high mountains of Tibet and had imposed themselves as a
ruling class on the still very primitive Tibetans living there. From
this symbiosis there began to be formed a new people, the so-called
T'u-yue-hun, a hybridization of Mongol and Tibetan stock with a slight
Turkish admixture. Lue Kuang had considerable success in Turkestan; he
had brought considerable portions of eastern Turkestan under Fu Chien's
sovereignty and administered those regions almost independently. When
the news came of Fu Chien's end, he declared himself an independent
ruler, of the "Later Liang" dynasty (386-403). Strictly speaking, this
was simply a trading State, like the city-states of Turkestan: its basis
was the transit traffic that brought it prosperity. For commerce brought
good profit to the small states that lay right across the caravan route,
whereas it was of doubtful benefit, as we know, to agrarian China as a
whole, because the luxury goods which it supplied to the court were paid
for out of the production of the general population.

This "Later Liang" realm was inhabited not only by a few Tibetans and
many Chinese, but also by Hsien-pi and Huns. These heterogeneous
elements with their divergent cultures failed in the long run to hold
together in this long but extremely narrow strip of territory, which was
almost incapable of military defence. As early as 397 a group of Huns in
the central section of the country made themselves independent, assuming
the name of the "Northern Liang" (397-439). These Huns quickly conquered
other parts of the "Later Liang" realm, which then fell entirely to
pieces. Chinese again founded a state, "West Liang" (400-421) in western
Kansu, and the Hsien-pi founded "South Liang" (379-414) in eastern
Kansu. Thus the "Later Liang" fell into three parts, more or less
differing ethnically, though they could not be described as ethnically
unadulterated states.

4 _Sociological analysis of the two great alien empires_

The two great empires of north China at the time of its division had
been founded by non-Chinese--the first by the Hun Liu Yuean, the second
by the Tibetan Fu Chien. Both rulers went to work on the same principle
of trying to build up truly "Chinese" empires, but the traditions of
Huns and Tibetans differed, and the two experiments turned out
differently. Both failed, but not for the same reasons and not with the
same results. The Hun Liu Yuean was the ruler of a league of feudal
tribes, which was expected to take its place as an upper class above the
unchanged Chinese agricultural population with its system of officials
and gentry. But Liu Yuean's successors were national reactionaries who
stood for the maintenance of the nomad life against that new plan of
transition to a feudal class of urban nobles ruling an agrarian
population. Liu Yuean's more far-seeing policy was abandoned, with the
result that the Huns were no longer in a position to rule an immense
agrarian territory, and the empire soon disintegrated. For the various
Hun tribes this failure meant falling back into political
insignificance, but they were able to maintain their national character
and existence.

Fu Chien, as a Tibetan, was a militarist and soldier, in accordance with
the past of the Tibetans. Under him were grouped Tibetans without tribal
chieftains; the great mass of Chinese; and dispersed remnants of tribes
of Huns, Hsien-pi, and others. His organization was militaristic and,
outside the military sphere, a militaristic bureaucracy. The Chinese
gentry, so far as they still existed, preferred to work with him rather
than with the feudalist Huns. These gentry probably supported Fu Chien's
southern campaign, for, in consequence of the wide ramifications of
their families, it was to their interest that China should form a single
economic unit. They were, of course, equally ready to work with another
group, one of southern Chinese, to attain the same end by other means,
if those means should prove more advantageous: thus the gentry were not
a reliable asset, but were always ready to break faith. Among other
things, Fu Chien's southern campaign was wrecked by that faithlessness.
When an essentially military state suffers military defeat, it can only
go to pieces. This explains the disintegration of that great empire
within a single year into so many diminutive states, as already

5 _Sociological analysis of the petty States_

The states that took the place of Fu Chien's empire, those many
diminutive states (the Chinese speak of the period of the Sixteen
Kingdoms), may be divided from the economic point of view into two
groups--trading states and warrior states; sociologically they also fall
into two groups, tribal states and military states.

The small states in the west, in Kansu (the Later Liang and the Western,
Northern, and Southern Liang), were trading states: they lived on the
earnings of transit trade with Turkestan. The eastern states were
warrior states, in which an army commander ruled by means of an armed
group of non-Chinese and exploited an agricultural population. It is
only logical that such states should be short-lived, as in fact they all

Sociologically regarded, during this period only the Southern and
Northern Liang were still tribal states. In addition to these came the
young Toba realm, which began in 385 but of which mention has not yet
been made. The basis of that state was the tribe, not the family or the
individual; after its political disintegration the separate tribes
remained in existence. The other states of the east, however, were
military states, made up of individuals with no tribal allegiance but
subject to a military commandant. But where there is no tribal
association, after the political downfall of a state founded by ethnical
groups, those groups sooner or later disappear as such. We see this in
the years immediately following Fu Chien's collapse: the Tibetan
ethnical group to which he himself belonged disappeared entirely from
the historical scene. The two Tibetan groups that outlasted him, also
forming military states and not tribal states, similarly came to an end
shortly afterwards for all time. The Hsien-pi groups in the various
fragments of the empire, with the exception of the petty states in
Kansu, also continued, only as tribal fragments led by a few old ruling
families. They, too, after brief and undistinguished military rule, came
to an end; they disappeared so completely that thereafter we no longer
find the term Hsien-pi in history. Not that they had been exterminated.
When the social structure and its corresponding economic form fall to
pieces, there remain only two alternatives for its individuals. Either
they must go over to a new form, which in China could only mean that
they became Chinese; many Hsien-pi in this way became Chinese in the
decades following 384. Or, they could retain their old way of living in
association with another stock of similar formation; this, too, happened
in many cases. Both these courses, however, meant the end of the
Hsien-pi as an independent ethnical unit. We must keep this process and
its reasons in view if we are to understand how a great people can
disappear once and for all.

The Huns, too, so powerful in the past, were suddenly scarcely to be
found any longer. Among the many petty states there were many Hsien-pi
kingdoms, but only a single, quite small Hun state, that of the Northern
Liang. The disappearance of the Huns was, however, only apparent; at
this time they remained in the Ordos region and in Shansi as separate
nomad tribes with no integrating political organization; their time had
still to come.

6 _Spread of Buddhism_

According to the prevalent Chinese view, nothing of importance was
achieved during this period in north China in the intellectual sphere;
there was no culture in the north, only in the south. This is natural:
for a Confucian this period, the fourth century, was one of degeneracy
in north China, for no one came into prominence as a celebrated
Confucian. Nothing else could be expected, for in the north the gentry,
which had been the class that maintained Confucianism since the Han
period, had largely been destroyed; from political leadership especially
it had been shut out during the periods of alien rule. Nor could we
expect to find Taoists in the true sense, that is to say followers of
the teaching of Lao Tz[)u], for these, too, had been dependent since the
Han period on the gentry. Until the fourth century, these two had
remained the dominant philosophies.

What could take their place? The alien rulers had left little behind
them. Most of them had been unable to write Chinese, and in so far as
they were warriors they had no interest in literature or in political
philosophy, for they were men of action. Few songs and poems of theirs
remain extant in translations from their language into Chinese, but
these preserve a strong alien flavour in their mental attitude and in
their diction. They are the songs of fighting men, songs that were sung
on horseback, songs of war and its sufferings. These songs have nothing
of the excessive formalism and aestheticism of the Chinese, but give
expression to simple emotions in unpolished language with a direct
appeal. The epic of the Turkish peoples had clearly been developed
already, and in north China it produced a rudimentary ballad literature,
to which four hundred years later no less attention was paid than to the
emotional world of contemporary songs. The actual literature, however,
and the philosophy of this period are Buddhist. How can we explain that
Buddhism had gained such influence?

It will be remembered that Buddhism came to China overland and by sea in
the Han epoch. The missionary monks who came from abroad with the
foreign merchants found little approval among the Chinese gentry. They
were regarded as second-rate persons belonging, according to Chinese
notions, to an inferior social class. Thus the monks had to turn to the
middle and lower classes in China. Among these they found widespread
acceptance, not of their profound philosophic ideas, but of their
doctrine of the after life. This doctrine was in a certain sense
revolutionary: it declared that all the high officials and superiors who
treated the people so unjustly and who so exploited them, would in their
next reincarnation be born in poor circumstances or into inferior rank
and would have to suffer punishment for all their ill deeds. The poor
who had to suffer undeserved evils would be born in their next life into
high rank and would have a good time. This doctrine brought a ray of
light, a promise, to the country people who had suffered so much since
the later Han period of the second century A.D. Their situation remained
unaltered down to the fourth century; and under their alien rulers the
Chinese country population became Buddhist.

The merchants made use of the Buddhist monasteries as banks and
warehouses. Thus they, too, were well inclined towards Buddhism and gave
money and land for its temples. The temples were able to settle peasants
on this land as their tenants. In those times a temple was a more
reliable landlord than an individual alien, and the poorer peasants
readily became temple tenants; this increased their inclination towards

The Indian, Sogdian, and Turkestani monks were readily allowed to settle
by the alien rulers of China, who had no national prejudice against
other aliens. The monks were educated men and brought some useful
knowledge from abroad. Educated Chinese were scarcely to be found, for
the gentry retired to their estates, which they protected as well as
they could from their alien ruler. So long as the gentry had no prospect
of regaining control of the threads of political life that extended
throughout China, they were not prepared to provide a class of officials
and scholars for the anti-Confucian foreigners, who showed interest only
in fighting and trading. Thus educated persons were needed at the courts
of the alien rulers, and Buddhists were therefore engaged. These foreign
Buddhists had all the important Buddhist writings translated into
Chinese, and so made use of their influence at court for religious
propaganda. This does not mean that every text was translated from
Indian languages; especially in the later period many works appeared
which came not from India but from Sogdia or Turkestan, or had even been
written in China by Sogdians or other natives of Turkestan, and were
then translated into Chinese. In Turkestan, Khotan in particular became
a centre of Buddhist culture. Buddhism was influenced by vestiges of
indigenous cults, so that Khotan developed a special religious
atmosphere of its own; deities were honoured there (for instance, the
king of Heaven of the northerners) to whom little regard was paid
elsewhere. This "Khotan Buddhism" had special influence on the Buddhist
Turkish peoples.

Big translation bureaux were set up for the preparation of these
translations into Chinese, in which many copyists simultaneously took
down from dictation a translation made by a "master" with the aid of a
few native helpers. The translations were not literal, but were
paraphrases, most of them greatly reduced in length, glosses were
introduced when the translator thought fit for political or doctrinal
reasons, or when he thought that in this way he could better adapt the
texts to Chinese feeling.

Buddhism, quite apart from the special case of "Khotan Buddhism",
underwent extensive modification on its way across Central Asia. Its
main Indian form (Hinayana) was a purely individualistic religion of
salvation without a God--related in this respect to genuine Taoism--and
based on a concept of two classes of people: the monks who could achieve
salvation and, secondly, the masses who fed the monks but could not
achieve salvation. This religion did not gain a footing in China; only
traces of it can be found in some Buddhistic sects in China. Mahayana
Buddhism, on the other hand, developed into a true popular religion of
salvation. It did not interfere with the indigenous deities and did not
discountenance life in human society; it did not recommend Nirvana at
once, but placed before it a here-after with all the joys worth striving
for. In this form Buddhism was certain of success in Asia. On its way
from India to China it divided into countless separate streams, each
characterized by a particular book. Every nuance, from profound
philosophical treatises to the most superficial little tracts written
for the simplest of souls, and even a good deal of Turkestan shamanism
and Tibetan belief in magic, found their way into Buddhist writings, so
that some Buddhist monks practiced Central Asian Shamanism.

In spite of Buddhism, the old religion of the peasants retained its
vitality. Local diviners, Chinese shamans (_wu_), sorcerers, continued
their practices, although from now on they sometimes used Buddhist
phraseology. Often, this popular religion is called "Taoism ", because a
systematization of the popular pantheon was attempted, and Lao Tz[)u]
and other Taoists played a role in this pantheon. Philosophic Taoism
continued in this time, aside from the church-Taoism of Chang Ling and,
naturally, all kinds of contacts between these three currents occurred.
The Chinese state cult, the cult of Heaven saturated with Confucianism,
was another living form of religion. The alien rulers, in turn, had
brought their own mixture of worship of Heaven and shamanism. Their
worship of Heaven was their official "representative" religion; their
shamanism the private religion of the individual in his daily life. The
alien rulers, accordingly, showed interest in the Chinese shamans as
well as in the shamanistic aspects of Mahayana Buddhism. Not
infrequently competitions were arranged by the rulers between priests of
the different religious systems, and the rulers often competed for the
possession of monks who were particularly skilled in magic or

But what was the position of the "official" religion? Were the aliens to
hold to their own worship of heaven, or were they to take over the
official Chinese cult, or what else? This problem posed itself already
in the fourth century, but it was left unsolved.

(D) The Toba empire in North China (A.D. 385-550)

1 _The rise of the Toba State_

On the collapse of Fu Chien's empire one more state made its appearance;
it has not yet been dealt with, although it was the most important one.
This was the empire of the Toba, in the north of the present province of
Shansi. Fu Chien had brought down the small old Toba state in 376, but
had not entirely destroyed it. Its territory was partitioned, and part
was placed under the administration of a Hun: in view of the old rivalry
between Toba and Huns, this seemed to Fu Chien to be the best way of
preventing any revival of the Toba. However, a descendant of the old
ruling family of the Toba succeeded, with the aid of related families,
in regaining power and forming a small new kingdom. Very soon many
tribes which still lived in north China and which had not been broken up
into military units, joined him. Of these there were ultimately 119,
including many Hun tribes from Shansi and also many Hsien-pi tribes.
Thus the question who the Toba were is not easy to answer. The leading
tribe itself had migrated southward in the third century from the
frontier territory between northern Mongolia and northern Manchuria.
After this migration the first Toba state, the so-called Tai state, was
formed (338-376); not much is known about it. The tribes that, from 385
after the break-up of the Tibetan empire, grouped themselves round this
ruling tribe, were both Turkish and Mongol; but from the culture and
language of the Toba we think it must be inferred that the ruling tribe
itself as well as the majority of the other tribes were Turkish; in any
case, the Turkish element seems to have been stronger than the

Thus the new Toba kingdom was a tribal state, not a military state. But
the tribes were no longer the same as in the time of Liu Yuean a hundred
years earlier. Their total population must have been quite small; we
must assume that they were but the remains of 119 tribes rather than 119
full-sized tribes. Only part of them were still living the old nomad
life; others had become used to living alongside Chinese peasants and
had assumed leadership among the peasants. These Toba now faced a
difficult situation. The country was arid and mountainous and did not
yield much agricultural produce. For the many people who had come into
the Toba state from all parts of the former empire of Fu Chien, to say
nothing of the needs of a capital and a court which since the time of
Liu Yuean had been regarded as the indispensable entourage of a ruler who
claimed imperial rank, the local production of the Chinese peasants was
not enough. All the government officials, who were Chinese, and all the
slaves and eunuchs needed grain to eat. Attempts were made to settle
more Chinese peasants round the new capital, but without success;
something had to be done. It appeared necessary to embark on a campaign
to conquer the fertile plain of eastern China. In the course of a number
of battles the Hsien-pi of the "Later Yen" were annihilated and eastern
China conquered (409).

Now a new question arose: what should be done with all those people?
Nomads used to enslave their prisoners and use them for watching their
flocks. Some tribal chieftains had adopted the practice of establishing
captives on their tribal territory as peasants. There was an opportunity
now to subject the millions of Chinese captives to servitude to the
various tribal chieftains in the usual way. But those captives who were
peasants could not be taken away from their fields without robbing the
country of its food; therefore it would have been necessary to spread
the tribes over the whole of eastern China, and this would have added
immensely to the strength of the various tribes and would have greatly
weakened the central power. Furthermore almost all Chinese officials at
the court had come originally from the territories just conquered. They
had come from there about a hundred years earlier and still had all
their relatives in the east. If the eastern territories had been placed
under the rule of separate tribes, and the tribes had been distributed
in this way, the gentry in those territories would have been destroyed
and reduced to the position of enslaved peasants. The Chinese officials
accordingly persuaded the Toba emperor not to place the new territories
under the tribes, but to leave them to be administered by officials of
the central administration. These officials must have a firm footing in
their territory, for only they could extract from the peasants the grain
required for the support of the capital. Consequently the Toba
government did not enslave the Chinese in the eastern territory, but
made the local gentry into government officials, instructing them to
collect as much grain as possible for the capital. This Chinese local
gentry worked in close collaboration with the Chinese officials at
court, a fact which determined the whole fate of the Toba empire.

The Hsien-pi of the newly conquered east no longer belonged to any
tribe, but only to military units. They were transferred as soldiers to
the Toba court and placed directly under the government, which was thus
notably strengthened, especially as the millions of peasants under their
Chinese officials were also directly responsible to the central
administration. The government now proceeded to convert also its own
Toba tribes into military formations. The tribal men of noble rank were
brought to the court as military officers, and so were separated from
the common tribesmen and the slaves who had to remain with the herds.
This change, which robbed the tribes of all means of independent action,
was not carried out without bloodshed. There were revolts of tribal
chieftains which were ruthlessly suppressed. The central government had
triumphed, but it realized that more reliance could be placed on Chinese
than on its own people, who were used to independence. Thus the Toba
were glad to employ more and more Chinese, and the Chinese pressed more
and more into the administration. In this process the differing social
organizations of Toba and Chinese played an important part. The Chinese
have patriarchal families with often hundreds of members. When a member
of a family obtains a good position, he is obliged to make provision for
the other members of his family and to secure good positions for them
too; and not only the members of his own family but those of allied
families and of families related to it by marriage. In contrast the Toba
had a patriarchal nuclear family system; as nomad warriors with no fixed
abode, they were unable to form extended family groups. Among them the
individual was much more independent; each one tried to do his best for
himself. No Toba thought of collecting a large clique around himself;
everybody should be the artificer of his own fortune. Thus, when a
Chinese obtained an official post, he was followed by countless others;
but when a Toba had a position he remained alone, and so the
sinification of the Toba empire went on incessantly.

2 _The Hun kingdom of the Hsia (407-431_)

At the rebuilding of the Toba empire, however, a good many Hun tribes
withdrew westward into the Ordos region beyond the reach of the Toba,
and there they formed the Hun "Hsia" kingdom. Its ruler, Ho-lien
P'o-p'o, belonged to the family of Mao Tun and originally, like Liu
Yuean, bore the sinified family name Liu; but he altered this to a Hun
name, taking the family name of Ho-lien. This one fact alone
demonstrates that the Hsia rejected Chinese culture and were
nationalistic Hun. Thus there were now two realms in North China, one
undergoing progressive sinification, the other falling back to the old
traditions of the Huns.

3 _Rise of the Toba to a great Power_

The present province of Szechwan, in the west, had belonged to Fu
Chien's empire. At the break-up of the Tibetan state that province
passed to the southern Chinese empire and gave the southern Chinese
access, though it was very difficult access, to the caravan route
leading to Turkestan. The small states in Kansu, which dominated the
route, now passed on the traffic along two routes, one northward to the
Toba and the other alien states in north China, the other through
north-west Szechwan to south China. In this way the Kansu states were
strengthened both economically and politically, for they were able to
direct the commerce either to the northern states or to south China as
suited them. When the South Chinese saw the break-up of Fu Chien's
empire into numberless fragments, Liu Yue, who was then all-powerful at
the South Chinese court, made an attempt to conquer the whole of western
China. A great army was sent from South China into the province of
Shensi, where the Tibetan empire of the "Later Ch'in" was situated. The
Ch'in appealed to the Toba for help, but the Toba were themselves too
hotly engaged to be able to spare troops. They also considered that
South China would be unable to maintain these conquests, and that they
themselves would find them later an easy prey. Thus in 417 the state of
"Later Ch'in" received a mortal blow from the South Chinese army. Large
numbers of the upper class fled to the Toba. As had been foreseen, the
South Chinese were unable to maintain their hold over the conquered
territory, and it was annexed with ease by the Hun Ho-lien P'o-p'o. But
why not by the Toba?

Towards the end of the fourth century, vestiges of Hun, Hsien-pi, and
other tribes had united in Mongolia to form the new people of the
Juan-juan (also called Ju-juan or Jou-jan). Scholars disagree as to
whether the Juan-juan were Turks or Mongols; European investigators
believe them to have been identical with the Avars who appeared in the
Near East in 558 and later in Europe, and are inclined, on the strength
of a few vestiges of their language, to regard them as Mongols.
Investigations concerning the various tribes, however, show that among
the Juan-juan there were both Mongol and Turkish tribes, and that the
question cannot be decided in favour of either group. Some of the tribes
belonging to the Juan-juan had formerly lived in China. Others had lived
farther north or west and came into the history of the Far East now for
the first time.

This Juan-juan people threatened the Toba in the rear, from the north.
It made raids into the Toba empire for the same reasons for which the
Huns in the past had raided agrarian China; for agriculture had made
considerable progress in the Toba empire. Consequently, before the Toba
could attempt to expand southward, the Juan-juan peril must be removed.
This was done in the end, after a long series of hard and not always
successful struggles. That was why the Toba had played no part in the
fighting against South China, and had been unable to take immediate
advantage of that fighting.

After 429 the Juan-juan peril no longer existed, and in the years that
followed the whole of the small states of the west were destroyed, one
after another, by the Toba--the "Hsia kingdom" in 431, bringing down
with it the "Western Ch'in", and the "Northern Liang" in 439. The
non-Chinese elements of the population of those countries were moved
northward and served the Toba as soldiers; the Chinese also, especially
the remains of the Kansu "Western Liang" state (conquered in 420), were
enslaved, and some of them transferred to the north. Here again,
however, the influence of the Chinese gentry made itself felt after a
short time. As we know, the Chinese of "Western Liang" in Kansu had
originally migrated there from eastern China. Their eastern relatives
who had come under Toba rule through the conquest of eastern China and
who through their family connections with Chinese officials of the Toba
empire had found safety, brought their influence to bear on behalf of
the Chinese of Kansu, so that several families regained office and
social standing.

[Illustration: Map 4: The Toba empire (_about A.D. 500_)]

Their expansion into Kansu gave the Toba control of the commerce with
Turkestan, and there are many mentions of tribute missions to the Toba
court in the years that followed, some even from India. The Toba also
spread in the east. And finally there was fighting with South China
(430-431), which brought to the Toba empire a large part of the province
of Honan with the old capital, Loyang. Thus about 440 the Toba must be
described as the most powerful state in the Far East, ruling the whole
of North China.

4 _Economic and social conditions_

The internal changes of which there had only been indications in the
first period of the Toba empire now proceeded at an accelerated pace.
There were many different factors at work. The whole of the civil
administration had gradually passed into Chinese hands, the Toba
retaining only the military administration. But the wars in the south
called for the services of specialists in fortification and in infantry
warfare, who were only to be found among the Chinese. The growing
influence of the Chinese was further promoted by the fact that many Toba
families were exterminated in the revolts of the tribal chieftains, and
others were wiped out in the many battles. Thus the Toba lost ground
also in the military administration.

The wars down to A.D. 440 had been large-scale wars of conquest,
lightning campaigns that had brought in a great deal of booty. With
their loot the Toba developed great magnificence and luxury. The
campaigns that followed were hard and long-drawn-out struggles,
especially against South China, where there was no booty, because the
enemy retired so slowly that they could take everything with them. The
Toba therefore began to be impoverished, because plunder was the main
source of their wealth. In addition to this, their herds gradually
deteriorated, for less and less use was made of them; for instance,
horses were little required for the campaign against South China, and
there was next to no fighting in the north. In contrast with the
impoverishment of the Toba, the Chinese gentry grew not only more
powerful but more wealthy.

The Toba seem to have tried to prevent this development by introducing
the famous "land equalization system" (_chuen-t'ien_), one of their most
important innovations. The direct purposes of this measure were to
resettle uprooted farm population; to prevent further migrations of
farmers; and to raise production and taxes. The founder of this system
was Li An-shih, member of a Toba family and later husband of an imperial
princess. The plan was basically accepted in 477, put into action in
485, and remained the land law until _c_. 750. Every man and every
woman had a right to receive a certain amount of land for lifetime.
After their death, the land was redistributed. In addition to this
"personal land" there was so-called "mulberry land" on which farmers
could plant mulberries for silk production; but they also could plant
other crops under the trees. This land could be inherited from father to
son and was not redistributed. Incidentally we know many similar
regulations for trees in the Near East and Central Asia. As the tax was
levied upon the personal land in form of grain, and on the tree land in
form of silk, this regulation stimulated the cultivation of diversified
crops on the tree land which then was not taxable. The basic idea behind
this law was, that all land belonged to the state, a concept for which
the Toba could point to the ancient Chou but which also fitted well for
a dynasty of conquest. The new "_chuen-t'ien_" system required a complete
land and population survey which was done in the next years. We know
from much later census fragments that the government tried to enforce
this equalization law, but did not always succeed; we read statements
such as "X has so and so much land; he has a claim on so and so much
land and, therefore, has to get so and so much"; but there are no
records that X ever received the land due to him.

One consequence of the new land law was a legal fixation of the social
classes. Already during Han time (and perhaps even earlier) a
distinction had been made between "free burghers" (_liang-min_) and
"commoners" (_ch'ien-min_). This distinction had continued as informal
tradition until, now, it became a legal concept. Only "burghers", i.e.
gentry and free farmers, were real citizens with all rights of a free
man. The "commoners" were completely or partly unfree and fell under
several heads. Ranking as the lowest class were the real slaves (_nu_),
divided into state and private slaves. By law, slaves were regarded as
pieces of property, not as members of human society. They were, however,
forced to marry and thus, as a class, were probably reproducing at a
rate similar to that of the normal population, while slaves in Europe
reproduced at a lower rate than the population. The next higher class
were serfs (_fan-hu_), hereditary state servants, usually descendants of
state slaves. They were obliged to work three months during the year for
the state and were paid for this service. They were not registered in
their place of residence but under the control of the Ministry of
Agriculture which distributed them to other offices, but did not use
them for farm work. Similar in status to them were the private bondsmen
(_pu-ch'ue_), hereditarily attached to gentry families. These serfs
received only 50 per cent of the land which a free burgher received
under the land law. Higher than these were the service families
(_tsa-hu_), who were registered in their place of residence, but had to
perform certain services; here we find "tomb families" who cared for the
imperial tombs, "shepherd families", postal families, kiln families,
soothsayer families, medical families, and musician families. Each of
these categories of commoners had its own laws; each had to marry within
the category. No intermarriage or adoption was allowed. It is
interesting to observe that a similar fixation of the social status of
citizens occurred in the Roman Empire from _c_. A.D. 300 on.

Thus in the years between 440 and 490 there were great changes not only
in the economic but in the social sphere. The Toba declined in number
and influence. Many of them married into rich families of the Chinese
gentry and regarded themselves as no longer belonging to the Toba. In
the course of time the court was completely sinified.

The Chinese at the court now formed the leading element, and they tried
to persuade the emperor to claim dominion over all China, at least in
theory, by installing his capital in Loyang, the old centre of China.
This transfer had the advantage for them personally that the territories
in which their properties were situated were close to that capital, so
that the grain they produced found a ready market. And it was indeed no
longer possible to rule the great Toba empire, now covering the whole of
North China from North Shansi. The administrative staff was so great
that the transport system was no longer able to bring in sufficient
food. For the present capital did not lie on a navigable river, and all
the grain had to be carted, an expensive and unsafe mode of transport.
Ultimately, in 493-4, the Chinese gentry officials secured the transfer
of the capital to Loyang. In the years 490 to 499 the Toba emperor Wen
Ti (471-499) took further decisive steps required by the stage reached
in internal development. All aliens were prohibited from using their own
language in public life. Chinese became the official language. Chinese
clothing and customs also became general. The system of administration
which had largely followed a pattern developed by the Wei dynasty in the
early third century, was changed and took a form which became the model
for the T'ang dynasty in the seventh century. It is important to note
that in this period, for the first time, an office for religious affairs
was created which dealt mainly with Buddhistic monasteries. While after
the Toba period such an office for religious affairs disappeared again,
this idea was taken up later by Japan when Japan accepted a Chinese-type
of administration.

[Illustration: 6 Sun Ch'uean, ruler of Wu. _From a painting by Yen
Li-pen (c_. 640-680).]

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