The Early Eastern Zhou and the Spring and Autumn Period:Contentino for Supremacy Among the Major States
In 770B.C., King Ping moved the centre of political power eastward to Luoyi(presentday Luoyang), and the Eastern Zhou Dynasty came into being. In 256 B.C. the Eastern Zhou came to an end after 514 years of existence under 25 successive kings. The period from 722B.C., 49 years after the Zhou capital was moved east, to 481 B.C. is known to historians as the Spring and Autumn Period and the subsequent period, to 221B.C., is know as the Warring States Period.
The eastward move by the Zhou was an important political event. This was followed by annexation among the vassal states. During the Spring and Autumn Period, big states conquered 30 or more small states, some as many as 40 or 50 small states. It is said that there were 1,800 states under the Western Zhou, but the number dwindled to 100 by the Spring and Autumn Period as the result of conquest and annexation. Of the 100 only about a dozen were politically significant. During the Warring States Period, only 7 states, plus a few smaller ones, remained before they were finally absorbed by the Qin. The early years of the Eastern Zhou, the Spring and Autumn Period, and the Warring States Period were all marked by great upheaval.
After moving his capital to the east, King Ping reestablished the power of the dynasty with the help of such states as Jin, Zheng, Wei and Qin. He relied particularly on Jin and Zheng for support. The capital of Zheng was located at modern Huaxian , Shaanxi Province; it was then moved to modern Xinzheng , Henan Province, at the time when the Eastern Zhou moved its capital. Duke Zhuang of Zheng was active politically during the first two decades of the Spring and Autumn Period. Jin, located in the southern section of modern Shaanxi Province , was a state of fertile land where Han communities were interspersed with Rong and Di tribes. It gained considerable strength during the first few years of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty. Qin, a new- comer among the states, grew in power amidst struggles against the Rong; it extended its jurisdiction to the eastern section of modern Gansu Province and the central section of modern Shaanxi Province . Among the strong powers of this time were Jin, Qin, Qi (in today’s Shandong Province ) and Chu (in the Changjiang and Huanghe river basins and the southern section of modern Henan Province ). Because of its continuing expansion to the north, Chu became a formidable threat to the northern states and an object of their defence. In 679 B.C., Duke Huan of Qi stopped the civil war in Song; then he called a meeting that was attended by the various states and thus established the supremacy of his state. The state was set for the contention of power, of which the previous 90 years had been only a preparatory stage.
Duke Huan designated a statesman named Guan Zhong to carry out reforms, the purpose of which was to build up a rich state with strong armed forces. He succeeded in uniting some of the vassal lords by invoking the slogan of “loyalty to the King of Zhou” and by put-ting up strong resistance against Chu , Rong, and Di that had been a menace to the allied states. As the Bei Rong ( Northern Rong ) was harassing the state of Yan and as the Di was attacking the state of Xing after having conquered the state of Wei, Qi supported Yan in defeating the Bei Rong and helped Wei to reestablish itself, besides moving Xing to a safer region. In 656 B.C., Duke Huan led an alliance of Qi, Lu, Song, Zheng, Chen, Wei, Xu, and Cao to attack Cai and Chu . The allied army fought its way to Zhaoling (modem Yancheng , Henan Province) and forced Chu to pay tribute to the king of Zhou. Qi’s su-premacy had now reached its apex. It is said that the great alliance headed by the duke met on nine occasions. At the wellknown confer- ence held at Kuiqiu (to the east of modem Lankao , Henan Province) in 651 B.C., a treaty to be observed by all the participants was signed. In 643 B.C., Duke Huan died, and his death was followed by intense contention for succession. Before long, hegemony passed to the state of Jin.
Duke Wen of Jin was the second overlord of this period. He became the sovereign of his state when he was over 60, after nineteen years of exile during which he learned to understand contemporary society better than any other sovereign of his time. Hu Yan, Zhao Cui and others who had accompanied him during the exile were all out- standing political figures. Duke Wen ascended the throne in 636 B.C. and, the very next year, raised the slogan of “loyalty to the King of Zhou”. He brought back to the capital King Xiang of Zhou who had left the capital because of fratricidal fighting within the court itself. He also succeeded in putting down rebellions. In 632 B.C., the state of Chu led an alliance with Chen, Cai, Zheng and Xu in an attack against Song on account of the latter’s pro-Jin policies. In response, Jin led the forces of Song, Qi and Qin and met the invaders at Chengpu (today’s Linpu township to the southwest of Juancheng County , Shandong Province ) and decisively defeated them. For the first time, Chu suffered a serious setback in its expansion towards the north. The suc-cessful encounter enabled Duke Wen to enjoy a fame more widespread than that of Duke Huan of Qi. For next 80 years and more, the contention between Jin and Chu for supremacy was the dominant feature of Chinese history and each side had victories and losses. In597 B.C. Chu defeated Jin’s forces at Bi (near modem Zhengzhou , Henan Province), and the victory made Duke Zhuang of Chu an overlord of the states.
Duke Mu of Qin, aided by able statesmen, was also ambitiot He assisted two princes of Jin to return to their homeland as rule1 and Duke Wen of Jin was one of the two. In 627 BC., Duke Mu took the advantage of Duke Wen’s death to launch a surprise attack on Zheng. He was defeated by Jin, and all his three generals were cap-tured. From then on as Qin could not expand much to the east, it concentrated its efforts on the west. As a result, Duke Mu became famous as an overlord in the western regions.
Wars among big states in the Huanghe River valley broug nothing but disasters to the small states which, as the bones of conte-tion, could not cope with the situation. In the meantime, the intermitent wars intensified the fighting within the ruling classes in each star, and the resulting rise and fall of different political forces left it powerless to cope with a big state’s aggression. Not surprisingly, mar states were longing for a change. In 579 B.C. and again in 546 B.C.,the state of Song, which had suffered enormously from the warfae among the big states, called a peace conference. It succeeded in at taining its goal during the second conference. It was agreed that the eight small states of Song, Lu, Zheng, Wei, Cao, Xu, Chen and Cai would pay tribute to both Jin and Chu , and that the two big states of Qi and Qin would enter into an alliance relationship with Jin and Chu respectively. Thus Jin and Chu had an equal share of the supremacy. The agreement temporarily put an end to the contention for hegemony among the states in the Huanghe River valley.
After the peace conference, China entered the late Spring and Autumn Period, which was marked by two important events: the In-tensification of struggle between the leading noble families and the houses of the sovereigns within each state and expansion to the Huanghe River area by two new states, Wu and Yue, that rose to prominence in the lower reaches of the Changjiang River.
Like the overlords among rulers of the states, the leading noble families held real power within each state. After the death of Duke Wen, some nobles in Jin gradually attained prominence during wars against foreign states. By the late Spring and Autumn Period, political power in each state had passed from the sovereign to the nobles. Having no control over generals and soldiers, the sovereign led a life of luxury and self-indulgence and paid little attention to the lot of the common people. The nobles, on the other hand, were stronger than the ruler because they were supported by able advisers and armed forces. They also attached some importance to the winning of the masses. As a result, contradictions continued to sharpen between the sovereign and the nobles and among the nobles themselves. In the state of Jin, six noble families, Zhi, Zhao, Wei, Han, Fan and Zhonghang emerged and ruled the state among them. Later the Fan and Zhonghang families collapsed as a political force, and only four families remained active. In 453 B.C., Zhao, Wei and Han divided Zhi among them. The ground was then set for the three remaining families to divide the state of Jin whenever they liked.
Like Jin, the noble families in Qi grew in power after the death of Duke Huan. Among them were Guo, Gao, Luan, B ao, Cui, Qing, Yan and Tian, the last one eventually overwhelming all the others by in-trigues and brutal force. In 489 B.C., the Tians went as far as killing the sovereign of Qi. They did the same thing again in 481 B.C. They held the political power in Qi beginning in 480 B.C. From then on, they could replace the sovereign of Qi anytime they wished.
Smaller states had their noble families, too. In Lu, for example, there were the families of Jisun, Mengsun, and Shusun, all of whom had originally belonged to the ruling house. In 562 B.C., they divided the land and labourers of the ruling duke, virtually partitioning Lu into three separate states. The duke could only live on the tributes paid by the noble families.
The capital of Wu was located in today’s Suzhou , Jiangsu Province. The ruling family of Wu had the same surname as the king of Zhou’s, but the state later became a dependency of Chu . In 584 B.C., having learned archery and the use of war horses and chariots from the people of Jin, Wu strengthened its armed forces and began to commu-nicate with the northern states. The relationship between Wu and Chu also underwent a change. The prince of Wu, He Lia, appointed Wu Zixu to be his military adviser and Sun Wu commander of the army. In506 B.C., Wu launched five separate attacks against Chu and won them all. It captured Chu ‘s capital Yingdu (now Jiangling County , Hubei Province). King Zhao of Chu fled, and the whole state was on the verge of being exterminated. Qin then sent troops to help Chu ; meanwhile, infighting broke out among the Wu aristocrats. Yue took advantage of the situation to attack Wu, and the latter was compelled, to withdraw from Chu .
Yue, whose capital was located at modern Shaoxing Counnty , Zhejiang Province, grew quickly in power with the help of Chu . Led by Prince Gou Jian, it defeated Wu in a decisive battle, in which Prince He Lu suffered an injury which led to his death. He was succeeded by his son Fu Chai, who sought revenge. In 494 B.C., Wu defeated Yue and reduced the latter to a dependency. Debasing himself as a Wu subject, Prince Gou Jian prepared to restore his state. In 482 B.C., when Prince Fu Chai was in the north to confer with other princes, Yue attacked and captured Wu’s capital. In 473 B.C., it ended Wu’s existence altogether.
After victory over Yue, Prince Fu Chai of Wu had met with other princes at Huangchi (modern Fengqiu County , Henan Province) in his attempt to seize hegemony from the prince of Jin. After Yue defeated Wu, Prince Gou Jian also went to the north to confer with other prrinces for the same purpose. Both journeys indicated that the relationship between the north and the south had been greatly strengthened by then. The attempt of Wu and Yue to seize hegemony nevertheless marked the last days of the Spring and Autumn Period when the struggle for supremacy was no longer as significant as before.
The Seven Powers of the Warring States Period
In 403 B.C., Jin was divided into three independent states, Han,Zhao and Wei. In 386 B.C., the Tian family openly seized state power in Qi. These four states plus Qin, Chu and Yan are referred to by histo-rians as the seven powers of the Warring States Period. Geographi-cally Chu was located in the south, Zhao in the north, Yan in the northeast, Qin in the west, Qi in the east, and Han and Wei in the cen-tre. By this time, none of the states used the slogan of “loyalty to the King of Zhou” any more as Zhou had become a much smaller state. Instead of confrontation between Chu and the northern states of pring and Autumn Period, the seven powers of the Warring States Period contended with one another. Fierce fighting went on among the seven as each tried to annex its neighbours until Qin succeeded in conquering all the rival powers.
Greater social changes took place during the Warring States Period than in the preceding period. Farsighted statesmen perceived these changes and took the initiative to expedite them politically. This brought up the issue of political reforms. During the earlier stage of this period there were men like Li Kui in Wei, Wu Qi in Chu , and later Shang Yang in Qin, whose reforms had a great impact on history.
In the early Warring States Period, Wei was a powerful and pros-perous state. Marquis Wen of Wei, as a monarch of high aspirations, searched for talented men and found Li Kui whom he put in charge of reforms. Li Kui, in his turn, appointed people according to their abil-ities instead of their social status, and gave high positions to those who had rendered meritorious services to the state. Having studied the budget of farmers, he realized their financial difficulties and proposed measures to raise production. He introduced a system of stabilizing grain prices whereby the government bought grain at a reasonable price during a good harvest and sold it at a reasonable price during a bad harvest. In this way, grain prices would not rise or fall drastically, and both producer and consumer would benefit and lead a more secure life. Measures of this kind played a significant role in maintaining social stability, strengthening the government, and building a rich and powerful Wei.
Wu Qi, a famous statesman and strategist, had won victories on the battlefield for both Lu and Wei. He had also distinguished himself as an administrator in Wei. Yet the aristocrats in both states rejected and persecuted him, and he had to leave Wei for Chu in 382 B.C. In Chu King Dao made him his chief minister. As chief minister, Wu Qi introduced new laws, invalidated sinecure, and abolished the privileges of the king’s distant relatives. Money thus saved was used for the strengthening of the armed forces. He also stipulated that the enfeoffed land of the nobles must be returned to the state after three generations. These reform measures certainly benefited the state, but they aroused the resentment of the nobles. As soon as King Dao died in 381 B.C., the nobles sought him out and wanted to kill him. He died taking refuge behind the king’s corpse, and some of the arrows aimed at him pierced the king’s body as well. When the crown prince as-cended the throne and became King Su of Chu, he ordered the execu-tion of all the nobles who desecrated the late king’s body while killing Wu Qi, and more than seventy families were eliminated as a result. The execution dealt a heavy blow to the conservative forces of Chu and provided new impetus to the development of the state.’
In 359 B.C., Shang Yang launched his reform in Qin, a reform that historians regard as the most significant event in the Warring States Period. The reform also indicated that the middle stage of the Warring States Period had arrived.
Shang Yang was a native of Wei, and his surname was Gongsun. Shang was the title of his fief, and Yang his personal name. Having won the confidence of Duke Xiao of Qin, he began to introduce reforms. He made clear what the laws were, rewarding those who had distinguished themselves in farming or on the battlefield. The purpose was to strengthen monarchal rule. He abolished the landowning system of the past, promoted production by individual peasants, and car-ried out a policy of “elevating agriculture and downgrading com-merce”. Land now could be sold or bought. Measures were adopted for a full utilization of labour power for agricultural development. For isntance, families with two or more male adults living in the same house were required to pay twice the amount of taxes compared to families with only one male adult. Those who harvested more grain or produced more silk would be exempted from corv6e, while merchants and those too lazy to work would be condemned to slavery together with their wives and children. Shang Yang abolished the traditional privileges of the nobles and introduced a new system in which there were 20 ranks of honour, which were granted to those who deserved them. Social hierarchy was clearily defined, and a person with rank would be entitled to an appropriate amount of land, houses, retainers, concubines, and clothing. A member of nobility who had not distin-guished himself on the battlefield would see his name deleted from the royal roster. On the other hand, he who had distinguished himself on the battlefield would be rewarded with honour, which was denied to those without military credit, no matter how wealthy they were. To establish a political system of autocratic monarchy, Shang Yang grouped all villages and towns of the state into 30 to 40 counties gov-erned by magistrates and their deputies, who were appointed and re-moved by the sovereign himself. He also divided households into groups of five or ten, responsible for one another’s behaviour. Those who failed to report a criminal act would be cut in two at the waist; those who reported would be rewarded as if they had killed an enemy; those who harboured a criminal would be severely punished as if they had surrended to an enemy. Shang Yang also standardized and made uniform weights and measures.
These reforms were opposed by many people. When the crown prince Si broke the law, Shang Yang said that since the resistance to law enforcement came from above, the crown prince must be punished. However, since the culprit was the heir apparent and could not be punished, he punished the prince’s two tutors instead. Those who opposed his reform were also punished. From then on, his reform became very effective. However, like Wu Qi, he aroused resentment as well. After the death of Duke Xiao, those who had opposed the reform wrongly accused him of having started a rebellion. Subsequently he and his whole family were put to death.
The reform of Shang Yang lasted more than twenty years and greatly strengthened Qin. Qin became a power held in awe by all other states. The reform also paved the way for the Qin rulers to realize their imperial ambition.
In the third year of Shang Yang’s reform, Prince Wei ascended the throne in Qi. He rewarded the officials who had reclaimed wasteland and made people wealthy; he punished those who had failed to promote production, driven people to poverty, accepted bribes, or lied to the sovereign. He appointed Zou Ji to be the prime minister and put the strategist Sun Bin in charge of military reform. The purpose was to strengthen the state of Qi both politically and militarily.
As Qin and Qi became powerful, Wei, which had held a superior position during the early Warring States Period, now became a victim of attacks by both Qin and Qi and grew weak daily. However, Wei launched an attack on Zhao in the year 354 B.C. The next year Qi sent out troops to rescue Zhao at the latter’s request. Qi’s army, adopting Sun Bin’s strategy, launched a sudden attack on Daliang (modem Kaifeng CitY, Henan Province), Wei’s capital. The Wei forces were compelled to withdraw so as to defend their capital. The Qi army intercepted and routed Wei forces at Kuiling (to the west of modem Changyuan County, Henan Province). The strategy has come to be known in Chinese military history as “besieging Wei in order to rescue Zhao”, or rescuing the besieged by attacking the base of the besiegers. In 342 B.C. Wei attacked Han; once again, Qi dispatched troops to help the victim. This time, Sun Bin lured the enemy to as far as Ma- ling (to the southwest of modem Daming County, Hebei Province) where the Qi army dealt him a severe blow. Wei’s crown prince, Shen, was captured; Wei’s general, Pang Juan, committed suicide. During the time when Shang Yang was carrying out his reforms, Qin made repeated attacks on Wei. In 352 B.C., Qin captured Anyi (modern Xiaxian County, Shanxi Province) of Wei. In 340 B.C., the Qin army, led by Shang Yang himself, attacked again and this time captured Wei’s top commander, Prince Qiong. From then on, the Qin army repeatedly marched eastward, and Wei was forced to cede Yinjin (modem Huayin Couhty, Shaanxi Province) to Qin. The occupation of Yinjin provided the Qin army with a strategic passageway for ad-vancing eastward. Wei was forced to cede its land west of the Huanghe, enabling Qin to use the river as natural barrier.
The war between Wei on one side and Qi and Qin on the other weakened Wei considerably and gave Qin footholds in its march east-ward. Qin also defeated YiqurongI to its west and exterminated Shu2 in the south, and grew more powerful as a result. The six other states, threatened by Qin, were susceptible to the idea that they should form an alliance for defence. As the allies had contradictions among them- selves, the alliance was anything but solid. Qin took advantage of this situation and tried to separate them from one another. It persuaded each of them to form an alliance with it instead. Qi and Chu had a treaty of alliance between them, but Qin succeeded in making the treaty ineffective and repeatedly attacked Chu, which lost both men and territory in the process. In 299 B.C., Prince Huai of Chu went to Qin with which he was hoping to form an alliance, but he was held as a captive at Qin’s capital Xianyang, where he later died. From then on, Chu became weaker and weaker.
As Qin and Chu fought against each other, changes also took place in Zhao, Qi and Yan. In 307 B.C., Prince Wuling of Zhao carried out military reforms by organizing a powerful cavalry and clothing the cavalry men in the style of nomadic peoples, making it easier for them to ride and to shoot their arrows. Qi, taking advantage of the internal turmoil of Yan, attacked and captured its capital in 314 B.C. The in-vader killed Prince Kuai and stationed troops on Yan’s soil. In 284 B.C., Prince Zhao of Yan dispatched general Yue Yi to attack Qi and, in five years, took more than seventy cities, leaving only two cities still in Qi’s control. Prince Zhao died in 279 B.C., and his successor, being suspicious of Yue Yi, replaced him with Qi Jie as commander. Qi’s general Tian Dan took advantage of Yue Yi’s absence by launching an offensive and succeeded in routing Yan’s army. He killed Qi Jie and recovered the lost territories. The war between Qi and Yan, lasting 35 years, exhausted the strength of both, weakening the eastern states in their confrontation with Qin in the west. As the war between Qi and Yan lingered on, Qin launched an all-out offensive against Chu and succeeded in taking over half of the latter’s territory. Finally, in278 B.C., Qin’s army marched into Chu ‘s capital, Ying. By then the later stage of the Warring States Period had arrived, a stage in which Qin tried to unify the country by its own strength.
During the late stage of the Warring States Period, Qin first con-centrated on attacking Han, Zhao and Wei. In 260 B.C., Qin and Zhao fought at Changping (modern Gaoping County, Shanxi Province). Before the battle, Qin succeeded in sowing discord in the enemy’s ranks, making Zhao replace the experienced general Lian Po with the armchair strategist Zhao Kuo. Then General Bao Qi of Qin lured the Zhao forces into a trap where they were surrounded on all sides and their route of retreat cut off. When the battle was over, Zhao lost more than 400,000 men, including Zhao Kuo who was killed in action.
Apart from military offensives, Qin also adopted a policy of be- friending distant states while attacking those nearby. It bought support in the enemy’s ranks with cash and resorted to assassination as well. In 246 B.C., Prince Ying Zheng ascended the throne, and the new ruler was later known as the First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty. In 230 B.C., Qin conquered Han and, in nine years, conquered Zhao, Wei, Chu, Yan and Qi as well. Since the nobles in Qi had taken more gold from Qin than those in any other state, Qi surrendered to Qin without a fight in 221 B.C.
The Transition from Slavery to Feudalism
The reform of Shang Yang lasted more than twenty years and greatly strengthened Qin. Qin became aGreat changes had taken place in productive forces dunng the early period of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty and the Spring and Autumn Period. When consequent changes took place in production relations, the time had arrived for the slave society to be transformed into a feu-dal society.
The development of social productive forces in the period that covered the early Eastern Zhou, Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods was marked by the increasing popularity of iron tools. Iron had been discovered and used as early as the Shang Dynasty. By the late period of the Western Zhou Dynasty, iron tools were in com- mon use. In the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods, people knew quite a bit about exploring and mining iron. It was recorded then that wherever reddishbrown objects were seen in the mountains, there might be iron deposits underneath. The record also said that there were 3,609 mountains yielding iron. The iron-smelting site in Linzi County , Shandong Province, covered an area of over 100,000 square metres. At the iron mining site of Tonglu Mountains , in Daye County , Hubei Province, the mine tunnel supports since discovered were quite advanced and complete. Facilities and installations for transportation, ventilation, and water drainage have also been found. Normally, the ore first went through a selection process in the pit before it was brought up by winches. As part of the iron-smelting equipment, the bellows were made of leather, connected to the furnace by a tube at one end and a handle made of porcelain at the other end. The turning of the handle forced air into the furnace, causing the char- coal to burn and the heat of the furnace to go up. In the late Spring and Autumn Period, craftsmen in the state of Wu already knew how to cast iron into sharp swords. In 513 B.C., with iron collected as tax, the state of Jin made a tripod on which the entire criminal code was cast. All this demonstrated that iron instruments had become quite popular among the common people after a considerable period of development.
Iron weapons dating back to the Warring States Period include armours, sticks, swords, broad swords, awls, halberds and daggers. A study of the steel swords and halberds unearthed at the secondary capital of Yan, located in modern Yixian County, Hebei Province shows that the final product came about through carbonization and repeated heating and hammering, followed by a sudden immersion in water. The steel thus obtained was martensitic, noted for its hardness and strength.
At this time, people also discovered that a magnet at-tracted iron and that a magnetic needle always ran in a northsouth direction. They invented the early form of a compass, known as Sinan. In the middle Spring and Autumn Period, farm tools made of iron were in use in Qi. The iron farm tools in common use during the War- ring Slates Period included plough, pick, hoe, spade and sickle and the common iron-made tools for handicraft work were axe, chopper, saw, awl, chisel and hammer. For women, the iron-made tools were needle, knife, awl, etc. People in Yan used iron moulds to mass-produce farming tools, handicraft tools, and spare parts for wagons.
The use of iron tools made it possible to employ draught animals for agricultural production. Oxen ploughing the fields became a com-mon sight in the Spring and Autumn Period. Horses were also em-ployed for ploughing during the Warring States Period. All this helped intensive farming and did much to increase agricultural productivity.
Closely related to the development of agricultural productivity in the Warring States Period was the construction of water conservancy projects. In 486 B.C., King Fu Chai of Wu, in an attempt to seek supremacy in the north, constructed the Han Canal from Jiangdu to Huai’an, both in modern Jiangsu Province , so that the Huaihe Rive1 was linked with the Changjiang River . Later, he constructed a deepel canal connecting the Yishui River in the north with the Jishui River in the west, joining the drainage of the Huaihe and the Huanghe. This was a gigantic project constructed primarily for water transportation Ximen Bao of Wei in the Warring States Period irrigated farmland in Ye (modern Linzhang County, Hebei Province) with water from the Zhanghe River, turning large tracts of salinealkaline soil into fertile fields, demonstrating the important role that water conservancy pro-jects could play in improving agriculture. Li Bing of Qin built in mod-em Guanxian County , Sichuan Province, the Dujiang Weir, cutting Minjiang River into an inner and an outer tributary. The project pre- vented flood and facilitated water transportation, and provided irriga-tion which turned the Chengdu Plain into a vast expanse of rich farm-land. The state of Qin also employed Zheng Guo, an expert in water conservancy from the state of Han, to build a 150-kilometre-long ca-nal connecting the Jingshui with the Beiluoshui rivers. The use of silt- laden water from these two rivers for irrigation transformed over40,000 hectares of saline land into fertile fields. At this time, well sweeps were in use to bring water from low to high areas.
Farmers in the Warring States Period could already tell the differences among various types of soil and knew how to transform one type of soil into another. They classified soil into 9 categories and selected the suitable crops. They used a variety of manure, ranging from animal droppings to wood ashes and green manure. They mixed crop seeds with animal bones and called the mixture “fertilized seeds”. In crop management, they paid attention to the right distance between plants, straight rows, selection of healthy young plants and root pro- tection. They knew the importance of weeding and the elimination of locusts and snout moths. Books on agriculture were in existence. The ancient book Lu’s Almanac and ters on agriculture. some other works all contained chapters on agriculture.
During the Warring States Period, progress was made in salt making, lacquerware manufacturing and the casting of bronzes. Sea salt in Qi and Yan, lake salt in Anyi of Wei, and well salt in Ba and Shu were well-known. Beginning with the middle of the Warring States Period, musical instruments, weapons, outer coffins, and many utensils for daily houshold use were coated with lacquer. In the casting of bronzes, such new techniques as etching, inalying of gold and silver, enchasing and gilding were all used.
The increase of social productivity in agriculture during the early Eastern Zhou, the Spring and Autumn, and the Warring States periods gradually changed the nature of the productive forces. Apart from the newly invented farming tools, slaves who had been engaged in collective farming were now replaced as labourers by peasants each working on his own, Independent peasants also replaced those who formerly worked in communal villages.
The inadequate manpower resulting from slowdown or the escape of slaves worried the slave-owners during the late stage of slave society. A poem from Qi in the middle of the Spring and Autmn Period says:” Stop ploughing the fields, for wild grass is shooting up.” Touring the state of Chen, and envoy from the Eastern Zhou complained that the crops there had all been covered up by weeds. Clearly, land lay waste in some areas owing to the shortage of manpower. Under these circumstances, slave-owners were complelled to give up the practice of using slave labour, as they realized that it was more advantageous to exploit individual peasants.
The old practice of distributing land according to its fertility gradually lost its appeal. Now peasants could make their own arrangement regarding land roation, since it was no longer necessary to rotate land on a community basis. A special relationship was thus established between a peasant and the land he tilled permanently. This in turn gave birth to the concept of the family as a producative unit. We now know that Jin was the first sate to use administrative power to promote such a practice in 645 B.C.
The individual peasant had two distinct features. First, he was tied to land, unlike the relationship between slaves and land or between a village commune and land. Secondly, and individual family, where the husband tilled and the wife wove became known as a “household”, or a productive unit. All this further increased the peasants’ dependence on land.
The change in social productive forces inevitably led to changes in prroduction relations. The production relations of the slave system could no longer suit the new productive forces and had to be replaced by the production relations of the feudal system. The representative of the new productive forces must be one who had a certain degree of freedom and was engaged in private economy, not simply a tool that could speak. When exploiters took individual peasants as their main target of exploitation, they could no longer own the producer as completely as they did the slave. Now the ownership was only partial. Under these conditions, the exploiters became landlords. The beginning of confronation between peasants and landlords marked the appearance of the feudal relations of production.
Beginning with the middle of the Spring and Autumn Period and particularly during the Warring Sates Period, some princes and dukes changed from slave-owners to landlords. Most of the landlords acquired land through grants as a reward for their military deeds. Some of the indivdual peasants might also grow into landlorda. In places where land could be traded, merchants might also become landlords.
Feudal landownership was system where land was owned by landlords. Different landlords occupied different political and social positions. Such ranks were merely a refection of different grades of landownership. After its inception in the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods. feudal landownership in China always represented a hierachy.
In all of the reforms carried out by Shang Yang in the State of Qin, including the encouragement of maried sons to live in separate households, the rewarding of those who had done well in farming and weaving, the registation and organization of households, and the suppression of commerce, the tried to transform a household into a production unit where men tilled and women wove, thus tying the labour force to the land. His other measures of reform, such as the granting of the twenty ranks of honour according to military deeds, the distribution of land and houses according to merit, and the downgrading of nobles who had failed to distinguish themselves in war, were all aimed at the replacement of the slave-owning class by the new landlord class. The reform, enforced through administrative power, accelerated the development of the new producative forces and the corresponding feudal landownership based on a system of ranks.
The change in production relationship was no easy matter and was bound to be accompanied by complicated struggle. Class struggle, including the struggle among the exploiting classes, was inevitable. The reforms of Wu Qi and Shang Yang posed, from the very beginning, a confrontation with the nobility of the old order. The fact that they were killed for their reforms indicated the harshness of the strug- gle. The running away of slaves, the roaming about of “thieves and robbers” and the “fleeing of citizens” in general were actually differ-ent forms of class struggle that went on all the time. History recorded the “fleeing of male and female slaves” and the “fleeing of masses”; all this indicated that ordinary citizens or slaves ran away because they could no longer bear the heavy burden of military and labour services imposed upon them by the ruling classes.
In 641 B.C., rulers of Liang (to the south of modern Hancheng County , Shaanxi Province) forced people to build they city walls. When they ordered the weary labourers to dig a moat, they caused a”mass fleeing of citizens”. Qin seized the occasion to attack Liang and succeeded in conquering it. A hundred and twenty-two years later, when Chu built its capital at Yingcheng in 519 B.C., the above incident was still regarded as a lesson to be avoided, indicating its farreaching impact. “Thieves and robbers” were a serious threat to the laaling classes of various states. They could be found on the highways of Chu, or in the capital city of Jin . According to legends, there was a leader of a mass uprising named Zhi, referred to by rulers of various states as Thief Zhi. He had a strong force of several thousand people under his command and dealt telling blows to the ruling classes. Struggles of this kind might be small in scale and did not have many slaves as participators, but whoever participated fought bravely against the slaveowning class, weakened the rule of the slave system, and paved the way for the rise of feudalism.
Industry and commerce during the early Eastern Zhou, the Spring and Autumn, and the Warring States periods, unlike agriculture, did not play a dominant role in the social economy as a whole. As far as the record goes, the traders and the industrialists all had considerable influence. Two stories about merchants during the Spring and Autumn Period deserve special mention. In 627 B.C., while journeying to Zhou on a business trip, Xuan Gao, a merchant of Zheng, encountered Qin’s army on its way to attack Zheng by surprise. He gave four pieces of tanned leather and twelve oxen to the Qin army in the name of the sovereign of Zheng. The Qin army mistakenly thought that news of their projected attack must have leaked out, and it decided to withdraw During the battle at Bi between Jin and Chu in 597 B.C., an official of Jin, Xun Ying, was captured. Merchants of Zheng planned to smuggle him out of Chu in a cart loaded with merchandise. Before the plan was, carried out, Chu released him. The Zheng merchants in these two sto-ries might not be ordinary businessmen but people with political status Zi Gong, a disciple of Confucius, was not a professional merchant, and all his commercial activities were closely related to politics. Lu Buwei was not only a successful merchant of the late Warring States Period, but also a political manipulator. He masterminded and fi-nanced the return to Qin of Prince Yi Ren, who had been held in Zhao as a hostage. After Zi Chu ascended the throne as Prince Zhuangxiang, Lti Buwei became his prime minister.
Agricultural and side-line products were the main trade items during the Warring States Period. They included grain, silk, bast fibre, textile, kohemp cloth, special local products of various regions, and luxuries used by the ruling class. Bai Gui, a merchant of Wei, amassed a huge fortune by purchasing grain and selling silk and lacquerware in years of good harvest and by selling grain and buying textile and cot-ton goods in years of bad harvest. Iron-smelting and salt-making were both profitable trades. Guo Zong and the Zhuo family of Zhao, Cheng Zheng of Qi, the Kong family of Liang, and the Bing family of Cao all made fortunes bysmelting iron. Yi Dun of Lu and Diao Jian of Qi became rich by making salt or trading in fish. All of them employed slaves for production. Slavery persisted for a long time in the ironsmelting and salt-manufacturing industries.
Confucius, Mo Zi, Other Thinkers and the Elegies of Chu
During the early Eastern Zhou, the Spring and Autumn, and the Warring states periods, persistent social upheavals gradually broke up the monopoly of culture and literature by members of the nobility, a monopoly that began as early as the Western Zhou. Private schools became a trendy development. During the late Spring and Autumn Period, Confucius started the trend by providing private teaching. Then, in the Warring States Period, many schools of thought came into existence and began to contend with one another. Ci, a new form of literature reflecting the trend of the time, appeared in the middle of the Warring States Period.
Confucius, whose personal name was Qiu and courtesy name Zhongni, was born in 551 B.C., in Zhou Yi, modern Qufu County , Shandong Province, then a part of the state of Lu. He died in 479 B.C. His ancestors used to be slave-owners in Song, but his great grand- father fled to Lu due to failure in his political career. By his father’s time, the noble family had declined financially. During his youth, Confucius was for a time a lowranking official managing warehouses; then he tended sheep and oxen. For the most part of his life, however, he was a private teacher. It is said that he had more than 3,000 stu-dents, 70 of whom were considered to be excellent. He often took some of his students with him while touring the various states. The rulers of these states all received him courteously and consulted him. Nevertheless, Confucius never had the opportunity to put his theory of government into practice. Not until his fifties did he become an offi-cial in charge of criminal punishment and the maintenance of social order in the state of Lu. He was then able to participate in state ad- ministration, but held the post for only three months. He devoted his later years to the collation and editing of literary works. He was said to have edited the Book of History and the Book of Odes. He added explanatory notes to the Book of Changes, a work on divination. He compiled the Spring and Autumn Annals. The Book of Rites and the Book of Music were examined and revised by him, too. Except for the Book of Music which has been lost, the other five books, in later years, became known as the Confucian classics which followers of Confu-cianism must read and abide by. The spring and Autumn Annals was the earliest and more or less complete chronicle, which had great im-pact on later historical works. After Confucius’ death, his disciples compiled his statements to form a book entitled The Analects.
His lectures and tours indicated clearly that, like many others who did not enjoy the political status of the nobles, Confucius intend-ed to take part in politics. These people were a rising force in a time of turmoil. Most of them were commoners, but some may have been nobles in origin who had lost their status. Confucius said that those who did well in studies could become officials. Thus the purpose of his teaching was to help his students acquire the necessary skill to get into politics. He often praised his students by saying that this one would do well in politics and that one could become a prime minister.
The content of Confucius’ private teaching was antagonistic to that taught by the official schools of the nobles. He held that men were alike in nature, a teaching that was contrary to the basic concept of a slave society where social status was preordained. Speaking about politics, Confucius proposed that good and capable people should be appointed to official posts, a proposal that was contrary to the practice of heredi-tary rule. All this reflects the progressive aspect of his thinking.
As for the rites that supposedly governed the behaviour of the nobles beginning with the Western Zhou Dynasty, Confucius believed that they should not be merely a formality but should instead be combined with benevolence. Rites without benevolence would be totally meaningless.
Confucius, nevertheless, was only a reformist. He did not carry his ideas to their logical conclusion. Though he initiated private teaching, what he taught was nevertheless the same as the nobles used to learn. He did not believe that the noble status was preordained, but he defended the hierarchy of the nobility. He advocated the elevation of good and capable people, but he never raised objection to the offi- cial hereditary system, even advising good and capable men to be satisfied with their poverty and lowly position. He emphasized the importance of benevolence and regarded it as the highest ideal of mo-rality. Yet, according to him, benevolence meant different grades of love more love for those who were close and less for those who were distant, more for the highly placed and less for the lowly. Only the socially elevated could be loving, he said, while those below were merely objects of love. On the one hand, he stressed that rites should be combined with benevolence. On the other, he held that benevolence should be practised within the strict boundary of rites. Attempting to solve problems involving rites and benevolence, Confucius failed to use the new ideas to replace the old formality; instead, he adhered to the old formality as a means of reshaping old ideas. While his activiti-es coutaiued, some progressive elements, such as his aspiration to be a statesman, basically, he defended the interests of the slave-owning nobles without being able to break through the shackles of the old order. Confucius viewed the upheavals of the Spring and Autumn Period as an abnormal situation in which society was not guided by right principles; he longed for the return of the Western Zhou times when society was guided by such principles. Rationally he knew that the Western Zhou times would never return; emotionally, however, he could not bring himself to face the fact. Many described him as a man who “does what he knows is impossible”.
As the first private teacher who brought education to a large number of people, Confucius was properly regarded as having made great contributions in the cultural history of China . We must be re-minded, however, that being politically conservative, he worked against the tide of history.
The school of thought founded by Confucius was known as Confucianism. A later school of thought which had equal influence was the school of Mohism founded by Mo Zi.
Mo Zi, whose personal name was Di, was a native of either Lu or Song. He was active during the period of 468-376 B.C. More in line with the interest of the common people, some of his important theories were in direct conflict with those of Confucius. His ideas could be found in a book entitled Mo Zi.
Mo Zi advocated universal love, the love for all without discrimination. One must treat another person, his family and his country in the same way as one treated oneself, one’s own family, and one’s own country. Thus Mo Zi’s love was totally different from the concept of benevolence taught by Confucius. Mo Zi had no use for rites and music; his teaching of frugality on funerals and other occasions was in sharp contrast with the kind of life the nobles had and the kind of ad-vice Confucius gave.
In politics, Mo Zi believed that people with ability should be elevated; he was opposed to inherited wealth or nobility. He said that a man with ability should become a government official even though he might be a lowly peasant or an ordinary worker. This idea of his was different from that of Confucius who did not clearly oppose the he- reditary system in the officialdom.
According to Mo Zi, heaven and the demons rewarded the good and punished the evil. King Jie of Xia, King Zhou of Shang, and King You and King Li of Zhou, being tyrannical rulers, were punished for their opposition to the will of heaven, while Great Yu of Xia, King Tang of Shang, and King Wen and King Wu of Zhou, being saintly leaders, were rewarded for their compliance with the wishes of heaven. He believed that reward and punishment were meted out by heaven and the demons in accordance with the way people behaved. Poverty and wealth and people’s status were neither preordained nor immutable. He invoked the will of heaven to persuade rulers to display kindness, so that “the starving may have food, those suffering from cold may have clothes, and the toilers may have some rest”. Though all this was merely a wish, his opposition to fatalism was nevertheless pro- gressive.
Ideologically speaking, both Confucius and Mo Zi were idealists. But there are noteworthy elements of materialism in Mo Zi’s theory of knowledge. Some of his criteria of authentic knowledge had to do with proof by facts and objective result. Mohists of later days inherited this fine tradition and developed the materialistic view of the theo-ry of knowledge. They made their contributions in the realm of natural sciences.
Mohism was an organized school of philosophers. After the death of Mo Zi, Ju Zi emerged as the leader of the school, which not only enforced its own discipline but also put its beliefs into practice.
During the Warring States Period, apart from Confucianism and Mohism, there were also Taoism and Legalism. In addition, there was the school of Logicians that studied the distinction between name and reality–a school that emphasized the importance of logic and debate. The yinyang school, on the other hand, tried to explain natural and social phenomena by an analysis of yin and yang–the negative and the positive forces in the universe. The author of the book Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi of the Taoist school, Mencius and Xun Zi of the Confucian school, and Han Fei of the Legalist school were the best known schol-ars.
Lao Zi, whose surname was Li and personal name Er, was also known as Lao Dan. Roughly a contemporary of Confucius, he hailed from the state of Chu . The book Lao Zi, which has been attributed to him, was actually a work of the Warring States Period. It may not fully express his ideas.
The book repudiated the theory of a god, a heaven, or a supreme authority that had been popular since the Shang Dynasty. It replaced the theory with the Way, an absolute, overriding spirit transcending time and space and encompassing the whole universe. They Way had existed long before the physical universe came into being; it was in fact the source of everything in the universe. This represented the standpoint of objective idealism.
In the area of political thought, the book Lao Zi refuted the Con-fucian theory of benevolence and the Mohist concept of elevating good, virtuous people. It was in favour of letting nature take its own course and of non-interference in people’s life. People would be better off without knowledge or desire. An ideal society was one small in population and territory, where there were no advanced implements and tools, no boats or vehicles, and no wars. People recorded events by making knots with ropes, and they never visited people of a neigh-bour state for the duration of their lives even though “they could hear the crowing of cocks and the barking of dogs on the other side of the border”. The idea expressed above reflected the pessimism among rulers of the village communes in decline.
The book Lao Zi contained some naive ideas of dialectics. It unveiled the unity of opposites in the objective world such as disaster and fortune, soft and hard, strong and weak, more and less, above and below, early and late, true and false, honour and shame, clever and stupid, etc. Lao Zi realized the contradictions in things and the trans-formation of the opposites. In his view, however, the changes in things did not develop in a forward fashion; instead, it went on in an endless cycle. Besides, the transformation of the opposites was absolute and unconditional. He attempted to resolve contradictions in a subjective way, and this attempt gave birth to the idea of “acting without striving” in politics.
Zhuang Zi (c. 369 B.C.-286 B.C.), whose personal name was Zhou, hailed from the state of Song. Among the over 30 chapters in the book Zhuang Zi, some were his own writing.
Like the author of Lao Zi, Zhuang Zi regarded the Way as the substance of the universe. By claiming that he had identified himself with the Way, he changed the objective idealism in Lao Zi into a subjective idealism.
From Zhuang Zi’s point of view, only the Way was absolute, while everything else was relative. He equated the subject with the object, life with death, longevity with short life, right with wrong, and disaster with fortune. He dismissed all difference between opposites and advanced a theory of relativism or nihilism. He denied the validity of the concepts of right and wrong debated between Confucians and Mohists, and regarded all cultural progress as meaningless. He once said that there would be peace and order if the learned men gave up their knowledge, and all fighting would stop with the abolition of weights and measures. His ideal society was one in which people lived in harmony with animals and birds.
Zhuang Zi’s denial of the differences between right and wrong, life and death, oneself and others, illusion and reality, his antagonism to progress and his longing for a return to the prehistoric times, re-flected a deep sense of pessimism, similar to that expressed in Lao Zi. The pessimistic view of both struck a sympathetic chord among the classes in decline throughout Chinese history. By refusing to recog-nize reality, however, the author of Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi also took a negative view of the “early kings”, including Great Yu, King Tang of Shang, and King Wen and King Wu of Zhou, revered and extolled by Confucians and Mohists. In so doing they helped people, albeit unconsciously, to emancipate their minds.
Mencius, active during 372-289 B.C., was a native of Zou (modern Zouxian County in Shandong Province ). His personal name was Ke and courtesy name Ziyu. His life experience was similar to that of Confucius. He too was a private teacher and took his students with him while touring the various states. While travelling, he was at one time accompanied by several hundred disciples and scores of chariots. He was also received with courtesy by rulers of various states, but none accepted his political ideas. His teachings were contained in a book entitled Mencius.
Mencius condemned tyranny, describing it as a system that “di-rects beasts to eat people”. He was concerned with the sharpening of social contradictions, especially the fleeing of labour from productive pursuits. He inherited the Confucian concept of benevolence and de-veloped it further by emphasizing its importance as a governmental policy. He believed that every person should have his own immovable property. A family of eight should have 100 mu of land in order to grow enough food to eat. It should raise domestic animals for meat, and plant mulberry trees and cultivate silk worms for clothing. In addition, there should be schools to teach people to be dutiful towards their parents and respectful towards all elders. If all this was done, people would be “friendly towards one another, helping one another in difficulties or in poor health.” In that case, they would have no desire to move to other places all their lives. All this, in Mencius’ opinion, would be beneficial to the building of a strong state. The purpose of having immovable property for everyone, as proposed by Mencius, was to combine tilling with weaving to create a small-scale agricul-tural economy where labour would be permanently tied to land. This meant the feudalization of the socio-economy that had apparently taken place during the time of Mencius. He wanted to promote it by administrative method.
The basis for Mencius’ theory of a government by benevolence was that man was born with goodness. Man possessed the inherent quality of benevolence, righteousness, propriety and wisdom, which some people were able to preserve, while others could not. In Mencius’ view, every sovereign was able to rule by a policy of benevo-lence, and every citizen was able to accept it. Both the rulers and the ruled were able to be good. In other words, the moral standards for two different classes were preordained. He made this point even clear-er when he said that “those who labour with their minds govern others; those who labour with their hands are governed by others.”
The constant wars of annexation were strongly opposed by Mencius. He maintained that those who loved to wage wars should be severely punished. As he realized that the trend during the period of the Warring States was towards unification, he stated, “only those who hate killing will be able to unify the country”. He meant that one could unify the country only through benevolence, not by violence.
Mencius advocated the democratic principle that the people were more important than kings. A king enjoying popular support deserved to be called a king; a king who had lost popular support would be a lonely tyrant, who deserved to be put to death by anyone. A king who had done harm to the state should be replaced.
Representing the landlord class, Mencius was an idealist in thought, and the measures he preached were those of reconciliation. Nevertheless, he was progressive in the sense that he hated despotic rule and attached great importance to people’s economic life and their importance to the govemment.
Xun Zi, also known as Xun Kuang or Xun Qing, hailed from the state of Zhao. He was active during 298-238 B.C. He travelled to the state of Qi twice as a visiting teacher and served on two occasions in Chu as magistrate of Lanling (located to the southwest of Zaozhuang City , modem Shandong Province ). While touring Qin, he met with King Zhao whose political system he admired. In his old age, he re-tired to Chu , where he concentrated on writing. He extant Xun Zi contains his works.
Han Fei, a student of Xun Zi, was a native of the state of Han. He died in 233 B.C., but the year of birth is not known. Seeing the decline of his native state, he repeatedly presented ideas of reform to the king of Han. But none was accepted. When his written works were brought to Qin, the king of Qin admired it greatly. Han Fei went to Qin, only to be murdered by Li Si and other Qin officials. His written works were preserved in a book entitled Han Fei Zi.
Xun Zi and Han Fei lived in the late Warring States Period, shortly before the state of Qin unified China . By this time, the feudal landlord class had already established its position of supremacy, and the political trend was clearly the development of an autocratic mon-archy and the unification of China . This trend showed itself in aca-demic and political thought in the predominance of the school of Legalism and in comprehensive criticism of previous schools. Both Xun Zi and I-lan Fei had evaluated and criticized the various schools of thought before their time. “Criticism of the Twelve Schools” in Xun Zi, and ” Prominent Schools of Learning” and “Five Evils” in Han Fei Zi are well-written examples of this kind.
Xun Zi’s concept of nature was a step forward compared to the naive materialism or atheism initiated during the Spring and Autumn Period. He viewed the stars, days and months, the four seasons, wind and rain, cold and heat, yin and yang as phenomena of change in na-ture. They were governed by their own rules, without will or aim. Nature could not dispense with winter no matter how much human beings were afraid of cold, and land would not shrink no matter how much people wanted to hurry from one place to another. The laws that governed the motion of nature did not come about because of the ex-istence of a wise king named Yao ; they would not disappear because of the rise of a tyrant named Jie. Xun Zi noted that people were afraid of the falling of meteors or the strange sound caused by wind blowing against trees, but these phenomena indicated nothing but some rare changes in the yin-yang equilibrium that governed the normal function of the universe. They were not something to be afraid of. He believed that if people would work harder in agriculture and practise frugality, nature could not make them poor; if people would wear enough clothes, eat properly, and do physical exercise, nature could not make them ill. On the other hand, if people gave up agricultural production and were given to extravagance nature could in no way bring them prosperity. If they did not have enough food or clothes and did not do much physical exercise, nature could not do much about their health. Man, in his view, had the capacity of adapting himself to his environ-ment and of making good use of natural laws so as to make everything in the universe serve his own ends. The idea of Xun Zi represented the upward movement of a feudal society dominated by landlords; it was different from that of Confucius, Mencius, Zhuang Zi , Mo Zi and the author of Lao Zi.
Xun Zi also spoke of benevolence, but he emphasized the importance of rites. He believed that learning should begin with the study of the Book of Odes, the Book of History, and other classics; it should end with a study of rites, which marked the apex of the learn-ing process. He carried forward Confucius; view on rites, though with some reservation. On the one hand, he realized that the purpose of emphasizing the importance of rites was to maintain the class difference between the rich and the poor, the noble and the humble. On the other hand, he often mentioned law and rites in the same breath and considered them almost synonymous. In particular, he emphasized the importance of law, saying that no country could be governed without it. He explained the origin of rites with the supposition that man was born with evil. Beginning with his birth, man desired material things and sought among themselves for the satisfaction of such a desire, and the fight, in turn, caused social disorder. The need to maintain social order gave rise to rites. Xun Zi’s view on rites showed his preference, sometimes, for Legalist ideas. His disciple Han Fei carried the argument further and became an important Legalist.
According to Xun Zi’s theory of innate evil, the good qualities man had were acquired through learning after birth. He held that studying hard would enable one to change from being foolish to being wise and that those who studied most diligently might even become”sages”. Though Xun Zi’s theory was in direct conflict with that of Mencius who maintained that people were born with goodness, both philosophers talked about man’s nature in the abstract without taking into consideration the factor of class influence. Both were idealists. Nevertheless, Xun Zi explained his theory from the viewpoint of ma- terial desire, emphasized learning after one’s birth, and paid particular attention to the influence of environment on man. As a philosopher, he tended towards materialism. He was a progressive in his time. According to him, a major reason for the chaos during the Warring States Period was “too many schools of thought expressing too many differ-ent ideologies”. To ensure social stability, there should be no more than one school of thought, from which even sages should not differ. By this point of view, he was in favour of thought control under an autocratic feudal government.
Han Fei held that history was evolutionary, each era being more progressive than the preceding one. He classified history into three stages, the early ancient times, the ancient times. and the late ancient times In the early ancient middle ancient times, , wild animals outnumbered human beings. To protect humans from attack by wild animals, one sage invented a tree house that was very much like a bird’s nest, so humans had a place to live in. To prevent diseases caused by food, another sage invented fire by drilling wood, so they could cook their food and eat better. In the middle ancient times, there was a big flood, which Gun and Yu succeeded in controlling, eventually. In the late ancient times, King Jie of Xia and King Zhou of Shang imposed such despotic rule upon humans that King Tang of Shang and King Wu of Zhou led uprisings to depose them. If, at the time of the Xia Dynasty, someone still lived in trees and made fire by drilling wood, he would be laughed at by Gun and Yu. If, at the time of the Shang Dynasty, someone still regarded flood control as the most pressing priority, he would be laughed at by King Tang of Shang and King Wu of Zhou. If, at the present time, someone still eulogized Yao , Shun, Gun, Yu, Tang, and Wu as perfect sages, he would and should be laughed at by all of today’s sages. Han Fei concluded that today’s sages should neither long for the past nor copy obsolete rules. They should, instead, take a long, hard look at today’s social conditions and adopt appropriate measures.
Having studied political history and learned its lessons, Han Fei made a political proposal for the purpose of strengthening feudal rule, a proposal that combined the use of law, tactics, and power. “Law”, enacted by the monarch, consisted of written regulations whereby the people were subjected to his rule. “Tactics” were the means by which the monarch governed his citizens. Han Fei maintained that law and tactics were equally important. Ruling with laws minus tactics could not prevent officials from building up their own power at the expense of the monarch’s authority. On the other hand, ruling with tactics mi-nus law would weaken the stability of the government. In addition to law and tactics, power was necessary. By power was meant the mon-arch’s supreme authority, which alone could make law and tactics effective. All the three law, tactics, and power were the indispen-sable tools for the monarchy. Han Fei proposed that all power be concentrated in the hands of the monarch who would then use a combina-tion of the three to govern the people effectively.
Han Fei’s opposition to conservatism was clear-cut and his advocacy of reform positive. Representing the interests of the feudal land-lord class, he was laying the ideological foundation for the advent of feudal autocracy.
New successes in art and literature were achieved during the later part of the middle Warring States Period. A typical example was the Elegies of Chu, a collection of poetic verses and songs written in the local dialect and tone of Chu . It possessed strong regional characteristics and a unique style. Qu Yuan, whose personal name was Ping , became famous as the author of these works. A native of Chu , he was born around 340 B.C. and died in 278 B.C. In his works, he told im-pressive stories of Chu ‘s mountains and rivers, products, local cus-toms, and songs and dances. He narrated many fairy tales and popular legends. More significantly, his works portrayed vividly the actual situation in Chu during the drastic changes in the late Warring States Period. They reflected his sincere love for his country and people.
Chu was still powerful and prosperous when Qu Yuan was young. With an aristocratic family background, he intended to pursue a politi-cal career. He won the trust of the Prince of Chu and was appointed the Left Minister. As an senior official, he was able to participate in the making of decisions involving the state’s internal and foreign af-fairs. He advocated the choosing of virtuous and capable men as offi- cials and the enactment of good laws to strengthen the state. In foreign affairs, he was in favour of a military alliance with the state of Qi against the state of Qin. However, the prince soon distrusted him and banished him from the capital. Meanwhile, corruption and incompe-tence, combined with repeated defeat by Qin, gradually weakened Chu . Refusing to be as corrupt as other members of Chu ‘s nobility, he was hoping that he could regain the prince’s trust and receive an ap-pointment again. But he hoped in vain. He was so worried that he wanted to give up everything. Yet there was the suffering of the people a patriot must face. Where should Chu stand, now that the unification of China had become a distinctive trend? Torn by all these contradic-tions, he could not help feeling irritated and frustrated. When he poured out his sorrows and anger in the form of poems, the splendid works of the Elegies of Chu were born. When Chu ‘ s capital Ying was captured by Qin and when his state was on the verge of extinction, he committed suicide by drowning himself in a river.
Unlike poets before his time who were anonymous, Qu Yuan was the first poet to leave his name in the history of Chinese literature. His works exerted tremendous influence on the development of Chinese literature.