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The purpose of these introductions
The reign of Emperor Wu is perhaps one of the most important periods in Former Han times. It was an age when fundamental changes in the Chinese state occurred and when precedents were set which influenced profoundly the remainder of Chinese history. This chapter is however not what we should call a history of that reign, and it is not in place to insert such a history in this translation of source-materials. In order that the reader may comprehend the events mentioned in this chapter, however, it is necessary that he should first be given something of the background to this reign and an account of the important events omitted from this chapter. In this introduction, after first discussing the sources of the chapter, especially the corresponding chapter in the SC, I shall accordingly discuss: the subversion of the state constitution by Emperor Wu, (who made the emperor an autocratic ruler, with important consequences for the nature of Chinese government), the severity of Emperor Wu's government, Li Ling's famous expedition, ancient condemnations and approvals of Emperor Wu, the influence of his women and their relatives, his superstitious practises (particularly the incident of Luan Ta), the development of the examination system, and the progressive victory of Confucianism (especially the founding of the Imperial University).
The sources for this chapter---the corresponding chapter of the SC
First of all, we must consider the sources of this chapter, especially the relation of this chapter to the corresponding one in the SC, a quite complicated problem. In writing the earlier chapters of the HS, Pan Ku used as his main source the chapters of the SC dealing with the same material, reproducing almost all of those chapters, with additions and corrections. For the present chapter he seems to have had no such source. SC ch. 12, "The Fundamental Annals of Emperor Wu," as we have it today, contains but half of the first paragraph in HS ch. 6; the remainder of SC ch. 12 is reproduced in its entirety from SC ch. 28. Some early editor recognized that Szu-ma Ch'ien intended to write a chronicle of Emperor Wu's reign, and inserted, after the first paragraph (which alone remained of Szu-ma Ch'ien's writing), the account of this emperor's religious practises presented annalistically in SC ch. 28. It is doubtful, then, whether Szu-ma Ch'ien really wrote a chapter of "Fundamental Annals" for Emperor Wu's reign. Had such an account been available, Pan Ku would certainly have used it in this chapter.
It is evident that Szu-ma Ch'ien at least planned to write such a chapter. In the preface to his history (SC 130: 29), he says, "Therefore I finally transmitted [an account of events] from T'ao-and-T'ang [Yao] down to and ending with the unicorn [captured in 123 B.C.]." The last sentence in that preface (130: 65) reads, "The Lord Grand Astrologer, [Szu-ma Ch'ien], says, `I have transmitted [an account of] the generations beginning with the Yellow Lord down to and ending with [the period] T'ai-ch'u [104-101 B.C.], in one hundred thirty chapters'." The original versified table of contents (130: 32, 33) includes, moreover, a stanza for an annals of Emperor Wu's reign:
In other chapters, the present text of the SC however carries the account to a much later date. (Most of this additional material must be supplementation by later hands, although some of it was probably written by Szu-ma Ch'ien himself.) The dates given by Szu-ma Ch'ien for ending his account, "the capture of the unicorn " and "T'ai-ch'u [104-101]," are moreover not consistent. They are evidently a literary way of saying, "after Emperor Wu had begun his reign," and may be nothing more than literary phrases. The SC versified table of contents could not have been written until after 104 B.C., since it mentions the change of calendar made in that year. That stanza need not moreover be understood to imply that Szu-ma Ch'ien actually wrote a "Fundamental Annals" for Emperor Wu's reign, for it may have merely represented his plan for future writing. There is thus no definite evidence from the SC or HS concerning whether Szu-ma Ch'ien did or did not write an annals for Emperor Wu's reign. 1
There is a possibility based on circumstantial accounts, that such annals were written and destroyed. P'ei Yin (fl. 465-472), in a note on SC 130: 65, quotes a comment from the HSChiu-yi (by Wei Hung, fl. 25-57), saying, "Szu-ma Ch'ien, in composing his `Fundamental Annals of Emperor Ching', spoke very much of his defects together with the faults of Emperor Wu. Emperor Wu became angry and sliced [the writing] off [the tablets on which the book was written]. Later [Szu-ma Ch'ien] was sentenced for recommending Li Ling. [Li] Ling had surrendered to the Huns, hence [the Emperor] committed [Szu-ma] Ch'ien to the Silkworm House, [where he was castrated. He spoke] some bitter words, was committed to prison, and died."
The above saying has been taken to imply that Emperor Wu destroyed the original chapters of the SC which dealt with Emperors Ching and Wu. Wang Su (159-256) early seems explicitly to have understood it thus. The San-kuo Chih (by Ch'en Shou, 223-297), in its "Treatise on Wei," 13: 28a f, the "Memoir of Wang Su," towards the end, says, "Emperor [Ming, 227-239], also questioned [Wang Su, saying], `Because Szu-ma Ch'ien was punished, he cherished secret strong feelings within [himself] and composed the SC to blame and condemn [Emperor] Hsiao-wu, which makes people gnash their teeth.'
"[Wang Su] replied, `When Szu-ma Ch'ien recorded events, he did not praise [anyone] without reason or hide any evil [deeds]. Liu Hsiang 4CHAPTER VI [79-8 B.C.] and Yang Hsiung [53 B.C.-A.D. 18] admitted that he had stated things well and had the qualities of a capable historian, and called [his book] a recording of facts. [The foregoing statements are taken from Pan Ku's eulogy on Szu-ma Ch'ien, HS 62: 26a.] Emperor Wu of the Han [dynasty] heard that he had written the SC, took the "Fundamental Annals of [Emperor] Hsiao-ching" together with those recording his own [reign], and read them. Thereupon he became furious, sliced them off, and threw them away. Down to the present, these two chapters have the title but no writing. Later there happened the affair of Li Ling, and thereupon [the Emperor] committed [Szu-ma] Ch'ien to the Silkworm House. Thus there were secret strong feelings on the part of [Emperor] Hsiao-wu and not upon the part of the historian [Szu-ma] Ch'ien."
The dependability of these two accounts is questionable. Wang Su's reply seems merely an expansion of Wei Hung's statement, and hence may perhaps be neglected. Wei Hung seems moreover to have been quite mistaken. In the first place, his statement about Szu-ma Ch'ien's death in prison is not corroborated. Unfortunately, Pan Ku's biography of Szu-ma Ch'ien says nothing concerning the circumstances of his death. Since Pan Ku admired Szu-ma Ch'ien greatly, he undoubtedly collected all that was known about that famous historian; if Szu-ma Ch'ien had died in prison, that fact would hardly have escaped Pan Ku's notice. The only time that we know of Szu-ma Ch'ien having been in prison was at the time that he was castrated, and HS 62: 16a says, "After [Szu-ma] Ch'ien was punished, he became Chief Palace Writer and was honored and favored in that position." (The Chief Palace Writer was the eunuch imperial private secretary, a very important position.) Moreover, in HHS, Mem. 50 B: 20a, the Minister over the Masses, Wang Yün, when interceded in behalf of Ts'ai Yung, is said to have replied as follows, in 192 A.D., "In former times, Emperor Wu did not kill Szu-ma Ch'ien and left him to compose libelous writings to be transmitted to later generations." Indeed, in HS 62: 12b, Pan Ku seems to represent Szu-ma Ch'ien as writing at least his "Introductory Memoir" (SC ch. 130) after his punishment, and the same chapter quotes a letter of Szu-ma Ch'ien written after his punishment. 2 Probably Szu-ma Ch'ien's death, which occurred within the forbidden apartments of the imperial palace, to which few persons were admitted, was merely unnoticed. Hence the second part of Wei Hung's statement is false.
Wei Hung's impression of Szu-ma Ch'ien's attitude towards Emperor Wu is nevertheless correct. SC ch. 30 (Mh III, 552 ff) contains what are practically annals for the years 124-110; that chapter constitutes a picture of the ruin brought by war upon a prosperous empire. The genuine portions of the SC thus contain a drastic criticism of Emperor Wu's policies.
Pan Ku probably did not himself have any SC "Fundamental Annals for Emperor Wu." In 62: 16a he repeats his father's statement, "Moreover ten chapters [of the SC] are lacking; there is a listing [for them, but] there is no writing [for them]." Chang Yen (iii cent.; also trans. in Mh I, cci) attempted to enumerate these ten chapters, and writes, in a note to the passage quoted above, "After the death of [Szu-ma] Ch'ien, there were lacking the `Annals of [Emperor] Ching' [SC ch. 11], the `Annals of [Emperor] Wu' [ch. 12], the `Book on Rites' [ch. 23], the `Book on Music' [ch. 24], the `Book on War' [Szu-ma Cheng (fl. 713-742) says it was lost (possibly because of criticism like that in HS 100 A: 5a) and that Master Ch'u substituted for it part of Szu-ma Ch'ien's account of the calendar, under the title, the `Book on the Sonorous Tubes,' ch. 25; cf. Mh I, ccii, ccv-ccvii], the `Table by Years of the Generals and Chancellors since the Rise of the Han [Dynasty', ch. 22], the `Memoir on Fortune-tellers' [ch. 127], the `Hereditary House of the Three Kings' [ch. 60], the `Memoir on the Tortoise and the Milfoil' [ch. 128], and the `Memoir of Fu [K'uan] and Chin [Hsi,' ch. 98]. During [the time of Emperors] Yüan and Ch'eng [48-7 B.C.], Master Ch'u supplied what was missing and composed the `Annals of Emperor Wu,' the `Hereditary House of the Three Kings,' and the `Memoirs of the Tortoise and the Milfoil' and `on Fortune-tellers.' Their words and phrases are rustic and low, not [Szu-ma] Ch'ien's original ideas."
It is doubtful whether Chang Yen's statement contains any independent evidence. There is no doubt that most of the present SC ch. 12 has been supplied; chs. 60, 127, and 128 at present contain long passages, said in the text to have been composed by the Master Ch'u; chs. 23 and 24 are filled out with long quotations from previous literature (cf. Mh I, ccii for Szu-ma Cheng's explanation of Chang Yen's choice, an ibid. ccvii, for Chavannes' criticism). Chang Yen is plainly depending for his information upon internal evidence to be found in substantially what is the present text of the SC. In mentioning SC chs. 11 and 12 he may be under the influence of Wei Hung's statement, which itself is very doubtful. We have moreover seen that there is every reason to believe that the SC text of the "Annals of Emperor Ching" was used by Pan Ku and that this chapter was written by Szu-ma Ch'ien (cf. HFHD, I, 291-292).
The copy of the SC in Pan Ku's family library was made from the original, which Szu-ma Ch'ien says he deposited in the imperial private library (HS 100 A: 5a). In addition he made a copy for circulation in the capital outside the Palace (SC 130: 64), which seems to have been kept by his grandson Yang Yün. After Yang Yün's execution, this copy may have been preserved by Szu-ma Ch'ien's other descendants, who were living as late as the time of Wang Mang and for whom a noble title was then asked (Cf. HS 62: 25a; Fr. Jäger in Asia Major 9: , 36). The additions now found in the text of the SC were probably made to that copy, to which Pan Ku may have had access. While composing his History, he moreover had free access to the imperial private library. Access to the copy of the SC in the imperial private library was commonly denied, and even copies of it were at first refused; Pan Ku's clan would not lend their copy (HS 100 A: 6b).
Chang Yen does not thus seem to have been making an independent statement about the contemporary text of the SC, but merely to have been guessing about what chapters were missing from Pan Piao's copy. Concerning the "Annals of Emperor Ching," at least, he guessed wrong. We may then dismiss as unsupported, except by the internal evidence of the SC text, Chang Yen's statement about the missing chapters of the SC. Except for that internal evidence, which is as available to us as to earlier critics, we are left then merely with the statement of Pan Piao that his copy lacked ten chapters, and we do not know from ancient information which these ten were or even whether they were all chapters dealing with Han times.
The HS "Annals of Emperor Wu" are then an original composition of Pan Ku, in which he was not following any chapter of the SC, because none was available. It is the first such chapter in the book. Szu-ma Ch'ien however had written much about Emperor Wu's reign: parts of SC chs. 28 and 30 are really annals dealing with some years in that reign. These chapters were utilized by Pan Ku. He also had the additions made to the SC by writers like Master Ch'u, who lived between his time and that of Szu-ma Ch'ien. The majority of the material in these "Annals" is however Pan Ku's own compilation and was taken, in all probability, from the same sources as the material which did not come from the SC now found in the preceding chapters: from the collection of imperial edicts and important memorials to the throne, which we know were preserved in the imperial files, and from some sort of palace annals recording travels of the emperors, together with portentous happenings and deaths of important persons.
A summary of Emperor Wu's reign
The history of this period, in the Occidental sense of the word, is to be found, for the most part, not in Pan Ku's "Annals", but in his "Treatises" and "Memoirs", which elaborate the chronological summary given here. These "Memoirs" are largely abstracted in the Glossary, which contains an account of every person, place, and government office mentioned in the "Annals". The reader is referred to it for many important matters concerning this and other chapters. A reading of the relevant "Memoirs" and "Treatises" impresses one with the tremendous activity of the time and with the control exercised by Emperor Wu over the elaborate governmental mechanism.
The Emperor was, in more ways than one, le grand monarque of Han times. Not only did he reign for more than half a century, but he came to the throne at the age of fifteen and a half, so that shortly after he began his reign he came into the most vigorous years of his manhood and was prepared to infuse his own vigor into the government. In addition to his many brilliant achievements, he overturned the unwritten constitution of the state, which limited the emperor's powers, and made himself an absolute autocrat. He made continual demands upon his realm until its resources were exhausted and disorder ensued. He made the relatives of his favorite women influential officials. He devoted much time to the pursuit of supernatural beings. He set in operation the examination system in the form which it maintained until T'ang times, and, through the Imperial University, he was to a considerable degree responsible for the victory of Confucianism over its rivals, although he was personally only a nominal Confucian.
His reign became a period about which romance gathered. There have come down two famous collections of such stories, the Stories from [the Reign of Emperor] Wu of the Han [Dynasty] (Han-Wu Ku-shih) and the Secret Memoirs of [Emperor] Wu of the Han [Dynasty] (Han-Wu Nei-chuan), both of which are full of miracles and wonderful stories. In addition, there are many other romances and plays based upon events in this reign. Some of these deal with Szu-ma Hsiang-ju, the famous poet, who, because he did nothing of administrative importance, is not even mentioned in this chapter, although Pan Ku admired him highly and devotes a long memoir to him.
This is not the place to write a history of Emperor Wu's reign. Chavannes has supplied a long account of its events, external and internal, including an account of his military campaigns, his enfeeblement of the nobles, his selection of commoners as his ministers, his change in the calendar, his sale of noble ranks, his monetary changes, and his cultivation of letters (Mh I, lxii-cvii). Here will be found merely an attempt to indicate something of the background to this reign and some important events omitted from the "Annals."
His subversion of the unwritten state constitution and the consequences thereof
Soon after he ascended the throne, Emperor Wu evidently determined to rule as well as to reign. In attaining that goal he made in the fundamental unwritten constitution of the state an important change which has had far-reaching effects upon Chinese history.
In the conduct of government the Han practise had previously been that the emperor delegates his power to his important officials, especially the Lieutenant Chancellor, and confines his own activity chiefly to the appointment and dismissal of his high officials. All important matters, such as the issuance of important governmental orders and the confirmation of all capital sentences, came to the emperor for final approval; in deciding such matters, the emperor seems to have ratified, without questioning, the decisions of his high officials. When important officials disagreed, it seems to have been the custom to convoke the members of the imperial court, including the high officials, the heads of bureaus, the Erudits, the Gentlemen, etc., to a discussion, at which the emperor presided; the consensus of opinion reached at this assembly was then adopted by the emperor. This limitation of imperial power had been embodied in and strengthened by the custom that the emperor rarely or never acts on his own initiative; he merely approves or disapproves the suggestions of his officials (cf. HFHD, I, 16, 17). Government business came to the high ministers, who usually decided matters and, sometimes after convoking their own subordinates, submitted their decisions to the emperor for ratification. While the emperor was thus theoretically an absolute monarch, in practise his official acts were determined by the group of officials with whom he had surrounded himself. This constitutional practise seems admirably designed, but its continuance required a degree of self-denial and freedom from overweening ambition not to be found continuously in any line of rulers.
This custom, which made the emperor chiefly the personnel manager of the government, was plainly a Legalistic (and Taoistic) practise. It was called "governing by non-activity" and was strongly advocated by Han Fei and by Chuang-tzu (Cf. W. K. Liao, Complete Works of Han Fei Tzu, vol. I, ch. VIII; Fung, History of Chinese Philosophy, I, 330-5). Since the Ch'in government adopted Legalist practises and the early Han rulers adopted Ch'in practises, this imperial abnegation of ruling power came almost certainly to the Han dynasty from the Ch'in, along with many other governmental institutions and offices. Hsiao Ho, the actual founder of the Han governmental mechanism and the Han constitution, had been thoroughly trained in Ch'in procedures before he joined the Han forces. This conception of the imperial power was furthermore not contradicted by Confucian teachings. While the Book of History does not plainly represent any of the ancient sages as explicitly following it, yet the practise is quite in harmony with what these sages are represented as doing and with other Confucian teachings. For example, Shun urges Yü, his successor, to give up his own opinion and follow that of others (Book of History, II, ii, 3; Legge, p. 53); in the "Great Plan," the ruler is directed to consult with the ministers, officers, common people, and the divining instruments ibid. V, iv, 25). The Confucian theory was that the ruler should serve as a model, and his subordinates would accordingly become virtuous without the ruler's interference. Mencius called the ruler who enforces his will by physical force a Lord Protector (pa) in contrast to the true king (wang), who governs by moral suasion. Thus it was quite possible to read Confucian sanction from the Classics into the practise of turning the actual work of government over to the ministers and bureaucracy. At the same time it was possible for sincere Confucians to allege that this practise was one of the "evils inherited" from the Ch'in dynasty (HS 6: 39a) and to reinforce by this argument the Emperor's natural ambition to dominate the governmental mechanism of which he was the head, urging that only by such a change could this anti-Confucian practise be removed. Szu-ma T'an makes imperial initiative in government a Confucian teaching (SC 130: 9; trans. in L. C. Porter, Aids to the Study of Chinese Philosophy, p. 51). Thus criticism of the change could be stifled by an appeal to the Confucian philosophy.
Such a change, from passivity to imperial initiative in government, was foreshadowed when Emperor Wu, early in his reign, showed himself ambitious, active, and dominating. At first he followed the earlier practise of leaving matters to the decision of his Lieutenant Chancellors. But after the death, in 131 B.C., of T'ien Fen, his uncle and Lieutenant Chancellor, Emperor Wu took the government into his own hands. He did not allow any of his Lieutenant Chancellors to remain in office long enough to gain prestige. They were tripped up on some one of the many vague laws and were sentenced for crime. None of them held office for more than four years, except the incompetent and subservient Shih Ch'ing, who did not know enough to interfere in government business. The others all died or were dismissed in disgrace. From 121 to 88 B.C., a period of thirty-three years, during which there were seven Lieutenant Chancellors, only Shih Ch'ing died a natural death; the others were all condemned for some crime or other. The result of this continual overturn of the outstanding government official was that government business came naturally in the first instance to the throne, instead of to the Lieutenant Chancellor, and that the ministers became merely the agents of the throne, instead of actually controlling the government.
Thus Emperor Wu altered the constitution of the state, and the emperor became the ruler, an absolute monarch who directed the government in person, instead of merely reigning and delegating his powers to the most capable subordinate he could discover. This profound change naturally had important consequences for subsequent history.
In the first place, it removed an important check to misgovernment. As long as the Lieutenant Chancellor was ruling, it was possible for complainants to criticize this official; once the emperor actually assumed the direction of matters, it was no longer possible to criticize the government for its mistakes, since the emperor was above criticism. Szu-ma Ch'ien, in pleading for Li Ling, was actually criticizing the Emperor; such criticism was lese-majesty, for which Szu-ma Ch'ien was punished severely. Thus by placing the ruling power above criticism, the imperial government was deprived of the corrective power that comes from popularly expressed criticism. Emperors Wu and Wang Mang ruined the country, bringing about serious depopulation and banditry; yet critics could not ask to have the ruling authority changed, as they had done in the times of Emperors Wen and Ching, when the Lieutenant Chancellors were criticized. The very serious mistakes in Emperor Wu's reign, such as his economic policies, the loss of Li Ling, and the rebellion of the Heir-apparent Li, were made possible by the absence of effective criticism for governmental policies.
In the second place, the emperor's private secretaries, the Masters of Writing or the Palace Writers, instead of the Lieutenant Chancellors, came to be the most powerful officials in the government. These secretaries became the sieve through which all official documents passed. Since the emperor could not possibly examine all memorials and documents, and since he remained enclosed by the barrier composed of his entourage and palaces, the person who selected what reports and documents were seen by the emperor could largely determine the emperor's decisions. Emperors Wu and Hsüan were alone able to a certain extent, by their personal activity, to break through this barrier; other emperors, who were not so active or able, usually succumbed to the restrictions thrown about them. There accordingly came into being the curious office of Intendant of Affairs of the Masters of Writing (Chih Shang-shu Shih), the occupant of which, by controlling the imperial secretaries, controlled the emperor and the government. The Lieutenant Chancellor now became, not the dominating official in the government, but a convenient figurehead, a position to which some aged Confucian scholar could be appointed, in order to give the government the flavor of virtue. The Intendant of Affairs of the Masters of Writing was usually concurrently Commander-in-chief, and important government matters, such as important appointments, were usually decided by him. Occasionally emperors tried to nullify the power of the Intendant of Affairs of the Masters of Writing by appointing two persons to this post, to check each other, but, in such cases, the stronger of the two, by using the threat of legal condemnation afforded by the complicated and vague laws, usually dominated the other. Thus the attempt of the emperor to grasp the governing power in person merely drove that power to subterranean places.
Thirdly, it now became possible for persons who held no official positions to dominate the government through their possession of the imperial confidence. Hence intrigue became rife in the court. Since the emperor had little or no contact with the public and was naturally suspicious of self-seeking among his courtiers, the persons whom he trusted could dominate the government. The most important of these persons was his mother, the Empress Dowager, obedience to whom was required by the Confucian virtue of filial piety. She, being a woman, was also immured in the palace, and so came to depend upon her close relatives. They were blood relatives or connections of the emperor and their position in the court depended upon the possession of the throne by this particular emperor, hence he could be confident that their interests were fundamentally identical with his own. Consequently they were trusted and given high positions. Thus Emperor Wu's seizure of governmental control inaugurated the periods of intrigue and domination by imperial maternal relatives, which so defaced the succeeding periods of his dynasty and resulted in the downfall of the Former and Later Han dynasties.
The foregoing consequences of Emperor Wu's over-ambitious overturn of the state constitution did not for the most part manifest themselves until the reigns of succeeding emperors. By his own penetration and activity he minimized them during his own reign. He was, for example, so far-sighted as to see to it that his successor should have no living mother. Emperor Hsüan, because of his unusual upbringing, likewise avoided these consequences. But under rulers of lesser ability, they became inevitable. All the reigns after Emperor Hsüan suffered from them.
The undue severity of his rule
In order to strengthen the government's control over the people, Emperor Wu had Chang T'ang and others enact a strict and detailed code of laws, so that it became difficult for anyone to keep out of prison except by the favor of the emperor or of some official. At this time, Wang Wen-shu moreover made popular among officials his method of controlling the people by protecting certain criminals and using them as his "teeth and claws" in suppressing others. It is said that when Tu Chou was Commandant of Justice, there were always in prison more than a hundred officials, of ranks as high as two thousand piculs, waiting for their cases to be decided, and that each year there were more than a thousand cases concerning commandery officials, the larger cases involving several hundred accused and the minor ones involving several dozen people. By contrast, Emperor Wen is said to have pronounced only four hundred verdicts in his whole reign (cf. 4: 22a).
One reason for this startling number of prisoners was doubtless the Emperor's constant demands for soldiers and workmen. By about 115 B.C., the regular levies for military service seem to have been mostly exhausted and volunteers no longer appeared. Several armies had been lost in expeditions against the Huns and even horses had become scarce. When, in 112, it became desirable to send expeditions against the kingdom of Nan-Yüeh, the prisons were opened and amnesty was offered to those who would go with the armies. After that time most of the Chinese armies were composed of criminals. Probably many of Emperor Wu's edifices were also built by criminal workers---about 110 B.C., when Emperor Wu wanted to build the T'ung-t'ien Terrace and no laborers were available, Wang Wen-shu asked for leave to restudy the cases in the Palace Military Commander's office, and set free those who could work, thus securing several ten-thousands of men (cf. Glossary, sub voce). Government slaves were also secured by condemning people to penal servitude. Such slaves were employed in the government monopolies in salt, iron, and liquor. In 44 B.C., Kung Yü reported that the government still employed more than a hundred thousand convicts for that purpose. Szu-ma Ch'ien states that through condemnations for false reporting of property and capital, the government obtained wealth in cash by the hundred-thousands, in slaves by the thousands and ten-thousands, and in fields to the amount of several ten-thousands of mou in large prefectures and over ten thousand mou in small prefectures, with residences in proportion, so that merchants and the middle class were ruined (cf. Mh III, p. 585 f; HS 24 B: 16a, b).
The undue demands made upon the people by Emperor Wu wrecked the country. In SC ch. 30, Szu-ma Ch'ien gives a picture of the economic calamities that came upon his country while Emperor Wu was exhausting the reserves accumulated during the peaceful reign of Emperor Wen. The Emperor drained the country, while his sycophantic officials and complaisant courtiers fed his megalomania. The wastage in the army was especially great, for the Chinese generals, spurred by imperial commands, often took undue risks. In 129 B.C., Li Kuang(3) and Kung-sun Ao were defeated; the latter is said to have lost 7000 men. In 123, Chao Hsin(4) surrendered to the Huns and Su Chien's troops, comprising more than 3000 cavalry, were killed or surrendered. In 121, Li Kuang(3) lost most of 4000 men. In the strenuous campaigns of 119, Chinese are said to have been killed by the ten-thousands, and more than a hundred thousand army horses were worn out and died. In 103, Li Kuang-li lost eight to nine-tenths of his army, composed of several ten-thousands of men. In 102, Chao P'o-nu was captured by the Huns with 20,000 men. In 101, Li Kuang-li brought back from Ferghana only ten thonsand-odd out of sixty thousand men. In 99, he again returned, having lost six to seven-tenths of a much larger force. In that year all but 400 of Li Ling's 5000 famous foot-soldiers were destroyed. In 90, Li Kuang-li surrendered to the Huns with 70,000 men. Thus Emperor Wu's rule was anything but kindly. His intense desire for fame made his reign a calamity to China.
Li Ling's brilliant military exploit
Perhaps the most brilliant military exploit in Han times after the death of Hsiang Yü was the famous expedition of Li Ling deep into Hun territory. It throws so much light upon Emperor Wu and upon military practises that it is perhaps worth recounting.
Li Ling was a grandson of Li Kuang(3), a doughty and intrepid fighter from the Commandery of Lung-hsi (in the present Kansu). Li Kuang(3) had been a famous archer, who was said to have mistaken in the dusk a stone for a tiger and to have sunk an arrow deep into it. He intrepidly attacked greatly larger forces of Huns, with the result that he twice lost all or almost all his soldiers in battle. He shared the hardships of his men and achieved great fame by his valor and ability. When, in 119 B.C., a strenuous attempt was to be made to capture the Hun Shan-Yü, Li Kuang(3), who was then a general, asked several times to go along. He was more than sixty years of age, and Emperor Wu thought him too old, but he was finally made General of the Van, with secret orders to the Commander-in-chief, Wei Ch'ing, to keep him in the rear. Emperor Wu had consulted the diviners about Li Kuang(3), and had been told that his fate was to be an evil one, so did not wish Li Kuang3 to lead in the expedition; Wei Ch'ing wanted his personal friend, Kung-sun Ao, to have the opportunity of capturing the Shan-Yü, because Kung-sun Ao had arrived late with his army at a rendezvous, a capital crime. He had been allowed to ransom his life, but had lost his noble rank and wealth. Hence Wei Ch'ing removed Li Kuang(3) to the command of the Right. The proud Li Kuang(3) became angry and arrived late at the rendezvous. Wei Ch'ing's expedition defeated the Huns, but failed to capture the Shan-Yü, possibly because it lacked Li Kuang(3). When the expedition returned, Li Kuang(3) was questioned; he admitted his fault, recounted his seventy victories over the Huns, and committed suicide. Thus the intrepid commander was robbed of his opportunity and his life by imperial superstition, professional jealousy, and his own pride.
In 99 B.C., his grandson, Li Ling, had entered the imperial service and had been stationed in Kansu with a force of five thousand picked men to defend the frontiers. He was an excellent horseman and archer, and trained his men carefully. An expedition of thirty thousand cavalry was to be sent to attack the Hun Worthy King of the West at the T'ien Mountains (north of the present Chinese Turkestan). Emperor Wu summoned Li Ling, intending to put him in charge of the baggage train, whereupon the latter suggested that it would be better to send him on an independent expedition into the present Mongolia, in order to divide the Hun forces. Emperor Wu replied that there was no more cavalry (who fought as horse-archers) available, but Li Ling answered that he wanted only his five thousand infantry, saying that he liked to fight with a few against many.
Previous to this time, because the Huns fought on horseback, cavalry had always been sent to attack them; Li Ling for the first time opposed infantry, to the Hun cavalry in Hun territory. Emperor Wu approved his plan, and ordered Lu Po-tê to support Li Ling and to meet him halfway on his return. But Lu Po-tê was a General, while Li Ling was only a Chief Commandant; Lu Po-tê did not want to appear subordinate to Li Ling, and memorialized that the expedition should be delayed. Emperor Wu misunderstood his meaning, thought that Li Ling had regretted his proposal, became very angry (for he would not tolerate cowardice among his officers), and ordered Lu Po-tê off to another part of the border, while he commanded Li Ling to set out against the Huns in November.
Li Ling sent back the Emperor correct information concerning what had happened between him and Lu Po-tê and, after getting no reply, started out with his men northwards from the present Chü-yen (Etzina) towards the present Urga, then approximately the seat of the Shan-Yü. He marched for about thirty days, mapping the mountains and streams and sending a subordinate back to report to Emperor Wu. The force was then opposite the Shan-Yü's location. The latter discovered the Chinese and surrounded Li Ling with a troop said to have consisted of thirty thousand horsemen. Li Ling encamped between two mountains and used his large carts to wall his camp. He led his troops out of the camp and arrayed them, ordering the front ranks to bear pikes and shields and the rear ranks to bear bows and crossbows. At the sound of the drum they were to advance; at the sound of the bell they were to stop. The Huns attacked, and Li Ling's footmen awaited them unflinchingly, while a thousand cross-bows, which outranged the Hun longbows, were discharged at the Huns. The effect was terrible; the Huns fled to the mountains with the Chinese in pursuit. Several thousand Huns were killed. The Parthians, at the battle of Carrhae (54 B.C.) and in Antony's retreat from Phraaspa (36 B.C.), showed that the best foot soldiers of the time (Roman legionaries) were no match for horse-archers adequately supplied with arrows; Li Ling showed that footmen, when properly organized and supplied with enough crossbows, could vanquish an overwhelming force of horse-archers.
But without support Li Ling could not follow up his victory. The Shan-Yü summoned reinforcements, while Li Ling led his men southeastwards, towards the Chinese border, fighting as he went, always beating off overwhelming numbers and inflicting severe punishment upon the Huns. Crossbows that shot several arrows at a time were used so effectively that the Shan-Yü himself had to dismount and flee on foot. The severely wounded Chinese were carried in carts; the moderately wounded pushed carts; while the slightly wounded kept on fighting. When the Chinese reached a place only a hundred-odd li from the frontier, they had to pass through a narrow valley. The Shan-Yü was going to cease the pursuit, but his chiefs warned him that it would be a great shame for him not to be able to destroy several thousand Chinese with several ten-thousands of Hun horsemen. If Li Ling got forty or fifty li further on to level ground, he could not be stopped. Just then a Chinese captain turned traitor and surrendered to the Huns, bringing the news that there were no supporting troops coming to assist Li Ling, and that his arrows were almost exhausted. The Huns attacked with renewed vigor, surrounded the Chinese, blocked the valley, and rolled rocks and stones down, while their arrows fell like rain. Without arrows, the Chinese were helpless. They abandoned their carts and fled. Only three thousand were left; the men fought with cart axles, the officers used their short swords. Although many were killed, they could not win through the valley.
It was then the chivalric Chinese tradition that a defeated leader must die with his men. Li Kuang3 had once escaped after his men had all been killed and he had been captured; Emperor Wu had pardoned him 16CHAPTER VI for not dying and allowed him to ransom his life by a money payment. A second time he had been trapped by the Huns and almost all his men killed before he was rescued; this time he had not been punished, because he had not been actually defeated. Thus exceptions could be made to the code at the Emperor's will, but he expected his defeated generals to die in battle.
Li Ling saw that the situation was hopeless. After dark he cut off his banners and flags and buried his army's treasure. He told his men to scatter and try to escape, while he and his second in command set out on horseback with only ten-odd followers. His second in command was killed, while Li Ling, remembering his grandfather's unjust fate, surrendered to the Huns. Only four hundred-odd of Li Ling's troops arrived safely at the Chinese fortifications.
When the news of Li Ling's defeat reached Emperor Wu, the latter merely hoped that Li Ling had died with his men. But when the news came that he had surrendered, Emperor Wu became very angry. His officials accordingly condemned Li Ling, all except Szu-ma Ch'ien, the historian, who had originally recommended Li Ling. He now defended him, saying that Li Ling had had no support; he had been defeated only when his ammunition had been exhausted; in marching deep into enemy territory and defeating ten-thousands of horsemen with only five thousand infantry he had performed the most glorious exploit in history. Emperor Wu sentenced Szu-ma Ch'ien to castration because of the implied criticism. A year later, the Emperor recognized that he had been to blame for not ordering Li Ling supported, and sent for Li Ling, but the latter would not return to China. His family was later exterminated. Thus a chivalric code and an irascible emperor deprived China of its most brilliant military genius.
Ancient appraisals of Emperor Wu
The final result of Emperor Wu's continued over-taxation, wastage, and misgovernment was civil disorder. In 99 B.C., the people in what is now Shantung, provoked by the misgovernment of the local officials, who had widely imitated Wang Wen-shu, took generally to brigandage. Emperor Wu, with characteristic energy, sent out Special Commissioners Clad in Embroidered Garments, with dictatorial power over life and death, who put down this virtual insurrection, executing perhaps more than ten thousand robbers and several thousand others in each commandery, including the highest officials. The witchcraft and black magic case of 91 B.C., with its arbitrary inquisitorial executions, involved the death of ten-thousands in addition to ten-thousands killed in the fighting (cf. Glossary, sub Chiang Ch'ung and Liu Chü). When in 72 B.C., Emperor Hsüan wanted to honor his great-grandfather, Emperor Wu, the Confucian scholar Hsia-hou Sheng protested, saying that although Emperor Wu had repulsed the barbarians and had extended the borders of the empire, he had nevertheless killed many soldiers, had exhausted the wealth and strength of the people, and had been boundlessly extravagant. The empire was bankrupt, the people had become destitute vagabonds, and more than half of them had died. Locusts had risen in great swarms and had bared the earth for several thousand li, so that the people had taken to cannibalism and the granaries had not been refilled to this day. Emperor Wu had done nothing good for the people, so should not be honored with any special dances.
In spite of these troubles, Emperor Wu must have been extremely popular, especially among the officials, because of his military conquests, his reforms in ceremonial, his encouragement of literature, the founding of the Imperial University, etc. There was also probably considerable enthusiasm for him among the people, because of his magnificence and his grants. Yet Hsia-hou Sheng undoubtedly represented one phase of popular opinion, perhaps that dominant in the eastern part of China. Emperor Hsüan's glorification of his great-grandfather seems to have received general acclaim; Hsia-hou Sheng was imprisoned for his criticism. In the Discourses on Salt and Iron, which are supposed to have occurred in 81 B.C., Emperor Wu is not criticized, but the measures that were instituted by his ministers and with his approval are castigated mercilessly. In his eulogy (HS 6: 38b, 39a), Pan Ku summarizes Emperor Wu's achievements, and they are very impressive. It is not surprising that Emperor Wu became perhaps the most famous of Chinese emperors. Possibly because of the violent reaction against any criticism of this popular emperor, Pan Ku was cautious in expressing his opinions; his eulogy of Emperor Wu is a masterpiece of tact. His criticism of this Emperor is to be found in his eulogies upon Emperors Wen and Chao (4: 21a-22a; 7: 10b). Like Louis XIV of France, Emperor Wu left his country impoverished and exhausted. After the Emperor's death, Ho Kuang fortunately adapted the government's policy to the situation and allowed the empire to recuperate. The apogee of Chinese power during the Former Han period did not occur until the reign of Emperor Hsüan.
The Emperor's favorite women and their relatives
Perhaps the most interesting features of Emperor Wu's government are connected with the women of his harem. As a child, Emperor Wu was married to the girl who became his Empress née Ch'en, and he was made Heir-apparent through the influence wielded by this Empress's mother. This Empress had his sole favor and was highly honored. But she had no son, even though she spent millions of cash on practitioners of various sorts. In a court where power depended upon who it was that had the Emperor's ear, intrigues against the influence of the Empress's mother naturally arose. A sister or half-sister of Emperor Wu, the Princess of P'ing-yang, gathered some ten girls of good families, and, when Emperor Wu visited her, she introduced them to him. He did not care for any of these girls, but liked an attractive singer and dancer, Wei Tzu-fu, the daughter of a slave in the Princess's household. This girl attended upon the Emperor while adjusting his clothes and he favored her. The Princess then sent her to the imperial harem. For more than a year after, she was not summoned, but at last she managed to see the Emperor, excite his pity, and revive her former relation with him. When the Empress heard of it, she was very jealous and fearful. She tried to have the new favorite's brother killed; when that fact became known, Emperor Wu became furious with his Empress. She had tried to obtain sons by magical practises; her daughter was now charged with using witchcraft and black magic upon the Emperor. Some three hundred persons, including the daughter, were executed; the Empress née Ch'en was dismissed and sent to live in a separate palace. The fear of witchcraft and black magic, which defaced Emperor Wu's reign, leading to the death of his first Heir-apparent, the Empress née Wei, and ten-thousands of others, and which became epidemic several times in later reigns, thus began its influence early in Emperor Wu's reign.
Emperor Wu began the practise of entrusting power to the relatives of his favorite women, which practise in the end brought about the downfall of the dynasty. Wei Tzu-fu bore Emperor Wu three daughters and finally a son, whereupon she was made Empress. Her younger half-brother, Wei Ch'ing, was made a General; when he was successful against the Huns, he was made General-in-chief. Her sister's illegitimate son, Ho Ch'ü-ping, distinguished himself even more as a general. Ho Ch'ü-ping's half-brother, Ho Kuang, became the Emperor's intimate attendant and the actual ruler of the country after the Emperor's death. One sister of Tzu-fu was married to the Chief of the Stud, Kung-sun Ho, who was likewise made a general; another sister's lover, Ch'en Chang, who came of a noble family, was highly honored. Thus the imperial favor for one woman called into being the clique which was influential through much of the reign and after the Emperor's death.
He seems however to have later realized the danger of female influence in the government; before he appointed the future Emperor Chao as his Heir-apparent, Emperor Wu thoughtfully saw to it that the young boy's mother died, in order to avoid female influence during a long regency. Then he appointed his three most intimate attendants to control the government during the minority. Ho Kuang proved loyal and capable, so that this arrangement preserved the dynasty, but later emperors were too humane to follow Emperor Wu's example.
The Emperor's superstitious practises
Emperor Wu devoted much time to the cultivation of relations with supernatural beings. He extended and enlarged the imperial sacrifices, introducing a new god, the Supreme One (T'ai-yi), who was ranked above the Five Lords on High (Shang-ti [q.v. in Glossary] or Wu-ti). He established two important new imperial sacrifices, the feng sacrifice to Heaven and the shan sacrifice to Earth, and recreated the Ming-t'ang as a place of sacrifice and audience. He also made various attempts to get immortals to come to him. These attempts invariably ended in failure, for the Emperor was too keen to be easily fooled. Yet he could not down the feeling that some of the magicians' practises might not have been entire frauds.
His outstanding attempt to attract immortals was made through Luan Ta. Emperor Wu executed one magician, and later a queen who wanted to curry favor sent to Emperor Wu Luan Ta, a clever slave in the palace of a vassal kingdom located in the present eastern Shantung. Luan Ta made great promises, saying that gold could be made, the break in the dykes of the Yellow River could be mended, the medicine that brings immortality could be obtained, and immortals could be caused to come. He said that he had frequently seen immortals, but they despised him because of his low rank, and even despised the King his former master. If the Emperor wanted to make them come, he must give great honors to his messenger, make him his relative, and treat him as his equal. Emperor Wu was quite ready to try the experiment; he loaded honors upon Luan Ta, ennobling him, giving him a large estate, a palace, a thousand slaves, the Emperor's eldest daughter to wife, the equivalent of a hundred thousand catties of gold, emblems of ranks higher than those held by any of the ministers, and treated him as an equal, even coming to visit him at his house. Luan Ta was invited to the best homes and everyone marvelled at his success. When Emperor Wu had thus done everything that had been asked of him, Luan Ta was still unable to produce any immortals; even continual sacrifices all night did not bring any materializations. He finally left his dangerous honors and departed for the east to seek teachers. He was however watched, and, 20CHAPTER VI when he failed to visit any supposed teachers, he was cruelly executed for having deceived the Emperor. Thus Emperor Wu shared the superstitious beliefs of the time and was willing to experiment with them, but was not uncritically credulous. About half of the "Treatise on the Suburban and Other Sacrifices" (HS ch. 25) is devoted to Emperor Wu's religious practises.
The civil service examination system
During this period, the examination system flourished in the form which it took in Han times. At intervals the Emperor issued a call for recommendations. Thereupon the commanderies and kingdoms (later also the high court officials) each recommended for the imperial service one or more (depending upon the number requested) of those persons whom they thought suitable. All those recommended were not of the same type; in 135, Emperor Wu asked each commandery and kingdom to recommend one person of filial piety and one incorrupt person. Later emperors varied somewhat the qualities requested; the two above mentioned remained the usual ones. The terms, Filially Pious, Incorrupt, Capable and Good, etc., which were originally merely names of the qualities desired, soon became virtual titles denoting those persons who had been thus recommended.
When these Capable and Good persons arrived at the court, they were set a written examination. From the questions set by Emperor Wen, which are quoted in 56: 1b-3a, 6: 4b-5b, and 58: 1b-2b, we see that they really amounted to an invitation for general advice concerning the government, to be couched in literary terms. Some of the outstanding replies are also quoted; cf. those of Tung Chung-shu (56: 3a-19a, trans. in Mit. d. Sem. f. Or. Spr., 1922, pp. 1-50) and of Kung-sun Hung (58: 2b-4a). These examination papers were graded by the Grand Master of Ceremonies (58: 4a), after which they were again read by the Emperor, who sometimes changed a name from the bottom to the top of the list. Thereupon those who were approved were given minor positions in the bureaucracy. Examinations were also given yearly to the students at the Imperial University, and those who passed might be given government employment.
The Emperor's gradual adherence to and advancement of Confucianism
The reign of Emperor Wu marks an important step in the progressive victory of Confucianism over its rivals. According to Pan Ku's account of the rise of Confucian influence (HS ch. 88, taken from SC ch. 121), although Emperor Wen had at times elevated Confucians, he was more interested in the rectification of penological terms (i.e., in the Taoist and legalist school of circumstances and names). Emperor Ching had not appointed any Confucian scholars as such to office. At the beginning of Emperor Wu's reign, in 141 B.C., it was decreed that all those adhering to the Legalist philosophy should be dismissed from government posts. The memorial of Lieutenant Chancellor Wei Wan to that effect, which was enacted by Emperor Wu, specifically requests that all persons who had become expert in the philosophies of Shen Pu-hai, Shang Yang, Han Fei, Su Ch'in, and Chang Yi should be dismissed (6: 1b). The first three of these philosophers belonged to the Legalist school; the latter two, to the Diplomatist (Tsung-heng) School. The intention of this edict was however, as Pan Ku says (6: 39a), to eliminate non-Confucians from the government service. Previous to this time there had been Erudits at the imperial court for the various non-Confucian philosophies; indeed, in the time of Emperor Wen, possibly the only imperial Confucian Erudit was Chia Yi (36: 32b). Upon the illness of the Grand Empress Dowager née Tou in 136, special Erudits were appointed for each of the Five Classics, and it seems that henceforth there were only Confucian Erudits at the imperial court; at least we do not hear of any others. There had been and continued to be Erudits at some kingly courts who specialized in the various Confucian classics, and some vassal kings, particularly Liu An, King of Huai-an, continued to support non-Confucians.
At the time that the edict banning Legalists was enacted, Emperor Wu was under the influence of a strongly Confucian clique, headed by an uncle and a cousin, T'ien Fen and Tou Ying. They would undoubtedly have liked also to dismiss Taoists, but did not dare to do so because of the influence wielded by Emperor Wu's paternal grandmother, the Grand Empress Dowager née Tou, who was an ardent Taoist. Other Taoists continued to hold positions at the court; Chi Yen had been an Outrider to Emperor Wu while the latter was Heir-apparent, and, through his frank criticism, continued to inspire the Emperor with respect and even fear (50: 9a). Szu-ma T'an was likewise a convinced Taoist. A few members of the Taoist school thus continued in the government service. The Mohist school seems to have exercised little if any influence, for it is not referred to as having any adherents, although it is mentioned by Szu-ma T'an in his survey and comparison of the six philosophical schools (SC, 130: 7-14; HS 62: 4b-8a; trans. in L. C. Porter, Aids to the Study of Chinese Philosophy, pp. 51-53). The eventual victory of Confucianism was achieved through the operation of the Imperial University and the examination system, which latter could easily exclude those holding a disapproved philosophy.
Emperor Wu did not at first have an altogether happy experience with Confucianism. His personal adherence to it remained mostly nominal, except for its interpretation that the emperor should be an autocrat, and he did not openly espouse any other philosophy. His decree against non-Confucian philosophies seems to have been enacted in a burst of youthful enthusiasm. He sometimes encouraged the advancement of Confucians and never openly encouraged non-Confucian philosophies, yet he actually put many legalist practises into effect.
The Confucian clique was temporarily strong at Court under the leadership of Tou Ying. Emperor Wu had soon dismissed the incompetent Wei Wan and appointed Tou Ying as his Lieutenant Chancellor. Tou Ying was widely known for his strong character, his pride, his ability, and his strong Confucian leanings. He brought into the important court positions a group of ardent Confucians and proceeded to enact Confucian ideals into laws, establishing regulations for mourning ceremonies, proposing to establish a Ming-t'ang, etc. To combat the anti-Confucian clique at the court, the Confucians revived the ideal that rulers should teach their people to live moral lives. The marquises were considered to have states; consequently Tou Ying enacted that they should all go to their states to guide their people. But they had almost all established themselves at the imperial capital, Ch'ang-an, where civilization and luxury were centered, and did not want to leave this comfortable place. In 179, Emperor Wen had futilely ordered them to go to their states; in 143, Emperor Ching had rescinded that order. Most of the imperial relatives were marquises and many of the marquises had married imperial princesses; hence, when they were ordered to leave the capital, they took their cause to the Grand Empress Dowager née Tou. In order to check her influence, the Confucian clique petitioned the Emperor to order that public business should not be brought to the attention of an Empress Dowager. When she heard of this move, the Grand Empress Dowager was furious. Tou Ying and his clique were dismissed; the Grandee Secretary, who had presented the memorial, was executed. Thereafter Tou Ying was powerless.
After this misadventure, Emperor Wu gradually took over in person the direction of the government. Subsequent to the death of the Grand Empress Dowager née Tou in 135, T'ien Fen became Lieutenant Chancellor. He degraded those who held non-Confucian techings, especially Taoists and those who stressed penological terms, and advanced several hundred Confucians.
Under Emperor Wu the literary and historical treasures of China, particularly the Classics, were especially studied and expounded by the Confucians and a definite canon was formed. Confucius was himself a teacher and had stressed scholarship. Emperor Wu was a highly educated man and was greatly interested in literature. His poems and edicts show genuine literary ability. He was consequently attracted to Confucianism because of its literary and historical scholarship. He was the first ruler to select for his highest official a man who was primarily an oustanding scholar.
This person was Kung-sun Hung(1), who was an authority upon the interpretation of the Spring and Autumn. In 141, Kung-sun Hung(1) had been recommended to the throne for government service and had been made an envoy to the Huns. On his return from his mission, his report did not please the Emperor, who became angry and dismissed him on account of illness. Ten years later, after the death of the Grand Empress Dowager née Tou, Kung-sun Hung(1) was again recommended to the imperial court, because of his fame as a scholar. Emperor Wu was struck by the literary quality and nature of Kung-sun Hung(1)'s written answers to the questions that the Emperor had put to those who were recommended, and summoned him to an audience. The Emperor found that Kung-sun Hung(1) was not a stiff-necked Confucian, sure that he was right, but a man who, when asked about his ability in office, replied meekly that he could learn. So Kung-sun Hung(1) was made an Erudit and sent to inspect the present Yünnan, which Emperor Wu was planning to conquer. His report again disagreed with Emperor Wu's plans, but Kung-sun Hung(1) had learned to be tactful, and the Emperor kept him at court, for it was not wise to dismiss a scholar who had the respect of educated people. At meetings for discussing important matters, Kung-sun Hung(1), in putting forward his ideas, tactfully said that he was merely presenting his views so that the sovereign could have a variety of opinions from which to choose. That pleased Emperor Wu, who was glad to prove his open-mindedness by having at court someone who disagreed with him. This sort of conduct was however not approved by the stricter Confucians; Tung Chung-shu called Kung-sun Hung(1) a flatterer. Kung-sun Hung(1) proved to be admirable in personal conduct, able in disputation, capable in legal matters, and an ornament to scholarship, so he was advanced in office and in 124 was made Lieutenant Chancellor. He died three years later. The appointment of Kung-sun Hung1 does not therefore mean more than a very moderate attachment to Confucianism on the part of Emperor Wu.
All the previous Lieutenant Chancellors had been marquises; Kung-sun Hung(1) was only a commoner, so Emperor Wu enfeoffed him as a marquis. Thereafter it became the practise for the emperor to ennoble all Lieutenant Chancellors as marquises on the day of their appointment to this office, if they were not already full marquises.
The founding of the Imperial University
Kung-sun Hung(1) used his office to entrench Confucianism in the government service. At his request (Tung Chung-shu had first made this suggestion), Emperor Wu established the Imperial University (q.v. in Glossary), which was destined to advance Confucianism more than any other single institution.
As early as the Ch'in dynasty, the imperial court had maintained Erudits, who were men prepared to give expert advice concerning historical and learned matters. Emperor Wu ordered that fifty Disciples should be established for these Erudits. They were exempted from taxes and military service. In addition, officials ranking at two thousand piculs were to send suitable persons to the capital along with the officials who brought the yearly accounts from the commanderies and kingdoms. These persons were sent to the Grand Master of Ceremonies, who in turn sent them to study for a year with the Erudits or their Disciples at the Imperial University. Thereupon the students were examined. Those who showed themselves expert in one or more of the Confucian disciplines (classics) were given the title of Literary Scholar or Authority upon Ancient Matters, and might be promoted to positions ranking at one or two hundred piculs or more or be given minor positions in the offices of the Prefects of the Capital, the Grand Messenger, or of the Commandery Administrators, etc. Less capable persons might be made Gentlemen-of-the-Palace, in which capacity the Emperor might become acquainted with them and appoint them to office. If there was a person of an Unusual Degree of Abundant Talent, his name was reported to the throne and he was given that title. From this time on, says Szu-ma Ch'ien, most of the minor officials in the offices of the ministers and grandees were Literary Scholars. Confucian learning thus became the means whereby most of the lower positions in the bureaucracy were filled, and it gradually permeated the government.
For the remainder of his reign, Emperor Wu showed no more than a mild interest in Confucianism, except in matters of religious ceremonies and literature. In 110 B.C., during the controversy over the ceremonies for the sacrifices feng and shan, Emperor Wu broke with the Confucians, dismissed fifty-odd, and formulated the ceremonies himself (cf. Mh III, 498; HS 25 A: 35b; 58: 12a, b, 13a). Legalism had come to stand for the arbitrary authority of the government, as against the Confucian principle that the ruler governs autocratically in accordance with moral principles and for the benefit of the people. Emperor Wu was irked by restraint, and deliberately weakened the power of his ministers and nobles, employing commoners as his agents. In order to secure funds for his ambitious military expeditions, he adopted the suggestion of Sang Hung-yang that he should arbitrarily take the more profitable industries from the despised merchants and make these industries government monopolies. Sang Hung-yang thereupon established government monopolies in salt, iron, and fermented liquors and had the government speculate in goods, buying where prices were low and selling where prices were high. Such monopolies had been characteristic of the Ch'in government and had been urged by Legalist thinkers. The cruel exactingness of Emperor Wu's laws was also modeled upon Ch'in Legalist practices. As Emperor Wu's military plans succeeded more and more, he seems to have likened himself to the earlier great conquerer, the First Emperor of the Ch'in dynasty, and he followed that Emperor's footsteps by making many and extensive tours about his empire. In his interest in magical practises, supernatural beings, and immortality (which was typically Taoist), Emperor Wu likewise imitated the First Emperor. In building great palaces and other edifices---many of which were discontinued by later emperors under Confucian influence, for the sake of economy---Emperor Wu also followed the example of the First Emperor. There was thus in Emperor Wu's government an extremely strong element of the very Legalist influence which he had ordered excluded.
The reign of Emperor Wu hence marks both the entrenchment of Confucianism and also the actual reintroduction of many Legalist practises into the imperial government. It was perhaps the most brilliant reign in the period. In no other reign was there so much activity, yet much that Emperor Wu did had to be undone in order that the dynasty might retain popular approval. Because of his military conquests, Emperor Wu's actions came later to have upon the Chinese an influence disproportionate to his deserts.
1. Cf. also the discussion by Fritz Jäger, "Der heutige Stand der Schï-ki-Forschung," in Asia Major 9: (1933) 21-37.
2. The authenticity of this letter has been doubted, on what appear to me to be inadequate grounds, for the points adduced can all be accounted for. Since books circulated very slowly (the SC did not become known until after Szu-ma Ch'ien's death, according to HS 62: 25a), it is natural for Szu-ma Ch'ien to have wished his contemporaries to see some of his work, and hence to have quoted two sections from the SC in a letter that was plainly written for immediate publication. I do not think we ought to consider that Szu-ma Ch'ien ever set a definite year for the close of the SC. Cf. Chavannes, Mh I, xlii, n. 1; F. Jäger, Asia Major 9: (1933) 34f; Duyvendak, Jour. Am. Or. Soc'y 55: (1935) 332 f.
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