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Appendix III. The Eighth Month Fermented Liquor Offering

This offering was the means by which the Han emperors took tribute from the nobles of the empire. Nobles were exempt from taxes, but they were required to make an offering proportionate to the size of their estates in order to assist in defraying the expenses of the sacrifices to the imperial ancestors at the time of the offering of the specially fermented liquor in the eighth calendar month. Failure to offer the required amount was punished by dismissal from noble rank or degradation. When Emperor Wu was engaged in military conquests, his nobility took no part in them; the Emperor became enraged, took advantage of the fact that most of the nobles were lax in paying the full amount, and dismissed half of his nobility, as will be recounted.

The eighth month fermented `wine' has already been described; cf. 5: n. 1 Since grapes were not introduced until Chang Ch'ien brought them from Bactria, this `wine' was probably made of grain. Concern-the offering, Ju Shun writes, in a note to HS 6: 22a, "The comment in the Han-chiu-yi [by Wei Hung, fl. dur. 25-57] says, `The vassal kings [and marquises offered] real gold yearly [at the sacrifice of] the eighth month liquor in the Han [dynastic ancestral] temples according to [the number of] households [in their kingdoms or estates]. The Emperor attended [the ceremony] and received the offered gold. If the gold was insufficient and not in accordance with [its required weight in terms of] catties and taels, or if its color was bad, prefectures were taken away from the kings' [territory] or marquises were dismissed from their estates.' "

Liu Chao (fl. dur. 502-520), in a note to HHS, Tr. 4: 4a, quotes the Han-yi (by Ting Fu, fl. 251), "The code [concerning] the gold [to be offered at the sacrifice of] the eighth month liquor was added by Emperor Wen. On the morning of [the first day of] the first month, the liquor is made; in the eighth month it is ready. It is called the eighth-month liquor 酎酒. Thereupon [the Emperor] gathers the nobles to assist at the sacrifice and to pay their tribute of gold. The `Ordinances Concerning Money and Textiles' in the Han Code [lost] says, `When the Emperor abstains and practises a retreat and in person leads his subjects in presenting the sacrifices in the [imperial] ancestral temples, it is proper that his subjects should [offer] a percentage of their income. [The Emperor] requests each of the vassal [kings] and the marquises to tax themselves according to the number of common people [in their territories] and to offer four taels of gold for each thousand persons [in their territories], and for remainders which are not a full thousand persons, [but], are of five hundred persons, also to [pay] four taels. All shall meet [for the offering of] the eighth month liquor. The Privy Treasurer receives [their offerings]; the Grand Herald also [receives them]. Those who receive the income of estates in [the commanderies of] Chiu-chen, Chiao-chih, or Jih-nan shall each use [as an offering] twenty rhinoceros horns more than nine inches long and one fine tortoise-shell carapace; [those who receive the income of estates in] Yü-lin [Commandery] shall each use [as an offering twenty] elephant tusks more than three feet long and kingfisher feathers. These are considered equal with and take the place of the gold.'

"The Han-chiu-yi says, `When the emperor mounts his chariot [to go to offer] the eighth month liquor in the eighth month, on the same evening, an ox is killed and covered with a deep red [cloth]. The Emperor, later in the evening, looks at the victim. He uses a metal mirror [for collecting dew] to take water from the moon and uses a metal mirror [for reflecting the rays of the sun] to take fire from the sun, [thus] making sacramental water and fire. He bares his left arm and uses the water to asperse the right shoulder of the ox. In his hand he holds a knife whose handle terminates in a bell and uses it to cut off the ox's tail and offers it. Then he immediately changes his clothes and linen fillet and waits upon [his spiritual] superiors. [When the ox is] ready, [the emperor] thereupon offers it.' "

Emperor Wu's reason for making a wholesale purge of his aristocracy in 112 B.C. may be found in HS 24 B: 18b, "The Chancellor of Ch'i, Pu Shih, memorialized to the Emperor that he and his sons wished to [go and] die [in the expedition against] Nan-Yüeh. The Son of Heaven issued an edict recompensing and promoting him and granting him the rank of Kuan-nei Marquis, forty catties of actual gold, and a thousand mou of fields. [This edict] was published [throughout] the empire, but no [one in] the empire responded [by volunteering as Pu Shih had done. Among] the marquises, [who were numbered] by the hundreds, no one sought to go with the armies. When [the time came for] drinking the eighth month liquor, the Privy Treasurer inspected [their offerings of] gold, and marquises were sentenced on account of [the deficiency] in the gold [offered to pay the expenses at the sacrifice of] the eighth month liquor; more than a hundred persons lost their marquisates." (Cf. Mh III, 594 f for the parallel passage in the SC.) HS 17: 3b states that the Lieutenant Chancellor, Chao Chou, was sent to prison and committed suicide, because he knew that the marquises had not been paying the full amount as their offerings at the sacrifice of the eighth month liquor. Evidently Emperor Wu became angry at his nobles when they all selfishly refused to volunteer for military service at a time when volunteers were lacking, and cashiered a large proportion of them on the technicality of not having paid their full quota of tribute.

HS 6: 22a notes the dismissal of 106 nobles. The tables of marquises (ch. 15-18) however record only the dismissal at this time of 29 marquises who had been appointed for their or their ancestors' merits, 4 who had been appointed because of imperial favor, and 65 who were members of the imperial house, a total of 98 dismissals. After this purge there remained 26 marquises who had been appointed for their or their ancestors' merits, 4 who had been appointed because of imperial favor, and 68 who were members of the imperial house, a total of 98 marquises. Evidently these tables do not record all the marquises. (Cf. also 8: n. 12.1. Some of the dismissals may have been of Kuan-nei marquises, who ranked lower than full marquises. Their estates were small, frequently of only 300 households, so that they might not all be required to pay tribute. There is no record of the Kuan-nei marquises. The HS "Tables" were not compiled by Pan Ku, but after his death by Pan Chao and Ma Hsü; cf. HHS, Mem. 74: 3b.) If the recordings in these tables are representative of the total number, there were dismissed 71% of the noble families not of the imperial house enfeoffed as marquises by Kao-tsu, 71% of those enfeoffed by other rulers preceding Emperor Wu, 18% of those enfeoffed by Emperor Wu, and 49% of the marquises who were members of the imperial house, i.e., 50% of the total number of marquises. After this purge, the nobility was composed chiefly of members of the imperial house. In 62 B.C., atonement was made for this wholesale dismissal by exempting the families of many of these dismissed nobles and granting them each 20 catties of actual gold. (Cf. 8: 12a, 15b, n. 12.1)


1. See also Li-ki IX, iii, 27 (Legge, 446 f).

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