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A History of China by Wolfram Eberhard

The Chou officially abolished human sacrifices


3

_Fusion of Chou and Shang_

The conquerors brought with them, for their own purposes to begin with, their rigid patriarchate in the family system and their cult of Heaven (t'ien), in which the worship of sun and stars took the principal place; a religion most closely related to that of the Turkish peoples and derived from them. Some of the Shang popular deities, however, were admitted into the official Heaven-worship. Popular deities became "feudal lords" under the Heaven-god. The Shang conceptions of the soul were also admitted into the Chou religion: the human body housed two souls, the personality-soul and the life-soul. Death meant the separation of the souls from the body, the life-soul also slowly dying. The personality-soul, however, could move about freely and lived as long as there were people who remembered it and kept it from hunger by means of sacrifices. The Chou systematized this idea and made it into the ancestor-worship that has endured down to the present time.

The Chou officially abolished human sacrifices, especially since, as former pastoralists, they knew of better means of employing prisoners of war than did the more agrarian Shang. The Chou used Shang and other slaves as domestic servants for their numerous nobility, and Shang serfs as farm labourers on their estates. They seem to have regarded the land under their control as "state land" and all farmers as "serfs". A slave, here, must

be defined as an individual, a piece of property, who was excluded from membership in human society but, in later legal texts, was included under domestic animals and immobile property, while serfs as a class depended upon another class and had certain rights, at least the right to work on the land. They could change their masters if the land changed its master, but they could not legally be sold individually. Thus, the following, still rather hypothetical, picture of the land system of the early Chou time emerges: around the walled towns of the feudal lords and sub-lords, always in the plains, was "state land" which produced millet and more and more wheat. Cultivation was still largely "shifting", so that the serfs in groups cultivated more or less standardized plots for a year or more and then shifted to other plots. During the growing season they lived in huts on the fields; during the winter in the towns in adobe houses. In this manner the yearly life cycle was divided into two different periods. The produce of the serfs supplied the lords, their dependants and the farmers themselves. Whenever the lord found it necessary, the serfs had to perform also other services for the lord. Farther away from the towns were the villages of the "natives", nominally also subjects of the lord. In most parts of eastern China, these, too, were agriculturists. They acknowledged their dependence by sending "gifts" to the lord in the town. Later these gifts became institutionalized and turned into a form of tax. The lord's serfs, on the other hand, tended to settle near the fields in villages of their own because, with growing urban population, the distances from the town to many of the fields became too great. It was also at this time of new settlements that a more intensive cultivation with a fallow system began. At latest from the sixth century B.C. on, the distinctions between both land systems became unclear; and the pure serf-cultivation, called by the old texts the "well-field system" because eight cultivating families used one common well, disappeared in practice.

The actual structure of early Chou administration is difficult to ascertain. The "Duke of Chou", brother of the first ruler, Wu Wang, later regent during the minority of Wu Wang's son, and certainly one of the most influential persons of this time, was the alleged creator of the book _Chou-li_ which contains a detailed table of the bureaucracy of the country. However, we know now from inscriptions that the bureaucracy at the beginning of the Chou period was not much more developed than in late Shang time. The _Chou-li_ gave an ideal picture of a bureaucratic state, probably abstracted from actual conditions in feudal states several centuries later.


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