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Леонид Васильев.   Проблемы генезиса китайского государства


Problems of genesis of the Chinese state (Formation of the social structure and political administration)

The monograph is the second volume of the series dealing with the process of formation of the ancient Chinese society and culture (volume 1 — «Problems of Genesis of the Chinese Civilization», M., 1976). This volume describes the main stages of state formation in China and analyses the socio-economic and sociopolitical nature of the relations that emerged and transformed in the process of strengthening and development of the ancient Chinese state.

The first introductory chapter deals with the essence of the problem of the state genesis in general and methodological principles of its solution.

The author takes the Marx model of «the Asian mode of production» as the fundamental methodological premise and introduces into it some new elements which have become valuable as a result of modern anthropological and sociological studies. The renewed model (genesis of social relations — egalitarianism and reciprocity — appearance of social inequality — emergence of earliest political structures — formation of protostate-chiefdom — early form of state and the process of privatization) is well-substantiated in this chapter. Attention is focused as well on the fact that the structure, of non-European precapitalist societies, China in particular, differs principally from the structure of European societies, beginning with Ancient Greece, because the structure of the socio-economic foundation of these societies is the state mode of production («Asian» — according to Marx), which is based on power-ownership, while the European structure from antiquity to capitalism was based on private ownership, which played the subordinate role outside Europe.

The second chapter of the work analyses problems of the genesis of the foundations of the ancient Chinese social and political structure. Having adduced the data of the ancient Chinese written sources on the prehistory and early (pre-Shang) history of China and compared these data with archaeological materials characterizing the period of the early 2nd millennium В. C. when, judging by modern ideas; first political structures could emerge the author comes to the conclusion that the «Asia problem» remains practically unsolvable so far. Although in the last few years sinologists have done much to place legends about the Asia «state» and «dynasty» on a reliable archaeological basis, successes are few for the present. Interpretation of the data obtained is debatable, and all speculations about Asia can be taken as a proof that in the early 2nd millennium В. C. there existed an ethnic substratum on the territory of the middle part of the Huang-ho River basin, whose productive forces and cultural level noticeably distinguished it from the Neolithic periphery surrounding it. It is quite probable that precisely on that foundation enriched by the infiltration of outside cultural achievements of the Bronze Age (bronze items, horse-drawn war chariots and some other borrowed elements of civilization) the most ancient political structures of the protostate-chiefdom type began to be formed. Their intensive struggle led to the victory of one of them — the Shang-Yin protostate. This interpretation lends the «Аsia problem» the character of the problem of the substratum that engendered Shang, which, incidentally, coordinates well with the later use of the term Asia in the ancient Chinese tradition to symbolically denote everything Chinese as opposed to the backward barbarian neighbours.

The third chapter speaks about the parameters and inner structure of the protostate Shang-Yin which took shape in the region of modern Anyang (Honan Province), about the 13th century В. C. and is well known to specialists by the data of archaeological excavations; particularly by the divination inscriptions on bones. Both archaeology that enabled to locate, a large site of ancient town and rich royal tombs with a great number of beautiful items of bronze, stone, ceramics, wood, bone and other stuff (including labour instruments, arms, chariots, and remnants of silk garments, decorations, utensils, etc.), and inscriptions deciphered by efforts of several generations of Chinese paleographers and historians, make it possible to draw a rather full picture of the Shang-Yin epoch. The chapter also describes the territorial-administrative division of the protostate with the capital zone in the centre, regional units in the intermediate zone and an outward belt formed by partly vassal neighbouring tribes in the provinces; and analyses the inner political and economic structure, with a special emphasis on sacral grandeur and the supreme real power of the ruler-wang who personified the entire ethnic community of the Yin and who, through inscriptions on oracle bones, associated with the beyond and the deified ancestors (Shangti, wangti). As to the essence of the social structure and the entire system of social relations in Shang-Yin, the author, on the basis of an analysis of the problem of succession to the throne in the court of the ruler-wang makes a conclusion about the types of clan connections (in particular, about the formation of the conic clan and the tzu clan-corporations) and draws attention to the fact that the system as a whole was based on the principles of reciprocity (interchanges of labour, products and socially-required activities) exercised by means of the system centralized redistribution controlled by the wang through his officials. The elements of private ownership and exploitation were unknown to that system yet, neither did it know the institution of slavery (the captured aliens were usually killed to be sacrificed on masse to the ancestors; those lew spared, were quickly incorporated and adapted, as was the case with neighbouring tribes who found themselves under the rule of the Yin- protostate that was expanding its territory).

The wourth chapter tells about the downfall of Shang-Yin in 1027 В. C. under the blows of the fang-tribes-coalition of the outer zone headed by the former vassals of the Shang wang —the rulers of the Chou ethnic community. The Chou invasion united a large territory of the Huang-ho River basin and the Chou who were not strong numerically had not only to borrow much from the Yin experience (in what they had perfectly succeeded) but to undertake serious efforts to organize and legitimize their own power.

The Chou advanced and substantiated the «Mandate of Heaven» idea (the Heaven gives power to the most worthy one, taking it back from the unworthy) based on an ethic determinant, organized efficient administration in the zones of the capitals (Chung-chow in the west, on their primordial lands, and Chengchow in the east, in the vicinity of a new town of Lo-yi built by the subjugated Yins, where was the genuine Chou centre) and established a system of feuds units in the provinces, whose functions were to protect the centre and to defend the «cause of the wang». The chapter dwells at length upon the administrative system (in the centre at the beginning of the Chou rule and its main functions, including organization of production and distribution, judicial-mediative and military-protective i functions. The final part of the chapter concludes that structurally, the Chou should be considered an early state whose distinctions from the protostate-chiefdom of the Shang-Yin type boil down to a larger size, heterogeneity of the population, a more developed administrative system and a more important role of the idea about sacralization of the ruler and legitimation of his power which later was taken as the main principle of China's religious-ethical doctrine.

The fifth chapter is devoted to an analysis of the phenomenon of the feudal-apanage system of the Chou China which emerged at the beginning of the Chou period and successfully developed during its first centuries, thriving from the 9th century В. C. and reaching its peak in the 8th and 7th centuries В. C. From the 6th century this system began to disintegrate. Having specially stipulated the correctness of; the term «feudalism» conformably to socio-political processes and structures (the problem of feudalism as a structure which is hardly correct with regard to China's as well as probably to other non-European peoples' history is left aside for that matter), the author pays attention to the profound foundations of decentralization and feudalization in Chou for which purpose he specially examines the principles of relations between the wang and his vassals, as well as the inner structure of the early Chou feuds. The chapter shows the role of clan connections in feuds which brought forth the upgrowing section of apanage nobility, feudal aristocracy whose intestine struggle for power and influence, share in redistribution and subsequently for the right to exploit the population of feuds key-noted the political life of the Chou China from the end of the 9th up to the 6th centuries В. C. The early Chou feuds that had survived this struggle transformed in the 8th century В. C. into large kingdoms, structurally reminding the early Chou state after the downfall of Shang-Yin. Naturally, the process of feudalization in its turn began within each of these states boiling down to the creation of sub-feuds headed by powerful and influential clans. The struggle of kingdoms for hegemony of the Chou China under the conditions of weakening, of the power and prestige of the wang and bitter internecine struggle within each of them in the 8th — 6th centuries В. C. led to feudal division and engendered a number of feudal principles and institutions so typical of China of exactly that period (the scale of ranks of vassals and sub-vassals with its leading principle — «a vassal of my vassal is not my vassal»; bitter struggle for power accompanied by poli-tical intrigues, bribery, blackmail, murder, cet; loyalty of the vassal and servant to his master as a standard; the code of military honour, standards of knight's valour, aristocratic ethics; the cult of aristocratism, etc.).

The final, sixth chapter describes the process of defeudalization in the Chou China and draws attention to both the basic development models of its leading kingdoms, as well as to the structural changes that prepared, and realized this process. The chapter emphasizes the trends to centralization which began to manifest themselves ever more clearly from the 6th century В. C. both in the sphere of the economy and socio-economic relations where that process based on changes in the community structure and the tendency towards privatization at the peasant household level, as well as, on similar phenomena in towns among artisans, merchants and officials, and in the sphere of administrative management where it manifested, itself in replacing the former sub-feuds by provinces administered by officials and in coming to the fore of the Shih bureaucratic class and petty administrators who were interested in the consolidation of central power. All these trends and processes led, through legist-type reforms, to the strengthening of the prestige of central power in the kingdoms, and even in large feuds which sometimes grew into virtual states. This was indirectly facilitated by the weakening of feudal nobility power in the country and even its major physical extermination in never-ending internecine wars. The chapter also describes the two principal development models mapped out and realized in the leading kingdoms of the Chou China. The first one—the Lu model, whose essence boiled down to emphasizing the patriarchal-clan tradition and paternalistic ties between the clan elite and the lower sections, on the principle — «the state is one big family». Going back to the early Chou and even Shang-Yin standard that model was centered around loyalty to the ethical standard and patriarchal tradition. Both aspects were strengthened hundredfold in the doctrine of Confucius which imbibed, developed and defined the main principles of that model. At first sight, this seems to be an impracticable scheme whose drawbacks were clearly demonstrated by the personal failure of Confucius to offer any ruler to implement his doctrine, as well as by the historical destiny of the Lu kingdom, whose degradation after Confucius' time became ever more evident. However, in the course of time it proved to be the very model indispensable for China, which played an important role in creating the foundations of the future Chinese (sometimes it is called Confucian) Empire which had existed, in its main parameter, almost without change up to the 20th century.

The second model represented at first by the Ch'i and Ch'in kingdoms and which later became a standard for others, especially for Chin, where it was implemented most successfully, boiled down to way of necessary reforms aimed at strengthening of the centralized power of the ruler by weakening both the feudal-decentralizing tendencies and the owners, consolidating his positions along with the successes of the privatization process in the Chou China.

The coming to the forefront of political struggle of a new force — the private owner, the grabber, the knight of «secondary professions» whose activity not only contributed to the disintegration of the old structure (that would not be so bad, foe it was the aim of legist — reformers in various kingdoms), but to the weakening of the position of the treasury as well (that was the crux of the matter),— engendered new problems whose essence was most clearly defined by a well-known reformer Shang Yang in his classical formula — «a strong state — a weak people». It is only by weakening the people, i. e. breaking the strength of the owner, the grabber, can the state become strong and ensure an efficient centralized control over society, and a guaranteed stability.

The phenomena and processes connected with this matter are described in a very condensed form on several pages of the concluding part of the monograph (in lieu of conclusion). The essence of the problem here is that the ultimate formula of a developed Chinese state, whose formation took such a long time, passed through a number of stages and as a result became a synthesis of the basic models of evolution, boils down to that both formulas («the state is one big family» and «a strong state — a weak people») were merged and became the two pillars on which the whole edifice of the Chinese Empire was founded.

From that moment on, we could speak of a state not so much as shaped institutionally (it was thus shaped somewhere around the middle of the first millennium В. C. after the early states — kingdoms, having experienced the process of privatization and sufficiently familiarized themselves with, law, coercion and other institutions of a developed state, became like that; unfortunately, the monograph does not pay enough attention to this problem, mainly because the limits of this work do not leave space for detailed argumentation of such a capacious process) but as of the Chinese state, representing an exceptional phenomenon, which found practically no match in stability, during the millennia, through world history.
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