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Two— The Medieval "Community" and Aristocratic Society
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The "Communitarian" Structure of Groups in the Wei-Chin Period

The "Communitarian" Orientation of Early Taoism. As we saw in the previous chapter, the kinship order of Shang-Chou society provided a mapping for the political order. In other words, the intrinsic unity of morality and politics functioned as its basic principle. The subsequent society of the Ch'in and Han eras basically lay within the framework of this principle, or rather a reorganization and expansion of it. As time proceeded, however, this social principle eventually became devitalized.

The dissolution of the local village system, one form of "community" in the ancient period, accompanied the phenomenon of the privatization of privilege under a variety of facades: the privatization of state power by maternal relatives and eunuchs, the development of huge landholdings, and the emergence and increase in the number of subordinated people. In the cultural arena, ceremonies to the "god of the soil" (she )bc —a form of "communitarian" religious faith in the villages—were transformed into individual faith and gave rise to many kinds of popular beliefs concerned more with individual well-being. In short, the decline of a public-oriented principle that had penetrated every aspect of earlier society proved irreversible.

People did not, however, fail to resist this dissolution. The eremitic scholars from the intelligentsia refused to commit themselves to the political world, and Taoists, including many among the populace, took as their personal precepts the re-


straint of self-interest and a devotion to work for the public. The Taoists would not affirm the trend toward privatization of rights in society but rather aimed at a new bond of solidarity between people on the basis of a rejection and surmounting of this trend. This cohesive bond between people was no longer a natural one of kinship, as in the past, but one of a decidedly ethical, religious nature. The restraint of self-interest provided the crucial moment for the cohesion of this "communitarian" world being sought again.

Let us look at the example of the Five Pecks of Rice religious group, which built a state based on the unity of religion and politics in Szechwan during the Three Kingdoms period. The members of this group built public lodgings known as "charitable inns" (i-she ),bd stocked rice and meat donated by believers, and prepared for the convenience of visitors. If a visitor took a portion larger than personally necessary, they felt he would receive retribution and be stricken with illness.[24] "Visitors" here implied people who, having left their native village for reasons of famine or war, led a life roaming about other regions. The followers of the religion divided their own life resources for such strangers, and those wayfarers and unfamiliar faces who received their help made it a rule that they would not take more than was necessary. In this way, a personal act of self-restraint on both sides formed a solidarity within the religious group. It was a solidarity that went one step beyond bonds of kinship in that it was mediated by an ethical consciousness.

This phenomenon was not limited to the Five Pecks of Rice group. The Pao-p'u-tzu of Ko Hung[25] introduced the various "moral injunctions of the way"[26] as follows:

Those who seek long life ... rejoice in others' good fortune, sympathize with others' hardship, assist others in emergencies, and come to the aid of the impoverished, bring harm to no living creature, do not openly exhort calamities upon others; where you are successful, be happy in others' success, and where you fail, be unhappy if others fail; be not haughty, nor boastful, nor jealous, nor flattering, nor secretive in the wish to harm others.

This clearly shows that the essential spirit of these Taoist


groups was a transcendence of self in practice. The followers sought "long life" (immortality) by observing their religious precepts, a world of the highest good for the individual attained by self-transcendence. While this overcame the kinship world of antiquity, it simultaneously spelled a transcendence over that which destroyed that world. One might venture so far as to say that we have here the logical structure for the sublation of the "communitarian" world itself through a transcendence of that which destroyed the ancient "communitarian" world.

When we look at the trends of intellectuals and the people at the end of the Latter Han, we sense an orientation toward a "communitarian" universe of a higher order, as we saw earlier.[27] But how did this inclination take root in the subsequent social structure?

Rebellion and the Formation of Medieval Centers of Population. The decisive moment for the breakup of the Han empire was the Yellow Turban rebellion. Unity of political power completely dissolved, and the political situation rushed forward into the confusion of the Three Kingdoms period. The Chin was to gain control over a reunified political authority, but success was momentary as the independence of the alien peoples threw North China into severe political disorder once again. Until the latter half of the fourth century, when the Northern Wei brought stability to North China, the northern region was in a state of upheaval for about two hundred years. How did these various intellectual currents intent on overcoming the basic principles of antiquity, as seen in the late Latter Han, survive amidst political chaos over two centuries?

It would be rash to consider these currents buried and extinguished in the high seas of politics, because in this era of hardship people had to go on living. The thoroughly enervated central government could no longer ensure the continued existence of the people, and the people accordingly had to plan for it themselves, all the while avoiding the fighting of the militarists. But, since they could not live in isolation, they formed groups of various natures and devised methods for survival. These groups themselves gave expression to a modus vivendi under dire circumstances. They formed the social groundwork that enabled people to deal with the blinding


changes wrought by events in the political sphere. The logic of history, as reconstructed earlier, seems to merge with these groups, and I should like now to base these observations in some concrete examples.

Recent scholars have noted the great changes that transpired in the history of Chinese population centers from the Latter Han through the Wei-Chin period. One of these changes was the emergence of the ts' According to the regulations on households in the K'ai-yuan era (713–741) of the T'ang dynasty, there was no difference between a city and a rural town in the T'ang, as all population sites were united by a "village" system: an urban "village" was called a fangbf while a rural "village" was called a ts'un.

Miyakawa Hisayuki's essay, "Rikucho[*] jidai no son ni tsuite" (On the ts'un of the Six Dynasties period),[28] offers a historical explanation for this. In the Han dynasty, the center of population in town and country alike was generally the hamlet (li ) Later, Miyakawa points out, there developed a distinction between urban and rural areas which, by the T'ang dynasty, had become institutionalized, as described earlier. He notes that only from the Three Kingdoms period on did the word ts'un become a new expression for rural population areas, as a result of this differentiation. The disruption to the Han local village system made people, who had moved to avoid the warfare, form new living areas for self-protection. The sites picked for these areas were not uniform and were sometimes to be found at the remains of an earlier area, but there are many cases of construction in secluded, remote spots. In the poetry of the time, the expression "new ts'un" (hsin-ts'un )bg was used frequently, and this may provide insight into the historical nature of the ts'un.

Following on Miyakawa's work, Miyazaki Ichisada has advanced research on this point.[29] Miyazaki sees the institution of distinct hsiang and t'ing levels as hangovers from ancient city-states. The emergence of the ts'un, he argues, marked the formation of the medieval village, born of the collapse of these ancient city-states. Mutual aid centering around the unit of the hamlet and its ceremonies to the "god of the soil" effectively forged bonds of solidarity between residents under the earlier system. But, in the ts'un system, we have to look for a new


mainstay of mutual aid, both spiritually and socially. Buddhism and Taoism, Miyazaki argues, entered the picture now as they sought to capture men's minds.

At the same time that the "ts'un" phenomenon was spreading, a living area known as the "wu "bh was in existence. The compound ts'un-wu appears frequently, which would suggest that, in many cases, the two terms indicated similar varieties of population centers. We have quite a number of studies on the wu, one of the first being the classic essay by the late Naba Toshisada, "Ushu ko[*] " (A study of the wu leader).[30] Recently, Chin Fa-ken published a comprehensive collection of historical materials concerning this issue.[31] From these studies, we can put together a general picture of the wu.

The original meaning of the character wu is found in the Tzulinbi (Character dictionary), cited in Li Hsien'sbj note to the biography of Ma Yüanbk in the Hou-Han-shubl (History of the Latter Han): a small embankment or a small wall. However, the biography of Ma Yüan recounts that as Grand Administrator of Lung-hsi,bm he memorialized for the construction of a wuhoubn so as to defend against raids by the Ch'iang people. In this case, wu clearly denoted a military stronghold. The construction of a wu in this sense can also be found in the Chü-yenbo wood strips of the Former Han.[32] These were installations for border defense against the Hsiung-nu, and in the Latter Han they were prepared particularly against Ch'iang raids. At the time of the great Ch'iang uprising at the beginning of the second century, it was recorded that wu-hou were installed in 616 strategic positions deep inland so as to link the T'ai-hang[33] mountain range with the North China plain.

The reason for constructing wu was not simply as defense against external attack, however. In times of civil war, the general populace banded together for self-protection and what they built were called ying,bppi,bq and The expression wu was also used in this context, the earliest example appearing during the disorders at the end of the reign of Wang Mang. When the Latter Han dynasty was established, the government ordered these installations evacuated and the people returned to agriculture.[34] During the rebellions at the end of the Latter Han, wu were again set up over a wide area. Once again, during the Yung-chia uprising of 307 under the Western Chin, the


creation of self-protective groups based on the wu form spread widely. As is well known, the uprising of 307 caused many Han Chinese to migrate to various areas. They moved in groups as a means of avoiding hardship, or they established wu at certain points where they congregated. Naba's study shows that the heads of these itinerant bands were called hsing-chubs and the persons in charge of wu were called wu-chu. bt

Conditions determining the location of wu were in no way uniform. If we judge from the circumstances of the creation of wu recorded in the Shui-ching-chu[35] (Commentary to the Classic of Waterways ) and elsewhere, however, it seems that there was a strong proclivity toward utilizing naturally strategic positions. For example, I-ho (unified) wu built near the Lo River got its name from being twenty chang bu tall, with three sides (south, north, and east) surrounded by natural bluffs, and the west side alone barricaded by manpower.[36] Also, there was reported to have been a wu in the Lo River basin by the name of Yün-chung wubv ("amidst the clouds") because clouds and haze trailed along continuously over the steep mountains there.[37] Apparently, quite a number of wu were purposefully constructed in areas with natural defenses. In order to manage a group livelihood in such places, provisions for weaponry, foodstuffs, and the like were necessary. The groups planned particularly for self-sufficiency in food by cultivating the mountain lands.

It was only natural then that life in such a wu formed a virtually separate universe. The group life that transpired in these remote mountainous areas out of contact with the external world often stirred up images of Utopia in the imaginations of outsiders. In fact, T'ao Yüan-ming'sbw famous work, T'ao-hua yüan chibx (Peach Blossom Spring), is said to have been modeled on the contemporary world of a wu. The advocate of this theory, Ch'en Yin-k'o, argues that Tai Yen-chih,by who served in the army in Liu Yü'sbz Ch'ang-an campaign in the last years of the Western Chin, explored the upper reaches of the Lo River in compliance with his orders; unable to find the river's source, he turned back midway. It was at this point, however, that he came across Po-ku wu,ca T'an-shan wu,cb and a place by the name of T'ao-yü Mr. Tai wrote up a report of his survey under the title Hsi-cheng chicd (Report on


the western expedition), and T'ao Yüan-ming used it as his source, Ch'en argues, for T'ao-hua yüan chi.[38]

In short, Ch'en's point is that T'ao-hua yüan chi was not simply the product of a literary imagination but was written on the basis of actual wu of the day. This conception leads us to the idea that the life of the people in the wu was a product of the desire to escape the turbulent world and preserve a peaceful society. For this reason, it was seen as a Utopia from the outside. In order for such a notion to have been conveyed, a moral order had to have been sustained among the inhabitants of the wu. If the wu had been the scene of fighting, it would not have been possible for it to preserve its life secluded from the outside world, and it surely could not have become the object of Utopian images. In the T'ao-hua yüan chi, the recluse Liu Lin-chihce from Kiangnan learns of "T'ao-yüan" secondhand, plans to travel there, but is unable to do so because he dies of illness. "T'ao-yüan" became the object of recluse Liu's longing because it was seen both inside and out as a peaceful world free of strife.

Personal Bonds in the Wu. What sort of society was this world of the wu which people of the day perceived as a Utopia? Let us look at the group under T'ien Ch'oucf of the Three Kingdoms era, which has frequently drawn the attention of historians in the past. Seeking revenge against enemies of his superior, T'ien Ch'ou led a group of "several hundred fellow clansmen and other dependent people" into a seclusion in the mountains of Hsü-wueg (Hopei). Later, many "common folk" (pai-hsing )ch joined them until they expanded several years later into a huge band of over five thousand families.[39]

By this account, the structural components of the group were "clansmen," "dependents," and "common folk." The "dependents" have been seen as various kinds of servants, but their identity remains unclear. The "common folk" were primarily self-sufficient farmers. The Chin-shu (History of the state of Chin) speaks of "clansmen and commoners"[40] with respect to the structure of Yü Kun'sci group (late Western Chin), which I shall discuss later; and, similarly, it notes that Ch'ih Chien'scj group was put together by "clansmen and local people."[41] It seems from these and other examples of the wu structure


that the group centered around the leader's clansmen and included families with different surnames from the same local origin, common people who came from near and far seeking refuge, and various people of subordinate status. Hence, these were not pure kinship groupings but included a wide variety of non-blood-related elements. Also, the more they expanded, the greater was this tendency.

By the time things had come to this stage, the group had to have an established rule of order, the first requirement for which was to decide on a group leader. Since both T'ien Ch'ou and Yü Kun appealed for heads to be chosen for the groups, they were themselves selected by popular demand. Other heads of wu and hsingck (itinerant groups) were selected under similar circumstances. Worthy of note here is that wu and hsing leaders were picked through recommendation by reputation. In this way, people chose their own rulers, an expression of total group unity through which people sought mutual cohesion. Thus, in the very way the rulers were picked we can see the nature of this group bond.

It was with this concern in mind that men of the right character were chosen to be wu and hsing heads, and they were men who had gained the confidence of their clansmen and fellow villagers as a whole. This tie built on trust continued after the formation of a refugee group. The basic impetus bringing about such ties was the relief activities of leaders toward their clansmen and fellow local villagers. That is, by dividing up their personal wealth among the people in need and thereby saving lives, these men earned a debt of gratitude from the people. It became a common pattern for people to be deeply respectful of such a personal quality and look up to such men as their leaders.

Nonetheless, the reason this relief-gratitude bond could cohere in the ruling structure of the social group cannot have been independent of the economic conditions of the time. In the severe famines of the day, even literati had no easy time staying alive. In the "Biography of Ch'ih Chien"cl cited in the chapter "Te-hsing" cm of the Shih-shuo hsin-yücn (New sayings from the talk of the times), it says that when the grave famine conditions caused by the uprising of 307 struck, the possessions held by literati and commoners were divided up to give Ch'ih Chien


something. This incident was also recorded with different phrasing in his biography in the Chin-shu, where it goes on to say that Ch'ih Chien divided up the resources he had received among the' impoverished in his clan and local villagers.

The fact that in a time of starvation he was given provisions by an acquaintance reveals the high status held by Ch'ih Chien. By further distributing these provisions to others, he was seen as ever more personally high-minded. Thus, the act of personal sacrifice was twofold: Ch'ih Chien, the recipient of an act of individual sacrifice, becomes offerer of the same, and his biography lauds him for it. (It was precisely because of such personal qualities that Ch'ih Chien was later chosen as head of a wu. )

Such an act of personal sacrifice became the opportunity to bind two people spiritually, because it spawned a sense of gratitude on the part of the recipient of the act. The one who offered the relief gave up his attachment to goods in his personal possession and, in an act of justice (an act in compliance with the dictates of his own spirit), he roused the spirits of those he assisted and stirred up a sense of admiration among them for him.

Men who were able to transcend a position of selfishness or profit in this way and come to a world of justice, however, had to be men whose character had fulfilled this spirituality. From the past this role had been played by literati, and it was never simply by chance that leaders of the sort just described came from renowned families in their respective villages. They were practitioners as individuals of literati ethics.

Although ordinary people who lived every day under these straitened circumstances might be liable to act not from a position of justice but rush to one of immediate profit, literati by virtue of their intentions could surpass men of this nature (a hypocritical tendency among literati was born of this as well). They thus surpassed ordinary men spiritually. In their adoration for the personal qualities of such men, the common people were able to correct their own moral lives. If this inclination on the part of common men to seek profit in their daily lives had been left to its own course, conflicts of interest among the populace would have arisen everywhere and the group's livelihood would have fallen into chaos and disorder. The existence of literati leaders had the effect of suppressing this and offering an ethical order to the group.


Once T'ien Ch'ou and Yü Kun had been selected as wu heads, they implemented the various regulations and institutions decided upon. T'ien Ch'ou laid down over twenty items in the "Laws concerning bloodshed, violence, theft, and litigation"co upon which he pledged his word to the people. In addition, he instituted "Rules for marriages"cp and revived "Facilities for schools and instruction."cq Clearly, he was attempting to establish an ethico-ritual order for the life of this closed-off group in the mountains of Hsü-wu. This objective preserved the group bond and was a revenge upon the lord-servant relationship. What T'ien Ch'ou feared most was that if bloodshed and violence were stirred up among the members of the group, the group itself would fall apart and his objective would not be attained.

The same can be said in the case of Yü Kun. He advocated the need for the maintenance of morality among his group's members: "Be not reliant on forts nor seek help in disasters. Be not violent toward neighbors nor destructive of homes. Do not cut and gather wood planted by others. Seek not to act immorally nor commit an injustice. Let us bring together our physical and mental strengths and together care for those in distress." The intent here as well was to prevent the outbreak of trouble through an ethical consciousness, while preserving the existence of the group.

Once he had gained acceptance of his aims by the people, Yü Kun went to work on actual construction for the common welfare by using a natural stronghold to erect wu walls. It was said that: "He took into account the labor involved, devised measures, allocated labor equitably, parceled resources fairly, repaired equipment, and utilized individual capacities to the best end." The necessary realistic concern for the preservation of the group's life prompted a fairness in the labor and livelihood of the people, seen in the establishing of labor quotas and the fixing of weights and measures. In calling for the recommendations of the wisest men in each village to form a leadership structure for the group, he was carrying on a "communitarian" mode of operations for local village society and working to spread the ethico-ritual spirit throughout the entire body.

As we have seen thus far, the wu group of this time was never merely a cluster of refugees but a "communitarian" band centered around a virtuous leader. What made such a "communal"


bond possible was the moral consciousness of each person in the group. Still, this moral consciousness was not divorced from everyday life. This was morally essential for the management of a common livelihood under the distinctive conditions of a wu. The group had a common political orientation, and cooperation among the members of the group was indispensable in the actual circumstances of life, such as the construction of the wu, forging of weapons, and securing of foodstuffs. Furthermore, since the people who gathered into such groups were not all blood-related, groups were mixtures of a variety of unrelated persons, which seems to have necessitated a strong moral awareness among the constituent members of the group.

From the picture of the wu as we have reconstructed it, the "communitarian" universe sought by the eremitic scholars and common people in the late Latter Han seems to have emerged in a subsequent period of convulsion and to have endured in the daily lives of people for a long period of time. While this way of life evoked an exceedingly idealized image, its ideology was indispensable for the continuance of life through such hard times. And thus the wu emerges with a host of different faces.

The Six Dynasties period is known as the era of the aristocracy. What then was the connection between the Six Dynasties aristocratic system and this "communitarian" universe? As noted earlier, the fact that many of the leaders of wu groups were of aristocratic origins with old or great surnames offers one suggestion for dealing with this issue. In the next section, I should like to focus directly on the issue of the aristocracy.

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