Travel, Geography, and the Imperial Imagination in Fifth-Century Athens and Han China

by David Schaberg
Travel, Geography, and the Imperial Imagination in Fifth-Century Athens and Han China
David Schaberg
Comparative Literature
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Travel, Geography, and the Imperial Imagination in Fifth-Century Athens and Han China

ERTAIN VARIETIES OF COPvlPARISON-comparisons between ancient Greece and China, for example-are attended always by questions about their very possibility. That such compari- sons are made all the time, both overtly and implicitly, and not least conspicuously in European writings about China, implies at least a defncto practicability. But beyond matters of practicality, how ex- actly do these comparisons become valuable? The re a d' lest answers are still positivist ones: they improve our knowledge of the whole human history of poetry, political institutions, science, or some other field. In this view, differences of culture are not obstacles to comparison, but the guarantee that a particular field is being investigated in a manner that will reveal its universal essence. Even \\.hen these assumptions are expressly banished, they tend to reas- sert themselves. It is easy enough to recognize the affinities between comparative studies of literature and the projects of knowledge- building that accompanied the rise of European imperialism and a "planetary consciousness" (to borrow Mary Louise Pratt's term).' Rut the conditions for an escape from the positivist model do not yet exist. One might look forward to a truly intercultural scholar- ship, in which full-blooded cultures confront each other on every page, with no hint of a hierarchical difference between the subject- observer and the observed object. One might also make reflections on self and other a part of all research and the precondition for

' This pdper owes much to the fascinating book Irnl~o?inll<?e~,in \vliicli Psatt cxplores the intert~rincd evolutioli of geographical kno~\,ledge and political r-ela- tiolis as exemplified ill travel \vsitilig of tlie past sever-al centuries.

any analysi~.~

But as long as scholarly articles are written in one language, for one discipline, and for an academic marketplace that maintains current ways of discovering or producing know- edge, comparative studies will reflect gestures of national power that take place outside and sometimes through the academy. In the pages that follow I will show that historians both in Greece and China recognized long ago the effects of imperial power on ways of knowing, and exposed and critiqued power's abuses in their accounts of their empires' encounters with its enemies. I will also suggest that in some ways these historians are model comparatists.

X tendency to~vard totalization is a condition of all comparative endeavors and links the study of foreign traditions with such enterprises as Hegel's phenomenology, the sociologies of Max Weber and Talcott Parsons, and the narratives of conquest and anti-conquest studied by Pratt and others. Essays in comparison are performances in ~vhich reason is inixed with something capri- cious, an anti-reason, a trace of the [inreasoning force that makes einpire possible. From this perspective, the disciplinary queasiness of traditional comparative literature about investigations of litera- tures that did not influence each other-e.g. Greek and Chinese- ceases to matter. We might envision a continuum encompassing several types of literary study. Somewhere near the middle would be traditional treatments of mutually influencing literatures like French and German. This sort of comparison starts froin the idea of the nation, the national literature, and the national language; differences between nations constitute the field and justifj: the whole project. On one side of this mean, I ~vouldplace the sorts of studies that constitute a national literature in the first place. The study of a national literature is a variety of comparative literature in the sense that diachronic investigations of influence, histories of genre, and the like assume an identity, usually national in charac- ter, which persists despite the innumerable differences (of histor- ical circumstances, class, dialect, race, gender, etc.) dividing users of the saine language in the saine state. I would place on the other side of the traditional mean comparisons involving such unrelated literatures as Greek and Chinese. Histories of influence cannot justify this kind of project, ~vhic11 thus requires more fundamental human commonalities for its basis. "Poetry," for instance, emerges as a newly enlarged category comprising both the ordinary English referents of the word and such Chinese genres as classical poetry (shi231,song lyrics (ci Zg), and independent arias (snnqz~E$@).''

'In Cultur-al Studies, the field ~vliicli has rnost collsistently c:~lcour;rgrtl sr~cll reflection among its ps;ictitiotiers, debate continues over the pr-ogress wliicll this reflection rnakes possible. See Bahti.

%uilleli, 1 18-22, examines the profits of East-West "genolopy."

Nation still matters in these comparisons (as certain reductive dis- coveries of the "national character" of the Chinese and other non- European peoples suggest), but it does ilot retain the importance it has for traditional comparative literature, where the literatures in question belong to peoples who have for centuries defined them- selves against each other linguistically, culturally, and militarily.

I assume for the purposes of this paper fundamental human com- monalities that derive, first, from the problem of ruling, that is, projecting power over geographical, social, and cultural distances; and second, from the mediation of political arrangements through cultural knowledge, especially as such knowledge is fixed in texts. The marriage of political power and textual justification has a long history in many parts of the world. But in China it becomes espe- cially interesting with the TVestern Han (206 B.C.E.-9 C.E.), when in the political sphere emperors and dowagers coilsolidated struc- tures of domestic control and entertained expansionist aspirations, while in the cultural sphere the Confucian curriculum was canon- ized aiid the state promoted literacy and the preservation of manuscripts. It is true that few texts from before the Han can be made sense of without reference to the political experiences and hopes that inspired their authors. Rut only in the Han did authors write with an awareness of a government that lasted, that extended to the localities and the borders of the Chinese world, that claimed the Confucian past for itself-and that accomplished all these feats really, and not in some imagined or anticipated utopian future. Such an achievement could not but affect writing of all sorts. Here, I focus on Sima Qian SJ,%,g((?145-?86),whose Records ofthe Grand Scribe (Shijiq,?)I consider the imperial text par excellence.

The most obvious Tl'estern analogue to the Han's combination of unprecedented political power and classicisill is Rome under the principate, where one finds, in Li\y and Tacitus especially, im- perial texts that invite comparison \\.it11 Si~na Qian's. For various reasons, ho~vever, I leave Rcrne out of consideration. As it happens, much of what Li\y (in his depiction of the Carthaginians) and Tacitus (in the Gernactnict and the Agricoln) did with imperial themes depended upon the accotnplishments of an earlier writerly empire, the Athenian arkhgof the late fifth century. Just as Sima Qian incor- porated older idealizing and schematizing models of political orga- nization intohis depictioil of China and her neighbors, at the same time challenging certain fundamental imperial notions, Thucydides (ca. 460-ca. 400), the most important historian of the Athenian imperial moment, drew on and reinterpreted Greek works that haci made the ~vorld availal~le for Athenian knowledge. For both writers, and indeed for both traditions, imperial ways of knowing had their roots in archaic models of circulation: the circulation of water on the surface of the earth, of travelers, adventurers, traders, and administrators along the rivers and seas, and of language and knowledge along the same routes. In Greece, the history of the concept leads from the 0dy.r.r~~

to Thucydides' account of the dialogue at Melos. In China it leads from the myth of the water- worker Yu & to a surprising passage in Sima Qian's chapter on the Xiongnu, a nomadic non-Chinese tribe. It may be that imperial texts, or the imperial texts most valued by posterity, necessarily encode both the immense power to which they bear witness and a ~~illingness

to question the legitimacy of that power. This con- tradiction, as apparent in the Records of the Grand Scribe as in Thucydides, results from the uneasy relation of power and reason in the imperial text.

Imperial Historia in Melos

Already in the earliest remnants of Greek literature, the world is imagined as, among other things, the site of an immense circula- tion. Odysseus's wanderings in search of a return to Ithaca both assume the circulatory system as a natural given and imprint on it the human and cultural meaning of this particular hero. As Gregory Nagy has argued, Odysseus's emergence from Hades finds him not where he began, but at the opposite end of the earth; like the sun in its daily course, the traveler has returned by night to the extreme east, whence he finds his way to the Phaeacians and home (Best206). In The 11/Ijth ($Return in Earlj Greek lpic, Douglas Frame has shown how the intellectual dimensions of this return through night, unconsciousness, and the threat of everlasting obscurity are present in the Greek word n0.rto.r itself, whose relations to knowl- edge and self-knowledge are played out in the second half of the epic.' Moreover, as Marcel Detienne and Jean-Pierre Vernant have pointed out, the specific virtue by ~vhich Odysseus distinguishes himself from heroes in the Achillean mold, his rnitis (cunning in tel- ligence), accounts for his ability to find ways out of or across vari- eties of nporin (difficulty of passing, pathlessness, difficulty), both maritime and intellectual (222).

Odysseus's travels and returns likewise obliquely reflect real voy- ages of the early Greeks. We need not, of course, conceive of the Odyssey as a true account, like the IaterperiploiI will discuss shortly; indeed, attempts to identify real equivalents for the I,aestrygonians, the Lotophagoi, and the others, or for Odysseus himself, strike most scholars as futile.'Yet as historians of the ancient Mediterranean

'See also Nagy, Gwek iVI~fl~!?.tholo~~

and Poetics, 202-22.

' For one sr~cli attempt, see the popularizing work of Asniin and Hans-Helinrrt Wolf.

economy show, the sea was hardly pathless, even well before the Greek "Dark Ages" and the putative cornposition of the Homeric epics; and these epics, especially the Odyssey,provide some evidence to support archaeological discoveries that attest to extensive trad- ing along the coasts, with cargoes of precious metals, ivory, wine and other goods carried in oared ships not unlike those Odysseus leads and loses (Michell 214-16; Hahn 30-36). As Peter Rose writes, "Odysseus's heroic characteristics, his psychological profile, and

his cultural role evoke the energetic and aggressive elements in late eighth-century Greek society-the elements that were the real force behind the extraordinary burst of colonization into the west- ern Mediterranean, northern Aegaean, and Black seas" (120)."f Odysseus's hosts are largely imaginary, placed on their islands and seasides in answer to needs within Creek myth, the state of ship- ping and the shape it imposes on the known world are anything but fictional. We will again encounter the reflection of actual paths and illodes of exchange in an otherwise highly mythologized account of the world when we read a selection of early Chinese texts against each other.'

As Arnaldo R/Iomigliano and others have pointed out, historio- graphical and geographical studies were closely associated in early Greece (9;Fornara 12-16). If only because of the paucity of frag- ments from periods before the middle of the fifth century, it seems logical to trace a line of developillent from Scylax of Caryarlda (late 6th-early 5th c. R.C.E.) through his slightly later contempo- rary I-Iecataeus of hfiletus and on to the ethnographic portions of Herodotus (mid-5th c. B.C.E.). Herodotus clailns that Scylax, a Carian in the hire of Darius I of Persia, navigated the Indus and the coast of the Indian Ocean, making his way along the coast of Arabia to the Ked Sea and Egypt (4.44); the voyage is mirrored, according to Herodotus, by a Phoenician circumrla\~igatiorl of Afi-ica-likewise ordered by a po~rerful ruler, the Egyptian Neco- from the Red Sea south, then up the western coilst of the continent to the Pillars of Hercules and back. The surviving Perif)lous of Scylax was likely co!nposed in the fo~irth century B.C.E., though, as Xurelio Peretti argues, it would appear to preserve an authentic nuclei~s of sixth-century cartographic knowledge (435-84). The much grander and more theoretical work of Hecataeus, the P~ri~ycsis, renlrlarits of ~rhich Felix Jacoby collected in Ijie Frngmcnte der Gri~cilisrhen Historikcl-, was an attempt to describe the whole earth,

" 1101-kheit~~e~.;tt~d ;\tlo~-llo find sitnilat- bur tilore l~alef'ul sigr~ificai~ce thc fig-

ir~ lire of'Otl\s\eus (43-80).

' I regret that I 11:t\e riot 11cel1 able to coi~s~ilt

the new hook by Irarl Lialkill, ~vhicll p~omises to give a 111ucIi II~OI-e t11orougl1 ;tcc.ottnt of the sigi~it'ic;tr~ce of tt.a\c.l in the Odjctry '111(1 ill cal-1) GI-cek ctiltiil.e.

with relatively detailed accounts of the lands and peoples living along the coast of the Mediterranean Uacoby 16-47; see also Nenci). The map that accompanied this set of ethnographies preserves an- cient assumptions about the shape of the earth and the disposition of its continents, and depicts the whole as surrounded by the cir- cular river Okeanos (Peretti 12). The Odyssean pairing of circum- navigation and enlightenment apparently remained an important assumption in this work. The intellectual bravado of Hecataeus's undertaking made him the greatest of the purveyors of logoi, the logopoioi or logographoi (in Thucydides a pejorative term), the "tell- ers of tales" who preceded Herodotus. Like Herodotus, Hecataeus in both his Periegesis and his Genealogzae was a collector, categorizer, and importer of local myths and traditions. In contrast to the case of Scylax and the other writers of periploi, however, the circum- stances of political power and wealth that would have supported Hecataeus's travels are not known. If he had a specific patron and public to report to, their identities are now lost.

Not so with Herodotus, who sought out, weighed, and published the logoi of the world not merely for a Greek audience, but for the good of a newly imperial Athens. Historia (inquiry, especially of the

juridical sort) became a genre of intellectual publication in the

transition from Herodotus's literal and intellectual periplous-his

purported conversations with locals throughout the eastern Medi-

terraneanH-to his marshalling of this knowledge in a single, care-

fully structured work of prose. As Gregory Nagy has argued, the

Histories of Herodotus, like certain tragedies, represent Athens and

the Athenian Empire as turannos; the narrative of the Persian War,

written during the Peloponnesian War, offers to the knowing

reader-the reader who can unravel the ainos or fable in which the

message is encoded-a vision of Athens tranformed from savior to

destroyer (Pindar's Homer308-13). The historian claims for himself

and for his work the authority of the Oracle at Delphi, thereby

furnishing a basis both divine and Panhellenic for his criticism of

Athenian hubris. But the implicit audience of this performance, as

of any veiled critique, is first and foremost the object of the cri-

tique, the perpetrator ofviolence, Athens. The Historiesare a lesson

brought home to Athens in the full presence of the warring Greek

states. A Herodotean metaphor explicitly compares the paths of

travel and of discourse, so closely linked in the Odyssey: the histo-

rian claims that he could give three alternative "roads of words"

(log& hodoi) or versions of Cyrus's story (1.95.1; Pindar's Homer

233). The colnparison is also iniplicit in many of the Chinese texts

we will examine.

"Detlev Fehling has argued that Herodotus was a collector and compiler rather that1 a traveler.

If prehistoric cotnnlerce is one beginning of Odyssean topography, which in turn informs later historiographical writings, Athenian pride is its encl. The Orlyssey has in common with Athenian tragedy a tendency to bring myths home, to lead heroes strongly associated with other poleis to ultimate resting places and dratnatic resolutions in Athens. The Orcsteia is only the most obvious exatnple of this appropriating habit. Just as Aeschylus finds the tneanirlg of the Atreids' strife in the final institution of the Eutnenides with Athena as ~lpholdet-s of justicc on the ilcropolis, Sophocles leads the blinded Oedipus in his last days to an outlying deme of the city, the poet's own birthplace, Colonus, and Euripides similarly claims the myth of Hippolytus for Athens and Troeren. Such narratives, which were not invented by the poets but selected from the iminense body of ai-ailable lore on individual heroes, reflected the cultural circutnstances under which the tragedies were performed. Not only was the Greater Dionysia itself the result of a ~rillful central- ization of local performances in the demes of Athens, but during the fifth century it also dre\r in official and unofficial aucliences from all of Greece. Athens as it performed its myths represerlretl itself as a destination for all Creeks, the natural place for a home- coming. As Erwin Cook has argued, the Odys~ey as performed in the context of the Pan;~thenaia established parallels between Odysseus's olvn experience of nostos and revenge and the Athenian cult of Erechtheus. Both heroes have Athena as protector and Poseidon as adversary. 'The slaughter of the suitors in Ithaca, in which the olive-trunk bedstead and the divine lamp of Athena (lukhnos) play prominent roles, corresponds to the sacred olive tree (;22oriris) and flarne of the Acropolis. The epic and the Athe- nian ctdt alike theniatire the opposition of bii; (force) and rtzi;tir, associating the latter with the goddess, \rith success in struggles against barbarism, and with civic vil-tues such as themis (law) (Cook 128-70).Thus in the figure of Odysseus, newly appropriated under the Peisistratids for his negotiation of political force and political reason, Athens figuratively claims for itself the resourcefulness of the hero, the po(~~tropo\

(versatile, niuch-wandering) quality that allowed hirii, in the ~vortls of the proern, to know the cities and the minds of many men, antl to return unharmed from his travels. In this, Otlysseus anticipates the language of Pericles' funeral oration: ". . . [Olut. adventurous spirit has forced an entry into every sea antl into every land; and everyvhere .ive have left behind us ever- lasting rnernorials of good done to our friends or stlffering inflicted on our enemies" (Thuc. 2.31).

Jacqueline de Ro~nilly. wi-iting.just after the Second \\'orld \.\'ar, read thy hIelian Dialogue (.rhuc. 5.84-113) as Thucvciides' critique of ;\theiliarl irrlperialisni. ".17hucydide parait avoir ~.oulu utiliser l'occasioll qui lui itait offerte pour analyser tie la facon la plus ginirale, une ligne politique ginirale, imputable 2AthZnes en giniral. Cette ligne politique est i\.idemment celle de I'impkri- alisme conquirant" (231) ("Thucydides seems to have wanted to take ati\.antage of the opportunitv given him to analyze in as general a Lvay as possible a general political line attributable to Athens in gen- eral. This political line is clearly that of aggressive imperialism"). Thucvdities, Romilly argues, concluties that imperialism engages the imperial power in repeated acts of conquest; everv demonstra- tion of force increases the number of enemies, against tvhom the conqueror must commit new agg1,essions (247, 259). With this reading in mind, I would like to place the dialogue in the context of the Odjssq, the periploi, anti the historic1 of Herodotus. What hap- pens at the edges of imperial circulation, where venturers from the center exchange wortis and blows with local powers? We find one sort of answer in the Odjssq, and especially in the Polyphernus episode, which rnost elegantlv depicts the triurnph of rnitis over brute OiS. But the Melians are not brutes, and Thucytiides has stripped the conquering visitor of all claims to justice, foregrounti- ing instead the willfulness and imperviouslless to reason by which any political power maintains its holdillgs. Thucydides' representa- tion of the dialogue between Athenian empire and doolneti locality is extraortiinary for its experimental admission of imperial power as one term among others in the argument. Unreasoning force- here the threat of ensla\.ement anti slaughter if the Melians tio not submit-cannot, as Thucydities knew, enter an argument without short-circuiting the pretense of reasoned excl~allge. If in previous confrontations of big and mgtis the latter had prevailed, bii now wins out, at least in the short term, though admittedly not without ruinous consequences e\.en for the conquerors. In its course and its conclusion, the dialogue at Melos is an epitome of the imperial center's dialogue with its sul~jects.

At the outset, ~vhen the Melians decide to allow the Athenians to argue their case only before the oligoi and not before the \vhole assembly, the Athenians respond bv proposing a dialogue rather than an eschange of set speeches. 111 making this proposal, the Athe- nians irnply that the Melian representatives are stifling a democratic hearing and sacrificing the interests of the island for the sake of oligarchic power. The h'ielians, on the other hanti, object that dia- logr~ecannot be carrieti out ulldel- the threat of force, since they ~vill suffer however ~vell they argue their case (5.86). Violence has already compromiseti reason. IVhile the h'ielialls atiduce the inevi- table result of the dialogue (either \i7ar 01. suljjectioll) as an argu- ment \vithii~ the dialogue, and in this \vay demonstrate the futility of the exercise, the Athenians sonle~vhat per\.ersely insist that the discussion proceed; the Xlelians should look to the present facts and to the safety of their city rather than worrying about the future (5.87).Surprisinglv, the Athenisns go on to deprive themselves anti their opponents of all traditional claims to justice, which they tiismiss as onomata kala, "fine phrases."%ven specific justifications of empire (the rnost reliable being Xthenian leadership against Persia) anti specific pretexts for vengeance are to be left out, since they convince no one. The fact of empire voitis the concept ofjus- tice: "you know as well as we do that, when these matters are dis- cusseti by practical people, the stantiard ofjustice depentis on the equality of power to compel and that in fact the strong do what they have the power to tio and the tveak accept tvhat t.hey have to accept" (5.89). The hlelians right!y recognize thatjustice has not been redefineti so much as exclutled (5.90).

Forbidden to reason on the basis oSjustice or of worries about the future, the Melians attempt to reintroduce both considerations at once: the Athenians must agree that people facing the threat of violence should be permitted to advance imperfectly precise argu- ments if only because when the empire tinally falls the Athenians thernselves will Iia1.e only such arguments to fend off their enemies' vengefillness (5.90). That the Athenians fail to meet this argu- rnent supports Romilly's reading; if the Athenians had seen the reasons for restraining force, Melos would not have become a fig- ure Sor the whole irnperial enterprise. hself-referential dimension to the dialogue is suggested by the reference here to ak~ibeia (pre- cision), tvhich is Thucvdides' most cherished historiographical value, and the one by which he distinguishes himself from his pre- decessors, including Herodotus (1.22). In history-writing, ak?-ibeia exluties all that is marvellous anti fairy-tale like (muth6rlrs), while in policy-making it implicitlv excludes hope, honor,justice, anti all the other onomatci ltcilci that stand on the side of reason against power. ilk~ibeiamav thus stand for a sort of cvnicism, a recognition that 110 arguments, even argumellts about the implications of' force, can prevail against force. Still. given the possibility that Thucydities shares with Herodotus the role of ilisto~ as jutige and chastiser of Athenian imperialism, the Melians' reference to akribriu may il-oni- cailv hint at the precise final consequences for Athens of her impe- rial arrogance.

The insistence on precision leaves precisely no room for tiiscussion. Keaso~li~lg

is pointless, anti the Melians are wasting their breath. It is not that reason can never measure power and predict the results of its use; in fact, the hlelians seem to recognize that their only hope is to tie~nonstrate how the use of force in this instance will ill the end harm hthellian interests. Rather, the problem is that the possessors of powr are so possessed by powel- that they cannot yielti to such reasonable cautions. The end of the tiiscussion, deter- mined for the Athenians frorn the outset, infects all its parts, so that the form of dialogue rernains without the substance. h'ielos will become a tributary, with or without ~iolence, and the Athe- nians can only block their ears to any counterarguments, however cogent. Thus thev ignore the possibilitv of future vengeance

(5.90), anti ~vhen the Melians point out that cruelty against h'ielos will only confirrn the neutral states in their enmitv (5.98) reply quite incoherently that they are not worrieci about states on the mainland, but wish to subdue the islanders (5.99). Dionvsius of EIalicarnassus (fl. ca. 30 B.C.E.), in his treatise On Thucydides, points out with amazernent these and other lapses-both grammatical and logical-determining f'inallv that all of the statements Thucydides attributes to the Athenians are unworthv of them and therefore unbelievable (On 7fz1~c.37-41). Romillv's interpretation of the dialogue as a critique of irnperialism has the virtue of find- ing a reason arnid unreason.

Despite its underlying blindness, ho~vever, the Athenian argument is quite convincing, perhaps because it so successfully represents the problem as one of dispensing with empty pretenses and facing facts in the spirit of ak~il~ia.

In the later exchanges of the dia- logue, the h'ielians express hopes that when battle is joined they rnight pre~.ail despite the o~.erwhelming superiority of the Xthe- nian forces, that the gods will give them good fortune, anti that Sparta, mother of the colony, will corne to their defense or attack Athens (5.102-1 10). The hthenians predictably scoff at these state- ments, pointing out that the Melians have readmitted into their reasoning the fantasies about tlie future that they had originallv renounced at tlie Athenians' insistence (5.1 11j. But because the Athenians, whose control the terms of the ciialogue mirrors their military do~ninance, have determined that orly calculations of relati1.e strength will be recognized as reasonable, the Melians have little choice but to trv to reintrotiuce customary reasoning. This faileti cunning is as pathetic as it is honorable, for the Athe- nians demystifv even holler, leaving it as enipty and delusional as dik; and the other once-venerated terms of civilized intercourse (5.111). The pathos of the victims, ~vho uphold anti-tyrannical vir- tues in the face of an ullreflecti1.e threat of violence, contributes to the properly "tragic" air that commentators have noted here anti else~vhere in the narrative. Behind tlie Melians are Orestes, Antigone, and others, and Thucytiides, like the poets, brings their story home to Athens.

Irnirlediately after the destruction of Melos, tlie slaughter of its men, and the elisla\'emerlt of its women anti chiltiren (5.1 16), the further circt~latioll of hthe~lian polver along tlie coast of tlie Metii- terranean brings its army to Sicily and the tiebacle there, which occupies most of Books Six and Seven. 111 this last major campaign of Thucyciides' work, the historian seems to return to the epic pre- history both of circulation anti of Sicily itself. When describing the island he mentions with customary dismissi~.eness (or altribeia) that poets clairn the Cvclopes and the Laestrygonians were the earliest inhabitants of the islands (6.2). And after the destruction of t!ie fleet, a loss of ships like that which Odysseus suffered among the Laestrygonians (Od. 10.80-132), the remnants of the routed Athenian land forces are imprisoned in stone quarries east of the famous theater of Syracuse (Gomme, Xndrewes, and Dover 461). Like Otivsseus's men, the Athenians suffer grievouslv in a rocky enclo- sure strewn with feces (Thuc. 7.8'7;cf. Od. 9.329-30).

Something of the Honieric sense of a confrontation between ct~ltureanti barbarism in Sicily attending Tll1icvtiides' history e~.en seems to survive in a story told by Plutarch:"'

Se\er-'11 [.-\tllenians] ucr-c saved fol- tllc sake ot Eur-ipidcs, whose poetry, it appears, was ill I-ccjriest amorlg the Sit ilians more than among ativ of the settlers out of Greece. .-\nd ariv travellers arrived that col~ld tell tlicni sonic passag?, or- give them any apecimetl of his rerses, they \\ere delighted to be able to coniirirlni- cate tllcni to otlc ;iriotIlcr-. 1l;lnv of the capti\cs \\.]lo got safe 11;ick to Athens ate said, aftei- tliev reaclied Ilotlle, to li,ive gorie and inadc their acknowlcdgnierits to Eur-ipides, relatitig ho~

that sonie of the111 had been released fi-or11 their- slaver-) 11) teaclliiig \vli;lt tilev could I-einembei- of liis poenis, and otllers, when straggling after the fight, 1l;id been relieved ~viih Ineat and tlr-ink for repeating sorile of his lyrics. (I'lut. Siciri~20)

Long after Thucyciides wrote his account, the cultural capital of hthells comes into its own as a hetige against ~iolence. X song by the current Athenian master can buv a life, freedorn, or a meal. IVith the tiefeat at Syracuse, Athens ceases to be an imperial polver in any literal sense; as the h,lelians reasonably pretiicted, her sub- jects turn against her and assist Spal-ta ill the final stages of the war. But at this moment Athens' erstwhile political imperiuln is also transformeti into a cultural inlperium, Ivliere the right sort of /)uid~i(i niight save its o~vner's life or buy a nieal e~.en in the most remote places: Korne, the E11ropea1l Renaissance, even the late t~ventieth century.

Circulation and the Body of Han China

If ass~~rnptiol~s

about circulation, force, and illtellectual prowess (~vhetherLogos or tnr^tis) really connect the confrontation at Melos ~vitll roots as deep as the O(/~ss~s,

recognition of the link is inade possible partly by the cornpal-ison of Greek inaterials lvith Chinese,

'" Tile I>;I'S.I#~ is olic that GI-egol-\ U,I~\ is fond 01 mentioning in connectloll \\-itti E~il.ipitlc,aiitl is citctl ill L.~~l~il~~rtoii'\~(11001(0111111~1it'1ly011 Tl111c.7.86.

where the patterns in question are clearer. In China, the advent of true (rather than mythologized) unified political doniination of the ~vholeterritory occupied hv the ethnic Chinese canie ahout under the short-lived Qin and was continued hy the Han. Like Athens, the Ha11 center inherited and institutionalized varied literary works that included idealized visions of geographv, political control, and the circulation of goods and culture. Perhaps hecause the verv models of circulation that informed the imaginary geography of China at this time made provision for the transmission of all sorts of language, including the language of resistance and criticism, frorn center to periphery and back, irnperial texts end up present- ing contacts at the edges of imperium as varieties of indirect remonstrance, a genre that b\ the Han had becolue both literarv


stereotype and political institution. Instead of kielos, where the historian relishes the clash of violence and reason, we find scenes 11-1 which craft\ and coded language quite conventionally o\er- cornes the threat of violence. 'The writer of the irnperial text, here Sirna Qian, does not renounce the right to critique; but even in critiquing he points to the iluperial power's ability (if it is acting wisel7) to hedge ~ts own Liolence about with reason.

An epi4ode fro111 the Zuo Tratlztzon (Zz~ozizz~an GI$)" illustrates how the confrontation between Chinese and no1-1-Chinese cultures was being handled at the probable time of the work's composition in the second half of the fourth century B.C.E. (if not in the pur- ported year of the recorded event itself, 559 B.C.E.). 'I'he great northern state of Tin has suffered a setback in its rivalry with the southern state of Chu, and seeks a scapegoat:

1,Jini pr-epnretl to ar-I-est C;or17hi, chief of chr Rong. F,ln X11an~i prrsonallv tle- nouiicc~tl hi111 iri corrrt, sCi.r,irig, "C:olne, Rong ofJiang! in for-nlcr tiines, %\1ic11 the people of Qin fhrcetl .rolir- aiiccstoi. \\.rrli irito exile at (;li.t~hou, volir arlccstor I\~III, ,rnti ,I cap of tllistles, calric iri allcgiarice to our

ciatl iri a c,rpe of\\ hite r-~i\iies 1orrr1c.r rlilcr, L)likr Hui, r\ ho 11,td firltls ofiilotiest si~e ant1 tlivitietl thein rip with

" Thc %~io??N~ZIIO?IIS .I Iai-ge tollec tioil of 11isto1-ical ,iiiectlotra narratiiig exents fro111 tile veass 722 to 163 R.C.E. Att,icheti as a coinint.nt,ir-y to thr ,Sli,z?iy c~rr/l .4iiiii11111.iti,rnl<, it 11a11c(>i1iiitlrrtlrti iri the (:o~if~itiaii cnnon since the Ea\ter-11 tI<l!l (25-220 (:.E:.).

"Sow, ho\\-rver, iii tlie affairs of the fet~cial 101-ds, our lor-d is riot as lir once was, probably becausc our ciisctissiolis have been le:rkcd; this ~iit~st

be because of'yor~. In rornorro\v's btisinrss" you ivill have no part. If'vou do, we \\ill 'irrest !oi~."

Ile replied, "In former times the people of (rill, t'ikillg advantagr of tlleir supe- riority in nu~nbers and greedy fol. land, expelletl all oiir Rong tribes. Duke Hui demonstrated his great virtu? and. co~isidering that .ivc Kong tribes were tile dr- scendants of the Four Peaks," would not cut 11s off. He granted us fields in t'iir soutl1r1-n outskirts, places ~vhere foxrs liwd and \coI\cs howlrd. We Rotig tribes cut back thc thistle, drove al\.ay the foxes and ~\.ol\res, and brcarne minister-s of thr fortncr rtilrr ~\ho nritller attackcd lli~n nor I-ehthlled against him. 1-0this da! Tve have not cliangrd. . ."

"No\v is it not that the corps of officials has soine shortcoming that lias ~veak- enrd the allegiance of the feudal lords? And yet \-oti blame the Rong tribes! The food. drink, and clotl~ing used by our various IEong tribes are 1101 the same as tllose of lour t-lua states; gifts do not pass back ,ind forth; arid Iangi~age is not understood. How could we do ;illy evil? Even ifi\.e do not participate in this meet- ing [of thc ;tllies], we will not he distressed."

11r rrcitcd "Black Fly"" and ~\>itlldre~v. Muatlri al)ologi~rd and had liirn partici- pate in rhr tneeting, thus ~riakirlg l~iniself "gracious." (Zrio, Xiang 14.1:Yang 10037; Legge .lii:3-64)"'

In condemning C;ouzhi, Fan Xuanzi focuses on the Rong's humble origins and their dependence 011 the Jin duke's generosity. He depicts the Rong ancestors as so primitive that they did not dress themselves in cloth. Gouzhi corrects Xuai~zi's history. 'Though the Kong did benefit froin Duke Hui's gil't, they repaid it amply by their loyalty. Hartlly savage, they civilized the wasteland they -rvere given to inhahit. Despite their obediei~ce, however, they are not assimilatetl; they maintain their cultural and linguistic differences (except, perhaps, during court debates like the present one). If they cannot exchange gifts or -rvords -rvith the other Chinese, how could they he revealingJin military secrets? The metaphor here, "leak"


is precisely the same as in English, and points to a deep


""Tonlor~-o\v'sb~~siness" ,~ndsevet-al other blares

is a celelnoninl 1nc3cting of,Ji~~ xllird ;rgainst Cliu.

" Tlic "Four Praks" \\.ere tninisre~-s of Yao. As :It Ztto Zhao 17.3 (l'ang 1336-89: 1-rgge ii67-68) allti ;\i 7.3 (Y,itig 1630- 1 ; I.eggc XI:(). lion-Chinese ;IT-e thotight to descent1 fi-or11 Chinesc culti~rc Iir~ves.

!' 111 the c)li~itted section. Gor~zhi rec;il!s tile Rolig rr-ibes' servicrs to Jiii at the battle of ijj (in 625 B.C.E.) .ind ill other niilit;~r! engagetnents.

'' "Rl.~ck Flv" is ,i poem from Y'i,i>Booit o/'So,rgs (.Shtl~trg$$~':),(:lli~i,~'s

tit-st poetl-I ;illtllologv, libel\ co~iipilrti~IIC;IiiO0 R.C.E. It is nt~rnl)r~ "10 in ill? tr,itlitional >130 <>ICIC~. FOX. i~alislaiioti. ,;er '\Vnlev (322). .ITis clenr in the etitl of thr Zrio ancctlotc, tlir relevant linrs ,ire "(;saciot~s the yt.~~tlern;rn,

islio doea not belie\.? \ri)rds of.\i;~iidei-" /it, -F TF '74 :@ -g.


'" Ali tf-;i~~siatio!ls ftnin C1ii;iesr al-r IIIL olvn. Retr~.r,nct.s to tile Ziiit 7i.i:riiiiaii ;ire to k111g B+itl'z co11ilr~enrr11-v,111t1,iol-ci>mixilati~rpiir-posrs, to I.eggr's trnnsl,ition. Sre ,ilso Rul-toil IVatsoti's p:11 ti,il tt-ansl,itio~~.

FPI- the con\erliencc of reatlt~r'r ~isiligor lie^ Chil~ese'clitio~l\. i Sollo~t the r~-atIiriot~,il

practice oSgi\ii~g tile n;itne of tile reignitl:: ~III~c.tlie >ear of his reisti, anti tl~t,pal-,iq~-apli~\.irlii~i

tli,it \-ear ("Xi;i~ig14.1'').

connection between water's flow and the behavior of language, -rvhich -rve will exarnine below. The final detail is eerily reminiscent of the Athenian captives' use of Euripides: a shared cultural pos- session, displayed under the right circl~rnstances, turns back a threatened aggression. Fan Xuanzi responds correctly, earning the poem's adjective, "gracious" (kctitil%,/$$).

The figure of the virtuous and menlorious barbarian ruler sho-rvs up else-rvhere in early texts, and the great Confucian thinker Mencius (4th c. B.C.E.) even identifies the sage ernperor Shun @ and the Zhou culture hero King Wen F. (fl. mid-1 lth c. B.C.E.) as members of Yi groups (4B.1)." But the whole effect of such characterizations, like those in certain later fox stories, depends on the assun~ption, expressed here and there in historical and philosophical texts, that difference from the ctilture of the central states is inferiority to it. Associated -rvith this view is an ideologized geography that puts the royal court of the Zhou dynasty (ca. 1045- ca. 249 R.C.E.) at the heart of a set of concentric sqliares or rings, with expected loyalty, tribute, and cultural advancement decreas- ing in proportion to distance frorn court. In one of the grandest articulations of this vision, in the L~gen(Ls of thp Stat~s (Guoyu a$a),'xa minister of King Mu of Zhou F;JfgE. (trad. r. 1001-946) narnes each of the zones (the dianfu IaJj};, hinfu @:flBij, jclofu BflE, and hunn,gfu El/;) and places the various non-Chinese groups in the last two. The frequency and nature of the r.elations each Lone enjoys with the king are determined accortling to distance. ?'he Man and Yi, for instance, are to bring tribute annually, -rvhile the more distant Rong & and Di qj: visit only on the accession of a new king. Failure in these duties brings penalties that are also hier- archically differentiated, -rvith fiercer punishriients for the Chinese groups within the realm. In the outer zones, language takes the place of force. If the tribirtaries are lax, then the king "improves the use of names" (XZU rriing$%27);if they persist, he rebukes them (rangig). If the further tribes fail to come for the new king's acces- sion, he "improves his virtue" (xiu (Le fl5{%), and "notifies" (g-clo g) them if they do not change their ways. XI1 of this belongs to the "system of the former kings" (xian ioclngzi:~ zhi !k.Z'_ $u); while it makes sense in the context of a remonstrance before King Mu: who has determined to attack certain Rong tribes, there is little evi- dence that the systern was ever implemented in the Western Zhou

!'Sce %uo Zliao 17.3 (Yarig 1386-89; I.cgst' (iii7-ti8) for- o~ic historiograpllical rx;unple.

'"l'lir f,qf>~(~111/\is a collectio~lof anectiotes nncl s~)eecl~es

,SIO~OS likely made

of I~P

ar-ountl the eiltl of'tlic fol~r-th cci1tl11-yl3.C.E. In content ant1 in tliol~gllt it is closer to the Zzro 7inrlltior~th;iti to Any otl1~1-tvork. No corliplete translation into any LYcste~-111angu;ige yet esists, 11nt the Zl~ou cliaprers 1ia~'r betsn translntecl bv cl'llor-nion and RIatliirti.


or before. Political power will sustain a much-evolved version of this ideal geography only in the Han (Legends Zhou 1.1,4) ."'

As Han Xuanzi's mention of "leaks" suggests, pre-Qin texts apply water-related terminology to the flow of language. When a ruler forbids remonstrances, or when conniving rulers stop information about affairs of state from reaching him, the words used are yong

"to dam" and scti "to block up" (LegendsJin 1.5, 266; Zhou 1.3, 9-10). Perhaps because the circulation of commands and of mimetic behavior in the well-ordered state is conceived of on the basis of a water metaphor, omens relating to rivers reflect on the state of political communication and obedience. Thus a battle between two rivers during the reign of King Ling of Zhou Ja%-F. threatens to flood the royal palace. When the king plans to dam up the rivers, a minister remonstrates, comparing the act of governing to the opening of channels and noting that the mythic water-workers Gong Gong &-Iand Gun #,% failed to end the great flood by blocking up rivers, while Yu succeeded by clearing obstruc- tions and securing the livelihood of the people. The king does not heed the remonstrance, and the flood presages a period of turmoil in the royal house (I,c?gends Zhou 3.3, 101-13). When the govern- ment stlppresses the critical language of the people, a dangerous pressure builds up: "Resentment in the hearts of the people is like a great river blocked; when it breaks free it inevitably causes great

harm" &aii\2'l$&7 gl;fjkJlls,-'&mi;frq@a\k@

(Legends Chu 2.3, 575). According to The Record of Rit~s (I2& rizzz),the good king receives remonstrances at the "Marsh" (ZP ~)%),identified by conlnlentators with the Royal Academy (bijong #@), the very name of which rnay refer to language-circulation (Sun 691)."I

The water metaphor which informs discussions of language- circulation in the realm also underlies discussions of economy and the circulation of goods and currency. The notion of "resources" in early China preserves the metaphor which has by now died off in the English word. The land itself, with its mountains, rivers, and lakes, and the people who inhabit it, is a vast source of wealth, but if the correct channels are not established for the flow of this wealth, it will become obstructed, bringing farnine, poverty, and political chaos. In an interesting rhyrned remonstrance ernbedded within another remonstrance in the %[lo Trc1clition, a game warden sings of Kl's ordering of the land in language that will have distant echoes in Mencius:

'" References to tile Lrg~nd.5 give tile name of' the section ("Z~IO~I")

, and tile fascicle and entrv nunlber u.itliin that section ("1.1") as nl;irkecl in the Slianghai edition, and the page number in that etlition("4").

"Occorditlg to tl~e BoI~i~fo1~gEiB ("Corllprellellsive Discussions at the Wliite Tiger Pavilion"), hi @ is glossed as jz @ and yong @ as jorlg bk, and both relate to the accn~nnlation of t~sefill langnage (Chen 2-39)

(':r:$3f;$ lCfi[@ j$jj

3 0 \ 7

gsfL)l'l, +$@,IL~ g};gjge : &&-{19&, 1% j-0 ,+ fg

In the Rrmorl~trnncr of the Gn~rie Ilitrden it savs, "Far- stretched the tr-acks of Yu, as he marked off the Nine Regio~ls, or-dering and opening the Nine LGtys. The people had thcil. d~velling charnbers and their- tentples, the beasts had their brush and grass; all had their- places to stay, so that their atrainrrte~lts did not cornc into con- flict." (%z~oXi;tng 4.7, ljng 938; Legge 4'24)

In a vast description of the roval ploughing ceremony, a minister remonstrating with King Xuan of Zhou /a (I-.827-781) quotes the ritually prescribed words of the Grand Scribe to the Agricul- tural Official: in spring, "as the Yang force rises, the moisture of the earth will stir. If it is not moved and channeled, the veins will become full to the point of disaster, and the grain will not flourish"

125&0%?z, I-.g >qgjJ 0 gJg ,g+ , [fi $$j& -g-, g* 75 ,+@j.

Human ploughing, led by the king, clears obstructions in the body of the earth (L~gc.?~tls

Zhou 1.6, 16-17). In a long renlonstrance with KingJing of Zhou fgs-2(r.544-519),Duke hlu of Shan gft$ 5;: opposes the minting of new large-denomination coins, which will have the effect of increasing the people's tax burden and forcing them to exploit forests ant1 marshes in order to meet their obligations. "To cut off what the people use (the current small- denomination coins) in order to fill the royal treasurv is like block- ing up the source of a river to make a pond: it will drv up any day" &RRI LJ,SZ.,R 3 $@%)I1Ej1'1j%i3:T& ?&?&tk$EH G


Zhou 3.5, 122)." One passage in the L~g~ndsth~Stnt~.smakes explicit the water


rnetaphor and the elements of econornic thought that are il~iplicit in discussiolls of language circulation:

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Kitis 1.i [ 3.55-ca. 8351 \va\ cl.rtel, ant1 tlre people of tlre I-ealrti spoke ill of trilti. The Drtke of Shao toltl lrir~i, "Tlre people carlrrot be;ir vour con~rriarrtls." Ent-aged, the king obt:titied n spit it-metlium front the stnte of ll'ei and tiad him spy or1 and

on the critics; rher~ the kir~q \\.ottltl kill thern. No otte it1 the I-ealnr tlared

" 1701. lui-tllcl- connections of I-iver soit~ceu. fr-r~e cil-crtlatio~r,ant1 lluniar~ p1.o~- pet-ity, sc't',~~rl\211ort 1 .lo, 26-7, \\iie~-eit is espl;lined ~vhy tl~efall of dyr1;tstir.s is presnged by the (11-yir~g-ttp of ~ri\,er.s; I,P~PIIO\

Zh~it%ti, 128, 011 the econotrtic in- plic;rtions ot niuslc; alitl 1.i;cj~titlcC:iiu 1.5, 541.45, .1nt1 Xlencirts 1.1.2, on exprnsive building prc?jects.

speak; they col~ld only exchange glances as they passed on the streets. The king was pleasetl, and told the Duke of Shao, "I am capable of bringing an end to criti- cism: they tlon't tla~-e speak."

The Duke of Shao said, "This is obstrrrcting [the wortls]. Blocking rrp the mouths of the people is worse than blocking up a river. \$'hen a river is tlammetl, it breaks throl~gh its banks, and there are always a lot of casualties. The people are just the same. For this I-eason, those who work with rivers cut channels to make them easy to guitle, while those ~vho work with the people open them up to nlake them speak.

Thus \\-hen the son of Heaven attends to policy matters, he has everyone from the highest ministel-s down to the many I-etainers present poems, the blintl musi- cians present tunes, the historians present WI-itings, the head officials atlmonish, the blintl expound, the sightless I-ecite, the huntlred officials remonstrate; cornmoners pass along ren1a1-ks, personal servants PI-esent all sorts of CO~I-ections,

ant1 relations I-etleem erro1-s and attend to details; the blind musicians and the histo- rians present teachings; the tutors and instructors refine [these teachings]; and then the king considel-s them. Thus affail-s proceed and do not go awry.

The rllol~ths of the people a~-e like the mol~ntains ant1 I-ivers in the lantl: that's where resources come from. They are like the rich 1o.rvlands of the plains and marshes: that's where clothing and food a~-e born. Srrccess ant1 fail111-e arise from the words uttered by these morrths; carrying out what is successfrrl and preventing failure a~-ewhat make it possible to accumulate resor11-ces, clothing, ancl footl. The people conten~plate it in their hearts and uttel- it .rvith their n~ouths, and when it is complete one carries it out; how can yorr stop it up? If you stop rrp theil- mol~ths,how long will you be capable [of lasting]?"

The king ditl not listen, so no one in the staLe tlared utter a word. After three years, they flooded the king away to Zhi. (Lrgrnd.cZhor~1.3,9-10)" The only way the king succeeds in suppressirlg criticism, even tern- porarily, is through his employment of the spirit-medium, who in the context of the I2gends represents an illicit channel of informa- tion turned to violent ends. But the metaphor itself ensures the king's comeuppance. The people's critical speech is an over- whelming source of pressure, a natural force, and the king cannot hold it back; he can only direct it, relieve it, circulate it. Setting up channels is part of the art of making people obedient. The good king sets up a whole institutional framework for channelled speech, which consists not of the seditious mumblings of an oppressed populace, but of poems, music, historical writings, recitations and remonstrations of all kinds. All textual production from below is to circulate smoothly upward both for the betterment of the govern- ment and for the therapeutic leeching of popular criticism. This is not incoherent speech, the textual equivalent of a flootl, even though it can sometimes have the effect of a flood. Rather it is speech crafted into poems ant1 other textual structures. This element of verbal art will become important when we focus on provisio~ls for the legitimacy of critique in the early Chinese political and geo- graphical imagination.

22 I have t~-anslatetl and discusset1 the ~nitldle section of this passage in my ar- ticle "Remonstrance in Eastern Zhou Historiography."

The Duke's last points contain an implicit reference to China's myth of the flood and of Yu's heroic and ultimately successful efforts to control it, to which we turn next. Yu restructured the Chinese landscape so that political power, culture, and tribute could circu1at.e. The people have always been the source of a wealth that bubbles upward. But it has to be made explicit for the ignorant king that speech-critical speech-is part of this wealth.'" M7hen one exploits the resources of the land, one first imposes a structure, whether the nine regions, the mountain ranges ancl river systems, or all those institutionalized channels of criticism the Duke listed. As long as the channels are kept open, the wealth continues to flow and pressures remain low. But when someone like King Li shuts off the flow, the system blows, and the offender is "flooded away" or "streamed away" (lir~j&) into exile.

In a recent analysis of the Hiograplly of MZL, the Son ofHeaven (M~L Tianzi zhr~an @ xf@) and relatccl texts, Deborah Lynn Porter has amassed evidence to show that myths of the flood ancl flood- management in China originated in attempts to deal with changing astronomical phenomena, specifically the disastrous results of pr-e- cession for seasonal calculations established in neolithic times." Without denying the celestial implications of the Yu myth, I focus here on the geographical, tliscursive, and economic thought it ern- bodies, and on the political uses to which this thought was put. First, then, the catastrophic floods are mentioned already by the mythic Emperor Yao in the "Statutes of Yao" ("Yao clian" 2$@), a chapter of the Docr~ments ofAntiqz~ity (Shangrhz~ 19%):"The Lord said, 'Oh, you, Four Peaks. Flooding, flooding are the great waters, causing harm in all directions; widespreading, widespreacling, they embrace the mountains, rising to the ridges. Vastly, vastly, they rise up to the heavens. The people below groan so [with despair-]. Ib'oulcl that there were someone who would cause good

o %?mg.0 j$j$gj;fk7kfi?#J,z?mk~115%**o


governance"'^^ SF&:,,-!&

:a:r,q x

0 -i;R 8: (@ X (Kong 2.122) ."



At the Four



Peaks' behest, Yao deputes Gun to fight the floods, but for nine years he accomplishes nothing. The L)ocu~ne~lts is mean-

of iintiqz~itjl

while occupied ~~ith political arrangements. Shun is selected to

" Fool-evide~lce th;it King 1.i ;~lso shut off the cllarltlels of ~vealth it1 Inore litel-al fkshion, see I,rg~~~~r.,ltls ant: of his Iligh ministers "monopo-

Zhou 1.4, 12-I:+, ~v1le1-e lizes economic benefits" (il~rtnn 11 $:$lj) in contrast to the good rr~lcr, who "grrides profits ant1 distributes them above and below" 3$1 mj;kJ)Z

k. v. The

wo~-tl,lno ig ~ecallsYII's work on the I-i1e1- system.

"For ;I tr.;rt~alationof the ,tJrr liccr~zt r1lrin11, see R611li hl;~tllieu, I,? ,2411 ~'I~ITIZI


"The "Statr~tes of V'I~" is the first chaptet- in thr Doclrrrzrnt, 0/,411/i(jr~it)'

(.Y/I<I~I~tllu f/,i$f), for the most part to thc fir-st tnillenir~m

;I collcctio~l of texts tl;~t;~ble

B.C.E. 'l'r;~~lsl;~tions ;(I-e frot~l the't of the new complete version

trow t~eing prrp<~retl fi~rRllr Univc.1-sitp Press t~p P~ulSersuys, hlicl~ael Npl;in, and myself.


succeed Yao; Gun and three other malefactors are expelled to the four extremes of the Chinese world; and various official appoint- ments are made, including the appointment of Yu as "hlaster of Public M'orks" (sikong4 2),in charge of pacifying the water and soil (Kong 3.128, 130). In "The Plans of Gao Yao" ("Gao Yao 1110" 4$21@$$$), Yu alllloullces his success:

KI said, "The flood waters I-ose up to the heavens; vastly, vastly, they embraced the morrntains; they I-ose rrp to the ridges, so that the people below sank into the water and drowned. I, riding in four vehicles, follo\ved the morrntains ant1 crrt trees. Jointly with Yi, I provitletl the multit~~des

SI-esh food. I opened rrp passages for the Nine Ri~ers, so that they we1-e led to the four seas; deepening channels and canals, I hrorrght them to the rivers. Jointly with Ji, I sowed to provide the multitrrtles with hartl-to-get foods and fresh footls. 1 was diligent in transferl-ing from the haves to the have-nots, exchanging [theil-] dwellings, so that the multit~ldes finally hat1 g1-ain. Ant1 the n1y1-iatl states became well governed." (Ko~lg .5.141)

The final sentences show that the importance of Yu's works lies in the economic benefits they allow the people to recover. As Qu Wanli points out, mao f$ in the penultimate sentence was written mao ("commerce") in The Gr~at Commentary on the Docllments of Antiquity (Shangshu dazhr~an fij-3/5; is),while Gu Yanrvu @,Q & (1612-1681) glossed the character hua (i: ("exchange") by huo ("trade"), and Fu Qian )j/-j[g(ca. 125-ca. 95 B.C.E.) showed that jr~

could mean chz~ ("to stockpile") (Qu 38). Yu's work would then result in "commercial shipping between haves and have-nots, and trade and accumulation."

The "Tribute ofYun ("Yu gong" & E)chapter of the Uorz~rnentsof Antiquit?],with its categorical description of the Nine Kegions created by Yu in the course of his travels, mixes geography wit11 mythologized economic history. The channels Yu dredges bound territories that are epitomized by their soil, their produce, and the quality and nature of their tribute. The rivers not only form bound- aries between regions, but are also the paths by which tribute from the outlying regions reaches the center. At the same time they are the paths of Yu and, in the view of Mencius, examined below, of culture itself as it circulates from the center to the periphery. Despite the cornmonl~lace stating that Yu removed obstructions to allow the flood waters to drain away, the flow described in the "Tribute of Yu" is economic; it does not consistently lead down- stream, toward the sea, but along the rivers toward the center, and t~voseparate sections are reserved for the moulding of the moun- tain ranges and river courses that will drain water into the sea (Kong 6.151-2). As if to emphasize this point, the "Tribute ofYu" closes with a version of the concentric geography mentioned above in connection with the L~gendsof the States (Kong 6.153).

We might recall ar this poilit that for Herodotus it was Croesus's reduction of certain Hellenes to the status of tributaries which callle first iri the escliailge of'offenses that culrninated is1 the Per- .sian War (Mist. 1.6.2); and by identifying it as such Herodotus is exercising the prerogative of (he historto discover who is ciifio.s,"to blarite," for that war (Nagy, l'indar's Homcr 308-9). The Athenian (irk& also reduced its allies to tributary status, and comes in for implicit criticisnl fro111 Thucydides. In the Gr-eek contest the sort of engineering Yu undertakes would appear to be the tyrannical act par ~xri.//enc~,

arid precisely the sort of hubristic flouting of divirtity rvhich brings Xerxes down after he yokes the I-lellespont and cuts a canal across Athos (Nist.7.23-24, 33-37), Yet feedback in the Chinese tribute system will take a different form.

Certain treatrrleilts of Yu, most prominently that of hlencius, emphasize his eserr~plary mastery of the flow of language in the I-ealm. Already in the I>ocurnents oftlrzfiqz~it~,

Yu is made to pre- scribe the ruler's use of language: "It is the L,orti who at due times makes the promotions. He spreads out and takes in by ineans of' wosds, making clear the assessments by merit. Carriages and robes are [meted out] accorciing to deeds" ':f$;z'Fi$gF %$$lii~li'~ H,g


FE~:A~J$,/&Lx;$ (Kong 5:113)."'The first mention ofYu in the Jlenrius comes in thc course of a debate with a hllotver of the Agri- culturalist thinkel- Xu Xing ZFfT." As part of his demonstration tllnt ruling is a specialized skill justly financed thro~lgh gsain taxes, Mencius secalls the myth of the flood. During the reign of Yao, when lloods raged 2nd wild plants and animals had invaded the central states, Yi ,;;; chased off the beasts with fire, while Yu reworked the river system to drain off the floods and make the land habitable: "Only then could the central states succeed in getting

is suggested by the section that immediately follows, in which his heroic askeci.~is described: "At this tirne,Yti was awa) for eight yeass. Three times he passed his own gate and yet did not enter" '!$ z:ii$ f&, & j\ jj${!-iI0 2. -grr lfij;7;A (3A.3)." Later, in his remarks on ctispritation (Oinn $$), Mencii~sreviews the histor) of c:haos antl order in (.:hina, rrpcats antl expands his remarks on YU and the flood, and then shows how despite his efforts cllaos again encroached on the c-erttt-a1 states ~7l1e11 bad rulers like Zhou $;$ of Shang built game parks and ponds and again causett good agricultural land to

"' A Y:II iant of riles? lines nppews in riic "Yact diaii" (Kong 3:127);ai~othcar-v2r.i:III~is quorrd '1roir1the I)ot:rmrt~lsof Sic (Xirc.diu .@is)ar %uoXi 27.-i. I"ilrg 443-46; I xgge 20I.

That the work was mainly Yu's EJf~jflj&&."iija11'f& !&food to (a;tt"


be replaced by wild beasts and water. In recent ages, "perverse theo- ries" (xipshuo $/3 $2)have taken the place of the floods. As a result, $gj%zzT,g\fL?z%q:%2gl<;Q$G!$ %%(IE'&

3 9 3 0

If the way ofYang and Mo i5 not extingui~hed,~"

and if the way of Confucius is not promulgated, then thi5 !\.ill be a ca5e of perverse theorie5' misleading the people and blocking up hunianenes5 and rightne55. (38.9)

The reference to blockage, along with the assertion that chaos will cause men to become food (figuratively and literally) for beasts and for each other, recalls the flood. Though Confucius in the Spring and Az~turr~n

Annals &$A"" and Mencius in his own work attempt to repeat Yu's achievement by reestablishing the correct Way-a path for words, for culture, for morality, and for economic value-disputation is, for Mencius, still the Confucian's necessary bulwark against inundations of new theory. In this light it is signifi- cant that in t~7o of the references to YL~ elsewhere in the iMencius, the philosopher emphasizes Yu's openness to words of criticism. "Yu hated fine liquors but loved good words" I%2E?BiiTjb? %? (4B.20). "When Yu heard good words, he bowed" ,% H8-ZRlj% (2A.8). As Lisa Raphals has demonstrated, the Confucian tradition generally distrusts clever intelligence (zhi g);

yet as a passage she discusses shows, Mencius holds up Yu as an example of the proper use of an intelligence that does not force results, but achieves them by following natural circumstances (38)."' The poljvalence of the circulation metaphor is translated into the specific charac- teristics of Yu as water-worker, economic planner, diffuser of cul- ture, and solicitor of critical speech.

By the second century B.C.E., when Sirna Qian as writing his history, all of the intellectual components of the myth of Yu had developed, partly through exposure to imperial unification, beyond their pre-Qin expressions. Even as old notions of the circulation of language had been incorporated into institutionalized procedures for critique, fictional accounts of clever and death-defying indirect remonstrances abounded. A ne~~

association of the geography of rivers and regions with census and taxation allowed Sima to write chapters like the "Treatise on the Balanced Standard" ("Pingzhun shunlF?$!iB)and the "Biographies of the Entrepreneurs" ("Huo- zhi liezhuan" ggggrJ@$),

with their detailed accounts of the circu- lation of currency and commodities, the techniques of merchants,

'Vang is Yang Zhu fz', a \Yawing State5 per-iod pliilo5opher- .rvliorrl Metlci~~s caricatures as at1 extrerile egoist. Mo i5 Mo Di gg,pos5ib!y a late col~terilpora~.y of Cotlf~~cius,

wliorn Menciu5 caricaturrs as an excessive altruist.

"'Confucius i5 said to have edited tlie clirotlicles of the statr of I,u, encoding Iris judgment5 of historical events in liis wording of each entry; tlie result was tlrc At~nctlr,~vhich became part of the Confucian canon.

"The passage cited is Llenciu5 4B.2ti.

and regional products and manners. Finally, at ernpire's edges, where the Chinese confronted and at times battled with non-Chinese, rle- ments of the old set of associations informed confrontations between violence and cultured uses of language. Because of its organiza- tion, its vast scale, and its origins during the reign of Emperor Wu

(r. 141-87 B.C.E.), the Records ofthe Gvnnd Scribe has regularly been read as an irnperial text, a reflection of and on the nature of writ- ing in a unified polity of unprecedent size. The myth ofYu and the thernes associated wit11 it have new importance in such a text.

Earlier historiography had foregrounded both the proper circu- lation of admonitory language in the perfect realrn and the individ- uai instances of remonstrance by which ministers during the Spring and Autumn period attempted to impose a virtuous order on the capricious behavior of their rulers. Kelativelv rare in the Zuo fiadi- tio'nand I,epnrls ofthe States, but increasingly cornrnon in anecdotes from the later 12'arring States and IIan, are episodes of indirect remonstrance." Typically, after a ruler announces that anyone who remonstrates against his current course of action will be put to death, a minister must then find a way to encode his critique so that the ruler rvill simultaneously understand the critique and re- nounce his own threat of violence. These stories are told only of indirect relnonstrances that succeed; the narrative economy is such that when the ruler is compensated for the humiliation of being corrected by the minor glory of being a good decipherer, he suspends the death threat.

In "Biographies of the Clowns" ("Guji liezhuan" Sima Qian collects several of these stories, including the famous tales of the Jester Meng {gs,one of China's earliest named theatrical per- sonages and the first whose performance is said to have included an imitation of another person (126.3200-2). Of the six anecdotes added to the chapter by Chu Shaosun #*/& ('i104-?30 B.C.E.), the last concerns Ximen Bao ;)ti 1'739,magistrate of Ye $1,' under Lord PVen of PVei 8%2 (r. 424-387). Arriving in Ye, he learns from the elders that the people are suffering because of organized sacrifices to the River Earl jiJ {['I,for which the spirit-mediums de- mand both huge monetary contribr~tions and nlarriageable young girls, rvho drorvn in the river after being set afloat as brides to the god. In the scene that accounts for the inclusion of the story in this chapter, Ximen Bao abolishes the sacrifices by performing a piece of theater. '4s the lnediunls prepare to send off the bride, he annotinces that because she is not lovely enough the marriage will have to be postponed; he then has the chief priestess thrown into the river to report the change of plans to the god. M'hen she fails

to return with news, he has several more sacrificants drowned, all the rvhile maintaining a pose of utmost piety. Despite their fear of punishing floods, the people ofYe give up their rvorship.

Immediately after this episode comes an account of the canal- building for rvhich Ximen Bao is famous. Though the people complain of the work, he pronounces sentiments that any authoritarian ruler might share: "With the people one may take pleasure in completion, but one cannot plan beginnings. Though today your sons and younger brothers consider me a bane, a century from now I expect to make your grandsons think on my words" EsJLl

3 O 3


p&~Bgf&g,y+?2 27f$,F,&s.As Chu Shaosun notes, Ximen Bao was right in his prediction; the canals have made Ye rich, and "his fame thro~lgho~lt the world has flowed down abundantly to later generations" rEijx-7; jgi5 @ @ (126.321 1-3). Though he differs in some ways


from the other remonstrators, Ximen Bao typifies their combina- tion of clever speech, theatrical manipulations of ritual situations, and confrontation with power. If coincidental, his fame as a water- worker is significant nonetheless, in that he puts his verbal skills in the service of an assertion of M'ei state power both over economi- cally debilitating local religious practices and over the objections of a recalcitrant work force.

Sinla Qian's own most sustained examination of rvater-manage- merit comes in the "Treatise on the River and Canals" ("Hequ shun ~..where Ximen Bao's name is not mentioned. After an


opening paragraph on the works of Yu, in rvhich it is notable that the creation of tribute-paths is descr~bed before the draining of the flood-waters, Sima Qian moves on rather quickly to his main subject, the collapse of the Yellolv River dikes at Huzi starting in 132 B.C.E.'"' The breach is repaired once, but reopens. The chief minister Tian Fen EEj $9,rvhose emoluments come from cities near Huzi unaffected by the floods, is unlvilling to see his income reduced as the locals are press-ganged into dike-building. He convinces the emperor that the breach is Heaven's will and that repairing it through human effort might be an offense. Soothsay- ers and observers of yi $i, always suspect in Sima Qian's narrative, confirm Tian Fen's claims (29.1409).For more than two decades the flooding continues, ~vhile Emperor I'V~Isponsors canal projects elsewhere in the empire. Finally, as he travels the east to make official visits (xzrn3)and perform sacrifices jfeng$;j and shnn @), the emperor stops beside the Yellow River, ~vhei-e he offers a ~vhite horse and a jade disc to the uratel-s and has all of his civil and military officials (the historian among them) take part in the re- co~lstruction of the dike. The cult of the River Earl. attacked so

" Fol-sprcif'ic d,lre. sec Rcioritc ?TI 135.

fiercely by Ximen Bao, now becomes a part of official worship, as the emperor composes t~vo songs of ~upplication."~

The breach is closed, the Xuanfang :&Jz palace is built on the site in

(or cornniemoration, and new canals are dug to the north of the river "to restore the ancient tracks of Yu" @&g@(29.1413). In his evaluation, the Grand Scribe recounts his own visits to the Yangtze delta and to other- notable waterways, remarking finally: "HOTV awesome are the benefits and harms of water! I took part in the carrying of timber- to block up Xuanfang and was moved by the 'Huzi' poems to compose the "Ireatise on Rivers and Canals"' 3 7k,t% $lj


%+& ! &f$@,@gg@ (29.1~415).



The sequence of events in this chapter- parallels that of the early chapters of the Uocvments of Antiquity. Flooding begins and lasts while the elnper-or makes political and religious arrangements in various parts of the empire. The historian lays emphasis on the profits to be won from well-planned canal projects, which allolv for irrigation and for- relatively inexpensive shipment of grain to the capital. :It the same time he draws attention to the effectiveness of political speech and the interests that threaten to obstruct it. M'hile words from the greedy Tian Fen (who dies the year after the floods begin:"') and from self-proclaimed masters of secret arts inter- fere with the restoration of the people's livelihood, the emper-or-'s own impassioned songs placate the god or inspire the workers and return the river to its proper course. I would not venture to say whether the similarity between the "Treatise on the River and Canals" and the L)oci~? political life imitating literature or- the opposite (i.e. versions of the "Yao dian" and "Gao Yao mo" which reflect IIan events); but it is certainly an instance of polit- ical art.

In his discllssions of economy in the "Treatise on the Balanced Standard" and the "Biographies of the Entrepreneurs," Sima Qian makes the ~rlyth of YLI the classical foundation for an imperial vision of the circl~lation of wealth ant1 culture. The "Treatise on the Balanced Standard" opens with reflections on the dynamics of currency during the Qin-Han transition; in the background are b-ar- ring States economic texts, including Duke hfu's renlonstrance on currency r-eforn~ before King Jing of Zhou. hluch of the chapter concerns the probleln of financing bor-der-~vars against the Xiongnu

" 11 I\ po\uI)lr tllcx~.ri\.rrr rlot t~\~o but one oi~g. of ~vliici~

so~lp, Silrin rrcor-cis a \;ti-iaiit. 1'11e ~vortlirrg i\ iincleai.. Irl his corrinlriitary or1 the pai.allcI pa\sage in H/ITI>/!II I I<~II"), 1'2i11 Slligii !2g[iiii 2i-(~58

;$: $ ("1 1isto1.yof the Fc~r11ie1. 1-643) j~ldg<>(l \v~r.r tuo s~p;tr~tc> sor~ss

tlia1 tI>c>rc (29. 1683)

" Set, 11(11ii/iir 29:l 68-1.The 1;tttt.r. nainc i(,r tile ~);~laccx ~\o~ilti

1nt:ali sor~:erliiiig like "L)i\pl,r\iiig tlx- I3lock,tge."

and other groups, providing aid to flood victims, and supporting the massive ceiltralization of government under Emperor it'll. L-anguage enters into the story l>y way of officials and commoners ~vhoproposed solutions to the problems. Most famous of these is Bu Shi /. &, a wealthy farmer and shepherd ~vho tried to donate half his fortune to the state to support border fighting. The unnat- ural offer confused the emperor, who hesitated for several years ancl finally refused it. IVhen Bu Shi repeated the gesture, the em- peror attempted unsuccessfillly to turn him into a I-ole model for less generous citizens. Assigned to care for the sheep in Shanglin _t:jf:$ park (at this time both a bestiary and a financial institution), Bu Shi excelled and had the opportunity to present to the ad~nir- ing emperor a pastoral nod el of government: "It's not only sheep; governing people too is nothing more than this. Let them rise and rest in timely fashion, and remove the had ones so that they will not l-uill the flock" $jk;I@T:&j$R$#,.E.F, I& 0 CA$;?f&,% a*

3 ,i;. ~j

$3)~~3 (30.1432).


14eanwhile, the government was i~lstitiiting a more fearsome form of official communication. Merchants were to submit f~dl reports on their own assets and ~vould be taxed on the carts and strings of cash in their possession. Those who failed to cornply ~vould have their property confiscated and ~~.ould

be forced to serve at the frontier for one year. Anyone \tho could expose a false report would be rewarded ~vith half the confiscated property (30.1-130). As in the Rome of Tacitus, where the dclntor~sembodied the worst of private and imperial greed, such uses of language contributed to a disruption of public order. Confiscated property, inclutling slaves, was divided alrlong various offices. whose duties became in- ri-easingly confused. Support of the enlarged slave population alone required vastly increased shipments of' grain (30.1436).Following a proposal fro111 a certain Suo Zhong Ffii):),, the govern~nent solicited accusations against ~vealthy nobles whose indulgence in gambling was ruining the morals of the populace. Those arrested implicated thousarlds of others, but because they had tlie option of buying a pardon and simultaneous appointment to office, the system of official recr~littnent Jzent into decline (30.1437 j.

In his comrncnt on the chapter, Sirna Qian sholus Iio~v h~~nlan

his-tor): might be written as a historv of n.ealt11, poverty, and greed. T'lie sage r11lei-s dcpictcd in the I)or.rc?~~c?tts

oJ'Aniiqzrit) and the Hook (f Popfrj "made ritual propriety and righteo~isness a bulwark against

:,c ;m; rni. -.

profit-taking" ;AI?, w 11i;-!-k!:.Thc Ct-as-~-i~tg

States and Qin bro~lght gratlual econornic rationalizatic311 ancl the tinification of crrrrency, but they also saw the desire for wealth estinguish any hope for the old deference, itealth and po\.ert!. 1vt.1-e, in this cspression of Sirna (Jian's \ ie~vs, tllr reasons for rhe fall of certain states alttl the sril-- viva1 of othrrs. Finally, collt~i~erlti~tg

on thc age of Emperor \2'[1.

the historian reintroduces language fa~nillar from the ~nvth of 'Lil and the economic thought associated with it:

At this time we were gr-appling abroad xvith tile !'I and the Di, while at home we were undertaking public works projects. E\er-ywhere ill the empir-e, men corlld pior~gli with all their- str-ength, atld yet there wa\ not enougli grain for. PI-ovisiolls; woniell could weave, and set there xverv not enoiigh clothes to Tvear. In ancient times, it once happened that one ~vo~ld

exhnust all of one's property to present it to one's s~~perior other I-eason

ancl yet think that it was tiot ellougli. There is 110 for it but the flow of the lilo~ilentum of things, which wash agairlst one another and cause it to be this \Yay. It callllot be collsicler-ed strange. (30.1413)

Not only is the old language of exhaustion resumed in the nostalgia for ancient generosity, but also the image of the river reappears as a figure for nloral and econonlic history itself.

LVhile the "Treatise on the Balanced Standard" ends with resigned reflections on econornic phenomena as natural and unavoidable facts, the "Biographies of the Entrepreneurs" begins lvith a more optimistic version of the same phenotnena. Quoting the penulti- mate chapter of the Daotlejzr~gifif$ $($, where Laozi paints a utopian vision of stable agrarian self-sufficiency, Sirna Qian objects: "If one should make this a goal, inlposing it on recent ages and stopping up the ears and eyes of the people. it would hardly lvork" ,&,,Ffjkkgg$ 3 &iE@sEga 3 Hlj$g%qTg(129.3253). Laozi fantasized about a willing self-obstruction, a complete lack of tra\.el , commerce, and com~nunication. Sinla Qian instead points out that no amount of moral transforn~ation could change the habits of consumption, which the best governors learn how to accept. Listing the various procl~lcts of peripheral regions, he out- lines a simple theory of value based on scarcity ancl the desire for profit. Human beings' striving after ~vealth. he lvrites in a peculiar echo of both hlencius and Confucius, "is like ~vater's flolving tlo~vn- hill; night and clay there is no time when it stops. It comes on its own, without being summoned; unsought, it is produced by the people. How could this not be in conformity lvith the way, a proof

ofwl~atisj~lstsoofitselE"~/f~~~~~ $Eifin





$ 7 ?I -L. $1'~+ 7 ,2,!$$gb. 1,aozi's

$J?VijE< ,2 2,a,-,7 fl ]fn a enconlpassing Tvay, once so aptly transt6rmecl into a metaphor for law b!. Han Fei $2$F (ca. 280.~3. 233 K.C.E.).is replaced by a spe- cifically ecoliornic \.ersion of itself.

In \\,hat follotvs, Sinla Qian first arglies that both the success of states and the viability of rnoral action clepencl on lvealth, then of- fers his first esalnple. To the story of Ytle's recoT7ery after Kng Goujian's debacle at I<uai.ji @@, a narrati\e ~vhich, like that of Duke Huan of Qi 'p@5 (r. 685-6'43) antl Guan Zhong Bfq,had long bee11 a vehicle for econolnic theori~ing, Sinla Qian adds the relatively obscur-e character Ji Ran :+@{, who in a single speech explains the principles of pricing and value by which the king re- buildsKie's ~vealth and defeats M'u. AsJi Ran says, "What's wanted is that goods antl currency shotlld circulate like flolving water" fl$

'+-/,-zf, :,Yz

rl-l &,, 1J 31,j:~,/k

(129.3256). Fan 1-i %&, lvho as 1,ortl Zhu of Tao lf%]*Gbecomes the first famous private entrepreneur, is pur- ported to have learned his bilsiness skills from Ji Ran (41.1751-5). Conft~cius's tlisciple Zigong $& is another well-known early money-maker (129.3258). Before he tells of the wealthy n~erchants of his olvn era, Sinla Qian gives a long tiescription of the various regions of the enlpirc and their protlucts. His interests are not exclu- sively economic, however, antl the catalogue I-eatls like an internal ethnography, an ~~rlf'olcling

of all of the cultural implications of the "Tribute of YLI." IHe makes space in each section for information on the local habits of the region, the preferred ways of acquiring wealth (inclutling srlch criminal pilrsuits as grave-robbing), and, in some cases, the historical influences, geographical contlitions, and blootl lines that tleterrxline their local character. Near the capital antl in certain other regions, for instance, "there is a linger- ing influence of the forlller kings" & ~ A ~ : i ~ m,,~vhich makes s

~ ~ for stable agriculture antl siniple manners, while in Southern Chu the people are fast talkers but not to be trrlsted (129.3261-70). Such knowledge as tllis, recalling as it does the ethnographic and ecorlornic knowledge gathered in the p~r-iplni,could onlv have been gathered and reduced to stereotype by travelers, most of them traders, but one of then1 the historian himself. \17hen Sirna Qian writes of a mercharlt of his o~vn day, Shi Shi ?$@, he notes that Shi and people like him prided theinselves on their travels and boasted of "passing their city several tinies ~iithot~t

entering the gate" $&i6 8...I;A, f"] (129.3279). The allusion to NI's dedica- tion is clear enough.

ilniong the commotlities that have traditionally circulated among the regions of Cllin;~. gaining their valtie from the distances trav- eled. are ad~isors. Like retnonstrators, advisors from remote places are bearers of good or clever 1vo1.d~. strategems, and solt~tions to local problems. Ideally they come to a co111.t asYu did, by invitation; but especially in tllc large body of' anecdotes concerning the 'll'ar- ring States perio<i. they are depicted as circulating frcely anlong tlie local cot~rts, selling their expertise as rlietoricians and plotters to the highest bidder. Near the beginning of this the~rlatic tradi- tion lies a famous conversation recorded in the Ztro Trncljtion and the Lty~?/ii.r

ofthe Sfntcs and cpitollli~ed in the sa!.ing "Chrl niateriaic are put to use in Jin" (Cizri riii~Jirz~o?~g@$$$$-fj)

(Ztio Siarlg 26.10. Yang 1119-23: 1,rgge 526-71.'' lieniembet-ing the rltlltlerous Ch~i nlinisters who have fled troubles at home to serve successf~illy in Jin gotrernment, a recent visitor to Jin remarks that Jin's highest ministers are not as good as Chu's, but all of her lower nlinisters are better, having the "quality" or "stuff+' to serve on the highest leireis ( qingcai Jf!P$d). "It is like nledlar and catalpa wood, or skins and hides; they go there fro111 Chu. Though Chu has the timber, it

is Jill that uses it" 93 42,f<* fi 5. 3 k 14: fQ 9 I@ 2 +$ ,

a ,? (ZuoXiang 26.10, k'ang 1120; Legge 526). The associations of

talent, lvealth, the innate quality of a material are built into the

etymology of the word cai (2,tjj-, or $d), but this is the first text to

extend the conlparison to the movement of talented persons

among the regions of China. The economic model sur~i~res

centuries later in a letter written by Li Si (?280-208 B.C.E.) and recorded by Sinla Qian (87.2541-5). After Qin had been tricked by a visiting advisor into undertaking an expensive canal-building project (~vhich, as noted in the "Treatise on the River arid Canals," turns out to be a ~~ery

good in~restrnent [2!).1408]), t'arious rninis- ters proposed expelling all foreign nlenlbers of the Qin court on the grounds that most of them were secretly sertring their OMTI states' interests. 1-i Si, who hinlself would have been among those expelled under this proposal, argues in his letter that Qin has his- torically benefitted from visiting ministers (including such famous adtisors as Boli Xi GTg,purchased for fitre goat fleeces by Duke hlu of Qin @$%i>[r655)-621]), that all the luxury goods the Qin king holds nlost precious-gems, horses, slvords, dancing girls, music, and the like-are inlported, and that the great ruler's openness to outsiders is finally comparable to certain natural phe- nomena: ". . . Mount Tai refused no earth and was thus able to attain its great size; the 71'ello.r~ River and the sea are not choosy about even the smallest streams, and are thus able to become as deep as they are; and the king does not turn alvay the nlultitudes, and thus is able to make clear his virtuous attainment" [-! j + $2 & jg , $2fjg ,vk .F;. , ;q$9?<1% +fl;;+; , 7;3: jji j%< , 3-7;gD % J,? , &3jj2 uA g{,%(87.25~15).Qin's eventual unification of China appears in this light as the result of applying certain natural eco- nomic principles in the selection of advisors.

The myth of Mi and the associated tho~lghts on economy and language served m;~inly to tiaturalize the unification of culturally Chinese regions of the Asian mainland. 6Vherever the tracks of KI stretched, one could expect to find traces of his ci~rilizing influ- ence, nour-ished through the ages by continuing commerce and cultural diffusion alo~~g served as the blood vessels

his rivers, ~vhich of tl-te empire. In rettlrn for the tribute and provisions the outlying 1-egions stipplied, the c.apital .i\.ould, in the view suggested by the myth, contin~~ally

radiate models of government, morality, and learning.:'"ut what happens as this body grows beyond the nine regions plotted by Yu? How does circulation affect relations at the botly's edges?

Sinla Qian addresses questions like these in a dialogue both reminiscent of and strikingly different frorn the debate at Sfelos. When Zhonghang Shuo 7-7$${,'" a EIan court eunuch, l>econlesa renegade advisor and spokesman for the Xiongnu (a group sornetimes identified with the Huns), he allo~vsthe historian to present 110th the assinlilationist and jingoistic aspects of inlperial assumptions and the sources of resistance that were built into these assumptions during their pre-imperial development. Under the care of the Chinese Zhonghang Shuo, the Xiongnu become a reproof to Chinese military and cultural arrogance; but as they do so they confirrn the validity of Chinese tl~odelsof circulation.

The tale of Zhonghang Shuo comes in the middle of the "Biographies of the Xiongnu" ("Xiongnu liezhtian" @JIxqlJis) (104.28982901). Problenls arise when Enlperor Wen (r. 179-157 B.C.E.) attempts to continue the policy of rnarriage alliance (h~qirr$I$J$) initiated by his predecessors as a rneans of appeasing the nomads. $? k:+g#) FgT-$lJZlgz5%fE;g$+&$:;-* p; ye. ]-.El!? > {gks%-!:< ,A,

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of tlic iriil~erialliilc to be his queen, nl~l~ointingZhonghang Sliuo as

the cun~~cliIier tlltor. Shuo did not \\,is11 to go, but the Hail forccci the rliission upon hi11i. Shuo said, "If yo11 force 111eto go, it \\.ill lne,lii tror~l~lc

for Hall.'' Once Zhoiigha~ig S1i11oh,rd arrived, he silhmittcd to the r.iiir?~~becarlie very close to him.

ti, ~~lio

Though the marriage is designed to prevent violence, it entails a supplen~entaryact of violence which, according to Sirna Qian, will have serious consequences for Han. Zhonghang Sh~lowill take his revenge not only by teaching the Xiongnu ho\v to resist Ilan encroachments, but also by formulating a nomadic critique of the rnost basic asslirnptions of Ilan cultlire. Yet neither the critique nor the instruction he gives entirely thro\vs off old precedents of contact with the non-Chinese other. That Zhonghang Sh~toexerts a sinifying infltrence even as he clairns to reject Han culture is clear from the nearest parallel to his story in earlier literature. Another

" 111one of (;liiiia's KI-c;rtcitnivtlis of gift-giving. ae\tlietic pi.otir~ction,alitl '~iltrll.~ilcIiffil\ioii, tlic Xiii Ilv~i~istv,~CI.II;II>clririiig tlic time or iti forindc~.XI. collrct\ inet,ll trolii all of the regions r~ndci-its co~iti-ol;riitl cCxsts1iii1e 121-gcc'rr~ldl-ons 011 r\.hich ai-c depicted ;ill of tile creat111-rsof tlic ~vorltl.L3y looking rtt the cnuldl-011s. the peol~lcat-c ;iblc to Ic,r~-ii\ih,~ttl1c.v ~villcncollliter as thcv lea\ e tlie political center ,illti coloiii/e the pci-ipliesy. Tlii. ni\~lilioltls that tliese carildroris 5vcr.c p'issul tio~\nfl.0111 tlie Sill to the Sll;liij: <l~idtlic~ito tlic Zlioli as I\-ciglitv sv~iibol>of tiv11,iiric Irgir~i~i,lcv

(%ti(, Sr~,ln3.3.Y'tng IitiO-72; I.cggc 2i)J).

," \\'nts,,~iI-catls the n;iiiie ;is Zlionguin~Slitlo. 1 l'ollo\\ rhc "Zlicligyi" fi!g tculllmental.!-of %li;ing Slio~!jic. (5'~Y;ilT(fl.737).

minister who took his vengeance by teaching a non-Chinese people Chinese military skills was QL~ M'u aof Cllu, whose fanlily was killed by his political rivals after he left forJin. According to the Zzlo findztion, he rvrote to his enernies, vowing to rnake the111 die of exhaustion in the performance of their ~nilitar) duties, then ob- tained perrnissiorl frorn Jirl to instruct the peripheral state of Ll'u

in such arts as archery and charioteering (Zzlo Cheng '7.5, Yang 833-5; Legge 363-4). MTithin a few decades, led by another Chu vengeance-seeker, M'u Zixu {IiFE,M'u troops had sacked the Chu capital. It is not that 'IVu or the Xiongnu orve their rnight entirely to the civilization their Chinese advisors have brought with thern; but each \isitor's instructions, his transmissiorl of certain cultural knowledge, is nlade to account for an intensification of the threat fi-01x1 border peoples.

Zhonghang Shuo's first act of revenge is to sever the econornic ties that weaken Xiongnu resistance to Han culture: @j, @$~~f,~#\$$$$~~ '@$J!)\~~fjE~i~2--<l<f&PfiLX

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The Xiongnu origin;~lly hati a fondness for IIan fahrics and foodstuffs Zhonghang Shuo saiti, "The errtire Xiongnu pol~ulatioll does not equal even a single 1Iar1 colnlnandery, yet the reason for your strength is the tiifferenee of your cloth- ing anti food, for ~~hicli orr Harr. If tlie chnizj~~

yo11 are not tlel~errtle~lt slloulti now ch,rrlge these customs ill his fontlrless fol- 11x11 gootis, even if Harr gootis were to IICCOIIII~for 110 Inore tlia~i tho-tenths of the \\hole, all of the Xiongnu ~voulti give their allegiance to Harr. LYlien yor~ get lI;~rr firbrics. we,lr them 21s you gallop tlirougll the grass and thistle ;11lti let tlie robes and ti-ousers he ripped to pieces to show that they are not as sturdy ,is ~\-ool anti f~11.s. LVhen you get Han footistuffs, throw tllern a\v,ly to slio~\- that they are not as ;il~pealillg as tililk." i\t this tilrle Shuo instructeti the attelldants of the cliiirzyu to keep recortis irr tietail so that his popu- lation, tiolnestic allil~lals, and gootis cor~lti be c,ilcul;itetl anti taxctl.

This passage quite clearly expresses the Harl recognition that com- mercial irlclusioll is a necessary conditioll of cultural unity. What rnakes the scene extraordinary is that Zhonghang Shuo argues for erecting barriers to such circulation. Shuo recognizes and exposes the implied Han objective of dornesticating the no~rlads by addict- ing them to the clothir~g arld food of an agricultural order. The Xiongnu .ivill become neither a marketplace nor a prefecture of the Han. As if prornpted by these economic aggressions, Zhongliallg Shuo implements a new census and tax system, an innovation that both complicates tlie reputedly simple Xiongnu adrllirlistratiorl (see below) and makes it resemble the Ilan. If only ill self-defense, the nornads must emulate the very power they are resisting. Even in the demonstratioll Sliuo proposes for the chnnyu-the slireddillg of Han cloth and the discarding of Hall foodst~~ffs-the critique of Han culturejoills quite searnlessly with the liallorved terms of a con- ventional Chinese critique of luxus. It is not merely coincidence, I think, that irnperial texts ancient and modern, Western and Eastern, find in savagery, where it is noble, ready-made rebukes to the lz~xzlsthat is both the glory and the undoing of imperial society.

A small act of political symbolism suggests a relocation of the old geographical models. Perhaps the Ilan capital is not the center, and the IHan emperor not the greatest ruler: ;$$j$jg.T-3/gcJF:--$ 3$kg r957&If77@$.~~$7~~~;FfiiBq@B+sfi

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1.etter.s sent from the Ha11 to tlie CII(I~JZLwere on tablets one foot and one inch in

length, anti reati, "The Eml~erorrespectf~~lly

inqi~iresof tlie Great chnizpu of tlie Xiongni~,~%-hether

he be without illness," followed by the gootis being sent antl the contents of tlie letter. Zlionghang Shuo hati the chonpct send the Han letters ~vrittenon tablets one foot and two inches in length, having him also use especially large statnps and seals; tnade rnore arrogant, tlie 1%-ortiswere no^%-'The Great chnizpu of Xiongni~,born of Hcavcn ailti Earth anti Elcctcti by the SLIIand the Moon, respectfully inquires of the Ha11 Emperor \vliether he be without illness," follo\vetl by tlie gootls beillg sent and tlie contents of the letter.

Zhonghang Shuo's strategem here depends on the exploitation of a weakness in the pretense of parity. The Han emperor condescends by claiming not to condescend; but the threatened result is that the chnnyu will be "Great" only because the Han has acknowledged his greatness. Shuo rebuffs this attempt by taking the invitation too literally, both by making the Xiongnu official stationary grander than the Han's and by specifying the char~yzl'sgreatness in a Tvay not foreseen by the emperor. Ordinary rules of ritual interaction, which with other sorts of exchange constitute cultural unity, cannot survive where one party is willing, as Shuo is here, to seek excessive profits. Rendering stable ceremonial exchange difficult is itself, in Shuo's view, the greatest advantage, a form of self-defense like the rejection of trade.

Once Shuo has erected these econornic and political defenses against assirnilation, he is prepared to defend the very elernents of Xiongnu culture that the Chinese have considered backward.

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One of the Han elnissaries saitl, "It is the custoni of the Xiongnu to treat their eltiel-s t~asely-."Zhonghang Shuo sti~rnpedthe Han emiss;i~-yby saying, "Ant1 yet according to Ha11 custom, rvhen rnilitary conscril~tsare about to set out 101-gar I-ison tluty, tlo their eltlel-s antl relations not take from theil-o\vn w;lI-m clothing anti fine footis to provide sustenance for the soltlier\)" The Hall emi~snryaaiti, "Yes." Zhonghang Slii~osaiti, "The Xiongni~openly make wal-fare anti aggreaaio~ltheiloccupition. Because the elderly are weak anti cannot figllt, they use tl~eil-finc foods to feed the strong ant1 healthy, likely rrasonillg that if they ;II-eat~leto ;ice '15 defenders, then in this \Yay fathers anti sons will he at~leto protect each other irl the long run. How car1 you say that the Xiongnu treat their eltlers tlisl.espectfully?

Here and iri the ensuing passages, which represent a debate over the respective virtues of Chinese and Xiongnu cr~lture, the Xiorig- nu do not speak for thenlselves; if they can be said to speak at all, it is thror~gh Zhonghang Shuo, whose interest in the subject, how- ever genuine, originates in his oTvn forced exile froin Han and his ol+ril \.ow to seek i.evenge. The debate opens with the classic question of filial piety, which is clearly in the background though neither spcaker refers to it directly. '-1s in Mencius's conversatiori with the Rlohist Yi %hi ;&$it

(3A.5) and in his critiques of various M1;trring States kings' administrative arrangements (e.g. 1A.3, If\.?), how the elderly are treated in a political or philosophical system is an unerring index of that system's moral excellence. The Han ernis- sary. as if reacting to the rebuffs Zhonghang Shuo has engilleercd, attempts to discredit Siorlgnu culture entirely, recalling tiere and in the next paragraph the occasional assumption, rnentioned above, that the peoples peripheral to Chinese culture suffered a deep sort of privation.

Shlto turns his defense of Xiongnu ways into an attack on gob-ernance. He first reduces the probleni to one of military readi- riess. The Xiongnu, unlike the Hau, openly dedicate themselves to warfare and distribute resources accordingly. :is a result, the young and strong, who are well fed and well equipped, can both carry on the project of war-fare and protect their elders frortl attack. The Tlan, because it treats warfare not as a central coricern brtt as an occasional necessity, imposes a hardship on elders by forcing them to provide supplenientary food and clotlli~tg for young conscripts. 111 answer to the charge of unfilial custont, theri, Shilo presenrs a Xiongnu countercharge of I-iypoci-isy, a theme that also has deep roots in Chinese discussions of ritual exchange. The Hari may clai~ii tiliality, says Shuo, brtt the clairn fails to hide the facts of cr-uelty. Me;tn~vhile, the Xiongnu are neither crrlel nor hypocritical.

The next attack likewise relates to a traditional topos of discus- sions of ritrtal proprietv:

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Tile l~ta11 rirli\\:ri-y s:~iti, "Sio~:g~iti l;~tiieis ;l~i(i AOIIS sleep togetl~er 11nilt.1. the same tents. iY11cri '1 f,\rlier tlies, his st111 ~~~arl.ies

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tic animals eat grass and drink water, moving acco~.ding to the seasons. Therefore irl times of crisis they practice riding and archery, wl~ile irl times of ease they are happy and unoccupied. Their constraii~ts are loose, and easily put into practice. Relatiorls hetween ruler and si~bjects are simple, and tlie govern~nent of the ~vliole state is like a single body. That they marry the wives of their fathers and hrothers !vhen tliey die is because they hate for their line to be dispersed. Thr~s even rvhen there is political turmoil anlong tlie Xiongrlu, tliey urlfailing-ly put in place a son of tlie ancestral line. Now irl China, thoug-h they osterltatiously refuse to marry the wives of their fathers and hrothers, rvhen relations grow ever further apart, they kill eacli other, and even bring- about changes of surnames, al!vays for reasons of this sort.

"hforeover, wherl ritual propriety and rightness are in decline, superiors and inferiors glare at eacli other resentfully; !vlien building-s reach their greatest splendor, the tneans for supporting life necessarily suffer. Because they expend their strength or) plowing and tending the mulberries in order to procure cloth- ing- and food, and hr~ild walls and ramparts to defend themsrlves, at times of crisis their people do not practice the accomplishments of !Tar, and in times of ease they are exhausted from their labors. Alas, you d~vellers irl hor~ses of earth, take care not to hlather on. What good do your caps do you?"

To the Han claim that the Xiongnu lack court rituals and even fundamental prohibitions of incest, Zhonghang Shuo replies with an idyllic depiction of Xiongnu economic arrangements and a fur- ther condemnation of Chinese hypocrisy and authoritarianism. The norrladic life as he describes it engages the Xiongnu in a direct and efficient relation with the territory they occupy at any given rnonlent; they live off their domestic animals, which live off the land. Nothing could differ more fundamentally from Yu's grand tributary structures, in which agricultural populations stay in their own regions and benefit from commerce directed from the center. Lest the Xiongnu lack of a center appear to be a fault, Shuo notes that the nomadic economy allows the people to live in leisure, ex- cept at tirrles of war, and makes for a government so simple and unified that it can be compared to a single body. Corporate meta- phors for government have a long history in China, and this one is intended as a stinging rebuke in an era when the corrlplexity and hypocrisy of Hall political culture was becoming a concern.

Zhonghang Shuo's attack grows more focused when he turns to the charge of farrlilial immorality. In keeping with the simplicity and unity of their government, the Xiongnu have designed the remar- riage of widows as an adrrlirable defense against the dissolution of family lines and strife among distant relations, ~vhich in China has led to "changes of surnames" and, implicitly, the dynastic cycle. Political struggles, which the Xiongnu are supposed to lack, are the price of China's peculiar marriage customs. Ultimately these cus- toms come to stand for Chinese ritual propriety and rightness in general. Though these are the sages' means of preserving political hierarchy and unity, when they are in decline they becorrle a sham, ~vhile the expenses required to support them cause the government to exhaust the economic and physical resources of the people. We should recognize that Zhonghang Shuo specifically attacks virtues in decline. 'Though the Xiongnu do represent an alternative to Chinese ways of life, his critique does not follow the lines ofwhole- sale rejections of ritual propriety and rightness. Instead, his focus on the hardships of the people and on the effects of hypocrisy place him squarely in the tradition of remonstrance. The scene acquires its meaning within the imperial text not so rnuch because it is part of an objective ethnography as because it makes the Xiongnu a living, interpretable rebuke to the failures of Chinese ways.

In the end Zhonghang Shuo figuratively cuts off the flow of words between the Xiongnu and the Han, permitting only the cir- culation of goods and, if goods should prove inferior, of violence.

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Thereafter when Han emissaries wished to enter into debate, Zhongliang Shuo rvould say, "Let the Harl emissary make no long spveclies. I.ook to tlie fabrics, rice, and leave11 Han has shipped to the Mion$nu; lvt tlie alnount he verified, and rriake sure that it is all of good q~lality. That is all. LVhat need is there of speeches? LVliat's more, if rvliat t1iey"ie provided is complete and of good quality, all is settled; but if it is not complete, or if it is of poor quality, then come tlie time of the autumn harvest, our horsemerl rvill trample your crops." Day and night he warned the C~L~ILJIL

to look out for points of advantage and harnl.

With such words the Xiongnu deny the Hall-centered system of tributary relations. Now, in contrast to the system laid out in speeches in the I,egen(l.s elf lhe Stales, it is the periphery that receives goods and threatens punishment for failure to pay. Zhonghang Shuo and Sinla Qian have overthrown an old form of geographic and cultural imagination, but they have done so in the context of an equally old tradition of critique. The critical ilnplications of the myth ofYu have been turned against its imperial uses.

It is not by mere coincidence that the conjunction of geographic, linguistic, and monetary models of circulation ~vritten into these Greek and Chinese texts also appears in the classical sciences of the hrlman as excavated by Michel Foucali!t. Nor is it a matter of straining for an exchange of cornparables, or overextending theo- retical supply-lines. By the homologies that Foucault uncovers in 7'hrOrder of Tl'/~ing.s,currencies, like words, become valuable only as representations, and only when they circulate as signs within a sys- tern of significations ( 177-89,200-3). As for geography and the inl- portance of a cartographic i'nzccginnire, Foucault remarked on the spatialization of knowledge that occurred in the classical age, and that he himself quite influentially brought to light in his study (Kabinow 254).If my comparison of Greek and Chinese ~nodels of the world's circulation is 011 one level a rehearsal of Foucault's observations in new historical and cultural contexts. the reason is


that the advance toward empire in every case corresponds with a rationalization of means and a corresponding exploitation of inherited figures of speech, including such figures as the water metaphor. For Foucault, the circulation of power followed its vari- ous discursive routes through the body, sexuality, the family, tech- nology, and other territories, with the state as a sort of metapower (Rabinow 64). While positive power is diffused through all of the discourses that make knowing possible, the state can at times exer- cise its privilege to oversee and control (Di.scipline clndPuni.slz 169). With my readings I have sought to answer two questions about this model. First, what happens at the edges of systems of circulation, where they are confronted with resistant and alien alternatives? Second, how do imperial texts absorb and profit from episodes of reasonable resistance at power's edges? The answers Thucydides and Silna Qian yield are comparable: that is, reading can make them fundamentally similar and ultimately different. In one way or another, accounts of the imagined systems of circulation by which power is projected incorporate depictions of threshold cases. These depictions are holneopathic and apotropaic; they are protective acknowledgments of weakness.

Though the myth of YL~ and the various epic and ethnographic strains in early Greek literature differ significantly, metaphors of circulation underlie both the representation and the criticism of imperial power in the scenes I have chosen from Chinese and Greek historiography. The Melians make sense in their arguments, are put to death by senseless force, and contribute to the historian's implicit critique of Athenian imperialism. The Xiongnu, through Zhonghang Shuo, make sense in their arguments, survive Hall expansion, and contribute to the historian's implicit critique of Chinese imperialism.

At the basis of the comparison lie political reinterpretations of the notion of the gift. As both Marcel %lauss andJacques Derrida have noted, though for very different reasons, gifts can become poison- ous. Mauss's project was to restore the aura of the thing given and, further, to restore the very totality of giving to European societies; if the thing was to have any power at all, it must also be dangerous (62-63). Derrida attends to the poisoning and counterpoisoning that are involved in giving and giving back, especially in intellec- tual legacies like Mauss's influence on Lkvi-Strauss. Horkheimer and Adorno, who read the Odyssry as a dramatization of the birth of self-denying bourgeois Enlightenment and deceptive rationality, also draw attention to the price of gifts in the epic and in the social order it naturalizes (49). If culture flows with gifts and is consti- tuted on the basis of gift-giving systems, it also flows back along the paths of giving and allows recipients to defend themselves against false beneficiaries.

In the confrontations at Melos and anlong the Xiongnu, specifi- cally intellectual gifts become poisonous to both givers and recipi- ents. The Melians, as they refuse to become tributaries to Athens, accept the empty gift of the opportunity for dialogue, doing their best to use it against the attackers. More significantly, they turn against the Athenians both the ideals Athens once held and the eloquence (appearing in the speeches Thucydides reconstructs here and elsewhere) associated with Athenian rhetoric after the arrival of the sophists. The confrontation of reason and force arises from the conflict between old models of cultural exchange and new imperial models of econonlic domination. Further, the new fact of overwhelming Athenian power has the effect of displacing reason to the side of the Melians. The weak take reason seriously, while the strong p!ay with it. Finally, however, like Nietzsche's Christians, the weak create from their rrssenlimenl a realm of rea- son in which power naturally makes itself obsolete. Thucydides writes the Melian dialogue with an eye to the Sicilian debacle.

In the Chinese case, the writing of frontier confrontations envi- sions the durability both of central power (for Sima Qian's Han there is no Sicily) and of reasonable responses maintained in sub- ordination to it. The patterns of circulation appropriated by the qovernment do not entail a pitting of reason against power (as in Melos, or in the cave of Polyphemus), but provide for a recircula- tion of reason's power within the conduits of political hierarchies. Emphasis on the overall structure of exchange in the myth of Yu tends to devalue the commodities exchanged: the lead and fruit and timber the regions send in, the baskets of silk and woven stuffs, have little about them that Maliss could identify as the per- sonality of the gift. They are a quid p7.o quo, the return for tribute always being cultural trickle-down and order. But one gift at least, one benefit of cultural conquest, has more to it. In imposing order on the world, Yu opened up the land and the people to exploitation. At the same time he gave the people an example of order. So besides all of the commodities that might circulate within the structure, knowledge of structure itself circulates, first as an enlightening gift from the center, but then as a threatening countergift to the center. The element in the words of the people that makes them dangerous, that allows them to flood the king into exile, is not only their irrepressible superabundance, but the authority they derive from structure itself, which they have received as a rightful gift f'rorn the center. As one speaker presented the matter, the people are devoted to the channels of tribute and remonstrance: their agony grows when the channels are blocked. But the implication is also that they inlrest their verbal tributes with structure as well, making them into songs and speeches. The texts they send up to the king get their discursive force-the guarantee that they have something truthful and virtuous to say-from exactly the sort of schematic order thatYu imposed on the world. Rhetorical pattern- ing is a particularized reflection of world-patterning, and every single critical speech partakes metonymically of the whole textual- ized structuring of the (:hinese landscape. Well-wrought remon- strances are as carefully ordered as the "Tribute of Yu" itself, and their critical effectiveness depends on the evidence they show of orderly thinking. The subject can criticize the Son of Heaven only because his rhetoric resembles tlie ordered propriety of the world. In Zhongliang Shuo's advocacy of Xiongnu customs, as in the Melians' remarks, the language of critique. its form, and its ulti- nlate significance are determined from the center: the investigation of the edges of ernpire serves purposes internal to empire. Yet the center's forms of speaking and reasoning do flow to the periphery, where they can credibly be turned against the center and its threats of violence. Both historians find in contemporary clashes at the frontier a means to measure imperial control against older forms of cultural circulation.

Historiography in Greece and China (and perhaps everywhere else) built into its discourse the structures of geography: both the real features of the landscape, especially rivers and coastlines, and the imaginary, ideologized forrn of the landscape as it was repre- sented in myth and political tholight. This acculturated landscape owed its existence in part to tlie movements of travelers, especially traders, who were the first to travel regular routes and thus the first to niake the landscape ;I site of circulation. By referring to traders, however, I do not ~visli to reduce the invention of struc- tured geographies to the results of some primitive economic ratio- nality. Instead, keeping in mind h,larshall Sahlins's cautions on the matter, I would note that the circnlation of saleable goods both in early China and in the Mediterranean was inextricably rnixed with the circulation of all sorts of other valuables-the oracular wisdorn of Delphi, for instance, exported to L,ydia, or the answers of the Egyptian priests brought home to Athens, or the alphabet of the Phoenicians; the economy of such exchange is not pnrely nion- etary, and the values are incalc~~lable.

Hence the burden of nleta- phorical meaning models of' circulation assume in both milieux. Because such models are necessarily reappropriated and reinter- preted in imperial contexts, they must come to acconnt sotneho~v for tlie presence of ir~iperial violence, a factor ~vhich threatens to disrupt the established conventions of rational historin.

That great works of imperial historiography seem inevitably to include an elernelit of critique has to do finally with the dynamics of the gift, and specifically of the gift of speech. When it is given to Tliucydides to write of Athens at the height of its powers, or to Sima Qian to write of the Elan at its most glorious, it is not enough, it seems, to proclainl the fact of imperial power; s~tch a representa- tion would be a forced confession, or the eq~tivalent of the Athenians' blind reasoning, and would deflate its own authority by an implied s~tbmissiveness. Instead, the historian colors his depiction of tlre glories of imperial power with a demonstration that his authority derives from something other than power, and that he can reason against power. Such historiographical remonstrances are by and large as desperate as the Melians' self-defense, and not only be- cause they are often written after historical circ~tmstances have changed. As both historians show, empires are adept at using rea- son when and as it is convenient.

Comparative st~tdy itself originates in the knowledge-building projects of political powers. There is an old kinship between the empirical and the imperial, and the lineage of empire survives in the constitutive blindnesses of corrlparative disciplines as we prac- tice theln. It is not that anyone assnmes very simply that terlninol- ogy and theory expressed in English in the late twentieth centtiry can flawlessly represent phenomena experienced elsewhere, long ago, in other languages. B~tt no one can afford to dwell on the differences when they threaten to prevent the very crossings tho~tght claims to make. The hermeneutic of comparative study requires a sort of external force that one might compare to the commission that allows the Olympian gods to send Hernles to the fantastic lands where it seems they themselves cannot go (Cook 53).For us this force is the denland of onr discipline that we per- form, and that we bring back onr discoveries, logoi of a kind, in a form that both fulfills the conditions of reason (by reprod~tcing the other accurately) and perpetuates the habits of violence (by making the other speak in our terms and in confir~nation or nlea- sured critique of our structures of knowledge). A performance that takes into account its oivn elements of necessary blindness and coerciveness need not fail as a perfor~nance; far from it. B~tt the conscientious performer should panse to consider exactly what interested unreason reason has ad~nittecl into the discussion.

This p;ipel- \v;t, plr\rnreti ,kt tl~r conic-I-rnce "Thillkillg 1-lirortgl~ (-;onipal.ison\: hlicir~lt GI-rece ;ilitl (:hil~n." lieltl ,it the I.'r~i\e~-sity May, 1998. 1 \\.is11

of Oregon ill to t1i;ilih Da\itl Keightlr!, .\licll;iel S\l,ili, K;ithan Sivili, ,inti the othel- conf'el-ence ~;IJticipant, Sol- tlleir colnmelits, slid the coliference orgarlifer\ for makillg tlii\ e~traosilinal\ g;~tliering possiblt~. Slriall pol.tio11s of the secontl half of the paper \\,ere ~re\r~itetl

ulitlrr the title "TVorcl-17100tls: H!tlrogsal)li\.. Polity, ant1 Tribute in

r :

E;II.~\(.liin,~" ,it the meeting of the r\lneric;i~i C:olrrpar,iti\r Liter;it~ire .Associatioli ill Pitel-to \.nilnl tn, .\p~,il. 1007, I am grateiril to Hal111 Sa~tss! fol- suggesri~ig all .\CL\ p~~iel e~rcoii~-,igingclosel- consitleration of gift-gi\i~lg

on ,inclc.nt Cliin;i alitl fo~ in C:l~ilia, ,is \\.ell ;is to tlie~oiir n;il's editor ;inti ;ilion\~nou\ re;itle~s fol- their sitggestion,.


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