A Taeko Brooks
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
The League of the North in Spring and Autumn
Panel: War, Diplomacy, and the State in Early China
AAS New England Meeting, Dartmouth College, 6 November 2004


It has been shown that the "hegemon" (ba) system, which might have coordinated the efforts of the Sinitic states to resist outside military attacks, never existed in the Spring and Autumn period. It is rather an invention of later Warring States political theorists. In the absence of any such structure, we may ask: Did there exist any other mechanism in Spring and Autumn times whereby the northern states might collaborate in meeting the perfectly real military threat from the south, and if so, did the all but powerless surviving Jou kings have any role in that mechanism?

In the first part of this paper, I argue that there was such a mechanism, to which the Jou remnant state contributed encouragement, but only negligible military power. One of its devices was the tung-mvng or Solidarity Covenant, entered into at first only by northern states as a response to southern threats of penetration into the Yellow River territory, with Jvng as a principal focus of the threat. This was a special version of the military alliances which were a major feature of the period. Those alliances have their roots in the fact that all these states were militarily weak in proportion to their area, and were ultimately unable, by themselves, to wage decisive war against each other, or to resist any sizable outside threat.

In the second part of the paper, I will show how this view of Spring and Autumn history sheds light on the geopolitical position of Jvng, over several centuries. I will argue that the history of Jvng also puts into perspective the fact that cooperation among the northern states was merely sporadic, and that it continually yielded to their more basic desire to expand territorially at each other's expense.


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29 May 2004 / Contact The Project / Conferences Page