A day in the Western Han Dynasty

Seetao 2021.09.10
  • Fragments of the life of the ancients, more of the joys and sorrows of the little people

It has been half a year since I came to defend the Northwest Frontier. Soon after the founding of the country, the Han Dynasty began to implement the one-year-old guarding system. Men between the ages of 23 and 56 were organized by the county in batches and sent to the border to guard for one year. Although the county will distribute some clothes to us, and the government will also be responsible for the board and lodging from home to the frontier, but who wants to suffer the suffering of leaving the country?

Therefore, many people choose to pay for service. If you pay 300 yuan to the government, the government can hire someone (such as me) to fight for you. If you don't buy it, you won't be deceived. Of course, those who have reached the rank of the top five can also be exempted from border defense. However, the merits required to achieve the top five titles, or the money needed to purchase the title, are nothing but hope for me and other ordinary people.

Western Han Dynasty Shanglin Three Officials and Five Baht Collection, National Museum of China

After arriving at the border, each of our soldiers will receive a unique talisman—not a soldier talisman, but an ID card, with their name, hometown, age, height, physical characteristics, etc. recorded on it. Only with certificates can we pass through the border and participate in labor. If the soldier has an accident, he can also be identified by the symbol.

When I first got the talisman, I was quite excited, thinking that I had finally embarked on the road of making contributions. Soon, the ruthless reality broke my illusion.

As a soldier, one of our most important tasks is to look on, patrol, and investigate the presence of enemies every day, which is called waiting. I happen to be on duty today. My companions and I set off from the Fengsui (Beacon Tower) where we belonged, patrolled along the usual route, and carefully checked the situation in Amada.

Han-Wei Jin Haiziwan No. 1 Fengsui Site

Amada is our facility for investigating the enemy's situation. On the outside of the frontier fortress—the Great Wall that you later generations often call—there is usually a flat ground one or two feet wide. Spread a layer of fine sand on this flat ground and smooth the surface of the sand, which is Amada. Once an enemy comes, Amada will leave traces such as footprints and horseshoe prints. We can also judge the number of enemies guilty based on the number of traces and whether it is chaotic. Once you find someone is coming, you must return to Fengsui and call the police as soon as possible.

I have been listening to the stories of the princes of the beacon play since I was a child. After I became a pawn, I learned that the beacon is also a science, not as simple as a pile of firewood. Take Feng for example. Feng is actually an upside-down shape resembling a lantern. The frame is made of wood in the middle, and the outside is covered with cloth or grass. The color is very bright, and it is used as a signal to find the enemy during the day.

There is also a watch used to signal during the day. The table is a kind of flag, and the colors are also very bright. The flag may have horizontal woods up and down, or have borders on all sides, stand directly on the flagpole, usually side by side with the beacon.

After the beacon and watch, you are familiar with the use of smoke as a signal. If there is an enemy situation at night, then the beacon, watch, and smoke can no longer work, we will light the grass to call the police, called the bogey. There are small lettuce, big lettuce, and four-foot lettuce. Once the lettuce is ignited, the consumption is relatively large, so each beacon will hoard hundreds of lettuce.

As for the signal that can be used day and night, it is the accumulation of firewood. The accumulated salary is relatively large and needs maintenance. It must be covered with sand or other materials, and it must be replaced regularly. After igniting the accumulated salary, the smoke from it can be used during the day, and the strong light from it can be used to convey information at night.

Different amounts of beacon, table, lettuce, and accumulated salary, combined together and agreed, can be used to convey enemy sentiment. We call this type of agreement a beacon agreement. For example, if the invading enemy is between 1-10 people, then burn one accumulate salary and give two beacon; Ye Erhuohu; if the enemy has already begun to attack, burn one accumulate salary and cite three beacon; Fire and so on.

A Brief Introduction of "Saishang Fenghuo Pinyue" in Han Dynasty (part)

Fenghuo Pinyue is a business information that every soldier must learn and memorize. Suichang will also assess the soldier's familiarity with the beacon contract every month, and if he fails the assessment, he will still be punished. When I first arrived at Fengsui, I was punished by a negative five for not memorizing the familiar product contract.

Patrolling all the way past, nothing was found in Amada, and it seemed to be a peaceful day again. My companions and I relaxed, and we saw our companions who were repairing and strengthening the fortress on the road, and we had a few words with them. In addition to watching patrols, things like repairing fortresses, passing official documents, feeding horses, farming fields, etc., are also the work content of our guards.

South Silk Road (Yangguan Road)

The imperial court must also know that guarding the border is a difficult task. There must be someone who can't bear the hardship, and escapes from the guarded place, or falls ill in the harsh environment, and is seriously ill. In order to understand the increase and decrease of the soldiers in time and prevent the soldiers from deserting, the administrator of Fengsui, Suo Chang, must truthfully compile the list of soldiers of this Sui every month and submit it to the superiors, and also submit this year every year. The total list of guards. If a sergeant escapes without authorization, the chief Sui will not only write a formal statement of the situation, but also be punished accordingly.

Each Fengsui stocks some commonly used medicines. There are also some doctors in the barracks who heal sick pawns. A soldier with a serious illness can also write a sick letter and give it to Chief Su, who will then hand it over to his superiors to approve and approve a period of sick leave. If the soldier passes away due to illness, Sui leader also needs to write a statement and report it to the superior.

Alas, Sui is long, and his name sounds like an official, but as a grassroots cadre, the work is complicated and trivial, and it is not easy.

Slips of Western Han Dynasty Unearthed from Fengsui Site in Majuanwan, Dunhuang

Patrolling all the way back to Fengsui, nothing was unusual. The two dogs raised in Suili seemed to hear our footsteps and ran out to greet us happily. Dogs are sensitive and intelligent animals, they will bark non-stop in the slightest movement, and they are our right-hand man in guarding the frontier. I touched their heads and sat down to write today's patrol record. The work of the day is finally coming to an end.

Western Han Dynasty Pottery Dog, excavated in Zhoucun, Xingping, Shaanxi in April 1982

While writing the patrol record, I suddenly remembered that there will be a corner competition in the camp tonight, why not go and watch the excitement? Bachelors like me can only spend their time after get off work with entertainment such as horns and cuju.

Although according to the rules of the imperial court, the service period of the soldiers is only one year, but how can there be so many things in the world that are carried out according to the regulations? Many of the soldiers I know are dragging their families to the frontier and staying for many years. The imperial court even encouraged the soldiers and their families to settle in the border areas, and they always distributed food rations to the soldiers' families on a regular basis.

Last time, Comrade Li, who was next to Fengsui, had not received any rations from his family members, so he went to the staff in charge of the warehouse and made trouble. Both parties were very unhappy. Although it's not good to make trouble like this, I also envy Comrade Li's life with his wife and children on the bed!

Forget it, don't want these things that are in the foreseeable future. After writing today's patrol record, let's go to the corner and arrive at the game site. I hope that tonight’s corner will be more exciting and don’t disappoint me too much. Editor/He Yuting