In an exhibition in another Armed Escort Agency, this was how the etymology of the Armed Escort Agency - biao ju 镖局 was explained. We did have a lively dialogue on this on the old site. I shall try to post as much of the discussion as possible.
Briefly, this is what it says- A biao 镖 is a dart, but this weapon is not so suitable for use by those in the Armed Escort business. Instead, short spears are used and these short spears are placed in rows on each side of the cargo. The sharp ends of the spears can be used to protect the cargo; the spears can be thrown at assailants, can easily be retrieved and are highly portable.
In time, these spears became associated with the armed escort agencies, and the armed escort agencies came to be known as biao - the spear.
*I have dyslexic fingers, more than once, I caught my fingers typing "marital" instead of "martial". Generally, this error can be overlooked, except when I type "learned marital arts from xxx" instead of "learned martial arts from xxx" - this can cause great misunderstandings. Probably libellous as well!
*SNORT* you're not the only one with dyslexic fingers.
the light barge traverses endless mountains
My previous post here gave a different explanation of the origin of the biao ju, and this sparked off a dialogue on the possible source of the word "biao".
yenchin was the first to spot it, commenting,
This seems to contradict the explanation given in the other photo but also seems reasonable. My guess is that the "biao" might have multiple meanings, new and old, that whatever origin it was has been mixed up in history.
to which I responded with,
I totally agree with you, yenchin, that the origin is probably lost in history. This was why I posted both, to show that there are different interpretations to the etymology of the "biao ju."
Of the two explanations of the origin of "biao ju", which version is more plausible?
I dug into my KangXi dictionary (pain the the @ss to use) and looked up biao 镖 and found that it was described as a sharp metal end.
Biao 标 did not exist in KangXi dictionary, and looking up the table of simplified Chinese words, I found that original 标 was written as 票 but with a wood radical.
In the KangXi dictionary, 标 means a mark or a symbol, even a type of tree. In both cases, there was not a single mention of transportation or escort.
yenchin highlighted this on the origins of the name of the Armed Escort -
There is this book called "鏢局春秋" (The Springs and Autumns of the BiaoJu) written by some guy who seemed to do some research on the topic. It seems that the origin related to 标 is more plausible.
The reasons he listed:
1. Based on the book《江湖走镖隐语行话谱》 (Literally: Secret Language and Professional Lingo about Biao Jobs in Jianghu), which is used in the Biaoju, the word 标 is used 5 times in the 11 incidents "Biao" is used.
2. Even up until late Qing 标 was still commonly seen, as in the author/scholar Liang Qi Chao (梁啟超)'s works His theory of the usage of 标 to name this profession goes like this: As you looked up in the dictionary, 標 is a mark or symbol. "錦標" (Jin Biao) means the embroidered banner which is usually used as a reward symbol for tournaments, usually athletic ones (as in "錦標賽", Jin Biao Sai), such as Dragon Boat Festivals. Participants of these tournaments compete to "奪標" (Duo Biao, Snatch the banner). Also the word "Target" in Chinese is "目標" (Mu Biao).
Therefore perhaps through the hidden talk in Jianghu or some other reason, the word 標 began to refer to precious goods that needed to be protected, since in the eyes of Jianghu people they were "prizes", and thus began the naming of the profession.
JohnD commented thus on the origins of the name of Armed Escort Agencies:-
It's in the Shuowen Jiezi (說文解字):
It means the copper cutting end of a knife, from 金 (metal) and the sound comes from 㶾 (biao1)[written differently above, but I can't find a font that will display it correctly on here, so I had to make that picture].
and also wrote,
标 is merely the simplified form of 標, which was originally written in the Shuowen Jiezi as:
So the 票 component is simply a phonetic component in both cases, not a signific.
These two exhibits from two different escort museums discussed the categories of services provided by armed escort agencies.
Generally, they talk about the same things, but the services are classified slightly differently.
Main categories of the escort business (Left to right:-)
Delivery of documents Transfer of funds Night watchmen duty Security guard for businesses Private home security Transport of goods and cargo
Six categories of business
Traditionally, the Chinese Imperial System of Government required documents to be delivered under armed guard – this was the earliest form of courier system. In the mid-Qing Dynasty period, with the rise of financial houses (progenitor of banks) transport of silver* was carried out under armed escort. From this rise the main source of income of armed escort agencies became the transport of money and the courier of bills of exchange.
At the end of the Qing Dynasty, with the decline of financial houses, the escort agency’s business evolved to mainly the protected delivery of rich people’s clothes, assets, jewellery and provision of personal security. So grain transport, asset transport and provision of personal security became three main activities of armed escort agencies.
Thus, the six main categories of activities of the armed escort agencies were delivery of documents, transport of money, courier of bills of exchange, grain transport, asset transport and provision of personal security.
These two exhibits detail the income of the escort agencies and the general scale of charges.
In the armed escort business, the remuneration derived therefrom in their internal lingo is “biao li” 镖礼 – gift/gratuity for escort/delivery – in effect, silver or cash; traditionally, the escort of goods/cargo activity yields the most income. This term, “escort gratuity” is valid because the use of this “escort gratuity” term reflects the escort agency’s self worth and self esteem, and also reflects the respect the agency’s customer bestows upon the agency.
There is no fixed rate for “escort gratuity”, much depends on the prevailing situation. In the last years of the Qing dynasty, the charge made by certain Beijing escort agency for transport of one million taels of silver for government officials is fifty thousand taels – about 5%. The charge levied on businessmen for transfer of funds of ten taels is about five coins, which works out to be about 5%, also known as the “five for a hundred” rate of earning scale.
While it may appear that the former type of escort rather overcharges, it should be borne in mind that the risk factor is higher. Meanwhile, the latter transaction is small, so the charge is cheaper – so in effect, the difference is not so big. Indeed, the fee structure is not set in stone, it varies with factors that include the ease of transportation of the cargo, distance to be traveled, value of the cargo, etc., generally speaking ,the lowest would be about 0.5% while the highest rate would be about 5.0%.
In the armed escort industry, the main negotiated transactions are over gold and silver (money), goods, and the individual being transported, but it could also involve private home security, security guard for businesses and night watchmen duty. The negotiators are often between the Chief of the Escort Agency and the accountant on one hand, and client on the other hand. Price for the escort of gold and silver is usually 4%-5% of the value, with an additional 50 taels (of silver) per 1000 li (miles) distance to be traveled.
The price of cargo escorted would be based on the value of the cargo, while the price for the escort of the individual would depend on the rank/status of that person. As for private home security, security guard for businesses and night watchmen duty, these would be based on compensation sum(reminiscent of the insurance business).
Once the price is agreed upon, the accountant would draw out the contract, and each party would keep one copy. This ends the negotiations, after which both parties would have a meal to celebrate.
Because the delivery route taken often passes through uninhabited areas without a village in the fore nor a tavern in the rear, it would be imperative for the guards to be able to be totally independent and not starve; hence to be able to build a cooking fire/range and being able to cook will ensure a full stomach.
Able to repair/upkeep shoes –
Shoes are the guards' most important article because for most of the time, the guards will be on their feet walking. Without a pair of comfortable shoes, the guards will be in agony.
Although it is possible to pack another pair of shoes or buy a new pair, now shoes are not as comfortable as old shoes. Hence, so as not to impair walking, the guards know how to repair shoes.
Able to tend to hair –
The guards are often on the road for up to a month, and under rough environs, looking particularly dusty and disheveled. When passing through towns and villages, the guards would invariable have to meet and pay respects to the powers that be; this being a Chinese custom.
Before doing so, the guards would clean and tidy up themselves and this include tending to their hair and making themselves presentable. In this way, not only are the guards able to preserve their dignity, they also represent the decorum of their Armed Escort Agency.
This display explains the Six Taboos in the Armed Escort Industry:-
In the Armed Escort Industry, there are certain rules and taboos, and the “Armed Escort Six Taboos” are of particular importance.
DO NOT STAY IN NEW INNS – the backgrounds of these places are uncertain, and those in the armed escort business will avoid them to reduce risk; specifically avoid those lodgings with entrances plastered with buntings saying, “Propitious Commencement of Business”.
DO NOT STAY IN INNS WITH NEW OWNERS – when there is a change in ownership, there is a fear that the inn may be run by those with ill intent, so those in the armed escort industry will avoid such places.
DO NOT STAY IN HOUSES OF ILL REPUTE – some lodgings that include prostitution may be a trap to raid the cargo being transported, so those in the armed escort industry will not expose themselves to such risks.
DO NOT PART FROM WEAPONS – be it on the road or resting in the lodgings, weapons must be on hand just in case.
DO NOT BE APART FROM CARGO – regardless of transporting on land or over waters, or escorting an individual be it official or trader, they are never intentionally parted from the escort.
DO NOT OVERLOOK ANYTHING OF SUSPECT – those acting as Guards in the armed escort industry must be eye the six routes (four cardinal points plus up and down), have the ability to keep an ear out for sounds from eight directions; should there be any reason to be suspicious, they must be on high alert an be prepared for an clash.
These are guidelines applicable for the Escort Guards.
The One “No”
During the escort of cargo, the phrase “wash face” is synonymous to “returning home, so in the language of the Escort Guards, “It is time to wash face” means it is time to return home.
The origins of this phrase comes from the need to protect the facial skin of the Guards. Those who are involved with event of a dangerous nature would understand; when on the road, the Winter winds are severe, Spring and Autumn winds bring sand and dust, while the Summer sun is especially scorching. Having washed with the local alkali ( = soap – because soap is an alkali), when the wind blows, the facial skin is easily injured, and feels like it has been sliced with a knife, and it hurts terribly.
The following six panels are of one set of guidelines.
Panel One (left) - When escorting cargo, carry exit permits on the body, the escort contract should be in detail, so as to avoid misunderstandings
Panel Two (right) – When exiting the passes (checkpoints), misunderstandings are inevitable, since it is the lust for wealth, money can appease the road demons (bribery)
Panel Three (left) – Encountering tigers (highwaymen/brigands) is a common danger, the crier should call out the Agency’s name, there is an unspoken understanding, that mutual respect will see us through
Panel Four (right) – When fierce bandits block the road, swords and blades doth unsheathe, coded words may help resolve, for prior arrangements may exist (I am not too certain of the accuracy of this translation)
Panel Five (left) – When hungry robbers do not yield, sharp edges of weapons shall clash, the Guard should demonstrate righteousness (do not kill unnecessarily), leaving the thieves to curse his name.
Panel Six (right) – When the cargo arrives at its destination, the contracted “endowment” should be collected, livelihood is thus ensured, and the heroic name shall be maintained.
Referring to Panel 5, I seem to recall both Lu Xiao Feng and Chu Liu Xiang do not kill unless it is absolutely necessary. Maybe Gu Long knew about this policy and bore this in mind when he was writing his books.
These are the house rules for the Tong Xing Gong Armed Escort Agency, whose Chief is Wang Shu Mao:-
Disciples under the House of Wang Colleagues of our Agency If these rules are broken Please leave our School When engaging with people, Of paramount importance it to win the heart (respect) The old, the weak, the sick and the disabled Should never be slighted The women and the children Should be treated with leniency Bullying the old, the wounded and the young Is most despicable In a challenge of ability The paring should of comparable age Of the stout and skinny Their stamina should be matched evenly The strong who bully the weak Cannot be considered heroes This is the warriors’ code of morals And must be respected Towards those who rob our cargo Show no mercy Remember these rules And be lifelong heroes
These two posters are represent industry and internal management guidelines.
Be it land or water escort routes. night sentries must be posted. Remember the “Three Musts and One Never” rule by heart. Father, Son, Brothers (be ready to) set off together and Cargo and escorts (be ready to) perish together. Escort Guard’s valiance among the men of the martial world, is staked upon righteous behaviour. Tend to the injure and disabled through to the eve of their years, For they had made corporal sacrifice to preserve continuity (of the escort business)
Management of Internal Relationship
Between Master and Disciple: Respect the master, love the disciple; do not pass on gossips Between Brothers in Arms: Mutual respect, give way to each other; harness one’s talents to supplement the other’s vulnerabilities Between the Principle and Client: Be amiable, do not deceive or swindle When accepting an escort contract: Investigate the objectives, be conscious of the consequences When escorting consignment: Be careful and attentive, carry out duty to the fullest During hand over: Check clearly (for completeness of delivery), chop and sign (for receipt of consignment)
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