CHINA AND THE CHINESE
CHINA AND THE CHINESE
HERBERT ALLEN GILES, LL.D.
PROFESSOR OF CHINESE IN THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE LECTURER (1902) ON THE DEAN LUNG FOUNDATION IN COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY
NEW YORK THE COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PRESS THE MACMILLAN COMPANY, Agents. 66 Fifth Avenue
All rights reserved.
Copyright, 1902, By THE MACMILLAN COMPANY.
Set up and electrotyped October, 1902.
Norwood Press J. S. Cushing & Co.—Berwick & Smith Norwood Mass. U.S.A.
The following Lectures were delivered during March, 1902, at Columbia University, in the city of New York, to inaugurate the foundation by General Horace W. Carpentier of the Dean Lung Chair of Chinese.
By the express desire of the authorities of Columbia University these Lectures are now printed, and they may serve to record an important and interesting departure in Oriental studies.
It is not pretended that Chinese scholarship will be in any way advanced by this publication. The Lectures, slight in themselves, were never meant for advanced students, but rather to draw attention to, and possibly arouse some interest in, a subject which will occupy a larger space in the future than in the present or in the past.
HERBERT A. GILES.
Cambridge, England, April 15, 1902.
THE CHINESE LANGUAGE
Its Importance—Its Difficulty—The Colloquial—Dialects—"Mandarin"— Absence of Grammar—Illustrations—Pidgin-English—Scarcity of Vocables —The Tones—Coupled Words—The Written Language—The Indicators— Picture Characters—Pictures of Ideas—The Phonetics—Some Faulty Analyses ... 3
A CHINESE LIBRARY
The Cambridge (Eng.) Library—(A) The Confucian Canon—(B) Dynastic History—The "Historical Record"—The "Mirror of History"—Biography— Encyclopaedias—How arranged—Collections of Reprints—The Imperial Statutes—The Penal Code—(C) Geography—Topography—An Old Volume— Account of Strange Nations—(D) Poetry—Novels—Romance of the Three Kingdoms—Plays—(E) Dictionaries—The Concordance—Its Arrangement— Imperial Catalogue—Senior Classics ... 37
The Emperor—Provincial Government—Circuits—Prefectures—Magistracies —Headboroughs—The People—The Magistrate—Other Provincial Officials— The Prefect—The Intendant of Circuit (Tao-t'ai)—Viceroy and Governor—Taxation—Mencius on "the People"—Personal Liberty—New Imposts—Combination—Illustrations ... 73
CHINA AND ANCIENT GREECE
Relative Values of Chinese and Greek in Mental and Moral Training—Lord Granville—Wen T'ien-hsiang—Han Yue—An Emperor—A Land of Opposites—Coincidences between Chinese and Greek Civilisations—The Question of Greek Influence—Greek Words in Chinese—Coincidences in Chinese and Western Literature—Students of Chinese wanted ... 107
Religions in China—What is Tao?—Lao Tzu—The Tao Te Ching—Its Claims—The Philosophy of Lao Tzu—-Developed by Chuang Tzu—His View of Tao—A Taoist Poet—Symptoms of Decay—The Elixir of Life—Alchemy— The Black Art—Struggle between Buddhism and Taoism—They borrow from One Another—The Corruption of Tao—Its Last State ... 141
SOME CHINESE MANNERS AND CUSTOMS
Origin of the Queue—Social Life—An Eyeglass—Street Etiquette—Guest and Host—The Position of Women—Infanticide—Training and Education of Women—The Wife's Status—Ancestral Worship—Widows—Foot-binding— Henpecked Husbands—The Chinaman a Mystery—Customs vary with Places— Dog's Flesh—Substitutes at Executions—Doctors—Conclusion ... 175
THE CHINESE LANGUAGE
CHINA AND THE CHINESE
THE CHINESE LANGUAGE
If the Chinese people were to file one by one past a given point, the interesting procession would never come to an end. Before the last man of those living to-day had gone by, another and a new generation would have grown up, and so on for ever and ever.
The importance, as a factor in the sum of human affairs, of this vast nation,—of its language, of its literature, of its religions, of its history, of its manners and customs,—goes therefore without saying. Yet a serious attention to China and her affairs is of very recent growth. Twenty-five years ago there was but one professor of Chinese in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland; and even that one spent his time more in adorning his profession than in imparting his knowledge to classes of eager students. Now there are all together five chairs of Chinese, the occupants of which are all more or less actively employed. But we are still sadly lacking in what Columbia University appears to have obtained by the stroke of a generous pen,—adequate funds for endowment. Meanwhile, I venture to offer my respectful congratulations to Columbia University on having surmounted this initial difficulty, and also to prophesy that the foresight of the liberal donor will be amply justified before many years are over.
I have often been asked if Chinese is, or is not, a difficult language to learn. To this question it is quite impossible to give a categorical answer, for the simple reason that Chinese consists of at least two languages, one colloquial and the other written, which for all practical purposes are about as distinct as they well could be.
Colloquial Chinese is a comparatively easy matter. It is, in fact, more easily acquired in the early stages than colloquial French or German. A student will begin to speak from the very first, for the simple reason that there is no other way. There are no Declensions or Conjugations to be learned, and consequently no Paradigms or Irregular Verbs.
In a day or two the student should be able to say a few simple things. After three months he should be able to deal with his ordinary requirements; and after six months he should be able to chatter away more or less accurately on a variety of interesting subjects. A great deal depends upon the method by which he is taught.
The written or book language, on the other hand, may fairly be regarded as a sufficient study for a lifetime; not because of the peculiar script, which yields when systematically attacked, but because the style of the book language is often so extremely terse as to make it obscure, and sometimes so lavishly ornate that without wide reading it is not easy to follow the figurative phraseology, and historical and mythological allusions, which confront one on every page.
There are plenty of men, and some women, nowadays, who can carry on a conversation in Chinese with the utmost facility, and even with grace. Some speak so well as to be practically indistinguishable from Chinamen.
There are comparatively few men, and I venture to say still fewer, if any, women, who can read an ordinary Chinese book with ease, or write an ordinary Chinese letter at all.
Speaking of women as students of Chinese, there have been so far only two who have really placed themselves in the front rank. It gives me great pleasure to add that both these ladies, lady missionaries, were natives of America, and that it was my privilege while in China to know them both. In my early studies of Chinese I received much advice and assistance from one of them, the late Miss Lydia Fay. Later on, I came to entertain a high respect for the scholarship and literary attainments of Miss Adele M. Fielde, a well-known authoress.
Before starting upon a course of colloquial Chinese, it is necessary for the student to consider in what part of China he proposes to put his knowledge into practice. If he intends to settle or do business in Peking, it is absolute waste of time for him to learn the dialect of Shanghai. Theoretically, there is but one language spoken by the Chinese people in China proper,—over an area of some two million square miles, say twenty-five times the area of England and Scotland together. Practically, there are about eight well-marked dialects, all clearly of a common stock, but so distinct as to constitute eight different languages, any two of which are quite as unlike as English and Dutch.
These dialects may be said to fringe the coast line of the Empire of China. Starting from Canton and coasting northward, before we have left behind us the province in which Canton is situated, Kuangtung, we reach Swatow, where a totally new dialect is spoken. A short run now brings us to Amoy, the dialect of which, though somewhat resembling that of Swatow, is still very different in many respects. Our next stage is Foochow, which is in the same province as Amoy, but possesses a special dialect of its own. Then on to Wenchow, with another dialect, and so on to Ningpo with yet another, widely spoken also in Shanghai, though the latter place really has a patois of its own.
Farther north to Chefoo, and thence to Peking, we come at last into the range of the great dialect, popularly known as Mandarin, which sweeps round behind the narrow strip of coast occupied by the various dialects above mentioned, and dominates a hinterland constituting about four-fifths of China proper. It is obvious, then, that for a person who settles in a coast district, the dialect of that district must be his chief care, while for the traveller and explorer Mandarin will probably stand him in best stead.
The dialect of Peking is now regarded as standard "Mandarin"; but previous to the year 1425 the capital was at Nanking, and the dialect of Nanking was the Mandarin then in vogue. Consequently, Pekingese is the language which all Chinese officials are now bound to speak.
Those who come from certain parts of the vast hinterland speak Mandarin almost as a mother tongue, while those from the seaboard and certain adjacent parts of the interior have nearly as much difficulty in acquiring it, and quite as much difficulty in speaking it with a correct accent, as the average foreigner.
The importance of Mandarin, the "official language" as the Chinese call it, is beyond question. It is the vehicle of oral communication between all Chinese officials, even in cases where they come from the same part of the country and speak the same patois, between officials and their servants, between judge and prisoner. Thus, in every court of justice throughout the Empire the proceedings are carried on in Mandarin, although none of the parties to the case may understand a single word. The prosecutor, on his knees, tells his story in his native dialect. This story is rendered into Mandarin by an official interpreter for the benefit of the magistrate; the magistrate asks his questions or makes his remarks in Mandarin, and these are translated into the local dialect for the benefit of the litigants. Even if the magistrate knows the dialect himself,—as is often the case, although no magistrate may hold office in his own province,—still it is not strictly permissible for him to make use of the local dialect for magisterial purposes.
It may be added that in all large centres, such as Canton, Foochow, and Amoy, there will be found, among the well-to-do tradesmen and merchants, many who can make themselves intelligible in something which approximates to the dialect of Peking, not to mention that two out of the above three cities are garrisoned by Manchu troops, who of course speak that dialect as their native tongue.
Such is Mandarin. It may be compared to a limited extent with Urdu, the camp language of India. It is obviously the form of colloquial which should be studied by all, except those who have special interests in special districts, in which case, of course, the patois of the locality comes to the front.
We will now suppose that the student has made up his mind to learn Mandarin. The most natural thing for him, then, to do will be to look around him for a grammar. He may have trouble in finding one. Such works do actually exist, and they have been, for the most part, to quote a familiar trade-mark, "made in Germany." They are certainly not made by the Chinese, who do not possess, and never have possessed, in their language, an equivalent term for grammar. The language is quite beyond reach of the application of such rules as have been successfully deduced from Latin and Greek.
The Chinese seem always to have spoken in monosyllables, and these monosyllables seem always to have been incapable of inflection, agglutination, or change of any kind. They are in reality root-ideas, and are capable of adapting themselves to their surroundings, and of playing each one such varied parts as noun, verb (transitive, neuter, or even causal), adverb, and conjunction.
The word [wo] wo, which for convenience' sake I call "I," must be rendered into English by "me" whenever it is the object of some other word, which, also for convenience' sake, I call a verb. It has further such extended senses as "egoistic" and "subjective."
For example: [wo ai ta] wo ai t'a.
The first of these characters, which is really the root-idea of "self," stands here for the pronoun of the first person; the last, which is really the root-idea of "not self," "other," stands for the pronoun of the third person; and the middle character for the root-idea of "love."
This might mean in English, "I love him," or "I love her," or "I love it,"—for there is no gender in Chinese, any more than there is any other indication of grammatical susceptibilities. We can only decide if "him," "her," or "it" is intended by the context, or by the circumstances of the case.
Now if we were to transpose what I must still call the pronouns, although they are not pronouns except when we make them so, we should have—
[ta ai wo] t'a ai wo
"he, she, or it loves me," the only change which the Chinese words have undergone being one of position; while in English, in addition to the inflection of the pronouns, the "love" of the first person becomes "loves" in the third person.
Again, supposing we wished to write down—
"People love him (or her),"
we should have—
[ren ai ta] jen ai t'a,
in which once more the noticeable feature is that the middle character, although passing from the singular to the plural number, suffers no change of any kind whatever.
Further, the character for "man" is in the plural simply because such a rendering is the only one which the genius of the Chinese language will here tolerate, helped out by the fact that the word by itself does not mean "a man," but rather what we may call the root-idea of humanity.
Such terms as "a man," or "six men," or "some men," or "many men," would be expressed each in its own particular way.
"All men," for instance, would involve merely the duplication of the character jen:—
[ren ren ai ta] jen jen ai t'a.
It is the same with tenses in Chinese. They are not brought out by inflection, but by the use of additional words.
[lai] lai is the root-idea of "coming," and lends itself as follows to the exigencies of conjugation:—
Standing alone, it is imperative:—
[lai] Lai! = "come!" "here!"
[wo lai] wo lai = "I come, or am coming."
[ta lai] t'a lai = "he comes, or is coming."
And by inserting [bu] pu, a root-idea of negation,—
[ta bu lai] t'a pu lai = "he comes not, or is not coming."
To express an interrogative, we say,—
[ta lai bu lai] t'a lai pu lai = "he come no come?" i.e. "is he coming?"
submitting the two alternatives for the person addressed to choose from in reply.
The indefinite past tense is formed by adding the word [liao] liao or lo "finished":—
[ta lai liao] t'a lai lo = "he come finish," = "he has come."
This may be turned into the definite past tense by inserting some indication of time; e.g.
[ta zao shang lai liao] = "he came this morning."
Here we see that the same words may be indefinite or definite according to circumstances.
It is perhaps more startling to find that the same words may be both active and passive.
Thus, [diu] tiu is the root-idea of "loss," "to lose," and [liao] puts it into the past tense.
Now [wo diu liao] means, and can only mean, "I have lost"—something understood, or to be expressed. Strike out [wo] and substitute [shiu] "a book." No Chinaman would think that the new sentence meant "The book has lost"—something understood, or to be expressed, as for instance its cover; but he would grasp at once the real sense, "The book is or has been lost."
In the case of such, a phrase as "The book has lost" its cover, quite a different word would be used for "lost."
We have the same phenomenon in English. In the New York Times of February 13, I read, "Mr. So-and-so dined," meaning not that Mr. So-and-so took his dinner, but had been entertained at dinner by a party of friends,—a neuter verb transformed into a passive verb by the logic of circumstances.
By a like process the word [su] ssu "to die" may also mean "to make to die" = "to kill."
The word [jin] chin which stands for "gold" as a substantive may also stand, as in English, for an adjective, and for a verb, "to gold," i.e. to regard as gold, to value highly.
There is nothing in Chinese like love, loving, lovely, as noun substantive, verb, and adverb. The word, written or spoken, remains invariably, so far as its own economy is concerned, the same. Its function in a sentence is governed entirely by position and by the influence of other words upon it, coupled with the inexorable logic of attendant circumstances.
When a Chinaman comes up to you and says, "You wantchee my, no wantchee," he is doing no foolish thing, at any rate from his own point of view. To save himself the trouble of learning grammatical English, he is taking the language and divesting it of all troublesome inflections, until he has at his control a set of root-ideas, with which he can juggle as in his own tongue. In other words, "you wantchee my, no wantchee," is nothing more nor less than literally rendered Chinese:—
[ni yao wo u yao] ni yao wo, pu yao = do you want me or not?
In this "pidgin" English he can express himself as in Chinese by merely changing the positions of the words:—
"He wantchee my." "My wantchee he."
"My belong Englishman."
"That knife belong my."
Some years back, when I was leaving China for England with young children, their faithful Chinese nurse kept on repeating to the little ones the following remarkable sentence, "My too muchey solly you go steamah; you no solly my."
All this is very absurd, no doubt; still it is bona fide Chinese, and illustrates very forcibly how an intelligible language may be constructed of root-ideas arranged in logical sequence.
If the last word had now been said in reference to colloquial, it would be as easy for us to learn to speak Chinese as it is for a Chinaman to learn to speak Pidgin-English. There is, however, a great obstacle still in the way of the student. The Chinese language is peculiarly lacking in vocables; that is to say, it possesses very few sounds for the conveyance of speech. The dialect of Peking is restricted to four hundred and twenty, and as every word in the language must fall under one or other of those sounds, it follows that if there are 42,000 words in the language (and the standard dictionary contains 44,000), there is an average of 100 words to each sound. Of course, if any sound had less than 100 words attached to it, some other sound would have proportionately more. Thus, accepting the average, we should have 100 things or ideas, all expressed in speech, for instance, by the one single sound I.
The confusion likely to arise from such conditions needs not to be enlarged upon; it is at once obvious, and probably gave rise to the following sapient remark by a globe-trotting author, which I took from a newspaper in England:—
"In China, the letter I has one hundred and forty-five different ways of being pronounced, and each pronunciation has a different meaning."
It would be difficult to squeeze more misleading nonsense into a smaller compass. Imagine the agonies of a Chinese infant school, struggling with the letter I pronounced in 145 different ways, with a different meaning to each! It will suffice to say, what everybody here present must know, that Chinese is not in any sense an alphabetic language, and that consequently there can be no such thing as "the letter I."
When closely examined, this great difficulty of many words with but one common sound melts rapidly away, until there is but a fairly small residuum with which the student has to contend. The same difficulty confronts us, to a slighter extent, even in English. If I say, "I met a bore in Broadway," I may mean one of several things. I may mean a tidal wave, which is at once put out of court by the logic of circumstances. Or I may mean a wild animal, which also has circumstances against it.
To return to Chinese. In the first place, although there are no doubt 42,000 separate written characters in the Chinese language, about one-tenth of that number, 4200, would more than suffice for the needs of an average speaker. Adopting this scale, we have 420 sounds and 4200 words, or ten words to each sound,—still a sufficient hindrance to anything like certain intelligibility of speech. But this is not the whole case. The ten characters, for instance, under each sound, are distributed over four separate groups, formed by certain modulations of the voice, known as Tones, so that actually there would be only an average of 21/2 words liable to absolute confusion. Thus [yan1] yen^1 means "smoke"; [yan2] yen^2 means "salt"; [yan3] yen^3 means "an eye"; and [yan4] yen^4 means "a goose."
These modulations are not readily distinguished at first; but the ear is easily trained, and it soon becomes difficult to mistake them.
Nor is this all. The Chinese, although their language is monosyllabic, do not make an extensive use of monosyllables in speech to express a single thing or idea. They couple their words in pairs.
Thus, for "eye" they would say, not yen, which strictly means "hole," or "socket," but yen ching, the added word ching, which means "eyeball," tying down the term to the application required, namely, "eye."
In like manner it is not customary to talk about yen, "salt," as we do, but to restrict the term as required in each case by the addition of some explanatory word; for instance, [bai yan] "white salt," i.e. "table salt"; [he yan] "black salt," i.e. "coarse salt"; all of which tends very much to prevent confusion with other words pronounced in the same tone.
There are also certain words used as suffixes, which help to separate terms which might otherwise be confused. Thus [guo3] kuo^3 means "to wrap," and [guo3] kuo^3 means "fruit," the two being identical in sound and tone. And yao kuo might mean either "I want fruit" or "I want to wrap." No one, however, says kuo for "fruit," but kuo tzu. The suffix tzu renders confusion impossible.
Of course there is no confusion in reading a book, where each thing or idea, although of the same sound and tone, is represented by a different symbol.
On the whole, it may be said that misconceptions in the colloquial are not altogether due to the fact that the Chinese language is poorly provided with sounds. Many persons, otherwise gifted, are quite unable to learn any foreign tongue.
Let us now turn to the machinery by means of which the Chinese arrest the winged words of speech, and give to mere thought and utterance a more concrete and a more lasting form.
The written language has one advantage over the colloquial: it is uniformly the same all over China; and the same document is equally intelligible to natives of Peking and Canton, just as the Arabic and Roman numerals are understood all over Europe, although pronounced differently by various nations.
To this fact some have attributed the stability of the Chinese Empire and the permanence of her political and social institutions.
If we take the written language of to-day, which is to all intents and purposes the written language of twenty-five hundred years ago, we gaze at first on what seems to be a confused mass of separate signs, each sign being apparently a fortuitous concourse of dots and dashes. Gradually, however, the eye comes to perceive that every now and again there is to be found in one character a certain portion which has already been observed in another, and this may well have given rise to the idea that each character is built up of parts equivalent to our letters of the alphabet. These portions are of two kinds, and must be considered under two separate heads.
Under the first head come a variety of words, which also occur as substantive characters, such as dog, vegetation, tree, disease, metal, words, fish, bird, man, woman. These are found to indicate the direction in which the sense of the whole character is to be sought.
Thus, whenever [CJK:72AD] "dog" occurs in a character, the reader may prepare for the name of some animal, as for instance [shi] shih "lion," [mao] mao "cat," [lang] lang "wolf", [zhu] ehu "pig."
Two of these are interesting words. (1) There are no lions in China; shih is merely an imitation of the Persian word shir. (2) Mao, the term for a "cat," is obviously an example of onomatopoeia.
The character [CJK:72AD] will also indicate in many cases such attributes as [hua] hua "tricky," [heng] hen, "aggressive," [meng] meng "fierce," and other characteristics of animals.
Similarly, [CJK:8279] ts'ao "vegetation" will hint at some plant; e.g. [tsao] ts'ao "grass," [he] ho "the lily," [zhi] chih "the plant of immortality."
[mu] mu "a tree" usually points toward some species of tree; e.g. [song] sung "a fir tree," [sang] sang "a mulberry tree"; and by extension it points toward anything of wood, as [ban] pan "a board," [zhuo] cho "a table," [yi] i "a chair," and so on.
So [yu] yue "a fish" and [diao] niao "a bird" are found in all characters of ichthyological or ornithological types, respectively.
[ren] jen "a man" is found in a large number of characters dealing with humanity under varied aspects; e.g. [ni] ni "thou," [ta] t'a "he," [zuo] tso "to make," [zhang] chang "a weapon," [jie] chieh "a hero," [ru] ju "a scholar," "a Confucianist"; while it has been pointed out that such words as [jian] chien "treacherous," [mei] mei "to flatter," and [du] tu "jealousy," are all written with the indicator [nu] nue "woman" at the side.
The question now arises how these significant parts got into their present position. Have they always been there, and was the script artificially constructed off-hand, as is the case with Mongolian and Manchu? The answer to this question can hardly be presented in a few words, but involves the following considerations.
It seems to be quite certain that in very early times, when the possibility and advantage of committing thought to writing first suggested themselves to the Chinese mind, rude pictures of things formed the whole stock in trade. Such were
in many of which it is not difficult to trace the modern forms of to-day,
[mi yue shan shiu zi mu chen kou niu zhao]
It may here be noted that there was a tendency to curves so long as the characters were scratched on bamboo tablets with a metal stylus. With the invention of paper in the first century A.D., and the substitution of a hair-pencil for the stylus, verticals and horizontals came more into vogue.
The second step was the combination of two pictures to make a third; for instance, a mouth with something coming out of it is "the tongue," [gua]; a mouth with something else coming out of it is "speech," "words," [yan]; two trees put side by side make the picture of a "forest," [lin].
The next step was to produce pictures of ideas. For instance, there already existed in speech a word ming, meaning "bright." To express this, the Chinese placed in juxtaposition the two brightest things known to them. Thus [mi] the "sun" and [yue] the "moon" were combined to form [ming] ming "bright." There is as yet no suggestion of phonetic influence. The combined character has a sound quite different from that of either of its component parts, which are jih and yueeh respectively.
In like manner, [mi] "sun" and [mu] "tree," combined as [dong], "the sun seen rising through trees," signified "the east"; [yan] "words" and [gua] "tongue" = [hua] "speech"; [you] (old form ) "two hands" = "friendship"; [nue] "woman" and [zi] "child" = [hao] "good"; [nue] "woman" and [sheng] "birth," "born of a woman" = [xing] "clan name," showing that the ancient Chinese traced through the mother and not through the father; [wu] streamers used in signalling a negative = "do not!"
From [lin] "two trees," the picture of a forest, we come to [sen] "three trees," suggesting the idea of density of growth and darkness; [xiao] "a child at the feet of an old man" = "filial piety"; [ge] "a spear" and [shou] "to kill," suggesting the defensive attitude of individuals in primeval times = [wo] "I, me"; [wo] "I, my," and [yang] "sheep," suggesting the obligation to respect another man's flocks = [yi] "duty toward one's neighbour"; [da] "large" and [yang] "sheep" = [mei] "beautiful"; and [shan], "virtuous," also has "sheep" as a component part,—why we do not very satisfactorily make out, except that of course the sheep would play an important role among early pastoral tribes. The idea conveyed by what we call the conjunction "and" is expressed in Chinese by an ideogram, viz. [ji], which was originally the picture of a hand, seizing what might be the tail of the coat of a man preceding, scilicet following.
The third and greatest step in the art of writing was reached when the Chinese, who had been trying to make one character do for several similar-sounding words of different meanings, suddenly bethought themselves of distinguishing these several similar-sounding words by adding to the original character employed some other character indicative of the special sense in which each was to be understood. Thus, in speech the sound ting meant "the sting of an insect," and was appropriately pictured by what is now written [ding].
There were, however, other words also expressed by the sound ting, such as "a boil," "the top or tip," "to command," "a nail," "an ingot," and "to arrange." These would be distinguished in speech by the tones and suffixes, as already described; but in writing, if [ding] were used for all alike, confusion would of necessity arise. To remedy this, it occurred to some one in very early ages to make [ding], and other similar pictures of things or ideas, serve as what we now call Phonetics, i.e. the part which suggests the sound of the character, and to add in each case an indicator of the special sense intended to be conveyed. Thus, taking [ding] as the phonetic base, in order to express ting, "a boil," the indicator for "disease," [chuang], was added, making [ding]; for ting, "the top," the indicator for "head," [ye], was added, making [ding]; for "to command," the symbol for "mouth," [kou] was added, making [ding]; for "nail," and also for "ingot," the symbol for "metal," [jin], was added, making [ding]; and for "to arrange," the symbol for "speech," [yan], was added, making [ding]. We thus obtain five new words, which, so far as the written language is concerned, are easily distinguishable one from another, namely, ting "a sting," disease-ting = "a boil," head-ting = "the top," mouth-ting = "to command," metal-ting = "a nail," speech-ting = "to arrange." In like manner, the words for "mouth," "to rap," and "a button," were all pronounced k'ou. Having got [kou] k'ou as the picture of a mouth, that was taken as the phonetic base, and to express "to rap," the symbol for "hand," [shou] or [CJK:624C], was added, making [kou]; while to express "button," the symbol for "metal," [jin] was added, making [kou]. So that we have k'ou = "mouth," hand-k'ou = "to rap," and metal-k'ou = "button."
Let us take a picture of an idea. We have [dong] tung = the sun seen through the trees,—"the east." When the early Chinese wished to write down tung "to freeze," they simply took the already existing [dong] as the phonetic base, and added to it "an icicle," [bing], thus [dong]. And when they wanted to write down tung "a beam," instead of "icicle," they put the obvious indicator [mu] "wood," thus [dong].
We have now got the two portions into which the vast majority of Chinese characters can be easily resolved.
There is first the phonetic base, itself a character originally intended to represent some thing or idea, and then borrowed to represent other things and ideas similarly pronounced; and secondly, the indicator, another character added to the phonetic base in order to distinguish between the various things and ideas for which the same phonetic base was used.
All characters, however, do not yield at once to the application of our rule. [yao] yao "to will, to want," is composed of [xi] "west" and [nue] "woman." What has western woman to do with the sign of the future? In the days before writing, the Chinese called the waist of the body yao. By and by they wrote [yao], a rude picture of man with his arms akimbo and his legs crossed, thus accentuating the narrower portion, the waist. Then, when it was necessary to write down yao, "to will," they simply borrowed the already existing word for "waist." In later times, when writing became more exact, they took the indicator [yue] "flesh," and added it wherever the idea of waist had to be conveyed. And thus [yao] it is still written, while yao, "to will, to want," has usurped the character originally invented for "waist."
In some of their own identifications native Chinese scholars have often shown themselves hopelessly at sea. For instance, [tian] "the sky," figuratively God, was explained by the first Chinese lexicographer, whose work has come down to us from about one hundred years after the Christian era, as composed of [yi] "one" and [da] "great," the "one great" thing; whereas it was simply, under its oldest form, , a rude anthropomorphic picture of the Deity.
Even the early Jesuit Fathers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, to whom we owe so much for pioneer work in the domain of Sinology, were not without occasional lapses of the kind, due no doubt to a laudable if excessive zeal. Finding the character [chuan], which is the common word for "a ship," as indicated by [zhou], the earlier picture-character for "boat" seen on the left-hand side, one ingenious Father proceeded to analyse it as follows:—
[zhou] "ship," [ba] "eight," [kou] "mouth" = eight mouths on a ship—"the Ark."
But the right-hand portion is merely the phonetic of the character; it was originally [qian] "lead," which gave the sound required; then the indicator "boat" was substituted for "metal."
So with the word [jin] "to prohibit." Because it could be analysed into two [mu][mu] "trees" and [qi] "a divine proclamation," an allusion was discovered therein to the two trees and the proclamation of the Garden of Eden; whereas again the proper analysis is into indicator and phonetic.
Nor is such misplaced ingenuity confined to the Roman Catholic Church. In 1892 a Protestant missionary published and circulated broadcast what he said was "evidence in favour of the Gospels," being nothing less than a prophecy of Christ's coming hidden in the Chinese character [lai] "to come." He pointed out that this was composed of "a cross," with two [ren][ren] "men," one on each side, and a "greater man" [ren] in the middle.
That analysis is all very well for the character as it stands now; but before the Christian era this same character was written and was a picture, not of men and of a cross, but of a sheaf of corn. It came to mean "come," says the Chinese etymologist, "because corn _comes" from heaven."
Such is the written language of China, and such indeed it was, already under the dominion of the phonetic system, by which endless new combinations may still be formed, at the very earliest point to which history, as distinguished from legend, will carry us,—some eight or nine centuries B.C. There are no genuine remains of pure picture-writing, to enable us to judge how far the Chinese had got before the phonetic system was invented, though many attempts have been made to palm off gross forgeries as such.
The great majority of characters, as I have said, are capable of being easily resolved into the two important parts which I have attempted to describe—the original phonetic portion, which guides toward pronunciation, and the added indicator, which guides toward the sense.
Even the practical student, who desires to learn to read and write Chinese for purely business purposes, will find himself constrained to follow out this analysis, if he wishes to commit to memory a serviceable number of characters. With no other hold upon them beyond their mere outlines, he will find the characters so bewildering, so elusive, as to present almost insuperable difficulties.
But under the influence of systematic study, coupled with a fair amount of perseverance, these difficulties disappear, and leave the triumphant student amply rewarded for his pains.
A CHINESE LIBRARY
A CHINESE LIBRARY
The endowment of a Chinese chair at Columbia University naturally suggests the acquisition of a good Chinese library. At the University of Cambridge, England, there is what I can only characterise as an ideal Chinese library. It was not bought off-hand in the market,—such a collection indeed would never come into the market,—but the books were patiently and carefully brought together by my predecessor in the Chinese chair during a period of over forty years' residence in China. The result is an admirable selection of representative works, always in good, and sometimes in rare, editions, covering the whole field of what is most valuable in Chinese literature.
I now propose, with your approval, to give a slight sketch of the Cambridge Library, in which I spend a portion of almost every day of my life, and which I further venture to recommend as the type of that collection which Columbia University should endeavour to place upon her shelves.
The Chinese library at Cambridge consists of 4304 volumes, roughly distributed under seven heads. These volumes, it should be stated, are not the usual thin, paper-covered volumes of an ordinary Chinese work, but they consist each of several of the original Chinese volumes bound together in cloth or leather, lettered on the back, and standing on the shelves, as our books do, instead of lying flat, as is the custom in China.
Division A contains, first of all, the Confucian Canon, which now consists of nine separate works.
There is the mystic Book of Changes, that is to say, the eight changes or combinations which can be produced by a line and a broken line, either one of which is repeated twice with the other, or three times by itself.
————- —- —- ————- ————- —- —- ————- etc. —- —- ————- ————-
These trigrams are said to have been copied from the back of a tortoise by an ancient monarch, who doubled them into hexagrams, and so increased the combinations to sixty-four, each one of which represents some active or passive power in nature.
Confucius said that if he could devote fifty years to the study of this work, he might come to be without great faults; but neither native nor foreign scholars can really make anything out of it. Some regard it as a Book of Fate. One erratic genius of the West has gone so far as to say that it is only a vocabulary of the language of some old Central Asian tribe.
We are on somewhat firmer ground with the Book of History, which is a collection of very ancient historical documents, going back twenty centuries B.C., arranged and edited by Confucius. These documents, mere fragments as they are, give us glimpses of China's early civilisation, centuries before the historical period, to which we shall come later on, can fairly be said to begin.
Then we have the Book of Odes, consisting of some three hundred ballads, also rescued by Confucius from oblivion, on which as a basis the great superstructure of modern Chinese poetry has been raised.
Next comes an historical work by Confucius, known as the Spring and Autumn: it should be Springs and Autumns, for the title refers to the yearly records, to the annals, in fact, of the native State of Confucius himself.
The fifth in the series is the Book of Rites. This deals, as its title indicates, with ceremonial, and contains an infinite number of rules for the guidance of personal conduct under a variety of conditions and circumstances. It was compiled at a comparatively late date, the close of the second century B.C., and scarcely ranks in authority with the other four.
The above are called the Five Classics; they were for many centuries six in number, a Book of Music being included, and they were engraved on forty-six huge stone tablets about the year 170 A.D. Only mutilated portions of these tablets still remain.
The other four works which make up the Confucian Canon are known as the Four Books. They consist of a short moral treatise entitled the Great Learning, or Learning for Adults; the Doctrine of the Mean, another short philosophical treatise; the Analects, or conversations of Confucius with his disciples, and other details of the sage's daily life; and lastly, similar conversations of Mencius with his disciples and with various feudal nobles who sought his advice.
These nine works are practically learned by heart by the Chinese undergraduate. But there are in addition many commentaries and exegetical works—the best of which stand in the Cambridge Library—designed to elucidate the true purport of the Canon; and these must also be studied. They range from the commentary of K'ung An-kuo of the second century B.C., a descendant of Confucius in the twelfth degree, down to that of Yuean Yuean, a well-known scholar who only died so recently as 1849. These commentaries include both of the two great schools of interpretation, the earlier of which was accepted until the twelfth century A.D., when it was set aside by China's most brilliant scholar, Chu Hsi, who substituted the interpretation still in vogue, and obligatory at the public competitive examinations which admit to an official career.
Archaeological works referring to the Canon have been published in great numbers. The very first book in our Catalogue is an account of every article mentioned in these old records, accompanied in all cases by woodcuts. Thus the foreign student may see not only the robes and caps in which ancient worthies of the Confucian epoch appeared, but their chariots, their banners, their weapons, and general paraphernalia of everyday life.
Side by side with the sacred books of Confucianism stand the heterodox writings of the Taoist philosophers, the nominal founder of which school, known as Lao Tzu, flourished at an unknown date before Confucius. Some of these are deeply interesting; others have not escaped the suspicion of forgery—a suspicion which attaches more or less to any works produced before the famous Burning of the Books, in B.C. 211, from which the Confucian Canon was preserved almost by a miracle. An Emperor at that date made an attempt to destroy all literature, so that a fresh start might be made from himself.
But I do not intend to detain you at present over Taoism, about which I hope to say more on a subsequent occasion. Still less shall I have anything to say on the few Buddhist works which are also to be found in the Cambridge collection. It is rather along less well-beaten paths that I shall ask you to accompany me now.
In Division B, the first thing which catches the eye is a long line of 217 thick volumes, about a foot in height. These are the dynastic histories of China, in a uniform edition published in the year 1747, under the auspices of the famous Emperor Ch'ien Lung, who himself contributed a Preface.
The first of this series, known as The Historical Record, was produced by a very remarkable man, named Ssu-ma Ch'ien, sometimes called the Father of History, the Herodotus of China, who died nearly one hundred years B.C.; and over his most notable work it may not be unprofitable to linger awhile.
Starting with the five legendary Emperors, some 2700 years B.C., the historian begins by giving the annals of each reign under the various more or less legendary dynasties which succeeded, and thence onward right down to his own times, the last five or six hundred years, i.e. from about 700 B.C., belonging to a genuinely historical period. These annals form Part I of the five parts into which the historian divides his scheme.
Part II is occupied by chronological tables of the Emperors and their reigns, of the suzerains and vassal nobles under the feudal system which was introduced about 1100 B.C., and also of the nobles created to form an aristocracy after the feudal system had been swept away and replaced by the old Imperial rule, about 200 B.C.
Part III consists of eight important and interesting chapters: (1) on the Rites and Ceremonies of the period covered, (2) on Music, (3) on the Pitch-pipes, a series of twelve bamboo tubes of varying lengths, the notes from which were supposed to be bound up in some mysterious way with the good and bad fortunes of mankind, (4) on the Calendar, (5) on the Stars, (6) on the Imperial Sacrifices to Heaven and Earth, (7) on the Waterways of the Empire, and lastly (8) on Commerce, Coinage, etc.
Part IV deals with the reigns, so to speak, of the vassal nobles under the feudal system, the reigns of the suzerains having been already included in Part I.
Part V consists of biographies of the most eminent men who came to the front during the whole period covered.
These biographies are by no means confined to virtuous statesmen or heroic generals, as we might very reasonably have expected. The Chinese historian took a much broader view of his responsibilities to future ages, and along with the above virtuous statesmen and heroic generals he included lives of famous assassins, of tyrannical officials, of courtiers, of flatterers, of men with nothing beyond the gift of the gab, of politicians, of fortune-tellers, and the like.
This principle seems now to be widely recognised in the compilation of biographical collections. It was initiated by a Chinese historian one hundred years B.C.
His great work has come down to us as near as possible intact. To the Chinese it is, and always has been, a priceless treasure; so much so that every succeeding Dynastic History has been modelled pretty much upon the same lines.
The custom has always been for the incoming dynasty to issue the history of the dynasty it has overthrown, based upon materials which have been gathered daily during the latter's lease of power. At this moment the Historiographer's Department in Peking should be noting down current events for the use of posterity, in the established belief that all dynasties, even the most powerful, come to an end some day.
In addition to the Dynastic History proper, a custom has grown up of compiling what is called the "Veritable Record" of the life of the reigning Emperor. This is supposed to be written up every day, and with an absolute fidelity which it is unnecessary to suspect, since the Emperors are never allowed under any circumstances to cast an eye over their own records.
When the Hanlin College was burnt down, in 1900, some said that the "Veritable Records" of the present dynasty were destroyed. Others alleged that they had been carted away several days previously. However this may be, the "Veritable Records" of the great Ming dynasty, which came to a close in 1644, after three hundred years of power, are safe in Division B of the Cambridge Library, filling eighty-four large volumes of manuscript.
The next historical epoch is that of Ssu-ma Kuang, a leading statesman and scholar of the eleventh century A.D., who, after nineteen years of continuous labour, produced a general history of China, in the form of a chronological narrative, beginning with the fourth century B.C. and ending with the middle of the tenth century A.D. This work, which is popularly known as The Mirror of History, and is quite independent of the dynastic histories, fills thirty-three of our large bound-up volumes.
There is a quaint passage in the old man's Preface, dated 1084, and addressed to the Emperor:—
"Your servant's physical strength is now relaxed; his eyes are short-sighted and dim; of his teeth but a few remain. His memory is so impaired that the events of the moment are forgotten as he turns away from them, his energies having been wholly exhausted in the production of this book. He therefore hopes that your Majesty will pardon his vain attempt for the sake of his loyal intention, and in moments of leisure will deign to cast the Sacred Glance over this work, so as to learn from the rise and fall of former dynasties the secret of the successes and failures of the present hour. Then, if such knowledge shall be applied for the advantage of the Empire, even though your servant may lay his bones in the Yellow Springs, the aim and ambition of his life will be fulfilled."
Biography, as we have already seen, is to some extent provided for under the dynastic histories. Its scope, however, has been limited in later times, so far as the Historiographer's Department is concerned, to such officials as have been named by Imperial edict for inclusion in the national records. Consequently, there has always been a vast output of private biographical literature, dealing with the lives of poets, painters, priests, hermits, villains, and others, whose good and evil deeds would have been long since forgotten, like those of the heroes before Agamemnon, but for the care of some enthusiastic biographer.
Among our eight or ten collections of this kind, there is one which deserves a special notice. This work is entitled Biographies of Eminent Women, and it fills four extra-large volumes, containing 310 lives in all. The idea of thus immortalising the most deserving of his countrywomen first occurred to a writer named Liu Hsiang, who flourished just before the Christian era. I am not aware that his original work is still procurable; the present work was based upon one by another writer, of the third century A.D., and is brought down to modern times, being published in 1779. Each biography is accompanied by a full-page illustration of some scene in which the lady distinguished herself,—all from the pencil of a well-known artist.
Three good-sized encyclopaedias, uniformly bound up in ninety-eight large volumes, may fairly claim a moment's notice, not only as evidencing the persistent literary industry of the Chinese, but because they are all three perfect mines of information on subjects of interest to the foreign student.
The first dates from the very beginning of the ninth century, and deals chiefly with the Administration of Government, Political Economy, and National Defences, besides Rites, Music, and subordinate questions.
The second dates from the twelfth century, and deals with the same subjects, having additional sections on History and Chronology, Writing, Pronunciation, Astronomy, Bibliography, Prodigies, Fauna and Flora, Foreign Nations, etc.
The third, and best known to foreign scholars, is the encyclopaedia of Ma Tuan-lin of the fourteenth century. It is on much the same lines as the other two, being actually based upon the first, but has of course the advantage of being some centuries later.
The above three works are in a uniform edition, published in the middle of the eighteenth century under orders from the Emperor Ch'ien Lung.
There are also several other encyclopaedias of information on general topics, extending to a good many volumes in each case.
One of these contains interesting extracts on all manner of subjects taken from the lighter literature of China, such as Dreams, Palmistry, Reminiscences of a Previous State of Existence, and even Resurrection after Death. It was cut on blocks for printing in A.D. 981, only fifty years after the first edition of the Confucian Canon was printed. The Cambridge copy cannot claim to date from 981, but it does date from 1566.
Another work of the same kind was the San Ts'ai T'u Hui, issued in 1609, which is bound up in seventeen thick volumes. It is especially interesting for the variety of topics on which information is given, and also because it is profusely illustrated with full-page woodcuts. It has chapters on Geography, with maps; on Ethnology, Language, the Arts and Sciences, and even on various forms of Athletics, including the feats of rope-dancers and acrobats, sword-play, boxing, wrestling, and foot-ball.
Under Tricks and Magic we see a man swallowing a sword, or walking through fire, while hard by an acrobat is bending backward and drinking from cups arranged upon the ground.
The chapters on Drawing are exceptionally good; they contain some specimen landscapes of almost faultless perspective, and also clever examples of free-hand drawing. Portrait-painting is dealt with, and ten illustrations are given of the ten angles at which a face may be drawn. The first shows one-tenth of the face from the right side, the second two-tenths, and so on, waxing to full-face five-tenths; then waning sets in on the left side, four, three, and two-tenths, until ten-tenths shows nothing more than the back of the sitter's head.
There is a well-known Chinese story which tells how a very stingy man took a paltry sum of money to an artist—payment is always exacted in advance—and asked him to paint his portrait. The artist at once complied with his request, but in an hour or so, when the portrait was finished, nothing was visible save the back of the sitter's head. "What does this mean?" cried the latter, indignantly. "Oh," replied the artist, "I thought a man who paid so little as you wouldn't care to show his face!"
* * * * *
Perhaps some one may wonder how it is possible to arrange an encyclopaedia for reference when the language in which it is written happens to possess no alphabet.
Arrangement under Categories is the favourite method, and it is employed in the following way:—
A number of such words as Heaven, Earth, Time, Man, Plants, Beasts, Birds, Fishes, Minerals, and others are chosen, and the subjects are grouped under these headings. Thus, Eclipses would come under Heaven, Geomancy under Earth, the Passions under Man, though all classification is not quite so simple as these specimens, and search is often prolonged by failing to hit upon the right Category. Even when the Category is the right one, many pages of Index have frequently to be turned over; but once fix the reference in the Index, and the rest is easy, the catch-word in each case being printed on the margin of each page, just where the finger comes when turning the pages rapidly over.
The Chinese are very fond of collections of reprints, published in uniform editions and often extending to several hundred volumes. My earliest acquaintance with literature is associated with such a collection in English. It was called The Family Library, and ran to over a hundred volumes, if I recollect rightly, and included the works of Washington Irving and the immortal story of Rip Van Winkle. There is also a Chinese Rip Van Winkle, a tale of a man who, wandering one day in the mountains, came upon two boys playing checkers; and after watching them for some time, and eating some dates they gave him, he discovered that the handle of an axe he was carrying had mouldered into dust. Returning home, he found, as the Chinese poet puts it,
"City and suburb as of old, But hearts that loved him long since cold."
Seven generations had passed away in the interim.
The Cambridge Library possesses several of these collections of reprints. One of them is perhaps extra valuable because the wooden blocks from which it was printed were destroyed during the T'ai-p'ing Rebellion, some forty years ago.
I may mention here, though not properly belonging to this section, that we possess a good collection of the curious pamphlets issued by the T'ai-p'ing rebels.
Other interesting works to be found in Division B are the Statutes of the present dynasty, which began in 1644, and even those of the previous dynasty, the latter being an edition of 1576.
Then there is the Penal Code of this dynasty, in several editions; various collections of precedents; handbooks for magistrates, with recorded decisions and illustrative cases.
A magistrate or judge in China is not expected to know anything about law.
Attached to the office of every official who may be called upon to try criminal cases is a law expert, to whom the judge or magistrate may refer, when he has any doubt, in private, just as our unpaid justices of the peace in England refer for guidance to the qualified official attached to the court.
Before passing on to the next section, one last volume, taken at haphazard, bears the weird title, A Record in Dark Blood. This work contains notices of eminent statesmen and others, who met violent deaths, each accompanied by a telling illustration of the tragic scene. Some of the incidents go far to dispose of the belief that patriotism is quite unknown to the Chinese.
* * * * *
Division C is devoted to Geography and to Topography. Here stands the Imperial Geography of the Empire, in twenty-four large volumes, with maps, in the edition of 1745. Here, too, stand many of the Topographies for which China is justly celebrated. Every Prefecture and every District, or Department,—and the latter number about fifteen hundred,—has its Topography, a kind of local history, with all the noticeable features of the District, its bridges, temples, and like buildings, duly described, together with biographies of all natives of the District who have risen to distinction in any way. Each Topography would occupy about two feet of shelf; consequently a complete collection of all the Topographies of China, piled one upon the other, would form a vertical column as high as the Eiffel Tower. Yet Topography is only an outlying branch of Chinese literature.
Division C further contains the oldest printed book in the Cambridge University Library, and a very interesting one to boot. It is entitled An Account of Strange Nations, and was published between 1368 and 1398. Its contents consist of short notices of about 150 nationalities known more or less to the Chinese, and the value of these is much enhanced by the woodcuts which accompany each notice.
Among the rest we find Koreans, Japanese, Hsiung-nu (the forefathers of the Huns), Kitan Tartars, tribes of Central Asia, Arabs, Persians, and even Portuguese, Jean de Montecorvino, who had been appointed archbishop of Peking in 1308, having died there in 1330. Of course there are a few pictures of legendary peoples, such as the Long-armed Nation, the One-eyed Nation, the Dog-headed Nation, the Anthropophagi,
"and men whose heads Do grow beneath their shoulders."
There is also an account of Fusang, the country where grew the famous plant which some have tried to identify with the Mexican aloe, thus securing the discovery of America for the Chinese.
The existence of many of these nations is duly recorded by Pliny in his Natural History, in words curiously identical with those we find in the Chinese records.
Some strange birds and animals are given at the end of this book, the most interesting of all being an accurate picture of the zebra, here called the Fu-lu, which means "Deer of Happiness," but which is undoubtedly a rough attempt at fara, an old Arabic term for the wild ass. Now, the zebra being quite unknown in Asia, the puzzle is, how the Chinese came to be so well acquainted with it at that early date.
The condition of the book is as good as could be expected, after six hundred years of wear and tear. Each leaf, here and there defective, is carefully mounted on sheets of stiff paper, and all together very few characters are really illegible, though sometimes the paper has slipped upon the printing-block, and has thus given, in several cases, a double outline.
Alongside of this stands the modern work of the kind, published in 1761, with an introductory poem from the pen of the Emperor Ch'ien Lung. It contains a much longer list of nations, including the British, French, Spanish, Dutch, Russians, Swedes, and others, and the illustrations—a man and woman of each country—are perfect triumphs of the block-cutter's art, the lines being inconceivably fine.
* * * * *
Division D contains Poetry, Novels, and Plays. Under Poetry, in addition to collections of the works of this or that writer, there are numerous anthologies, to which the Chinese are very partial. The mass of Chinese poetry is so vast, that it is hopeless for the general reader to do much more than familiarise himself with the best specimens of the greatest poets. It is interesting to note that all the more extensive anthologies include a considerable number of poems by women, some of quite a high order.
Two years ago, an eminent scientist at Cambridge said to me, "Have the Chinese anything in the nature of poetry in their language?" In reply to this, I told him of a question once put to me by a friendly Mandarin in China: "Have you foreigners got books in your honourable country?" We are apt to smile at Chinese ignorance of Western institutions; but if we were Chinamen, the smile perhaps would sometimes be the other way about.
Such novels as we have in our library belong entirely to what may be called the classical school, and may from many points of view be regarded as genuine works of art. Besides these, there is in the market a huge quantity of fiction which appeals to the less highly educated classes, and even to those who are absolutely unable to read. For the latter, there are professional readers and story-tellers, who may often be seen at some convenient point in a Chinese town, delighting large audiences of coolies with tales of love, and war, and heroism, and self-sacrifice. These readers do not read the actual words of the book, which no coolie would understand, but transpose the book-language into the colloquial as they go along.
A propos of novels, I should like just to mention one, a romantic novel of war and adventure, based upon the History of the Three Kingdoms, third century A.D., an epoch when China was split up under three separate sovereigns, who fought one another very much after the style of the Wars of the Roses in English history. This novel, a very long one, occupies perhaps the warmest corner in the hearts of the Chinese people. They never tire of listening to its stirring episodes, its hair-breadth escapes, its successful ruses, and its appalling combats.
Some twelve years ago, a friend of mine undertook to translate it into English. After writing out a complete translation,—a gigantic task,—he rewrote the whole from beginning to end, revising every page thoroughly. In the spring of 1900, after ten years of toil, it was ready for the press; three months later it had been reduced to ashes by the Boxers at Peking.
"Sunt lacrymae rerum ..."
Chinese plays in the acting editions may be bought singly at street-stalls for less than a cent apiece. For the library, many good collections have been made, and published in handsome editions.
This class of literature, however, does not stand upon a high level, but corresponds with the low social status of the actor; and it is a curious fact—true also of novels—that many of the best efforts are anonymous.
Plays by women are also to be found; but I have never yet come across, either on the stage or in literature, any of those remarkable dramas which are supposed to run on month after month, even into years.
* * * * *
Division E is a very important one for students of the Chinese language. Here we find a number of works of reference, most of which may be characterised as indispensable, and the great majority of which are easily procurable at the present day.
Beginning with dictionaries, we have the famous work of Hsue Shen, who died about A.D. 120. There was at that date no such thing as a Chinese dictionary, although the language had already been for some centuries ripe for such a production, and accordingly Hsue Shen set to work to fill the void. He collected 9353 written characters,—presumably all that were in existence at the time,—to which he added 1163 duplicates, i.e. various forms of writing the same character, and then arranged them in groups under those parts which, as we have already seen in the preceding Lecture, are indicators of the direction in which the sense of a character is to be looked for. Thus, all characters containing the element [CJK:72AD] "dog" were brought together; all those containing [CJK:8279] "vegetation," [chuang] "disease," etc.
So far as we know, this system originated with him; and we are therefore not surprised to find that in his hands it was on a clumsier scale than that in vogue to-day. Hsue Shen uses no fewer than 540 of these indicators, and even when the indicator to a character is satisfactorily ascertained, it still remains to search through all the characters under that particular group. Printing from movable types would have been impossible under such a system.
In the modern standard dictionary, published in 1716, under the direction of the Emperor K'ang Hsi, there are only 214 indicators employed, and there is a further sub-arrangement of these groups according to the number of strokes in the other, the phonetic portion of the character. Thus, the indicators "hand," "wood," "fire," "water," or whatever it may be, settle the group in which a given character will be found, and the number of strokes in the remaining portion will refer it to a comparatively small sub-group, from which it can be readily picked out. For instance, [song] "a fir tree" will be found under the indicator [mu] "tree," sub-group No. 4, because the remaining portion [gong] consists of four strokes in writing.
Good copies of this dictionary are not too easily obtained nowadays. The "Palace" edition, as it is called, is on beautifully white paper, and is a splendid specimen of typography.
A most wonderful literary feat was achieved under the direction of the before-mentioned Emperor K'ang Hsi, when a general Concordance to the phraseology of all literature was compiled and published for general use. Word-concordances to the Bible and to Shakespeare are generally looked upon as no small undertakings, but what about a phrase-concordance to all literature? Well, in 1711 this was successfully carried out, and remains to-day as a monument of the literary enterprise of the great Manchu-Tartar monarch with whose name it is inseparably associated.
The term "literature" here means serious literature, the classics, histories, poetry, and the works of philosophers, of recognised authorities, and of brilliant writers generally.
It was not possible, for obvious reasons, to arrange this collection of phrases according to the 214 indicators, as in a dictionary of words. It is arranged according to the Tones and Rhymes.
Let me try to express all this in terms of English literature. Reading a famous poem, I come across the lines
"And every shepherd tells his tale Under the hawthorn in the dale."
Now suppose that I do not know the meaning of "tells his tale." [I recollect perfectly that as a boy I thought it meant "whispered the old story into the ear of a shepherdess."] I determine to hunt it up in the Concordance. First of all, I find out from the Dictionary, if I do not know, to what Tone tale, always the last word of the phrase, belongs. Under that tone will be found various groups of words, each with a key-word which is called the Rhyme, that is to say, a key-word with which all the words in this group rhyme. There are only 106 of these key-words all together distributed over the Tones, and every word in the Chinese language must rhyme with one of them.
The question of rhyme in Chinese is a curious one, and before going any farther it may be as well to try to clear it up a little. All Chinese poetry is in rhyme; there is no such thing as blank verse. The Odes, collected and edited by Confucius, provide the standard of rhyme. Any words which are found to rhyme there may be used as rhymes anywhere else, and no others. The result is, that the number of rhyme-groups is restricted to 106; and not only that, but of course words which rhymed to the ear five hundred years B.C. do so no longer in 1902. Yet such are the only authorised rhymes to be used in poetry, and any attempt to ignore the rule would insure disastrous failure at the public examinations.
This point may to some extent be illustrated in English. The first two lines of the Canterbury Tales, which I will take to represent the Odes, run thus in modern speech:—
"When that Aprilis with his showers sweet, The drought of March hath pierced to the root."
No one nowadays rhymes sweet with root. Neither did Chaucer; the two words, sote and rote, were in his days perfect rhymes. But if we were Chinese, we should now rhyme sweet with root, because, so to speak, Chaucer did so.
When the Tone of a word is known, it is also known in which quarter of the whole work to look; and when the Rhyme is known, it is also known in which part of that quarter the key-word, or rhyme, will be found. Suppose the key-word to be gale, it might be necessary to turn over a good many pages before finding, neatly printed in the margin, the required word, tale. Under tale I should first of all find phrases of two words, e.g. "traveller's tale," "fairy-tale"; and I should have to look on until I came to groups of three characters, e.g. "old wife's tale," "tells his tale," and so forth. Finally, under "tells his tale" I should still not find, what all students would like so much, a plain explanation of what the phrase means, but only a collection of the chief passages in literature in which "tells his tale" occurs. In one of these there would probably be some allusion to sheep, and in another to counting, and so it would become pretty plain that when a shepherd "tells his tale," he does not whisper soft nothings into the ear of a shepherdess, but is much more prosaically engaged in counting the number of his sheep.
Our Cambridge copy of the Concordance is bound up in 44 thick volumes. Each volume contains on an average 840 pages, and each page about 400 characters. This gives a sum total of about 37,000 pages, and about 15,000,000 characters. Translated into English, this work would be one-third as large again, 100 pages of Chinese text being equal to about 130 of English.
In the year 1772 the enlightened Emperor Ch'ien Lung, who then sat upon the throne, gave orders that a descriptive Catalogue should be prepared of the books in the Imperial Library. And in order to enhance its literary value, his Majesty issued invitations to the leading provincial officials to take part in the enterprise by securing and forwarding to Peking any rare books they might be able to come across.
The scheme proved in every way successful. Many old works were rescued from oblivion and ultimate destruction, and in 1795 a very wonderful Catalogue was laid before the world in print. It fills twenty-six octavo volumes of about five hundred pages to each, the works enumerated being divided into four classes,—the Confucian Canon, History, Philosophy, and General Literature. Under each work we have first of all an historical sketch of its origin, with date of publication, etc., when known; and secondly, a careful critique dealing with its merits and defects. All together, some eight thousand to ten thousand works are entered and examined as above, and the names of those officials who responded to the Imperial call are always scrupulously recorded in connection with the books they supplied.
Among many illustrated books, there is a curious volume in the Library published about twenty-five years ago, which contains short notices of all the Senior Classics of the Ming dynasty, A.D. 1368-1644. They number only seventy-six in all, because the triennial examination had not then come into force; whereas during the present dynasty, between 1644 and twenty-five years ago, a shorter period, there have been no fewer than one hundred Senior Classics, whose names are all duly recorded in a Supplement.
The pictures which accompany the letterpress are sometimes of quite pathetic interest.
In one instance, the candidate, after his journey to Peking, where the examination is held, has gone home to await the result, and is sitting at dinner with his friends, when suddenly the much-longed-for messenger bursts in with the astounding news. In the old days this news was carried to all parts of the country by trained runners; nowadays the telegraph wires do the business at a great saving of time and muscle, with the usual sacrifice of romance.
Another student has gone home, and settled down to work again, not daring even to hope for success; but overcome with fatigue and anxiety, he falls asleep over his books. In the accompanying picture we see his dream,—a thin curl, as it were of vapour, coming forth from the top of his head and broadening out as it goes, until wide enough to contain the representation of a man, in feature like himself, surrounded by an admiring crowd, who acclaim him Senior Classic. With a start the illusion is dispelled, and the dreamer awakes to find himself famous.
To those who have followed me so far, it must, I hope, be clear that, whatever else the Chinese may be, they are above all a literary people. They have cultivated literature as no other people ever has done, and they cultivate it still.
Literary merit leads to an official career, the only career worth anything in the eyes of the Chinese nation.
From his earliest school days the Chinese boy is taught that men without education are but horses or cows in coats and trousers, and that success at the public examinations is the greatest prize this world has to offer.
To be among the fortunate three hundred out of about twelve thousand candidates, who contend once every three years for the highest degree, is to be enrolled among the Immortals for ever; while the Senior Classic at a final competition before the Emperor not only covers himself, but even his remote ancestors, his native village, his district, his prefecture, and even his province, with a glory almost of celestial splendour.
Theoretically speaking, the Empire of China is ruled by an autocratic monarch, responsible only to God, whose representative he is on earth.
Once every year the Emperor prays at the Temple of Heaven, and sacrifices in solemn state upon its altar. He puts himself, as it were, into communication with the Supreme Being, and reports upon the fidelity with which he has carried out his Imperial trust.
If the Emperor rules wisely and well, with only the happiness of his people at heart, there will be no sign from above, beyond peace and plenty in the Empire, and now and then a double ear of corn in the fields—a phenomenon which will be duly recorded in the Peking Gazette. But should there be anything like laxness or incapacity, or still worse, degradation and vice, then a comet may perhaps appear, a pestilence may rage, or a famine, to warn the erring ruler to give up his evil ways.
And just as the Emperor is responsible to Heaven, so are the viceroys and governors of the eighteen provinces—to speak only of China proper—nominally responsible to him, in reality to the six departments of state at Peking, which constitute the central government, and to which a seventh has recently been added—a department for foreign affairs.
So long as all goes well—and in ordinary times that "all" is confined to a regular and sufficient supply of revenue paid into the Imperial Treasury—viceroys and governors of provinces are, as nearly as can be, independent rulers, each in his own domain.
For purposes of government, in the ordinary sense of the term, the 18 provinces are subdivided into 80 areas known as "circuits," and over each of these is set a high official, who is called an intendant of circuit, or in Chinese a Tao-t'ai. His circuit consists of 2 or more prefectures, of which there are in all 282 distributed among the 80 circuits, or about an average of 3 prefectures to each.
Every prefecture is in turn subdivided into several magistracies, of which there are 1477 in all, distributed among the 282 prefectures, or about an average of 5 magistracies to each.
Immediately below the magistrates may be said to come the people; though naturally an official who rules over an area as big as an average English county can scarcely be brought into personal touch with all those under his jurisdiction. This difficulty is bridged over by the appointment of a number of head men, or headboroughs, who are furnished with wooden seals, and who are held responsible for the peace and good order of the wards or boroughs over which they are set. The post is considered an honourable one, involving as it does a quasi-official status. It is also more or less lucrative, as it is necessary that all petitions to the magistrate, all conveyances of land, and other legal instruments, should bear the seal of the head man, as a guarantee of good faith, a small fee being payable on each notarial act.
On the other hand, the post is occasionally burdensome and trying in the extreme. For instance, if a head man fails to produce any criminals or accused persons, either belonging to, or known to be, in his district, he is liable to be bambooed or otherwise severely punished.
In ordinary life the head man is not distinguishable from the masses of his fellow-countrymen. He may often be seen working like the rest, and even walking about with bare legs and bare feet.
Thus in a descending scale we have the Emperor, the viceroys and governors of the 18 provinces, the intendants, or Tao-t'ais, of the 80 circuits, the prefects of the 282 prefectures, the magistrates of the 1477 magistracies, the myriad headboroughs, and the people.
The district magistrates, so far as officials are concerned, are the real rulers of China, and in conjunction with the prefects are popularly called "father-and-mother" officials, as though they stood in loco parentium to the people, whom, by the way, they in turn often speak of, even in official documents, as "the babies."
The ranks of these magistrates are replenished by drafts of those literati who have succeeded in taking the third, or highest, degree. Thus, the first step on the ladder is open to all who can win their way by successful competition at certain literary examinations, so long as each candidate can show that none of his ancestors for three generations have been either actors, barbers and chiropodists, priests, executioners, or official servants.
Want of means may be said to offer no obstacle in China to ambition and desire for advancement. The slightest aptitude in a boy for learning would be carefully noted, and if found to be the genuine article, would be still more carefully fostered. Not only are there plenty of free schools in China, but there are plenty of persons ready to help in so good a cause. Many a high official has risen from the furrowed fields, his educational expenses as a student, and his travelling expenses as a candidate, being paid by subscription in his native place. Once successful, he can easily find a professional money-lender who will provide the comparatively large sums required for his outfit and journey to his post, whither this worthy actually accompanies him, to remain until he is repaid in full, with interest.
A successful candidate, however, is not usually sent straight from the examination-hall to occupy the important position of district magistrate. He is attached to some magistracy as an expectant official, and from time to time his capacity is tested by a case, more or less important, which is entrusted to his management as deputy.
The duties of a district magistrate are so numerous and so varied that one man could not possibly cope with them all. At the same time he is fully responsible. In addition to presiding over a court of first instance for all criminal trials in his district, he has to act as coroner (without a jury) at all inquests, collect and remit the land-tax, register all conveyances of land and house-property, act as preliminary examiner of candidates for literary degrees, and perform a host of miscellaneous offices, even to praying for rain or fine weather in cases of drought or inundation. He is up, if anything, before the lark; and at night, often late at night, he is listening to the protestations of prisoners or bambooing recalcitrant witnesses.
But inasmuch as the district may often be a large one, and two inquests may be going on in two different directions on the same day, or there may be other conflicting claims upon his time, he has constantly to depute his duties to a subordinate, whose usual duties, if he has any, have to be taken by some one else, and so on. Thus it is that the expectant official every now and then gets his chance.
This scheme leaves out of consideration a number of provincial officials, who preside over departments which branch, as it were, from the main trunk, and of whom a few words only need now be said.
There are several "commissioners," as they are sometimes called; for instance, the commissioner of finance, otherwise known as the provincial treasurer, who is charged with the fiscal administration of his particular province, and who controls the nomination of nearly all the minor appointments in the civil service, subject to the approval of the governor.
Then there is the commissioner of justice, or provincial judge, responsible for the due administration of justice in his province.
There is also the salt commissioner, who collects the revenue derived from the government monopoly of the salt trade; and the grain commissioner, who looks after the grain-tax, and sees that the tribute rice is annually forwarded to Peking, for the use of the Imperial Court.
There are also military officials, belonging to two separate and distinct army organisations.
The Manchus, when they conquered the Empire, placed garrisons of their own troops, under the command of Manchu generals, at various important strategic points; and the Tartar generals, as they are called, still remain, ranking nominally just above the viceroy of the province, over whose actions they are supposed to keep a careful watch.
Then there is a provincial army, with a provincial commander-in-chief, etc.
Now let us return to the main trunk, working upward by way of recapitulation.
We have reached the people and their head men, or headboroughs, over whom is set the magistrate, with a nominal salary which would be quite insufficient for his needs, even if he were ever to draw it. For he has a large staff to keep up; some few of whom, no doubt, keep themselves by fees and douceurs of various kinds obtained from litigants and others who have business to transact.
The income on which the magistrate lives, and from which, after a life of incessant toil, he saves a moderate competence for the requirements of his family, is deducted from the gross revenues of his magistracy, leaving a net amount to be forwarded to the Imperial Treasury. So long as his superiors are satisfied with what he remits, no questions are asked as to original totals. It is recognised that he must live, and the value of every magistracy is known within a few hundred ounces of silver one way or the other.
Above the magistrate, and in control of several magistracies, comes the prefect, who has to satisfy his superiors in the same way. He has the general supervision of all civil business in his prefecture, and to him must be referred every appeal case from the magistracies under his jurisdiction, before it can be filed in a higher court.
Above him comes the intendant of circuit, or Tao-t'ai, in control of several prefectures, to whom the same rule applies as to satisfying demands of superiors; and above him come the governor and viceroy, who must also satisfy the demands of the state departments in Peking.
It would now appear, from what has been already stated, that all a viceroy or governor has to do is to exact sufficient revenue from immediate subordinates, and leave them to exact the amounts necessary from their subordinates, and so on down the scale until we reach the people. The whole question therefore resolves itself into this, What can the people be made to pay?
The answer to that question will be somewhat of a staggerer to those who from distance, or from want of close observation, regard the Chinese as a down-trodden people, on a level with the Fellahin of Egypt in past times. For the answer, so far as my own experience goes, is that only so much can be got out of the Chinese people as the people themselves are ready and willing to pay. In other words, with all their show of an autocratic ruler and a paternal government, the people of China tax themselves.
I am now about to do more than state this opinion; I am going to try to prove it.
The philosopher Mencius, who flourished about one hundred years after Confucius, and who is mainly responsible for the final triumph of the Confucian doctrine, was himself not so much a teacher of ethics as a teacher of political science. He spent a great part of his life wandering from feudal state to feudal state, advising the various vassal nobles how to order their dominions with the maximum of peace and prosperity and the minimum of misery and bloodshed.
One of these nobles, Duke Wen, asked Mencius concerning the proper way to govern a state.
"The affairs of the people," replied the philosopher, "must not be neglected. For the way of the people is thus: If they have a fixed livelihood, their hearts will also be fixed; but if they have not a fixed livelihood, neither will their hearts be fixed. And if they have not fixed hearts, there is nothing in the way of crime which they will not commit. Then, when they have involved themselves in guilt, to follow up and punish them,—this is but to ensnare them."