Primarily these passages have been selected for the Mandarin: but indirectly the subject matter too has been kept in view. The subjects are all up to date dealing with what is vital and pressing in life. These cannot but be of great interest to the enquiring student. Thus there will be found in these pages many views of life in its various aspects, many phases of thought, and traditional ideas that cannot fail to strike the reader as unique and original.
The author has no doubt that many mistakes lie crouching in various corners. Some errors remain through inadvertence, some through pure ignorance: and one may seek shelter under the great name of Dr. Johnson, who when asked by a lady, how he came to explain the word pastern as meaning the knee of a horse, replied at once "pure ignorance, Madam!"
Some suggestions on the general question of translation may be profitably introduced at this point.
The Chinese have been accustomed to pack their complicated thoughts into Wen li;― and the ordinary, simple, every day idea into the colloquial. There is a tendency now to express the more complex ideas in the colloquial form as will be seen in this volume. Hence the sentences sometimes are, or seem to be longer, and more involved, than those of earlier days. This constitutes an added difficulty in translation.
The order of words in a new language sometimes are confusing to the student. The inverted order is not peculiar to Chinese. It is so in every language, even the most closely allied languages. And the order in Chinese does not differ more, from the order in English, than do other languages differ from it, in this respect. Why there should be this different order, it is difficult to say. Some attribute it to food, habits and climate. The elements of psychology too may have been a determining influence. In any case the origin and causes for these differences lie in the lap of history. But it is an interesting study, and well worthy of the student's attention and thought. Generally speaking in studying Chinese we are dealing with a primitive speech, and the order of words often remain as they were impressed on the mind, and vision of primitive people. It is evident that national temperament will also have had much to do in determining the form and order of speech.
Should the different order, or, multiplicity of words, or, the complexity of the sentence cause any difficulty, the sentence or passage should be read over once or twice to get the rhythm and familiarity with the character. This will help to clarify the words, and give each its proper place. In any case, a preliminary reading of the whole piece is advisable before beginning the work of translation.
It should be remembered that little words, such as―called usually, empty words, really fill a definite place in composition. They should be looked upon as forming a