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LITERATURE]
225
CHINA

of the calendar, he took up the work which had been begun by his father and which was ultimately given to the world as the Shih Chi, or Historical Record. This was arranged under five great headings, namely, (l) Annals of Imperial Reigns, (2) Chronological Tables, (3) Monographs, (4) Annals of Vassal Princes, and (5) Biographies.

The Historical Record begins with the so-called Yellow Emperor, who is said to have come to the throne 2698 B.C. and to have reigned a hundred years. Four other emperors are given, as belonging to this period, among whom we find Yao and Shun, already mentioned. It was China’s Golden Age, when rulers and ruled were virtuous alike, and all was peace and prosperity. It is discreetly handled in a few pages by Ssŭ-ma Ch‘ien, who passes on to the somewhat firmer but still doubtful ground of the early dynasties. Not, however, until the Chou dynasty, 1122-255 B.C., had held sway for some three hundred years can we be said to have reached a point at which history begins to separate itself definitely from legend. In fact, it is only from the 8th century before Christ that any trustworthy record can be safely dated. With the 3rd century before Christ, we are introduced to one of the feudal princes whose military genius enabled him to destroy beyond hope of revival the feudal system which had endured for eight hundred years, and to make himself master of the whole of the China of those days. In 221 B.C. he proclaimed himself the “First Burning of the Books. Emperor,” a title by which he has ever since been known. Everything, including literature, was to begin with his reign; and acting on the advice of his prime minister, he issued an order for the burning of all books, with the exception only of works relating to medicine, divination and agriculture. Those who wished to study law were referred for oral teaching to such as had already qualified in that profession. To carry out the scheme effectively, the First Emperor made a point of examining every day about 120 ℔ weight of books, in order to get rid of such as he considered to be useless; and he further appointed a number of inspectors to see that his orders were carried out. The result was that about four hundred and sixty scholars were put to death for having disobeyed the imperial command, while many others were banished for life. This incident is known as the Burning of the Books; and there is little doubt that, but for the devotion of the literati, Chinese literature would have had to make a fresh start in 212 B.C. As it was, books were bricked up in walls and otherwise widely concealed in the hope that the storm would blow over; and this was actually the case when the Ch‘in (Ts‘in) dynasty collapsed and the House of Han took its place in 206 B.C. The Confucian books were subsequently recovered from their hiding-places, together with many other works, the loss of which it is difficult now to contemplate. Unfortunately, however, a stimulus was provided, not for the recovery, but for the manufacture of writings, the previous existence of which could be gathered either from tradition or from notices in the various works which had survived. Forgery became the order of the day; and the modern student is confronted with a considerable volume of literature which has to be classified as genuine, doubtful, or spurious, according to the merits of each case. To the first class belongs the bulk, but not all, of the Confucian Canon; to the third must be relegated such books as the Tao Tê Ching, to be mentioned later on.

Ssŭ-ma Ch‘ien, dying in 87 B.C., deals of course only with the opening reigns of the Han dynasty, with which he brings to a close the first great division of his history. The second division consists of chronological tables; the third, of eight monographs on the following topics: (1) Rites and Ceremonies, (2) Music, (3) Natural Philosophy, (4) The Calendar, (5) Astronomy, (6) Religion, (7) Water-ways, and (8) Commerce. On these eight a few remarks may not be out of place, (1) The Chinese seem to have been in possession, from very early ages, of a systematic code of ceremonial observances, so that it is no surprise to find the subject included, and taking an important place, in Ssŭ-ma Ch‘ien’s work. The Li Chi, or Book of Rites, which now forms part of the Confucian Canon, is however a comparatively modern compilation, dating only from the 1st century B.C. (2) The extraordinary similarities between the Chinese and Pythagorean systems of music force the conclusion that one of these must necessarily have been derived from the other. The Jesuit Fathers jumped to the conclusion that the Greeks borrowed their art from the Chinese; but it is now common knowledge that the Chinese scale did not exist in China until two centuries after its appearance in Greece. The fact is that the ancient Chinese works on music perished at the Burning of the Books; and we are told that by the middle of the 2nd century B.C. the hereditary Court music-master was altogether ignorant of his art. What we may call modern Chinese music reached China through Bactria, a Greek kingdom, founded by Diodotus in 256 B.C., with which intercourse had been established by the Chinese at an early date. (3) The term Natural Philosophy can only be applied by courtesy to this essay, which deals with twelve bamboo tubes of varying lengths, by means of which, coupled with the twenty-eight zodiacal constellations and with certain calendaric accords, divine communication is established with the influences of the five elements and the points of the compass corresponding with the eight winds. (4) In this connexion, it is worth noting that in 104 B.C. the Chinese first adopted a cycle of nineteen years, a period which exactly brings together the solar and the lunar years; and further that this very cycle is said to have been introduced by Meton, 5th century B.C., and was adopted at Athens about 330 B.C., probably reaching China, via Bactria, some two centuries afterwards. (5) This chapter deals specially with the sun, moon and five planets, which are supposed to aid in the divine government of mankind. (6) Refers to the solemn sacrifices to Heaven and Earth, as performed by the emperor upon the summit of Mt. T‘ai in Shan-tung. (7) Refers to the management of the Hoang Ho, or Yellow river, so often spoken of as “China’s Sorrow,” and also of the numerous canals with which the empire is intersected. (8) This chapter, which treats of the circulation of money, and its function in the Chinese theory of political economy, is based upon the establishment in 110 B.C. of certain officials whose business it was to regularize commerce. It was their duty to buy up the chief necessaries of life when abundant and when prices were in consequence low, and to offer these for sale when there was a shortage and when prices would otherwise have risen unduly. Thus it was hoped that a stability in commercial transactions would be attained, to the great advantage of the people. The fourth division of the Shih Chi is devoted to the annals of the reigns of vassal princes, to be read in connexion with the imperial annals of the first division. The final division, which is in many ways the most interesting of all, gives biographical notices of eminent or notorious men and women, from the earliest ages downwards, and enables us to draw conclusions at which otherwise it would have been impossible to arrive. Confucius and Mencius, for instance, stand out as real personages who actually played a part in China’s history; while all we can gather from the short life of Lao Tzŭ, a part of which reads like an interpolation by another hand, is that he was a more or less legendary individual, whose very existence at the date usually assigned to him, 7th and 6th centuries B.C., is altogether doubtful. Scattered among these biographies are a few notices of frontier nations; e.g. of the terrible nomads known as the Hsiung-nu, whose identity with the Huns has now been placed beyond a doubt.

Ssŭ-ma Ch‘ien’s great work, on which he laboured for so many vears and which ran to five hundred and twenty-six thousand five hundred words, has been described somewhat at length for the following reason. It has been accepted as the model for all subsequent dynastic histories, of which twenty-four have now been published, the whole being produced in 1747 in a uniform edition, bound up (in the Cambridge Library) in two hundred and nineteen large volumes. Each dynasty has found its historian in the dynasty which supplanted it; and each dynastic history is notable for the extreme fairness with which the conquerors have dealt with the vanquished, accepting without demur such records of their predecessors as were available from official sources. The T‘ang dynasty, A.D. 618-906, offers in one sense a curious exception to the general rule. It possesses two histories, both included in the above series. The first of these, now known as the Old T‘ang History, was ultimately set aside as inaccurate and inadequate, and a New T‘ang History was compiled by Ou-yang Hsiu, a distinguished scholar, poet and statesman of the 11th century. Nevertheless, in all cases, the scheme of the dynastic history has, with certain modifications, been that which was initiated in the 1st century B.C. by Ssŭ-ma Ch‘ien.

The output of history, however, does not begin and end with the voluminous records above referred to, one of which, it should be mentioned, was in great part the work of a woman. History has always been a favourite study with the Chinese, The Mirror of History. and innumerable histories of a non-official character, long and short, complete and partial, political and constitutional, have been showered from age to age upon the Chinese reading world. Space would fail for the mere mention of a tithe of such works; but there is one which stands out among the rest and is especially enshrined in the hearts of the Chinese people. This is the T‘ung Chien, or Mirror of History, so called because “to view antiquity as though in a mirror is an aid in the administration of government.” It was the work of a statesman of the 11th century, whose name, by a coincidence, was Ssŭ-ma Kuang. He had been forced to retire from office, and spent nearly all the last sixteen years of his life in historical research. The Mirror of History embraces a period from the 5th century B.C. down to A.D. 960. It is written in a picturesque style; but the arrangement was found to be unsuited to the systematic study of history. Accordingly, it was subjected to revision, and was to a great extent reconstructed by Chu Hsi, the famous commentator, who flourished A.D. 1130-1200, and whose work is now regarded as the standard history of China.

Biography.—In regard to biography, the student is by no means limited to the dynastic histories. Many huge biographical collections have been compiled and published by private individuals, and many lives of the same personages have often been written from different points of view. There is nothing very much by which a Chinese biography can be distinguished from biographies produced in other parts of the world. The Chinese writer always begins with the place of birth, but he is not so particular about the year, sometimes leaving that to be gathered from the date of death taken in connexion with the age which the person may have attained. Some allusion is usually made to ancestry, and the steps of an official career, upward by promotion or downward by disgrace, are also carefully noted.

Geography and Travel.—There is a considerable volume of

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