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LITERATURE]
227
CHINA

in considerable numbers; but almost all of them have given their attention to textual criticism of the Confucian Canon, and few have condescended to examine critically the works of heterodox writers. The foreign student therefore finds himself faced with many knotty points he is entirely unable to solve.

Of Wang Ch‘ung, a speculative and materialistic philosopher, A.D. 27-97, banned by the orthodox for his attacks on Confucius and Mencius, only one work has survived. it consists of eighty-four essays on such topics as the nature of Wang Ch‘ung. things, destiny, divination, death, ghosts, poisons, miracles, criticisms of Confucius and Mencius, exaggeration, sacrifice and exorcism. According to Wang Ch‘ung, man, endowed at birth sometimes with a good and sometimes with an evil nature, is informed with a vital fluid, which resides in the blood and is nourished by eating and drinking, its two functions being to animate the body and keep in order the mind. It is the source of all sensation, passing through the blood like a wave. When it reaches the eyes, ears and mouth, the result is sight, hearing and speech respectively. Disturbance of the vital fluid leads to insanity. Without the fluid, the body cannot be maintained; without the body, the fluid loses its vitality. Therefore, argues Wang Ch‘ung, when the body perishes and the fluid loses its vitality, each being dependent on the other, there remains nothing for immortality in a life beyond the grave. Ghosts he held to be the hallucinations of disordered minds, and miracles to be natural phenomena capable of simple explanations. His indictments of Confucius and Mencius are not of a serious character; though, as regards the former, it must be borne in mind that the Chinese people will not suffer the faintest aspersion on the fair fame of their great Sage. It is related in the Lun Yü that Confucius paid a visit to the notoriously immoral wife of one of the feudal nobles, and that a certain disciple was “displeased” in consequence, whereupon the Master swore, saying, “If I have done any wrong, may the sky fall and crush me!” Wang Ch‘ung points out that the form of oath adopted by Confucius is unsatisfactory and fails to carry conviction. Had he said, “May I be struck dead by lightning!” his sincerity would have been more powerfully attested, because people are often struck dead by lightning; whereas the fall of the sky is too remote a contingency, such a thing never having been known to happen within the memory of man. As to Mencius, there is a passage in his works which states that a thread of predestination runs through all human life, and that those who accommodate themselves will come off better in the end than those who try to oppose; it is in fact a statement of the οὐκ ὑπὲρ μόρον principle. On this Wang Ch‘ung remarks that the will of God is consequently made to depend on human actions; and he further strengthens his objection by showing that the best men have often fared worst. For instance, Confucius never became emperor; Pi Kan, the patriot, was disembowelled; the bold and faithful disciple, Tzŭ Lu, was chopped into small pieces.

But the tale of Chinese philosophers is a long one. It is a department of literature in which the leading scholars of all ages have mostly had something to say. The great Chu Hsi, A.D. 1130-1200, whose fame is chiefly perhaps that of a Book of Changes. commentator and whose monument is his uniform exegesis of the Confucian Canon, was also a voluminous writer on philosophy. He took a hand in the mystery which surrounds the I Ching (or Yih King), generally known as the Book of Changes, which is held by some to be the oldest Chinese work and which forms part of the Confucian Canon. It is ascribed to King Wên, the virtual founder of the Chou dynasty, 1122-249 B.C., whose son became the first sovereign and posthumously raised his father to kingly rank. It contains a fanciful system of divination, deduced originally from eight diagrams consisting of triplet combinations of a line and a broken line, either one of which is necessarily repeated twice, and in two cases three times, in the same combination. Thus there may be three lines ☰, or three broken lines ☷, and other such combinations as ☲ and ☴. Confucius declared that he would like to give another fifty years to the elucidation of this puzzling text. Shao Yung, A.D. 1011-1077, sought the key in numbers: Ch‘êng I., A.D. 1033-1107, in the eternal fitness of things. “But Chu Hsi alone,” says a writer of the 17th century, “was able to pierce through the meaning and appropriate the thoughts of the inspired man who composed it.” No foreigner, however, has been able quite to understand what Chu Hsi did make of it, and several have gone so far as to set all native interpretations aside in favour of their own. Thus, the I Ching has been discovered by one to be a calendar of the lunar year; by another, to contain a system of phallic worship; and by a third, to be a vocabulary of the language of a tribe, whose very existence had to be postulated for the purpose.

Political Economy.—This department of literature has been by no means neglected by Chinese writers. So early as the 7th century B.C. we find Kuan Chung, the prime minister of the Ch‘i state, devoting his attention to economic problems, and thereby Kuan Chung. making that state the wealthiest and the strongest of all the feudal kingdoms. Beginning life as a merchant, he passed into the public service, and left behind him at death a large work, parts of which, as we now possess it, may possibly have come direct from his own hand, the remainder being written up at a later date in accordance with the principles he inculcated. His ideal State was divided into twenty-one parts, fifteen of which were allotted to officials and agriculturists, and six to manufacturers and traders. His great idea was to make his own state self-contained; and accordingly he fostered agriculture in order to be independent in time of war, and manufactures in order to increase his country’s wealth in time of peace. He held that a purely agricultural population would always remain poor; while a purely manufacturing population would risk having its supplies of raw material cut off in time of war. He warmly encouraged free imports as a means of enriching his countrymen, trusting to their ability, under these conditions, to hold their own against foreign competition. He protected capital, in the sense that he considered capitalists to be necessary for the development of commerce in time of peace, and for the protection of the state in time of war.

Mencius (see above) was in favour of heavily taxing merchants who tried to engross for the purpose of regrating, that is, to buy up wholesale for the purpose of retailing at monopoly prices; he was in fact opposed to all trusts and corners in trade. He was in favour of a tax to be imposed upon such persons as were mere consumers, living upon property which had been amassed by others and doing no work themselves. No tax, however, was to be exacted from property-owners who contributed by their personal efforts to the general welfare of the community. The object of the tax was not revenue, but the prevention of idleness with its attendant evil consequences to the state.

Wang An-shih, the Reformer, or Innovator, as he has been called, flourished A.D. 1021-1086. In 1069 he was appointed state councillor, and forthwith entered upon a series of startling reforms which have given him a unique position in the annals of Wang An-shih. China. He established a state monopoly in commerce, under which the produce of a district was to be used first for the payment of taxes, then for the direct use of the district itself, and the remainder was to be purchased by the government at a cheap rate, either to be held until there was a rise in price, or to be transported to some other district in need of it. The people were to profit by fixity of prices and escape from further taxation; and the government, by the revenue accruing in the process of administration. There was also to be a system of state advances to cultivators of land; not merely to the needy, but to all alike. The loan was to be compulsory, and interest was to be paid on it at the rate of 2% per month. The soil was to be divided into equal areas and taxed according to its fertility in each case, without reference to the number of inhabitants contained in each area. All these, and other important reforms, failed to find favour with a rigidly conservative people, and Wang An-shih lived long enough to see the whole of his policy reversed.

Military Writers.—Not much, relatively speaking, has been written by the Chinese on war in general, strategy or tactics. There is, however, one very remarkable work which has come down to us from the 6th century B.C., as to the genuineness of Sun-Tzŭ. which there now seems to be no reasonable doubt. A biographical notice of the author, Sun Wu, is given in the Shih Chi (see above), from which we learn that “he knew how to handle an army, and was finally appointed General.” His work, entitled the Art of War, is a short treatise in thirteen chapters, under the following headings: “Laying Plans,” “Waging War,” “Attack by Stratagem,” “Tactical Dispositions,” “Energy,” “Weak Points and Strong,” “Manœuvring,” “Variation of Tactics,” “The Army on the March,” “Terrain,” “The Nine Situations,” “The Attack by Fire,” and “The Use of Spies.” Although the warfare of Sun Wu’s day was the warfare of bow and arrow, of armoured chariots and push of pike, certain principles inseparably associated with successful issue will be found enunciated in his work. Professor Mackail, in his Latin Literature (p. 86), declares that Varro’s Imagines was “the first instance in history of the publication of an illustrated book.” But reference to the Art Section of the history of the Western Han dynasty, 206 B.C.-A.D. 25, will disclose the title of fifteen or sixteen illustrated books, one of which is Sun Wu’s Art of War.

Agriculture.—In spite of the high place accorded to agriculturists, who rank second only to officials and before artisans and traders, and in spite of the assiduity with which agriculture has been practised in all ages, securing immunity from slaughter for the ploughing ox—what agricultural literature the Chinese possess may be said to belong entirely to modern times. Ch‘ên Fu of the 12th century A.D. was the author of a small work in three parts, dealing with agriculture, cattle-breeding and silkworms respectively. There is also a well-known work by an artist of the early 13th century, with forty-six woodcuts illustrating the various operations of agriculture and weaving. This book was reprinted under the emperor K‘ang Hsi, 1662-1723, and new illustrations with excellent perspective were provided by Chiao Ping-chên, an artist who had adopted foreign methods as introduced by the famous Jesuit, Matteo Ricci. The standard work on agriculture, Hsü Kuang-ch‘i. entitled Nung Chêng Ch‘üan Shu, was compiled by Hsü Kuang-ch‘i, 1562-1634, generally regarded as the only influential member of the mandarinate who has ever become a convert to Christianity. It is in sixty sections, the first three of which are devoted to classical references. Then follow two sections on the division of land, six on the processes of husbandry, none on hydraulics, four on agricultural implements, six on planting, six on rearing silkworms, four on trees, one on breeding animals, one on food and eighteen on provision against a time of scarcity.