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Page:History of Architecture in All Countries Vol 1.djvu/125

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Bk. I. Ch. I.
93
INTRODUCTORY.

which have recently been discovered in the secret recesses of these tombs; nothing more wonderfullv truthful and realistic has been done since that time, till the invention of photography, and even that can hardly represent a man with such unflattering truthfulness as these old colored terra-cotta portraits of the sleek rich men of the pyramid period.

Wonderful as all this maturity of art may be when found at so early a period, the problem becomes still more perplexing when we again ask ourselves how long a people must have lived and recorded their experience before they came to realize and aspire to an eternity such as the building of these pyramids shows that they sacrificed everything to attain. One of their great aims was to preserve the body intact for 8000 years, in order that the soul might again be united with it when the day of judgment arrived. But what taught them to contemplate such periods of time with confidence, and, stranger still, how did they learn to realize so daring an aspiration?

Nor is our wonder less when we ask ourselves how it happened that such a people became so thoroughly organized at that early age as to be willing to undertake the greatest architectural works the world has since seen, in honor of one man from among themselves? A king without an army, and with no claim, so far as we can see, to such an honor beyond the common consent of all, which could hardly have been obtained except by the title of long inherited services acknowledged by the community at large.

It would be difficult to find any other example which so fully illustrates the value of architecture as a mode of writing history as this. It is possible there may have been nations as old and as early civilized as the Egyptians: but they were not builders, and their memory is lost. It is to their architecture alone that we owe the preservation of what we know of this old people. And it is the knowledge so obtained that adds such interest to the study of their art.


In the present state of our knowledge it may seem an idle speculation to suggest that the Egyptian and Chinese are two fragments of one great primordial race, widely separated now by the irruption of other Turanian and Aryan races between them; but this at least is certain, that in manners and customs, in arts and polity, in religion and civilization, these two people more closely resemble one another than any other two nations which have existed since, even when avowedly of similar race and living in proximity to one another.

At the earliest period at which Chinese history open upon us, we find the same amount of civilization maintaining itself utterly unprogressively to the present day. The same peaceful industry and agricultural wealth accompanied by the same outwardly pleasing domestic relations and apparent content. The same exceptional mode of