Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 80.djvu/27

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SCIENCE AMONG THE CHINESE

China to-day, not counting, of course, the few who thus far have been strongly influenced by western learning.

2. The Ether.—In the writings of these five worthies. Dr. Martin finds evidence (as exhibited in his "Lore of Cathay") that the doctrine of an all-pervading medium was familiar to the Chinese a thousand years ago, possibly even in the "Book of Changes," 1100 b.c., and that it was a full-fledged doctrine in several writers of the eleventh century A.D., who ascribed to this ether all the properties at present claimed for it except its electric and magnetic manifestations.

Here are some of the passages which bear on this point:

Chang (in "Cheng Meng," or "Right Discipline for Youth"): The immensity of space, though called the great void, is net void. It is filled with a subtle substance. In fact there is no such thing as a vacuum. . . . Within the immensity of space matter is alternately concentrated and dissipated, much as ice is congealed or dissolved in water. . . . The great void is filled with a pure or perfect fluid. Since it is perfectly fluid, it offers no obstruction to movement. There being no obstruction (i. e., nothing to bring about a change of state) a divine force converts the pure into the gross.

3. Wave Theory of Light.—In another place, according to Dr. Martin, we read: "The primal essence moved, and light was born;" and he says that the idea of vibrations was also grasped. In this he sees a forecast of the modern undulatory theory of light.

4. Vortex Theory of Matter.—In the work of Chou Dr. Martin thinks we may discern the forerunner of the modern vortex theory of the constitution of matter. Chou devised a diagram of cosmogony, consisting of a ring, or circle, of uniform whiteness, representing the primitive medium surrounded by a ring partly dark, which shows the original substances differentiated into the two forms or forces—yin and yang. Chu Hi, speaking of this diagram says:" It shows how the primitive forces grind back and forth like millstones, in opposite directions, and the resulting detritus from their friction is what we call matter."

But when we read in the context of the two writers concerning these two principles—yin and yang—and follow them in their absurd ramblings of fancy, it seems unwarrantable to suggest that the language of these selected sentences anticipates the idea of Lord Kelvin and leading present-day scientists.

5. Conservation of Energy.—Dr. Martin also claims that these Chinese thinkers apprehended with great clearness the doctrine of the Conservation of Energy, though they failed to fortify it by systematic induction. In the writings of one of the Cheng brothers there is this passage: "Body in motion is force. Its contact with another is followed by a reaction or effect. This effect, in turn, acts as a force producing another effect, and so on without end." "Here," he adds," is a vast subject for the 'student of philosophy.' "But alas! Chinese" students