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This is perhaps the most rational theory of cosmogony the pages of Chima have been able to furnish. The orthodox creed taken froni the Yih King, teaches nothing but absurd inaterialism. “Heaven operates, earth produces, and all things come into existence, &c." Le-isze tells us, that “all that has shape, heaven and earth included, was produced by something shapeless, and that the visible world was produced by successive revolutions."
The Woo Yun leih-neën Ke is still more curious in its theory. “When the primeval vapors and ether germinated, there was a commencement of things; heaven and earth were separated; the male and female principles canie into existence; the yang scattered the primeval ether, the yin conceived, and inan was produced by their union. The first-born was Pwaukoo. At the approach of death, his body was transformed; his breath was changed into wind and clouds ; his voice into thunder ; his left eye into the siln; and his right into the moon ; his limbs became the four regions (poles); his blood and serum, rivers; his sinews and arteries, the earth's surface; his flesh, fields; his beard, the stars; his skin and hair, herbs and trees; his teeth and bones, metals and rocks; his fine marrow, pearls and precious stones; his dropping sweat, rain; and the insects which stuck to his body became people!"
Our readers will be weary of such nonsense, and we omit various other remarks of the sages respecting Pwankou. Nor will we trespass upon their patience by giving a detailed account of this mythological era. Philosophers, a little niore rational, divide this period into ten decades, which are distinguished by the names of the emperors, who, they say, then ruled the world. Yet they say that China became at a very early period, an empire not unlike what it is at present. Long before the time of Adam, there were acadeinies and observatories; and the political constitution of the country was so well defived, and so perfect, that very little room remained for improvement !
We cordially agree with Yangisze in his opinion respecting these remote periods, when he says, “Who knows the affairs of remote afiliquity, since no authentic records have come down to us? He who examines these stories, will find it difficult to believe them, and careful scrutiny will convince him that they are without foundation. In the primeval ages no historical records were kept. Why then, since the ancient bonks that described those times were burnt by the first emperor of the Tsiu dynasty, slivuld we misrepresent those remote ayes, and satisfy ourselves with vagnie fables? But as everything (heaven and earth excepted) inust have a beginuing and a cause; it is clear that heaven and earth always existed, and that all sorts of men and beings were produced and endowed with their varions qualities (by that cause). But it must have been man, who in the beriuning produced all things (on earth), and whom we may therefore view as the lord. It is from hiin that rulers derive their dignities."
As long as Yanytsze endeavors to refute the opinions of others, he is ration, but when he would establish his own theory, lie falls into the very sale errors for thichi le condims them.
O, that we 112y
learn to prize more highly the revelation of our God, and be the more thankful for this precious gift, when we see the greatest philosophers, while left without this Divine light, groping in darkness, and able to utter nothing better than absurdities and contradictions !
On examining the writings of various Chinese philosophers who have written respecting this period, we find them by no means inferior to their Grecian contemporaries. But they have less imaginile tion, and therefore do not succeed so well in making the creations of their own fancy pass off as well founded theories. All they aim at in respect to style, is to express their thoughts in quaint, measured language, and the reader often finds no small difficulty in understanding their speculations. Instead of allowing that common mortals had any part in the affairs of the world, they speak only of the emperors who then reigned. They represent them as the sources froin which the whole order of things enanated, and other antedilue vians as mere puppets, who moved at the pleasure of the autocrit. This is truly Chinese. The whole nation is represented by the enperor and absorbed in him. It is considered as the material of which lie is the manufacturer, by whose agency it is to be formed for use. If we view Chinese history from this point, and always remember that this is the leading principle which pervades all the writings of Chinese historians, we shall be able to enter more fully into the spirit of their narrations.
There is a great deal of confusion in the history of the times preceding Yaou and Shun (about 2259 B.c.). The great improvements m.ide by Fuhhe, Shinnung, aud Hwangte, the first of whoin reigned about 2330 B C., precluded the possibility of any further beneficial changes in the government: nevertheless, Yanu was not only a refurmer, but the founder of a new order of things! Did the deluge mentioned in the Shoo King sweep away the inhabitants of Chin:1, so that nothing but jungle covered the ground, and a few new settlers from the west contest the possession of the wilderness with the wild beasts? There was surely nothing left, when Yaou caine upin ihe stage, of the high state of civilization attributed to the nation before the flood. They were ball savages, almost entirely ignorant of the arts of civilized life. Yaou does not appear to have known that the people were forinerly in so flourishing a state. He has to invent frir thein the necessary arts, and to goad them into the practice of them. Whether he is a fictitious character or not, he is represented as have ing followed those principles of government which every man of sound judgment must approve.
His discourses to his statesmen, which wie doubtless the production of Confucius, are short and energetic, but so obscure that they often leave the reader to guess their import. Many puissages can be explained in different ways, and a look at the pona dírous volumes of comments will convince any one that the interpretation depends in a great degree upon the fancy of the reader. Yet from this work Chinese writers generally have copied continually, and they regard it to this day as containing the quintessence of all their wisdom.
'l'he dynasties of Heä, Shang, and Chow, which continued from the time of Yanu till the year 255 B.C., are described as having been very similar in their leading features. Their history, except the latter part of the Chow dynasty, was written by the prince of literature, Confucius. He had surely no inventive mind; his thoughts are unifirm, and his discourses always aim at the same point. Had he permilled others to think for theinselves, Chinese genius, naturally vigorous, night have been as varied in its developments, as that of other nations; but Yaou and Shun are his constant theine, and all his philosophical followers seem to know nobody else but Yaou and Shun.
The mass of historical materials relating to this long period is very great. Many of the writers deserve more credit than their great predecessor ; they show a better acquaintance with the human heart, and have made their histories more interesting. But who can equal the peerless Confucius? We might as well expect a Tacitus to appear in England, or a Thucydides in Germany.' 'The Chow dynasty occupies the attention of these writers more than any other, on account of its longer continuance, and its having been the age
sages, and its greater proximity to their own time, and the change which succeeded it, in the establishment of despotism on the ruins of feudalisın. There is certainly more that is valuable to be found in the Chinese records than in the annals of ancient Egypt, and to obtain it, we are not obliged to waste our time and patience in deciphering hieroglyphics, but may read it in a language, which with a few alterations is spoken at the present time. Translations will be sure to fail of expressing the beauty of the original, and will disgust the reader. We wish particularly to recommend for examination the Kwó-yu and the Yeih She, two works of high renown among the Chinese; the former for its classical beauties, and the latter for the extensive information it gives upon every subject relating to Chinese history and literature. The compiler of the Yeih She has shown an excellent taste; his selections from all the most celebrated ancient authors are very appropriate, and throw much light upon the literature of China.
Che Hwangte, who is so generally hated by the Chinese historians, was endowed with a vigorous mind, and was far superior to any of his predecessors. But his ruling passion was a love for conquest and glory, to which he sacrificed the welfare of the nation. Had his talents and resolution been guided by better principles, he might have renovated China, and placed the nation on an equality with Persia, Greece, or Rome. The princes of the Han dynasties were almost continually engaged in feuds. But Chinese genius was not then extinct; it produced works which have been the wonder of all the succeeding ages. There is a surprising number of historical works, which narrate the events of those times with more minuteness than the best Grecian historians do the transactions of their country. It would require years to peruse thena all, but the most important part of their contents may be found in the works of various compilers, who have extracted from, and abridged these original writers.
T'he succeeding reigns, down to the time of the 'Tang dynasty, comprise perhaps the least interesting period of Chinese history. But if we have patience to trace the feuds of Greece and Rome, we cannot well complain of the trouble of exainining the annals of China, which are very similar, and furnish information of at least equal value. A very erroneous idea has generally been entertained respecting this nation. We have been led to consider them the most peaceful people in the world, and to suppose that they have enzjoyed a state of almost uninterrupted tranquillity for ages. On the contrary, they have been as quarrelsorne as any other people on earth. Their battles have been as sanguinary as any wbich history recorils. But they have excelled rather in butchering without mercy quished enemies, and in plundering and laying waste the districts tiey have conquered, than in hard fought battles. We find, therefore, few examples of real heroism, but many instances of inhuman cruelty.
The struggle against the Tartar hordes on the north and west became very violent during the Tang and Sung dynasties, and ended in the submission of the whole of China to the Mongols about A.D. 1230. This period is highly interesting. Chinese writers have dwelt much upon the reigns of the emperors who held the throne during these times of cominotion, and we find in their works abundant materials for a history of this period. But for composing a history of the Mongol dynasty, we ought to have recourse to foreign helps, as the Chinese writers say comparatively little respecting it. They consider the family which then reigned as usurpers, sprung from the barbarians who first laid waste the Celestial Empire, and then trampled the flowery nation' under foot. Kublai, however, has his biographers and historians among the Chinese, but none of them equal Marco Polo, the Venetian traveler, in the interest of their narratives.
To make ourselves acquainted with the Ming dynasty, the Chinese can afford us one work of more than 60 volumes; but there are few collateral writers. It is a remarkable fact, that during the time the pinces of the Tang and Sung dynasties reigned, literature, which Was almost extinct in Europe, Aourished in China ; and that when it revived in Europe in the 15th century, it began to decline in this empire.
The Chinese dare not yet publish their observations upon the present dynasty. But this is a leaden age, and little can be expected from the emperor's privileged historians. The Roman Catholic mission. aries have given us much valuable information, but we have to regret that they are tedious and partial. Augustus himself could never have found better panegyrists, than Kanghe, Yungching and Keënlung, have found in these foreigners. The first of these emperors deserved high encomiums, though not so high as the Jesuits bestowed upon
but the two latter did little to justify the praises they received. The Chinese work, 'Tung-hwa Luh, which continues a dry narrative of events down to the time of Yungching, has very little to recommend it, and only exists in manuscript. No depth of thought, no sagacity of remark, adorns its pages; it is a fair specimen of the interior literature of the present time.
We subjiin a list of some of the most celebrated Chinese bistorians. Confucius wrote the Shoo King and the Chun Tsew. The former is a history of the reigns of Yaou and the succeeding emperors: the lalter is an account of his own times, and though written expressly to reform the manners of the age, it is the least interesting of all Chinese history. Szeina Tseën, who lived a little before the commenceinent of the Christian era, holds the next place among the historians of China. He deserves to be called the Father of Chinese history; the annals compiled by hiin embrace the whole period between the time of Hwangte and that of the Tsin dynasty. The first Tsin dynasty obtained supremacy about 221 B.c.; the other 'Tsìn, about A.D. 280.
Koo E completed the history of the Isìn dynasıy; while Tung Chung-shoo composed a biography of sages, and Lew lleäng a history of celebrated wonen. Pan Pew composed a history of the Western Han dynasty; but having died before its completion, the finishing hand was put to it by his sister Pan Chaou. Fuh Yen wrote another history of the same dynasty. Lew Chin wrote biographies of ministers of state; Ying Shaou wrote upon the customs and usages of his time; and Wán Ying published a work of 132 volumes upon the history of the Western Han dynasty. Soo Lin wrote an equally voluminous work upon the same subject. Wei Chaou wrote a history of the Woo state, and Yu Fan composed the Kwo-yu, a commentary upon history. All these writers lived in the time of the Han dynasties.
In the time of the next dynasty, a history of the San Kwo, or Three States succeeding Han, was ably written by Chin Show, while Hwa Keaou wrote the ‘Annals of Han.' We have also a particular history of the Wei state, which together with the Woo state mentioned above, arose in the last days of the Han dynasty; and a system of chronology written about the same time by Lew Paou. Kwo Po, a very celebrated character, furnished his countrymen with a history completed by Szema Seäng-joo. Wang Yin wrote a History of the Tsin dynasty in 90 volumes, and Seih Iso-che composed a work of 54 volumes upon the Tsīn and Han dynasties. Several others wrote upon the same periods with more or less success. This long list of writers all lived under the Tsin dynasty.
Seay Lingyun wrote a complete history of the last named dynasty, while Shin Yo wrote upon both the T'sìn and Sung dynasties, and Low Chaou undertook a history of the Former Han, which bad already employd the pen of so many writers, and composed a work of 180 volumes.
The several dynasties which held the throne of China, each for a short period between the time of the 'Tsìn and Tang dynasties, were not very full of able historians. When the Tang dynasty came to the throne, literature again began to revive. Wei Ching, Chang Sun, Woo Ko, Linghoo Tih-fun, and Le Yenshow, composed voluminous histories of the period immediately preceding that of the Tang dynasty. Lew Che-ke, a very learned man, wrote a general history of his nation in 49 voluines, and Le Tin-yu wrote upon the favorite subject of the lan dynasty,