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Title: A History of Chinese Literature
Author: Giles, Herbert A.
Language: English
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*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A History of Chinese Literature" ***

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Transcriber's Note

Italic text is indicated by _underscores_. Non-italic text in italic
blocks is marked by ~swung dashes~.







  COPYRIGHT, 1901,

  Printed in the United States of America


This is the first attempt made in any language, including Chinese, to
produce a history of Chinese literature.

Native scholars, with their endless critiques and appreciations of
individual works, do not seem ever to have contemplated anything of the
kind, realising, no doubt, the utter hopelessness, from a Chinese point
of view, of achieving even comparative success in a general historical
survey of the subject. The voluminous character of a literature which
was already in existence some six centuries before the Christian era,
and has run on uninterruptedly until the present date, may well have
given pause to writers aiming at completeness. The foreign student,
however, is on a totally different footing. It may be said without
offence that a work which would be inadequate to the requirements of
a native public, may properly be submitted to English readers as an
introduction into the great field which lies beyond.

Acting upon the suggestion of Mr. Gosse, to whom I am otherwise
indebted for many valuable hints, I have devoted a large portion of
this book to translation, thus enabling the Chinese author, so far as
translation will allow, to speak for himself. I have also added, here
and there, remarks by native critics, that the reader may be able to
form an idea of the point of view from which the Chinese judge their
own productions.

It only remains to be stated that the translations, with the exception
of a few passages from Legge’s “Chinese Classics,” in each case duly
acknowledged, are my own.





  CHAP.                                                              PAGE

  II. CONFUCIUS--THE FIVE CLASSICS                                      7
  III. THE FOUR BOOKS--MENCIUS                                         32
  IV. MISCELLANEOUS WRITERS                                            43
  V. POETRY--INSCRIPTIONS                                              50
  VI. TAOISM--THE “TAO-TÊ-CHING”                                       56

  (B.C. 200-A.D. 200)

        WRITERS                                                        77
  II. POETRY                                                           97
  III. HISTORY--LEXICOGRAPHY                                          102
  IV. BUDDHISM                                                        110


  I. POETRY--MISCELLANEOUS LITERATURE                                 119
  II. CLASSICAL SCHOLARSHIP                                           137


  I. POETRY                                                           143
  II. CLASSICAL AND GENERAL LITERATURE                                189


  I. THE INVENTION OF BLOCK-PRINTING                                  209
  III. POETRY                                                         232

  (A.D. 1200-1368)

  I. MISCELLANEOUS LITERATURE--POETRY                                 247
  II. THE DRAMA                                                       256
  III. THE NOVEL                                                      276

  (A.D. 1368-1644)

        AGRICULTURE                                                   291
  II. NOVELS AND PLAYS                                                309
  III. POETRY                                                         329

  (A.D. 1644-1900)

  I. THE “LIAO CHAI”--THE “HUNG LOU MÊNG”                             337
  II. THE EMPERORS K’ANG HSI AND CH’IEN LUNG                          385
        MAXIMS                                                        425

  BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE                                                441

  INDEX                                                               443


_THE FEUDAL PERIOD_ (B.C. 600-200)



The date of the beginning of all things has been nicely calculated by
Chinese chronologers. There was first of all a period when Nothing
existed, though some enthusiasts have attempted to deal with a period
antecedent even to that. Gradually Nothing took upon itself the form
and limitations of Unity, represented by a point at the centre of
a circle. Thus there was a Great Monad, a First Cause, an Aura, a
Zeitgeist, or whatever one may please to call it.

After countless ages, spent apparently in doing nothing, this Monad
split into Two Principles, one active, the other passive; one
positive, the other negative; light and darkness; male and female. The
interaction of these Two Principles resulted in the production of all
things, as we see them in the universe around us, 2,269,381 years ago.
Such is the cosmogony of the Chinese in a nutshell.

The more sober Chinese historians, however, are content to begin with a
sufficiently mythical emperor, who reigned only 2800 years before the
Christian era. The practice of agriculture, the invention of wheeled
vehicles, and the simpler arts of early civilisation are generally
referred to this period; but to the dispassionate European student it
is a period of myth and legend: in fact, we know very little about
it. Neither do we know much, in the historical sense, of the numerous
rulers whose names and dates appear in the chronology of the succeeding
two thousand years. It is not indeed until we reach the eighth century
B.C. that anything like history can be said to begin.

For reasons which will presently be made plain, the sixth century
B.C. is a convenient starting-point for the student of Chinese

[Sidenote: FEUDALISM]

China was then confined to a comparatively small area, lying for the
most part between the Yellow River on the north and the river Yang-tsze
on the south. No one knows where the Chinese came from. Some hold the
fascinating theory that they were emigrants from Accadia in the ancient
kingdom of Babylonia; others have identified them with the lost tribes
of Israel. No one seems to think they can possibly have originated in
the fertile plains where they are now found. It appears indeed to be
an ethnological axiom that every race must have come from somewhere
outside its own territory. However that may be, the China of the eighth
century B.C. consisted of a number of Feudal States, ruled by nobles
owning allegiance to a Central State, at the head of which was a king.
The outward tokens of subjection were homage and tribute; but after
all, the allegiance must have been more nominal than real, each State
being practically an independent kingdom. This condition of things
was the cause of much mutual jealousy, and often of bloody warfare,
several of the States hating one another quite as cordially as Athens
and Sparta at their best.

There was, notwithstanding, considerable physical civilisation in the
ancient States of those early days. Their citizens, when not employed
in cutting each other’s throats, enjoyed a reasonable security of life
and property. They lived in well-built houses; they dressed in silk
or homespun; they wore shoes of leather; they carried umbrellas; they
sat on chairs and used tables; they rode in carts and chariots; they
travelled by boat; and they ate their food off plates and dishes of
pottery, coarse perhaps, yet still superior to the wooden trencher
common not so very long ago in Europe. They measured time by the
sundial, and in the Golden Age they had the two famous calendar trees,
representations of which have come down to us in sculpture, dating
from about A.D. 150. One of these trees put forth a leaf every day for
fifteen days, after which a leaf fell off daily for fifteen more days.
The other put forth a leaf once a month for half a year, after which a
leaf fell off monthly for a similar period. With these trees growing in
the courtyard, it was possible to say at a glance what was the day of
the month, and what was the month of the year. But civilisation proved
unfavourable to their growth, and the species became extinct.

In the sixth century B.C. the Chinese were also in possession
of a written language, fully adequate to the most varied expression of
human thought, and indeed almost identical with their present script,
allowing, among other things, for certain modifications of form brought
about by the substitution of paper and a camel’s-hair brush for the
bamboo tablet and stylus of old. The actual stages by which that point
was reached are so far unknown to us. China has her Cadmus in the
person of a prehistoric individual named Ts’ang Chieh, who is said to
have had four eyes, and to have taken the idea of a written language
from the markings of birds’ claws upon the sand. Upon the achievement
of his task the sky rained grain and evil spirits mourned by night.
Previous to this mankind had no other system than rude methods of
knotting cords and notching sticks for noting events or communicating
with one another at a distance.

As to the origin of the written language of China, invention is
altogether out of the question. It seems probable that in prehistoric
ages, the Chinese, like other peoples, began to make rude pictures of
the sun, moon, and stars, of man himself, of trees, of fire, of rain,
and they appear to have followed these up by ideograms of various
kinds. How far they went in this direction we can only surmise. There
are comparatively few obviously pictorial characters and ideograms
to be found even in the script of two thousand years ago; but
investigations carried on for many years by Mr. L. C. Hopkins, H.M.
Consul, Chefoo, and now approaching completion, point more and more
to the fact that the written language will some day be recognised as
systematically developed from pictorial symbols. It is, at any rate,
certain that at a very early date subsequent to the legendary period
of “knotted cords” and “notches,” while the picture-symbols were still
comparatively few, some master-mind reached at a bound the phonetic
principle, from which point the rapid development of a written language
such as we now find would be an easy matter.




In B.C. 551 CONFUCIUS was born. He may be regarded as the founder of
Chinese literature. During his years of office as a Government servant
and his years of teaching and wandering as an exile, he found time
to rescue for posterity certain valuable literary fragments of great
antiquity, and to produce at least one original work of his own.
It is impossible to assert that before his time there was anything
in the sense of what we understand by the term general literature.
The written language appears to have been used chiefly for purposes
of administration. Many utterances, however, of early, not to say
legendary, rulers had been committed to writing at one time or another,
and such of these as were still extant were diligently collected and
edited by Confucius, forming what is now known as the _Shu Ching_ or
Book of History. The documents of which this work is composed are
said to have been originally one hundred in all, and they cover a
period extending from the twenty-fourth to the eighth century B.C.
They give us glimpses of an age earlier than that of Confucius, if not
actually so early as is claimed. The first two, for instance, refer to
the Emperors Yao and Shun, whose reigns, extending from B.C. 2357 to
2205, are regarded as the Golden Age of China. We read how the former
monarch “united the various parts of his domain in bonds of peace, so
that concord reigned among the black-haired people.” He abdicated in
favour of Shun, who is described as being profoundly wise, intelligent,
and sincere. We are further told that Shun was chosen because of his
great filial piety, which enabled him to live in harmony with an
unprincipled father, a shifty stepmother, and an arrogant half-brother,
and, moreover, to effect by his example a comparative reformation of
their several characters.

We next come to a very famous personage, who founded the Hsia dynasty
in B.C. 2205, and is known as the Great Yü. It was he who, during the
reign of the Emperor Shun, successfully coped with a devastating flood,
which has been loosely identified with the Noachic Deluge, and in
reference to which it was said in the _Tso Chuan_, “How grand was the
achievement of Yü, how far-reaching his glorious energy! But for Yü we
should all have been fishes.” The following is his own account (Legge’s

“The inundating waters seemed to assail the heavens, and in their vast
extent embraced the mountains and overtopped the hills, so that people
were bewildered and overwhelmed. I mounted my four conveyances (carts,
boats, sledges, and spiked shoes), and all along the hills hewed down
the woods, at the same time, along with Yi, showing the multitudes how
to get flesh to eat. I opened passages for the streams throughout the
nine provinces, and conducted them to the sea. I deepened the channels
and canals, and conducted them to the streams, at the same time, along
with Chi, sowing grain, and showing the multitudes how to procure
the food of toil in addition to flesh meat. I urged them further to
exchange what they had for what they had not, and to dispose of their
accumulated stores. In this way all the people got grain to eat, and
all the States began to come under good rule.”

A small portion of the Book of History is in verse:--

  “_The people should be cherished,
  And should not be downtrodden.
  The people are the root of a country,
  And if the root is firm, the country will be tranquil._

         *       *       *       *       *

  _The palace a wild for lust,
  The country a wild for hunting,
  Rich wine, seductive music,
  Lofty roofs, carved walls,--
  Given any one of these,
  And the result can only be ruin._”

From the date of the foundation of the Hsia dynasty the throne of the
empire was transmitted from father to son, and there were no more
abdications in favour of virtuous sages. The fourth division of the
Book of History deals with the decadence of the Hsia rulers and their
final displacement in B.C. 1766 by T’ang the Completer, founder of the
Shang dynasty. By B.C. 1122, the Shang sovereigns had similarly lapsed
from the kingly qualities of their founder to even a lower level of
degradation and vice. Then arose one of the purest and most venerated
heroes of Chinese history, popularly known by his canonisation as
Wên Wang. He was hereditary ruler of a principality in the modern
province of Shensi, and in B.C. 1144 he was denounced as dangerous to
the throne. He was seized and thrown into prison, where he passed two
years, occupying himself with the Book of Changes, to which we shall
presently return. At length the Emperor, yielding to the entreaties of
the people, backed up by the present of a beautiful concubine and some
fine horses, set him at liberty and commissioned him to make war upon
the frontier tribes. To his dying day he never ceased to remonstrate
against the cruelty and corruption of the age, and his name is still
regarded as one of the most glorious in the annals of the empire. It
was reserved for his son, known as Wu Wang, to overthrow the Shang
dynasty and mount the throne as first sovereign of the Chou dynasty,
which was to last for eight centuries to come. The following is a
speech by the latter before a great assembly of nobles who were siding
against the House of Shang. It is preserved among others in the Book of
History, and is assigned to the year B.C. 1133 (Legge’s translation):--

“Heaven and Earth are the parents of all creatures; and of all
creatures man is the most highly endowed. The sincere, intelligent,
and perspicacious among men becomes the great sovereign, and the great
sovereign is the parent of the people. But now, Shou, the king of
Shang, does not reverence Heaven above, and inflicts calamities on the
people below. He has been abandoned to drunkenness, and reckless in
lust. He has dared to exercise cruel oppression. Along with criminals
he has punished all their relatives. He has put men into office on
the hereditary principle. He has made it his pursuit to have palaces,
towers, pavilions, embankments, ponds, and all other extravagances,
to the most painful injury of you, the myriad people. He has burned
and roasted the loyal and good. He has ripped up pregnant women. Great
Heaven was moved with indignation, and charged my deceased father, Wên,
reverently to display its majesty; but he died before the work was

“On this account I, Fa, who am but a little child, have, by means
of you, the hereditary rulers of my friendly States, contemplated
the government of Shang; but Shou has no repentant heart. He abides
squatting on his heels, not serving God or the spirits of heaven and
earth, neglecting also the temple of his ancestors, and not sacrificing
in it. The victims and the vessels of millet all become the prey of
wicked robbers; and still he says, ‘The people are mine: the decree is
mine,’ never trying to correct his contemptuous mind. Now Heaven, to
protect the inferior people, made for them rulers, and made for them
instructors, that they might be able to be aiding to God, and secure
the tranquillity of the four quarters of the empire. In regard to who
are criminals and who are not, how dare I give any allowance to my own

“‘Where the strength is the same, measure the virtue of the parties;
where the virtue is the same, measure their righteousness.’ Shou has
hundreds of thousands and myriads of ministers, but they have hundreds
of thousands and myriads of minds; I have three thousand ministers, but
they have one mind. The iniquity of Shang is full. Heaven gives command
to destroy it. If I did not comply with Heaven, my iniquity would be as

“I, who am a little child, early and late am filled with apprehensions.
I have received charge from my deceased father, Wên; I have offered
special sacrifice to God; I have performed the due services to the
great Earth; and I lead the multitude of you to execute the punishment
appointed by Heaven. Heaven compassionates the people. What the people
desire, Heaven will be found to give effect to. Do you aid me, the one
man, to cleanse for ever all within the four seas. Now is the time!--it
may not be lost.”

Two of the documents which form the Book of History are directed
against luxury and drunkenness, to both of which the people seemed
likely to give way even within measurable distance of the death of Wên
Wang. The latter had enacted that wine (that is to say, ardent spirits
distilled from rice) should only be used on sacrificial occasions, and
then under strict supervision; and it is laid down, almost as a general
principle, that all national misfortunes, culminating in the downfall
of a dynasty, may be safely ascribed to the abuse of wine.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: THE ODES]

The _Shih Ching_, or Book of Odes, is another work for the preservation
of which we are indebted to Confucius. It consists of a collection
of rhymed ballads in various metres, usually four words to the line,
composed between the reign of the Great Yü and the beginning of the
sixth century B.C. These, which now number 305, are popularly known
as the “Three Hundred,” and are said by some to have been selected
by Confucius from no less than 3000 pieces. They are arranged under
four heads, as follows:--(_a_) Ballads commonly sung by the people in
the various feudal States and forwarded periodically by the nobles to
their suzerain, the Son of Heaven. The ballads were then submitted
to the Imperial Musicians, who were able to judge from the nature of
such compositions what would be the manners and customs prevailing
in each State, and to advise the suzerain accordingly as to the good
or evil administration of each of his vassal rulers. (_b_) Odes sung
at ordinary entertainments given by the suzerain. (_c_) Odes sung on
grand occasions when the feudal nobles were gathered together. (_d_)
Panegyrics and sacrificial odes.

Confucius himself attached the utmost importance to his labours in this
direction. “Have you learned the Odes?” he inquired upon one occasion
of his son; and on receiving an answer in the negative, immediately
told the youth that until he did so he would be unfit for the society
of intellectual men. Confucius may indeed be said to have anticipated
the apophthegm attributed by Fletcher of Saltoun to a “very wise man,”
namely, that he who should be allowed to make a nation’s “ballads need
care little who made its laws.” And it was probably this appreciation
by Confucius that gave rise to an extraordinary literary craze in
reference to these Odes. Early commentators, incapable of seeing the
simple natural beauties of the poems, which have furnished endless
household words and a large stock of phraseology to the language of
the present day, and at the same time unable to ignore the deliberate
judgment of the Master, set to work to read into countryside ditties
deep moral and political significations. Every single one of the
immortal Three Hundred has thus been forced to yield some hidden
meaning and point an appropriate moral. If a maiden warns her lover not
to be too rash--

      “_Don’t come in, sir, please!
      Don’t break my willow-trees!
      Not that that would very much grieve me;
  But alack-a-day! what would my parents say?
      And love you as I may,
  I cannot bear to think what that would be,_”--

commentators promptly discover that the piece refers to a feudal noble
whose brother had been plotting against him, and to the excuses of the
former for not visiting the latter with swift and exemplary punishment.

Another independent young lady may say--

  “_If you will love me dear, my lord,
  I’ll pick up my skirts and cross the ford,
  But if from your heart you turn me out ...
  Well, you’re not the only man about,
  You silly, silly, silliest lout!_”--

still commentaries are not wanting to show that these straightforward
words express the wish of the people of a certain small State that
some great State would intervene and put an end to an existing feud in
the ruling family. Native scholars are, of course, hide-bound in the
traditions of commentators, but European students will do well to seek
the meaning of the Odes within the compass of the Odes themselves.

Possibly the very introduction of these absurdities may have helped to
preserve to our day a work which would otherwise have been considered
too trivial to merit the attention of scholars. Chinese who are in
the front rank of scholarship know it by heart, and each separate
piece has been searchingly examined, until the force of exegesis can
no farther go. There is one famous line which runs, according to the
accepted commentary, “The muddiness of the Ching river appears from
the (clearness of the) Wei river.” In 1790 the Emperor Ch’ien Lung,
dissatisfied with this interpretation, sent a viceroy to examine the
rivers. The latter reported that the Ching was really clear and the Wei
muddy, so that the wording of the line must mean “The Ching river is
made muddy by the Wei river.”

The following is a specimen of one of the longer of the Odes, saddled,
like all the rest, with an impossible political interpretation, of
which nothing more need be said:--

  “_You seemed a guileless youth enough,
  Offering for silk your woven stuff;[1]
  But silk was not required by you;
  I was the silk you had in view.
  With you I crossed the ford, and while
  We wandered on for many a mile
  I said, ‘I do not wish delay,
  But friends must fix our wedding-day ...
  Oh, do not let my words give pain,
  But with the autumn come again.’_

  “_And then I used to watch and wait
  To see you passing through the gate;
  And sometimes, when I watched in vain,
  My tears would flow like falling rain;
  But when I saw my darling boy,
  I laughed and cried aloud for joy.
  The fortune-tellers, you declared,
  Had all pronounced us duly paired;
  ‘Then bring a carriage,’ I replied,
  ‘And I’ll away to be your bride.’_

  “_The mulberry-leaf, not yet undone
  By autumn chill, shines in the sun.
  O tender dove, I would advise,
  Beware the fruit that tempts thy eyes!
  O maiden fair, not yet a spouse,
  List lightly not to lovers’ vows!
  A man may do this wrong, and time
  Will fling its shadow o’er his crime;
  A woman who has lost her name
  Is doomed to everlasting shame._

  “_The mulberry-tree upon the ground
  Now sheds its yellow leaves around.
  Three years have slipped away from me
  Since first I shared your poverty;
  And now again, alas the day!
  Back through the ford I take my way.
  My heart is still unchanged, but you
  Have uttered words now proved untrue;
  And you have left me to deplore
  A love that can be mine no more._

  “_For three long years I was your wife,
  And led in truth a toilsome life;
  Early to rise and late to bed,
  Each day alike passed o’er my head.
  I honestly fulfilled my part,
  And you--well, you have broke my heart.
  The truth my brothers will not know,
  So all the more their gibes will flow.
  I grieve in silence and repine
  That such a wretched fate is mine._

  “_Ah, hand in hand to face old age!--
  Instead, I turn a bitter page.
  O for the river-banks of yore;
  O for the much-loved marshy shore;
  The hours of girlhood, with my hair
  Ungathered, as we lingered there.
  The words we spoke, that seemed so true,
  I little thought that I should rue;
  I little thought the vows we swore
  Would some day bind us two no more._”

Many of the Odes deal with warfare, and with the separation of wives
from their husbands; others, with agriculture and with the chase,
with marriage and feasting. The ordinary sorrows of life are fully
represented, and to these may be added frequent complaints against
the harshness of officials, one speaker going so far as to wish he
were a tree without consciousness, without home, and without family.
The old-time theme of “eat, drink, and be merry” is brought out as

  “_You have coats and robes,
  But you do not trail them;
  You have chariots and horses,
  But you do not ride in them.
  By and by you will die,
  And another will enjoy them._

  “_You have courtyards and halls,
  But they are not sprinkled and swept;
  You have bells and drums,
  But they are not struck.
  By and by you will die,
  And another will possess them._

  “_You have wine and food;
  Why not play daily on your lute,
  That you may enjoy yourself now
  And lengthen your days?
  By and by you will die,
  And another will take your place._”

The Odes are especially valuable for the insight they give us into the
manners, and customs, and beliefs of the Chinese before the age of
Confucius. How far back they extend it is quite impossible to say. An
eclipse of the sun, “an event of evil omen,” is mentioned in one of the
Odes as a recent occurrence on a certain day which works out as the
29th August, B.C. 775; and this eclipse has been verified for
that date. The following lines are from Legge’s rendering of this Ode:--

  “_The sun and moon announce evil,
  Not keeping to their proper paths.
  All through the kingdom there is no proper government,
  Because the good are not employed.
  For the moon to be eclipsed
  Is but an ordinary matter.
  Now that the sun has been eclipsed,
  How bad it is!_”

The rainbow was regarded, not as a portent of evil, but as an improper
combination of the dual forces of nature,--

  “_There is a rainbow in the east,
  And no one dares point at it,_”--

and is applied figuratively to women who form improper connections.

The position of women generally seems to have been very much what it
is at the present day. In an Ode which describes the completion of a
palace for one of the ancient princes, we are conducted through the

  “_Here will he live, here will he sit,
  Here will he laugh, here will he talk,_”--

until we come to the bedchamber, where he will awake, and call upon
the chief diviner to interpret his dream of bears and serpents. The
interpretation (Legge) is as follows:--

  “_Sons shall be born to him:--
  They will be put to sleep on couches;
  They will be clothed in robes;
  They will have sceptres to play with;
  Their cry will be loud.
  They will be resplendent with red knee-covers,
  The future princes of the land._

  “_Daughters shall be born to him:--
  They will be put to sleep on the ground;
  They will be clothed with wrappers;
  They will have tiles to play with.
  It will be theirs neither to do wrong nor to do good.
  Only about the spirits and the food will they have to think,
  And to cause no sorrow to their parents._”

The distinction thus drawn is severe enough, and it is quite
unnecessary to make a comparison, as some writers on China have done,
between the tile and the sceptre, as though the former were but a dirty
potsherd, good enough for a girl. A tile was used in the early ages
as a weight for the spindle, and is here used merely to indicate the
direction which a girl’s activities should take.

Women are further roughly handled in an Ode which traces the prevailing
misgovernment to their interference in affairs of State and in matters
which do not lie within their province:--

  “_A clever man builds a city,
  A clever woman lays one low;
  With all her qualifications, that clever woman
  Is but an ill-omened bird.
  A woman with a long tongue
  Is a flight of steps leading to calamity;
  For disorder does not come from heaven,
  But is brought about by women.
  Among those who cannot be trained or taught
  Are women and eunuchs._”

About seventy kinds of plants are mentioned in the Odes, including the
bamboo, barley, beans, convolvulus, dodder, dolichos, hemp, indigo,
liquorice, melon, millet, peony, pepper, plantain, scallions, sorrel,
sowthistle, tribulus, and wheat; about thirty kinds of trees, including
the cedar, cherry, chestnut, date, hazel, medlar, mulberry, oak, peach,
pear, plum, and willow; about thirty kinds of animals, including the
antelope, badger, bear, boar, elephant, fox, leopard, monkey, rat,
rhinoceros, tiger, and wolf; about thirty kinds of birds, including
the crane, eagle, egret, magpie, oriole, swallow, and wagtail; about
ten kinds of fishes, including the barbel, bream, carp, and tench; and
about twenty kinds of insects, including the ant, cicada, glow-worm,
locust, spider, and wasp.

Among the musical instruments of the Odes are found the flute, the
drum, the bell, the lute, and the Pandæan pipes; among the metals
are gold and iron, with an indirect allusion to silver and copper;
and among the arms and munitions of war are bows and arrows, spears,
swords, halberds, armour, grappling-hooks, towers on wheels for use
against besieged cities, and gags for soldiers’ mouths, to prevent them
talking in the ranks on the occasion of night attacks.

The idea of a Supreme Being is brought out very fully in the Odes--

  “_Great is God,
  Ruling in majesty._”


  “_How mighty is God,
  The Ruler of mankind!
  How terrible is His majesty!_”

He is apparently in the form of man, for in one place we read of His
footprint. He hates the oppression of great States, although in another
passage we read--

  “_Behold Almighty God;
  Who is there whom He hates?_”

He comforts the afflicted. He is free from error. His “Way” is hard to
follow. He is offended by sin. He can be appeased by sacrifice:--

  “_We fill the sacrificial vessels with offerings,
  Both the vessels of wood, and those of earthenware.
  Then when the fragrance is borne on high,
  God smells the savour and is pleased._”

One more quotation, which, in deference to space limits, must be the
last, exhibits the husbandman of early China in a very pleasing light:--

  “_The clouds form in dense masses,
  And the rain falls softly down.
  Oh, may it first water the public lands,
  And then come to our private fields!
  Here shall some corn be left standing,
  Here some sheaves unbound;
  Here some handfuls shall be dropped,
  And there some neglected ears;
  These are for the benefit of the widow._”

       *       *       *       *       *


The next of the pre-Confucian works, and possibly the oldest of all, is
the famous _I Ching_, or Book of Changes. It is ascribed to WÊN WANG,
the virtual founder of the Chou dynasty, whose son, WU WANG, became the
first sovereign of a long line, extending from B.C. 1122 to B.C. 249.
It contains a fanciful system of philosophy, deduced originally from
Eight Diagrams consisting of triplet combinations or arrangements of a
line and a divided line, either one or other of which is necessarily
repeated twice, and in two cases three times, in the same combination.
Thus there may be three lines ☰, or three divided lines ☷, a divided
line above or below two lines ☱ ☴, a divided line between two lines
☲, and so on, eight in all. These so-called diagrams are said to have
been invented two thousand years and more before Christ by the monarch
Fu Hsi, who copied them from the back of a tortoise. He subsequently
increased the above simple combinations to sixty-four double ones, on
the permutations of which are based the philosophical speculations of
the Book of Changes. Each diagram represents some power in nature,
either active or passive, such as fire, water, thunder, earth, and so

The text consists of sixty-four short essays, enigmatically and
symbolically expressed, on important themes, mostly of a moral, social,
and political character, and based upon the same number of lineal
figures, each made up of six lines, some of which are whole and the
others divided. The text is followed by commentaries, called the Ten
Wings, probably of a later date and commonly ascribed to Confucius, who
declared that were a hundred years added to his life he would devote
fifty of them to a study of the _I Ching_.

The following is a specimen (Legge’s translation):--

“_Text._ ䷉ This suggests the idea of one treading on the tail of a
tiger, which does not bite him. There will be progress and success.

“1. The first line, undivided, shows its subject treading his
accustomed path. If he go forward, there will be no error.

“2. The second line, undivided, shows its subject treading the path
that is level and easy;--a quiet and solitary man, to whom, if he be
firm and correct, there will be good fortune.

“3. The third line, divided, shows a one-eyed man who thinks he can
see; a lame man who thinks he can walk well; one who treads on the tail
of a tiger and is bitten. All this indicates ill-fortune. We have a
mere bravo acting the part of a great ruler.

“4. The fourth line, undivided, shows its subject treading on the tail
of a tiger. He becomes full of apprehensive caution, and in the end
there will be good fortune.

“5. The fifth line, undivided, shows the resolute tread of its subject.
Though he be firm and correct, there will be peril.

“6. The sixth line, undivided, tells us to look at the whole course
that is trodden, and examine the presage which that gives. If it be
complete and without failure, there will be great good fortune.

“_Wing._--In this hexagram we have the symbol of weakness treading on
that of strength.

“The lower trigram indicates pleasure and satisfaction, and responds
to the upper indicating strength. Hence it is said, ‘He treads on the
tail of a tiger, which does not bite him; there will be progress and

“The fifth line is strong, in the centre, and in its correct place. Its
subject occupies the God-given position, and falls into no distress or
failure;--his action will be brilliant.”

As may be readily inferred from the above extract, no one really
knows what is meant by the apparent gibberish of the Book of Changes.
This is freely admitted by all learned Chinese, who nevertheless hold
tenaciously to the belief that important lessons could be derived from
its pages if we only had the wit to understand them. Foreigners have
held various theories on the subject. Dr. Legge declared that he had
found the key, with the result already shown. The late Terrien de la
Couperie took a bolder flight, unaccompanied by any native commentator,
and discovered in this cherished volume a vocabulary of the language of
the Bák tribes. A third writer regards it as a calendar of the lunar
year, and so forth.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: BOOK OF RITES]

The _Li Chi_, or Book of Rites, seems to have been a compilation by
two cousins, known as the Elder and the Younger TAI, who flourished in
the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C. From existing documents, said to have
emanated from Confucius and his disciples, the Elder Tai prepared a
work in 85 sections on what may be roughly called social rites. The
Younger Tai reduced these to 46 sections. Later scholars, such as Ma
Jung and Chêng Hsüan, left their mark upon the work, and it was not
until near the close of the 2nd century A.D. that finality in this
direction was achieved. It then became known as a _Chi_ = Record, not
as a _Ching_ = Text, the latter term being reserved by the orthodox
solely for such books as have reached us direct from the hands of
Confucius. The following is an extract (Legge’s translation):--

Confucius said: “Formerly, along with Lao Tan, I was assisting at a
burial in the village of Hsiang, and when we had got to the path the
sun was eclipsed. Lao Tan said to me, ‘Ch’iu, let the bier be stopped
on the left of the road; and then let us wail and wait till the eclipse
pass away. When it is light again we will proceed.’ He said that this
was the rule. When we had returned and completed the burial, I said
to him, ‘In the progress of a bier there should be no returning. When
there is an eclipse of the sun, we do not know whether it will pass
away quickly or not; would it not have been better to go on?’ Lao Tan
said, ‘When the prince of a state is going to the court of the Son of
Heaven, he travels while he can see the sun. At sundown he halts and
presents his offerings (to the spirit of the way). When a great officer
is on a mission, he travels while he can see the sun, and at sundown
he halts. Now a bier does not set forth in the early morning, nor
does it rest anywhere at night; but those who travel by starlight are
only criminals and those who are hastening to the funeral rites of a

Other specimens will be found in Chapters iii. and iv.

       *       *       *       *       *

Until the time of the Ming dynasty, A.D. 1368, another and
a much older work, known as the _Chou Li_, or Rites of the Chou
dynasty, and dealing more with constitutional matters, was always
coupled with the _Li Chi_, and formed one of the then recognised Six
Classics. There is still a third work of the same class, and also of
considerable antiquity, called the _I Li_. Its contents treat mostly of
the ceremonial observances of everyday life.

       *       *       *       *       *


We now come to the last of the Five Classics as at present constituted,
the _Ch’un Ch’iu_, or Spring and Autumn Annals. This is a chronological
record of the chief events in the State of Lu between the years B.C.
722-484, and is generally regarded as the work of Confucius, whose
native State was Lu. The entries are of the briefest, and comprise
notices of incursions, victories, defeats, deaths, murders, treaties,
and natural phenomena.

The following are a few illustrative extracts:--

“In the 7th year of Duke Chao, in spring, the Northern Yen State made
peace with the Ch’i State.

“In the 3rd month the Duke visited the Ch’u State.

“In summer, on the _chia shên_ day of the 4th month (March 11th,
B.C. 594), the sun was eclipsed.

“In the 7th year of Duke Chuang (B.C. 685), in summer, in the
4th moon, at midnight, there was a shower of stars like rain.”

The Spring and Autumn owes its name to the old custom of prefixing to
each entry the year, month, day, and season when the event recorded
took place; spring, as a commentator explains, including summer, and
autumn winter. It was the work which Confucius singled out as that
one by which men would know and commend him, and Mencius considered
it quite as important an achievement as the draining of the empire
by the Great Yü. The latter said, “Confucius completed the Spring
and Autumn, and rebellious ministers and bad sons were struck with
terror.” Consequently, just as in the case of the Odes, native wits
set to work to read into the bald text all manner of hidden meanings,
each entry being supposed to contain approval or condemnation, their
efforts resulting in what is now known as the praise-and-blame theory.
The critics of the Han dynasty even went so far as to declare the
very title elliptical for “praise life-giving like spring, and blame
life-withering like autumn.”

[Sidenote: THE TSO CHUAN]

Such is the _Ch’un Ch’iu_; and if that were all, it is difficult to say
how the boast of Confucius could ever have been fulfilled. But it is
not all; there is a saving clause. For bound up, so to speak, with the
Spring and Autumn, and forming as it were an integral part of the work,
is a commentary known as the _Tso Chuan_ or TSO’S Commentary.
Of the writer himself, who has been canonised as the Father of Prose,
and to whose pen has also been attributed the _Kuo Yü_ or Episodes of
the States, next to nothing is known, except that he was a disciple of
Confucius; but his glowing narrative remains, and is likely to continue
to remain, one of the most precious heirlooms of the Chinese people.

What Tso did was this. He took the dry bones of these annals and
clothed them with life and reality by adding a more or less complete
setting to each of the events recorded. He describes the loves and
hates of the heroes, their battles, their treaties, their feastings,
and their deaths, in a style which is always effective, and often
approaches to grandeur. Circumstances of apparently the most trivial
character are expanded into interesting episodes, and every now and
again some quaint conceit or scrap of proverbial literature is thrown
in to give a passing flavour of its own. Under the 21st year of Duke
Hsi, the Spring and Autumn has the following exiguous entry:--

“In summer there was great drought.”

To this the _Tso Chuan_ adds--

“In consequence of the drought the Duke wished to burn a witch. One of
his officers, however, said to him, ‘That will not affect the drought.
Rather repair your city walls and ramparts; eat less, and curtail your
expenditure; practise strict economy, and urge the people to help one
another. That is the essential; what have witches to do in the matter?
If God wishes her to be slain, it would have been better not to allow
her to be born. If she can cause a drought, burning her will only
make things worse.’ The Duke took this advice, and during that year,
although there was famine, it was not very severe.”

Under the 12th year of Duke Hsüan the Spring and Autumn says--

“In spring the ruler of the Ch’u State besieged the capital of the
Chêng State.”

Thereupon the _Tso Chuan_ adds a long account of the whole business,
from which the following typical paragraph is extracted:--

“In the rout which followed, a war-chariot of the Chin State stuck in
a deep rut and could not get on. Thereupon a man of the Ch’u State
advised the charioteer to take out the stand for arms. This eased it a
little, but again the horses turned round. The man then advised that
the flagstaff should be taken out and used as a lever, and at last the
chariot was extricated. ‘Ah,’ said the charioteer to the man of Ch’u,
‘we don’t know so much about running away as the people of your worthy

The _Tso Chuan_ contains several interesting passages on music,
which was regarded by Confucius as an important factor in the art of
government, recalling the well-known views of Plato in Book III. of
his _Republic_. Apropos of disease, we read that “the ancient rulers
regulated all things by music.” Also that “the superior man will not
listen to lascivious or seductive airs;” “he addresses himself to his
lute in order to regulate his conduct, and not to delight his heart.”

When the rabid old anti-foreign tutor of the late Emperor T’ung Chih
was denouncing the barbarians, and expressing a kindly desire to “sleep
on their skins,” he was quoting the phraseology of the _Tso Chuan_.

One hero, on going into battle, told his friends that he should only
hear the drum beating the signal to advance, for he would take good
care not to hear the gong sounding the retreat. Another made each of
his men carry into battle a long rope, seeing that the enemy all wore
their hair short. In a third case, where some men in possession of
boats were trying to prevent others from scrambling in, we are told
that the fingers of the assailants were chopped off in such large
numbers that they could be picked up in double handfuls.

Many maxims, practical and unpractical, are to be found scattered over
the _Tso Chuan_, such as, “One day’s leniency to an enemy entails
trouble for many generations;” “Propriety forbids that a man should
profit himself at the expense of another;” “The receiver is as bad as
the thief;” “It is better to attack than to be attacked.”

When the French fleet returned to Shanghai in 1885 after being repulsed
in a shore attack at Tamsui, a local wit at once adapted a verse of
doggerel found in the _Tso Chuan_:--

  “_See goggle-eyes and greedy-guts
  Has left his shield among the ruts;
  Back from the field, back from the field
  He’s brought his beard, but not his shield;_”

and for days every Chinaman was muttering the refrain--

  “_Yü sai, yü sai
  Ch’i chia fu lai._”


There are two other commentaries on the Spring and Autumn, similar,
but generally regarded as inferior, to the _Tso Chuan_. They are by
KU-LIANG and KUNG-YANG, both of the fifth century B.C. The following
are specimens (Legge’s translation, omitting unimportant details):--

_Text._--“In spring, in the king’s first month, the first day of the
moon, there fell stones in Sung--five of them. In the same month, six
fish-hawks flew backwards, past the capital of Sung.”

    The commentary of Ku-liang says, “Why does the text first say
    “there fell,” and then “stones”? There was the falling, and then
    the stones.

    In “six fish-hawks flying backwards past the capital of Sung,”
    the number is put first, indicating that the birds were collected
    together. The language has respect to the seeing of the eyes.

    The Master said, “Stones are things without any intelligence, and
    fish-hawks creatures that have a little intelligence. The stones,
    having no intelligence, are mentioned along with the day when
    they fell, and the fish-hawks, having a little intelligence, are
    mentioned along with the month when they appeared. The superior man
    (Confucius) even in regard to such things and creatures records
    nothing rashly. His expressions about stones and fish-hawks being
    thus exact, how much more will they be so about men!”

    The commentary of Kung-yang says, “How is it that the text first
    says “there fell,” and then “stones”?

    “There fell stones” is a record of what was heard. There was heard
    a noise of something falling. On looking at what had fallen, it was
    seen to be stones, On examination it was found there were five of

    Why does the text say “six,” and then “fish-hawks”?

    “Six fish-hawks backwards flew” is a record of what was seen. When
    they looked at the objects, there were six. When they examined
    them, they were fish-hawks. When they examined them leisurely, they
    were flying backwards.

Sometimes these commentaries are seriously at variance with that of
Tso. For instance, the text says that in B.C. 689 the ruler of the Chi
State “made a great end of his State.” Tso’s commentary explains the
words to mean that for various urgent reasons the ruler abdicated.
Kung-yang, however, takes quite a different view. He explains the
passage in the sense that the State in question was utterly destroyed,
the population being wiped out by the ruler of another State in revenge
for the death in B.C. 893 of an ancestor, who was boiled to death at
the feudal metropolis in consequence of slander by a contemporary
ruler of the Chi State. It is important for candidates at the public
examinations to be familiar with these discrepancies, as they are
frequently called upon to “discuss” such points, always with the object
of establishing the orthodox and accepted interpretations.


The following episode is from Kung-yang’s commentary, and is quite
different from the story told by Tso in reference to the same

_Text._--“In summer, in the 5th month, the Sung State made peace with
the Ch’u State.

“In B.C. 587 King Chuang of Ch’u was besieging the capital of
Sung. He had only rations for seven days, and if these were exhausted
before he could take the city, he meant to withdraw. He therefore
sent his general to climb the ramparts and spy out the condition of
the besieged. It chanced that at the same time an officer of the Sung
army came forth upon the ramparts, and the two met. ‘How is your State
getting on?’ inquired the general. ‘Oh, badly,’ replied the officer.
‘We are reduced to exchanging children for food, and their bones are
chopped up for fuel.’ ‘That is bad indeed,’ said the general; ‘I had
heard, however, that the besieged, while feeding their horses with bits
in their mouths, kept some fat ones for exhibition to strangers. What
a spirit is yours!’ To this the officer replied, ‘I too have heard
that the superior man, seeing another’s misfortune, is filled with
pity, while the ignoble man is filled with joy. And in you I recognise
the superior man; so I have told you our story.’ ‘Be of good cheer,’
said the general. ‘We too have only seven days’ rations, and if we
do not conquer you in that time, we shall withdraw.’ He then bowed,
and retired to report to his master. The latter said, ‘We must now
capture the city before we withdraw.’ ‘Not so,’ replied the general; ‘I
told the officer we had only rations for seven days.’ King Chuang was
greatly enraged at this; but the general said, ‘If a small State like
Sung has officers who speak the truth, should not the State of Ch’u
have such men also?’ The king still wished to remain, but the general
threatened to leave him, and thus peace was brought about between the
two States.”


[1] Supposed to have been stamped pieces of linen, used as a
circulating medium before the invention of coins.



[Sidenote: THE LUN YÜ]

No Chinaman thinks of entering upon a study of the Five Classics until
he has mastered and committed to memory a shorter and simpler course
known as The Four Books.

The first of these, as generally arranged for students, is the _Lun
Yü_ or Analects, a work in twenty short chapters or books, retailing
the views of Confucius on a variety of subjects, and expressed so far
as possible in the very words of the Master. It tells us nearly all we
really know about the Sage, and may possibly have been put together
within a hundred years of his death. From its pages we seem to gather
some idea, a mere _silhouette_ perhaps, of the great moralist whose
mission on earth was to teach duty towards one’s neighbour to his
fellow-men, and who formulated the Golden Rule: “What you would not
others should do unto you, do not unto them!”

It has been urged by many, who should know better, that the negative
form of this maxim is unfit to rank with the positive form as given to
us by Christ. But of course the two are logically identical, as may
be shown by the simple insertion of the word “abstain;” that is, you
would not that others should abstain from certain actions in regard to
yourself, which practically conveys the positive injunction.

When a disciple asked Confucius to explain charity of heart, he replied
simply, “Love one another.” When, however, he was asked concerning the
principle that good should be returned for evil, as already enunciated
by Lao Tzŭ (see ch. iv.), he replied, “What then will you return for
good? No: return good for good; for evil, justice.”

He was never tired of emphasising the beauty and necessity of truth: “A
man without truthfulness! I know not how that can be.”

“Let loyalty and truth be paramount with you.”

“In mourning, it is better to be sincere than punctilious.”

“Man is born to be upright. If he be not so, and yet live, he is lucky
to have escaped.”

“Riches and honours are what men desire; yet except in accordance with
right these may not be enjoyed.”

Confucius undoubtedly believed in a Power, unseen and eternal, whom he
vaguely addressed as Heaven: “He who has offended against Heaven has
none to whom he can pray.” “I do not murmur against Heaven,” and so
on. His greatest commentator, however, Chu Hsi, has explained that by
“Heaven” is meant “Abstract Right,” and that interpretation is accepted
by Confucianists at the present day. At the same time, Confucius
strongly objected to discuss the supernatural, and suggested that our
duties are towards the living rather than towards the dead.

He laid the greatest stress upon filial piety, and taught that man is
absolutely pure at birth, and afterwards becomes depraved only because
of his environment.

Chapter x. of the _Lun Yü_ gives some singular details of the every-day
life and habits of the Sage, calculated to provoke a smile among those
with whom reverence for Confucius has not been a first principle from
the cradle upwards, but received with loving gravity by the Chinese
people at large. The following are extracts (Legge’s translation) from
this famous chapter:--

“Confucius, in his village, looked simple and sincere, and as if he
were not able to speak. When he was in the prince’s ancestral temple or
in the court, he spoke minutely on every point, but cautiously.

“When he entered the palace gate, he seemed to bend his body, as if it
were not sufficient to admit him.

“He ascended the daïs, holding up his robe with both his hands and his
body bent; holding in his breath also, as if he dared not breathe.

“When he was carrying the sceptre of his prince, he seemed to bend his
body as if he were not able to bear its weight.

“He did not use a deep purple or a puce colour in the ornaments of his
dress. Even in his undress he did not wear anything of a red or reddish

“He required his sleeping dress to be half as long again as his body.

“He did not eat rice which had been injured by heat or damp and turned
sour, nor fish or flesh which was gone. He did not eat what was
discoloured, or what was of a bad flavour, nor anything which was not
in season. He did not eat meat which was not cut properly, nor what was
served without its proper sauce.

“He was never without ginger when he ate. He did not eat much.

“When eating, he did not converse. When in bed, he did not speak.

“Although his food might be coarse rice and vegetable soup, he would
offer a little of it in sacrifice with a grave respectful air.

“If his mat was not straight, he did not sit on it.

“The stable being burned down when he was at Court, on his return he
said, ‘Has any man been hurt?’ He did not ask about the horses.

“When a friend sent him a present, though it might be a carriage and
horses, he did not bow. The only present for which he bowed was that of
the flesh of sacrifice.

“In bed, he did not lie like a corpse. At home, he did not put on any
formal deportment.

“When he saw any one in a mourning dress, though it might be an
acquaintance, he would change countenance; when he saw any one wearing
the cap of full dress, or a blind person, though he might be in his
undress, he would salute them in a ceremonious manner.

“When he was at an entertainment where there was an abundance of
provisions set before him, he would change countenance and rise
up. On a sudden clap of thunder or a violent wind, he would change

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: MENCIUS]

Next in educational order follows the work briefly known as
MENCIUS. This consists of seven books recording the sayings
and doings of a man to whose genius and devotion may be traced the
final triumph of Confucianism. Born in B.C. 372, a little over
a hundred years after the death of the Master, Mencius was brought up
under the care of his widowed mother, whose name is a household word
even at the present day. As a child he lived with her at first near
a cemetery, the result being that he began to reproduce in play the
solemn scenes which were constantly enacted before his eyes. His mother
accordingly removed to another house near the market-place, and before
long the little boy forgot all about funerals and played at buying and
selling goods. Once more his mother disapproved, and once more she
changed her dwelling; this time to a house near a college, where he
soon began to imitate the ceremonial observances in which the students
were instructed, to the great joy and satisfaction of his mother.

Later on he studied under K’ung Chi, the grandson of Confucius; and
after having attained to a perfect apprehension of the roms or Way
of Confucius, became, at the age of about forty-five, Minister under
Prince Hsüan of the Ch’i State. But the latter would not carry out his
principles, and Mencius threw up his post. Thence he wandered away to
several States, advising their rulers to the best of his ability, but
making no very prolonged stay. He then visited Prince Hui of the Liang
State, and abode there until the monarch’s death in B.C. 319.
After that event he returned to the State of Ch’i and resumed his old
position. In B.C. 311 he once more felt himself constrained
to resign office, and retired finally into private life, occupying
himself during the remainder of his days in teaching and in preparing
the philosophical record which now passes under his name. He lived at
a time when the feudal princes were squabbling over the rival systems
of federation and imperialism, and he vainly tried to put into practice
at an epoch of blood and iron the gentle virtues of the Golden Age.
His criterion was that of Confucius, but his teachings were on a lower
plane, dealing rather with man’s well-being from the point of view
of political economy. He was therefore justly named by Chao Ch’i the
Second Holy One or Prophet, a title under which he is still known. He
was an uncompromising defender of the doctrines of Confucius, and he
is considered to have effectually “snuffed out” the heterodox schools
of Yang Chu and Mo Ti.

The following is a specimen of the logomachy of the day, in which
Mencius is supposed to have excelled. The subject is a favourite
one--human nature:--

“Kao Tzŭ said, ‘Human nature may be compared with a block of wood; duty
towards one’s neighbour, with a wooden bowl. To develop charity and
duty towards one’s neighbour out of human nature is like making a bowl
out of a block of wood.’

“To this Mencius replied, ‘Can you, without interfering with the
natural constitution of the wood, make out of it a bowl? Surely you
must do violence to that constitution in the process of making your
bowl. And by parity of reasoning you would do violence to human nature
in the process of developing charity and duty towards one’s neighbour.
From which it follows that all men would come to regard these rather as
evils than otherwise.’

“Kao Tzŭ said, ‘Human nature is like rushing water, which flows east
or west according as an outlet is made for it. For human nature
makes indifferently for good or for evil, precisely as water makes
indifferently for the east or for the west.’

“Mencius replied, ‘Water will indeed flow indifferently towards the
east or west; but will it flow indifferently up or down? It will not;
and the tendency of human nature towards good is like the tendency of
water to flow down. Every man has this bias towards good, just as all
water flows naturally downwards. By splashing water, you may indeed
cause it to fly over your head; and by turning its course you may keep
it for use on the hillside; but you would hardly speak of such results
as the nature of water. They are the results, of course, of a _force
majeure_. And so it is when the nature of man is diverted towards evil.’

“Kao Tzŭ said, ‘That which comes with life is nature.’

“Mencius replied, ‘Do you mean that there is such a thing as nature in
the abstract, just as there is whiteness in the abstract?’

“‘I do,’ answered Kao Tzŭ.

“‘Just, for instance,’ continued Mencius, ‘as the whiteness of a
feather is the same as the whiteness of snow, or the whiteness of snow
as the whiteness of jade?’

“‘I do,’ answered Kao Tzŭ again.

“‘In that case,’ retorted Mencius, ‘the nature of a dog is the same as
that of an ox, and the nature of an ox the same as that of a man.’

“Kao Tzŭ said, ‘Eating and reproduction of the species are natural
instincts. Charity is subjective and innate; duty towards one’s
neighbour is objective and acquired. For instance, there is a man who
is my senior, and I defer to him as such. Not because any abstract
principle of seniority exists subjectively in me, but in the same way
that if I see an albino, I recognise him as a white man because he
is so objectively to me. Consequently, I say that duty towards one’s
neighbour is objective or acquired.’

“Mencius replied, ‘The cases are not analogous. The whiteness of a
white horse is undoubtedly the same as the whiteness of a white man;
but the seniority of a horse is not the same as the seniority of a
man. Does our duty to our senior begin and end with the fact of his
seniority? Or does it not rather consist in the necessity of deferring
to him as such?’

“Kao Tzŭ said, ‘I love my own brother, but I do not love another man’s
brother. The distinction arises from within myself; therefore I call it
subjective or innate. But I defer to a stranger who is my senior, just
as I defer to a senior among my own people. The distinction comes to me
from without; therefore I call it objective or acquired.”

“Mencius retorted, ‘We enjoy food cooked by strangers just as much as
food cooked by our own people. Yet extension of your principle lands
us in the conclusion that our appreciation of cooked food is also
objective and acquired.’”

       *       *       *       *       *

The following is a well-known colloquy between Mencius and a sophist of
the day who tried to entangle the former in his talk:--

The sophist inquired, saying, “‘Is it a rule of social etiquette that
when men and women pass things from one to another they shall not allow
their hands to touch?’

“‘That is the rule,’ replied Mencius.

“‘Now suppose,’ continued the sophist, ‘that a man’s sister-in-law were
drowning, could he take hold of her hand and save her?’

“‘Any one who did not do so,’ said Mencius, ‘would have the heart of a
wolf. That men and women when passing things from one to another may
not let their hands touch is a rule for general application. To save
a drowning sister-in-law by taking hold of her hand is altogether an
exceptional case.’”

       *       *       *       *       *

The works of Mencius abound, like the Confucian Analects, in
sententious utterances. The following examples illustrate his general
bias in politics:--“The people are of the highest importance; the gods
come second; the sovereign is of lesser weight.”

“Chieh and Chou lost the empire because they lost the people, which
means that they lost the confidence of the people. The way to gain
the people is to gain their confidence, and the way to do that is to
provide them with what they like and not with what they loathe.”

       *       *       *       *       *

This is how Mencius snuffed out the two heterodox philosophers
mentioned above:--

“The systems of Yang Chu and Mo Ti fill the whole empire. If a man is
not a disciple of the former, he is a disciple of the latter. But Yang
Chu’s egoism excludes the claim of a sovereign, while Mo Ti’s universal
altruism leaves out the claim of a father. And he who recognises the
claim of neither sovereign nor father is a brute beast.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Yang Chu seems to have carried his egoism so far that even to benefit
the whole world he would not have parted with a single hair from his

“The men of old knew that with life they had come but for a while,
and that with death they would shortly depart again. Therefore they
followed the desires of their own hearts, and did not deny themselves
pleasures to which they felt naturally inclined. Fame tempted them not;
but led by their instincts alone, they took such enjoyments as lay in
their path, not seeking for a name beyond the grave. They were thus out
of the reach of censure; while as for precedence among men, or length
or shortness of life, these gave them no concern whatever.”

Mo Ti, on the other hand, showed that under the altruistic system all
calamities which men bring upon one another would altogether disappear,
and that the peace and happiness of the Golden Age would be renewed.

       *       *       *       *       *


In the _Ta Hsüeh_, or Great Learning, which forms Sect. xxxix. of the
Book of Rites, and really means learning for adults, we have a short
politico-ethical treatise, the authorship of which is unknown, but
is usually attributed partly to Confucius, and partly to TSÊNG
TS’AN, one of the most famous of his disciples. In the former
portion there occurs the following well-known climax:--

“The men of old, in their desire to manifest great virtue throughout
the empire, began with good government in the various States. To
achieve this, it was necessary first to order aright their own
families, which in turn was preceded by cultivation of their own
selves, and that again by rectification of the heart, following upon
sincerity of purpose which comes from extension of knowledge, this last
being derived from due investigation of objective existences.”

       *       *       *       *       *

One more short treatise, known as the _Chung Yung_, which forms Ch.
xxviii. of the Book of Rites, brings us to the end of the Four Books.
Its title has been translated in various ways.[2] Julien rendered the
term by “L’Invariable Milieu,” Legge by “The Doctrine of the Mean.” Its
authorship is assigned to K’UNG CHI, grandson of Confucius.
He seems to have done little more than enlarge upon certain general
principles of his grandfather in relation to the nature of man and
right conduct upon earth. He seizes the occasion to pronounce an
impassioned eulogium upon Confucius, concluding with the following

“Therefore his fame overflows the Middle Kingdom, and reaches the
barbarians of north and south. Wherever ships and waggons can go, or
the strength of man penetrate; wherever there is heaven above and earth
below; wherever the sun and moon shed their light, or frosts and dews
fall,--all who have blood and breath honour and love him. Wherefore it
may be said that he is the peer of God.”


[2] _Chung_ means “middle,” and _Yung_ means “course,” the former being
defined by the Chinese as “that which is without deflection or bias,”
the latter as “that which never varies in its direction.”



Names of the authors who belong to this period, B.C. 600 to
B.C. 200, and of the works on a variety of subjects attributed
to them, would fill a long list. Many of the latter have disappeared,
and others are gross forgeries, chiefly of the first and second
centuries of our era, an epoch which, curiously enough, is remarkable
for a similar wave of forgery on the other side of the world. As to the
authors, it will be seen later on that the Chinese even went so far as
to create some of these for antiquity and then write up treatises to

There was SUN TZŬ of the 6th century B.C. He is said
to have written the _Ping Fa_, or Art of War, in thirteen sections,
whereby hangs a strange tale. When he was discoursing one day with
Prince Ho-lu of the Wu State, the latter said, “I have read your book
and want to know if you could apply its principles to women.” Sun Tzŭ
replied in the affirmative, whereupon the Prince took 180 girls out of
his harem and bade Sun Tzŭ deal with them as with troops. Accordingly
he divided them into two companies, and at the head of each placed a
favourite concubine of the Prince. But when the drums sounded for drill
to begin, all the girls burst out laughing. Thereupon Sun Tzŭ, without
a moment’s delay, caused the two concubines in command to be beheaded.
This at once restored order, and ultimately the corps was raised to a
state of great efficiency.

The following is an extract from the Art of War:--

“If soldiers are not carefully chosen and well drilled to obey, their
movements will be irregular. They will not act in concert. They will
miss success for want of unanimity. Their retreat will be disorderly,
one half fighting while the other is running away. They will not
respond to the call of the gong and drum. One hundred such as these
will not hold their own against ten well-drilled men.

“If their arms are not good, the soldiers might as well have none. If
the cuirass is not stout and close set, the breast might as well be
bare. Bows that will not carry are no more use at long distances than
swords and spears. Bad marksmen might as well have no arrows. Even good
marksmen, unless able to make their arrows pierce, might as well shoot
with headless shafts. These are the oversights of incompetent generals.
Five such soldiers are no match for one.”

It is notwithstanding very doubtful if we have any genuine remains of
either Sun Tzŭ, or of Kuan Tzŭ, Wu Tzŭ, Wên Tzŭ, and several other
early writers on war, political philosophy, and cognate subjects. The
same remark applies equally to Chinese medical literature, the bulk of
which is enormous, some of it nominally dating back to legendary times,
but always failing to stand the application of the simplest test.

       *       *       *       *       *

The _Erh Ya_, or Nearing the Standard, is a work which has often been
assigned to the 12th century B.C. It is a guide to the correct
use of many miscellaneous terms, including names of animals, birds,
plants, etc., to which are added numerous illustrations. It was first
edited with commentary by Kuo P’o, of whom we shall read later on, and
some Chinese critics would have us believe that the illustrations we
now possess were then already in existence. But the whole question is
involved in mystery. The following will give an idea of the text:--

“For metal we say _lou_ (to chase); for wood _k’o_ (to carve); for bone
_ch’ieh_ (to cut),” etc., etc.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: T’AN KUNG]

There are some interesting remains of a writer named T’AN KUNG, who
flourished in the 4th and 3rd centuries B.C., and whose work has been
included in the Book of Rites. The three following extracts will give
an idea of his scope:--

1. “One day Yu-tzŭ and Tzŭ-yu saw a child weeping for the loss of its
parents. Thereupon the former observed, ‘I never could understand
why mourners should necessarily jump about to show their grief, and
would long ago have got rid of the custom. Now here you have an honest
expression of feeling, and that is all there should ever be.’

“‘My friend,’ replied Tzŭ-yu, ‘the mourning ceremonial, with all its
material accompaniments, is at once a check upon undue emotion and a
guarantee against any lack of proper respect. Simply to give vent to
the feelings is the way of barbarians. That is not our way.

“‘Consider. A man who is pleased will show it in his face. He will
sing. He will get excited. He will dance. So, too, a man who is vexed
will look sad. He will sigh. He will beat his breast. He will jump
about. The due regulation of these emotions is the function of a set

“‘Further. A man dies and becomes an object of loathing. A dead body is
shunned. Therefore, a shroud is prepared, and other paraphernalia of
burial, in order that the survivors may cease to loathe. At death there
is a sacrifice of wine and meat; when the funeral cortège is about to
start, there is another; and after burial there is yet another. Yet no
one ever saw the spirit of the departed come to taste of the food.

“‘These have been our customs from remote antiquity. They have not been
discarded, because, in consequence, men no more shun the dead. What you
may censure in those who perform the ceremonial is no blemish in the
ceremonial itself.’”

2. “When Tzŭ-chü died, his wife and secretary took counsel together as
to who should be interred with him. All was settled before the arrival
of his brother, Tzŭ-hêng; and then they informed him, saying, ‘The
deceased requires some one to attend upon him in the nether world. We
must ask you to go down with his body into the grave.’ ‘Burial of the
living with the dead,’ replied Tzŭ-hêng, ‘is not in accordance with
established rites. Still, as you say some one is wanted to attend upon
the deceased, who better fitted than his wife and secretary? If this
contingency can be avoided altogether, I am willing; if not, then the
duty will devolve upon you two.’ From that time forth the custom fell
into desuetude.”

3. “When Confucius was crossing the T’ai mountain, he overheard a
woman weeping and wailing beside a grave. He thereupon sent one of
his disciples to ask what was the matter; and the latter addressed
the woman, saying, ‘Some great sorrow must have come upon you that
you give way to grief like this?’ ‘Indeed it is so,’ replied she. ‘My
father-in-law was killed here by a tiger; after that, my husband;
and now my son has perished by the same death.’ ‘But why, then,’
inquired Confucius, ‘do you not go away?’ ‘The government is not
harsh,’ answered the woman. ‘There!’ cried the Master, turning to his
disciples; ‘remember that. Bad government is worse than a tiger.’”

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: HSÜN TZŬ]

The philosopher HSÜN TZŬ of the 3rd century B.C.
is widely known for his heterodox views on the nature of man, being
directly opposed to the Confucian doctrine so warmly advocated by
Mencius. The following passage, which hardly carries conviction,
contains the gist of his argument:--

“By nature, man is evil. If a man is good, that is an artificial
result. For his condition being what it is, he is influenced first of
all by a desire for gain. Hence he strives to get all he can without
consideration for his neighbour. Secondly, he is liable to envy and
hate. Hence he seeks the ruin of others, and loyalty and truth are set
aside. Thirdly, he is a slave to his animal passions. Hence he commits
excesses, and wanders from the path of duty and right.

“Thus, conformity with man’s natural disposition leads to all kinds of
violence, disorder, and ultimate barbarism. Only under the restraint of
law and of lofty moral influences does man eventually become fit to be
a member of regularly organised society.

“From these premisses it seems quite clear that by nature man is evil;
and that if a man is good, that is an artificial result.”

The _Hsiao Ching_, or Classic of Filial Piety, is assigned partly to
Confucius and partly to TSÊNG TS’AN, though it more probably
belongs to a very much later date. Considering that filial piety is
admittedly the keystone of Chinese civilisation, it is disappointing to
find nothing more on the subject than a poor pamphlet of commonplace
and ill-strung sentences, which gives the impression of having been
written to fill a void. One short extract will suffice:--

“The Master said, ‘There are three thousand offences against which the
five punishments are directed, and there is not one of them greater
than being unfilial.

“‘When constraint is put upon a ruler, that is the disowning of his
superiority; when the authority of the sages is disallowed, that is
the disowning of all law; when filial piety is put aside, that is the
disowning of the principle of affection. These three things pave the
way to anarchy.’”

       *       *       *       *       *

The _Chia Yü_, or Family Sayings of Confucius, is a work with a
fascinating title, which has been ascribed by some to the immediate
disciples of Confucius, but which, as it now exists, is usually thought
by native scholars to have been composed by Wang Su, a learned official
who died A.D. 256. There appears to have been an older work
under this same title, but how far the later work is indebted to it, or
based upon it, seems likely to remain unknown.

Another discredited work is the _Lü Shih Ch’un Ch’iu_, or Spring and
Autumn of LÜ PU-WEI, who died B.C. 235 and was the putative sire of the
First Emperor (see ch. vii.). It contains a great deal about the early
history of China, some of which is no doubt based upon fact.

[Sidenote: MU T’IEN TZŬ CHUAN]

Lastly, among spurious books may be mentioned the MU T’IEN TZŬ
CHUAN, an account of a mythical journey by a sovereign of the
Chou dynasty, supposed to have been taken about 1000 B.C. The
sovereign is unfortunately spoken of by his posthumous title, and the
work was evidently written up in the 3rd century A.D. to suit
a statement found in Lieh Tzŭ (see chapter vi.) to the effect that the
ruler in question did make some such journey to the West.

Chapter V


The poetry which is representative of the period between the death of
Confucius and the 2nd century B.C. is a thing apart. There is nothing
like it in the whole range of Chinese literature. It illumines many
a native pronouncement on the poetic art, the drift of which would
otherwise remain obscure. For poetry has been defined by the Chinese as
“emotion expressed in words,” a definition perhaps not more inadequate
than Wordsworth’s “impassioned expression.” “Poetry,” they say, “knows
no law.” And again, “The men of old reckoned it the highest excellence
in poetry that the meaning should lie beyond the words, and that the
reader should have to think it out.” Of these three canons only the
last can be said to have survived to the present day. But in the fourth
century B.C., Ch’ü Yüan and his school indulged in wild irregular
metres which consorted well with their wild irregular thoughts. Their
poetry was prose run mad. It was allusive and allegorical to a high
degree, and now, but for the commentary, much of it would be quite

[Sidenote: LI SAO]

CH’Ü YÜAN is the type of a loyal Minister. He enjoyed the
full confidence of his Prince until at length the jealousies and
intrigues of rivals sapped his position in the State. Then it was
that he composed the _Li Sao_, or Falling into Trouble, the first
section of which extends to nearly 400 lines. Beginning from the
birth of the writer, it describes his cultivation of virtue and his
earnest endeavour to translate precept into practice. Discouraged by
failure, he visits the grave of the Emperor Shun (chapter ii.), and
gives himself up to prayer, until at length a phœnix-car and dragons
appear, and carry him in search of his ideal away beyond the domain of
mortality,--the chariot of the Sun moving slowly to light him longer
on the way, the Moon leading and the Winds bringing up the rear,--up
to the very palace of God. Unable to gain admission here, he seeks out
a famous magician, who counsels him to stand firm and to continue his
search; whereupon, surrounded by gorgeous clouds and dazzling rainbows,
and amid the music of tinkling ornaments attached to his car, he starts
from the Milky Way, and passing the Western Pole, reaches the sources
of the Yellow River. Before long he is once again in sight of his
native land, but without having discovered the object of his search.

Overwhelmed by further disappointments, and sinking still more deeply
into disfavour, so that he cared no longer to live, he went forth to
the banks of the Mi-lo river. There he met a fisherman who accosted
him, saying, “Are you not his Excellency the Minister? What has brought
you to this pass?” “The world,” replied Ch’ü Yüan, “is foul, and I
alone am clean. There they are all drunk, while I alone am sober. So
I am dismissed.” “Ah!” said the fisherman, “the true sage does not
quarrel with his environment, but adapts himself to it. If, as you
say, the world is foul, why not leap into the tide and make it clean?
If all men are drunk, why not drink with them and teach them to avoid
excess?” After some further colloquy, the fisherman rowed away; and
Ch’ü Yüan, clasping a large stone in his arms, plunged into the river
and was seen no more. This took place on the fifth of the fifth moon;
and ever afterwards the people of Ch’u commemorated the day by an
annual festival, when offerings of rice in bamboo tubes were cast into
the river as a sacrifice to the spirit of their great hero. Such is the
origin of the modern Dragon-Boat Festival, which is supposed to be a
search for the body of Ch’ü Yüan.

A good specimen of his style will be found in the following short poem,
entitled “The Genius of the Mountain.” It is one of “nine songs” which,
together with a number of other pieces in a similar strain, have been
classed under the general heading, _Li Sao_, as above.

“Methinks there is a Genius of the hills, clad in wistaria, girdled
with ivy, with smiling lips, of witching mien, riding on the red pard,
wild cats galloping in the rear, reclining in a chariot, with banners
of cassia, cloaked with the orchid, girt with azalea, culling the
perfume of sweet flowers to leave behind a memory in the heart. But
dark is the grove wherein I dwell. No light of day reaches it ever. The
path thither is dangerous and difficult to climb. Alone I stand on the
hill-top, while the clouds float beneath my feet, and all around is
wrapped in gloom.

“Gently blows the east wind; softly falls the rain. In my joy I become
oblivious of home; for who in my decline would honour me now?

“I pluck the larkspur on the hillside, amid the chaos of rock and
tangled vine. I hate him who has made me an outcast, who has now no
leisure to think of me.

“I drink from the rocky spring. I shade myself beneath the spreading
pine. Even though he were to recall me to him, I could not fall to the
level of the world.

“Now booms the thunder through the drizzling rain. The gibbons howl
around me all the long night. The gale rushes fitfully through the
whispering trees. And I am thinking of my Prince, but in vain; for I
cannot lay my grief.”

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: SUNG YÜ]

Another leading poet of the day was SUNG YÜ, of whom we know
little beyond the fact that he was nephew of Ch’ü Yüan, and like his
uncle both a statesman and a poet. The following extract exhibits him
in a mood not far removed from the lamentations of the _Li Sao_:--

  “_Among birds the phœnix, among fishes the leviathan holds the
      chiefest place;
  Cleaving the crimson clouds the phœnix soars apace,
  With only the blue sky above, far into the realms of space;
  But the grandeur of heaven and earth is as naught to the
      hedge-sparrow race._

  _And the leviathan rises in one ocean to go to rest in a second,
  While the depth of a puddle by a humble minnow as the depth of the
      sea is reckoned._

  _And just as with birds and with fishes, so too it is with man;
  Here soars a phœnix, there swims a leviathan ...
  Behold the philosopher, full of nervous thought, with a flame that
      never grows dim,
  Dwelling complacently alone; say, what can the vulgar herd know
      of him?_”

As has been stated above, the poems of this school are irregular
in metre; in fact, they are only approximately metrical. The poet
never ends his line in deference to a prescribed number of feet, but
lengthens or shortens to suit the exigency of his thought. Similarly,
he may rhyme or he may not. The reader, however, is never conscious of
any want of art, carried away as he is by flow of language and rapid
succession of poetical imagery.

Several other poets, such as Chia I and Tung-fang So, who cultivated
this particular vein, but on a somewhat lower plane, belong to the
second century B.C., thus overlapping a period which must be
regarded as heralding the birth of a new style rather than occupied
with the passing of the old.

       *       *       *       *       *

It may here be mentioned that many short pieces of doubtful age and
authorship--some few unquestionably old--have been rescued by Chinese
scholars from various sources, and formed into convenient collections.
Of such is a verse known as “Yao’s Advice,” Yao being the legendary
monarch mentioned in chapter ii., who is associated with Shun in
China’s Golden Age:--

  “_With trembling heart and cautious steps
    Walk daily in fear of God ...
  Though you never trip over a mountain,
    You may often trip over a clod._”

There is also the husbandman’s song, which enlarges upon the national
happiness of those halcyon days:--

  “_Work, work;--from the rising sun
  Till sunset comes and the day is done
      I plough the sod
      And harrow the clod,
  And meat and drink both come to me,
  So what care I for the powers that be?_”


It seems to have been customary in early days to attach inscriptions,
poetical and otherwise, to all sorts of articles for daily use. On
the bath-tub of T’ang, founder of the Shang dynasty in B.C.
1766, there was said to have been written these words:--“If any one on
any one day can make a new man of himself, let him do so every day.”
Similarly, an old metal mirror bore as its legend, “Man combs his hair
every morning: why not his heart?” And the following lines are said to
be taken from an ancient wash-basin:--

  “_Oh, rather than sink in the world’s foul tide
  I would sink in the bottomless main;
  For he who sinks in the world’s foul tide
  In noisome depths shall for ever abide,
  But he who sinks in the bottomless main
  May hope to float to the surface again._”

In this class of verse, too, the metre is often irregular and the rhyme
a mere jingle, according to the canons of the stricter prosody which
came into existence later on.



[Sidenote: TAO-TÊ-CHING]

The reader is now asked to begin once more at the sixth century
B.C. So far we have dealt almost exclusively with what may
be called orthodox literature, that is to say, of or belonging to or
based upon the Confucian Canon. It seemed advisable to get that well
off our hands before entering upon another branch, scarcely indeed as
important, but much more difficult to handle. This branch consists of
the literature of Taoism, or that which has gathered around what is
known as the Tao or Way of LAO TZŬ, growing and flourishing
alongside of, though in direct antagonism to, that which is founded
upon the criteria and doctrines of Confucius. Unfortunately it is quite
impossible to explain at the outset in what this Tao actually consists.
According to Lao Tzŭ himself, “Those who know do not tell; those who
tell do not know.” It is hoped, however, that by the time the end of
this chapter is reached, some glimmering of the meaning of Tao may have
reached the minds of those who have been patient enough to follow the

[Sidenote: LAO TZŬ]

Lao Tzŭ was born, according to the weight of evidence, in the year
B.C. 604. Omitting all reference to the supernatural phenomena
which attended his birth and early years, it only remains to say that
we really know next to nothing about him. There is a short biography
of Lao Tzŭ to be found in the history of Ssŭ-ma Ch’ien, to be dealt
with in Book II., chapter iii., but internal evidence points to
embroidery laid on by other hands. Just as it was deemed necessary by
pious enthusiasts to interpolate in the work of Josephus a passage
referring to Christ, so it would appear that the original note by
Ssŭ-ma Ch’ien has been carefully touched up to suit the requirements
of an unauthenticated meeting between Lao Tzŭ and Confucius, which has
been inserted very much _à propos de bottes_; the more so, as Confucius
is made to visit Lao Tzŭ with a view to information on Rites, a subject
which Lao Tzŭ held in very low esteem. This biography ends with the
following extraordinary episode:--

“Lao Tzŭ abode for a long time in Chou, but when he saw that the State
showed signs of decay, he left. On reaching the frontier, the Warden,
named Yin Hsi, said to him, ‘So you are going into retirement. I beg
you to write a book for me.’ Thereupon Lao Tzŭ wrote a book, in two
parts, on Tao and Tê,[3] extending to over 5000 words. He then went
away, and no one knows where he died.”

It is clear from Ssŭ-ma Ch’ien’s account that he himself had never seen
the book, though a dwindling minority still believe that we possess
that book in the well-known _Tao-Tê-Ching_.

It must now be stated that throughout what are generally believed
to be the writings of Confucius the name of Lao Tzŭ is never once
mentioned.[4] It is not mentioned by Tso of the famous commentary, nor
by the editors of the Confucian Analects, nor by Tsêng Ts’an, nor by
Mencius. Chuang Tzŭ, who devoted all his energies to the exposition and
enforcement of the teaching of Lao Tzŭ, never once drops even a hint
that his Master had written a book. In his work will now be found an
account of the meeting of Confucius and Lao Tzŭ, but it has long since
been laughed out of court as a pious fraud by every competent Chinese
critic. Chu Hsi, Shên Jo-shui, and many others, declare emphatically
against the genuineness of the _Tao-Tê-Ching_; and scant allusion would
indeed have been made to it here, were it not for the attention paid to
it by several more or less eminent foreign students of the language.
It is interesting as a collection of many genuine utterances of Lao
Tzŭ, sandwiched however between thick wads of padding from which little
meaning can be extracted except by enthusiasts who curiously enough
disagree absolutely among themselves. A few examples from the real Lao
Tzŭ will now be given:--

“The Way (Tao) which can be walked upon is not the eternal Way.”

“Follow diligently the Way in your own heart, but make no display of it
to the world.”

“By many words wit is exhausted; it is better to preserve a mean.”

“To the good I would be good. To the not-good I would also be good, in
order to make them good.”

“Recompense injury with kindness.”

“Put yourself behind, and you shall be put in front.”

“Abandon wisdom and discard knowledge, and the people will be benefited
an hundredfold.”

These last maxims are supposed to illustrate Lao Tzŭ’s favourite
doctrine of doing nothing, or, as it has been termed, Inaction, a
doctrine inseparably associated with his name, and one which has ever
exerted much fascination over the more imaginative of his countrymen.
It was openly enunciated as follows:--

“Do nothing, and all things will be done.”

“I do nothing, and the people become good of their own accord.”

To turn to the padding, as rendered by the late Drs. Chalmers and
Legge, we may take a paragraph which now passes as chapter vi.:--

CHALMERS:--“The Spirit (like perennial spring) of the valley
never dies. This (Spirit) I call the abyss-mother. The passage of the
abyss-mother I call the root of heaven and earth. Ceaselessly it seems
to endure, and it is employed without effort.”

  LEGGE:--“_The valley spirit dies not, aye the same;
  The female mystery thus do we name.
  Its gate, from which at first they issued forth,
  Is called the root from which grew heaven and earth.
  Long and unbroken does its power remain,
  Used gently, and without the touch of pain._”

One more example from Chalmers’ translation will perhaps seal the fate
of this book with readers who claim at least a minimum of sense from an
old-world classic.

  “_Where water abides, it is good for adaptability.
  In its heart, it is good for depth.
  In giving, it is good for benevolence.
  In speaking, it is good for fidelity._”

That there was such a philosopher as Lao Tzŭ who lived about the time
indicated, and whose sayings have come down to us first by tradition
and later by written and printed record, cannot possibly be doubted.
The great work of Chuang Tzŭ would be sufficient to establish this
beyond cavil, while at the same time it forms a handy guide to a nearer
appreciation of this elusive Tao.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: CHUANG TZŬ]

CHUANG TZŬ was born in the fourth century B.C., and
held a petty official post. “He wrote,” says the historian Ssŭ-ma
Ch’ien, “with a view to asperse the Confucian school and to glorify the
mysteries of Lao Tzŭ.... His teachings are like an overwhelming flood,
which spreads at its own sweet will. Consequently, from rulers and
ministers downwards, none could apply them to any definite use.”

Here we have the key to the triumph of the Tao of Confucius over the
Tao of Lao Tzŭ. The latter was idealistic, the former a practical
system for everyday use. And Chuang Tzŭ was unable to persuade the
calculating Chinese nation that by doing nothing, all things would
be done. But he bequeathed to posterity a work which, by reason of
its marvellous literary beauty, has always held a foremost place.
It is also a work of much originality of thought. The writer, it is
true, appears chiefly as a disciple insisting upon the principles of
a Master. But he has contrived to extend the field, and carry his own
speculations into regions never dreamt of by Lao Tzŭ.

The whole work of Chuang Tzŭ has not come down to us, neither can all
that now passes under his name be regarded as genuine. Alien hands have
added, vainly indeed, many passages and several entire chapters. But
a sable robe, says the Chinese proverb, cannot be eked out with dogs’
tails. Lin Hsi-chung, a brilliant critic of the seventeenth century, to
whose edition all students should turn, has shown with unerring touch
where the lion left off and the jackals began.

The honour of the first edition really belongs to a volatile spirit of
the third century A.D., named Hsiang Hsiu. He was probably the
founder, at any rate a member, of a small club of bibulous poets who
called themselves the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove. Death, however,
interrupted his labours before he had finished his work on Chuang Tzŭ,
and the manuscript was purloined by Kuo Hsiang, a scholar who died
A.D. 312, and with some additions was issued by the latter as
his own.

Before attempting to illustrate by extracts the style and scope of
Chuang Tzŭ, it will be well to collect from his work a few passages
dealing with the attributes of Tao. In his most famous chapter,
entitled Autumn Floods, a name by which he himself is sometimes spoken
of, Chuang Tzŭ writes as follows:--

“Tao is without beginning, without end.” Elsewhere he says, “There is
nowhere where it is not.” “Tao cannot be heard; heard, it is not Tao.
Tao cannot be seen; seen, it is not Tao. Tao cannot be spoken; spoken,
it is not Tao. That which imparts form to forms is itself formless;
therefore Tao cannot have a name (as form precedes name).”

“Tao is not too small for the greatest, nor too great for the smallest.
Thus all things are embosomed therein; wide, indeed, its boundless
capacity, unfathomable its depth.”

“By no thoughts, by no cogitations, Tao may be known. By resting in
nothing, by according in nothing, Tao may be approached. By following
nothing, by pursuing nothing, Tao may be attained.”

In these and many like passages Lao Tzŭ would have been in full
sympathy with his disciple. So far as it is possible to deduce anything
definite from the scanty traditions of the teachings of Lao Tzŭ,
we seem to obtain this, that man should remain impassive under the
operation of an eternal, omnipresent law (Tao), and that thus he will
become in perfect harmony with his environment, and that if he is
in harmony with his environment, he will thereby attain to a vague
condition of general immunity. Beyond this the teachings of Lao Tzŭ
would not carry us. Chuang Tzŭ, however, from simple problems, such as
a drunken man falling out of a cart and not injuring himself--a common
superstition among sailors--because he is unconscious and therefore
in harmony with his environment, slides easily into an advanced
mysticism. In his marvellous chapter on The Identity of Contraries, he
maintains that from the standpoint of Tao all things are One. Positive
and negative, this and that, here and there, somewhere and nowhere,
right and wrong, vertical and horizontal, subjective and objective,
become indistinct, as water is in water. “When subjective and objective
are both without their correlates, that is the very axis of Tao. And
when that axis passes through the centre at which all Infinities
converge, positive and negative alike blend into an infinite One.”
This localisation in a Centre, and this infinite absolute represented
by One, were too concrete even for Chuang Tzŭ. The One became God, and
the Centre, assigned by later Taoist writers to the pole-star (see
Book IV. ch. i.), became the source of all life and the haven to which
such life returned after its transitory stay on earth. By ignoring the
distinctions of contraries “we are embraced in the obliterating unity
of God. Take no heed of time, nor of right and wrong; but passing into
the realm of the Infinite, make your final rest therein.”

That the idea of an indefinite future state was familiar to the mind of
Chuang Tzŭ may be gathered from many passages such as the following:--

“How then do I know but that the dead repent of having previously clung
to life?

“Those who dream of the banquet, wake to lamentation and sorrow. Those
who dream of lamentation and sorrow, wake to join the hunt. While they
dream, they do not know that they dream. Some will even interpret the
very dream they are dreaming; and only when they awake do they know
it was a dream. By and by comes the Great Awakening, and then we find
out that this life is really a great dream. Fools think they are awake
now, and flatter themselves they know if they are really princes or
peasants. Confucius and you are both dreams; and I who say you are
dreams,--I am but a dream myself.”

The chapter closes with a paragraph which has gained for its writer an
additional epithet, Butterfly Chuang:--

“Once upon a time, I, Chuang Tzŭ, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering
hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was
conscious only of following my fancies as a butterfly, and was
unconscious of my individuality as a man. Suddenly, I awaked, and
there I lay, myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man
dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I
am a man.”

Chuang Tzŭ is fond of paradox. He delights in dwelling on the
usefulness of useless things. He shows that ill-grown or inferior trees
are allowed to stand, that diseased pigs are not killed for sacrifice,
and that a hunchback can not only make a good living by washing, for
which a bent body is no drawback, but escapes the dreaded press-gang in
time of war.

With a few illustrative extracts we must now take leave of Chuang Tzŭ,
a writer who, although heterodox in the eyes of a Confucianist, has
always been justly esteemed for his pointed wit and charming style.

       *       *       *       *       *

(1.) “It was the time of autumn floods. Every stream poured into the
river, which swelled in its turbid course. The banks receded so far
from one another that it was impossible to tell a cow from a horse.

“Then the Spirit of the River laughed for joy that all the beauty of
the earth was gathered to himself. Down with the stream he journeyed
east, until he reached the ocean. There, looking eastwards and seeing
no limit to its waves, his countenance changed. And as he gazed over
the expanse, he sighed and said to the Spirit of the Ocean, ‘A vulgar
proverb says, that he who has heard but part of the truth thinks no one
equal to himself. And such a one am I.

“‘When formerly I heard people detracting from the learning of
Confucius, or underrating the heroism of Po I, I did not believe. But
now that I have looked upon your inexhaustibility--alas for me had I
not reached your abode, I should have been for ever a laughing-stock to
those of comprehensive enlightenment!’

“To which the Spirit of the Ocean replied, ‘You cannot speak of ocean
to a well-frog, the creature of a narrower sphere. You cannot speak of
ice to a summer-insect,--the creature of a season. You cannot speak
of Tao to a pedagogue: his scope is too restricted. But now that you
have emerged from your narrow sphere and have seen the great ocean,
you know your own insignificance, and I can speak to you of great

(2.) “Have you never heard of the frog in the old well?--The frog said
to the turtle of the eastern sea, ‘Happy indeed am I! I hop on to
the rail around the well. I rest in the hollow of some broken brick.
Swimming, I gather the water under my arms and shut my mouth. I plunge
into the mud, burying my feet and toes; and not one of the cockles,
crabs, or tadpoles I see around me are my match. [Fancy pitting the
happiness of an old well, ejaculates Chuang Tzŭ, against all the water
of Ocean!] Why do you not come, sir, and pay me a visit?’[5]

“Now the turtle of the eastern sea had not got its left leg down ere
its right had already stuck fast, so it shrank back and begged to be
excused. It then described the sea, saying, ‘A thousand _li_ would
not measure its breadth, nor a thousand fathoms its depth. In the
days of the Great Yü, there were nine years of flood out of ten; but
this did not add to its bulk. In the days of T’ang, there were seven
years out of eight of drought; but this did not narrow its span. Not
to be affected by duration of time, not to be affected by volume of
water,--such is the great happiness of the eastern sea.’

“At this the well-frog was considerably astonished, and knew not
what to say next. And for one whose knowledge does not reach to the
positive-negative domain, to attempt to understand me, Chuang Tzŭ,
is like a mosquito trying to carry a mountain, or an ant to swim a
river,--they cannot succeed.”

(3.) “Chuang Tzŭ was fishing in the P’u when the prince of Ch’u sent
two high officials to ask him to take charge of the administration of
the Ch’u State.

“Chuang Tzŭ went on fishing, and without turning his head said, ‘I
have heard that in Ch’u there is a sacred tortoise which has been dead
now some three thousand years. And that the prince keeps this tortoise
carefully enclosed in a chest on the altar of his ancestral temple. Now
would this tortoise rather be dead, and have its remains venerated, or
be alive and wagging its tail in the mud?’

“‘It would rather be alive,’ replied the two officials, ‘and wagging
its tail in the mud.’

“‘Begone!’ cried Chuang Tzŭ. ‘I too will wag my tail in the mud.’”

(4.) “Chuang Tzŭ one day saw an empty skull, bleached, but still
preserving its shape. Striking it with his riding whip, he said, ‘Wert
thou once some ambitious citizen whose inordinate yearnings brought
him to this pass?--some statesman who plunged his country in ruin, and
perished in the fray?--some wretch who left behind him a legacy of
shame?--some beggar who died in the pangs of hunger and cold? Or didst
thou reach this state by the natural course of old age?’

“When he had finished speaking, he took the skull, and placing it under
his head as a pillow, went to sleep. In the night, he dreamt that the
skull appeared to him, and said, ‘You speak well, sir; but all you say
has reference to the life of mortals, and to mortal troubles. In death
there are none of these. Would you like to hear about death?’

“Chuang Tzŭ having replied in the affirmative, the skull began:--‘In
death, there is no sovereign above, and no subject below. The workings
of the four seasons are unknown. Our existences are bounded only by
eternity. The happiness of a king among men cannot exceed that which we

“Chuang Tzŭ, however, was not convinced, and said, ‘Were I to prevail
upon God to allow your body to be born again, and your bones and flesh
to be renewed, so that you could return to your parents, to your wife,
and to the friends of your youth--would you be willing?’

“At this, the skull opened its eyes wide and knitted its brows and
said, ‘How should I cast aside happiness greater than that of a king,
and mingle once again in the toils and troubles of mortality?’”

(5.) “The Grand Augur, in his ceremonial robes, approached the shambles
and thus addressed the pigs:--

“‘How can you object to die? I shall fatten you for three months. I
shall discipline myself for ten days and fast for three. I shall strew
fine grass, and place you bodily upon a carved sacrificial dish. Does
not this satisfy you?’

“Then speaking from the pigs’ point of view, he continued, ‘It is
better perhaps after all to live on bran and escape the shambles....’

“‘But then,’ added he, speaking from his own point of view, ‘to enjoy
honour when alive one would readily die on a war-shield or in the
headsman’s basket.’

“So he rejected the pigs’ point of view and adopted his own point of
view. In what sense then was he different from the pigs?”

(6.) “When Chuang Tzŭ was about to die, his disciples expressed a wish
to give him a splendid funeral. But Chuang Tzŭ said, ‘With heaven and
earth for my coffin and shell, with the sun, moon, and stars as my
burial regalia, and with all creation to escort me to the grave,--are
not my funeral paraphernalia ready to hand?’

“‘We fear,’ argued the disciples, ‘lest the carrion kite should eat the
body of our Master’; to which Chuang Tzŭ replied, ‘Above ground I shall
be food for kites, below I shall be food for mole-crickets and ants.
Why rob one to feed the other?’”

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: LIEH TZŬ]

The works of LIEH TZŬ, in two thin volumes, may be procured at
any Chinese book-shop. These volumes profess to contain the writings
of a Taoist philosopher who flourished some years before Chuang Tzŭ,
and for a long time they received considerable attention at the hands
of European students, into whose minds no suspicion of their real
character seems to have found its way. Gradually the work came to be
looked upon as doubtful, then spurious; and now it is known to be a
forgery, possibly of the first or second century A.D. The scholar--for
he certainly was one--who took the trouble to forge this work, was
himself the victim of a strange delusion. He thought that Lieh Tzŭ, to
whom Chuang Tzŭ devotes a whole chapter, had been a live philosopher of
flesh and blood. But he was in reality nothing more than a figment of
the imagination, like many others of Chuang Tzŭ’s characters, though
his name was less broadly allegorical than those of All-in-Extremes,
and of Do-Nothing-Say-Nothing, and others. The book attributed to him
is curious enough to deserve attention. It is on a lower level of
thought and style than the work of Chuang Tzŭ; still, it contains much
traditional matter and many allusions not found elsewhere. To its
author we owe the famous, but of course apocryphal, story of Confucius
meeting two boys quarrelling about the distance of the sun from the
earth. One of them said that at dawn the sun was much larger than at
noon, and must consequently be much nearer; but the other retorted that
at noon the sun was much hotter, and therefore nearer than at dawn.
Confucius confessed himself unable to decide between them, and was
jeered at by the boys as an impostor. But of all this work perhaps the
most attractive portion is a short story on Dream and Reality:--

“A man of the State of Chêng was one day gathering fuel, when he came
across a startled deer, which he pursued and killed. Fearing lest any
one should see him, he hastily concealed the carcass in a ditch and
covered it with plaintain leaves, rejoicing excessively at his good
fortune. By and by, he forgot the place where he had put it, and,
thinking he must have been dreaming, he set off towards home, humming
over the affair on his way.

“Meanwhile, a man who had overheard his words, acted upon them, and
went and got the deer. The latter, when he reached his house, told his
wife, saying, ‘A woodman dreamt he had got a deer, but he did not know
where it was. Now I have got the deer; so his dream was a reality.’ ‘It
is you,’ replied his wife, ‘who have been dreaming you saw a woodman.
Did he get the deer? and is there really such a person? It is you who
have got the deer: how, then, can his dream be a reality?’ ‘It is
true,’ assented the husband, ‘that I have got the deer. It is therefore
of little importance whether the woodman dreamt the deer or I dreamt
the woodman.’

“Now when the woodman reached his home, he became much annoyed at the
loss of the deer; and in the night he actually dreamt where the deer
then was, and who had got it. So next morning he proceeded to the place
indicated in his dream,--and there it was. He then took legal steps to
recover possession; and when the case came on, the magistrate delivered
the following judgment:--‘The plaintiff began with a real deer and an
alleged dream. He now comes forward with a real dream and an alleged
deer. The defendant really got the deer which plaintiff said he dreamt,
and is now trying to keep it; while, according to his wife, both the
woodman and the deer are but the figments of a dream, so that no one
got the deer at all. However, here is a deer, which you had better
divide between you.’”

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: HAN FEI TZŬ]

HAN FEI TZŬ, who died B.C. 233, has left us fifty-five essays of
considerable value, partly for the light they throw upon the connection
between the genuine sayings of Lao Tzŭ and the _Tao-Tê-Ching_, and
partly for the quaint illustrations he gives of the meaning of
the sayings themselves. He was deeply read in law, and obtained
favour in the eyes of the First Emperor (see Book II., ch. i.); but
misrepresentations of rivals brought about his downfall, and he
committed suicide in prison. We cannot imagine that he had before him
the _Tao-Tê-Ching_. He deals with many of its best sayings, which may
well have come originally from an original teacher, such as Lao Tzŭ is
supposed to have been, but quite at random and not as if he took them
from an orderly work. And what is more, portions of his own commentary
have actually slipped into the _Tao-Tê-Ching_ as text, showing how
this book was pieced together from various sources. Again, he quotes
sentences not to be found in the _Tao-Tê-Ching_. He illustrates such a
simple saying as “To see small beginnings is clearness of sight,” by
drawing attention to a man who foresaw, when the tyrant Chou Hsin (who
died B.C. 1122) took to ivory chopsticks, that the tide of luxury had
set in, to bring licentiousness and cruelty in its train, and to end in
downfall and death.

Lao Tzŭ said, “Leave all things to take their natural course.” To
this Han Fei Tzŭ adds, “A man spent three years in carving a leaf out
of ivory, of such elegant and detailed workmanship that it would lie
undetected among a heap of real leaves. But Lieh Tzŭ said, ‘If God
Almighty were to spend three years over every leaf, the trees would be
badly off for foliage.’”

Lao Tzŭ said, “The wise man takes time by the forelock.” Han Fei Tzŭ
adds, “One day the Court physician said to Duke Huan, ‘Your Grace is
suffering from an affection of the muscular system. Take care, or it
may become serious.’ ‘Oh no,’ replied the Duke, ‘I have nothing the
matter with me;’ and when the physician was gone, he observed to his
courtiers, ‘Doctors dearly love to treat patients who are not ill, and
then make capital out of the cure.’ Ten days afterwards, the Court
physician again remarked, ‘Your Grace has an affection of the flesh.
Take care, or it may become serious.’ The Duke took no notice of
this, but after ten days more the physician once more observed, ‘Your
Grace has an affection of the viscera. Take care, or it may become
serious.’ Again the Duke paid no heed; and ten days later, when the
physician came, he simply looked at his royal patient, and departed
without saying anything. The Duke sent some one to inquire what was
the matter, and to him the physician said, ‘As long as the disease
was in the muscles, it might have been met by fomentations and hot
applications; when it was in the flesh, acupuncture might have been
employed; and as long as it was in the viscera, cauterisation might
have been tried; but now it is in the bones and marrow, and naught
will avail.’ Five days later, the Duke felt pains all over his body,
and sent to summon his physician; but the physician had fled, and the
Duke died. So it is that the skilful doctor attacks disease while it is
still in the muscles and easy to deal with.”

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: HUAI-NAN TZŬ]

To clear off finally this school of early Taoist writers, it will be
necessary to admit here one whose life properly belongs to the next
period. Liu An, a grandson of the founder of the Han dynasty, became
Prince of Huai-nan, and it is as HUAI-NAN TZŬ, the Philosopher
of that ilk, that he is known to the Chinese people. He wrote an
esoteric work in twenty-one chapters, which we are supposed still to
possess, besides many exoteric works, such as a treatise on alchemy,
none of which are extant. It is fairly certain, however, that alchemy
was not known to the Chinese until between two and three centuries
later, when it was introduced from the West. As to the book which
passes under his name, it is difficult to assign to it any exact date.
Like the work of Lieh Tzŭ, it is interesting enough in itself; and
what is more important, it marks the transition of the pure and simple
Way of Lao Tzŭ, etherealised by Chuang Tzŭ, to the grosser beliefs
of later ages in magicians and the elixir of life. Lao Tzŭ urged his
fellow-mortals to guard their vitality by entering into harmony with
their environment. Chuang Tzŭ added a motive, “to pass into the realm
of the Infinite and make one’s final rest therein.” From which it is
but a step to immortality and the elixir of life.

Huai-nan Tzŭ begins with a lengthy disquisition “On the Nature of Tao,”
in which, as elsewhere, he deals with the sayings of Lao Tzŭ after the
fashion of Han Fei Tzŭ. Thus Lao Tzŭ said, “If you do not quarrel, no
one on earth will be able to quarrel with you.” To this Huai-nan Tzŭ
adds, that when a certain ruler was besieging an enemy’s town, a large
part of the wall fell down; whereupon the former gave orders to beat a
retreat at once. “For,” said he in reply to the remonstrances of his
officers, “a gentleman never hits a man who is down. Let them rebuild
their wall, and then we will renew the attack.” This noble behaviour so
delighted the enemy that they tendered allegiance on the spot.

Lao Tzŭ said, “Do not value the man, value his abilities.” Whereupon
Huai-nan Tzŭ tells a story of a general of the Ch’u State who was fond
of surrounding himself with men of ability, and once even went so far
as to engage a man who represented himself as a master-thief. His
retainers were aghast; but shortly afterwards their State was attacked
by the Ch’i State, and then, when fortune was adverse and all was on
the point of being lost, the master-thief begged to be allowed to try
his skill. He went by night into the enemy’s camp, and stole their
general’s bed-curtain. This was returned next morning with a message
that it had been found by one of the soldiers who was gathering fuel.
The same night our master-thief stole the general’s pillow, which was
restored with a similar message; and the following night he stole the
long pin used to secure the hair. “Good heavens!” cried the general at
a council of war, “they will have my head next.” Upon which the army of
the Ch’i State was withdrawn.

Among passages of general interest the following may well be quoted:--

“Once when the Duke of Lu-yang was at war with the Han State, and
sunset drew near while a battle was still fiercely raging, the Duke
held up his spear, and shook it at the sun, which forthwith went back
three zodiacal signs.”

The end of this philosopher was a tragic one. He seems to have mixed
himself up in some treasonable enterprise, and was driven to commit
suicide. Tradition, however, says that he positively discovered the
elixir of immortality, and that after drinking of it he rose up to
heaven in broad daylight. Also that, in his excitement, he dropped the
vessel which had contained this elixir into his courtyard, and that
his dogs and poultry sipped up the dregs, and immediately sailed up to
heaven after him!


[3] Tê is the exemplification of Tao.

[4] The name Lao Tan occurs in four passages in the Book of Rites, but
we are expressly told that by it is not meant the philosopher Lao Tzŭ.

[5] “To the minnow, every cranny and pebble and quality and accident of
its little native creek may have become familiar; but does the minnow
understand the ocean tides and periodic currents, the trade-winds,
and monsoons, and moon’s eclipses...?”--_Sartor Resartus_, Natural


_THE HAN DYNASTY_ (B.C. 200--A.D. 200)



Never has the literature of any country been more closely bound up with
the national history than was that of China at the beginning of the
period upon which we are now about to enter.

The feudal spirit had long since declined, and the bond between
suzerain and vassal had grown weaker and weaker until at length it had
ceased to exist. Then came the opportunity and the man. The ruler of
the powerful State of Ch’in, after gradually vanquishing and absorbing
such of the other rival States as had not already been swallowed up
by his own State, found himself in B.C. 221 master of the
whole of China, and forthwith proclaimed himself its Emperor. The Chou
dynasty, with its eight hundred years of sway, was a thing of the past,
and the whole fabric of feudalism melted easily away.

This catastrophe was by no means unexpected. Some forty years
previously a politician, named Su Tai, was one day advising the King
of Chao to put an end to his ceaseless hostilities with the Yen State.
“This morning,” said he, “when crossing the river, I saw a mussel open
its shell to sun itself. Immediately an oyster-catcher thrust in his
bill to eat the mussel, but the latter promptly closed its shell and
held the bird fast. ‘If it doesn’t rain to-day or to-morrow,’ cried the
oyster-catcher, ‘there will be a dead mussel.’ ‘And if you don’t get
out of this by to-day or to-morrow,’ retorted the mussel, ‘there will
be a dead oyster-catcher.’ Meanwhile up came a fisherman and carried
off both of them. I fear lest the Ch’in State should be our fisherman.”

[Sidenote: LI SSŬ]

The new Emperor was in many senses a great man, and civilisation made
considerable advances during his short reign. But a single decree has
branded his name with infamy, to last so long as the Chinese remain
a lettered people. In B.C. 13, a trusted Minister, named Li
Ssŭ, is said to have suggested an extraordinary plan, by which the
claims of antiquity were to be for ever blotted out and history was
to begin again with the ruling monarch, thenceforward to be famous
as the First Emperor. All existing literature was to be destroyed,
with the exception only of works relating to agriculture, medicine,
and divination; and a penalty of branding and four years’ work on
the Great Wall, then in process of building, was enacted against all
who refused to surrender their books for destruction. This plan was
carried out with considerable vigour. Many valuable works perished;
and the Confucian Canon would have been irretrievably lost but for the
devotion of scholars, who at considerable risk concealed the tablets
by which they set such store, and thus made possible the discoveries
of the following century and the restoration of the sacred text. So
many, indeed, of the literati are said to have been put to death for
disobedience that melons actually grew in winter on the spot beneath
which their bodies were buried.

LI SSŬ was a scholar himself, and the reputed inventor of
the script known as the Lesser Seal, which was in vogue for several
centuries. The following is from a memorial of his against the
proscription of nobles and others from rival States:--

“As broad acres yield large crops, so for a nation to be great there
should be a great population; and for soldiers to be daring their
generals should be brave. Not a single clod was added to T’ai-shan
in vain: hence the huge mountain we now behold. The merest streamlet
is received into the bosom of Ocean: hence the Ocean’s unfathomable
expanse. And wise and virtuous is the ruler who scorns not the masses
below. For him, no boundaries of realm, no distinctions of nationality
exist. The four seasons enrich him; the Gods bless him; and, like our
rulers of old, no man’s hand is against him.”

The First Emperor died in B.C. 210,[6] and his feeble son, the
Second Emperor, was put to death in 207, thus bringing their line to an
end. The vacant throne was won by a quondam beadle, who established the
glorious House of Han, in memory of which Chinese of the present day,
chiefly in the north, are still proud to call themselves Sons of Han.

So soon as the empire settled down to comparative peace, a mighty
effort was made to undo at least some of the mischief sustained by the
national literature. An extra impetus was given to this movement by
the fact that under the First Emperor, if we can believe tradition,
the materials of writing had undergone a radical change. A general,
named Mêng T’ien, added to the triumphs of the sword the invention of
the camel’s-hair brush, which the Chinese use as a pen. The clumsy
bamboo tablet and stylus were discarded, and strips of cloth or silk
came into general use, and were so employed until the first century
A.D., when paper was invented by Ts’ai Lun. Some say that
brickdust and water did duty at first for ink. However that may be, the
form of the written character underwent a corresponding change to suit
the materials employed.

Meanwhile, books were brought out of their hiding-places, and scholars
like K’UNG AN-KUO, a descendant of Confucius in the twelfth
degree, set to work to restore the lost classics. He deciphered the
text of the Book of History, which had been discovered when pulling
down the old house where Confucius once lived, and transcribed large
portions of it from the ancient into the later script. He also wrote a
commentary on the Analects and another on the Filial Piety Classic.

       *       *       *       *       *
[Sidenote: CH’AO TS’O--LI LING]

CH’AO TS’O (perished B.C. 155), popularly known as
Wisdom-Bag, was a statesman rather than an author. Still, many of his
memorials to the throne were considered masterpieces, and have been
preserved accordingly. He wrote on the military operations against the
Huns, pleading for the employment of frontier tribes, “barbarians, who
in point of food and skill are closely allied to the Huns.” “But arms,”
he says, “are a curse, and war is a dread thing. For in the twinkling
of an eye the mighty may be humbled, and the strong may be brought
low.” In an essay “On the Value of Agriculture” he writes thus:--

“Crime begins in poverty; poverty in insufficiency of food;
insufficiency of food in neglect of agriculture. Without agriculture,
man has no tie to bind him to the soil. Without such tie he readily
leaves his birth-place and his home. He is like unto the birds of the
air or the beasts of the field. Neither battlemented cities, nor deep
moats, nor harsh laws, nor cruel punishments, can subdue this roving
spirit that is strong within him.

“He who is cold examines not the quality of cloth; he who is hungry
tarries not for choice meats. When cold and hunger come upon men,
honesty and shame depart. As man is constituted, he must eat twice
daily, or hunger; he must wear clothes, or be cold. And if the stomach
cannot get food and the body clothes, the love of the fondest mother
cannot keep her children at her side. How then should a sovereign keep
his subjects gathered around him?

“The wise ruler knows this. Therefore he concentrates the energies of
his people upon agriculture. He levies light taxes. He extends the
system of grain storage, to provide for his subjects at times when
their resources fail.”

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: LI LING]

The name of LI LING (second and first centuries B.C.)
is a familiar one to every Chinese schoolboy. He was a military
official who was sent in command of 800 horse to reconnoitre the
territory of the Huns; and returning successful from this expedition,
he was promoted to a high command and was again employed against
these troublesome neighbours. With a force of only 5000 infantry he
penetrated into the Hun territory as far as Mount Ling-chi (?), where
he was surrounded by an army of 30,000 of the Khan’s soldiers; and when
his troops had exhausted all their arrows, he was forced to surrender.
At this the Emperor was furious; and later on, when he heard that
Li Ling was training the Khan’s soldiers in the art of war as then
practised by the Chinese, he caused his mother, wife, and children to
be put to death. Li Ling remained some twenty years, until his death,
with the Huns, and was highly honoured by the Khan, who gave him his
daughter to wife.

With the renegade Li Ling is associated his patriot contemporary,
SU WU, who also met with strange adventures among the Huns. Several
Chinese envoys had been imprisoned by the latter, and not allowed to
return; and by way of reprisal, Hun envoys had been imprisoned in
China. But a new Khan had recently sent back all the imprisoned envoys,
and in A.D. 100 Su Wu was despatched upon a mission of peace to return
the Hun envoys who had been detained by the Chinese. Whilst at the
Court of the Khan his fellow-envoys revolted, and on the strength of
this an attempt was made to persuade him to throw off his allegiance
and enter the service of the Huns; upon which he tried to commit
suicide, and wounded himself so severely that he lay unconscious for
some hours. He subsequently slew a Chinese renegade with his own
hand; and then when it was found that he was not to be forced into
submission, he was thrown into a dungeon and left without food for
several days. He kept himself alive by sucking snow and gnawing a
felt rug; and at length the Huns, thinking that he was a supernatural
being, sent him away north and set him to tend sheep. Then Li Ling was
ordered to try once more by brilliant offers to shake his unswerving
loyalty, but all was in vain. In the year 86, peace was made with
the Huns, and the Emperor asked for the return of Su Wu. To this the
Huns replied that he was dead; but a former assistant to Su Wu bade
the new envoy tell the Khan that the Emperor had shot a goose with
a letter tied to its leg, from which he had learnt the whereabouts
of his missing envoy. This story so astonished the Khan that Su Wu
was released, and in B.C.. 81 returned to China after a captivity of
nineteen years. He had gone away in the prime of life; he returned a
white-haired and broken-down old man.

Li Ling and Su Wu are said to have exchanged poems at parting, and
these are to be found published in collections under their respective
names. Some doubt has been cast upon the genuineness of one of those
attributed to Li Ling. It was pointed out by Hung Mai, a brilliant
critic of the twelfth century, that a certain word was used in the
poem, which, being part of the personal name of a recent Emperor, would
at that date have been taboo. No such stigma attaches to the verses
by Su Wu, who further gave to his wife a parting poem, which has been
preserved, promising her that if he lived he would not fail to return,
and if he died he would never forget her. But most famous of all, and
still a common model for students, is a letter written by Li Ling to
Su Wu, after the latter’s return to China, in reply to an affectionate
appeal to him to return also. Its genuineness has been questioned by Su
Shih of the Sung dynasty, but not by the greatest of modern critics,
Lin Hsi-chung, who declares that its pathos is enough to make even the
gods weep, and that it cannot possibly have come from any other hand
save that of Li Ling. With this verdict the foreign student may well
rest content. Here is the letter:--

“O Tzŭ-ch’ing, O my friend, happy in the enjoyment of a glorious
reputation, happy in the prospect of an imperishable name,--there is
no misery like exile in a far-off foreign land, the heart brimful of
longing thoughts of home! I have thy kindly letter, bidding me of good
cheer, kinder than a brother’s words; for which my soul thanks thee.

“Ever since the hour of my surrender until now, destitute of all
resource, I have sat alone with the bitterness of my grief. All day
long I see none but barbarians around me. Skins and felt protect me
from wind and rain. With mutton and whey I satisfy my hunger and slake
my thirst. Companions with whom to while time away, I have none. The
whole country is stiff with black ice. I hear naught but the moaning of
the bitter autumn blast, beneath which all vegetation has disappeared.
I cannot sleep at night. I turn and listen to the distant sound of
Tartar pipes, to the whinnying of Tartar steeds. In the morning I sit
up and listen still, while tears course down my cheeks. O Tzŭ-ch’ing,
of what stuff am I, that I should do aught but grieve? The day of thy
departure left me disconsolate indeed. I thought of my aged mother
butchered upon the threshold of the grave. I thought of my innocent
wife and child, condemned to the same cruel fate. Deserving as I might
have been of Imperial censure, I am now an object of pity to all. Thy
return was to honour and renown, while I remained behind with infamy
and disgrace. Such is the divergence of man’s destiny.

“Born within the domain of refinement and justice, I passed into
an environment of vulgar ignorance. I left behind me obligations to
sovereign and family for life amid barbarian hordes; and now barbarian
children will carry on the line of my forefathers. And yet my merit
was great, my guilt of small account. I had no fair hearing; and when
I pause to think of these things, I ask to what end I have lived? With
a thrust I could have cleared myself of all blame: my severed throat
would have borne witness to my resolution; and between me and my
country all would have been over for aye. But to kill myself would have
been of no avail: I should only have added to my shame. I therefore
steeled myself to obloquy and to life. There were not wanting those who
mistook my attitude for compliance, and urged me to a nobler course;
ignorant that the joys of a foreign land are sources only of a keener

“O Tzŭ-ch’ing, O my friend, I will complete the half-told record of
my former tale. His late Majesty commissioned me, with five thousand
infantry under my command, to carry on operations in a distant country.
Five brother generals missed their way: I alone reached the theatre
of war. With rations for a long march, leading on my men, I passed
beyond the limits of the Celestial Land, and entered the territory of
the fierce Huns. With five thousand men I stood opposed to a hundred
thousand: mine jaded foot-soldiers, theirs horsemen fresh from the
stable. Yet we slew their leaders, and captured their standards, and
drove them back in confusion towards the north. We obliterated their
very traces: we swept them away like dust: we beheaded their general. A
martial spirit spread abroad among my men. With them, to die in battle
was to return to their homes; while I--I venture to think that I had
already accomplished something.

“This victory was speedily followed by a general rising of the Huns.
New levies were trained to the use of arms, and at length another
hundred thousand barbarians were arrayed against me. The Hun chieftain
himself appeared, and with his army surrounded my little band, so
unequal in strength,--foot-soldiers opposed to horse. Still my tired
veterans fought, each man worth a thousand of the foe, as, covered
with wounds, one and all struggled bravely to the fore. The plain was
strewed with the dying and the dead: barely a hundred men were left,
and these too weak to hold a spear and shield. Yet, when I waved my
hand and shouted to them, the sick and wounded arose. Brandishing their
blades, and pointing towards the foe, they dismissed the Tartar cavalry
like a rabble rout. And even when their arms were gone, their arrows
spent, without a foot of steel in their hands, they still rushed,
yelling, onward, each eager to lead the way. The very heavens and the
earth seemed to gather round me, while my warriors drank tears of
blood. Then the Hunnish chieftain, thinking that we should not yield,
would have drawn off his forces. But a false traitor told him all: the
battle was renewed, and we were lost.

“The Emperor Kao Ti, with 300,000 men at his back, was shut up in
P’ing-ch’êng. Generals he had, like clouds; counsellors, like drops of
rain. Yet he remained seven days without food, and then barely escaped
with life. How much more then I, now blamed on all sides that I did
not die? This was my crime. But, O Tzŭ-ch’ing, canst thou say that I
would live from craven fear of death? Am I one to turn my back on my
country and all those dear to me, allured by sordid thoughts of gain?
It was not indeed without cause that I did not elect to die. I longed,
as explained in my former letter, to prove my loyalty to my prince.
Rather than die to no purpose, I chose to live and to establish my good
name. It was better to achieve something than to perish. Of old, Fan Li
did not slay himself after the battle of Hui-chi; neither did Ts’ao Mo
die after the ignominy of three defeats. Revenge came at last; and thus
I too had hoped to prevail. Why then was I overtaken with punishment
before the plan was matured? Why were my own flesh and blood condemned
before the design could be carried out? It is for this that I raise my
face to Heaven, and beating my breast, shed tears of blood.

“O my friend, thou sayest that the House of Han never fails to reward a
deserving servant. But thou art thyself a servant of the House, and it
would ill beseem thee to say other words than these. Yet Hsiao and Fan
were bound in chains; Han and P’êng were sliced to death; Ch’ao Ts’o
was beheaded. Chou Po was disgraced, and Tou Ying paid the penalty with
his life. Others, great in their generation, have also succumbed to the
intrigues of base men, and have been overwhelmed beneath a weight of
shame from which they were unable to emerge. And now, the misfortunes
of Fan Li and Ts’ao Mo command the sympathies of all.

“My grandfather filled heaven and earth with the fame of his
exploits--the bravest of the brave. Yet, fearing the animosity of an
Imperial favourite, he slew himself in a distant land, his death being
followed by the secession, in disgust, of many a brother-hero. Can this
be the reward of which thou speakest?

“Thou too, O my friend, an envoy with a slender equipage, sent on that
mission to the robber race, when fortune failed thee even to the last
resource of the dagger. Then years of miserable captivity, all but
ended by death among the wilds of the far north. Thou left us full of
young life, to return a graybeard; thy old mother dead, thy wife gone
from thee to another. Seldom has the like of this been known. Even the
savage barbarian respected thy loyal spirit: how much more the lord
of all under the canopy of the sky? A many-acred barony should have
been thine, the ruler of a thousand-charioted fief! Nevertheless, they
tell me ’twas but two paltry millions, and the chancellorship of the
Tributary States. Not a foot of soil repaid thee for the past, while
some cringing courtier gets the marquisate of ten thousand families,
and each greedy parasite of the Imperial house is gratified by the
choicest offices of the State. If then thou farest thus, what could I
expect? I have been heavily repaid for that I did not die. Thou hast
been meanly rewarded for thy unswerving devotion to thy prince. This
is barely that which should attract the absent servant back to his

“And so it is that I do not now regret the past. Wanting though I
may have been in my duty to the State, the State was wanting also in
gratitude towards me. It was said of old, ‘A loyal subject, though not
a hero, will rejoice to die for his country.’ I would die joyfully even
now; but the stain of my prince’s ingratitude can never be wiped away.
Indeed, if the brave man is not to be allowed to achieve a name, but
must die like a dog in a barbarian land, who will be found to crook the
back and bow the knee before an Imperial throne, where the bitter pens
of courtiers tell their lying tales?

“O my friend, look for me no more. O Tzŭ-ch’ing, what shall I say? A
thousand leagues lie between us, and separate us for ever. I shall live
out my life as it were in another sphere: my spirit will find its home
among a strange people. Accept my last adieu. Speak for me to my old
acquaintances, and bid them serve their sovereign well. O my friend,
be happy in the bosom of thy family, and think of me no more. Strive
to take all care of thyself; and when time and opportunity are thine,
write me once again in reply.

“Li Ling salutes thee!”

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: LU WÊN-SHU]

One of the Chinese models of self-help alluded to in the _San Tzŭ
Ching_, the famous school primer, to be described later on, is LU
WÊN-SHU (first century B.C.). The son of a village gaoler, he was sent
by his father to tend sheep, in which capacity he seems to have formed
sheets of writing material by plaiting rushes, and otherwise to have
succeeded in educating himself. He became an assistant in a prison,
and there the knowledge of law which he had picked up stood him in
such good stead that he was raised to a higher position; and then,
attracting the notice of the governor, he was still further advanced,
and finally took his degree, ultimately rising to the rank of governor.
In B.C. 67 he submitted to the throne the following well-known

“May it please your Majesty.

“Of the ten great follies of our predecessors, one still survives in
the maladministration of justice which prevails.

“Under the Ch’ins learning was at a discount; brute force carried
everything before it. Those who cultivated a spirit of charity and duty
towards their neighbour were despised. Judicial appointments were
the prizes coveted by all. He who spoke out the truth was stigmatised
as a slanderer, and he who strove to expose abuses was set down as a
pestilent fellow. Consequently all who acted up to the precepts of our
ancient code found themselves out of place in their generation, and
loyal words of good advice to the sovereign remained locked up within
their bosoms, while hollow notes of obsequious flattery soothed the
monarch’s ear and lulled his heart with false images, to the exclusion
of disagreeable realities. And so the rod of empire fell from their
grasp for ever.

“At the present moment the State rests upon the immeasurable bounty and
goodness of your Majesty. We are free from the horrors of war, from the
calamities of hunger and cold. Father and son, husband and wife, are
united in their happy homes. Nothing is wanting to make this a golden
age save only reform in the administration of justice.

“Of all trusts, this is the greatest and most sacred. The dead man
can never come back to life: that which is once cut off cannot be
joined again. ‘Rather than slay an innocent man, it were better that
the guilty escape.’ Such, however, is not the view of our judicial
authorities of to-day. With them, oppression and severity are reckoned
to be signs of magisterial acumen and lead on to fortune, whereas
leniency entails naught but trouble. Therefore their chief aim is to
compass the death of their victims; not that they entertain any grudge
against humanity in general, but simply that this is the shortest cut
to their own personal advantage. Thus, our market-places run with
blood, our criminals throng the gaols, and many thousands annually
suffer death. These things are injurious to public morals and hinder
the advent of a truly golden age.

“Man enjoys life only when his mind is at peace; when he is in
distress, his thoughts turn towards death. Beneath the scourge what is
there that cannot be wrung from the lips of the sufferer? His agony is
overwhelming, and he seeks to escape by speaking falsely. The officials
profit by the opportunity, and cause him to say what will best confirm
his guilt. And then, fearing lest the conviction be quashed by higher
courts, they dress the victim’s deposition to suit the circumstances of
the case, so that, when the record is complete, even were Kao Yao[7]
himself to rise from the dead, he would declare that death still left
a margin of unexpiated crime. This, because of the refining process
adopted to ensure the establishment of guilt.

“Our magistrates indeed think of nothing else. They are the bane of
the people. They keep in view their own ends, and care not for the
welfare of the State. Truly they are the worst criminals of the age.
Hence the saying now runs, ‘Chalk out a prison on the ground, and no
one would remain within. Set up a gaoler of wood, and he will be found
standing there alone.’[8] Imprisonment has become the greatest of all
misfortunes, while among those who break the law, who violate family
ties, who choke the truth, there are none to be compared in iniquity
with the officers of justice themselves.

“Where you let the kite rear its young undisturbed, there will the
phœnix come and build its nest. Do not punish for misguided advice,
and by and by valuable suggestions will flow in. The men of old said,
‘Hills and jungles shelter many noxious things; rivers and marshes
receive much filth; even the finest gems are not wholly without flaw.
Surely then the ruler of an empire should put up with a little abuse.’
But I would have your Majesty exempt from vituperation, and open to the
advice of all who have aught to say. I would have freedom of speech
in the advisers of the throne. I would sweep away the errors which
brought the downfall of our predecessors. I would have reverence for
the virtues of our ancient kings and reform in the administration of
justice, to the utter confusion of those who now pervert its course.
Then indeed would the golden age be renewed over the face of the glad
earth, and the people would move ever onwards in peace and happiness
boundless as the sky itself.”

       *       *       *       *       *

LIU HSIANG (B.C. 80-89) was a descendant of the
beadle founder of the great Han dynasty. Entering into official life,
he sought to curry favour with the reigning Emperor by submitting
some secret works on the black art, towards which his Majesty was
much inclined. The results not proving successful, he was thrown into
prison, but was soon released that he might carry on the publication of
the commentary on the Spring and Autumn by Ku-liang. He also revised
and re-arranged the historical episodes known as the _Chan Kuo Ts’ê_,
wrote treatises on government and some poetry, and compiled Biographies
of Eminent Women, the first work of its kind.

His son, LIU HSIN, was a precocious boy, who early
distinguished himself by wide reading in all branches of literature.
He worked with his father upon the restoration of the classical
texts, especially of the Book of Changes, and later on was chiefly
instrumental in establishing the position of Tso’s Commentary on
the Spring and Autumn. He catalogued the Imperial Library, and in
conjunction with his father discovered--some say compiled--the Chou

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: YANG HSIUNG]

A well-known figure in Chinese literature is YANG HSIUNG (B.C.
53-A.D. 18). As a boy he was fond of straying from the beaten track
and reading whatever he could lay his hands on. He stammered badly,
and consequently gave much time to meditation. He propounded an
ethical criterion occupying a middle place between those insisted
upon by Mencius and by Hsün K’uang, teaching that the nature of man
at birth is neither good nor evil, but a mixture of both, and that
development in either direction depends wholly upon environment. In
glorification of the Book of Changes he wrote the _T’ai Hsüan Ching_,
and to emphasise the value of the Confucian Analects he produced a
philosophical treatise known as the _Fa Yen_, both between A.D. 1 and
6. On completion of this last, his most famous work, a wealthy merchant
of the province was so struck by its excellence that he offered to
give 100,000 _cash_ if his name should merely be mentioned in it. But
Yang answered with scorn that a stag in a pen or an ox in a cage would
not be more out of place than the name of a man with nothing but money
to recommend him in the sacred pages of a book. Liu Hsin, however,
sneeringly suggested that posterity would use Yang Hsiung’s work to
cover pickle-jars.

Besides composing some mediocre poetry, Yang Hsiung wrote on
acupuncture, music, and philology. There is little doubt that he did
not write the _Fang Yen_, a vocabulary of words and phrases used in
various parts of the empire, which was steadily attributed to him until
Hung Mai, a critic of the twelfth century, already mentioned in Chapter
I. of this Book, made short work of his claims.

       *       *       *       *       *

A brilliant writer who attracted much attention in his day was WANG
CH’UNG (A.D. 27-97). He is said to have picked up his education at
bookstalls, with the aid of a superbly retentive memory. Only one of
his works is extant, the _Lun Hêng_, consisting of eighty-five essays
on a variety of subjects. In these he tilts against the errors of the
age, and exposes even Confucius and Mencius to free and searching
criticisms. He is consequently ranked as a heterodox thinker. He
showed that the soul could neither exist after death as a spirit nor
exercise any influence upon the living. When the body decomposes, the
soul, a phenomenon inseparable from vitality, perishes with it. He
further argued that if the souls of human beings were immortal, those
of animals would be immortal likewise; and that space itself would not
suffice to contain the countless shades of the men and creatures of all

MA JUNG (A.D. 79-166) was popularly known as the Universal Scholar. His
learning in Confucian lore was profound, and he taught upwards of one
thousand pupils. He introduced the system of printing notes or comments
in the body of the page, using for that purpose smaller characters cut
in double columns; and it was by a knowledge of this fact that a clever
critic of the T’ang dynasty was able to settle the spuriousness of an
early edition of the _Tao-Tê-Ching_ with double-column commentary,
which had been attributed to Ho Shang Kung, a writer of the second
century B.C.


TS’AI YUNG (A.D. 133-192), whose tippling propensities earned for him
the nickname of the Drunken Dragon, is chiefly remembered in connection
with literature as superintending the work of engraving on stone the
authorised text of the Five Classics. With red ink he wrote these out
on forty-six tablets for the workmen to cut. The tablets were placed
in the Hung-tu College, and fragments of them are said to be still in

The most famous of the pupils who sat at the feet of Ma Jung was CHÊNG
HSÜAN (A.D. 127-200). He is one of the most voluminous of all the
commentators upon the Confucian classics. He lived for learning. The
very slave-girls of his household were highly educated, and interlarded
their conversation with quotations from the Odes. He was nevertheless
fond of wine, and is said to have been able to take three hundred
cups at a sitting without losing his head. Perhaps it may be as well
to add that a Chinese cup holds about a thimbleful. As an instance of
the general respect in which he was held, it is recorded that at his
request the chief of certain rebels spared the town of Kao-mi (his
native place), marching forward by another route. In A.D. 200 Confucius
appeared to him in a vision, and he knew by this token that his hour
was at hand. Consequently, he was very loth to respond to a summons
sent to him from Chi-chou in Chihli by the then powerful Yüan Shao. He
set out indeed upon the journey, but died on the way.

It is difficult to bring the above writers, representatives of
a class, individually to the notice of the reader. Though each
one wandered into by-paths of his own, the common lode-star was
Confucianism--elucidation of the Confucian Canon. For although,
with us, commentaries upon the classics are not usually regarded as
literature, they are so regarded by the Chinese, who place such works
in the very highest rank, and reward successful commentators with the
coveted niche in the Confucian temple.


[6] An account of the mausoleum built to receive his remains will be
found in Chapter iii. of this Book.

[7] A famous Minister of Crime in the mythical ages.

[8] Contrary to what was actually the case in the Golden Age.



At the beginning of the second century B.C., poetry was still composed
on the model of the _Li Sao_, and we are in possession of a number
of works assigned to Chia I (B.C. 199-168), Tung-fang So (_b._ B.C.
160), Liu Hsiang, and others, all of which follow on the lines of Ch’ü
Yüan’s great poem. But gradually, with the more definite establishment
of what we may call classical influence, poets went back to find
their exemplars in the Book of Poetry, which came as it were from the
very hand of Confucius himself. Poems were written in metres of four,
five, and seven words to a line. Ssŭ-ma Hsiang-ju (_d._ B.C. 117), a
gay Lothario who eloped with a young widow, made such a name with his
verses that he was summoned to Court, and appointed by the Emperor to
high office. His poems, however, have not survived.

MEI SHÊNG (_d._ B.C. 140), who formed his style
on Ssŭ-ma, has the honour of being the first to bring home to his
fellow-countrymen the extreme beauty of the five-word metre. From him
modern poetry may be said to date. Many specimens of his workmanship
are extant:--

  (1.) “_Green grows the grass upon the bank,
  The willow-shoots are long and lank;
  A lady in a glistening gown
  Opens the casement and looks down
  The roses on her cheek blush bright,
  Her rounded arm is dazzling white;
  A singing-girl in early life,
  And now a careless roué’s wife....
  Ah, if he does not mind his own,
  He’ll find some day the bird has flown!_”

  (2.) “_The red hibiscus and the reed,
  The fragrant flowers of marsh and mead,
  All these I gather as I stray,
  As though for one now far away.
  I strive to pierce with straining eyes
  The distance that between us lies.
  Alas that hearts which beat as one
  Should thus be parted and undone!_”

[Sidenote: LIU-HÊNG--LIU CH’Ê]

LIU HÊNG (_d_. B.C. 157) was the son by a concubine
of the founder of the Han dynasty, and succeeded in B.C.
180 as fourth Emperor of the line. For over twenty years he ruled
wisely and well. He is one of the twenty-four classical examples of
filial piety, having waited on his sick mother for three years without
changing his clothes. He was a scholar, and was canonised after death
by a title which may fairly be rendered “Beauclerc.” The following is a
poem which he wrote on the death of his illustrious father, who, if we
can accept as genuine the remains attributed to him, was himself also a

  “_I look up, the curtains are there as of yore;
  I look down, and there is the mat on the floor;
  These things I behold, but the man is no more._

  “_To the infinite azure his spirit has flown,
  And I am left friendless, uncared-for, alone,
  Of solace bereft, save to weep and to moan._

  “_The deer on the hillside caressingly bleat,
  And offer the grass for their young ones to eat,
  While birds of the air to their nestlings bring meat_

  “_But I a poor orphan must ever remain,
  My heart, still so young, overburdened with pain
  For him I shall never set eyes on again._

  “_’Tis a well-worn old saying, which all men allow,
  That grief stamps the deepest of lines on the brow:
  Alas for my hair, it is silvery now!_

  “_Alas for my father, cut off in his pride!
  Alas that no more I may stand by his side!
  Oh, where were the gods when that great hero died?_”

The literary fame of the Beauclerc was rivalled, if not surpassed, by
his grandson, LIU CH’Ê (B.C. 156-87), who succeeded in B.C. 140 as
sixth Emperor of the Han dynasty. He was an enthusiastic patron of
literature. He devoted great attention to music as a factor in national
life. He established important religious sacrifices to heaven and
earth. He caused the calendar to be reformed by his grand astrologer,
the historian SSŬ-MA CH’IEN, from which date accurate chronology
may be almost said to begin. His generals carried the Imperial arms
into Central Asia, and for many years the Huns were held in check.
Notwithstanding his enlightened policy, the Emperor was personally
much taken up with the magic and mysteries which were being gradually
grafted on to the Tao of Lao Tzŭ, and he encouraged the numerous quacks
who pretended to have discovered the elixir of life. The following are
specimens of his skill in poetry:--

  “_The autumn blast drives the white scud in the sky,
  Leaves fade, and wild geese sweeping south meet the eye;
  The scent of late flowers fills the soft air above.
  My heart full of thoughts of the lady I love.
  In the river the barges for revel-carouse
  Are lined by white waves which break over their bows;
  Their oarsmen keep time to the piping and drumming....
          Yet joy is as naught
          Alloyed by the thought
  That youth slips away and that old age is coming._”

The next lines were written upon the death of a harem favourite, to
whom he was fondly attached:--

  “_The sound of rustling silk is stilled,
  With dust the marble courtyard filled;
  No footfalls echo on the floor,
  Fallen leaves in heaps block up the door....
  For she, my pride, my lovely one, is lost,
  And I am left, in hopeless anguish tossed._”

A good many anonymous poems have come down to us from the first century
B.C., and some of these contain here and there quaint and
pleasing conceits, as, for instance--

  “_Man reaches scarce a hundred, yet his tears
  Would fill a lifetime of a thousand years._”

The following is a poem of this period, the author of which is

  “_Forth from the eastern gate my steeds I drive,
  And lo! a cemetery meets my view;
  Aspens around in wild luxuriance thrive,
  The road is fringed with fir and pine and yew.
  Beneath my feet lie the forgotten dead,
  Wrapped in a twilight of eternal gloom;
  Down by the Yellow Springs their earthy bed,
  And everlasting silence is their doom.
  How fast the lights and shadows come and go!
  Like morning dew our fleeting life has passed;
  Man, a poor traveller on earth below,
  Is gone, while brass and stone can still outlast.
  Time is inexorable, and in vain
  Against his might the holiest mortal strives;
  Can we then hope this precious boon to gain,
  By strange elixirs to prolong our lives?...
  Oh, rather quaff good liquor while we may,
  And dress in silk and satin every day!_”

[Sidenote: THE LADY PAN]

Women now begin to appear in Chinese literature. The Lady PAN
was for a long time chief favourite of the Emperor who ruled China
B.C. 32-6. So devoted was his Majesty that he even wished her
to appear alongside of him in the Imperial chariot. Upon which she
replied, “Your handmaid has heard that wise rulers of old were always
accompanied by virtuous ministers, but never that they drove out with
women by their side.” She was ultimately supplanted by a younger and
more beautiful rival, whereupon she forwarded to the Emperor one of
those fans, round or octagonal frames of bamboo with silk stretched
over them,[9] which in this country are called “fire-screens,”
inscribed with the following lines:--

  “_O fair white silk, fresh from the weaver’s loom,
  Clear as the frost, bright as the winter snow--
  See! friendship fashions out of thee a fan,
  Round as the round moon shines in heaven above,
  At home, abroad, a close companion thou,
  Stirring at every move the grateful gale.
  And yet I fear, ah me! that autumn chills,
  Cooling the dying summer’s torrid rage,
  Will see thee laid neglected on the shelf,
  All thought of bygone days, like them bygone._”

The phrase “autumn fan” has long since passed into the language, and is
used figuratively of a deserted wife.


[9] The folding fan, invented by the Japanese, was not known in China
until the eleventh century A.D., when it was introduced
through Korea.



[Sidenote: SSŬ-MA CH’IEN]

So far as China is concerned, the art of writing history may be said
to have been created during the period under review. SSŬ-MA CH’IEN,
the so-called Father of History, was born about B.C. 145. At the age
of ten he was already a good scholar, and at twenty set forth upon a
round of travel which carried him to all parts of the empire. In B.C.
110 his father died, and he stepped into the hereditary post of grand
astrologer. After devoting some time and energy to the reformation of
the calendar, he now took up the historical work which had been begun
by his father, and which was ultimately given to the world as the
Historical Record. It is a history of China from the earliest ages down
to about one hundred years before the Christian era, in one hundred and
thirty chapters, arranged under five headings, as follows:--(1) Annals
of the Emperors; (2) Chronological Tables; (3) Eight chapters on Rites,
Music, the Pitch-pipes, the Calendar, Astrology, Imperial Sacrifices,
Watercourses, and Political Economy; (4) Annals of the Feudal Nobles;
and (5) Biographies of many of the eminent men of the period, which
covers nearly three thousand years. In such estimation is this work
justly held that its very words have been counted, and found to number
526,500 in all. It must be borne in mind that these characters were,
in all probability, scratched with a stylus on bamboo tablets, and that
previous to this there was no such thing as a history on a general and
comprehensive plan; in fact, nothing beyond mere local annals in the
style of the Spring and Autumn.

Since the Historical Record, every dynasty has had its historian, their
works in all cases being formed upon the model bequeathed by Ssŭ-ma
Ch’ien. The Twenty-four Dynastic Histories of China were produced in
1747 in a uniform series bound up in 219 large volumes, and together
show a record such as can be produced by no other country in the world.

The following are specimens of Ssŭ-ma Ch’ien’s style:--

(1.) “When the House of Han arose, the evils of their predecessors had
not passed away. Husbands still went off to the wars. The old and the
young were employed in transporting food. Production was almost at a
standstill, and money became scarce. So much so, that even the Son of
Heaven had not carriage-horses of the same colour; the highest civil
and military authorities rode in bullock-carts, and the people at large
knew not where to lay their heads.

“At this epoch, the coinage in use was so heavy and cumbersome that
the people themselves started a new issue at a fixed standard of
value. But the laws were too lax, and it was impossible to prevent
grasping persons from coining largely, buying largely, and then holding
against a rise in the market. The consequence was that prices went up
enormously. Rice sold at 10,000 _cash_ per picul; a horse cost 100
ounces of silver. But by and by, when the empire was settling down to
tranquillity, his Majesty Kao Tsu gave orders that no trader should
wear silk nor ride in a carriage; besides which, the imposts levied
upon this class were greatly increased, in order to keep them down.
Some years later these restrictions were withdrawn; still, however,
the descendants of traders were disqualified from holding any office
connected with the State.

“Meanwhile, certain levies were made on a scale calculated to meet
the exigencies of public expenditure; while the land-tax and customs
revenue were regarded by all officials, from the Emperor downwards,
as their own personal emolument. Grain was forwarded by water to the
capital for the use of the officials there, but the quantity did not
amount to more than a few hundred thousand piculs every year.

“Gradually the coinage began to deteriorate and light coins to
circulate; whereupon another issue followed, each piece being marked
‘half an ounce.’ But at length the system of private issues led
to serious abuses, resulting first of all in vast sums of money
accumulating in the hands of individuals; finally, in rebellion, until
the country was flooded with the coinage of the rebels, and it became
necessary to enact laws against any such issues in the future.

“At this period the Huns were harassing our northern frontier, and
soldiers were massed there in large bodies; in consequence of which
food became so scarce that the authorities offered certain rank and
titles of honour to those who would supply a given quantity of grain.
Later on, drought ensued in the west, and in order to meet necessities
of the moment, official rank was again made a marketable commodity,
while those who broke the laws were allowed to commute their penalties
by money payments. And now horses began to reappear in official
stables, and in palace and hall signs of an ampler luxury were visible
once more.

“Thus it was in the early days of the dynasty, until some seventy years
after the accession of the House of Han. The empire was then at peace.
For a long time there had been neither flood nor drought, and a season
of plenty had ensued. The public granaries were well stocked; the
Government treasuries were full. In the capital, strings of _cash_ were
piled in myriads, until the very strings rotted, and their tale could
no longer be told. The grain in the Imperial storehouses grew mouldy
year by year. It burst from the crammed granaries, and lay about until
it became unfit for human food. The streets were thronged with horses
belonging to the people, and on the highroads whole droves were to be
seen, so that it became necessary to prohibit the public use of mares.
Village elders ate meat and drank wine. Petty government clerkships
and the like lapsed from father to son; the higher offices of State
were treated as family heirlooms. For there had gone abroad a spirit of
self-respect and of reverence for the law, while a sense of charity and
of duty towards one’s neighbour kept men aloof from disgrace and shame.

“At length, under lax laws, the wealthy began to use their riches for
evil purposes of pride and self-aggrandisement and oppression of the
weak. Members of the Imperial family received grants of land, while
from the highest to the lowest, every one vied with his neighbour in
lavishing money on houses, and appointments, and apparel, altogether
beyond the limit of his means. Such is the everlasting law of the
sequence of prosperity and decay.

“Then followed extensive military preparations in various parts of
the empire; the establishment of a tradal route with the barbarians
of the south-west, for which purpose mountains were hewn through
for many miles. The object was to open up the resources of those
remote districts, but the result was to swamp the inhabitants in
hopeless ruin. Then, again, there was the subjugation of Korea; its
transformation into an Imperial dependency; with other troubles nearer
home. There was the ambush laid for the Huns, by which we forfeited
their alliance, and brought them down upon our northern frontier.
Nothing, in fact, but wars and rumours of wars from day to day.
Money was constantly leaving the country. The financial stability of
the empire was undermined, and its impoverished people were driven
thereby into crime. Wealth had been frittered away, and its renewal
was sought in corruption. Those who brought money in their hands
received appointments under government. Those who could pay escaped
the penalties of their guilt. Merit had to give way to money. Shame
and scruples of conscience were laid aside. Laws and punishments were
administered with severer hand. From this period must be dated the rise
and growth of official venality.”

(2.) “The Odes have it thus:--‘We may gaze up to the mountain’s brow:
we may travel along the great road;’ signifying that although we cannot
hope to reach the goal, still we may push on thitherwards in spirit.

“While reading the works of Confucius, I have always fancied I
could see the man as he was in life; and when I went to Shantung I
actually beheld his carriage, his robes, and the material parts of his
ceremonial usages. There were his descendants practising the old rites
in their ancestral home, and I lingered on, unable to tear myself
away. Many are the princes and prophets that the world has seen in
its time, glorious in life, forgotten in death. But Confucius, though
only a humble member of the cotton-clothed masses, remains among us
after many generations. He is the model for such as would be wise. By
all, from the Son of Heaven down to the meanest student, the supremacy
of his principles is fully and freely admitted. He may indeed be
pronounced the divinest of men.”

(3.) “In the 9th moon the First Emperor was buried in Mount Li, which
in the early days of his reign he had caused to be tunnelled and
prepared with that view. Then, when he had consolidated the empire,
he employed his soldiery, to the number of 700,000, to bore down to
the Three Springs (that is, until water was reached), and there a
foundation of bronze[10] was laid and the sarcophagus placed thereon.
Rare objects and costly jewels were collected from the palaces and from
the various officials, and were carried thither and stored in vast
quantities. Artificers were ordered to construct mechanical cross-bows,
which, if any one were to enter, would immediately discharge their
arrows. With the aid of quicksilver, rivers were made, the Yang-tsze,
the Hoang-ho, and the great ocean, the metal being poured from one into
the other by machinery. On the roof were delineated the constellations
of the sky, on the floor the geographical divisions of the earth.
Candles were made from the fat of the man-fish (walrus), calculated to
last for a very long time.

“The Second Emperor said, ‘It is not fitting that the concubines of
my late father who are without children should leave him now;’ and
accordingly he ordered them to accompany the dead monarch to the next
world, those who thus perished being many in number.

“When the interment was completed, some one suggested that the workmen
who had made the machinery and concealed the treasure knew the great
value of the latter, and that the secret would leak out. Therefore,
so soon as the ceremony was over, and the path giving access to the
sarcophagus had been blocked up at its innermost end, the outside
gate at the entrance to this path was let fall, and the mausoleum was
effectually closed, so that not one of the workmen escaped. Trees and
grass were then planted around, that the spot might look like the rest
of the mountain.”

The history by Ssŭ-ma Ch’ien stops about 100 years before Christ. To
carry it on from that point was the ambition of a scholar named Pan
Piao (A.D. 3-54), but he died while still collecting materials
for his task. His son, PAN KU, whose scholarship was extensive
and profound, took up the project, but was impeached on the ground that
he was altering the national records at his own discretion, and was
thrown into prison. Released on the representations of a brother, he
continued his work; however, before its completion he became involved
in a political intrigue and was again thrown into prison, where he
died. The Emperor handed the unfinished history to PAN CHAO,
his gifted sister, who had been all along his assistant, and by her it
was brought to completion down to about the Christian era, where the
occupancy of the throne by a usurper divides the Han dynasty into two
distinct periods. This lady was also the author of a volume of moral
advice to young women, and of many poems and essays.

[Sidenote: HSÜ SHÊN]

Lexicography, which has since been so widely cultivated by the Chinese,
was called into being by a famous scholar named HSÜ SHÊN (_d._
A.D. 120). Entering upon an official career, he soon retired
and devoted the rest of his life to books. He was a deep student of the
Five Classics, and wrote a work on the discrepancies in the various
criticisms of these books. But it is by his _Shuo Wên_ that he is now
known. This was a collection, with short explanatory notes, of all
the characters--about ten thousand--which were to be found in Chinese
literature as then existing, written in what is now known as the Lesser
Seal style. It is the oldest Chinese dictionary of which we have any
record, and has hitherto formed the basis of all etymological research.
It is arranged under 540 radicals or classifiers, that is to say,
specially selected portions of characters which indicate to some extent
the direction in which lies the sense of the whole character, and its
chief object was to exhibit the pictorial features of Chinese writing.


[10] Variant “firm,” _i.e._ was firmly laid.



The introduction of Buddhism into China must now be considered,
especially under its literary aspect.

So early as B.C. 217 we read of Buddhist priests, Shih-li-fang and
others, coming to China. The “First Emperor” seems to have looked upon
them with suspicion. At any rate, he threw them into prison, from
which, we are told, they were released in the night by a golden man
or angel. Nothing more was heard of Buddhism until the Emperor known
as Ming Ti, in consequence, it is said, of a dream in which a foreign
god appeared to him, sent off a mission to India to see what could be
learnt upon the subject of this barbarian religion. The mission, which
consisted of eighteen persons, returned about A.D. 67, accompanied by
two Indian Buddhists named Kashiapmadanga and Gobharana. These two
settled at Lo-yang in Honan, which was then the capital, and proceeded
to translate into Chinese the Sûtra of Forty-two Sections--the
beginning of a long line of such. Soon afterwards the former died, but
the seed had been sown, and a great rival to Taoism was about to appear
on the scene.

Towards the close of the second century A.D. another Indian
Buddhist, who had come to reside at Ch’ang-an in Shensi, translated
the _sûtra_ known as the Lotus of the Good Law, and Buddhist temples
were built in various parts of China. By the beginning of the fourth
century Chinese novices were taking the vows required for the Buddhist
priesthood, and monasteries were endowed for their reception.

[Sidenote: FA HSIEN]

In A.D. 399 FA HSIEN started on his great pedestrian journey from the
heart of China overland to India, his object being to procure copies
of the Buddhist Canon, statues, and relics. Those who accompanied him
at starting either turned back or died on the way, and he finally
reached India with only one companion, who settled there and never
returned to China. After visiting various important centres, such as
Magadha, Patna, Benares, and Buddha-Gaya, and effecting the object of
his journey, he took passage on a merchant-ship, and reached Ceylon.
There he found a large junk which carried him to Java, whence, after
surviving many perils of the sea, he made his way on board another
junk to the coast of Shantung, disembarking in A.D. 414 with all
his treasures at the point now occupied by the German settlement of

The narrative of his adventurous journey, as told by himself, is still
in existence, written in a crabbed and difficult style. His itinerary
has been traced, and nearly all the places mentioned by him have been
identified. The following passage refers to the desert of Gobi, which
the travellers had to cross:--

“In this desert there are a great many evil spirits and hot winds.
Those who encounter the latter perish to a man. There are neither birds
above nor beasts below. Gazing on all sides, as far as the eye can
reach, in order to mark the track, it would be impossible to succeed
but for the rotting bones of dead men which point the way.”

Buddha-Gaya, the scene of recent interesting explorations conducted by
the late General Cunningham, was visited by Fa Hsien, and is described
by him as follows:--

“The pilgrims now arrived at the city of Gaya, also a complete waste
within its walls. Journeying about three more miles southwards, they
reached the place where the Bôdhisatva formerly passed six years in
self-mortification. It is very woody. From this point going west a
mile, they arrived at the spot where Buddha entered the water to bathe,
and a god pressed down the branch of a tree to pull him out of the
pool. Also, by going two-thirds of a mile farther north, they reached
the place where the two lay-sisters presented Buddha with congee made
with milk. Two-thirds of a mile to the north of this is the place where
Buddha, sitting on a stone under a great tree and facing the east, ate
it. The tree and the stone are both there still, the latter being about
six feet in length and breadth by over two feet in height. In Central
India the climate is equable; trees will live several thousand, and
even so much as ten thousand years. From this point going north-east
half a yojana, the pilgrims arrived at the cave where the Bôdhisatva,
having entered, sat down cross-legged with his face to the west, and
reflected as follows: ‘If I attain perfect wisdom, there should be
some miracle in token thereof.’ Whereupon the silhouette of Buddha
appeared upon the stone, over three feet in length, and is plainly
visible to this day. Then heaven and earth quaked mightily, and the
gods who were in space cried out, saying, ‘This is not the place
where past and future Buddhas have attained and should attain perfect
wisdom. The proper spot is beneath the Bô tree, less than half a yojana
to the south-west of this.’ When the gods had uttered these words,
they proceeded to lead the way with singing in order to conduct him
thither. The Bôdhisatva got up and followed, and when thirty paces from
the tree a god gave him the _kus’a_ grass. Having accepted this, he
went on fifteen paces farther, when five hundred dark-coloured birds
came and flew three times round him, and departed. The Bôdhisatva went
on to the Bô tree, and laying down his _kus’a_ grass, sat down with
his face to the east. Then Mara, the king of the devils, sent three
beautiful women to approach from the north and tempt him; he himself
approaching from the south with the same object. The Bôdhisatva pressed
the ground with his toes, whereupon the infernal army retreated in
confusion, and the three women became old. At the above-mentioned place
where Buddha suffered mortification for six years, and on all these
other spots, men of after ages have built pagodas and set up images,
all of which are still in existence. Where Buddha, having attained
perfect wisdom, contemplated the tree for seven days, experiencing the
joys of emancipation; where Buddha walked backwards and forwards, east
and west, under the Bô tree for seven days; where the gods produced
a jewelled chamber and worshipped Buddha for seven days; where the
blind dragon Muchilinda enveloped Buddha for seven days; where Buddha
sat facing the east on a square stone beneath the nyagrodha tree, and
Brahmâ came to salute him; where the four heavenly kings offered their
alms-bowls; where the five hundred traders gave him cooked rice and
honey; where he converted the brothers Kasyapa with their disciples to
the number of one thousand souls--on all these spots stûpas have been

The following passage refers to Ceylon, called by Fa Hsien the Land
of the Lion, that is, Singhala, from the name of a trader who first
founded a kingdom there:--

“This country had originally no inhabitants; only devils and spirits
and dragons lived in it, with whom the merchants of neighbouring
countries came to trade. When the exchange of commodities took place,
the devils and spirits did not appear in person, but set out their
valuables with the prices attached. Then the merchants, according
to the prices, bought the things and carried them off. But from the
merchants going backwards and forwards and stopping on their way,
the attractions of the place became known to the inhabitants of the
neighbouring countries, who also went there, and thus it became a great
nation. The temperature is very agreeable in this country; there is
no distinction of summer and winter. The trees and plants are always
green, and cultivation of the soil is carried on as men please, without
regard to seasons.”

       *       *       *       *       *


Meanwhile, the Indian Kumarajiva, one of the Four Suns of Buddhism, had
been occupied between A.D. 405 and 412 in dictating Chinese
commentaries on the Buddhist Canon to some eight hundred priests. He
also wrote a _shâstra_ on Reality and Appearance, and translated the
Diamond Sûtra, which has done more to popularise Buddhism with the
educated classes than all the material parts of this religion put
together. Chinese poets and philosophers have drawn inspiration and
instruction from its pages, and the work might now almost be classed as
a national classic. Here are two short extracts:--

(1.) “Buddha said, O Subhūti, tell me after thy wit, can a man see the
Buddha in the flesh?

“He cannot, O World-Honoured, and for this reason: The Buddha has
declared that flesh has no objective existence.

“Then Buddha told Subhūti, saying, All objective existences are
unsubstantial and unreal. If a man can see clearly that they are so,
then can he see the Buddha.”

(2.) “Buddha said, O Subhūti, if one man were to collect the seven
precious things from countless galaxies of worlds, and bestow all these
in charity, and another virtuous man, or virtuous woman, were to become
filled with the spirit, and held fast by this _sûtra_, preaching it
ever so little for the conversion of mankind, I say unto you that the
happiness of this last man would far exceed the happiness of that other

“Conversion to what? To the disregard of objective existences, and to
absolute quiescence of the individual. And why? Because every external
phenomenon is like a dream, like a vision, like a bubble, like shadow,
like dew, like lightning, and should be regarded as such.”

       *       *       *       *       *

In A.D. 520 Bôdhidharma came to China, and was received with
honour. He had been the son of a king in Southern India. He taught that
religion was not to be learnt from books, but that man should seek and
find the Buddha in his own heart. Just before his arrival Sung Yün had
been sent to India to obtain more Buddhist books, and had remained two
years in Kandahar, returning with 175 volumes.

Then, in 629, HSÜAN TSANG set out for India with the same object,
and also to visit the holy places of Buddhism. He came back in 645,
bringing with him 657 Buddhist books, besides many images and pictures
and 150 relics. He spent the rest of his life translating these books,
and also, like Fa Hsien, wrote a narrative of his travels.

This brings us down to the beginning of the T’ang dynasty, when
Buddhism had acquired, in spite of much opposition and even
persecution, what has since proved to be a lasting hold upon the masses
of the Chinese people.


_MINOR DYNASTIES_ (A.D. 200-600)



The centuries which elapsed between A.D. 200 and 600 were not
favourable to the development and growth of a national literature.
During a great part of the time the empire was torn by civil wars;
there was not much leisure for book-learning, and few patrons to
encourage it. Still the work was carried on, and many great names have
come down to us.

The dark years between A.D. 196 and 221, which witnessed the
downfall of the House of Han, were illumined by the names of seven
writers, now jointly known as the Seven Scholars of the Chien-An
period. They were all poets. There was HSÜ KAN, who fell under
the influence of Buddhism and translated into Chinese the _Pranyamûla
shâstra tikâ_ of Nâgârdjuna. The following lines are by him:--

  “_O floating clouds that swim in heaven above,
  Bear on your wings these words to him I love...
  Alas! you float along nor heed my pain,
  And leave me here to love and long in vain!
  I see other dear ones to their homes return,
  And for his coming shall not I too yearn?
  Since my lord left--ah me, unhappy day!--
  My mirror’s dust has not been brushed away;
  My heart, like running water, knows no peace.
  But bleeds and bleeds forever without cease._”

[Sidenote: K’UNG JUNG--WANG TS’AN]

There was K’UNG JUNG, a descendant of Confucius in the twentieth
degree, and a most precocious child. At ten years of age he went with
his father to Lo-yang, where Li Ying, the Dragon statesman, was at the
height of his political reputation. Unable from the press of visitors
to gain admission, he told the doorkeeper to inform Li Ying that he
was a connection, and thus succeeded in getting in. When Li Ying asked
him what the connection was, he replied, “My ancestor Confucius and
your ancestor Lao Tzŭ were friends engaged in the quest for truth,
so that you and I may be said to be of the same family.” Li Ying was
astonished, but Ch’ên Wei said, “Cleverness in youth does not mean
brilliancy in later life,” upon which K’ung Jung remarked, “You, sir,
must evidently have been very clever as a boy.” Entering official life,
he rose to be Governor of Po-hai in Shantung; but he incurred the
displeasure of the great Ts’ao Ts’ao, and was put to death with all his
family. He was an open-hearted man, and fond of good company. “If my
halls are full of guests,” he would say, “and my bottles full of wine,
I am happy.”

The following is a specimen of his poetry:--

  “_The wanderer reaches home with joy
    From absence of a year and more:
  His eye seeks a beloved boy--
    His wife lies weeping on the floor._

  “_They whisper he is gone. The glooms
    Of evening fall; beyond the gate
  A lonely grave in outline looms
    To greet the sire who came too late._

  “_Forth to the little mound he flings,
    Where wild-flowers bloom on every side....
  His bones are in the Yellow Springs,
    His flesh like dust is scattered wide._

  “‘_O child, who never knew thy sire,
      For ever now to be unknown,
  Ere long thy wandering ghost shall tire
     Of flitting friendless and alone._

  “‘_O son, man’s greatest earthly boon,
    With thee I bury hopes and fears.’
  He bowed his head in grief, and soon
    His breast was wet with rolling tears._

  “_Life’s dread uncertainty he knows,
    But oh for this untimely close!_”

There was WANG TS’AN (A.D. 177-217), a learned man who wrote an _Ars
Poetica_, not, however, in verse. A youth of great promise, he excelled
as a poet, although the times were most unfavourable to success. It
has been alleged, with more or less truth, that all Chinese poetry is
pitched in the key of melancholy; that the favourite themes of Chinese
poets are the transitory character of life with its partings and other
ills, and the inevitable approach of death, with substitution of the
unknown for the known. Wang Ts’an had good cause for his lamentations.
He was forced by political disturbances to leave his home at the
capital and seek safety in flight. There, as he tells us,

  “_Wolves and tigers work their own sweet will._”

On the way he finds

  “_Naught but bleached bones covering the plain ahead,_”

and he comes across a famine-stricken woman who had thrown among the
bushes a child she was unable to feed. Arriving at the Great River, the
setting sun brings his feelings to a head:--

  “_Streaks of light still cling to the hill-tops,
  While a deeper shade falls upon the steep slopes;
  The fox makes his way to his burrow,
  Birds fly back to their homes in the wood,
  Clear sound the ripples of the rushing waves,
  Along the banks the gibbons scream and cry,
  My sleeves are fluttered by the whistling gale,
  The lapels of my robe are drenched with dew.
  The livelong night I cannot close my eyes.
  I arise and seize my guitar,
  Which, ever in sympathy with man’s changing moods,
  Now sounds responsive to my grief._”

But music cannot make him forget his kith and kin--

  “_Most of them, alas! are prisoners,
  And weeping will be my portion to the end.
  With all the joyous spots in the empire,
  Why must I remain in this place?
  Ah, like the grub in smartweed, I am growing insensible to

By the last line he means to hint “how much a long communion tends to
make us what we are.”

There was YING YANG, who, when his own political career was
cut short, wrote a poem with a title which may be interpreted as
“Regret that a Bucephalus should stand idle.”

There was LIU CHÊNG, who was put to death for daring to cast an eye
upon one of the favourites of the great general Ts’ao Ts’ao, virtual
founder of the House of Wei. CH’ÊN LIN and YÜAN YÜ complete the tale.

[Sidenote: TS’AO TS’AO]

To these seven names an eighth and a ninth are added by courtesy:
those of TS’AO TS’AO above mentioned, and of his third son,
Ts’ao Chih, the poet. The former played a remarkable part in Chinese
history. His father had been adopted as son by the chief eunuch of the
palace, and he himself was a wild young man much given to coursing and
hawking. He managed, however, to graduate at the age of twenty, and,
after distinguishing himself in a campaign against insurgents, raised
a volunteer force to purge the country of various powerful chieftains
who threatened the integrity of the empire. By degrees the supreme
power passed into his hands, and he caused the weak Emperor to raise
his daughter to the rank of Empress. He is popularly regarded as the
type of a bold bad Minister and of a cunning unscrupulous rebel. His
large armies are proverbial, and at one time he is said to have had so
many as a million of men under arms. As an instance of the discipline
which prevailed in his camp, it is said that he once condemned himself
to death for having allowed his horse to shy into a field of grain,
in accordance with his own severe regulations against any injury to
standing crops. However, in lieu of losing his head, he was persuaded
to satisfy his sense of justice by cutting off his hair. The following
lines are from a song by him, written in an abrupt metre of four words
to the line:--

  “_Here is wine, let us sing;
  For man’s life is short,
  Like the morning dew,
  Its best days gone by.
  But though we would rejoice,
  Sorrows are hard to forget,
  What will make us forget them?
  Wine, and only wine._”

After Ts’ao Ts’ao’s death came the epoch of the Three Kingdoms, the
romantic story of which is told in the famous novel to be mentioned
later on. Ts’ao Ts’ao’s eldest son became the first Emperor of one of
these, the Wei Kingdom, and TS’AO CHIH, the poet, occupied an
awkward position at court, an object of suspicion and dislike. At ten
years of age he already excelled in composition, so much so that his
father thought he must be a plagiarist; but he settled the question
by producing off-hand poems on any given theme. “If all the talent of
the world,” said a contemporary poet, “were represented by ten, Ts’ao
Chih would have eight, I should have one, and the rest of mankind one
between them.” There is a story that on one occasion, at the bidding
of his elder brother, probably with mischievous intent, he composed an
impromptu stanza while walking only seven steps. It has been remembered
more for its point than its poetry:--

  “_A fine dish of beans had been placed in the pot
  With a view to a good mess of pottage all hot.
  The beanstalks, aflame, a fierce heat were begetting,
  The beans in the pot were all fuming and fretting.
  Yet the beans and the stalks were not born to be foes;
  Oh, why should these hurry to finish off those?_”

The following extract from a poem of his contains a very well-known
maxim, constantly in use at the present day:--

  “_The superior man takes precautions,
  And avoids giving cause for suspicion.
  He will not pull up his shoes in a melon-field,
  Nor under a plum-tree straighten his hat.
  Brothers- and sisters-in-law may not join hands,
  Elders and youngers may not walk abreast;
  By toil and humility the handle is grasped;
  Moderate your brilliancy, and difficulties disappear._”

[Sidenote: LIU LING]

During the third century A.D. another and more mercurial set
of poets, also seven in number, formed themselves into a club, and
became widely famous as the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove. Among
these was LIU LING, a hard drinker, who declared that to a
drunken man “the affairs of this world appear but as so much duckweed
on a river.” He wished to be always accompanied by a servant with wine,
followed by another with a spade, so that he might be buried where
he fell. On one occasion, yielding to the entreaties of his wife, he
promised to “swear off,” and bade her prepare the usual sacrifices of
wine and meat. When all was ready, he prayed, saying, “O God, who didst
give to Liu Ling a reputation through wine, he being able to consume a
gallon at a sitting and requiring a quart to sober him again, listen
not to the words of his wife, for she speaketh not truth.” Thereupon
he drank up the sacrificial wine, and was soon as drunk as ever. His
bias was towards the Tao of Lao Tzŭ, and he was actually plucked for
his degree in consequence of an essay extolling the heterodox doctrine
of Inaction. The following skit exhibits this Taoist strain to a marked

“An old gentleman, a friend of mine (that is, himself), regards
eternity as but a single day, and whole centuries as but an instant
of time. The sun and moon are the windows of his house; the cardinal
points are the boundaries of his domain. He wanders unrestrained and
free; he dwells within no walls. The canopy of heaven is his roof; his
resting-place is the lap of earth. He follows his fancy in all things.
He is never for a moment without a wine-flask in one hand, a goblet in
the other. His only thought is wine: he knows of naught beyond.

“Two respectable philanthropists, hearing of my friend’s weakness,
proceeded to tax him on the subject; and with many gestures of
disapprobation, fierce scowls, and gnashing of teeth, preached him
quite a sermon on the rules of propriety, and sent his faults buzzing
round his head like a swarm of bees.

“When they began, the old gentleman filled himself another bumper;
and sitting down, quietly stroked his beard and sipped his wine by
turns, until at length he lapsed into a semi-inebriate state of placid
enjoyment, varied by intervals of absolute unconsciousness or of
partial return to mental lucidity. His ears were beyond the reach of
thunder; he could not have seen a mountain. Heat and cold existed for
him no more. He knew not even the workings of his own mind. To him,
the affairs of this world appeared but as so much duckweed on a river;
while the two philanthropists at his side looked like two wasps trying
to convert a caterpillar” (into a wasp, as the Chinese believe is done).

Another was HSI K’ANG, a handsome young man, seven feet seven
inches in height, who was married--a doubtful boon--into the Imperial
family. His favourite study was alchemistic research, and he passed his
days sitting under a willow-tree in his courtyard and experimenting
in the transmutation of metals, varying his toil with music and
poetry, and practising the art of breathing with a view to securing
immortality. Happening, however, to offend by his want of ceremony
one of the Imperial princes, who was also a student of alchemy, he
was denounced to the Emperor as a dangerous person and a traitor, and
condemned to death. Three thousand disciples offered each one to take
the place of their beloved master, but their request was not granted.
He met his fate with fortitude, calmly watching the shadows thrown by
the sun and playing upon his lute.


The third was HSIANG HSIU, who also tried his hand at alchemy,
and whose commentary on Chuang Tzŭ was stolen, as has been already
stated, by Kuo Hsiang.

The fourth was YÜAN HSIEN, a wild harum-scarum fellow, but a
performer on the guitar and a great authority on the theory of music.
He and his uncle, both poverty-stricken, lived on one side of the road,
while a wealthier branch of the family lived on the other side. On the
seventh of the seventh moon the latter put out all their grand fur
robes and fine clothes to air, as is customary on that day; whereupon
Yüan Hsien on his side forked up a pair of the short breeches, called
calf-nose drawers, worn by the common coolies, explaining to a friend
that he was a victim to the tyranny of custom.

The fifth was YÜAN CHI, another musician, whose harpsichords became
the “Strads” of China. He entered the army and rose to a high command,
and then exchanged his post for one where he had heard there was a
better cook. He was a model of filial piety, and when his mother died
he wept so violently that he brought up several pints of blood. Yet
when Chi Hsi went to condole with him, he showed only the whites of
his eyes (that is, paid no attention to him); while Chi Hsi’s brother,
who carried along with him a jar of wine and a guitar, was welcomed
with the pupils. His best-known work is a political and allegorical
poem in thirty-eight stanzas averaging about twelve lines to each. The
allusions in this are so skilfully veiled as to be quite unrecognisable
without a commentary, such concealment being absolutely necessary for
the protection of the author in the troublous times during which he

The sixth was WANG JUNG, who could look at the sun without
being dazzled, and lastly there was SHAN T’AO, a follower of
Taoist teachings, who was spoken of as “uncut jade” and as “gold ore.”

Later on, in the fourth century, comes FU MI, of whom nothing
is known beyond his verses, of which the following is a specimen:--

  “_Thy chariot and horses
                  have gone, and I fret
  And long for the lover
                  I ne’er can forget._

  _O wanderer, bound
                  in far countries to dwell,
  Would I were thy shadow!--
                  I’d follow thee well;_

  _And though clouds and though darkness
                  my presence should hide,
  In the bright light of day
                  I would stand by thy side!_”

We now reach a name which is still familiar to all students of poetry
in the Middle Kingdom. T’AO CH’IEN (A.D. 365-427), or T’ao Yüan-ming
as he was called in early life, after a youth of poverty obtained an
appointment as magistrate. But he was unfitted by nature for official
life; all he wanted, to quote his own prayer, was “length of years and
depth of wine.” He only held the post for eighty-three days, objecting
to receive a superior officer with the usual ceremonial on the ground
that “he could not crook the hinges of his back for five pecks of rice
a day,” such being the regulation pay of a magistrate. He then retired
into private life and occupied himself with poetry, music, and the
culture of flowers, especially chrysanthemums, which are inseparably
associated with his name. In the latter pursuit he was seconded by his
wife, who worked in the back garden while he worked in the front. His
retirement from office is the subject of the following piece, of the
poetical-prose class, which, in point of style, is considered one of
the masterpieces of the language:--

“Homewards I bend my steps. My fields, my gardens, are choked with
weeds: should I not go? My soul has led a bondsman’s life: why should I
remain to pine? But I will waste no grief upon the past; I will devote
my energies to the future. I have not wandered far astray. I feel that
I am on the right track once again.

“Lightly, lightly, speeds my boat along, my garments fluttering to the
gentle breeze. I inquire my route as I go. I grudge the slowness of the
dawning day. From afar I descry my old home, and joyfully press onwards
in my haste. The servants rush forth to meet me; my children cluster
at the gate. The place is a wilderness; but there is the old pine-tree
and my chrysanthemums. I take the little ones by the hand, and pass in.
Wine is brought in full jars, and I pour out in brimming cups. I gaze
out at my favourite branches. I loll against the window in my new-found
freedom. I look at the sweet children on my knee.

“And now I take my pleasure in my garden. There is a gate, but it is
rarely opened. I lean on my staff as I wander about or sit down to
rest. I raise my head and contemplate the lovely scene. Clouds rise,
unwilling, from the bottom of the hills; the weary bird seeks its nest
again. Shadows vanish, but still I linger around my lonely pine. Home
once more! I’ll have no friendships to distract me hence. The times are
out of joint for me; and what have I to seek from men? In the pure
enjoyment of the family circle I will pass my days, cheering my idle
hours with lute and book. My husbandmen will tell me when spring-time
is nigh, and when there will be work in the furrowed fields. Thither
I shall repair by cart or by boat, through the deep gorge, over the
dizzy cliff, trees bursting merrily into leaf, the streamlet swelling
from its tiny source. Glad is this renewal of life in due season; but
for me, I rejoice that my journey is over. Ah, how short a time it
is that we are here! Why then not set our hearts at rest, ceasing to
trouble whether we remain or go? What boots it to wear out the soul
with anxious thoughts? I want not wealth; I want not power; heaven is
beyond my hopes. Then let me stroll through the bright hours as they
pass, in my garden among my flowers; or I will mount the hill and sing
my song, or weave my verse beside the limpid brook. Thus will I work
out my allotted span, content with the appointments of Fate, my spirit
free from care.”

The “Peach-blossom Fountain” of Tao Ch’ien is a well-known and charming
allegory, a form of literature much cultivated by Chinese writers.
It tells how a fisherman lost his way among the creeks of a river,
and came upon a dense and lovely grove of peach-trees in full bloom,
through which he pushed his boat, anxious to see how far the grove

“He found that the peach-trees ended where the water began, at the
foot of a hill; and there he espied what seemed to be a cave with
light issuing from it. So he made fast his boat, and crept in through
a narrow entrance, which shortly ushered him into a new world of
level country, of fine houses, of rich fields, of fine pools, and of
luxuriance of mulberry and bamboo. Highways of traffic ran north and
south; sounds of crowing cocks and barking dogs were heard around; the
dress of the people who passed along or were at work in the fields was
of a strange cut; while young and old alike appeared to be contented
and happy.”

He is told that the ancestors of these people had taken refuge there
some five centuries before to escape the troublous days of the “First
Emperor,” and that there they had remained, cut off completely from
the rest of the human race. On his returning home the story is noised
abroad, and the Governor sends out men to find this strange region, but
the fisherman is never able to find it again. The gods had permitted
the poet to go back for a brief span to the peach-blossom days of his

One critic speaks of T’ao Ch’ien as “drunk with the fumes of spring.”
Another says, “His heart was fixed upon loyalty and duty, while his
body was content with leisure and repose. His emotions were real, his
scenery was real, his facts were real, and his thoughts were real. His
workmanship was so exceedingly fine as to appear natural; his adze and
chisel (_labor limae_) left no traces behind.”

Much of his poetry is political, and bristles with allusions to events
which are now forgotten, mixed up with thoughts and phrases which are
greatly admired by his countrymen. Thus, when he describes meeting
with an old friend in a far-off land, such a passage as this would be
heavily scored by editor or critic with marks of commendation:--

  “_Ere words be spoke, the heart is drunk;
    What need to call for wine?_”

The following is one of his occasional poems:--

  “_A scholar lives on yonder hill,
    His clothes are rarely whole to view,
  Nine times a month he eats his fill,
    Once in ten years his hat is new.
  A wretched lot!--and yet the while
  He ever wears a sunny smile._

  _Longing to know what like was he,
    At dawn my steps a path unclosed
  Where dark firs left the passage free
    And on the eaves the white clouds dozed._

  _But he, as spying my intent,
    Seized his guitar and swept the strings;
  Up flew a crane towards heaven bent,
    And now a startled pheasant springs....
  Oh, let me rest with thee until
  The winter winds again blow chill!_”

PAO CHAO was an official and a poet who perished, A.D. 466, in a
rebellion. Some of his poetry has been preserved:--

  “_What do these halls of jasper mean,
                    and shining floor,
  Where tapestries of satin screen
                    window and door?
  A lady on a lonely seat,
  Fair flowers which seem to smell as sweet
                    as buds in spring.
  Swallows flit past, a zephyr shakes
                    the plum-blooms down;
  She draws the blind, a goblet takes
                    her thoughts to drown.
  And now she sits in tears, or hums,
                    nursing her grief
  That in her life joy rarely comes
                    to bring relief...
  Oh, for the humble turtle’s flight,
                    my mate and I;
  Not the lone crane far out of sight
                    beyond the sky!_”

The original name of a striking character who, in A.D. 502,
placed himself upon the throne as first Emperor of the Liang dynasty,
was HSIAO YEN. He was a devout Buddhist, living upon priestly
fare and taking only one meal a day; and on two occasions, in 527 and
529, he actually adopted the priestly garb. He also wrote a Buddhist
ritual in ten books. Interpreting the Buddhist commandment “Thou shalt
not kill” in its strictest sense, he caused the sacrificial victims to
be made of dough. The following short poem is from his pen:--

  “_Trees grow, not alike,
              by the mound and the moat;
  Birds sing in the forest
              with varying note;
  Of the fish in the river
              some dive and some float.
  The mountains rise high
              and the waters sink low,
  But the why and the wherefore
              we never can know._”

Another well-known poet who lived into the seventh century is HSIEH
TAO-HÊNG. He offended Yang Ti, the second Emperor of the Sui
dynasty, by writing better verses than his Majesty, and an excuse was
found for putting him to death. One of the most admired couplets in the
language is associated with his name though not actually by him, its
author being unknown. To amuse a party of friends Hsieh Tao-hêng had
written impromptu,

  “_A week in the spring to the exile appears
  Like an absence from home of a couple of years._”

A “southerner” who was present sneered at the shallowness of the
conceit, and immediately wrote down the following:--

  “_If home, with the wild geese of autumn,
                                  we’re going,
  Our hearts will be off ere the spring flowers
                                  are blowing._”

An official of the Sui dynasty was FU I (A.D. 554-639), who became
Historiographer under the first Emperor of the T’ang dynasty. He
had a strong leaning towards Taoism, and edited the _Tao-Tê-Ching_.
At the same time he presented a memorial asking that the Buddhist
religion might be abolished; and when Hsiao Yü, a descendant of Hsiao
Yen (above), questioned him on the subject, he said, “You were not
born in a hollow mulberry-tree; yet you respect a religion which
does not recognise the tie between father and son!” He urged that at
any rate priests and nuns should be compelled to marry and bring up
families, and not escape from contributing their share to the revenue,
adding that Hsiao Yü by defending their doctrines showed himself
no better than they were. At this Hsiao Yü held up his hands, and
declared that hell was made for such men as Fu I. The result was that
severe restrictions were placed for a short time upon the teachers
of Buddhism. The Emperor T’ai Tsung once got hold of a Tartar priest
who could “charm people into unconsciousness, and then charm them
back to life again,” and spoke of his powers to Fu I. The latter said
confidently, “He will not be able to charm me;” and when put to the
test, the priest completely failed. He was the originator of epitaphs,
and wrote his own, as follows:--

  “_Fu I loved the green hills and the white clouds...
              Alas! he died of drink._”

[Sidenote: WANG CHI]

WANG CHI of the sixth and seventh centuries A.D., was a wild and
unconventional spirit, with a fatal fondness for wine, which caused his
dismissal from office. His capacity for liquor was boundless, and he
was known as the Five-bottle Scholar. In his lucid intervals he wrote
much beautiful prose and verse, which may still be read with pleasure.
The following is from an account of his visit to Drunk-Land, the story
of which is told with all due gravity and in a style modelled upon that
which is found in ordinary accounts of strange outlandish nations:--

“This country is many thousand miles from the Middle Kingdom. It is a
vast, boundless plain, without mountains or undulations of any kind.
The climate is equable, there being neither night, nor day, nor cold,
nor heat. The manners and customs are everywhere the same.

“There are no villages nor congregations of persons. The inhabitants
are ethereal in disposition, and know neither love, hate, joy, nor
anger. They inhale the breeze and sip the dew, eating none of the five
cereals. Calm in repose, slow of gait, they mingle with birds, beasts,
fishes, and scaly creatures, ignorant of boats, chariots, weapons, or
implements in general.

“The Yellow Emperor went on a visit to the capital of Drunk-Land, and
when he came back, he was quite out of conceit with the empire, the
government of which seemed to him but paltry trifling with knotted

“Yüan Chi, T’ao Ch’ien,[11] and some others, about ten in all, made a
trip together to Drunk-Land, and sank, never to rise again. They were
buried where they fell, and now in the Middle Kingdom they are dubbed
Spirits of Wine.

“Alas, I could not bear that the pure and peaceful domain of Drunk-Land
should come to be regarded as a preserve of the ancients. So I went
there myself.”

       *       *       *       *       *

The period closes with the name of the Emperor known as Yang Ti,
already mentioned in connection with the poet Hsieh Tao-hêng. The
murderer, first of his elder brother and then of his father, he mounted
the throne in A.D. 605, and gave himself up to extravagance
and debauchery. The trees in his park were supplied in winter with
silken leaves and flowers, and birds were almost exterminated to
provide a sufficient supply of down for his cushions. After reigning
for thirteen years this unlikely patron of literature fell a victim to
assassination. Yet in spite of his otherwise disreputable character,
Yang Ti prided himself upon his literary attainments. He set one
hundred scholars to work editing a collection of classical, medical,
and other treatises; and it was under his reign, in A.D. 606,
that the examination for the second or “master of arts” degree was


[11] Here the poet makes a mistake. These two were not contemporaries.



In the domains of classical and general literature HUANG-FU MI
(A.D. 215-282) occupies an honourable place. Beginning life
at the ploughtail, by perseverance he became a fine scholar, and
adopted literature as a profession. In spite of severe rheumatism he
was never without a book in his hand, and became so absorbed in his
work that he would forget all about meals and bedtime. He was called
the Book-Debauchee, and once when he wished to borrow works from the
Emperor Wu Ti of the Chin dynasty, whose proffers of office he had
refused, his Majesty sent him back a cart-load to go on with. He
produced essays, poetry, and several important biographical works. His
work on the Spring and Autumn Annals had also considerable vogue.

SUN SHU-JAN, of about the same date, distinguished himself by
his works on the Confucian Canon, and wrote on the _Erh Ya_.

HSÜN HSÜ (_d._ A.D. 289) aided in drawing up a Penal Code for the
newly-established Chin dynasty, took a leading part in editing the
Bamboo Annals, which had just been discovered in Honan, provided a
preface to the _Mu T’ien Tzŭ Chuan_, and also wrote on music.

KUO HSIANG (_d._ A.D. 312) occupied himself chiefly with the philosophy
of Lao Tzŭ and with the writings of Chuang Tzŭ. It was said of him
that his conversation was like the continuous downflow of a rapid, or
the rush of water from a sluice.

KUO P’O (_d._ A.D. 324) was a scholar of great repute. Besides editing
various important classical works, he was a brilliant exponent of the
doctrines of Taoism and the reputed founder of the art of geomancy as
applied to graves, universally practised in China at the present day.
He was also learned in astronomy, divination, and natural philosophy.

FAN YEH, executed for treason in A.D. 445, is chiefly famous for his
history of the Han dynasty from about the date of the Christian era,
when the dynasty was interrupted, as has been stated, by a usurper,
down to the final collapse two hundred years later.

SHÊN YO (A.D. 441-513), another famous scholar, was the son of a
Governor of Huai-nan, whose execution in A.D. 453 caused him to go
for a time into hiding. Poor and studious, he is said to have spent
the night in repeating what he had learnt by day, as his mother,
anxious on account of his health, limited his supply of oil and fuel.
Entering official life, he rose to high office, from which he retired
in ill-health, loaded with honours. Personally, he was remarkable for
having two pupils to his left eye. He was a strict teetotaller, and
lived most austerely. He had a library of twenty thousand volumes.
He was the author of the histories of the Chin, Liu Sung, and Ch’i
dynasties. He is said to have been the first to classify the four
tones. In his autobiography he writes, “The poets of old, during the
past thousand years, never hit upon this plan. I alone discovered its
advantages.” The Emperor Wu Ti of the Liang dynasty one day said to
him, “Come, tell me, what are these famous four tones?” “They are
whatever your Majesty pleases to make them,” replied Shên Yo, skilfully
selecting for his answer four characters which illustrated, and in the
usual order, the four tones in question.

[Sidenote: HSIAO T’UNG]

HSIAO T’UNG (A.D. 501-531) was the eldest son of Hsiao Yen, the
founder of the Liang dynasty, whom he predeceased. Before he was five
years old he was reported to have learned the Classics by heart, and
his later years were marked by great literary ability, notably in
verse-making. Handsome and of charming manners, mild and forbearing,
he was universally loved. In 527 he nursed his mother through her
last illness, and his grief for her death impaired his naturally fine
constitution, for it was only at the earnest solicitation of his father
that he consented either to eat or drink during the period of mourning.
Learned men were sure of his patronage, and his palace contained a
large library. A lover of nature, he delighted to ramble with scholars
about his beautiful park, to which he declined to add the attraction of
singing-girls. When the price of grain rose in consequence of the war
with Wei in 526, he lived on the most frugal fare; and throughout his
life his charities were very large and kept secret, being distributed
by trusty attendants who sought out all cases of distress. He even
emptied his own wardrobe for the benefit of the poor, and spent large
sums in burying the outcast dead. Against forced labour on public works
he vehemently protested. To his father he was most respectful, and
wrote to him when he himself was almost at the last gasp, in the hope
of concealing his danger. But he is remembered now not so much for his
virtues as for his initiation of a new department in literature. A
year before his death he completed the _Wên Hsüan_, the first published
collection of choice works, whole or in part, of a large number of
authors. These were classified under such heads as poetry of various
kinds, essays, inscriptions, memorials, funeral orations, epitaphs, and

The idea thus started was rapidly developed, and has been continued
down to modern times. Huge collections of works have from time to
time been reprinted in uniform editions, and many books which might
otherwise have perished have been preserved for grateful posterity.
The Record of the Buddhistic Kingdoms by Fa Hsien may be quoted as an


_THE T’ANG DYNASTY_ (A.D. 600-900)



[Sidenote: POETRY]

The T’ang dynasty is usually associated in Chinese minds with much
romance of love and war, with wealth, culture, and refinement, with
frivolity, extravagance, and dissipation, but most of all with
poetry. China’s best efforts in this direction were chiefly produced
within the limits of its three hundred years’ duration, and they have
been carefully preserved as finished models for future poets of all

“Poetry,” says a modern Chinese critic, “came into being with the
Odes, developed with the _Li Sao_, burst forth and reached perfection
under the T’angs. Some good work was indeed done under the Han and
Wei dynasties; the writers of those days seemed to have material in
abundance, but language inadequate to its expression.”

The “Complete Collection of the Poetry of the T’ang Dynasty,” published
in 1707, contains 48,900 poems of all kinds, arranged in 900 books,
and filling thirty good-sized volumes. Some Chinese writers divide
the dynasty into three poetical periods, called Early, Glorious, and
Late; and they profess to detect in the works assigned to each the
corresponding characteristics of growth, fulness, and decay. Others
insert a Middle period between the last two, making four periods in
all. For general purposes, however, it is only necessary to state,
that since the age of the Hans the meanings of words had gradually
come to be more definitely fixed, and the structural arrangement more
uniform and more polished. Imagination began to come more freely into
play, and the language to flow more easily and more musically, as
though responsive to the demands of art. A Chinese poem is at best
a hard nut to crack, expressed as it usually is in lines of five or
seven monosyllabic root-ideas, without inflection, agglutination, or
grammatical indication of any kind, the connection between which has
to be inferred by the reader from the logic, from the context, and
least perhaps of all from the syntactical arrangement of the words.
Then, again, the poet is hampered not only by rhyme but also by tone.
For purposes of poetry the characters in the Chinese language are all
ranged under two tones, as _flats_ and _sharps_, and these occupy
fixed positions just as dactyls, spondees, trochees, and anapæsts in
the construction of Latin verse. As a consequence, the natural order
of words is often entirely sacrificed to the exigencies of tone, thus
making it more difficult than ever for the reader to grasp the sense.
In a stanza of the ordinary five-character length the following tonal
arrangement would appear:--

  _Sharp  sharp  flat  flat  sharp
  Flat      flat   sharp sharp flat
  Flat      flat   flat  sharp sharp
  Sharp     sharp  sharp flat  flat._

The effect produced by these tones is very marked and pleasing to
the ear, and often makes up for the faultiness of the rhymes, which
are simply the rhymes of the Odes as heard 2500 years ago, many of
them of course being no longer rhymes at all. Thus, there is as much
artificiality about a stanza of Chinese verse as there is about an
Alcaic stanza in Latin. But in the hands of the most gifted this
artificiality is altogether concealed by art, and the very trammels
of tone and rhyme become transfigured, and seem to be necessary
aids and adjuncts to success. Many works have been published to
guide the student in his admittedly difficult task. The first rule
in one of these seems so comprehensive as to make further perusal
quite unnecessary. It runs thus:--“Discard commonplace form; discard
commonplace ideas; discard commonplace phrasing; discard commonplace
words; discard commonplace rhymes.”

A long poem does not appeal to the Chinese mind. There is no such thing
as an epic in the language, though, of course, there are many pieces
extending to several hundred lines. Brevity is indeed the soul of a
Chinese poem, which is valued not so much for what it says as for what
it suggests. As in painting, so in poetry suggestion is the end and aim
of the artist, who in each case may be styled an impressionist. The
ideal length is twelve lines, and this is the limit set to candidates
at the great public examinations at the present day, the Chinese
holding that if a poet cannot say within such compass what he has to
say it may very well be left unsaid. The eight-line poem is also a
favourite, and so, but for its extreme difficulty, is the four-line
epigram, or “stop-short,” so called because of its abruptness, though,
as the critics explain, “it is only the words which stop, the sense
goes on,” some train of thought having been suggested to the reader.
The latter form of verse was in use so far back as the Han dynasty, but
only reached perfection under the Tangs. Although consisting of only
twenty or twenty-eight words, according to the measure employed, it is
just long enough for the poet to introduce, to develop, to embellish,
and to conclude his theme in accordance with certain established laws
of composition. The third line is considered the most troublesome to
produce, some poets even writing it first; the last line should contain
a “surprise” or _dénouement_. We are, in fact, reminded of the old
formula, “Omne epigramma sit instar apis,” &c., better known in its
English dress:--

  “_The qualities rare in a bee that we meet
    In an epigram never should fail;
  The body should always be little and sweet,
    And a sting should be left in the tail._”

The following is an early specimen, by an anonymous writer, of the
four-line poem:--

  “_The bright moon shining overhead,
    The stream beneath the breeze’s touch,
  Are pure and perfect joys indeed,--
    But few are they who think them such._”

Turning now to the almost endless list of poets from which but a scanty
selection can be made, we may begin with WANG PO (A.D. 648-676), a
precocious boy who wrote verses when he was six. He took his degree
at sixteen, and was employed in the Historical Department, but was
dismissed for satirising the cock-fighting propensities of the Imperial
princes. He filled up his leisure by composing many beautiful poems.
He never meditated on these beforehand, but after having prepared a
quantity of ink ready for use, he would drink himself tipsy and lie
down with his face covered up. On waking he would seize his pen and
write off verses, not a word in which needed to be changed; whence
he acquired the sobriquet of Belly-Draft, meaning that his drafts,
or rough copies, were all prepared inside. And he received so many
presents of valuable silks for writing these odes, that it was said “he
spun with his mind.” These lines are from his pen:--

  “_Near these islands a palace
            was built by a prince,
  But its music and song
            have departed long since;
  The hill-mists of morning
            sweep down on the halls,
  At night the red curtains
            lie furled on the walls.
  The clouds o’er the water
            their shadows still cast,
  Things change like the stars:
            how few autumns have passed
  And yet where is that prince?
            where is he?--No reply,
  Save the plash of the stream
            rolling ceaselessly by._”

[Sidenote: CH’ÊN TZŬ-ANG]

A still more famous contemporary of his was CH’ÊN TZŬ-ANG (A.D.
656-698), who adopted somewhat sensational means of bringing himself to
the notice of the public. He purchased a very expensive guitar which
had been for a long time on sale, and then let it be known that on the
following day he would perform upon it in public. This attracted a
large crowd; but when Ch’ên arrived he informed his auditors that he
had something in his pocket worth much more than the guitar. Thereupon
he dashed the instrument into a thousand pieces, and forthwith began
handing round copies of his own writings. Here is a sample, directed
against the Buddhist worship of idols, the “Prophet” representing any
divinely-inspired teacher of the Confucian school:--

  “_On Self the Prophet never rests his eye,
    His to relieve the doom of humankind;
  No fairy palaces beyond the sky,
    Rewards to come, are present to his mind._

  _And I have heard the faith by Buddha taught
    Lauded as pure and free from earthly taint;
  Why then these carved and graven idols, fraught
    With gold and silver, gems, and jade, and paint?_

  _The heavens that roof this earth, mountain and dale,
    All that is great and grand, shall pass away;
  And if the art of gods may not prevail,
    Shall man’s poor handiwork escape decay?_

  _Fools that ye are! In this ignoble light
  The true faith fades and passes out of sight._”

As an official, Ch’ên Tzŭ-ang once gained great _kudos_ by a truly
Solomonic decision. A man, having slain the murderer of his father,
was himself indicted for murder. Ch’ên Tzŭ-ang caused him to be put to
death, but at the same time conferred an honorific distinction upon his
village for having produced so filial a son.

Not much is known of SUNG CHIH-WÊN (_d._ A.D. 710), at any rate to his
good. On one occasion the Emperor was so delighted with some of his
verses that he took off the Imperial robe and placed it on the poet’s
shoulders. This is one of his poems:--

  “_The dust of the morn
            had been laid by a shower,
  And the trees by the bridge
            were all covered with flower,
  When a white palfrey passed
            with a saddle of gold,
  And a damsel as fair
            as the fairest of old._

  _But she veiled so discreetly
            her charms from my eyes
  That the boy who was with her
            quite felt for my sighs;
  And although not a light-o’-love
            reckoned, I deem,
  It was hard that this vision
            should pass like a dream._”

[Sidenote: MÊNG HAO-JAN]

MÊNG HAO-JAN (A.D. 689-740) gave no sign in his youth of the genius
that was latent within him. He failed at the public examinations, and
retired to the mountains as a recluse. He then became a poet of the
first rank, and his writings were eagerly sought after. At the age of
forty he went up to the capital, and was one day conversing with his
famous contemporary, Wang Wei, when suddenly the Emperor was announced.
He hid under a couch, but Wang Wei betrayed him, the result being a
pleasant interview with his Majesty. The following is a specimen of his

  “_The sun has set behind the western slope,
    The eastern moon lies mirrored in the pool;
  With streaming hair my balcony I ope,
    And stretch my limbs out to enjoy the cool.
  Loaded with lotus-scent the breeze sweeps by,
    Clear dripping drops from tall bamboos I hear,
  I gaze upon my idle lute and sigh;
    Alas, no sympathetic soul is near.
  And so I doze, the while before mine eyes
  Dear friends of other days in dream-clad forms arise._”

Equally famous as poet and physician was WANG WEI (A.D. 699-759). After
a short spell of official life, he too retired into seclusion and
occupied himself with poetry and with the consolations of Buddhism,
in which he was a firm believer. His lines on bidding adieu to Mêng
Hao-jan, when the latter was seeking refuge on the mountains, are as

  “_Dismounted, o’er wine
                we had said our last say;
  Then I whisper, ‘Dear friend,
                tell me, whither away?’
  ‘Alas!’ he replied,
                ‘I am sick of life’s ills,
  And I long for repose
                on the slumbering hills.
  But oh seek not to pierce
                where my footsteps may stray:
  The white clouds will soothe me
                for ever and ay.’_”

The accompanying “stop-short” by the same writer is generally thought
to contain an effective surprise in the last line:--

  “_Beneath the bamboo grove, alone,
    I seize my lute and sit and croon;
  No ear to hear me, save mine own:
    No eye to see me--save the moon._”

Wang Wei has been accused of loose writing and incongruous pictures. A
friendly critic defends him as follows:--“For instance, there is Wang
Wei, who introduces bananas into a snow-storm. When, however, we come
to examine such points by the light of scholarship, we see that his
mind had merely passed into subjective relationship with the things
described. Fools say he did not know heat from cold.”

[Sidenote: TS’UI HAO]

A skilled poet, and a wine-bibber and gambler to boot, was TS’UI
HAO, who graduated about A.D. 730.

He wrote a poem on the Yellow-Crane pagoda which until quite recently
stood on the bank of the Yang-tsze near Hankow, and was put up to mark
the spot where Wang Tzŭ-ch’iao, who had attained immortality, went up
to heaven in broad daylight six centuries before the Christian era. The
great Li Po once thought of writing on the theme, but he gave up the
idea so soon as he had read these lines by Ts’ui Hao:--

  “_Here a mortal once sailed
                up to heaven on a crane,
  And the Yellow-Crane Kiosque,
                will for ever remain;
  But the bird flew away
                and will come back no more,
  Though the white clouds are there
                as the white clouds of yore._

  _Away to the east
                lie fair forests of trees,
  From the flowers on the west
                comes a scent-laden breeze,
  Yet my eyes daily turn
                to their far-away home,
  Beyond the broad River,
                its waves, and its foam._”

[Sidenote: LI PO]

By general consent LI PO himself (A.D. 705-762) would probably be
named as China’s greatest poet. His wild Bohemian life, his gay and
dissipated career at Court, his exile, and his tragic end, all combine
to form a most effective setting for the splendid flow of verse which
he never ceased to pour forth. At the early age of ten he wrote a
“stop-short” to a firefly:--

  “_Rain cannot quench thy lantern’s light,
  Wind makes it shine more brightly bright;
  Oh why not fly to heaven afar,
  And twinkle near the moon--a star?_”

Li Po began by wandering about the country, until at length, with five
other tippling poets, he retired to the mountains. For some time these
Six Idlers of the Bamboo Grove drank and wrote verses to their hearts’
content. By and by Li Po reached the capital, and on the strength of
his poetry was introduced to the Emperor as a “banished angel.” He
was received with open arms, and soon became the spoilt child of the
palace. On one occasion, when the Emperor sent for him, he was found
lying drunk in the street; and it was only after having his face well
mopped with cold water that he was fit for the Imperial presence. His
talents, however, did not fail him. With a lady of the seraglio to hold
his ink-slab, he dashed off some of his most impassioned lines; at
which the Emperor was so overcome that he made the powerful eunuch Kao
Li-shih go down on his knees and pull off the poet’s boots. On another
occasion, the Emperor, who was enjoying himself with his favourite
lady in the palace grounds, called for Li Po to commemorate the scene
in verse. After some delay the poet arrived, supported between two
eunuchs. “Please your Majesty,” he said, “I have been drinking with the
Prince and he has made me drunk, but I will do my best.” Thereupon two
of the ladies of the harem held up in front of him a pink silk screen,
and in a very short time he had thrown off no less than ten eight-line
stanzas, of which the following, describing the life of a palace
favourite, is one:--

  “_Oh, the joy of youth spent
                  in a gold-fretted hall,
  In the Crape-flower Pavilion,
                  the fairest of all,
  My tresses for head-dress
                  with gay garlands girt,
  Carnations arranged
                  o’er my jacket and skirt!
  Then to wander away
                  in the soft-scented air,
  And return by the side
                  of his Majesty’s chair ...
  But the dance and the song
                  will be o’er by and by,
  And we shall dislimn
                  like the rack in the sky._”

As time went on, Li Po fell a victim to intrigue, and left the Court in
disgrace. It was then that he wrote--

  “_My whitening hair would make a long, long rope,
    Yet would not fathom all my depth of woe._”

After more wanderings and much adventure, he was drowned on a journey,
from leaning one night too far over the edge of a boat in a drunken
effort to embrace the reflection of the moon. Just previously he had
indited the following lines:--

  “_An arbour of flowers
            and a kettle of wine:
  Alas! in the bowers
            no companion is mine.
  Then the moon sheds her rays
            on my goblet and me,
  And my shadow betrays
            we’re a party of three._

  “_Though the moon cannot swallow
            her share of the grog,
  And my shadow must follow
            wherever I jog,--
  Yet their friendship I’ll borrow
            and gaily carouse,
  And laugh away sorrow
            while spring-time allows._

  “_See the moon,--how she glances
            response to my song;
  See my shadow,--it dances
            so lightly along!
  While sober I feel
            you are both my good friends;
  When drunken I reel,
            our companionship ends.
  But we’ll soon have a greeting
            without a good-bye,
  At our next merry meeting
            away in the sky._”

His control of the “stop-short” is considered to be perfect:--

  (1.) “_The birds have all flown to their roost in the tree,
    The last cloud has just floated lazily by;
  But we never tire of each other, not we,
    As we sit there together,--the mountains and I._”

  (2.) “_I wake, and moonbeams play around my bed,
    Glittering like hoar-frost to my wondering eyes;
  Up towards the glorious moon I raise my head,
    Then lay me down,--and thoughts of home arise._”

The following are general extracts:--


  (1.) “_The river rolls crystal as clear as the sky,
  To blend far away with the blue waves of ocean;
  Man alone, when the hour of departure is nigh,
  With the wine-cup can soothe his emotion._

  “_The birds of the valley sing loud in the sun,
  Where the gibbons their vigils will shortly be keeping:
  I thought that with tears I had long ago done,
  But now I shall never cease weeping._”

  (2.) “_Homeward at dusk the clanging rookery wings its eager flight;
  Then, chattering on the branches, all are pairing for the night.
  Plying her busy loom, a high-born dame is sitting near,
  And through the silken window-screen their voices strike her ear.
  She stops, and thinks of the absent spouse she may never see again;
  And late in the lonely hours of night her tears flow down like rain._”

  (3.) “_What is life after all but a dream?
    And why should such pother be made?
  Better far to be tipsy, I deem,
    And doze all day long in the shade._

  “_When I wake and look out on the lawn,
    I hear midst the flowers a bird sing;
  I ask, ‘Is it evening or dawn?’
    The mango-bird whistles, ‘’Tis spring.’_

  “_Overpower’d with the beautiful sight,
    Another full goblet I pour,
  And would sing till the moon rises bright--
    But soon I’m as drunk as before._”

  (4.) “_You ask what my soul does away in the sky,
  I inwardly smile but I cannot reply;
  Like the peach-blossoms carried away by the stream,
  I soar to a world of which you cannot dream._”

One more extract may be given, chiefly to exhibit what is held by
the Chinese to be of the very essence of real poetry,--suggestion. A
poet should not dot his i’s. The Chinese reader likes to do that for
himself, each according to his own fancy. Hence such a poem as the
following, often quoted as a model in its own particular line:--

  “_A tortoise I see on a lotus-flower resting:
  A bird ’mid the reeds and the rushes is nesting;
  A light skiff propelled by some boatman’s fair daughter,
  Whose song dies away o’er the fast-flowing water._”

[Sidenote: TU FU]

Another poet of the same epoch, of whom his countrymen are also justly
proud, is TU FU (A.D. 712-770). He failed to distinguish himself at
the public examinations, at which verse-making counts so much, but had
nevertheless such a high opinion of his own poetry that he prescribed
it as a cure for malarial fever. He finally obtained a post at Court,
which he was forced to vacate in the rebellion of 755. As he himself
wrote in political allegory--

  “_Full with the freshets of the spring the torrent rushes on;
  The ferry-boat swings idly, for the ferry-man is gone._”

After further vain attempts to make an official career, he took to a
wandering life, was nearly drowned by an inundation, and was compelled
to live for ten days on roots. Being rescued, he succumbed next day
to the effects of eating roast-beef and drinking white wine to excess
after so long a fast. These are some of his poems:--

  (1.) “_The setting sun shines low upon my door
    Ere dusk enwraps the river fringed with spring;
  Sweet perfumes rise from gardens by the shore,
    And smoke, where crews their boats to anchor bring._

  “_Now twittering birds are roosting in the bower,
    And flying insects fill the air around....
  O wine, who gave to thee thy subtle power?
    A thousand cares in one small goblet drowned!_”

  (2.) “_A petal falls!--the spring begins to fail,
  And my heart saddens with the growing gale.
  Come then, ere autumn spoils bestrew the ground,
  Do not forget to pass the wine-cup round.
  Kingfishers build where man once laughed elate,
  And now stone dragons guard his graveyard gate!
  Who follows pleasure, he alone is wise;
  Why waste our life in deeds of high emprise?_”

  (3.) “_My home is girdled by a limpid stream,
    And there in summer days life’s movements pause,
  Save where some swallow flits from beam to beam,
    And the wild sea-gull near and nearer draws._

  “_The goodwife rules a paper board for chess;
    The children beat a fish-hook out of wire;
  My ailments call for physic more or less,
    What else should this poor frame of mine require?_”

  (4.) “_Alone I wandered o’er the hills to seek the hermit’s den,
  While sounds of chopping rang around the forest’s leafy glen.
  I passed on ice across the brook, which had not ceased to freeze,
  As the slanting rays of afternoon shot sparkling through the trees._

  “_I found he did not joy to gloat o’er fetid wealth by night,
  But, far from taint, to watch the deer in the golden morning light....
  My mind was clear at coming; but now I’ve lost my guide,
  And rudderless my little bark is drifting with the tide!_”

  (5.) “_From the Court every eve to the pawnshop I pass,
    To come back from the river the drunkest of men;
  As often as not I’m in debt for my glass;--
    Well, few of us live to be threescore and ten._

  _The butterfly flutters from flower to flower,
    The dragon-fly sips and springs lightly away,
  Each creature is merry its brief little hour,
    So let us enjoy our short life while we may._”

Here is a specimen of his skill with the “stop-short,” based upon a
disease common to all Chinese, poets or otherwise,--nostalgia:--

  “_White gleam the gulls across the darkling tide,
    On the green hills the red flowers seem to burn;
  Alas! I see another spring has died....
    When will it come--the day of my return?_”

Of the poet CHANG CH’IEN not much is known. He graduated in 727, and
entered upon an official career, but ultimately betook himself to the
mountains and lived as a hermit. He is said to have been a devotee of
Taoism. The following poem, however, which deals with _dhyâna_, or
the state of mental abstraction in which all desire for existence is
shaken off, would make it seem as if his leanings had been Buddhistic.
It gives a perfect picture, so far as it goes, of the Buddhist retreat
often to be found among mountain peaks all over China, visited by
pilgrims who perform religious exercises or fulfil vows at the feet of
the World-Honoured, and by contemplative students eager to shake off
the “red dust” of mundane affairs:--

  “_The clear dawn creeps into the convent old,
  The rising sun tips its tall trees with gold,
  As, darkly, by a winding path I reach
  Dhyâna’s hall, hidden midst fir and beech.
  Around these hills sweet birds their pleasure take,
  Man’s heart as free from shadows as this lake;
  Here worldly sounds are hushed, as by a spell,
  Save for the booming of the altar bell._”

There can be little doubt of the influence of Buddhism upon the poet
TS’ÊN TS’AN, who graduated about 750, as witness his lines on
that faith:--

  “_A shrine whose eaves in far-off cloudland hide:
  I mount, and with the sun stand side by side.
  The air is clear; I see wide forests spread
  And mist-crowned heights where kings of old lie dead.
  Scarce o’er my threshold peeps the Southern Hill;
  The Wei shrinks through my window to a rill....
  O thou Pure Faith, had I but known thy scope,
  The Golden God[12] had long since been my hope!_”

[Sidenote: WANG CHIEN]

WANG CHIEN took the highest degree in 775, and rose to be Governor of a
District. He managed, however, to offend one of the Imperial clansmen,
in consequence of which his official career was abruptly cut short. He
wrote a good deal of verse, and was on terms of intimacy with several
of the great contemporary poets. In the following lines, the metre of
which is irregular, he alludes to the extraordinary case of a soldier’s
wife who spent all her time on a hill-top looking down the Yang-tsze,
watching for her husband’s return from the wars. At length--

          “_Where her husband she sought,
            By the river’s long track,
          Into stone she was wrought,
            And can never come back;
  ’Mid the wind and the rain-storm for ever and ay,
  She appeals to each home-comer passing that way._”

The last line makes the stone figure, into which the unhappy woman was
changed, appear to be asking of every fresh arrival news of the missing
man. That is the skill of the artist, and is inseparably woven into the

[Sidenote: HAN YÜ]

Passing over many poets equally well known with some of those already
cited, we reach a name undoubtedly the most venerated of all those ever
associated in any way with the great mass of Chinese literature. HAN YÜ
(A.D. 768-824), canonised and usually spoken of as Han Wên-kung, was
not merely a poet, but a statesman of the first rank, and philosopher
to boot. He rose from among the humblest of the people to the highest
offices of State. In 803 he presented a memorial protesting against
certain extravagant honours with which the Emperor Hsien Tsung proposed
to receive a bone of Buddha. The monarch was furious, and but for the
intercession of friends it would have fared badly with the bold writer.
As it was, he was banished to Ch’ao-chou Fu in Kuangtung, where he
set himself to civilise the rude inhabitants of those wild parts. In
a temple at the summit of the neighbouring range there is to be seen
at this day a huge picture of the Prince of Literature, as he has been
called by foreigners from his canonisation, with the following legend
attached:--“Wherever he passed, he purified.” He is even said to have
driven away a huge crocodile which was devastating the watercourses in
the neighbourhood; and the denunciatory ultimatum which he addressed
to the monster and threw into the river, together with a pig and a
goat, is still regarded as a model of Chinese composition. It was
not very long ere he was recalled to the capital and reinstated in
office; but he had been delicate all his life and had grown prematurely
old, and was thus unable to resist a severe illness which came upon
him. His friend and contemporary, Liu Tsung-yüan, said that he never
ventured to open the works of Han Yü without first washing his hands
in rose-water. His writings, especially his essays, are often of the
very highest order, leaving nothing to be desired either in originality
or in style. But it is more than all for his pure and noble character,
his calm and dignified patriotism, that the Chinese still keep his
memory green. The following lines were written by Su Tung-p’o, nearly
300 years after his death, for a shrine which had just been put up in
honour of the dead teacher by the people of Ch’ao-chou Fu:--

  “_He rode on the dragon to the white cloud domain;
  He grasped with his hand the glory of the sky;
  Robed with the effulgence of the stars,
  The wind bore him delicately to the throne of God.
  He swept away the chaff and husks of his generation.
  He roamed over the limits of the earth.
  He clothed all nature with his bright rays,
  The third in the triumvirate of genius.[13]
  His rivals panted after him in vain,
  Dazed by the brilliancy of the light.
  He cursed Buddha; he offended his prince;
  He journeyed far away to the distant south;
  He passed the grave of Shun, and wept over the daughters of Yao.
  The water-god went before him and stilled the waves.
  He drove out the fierce monster as it were a lamb.
  But above, in heaven, there was no music, and God was sad,
  And summoned him to his place beside the Throne.
  And now, with these poor offerings, I salute him;
  With red lichees and yellow plantain fruit.
  Alas! that he did not linger awhile on earth,
  But passed so soon, with streaming hair, into the great unknown._”

Han Yü wrote a large quantity of verse, frequently playful, on an
immense variety of subjects, and under his touch the commonplace was
often transmuted into wit. Among other pieces there is one on his
teeth, which seemed to drop out at regular intervals, so that he could
calculate roughly what span of life remained to him. Altogether, his
poetry cannot be classed with that of the highest order, unlike his
prose writings, extracts from which will be given in the next chapter.
The following poem is a specimen of his lighter vein:--

  “_To stand upon the river-bank
                and snare the purple fish,
  My net well cast across the stream,
                was all that I could wish.
  Or lie concealed and shoot the geese
                that scream and pass apace,
  And pay my rent and taxes with
                the profits of the chase.
  Then home to peace and happiness,
                with wife and children gay,
  Though clothes be coarse and fare be hard,
                and earned from day to day.
  But now I read and read, scarce knowing
                what ’tis all about,
  And, eager to improve my mind,
                I wear my body out.
  I draw a snake and give it legs,
                to find I’ve wasted skill,
  And my hair grows daily whiter
                as I hurry towards the hill.[14]
  I sit amid the sorrows
                I have brought on my own head,
  And find myself estranged from all,
                among the living dead.
  I seek to drown my consciousness
                in wine, alas! in vain:
  Oblivion passes quickly
                and my griefs begin again.
  Old age comes on, and yet withholds
                the summons to depart....
  So I’ll take another bumper
              just to ease my aching heart._”

Humane treatment of the lower animals is not generally supposed to be a
characteristic of the Chinese. They have no Society for the Prevention
of Cruelty to Animals, which may perhaps account for some of their
shortcomings in this direction. Han Yü was above all things of a
kindly, humane nature, and although the following piece cannot be taken
seriously, it affords a useful index to his general feelings:--

  “_Oh, spare the busy morning fly,
    Spare the mosquitos of the night!
  And if their wicked trade they ply,
    Let a partition stop their flight._

  “_Their span is brief from birth to death;
    Like you, they bite their little day;
  And then, with autumn’s earliest breath,
    Like you, too, they are swept away._”

The following lines were written on the way to his place of exile in

  “_Alas! the early season flies,
    Behold the remnants of the spring!
  My boat in landlocked water lies,
    At dawn I hear the wild birds sing._

  “_Then, through clouds lingering on the slope,
    The rising sun breaks on to me,
  And thrills me with a fleeting hope,--
    A prisoner longing to be free._

  “_My flowing tears are long since dried,
    Though care clings closer than it did.
  But stop! All care we lay aside
    When once they close the coffin lid._”

[Sidenote: PO CHÜ-I]

Another famous poet, worthy to be mentioned even after Han Yü,
was PO CHÜ-I (A.D. 772-846). As a child he was most precocious,
knowing a considerable number of the written characters at the
early age of seven months, after having had each one pointed
out only once by his nurse. He graduated at the age of seventeen, and
rose to high office in the State, though at one period of his life
he was banished to a petty post, which somewhat disgusted him with
officialdom. To console himself, he built a retreat at Hsiang-shan,
by which name he is sometimes called; and there, together with eight
congenial companions, he gave himself up to poetry and speculations
upon a future life. To escape recognition and annoyance, all names were
dropped, and the party was generally known as the Nine Old Gentlemen of
Hsiang-shan. This reaching the ears of the Emperor, he was transferred
to be Governor of Chung-chou; and on the accession of Mu Tsung in
821 he was sent as Governor to Hangchow. There he built one of the
great embankments of the beautiful Western Lake, still known as Po’s
Embankment. He was subsequently Governor of Soochow, and finally rose
in 841 to be President of the Board of War. His poems were collected
by Imperial command and engraved upon tablets of stone, which were
set up in a garden he had made for himself in imitation of his former
beloved retreat at Hsiang-shan. He disbelieved in the genuineness of
the _Tao-Tê-Ching_, and ridiculed its preposterous claims as follows:--

  “_‘Who know, speak not; who speak, know naught,’
    Are words from Lao Tzŭ’s lore.
  What then becomes of Lao Tzŭ’s own
    ‘Five thousand words and more’?_”

Here is a charming poem from his pen, which tells the story of a poor
lute-girl’s sorrows. This piece is ranked very high by the commentator
Lin Hsi-chung, who points out how admirably the wording is adapted to
echo the sense, and declares that such workmanship raises the reader
to that state of mental ecstasy known to the Buddhists as _samâdhi_,
and can only be produced once in a thousand autumns. The “guest” is the
poet himself, setting out a second time for his place of banishment, as
mentioned above, from a point about half-way thither, where he had been
struck down by illness:--

“By night, at the riverside, adieus were spoken: beneath the maple’s
flower-like leaves, blooming amid autumnal decay. Host had dismounted
to speed the parting guest, already on board his boat. Then a
stirrup-cup went round, but no flute, no guitar, was heard. And so, ere
the heart was warmed with wine, came words of cold farewell beneath the
bright moon, glittering over the bosom of the broad stream ... when
suddenly across the water a lute broke forth into sound. Host forgot
to go, guest lingered on, wondering whence the music, and asking who
the performer might be. At this, all was hushed, but no answer given. A
boat approached, and the musician was invited to join the party. Cups
were refilled, lamps trimmed again, and preparations for festivity
renewed. At length, after much pressing, she came forth, hiding her
face behind her lute; and twice or thrice sweeping the strings,
betrayed emotion ere her song was sung. Then every note she struck
swelled with pathos deep and strong, as though telling the tale of a
wrecked and hopeless life, while with bent head and rapid finger she
poured forth her soul in melody. Now softly, now slowly, her plectrum
sped to and fro; now this air, now that; loudly, with the crash of
falling rain; softly, as the murmur of whispered words; now loud and
soft together, like the patter of pearls and pearlets dropping upon
a marble dish. Or liquid, like the warbling of the mango-bird in the
bush; trickling, like the streamlet on its downward course. And then,
like the torrent, stilled by the grip of frost, so for a moment was
the music lulled, in a passion too deep for sound. Then, as bursts the
water from the broken vase, as clash the arms upon the mailed horseman,
so fell the plectrum once more upon the strings with a slash like the
rent of silk.

“Silence on all sides: not a sound stirred the air. The autumn moon
shone silver athwart the tide, as with a sigh the musician thrust her
plectrum beneath the strings and quietly prepared to take leave. ‘My
childhood,’ said she, ‘was spent at the capital, in my home near the
hills. At thirteen, I learnt the guitar, and my name was enrolled
among the _primas_ of the day. The _maëstro_ himself acknowledged my
skill: the most beauteous of women envied my lovely face. The youths
of the neighbourhood vied with each other to do me honour: a single
song brought me I know not how many costly bales. Golden ornaments and
silver pins were smashed, blood-red skirts of silk were stained with
wine, in oft-times echoing applause. And so I laughed on from year to
year, while the spring breeze and autumn moon swept over my careless

“‘Then my brother went away to the wars: my mother died. Nights passed
and mornings came; and with them my beauty began to fade. My doors were
no longer thronged; but few cavaliers remained. So I took a husband
and became a trader’s wife. He was all for gain, and little recked of
separation from me. Last month he went off to buy tea, and I remained
behind, to wander in my lonely boat on moon-lit nights over the cold
wave, thinking of the happy days gone by, my reddened eyes telling of
tearful dreams.’

“The sweet melody of the lute had already moved my soul to pity, and
now these words pierced me to the heart again. ‘O lady,’ I cried, ‘we
are companions in misfortune, and need no ceremony to be friends. Last
year I quitted the Imperial city, and fever-stricken reached this spot,
where in its desolation, from year’s end to year’s end, no flute or
guitar is heard. I live by the marshy river-bank, surrounded by yellow
reeds and stunted bamboos. Day and night no sounds reach my ears save
the blood-stained note of the nightjar, the gibbon’s mournful wail.
Hill songs I have, and village pipes with their harsh discordant twang.
But now that I listen to thy lute’s discourse, methinks ’tis the music
of the gods. Prithee sit down awhile and sing to us yet again, while I
commit thy story to writing.’

“Grateful to me (for she had been standing long), the lute-girl
sat down and quickly broke forth into another song, sad and soft,
unlike the song of just now. Then all her hearers melted into tears
unrestrained; and none flowed more freely than mine, until my bosom was
wet with weeping.”

Perhaps the best known of all the works of Po Chü-i is a narrative
poem of some length entitled “The Everlasting Wrong.” It refers to the
ignominious downfall of the Emperor known as Ming Huang (A.D.
685-762), who himself deserves a passing notice. At his accession
to the throne in 712, he was called upon to face an attempt on the
part of his aunt, the T’ai-p’ing Princess, to displace him; but this
he succeeded in crushing, and entered upon what promised to be a
glorious reign. He began with economy, closing the silk factories
and forbidding the palace ladies to wear jewels or embroideries,
considerable quantities of which were actually burnt. Until 740 the
country was fairly prosperous. The administration was improved, the
empire was divided into fifteen provinces, and schools were established
in every village. The Emperor was a patron of literature, and himself
a poet of no mean capacity. He published an edition of the Classic of
Filial Piety, and caused the text to be engraved on four tablets of
stone, A.D. 745. His love of war, however, and his growing
extravagance, led to increased taxation. Fond of music, he founded a
college for training youth of both sexes in this art. He surrounded
himself by a brilliant Court, welcoming such men as the poet Li Po,
at first for their talents alone, but afterwards for their readiness
to participate in scenes of revelry and dissipation provided for the
amusement of the Imperial concubine, the ever-famous Yang Kuei-fei.
Eunuchs were appointed to official posts, and the grossest forms of
religious superstition were encouraged. Women ceased to veil themselves
as of old. Gradually the Emperor left off concerning himself with
affairs of State; a serious rebellion broke out, and his Majesty sought
safety in flight to Ssŭch’uan, returning only after having abdicated
in favour of his son. The accompanying poem describes the rise of
Yang Kuei-fei, her tragic fate at the hands of the soldiery, and her
subsequent communication with her heart-broken lover from the world of
shadows beyond the grave:--

  ENNUI.--_His Imperial Majesty, a slave to beauty,
                  longed for a “subverter of empires;”[15]
          For years he had sought in vain
                  to secure such a treasure for his palace...._

  BEAUTY.--_From the Yang family came a maiden,
                   just grown up to womanhood,
           Reared in the inner apartments,
                   altogether unknown to fame.
           But nature had amply endowed her
                   with a beauty hard to conceal,
           And one day she was summoned
                   to a place at the monarch’s side.
           Her sparkling eye and merry laughter
                   fascinated every beholder,
           And among the powder and paint of the harem
                   her loveliness reigned supreme.
           In the chills of spring, by Imperial mandate,
                   she bathed in the Hua-ch’ing Pool,
           Laving her body in the glassy wavelets
                   of the fountain perennially warm.
           Then, when she came forth, helped by attendants,
                   her delicate and graceful movements
           Finally gained for her gracious favour,
                   captivating his Majesty’s heart._

  REVELRY.--_Hair like a cloud, face like a flower,
                    headdress which quivered as she walked,
            Amid the delights of the Hibiscus Pavilion
                    she passed the soft spring nights.
            Spring nights, too short alas! for them,
                    albeit prolonged till dawn,--
            From this time forth no more audiences
                    in the hours of early morn.
            Revels and feasts in quick succession,
                    ever without a break,
            She chosen always for the spring excursion,
                    chosen for the nightly carouse.
            Three thousand peerless beauties adorned
                    the apartments of the monarch’s harem,
            Yet always his Majesty reserved
                    his attentions for her alone.
            Passing her life in a “golden house,”[16]
                    with fair girls to wait on her,
            She was daily wafted to ecstasy
                    on the wine fumes of the banquet-hall.
            Her sisters and her brothers, one and all,
                    were raised to the rank of nobles.
            Alas! for the ill-omened glories
                    which she conferred on her family.
            For thus it came about that fathers and mothers
                    through the length and breadth of the empire
            Rejoiced no longer over the birth of sons,
                    but over the birth of daughters.
            In the gorgeous palace
                    piercing the grey clouds above,
            Divine music, borne on the breeze,
                    is spread around on all sides;
            Of song and the dance
                    to the guitar and flute,
            All through the live long day,
                    his Majesty never tires.
            But suddenly comes the roll
                    of the fish-skin war-drums,
            Breaking rudely upon the air
                    of the “Rainbow Skirt and Feather Jacket.”_

  FLIGHT.--_Clouds of dust envelop
                   the lofty gates of the capital.
           A thousand war-chariots and ten thousand horses
                   move towards the south-west.
           Feathers and jewels among the throng,
                   onwards and then a halt.
           A hundred ~li~ beyond the western gate,
                   leaving behind them the city walls,
           The soldiers refuse to advance;
                   nothing remains to be done
           Until she of the moth-eyebrows
                   perishes in sight of all.
           On the ground lie gold ornaments
                   with no one to pick them up,
           Kingfisher wings, golden birds,
                   and hairpins of costly jade.
           The monarch covers his face,
                   powerless to save;
           And as he turns to look back,
                   tears and blood flow mingled together._

  EXILE.--_Across vast stretches of yellow sand
                  with whistling winds,
          Across cloud-capped mountain-tops
                  they make their way.
          Few indeed are the travellers
                  who reach the heights of Mount Omi;
          The bright gleam of the standards
                  grows fainter day by day.
          Dark the Ssŭch’uan waters,
                  dark the Ssŭch’uan hills;
          Daily and nightly his Majesty
                  is consumed by bitter grief.
          Travelling along, the very brightness
                  of the moon saddens his heart,
          And the sound of a bell through the evening rain
                  severs his viscera in twain._

  RETURN.--_Time passes, days go by, and once again
                   he is there at the well-known spot,
           And there he lingers on, unable
                   to tear himself wholly away.
           But from the clods of earth
                   at the foot of the Ma-wei hill,
           No sign of her lovely face appears,
                   only the place of death.
           The eyes of sovereign and minister meet,
                   and robes are wet with tears,
           Eastward they depart and hurry on
                   to the capital at full speed._

  HOME.--_There is the pool and there are the flowers,
                 as of old.
         There is the hibiscus of the pavilion,
                 there are the willows of the palace.
         In the hibiscus he sees her face,
                 in the willow he sees her eyebrows:
         How in the presence of these
                 should tears not flow,--
         In spring amid the flowers
                 of the peach and plum,
         In autumn rains when the leaves
                 of the ~wu t’ung~ fall?
         To the south of the western palace
                 are many trees,
         And when their leaves cover the steps,
                 no one now sweeps them away.
         The hair of the Pear-Garden musicians
                 is white as though with age;
         The guardians of the Pepper Chamber[17]
                 seem to him no longer young.
         Where fireflies flit through the hall,
                 he sits in silent grief;
         Alone, the lamp-wick burnt out,
                 he is still unable to sleep.
         Slowly pass the watches,
                 for the nights are now too long,
         And brightly shine the constellations,
                 as though dawn would never come.
         Cold settles upon the duck-and-drake tiles,[18]
                 and thick hoar-frost,
         The kingfisher coverlet is chill,
                 with none to share its warmth.
         Parted by life and death,
                 time still goes on,
         But never once does her spirit come back
                 to visit him in dreams._

  SPIRIT-LAND.--_A Taoist priest of Lin-ch’ung,
                        of the Hung-tu school,
                Was able, by his perfect art, to summon
                        the spirits of the dead.
                Anxious to relieve the fretting mind
                        of his sovereign,
                This magician receives orders
                        to urge a diligent quest.
                Borne on the clouds, charioted upon ether,
                        he rushes with the speed of lightning
                High up to heaven, low down to earth,
                        seeking everywhere.
                Above, he searches the empyrean;
                        below, the Yellow Springs,
                But nowhere in these vast areas
                        can her place be found.
                At length he hears of an Isle of the Blest
                        away in mid-ocean,
                Lying in realms of vacuity,
                        dimly to be descried.
                There gaily decorated buildings
                        rise up like rainbow clouds,
                And there many gentle and beautiful Immortals
                        pass their days in peace.
                Among them is one whose name
                        sounds upon lips as Eternal,
                And by her snow-white skin and flower-like face
                        he knows that this is she.
                Knocking at the jade door
                        at the western gate of the golden palace,
                He bids a fair waiting-maid announce him
                        to her mistress, fairer still.
                She, hearing of this embassy
                        sent by the Son of Heaven,
                Starts up from her dreams
                        among the tapestry curtains.
                Grasping her clothes and pushing away the pillow,
                        she arises in haste,
                And begins to adorn herself
                        with pearls and jewels.
                Her cloud-like coiffure, dishevelled,
                        shows that she has just risen from sleep,
                And with her flowery head-dress awry,
                        she passes into the hall.
                The sleeves of her immortal robes
                        are filled out by the breeze,
                As once more she seems to dance
                        to the “Rainbow Skirt and Feather Jacket.”
                Her features are fixed and calm,
                        though myriad tears fall,
                Wetting a spray of pear-bloom,
                        as it were with the raindrops of spring.
                Subduing her emotions, restraining her grief,
                        she tenders thanks to his Majesty,
                Saying how since they parted
                        she has missed his form and voice;
                And how, although their love on earth
                        has so soon come to an end,
                The days and months among the Blest
                        are still of long duration.
                And now she turns and gazes
                        towards the abode of mortals,
                But cannot discern the Imperial city
                        lost in the dust and haze.
                Then she takes out the old keepsakes,
                        tokens of undying love,
                A gold hairpin, an enamel brooch,
                        and bids the magician carry these back.
                One half of the hairpin she keeps,
                        and one half of the enamel brooch,
                Breaking with her hands the yellow gold,
                        and dividing the enamel in two.
                “Tell him,” she said, “to be firm of heart,
                        as this gold and enamel,
                And then in heaven or on earth below
                        we two may meet once more.”
                At parting, she confided to the magician
                        many earnest messages of love,
                Among the rest recalling a pledge
                        mutually understood;
                How on the seventh day of the seventh moon,
                        in the Hall of Immortality,
                At midnight, when none were near,
                        he had whispered in her ear,
                “I swear that we will ever fly
                        like the one-winged birds,[19]
                Or grow united like the tree
                        with branches which twine together.”[20]
                Heaven and Earth, long-lasting as they are,
                        will some day pass away;
                But this great wrong shall stretch out for ever,
                        endless, for ever and ay._

[Sidenote: LI HO]

A precocious and short-lived poet was LI HO, of the ninth
century. He began to write verses at the age of seven. Twenty years
later he met a strange man riding on a hornless dragon, who said to
him, “God Almighty has finished his Jade Pavilion, and has sent for you
to be his secretary.” Shortly after this he died. The following is a
specimen of his poetry:--

  “_With flowers on the ground like embroidery spread,
  At twenty, the soft glow of wine in my head,
  My white courser’s bit-tassels motionless gleam
  While the gold-threaded willow scent sweeps o’er the stream.
  Yet until ~she~ has smiled, all these flowers yield no ray;
  When her tresses fall down the whole landscape is gay;
  My hand on her sleeve as I gaze in her eyes,
  A kingfisher hairpin will soon be my prize._”

CHANG CHI, who also flourished in the ninth century, was
eighty years old when he died. He was on terms of close friendship with
Han Yü, and like him, too, a vigorous opponent of both Buddhism and
Taoism. The following is his most famous poem, the beauty of which,
says a commentator, lies beyond the words:--

  “_Knowing, fair sir, my matrimonial thrall,
  Two pearls thou sentest me, costly withal.
  And I, seeing that Love thy heart possessed,
  I wrapped them coldly in my silken vest._

  “_For mine is a household of high degree,
  My husband captain in the King’s army;
  And one with wit like thine should say,
  ‘The troth of wives is for ever and ay.’_

  “_With thy two pearls I send thee back two tears:
  Tears--that we did not meet in earlier years._”

Many more poets of varying shades of excellence must here be set aside,
their efforts often brightened by those quaint conceits which are so
dear to the Chinese reader, but which approach so perilously near to
bathos when they appear in foreign garb. A few specimens, torn from
their setting, may perhaps have an interest of their own. Here is a
lady complaining of the leaden-footed flight of time as marked by the

  “_It seems that the clepsydra
          has been filled up with the sea,
  To make the long, long night appear
          an endless night to me!_”

The second line in the next example is peculiarly characteristic:--

  “_Dusk comes, the east wind blows, and birds
      pipe forth a mournful sound;
  Petals, like nymphs from balconies,
      come tumbling to the ground._”

The next refers to candles burning in a room where two friends are
having a last talk on the night before parting for a long period:--

  “_The very wax sheds sympathetic tears,
  And gutters sadly down till dawn appears._”

This last is from a friend to a friend at a distance:--

  “_Ah, when shall we ever snuff candles again,
  And recall the glad hours of that evening of rain?_”

[Sidenote: LI SHÊ]

A popular poet of the ninth century was LI SHÊ, especially
well known for the story of his capture by highwaymen. The chief knew
him by name and called for a sample of his art, eliciting the following
lines, which immediately secured his release:--

  “_The rainy mist sweeps gently o’er the village by the stream,
  When from the leafy forest glades the brigand daggers gleam....
  And yet there is no need to fear, nor step from out their way,
  For more than half the world consists of bigger rogues than they!_”

A popular physician in great request, as well as a poet, was MA TZŬ-JAN
(_d._ A.D. 880). He studied Taoism in a hostile sense, as would appear
from the following poem by him; nevertheless, according to tradition,
he was ultimately taken up to heaven alive:--

  “_In youth I went to study ~TAO~ at its living fountain-head,
  And then lay tipsy half the day upon a gilded bed.
  ‘What oaf is this,’ the Master cried, ‘content with human lot?’
  And bade me to the world get back and call myself a sot.
  But wherefore seek immortal life by means of wondrous pills?
  Noise is not in the market-place, nor quiet on the hills.
  The secret of perpetual youth is already known to me:
  Accept with philosophic calm whatever fate may be._”

HSÜ AN-CHÊN, of the ninth century, is entitled to a place among the
T’ang poets, if only for the following piece:--

  “_When the Bear athwart was lying,
  And the night was just on dying,
  And the moon was all but gone,
  How my thoughts did ramble on!_

  “_Then a sound of music breaks
  From a lute that some one wakes,
  And I know that it is she,
  The sweet maid next door to me._

  “_And as the strains steal o’er me
  Her moth-eyebrows rise before me,
  And I feel a gentle thrill
  That her fingers must be chill._

  “_But doors and locks between us
  So effectually screen us
  That I hasten from the street
  And in dreamland pray to meet._”

The following lines by TU CH’IN-NIANG, a poetess of the ninth century,
are included in a collection of 300 gems of the T’ang dynasty:--

  “_I would not have thee grudge those robes
          which gleam in rich array,
  But I would have thee grudge the hours
          of youth which glide away.
  Go, pluck the blooming flower betimes,
          lest when thou com’st again
  Alas! upon the withered stem
          no blooming flowers remain!_”

[Sidenote: SSŬ-K’UNG T’U]

It is time perhaps to bring to a close the long list, which might be
almost indefinitely lengthened. SSŬ-K’UNG T’U (A.D. 834-908) was a
secretary in the Board of Rites, but he threw up his post and became
a hermit. Returning to Court in 905, he accidentally dropped part
of his official insignia at an audience,--an unpardonable breach of
Court etiquette,--and was allowed to retire once more to the hills,
where he ultimately starved himself to death through grief at the
murder of the youthful Emperor. He is commonly known as the Last of
the T’angs; his poetry, which is excessively difficult to understand,
ranking correspondingly high in the estimation of Chinese critics. The
following philosophical poem, consisting of twenty-four apparently
unconnected stanzas, is admirably adapted to exhibit the form under
which pure Taoism commends itself to the mind of a cultivated scholar:--


  “_Expenditure of force leads to outward decay,
  Spiritual existence means inward fulness.
  Let us revert to Nothing and enter the Absolute,
  Hoarding up strength for Energy.
  Freighted with eternal principles,
  Athwart the mighty void,
  Where cloud-masses darken,
  And the wind blows ceaseless around,
  Beyond the range of conceptions,
  Let us gain the Centre,
  And there hold fast without violence,
  Fed from an inexhaustible supply._”


  “_It dwells in quietude, speechless,
  Imperceptible in the cosmos,
  Watered by the eternal harmonies,
  Soaring with the lonely crane.
  It is like a gentle breeze in spring,
  Softly bellying the flowing robe;
  It is like the note of the bamboo flute,
  Whose sweetness we would fain make our own.
  Meeting by chance, it seems easy of access,
  Seeking, we find it hard to secure.
  Ever shifting in semblance,
  It shifts from the grasp and is gone._”


  “_Gathering the water-plants
  From the wild luxuriance of spring,
  Away in the depth of a wild valley
  Anon I see a lovely girl.
  With green leaves the peach-trees are loaded,
  The breeze blows gently along the stream,
  Willows shade the winding path,
  Darting orioles collect in groups.
  Eagerly I press forward
  As the reality grows upon me....
  ’Tis the eternal theme
  Which, though old, is ever new._”


  “_Green pines and a rustic hut,
  The sun sinking through pure air,
  I take off my cap and stroll alone,
  Listening to the song of birds.
  No wild geese fly hither,
  And she is far away;
  But my thoughts make her present
  As in the days gone by.
  Across the water dark clouds are whirled,
  Beneath the moonbeams the eyots stand revealed,
  And sweet words are exchanged
  Though the great River rolls between._”


  “_Lo the Immortal, borne by spirituality,
  His hand grasping a lotus flower,
  Away to Time everlasting,
  Trackless through the regions of Space!
  With the moon he issues from the Ladle,[21]
  Speeding upon a favourable gale;
  Below, Mount Hua looms dark,
  And from it sounds a clear-toned bell.
  Vacantly I gaze after his vanished image,
  Now passed beyond the bounds of mortality....
  Ah, the Yellow Emperor and Yao,
  They, peerless, are his models._”


  “_A jade kettle with a purchase of spring,[22]
  A shower on the thatched hut
  Wherein sits a gentle scholar,
  With tall bamboos growing right and left,
  And white clouds in the newly-clear sky,
  And birds flitting in the depths of trees.
  Then pillowed on his lute in the green shade,
  A waterfall tumbling overhead,
  Leaves dropping, not a word spoken,
  The man placid, like a chrysanthemum,
  Noting down the flower-glory of the season,--
  A book well worthy to be read._”


  “_As iron from the mines,
  As silver from lead,
  So purify thy heart,
  Loving the limpid and clean.
  Like a clear pool in spring,
  With its wondrous mirrored shapes,
  So make for the spotless and true,
  And, riding the moonbeam, revert to the Spiritual.
  Let your gaze be upon the stars of heaven,[23]
  Let your song be of the hiding hermit;[23]
  Like flowing water is our to-day,
  Our yesterday, the bright moon._”[24]


  “_The mind as though in the void,
  The vitality as though of the rainbow,
  Among the thousand-ell peaks of Wu,
  Flying with the clouds, racing with the wind;
  Drink of the spiritual, feed on force,
  Store them for daily use, guard them in your heart,
  Be like Him in His might,[25]
  For this is to preserve your energy;
  Be a peer of Heaven and Earth,
  A co-worker in Divine transformation....
  Seek to be full of these,
  And hold fast to them alway._”


  “_If the mind has wealth and rank,
  One may make light of yellow gold.
  Rich pleasures pall ere long,
  Simple joys deepen ever.
  A mist-cloud hanging on the river bank,
  Pink almond-flowers along the bough,
  A flower-girt cottage beneath the moon,
  A painted bridge half seen in shadow,
  A golden goblet brimming with wine,
  A friend with his hand on the lute....
  Take these and be content;
  They will swell thy heart beneath thy robe._”


  “_Stoop, and there it is;
  Seek it not right and left.
  All roads lead thither,--
  One touch and you have spring![26]
  As though coming upon opening flowers,
  As though gazing upon the new year,
  Verily I will not snatch it,
  Forced, it will dwindle away.
  I will be like the hermit on the hill,
  Like duckweed gathered on the stream,[27]
  And when emotions crowd upon me,
  I will leave them to the harmonies of heaven._”

xi.--SET FREE.

  “_Joying in flowers without let,
  Breathing the empyrean,
  Through ~TAO~ reverting to ether,
  And there to be wildly free,
  Wide-spreading as the wind of heaven,
  Lofty as the peaks of ocean,
  Filled with a spiritual strength,
  All creation by my side,
  Before me the sun, moon, and stars,
  The phœnix following behind.
  In the morning I whip up my leviathans
  And wash my feet in Fusang._”[28]


  “_Without a word writ down,
  All wit may be attained.
  If words do not affect the speaker,
  They seem inadequate to sorrow.[29]
  Herein is the First Cause,
  With which we sink or rise,
  As wine in the strainer mounts high,
  As cold turns back the season of flowers.
  The wide-spreading dust-motes in the air,
  The sudden spray-bubbles of ocean,
  Shallow, deep, collected, scattered,--
  You grasp ten thousand, and secure one._”


  “_That they might come back unceasingly,
  That they might be ever with us!--
  The bright river, unfathomable,
  The rare flower just opening,
  The parrot of the verdant spring,
  The willow-trees, the terrace,
  The stranger from the dark hills,
  The cup overflowing with clear wine....
  Oh, for life to be extended,
  With no dead ashes of writing,
  Amid the charms of the Natural,--
  Ah, who can compass it?_”


  “_In all things there are veritable atoms,
  Though the senses cannot perceive them,
  Struggling to emerge into shape
  From the wondrous workmanship of God.
  Water flowing, flowers budding,
  The limpid dew evaporating,
  An important road, stretching far,
  A dark path where progress is slow....
  So words should not shock,
  Nor thought be inept.
  But be like the green of spring,
  Like snow beneath the moon._”[30]


  “_Following our own bent,
  Enjoying the Natural, free from curb,
  Rich with what comes to hand,
  Hoping some day to be with God.
  To build a hut beneath the pines,
  With uncovered head to pore over poetry,
  Knowing only morning and eve,
  But not what season it may be....
  Then, if happiness is ours,
  Why must there be action?
  If of our own selves we can reach this point,
  Can we not be said to have attained?_”


  “_Lovely is the pine-grove,
  With the stream eddying below,
  A clear sky and a snow-clad bank,
  Fishing-boats in the reach beyond.
  And she, like unto jade,
  Slowly sauntering, as I follow through the dark wood,
  Now moving on, now stopping short,
  Far away to the deep valley....
  My mind quits its tenement, and is in the past,
  Vague, and not to be recalled,
  As though before the glow of the rising moon,
  As though before the glory of autumn._”


  “_I climbed the Tai-hsing mountain
  By the green winding path,
  Vegetation like a sea of jade,
  Flower-scent borne far and wide.
  Struggling with effort to advance,
  A sound escaped my lips,
  Which seemed to be back ere ’twas gone,
  As though hidden but not concealed.[31]
  The eddying waters rush to and fro,
  Overhead the great rukh soars and sails;
  ~TAO~ does not limit itself to a shape,
  But is round and square by turns._”


  “_Choosing plain words
  To express simple thoughts,
  Suddenly I happened upon a recluse,
  And seemed to see the heart of TAO.
  Beside the winding brook,
  Beneath dark pine-trees’ shade,
  There was one stranger bearing a faggot,
  Another listening to the lute.
  And so, where my fancy led me,
  Better than if I had sought it,
  I heard the music of heaven,
  Astounded by its rare strains._”


  “_A gale ruffles the stream
  And trees in the forest crack;
  My thoughts are bitter as death,
  For she whom I asked will not come.
  A hundred years slip by like water,
  Riches and rank are but cold ashes,
  ~TAO~ is daily passing away,
  To whom shall we turn for salvation?
  The brave soldier draws his sword,
  And tears flow with endless lamentation;
  The wind whistles, leaves fall,
  And rain trickles through the old thatch._”


  “_After gazing fixedly upon expression and substance
  The mind returns with a spiritual image,
  As when seeking the outlines of waves,
  As when painting the glory of spring.
  The changing shapes of wind-swept clouds,
  The energies of flowers and plants,
  The rolling breakers of ocean,
  The crags and cliffs of mountains,
  All these are like mighty ~TAO~,
  Skilfully woven into earthly surroundings....
  To obtain likeness without form,
  Is not that to possess the man?_”


  “_Not of the spirituality of the mind,
  Nor yet of the atoms of the cosmos,
  But as though reached upon white clouds,
  Borne thither by pellucid breezes.
  Afar, it seems at hand,
  Approach, ’tis no longer there;
  Sharing the nature of ~TAO~,
  It shuns the limits of mortality.
  It is in the piled-up hills, in tall trees,
  In dark mosses, in sunlight rays....
  Croon over it, think upon it;
  Its faint sound eludes the ear._”


  “_Without friends, longing to be there,
  Alone, away from the common herd,
  Like the crane on Mount Hou,
  Like the cloud at the peak of Mount Hua.
  In the portrait of the hero
  The old fire still lingers;
  The leaf carried by the wind
  Floats on the boundless sea.
  It would seem as though not to be grasped,
  But always on the point of being disclosed.
  Those who recognise this have already attained;
  Those who hope, drift daily farther away._”


  “_Life stretches to one hundred years,
  And yet how brief a span;
  Its joys so fleeting,
  Its griefs so many!
  What has it like a goblet of wine,
  And daily visits to the wistaria arbour,
  Where flowers cluster around the eaves,
  And light showers pass overhead?
  Then when the wine-cup is drained,
  To stroll about with staff of thorn;
  For who of us but will some day be an ancient?...
  Ah, there is the South Mountain in its grandeur!_”[32]


  “_Like a whirling water-wheel,
  Like rolling pearls,--
  Yet how are these worthy to be named?
  They are but illustrations for fools.
  There is the mighty axis of Earth,
  The never-resting pole of Heaven;
  Let us grasp their clue,
  And with them be blended in One,
  Beyond the bounds of thought,
  Circling for ever in the great Void,
  An orbit of a thousand years,--
  Yes, this is the key to my theme._”


[12] Alluding to the huge gilt images of Buddha to be seen in all

[13] The other two were Li Po and Tu Fu.

[14] Graves are placed by preference on some hillside.

[15] Referring to a famous beauty of the Han dynasty, one glance from
whom would overthrow a city, two glances an empire.

[16] Referring to A-chiao, one of the consorts of an Emperor of the
Han dynasty. “Ah,” said the latter when a boy, “if I could only get
A-chiao, I would have a golden house to keep her in.”

[17] A fancy name for the women’s apartments in the palace.

[18] The mandarin duck and drake are emblems of conjugal fidelity. The
allusion is to ornaments on the roof.

[19] Each bird having only one wing, must always fly with a mate.

[20] Such a tree was believed to exist, and has often been figured by
the Chinese.

[21] The Great Bear.

[22] Wine which makes man see spring at all seasons.

[23] Emblems of purity.

[24] Our previous state of existence at the eternal Centre to which the
moon belongs.

[25] The Power who, without loss of force, causes things to be what
they are--God.

[26] Alluding to the art of the painter.

[27] A creature of chance, following the doctrine of Inaction.

[28] Variously identified with Saghalien, Mexico, and Japan.


            ...Si vis me flere dolendum est
  Primum ipsi tibi....

[30] Each invisible atom of which combines to produce a perfect whole.

[31] Referring to an echo.

[32] This remains, while all other things pass away.



The classical scholarship of the Tang dynasty was neither very original
nor very profound. It is true that the second Emperor founded a College
of Learning, but its members were content to continue the traditions
of the Hans, and comparatively little was achieved in the line of
independent research. Foremost among the names in the above College
stands that of LU YÜAN-LANG (550-625). He had been Imperial
Librarian under the preceding dynasty, and later on distinguished
himself by his defence of Confucianism against both Buddhist and Taoist
attacks. He published a valuable work on the explanations of terms and
phrases in the Classics and in Taoist writers.

Scarcely less eminent as a scholar was WEI CHÊNG (581-643),
who also gained great reputation as a military commander. He was
appointed President of the Commission for drawing up the history of the
previous dynasty, and he was, in addition, a poet of no mean order. At
his death the Emperor said, “You may use copper as a mirror for the
person; you may use the past as a mirror for politics; and you may use
man as a mirror to guide one’s judgment in ordinary affairs. These
three mirrors I have always carefully cherished; but now that Wei Chêng
is gone, I have lost one of them.”

Another well-known scholar is YEN SHIH-KU (579-645). He was
employed upon a recension of the Classics, and also upon a new and
annotated edition of the history of the Han dynasty; but his exegesis
in the former case caused dissatisfaction, and he was ordered to a
provincial post. Although nominally reinstated before this degradation
took effect, his ambition was so far wounded that he ceased to be the
same man. He lived henceforth a retired and simple life.

LI PO-YAO (565-648) was so sickly a child, and swallowed so
much medicine, that his grandmother insisted on naming him Po-yao
= Pharmacopœia, while his precocious cleverness earned for him the
sobriquet of the Prodigy. Entering upon a public career, he neglected
his work for gaming and drink, and after a short spell of office he
retired. Later on he rose once more, and completed the History of the
Northern Ch’i Dynasty.

A descendant of Confucius in the thirty-second degree, and a
distinguished scholar and public functionary, was K’UNG YING-TA
(574-648). He wrote a commentary on the Book of Odes, and is credited
with certain portions of the History of the Sui Dynasty. Besides this,
he is responsible for comments and glosses on the Great Learning and on
the Doctrine of the Mean.

Lexicography was perhaps the department of pure scholarship in which
the greatest advances were made. Dictionaries on the phonetic system,
based upon the work of Lu Fa-yen of the sixth century, came very much
into vogue, as opposed to those on the radical system initiated by Hsü
Shên. Not that the splendid work of the latter was allowed to suffer
from neglect. LI YANG-PING, of the eighth century, devoted
much time and labour to improving and adding to its pages. The latter
was a Government official, and when filling a post as magistrate in
763, he is said to have obtained rain during a drought by threatening
the City God with the destruction of his temple unless his prayers were
answered within three days.

[Sidenote: CHANG CHIH-HO]

CHANG CHIH-HO (eighth century), author of a work on the conservation
of vitality, was of a romantic turn of mind and especially fond of
Taoist speculations. He took office under the Emperor Su Tsung of the
T’ang dynasty, but got into some trouble and was banished. Soon after
this he shared in a general pardon; whereupon he fled to the woods
and mountains and became a wandering recluse, calling himself the Old
Fisherman of the Mists and Waters. He spent his time in angling, but
used no bait, his object not being to catch fish. When asked why he
roamed about, Chang answered and said, “With the empyrean as my home,
the bright moon my constant companion, and the four seas my inseparable
friends,--what mean you by _roaming_?” And when a friend offered him
a comfortable home instead of his poor boat, he replied, “I prefer to
follow the gulls into cloudland, rather than to bury my eternal self
beneath the dust of the world.”

The author of the _T’ung Tien_, an elaborate treatise on the
constitution, still extant, was TU YU (_d._ 812). It is
divided into eight sections under Political Economy, Examinations
and Degrees, Government Offices, Rites, Music, Military Discipline,
Geography, and National Defences.

[Sidenote: LIU TSUNG-YÜAN]

Among writers of general prose literature, LIU TSUNG-YÜAN
(773-819) has left behind him much that for purity of style and
felicity of expression has rarely been surpassed. Besides being
poet, essayist, and calligraphist, he was a Secretary in the Board of
Rites. There he became involved in a conspiracy, and was banished to a
distant spot, where he died. His views were deeply tinged with Buddhist
thought, for which he was often severely censured, once in a letter by
his friend and master, Han Yü. These few lines are part of his reply on
the latter occasion:--

“The features I admire in Buddhism are those which are coincident with
the principles enunciated in our own sacred books. And I do not think
that, even were the holy sages of old to revisit the earth, they would
fairly be able to denounce these. Now, Han Yü objects to the Buddhist
commandments. He objects to the bald pates of the priests, their dark
robes, their renunciation of domestic ties, their idleness, and life
generally at the expense of others. So do I. But Han Yü misses the
kernel while railing at the husk. He sees the lode, but not the ore. I
see both; hence my partiality for this faith.

“Again, intercourse with men of this religion does not necessarily
imply conversion. Even if it did, Buddhism admits no envious rivalry
for place or power. The majority of its adherents love only to lead a
simple life of contemplation amid the charms of hill and stream. And
when I turn my gaze towards the hurry-scurry of the age, in its daily
race for the seals and tassels of office, I ask myself if I am to
reject those in order to take my place among the ranks of these.

“The Buddhist priest, Hao-ch’u, is a man of placid temperament and
of passions subdued. He is a fine scholar. His only joy is to muse
o’er flood and fell, with occasional indulgence in the delights of
composition. His family follow in the same path. He is independent of
all men, and no more to be compared with those heterodox sages of whom
we make so much than with the vulgar herd of the greedy, grasping world
around us.”

On this the commentator remarks, that one must have the genius of Han
Yü to condemn Buddhism, the genius of Liu Tsung-yüan to indulge in it.

Here is a short study on a great question:--

“Over the western hills the road trends away towards the north, and on
the farther side of the pass separates into two. The westerly branch
leads to nowhere in particular; but if you follow the other, which
takes a north-easterly turn, for about a quarter of a mile, you will
find that the path ends abruptly, while the stream forks to enclose
a steep pile of boulders. On the summit of this pile there is what
appears to be an elegantly built look-out tower; below, as it were a
battlemented wall, pierced by a city gate, through which one gazes into
darkness. A stone thrown in here falls with a splash suggestive of
water, and the reverberations of this sound are audible for some time.
There is a way round from behind up to the top, whence nothing is seen
far and wide except groves of fine straight trees, which, strange to
say, are grouped symmetrically, as if by an artist’s hand.

“Now, I have always had my doubts about the existence of a God, but
this scene made me think He really must exist. At the same time,
however, I began to wonder why He did not place it in some worthy
centre of civilisation, rather than in this out-of-the-way barbarous
region, where for centuries there has been no one to enjoy its beauty.
And so, on the other hand, such waste of labour and incongruity of
position disposed me to think that there cannot be a God after all.”

One favourite piece is a letter which Liu Tsung-yüan writes in a
bantering style to congratulate a well-to-do literary man on having
lost everything in a fire, especially, as he explains, if the victim
has been “utterly and irretrievably beggared.” It will give such a
rare opportunity, he points out, to show the world that there was no
connection whatever between worldly means and literary reputation.

A well-known satirical piece by Liu Tsung-yüan is entitled “Catching
Snakes,” and is directed against the hardships of over-taxation:--

“In the wilds of Hu-kuang there is an extraordinary kind of snake,
having a black body with white rings. Deadly fatal, even to the grass
and trees it may chance to touch; in man, its bite is absolutely
incurable. Yet, if caught and prepared, when dry, in the form of cakes,
the flesh of this snake will soothe excitement, heal leprous sores,
remove sloughing flesh, and expel evil spirits. And so it came about
that the Court physician, acting under Imperial orders, exacted from
each family a return of two of these snakes every year; but as few
persons were able to comply with the demand, it was subsequently made
known that the return of snakes was to be considered in lieu of the
usual taxes. Thereupon there ensued a general stampede among the people
of those parts.”

It turned out, however, that snake-catching was actually less deadly
than paying such taxes as were exacted from those who dared not face
its risks and elected to contribute in the ordinary way. One man,
whose father and grandfather had both perished from snake-bites,
declared that after all he was better off than his neighbours, who were
ground down and beggared by the iniquities of the tax-gatherer. “Harsh
tyrants,” he explained, “sweep down upon us, and throw everybody and
everything, even to the brute beasts, into paroxysms of terror and
disorder. But I,--I get up in the morning and look into the jar where
my snakes are kept; and if they are still there, I lie down at night
in peace. At the appointed time, I take care that they are fit to be
handed in; and when that is done, I retire to enjoy the produce of
my farm and complete the allotted span of my existence. Only twice a
year have I to risk my life: the rest is peaceful enough and not to be
compared with the daily round of annoyance which falls to the share of
my fellow-villagers.”

A similar satire on over-government introduces a deformed gardener
called Camel-back. This man was extraordinarily successful as a

“One day a customer asked him how this was so; to which he replied,
‘Old Camel-back cannot make trees live or thrive. He can only let them
follow their natural tendencies. Now in planting trees, be careful to
set the root straight, to smooth the earth around them, to use good
mould, and to ram it down well. Then, don’t touch them; don’t think
about them; don’t go and look at them; but leave them alone to take
care of themselves, and nature will do the rest. I only avoid trying
to make my trees grow. I have no special method of cultivation, no
special means for securing luxuriance of growth. I only don’t spoil
the fruit. I have no way of getting it either early or in abundance.
Other gardeners set with bent root and neglect the mould. They heap
up either too much earth or too little. Or if not this, then they
become too fond of and too anxious about their trees, and are for
ever running backwards and forwards to see how they are growing;
sometimes scratching them to make sure they are still alive, or shaking
them about to see if they are sufficiently firm in the ground; thus
constantly interfering with the natural bias of the tree, and turning
their affection and care into an absolute bane and a curse. I only
don’t do these things. That’s all.’

“‘Can these principles you have just now set forth be applied to
government?’ asked his listener. ‘Ah!’ replied Camel-back, ‘I only
understand nursery-gardening: government is not my trade. Still, in
the village where I live, the officials are for ever issuing all kinds
of orders, as if greatly compassionating the people, though really to
their utter injury. Morning and night the underlings come round and
say, ‘His Honour bids us urge on your ploughing, hasten your planting,
and superintend your harvest. Do not delay with your spinning and
weaving. Take care of your children. Rear poultry and pigs. Come
together when the drum beats. Be ready at the sound of the rattle.’
Thus are we poor people badgered from morn till eve. We have not a
moment to ourselves. How could any one flourish and develop naturally
under such conditions?’”

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: HAN YÜ]

In his prose writings Han Yü showed even more variety of subject than
in his verse. His farewell words to his dead friend Liu Tsung-yüan,
read, according to Chinese custom, by the side of the bier or at the
grave, and then burnt as a means of communicating them to the deceased,
are widely known to his countrymen:--

“Alas! Tzŭ-hou, and hast thou come to this pass?--Fool that I am! is
it not the pass to which mortals have ever come? Man is born into the
world like a dream: what need has he to take note of gain or loss?
While the dream lasts, he may sorrow or may joy; but when the awakening
is at hand, why cling regretfully to the past?

“’Twere well for all things an they had no worth. The excellence of
its wood is the bane of the tree. And thou, whose early genius knew no
curb, weaver of the jewelled words, thou wilt be remembered when the
imbeciles of fortune and place are forgot.

“The unskilful bungler hacks his hands and streams with sweat, while
the expert craftsman looks on with folded arms. O my friend, thy work
was not for this age; though I, a bungler, have found employment in the
service of the State. Thou didst know thyself above the common herd;
but when in shame thou didst depart never to return, the Philistines
usurped thy place.

“Alas! Tzŭ-hou, now thou art no more. But thy last wish, that I should
care for thy little son, is still ringing sadly in my ears. The
friendships of the day are those of self-interest alone. How can I feel
sure that I shall live to carry out thy behest? I did not arrogate to
myself this duty. Thou thyself hast bidden me to the task; and, by the
Gods above, I will not betray thy trust.

“Thou hast gone to thy eternal home, and wilt not return. With these
sacrifices by thy coffin’s side, I utter an affectionate farewell.”

The following passages are taken from his essay on the Way or Method of

“Had there been no sages of old, the race of man would have long since
become extinct. Men have not fur and feathers and scales to adjust
the temperature of their bodies; neither have they claws and fangs
to aid them in the struggle for food. Hence their organisation, as
follows:--The sovereign issues commands. The minister carries out these
commands, and makes them known to the people. The people produce grain
and flax and silk, fashion articles of everyday use, and interchange
commodities, in order to fulfil their obligations to their rulers. The
sovereign who fails to issue his commands loses his _raison d’être_;
the minister who fails to carry out his sovereign’s commands, and to
make them known to the people, loses his _raison d’être_; the people
who fail to produce grain and flax and silk, fashion articles of
everyday use, and interchange commodities, in order to fulfil their
obligations to their rulers, should lose their heads.”

       *       *       *       *       *

“And if I am asked what Method is this, I reply that it is what I call
_the_ Method, and not merely a method like those of Lao Tzŭ and Buddha.
The Emperor Yao handed it down to the Emperor Shun; the Emperor Shun
handed it down to the Great Yü; and so on until it reached Confucius,
and lastly Mencius, who died without transmitting it to any one else.
Then followed the heterodox schools of Hsün and Yang, wherein much
that was essential was passed over, while the criterion was vaguely
formulated. In the days before Chou Kung, the Sages were themselves
rulers; hence they were able to secure the reception of their Method.
In the days after Chou Kung, the Sages were all high officers of State;
hence its duration through a long period of time.

“And now, it will be asked, what is the remedy? I answer that unless
these false doctrines are rooted out, the true faith will not prevail.
Let us insist that the followers of Lao Tzŭ and Buddha behave
themselves like ordinary mortals. Let us burn their books. Let us turn
their temples into dwelling-houses. Let us make manifest the Method
of our ancient kings, in order that men may be led to embrace its

Of the character of Han Yü’s famous ultimatum to the crocodile, which
all Chinese writers have regarded as a real creature, though probably
the name is but an allegorical veil, the following extract may

“O Crocodile! thou and I cannot rest together here. The Son of Heaven
has confided this district and this people to my charge; and thou, O
goggle-eyed, by disturbing the peace of this river and devouring the
people and their domestic animals, the bears, the boars, and deer
of the neighbourhood, in order to batten thyself and reproduce thy
kind,--thou art challenging me to a struggle of life and death. And
I, though of weakly frame, am I to bow the knee and yield before a
crocodile? No! I am the lawful guardian of this place, and I would
scorn to decline thy challenge, even were it to cost me my life.

“Still, in virtue of my commission from the Son of Heaven, I am bound
to give fair warning; and thou, O crocodile, if thou art wise, will
pay due heed to my words. There before thee lies the broad ocean, the
domain alike of the whale and the shrimp. Go thither and live in peace.
It is but the journey of a day.”

The death of a dearly loved nephew, comparatively near to him in age,
drew from Han Yü a long and pathetic “In Memoriam,” conveyed, as
mentioned above, to the ears of the departed through the medium of fire
and smoke. These are two short extracts:--

“The line of my noble-hearted brother has indeed been prematurely
cut off. Thy pure intelligence, hope of the family, survives not to
continue the traditions of his house. Unfathomable are the appointments
of what men call Heaven: inscrutable are the workings of the unseen:
unknowable are the mysteries of eternal truth: unrecognisable those who
are destined to attain to old age!

“Henceforth my grey hairs will grow white, my strength fail. Physically
and mentally hurrying on to decay, how long before I shall follow thee?
If there is knowledge after death, this separation will be but for
a little while. If there is not knowledge after death, so will this
sorrow be but for a little while, and then no more sorrow for ever.”

       *       *       *       *       *

“O ye blue heavens, when shall my sorrow have end? Henceforth the world
has no charms. I will get me a few acres on the banks of the Ying, and
there await the end, teaching my son and thy son, if haply they may
grow up,--my daughter and thy daughter, until their day of marriage
comes. Alas! though words fail, love endureth. Dost thou hear, or dost
thou not hear? Woe is me: Heaven bless thee!”

Of all Han Yü’s writings in prose or in verse, there was not one which
caused anything like the sensation produced by his memorial to the
Emperor on the subject of Buddha’s bone. The fact was, Buddhism was
making vast strides in popular esteem, and but for some such bold
stand as was made on this occasion by a leading man, the prestige of
Confucianism would have received a staggering blow. Here is an extract
from this fiery document, which sent its author into exile and nearly
cost him his life:--

“Your servant has now heard that instructions have been issued to
the priestly community to proceed to Fêng-hsiang and receive a bone
of Buddha, and that from a high tower your Majesty will view its
introduction into the Imperial Palace; also that orders have been sent
to the various temples, commanding that the relic be received with the
proper ceremonies. Now, foolish though your servant may be, he is well
aware that your Majesty does not do this in the vain hope of deriving
advantages therefrom; but that in the fulness of our present plenty,
and in the joy which reigns in the heart of all, there is a desire to
fall in with the wishes of the people in the celebration at the capital
of this delusive mummery. For how could the wisdom of your Majesty
stoop to participate in such ridiculous beliefs? Still the people are
slow of perception and easily beguiled; and should they behold your
Majesty thus earnestly worshipping at the feet of Buddha, they would
cry out, ‘See! the Son of Heaven, the All-Wise, is a fervent believer;
who are we, his people, that we should spare our bodies?’ Then would
ensue a scorching of heads and burning of fingers; crowds would collect
together, and, tearing off their clothes and scattering their money,
would spend their time from morn to eve in imitation of your Majesty’s
example. The result would be that by and by young and old, seized with
the same enthusiasm, would totally neglect the business of their lives;
and should your Majesty not prohibit it, they would be found flocking
to the temples, ready to cut off an arm or slice their bodies as an
offering to the god. Thus would our traditions and customs be seriously
injured, and ourselves become a laughing-stock on the face of the
earth;--truly, no small matter!

“For Buddha was a barbarian. His language was not the language of
China. His clothes were of an alien cut. He did not utter the
maxims of our ancient rulers, nor conform to the customs which they
have handed down. He did not appreciate the bond between prince and
minister, the tie between father and son. Supposing, indeed, this
Buddha had come to our capital in the flesh, under an appointment from
his own State, then your Majesty might have received him with a few
words of admonition, bestowing on him a banquet and a suit of clothes,
previous to sending him out of the country with an escort of soldiers,
and thereby have avoided any dangerous influence on the minds of the
people. But what are the facts? The bone of a man long since dead and
decomposed is to be admitted, forsooth, within the precincts of the
Imperial Palace! Confucius said, ‘Pay all respect to spiritual beings,
but keep them at a distance.’ And so, when the princes of old paid
visits of condolence to one another, it was customary for them to send
on a magician in advance, with a peach-wand in his hand, whereby to
expel all noxious influences previous to the arrival of his master. Yet
now your Majesty is about to causelessly introduce a disgusting object,
personally taking part in the proceedings, without the intervention
either of the magician or of his peach-wand. Of the officials, not one
has raised his voice against it; of the censors, not one has pointed
out the enormity of such an act. Therefore your servant, overwhelmed
with shame for the censors, implores your Majesty that these bones
be handed over for destruction by fire or water, whereby the root of
this great evil may be exterminated for all time, and the people know
how much the wisdom of your Majesty surpasses that of ordinary men.
The glory of such a deed will be beyond all praise. And should the
Lord Buddha have power to avenge this insult by the infliction of some
misfortune, then let the vials of his wrath be poured out upon the
person of your servant, who now calls Heaven to witness that he will
not repent him of his oath.”

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: LI HUA]

A writer named LI HUA, of whom little is known except that
he flourished in the ninth century, has left behind him one very much
admired piece entitled “On an Old Battlefield”:--

“Vast, vast,--a limitless extent of flat sand, without a human being
in sight, girdled by a stream and dotted with hills, where in the
dismal twilight the wind moans at the setting sun. Shrubs gone: grass
withered: all chill as the hoar-frost of early morn. The birds of the
air fly past: the beasts of the field shun the spot; for it is, as I
was informed by the keeper, the site of an old battlefield. ‘Many a
time and oft,’ said he, ‘has an army been overthrown on this spot; and
the voices of the dead may frequently be heard weeping and wailing in
the darkness of the night.’”

This is how the writer calls up in imagination the ghastly scene of
long ago:--

“And now the cruel spear does its work, the startled sand blinds the
combatants locked fast in the death-struggle; while hill and vale
and stream groan beneath the flash and crash of arms. By and by, the
chill cold shades of night fall upon them, knee-deep in snow, beards
stiff with ice. The hardy vulture seeks its nest: the strength of the
war-horse is broken. Clothes are of no avail; hands frost-bitten,
flesh cracked. Even nature lends her aid to the Tartars, contributing
a deadly blast, the better to complete the work of slaughter begun.
Ambulance waggons block the way: our men succumb to flank attacks.
Their officers have surrendered: their general is dead. The river is
choked with corpses to its topmost banks: the fosses of the Great Wall
are swimming over with blood. All distinctions are obliterated in that
heap of rotting bones....

“Faintly and more faintly beats the drum. Strength exhausted, arrows
spent, bow-strings snapped, swords shattered, the two armies fall upon
one another in the supreme struggle for life or death. To yield is to
become the barbarian’s slave: to fight is to mingle our bones with the
desert sand....

“No sound of bird now breaks from the hushed hillside. All is still
save the wind whistling through the long night. Ghosts of the dead
wander hither and thither in the gloom: spirits from the nether world
collect under the dark clouds. The sun rises and shines coldly over the
trampled grass, while the fading moon still twinkles upon the frost
flakes scattered around. What sight more horrible than this!”

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: MEN OF T’ANG]

The havoc wrought by the dreaded Tartars is indeed the theme of many
a poem in prose as well as in verse. The following lines by CH’ÊN
T’AO, of about this date, record a patriotic oath of indignant
volunteers and the mournful issue of fruitless valour:--

  “_They swore the Huns should perish: they would die if needs they
  And now five thousand, sable-clad, have bit the Tartar dust.
  Along the river-bank their bones lie scattered where they may,
  But still their forms in dreams arise to fair ones far away._”

Among their other glories, the T’angs may be said to have witnessed the
birth of popular literature, soon to receive, in common with classical
scholarship, an impetus the like of which had never yet been felt.

But we must now take leave of this dynasty, the name of which has
survived in common parlance to this day. For just as the northerners
are proud to call themselves “sons of Han,” so do the Chinese of the
more southern provinces still delight to be known as the “men of


_THE SUNG DYNASTY_ (A.D. 900-1200)



The T’ang dynasty was brought to an end in 907, and during the
succeeding fifty years the empire experienced no fewer than five
separate dynastic changes. It was not a time favourable to literary
effort; still production was not absolutely at a standstill, and some
minor names have come down to us.

Of CHANG PI, for instance, of the later Chou dynasty, little
is known, except that he once presented a voluminous memorial to his
sovereign in the hope of staving off political collapse. The memorial,
we are told, was much admired, but the advice contained in it was not
acted upon. These few lines of his occur in many a poetical garland:--

  “_After parting, dreams possessed me, and I wandered you know where,
  And we sat in the verandah, and you sang the sweet old air.
  Then I woke, with no one near me save the moon, still shining on,
  And lighting up dead petals which like you have passed and gone._”

There is, however, at least one name of absorbing interest to the
foreign student. FÊNG TAO (881-954) is best known to the
Chinese as a versatile politician who served first and last under no
less than ten Emperors of four different Houses, and gave himself a
sobriquet which finds its best English equivalent in “The Vicar of
Bray.” He presented himself at the Court of the second Emperor of
the Liao dynasty and positively asked for a post. He said he had no
home, no money, and very little brains; a statement which appears to
have appealed forcibly to the Tartar monarch, who at once appointed
him grand tutor to the heir-apparent. By foreigners, on the other
hand, he will be chiefly remembered as the inventor of the art of
block-printing. It seems probable, indeed, that some crude form of this
invention had been already known early in the T’ang dynasty, but until
the date of Fêng Tao it was certainly not applied to the production
of books. Six years after his death the “fire-led” House of Sung was
finally established upon the throne, and thenceforward the printing of
books from blocks became a familiar handicraft with the Chinese people.


With the advent of this new line, we pass, as the Chinese fairy-stories
say, to “another heaven and earth.” The various departments of history,
classical scholarship, general literature, lexicography, and poetry
were again filled with enthusiastic workers, eagerly encouraged by a
succession of enlightened rulers. And although there was a falling-off
consequent upon the irruption of the Golden Tartars in 1125-1127, when
the ex-Emperor and his newly appointed successor were carried captive
to the north, nevertheless the Sungs managed to create a great epoch,
and are justly placed in the very first rank among the builders of
Chinese literature.



[Sidenote: OU-YANG HSIU]

The first move made in the department of history was nothing less than
to re-write the whole of the chronicles of the T’ang dynasty. The usual
scheme had already been carried out by Liu Hsü (897-946), a learned
scholar of the later Chin dynasty, but on many grounds the result was
pronounced unsatisfactory, and steps were taken to supersede it. The
execution of this project was entrusted to Ou-yang Hsiu and Sung Ch’i,
both of whom were leading men in the world of letters. OU-YANG
HSIU (1007-1072) had been brought up in poverty, his mother
teaching him to write with a reed. By the time he was fifteen his great
abilities began to attract attention, and later on he came out first on
the list of candidates for the third or highest degree. His public life
was a chequered one, owing to the bold positions he took up in defence
of what he believed to be right, regardless of personal interest.
Besides the dynastic history, he wrote on all kinds of subjects, grave
and gay, including an exposition of the Book of Poetry, a work on
ancient inscriptions, anecdotes of the men of his day, an elaborate
treatise on the peony, poetry and essays without end. The following is
a specimen of his lighter work, greatly admired for the beauty of its
style, and diligently read by all students of composition. The theme,
as the reader will perceive, is the historian himself:--

“The district of Ch’u is entirely surrounded by hills, and the peaks to
the south-west are clothed with a dense and beautiful growth of trees,
over which the eye wanders in rapture away to the confines of Shantung.
A walk of two or three miles on those hills brings one within earshot
of the sound of falling water, which gushes forth from a ravine known
as the Wine-Fountain; while hard by in a nook at a bend of the road
stands a kiosque, commonly spoken of as the Old Drunkard’s Arbour. It
was built by a Buddhist priest, called Deathless Wisdom, who lived
among these hills, and who received the above name from the Governor.
The latter used to bring his friends hither to take wine; and as he
personally was incapacitated by a very few cups, and was, moreover,
well stricken in years, he gave himself the sobriquet of the Old
Drunkard. But it was not wine that attracted him to this spot. It was
the charming scenery, which wine enabled him to enjoy.

“The sun’s rays peeping at dawn through the trees, by and by to be
obscured behind gathering clouds, leaving naught but gloom around, give
to this spot the alternations of morning and night. The wild-flowers
exhaling their perfume from the darkness of some shady dell, the
luxuriant foliage of the dense forest of beautiful trees, the clear
frosty wind, and the naked boulders of the lessening torrent,--these
are the indications of spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Morning
is the time to go thither, returning with the shades of night, and
although the place presents a different aspect with the changes of
the seasons, its charms are subject to no interruption, but continue
alway. Burden-carriers sing their way along the road, travellers rest
awhile under the trees, shouts from one, responses from another, old
people hobbling along, children in arms, children dragged along by
hand, backwards and forwards all day long without a break,--these are
the people of Ch’u. A cast in the stream and a fine fish taken from
some spot where the eddying pools begin to deepen; a draught of cool
wine from the fountain, and a few such dishes of meats and fruits as
the hills are able to provide,--these, nicely spread out beforehand,
constitute the Governor’s feast. And in the revelry of the banquet-hour
there is no thought of toil or trouble. Every archer hits his mark, and
every player wins his _partie_; goblets flash from hand to hand, and a
buzz of conversation is heard as the guests move unconstrainedly about.
Among them is an old man with white hair, bald at the top of his head.
This is the drunken Governor, who, when the evening sun kisses the
tips of the hills and the falling shadows are drawn out and blurred,
bends his steps homewards in company with his friends. Then in the
growing darkness are heard sounds above and sounds below; the beasts
of the field and the birds of the air are rejoicing at the departure
of man. They, too, can rejoice in hills and in trees, but they cannot
rejoice as man rejoices. So also the Governor’s friends. They rejoice
with him, though they know not at what it is that he rejoices. Drunk,
he can rejoice with them, sober, he can discourse with them,--such is
the Governor. And should you ask who is the Governor, I reply, ‘Ou-yang
Hsiu of Lu-ling.’”

Besides dwelling upon the beauty of this piece as vividly portraying
the spirit of the age in which it was written, the commentator proudly
points out that in it the particle _yeh_, with influences as subtle as
those of the Greek γε, occurs no fewer than twenty times.

The next piece is entitled “An Autumn Dirge,” and refers to the sudden
collapse of summer, so common a phenomenon in the East:--

“One night I had just sat down to my books, when suddenly I heard a
sound far away towards the south-west. Listening intently, I wondered
what it could be. On it came, at first like the sighing of a gentle
zephyr ... gradually deepening into the plash of waves upon a surf-beat
shore ... the roaring of huge breakers in the startled night, amid
howling storm-gusts of wind and rain. It burst upon the hanging bell,
and set every one of its pendants tinkling into tune. It seemed like
the muffled march of soldiers, hurriedly advancing, bit in mouth, to
the attack, when no shouted orders rend the air, but only the tramp of
men and horses meet the ear.

“‘Boy,’ said I, ‘what noise is that? Go forth and see.’ ‘Sir,’ replied
the boy on his return, ‘the moon and stars are brightly shining: the
Silver River spans the sky. No sound of man is heard without: ’tis but
the whispering of the trees.’

“‘Alas!’ I cried, ‘autumn is upon us. And is it thus, O boy, that
autumn comes?--autumn, the cruel and the cold; autumn, the season of
rack and mist; autumn, the season of cloudless skies; autumn, the
season of piercing blasts; autumn, the season of desolation and blight!
Chill is the sound that heralds its approach, and then it leaps upon
us with a shout. All the rich luxuriance of green is changed, all the
proud foliage of the forest swept down to earth, withered beneath the
icy breath of the destroyer. For autumn is nature’s chief executioner,
and its symbol is darkness. It has the temper of steel, and its symbol
is a sharp sword. It is the avenging angel, riding upon an atmosphere
of death. As spring is the epoch of growth, so autumn is the epoch of
maturity. And sad is the hour when maturity is passed, for that which
passes its prime must die.

“‘Still, what is this to plants and trees, which fade away in their due
season?... But stay; there is man, man the divinest of all things. A
hundred cares wreck his heart, countless anxieties trace their wrinkles
on his brow, until his inmost self is bowed beneath the burden of life.
And swifter still he hurries to decay when vainly striving to attain
the unattainable, or grieving over his ignorance of that which can
never be known. Then comes the whitening hair--and why not? Has man an
adamantine frame, that he should outlast the trees of the field? Yet,
after all, who is it, save himself, that steals his strength away? Tell
me, O boy, what right has man to accuse his autumn blast?’

“My boy made no answer. He was fast asleep. No sound reached me save
that of the cricket chirping its response to my dirge.”

       *       *       *       *       *

The other leading historian of this period was SUNG CH’I
(998-1061), who began his career by beating his elder brother at the
graduates’ examination. He was, however, placed tenth, instead of
first, by Imperial command, and in accordance with the precedence of
brothers. He rose to high office, and was also a voluminous writer.
A great favourite at Court, it is related that he was once at some
Imperial festivity when he began to feel cold. The Emperor bade one of
the ladies of the seraglio lend him a tippet, whereupon about a dozen
of the girls each offered hers. But Sung Ch’i did not like to seem
to favour any one, and rather than offend the rest, continued to sit
and shiver. The so-called New History of the T’ang Dynasty, which he
produced in co-operation with Ou-yang Hsiu, is generally regarded as
a distinct improvement upon the work of Liu Hsü. It has not, however,
actually superseded the latter work, which is still included among the
recognised dynastic histories, and stands side by side with its rival.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: SSŬ-MA KUANG]

Meanwhile another star had risen, in magnitude to be compared only
with the effulgent genius of Ssŭ-ma Ch’ien. SSŬ-MA KUANG (1019-1086)
entered upon an official career and rose to be Minister of State. But
he opposed the great reformer, Wang An-shih, and in 1070 was compelled
to resign. He devoted the rest of his life to the completion of his
famous work known as the _T’ung Chien_ or Mirror of History, a title
bestowed upon it in 1084 by the Emperor, because “to view antiquity as
it were in a mirror is an aid in the administration of government.” The
Mirror of History covers a period from the fifth century B.C. down to
the beginning of the Sung dynasty, A.D. 960, and was supplemented by
several important works from the author’s own hand, all bearing upon
the subject. In his youth the latter had been a devoted student, and
used to rest his arm upon a kind of round wooden pillow, which roused
him to wakefulness by its movement every time he began to doze over
his work. On one occasion, in childhood, a small companion fell into a
water-kong, and would have been drowned but for the presence of mind of
Ssŭ-ma Kuang. He seized a huge stone, and with it cracked the jar so
that the water poured out. As a scholar he had a large library, and was
so particular in the handling of his books that even after many years’
use they were still as good as new. He would not allow his disciples to
turn over leaves by scratching them up with the nails, but made them
use the forefinger and second finger of the right hand. In 1085 he
determined to return to public life, but he had not been many months
in the capital, labouring as usual for his country’s good, before he
succumbed to an illness and died, universally honoured and regretted
by his countrymen, to whom he was affectionately known as the Living

The following extract from his writings refers to a new and dangerous
development in the Censorate, an institution which still plays a
singular part in the administration of China:--

“Of old there was no such office as that of Censor. From the highest
statesman down to the artisan and trader, every man was free to
admonish the Throne. From the time of the Han dynasty onwards, this
prerogative was vested in an office, with the weighty responsibility
of discussing the government of the empire, the people within the Four
Seas, successes, failures, advantages, and disadvantages, in order of
importance and of urgency. The sole object in this arrangement was
the benefit of the State, not that of the Censor, from whom all ideas
of fame or gain were indeed far removed. In 1017 an edict was issued
appointing six officers to undertake these Censorial duties, and in
1045 their names were for the first time written out on boards; and
then, in 1062, apparently for better preservation, the names were cut
on stone. Thus posterity can point to such an one and say, ‘There was a
loyal man;’ to another, ‘There was a traitor;’ to a third, ‘There was
an upright man;’ to a fourth, ‘There was a scoundrel.’ Does not this
give cause for fear?”

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: CHOU TUN-I]

Contemporaneously with Ssŭ-ma Kuang lived CHOU TUN-I (1017-1073), who
combined the duties of a small military command with prolonged and
arduous study. He made himself ill by overwork and strict attention
to the interests of the people at all hazards to himself. His chief
works were written to elucidate the mysteries of the Book of Changes,
and were published after his death by his disciples, with commentaries
by Chu Hsi. The following short satire, veiled under the symbolism of
flowers, being in a style which the educated Chinaman most appreciates,
is very widely known:--

“Lovers of flowering plants and shrubs we have had by scores, but T’ao
Ch’ien alone devoted himself to the chrysanthemum. Since the opening
days of the T’ang dynasty, it has been fashionable to admire the peony;
but my favourite is the water-lily. How stainless it rises from its
slimy bed! How modestly it reposes on the clear pool--an emblem of
purity and truth! Symmetrically perfect, its subtle perfume is wafted
far and wide, while there it rests in spotless state, something to be
regarded reverently from a distance, and not to be profaned by familiar

“In my opinion the chrysanthemum is the flower of retirement and
culture; the peony the flower of rank and wealth; the water-lily, the
Lady Virtue _sans pareille_.

“Alas! few have loved the chrysanthemum since T’ao Ch’ien, and none
now love the water-lily like myself, whereas the peony is a general
favourite with all mankind.”

CH’ÊNG HAO (1032-1085) and CH’ÊNG I (1033-1107) were two brothers famed
for their scholarship, especially the younger of the two, who published
a valuable commentary upon the Book of Changes. The elder attracted
some attention by boldly suppressing a stone image in a Buddhist temple
which was said to emit rays from its head, and had been the cause of
disorderly gatherings of men and women. A specimen of his verse will
be given in the next chapter. Ch’êng I wrote some interesting chapters
on the art of poetry. In one of these he says, “Asked if a man can
make himself a poet by taking pains, I reply that only by taking pains
can any one hope to be ranked as such, though on the other hand the
very fact of taking pains is likely to be inimical to success. The old
couplet reminds us--

  _‘E’er one pentameter be spoken
  How many a human heart is broken!’_

There is also another old couplet--

  _‘’Twere sad to take this heart of mine
  And break it o’er a five-foot line.’_

Both of these are very much to the point. Confucius himself did not
make verses, but he did not advise others to abstain from doing so.”

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: WANG AN-SHIH]

The great reformer and political economist WANG AN-SHIH
(1021-1086), who lived to see all his policy reversed, was a hard
worker as a youth, and in composition his pen was said to “fly over
the paper.” As a man he was distinguished by his frugality and his
obstinacy. He wore dirty clothes and did not even wash his face, for
which Su Hsün denounced him as a beast. He was so cocksure of all
his own views that he would never admit the possibility of being
wrong, which gained for him the sobriquet of the Obstinate Minister.
He attempted to reform the examination system, requiring from the
candidate not so much graces of style as a wide acquaintance with
practical subjects. “Accordingly,” says one Chinese writer, “even the
pupils at village schools threw away their text-books of rhetoric, and
began to study primers of history, geography, and political economy.”
He was the author of a work on the written characters, with special
reference to those which are formed by the combination of two or more,
the meanings of which, taken together, determine the meaning of the
compound character. The following is a letter which he wrote to a
friend on the study of false doctrines:--

“I have been debarred by illness from writing to you now for some time,
though my thoughts have been with you all the while.

“In reply to my last letter, wherein I expressed a fear that you were
not progressing with your study of the Canon, I have received several
from you, in all of which you seem to think I meant the Canon of
Buddha, and you are astonished at my recommendation of such pernicious
works. But how could I possibly have intended any other than the Canon
of the sages of China? And for you to have thus missed the point of my
letter is a good illustration of what I meant when I said I feared you
were not progressing with your study of the Canon.

“Now a thorough knowledge of our Canon has not been attained by any one
for a very long period. Study of the Canon alone does not suffice for
a thorough knowledge of the Canon. Consequently, I have been myself an
omnivorous reader of books of all kinds, even, for example, of ancient
medical and botanical works. I have, moreover, dipped into treatises
on agriculture and on needlework, all of which I have found very
profitable in aiding me to seize the great scheme of the Canon itself.
For learning in these days is a totally different pursuit from what it
was in the olden times; and it is now impossible otherwise to get at
the real meaning of our ancient sages.

“There was Yang Hsiung. He hated all books that were not orthodox. Yet
he made a wide study of heterodox writers. By force of education he
was enabled to take what of good and to reject what of bad he found
in each. Their pernicious influence was altogether lost on him; while
on the other hand he was prepared the more effectively to elucidate
what we know to be the truth. Now, do you consider that I have been
corrupted by these pernicious influences? If so, you know me not.

“No! the pernicious influences of the age are not to be sought for in
the Canon of Buddha. They are to be found in the corruption and vice of
those in high places; in the false and shameless conduct which is now
rife among us. Do you not agree with me?”

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: SU SHIH]

SU SHIH (1036-1101), better known by his fancy name as Su
Tung-p’o, whose early education was superintended by his mother,
produced such excellent compositions at the examination for his final
degree that the examiner, Ou-yang Hsiu, suspected them to be the work
of a qualified substitute. Ultimately he came out first on the list.
He rose to be a statesman, who made more enemies than friends, and
was perpetually struggling against the machinations of unscrupulous
opponents, which on one occasion resulted in his banishment to the
island of Hainan, then a barbarous and almost unknown region. He was
also a brilliant essayist and poet, and his writings are still the
delight of the Chinese. The following is an account of a midnight
picnic to a spot on the banks of a river at which a great battle had
taken place nearly nine hundred years before, and where one of the
opposing fleets was burnt to the water’s edge, reddening a wall,
probably the cliff alongside:--

“In the year 1081, the seventh moon just on the wane, I went with a
friend on a boat excursion to the Red Wall. A clear breeze was gently
blowing, scarce enough to ruffle the river, as I filled my friend’s cup
and bade him troll a lay to the bright moon, singing the song of the
‘Modest Maid.’

“By and by up rose the moon over the eastern hills, wandering between
the Wain and the Goat, shedding forth her silver beams, and linking the
water with the sky. On a skiff we took our seats, and shot over the
liquid plain, lightly as though travelling through space, riding on
the wind without knowing whither we were bound. We seemed to be moving
in another sphere, sailing through air like the gods. So I poured out
a bumper for joy, and, beating time on the skiff’s side, sang the
following verse:--

  ‘_With laughing oars, our joyous prow
    Shoots swiftly through the glittering wave--
    My heart within grows sadly grave--
  Great heroes dead, where are ye now?_’

“My friend accompanied these words upon his flageolet, delicately
adjusting its notes to express the varied emotions of pity and regret,
without the slightest break in the thread of sound which seemed to wind
around us like a silken skein. The very monsters of the deep yielded
to the influence of his strains, while the boatwoman, who had lost her
husband, burst into a flood of tears. Overpowered by my own feelings,
I settled myself into a serious mood, and asked my friend for some
explanation of his art. To this he replied, ‘Did not Ts’ao Ts’ao say--

  ‘_The stars are few, the moon is bright,
  The raven southward wings his flight?_’

“‘Westwards to Hsia-k’ou, eastwards to Wu-ch’ang, where hill and
stream in wild luxuriance blend,--was it not there that Ts’ao Ts’ao
was routed by Chou Yü? Ching-chou was at his feet: he was pushing down
stream towards the east. His war-vessels stretched stem to stern for a
thousand _li_: his banners darkened the sky. He poured out a libation
as he neared Chiang-ling; and, sitting in the saddle armed _cap-à-pie_,
he uttered those words, did that hero of his age. Yet where is he

“‘Now you and I have fished and gathered fuel together on the river
eyots. We have fraternised with the crayfish; we have made friends
with the deer. We have embarked together in our frail canoe; we have
drawn inspiration together from the wine-flask--a couple of ephemerides
launched on the ocean in a rice-husk! Alas! life is but an instant of
Time. I long to be like the Great River which rolls on its way without
end. Ah, that I might cling to some angel’s wing and roam with him for
ever! Ah, that I might clasp the bright moon in my arms and dwell with
her for aye! Alas! it only remains to me to enwrap these regrets in the
tender melody of sound.’

“‘But do you forsooth comprehend,’ I inquired, ‘the mystery of this
river and of this moon? The water passes by but is never gone: the moon
wanes only to wax once more. Relatively speaking, Time itself is but
an instant of time; absolutely speaking, you and I, in common with all
matter, shall exist to all eternity. Wherefore, then, the longing of
which you speak?

“‘The objects we see around us are one and all the property of
individuals. If a thing does not belong to me, not a particle of it may
be enjoyed by me. But the clear breeze blowing across this stream, the
bright moon streaming over yon hills,--these are sounds and sights to
be enjoyed without let or hindrance by all. They are the eternal gifts
of God to all mankind, and their enjoyment is inexhaustible. Hence it
is that you and I are enjoying them now.’

“My friend smiled as he threw away the dregs from his wine-cup and
filled it once more to the brim. And then, when our feast was over,
amid the litter of cups and plates, we lay down to rest in the boat:
for streaks of light from the east had stolen upon us unawares.”

The completion of a pavilion which Su Shih had been building, “as a
refuge from the business of life,” coinciding with a fall of rain which
put an end to a severe drought, elicited a grateful record of this
divine manifestation towards a suffering people. “The pavilion was
named after rain, to commemorate joy.” His record concludes with these

  “_Should Heaven rain pearls, the cold cannot wear them as clothes;
  Should Heaven rain jade, the hungry cannot use it as food.
      It has rained without cease for three days--
      Whose was the influence at work?
  Should you say it was that of your Governor,
  The Governor himself refers it to the Son of Heaven.
  But the Son of Heaven says ‘No! it was God.
  And God says ‘No! it was Nature.’
      And as Nature lies beyond the ken of man,
      I christen this arbour instead._”

Another piece refers to a recluse who--

“Kept a couple of cranes, which he had carefully trained; and every
morning he would release them westwards through the gap, to fly away
and alight in the marsh below or soar aloft among the clouds as the
birds’ own fancy might direct. At nightfall they would return with the
utmost regularity.”

This piece is also finished off with a few poetical lines:--

  “_Away! away! my birds, fly westwards now,
  To wheel on high and gaze on all below;
  To swoop together, pinions closed, to earth;
  To soar aloft once more among the clouds;
  To wander all day long in sedgy vale;
  To gather duckweed in the stony marsh.
  Come back! come back! beneath the lengthening shades,
  Your serge-clad master stands, guitar in hand.
  ’Tis he that feeds you from his slender store:
  Come back! come back! nor linger in the west._”

His account of Sleep-Land is based upon the Drunk-Land of Wang Chi:--

“A pure administration and admirable morals prevail there, the whole
being one vast level tract, with no north, south, east, or west. The
inhabitants are quiet and affable; they suffer from no diseases of
any kind, neither are they subject to the influences of the seven
passions. They have no concern with the ordinary affairs of life; they
do not distinguish heaven, earth, the sun, and the moon; they toil not,
neither do they spin; but simply lie down and enjoy themselves. They
have no ships and no carriages; their wanderings, however, are the
boundless flights of the imagination.”

       *       *       *       *       *

His younger brother, SU CHÊ (1039-1112), poet and official, is
chiefly known for his devotion to Taoism. He published an edition, with
commentary, of the _Tao-Tê-Ching_.


One of the Four Scholars of his century is HUANG T’ING-CHIEN
(1050-1110), who was distinguished as a poet and a calligraphist. He
has also been placed among the twenty-four examples of filial piety,
for when his mother was ill he watched by her bedside for a whole year
without ever taking off his clothes. The following is a specimen of his
epistolary style:--

“Hsi K’ang’s verses are at once vigorous and purely beautiful, without
a vestige of commonplace about them. Every student of the poetic art
should know them thoroughly, and thus bring the author into his mind’s

“Those who are sunk in the cares and anxieties of this world’s strife,
even by a passing glance would gain therefrom enough to clear away some
pecks of the cobwebs of mortality. How much more they who penetrate
further and seize each hidden meaning and enjoy its flavour to the
full? Therefore, my nephew, I send you these poems for family reading,
that you may cleanse your heart and solace a weary hour by their

“As I recently observed to my own young people, the true hero should be
many-sided, but he must not be commonplace. It is impossible to cure
that. Upon which one of them asked by what characteristics this absence
of the commonplace was distinguished. ‘It is hard to say,’ I replied.
‘A man who is not commonplace is, under ordinary circumstances, much
like other people. But he who at moments of great trial does not
flinch, he is not commonplace.’”

       *       *       *       *       *

CHÊNG CH’IAO (1108-1166) began his literary career in studious
seclusion, cut off from all human intercourse. Then he spent some
time in visiting various places of interest, devoting himself to
searching out marvels, investigating antiquities, and reading (and
remembering) every book that came in his way. In 1149 he was summoned
to an audience, and received an honorary post. He was then sent home
to copy out his History of China, which covered a period from about
B.C. 2800 to A.D. 600. A fine edition of this work, in forty-six large
volumes, was published in 1749 by Imperial command, with a preface by
the Emperor Ch’ien Lung. He also wrote essays and poetry, besides a
treatise in which he showed that the inscriptions on the Stone Drums,
now in Peking, belong rather to the latter half of the third century
B.C. than to the tenth or eleventh century B.C., as usually accepted.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: CHU HSI]

The name of CHU HSI (1130-1200) is a household word throughout
the length and breadth of literary China. He graduated at nineteen, and
entered upon a highly successful official career. He apparently had a
strong leaning towards Buddhism--some say that he actually became a
Buddhist priest; at any rate, he soon saw the error of his ways, and
gave himself up completely to a study of the orthodox doctrine. He was
a most voluminous writer. In addition to his revision of the history
of Ssŭ-ma Kuang, which, under the title of _T’ung Chien Kang Mu_, is
still regarded as the standard history of China, he placed himself
first in the first rank of all commentators on the Confucian Canon. He
introduced interpretations either wholly or partly at variance with
those which had been put forth by the scholars of the Han dynasty and
hitherto received as infallible, thus modifying to a certain extent the
prevailing standard of political and social morality. His principle
was simply one of consistency. He refused to interpret words in a
given passage in one sense, and the same words occurring elsewhere in
another sense. The result, as a whole, was undoubtedly to quicken with
intelligibility many paragraphs the meaning of which had been obscured
rather than elucidated by the earlier scholars of the Han dynasty.
Occasionally, however, the great commentator o’erleapt himself. Here
are two versions of one passage in the Analects, as interpreted by
the rival schools, of which the older seems unquestionably to be


    Mêng Wu asked Confucius concerning filial piety. The Master said,
    “It consists in giving your parents no cause for anxiety save from
    your natural ailments.”

    _Chu Hsi._

    Mêng Wu asked Confucius concerning filial piety. The Master
    said, “Parents have the sorrow of thinking anxiously about their
    children’s ailments.”

The latter of these interpretations being obviously incomplete, Chu Hsi
adds a gloss to the effect that children are therefore in duty bound to
take great care of themselves.

In the preface to his work on the Four Books as explained by Chu
Hsi, published in 1745, Wang Pu-ch’ing (born 1671) has the following
passage:--“Shao Yung tried to explain the Canon of Changes by numbers,
and Ch’êng I by the eternal fitness of things; but Chu Hsi alone
was able to pierce through the meaning, and appropriate the thought
of the prophets who composed it.” The other best known works of Chu
Hsi are a metaphysical treatise containing the essence of his later
speculations, and the Little Learning, a handbook for the young. It has
been contended by some that the word “little” in the last title refers
not to youthful learners, but to the lower plane on which the book is
written, as compared with the Great Learning. The following extract,
however, seems to point more towards Learning for the Young as the
correct rendering of the title:--

“When mounting the wall of a city, do not point with the finger; when
on the top, do not call out.

“When at a friend’s house, do not persist in asking for anything you
may wish to have. When going upstairs, utter a loud ‘Ahem!’ If you
see two pairs of shoes outside and hear voices, you may go in; but
if you hear nothing, remain outside. Do not trample on the shoes of
other guests, nor step on the mat spread for food; but pick up your
skirts and pass quickly to your allotted place. Do not be in a hurry to
arrive, nor in haste to get away.

“Do not bother the gods with too many prayers. Do not make allowances
for your own shortcomings. Do not seek to know what has not yet come to

Chu Hsi was lucky enough to fall in with a clever portrait painter,
a _rara avis_ in China at the present day according to Mr. J. B.
Coughtrie, late of Hongkong, who declares that “the style and taste
peculiar to the Chinese combine to render a lifelike resemblance
impossible, and the completed picture unattractive. The artist lays
upon his paper a flat wash of colour to match the complexion of his
sitter, and upon this draws a mere map of the features, making no
attempt to obtain roundness or relief by depicting light and shadows,
and never by any chance conveying the slightest suggestion of animation
or expression.” Chu Hsi gave the artist a glowing testimonial, in
which he states that the latter not merely portrays the features, but
“catches the very expression, and reproduces, as it were, the inmost
mind of his model.” He then adds the following personal tit-bit:--

“I myself sat for two portraits, one large and the other small; and it
was quite a joke to see how accurately he reproduced my coarse ugly
face and my vulgar rustic turn of mind, so that even those who had only
heard of, but had never seen me, knew at once for whom the portraits
were intended.” It would be interesting to know if either of these
pictures still survives among the Chu family heirlooms.

At the death of Chu Hsi, his coffin is said to have taken up a
position, suspended in the air, about three feet from the ground.
Whereupon his son-in-law, falling on his knees beside the bier,
reminded the departed spirit of the great principles of which he had
been such a brilliant exponent in life,--and the coffin descended
gently to the ground.



The poetry of the Sungs has not attracted so much attention as that
of the T’angs. This is chiefly due to the fact that although all
the literary men of the Sung dynasty may roughly be said to have
contributed their quota of verse, still there were few, if any, who
could be ranked as professional poets, that is, as writers of verse
and of nothing else, like Li Po, Tu Fu, and many others under the
T’ang dynasty. Poetry now began to be, what it has remained in a
marked degree until the present day, a department of polite education,
irrespective of the particle of the divine gale. More regard was paid
to form, and the license which had been accorded to earlier masters was
sacrificed to conventionality. The Odes collected by Confucius are, as
we have seen, rude ballads of love, and war, and tilth, borne by their
very simplicity direct to the human heart. The poetry of the T’ang
dynasty shows a masterly combination, in which art, unseen, is employed
to enhance, not to fetter and degrade, thoughts drawn from a veritable
communion with nature. With the fall of the T’ang dynasty the poetic
art suffered a lapse from which it has never recovered; and now, in
modern times, although every student “can turn a verse” because he has
been “duly taught,” the poems produced disclose a naked artificiality
which leaves the reader disappointed and cold.

[Sidenote: CH’ÊN T’UAN]

The poet CH’ÊN T’UAN (_d._ A.D. 989) began life under favourable
auspices. He was suckled by a mysterious lady in a green robe, who
found him playing as a tiny child on the bank of a river. He became, in
consequence of this supernatural nourishment, exceedingly clever and
possessed of a prodigious memory, with a happy knack for verse. Yet he
failed to get a degree, and gave himself up “to the joys of hill and
stream.” While on the mountains some spiritual beings are said to have
taught him the art of hibernating like an animal, so that he would go
off to sleep for a hundred days at a time. He wrote a treatise on the
elixir of life, and was generally inclined to Taoist notions. At death
his body remained warm for seven days, and for a whole month a “glory”
played around his tomb. He was summoned several times to Court, but to
judge by the following poem, officialdom seems to have had few charms
for him:--

  “_For ten long years I plodded through
            the vale of lust and strife,
  Then through my dreams there flashed a ray
            of the old sweet peaceful life....
  No scarlet-tasselled hat of state
            can vie with soft repose;
  Grand mansions do not taste the joys
            that the poor man’s cabin knows.
  I hate the threatening clash of arms
            when fierce retainers throng,
  I loathe the drunkard’s revels and
            the sound of fife and song;
  But I love to seek a quiet nook, and
            some old volume bring
  Where I can see the wild flowers bloom
            and hear the birds in spring._”

Another poet, YANG I (974-1030), was unable to speak as a child, until
one day, being taken to the top of a pagoda, he suddenly burst out with
the following lines:--

  “_Upon this tall pagoda’s peak
    My hand can nigh the stars enclose;
  I dare not raise my voice to speak,
    For fear of startling God’s repose._”

Mention has already been made of SHAO YUNG (1011-1077) in
connection with Chu Hsi and classical scholarship. He was a great
traveller, and an enthusiast in the cause of learning. He denied
himself a stove in winter and a fan in summer. For thirty years he did
not use a pillow, nor had he even a mat to sleep on. The following
specimen of his verse seems, however, to belie his character as an

  “_Fair flowers from above in my goblet are shining,
  And add by reflection an infinite zest;
  Through two generations I’ve lived unrepining,
  While four mighty rulers have sunk to their rest._

  “_My body in health has done nothing to spite me,
  And sweet are the moments which pass o’er my head;
  But now, with this wine and these flowers to delight me,
  How shall I keep sober and get home to bed?_”

Shao Yung was a great authority on natural phenomena, the explanation
of which he deduced from principles found in the Book of Changes. On
one occasion he was strolling about with some friends when he heard
the goatsucker’s cry. He immediately became depressed, and said, “When
good government is about to prevail, the magnetic current flows from
north to south; when bad government is about to prevail, it flows from
south to north, and birds feel its influence first of all things. Now
hitherto this bird has not been seen at Lo-yang; from which I infer
that the magnetic current is flowing from south to north, and that some
southerner is coming into power, with manifold consequences to the
State.” The subsequent appearance of Wang An-shih was regarded as a
verification of his skill.

[Sidenote: WANG AN-SHIH]

The great reformer here mentioned found time, amid the cares of his
economic revolution, to indulge in poetical composition. Here is his
account of a _nuit blanche_, an excellent example of the difficult

  “_The incense-stick is burnt to ash,
            the water-clock is stilled.
  The midnight breeze blows sharply by,
            and all around is chilled._

  “_Yet I am kept from slumber
            by the beauty of the spring...
  Sweet shapes of flowers across the blind
            the quivering moonbeams fling!_”

Here, too, is a short poem by the classical scholar, Huang T’ing-chien,
written on the annual visit for worship at the tombs of ancestors, in
full view of the hillside cemetery:--

  “_The peach and plum trees smile with flowers
          this famous day of spring,
  And country graveyards round about
          with lamentations ring.
  Thunder has startled insect life
          and roused the gnats and bees,
  A gentle rain has urged the crops
          and soothed the flowers and trees....
  Perhaps on this side lie the bones
          of a wretch whom no one knows;
  On that, the sacred ashes
          of a patriot repose.
  But who across the centuries
          can hope to mark each spot
  Where fool and hero, joined in death,
          beneath the brambles rot?_”

The grave student Ch’êng Hao wrote verses like the rest. Sometimes he
even condescended to jest:--

  “_I wander north, I wander south,
          I rest me where I please....
  See how the river-banks are nipped
          beneath the autumn breeze!
  Yet what care I if autumn blasts
          the river-banks lay bare?
  The loss of hue to river-banks
          is the river-banks’ affair._”

In the eleventh and twelfth centuries HUNG CHÜEH-FAN made a
name for himself as a poet and calligraphist, but he finally yielded
to the fascination of Buddhism and took orders as a priest. This is
no trifling ordeal. From three to nine pastilles are placed upon the
shaven scalp of the candidate, and are allowed to burn down into the
flesh, leaving an indelible scar. Here is a poem by him, written
probably before monasticism had damped his natural ardour:--

  “_Two green silk ropes, with painted stand,
          from heights aërial swing,
  And there outside the house a maid
          disports herself in spring.
  Along the ground her blood-red skirts
          all swiftly swishing fly,
  As though to bear her off to be
          an angel in the sky.
  Strewed thick with fluttering almond-blooms
          the painted stand is seen;
  The embroidered ropes flit to and fro
          amid the willow green.
  Then when she stops and out she springs
          to stand with downcast eyes,
  You think she is some angel
          just now banished from the skies._”


Better known as a statesman than as a poet is YEH SHIH
(1150-1223). The following “stop-short,” however, referring to the
entrance-gate to a beautiful park, is ranked among the best of its

  “_’Tis closed!--lest trampling footsteps mar
          the glory of the green.
  Time after time we knock and knock;
          no janitor is seen.
  Yet bolts and bars can’t quite shut in
          the spring-time’s beauteous pall:
  A pink-flowered almond-spray peeps out
          athwart the envious wall!_”

Of KAO CHÜ-NIEN nothing seems to be known. His poem on the
annual spring worship at the tombs of ancestors is to be found in all

  “_The northern and the southern hills
          are one large burying-ground,
  And all is life and bustle there
          when the sacred day comes round.
  Burnt paper ~cash~, like butterflies,
          fly fluttering far and wide,
  While mourners’ robes with tears of blood
          a crimson hue are dyed.
  The sun sets, and the red fox crouches
          down beside the tomb;
  Night comes, and youths and maidens laugh
          where lamps light up the gloom.
  Let him whose fortune brings him wine,
          get tipsy while he may,
  For no man, when the long night comes,
          can take one drop away!_”



Several dictionaries of importance were issued by various scholars
during the Sung dynasty, not to mention many philological works of
more or less value. The Chinese have always been students of their
own language, partly, no doubt, because they have so far never
condescended to look at any other. They delight in going back to days
when correspondence was carried on by pictures pure and simple; and the
fact that there is little evidence forthcoming that such a system ever
prevailed has only resulted in stimulating invention and forgery.

A clever courtier, popularly known as “the nine-tailed fox,” was CH’ÊN
P’ÊNG-NIEN (A.D. 961--1017), who rose to be a Minister of State. He
was employed to revise the _Kuang Yün_, a phonetic dictionary by some
unknown author, which contained over 26,000 separate characters. This
work was to a great extent superseded by the _Chi Yün_, on a similar
plan, but containing over 53,000 characters. The latter was produced by
Sung Ch’i, mentioned in chap. iii., in conjunction with several eminent

TAI T’UNG graduated in 1237 and rose to be Governor of
T’ai-chou in Chehkiang. Then the Mongols prevailed, and Tai T’ung,
unwilling to serve them, pleaded ill-health, and in 1275 retired
into private life. There he occupied himself with the composition of
the _Liu Shu Ku_ or Six Scripts, an examination into the origin and
development of writing, which, according to some, was published about
A.D. 1250, but according to others, not until so late as the
year 1319.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: WU SHU--LI FANG]

From the rise of the Sung dynasty may be dated the first appearance of
the encyclopædia, destined to occupy later so much space in Chinese
literature. WU SHU (A.D. 947--1002), whose life was a good instance
of “worth by poverty depressed,” may fairly be credited with the
production of the earliest work of the kind. His _Shih Lei Fu_ dealt
with celestial and terrestrial phenomena, mineralogy, botany, and
natural history, arranged, for want of an alphabet, under categories.
It is curiously written in the poetical-prose style, and forms the
foundation of a similar book of reference in use at the present day.
Wu Shu was placed upon the commission which produced a much more
extensive work known as the _T’ai P’ing Yü Lan_. At the head of that
commission was LI FANG (A.D. 924--995), a Minister of State and a great
favourite with the Emperor. In the last year of his life he was invited
to witness the Feast of Lanterns from the palace. On that occasion the
Emperor placed Li beside him, and after pouring out for him a goblet
of wine and supplying him with various delicacies, he turned to his
courtiers and said, “Li Fang has twice served us as Minister of State,
yet has he never in any way injured a single fellow-creature. Truly
this must be a virtuous man.” The _T’ai P’ing Yü Lan_ was reprinted
in 1812, and is bound up in thirty-two large volumes. It was so
named because the Emperor himself went through all the manuscript, a
task which occupied him nearly a year. A list of about eight hundred
authorities is given, and the Index fills four hundred pages.

As a pendant to this work Li Fang designed the _T’ai P’ing Kuang Chi_,
an encyclopædia of biographical and other information drawn from
general literature. A list of about three hundred and sixty authorities
is given, and the Index fills two hundred and eighty pages. The edition
of 1566--a rare work--bound up in twelve thick volumes, stands upon the
shelves of the Cambridge University Library.

       *       *       *       *       *

Another encyclopædist was MA TUAN-LIN, the son of a high
official, in whose steps he prepared to follow. The dates of his birth
and death are not known, but he flourished in the thirteenth century.
Upon the collapse of the Sung dynasty he disappeared from public life,
and taking refuge in his native place, he gave himself up to teaching,
attracting many disciples from far and near, and fascinating all by
his untiring dialectic skill. He left behind him the _Wên Hsien T’ung
K’ao_, a large encyclopædia based upon the _T’ung Tien_ of Tu Yu, but
much enlarged and supplemented by five additional sections, namely,
Bibliography, Imperial Lineage, Appointments, Uranography, and Natural
Phenomena. This work, which cost its author twenty years of unremitting
labour, has long been known to Europeans, who have drawn largely upon
its ample stores of antiquarian research.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: THE HSI YÜAN LU]

At the close of the Sung dynasty there was published a curious book on
Medical Jurisprudence, which is interesting, in spite of its manifold
absurdities, as being the recognised handbook for official use at the
present day. No magistrate ever thinks of proceeding to discharge
the duties of coroner without taking a copy of these instructions
along with him. The present work was compiled by a judge named Sung
Tz’ŭ, from pre-existing works of a similar kind, and we are told in
the preface of a fine edition, dated 1842, that “being subjected for
many generations to practical tests by the officers of the Board of
Punishments, it became daily more and more exact.” A few extracts will
be sufficient to determine its real value:--

(1.) “Man has three hundred and sixty-five bones, corresponding to the
number of days it takes the heavens to revolve.

“The skull of a male, from the nape of the neck to the top of the
head, consists of eight pieces--of a Ts’ai-chou man, nine. There is a
horizontal suture across the back of the skull, and a perpendicular
one down the middle. Female skulls are of six pieces, and have the
horizontal but not the perpendicular suture.

“Teeth are twenty-four, twenty-eight, thirty-two, or thirty-six in
number. There are three long-shaped breast-bones.

“There is one bone belonging to the heart of the shape and size of a

“There is one ‘shoulder-well’ bone and one ‘rice-spoon’ bone on each

“Males have twelve ribs on each side, eight long and four short.
Females have fourteen on each side.”

(2.) “Wounds inflicted on the bone leave a red mark and a slight
appearance of saturation, and where the bone is broken there will be
at each end a halo-like trace of blood. Take a bone on which there
are marks of a wound, and hold it up to the light; if these are of a
fresh-looking red, the wound was inflicted before death and penetrated
to the bone; but if there is no trace of saturation from blood,
although there is a wound, it was inflicted after death.”

(3.) “The bones of parents may be identified by their children in the
following manner. Let the experimenter cut himself or herself with
a knife, and cause the blood to drip on to the bones; then if the
relationship is an actual fact, the blood will sink into the bone,
otherwise it will not. _N.B._--Should the bones have been washed with
salt water, even though the relationship exists, yet the blood will not
soak in. This is a trick to be guarded against beforehand.

“It is also said that if parent and child, or husband and wife, each
cut themselves and let the blood drip into a basin of water, the two
bloods will mix, whereas that of two people not thus related will not

“Where two brothers, who may have been separated since childhood, are
desirous of establishing their identity as such, but are unable to
do so by ordinary means, bid each one cut himself and let the blood
drip into a basin. If they are really brothers, the two bloods will
coagulate into one; otherwise not. But because fresh blood will always
coagulate with the aid of a little salt or vinegar, people often smear
the basin over with these to attain their own ends and deceive others;
therefore always wash out the basin you are going to use, or buy a new
one from a shop. Thus the trick will be defeated.”

(4.) “There are some atrocious villains who, when they have murdered
any one, burn the body and throw the ashes away, so that there are no
bones to examine. In such cases you must carefully find out at what
time the murder was committed, and where the body was burnt. Then,
when you know the place, all witnesses agreeing on this point, you
may proceed without further delay to examine the wounds. The mode of
procedure is this. Put up your shed near where the body was burnt, and
make the accused and witnesses point out themselves the exact spot.
Then cut down the grass and weeds growing on this spot, and burn large
quantities of fuel till the place is extremely hot, throwing on several
pecks of hemp-seed. By and by brush the place clean; then, if the body
was actually burnt on this spot, the oil from the seed will be found to
have sunk into the ground in the form of a human figure, and wherever
there were wounds on the dead man, there on this figure the oil will be
found to have collected together, large or small, square, round, long,
short, oblique, or straight, exactly as they were inflicted. The parts
where there were no wounds will be free from any such appearances.”


_THE MONGOL DYNASTY_ (A.D. 1200-1368)



The thirteenth and fourteenth centuries witnessed a remarkable
political revolution. China was conquered by the Mongols, and for the
first time in history the empire passed under the rule of an alien
sovereign. No exact date can be assigned for the transference of the
Imperial power. In 1264 Kublai Khan fixed his capital at Peking, and in
1271 he adopted Yüan as his dynastic style. It was not, however, until
1279 that the patriot statesman, Chao Ping, had his retreat cut off,
and despairing of his country, took upon his back the boy-Emperor, the
last of the Sungs, and jumped from his doomed vessel into the river,
thus bringing the great fire-led dynasty to an end.

[Sidenote: WÊN T’IEN-HSIANG]

Kublai Khan, who was a confirmed Buddhist, paid great honour to
Confucius, and was a steady patron of literature. In 1269 he caused
Bashpa, a Tibetan priest, to construct an alphabet for the Mongol
language; in 1280 the calendar was revised; and in 1287 the Imperial
Academy was opened. But he could not forgive WÊN T’IEN-HSIANG
(1236-1283), the renowned patriot and scholar, who had fought so
bravely but unsuccessfully against him. In 1279 the latter was conveyed
to Peking, on which journey he passed eight days without eating.
Every effort was made to induce him to own allegiance to the Mongol
Emperor, but without success. He was kept in prison for three years.
At length he was summoned into the presence of Kublai Khan, who said
to him, “What is it you want?” “By the grace of the Sung Emperor,” Wên
T’ien-hsiang replied, “I became his Majesty’s Minister. I cannot serve
two masters. I only ask to die.” Accordingly he was executed, meeting
his death with composure, and making a final obeisance southwards, as
though his own sovereign was still reigning in his own capital. The
following poem was written by Wên T’ien-hsiang while in captivity:--

“There is in the universe an Aura which permeates all things and makes
them what they are. Below, it shapes forth land and water; above, the
sun and the stars. In man it is called spirit; and there is nowhere
where it is not.

“In times of national tranquillity this spirit lies _perdu_ in the
harmony which prevails; only at some great crisis is it manifested
widely abroad.”

[Here follow ten historical instances of devotion and heroism.]

“Such is this grand and glorious spirit which endureth for all
generations, and which, linked with the sun and the moon, knows neither
beginning nor end. The foundation of all that is great and good in
heaven and earth, it is itself born from the everlasting obligations
which are due by man to man.

“Alas! the fates were against me. I was without resource. Bound with
fetters, hurried away towards the north, death would have been sweet
indeed; but that boon was refused.

“My dungeon is lighted by the will-o’-the-wisp alone; no breath of
spring cheers the murky solitude in which I dwell. The ox and the barb
herd together in one stall, the rooster and the phœnix feed together
from one dish. Exposed to mist and dew, I had many times thought to
die; and yet, through the seasons of two revolving years, disease
hovered round me in vain. The dank, unhealthy soil to me became
paradise itself. For there was that within me which misfortune could
not steal away. And so I remained firm, gazing at the white clouds
floating over my head, and bearing in my heart a sorrow boundless as
the sky.

“The sun of those dead heroes has long since set, but their record is
before me still. And, while the wind whistles under the eaves, I open
my books and read; and lo! in their presence my heart glows with a
borrowed fire.”

“I myself,” adds the famous commentator, Lin Hsi-chung, of the
seventeenth century, “in consequence of the rebellion in Fuhkien, lay
in prison for two years, while deadly disease raged around. Daily I
recited this poem several times over, and happily escaped; from which
it is clear that the supremest efforts in literature move even the
gods, and that it is not the verses of Tu Fu alone which can prevail
against malarial fever.”

At the final examination for his degree in 1256, Wên T’ien-hsiang had
been placed seventh on the list. However, the then Emperor, on looking
over the papers of the candidates before the result was announced,
was immensely struck by his work, and sent for the grand examiner
to reconsider the order of merit. “This essay,” said his Majesty,
“shows us the moral code of the ancients as in a mirror; it betokens
a loyalty enduring as iron and stone.” The grand examiner readily
admitted the justice of the Emperor’s criticism, and when the list
was published, the name of Wên T’ien-hsiang stood first. The fame of
that examiner, WANG YING-LIN (1223-1296), is likely to last
for a long time to come. Not because of his association with one of
China’s greatest patriots, nor because of his voluminous contributions
to classical literature, including an extensive encyclopædia, a rare
copy of which is to be seen in the University of Leyden, but because
of a small primer for schoolboys, which, by almost universal consent,
is attributed to his pen. For six hundred years this primer has been,
and is still at this moment, the first book put into the hand of every
child throughout the empire. It is an epitome of all knowledge, dealing
with philosophy, classical literature, history, biography, and common
objects. It has been called a sleeve edition of the Mirror of History.
Written in lines of three characters to each, and being in doggerel
rhyme, it is easily committed to memory, and is known by heart by every
Chinaman who has learnt to read. This Three Character Classic, as it
is called, has been imitated by Christian missionaries, Protestant and
Catholic; and even the T’ai-p’ing rebels, alive to its far-reaching
influence, published an imitation of their own. Here are a few specimen
lines, rhymed to match the original:--

  “_Men, one and all, in infancy
  Are virtuous at heart;
  Their moral tendencies the same,
  Their practice wide apart.
  Without instruction’s kindly aid
  Man’s nature grows less fair;
  In teaching, thoroughness should be
  A never-ceasing care._”

It may be added that the meaning of the Three Character Classic is not
explained to the child at the time. All that the latter has to do is to
learn the sounds and formation of the 560 different characters of which
the book is composed.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: LIU YIN]

A clever boy, who attracted much attention by the filial piety which
he displayed towards his stepfather, was LIU YIN (1241-1293).
He obtained office, but resigned in order to tend his sick mother; and
when again appointed, his health broke down and he went into seclusion.
The following extract is from his pen:--

“When God made man, He gave him powers to cope with the exigencies of
his environment, and resources within himself, so that he need not be
dependent upon external circumstances.

“Thus, in districts where poisons abound, antidotes abound also; and
in others, where malaria prevails, we find such correctives as ginger,
nutmegs, and dogwood. Again, fish, terrapins, and clams are the most
wholesome articles of diet in excessively damp climates, though
themselves denizens of the water; and musk and deer-horns are excellent
prophylactics in earthy climates, where in fact they are produced. For
if these things were unable to prevail against their surroundings, they
could not possibly thrive where they do, while the fact that they do so
thrive is proof positive that they were ordained as specifics against
those surroundings.

“Chu Hsi said, ‘When God is about to send down calamities upon us, He
first raises up the hero whose genius shall finally prevail against
those calamities.’ From this point of view there can be no living man
without his appointed use, nor any state of society which man should be
unable to put right.”

The theory that every man plays his allotted part in the cosmos is a
favourite one with the Chinese; and the process by which the tares are
separated from the wheat, exemplifying the use of adversity, has been
curiously stated by a Buddhist priest of this date:--

“If one is a man, the mills of heaven and earth grind him to
perfection; if not, to destruction.”

       *       *       *       *       *

A considerable amount of poetry was produced under the Mongol sway,
though not so much proportionately, nor of such a high order, as under
the great native dynasties. The Emperor Ch’ien Lung published in 1787 a
collection of specimens of the poetry of this Yüan dynasty. They fill
eight large volumes, but are not much read.

[Sidenote: LIU CHI]

One of the best known poets of this period is LIU CHI (A.D. 1311-1375),
who was also deeply read in the Classics and also a student of
astrology. He lived into the Ming dynasty, which he helped to
establish, and was for some years the trusted adviser of its first
ruler. He lost favour, however, and was poisoned by a rival, it is
said, with the Emperor’s connivance. The following lines, referring to
an early visit to a mountain monastery, reveal a certain sympathy with

  “_I mounted when the cock had just begun,
  And reached the convent ere the bells were done;
  A gentle zephyr whispered o’er the lawn;
  Behind the wood the moon gave way to dawn.
  And in this pure sweet solitude I lay,
  Stretching my limbs out to await the day,
  No sound along the willow pathway dim
  Save the soft echo of the bonzes’ hymn._”

Here too is an oft-quoted stanza, to be found in any poetry primer:--

  “_A centenarian ’mongst men
  Is rare; and if one comes, what then?
  The mightiest heroes of the past
  Upon the hillside sleep at last._”

The prose writings of Liu Chi are much admired for their pure style,
which has been said to “smell of antiquity.” One piece tells how a
certain noble who had lost all by the fall of the Ch’in dynasty,
B.C. 206, and was forced to grow melons for a living, had
recourse to divination, and went to consult a famous augur on his

“Alas!” cried the augur, “what is there that Heaven can bestow save
that which virtue can obtain? Where is the efficacy of spiritual beings
beyond that with which man has endowed them? The divining plant is but
a dead stalk; the tortoise-shell a dry bone. They are but matter like
ourselves. And man, the divinest of all things, why does he not seek
wisdom from within, rather than from these grosser stuffs?

“Besides, sir, why not reflect upon the past--that past which gave
birth to this present? Your cracked roof and crumbling walls of to-day
are but the complement of yesterday’s lofty towers and spacious halls.
The straggling bramble is but the complement of the shapely garden
tree. The grasshopper and the cicada are but the complement of organs
and flutes; the will-o’-the-wisp and firefly, of gilded lamps and
painted candles. Your endive and watercresses are but the complement
of the elephant-sinews and camel’s hump of days bygone; the maple-leaf
and the rush, of your once rich robes and fine attire. Do not repine
that those who had not such luxuries then enjoy them now. Do not be
dissatisfied that you, who enjoyed them then, have them now no more. In
the space of a day and night the flower blooms and dies. Between spring
and autumn things perish and are renewed. Beneath the roaring cascade a
deep pool is found; dark valleys lie at the foot of high hills. These
things you know; what more can divination teach you?”

Another piece is entitled “Outsides,” and is a light satire on the
corruption of his day:--

“At Hangchow there lived a costermonger who understood how to keep
oranges a whole year without letting them spoil. His fruit was always
fresh-looking, firm as jade, and of a beautiful golden hue; but
inside--dry as an old cocoon.

“One day I asked him, saying, ‘Are your oranges for altar or
sacrificial purposes, or for show at banquets? Or do you make this
outside display merely to cheat the foolish? as cheat them you most
outrageously do.’ ‘Sir,’ replied the orangeman, ‘I have carried on this
trade now for many years. It is my source of livelihood. I sell; the
world buys. And I have yet to learn that you are the only honest man
about, and that I am the only cheat. Perhaps it never struck you in
this light. The bâton-bearers of to-day, seated on their tiger skins,
pose as the martial guardians of the State; but what are they compared
with the captains of old? The broad-brimmed, long-robed Ministers of
to-day pose as pillars of the constitution; but have they the wisdom
of our ancient counsellors? Evil-doers arise, and none can subdue
them. The people are in misery, and none can relieve them. Clerks are
corrupt, and none can restrain them. Laws decay, and none can renew
them. Our officials eat the bread of the State and know no shame. They
sit in lofty halls, ride fine steeds, drink themselves drunk with
wine, and batten on the richest fare. Which of them but puts on an
awe-inspiring look, a dignified mien?--all gold and gems without, but
dry cocoons within. You pay, sir, no heed to these things, while you
are very particular about my oranges.’

“I had no answer to make. Was he really out of conceit with the age, or
only quizzing me in defence of his fruit?”



[Sidenote: THE DRAMA]

If the Mongol dynasty added little of permanent value to the already
vast masses of poetry, of general literature, and of classical
exegesis, it will ever be remembered in connection with two important
departures in the literary history of the nation. Within the century
covered by Mongol rule the Drama and the Novel may be said to have come
into existence. Going back to pre-Confucian or legendary days, we find
that from time immemorial the Chinese have danced set dances in time to
music on solemn or festive occasions of sacrifice or ceremony. Thus we
read in the Odes:--

  “_Lightly, sprightly,
    To the dance I go,
  The sun shining brightly
    In the court below._”

The movements of the dancers were methodical, slow, and dignified. Long
feathers and flutes were held in the hand and were waved to and fro as
the performers moved right or left. Words to be sung were added, and
then gradually the music and singing prevailed over the dance, gesture
being substituted. The result was rather an operatic than a dramatic
performance, and the words sung were more of the nature of songs than
of musical plays. In the _Tso Chuan_, under B.C. 545, we read of an
amateur attempt of the kind, organised by stable-boys, which frightened
their horses and caused a stampede. Confucius, too, mentions the
arrogance of a noble who employed in his ancestral temple the number of
singers reserved for the Son of Heaven alone. It is hardly necessary to
allude to the exorcism of evil spirits, carried out three times a year
by officials dressed up in bearskins and armed with spear and shield,
who made a house to house visitation surrounded by a shouting and
excited populace. It is only mentioned here because some writers have
associated this practice with the origin of the drama in China. All we
really know is that in very early ages music and song and dance formed
an ordinary accompaniment to religious and other ceremonies, and that
this continued for many centuries.

Towards the middle of the eighth century, A.D., the Emperor
Ming Huang of the T’ang dynasty, being exceedingly fond of music,
established a College, known as the Pear-Garden, for training some
three hundred young people of both sexes. There is a legend that
this College was the outcome of a visit paid by his Majesty to the
moon, where he was much impressed by a troup of skilled performers
attached to the Palace of Jade which he found there. It was apparently
an institution to provide instrumentalists, vocalists, and possibly
dancers, for Court entertainments, although some have held that the
“youths of the Pear-Garden” were really actors, and the term is still
applied to the dramatic fraternity. Nothing, however, which can be
truly identified with the actor’s art seems to have been known until
the thirteenth century, when suddenly the Drama, as seen in the modern
Chinese stage-play, sprang into being. In the present limited state of
our knowledge on the subject, it is impossible to say how or why this
came about. We cannot trace step by step the development of the drama
in China from a purely choral performance, as in Greece. We are simply
confronted with the accomplished fact.

At the same time we hear of dramatic performances among the Tartars
at a somewhat earlier date. In 1031 K’ung Tao-fu, a descendant of
Confucius in the forty-fifth degree, was sent as envoy to the Kitans,
and was received at a banquet with much honour. But at a theatrical
entertainment which followed, a piece was played in which his sacred
ancestor, Confucius, was introduced as the low-comedy man; and this so
disgusted him that he got up and withdrew, the Kitans being forced to
apologise. Altogether, it would seem that the drama is not indigenous
to China, but may well have been introduced from Tartar sources.
However this may be, it is certain that the drama as known under the
Mongols is to all intents and purposes the drama of to-day, and a few
general remarks may not be out of place.

Plays are acted in the large cities of China at public theatres
all the year round, except during one month at the New Year, and
during the period of mourning for a deceased Emperor. There is no
charge for admission, but all visitors must take some refreshment.
The various Trade-Guilds have raised stages upon their premises,
and give periodical performances free to all who will stand in an
open-air courtyard to watch them. Mandarins and wealthy persons often
engage actors to perform in their private houses, generally while a
dinner-party is going on. In the country, performances are provided by
public subscription, and take place at temples or on temporary stages
put up in the roadway. These stages are always essentially the same.
There is no curtain, there are no wings, and no flies. At the back of
the stage are two doors, one for entrance and one for exit. The actors
who are to perform the first piece come in by the entrance door all
together. When the piece is over, and as they are filing out through
the exit door, those who are cast for the second piece pass in through
the other door. There is no interval, and the musicians, who sit on
the stage, make no pause; hence many persons have stated that Chinese
plays are ridiculously long, the fact being that half-an-hour to an
hour would be about an average length for the plays usually performed,
though much longer specimens, such as would last from three to five
hours, are to be found in books. Eight or ten plays are often performed
at an ordinary dinner-party, a list of perhaps forty being handed round
for the chief guests to choose from.

The actors undergo a very severe physical training, usually between the
ages of nine and fourteen. They have to learn all kinds of acrobatic
feats, these being introduced freely into “military” plays. They also
have to practise walking on feet bound up in imitation of women’s
feet, no woman having been allowed on the stage since the days of the
Emperor Ch’ien Lung (A.D. 1736-1796), whose mother had been an
actress. They have further to walk about in the open air for an hour or
so every day, the head thrown back and the mouth wide open in order to
strengthen the voice; and finally, their diet is carefully regulated
according to a fixed system of training. Fifty-six actors make up a
full company, each of whom must know perfectly from 100 to 200 plays,
there being no prompter. These do not include the four- or five-act
plays as found in books, but either acting editions of these, cut
down to suit the requirements of the stage, or short farces specially
written. The actors are ranged under five classes according to their
capabilities, and consequently every one knows what part he is expected
to take in any given play. Far from being an important personage, as
in ancient Greece, the actor is under a social ban; and for three
generations his descendants may not compete at the public examinations.
Yet he must possess considerable ability in a certain line; for
inasmuch as there are no properties and no realism, he is wholly
dependent for success upon his own powers of idealisation. There he is
indeed supreme. He will gallop across the stage on horseback, dismount,
and pass his horse on to a groom. He will wander down a street, and
stop at an open shop-window to flirt with a pretty girl. He will hide
in a forest, or fight from behind a battlemented wall. He conjures up
by histrionic skill the whole paraphernalia of a scene which in Western
countries is grossly laid out by supers before the curtain goes up. The
general absence of properties is made up to some extent by the dresses
of the actors, which are of the most gorgeous character, robes for
Emperors and grandees running into figures which would stagger even a
West-end manager.

It is obvious that the actor must be a good contortionist, and excel
in gesture. He must have a good voice, his part consisting of song and
“spoken” in about equal proportions. To show how utterly the Chinese
disregard realism, it need only be stated that dead men get up and walk
off the stage; sometimes they will even act the part of bearers and
make movements as though carrying themselves away. Or a servant will
step across to a leading performer and hand him a cup of tea to clear
his voice.

The merit of the plays performed is not on a level with the skill of
the performer. A Chinese audience does not go to hear the play, but
to see the actor. In 1678, at a certain market-town, there was a play
performed which represented the execution of the patriot, General Yo
Fei (A.D. 1141), brought about by the treachery of a rival,
Ch’in Kuei, who forged an order for that purpose. The actor who played
Ch’in Kuei (a term since used contemptuously for a spittoon) produced a
profound sensation; so much so, that one of the spectators, losing all
self-control, leapt upon the stage and stabbed the unfortunate man to

Most Chinese plays are simple in construction and weak in plot. They
are divided into “military” and “civil,” which terms have often been
wrongly taken in the senses of tragedy and comedy, tragedy proper
being quite unknown in China. The former usually deal with historical
episodes and heroic or filial acts by historical characters; and
Emperors and Generals and small armies rush wildly about the stage,
sometimes engaged in single combat, sometimes in turning head over
heels. Battles are fought and rivals or traitors executed before
the very eyes of the audience. The “civil” plays are concerned with
the entanglements of every-day life, and are usually of a farcical
character. As they stand in classical collections or in acting
editions, Chinese plays are as unobjectionable as Chinese poetry
and general literature. On the stage, however, actors are allowed
great license in gagging, and the direction which their gag takes is
chiefly the reason which keeps respectable women away from the public

It must therefore always be remembered that there is the play as it can
be read in the library, and again as it appears in the acting edition
to be learnt, and finally as it is interpreted by the actor. These
three are often very different one from the other.

The following abstract will give a fair idea of the pieces to be found
on the play-bill of any Chinese theatre:--


At the close of the Ming dynasty, a certain well-known General was
occupied day and night in camp with preparations for resisting the
advance of the rebel army which ultimately captured Peking. While thus
temporarily absent from home, the tutor engaged for his son fell ill
with severe shivering fits, and the boy, anxious to do something to
relieve the sufferer, went to his mother’s room and borrowed a thick
quilt. Late that night, the General unexpectedly returned home, and
heard from a slave-girl in attendance of the tutor’s illness and of the
loan of the quilt. Thereupon, he proceeded straight to the sick-room,
to see how the tutor was getting on, but found him fast asleep. As
he was about to retire, he espied on the ground a pair of women’s
slippers, which had been accidentally brought in with the quilt, and
at once recognised to whom they belonged. Hastily quitting the still
sleeping tutor, and arming himself with a sharp scimitar, he burst into
his wife’s apartment. He seized the terrified woman by the hair, and
told her that she must die; producing, in reply to her protestations,
the fatal pair of slippers. He yielded, however, to the entreaties of
the assembled slave-girls, and deferred his vengeance until he had
put the following test. He sent a slave-girl to the tutor’s room,
himself following close behind with his naked weapon ready for use,
bearing a message from her mistress to say she was awaiting him in her
own room; in response to which invitation the voice of the tutor was
heard from within, saying, “What! at this hour of the night? Go away,
you bad girl, or I will tell the master when he comes back!” Still
unconvinced, the jealous General bade his trembling wife go herself
and summon her paramour; resolving that if the latter but put foot
over the threshold, his life should pay the penalty. But there was no
occasion for murderous violence. The tutor again answered from within
the bolted door, “Madam, I may not be a saint, but I would at least
seek to emulate the virtuous Chao Wên-hua (the Joseph of China). Go,
and leave me in peace.” The General now changes his tone; and the
injured wife, she too changes hers. She attempts to commit suicide,
and is only dissuaded by an abject apology on the part of her husband;
in the middle of which, as the latter is on his knees, a slave-girl
creates roars of laughter by bringing her master, in mistake for wine,
a brimming goblet of vinegar, the Chinese emblem of connubial jealousy.

       *       *       *       *       *

The following is a translation of the acting edition of a short play,
as commonly performed, illustrating, but not to exaggeration, the
slender and insufficient literary art which satisfies the Chinese
public, the verses of the original being quite as much doggerel as
those of the English version:--



  Su Tai-ch’in,                       _a Suitor_.
  Hu Mao-yüan,                        _a Suitor_.
  P’ing Kuei,                         _a Beggar_.
  P’u-sa,          _the Beggar’s Guardian Angel_.
  Lady Wang,       _daughter of a high Mandarin_.

_Suitors, Servants, &c._

SCENE--_Outside the city of Ch’ang-an_.

  Su T’ai-ch’in. _At Ch’ang-an city I reside:
                 My father is a Mandarin;
                 Oh! if I get the Flowery Ball,
                 My cup of joy will overflow.
                 My humble name is Su T’ai-ch’in.
                 To-day the Lady Wang will throw
                 A Flowery Ball to get a spouse;
                 And if perchance this ball strikes me,
                 I am a lucky man indeed.
                 But now I must go on my way._

[Walks on towards the city

_Enter ~Hu Mao-yüan~._

  Hu Mao-yüan.   _My father is a nobleman,
                 And I’m a jolly roving blade;
                 To-day the Lady Wang will throw
                 A Flowery Ball to get a spouse.
                 It all depends on destiny
                 Whether or not this Ball strikes me.
                 My humble name is Hu Mao-yüan;
                 But as the Ball is thrown to-day
                 I must be moving on my way.
                 Why, that looks very like friend Su!
                 I’ll call: “Friend Su, don’t go so fast.”_

  Su.            _It’s Hu Mao-yüan: now where go you?_

  Hu.            _To the Governor’s palace to get me a wife._

  Su.            _To the Flowery Ball? Well, I’m going too._

  [Sings.]       _The Lady Wang the Flowery Ball will throw,
                 That all the world her chosen spouse might see,
                 Among the noble suitors down below--
                 But who knows who the lucky man will be?_

  Hu [sings.]    _I think your luck is sure to take you through._

  Su [sings.]    _Your handsome face should bring the Ball to ~you~._

  Hu [sings.]    _At any rate it lies between us two._

  Su [sings.]    _There’s hardly anybody else who’d do._

  Hu [sings.]    _Then come let us go, let us make haste and run._

  Su [sings.]    _Away let us go, but don’t be so slow,
                 Or we shan’t be in time for the fun._


_Enter ~P’ing Kuei~._

  P’ing [sings.] _Ah! that day within the garden
                 When my lady-love divine,
                 Daughter of a wealthy noble,
                 Promised that she would be mine.
                 At the garden gate she pledged me,
                 Bidding me come here to-day;
                 From my miserable garret
                 I have just now crept away.
                 And as I pass the city gates
                 I ope my eyes and see
                 A crowd of noble youths as thick
                 As leaves upon a tree.
                 Forward they press, but who knows which
                 The lucky man will be?
                 In vain I strain my eager eyes--
                 Alas! ’twill break my heart--
                 Among the well-dressed butterflies
                 I find no counterpart.
                 Let her be faithless or be true
                 I lose the Ball as sure as fate;
                 Though, if she spoke me idle words,
                 Why trifle at the garden gate?
                 Nevertheless, I’m bound to go
                 Whether I get the Ball or no:
                 My bowl and my staff in my hands--just so.
                 Rank and fortune often come
                     From matrimonial affairs;
                 I’ll think of it all as I walk along--
                     And perhaps I’d better say my prayers.
                 Why, here I am at the very spot!
                 I’ll just walk in._

  Gatekeeper.    _I say you’ll not!_

  P’ing [sings.] _Oh I dear, he’s stopped me! why, Heaven knows!
                 It must be my hat and tattered clothes.
                 I’ll stay here and raise an infernal din
                 Until they consent to let me in._

  Gatekeeper.    _I haven’t anything to spare,
                 So come again another day._

  P’ing.         _Oh! let me just go in to look._

  Gatekeeper.    _Among the sons of noblemen
                 What can there be for you to see?
                 Begone at once, or I’ll soon make you._

  P’ing.         _Alas! alas! what can I do?
                 If I don’t get within the court,
                 The Lady Wang will tire of waiting._

_Enter ~P’u-sa~._

  Pu-sa [sings.] _By heaven’s supreme command I have flown
                 Through the blue expanse of sky and air;
                 For a suffering soul has cried out in woe,
                 And Heaven has heard his prayer.
                 For the Lady Wang he’s nearly broken-hearted,
                 But cruel fate still keeps the lovers parted.
                 “Hebbery gibbery snobbery snay!”
                 On the wings of the wind I’ll ride,
                 And make the old porter clear out of the way
                 Till I get my poor beggar inside.
                 The Lady Wang is still within the hall
                 Waiting till the Emperor sends the Flowery Ball._

[Raises the wind.

  Gatekeeper.    _Oh dear! how cold the wind is blowing.
                 I do not see the lady coming,
                 And so I think I’ll step inside._

_Enter ~Lady Wang~._

  Lady Wang [sings.] _In gala dress I leave my boudoir,
                 Thinking all the time of thee--
                 O Heaven, fulfil a mortal’s longings,
                 And link my love to me.
                 My gorgeous cap is broidered o’er
                 With flocks of glittering birds:
                 Here shine the seven stars, and there
                 A boy is muttering holy words.
                 My bodice dazzles with its lustrous sheen:
                 My skirts are worked with many a gaudy scene._

[Showing Ball.

  _His Majesty on me bestowed this Ball,
  And from a balcony he bid me let it fall,
  Then take as husband whomsoe’er it struck,
  Prince, merchant, beggar, as might be my luck.
  And having left my parents and my home,
  Hither to the Painted Tower I’ve come.
  As I slowly mount the stairs,
  I ope my eyes and see
  A crowd of noble youths as thick
  As leaves up on a tree.
  But ah! amongst the many forms,
  Which meet my eager eye,
  The figure of my own true love
  I cannot yet descry.
  The pledge I gave him at the garden gate
  Can he forget? The hour is waxing late.
      And the crowds down below
      Bewilder me so
  That I am in a most desperate state.
  Oh! P’ing Kuei, if you really love me,
  Hasten quickly to my side:
  If the words you spoke were idle,
  Why ask me to be your bride?
  He perhaps his ease is taking,
  While my foolish heart is breaking.
  I can’t return till I have done
  This work in misery begun,
  And so I take the Flowery Ball
  And with a sigh I let it fall._

[Throws down the ball.

  P’u-sa.        _’Tis thus I seize the envied prize,
                 And give it to my protégé;
                 I’ll throw it in his earthen bowl._

[Throws the ball to P’ing Kuei.

  Lady Wang [sings.] _Stay! I hear the people shouting--
                 What, the Ball some beggar struck?
                 It must be my own true P’ing Kuei--
                 I’ll go home and tell my luck!
                 Maidens! through the temple kindle
                 Incense for my lucky fate;
                 Now my true love will discover
                 That I can discriminate._

[Exeunt omnes.

_Enter ~Hu Mao-yüan~ and ~Su Tai-ch’in~._

  Hu.            _The second of the second moon
                 The Dragon wakes to life and power;
                 To-day the Lady Wang has thrown
                 The Ball from out the Painted Tower.
                 No well-born youth was singled out,
                 It struck a dirty vagrant lout.
                 Friend Su, I’m off: we’re done for, as you saw,
                 Though for the little paltry wench I do not care
                       a straw._


_Enter ~Gatekeeper~ and ~Beggar~._

  Gatekeeper.    _Only one poor beggar now remains within the hall,
                 Who’d have thought that this poor vagrant would have
                       got the Ball?_
  [To P’ing Kuei.] _Sir, you’ve come off well this morning:
                     You must be a lucky man.
                 Come with me to claim your bride, and
                     Make the greatest haste you can._


Even the longer and more elaborate plays are proportionately wanting in
all that makes the drama piquant to a European, and are very seldom,
if ever, produced as they stand in print. Many collections of these
have been published, not to mention the acting editions of each play,
which can be bought at any bookstall for something like three a penny.
One of the best of such collections is the _Yüan ch’ü hsüan tsa chi_,
or Miscellaneous Selection of Mongol Plays, bound up in eight thick
volumes. It contains one hundred plays in all, with an illustration to
each, according to the edition of 1615. A large proportion of these
cannot be assigned to any author, and are therefore marked “anonymous.”
Even when the authors’ names are given, they represent men altogether
unknown in what the Chinese call literature, from which the drama is
rigorously excluded.


The following is a brief outline of a very well known play in five acts
by CHI CHÜN-HSIANG, entitled “The Orphan of the Chao family,”
and founded closely upon fact. It is the nearest approach which the
Chinese have made to genuine tragedy:--

A wicked Minister of the sixth century B.C. plotted the
destruction of a rival named Chao Tun, and of all his family. He tells
in the prologue how he had vainly trained a fierce dog to kill his
rival, by keeping it for days without food and then setting it at a
dummy, dressed to represent his intended victim, and stuffed with the
heart and lights of a sheep. Ultimately, however, he had managed to
get rid of all the male members of the family, to the number of three
hundred, when he hears--and at this point the play proper begins--that
the wife of the last representative has given birth to a son. He
promptly sends to find the child, which had meanwhile been carried
away to a place of safety. Then a faithful servant of the family hid
himself on the hills with another child, while an accomplice informed
the Minister where the supposed orphan of the house of Chao was lying
hidden. The child was accordingly slain, and by the hand of the
Minister himself; the servant committed suicide. But the real heir
escaped, and when he grew up he avenged the wrongs of his family by
killing the cruel Minister and utterly exterminating his race.

       *       *       *       *       *

From beginning to end of this and similar plays there is apparently no
attempt whatever at passion or pathos in the language--at any rate,
not in the sense in which those terms are understood by us. Nor are
there even rhetorical flowers to disguise the expression of commonplace
thought. The Chinese actor can do a great deal with such a text; the
translator, nothing. There is much, too, of a primitive character in
the setting of the play. Explanatory prologues are common, and actors
usually begin by announcing their own names and further clearing the
way for the benefit of the audience. The following story will give a
faint idea of the license conceded to the play-actor.

My attention was attracted on one occasion at Amoy by an unusually
large crowd of Chinamen engaged in watching the progress of an open-air
theatrical performance. Roars of laughter resounded on all sides, and
on looking to see what was the moving cause of this extraordinary
explosion of merriment, I beheld to my astonishment a couple of rather
seedy-looking foreigners occupying the stage, and apparently acting
with such spirit as to bring the house down at every other word. A
moment more and it was clear that these men of the West were not
foreigners at all, but Chinamen dressed up for the purposes of the
piece. The get-up, nevertheless, was remarkably good, if somewhat
exaggerated, though doubtless the intention was to caricature or
burlesque rather than to reproduce an exact imitation. There was the
billy-cock hat, and below it a florid face well supplied with red
moustaches and whiskers, the short cut-away coat and light trousers,
a blue neck-tie, and last, but not least, the ever-characteristic
walking-stick. Half the fun, in fact, was got out of this last
accessory; for with it each one of the two was continually threatening
the other, and both united in violent gesticulations directed either
against their brother-actors or sometimes against the audience at their

Before going any further it may be as well to give a short outline of
the play itself, which happens to be not uninteresting and is widely
known from one end of China to the other. It is called “Slaying a Son
at the Yamên Gate,” and the plot, or rather story, runs as follows:--

A certain general of the Sung dynasty named Yang, being in charge of
one of the frontier passes, sent his son to obtain a certain wooden
staff from an outlying barbarian tribe. In this expedition the son not
only failed signally, but was further taken prisoner by a barbarian
lady, who insisted upon his immediately leading her to the altar.
Shortly after these nuptials he returns to his father’s camp, and the
latter, in a violent fit of anger, orders him to be taken outside
the Yamên gate and be there executed forthwith. As the soldiers are
leading him away, the young man’s mother comes and throws herself at
the general’s feet, and implores him to spare her son. This request the
stern father steadily refuses to grant, even though his wife’s prayers
are backed up by those of his own mother, of a prince of the Imperial
blood, and finally by the entreaties of the Emperor himself. At this
juncture in rushes the barbarian wife of the general’s condemned son,
and as on a previous occasion the general himself had been taken
prisoner by this very lady, and only ransomed on payment of a heavy
sum of money, he is so alarmed that he sits motionless and unable to
utter a word while with a dagger she severs the cords that bind her
husband, sets him free before the assembled party, and dares any one
to lay a hand on him at his peril. The Emperor now loses his temper,
and is enraged to think that General Yang should have been awed into
granting to a barbarian woman a life that he had just before refused to
the entreaties of the Son of Heaven. His Majesty, therefore, at once
deprives the father of his command and bestows it upon the son, and the
play is brought to a conclusion with the departure of young General
Yang and his barbarian wife to subdue the wild tribes that are then
harassing the frontier of China. The two foreigners are the pages or
attendants of the barbarian wife, and accompany her in that capacity
when she follows her husband to his father’s camp.

The trick of dressing these pages up to caricature the foreigner of
the nineteenth century, on the occasion when I saw the piece, was a
mere piece of stage gag, but one which amused the people immensely, and
elicited rounds of applause. But when the barbarian wife had succeeded
in rescuing her husband from the jaws of death, there was considerable
dissatisfaction in the minds of several of the personages on the stage.
The Emperor was angry at the slight that had been passed upon his
Imperial dignity, the wife and mother of the general, not to mention
the prince of the blood, felt themselves similarly slighted, though
in a lesser degree, and the enraged father was still more excited
at having had his commands set aside, and seeing himself bearded in
his own Yamên by a mere barbarian woman. It was consequently felt
by all parties that something in the way of slaughter was wanting to
relieve their own feelings, and to satisfy the unities of the drama
and the cravings of the audience for a sensational finale; and this
desirable end was attained by an order from the Emperor that at any
rate the two foreign attendants might be sacrificed for the benefit of
all concerned. The two wretched foreigners were accordingly made to
kneel on the stage, and their heads were promptly lopped off by the
executioner amid the deafening plaudits of the surrounding spectators.

       *       *       *       *       *

In 1885 a play was performed in a Shanghai theatre which had for its
special attraction a rude imitation of a paddle-steamer crowded with
foreign men and women. It was wheeled across the back of the stage, and
the foreigners and their women, who were supposed to have come with
designs upon the Middle Kingdom, were all taken prisoners and executed.

[Sidenote: WANG SHIH-FU]

Of all plays of the Mongol dynasty, the one which will best repay
reading is undoubtedly the _Hsi Hsiang Chi_, or Story of the Western
Pavilion, in sixteen scenes. It is by WANG SHIH-FU, of whom
nothing seems to be known except that he flourished in the thirteenth
century, and wrote thirteen plays, all of which are included in the
collection mentioned above. “The dialogue of this play,” says a Chinese
critic, “deals largely with wind, flowers, snow, and moonlight,” which
is simply a euphemistic way of stating that the story is one of passion
and intrigue. It is popular with the educated classes, by whom it is
regarded more as a novel than as a play.

A lady and her daughter are staying at a temple, where, in accordance
with common custom, rooms are let by the priests to ordinary
travellers or to visitors who may wish to perform devotional exercises.
A young and handsome student, who also happens to be living at the
temple, is lucky enough to succeed in saving the two ladies from the
clutches of brigands, for which service he has previously been promised
the hand of the daughter in marriage. The mother, however, soon repents
of her engagement, and the scholar is left disconsolate. At this
juncture the lady’s-maid of the daughter manages by a series of skilful
manœuvres to bring the story to a happy issue.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: CHANG KUO-PIN]

Just as there have always been poetesses in China, so women are to be
found in the ranks of Chinese playwrights. A four-act drama, entitled
“Joining the Shirt,” was written by one CHANG KUO-PIN, an
educated courtesan of the day, the chief interest of which play lies
perhaps in the sex of the writer.

A father and mother, with son and daughter-in-law, are living happily
together, when a poverty-stricken young stranger is first of all
assisted by them, and then, without further inquiry, is actually
adopted into the family. Soon afterwards the new son persuades the
elder brother and his wife secretly to leave home, taking all the
property they can lay their hands on, and to journey to a distant part
of the country, where there is a potent god from whom the wife is to
pray for and obtain a son after what has been already an eighteen
months’ gestation. On the way, the new brother pushes the husband
overboard into the Yang-tsze and disappears with the wife, who shortly
gives birth to a boy. Eighteen years pass. The old couple have sunk
into poverty, and set out, begging their way, to seek for their lost
son. Chance--playwright’s chance--throws them into the company of their
grandson, who has graduated as Senior Classic, and has also, prompted
by his mother, been on the look-out for them. Recognition is effected
by means of the two halves of a shirt, one of which had always been
kept by the old man and the other by the missing son, and after his
death by his wife. At this juncture the missing son reappears. He had
been rescued from drowning by a boatman, and had become a Buddhist
priest. He now reverts to lay life, and the play is brought to an end
by the execution of the villain.

It is a curious fact that all the best troupes of actors not only come
from Peking, but perform in their own dialect, which is practically
unintelligible to the masses in many parts of China. These actors are,
of course, very well paid, in order to make it worth their while to
travel so far from home and take the risks to life and property.



Turning now to the second literary achievement of the Mongols, the
introduction of the Novel, we find ourselves face to face with the same
mystery as that which shrouds the birth of the Drama. The origin of
the Chinese novel is unknown. It probably came from Central Asia, the
paradise of story-tellers, in the wake of the Mongol conquest. Three
centuries had then to elapse before the highest point of development
was reached. Fables, anecdotes, and even short stories had already
been familiar to the Chinese for many centuries, but between these
and the novel proper there is a wide gulf which so far had not been
satisfactorily bridged. Some, indeed, have maintained that the novel
was developed from the play, pointing in corroboration of their theory
to the _Hsi Hsiang Chi_, or Story of the Western Pavilion, described in
the preceding chapter. This, however, simply means that the _Hsi Hsiang
Chi_ is more suited for private reading than for public representation,
as is the case with many Western plays.

The Chinese range their novels under four heads, as dealing (1)
with usurpation and plotting, (2) with love and intrigue, (3) with
superstition, and (4) with brigandage or lawless characters generally.
Examples of each class will be given.

[Sidenote: LO KUAN-CHUNG]

The _San kuo chih yen i_, attributed to one LO KUAN-CHUNG, is an
historical novel based upon the wars of the Three Kingdoms which fought
for supremacy at the beginning of the third century A.D. It consists
mainly of stirring scenes of warfare, of cunning plans by skilful
generals, and of doughty deeds by blood-stained warriors. Armies
and fleets of countless myriads are from time to time annihilated
by one side or another,--all this in an easy and fascinating style,
which makes the book an endless joy to old and young alike. If a vote
were taken among the people of China as to the greatest among their
countless novels, the Story of the Three Kingdoms would indubitably
come out first.

This is how the great commander Chu-ko Liang is said to have
replenished his failing stock of arrows. He sent a force of some twenty
or more ships to feign an attack on the fleet of his powerful rival,
Ts’ao Ts’ao. The decks of the ships were apparently covered with large
numbers of fighting men, but these were in reality nothing more than
straw figures dressed up in soldiers’ clothes. On each ship there
were only a few sailors and some real soldiers with gongs and other
noisy instruments. Reaching their destination, as had been carefully
calculated beforehand, in the middle of a dense fog, the soldiers
at once began to beat on their gongs as if about to go into action;
whereupon Ts’ao Ts’ao, who could just make out the outlines of vessels
densely packed with fighting men bearing down upon him, gave orders to
his archers to begin shooting. The latter did so, and kept on for an
hour and more, until Chu-ko Liang was satisfied with what he had got,
and passed the order to retreat.

Elsewhere we read of an archery competition which recalls the Homeric
games. A target is set up, and the prize, a robe, is hung upon a
twig just above. From a distance of one hundred paces the heroes
begin to shoot. Of course each competitor hits the bull’s-eye, one,
Parthian-like, with his back to the target, another shooting over his
own head; and equally of course the favoured hero shoots at the twig,
severs it, and carries off the robe.

The following extract will perhaps be interesting, dealing as it does
with the use of anæsthetics long before they were dreamt of in this
country. Ts’ao Ts’ao had been struck on the head with a sword by the
spirit of a pear-tree which he had attempted to cut down. He suffered
such agony that one of his staff recommended a certain doctor who was
then very much in vogue:--

“‘Dr. Hua,’ explained the officer, ‘is a mighty skilful physician, and
such a one as is not often to be found. His administration of drugs,
and his use of acupuncture and counter-irritants are always followed
by the speedy recovery of the patient. If the sick man is suffering
from some internal complaint and medicines produce no satisfactory
result, then Dr. Hua will administer a dose of hashish, under the
influence of which the patient becomes as it were intoxicated with
wine. He now takes a sharp knife and opens the abdomen, proceeding
to wash the patient’s viscera with medicinal liquids, but without
causing him the slightest pain. The washing finished, he sews up the
wound with medicated thread and puts over it a plaster, and by the
end of a month or twenty days the place has healed up. Such is his
extraordinary skill. One day, for instance, as he was walking along a
road, he heard some one groaning deeply, and at once declared that the
cause was indigestion. On inquiry, this turned out to be the case; and
accordingly, Dr. Hua ordered the sufferer to drink three pints of a
decoction of garlic and leeks, which he did, and vomited forth a snake
between two and three feet in length, after which he could digest food
as before. On another occasion, the Governor of Kuang-ling was very
much depressed in his mind, besides being troubled with a flushing of
the face and total loss of appetite. He consulted Dr. Hua, and the
effect of some medicine administered by him was to cause the invalid to
throw up a quantity of red-headed wriggling tadpoles, which the doctor
told him had been generated in his system by too great indulgence in
fish, and which, although temporarily expelled, would reappear after
an interval of three years, when nothing could save him. And sure
enough, he died three years afterwards. In a further instance, a man
had a tumour growing between his eyebrows, the itching of which was
insupportable. When Dr. Hua saw it, he said, ‘There is a bird inside,’
at which everybody laughed. However, he took a knife and opened the
tumour, and out flew a canary, the patient beginning to recover from
that hour. Again, another man had had his toes bitten by a dog, the
consequence being that two lumps of flesh grew up from the wound, one
of which was very painful while the other itched unbearably. ‘There
are ten needles,’ said Dr. Hua, ‘in the sore lump, and two black and
white _wei-ch’i_ pips in the other.’ No one believed this until Dr. Hua
opened them with a knife and showed that it was so. Truly he is of the
same strain as Pien Ch’iao and Ts’ang Kung of old; and as he is now
living not very far from this, I wonder your Highness does not summon

“At this, Ts’ao Ts’ao sent away messengers who were to travel day and
night until they had brought Dr. Hua before him; and when he arrived,
Ts’ao Ts’ao held out his pulse and desired him to diagnose his case.

“‘The pain in your Highness’s head’ said Dr. Hua, ‘arises from wind,
and the seat of the disease is the brain, where the wind is collected,
unable to get out. Drugs are of no avail in your present condition,
for which there is but one remedy. You must first swallow a dose of
hashish, and then with a sharp axe I will split open the back of your
head and let the wind out. Thus the disease will be exterminated.’

“Ts’ao Ts’ao here flew into a great rage, and declared that it was
a plot aimed at his life; to which Dr. Hua replied, ‘Has not your
Highness heard of Kuan Yü’s wound in the right shoulder? I scraped the
bone and removed the poison for him without a single sign of fear on
his part. Your Highness’s disease is but a trifling affair; why, then,
so much suspicion?’

“‘You may scrape a sore shoulder-bone,’ said Ts’ao Ts’ao, ‘without much
risk; but to split open my skull is quite another matter. It strikes me
now that you are here simply to avenge your friend Kuan Yü upon this
opportunity.’ He thereupon gave orders that the doctor should be seized
and cast into prison.”

There the unfortunate doctor soon afterwards died, and before very long
Ts’ao Ts’ao himself succumbed.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: SHIH NAI-AN]

The _Shui Hu Chuan_ is said to have been written by SHIN
NAI-AN of the thirteenth century; but this name does not appear
in any biographical collection, and nothing seems to be known either
of the man or of his authorship. The story is based upon the doings of
an historical band of brigands, who had actually terrorised a couple
of provinces, until they were finally put down, early in the twelfth
century. Some of it is very laughable, and all of it valuable for the
insight given into Chinese manners and customs. There is a ludicrous
episode of a huge swashbuckler who took refuge in a Buddhist temple
and became a priest. After a while he reverted to less ascetic habits
of life, and returned one day to the temple, in Chinese phraseology,
as drunk as a clod, making a great riot and causing much scandal. He
did this on a second occasion; and when shut out by the gatekeeper, he
tried to burst in, and in his drunken fury knocked to pieces a huge
idol at the entrance for not stepping down to his assistance. Then,
when he succeeded by a threat of fire in getting the monks to open the
gate, “through which no wine or meat may pass,” he fell down in the
courtyard, and out of his robe tumbled a half-eaten dog’s leg, which
he had carried away with him from the restaurant where he had drunk
himself tipsy. This he amused himself by tearing to pieces and forcing
into the mouth of one of his fellow-priests.

The graphic and picturesque style in which this book is written, though
approaching the colloquial, has secured for it a position rather beyond
its real merits.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: THE HSI YU CHI]

The _Hsi Yu Chi_, or Record of Travels in the West, is a favourite
novel written in a popular and easy style. It is based upon the journey
of Hsüan Tsang to India in search of books, images, and relics to
illustrate the Buddhist religion; but beyond the fact that the chief
personage is called by Hsüan Tsang’s posthumous title, and that he
travels in search of Buddhist books, the journey and the novel have
positively nothing in common. The latter is a good sample of the
fiction in which the Chinese people delight, and may be allowed to
detain us awhile.

A stone monkey is born on a mysterious mountain from a stone egg, and
is soon elected to be king of the monkeys. He then determines to travel
in search of wisdom, and accordingly sets forth. His first step is
to gain a knowledge of the black art from a magician, after which he
becomes Master of the Horse to God, that is, to the supreme deity in
the Taoist Pantheon. Throwing up his post in disgust, he carries on a
series of disturbances in the world generally, until at length God is
obliged to interfere, and sends various heavenly generals to coerce
him. These he easily puts to flight, only returning to his allegiance
on being appointed the Great Holy One of All the Heavens. He is soon
at his old tricks again, stealing the peaches of immortality from a
legendary being known as the Royal Mother in the West, and also some
elixir of life, both of which he consumes.

All the minor deities now complain to God of his many misdeeds, and
heavenly armies are despatched against him, but in vain. Even God’s
nephew cannot prevail against him until Lao Tzŭ throws a magic ring at
him and knocks him down. He is then carried captive to heaven, but as
he is immortal, no harm can be inflicted on him.

At this juncture God places the matter in the hands of Buddha, who is
presently informed by the monkey that God must be deposed and that he,
the monkey, must for the future reign in his stead. The text now runs
as follows:--

“When Buddha heard these words, he smiled scornfully and said, ‘What!
a devil-monkey like you to seize the throne of God, who from his
earliest years has been trained to rule, and has lived 1750 æons, each
of 129,600 years’ duration! Think what ages of apprenticeship he had to
serve before he could reach this state of perfect wisdom. You are only
a brute beast; what mean these boastful words? Be off, and utter no
more such, lest evil befall, and your very existence be imperilled.’

“‘Although he is older than I am,’ cried the monkey, ‘that is no reason
why he should always have the post. Tell him to get out and give up his
place to me, or I will know the reason why.’

“‘What abilities have you,’ asked Buddha, ‘that you should claim the
divine palace?’

“‘Plenty,’ replied the monkey. ‘I can change myself into seventy-two
shapes; I am immortal; and I can turn a somersault to a distance of
18,000 _li_ ( = 6000 miles). Am I not fit to occupy the throne of

“‘Well,’ answered Buddha, ‘I will make a wager with you. If you can
jump out of my hand, I will request God to depart to the West and leave
heaven to you; but if you fail, you will go down again to earth and be
a devil for another few æons to come.’

“The monkey readily agreed to this, pointing out that he could easily
jump 18,000 _li_, and that Buddha’s hand was not even a foot long. So
after making Buddha promise to carry out the agreement, he grasped his
sceptre and diminished in size until he could stand in the hand, which
was stretched out for him like a lotus-leaf. ‘I’m off!’ he cried, and
in a moment he was gone. But Buddha’s enlightened gaze was ever upon
him, though he turned with the speed of a whirligig.

“In a brief space the monkey had reached a place where there were five
red pillars, and there he decided to stop. Reflecting, however, that he
had better leave some trace as a proof of his visit, he plucked out a
hair, and changing it into a pencil, wrote with it on the middle pillar
in large characters, _The Great Holy One of All the Heavens reached
this point_. The next moment he was back again in Buddha’s hand,
describing his jump, and claiming his reward.

“‘Ah!’ said Buddha, ‘I knew you couldn’t do it.’

“‘Why,’ said the monkey, ‘I have been to the very confines of the
universe, and have left a mark there which I challenge you to inspect.’

“‘There is no need to go so far,’ replied Buddha. ‘Just bend your head
and look here.’

“The monkey bent down his head, and there, on Buddha’s middle finger,
he read the following inscription: _The Great Holy One of All the
Heavens reached this point_.”

Ultimately, the monkey is converted to the true faith, and undertakes
to escort Hsüan Tsang on his journey to the West. In his turn he helps
to convert a pig-bogey, whom he first vanquishes by changing himself
into a pill, which the pig-bogey unwittingly swallows, thereby giving
its adversary a chance of attacking it from inside. These two are
joined by a colourless individual, said to represent the passive side
of man’s nature, as the monkey and pig represent the active and animal
sides respectively. The three of them conduct Hsüan Tsang through
manifold dangers and hairbreadth escapes safe, until at length they
receive final directions from an Immortal as to the position of the
palace of Buddha, from which they hope to obtain the coveted books. The
scene which follows almost recalls _The Pilgrims Progress_:--

“Hsüan Tsang accordingly bade him farewell and proceeded on his way.
But he had not gone more than a mile or two before he came to a stream
of rushing water about a league in breadth, with not a trace of any
living being in sight. At this he was somewhat startled, and turning
to Wu-k’ung (the name of the monkey) said, ‘Our guide must surely
have misdirected us. Look at that broad and boiling river; how shall
we ever get across without a boat?’ ‘There is a bridge over there,’
cried Wu-k’ung, ‘which you must cross over in order to complete
your salvation.’ At this Hsüan Tsang and the others advanced in the
direction indicated, and saw by the side of the bridge a notice-board
on which was written, ‘The Heavenly Ford.’ Now the bridge itself
consisted of a simple plank; on which Hsüan Tsang remarked, ‘I am not
going to trust myself to that frail and slippery plank to cross that
wide and rapid stream. Let us try somewhere else.’ ‘But this is the
true path,’ said Wu-k’ung; ‘just wait a moment and see me go across.’
Thereupon he jumped on to the bridge, and ran along the shaky vibrating
plank until he reached the other side, where he stood shouting out to
the rest to come on. But Hsüan Tsang waved his hand in the negative,
while his companions stood by biting their fingers and crying out, ‘We
can’t! we can’t! we can’t!’ So Wu-k’ung ran back, and seizing Pa-chieh
(the pig) by the arm, began dragging him to the bridge, all the time
calling him a fool for his pains. Pa-chieh then threw himself on the
ground, roaring out, ‘It’s too slippery--it’s too slippery. I can’t
do it. Spare me! spare me!’ ‘You must cross by this bridge,’ replied
Wu-k’ung, ‘if you want to become a Buddha;’ at which Pa-chieh said,
‘Then I can’t be a Buddha, sir. I have done with it: I shall never get
across that bridge.’

“While these two were in the middle of their dispute, lo and behold a
boat appeared in sight, with a man punting it along, and calling out,
‘The ferry! the ferry!’ At this Hsüan Tsang was overjoyed, and shouted
to his disciples that they would now be able to get across. By his
fiery pupil and golden iris, Wu-k’ung knew that the ferryman was no
other than Namo Pao-chang-kuang-wang Buddha; but he kept his knowledge
to himself, and hailed the boat to take them on board. In a moment it
was alongside the bank, when, to his unutterable horror, Hsüan Tsang
discovered that the boat had no bottom, and at once asked the ferryman
how he proposed to take them across. ‘My boat,’ replied the ferryman,
‘has been famed since the resolution of chaos into order, and under my
charge has known no change. Steady though storms may rage and seas may
roll, there is no fear so long as the passenger is light. Free from the
dust of mortality, the passage is easy enough. Ten thousand kalpas of
human beings pass over in peace. A bottomless ship can hardly cross the
great ocean; yet for ages past I have ferried over countless hosts of

“When he heard these words Wu-k’ung cried out, ‘Master, make haste on
board. This boat, although bottomless, is safe enough, and no wind or
sea could overset it.’ And while Hsüan Tsang was still hesitating,
Wu-k’ung pushed him forwards on to the bridge; but the former could not
keep his feet, and fell head over heels into the water, from which he
was immediately rescued by the ferryman, who dragged him on board the
boat. The rest also managed, with the aid of Wu-k’ung, to scramble on
board; and then, as the ferryman shoved off, lo! they beheld a dead
body floating away down the stream. Hsüan Tsang was greatly alarmed
at this; but Wu-k’ung laughed and said, ‘Fear not, Master; that dead
body is your old self!’ And all the others joined in the chorus of ‘It
is you, sir, it is you;’ and even the ferryman said, ‘Yes, it is you;
accept my best congratulations.’

“A few moments more and the stream was crossed, when they all jumped
on shore; but before they could look round the boat and ferryman had

The story ends with a list of the Buddhist _sûtras_ and liturgies
which the travellers were allowed to carry back with them to their own


_THE MING DYNASTY_ (A.D. 1368-1644)



[Sidenote: SUNG LIEN]

The first Emperor of the Ming dynasty, popularly known as the Beggar
King, in allusion to the poverty of his early days, so soon as he
had extinguished the last hopes of the Mongols and had consolidated
his power, turned his attention to literature and education. He
organised the great system of competitive examinations which prevails
at the present day. He also published a Penal Code, abolishing such
punishments as mutilation, and drew up a kind of Domesday Book, under
which taxation was regulated. In 1369 he appointed SUNG LIEN
(A.D. 1310-1381), in conjunction with other scholars, to
produce the History of the Mongol Dynasty. Sung Lien had previously
been tutor to the heir apparent. He had declined office, and was
leading the life of a simple student. He rose to be President of the
Han-lin College, and for many years enjoyed his master’s confidence.
A grandson, however, became mixed up in a conspiracy, and only the
Empress’s entreaties saved the old man’s life. His sentence was
commuted to banishment, and he died on the journey. Apart from the
history above mentioned, and a pronouncing dictionary on which he was
employed, his literary remains fill only three volumes. The following
piece is a satire on the neglect of men of ability, which, according to
him, was a marked feature of the administration of the Mongols:--

“Têng Pi, whose cognomen was Po-i, was a man of Ch’in. He was seven
feet high. Both his eyes had crimson corners, and they blinked like
lightning flashes. In feats of strength he was cock of the walk; and
once when his neighbour’s bulls were locked in fight, with a blow of
his fist he broke the back of one of them and sent it rolling on the
ground. The stone drums of the town, which ten men could not lift,
he could carry about in his two hands. He was, however, very fond of
liquor, and given to quarrelling in his cups; so that when people saw
him in this mood, they would keep out of his way, saying that it was
safer to be at a distance from such a wild fellow.

“One day he was drinking by himself in a tea-house when two literati
happened to pass by. Têng Pi tried to make them join him; but they,
having rather a low opinion of the giant, would not accept his
invitation. ‘Gentlemen,’ cried he in a rage, ‘if you do not see fit
to do as I ask, I will make an end of the pair of you, and then seek
safety in flight. I could not brook this treatment at your hands.’

“So the two had no alternative but to walk in. Têng Pi took the place
of honour himself, and put his guests on each side of him. He called
for more liquor, and began to sing and make a noise. And at last, when
he was well tipsy, he threw off his clothes and began to attitudinise.
He drew a knife, and flung it down with a bang on the table; at which
the two literati, who were aware of his weakness, rose to take leave.

“‘Stop!’ shouted Têng Pi, detaining them. ‘I too know something about
your books. What do you mean by treating me as the spittle of your
mouth? If you don’t hurry up and drink, I fear my temper will get the
better of me. Meanwhile, you shall ask me anything you like in the
whole range of classical literature, and if I can’t answer, I will
imbrue this blade in my blood.’

“To this the two literati agreed, and forthwith gave him a number
of the most difficult allusions they could think of, taken from the
Classics; but Têng Pi was equal to the occasion, and repeated the full
quotation in each case without missing a word. Then they tried him on
history, covering a period of three thousand years; but here again his
answers were distinguished by accuracy and precision.

“‘Ha! ha!’ laughed Têng Pi, ‘do you give in now?’ At which his guests
looked blankly at each other, and hadn’t a word to say. So Têng Pi
shouted for wine, and loosed his hair, and jumped about, crying, ‘I
have floored you, gentlemen, to-day! Of old, learning made a man of
you; but to-day, all you have to do is to don a scholar’s dress and
look consumptive. You care only to excel with pen and ink, and despise
the real heroes of the age. Shall this be so indeed?’

“Now these two literati were men of some reputation, and on hearing
Têng Pi’s words they were greatly shamed, and left the tea-house,
hardly knowing how to put one foot before the other. On arriving home
they made further inquiries, but no one had ever seen Têng Pi at any
time with a book in his hand.”

[Sidenote: FANG HSIAO-JU]

FANG HSIAO-JU (A.D. 1357-1402) is another scholar, co-worker with Sung
Lien, who adorned this same period. As a child he was precocious, and
by his skill in composition earned for himself the nickname of Little
Han Yü. He became tutor to one of the Imperial princes, and was loaded
with honours by the second Emperor, who through the death of his father
succeeded in 1398 to his grandfather. Then came the rebellion of the
fourth son of the first Emperor; and when Nanking opened its gates to
the conqueror, the defeated nephew vanished. It is supposed that he
fled to Yünnan, in the garb of a monk, left to him, so the story runs,
with full directions by his grandfather. After nearly forty years’
wandering, he is said to have gone to Peking, and lived in seclusion in
the palace until his death. He was recognised by a eunuch from a mole
on his left foot, but the eunuch was afraid to reveal his identity.
Fang Hsiao-ju absolutely refused to place his services at the disposal
of the new Emperor, who ruled under the year-title of Yung Lo. For this
refusal he was cut to pieces in the market-place, his family being as
far as possible exterminated and his philosophical writings burned.
A small collection of his miscellanies was preserved by a faithful
disciple, and afterwards republished. The following is an extract from
an essay on taking too much thought for the morrow:--

“Statesmen who forecast the destinies of an empire ofttimes concentrate
their genius upon the difficult and neglect the easy. They provide
against likely evils, and disregard combinations which yield no ground
for suspicion. Yet calamity often issues from neglected quarters, and
sedition springs out of circumstances which have been set aside as
trivial. Must this be regarded as due to an absence of care?--No. It
results because the things that man can provide against are human,
while those that elude his vigilance and overpower his strength are

After giving several striking examples from history, the writer

“All the instances above cited include gifted men whose wisdom and
genius overshadowed their generation. They took counsel and provided
against disruption of the empire with the utmost possible care. Yet
misfortune fell upon every one of them, always issuing from some source
where its existence was least suspected. This, because human wisdom
reaches only to human affairs and cannot touch the divine. Thus, too,
will sickness carry off the children even of the best doctors, and
devils play their pranks in the family of an exorcist. How is it that
these professors, who succeed in grappling with the cases of others,
yet fail in treating their own? It is because in those they confine
themselves to the human; in these they would meddle with the divine.

“The men of old knew that it was impossible to provide infallibly
against the convulsions of ages to come. There was no plan, no device,
by which they could hope to prevail, and they refrained accordingly
from vain scheming. They simply strove by the force of Truth and Virtue
to win for themselves the approbation of God; that He, in reward for
their virtuous conduct, might watch over them, as a fond mother watches
over her babes, for ever. Thus, although fools were not wanting to
their posterity--fools able to drag an empire to the dust--still, the
evil day was deferred. This was indeed foresight of a far-reaching kind.

“But he who, regardless of the favour of Heaven, may hope by the light
of his own petty understanding to establish that which shall endure
through all time--he shall be confounded indeed.”

       *       *       *       *       *

The third Emperor of this dynasty, whose nephew, the reigning Emperor,
disappeared so mysteriously, mounted the throne in 1403. A worthy son
of his father as regarded his military and political abilities, he
was a still more enthusiastic patron of literature. He caused to be
compiled what is probably the most gigantic encyclopædia ever known,
the _Yung Lo Ta Tien_, to produce which 2169 scholars laboured for
about three years under the guidance of five chief directors and twenty
sub-directors. Judging from the account published in 1795, it must have
run to over 500,000 pages. It was never printed because of the cost of
the block-cutting; but under a subsequent reign two extra copies were
taken, and one of these, imperfect to the extent of about 20,000 pages,
is still in the Han-lin College at Peking.[33] The others perished by
fire at the fall of the Ming dynasty. Not only did this encyclopædia
embrace and illustrate the whole range of Chinese literature, but it
included many complete works which would otherwise have been lost. Of
these, no fewer than 66 on the Confucian Canon, 41 on history, 103
on philosophy, and 175 on poetry were copied out and inserted in the
Imperial Library.

Many names of illustrious scholars must here, as indeed throughout
this volume, be passed over in silence. Such writers are more than
compensated by the honour they receive from their own countrymen, who
place classical scholarship at the very summit of human ambitions, and
rank the playwright and the novelist as mere parasites of literature.
Between these two extremes there is always to be found a great deal
of general writing, which, while it satisfies the fastidious claim of
the Chinese critic for form in preference even to matter, is also of
sufficient interest for the European reader.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: YANG CHI-SHÊNG]

YANG CHI-SHÊNG (1515-1556) was a statesman and a patriot, who
had been a cowherd in his youth. He first got himself into trouble by
opposing the establishment of a horse-market on the frontier, between
China and Tartary, as menacing the safety of his country. Restored to
favour after temporary degradation, he impeached a colleague, now known
as the worst of the Six Traitorous Ministers of the Ming dynasty. His
adversary was too strong for him. Yang was sent to prison, and three
years later his head fell. His name has no place in literature; nor
would it be mentioned here except as an introduction to an impassioned
memorial which his wife addressed to the Emperor on her husband’s

“May it please your Majesty,--My husband was chief Minister in the
Cavalry Department of the Board of War. Because he advised your Majesty
against the establishment of a tradal mart, hoping to prevent Ch’ou
Luan from carrying out his design, he was condemned only to a mild
punishment; and then, when the latter suffered defeat, he was restored
to favour and to his former honours.

“Thereafter, my husband was for ever seeking to make some return for
the Imperial clemency. He would deprive himself of sleep. He would
abstain from food. All this I saw with my own eyes. By and by, however,
he gave ear to some idle rumour of the market-place, and the old habit
came strong upon him. He lost his mental balance. He uttered wild
statements, and again incurred the displeasure of the Throne. Yet he
was not slain forthwith. His punishment was referred to the Board. He
was beaten; he was thrown into prison. Several times he nearly died.
His flesh was hollowed out beneath the scourge; the sinews of his legs
were severed. Blood flowed from him in bowlfuls, splashing him from
head to foot. Confined day and night in a cage, he endured the utmost

“Then our crops failed, and daily food was wanting in our
poverty-stricken home. I strove to earn money by spinning, and worked
hard for the space of three years, during which period the Board twice
addressed the Throne, receiving on each occasion an Imperial rescript
that my husband was to await his fate in gaol. But now I hear your
Majesty has determined that my husband shall die, in accordance with
the statutes of the Empire. Die as he may, his eyes will close in peace
with your Majesty, while his soul seeks the realms below.

“Yet I know that your Majesty has a humane and kindly heart; and
when the creeping things of the earth,--nay, the very trees and
shrubs,--share in the national tranquillity, it is hard to think that
your Majesty would grudge a pitying glance upon our fallen estate. And
should we be fortunate enough to attract the Imperial favour to our
lowly affairs, that would be joy indeed. But if my husband’s crime is
of too deep a dye, I humbly beg that my head may pay the penalty, and
that I be permitted to die for him. Then, from the far-off land of
spirits, myself brandishing spear and shield, I will lead forth an army
of fierce hobgoblins to do battle in your Majesty’s behalf, and thus
make some return for this act of Imperial grace.”

“The force of language,” says the commentator, “can no farther go.”
Yet this memorial, “the plaintive tones of which,” he adds, “appeal
direct to the heart,” was never allowed to reach the Emperor. Twelve
years later, the Minister impeached by Yang Chi-shêng was dismissed for
scandalous abuse of power, and had all his property confiscated. Being
reduced to beggary, he received from the Emperor a handsome silver bowl
in which to collect alms; but so universally hated was he that no one
would either give him anything or venture to buy the bowl, and he died
of starvation while still in the possession of wealth.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: SHÊN SU]

A curiously similar case, with a happier ending, was that of SHÊN
SU, who, in the discharge of his duties as Censor, also denounced
the same Minister, before whose name the word “traitorous” is now
always inserted. Shên Su was thrown into prison, and remained there for
fifteen years. He was released in consequence of the following memorial
by his wife, of which the commentator says, “for every drop of ink a
drop of blood”:--

“May it please your Majesty,--My husband was a Censor attached to the
Board of Rites. For his folly in recklessly advising your Majesty, he
deserved indeed a thousand deaths; yet under the Imperial clemency he
was doomed only to await his sentence in prison.

“Since then fourteen years have passed away. His aged parents are
still alive, but there are no children in his hall, and the wretched
man has none on whom he can rely. I alone remain--a lodger at an inn,
working day and night at my needle to provide the necessaries of life;
encompassed on all sides by difficulties; to whom every day seems a

“My father-in-law is eighty-seven years of age. He trembles on the
brink of the grave. He is like a candle in the wind. I have naught
wherewith to nourish him alive or to honour him when dead. I am a
lone woman. If I tend the one, I lose the other. If I return to my
father-in-law, my husband will die of starvation. If I remain to feed
him, my father-in-law may die at any hour. My husband is a criminal
bound in gaol. He dares give no thought to his home. Yet can it be
that when all living things are rejoicing in life under the wise and
generous rule of to-day, we alone should taste the cup of poverty and
distress, and find ourselves beyond the pale of universal peace?

“Oft, as I think of these things, the desire to die comes upon me; but
I swallow my grief and live on, trusting in Providence for some happy
termination, some moistening with the dew of Imperial grace. And now
that my father-in-law is face to face with death; now that my husband
can hardly expect to live--I venture to offer this body as a hostage,
to be bound in prison, while my husband returns to watch over the last
hours of his father. Then, when all is over, he will resume his place
and await your Majesty’s pleasure. Thus my husband will greet his
father once again, and the feelings of father and child will be in some
measure relieved. Thus I shall give to my father-in-law the comfort of
his son, and the duty of a wife towards her husband will be fulfilled.”

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: TSUNG CH’ÊN]

TSUNG CH’ÊN gained some distinction during this sixteenth
century; in youth, by his great beauty, and especially by his
eyes, which were said to flash fire even at the sides; later on,
by subscribing to the funeral expenses of the above-mentioned Yang
Chi-shêng; and finally, by his successful defence of Foochow against
the Japanese, whose forces he enticed into the city by a feint of
surrender, and then annihilated from the walls. The following piece,
which, in the opinion of the commentator, “verges upon trifling,”
is from his correspondence. Several sentences of it have quite a
Juvenalian ring:--

“I was very glad at this distance to receive your letter, which quite
set my mind at rest, together with the present you were so kind as to
add. I thank you very much for your good wishes, and especially for
your thoughtful allusion to my father.

“As to what you are pleased to say in reference to official popularity
and fitness for office, I am much obliged by your remarks. Of my
unfitness I am only too well aware; while as to popularity with my
superiors, I am utterly unqualified to secure that boon.

“How indeed does an official find favour in the present day with his
chief? Morning and evening he must whip up his horse and go dance
attendance at the great man’s door. If the porter refuses to admit him,
then honeyed words, a coaxing air, and money drawn from the sleeve,
may prevail. The porter takes in his card; but the great man does not
come out. So he waits in the stable among grooms, until his clothes
are charged with the smell, in spite of hunger, in spite of cold, in
spite of a blazing heat. At nightfall, the porter who has pocketed the
money comes forth and says his master is tired and begs to be excused,
and will he call again next day. So he is forced to come once more as
requested. He sits all night in his clothes. At cock-crow he jumps up,
performs his toilette, and gallops off and knocks at the entrance gate.
‘Who’s there?’ shouts the porter angrily; and when he explains, the
porter gets still more angry and begins to abuse him, saying, ‘You are
in a fine hurry, you are! Do you think my master sees people at this
hour?’ Then is the visitor shamed, but has to swallow his wrath and
try to persuade the porter to let him in. And the porter, another fee
to the good, gets up and lets him in; and then he waits again in the
stable as before, until perhaps the great man comes out and summons him
to an audience.

“Now, with many an obeisance, he cringes timidly towards the foot of
the daïs steps; and when the great man says ‘Come!’ he prostrates
himself twice and remains long without rising. At length he goes up to
offer his present, which the great man refuses. He entreats acceptance;
but in vain. He implores, with many instances; whereupon the great man
bids a servant take it. Then two more prostrations, long drawn out;
after which he arises, and with five or six salutations he takes his

“On going forth, he bows to the porter, saying, ‘It’s all right
with your master. Next time I come you need make no delay.’ The
porter returns the bow, well pleased with his share in the business.
Meanwhile, our friend springs on his horse, and when he meets an
acquaintance flourishes his whip and cries out, ‘I have just been
with His Excellency. He treated me very kindly, very kindly indeed.’
And then he goes into detail, upon which his friends begin to be more
respectful to him as a _protégé_ of His Excellency. The great man
himself says, ‘So-and-so is a good fellow, a very good fellow indeed;’
upon which the bystanders of course declare that they think so too.

“Such is popularity with one’s superiors in the present day. Do
you think that I could be as one of these? No! Beyond sending in a
complimentary card at the summer and winter festivals, I do not go
near the great from one year’s end to another. Even when I pass their
doors I stuff my ears and cover my eyes, and gallop quickly by, as if
some one was after me. In consequence of this want of breadth, I am of
course no favourite with the authorities; but what care I? There is a
destiny that shapes our ends, and it has shaped mine towards the path
of duty alone. For which, no doubt, you think me an ass.”

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: WANG TAO-K’UN]

WANG TAO-K’UN took his third degree in 1547. His instincts
seemed to be all for a soldier’s life, and he rose to be a successful
commander. He found ample time, however, for books, and came to occupy
an honourable place among contemporary writers. His works, which,
according to one critic, are “polished in style and lofty in tone,”
have been published in a uniform edition, and are still read. The
following is a cynical skit upon the corruption of his day:--

“A retainer was complaining to Po Tzŭ that no one in the district knew
how to get on.

“‘You gentlemen,’ said he, ‘are like square handles which you would
thrust into the round sockets of your generation. Consequently, there
is not one of you which fits.’

“‘You speak truth,’ replied Po Tzŭ; ‘kindly explain how this is so.’

“‘There are five reasons,’ said the retainer, ‘why you are at
loggerheads with the age, as follows:--

“‘(1) The path to popularity lies straight before you, but you will not
follow it.

“‘(2) Other men’s tongues reach the soft places in the hearts of their
superiors, but your tongues are too short.

“‘(3) Others eschew fur robes, and approach with bent backs as if their
very clothes were too heavy for them; but you remain as stiff-necked as

“‘(4) Others respond even before they are called, and seek to
anticipate the wishes of their superiors; whose enemies, were they
the saints above, would not escape abuse; whose friends, were they
highwaymen and thieves, would be larded over with praise. But you--you
stick at facts and express opinions adverse to those of your superiors,
whom it is your special interest to conciliate.

“‘(5) Others make for gain as though bent upon shooting a pheasant,
watching in secret and letting fly with care, so that nothing escapes
their aim. But you--you hardly bend your bow, or bend it only to miss
the quarry that lies within your reach.

“‘One of these five failings is like a tumour hanging to you and
impeding your progress in life. How much more all of them!’

“‘It is indeed as you state,’ answered Po Tzŭ. ‘But would you bid me
cut these tumours away? A man may have a tumour and live. To cut it
off is to die. And life with a tumour is better than death without.
Besides, beauty is a natural gift; and the woman who tried to look like
Hsi Shih only succeeded in frightening people out of their wits by her
ugliness. Now it is my misfortune to have these tumours, which make me
more loathsome even than that woman. Still, I can always, so to speak,
stick to my needle and my cooking-pots, and strive to make my good
man happy. There is no occasion for me to proclaim my ugliness in the

“‘Ah, sir,’ said the retainer, ‘now I know why there are so many ugly
people about, and so little beauty in the land.’”

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: HSÜ HSIEH]

HSÜ HSIEH graduated as Senior Classic in 1601, and received an
appointment in the Han-lin College, where all kinds of State documents
are prepared under the superintendence of eminent scholars. Dying
young, he left behind him the reputation of a cross-grained man, with
whom it was difficult to get along, ardently devoted to study. He swore
that if it were granted to him to acquire a brilliant style, he would
jump into the sea to circulate his writings. The following piece is
much admired. “It is completed,” says a commentator, “with the breath
of a yawn (with a single effort), and is like a heavenly robe, without
seam. The reader looks in vain for paragraphing in this truly inspired

“For some years I had possessed an old inkstand, left at my house by
a friend. It came into ordinary use as such, I being unaware that
it was an antique. However, one day a connoisseur told me it was at
least a thousand years old, and urged me to preserve it carefully as
a valuable relic. This I did, but never took any further trouble to
ascertain whether such was actually the case or not. For supposing
that this inkstand really dated from the period assigned, its then
owner must have regarded it simply as an inkstand. He could not have
known that it was destined to survive the wreck of time and to come to
be cherished as an antique. And while we prize it now, because it has
descended to us from a distant past, we forget that then, when antiques
were relics of a still earlier period, it could not have been of any
value to antiquarians, themselves the moderns of what is antiquity to
us! The surging crowd around us thinks of naught but the acquisition
of wealth and material enjoyment, occupied only with the struggle for
place and power. Men lift their skirts and hurry through the mire; they
suffer indignity and feel no sense of shame. And if from out this mass
there arises one spirit purer and simpler than the rest, striving to
tread a nobler path than they, and amusing his leisure, for his own
gratification, with guitars, and books, and pictures, and other relics
of olden times,--such a man is indeed a genuine lover of the antique.
He can never be one of the common herd, though the common herd always
affect to admire whatever is admittedly admirable. In the same way,
persons who aim at advancement in their career will spare no endeavour
to collect the choicest rarities, in order, by such gifts, to curry
favour with their superiors, who in their turn will take pleasure in
ostentatious display of their collections of antiquities. Such is but
a specious hankering after antiques, arising simply from a desire
to eclipse one’s neighbours. Such men are not genuine lovers of the
antique. Their tastes are those of the common herd after all, though
they make a great show and filch the reputation of true antiquarians,
in the hope of thus distinguishing themselves from their fellows,
ignorant as they are that what they secure is the name alone without
the reality. The man whom I call a genuine antiquarian is he who
studies the writings of the ancients, and strives to form himself upon
their model, though unable to greet them in the flesh; who ever and
anon, in his wanderings up and down the long avenue of the past, lights
upon some choice fragment which brings him in an instant face to face
with the immortal dead. Of such enjoyment there is no satiety. Those
who truly love antiquity, love not the things, but the men of old,
since a relic in the present is much what it was in the past,--a mere
thing. And so if it is not to things, but rather to men, that devotion
is due, then even I may aspire to be some day an antique. Who shall say
that centuries hence an antiquarian of the day may not look up to me as
I have looked up to my predecessors? Should I then neglect myself, and
foolishly devote my energies to trifling with things?

“Such is popular enthusiasm in these matters. It is shadow without
substance. But the theme is endless, and I shall therefore content
myself with a passing record of my old inkstand.”

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: LI SHIH-CHÊN]

This chapter may close with the names of two remarkable men. LI
SHIH-CHÊN completed in 1578, after twenty-six years of unremitting
labour, his great Materia Medica. In 1596 the manuscript was laid
before the Emperor, who ordered it to be printed forthwith. It deals
(1) with Inanimate substances; (2) with Plants; and (3) with Animals,
and is illustrated by over 1100 woodcuts. The introductory chapter
passes in review forty-two previous works of importance on the same
subject, enumerating no fewer than 950 miscellaneous publications on
a variety of subjects. The famous “doctrine of signatures,” which
supposes that the uses of plants and substances are indicated to man by
certain appearances peculiar to them, figures largely in this work.

HSÜ KUANG-CH’I (1562-1634) is generally regarded as the only
influential member of the mandarinate who has ever become a convert
to Christianity. After graduating first among the candidates for
the second degree in 1597 and taking his final degree in 1604, he
enrolled himself as a pupil of Matteo Ricci, and studied under his
guidance to such purpose that he was able to produce works on the
new system of astronomy as introduced by the Jesuit Fathers, besides
various treatises on mathematical science. He was also author of an
encyclopædia of agriculture of considerable value, first published in
1640. This work is illustrated with numerous woodcuts, and treats of
the processes and implements of husbandry, of rearing silkworms, of
breeding animals, of the manufacture of food, and even of precautions
to be taken against famine. The Jesuit Fathers themselves scattered
broadcast over China a large number of propagandist publications,
written in polished book-style, some few of which are still
occasionally to be found in old book-shops.


[33] On the 23rd June 1900, almost while these words were being
written, the Han-lin College was burnt to the ground. The writer’s
youngest son, Mr. Lancelot Giles, who went through the siege of Peking,
writes as follows:--“An attempt was made to save the famous _Yung Lo
Ta Tien_, but heaps of volumes had been destroyed, so the attempt was
given up. I secured vol. 13,345 for myself.”



Novels were produced in considerable numbers under the Ming dynasty,
but the names of their writers, except in a very few cases, have
not been handed down. The marvellous work known as the _Ch’in P’ing
Mei_, from the names of three of the chief female characters, has
been attributed to the grave scholar and statesman, Wang Shih-chêng
(1526-1593); but this is more a guess than anything else. So also is
the opinion that it was produced in the seventeenth century, as a
covert satire upon the morals of the Court of the great Emperor K’ang
Hsi. The story itself refers to the early part of the twelfth century,
and is written in a simple, easy style, closely approaching the Peking
colloquial. It possesses one extraordinary characteristic. Many words
and phrases are capable of two interpretations, one of which is of a
class which renders such passages unfit for ears polite. Altogether the
book is objectionable, and would require a translator with the nerve of
a Burton.

       *       *       *       *       *

The _Yü Chiao Li_ is a tale of the fifteenth century which has found
much favour in the eyes of foreigners, partly because it is of an
unusually moderate length. The ordinary Chinaman likes his novels long,
and does not mind plenty of repetitions after the style of Homer,
which latter feature seems to point in the direction of stories told by
word of mouth and written down later on, and may be taken in connection
with the opinion already expressed, that the Chinese novel came
originally from Central Asia. Here, however, in four small volumes, we
have a charming story of a young graduate who falls in love first with
a beautiful and accomplished poetess, and then with the fascinating
sister of a fascinating friend whose acquaintance--the brother’s--he
makes casually by the roadside. The friend and the sister turn out to
be one and the same person, a very lively girl, who appears in male
or female dress as occasion may require; and what is more, the latter
young lady turns out to be the much-loved orphan cousin of the first
and still cherished young lady, and also her intellectual equal. The
graduate is madly in love with the two girls, and they are irrevocably
in love with him. This is a far simpler matter than it would be in
Western countries. The hero marries both, and all three live happily
ever afterwards.

       *       *       *       *       *


The _Lieh Kuo Chuan_, anonymous as usual, is a historical novel dealing
with the exciting times of the Feudal States, and covering the period
between the eighth century B.C. and the union of China under
the First Emperor. It is introduced to the reader in these words:--

“The _Lieh Kuo_ is not like an ordinary novel, which consists mainly of
what is not true. Thus the _Fêng Shên_ (a tale of the twelfth century
B.C.), the _Shui Hu_, the _Hsi Yu Chi_, and others, are pure
fabrications. Even the _San Kuo Chih_, which is very near to truth,
contains much that is without foundation. Not so the _Lieh Kuo_. There
every incident is a real incident, every speech a real speech. Besides,
as there is far more to tell than could possibly be told, it is not
likely that the writer would go out of his way to invent. Wherefore the
reader must look upon the _Lieh Kuo_ as a genuine history, and not as a
mere novel.”

The following extract refers to a bogus exhibition, planned by the
scheming State of Ch’in, nominally to make a collection of valuables
and hand them over as respectful tribute to the sovereign House of
Chou, but really with a view to a general massacre of the rival nobles
who stood in the way between the Ch’ins and their treasonable designs:--

“Duke Ai of Ch’in now proceeded with his various officers of State to
prepare a place for the proposed exhibition, at the same time setting
a number of armed men in ambuscade, with a view to carry out his
ambitious designs; and when he heard that the other nobles had arrived,
he went out and invited them to come in. The usual ceremonies over, and
the nobles having taken their seats according to precedence, Duke Ai
addressed the meeting as follows:--

“‘I, having reverently received the commission of the Son of Heaven,
do hereby open this assembly for the exhibition of such valuables as
may be brought together from all parts of the empire, the same to be
subsequently packed together, and forwarded as tribute to our Imperial
master. And since you nobles are now all collected here in this place,
it is fitting that our several exhibits be forthwith produced and
submitted for adjudication.’

“Sounds of assent from the nobles were heard at the conclusion of this
speech, but the Prime Minister of the Ch’i State, conscious that the
atmosphere was heavily laden with the vapour of death, as if from
treacherous ambush, stepped forward and said:--

“‘Of old, when the nobles were wont to assemble, it was customary to
appoint one just and upright member to act as arbiter or judge of
the meeting; and now that we have thus met for the purposes of this
exhibition, I propose, in the interest of public harmony, that some one
of us be nominated arbiter in a similar way.’

“Duke Ai readily agreed to the above proposition, and immediately
demanded of the assembled nobles who among them would venture to accept
the office indicated. These words were scarcely out of his mouth when
up rose Pien Chuang, generalissimo of the forces of Chêng, and declared
that he was ready to undertake the post. Duke Ai then asked him upon
what grounds, as to personal ability, he based his claim; to which Pien
Chuang replied, ‘Of ability I have little indeed, but I have slain a
tiger with one blow of my fist, and in martial prowess I am second to
none. Upon this I base my claim.’

“Accordingly, Duke Ai called for a golden tablet, and was on the point
of investing him as arbiter of the exhibition, when a voice was heard
from among the retainers of the Wu State, loudly urging, ‘The slayer of
a tiger need be possessed only of physical courage; but how is that a
sufficient recommendation for this office? Delay awhile, I pray, until
I come and take the tablet myself.’

“By this time Duke Ai had seen that the speaker was K’uai Hui, son of
the Duke of Wei, and forthwith inquired of him what his particular
claim to the post might be. ‘I cut the head off a deadly dragon, and
for that feat I claim this post.’ Duke Ai thereupon ordered Pien Chuang
to transfer to him the golden tablet; but this he refused to do,
arguing that the slaughter of a dragon was simply a magician’s trick,
and not at all to the present purpose. He added that if the tablet was
to be taken from him, it would necessitate an appeal to force between
himself and his rival. The contest continued thus for some time,
until at length the Prime Minister of Ch’i rose again, and solved the
difficulty in the following terms:--

“‘The slaughter of a tiger involves physical courage, and the slaughter
of a dragon is a magician’s trick; hence, neither of these acts
embraces that combination of mental and physical power which we desire
in the arbiter of this meeting. Now, in front of the palace there
stands a sacrificial vessel which weighs about a thousand pounds.
Let Duke Ai give out a theme; and then let him who replies thereto
with most clearness and accuracy, and who can, moreover, seize the
aforesaid vessel, and carry it round the platform on which the eighteen
representative nobles are seated, be nominated to the post of arbiter
and receive the golden tablet.’

“To this plan Duke Ai assented; and writing down a theme, bade his
attendants exhibit it among the heroes of the assembled States. The
theme was in rhyme, and contained these eight lines:--

  ‘_Say what supports the sky; say what supports the earth;
  What is the mystic number which to the universe gave birth?
  Whence come the eddying waves of the river’s rolling might?
  Where shall we seek the primal germ of the mountain’s towering height?
  By which of the elements five is the work of Nature done?
  And of all the ten thousand things that are, say which is the
      wondrous ~one~?
  Such are the questions seven which I now propound to you;
  And he who can answer them straight and well is the trusty man
      and true._’

“The theme had hardly been uttered, when up started Chi Nien,
generalissimo of the Ch’in State, and cried out, ‘This is but a
question of natural philosophy; what difficulty is there in it?’ He
thereupon advanced to the front, and, having obtained permission to
compete, seized a stylus and wrote down the following reply:--

  ‘_Nothing supports the sky; nothing supports the earth;
  How can we guess at the number which to the universe gave birth?
  From the reaches above come the eddying waves of the river’s
      rolling might:
  How can we tell where to look for the germ of the mountain’s towering
  By every one of the elements five is the work of Nature done;
  And of all the ten thousand things that are there is no particular
  There you have my replies to the questions set by you;
  And the arbiter’s post I hereby claim as the trusty man and true._’

“Chi Nien, having delivered this answer, proceeded to tuck up his
robe, and, passing to the front of the palace, seized with both hands
the sacrificial vessel, and raised it some two feet from the ground,
his whole face becoming suffused with colour under the effort. At
the same time there arose a great noise of drums and horns, and all
the assembled nobles applauded loudly; whereupon Duke Ai personally
invested him with the golden tablet and proclaimed him arbiter of
the exhibition, for which Chi Nien was just about to return thanks,
when suddenly up jumped Wu Yüan, generalissimo of the Ch’u State, and
coming forward, declared in an angry tone that Chi Nien’s answer did
not dispose of the theme in a proper and final manner; that he had not
removed the sacrificial vessel from its place, and that consequently he
had not earned the appointment which Wu Yüan now contended should be
bestowed upon himself. Duke Ai, in view of his scheme for seizing the
persons of the various nobles, was naturally anxious that the post of
arbiter should fall to one of his own officers, and was much displeased
at this attempt on the part of Wu Yüan; however, he replied that if
the latter could dispose of the theme and carry round the sacrificial
vessel, the office of arbiter would be his. Wu Yüan thereupon took a
stylus and indited the following lines:--

  ‘_The earth supports the sky; the sky supports the earth.
  ~Five~ is the mystic number which to the universe gave birth.
  Down from the sky come the eddying waves of the river’s rolling might.
  In the K’un-lun range we must seek the germ of the mountain’s towering
  By ~truth~, of the elements five, can most good work be done;
  And of all the ten thousand things that are, ~man~ is the wondrous one.
  There you have my replies to the questions set this day;
  The answers are clear and straight to the point, and given without

“As soon as he had finished writing, he handed his reply to Duke Ai,
who at once saw that he had in every way disposed of the theme with
far greater skill than Chi Nien, and accordingly now bade him show
his strength upon the sacrificial vessel. Wu Yüan immediately stepped
forward, and, holding up his robe with his left hand, seized the vessel
with his right, raising it up and bearing it round the platform before
the assembled nobles, and finally depositing it in its original place,
without so much as changing colour. The nobles gazed at each other in
astonishment at this feat, and with one accord declared him to be the
hero of the day; so that Duke Ai had no alternative but to invest him
with the golden tablet and announce his appointment to the post of


The _Ching Hua Yüan_ is a less pretentious work than the preceding, but
of an infinitely more interesting character. Dealing with the reign
of the Empress Wu, who in A.D. 684 set aside the rightful
heir and placed herself upon the throne, which she occupied for
twenty years, this work describes how a young graduate, named T’ang,
disgusted with the establishment of examinations and degrees for women,
set out with a small party on a voyage of exploration. Among all the
strange places which they visited, the most curious was the Country of
Gentlemen, where they landed and proceeded at once to the capital city.

“There, over the city gate, T’ang and his companions read the following

    ‘_Virtue is man’s only jewel!_’

“They then entered the city, which they found to be a busy and
prosperous mart, the inhabitants all talking the Chinese language.
Accordingly, T’ang accosted one of the passers-by, and asked him how it
was his nation had become so famous for politeness and consideration of
others; but, to his great astonishment, the man did not understand the
meaning of his question. T’ang then asked him why this land was called
the ‘Country of Gentlemen,’ to which he likewise replied that he did
not know. Several other persons of whom they inquired giving similar
answers, the venerable To remarked that the term had undoubtedly been
adopted by the inhabitants of adjacent countries, in consequence of
the polite manners and considerate behaviour of these people. ‘For,’
said he, ‘the very labourers in the fields and foot-passengers in the
streets step aside to make room for one another. High and low, rich and
poor, mutually respect each other’s feelings without reference to the
wealth or social status of either; and this is, after all, the essence
of what constitutes the true gentleman.’

“‘In that case,’ cried T’ang, ‘let us not hurry on, but rather improve
ourselves by observing the ways and customs of this people.’

“By and by they arrived at the market-place, where they saw an official
runner standing at a stall engaged in making purchases. He was holding
in his hand the articles he wished to buy, and was saying to the owner
of the stall, ‘Just reflect a moment, sir, how impossible it would be
for me to take these excellent goods at the absurdly low price you are
asking. If you will oblige me by doubling the amount, I shall do myself
the honour of accepting them; otherwise, I cannot but feel that you are
unwilling to do business with me to-day.’

“‘How very funny!’ whispered T’ang to his friends. ‘Here, now, is quite
a different custom from ours, where the buyer invariably tries to beat
down the seller, and the seller to run up the price of his goods as
high as possible. This certainly looks like the ‘consideration for
others’ of which we spoke just now.’

“The man at the stall here replied, ‘Your wish, sir, should be law to
me, I know; but the fact is, I am already overwhelmed with shame at
the high price I have ventured to name. Besides, I do not profess to
adhere rigidly to ‘marked prices,’ which is a mere trick of the trade,
and consequently it should be the aim of every purchaser to make me
lower my terms to the very smallest figure; you, on the contrary,
are trying to raise the price to an exorbitant figure; and although
I fully appreciate your kindness in that respect, I must really ask
you to seek what you require at some other establishment. It is quite
impossible for me to execute your commands.’

“T’ang was again expressing his astonishment at this extraordinary
reversal of the platitudes of trade, when the would-be purchaser
replied, ‘For you, sir, to ask such a low sum for these first-class
goods, and then to turn round and accuse me of over-considering your
interests, is indeed a sad breach of etiquette. Trade could not be
carried on at all if all the advantages were on one side and the losses
on the other; neither am I more devoid of brains than the ordinary run
of people that I should fail to understand this principle and let you
catch me in a trap.’

“So they went on wrangling and jangling, the stall-keeper refusing to
charge any more and the runner insisting on paying his own price, until
the latter made a show of yielding and put down the full sum demanded
on the counter, but took only half the amount of goods. Of course
the stall-keeper would not consent to this, and they would both have
fallen back upon their original positions had not two old gentlemen who
happened to be passing stepped aside and arranged the matter for them,
by deciding that the runner was to pay the full price but to receive
only four-fifths of the goods.

“T’ang and his companions walked on in silence, meditating upon the
strange scene they had just witnessed; but they had not gone many steps
when they came across a soldier similarly engaged in buying things at
an open shop-window. He was saying, ‘When I asked the price of these
goods, you, sir, begged me to take them at my own valuation; but now
that I am willing to do so, you complain of the large sum I offer,
whereas the truth is that it is actually very much below their real
value. Do not treat me thus unfairly.’

“‘It is not for me, sir,’ replied the shopkeeper, ‘to demand a price
for my own goods; my duty is to leave that entirely to you. But the
fact is, that these goods are old stock, and are not even the best of
their kind; you would do much better at another shop. However, let us
say half what you are good enough to offer; even then I feel I shall be
taking a great deal too much. I could not think, sir, of parting with
my goods at your price.’

“‘What is that you are saying, sir?’ cried the soldier. ‘Although not
in the trade myself, I can tell superior from inferior articles, and
am not likely to mistake one for the other. And to pay a low price for
a good article is simply another way of taking money out of a man’s

“‘Sir,’ retorted the shopkeeper, ‘if you are such a stickler for
justice as all that, let us say half the price you first mentioned, and
the goods are yours. If you object to that, I must ask you to take your
custom elsewhere. You will then find that I am not imposing on you.’

“The soldier at first stuck to his text, but seeing that the shopkeeper
was not inclined to give way, he laid down the sum named and began
to take his goods, picking out the very worst he could find. Here,
however, the shopkeeper interposed, saying, ‘Excuse me, sir, but you
are taking all the bad ones. It is doubtless very kind of you to leave
the best for me, but if all men were like you there would be a general
collapse of trade.’

“‘Sir,’ replied the soldier, ‘as you insist on accepting only half
the value of the goods, there is no course open to me but to choose
inferior articles. Besides, as a matter of fact, the best kind will
not answer my purpose so well as the second or third best; and although
I fully recognise your good intentions, I must really ask to be allowed
to please myself.’

“‘There is no objection, sir,’ said the shopkeeper, ‘to your pleasing
yourself, but low-class goods are sold at a low price, and do not
command the same rates as superior articles.’

“Thus they went on bandying arguments for a long time without coming to
any definite agreement, until at last the soldier picked up the things
he had chosen and tried to make off with them. The bystanders, however,
all cried shame upon him and said he was a downright cheat, so that he
was ultimately obliged to take some of the best kind and some of the
inferior kind and put an end to the altercation.

“A little farther on our travellers saw a countryman who had just
paid the price of some purchases he had succeeded in making, and was
hurrying away with them, when the shopkeeper called after him, ‘Sir!
sir! you have paid me by mistake in finer silver than we are accustomed
to use here, and I have to allow you a considerable discount in
consequence. Of course this is a mere trifle to a gentleman of your
rank and position, but still for my own sake I must ask leave to make
it all right with you.’

“‘Pray don’t mention such a small matter,’ replied the countryman, ‘but
oblige me by putting the amount to my credit for use at a future date
when I come again to buy some more of your excellent wares.’

“‘No, no,’ answered the shopkeeper, ‘you don’t catch old birds with
chaff. That trick was played upon me last year by another gentleman,
and to this day I have never set eyes upon him again, though I have
made every endeavour to find out his whereabouts. As it is, I can now
only look forward to repaying him in the next life; but if I let you
take me in in the same way, why, when the next life comes and I am
changed, maybe into a horse or a donkey, I shall have quite enough to
do to find him, and your debt will go dragging on till the life after
that. No, no, there is no time like the present; hereafter I might very
likely forget what was the exact sum I owed you.’

“They continued to argue the point until the countryman consented to
accept a trifle as a set-off against the fineness of his silver, and
went away with his goods, the shopkeeper bawling after him as long
as he was in sight that he had sold him inferior articles at a high
rate, and was positively defrauding him of his money. The countryman,
however, got clear away, and the shopkeeper returned to his grumbling
at the iniquity of the age. Just then a beggar happened to pass, and so
in anger at having been compelled to take more than his due he handed
him the difference. ‘Who knows,’ said he, ‘but that the present misery
of this poor fellow may be retribution for overcharging people in a
former life?’

“‘Ah,’ said T’ang, when he had witnessed the finale of this little
drama, ‘truly this is the behaviour of gentlemen!’

“Our travellers then fell into conversation with two
respectable-looking old men who said they were brothers, and accepted
their invitation to go and take a cup of tea together. Their hosts
talked eagerly about China, and wished to hear many particulars of ‘the
first nation in the world.’ Yet, while expressing their admiration
for the high literary culture of its inhabitants and their unqualified
successes in the arts and sciences, they did not hesitate to stigmatise
as unworthy a great people certain usages which appeared to them
deserving of the utmost censure. They laughed at the superstitions of
Fêng-Shui, and wondered how intelligent men could be imposed upon year
after year by the mountebank professors of such baseless nonsense. ‘If
it is true,’ said one of them, ‘that the selection of an auspicious day
and a fitting spot for the burial of one’s father or mother is certain
to bring prosperity to the survivors, how can you account for the fact
that the geomancers themselves are always a low, poverty-stricken
lot? Surely they would begin by appropriating the very best positions
themselves, and so secure whatever good fortune might happen to be in
want of an owner.’

“Then again with regard to bandaging women’s feet in order to reduce
their size. ‘We can see no beauty,’ said they, ‘in such monstrosities
as the feet of your ladies. Small noses are usually considered more
attractive than large ones; but what would be said of a man who sliced
a piece off his own nose in order to reduce it within proper limits?’

“And thus the hours slipped pleasantly away until it was time to bid
adieu to their new friends and regain their ship.”

       *       *       *       *       *


The _Chin Ku Ch’i Kuan_, or Marvellous Tales, Ancient and Modern, is a
great favourite with the romance-reading Chinaman. It is a collection
of forty stories said to have been written towards the close of
the Ming dynasty by the members of a society who held meetings for
that purpose. Translations of many, if not all, of these have been
published. The style is easy, very unlike that of the _P’ing Shan Lêng
Yen_, a well-known novel in what would be called a high-class literary
style, being largely made up of stilted dialogue and over-elaborated
verse composed at the slightest provocation by the various characters
in the story. These were P’ing and Yen, two young students in love
with Shan and Lêng, two young poetesses who charmed even more by their
literary talent than by their fascinating beauty. On one occasion a
pretended poet, named Sung, who was a suitor for the hand of Miss Lêng,
had been entertained by her uncle, and after dinner the party wandered
about in the garden. Miss Lêng was summoned, and when writing materials
had been produced, as usual on such occasions, Mr. Sung was asked to
favour the company with a sonnet. “Excuse me,” he replied, “but I have
taken rather too much wine for verse-making just now.” “Why,” rejoined
Miss Lêng, “it was after a gallon of wine that Li Po dashed off a
hundred sonnets, and so gained a name which will live for a thousand
generations.” “Of course I could compose,” said Mr. Sung, “even after
drinking, but I might become coarse. It is better to be fasting, and
to feel quite clear in the head. Then the style is more finished, and
the verse more pleasing.” “Ts’ao Chih,” retorted Miss Lêng, “composed a
sonnet while taking only seven steps, and his fame will be remembered
for ever. Surely occasion has nothing to do with the matter.” In the
midst of Mr. Sung’s confusion, the uncle proposed that the former
should set a theme for Miss Lêng instead, to which he consented, and on
looking about him caught sight through the open window of a paper kite,
which he forthwith suggested, hoping in his heart to completely puzzle
the sarcastic young lady. However, in the time that it takes to drink a
cup of tea, she had thrown off the following lines:--

  “_Cunningly made to look like a bird,
  It cheats fools and little children.
  It has a body of bamboo, light and thin,
  And flowers painted on it, as though something wonderful.
  Blown by the wind it swaggers in the sky,
  Bound by a string it is unable to move.
  Do not laugh at its sham feet,
  If it fell, you would see only a dry and empty frame._”

All this was intended in ridicule of Mr. Sung himself and of his
personal appearance, and is a fair sample of what the reader may expect

       *       *       *       *       *

The _Erh Tou Mei_, or “Twice Flowering Plum-trees,” belongs to the
sixteenth or seventeenth century, and is by an unknown author. It is
a novel with a purpose, being apparently designed to illustrate the
beauty of filial piety, the claims of friendship, and duty to one’s
neighbour in general. Written in a simple style, with no wealth of
classical allusion to soothe the feelings of the pedant, it contains
several dramatic scenes, and altogether forms a good panorama of
Chinese everyday life. Two heroes are each in love with two heroines,
and just as in the _Yü Chiao Li_, each hero marries both. There is a
slender thread of fact running through the tale, the action of which
is placed in the eighth century, and several of the characters are
actually historical. One of the four lovely heroines, in order to
keep peace between China and the Tartar tribes which are continually
harrying the borders, decides to sacrifice herself on the altar of
patriotism and become the bride of the Khan. The parting at the
frontier is touchingly described; but the climax is reached when,
on arrival at her destination, she flings herself headlong over a
frightful precipice, rather than pass into the power of the hated
barbarian, a waiting-maid being dressed up in her clothes and handed
over to the unsuspecting Khan. She herself does not die. Caught upon
a purple cloud, she is escorted back to her own country by a bevy of
admiring angels.

There is also an effective scene, from which the title of the book
is derived, when the plum trees, whose flowers had been scattered by
a storm of wind and rain, gave themselves up to fervent prayer. “The
Garden Spirit heard their earnest supplications, and announced them
to the Guardian Angel of the town, who straightway flew up to heaven
and laid them at the feet of God.” The trees were then suffered to put
forth new buds, and soon bloomed again, more beautiful than ever.

       *       *       *       *       *

The production of plays was well sustained through the Ming
dynasty, for the simple reason that the Drama, whether an exotic
or a development within the boundaries of the Middle Kingdom, had
emphatically come to stay. It had caught on, and henceforth forms
the ideal pastime of the cultured, reflective scholar, and of the
laughter-loving masses of the Chinese people.

[Sidenote: KAO TSÊ-CH’ÊNG]

The _P’i Pa Chi_, or “Story of the Guitar,” stands easily at the head
of the list, being ranked by some admirers as the very finest of all
Chinese plays. It is variously arranged in various editions under
twenty-four or forty-two scenes; and many liberties have been taken
with the text, long passages having been interpolated and many other
changes made. It was first performed in 1704, and was regarded as a
great advance in the dramatic art upon the early plays of the Mongols.
The author’s name was KAO TSÊ-CH’ÊNG, and his hero is said to
have been taken from real life in the person of a friend who actually
rose from poverty to rank and affluence. The following is an outline of
the plot.

A brilliant young graduate and his beautiful wife are living, as is
customary, with the husband’s parents. The father urges the son to go
to the capital and take his final degree. “At fifteen,” says the old
man, “study; at thirty, act.” The mother, however, is opposed to this
plan, and declares that they cannot get along without their son. She
tells a pitiful tale of another youth who went to the capital, and
after infinite suffering was appointed Master of a Workhouse, only to
find that his parents had already preceded him thither in the capacity
of paupers. The young man finally decides to do his duty to the Son of
Heaven, and forthwith sets off, leaving the family to the kind care of
a benevolent friend. He undergoes the examination, which in the play is
turned into ridicule, and comes out in the coveted position of Senior
Classic. The Emperor then instructs one of his Ministers to take the
Senior Classic as a son-in-law; but our hero refuses, on the ground, so
it is whispered, that the lady’s feet are too large. The Minister is
then compelled to put on pressure, and the marriage is solemnised, this
part of the play concluding with an effective scene, in which on being
asked by his new wife to sing, our hero suggests such songs as “Far
from his True Love,” and others in a similar style. Even when he agrees
to sing “The Wind through the Pines,” he drops unwittingly into “Oh for
my home once more;” and then when recalled to his senses, he relapses
again into a song about a deserted wife.

Meanwhile misfortunes have overtaken the family left behind. There
has been a famine, the public granaries have been discovered to be
empty instead of full, and the parents and wife have been reduced to
starvation. The wife exerts herself to the utmost, selling all her
jewels to buy food; and when at length, after her mother-in-law’s
death, her father-in-law dies too, she cuts off her hair and tries
to sell it in order to buy a coffin, being prevented only by the old
friend who has throughout lent what assistance he could. The next thing
is to raise a tumulus over the grave. This she tries to do with her own
hands, but falls asleep from fatigue. The Genius of the Hills sees her
in this state, and touched by her filial devotion, summons the white
monkey of the south and the black tiger of the north, spirits who, with
the aid of their subordinates, complete the tumulus in less than no
time. On awaking, she recognises supernatural intervention, and then
determines to start for the capital in search of her husband, against
whom she entertains very bitter feelings. She first sets to work to
paint the portraits of his deceased parents, and then with these for
exhibition as a means of obtaining alms, and with her guitar, she takes
her departure. Before her arrival the husband has heard by a letter,
forged in order to get a reward, that his father and mother are both
well, and on their way to rejoin him. He therefore goes to a temple
to pray Buddha for a safe conduct, and there picks up the rolled-up
pictures of his father and mother which have been dropped by his wife,
who has also visited the temple to ask for alms. The picture is sent
unopened to his study. And now the wife, in continuing her search,
accidentally gains admission to her husband’s house, and is kindly
received by the second wife. After a few misunderstandings the truth
comes out, and the second wife, who is in full sympathy with the first,
recommends her to step into the study and leave a note for the husband.
This note, in the shape of some uncomplimentary verses, is found by the
latter together with the pictures which have been hung up against the
wall; the second wife introduces the first; there is an explanation;
and the curtain, if there was such a thing in a Chinese theatre, would
fall upon the final happiness of the husband and his two wives.

Of course, in the above sketch of a play, which is about as long as
one of Shakespeare’s, a good many side-touches have been left out. Its
chief beauties, according to Chinese critics, are to be found in the
glorification of duty to the sovereign, of filial piety to a husband’s
parents, and of accommodating behaviour on the part of the second wife
tending so directly to the preservation of peace under complicated
circumstances. The forged letter is looked upon as a weak spot, as
the hero would know his father’s handwriting, and so with other
points which it has been suggested should be cut out. “But because a
stork’s neck is too long,” says an editor, “you can’t very well remedy
the defect by taking a piece off.” On the other hand, the pathetic
character of the play gives it a high value with the Chinese; for, as
we are told in the prologue, “it is much easier to make people laugh
than cry.” And if we can believe all that is said on this score, every
successive generation has duly paid its tribute of tears to the _P’i Pa



[Sidenote: HSIEH CHIN]

Though the poetry of the Ming dynasty shows little falling off, in
point of mere volume, there are far fewer great poets to be found
than under the famous Houses of T’ang and Sung. The name, however,
which stands first in point of chronological sequence, is one which
is widely known. HSIEH CHIN (1369-1415) was born when the
dynasty was but a year old, and took his final degree before he had
passed the age of twenty. His precocity had already gained for him the
reputation of being an Inspired Boy, and, later on, the Emperor took
such a fancy to him, that while Hsieh Chin was engaged in writing, his
Majesty would often deign to hold the ink-slab. He was President of the
Commission which produced the huge encyclopædia already described, but
he is now chiefly known as the author of what appears to be a didactic
poem of about 150 lines, which may be picked up at any bookstall. It
is necessary to say “about 150 lines,” since no two editions give
identically the same number of lines, or even the same text to each
line. It is also very doubtful if Hsieh Chin actually wrote such a
poem. In many editions, lines are boldly stolen from the early Han
poetry and pitchforked in without rhyme or reason, thus making the
transitions even more awkward than they otherwise would be. All
editors seem to be agreed upon the four opening lines, which state
that the Son of Heaven holds heroes in high esteem, that his Majesty
urges all to study diligently, and that everything in this world is
second-class, with the sole exception of book-learning. It is in fact
the old story that

  “_Learning is better than house or land;
  For when house and land are gone and spent,
  Then learning is most excellent._”

Farther on we come to four lines often quoted as enumerating the four
greatest happinesses in life, to wit,

  “_A gentle rain after long drought,
  Meeting an old friend in a foreign clime,
  The joys of the wedding-day,
  One’s name on the list of successful candidates._”

The above lines occur _à propos_ of nothing in particular, and are
closely followed in some editions by more precepts on the subject of
earnest application. Then after reading that the Classics are the best
fields to cultivate, we come upon four lines with a dash of real poetry
in them:--

  “_Man in his youth-time’s rosy glow,
    The pink peach flowering in the glade....
  Why, yearly, when spring breezes blow,
    Does each one flush a deeper shade?_”

More injunctions to burn the midnight oil are again strangely followed
by a suggestion that three cups of wine induce serenity of mind, and
that if a man is but dead drunk, all his cares disappear, which is only
another way of saying that

  “_The best of life is but intoxication._”

Altogether, this poem is clearly a patchwork, of which some parts may
have come from Hsieh Chin’s pen. Here is a short poem of his in defence
of official venality, about which there is no doubt:--

  “_In vain hands bent on sacrifice
            or clasped in prayer we see;
  The ways of God are not exactly
            what those ways should be.
  The swindler and the ruffian
            lead pleasant lives enough,
  While judgments overtake the good
            and many a sharp rebuff.
  The swaggering bully stalks along
            as blithely as you please,
  While those who never miss their prayers
            are martyrs to disease.
  And if great God Almighty fails
            to keep the balance true,
  What can we hope that paltry
            mortal magistrates will do?_”

The writer came to a tragic end. By supporting the claim of the eldest
prince to be named heir apparent, he made a lasting enemy of another
son, who succeeded in getting him banished on one charge, and then
imprisoned on a further charge. After four years’ confinement he was
made drunk, probably without much difficulty, and was buried under a
heap of snow.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Emperor who reigned between 1522 and 1566 as the eleventh of his
line was not a very estimable personage, especially in the latter years
of his life, when he spent vast sums over palaces and temples, and
wasted most of his time in seeking after the elixir of life. In 1539
he despatched General Mao to put down a rising in Annam, and gave him
an autograph poem as a send-off. The verses are considered spirited
by Chinese critics, and are frequently given in collections, which
certainly would not be the case if Imperial authorship was their only

  “_Southward, in all the panoply
          of cruel war arrayed,
  See, our heroic general points
          and waves his glittering blade!
  Across the hills and streams
          the lizard-drums terrific roll,
  While glint of myriad banners
          flashes high from pole to pole....
  Go, scion of the Unicorn,
          and prove thy heavenly birth,
  And crush to all eternity
          these insects of the earth;
  And when thou com’st, a conqueror,
          from those wild barbarian lands,
  WE will unhitch thy war-cloak
          with our own Imperial hands!_”

The courtesans of ancient and mediæval China formed a class which now
seems no longer to exist. Like the _hetairæ_ of Greece, they were often
highly educated, and exercised considerable influence. Biographies of
the most famous of these ladies are in existence, extending back to the
seventh century A.D. The following is an extract from that of
Hsieh Su-su, who flourished in the fourteenth century, and “with whom
but few of the beauties of old could compare”:--

“Su-su’s beauty was of a most refined style, with a captivating
sweetness of voice and grace of movement. She was a skilful artist,
sweeping the paper with a few rapid touches, which produced such
speaking effects that few, even of the first rank, could hope to excel
her work. She was a fine horsewoman, and could shoot from horseback
with a cross-bow. She would fire one pellet, and then a second, which
would catch up the first and smash it to atoms in mid-air. Or she would
throw a pellet on to the ground, and then grasping the cross-bow in her
left hand, with her right hand passed behind her back, she would let
fly and hit it, not missing once in a hundred times. She was also very
particular about her friends, receiving no one unless by his talents he
had made some mark in the world.”

       *       *       *       *       *


The poetical effusions, and even plays, of many of these ladies have
been carefully preserved, and are usually published as a supplement to
any dynastic collection. Here is a specimen by CHAO TS’AI-CHI
(fifteenth century), of whom no biography is extant:--

  “_The tide in the river beginning to rise,
  Near the sad hour of parting, brings tears to our eyes;
  Alas! that these furlongs of willow-strings gay
  Cannot hold fast the boat that will soon be away!_”

Another specimen, by a lady named CHAO LI-HUA (sixteenth
century), contains an attempt at a pun, which is rather lamely brought
out in the translation:--

  “_Your notes on paper; rare to see,
    Two flying joy-birds bear;[34]
  Be like the birds and fly to me,
    Not like the paper, rare!_”

These examples sufficiently illustrate this small department of
literature, which, if deficient in work of real merit, at any rate
contains nothing of an indelicate character.

A wild harum-scarum young man was FANG SHU-SHAO, who, like
many other Chinese poets, often took more wine than was good for him.
He was famed for his poetry, and also for his calligraphy, specimens of
his art being highly prized by collectors. In 1642, we are told, “he
was ill with his teeth;” and at length got into his coffin, which all
Chinese like to keep handy, and wrote a farewell to the world, resting
his paper on the edge of the coffin as he wrote. On completion of the
piece he laid himself down and died. Here are the lines:--

  “_An eternal home awaits me;
            shall I hesitate to go?
  Or struggle for a few more hours
            of fleeting life below?
  A home wherein the clash of arms
            I can never hear again!
  And shall I strive to linger
            in this thorny world of pain?
  The breeze will soon blow cool o’er me,
            and the bright moon shine o’erhead,
  When blended with the gems of earth
            I lie in my last bed.
  My Pen and ink shall go with me
            inside my funeral hearse,
  So that if I’ve leisure ‘over there’
            I may soothe my soul with verse._”


[34] Chinese note-paper is ornamented with all kinds of pictures, which
sometimes cover the whole sheet.


_THE MANCHU DYNASTY_ (A.D. 1644-1900)



By 1644 the glories of the great Ming dynasty had departed.
Misgovernment, referred by Chinese writers to the ascendency of
eunuchs, had resulted in rebellion, and the rebel chief with a large
army was pressing upon the capital. On the 9th April Peking fell.
During the previous night the Emperor, who had refused to flee, slew
the eldest Princess, commanded the Empress to commit suicide, and sent
his three sons into hiding. At dawn the bell was struck for the Court
to assemble; but no one came. His Majesty then ascended the Wan Sui
Hill in the palace grounds, and wrote on the lapel of his robe a last
decree:--“We, poor in virtue and of contemptible personality, have
incurred the wrath of God on high. My Ministers have deceived me. I am
ashamed to meet my ancestors; and therefore I myself take off my crown,
and, with my hair covering my face, await dismemberment at the hands
of the rebels. Do not hurt a single one of my people!” He then hanged
himself, as did one faithful eunuch. At this juncture the Chinese
commander-in-chief made overtures to the Manchu Tartars, who had long
been consolidating their forces, and were already a serious menace to
China. An agreement was hurriedly entered into, and Peking was retaken.
The Manchus took possession definitively of the throne, which they had
openly claimed since 1635, and imposed the “pigtail” upon the Chinese

Here then was the great empire of China, bounded by the Four Seas,
and stretching to the confines of the habitable earth, except for a
few barbarian islands scattered on its fringe, with its refined and
scholarly people, heirs to a glorious literature more than twenty
centuries old, in the power of a wild race of herdsmen, whose title
had been established by skill in archery and horsemanship. Not much
was to be expected on behalf of the “humanities” from a people whose
own written language had been composed to order so late as 1599, and
whose literary instincts had still to be developed. Yet it may be said
without fear of contradiction that no age ever witnessed anything like
the extensive encouragement of literature and patronage of literary men
exhibited under the reigns of two Emperors of this dynasty. Of this,
however, in the next chapter.

The literature of this dynasty may be said to begin with a writer who
was after all but a mere storyteller. It has already been stated that
novels and plays are not included by the Chinese in the domain of pure
literature. Such is the rule, to which there is in practice, if not in
theory, one very notable exception.

[Sidenote: P’U SUNG-LING]

P’U SUNG-LING, author of the _Liao Chai Chih I_, which may
be conveniently rendered by “Strange Stories,” was born in 1622, and
took his first degree in 1641. Though an excellent scholar and a most
polished writer, he failed, as many other good men have done, to take
the higher degrees by which he had hoped to enter upon an official
career. It is generally understood that this failure was due to neglect
of the beaten track of academic study. At any rate, his disappointment
was overwhelming. All else that we have on record of P’u Sung-ling,
besides the fact that he lived in close companionship with several
eminent scholars of the day, is gathered from his own words, written
when, in 1679, he laid down his pen upon the completion of a task
which was to raise him within a short period to a foremost rank in the
Chinese world of letters. The following are extracts from this record:--

“Clad in wistaria, girdled with ivy,[35]--thus sang Ch’ü Yüan in
his _Li Sao_. Of ox-headed devils and serpent gods, he of the long
nails[36] never wearied to tell. Each interprets in his own way the
music of heaven; and whether it be discord or not, depends upon
antecedent causes. As for me, I cannot, with my poor autumn firefly’s
light, match myself against the hobgoblins of the age.[37] I am but
the dust in the sunbeam, a fit laughing-stock for devils.[38] For my
talents are not those of Yü Pao,[39] elegant explorer of the records of
the gods; I am rather animated by the spirit of Su Tung-p’o, who loved
to hear men speak of the supernatural. I get people to commit what
they tell me to writing, and subsequently I dress it up in the form of
a story; and thus in the lapse of time my friends from all quarters
have supplied me with quantities of material, which, from my habit of
collecting, has grown into a vast pile.

“When the bow[40] was hung at my father’s door, he dreamed that a
sickly-looking Buddhist priest, but half-covered by his stole, entered
the chamber. On one of his breasts was a round piece of plaster like a
_cash_; and my father, waking from sleep, found that I, just born, had
a similar black patch on my body. As a child, I was thin and constantly
ailing, and unable to hold my own in the battle of life. Our home was
chill and desolate as a monastery; and working there for my livelihood
with my pen, I was as poor as a priest with his alms-bowl. Often and
often I put my hand to my head and exclaimed, ‘Surely he who sat with
his face to the wall[41] was myself in a previous state of existence;’
and thus I referred my non-success in this life to the influence of a
destiny surviving from the last. I have been tossed hither and thither
in the direction of the ruling wind, like a flower falling in filthy
places; but the six paths[42] of transmigration are inscrutable indeed,
and I have no right to complain. As it is, midnight finds me with an
expiring lamp, while the wind whistles mournfully without; and over my
cheerless table I piece together my tales, vainly hoping to produce
a sequel to the _Infernal Regions_.[43] With a bumper I stimulate my
pen, yet I only succeed thereby in ‘venting my excited feelings,’ and
as I thus commit my thoughts to writing, truly I am an object worthy
of commiseration. Alas! I am but the bird that, dreading the winter
frost, finds no shelter in the tree, the autumn insect that chirps to
the moon and hugs the door for warmth. For where are they who know me?
They are ‘in the bosky grove and at the frontier pass’[44]--wrapped in
an impenetrable gloom!”

For many years these “Strange Stories” circulated only in manuscript.
P’u Sung-ling, as we are told in a colophon by his grandson to the
first edition, was too poor to meet the heavy expense of block-cutting;
and it was not until so late as 1740, when the author must have been
already for some time a denizen of the dark land he so much loved
to describe, that his aforesaid grandson printed and published the
collection now so universally famous. Since then many editions have
been laid before the Chinese public, the best of which is that by Tan
Ming-lun, a Salt Commissioner, who flourished during the reign of Tao
Kuang, and who in 1842 produced, at his own expense, an excellent
edition in sixteen small octavo volumes of about 160 pages each.

Any reader of these stories as transferred into another language might
fairly turn round and ask the why and the wherefore of the profound
admiration--to use a mild term--which is universally accorded to them
by the literati of China. The answer is to be found in the incomparable
style in which even the meanest of them is arrayed. All the elements
of form which make for beauty in Chinese composition are there in
overwhelming force. Terseness is pushed to its extreme limits; each
particle that can be safely dispensed with is scrupulously eliminated,
and every here and there some new and original combination invests
perhaps a single word with a force it could never have possessed
except under the hands of a perfect master of his art. Add to the
above copious allusions and adaptations from a course of reading which
would seem to have been co-extensive with the whole range of Chinese
literature, a wealth of metaphor and an artistic use of figures
generally, to which only the writings of Carlyle form an adequate
parallel, and the result is a work which for purity and beauty of style
is now universally accepted in China as among the best and most perfect
models. Sometimes the story runs plainly and smoothly enough, but the
next moment we may be plunged into pages of abstruse text, the meaning
of which is so involved in quotations from and allusions to the poetry
or history of the past three thousand years as to be recoverable only
after diligent perusal of the commentary, and much searching in other
works of reference.

Premising that, according to one editor, the intention of most
of these stories is to “glorify virtue and to censure vice,” the
following story, entitled “The Talking Pupils,” may be taken as a fair
illustration of the extent to which this pledge is redeemed:--

“At Ch’ang-an there lived a scholar named Fang Tung, who, though by no
means destitute of ability, was a very unprincipled rake, and in the
habit of following and speaking to any woman he might chance to meet.
The day before the spring festival of Clear Weather he was strolling
about outside the city when he saw a small carriage with red curtains
and an embroidered awning, followed by a crowd of waiting-maids on
horseback, one of whom was exceedingly pretty and riding on a small
palfrey. Going closer to get a better view, Mr. Fang noticed that the
carriage curtain was partly open, and inside he beheld a beautifully
dressed girl of about sixteen, lovely beyond anything he had ever
seen. Dazzled by the sight, he could not take his eyes off her, and
now before, now behind, he followed the carriage for many a mile. By
and by he heard the young lady call out to her maid, and, when the
latter came alongside, say to her, ‘Let down the screen for me. Who is
this rude fellow that keeps on staring so?’ The maid accordingly let
down the screen, and looking angrily at Mr. Fang, said to him, ‘This
is the bride of the Seventh Prince in the City of Immortals going
home to see her parents, and no village girl that you should stare
at her thus.’ Then taking a handful of dust she threw it at him and
blinded him. He rubbed his eyes and looked round, but the carriage and
horses were gone. This frightened him, and he went off home, feeling
very uncomfortable about the eyes. He sent for a doctor to examine
them, and on the pupils was found a small film, which had increased
by next morning, the eyes watering incessantly all the time. The film
went on growing, and in a few days was as thick as a _cash_. On the
right pupil there came a kind of spiral, and as no medicine was of any
avail, the sufferer gave himself up to grief and wished for death. He
then bethought himself of repenting of his misdeeds, and hearing that
the _Kuang-ming sûtra_ could relieve misery, he got a copy and hired
a man to teach it to him. At first it was very tedious work, but by
degrees he became more composed, and spent every evening in a posture
of devotion, telling his beads. At the end of a year he had arrived at
a state of perfect calm, when one day he heard a small voice, about as
loud as a fly’s, calling out from his left eye, ‘It’s horridly dark
in here.’ To this he heard a reply from the right eye, saying, ‘Let
us go out for a stroll, and cheer ourselves up a bit.’ Then he felt
a wriggling in his nose which made it itch, just as if something was
going out of each of his nostrils, and after a while he felt it again
as if going the other way. Afterwards he heard a voice from one eye
say, ‘I hadn’t seen the garden for a long time; the epidendrums are all
withered and dead.’ Now Mr. Fang was very fond of these epidendrums,
of which he had planted a great number, and had been accustomed to
water them himself, but since the loss of his sight he had never even
alluded to them. Hearing, however, these words, he at once asked his
wife why she had let the epidendrums die. She inquired how he knew
they were dead, and when he told her, she went out to see, and found
them actually withered away. They were both very much astonished at
this, and his wife proceeded to conceal herself in the room. She then
observed two tiny people, no bigger than a bean, come down from her
husband’s nose and run out of the door, where she lost sight of them.
In a little while they came back and flew up to his face, like bees
or beetles seeking their nests. This went on for some days until Mr.
Fang heard from the left eye, ‘This roundabout road is not at all
convenient. It would be as well for us to make a door.’ To this the
right eye answered, ‘My wall is too thick; it wouldn’t be at all an
easy job.’ ‘I’ll try and open mine,’ said the left eye, ‘and then it
will do for both of us.’ Whereupon Mr. Fang felt a pain in his left
eye as if something was being split, and in a moment he found he could
see the tables and chairs in the room. He was delighted at this, and
told his wife, who examined his eye and discovered an opening in the
film, through which she could see the black pupil shining out beneath,
the eyeball itself looking like a cracked peppercorn. By next morning
the film had disappeared, and when his eye was closely examined it was
observed to contain two pupils. The spiral on the right eye remained as
before, and then they knew that the two pupils had taken up their abode
in one eye. Further, although Mr. Fang was still blind of one eye, the
sight of the other was better than that of the two together. From this
time he was more careful of his behaviour, and acquired in his part of
the country the reputation of a virtuous man.”

       *       *       *       *       *

To take another specimen, this time with a dash of humour in it. A
certain man, named Wang (_anglicè_ Smith), decided to study Tao--in
other words, the black art--at a temple of the Taoist persuasion. The
priest, who seems to have had a touch of Squeers in his composition,
warned Wang that he would probably not be able to stand the training;
but on the latter insisting, the priest allowed him to join the other
novices, and then sent him to chop wood. He was kept at this task so
long that, although he managed to witness several extraordinary feats
of magical skill performed by the priest, he scarcely felt that he was
making progress himself.

“After a time he could not stand it any longer; and as the priest
taught him no magical arts, he determined not to wait, but went to
him and said, ‘Sir, I travelled many long miles for the benefit of
your instruction. If you will not teach me the secret of immortality,
let me, at any rate, learn some trifling trick, and thus soothe my
cravings for a knowledge of your art. I have now been here two or three
months, doing nothing but chop firewood, out in the morning and back
at night, work to which I was never accustomed in my own home.’ ‘Did I
not tell you,’ replied the priest, ‘that you would never support the
fatigue? To-morrow I will start you on your way home.’ ‘Sir,’ said
Wang, ‘I have worked for you a long time. Teach me some small art, that
my coming here may not have been wholly in vain.’ ‘What art?’ asked
the priest. ‘Well,’ answered Wang, ‘I have noticed that whenever you
walk about anywhere, walls and so on are no obstacle to you. Teach
me this, and I’ll be satisfied.’ The priest laughingly assented, and
taught Wang a formula which he bade him recite. When he had done so
he told him to walk through the wall; but Wang, seeing the wall in
front of him, didn’t like to walk at it. As, however, the priest bade
him try, he walked quietly up to it and was there stopped. The priest
here called out, ‘Don’t go so slowly. Put your head down and rush at
it.’ So Wang stepped back a few paces and went at it full speed; and
the wall yielding to him as he passed, in a moment he found himself
outside. Delighted at this, he went in to thank the priest, who told
him to be careful in the use of his power, or otherwise there would
be no response, handing him at the same time some money for his
expenses on the way. When Wang got home, he went about bragging of his
Taoist friends and his contempt for walls in general; but as his wife
disbelieved his story, he set about going through the performance as
before. Stepping back from the wall, he rushed at it full speed with
his head down; but coming in contact with the hard bricks, finished
up in a heap on the floor. His wife picked him up and found he had a
bump on his forehead as big as a large egg, at which she roared with
laughter; but Wang was overwhelmed with rage and shame, and cursed the
old priest for his base ingratitude.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Episodes with a familiar ring about them are often to be found embedded
in this collection. For instance:--

“She then became a dense column of smoke curling up from the ground,
when the priest took an uncorked gourd and threw it right into the
midst of the smoke. A sucking noise was heard, and the whole column was
drawn into the gourd; after which the priest corked it up closely and
put it in his pouch.”

Of such points the following story contains another good example:--

“A countryman was one day selling his pears in the market. They were
unusually sweet and fine flavoured, and the price he asked was high.
A Taoist priest in rags and tatters stopped at the barrow and begged
one of them. The countryman told him to go away, but as he did not do
so, he began to curse and swear at him. The priest said, ‘You have
several hundred pears on your barrow; I ask for a single one, the loss
of which, sir, you would not feel. Why then get angry?’ The lookers-on
told the countryman to give him an inferior one and let him go; but
this he obstinately refused to do. Thereupon the beadle of the place,
finding the commotion too great, purchased a pear and handed it to the
priest. The latter received it with a bow, and turning to the crowd
said, ‘We who have left our homes and given up all that is dear to us,
are at a loss to understand selfish, niggardly conduct in others. Now
I have some exquisite pears which I shall do myself the honour to put
before you.’ Here somebody asked, ‘Since you have pears yourself why
don’t you eat those?’ ‘Because,’ replied the priest, ‘I wanted one of
these pips to grow them from.’ So saying he munched up the pear; and
when he had finished took a pip in his hand, unstrapped a pick from
his back, and proceeded to make a hole in the ground several inches
deep, wherein he deposited the pip, filling in the earth as before. He
then asked the bystanders for a little hot water to water it with, and
one among them who loved a joke fetched him some boiling water from a
neighbouring shop. The priest poured this over the place where he had
made the hole, and every eye was fixed upon him when sprouts were seen
shooting up, and gradually growing larger and larger. By and by there
was a tree with branches sparsely covered with leaves; then flowers,
and last of all fine, large, sweet-smelling pears hanging in great
profusion. These the priest picked and handed round to the assembled
crowd until all were gone, when he took his pick and hacked away for
a long time at the tree, finally cutting it down. This he shouldered,
leaves and all, and sauntered quietly away. Now from the very beginning
our friend the countryman had been amongst the crowd, straining his
neck to see what was going on, and forgetting all about his business.
At the departure of the priest he turned round and discovered that
every one of his pears was gone. He then knew that those the old fellow
had been giving away so freely were really his own pears. Looking
more closely at the barrow, he also found that one of the handles was
missing, evidently having been newly cut off. Boiling with rage, he set
out in pursuit of the priest, and just as he turned the corner he saw
the lost barrow-handle lying under the wall, being, in fact, the very
pear-tree that the priest had cut down. But there were no traces of the
priest, much to the amusement of the crowd in the market-place.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Here again is a scene, the latter part of which would almost justify
the belief that Mr. W. S. Gilbert was a student of Chinese, and had
borrowed some of his best points in “Sweethearts” from the author of
the _Liao Chai_:--

“Next day Wang strolled into the garden, which was of moderate size,
with a well-kept lawn and plenty of trees and flowers. There was also
an arbour consisting of three posts with a thatched roof, quite shut in
on all sides by the luxuriant vegetation. Pushing his way among the
flowers, Wang heard a noise from one of the trees, and looking up saw
Ying-ning, who at once burst out laughing and nearly fell down. ‘Don’t!
don’t!’ cried Wang, ‘you’ll fall!’ Then Ying-ning came down, giggling
all the time, until, when she was near the ground, she missed her hold
and tumbled down with a run. This stopped her merriment, and Wang
picked her up, gently squeezing her hand as he did so. Ying-ning began
laughing again, and was obliged to lean against a tree for support,
it being some time before she was able to stop. Wang waited till she
had finished, and then drew the flower out of his sleeve and handed
it to her. ‘It’s dead,’ said she; ‘why do you keep it?’ ‘You dropped
it, cousin, at the Feast of Lanterns,’ replied Wang, ‘and so I kept
it.’ She then asked him what was his object in keeping it, to which he
answered, ‘To show my love, and that I have not forgotten you. Since
that day when we met I have been very ill from thinking so much of you,
and am quite changed from what I was. But now that it is my unexpected
good fortune to meet you, I pray you have pity on me.’ ‘You needn’t
make such a fuss about a trifle,’ replied she, ‘and with your own
relatives too. I’ll give orders to supply you with a whole basketful of
flowers when you go away.’ Wang told her she did not understand, and
when she asked what it was she didn’t understand, he said, ‘I didn’t
care for the flower itself; it was the person who picked the flower.’
‘Of course,’ answered she, ‘everybody cares for their relations;
you needn’t have told me that.’ ‘I wasn’t talking about ordinary
relations,’ said Wang, ‘but about husbands and wives.’ ‘What’s the
difference?’ asked Ying-ning. ‘Why,’ replied Wang, ‘husband and wife
are always together.’ ‘Just what I shouldn’t like,’ cried she, ‘to be
always with anybody.’”

The pair were ultimately united, and lived happily ever afterwards,
in spite of the fact that the young lady subsequently confessed that
she was the daughter of a fox, and exhibited supernatural powers. On
one occasion these powers stood her in good stead. Being very fond of
flowers, she went so far as to pick from a neighbour’s tree.

“One day the owner saw her, and gazed at her some time in rapt
astonishment; however, she didn’t move, deigning only to laugh. The
gentleman was much smitten with her; and when she smilingly descended
the wall on her own side, pointing all the time with her finger to a
spot hard by, he thought she was making an assignation. So he presented
himself at nightfall at the same place, and sure enough Ying-ning was
there. Seizing her hand to tell his passion, he found that he was
grasping only a log of wood which stood against the wall; and the
next thing he knew was that a scorpion had stung him violently on the
finger. There was an end of his romance, except that he died of the
wound during the night.”

       *       *       *       *       *

In one of the stories a visitor at a temple is much struck by a fresco
painting containing the picture of a lovely girl picking flowers,
and stands in rapt admiration before it. Then he feels himself borne
gently into the painted wall, _à la_ “Alice through the Looking-glass,”
and in the region beyond plays a part in a domestic drama, finally
marrying the heroine of the picture. But the presence of a mortal being
suspected by “a man in golden armour with a face as black as jet,” he
was glad to make his way back again; and when he rejoined a friend who
had been waiting for him, they noticed that the girl in the picture now
wore her hair done up as a married woman.

There is a Rip van Winkle story, with the pathetic return of the hero
to find, as the Chinese poet says--

  “_City and suburb as of old,
  But hearts that loved us long since cold._”

There is a sea-serpent story, and a story of a big bird or rukh; also a
story about a Jonah, who, in obedience to an order flashed by lightning
on the sky when their junk was about to be swamped in a storm, was
transferred by his fellow-passengers to a small boat and cut adrift. So
soon as the unfortunate victim had collected his senses and could look
about him, he found that the junk had capsized and that every soul had
been drowned.

       *       *       *       *       *

The following is an extract from a story in which a young student named
Liu falls in love with a girl named Fêng-hsien, who was the daughter
of a fox, and therefore possessed of the miraculous powers which the
Chinese associate with that animal:--

“‘But if you would really like to have something that has belonged to
me,’ said she, ‘you shall.’ Whereupon she took out a mirror and gave
it to him, saying, ‘Whenever you want to see me, you must look for
me in your books; otherwise I shall not be visible;’ and in a moment
she had vanished. Liu went home very melancholy at heart; but when he
looked in the mirror, there was Fêng-hsien standing with her back to
him, gazing, as it were, at some one who was going away, and about a
hundred paces from her. He then bethought himself of her injunctions,
and settled down to his studies, refusing to receive any visitors; and
a few days subsequently, when he happened to look in the mirror, there
was Fêng-hsien, with her face turned towards him, and smiling in every
feature. After this, he was always taking out the mirror to look at
her. However, in about a month his good resolutions began to disappear,
and he once more went out to enjoy himself and waste his time as
before. When he returned home and looked in the mirror, Fêng-hsien
seemed to be crying bitterly; and the day after, when he looked at her
again, she had her back turned towards him as on the day he received
the mirror. He now knew that it was because he had neglected his
studies, and forthwith set to work again with all diligence, until in
a month’s time she had turned round once again. Henceforward, whenever
anything interrupted his progress, Fêng-hsien’s countenance became
sad; but whenever he was getting on well her sadness was changed to
smiles. Night and morning Liu would look at the mirror, regarding it
quite in the light of a revered preceptor, and in three years’ time
he took his degree in triumph. ‘Now,’ cried he, ‘I shall be able to
look Fêng-hsien in the face.’ And there sure enough she was, with
her delicately-pencilled arched eyebrows, and her teeth just showing
between her lips, as happy-looking as she could be, when, all of a
sudden, she seemed to speak, and Liu heard her say, ‘A pretty pair we
make, I must allow,’ and the next moment Fêng-hsien stood by his side.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Here is a story of the nether world, a favourite theme with P’u
Sung-ling. It illustrates the popular belief that at death a man’s
soul is summoned to Purgatory by spiritual lictors, who are even liable
to make mistakes. Cataleptic fits or trances give rise to many similar
tales about persons visiting the realms below and being afterwards
restored to life.

“A man named Chang died suddenly, and was escorted at once by
devil-lictors into the presence of the King of Purgatory. His Majesty
turned to Chang’s record of good and evil, and then, in great anger,
told the lictors they had brought the wrong man, and bade them take
him back again. As they left the judgment-hall, Chang persuaded his
escort to let him have a look at Purgatory, and accordingly the devils
conducted him through the nine sections, pointing out to him the Knife
Hill, the Sword Tree, and other objects of interest. By and by they
reached a place where there was a Buddhist priest hanging suspended in
the air, head downwards, by a rope through a hole in his leg. He was
shrieking with pain and longing for death; and when Chang approached,
lo! he saw that it was his own brother. In great distress, he asked
his guides the reason of this punishment, and they informed him that
the priest was suffering thus for collecting subscriptions on behalf
of his order, and then privately squandering the proceeds in gambling
and debauchery. ‘Nor,’ added they, ‘will he escape this torment unless
he repents him of his misdeeds.’ When Chang came round, he thought his
brother was already dead, and hurried off to the Hsing-fu monastery, to
which the latter belonged. As he went in at the door he heard a loud
shrieking, and on proceeding to his brother’s room, he found him laid
up with a very bad abscess in his leg, the leg itself being tied up
above him to the wall, this being, as his brother informed him, the
only bearable position in which he could lie. Chang now told him what
he had seen in Purgatory, at which the priest was so terrified that he
at once gave up taking wine and meat, and devoted himself entirely to
religious exercises. In a fortnight he was well, and was known ever
afterwards as a most exemplary priest.”

Snatches of verse are to be found scattered about the pages of these
stories, enough to give a taste of the writer’s quality without too
much boring the reader. These lines are much admired:--

  “_With wine and flowers we chase the hours
    In one eternal spring;
  No moon, no light, to cheer the night--
    Thyself that ray must bring._”

But we have seen perhaps enough of P’u Sung-ling. “If,” as Han
Yü exclaimed, “there is knowledge after death,” the profound and
widespread esteem in which this work is held by the literati of China
must indeed prove a soothing balm to the wounded spirit of the Last of
the Immortals.

       *       *       *       *       *


The _Hung Lou Mêng_, conveniently but erroneously known as “The Dream
of the Red Chamber,” is the work referred to already as touching the
highest point of development reached by the Chinese novel. It was
probably composed during the latter half of the seventeenth century.
The name of its author is unknown. It is usually published in 24 vols.
octavo, containing 120 chapters, which average at the least 30 pages
each, making a grand total of about 4000 pages. No fewer than 400
personages of more or less importance are introduced first and last
into the story, the plot of which is worked out with a completeness
worthy of Fielding, while the delineation of character--of so many
characters--recalls the best efforts of the greatest novelists of the
West. As a panorama of Chinese social life, in which almost every
imaginable feature is submitted in turn to the reader, the _Hung Lou
Mêng_ is altogether without a rival. Reduced to its simplest terms,
it is an original and effective love story, written for the most part
in an easy, almost colloquial, style, full of humorous and pathetic
episodes of everyday human life, and interspersed with short poems of
high literary finish. The opening chapters, which are intended to form
a link between the world of spirits and the world of mortals, belong to
the supernatural; after that the story runs smoothly along upon earthly
lines, always, however, overshadowed by the near presence of spiritual
influences. Some idea of the novel as a whole may perhaps be gathered
from the following abstract.

Four thousand six hundred and twenty-three years ago the heavens were
out of repair. So the Goddess of Works set to and prepared 36,501
blocks of precious jade, each 240 feet square by 120 feet in depth.
Of these, however, she only used 36,500, and cast aside the single
remaining block upon one of the celestial peaks.

This stone, under the process of preparation, had become as it were
spiritualised. It could expand or contract. It could move. It was
conscious of the existence of an external world, and it was hurt at not
having been called upon to accomplish its divine mission.

One day a Buddhist and a Taoist priest, who happened to be passing
that way, sat down for a while to rest, and forthwith noticed the
disconsolate stone which lay there, no bigger than the pendant of a
lady’s fan. “Indeed, my friend, you are not wanting in spirituality,”
said the Buddhist priest to the stone, as he picked it up and
laughingly held it forth upon the palm of his hand. “But we cannot be
certain that you will ever prove to be of any real use; and, moreover,
you lack an inscription, without which your destiny must necessarily
remain unfulfilled.” Thereupon he put the stone in his sleeve and rose
to proceed on his journey.

“And what, if I may ask,” inquired his companion, “do you intend to do
with the stone you are thus carrying away?”

“I mean,” replied the other, “to send it down to earth, to play its
allotted part in the fortunes of a certain family now anxiously
expecting its arrival. You see, when the Goddess of Works rejected
this stone, it used to fill up its time by roaming about the heavens,
until chance brought it alongside of a lovely crimson flower. Being
struck with the great beauty of this flower, the stone remained there
for some time, tending its _protégée_ with the most loving care, and
daily moistening its roots with the choicest nectar of the sky, until
at length, yielding to the influence of disinterested love, the flower
changed its form and became a most beautiful girl.

“‘Dear stone,’ cried the girl, in her new-found ecstasy of life, ‘the
moisture thou hast bestowed upon me here I will repay thee in our
future state with my tears!’”

Ages afterwards, another priest, in search of light, saw this self-same
stone lying in its old place, but with a record inscribed upon it--a
record of how it had not been used to repair the heavens, and how
it subsequently went down into the world of mortals, with a full
description of all it did, and saw, and heard while in that state.

“Brother Stone,” said the priest, “your record is not one that deals
with the deeds of heroes among men. It does not stir us with stories
either of virtuous statesmen or of deathless patriots. It seems to be
but a simple tale of the loves of maidens and youths, hardly important
enough to attract the attention of the great busy world.”

“Sir Priest,” replied the stone, “what you say is indeed true; and
what is more, my poor story is adorned by no rhetorical flourish nor
literary art. Still, the world of mortals being what it is, and its
complexion so far determined by the play of human passion, I cannot but
think that the tale here inscribed may be of some use, if only to throw
a further charm around the banquet hour, or to aid in dispelling those
morning clouds which gather over last night’s excess.”

Thereupon the priest looked once more at the stone, and saw that it
bore a plain unvarnished tale of--

  “_Beauty and anguish walking hand in hand
  The downward slope to death_,”

telling how a woman’s artless love had developed into deep, destroying
passion; and how from the thrall of a lost love one soul had been
raised to a sublimer, if not a purer conception of man’s mission upon
earth. He therefore copied it out from beginning to end. Here it is:--

Under a dynasty which the author leaves unnamed, two brothers had
greatly distinguished themselves by efficient service to the State. In
return, they had been loaded with marks of Imperial favour. They had
been created nobles of the highest rank. They had amassed wealth. The
palaces assigned to them were near together in Peking, and there their
immediate descendants were enjoying the fruits of ancestral success
when this story opens. The brothers had each a son and heir; but at the
date at which we are now, fathers and sons had all four passed away.
The wife of one of the sons only was still alive, a hale and hearty old
lady of about eighty years of age. Of her children, one was a daughter.
She had married and gone away south, and _her_ daughter, Tai-yü, is the
heroine of this tale. The son of the old lady’s second son and first
cousin to Tai-yü is the hero, living with his grandmother. His name is

The two noble families were now at the very zenith of wealth and power.
Their palatial establishments were replete with every luxury. Feasting
and theatricals were the order of the day, and, to crown all, Pao-yü’s
sister had been chosen to be one of the seventy-two wives allotted to
the Emperor of China. No one stopped to think that human events are
governed by an inevitable law of change. He who is mighty to-day shall
be lowly to-morrow: the rich shall be made poor, and the poor rich.
Or if any one, more thoughtful than the rest, did pause awhile in
knowledge of the appointments of Heaven, he was fain to hope that the
crash would not come, at any rate, in his own day.

Things were in this state when Tai-yü’s mother died, and her father
decided to place his motherless daughter under the care of her
grandmother at Peking. Accompanied by her governess, the young lady set
out at once for the capital, and reached her destination in safety. It
is not necessary to dwell upon her beauty nor upon her genius, though
both are minutely described in the original text. Suffice it to say
that during the years which have elapsed since she first became known
to the public, many brave men are said to have died for love of this
entrancing heroine of fiction.

Tai-yü was received most kindly by all. Especially so by her
grandmother, who shed bitter tears of sorrow over the premature death
of Tai-yü’s mother, her lost and favourite child. She was introduced
to her aunts and cousins, and cousins and aunts, in such numbers that
the poor girl must have wondered how ever she should remember all
their names. Then they sat down and talked. They asked her all about
her mother, and how she fell ill, and what medicine she took, and how
she died and was buried, until the old grandmother wept again. “And
what medicine do you take, my dear?” asked the old lady, seeing that
Tai-yü herself seemed very delicate, and carried on her clear cheek a
suspicious-looking flush.

“Oh, I have done nothing ever since I could eat,” replied Tai-yü, “but
take medicine of some kind or other. I have also seen all the best
doctors, but they have not done me any particular good. When I was only
three years of age, a nasty old priest came and wanted my parents to
let me be a nun. He said it was the only way to save me.”

“Oh, we will soon cure you here,” said her grandmother, smiling. “We
will make you well in no time.”

Tai-yü was then taken to see more of her relatives, including her aunt,
the mother of Pao-yü, who warned her against his peculiar temper, which
she said was very uncertain and variable. “What! the one with the
jade?” asked Tai-yü. “But we shall not be together,” she immediately
added, somewhat surprised at this rather unusual warning. “Oh yes, you
will,” said her aunt. “He is dreadfully spoilt by his grandmother, who
allows him to have his own way in everything. Instead of being hard at
work, as he ought to be by now, he idles away his time with the girls,
thinking only how he can enjoy himself, without any idea of making a
career or adding fresh lustre to the family name. Beware of him, I tell

The dinner-hour had now arrived, and after the meal Tai-yü was
questioned as to the progress she had made in her studies. She was
already deep in the mysteries of the Four Books, and it was agreed on
all sides that she was far ahead of her cousins, when suddenly a noise
was heard outside, and in came a most elegantly dressed youth about a
year older than Tai-yü, wearing a cap lavishly adorned with pearls. His
face was like the full autumn moon. His complexion like morning flowers
in spring. Pencilled eyebrows, a well-cut shapely nose, and eyes
like rippling waves were among the details which went to make up an
unquestionably handsome exterior. Around his neck hung a curious piece
of jade; and as soon as Tai-yü became fully conscious of his presence,
a thrill passed through her delicate frame. She felt that somewhere or
other she had looked upon that face before.

Pao-yü--for it was he--saluted his grandmother with great respect, and
then went off to see his mother; and while he is absent it may be as
well to say a few words about the young gentleman’s early days.

Pao-yü, a name which means Precious Jade, was so called because he was
born, to the great astonishment of everybody, with a small tablet of
jade in his mouth--a beautifully bright mirror-like tablet, bearing a
legend inscribed in the quaint old style of several thousand years ago.
A family consultation resulted in a decision that this stone was some
divine talisman, the purpose of which was not for the moment clear, but
was doubtless to be revealed by and by. One thing was certain. As this
tablet had come into the world with the child, so it should accompany
him through life; and accordingly Pao-yü was accustomed to wear it
suspended around his neck. The news of this singular phenomenon spread
far and wide. Even Tai-yü had heard of it long before she came to take
up her abode with the family.

And so Pao-yü grew up, a wilful, wayward boy. He was a bright, clever
fellow and full of fun, but very averse to books. He declared, in fact,
that he could not read at all unless he had as fellow-students a young
lady on each side of him, to keep his brain clear! And when his father
beat him, as was frequently the case, he would cry out, “Dear girl!
dear girl!” all the time, in order, as he afterwards explained to his
cousins, to take away the pain. Women, he argued, are made of water,
with pellucid mobile minds, while men are mostly made of mud, mere
lumps of uninformed clay.

By this time he had returned from seeing his mother and was formally
introduced to Tai-yü. “Ha!” cried he, “I have seen her before
somewhere. What makes her eyes so red? Indeed, cousin Tai-yü, we shall
have to call you Cry-baby if you cry so much.” Here some reference was
made to his jade tablet, and this put him into an angry mood at once.
None of his cousins had any, he said, and he was not going to wear his
any more. A family scene ensued, during which Tai-yü went off to bed
and cried herself to sleep.

Shortly after this, Pao-yü’s mother’s sister was compelled by
circumstances to seek a residence in the capital. She brought with her
a daughter, Pao-ch’ai, another cousin to Pao-yü, but about a year
older than he was; and besides receiving a warm welcome, the two were
invited to settle themselves comfortably down in the capacious family
mansion of their relatives. Thus it was that destiny brought Pao-yü and
his two cousins together under the same roof.

The three soon became fast friends. Pao-ch’ai had been carefully
educated by her father, and was able to hold her own even against the
accomplished Tai-yü. Pao-yü loved the society of either or both. He
was always happy so long as he had a pretty girl by his side, and was,
moreover, fascinated by the wit of these two young ladies in particular.

He had, however, occasional fits of moody depression, varied by
discontent with his superfluous worldly surroundings. “In what am I
better,” he would say, “than a wallowing hog? Why was I born and bred
amid this splendid magnificence of wealth, instead of in some coldly
furnished household where I could have enjoyed the pure communion of
friends? These silks and satins, these rich meats and choice wines, of
what avail are they to this perishable body of mine? O wealth! O power!
I curse you both, ye cankerworms of my earthly career.”

All these morbid thoughts, however, were speedily dispelled by the
presence of his fair cousins, with whom, in fact, Pao-yü spent most of
the time he ought to have devoted to his books. He was always running
across to see either one or other of these young ladies, or meeting
both of them in general assembly at his grandmother’s. It was at a
_tête-à-tête_ with Pao-ch’ai that she made him show her his marvellous
piece of jade, with the inscription, which she read as follows:--

  “_Lose me not, forget me not,
  Eternal life shall be thy lot._”

The indiscretion of a slave-girl here let Pao-yü become aware that
Pao-ch’ai herself possessed a wonderful gold amulet, upon which also
were certain words inscribed; and of course Pao-yü insisted on seeing
it at once. On it was written--

  “_Let not this token wander from thy side,
  And youth perennial shall with thee abide._”

In the middle of this interesting scene, Tai-yü walks in, and seeing
how intimately the two are engaged, “hopes she doesn’t intrude.” But
even in those early days the ring of her voice betrayed symptoms of
that jealousy to which later on she succumbed. Meanwhile she almost
monopolises the society of Pao-yü, and he, on his side, finds himself
daily more and more attracted by the sprightly mischievous humour of
the beautiful Tai-yü, as compared with the quieter and more orthodox
loveliness of Pao-ch’ai. Pao-ch’ai does not know what jealousy
means. She too loves to bandy words, exchange verses, or puzzle over
conundrums with her mercurial cousin; but she never allows her thoughts
to wander towards him otherwise than is consistent with the strictest
maidenly reserve.

Not so Tai-yü. She had been already for some time Pao-yü’s chief
companion when they were joined by Pao-ch’ai. She had come to regard
the handsome boy almost as a part of herself, though not conscious of
the fact until called upon to share his society with another. And so
it was that although Pao-yü showed an open preference for herself, she
still grudged the lesser attentions he paid to Pao-ch’ai. As often as
not these same attentions originated in an irresistible impulse to
tease. Pao-yü and Tai-yü were already lovers in so far that they were
always quarrelling; the more so, that their quarrels invariably ended,
as they should end, in the renewal of love. As a rule, Tai-yü fell back
upon the _ultima ratio_ of all women--tears; and of course Pao-yü, who
was not by any means wanting in chivalry, had no alternative but to
wipe them away. On one particular occasion, Tai-yü declared that she
would die; upon which Pao-yü said that in that case he would become a
monk and devote his life to Buddha; but in this instance it was he who
shed the tears and she who had to wipe them away.

All this time Tai-yü and Pao-ch’ai were on terms of scrupulous
courtesy. Tai-yü’s father had recently died, and her fortunes now
seemed to be bound up more closely than ever with those of the family
in which she lived. She had a handsome gold ornament given her to
match Pao-ch’ai’s amulet, and the three young people spent their days
together, thinking only how to get most enjoyment out of every passing
hour. Sometimes, however, a shade of serious thought would darken
Tai-yü’s moments of enforced solitude; and one day Pao-yü surprised her
in a secluded part of the garden, engaged in burying flowers which had
been blown down by the wind, while singing the following lines:--

  “_Flowers fade and fly,
          and flying fill the sky;
  Their bloom departs, their perfume gone,
          yet who stands pitying by?
  And wandering threads of gossamer
          on the summer-house are seen,
  And falling catkins lightly dew-steeped
          strike the embroidered screen.
  A girl within the inner rooms,
          I mourn that spring is done,
  A skein of sorrow binds my heart,
          and solace there is none.
  I pass into the garden,
          and I turn to use my hoe,
  Treading o’er fallen glories
          as I lightly come and go.
  There are willow-sprays and flowers of elm,
          and these have scent enow,
  I care not if the peach and plum
          are stripped from every bough.
  The peach-tree and the plum-tree too
          next year may bloom again,
  But next year, in the inner rooms,
          tell me, shall I remain?
  By the third moon new fragrant nests
          shall see the light of day,
  New swallows flit among the beams,
          each on its thoughtless way.
  Next year once more they’ll seek their food
          among the painted flowers,
  But I may go, and beams may go,
          and with them swallow bowers.
  Three hundred days and sixty make
          a year, and therein lurk
  Daggers of wind and swords of frost
          to do their cruel work.
  How long will last the fair fresh flower
          which bright and brighter glows?
  One morn its petals float away,
          but whither no one knows.
  Gay blooming buds attract the eye,
          faded they’re lost to sight;
  Oh, let me sadly bury them
          beside these steps to-night!
  Alone, unseen, I seize my hoe,
          with many a bitter tear;
  They fall upon the naked stem
          and stains of blood appear.
  The night-jar now has ceased to mourn,
          the dawn comes on apace,
  I seize my hoe and close the gates,
          leaving the burying-place;
  But not till sunbeams fleck the wall
          does slumber soothe my care,
  The cold rain pattering on the pane
          as I lie shivering there.
  You wonder that with flowing tears
          my youthful cheek is wet;
  They partly rise from angry thoughts,
          and partly from regret.
  Regret--that spring comes suddenly;
          anger--it cannot last,
  No sound to herald its approach,
          or warn us that ’tis past.
  Last night within the garden
          sad songs were faintly heard,
  Sung, as I knew, by spirits,
          spirits of flower and bird.
  We cannot keep them here with us,
          these much-loved birds and flowers,
  They sing but for a season’s space,
          and bloom a few short hours.
  Ah! would that I on feathered wing
          might soar aloft and fly,
  With flower spirits I would seek
          the confines of the sky.
  But high in air
  What grave is there?[45]
  No, give me an embroidered bag
          wherein to lay their charms,
  And Mother Earth, pure Mother Earth,
          shall hide them in her arms.
  Thus those sweet forms which spotless came
          shall spotless go again,
  Nor pass besmirched with mud and filth
          along some noisome drain.
  Farewell, dear flowers, for ever now,
          thus buried as ’twas best,
  I have not yet divined when I
          with you shall sink to rest.
  I who can bury flowers like this
          a laughing-stock shall be;
  I cannot say in days to come
          what hands shall bury me.
  See how when spring begins to fail
          each opening flow’ret fades;
  So too there is a time of age
          and death for beauteous maids;
  And when the fleeting spring is gone,
          and days of beauty o’er,
  Flowers fall, and lovely maidens die,
          and both are known no more._”

Meanwhile, Pao-yü’s father had received an appointment which took him
away to a distance, the consequence being that life went on at home in
a giddier round than usual. Nothing the old grandmother liked better
than a picnic or a banquet--feasting, in fact, of some kind, with
plenty of wine and mirth. But now, somehow or other, little things
were always going wrong. In every pot of ointment the traditional fly
was sure to make its appearance; in every sparkling goblet a bitter
something would always bubble up. Money was not so plentiful as it
had been, and there seemed to be always occurring some unforeseen
drain upon the family resources. Various members of one or other
of the two grand establishments get into serious trouble with the
authorities. Murder, suicide, and robbery happen upon the premises.
The climax of prosperity had been reached and the hour of decadence
had arrived. Still all went merry as a marriage-bell, and Pao-yü and
Tai-yü continued the agreeable pastime of love-making. In this they
were further favoured by circumstances. Pao-ch’ai’s mother gave up
the apartments which had been assigned to her, and went to live in
lodgings in the city, of course taking Pao-ch’ai with her. Some time
previous to this, a slave-girl had casually remarked to Pao-yü that her
young mistress, Tai-yü, was about to leave and go back again to the
south. Pao-yü fainted on the spot, and was straightway carried off and
put to bed. He bore the departure of Pao-ch’ai with composure. He could
not even hear of separation from his beloved Tai-yü.

And she was already deeply in love with him. Long, long ago her
faithful slave-girl had whispered into her ear the soft possibility
of union with her cousin. Day and night she thought about Pao-yü, and
bitterly regretted that she had now neither father nor mother on whom
she could rely to effect the object that lay nearest to her heart.
One evening, tired out under the ravages of the great passion, she
flung herself down, without undressing, upon a couch to sleep. But
she had hardly closed her eyes ere her grandmother and a whole bevy
of aunts and cousins walked in to offer, as they said, their hearty
congratulations. Tai-yü was astonished, and asked what on earth their
congratulations meant; upon which it was explained to her that her
father had married again, and that her stepmother had arranged for her
a most eligible match, in consequence of which she was to leave for
home immediately. With floods of tears Tai-yü entreated her grandmother
not to send her away. She did not want to marry, and she would rather
become a slave-girl at her grandmother’s feet than fall in with the
scheme proposed. She exhausted every argument, and even invoked the
spirit of her dead mother to plead her cause; but the old lady was
obdurate, and finally went away, saying that the arrangement would
have to be carried out. Then Tai-yü saw no escape but the one last
resource of all; when at that moment Pao-yü entered, and with a smile
on his face began to offer her _his_ congratulations too.

“Thank you, cousin,” cried she, starting up and seizing him rudely by
the arm. “Now I know you for the false, fickle creature you are!”

“What is the matter, dear girl?” inquired Pao-yü in amazement. “I was
only glad for your sake that you had found a lover at last.”

“And what lover do you think I could ever care to find now?” rejoined

“Well,” replied Pao-yü, “I should of course wish it to be myself. I
consider you indeed mine already; and if you think of the way I have
always behaved towards you ...”

“What!” said Tai-yü, partly misunderstanding his words, “can it be you
after all? and do you really wish me to remain with you?”

“You shall see with your own eyes,” answered Pao-yü, “even into the
inmost recesses of my heart, and then perhaps you will believe.”

Thereupon he drew a knife, and plunging it into his body, ripped
himself open so as to expose his heart to view. With a shriek Tai-yü
tried to stay his hand, and felt herself drenched with the flow of
fresh warm blood; when suddenly Pao-yü uttered a loud groan, and crying
out, “Great heaven, my heart is gone!” fell senseless to the ground.
“Help! help!” screamed Tai-yü; “he is dying! he is dying!” “Wake up!
wake up!” said Tai-yü’s maid; “whatever has given you nightmare like

So Tai-yü waked up and found that she had had a bad dream. But she had
something worse than that. She had a bad illness to follow; and strange
to say, Pao-yü was laid up at the same time. The doctor came and felt
her pulse--both pulses, in fact--and shook his head, and drank a cup of
tea, and said that Tai-yü’s vital principle wanted nourishment, which
it would get out of a prescription he then and there wrote down. As to
Pao-yü, he was simply suffering from a fit of temporary indigestion.

So Tai-yü got better, and Pao-yü recovered his spirits. His father
had returned home, and he was once more obliged to make some show of
work, and consequently had fewer hours to spend in the society of
his cousin. He was now a young man, and the question of his marriage
began to occupy a foremost place in the minds of his parents and
grandmother. Several names were proposed, one especially by his father;
but it was finally agreed that it was unnecessary to go far afield
to secure a fitting bride. It was merely a choice between the two
charming young ladies who had already shared so much in his daily life.
But the difficulty lay precisely there. Where each was perfection it
became invidious to choose. In another famous Chinese novel, already
described, a similar difficulty is got over in this way--the hero
marries both. Here, however, the family elders were distracted by rival
claims. By their gentle, winning manners, Pao-ch’ai and Tai-yü had
made themselves equally beloved by all the inmates of these two noble
houses, from the venerable grandmother down to the meanest slave-girl.
Their beauty was of different styles, but at the bar of man’s opinion
each would probably have gained an equal number of votes. Tai-yü was
undoubtedly the cleverer of the two, but Pao-ch’ai had better health;
and in the judgment of those with whom the decision rested, health
carried the day. It was arranged that Pao-yü was to marry Pao-ch’ai.

This momentous arrangement was naturally made in secret. Various
preliminaries would have to be gone through before a verbal promise
could give place to formal betrothal. And it is a well-ascertained
fact that secrets can only be kept by men, while this one was confided
to at least a dozen women. Consequently, one night when Tai-yü was
ill and alone in her room, yearning for the love that had already
been contracted away to another, she heard two slave-girls outside
whispering confidences, and fancied she caught Pao-yü’s name. She
listened again, and this time without doubt, for she heard them say
that Pao-yü was engaged to marry a lady of good family and many
accomplishments. Just then a parrot called out, “Here’s your mistress:
pour out the tea!” which frightened the slave-girls horribly; and they
forthwith separated, one of them running inside to attend upon Tai-yü
herself. She finds her young mistress in a very agitated state, but
Tai-yü is always ailing now.

This time she was seriously ill. She ate nothing. She was racked by a
dreadful cough. Even a Chinese doctor could now hardly fail to see that
she was far advanced in a decline. But none knew that the sickness of
her body had originated in sickness of the heart.

One night she grew rapidly worse and worse, and lay to all appearances
dying. A slave-girl ran to summon her grandmother, while several others
remained in the room talking about Pao-yü and his intended marriage.
“It was all off,” said one of them. “His grandmother would not agree
to the young lady chosen by his father. She had already made her
own choice--of another young lady who lives in the family, and of
whom we are all very fond.” The dying girl heard these words, and it
then flashed across her that after all she must herself be the bride
intended for Pao-yü. “For if not I,” argued she, “who can it possibly
be?” Thereupon she rallied as it were by a supreme effort of will, and,
to the great astonishment of all, called for a drink of tea. Those who
had come expecting to see her die were now glad to think that her youth
might ultimately prevail.

So Tai-yü got better once more; but only better, not well. For the
sickness of the soul is not to be cured by drugs. Meanwhile, an event
occurred which for the time being threw everything else into the shade.
_Pao-yü lost his jade tablet._ After changing his clothes, he had
forgotten to put it on, and had left it lying upon his table. But when
he sent to fetch it, it was gone. A search was instituted high and low,
without success. The precious talisman was missing. No one dared tell
his grandmother and face the old lady’s wrath. As to Pao-yü himself,
he treated the matter lightly. Gradually, however, a change came over
his demeanour. He was often absent-minded. At other times his tongue
would run away with him, and he talked nonsense. At length he got so
bad that it became imperative to do something. So his grandmother had
to be told. Of course she was dreadfully upset, but she made a move in
the right direction, and offered an enormous reward for its recovery.
The result was that within a few days the reward was claimed. But
in the interval the tablet seemed to have lost much of its striking
brilliancy; and a closer inspection showed it to be in reality nothing
more than a clever imitation. This was a crushing disappointment
to all. Pao-yü’s illness was increasing day by day. His father had
received another appointment in the provinces, and it was eminently
desirable that Pao-yü’s marriage should take place previous to his
departure. The great objection to hurrying on the ceremony was that
the family were in mourning. Among other calamities which had befallen
of late, the young lady in the palace had died, and her influence at
Court was gone. Still, everything considered, it was deemed advisable
to solemnise the wedding without delay. Pao-yü’s father, little as
he cared for the character of his only son, had been greatly shocked
at the change which he now saw. A worn, haggard face, with sunken,
lack-lustre eyes; rambling, inconsequent talk--this was the heir in
whom the family hopes were centred. The old grandmother, finding that
doctors were of little avail, had even called in a fortune-teller, who
said pretty much what he was wanted to say, viz., that Pao-yü should
marry some one with a golden destiny to help him on.

So the chief actors in the tragedy about to be enacted had to be
consulted at last. They began with Pao-ch’ai, for various reasons;
and she, like a modest, well-bred maiden, received her mother’s
commands in submissive silence. Further, from that day she ceased
to mention Pao-yü’s name. With Pao-yü, however, it was a different
thing altogether. His love for Tai-yü was a matter of some notoriety,
especially with the slave-girls, one of whom even went so far as to
tell his mother that his heart was set upon marrying her whom the
family had felt obliged to reject. It was therefore hardly doubtful how
he would receive the news of his betrothal to Pao-ch’ai; and as in his
present state of health the consequences could not be ignored, it was
resolved to have recourse to stratagem. So the altar was prepared, and
naught remained but to draw the bright death across the victim’s throat.

In the short time which intervened, the news was broken to Tai-yü in an
exceptionally cruel manner. She heard by accident in conversation with
a slave-girl in the garden that Pao-yü was to marry Pao-ch’ai. The poor
girl felt as if a thunderbolt had pierced her brain. Her whole frame
quivered beneath the shock. She turned to go back to her room, but half
unconsciously followed the path that led to Pao-yü’s apartments. Hardly
noticing the servants in attendance, she almost forced her way in, and
stood in the presence of her cousin. He was sitting down, and he looked
up and laughed a foolish laugh when he saw her enter; but he did not
rise, and he did not invite her to be seated. Tai-yü sat down without
being asked, and without a word spoken on either side. And the two
sat there, and stared and leered at each other, until they both broke
out into wild delirious laughter, the senseless crazy laughter of the
madhouse. “What makes you ill, cousin?” asked Tai-yü, when the first
burst of their dreadful merriment had subsided. “I am in love with
Tai-yü,” he replied; and then they both went off into louder screams of
laughter than before.

At this point the slave-girls thought it high time to interfere, and,
after much more laughing and nodding of heads, Tai-yü was persuaded to
go away. She set off to run back to her own room, and sped along with a
newly acquired strength. But just as she was nearing the door, she was
seen to fall, and the terrified slave-girl who rushed to pick her up
found her with her mouth full of blood.

By this time all formalities have been gone through and the wedding day
is fixed. It is not to be a grand wedding, but of course there must be
a trousseau. Pao-ch’ai sometimes weeps, she scarcely knows why; but
preparations for the great event of her life leave her, fortunately,
very little leisure for reflection. Tai-yü is in bed, and, but for
a faithful slave-girl, alone. Nobody thinks much about her at this
juncture; when the wedding is over she is to receive a double share of

One morning she makes the slave-girl bring her all her poems and
various other relics of the happy days gone by. She turns them over
and over between her thin and wasted fingers until finally she
commits them all to the flames. The effort is too much for her, and
the slave-girl in despair hurries across to the grandmother’s for
assistance. She finds the whole place deserted, but a moment’s thought
reminds her that the old lady is doubtless with Pao-yü. So thither she
makes her way as fast as her feet can carry her, only, however, to be
still further amazed at finding the rooms shut up, and no one there.
Utterly confused, and not knowing what to make of these unlooked-for
circumstances, she is about to run back to Tai-yü’s room, when to
her great relief she espies a fellow-servant in the distance, who
straightway informs her that it is Pao-yü’s wedding-day, and that he
had moved into another suite of apartments. And so it was. Pao-yü had
joyfully agreed to the proposition that he should marry his cousin, for
he had been skilfully given to understand that the cousin in question
was Tai-yü. And now the much wished-for hour had arrived. The veiled
bride, accompanied by the very slave-girl who had long ago escorted her
from the south, alighted from her sedan-chair at Pao-yü’s door. The
wedding march was played, and the young couple proceeded to the final
ceremony of worship, which made them irrevocably man and wife. Then, as
is customary upon such occasions, Pao-yü raised his bride’s veil. For
a moment he seemed as though suddenly turned into stone, as he stood
there speechless and motionless, with fixed eyes gazing upon a face he
had little expected to behold. Meanwhile, Pao-ch’ai retired into an
inner apartment; and then, for the first time, Pao-yü found his voice.

“Am I dreaming?” cried he, looking round upon his assembled relatives
and friends.

“No, you are married,” replied several of those nearest to him. “Take
care; your father is outside. He arranged it all.”

“Who was that?” said Pao-yü, with averted head, pointing in the
direction of the door through which Pao-ch’ai had disappeared.

“It was Pao-ch’ai, your wife...”

“Tai-yü, you mean; Tai-yü is my wife,” shrieked he, interrupting them;
“I want Tai-yü! I want Tai-yü! Oh, bring us together, and save us
both!” Here he broke down altogether. Thick sobs choked his further
utterance, until relief came in a surging flood of tears.

All this time Tai-yü was dying, dying beyond hope of recall. She knew
that the hour of release was at hand, and she lay there quietly waiting
for death. Every now and again she swallowed a teaspoonful of broth,
but gradually the light faded out of her eyes, and the slave-girl,
faithful to the last, felt that her young mistress’s fingers were
rapidly growing cold. At that moment, Tai-yü’s lips were seen to move,
and she was distinctly heard to say, “O Pao-yü, Pao-yü...” Those words
were her last.

Just then, breaking in upon the hushed moments which succeed
dissolution, sounds of far-off music were borne along upon the breeze.
The slave-girl crept stealthily to the door, and strained her ear to
listen; but she could hear nothing save the soughing of the wind as it
moaned fitfully through the trees.

But the bridegroom himself had already entered the valley of the dark
shadow. Pao-yü was very ill. He raved and raved about Tai-yü, until
at length Pao-ch’ai, who had heard the news, took upon herself the
painful task of telling him she was already dead. “Dead?” cried Pao-yü,
“dead?” and with a loud groan he fell back upon the bed insensible. A
darkness came before his eyes, and he seemed to be transported into
a region which was unfamiliar to him. Looking about, he saw some one
advancing towards him, and immediately called out to the stranger to be
kind enough to tell him where he was. “You are on the road to the next
world,” replied the man; “but your span of life is not yet complete,
and you have no business here.” Pao-yü explained that he had come in
search of Tai-yü, who had lately died; to which the man replied that
Tai-yü’s soul had already gone back to its home in the pure serene.
“And if you would see her again,” added the man, “return to your duties
upon earth. Fulfil your destiny there, chasten your understanding,
nourish the divinity that is within you, and you may yet hope to meet
her once more.” The man then flung a stone at him and struck him over
the heart, which so frightened Pao-yü that he turned to retrace his
steps. At that moment he heard himself loudly called by name; and
opening his eyes, saw his mother and grandmother standing by the side
of his bed.

They had thought that he was gone, and were overjoyed at seeing him
return to life, even though it was the same life as before, clouded
with the great sorrow of unreason. For now they could always hope; and
when they saw him daily grow stronger and stronger in bodily health,
it seemed that ere long even his mental equilibrium might be restored.
The more so that he had ceased to mention Tai-yü’s name, and treated
Pao-ch’ai with marked kindness and respect.

All this time the fortunes of the two grand families are sinking from
bad to worse. Pao-yü’s uncle is mixed up in an act of disgraceful
oppression; while his father, at his new post, makes the foolish
endeavour to be an honest incorrupt official. He tries to put his
foot down upon the system of bribery which prevails, but succeeds
only in getting himself recalled and impeached for maladministration
of affairs. The upshot of all this is that an Imperial decree is
issued confiscating the property and depriving the families of their
hereditary rank. Besides this, the lineal representatives are to be
banished; and within the walls which have been so long sacred to mirth
and merrymaking, consternation now reigns supreme. “O high Heaven,”
cries Pao-yü’s father, as his brother and nephew start for their place
of banishment, “that the fortunes of our family should fall like this!”

Of all, perhaps the old grandmother felt the blow most severely.
She had lived for eighty-three years in affluence, accustomed to
the devotion of her children and the adulation of friends. But now
money was scarce, and the voice of flattery unheard. The courtiers of
prosperous days forgot to call, and even the servants deserted at their
posts. And so it came about that the old lady fell ill, and within a
few days was lying upon her death-bed. She spoke a kind word to all,
except to Pao-ch’ai. For her she had only a sigh, that fate had linked
her with a husband whose heart was buried in the grave. So she died,
and there was a splendid funeral, paid for out of funds raised at the
pawnshop. Pao-ch’ai appeared in white; and among the flowers which were
gathered around the bier, she was unanimously pronounced to be the
fairest blossom of all.

Then other members of the family die, and Pao-yü relapses into a
condition as critical as ever. He is in fact at the point of death,
when a startling announcement restores him again to consciousness. A
Buddhist priest is at the outer gate, and he has brought back Pao-yü’s
lost tablet of jade. There was, of course, great excitement on all
sides; but the priest refused to part with the jade until he had got
the promised reward. And where now was it possible to raise such a sum
as that, and at a moment’s notice? Still it was felt that the tablet
must be recovered at all costs. Pao-yü’s life depended on it, and he
was the sole hope of the family. So the priest was promised his reward,
and the jade was conveyed into the sick-room. But when Pao-yü clutched
it in his eager hand, he dropped it with a loud cry and fell back
gasping upon the bed.

In a few minutes Pao-yü’s breathing became more and more distressed,
and a servant ran out to call in the priest, in the hope that something
might yet be done. The priest, however, had disappeared, and by this
time Pao-yü had ceased to breathe.

Immediately upon the disunion of body and soul which mortals call
death, the spirit of Pao-yü set off on its journey to the Infinite, led
by a Buddhist priest. Just then a voice called out and said that Tai-yü
was awaiting him, and at that moment many familiar faces crowded round
him, but as he gazed at them in recognition, they changed into grinning
goblins. At length he reached a spot where there was a beautiful
crimson flower in an enclosure, so carefully tended that neither bees
nor butterflies were allowed to settle upon it. It was a flower, he was
told, which had been to fulfil a mission upon earth, and had recently
returned to the Infinite. He was now taken to see Tai-yü. A bamboo
screen which hung before the entrance to a room was raised, and there
before him stood his heart’s idol, his lost Tai-yü. Stretching forth
his hands, he was about to speak to her, when suddenly the screen was
hastily dropped. The priest gave him a shove, and he fell backwards,
awaking as though from a dream.

Once more he had regained a new hold upon life; once more he had
emerged from the very jaws of death. This time he was a changed man.
He devoted himself to reading for the great public examination, in
the hope of securing the much coveted degree of Master of Arts.
Nevertheless, he talks little, and seems to care less, about the
honours and glory of this world; and what is stranger than all, he
appears to have very much lost his taste for the once fascinating
society of women. For a time he seems to be under the spell of a
religious craze, and is always arguing with Pao-ch’ai upon the
advantages of devoting one’s life to the service of Buddha. But shortly
before the examination he burned all the books he had collected which
treated of immortality and a future state, and concentrated every
thought upon the great object before him.

At length the day comes, and Pao-yü, accompanied by a nephew who
is also a candidate, prepares to enter the arena. His father was
away from home. He had gone southwards to take the remains of the
grandmother and of Tai-yü back to their ancestral burying-ground. So
Pao-yü first goes to take leave of his mother, and she addresses to
him a few parting words, full of encouragement and hope. Then Pao-yü
falls upon his knees, and implores her pardon for all the trouble
he has caused her. “I can only trust,” he added, “that I shall
now be successful, and that you, dear mother, will be happy.” And
then amid tears and good wishes, the two young men set out for the
examination-hall, where, with several thousand other candidates, they
are to remain for some time immured.

The hours and days speed apace, full of arduous effort to those within,
of anxiety to those without. At last the great gates are thrown wide
open, and the vast crowd of worn-out, weary students bursts forth,
to meet the equally vast crowd of eager, expectant friends. In the
crush that ensues, Pao-yü and his nephew lose sight of each other, and
the nephew reaches home first. There the feast of welcome is already
spread, and the wine-kettles are put to the fire. So every now and
again somebody runs out to see if Pao-yü is not yet in sight. But the
time passes and he comes not. Fears as to his personal safety begin
to be aroused, and messengers are sent out in all directions. Pao-yü
is nowhere to be found. The night comes and goes. The next day and
the next day, and still no Pao-yü. He has disappeared without leaving
behind him the faintest clue to his whereabouts. Meanwhile, the list of
successful candidates is published, and Pao-yü’s name stands seventh
on the list. His nephew has the 130th place. What a triumph for the
family, and what rapture would have been theirs, but for the mysterious
absence of Pao-yü.

Thus their joy was shaded by sorrow, until hope, springing eternal,
was unexpectedly revived. Pao-yü’s winning essay had attracted the
attention of the Emperor, and his Majesty issued an order for the
writer to appear at Court. An Imperial order may not be lightly
disregarded; and it was fervently hoped by the family that by these
means Pao-yü might be restored to them. This, in fact, was all that was
wanting now to secure the renewed prosperity of the two ancient houses.
The tide of events had set favourably at last. Those who had been
banished to the frontier had greatly distinguished themselves against
the banditti who ravaged the country round about. There was Pao-yü’s
success and his nephew’s; and above all, the gracious clemency of the
Son of Heaven. Free pardons were granted, confiscated estates were
returned. The two families basked again in the glow of Imperial favour.
Pao-ch’ai was about to become a mother; the ancestral line might be
continued after all. But Pao-yü, where was he? That remained a mystery
still, against which even the Emperor’s mandate proved to be of no

It was on his return journey that Pao-yü’s father heard of the success
and disappearance of his son. Torn by conflicting emotions he hurried
on, in his haste to reach home and aid in unravelling the secret of
Pao-yü’s hiding-place. One moonlight night, his boat lay anchored
alongside the shore, which a storm of the previous day had wrapped in
a mantle of snow. He was sitting writing at a table, when suddenly,
through the half-open door, advancing towards him over the bow of the
boat, his silhouette sharply defined against the surrounding snow, he
saw the figure of a shaven-headed Buddhist priest. The priest knelt
down, and struck his head four times upon the ground, and then,
without a word, turned back to join two other priests who were awaiting
him. The three vanished as imperceptibly as they had come; before,
indeed, the astonished father was able to realise that he had been, for
the last time, face to face with Pao-yü!


[35] Said of the bogies of the hills, in allusion to their _clothes_.
Here quoted with reference to the official classes, in ridicule of the
title under which they hold posts which, from a literary point of view,
they are totally unfit to occupy.

[36] A poet of the T’ang dynasty, whose eyebrows met, whose nails were
very long, and who could write very fast.

[37] This is another hit at the ruling classes. Hsi K’ang, the
celebrated poet, musician, and alchemist (A.D. 223-262),
was sitting one night alone, playing upon his lute, when suddenly a
man with a tiny face walked in, and began to stare hard at him, the
stranger’s face enlarging all the time. “I’m not going to match myself
against a devil!” cried the musician after a few moments, and instantly
blew out the light.

[38] When Liu Chüan, Governor of Wu-ling, determined to relieve his
poverty by trade, he saw a devil standing by his side, laughing
and rubbing its hands for glee. “Poverty and wealth are matters of
destiny,” said Liu Chüan, “but to be laughed at by a devil--,” and
accordingly he desisted from his intention.

[39] A writer who flourished in the early part of the fourth century,
and composed a work in thirty books, entitled “Supernatural Researches.”

[40] The birth of a boy was formerly signalled by hanging a bow at the
door; that of a girl, by displaying a small towel--indicative of the
parts that each would hereafter play in the drama of life.

[41] Alluding to the priest Dharma-nandi, who came from India to China,
and tried to convert the Emperor Wu Ting of the Liang dynasty; but
failing in his attempt, he retired full of mortification to a temple
at Sung-shan, where he sat for nine years before a rock, until his own
image was imprinted thereon.

[42] The six _gâti_ or conditions of existence, viz., angels, men,
demons, hungry devils, brute beasts, and tortured sinners.

[43] The work of a well-known writer, named Lin I-ch’ing, who
flourished during the Sung dynasty.

[44] The great poet Tu Fu dreamt that his greater predecessor, Li
T’ai-po, appeared to him, “coming when the maple-grove was in darkness,
and returning while the frontier pass was still obscured,”--that is,
at night, when no one could see him; the meaning being that he never
came at all, and that those “who know me (P’u Sung-ling)” are equally

[45] These two lines are short in the original.



The second Emperor of the Manchu dynasty, known to the world by his
year-title K’ANG HSI, succeeded to the throne in 1662 when he
was only eight years of age, and six years later he took up the reins
of government. Fairly tall and well-proportioned, he loved all manly
exercises and devoted three months annually to hunting. Large bright
eyes lighted up his face, which was pitted with small-pox. Contemporary
observers vie in praising his wit, understanding, and liberality of
mind. Indefatigable in government, he kept a careful watch on his
Ministers, his love for the people leading him to prefer economy to
taxation. He was personally frugal, yet on public works he would lavish
large sums. He patronised the Jesuits, whom he employed in surveying
the empire, in astronomy, and in casting cannon; though latterly he
found it necessary to impose restrictions on their propagandism. In
spite of war and rebellion, which must have encroached seriously upon
his time, he found leisure to initiate and carry out, with the aid
of the leading scholars of the day, several of the greatest literary
enterprises the world has ever seen. The chief of these are (1) the
_K’ang Hsi Tzŭ Tien_, the great standard dictionary of the Chinese
language; (2) the _P’ei Wên Yün Fu_, a huge concordance to all
literature, bound up in forty-four large closely-printed volumes;
(3) the _P’ien Tzŭ Lei P’ien_, a similar work, with a different
arrangement, bound up in thirty-six large volumes; (4) the _Yüan Chien
Lei Han_, an encyclopædia, bound up in forty-four volumes; and (5)
the _T’u Shu Chi Ch’êng_, a profusely illustrated encyclopædia, in
1628 volumes of about 200 pages to each. To the above must be added
a considerable collection of literary remains, in prose and verse,
which, of course, were actually the Emperor’s own work. It cannot be
said that any of these remains are of a high order, or are familiar
to the public at large, with a single and trifling exception. The
so-called Sacred Edict is known from one end of China to the other. It
originally consisted of sixteen moral maxims delivered in 1670 under
the form of an edict by the Emperor K’ang Hsi. His Majesty himself had
just reached the mature age of sixteen. He had then probably discovered
that men’s morals were no longer what they had been in the days of
“ancient kings,” and with boyish earnestness he made a kindly effort
to do something for the people whose welfare was destined to be for so
many years to come his chief and most absorbing care. The maxims are
commonplace enough, but for the sake of the great Emperor who loved his
“children” more than himself they have been exalted into utterances
almost divine. Here are the first, seventh, and eleventh maxims, as

“Pay great attention to filial piety and to brotherly obedience, in
order to give due weight to human relationships.”

“Discard strange doctrines, in order to glorify the orthodox teaching.”

“Educate your sons and younger brothers, in order to hinder them from
doing what is wrong.”

K’ang Hsi died in 1722, after completing a full cycle of sixty years
as occupant of the Dragon Throne. His son and successor, Yung Chêng,
caused one hundred picked scholars to submit essays enlarging upon the
maxims of his father, and of these the sixteen best were chosen, and in
1724 it was enacted that they should be publicly read to the people on
the 1st and 15th of each month in every city and town in the empire.
This law is still in force. Subsequently, the sixteen essays were
paraphrased into easy colloquial; and now the maxims, the essays, and
the paraphrase, together make up a volume which may be roughly said to
contain the whole duty of man.

[Sidenote: CH’IEN LUNG]

In 1735 the Emperor Yung Chêng died, and was succeeded by his fourth
son, who reigned as CH’IEN LUNG. An able ruler, with an
insatiable thirst for knowledge, and an indefatigable administrator, he
rivals his grandfather’s fame as a sovereign and a patron of letters.
New editions of important historical works and of encyclopædias were
issued by Imperial order, and under the superintendence of the Emperor
himself. In 1772 there was a general search for all literary works
worthy of preservation, and ten years later a voluminous collection of
these was published, embracing many rare books taken from the great
encyclopædia of the Emperor Yung Lo. A descriptive catalogue of the
Imperial Library, containing 3460 works arranged under the four heads
of Classics, History, Philosophy, and General Literature, was drawn
up in 1772-1790. It gives the history of each work, which is also
criticised. The vastness of this catalogue led to the publication of
an abridgment, which omits all works not actually preserved in the
Library. The personal writings of this Emperor are very voluminous.
They consist of a general collection containing a variety of notes on
current or ancient topics, prefaces to books, and the like, and also of
a collection of poems. Of these last, those produced between 1736 and
1783 were published, and reached the almost incredible total of 33,950
separate pieces. It need hardly be added that nearly all are very
short. Even thus the output must be considered a record, apart from the
fact that during the reign there was a plentiful supply both of war
and rebellion. Burmah and Nepaul were forced to pay tribute; Chinese
supremacy was established in Tibet; and Kuldja and Kashgaria were added
to the empire. In 1795, on completing a cycle of sixty years of power,
the Emperor abdicated in favour of his son, and three years later he

His Majesty’s poetry, though artificially correct, was mediocre enough.
The following stanza, “On Hearing the Cicada,” is a good example,
conforming as it does to all the rules of versification, but wanting in
that one feature which makes the “stop-short” what it is, viz., that
“although the words end, the sense still goes on”:--

  “_The season is a month behind
            in this land of northern breeze,
  When first I hear the harsh cicada
            shrieking through the trees.
  I look, but cannot mark its form
            amid the foliage fair,--
  Naught but a flash of shadow
            which goes flitting here and there._”

Here, instead of being carried away into some suggested train of
thought, the reader is fairly entitled to ask “What then?”

The following is a somewhat more spirited production. It is a song
written by Ch’ien Lung, to be inserted and sung in a play entitled
“Picking up Gold,” by a beggar who is fortunate enough to stumble
across a large nugget:--

  “_A brimless cap of felt stuck on my head;
  No coat,--a myriad-patchwork quilt instead;
  In my hand a bamboo staff;
  Hempen sandals on my feet;
  As I slouch along the street,
  ‘Pity the poor beggar,’ to the passers-by I call,
  Hoping to obtain broken food and dregs of wine.
  Then when night’s dark shadows fall,
  Oh merrily, Oh merrily I laugh,
  Drinking myself to sleep, sheltered in some old shrine._

  _Black, black, the clouds close round on every side;
  White, white, the gossamer flakes fly far and wide.
  Ai-yah! is’t jade that sudden decks the eaves?
  With silver tiles meseems the streets are laid.
  Oh, in what glorious garb Nature’s arrayed,
  Displaying fairy features on a lovely face!
  But stay! the night is drawing on apace;
  Nothing remains my homeward track to guide;
  See how the feathered snow weighs down the palm-tree leaves!_

  _I wag my head and clap my hands, ha! ha!
  I clap my hands and wag my head, ha! ha!
  There in the drift a lump half-sunken lies;
  The beggar’s luck has turned up trumps at last!
  O gold!--for thee dear relatives will part,
  Dear friends forget their hours of friendship past,
  Husband and wife tear at each other’s heart,
  Father and son sever life’s closest ties;
  For thee, the ignoble thief all rule and law defies._

  _What men of this world most adore is gold;
  The devils deep in hell the dross adore;
  Where gold is there the gods are in its wake.
  Now shall I never more produce the snake;
  Stand begging where the cross-roads meet no more;
  Or shiver me to sleep in the rush hut, dank and cold;
  Or lean against the rich or poor man’s door.
  Away my yellow bowl, my earthen jar!
  See, thus I rend my pouch and hurl my gourd afar!_

  _An official hat and girdle I shall wear,
  And this shrunk shank in boots with pipeclayed soles encase;
  On fête and holiday how jovial I shall be,
  Joining my friends in the tavern or the tea-shop o’er their tea;
  Swagger, swagger, swagger, with such an air and grace.
  Sometimes a sleek steed my ‘Excellence’ will bear;
  Or in a sedan I shall ride at ease,
  One servant with my hat-box close behind the chair,
  While another on his shoulders carries my valise._”



Foremost among the scholars of the present dynasty stands the name of
KU CHIANG (1612-1681). Remaining faithful to the Mings after
their final downfall, he changed his name to Ku Yen-wu, and for a long
time wandered about the country in disguise. He declined to serve under
the Manchus, and supported himself by farming. A profound student, it
is recorded that in his wanderings he always carried about with him
several horse-loads of books to consult whenever his memory might be at
fault. His writings on the Classics, history, topography, and poetry
are still highly esteemed. To foreigners he is best known as the author
of the _Jih Chih Lu_, which contains his notes, chiefly on the Classics
and history, gathered during a course of reading which extended over
thirty years. He also wrote many works upon the ancient sounds and

       *       *       *       *       *

CHU YUNG-SHUN (1617-1689) was delicate as a child, and his mother
made him practise the Taoist art of prolonging life indefinitely,
which seems to be nothing more than a system of regular breathing
with deep inspirations. He was a native of a town in Kiangsu, at the
sack of which, by the conquering Tartars, his father perished rather
than submit to the new dynasty. In consequence of his father’s death
he steadily declined to enter upon a public career, and gave up his
life to study and teaching. He was the author of commentaries upon
the Great Learning and the Doctrine of the Mean, and of other works;
but none of these is so famous as his Family Maxims, a little book
which, on account of the author’s name, has often been attributed to
the great commentator Chu Hsi. The piquancy of these maxims disappears
in translation, owing as they do much more to literary form than to
subject-matter. Here are two specimens:--

“Forget the good deeds you have done; remember the kindnesses you have

“Mind your own business, follow out your destiny, live in accord with
the age, and leave the rest to God. He who can do this is near indeed.”

His own favourite saying was--

“To know what ought to be known, and to do what ought to be done, that
is enough. There is no time for anything else.”

Three days before his death he struggled into the ancestral hall, and
there before the family tablets called the spirits of his forefathers
to witness that he had never injured them by word or deed.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: LAN TING-YÜAN]

LAN TING-YÜAN (1680-1733), better known as Lan Lu-chou,
devoted himself as a youth to poetry, literature, and political
economy. He accompanied his brother to Formosa as military secretary,
and his account of the expedition attracted public attention.
Recommended to the Emperor, he became magistrate of P’u-lin, and
distinguished himself as much by his just and incorrupt administration
as by his literary abilities. He managed, however, to make enemies
among his superior officers, and within three years he was impeached
for insubordination and thrown into prison. His case was subsequently
laid before the Emperor, who not only set him free, but appointed him
to be Prefect at Canton, bestowing upon him at the same time some
valuable medicine, an autograph copy of verses, a sable robe, some
joss-stick, and other coveted marks of Imperial favour. But all was in
vain. He died of a broken heart one month after taking up his post.
His complete works have been published in twenty small octavo volumes,
of which works perhaps the best known of all is a treatise on the
proper training of women, which fills two of the above volumes. This is
divided under four heads, namely, Virtue, Speech, Personal Appearance,
and Duty, an extended education in the intellectual sense not coming
within the writer’s purview. The chapters are short, and many of them
are introduced by some ancient aphorism, forming a convenient peg upon
which to hang a moral lesson, copious extracts being made from the work
of the Lady Pan of the Han dynasty. A few lines from his preface may be

“Good government of the empire depends upon morals; correctness of
morals depends upon right ordering of the family; and right ordering
of the family depends upon the wife.... If the curtain which divides
the men from the women is too thin to keep them apart, misfortune will
come to the family and to the State. Purification of morals, from the
time of the creation until now, has always come from women. Women are
not all alike; some are good and some are bad. For bringing them to a
proper uniformity there is nothing like education. In old days both
boys and girls were educated ... but now the books used no longer
exist, and we know not the details of the system.... The education
of a woman is not like that of her husband, which may be said to
continue daily all through life. For he can always take up a classic
or a history, or familiarise himself with the works of miscellaneous
writers; whereas a woman’s education does not extend beyond ten years,
after which she takes upon herself the manifold responsibilities of a
household. She is then no longer able to give her undivided attention
to books, and cannot investigate thoroughly, the result being that
her learning is not sufficiently extensive to enable her to grasp
principles. She is, as it were, carried away upon a flood, without hope
of return, and it is difficult for her to make any use of the knowledge
she has acquired. Surely then a work on the education of women is much
to be desired.”

This is how one phase of female virtue is illustrated by anecdote:--

“A man having been killed in a brawl, two brothers were arrested for
the murder and brought to trial. Each one swore that he personally
was the murderer, and that the other was innocent. The judge was thus
unable to decide the case, and referred it to the Prince. The Prince
bade him summon their mother, and ask which of them had done the deed.
‘Punish the younger,’ she replied through a flood of tears. ‘People
are usually more fond of the younger,’ observed the judge; ‘how is it
you wish me to punish him?’ ‘He is my own child,’ answered the woman;
‘the elder is the son of my husband’s first wife. When my husband died
he begged me to take care of the boy, and I promised I would. If now I
were to let the elder be punished while the younger escaped, I should
be only gratifying my private feelings and wronging the dead. I have
no alternative.’ And she wept on until her clothes were drenched with
tears. Meanwhile the judge reported to the Prince, and the latter,
astonished at her magnanimity, pardoned both the accused.”

Two more of the above twenty volumes are devoted to the most remarkable
of the criminal cases tried by him during his short magisterial career.
An extract from the preface (1729) to his complete works, penned by an
ardent admirer, will give an idea of the estimation in which these are

“My master’s judicial capacity was of a remarkably high order, as
though the mantle of Pao Hsiao-su[46] had descended upon him. In very
difficult cases he would investigate dispassionately and calmly,
appearing to possess some unusual method for worming out the truth; so
that the most crafty lawyers and the most experienced scoundrels, whom
no logic could entangle and no pains intimidate, upon being brought
before him, found themselves deserted by their former cunning, and
confessed readily without waiting for the application of torture.
I, indeed, have often wondered how it is that torture is brought
into requisition so much in judicial investigations. For, under the
influence of the ‘three wooden instruments,’ what evidence is there
which cannot be elicited?--to say nothing of the danger of a mistake
and the unutterable injury thus inflicted upon the departed spirits
in the realms below. Now, my master, in investigating and deciding
cases, was fearful only lest his people should not obtain a full and
fair hearing; he, therefore, argued each point with them quietly and
kindly until they were thoroughly committed to a certain position, with
no possibility of backing out, and then he decided the case upon its
merits as thus set forth. By such means, those who were bambooed had no
cause for complaint, while those who were condemned to die died without
resenting their sentence; the people were unable to deceive him, and
they did not even venture to make the attempt. Thus did he carry out
the Confucian doctrine of respecting popular feeling;[47] and were all
judicial officers to decide cases in the same careful and impartial
manner, there would not be a single injured suitor under the canopy of

The following is a specimen case dealing with the evil effects of
superstitious doctrines:--

“The people of the Ch’ao-yang district are great on bogies, and love
to talk of spirits and Buddhas. The gentry and their wives devote
themselves to Ta Tien, but the women generally of the neighbourhood
flock in crowds to the temples to burn incense and adore Buddha,
forming an unbroken string along the road. Hence, much ghostly and
supernatural nonsense gets spread about; and hence it was that the
Hou-t’ien sect came to flourish. I know nothing of the origin of this
sect. It was started amongst the Ch’ao-yang people by two men, named
Yen and Chou respectively, who said that they had been instructed by
a white-bearded Immortal, and who, when an attempt to arrest them was
made by a predecessor in office, absconded with their families and
remained in concealment. By and by, however, they came back, calling
themselves the White Lily or the White Aspen sect. I imagine that
White Lily was the real designation, the alteration in name being
simply made to deceive. Their ‘goddess’ was Yen’s own wife, and she
pretended to be able to summon wind and bring down rain, enslave
bogies and exorcise spirits, being assisted in her performances by
her paramour, a man named Hu, who called himself the Immortal of
Pencil Peak. He used to aid in writing out charms, spirting water,
curing diseases, and praying for heirs; and he could enable widows
to hold converse with their departed husbands. The whole district
was taken in by these people, and went quite mad about them, people
travelling from afar to worship them as spiritual guides, and, with
many offerings of money, meats, and wines, enrolling themselves as
their humble disciples, until one would have said it was market-day in
the neighbourhood. I heard of their doings one day as I was returning
from the prefectural city. They had already established themselves
in a large building to the north of the district; they had opened a
preaching-hall, collected several hundred persons together, and for
the two previous days had been availing themselves of the services of
some play-actors to sing and perform at their banquets. I immediately
sent off constables to arrest them; but the constables were afraid
of incurring the displeasure of the spirits and being seized by the
soldiers of the infernal regions, while so much protection was afforded
by various families of wealth and position that the guilty parties
succeeded in preventing the arrest of a single one of their number.
Therefore I proceeded in person to their establishment, knocked at
the door, and seized the goddess, whom I subjected to a searching
examination as to the whereabouts of her accomplices; but the interior
of the place being, as it was, a perfect maze of passages ramifying in
every direction, when I seized a torch and made my way along, even if
I did stumble up against any one, they were gone in a moment before I
had time to see where. It was a veritable nest of secret villany, and
one which I felt ought to be searched to the last corner. Accordingly,
from the goddess’s bed in a dark and out-of-the-way chamber I dragged
forth some ten or a dozen men; while out of the Immortal’s bedroom I
brought a wooden seal of office belonging to the Lady of the Moon, also
a copy of their magic ritual, a quantity of soporifics, wigs, clothes,
and ornaments, of the uses of which I was then totally ignorant. I
further made a great effort to secure the person of the Immortal
himself; and when his friends and rich supporters saw the game was up,
they surrendered him over to justice. At his examination he comported
himself in a very singular manner, such being indeed the chief means
upon which he relied, besides the soporifics and fine dresses, to
deceive the eyes and ears of the public. As to his credulous dupes,
male and female, when they heard the name of the Lady of the Moon they
would be at first somewhat scared; but by and by, seeing that the
goddess was certainly a woman, they would begin to regain courage,
while the Immortal himself, with his hair dressed out and his face
powdered and his skirts fluttering about, hovered round the goddess,
and assuming all the airs and graces of a supernatural beauty, soon
convinced the spectators that he was really the Lady of the Moon, and
quite put them off the scent as to his real sex. Adjourning now to one
of the more remote apartments, there would follow worship of Maitrêya
Buddha, accompanied by the recital of some _sûtra_; after which
soporific incense would be lighted, and the victims be thrown into
a deep sleep. This soporific, or ‘soul confuser,’ as it is otherwise
called, makes people feel tired and sleepy; they are recovered by
means of a charm and a draught of cold water. The promised heirs and
the interviews with deceased husbands are all supposed to be brought
about during the period of trance--for which scandalous impostures
the heads of these villains hung up in the streets were scarcely a
sufficient punishment. However, reflecting that it would be a great
grievance to the people were any of them to find themselves mixed
up in such a case just after a bad harvest, and also that among the
large number who had become affiliated to this society there would be
found many old and respectable families, I determined on a plan which
would put an end to the affair without any troublesome _esclandre_.
I burnt all the depositions in which names were given, and took no
further steps against the persons named. I ordered the goddess and her
paramour to receive their full complement of blows (viz., one hundred),
and to be punished with the heavy _cangue_; and, placing them at the
yamên gate, I let the people rail and curse at them, tear their flesh
and break their heads, until they passed together into their boasted
Paradise. The husband and some ten others of the gang were placed in
the _cangue_, bambooed, or punished in some way; and as for the rest,
they were allowed to escape with this one more chance to turn over
a new leaf. I confiscated the building, destroyed its disgraceful
hiding-places, changed the whole appearance of the place, and made
it into a literary institution to be dedicated to five famous heroes
of literature. I cleansed and purified it from all taint, and on the
1st and 15th of each moon I would, when at leisure, indulge with the
scholars of the district in literary recreations. I formed, in fact, a
literary club; and, leasing a plot of ground for cultivation, devoted
the returns therefrom to the annual Confucian demonstrations and to the
payment of a regular professor. Thus the true doctrine was caused to
flourish, and these supernatural doings to disappear from the scene;
the public tone was elevated, and the morality of the place vastly

“When the Brigadier-General and the Lieutenant-Governor heard what had
been done, they very much commended my action, saying: ‘Had this sect
not been rooted out, the evil results would have been dire indeed; and
had you reported the case in the usual way, praying for the execution
of these criminals, your merit would undoubtedly have been great; but
now, without selfish regard to your own interests, you have shown
yourself unwilling to hunt down more victims than necessary, or to
expose those doings in such a manner as to lead to the suicide of the
persons implicated. Such care for the fair fame of so many people is
deserving of all praise.’”

Although not yet of the same national importance as at the present day,
it was still impossible that the foreign question should have escaped
the notice of such an observant man as Lan Ting-yüan. He flourished at
a time when the spread of the Roman Catholic religion was giving just
grounds for apprehension to thoughtful Chinese statesmen. Accordingly,
we find amongst his collected works two short notices devoted to a
consideration of trade and general intercourse with the various nations
of barbarians. They are interesting as the untrammelled views of
the greatest living Chinese scholar of the date at which they were
written, namely, in 1732. The following is one of these notices:--

“To allow the barbarians to settle at Canton was a mistake. Ever since
Macao was given over, in the reign of Chia Ching (1522-1567) of the
Ming dynasty, to the red-haired barbarians, all manner of nations
have continued without ceasing to flock thither. They build forts and
fortifications and dense settlements of houses. Their descendants will
overshadow the land, and all the country beyond Hsiang-shan will become
a kingdom of devils. ‘Red-haired’ is a general term for the barbarians
of the western islands. Amongst them there are the Dutch, French,
Spaniards, Portuguese, English, and Yü-sŭ-la [? Islam], all of which
nations are horribly fierce. Wherever they go they spy around with a
view to seize on other people’s territory. There was Singapore, which
was originally a Malay country; the red-haired barbarians went there
to trade, and by and by seized it for an emporium of their own. So
with the Philippines, which were colonised by the Malays; because the
Roman Catholic religion was practised there, the Western foreigners
appropriated it in like manner for their own. The Catholic religion is
now spreading over China. In Hupeh, Hunan, Honan, Kiangsi, Fuhkien, and
Kuangsi, there are very few places whither it has not reached. In the
first year of the Emperor Yung Chêng [1736], the Viceroy of Fuhkien,
Man Pao, complained that the Western foreigners were preaching their
religion and tampering with the people, to the great detriment of the
localities in question; and he petitioned that the Roman Catholic
chapels in the various provinces might be turned into lecture-rooms
and schools, and that all Western foreigners might be sent to Macao,
to wait until an opportunity should present itself of sending them
back to their own countries. However, the Viceroy of Kuangtung, out of
mistaken kindness, memorialised the Throne that such of the barbarians
as were old or sick and unwilling to go away might be permitted to
remain in the Roman Catholic establishment at Canton, on the condition
that if they proselytised, spread their creed, or chaunted their sacred
books, they were at once to be punished and sent away. The scheme was
an excellent one, but what were the results of it? At present more
than 10,000 men have joined the Catholic chapel at Canton, and there
is also a department for women, where they have similarly got together
about 2000. This is a great insult to China, and seriously injures
our national traditions, enough to make every man of feeling grind
his teeth with rage. The case by no means admits of ‘teaching before

“Now these traders come this immense distance with the object of making
money. What then is their idea in paying away vast sums in order to
attract people to their faith? Thousands upon thousands they get to
join them, not being satisfied until they have bought up the whole
province. Is it possible to shut one’s eyes and stop one’s ears,
pretending to know nothing about it and making no inquiries whatever?
There is an old saying among the people--‘Take things in time. A
little stream, if not stopped, may become a great river.’ How much
more precaution is needed, then, when there is a general inundation
and men’s hearts are restless and disturbed? In Canton the converts to
Catholicism are very numerous; those in Macao are in an inexpugnable
fortress. There is a constant interchange of arms between the two, and
if any trouble like that of the Philippines or Singapore should arise,
I cannot say how we should meet it. At the present moment, with a
pattern of Imperial virtue on the Throne, whose power and majesty have
penetrated into the most distant regions, this foolish design of the
barbarians should on no account be tolerated. Wise men will do well to
be prepared against the day when it may be necessary for us to retire
before them, clearing the country as we go.”

The following extract from a letter to a friend was written by Lan
Ting-yüan in 1724, and proves that if he objected to Christianity, he
was not one whit more inclined to tolerate Buddhism:--

“Of all the eighteen provinces, Chehkiang is the one where Buddhist
priests and nuns most abound. In the three prefectures of Hangchow,
Chia-hsing, and Huchow there cannot be fewer than several tens of
thousands of them, of whom, by the way, not more than one-tenth have
willingly taken the vows. The others have been given to the priests
when quite little, either because their parents were too poor to keep
them, or in return for some act of kindness; and when the children grow
up, they are unable to get free. Buddhist nuns are also in most cases
bought up when children as a means of making a more extensive show of
religion, and are carefully prevented from running away. They are not
given in marriage--the desire for which is more or less implanted in
every human breast, and exists even amongst prophets and sages. And
thus to condemn thousands and ten thousands of human beings to the
dull monotony of the cloister, granting that they strictly keep their
religious vows, is more than sufficient to seriously interfere with
the equilibrium of the universe. Hence floods, famines, and the like
catastrophes; to say nothing of the misdeeds of the nuns in question.

       *       *       *       *       *

“When I passed through Soochow and Hangchow I saw many disgraceful
advertisements that quite took my breath away with their barefaced
depravity; and the people there told me that these atrocities were much
practised by the denizens of the cloister, which term is simply another
name for houses of ill-fame. These cloister folk do a great deal of
mischief amongst the populace, wasting the substance of some, and
robbing others of their good name.”

       *       *       *       *       *

The _Ming Chi Kang Mu_, or History of the Ming Dynasty, which had been
begun in 1689 by a commission of fifty-eight scholars, was laid before
the Emperor only in 1742 by CHANG T’ING-YÜ (1670-1756), a Minister of
State and a most learned writer, joint editor of the Book of Rites,
Ritual of the Chou Dynasty, the Thirteen Classics, the Twenty-four
Histories, Thesaurus of Phraseology, Encyclopædia of Quotations, the
Concordance to Literature, &c. This work, however, did not meet with
the Imperial approval, and for it was substituted the _T’ung Chien Kang
Mu San Pien_, first published in 1775. Among the chief collaborators
of Chang T’ing-yü should be mentioned O-ÊRH-T’AI, the Mongol (_d._
1745), and CHU SHIH (1666-1736), both of whom were also voluminous
contributors to classical literature.

These were followed by CH’ÊN HUNG-MOU (1695-1771), who, besides
being the author of brilliant State papers, was a commentator on
the Classics, dealing especially with the Four Books, a writer on
miscellaneous topics, and a most successful administrator. He rose to
high office, and was noted for always having his room hung round with
maps of the province in which he was serving, so that he might become
thoroughly familiar with its geography. He was dismissed, however, from
the important post of Viceroy of the Two Kuang for alleged incapacity
in dealing with a plague of locusts.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: YÜAN MEI]

YÜAN MEI (1715-1797) is beyond all question the most popular
writer of modern times. At the early age of nine he was inspired with a
deep love for poetry, and soon became an adept at the art. Graduating
in 1739, he was shortly afterwards sent to Kiangnan, and presently
became magistrate at Nanking, where he greatly distinguished himself
by the vigour and justice of his administration. A serious illness
kept him for some time unemployed; and when on recovery he was sent
into Shansi, he managed to quarrel with the Viceroy. At the early age
of forty he retired from the official arena and led a life of lettered
ease in his beautiful garden at Nanking. His letters, which have been
published under the title of _Hsiao Ts’ang Shan Fang Ch’ih Tu_, are
extremely witty and amusing, and at the same time are models of style.
Many of the best are a trifle coarse, sufficiently so to rank them with
some of the eighteenth-century literature on this side of the globe;
the salt of all loses its savour in translation. The following are

“I have received your letter congratulating me on my present
prosperity, and am very much obliged for the same.

“At the end of the letter, however, you mention that you have a
tobacco-pouch for me, which shall be sent on as soon as I forward you
a stanza. Surely this reminds one of the evil days of the Chous and
the Chêngs, when each State took pledges from the other. It certainly
is not in keeping with the teaching of the sages, viz., that friends
should be the first to give. Why then do you neglect that teaching for
the custom of a degraded age?

“If for a tobacco-pouch you insist upon having a stanza, for a hat or a
pair of boots you would want at least a poem; while your brother might
send me a cloak or a coat, and expect to get a whole epic in return! In
this way, the prosperity on which you congratulate me would not count
for much.

“Shun Yü-t’an of old sacrificed a bowl of rice and a perch to get a
hundred waggons full of grain; he offered little and he wanted much.
And have you not heard how a thousand pieces of silk were given for a
single word? two beautiful girls for a stanza?--compared with which
your tobacco-pouch seems small indeed. It is probably because you are
a military man, accustomed to drill soldiers and to reward them with
a silver medal when they hit the mark, that you have at last come to
regard this as the proper treatment of an old friend.

“Did not Mencius forbid us to presume upon anything adventitious? And
if friends may not presume upon their worth or position, how much less
upon a tobacco-pouch? For a tobacco-pouch, pretty as it may be, is but
the handiwork of a waiting-maid; while my verses, poor as they may be,
are the outcome of my intellectual powers. So that to exchange the
work of a waiting-maid’s fingers for the work of my brain, is a great
compliment to the waiting-maid, but a small one to me. Not so if you
yourself had cast away spear and sword, and grasping the needle and
silk, had turned me out a tobacco-pouch of your own working. Then, had
you asked me even for ten stanzas, I would freely have given them. But
a great general knows his own strength as well as the enemy’s, and it
would hardly be proper for me to lure you from men’s to women’s work,
and place on your head a ribboned cap. How then do you venture to
treat me as Ts’ao Ts’ao [on his death-bed treated his concubines], by
bestowing on me an insignificant tobacco-pouch?

“Having nothing better to do, I have amused myself with these few lines
at your expense. If you take them ill, of course I shall never get
the pouch. But if you can mend your evil ways, then hurry up with the
tobacco-pouch and trust to your luck for the verse.”

A friend had sent Yüan Mei a letter with the very un-Chinese present
of a crab and a duck. Two ducks and a crab would have been more
conventional, or even two crabs and a duck. And by some mistake or
other, the crab arrived by itself. Hence the following banter in

“To convey a man to a crab is very pleasant for the man, but to convey
a crab to a man is pleasant for his whole family. And I know that this
night my two sons will often bend their arms like crabs’ claws [_i.e._
in the form of the Chinese salute], wishing you an early success in

“In rhyme no duplicates [that is, don’t rhyme again the same sound],
and don’t use two sentences where one will do [in composition]. Besides
which, the fact that the duck has not yet turned up shows that you
understand well how to ‘do one thing at a time.’ Not to mention
that you cause an old gobbler like myself to stretch out his neck in
anticipation of something else to come.

“You remember how the poet Shên beat his rival, all because of that one

  ‘_Sigh not for the sinking moon,
  The jewel lamp will follow soon._’

Well, your crab is like the sinking moon, while the duck reminds me of
the jewel lamp; from which we may infer that you will meet with the
same good luck as Shên.

“Again, a crab, even in the presence of the King of the Ocean, has to
travel aslant; by which same token I trust that by and by your fame
will travel aslant the habitable globe.”

Yüan Mei’s poetry is much admired and widely read. He is one of the
few, very few, poets who have flourished under Manchu rule. Here are
some sarcastic lines by him:--

  “_I’ve ever thought it passing odd
  How all men reverence some God,
  And wear their lives out for his sake
  And bow their heads until they ache.
  ’Tis clear to me the Gods are made
  Of the same stuff as wind or shade....
  Ah! if they came to every caller,
  I’d be the very loudest bawler!_”

He could be pathetic enough at times, as he showed in his elegy on a
little five-year-old daughter, recalling her baby efforts with the
paint-brush, and telling how she cut out clothes from paper, or sat
and watched her father engaged in composition. He was also, like all
Chinese poets, an ardent lover of nature, and a winter plum-tree in
flower, or a gust of wind scattering dead leaves, would set all his
poetic fibres thrilling again. It sounds like an anti-climax to add
that this brilliant essayist, letter-writer, and composer of finished
verse owes perhaps the chief part of his fame to a cookery-book. Yet
such is actually the case. Yüan Mei was the Brillat-Savarin of China,
and in the art of cooking China stands next to France. His cookery-book
is a gossipy little work, written, as only such a scholar could write
it, in a style which at once invests the subject with dignity and

“Everything,” says Yüan Mei, in his opening chapter, “has its
own original constitution, just as each man has certain natural
characteristics. If a man’s natural abilities are of a low order,
Confucius and Mencius themselves would teach him to no purpose. And if
an article of food is in itself bad, not even I-ya [the Soyer of China]
could cook a flavour into it.

“A ham is a ham; but in point of goodness two hams will be as widely
separated as sky and sea. A mackerel is a mackerel; but in point of
excellence two mackerel will differ as much as ice and live coals.
And other things in the same way. So that the credit of a good dinner
should be divided between the cook and the steward forty per cent. to
the steward, and sixty per cent. to the cook.

“Cookery is like matrimony. Two things served together should match.
Clear should go with clear, thick with thick, hard with hard, and soft
with soft. I have known people mix grated lobster with birds’-nests,
and mint with chicken or pork!

“The cooks of to-day think nothing of mixing in one soup the meat of
chicken, duck, pig, and goose. But these chickens, ducks, pigs, and
geese have doubtless souls. And these souls will most certainly file
plaints in the next world on the way they have been treated in this.
A good cook will use plenty of different dishes. Each article of food
will be made to exhibit its own characteristics, while each made dish
will be characterised by one dominant flavour. Then the palate of the
gourmand will respond without fail, and the flowers of the soul blossom

“Let salt fish come first, and afterwards food of more negative
flavour. Let the heavy precede the light. Let dry dishes precede those
with gravy. No flavour must dominate. If a guest eats his fill of
savouries, his stomach will be fatigued. Salt flavours must be relieved
by bitter or hot tasting foods, in order to restore the palate. Too
much wine will make the stomach dull. Sour or sweet food will be
required to rouse it again into vigour.

“In winter we should eat beef and mutton. In summer, dried and
preserved meats. As for condiments, mustard belongs specially to
summer, pepper to winter.

“Don’t cut bamboo-shoots [the Chinese equivalent of asparagus] with an
oniony knife.... A good cook frequently wipes his knife, frequently
changes his cloth, frequently scrapes his board, and frequently washes
his hands. If smoke or ashes from his pipe, perspiration-drops from his
head, insects from the wall, or smuts from the saucepan get mixed up
with the food, though he were a very _chef_ among _chefs_, yet would
men hold their noses and decline.

“Don’t make your thick sauces greasy nor your clear ones tasteless.
Those who want grease can eat fat pork, while a drink of water is
better than something which tastes of nothing at all.... Don’t
over-salt your soups; for salt can be added to taste, but can never be
taken away.

“_Don’t eat with your ears_; by which I mean do not aim at having
extraordinary out-of-the-way foods, just to astonish your guests; for
that is to eat with your ears, not with the mouth. Bean-curd, if good,
is actually nicer than birds’-nest; and better than sea-slugs, which
are not first-rate, is a dish of bamboo shoots....

“The chicken, the pig, the fish, and the duck, these are the four
heroes of the table. Sea-slugs and birds’-nests have no characteristic
flavours of their own. They are but usurpers in the house. I once dined
with a friend who gave us birds’-nest in bowls more like vats, holding
each about four ounces of the plain-boiled article. The other guests
applauded vigorously; but I smiled and said, ‘_I came here to eat
birds’-nest, not to take delivery of it wholesale._’

“_Don’t eat with your eyes_; by which I mean do not cover the table
with innumerable dishes and multiply courses indefinitely. For this is
to eat with the eyes, and not with the mouth.

“Just as a calligraphist should not overtire his hand nor a poet his
brain, so a good cook cannot possibly turn out in one day more than
four or five distinct _plats_. I used to dine with a merchant friend
who would put on no less than three removes [sets of eight dishes
served separately], and sixteen kinds of sweets, so that by the time
we had finished we had got through a total of some forty courses. My
host gloried in all this, but when I got home I used to have a bowl of
rice-gruel. I felt so hungry.

“To know right from wrong, a man must be sober. And only a sober man
can distinguish good flavours from bad. It has been well said that
words are inadequate to describe the _nuances_ of taste. How much less
then must a stuttering sot be able to appreciate them!

“I have often seen votaries of guess-fingers swallow choice food as
though so much sawdust, their minds being preoccupied with their game.
Now I say eat first and drink afterwards. By these means the result
will be successful in each direction.”

Yüan Mei also protests against the troublesome custom of pressing
guests to eat, and against the more foolish one of piling up choice
pieces on the little saucers used as plates, and even putting them into
the guests’ mouths, as if they were children or brides, too shy to help

There was a man in Ch’ang-an, he tells us, who was very fond of giving
dinners; but the food was atrocious. One day a guest threw himself on
his knees in front of this gentleman and said, “Am I not a friend of

“You are indeed,” replied his host.

“Then I must ask of you a favour,” said the guest, “and you must grant
it before I rise from my knees.”

“Well, what is it?” inquired his host in astonishment.

“Never to invite me to dinner any more!” cried the guest; at which the
whole party burst into a loud roar of laughter.

“Into no department of life,” says Yüan Mei, “should indifference be
allowed to creep; into none less than into the domain of cookery.
Cooks are but mean fellows; and if a day is passed without either
rewarding or punishing them, that day is surely marked by negligence
or carelessness on their part. If badly cooked food is swallowed in
silence, such neglect will speedily become a habit. Still, mere rewards
and punishments are of no use. If a dish is good, attention should be
called to the why and the wherefore. If bad, an effort should be made
to discover the cause of the failure.

“I am not much of a wine-drinker, but this makes me all the more
particular. Wine is like scholarship: it ripens with age; and it is
best from a fresh-opened jar. The top of the wine-jar, the bottom of
the teapot, as the saying has it.”

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: CH’ÊN HAO-TZŬ]

In 1783 CH’ÊN HAO-TZŬ, who lived beside the Western Lake at
Hangchow, and called himself the Flower Hermit, published a gossipy
little work on gardening and country pursuits, under the title of “The
Mirror of Flowers.” It is the type of a class often to be seen in the
hands of Chinese readers. The preface was written by himself:--

“From my youth upwards I have cared for nothing save books and flowers.
Twenty-eight thousand days have passed over my head, the greater part
of which has been spent in poring over old records, and the remainder
in enjoying myself in my garden among plants and birds.”

The Chinese excel in horticulture, and the passionate love of flowers
which prevails among all classes is quite a national characteristic.
A Chinaman, however, has his own particular standpoint. The vulgar
nosegay or the plutocratic bouquet would have no charms for him. He
can see, with satisfaction, only one flower at a time. His best vases
are made to hold a single spray, and large vases usually have covers
perforated so as to isolate each specimen. A primrose by the river’s
brim would be to him a complete poem. If condemned to a sedentary
life, he likes to have a flower by his side on the table. He draws
enjoyment, even inspiration, from its petals. He will take a flower out
for a walk, and stop every now and again to consider the loveliness of
its growth. So with birds. It is a common thing on a pleasant evening
to meet a Chinaman carrying his bird-cage suspended from the end of a
short stick. He will stop at some pleasant corner outside the town, and
listen with rapture to the bird’s song. But to the preface. Our author
goes on to say that in his hollow bamboo pillow he always keeps some
work on his favourite subject.

“People laugh at me, and say that I am cracked on flowers and a
bibliomaniac; but surely study is the proper occupation of a literary
man, and as for gardening, that is simply a rest for my brain and a
relaxation in my declining years. What does T’ao Ch’ien say?--

  ‘_Riches and rank I do not love,
  I have no hopes of heaven above._’ ...

Besides, it is only in hours of leisure that I devote myself to the
cultivation of flowers.”

Ch’ên Hao-tzŭ then runs through the four seasons, showing how each has
its especial charm, contributing to the sum of those pure pleasures
which are the best antidote against the ills of old age. He then
proceeds to deal with times and seasons, showing what to do under
each month, precisely as our own garden-books do. After that come
short chapters on all the chief trees, shrubs, and plants of China,
with hints how to treat them under diverse circumstances, the whole
concluding with a separate section devoted to birds, animals, fishes,
and insects. Among these are to be found the crane, peacock, parrot,
thrush, kite, quail, mainah, swallow, deer, hare, monkey, dog, cat,
squirrel, goldfish--first mentioned by Su Shih,

  “_Upon the bridge the livelong day
  I stand and watch the goldfish play_”--

bee, butterfly, glowworm, &c. Altogether there is much to be learnt
from this Chinese White of Selborne, and the reader lays down the book
feeling that the writer is not far astray when he says, “If a home has
not a garden and an old tree, I see not whence the everyday joys of
life are to come.”

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: CHAO I]

CHAO I (1727-1814) is said to have known several tens of
characters when only three years old,--the age at which John Stuart
Mill believed that he began Greek. It was not, however, until 1761
that he took his final degree, appearing second on the list. He was
really first, but the Emperor put Wang Chieh over his head, in order to
encourage men from Shensi, to which province the latter belonged. That
Wang Chieh is remembered at all must be set down to the above episode,
and not to the two volumes of essays which he left behind him. Chao I
wrote a history of the wars of the present dynasty, a collection of
notes on the current topics of his day, historical critiques, and other
works. He was also a poet, contributing a large volume of verse, from
which the following sample of his art is taken:--

  “_Man is indeed of heavenly birth,
  Though seeming earthy of the earth;
  The sky is but a denser pall
  Of the thin air that covers all.
  Just as this air, so is that sky;
  Why call this low, and call that high?_

  “_The dewdrop sparkles in the cup--
  Note how the eager flowers spring up;
  Confine and crib them in a room,
  They fade and find an early doom.
  So ’tis that at our very feet
  The earth and the empyrean meet._

  “_The babe at birth points heavenward too,
  Enveloped by the eternal blue;
  As fishes in the water bide,
  So heaven surrounds on every side;
  Yet men sin on, because they say
  Great God in heaven is far away._”

The “stop short” was a great favourite with him. His level may be
gauged by the following specimen, written as he was setting out to a
distant post in the north:--

  “_See where, like specks of spring-cloud in the sky,
  On their long northern route the wild geese fly;
  Together o’er the River we will roam....
  Ah! they go towards, and I away from home!_”

Here is another in a more humorous vein:--

  “_The rain had been raining the whole of the day,
  And I had been straining and working away....
  What’s the trouble, O cook? You’ve no millet in store?
  Well, I’ve written a book which will buy us some more._”

[Sidenote: FANG WEI-I]

Taken altogether, the poetry of the present dynasty, especially that
of the nineteenth century, must be written down as nothing more
than artificial verse, with the art not even concealed, but grossly
patent to the dullest observer. A collection of extracts from about
2000 representative poets was published in 1857, but it is very dull
reading, any thoughts, save the most commonplace, being few and far
between. As in every similar collection, a place is assigned to
poetesses, of whom FANG WEI-I would perhaps be a favourable
example. She came from a good family, and was but newly married to
a promising young official when the latter died, and left her a
sorrowing and childless widow. Light came to her in the darkness, and
disregarding the entreaties of her father and mother, she decided to
become a nun, and devote the remainder of her life to the service of
Buddha. These are her farewell lines:--

  “_’Tis common talk how partings sadden life:
    There are no partings for us after death.
  But let that pass; now no more a wife,
    Will face fate’s issues to my latest breath._

  “_The north wind whistles thro’ the mulberry grove,
    Daily and nightly making moan for me;
  I look up to the shifting sky above,
    No little prattler smiling on my knee._

  “_Life’s sweetest boon is after all to die....
    My weeping parents still are loth to yield;
  Yet east and west the callow fledglings fly,
    And autumn’s herbage wanders far afield._

  “_What will life bring to me an I should stay?
    What will death bring to me an I should go?
  These thoughts surge through me in the light of day,
    And make me conscious that at last I know._”

One of the greatest of the scholars of the present dynasty was YÜAN
YÜAN (1764-1849). He took his third degree in 1789, and at the
final examination the aged Emperor Ch’ien Lung was so struck with
his talents that he exclaimed, “Who would have thought that, after
passing my eightieth year, I should find another such man as this one?”
He then held many high offices in succession, including the post of
Governor of Chehkiang, in which he operated vigorously against the
Annamese pirates and Ts’ai Ch’ien, established the tithing system,
colleges, schools, and soup-kitchens, besides devoting himself to the
preservation of ancient monuments. As Viceroy of the Two Kuang, he
frequently came into collision with British interests, and did his best
to keep a tight hand over the barbarian merchants. He was a voluminous
writer on the Classics, astronomy, archæology, &c., and various
important collections were produced under his patronage. Among these
may be mentioned the _Huang Ch’ing Ching Chieh_, containing upwards
of 180 separate works, and the _Ch’ou Jen Chuan_, a biographical
dictionary of famous mathematicians of all ages, including Euclid,
Newton, and Ricci, the Jesuit Father. He also published a Topography
of Kuangtung, specimens of the compositions of more than 5000 poets of
Kiangsi, and a large collection of inscriptions on bells and vases.
He also edited the Catalogue of the Imperial Library, the large
encyclopædia known as the _T’ai P’ing Yü Lan_, and other important

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: THE KAN YING P’IEN]

Two religious works, associated with the Taoism of modern days, which
have long been popular throughout China, may fitly be mentioned
here. They are not to be bought in shops, but can always be obtained
at temples, where large numbers are placed by philanthropists for
distribution gratis. The first is the _Kan Ying P’ien_, or Book of
Rewards and Punishments, attributed by the foolish to Lao Tzŭ himself.
Its real date is quite unknown; moderate writers place it in the
Sung dynasty, but even that seems far too early. Although nominally
of Taoist origin, this work is usually edited in a very pronounced
Buddhist setting, the fact being that Taoism and Buddhism are now so
mixed up that it is impossible to draw any sharp line of demarcation
between the two. As Chu Hsi says, “Buddhism stole the best features
of Taoism, and Taoism stole the worst features of Buddhism; it is as
though the one stole a jewel from the other, and the loser recouped
the loss with a stone.” Prefixed to the _Kan Ying P’ien_ will be found
Buddhist formulæ for cleansing the mouth and body before beginning
to read the text, and appeals to Maitrêya Buddha and Avalôkitêsvara.
Married women and girls are advised not to frequent temples to be a
spectacle for men. “If you must worship Buddha, worship the two living
Buddhas (parents) you have at home; and if you must burn incense, burn
it at the family altar.” We are further told that there is no time
at which this book may not be read; no place in which it may not be
read; and no person by whom it may not be read with profit. We are
advised to study it when fasting, and not necessarily to shout it
aloud, so as to be heard of men, but rather to ponder over it in the
heart. The text consists of a commination said to have been uttered by
Lao Tzŭ, and directed against evil-doers of all kinds. In the opening
paragraphs attention is drawn to various spiritual beings who note
down the good deeds and crimes of men, and lengthen or shorten their
lives accordingly. Then follows a long list of wicked acts which will
inevitably bring retribution in their train. These include the ordinary
offences recognised by moral codes all over the world, every form of
injustice and oppression, falsehood, and theft, together with not a few
others of a more venial character to Western minds. Among the latter
are birds’-nesting, stepping across food or human beings, cooking
with dirty firewood, spitting at shooting stars and pointing at the
rainbow, or even at the sun, moon, and stars. In all these cases,
periods will be cut off from the life of the offender, and if his life
is exhausted while any guilt still remains unexpiated, the punishment
due will be carried on to the account of his descendants.


The second of the two works under consideration is the _Yü Li Ch’ao
Chuan_, a description of the Ten Courts of Purgatory in the nether
world, through some or all of which every erring soul must pass before
being allowed to be born again into this world under another form, or
to be permanently transferred to the eternal bliss reserved for the
righteous alone.

In the Fifth Court, for instance, the sinners are hurried away by
bull-headed, horse-faced demons to a famous terrace, where their
physical punishments are aggravated by a view of their old homes:--

“This terrace is curved in front like a bow; it looks east, west, and
south. It is eighty-one _li_ from one extreme to the other. The back
part is like the string of a bow; it is enclosed by a wall of sharp
swords. It is 490 feet high; its sides are knife-blades; and the whole
is in sixty-three storeys. No good shade comes to this terrace; neither
do those whose balance of good and evil is exact. Wicked souls alone
behold their homes close by, and can see and hear what is going on.
They hear old and young talking together; they see their last wishes
disregarded and their instructions disobeyed. Everything seems to
have undergone a change. The property they scraped together with so
much trouble is dissipated and gone. The husband thinks of taking
another wife; the widow meditates second nuptials. Strangers are in
possession of the old estate; there is nothing to divide amongst the
children. Debts long since paid are brought again for settlement, and
the survivors are called upon to acknowledge claims upon the departed.
Debts owed are lost for want of evidence, with endless recriminations,
abuse, and general confusion, all of which falls upon the three
families of the deceased. They in their anger speak ill of him that is
gone. He sees his children become corrupt and his friends fall away.
Some, perhaps, for the sake of bygone times, may stroke the coffin and
let fall a tear, departing quickly with a cold smile. Worse than that,
the wife sees her husband tortured in the yamên; the husband sees his
wife victim to some horrible disease, lands gone, houses destroyed by
flood or fire, and everything in unutterable confusion--the reward of
former sins.”

The Sixth Court “is a vast, noisy Gehenna, many leagues in extent, and
around it are sixteen wards.

“In the first, the souls are made to kneel for long periods on iron
shot. In the second, they are placed up to their necks in filth. In the
third, they are pounded till the blood runs out. In the fourth, their
mouths are opened with iron pincers and filled full of needles. In the
fifth, they are bitten by rats. In the sixth, they are enclosed in a
net of thorns and nipped by locusts. In the seventh, they are crushed
to a jelly. In the eighth, their skin is lacerated and they are beaten
on the raw. In the ninth, their mouths are filled with fire. In the
tenth, they are licked by flames. In the eleventh, they are subjected
to noisome smells. In the twelfth, they are butted by oxen and trampled
on by horses. In the thirteenth, their hearts are scratched. In the
fourteenth, their heads are rubbed till their skulls come off. In the
fifteenth, they are chopped in two at the waist. In the sixteenth,
their skin is taken off and rolled up into spills.

“Those discontented ones who rail against heaven and revile earth, who
are always finding fault either with the wind, thunder, heat, cold,
fine weather, or rain; those who let their tears fall towards the
north; who steal the gold from the inside or scrape the gilding from
the outside of images; those who take holy names in vain, who show no
respect for written paper, who throw down dirt and rubbish near pagodas
or temples, who use dirty cook-houses and stoves for preparing the
sacrificial meats, who do not abstain from eating beef and dog-flesh;
those who have in their possession blasphemous or obscene books and
do not destroy them, who obliterate or tear books which teach man to
be good, who carve on common articles of household use the symbol of
the origin of all things, the Sun and Moon and Seven Stars, the Royal
Mother and the God of Longevity on the same article, or representations
of any of the Immortals; those who embroider the Svastika on
fancy-work, or mark characters on silk, satin, or cloth, on banners,
beds, chairs, tables, or any kind of utensil; those who secretly wear
clothes adorned with the dragon and the phœnix only to be trampled
under foot, who buy up grain and hold until the price is exorbitantly
high--all these shall be thrust into the great and noisy Gehenna, there
to be examined as to their misdeeds and passed accordingly into one of
the sixteen wards, whence, at the expiration of their time, they will
be sent for further questioning on to the Seventh Court.”

The Tenth Court deals with the final stage of transmigration previous
to rebirth in the world. It appears that in primeval ages men could
remember their former lives on earth even after having passed through
Purgatory, and that wicked persons often took advantage of such
knowledge. To remedy this, a Terrace of Oblivion was built, and all
shades are now sent thither, and are forced to drink the cup of
forgetfulness before they can be born again.

“Whether they swallow much or little it matters not; but sometimes
there are perverse devils who altogether refuse to drink. Then beneath
their feet sharp blades start up, and a copper tube is forced down
their throats, by which means they are compelled to swallow some. When
they have drunk, they are raised by the attendants and escorted back by
the same path. They are next pushed on to the Bitter Bamboo floating
bridge, with torrents of rushing red water on either side. Half-way
across they perceive written in large characters on a red cliff on the
opposite side the following lines:--

  “_To be a man is easy, but to act up to one’s responsibilities as such
      is hard;
  Yet to be a man once again is perhaps harder still._

  “_For those who would be born again in some happy state there is no
      great difficulty;
  It is only necessary to keep mouth and heart in harmony._”

“When the shades have read these words, they try to jump on shore, but
are beaten back into the water by two huge devils. One has on a black
official hat and embroidered clothes; in his hand he holds a paper
pencil, and over his shoulder he carries a sharp sword. Instruments of
torture hang at his waist; fiercely he glares out of his large round
eyes and laughs a horrid laugh. His name is Short-Life. The other has a
dirty face smeared with blood; he has on a white coat, an abacus in his
hand, and a rice-sack over his shoulder. Around his neck hangs a string
of paper money; his brow contracts hideously and he utters long sighs.
His name is They-have-their-Reward, and his duty is to push the shades
into the red water. The wicked and foolish rejoice at the prospect of
being born once more as human beings, but the better shades weep and
mourn that in life they did not lay up a store of virtuous acts, and
thus pass away from the state of mortals for ever. Yet they all rush
on to birth like an infatuated or drunken crowd, and again, in their
new childhood, hanker after forbidden flavours. Then, regardless of
consequences, they begin to destroy life, and thus forfeit all claims
to the mercy and compassion of God. They take no thought as to the end
that must overtake them; and, finally, they bring themselves once more
to the same horrid plight.”


[46] A Solomonic judge under the Sung dynasty.

[47] “In hearing litigations, I am like any other body. What is
necessary is to cause the people to have no litigations” (Legge).



The death of Yüan Yüan in 1849 brings us down to the period when
China began to find herself for the first time face to face with
the foreigner. The opening of five ports in 1842 to comparatively
unrestricted trade, followed by more ports and right of residence in
Peking from 1860, created points of contact and brought about foreign
complications to which the governors of China had hitherto been unused.
A Chinese Horace might well complain that the audacious brood of
England have by wicked fraud introduced journalism into the Empire, and
that evils worse than consumption and fevers have followed in its train.


From time immemorial wall-literature has been a feature in the life
of a Chinese city surpassing in extent and variety that of any other
nation, and often playing a part fraught with much danger to the
community at large. Generally speaking, the literature of the walls
covers pretty much the same ground as an ordinary English newspaper,
from the “agony” column downwards. For, mixed up with notices of lost
property, consisting sometimes of human beings, and advertisements
of all kinds of articles of trade, such as one would naturally look
for in the handbill literature of any city, there are to be found
announcements of new and startling remedies for various diseases or of
infallible pills for the cure of depraved opium-smokers, long lists
of the names of subscribers to some coming festival or to the pious
restoration of a local temple, sermons without end directed against the
abuse of written paper, and now and then against female infanticide,
or Cumming-like warnings of an approaching millennium, at which the
wicked will receive the reward of their crimes according to the
horrible arrangements of the Buddhist-Taoist purgatory. Occasionally an
objectionable person will be advised through an anonymous placard to
desist from a course which is pointed out as offensive, and similarly,
but more rarely, the action of an official will be sometimes severely
criticised or condemned. Official proclamations on public business can
hardly be classed as wall literature, except perhaps when, as is not
uncommon, they are written in doggerel verse, with a view to appealing
more directly to the illiterate reader. The following proclamation
establishing a registry office for boats at Tientsin will give an idea
of these queer documents, the only parallel to which in the West might
be found in the famous lines issued by the Board of Trade for the use
of sea-captains:--

  “_Green to green, and red to red,
  Perfect safety, go ahead_,” _&c._

The object of this registry office was ostensibly to save the poor
boatman from being unfairly dealt with when impressed at nominal wages
for Government service, but really to enable the officials to know
exactly where to lay their hands on boats when required:--

  “_A busy town is Tientsin,
  A land and water thoroughfare;
  Traders, as thick as clouds, flock in;
  Masts rise in forests everywhere._

  “_The official’s chair, the runner’s cap,
  Flit past like falling rain or snow.
  And, musing on the boatman’s hap,
  His doubtful shares of weal and woe,_

  “_I note the vagabonds who live
  On squeezes from his hard-earned due;
  And, boatmen, for your sakes I give
  A public register to you._

  “_Go straightway there, your names inscribe
  And on the books a record raise;
  None then dare claim the wicked bribe,
  Or waste your time in long delays._

  “_The services your country claims
  Shall be performed in turn by all
  The muster of the boatmen’s names
  Be published on the Yamên wall._

  “_Once your official business done,
  Work for yourselves as best you can;
  Let out your boats to any one;
  I’ll give a pass to every man._

  “_And lest your lot be hard to bear
  Official pay shall ample be;
  Let all who notice aught unfair
  Report the case at once to me._

  “_The culprit shall be well deterred
  In future, if his guilt is clear;
  For times are hard, as I have heard,
  And food and clothing getting dear._

  “_Thus, in compassion for your woe,
  The scales of Justice in my hand,
  I save you from the Yamên foe,
  The barrack-soldiers’ threat’ning band._

  “_No longer will they dare to play
  Their shameful tricks, of late revealed;
  The office only sends away
  Boats--and on orders duly sealed._

  “_One rule will thus be made for all,
  And things may not go much amiss;
  Ye boatmen, ’tis on you I call
  To show your gratitude for this._

  “_But lest there be who ignorance plead,
  I issue this in hope to awe
  Such fools as think they will succeed
  By trying to evade the law._

  “_For if I catch them, no light fate
  Awaits them that unlucky day;
  So from this proclamation’s date
  Let all in fear and dread obey._”

It is scarcely necessary to add that wall literature has often been
directed against foreigners, and especially against missionaries. The
penalties, however, for posting anonymous placards are very severe,
and of late years the same end has been more effectually attained by
the circulation of abusive fly-sheets, often pictorial and always

Journalism has proved to be a terrible thorn in the official side. It
was first introduced into China under the ægis of an Englishman who was
the nominal editor of the _Shên Pao_ or _Shanghai News_, still a very
influential newspaper. For a long time the authorities fought to get
rid of this objectionable daily, which now and again told some awkward
truths, and contained many ably written articles by first-class native
scholars. Eventually an official organ was started in opposition, and
other papers have since appeared. An illustrated Chinese weekly made
a good beginning in Shanghai, but unfortunately it soon drifted into
superstition, intolerance, and vulgarity.

       *       *       *       *       *


Attempts have been made to provide the Chinese with translations
of noted European works, and among those which have been produced
may be mentioned “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” with illustrations, the
various characters being in Chinese dress; Mr. Herbert Spencer’s
“Education,” the very first sentence in which is painfully misrendered;
the “Adventures of Baron Munchausen,” and others. In every case save
one these efforts have been rejected by the Chinese on the ground of
inferior style. The exception was a translation of Æsop’s Fables,
published in 1840 by Robert Thom as rendered into Chinese by an eminent
native scholar. This work attracted much attention among the people
generally; so much so, that the officials took alarm and made strenuous
efforts to suppress it. Recent years have witnessed the publication
in Chinese of “Vathek,” in reference to which a literate of standing
offered the following criticism:--“The style in which this work is
written is not so bad, but the subject-matter is of no account.” The
fact is, that to satisfy the taste of the educated Chinese reader the
very first requisite is style. As has been seen in the case of the
_Liao Chai_, the Chinese will read almost anything, provided it is set
in a faultless frame. They will not look at anything emanating from
foreign sources in which this greatest desideratum has been neglected.

The present age has seen the birth of no great original writer in any
department of literature, nor the production of any great original work
worthy to be smeared with cedar-oil for the delectation of posterity.
It is customary after the death, sometimes during the life, of any
leading statesman to publish a collection of his memorials to the
throne, with possibly a few essays and some poems. Such have a brief
_succès d’estime_, and are then used by binders for thickening the
folded leaves of some masterpiece of antiquity. Successful candidates
for the final degree usually print their winning essays, and sometimes
their poems, chiefly for distribution among friends. Several diaries
of Ministers to foreign countries and similar books have appeared
in recent years, recording the astonishment of the writers at the
extraordinary social customs which prevail among the barbarians. But
nowadays a Chinaman who wishes to read a book does not sit down and
write one. He is too much oppressed by the vast dimensions of his
existing literature, and by the hopelessness of rivalling, and still
more by the hopelessness of surpassing, those immortals who have gone

[Sidenote: WIT AND HUMOUR]

It would be obviously unfair to describe the Chinese people as wanting
in humour simply because they are tickled by jests which leave us
comparatively unmoved. Few of our own most amusing stories will stand
conversion into Chinese terms. The following are specimens of classical
humour, being such as might be introduced into any serious biographical
notice of the individuals concerned.

Ch’un-yü K’un (4th cent. B.C.) was the wit already mentioned,
who tried to entangle Mencius in his talk. On one occasion, when
the Ch’u State was about to attack the Ch’i State, he was ordered
by the Prince of Ch’i, who was his father-in-law, to proceed to the
Chao State and ask that an army might be sent to their assistance;
to which end the Prince supplied him with 100 lbs. of silver and ten
chariots as offerings to the ruler of Chao. At this Ch’un-yü laughed
so immoderately that he snapped the lash of his cap; and when the
Prince asked him what was the joke, he said, “As I was coming along
this morning, I saw a husbandman sacrificing a pig’s foot and a single
cup of wine; after which he prayed, saying, ‘O God, make my upper
terraces fill baskets and my lower terraces fill carts; make my fields
bloom with crops and my barns burst with grain!’ And I could not help
laughing at a man who offered so little and wanted so much.” The Prince
took the hint, and obtained the assistance he required.

T’ao Ku (A.D. 902-970) was an eminent official whose name
is popularly known in connection with the following repartee. Having
ordered a newly-purchased waiting-maid to get some snow and make tea in
honour of the Feast of Lanterns, he asked her, somewhat pompously, “Was
that the custom in your former home?” “Oh, no,” the girl replied; “they
were a rough lot. They just put up a gold-splashed awning, and had a
little music and some old wine.”

Li Chia-ming (10th cent. A.D.) was a wit at the Court of
the last ruler of the T’ang dynasty. On one occasion the latter drew
attention to some gathering clouds which appeared about to bring
rain. “They may come,” said Li Chia-ming, “but they will not venture
to enter the city.” “Why not?” asked the Prince. “Because,” replied
the wit, “the octroi is so high.” Orders were thereupon issued that
the duties should be reduced by one-half. On another occasion the
Prince was fishing with some of his courtiers, all of whom managed to
catch something, whereas he himself, to his great chagrin, had not a
single bite. Thereupon Li Chia-ming took a pen and wrote the following

  “_’Tis rapture in the warm spring days to drop the tempting fly
  In the green pool where deep and still the darkling waters lie;
  And if the fishes dare not touch the bait your Highness flings,
  They know that only dragons are a fitting sport for kings._”

Liu Chi (11th cent. A.D.) was a youth who had gained some
notoriety by his fondness for strange phraseology, which was much
reprobated by the great Ou-yang Hsiu. When the latter was Grand
Examiner, one of the candidates sent in a doggerel triplet as follows:--

  “_The universe is in labour,
  All things are produced,
  And among them the Sage._”

“This must be Liu Chi,” cried Ou-yang, and ran a red-ink pen through
the composition, adding these two lines:--

  “_The undergraduate jokes,
  The examiner ploughs._”

Later on, about the year 1060, Ou-yang was very much struck by the
essay of a certain candidate, and placed him first on the list. When
the names were read out, he found that the first man was Liu Chi, who
had changed his name to Liu Yün.

Chang Hsüan-tsu was a wit of the Han dynasty. When he was only eight
years old, some one laughed at him for having lost several teeth, and
said, “What are those dog-holes in your mouth for?” “They are there,”
replied Chang, “to let puppies like you run in and out.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Collections of wit and humour of the Joe Miller type are often to
be seen in the hands of Chinese readers, and may be bought at any
bookstall. Like many novels of the cheap and worthless class, not to be
mentioned with the masterpieces of fiction described in this volume,
these collections are largely unfit for translation. All literature in
China is pure. Novels and stories are not classed as literature; the
authors have no desire to attach their names to such works, and the
consequence is a great falling off from what may be regarded as the
national standard. Even the _Hung Lou Mêng_ contains episodes which mar
to a considerable extent the beauty of the whole. One excuse is that it
is a novel of real life, and to omit, therefore, the ordinary frailties
of mortals would be to produce an incomplete and inadequate picture.


The following are a few specimens of humorous anecdotes taken from the
_Hsiao Lin Kuang Chi_, a modern work in four small volumes, in which
the stories are classified under twelve heads, such as Arts, Women,

A bridegroom noticing deep wrinkles on the face of his bride, asked
her how old she was, to which she replied, “About forty-five or
forty-six.” “Your age is stated on the marriage contract,” he rejoined,
“as thirty-eight; but I am sure you are older than that, and you may
as well tell me the truth.” “I am really fifty-four,” answered the
bride. The bridegroom, however, was not satisfied, and determined to
set a trap for her. Accordingly he said, “Oh, by the by, I must just
go and cover up the salt jar, or the rats will eat every scrap of it.”
“Well, I never!” cried the bride, taken off her guard. “Here I’ve lived
sixty-eight years, and I never before heard of rats stealing salt.”

A woman who was entertaining a paramour during the absence of her
husband, was startled by hearing the latter knock at the house-door.
She hurriedly bundled the man into a rice-sack, which she concealed in
a corner of the room; but when her husband came in he caught sight of
it, and asked in a stern voice, “What have you got in that sack?” His
wife was too terrified to answer; and after an awkward pause a voice
from the sack was heard to say, “Only rice.”

A scoundrel who had a deep grudge against a wealthy man, sought out
a famous magician and asked for his help. “I can send demon soldiers
and secretly cut him off,” said the magician. “Yes, but his sons and
grandsons would inherit,” replied the other; “that won’t do.” “I can
draw down fire from heaven,” said the magician, “and burn his house and
valuables.” “Even then,” answered the man, “his landed property would
remain; so that won’t do.” “Oh,” cried the magician, “if your hate is
so deep as all that, I have something precious here which, if you can
persuade him to avail himself of it, will bring him and his to utter
smash.” He thereupon gave to his delighted client a tightly closed
package, which, on being opened, was seen to contain a pen. “What
spiritual power is there in this?” asked the man. “Ah!” sighed the
magician, “you evidently do not know how many have been brought to ruin
by the use of this little thing.”

A doctor who had mismanaged a case was seized by the family and tied
up. In the night he managed to free himself, and escaped by swimming
across a river. When he got home, he found his son, who had just begun
to study medicine, and said to him, “Don’t be in a hurry with your
books; the first and most important thing is to learn to swim.”

The King of Purgatory sent his lictors to earth to bring back some
skilful physician. “You must look for one,” said the King, “at whose
door there are no aggrieved spirits of disembodied patients.” The
lictors went off, but at the house of every doctor they visited there
were crowds of wailing ghosts hanging about. At last they found a
doctor at whose door there was only a single shade, and cried out,
“This man is evidently the skilful one we are in search of.” On
inquiry, however, they discovered that he had only started practice the
day before.

A general was hard pressed in battle and on the point of giving way,
when suddenly a spirit soldier came to his rescue and enabled him
to win a great victory. Prostrating himself on the ground, he asked
the spirit’s name. “I am the God of the Target,” replied the spirit.
“And how have I merited your godship’s kind assistance?” inquired the
general. “I am grateful to you,” answered the spirit, “because in your
days of practice you never once hit me.”

A portrait-painter, who was doing very little business, was advised by
a friend to paint a picture of himself and his wife, and to hang it out
in the street as an advertisement. This he did, and shortly afterwards
his father-in-law came along. Gazing at the picture for some time,
the latter at length asked, “Who is that woman?” “Why, that is your
daughter,” replied the artist. “Whatever is she doing,” again inquired
her father, “sitting there with that stranger?”

A man who had been condemned to wear the _cangue_, or wooden collar,
was seen by some of his friends. “What have you been doing,” they
asked, “to deserve this?” “Oh, nothing,” he replied; “I only picked up
an old piece of rope.” “And are you to be punished thus severely,” they
said, “for merely picking up an end of rope?” “Well,” answered the
man, “the fact is that there was a bullock tied to the other end.”

A man asked a friend to stay and have tea. Unfortunately there was
no tea in the house, so a servant was sent to borrow some. Before
the latter had returned the water was already boiling, and it became
necessary to pour in more cold water. This happened several times, and
at length the boiler was overflowing but no tea had come. Then the
man’s wife said to her husband, “As we don’t seem likely to get any
tea, you had better offer your friend a bath!”

A monkey, brought after death before the King of Purgatory, begged to
be reborn on earth as a man. “In that case,” said the King, “all the
hairs must be plucked out of your body,” and he ordered the attendant
demons to pull them out forthwith. At the very first hair, however, the
monkey screeched out, and said he could not bear the pain. “You brute!”
roared the King, “how are you to become a man if you cannot even part
with a single hair?”

A braggart chess-player played three games with a stranger and lost
them all. Next day a friend asked him how he had come off. “Oh,” said
he, “I didn’t win the first game, and my opponent didn’t lose the
second. As for the third, I wanted to draw it, but he wouldn’t agree.”

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: PROVERBS]

The barest sketch of Chinese literature would hardly be complete
without some allusion to its proverbs and maxims. These are not only
to be found largely scattered throughout every branch of writing,
classical and popular, but may also be studied in collections,
generally under a metrical form. Thus the _Ming Hsien Chi_, to take
one example, which can be purchased anywhere for about a penny,
consists of thirty pages of proverbs and the like, arranged in
antithetical couplets of five, six, and seven characters to each line.
Children are made to learn these by heart, and ordinary grown-up
Chinamen may be almost said to think in proverbs. There can be no doubt
that to the foreigner a large store of proverbs, committed to memory
and judiciously introduced, are a great aid to successful conversation.
These are a few taken from an inexhaustible supply, omitting to a great
extent such as find a ready equivalent in English:--

Deal with the faults of others as gently as with your own.

By many words wit is exhausted.

If you bow at all, bow low.

If you take an ox, you must give a horse.

A man thinks he knows, but a woman knows better.

Words whispered on earth sound like thunder in heaven.

If fortune smiles--who doesn’t? If fortune doesn’t--who does?

Moneyed men are always listened to.

Nature is better than a middling doctor.

Stay at home and reverence your parents; why travel afar to worship the

A bottle-nosed man may be a teetotaller, but no one will think so.

It is easier to catch a tiger than to ask a favour.

With money you can move the gods; without it, you can’t move a man.

Bend your head if the eaves are low.

Oblige, and you will be obliged.

Don’t put two saddles on one horse.

Armies are maintained for years, to be used on a single day.

In misfortune, gold is dull; in happiness, iron is bright.

More trees are upright than men.

If you fear that people will know, don’t do it.

Long visits bring short compliments.

If you are upright and without guile, what god need you pray to for

Some study shows the need for more.

One kind word will keep you warm for three winters.

The highest towers begin from the ground.

No needle is sharp at both ends.

Straight trees are felled first.

No image-maker worships the gods. He knows what stuff they are made of.

Half an orange tastes as sweet as a whole one.

We love our own compositions, but other men’s wives.

Free sitters at the play always grumble most.

It is not the wine which makes a man drunk; it is the man himself.

Better a dog in peace than a man in war.

Every one gives a shove to the tumbling wall.

Sweep the snow from your own doorstep.

He who rides a tiger cannot dismount.

Politeness before force.

One dog barks at something, and the rest bark at him.

You can’t clap hands with one palm.

Draw your bow, but don’t shoot.

One more good man on earth is better than an extra angel in heaven.

Gold is tested by fire; man, by gold.

Those who have not tasted the bitterest of life’s bitters can never
appreciate the sweetest of life’s sweets.

Money makes a blind man see.

Man is God upon a small scale. God is man upon a large scale.

A near neighbour is better than a distant relation.

Without error there could be no such thing as truth.


What foreign students have achieved in the department of Chinese
literature from the sixteenth century down to quite recent times is
well exhibited in the three large volumes which form the _Bibliotheca
Sinica_, or _Dictionnaire Bibliographique des Ouvrages rélatifs à
l’Empire chinois_, by Henri Cordier: Paris, Ernest Leroux, 1878; with
Supplément, 1895. This work is carried out with a fulness and accuracy
which leave nothing to be desired, and is essential to all systematic
workers in the Chinese field.

By far the most important of all books mentioned in the above
collection is a complete translation of the Confucian Canon by the late
Dr. James Legge of Aberdeen, under the general title of _The Chinese
Classics_. The publication of this work, which forms the greatest
existing monument of Anglo-Chinese scholarship, extended from 1861 to

The _Cursus Literaturæ Sinicæ_, by P. Zottoli, S.J., Shanghai,
1879-1882, is an extensive series of translations into Latin from all
branches of Chinese literature, and is designed especially for the use
of Roman Catholic missionaries (_neo-missionariis accommodatus_).

Another very important work, now rapidly approaching completion, is a
translation by Professor E. Chavannes, Collège de France, of the famous
history described in Book II. chap, iii., under the title of _Les
Mémoires Historiques de Se-ma Ts’ien_, the first volume of which is
dated Paris, 1895.

_Notes on Chinese Literature_, by A. Wylie, Shanghai, 1867, contains
descriptive notices of about 2000 separate Chinese works, arranged
under Classics, History, Philosophy, and Belles Lettres, as in the
Imperial Catalogue (see p. 387). Considering the date at which it was
written, this book is entitled to rank among the highest efforts of the
kind. It is still of the utmost value to the student, though in need of
careful revision.

The following Catalogues of Chinese libraries in Europe have been
published in recent years:--

_Catalogue of Chinese Printed Books, Manuscripts, and Drawings in the
Library of the British Museum._ By R. K. Douglas, 1877.

_Catalogue of the Chinese Translation of the Buddhist Tripitaka._ By
Bunyio Nanjio, 1883.

_Catalogue of the Chinese Books and Manuscripts in the Library of Lord
Crawford, Haigh Hall, Wigan._ By J. P. Edmond, 1895.

_Catalogue of the Chinese and Manchu Books in the Library of the
University of Cambridge._ By H. A. Giles, 1898.

_Catalogue des Livres Chinois, Coréens, Japonais, etc._, in the
Bibliothèque Nationale. By Maurice Courant, Paris, 1900. (Fasc. i. pp.
vii., 148, has already appeared.)

       *       *       *       *       *

The chief periodicals especially devoted to studies in Chinese
literature are as follows:--

_The Chinese Repository_, published monthly at Canton from May 1832 to
December 1851.

_The Journal of the North-China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society_,
published annually at Shanghai from 1858 to 1884, and since that date
issued in fascicules at irregular intervals during each year.

_The China Review_, published every two months at Hong-Kong from June
1872 to the present date.

There is also the _Chinese Recorder_, which has existed since 1868,
and is now published every two months at Shanghai. This is, strictly
speaking, a missionary journal, but it often contains valuable papers
on Chinese literature and cognate subjects.

_Variétés Sinologiques_ is the title of a series of monographs on
various Chinese topics, written and published at irregular intervals
by the Jesuit Fathers at Shanghai since 1892, and distinguished by the
erudition and accuracy of all its contributors.


  Anæsthetics, 278

  Analects, 32-35

  Art of War, 43, 44

  Bamboo Annals, 137

  Barbarians, 400, 418, 428

  Bashpa, 247

  Beggar King, 291

  Bibliography, 441

  Biographies of Eminent Women, 92

  Bôdhidharma, 115

  Book of Changes, 9, 21-23

  Book of History, 7, 9, 10, 12

  Book of Odes, 12-21, 256

  Book of Rewards and Punishments, 418

  Book of Rites, 23, 24, 41

  Buddhism, 110-116, 403, 419

  Catalogue of the Imperial Library, 387, 418

  _Chan Kuo Ts’ê_, 92

  CHANG CHI, 175, 176


  Chang Hsüan-tsu, 432


  CHANG PI, 209


  CH’ANG CH’IEN, 158

  Chao Ch’i, 36

  CHAO I, 415

  CHAO LI-HUA, 333

  Chao Ping, 247


  CH’AO TS’O, 80

  CH’ÊN HAO-TZŬ, 413


  CH’ÊN LIN, 122


  CH’ÊN T’AO, 204

  CH’ÊN T’UAN, 233

  CH’ÊN TZŬ-ANG, 147, 148


  CHÊNG HSÜAN, 23, 95

  CH’ÊNG HAO, 220, 236

  CH’ÊNG I, 220

  Chi Hsi, 127


  _Chi Yün_, 238

  Chia I, 54, 97

  _Chia Yü_, 48

  CH’IEN LUNG, 14, 228, 252, 387, 417

  _Chin Ku Ch’i Kuan_, 322

  Ch’in Kuei, 261

  _Ch’in P’ing Mei_, 309

  _Ching Hua Yüan_, 316-322

  _Chou Li_, 24

  CHOU TUN-I, 219

  _Ch’ou Jen Chuan_, 418

  CHU HSI, 228-231

  Chu-ko Liang, 277

  CHU SHIH, 404


  CH’Ü YÜAN, 50-53

  CHUANG TZŬ, 60-68

  _Ch’un Ch’iu_, 25

  Ch’un-yü K’un, 430

  _Chung Yung_, 41

  Classic of Filial Piety, 48

  Complete collection of the poetry of the T’ang dynasty, 143

  Concordances, 385, 386

  CONFUCIUS, 7, 12, 13, 22, 24, 25, 28, 32-35, 41, 48

  Cookery-book, 409

  Criminal cases of Lan Ting-yüan, 395

  Dictionaries, 109, 238, 385

  Doctrine of the Mean, 41

  Drama, 256-262, 325

  Dream of the Red Chamber, 355

  Encyclopædias, 239, 240, 386, 418

  _Erh Tou Mei_, 324

  _Erh Ya_, 44, 137

  European works in Chinese, 429

  FA HSIEN, 111-114

  _Fa Yen_, 93

  Family maxims, 392

  Family sayings of Confucius, 48

  FAN YEH, 138

  FANG HSIAO-JU, 294-296

  FANG SHU-SHAO, 333, 334

  FANG WEI-I, 417

  _Fang Yen_, 94

  _Fêng Shên_, 310

  FÊNG TAO, 210

  First Emperor, 48, 77-79, 107, 108

  Five Classics, 7-31

  Flowery Ball, The, 264-268

  Foreigners. See Barbarians

  Four Books, 32-42

  Fu Hsi, 21

  FU I, 134

  FU MI, 128

  Gardening, 413

  Gobharana, 110

  Great Learning, 41

  HAN FEI TZŬ, 70-72

  Han Wên-Kung, 160

  HAN YÜ, 160-163, 196-203, 355

  Historical Record, 102

  History, 102

  History of the Ming Dynasty, 404

  History of the Mongol Dynasty, 291

  Ho Shang Kung, 95

  _Hsi Hsiang Chi_, 273, 276

  Hsi K’ang, 126

  _Hsi Yu Chi_, 281-287, 310

  _Hsi Yüan Lu_, 241-243

  HSIANG HSIU, 61, 127

  _Hsiao Ching_, 48

  _Hsiao Lin Kuang Chi_, 433-436

  _Hsiao Ts’ang Shan Fang Ch’ih Tu_, 405

  HSIAO T’UNG, 139

  HSIAO YEN, 133

  Hsiao Yü, 134

  HSIEH CHIN, 329-331

  Hsieh Su-su, 332


  HSÜ AN-CHÊN, 178

  HSÜ HSIEH, 305-307

  HSÜ KAN, 119


  HSÜ SHÊN, 109

  Hsüan Tsang, 115, 281, 284-287

  HSÜN HSÜ, 137

  HSÜN TZŬ, 47

  Hua, Dr., 278-280

  HUAI-NAN TZŬ, 72-74

  HUANG-FU MI, 137

  _Huang Ch’ing Ching Chieh_, 418

  HUANG T’ING-CHIEN, 227, 228, 235, 236

  Humour, Classical, 430


  _Hung Lou Mêng_, 355, 433

  Hung Mai, 83, 94

  _I Ching_, 21

  _I Li_, 25

  Jesuit Fathers, 308

  _Jih Chih Lu_, 391

  Joining the Shirt, 274

  Journalism, 428

  _Kan Ying P’ien_, 418

  K’ANG HSI, 385

  _K’ang Hsi Tzŭ Tien_, 385



  Kao Tzŭ, 37-39

  Kashiapmadanga, 110

  KU CHIANG, 391

  KU-LIANG, 29, 30

  Ku Yen-wu, 391

  Kuan Tzŭ, 44

  _Kuang Yün_, 238

  Kublai Khan, 247, 248

  Kumarajiva, 114

  KUNG-YANG, 29-31

  K’UNG AN-KUO, 80

  K’UNG CHI, 36, 41

  K’UNG JUNG, 120

  K’ung Tao-fu, 258

  K’UNG YING-TA, 190

  KUO HSIANG, 61, 137

  KUO P’O, 45, 138

  _Kuo Yü_, 26


  Lao Tan, 24

  LAO TZŬ, 56-60

  Lexicography, 190

  Li Chi, 23, 25

  Li Chia-ming, 431

  LI FANG, 239, 240

  LI HO, 175

  LI HUA, 203, 204

  LI LING, 81-89

  LI PO, 151-156

  LI PO-YAO, 190

  _Li Sao_, 51

  LI SHÊ, 177


  LI SSŬ, 78, 79

  LI YANG-PING, 190, 191

  Li Ying, 120

  _Liao Chai Chih I_, 338-355

  _Lieh Kuo Chuan_, 310-315

  LIEH TZŬ, 68-70

  Lin Hsi-chung, 60, 83, 165

  Little Learning, 230

  Liu An, 72

  LIU CH’Ê, 99-101

  LIU CHÊNG, 122

  LIU CHI, 252, 432

  LIU HÊNG, 98

  LIU HSIANG, 92, 97

  LIU HSIN, 92

  Liu Hsü, 212, 217

  LIU LING, 125, 126

  _Liu Shu Ku_, 239

  LIU TSUNG-YÜAN, 160, 191-196

  LIU YIN, 251, 252

  Liu Yün, 432


  LU WÊN-SHU, 89-92


  LÜ PU-WEI, 48

  _Lü Shih Ch’un Ch’iu_, 48

  _Lun Hêng_, 94

  _Lun Yü_, 32-35

  MA JUNG, 23, 94

  MA TUAN-LIN, 240

  MA TZŬ-JAN, 177

  Materia Medica, 307

  Mathematicians, Biographies of, 418

  Matteo Ricci, 308, 418

  Medical Jurisprudence, 240-243


  MENCIUS, 25, 35-40


  Mêng T’ien, 80

  _Ming Chi Kang Mu_, 404

  _Ming Hsien Chi_, 436

  Ming Huang, Emperor, 257

  “Mirror of Flowers,” 413

  Mirror of History, 217

  Mongol Plays, 268

  Mo Ti, 37, 40, 41

  _Mu T’ien Tzŭ Chuan_, 49

  Nearing the Standard, 44, 45

  New History of the T’ang Dynasty, 217

  Nine Old Gentlemen of Hsiang-shan, 164

  Novel, The Chinese, 276

  O-ÊRH-T’AI, 404

  Odes. See Book of Odes

  Orphan of the Chao Family, 269

  OU-YANG HSIU, 212-216, 217, 222, 432

  PAN, the Lady, 101, 393

  PAN CHAO, 108

  PAN KU, 108

  Pan Piao, 108

  PAO CHAO, 132

  Pear-Garden, The, 257

  _P’ei Wên Yün Fu_, 385

  _P’i Pa Chi_, 325-328

  “Picking up Gold,” 389

  _P’ien Tzŭ Lei P’ien_, 386

  _Ping Fa_, 43

  _P’ing Shan Lêng Yen_, 323, 324

  PO CHÜ-I, 163-175

  Poetesses, 101, 332, 333

  Poetry, 143-146

  Printing, Invention of, 209

  Proverbs and Maxims, 437-439

  P’U SUNG-LING, 338-355

  Record of the Buddhistic Kingdoms, 111-114

  Record of Travels in the West, 281-287

  Rites of the Chou dynasty, 24

  Roman Catholic missionaries, 401

  Sacred Edict, 386

  _San Kuo Chih Yen I_, 277-280, 310

  _San Tzŭ Ching_, 89, 250, 251

  Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove, 61, 125

  Seven Scholars of the Chien-An Period, 119

  SHAN T’AO, 128

  _Shanghai News_, 428

  SHAO YUNG, 234

  _Shên Pao_, 428

  Shên Su, 299

  SHÊN YO, 138

  _Shih Ching_, 12

  _Shih Lei Fu_, 239

  _Shu Ching_, 7

  SHIH NAI-AN, 280

  _Shui Hu Chuan_, 280, 281, 310

  Shun, Emperor, 7, 8

  _Shuo Wên_, 109

  Six Idlers of the Bamboo Grove, 152

  Six Scripts, 239

  Six Traitorous Ministers of the Ming dynasty, 297, 299

  Slaying a Son at the Yamên Gate, 271-273

  Spring and Autumn Annals, 25-31

  SSŬ-K’UNG T’U, 179-188

  SSŬ-MA CH’IEN, 57, 102-108

  Ssŭ-ma Hsiang-ju, 97

  SSŬ-MA KUANG, 217-219

  Story of the Guitar, 325

  Story of the Three Kingdoms, 277-280

  Story of the Western Pavilion, 273

  “Strange Stories,” 338-355

  SU CHÊ, 227

  SU SHIH, 83, 222-227

  Su Tai, 77

  Su Tung-p’o, 161, 222

  SU WU, 82, 83

  SUN SHU-JAN, 137

  SUN TZŬ, 43, 44

  SUNG CH’I, 212, 216, 238

  SUNG CHIH-WÊN, 148, 149

  SUNG LIEN, 291-293

  Sung Tz’ŭ, 241

  SUNG YÜ, 53

  Sung Yün, 115

  _Ta Hsüeh_, 41

  TAI, the Elder, 23

  ---- the Younger, 23

  TAI T’UNG, 238, 239

  _T’ai Hsüan Ching_, 93

  _T’ai P’ing Kuang Chi_, 240

  _T’ai P’ing Yü Lan_, 239, 418

  Tan Ming-lun, 342

  T’AN KUNG, 45-47

  T’ang the Completer, 9

  Taoism, 56-74, 419

  _Tao Tê Ching_, 56-60, 227

  T’AO CH’IEN, 128-132

  T’ao Ku, 431

  T’ao Yüan-ming, 128

  Ten Courts of Purgatory, 420

  Three Character Classic, 250, 251

  Three Suspicions, The, 262, 263

  Topography of Kuangtung, 418

  Ts’ai Ch’ien, 418

  TS’AI YUNG, 95

  Ts’ang Chieh, 6

  TS’AO CHIH, 123, 124

  TS’AO TS’AO, 120, 123, 277, 278-280

  TS’ÊN TS’AN, 159

  TSÊNG TS’AN, 41, 48

  _Tso Chuan_, 8, 26-29, 256

  TS’UI HAO, 150, 151

  TSUNG CH’ÊN, 301-303


  TU FU, 156-158

  TU YU, 191, 240

  _T’u Shu Chi Ch’êng_, 386

  Tung-fang So, 54, 97

  _T’ung Chien_, 217

  _T’ung Chien Kang Mu_, 228

  _T’ung Chien Kang Mu San Pien_, 404

  _T’ung Tien_, 191, 240

  Twenty-four Dynastic Histories, 103

  Twice Flowering Plum-trees, 324

  Wall Literature, 425, 426

  WANG AN-SHIH, 217, 220-222, 235

  WANG CHI, 135

  Wang Chieh, 415



  WANG JUNG, 128

  WANG PO, 146, 147

  Wang Pu-ch’ing, 229

  Wang Shih-chêng, 309


  Wang Su, 48

  WANG TAO-K’UN, 303-305

  WANG TS’AN, 121

  Wang Tzŭ-ch’iao, 151

  WANG WEI, 149, 150


  WEI CHÊNG, 189

  _Wên Hsien T’ung K’ao_, 240

  _Wên Hsüan_, 140

  WÊN T’IEN-HSIANG, 248-250

  Wên Tzŭ, 44

  Wên Wang, 9, 21

  Wit and Humour, 432

  Women, Biographies of, 92

  Women as Writers, 417

  Women, Proper Training of, 393

  Women’s Degrees, 316

  WU SHU, 239

  Wu Tzŭ, 44

  Wu Wang, 10, 21

  YANG Chi-shêng, 297, 301

  Yang Chu, 37, 40


  YANG I, 234

  Yang Kuei-fei, 168-175

  Yang Ti, 136

  Yao, Emperor, 7, 8

  YEH SHIH, 237

  YEN SHIH-KU, 190

  YING YANG, 122

  Yo Fei, 261

  Yü, The Great, 8, 12, 26

  _Yü Chiao Li_, 309

  _Yü Li Ch’ao Chuan_, 420

  YÜAN CHI, 127

  _Yüan Chien Lei Han_, 386

  _Yüan Ch’ü Hsüan Tsa Chi_, 268


  YÜAN MEI, 405

  Yüan Shao, 95

  YÜAN YÜ, 122

  YÜAN YÜAN, 417

  Yung Chêng, 387

  Yung Lo, 296

  _Yung Lo Ta Tien_, 296


       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Note

Duplicate title pages before each book have been removed. Page headers
have been placed as sidenotes before the text which they relate to.

The following apparent printing errors have been corrected:

p. 15 "_You seemed_" changed to "“_You seemed_"

p. 22 "䷈" changed to "䷉"

p. 123 "TS’AO TSAO" changed to "TS’AO TS’AO"

P. 170 "_Feather Jacket_" changed to "_Feather Jacket.”_"

p. 171 "Ssŭchuan" changed to "Ssŭch’uan"

p. 173 "SPIRIT-LAND." changed to "SPIRIT-LAND."

p. 179 "Tu" changed to "T’u"

p. 184 "SECLUSION" changed to "SECLUSION."

p. 212 "C’hi" changed to "Ch’i"

p. 222 "Tung-po" changed to "Tung-p’o"

p. 233 "CH’ÊN TUAN" changed to "CH’ÊN T’UAN"

p. 249 "Tien-hsiang" changed "T’ien-hsiang"

p. 275 "villain" changed to "villain."

p. 283 "aswered" changed to "answered"

p. 338 "P’u Sung-lang" changed to "P’u Sung-ling"

p. 366 "of elm." changed to "of elm,"

p. 444 "386, 41" changed to "386, 418"

p. 445 "Mèng T’ien" changed to "Mêng T’ien"

p. 446 "_Shiu Hu Chuan_" changed to "_Shui Hu Chuan_"

p. 447 "TSENG TS’AN" changed to "TSÊNG TS’AN"

The text and commentaries on p. 29 were printed with no closing quotes.

In the index, small capitals are used inconsistently for the whole name
or for the family name only. The following are also used inconsistently
in the text:

every-day and everyday

ferry-man and ferryman

glow-worm and glowworm

head-dress and headdress

night-jar and nightjar

oft-times and ofttimes


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