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should come after them in the same field of re- * search.
In the present century, Protestant missionaries, English and American, have pursued these studies with success, and, in connection with other European scholars, have brought the treasures of Chinese literature, such as they are, within reach of all. The last, if not the greatest contribution to this end, is a work by the Rev. James Legge, D.D., of the London Missionary Society, entitled The Chinese Classics : with a Translation, Critical and Exegetical Notes, Prolegomena, and Copious Indexes. The work consists of seven volumes, and contains the Confucian Analects, an account of Mencius, his disciples and doctrines, the Shu-king, the annals of the Bamboo books, so called, etc. These are specially valuable as bearing upon our present discussion, the Shu-king being the most important of the Chinese classics, in exhibiting the ancient science of that country,
Two points of inquiry here claim our attention : 1. What is the ancient Chinese chronology? and 2. What are the reasons for regarding it as reliable, or otherwise?
In regard to the first, I give the elements of the system as found in M. G. Pauthier's History of China, in the Univers, which is, I be
lieve, the commonly received chronology of China.*
Pauthier divides his chronology into three pe. riods — ante-historic, semi-historic, and historic.
The first period begins with Pan-kou, the primeval man, who is placed by the native historians at from 2,000,000 to 96,000,000 years before the death of Confucius, B. C. 479. During this interval flourished the three sovereignties of Heaven, Earth, and Man, followed by the ten periods, the last of which began with the Emperor Hoang-ti. In reference to those mythic times, I need only remark that there is much in the details to remind us of the corresponding era among the Hindus. Indeed, Pauthier says, if the tradition in respect to Pan-kou is not borrowed from India, it comes from the same source as the Hindu traditions ; " for,” he continues, " it is impossible not to recognize in the name and attributes of the Chinese Fan-kou, or, softening the pronunciation, Man-hou, - a transcription as exact as the former for a certain latitude, — the Indian Manou, who acts the same
* It is followed by Drs. Gutzlaff and Williams, in their works on China, except in relation to ante-historic times. After the emperor Hoang-ti, they agree. Before this, Gutzlaff gives no dates, and Williams goes back to Fuh-hi, making his reign to begin B. C. 2852.
part in the mythological tradition of India.” (Chine, vol. ii. p. 22.) Both the Hindu and Chinese traditions, as we shall show hereafter, are derived originally from the events related in the Mosaic records. The ten periods are, doubtless, the ten generations from Adam to Noah.
Semi-historic times began with Fuh-hi, B. C. 3468,* who is said to have reigned 150 years. He was succeeded by Chin-noung (Shinnung) and others, the last of whom was Hoang-ti, whose reign began in B. C. 2698. Williams, however, enumerates these emperors thus : Fuh-hi, 115 years; Shinnung, 140 years; Hoang-ti, 100 years, who began to reign B. C. 2697. He regards historic times as commencing with Fuh-hi.
Historic times begin in the reign of Hoang-ti. The first cycle of sixty years, so famous in Chinese chronology, dates from the sixty-first year of this emperor, B. C. 2637. After him, Shan-hau reigned 84 years; Chiuen-hiuh, 78; Kuh, 78; Yau, 102; Shun, 50. Then follow 26 dynasties of monarchs, beginning with the Hia, B. C. 2205, and ending with the present (the Tau-kwang), embracing 235 sovereigns. Or, if we begin with Fuh-hi, the num
* Williams puts the beginning of Fuh-hi's reign at B. C. 2852. - Mid. Kingdom, ii. p. 203.
ber is 243, embracing a period of 4721 years, to A. D. 1869.*
Minute chronological detail does not fall within my present purpose. We are now concerned only with the earliest portion of the system, and in this only with the principal dates.
The author informs us that this chronological record was forwarded from Peking, in 1767, by the Catholic missionary P. Amiot, who says of it, " It is a chronological table of all the sovereigns who have reigned in China, ranged in the order of the cycles, and exactly calculated from authentic monuments, from the sixty-first year of the Emperor Hoang-ti ... to the present reigning monarch (1769), . . . and printed at Peking, in the imperial palace, after having been subjected to the close examination of the different academies or literary tribunals of this capital, in the 32d year of Kienloung, - i. e., in 1767 of our era, — to serve ever after as a rule for the historians and other public writers of the empire." +
The inquiry now arises, Is this chronology reliable? It comes to us, with high claims, in a scientific dress, and challenges our confidence. How far is this confidence deserved?
* Williams (Summary, ii. p. 229), whom I have followed in the number of the dynasties, being more definite and complete than Pauthier.
+ Pauthier's Chine, ii. p. 268. .
In answering this inquiry, I will first allude to some of the opinions which have been expressed in its favor, and then adduce what may be said on the other side.
M. Pauthier evidently accepts this chronology. even in its earliest dates. In summing up what he has to say regarding it, he remarks, "This confidence granted to the Chinese historians can not be condemned, for we can boldly affirm that no people ever possessed bodies of history so complete and so authentic as the Chinese. This should not surprise us, when we recollect that through all time, history, or the intelligent registering of human events, has been honored and favored in China ; that since the Emperor Hoang-ti, 2637 years before our era, there has existed an historical tribunal in the capital of . the empire, the members of which, chosen from the most distinguished of the literati, have, in many respects, the prerogatives and permanency of our magistrates."
He then cites, at length, the opinion of Amiot, one of the most laborious and learned of the French missionaries in China, to the following import:*
“ The Chinese annals are preferable to the historic monuments of all other nations because they are the most free from fables, the most ancient, the most consecutive, and the most abounding in facts.... They have