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dynasties (B. C. 202-A. D. 220.) That was the Augustan age in Chinese literature. Those scholars, doubtless, made the best use of the materials at their command in constructing an accurate chronology of their national history. The question then remains, Were those materials reliable? Did they have sufficient data for constructing an accurate chronology for times very long anterior to their own?
On this point, Dr. Legge remarks (vol. iii. prol. p. 83), "There can be no doubt that, before the Han dynasty, a list of sovereigns, and the lengths of their several reigns, was the only means which the Chinese had of determining the duration of their . national history. And it would still be a sufficiently satisfactory method if we had a list of sovereigns, and of the years each reigned, that was complete and reliable. We do not have this, however. Even in the earlier part of the Han dynasty, Sze-maTs'een's father and himself were obliged to content themselves with giving simply the names and order of most of the rulers of Shang and Hia.* The lengths of the several reigns in the standard chronology have been determined mainly, I believe, to make the whole line stretch out to the years which had been fixed, on astronomical considerations, for.
* The IIId and IId dynasties, B. C. 2205-1122.
the periods of Chung-k’ang of the Hia dynasty, and of Yaou.”
From this opinion of Dr. Legge I see no good reason for dissenting. It finds abundant support in the facts and arguments which he has furnished. He seems to regard the chronology from the commencement of the Chan dynasty (B. C. 1122) as reliable; that of the Shang dynasty (B. C. 17661122) as doubtful in regard to the details of reigns and dates; while that of the first or Hia dynasty is still more unreliable.
The founder of this dynasty was Yu the Great. The accounts given of him show that he was a mythological personage. His birth was preternatural. The record says, " His mother saw a falling star, which went through the constellation Maou, and in a dream her thoughts were moved till she became pregnant; after which she swallowed a spirit's pearl. Her back opened in due time, and she gave birth to Yu in Shih-neu. He had a tiger nose and a large mouth. . . . When he grew up, he had the virtue of a sage, and was nine cubits and six inches long." * The story of his great deeds, especially in draining off the waters of the inundation, is evidently mythical. One is reminded, : * Translation of the Annals of the Bamboo Books, in Dr. Legge’s Chin. Classics, vol. iii. part 1, p. 117.
in reading it, of the labors of Hercules. So with his predecessors just named. Their births were as marvelous as that of Yu. Things are related of some of them which suggest a suspicion that they are confused traditions of events described in the Mosaic records. What more plausible supposition than that the inventor of the famous cycle of sixty, Nau (or Nao) the Great is no other than the Jewish patriarch himself, with but the slightest change or corruption of the name? One certainly can not but be surprised that such a writer as Pauthier should say, as before quoted, " Chinese history possesses all the characters of certitude which historic criticism has a right to demand.” (Vol. ii. p. 33.)
And here the question naturally arises, whether the Chinese historians had the materials for writing authentic annals of the early ages of that country. The most valued of the Chinese classics, as already intimated, is the Shu-king, or Book of Records, of which Confucius is the reputed author or compiler (born B. C. 549). It is a series of dialogues designed to give a brief history of China from the time of Yaou down to Ping Wang, of the Chan dynasty, B. C. 770. "The internal evidence,” says Williams (Mid. King. i. p. 504), " leads to the conclusion that Confucius acted principally as editor of documents existing in his day ; but the changes
that this ancient work underwent in his hands can not now be ascertained.” One of his commentators gives the following description of the manner in which he used his materials: –
" He examined and arranged the grand monuments and records, deciding to commence with Yaou and Shun, and to come down to the times of Chan. When there was perplexity and confusion he removed them. Expressions frothy and unallowable he cut away. What embraced great principles he retained and developed. What were more minute, and yet of importance, he carefully selected. Of those deserving to be handed down to other ages, and to supply permanent lessons, he made in all one hundred books, consisting of canons, counsels, instructions, announcements, speeches, and charges."*
How much, therefore, in this venerable work are the genuine remains of remote antiquity, and how much originated with the compiler, we can not know.
That the materials which came to his hand were more or less modified by him, is apparent. The whole cast of the work shows its author to have been more of a philosopher than historian. In reading these fragments in their translation, one can not but exclaim, How very different from the writ
* Chin. Classics, vol. iii. prol. p. 4.
ings of Herodotus, who wrote at nearly the same time!
There is another fact of some importance. Whatever the Shu-king may have been originally, as to faithfully transmitting the early history and chronology of that nation, we now have that work only in mutilated form; and the mutilation is so extensive, and of such a character, as seriously to impair its authority in every particular. All readers of Chinese history are familiar with the burning of the books by the Emperor Chi Hoang-ti, B. C. 213, famed also as being the builder of the Great Wall:
“ The vanity of this monarch led him to endeavor to destroy all records written anterior to his own reign, that he might be by posterity regarded as the first emperor of the Chinese race. Orders were issued that every book should be burned, and especially the writings of Confucius and Mencius upon the feudal states of Chan, whose remembrance he wished to blot out. This strange command was executed to such an extent that many of the Chinese literati believe that not a perfect copy of the clas, sical works escaped destruction, and the texts were only recovered by rewriting them from the memories of old scholars — a mode of reproduction that does not appear so singular to a Chinese as it does to us. ... The destruction was, no doubt, as nearly complete as possible ; and not only were many works entirely destroyed, but a