CHINA AND THE CHINESE
THE CHINESE LANGUAGE Its Importance—Its Difficulty—The Colloquial—Dialects—“Mandarin”—
Illustrations—Pidgin-English—Scarcity of Vocables Absence of Grammar—
; The Tones—Coupled Words—The Written Language—The Indicators—
Picture Characters—Pictures of Ideas—The Phonetics—Some Faulty Analyses ... 3
A CHINESE LIBRARY The Cambridge (Eng.) Library--(A) The Confucian
History—The “Historical Record”—The “Mirror of History”—Biography—
Encyclopædias—How arranged—Collections of Reprints—The Imperial
Statutes—The Penal Code--? Geography—Topography—An Old Volume—
Account of Strange Nations--(D) Poetry—Novels—Romance of the Three
Kingdoms—Plays--(E) Dictionaries—The Concordance—Its Arrangement—
Imperial Catalogue—Senior Classics ... 37
DEMOCRATIC CHINA The Emperor—Provincial Government—Circuits—Prefectures—Magistracies
; Headboroughs—The People—The Magistrate—Other Provincial Officials— The Prefect—The Intendant of Circuit (_Tao-t‟ai_)--Viceroy and Governor—Taxation—Mencius on “the People”—Personal Liberty—New
Imposts—Combination—Illustrations ... 73
CHINA AND ANCIENT GREECE
Relative Values of Chinese and Greek in Mental and Moral Training—Lord
Granville—Wên T’ien-hsiang—Han Y?-An Emperor—A Land of
Opposites—Coincidences between Chinese and Greek Civilisations—The
Question of Greek Influence—Greek Words in Chinese—Coincidences in Chinese and Western Literature—Students of Chinese wanted ... 107
Religions in China—What is Tao?--Lao Tzu—The _Tao T?Ching_--Its Claims—The Philosophy of Lao Tzu---Developed by Chuang Tzu—His View
of Tao—A Taoist Poet—Symptoms of Decay—The Elixir of Life—Alchemy—
The Black Art—Struggle between Buddhism and
Taoism—They borrow from
One Another—The Corruption of Tao—Its Last State ... 141
SOME CHINESE MANNERS AND CUSTOMS
Origin of the Queue—Social Life—An Eyeglass—Street Etiquette—Guest
and Host—The Position of Women—Infanticide—Training and Education of Women—The Wife‟s Status—Ancestral Worship—Widows—Foot-binding—
Henpecked Husbands—The Chinaman a Mystery—Customs vary with Places—
Dog‟s Flesh—Substitutes at Executions—Doctors—Conclusion ... 175
THE CHINESE LANGUAGE
CHINA AND THE CHINESE
THE CHINESE LANGUAGE
If the Chinese people were to file one by one past a given point, the interesting procession would never come to an end. Before the last man of those living to-day had gone by, another and a new generation would have grown up, and so on for ever and ever.
The importance, as a factor in the sum of human affairs, of this vast
nation,--of its language, of its literature, of its religions, of its
history, of its manners and customs,--goes therefore without saying. Yet
a serious attention to China and her affairs is of very recent growth.
Twenty-five years ago there was but one professor of Chinese in the
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland; and even that one spent his
time more in adorning his profession than in imparting his knowledge to
classes of eager students. Now there are all together five chairs of Chinese, the occupants of which are all more or less actively employed.
But we are still sadly lacking in what Columbia University appears to
have obtained by the stroke of a generous pen,--adequate funds for
endowment. Meanwhile, I venture to offer my respectful congratulations
to Columbia University on having surmounted this initial difficulty, and
also to prophesy that the foresight of the liberal donor will be amply justified before many years are over.
I have often been asked if Chinese is, or is not, a difficult language to learn. To this question it is quite impossible to give a categorical answer, for the simple reason that Chinese consists of at least two languages, one colloquial and the other written, which for all practical purposes are about as distinct as they well could be.
Colloquial Chinese is a comparatively easy matter. It is, in fact, more
easily acquired in the early stages than colloquial French or German. A
student will begin to speak from the very first, for the simple reason that there is no other way. There are no Declensions or Conjugations to be learned, and consequently no Paradigms or Irregular Verbs.
In a day or two the student should be able to say a few simple things. After three months he should be able to deal with his ordinary requirements; and after six months he should be able to chatter away more or less accurately on a variety of interesting subjects. A great deal depends upon the method by which he is taught.
The written or book language, on the other hand, may fairly be regarded
as a sufficient study for a lifetime; not because of the peculiar
script, which yields when systematically attacked, but because the style
of the book language is often so extremely terse as to make it obscure, and sometimes so lavishly ornate that without wide reading it is not easy to follow the figurative phraseology, and historical and mythological allusions, which confront one on every page.
There are plenty of men, and some women, nowadays, who can carry on a
conversation in Chinese with the utmost facility, and even with grace.
Some speak so well as to be practically indistinguishable from Chinamen.
There are comparatively few men, and I venture to say still fewer, if
any, women, who can read an ordinary Chinese book with ease, or write an
ordinary Chinese letter at all.
Speaking of women as students of Chinese, there have been so far only two who have really placed themselves in the front rank. It gives me great pleasure to add that both these ladies, lady missionaries, were natives of America, and that it was my privilege while in China to know them
both. In my early studies of Chinese I received much advice and assistance from one of them, the late Miss Lydia Fay. Later on, I came to entertain a high respect for the scholarship and literary attainments of Miss Adèle M. Fielde, a well-known authoress.
Before starting upon a course of colloquial Chinese, it is necessary for
the student to consider in what part of China he proposes to put his knowledge into practice. If he intends to settle or do business in Peking, it is absolute waste of time for him to learn the dialect of Shanghai. Theoretically, there is but one language spoken by the Chinese people in China proper,--over an area of some two million square miles, say twenty-five times the area of England and Scotland together.
Practically, there are about eight well-marked dialects, all clearly of
a common stock, but so distinct as to constitute eight different languages, any two of which are quite as unlike as English and Dutch.
These dialects may be said to fringe the coast line of the Empire of
China. Starting from Canton and coasting northward, before we have left
behind us the province in which Canton is situated, Kuangtung, we reach
Swatow, where a totally new dialect is spoken. A short run now brings
us to Amoy, the dialect of which, though somewhat resembling that of
Swatow, is still very different in many respects. Our next stage is
Foochow, which is in the same province as Amoy, but possesses a special
dialect of its own. Then on to Wênchow, with another dialect, and so on
to Ningpo with yet another, widely spoken also in Shanghai, though the latter place really has a patois of its own.
Farther north to Chefoo, and thence to Peking, we come at last into the
range of the great dialect, popularly known as Mandarin, which sweeps
round behind the narrow strip of coast occupied by the various dialects
above mentioned, and dominates a hinterland constituting about
four-fifths of China proper. It is obvious, then, that for a person who
settles in a coast district, the dialect of that district must be his chief care, while for the traveller and explorer Mandarin will probably stand him in best stead.
The dialect of Peking is now regarded as standard “Mandarin”; but
previous to the year 1425 the capital was at Nanking, and the dialect of
Nanking was the Mandarin then in vogue. Consequently, Pekingese is the language which all Chinese officials are now bound to speak.
Those who come from certain parts of the vast hinterland speak Mandarin almost as a mother tongue, while those from the seaboard and certain adjacent parts of the interior have nearly as much difficulty in acquiring it, and quite as much difficulty in speaking it with a correct accent, as the average foreigner.
The importance of Mandarin, the “official language” as the Chinese call it, is beyond question. It is
the vehicle of oral communication between all Chinese officials, even in cases where they come
from the same part of the country and speak the same patois, between officials and their servants,
between judge and prisoner. Thus, in every court of justice throughout the Empire the proceedings are carried on in Mandarin, although none of the parties to the case may understand a single word. The prosecutor, on his knees, tells his story in his native dialect.
This story is rendered into Mandarin by an official interpreter for the
benefit of the magistrate; the magistrate asks his questions or makes
his remarks in Mandarin, and these are translated into the local dialect
for the benefit of the litigants. Even if the magistrate knows the
dialect himself,--as is often the case, although no magistrate may hold
office in his own province,--still it is not strictly permissible for him
to make use of the local dialect for magisterial purposes.
It may be added that in all large centres, such as Canton, Foochow, and
Amoy, there will be found, among the well-to-do tradesmen and merchants, many who can make themselves intelligible in something which approximates to the dialect of Peking, not to mention that two out of the above three cities are garrisoned by Manchu troops, who of course speak that dialect as their native tongue.
Such is Mandarin. It may be compared to a limited extent with Urdu, the
camp language of India. It is obviously the form of colloquial which should be studied by all, except those who have special interests in special districts, in which case, of course, the patois of
the locality comes to the front.
We will now suppose that the student has made up his mind to learn
Mandarin. The most natural thing for him, then, to do will be to look
around him for a grammar. He may have trouble in finding one. Such works
do actually exist, and they have been, for the most part, to quote a
familiar trade-mark, “made in Germany.” They are certainly not made by
the Chinese, who do not possess, and never have possessed, in their language, an equivalent term for grammar. The language is quite beyond reach of the application of such rules as have been successfully deduced from Latin and Greek.
The Chinese seem always to have spoken in monosyllables, and these monosyllables seem always to have been incapable of inflection, agglutination, or change of any kind. They are in reality root-ideas, and are capable of adapting themselves to their surroundings, and of playing each one such varied parts as noun, verb (transitive, neuter, or even causal), adverb, and conjunction. The word [wo] wo, which for convenience‟ sake I call “I,” must be rendered into English by “me”
whenever it is the object of some other word, which, also for convenience‟ sake, I call a verb. It has
further such extended senses as “egoistic” and “subjective.”
For example: [wo ài ta] wo ai t’a.
The first of these characters, which is really the root-idea of “self,”
stands here for the pronoun of the first person; the last, which is
really the root-idea of “not self,” “other,” stands for the pronoun of
the third person; and the middle character for the root-idea of “love.”
This might mean in English, “I love him,” or “I love her,” or “I love
it,”—for there is no gender in Chinese, any more than there is any other indication of grammatical susceptibilities. We can only decide if “him,”
“her,” or “it” is intended by the context, or by the circumstances of the case. Now if we were to transpose what I must still call the pronouns, although they are not pronouns
except when we make them so, we should have—
[ta ài wo] t’a ai wo
“he, she, or it loves me,” the only change which the Chinese words
have undergone being one of position; while in English, in addition to the inflection of the pronouns, the “love” of the first person becomes “loves” in the third person.
Again, supposing we wished to write down—
“People love him (or her),”
we should have—
[rén ai ta] jen ai t’a,
in which once more the noticeable feature is that the middle character, although passing from the
singular to the plural number, suffers no change of any kind whatever. Further, the character for “man” is in the plural simply because such a
rendering is the only one which the genius of the Chinese language will here tolerate, helped out by
the fact that the word by itself does not mean “_a_ man,” but rather what we may call the root-idea of humanity.
Such terms as “a man,” or “six men,” or “some men,” or “many men,” would be expressed each in
its own particular way.
“All men,” for instance, would involve merely the duplication of the character jen:--
[rén rén ai ta] jen jen ai t’a.
It is the same with tenses in Chinese. They are not brought out by inflection, but by the use of
[lái] lai is the root-idea of “coming,” and lends itself as follows to
the exigencies of conjugation:--
Standing alone, it is imperative:--
[lái] Lai! = “come!” “here!”
[wo lái] wo lai = “I come, or am coming.”
[ta lái] t’a lai = “he comes, or is coming.”
And by inserting [bù] pu, a root-idea of negation,--
[ta b?lái] t’a pu lai = “he comes not, or is not coming.”
To express an interrogative, we say,--
[ta lái b?lái] t’a lai pu lai = “he come no come?” i.e. “is he coming?”
submitting the two alternatives for the person addressed to choose from in reply. The indefinite past tense is formed by adding the word [liao] liao or
[ta lái liao] t’a lai lo = “he come finish,” = “he has come.”
This may be turned into the definite past tense by inserting some
indication of time; e.g.
[ta zao shàng lái liao] = “he came this morning.”
Here we see that the same words may be indefinite or definite according to circumstances. It is perhaps more startling to find that the same words may be both active and passive. Thus, [diu] tiu is the root-idea of “loss,” “to lose,” and [liao] puts
it into the past tense.
Now [wo diu liao] means, and can only mean, “I have lost”—something
understood, or to be expressed. Strike out [wo] and substitute [shiu] “a
book.” No Chinaman would think that the new sentence meant “The book has
lost”—something understood, or to be expressed, as for instance its cover; but he would grasp at once the real sense, “The book is or has been lost.”
In the case of such, a phrase as “The book has lost” its cover, quite a
different word would be used for “lost.”
We have the same phenomenon in English. In the New York Times of February 13, I read, “Mr.
So-and-so dined,” meaning not that Mr. So-and-so took his dinner, but had been entertained at dinner by a party of friends,--a neuter verb transformed into a passive verb by the logic of circumstances.
By a like process the word [su] ssu “to die” may also mean “to make to
die” = “to kill.”
The word [jìn] chin which stands for “gold” as a substantive may also stand, as in English, for an adjective, and for a verb, “to gold,” i.e. to regard as gold, to value highly.
There is nothing in Chinese like love, loving, lovely, as noun substantive, verb, and adverb. The word, written or spoken, remains invariably, so far as its own economy is concerned, the same. Its function in a sentence is governed entirely by position and by the influence of other words upon it, coupled with the inexorable logic of attendant circumstances.
When a Chinaman comes up to you and says, “You wantchee my, no
wantchee,” he is doing no foolish thing, at any rate from his own point
of view. To save himself the trouble of learning grammatical English, he
is taking the language and divesting it of all troublesome inflections, until he has at his control a set of root-ideas, with which he can juggle as in his own tongue. In other words, “you wantchee my, no
wantchee,” is nothing more nor less than literally rendered Chinese:--
[ni yao wo ?yao] ni yao wo, pu yao = do you want me or not?
In this “pidgin” English he can express himself as in Chinese by merely changing the positions of the words:--
“He wantchee my.” “My wantchee he.”
“My belong Englishman.”
“That knife belong my.”
Some years back, when I was leaving China for England with young children, their faithful Chinese nurse kept on repeating to the little ones the following remarkable sentence, “My too muchey solly
you go steamah; you no solly my.”
All this is very absurd, no doubt; still it is bona fide Chinese, and illustrates very forcibly how an
intelligible language may be constructed of root-ideas arranged in logical sequence. If the last word had now been said in reference to colloquial, it would
be as easy for us to learn to speak Chinese as it is for a Chinaman to
learn to speak Pidgin-English. There is, however, a great obstacle still in the way of the student. The Chinese language is peculiarly lacking in vocables; that is to say, it possesses very few sounds for the conveyance of speech. The dialect of Peking is restricted to four hundred and twenty, and as every word in the language must fall under one or other of those sounds, it follows that if there are 42,000 words in the language (and the standard dictionary contains 44,000), there is an average of 100 words to each sound. Of course, if any sound had less than 100 words attached to it, some other sound would have proportionately more. Thus, accepting the average, we should have 100 things or ideas, all expressed in speech, for instance, by the one single sound I.
The confusion likely to arise from such conditions needs not to be enlarged upon; it is at once obvious, and probably gave rise to the following sapient remark by a globe-trotting author, which I took from a newspaper in England:--
“In China, the letter I has one hundred and forty-five different ways of being pronounced, and each pronunciation has a different meaning.”
It would be difficult to squeeze more misleading nonsense into a smaller
compass. Imagine the agonies of a Chinese infant school, struggling
with the letter I pronounced in 145 different ways, with a different
meaning to each! It will suffice to say, what everybody here present
must know, that Chinese is not in any sense an alphabetic language, and
that consequently there can be no such thing as “the letter I.”
When closely examined, this great difficulty of many words with but one