Page:Sacred Books of the East - Volume 3.djvu/27

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xxv
PREFACE.

but Tâi Thung gives the following account of its meaning:—Tî is the honourable designation of lordship and rule,' adding, 'Therefore Heaven is called Shang Tî; the five Elementary Powers are called the five Tî; and the Son of Heaven[1]—that is, the Sovereign—is called Tî. Here then is the name Heaven, by which the idea of Supreme Power in the absolute is vaguely expressed; and when the Chinese would speak of it by a personal name, they use the terms Tî and Shang Tî; saying, I believe, what our early fathers did, when they began to use the word God. Tî is the name which has been employed in China for this concept for fully 5000 years. Our word God fits naturally into every passage where the character occurs in the old Chinese Classics, save those to which I referred above on p. xxiii. It never became with the people a proper name like the Zeus of the Greeks. I can no more translate Tî or Shang Tî by any other word but God than I can translate zăn (人) by anything else but man.

The preceding is a brief abstract of the reasoning by which I was determined to retain the term God for Tî and Shang Tî in this volume, excepting in the cases that have called for these observations. But in the account of Tî which I have adduced from Tâi Thung, it is said that 'the sovereign is also called Tî;' and most of my readers know that Hwang Tî (皇帝) is the title of the emperor of China. How did this application of the name arise? Was it in the first place a designation of the ruler or emperor; and was it then given to the Supreme Power, when the vague Heaven failed to satisfy the thinker and worshipper,

  1. tive belief in one Supreme Tî (帝), who is 大 "great," over, and ⼁, "ruling," heaven (⏜=⼍) and earth (⼌).' This is ingenious, but not entirely satisfactory. The three last steps are so; but the finding 大 (great) in the top part of 帝 does not in the same way carry conviction to the mind.

  2. Thien ℨze, 'the Son of Heaven,' is a common designation of the sovereign of China. Originally ℨze performed in the expression the part of a verb, and Thien ℨze was equivalent to 'he whom Heaven sons,' that is, considers and treats as its son. See the second line of the ode, p. 318.