Page:Sacred Books of the East - Volume 3.djvu/60

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26
THE SHÛ KING.

years[1] On the other hand, J. B. Biot found in the directions a sufficient confirmation of the received date for Yâo's accession, — B.C. 2357[2]. Appended to this Introduction is a chart of the stars as they were visible in China in B. C. 2300, which the Rev. C. Pritchard, Savilian Professor of Astronomy in the University of Oxford, kindly prepared for me. An inspection of it, in the manner directed by him, will show that the phenomena indicated by Yâo to his astronomers were all apparent at that date. This fact must be accepted as a strong proof of the approximate correctness of the chronology, which places Yâo in the twenty-fourth century B.C. The precession of the equinoxes, it has already been observed, was not known in China till more than 2500 years after the time assigned to Yâo, so that the culminating stars at the equinoxes and solstices of his remote period could not have been computed back scientifically in the time of the Kâu dynasty, during which the collection of the Shû existed. The form in which the directions are given, and other things in the Canon, savour, indeed, of legend, and I have not claimed for it that in its present form it be received as a document contemporaneous with the reign of Yâo. I have argued, however, that the compiler of it had before him ancient documents, and one of them must have contained the facts about the culminating of the stars, which I have now endeavoured to set in a clear light.

The mention of these culminating stars does seem to fix Yâo's place in chronology in the twenty-fourth century B. C., and to show that at that remote era it was the custom to make and to record astronomical observations of the heavenly bodies. Having respect to these things, my claim to have the documents of the Shû from the Speech at Kan, nearly two centuries later than Yâo, downwards, regarded as contemporaneous with the events which they describe, cannot be considered extravagant.

7. In the 27th Book of the 5th Part, the Marquis of

  1. Egypt's Place in Universal History, III, pp. 400, 401.
  2. Etudes sur 1'Astronomie Indienne, &c., pp. 361-366.