Page:A history of Chinese literature - Giles.djvu/38

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the Great Yü. The latter said, “Confucius completed the Spring and Autumn, and rebellious ministers and bad sons were struck with terror.” Consequently, just as in the case of the Odes, native wits set to work to read into the bald text all manner of hidden meanings, each entry being supposed to contain approval or condemnation, their efforts resulting in what is now known as the praise-and-blame theory. The critics of the Han dynasty even went so far as to declare the very title elliptical for “praise life-giving like spring, and blame life-withering like autumn.”

Such is the Ch’un Ch’iu; and if that were all, it is difficult to say how the boast of Confucius could ever have been fulfilled. But it is not all; there is a saving clause. For bound up, so to speak, with the Spring and Autumn, and forming as it were an integral part of the work, is a commentary known as the Tso Chuan or Tso’s Commentary. Of the writer himself, who has been canonised as the Father of Prose, and to whose pen has also been attributed the Kuo Yü or Episodes of the States, next to nothing is known, except that he was a disciple of Confucius; but his glowing narrative remains, and is likely to continue to remain, one of the most precious heirlooms of the Chinese people.

What Tso did was this. He took the dry bones of these annals and clothed them with life and reality by adding a more or less complete setting to each of the events recorded. He describes the loves and hates of the heroes, their battles, their treaties, their feastings, and their deaths, in a style which is always effective, and often approaches to grandeur. Circumstances of apparently the most trivial character are expanded into