This is the first attempt made in any language, including Chinese, to produce a history of Chinese literature.
Native scholars, with their endless critiques and appreciations of individual works, do not seem ever to have contemplated anything of the kind, realising, no doubt, the utter hopelessness, from a Chinese point of view, of achieving even comparative success in a general historical survey of the subject. The voluminous character of a literature which was already in existence some six centuries before the Christian era, and has run on uninterruptedly until the present date, may well have given pause to writers aiming at completeness. The foreign student, however, is on a totally different footing. It may be said without offence that a work which would be inadequate to the requirements of a native public, may properly be submitted to English readers as an introduction into the great field which lies beyond.
Acting upon the suggestion of Mr. Gosse, to whom I am otherwise indebted for many valuable hints, I have devoted a large portion of this book to translation, thus enabling the Chinese author, so far as translation will allow, to speak for himself. I have also added, here and there, remarks by native critics, that the reader may be