Page:Columbia University Lectures on Literature (1911).djvu/81

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IV

CHINESE LITERATURE

By Friedrich Hirth, Professor of Chinese

The Literature which forms the subject of the present lecture is more than that of China. As a foreign literature it is studied also by the Coreans, the Japanese, and the Annamites; and it may therefore be quite appropriately called the Classic Literature of the Far East. The civilization of all these nations has been affected by its study, perhaps even in a higher degree than that of the nations of Europe has been by the literatures of Greece and Rome. Millions received from it, in the course of centuries, their mental training. The Chinese who created it have through it perpetuated their national character and imparted some of their idiosyncrasies of thought to their formerly illiterate neighbors.

It would be difficult to describe in a few words the character of this Literature. As representing Chinese civilization, it has been called Confucianist, and this term may hit the truth if we look upon it as covering not only works of the Confucian school, but also "Anti-Confucian" Literature and a good deal of what is decidedly neutral. Certainly, the personality of the sage stands in closer relation to the development of Chinese Literature than that of any other individual stands to any other national literature either in Asia or in Europe. In its earliest development Chinese Literature was either Confucianist or anti-Confucianist; and even in that conspiracy of silence characteristic of the oppos-67