Page:Columbia University Lectures on Literature (1911).djvu/82

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68

CHINESE LITERATURE

ing schools, the one man treated with silence was Confucius. If we consider Chinese Literature as it now exists in myriads of volumes, works which may be called Confucianist in the proper sense of the word are in the minority.

I need not dwell on the fact that Chinese Literature is absolutely autochthonous. In this respect it may be called unique, as scarcely any of the world's other national literatures worthy of such a name may be said to have taken its own course without being influenced by the civilization of neighboring nations. The development of Literature in China corresponds with that of the nation itself. All attempts to derive its origin from quarters outside the traditional cradle of the Chinese race near the banks of the Yellow River should be treated with suspicion. In all such problems which cannot be supported by arguments derived from Literature itself it is safer to admit our ignorance than to trust to the vagaries of a lively imagination. I shall not, therefore, here enter upon the question whether the Chinese race has immigrated from Babylonia or some other part of the world; for I quite agree with Professor Giles, who says, "No one knows where the Chinese came from," and adds, "it appears to be an ethnological axiom that every race must have come from somewhere outside of its own territory." Similarities between certain phases of Chinese culture and ideas current in India, Babylonia, and other seats of ancient culture may be the result of the uniform organization of the human brain, which cannot help arriving at the same inventions calculated to make life more comfortable whether in the East or in the West; or they may be the result of relationships of prehistoric existence, which it would be hopeless to trace by the means now at our disposal. Comparative folk-lore abounds with problems which neither the most ancient literature nor the prehistoric treasures of our museums can explain. Looking at the full moon, I have often wondered why I could not discover in its landscape the figure of a hare or a rabbit; and