Page:Essays on the Chinese Language (1889).djvu/134

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120
Origin and Early History of the Language.

But, according to some Chinese, the next step towards writing, after knotted cords, was the use of carved sticks to serve as tallies. These do not seem to have been merely sticks notched or indented. They are described as having also some kind of inscription or engraving, even from the earliest time of their use. The expedient was, however, a rude and simple one common to the Chinese with other tribes. Thus the chiefs of the ancient Tungus gave warrant to their commands by means of such sticks, and the Man (蠻) tribes in Chinese are said to have used them in making agreements. Carving in wood seems to have been practised in China from a remote period, and to have been employed for various purposes. In the seventh century B.C. the

projecting beams of the roofs of temples and palaces were some- 

times elaborately carved and coloured. The use of carved tallies also arose at some early period, but there is no record of its beginning. It too was apparently first confined to matters of numbers, and afterwards extended to business dealings and acts of government. From these ch^i (契), or carved tallies, some derive the immediate origin of writing, while others regard the chH and shu (書) as coseval. One of the eight kinds of characters — the Fa-t^ (八體) — appointed for use by Ch'in Shi Huang Ti, was that called the K'e-fu (刻符) or carved tally, noticed already.

But such rude appliances as knotted cords and carved sticks could not long suffice to meet the requirements of a growing society. The Chinese, accordingly, represent themselves as having at an early period of their history learned to cut and afterwards paint, in wood and stone and metal, figures or outlines of objects. These were practically the first beginning of writing for them. All the earliest characters seem to have been either pictorial representations or rough symbols of natural objects and phenomena. That is, they were either drawings which presented an outline of an object, or drawings which by their composition pointed to the meaning intended. In Chinese language they were Ssiang-hsing (形象), Likeness-form, or Ghi-shi (指事),

"Hou Han. shu," chap, xc; "Sui-shu," the Nan-man-chuan ; 和漢三才圖會 (also called ^ v., p. 106 ; " Kuh (also called 倭漢, etc.), chap. xv. 檢篇韻貫珠集 chap. iv. ; Legge, 0. C,

ah-liang-chuan," chap. vi. (十三經) ; " Me-tzii " (墨子), chap. i.