Page:Essays on the Chinese Language (1889).djvu/137

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123
Origin and Early History of the Language.

ed. At first only material objects and their relations, dealings of business, and affairs of government, were depicted in outline or symbol. The chief aim which the inventors and first improvers of the graphic art had in view was to make a record which could be appealed to as evidence. It was in matters of government, according to some native writers, that the use of writing began, the design of the inventors being to facilitate intercourse between the ruler and his servants, and between these and the people, and to register transactions of importance. Thus, when in old times the prince of one state invaded the. territory of another, slew the inhabitants, and carried off booty, he caused the event to be recorded. It was written (書) on bamboo or silk, and engraved in metal and stone to be inscribed on sacrificial vessels for the information of posterity. Tsang-chie, says another author, made the first writing in order that distinct instructions might be given to officials, and for the efficient regulation of general affairs, that the stupid might be able to remember and the wise extend their thoughts.

The primitive writing, whatever it was, seems, as has been stated, to have gradually passed into a somewhat artificial system, from which the present ways of writing are descended. In the process of development it had to pass through several interme- diate phases, of which that called the Tadpole was one of the first. But some doubt whether there ever were any bond fide characters so called. Before the time of the Han dynasty (B.C. 200), we are told the old styles of writing had become practical- ly unknown. When in that dynasty the tablets of several of the Canonical and other old works were discovered, the writing was unknown to the people. So they called the strange characters of the tablets Tadpoles, and this became the name of a certain whimsical style of written characters. The specimens given in some books are not unlike imitations of tadpoles and not very like significant characters. It is also stated that the kind of

性理彙要, chap. xvi. ; " Lun-heng," chap, xviii. ; *' Huai-nan.tzii," chap. XX.; ♦' Li-shi-yin-chien," chap, i.j " Ho-han.san-ts'ai," &o., chap, xv.j "M6.tzu,"

ohap. ziii*