Page:Essays on the Chinese Language (1889).djvu/139

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Origin and Early History of the Language.

and his chapter on the present subject, notwithstanding mistakes, will repay a careful reading.

The Chinese do not yield to any in their appreciation of writing and its developments. They long ago deified the inventor, and his supposed tomb is still a place of pilgrimage for enthusiastic scholars. From the practical, beneficial point of view the invention has been the subject of much praise. Let us hear one man, a Manchoo by origin, but a Chinese scholar of rare attainments, and a man of culture and wide sympathies. Writing, says Kanghsi, is the most precious thing in the world. As to great matters, it has transmitted the philosophy which the ancient sages wished to transmit; and as to small matters, it keeps on record the miscellaneous items which man's memory cannot retain. It can bring together people separated by a long interval of time, and allow them to hold intercourse; and by it scholars of all the world, though living far apart, may take hands and talk their minds together. It makes a man's good repute, and aids him in his profession, expands his intelligence and supplies him with evidence. By it man learns without study and teaches without speaking.

With the Chinese scholar generally it is his own language only which is in his mental view when he speaks of language, and the native writing only when he speaks of writing. The Chinese, as every one knows, are very proud of their language spoken and written, but specially of the latter. Yet they are by no means insensible to the defects of the written language, especially when considered as the intended transcript of verbal utterances. It is square and insufficient, says an author already quoted, while speech is round and complete. There are also very many terms and expressions in common use for which no characters are known to exist, and this is true not only of the uncultivated dialects but also of the general language. For the

Kanghsi's Diet., Int. j " Liu-sha-ku," etc., as above j Wuttke, " Gesoh. d. Sehrift," etc., S. ocxli. to cccoxxi.

庭訓格言.