Page:Essays on the Chinese Language (1889).djvu/30

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
Some Western Opinions.

well and neatly? Here, also, we find differences of opinion according to the standard of comparison and the attainments of the critic in Chinese. The missionaries and other European writers on China in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, seem to have been for the most part quite enchanted with the great compass of this language, and the simple terse forms with which it did its work unaided by suffixes or inflections. Semedo praises even its conciseness, which makes it indeed equivocal but at the same time compendious. Such is its softness, also, according to him, that when spoken correctly, as at Nanking, it charms the hearer, flatters the sense of hearing. But he admits that while Chinese is very rich in characters it is very poor in words, that is, in its supply of terms differing in sound.[1] Semedo found a sweetness in this language and so did Webb. The latter says that "if ever our Europeans shall become thoroughly studied in the Chinique tongue," it will be found that the Chinese have very many words "whereby they express themselves in such elegancies as neither by Hebrew or Greek, or any other language how elegant so ever can be expressed. Besides, whereas the Hebrew is harsh and rugged, the Chinique appears the most sweet and smooth language of all others throughout the whole world at this day known."[2] P. Premare, who was missionary and sinologist and had a right to speak with authority, becomes quite enthusiastic on the subject of this language. Chinese Grammar, he says, is for the most part free from the thorns which ours presents, but still it has its rules, and there is not in the world a richer language, nor one which has reigned so long.[3] And we find like high praise given to the language by P. Amyot, a very accomplished scholar, who knew both Chinese and Manchoo very well. He defends Chinese from several charges which had been brought against it, and argues for its excellencies as rich and full. He regards it as peculiarly adapted for recording and communicating political science.

  1. Semedo's "Relazione d. Cina," Cap. vi., p. 43 (Ed. 1643).
  2. Webb's "Historical Essay," etc., p. 196.
  3. "Lettres Edif.," T. 33 Lettre.