Page:Essays on the Chinese Language (1889).djvu/36

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The Cultivation of their Language by the Chinese.

scanty. The tablets of wood and bamboo on which these were written were liable to be lost. They were also occasionally stolen or defaced by officials whose projects they were likely to thwart. Hence, when search was made among them, they were often found deficient.

Among the official class, writing seems to have been in common use under the early rulers of the Chou dynasty. They had a Secretary (司書 ssŭ-shu), who was in charge of the state archives, and had control of all public receipts and expenditures. Another official was appointed to keep foils, or duplicates, of all registers, census returns, and maps, and he had to examine and verify the public returns and accounts. There was also one whose duty was to record on wooden tablets the name, sex, age and birthplace of each individual in his jurisdiction. Tutors were appointed for the king's sons, and one of the subjects which they had to teach was the "Liu-shu," or Six Writings, that is, the characters in their six-fold classification. In this the Chou kings seem to have followed the custom of the dynasty they subverted.[1]

Another institution which the Chou rulers seem to have taken from their predecessors was that of State Interpreters. These had not only to translate the messages of the barbarian chiefs into Chinese, and the commands of the king into the dialects of the strange visitors: they had also to teach these last how to perform their parts in the various state ceremonies in which they were required to act while at the royal court. Moreover, in the seventh year, after a royal progress, the State Interpreters were all summoned to court in order to have the various dialects compared and the king's orders harmonized. In the second year after this, the blind musicians and the annalists of the state were collected at the capital "to compare the written characters and hear the pronunciation" (諭書名聽聲音). Of the State Interpreters there were at first four classes. There were the Chi (寄) for the barbarians of the East, the Hsiang (象) for those of the South, the Tih-ti (狄鞮) for those of the West, and the I (譯) for those of the North.

  1. Biot's "Le Tcheou-Li," T. I., pp. 129, 132, 296; 周禮, chaps. vi., vii., xiv.; 字金監, Introduction.