Page:Essays on the Chinese Language (1889).djvu/37

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23
The Cultivation of their Language by the Chinese.

But in this period the general designation for all the official interpreters was Hsiang or Hsiang-hsü. It was the policy of the Chow rulers to extend their dominion towards the South, and it was with the tribes of that quarter that they had most intercourse. Hence the designation of the interpreters for the Southern peoples came to be given to all classes of state interpreters. In process of time the term Hsiang was in its turn supplanted by I, which came to mean: to translate generally from one language into another. It will be observed that this last is the only one of the four words which actually supposes the use of speech in the work of interpreting between the Chinese at the capital and their various neighbours.[1]

In this period colleges existed at all official centres, and schools of various kinds were to be found generally throughout the country. Books were written and libraries formed, though, it must be presumed, only on a small scale. The written characters were few and insufficient, much time was wasted in the process of writing, and the materials used were rude and clumsy.

There is one treatise on the language which has at least a show of claim to be referred to this period. The "Urh-ya" — the first so-called Chinese dictionary — has been by vague tradition of no early origin referred to the very beginning of this dynasty,

Chow Kung being supposed to have composed it for the use of his nephew Chêng Wang. And though the work as it has come down to us is evidently of a much later period than the twelfth century B.C., yet there is reason for believing in the early existence of a treatise with this name. Confucius is supposed to refer to such a work in a passage which occurs in the Ta Tai's "Li-chi." The Duke Ai asks him about "small distinctions," and Confucius says: "The 'Urh-ya,' in studying antiquity, is enough for the discrimination of language." But the context shows that this passage would at least admit of a different rendering. In an earlier work we find what is apparently a quotation from the beginning of the "Urh-ya," and we may with some reason treat the

  1. Biot, "Le Tcheou Li," T. II., pp. 407, 435; "Chow-li," chaps. xxxiv., xxxvii., xxxviii.; 禮記 , chap. iii. (王制).