Page:Essays on the Chinese Language (1889).djvu/41

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
27
The Cultivation of their Language by the Chinese.

But these, though invented expressly to facilitate the transaction of public business, were still a cumbrous, inconvenient way of recording. A great improvement on them was made by the invention of the Li-shu, or Official Hand, the eighth of the Pa-t'i, which is the parent of the modern writing. The invention is usually attributed to Chêng Mao (程邈), who also was a distinguished official of Shi Huang Ti. Tradition represents him as working out his system while undergoing unjust imprisonment by the command of the Emperor. It is said that the latter, on perusing the two thousand characters in which the new system was taught, released the author and restored him to office.

It is from this period of Ch'in Shi Huang Ti that the use of the term tzŭ (子) or "character" dates, and the change in name from wên (文) or shu (書) is said to have been brought about by the modes of writing invented by Li Ssŭ and Ch'êng Mao. Hitherto, all inscriptions and engravings had been mainly pictorial or symbolic, expressing, as their chief office, only objects or ideas, but now sounds also began to receive attention. And it may be mentioned in passing that the introduction of hair-pencils, pih (筆), for writing purposes, is generally ascribed to Shi Huang Ti's general, Mêng T'ien (蒙恬). It seems probable, however, that, as some writers think, such pencils were known in various parts of China before Meng T'ien's time, and that he only made improvements and brought the

pencils into use in his own native land, Ch'in, the modern Shensi. In support of this view the "Li-Chi" and "Urh-Ya" are quoted as showing an early use of the character pih. In the former we read that on a certain state occasion "the annalist has charge of the pencil," that is, writing (史載筆). The "Urh-Ya" simply tells us that pu-lüh is called pih (不律謂之筆). The term pu-lüh (or lih) is said to be only the sound pih resolved into its elements; but it is also described as the name which the pencil had in the Wu country, that is, the Soochow region. It is agreed, however, that after Mêng T'ien's time the