Page:Essays on the Chinese Language (1889).djvu/49

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35
The Cultivation of their Language by the Chinese.

published, is of great value for the information it gives about the book and about the cultivation of the language up to the author's time. The "Shuo-wên" has always been in high esteem among native scholars, who regard it as necessary to the understanding of the books which were written before it, and as the standard for those which have been written since. While many of its successors have long ago died, the "Shuo-wên" still lives and has its old authority. It has served also as a text on which many later scholars, some of whose works will appear below, have discoursed with various learning.[1]

Another treatise which illustrates the language of the Latter Han period is the "Shi-ming" (釋名) or Name Explainer. This was compiled by a man whose surname was Liu (劉). He gives his name as Hsi (熙), but others call him Chên (珍) apparently, or Hsi (喜), and his second name was Chêng-kuo (成國). He was, according to one account, a native of what is now Ch'ing-chow (青州), in Shantung, and he lived in the latter part of the second century of our era. He wrote a commentary on Mencius, and was apparently a good scholar.

The "Shi-ming" is a vocabulary and dictionary of words distributed under twenty-seven headings, and divided into four chuan. The first category is Heaven, and then we have Earth, Mountains, Water, Food, Clothing, and others, the last being Death and Mourning. The "names" given under these headings are mainly terms in common use, and the explanations were evidently intended, as the author tells us, for the unlearned. The analyses and meanings are not convincing, and sometimes they appear to be almost comical. But many of them are curious and give help to the student. The author explains fang (房), a house, by pang (旁), the side, because dwelling-houses are on each side of the court. A well is ching (井), that is, ch'ing (清), pure. An island is tao (島), because it is a place to which men go, tao (到), for shelter. A father, fu (父), is fu (甫), the beginning, because he

starts the baby in life; and a mother, mu (母), is mao (冒) to cover,

  1. 說文解字, ed. by Kuei Fu-hsio and Tuan Yü-tsai; Mayers' Ch. R. M., No. 202; Chalmers in Ch. Rev., V., p. 296, IX., p. 297; Edkins' Int. Ch. Chars., p. 151 ; "Hou-han-shu," chap. lxxix.