Page:Sacred Books of the East - Volume 3.djvu/56

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22
THE SHÛ KING.

'there there were 500 years and more; from Thang to king Wăn—'the period of the Shang dynasty—'500 years and more; and from king Wăn to Confucius, 500 years and more.' We know that Confucius was born in B.C. 551. Adding 551 to the 1500 years 'and more,' given by Mencius, we have the era of Yâo and Shun at 2100 years 'and more' before our Christian era. And the received chronology places Yü's accession to the throne, as the successor of Shun, in B.C. 2205. Vague as the language of Mencius is, I do not think that with the most painstaking research, apart from conclusions based on astronomical considerations, we can determine anything more precise and definite concerning the length of Chinese history than it conveys.

The period of the Kâu dynasty. 3. The Charge to the Marquis Wăn, which now forms the 28th Book of the 5th Part of the Shû, is understood to have been delivered by king Phing, the thirteenth of his line. His place in historical time is well ascertained. Confucius' chronicle of the Spring and Autumn commences in B.C. 722. The first of the thirty-six solar eclipses mentioned in it took place three years after, on the 14th February (N.S.) 719, and it is recorded that in the month after king Phing died. Here therefore is a point of time about which there can be no dispute. An earlier date in the Kâu dynasty is known with the same certainty. The Book of Poetry mentions an eclipse of the sun which took place on the 29th August, B.C. 776, in the sixth year of king , who preceded Phing. Yû reigned eleven years, and his predecessor, Hsüan, forty-six, whose reign consequently commenced B.C. 827. Up to this date Chinese chronologers agree. To the ten reigns before king Hsüan, the received chronology assigns 295 years, making the dynasty begin in B.C. 1122, which cannot be far from the truth.

The period of the Shang dynasty. 4. In the period of the Shang dynasty we cannot fix a single reign by means of astronomical facts. The received chronology assigns to it twenty-eight reigns, extending over 644 years, so that its commencement was in B.C. 1766. The scheme