Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/315

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
243
THE PROVINCE OF YUNNAN

languages. It is more likely that many of these tribes are only different branches of the same original families, and that many dialectic differences are only differences of the same original tongue. This is the decision arrived at by F. S. A. Bourne, Esq., a Consular Agent who was specially detailed to acquire information for the British Government in the district where these tribes are found in greatest numbers. In his report to the British Government, he says: "There is no family of the human race—certainly no family with such claims to consideration—of whom so little is accurately known as of the non-Chinese races of Southern China. This is in great measure due to the perfect maze of senseless names taken from the Chinese in which the subject is involved. There is a catalogue of 141 classes of aborigines, each with a separate name and illustration, without any attempt to arrive at a broader classification. It appeared to the writer that before these tribes could be scientifically assigned by etymologists, they must be reduced to order among themselves, and that something might be done in that direction by taking a short vocabulary[1] and obtaining its equivalent in the dialect of every tribe met, when a comparison would reveal afiinities and differences. The twenty-two vocabularies that follow are the result.[2] A comparison of these vocabularies and a study of Chinese books (especially the Yunnan Topography) has led to the conviction that, exclusive of the Tibetans (including the Si-fan and Ku-tsong), there are but three great non-Chinese races in Southern China: the Lo-lo, the Shan, and the Miao-tse."

If this can be fully substantiated, it would be a rather comforting consideration, as it is evident that in that case a thorough knowledge of these three languages would give ample facilities for evangelising these various tribes. The barest reference only can be made to these families of tribes, as to give information of any value as to their history and manners and customs would require a separate paper for each one.

  1. See Appendix I.
  2. See China, No. 1, 1888.