Page:The Outline of History Vol 1.djvu/277

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

at an early date. It became a bureaucratic body serving the local kings and rulers. That is a fundamental difference between the history of China and any Western history. While Alexander was overrunning Western Asia, China, under the last priest-emperors of the Chow Dynasty, was sinking into a state of great disorder. Each province clung to its separate nationality and traditions, and the Huns spread from province to province. The King of Ts'in (who lived about eighty years after Alexander the Great), impressed by the mischief tradition was doing in the land, resolved to destroy the entire Chinese literature, and his son, Shi Hwang-ti, the "first universal Emperor," made a strenuous attempt to seek out and destroy all the existing classics.[1] They vanished while he ruled, and he ruled without tradition, and welded China into a unity that endured for some centuries; but when he had passed, the hidden books crept out again. China remained united, though not under his descendants, but after a civil war under a fresh dynasty, the Han Dynasty (206 b.c.). The first Han monarch did not sustain this campaign of Shi Hwang-ti against the literati, and his successor made his peace with them and restored the texts of the classics.

  1. "His reforming zeal made him unpopular with the upper classes. Schoolmen and pedants held up to the admiration of the people the heroes of the feudal times and the advantages of the system they administered. Seeing in this propaganda danger to the state, Shi Hwang-ti determined to break once and for all with the past. To this end he ordered the destruction of all books having reference to the past history of the empire, and many scholars were put to death for failing in obedience to it." — The late Sir R. K. Douglas in the Encyclopædia Brit., article China.
    Mr. L. Y. Chen does not agree with Sir R. K. Douglas here. He thinks that the motives of Shi Hwang-ti were obscurantist. His object was the intellectual slavery of the people. He collected a library for his own use.