In the year 629, the year after the arrival of Muhammad's envoys at Canton and thirty odd years after the landing of Pope Gregory's missionaries in England, a certain learned and devout Buddhist named Yuan Chwang started out from Singan, Tai-tsung's capital, upon a great journey to India. He was away sixteen years, he returned in 645, and he wrote an account of his travels which is treasured as a Chinese classic. One or two points about his experiences are to be noted here because they contribute to our general review of the state of the world in the seventh century A.D.
Yuan Chwang was as eager for marvels and as credulous as Herodotus, and without the latter writer's fine sense of history; he could never pass a monument or ruin without learning some fabulous story about it; Chinese ideas of the dignity of literature perhaps prevented him from telling us much detail of how he travelled, who were his attendants, how he was lodged, or what he
- See Watters' Travels of Yuan Chwang and Beal's Life of Hiuen Tsiang (= Yuan Chwang).
1421 under the Mings with the transference of the capital from Nanking to Peking, and the dominance of the Confucian party who had brought it about. Only in the later Ming period does the great solitary figure of Wang Yang Ming arise. His central doctrine that thought and learning are of small value unless translated into action had little immediate effect in China, but it fell upon Japanese soil, quickened the drooping Samurai spirit, and reached maturity with the Russo-Japanese war and the advance of modern Japan.
"The imprisonment of the Chinese mind in the ancient script is merely one aspect of Confucianism in its bondage to the past. The statement of J. L. M. and E. B. that China is a nation of peasants is incomprehensible to me. There has always been a great urban industrialism and a great commerce. 'The Chinese,' as Dyer Ball says, 'are pre-eminently a trading race.... Nor has the trade of China been simply a modern affair. From remote antiquity the Chinese have been true to their commercial instincts, and have not only been the civilizers of Eastern Asia, supplying them with their letters and literature' [and artistic products], 'but they have also provided for their more material wants, and received in exchange the commodities which they required from the neighbouring nations.' Trade with India was developed to a great extent in the ninth century A.D."
This interesting question is also discussed very ably and interestingly in Hubbard's The Fate of Empires.
In discussing §§ 7 and 8, Mr. S. N. Fu has pointed out that little or nothing is said in this Outline of the period of confusion before Shi-Hwang-ti. It was an age of political division indeed, but of very great intellectual initiatives. Unhappily there exists as yet little or no material in Europe available for the purposes of this history, upon this equivalent to the Athenian period of mental vigour in Europe.