Popular Science Monthly/Volume 80/January 1912/Science Among the Chinese II
|SCIENCE AMONG THE CHINESE. II|
PRESIDENT OF CANTON CHRISTIAN COLLEGE
III. Alleged Anticipations of Modern Science
1. Introductory.—Some intimate students of Chinese literature and life, notably Dr. W. A. P. Martin, claim that in many cases Chinese philosophy has anticipated the doctrines of modern science. The same may be said of the ancient Greek thinkers, whose speculations have had a direct and large influence in the development of modern thought, such as the Chinese philosophers have not had. For it seems likely that the physical speculations of the Greeks, from which European science started, were a true native growth of the Greek mind and owed nothing to the lore of Egypt or of the east. (This is the opinion of Whewell as expressed in his "History of the Inductive Sciences.")
It is doubtless true that several of the guesses made by the ancients are in general accord with present theories as developed and supported by a wealth of observation, experimentation and inference. And it is true that the honors, if there be any, of having made such guesses, must be awarded in part to the Chinese as well as to the Greeks with this great difference, that in many cases the Greeks were true students of nature and checked their speculations by observation—a course which, though entertained by some Chinese philosophers, was not sufficiently appreciated by either them or their disciples to be put into practise.
The speculations to which we refer were developed during the glorious Sung dynasty, in the century a.d. 1020-1120, which stands preeminent among the forty centuries of Chinese recorded history as the age of philosophy. At the time when Europe was in darkness and the crusades were in full swing, the five famous philosophers—Chou, Chang, Cheng (two brothers) and Chu—were constructing the castle of faith and knowledge for their successors. It is from the writings of the last of these, the most famous of the five, that the foregoing quotations have been taken.
All five were Confucian scholars, but it seems likely that their mental activity was stimulated and directed by the speculations of Buddhist and Taoist writers. Their works derive importance from the fact that for 500 years, since the publication by imperial authority of the great "Encyclopædia of Philosophy," they have been the government standard, to which all aspirants for honors in the civil service examinations had to conform. They therefore represent the views of the educated men of China to-day, not counting, of course, the few who thus far have been strongly influenced by western learning.
2. The Ether.—In the writings of these five worthies. Dr. Martin finds evidence (as exhibited in his "Lore of Cathay") that the doctrine of an all-pervading medium was familiar to the Chinese a thousand years ago, possibly even in the "Book of Changes," 1100 b.c., and that it was a full-fledged doctrine in several writers of the eleventh century A.D., who ascribed to this ether all the properties at present claimed for it except its electric and magnetic manifestations.
Here are some of the passages which bear on this point:
3. Wave Theory of Light.—In another place, according to Dr. Martin, we read: "The primal essence moved, and light was born;" and he says that the idea of vibrations was also grasped. In this he sees a forecast of the modern undulatory theory of light.
4. Vortex Theory of Matter.—In the work of Chou Dr. Martin thinks we may discern the forerunner of the modern vortex theory of the constitution of matter. Chou devised a diagram of cosmogony, consisting of a ring, or circle, of uniform whiteness, representing the primitive medium surrounded by a ring partly dark, which shows the original substances differentiated into the two forms or forces—yin and yang. Chu Hi, speaking of this diagram says:" It shows how the primitive forces grind back and forth like millstones, in opposite directions, and the resulting detritus from their friction is what we call matter."
But when we read in the context of the two writers concerning these two principles—yin and yang—and follow them in their absurd ramblings of fancy, it seems unwarrantable to suggest that the language of these selected sentences anticipates the idea of Lord Kelvin and leading present-day scientists.
5. Conservation of Energy.—Dr. Martin also claims that these Chinese thinkers apprehended with great clearness the doctrine of the Conservation of Energy, though they failed to fortify it by systematic induction. In the writings of one of the Cheng brothers there is this passage: "Body in motion is force. Its contact with another is followed by a reaction or effect. This effect, in turn, acts as a force producing another effect, and so on without end." "Here," he adds," is a vast subject for the 'student of philosophy.' "But alas! Chinese" students of philosophy "have not troubled themselves to verify this or any other of the guesses of their predecessors. Chu remarks: "Heaven and earth, with all they contain, are nothing but transformations of one primitive force." And in another place, not quoted by Dr. Martin:
To be sure, here is the idea of transformation, but scarcely that of equivalence and conservation. Conservation implies quantitative relations, and such are certainly not expressed here or in the high-spun theories of the context, just as they are lacking in the common affairs of the people. The action and reaction of impact are expressed, but the statement contains no hint of the principle of conservation of momentum. And besides there is evident confusion, perhaps in the translation only, between "force" and "energy."
Can any proper conception of the ether and of the conservation of energy be ascribed to a man (and he, the best of their philosophers) who in the same connection in which occur the other passages already given, writes:
And we might add, nor is it likely any one ever will.
6. Evolution.—Dr. Martin suggests that the fundamental idea of evolution was entertained by early Chinese sages. He quotes from Mencius:
In this word, written 400 b.c., Dr. Martin seems to find an indication that Mencius knew how to set about the study of nature, and though not going so far as to say that in the word "advantage" we have an anticipation of Darwin's principle, he believes that this obscure hint, if followed up, might have led to Darwin's doctrine. But alas f the author of the quotation and all his followers for these two thousand years "sat still," and so robbed themselves of the glory that might have been theirs!
7. The Defect.—It may be admitted that Chinese philosophers entertained some general ideas concerning an all-pervading medium, that they assumed an original unity of matter in all their cosmological speculations, that they had clear ideas on mechanical action and reaction, and very crude ones concerning the transformations of energy, which vaguely suggest those held to-day by the foremost investigators. But we see no just grounds for believing that they, or the Greeks, either, held any ideas comparable with the modern doctrines of vortex motion in the ether, of the conservation of energy, or of biological or cosmological evolution, for it does not seem to us that in the case of either the Greeks or the Chinese should their vague guesses be regarded as true anticipation of modern science. The method of modern science is its distinguishing characteristic, and this was almost completely lacking among the Chinese, and to a less extent among the Greeks also. There is a vast chasm between rampant imagination and scientific imagination, starting with observed facts and following paths that lead to results which can be directly or indirectly verified.
It is not enough to find in an ancient writer a few or even a considerable number of sentences seemingly anticipatory of modern thought. Nor must we neglect the hundreds of other ideas embodied in the context which distinctly are not in accord with modern science. We must observe the scope and design of the writer; inquire into his full aim and end in that book, or section, or paragraph, which will help to explain particular sentences. In particular propositions the sense of an author may sometimes be known by the inference which he draws from them himself; and all those meanings must be excluded from our interpretation of what was in his mind, which will not allow of that inference. Yet even in them we must take heed, lest we mistake an allusion for an inference, which is often introduced in almost the same manner. We must carefully guard against "reading into" an ancient writing the modern connotation of the term employed centuries ago, and that too as translated by means of a very dissimilar language in its present-day equivalents.
Too often these Chinese philosophers (as did the Greeks) assumed innate tendency as the basis of their crude and vague speculations. But innate tendencies are not looked upon with as much favor in the philosophy of to-day as in that of past ages, and suggestions so incapable of verification have little or no value as scientific hypotheses.
However interesting and worthy of notice the results of this guesswork may be as representing the philosophical creed of China, they are in the present connection simply a mass of cosmological conjectures into the details of which it would be unprofitable to follow.
IV. Causes of China's Backwaedness
Some of the major causes of China's backwardness in science become apparent when we compare her philosophical method with that which has characterized modern western inquiry, and to set this comparison in stronger relief let us glance at some of the salient aspects of modern scientific knowledge, both as to method and as to content.
Some Salient Aspects of Modern Scientific Knowledge.—
A. As to Method.
1. The inductive method of philosophical inquiry, supplemented at times by the deductive. The study of many particular cases and the process of drawing a general conclusion based on observation, and the extension of the general principle thus deduced to individual cases not actually observed. Aristotle developed inductive logic, but William Gilbert of Colchester, the founder of the science of electricity and magnetism, first successfully applied the principles of inductive philosophy which later received such wide development under Francis Bacon. The ampliative inference of Gilbert and Bacon is to be distinguished as philosophical or real induction, in contradistinction to formal or logical induction. Philosophical induction has been the guiding star of all modern scientific effort and is responsible in no small measure for the remarkable progress thus far achieved. To-day the countersign of science is "method."
2. The spirit of accuracy in observation and the constant effort finally to express all observations in terms of the three fundamentals—length, mass and time. The coordinated and careful regulation of standards of measurement by all civilized governments under the guidance of leading physicists. Modern science is synonymous with "accuracy."
3. The development and wide application of the very powerful instrument of mathematical analysis, by which otherwise impassable fields of research are clearly traversed and made to yield their quota to our general theory of natural phenomena. The electro-magnetic theory of radiation in all its details is a most striking example.
B. As to Content.
1. Extension of the universe in space by the researches of the telescope, and of the microscope as well.
2. An all-pervading medium by which radiation, as manifested by either its chemical, optical, thermal or electric and magnetic effects, is propagated.
3. Extension of the universe in time, made necessary by observations in physics as to the rate of cooling of the earth, combined with observations as to the physical condition and evolution of the stars; in geology as to the time required for the formation of the strata of the earth's crust; and in biology as to the evolutionary development of life.
4. The unity of the universe, (a) The doctrine of the conservation of energy as based upon quantitative investigation of energy transformations and the exact determination of equivalence factors. (b) The doctrine of evolution as based on a wealth of observation in astronomy, geology, biology, psychology, and the ethical and religious development of man. (c) The suggested unity of matter resulting from recent investigations of discharge of electricity through gases and the properties of radioactive substances.
On the other hand, let us glance at
Some of the Salient Features of the Chinese Conception of the Universe.—
A. As to Method.
1. Absence of the inductive method; prevalence of a priori deduction from preconceived fantastic notions. Illustrations accepted as proof. Supposed analogy given highest weight.
2. Spirit of inaccuracy; in common affairs predominant; in system of weights and measures, where most needed for scientific progress, it almost defies description.
3. Lack of mathematical knowledge or method.
In the mere statement of these three characteristics we see at once three causes, or at least three related phases, of the general backwardness of the Chinese in science, which sum up to "no method." Let us examine each of these sub-heads a little more in detail.
1. Absence of the Inductive Method.—Chinese philosophers entered upon the task of physical speculation in a manner which showed the vigor and confidence of the questioning spirit, but no appreciation of the slow and patient process by which answers to nature's riddles are secured. They tried to discover the origin and principle of the universe rather by vague suggestions and casual analogies than by any course of reasoning that would bear examination. The first students wished, as do many to-day, to divine at a single glance or guess the whole import of nature's great book.
Western teachers of Chinese students are constantly impressed with their readiness to argue by illustration and to accept a single illustration as proof; not that they consider that a single exception to a rule invalidates its generality, but that from a single case a general law can be deduced. This is well shown by the following reply which was made by a college freshman in his geometry examination to the question: "What is a locus?" the class having spent a due proportion of the term on loci problems. He was by no means an unskillful logician from the Chinese point of view, though he may have lacked geometrical perception, when he answered "A locus is a straight line all the points of which are equally distant from the two sides." For he was simply attempting to put in generalized form the first case of a locus which the class had studied, viz., that the perpendicular bisector of a straight line is the locus of all points (in the plane of the two lines) equally distant from the extremities of that line.
The method of the Chinese philosophers was a priori, and it seemsthat they adopted this course, not through ignorance of the experimental method, but from choice. The maxim of Confucius that "knowledge comes from the study of things" could not be more out of place than it is in his pages. The Chinese claim that their sage wrote a treatise on the experimental study of nature, but that it was lost; and thus they explain the backwardness of their country in experimental sciences.
Practical as the Chinese confessedly are, it is rather remarkable that in the study of nature their philosophers have made practically no use of the inductive method, though it appears that some of them at least had glimmers of its virtue as early as five hundred years before Gilbert and Bacon. In the writings of the brothers Cheng there is the following question and answer:
The master replied: "A comprehensive knowledge of nature is not so easily acquired. You must examine one thing to-day and another thing to-morrow, and when you have accumulated a store of facts, your knowledge will burst its shell and come forth into fuller light, connecting all the particulars by general laws!"
We say they had glimmers of the virtue of the inductive method, for it is hardly to be asserted that a philosopher really appreciated a method which neither he nor his disciples practised, but merely spoke of once. Contrast with the quotation just given this saying of Chang, the second of the five great thinkers of the Sung dynasty:
Between these two dicta we see the parting of the ways—one leading only to a maze of hazy unverified and unverifiable speculations, the other destined to bring any philosopher who followed it into the presence of valid generalizations based on observation; and we see the sages of China choosing the wrong pathway, vainly seeking a short cut to universal knowledge by following what they considered by the light of inner reasoning to be the order of nature, instead of laboriously studying one thing at a time in order to connect "all the particulars by geaeral laws." Had her early thinkers taken the suggestion of the Chengs as their guiding star, China might to-day be the dean, instead of the most backward pupil in the school of science.
2. Spirit of Inaccuracy.—There is no more vexing factor in the life of a foreigner than the utter lack of accuracy among the Chinese in most matters involving numerical relations. The ordinary troubles that one has with careless and even dishonest workmen and contractors are enhanced manyfold by reason of the discrepancies between the various measures used for different purposes though called by the same name. The method by which the units were adopted and fixed is lost in antiquity, and the variations in the measures now used destroy any claim that there ever was a true standard recognized in any such way as the standard yard and meter are recognized and employed by western peoples to-day. It is extremely hard to secure any adequate and consistent information concerning the weights and measures actually in use.
For instance, the chih or unit of length differs according to the province and the prefecture, the city and the ward, the craft and the usage. There are in the "Chinese Commercial Guide" over a hundred different values of the chih as actually in use. Some of these are doubtless derived from ancient official chih, but the majority seem rather to be the caprice of custom. The variations are by no means small, the extreme values differing by more than 6 inches in a unit of approximately 14 inches on the average. In Shanghai for instance, the carpenter's rule is 11.14 inches long, whereas the mason's rule is as short as 10.9 inches, so that in a building 100 ft. long, if this difference were not realized by the architect and he furnished the same specifications in Chinese measure to masons and carpenters, the frame of the house would overhang the stone foundations by two feet.
The distance between two points A and B, according to Chinese representation, depends not merely on the geometrical factor, but on others that determine the relative facility of travel between these points. It is further from A to B than from B to A., if B is upstream from A on a river, or at a greater elevation on a hill road. It is further between A and B at night or when raining than it is by day or when clear. While of course the practical philosophy of this way of regarding distance is evident, it still is true that such failure to separate these factors from the geometrical factor in the form of statement operates to retard appreciation of accurate statement and accurate thinking.
Paper may be sold by the hundred sheets and yet by a desire to keep the stated cost per hundred uniform in spite of variations in quality, the dealer will "call" a less number of sheets a hundred sheets, so that when you request your servant to buy a hundred sheets of a certain paper, he returns with eighty and insists that "in that kind of paper a hundred sheets are only eighty!"
Although a first impression of China and the Chinese may be that of deadening uniformity, it takes but a little closer observation to show that this is just the opposite of the truth. Along with the manifold divergencies in speech and customs, which play a paramount part in the life of the people, and which by a common saying do not run uniform for ten li together, there is a like diversity in those standards of quantity upon the absolute invariability of which so much of the comfort of life and the entire advance of science in western lands depend. So far from suffering any inconvenience in the existence of a double standard of any kind, the oriental seems keenly to enjoy it, and two kinds of weights, or two kinds of measures seem to him natural and normal, and modern education is only just beginning to open his eyes to the inherent objections.
The whole Chinese system of thinking is based on such a different line of assumptions from those to which we are accustomed, that they can ill comprehend the mania which seems to possess the occidental to ascertain everything with unerring accuracy. Curiously enough, concomitant with the early development of their system of weights and measures—a decimal system for the most part—the Chinese have become fixed in the habit of reckoning by tens, and frequently refuse to make a statement of number nearer to the truth than a multiple of ten. An old man is "seventy or eighty years of age," when you know for a certainty that he was seventy only a year ago. A few people are "ten or twenty," a "few tens," or perhaps "ever so many tens." The same vagueness runs in all their statements, and for greater accuracy than this the Chinese do not care, except when you are paying them money.
The first generation of Chinese chemists will probably lose "a few tens" of its number as a result of the process of mixing a "few tens of grains" of something with "several tens of grains" of something else, the consequence being an unanticipated explosion.
The Chinese are as capable of learning minute accuracy in all things as any nation ever was—nay, more so, for they are endowed with infinite patience, but what we are here remarking is that as at present constituted they are entirely free from the quality of accuracy and that they do not know what it means.
Under such circumstances it is not surprising that so little real progress has been made in experimental science.
3. Lack of Mathematical Knowledge.—Although the study of arithmetic attracted attention among the Chinese from early times and numerous treatises are extant, and Hindu processes in algebra have long been known to them, yet these branches even down to the end of the Ming dynasty (A.D. 1664) made only slow progress. Trigonometry was introduced by the early Jesuit missionaries and since foreigners have begun to teach western science the development in these elementary branches of mathematics has been fairly rapid. But still the knowledge of mathematics is very small even among learned men; the cumbersome notation and the little aid such studies gave in the old-style examinations doubtless discouraged men from pursuing what they had no taste for as a people. No such instrument as modern mathematical analysis, or even their stock of algebraic notions, has ever been used by Chinese philosophers or even conceived of as an instrument of research in their attempts to solve nature's riddles.
Besides the failure to adopt an inductive method of inquiry, the spirit of inaccuracy, and the lack of mathematical genius or training, there are other potent causes of China's scientific backwardness as compared with European nations, chief among which has been the character of the language and the method of instruction.
4. The Language.—Meager as our knowledge of the language is, we have yet had sufficient direct and indirect contact with the people to be convinced that the lack of inflection which would enable number, tense, gender and mood to be briefly expressed, operates to produce ambiguity and hence inaccuracy in the very places where definiteness may be most needed. To be precise requires a clumsy use of words and thus the character of the language has inhibited precise statements and so precluded accurate thinking, without which there can be no proper science. On the other hand, the European tongues existed in a highly inflected state as derived from the more ancient Greek and Latin, and hence by their very character aided in the conquest of nature by affording clearness and precision in the expression of thought, and thus fostered the validity of the conclusions reached. But the Chinese mind has been hampered by a language the most tedious and inflexible, and has been wearied with a literature abounding in unsatisfactory theorizings.
The non-alphabetical character of the language prevents the assimilation of new terms from European tongues and makes the introduction of modern scientific terminology and thought extremely difficult. To attempt to translate even where possible means cumbersomeness and circumlocution; to try to represent the new term phonetically by using Chinese characters that sound nearly the same—means that additional characters must be added to signify that phonetic value alone is intended, otherwise the apparent "meaning will be meaningless" and even if this sign is added, there is no hint of the real meaning of the term thus represented. In many cases the best that can be done is but a rough approximation, since there are many sounds in European tongues entirely unknown to the Chinese and difficult for them to acquire. About the only safe method in many cases is to introduce the foreign word as such in its own alphabetical form in the midst of the Chinese context—and thus necessitate the learning of it as a new "character" written on an entirely strange system.
5. The System of Education.—(a) The spirit of inquiry has been quenched by adherence to the notions of the ancients as containing all that could be learned. Yet even the knowledge of astronomy, for instance, which is contained in their books, has not been taught.
(b) They have set no value on abstract science, apart from some obvious and immediate end of utility. There has been no cultivation of knowledge for its own sake among the Chinese; their minds have not been broadened by the collection and investigation of facts; they have had few books, if any, on whose statements exact reliance could be placed.
(c) Political preferment was hitherto based on attainments in literature and politics; a knowledge of science was not used as a criterion and hence was not cultivated.
Thus throughout long ages the mind of China has been held in a false way, because no man of superior enlightenment arose to counteract the prevailing practise of putting thoughts in the place of things and facts, and it is likely that even had such a man arisen he would not have been able to counteract the attraction which drew all the vigorous and inquiring minds of the nation into the literary examinations. Hard labor then as now absorbed the energy and time of the masses while strife after official honors has consumed the talents of the learned.
6. The Influence of Astrologers and Fortune-tellers, Geomancers, etc., and the Attitude of the Officials.—The curious and intimate connection between geomancy, horoscopy and astrology, which the Chinese presuppose, has had a powerful influence, just as it had in former times in Europe, in maintaining their errors, because of its bearing on every man's luck.
Even when aided in no small measure by Europeans, especially by the Jesuit missionaries, the Chinese have seemed unable to advance in astronomy when left to themselves, and still cling to superstitions against every evidence. The speculations of their philosophers by their curious system of elementary correspondencies have led them away from carefully recording facts and processes, and they have gone on, as Williams says, "like a squirrel in a cage, making no progress toward real knowledge."
Even when more enlightened concepts of the realm of nature have been at hand and their acceptance even urged, Chinese officials have opposed their spread among the common people. There is not even yet an adequate government effort at popular education. The chief aim is still, as under the old examination system, the training of future officials and government servants. Europeans were employed for many years in compiling the calendar, but they were not allowed to interfere in the astrological part. The Chinese government apparently has deemed and still deems it necessary to uphold ancient superstitions, in order thereby to influence its own security and strengthen the reverence due it.
V. The Outlook
1. The language difficulty is being struggled with, style is being simplified, punctuation lias been introduced. The language is growing and becoming clearer in the hands of modern trained Chinese. The development of the language so as to be able adequately to express the content of modern knowledge presents a most tremendous problem, which only native scholars highly trained in modern thought and equally familiar with their native tongue and its previous development can solve. It will take time, but this difficulty will ultimately be overcome. It is, however, an even greater problem than would have been presented had all the content of modern knowledge knocked at the door of eleventh-century English and demanded immediate expression. The unification of the language of the Empire as foreshadowed by the present determination to make Mandarin universally known will of course aid in this development. So long as this language difficulty remains so largely unsolved, it will be necessary to conduct the higher grades of instruction in the sciences with English as the medium—at least for those who are themselves to be leaders in this renaissance. To have a share in the preparation of men who will solve this problem is about as far as the foreigner can hope to go.
2. A more widespread contact with translations of western books is slowly but surely bringing the reading Chinese into a fuller appreciation of western or more scientific thinking. Their increasing familiarity with the inventions and methods of the west is undermining their superstition, as is also the spread of Christian theology. Eecently we came across two very amusing indications of the difficulties involved in such an awakening among the common people—one in Shantung and one in Hunan, both with regard to the telegraph.
In Shantung an old farmer was seen contemplating the telegraph wire as it wended its crooked way across his fields. His neighbor remarked that the men who could devise and make use of such a line for the transmission of intelligence could do anything, but the old man replied that he did not think it was worth very much, because he had sat for some weeks watching the wire closely and he had not yet seen anything go by.
In Hunan, in traversing the main high road from Heng Chow to Yung Chow, we noticed a great number of worn-out straw sandals of carrying coolies, tied in pairs, hanging over the telegraph wire at many places along the line. At one place between poles, there were at least a dozen pairs, and on inquiring of the coolies what the meaning was, we learned that since the coolies were paid by the journey it was very advantageous for them to be swift of foot, and so when their sandals were worn out with much travel, if they succeeded in tossing a pair so as to hang from the telegraph wire, they would have the good luck to be as swift of foot as was the electric message in its transmission.
3. Because of its contact with the west in trade, religion and education, and chiefly under the influence of mission schools the Chinese government has altered its educational policy, and the changes in the method of instruction and the system of education are for the most part tending to develop a spirit of inquiry and an appreciation of the inductive method, which will after a while begin to yield due fruit. When the influence of returned students who have been adequately trained in western countries and that of the graduates from first-class mission and government colleges becomes more potent, we can expect to see a much more rapid development of the educational system, but here again the magnitude of the undertaking and the difficulties as to efficient teaching force and adequate resources are such, that only natives can handle the ultimate solution. We teachers from abroad can hardly expect to do more than to give the impulse and to help in the preparation of the vanguard of such an advance.
4. When special and general education has proceeded far enough to provide the trained men needed to make the various adjustments involved in the tremendously complex and many-sided renaissance of this nation and to have provided the background of an enlightened people, there will of a surety be found among Chinese students many who will desire to follow the torch of learning and of truth for its own sake, some of whom, we believe, will attain a high degree of analytical power and experimental skill, for the Chinese after all are capable of exact and careful thought under right conditions, and moreover possess unusual patience and manual skill, so that in the long run we think they may be distinguished in regard to scientific attainments pretty much as the Germans have been for the last century. There are to-day in some of the universities of America and Europe Chinese students who in laboratory work in physics and other natural sciences are distinguishing themselves even in comparison with western students. The Chinese have a power of application and patience and a capacity for detail that is destined to bring success in scientific inquiry when once they get the background, adopt the method and make the start.
5. The irresistible progress destined to be made by western science in the Chinese empire will surely undermine Chinese faith in the "Book of Changes," which is at the base of Chinese philosophy. Whatever is permanently true will remain in imperishable blocks, but the structure as a whole will fall in ruins, with Chinese ideals pitilessly and irrevocably shattered. At this critical period of the disintegration of outworn forces, what new moral and spiritual ideas are to replace the old in order that the new state of these people may not be worse than the first?
Mere education in the science of the west, mere contact with western civilization, commerce, railways, telegraphs, mines, etc., can not be expected and are not calculated to regenerate China, because they have no direct moral or spiritual value, and the Chinese seem never to have been profoundly moved by other than moral and spiritual forces.
Education which deals only with coordinated physical or mental facts, conducted however thoroughly, does not prove adequate for the regulation of the conduct of mankind. It is so chiefly intellectual, that it leaves man's highest nature unsatisfied and almost untouched; therefore it is imperative in the present intellectual and material awakening that the more subtle forces which will profoundly affect the soul of the race should be fostered side by side with these others, and that full advantage be taken of the critical state presented by this transition, in order to gain for Christianity its rightful place among the educated men of the rising generation.
At the same time care must be taken to avoid repetition of the unwarranted conflict between science and religion. Our instruction must be such that these two departments are not regarded as antagonistic, but as supplementary, not only in affecting daily life and conduct, but supplementary also as revelations of the character and purposes of God. We must also avoid the tendency to impose a system which is the outgrowth of western civilization without due regard for the oriental character and mode of thinking.
The wide diffusion of Christianity in its best form will not suddenly introduce the millennium into China, for all intermediate stages must be passed through before the goal is reached, but it will for the first time in Chinese history, realize the motto of the ancient Tang repeated so impressively in these latter days by Chang Chi Tung: "Renovate, renovate the people." Thus alone can the empire be adapted to the altered conditions brought about by the impact of western thought. Christianity has been tried as yet upon a small scale only, but has already brought forth fruit after its kind. When it shall have been thoroughly tested and have had opportunity to develop its potentialities in a manner specially adapted to the situation, it will give to China intellectually, morally and spiritually the long sought for elixir of a new life.
- See "The Content of Chinese Education," The Popular Science Monthly, January, 1906, and "The Passing of China's Ancient System of Literary Examinations," The Popular Science Monthly, February, 1906.