Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

first established themselves; but he added, that Mabáchina, which was also mentioned in his book, extended to the eaftern and southern oceans. I believe, nevertheless, that the Chinese empire, as we now call it, was not formed when the laws of MenƯ were collected ; and for this belief, fo repugnant to the general opinion, I am bound to offer my reasons. If the outline of history and chronology for the last two thousand years be correctly traced, (and we must be hardy scepticks to doubt it) the poems of Ca'LIDA's were composed before the beginning of our era : now it is clear, from internal and external evidence, that the Rámáyan and Mabáb, bárat were considerably older than the productions of that poet ; and it appears from the style and metre of the Dherma Sástra revealed by Menu, that it was reduced to writing long before the age of Va'lmic or VYA's A, the second of whom names it with applause : we shall not, therefore, be thought extravagant, if we place the compiler of those laws between a thousand and fifteen hundred years before CHRIST; efpecially as BUDDHA, whose age is pretty well ascertained, is not mentioned in them ; but, in the twelfth century before our era, the Chinese empire was at least in its cradle. This fact it is necessary to prove ; and my first witness is ConFUCIUS himself. I know to what keen satire I fhalt expose myself by citing that philosopher, after the bitter farcasms of M. Pauw against him and against the translators of his mutilated, but valuable, works : yet I quote without scruple the book entitled Lún , of which I possess the original with a verbal translation, and which I know to be sufficiently authentick for my present purpose : in the second part of it CoN-FU-TSU declares, that “

Although he, like other men, " could relate, as mere lessons of morality, the “ histories of the first and second imperial houses,

yet, for want of evidence, he could give no s certain account of them.” Now, if the Chinese themselves do not even pretend, that any historical monuments existed, in the age of CONFUCIUS, preceding the rise of their third dynasty about eleven hundred

before the Christian epoch, we may justly conclude, that the reign of VU'VAM was in the infancy of their empire, which hardly grew to maturity till some ages after that prince; and it has been asserted by very learned Europeans, that even of the third dynasty, which he has the fame of having raised, no unsuspected memorial can now be produced. It was not till the eighth century before the birth of our Saviour, that a small kingdom was erected in the province of Shen-si, the capital of which stood nearly in the thirty-fifth degree of northern latitude, and about five degrees to the west of Si-gan : both the country and its metropolis were called Chin; and the dominion of its princes was gradually extended to the east and west. A king of Chin, who makes a figure in the Shábnámah among the allies of AFRA'SIYA'B, was, I presumę, a sovereign of the country juft mentioned; and the river of Chin, which the poet frequently names as the limit of his eastern geography, seems to have been the Yellow River, which the Chinese introduce at the beginning of their fabulous annals: I should be tempted to expatiate on fo.curious a subject ; but the present occasion allows nothing superfluous, and permits me only to add, that Mangukbán died, in the middle of the thirteenth century, before the city of Chin, which was afterwards taken by KUBLAI, and that the poets of Iràn perpetually allude to the districts around it which they celebrate, with Chegil and Kboten, for a number of musk-animals roving on their hills. The territory of Chin, so called by the old Hindus, by the Persians, and by the Chinese (while the Greeks and Arabs were obliged by their defective articulation to miscal it Sin) gave its name to a race of emperors, whose tyranny made their memory so unpopular, that the modern inhabitants of China hold the word in abhorrence, and speak of themselves as the people of a milder and more virtuous dynasty; but it is highly probable that the whole nation descended from the Chinas of Menu, and, mixing with the Tartars, by whom the plains of Honan and the more southern provinces were thinly inhabited, formed by degrees the race of men, whom we now see in possession of the noblest empire in Asia.

years

In fupport of an opinion, which I offer as the result of long and anxious inquiries, I should regularly proceed to examine the language and letters, religion and philosophy, of the present Cbi. nese, and subjoin some remarks on their ancient monuments, on their sciences, and on their arts both liberal and mechanical : but their spoken language, not having been preserved by the usual fymbols of articulate sounds, must have been for many ages in a continual flux; their letters, if we may so call them, are merely the symbols of ideas; their popular religion was imported from India in an age comparatively modern; and their philofophy seems

yet

in so rude a state, as hardly to deserve the appellation ; they have no ancient monuments, from which their origin can be traced even by plausible conjecture ; their sciences are wholly exotick; and their mechanical arts have nothing in them characteristick of a particular family; nothing, which any set of men, in a country so highly favoured by nature, might not have discovered and improved. They have indeed, both national musick and national poetry, and both of them beautifully pathetick; but of painting, sculpture, or architecture, as arts of imagination, they seem (like other Asiaticks) to have no idea. Instead, therefore, of enlarging separately on each of those heads, I shall briefly inquire, how far the literature and religious practices of China confirm or oppose the proposition, which I have advanced.

The declared and fixed opinion of M. DE GUIGNES, on the subject before us, is nearly connected with that of the Brábmens : he maintains, that the Chinese were emigrants from Egypt; and the Egyptians, or Ethiopians, (for they were clearly the fame, people) had indubitably a common origin with the old natives of India, as the affinity of their languages, and of their institutions, both religious and political, fully evinces ; but that China was peopled a few centuries before our era by a colony from the banks of the Nile, though neither Persians nor Arabs, Tartars nor Hindus, ever heard of such an emigration, is a paradox, which the bare au, thority even of fo learned a man cannot support; and, since reason grounded on facts can alone decide such a question, we have a right to demand clearer evidence and stronger arguments, than any

that he has adduced. The hierogly. phicks of Egypt bear, indeed, a strong resem.

« ZurückWeiter »