Puslapio vaizdai

assistant of Heaven (), to the highest rank in the Chinese Pantheon. Merit in China is sometimes late in receiving its reward, but he who can afford to wait one or two thousand years, need not despair of suitable recognition at last.

Theatrical performances, the scenes of which are generally laid in some classic period of Chinese history, like the time of the Three Kingdoms, as well as the all-pervasive professional story-teller (# f), found in cities at the tea-shops, and in villages upon the streets, serve to keep in popular remembrance the mighty Heroes of distant ages. There is also a third propagating power, more efficient than both the others combined. Almost every hamlet can furnish some, if not many persons, who have acquired education enough to devour with delight the stirring stories of the past. In all the northern parts of China, there are months together, when the rural population have almost no regular occupation. A company of Chinese, gathered of a long winter evening, will fall to relating the adventures of Chu Ko Liang, Ssu Ma I, and Ts'ao Ts'ao (4), as our grandfathers told the tale of the career of Wellington in the Peninsula, and the exploits of Napoleon in Egypt; or as in our own day we talk over the incidents of the great Indian Mutiny, or the details of Sherman's March to the Sea. By these means it comes to pass, that many illiterate persons, while familiar with the names of historical characters, and acquainted with certain events in which they played a prominent part, would be utterly unable to give the least account of their place in contemporaneous annals, or even to conjecture in what period of universal history they flourished.

The Chinese Scholar, who is supposed to be familiar not only with the standard histories of the Empire, but also with what is termed light literature, or 'empty books' (#), the perusal of which is but the diversion of a literary leisure-will of course be able to trace and fix historical allusions with considerable precision. As little or no value is, however, attached to books of this sort, nothing is more common than to find that persons who are really fairly educated in matters within the scope of classical knowledge, when asked to what epoch an individual with the outlines of whose life they are acquainted should be referred, differ among themselves by a matter of fifteen hundred or two thousand years. Such cases may be said to furnish a literal exemplification of the well known study of history without regard to time or place; and if history is philosophy teaching by examples, it is of little consequence, provided the lesson is learned, to what period or locality the original is referred, nor is the value of the instruction held to be abated, though the supposed historical basis

were shown to be altogether fabulous. The line which separates ancient history from the prehistoric fables of antiquity, is as invisible as a meridian; even far within historic times, there are abundant details which rest upon no certain evidence, so that as Lord Macauley has observed with regard to some of the tales of Herodotus," the fictions are so much like the facts, and the facts so much like the fictions, that with respect to many most interesting particulars, our belief is neither given nor withheld, but remains in an uneasy and interminable state of abeyance. We know that there is truth, but we can not exactly decide where it lies."*

That the Chinese are fond of suppressing a part of their meaning, both in the spoken and in the written language, has already been remarked, and will again fall under notice hereafter. An even stronger statement would seem to be justified by many observed facts, to wit that they at times suppress not a part of their meaning only, but almost the whole of it. A literary style abounding in delicate allusions, and recondite obscurities, is denoted by the expression: 'A Dragon-fly sipping water' (E). A writer or speaker will not infrequently positively revel in references of this sort, rolling each one as a sweet morsel under his tongue, and with the greater relish if he be reasonably confident that nine tenths of his readers or hearers can by no possibility comprehend it. The obscurity of such allusions is greatly increased by the circumstance that many of them are simply the results of a kind of literary distillation, in the product of which it is often difficult to recognize any traces of the original.

In the Chinese Repository for February, March and April, 1851, is to be found a series of articles entitled "Extracts from histories and fables to which allusions are commonly made in Chinese literary works. Translated from the Arte China of P. Gonçalves by Dr. Bowring." The characters and subjects explained are distributed under 233 different heads, and range through the whole realm of History, Legend, Myth and (occasionally) Fable. These articles were subsequently reprinted, in brief instalments, in the Chinese and Japanese Repository * It may be well again to remind the Reader, that the sayings which belong to the class at present under consideration, are not viewed in their historical aspects. Some of these sayings refer to actual events, some to occurrences distorted or magnified by tradition, while others are palpably and wholly fictitious, which of them are probably historically true, and which are probably false, the writer is entirely incompetent to decide, but fortunately, so far as their value as illustrations of the Proverbs and Common Sayings of the Chinese is concerned, the decision-could it be arrived at-would be of the smallest possible value. The Dragon-fly is supposed to eat nothing but to be satisfied with an occasional sip of water. Hence the poetical phrase quoted, is employed metaphorically of one in extreme distress, who is helped by another's kind word, or timely advance of a little money, which enables him to go upon his way rejoicing: 'The Dragon-fly takes his sip of water, and flits away' (R).

for the years 1863, 1864, and 1865, where we are informed that the concluding twelve examples, are "Parables." It is, indeed, by no means always easy to determine to which of several classes such allusions should be referred. When we are told, for example, that the expression: To throw at a rat and [try to] miss the dish' (

), refers to a "fable" of a person who did throw a pillow at a rat, and thereby broke a costly vase, we have reached a region where a mere Illustration (H), a Historical Allusion (), and a proper Fable-for which we know of no suitable Chinese expression-join their frontiers.

It has been supposed, that for some occult reason, and apparently contrary to the antecedent probabilities in the case, genuine Fables do not agree with the literary climate of the Middle Kingdom. In the Chinese and Japanese Repository for November, 1863, appears, however, a notice of a translation into French, of certain Indian and Chinese fables, in three volumes. "The honor of having discovered in the vast literature of the Celestial Empire the works eagerly sought for, is due to the eminent French sinologue Stan. Julien. They are contained in two encyclopedias, the elder of which, in twenty volumes, was finished in the year 668, and is entitled 'The Forest of Pearls from the Garden of the Law.' The second is called Yü-lin, or the Forest of Similitudes,' and comprises, in twenty-four volumes, extracts from 400 purely Chinese works, and from 200 others that had been translated into Chinese from the Sanskrit." "If such a collection of fables had been generally known to exist in the literature of the country when R. Thom composed a Chinese version of Esop's Fables,' the Mandarins to whom the latter work was communicated, would not have taken so much offence as to have ordered it to be suppressed." A brief Essay on Chinese Fables is inserted in Dr. Martin's "Hanlin Papers" (reprinted in the United States under the title, "The Chinese, their Education, Philosophy and Letters")—a little monograph which might suggest the famous chapter 47 of Horrebon's History of Iceland, Concerning Owls" consisting only of these words: "There are in Iceland no Owls of any kind whatever." In like manner the industry of the learned author of the Hanlin Papers has succeeded in doing little more than predicating that there are no fables in Chinese, for the examples given are but five in number, nearly all of which are noticed in the articles already referred to in the Chinese Repository. The first of these-said to have been spoken to the King of Ch'u by Chiang Yi (Z) one of his ministers, with regard to a Chou Hsi Hsü whose approach inspired terror in the people of the North—is brief. 'A tiger who happened to be preceded by a fox, was greatly astonished

[ocr errors]

to see all the animals running away from the fox, little suspecting that their terror was inspired by himself.' A fuller account is given in the translation from Père Gonçalves already referred to. A she fox was overtaken by a tiger, which was about to destroy her. The fox remonstrated with the tiger, and claimed that she possessed a superiority over other animals, all of whom she declared, stood in awe of her. In proof of this, she invited the tiger to accompany her, and witness her power. The tiger consented, and quietly followed. Every beast fled at their approach, and the tiger dared not attack the fox, not considering that the terror was caused by his own appearance. Thereafter, whenever the fox was seen in public, the other animals suspected that the tiger-with whom she seemed to be on such intimate terms— was at her heels. Hence the saying: "The fox arrogating the tiger's power'). A single additional example of Chinese apologue may suffice. It is given by Mr. Mayers (Chinese Reader's Manual, No. 933), as well as in the article on 'Histories and Fables' quoted above from the 'Narratives of the Contending States,' and is ascribed to Su Tai, B.C. 350, and is thought by Mr. Mayers to be the earliest specimen of a complete fable on record in Chinese literature. The saying is of common occurrence, and is as follows: 'When the bittern [or heron, osprey, or oyster-catcher] and the oyster sieze each other, the fisherman reaps the benefit' (4ĦĦ. MɅ.). These instances illustrate the facility with which the essence of a fable in Chinese, may be compressed into a sentence or a phrase, and thus while the kernel is preserved, the husk falls away, and is quite forgotten.

The general character of the class of proverbial allusions which we are now considering, can best be understood by examples. It must be borne in mind, however, that such allusions are by no means in themselves equivalent to proverbs. It is only when they have been caught up and molded into a popular shape, that they come within the scope of the present classification. The part which they then play is an important one. More than fifty specimens of such proverbs may be found scattered through Mr. Scarborough's volume. The most indispensable assistance for the student of Chinese, in the study of historical allusions, is to be found in the Manual of Mr. Mayers, to which reference has just been made. This valuable little book is the product of a process of evaporation and condensation, applied to a mass of Chinese Encyclopedias, and special works of reference, absolutely appalling to contemplate. The task was undertaken with the express purpose of furnishing a clew to some of the intricacies of quotation and allusion to which we have had such frequent occasion to refer, "and at the same time to bring together from various sources, an

epitome of historical and biographical details, much needed by every student." As the scope of the plan, however, was virtually coextensive with the entire range of Chinese literature, its complete execution—as the author soon discovered-was out of the question, resembling those seductive dreams of universal empire, the realization of which would be possible only to infinite resources. It is greatly to be regretted that the untimely death of the scholarly compiler has destroyed the hope of a second and greatly enlarged edition of his work.

Our first example is a couplet (from the Ming Hsien Chi) which is not self-explanatory: The Horse has the goodness to lower the bridge; The Dog has the good-will to moisten the grass' ( 2.2.). This dark saying is interpreted as an allusion to a horseman who fell down a well (or as others say, over a precipice), and whose steed dropped the bridle reins over his head, to enable his rider to climb up. The Dog in the other line, is said to have found the grass, in the neighborhood of his master's house, on fire; no help being at hand, he rushed into a pond and coming out rolled over and over upon the ground about the building, thus effectually. preventing the spread of the flames.

'Meng Liang rubbing his gourd-the fire comes !'

'Meng Liang's gourd-great fire!' (XT).

These sayings refer to a general of the Sung Dynasty, who was much addicted to causing conflagrations. Metaphorically, of one's temper, i.e. he is growing very angry (). Imitate the sworn fidelity of the Three in the Peach Orchyard; do not imitate Sun Pin and Pang Chian (寕學桃園三結義。不學孫臏共龐涓。). "The Three' are Liu Pei, Kuan Yü, and Chang Fei, as already mentioned. The weak Emperor then upon the throne, felt himself unable to cope with the formidable Yellow Turbaned Rebels (), the T'ai p'ings of that day, and called for brave men to assist in upholding the government. Liu Pei while reading the Imperial Proclamation calling for men to come forward and save the state, sighed as he reflected on the magnitude of the task, and the lack of suitable volunteers. At this juncture Kuan Yü arrives-an entire stranger to Liu Pei, and inquires why a man of lofty spirit should show such feelings in view of his country's troubles. Struck with the noble mien and bearing of Kuan Yü, Liu Pei invited him into a neighboring wine shop, where they discussed the situation. Soon after Chang Fei entered a stranger to them both-whereupon his prepossessing appearance led to an invitation to join the two new friends over their cups. Warmed with the wine, and fired with patriotism, they soon adjourned to a Peach Orchyard belonging to Chang Fei, who was rich,

« AnkstesnisTęsti »