Page images

in the two works, for the simple reason that in the book-language of China condensation is pushed to limits never dreamt of even by Tacitus, all possible pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions, and particles generally being sacrificed to what the Chinese regard as style. The late Professor Legge declared that 100 Chinese characters were about equivalent to 130 English words; in view of which it is interesting to note that the Encyclopædia Britannica has 22,000 pages, 44,000 columns, (say) seventy lines to a column, and about ten words to a line = 30,800,000 words.

The next stage in what may fairly be called the tragedy of the Yung Lo Ta Tien is connected with the art of printing, which has been widely applied to the production of books in China ever since the tenth century A.D. Specimens of early Chinese printing are extremely rare. Professor Hirth, of Munich, gave in his China and the Roman Orient a facsimile of a page from the history of the later Han dynasty, printed in 1167, and the oldest printed book in the Cambridge Library is An Account of Strange Nations, with full-page illustrations, which dates from 1390. But that books were printed in the tenth century we know from many collateral sources. For instance, the Yü Hai, a very rare encyclopædia, of which the University of Leyden is fortunate enough to possess a perfect copy, has the following entry: In the third year of T'ai-p'ing Hsing-kuo, (A.D. 978) the Tai Ping Kuan Chi (a collection of extracts on all manner of curious topics) was completed, and in the sixth year of the same (A.D. 981) orders were given that it should be cut on blocks for printing.'

Accordingly, when the Yung Lo Ta Tien was completed the Emperor gave orders that it should be transcribed for printing. The process is, and always has been, the same all over China. Two consecutive pages of a book, separated by a column containing the title, number of section, and number of leaf, are written out and pasted face downwards on a block of wood (Lindera tzu-mu, Hemsl.). This paper, where not written upon, is cut away with sharp tools, leaving the characters in relief, and of course backwards, as in the case of European type. The block is then inked, and an impression is taken off, on one side of the paper only. This sheet is then folded down the middle of the separating column above mentioned, so that the blank halves come together, leaving two pages of printed matter outside; and when enough sheets have been brought together, they are stabbed at the open ends and form a volume, to be further wrapped in paper or pasteboard, and labelled with title, &c. It is almost superfluous to say that the pages of a Chinese book must not be cut. There is nothing inside, and, moreover, the column bearing the title and leaf number would be cut through. Sometimes the thin Chinese leaf is thickened and rendered more durable by the insertion of a blank sheet of soft and cheap paper. Occasionally unsold remainders are used for this purpose. One of the

Chinese works in the Cambridge Library is padded with the poems— charta inepto-of the great Emperor Ch'ien Lung.

To return.

Within two years, that is to say by 1410, the work was ready for the block-cutter, but it was then discovered that the expense of carrying through the scheme was too serious to be faced, and the project was allowed to drop.

In 1421 the capital was removed from Nanking to Peking, where it has ever since remained; and the Yung Lo Ta Tien was also transferred, and stored in a pavilion belonging to the palace.

We do not again hear of it until 1562, when orders were issued for 100 scholars to make a copy and duplicate copy of the whole work, a task which was completed in 1567. The original was then sent back to Nanking; and of the copy and duplicate copy, the former was placed in a pavilion of the palace, the latter in the Office of Imperial Historiography. At the downfall of the Ming dynasty, in 1644, the original at Nanking and the duplicate copy in the Office of Historiography perished by fire. The copy

deposited in the pavilion had been transferred to the Han-lin College, which, as has been stated, was established outside the Imperial City in 1442, and thus escaped destruction at the hands of the rebels; but even that was found later on to be wanting 2,422 sections, or over 1,000 volumes. We are nowhere told that this last was actually a facsimile of the original, but the scale and style in which it was produced leave little room for any other conclusion. Ku Chiang, a great scholar and a loyal adherent of the Mings, who after their fall changed his name to Ku Yen-wu, and resolutely declined to serve under the Manchus, has stated in his well-known Adversaria that the entire work was destroyed; but the editors of the Imperial Catalogue, drawn up between 1772-1782, declared him to be in error, and we now know that they were right. They add that the hand of God (literally) was manifestly guiding the original compilers in order that so many valuable books as are preserved in this encyclopædia, many of which have since been reprinted, should be handed down for the use of posterity.

This entry in the Imperial Catalogue, itself a wonderful work, running to 200 sections and bound up in twenty-six thick volumes octavo, soon attracted the notice of foreign students, many of whom doubted not only the present existence of the Yung Lo Ta Tien, but even that such a vast undertaking had ever been carried to completion. Stories were current, however, among Chinese literates which agreed as to the great size of the volumes while differing in matters of detail; and some of the Manchu bitgeshi, or clerks, employed at the British Legation were ready to swear that they had seen it with their own eyes. Meanwhile foreign scholars were in a state of suspended judgment, until in June 1900 the veil which had so long shrouded the Yung Lo Ta Tien in mystery was rudely drawn aside.

I will now quote from the diary of my son, Mr. Lancelot Giles, of H.B.M. China Consular Service, who went through the siege of Peking:

Saturday, the 23rd of June.-At 11.15 A.M. a fire was reported in the Han-lin, where the Chinese were entrenched. It was got under and the Han-lin cleared of Chinese troops.

There was some doubt as to whether we should occupy the Han-lin as a strategic position, and pull down the buildings in order to prevent fires. It was argued, however, that the Chinese would never set fire to so venerable a monument of the country's literature.

This was set at naught by the Chinese, who fired the various buildings all through the day. The library was almost entirely destroyed. An attempt was made to save the famous Yung Lo Ta Tien; but heaps of volumes had been burnt, so the attempt was given up. I secured volume 13,345 [he meant the volume containing that section] for myself, merely as a specimen. The pages are 1 foot 8 inches by 1 foot, and the volumes vary from inch to 1 inch in thickness. Each page has eight columns, and each column contains two rows of twenty-six characters.

I also picked up a couple of the essays written by some candidate for one of the great examinations.

Within the next few days we completed the work begun by the Chinese, and razed the Han-lin to the ground.

Since the siege of Peking five volumes of the Yung Lo Ta Tien have reached me, as follows:

(1) Sections 13,344, containing poetry, apparently the concluding portion of an anthology; and 13,345, dealing with the terminology of canonisation, as bestowed upon Emperors and deserving officials.

Canonisation is a matter of course for Emperors and certain members of the Imperial family; for officials it is the one honour which throws all others of a more transitory character into the shade. The Emperor who decided that history should begin with his reign, B.C. 221, abolished canonisation and substituted the ordinal numbers, starting from himself as the First. His line, however, ended with his son, who was called the Second. Canonisation was refused in the case of Admiral Ting, who for humanity's sake surrendered Wei-hai-wei to the Japanese, and then committed suicide. Had he committed suicide without surrendering, hundreds of his countrymen would have been killed and wounded, and his own name blazoned on the roll of China's immortals. Even now we read that the Empress Dowager is about to canonise the wise counsellors who advised her against the extermination-of-foreigners policy and who received decapitation as their reward.

(2) Sections 16,343 and 16,344, containing chapters fourteen and fifteen of a treatise on arithmetic.

Here is a specimen of the arithmetic: If silk is worth 240 cash a pound, and you have 1,328 cash, how much silk can you buy? Answer: 5 lbs. 8 ozs. 12 dwts.' (Curiously enough, although the decimal system prevails in China, the lb. is divided into sixteen ozs.

and the ounce into twenty-four dwts.) Similar, but much more difficult questions in interest, square measure, &c., are given farther on, in all cases with methods for working.


(3) Sections 19,742, containing some historical episodes classed under a certain character, lu record; and 19,743, containing a vocabulary of characters of the same phonetic value as lu above mentioned.

(4) Sections 19,789 and 19,790, dealing with vestments, Court dresses, official robes, &c.

(5) Section 19,792, also dealing with vestments, &c.

At the end of each volume is a slip with the name of the officials and scholars whose duty it was to copy, punctuate, and compare with the original the text of that particular volume. From these slips we gather proofs of two important points: (1) that the present volumes are actually copies, and not the original work, and (2) that they date from 1562-67, as stated in the Imperial Catalogue. For two names are mentioned, representing the chief directors in regard to these five volumes, namely, Ch'ên I-ch'in and Ch'in Ming-lei, which duly appear in the biographical records of the Ming dynasty. Ch'ên I-ch'in was born in 1510, and graduated in the third or highest degree in 1541. He was then appointed to the Han-lin College, and rose to be one of its Chancellors, subsequently becoming President of the Board of Rites, and dying in 1586. Of Ch'in Ming-lei we are told only that he graduated in the third degree in 1544, that he was appointed to be Compiler in the Han-lin College, and rose to be President of the Board of Rites. In each case the evidence is enough. It establishes the fact that during the period 1562-67, when the Yung Lo Ta Tien is said to have been copied out under the direction of Chiên I-ch'in and Ch'in Ming-lei, two scholars such as would be required, bearing those names, and both members of the Han-lin College, were alive and available for the work.

The great literary monument which I have here attempted to describe is now gone for ever. We had been led to believe that it lay neglected in a shed, and had long since succumbed to decay by natural processes. Yet it must have been well cared for, and guarded from damp and insects, to judge by the wonderful state of preservation in which these five volumes appear to-day. It was, in fact, too well guarded. Ever since Peking was first opened in 1860, all applications from foreign scholars to be allowed even to view such an interesting relic have always been curtly refused. There is no occasion for any further display of such dog-in-the-manger sentiments. China has lost her treasure through the misguided violence of her own sons; while the only hands stretched forward to save it from destruction were those of the foreigners from whom it had been so jealously withheld. HERBERT A. GILES.



SOPHIE CHARLOTTE, first Queen of Prussia, had English blood in her veins she was the daughter of that remarkable woman, the Electress Sophia of Hanover, and a granddaughter of Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia, Princess of Great Britain and Ireland, daughter of King James the First. These three princesses, grandmother, mother and daughter, formed a trinity of wonderful women. Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia, for her beauty and misfortunes known as The Queen of Hearts,' was one of the most intellectual princesses of her time, and her reasoning powers and determination were almost masculine. Nor was her ambition one whit behind her abilities. It was she who urged her husband to take up the uneasy crown of Bohemia. ‘If you cannot trust yourself to accept a crown,' she said to him when he hesitated, you should not have married a King's daughter.' So he wore it for a few brief months, but lost it again at the battle of the White Mountain, when his kingdom vanished like a dream of the night, and the 'Winter King,' as he was called, and his consort became fugitives in Europe. When the fortunes of the royal pair were at their lowest Sophia was born, the youngest of a large family. This princess, who was at one time put forward as a possible wife for her first-cousin, King Charles the Second of England, wedded later Ernest Augustus, Prince-Bishop of Osnabrück, and afterwards Elector of Hanover. She was the mother of King George the First of England; through her the Hanoverian dynasty came to sit upon the throne of England. Sophia was a great princess in every sense of the term, learned, gifted, and endowed with considerable governing ability. With her husband she raised Hanover from a petty dukedom to the rank of an electorate, and she nursed her English prospects with consummate skill. She had her mother's soaring ambition. I care not when I die,' she said, "if on my tomb it be inscribed that I was Queen of England,' a desire which was not gratified, as she died two months before Queen Anne, and on her tomb at Hanover she is described as the Heiress of Great Britain.'

[ocr errors]

Sophie Charlotte was her only daughter, coming midway between three elder and three younger sons. Like her mother and grandmother, she inherited many traits from her Stuart ancestors.

« PreviousContinue »