China and the Chinese






The following Lectures were delivered during March, 1902, at Columbia University, in the city of New York, to inaugurate the foundation by General Horace W. Carpentier of the Dean Lung Chair of Chinese.

By the express desire of the authorities of Columbia University these Lectures are now printed, and they may serve to record an important and interesting departure in Oriental studies.

It is not pretended that Chinese scholarship will be in any way advanced by this publication. The Lectures, slight in themselves, were never meant for advanced students, but rather to draw attention to, and possibly arouse some interest in, a subject which will occupy a larger space in the future than in the present or in the past.









If the Chinese people were to file one by one past a given point, the interesting procession would never come to an end. Before the last man of those living to-day had gone by, another and a new generation would have grown up, and so on for ever and ever.

The importance, as a factor in the sum of human affairs, of this vast nation,—of its language, of its literature, of its religions, of its history, of its manners and customs,—goes therefore without saying. Yet a serious attention to China and her affairs is of very recent growth. Twenty-five years ago there was but one professor of Chinese in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland; and even that one spent his time more in adorning his profession than in imparting his knowledge to [4] classes of eager students. Now there are all together five chairs of Chinese, the occupants of which are all more or less actively employed. But we are still sadly lacking in what Columbia University appears to have obtained by the stroke of a generous pen,—adequate funds for endowment. Meanwhile, I venture to offer my respectful congratulations to Columbia University on having surmounted this initial difficulty, and also to prophesy that the foresight of the liberal donor will be amply justified before many years are over.

I have often been asked if Chinese is, or is not, a difficult language to learn. To this question it is quite impossible to give a categorical answer, for the simple reason that Chinese consists of at least two languages, one colloquial and the other written, which for all practical purposes are about as distinct as they well could be.

Colloquial Chinese is a comparatively easy matter. It is, in fact, more easily acquired in the early stages than colloquial French or German. A student will begin to speak from the very first, for the simple reason that there is no other way. There are no Declensions or Conjugations [5] to be learned, and consequently no Paradigms or Irregular Verbs.

In a day or two the student should be able to say a few simple things. After three months he should be able to deal with his ordinary requirements; and after six months he should be able to chatter away more or less accurately on a variety of interesting subjects. A great deal depends upon the method by which he is taught.

The written or book language, on the other hand, may fairly be regarded as a sufficient study for a lifetime; not because of the peculiar script, which yields when systematically attacked, but because the style of the book language is often so extremely terse as to make it obscure, and sometimes so lavishly ornate that without wide reading it is not easy to follow the figurative phraseology, and historical and mythological allusions, which confront one on every page.

There are plenty of men, and some women, nowadays, who can carry on a conversation in Chinese with the utmost facility, and even with grace. Some speak so well as to be practically indistinguishable from Chinamen.

[6] There are comparatively few men, and I venture to say still fewer, if any, women, who can read an ordinary Chinese book with ease, or write an ordinary Chinese letter at all.

Speaking of women as students of Chinese, there have been so far only two who have really placed themselves in the front rank. It gives me great pleasure to add that both these ladies, lady missionaries, were natives of America, and that it was my privilege while in China to know them both. In my early studies of Chinese I received much advice and assistance from one of them, the late Miss Lydia Fay. Later on, I came to entertain a high respect for the scholarship and literary attainments of Miss Adèle M. Fielde, a well-known authoress.

Before starting upon a course of colloquial Chinese, it is necessary for the student to consider in what part of China he proposes to put his knowledge into practice. If he intends to settle or do business in Peking, it is absolute waste of time for him to learn the dialect of Shanghai. Theoretically, there is but one language spoken by the Chinese people in China proper,—over an area of some two million square miles, say twenty-five times the area of [7] England and Scotland together. Practically, there are about eight well-marked dialects, all clearly of a common stock, but so distinct as to constitute eight different languages, any two of which are quite as unlike as English and Dutch.

These dialects may be said to fringe the coast line of the Empire of China. Starting from Canton and coasting northward, before we have left behind us the province in which Canton is situated, Kuangtung, we reach Swatow, where a totally new dialect is spoken. A short run now brings us to Amoy, the dialect of which, though somewhat resembling that of Swatow, is still very different in many respects. Our next stage is Foochow, which is in the same province as Amoy, but possesses a special dialect of its own. Then on to Wênchow, with another dialect, and so on to Ningpo with yet another, widely spoken also in Shanghai, though the latter place really has a patois of its own.

Farther north to Chefoo, and thence to Peking, we come at last into the range of the great dialect, popularly known as Mandarin, which sweeps round behind the narrow strip of coast occupied by the various dialects [8] above mentioned, and dominates a hinterland constituting about four-fifths of China proper. It is obvious, then, that for a person who settles in a coast district, the dialect of that district must be his chief care, while for the traveller and explorer Mandarin will probably stand him in best stead.

The dialect of Peking is now regarded as standard "Mandarin"; but previous to the year 1425 the capital was at Nanking, and the dialect of Nanking was the Mandarin then in vogue. Consequently, Pekingese is the language which all Chinese officials are now bound to speak.

Those who come from certain parts of the vast hinterland speak Mandarin almost as a mother tongue, while those from the seaboard and certain adjacent parts of the interior have nearly as much difficulty in acquiring it, and quite as much difficulty in speaking it with a correct accent, as the average foreigner.

The importance of Mandarin, the "official language" as the Chinese call it, is beyond question. It is the vehicle of oral communication between all Chinese officials, even in cases where they come from the same part of the [9] country and speak the same patois, between officials and their servants, between judge and prisoner. Thus, in every court of justice throughout the Empire the proceedings are carried on in Mandarin, although none of the parties to the case may understand a single word. The prosecutor, on his knees, tells his story in his native dialect. This story is rendered into Mandarin by an official interpreter for the benefit of the magistrate; the magistrate asks his questions or makes his remarks in Mandarin, and these are translated into the local dialect for the benefit of the litigants. Even if the magistrate knows the dialect himself,—as is often the case, although no magistrate may hold office in his own province,—still it is not strictly permissible for him to make use of the local dialect for magisterial purposes.

It may be added that in all large centres, such as Canton, Foochow, and Amoy, there will be found, among the well-to-do tradesmen and merchants, many who can make themselves intelligible in something which approximates to the dialect of Peking, not to mention that two out of the above three cities are garrisoned by [10] Manchu troops, who of course speak that dialect as their native tongue.

Such is Mandarin. It may be compared to a limited extent with Urdu, the camp language of India. It is obviously the form of colloquial which should be studied by all, except those who have special interests in special districts, in which case, of course, the patois of the locality comes to the front.

We will now suppose that the student has made up his mind to learn Mandarin. The most natural thing for him, then, to do will be to look around him for a grammar. He may have trouble in finding one. Such works do actually exist, and they have been, for the most part, to quote a familiar trade-mark, "made in Germany." They are certainly not made by the Chinese, who do not possess, and never have possessed, in their language, an equivalent term for grammar. The language is quite beyond reach of the application of such rules as have been successfully deduced from Latin and Greek.

The Chinese seem always to have spoken in monosyllables, and these monosyllables seem always to have been incapable of inflection, [11] agglutination, or change of any kind. They are in reality root-ideas, and are capable of adapting themselves to their surroundings, and of playing each one such varied parts as noun, verb (transitive, neuter, or even causal), adverb, and conjunction.

The word wo, which for convenience' sake I call "I," must be rendered into English by "me" whenever it is the object of some other word, which, also for convenience' sake, I call a verb. It has further such extended senses as "egoistic" and "subjective."

For example: 我爱他 wo ai t'a.

The first of these characters, which is really the root-idea of "self," stands here for the pronoun of the first person; the last, which is really the root-idea of "not self," "other," stands for the pronoun of the third person; and the middle character for the root-idea of "love."

This might mean in English, "I love him," or "I love her," or "I love it,"—for there is no gender in Chinese, any more than there is [12] any other indication of grammatical susceptibilities. We can only decide if "him," "her," or "it" is intended by the context, or by the circumstances of the case.

Now if we were to transpose what I must still call the pronouns, although they are not pronouns except when we make them so, we should have—

他爱我 t'a ai wo

"he, she, or it loves me," the only change which the Chinese words have undergone being one of position; while in English, in addition to the inflection of the pronouns, the "love" of the first person becomes "loves" in the third person.

Again, supposing we wished to write down—

"People love him (or her),"

we should have—

人爱他 jen ai t'a,

in which once more the noticeable feature is that the middle character, although passing from the singular to the plural number, suffers no change of any kind whatever.

[13] Further, the character for "man" is in the plural simply because such a rendering is the only one which the genius of the Chinese language will here tolerate, helped out by the fact that the word by itself does not mean "a man," but rather what we may call the root-idea of humanity.

Such terms as "a man," or "six men," or "some men," or "many men," would be expressed each in its own particular way.

"All men," for instance, would involve merely the duplication of the character jen:

人人爱他 jen jen ai t'a.

It is the same with tenses in Chinese. They are not brought out by inflection, but by the use of additional words.

lai is the root-idea of "coming," and lends itself as follows to the exigencies of conjugation:—

Standing alone, it is imperative:—

Lai! = "come!" "here!"

我来 wo lai = "I come, or am coming."


他来 t'a lai = "he comes, or is coming."

And by inserting pu, a root-idea of negation,—

他不来 t'a pu lai = "he comes not, or is not coming."

To express an interrogative, we say,—

他来不来 t'a lai pu lai = "he come no come?" i.e. "is he coming?"

submitting the two alternatives for the person addressed to choose from in reply.

The indefinite past tense is formed by adding the word liao or lo "finished":—

他来了 t'a lai lo = "he come finish," = "he has come."

This may be turned into the definite past tense by inserting some indication of time; e.g.

他早上来了 = "he came this morning."

Here we see that the same words may be indefinite or definite according to circumstances.

[15] It is perhaps more startling to find that the same words may be both active and passive.

Thus, tiu is the root-idea of "loss," "to lose," and puts it into the past tense.

Now 我丢了 means, and can only mean, "I have lost"—something understood, or to be expressed. Strike out and substitute "a book." No Chinaman would think that the new sentence meant "The book has lost"—something understood, or to be expressed, as for instance its cover; but he would grasp at once the real sense, "The book is or has been lost."

In the case of such, a phrase as "The book has lost" its cover, quite a different word would be used for "lost."

We have the same phenomenon in English. In the New York Times of February 13, I read, "Mr. So-and-so dined," meaning not that Mr. So-and-so took his dinner, but had been entertained at dinner by a party of friends,—a neuter verb transformed into a passive verb by the logic of circumstances.

[16] By a like process the word ssŭ "to die" may also mean "to make to die" = "to kill."

The word chin which stands for "gold" as a substantive may also stand, as in English, for an adjective, and for a verb, "to gold," i.e. to regard as gold, to value highly.

There is nothing in Chinese like love, loving, lovely, as noun substantive, verb, and adverb. The word, written or spoken, remains invariably, so far as its own economy is concerned, the same. Its function in a sentence is governed entirely by position and by the influence of other words upon it, coupled with the inexorable logic of attendant circumstances.

When a Chinaman comes up to you and says, "You wantchee my, no wantchee," he is doing no foolish thing, at any rate from his own point of view. To save himself the trouble of learning grammatical English, he is taking the language and divesting it of all troublesome inflections, until he has at his control a set of root-ideas, with which he can juggle as in his own tongue. In other words, "you wantchee my, no wantchee," is nothing more nor less than literally rendered Chinese:—


你要我不要 ni yao wo, pu yao = do you want me or not?

In this "pidgin" English he can express himself as in Chinese by merely changing the positions of the words:—

"He wantchee my." "My wantchee he."

"My belong Englishman."

"That knife belong my."

Some years back, when I was leaving China for England with young children, their faithful Chinese nurse kept on repeating to the little ones the following remarkable sentence, "My too muchey solly you go steamah; you no solly my."

All this is very absurd, no doubt; still it is bona fide Chinese, and illustrates very forcibly how an intelligible language may be constructed of root-ideas arranged in logical sequence.

If the last word had now been said in reference to colloquial, it would be as easy for us to learn to speak Chinese as it is for a Chinaman to learn to speak Pidgin-English. There is, however, a great obstacle still in the way of the student. The Chinese language is peculiarly lacking in vocables; that is to say, it possesses [18] very few sounds for the conveyance of speech. The dialect of Peking is restricted to four hundred and twenty, and as every word in the language must fall under one or other of those sounds, it follows that if there are 42,000 words in the language (and the standard dictionary contains 44,000), there is an average of 100 words to each sound. Of course, if any sound had less than 100 words attached to it, some other sound would have proportionately more. Thus, accepting the average, we should have 100 things or ideas, all expressed in speech, for instance, by the one single sound I.

The confusion likely to arise from such conditions needs not to be enlarged upon; it is at once obvious, and probably gave rise to the following sapient remark by a globe-trotting author, which I took from a newspaper in England:—

"In China, the letter I has one hundred and forty-five different ways of being pronounced, and each pronunciation has a different meaning."

It would be difficult to squeeze more misleading nonsense into a smaller compass. Imagine the agonies of a Chinese infant school, struggling [19] with the letter I pronounced in 145 different ways, with a different meaning to each! It will suffice to say, what everybody here present must know, that Chinese is not in any sense an alphabetic language, and that consequently there can be no such thing as "the letter I."

When closely examined, this great difficulty of many words with but one common sound melts rapidly away, until there is but a fairly small residuum with which the student has to contend. The same difficulty confronts us, to a slighter extent, even in English. If I say, "I met a bore in Broadway," I may mean one of several things. I may mean a tidal wave, which is at once put out of court by the logic of circumstances. Or I may mean a wild animal, which also has circumstances against it.

To return to Chinese. In the first place, although there are no doubt 42,000 separate written characters in the Chinese language, about one-tenth of that number, 4200, would more than suffice for the needs of an average speaker. Adopting this scale, we have 420 sounds and 4200 words, or ten words to each sound,—still a sufficient hindrance to anything like certain intelligibility of speech. But this [20] is not the whole case. The ten characters, for instance, under each sound, are distributed over four separate groups, formed by certain modulations of the voice, known as Tones, so that actually there would be only an average of 2-1/2 words liable to absolute confusion. Thus yen1 means "smoke"; yen2 means "salt"; yen3 means "an eye"; and yen4 means "a goose."

These modulations are not readily distinguished at first; but the ear is easily trained, and it soon becomes difficult to mistake them.

Nor is this all. The Chinese, although their language is monosyllabic, do not make an extensive use of monosyllables in speech to express a single thing or idea. They couple their words in pairs.

Thus, for "eye" they would say, not yen, which strictly means "hole," or "socket," but yen ching, the added word ching, which means "eyeball," tying down the term to the application required, namely, "eye."

In like manner it is not customary to talk about yen, "salt," as we do, but to restrict the term as required in each case by the addition of [21] some explanatory word; for instance, 白盐 "white salt," i.e. "table salt"; 黑盐 "black salt," i.e. "coarse salt"; all of which tends very much to prevent confusion with other words pronounced in the same tone.

There are also certain words used as suffixes, which help to separate terms which might otherwise be confused. Thus kuo3 means "to wrap," and kuo3 means "fruit," the two being identical in sound and tone. And yao kuo might mean either "I want fruit" or "I want to wrap." No one, however, says kuo for "fruit," but kuo tzŭ. The suffix tzŭ renders confusion impossible.

Of course there is no confusion in reading a book, where each thing or idea, although of the same sound and tone, is represented by a different symbol.

On the whole, it may be said that misconceptions in the colloquial are not altogether due to the fact that the Chinese language is poorly provided with sounds. Many persons, otherwise gifted, are quite unable to learn any foreign tongue.

[22] Let us now turn to the machinery by means of which the Chinese arrest the winged words of speech, and give to mere thought and utterance a more concrete and a more lasting form.

The written language has one advantage over the colloquial: it is uniformly the same all over China; and the same document is equally intelligible to natives of Peking and Canton, just as the Arabic and Roman numerals are understood all over Europe, although pronounced differently by various nations.

To this fact some have attributed the stability of the Chinese Empire and the permanence of her political and social institutions.

If we take the written language of to-day, which is to all intents and purposes the written language of twenty-five hundred years ago, we gaze at first on what seems to be a confused mass of separate signs, each sign being apparently a fortuitous concourse of dots and dashes. Gradually, however, the eye comes to perceive that every now and again there is to be found in one character a certain portion which has already been observed in another, and this may well have given rise to the idea that each character is built up of parts equivalent [23] to our letters of the alphabet. These portions are of two kinds, and must be considered under two separate heads.

Under the first head come a variety of words, which also occur as substantive characters, such as dog, vegetation, tree, disease, metal, words, fish, bird, man, woman. These are found to indicate the direction in which the sense of the whole character is to be sought.

Thus, whenever "dog" occurs in a character, the reader may prepare for the name of some animal, as for instance shih "lion," mao "cat," lang "wolf", ehu "pig."

Two of these are interesting words. (1) There are no lions in China; shih is merely an imitation of the Persian word shír. (2) Mao, the term for a "cat," is obviously an example of onomatopoeia.

The character will also indicate in many cases such attributes as hua "tricky," [24] hên, "aggressive," mêng "fierce," and other characteristics of animals.

Similarly, ts'ao "vegetation" will hint at some plant; e.g. ts'ao "grass," ho "the lily," chih "the plant of immortality."

mu "a tree" usually points toward some species of tree; e.g. sung "a fir tree," sang "a mulberry tree"; and by extension it points toward anything of wood, as pan "a board," cho "a table," i "a chair," and so on.

So "a fish" and niao "a bird" are found in all characters of ichthyological or ornithological types, respectively.

jen "a man" is found in a large number of characters dealing with humanity under varied aspects; e.g. ni "thou," [25] t'a "he," tso "to make," chang "a weapon," chieh "a hero," ju "a scholar," "a Confucianist"; while it has been pointed out that such words as chien "treacherous," mei "to flatter," and tu "jealousy," are all written with the indicator "woman" at the side.

The question now arises how these significant parts got into their present position. Have they always been there, and was the script artificially constructed off-hand, as is the case with Mongolian and Manchu? The answer to this question can hardly be presented in a few words, but involves the following considerations.

It seems to be quite certain that in very early times, when the possibility and advantage of committing thought to writing first suggested themselves to the Chinese mind, rude pictures of things formed the whole stock in trade. Such were [26]

Sun, moon, mountains, hand, child, wood, bending official, mouth, ox, and claws.

in many of which it is not difficult to trace the modern forms of to-day,

日 月 山 手 子 木 臣 口 牛 爪

It may here be noted that there was a tendency to curves so long as the characters were scratched on bamboo tablets with a metal stylus. With the invention of paper in the first century A.D., and the substitution of a hair-pencil for the stylus, verticals and horizontals came more into vogue.

The second step was the combination of two pictures to make a third; for instance, a mouth with something coming out of it is "the tongue," ; a mouth with something else coming out of it is "speech," "words," ; two trees put side by side make the picture of a "forest," .

The next step was to produce pictures of ideas. For instance, there already existed in [27] speech a word ming, meaning "bright." To express this, the Chinese placed in juxtaposition the two brightest things known to them. Thus the "sun" and the "moon" were combined to form ming "bright." There is as yet no suggestion of phonetic influence. The combined character has a sound quite different from that of either of its component parts, which are jih and yüeh respectively.

In like manner, "sun" and "tree," combined as , "the sun seen rising through trees," signified "the east"; "words" and "tongue" = "speech"; (old form ) "two hands" = "friendship"; "woman" and "child" = "good"; "woman" and "birth," "born of a woman" = "clan name," showing that the ancient Chinese traced through the mother and not through the father; streamers used in signalling a negative = "do not!"

[28] From "two trees," the picture of a forest, we come to "three trees," suggesting the idea of density of growth and darkness; "a child at the feet of an old man" = "filial piety"; "a spear" and "to kill," suggesting the defensive attitude of individuals in primeval times = "I, me"; "I, my," and "sheep," suggesting the obligation to respect another man's flocks = "duty toward one's neighbour"; "large" and "sheep" = "beautiful"; and , "virtuous," also has "sheep" as a component part,—why we do not very satisfactorily make out, except that of course the sheep would play an important rôle among early pastoral tribes. The idea conveyed by what we call the conjunction "and" is expressed in Chinese by an ideogram, viz. , which was originally the picture of a hand, [29] seizing what might be the tail of the coat of a man preceding, scilicet following.

The third and greatest step in the art of writing was reached when the Chinese, who had been trying to make one character do for several similar-sounding words of different meanings, suddenly bethought themselves of distinguishing these several similar-sounding words by adding to the original character employed some other character indicative of the special sense in which each was to be understood. Thus, in speech the sound ting meant "the sting of an insect," and was appropriately pictured by what is now written .

There were, however, other words also expressed by the sound ting, such as "a boil," "the top or tip," "to command," "a nail," "an ingot," and "to arrange." These would be distinguished in speech by the tones and suffixes, as already described; but in writing, if were used for all alike, confusion would of necessity arise. To remedy this, it occurred to some one in very early ages to make , and other similar pictures of things or ideas, serve as what we now call Phonetics, i.e. the [30] part which suggests the sound of the character, and to add in each case an indicator of the special sense intended to be conveyed. Thus, taking as the phonetic base, in order to express ting, "a boil," the indicator for "disease," , was added, making ; for ting, "the top," the indicator for "head," , was added, making ; for "to command," the symbol for "mouth," was added, making ; for "nail," and also for "ingot," the symbol for "metal," , was added, making ; and for "to arrange," the symbol for "speech," , was added, making . We thus obtain five new words, which, so far as the written language is concerned, are easily distinguishable one from another, namely, ting "a sting," disease-ting = "a boil," head-ting = "the top," mouth-ting = "to command," metal-ting = "a nail," speech-ting = "to arrange." In like manner, the words for "mouth," "to rap," and "a button," were all pronounced k'ou. Having got k'ou as the picture of a mouth, that was taken as the phonetic base, and to [31] express "to rap," the symbol for "hand," or , was added, making ; while to express "button," the symbol for "metal," was added, making . So that we have k'ou = "mouth," hand-k'ou = "to rap," and metal-k'ou = "button."

Let us take a picture of an idea. We have tung = the sun seen through the trees,—"the east." When the early Chinese wished to write down tung "to freeze," they simply took the already existing as the phonetic base, and added to it "an icicle," , thus . And when they wanted to write down tung "a beam," instead of "icicle," they put the obvious indicator "wood," thus .

We have now got the two portions into which the vast majority of Chinese characters can be easily resolved.

There is first the phonetic base, itself a character originally intended to represent some thing or idea, and then borrowed to [32] represent other things and ideas similarly pronounced; and secondly, the indicator, another character added to the phonetic base in order to distinguish between the various things and ideas for which the same phonetic base was used.

All characters, however, do not yield at once to the application of our rule. yao "to will, to want," is composed of 西 "west" and "woman." What has western woman to do with the sign of the future? In the days before writing, the Chinese called the waist of the body yao. By and by they wrote , a rude picture of man with his arms akimbo and his legs crossed, thus accentuating the narrower portion, the waist. Then, when it was necessary to write down yao, "to will," they simply borrowed the already existing word for "waist." In later times, when writing became more exact, they took the indicator "flesh," and added it wherever the idea of waist had to be conveyed. And thus it is [33] still written, while yao, "to will, to want," has usurped the character originally invented for "waist."

In some of their own identifications native Chinese scholars have often shown themselves hopelessly at sea. For instance, "the sky," figuratively God, was explained by the first Chinese lexicographer, whose work has come down to us from about one hundred years after the Christian era, as composed of "one" and "great," the "one great" thing; whereas it was simply, under its oldest form, , a rude anthropomorphic picture of the Deity.

Even the early Jesuit Fathers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, to whom we owe so much for pioneer work in the domain of Sinology, were not without occasional lapses of the kind, due no doubt to a laudable if excessive zeal. Finding the character , which is the common word for "a ship," as indicated by , the earlier picture-character for "boat" seen on the left-hand side, one ingenious Father proceeded to analyse it as follows:— [34]

"ship," "eight," "mouth" = eight mouths on a ship—"the Ark."

But the right-hand portion is merely the phonetic of the character; it was originally "lead," which gave the sound required; then the indicator "boat" was substituted for "metal."

So with the word "to prohibit." Because it could be analysed into two 木木 "trees" and "a divine proclamation," an allusion was discovered therein to the two trees and the proclamation of the Garden of Eden; whereas again the proper analysis is into indicator and phonetic.

Nor is such misplaced ingenuity confined to the Roman Catholic Church. In 1892 a Protestant missionary published and circulated broadcast what he said was "evidence in favour of the Gospels," being nothing less than a prophecy of Christ's coming hidden in the Chinese character "to come." He pointed out that this was composed of "a cross," with two 人人 'men,' one on each side, and a 'greater man' in the middle.

[35] That analysis is all very well for the character as it stands now; but before the Christian era this same character was written and was a picture, not of men and of a cross, but of a sheaf of corn. It came to mean "come," says the Chinese etymologist, "because corn comes from heaven."

Such is the written language of China, and such indeed it was, already under the dominion of the phonetic system, by which endless new combinations may still be formed, at the very earliest point to which history, as distinguished from legend, will carry us,—some eight or nine centuries B.C. There are no genuine remains of pure picture-writing, to enable us to judge how far the Chinese had got before the phonetic system was invented, though many attempts have been made to palm off gross forgeries as such.

The great majority of characters, as I have said, are capable of being easily resolved into the two important parts which I have attempted to describe—the original phonetic portion, which guides toward pronunciation, and the added indicator, which guides toward the sense.

[36] Even the practical student, who desires to learn to read and write Chinese for purely business purposes, will find himself constrained to follow out this analysis, if he wishes to commit to memory a serviceable number of characters. With no other hold upon them beyond their mere outlines, he will find the characters so bewildering, so elusive, as to present almost insuperable difficulties.

But under the influence of systematic study, coupled with a fair amount of perseverance, these difficulties disappear, and leave the triumphant student amply rewarded for his pains.


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