The Texts of Confucianism
Part I: The Shu King the Religious Portion of the Shih King The Hsiao King
While submitting here some prefatory observations on the version of the Shri King presented in this volume I think it well to prefix also a brief account of what are regarded as the sacred books of the religions of China. Those religions are three Confucianism, Taism and Buddhism.
I begin with a few words about the last. To translate any of its books does not belong to my province and more than a few words from me are unnecessary. It has been said that Buddhism was introduced into China in the third century B.C. but it certainly did not obtain an authoritative recognition in the empire till the third quarter of our first century. Its texts were translated into Chinese one portion after another as they were gradually obtained from India but it was not till very long after words that the Chinese possessed in their own language a complete copy of the Buddhist canon. Translations from the Sanskrit constitute the Principal part of the Buddhistic literature of china though there are also many original works in Chinese belonging to it.
II. Confucianism is the religion of China par excellence, and is named from the great sage who lived in the fifth and sixth centuries B.C. Confucius indeed did not originate the system, nor was he the first to inculcate its principles or enjoin its forms of worship. He said of himself (Analects, VII, i) that he was a transmitter and not a maker, one who believed in and loved the ancients; and hence it is said in the thirtieth chapter of the Doctrine of the Mean, ascribed to his grandson, that ‘he handed down the doctrines of Yâo and Shun, as if they had been his ancestors, and elegantly displayed the regulations of Wan and Wan, taking them as his models.’
In fulfilling what he considered to be his mission, Confucius did little towards committing to writing the views of antiquity according to his own conception of them. He discoursed about them freely with the disciples. of his school, from whom we have received a good deal of what he said; and it is possible that his accounts of the ancient views and practices took, unconsciously to himself, some colour from the peculiar character of his mind. But his favorite method was to direct the attention of his disciples to the ancient literature of the nation. He would neither affirm nor relate anything for which he could not adduce some document of acknowledged authority. He said on one occasion (Analects, III, ix) that he could describe the ceremonies of the dynasties of Hsiâ (B.C. 2205—1767) and Yin (B. C. 1766—1123), but did not do so, because the records and scholars in the two states of Káu, that had been assigned to the descendants of their sovereigns, could not sufficiently attest his words. It is an error even to suppose that he compiled the historical documents, poems, and other ancient books from various works existing in his time. Portions of the oldest works had already perished. His study of those that remained, and his exhortations to his disciples also to study them, contributed to their preservation. What he wrote or said about their meaning should be received by us with reverence; but if all the works which he handled had come down to us entire, we should have been, so far as it is possible for foreigners to be, in the same position as he was for learning the ancient religion of his country. Out text-books would be the same as his. Unfortunately most of the ancient books suffered loss and injury after Confucius had passed from the stage of life. We have reason, however, to be thankful that we possess so many and so much of them. No other literature, comparable to them for antiquity, has cçme down to us in such a state of preservation.
But the reader must bear in mind that the ancient books of China do not profess to have been inspired, or to contain what we should call a Revelation. Historians, poets, and others wrote them as they were moved in their own minds. An old poem may occasionally contain what it says was spoken by God, but we can only understand that language as calling attention emphatically to the statements to which it is prefixed. We also read of Heaven’s raising up the great ancient sovereigns and teachers, and variously assisting them to accomplish their undertakings; but all this need not be more than what a religious man of any country might affirm at the present day of direction, help, and guidance given to himself and others from above. But while the old Chinese books do not profess to contain any divine revelation, the references in them to religious views and practices are numerous and it is from these that the student has to fashion for himself an outline of the early religion of the people. I will now state what the books are.
First, and of greatest importance, there is the Book of Historical Documents, called the Shü and, since the period of the Han dynasty (began B.C. 202), the Shu King. Its documents commence with the reign of Yao in the twenty-fourth century B. C., and come down to that of king Hsiang of the Kau dynasty, B.C. 651—619. The earliest chapters were not contemporaneous with the events which they describe, but the others begin to be so in the twenty- second century B. C. The reader will find a translation of the whole of this work without abridgment.
Part II: The Yi king
I wrote out a translation of the Yi King embracing both the text and the appendixes in 1854 and 1855 and have to acknowledge that when the manuscript was competed I knew very little about the scope and method of the book. I laid the volume containing the result of my labor aside and hoped believed indeed that the light would by and by dawn and that I should one day get hold of a clue that would guide me to a knowledge of the mysterious classic.
Before that day came the translation was soaked in 1870 for more than a month in water of the Red Sea. By dint of careful manipulation it was recovered as to be still legible but it was not till 1874 that I began to be able to give to the book the prolonged attention necessary to make it reveal its secrets. Then for the first time it got hold has I believe of the clue and found that my toil of twenty years before was of no service at all.
What had tended more than anything else to hid the nature of the book from any earlier studies was the way in which with the text ordinarily and as I think correctly ascribed to king wan and his son tan there are interspersed under each hexagram the portions of the appendixes I, II and IV relating to it. The student at first thinks this an advantage. Confucius and combine with the text of form one harmonious work and he is glad to have the sentiments of the three sages brought together. But I now perceived that the composition of the text and of the appendixes allowing the Confucian authorship of the latter was separated by about 700 years and that their subject matter was often incongruous. My first step towards a right understanding of the Yi was to study the text by itself and as complete in itself. It was easy to do this because the imperial edition of 1715,with all its critical apparatus, keeps the Text and the Appendixes separate.
The wisdom of the course thus adopted became more apparent by the formation of eight different concordances, one for the Text, and one for each of the Appendixes. They showed that many characters in the Appendixes, and those especially which most readily occur to sinologists as characteristic of the vi, are not to be found in the Text at all. A fuller acquaintance, moreover, with the tone and style of the Appendixes satisfied me that while we had sufficient evidence that the greater part of them was not from Confucius, we had no evidence that any part was his, unless it might be the paragraphs introduced by the compiler or compilers as sayings of ‘the Master.’
Studying the Text in the manner thus described, I soon arrived at the view of the meaning and object of the Vi, which I have described in the second chapter of the Introduction; and I was delighted to find that there was a substantial agreement between my interpretations of the hexagrams and their several lines and those given by the most noted commentators from the Han dynasty down to the present. They have not formulated the scheme so concisely as I have done, and they were fettered by their belief in the Confucian authorship of the Appendixes; but they held the same general opinion, and were similarly controlled by it in construing the Text. Any sinologist ‘yuo will examine the yu Kih Zàh Kiang Vi King prepared by one of the departments of the han Lin college, and published in 1682, and which I have called the ‘Daily Lessons,’ or ‘Lectures,’ will see the agreement between my views and those underlying its paraphrase.
After the clue to the meaning of the Vi was discovered, there remained the difficulty of translating. The peculiarity of its style makes it the most difficult of all the Confucian classics to present in an intelligible version. I suppose that there are sinologists who will continue, for a time at least, to maintain that it was intended by its author or authors whoever they were merely as a book of divination and of course and oracles of divination were designedly wrapped up in mysterious phraseology. But notwithstanding the account of the origin of the book and its composition by king wan and his son which I have seen reason to adopt they its authors had to write after the manner of diviners. There is hardly another work in the ancient literature of China that presents the same difficulties to the translator.
Part IV: The Li Ki , I-X
I may be permitted to express my satisfaction that with the two volume of the Li Ki now published I have done so far as translation is concerned all and more that all which I undertook to do on the Chinese classics more than twenty five years ago. When the first volume was published in 1861 my friend the late Stanislas Julien wrote to me asking if I had duly considered the voluminousness of the Li Ki and expressing his doubts whether I should be able to complete my undertaking. Having begun the task however I have pursued it to the end working on with some unavoidable interruptions and amidest not a few other engagements.
The presents is the first translation that has been published in any European language of the whole of the Li ki. In 1853 the late J.M. Callery published at the Imprimerie Royale Turin, what he called Li Kio u memorial des rites traduit pour la premiere fous du chiois et accompagne de notes de commentaries et du texte original but in fact the text which P. Callery adopted was only an expurgated edition published by Fan bze-tang a scholar of the yuan dynasty as commented on and annotated by Kau Kih who well known work appeared in 1711 the 50th year of the Khang-shi reign or period Callery has himself called attention to this in his introduction and it is to be regretted that he did not indicate it in the title page of his book. Fan’s text omits entirely the 5th 12th 13th, 19th, 28th, 31th, 32nd ,33rd, 34th, 35th 37th and 39th books in my translation while of most of the others a good third has been expurgated. I do not think that callery’s version contains above one half of the Li Ki as it is found in the great editions of the thang and present dynasties. The latter of these was commanded in an imperial rescript in 1748 the 13th year of the Khien lung period. The committed charged with its execution consisted of 85 dignitaries and scholars who used the previous labors of 244 authors besides adding on may of the most difficult passages their own remarks and decisions which are generally very valuable.
My own version is based on a study of these two imperial collections and on an extensive compilation made specially for my use by my Chinese friend and former helper the graduate wang Thao gathered mostly from more recent writers of the 250 years. The Khien lung editors make frequent reference to the work of khan hao which appeared in 1322 under the modest title of A collection of remarks on the Li Ki this acquired so great a celebrity under the Ming dynasty that as callery tells us an edict was issued in 1403 appointing it the standard for the interpretation of the classic at the public examinations and this pre-eminence was accorded to it on to the Khien lung period. The whole of the Li ki is given and expounded by Khan excepting the 28th and 39th books I may say that I have read over and over and with much benefit every sentence in his comments.
The Tao Teh King the writing of Kwang-3zeBooks I-XVII
In the preface to the third volume of these sacred books of the east (1879) I stated that I proposed giving in due course in order to exhibit the system of Taoism translationa of the Tao Teh King by Lao-3ze the writings of kwang 3ze (between the middle of the fourth and third centuries B.C) and the treatise of actions and their retributions and perhaps also of one or more of the other characteristic productions of the system.
The two volume now submitted to the reader are a fulfillment of the promise made so long ago. They contain version of the three works which were specified and in addition ‘A’ appendixes four other shorter treatise of Taoism analyses of several of the books of kwang 3ze by lin his kung a list of the stories which form so important part of those books two essays by two of the greatest scholars of China written the one in A.D. 586 and illustrating the Taoistic beliefs of that age and the other in A.D. 1678 and dealing with the four books of Kwang-3ze whose genuineness is frequently called in question. The concluding index is confined very much to proper names. For subjects the reader is referred to the tables of contents the introduction to the books of kwang-3ze and the introductory notes to the various appendixes.
the treatise of actions and their retributions exhibits to us the Taoism of the eleventh century in its moral or ethical aspects in the two earlier works we see it rather as a philosophical speculation than as a religion in the ordinary sense of that term. It was not till after the introduction of Buddhism into China in our first century that Taoism began to organize itself as a religion having the monasteries and mummeries its images and rituals. While it did so it maintained the superstitions peculiar to itself some like the cultivation of the Tao as a rule of life favorable to longevity come down from the earliest times and other which grew up during the decay of the Kau dynasty and subsequently blossomed now in mystical speculation now in the pursuits of alchemy now in the search for the pills of immortality and the Elixir vitae now in Astrological fancies now in visions of spirits and magical arts to control them and finally in the terrors of its purgatory and everlasting hell. Its phases have been continually changing and at present it attracts our notice more a degraded adjunct of Buddhism than as a development of the speculations of Lao-3ze and Kwang 3ze. Up to its contact system which while admitting the existence and rule of the system which while admitting the existence and rule of the supreme being bases its teaching on the study of man’s nature and the enforcement of the deities bin ding on all men from the moral and social principles of their constitution.
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