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Vol. II No. 2 January, igo8 

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It is natural that we should be especially interested in the 
history of our own intellectual ancestors, the people of Europe 
and Western Asia ; and, as far as we can trace the origins of our 
Western civilization back Eastward into the great mysterious 
continent of Asia, our scholars are following with eagerness. 
But Western scholarship has not greatly interested itself in the 
records of the ancient Eastern civilization that has grown up 
on the other slope of the continent in the valleys of the Yellow, 
Yangtzu and Pearl Rivers. Until comparatively recent times 
China has been so separated from the rest of the world by the 
almost impassable high lands and the oceans that it might almost 
have been upon another planet. Because of this isolation, lan- 
guage and thought have developed in forms so strange that the 
intellectual isolation has continued long after the difficulties of 
physical geography have been overcome. The strong incentive 
that we have to delve into the ancient history of the Western 
Asiatic countries is lacking in the case of China and Japan, for, 
however deeply we go, we do not uncover the origins of our 
own institutions and ideals, but those of a civilization foreign 
to our thought and experience. 

The independent development of language in the Chinese 
race creates great difficulty for the Western scholar. The mon- 
osyllabic structure puts a severe strain upon memories trained 
to the Indo-European polysyllabic forms, but the peculiarities 
of the Chinese writing make the greatest intellectual barrier 
between the East and the West. This is a barrier more formid- 
able than the high lands of Thibet. Instead of making their 
written symbols stand for the spoken sounds by means of con- 
sonants and vowels, the Chinese polished up the early picture 
and arbitrary sign writing into a medium fit for literary expres- 


100 Charles D. Tenney 

sion. But the literature so formed is strange to the mental taste 
of the Western scholar. It appeals to the eye rather than to the 
ear. It has had its convenience among the diverse tribes of East- 
ern Asia, for it can be used and appreciated by tribes and na- 
tions who are unable to communicate with one another by the 
spoken word. So we have the spectacle of Japanese, Coreans 
and Chinese using different spoken languages, but all uniting in 
the use of one written language. The literature which is built 
up on the character writing has very great beauty and force to 
one whose proficiency has made him able to appreciate it, but it 
is almost impossible to represent adequately the merits of Chi- 
nese literature through translation into a European language. 
The structure of the language is too different. 

The natural difficulties for the Western student of Chinese 
history and institutions have been needlessly increased since 
some interest began to be taken in the far East by the irritating 
perversity that has been shown by writers on Chinese geogra- 
phy, history and literature, in their manner of Romanizing the 
Chinese characters. If the official Chinese spoken language had 
been accepted by all translators as the standard, and if the 
sounds of that one dialect had been Romanized by the same sys- 
tem, so that the same letters might always stand for the same 
Chinese characters, the Western reader might soon become fa- 
miliar with the important Chinese proper names, and be able to 
recognize- them in the different works that are accessible to him. 
Unfortunately, up to the present time the writers on things Chi- 
nese have been so erratic or careless in this respect that they 
have seriously impeded the growth of knowledge of the Orient. 
It is with great difficulty that one familiar with the Chinese 
written and spoken languages can follow intelligently the aver- 
age writer, owing to the very uncertain and irregular methods 
of representing the geographical and biographical names ; while, 
to one who has not the advantage of previous knowledge of Chi- 
nese, the attempt to keep things straight often ends in complete 
failure. French and German writers generally use a system of 
their own, and English and American writers not only differ 
from the French and Germans, but differ among themselves in 
the most bewildering manner. The best service that could be 
rendered to the American student of Chinese history, if it were 
practicable, would be to revise and harmonize the books that 
have already been written, so that the reader might recognize 
the same names when referred to by different authors. The 
only hope that I see for an escape from the present confusion is 

Chinese History 101 

in the formal adoption by the Chinese Government of a stand- 
ard and authorized system of Romanization for the Chinese 
characters. Until this is done, all writers ought to use the sys- 
tem employed by Giles in his Dictionary of the Mandarin Dia- 
lect, which is recognized now as the standard English-Chinese 

The time has now come when scholars who make any pre- 
tensions to broad learning must take seriously the study of Ori- 
ental affairs, and especially the history and literature of that 
great empire that has dominated the far East for ages. It may 
be that a more thorough study of Chinese antiquities than has 
yet been pursued may reveal more connection between East and 
West in ancient times than has yet been proven. But, however 
that may be, the world is now entering upon a new era, and in 
future the Eastern Hemisphere is not to be left out of our world 
politics. The trade that began in the eighteenth and early nine- 
teenth centuries was the beginning of political and social rela- 
tions, but it was a small beginning, and had little in common 
with what may be expected in the twentieth century. In the 
early days of trading with China, the foreign merchant lived on 
the outskirts of the great mysterious empire, and was satisfied 
to accumulate the fortune that would allow him to retire and 
forget the East, while the Chinese dealt with the outside for- 
eigner through middlemen and pursued their own way, uninflu- 
enced by the foreign science, customs and ideals. The greatest 
event of our generation, and that which will have the most far- 
reaching consequences, is the deliberate and formal adoption of 
the modern Western education, science and political ideas by 
the Asiatics. One-fourth of the human race, and that not the 
least intelligent and capable, has held aloof from the activity 
and competition of modern life through its conservative adher- 
ence to the ancient system of classical education; but now, by 
the establishment of schools of science, and by going abroad for 
study, these once conservative scholars are striving with fever- 
ish earnestness to assimilate the new learning that has trans- 
formed the West. Our domestic political questions look large 
to us because of their nearness, but if we could view the planet 
from a little distance off, the present political and social move- 
ments of the far East would dwarf all other current events as 
the Himalayas dwarf the New England hills. In olden times 
when swords and spears, backed by brawn and muscle, deter- 
mined the fate of battles, the hordes of Central and Eastern 
Asia made Europe tremble several times. Now that the great 

102 Charles D. Tenney 

Yellow Race has elected to appropriate the science of the West, 
and to conform largely to the industrial, social and political 
methods of the West, the consequences must be far-reaching. 
We do not need to leap hastily to the conclusion that a Yellow 
Peril hangs over us, but we do need to study carefully the his- 
tory, character and capabilities of this race that is suddenly 
forcing its way into the family of modern nations. 

I can offer but a few observations in the time allotted to me 
to-day. The Chinese race has naturally a very high intellectual 
endowment. History shows this in the very early evolution of 
the Chinese from barbarism into civilization. It is a common 
idea among Western scholars that the Chinese showed early a 
fatal mental limitation in developing up to a certain point and 
sticking there. That may be a hasty or shallow conclusion. 
Progress or stagnation in race development is due always to 
complex causes, often quite outside the question of the natural 
ability of the individuals composing the race. Precocity m men- 
tal development may act as a handicap to after generations, and 
I think it has done so in the case of the Chinese. Abstract 
thought came so early among them that the machinery of re- 
cording thought bad not been worked into a convenient form 
before it was seized upon and used for the expression of a liter- 
ature so valuable that it held the written symbols to their rude 
forms and so arrested the natural development of written lan- 
guage. Looking at the matter from this standpoint, pictorial 
and sign writing was discarded in the West because, during the 
time when it was in vogue, there were no minds intelligent 
enough to use it in such a way as to cause any difficulty about 
displacing it by the more convenient phonetic writing, when 
that had been invented by the ingenuity of the trading class. 
In the far East, on the contrary, a noble and extensive literature 
made the character writing sacred, and so prevented change. 
The literary style of the character writing is so distinctive that 
no phonetic writing can ever adequately' represent it. So the 
arrested development of language in China is not due to the 
stupidity of the people, but to the too early production of pro- 
found thinkers and elegant writers. These early thinkers of the 
Chinese race held up high ethical ideals. In fact, study in the 
line of ethics seems to have been, in their judgment, all that was 
worthy the attention of the scholar. As the Chinese primer 
puts it, "Jen pu hsueh, pu chih i." "If a man does not study he 
does not know his duty." The fact that literature and scholar- 
ship have been occupied too exclusively with ethics has no doubt 

Chinese History 103 

decreased the practical biting force of moral precepts in China, 
as has been the case in other nations when religion has domin- 
ated thought and literature to the exclusion of healthy mental 
exercise in other lines; but the high ideals of the Chinese have 
by no means completely lost their force, either upon individuals 
or upon collective national action. These ideals are the saving 
force of Chinese society. The more one comes to understand 
the people, the more he realizes this. The overpowering influ- 
ence of the early writers has, up to recent times, succeeded in 
diverting the whole mentality of the nation into the realm of 
literature and abstract thought, and so has kept the mental en- 
ergy of the race out of the channels of the material science 
which we have cultivated for a few generations only, but with 
such startling results to the conditions of living. It is interest- 
ing to observe throughout the whole course of Chinese history 
how the agnosticism of Confucian scholarship has operated to 
check the growth of superstition. Physical science is gradually 
freeing the Western world from the terrible bondage of super- 
stition. The saneness of Confucius and the other ancient philos- 
ophers of China has served to safeguard the nation to a great 
extent throughout the long period that has preceded the epoch 
of material science. The fog of superstition is always rising in 
China as elsewhere, but the sun of clear thinking in the Chinese 
classics has always tended to scatter the paralyzing fog. A 
comparison of China and India shows this clearly enough. In 
the advantage of emancipation from superstition the scholar 
class of China will bear favorable comparison with the same 
class of any country or race which has not yet come into the 
heritage of the modern experimental science. 

Chinese scholars have now at last definitely and finally de- 
cided to add the study of modern science to their curriculum, 
as Japan has already done. This means that in the near future 
the whole vast Mongolian race is destined to enter into all the 
activity and competition of modern life, whether it be intellec- 
tual, economic or military. There is, therefore, the most urgent 
need that we study earnestly and systematically the history, 
social conditions, and mental and moral qualities of these people 
who are coming forward as the great new factor in" world poli- 
tics. Blind conceit has brought much sorrow and misfortune 
to the Chinese in the past. When Europe first knocked at the 
door, the ancient civilization of China would not stoop to study 
carefully the antecedents and capabilities of the Western stran- 
gers. Loss and humiliation were the consequences. The West 

104 Charles D. Tenney 

now needs to be warned against the same fatal mistake. If we 
persist in treating the black-haired race east of the Himalayas 
as a joke, applying miscroscopic care to the history of one of 
our own villages while we grudge the time required to learn 
even the general outlines of Chinese and Japanese history, we 
shall have our day of reckoning. 

When Western scholars do once turn their attention to the 
far East, they will be surprised to learn how much there is of 
real intellectual interest in the study of the working out among 
the Asiatics of the social and moral problems that are common 
to the human race. Temperance legislation, old age pensions, 
trade unionism and many other of our most modern problems 
you will find have been discussed ages before they were ever 
thought of on this side of the planet. 

Twentieth century conditions call for a remodelling of our 
curriculum of study and the addition of the far Eastern history 
and institutions to the list. Only in this way can educators take 
the necessary lead in preparing our race for the readjustments 
that are before us in our international relationships.