ART. VII.-MONUMÈNT DE YU, ou la plus ancienne Inscription de

la Chine; suivie de trente-deux Formes d'anciens Caractères CHINOIS, avec quelques Remarques sur cette Inscription et sur ces Caractères, par Joseph HAGER. A Paris, chez Treuttel et Würtz, Libraires. De lImprimerie de Pierre Didot l'Ainé,

au Louvre. An X. 1802. The Monument of Yu, or most ancient Inscription of China ; to

which are annexed thirty-two Forms of ancient Chinese Characters, with Remarks on the Inscription and them, by Joseph Hager, &C. Folio. il. 185. Boards. Imported by Payne and Mackinlay.

DR.Hager, in his introduction to the Elementary Characters of the Chinese*, printed last year in London, having inserted, as both pertinent to his subject, and also as a singular curiosity, this inscription, which had never been published in Europe, nor even been seen by M. Cibot, was anxious to ascertain how far the authenticity of the work printed at Japan might be relied on, respecting the characters in question. No sooner, however, had he arrived at Paris, and betaken himself to his destined appointment, than he was agreeably surprised by a manuscript of the late Father Amiot. This manuscript he found to contain not only the same inscription largely and beautifully penciled in China, but, what was still more interesting, these identical characters, impossible for any European to decipher, translated by Chinese antiquaries into others of modern use, and explained by Amiot himself in the French language.

As this monument of Asiatic palæography may, from its antiquity, vie with the Amyclæan, Sigæan, or Eugubine inscriptions; those on the caverns of India, the obelisks of Egypt, or the bricks of Babylon; Dr. Hager conceived he should gratify the public by communicating an accurate representation both of it, and the inscription, painted on cloth, from the original at Si-ganfou, by a native of the country, and sent to be preserved among the manuscripts of France. To these, the ancient characters ascribed to Yu, and sculptured on stones deposited in the Imperial College at Pekin, are annexed for the purpose of comparison. These characters have been taken from a collec tion of Chinese writings, used in the different ages of the monarchy, and still kept in the same college, a beautiful copy of which is in the national library of France. In addition to these, are subjoined thirty-two forms of other ancient characters; from tombs, marbles, seals, coins, tablets of bamboo, stone drums, metal vases, clocks, and other ancient works of China, published at Pekin by the order of the emperor Kien-long. These thirty forms are found in a work of extreme scarcity in

* See Crit, Rev. New Arr, vol. 31, p. 361.

ns; those on th the Amyclæan. Palæography made

China itself, the only copy of which, that hath crossed the seas, belongs also to the national library

The frontispiece to this volume exhibits nine ancient Chinese vases, which the editor found in the Han, or sixth cover of the San-tsaï-tou, an encyclopædic work of the Chinese. By Yu, the author of this monument, these nine vessels were cast in metal, upon which he caused to be engraved a several description of the nine provinces which constituted the Chinese empire. The nine circlets on the back of the tortoise placed above the vases have been ever regarded as a sacred number from the time the mysterious tortoise appeared to Yu. On a second frontispiece are engraven, in various attitudes, dragons, the well-known ato tributes of the emperors of China, as the eagle is of the German empire, or the lion of England. These dragons have five claws on each foot, to distinguish them from the Japanese, which have but three. At the top is an upright oval, to which two of these dragons are supporters, inscribed with the characters You-tchi, which signify by order of the emperor, and are prefixed to all works published by his authority. The other characters in both frontispieces are ancient, and of the same import as the modern characters on the half titles; viz. those on the first signifying the Monument of Yu; and, on the second, Ancient Characters. .

The history of the monument is as follows. In the 61st year of the reign of Yao, there happened so great and general a deluge in the empire of China, that the Yellow River, surmounting its banks, was confounded with the waters of two others, and, overwhelming the plains, became, as it were, a vast sea; insomuch that the hills were covered; it surpassed the mountains; and appeared to extend to the clouds. The evils which this deluge occasioned exceeded the powers of description; the chief necessaries of life, were wanted, the people were reduced to misery, and the sovereign was overcome by dejection.

Nine years had thus passed in calamity, when Yu was selected to rescue the nation from its suffering. Though young, he soon displayed his extraordinary talents, which the annals of this vast empire are ample in describing. They represent Tu as an excellent geometer and mathematician, a distinguished naturalist, geographer, and financier ; eminent beyond all others in por litical science, and possessed of genius unrivaled.

Uniting valour and perseverance to prudence and wisdom, ru contented not himself with restoring quiet and plenty within, but established order without, chastised the Yao-miao, engaged the San-miao to a voluntary submission, reduced the country of Lo-koue to obedience, and received as tributaries the people of Chou-chen.

In rendering such services to the empire, Tu not only merited the title of great, but opened for himself a way to the throne.

From this brief statement of his history, the inscription of Yu is entitled to particular notice. În China, the literati regard it as the most ancient in their country, whether it were contemporary with 7°24 (that is, of above four thousand years' standing), or erected to his memory by one of his successors.' It was engraven on a rock of Heng-chan, one of those celes brated mountains on which the emperors of China offer an annual sacrifice to the Supreme,

It was carried thence to Singan-fou, the capital of the province of Chen-si, a city in which the most ancient monuments of China are preserved, and, among them, that Chinese-Syriac inscription, which has excited so much curiosity in Europe, and was translated by Visdelon in his Supplement to D'Herbelot.

The monument of Yu, when removed to Si-gan-fou, was placed at the head of the rest, and (as the Chinese inscription, engraven under it when there erected, announces) was so placed for the express purposes of preventing these ancient characters from being falsified; to afford the learned an opportunity to examine it without being obliged to undertake a troublesome journey to Heng-chan; and also that Si-gan-fou, the ancient capital of China, which contained so many other monuments of antiquity, should not be without the most ancient of all.

As to the forms of the characters themselves, they are both extraordinary and antique ; for they bear no resemblance to any other Chinese characters hitherto known; have nothing in common with the trigrams of Fohi, published by the missionaries of Pekin, and in several other works ;-nor with the characters styled Koul-ven, some of which are engraven in the Philosophi'cal Transactions, as communicated from China by the missionary Amiot, and of which the library at Paris contains the collection ;-they have no affinity to the characters denominated Tchoreni-tru, thirty-two different sorts of which are given in this volume, and which are contained, with all their variations, in the dictionaries entitled Tchorien-tsu-luy, Tching-tsu-tong, &c. Still 'less are they like the modern characters which constitute the 214 elements, or keys, not one of which is seen in the inscription of Heng-chan.

What appears, however, more remarkable, is this, that, though the monuments sculptured in stone at the Imperial College of Pekin exhibit the different modes of writing from the time of Tsang-hié, to whom the invention of characters is ascribed, and, among these, the characters used in the time of Hia-Yu*, neither those of Tsang-hié “nor of Yu (not to mention any of their successors) have the slightest congruity with those of this

[ocr errors]

* Yu is styled Hia-Yu, to denote his being the founder of the imperial family of Hia.

Crit. Rev. Vol. 35. July, 1802.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

inscription. In proof of this assertion, Dr. Hager has given two curious specimens of these characters, and infers, from their obvious dissimilitude to those of the inscription, some ground of suspicion as to the accuracy of the Chinese antiquaries in interpreting its meaning ; for how, it may be asked, could they decipher groups so different from all else hitherto known, or which present resemblances as vague and arbitrary as the wild * etymologies of Vargas and Count de Gebelin ?

It is indeed true, that, on the mountains of eastern sacrifice (Tai-chan ) in the province of Chan-tung, seventy-two inscriptions, graved on as many tables of marble, and all in different characters, are to this day visible; for there was a time when

seventy-two sorts of characters were in use; but there is no one . now who can read, and much less understand them; and, while

one missionary sends to Europe the inscription of Yu, another affirms it to be no longer legible. As, however, the antiquaries of China pretend otherwise, and Amiot has translated their interpretation, we will here submit it to the reader.

• TRADUCTION FRANÇOISE. L'EMPEREUR m'intima ses ordres ; la joie me prêta des ailes pour voler à leur exécution.

• De tous ceux qui, sans cesse à ses côtés, l'aidoient à soutenir le poids des affaires, je fus le seul sur lequel il se reposa entièrement du soin de rendre les grandes et les petites isles aussi propres à servir de demeure aux oiseaux et aux quadrupèdes que pouvcic.it l'être les lieux plus élevés ; je n'ai pas frustré son attente.

. J'ai travaillé en personne à faire écouler les eaux ; moi-même j'en ai imaginé les moyens, moi-même je les ai mis en æuvre. . • Pendant long-temps j'ai oublié que j'avois une maison, ne prenant repos que sur les montagnes, au milieu des rochers escarpés, ou dans les lieux exposés aux injures de l'air. ...

• Les soucis continuels dont j'ai été agité m'ont rendu méconnoissable. Uniquement occupé de mon travail, je ne comptois ni les heures ni même les jours; mais avançant tojours mon ouvrage, je l'ai enfin heureusement terminé.

"Les montagnes Hoa, Yo, Tay, Hang, ont été les différents termes de mes travaux vers les quatre parties du monde. La gloire d'avoir pu pénétrer par-tout est la recompense de mes peines, et les sacrifices que j'ai offerts en actions de graces avec un cæur sincère et droit sont des témoignagés de ma reconnoisance.

S'il me reste quelque sujet de tristesse, je le renferme au-dedans de' moi-même : pourquoi le produirois-je au-dehors ? Ces conduits, qui, dirigés inconsidérément vers le sud, n'avoient servi qu'à étendre l'inondation et rendre les eaux croupissantes, ont été remplacés par d'autres qui en ont facilité l'écoulement.

La vertu toujours agissante du ciel va désormais répandre son efficacité sur tout; on aura de quoi se vêtir; rien ne manquera pour la subsistance; la douce tranquillité régnera dans l'univers; les danses et les illuminations vont avoir lieu pour toujours.'

· The thirty-two different kinds of characters which follow the inscription here given are the same as those of the Eloge de la Ville de Moukden, published at Paris by M. De Guignes from the copy printed at Pekin. Excepting a few of the sorts given by Kircher, and some in Dr. Hager's analysis, these characters are new to Europe. Many, however, of those there inserted from the

Japanese Encyclopædia, are wanting; which shows with what uncertainty these characters have been transmitted. The doctor observes that those first in order, which begin in the Chinese manner (You-tchou-tchouen) are not the most ancient; at least there is no proof that they are, though they are placed first in the emperor's poem, and the canonical books are printed in them. The origin of the Chinese characters is lost in the obscurity of time. The most general opinion of the Chinese is, that Tsang-hié, minister of Hoang-ti, was the inventor of them; and, according to this notion, the characters which imitate birds' feet are the most ancient. However, the author of the Essay on the Chinese Characters has shown that this opinion is but ill founded; and a man of letters from China, speaking of Tsanghié, affirms that this history, or rather fable, of the traces of birds' feet, is fit only to amuse children.

As to the execution of this work, splendid as was the doctor's English publication, it by no means surpasses the present. Indeed the forms and impressions of the large characters, and black-grounded plates are altogether unrivaled. În plate III, Nos. 74 and 75, Dr. Hager remarks, have not received from the engraver the precise forms of the original; but, taking the work at large, it certainly stands above all competition.

Having recently received from Dr. Hager a letter on some observations that concerned him in our review of Dr. Mon. tucci, we think it but justice to insert his defence.

I have found from the Chinese tonic dictionary which the national library possesses, an incontrovertible proof of the ignorance and rashness of M. Montucci, in saying that fu has no fifth tone. I can quote to you the Chinese work itself; it is : called Fing-tsu-tsien, and you will find it in Fourmont's Catalogue, No. 10. Any one acquainted with this dictionary, which was printed in China, by referring to the syllables ending in lb, will find fu in the fifth tone, as well as in others.

"You did me wrong in correcting me as to tsu instead of tsee. Pray read what I have said in my introduction, p. liii. You will there find that Meng-tsee, the name of the disciple of Confucius, is also expressed by Meng-tsu; Su-ki, or Se-ki, or Xe-ki, the ancient annals of China, &c. &c. Fourmont himself writes always su, or tsu, where Amiot writes see, or tsee; and the Dictionary of the Propaganda agrees with Fourmont.

"I may say the same in respect to the number of the Chinese monosyllables. The different pronunciation increases or lessens

[ocr errors]
« ElőzőTovább »