Charlotte Mason Homeschool Series - Ambleside Online
The chief phases in the development of the Byzantine epigram aremost evident in the works of these three. Agathias, who has alreadybeen mentioned among the historians, as an epigrammatist, has thepeculiarities of the school of the semi-Byzantine Egyptian (about AD 400). He wrotein an affected and turgid style, in the classical form of the ; he abounds,however, in brilliant ideas, and in his skillful imitation of theancients, particularly in his erotic pieces, he surpasses most ofthe epigrammatists of the imperial period. Agathias also prepared acollection of epigrams, partly his own and partly by other writers,some of which afterwards passed into the and have thus beenpreserved. The abbot Theodorus Studites is in every respect theopposite of Agathias, a pious man of deep earnestness, with a finepower of observation in nature and life, full of sentiment, warmth,and simplicity of expression, free from servile imitation of theancients, though influenced by Nonnus. While touching on the mostvaried things and situations, his epigrams on the life andpersonnel of his monastery offer special interest for the historyof civilization. Joannes Geometres combines aspects of the previoustwo. During the course of his life he filled both secular andecclesiastical offices and his poetry had a universal character; ofa deeply religious temper, still he appreciated the greatness ofthe ancient Greeks. Alongside epigrams on ancient poets,philosophers, rhetoricians, and historians stand others on famousChurch Fathers, poets, and saints. Poetically, the epigrams oncontemporary and secular topics are superior to those on religiousand classic subjects. His best works depict historical events andsituations he himself experienced, and reflect his own spiritualmoods (Krumbacher).
HISTORY OF LITERATURE including ..
The Historical Record begins with the so-called Yellow Emperor, who is said to have come to the throne 2698 B.C. and to have reigned a hundred years. Four other emperors are given, as belonging to this period, among whom we find Yao and Shun, already mentioned. It was Chinas Golden Age, when rulers and ruled were virtuous alike, and all was peace and prosperity. It is discreetly handled in a few pages by Ssii-ma Chien, who passes on to the somewhat firmer but still doubtful ground of the early dynasties. Not, however, until the Chou dynasty, 1122255 B.C., had held sway for some three hundred years can we be said to have reached a point at which history begins to separate itself definitely from legend. In fact, it is only from the 8th century before Christ that any trustworthy record can be safely dated. With the 3rd century before Christ, we are introduced to one of the feudal princes whose military genius enabled him to destroy beyond hope of revival the feudal system which had endured for eight hundred years, and to make himself master of the whole of the China of those days. In 221 B.C. he proclaimed himself the First B ~ji~ Emperor, a title by which he has ever since been known. jUze g Everything, including literature, was to begin with his Books, reign; and acting on the advice of his prime minister, he issued an order for the burning of all books, with the exception only of works relating to medicine, divination and agriculture. Those who wished to study law were referred for oral teaching to such as had already qualified in that profession. To carry out the scheme effectively, the First Emperor made a point of examining every day about 120 lb weight of books, in order to get rid of such as he considered to be useless; and he further appointed a number of inspectors to see that his orders were carried out. The result was that about four hundred and sixty scholars were put to death fot having disobeyed the imperial command, while many others were banished for life. This incident is known as the Burning of the Books; and there is little doubt that, but for the devotion of the literati, Chinese literature would have had to make a fresh start in 212 B.C. As it was, books were bricked up in walls and otherwise widely concealed in the hope that the storm would blow over; and this was actually the case when the Chin (Tsin) dynasty collapsed and the House of Han took its place in 206 B.C. The Confucian books were subsequently recovered from their hiding-places, together with many other works, the loss of which it is difficult now to contemplate. Unfortunately, however, a stimulus was provided, not for the reccvery, but for the manufacture of writings, the previous existence of which could be gathered either from tradition or from notices in the various works which had survived. Forgery became the order of the day; and the modern student is confronted with a considerable voltime of literature which has to be classified as genuine, doubtful, or spurious, according to the merits of each case. To the first class belongs the bulk, but not all, of the Confucian Canon; to the third must be relegated such books as the Tao T~ Ching, to be mentioned later on. Ssfl-ma Chien, dying in 87 B.C., deals of course only with the opening reigns of the Han dynasty, with which he brings to a close the first great division of his history. The second division consists of chronological tables; the third, of eight monographs on the following topics: (1) Rites and Ceremonies, (2) Music, (3) Natural Philosophy, (4) The Calendar, (5) Astronomy, (6) Religion, (7) Water-ways, and (8) Commerce. On these eight a few remarks may not be out of place (I) lhe Chinese seem to have been in possession, from very early ages, of a systematic code of ceremonial observances, so that it is no surprise to find the subject included, and taking an important place, in Ss-ma Ch~iens work. The Li Clii, or Book of Rites, which now forms part of the Confucian Canon, is however a comparatively modern compilation, dating only from the 1st century B.C. (2) The extraordinary similarities between the Chinese and Pythagorean systems of music force the conclusion that one of these must necessarily have been derived from the other. The Jesuit Fathers jumped to the conclusion that the Greeks borrowed their art from the Chinese; but it is now common knowledge that the Chinese scale did not exist in China until two centuries after its appearance in Greece. The fact is that the ancient Chinese works on music perished at the Burning of the Books; and we are told that by the middle of the 2nd century BC. the hereditary Court music-master was altogether ignorant of his art. What we may call modern Chinese music reached China through Bactria, a Greek kingdom, founded by Diodotus in 256 B.C., with which intercourse had been established by the Chinese at an early date. (3) The term Natural Philosophy can only be applied by courtesy to this essay, which deals with twelve bamboo tubes of varying lengths, by means of which, coupled with the twenty-eight zodiacal constellations and with certain calendaric accords, divine communication is established with the influences of the five elements and the points of the compass corresponding with the eight winds. (4) In this connection, it is worth noting that in 104 B.C. the Chinese first adopted a cycle of nineteen years, a period which exactly brings together the solar and the lunar years; and further that this very cycle is said to have been introduced by Meton, 5th century B.C., and was adopted at Athens about 330 B.C., probably reaching China, via Bactria, some two centuries afterwards. (5) This Chapter deals specially with the sun, moon and five planets, which are supposed to aid in the divine government 02 mankind. (6) Refers to the volemn sacrifices to Heaven and Earth, as performed by the emperor upon the summit of Mt. Tai in Shan-tung. (7) Refers to the management 0f the Hoang Ho, or Yellow river, so often spoken of as Chinas Sorrow, and also of the numerous canals with which the empire is intersected. (8) This chapter, which treats of the circulation of money, and its function in the Chinese theory of political economy, is based upon the establishment in ff0 B.C. of certain officials whose business it was to regularize commerce. It was their duty to buy up the chief necessaries of life when abundant and when prices were in consequence low, and to offer these for sale when there was a shortage and when prices would otherwise have risen unduly. Thus it was hoped that a stability in commercial transactions would be attained, to the great advantage of the people. The fourth division of the Shih C/ri is devoted to the annals of the reigns of vassal princes, to be read in connection with the imperial annals of the first division. The final division, which is in many ways the most interesting of all, gives biographical notices of eminent or notorious men and women, from the earliest ages downwards, and enables us to draw conclusions at which otherwise it would have been impossible to arrive. Confucius and Mencius, for instance, stand out as real personages who actually played a part in Chinas history; while all we can gather from the short life of Lao Tzu, a part of which reads like an interpolation by another hand, is that he was a more or less legendary individual, whose very existence at the date usually assigned to him, 7th and 6th centuries B.C., is altogether doubtful. Scattered among these biographies are a few notices of frontier nations; e.g. of the terrible nomads known as the Hsiung-nu, whose identity with the Huns has now been placed beyond a doubt.
ABC-CLIO > ODLIS > odlis_C
But the tale of Chinese philosophers is a long one. It is a department of literature in which the leading scholars of all ages have B k f mostly had something to say. The great Chu Hsi, Gb ii es AD. 1130-1200, whose fame is chiefly perhaps that of a commentator and whose monument is his uniform exegesis of the Confucian Canon, was also a voluminous writer on philosophy. He took a hand in the mystery which surrounds the I Ching (or Yih King), generally known as the Book of Changes, which is held by some to be the oldest Chinese work and which forms part of the Confucian Canon. It is ascribed to King Wn, the virtual founder of the Chou dynasty, 1122249 B.C., whose son became the first sovereign and posthumously raised his father to kingly rank. It contains a fanciful system of divination, deduced originally from eight diagrams consisting of triplet combinations of a line and a broken line, either one of which is necessarily repeated twice, and in two cases three times, in the same combination. Thus there may be three lines ~, or three broken lines Eu, and other such combinations as an and an. Confucius declared that he would like to give another fifty years to the elucidation of this puzzling text. Shao Yung, AD. 1011-1077, sought the key in numbers; Chng I., A.D. 1033 i1o~, in the eternal fitness of things. But Chu Hsi alone, says a writer of the 17th century, was able to pierce through the meaning and appropriate the thoughts of the inspired man who composed it) No foreigner, however, has been able quite to understand what Chu Hsi did make of it, and several have gone so far as to set all native interpretations aside in favor of their own. Thus, the I Ching has been discovered by one to be a calendar of the lunar year; by another, to contain a system of phallic worship; and by a third, to be a vocabulary of the language of a tribe, whose very existence had to be postulated for the purpose.