The Ancient History of China
The Ancient History of China in 1813, about the time of the battle of Leipzig, patriotic cares preyed upon his soul, Germany’s great poet, Goethe, took refuge in the history of China. The novelty of the study and the very diversity of the subject had, we may conclude from his own words, a salutary effect on his mind.
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A GOOD deal of what Chinese authors have placed on record as the beginnings of their history is probably nothing more than prehistoric lore invented by generations much later than the events themselves.
The inventors evince a certain amount of logic in assimilating that a degree of development was necessary to prepare mankind, as far as known to the Chinese race, for that state of civilization without which accounts of the beginnings of history will not appear plausible.
The mythological period of the Chinese, like that of other ancient nations, stretches from the creation of the world out of chaos to what at first sight looks like history, but which does not deserve that name.
From the scientific point of view, this period should be allowed a much wider range than from that of the less critical Chinese historians. ; It should be remarked at once that the Chinese themselves do not refer to any tradition written or unwritten as to their most ancient forefathers having immigrated from abroad.
Their oldest habitat was, so far as their own literature goes, the cradle of Chinese civilization in the present provinces of Shen-si and Kansu in the northwest of China. If they have at any time immigrated there from some other part of the world, we possess absolutely no record of it.
The gods and demigods mentioned as the predecessors of their legendary emperors are supposed to have originated in territories within that limited geographical area peculiar to the times in which these legends were invented by the popular imagination of the ancient Chinese.
We are thus left in the dark as to any wanderings of the race, whether from central, northern, or western Asia, to their later homes.
To judge from native accounts, the Chinese must have been living in the northwestern part of the country now called China from the very earliest period of their own history. The safest view we can, therefore, take off their origin is that of the agnostic.
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