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2256Re: Dating Chinese writing

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  • B.E.Colless
    Aug 16, 2006
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      > From: "E Bruce Brooks" <brooks@...>
      > Reply-To: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com
      > Date: Sat, 5 Aug 2006 17:31:43 -0400
      > To: <ANE-2@yahoogroups.com>
      > Subject: Re: Dating Chinese writing
      >
      > PETER DANIELS: The origins of Chinese civilization are vastly off-topic for
      > ANE-2 List, . . .
      >
      > [on Chinese writing] I would refer you to the article by Michael
      > Puett in the same Mair volume, on the scholarly pendulum regarding "outside
      > influence" on China in the 2nd millennium. He argues for a middle ground, .
      > . .
      This has been an absorbing discussion, and, as one whose main field of study
      has been cultural interaction between East and West, I am not at all
      concerned about observing "topical" limits when there is a case to be
      considered in this area.

      I hope Bruce is still listening, as there is some ("dodgy") evidence I want
      to bring in to the debate.

      One of my early publications was:

      Dr B.E. Colless, Han and Ta-ch'in: China's ancient relations with the
      West (1. Han relations with western countries; 2. Han designations for
      western countries), Waikato University China Papers, 1, D. Bing, Editor,
      Hamilton, New Zealanad, 1972, 56-66.

      I suggested that Li-chien, Li-kan, and Ta-ch'in were all transcriptions of
      Alexandria (taking note of Karlgren's reconstructions). And there was the
      question whether An-hsi (An-syiek) represented Arsak or Antioch (Parthia or
      Syria), and whether T'iao-chih was Tigris or Antiokhia.

      However, I began by citing some data gleaned from Henry Yule, *Cathay and
      the way thither* (4 vols), revised by Henri Cordier (London 1914) 1, 7-8.
      The excitement of reading all those Hakluyt Society books in the Melbourne
      University library has just returned to me, and it gave me lots of ideas for
      problem-solving articles:

      Journal of Southeast Asian History
      Giovanni de' Marignolli. An Italian Prelate at the Court of the South-East
      Asian Queen of Sheba. 9, 2 (1968) 325-341
      The Ancient History of Singapore. 10, 1 (1969) 1-11

      Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society
      Persian Merchants and Missionaries in Medieval Malaya. 42, 2 (1969) 10-47
      Majapahit Revisited. External Evidence on the Geography and Ethnology of
      East Java in the Majapahit Period. 48, 2 (1975) 124-161

      Journal of the Oriental Society of Australia
      Walaing and the Sailendras of Java. 7 (1970) 15-22
      The Ancient Bnam Empire. Fu-nan and Po-nan. 9 (1972-1973) 21-31

      This last one mentions Bnam (Fu-nan, Po-nan), Indochina, which comes into
      the stories I want to recount here.

      A legendary Chinese account of an ancient embassy in the time of Yao (one of
      the Five Sages, I think): envoys of a race called *Yüeh shang shih* arrived
      from the south and presented tribute to the emperor (Yao, I presume).

      This same *Yüeh shang* nation is said to have sent another mission during
      the reign of Ch'eng Wang, in 1110 BCE (let's call it 01111, with a hand of
      four aces).

      Later commentators state that this country could be reached within a year
      (by sea), after passing Biu-nam (Fu-nan, Khmer region, Cambodia) and Lin-yi
      (Champa,southern Vietnam peopled by speakers of a Malayo-Polynesian
      language).

      Yule and Cordier mention the hypothesis of Pauthier that these people (whose
      name signifies "a people with long training robes", like those depicted on
      Assyrian monuments) came from Mesopotamia.

      However, Cordier (p8, n4) dismisses the sweeping generalization of Terrien
      de Lacouperie (1894) "that the Chinese civilization had its origin in
      western Asia and more particularly from Babylonia and Elam".

      But the interesting detail is in the tribute brought to Yao (before the time
      of the Shang Dynasty): a tortoise, which was allegedly one thousand years
      old, and which had an inscription on its shell, in strange characters
      resembling tadpoles.

      Or, we might say, looking like wedges, and thus cuneiform writing.

      Does this story receive a mention in the discussions going on in Sinic
      academia about the origins of the Chinese writing system?

      Brian Colless
      Massey University, New Zealand
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