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RECENTLY there has been an unusual call for books on China. The increasing commerce between this country and that ancient and wealthy kingdom has attracted the attention of all intelligent men of business, while the close proximity of our western coast to China has awakened a desire among a large portion of our people to gain a more thorough acquaintance with our neighbors : especially has this been found to be the case since the establishment of the line of mail steamers by the Pacific Mail Steamship Company, by which both commerce and travel are destined to be greatly augmented.
The presence of many Chinamen in our own country is another reason for the strong desire that has been observed to obtain books which may enable one better to understand the character, social habits, and religious beliefs of this strange people.
To meet all these demands, a Book Firm of this city
has spared no pains or expense to bring together as complete a collection of works on China as was possible. Such as were not to be obtained at home have been ordered from abroad; and among the publications so collected—chief among them, we may say-are the first four of a work, which, when complete, will consist of fourteen thick octavo volumes, which, when finished. will be a translation of all the Chinese classics. In them are given both the original Chinese text and the English translation; having copious notes in English, with Chinese characters interspersed.
While these volumes are a rare literary curiosity, and of immense value to every student in the Chinese language and literature, yet the price at which they are offered holds them far above the reach of the mass of readers. We hope, however, as these volumes shall successively appear, they may be honored with a place on the shelves of most of our public libraries: the libraries of all literary institutions ought by all means to possess them.
Because this work contains a vast amount of valuable and interesting matter which should in some form be laid before the public, the compiler of this book has been urged to undertake the work, the result of which he herewith offers to the reader.
A large portion of this volume consists of extracts from the famous Four Books of Confucius and his disci
ples, translated by the Rev. James Legge, D.D., one of the missionaries of the London Missionary Society, and who here presents us some of the ripe fruit of a thirty years' study of the Chinese language and literature.
We flatter ourselves that the task we have undertaken will be regarded by the translator as a friendly office, by which his herculean labors and patient study in this direction will be brought into more general notice than otherwise they could have been, and thereby, as we believe, a demand will be created for the entire work. i Except for the great distance and the ocean intervening, we might have availed ourselves of his better judgment both in the selections and in the arrangement.
So far as regards the selections from the Four Books, our design has been to go carefully through them, and gather a few sentences on the various subjects which were treated by the Chinese authors, and arrange them under their appropriate heads.
Those familiar with the originals may miss some passages which they have met in their reading and greatly admired, and which, in their opinion, would have enhanced the value of this volume ; our object, however, has not been to exhaust the mine, but merely to produce a few specimens; and we can assure the reader that as valuable ore remains to reward his search as any that we have here produced.
The reader will find in this volume not merely what has
been gathered from the Four Books, but also selections from several other departments of Chinese literature.
The “Middle Kingdom,” by Dr. S. Wells Williams, has afforded us valuable assistance. The Life of Confucius, which we have inserted, has been compiled from the British Encyclopedia, from Williams, and from other
The sketch of history is from Williams and from Legge, and others. We have obtained help from the Chinese Repository, and from the “Transactions of the China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society."
The variety of miscellaneous pieces will be found credited, where they occur, to their respective authors and translators, so far as they were known.
One design in the issuing of this work has been to answer some of the numerous questions which people are constantly asking respecting the Chinese, their political, domestic, and social habits, their religious beliefs, and the source from which they have been derived. By this volume the reader is introduced to Chinese society as it existed two thousand years ago ; and as Chinese customs, ceremonies, religious and political creeds have changed but little during this succession of generations through twenty centuries, to learn what China was in the days of Confucius is to learn, in a great measure, what China is to-day.
China is the oldest kingdom on the globe; the wise sta esman will, therefore, avail himself of the means