CHAPTER XXXI. ORIGIN OF THE CHINESE

Having now derived some definite notions of how the Chinese advanced from the patriarchal to the feudal, from the submissive and monarchical to the emulous and democratic, finally to collapse under the overpowering grasp of a single Dictator or Despot, whose centralized system in the main, still survives; having also seen how the nucleus of China proper was encompassed on three sides by Tibetans, Tartars, Tunguses, Coreans, and by various ill-defined tribes to the south; let us see if there is any evidence whatever to show, or even to suggest to us, whence the orthodox Chinese originally came, and who they were.

First and foremost, it seems primarily unnecessary to suggest at all that they came from anywhere; for, if the position be once assumed as an axiom that all people must have immigrated from some place to the place in which we first find them, or hear of them, then the double question arises: "Why should the persons we find in A., and who, we think, may have come from B., not have migrated from A. to B. before they migrated back from B. to A.?" Or: "If the people we find at A. must have come from B., whence did the people at B. come, before they went to A.?" To put it in another way: given the existence 4000 or 5000 years ago of Chinese in China, Egyptians in Egypt, and Babylonians in Babylonia - why should one group be assumed to be older than the other? The only ground for suggesting that these groups had not each a separate evolution, is the assumption that man was "created" once for all, and created summarily; in which case it follows with mathematical precision that the ultimate ancestry of every man living extends back to exactly the same date. That is to say, the highest and the lowest, the blackest and the whitest, only differ in this, that some men began to keep records earlier than others; for the man who keeps no records loses track of his ancestors, and that is all. Not to mention other races, some of our own noblest English families trace back their ancestry to a favoured or successful person, who was of no hereditary distinction before he distinguished himself; whilst on the other hand the tramp and the street-walker may have as "royal" blood in their veins as any lineal princely personage. It is records, therefore, that differentiate "civilized" from uncivilized people, blue blood from plebeian; and as we see millions of people living without records to-day in various parts of the world, notwithstanding that for centuries, or even for millenniums, they have been surrounded by or in immediate contact with neighbours possessing records, it seems to follow that a nation's greatness may begin at any time, independently of the blueness of its blood, the robustness of its warriors, the beauty of its women; that is, whenever it chooses to keep records, and thus to cultivate itself: for records are nothing more than the means of keeping experiences in stock, instead of having to repeat them every day; they are thus accumulations of national wealth. It by no means follows that because records can be traced back farther in the case of one nation than in the case of another, that the first nation is older than the other; for instance, although in the West our various alphabets appear to refer themselves back to one same source, or to a few sources which probably all hark back ultimately to one and the same, there seems no reason to believe that the Chinese did not independently invent, develop, and perfect their own scheme of written records: the mere fact that we learnt how to write is some evidence in support of the proposition that they also, being men like ourselves, learnt how to write.

There is no documentary evidence for the barest existence of ancient China, or of any part of it, which is not to be found in the Chinese records, and in them alone; no nation anywhere near China has any record or tradition of either its own or of China's existence at a period earlier than the Chinese records indicate. Those records do not contain the faintest allusion to Egypt, Babylonia, India, or any other foreign country or place whatever outside the extremely limited area of the Central Nucleus, and the larger area occupied by the semi-Chinese colonial powers surrounding it. Nor is there the faintest evidence that the Biblical "land of Sinim" had any reference to China, which seems to have been as absolutely unknown to the West previous to, say, 250 B.C., as America was unknown to Europe, or Europe to America previous to 1400 A.D. If any ideas were derived from China by the West, or from the West by China, the records of both China and the West alike point, however, to one obvious connecting link, and that is, the horse-riding nomads of the north, who are now, it is true, in some parts a little more settled than they used to be, and who have been tamed in various degrees by dogmatic religions unknown to them in ancient times, but who remain in many respects now very much what they were 3000 years ago. Of course pedlars, hawkers, and even long-course caravans travelled, whenever the routes were free, from place to place in ancient times as they do now; but it is exceedingly improbable that there would be any through-travellers from Europe to China, except one or two occasional waifs or adventurers buffeted through by chance. If 600 years ago, Marco Polo's through-route adventures were regarded in Europe as almost incredible, notwithstanding the then recent and well-trodden war-path of the Mongol armies, what chances are there of through-travel 2000 years before that? And, even if a rare case occasionally occurred, what chances are there of any one recording it?