CHAPTER XXXIX. GEOGRAPHICAL KNOWLEDGE

It will have been noticed that, even in strictly historical times subsequent to 842 B.C., orthodox China was, mutatis mutandis, like orthodox Greece, a petty territory surrounded by a fringe of little-known regions, such as Macedonia, Asia Minor, Phoenicia, Egypt, and Italy; not to say distant Marseilles, and the Pillars of Hercules-all places at best very little visited except by navigators, and even then only by a few specially enterprising navigators or desperate adventurers; though later on Greek influence and Greek colonies soon began to replace the Phoenician, and to exhibit surrounding countries in a more correct and definite light.

As touches the surrounding regions of ancient China, and the knowledge of it possessed by the orthodox nucleus, such traditions as there are all point to acquaintance with the south and east rather than with the north and west. Persons who are persistently bent on bringing the earliest Chinese from the Tower of Babel by way of the Tarim Valley, are eager to seize upon the faintest tradition, or what seems to them an apparent tradition, in support of these preconceived views; ignoring the obviously just argument that, if we are to pay any attention to mere traditions at all, we must in common fairness give priority in value to such traditions as there are, rather than such traditions as are not, but only as might be. For instance, there was a Chinese tradition that the founder of the Hia dynasty (2205 B.C.) was, in a sense, somehow connected with the barbarous kingdom of Yiieh, inasmuch as the great-great-grandson of the founder of the Hia empire a century later enfeoffed a son by a concubine in that remote region. The earliest Chinese mention of Japan is that it lay to the east of Yiieh, and that the Japanese used to come and trade with Yiieh. If the Japanese traditions, on the other hand, as first put into independent writing in the eighth century A.D., are worth anything, then the Japanese pretend that their ancestors were present at a durbar held by the above-mentioned great-great- grandson of the Hia founder; and they also firmly derive their ruling houses (both king and princes) from the kingdom of Wu. We have seen in former chapters that both Wu and Yiieh, the most ancient capitals of which were within 200 miles of each other, spoke one language, and that both were derived (i.e., the administrative caste was derived) from two separate Chinese imperial dynasties. Now, the founder of the Hia dynasty is celebrated above all things for his travels in, and his geography of China, usually called the "Tribute of Yii" (his name), - a still existing work, the real origin of which may be obscure, but which has come down to us in the Book (of History). This geography is not only accurate, but it even now throws great light upon the original direction of river-courses which have since changed; in this work there is not the faintest tradition or indirect mention of any Chinese having ever migrated into China from the west.

There is no foundation, however, for the supposition, favoured by some European writers, that the Nine Tripods (frequently mentioned above) contained upon their surface "maps" of the empire; they merely contained a summary, or a collection of pictures, symbolizing the various tribute nations. On the other hand, there is no trace in the "Tribute of Yii" of any knowledge of China south of the Yarig-tsz River, south of its mouths, and south of its connection with the lakes of Hu Nan. The "province" of Yang Chou is vaguely said to extend from the Hwai River "south to the sea." The "Blackwater" is the only river mentioned which exhibits any knowledge of the west (i.e. of the west half of modern Kan Suh province), and this "Blackwater" was crossed in 984 B.C. by the Emperor Muh.