This book of Chang Chih-tung, which we have translated into English from the original Chinese text, was written soon after China had been beaten to her knees by the doughty little warriors of the Sunrise Kingdom. It represents the result, in part, of the Chino-Japanese war, and the persistent pressure of other issues by European nations. Had the Viceroy not been so powerful in men and arms, he would have lost his head for the bold advocacy of Reform exhibited in this volume. But he carefully measured his ground before publishing it. He was convinced that a change in Chinese affairs was desperately necessary, and at the same time realized that the Chinese officials and people clung with unyielding tenacity to their ancient ideas and institutions.
To steer successfully a middle course between Scylla and Charybdis required an unwavering courage and a steady hand. The Viceroy possesses both. Whilst preparing his book he was placed in the most perilous position. He attacks nothing ancient except abuses, but remorselessly scales off the excrescences that have for years been growing and multiplying on the body politic of China.
His book met with such an enthusiastic and eager reception by the Chinese, that we can safely estimate the number of copies distributed at a million. The issues are so live, the interest so intense and exciting, and so new and fresh withal, that the book is devoured with the greatest avidity by the Chinese scholars long accustomed to the dry bones of the Ancient Kings and the moribund and somniferous platitudes of Confucius.
To its influence are in great measure due the bloody coup d’etat of the Empress Dowager, the overthrow of the young Emperor, the decapitation of the patriotic members of the Reform Party, and, indirectly, the awful scenes that were enacted in China during the last summer of the nineteenth century. The ” clear out the foreigner ” policy of Prince Tuan, which appears to have been adopted by China, represents a resilience from the ideas advocated in the Viceroy’s book. We translated the Chinese in the midst of our missionary labors in China during the dreadful times of the coup d’etat. As we pen these lines, new chapters are being rapidly and tragically added to the history of China, now at the mercy of the Great Powers. The courageous Viceroy seems destined to play an important part in shaping the course of the New China. May we not hope that he will have sufficient encouragement and support from our own country to enable him and his colleagues to resist the aggression of upstart nations who, impelled by a brutal self-interest, and regardless of the common rights of man, are compassing the overthrow of that magnificent old Empire of which Chang Chih-tung is the chief pillar and support ?
The Chinese text of this book is written in faultless literary style, and displays much prolonged and careful thought, both as to matter and diction. It has been translated into French by the Jesuits in China. The labor of rendering it into English was similar in some respects to what the translation of one of Lord Macaulay’s Essays into Chinese would be.
We have omitted much that would be uninteresting to the general reader, especially proof texts et id omne genus, and wrought with a free hand, believing that a strict adherence to mere words is slavish, and that the spirit and genius of translation consist in conveying the thought of one language into another by the shortest and quickest route.
Samuel I. Woodbridge.
“WOODLAWN,” Columbia, South Carolina, September 8, 1900.