« PreviousContinue »
In like manner he deduced alfo, from different infcriptions, two other alphabets, which accompany the first: nor was he mistaken in fuppofing his difcovery would be of use, in explaining the infcriptions of many other ancient monuments, as well as the writing and language of the Egyptians; Mr. de Guignes having purfued the fame thought, and applied thofe difcoveries, perhaps not unfuccefsfully, to that purpose.
The Memoir of the latter begins with an account of the Chinese manner of writing; which, fays he, doth not confift, like that of other languages, of the various combinations of a few letters; but every character is, of itself, expreffive of a diftinct idea, and is reduced to three fimple ele-. ments, viz. the right line, the curve, and the point: these elements, by their union and pofition, forming characters which are diftributed into two hundred and forty claffes, and are called keys. These two hundred and forty radical characters, being again united and combined, form as many others, ftill more compounded, as amount to feventy or eighty thousand in number: a quantity, obferves the Author, adequate to the purpose of expreffing all the ideas of their nation.
The Speech of the Chinese, however, is, we are told, very different to their written language; being composed of a-fmall number of Monofyllables and Sounds, whofe meaning differs only in the tone of voice in which they are pronounced.
As to the Egyptians, Mr. de Guignes tells us, they have three forts of writing, viz. literary, compofed of alphabetical letters; the hieroglyphical, compofed of figures, representing the objects of which they are intended to convey the idea; and lastly, of the emblematical, expreffing their ideas by way of metaphor and allegory.
Now thefe three feveral kinds of writing, it is fuppofed, were communicated from Egypt to China. It does not, indeed, at first view, appear in what manner this affertion is true, respecting the alphabetical species: but this point Mr. de Guignes thus attempts to clear up.
According to the Phenician Alphabet, newly discovered by Mr. Barthelemey, it appears, that the Jod and Aleph, are found among the radical characters of the Chinese; and that the former is made ufe of to fignify the hand, which is also the meaning of the word fod in the Phenician language. Again, Aleph is the firft letter in the Phenician alphabet; and, as a
word, is ufed to fignify the first, or pre-eminent. The fame letter is alfo the firit of the radical characters of the Chinefe; and conveys nearly the fame idea.
From these examples, Mr. de Guignes began to fufpect farther, that other Phenician letters might exift, even in the Chinese hieroglyphics themfelves; from whence might be deduced a very ancient alphabet, analogous to the primitive one of all languages; for that, tho' fuch alphabet has not been transmitted down perfect to us, it is but reasonable to fuppofe its component parts ftill exift among thofe of the feveral oriental alphabets.
With a view to this end, Mr. de Guignes made an experiment, by placing, in collateral columns, the feveral alphabets of the oriental languages, and comparing the form of those letters with the Chinese characters. After which, having obferved, that moft of the letters of the oriental alphabets bore alfo certain determinate fignifications, as words; thus Beth an houfe; Daleth a gate or door; Ain an eye; Schin a tooth, &c. He remarked, that the character made ufe of by the Chinese to fignify a houfe, was the fame as the Hebrew Beth; that which fignified a door or gate, to be like a Daleth; that Ain, whether Phenician or Ethiopian, was, among the Chinese, the character expreffive of the eye: and that, laftly, the teeth were reprefented, in the Chinese writing, by a figure very much refembling the Hebrew, Samaritan, and Phenician Schin.
The fuccefs of this attempt led to an examination of the more compound characters, wherein several letters were fuppofed to be comprehended. Thus, beginning with those of two elements only, Mr. de Guignes took the character figni fying, in the Chinefe language, father, and found it formed of an I and a D; which, adding the vowel fuppreffed after the oriental manner, would make out Iad or fod. Now, in the Coptic tongue, in which are retained a great number of old Egyptian words, Jod fignifies a father.
The ancient Chinese character fignifying a mass, or ocean, of water, is formed of an I and an M; making out, in like manner, the word Jam; which, in most of the oriental languages, fignifies the fea. The examination of characters compofed of three elements, turned out equally fuccefsful.. We fhall mention only one. The character of Kiun, or Prince, is formed of an F and I I, which makes out Phii; and the names of the Kings of Egypt generally terminated in Phis, as Amenophis, Saophis, &c. meaning the Princes Ameno, Sao, &c.
In this manner Mr. de Guignes goes on to confider the hieroglyphical and emblematical writing of the Egyptians and Chinefe; concluding, from a variety of examples, whic tend to confirm his opinion, that the Chinese writing owes its original to the Egyptian.
He proceeds, laftly, to answer the queftion that naturally Occurs. At what time was the language of the Egyptians communicated to the Chinese? A queflion he thus anfwers.
It appears from the Chinese Hiftory, that twenty-two families of Kings, or Dynafties, have fucceffively governed in China at the head of the firft of which is placed the Prince Yu, whofe reign began about the year 2207 before Chrift.
Their Hiftory of what relates to their Kings before this Era, is confufed and disjointed. The Princes of the first Dynafly, following their order of fucceffion, were Yeu, Ki, Kang, Theong, &c. Thefe names are in the language spoken by the Chincfe, and have no relation to their writing.
Our Decypherer proceeding, therefore, to analyse, accord ing to his alphabet, the ancient characters which represent thofe names, difcovered Men in that of Yeu; that is Menes, King of Thebes in Egypt. In that of Ki he read Jadoa, i. e. Athoes fucceffor to Menes. Kang produced fabia, viz. Diabies, third King of Thebes: and Theong gave the word Phemphi; to wit Pemphos, fourth King of Thebes; and fo of the rest.
From thefe, and many other obfervations of the like nature, Mr. de Guignes concludes, that the Chinese, in adopting the writing and cuftoms of the Egyptians, appropriated also their annals; and that the communication between them, or the fettling an Egyptian colony in China, did not happen till after the fecond of the Princes above mentioned; that is, about 1122 years before Chrift. So that fuppofing the truth of this opinion, it appears, that the ancient Savages of China, as well as thofe of Greece, were civilized by the Egyptians; and that the long boafted antiquity of the Chinese is a chimera.
Having thus endeavoured to give an abftract of what has been advanced on one fide of this curious, tho', perhaps, not very important, controverfy; we fhall beg leave to defer what has been offered on the other fide of the question, to a future Review.
Hiftoire du Commerce et de la Navigation des Peuples anciens et modernes. 2 vols. 12mo. Paris. Defaint and Saillant. 1759. Or,
An Hiftorical Account of the Commerce and Navigation of ancient and modern States.
WE are informed, that this work is the production of the celebrated Chevalier d' Arc, the fprightly and ingenious Author of la Nobleffe Militaire, and l' Hiftoire des Guerres; the two volumes now published ferving only as an introduction to four others, in which the whole defign will be compleated.
The talents of this agreeable, tho' fometimes fuperficial, Writer, are too generally known to need our encomium: it would, however, have been much more to his credit, as an Hiftorian, had he been more attentive to the authorities on which he has grounded many material facts.
As a Politician, alfo, he seems to have taken the wrong fide of the question, if he expected the approbation of the multitude: for he directly combats the genius and temper of the prefent times. The increase of trade and commerce forms the moft diftinguished point of view in the prospect of modern politics; whereas our Author attributes the ruin of Egypt, Carthage, Rome, and feveral other ancient States, to that very cause, whose influence moft nations in the world are, at prefent, fo extremely fenfible of, and the opportunities of which they are fo anxious to difpoffefs each other, or fecure to themselves.
Extraordinary, however, as our Author's opinion in this matter may appear, to Readers of this commercial age and nation, it is not, perhaps, quite void of foundation. Luxury and Effeminacy are the general attendants on wealth, which naturally flows into an induftrious and trading country: but Effeminacy is as well the bane of that industry which is neceffary to the fupport of commerce, as of that fpirit of refolution and courage which is needful to keep poffeffion of the wealth already obtained.
A laborious application to the practice of the economical and mechanical arts, is, firft of all, effentially neceffary to an independent and profitable, commerce: but, as a State grows rich, luxurious, and effeminate, the number of labourers and artificers comparatively diminishes, as that of hopkeepers, dealers, and chapmen increases. It is, however, evident, that unless they both increased in a reciprocal proportion,
proportion, many of the latter must be a burthen to the community; living on the labour of the cultivator or manufacturer. For if commodities may be as conveniently transferred from the farmer, or artificer, to the confumer, by one thousand hands, as by double that number, half of them, whatever bustle they make in their shops, or about the markets, are unneceffarily and ufelefsly employed; and must be esteemed, with respect to community, as burthenfome people, ferving only to increafe the expence of transferring commodities from one hand to another.
Seen in this light, perhaps. a very confiderable part of our numerous Jobbers, Brokers, and Auctioneers, are fo far from promoting real trade, that the fupport of themfelves and families are a dead weight on its profits.
It may, indeed, be objected, that too many traders, and too much trade, are distinct and different things. They are fo and yet they are very nearly connected. When men are brought up to know and do nothing but to buy and fell, if they find not a fufficient quantity, or variety, of home produce and manufactures, they will find means to force a trade, by procuring foreign ones: whence not only an increafe of expence will fall on all ranks of people, but the money which would otherwise be laid out in home commodities, muft go to foreigners, and to the fupport of a number of fuperfluous Merchants.
Thus the profperity of a nation may fometimes decline from the having too much trade, as certainly as from the having too little as individuals, launching forth into business too extenfive, will as furely become bankrupts, in the end, as those who have little or none at all.
It is neceffary, however, to make here fome general diftinctions in the ufe of the term Commerce. Doubtless, there are many particular branches of it, which are more or lefs prejudicial or profitable to different States, according to their particular fituation and circumftances. But, in general, if we fuppofe a due proportion kept up between the Traders and Labourers, no State can be faid to carry on too much commerce, while the articles of that commerce are its own produce or manufacture, or fuch as are ultimately exchanged for those that are. As far, indeed, as it trades only in foreign. commodities, it fhould be careful how far it launches forth in employing its fubjects in fo precarious a commerce, which, however profitable it may prove for a time, will neceffarily reduce it into a state of dependency; and too often involve