« FöregåendeFortsätt »
language, as well as in the Hebrew; for the characters, or group, which in Chinese is called kia, is composed of three different primitive characters, the first of which represents the abridged picture of a hand, (fig. 9.] the second of a door, (fig. 10.] and the third [fig. 11.) of the eye, and all together produce the word kia, which, in the Chinese language, means, to examine, to see.
In putting these three characters together, the Chinese follow the example of the Egyptians, and dispose the two first at the top, and the third under them, [fig. 12.) just as we find them in the grouping of hieroglyphics; but for the sake of clearness, we may now dispose them according to the Hebrew monosyllables, which we have analysed already, [fig. 13.)
Again, in the Chinese language we find the word hia, (fig. 14.3 which is written with three figures ; each of the first two (a and b) represents the abridged image of a door, and the third (c) exhibits the figure of the teeth, equally abridged. Now in Hebrew we have seen that the two doors are two daleths, that is, two of our D's, and the figure of the teeth is their shin, which answers to our sh, w, (fig. 15.] so that what the Chinese call hia, the Jews call shadad [fig. 15. a]; but these two words, though different in point of sound, have precisely the same meaning in both these languages; for hia in the Chinese, and shadad in Hebrew, signify to break, to make an opening, a signification which suits the nature of the charac
ters, that is, the figures of the objects which were used to express them. I might extend these observations to a greater length, and produce more instances to prove, by numerous examples, that originally the figure of the object was employed by all the nations of the world to express this same object, and that to such figure each nation gave a sound which expressed the image; and though this sound might be, and in some instances was, very different from that which was uttered by other nations, yet they all had the same signification, that is, they all meant to express the same object. But before I proceed I may, by way of digression, call your attention to a curious fact, which must be very striking to an attentive observer, and that is, the very great similarity which exists between the original alphabets of the Chinese, the Egyptians, and the Jews, and, indeed, of most, if not all, the nations of the globe. This curious circumstance must, in fact, be a necessary consequence of the primitive mode of writing adopted by the whole of mankind; for as they first began by exhibiting and copying the figure of the object, the alterations which, in progress of time, were introduced, could not possibly vary to such a degree, as to prevent the possibility of discovering the first original. I shall explain myself by examples. In the instance I have just mentioned of the word shadad, I have observed that the Jews em
ployed the letter ®, (shin), which is like our sh. Now if we turn to the Egyptians we cannot but observe, that a great similarity exists between the W, (shin), (fig. 15.) of the Jews, and the same letter, as it was used by the Egyptians, both in their hieroglyphics and hieratic writing ; for among the hieroglyphics we have fig. 16., which is very like the Hebrew; and in the hieratic we find an abbreviation of the same figure, cy, [fig. 17.) which, with the exception of the under line, is precisely the Hebrew letter. They all prove to have been derived from the same original pattern, although the Jews may have altered it in one way, and the Egyptians in another. Indeed it would not be difficult, by running over the hieratic and demotic characters used by the Egyptians, to shew the great resemblance which exists between them and the Hebrew letters; for, as I have just stated, they are all derived from the same original,--the picture of the object, which afterwards has been altered and abridged for the sake of convenience and expedition, in different ways by the several nations.
To render you sensible of the truth of this assertion, I beg to observe that the drawing of the figure must have been a troublesome and laborious operation, and sometimes even difficult. To remedy this evil, another character was adopted, which expressed only the outlines of the figure, a sort of an abridged representation of the object. Thus, , for instance, originally, to represent a bird, they drew the figure of the bird [fig. 18.]; but as this
was a tedious operation, they began to be satisfied with the outlines only. [fig. 19.] But as this method occasionally required a degree of skill and trouble above the generality of the people, this abridged representation of the bird was still more abridged by the adoption of a mark [fig. 20...] which was partly figurative, partly conventional. It was figurative because it still retained some of the leading features of the bird, and it was conventional, because, without a previous agreement, no one could have imagined that it was intended to represent the figure of the bird. Thus, instead of the outlines in fig. 19, the simple lines in fig. 20 were introduced; and even these were shortened by the adoption of two simple lines, one of which might represent the length of the body, and the other the feet of the bird. [fig. 21...] And ultimately this very simple representation became the secret or mysterious character, exhibited by arbitrary marks, [fig. 22.] which no one could make out unless he had been told. Whether this invention took place before or after the discovery of the alphabet, I have it not in my power to decide; I merely bring it forward now to follow up the notice of the alterations introduced into the original mode of representing a thing or an object, first graphically, by a full picture of it, secondly, by regular outlines; thirdly, bylines which still preserved something of the regular outlines, but very much shortened; fourthly by a still greater abridgement; and, lastly, by arbitrary marks.
I shall explain my meaning by what has happened in China, where we have a striking example of this alteration. In that country, the people have not only laid aside the use of the pictures of things, which, from the most remote antiquity, they had adopted, and retained the marks which they had substituted for these images; but they have increased these marks to a prodigious number, making each mark to mean a particular idea, to which they had attached a distinct sound, or word. But what is really surprising, is, that this mode of writing, arbitrary as it is, is common to many neighbouring nations, who speak a different language. It is common to the people of Cochin China, of Tonquin, and Japan, each of whom speak a dialect of their own, very dissimilar from the Chinese; but all these nations, although they cannot understand each other by speaking, yet do so perfectly by writing. Du Halde, from whom I borrow the account, says, that their books are common to all of them. These characters, therefore, are a species of arithmetical signs, which each nation expresses by a different word, although, amongst them all, they represent the very same number, and excite the very same idea.
The shapes and figures of these several characters, however disguised they may be now, still betray their original, from the primitive pictures and images.
This fact will appear more plain to you upon observing, in Table 9, some curious Chinese cha