Page images


15. Les Mémoires Historiques de Se-ma Ts'ien, traduits et annotés par EDOUARD CHAVANNES, vol. iii., part ii., chaps. xxiii.-xxx. The first volume of this admirable series was ably noticed by the late Mgr. Harlez in an earlier number of the Asiatic Quarterly Review. It dealt with the author's explanatory introduction to the great work of the Chinese historian, and carried the text of early history down to the Emperors of the Chou Dynasty. The second volume, even more interesting to the general reader so far as the translation from Chinese texts is concerned, brings us to the reign of the Han Emperor King Ti, including those exciting periods when China practically discovered Corea, Annam, Tibet, and Western Asia. The first part of the third volume consists of a number of dry genealogical and dynastic tables, which, though of course indispensable for reference, are not exactly fitted for the average man's consumption. The fourth volume (i.e., the second part of the third) treats of Rites, Music, Astronomy, Finance, Religion, and so on, and forms a sort of basis on the lines of which nearly all subsequent histories follow. The gigantic work of translating word for word, annotating, and explaining the first real Chinese history is thus proceeding apace, and it is devoutly to be wished that the courageous and self-sacrificing author who has undertaken this enormous task, and whose health has already once broken down under the strain, may be spared to carry it to completion. It is exceedingly unlikely that anyone else will ever undertake a rival translation, so that M. Chavannes may rest quite secure of a future exclusive niche in the Temple of Fame; but it may be hoped that others will emulate his example, and similarly translate word for word the other twenty-four dynastic histories, each in turn scarcely one of these has had more than a chapter or two given to the European public, but all of them bristle with the most interesting and surprising pieces of information, studded about, without clue or index, in a mass of turgid and often irrelevant matter. It is impossible to speak too highly of M. Chavannes' work; the only thing to do is to lay stress on the fact that anyone who can read French has now the whole of early Chinese history before him, and can form his own opinion upon it without having to depend upon experts in Chinese, who are rather apt to overrate their own importance. E. H. PARKER.



16. The History of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the History of the Likeness of Christ which the Jews of Tiberias made to mock at; the Syriac texts edited, with English translations, by WALLIS BUDGE, D.LIT. This work consists of vols. iv. and v. of Luzac's "Semitic Text and Translation Series." The former of the two volumes contains the Syriac text, and the latter the translation. The texts, Dr. Budge tells us in his preface, were edited from two modern MSS. in his own possession. The MS. from which the "History of the Virgin" is extracted was copied for him by the deacon at Alkōsh in 1890, from a MS. of the

thirteenth or fourteenth century; and the other MS., containing the "History of the Likeness of Christ which the Jews of Tiberias made to mock at in the days of the Emperor Zeno" (and which is entitled "Histories of the Apostles and Saints and Martyrs "), was copied for him in 1892 by a man who lived in Tel Kef, a village situated two or three hours' ride from Mosul. To the text of the former of the two histories he has appended a large number of variant readings taken from a MS. preserved in the library of the Royal Asiatic Society. The Syriac is very beautifully printed, and there is at the end of the text a careful table of corrections.

By the Syrian translators the books were styled "Histories," but they manifestly belong to the very large section of Syriac literature which contains the Apocrypha of the New Testament. They take us back to the times when many of the myths connected with the Virgin and Child originated and gained currency and credence. Thus, we read of Jesus "turning children into goats," also of His "releasing a man from a serpent which had been coiled round him three years," and many suchlike fables, a perusal of which tends, as much as anything well could, to establish the superiority of the books of the Canon to anything discoverable in the Apocryphal books. Those who are in any degree acquainted with the history of doctrine and dogma in the second century of the Christian era (in which century so many of the myths and errors originated that have tended to obscure the Gospel narrative and bring it into contempt) will be in a position to appraise at their proper value the myths recorded in the documents here put into English dress. As Dr. Budge well says: "A perusal of the work will convince the reader that the object of the writer throughout has been to magnify the importance of the Virgin Mary and to describe her miraculous power; in short, it represents the popular views which were held by devout but unlettered people concerning the earthly life of the Virgin and Child." Incidentally, of course, such a work affords confirmation of the narrative of the Nativity as recorded in the Canonical books of the Bible which we possess. Although such confirmation is not at all needed in these days, yet anyone who accepts those books as containing the bases of his religious belief is always rejoiced at any indication which modern research brings to light that the literature of the earlier centuries is not found to be antagonistic to the historicity of the Christian faith, but distinctly tends to confirm it. Thus will the present work be helpful to those who are interested in what is technically known as "Apocryphal" lore. Not only in the first volume, but also in the second, there are throughout important footnotes, chiefly of the nature of emendations, parallel readings, and alternative renderings. B.


17. Malay Magic: being an Introduction to the Folk-lore and Popular Religion of the Malay Peninsula, by WALTER WILLIAM SKEAT, C.s., of the Federated Malay States, with a Preface by CHARLES OTTO BLAGDEN, M.R.A.S., and formerly of the C.S., Straits Settlements. This work of nearly

700 pages will be of much interest to psychologists, and important not only to those who have the control and education of the natives of the Malay Peninsula, but also in placing in a permanent form many of the beliefs and notions which are rapidly passing away by the introduction of Western civilization and learning. The originals are placed in an appendix, by which the author's translation may be verified, and a copious index will guide the reader to every detail which the volume contains.

Mr. Blagden, in the preface, truly observes that "an understanding of the ideas and modes of thought of an alien people in a relatively low stage of civilization facilitates very considerably the task of governing them, and in the Malay Peninsula that task has now devolved mainly upon Englishmen"; hence the importance of this work.

The author has been at pains to corroborate and illustrate his own accounts by the independent observations of others, and records the charms and other magic formula which are actually in use, and which he has himself observed. Moreover, he has endeavoured, in his translations, to keep to literal accuracy of rendering.

The volume is composed of six chapters, and among other interesting subjects there are those on the Creation of the World; Man and his Place in the Universe; his Relation to the Supernatural World; the Malay Pantheon; Magic Rites connected with the Natural Kingdom, such as weather and bird charms, beasts, vegetation and mineral charms; also the sea, rivers, and streams, and fire and its production. The concluding chapter relates to the Magic Rites affecting the Life of Man, such as birth, spirits, and ceremonies, betrothal and marriage, funerals, medicine, war and weapons, and many other particulars affecting human life.


18. Nigeria: Our Latest Protectorate. By CHARLES HENRY ROBINSON, M.A., Canon Missioner of Ripon, and Lecturer in Hausa in the University of Cambridge. With map and illustrations. A remarkable racy volume of a very interesting people, numbering 25,000,000, now added to the population of the British Empire. The author traces the history of the people, and considers them as distinct from those of Ashanti, Benin, and the hinterland of Sierra Leone, as is the cultured Bengali from the Aboriginal races to be found in some of the mountain districts in India, and comparatively having every right to be regarded as a civilized nation. He narrates his experience in the country, its habits and customs, the excellent work. of the Royal Niger Company, his missionary enterprise, the results of the investigation as to the origin of malarial fever, the writings and traditions of the natives, and the results which are expected to follow the recent Anglo-French treaty.

The following description of the crocodile will illustrate the author's style and humour. He says: "Another creature, which forms quite a distinctive feature of West African river scenery, is the crocodile, or alligator. Quantities of them are to be seen on the Niger and the smaller rivers in Nigeria. Except in the event of the traveller's canoe upsetting,



or of his being rash enough to bathe or to approach the river in the dark, no danger is to be anticipated from their presence. They are usually to be seen lying half asleep on the mud banks. On the approach of a canoe, the crocodile winks one of its eyes to ascertain whether the traveller is meditating an attack, and on being satisfied on this point, relapses into its former somnolent condition. If we are to accept the latest accounts given by naturalists, the crocodile ought to be regarded as one of the most useful of animals; and the ancient Egyptians were not quite so foolish as is usually thought when they showed their affection for the crocodile by embalming it. The British Medical Journal, in discussing the advisability of stocking the Thames with crocodiles, says: That much-maligned reptile, the crocodile, is, in fact, a friend of man, though he triesgenerally with success-to hide a sentiment of which, perhaps, he is ashamed as a weakness. He is an active sanitarian, his special line being the purification of rivers and lakes. With such a certificate of character from them, perhaps some of our river conservancies may be stimulated to secure the services of a few vigorous crocodiles. With these in our rivers, the difficult problem of water-purification might be finally solved.'"

On the question of religious beliefs, Mr. Robinson is of opinion that before the close of the present century heathenism will be practically extinct on the continent of Africa. The whole population will be either nominally Christian or nominally Mohammedan. Chapter XIII. contains a striking forecast of the religious future of Africa, and in doing so gives a summary of the present condition, and the immediate prospects of Islam throughout the Sudan generally. This interesting volume is accompanied with an excellent map of Nigeria, and many very beautiful illustrations of Hausas, their villages, their rivers, their canoes, articles of dress, and various utensils and implements.

J. C. NIMMO; LONDON, 1900.

19. Babylonians and Assyrians, by the REV. A. H. SAYCE. This work, from the pen of the distinguished Professor of Assyriology at Oxford, on the life and customs of these ancient peoples, is now published in "The Semitic Series." The published works of Professor Sayce are so well known, as also is his great fitness for the enterprise for which he is best known among students of Biblical antiquities, that he needs no word of commendation at this time of day. His name is familiar to us all, and he has made us all his debtors. The present work-a work in upwards of 270 pages-is a very informing work. It throws some welcome light on quite a variety of subjects-not only on the subject of ancient brickmaking (which, by the way, appears to be a lost art among us moderns), but also on the early history of banking, of the postal system, and sundry other industries. When the time comes when each several trade shall have its published "history," such volumes as the present will be found. to be useful quarries from which authentic information may be culled. The work contains also much curious and recondite information respecting the social and political manners and customs of the Accads and other

early races whose very existence is apt to be regarded as problematical, if not altogether mythical. And upon the whole the general effect of the work is to justify the confidence of the Jewish believer in the authenticity and veracity of the Scriptures of the Old Testament Canon. The work is well and carefully written. The style of the author carries one involuntarily back into the dim antiquity of the races and countries of which he writes, and makes the men of that remote age live over again in our imagination while we read. The work is very vividly written, and is not by any means so dry as works on antiquarian subjects are usually felt to be. It affords evidence that some of the things that are generally accounted "primæval" are only such in the sense that we know not anything about them, that the term "præhistoric" means, not before there was anything to write, but merely anterior to such knowledge as we possess. Much of the credit of the discovery of this important fact is due to the untiring and fruitful labours of Professor Sayce himself. Evidence in support of what we have thus said will appear from the bill-of-fare set forth in the contentspage. In treating of the manners and customs of the ancient Babylonians and Assyrians, he takes up such subjects as the Family, Education, Slavery and Free Labour, Wages and Prices, Houses and Land, the Moneylender, Government and the Army, the Law, Trades, Epistolary Correspondence, Weights and Measures, Religion, and other matters; and he seems to talk as familiarly of these details of those far-remote times as one might of similar details of our own day and generation. The book has certainly helped the subject forward, and placed our knowledge of it on a higher level than it was before, and the distinguished author has placed all Orientalists under an additional obligation to him. B.


20. Le Haut Yang-tsze, by REV. S. CHEVALIER, S.J. Also the Atlas du Haut Yang-tsze, by the same author. The Russians and the French leave us hopelessly behind in the matter of Oriental research, especially in the fields of history and cartography. The above magnificent publications are a continuation of the "Navigation à Vapeur sur le Haut Yang-tsze," issued by the reverend and learned author in the early part of last year, and already noticed in the China Review. The works now under notice consist (1) of a fascicule of sixty quarto pages, giving a personal narrative of a steamer voyage from Shanghai to Ichang (calling at intermediate ports), and a junk voyage from Ichang to Chungking; and (2) of thirty-eight sheets (i.e., double folio) on the scale of 2000, showing the whole of the Yangtsze River, including, of course, the gorges between Ichang and Chunking. Each chart indicates both Paris and Greenwich longitudes, and gives all names in both French and English forms. English being now incontestably the leading language for commerce, the French, as the Russians, are now wisely publishing as many treatises as possible in such form as to be easily available to Englishmen and Americans, and, for the matter of that, also to Germans, Italians, etc. As I have been over every

« PreviousContinue »