Myths and Legends of China

Page: 183

And of a Worship

This legend explains the dog-worship of the Jung tribe, which now consists of four clans, with a separate surname (Lei, Chung, Lang, and Pan) to each, has a language of its own, and does not intermarry with the Foochow natives. At about the time of the old Chinese New Year (somewhere in February) they paint a large figure of a dog on a screen and worship it, saying it is their ancestor who was victorious over the Western invader. Page 423


If the greatness of nations is to be judged by the greatness of their myths (using the word ‘great’ in the sense of world-famous and of perennial influence), there would be few great nations, and China would not be one of them. As stated in an earlier chapter, the design has been to give an account of Chinese myth as it is, and not as it might have been under imaginary conditions. But for the Chinese philosophers we should in all probability have had more Chinese myths, but philosophy is unifying, and without it we might have had a break-up of China and perhaps no myths at all, or none specially belonging to China as a whole and separate independent nation. Had there been great, world-stirring myths there could hardly but have been also more wars, more cruelty, more wounding of the “heart that weeps and trembles,” more saturating of the earth with human blood. It is not a small thing to have conquered myth with philosophy, especially at a time when the Western world was still steeped in the grossest superstition. Therefore we may be thankful that the Chinese were and are a peace-loving, sober, agricultural, industrial, non-military, non-priest-ridden, literary, and philosophical people, and that we have instead of great myths a great people.

But if the real test of greatness is purity and justice, then Chinese myth must be placed among the greatest of all; for it is not obscene, and it is invariably just.

1 See Chapter I.

2 Compare the legend of the tailed Miao Tzŭ tribes named Yao, ‘mountain-dogs’ or ‘jackals,’ living on the mountain ranges in the north-west of Kuangtung Province, related in the Jih chi so chih.

Page 425

Glossary & Index

The Pronunciation of Chinese Words

During the course of Chinese history the restriction of intercourse due to mountain-chains or other natural obstacles between various tribes or divisions of the Chinese people led to the birth of a number of families of languages, which again became the parents of numerous local dialects. These dialects have in most cases restricted ranges, so that that of one district may be partially or wholly unintelligible to the natives of another situated at a distance of only a hundred miles or less.

The Court or Government language is that spoken in Peking and the metropolitan district, and is the language of official communication throughout the country. Though neither the oldest nor the purest Chinese dialect, it seems destined more than any other to come into universal use in China. The natives of each province or district will of course continue to speak to each other in their own particular dialect, and foreign missionaries or merchants, for example, whose special duties or transactions are connected with special districts will naturally learn and use the dialects of those districts; but as a means of intercommunication generally between natives of different provinces, or between natives and foreigners, the Court language seems likely to continue in use and to spread more and more over the whole country. It is to this that the following remarks apply.