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The two articles by Dr. Evan Morgan which appeared more than ten years ago in the Journal of the North China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society were the harbingers of this volume. The first article, in the 1922 issue, was based on the twelfth essay of Huai Nan Tzû and had the alternative title of "The operations and manifestations of the Tao examplified in history, or the Tao confirmed by history." Either of these titles is a long paraphrase of the cryptic title of the original Tao Yin. The contrast between the verbose title in Ennlish, which tries to reveal the meaning, and the laconic prototype in Chinese, which successfully conceals it, may be taken as an instructive introduction to the study of ancient Taoist philosophy in the terms and according to the norms of western philosophy. The second article, which may be found in the 1923 Journal, discusses "The Taoist Superman"—chih jên. In these two contributions one may enter the portals of this volume.
In early issues of the Journal, phases of Taoism were discussed in two papers by Dr. Edkins. In the China Review, this subject has been discussed by Giles, Balfour, Mears and Faber. In the Sacred Books of the East, Dr. Legge has given a translation of some Taoist texts. Up to the present, the chief interest of these and other European scholars has been centered in the Tao Tê Ching and in the T‛ai Shang Kan Yin P‛ien. This is not strange; for it is only in recent years that there has been, even among Chinese scholars, a revival of interest in other writers belonging to the Tao Chia. In 1921, Liu Wen-tien published a new edition of the Huai Nan Hung Lieh Chi Chieh based upon the 1788 edition of Chuang K‛uei-chi. An able preface to Liu's book was written by Hu Shih who in 1931 himself published a small brochure on the writings of the Prince of Huai Nan. In 1924 Wu Ch‛ing-shih issued a small volume on the text of the Huai Nan p. ii writings. These recent books by Chinese writers have been chiefly occupied with textual criticism; but Dr. Morgan's interest is in the contents. Like all westerners his mind is analytic. He wants to know the why and the wherefore. What is the Tao? He defines it as the Cosmic Spirit. Thence he proceeds to discuss the response of matter to this Cosmic Spirit, the transforming power of this Cosmic Spirit, in creation, beginning and reality and other allied metaphysical problems. Dr. Morgan combines an accurate knowledge of the meaning of the text with a sound understanding of the teachings of western philosophy. The obscurities of the original text are illuminated by his rare scholarship, and thus the reader is able to obtain a fair concept of the ideas of the young Prince.
These writings of the early philosophers of the Tao school are not easy to understand. They are characterized by freedom in the expression of ideas and by liberality of thought as contrasted with the recorded sayings of the Ju school represented by Confucius and Mencius; but their fundamental basis is a conception of nature, unknown to western philosophy. In all of the philosophies which have sprung from Egypt or Mesopotamia and been developed by Greece or Rome, the intellectual power of man has been projected into his conception of the deity. God is thought of as the All-Wise, the intelligent Creator of an intelligible universe. With the early Chinese it was the physical side of man, his power of procreation, that gave the first clue to the mystery of nature. Male and female among themselves, and in the animal life about them, were the source of new life; and it was only to them a natural extension of this known principle to an unknown material world which caused them to believe in the dual powers of nature, male and female, yin and yang. Spontaneity is the original law of creation. Male and female follow their own propensities, and new life is the resultant. This is a dualistic philosophy, but it is not the dualism of mind and matter, nor of good and evil, but of male and female. It is this fundamental p. iii difference in conception as to the origin of things, between the Mediterranean schools of thought and the Chinese, that makes it so difficult, and at times almost misleading, to translate early Taoist terms into western languages.
The word Tao is a case in point. Dr. Morgan renders it as Cosmic Spirit and perhaps has hit upon as a good a term as can be found. In my Chinese Mythology I had translated it as Nature, for it is the great force which sustains Heaven and Earth. By it the sky revolves; while the earth remains motionless. It causes the winds to rise, the clouds to gather, the thunder to roll and the rain to fall. All things follow this natural bent; and, from their male and female instincts, life is continuous. With such a conception as to Tao, shall this term be translated Nature or Cosmic Spirit? The question need only to be asked to call forth the answer that both show the limitations of translating composite characters, like Tao, into an alphabetic term. Tao is Nature; but it is more; it is Nature at work. It is also more than Cosmic Spirit, for in it inheres the idea of a Spirit in spontaneous activity.
Philosophic consistency in the accepted western sense cannot be expected of these early Taoist teachings. They never remind me of Plato or Socrates, but always of Philo Judaeus, an English translation of whose works may be found in Bohn's Ecclesiastical Library. Philo used an allegorical method of interpretation in his attempt to reconcile the statements of the divinely inspired Hebrew Scriptures with the speculations of Greek philosophers. The ideas of Plato were identified as the angels of the Old Testament, and they are all collected into a divine world-spirit, the logos, which, in the opinion of Philo, remained a cosmic power without personality. This logos of Philo resembles closely the Tao of the Prince of Huai Nan, but without the sexual implication of the latter. This logos of Philo is very different from the Johannine conception which approaches closely to the Chinese idea of Wên, as a manifestation of the Tao.
The task which Dr. Morgan set for himself has required long years of quiet research and patient toil; but he has the reward of giving to our western world the first adequate translation of the work of Liu An, the unhappy and ill-fated Prince of Huai Nan.
JOHN C. FERGUSON.