<Next Section>

Preface to Volume I

When, several years ago, I decided on a translation of the Po hu t'ung, I did not realize what the undertaking was going to involve. At first the task seemed to be comparatively easy. The Po hu t'ung abounds with quotations from the Classics, and as these Classics are all accessible in translations, half of the work seemed already to have been done before I embarked on my actual task. However, it soon became apparent that the existing translations, by James Legge, S. Couvreur, Richard Wilhelm, Arthur Waley, Bernhard Karlgren, in numerous cases could not be used, because they did not fit into the context of the Po hu t'ung. Moreover, the body of the text itself appeared not to be merely a string connecting the Classical quotations, as one might have expected from the nature of the work, but to constitute a substantial element of the book, frequently forming independent treatises not related to the subjects treated in the Classics. Besides containing innumerable errors, it is often so strange and incoherent that it was necessary to habituate myself to a good deal of 'classificatory thinking' before its meaning could be apprehended.

Anyone who has had to translate a Chinese text is acquainted with the hardships accompanying such a task. Not only is a Chinese text always full of allusions which have to be identified, but the rendering of technical terms often confronts the translator with well-nigh insuperable difficulties. Nevertheless the task of translation is the best discipline to which a student of Chinese may submit himself; apart from the efforts he has to make in order to see through the elusive grammatical structure, the fact that so many Chinese expressions may be regarded as representing the whole ancient Chinese culture in nuce compels him to take extensive excursions into fields of a most diversified character. A profusion of notes is therefore indispensable, which, though forming an irritating feature to the general reader, is only the necessary account of the pergrinations of one who has been attempting to unlock a treasure-room, and has been obliged to ransack the neighbourhood in order to find the suitable keys. This is my excuse for the great number of notes I had to supply in my translation of chapters I, II, XVIII, and XL of the Po hu t'ung; numerous though they are, however, I am afraid there are still many points which have been left unexplained. The rest of the translation, which I hope to publish sometime in a second volume, will only contain the most necessary explications. To pursue the abundance of notes throughout the whole work would, it seems to me, not have justified by its results the labour and expense involved.

The translation of the Po hu t'ung could not have been done without the help of commentators, especially Ch'ên Li. I feel bound to express my great indebtedness to these scholars, whose wide knowledge and learning continually fill the student with astonishment and respect. To be conducted by them through the vast maze of Chinese literature is an experience as exhilarating as it is, at times, fatiguing. Even the ten pages of Professor William Hung's Prolegomena to his Index to the Po hu t'ung acquainted me with a great number of works which I had never heard of, and of problems which I had never suspected. Though I may disagree with him on some points concerning the Po hu t'ung, I cannot but express my admiration for the way in which, in his numerous scholarly writings, Professor Hung always manages to stimulate the reader to sound reflection.

It was not my original intention to write the Introduction otherwise than an introduction should be, i.e. a preliminary presentation of the subject, in casu the translated text. Involuntarily, however, I was driven into directions which, without necessity and of my own accord, I should have hesitated to take. I feel compunction for the perfunctory way, due to my unpreparedness, in which I have now touched on so many important problems. After finishing my cursory survey of the history of Classical studies in the Han period, which has no pretention either to comprehensiveness or finality, I am left with the full consciousness of my imperfect knowledge of this most interesting but intricate subject.

I am under great obligation to the Trustees of the 'Sinological Institute' of Leyden University. Only by their liberal grants the writing and the publication of this book have been made possible, while the scholarship which they awarded to me enabled me to commence my Chinese studies at the University of Leyden and to pursue them for many happy years.

My thanks are due to Professor G. Haloun of Cambridge, who with so much kindness allowed me to copy the articles by Hung I-hsüan, Sun I-jang, and Liu Shih-p'ei, which were accessible nowhere else.

To Professor Homer H. Dubs of Oxford I am indebted for the way I was able to profit from his admirable translations of The History of the Former Han Dynasty. The many times I have quoted him in my study may prove how often I have relied on his great knowledge of the Han period.

I have to thank my friends and colleagues of the Sinological Institute A. F. P. Hulsewé and R. P. Kramers for the interest they have taken in my work, and the way they helped me in many cases.

To Miss A. G. G. Izaks and Miss A. F. van Doornum I owe my acknowledgement for their willingness to type out my manuscript for the printer.

Mr. W. A. C. H. Dobson (Christ Church, Oxford) and Mr. Peter C. Swann (St. Edmund Hall, Oxford) have put me under a great obligation by correcting the faulty English in my manuscript, the former for the four chapters and the notes, the latter for the remaining chapters.

Messrs. E. J. Brill's part in the publication of this book cannot be too highly praised. Having been a printer myself I can fully appreciate the zeal and efficiency with which they overcame the difficulties in printing this work in so short a time.

Professor J. J. L. Duyvendak read through the whole of my manuscripts and proofs. From his valuable suggestions I have greatly profited. It causes a feeling of grateful comfort to know that the beginner's work has passed the scrutiny of an experienced scholar.

Leyden, June 10th, 1949.

<Next Section>
IATHPublished by The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, © Copyright 2003 by Anne Kinney and the University of Virginia