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A translation of the Yen T'ieh Lun, Discourses on Salt and Iron, by the Han literatus Huan K'uan (Ist cent. B.C.), has not hitherto been attemped. The present rendering of the first four chüan (nineteen chapters) of the ten (sixty chapters) into which the work has usually been divided, is primarily for the uses of Western readers; and, accordingly, much that has been familiar or even commonplace to the Chinese scholar erudite, is set forth in detail in the notes. Nevertheless, this important literary work of the early Han period, containing what has been termed material of fundamental importance, is perhaps not known as fully to the Chinese themselves, as it deserves; and the present rendering into English may serve the further useful purpose of attracting the attention of Chinese students to a work which so graphically describes the social order of early China.

Hitherto the efforts of Western sinologues have been centred very largely on an exposition of the life and thought of China before the great imperial consolidations of the Ch'in (220-206 B.C.) and Han (206 [202] B.C.-220 A.D.) eras. To be sure, the principles of Chinese ethics, political science and social economy were formulated in the ante-Han centuries, and a literature, rich enough indeed, but whose authenticity is often in dispute, has passed down from these early times. But much of our concept of the earlier era, particularly of the venerated Chou dynasty (? 1122-249 B.C.), risks being but an idealized creation of the Han scholars and administrators. It is in the first two centuries before the Christian era that a knowledge of the conditions attending the societal development of the Chinese people rests on firmer ground. The mists of antiquity lift then, and the innumerable and indefatigable writers, compilers, and editors, who make the time so fruitful in letters, disclose the vast Empire, filled with an active and energetic people, creating a cultural system, which for impressiveness and influence upon the world of Asia Major, was not surpassed by Greece and Rome in the Occident.

Of this world we have as yet only glimpses, and its richness, in all the varied aspects of human activity, still remains largely a subject for such studies, as our own prototypes, the Mediterranean civilizations, have already enjoyed. One work, monumental in scholarship, the translation into French of the first forty-seven chapters of the Shih-chi, the Historical Memoirs of Ssŭ-ma Ch'ien, by the late Édouard Chavannes, provides in part a view of China of the second century B.C. Other Western scholars are continuing the task of translating documents of this era, disclosing more and more the Chinese world contemporary with the Roman empire at its greatest extent. The Yen T'ieh Lun is one of the significant works of the time, dealing as it does with the fundamental problems, social, political and economic, which confronted the administrators of the expanding Chinese empire of two milleniums ago. It comprises, in effect, an epitome of Chinese thought and racial experience to the time of the compilation of the work, in the first half of the century before the Christian era. The wealth of historical and literary allusion which embellishes the text, forms a thesaurus for the Western student of early China. For Huan K'uan's pages not only introduce the reader to the author's own times, but lead back to the earlier world of Chinese origins in history and tradition.

In the undertaking of reproducing in a Western language, utterly alien to the original Chinese literary medium, Huan K'uan's first nineteen chapters, I have been fortunate in availing myself of the methods of the European school of sinology. For this advantage I am especially grateful to Dr. J. J. L. Duyvendak, Professor of Chinese and Director of the Sinologisch Instituut at the University of Leiden, Holland, who has generously provided his suggestions and criticism toward a solution of many difficult and obscure passages in the Chinese text. Professor Duyvendak's studies in the economic and political principles of the Chinese School of Law have enabled him to indicate in the Yen T'ieh Lun important currents of thought which prompted the administrative policies of the Han period, and which proceeded from centuries earlier than Huan K'uan's time.

I have drawn freely, as well, for material in my notes, on the studies of other European scholars, such as Professors Soothill, Maspero, Pelliot, Granet, Karlgren, Franke, Forke, and Margouliès. For interpretations of the political and economic theory of ancient China, the writings of the late Liang Ch'i-ch'ao have furnished me with valuable suggestions; and for a consideration of the prose of the Han period in its relation to the vernacular language of the time, I have relied on Dr. Hu Shih's studies. It has seemed unnecessary to append a bibliographical list of authorities consulted. These are cited by name in the foot-notes. The various editions of the Yen T'ieh Lun are discussed in the Introduction. References to Chinese works are usually made only by chapter or book, as the enumeration of the folio number is rarely of utility, due to the variations in the pagination of the innumerable editions of the older standard works. Citations from secondary Chinese sources have been generally avoided as of questionable value.

In the preliminary translation work, I have had the cooperation of Mr. Lin Tung-chi, M. A., assistant in the department of Oriental languages of the University of California, scion of a distinguished family of administrators and scholars, who happily combines, as so many of his nationals of the present generation, a sound background in his national culture with an alert appreciation of Western critical methodology. It is a truism that the most fruitful work in Chinese studies will continue to grow from the cooperation of Chinese and Occidental scholarship. To Baron Peter A. Boodberg, Ph. D., I owe frequent suggestions in the phrasing of certain passages; and the not inconsiderable task involved in the compilation of the glossaries has been undertaken by him.

I am to acknowledge my special indebtedness to Dr. Robert G. Sproul, President of the University of California, and to the Chairman of the Board of Research, Professor Armin O. Leuschner, for their generous support of the protracted research connected with the present work; and to Dr. Berthold Laufer, dean of American sinologists, for his continued interest and encouragement. For the completion of the translation of the Yen T'ieh Lun, the American Council of Learned Societies, through the Committee for the Promotion of Chinese Studies, has provided a subvention.

For rendering the many quotations found in the Yen T'ieh Lun, I have had recourse to the standard translations of Legge, Soothill, Duyvendak, Dubs and others, on the principle of not doing over again what has already been adequately done. In style, my own translation of Huan K'uan's text may at times appear a departure from the English idiom, for in this admittedly difficult text, it has often been found necessary to provide the literal rendering of the original Chinese, to retain its true meaning and spirit. The temptation is ever present to interpret, rather than to translate. Passages will doubtless be found which have been misconstrued. The responsibility for such lapses will be wholly assumed by the translator, the more readily as I shall not be the first to fall into such error, "for where even the strongest fall, the weak need not be ashamed to slip".

Esson M. Gale. Leiden, September 18, 1931.

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