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CHAPTER XXV.

M. Bailly's Theory of the Origin of the Sciences among the Nations of Asia.

FROM a consideration of the manners, customs, and laws of the Chinese, and a comparison between them and the Egyptians, of whom we formerly treated at large under the period of ancient history, some learned men among the moderns have formed a conjecture thar the Chinese were originally a colony of the Egyptians, and they have thus endeavoured to account for the striking similarity between them in many particulars of their manners, laws, and attainments in the sciences. But this similarity is not confined to the Egyptians and Chinese. These nations, together with the Indians, the Persians, the Babylonians, all exhibit some of the most wonderful features of coincidence; and this circumstance would, therefore, equally conclude for the common origin of all those different nations. This subject opens views of a very curious and interesting nature.

In the Memoirs of the Royal Academy of Sciences at Paris, we find an account of a dissertation read by M. de Mairan, in which that ingenious writer draws a parallel between the Egyptians and Chinese, from which he concludes, as the only means of accounting for their resemblance, that there must formerly have been a communication between these distant nations, and thinks it probable that a band of Egyptians had at some period penetrated into China.

M. de Mairan's parallel consists of the following remarkable instances of similarity, which may be classed under seven distinct heads.

First, the Egyptians and Chinese had the same fixed attachment to their ancient customs and abhorrence of innovations. Secondly, these nations were alike remarkable for the high measure of respect en

tertained by children to their parents for the reverence bestowed on old age, and for the veneration they had for the bodies of their deceased ancestors. Thirdly, the Chinese and Egyptiars were alike remarkable for their aversion to war, and deficiency in military genius; and both, in consequence, were frequently subdued by neighbouring nations. Fourthly, both were remarkable for the same general knowledge of the arts and sciences, which they carried to a certain point of advancement, but were unable to go farther. Fifthly, the Egyptians had a hieroglyphical language not representative of the language they spoke, but of ideas only. The ancient Chinese had, in like manner, a hieroglyphical language distinct from the characters they used in ordinary writing. The Japanese and the Coreans derived the use of hieroglyphics from them, and employ them at this day. Sixthly, the Egyptians had a solemn festival called the Feast of the Lights. The most solemn festival of the Chinese is the Feast of the Lantern.* And in the seventh and last place, M. de Mairan remarks, that there is a similarity between the features of the Chinese and the ancient Egyptian statues.

A modern hypothesis, of a very ingenious nature, accounts not only for those remarkable circumstances of similarity between these two nations, but for many wonderful coincidences both in manners and in opinions of the Indians, the Persians, the Chaldeans, and, in short, of almost all the great nations of antiquity. The hypothesis alluded to is that of M. Bailly, author of the "History of the Ancient and Modern Astronomy "and is contained in a series of letters ad

The authors of the Modern Universal History most whimsically derive the origin of this festival from the number of lamps which Noah was obliged to make use of in the ark, and make this an argument in support of their hypothesis, tha Noah himself visited China, and planted there all those arts and sciences which were known to the antediluvian worldSee Mod. Univ. Hist., vol. viii. p. 352.

dressed by him to M. de Voltaire, and published an der the title of "Lettres sur l'Origine des Sciences et sur celles des Peuples de l'Asie." This theory is not only in itself a beautiful effort of philosophic ingenuity, but the facts by which it is supported tend to throw considerable light on the early state of the arts and sciences among the Asiatic nations.

It is the idea of M. Bailly, that there has been a very ancient people of whom every trace is now extinct; a polished people who had attained to a great degree of perfection in the arts and sciences, and tc whom the Chinese, the Persians, the Chaldeans, or Babylonians, the Indians and the Egyptians, in short, all of the most ancient nations to whom historical record extends, were indebted for that measure of knowledge they possessed in those arts and sciences. "If you see," says M. Bailly, "the house of a peasant chiefly composed of the rudest materials, but here and there interspersed with fragments of sculptured stones, or pieces of elegant columns, you must, of necessity, conclude that these fragments are the remains of a palace, or elegant edifice constructed by an ancient architect of much greater skill and ability than the builder of that cottage." This principle is the foundation of M. Bailly's hypothesis.

China exhibits the traces of a perfection in the sciences, to which the present Chinese and their ances. tors, for many ages, have been most signally inferior. They are possessed of astronomical instruments which they cannot use, and have no desire to be taught the use of. Science we find among the modern nations is progressive; the present age avails itself of the lights of the past. In China, all science is stationary, and has ever been so. The Chinese are at present, with respect to most of the sciences, like the inhabitants of a country recently discovered by a polished people, who have communicated some of their improvements to them, and left their instruments among them. If Captain Cook had left a quadrant and a telescope at

Otaheite, the inhabitants of that island would at present know as much of the use of those instruments as the Chinese do, who have been astronomers for two thousand years. Hence it is reasonable to infer, that the Chinese have no natural genius for those sciences; they, therefore, could not have sprung up among themselves, but must have been imported into that country from a nation which cultivated them with intelligence and success. Fohi is said to have been the instructer of the Chinese. He was therefore, probably, a foreigner, and brought his knowledge from a refined and scientific nation.

The date of the foundation of Persepolis, by Djemschid, is fixed by M. Bailly three thousand two hundred and nine years before the Christian era. The city is recorded to have been founded on the day of the sun's entry into the constellation of the Ram. ' people in their infant state, uniting themselves inco society, cannot be supposed to be astronomers, or to mark the foundation of their city by the stars. Djemschid was certainly the leader of a colony of a polished people who took possession of a new country, and established there the arts and sciences which they had long cultivated at home. Djemschid was a stranger in Persia, as Fohi was in China.

The commencement of the Babylonian empire is involved in obscurity. We know, however, that the king of a people at that time named Chaldeans, too Babylon two thousand and five hundred years before the Christian era. The Chaldeans were an enlightened people, and incorporating themselves completely with the conquered nation, assumed their name of Babylonians, as the Tartars, after the conquest of China, termed themselves Chinese. The priests, however, the depositaries of the sciences, kept their ancient appellation of Chaldeans, which thence became synonymous with soothsayers, or wise men. It is certain that the Chaldeans understood the revolution of comets, which was unknown to Hipparchus, to Ptolemy,

and even to all the modern world down to the days of Tycho Brahé. Nay, Cassini himself in his youth believed comets to be nothing else than meteors. Is it not natural to conclude, that those Chaldeans who brought this high degree of knowledge to Babylor, were the remains of a most ancient and most enlightened people?

The Bramins of India believe in the unity of God, and in the immortality of the soul; but along with these sublime tenets, which presuppose an enlightened and reflecting period of society, they hold a variety of the most contemptible and childish doctrines. They derived the former, we must presume, from wise instructers; the latter have been the result of their own ignorance. We discern, in all the fables of their theology, the remains of an ancient and a pure system of religious opinions, which has been corrupted by a superstitious and degraded people.

M. Bailly then reasons from the circumstance of certain singular customs and extraordinary traditions prevailing in different nations, that they must have derived them from a common source. The custom of libation to the gods was common with the Tartars and Chinese, as well as with the Greeks and Romans. All the ancient nations had feasts of the same nature with the saturnalia. The tradition of the deluge is signally diffused, and is commemorated among many nations by different religious institutions. The Egyptians held that Mercury had engraven the principles of the sciences upon brazen columns, which resisted the effects of the deluge. The Chinese have the history of Peyrun, a peculiar favourite of the gods, who was preserved in a boat from the general inundation. The Indians have a similar tradition. Vishnou, one of their gods, under the form of a fish, conducted the vessel which saved a remnant of the human species. The same tradition is to be found in the Edda of the Scandinavians; only their deluge, instead of water, is formed by the blood of a giant. The tra

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