The civilization of China is deserving of more than an interested curiosity. It may appear strange, but it is a fact that in this civilization there is recorded a large proportion of the sum of human experience. No other has, for so many years, served as a bond between so many of the human race. No one who lays claim to the title of humanist dare be ignorant of a tradition of culture so rich in charm and of such permanent value.
This tradition was already fixed at about the time of the Christian era--towards the epoch when the country of China, at length united, forms a vast Empire. The civilization created in China soon spread its light throughout the whole of the Far East. Thanks to numerous contacts, it was itself enriched. The Chinese, however, endeavoured to realize a traditional ideal, which they defined with increasing strictness.
They are attached to this so passionately that they themselves represent it to be the finest heritage of their race. Several thousands of years before the Christian era, their ancestors (they did not doubt) were initiated by sages into that discipline of life which was their strength. The pure civilization of the earliest ages was the source of a perfect cohesion, and the greatest China dates from the most ancient times. Its unity is broken or is restored according to whether an order of civilization, in principle unchangeable, shines resplendent or more faint.
These systematic views have the value of dogma and correspond to an active belief. They have been the inspiration at the heart of all the attempts at historic synthesis; over long centuries they exercised a decisive influence on the . . .