August 14, 2018 – Dr. Marilyn Bowman, SFU – “James Legge & the Chinese Classics”

Dr. Marilyn Bowman, Professor Emerita SFU, schooled in Edmonton and at McGill, taught at Queens (1972-76) and Simon Fraser University (1976-2005). She was the founding director of the doctoral program in clinical psychology at SFU and served variously as Chair of Psychology, Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and Research, Deputy Chair of Senate and Deputy Chair Board of Governors. She was made a Fellow of the Canadian Psychological Association. She completed Grade 10 in piano with the Royal Toronto Conservatory, studied pipe organ with Robert Pounder in Edmonton and sang with the Vancouver Bach Choir for many years. A wide-ranging traveler, she became a painter during her retirement. Long interested in China she became interested in the life of James Legge, Scots translator of the Chinese Classics, so interested that she did research in Oxford, New York, London and Hong Kong and over a 14-year period of research and writing, published her book “James Legge and the Chinese Classics” in 2016.

Dr. Bowman’s research and clinical academic career as a psychologist focused on individual differences in cognitive abilities and in response to challenging life events. Long interested in the history of China and in the countries of the Silk Road, she has travelled widely in Asia and Europe, seeking places with their historical connections. Her encounter with James Legge combined her professional interests with her interests in Asian history. The challenging events that James Legge experienced across his life in Hong Kong revealed his exceptional linguistic talents and steadfast resilience, her own “peculiar department”, as Legge described his interests. As she discovered his rich blend of talent and resilience in a setting of great political and cultural conflict, she wanted more people to know about this outstanding man.

Dr. Bowman’s book is available from Friesenpress bookstore online, also from Amazon in hardcover, softcover, and as an ebook on Kindle: James Legge and the Chinese Classics by Marilyn Laura Bowman. It is also available on my website.

My book is also available as a free download from Scribd, although that version does not include an Index. You can find the Scribd version here.

Transcript of the Talk

Morning everybody, the question is, “Why should we care about James Legge?” after all, he is a dead, white male, worse he was a Victorian, and even worse, he was a missionary who consorted with imperialists and capitalists. But we should care he was an outstandingly accomplished man, a prize-winning Latin scholar, a Scotsman from the far North of Scotland who did outstanding work in the time of great political turmoil between Britain and China. Many of the events that Hugh referred to and many more that you’ll learn about today, represented major adversities that affected his life, even while he was doing outstanding work. He was born in the small town of Huntly near Aberdeen in northern Scotland, attended small local schools and then went off to Aberdeen to the grammar school which was famous for Latin. At one point, he broke his leg badly in a carriage crash, was confined to bed for months to recover from his broken leg and spent the time playfully learning Latin, doing translations back-and-forth from English and Latin. He got into the habit of doing this starting early in the morning, of course Scotland as far North it was pitch dark all the time, most of the time, in the winters and he became fantastically talented in translating Latin. At the time, Scotland was full of religious ferment. The churches were splitting and fighting and his particular local town church, the mission or kirk, had two interests that were regarded with great suspicion by the established churches of Scotland and England. They were interested in missionary work, which was considered heretical, and they were interested in providing Sunday schools to children for their actual education, because they were they were actually working during the very week.

His grandfather was a Scots rebel so, the family was poor and his father, Ebenezer, was not well educated as a result, but he was a very smart man and he became a merchant, and then he became prosperous and bought land around the village of Huntly, and eventually became the mayor of Huntly. He used to send young James out to collect rents from the tenants out in the farms outlying, and James was hopeless at that, because he really couldn’t care less about money, but he felt great sympathy for the poor. One advantage of that whole episode was that he learned how to do double-entry bookkeeping, a venetian invention which he used to great positive effect much later in his career in the mission work.

His father was devout and supportive of him going into mission work even though the established church looked down on it. They had a family friend who had gone to mission work in Malacca, the Malacca Strait on the way to China, and sent back a book, a Chinese book that was printed on thin, pale yellow paper with curious characters written on it, and young James was quite fascinated by this exotic artifact. He went to King’s College which is now a part of the University of Aberdeen and he became a prize-winning Latin scholar. He wrote entrance exams when he was 14 years old, at the time when he was suffering from major concussion – he’d been crushed in a huge public demonstration in support of the reform act that the that the British government was trying to enact to expand though the vote – when he appeared on the platform to receive his diploma, he had two huge raccoon eyes from the serious head injury he suffered, and everybody was simply horrified to think that that the young lad had been and involved in such a grave accident and yet had done so well in these exams, because the entering scholarship exam was done on the basis of four grueling days of 16-hour exams, utterly unbelievable to modern ideas of what students are capable. At age 19, he again wrote another set of these horrible exams and won the top prize up as the graduation scholar in Latin. At that time, Scottish education was probably the best in the world and this had connections with the partisan reformation and so forth.

The top professor in Latin wanted him to take up a position as a vicar in the church of Scotland nearby, and promised him that during that, it would be an easy job, he could keep working in Latin and when the old professor of Latin retired, James would become the next professor of Latin at the University. But, James knew that he would have to become a member of the church of Scotland, the established church, and he would have to give up his Congregationalist ideas about the power of each congregation to choose its own minister, so he refused this very juicy lucrative offer because of his conviction about how churches should be organized.

So, he taught school for a couple of years in England, trying to decide what to do with his life, and after two years, he decided he was a Christian, and then he decided maybe he would become a minister so, he entered theological college and then while he was there he decided he would become a missionary to China. The theological college looked down on anybody headed for mission work, it was considered inferior. The top scholars stayed in Britain and developed major public careers in Britain. So, they cheated the students in the college who could otherwise get part-time teaching gigs and preaching gigs on weekends to fill in for neighboring churches, whenever they discovered it was a mission-oriented student. Legge found out about this, led the protests and got things changed.

He accepted by the London Missionary Society, which was an inter-denominational or non-denominational protestant group sending missions out to Africa, India, and interested in China. He was assigned to Malacca, which was near China and had a big Chinese immigrant population so, Malacca was the place for a new missionary intended for China could learn to read and write and speak Chinese. He renounced his inheritance in favour of his brothers, and he cut off a lock of his hair, and an oil painting was made of him. There was no system of furloughs for missionaries at that time. Once you became a missionary and were sent to some distant location everybody figured that was the end you it you would never see your family again. He married Mary Morison, because missionaries pretty well had to have wives. She was the daughter of another non-conformist missionary. He studied Chinese for a few months in the British Library before heading out. They boarded a sailing ship to go from London to Malacca and he was supposed to be teaching in the Anglo-Chinese college, also sometimes called the ACC for brevity, which was a college for senior students at the Malacca mission. At that point it was a capital offense in China for any Chinese person to teach a foreigner the Chinese language, death was the punishment. China didn’t allow any foreigners to live inside its borders, it was a very close society. It allowed trading only at one point, one port, Canton, for a short season each year and after that all the traders had to leave and returned to Macau and other places.

During the voyage he practiced Chinese with two other mission men. They saw no ships or land during the four months of their trip, and they landed at the tip of Java, a little port called Anjer which was used as a water stop and so forth. It was destroyed later by Krakatoa about 40 years later. They went inland to stay with a mission that have been set up to there by a senior mission man named Walter Medhurst, who was quite a skilled a scholar in Chinese. He discovered from Medhurst that, number one, he had been practicing the wrong spoken language of China for the last 8 months for Malacca. He learned that the Malacca mission was full of problems and had been for decades, that the London Mission Society had not told James about, and that the ACC, this college where he hoped to become a professor was in fact stumbling along as a very inadequate elementary school. He also had a kind of fateful meeting there with an American lawyer mission man learning Chinese from Medhurst also, Boone by name, who had great trouble in Chinese whereas Legge with his fantastic language skills was just picking it up very, very quickly and efficiently and that he grew in which Boone didn’t like Legge that that caused many troubles later. They finally got a small boat to sail to Malacca from Java, and on way became totally becalmed for two weeks, they were all close to death from dehydration when some rain squall developed and the collected rain water in the sails and saved their lives.

Arriving in Malacca, all the problems that he’d been warned about out turn up to be true. The man who was there, John Evans, it turned out he and had learned no Chinese in the time he had been there, and he’d spent a lot of his time and London Mission money doing real estate deals *laughter*. He was supervising an aging collection a little Chinese schools that were just teaching in the traditional rote memorization method, but nothing like anything you would recognize as a modern education. He clearly resented Legge who had a superior education and they got into many conflicts. In all ended quite suddenly when Evans died in Legge’s arms of cholera, in November. So, James Legge was now the man of the Malacca mission. He was only 23 years old. He quickly discovered the horrendous money problems at that mission, there were supposedly money in a safe that was not there and all kinds of … ownership of different buildings around the community of what were supposed to be owned, but there was no deed for the London Mission Society.

He called in a senior British judge for the straights settlements and got the finances all sorted out with the use of double-entry bookkeeping *laughter*. Anyway, they discovered that Evans had paid himself two full-time salaries in addition to his full-time salary as a mission man. He had paid himself a full-time salary as the principal of this college and a full-time salary as the professor of the college out of London Mission money and it was totally against London Mission rules, you had one salary you were to be a full-time missionary period. Legge also discovered that a lot of the people that Evans had posted as being converts were actually members of criminal triad gangs so, it was a complete mess, but he was quite an orderly Scotsman and he started organizing better schools, regular services, regular bible study, joint translation projects with a good Chinese scholar that the mission and he was studying Chinese intensely. He developed the idea while he was there that he would translate all the Chinese classics into English for the first time ever. The thing is in traditional Chinese education there are 13 classics that every scholar, and anybody who aspired to work as an official in the Chinese system of government had to be a master of these, had to have them totally memorized and understand them. Legge realized that the ideas in these classics had been powerful ideas across 2000 years of Chinese history and any mission man coming from afar, promulgating some new religion or new ideas had to understand those ideas because they were powerful cultural forces in China.

In 1842, there was the Treaty of Nanking, a treaty between Britain and China to open five trading ports to British and other foreign traders along the Eastern coast of China and Legge was ordered to move the mission to Hong-Kong at that point. there was a huge rush of officials, traders, merchants, all kinds of people, both British and Chinese into Hong Kong. Canton was now no longer the only trading port. This map is interesting *referring to slide*, like this is Hong Kong, both the island specifically of Hong Kong and the new territories. Canton is up there at the top of the Pearl River, this giant river with this huge river Delta and many rivers feeding into it so, this was the scene of all kinds of interactions between Britain and China. Now, at that point, China had forbidden all sales of foreign goods into China. It would only sell, it would sell many products that were of interest to the outside world, but people were not allowed to buy anything. The sale of the Chinese goods was managed by a monopoly called the Hong’s and Howqua was the leader of the Hong, very powerful, rich, fabulous businessman in him Canton. This portrait *referring to slide* was done by a Chinese artist but using European oil painting techniques. Now, the Qing emperor, was furious when he found out what the policies in the treaty of Nanking involved, because it expanded trade to five ports. However, the officials who had agreed on the treaty that the British and Chinese … were very pleased that they had reached some kind of accommodation and two weeks before James and Mary arrived in Hong-Kong, Sir Henry Pottinger, who was the governor of Hong-Kong, had a huge party to welcome Qu Ying, the leading Chinese official from Canton and the Manchu general and other officials, they had huge parties in Hong-Kong they had a big procession through the town with the most handsome coach, the most gorgeous horses, they had big parties, they played Chinese drinking games, they all got drunk, they all sang songs. Qu Ying and his Manchu general were both very handsome, smart, charming people and the British women in the colony were absolutely enthralled with them.

While Hong-Kong in 1842 was a pretty bleak place, it consisted of a few small fishing villages scattered around, the population total probably around 3000 because the Qing empire had cleaned it out of its population sometime before. The Canton officials were very pleased with the treaty because their Feng Shui consultants had told them that Hong-Kong was a useless piece of rock, the British would never gain any advantage from it, it was a hopeless thing, they were just well be rid of it. The Feng Shui masters have also told them that even the factories and warehouses that the British were allowed to have at the port of Canton, they were also on useless ground as far as Feng Shui was concerned so, the trade would never flourish. In Britain, Lord Palmerston was the Prime Minister and he was equally furious with the treaty that had been negotiated. He also thought that it was a useless piece of rock, and he fired Captain Charles Elliot for agreeing to it.

So, both governments were furious with the deal and James Legge and his wife arrived in July 1843 in a small boat. He had a pregnant wife, two young daughters, a few Chinese students, printing staff and a little press, plus a cow and a goat for milk for the two little girls, but the cow and the goat both died very quickly, and James wrote back home saying they’re not like good Scottish cows *laughter*. So, there was a rush to develop Hong Kong. Traders from both sides, both Chinese and British and other foreigners recognized it as a great new trading post, but it was a terrible place in in significant ways. The first year, 30% of the British troops sent there, died of what was called Hong-Kong fever, probably malaria. James was very busy, he got to her leased land to build a mission house on, he preached in the Chinese district, he started creating Chinese congregations, he started creating an English congregation, he ran bible studies, he got the mission press operating, he organized a school to be to be set up as the Anglo-Chinese college, once again as a proper college, and his wife Mary taught the Chinese girls. Crime was a huge problem in early Hong-Kong and he spent one whole night defending his house with a rifle through the Venetian blinds from rotting pirate burglars that would land on shore at nightfall and try to rob houses that they thought were vulnerable. He had an interesting very Scottish response to this, quite robust, he said, “it was like a real Scottish donnybrook” *laughter*.

He was still continuing working on Chinese translation studies starting from 3:00 a.m. until he joined the family for breakfast that day at 8:00 am and this was a lifelong habit, he worked on Chinese translations from 3:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. everyday. On the left *referring to slide* you see Union Chapel which was the chapel that the English congregation built, and the Chinese chapel which the Chinese congregation built, and he worked with other London Mission groups including a young doctor, Dr. Ben Hobson assimilate in shanghai. Hobson and set up a little London Mission hospital in Hong Kong and then moved it to Canton when political events allowed that. But, for James Legge and his family there was horrendous illness. In 1843, December, his son died hours after being born, his wife Mary was deathly ill for months after. In 1844, Mary was again ill with another pregnancy, and February 1845 another son was stillborn, and in 1845, November, Legge himself was so, so sick from repeated illness and liver disease, probably all Malaria and Hepatitis, that his doctors told him that he would die if he didn’t return to Britain. So, he was carried on board the boat and the whole family retreated and he thought that his whole dream was vanished, that his whole career and hopes were finished.

He took with him, back to Scotland, what were called the Three Lads, three of his most promising Chinese students. He wanted them to get a good Scottish education, and they did very well studying in Huntly. They lived with the local minister, and the street in Huntly, I’ve been there, where they stayed in the minister’s house is still called Chinatown *laughter* one house, in which three young boys lived 150 years ago. They gradually recovered, and he started giving talks about China, because everybody was very interested, what with the first Opium War and so on and so forth. He started attracting bigger and bigger crowds, and at the Three Lads were becoming very fluent in English and they started giving talks too, which fooled everyone because they still wore the traditional Manchu pigtail and their long Chinese dress, and they spoke fluent English with a strong Scottish brogue *laughter*.

Their speeches gathered so much interest that Queen Victoria was interested and so, they were invited to meet privately with her. She was only 28 years old at the time, that was four years younger than James Legge, she had been married for eight years, had already produced five children and was pregnant with the next one, and the Three Lads were completely charmed by her, she was friendly and modest, they couldn’t believe that the ruler of this fabulous place was such a nice, simple person and James in one of his letters wrote of her “finely rolling eye” . In fact, across his life James Legge always appreciated feminine beauty and would remark and the beautiful skin and the beautiful clothes of women that he met, when he was writing letters to people. At the time that he met Queen Victoria, George Richmond was a famous court artist who did painted portraits of Macaulay and other leading figures of that time. While they were in London, a fifth child, Annie, was born and again his wife was extremely ill.

In 1848 they returned to Hong-Kong on a wooden sailing ship, and while they were high seas, the ship caught fire in the hole – straw, alcohol, and James organized a bucket brigade and helped save the ship. In Hong Kong, when they got there, there was great political turmoil because the Chinese officials were not living up to the terms of the 1842 treaty and so there was a lot of unrest. There was a huge land grab going on and the early stages of the Taiping Rebellion against the Qing dynasty were starting in Canton province. A lot of Chinese were fleeing to Hong-Kong as a place of refuge from all the turmoil on the mainland, so there was a population explosion in Hong Kong. For Legge, again, there were more challenging personal events. His daughter Annie died in Hong-Kong, 8 months old. His wife Mary was seriously ill most of the time. In September that year there was a huge Typhoon, James was out on that huge Pearl Delta, which is like an ocean and for five days she didn’t know if he was dead or alive. They were desperately poor because the London Mission Society conveniently forgot to give him the child allowance they were paying all other mission men that have allowances for children so, he had severe money problems.

In December of 1850, there was a huge fire that burned down most upon Hong Kong, including 10,000 Chinese dwellings. Legge helped write and organize the distribution of posters in Chinese to explain to Chinese people how they could to apply for help from the authorities. He had decided while he was in Scotland that he would start to read the ancient texts with the eye of a philosopher rather than with the eye of a Christian. So, he was separating set himself from a lot of his Christian theology and Christian training because he realized he was dealing with the realm of philosophy. He risked beheading in a sort of unusual episode, he went to the mainland and some of his friends to see the Qing army encampment which was near a village which the Qing had decided were Taiping rebels. A lot of villagers have been captured by the Qing army and they were being brought in front of the general who has already ordering that each of them being beheaded in turn, and finally they brought up a little girl and James Legge couldn’t believe what he were seeing, and he was so infuriated with a Scottish temper, he whapped his cane at the soldier dragging the little girl, shouted in Chinese, “this is an impossible thing to do”. The Manchu general was so surprised by this, he waved the soldier off and decided not to behead her, but it was interesting that James was willing to put himself right into the line of difficulty in a situation where he would have been completely helpless.

Now while all these political events were going on, there were more family tragedies. In 1852, in October, Mary died after four days of a of a terrible childbirth that involved convulsions and a stillborn child and she died in his arms he couldn’t believe it, he was just totally heartbroken, and he realized he had to send his three remaining children back to Scotland, there was no way he could take care of them. Within about 6 months, he learned that one of the little girls sent back had also died in Scotland. So, of their 7 children only two survived to adulthood and he was now alone in Hong-Kong, struggling with the London Mission Society, still active, doing all his work. He then became a consultant to a huge project which was to create a new Chinese edition of The Bible.

A delegates committee was formed, and it was called the Delegates Version. He wasn’t on the committee because it was working in Shanghai, but he was consulted on matters of which Chinese words to use for which concepts. There was a huge fight that developed that lasted over 50 years about the so-called term question -what term to use for the concept of Jehovah or God, an eternal everlasting Lord. Legge, because of his familiarity with the ancient text preferred a term called Chongdi which represented such an eternal Lord, which the emperor would pray to a once a year at the temple of heaven in Beijing, but Boone, his nemesis from Batavia days, who didn’t know Chinese very well at all, he and his buddies preferred Shin which apparently represented spirits and could represent evil spirits as well as good spirits so Legge did not think this was a reasonable word to use. Anyway, this was a battle what went on what well after Legge’s death.

Then, the Taiping rebellion was in full flower by 1853 and the cousin of the king, the Taiping king, came to Hong Kong met James, they got along just wonderfully, and James invited him to come into the mission and help teach the children of the school. This was not a wonderful friendship and he was a good worker and a good man, but Hong was convinced that he had to go and help his cousin the Taiping king. James advises against it, but his he finally slipped away and left his family in the care of James Legge and eventually the Qing army caught him and executed him. So, then in 1856 there was the so-called second opium war, the arrow war, a small boat with the British flag was boarded by Qing officials in the Pearl Delta which was against the rules that they have all agreed to. The governor of Canton province was beheading thousands of people. He boasted that he had beheaded 10,000 people in one town and he set up public posters with price tags for the heads of different British officials, with different amounts of money depending on their rank. The Chinese were fleeing from Hong-Kong at this point because the governor and his officials in Canton were threatening if they didn’t come back to the mainland, their families would suffer. So, all the sudden Hong-Kong was emptied of people and there were no longer students for the school, the mission, whatever.

So, Legge had on his hands and what happened next was that he was poisoned in a massive poisoning and it’s quite an interesting story. He was 41 and he was up at 3:00 am, ate bread for breakfast and got kind of sick, didn’t think too much of it. At 8:00 am he joined his family for breakfast, they all ate bread and they all got sick and he realized that the bread has to be poisoned. He sent out the warning to the whole town and a lot of people ate it and were very sick, in fact the governor and his wife eventually died. It was arsenic poisoning at a huge percentage and the bread and it turned out the baker and his wife and family have gone on a boat off to Macau.

The British officials got very alarmed and while they were organizing a boat to chase down after the baker boat, in the meantime a British businessman chartered a boat and zoomed across, beating everybody, got to A-lum’s boat, he was anchored in the bay in Macau, and he and his whole family we’re all sick, they had all eaten the bread, and the crew of the ship were all sick. They hadn’t landed because everybody was sick so, we were hauled back to Hong Kong and he was put in jail.

James was a jail visitor on behalf of the mission so he got to know A-lum quite well and A-lum would organize all the inmates and the prisoners of the jail whenever James came for a visit and they were on wonderful terms because A-lum in fact was quite a fabulous man. He was extremely bright, well organized, well educated, an extremely successful businessman who supplied all the British fleet with all its biscuits and bread and everything. Anyway, they held a trial and A-lum was acquitted, and it was clear during the trial that he had no knowledge whatsoever of this poisoning, it had really been sabotage from the Qing dynasty. Two men had been temporarily working in the bakery and they had slipped away, and everybody realize that these two men had been the poisoners. After he was acquitted, the British governor spoke privately to A-lum, he said, “it’s true that you’ve been acquitted, but the whole colony is in uproar about this and you’d probably be best to leave town.” So, he did, he took his family, through Macau and ended up in Vietnam where he became again, a very prosperous, successful businessman, received many public honours, a huge public funeral. So, his story is quite a fabulous story.

At this point, his translations were coming along very well, he needed somebody to help pay for the cost of publishing and a nephew of the famous Jardine Matheson company agreed to pay for the cost of publishing. His London Mission press was now creating beautiful modern texts on a modern printing press which a London mission man, Sam Dyer had work about 30 years in creating a method for using movable, metal pipe to print Chinese characters and this was revolutionary, and he created two sets in two sizes that was simply beautiful text that was soon bought and borrowed and used by many others eventually. Legge went back to Britain to get paper to publish his stuff and he married a new wife, Hannah, in Britain and the back to Hong Kong.

The Taiping Rebellion was still causing terrible chaos, it eventually killed, historians believe, 20,000,000 – 30,000,000 Chinese died in the Taiping rebellion. The scale of the deaths was unbelievable. Legge had argued that the British should be neutral in this, rather than taking sides with the Taiping’s or with the Qing. One of the post of missionaries believed that the Taiping king was really a Christian king, that he was going to bring Christianity to the masses of China, but Legge had read the detailed text and realize that the Taiping king was actually a bit demented. He believed that he had gone to heaven, met Jesus, discovered that Jesus was his brother and that Jesus’ brothers and sisters and children and so forth and this was all in the in the formal Taiping literature. So, Legge said, do not get involved in this, this is not a problem. China also had external problems because it wasn’t following through on the details of the Treaty of Nanking, and so the British and French decided they would send a diplomatic party backed up by mounted soldiers. They took up by boat to the nearest port in Beijing and sent a diplomatic party as an advanced party to find places where they could set up their camp while they had talks with officials in Beijing. The Manchu general, captured that party, it was 39 people, starved, tortured, mutilated and killed 20 of them, and when Lord Eldon who was leading that expedition found out what happened he thought, “we have to do a reprisal, but we must not do anything that will harm Chinese people,” and that was when he ordered the destruction of the Summer Palace, it was to it was to claim moral superiority. Killing people was not what they were about, but they had to punish the Qing officials in some way, so destruction of property was considered the more moderate way of responding.

In 1861, he published volume one, this *referring to slide* is what the publication looked like from a drawing by his daughter Eliza. He published the first volume of his text which was volume one was that it was the Confucian Analects, the Doctrine of the Mean and the Great Learning. His London Mission supervisor was not at all pleased that he was doing this work, even though Legge was not using mission time for it, and criticized him, but in the meantime, he was doing the work and he was also asked to sit as chairman on the board of education to try to create a public school system for Hong Kong, which he did as chair of that. So, this was the first volume he published, the Confucian Analects, page one, and this was an arrangement he used in his book. There are 5 giant volumes that he eventually published, and this was volume on. He had first, about 200 pages of an essay, trying to assess the dating of the books, the probable authorship, the geographic location, what the system of government and the politics of time, what the other traditional commentary said about, so, he was subjecting the text to a scholarly empirical examination that was very different from the way that traditional Chinese scholars had studies the works.

It was a completely new way of doing it and used it as modern approach. This *referring to slide* is a better copy of the standard format that he used across all the books he published. The top third is the Chinese text, it’s followed by his translation lined up very carefully, so you could actually learn to read Chinese by studying these texts, and then at the bottom, he had notes and these notes were simply fabulous. They could be written in sentences of either English, Chinese, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, German, and he just assumed that his readers knew all those languages, he didn’t translate them, he wrote them in “you know the Latin author of this wrote” and then he would write the Latin text, and you’re supposed to realize that relates to this Chinese text. So, it was a fabulous feat of scholarship. He also had massive indexes at the end of each volume. Now, Chinese dictionaries are very complex things because it’s not an alphabetic system, its not based on phonemes. The written language as an independent thing of the spoken language and so, the rules for using Chinese dictionaries are extremely complex but he had these elaborate indexes so that people could find not only the meaning and the sound and so forth of all the words, but they could find it in every book that he published where this particular character would have shown up.

Now these volumes were immediately pirated by publishers all over the world. The Unites States, The United Kingdom, China, Taiwan, Japan. There was no copyright acknowledgment for James Legge, he printed it on the London Mission Press. There was no acknowledgement of him as the translator or as the author of the essays. In fact, they usually eliminated the essays and eliminated the notes, which were part of what made these books so fabulous. Then, the China Mail, the local Hong-Kong newspaper in English wrote reviews of the first two volumes that he published and they spent all the time in the review criticizing Chinese philosophy, not dealing with his scholarship or what he had written, but criticizing Chinese philosophy and that set the stage for how the British intellectuals viewed China’s way of thinking for a long time, they believed that it was an inferior philosophy because the China Mail had laid out the reasons for thinking that.

So, this is his new wife, a son Jamie that was born, this with his Chinese amah, and Cantonese was his first language. Next, he got involved in a tragic event, there was an old Chinese man, Chiya, who lived up one of those little river, speeding down into the Pearl River, and he was a Christian, and he had come to Hong Kong and visited James and wanted to become an evangelist in his little village, but the villagers didn’t like this, and James that he’s been persecuted. James himself was desperately sick with recurrent malaria and needed a break from work so, he decided he would go on a very official visit up that river to visit Chiya, this old man and get official acknowledgement that he had the rights to own his house and do things in his house. So, they did this, they met with Mandarins all the way up the route, and they had very official meetings, official presentation of the keys to the house and so on and so forth, and Legge thought that everything was going to be much better. Went back to Hong Kong, but a few months later again he heard word that mobs were attacking Chiya’s house and bothering him in different ways so, Legge decided he needed to make another visit up the river.

So, Harry Parks, that man who had been in that ambushed group, the diplomatic party, was now the British consul, sort of running Canton’s complex political things, and he told Harry Parks, “if I am killed, do not send any boat after me, I do not want any Chinese people to be harmed or killed if something happens to me”, so he knew that he risked being beheaded. So he went up there, gave a big official visit, a lot of ceremony, official transfers of power, and all that kind of thing and Legge thought that Chiya was safe once more. He left and got back to Hong Kong and discovered that two days after he had left, mobs had again attacked him, they burnt him, torching him, saying they didn’t believe that he was Christian. and finally, they cut him up, dismembered him, and threw his body into the river. So, Legge was outraged said that the British authorities running Canton at that point had to force the Qing officials to get these murderers, who had murdered a man, who was really but a mild old man, and for a long time nothing was done, but Legge became a hero to Chinese Christians for that and most of she has been Chiya’s little congregation of 50 people moved to Hong Kong to prevent any further persecution’s.

Now Wang Tao, is a major figure in his life, he was a Shanghai hippie, bohemian, he liked drinking wine he liked getting drunk, singing songs to the moon, he consorted with prostitutes, but he was an extremely well-educated scholar. He had passed the equivalent of a master’s degree examinations within the Taiping system and he fled, he was being chased by Qing. The Shanghai Mission men from London Society snuck him onto a boat, he got to Hong Kong, immediately came to James, and James recognized that he was a wonderful scholar. and for the next, quite a few years, they worked together on translations. Everything after volume three, Wang had helped him with. He had a long personal friendship with Wong that ended with both their deaths in 1897.

Now this doesn’t look like much, it’s a page in a book that’s this dimension, this thick, in a huge box in the New York Public Library, and there are 12 volumes like that, 12 boxes and what they are massive concordances, just like the old bible concordances, you can look up a word in a bible concordance and it will tell you all the books of the bible that that word appears in. Well this is the concordance to James Legge’s volumes of his classics. And I’ve studied all of these volumes, they are written in different handwriting in different books, he didn’t do it, but he did write notes on the top, and that is what I was interested in. so he published two more classics in 1865. Now this is his Chinese chop, Li, for Legge, Yage, and that was his Chinese name. He had effectively chaired the board of education to set up this wonderful new central school which is now called Coombs College which is a very fine college in Hong Kong. Wonderful modern, broad Scottish curriculum, Math, Geography, Science, History, Chemistry and so forth. But, he was again suffering from severe bouts of Malaria, he was almost blind from the quinine doses that he was taking. His wife was also terribly sick, so she returned to the UK with four children.

Now this was the next version of Union Church, you’ll recall, the earlier image I shown. The English congregation was becoming very prosperous, they built the most beautiful building in the colony for its time, and it was eventually destroyed during a Japanese occupation in WWII. They dismantled it to use the building materials for other things that they wanted to do. He received word that his wife, Hannah, was in such dire illness that he had to return to UK and he did, and European scholars of Chinese started publishing reviews of his books and they were giving him high praise and he was recognized for the first time as the major Chinese scholar of his era.

The family moved to Dollar, Scotland where there’s a very famous school, the Dollar Academy, still a thriving, wonderful, modern school. His children attended the school. And he invited Wang Tao to join him there. Jardine paid for Wang’s trip and they were there for two years, working on more texts and Wang himself, being a lover of the good life loved, you know, we think of Victorians as all buttoned up, but Victorian women in their fancy dress were not buttoned up at all, they had very low gowns, Wang loved all the skin that he could see *laughter*. And wrote back letters about this, and eventually there were articles in Chinese praising the smooth governments, the technology moguls, everything, he was just totally thrilled with what he saw while he was there. And Legge in the meantime, is given an honorary doctorate from the University of Aberdeen and walked in the academic procession and he saw de Lesseps who had just built the Suez Canal. So, he went back to Hing Kong for a final 3 years, just as a pastor of Union church to finish the publication of his five big volumes. He returned from mission work in 1873, sold the press, with its marvelous Chinese types, its modern printing methods to Wang Tao who used it to sell out the first ever Chinese newspaper.

He went by northern China, across the ocean actually, to America on his way home. In Beijing, he and two other pals went to the temple of heaven, where the emperor, would pray once a year to the lord of heaven. They held hands and they sang the doxology and fundamentalist mission men who found out about this were just horrified. The idea that Chinese were not pagan people, that they had some overarching conception of god, was just horrific in their way of thinking, so he was vilified for this, he also took a detour, so that he could visit the home of Confucius whom he called the master. he had become increasingly impressed by the wisdom of the Confucian philosophy in these classic texts that he had been creating. Now a bunch of Taipans, big business men in Hong Kong, decided that they would create an endowed chair at Oxford for Legge to become the first ever professor of Chinese at Oxford. And the plan immediately fell apart, a whole bunch of complicated medieval rule. First of all, you could only be appointed as an academic at Oxford if you were Church of England, and he wasn’t. They only appointed men who had graduated from Oxford, and he hadn’t. Oxford’s scholars were only interested in India, because that’s where Britain was developing an empire, they weren’t interested in China that much, so they didn’t really know about China. And Oxford didn’t know who these men., these taipans who were creating this money pot for the endowment. So, there were all kinds of formal hurdles and Oxford was actually forced to change some of its medieval rules in order to make the appointment which was finally created after three years of ridiculous struggles. The president, at one point, wrote a letter saying,” I certainly hope he doesn’t pray preach hellfire brimstone once he gets here.” They were just terrified of what this wild man from China might do. He was just considered a curiosity.

Now the next tragedy involved his 2nd wife. She was done as with breast cancer and Legge sought for the best surgeon he could find out and Lister, Doctor Lister was making a huge impact at the time for his adoption of Pasteur’s germ theory and the idea that the operating area should be kept free of germs as much as possible with for which Lister was vilified by all the surgeons of the day. Anyway, she had her operation and for the 1st 4 days afterward she was recovering very well, she clearly had not thought infection in the and the surgical wounds and then she suddenly died, her condition went down very badly, he rushed down to London to be with her she died in his arms and he authorized an autopsy to find out, turned out she had also a perforated ulcer which had a major infection. So, the operation had not killed her. Then he had to find a place to bury her and in Oxford all the cemeteries were owned by the local parish churches and they were all church of England so, he went from one to another it was raining he was trudging from one to the other trying to find a vicar who would allow is not conformist his wife to be buried in their church ground. it was just a horribly disgusting episode, it was just unbelievable. Anyway, they finally found one place where he was allowed to be buried. so, by this time of his 11 children 5 had been lost to premature deaths and both wives had died prematurely before him.

So, this is a copy of these are copies of the original Chinese classics that were published up to 1873 in Corpus Christi College Oxford, which is the college that he was affiliated with. He was the most accomplished Chinese scholar of the entire Victorian age and his work is still the standard against which other new translations are compared and modern hippies got very interested in the I Ching remember, starting in the sixties they were using I Ching to predict the future and so forth and they didn’t like Legge’s translations because they’re quite terse for the I Ching and he did that because the Chinese itself that ancient Chinese version, is very terse and he didn’t want to add a whole bunch of sort of extra descriptive phrases in English, trying to pin down meaning not was not written in the originals, but other modern translators have tried to sort of flesh it out and serve their own meanings, but his texts or sort of much more pure and are recognized for that. Wang Tao, his longtime collaborator praised him as the outstanding Chinese scholar of his generation. All of these books were reprinted in 1960 in honour of the 100th anniversary of the first volume and then they were reprinted again in 1970, and this is my personal set. Another big republishing is underway right now, in China. You can’t see much, but in the very bottom there there’s one book and there’s a gold figure on it and that gold figure is of the sage of Confucius.

Legge’s political ideas were liberal, he was in favour of homebrew for the Irish, voting rights to a broader population, higher education for women, a broad and scientific curriculum and education and the separation of church and state. His family eventually had this plaque mounted in the cloister at Corpus Christi college, he did much more publication in the years that he was at Oxford, he got another honorary degree this time from Edinburgh and he died in 1897 at the age of 81. On the left is Christopher Legge his great grandson who lives in London and his son Jamie, that’s of course the picture of old Ebenezer. Christopher became a Roman Catholic because he married Roman Catholic girl and this would have horrified James Legge because he believed that every congregation had the right to choose its own everything, he was a Congregationalist anyway, they’re very happy and young Jamie for a while thought he would even become a priest and he went to study to the Vatican University for a couple of years but then he came home and he fell in love with Sophie and he’s now married and got some nice children. It’s a very nice family, I’ve been in good touch with them for years now.

Hong Kong in 1994 made a stamp, for the first time they ever had a stamp honouring a person who was not a member of the Royal family because he had made a huge impact on Hong-Kong life. The ACC, the Anglo-Chinese college, became known as Ying Wa the English-speaking college it’s a wonderful modern school that is still thriving and I’m going to give a talk there in October when they celebrate the 200th anniversary of their founding. I’ve been there and it’s a wonderful place. Queen’s College which he helped found is a thriving wonderful place he recommended the creation of a public library and got the impetus going to the creation of a public library the English church that he founded, Union Church is still a thriving church. The Chinese church, Hop Yat Church, is still a thriving church, the printing press that his colleague Sam Dyer created revolutionized the use of movable metal pipe for the printing Chinese text, in a way that everybody soon adopted and followed. This is a large beautiful oil painting of him that stands inside Corpus Christi College in Oxford, as a person James Legge was a genial Scot, he liked speaking Scottish, he liked attractive women, enjoyed the raucous of children, liked Scottish jokes, poems and songs. He had exceptional intellectual skills and personal resilience across this lifetime of amazing events. He was not teetotaler, he and his father wrote letters discussing whether it was a good thing or a bad thing when the movements spread across Britain, and he once had a sit-down dinner for 130 members of his Chinese congregation at which they drank mild high toasts hour after hour. He was not a hell and brimstone preacher, he was preached the idea of providence and love-thy- neighbor. He was a deeply egalitarian Scott compared to the English tradition of superiority and inferiority that was really things of that time.

I’ll just show a few more quick pictures. I have a book launch in Corpus Christi College in Oxford when the book was published. Sir Tim Lancaster has been a great help to me at doing that, and today the great Scots chair is empty, but I just want to summarize what he was and why we have never, why we don’t know about him. First of all, Oxford authored Legge just as a translator, but he wasn’t, he wrote the fabulous essays and notes, that went far beyond just translation. Mastering a complex ancient written language requires years and years of study and WWI interrupted all kinds of things and killed off young scholars in the thousands. Missions became unpopular arising from secular ideas racing through western cultures. The Marxist challenges the evils of colonialism even though Marxism is its own kind of colonialism, also unmade the ideas of mission and mission work. Also, Oxford elitisms, he was always regarded as an outsider at Oxford because he was the wrong church, he was representing the interests of a country they didn’t care about anymore, and so forth. But, I think that we all know, that although China has been neglected in the western world for the last century, we know that it will not be neglected anymore. And anybody who really wishes to understand the deep ideas and the philosophy of China could do no worse than to starting to read Legge’s translations.

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