These papers throw a great deal of light upon the history of biography. There are a number of striking similarities between Chinese biography and that which developed in the Western world. These similarities, at least until recent times, do not seem to have resulted from any influence of one form upon the other, and thus they serve to illuminate the nature of the form itself. First of all, although the traditional Chinese view of the relation of the individual to society seems to have been quite different from that common in the West, the earliest motives in writing biography were essentially the same. Eulogy, for example—what Nivison calls the “paying of final respect to the dead”—seems to be a universal motive for writing biography. So also does the desire to use the life of a person to teach a lesson—the didactic motive which all three of these papers refer to and which dominated Western biography for centuries. The idea mentioned by Nivison of burying a brief biography along with departed worthies has its parallel in the tomb inscriptions of the Egyptian pharaohs.

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