Did someone say "Terrien de la Couperie"?
Hehe, Terrien's theories provide a perfect basis for all fancy theories on great ancients, hidden civilisations etc... But seriously, Terrien didn't speculate on the Atlanteans, or similar things (the above is a quote of a quote, once again...), but did try to prove a link between China and Babylon, from a linguistic basis. Here's Cordier, a more commendable sinologist, about him (from his General History of China, published in 1920, translation mine):
Whereas a number of scholars had noted some similitudes between cuneiform characters and chinese script, just like others had found resemblances between them and egyptian hieroglyphs, Terrien de Lacouperie did renew and try to provide a solid foundation to the doctrine of a babylonian origin of chinese civilisation. An astute and paradoxal mind, with more imagination than science, knowledge more broad than deep, who knew not assyrian, and only knew of chinese what he had learned from European books, Terrien, without respect for chronology, based himself on relatively recent texts, taking for granted their dubious authenticity, and often relying on facts which belonged more to folklore than to history, in order to adapt event to a preconceived theory. He therefore managed to build an edifice which may look imposing from the outside, but collapses as soon as one touches it. Let us give him justice, though, he had the great merit of proposing a lot of ideas, most of them wrong, but some correct, therefore unearthing problems which had, for long, been neglected by scholars.
Terrien de Lacouperie presents some of the most prominent traditions which, he believed, were learned by the Bak tribes before they mgrated, for instance the legendary memory of:
" A great cataclysm, which seems connected to the Great Flood, Sargon and details about his life, under the new name of Chen Noung (Shennong), Dungi teaching writing to the Bak tribes, Nakhounte, as Nai Houang Ti (Nai Huangdi), with event related to Koudour Nakhounte and his conquest of Babylonia in 2293 BC, the appearance of beings, half fish half men, in connection with the introduction of writing, the symbolic tree of life and its links to the calendar, etc..."
All in all, this would mean that China received its civilisation from Bak tribes, the Pe Sing (Baixing) of the Chinese Classics. These Bak Sings would have had blue eyes, coloured faces and hair which were not black, differenciating them from the black haired chinese people (the limin from the Classical Books). Later, we will see, in the thrid century BC, Qin Shihuangdi give his people the name of Black Heads, which would mean the Baixing are not the "hundred families" as sinologists used to think, ie the designation of the great families from the Zhou states, as Legge suggests, but specific tribes named Bak, Bai, in Terrien's theory, ceasing to mean "one hundred", and becoming a simple phonetic which was once pronounced Bak, an unproven fact. Thus, all the theory of a chinese civilisation inherited from the Bak tribes is based upon an unproven postulate, which is formally contradicted by all chinese texts, as Harlez has shown.
Interestingly, Terrien's theories are connected with other speculations on the origins of civilisations in general, and chinese civilisation in particular. Biot (first translator of the Bamboo Annals), considered that the "baixing", or "limin", were the actual migrants, who had come from the north west somewhere at the beginning of the third millenium BC, and gradually replaced the aboriginal populations. Wieger proposed a (very shortlived) alternative, which supposed that Chinese civilisation had moved northwards towards the Yellow River, at about the same period.
But perhaps the most curious theory was suggested by Bailly (in the late 18th century) and developped by Buffon (the naturalist). To them, all ancient civilisations had a common origin, which was to be found in the north of central asia. It would have split at some point, giving birth to both the sumerian, and the chinese...
Of course, no one believes in these theories now, but this does not make studying them less interesting, I'll leave the final word to Cordier (a bit dated as this was written in 1920, but still relevant I think).
The lack of sufficient proofs the above authors provide for their theories, does not mean that we should reject any hypothesis as impossible. The problem of the origin of the Chinese is still open. We find the chinese encamped on the banks of the Yellow River, but where did they come from? Who were the non chinese tribes they found in the regions they settled? That we cannot solve this problem now does not make it disappear. One cannot eliminate an event, or a character, from history, just because their existence is not proven by documents. One cannot neglect traditions, which might be based upon monuments, or elements which we have not discovered yet, or are no longer extant. If history as we know it, if archaeology, are not sufficient to give us a key to the origins of Chinese, this just proves that we are ignorant of the past. Maybe the link which connects China to the rest of humanity is to be found in such a distant past that modern generations cannot trace back to it. This belongs to the field of prehistory, which, in the case of China, is still for us an unchartered territory.