Зображення сторінки

Persia, and Greece, and Rome,- their slaves by hundreds. Freedom not one of which ever exceeded in and energy did not penetrate below extent that of China eighteen hun- the upper classes of society, and all dred years ago ? Have they not below was slavery and stagnation; perished utterly? and are not even and instead of the evil diminishing the very inhabitants of those regions as time rolled on, the reverse was now totally different in blood from the case,-the bondmen multiplying those of the elder time? Nineveh while the freemen diminished. Thus and Babylon, Balbek and Palmyra, there was no strength or vitality left Sasa and Persepolis, the Hundred- in the people to withstand the rude gated Thebes, and Memphis, and energy of the Northern hordes, and Petra, once the seats of unrivalled the invading tribes which they used opulence and populousness, have at one time to repel with immense vanished, hardly leaving ruins. The slaughter, triumphed at last, because wide plains of Syria and Mesopo- no soldiers conld be raised to oppose tamia are strewn with crumbling them. Such was the fate of the but gigantic mounds, attesting their classic empires—but it was not so former greatness, and the old cities in China. There, freedom was equally of the Levant have shared in the diffused. There were no castes, and overwhelming ruin. Tyre is a no class-privileges; the whole people wretched village; Famia, once the stood equal in the eye of the law; royal nursery of the Seleucidian slavery was almost unknown, and cavalry, and rearing on its marshes each man plied the loom or tilled upwards of thirty thousand horses the ground, not for a liege-lord but and elephants, now barely supports for himself. The consequence of this a few sheep and buffaloes ; and not a happy condition of affairs was, that wall remains of republican Aradus, industry and patriotism were develof all that multitude of houses, which, oped to some extent in all classes of says Strabo, had more storeys than the community; and every man, those of Rome. They perished all, having a stake in the country, was and why? Because they were unable proportionally willing to sacrifice to stem the invasions of the Northern something for the safety of the emhordes. And they perished utterly, pire. because they could not protect Civi. We naturally regard with contempt lisation against the assaults of the the military power of the modern Desert.

Chinese, but we would commit a Now, the trials which those empires most grievous mistake were we to sank under, China withstood. The suppose that this inaptitude for war same assaults were made upon her characterised all periods of their hisas upon them; the same hordes of tory. There is a period, or periods, Central Asia which overran the em- in the history of all States at which pires of the West and South, had the military spirit declines, and this previously been repelled from her declension may be said to have begun frontiers. This may be a humiliating in China some six or seven centuries fact for the Caucasian race, but it is ago. Consequently, while other nanot the less a true one; and the ex- tions have been going on inventing planation of this remarkable circum- new engines and modes of war, the stance is perhaps more humiliating Chinese have not only remained still. We say truly that the king- content with their old weapons and doms of Western Asia and Southern methods, but have forgotten much Europe fell in consequence of the of their former knowledge of the art, corruption natural to long-established and neglected still more of it. Their civilisation,-but was not the civilisa- ancient books on war and strategy, tion of China of a still older date ? as, well as their old songs of the The real and startling explanation is, country, attest a most martial spirit that freedom and social vitality then in the people of former times, as well existed in China to a greater extent as great proficiency in the military than elsewhere in the world. The bold art. Their very history, indeed, and brilliant freemen of Greece and presents indubitable evidence on this Rome were counted by tens, but point; for, on any other supposition, it is utterly impossible to account for of Providence, which has been at their continued and remarkable suc- work upon the earth from the first cesses against the ever-aggressive birth of the nations, nothing but a bordes of the Steppes. In fact, it is child of Chaos and avatar of barall but established that the Mongolian barism. people who overthrew the old Per- Many changes, as we have seen, sian empire and established that of have come over the external aspect the redoubtable Parthians, was a of the Chinese government, but, tribe wbich the Chinese had pre- strange to say, the theory of governviously expelled from their own fron- ment and the social civilisation of the tiers; and Gibbon assigns to a similar people have continued unaltered since cause the first heave of the mighty the earliest times. Twenty-four cenwave of invasion which, rolling west- turies have elapsed since the princiwards from the borders of China, ples upon which these are based finally submerged with its flood the became stereotyped in the works of mighty empire of Rome. One by Confucius (which for the most part one the tribes of Central Asia dashed were compilations from works still against the frontiers of the tempting more ancient), but they had been " Flowery Land," but one by one taught and practically acknowledged they were routed; and, driven before for long centuries before that period. the triumphant armies and increasing The remarkable permanence of these population of China, horde was rolled principles in the national mind is to be back upon horde in dire confusion, accounted for, first of all, by their abtill at length the East, in successive stract excellence,-secondly, by their swarms, threw itself en masse upon being in unison with the peculiar the West. So far from the Chinese idiosyncrasy of the people, — and, having been at all times an unwarlike thirdly, by their forming the staple of race, we believe that the military an education which was most widely spirit flourished for a longer period diffused throughout the empire. From among them than perhaps among the earliest times,-remarkable and any other nation. Besides the neces- instructive circumstance !—the edusity for its exercise, occasioned by cation of the people was under the the constant assaults from without, special care of the State ; and a work the numerous petty strifes between written before the Christian era, says the feudal princes before our era, and Mr Davis, speaks of " the ancient the far more dreadful civil contests system of instruction," which required which ensued during the centuries that every town and village, down to when the country was severed into only a few families, should have a rival kingdoms, infused or revived a common school. Education is not warlike temper in the people. These only inculcated by positive precepts, intestine conflicts were, on a 'grand but, as we shall see by-and-by, is enscale, to China what the wars of the couraged by a competition for the Heptarchy, of the Roses, of the Re- highest honours; and among the bellion, &c. were to England, countless millions of the empire there namely, a means devised by Provi. are very few indeed who cannot dence for the regeneration of the read and write sufficiently for the orpeople without the interference of dinary purposes of life. The great any foreign element, which latter regard which the Chinese entertain would have done its work rather by for age, is even secondary to their redestroying than by purifying. They spect for learning. “In learning," constituted an antiseptic-an anti- says one of their maxims, “ age and dote to lethargy and corruption; and youth go for nothing: the best-inwithout some such process as this formed takes the precedence." And kingdoms cannot long exist in their wealth itself (though abundantly integrity and strength. The purifying coveted by the Chinese for the gratifires of affliction are as needful for fications it supplies) is looked upon nations as for individuals ; and if with perhaps less respect than in any War is a desolator, it is also a other country, in consequence of rank purifier; and it is a narrow mind and distinction arising almost excluindeed which can see in this agent sively from educated talent.

On this all-important matter of extraordinary actions which appear Education, the Chinese have followed above the nature of man,-in fine, to a course different from all other na- work prodigies in order to procure tions, — (and this is another point admirers and followers in the ages to which we, with our Education Bills, come, that is what I would not do." may do well to consider.) We need He reserved all his time and talenta hardly say how little the Chinese sym- for the discovery of moral truth, pathised with the spirit of mystical and spent his life in teaching it to speculation, so prevalent in the west others. In brief, to use the words of one of Asia, and which peculiarly charac- of his disciples, the sum and substance terised the intellectual development of his doctrine is, “to possess rectiof the old empires of the Orient,--but tude of heart, and to loveone's neighbour they would even hold in contempt the as one's-self." comparatively practical systems of A volume of suchlike excellent Europe. From the classic ages to doctrines and precepts might be exthe present time, the great aim of tracted from the canonical books of education in Europe, and now also in the Chinese, the chief of which are America, has been to enlarge the in the Shoo-king (or Book of Books), and tellect of man,—to impart to him a the Four Classics composed by Conknowledge of the physical and meta- fucius and his disciples. These works, physical worlds,-and, as he ad- which are regarded by the Chinese vances, to enable him to peer into with almost as much reverence as the "all mysteries," and scrutinise the Bible is by Christians, and which workings of nature without and of his have received the sanction of generaspirit within. From the days of tions of an immense population, form Thales and Pythagoras to those of the basis of the public law; they Spinosa and Lamarck, the crowning have been explained and commented point of science and philosophy has on by the most celebrated moralists been the formation of systems more or and philosophers; and they are conless speculative, concerning the worlds tinually in the hands of all those who, of matter or of spirit,-and the effect while they wish to cultivate their inchiefly aimed at was to exalt the tellect, desire also to possess a knowhuman intellect by developing its ledge of those grand moral truth3 varied powers. No such educational which make the prosperity and happisystem found favour with the practi- ness of human societies. No one can cal mind of China. The system which peruse those monuments of Chinese has there existed, has been eminently antiquity without being profoundly asutilitarian, but it is utilitarianism in tonished at the lofty reason and emiits best form. It is not of that sort nently pure morality which breathe which exhibits itself in those schools throughout them; and if we turn among ourselves which style them- from the rules of social to the precepts selves " commercial," whose object is of political morality therein enshrined, to impart merely those branches of we will find equal cause for admiration. knowledge which are calculated to The exercise of sovereignty is readvance one's material interests, and garded solely as the religious fulfilwhich may be used against one's fel ment of a heavenly mission for the lows as much as for them. On the benefit of all. Moral limits are set to contrary, Chinese education contem- this power ; and should the sovereign plates man even less as an individual transgress them, then (as the celethan as a member of society, and en- brated philosopher Tshoo-hee, who joins upon him, by line upon line and lived in the twelfth century of our precept upon precept, the manifold era, says in his commentary, which is duties of humanity and courtesy which taught in all the schools and colleges he owes to his fellow-men. The object of the empire) the people would be of all European systems is to enlarge disengaged from their allegiance, would man's intellect, but that of the Chinese overturn his power, and replace him is to mould his habits and affections. by one who would rule legitimately,

To investigate the principles of that is to say, solely for the good of things which are hidden from human all. intelligence," says Confucius,"to do Its elaborate enforcement of etiHe is another point, also, in which the same principles apply to every a educational system of the Chinese subordinate ruler in regard to the poresents a peculiarity well worthy of pulation over which he is placed. In attention. From the earliest times, accordance with that thoroughly practhe great aim of their rulers and sages tical cast of mind which characterises was, to govern the mind through the the natives of China, their governbody, to regulate the internal emo- ment judges of the merit of its officials tions of the people by the gentle in- by the success which attends their fluence of external habits. They ob administration. It knows that a man served that, the tempers and disposi- of ability can almost always put things tions of all being different, something to rights in his district, and a sentence was requisite to harmonise such oppo of removal or degradation of the govsite characters, and with this view ernor is certain to follow continued they instituted the Le, or rules of pro- discontent or disaster in any part of priety in relation to external conduct. the empire. Confucius, a perfect sublimation of It will naturally be asked, what the national character, perfected the was the religious system which gave system thus commenced ; and the birth to a morality so pure ?--and this Book of Rites, compiled by him, is brings us at once to the knottiest point commonly said to prescribe about of all connected with Chinese civilisathree thousand ceremonial usages, tion, and one of peculiar interest at and furnishes a most complete and the present moment, in consequence rigid mannal of national etiquette of the religious innovations promul

It will thus be seen that the people gated by the leaders of the Rebellion. and statesmen of China are trained Some writers deny that China has a on a plan unlike any pursued in Eu- religion of its own at all, others rope. With us, the great subject of assert that it is a mere political fiction, education is knowledge, with the Chi invented for the better government of nese it is morality. The moral and the people. Some affirm the Chinese social lessons which, with us, are left to be Deists, others Atheists,—some to be taught in private, or to be ac- Materialists, others Idolators and suquired by experience of actual life, perstitions. These extraordinarily are made the first step, and funda- diverse statements are susceptible of mental principle of training in China. a much more perfect fusion than it is They prepare the youth for being a good possible at first to imagine; and man and good member of society, and their diversity is very much owing to place science only in a secondary rank. inaccurate information and inadequate So also in regard to statesmen. Those reflection. In order to fully appreof China are doubtless very much be- hend the religious system of China, hind the better class of European we must ascend the stream to its statesmen in general knowledge, but source,-scan carefully the moral aswe question if they are not superior pect of the nation,--and then, retracto most of them in the practical man- ing our steps, watch the various agement of men; and certainly no modifications which have, more or officials in the world are better train- less perceptibly, supervened. Unless ed in the principles, though not in the we do this, we shall not only fail in forms, of wbat we call constitutional obtaining a satisfactory view of our government. There is an engaging subject, but shall probably find our-simplicity in the Chinese theory of selves committing as great a mistake government. Still adhering to the as if we were to judge of the religion patriarchal principle (which has so of France in the days of Clovis by long ago given way to the feudal, mo- what it had become in the middle of Darchical, or republican in other quar- last century. ters), they regard the whole nation Turning back, then, to the reigns as one family, of which the sovereign of Yao and Shun, by which time Chiis the responsible head. If the people nese history had assumed an authenare happy, it is attributed to his wis- tic form, we find the people acknowdom and goodness,-if they are dis- ledging and reverencing the true God contented or in want, it is held owing under the title of the “Supreme to his incapacity or oppression; and Ruler.” According to the patriarchal


principle, the worship of tbis exalted of men. ... If a prince abandon his Being was confined to the Emperor, time to vicious pleasures, he will ineas the head of the nation; and the vitably draw down upon himself great high sacrifices were performed on the calamities; but, as the Book of Verses summits of certain mountains, such says, If the prince thinks constantly places being probably selected as the of conforming himself to the mandate natural altars of the earth. The offer. he has received from Heaven, he ings seem to have been, not expiatory, will obtain for himself many bappibut of the thanksgiving kind, consist- nesses.'" No unprejudiced reader can ing chiefly of the fruits of the earth; peruse such passages (and hundreds and the whole worship resembled in more might be given) without acknowmany points, and especially in its ledging that they contain a distinct absence of idols, that of the ancient recognition of a Supreme Ruler and a Persians, as described by Herodotus. Divine Providence. Their ideas of God did not possess The immortality of the soul, howthat individualism and personality ever denied at times by the Men of which so remarkably characterised Letters, is a principle in all ages practhose of the Hebrews; yet their tically recognised by the Chinese na"Supreme Ruler" was no mere ab tion; and along with the Supreme straction like the Deity of Buddhism, Ruler they have always worshipped seated on his passionless throne of the genii of the elements and the spirits Void, and far above all interest in of departed men. With these spirits sublunary things. On the contrary, it was anciently believed that a comthe early Chinese most properly re- munication could be kept up; and in garded God as regulating by his Pro- the dawn of their history, the son of vidence all the affairs of earth and the Emperor Hoang-te is said to have men,-raising up and pulling down founded a system of magic. Among dynasties, and sending blessings and the earliest written characters invented calamities upon individuals according by the Chinese, for this purpose, is one to the rectitude or viciousness of their representing, not a priest, but a magilives. “Although the Shoo family," cian, whose self-assumed office it prosays the Ta-Hio, “long possessed a bably was to carry on this spiritual royal principality, it obtained from intercourse, and by incantations and Heaven a new investiture. ... The suchlike processes to bend these genii mandate of Heaven which gives the to his service, and we are informed sovereignty to a man, does not always that there used to be persons who confer it on him for life. . . . Before lived apart in mountains, in order that, the princes of the dynasty of Chang by means of undisturbed contemplalost the affection of the people, they tion, they might attain to the power might have been compared to the of holding free converse with these Most High; and we may consider, shadowy beings. We make a prefrom their case, that the mandate of sent of these facts to our "spiritHeaven is not easy to preserve." The rapping” friends on the other side of Book of Verses says, "Respect the the Atlantic, -and briefly commend majesty of Heaven, and you will con- them to the notice of the general pubserve the mandate it has delegated to the curious instance of how epochs you." The Shoo-king Bay

Tost apart, and civilisations the ven, in creating man

lissimilar, often concur in prothem princes, and

ing the same remarkable phenotions." Conto

. In truth, alike in science, three

Slities, and philosophy, the deep udent of history ever finds more und more how much truth there is in the saying of the Hebrew Sage, that "there is nothing new under the sun."

Mysticism, in fact, has prevailed even

among the unimaginative Chinese, es and from its ranks proceeded the in lesser of the two great master-spirits

« НазадПродовжити »