« VorigeDoorgaan »
Respecting the validity of those general charges of inhumanity brought against the whole Chinese people, and founded on their reputed practice of infanticide, and their apathy in withholding assistance to Their countrymen when in danger, my information is chiefly of a negative kind. It will readily be supposed that in our almost linear progress through the empire, we were not in the way of obtaining a sufficient number of facts for estimating the different degrees of credibility attached to the statements, according as little on the subject of infanticide as on that of population, respecting the causes and extent of the exposure of children in China.'
That the practice exists, admits not of a shadow of doubt; to what extent it exists is not likely ever to be known. The little value that attaches to females throughout the East, leads too frequently, it is to be feared, to their exposure. In all those nations the parent seems to be armed with uncontrolled authority over his children, even to the taking away of life. The Chinese laws, in particular instances, appear to admit this; but the Chinese people deny the practice. That it is but too common however, at least aniong
the lower classes, may be inferred from the remonstrance of a magistrate of Kiang-nan, published in the Pekin Gazette, praying the Emperor, that the selling and putting away of wives, and the drowning of female infants night be prohibited on which KiaKing very sbrewdly observes, that the existence of male and female is essential to the continuance of the human species ;' and concludes, doubtingly, that if it be true that a common practice exists among poor families of drowning their female infants, it is a very shocking and wicked thing, and should be put a stop to by adınonitory and prohibitory edicts.'
There is certainly something in all this, not extremely favourable to the Chinese, and yet they should not be too generally condemned. Unfeeling and unamiable as their character has been represented by all the visitors of Canton, from Lord Anson to the present writer, there are traits of excellence to be found in it. It is but common justice to allow them credit for instances of individual generosity and humanity as a set-off against the knavery and brutality, of which they have been so unceremoniously and so universally accused. Mr. MʻLeod gave us an instance of a Chinese wanting neither feeling nor gratitude; and we took occasion to supply a still stronger one. Captain Ross, the commander of the East India Company's ship the Discovery, has enabled us, from his own experience, to furnish a third. While surveying those dangerous rocks, called the Paracells, off the coast of Cochin-china, he perceived the wreck of a large Chinese junk, and, on approaching nearer, observed on a barren rock, not exceeding fifty fathoms in length, a group of people amounting nearly to a thousand, who had
SETON MALL UNIVERSfiapped
SU. ORANGE, N. J.
escaped the wreck only to perish by famine. With the utmost difficulty they were taken, by eight or ten at a time, from this desolate spot, on which they had already remained four days; and all landed safe on the opposite coast of Cochin-china.
Some time after this, when Captain Ross was surveying the south-eastern coast of China, near the strait of Formosa, he landed at a small town not far from Aimoy; on passing through one of the streets, he was noticed by a young man who ran up to him, threw himself on his knees, and eagerly embraced his legs : it appeared that he was one of those who had been released from their desperate situation on the rock of the Paracells. He made known his liberator to his towns-people, who immediately crowded round the Captain, loading him with blessings on every side; and nothing that the place afforded was considered as too good for him. One more, and we have done. Con-se-qua, one of the Hong
, merchants of Canton, who is still living, had large concerns with the Americans. The master of a ship belonging to that nation, on pretence of inability, had refused to settle the balance of his account with him, and was preparing to leave the river. Con-se-qua complained of this conduct in the presence of a Mr. Robinson, chief mate of one of the East India Company's ships, who, knowing that the American captain had ample means to settle his balance, undertook to procure it for the Hong merchant. He accordingly remonstrated with the American, stating the bad impression which such dishonourable conduct must leave on the minds of the Chinese, and that, for the credit of his country, he ought to settle his accounts before his departure-in short, the account was settled. Con-se-qua strongly expressed his feelings of gratitude, and told Mr. Robinson that in future he would take his investment off his hands whatever it might be, at a certain profit, regardless of the market being overstocked. This went on for a few years, when one day Con-se-qua thus addressed Mr. Robinson-Mr. Robinson, you come here
one, two, three
chief mate —why you no come captain? Mr. Robinson informed him that he had not sufficient money to purchase the investment. What money you want ? asked Con-se-qua. No less, answered Robinson, than eight thousand pounds. Nothing more was said at the time; but, just as the ships were about to sail, Con-se-qua put into the hands of Mr. Robinson, an order on the house of Baring and Co. (with whom he was connected) to advance on his account the sum of eight thousand pounds, saying, Now you come captain, and when you rich you pay me. Poor Robinson however did not live to avail himself of this noble act of generosity.
Nor ought we to forget, while professing to give an impartial view of this people, that in the unbounded respect and veneration of
children for their parents, and the sobriety which prevails generally among all ranks and conditions of men, they probably excel all other nations. But a Chinese is not only of sober but of industrious habits; he is also naturally dexterous and ingenious, and whatever he undertakes he performs with neatness and propriety. The faculties of his mind are clear and acute; his perceptions quick, and would be comprehensive if called into action; but the system of his education and the nature of the institutions under which he lives, constitute him too much of a machine, whose motions are regulated by certain invariable rules. So singularly uniform indeed are the features, the appearance, and the public manners of this people, that it was well observed by one of the missionaries, Parcourez l'empire de la Chine ; tout vous semblera fondé dans le même creuset, et façonné par le même moule.'
To this sameness, arising from legislative interference in all that concerns a man's conduct in life, it is owing that, while in most parts of the western world the human faculties have been either in a state of progressive improvement or deterioration, most of the Oriental nations have remained very nearly stationary. Time would seem to have stood still with the Chinese. We find them neither improved in learning nor in morals, nor in the system of government and legislation, nor one whit more enlightened in religion or in the sciences, than they were three thousand y'ears ago. The cut of their robes, the plan of their houses, the form of their furniture, have not changed in all that time, so much are they under the dominion of ancient custom-and while no inconsiderable portion of the globe has been agitated by the capricious tyranny of fashion, they have had the advantage (if advantage it be) of reposing in peace under that alone.
But as human nature is every where pretty much the same, China would appear to have its male and female elegantés as well as other countries. In a Chinese novel called Hung-how-Mung, or, The Red Chamber Dreums, part of which has been translated by Mr. Davis, of whom we have had frequent'occasions to speak favourably, two characters are introduced, whose costume may be amusing to the belles and beaux of Great Britain. The dress of the lady, who is denominated a La-tzé—(something sharp or pungent)—is thus described: ‘On her head her knot of hair was adorned with gold and silk and eight precious stones pendent. It was fastened with a pin of pearls dropping from tive little eagles. An ornament of virgin gold, enlivened with insects, embraced her neck. Around her waist was an upper dress of deep red-coloured silk, on which were enbroidered an hundred golden butterflies, fluttering among flowers. Over this was a narrow garment made of the skins of stone-blue mice, and silk of five different colours. Below all, was a petticoat
of foreign crape of a green colour, sprinkled with flowers. She had a pair of most bewitching three-cornered eyes, and two eyebrows curved like the young willow leaves; her person was slender, light, and airy.' The gentleman was also covered with butterflies fluttering among flowers of gold: his beautiful nose was full and round, like the gall-bladder of a quadruped; and he had a face like the moon in the midst of autumn-covered with white paint, and lips tinged with vermilion. From his head to the end of his tail, which dangled to the ankles, hung four strings of precious stones set in gold. His upper tunic was pink, spangled with flowers, his trowsers and stockings were embroidered, and his shoes were of a deep red colour, with thick white soles. This irresistible youth is said to have ten thousand thoughts of love collected in the corner of his eye.'
Mr. Abel (to whom we now return) had scarcely left Tien-sing when he was seized with a brain fever, which confined him to his bed for several weeks. He had the misfortune therefore of missing the best and most interesting part of the journey, especially that which led up the great river Yang-Tse-Kiang past the ancient capital Nan-King and its celebrated porcelain Pagoda, the appearance of which, though none of the party approached within two miles of it, accorded, Mr. Abel was told,' with the description given of it by different writers.' The catholic missionaries all speak with admiration of this edifice; but none that we know of, except Père le Compte, has described it; and his account of it is, like every thing else in his book, loose and vague, and little to be relied on. The following curious description of the Temple of Boudh, for such this celebrated Pagoda is, was purchased in the city of Nan-King, on the return of the embassy: it is perhaps the first authentic account of it which has reached Europe, and we think our readers will be gratified with a verbal translation of the original, for which we are indebted to the kindness of Sir George Staunton. Lord Amherst is said to be possessed of a model of this extraordinary building, which, Du Halde says, is certainly the most solid, remarkable, and magnificent structure in the eastern world.' He should have confined the remark to China, and made an exception of the 'Great Wall.'
'The Dwelling of Security, Tranquillity, and Peace.
The representation of the precious glazed Tower of the Temple of Gratitude, in the province of Kiang-Nan.
This work was commenced at noon, on the fifteenth day of the sixth moon of the tenth year of the Emperor Yong Lo*, of the dynasty of Ming, and was completed on the first day of the eighth moon of the
1413 of the Christian cra.
sixth year of the Emperor Siuen Té, of the same dynasty, being, altogether, a period of nineteen years in building.
'The sum of money expended, in completing the precious glazed tower, was two millions four hundred and eighty-five thousand four hundred and eighty-four ounces of silver. In the construction of the ornamental globe on the pinnacle of the roof of the tower, forty-eight kin* in weight of gold (sixty-four pounds), and one thousand four hundred kin in weight of copper were consumed. The circumference of this globe is thirty-six che,+ or forty-two feet. Each round or story is eighteen che high. In that part of the tower called the Quang, were consumed four thousand eight hundred and seventy kin weight of brass. The iron hoops or rings, on the pinnacle of the roof, are nine in number, and sixty-three che, each, in circumference. The smaller hoops are twenty-four che in circumference-and their total weight is three thousand six hundred kin.‡
On different parts of the tower are suspended eighty-one iron bells, each bell weighing twelve kin or sixteen pounds. There are also nine iron chains, each of which weighs one hundred and fifty kin, and is eighty che long. The copper-pan with two mouths to it, on the roof, is estimated to weigh nine hundred kin, and is sixty che in circumference. There is also a celestial plate on the top, weighing four hundred and sixty kin, and twenty che in circumference. In the upper part of the tower are preserved the following articles-Of night-illuminating pearls, one string; of water-repelling pearls, one string; of fire-repelling pearls, one string; of dust-repelling pearls, one string; and over all these is a string of the relics of Foe. Also an ingot of solid gold weighing forty leang (ounces), and one hundred kin weight of tea-of silver one thousand leang weight-of the bright huing, two pieces, weighing one hundred kin-of precious stones, one string of the everlasting physic-money, one thousand strings-of yellow satin, two pieces
of the book hidden in the earth, one copy of the book of Omito Foe, one copy-of the book of She Kia Foe, one copy of the book of Tsie Yin Foe, one copy, all wrapped up together, and preserved in the temple.
"The tower has eight sides or faces, and its circumference is two hundred and forty che. The nine stories taken together are two hundred and twenty-eight and a half che high. From the highest story to the extreme point of the pinnacle of the roof, are one hundred and twenty che. The lamps within the tower are seven-times-seven in number, in
A kin is one pound and one-third.
† A che is about fourteen inches.
This part is obscure, and will be better understood from Le Compte's description, imperfect as it is. The top of the edifice is not the least beautiful part of the tower; it is a massy pillar, that stands upon the floor of the eighth story, and reaches more than thirty feet above the roof, it seems to be wrapt in a large iron hoop, of the same height, in the form of a screw or spiral line, extending several feet from the pillar, so as to appear like a hollow cone, suspended in the air, with spaces to let in light. On the top of this pillar is placed a golden ball, of extraordinary magnitude.' Extraordinary indeed! for, if the Chinese account is to be believed, its dimensions are more than twice, and, of course, its magnitude more than four times that of the ball of St. Paul's cathedral. It would seem to be of copper, and plated with gold. Ed.
VOL. XXI. NO. XLI.