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Hiftoire Generale de la Chine, ou Annales de cet Empire, &c.-A Gene ral History of China, or the Annals of that Empire, tranflated from Ton, kien, kang-mou, by the late Father J. A. M. DE MOYRIAC DE MAILLA, &c. Vols. V. VI. VII. and VIII. Paris. 1778.
T is time to refume* our accounts of this great work, in the publication of which the learned Editors + display the moft active diligence, induftry, and perfeverance. Thefe four volumes contain the hiftory of China from the year 420 of the Christian æra to 1200: the quantity of matter, good, bad, and indifferent, which they contain, will not permit us to give any thing more than a general account of the contents of each.
The fifth volume exhibits the history of the five dynasties Song, Tfi, Leang, Tchin and Soui, in which we find few, if any great princes, and ftill fewer good ones, though they contain a Ipace of a hundred and nineteen years, and the reigns of twentyseven emperors. After the extinction of the dynasty of Toin, in the year 420, China was divided into feveral fmall fovereignties; befides which, we perceive here a more important divifion into two great empires, the one northern, formed by the entrance of the Tartars into the northern provinces, and the other fouthern, of which the emperors were Chinese. By the hiftorical feries which F. DE MAILLA has followed (confining the attention to the fouthern empire, and mentioning in the margin only the princes of the dynafty of Song, who reigned in the fouth), the reader is led to think, that there is only one emperor, and that the northern chief is only a little rebel fovereign: but this is a mistake, the grand annals mention both the northern and fouthern emperors (as we learn from the respectable authority of M. de Guignes), and there is no doubt but that their tranflator ought to have followed the fame method. Both this grand divifion and the fmaller ones of the northern districts, poffeffed by Tartar chiefs, introduce confufion into the thread of this hiftory, especially to an European, who is not familiar with these various events and revolutions.
If the dynasties already mentioned exhibit no emperors of great note either for genius or virtue, we are compenfated by feveral difplays both of public and private virtue, in inferior ftations. We meet with a Yen-Yen-Tchi, friend and minifter to the emperor Ou-ti of the dynafty of Song, who, from a state of extreme poverty and obfcurity, rofe, by merit alone, to the first pofts in the empire, and never forgot himself in any of the
See our last extract in the Review for December 1777, in the Foreign Correspondence, p. 477.
+ The Abbé GROSSIER and M. LE ROUX DESHAUTESRAYES, Arabic Profeffor in the Royal College of France, &c. &c.
profperous scenes of life. His drefs was plain linen; his houfe was thatched with straw, and furnished with the utmost simplicity; he had neither horfes nor chariots; a waggon, drawn by oxen, was his travelling carriage, when he was fent to do the emperor's business in the provinces; he never took a recompence for any fervice, and seemed to fuffer, even when the objects of his benignity expreffed their gratitude. The mafter that perceived, approved, and advanced fuch merit, eclipfed by obfcurity, must have been a good prince; we, accordingly, find here fome entertaining stories of Ou-ti, which do him honour: there are alfo in this volume examples of generofity and difinterestednefs, that would do honour to any age, and are not over-abundant in ours. The ftory of Kao-tfou, who afcended the throne in 470, is remarkable: he had a mind to get entirely rid of the Jate Emperor, who was depofed, but ftill living: for this purpofe he appointed a facrifice to Tien, mixed poifon with the wine that was to be offered, and fent a portion of it to the dethroned Emperor, whom, as he hoped, a principle of religion would engage to drink it; but a faithful Minister of that unfortunate Prince, fufpecting, or knowing, the impious fraud, drank the cup for his master, and expired foon after. The dethroned Emperor was, however, foon after fuffocated in his bed by the order of Kao-tfou. It is with inexpreffible furprize that we find Father DE MAILLA drawing a pompous, panegyrical portrait of this imperial affaffin, and, amidft a long lift of other eminent moral qualities, reprefenting him as mild, humane, and full of benignity. We are fenfible of the contradictions that are to be found in human characters, and which are often ftriking enough to excite astonishment; we also acknowledge that many unfeemly lines of character, or, at leaft, of conduct, may be fo compenfated by amiable qualities, as to deferve the favour of being caft into the fhade of Charity, that they may not tarnish the luftre of predominant virtue; but we cannot conceive that a man, capable of covering a deliberate project of murder under a folemn act of religion, and afterwards perpetrating that murder in another form, when his firft ftratagem mifcarried, can poffefs any of the effential lines of a good moral character: at leaft we fee nothing in the Hiftory before us that can be alleged to excufe the flattering portrait which Father DE MAILLA draws of this Emperor.
During the four firft of the five dynafties which form the materials of this volume, we find nothing but bloody revolutions, factions breathing rage and vengeance, and objects painful to humanity. The dynafty of Tang, which afcended the throne in 619, and which brings us to the commencement of the fixth volume, put an end to thefe difgufting fcenes of fedition and carnage, and was one of the moft illuftrious and pow
erful families that have reigned in China. The fecond Prince of this dynasty began his reign by difmiffing three thousand concubines of the palace. Tai-tfong, of the fame dynasty, who reigned in the year 626, was a Prince of diftinguished merit. One of the great men of the empire presented to him a petition, requesting the removal of flatterers from his prefence, telling him, at the fame time, that if he had a mind to know them, he had only to propofe in council fomething prejudicial to the public good, and infift upon its immediate execution, and that thus he would fee who they were, whom a fervile adulation led to pay him a blind obedience. "I acknowledge, answered the Emperor, that the method is fure; but if a fovereign employs ftratagems and cunning with his counsellors, how can he require or expect uprightnefs and candour from them? A Prince is like the fpring of the rivulet, and his officers may be confidered as the ftream that flows from it: if the fpring or fountain-head is pure and limpid, the ftream will be pure and limpid alfo befides, I have always had an averfion to those infidious methods of proceeding that corrupt the candour of the heart. I would rather remain ignorant of what may be wrong, if wrong there be, than discover it by means that are chargeable with duplicity, and are unworthy of that franknefs
* According to the precepts of the book Li-Ki, an Emperor (exclufive of his poufe whom he creates Emprefs) may have 130 concubines three who are called Foug-in, nine, who have the appellation of Pin, thirty-feven, who bear the name of Chi-Fou, eightyone, who are denominated Yu-T. The Emperors, during a long fpace of time, far exceeded this number; fo far, that when TeinOu-ti reduced the whole of the empire under his obedience, the number of his concubines amounted to ten thousand.
We find here a note of the Editors, which difcovers the pains they take to throw light upon the text of the Annals, and to make their readers acquainted with the manners and cuftoms of the court of Pekin. "The Foug-in (fay they) are a kind of Queens, who by the honours they receive are diftinguished from the other ladies (concubines) of the palace. The three Foug-in, are ordinarily women of royal birth; this, at leaf, is now the cafe under the government of the Manchew Tartars. They have a dwelling apart, a court, two maids of honour, and other perfons of the fair fex in their fervice. They have a brilliant fuite of attendance, and no expence is fpared to render their apartments and furniture as magnificent as is poffible. All their children are legitimate, and are called Magalhaens; and the only circumstance, by which they are diftinguished from thofe of the Emprefs is, the preference given to the latter in the fucceffion to the empire. The Emprefs lodges in the fame palace with the Emperor: the other ladies have their feparate palaces. Thefe women and concubines never appear to any eye, but thofe of the Monarch.
and candour which are so earnestly recommended by our ancient fages."
Our Hiftorian mentions, among other lines of wisdom and humanity in the character and conduct of this excellent Prince, one that, alas! seems to be totally unknown to the Princes and Sovereigns of this philofophical age, or, if known, to be totally neglected what that was the Reader will fee in the following paffage: "In deliberating with his nobles about the means of prolonging the peace, which his fubjects enjoyed, he thought that the most effectual would be to diminish his expences, to lighten the burthen of taxation, to employ mild and conciliating measures, and to inquire diligently into the wants of his - people in order to fupply them. There is no King, said he, without a kingdom, and what is it that conftitutes a kingdom, but -the people? Therefore, to oppress the people, and to ruin them in order to fatisfy the avarice and paffions of a Sovereign, is like a perfon's cutting off his own flesh in order to appease the hungry cravings of his ftomach the ftomach of fuch a perfon is, indeed, fatiated for a time, but the body perishes.-Such is the cafe of thofe Princes, who enrich themselves at the expence of their fubjects. The calamities and ruin of a country proceed oftener from INTERNAL TROUBLES than from FOREIGN WARS. The Monarch who oppreffes his people excites murmurs, and murmurs lead to fedition." The words and actions of this good Prince, which are recorded by our Hiftorian, deferve to be read in the work itself. His name ftruck terror into the Tartars, while it was pronounced by his fubjects with delight, and by the neighbouring nations with veneration. Under his reign the inhabitants of China were numbered, and the extent of the empire determined; but our Author's account of its dimenfions is not very clear. Tai-tong reigned 23 years, and poffeffed fo entirely the hearts of his fubjects, that his dynafty poffeffed the throne a century longer than all the five preceding dynafties had done. But his fucceffors did not resemble him; they often reduced the dynasty, by their unworthy conduct, to the brink of deftruction, and it was only the affection excited in the people for his family, on his account, that could make them bear patiently the follies and foibles of his defcendants. One of thefe, the Empress Ou-Heou, dethroned her own fon, put in his place another, whom she kept chained and imprisoned; and thus governed, folely, amidst plots and affaffinations, that vaft empire, which the rendered formidable, but not happy. It is farther obfervable, that under this dynafty,, the eunuchs of the palace acquired such an ascendant in the chief branches of the adminiftration, that, more than once, they made their mafters tremble, triumphed over the efforts of defpotifm, difconcerted the plots laid for their deftruction,
deftruction, and were, at length, one of the principal caufes of the downfall of the dynasty of the Tang.
It was, alfo, during the dynafty of Tang, and in the year 726, that the Emperor Hiven-Tong ordered a lift to be made of the number of families throughout the empire, that were not employed in his fervice or in that of the government, and they were found to amount to 7,069,565 Chinese families, which made, in all, 41,419,712 fouls. In the year 754 this political operation was extended to the towns as well as families, and there appeared to be then in China 321 cities of the firft order, 1538 of the fecond, exclufive of fmaller towns and villages, and 9,619,254 families, which made, in all, 52,880,488 fouls. Thus, in the space of 29 years, the population of China in creased above eleven millions. In the year 846, which was 86 years after, a like numbering yielded no more than 4,996,722 families; and another made five years after, yielded 41,600 families less than the preceding. If these facts are true, and the eftimates were well made, this diminution must appear astonishing, more especially when it is confidered, that, in the intervals between thefe different periods, there was neither war, peftilence, nor any confiderablé scarcity or famine, which latter circumftance is known to produce frequently fudden changes in the population of China. Having mentioned the population of China under the dynafty of Tang, it may not be improper to give, from our Author, the ftate of its revenues during this period. In the year 852, Siven-Tfong ordered an exact account to be drawn up of the money that entered annually into his treasury; and it appeared that his annual revenue (the duties on falt and wine included) amounted to between four and five millions fterling. It is to be obferved that grain, filks, and feveral other commodities, which make a part of the imperial income, do not enter into this account.
We do not understand Father DE MAILLA's account of the extent of the Chinese empire under the dynasty of the Tang; nor do we know the situation of the places by which he terminates it. He fays it extended from the Eastern Sea to the Weft of the kingdom of Yen-Chi, and from the kingdom of Lin-y in the South to the country of Tamo in the North; and that, of confequence, its extent was 9510 leagues from East to Weft, and 10,918 from North to South.-There is a map of ancient China annexed to this volume, whofe proper place is the first volume of the work; it is more circumftantial, more accurate, and better compofed, than that which Father Amiot prefixed to the fecond volume of the Memoirs concerning China, and gives less extent to that empire.
The seventh volume comprehends a period, beginning with the year 888, and ending with the year 959 of the Chriftian APP. Rev. Vol. lx.