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and in the special publications devoted to Chinese subjects, afforded much that might have been turned to account. Mr. Boulger has, however preferred to content himself with the old-fashioned ideal of a history-the story of kings and battles-and for what he has given us we are grateful, inasmuch as he has done his work well, within its limits; but to gain an insight into the larger interests of Chinese history we must still consult other books.
With all this, our information about this singular people is lamentably insufficient. What we do know of them is, perhaps, hardly the best side. With every respect for the honourable character of the great merchant houses of the treaty ports, it is still obvious that we do not get quite a fair idea of a nation by studying it solely in its commercial aspect. The population of our own trading ports is not a fair representation of the English race; we need to travel inland before we can say that we have seen the English at home. But our knowledge of the Chinese is almost wholly derived from observation at the trading centres, and we are consequently more or less prejudiced by the predominance of certain characteristics which are perhaps peculiar to those ports where Europeans most do congregate. Scholars, moreover, have been deterred from an adequate study of the Chinese by the supposition that the empire has grown up by itself without any rapport with the developement of the rest of the world. Such a peculiarity would, one would think, attract rather than repel scientific investigation; but such has not been the case. Now, however, that the researches of M. Terrien de La Couperie have tended to demonstrate that China owes her first strong impulse towards civilisation to the same central source that gave letters and culture to the West, we may perhaps see more attention devoted to so remarkable an offshoot of the Babylonian genius.
Yet even as it is, we know enough about China to make us anxious to learn more. The spectacle presented by the Chinese State is unique in the experience of the world. We see a people possessing most of the requirements and comforts of a refined civilisation, yet preserving the primitive organisation of the original families and clans, and depending for the security of person and property more upon the system of mutual responsibility involved in the clan principle than upon the control of the executive. We observe an intellectual people who had constructed a philosophy before Socrates was born, who have elaborate histories and treatises, who are perhaps the most literary people in the world, and
enjoyed plays and poems, and above all philosophic discourse, while most of the peoples of the West were still in the state of barbarism; yet these cultured literary folk are absolutely devoid of imagination, and do not see the use of religion, and oppose to the proselytising zeal of the Christian missionary the unanswerable argument of the French judge: 'Je n'en vois pas la nécessité!' The Chinese Government is the most despotic on the face of the earth; yet the officials, from the lowest to the highest, are chosen by competitive examination from among the nation at large, and this democratic principle-which has been in force since the days when the English still dwelt in their German homes, and Alfred and Charlemagne as yet were not-knows no difference between the rich and the poor, the son of the Prime Minister and the ragged offspring of the common labourer. In no country is there so perfect a system of examination, nowhere is the cultivation of the mind so avowedly the first condition of success in every elevated walk of life, and yet nowhere is the official class, composed though it is of the picked residue of those who have conquered a formidable series of searching examinations, so thoroughly corrupt, extortionate, and unpatriotic. In spite of the educational basis of the Government, the nation is more loosely knit together than any other agglomeration of human beings. China is a mere jelly-fish, uniform but not cohesive, and you may cut off any part without hurting the rest. The provinces hang on to the central power in semi-independence. The financial and political organisation renders the viceroys of the several divisions practically supreme, until somebody else comes forward with a heavier bribe than they are able to offer, and they are forthwith supplanted. The slowness of communications between the various parts of the vast empire assists the naturally disjointed character of the political system to render any approach to what we call national feeling or patriotism impossible. The Chinaman has no interest in his fellowcountrymen, who live so far away that he cannot visit them, and who are continually separating from the empire and being joined on again without any perceptible effect upon the State at large.
And yet with all these elements of decay and dissolution, the Chinese have remained a separate people for thousands of years, and have resisted all tendencies to political as they have to social or material changes. They have changed, of course, slowly and imperceptibly, during the thousands
of years through which their history professes to run; but it has been by the gradual infiltration of foreign tribes and their amalgamation into the national character; it has never been by sudden or drastic measures of reform that they advanced to that position of the most civilised nation in the world which they held beyond dispute 500 years ago. They have never been a conquering folk: their wars have been wars of reconquest or resistance; they have slowly grown to cover the huge territory they now occupy, as it were, without effort on their own part. One tribe after another has been slowly and imperceptibly assimilated, their individual qualities absorbed into the whole, their advances and improvements adopted. Foreign dynasties have been quietly accepted as rulers, and have kept the throne for centuries, though every facility for revolt and the breaking up of the empire seemed to exist. The present Manchu dynasty, which has held the reins of government for more than two centuries, consists of foreigners who have taken and still take no pains to conceal the fact, and have never attempted, unlike most of the foreign elements in China, to become amalgamated with the mass of the nation. Here and everywhere there appears to be, and to have long been, imminent danger to the empire as a whole, and yet so far all experience is against the likelihood of any serious change happening to the people themselves. The Manchus may give place to a pure Chinese dynasty, but the people, if no outside influence is brought to bear upon them will remain the same.
If we ask why the Chinese have remained in this strange immoveable condition for so many centuries, the answer is clear, though it may seem at first a little inadequate. The Chinese have no imagination. People without imagination never change. The Chinese are clever, cultivated, skilful craftsmen, admirable imitators, but they have no imagination, and that explains everything. They are perfectly satisfied with the dull routine of a monotonous laborious life, so long as they have enough to eat and to buy opium, and to gamble away a few cash now and then with the dice or dominoes, or over the glorious combats of two valiant crickets. They are a practical folk, and so long as things are pretty comfortable they do not see the use of vain aspirations. They are content with a domestic system which an imaginative and romantic mind could not endure. They are happy in a total absence of religion, because they do not perceive that religion brings cash, and they feel no inward promptings
towards the spiritual life. They have a scheme of morality, which, if carried out, must unquestionably deserve a very high place among the attempts to govern the conduct of the animal whom Swift acutely describes as not rationale but rationis capax, by the pure principles of reason. Here again the imagination is wanting: the highest kind of intellect, which connotes a quick and vivid imagination, demands something more than a moral system as the ground of conduct. Let it be a theology, a divine life, or an enthusiasm for the great human family, there must be a sentiment for the imagination to clothe with a compelling beauty and strength. The only sentiment the Chinese possess, the only trace of the power of imagination, is in their reverence for their ancestors, and their feeling that whatsoever a man does brings either renown or shame upon his forefathers. This is a more powerful and ennobling sentiment than is generally perceived-it is the pivot of Chinese life; but it is too large and complex a subject to be now discussed at length. Apart from this one redeeming attribute, the worship of the great dead, the Chinese mind is singularly pale and colourless, strikingly devoid of the vivifying qualities of Western intellect, empty of romance, enthusiasm-in a word, without imagination.
The problem which must sooner or later confront us, what is to be the future of this strange, unchanging, unimaginative people, is one that will engage the best speculations of philosophers. At present China is practically self-supporting; beyond the notorious opium, she imports comparatively little, when we consider her enormous extent and her population of 300,000,000. So far, also, China has been partitioned into numerous groups of distinct administrative divisions, owning little relation to each other. far the Chinese have been able to maintain to a great degree their old belief in their own superb superiority-except, perhaps, in naval warfare-to the puny remainder of the globe. But the fashion of things is already changing. Europeans are making steady progress in their work of penetrating Chinese exclusiveness, and where the European, and above all the Englishman, enters, there follows the deluge. It is impossible that China should preserve her isolated characteristics in the face of a European determination to become intimate. The jealous dislike of foreign intrusion may continue for some time, but in the end the strangers will effect their purpose, and China will be completely open to European influences. It is not certain that these in
fluences will at first be altogether good; influences that depend in the first place upon commercial gains seldom are; but it is certain that the result will be changes in the Chinese themselves. Only a month or two ago it was stated that the old abhorrence of railways had broken down, and that a sample railway with all appertenances was to be sent out to China, to serve as a pattern upon which the Celestials themselves would be able to construct the railroads of their own country. This is a more important step than any that has been taken since the British Ambassador forced his way into Peking. It means, if carried into execution, the destruction of the old physical barriers between the various parts of the Chinese Empire, and the inevitable consequences of prompt communication-unity and combination. This is an example of the probable course of events; jealousy will prevent the employment of foreign workmen, but a specimen machine or engine will be purchased, and the clever hands of the most industrious people in the world will multiply the design to supply the newly-recognised demand. With coal and metals at hand, cheap living, and simple habits, the Chinese may become a manufacturing nation of the first rank, and compete on favourable terms with England and America. The coal-fields of China are said to be the most extensive in the world, but they are as yet unworked.
The action of France upon China through the southern passes from Tonking will be another factor in the future progress of the empire, and one of which it is hard to prognosticate the effects. But apart from any temporary delays which may be caused by the present ill-advised war in stirring up the old antipathy to us outer barbarians,' the general course may be safely foreseen. China will come more and more under European influences, will greatly extend her commerce, and improve her internal organisation and supply her material needs, and we shall see a change come over the character and aims of the people. That the Chinese have held on their unchanging course for half a dozen millenniums is no rebutment to this prospect. They have never until the present century come in contact with a higher civilisation than their own; indeed, until an interval which appears absurdly short compared with the long vista of Chinese records, there was no higher civilisation for them to come into contact with. Until within the last twenty years they have not accepted that contact in any fulness or intimacy. Even now the intercourse is very partial and restricted. But it has begun, and we know enough of the