[merged small][ocr errors]

me, and fee numbers on foot ftooping under heavy burdens; let me learn to pity their eftate, and thank Heaven for my own.

Shingfu, when under misfortunes, would in the beginning weep like a child; but he foon recovered his former tranquillity. After indulging grief for a few days, he would become, as ufual, the most merry old man in all the province of Shanfi. About the time that his wife died, his poffeffions were all confumed by fire, and his only fon fold into captivity; Shingfu grieved for one day, and the next went to dance at a Mandarine's door for his dinner. The company were furprised to see the old man so merry when suffering fuch great loffes; and the Mandarine himself coming out, afked him how he, who had grieved fo much, and given way to the calamity the day before, could now be fo chearful! "You afk me one queftion, cries the old man, let me answer by asking another: which is the most durable, a hard thing or a soft thing; that which refifts, or that which makes no refiftance?" An hard thing to be fure, replied the Mandarine. "There you are wrong, returned Shingfu. I am now fourscore years old; and if you look in my mouth, you will find that I have loft all my teeth, but not a bit of my tongue." Adieu.




THE manner of grieving for our departed friends in

China is very different from that of Europe. The mourning colour of Europe is black, that of China white. When a parent or relation dies here, (for they feldom mourn for friends,) it is only clapping on a fuit of fables, grimacing it for a few days, and all, soon forgotten, goes on as before; not a fingle creature miffing the deceased, except perhaps a favourite house-keeper, or a favourite


On the contrary, with us in China, it is a very serious affair. The piety with which I have seen you behave on one of these occafions, fhould never be forgotten. I. remember it was upon the death of thy grandmother's maiden-fifter. The coffin was expofed in the principal hall in public view. Before it were placed the figures of eunuchs, horses, tortoises, and other animals, in attitudes of grief and respect. The more diftant relations of the old lady, and I among the number, came to pay our compliments of condolence, and to falute the de. ceased after the manner of our country, We had scarce prefented our wax candles and perfumes, and given the bowl of departure, when, crawling on his belly from un der a curtain, out came the reverend Fum Hoam himself in all the difmal folemnity of diftrefs. Your looks were

fet for forrow; your cloathing confifted in an hempen bag tied round the neck with a ftring. For two long months did this mourning continue. By night you lay ftretched on a single mat, and fat on the ftool of difcontent by day. Pious man! who could thus fet an example of forrow and decorum to our country. Pious country, where, if we do not grieve at the departure of our friends for their fakes, at least we are taught to regret them for

our own.

All is very different here; amazement all. What fort of people am I got amongst! Fum, thou fon of Fo, what fort of people am I got amongft; no crawling round the coffin; no dreffing up in hempen bags; no lying on mats nor fitting on stools. Gentlemen here fhall put on first mourning with as sprightly an air, as if preparing for a birth-night; and widows fhall actually dress for another husband in the weeds for their former. The best jeft of all is, that our merry mourners clap bits of muflin on their fleeves, and these are called weepers. Weeping muflin; alas! alas! very forrowful, truly! Thefe weepers then, it seems, are to bear the whole burthen of the diftrefs.

But I have had the strongest inftance of this contrast; this tragi-comical behaviour in distress upon a recent occafion. Their king, whofe departure, though fudden, was not unexpected, died after a reign of many years. His age, and uncertain ftate of health, ferved in fome measure to diminish the forrow of his fubjects; and their expectations from his fucceffor feemed to balance their minds between uneafinefs and fatisfaction. But how ought they to have behaved on fuch an occafion? Surely they ought rather to have endeavoured to teftify their

[ocr errors]

gratitude to their deceased friend, than to proclaim their hopes of the future. Sure even the fucceffor muft fuppose their love to wear the face of adulation, which fo quickly changed the object. However, the very fame day on which the old king died, they made rejoicing for the new.

For my part, I have no conception of this new manner of mourning and rejoicing in a breath; of being merry and fad; of mixing a funeral proceffion with a jig and bonfire. At least, it would have been just, that they who flattered the king while living for virtues which he had not, fhould lament him dead for those he really had.

In this univerfal caufe for national diftrefs, as I had no interest myself, so it is but natural to fuppofe I felt no real affliction. In all the loffes of our friends, fays an European philofopher, we firft confider how much our own welfare is affected by their departure, and moderate our real grief juft in the fame proportion. Now, as I had neither received nor expected to receive favours from kings, or their flatterers; as I had no acquaintance in particular with their late monarch; as I knew that the place of a king was foon fupplied; and, as the Chinese proverb has it, that though the world may fometimes want coblers to mend their fhoes, there is no danger of its wanting emperors to rule their kingdoms; from such confiderations, I could bear the lofs of a king with the moft philofophic refignation. However, I thought it my duty at least to appear forrowful: to put on a melancholy aspect, or to set my face by that of the people.


The firft company I came amongst after the news became general, was a set of jolly companions, who were drinking profperity to the enfuing reign. I entered the room with looks of despair, and even expected applause for the fuperlative miseries of my countenance. Instead of that, I was univerfally condemned by the company for a grimacing fon of a whore, and defired to take away my penitential phiz to fome other quarter. I now corrected my former mistake, and with the most sprightly air imaginable, entered a company where they were talking over the ceremonies of the approaching funeral. Here I fat for fome time with an air of pert vivacity; when one of the chief mourners, immediately observing my good humour, defired me, if I pleased, to go and grin fomewhere else; they wanted no difaffected fcoundrels there. Leaving this company, therefore, I was refolved to affume a look perfectly neutral; and have ever fince been studying the fashionable air: fomething between jeft and earneft; a complete virginity of face, uncontaminated with the fmalleft fymptom of meaning.

[ocr errors]

But though grief be a very flight affair here, the mourn ing, my friend, is a very important concern. When an emperor dies in China the whole expence of the folemnities is defrayed from the royal coffers. When the great die here, mandarines are ready enough to order mourn. ing; but I do not fee that they are fo ready to pay for it. If they fend me down from court the grey undress frock, or the black coat without pocket holes, I am willing enough to comply with their commands, and wear both; but, by the head of Confucius! to be obliged to wear black, and buy it into the bargain, is more than my

« VorigeDoorgaan »