« VorigeDoorgaan »
FROM LIEN CHI ALTANGI TO FUM HOAM, FIRST PRESIDENT OF THE CEREMONIAL ACADEMY AT PEKIN, IN CHINA.
IN every fociety, fome men are born to teach, and
others to receive inftruction; fome to work, and others to enjoy in idlenefs the fruits of their induftry; fome to govern and others to obey. Every people, how free foever, must be contented to give up part of their liberty and judgment to those who govern, in exchange for their hopes of fecurity; and the motives which first influenced their choice in the election of their governors, fhould ever be weighed against the fucceeding apparent inconfiftencies of their conduct. All cannot be rulers, and men are generally best governed by a few. In making way through the intricacies of business, the smalleft obftacles are apt to retard the execution of what is to be planed by a multiplicity of counsels; the judgment of one alone being always fittest for winding through the labyrinths of intrigue, and the obstructions of difappointment. A ferpent, which, as the fable observes, is furnished with one head and many tails, is much more capable of fubfiftence and expedition, than another which is furnished with but one tail and many heads.
Obvious as these truths are, the people of this country feem infenfible of their force. Not fatisfied with the advantages of internal peace and opulence, they still murmur at their governors, and interfere in the execution
of their defigns; as if they wanted to be something more than happy. But as the Europeans inftruct by argument, and the Afiatics moftly by narration, were I to addrefs them, I should convey my fentiments in the following ftory.
Takupi had long been prime minister of Tipartala, a fertile country that ftretches along the western confines of China. During his adminiftration, whatever advantages could be derived from arts, learning, and commerce, were seen to blefs the people; nor were the necessary precautions of providing for the security of the state forgotten. It often happens, however, that when men are poffeffed of all they want, they then begin to find torment from imaginary afflictions, and leffen their present enjoyment, by foreboding that those enjoyments are to have an end. The people now, therefore endeavoured to find out grievances; and after some search, actually began to think themselves aggrieved. A petition against the enormities of Takupi was carried to the throne in due form; and the queen who governed the country, willing to fatisfy her subjects, appointed a day, in which his accufers fhould be heard, and the minifter should ftand upon his defence.
The day being arrived, and the minister brought before the tribunal, a carrier, who supplied the city with fish, appeared among the number of his accufers. He exclaimed, that it was the cuftom, time immemorial, for carriers to bring their fish upon a horse in a hamper; which being placed on one fide, and balanced by a stone on the other, was thus conveyed with ease and safety; but that the prisoner, moved either by a spirit of innovation, or perhaps bribed by the hamper-makers, had obliged all
carriers to use the stone no longer, but balance one hamper with another; an order entirely repugnant to the cuftoms of all antiquity, and thofe of the kingdom of Tipartala in particular.
The carrier finished, and the whole court fhook their heads at the innovating minifter, when a fecond witness appeared. He was inspector of the city buildings, and accused the difgraced favorite of having given orders for the demolition of an ancient ruin, which obftructed the paffage through one of the principal streets. He observed, that fuch buildings were noble monuments of barbarous antiquity; contributed finely to fhew how little their ancestors underflood of architecture, and for that reason such monuments fhould be held facred, and fuffered gradually to decay.
The last witness now appeared. This was a widow who laudably attempted to burn herself upon her husband's funeral pile. But the innovating minifter had prevented the execution of her defign, and was infenfible to her tears, proteftations, and entreaties,
The queen could have pardoned the two former offences, but this laft was confidered as fo grofs an injury to the sex, and so directly contrary to all the cuftoms of antiquity, that it called for immediate juftice. "What, (cried the queen,) not suffer a woman to burn herself when the thinks proper. The fex are to be very prettily tutored, no doubt, if they must be restrained from entertaining their female friends now and then with a fried wife, or roafted acquaintance. I fentence the criminal to be banished my prefence for ever, for his injurious treatment of the fex."
Takupi had been hitherto filent, and spoke only to fhew the fincerity of his refignation. "Great Queen,
cried he, I acknowledge my crime; and fince I am to be banished, I beg it may be to fome ruined town or defolate village in the country I have governed. I fhall find some pleasure in improving the foil, and bringing back a spirit of industry among the inhabitants." His request appearing reasonable, it was immediately complied with, and a courtier had orders to fix upon a place of banishment answering the minifter's description. After fome months fearch, however, the enquiry proved fruitless; neither a defolate village, nor a ruined town was found in the whole kingdom. "Alas!" faid Takupi to the queen, "how can that country be ill-governed, which has neither a defolate village, nor a ruined town in it?" The queen perceived the justice of his expoftulation, and the minifter was received into for. mer favour.
FROM THE SAME.
THE ladies here are by no means fuch ardent game
fters as the women of Afia. In this refpect I must do the English juftice; for I love to praise where applause is justly merited. Nothing more common in China than to fee two women of fashion continue gaming till one has won all the other's clothes, and ftripped her quite naked; the winner thus marching off in a double fuit of finery, and the lofer shrinking behind in the primitive fimplicity of nature.
No doubt, you remember when Shang our maiden aunt played with a fharper. Firft her money went; then her trinkets were produced; her clothes followed, piece by piece, soon after; when she had thus played herself quite naked, being a woman of spirit and willing to purfue her own, she staked her teeth; fortune was against her even here, and her teeth followed her clothes; at laft fhe played for her left eye, and, oh! hard fate, this too she loft; however, she had the confolation of biting the sharper, for he never perceived that it was made of glass till it became his own.
How happy, my friend, are the English ladies, who never rise to such an inordinance of paffion! Though the sex here are naturally fond of games of chance, and are taught to manage games of skill from their infancy, yet they never pursue ill fortune with fuch amazing intrepidity. Indeed I may entirely acquit them of ever playing-I mean of playing for their eyes or their teeth.
It is true, they often stake their fortune, their beauty, health, and reputations at a gaming table. It even fometimes happens, that they play their husbands into a jail ; yet ftill they preserve a decorum unknown to our wives and daughters in China. I have been present at a rout in this country, where a woman of fashion, after lofing her money, has fat writhing in all the agonies of bad luck; and yet, after all, never once attempted to strip a single petticoat, or cover the board, at her last stake, with her head clothes.
However, though I praise their moderation at play, I must not conceal their affiduity. In China our women, except upon fome great days, are never permitted to finger a dice-box; but here every day seems to be a festi