CHINA, after being made known to Europe for over five hundred years by Europeans only, has at length spoken for herself. Colonel Tcheng-Ki-Tong, military attaché to the Chinese embassy in Paris, published last year in the Revue des Deux Mondes a series of papers which have since been reprinted in a little volume called Les Chinois Peints par Eux-Mêmes. His picture of his own country shows it in very different colors from those to which we are accustomed, and it may be objected that this time the lion is the painter ; it was certainly the lion’s turn. Colonel Tcheng adverts to the ignorance and injustice with which his country has been treated by travelers who are hardly familiar even with its external aspect; to the easy credence given to monstrous charges against it, as for instance that the legal punishment of unfaithful wives is being trampled to death by elephants, or that superfluous children are habitually thrown upon dung-hills to be devoured by hogs ; and to the fact that the word “ Chinese ” is a synonym for absurdity. He claims the right for his country to be heard through her sons, and as he has lived in Europe for fifteen years, and is versed in her history, literature, and languages, he knows the standards by which his national manners and customs must be judged. Intercourse with intelligent and cultivated Frenchmen has made him critical, and taught him caution in advancing opinions and theories which cannot be vindicated by European canons of morality and taste. He is keen and observant, with an ironical wit, which his Asiatic courtesy keeps within the bounds of offense. If he were inclined to satirize the practice of Christendom, we should probably have a treatise on the subject more severe and searching than Gulliver’s Travels or Montesquieu’s Lettres Persanes. But Colonel Tcheng professes to desire only to give a true account of his people, and there could not be a moment when truth in their behalf would be more in season. If his statements are untrustworthy, there will be pens enough able and ready to refute them, so in the present article they have been repeated without comment.
The family is the corner-stone of the Chinese Empire. Chinese society may be defined as the totality of its families, and the Chinese family may be compared to an organized society. It attains the dignity of a religious order with a settled rule ; its income constitutes a common fund, from which provision is made for the education of children, for marriage portions, for an allowance to young men beginning their career, for pensions to the sick, the aged, or those who are out of employment. The administration of the family fortune is the application of the apostolic system within the limits of kin. Real estate also belongs to the united family, and landmarks bearing the patronymic define the boundaries of every property. Each family has its own statutes, among which are recorded the joint possessions and the destination of certain revenues to the purposes named above. Each separate statutebook has also its penal code, fixing the punishments of such members as, by illconduct not amenable to law, shall injure the honor of the family, for the general welfare of which it is incumbent upon every one to sacrifice his individual peculiarities. But if circumstances, or irreconcilable differences of disposition, destroy the common harmony, there may be a division of the estate among the male heirs. The eldest of a family is the head ; every important action is decided by him, and he signs legal papers in the name of the other members. It is usual for all the generations of one line to live in one house, so that the seven ages may sometimes be found under the same roof.
The family, thus erected into an institution, necessarily extends its influence over matters which elsewhere belong to other departments of life. The tie of blood being regarded by the Chinese as a religious bond, virtues which with us are considered as causes with them are set down as effects, and vice versa. Five principles are inculcated to maintain its sacredness : namely, fidelity to the sovereign, respect towards parents, union between husbands and wives, concord among brothers, and constancy in friendship. The obligations of children to parents are held as so solemn that the distinction of the former redounds to the advantage of the latter, and honors are transmitted backwards: if a public functionary is ennobled, his parents are ennobled with him, and his rank, if sufficiently high, ascends to more remote progenitors. Titles are not hereditary except for military services, and in that case descend through the eldest son only ; but unless sustained by personal merit, this sort of rank is not valued. Such a conception of aristocracy must act as a constant stimulus to filial reverence, and supply parents with an additional incentive for educating their sons carefully, literary attainment being the most direct road to office in China. Fraternal affection comes next in the order of virtue, and involves almost an identification of a man’s interests and advantages with his brothers’ ; the responsibility for mutual help and relief seems to be boundless. All kindred share these claims in some degree, and even friendship recognizes them as sacred duties: to strip one’s self of one’s coat for a friend who has none would not be accounted a merit in China, but the least that anybody could do. These obligations are as binding upon the poor as on the rich ; people who have not the means to do much individually for others raise subscriptions among themselves to provide for the more needy of their own class. Colonel Tcheng slyly remarks that in Christian countries he has noticed that practices which he has always looked upon as matters of course are held up as miracles of grace and goodness. “ With us,” he says, “ to assist friends who have met with ill-fortune is not a virtue, but a habit.” Europeans strike him as hard-hearted and wanting in sympathy for the misfortunes of their friends and acquaintances. At the same time he admits that the idea of succoring the ills of the stranger, of humanity, in short what we term philanthropy or general benevolence, is incomprehensible to them ; they have the charity that begins at home in its widest sense, but the Christian relation of the “ neighbor ” is unknown to them, and by inference the Good Samaritan would have been set down as a fool, in China.
The worship of ancestors is the highest expression of filial piety and bloodlove among the Chinese. Their burying-grounds, like ours, are without their towns, in the prettiest situation of the environs, — on a hillside, if there be one in the neighborhood, — and “ Family Vault ” is to be read on the entrance of many inclosures. The richer families build temples to their ancestors, in which are mural tablets inscribed with the name, titles, and public services of each line, forming a sort of genealogical tree. Some of these edifices contain apartments, in which the surviving members of a scattered clan meet twice a year, in the spring and autumn, at the time appointed for the semi-annual veneration of the manes, seasons of thanksgiving and solemn rejoicing. They are even built occasionally with a view to being used as villas, or summer retreats, in which family festivals, such as marriages, or the celebration of successful examinations, — to be spoken of hereafter, — are held. In this way, those who have gone before, long before, are associated in the memory and gratitude of their descendants with the important events of the present life. Throughout the provinces of the empire the inhabitants of each village are generally kinsfolk, and have a common chapel dedicated to their forefathers : “ This,” observes Colonel Tcheng, “ is our parish church.”
In a country where the family is the axis of the social system, many actions, which elsewhere are considered the special or independent concern of individual men or women, lose their personal significance, and are undertaken with reference to the gens, or kin-corporate. Marriage, and all that relates to it, illustrates beyond any other custom the principle of solidarity in Chinese existence. Colonel Tcheng informs us that his countrymen consider the increase of the family the sole object of marriage. This being one of the most sacred duties of man, matrimony is universal, and entered upon very early. Celibacy is condemned as a vice, and an old bachelor or an old maid is looked upon as a monster. Marriages are made while the parties are extremely young, according to our notions, and are arranged by the parents, or the next of kin, often when the future consorts are children. Love-making, courtship, engagements in our sense of the term, are unknown and impossible; women, although they go out unveiled, living in a sort of gynecæum, to which only their immediate kinsmen have access. The preliminaries are frequently managed by discreet and zealous friends, or even by respectable professional gobetweens. The first step in the alliance is a solemn ceremony of betrothal, emphasized by a festival in both families, when the contract is signed by the parents and heads of the respective houses, and the bridegroom sends the bride a pair of bracelets in token of espousal ; but neither she nor he is present on this occasion. Later he sends what is known in France as the corbeille, or those articles of a bride’s wardrobe which are not included in the trousseau. In China they consist of silk and cotton stuffs and embroideries, and are literally sent in a basket, or rather in several dozen very handsome ones. This is the signal for another pompous ceremony; and on the bride’s part there comes in return a splendid dress to be worn on the wedding-day, which, if her future husband is already a man of rank, is the uniform of his grade ; every degree of mandarin is distinguished by his costume, and after marriage the wife wears a dress corresponding to his title. The bridegroom, moreover, sends to the lady’s family presents of choice eatables, notably a peculiarly delicious sort of cake, to be distributed among the acquaintance in announcing the engagement. The marriage must be concluded within a year from this interchange of gifts. On the eve of the wedding-day there is another important transfer of goods, namely, the bride’s portion, which consists of her outfit, plate, and furniture; for dower, in the sense of money, there is none. The bridegroom’s family gives a state dinner, at which these objects are exhibited, and on the same evening he sends the bride a sedan-chair, trimmed with crimson satin and embroidery. The chair is accompanied by a procession of musicians and servants with lanterns and torches, a red umbrella, a green screen, and other insignia of rank. Her family also gives a grand dinnerparty for the reception and display of the chair, during which the guests are regaled by the music of the band. The next day four persons belonging to the family, or friends, of the bridegroom, go to the bride’s house and invite her to repair to that of her future husband. She goes in her sedan-chair, with four or eight bearers, according to his rank, and a small escort, and her arrival is announced by an explosion of fireworks. The chair is deposited in a saloon, where the family, friends, bridesmaids, and groomsmen are assembled. One of the last, — the best man, no doubt, — bearing a metallic mirror before his breast, advances to the sedan-chair, bows thrice, and a bridesmaid raises the curtains and begs the bride to descend. She accedes, still wearing her veil, and is conducted to an inner room ; there the bridegroom, in his wedding-dress, receives her, and this is their first sight of each other. They are formally reconducted to the first apartment; music is playing, and a table has been laid with wine, fruits, and perfumes burning, to symbolize an altar. The pair prostrate themselves and thank the Supreme Being for their creation, the earth for their nourishment, the emperor for his protection, and their parents for their education. There is no minister of religion or civil functionary present. The bridegroom then introduces his bride to the company, and a banquet follows, during which the music, which has not ceased during the orisons, continues to play. Throughout the evening the house is thrown open, and any one can enter and see the bride, who remains standing behind a table on which there are lighted candles. On the morrow the bride takes her husband to present him to her family, and the formalities of the previous evening are partially repeated, which completes the marriage ceremonies.
Divorce is legal in China, and was in force there several centuries before our era, but it is not in favor. When a husband surprises his wife with a lover the law permits him to kill her, which removes one cause of separation from the jurisdiction of the courts. Sterility, after a fixed age, is a plea admitted by law, and gross disrespect or disobedience on the part of husband or wife to the other’s parents. Adopting a child is more frequent than divorce, when there is no offspring. Colonel Tcheng asserts that divorce is unusual between persons of good position, who prefer concessions and compromises to destroying hallowed ties and making private dissensions public; in fact, that his country-people are restrained by the same considerations that influence people of reserve and refinement everywhere.
Women, although excluded by Chinese custom from society, and consequently unable to exert their power in various ways familiar to the women of the West, have an authority in the household beyond anything known in Europe or America. The Chinawoman is her husband’s equal before the law, and can buy, sell, contract, alienate, or conduct any business negotiation in his place. She has complete control of her children and of their education. Her own, although not solid according to our notions, is practical and graceful: besides domestic accomplishments, poetry and elegant literature have a place in her studies, and are often her favorite recreations ; skill in painting and embroidery is held in high esteem, and the cultivation of flowers, especially within doors, is one of the daily pleasures of every woman of leisure ; that charming taste and luxury is carried far beyoud anything that we imagine, even with our hothouses and conservatories. Her amusements are limited: games of cards and loto are among the most exciting. “ If Heaven gives her children,” declares Colonel Tcheng, “ and a good husband, she is certainly the happiest of her sex.” Yet there is a domestic institution which one would suppose might seriously interfere with the happiness of a lady-mandarin who had children, flowers, the gift of rhyming, and even a good husband. Although polygamy is not permitted in China, except in cases where marriage is sterile (when, if the husband is unwilling to ask for a divorce, the law countenances a second wife), there is another conjugal relation recognized. Living under the same roof as the wedded wife, but in an inferior and dependent position, is an unwedded one, or the “ lawful mistress,” as Colonel Tcheng terms her. He thinks that this arrangement is altogether better than the furtive or transient connections which are the cause of so much grief and shame in Christian countries; he refers in vindication of it to patriarchal custom and to the story of Sarah and Hagar, but the instance is not well chosen to illustrate the peace and happiness of such a domestic practice. The Chinese proverb, Nine women in ten are jealous, is a comment on its moral effect.
There is another class of women who have no place in the household, yet who seem to hold an admitted and by no means infamous position, somewhat answering to that of the courtesans of ancient Greece, hut to no modern denomination in the Western world. These women are the only female musicians, music and singing not being taught to ladies ; they are well educated, talk agreeably, and have the much-prized accomplishment of making verses. Such “ artists,” as Colonel Tcheng calls them, are of great value in society, which in China is composed exclusively of men, women appearing only at family parties. A young man who wishes to entertain his friends hires a flower-boat, a large junk adorned like a florist’s window and illuminated at night; he sends cards, supplied at the boat, on which he writes his own name, that of the female artist who will be present, and the time of meeting. The guests spend an hour with him upon the water, — the invitation being limited to this unless explicitly made longer, — and the time is passed in talk, music, making verses and puns, a favorite amusement among Celestials of polite education ; for refreshment they have delicious tea, fruit, and sometimes a delicate repast, although eating has not much share in Chinese parties of pleasure. The aforementioned artists also allow dinners to be given at their houses, on the invitation of a person who hires them for the occasion, the talents and resources of the hostess, if so she may be styled, helping to make the evening agreeable. The young men who are invited sometimes engage companions of the same class to come with them, and add their accomplishments to the general enjoyment. These women are often clever and handsome, and their mode of life does not imply immorality: they may be well or ill conducted, — that is their own affair ; but those who belong to the former category are often engaged to enliven family parties, which would not be done in the other case. A Chinese novel which has been translated into French throws a curious light on this subject. The hero declares that he will not marry until he can find a woman who is beautiful, sweet-tempered, affectionate, clever, and accomplished. “ You will have to look for your wife on the flower - boats, then,” says his friend. This book is altogether an interesting supplement to Colonel Tcheng’s.
An organized life of pleasure, such as can be found in Europe and to some degree in America, does not exist in China. The chapter of recreations does not say a word about out-of-door sports; even riding, to judge from the novel just referred to, is looked upon only as a mode of traveling. There are theatres and similar places of amusement, and one of the more magnificent modes of giving an entertainment is to engage one of these for the performance, and send out invitations to one’s “ dear five hundred friends.” But apparently there is no habitual play-goer, nor any class which passes the time in going from one diversion to another. The Chinese are serious and studious, and after their first youth have little necessity for amusements that cannot be found in their homes or in the intercourse of their friends. There is probably an absence of animal spirits in the national temperament. Their calm and sedentary pleasures are for the most part of a social and singularly refined nature. The existence of rich people is organized so as to give them the constant indulgence of their tastes ; they love gardens, flowers, and inactive occupations out-of-doors, and their homes provide them with all these. Birthdays and other anniversaries are constantly observed and celebrated by family gatherings and by much making of presents ; there are great public holidays, the Feast of Lanterns, of Dragon-Boats, and of Kites, and parties among families and friends are made to enjoy them together. Private festivals are held in honor of certain beautiful flowers to which an allegorical significance is attached, and these blossoms have their anniversaries. On an invitation, instead of dinner, supper, dancing, etc., being mentioned as the object of the reunion, the full moon, a fine view, or the blooming of a rare plant is held out as the inducement. On these occasions, pen, ink, and paper are supplied to the guests, who compose verses against time. The subject and rhymes are often suggested, and it becomes a trial of wits, not more insipid, probably, than the recreations of the Della Cruscans, the Diversions of Parley, or the pastimes of many other literary circles. It gives a chance to display the chirography of the competitors, which holds a curious place among Chinese accomplishments. It has been gradually coming to its present elaborate significance since the year B. C. 2000. India ink (encre de Chine) and a camel’s-hair brush are used instead of pens and fluid ink. Great importance is attached to a fine handwriting, which by its shades and curves expresses what with us can be conveyed only by the voice. The force and point given by italics and capitals but faintly represent the effect of different styles of writing in Chinese ; Colonel Tcheng compares it to the modulations of fine declamation, making intelligible to the eye and preserving every gradation of the writer’s thought. Excursions also are in high favor, either water-parties, or prolonged picnics among beautiful regions, where the Buddhist convents offer their hospitality instead of hotels, and make pilgrims of pleasure very comfortable.
In all these reunions, next to versemaking and another species of amusement akin to guessing riddles and charades, conversation is the principal resource. Literary topics are preferred, although metaphysical and philosophical discussions have their place ; the events of the day may be touched upon, but not politics. The total exclusion of the last is ascribed by Colonel Tcheng to the extreme politeness of his countrymen, who banish a subject which might lead to unpleasant differences in the company. We may suspect, however, that there are other reasons for their reticence, as in his little book Colonel Tcheng is virtually silent as to everything relating to the government or public affairs. Even in speaking of the laboring classes he quotes the impressions of European travelers, adroitly avoiding either confirming or contradicting them. His comparison between Chinese and European society is altogether in favor of the former. According to his account his countrymen always enjoy their social meetings, whereas even in Paris the balls and parties struck him as cold and dull, notwithstanding the dangerous charm of woman, who is excluded in the East because there men think it safest to keep out of harm’s way. Accustomed to invariable refinement and goodbreeding at home, he was astonished and shocked by the absence of conventional propriety among Parisians when delivered from the restraint of ladies’ presence. The only society which he found really agreeable was in the artist world, and there alone, in his opinion, do people enjoy themselves.
The most interesting portion of the book is that which explains the theory of education in China. From time immemorial the value of public education has been acknowledged. There is a work extant, written before our era, that speaks of the ancient system of common schools in every town and village. Although, properly speaking, there is no aristocracy, there are four classes : men of letters, agriculturists, manufacturers, and tradespeople. All have the same opportunities of learning, and the competitive examinations which confer grades of honor are open to all. The object is to train the mind of the masses and diffuse knowledge universally, and so to call out latent aptitudes, wherever they exist, for the service of the state and the common profit. The end is to make thinkers rather than scholars, and the means consist in the method of instruction, and not in the list of studies. There are two schemes in use: one for children, the other for students. The first is contained in one of the sixteen discourses of the Emperor Yong Tching, called the Holy Edict, and is for the aid of parents and teachers. It lays great stress on the importance of training children early to look at the serious side of things, at principles rather than circumstances, and at laws rather than facts. The first aims of education should be to awake the attention and overcome bad habits ; children should be encouraged to ask questions about what is taught them, that they may not learn merely by rote, and acquire “ the bad habit of repeating with their lips while their minds are on other matters.” Obedience is the great lesson to be taught by parents, — and in view of this, nobody who knows the American ethics of education can be surprised at the prejudice existing in this country against a people brought up on such principles ; it is sufficient to account for their exclusion by law from the United States.
For the student the first thing to learn is “ to form a resolution.” A firm resolve made and persevered in will insure success in one’s studies, thinks Colonel Tcheng; it has, besides, the double advantage of giving a direction to the energies and forming the character. The precepts for the student are: to analyze daily the work he has done; to review his work every ten or twenty days; to begin study every morning at five o’clock, and to give as much attention to it as a general should to his manæuvres ; not to allow any interruption whatever to occur for five or ten consecutive days ; not to fear being slow, but to fear making pauses ; finally, to remember that time passes like lightning, — that a month goes like a flash, another follows it, and the year is gone before we know it. These are not unfamiliar maxims to the Western mind, and we have equivalents for the proverb, “ Bend the mulberry tree while it is young,” which is given as an example of the many Chinese proverbs — the language is rich in that vein — referring to the importance of early training. The standard text-books treat only of mental tendencies, of duty and mutual obligation; from Colonel Tcheng’s account, they must be like Telemachus, without the story.
Families who can afford a tutor educate their children at home ; for poorer ones there are day and night schools in every village, not free, but so cheap that they are within the means of the humblest classes. There are also colleges in various parts of the empire; the instruction is not official, although the examinations are. There are annual examinations at the chief town at each province, before the prefect. Every candidate must pass on five subjects, each taking a day, during which he is shut up by himself in a cell, with writing materials, but no books to consult. If the candidate passes in all the branches, he goes up for examination before an imperial commissioner delegated specially to each province. There are three degrees, corresponding to B. A., M. A., and Doctor. The examinations for the second grade are triennial ; they take place at the capital of each province, and the candidates are examined on three subjects, each of which occupies three days. The ordeal is so severe that out of ten thousand candidates sometimes but two hundred are graduated. The third degree is conferred at Pekin, and the examinations follow the same order as for the second. There is still a final one, which takes place before the emperor, and assigns the graduates to four ranks, according to their merit. There can be but four recipients of the highest honors, which immediately confer the title of Academician ; the second are bestowed on candidates who are counted worthy to compete for admission to the academy a second time; the third quality for clerkships in the different departments of the government; the fourth render graduates eligible for sub-prefects. The number of degrees of Doctor conferred at one time vary from two to three hundred. Promotion may always be hoped for, as it depends upon merit, and not upon age. The Academicians become members of the Imperial College, the highest body in the empire, from which the emperor’s ministers are chosen. While with us or in Europe an M. D., D. D., or LL. D. begins to forget much of what he has previously learned as soon as he takes his degree, the same order of men in China pass the rest of their lives in reviewing their knowledge by holding examinations.
The rejoicings of successful candidates far exceed those in Occidental countries on similar occasions. They are celebrated by family festivals as splendid as at weddings ; the parents repair to the temple of the ancestors, to honor them for the new dignity ; magnificent banquets are given to all their kinsfolk and friends. The fortunate aspirant goes to announce his degree formally to his connection and acquaintance, with a band of music and an escort of friends carrying banners; as they pass, the crowd hails him like a conqueror, and falls into the procession, realizing one of Mr. Ruskin’s dreams. Letters stating his degree are posted on the walls of his house and sent about like circulars. The indifference shown about the attainment of a degree in the West amazes Colonel Teheng, who probably has not met any Harvard graduates. He concludes that it can be obtained too easily. “ Suppose,” he says, “ that admission to the bar were determined by annual competition, the number of degrees being limited: the right of pleading would become an honor, and the professional sentiment would rise to real pride.” But there is no such analogy possible under totally dissimilar conditions. In a country where literary attainment is the sole road to political importance its credentials are necessarily valued in proportion to their effect; the influence they may command can be estimated by the Chinese mode of representation. Strictly speaking, there is no such thing; but the provincial functionaries, whose appointment, as we have seen, depends on their proficiency in their studies, are ex officio representatives, of an informal sort, and lay the complaints and petitions of the people in their district before the government.
The beginnings of everything in China are very ancient. The prehistoric world of the Celestials was not peopled by demigods and heroes, but by a dynasty of holy emperors, whose supernatural wisdom and longevity laid the foundations of the present prosperity of the realm. These monarchs were not hereditary ; each chose his successor, and abdicated when his own powers declined. The first is called the Emperor of the Heavens, and he divided time into its celestial and terrestrial epochs. He lived eighteen hundred years, and was succeeded by the Emperor of the Earth, who lived for the same length of time, and divided the month into thirty days. The third was the Emperor of Men, and under his reign, which lasted forty-five thousand five hundred years, human society appeared ; he divided his dominions into nine parts, over each of which he set a member of his family. This period corresponds to the era of cavedwellers in modern palæontology. The fourth is known as the Emperor of Nests, under whom man tried to build wooden dwellings for himself, to defend himself against wild beasts, and to use their skins for clothing. The fifth, the Emperor of Fire, taught man how to produce and use it; he instituted domestic life, and taught the practice of barter and of recording events by means of knotted cords. His successor, Fou-Hy, introduced hunting, fishing, and the domestication of animals among mankind ; he defined the four seasons, and fixed the first day of the year about where it now falls. He determined the cardinal points of the horizon, and invented stringed instruments. He also instituted marriage with its ceremonies, property, and proclaimed the eight diagrams or fundamental principles on which are based progress and philosophy. He was followed by Tcheng-Nung, the Emperor of Agriculture, who studied the properties of plants, taught the healing art, and invented canals, embankments, and dykes ; during his reign the dragon first appeared, which after many mysterious visits to China took up its abode on the imperial escutcheon. Next came the Yellow Emperor, and this close connection between the first mention of the national arms and the national color suggests a new order of expansion ; he created the observatory, the art of running, the bow, the ship, coinage, windinstruments, furniture, coaches, and costume. He published a book on medicine, in which the phrase “ to feel the pulse ” first occurs. The administrative division of the empire was organized during his reign. The ninth emperor is said to have ruled from 2399 B. C. to 1981, at which date the historic period begins, and the holy dynasty ends. History relates that in his time great hydraulic works were accomplished during terrible inundations, the only allusion in Chinese records to anything corresponding to the Deluge of the Jewish Scriptures. But everybody will see the analogy between the preceding catalogue and the descendants of Adam: Cain the tiller of the ground, Abel the shepherd, Jabal, Jubal, Tubal-Cain, Noah the first shipbuilder and vine-grower, Nimrod the mighty hunter. Colonel Tcheng draws no inferences from this, nor from the noted similarities between Buddhism and Christianity; he himself is apparently a disciple of Confucius.
Throughout the book, however, which is merely a comprehensive sketch of Chinese views and manners, the author constantly compares the theory and practice of his country with those which he has observed in Europe, and always to the advantage of his own nation. In some cases the superiority is incontestable ; in others he may be suspected of doing what is a temptation to every one in parallels of this sort, — of contrasting the highest standard in his own land with the average practice elsewhere. Besides this, keen though he is, he sometimes mistakes the hearing of usages, as for instance when he can see only a breach of etiquette in according the place of honor to the actor who recites in companies where men of rank and eminence are present; he fails to discern that at bottom this is only a finer form of that politeness which he thinks a Chinese monopoly, missing the difference between Christian and heathen courtesy. He invests with a special significance and importance manifestations in his own country which are quite common out of it, like the acclamations of the graduate by the people; he would be certain to see similar demonstrations in any Occidental town through which the baccalaureate should march with flags and a brass band, though probably nobody but Mr. Ruskin would treat it magniloquently. Where Colonel Tcheng cannot prove the injuriousness of foreign customs or their inferiority to Chinese, he ingeniously argues that, although good in themselves and useful for Europeans, they would he superfluous for his countrymen, on account of the excellence of their provisions from all time. There is a good deal of delicate Oriental subtlety and sophistry in his reasoning, but it is not always convincing.
There is one subject on which he deserves to be heard with respect by the Western world, — the relations of his government to other nations. China is blamed, he says, for her want of confidence in the outer world, whether represented by countries or individuals, and for her opposition to the general introduction of railroads, gas, and other modern improvements under the indefinite name of progress. As regards individuals, Frenchmen are roughly classed in China as missionaries, Englishmen as opium-traders, Americans no doubt being included in the same denomination. With regard to the propagandists, Colonel Tcheng, fearing lest he should be carried away by righteous indignation, quotes a passage from M. de la Vernéde, of the Free School of Political Science in Paris, the gist of which is that three hundred years ago the Jesuits went to China, and penetrated into the interior, teaching the arts and sciences, and conciliating public opinion by their amenity and adroitness. They were soon acknowledged as pacific, benevolent, and intelligent instructors, and received permission by an imperial edict to build churches, and practice and teach their doctrines. But the Dominicans and Franciscans, jealous of the influence of the Jesuits in the far East, obtained in 1772 a bull from Clement XIV. expelling them from China. The Lazarists, who replaced them, undid their good work, upset the religious ideas of the natives, rubbed their national prejudices the wrong way, and drew upon themselves the suspicion of acting as spies. The Anglo-Saxons have persisted in forcing an illicit trade forbidden by law and treaty, violating good faith, and ruining the health, morals, and fortunes of the inhabitants. “ And yet we are reproached for want of confidence ! How are we to learn it ? . . . The essential character of Western civilization is invasive ; I need not demonstrate this. Formerly barbarous hordes invaded flourishing countries, not to introduce the benefits of a new order of intelligence, but for rapine and pillage. Civilized races follow the same course, claiming to establish happiness on earth: violence is the starting-point of their progress. . . . War and pauperism are the two scourges of humanity, and in China the idea of progress is to maintain peace and promote the common weal. The day when the Occident shall convince the Chinese that the modern spirit which creates the marvelous inventions over which we clap our hands possesses the secret of maintaining peace and promoting the common weal, on that day China will join the general confederation with enthusiasm. But have we been convinced of this ? Is it known what the importations are which enter those ports which a famous treaty has opened to the world? We hoped for the perfected implements and machinery of the arts of peace, which it is the object of the government to encourage throughout the empire, but the staple of those importations has been firearms, and by way of modern civilization we are to inaugurate militarism ! And we are blamed for our want of confidence ! Well, at the risk of offending those who do not think with me, I will say that we hate with all our might whatever, far or near, threatens peace and rouses the spirit of combat in the human soul, imperfect enough by nature. What need have we of war, ‘hated by mothers,’ and what ideal would it satisfy if some day our 400,000,000 inhabitants should be armed with rifles? Is that progress? To deflect the public wealth from the channels which reason appoints, to make it contribute towards organizing all the forms of misery that spring from the use and abuse of force, is in my opinion to lower and corrupt ourselves. We shall never look at militarism as an element of civilization ; far from it ! We are convinced that it is a return to barbarism. . . . The foreigners who land in China have but one end, speculation, and, what is very curious, these speculators despise us because we have no confidence in them. Confidence? We can never have too little! ”
Englishmen who remember the affair of the lorcha Arrow, and Americans the Burlingame treaty, may reply.
Colonel Tcheng makes exception in favor of the foreigners who honor their own nationality by the respect they show for that of others: “ Diplomatists, who captivate us by their good-breeding, and who accomplish delicate missions with a courtesy and tact that do credit to their civilization ; men of learning, who come to study our language and to draw from our books the wisdom of the most ancient of human societies, — these are not aliens, but friends, with whom we are proud to exchange our ideas and to dream of progress and civilization ; true sons of humanity, who have nothing in common with the adventurers who swarm upon our coasts.” In proof of the good-will and fair dealing of the Chinese towards Europeans who do not come to their country with sinister or too selfish designs, he adduces the Arsenal of FouTcheou, founded, under the emperor’s orders, by a French ex-naval officer, M. Prosper Giquet. It is a great headquarters of ship-building and civil engineering, intended to develop Chinese commerce and metallurgy. There are scientific schools attached to it; the pupils finish their education in France, and return to superintend their special branches. The administration of the arsenal is in the hands of high dignitaries of the native government, Europeans teach and direct the works, and a perfectly good understanding exists between them. Alas ! since this was written the unfortified and defenseless Arsenal of Fou-Tcheou has been bombarded by a French fleet, without any declaration of war on the part of the republic. Colonel Tcheng’s readers are forced to repeat, “ And they are blamed for want of confidence ! ”