« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
Commencing with the early history of China, we may be allowed to correct an error into which many have fallen, relative to the assumption of an extravagant chronology by the Chinese. It has been generally supposed that the Chinese nation maintain an antiquity of myriads of years, and that their historical records, stretching far back into the vista of more than a thousand ages, are at such variance with the comparatively recent account of Moses, as to oblige us either to question the one or the other. This was, at one time, gladly caught at by the skeptics of Europe ; and they thought they had discovered, in the high antiquity of the Chinese, combined with the Hindoo and Egyptian races, an argument which threw discredit on the chronology of the Bible, and weakened the evidence of its divine authority. The fact, however, is, that the Chinese, like most other heathen nations, have a mythological, as well as a chronological period; the one considered by themselves as fabulous, and the other as authentic ; the one connected with the history of their gods, and the other with that of their men. In the former they speak of their celestial emperor, who reigned forty-five thousand years; their terrestrial emperor, who reigned eighteen thousand years; followed by their human emperor, who reigned as long; without condescending to enlighten us as to the names, characters, events, or circumstances of these wonderful individuals; nay, without so much as telling us whether their dominions were established in heaven or earth, or whether they referred exclusively to China, or included other nations. In short, the vague account they furnish us of these fancied emperors shows that they were merely the figment of the imagination, introduced to supply a deficiency, and to amuse the credulous. Indeed, so little credit is attached to this fabulous period by the Chinese themselves, that one of their most respectable historians, Choo-foo-tze, does not venture to allude to it, but, passing by these extravagant assumptions, commences his relation at a much later period, when events and circumstances of a connected character stamp the records of the age with greater marks of credibility.” (Page 3.)
Mr. Medhurst then proceeds to quote from another Chinese historian, named Fung-chow, who speaks of these tales as being “contrary to sense and reason,” (page 4,) and concludes by saying,
“ Thus Chinese authors of the greatest reputation agree in considering the first part of Chinese history as entirely fabulous. While, however, we fully coincide with them in this opinion, we cannot help, on a review of their brief allusion to this period, (the first,) suggesting the idea, that the whole is probably based on some indistinct recollections of the theory of the creation." (Page 5.)
So likewise of the second period :
" While, therefore, we might be unwilling to give full credit to what Chinese writers say of the events of this period, it is not improbable that much of it is drawn by tradition from the correct account of the antediluvian age handed down by Noah to his posterity. The coincidence of ten generations having passed away, the institution of marriages, the invention of music, the rebellion of a portion of the race, and the confused mixture of the divine and human families, closed by the occurrence of the flood in the time of Yaou, might lead us to conclude, that in their allusions to this period, the Chinese are merely giving their version of the events that occurred from Adam to Noah." (Page 6.)
of their genuine antiquity, and the importance to be attached to it, Mr. Medhurst thus writes :
“If then we consider Yu to be the first real character in Chinese history, and place the beginning of his reign at B. C. 2204, or one hundred and four years after the flood, about the age of Peleg, when the earth was divided, we shall find that it just gives time for such an increase of the human family as
would admit of emigration, and yet allow for China being in such a state of marsh as to require draining for the sake of culture, which service was ascribed to the labors of Yu. Thus the empire of China, even when deprived of its fabulous and traditionary periods, is still very ancient. The Chinese must have branched off from the great human family immediately after the dispersion, and, traveling to the farther east, settled down on the borders of the Yellow river, coeval with the establishment of the Babylonian and Egyptian monarchies. The mention made in their early history of the draining of the land, as one of the first acts of the primitive rulers of China, and the allusion to the discovery of wine about the same period, show that their first kings must have synchronized with the immediate descendants of Noah; and the recorded fact that a seven years' famine took place in China nearly coeval with that of Egypt, proves that their chronicles are entitled to some degree of credit. Thus, ere Rome was founded, or Troy was taken, before Thebes or Nineveh were erected into kingdoms, China was a settled state, under a regular form of government; with customs and institutions similar in many respects to those which it possesses now.
“From that time to this, revolutions and wars have frequently occurred. The country has been exposed to foreign invasion, and torn by intestine commotion; dynasties have changed, and the people are even now subject to a Tartar yoke; yet China is China still. Her language and her customs remain unaltered; and the genius and spirit of the people are the same they were in the patriarchal age. No nation has undergone less change, or been less affected from without; and they seem to have grown up as distinct from the rest of mankind, as if they had been the inhabitants of another planet, retaining all their peculiarities just as if their exclusive wall had surrounded their whole empire, and debarred all others from intercourse with them. Those who are accustomed to attach veneration to antiquity, will probably regard the Chinese with some degree of interest on account of their patriarchal character; and those who love to survey human society in every possible stage, will be gratified with the contemplation of it, as it existed not only centuries, but even millenniums ago. The modern kingdoms of Europe are but of yesterday, compared with the Chinese ; and though western nations have grown rapidly since their origin, yet they cannot look back to any very distant period, when their ancestors laid the foundation of their present greatness, and established systems which still exist and characterize their populations. The Chinese, on the contrary, have derived their veneration for parents, and their subjection to rulers, with the arrangements of domestic life, from the first founders of their monarchy, and embody in their present conduct principles which were laid down four thousand years ago." (Page 8.)
The second and third chapters of the volume are occupied with the question of the population of China. Mr. Medhurst examines it, first, argumentatively, and then quotes various documents and calculations. The result is thus stated by himself:
" It will easily be seen from what has been before stated, that the author inclines to receive the highest estimate that has been given of the Chinese population, and to rate it at 361,221,900 ; and thus, after the fullest consideration of all that has been said on either side of the subject, after the most patient investigation of native documents, and after extensive inquiries and observations among the people for more than twenty years, he cannot resist the conviction which forces itself upon him, that the population of China Proper is as above stated; besides upward of a million more for the inhabitants of Formosa, and the various tribes of Chinese Tartary, under the sway of the emperor of China.” (Page 66.)
In connection with these population inquiries, Mr. Medhurst notices the practice of infanticide :“ In addition to the above-mentioned considerations, the prevalence of infanVol. X.-Jan., 1889.
ticide in China has been adduced by some as a proof of that empire's extreme populousness. While, however, we would by no means argue, that this abominable practice is kept up in order to keep down the population, or that it has any considerable influence in diminishing the numbers of the people, we may still contend that infanticide in China is more the result of poverty than prejudice, and has to do with economical rather than religious considerations. In the first place it is to be observed, that infanticide in China is wholly confined to the female sex; boys, it is imagined, can provide sufficiently well for themselves; are likely to repay, by their labor, the care and expense bestowed upon them; and contribute to the building up of the family name and fortunes; in all of which matters girls are of very little value. Hence the birth of a son is hailed in every Chinese family with delight; while the house is only filled with mourning on the appearance of a wretched daughter. A son is valued and cherished, while a daughter is despised and neglected. This feeling, carried to excess, leads many, in extreme poverty, to perpetrate infanticide in the one case, and to practice forbearance in the other. Again, the abominable custom alluded to is not taught or enjoined by any religious system prevalent in China, -either Confucianism, Taou-ism, or Buddhism ; it is not done to propitiate the gods, as was the case, formerly, among the cruel worshipers of Moloch; nor do the nations expect to reap any spiritual advantage by giving the fruit of their body for the sin of their soul;' but the Chinese perpetrate this infernal custom merely from parsimonious motives, and just to save themselves the care and trouble of bringing up a useless and troublesome being, who is likely to cost more than ever she will fetch on being sold out in marriage. It prevails, therefore, in proportion to the general indigence of the people, and affords by its prevalence a criterion by which to judge of the density of the population, and the poverty of the inhabitants. Hence we find that it obtains more in the southern provinces, where the numbers of human beings exceed the powers of the soil to produce sufficient sustenance; or, in a crowded capital, where the myriads of citizens find hardly room to live or to breathe. In the southern parts of the empire, the natives themselves, who might be supposed anxious to conceal the fact, bear ample testimony to its existence, and that in a proportion which it is fearful to contemplate ; while the lightness with which they treat the murder of female infants shows that it must have prevailed in no ordinary degree, in order so far to blunt their sensibilities on the subject, as to lead them to contemplate the drowning of a daughter as far more excusable than the treading of printed paper under foot. The extent of infanticide in the capital has been calculated, by the number of infants thrown out every night, and gathered by the police in the morning to be buried in one common hole without the city. One writer informs us, that ten or a dozen infants are picked up every morning in Peking alone : hence the murders in that city must amount to many thousands annually. The fact that foundling hospitals are more easily filled in China than elsewhere, is corroborative of the little regard in which female infants are held. The more tender-hearted parents, rather than lay violent hands upon them, prefer giving them away; or, if they can find no one to receive the charge, depositing them in some temple or monastery, where there is at least a chance of their being noticed and preserved. The Buddhists in China avail themselves of this circumstance to fill their nunneries; while the Catholics in that country increase the number of their adherents by rescuing the outcast daughters of the inhabitants, and bringing them up for wives to the native converts. Others, actuated by base motives, pick up the abandoned children, and rear them for the purpose of sordid gain ; which they accomplish by selling them for domestic slaves, training them np for wanton gratifications, or condemning them to beg through the streets, after having cruelly put out their eyes to make them objects of charity." (Page 46.)
The practice serves to indicate not only the amount of the population, but its moral condition. In reference to this Mr. Medhurst has some very impressive observations:
“If the population of China really amount to such overwhelming numbers, then what a distressing spectacle presents itself to the eye of the Christian philanthropist! Three hundred and sixty millions of human beings huddled together in one country, under the sway of one despotic monarch, influenced by the same delusive philosophy, and bowing down to the same absurd superstition ! One-third of the human race, and one-half of the heathen world, held by one tie, and bound by one spell: a million of whom are every month dropping into eternity, untaught, unsanctified, and, as far as we know, unsaved ! How distressing to think that this nation has been for ages in its present demoralized and degraded condition, with no light beaming on the people but that derived from Aiheism and Polytheism, with now and then an obscure ray from a questionable form of Christianity! To see the demon of darkness reigning in one soul is painful; but to see him rampant over a whole nation, and that nation constituting one-third of the human race, is beyond measure distressing, and might well induce one to exclaim, Othat my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of this people! There are, doubtless, among such a vast concourse of human beings, numbers who, according to the light they have, lead tolerably decent lives as it regards moral and social duties; but they must all be destitute of right views of divine and eternal things : and where these fundamental truths are misapprehended, there can be little hope of the claims of human relations being properly sustained ; in fact, experience forces upon those who have had the most frequent and intimate intercourse with them, the unwelcome truth, that among ihem, in a remarkable degree,
there is none righteous, no, not one; there is none that understandeth, i here is none that seeketh after God.' The population of China, in its present condition, not only distresses, it appals the mind. A more affecting consideration still is, that the ranks of heuthenism are increasing at a thousand-fold greater ratio than we can expect by such a system of proselyting to thin them. For even allowing an increase of only one per cent. per annum, on the whole population, we shall find that they are thus adding three millions and a half yearly to their number; so that, according to our most sanguine calculations, the heathen would maltiply faster than they could be brought over to Christianity." (Pages 71-75.)
Mr. Medhurst, however, is not discouraged. He looks at the power of the gospel, preached in faith, and accompanied by the blessing of God; at the diffusive, leavening nature of Christianity; and even at the circumstances of China itself:-
“ There is something in the very abundance of the population which constitutes a ground of encouragement; for the inhabitants of that empire, though numerous, and spread over eighteen provinces, must be considered as a great whole; and what bears on ihe political, intellectgal, moral, and religious condition of the people, bears upon them as a whole. Thus China, though vast, is under one despotic form of government; and if measures could be adopted that would influence the ruler of so vast an empire, the whole mass of his subjects would, in a great measure, be affected thereby. It is not a fanatical suggestion, that the prayers of pious Christians on behalf of the Son of heaven,' would be heard in the court of heaven, particularly if all the available means be employed to informi, enlighten, and affect his mind. It is not impossible that a remonstrance drawn up by Christian missionaries may reach the dragon throne,' or that a devoted and zealous preacher of the gospel should get introduced to court, and plead the cause of Christianity in che imperial ear; and though the expression of his will might at first prove unfavorable, yet the repetition of such events might in time prove successful, and induce the government to grant free toleration to the profession of real godliness through the length and breadth of the land.” (Page 77.)
The fifth chapter is devoted to the civilization of the Chinese.
They have lost the primitive religion, but, as they have continued to live in society, and under government, they have not sunk to the same degradations of barbarism in which the savage islanders of the South Sea, for instance, have been found to exist.
“The civilization of the Chinese will be seen in their complaisance toward each other. In no unchristian country do we find such attention paid to ceremony, and so many compliments passing to and fro, as among the Chinese. In associating with friends, and in entertaining strangers, their politeness is remarkable. The poorest and commonest individual will scarcely allow a passenger to cross the door, without asking him in; should the stranger comply, the pipe is instantly filled and presented to his lips, or the tea poured out for his refreshment, and the master of the house does not presume to sit down until the stranger is first seated." (Page 99.)
“The ceremonies observed on the invitation and entertainment of guests are still more striking: complimentary cards are presented, and polite answers returned, all vying with each other in the display of humility and condescension. On the arrival of the guest considerable difficulty is found in arranging who shall make the lowest bow, or first enter the door, or take the highest seat, or assume the precedence at table; though the host generally contrives to place his guest in the most elevated position. When conversation commences, the mutual assent to every proposition, the scrupulous avoiding of all contradiction, and the entire absence of every offensive expression, or melancholy allusion, show what a sense these people entertain of politeness. Their civility may indeed verge toward adulation, and their compliments assume the air of flattery; but when we see a whole nation thus externally soft, affable, and yielding, we must acknowledge that they have made some advances in the art of good breeding." (Page 101.)
The Christian philosopher will see in this the evidence and proof of a real national imbecility. The forms of social kindness are still retained from a very remote antiquity, but this is almost all. Nature is cramped for want of that which can alone elicit, expand, and sanctify its emotions; and in its place, a sort of well-behaved childishness (far removed from the warm-heartedness of Christian childhood) is established throughout the empire.
“But," continues Mr. Medhurst, “ the civilization of the Chinese appears in a more substantial form in the discoveries they have made, and the arts and sciences which they have cultivated." (Page 101.)
He refers particularly to their knowledge of the magnetic needle; (with which they appear to have been acquainted from a very remote antiquity ;) to the invention of printing, which was known to them upward of nine hundred years ago; and to the composition of gunpow. der. In regard to the sciences, however, the Chinese cannot be said to rank high. To astronomy they have paid some attention, but all progress here is checked by their addiction to the most superstitious astrology. They have attended to botany, but their arrangements are any thing rather than scientific. In medicine, likewise, they are exceedingly deficient. Very little can be said of their progress in the fine arts. In painting, they know how to delineate, and how to color; but the science of perspective, and of light and shade, they seem not at all to understand. They excel in engraving, and have long been noted for their manufacture of porcelain. But there seems to be nothing of improvableness among them. All is as it always has been. Their government is despotic and patriarchal,