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Chinese Sketches by Herbert A. Giles

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designation" for the patronymic he discarded when parents, brethren,
home, and friends were cast into oblivion at the door of the temple.

But it is not on such mere sentimental grounds that the Chinese nation
has condemned in this wholesale manner the clergy of China. Did the
latter carry out even to a limited extent their vows of celibacy and
Pythagorean principles of diet, they would probably obtain a fair
share of that questionable respect which is meted out to enthusiasts
in most countries on the globe. The Chinese hate them as double-dyed
hypocrites who extort money from the poor and ignorant, work upon the
fears of, and frequently corrupt, their wives or daughters; proclaim
in bold characters at the gates of each temple--"no meat or wine may
enter here"--while all the time they dine off their favourite pork as
often as most Chinamen, and smoke or drink themselves into a state of
beastly intoxication a great deal more so. Opium pipes are to be found
as frequently as not among the effects of these sainted men, who, with
all the abundant leisure at their command, are rarely of sufficient
education to be mentioned in the same breath with an ordinary
graduate. Occasionally there have been exceptions to the rule, but the
phenomenon is seldom met with in modern times. We have read of a lame
old priest so renowned for self-denying liberality that the great
Emperor Ch'ien Lung actually paid him a visit. After some conversation
Ch'ien Lung presented him with a valuable pearl, which the old man
immediately bestowed upon a beggar he espied among the crowd. His
Majesty was somewhat taken aback at this act of rudeness, and asked
him if he always gave away everything in the same manner. On receiving
an affirmative reply, the Emperor added, "Even down to the crutch on
which you lean?" "Ah," said the priest, "it is written that the
superior man does not covet what his friend cannot spare." "But
supposing," said the Emperor, "he was not a superior man." "In that
case," answered the priest, "you could not expect me to be his

Cleanliness, again, is an especial attribute of Buddhism, and in a few
temples in the south there is an attempt to make some show in this
direction; but as regards the person, priests are dirtier if anything
than the humblest members of their flock. It is laughable indeed to
hear them chant the /Ching/, ignorant as ninety-nine per cent. are of
every word they are saying, for of late the study of Sanskrit has been
utterly and entirely neglected. Their duties, however, in this respect
are as much curtailed as possible, except when wafting with their
prayers some spirit of the dead to the realms of bliss above. In such
cases it is a matter of business, a question of money; and the
unctuous air of solemn faith they then put on contrasts curiously with
the bored and sleepy look apparent on their faces as they gabble
through a midnight mass, in the presence of some such limited and
unimportant audience as a single and perhaps a red-haired barbarian.

It is pleasant to dismiss from our thoughts this lying, shameless,
debauched class; and we do so, wondering how Buddhism has retained its
hold so long over an intellectual people possessed of an elaborate
moral code, which has been for centuries the acknowledged standard of
right and wrong, and which condemns all fear or hope of an unknown and
unseen world.


One of the most curious and harmless customs of the Chinese is that of
carefully burning every scrap of paper inscribed with the cherished
characters which, as far as calligraphy goes, justly take precedence
of those of any other language on the globe. Not content with mere
reduction by fire, a conscientious Chinaman will collect the ashes
thus produced, and sealing them up in some earthen vessel, will bury
them deep in the earth or sink them to the bottom of a river. Then
only does he consider that he has fully discharged his duty towards
paper which has by mere accident become as sacred in the eyes of all
good men as the most precious relic of any martyred saint in the
estimation of a Catholic priest. Rich men are constantly in the habit
of paying /chiffoniers/ to collect such remnants of written paper as
they may find lying about the streets, and in all Chinese towns there
are receptacles at the most frequented points where the results of
their labours may be burned. The above facts are pretty generally
known to foreigners in China and elsewhere, but we do not think that
native ideas on the subject have ever been brought forward otherwise
than indirectly. We therefore give the translation of a short essay
published in 1870 by an enthusiastic scholar, and distributed gratis
among his erring countrymen:--

"From of old down to the present time our sages have devoted
themselves to the written character--that fairest jewel in heaven
above or earth beneath. Those, therefore, who are stimulated by a
thirst for /fame/, strive to attain their end by the excellency of
their compositions; others, attracted by desire for wealth, pursue
their object with the help of day-book and ledgers. In both cases
men would be helpless without a knowledge of the art of writing.
How, indeed, could despatches be composed, agreements drawn up,
letters exchanged, and genealogies recorded, but for the
assistance of the written character? By what means would a man
chronicle the glory of his ancestors, indite the marriage deed, or
comfort anxious parents when exiled to a distant land? In what way
could he secure property to his sons and grandchildren, borrow or
lend money, enter into partnership, or divide a patrimony, but
with the testimony of written documents? The very labourer in the
fields, tenant of a few acres, must have his rights guaranteed in
black and white; and household servants require more than verbal
assurance that their wages will not fail to be paid. The
prescription of the physician, about to call back some suffering
patient from the gates of death, is taken down with pen and ink;
and the prognostication of the soothsayer, warning men of evil or
predicting good fortune, exemplifies in another direction the use
of the written character. In a word, the art of writing enriches
and ennobles man, hands him over to life or death, confers upon
him honours and distinctions, or covers him with abuse and shame.

"Of late, however, our schools have turned out an arrogant and
ignorant lot--boys who venture to use old books for wrapping
parcels or papering windows, for boiling water, or wiping the
table; boys, I say, who scribble over their books, who write
characters on wall or door, who chew up the drafts of their poems,
or throw them away on the ground. Let all such be severely
punished by their masters that they may be saved, while there is
yet time, from the wrath of an avenging Heaven. Some men use old
pawn-tickets for wrapping up things--it may be a cabbage or a
pound of bean-curd. Others use lottery-tickets of various
descriptions for wrapping up a picked vegetable or a slice of
pork, with no thought of the crime they are committing as long as
there is a cash to be made or saved. So also there are those who
exchange their old books for pumeloes or ground-nuts, to be
defiled with the filth of the waste-paper basket, and passed from
hand to hand like the cheques of the barbarian. Alas, too, for
women when they go to fairs, for children who are sent to market!
They cannot read one single character: they know not the priceless
value of written paper. They drop the wrapping of a parcel in the
mire for every passer-by to tread under foot. Their crime,
however, will be laid at the door of those who erred in the first
instance (i.e., those who sold their old books to the
shopkeepers). For they hoped to squeeze some profit, infinitesimal
indeed, out of tattered or incomplete volumes; forgetting in their
greed that they were dishonouring the sages, and laying up for
themselves certain calamity. Why then sacrifice so much for such
trifling gain? How much better a due observance of time-honoured
custom, ensuring as it would a flow of prosperity continuous and
everlasting as the waves of the sea! O ye merchants and
shopkeepers, know that in heaven as on earth written words are
esteemed precious as the jade, and whatever is marked therewith
must not be cast aside like stones and tiles. For happiness,
wealth, honours, distinctions, and old age, may be one and all
secured by a proper respect for written paper."


Educated Chinamen loudly disclaim any participation in the
superstitious beliefs which, to a European eye, hang like a dark cloud
over an otherwise intellectually free people. There never has been a
State religion in China, and it has always been open to every man to
believe and practise as much or as little as he likes of Buddhism,
Taoism, or Mahomedanism, without legal interference or social stigma
of any kind. Of course it is understood that such observances must be
purely self-regarding, and that directly they assume--as lately in the
case of Mahomedanism--anything of a political character, the Chinese
Government is not slow to protect the unity of the Empire by the best
means in its power. And so, but for the suicidal zeal of Christian
missions and their supporters, who have effected an unnatural
amalgamation of religion and politics, and carried the Bible into
China at the point of the bayonet, the same toleration might now be
accorded to Christianity which the propagators of other religions have
hitherto been permitted to enjoy.

As to religion in China, it is only of the ethics of Confucius that
the State takes any real cognizance. His is what John Stuart Mill
alluded to as "the best wisdom they possess;" and, as he further
observed, the Chinese have secured "that those who have appropriated
most of it shall occupy the posts of honour and power." His maxims are
entirely devoid of the superstitious element. He recognises a
principle of right beyond the ken of man; but though he once said that
this principle was conscious of his existence and his work on earth,
it never entered his head to endow it with anything like retributory
powers. Allusions to an unseen world were received by him with scorn;
and as regards a future state, he has preserved a most discreet
silence. "While you do not know life, how can you know about death?"
was the rebuke he administered to a disciple who urged some utterance
on the problem of most interest to mankind. And yet, in spite of the
extreme healthiness of Confucian ethics, there has grown up, around
both the political and social life of the Chinese, such a tangled maze
of superstition, that it is no wonder if all intellectual advancement
has been first checked, and has then utterly succumbed. The ruling
classes have availed themselves of its irresistible power to give them
a firmer hold over their simple-hearted, credulous subjects; they have
practised it in its grossest forms, and have written volumes in
support of absurdities in which they cannot really have the slightest
faith themselves. It was only a year or two ago that the most powerful
man in China, a distinguished scholar, statesman, and general,
prostrated himself before a diminutive water-snake, in the hope that
by humble intercession with the God of Floods he might bring about a
respite from the cruel miseries which had been caused by inundations
over a wide area of the province of Chihli. The suppliant was no other
than the celebrated Viceroy, Lu Hung-chang, who has recently armed the
forts at the mouth and on the banks of the Peiho with Krupp's best
guns, instead of trusting, as would be consistent, the issue of a
future war to the supernatural efforts of some Chinese Mars.

Turning now to the literature of China, we cannot but be astonished at
the mass of novels which are one and all of the same tendency; in
fact, not only throughout the entire stratum of Chinese fiction, but
even in that of the gravest philosophical speculations, has the
miraculous been introduced as a natural and necessary element. The
following passage, taken from the writings of Han Wen-kung, whose name
has been pronounced to be "one of the most venerated," is a fair
specimen of the trash to be met with at every turn in that trackless,
treeless desert, which for want of a more appropriate term we are
obliged to call the literature of China:--

"There are some things which possess form but are devoid of sound,
as for instance jade and stones; others have sound but are without
form, such as wind and thunder; others again have both form and
sound, such as men and animals; and lastly, there is a class
devoid of both, namely, /devils and spirits/."

Descending to the harmless superstition of domestic life, we find that
the cat washing her face is not, as with us, a sign of rain, but that
a stranger is coming. On the other hand, "strangers" in tea portend,
as with us, the arrival of some unlooked-for guest, tall or short, fat
or lean, according to the relative proportions of the prophetic twig.
Aching corns denote the approach of wet weather--we do not quote this
as a superstition--and for a girl to spill water on fowls or dogs will
ensure a downpour of rain on her wedding-day. Any one who hears a crow
caw should shatter his teeth three times and blow; and two brooms
together will bring joy and sorrow at the same time, as a birth and a
death on the same day. "Crows' feet" on the face are called "fishes'
tails," and in young men mean what the widower's peak is supposed to
signify with us.

Superstition is China's worst enemy--a shadow which only the pure
light of science will be able to dispel. There are many amongst us who
would give her more: but they will not succeed.


It is a question of more than ordinary interest to those who regard
the Chinese people as a worthy object of study, What are the
speculations of the working and uneducated classes concerning such
natural phenomena as it is quite impossible for them to ignore? Their
theory of eclipses is well known, foreign ears being periodically
stunned by the gonging of an excited crowd of natives, who are
endeavouring with hideous noises to prevent some imaginary dog of
colossal proportions from banqueting, as the case may be, upon the sun
or moon. At such laughable exhibitions of native ignorance it will be
observed that there is always a fair sprinkling of well-to-do,
educated persons, who not only ought to know better themselves, but
should be making some effort to enlighten their less fortunate
countrymen instead of joining in the din. Such a hold, however, as
superstition on the minds of the best informed in a Chinese community,
that under the influence of any real or supposed danger, philosophy
and Confucius are scattered to the four winds of Heaven, and the
proudest disciple of the Master proves himself after all but a man.

Leaving the literati to take care of themselves, and confining our
attention to the good-tempered, joyous, hospitable working-classes of
China, we find many curious beliefs on subjects familiar among western
nations to every national school-boy. The earth, for instance, is
popularly believed to be square; and the heavens a kind of shell or
covering, studded with stars and revolving round the earth. We
remember once when out of sight of land calling the notice of our
native valet to the masts of a vessel sinking below the horizon. We
pointed out to him that were the earth a perfectly flat surface its
disappearance would not be so comparatively sudden, nor would the ship
appear to sink. But at the last moment, when we felt that conviction
was entering into his soul and that another convert had been made to
the great cause of scientific truth, he calmly replied that it was
written--"Heaven is round, earth is square," and he didn't very well
understand how books could be wrong!

The sun is generally supposed to pass at sunset into the earth, and to
come out next morning at the other side. The moon is supposed to rise
from and set in the ocean. Earthquakes are held to result from
explosions of sulphur in the heart of the earth; rain is said to be
poured down by the Dragon God who usually resides on the other side of
the clouds, and the rainbow is believed to be formed by the breath of
an enormous oyster which lives somewhere in the middle of the sea, far
away from land. Comets and eclipses of the sun are looked upon as
special warnings to the throne, and it is usual for some distinguished
censor to memorialise the Emperor accordingly. The most curious
perhaps of all these popular superstitions are those which refer to
thunder, lightning, and hail, regarded in China as the visitation of
an angry and offended god. In the first place it is supposed that
people are struck by thunder and not by lightning--a belief which was
probably once prevalent in England, as evidenced by the English word
/thunderstruck/. Sir Philip Sydney writes:--"I remained as a man
thunder-stricken." Secondly, death by thunder is regarded as a
punishment for some secret crime committed against human or divine
law, and consequently a man who is not conscious of anything of the
kind faces the elements without fear. Away behind the clouds during a
storm or typhoon sit the God of Thunder armed with his terrible bolts,
and the Goddess of Lightning, holding in her hand a dazzling mirror.
With this last she throws a flash of lightning over the guilty man
that the God of Thunder may see to strike his victim; the pealing
crash which follows is caused by the passage through the air of the
invisible shaft--and the wrongs of Heaven are avenged. Similarly, hail
is looked upon as an instrument of punishment in the hands of the Hail
God, directed only against the crops and possessions of such mortals
as have by their wicked actions exposed themselves to the slow but
certain visitation of divine vengeance.

Each province, nay, each town, has its own particular set of
superstitions on a variety of subjects; the above, however, dealing
with the most important of all natural phenomena, will be found common
to every village and household in the Chinese Empire. The childlike
faith with which such quaint notions are accepted by the people at
large is only equalled by the untiring care with which they are
fostered by the ruling classes, who are well aware of their value in
the government of an excitable people. The Emperor himself prays loud
and long for rain, fine weather, or snow, according as either may be
needed by the suffering crops, and never leaves off until the elements
answer his prayers. But here we are ridiculing a phase of superstition
from which nations with greater advantages than China are not yet
wholly free.


China New Year!--What a suggestive ring have those three words for
"the foreigner in far Cathay."[*] What visions do they conjure up of
ill-served tiffins, of wages forestalled, of petty thefts and perhaps
a burglary; what thoughts of horrid tom-toms and ruthless fire-
crackers, making day hideous as well as night; what apparitions of
gaudily-dressed butlers and smug-faced coolies, their rear brought up
by man's natural enemy in China--the cook, for once in his life clean,
and holding in approved Confucian style[+] some poisonous indigestible
present he calls a cake!

[*] The title of Mr Medhurst's work.

[+] "In presenting gifts, his countenance wore a placid appearance."--
Analects: ch. x.

New Year's Day is the one great annual event in Chinese social and
political life. An Imperial birthday, even an Imperial marriage, pales
before the important hour at which all sublunary affairs are supposed
to start afresh, every account balanced and every debt paid. About ten
days previously the administration of public business is nominally
suspended; offices are closed, official seals carefully wrapped up and
given into the safe keeping of His Honour's or His Excellency's
wife.[*] The holidays last one month, and during that time inaction is
the order of the day, it being forbidden to punish criminals, or even
to stamp, and consequently to write, a despatch on any subject
whatever. The dangerous results, however, that might ensue from a too
liberal observance of the latter prohibition are nearly anticipated by
stamping beforehand a number of blank sheets of paper, so that, if
occasion requires, a communication may be forwarded without delay and
without committing an actual breach of law or custom.

[*] A universal custom which may be quoted with countless others
against the degradation-of-women-in-China doctrine.

The New Year is the season of presents. Closely-packed boxes of
Chinese cake, biscuits, and crystallised fruit, are presented as
tributes of respect to the patriarchs of the family; grapes from
Shansi or Shan-tung, hams from Foochow, and lichees from Canton, all
form fitting vehicles for a declaration of friendship or of love. Now,
too, the birthday gifts offered by every official in the Empire to his
immediate superior, are supplemented by further propitiatory
sacrifices to the powers that be, without which tenure of office would
be at once troublesome and insecure. Such are known as /dry/, in
contradistinction to the /water/ presents exchanged between relatives
and friends. The latter are wholly, or at any rate in part, articles
of food prized among the Chinese for their delicacy or rarity, perhaps
both; and so to all appearance are the baskets of choice oranges, &c.,
sent for instance by a District Magistrate with compliments of the
season to His Excellency the Provincial Judge. But the Magistrate and
the Judge know better, for beneath that smiling fruit lie concealed
certain bank-notes or shoes of silver of unimpeachable touch, which
form a unit in the sum of that functionary's income, and enable him in
his turn to ingratiate himself with the all-powerful Viceroy, while he
lays by from year to year a comfortable provision against the time
when sickness or old age may compel him to resign both the duties and
privileges of government.

To "all between the four seas," patrician and plebeian[*] alike, the
New Year is a period of much intensity. On the 23rd or 24th of the
preceding moon it is the duty of every family to bid farewell to the
Spirit of the Hearth, and to return thanks for the protection
vouchsafed during the past year to each member of the household. The
Spirit is about to make his annual journey to heaven, and lest aught
of the disclosures he might make should entail unpleasant
consequences, it is adjudged best that he shall be rendered incapable
of making any disclosures at all. With this view, quantities of a very
sticky sweetmeat are prepared and presented as it were in sacrifice,
on eating which the unwary god finds his lips tightly glued together,
and himself unable to utter a single syllable. Beans are also offered
as fodder for the horse on which he is supposed to ride. On the last
day of the old year he returns and is regaled to his heart's content
on brown sugar and vegetables. This is the time /par excellence/ for
cracker-firing, though, as everybody knows, these abominations begin
some days previously. Every one, however, may not be aware that the
object of letting off these crackers is to rid the place of all the
evil spirits that may have collected together during the twelve months
just over, so that the influences of the young year may be
uncontaminated by their presence. New Year's eve is no season for
sleep: in fact, Chinamen almost think it obligatory on a respectable
son of Han to sit up all night. Indeed, unless his bills are paid, he
would have a poor chance of sleeping even if he wished. His
persevering creditor would not leave his side, but would sit there
threatening and pleading by turns until he got his money or effected a
compromise. Even should it be past twelve o'clock, the wretched debtor
cannot call it New Year's Day until his unwelcome dun has made it so
by blowing out the candle in his lantern. Of course there are
exceptions, but as a rule all accounts in China are squared up before
the old year has become a matter of history and the new year reigns in
its stead. Then, with the first streaks of dawn, begins that incessant
round of visits which is such a distinguishing feature of the whole
proceedings. Dressed out in his very best, official hat and boots,
button and peacock's feather, if lucky enough to possess them,[+]
every individual Chinaman in the Empire goes off to call on all his
relatives and friends. With a thick wad of cards, he presents himself
first at the houses of the elder branches of the family, or visits the
friends of his father; when all the seniors have been disposed of, he
seeks out his own particular cronies, of his own age and standing. If
in the service of his country, he does not omit to call at the yamen
and leave some trifling souvenir of his visit for the officer
immediately in authority over him. Wherever he goes he is always
offered something to eat, a fresh supply of cakes, fruit, and wine,
being brought in for each guest as he arrives. While thus engaged his
father, or perhaps brother, will be doing the honours at home, ready
to take their turn as occasion may serve. "New joy, new joy; get rich,
get rich," is the equivalent of our "Happy New Year," and is bandied
about from mouth to mouth at this festive season, until petty
distinctions of nationality and creed vanish before the conviction
that, at least in matters of sentiment, Chinamen and Europeans meet
upon common ground. Yet there is one solitary exception to the rule--
an unfortunate being whom no one wishes to see prosperous, and whom
nobody greets with the pleasant phrase, "Get rich, get rich." It is
the coffin-maker.

[*] Chinese society is divided into two classes--officials and non-

[+] No matter whether by merit or by purchase.


A great Chinese festival is the Feast of Lanterns, one which is only
second in importance to New Year's Day. Its name is not unfamiliar
even to persons in England who have never visited China, and whose
ideas about the country are limited to a confused jumble of pigtails,
birds'-nest soup, and the /kotow/. Its advent may or may not be
noticed by residents in China; though if they know the date on which
it falls, we imagine that is about as much as is generally known by
foreigners of the Feast of Lanterns.

This festival dates from the time of the Han dynasty, or, in round
numbers, about two thousand years ago. Originally it was a ceremonial
worship in the temple of the First Cause, and lasted from the 13th to
the 16th of the first moon, bringing to a close on the latter date all
the rejoicings, feastings, and visitings consequent upon the New Year.
In those early days it had no claim to its present title, for lanterns
were not used; pious supplicants performed their various acts of
prayer and sacrifice by the light of the full round moon alone. It was
not till some eight hundred years later that art came to the
assistance of nature, and the custom was introduced of illuminating
the streets with many a festoon of those gaudy paper lanterns, without
which now no nocturnal fete is thought complete. Another three hundred
years passed away without change, and then two more days were added to
the duration of the carnival, making it six days in all. For this it
was necessary to obtain the Imperial sanction, and such was ultimately
granted to a man named Ch'ien, in consideration of an equivalent
which, as history hints, might be very readily expressed in taels. The
whole thing now lasts from the 13th of the moon, the day on which it
is customary to light up for the first time, to the 18th inclusive,
when all the fun and jollity is over and the serious business of life
begins anew. The 15th is the great time, work of every kind being as
entirely suspended as it is with us on Christmas Day. At night the
candles are lighted in the lanterns, and crackers are fired in every
direction. The streets are thronged with gaping crowds, and cut-purses
make small fortunes with little or no trouble. There being no
policemen in a Chinese mob, and as the cry of "stop thief" would meet
with no response from the bystanders, a thief has simply to look out
for some simple victim, snatch perhaps his pipe from his hand, or his
pouch from his girdle, and elbow his way off as fast as he can go.

Plenty of lights and plenty of joss-stick would be enough of
themselves to make up a festival for Chinamen; in the present instance
there should be an extra abundance of both, though for reasons not
generally known to uneducated natives. Ask a coolie why he lights
candles and burns joss-stick at the Feast of Lanterns, and he will
probably be unable to reply. The idea is that the spirits of one's
ancestors choose this occasion to come back /dulces revisere natos/,
and that in their honour the hearth should be somewhat more swept and
garnished than usual. Therefore they consume bundle upon bundle of
well-scented joss-stick, that the noses of the spirits may run no risk
of being offended by mundane smells. Candles are lighted, that these
disembodied beings may be able to see their way about; and their sense
of the beautiful is consulted by a tasteful arrangement of the pretty
lamps in which the dirty Chinese dips are concealed. Worship on this
occasion is tolerably promiscuous; the Spirit of the Hearth generally
comes in for his share, and Heaven and Earth are seldom left out in
the cold. One very important part of the fun consists in eating
largely of a kind of cake prepared especially for the occasion. Sugar,
or some sweet mince-meat, is wrapped up in snow-white rice flour until
about the size of a small hen's egg, only perfectly round, and these
are eaten by hundreds in every household. Their shape is typical of a
complete family gathering, for every Chinaman makes an effort to spend
the Feast of Lanterns at home.

Under the mournful circumstances of the late Emperor's death, the 15th
of the 1st Chinese moon was this year (1875) hardly distinguishable
from any other day since the rod of empire passed from the hands of a
boy to those of a baby. No festivities were possible; it was of course
unlawful to hang lamps in any profusion, and all Chinamen have been
prohibited by Imperial edict from wearing their best clothes. The
utmost any one could do in the way of enjoyment was to gorge himself
with the rice-flour balls above-mentioned, and look forward to gayer
times when the days of mourning shall be over.


Many writers on Chinese topics delight to dwell upon the slow but sure
destruction of morals, manners, and men, which is being gradually
effected throughout the Empire by the terrible agency of opium.
Harrowing pictures are drawn of once well-to-do and happy districts
which have been reduced to know the miseries of disease and poverty by
indulgence in the fatal drug. The plague itself could not decimate so
quickly, or war leave half the desolation in its track, as we are told
is the immediate result of forgetting for a few short moments the
cares of life in the enjoyment of a pipe of opium. To such an extent
is this language used, that strangers arriving in China expect to see
nothing less than the stern reality of all the horrors they have heard
described; and they are astonished at the busy, noisy sight of a
Chinese town, the contented, peaceful look of China's villagers, and
the rich crops which are so readily yielded to her husbandmen by many
an acre of incomparable soil. Where, then, is this scourge of which
men speak? Evidently not in the highways, the haunts of commerce, or
in the quiet repose of far-off agricultural hamlets. Bent on search,
and probably determined to discover something, our seeker after truth
is finally conducted to an opium den, one of those miserable hells
upon earth common to every large city on the globe. Here he beholds
the vice in all its hideousness; the gambler, the thief, the beggar,
and such outcasts from the social circle, meet here to worship the god
who grants a short nepenthe from suffering and woe. This, then, is
China, and travellers' tales are but too true. A great nation has
fallen a prey to the insidious drug, and her utter annihilation is but
an affair of time!

We confess, however, we have looked for these signs in vain; but our
patience has been rewarded by the elucidation of facts which have led
us to brighter conclusions than those so generally accepted. We have
not judged China as a nation from the inspection of a few low opium-
shops, or from the half dozen extreme cases of which we may have been
personally cognizant, or which we may have gleaned from the reports of
medical missionaries in charge of hospitals for native patients. We do
not deny that opium is a curse, in so far as a large number of persons
would be better off without it; but comparing its use as a stimulant
with that of alcoholic liquors in the West, we are bound to admit that
the comparison is very much to the disadvantage of the latter. Where
opium kills its hundreds, gin counts its victims by thousands; and the
appalling scenes of drunkenness so common to a European city are of
the rarest occurrence in China. In a country where the power of
corporal punishments is placed by law in the hands of the husband,
wife-beating is unknown; and in a country where an ardent spirit can
be supplied to the people at a low price, /delirium tremens/ is an
untranslateable term. Who ever sees in China a tipsy man reeling about
a crowded thoroughfare, or lying with his head in a ditch by the side
of some country road? The Chinese people are naturally sober,
peaceful, and industrious; they fly from intoxicating, quarrelsome
samshoo, to the more congenial opium-pipe, which soothes the weary
brain, induces sleep, and invigorates the tired body.

In point of fact, we have failed to find but a tithe of that real vice
which cuts short so many brilliant careers among men who, with all the
advantages of education and refinement, are euphemistically spoken of
as addicted to the habit of "lifting their little fingers." Few
Chinamen seem really to love wine, and opium, by its very price, is
beyond the reach of the blue-coated masses. In some parts, especially
in Formosa, a great quantity is smoked by the well-paid chair-coolies,
to enable them to perform the prodigies of endurance so often required
of them. Two of these fellows will carry an ordinary Chinaman, with
his box of clothes, thirty miles in from eight to ten hours on the
hottest days in summer. They travel between five and six miles an
hour, and on coming to a stage, pass without a moment's delay to the
place where food and opium are awaiting their arrival. After smoking
their allowance and snatching as much rest as the traveller will
permit, they start once more upon the road; and the occupant of the
chair cannot fail to perceive the lightness and elasticity of their
tread, as compared with the dull, tired gait of half an hour before.
They die early, of course; but we have trades in civilised England in
which a man thirty-six years of age is pointed at as a patriarch.

It is also commonly stated that a man who has once begun opium can
never leave it off. This is an entire fallacy. There is a certain
point up to which a smoker may go with impunity, and beyond which he
becomes a lost man in so far as he is unable ever to give up the
practice. Chinamen ask if an opium-smoker has the /yin/ or not;
meaning thereby, has he gradually increased his doses of opium until
he has established a /craving/ for the drug, or is he still a free man
to give it up without endangering his health. Hundreds and thousands
stop short of the /yin/; a few, leaving it far behind them in their
suicidal career, hurry on to premature old age and death. Further,
from one point of view, opium-smoking is a more self-regarding vice
than drunkenness, which entails gout and other evils upon the third
and fourth generation. Posterity can suffer little or nothing at the
hands of the opium-smoker, for to the inveterate smoker all chance of
posterity is denied. This very important result will always act as an
efficient check upon an inordinately extensive use of the drug in
China, where children are regarded as the greatest treasures life has
to give, and blessed is he that has his quiver full.

Indulgence in opium is, moreover, supposed to blunt the moral feelings
of those who indulge; and to a certain extent this is true. If your
servant smokes opium, dismiss him with as little compunction as you
would a drunken coachman; for he can no longer be trusted. His wages
being probably insufficient to supply him with his pipe and leave a
balance for family expenses, he will be driven to squeeze more than
usual, and probably to steal. But to get rid of a writer or a clerk
merely because he is a smoker, however moderate, would be much the
same as dismissing an employe for the heinous offence of drinking two
glasses of beer and a glass of sherry at his dinner-time. An opium-
smoker may be a man of exemplary habits, never even fuddled, still
less stupefied. He may take his pipe because he likes it, or because
it agrees with him; but it does not follow that he must necessarily
make himself, even for the time being, incapable of doing business.
Wine and moonlight were formerly considered indispensables by Chinese
bards; without them, no inspiration, no poetic fire. The modern
poetaster who pens a chaste ode to his mistress's eyebrow, seeks in
the opium-pipe that flow of burning thoughts which his forefathers
drained from the wine-cup. We cannot see that he does wrong. We
believe firmly that a moderate use of the drug is attended with no
dangerous results; and that moderation in all kinds of eating,
drinking, and smoking, is just as common a virtue in China as in
England or anywhere else.[*]

[*] Sir Edmund Hornley, after nine years' service as chief judge of
the Supreme Court at Shanghai, delivered an opinion on the anti-
opium movement in the following remarkable terms:--"Of all the
nonsense that is talked, there is none greater than that talked
here and in England about the immorality and impiety of the opium
trade. It is simply sickening. I have no sympathy with it, neither
have I any sympathy with the owner of a gin-palace; but as long as
China permits the growth of opium throughout the length and
breadth of the land, taxes it, and pockets a large revenue from
it,--sympathy with her on the subject is simply ludicrous and
misplaced."--(J. W. Walker v. Malcolm, 28th April 1875.)

But the following extract from a letter to the /London and China
Express/, of 5th July 1875, part of which we have ventured to
reproduce in italics, surpasses, both in fiction and naivete,
anything it has ever been our lot to read on either side of this
much-vexed question:--"The fact is, that this tremendous evil is
utterly beyond the control of politicians, or even
philanthropists. Nothing but the divine power of Christian life
can cope with it, and though this process may be slow, it is sure.
Christian missions alone can deal with the opium traffic, now that
it has attained such gigantic dimensions, and the despised
missionaries are solving a problem which to statesmen is
insoluble. Those, therefore, who recognise the evils of opium-
smoking will most effectually stay the plague /by supporting
Christian Protestant Missions in China/.--Yours faithfully,
An Old Residenter in China.
"London, June 28, 1875."


Nowhere can the monotony of exile be more advantageously relieved by
studying dense masses of humanity under novel aspects than in China,
where so much is still unknown, and where the bulk of which is
generally looked upon as fact requires in most cases a leavening
element of truth, in others nothing more nor less than flat
contradiction. The days are gone by for entertaining romances
published as if they were /bona fide/ books of travel, and the opening
of China has enabled residents to smile at the audacity of the too
mendacious Huc. It has enabled them at the same time to view millions
of human beings working out the problem of existence under conditions
which by many persons in England are deemed to be totally incompatible
with the happiness of the human race. They behold all classes in China
labouring seven days in every week, taking holidays as each may
consider expedient with regard both to health and means, but without
the mental and physical demoralisation supposed to be inseparable from
a non-observance of the fourth commandment. They see the unrestricted
sale of spirituous liquors, unaccompanied by the scenes of brutality
and violence which form such a striking contrast to the intellectual
advancement of our age. They notice that charity has no place among
the virtues of the people, and that nobody gives away a cent he could
possibly manage to keep; the apparent result being that every one
recognises the necessity of working for himself, and that the
mendicants of a large Chinese city would barely fill the casual ward
of one of our smallest workhouses. They have a chance of studying a
competitive system many hundred years old, with the certainty of
concluding that, whatever may be its fate in England or elsewhere, it
secures for the government of China the best qualified and most
intelligent men. Amongst other points, the alleged thievishness of the
Chinese is well worth a few moments' consideration, were it only out
of justice to the victims of what we personally consider to be a very
mischievous assertion. For it is a not uncommon saying, even among
Europeans who have lived in China, that the Chinese are a nation of
thieves. In Australia, in California, and in India, Chinamen have
beaten their more luxurious rivals by the noiseless but irresistible
competition of temperance, industry, and thrift: yet they are a nation
of thieves. It becomes then an interesting question how far a low tone
of morality on such an important point is compatible with the
undisputed practice of virtues which have made the fortunes of so many
emigrating Celestials. Now, as regards the amount of theft daily
perpetrated in China, we have been able to form a rough estimate, by
very careful inquiries, as to the number of cases brought periodically
before the notice of a district magistrate or his deputies, and we
have come to a conclusion unfavourable in the extreme to western
civilisation, which has not hesitated to dub China a nation of
thieves. We have taken into consideration the fact that many petty
cases never come into court in China, which, had the offence been
committed in England, would assuredly have been brought to the notice
of a magistrate. We have not forgotten that more robberies are
probably effected in China without detection than in a country where
the police is a well-organised force, and detectives trained men and
keen. We know that in China many cases of theft are compromised, by
the stolen property being restored to its owner on payment of a
certain sum, which is fixed and shared in by the native constable who
acts as middleman between the two parties, and we are fully aware that
under circumstances of hunger or famine, and within due limits, the
abstraction of anything in the shape of food is not considered theft.
With all these considerations in mind, our statistics (save the mark!)
would still compare most favourably with the records of theft
committed over an area in England equal in size and population to that
whence our information was derived. The above refers specially to
professional practice, but when we descend to private life, and view
with an impartial eye the pilfering propensities of servants in China,
we shall have even less cause to rejoice over our boasted morality and
civilisation. In the first place, squeezing of masters by servants is
a recognised system among the Chinese, and is never looked upon in the
light of robbery. It is /commission/ on the purchase of goods, and is
taken into consideration by the servant when seeking a new situation.
Wages are in consequence low; sometimes, as in the case of official
runners and constables, servants have to make their living as best
they can out of the various litigants, very often taking bribes from
both parties. As far as slight raids upon wine, handkerchiefs, English
bacon, or other such luxuries dear to the heart of the Celestial, we
might ask any one who has ever kept house in England if pilfering is
quite unknown among servants there. If it were strictly true that
Chinamen are such thieves as we make them out to be, with our eastern
habits of carelessness and dependence, life in China would be next to
impossible. As it is, people hire servants of whom they know
absolutely nothing, put them in charge of a whole house many rooms in
which are full of tempting kickshaws, go away for a trip to a port
five or six hundred miles distant, and come back to find everything in
its place down to the most utter trifles. Merchants as a rule have
their servants /secured/ by some substantial man, but many do not take
this precaution, for an honest Chinaman usually carries his integrity
written in his face. Confucius gave a wise piece of advice when he
said, "If you employ a man, be not suspicious of him; if you are
suspicious of a man, do not employ him"--and truly foreigners in China
seem to carry out the first half to an almost absurd degree, placing
the most unbounded confidence in natives with whose antecedents they
are almost always unacquainted, and whose very names in nine cases out
of ten they actually do not know! And what is the result of all this?
A few cash extra charged as commission on anything purchased at shop
or market, and a steady consumption of about four dozen pocket-
handkerchiefs per annum. Thefts there are, and always will be, in
China as elsewhere; but there are no better grounds for believing that
the Chinese are a nation of thieves than that their own tradition is
literally true which says, "In the glorious days of old, if anything
was seen lying in the road, nobody would pick it up!" On the contrary,
we believe that theft is not one whit more common in China than it is
in England; and we are fully convinced that the imputation of being a
nation of thieves has been cast, with many others, upon the Chinese by
unscrupulous persons whose business it is to show that China will
never advance without the renovating influence of Christianity-an
opinion from which we here express our most unqualified dissent.


We have stated our conviction that the Chinese as a nation are not
more addicted to thieving than the inhabitants of many countries for
whom the same excuses are by no means so available. That no
undiscerning persons may be led to regard us as panegyrists of a
stationary civilisation, we hasten to counterbalance our somewhat
laudatory statements by the enunciation of another proposition less
startling, but if anything more literally true. /The Chinese are a
nation of liars./ If innate ideas were possible, the idea of lying
would form the foundation of the Chinese mind. They lie by instinct;
at any rate, they lie from imitation, and improve their powers in this
respect by the most assiduous practice. They seem to prefer lying to
speaking the truth, even when there is no stake at issue; and as for
shame at being found out, the very feeling is unfamiliar to them. The
gravest and most serious works in Chinese literature abound in lies;
their histories lie; and their scientific works lie. Nothing in China
seems to have escaped this taint.

Essentially a people of fiction, the Chinese have given up as much
time to the composition and perusal of romances as any other nation on
the globe; and this phase of lying is harmless enough in its way.
Neither can it be said to interfere with the happiness of foreigners
either in or out of China that Chinese medical, astrological,
geomantic, and such works, pretend to a knowledge of mysteries we know
to be all humbug. On the other hand, they ought to keep their lying to
themselves and for their own special amusement. They have no right to
circulate written and verbal reports that foreigners dig out babies'
eyes and use them in their pharmacopoeia. They have no right to
publish such hideous, loathsome pamphlets, as the one which was some
years ago translated into too faithful English by an American
missionary, who had better have kept his talents to himself, or to
post such inflammatory placards as the one which is placed at the end
of this volume. Self-glorification, when no one suffers therefrom, is
only laughable; and we shall take the liberty of presenting here the
translation of an article which appeared in the /Shun Pao/ of the 19th
September 1874, as a specimen of the manner in which Chinamen delight
to deceive even themselves on certain little points connected with the
honour and glory of China. The writer says:--

"I saw yesterday in the /Peking Gazette/ of the 10th September
1874 that the Prince of Kung had been degraded,--a fact received
with mingled feelings of surprise and regret by natives of the
Middle and Western kingdoms alike. For looking back to the last
year of the reign Hsien Feng, we find that not only internal
trouble had not been set at rest when external difficulties began
to spring up around us, and war and battle were the order of the
day. To crown all, His Majesty became a guest in the realm above,
leaving only a child of tender years, unable to hold in his hands
the reins of government. Then, with our ruler a youth and affairs
generally in an unsettled state, sedition within and war without,
although their Majesties the Empresses-Dowager directed the
administration of government from behind the bamboo screen, the
task of wielding the rod of empire must have been arduous indeed.
Since that time, ten years and more, the Eighteen Provinces have
been tranquillised; without, /western nations have yielded
obedience and returned to a state of peace/; within, the empire
has been fixed on a firm basis and has recovered its former
vitality. Never, even in the glorious ages of the Chou or Hsia
dynasties, has our national prosperity been so boundless as it is
to-day. Whenever I have seen one among the people patting his
stomach or carolling away in the exuberance of his joy, and have
asked the cause of his satisfaction, he has replied, 'It is
because of the loving-kindness of this our dynasty.' I ask what
and whence is this loving-kindness of which he speaks? He answers
me, 'It is the beneficent rule of their Majesties the Empresses-
Dowager; it is the unspeakable felicity vouchsafed by Heaven to
the Emperor; it is the loyalty and virtue of those in high places,
of Tseng Kuo-fan, of Li Hung-chang, of Tso Tsung-t'ang.' These,
however, are all provincial officials. Within the palace we have
the Empresses-Dowager, and His Majesty the Emperor, toiling away
from morn till dewy eve; but among the ministers of state who
transact business, receiving and making known the Imperial will,
working early and late in the Cabinet, the Prince of Kung takes
the foremost place; and it is through his agency, as natives and
foreigners well know, that for many years China has been regaining
her old status, so that any praise of their Imperial Majesties
leads naturally on to eulogistic mention of our noble Premier.
Hearing now that the Prince has incurred his master's displeasure,
there are none who do not fear lest his previous services may be
overlooked, hoping at the same time that the Emperor will be
graciously pleased to take them into consideration and cancel his
present punishment."

Lying, under any circumstances, is a very venial offence in China; it
is, in fact, no offence at all, for everybody is prepared for lies
from all quarters, and takes them as a matter of course.

It is strange, however, that such a practical people should not have
discovered long ago the mere expediency of telling the truth, in the
same way that they have found mercantile honesty to be unquestionably
the best policy, and that trade is next to impossible without it. But
to argue, as many do, that China is wanting in morality, because she
has adopted a different standard of right and wrong from our own, is,
/mutato nomine/, one of the most ridiculous traits in the character of
the Chinese themselves. They regard us as culpable in the highest
degree because our young men choose their own partners, marry, and set
up establishments for themselves, instead of bringing their wives to
tend their aged parents, and live all together in harmony beneath the
paternal roof. We are superior to the Chinese in our utter abhorrence
of falsehood: in the practice of filial piety they beat us out of the
field. "Spartan virtue" is a household word amongst us, but Sparta's
claims to pre-eminence certainly do not rest upon her children's love
either for honesty or for truth. The profoundest thinker of the
nineteenth century has said that insufficient truthfulness "does more
than any one thing that can be named to keep back civilisation,
virtue, everything on which human happiness, on the largest scale,
depends"--an abstract proposition which cannot be too carefully
studied in connection with the present state of public morality in
China, and the general welfare of the people. Dr Legge, however, whose
logical are apparently in an inverse ratio to his linguistic powers,
rushes wildly into the concrete, and declares that every falsehood
told in China may be traced to the example of Confucius himself. He
acknowledges that "many sayings might be quoted from him, in which
'sincerity' is celebrated as highly and demanded as stringently as
ever it has been by any Christian moralist," yet, on the strength of
two passages in the Analects, and another in the "Family Sayings," he
does not hesitate to say that "the example of him to whom they bow
down as the best and wisest of men, encourages them to act, to
dissemble, to sin." And what are these passages? In the first,
Confucius applauds the modesty of an officer who, after boldly
bringing up the rear on the occasion of a retreat, refused all praise
for his gallant behaviour, attributing his position rather to the
slowness of his horse. In the second, an unwelcome visitor calling on
Confucius, the Master sent out to say he was sick, at the same time
seizing his harpsichord and singing to it, "in order that Pei might
hear him." Dr Legge lays no stress on the last half of this story--
though it is impossible to believe that its meaning can have escaped
his notice altogether. Lastly, when Confucius was once taken prisoner
by the rebels, he was released on condition of not proceeding to Wei.
"Thither, notwithstanding, he continued his route," and when asked by
a disciple whether it was right to violate his oath, he replied, "It
was a forced oath. The spirits do not hear such."

We shall not attempt to defend Confucius on either of these
indictments, taken separately and without reference to his life and
teachings; neither do we wish to temper the accusations we ourselves
have made against the Chinese, of being a nation of liars. But when it
is gravely asserted that the great teacher who made truthfulness and
sincerity his daily texts, is alone responsible for a vicious national
habit which, for aught any one knows to the contrary, may be a growth
of comparatively modern times, we call to mind the Horatian poetaster,
who began his account of the Trojan war with the fable of Leda and the


Suicide, condemned among western nations by human and divine laws
alike, is regarded by the Chinese with very different eyes. Posthumous
honours are even in some cases bestowed upon the victim, where death
was met in a worthy cause. Such would be suicide from grief at the
loss of a beloved parent, or from fear of being forced to break a vow
of eternal celibacy or widowhood. Candidates are for the most part
women, but the ordinary Chinaman occasionally indulges in suicide,
urged by one or other of two potent causes. Either he cannot pay his
debts and dreads the evil hour at the New Year, when coarse-tongued
creditors will throng his door, or he may himself be anxious to settle
a long-standing score of revenge against some one who has been
unfortunate enough to do him an injury. For this purpose he commits
suicide, it may be in the very house of his enemy, but at any rate in
such a manner as will be sure to implicate him and bring him under the
lash of the law. Nor is this difficult to effect in a country where
the ends of justice are not satisfied unless a life is given for a
life, where magistrates are venal, and the laws of evidence lax.
Occasionally a young wife is driven to commit suicide by the harshness
of her mother-in-law, but this is of rare occurrence, as the
consequences are terrible to the family of the guilty woman. The blood
relatives of the deceased repair to the chamber of death, and in the
injured victim's hand they place a broom. They then support the corpse
round the room, making its dead arm move the broom from side to side,
and thus sweep away wealth, happiness, and longevity from the accursed
house for ever.

The following extract from the /Peking Gazette/ of 14th September
1874, being a memorial by the Lieutenant Governor of Kiangsi, will
serve to show--though in this case the act was not consummated--that
under certain circumstances suicide is considered deserving of the
highest praise. In any case, public opinion in China has every little
to say against it:--

"The magistrate of the Hsin-yu district has reported to me that in
the second year of the present reign (1863) a young lady, the
daughter of a petty official, was betrothed to the son of
an expectant commissioner of the Salt Gabelle, and a day was fixed
upon for the marriage. The bridegroom, however, fell ill and died,
on which his /fiancee/ would have gone over to the family to see
after his interment, and remain there for life as an unmarried
wife. As it was, her mother would not allow her to do so, but
beguiled her into waiting till her father, then away on business,
should return home. Meanwhile, the old lady betrothed her to
another man belonging to a different family, whereupon she took
poison and nearly died. On being restored by medical aid, she
refused food altogether; and it was not until she was permitted to
carry out her first intentions that she would take nourishment at
all. Since then she has lived with her father and mother-in-law,
tending them and her late husband's grandmother with the utmost
care. They love her dearly, and are thus in a great measure
consoled for the loss of their son. Long thorns serve her for
hair-pins;[*] her dress is of cotton cloth; her food consists of
bitter herbs. Such privations she voluntarily accepts, and among
her relatives there is not one but respects her.

"The truth of the above report having been ascertained, I would
humbly recommend this virtuous lady, although the full time
prescribed by law has not yet expired,[+] for some mark[:] of Your
Majesty's approbation." Rescript:--Granted!

[*] Instead of the elaborate gold and silver ornaments usually worn by
Chinese women.

[+] A woman must be a widow before she is thirty years old, and remain
so for thirty years before she is entitled to the above reward.
This is both to guard against a possible relapse from her former
virtuous resolution, and to have some grounds for believing that
she was prompted so to act more by a sense of right than by any
ungallant neglect on the part of the other sex.

[:] Generally a tablet or banner, inscribed with well-chosen words of

The only strange part in this memorial is that the girl's mother was
not censured for trying to prevent her from acting the part of a
virtuous wife and filial daughter-in-law. It is also more than
probable that her early attempts at suicide, rather than any
subsequent household economy or dutiful behaviour, have secured for
this lady the coveted mark of Imperial approbation.

Suicide, while in an unsound state of mind, is rare; insanity itself,
whether temporary or permanent, being extremely uncommon in China.
Neither does the eye detect any of the vast asylums so numerous in
England for the reception of lunatics, idiots, deaf-mutes, cripples,
and the blind. There are a few such institutions here and there, but
not enough to constitute a national feature as with us. They are only
for the poorest of the poor, and are generally of more benefit to
dishonest managers than to anybody else. And yet in the streets of a
Chinese town we see a far less number of "unfortunates" than among our
own highly civilised communities. Blindness is the most common of the
above afflictions, so many losing their sight after an attack of
small-pox. But a Chinaman with a malformation of any kind is very
seldom seen; and, as we have said before, lunacy appears to be almost
unknown. Such suicides as take place are usually well-premeditated
acts, and are committed either out of revenge, or in obedience to the
"despotism of custom." Statistics are impossible, and we offer our
conclusions, founded upon observation alone, subject to whatever
correction more scientific investigators may hereafter be enabled to


Torture is commonly supposed to be practised by Chinese officials upon
each and every occasion that a troublesome criminal is brought before
them. The known necessity they are under of having a prisoner's
confession before any "case" is considered complete, coupled with some
few isolated instances of unusual barbarity which have come to the
notice of foreigners, has probably tended to foster a belief that such
scenes of brutality are daily enacted throughout the length and
breadth of China as would harrow up the soul of any but a soulless
native. The curious part of it all is that Chinamen themselves regard
their laws as the quintessence of leniency, and themselves as the
mildest and most gentle people of all that the sun shines upon in his
daily journey across the earth--and back again under the sea. The
truth lies of course somewhere between these two extremes. For just as
people going up a mountain complain to those they meet coming down of
the bitter cold, and are assured by the latter that the temperature is
really excessively pleasant--so, from a western point of view certain
Chinese customs savour of a cruelty long since forgotten in Europe,
while the Chinese enthusiast proudly compares the penal code of this
the Great Pure dynasty with the scattered laws and unauthorised
atrocities of distant and less civilised ages.

The Han dynasty which lasted from about B.C. 200 to A.D. 200 has been
marked by the historian as the epoch of change. Before that time
punishments of all kinds appear to have been terribly severe, and the
vengeance of the law pursued even the nearest and most distant
relatives of a criminal devoted perhaps to death for some crime in
which they could possibly have had no participation. It was then
determined that in future only rebellion should entail extirpation
upon the families of such seditious offenders, and at the same time
legal punishments were limited to five, viz.: bambooing of two degrees
of severity, banishment to a certain distance for a certain time or
for life, and death. These were, however, frequently exceeded by
independent officers against whose acts it would have been vain to
appeal, and it was not until the Sui dynasty (589-618 A.D.) that
mutilation of the body was absolutely forbidden. It may, indeed, be
said to have survived to the present day in the form of the "lingering
death" which is occasionally prescribed for parricides and matricides,
but that we now know that this hideous fate exists only in words and
form. When it was first held to be inconsistent with reason to mete
out the same punishment to a highway robber who kills a traveller for
his purse, and to the villain who takes away life from the author of
his being, a distinction was instituted accordingly, but we can only
rest in astonishment that any executioner could be found to put such a
horrible law into execution as was devised to meet the requirements of
the case. First an arm was chopped off, then the other; the two legs
in the same way. Two slits were made transversely on the breast, and
the heart was torn out; decapitation finished the proceedings. Now, a
slight gash only is made across each collar-bone, and three gashes
across the breast in the shape of the character meaning /one
thousand/, and indicative of the number of strokes the criminal ought
properly to have received. Decapitation then follows without delay.
The absurd statement in the Shanghai /Daily News/ of the 16th January
last, that this punishment "is the most frightful inflicted, even in
any of the darkest habitations of cruelty, at the present day," is
utterly unworthy of that respectable journal, but only of a piece with
the general ignorance that prevails among foreigners generally on
topics connected with China and the Chinese. At the same time, it may
fairly be pleaded that the error in question was due to
disingenuousness on the part of the translator from the /Peking
Gazette/ who, mentioning that such a sentence had been lately passed
upon two unhappy beings, adds that, "they have been publicly sliced to
death accordingly, with the usual formalities,"--which certainly might
lead a mere outsider to conclude that the horrible decree had actually
been put into execution. We may notice in passing that this so-called
"lingering death" is now almost invariably coupled with the name of
some poor lunatic who in a frenzy of passion has killed either father
or mother, sometimes both. Vide /Peking Gazette/, two or three times
every year. This is one of those pleasant fictions of Chinese official
life, which every one knows and every one winks at. In nine cases out
of ten, the unhappy criminal is not mad at all; but he is always
entered as such in the report of the committing magistrate, who would
otherwise himself be exposed to censure and degradation for not having
brought his district to estimate at their right value the five[*]
cardinal relationships of mankind.

[*] Between, (1) sovereign and subject, (2) husband and wife, (3)
parent and child, (4) brothers, and (5) friends.

Under the present dynasty the use of torture is comparatively rare,
and mutilation of the person quite unknown. Criminals are often thrust
into filthy dungeons of the most revolting description, and are there
further secured by a chain; but except in very flagrant cases, ankle-
beating and finger-squeezing, to say nothing of kneeling on chains and
hanging up by the ears, belong rather to the past than to the present.
The wife and children of a rebel chief may pass their days in peace
and quietness; innocent people are no longer made to suffer with the
guilty. A criminal under sentence of death for any crime except
rebellion may save his life and be released from further punishment,
if he can prove that an aged parent depends upon him for the
necessaries of daily existence. The heavy bamboo, under the infliction
of which sufferers not uncommonly died, has given place to the lighter
instrument of punishment, which may be used severely enough for all
practical purposes while it does not endanger life. The Emperor K'ang
Hsi, whose name is inseparably connected with one of the most valuable
lexicons that have ever been compiled, forbade bambooing across the
upper part of the back and shoulders. "Near the surface," said this
benign father of his people, "lie the liver and the lungs. For some
trivial offence a man might be so punished that these organs would
never recover from the effects of the blows." The ruling system of
bribery has taken away from the bamboo its few remaining terrors for
those whose means are sufficient to influence the hand which lays it
on. Petty offences are chiefly expiated by a small payment of money to
the gaoler, who lets the avenging bamboo fall proportionately light,
or assists the culprit by every means in his power to shirk the
degradation and annoyance of a week in the cangue.[*] These two are
the only ordinary punishments we hear much about; torture, properly so
called, is permitted under certain circumstances, but rarely if ever

[*] A heavy wooden collar, taken off at night only if the sentence is
a long one, or on payment of a bribe.

In further support of this most heterodox position, we beg to offer a
translation of two chapters from "Advice to Government Officials," a
native work of much repute all over the Empire:--


"The infliction of the bamboo is open to abuse in various ways.
For instance, the knots in the wood may not have been smoothed
off; blows may be given inside the joints, instead of above the
knees; the tip end instead of the flat of the bamboo may be used;
each stroke may be accompanied by a drawing movement of the hand,
or the same spot may be struck again after the skin has been
broken, whereby the suffering of the criminal is very much
increased. Similarly, the "squeezing" punishment depends entirely
for its severity on the length of the sticks employed, whether
these are wet or dry, as well as upon the tightness of the string.
Such points should be carefully looked to by the magistrate
himself, and not left to his subordinates. At the time of
infliction still greater precautions should be taken to prevent
the possibility of any accident, and where the offence was
committed under venial circumstances, some part of the punishment
may be remitted if it is considered that enough has already been
inflicted. Such punishments as pressing the knees to the ground,
making prisoners kneel on chains, or burning their legs with hot
irons, adopted under the specious pretence of not using the
"squeezing" torture, are among the most barbarous of prohibited
practices, and are on no account to be allowed."


"Lu Hsin-wu says, There are five classes of people who must be
exempted from the punishment of the bamboo. (1) The aged. (2) The
young. (3) The sick. [It is laid down expressly by statute that
the aged and the young must not be thus coerced into giving
evidence, but there is a danger of overlooking this in a moment of
anger.] (4) The hungry and naked. [For thus to punish a beggar
half dead with cold and hunger and destitute of friends to nurse
him afterwards, would be equivalent to killing him outright.] (5)
Those who have already been beaten. [Whether in a brawl or by
other officials. A second beating might result in death for which
the presiding magistrate would be responsible.]

"There are five classes of people not to be hastily sentenced to
the bamboo. (1) Members of the Imperial family. [The relatives of
his Majesty, even though holding no rank, are not, says the
statute, to be hastily punished in this way. The case must be laid
before the proper authorities.] (2) Officials. [However low down
in a scale, they are still part of the scheme of government;
besides, it affects their good name ever afterwards.] (3)
Graduates. (4) The official servants of your superiors. [Look out
for the vase when you throw at the rat. Though you may be actually
in the right, yet the dignity of your superiors might be
compromised. A plain statement of the facts should be made out and
privately handed to the official in question, leaving punishment
in his hands. But to refrain from such a course through fear of
the consequences would be weak indeed.] (5) Women.

"There are also five cases in which temporary suspension of
punishment is necessary. (1) When the prisoner is under the
influence of excitement, or (2) anger. [The working classes are an
obstinate lot and beating only increases their passion, so that
they would die rather than yield. Arguments should first be used
to show them their error, and then corporal punishment may be used
without fear.] (3) Or drink. [A drunken man doesn't know heaven
from earth, how can he be expected to distinguish right from
wrong? Besides he feels no pain, and further there is a risk of
his insulting the magistrate. He ought to be confined until he is
sober and then punished; but not in a cold place for fear of
endangering his life.] (4) Or when a man has just completed a
journey, or (5) when he is out of breath with running.

"There are also five instances in which it is well for your own
sake to put off punishment for a time. (1) When you are in a rage.
(2) When you are drunk. (3) When you are unwell. [For in the
latter case the system is heated, and not only would you be more
liable to improper infliction of punishment, but also to lose your
temper; and thus injury would be done both to yourself and the
prisoner.] (4) When you can't see your way clearly as to the facts
of the case. (5) When you can't make up your mind as to the proper
punishment. [For in difficult cases and when the prisoner in
question is no ordinary man, it is just as well to look forward a
little as to how the case is likely to end before you apply the
bamboo. It would never do to take such measures without some
consideration, or you might suddenly find that you had by no means
heard the last of it.]

"There are three classes of people who should not be beaten in
addition to what they are to suffer. (1) Those who are to have
their fingers squeezed. (2) Those who are to have the ankle frame
applied. (3) Those who are to be exposed in the cangue. [For if
previously beaten they might be almost unable to move, or their
sores might not heal, and death might perhaps ensue. The statute
provides that they shall be beaten on release, but this might
easily be forgotten in a moment of anger.]

"There are three instances in which compassion should save the
prisoners from the bamboo. (1) When the weather is extremely cold
or hot. (2) When a festival is being celebrated. (3) When the
prisoner has lately been bereaved. [A man who is mourning for his
father, mother, wife, or child, should not be punished
corporeally; it might endanger his life.]

"There are three cases in which a beating deserved should
nevertheless be remitted. (1) When one of the litigants is
considerably older than the other, he should not be beaten. (2)
When one of the litigants is an official servant, the other should
not be beaten. [For although the former may be in the right, his
opponent should be treated with leniency, for fear of people
saying you protect your Yamen servants; and lest in future, when
the servant is in the wrong, no one will dare come forward to
accuse him.] (3) Workmen and others employed by the magistrate
himself should not be bambooed by him, even if they deserve it.

"Three kinds of bambooing are forbidden. (1) With the greater
bamboo. [One stroke of the /greater/ bamboo is counted as ten;
three with the /middle-sized/, and five with the /smaller/.
Officials are often too free with, never too chary of, their
punishments. With the smaller bamboo, used even to excess, life is
not endangered. Besides, if the punishment is spread over a longer
time, the magistrate has a longer interval in which to get calm.
But with the heavy bamboo, there is no saying what injuries might
be done even with a few blows.] (2) It is forbidden to strike too
low down. (3) It is forbidden to allow petty officers to use
unauthorised instruments of punishment. These five preceding
clauses refer to cases in which there is no doubt that punishment
ought to be inflicted, but which officials are apt to punish too
indiscriminately without due investigation of circumstances,
whereby they infallibly stir up a feeling of discontent and
insubordination. As regards those instances where punishment is
deserved but should be temporarily suspended, a remission of part
or the whole of the sentence may be granted as the magistrate sees
fit. The great point is to admit an element of compassion, as
thereby alone the due administration of punishment can be


"Feng-shui" has of late years grown to be such a common expression in
the mouths of foreigners resident in China that it stands no poor
chance of becoming gradually incorporated in the languages of more
than one nation of the West. And yet, in spite of Dr Eitel's little
hand-book, we may venture to assert that a very small percentage of
those who are constantly using this phrase really have a distinct and
correct idea as to the meaning of the words they employ. It is vaguely
known that Feng-shui is a powerful weapon in the hands of Chinese
officials whereby they successfully oppose all innovations which
savour of progress, and preserve unbroken that lethargic sleep in
which China has been wrapt for so many centuries: beyond this all is
mystery and doubt. Some say the natives themselves do not believe in
it; others declare they do; others again think that the masses have
faith, but that enlightened and educated Chinese scout the whole thing
as a bare-faced imposture. Most Chinamen will acknowledge they are
entirely ignorant themselves on the subject, though at the same time
they will take great pains to impress on their hearers that certain
friends, relatives, or acquaintances as the case may be, have devoted
much time and attention to this fascinating study and are downright
professors of the art. They will further express their conviction of
its infallibility, with certain limitations; and assert that there are
occasions in life, when to call in the assistance of Feng-shui is not
only advisable but indispensable to human happiness.

For those who will not be at the trouble of reading for themselves Dr
Eitel's valuable little book, we may explain that Feng is the Chinese
word for /wind/ and Shui for /water/; consequently, Feng-shui is wind-
water; the first half of which, /wind/, cannot be comprehended, the
latter half, /water/, cannot be grasped. It may be defined as a system
of geomancy, by the /science/ of which it is possible to determine the
desirability of sites whether of tombs, houses, or cities, from the
configuration of such natural objects as rivers, trees, and hills, and
to foretell with certainty the fortunes of any family, community, or
individual, according to the spot selected; by the /art/ of which it
is in the power of the geomancer to counteract evil influences by good
ones, to transform straight and noxious outlines into undulating and
propitious curves, rescue whole districts from the devastations of
flood or pestilence, and "scatter plenty o'er a smiling land" which
might otherwise have known the blight of poverty and the pangs of
want. To perform such miracles it is merely necessary to build pagodas
at certain spots and of the proper height, to pile up a heap of
stones, or round off the peak of some hill to which nature's rude hand
has imparted a square and inharmonious aspect. The scenery round any
spot required for building or burial purposes must be in accordance
with certain principles evolved from the brains of the imaginative
founders of the science. It is the business of the geomancer to
discover such sites, to say if a given locality is or is not all that
could be desired on this head, sometimes to correct errors which
ignorant quacks have committed, or rectify inaccuracies which have
escaped the notice even of the most celebrated among the fraternity.
There may be too many trees, so that some must be cut down; or there
may be too few, and it becomes necessary to plant more. Water-courses
may not flow in proper curves; hills may be too high, too low, and of
baleful shapes, or their relative positions one with another may be
radically bad. Any one of these causes may be sufficient in the eyes
of a disciple of Feng-shui to account for the sudden outbreak of a
plague, the gradual or rapid decay of a once flourishing town. The
Feng-shui of a house influences not only the pecuniary fortunes of its
inmates, but determines their general happiness and longevity. There
was a room in the British Legation at Peking in which two persons died
with no great interval of time between each event; and subsequently
one of the students lay there /in articulo mortis/ for many days. The
Chinese then pointed out that a tall chimney had been built opposite
the door leading into this room, thereby vitiating the Feng-shui, and
making the place uninhabitable by mortal man.

From the above most meagre sketch it is easy to understand that if the
natural or artificial configuration of surrounding objects is really
believed by the Chinese to influence the fortunes of a city, a family,
or an individual, they are only reasonably averse to the introduction
of such novelties as railways and telegraph poles, which must
inevitably sweep away their darling superstition--never to rise again.
And they /do/ believe; there can be no doubt of it in the mind of any
one who has taken the trouble to watch. The endless inconvenience a
Chinaman will suffer without a murmur rather than lay the bones of a
dear one in a spot unhallowed by the fiat of the geomancer; the sums
he will subscribe to build a protecting pagoda or destroy some harmful
combination; the pains he will be at to comply with well-known
principles in the construction and arrangement of his private house--
all prove that the iron of Feng-shui has entered into his soul, and
that the creed he has been suckled in is the very reverse of outworn.
The childlike faith of his early years gradually ripens into a strong
and vigorous belief against which ridicule is perhaps the worst weapon
that can possibly be used. Nothing less than years of contact with
foreign nations and deep draughts of that real science which is even
now stealing imperceptibly upon them, will bring the Chinese to see
that Feng-shui is a vain shadow, that it has played its allotted part
in the history of a great nation, and is now only fit to be classed
with such memories of by-gone glory as the supremacy of China, the bow
and arrow, the matchlock, and the junk.


Few things are more noticeable in China than the incessant chattering
kept up by servants, coolies, and members of the working classes. It
is rare to meet a string of porters carrying their heavy burdens along
some country road, who are not jabbering away, one and all, as if in
the very heat of some exciting discussion, and afraid that their
journey will come to an end before their most telling arguments are
exhausted. One wonders what ignorant, illiterate fellows like these
can possibly have to talk about to each other in a country where beer-
shop politics are unknown, where religious disputations leave no sting
behind, and want of communication limits the area of news to half-a-
dozen neighbouring streets in a single agricultural village. Comparing
the uncommunicative deportment of a bevy of English bricklayers, who
will build a house without exchanging much beyond an occasional pipe-
light, with the vivacious gaiety of these light-hearted sons of Han,
the problem becomes interesting enough to demand a solution of the
question--What is it these Chinamen talk about? And the answer is,
/Money/. It may be said they talk, think, dream of nothing else. They
certainly live for little besides the hope of some day compassing, if
not wealth, at any rate a competency. The temple of Plutus--to be
found in every Chinese city--is rarely without a suppliant; but there
is no such hypocrisy in the matter as that of the Roman petitioner who
would pray aloud for virtue and mutter "gold." And yet a rich man in
China is rather an object of pity than otherwise. He is marked out by
the officials as their lawful prey, and is daily in danger of being
called upon to answer some false, some trumped-up accusation. A
subscription list, nominally for a charitable purpose, for building a
bridge, or repairing a road, is sent to him by a local magistrate, and
woe be to him if he does not head it with a handsome sum. A ruffian
may threaten to charge him with murder unless he will compromise
instantly for Tls. 300; and the rich man generally prefers this course
to proving his innocence at a cost of about Tls. 3000. He may be
accused of some trivial disregard of prescribed ceremonies, giving a
dinner-party, or arranging the preliminaries of his son's marriage,
before the days of mourning for his own father have expired. No handle
is too slight for the grasp of the greedy mandarin, especially if he
has to do with anything like a recalcitrant millionaire. But this very
mandarin himself, if compelled by age and infirmities to resign his
place, is forced in his turn to yield up some of the ill-gotten wealth
with which he had hoped to secure the fortunes of his family for many
a generation to come. The young hawks peck out the old hawks' e'en
without remorse. The possession of money is therefore rather a source
of anxiety than happiness, though this doesn't seem to diminish in the
slightest degree the Chinaman's natural craving for as much of it as
he can secure. At the same time, the abominable system of official
extortion must go far to crush a spirit of enterprise which would
otherwise most undoubtedly be rife. Everybody is so afraid of bringing
himself within the clutch of the law, that innovation is quite out of
the question.

Neither in the private life of a rich Chinese merchant do we detect
the same keen enjoyment of his wealth as is felt by many an affluent
western, to whom kindly nature has given the intellect to use it
rightly. The former indulges in sumptuous feasts, but he does not
collect around his table men who can only give him wit in return for
his dinner; he rather seeks out men whose purses are as long as his
own, from amongst whose daughters he may select a well-dowried mate
for his dunderheaded son. He accumulates vast wardrobes of silk,
satin, and furs; but he probably could not show a copy of the first
edition of K'ang Hsi, or a single bowl bearing the priceless stamp of
six hundred years ago. These articles are collected chiefly by
scholars, who often go without a meal or two in order to obtain the
coveted specimen; the rich merchant spends his money chiefly on
dinners, dress, and theatrical entertainments, knowing and caring
little or nothing about art. His conversation is also, like that of
his humbler countrymen, confined to one topic; if he is a banker,
rates of exchange haunt him day and night; whatever he is, he lives in
daily dread of the next phase of extortion to which he will be obliged
to open an unwilling purse. How different from the literati of China
who live day by day almost from hand to mouth, eking out a scanty
subsistence by writing scrolls for door-posts, and perhaps presenting
themselves periodically at the public examinations, only to find that
their laboured essays are thrown out amongst the ruck once more! Yet
these last are undeniably the happier of the two. Having no wealth to
excite the rapacious envy of their rulers, they pass through life in
rapt contemplation of the sublime attributes of their Master,
forgetting even the pangs of hunger in the elucidation of some obscure
passage in the Book of Changes, and caring least of all for the idol
of their unlettered brethren, except in so far as it would enable them
to make more extensive purchases of their beloved books, and provide a
more ample supply of the "four jewels" of the scholar. Occasionally to
be seen in the streets, these literary devotees may be known by their
respectable but poverty-stricken appearance, generally by their
spectacles, and always by their stoop, acquired in many years of
incessant toil. These are the men who hate us with so deep a hate, for
we have dared to set up a rival to the lofty position so long occupied
by Confucius alone. If we came in search of trade only, they would
tolerate, because they could understand our motives, and afford to
despise; but to bring our religion with us, to oppose the precepts of
Christ to the immortal apophthegms of the Master, this is altogether
too much for the traditions in which they have been brought up.


It is a lamentable fact that although China has now been open for a
considerable number of years both to trade and travellers, she is
still a sealed book to the majority of intelligent Europeans as
regards her manners and customs, and the mode of life of her people.
Were it not so, such misleading statements as those lately published
by a young gentleman in the service of H.I.M. the Emperor of China,
and professing to give an account of a Chinese dinner, could never
have been served up by half-a-dozen London newspapers as a piece of
valuable information on the habits of Chinamen. There is so much that
is really quaint, interesting, and worthy of record in the social
etiquette observed by the natives of China, that no one with eyes to
see and ears to hear need ever draw upon his imagination in the
slightest degree. We do not imply that this has been done in the
present instance. The writer has only erred through ignorance. He has
doubtless been to a Chinese dinner where he "sat inside a glass door,
and cigars were handed round after the repast," as many other brave
men have been before him,--at Mr Yang's, the celebrated Peking pawn-
broker. But had he been to more than that one, or taken the trouble to
learn something about the subject on which he was writing, he would
have found out that glass doors and cigars are not natural and
necessary adjuncts to a Chinese dinner. They are in fact only to be
found at the houses of natives who have mixed with foreigners and are
in the habit of inviting them to their houses. The topic is an
interesting one, and deserves a somewhat elaborate treatment, both for
its own sake as a study of native customs, and also to aid in
dispelling a host of absurd ideas which have gathered round these
everyday events of Chinese life. For it is an almost universal belief
that Chinamen dine daily upon rats, puppy-dogs, and birds'-nest soup;
whereas the truth is that, save among very poor people, the first is
wholly unknown, and the two last are comparatively expensive dishes.
Dog hams are rather favourite articles of food in the south of China,
but the nests from which the celebrated soup is made are far too
expensive to be generally consumed.

A dinner-party in China is a most methodical affair as regards
precedence among guests, the number of courses, and their general
order and arrangement. We shall endeavour to give a detailed and
accurate account of such a banquet as might be offered to half-a-dozen
friends by a native in easy circumstances. In the first place, no
ladies would be present, but men only would occupy seats at the
square, four-legged "eight fairy" table. Before each there will be
found a pair of chopsticks, a wine-cup, a small saucer for soy, a two-
pronged fork, a spoon, a tiny plate divided into two separate
compartments for melon seeds and almonds, and a pile of small pieces
of paper for cleaning these various articles as required. Arranged
upon the table in four equidistant rows are sixteen small dishes or
saucers which contain four kinds of fresh fruits, four kinds of dried
fruits, four kinds of candied fruits, and four miscellaneous, such as
preserved eggs, slices of ham, a sort of sardine, pickled cabbage, &c.
These four are in the middle, the other twelve being arranged
alternately round them. Wine is produced the first thing, and poured
into small porcelain cups by the giver of the feast himself. It is
polite to make a bow and place one hand at the side of the cup while
this operation is being performed. The host then gives the signal to
drink and the cups are emptied instantaneously, being often turned
bottom upwards as a proof there are no heel-taps. Many Chinamen,
however, cannot stand even a small quantity of wine; and it is no
uncommon thing when the feast is given at an eating-house, to hire one
of the theatrical singing-boys to perform vicariously such heavy
drinking as may be required by custom or exacted by forfeit. The
sixteen small dishes above-mentioned remain on the table during the
whole dinner and may be eaten of promiscuously between courses. Now we
come to the dinner, which may consist of eight large and eight small
courses, six large and six small, eight large and four small, or six
large and four small, according to the means or fancy of the host,
each bowl of food constituting a course being placed in the middle of
the table and dipped into by the guests with chopsticks or spoon as
circumstances may require. The first is the commonest, and we append a
bill of fare of an ordinary Chinese dinner on that scale, each course
coming in its proper place.

I. Sharks' fins with crab sauce.
1. Pigeons' eggs stewed with mushrooms.
2. Sliced sea-slugs in chicken broth with ham.
II. Wild duck and Shantung cabbage.
3. Fried fish.
4. Lumps of pork fat fried in rice flour.
III. Stewed lily roots.
5. Chicken mashed to pulp, with ham.
6. Stewed bamboo shoots.
IV. Stewed shell-fish.
7. Fried slices of pheasant.
8. Mushroom broth.
Remove--Two dishes of fried pudding, one sweet and the other salt,
with two dishes of steamed puddings, also one sweet and one
salt. [These four are put on the table together and with them
is served a cup of almond gruel.]
V. Sweetened duck.
VI. Strips of boned chicken fried in oil.
VII. Boiled fish (of any kind) with soy.
VIII. Lumps of parboiled mutton fried in pork-fat.

These last four large courses are put on the table one by one and are
not taken away. Subsequently a fifth, a bowl of soup, is added, and
small basins of rice are served round, over which some of the soup is
poured. The meal is then at an end. A /rince-bouche/ is handed to each
guest and a towel dipped in boiling water but well wrung out. With the
last he mops his face all over, and the effect is much the same as
half a noggin of Exshare diluted with a bottle of Schweppe. Pipes and
tea are now handed round, though this is not the first appearance of
tobacco on the scene. Many Chinamen take a whiff or two at their
hubble-bubbles between almost every course, as they watch the
performance of some broad farce which on grand occasions is always
provided for their entertainment. Opium is served when dinner is over
for such as are addicted to this luxury; and after a few minutes,
spent perhaps in arranging the preliminaries of some future banquet,
the party, which has probably lasted from three to four hours, is no
longer of the present but in the past.


A great deal of trash has been committed to writing by various
foreigners on the subject of female children in China. The prevailing
belief in Europe seems to be that the birth of a daughter is looked
upon as a mournful event in the annals of a Chinese family, and that a
large percentage of the girls born are victims of a wide-spread system
of infanticide, a sufficient number, however, being spared to prevent
the speedy depopulation of the Empire. It became our duty only the
other day to correct a mistake, on the part of a reverend gentleman
who has been some twelve years a missionary in China, bearing on this
very subject. He observed that "the Chinese are always profuse in
their congratulations on the birth of a /son/; but if a girl is born,
the most hearty word they can afford to utter is, 'girls too are
necessary.'" Such a statement is very misleading, and cannot, in these
days of enlightenment on Chinese topics, be allowed to pass
unchallenged. "I hear you have obtained one thousand ounces of gold,"
is perhaps the commonest of those flowery metaphors which the Chinese
delight to bandy on such an auspicious occasion; another being, "You
have a bright pearl in your hand," &c., &c. The truth is that parents
in China are just as fond of all their children as people in other and
more civilised countries, where male children are also eagerly desired
to preserve the family from extinction. The excess in value of the
male over the female is perhaps more strongly marked among the
Chinese, owing of course to the peculiarity of certain national
customs, and not to any want of parental feeling; but, on the other
hand, a very fair share both of care and affection is lavished upon
the daughters either of rich or poor. They are not usually taught to
read as the boys are, because they cannot enter any condition of
public life, and education for mere education's sake would be
considered as waste of time and money by all except very wealthy
parents. Besides, when a daughter is married, not only is it necessary
to provide her with a suitable dowry and trousseau, but she passes
over to the house of her husband, there to adopt his family name in
preference to her own, and contract new obligations to a father- and
mother-in-law she may only have seen once or twice in her life, more
binding in their stringency than those to the father and mother she
has left behind. A son remains by his parents' side in most cases till
death separates them for ever, and on him they rely for that due
performance of burial rites which alone can ensure to their spirits an
eternal rest. When old age or disease comes upon them, a son can go
forth to earn their daily rice, and protect them from poverty, wrong,
and insult, where a daughter would be only an additional encumbrance.
It is no wonder therefore that the birth of a son is hailed with
greater manifestations of joy than is observable among western
nations; at the same time, we must maintain that the natural love of
Chinese parents for their female offspring is not thereby lessened to
any appreciable degree. No /red eggs/ are sent by friends and
relatives on the birth of a daughter as at the advent of the first
boy, the hope and pride of the family; but in other respects the
customs and ceremonies practised on these occasions are very much the
same. On the third day the milk-name is given to the child, and if a
girl her ears are pierced for earrings. A little boiled rice is rubbed
upon the lobe of the ear, which is then subjected to friction between
the finger and thumb until it gets quite numb: it is next pierced with
a needle and thread dipped in oil, the latter being left in the ear.
No blood flows. Boys frequently have one ear pierced, as some people
say, to make them look like little girls; and up to the age of
thirteen or fourteen, girls often wear their hair braided in a tail to
make them look like little boys. But the end of the tail is always
tied with /red/ silk--the differentiating colour between youths and
maids in China. And here we may mention that the colour of the silk
which finishes off a Chinaman's tail differs according to
circumstances. Black is the ordinary colour, often undistinguishable
from the long dresses in which they take such pride; /white/ answers
to deep crape with us, and proclaims that either the father or mother
of the wearer has bid adieu to this sublunary sphere;[*] /green/,
/yellow/, and /blue/, are worn for more distant relatives, or for
parents after the first year of mourning has expired.

[*] The verb "to die" is rarely used by the Chinese of their
relatives. Some graceful periphrasis is adapted instead.

We will conclude with a curious custom which, as far as our inquiries
have extended, seems to be universal. The first visitor, stranger,
messenger, coolie, or friend, who comes to the house where a new-born
baby lies, ignorant that such an event has taken place, is on no
account allowed to go away without having first eaten a full meal.
This is done to secure to the child a peaceful and refreshing night's
rest; and as Chinamen are always ready at a moment's notice to dispose
of a feed at somebody else's expense, difficulties are not likely to
arise on a score of a previous dinner.


Books of travel are eagerly read by most classes of Chinese who have
been educated up to the requisite standard, and long journeys have
often been undertaken to distant parts of the Empire, not so much from
a thirst for knowledge or love of a vagrant life, as from a desire to
be enrolled among the numerous contributors to the deathless
literature of the Middle Kingdom. Such travellers start with a full
knowledge of the tastes of their public, and a firm conviction that
unless they can provide sufficiently marvellous stories out of what
they have seen and heard, the fame they covet is not likely to be
accorded. No European reader who occupies himself with these works can
fail to discover that in every single one of them invention is brought
more or less into play; and that when fact is not forthcoming, the
exigencies of the book are supplemented from the convenient resources
of fiction. Of course this makes the accounts of Chinese travellers
almost worthless, and often ridiculous; though strange to say, amongst
the Chinese themselves, even to the grossest absurdities and most
palpable falsehoods, there hardly attaches a breath of that suspicion
which has cast a halo round the name of Bruce.

We have lately come across a book of travels, in six thin quarto
volumes, written by no less a personage than the father of Ch'ung-hou.
It is a very handsome work, being well printed and on good paper,
besides being provided with numerous woodcuts of the scenes and
scenery described in the text. The author, whose name was Lin-ch'ing,
was employed in various important posts; and while rising from the
position of Prefect to that of Acting Governor-General of the two
Kiang, travelled about a good deal, and was somewhat justified in
committing his experiences to paper. We doubt, however, if his
literary efforts are likely to secure him a fraction of the notoriety
which the Tientsin Massacre has conferred upon his son. He never saw
the moon shining upon the water, but away he went and wrote an ode to
the celestial luminary, always introducing a few pathetic lines on the
hardships of travel and the miseries of exile. One chapter is devoted
to the description of a curious rock called the /Loom Rock/. It is
situated in the Luhsi district of the Chang-chou prefecture in Hunan,
and is perfectly inaccessible to man, as it well might be, to judge
from the drawing of it by a native artist. From a little distance,
however, caves are discernible hollowed out in the cliff, and in these
the eye can detect various articles used in housekeeping, such as a
teapot, &c.; and amongst others a /loom/. On a ledge of smooth rock a
boat may be seen, as it were hauled up out of the water. How these got
there, and what is the secret of the place, nobody appears to know,
but our author declares that he saw them with his own eyes. We have
given the above particulars as to the whereabouts of the rock, in the
hope that any European meditating a trip into Hunan may take the
trouble to make some inquiries about this wonderful sight. The late Mr
Margary must have passed close to it in his boat, probably without
being aware of its existence--if indeed it does exist at all.

We cannot refrain from translating verbatim one passage which has
reference to the English, and of which we fancy Ch'ung-hou himself
would be rather ashamed since his visit to the Outside Nations. Here
it is:--

"When the English barbarians first began to give trouble to the
Inner Nation, they relied on the strength of their ships and the
excellence of their guns. It was therefore proposed to build large
ships and cast heavy cannon in order to oppose them. I
represented, however, that vessels are not built in a day, and
pointed out the difficulties in the way of naval warfare. I showed
that the power of a cannon depends upon the strength of the
powder, and the strength of the powder upon the sulphur and
saltpetre; the latter determining the explosive force forwards and
backwards, and the former, the same force towards either side.
Therefore to ensure powder being powerful, there should be seven
parts saltpetre out of ten. The English barbarians have got rattan
ash which they can use instead of sulphur, but saltpetre is a
product of China alone. Accordingly, I memorialised His Majesty to
prohibit the export of saltpetre, and caused some thirty-seven
thousand pounds to be seized by my subordinates."


Theoretically, the Chinese are fatalists in the fullest sense of the
word. Love of life and a desire to enjoy the precious boon as long as
possible, prevent them from any such extended application of the
principle as would be prejudicial to the welfare of the nation; yet
each man believes that his destiny is pre-ordained, and that the whole
course of his life is mapped out for him with unerring exactitude.
Happily, when the occasion presents itself, his thoughts are generally
too much occupied with the crisis before him, to be able to indulge in
any dangerous speculations on predestination and free-will; his
practice, therefore, is not invariably in harmony with his theory.

On the first page of a Chinese almanack for the current year, we have
a curious woodcut representing a fly, a spider, a bird, a sportsman, a
tiger, and a well. Underneath this strange medley is a legend couched
in the following terms:--"Predestination in all things!" The
letterpress accompanying the picture explains that the spider had just
secured a fat fly, and was on the point of making a meal of him, when
he was espied by a hungry bird which swooped down on both. As the bird
was making off to its nest with this delicious mouthful, a sportsman
who happened to be casting round for a supper, brought it down with
his gun, and was stooping to pick it up, when a tiger, also with an
empty stomach, sprang from behind upon the man, and would there and
then have put an end to the drama, but for an ugly well, on the brink
of which the bird had dropped, and into which the tiger, carried on by
the impetus of his spring, tumbled headlong, taking with him man,
bird, spider, and fly in one fell career to the bottom. This fable
embodies popular ideas in China with regard to predestination, by
virtue of which calamity from time to time overtakes doomed victims,
as a punishment for sins committed in their present or a past state of
existence. Coupled with this belief are many curious sayings and
customs, the latter of which often express in stronger terms than
language the feelings of the people. For instance, at the largest
centre of population in the Eighteen Provinces, there is a regulation
with regard to the porterage by coolies of wine and oil, which
admirably exemplifies the subject under consideration. If on a wet and
stormy day, or when the ground is covered with snow, a coolie laden
with either of the above articles slips and falls, he is held
responsible for any damage that may be done; whereas, if he tumbles
down on a fine day when the streets are dry, and there is no apparent
cause for such an accident, the owner of the goods bears whatever loss
may occur. The idea is that on a wet and slippery day mere exercise of
human caution would be sufficient to avert the disaster, but happening
in bright, dry weather, it becomes indubitably a manifestation of the
will of Heaven. In the same way, an endless run of bad luck or some
fearful and overwhelming calamity, against which no mortal foresight
could guard, is likened to the burning of an /ice-house/, which, from
its very nature, would almost require the interposition of Divine
power to set it in a blaze. In such a case, he who could doubt the
reality of predestination would be ranked, in Chinese eyes, as little
better than a fool. And yet when these emergencies arise we do not
find the Chinese standing still with their hands in their sleeves (for
want of pockets), but working away to stop whatever mischief is going
on, as if after the all the will of Heaven may be made amenable to
human energy. It is only when an inveterate gambler or votary of the
opium-pipe has seen his last chance of solace in this life cut away
from under him, and feels himself utterly unable any longer to stem
the current, that he weakly yields to the force of his destiny, and
borrows a stout rope from a neighbour, or wanders out at night to the
brink of some deep pool never to return again.

There is a charming episode in the second chapter of the "Dream of the
Red Chamber," where the father of Pao-yu is anxious to read the
probable destiny of his infant son. He spreads before the little boy,
then just one year old, all kinds of different things, and declares
that from whichever of these the baby first seizes, he will draw an
omen as to his future career in life. We can imagine how he longed for
his boy to grasp the manly /bow/, in the use of which he might some
day rival the immortal archer Pu:--the /sword/, and live to be
enrolled a fifth among the four great generals of China:--the /pen/,
and under the favouring auspices of the god of literature, rise to
assist the Son of Heaven with his counsels, or write a commentary upon
the Book of Rites. Alas for human hopes! The naughty baby, regardless
alike of his father's wishes and the filial code, passed over all
these glittering instruments of wealth and power, and devoted his
attention exclusively to some hair-pins, pearl-powder, rouge, and a
lot of women's head-ornaments.


Were any wealthy philanthropist to consult us as to the disposal of
his millions with a view to ensure the greatest possible advantages to
the greatest possible number, we should unhesitatingly recommend him
to undertake the publication of a Chinese newspaper, to be sold at a
merely nominal figure per copy. Under skilled foreign guidance, and
with the total exclusion of religious topics, more would be effected
in a few years for the real happiness of China and its ultimate
conversion to western civilisation, than the most hopeful enthusiast
could venture to predict. The /Shun-pao/, edited in Shanghai by Mr
Ernest Major, is doing an incredible amount of good in so far as its
influence extends; but the daily issue of this widely-circulated paper
amounts only to about four thousand copies, or one to every hundred
thousand natives! Missionary publications are absolutely useless, as
they have a very limited sale beyond the circle of converts to the
faith; but a /colporteur/ of religious books informed us the other day
that he was continually being asked for the /Shun-pao/. Now the /Shun-
pao/ owes its success so far to the fact that it is a pure money
speculation, and therefore an undertaking intelligible enough to all
Chinamen. Not only are its columns closed to anything like
proselytising articles, but they are open from time to time to such
tit-bits of the miraculous as are calculated to tickle the native
palate, and swell the number of its subscribers. Therefore, to avert
suspicion, it would be necessary to make a charge, however small,
while at the same time such bogy paragraphs as occasionally appear in
the columns of the /Shun-pao/ might be altogether omitted.

Our attention was called to this matter by a charming description in
the /Shun-pao/ of a late balloon ascent from Calais, which was so
nearly attended with fatal results. Written in a singularly easy
style, and going quite enough into detail on the subject of balloons
generally to give an instructive flavour to its remarks, this article
struck us as being the identical kind of "light science for leisure
hours" so much needed by the Chinese; and it compared most favourably
with a somewhat heavy disquisition on aeronautic topics which appeared
some time back in the /Peking Magazine/, albeit the latter was
accompanied by an elaborate woodcut of a balloon under way. There is
so much that is wonderful in the healthy regions of fact which might
with mutual advantage be imparted to a reading people like the
Chinese, that it is quite unnecessary to descend to the gross, and too
often indecent, absurdities of fiction. Much indeed that is not
actually marvellous might be put into language which would rivet the
attention of Chinese readers. The most elementary knowledge, according
to our standard, is almost always new, even to the profoundest scholar
in native literature: the ignorance of the educated classes is
something appalling. On the other hand, all who have read their /Shun-
pao/ with regularity, even for a few months, are comparatively
enlightened. We heard the other day of a Tao-t'ai who was always
meeting the phrase "International Law" in the above paper, and his
curiosity at length prompted him to make inquiries, and finally to
purchase a copy of Dr Martin's translation of "Wheaton." He
subsequently complained bitterly that much of it was utterly
unintelligible; and judging from our own limited experience of the
translation, we think His Excellency's objection not altogether

Of the domestic life of foreigners, the Chinese, with the exception of
a few servants, know absolutely nothing; and equally little of foreign
manners, customs, or etiquette. We were acquainted with one healthy
Briton who was popularly supposed by the natives with whom he was
thrown in contact to eat a whole leg of mutton every day for dinner;
and a high native functionary, complaining one day of some tipsy
sailors who had been rioting on shore, observed that "he knew
foreigners always got drunk on Sundays, and had the offence been
committed on that day he would have taken no notice of it; but," &c.,
&c. They have vague notions that filial piety is not considered a
virtue in the West, and look upon our system of contracting marriages
as objectionable in the extreme. They think foreigners carry whips and
sticks only for purposes of assault, and we met a man the other day
who had been wearing a watch for years, but was in the habit of never
winding it up till it had run down. This we afterwards found out to be
quite a common custom among the Chinese, it being generally believed
that a watch cannot be wound up whilst going; consequently, many
Chinamen keep two always in use, and it is worth noticing that watches
in China are almost invariably sold in pairs. The term "foreign devil"
is less frequently heard than formerly, and sometimes only for the
want of a better phrase. Mr Alabaster, in one of his journeys in the
interior, was politely addressed by the villagers as /His Excellency
the Devil/. The Chinese settlers in Formosa call themselves "foreign
men," but they call us "foreign things;" for, they argue, if we called
you foreign men, what should we call ourselves? The /Shun-pao/
deserves much credit for its unvarying use of /western/ instead of
/outside/ nations when speaking of foreign powers, but the belief is
still very prevalent that we all come from a number of small islands
scattered round the coast of one great centre, the Middle Kingdom.

And so we might go on multiplying /ad nauseam/ instances of Chinese
ignorance in trivial matters which an ably-conducted journal has it in
its power to dispel. We are so dissimilar from the Chinese in our ways
of life, and so unlike them in dress and facial appearance, that it is
only many years of commercial intercourse on the present familiar
footing which will cause them to regard us as anything but the
barbarians they call us. Red hair and blue eyes may make up what Baron
Hubner would euphemistically describe as the "beau type d'un gentleman
anglais," but when worn with a funny-shaped hat, a short coat, tight
trousers, and a Penang lawyer, the picture produced on the retina of a
Chinese mind is unmistakably that of a "foreign devil."


Of all their cherished ceremonies, there are none the Chinese observe
with more scrupulous exactness than those connected with death and
mourning. We have just heard of the Governor of Kiangsu going into
retirement because of the decease of his mother; and so he will
remain, ineligible to any office, for the space of three years. He
will not shave his head for one hundred days. For forty-nine nights he
will sleep in a hempen garment, with his head resting on a brick and
stretched on the hard ground, by the side of the coffin which holds
the remains of the parent who gave him birth. He will go down upon his
knees and humbly kotow to each friend and relative at their first
meeting after the sad event--a tacit acknowledgment that it was but
his own want of filial piety which brought his beloved mother
prematurely to the grave. To the coolies who bear the coffin to its
resting-place on the slope of some wooded hill, or beneath the shade
of a clump of dark-leaved cypress trees, he will make the same
obeisance. Their lives and properties are at his disposal day and
night; but he now has a favour to ask which no violence could secure,
and pleads that his mother's body may be carried gently, without jar
or concussion of any kind. He will have her laid by the side of his
father, in a coffin which cost perhaps 100 pounds, and repair thither
periodically to appease her departed spirit with votive offerings of
fruit, vegetables, and pork.

Immediately after the decease of a parent, the children and other near
relatives communicate the news to friends living farther off, by what
is called an "announcement of death," which merely states that the
father or mother, as the case may be, has died, and that they, the
survivors, are entirely to blame. With this is sent a "sad report," or
in other words a detailed account of deceased's last illness, how it
originated, what medicine was prescribed and taken, and sundry other
interesting particulars. Their friends reply by sending a present of
money to help defray funeral expenses, a present of food or joss-
stick, or even a detachment of priests to read the prescribed
liturgies over the dead. Sometimes a large scroll is written and
forwarded, inscribed with a few such appropriate words as--"A hero has
gone!" When all these have been received, the members of the bereaved
family issue a printed form of thanks, one copy being left at the
house of each contributor and worded thus:--"This is to express the
thanks of . . . the orphaned son who weeps tears of blood and bows his
head: of . . . the mourning brother who weeps and bows his head: of
. . . the mourning nephew who wipes away his tears and bows his head."

It is well known that all old and even middle-aged people in China
like to have their coffins prepared ready for use. A dutiful son will
see that his parents are thus provided, sometimes many years before
their death, and the old people will invite relatives or friends to
examine and admire both the materials and workmanship, as if it were
some beautiful picture or statue of which they had just cause to be
proud. Upon the coffin is carved an inscription with the name and
titles of its occupant; if a woman, the name of her husband. At the
foot of the coffin are buried two stone tablets face to face; one
bears the name and title of the deceased, and the other a short
account of his life, what year he was born in, what were his
achievements as a scholar, and how many children were born to him.
Periods of mourning are regulated by the degrees of relationship to
the dead. A son wears his white clothes for three years--actually for
twenty-eight months; and a wife mourns her husband for the same
period. The death of a wife, however, calls for only a single year of
grief; for, as the Sacred Edict points out, if your wife dies you can
marry another. The same suffices for brother, sister, or child.
Marriages contracted during these days of mourning are not only
invalid, but the offending parties are punished with a greater or
lesser number of blows according to the gravity of the offence.
Innumerable other petty restrictions are imposed by national or local
custom, which are observed with a certain amount of fidelity, though
instances are not wanting where the whole thing is shirked as
inconvenient and a bore.

Cremation, once the prevailing fashion in China, is now reserved for
the priest of Buddha alone,--that self-made outcast from society,
whose parting soul relies on no fond breast, who has no kith or kin to
shed "those pious drops the closing eye requires;" but who, seated in
an iron chair beneath the miniature pagoda erected in most large
temples for that purpose, passes away in fire and smoke from this vale
of tears and sin to be absorbed in the blissful nothingness of an
eternal Nirvana.


Inquests in China serve, unfortunately, but to illustrate one more

Book of the day: