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western deserts, her only conquerors hitherto: but now an element is being forcibly introduced into the workings of her history which cannot be thus dealt with, which must either leaven or destroy her.
This is another, and a principal reason, why we feelimpelled to plead the cause of the Chinese. They are undergoing subjection to an influence which is irresistible, and of which the effect upon their own national prosperity, and even existence, is, to say the least, extremely doubtful. All the power of the West is arrayed together against them, and they are but as infants in the hands of us wise, daring, and rapacious children of Europe, armed with the terrible engines of destruction which our ingenuity has supplied to our combativeness. They must needs yield; it is only a question of time, of the forbearance or the mutual jealousiés of their antagonists. And does the right of the question lie so entirely upon our side as we are ready to persuade ourselves ? For whose advantage is it that the western world is striving to break its way into China ? Primarily, of course, for its own, and not for that of the Chinese. We want more of their silk, their tea, their thousand articles of pleasant and profitable trade; and we do not wish to pay for them in hard cash, making only one profit; we desire that they in turn should buy what we have to sell. To be sure, we also maintain that China will be the gainer by thus dealing with us. Free trade, brotherhood of nations, spread of civilization, are not these the universal regenerators, the forerunners of the millenium of culture? Are not we vastly richer, stronger, braver, more virtuous, more enlightened, more progressive, than those poor Chinese? Do we not know thať they are fools and blind, and have everything to learn of us? But if we say, yes to all this, the question is still by no means settled. The Chinese themselves dislike and fear us, and their opinion should not go for nothing in a matter which so nearly concerns them. It is 80 convenient and easy for us to assume that they are unjust both to us and to themselves in shutting their borders against us, that we ought to be very sure that it is really so before we break down the barrier. Our assumption may savor of that convenient philosophy which maintains that the African race
is to be exalted to Christianity and civilization by association in the capacity of bond-servant with its superiors. The exclusiveness of China is no immemorial policy; it is comparatively a recent measure of precaution, suggested and enforced by experience; it may yet prove to have been prompted by the instinct of self-preservation. The history of the past few cen. turies affords more than one melancholy spectacle of the ruin and annihilation of a race, by contact with a higher civilization, which it was itself incapable of adopting. It is upon our heavy responsibility if we crowd ourselves, with all our su. perior wisdom and virtue, upon a resisting people; and if Chinese nationality goes down in consequence of it, if the race that has maintained itself for four thousand years in such general contentment and prosperity as no other race on earth has known, hastens to swift decay and extinction, our guilt will be
We do not assert that this is to be the unfortunate result of our more intimate relations with China; we hope the contrary; but we do claim that the possibility of it requires to be taken fully into account. We believe that there is not a little ignorance and arrogance in the popular estimate of the Chinese and of the value of their civilization, and somewhat of selfish inconsideration in the plans formed respecting them. We hold that, in virtue of what they have been and still are, they deserve to be treated with more forbearance and generosity than has been wont to be exhibited toward them by the West; that their own welfare ought to be more carefully and more intelligently considered in all the dealings with them of the more enlightened nations. To this end we desire to contribute our mite by a view of the Chinese character, as exhibited in the history of China, its native institutions, and its relations with the rest of the world.
The history, religion, and polity of China, more than that of any other country in the world, center in a single individual-in the sage Confucius. No man ever stamped his impress more thoroughly upon the character of a whole nation ; perhaps none who ever lived has affected more powcrfully the fates of a greater number of his fellow-beings. If we are to solve aright the problem of the Chinese nature and its development in history, it must be, in great measure, by comprehending the great Chinese philosopher, his relation to the times that preceded, his influence upon the times that followed him. We can find no better vantage-ground for taking a survey of the Chinese character and history, than is afforded us by his life and doctrines.
Kong-tse, or Kong-fu-tse, the Sage of the Family of Kong, was born in the year 551 B. C., which is very nearly the same date with that cominonly assigned to the appearance of the no less famous Hindu teacher, Buddha. China was at that period broken up into a number of petty feudatory kingdoms, which owed but a nominal submission to the central authority, and were engaged in perpetual quarrels with one another. The political condition of the country was sad enough, and, in sympathy with it, the bands of social and moral order were also relaxed. Confucius felt keenly the evil character of the times in which his life had been cast, and devoted himself with deliberate purpose to the work of reform. Being called, as all of his genius and learning invariably are called in China, to high political office, he tried first, as chief minister of his native state, the little kingdom of Lu, in the present province of Shan-tung, what he could accomplish by personal interference in the affairs of state. Soon discouraged, however, by the little success which rewarded his efforts, he withdrew into private life, and set himself to infuse into the sum of affairs a leaven which should spread and work through all China, for all time, producing, by an organic process, those results which no effort of his single administrative arm could bring about. In this, his success was complete. His instructions were eagerly resorted to, and he soon saw about him a band, we are told, of three thousand disciples. The affection and reverence with which he inspired them were unbounded, and, through them, his influence soon began to be powerfully felt all over the land. He died B. C. 479, at the age of seventythree; but he left works, compiled or composed by himself, to represent his doctrines, and his school long survived him, working on in his spirit, promulgating and expounding them. His influence went on steadily increasing; his own works, and those of his nearest disciples and their followers, became by degrees the moral and political bible of the nation, the foun. tain of wisdom, the norm of virtuous and useful conduct. Successive dynasties vied with one another in paying honors to his memory; the whole educated class, the aristocracy of China, took him for their patron and model. He has at this day nearly six hundred temples in the different provinces of the empire, in which, at stated seasons, reverential honors, of a kind to be more particularly described hereafter, are paid to his memory. And it should be particularly observed that all these honors have been and are paid to the actual Confucius himself, and for what he really was and did; not to any distorted and glorified image of him, enthroned in the popular mind, and become the recipient of a worship which understands neither itself nor its object. The difference in this respect between Confucius and the great teachers and reformers of other lands, is not a little striking and significant. Thus, to cite but an instance or two, the Persians soon made of their Zoroaster & being of supernatural gifts, who in person fought with the powers of darkness, and held converse with the Supreme Being. Thus the Indian monk, Buddha,
, underwent a yet more wondrous transformation; his life, as related by his followers, is filled ad nauseam with preposterous marvels, while his doctrines have been so changed, and perverted, and overlaid, that their identity is almost utterly lost: neither the Buddha nor the Buddhism of the modern Buddhists has any fair title to the name. But Confucius bas no more been a subject of mythical and legendary history to the Chinese, than Washington to us; he is a man, whose birth, life, opinions, acts, writings, are plainly on record, and incapable of misapprehension. The Chinese have treated him in the spirit of his own character. No one was ever more free from pride, from arrogant assumption of authority, from pretensions to superhuman wisdom, than was Confucius. He would not even lay claim to originality; he professed to be only a reverent student of the past, and a restorer of the principles and practices of the olden and golden time. This
is the key-note of his whole philosophy. To extract from the past all that it contained which was best and worthiest of imitation, to combine it into a system of precepts of wise and righteous conduct, and to urge it by every available argument upon the acceptance and observance of the nation—this, and this alone, was what he attempted. How well he comprehended the work he had to perform, and how wisely he chose his means for its accomplishment, the result bears him witness. We cannot refrain from comparing him here with one of his own contemporaries, the sage Lao-tse, also one of the most eminent men whom China has ever produced. He, too, felt and mourned over the corruption of the times, and endeavored in his own way to set bounds to it, and to restore men to virtue. But his method was an altogether independent and original one. He was a transcendental philosopher, and had arrived at the apprehension of an absolute, spiritual, impersonal being, the cause and principle of the universe, to which he gave the name of Tao, the Way; and he taught that by intimate recognition of this being, and spiritual union with it, through the means of the negation of whatever constitutes the nature and attributes of man, were to be attained virtue and its consequence, happiness. Lao-tse gave origin to a school, or sect, which is not yet extinct. The “religion of Tao” has at times enjoyed a wide popularity throughout China, and the countenance and patronage of its rulers; and it is still counted as one of the three creeds said to divide the homage of the Chinese people: yet not in its original form, as a mystical philosophy; it has been for long centuries corrupted into a low form of idolatrons superstition and necromancy, and its priests and adherents are justly held in contempt by all the more enlightened of the people. Thus the system of Lao-tse, which was not deeply based upon the national character, and met with no genuine response from the national mind, was doomed, spite of the genius of its founder, to corruption and virtual extinction; while the philosophy of Confucius so closely adapted itself to the wants and the capacities of the nation, that it commanded and attained universal acceptance. Indeed, we know not how to characterize Con