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trolling centralism of the Chinese system, they have simply infused an element of their own nationality through all the departments and grades of office, and allowed the great machine to work on as before, only with another engineer. Perhaps—we would not venture to affirm or deny it with confidence-perhaps the vital force of the Chinese race, after an existence so immensely prolonged, was becoming exhausted, and an infusion of new and vigorous blood was needed, in order to the farther continuance of healthy life. However that may be, the best period of the Manchu domination, in. cluding the reigns of the great Kang-hi and his grandson Kien-lung, each of them of sixty years' length-the former reigned from 1662 to 1723, the latter from 1736 to 1796—has been not less distinguished by power and consideration abroad, by tranquillity, prosperity, and contentment at home, by the faithful administration of just laws, by the success of industry, by the increase of population, by the activity of literary production, than the best which the Chinese annals can boast. Since the beginning of this century, the vigor and purity of the administration have greatly fallen off; discontent has arisen, to which additional violence has been given by the antagonism of the two nationalities, and many of the signs have appeared which in China are wont to indicate the downfall of an old dynasty, and the accession to power of a new one, with the intervention of a longer or shorter period of confusion and anarchy.
As to what the result is to be, we will not at present trust ourselves to offer an opinion, or even a conjecture. Two questions, of the most important bearing upon the future of the empire, demand first to be settled. Has the national character indeed so fatally degenerated that the country is no longer capable of rising by its own internal forces, as of old, from depression and misery? And again, what will be the effect upon the nation of the intrusion of foreign ideas, foreign arms, and foreign poisons ? Both these questions are not a little difficult of solution. As to the first, the testimony of those who speak from personal observation is often very conflicting, even as regards the character of the Chinese of the present day, and generally very unreliable, as regards the comparison of the present with the past. Assignable reasons for this are not wanting. Many have judged the whole nation from a brief knowledge of the inhabitants of the sea-board cities, unquestionably the lowest class of the whole population, representing the native character as most altered for the worse by foreign trade and piracy. Those who know the Chinese most thoroughly, by continued, wide-extended, and familiar intercourse, are generally those whose opinion of them is most favorable. But the Chinese nature must not be too exclusively judged by the impression it makes upon those who at the present day are brought in contact with it. Its deficiencies have always been of such a character as most to offend our tastes, and through them to affect our judgments. There has been in it a dryness, a lack of ideality, of affection, of enthusiasm, which strikes us more strongly and unfavorably than the want in others of many a real sterling quality which the Chinese have possessed. In almost all that they are and do, there is something which spoils its savor for us. Their faces and forms are ugly in our eyes; their elaborate and exaggerated manners, regulated by rules older than all the Occidental literature, seem to us almost a mockery. Their capacities are limited by bounds of which we are so impatient, that we fail to appreciate how admirably they work within those limits. They exhibit in everything a childishness which sits most ungracefully upon their antiquated stiffness. In short, they seem a miraculously preserved relic of antediluvianism, most unlike us, and hardest for us to understand, or feel sympathy with. Their music illustrates the difference in our make and theirs. What to them is delightful harmony, to us is ear-splitting and soul-harrowing discord: we could tolerate it as the accompaniment of a war-dance of savages, but we cannot bear it from a people pretending to culture. Their drawing and painting, too, though showing close and shrewd observation, great faculty of imitation, skill in the use of colors, and a power of expression and artistic freedom of handling which Egyptian art does not even approach, not only is ignorant of perspective, but wants the very vivifying
spirit of beauty which should elevate it from a mere talent to the dignity of an art. All this we should find much more tolerable if the Chinese mind were more open to instruction, could be convinced of its deficiencies, and brought to acknowledge the superiority of another culture. And thus it might be, were it only half-grown and still developing. But it has been for these thousands of years fully grown and completely developed; it has virtually worked out whatever of capacity there was in it. During all that time, China has been immensely superior to all the neighboring nations. It has been the source whence these have drawn art, science, and letters. It has bronght barbarous hordes under the sway of its regulated polity. Repeatedly overrun and conquered, it has, like Greece, vanquished its victors; and even more truly than Greece, for it has never been ruled under any other than its own institutions. What wonder, then, if it is unable and unwilling truly to appreciate, and ingenuously to accept, what is now offered it from without? Is it not the very essence of the Chinese nature to be fixed and immovable?
The brief historical sketch which we have given will serve to show, we think, that the theory of Chinese quietism and immobility must be held under some restrictions. The outward condition, at least, of the empire, has not been one of tranquil and unbroken uniformity. It has passed through much the same series of convulsions and revolutions, though on a far grander scale of numbers and of years, as has also vexed the petty empires of the West. The grand and striking difference between the two cases is this : in China, the equilibrium has never been quite lost; mighty as the elements of disorder and destruction have been, those of order and conservatism have shown themselves yet more powerful. For this it is impossible to account by any assignment of secondary causes. The reason lies deep in the foundations of the national character itself, in the truly conservative bent of the Chinese mind, which has given to all its productions a form calculated for endurance, and has steadfastly adhered to them, and persistently maintained them upright. The same conservatism is exhibited by the intellectual life of China. There has been vast and unceasing activity, wonderful industry and productiveness, but next to no real advance. But we must never forget, in judging China, that, according to the ordinary march of events in human history, the Chinese empire should have perished from decay, and its culture either become extinct or passed into the keeping of another race, more than two thousand years ago. It had already reached the limit to its capacity of development. Had it been then swept from existence, it would have left behind, for the unmixed admiration of all after generations, the memory of a nation wise, powerful, and cultivated, beyond almost any other of the olden time. Consider how many nations have died in giving birth to the modern Christian civilization, of the possession of which we are so proud. Where is Egypt now, that most ancient home of so many of the germs of our culture? Where are the two Semitic races, the Phænician and the Hebrew, whose influence on commerce, literature, religion, has been of such exceeding importance? Persia, too, has borne her part, if only subordinately, in the search after light and the struggle for empire: but how short-lived was her glory! And of our own chosen European races, the heirs of all the best wisdom of the past, the depositories of all the best hopes of the future, how has one fallen and another risen! How soon waned the transcendent genius of the Greek! How did the Roman empire become the prey of the barbarian, when over all Europe settled down the gloom of the Dark Ages! How is Spain degraded from the foremost rank she once held! And who shall tell what the future may have in store for those who are now the representatives of the world's best thought and action?
Such considerations as these should make us modest and merciful in passing judgment upon China. If the present is ours, the past is hers. Were it possible to multiply the amount of enlightenment which she has enjoyed by the years of its duration, and the number of human beings who have profited by it, we have little doubt that there would be found to have shone in China, in the aggregate, not much less light than in all the rest of the earth taken together. It is our duty, too, in forming our estimate of the value of a system, to take fully into account its adaptedness to the people who have lived under it, as indicated by its successful working. And we must perforce acknowledge that the Chinese have shown on the grandest scale that practical capacity which they evince in the petty concerns of ordinary life, by giving origin to a system of morality and polity which, however imperfect we may deem it in many respects to be, has proved itself so precisely suited to them. So long a life necessarily implies the presence of sound and healthful qualities. The history of the Chinese proves them to have been distinguished, as a nation, by many saving virtues ; by orderliness, by submissiveness, by contentment of spirit, by industry, by frugality, by temperance, by general morality.
We have felt that these aspects of Chinese character, that this method of viewing it as exhibited in the whole history of the country and its institutions, had been too much neglected; that the general opinion did not do justice to its many great and admirable qualities. Hence we have been the more solicitous to set them forth prominently, and in as favorable a light as historic verity would allow. If we shall seem to any to have done them more than justice, we may plead that there are enough to judge harshly the unfortunate Chinese, and to heap contumely upon them, and that they deserve to find also a friendly advocacy. That they have fallen from the normal standard of their national character, we do indeed fully believe: their religious condition is sufficient proof of it: they have passed from that negative state in which we have depicted them, and in which history shows that no nation can long abide, into positive idolatry and superstition. No satisfctory discussion of this point and of its bearings is possible, however, without a much fuller consideration of the intercourse of China with the rest of the world, and its effects upon her, than we have left ourselves room for at this time. We hope to be able to return to the subject at a future opportunity.