Графични страници
PDF файл


grand principles, attend at least to a simile adapted to every apprehension. I am mounted upon a wretched

I see another man before me upon a sprightly horse, at which I find some uneasiness. I look behind me and see numbers on foot stooping under heavy burdens ; let me learn to pity their estate, and thank Heaven for my own.

Shingfu, when under misfortunes, would in the beginning weep like a child; but he soon recovered his former tranquillity. After indulging grief for a few days, he would become as usual, the most merry old man in all the province of Shansi. About the time that his wife died, his possessions were all consumed by fire, and his only son sold into captivity : Shingfu. grieved for one day, and the next went to dance at a Mandarine's door for his dinner. The company were surprised to see the old man so merry when suffering such great losses, and the Mandarine himself coming out, asked him how he, who had grieved so much, and given way to the calamity the day before, could now be so cheerful ? You “ ask me one question,” cries the old man, “ let me answer by asking another : “ Which is the most durable, a hard thing, or a soft " thing: that which resists, or that which makes no “ resistance ?" An hard thing to be surė, replied the Mandarine. “ There you are wrong," returned Shingfu, “ I am now fourScore years old ; and if you look " in my mouth, you will find that I have lost all my " teeth, but not a bit of my tongue."



From Lien Chi Altangi, to Fum Hoam, first President

of the Ceremonial Academy at Peking in China.

The manner of grieving for our departed friends in China, is very different from that of Europe. The mourning colour of Europe is black; that of China white. When a parent or relation dies here, for they seldom mourn for friends, it is only clapping on a suit of sables, grimacing it for a few days, and all soon forgotten, goes on as before ; not a single creature missing the deceased, except perhaps a favourite housekeeper or a favourite cat.

On the contrary with us in China, it is a very serious affair. The piety with which I have seen you behave on one of these occasions, should never be forgotten. I remember it was upon the death of thy grandmother's maiden-sister. The coffin was exposed in the principal hall in public view. Before it were placed the figures of eunuchs, horses, tortoises, and other animals in attitudes of grief and respect.

The more distant relations of the old lady, and I among

number, came to pay our compliments of condolence, and to salute the deceased after the manner of our country. We had scarcely presented our wax candles and perfumes, and giving the howl of departure, when, crawling on his belly from under a curtain, out came the reverend Fum Hoam himself, in all the dismal solemnity of distress. Your looks were set for sorrow; your clothing consisted of an hempen bag tied round the neck with a string. For two long months did this mourning continue. By night you lay stretched on a single mat, and sat on the stool of discontent by day.


Pious man! who could thus set an example of sorrow and decorum to our country. Pious country! where, if we do not grieve at the departure of our friends for their sakes, at least we are taught to regret them for

our own.

All is very different here: amazement all! What sort of a people am I got amongst ! Fum, thou son of Fo, what sort of people am I got amongst ! No crawling round the coffin ; no dressing up in hempen bags ; no lying on mats, or sitting on stools. Gentlemen here shall put on first mourning with as sprightly an air as if preparing for a birth-night; and widows shall actually dress for another husband in their weeds for the former. The best jest of all is, that our merry Mourners clap bits of muslin on their sleeves, and these are called weepers. Weeping muslin ; alas, alas, very sorrowful truly! These weepers then it seems are to bear the whole burthen of the distress.

But I have had the strongest instance of this contrast; this tragi-comical behaviour in distress upon a recent occasion. Their King, whose departure, though sudden, was not unexpected, died after a reign of many years. His age and uncertain state of health served in some measure to diminish the sorrow of his subjects; and their expectations from his successor seemed to balance their minds between uneasiness and satisfaction. But how ought they to have behaved on such an occasion ? Surely, they ought rather to have endeavoured to testify their gratitude to their deceased friend, than to proclaim their hopes of the future. Surely even the Successor must suppose their love to wear the face of adulation, which so quickly changed the object. However, the very same day on which the old king died, they made rejoicing for the new For my part, I have no conception of this new manner of mourning and rejoicing in a breath ; of being merry and sad ; of mixing a funeral procession with a jig and a bonfire. At least, it would have been just, that they who flattered the King while living for virtues which he had not, should lament him dead for those he really had.


In this universal cause for national distress, as I had no interest myself, so it is but natural to suppose, I felt no real affliction. In all the losses of our friends, says an European philosopher, we first consider how much our own welfare is affected by their departure, and moderate our real grief just in the same proportion. Now, as I had neither received nor expected to receive favours from Kings or their flatterers ; as I had no acquaintance in particular with their late monarch; as I knew that the place of a king is soon supplied; and as the Chinese proverb has it, that though the world may sometimes want coblers to mend their shoes, there is no danger of its wanting Emperors to rule their kingdoms; from such considerations I could bear the loss of a King with the most philosophic resignation. However, I thought it my duty at least to appear sorrowful; to put on a melancholy aspect, or to set my face by that of the people.

The first company I came amongst after the news became general, was a set of jolly companions who were drinking prosperity to the ensuing reign. I entered the room with looks of despair, and even expected applause for the superlative misery of my countenance. Instead of that, I was universally condemned by the company for a grimacing son of a whore, and desired to take away my penitential phyz to some other quarter. I now corrected my former mistake, and with the most sprighily air imaginable entered a company where they were talking over the ceremonies of the approaching funeral. Here I sat for some time with an air of pert vivacity ; when one of the chief mourners immediately observing my good humour, desired me, if I pleased, to go and grin somewhere else; they wanted no disaffected Scoundrels there. Leaving this company therefore, I was resolved to assume a look perfectly neutral ; and have ever since been studying the fashionable air; something between jest and earnest ; a complete virginity of face, uncontaminated with the smallest symptom of meaning


But though grief be a very slight affair here, the mourning, my friend, is a very important concern. When an Emperor dies in China, the whole expense of the solemnities is defrayed from the royal coffers. When the great die here, Mandarines are ready enough to order mourning ; but I do not see they are so ready to pay for it. If they send me down from court the gray undress frock, or the black coat without pocket holes, I am willing enough to comply with their commands, and wear both ; but by the head of Confucius ! to be obliged to wear black, and buy it into the bargain, is more than my tranquillity of temper can bear. What, order me to wear mourning before they know whether I can buy it or no! Fum thou son of Fo, what sort of a people am I amongst ; where being out of black is a certain symptom of poverty; where those who have miserable faces, cannot have mourning, and those who have mourning will not wear a miserable face?

« ПредишнаНапред »