ePub 版

are educated, all must be educated. According to Mr. Davis, a statute was in existence two thousand years ago, which required that every town and village, down even to a few families, should have a common school; and one work, of a date anterior to the Christian era, speaks of the “ancient system of instruction.” There are annual examinations in the provinces, and triennial examinations at Peking, which are resorted to by throngs of ambitious students. The whole Empire is a university, a mighty laboratory of scholars. The happy men who pass successfully through the several ordeals necessary to be undergone, are loaded with distinctions. They are feasted at the expense of the nation; their names and victories are published throughout the Empire; they are courted and caressed; and they become, ipso facto, eligible to all the offices within the gift of the sovereign. All this is that the Emperor may “pluck out the true talent” of the land, and employ it in the administration of the government. The fourteen thousand civil mandarins are, almost without exception, the beaua esprits—the best scholars —of the realm. Educated talent here enjoys its just consideration. All other titles to respect, all other qualifications for office, are held as naught compared with this. This, undoubtedly, in connexion with the rigid enforcement of the doctrine of responsibility, is the true secret of the greatness and prosperity, the stability and repose, of the Celestial Empire. For, as Dr. Milne truly remarks, they are the ambitious who generally overturn governments; but in China there is a road open to the ambitious, without the dreadful alternative of revolutionizing the country. All that is required of a man is that he should give some proof of the possession of superior abilities; not an unreasonable requisition certainly. Dr. Morrison has given a very curious and interesting account of the principles of study upon which the aspirants for literary and political honours are enjoined to proceed. There exists, it would seem, a work which might properly enough be called a treatise on the conduct of the understanding. The first thing needful is to “form a resolution.” This must be “firm and persevering.” Their maxim is that “the object on which a determined resolution rests must succeed.” The use of common-place books, frequent repetitions, reflection, fixed attention, patient plodding, thoroughness, the mastery of a little rather than the skimming over of much, the diligent improvement of scraps of time, and many other excellent rules, are earnestly enjoined. There is a a vein of common sense and practical wisdom running through this development of the principles of mental culture, which cannot fail to increase our respect for the people where such rules prevail. The Chinese are a reading people, and the number of their published works is very considerable. In the departments of morals, history, biography, the drama, poetry, and romance, there is no lack of writings, “such as they are.” Of statistical works the number is also very large. Their novels are said to be, many of them, excellent pictures of the national manners. The plot is often very complex, the incidents natural, and the characters well sustained. China has had, too, her Augustan age of poetry. It is remarkable that this brilliant epoch in Chinese letters was during the eighth century of our era, when almost the whole of Europe was sunk in gross ignorance and barbarism. We subjoin a single specimen of their poetry, in a touching little piece, published in the second volume of the Royal Asiatic Transactions, and written 3000 years ago. Besides the pleasure its intrinsic beauty will afford, it offers a convincing proof of the substantial identity of human feelings in all times and countries. The piece bemoans the fate of a maiden, betrothed to an humbler rival, but compelled to become the bride of a rich and powerful suitor:—


The nest yon winged artist builds,
Some robber bird shall tear away;

So yields her hopes the affianced maid,
Some wealthy lord's reluctant prey.


The fluttering bird prepares a home,
In which the spoiler soon shall dwell;

Forth goes the weeping bride, constrained,
A hundred cars the triumph swell.


Mourn for the tiny architect,
A stronger bird hath ta'en its nest;

Mourn for the hapless, stolen bride,
How vain the pomp to soothe her breast !

In their education, the greatest stress is in the inculcation of the social and political duties. Their teaching is chiefly by authority. Hence the great use made of maxims. These are suspended upon the walls of every apartment, where they are constantly seen and read from early childhood to decrepit old age. They say, “Good sayings are like pearls strung together: inscribe them on the walls of your dwelling, and regard them night and day as wholesome admonitions.” Of their maxims we have numerous specimens in this Collection of Mr. Dunn. They are suspended upon the walls of several of the apartments, and upon all the columns. We have before us a volume of these apothegms, selected, compiled, and translated by J. F. Davis, Esq. Mr. D. justly remarks

that as, according to the Chinese proverb, “a man’s conversation is the mirror of his thoughts, so the maxims of a people may be considered as a medium which reflects with tolerable accuracy the existing state of their manners and ways of thinking.” In the work of Mr. D. there is both a literal and a free translation. In the few specimens subjoined, we shall take the former in preference, as affording some insight into the grammatical structure of their language, as well as their modes of thinking:— “Mulberry slip accords with its youthful bent.” “Emperor offending against the laws, with people's the same crime is.” “Loving your child, much give the cudgel; hating your child, much give to eat.” “In learning, no aged nor youthful; learned who is, is the first.” “High talking and big expressions not have one speck of true action.” “Not to attend to small actions ultimately involves great virtue.”

XII. Fourth Wall Case, with the two opposite.

The fourth case introduces us to a group of Chinese beauties. We have here three young ladies of rank, in full costume. Their hair, which is done up on the back of the head in bunches, and fastened with two bodkins stuck in crosswise, is gaily adorned with wreaths of flowers. There is considerable variety in their dresses, but they are all of the richest materials, and magnificently embroidered. They are exceedingly modest and becoming, concealing entirely the contour of the person. The exposure which fashion allows to European and American ladies, would be looked upon by Chinese women as a flagrant offence against true modesty. The “golden lilies,” as the small feet are called, figure, we cannot say “largely,” but interestingly, in these fair ones. Their hands are very delicate; their eyebrows gracefully arched; their features regular and oval; their noses too flat for beauty; and the whole countenance, though rather pretty, and certainly not unamiable, is deficient in strength of expression. Their occupations are characteristic ; one of them is fingering a guitar, another is smoking, while the third is amusing herself with a fan. From the waist depends the never absent tobacco-pouch, elegant in material, form, and workmanship. Each has three plain rings in either ear. The footstools upon which their “golden lilies” rest, are covered with embroidered silk. This case also contains two female domestics, with feet of the natural size, as it is only parents of the wealthier sort who can afford to their daughters the luxury of small feet. One of them is bringing tea to her mistress, in a cup with a saucer-like cover. The common mode of making tea in China, is to place a few leaves in each cup, and pour boiling water upon them. The cups are always provided with tops, to preserve the delicate aroma of the tea, and the infusion is drunk without admixture of any kind. The women of China, as in all other countries not blessed with Christianity, occupy a rank in society far inferior to that of the men. Nevertheless, their place on the social scale is higher, their influence greater, and their treatment better, than can be predicated of the sex in any other Asiatic nation. Of school education the mass receive none, though there are occasionally shining exceptions; but Gutzlaff ascribes to them the possession of a large share of common sense, and says that they make devoted wives and tender mothers. The generality of Chinese ladies cannot boast of great beauty. They make a free use of rouge, and this article

« 上一頁繼續 »