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ters are veritable mendicants, ignorant, grovelling, lazy, and without influence. The only religious community in China which seems
entitled to any portion of our respect, is that which at
taches itself to the doctrines of Confucius; and this, as already hinted, is rather a sect in philosophy. than religion. The doctrines of the Confucians are embodied in nine classical or sacred books, called “The Four Books,” and “The Five Canonical Works.” These contain a complete body of rules, first, for the government of one’s self, and the regulation of social intercourse; secondly, for the government of a family, and the education of a community; and thirdly, for the government of an empire, and the management of its complex machinery. The sententious brevity of style that characterizes these celebrated productions, renders the meaning often obscure, and has induced a mass of commentaries, of formidable bulk; but it cannot be doubted that they contain many maxims just in sentiment, wise in policy, and admirably suited to the genius of the people, maxims which have conferred merited immortality upon the memory of their author, and done more for the stability of the Empire than all other causes combined. Confucius, however, avoided, almost entirely, strictly religious subjects. Dr. Morrison says that he admitted he did not understand much concerning the gods; and he adds, that his most celebrated commentator, Choo-footsze, affirmed that sufficient knowledge was not possessed to say positively that they existed. The system of Confucius is the state religion. The Emperor is Pontifex Maximus, the mandarins form the only priesthood, and the whole body of literati are its adherents. The figures, in this case, representing mourners, are habited in coarse sack-cloth, the universal mourning ap
parel in China. The shoes are white; the hair and beard are permitted to grow unshaven; and an odd species of head-gear surmounts the cranium. The full period of mourning for a parent is three years, but this is commonly reduced in practice to twenty-seven months; a shorter period is allotted for other relations. Three years must elapse after the death of a parent before a child is permitted to marry. On the death of an Emperor, his hundreds of millions of subjects mourn for him exactly as children do for a parent. All officers of government take the ball and crimson silk from their caps.
XVI. Seventh Wall Case, with the smaller Cases opposite.
This case offers to our observation some queer specimens of Chinese life. We have in it an itinerant barber, shoemaker, and blacksmith, and two boat-women, one of whom is carrying an infant on her back. The barbers in China are a numerous class. Every town is thronged with them. The reason is, that, as the head, as well as face, is shaved, no Chinaman ever shaves himself. The barbers are all ambulatory. Each carries his shop on his back, and performs his operations tonsorial in the open street. The usual implements are a stool, provided with a case of drawers, and a kind of tub, with a small charcoal furnace and a basin. We have the apparatus here complete. The operation is usually performed in perfect silence, a fact meriting the attention of our own practitioners in this line. The razor is a clumsy-looking affair, but is said to shave sufficiently well. It is sharpened on iron. No soap is used, the beard being softened by the
application of hot water alone. The compensation is left entirely to the employer’s generosity; it is commonly from five to ten cash. The ambulatory shoemaker, with his rude instruments, and his spectacles, resembling those with which idle boys in school are sometimes punished, is a study for a painter. He carries with him in a basket wherever he goes, all his implements, together with his whole stock in trade. A fan and a pipe, without which, it would almost seem, a Chinaman could not exist, complete his equipment. The visiter will notice the novel manner, in which our shoemaker’s spectacles are kept in their place. This is effected by no greater expenditure of ingenuity than is involved in passing a loop fastened to the ends of the spectacles round each ear. They are sometimes retained in their position by silver cords slung over the ears, to which small weights are attached, to preserve the equilibrium, The glasses, or rather crystals (for rock crystal, ground with the powder of corundum, supplies the place of glass,) are perfectly circular in shape, and of enormous dimensions, which gives the wearer a very sapient appearance. By the side of the honest cobler, we have an itinerant blacksmith, par nobile fratrum. He also, when inclined to try his fortune in a new place, stows forge, bellows, anvil, tools, &c., into a basket, which he slings on his shoulder, and thus takes up his line of march. This figure, with the implements and appliances that surround it, will attract special notice. The anvil, instead of having a flat surface, is slightly rounded on the top, which causes the iron to extend more readily under the hammer. The bellows is a hollow cylinder with a piston, so contrived that the blast produced by it is continuous. The Chinese have the art of repairing cast iron
vessels when injured,—an art, so far as we know, not possessed by any other nation. The female figures in this case represent a large class in China, viz. the boat-women. One of them has an infant on her back, who finds a convenient handle to hold by in her long plaited cue. She carries also a painted block of wood, which it is usual to attach to the waist of young children who live in the boats, to prevent them from sinking in case of falling overboard, till help can be afforded. The huge bamboo hats suspended on the wall of this case, deserve to be noticed. They are a capital article for a hot or rainy day, but would not be so convenient in a whirlwind. The bamboo is as useful to the Chinese as the reindeer is to the Laplander. Of this gigantic grass, or reed, there are numerous varieties, and the uses to which it has been put are quite as various. Hats, baskets, shields, umbrellas, ornamental furniture, ropes, paper, poles for scaffolding, temporary theatres, &c., are constructed from it. The young shoots are used for food, being boiled or stewed, like asparagus; and sweetmeats are sometimes made of them. The tubes serve as pipe-stems, and for every purpose wherein strength, combined with lightness is required, they are admirably suited, being formed upon the same principle as the bones of birds. Farmers make great use of the bamboo, many of their implements being formed of it; and a silicious concretion, found in the joints, is an item in the Chinese materia medica. The cases opposite to this contain specimens in Chinese Natural History, chiefly denizens of the water.
XVII. The Silk Mercer’s Shop.
This is in the north-east corner of the saloon. It is much larger than any of the cases hitherto noticed, and has been arranged so as to afford an exact idea of a Chinese retail establishment. The scene which it offers to our view, is, to our taste, more life-like than any thing else in the Collection. Two purchasers have been placed at the counter, one of whom is scrutinizing a piece of silk that lies before him. The owner, behind the counter, is carelessly leaning forward, and intent on casting an account on the “calculating dish,” while his clerk is busy making entries in the book, in doing which he shows us the Chinese mode of holding a pen, or rather brush, which is perpendicularly between the thumb and all the fingers. A servant is preparing breakfast. A circular, eight-legged table, very similar to those used by our great-grandfathers, is spread in the centre of the shop. Among its furniture, the ivory chop-sticks are the most novel. On the visiter’s right hand, sits a gentleman with a pipe, apparently a chance-comer, “just dropped in” about meal time; on the left, a blind beggar stands beating two bamboo sticks against each other, an operation with which he continues to annoy all whom he visits, till he is relieved by some trifling gratuity, usually a single cash. A gilt image of Fo is inserted in the front part of the counter, and a small covered tub filled with tea, with a few cups near by, stands on the counter, from which customers are always invited to help themselves. The merchants and shopkeepers of Canton, are prompt, active, obliging, and able. They can do an immense deal of business in a short time, and all without noise,