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is to exhort men to do their duty, firstly, to men, in their various social relations; and, secondly, to the gods: and hence the two grand topics discoursed upon are Ethics and Religion.
Grave are the charges of immorality laid, in the plainest terms by these authors, against the people of the present day. The great god, Yuh-huang himself, is made to declare that, 'At present bad men fill the earth.' The following is an abbreviated list of the most prevalent sins laid to their charge: blasphemy and impiety with regard to the gods; undutifulness to parents; oppression of the people and deception of the prince; lewdness of all sorts; careless scattering about of the five kinds of grain; ridiculing and breaking the images of the gods; slaughter of oxen and dogs for food; use of false weights and measures; the injuring of others for personal profit; cheating of the good by the wicked; ill-treatment of the poor by the rich; aggravated forms of covetousness; crimes of violence; housebreaking; selling of adulterated goods; cheating the simple in buying and selling; trampling underfoot lettered paper; deceiving the aged and despising the young; breaking off of marriage contracts; striking and cursing grand-parents, etc. It would scarcely be possible for their bitterest enemies to say anything worse of the Chinese, than they say of themselves. I, for one, have no disposition to call in question the substantial accuracy of their statements. The picture, as drawn by themselves, is sad enough, revolting enough; but it furnishes a very sufficient reason for the presence of Christian missions in the land.
Against the crying evils of the times these tracts utter their strongest protests. All men ought to be on their guard, and that against everything that is contrary to the rules of propriety. Beware of drunkenness. Beware of lust. Beware of covetousness. Beware of niggardliness. Beware of violence and anger. Beware of litigation. Beware of prodigality, gambling, opium-smoking, song-singing, theatres, and the like."
That a man may be fitted to play his part in society, these tracts insist on his paying strict attention to manners, conduct, personal character, and the cultivation of virtue. Constantly seek to oblige. It is impossible to exhaust the subject of obliging others. How to do so time and circumstances will show; but let none say this is a trifling affair, and so neglect to attend to it.' 'Every man must pay strict attention to his conduct. But this is a life-work and difficult to explain fully.' Nevertheless our author descends at once to the most trivial details. Men must not omit the practice of self-examination. "Whenever you expect anything from heaven, you must consider what
your conduct merits." "Should anyone perchance speak evil of one, then it would be well for me to retire and enquire of myself whether To heart culture the utmost The preservation of the heart Everything proceeds from the
I have done anything to deserve it." importance is very properly assigned. is a matter of the first importance. heart, and if it is pure, all that comes out of it will be so; and vice versa. Good thoughts will result in good actions; and vice versa. All that you have to do is to expel evil thoughts, and in all affairs to preserve an upright disposition-a heart level and correct as the beam of a pair of scales.'
The Five Constituents of Work, commonly called The Five Constant Virtues, namely, Benevolence, Uprightness of Mind, Propriety in Demeanour, Knowledge or Enlightenment, and Good Faith, are clearly explained and strongly enforced. Benevolence is a virtue of
the heart, and the principle of true love. It expends itself first on men; but it extends also to animals and even to insects. The reverse of it results in hard-heartedness. . . . It is not enough that this word should be familiar to our lips; our hearts must understand it.' Uprightness of mind is the shame of doing evil; which shame will greatly prevent a man from sinning against both gods and men.' 'Propriety is the regular order of Heaven, the right rule of Earth, and the proper conduct of Man. What difference is there between persons who do not observe the rules of propriety and the brutes ?' To know and practise loyalty, filial piety, benevolence, and uprightness, and to be able to distinguish clearly between things that differ, this is knowledge.' 'Good Faith is that which controls the relations of friendship; but it is also indispensable to all the other social relations.' But even more strongly enforced than any of these is the virtue of chastity. To debauch other men's wives and daughters is, of all vices, the chief. And its judgment in the infernal world is correspondingly severe.' It is condemned on the principle of the royal law, also as a sin against one's ancestors and parents, against one's wife and daughters, and against one's sons and grandsons. For a mere short-lived gratification to bring all this enduring disgrace on several generations, is a sin reaching up to heaven, which the gods will certainly not excuse.'
Descending from the general to the particular, we come to the application of these moral precepts and warnings to the various actual relations of life. And, though not infrequently the teaching of these tracts is somewhat vague and general, they are distinguished for nothing more than for their persistent endeavour to reduce their precepts to practical applications.
The Five Relations, viz: between Sovereign and Minister, Father and Son, Husband and Wife, Elder and Younger Brothers, and between Friend and Friend-are discussed with wearisome reiteration, and with seldom a new idea; but the prominence given to this subject by all Chinese moralists renders it necessary to note as carefully as possible the teaching of their works thereon. The importance attached to the subject may be gathered from the following quotation. Turn your heart towards the right way. The way here meant is, that Ministers be loyal, Sons filial, Husbands and Wives harmonious, Brothers affectionate, and Friends faithful....Would you even desire to become one of the Genii, or a Buddha, nothing beyond strict attention to the doctrines of the Five Human Relations is needed.'
The first of the Five Relations need not detain us long. Raised by his position into a region of solitary grandeur, the Emperor is compared to the sun and the moon, and is regarded as the father of his people. It is required of him that he should be upright and impartial, and that he should keep the laws of the country like any other man. He is regarded as the formation of many blessings, of rank, emolument, order, prosperity, and tranquility. The one sun in the firmament of the state he 'rules according to propriety,' and 'controls all affairs without relaxation,' 'benefiting his subjects like refreshing rain.' His benefits reach to all, from the highest to the lowest, even to 'barbarian foreigners; therefore it becomes the duty of all to manifest their gratitude to him for his favours, mandarins of all ranks by unswerving loyalty and integrity, people by paying their taxes and keeping the peace.
It will not be such an easy matter to sum up and deal with what is written on the second relation, since this introduces us to the interminable and inexhaustible subject of filial piety.
Father and Son'
are supposed to include, although they seem altogether to ignore, Mother and Daughter. Very little is said on the subject of parental duties; and very little also on the female side at any time, and under any relation, except what is said to teach woman her duty and subordination. Her rights have not yet become a popular subject with writers of this class. Infanticide, or more particularly the drowning of female infants, is condemned, and threatened with severe punishments. 'Tigers and wolves are most cruel beasts, and yet they recognize the bond between parent and offspring; but man, the greatest of created things, is not even equal to them.' One hundred marks of merit, (in one place fifty), are assigned to the person who saves a child from being drowned; one hundred marks are given for repairing important roads and bridges.
"Honour thy Father and thy Mother," is as plainly written in these tracts as in the Bible. The first of all duties is that of filial piety.' 'Of a myriad virtues filial piety is the first.' It therefore receives an extensive treatment at the hands of the writers under review. In condensing their remarks let us first glance at the picture presented of Chinese parents, styled, even by the God of Literature, "The two Living Buddhas.' It is duly noted that from them the child derives its bodily existence. They are next pourtrayed as the nurses and bringers-up of their children. Here the descriptions are often powerful, vivid, and affecting; but they sometimes descend into such homely details as would not read well in this article. One writer, after a very fine attempt at description, bursts out, 'Where on the face of the earth, whether rich or poor, are the parents who do not love their children? But think you that the pains and trouble parents endure can be fully described? Who ever has been able to write an exhaustive account of parental goodness and virtue ?' Much credit is given to them for the part they take in promoting the education of their children, as also for their carefulness and anxiety in the selection of wives for their sons, and husbands for their daughters. Merey is supposed to be their distinctive attribute; and the conception is most appropriate and beautiful. And it seems a pity to be obliged to mar this fine ideal; but truth obliges me to do so. The God of Literature, in the tract just quoted from, destroys the force of a very striking description of parental tenderness and self sacrifice, by admitting that what the parents mainly looked out for was to have some one to take care of them in the time of old age. To secure descendants who shall worship at the ancestral graves, is also another of the selfish hopes of Chinese parents. The appeal to gratitude-'They nourished you when you were young, and you must nourish them when they are old '-is fair enough; but the view just presented of parents caring for, and rearing their children, mainly in the hope of being benefitted by them in the future, dims the lustre of parental love amazingly.
There is perhaps more difference between the ideal filial child and the real one, than has been noticed between the ideal parent and the real one. One of our writers finds great fault with the hollowness of modern filial piety, and says that, 'Sons listen with their ears but not with their hearts; they obey formally but not heartily.' Another writer says that it is very common now-a-days to neglect parents whilst living, and to make much ado about them when dead. Grievous, however, are the punishments threatened against undutiful children; parents will eyen desire to die to be released from their unkindness; and they themselves will probably be killed by a thunderstroke, which will leave, written on their backs, a sentence of condemnation.
The ideal filial son is 'loving and obedient;' he 'reverently serves his parents so as to cause them gladness of heart;' he tries to relieve them of all anxiety,' and thinks that, though he should slay himself in serving them, he could hardly recompense their favours.' Aged or infirm parents he 'feeds and clothes with kindness and thoughtfulness.' He 'daily appears before them in a jocund mood, so as to make them cheerful and happy.' He also shows his filial piety by 'taking great care of his own person, since this he received from his parents, and to neglect it is to involve them in injury.' He watches his sick parents with tender care, carefully preparing for them soups, medicines, and food; and no excuses such as 'It is an old complaint,' are allowed to damp the ardour of his filial service.' And when 'the dread calamity of their death' occurs, he 'carefully enshrouds their corpses, and attends to everything belonging to their burial with reverential care.' He does not 'allow any ideas of economy' to interfere with the gratification of his filial grief and veneration.' He "buries them according to propriety; and sacrifices to them according to propriety." He "sacrifices to them, as if they were present;" and, "though father and mother do not come to partake of the offerings, it is all the same to his heart as if they did.'
The unfilial son's character and conduct may be left to the reader's imagination; but I venture to say that the reader would never imagine that what Mencius says is true, "There are three things which are unfilial, and to have no posterity is the greatest of them."
The next of the Five Relations introduces us to the subject of marriage, in all its bearings. Marriages are commonly believed to be fated, or made in heaven, or by Heaven's appointment, or in a previous state of existence. Still certain persons, such as parents and marriage brokers, have a good deal to do with arranging them. To us it seems strange that the principals have nothing whatever to do with their own engagements. Betrothals are generally made when the parties concerned are too young to take any interest in the matter; but when such is not the case they have still little or no voice in it. There are several conditions of marriage which must be strictly observed. And should any supposed impediments exist, on either side, they must be plainly stated before hand. Persons of the same surname must not marry. There must be similarity of rank, age, and possessions. Parents are warned against coveting grand matches for their daughters. The directions of the brokers must be obeyed, and suitable betrothal presents exchanged.
(To be continued.)