Puslapio vaizdai

people, and the little regard which was paid to Cyrus, Solomon, Plato, Zeno, and others, by their countrymen of after-ages? The solution is, if anywhere, to be found in the prevalence of popular education from very early times. This gradually elevated literary above warlike and mercantile pursuits, and prepared the way for the adoption of the system of competitive examinations for eligibility to office, which originated about B.C. 150 by the Han dynasty.

The pure teachings in practical morality of the nine classics had by that time come to be regarded as of the highest authority. When Liu Pang obtained the throne of all China (B.c. 202), the long struggle of forty years had destroyed all the feudal kings and aristocracy with their several states, and left a clear field for the Emperor to select the best men from every rank of life. He naturally looked to the literati, whose studies in those political ethics had fitted them somewhat for carrying precept into practice; and the examinations for office are still restricted to subjects drawn from those books. Strictly speaking, no religious system is therein taught, for their purpose is to inculcate the highest morality and the best government, as founded on human experience.

The boy commences his education by learning these maxims; and by the time he has got his degree, and long before, too, the highest truths and examples he knows of are more deeply impressed on his mind than Biblical truths and examples are on graduates of Yale, Oxford, Heidelberg, or the Sorbonne. The honor and power of official position and the high standing paid to scholarship have proved to be ample stimulus and reward for years of patient study. Not one in a score of graduates ever obtains an office, and not one in a hundred of competitors ever gets a degree; but they all belong to the literary class, and share in its influence, dignity, and privileges. Moreover, these books render not only those who get the prizes well acquainted with the true principles on which power should be exercised, but the whole nation-gentry and commoners-know them also. These unemployed literati form a powerful middle class, whose members advise the workpeople who have no time to study, and aid their rulers in the management of local affairs. Their intelligence fits them to control most of the property, while few acquire such wealth as gives them the power to oppress. They make the public opinion of the country, now controlling it, then cramping it; alternately adopting or resisting new influences, and sometimes successfully thwarting the acts of officials, when the rights of the people are in danger of encroachment; or at other times combining with the authorities to repress anarchy or relieve suffering.

This class has no badge of rank, and is open to every man's highest talent and efforts, but its complete neutralization of hereditary rights, which would have sooner or later made a privileged oligarchy and a landed or feudal aristocracy, proves its vitalizing, democratic influence. It has saved the Chinese people from a second disintegration into numerous kingdoms, by the sheer force of instruction in the political rights and duties taught in the classics and their commentaries. While this system put all on equality, human nature, as we know, has no such equality. At its inception it probably met general support from all classes, because of its fitness for the times, and soon the resistance of myriads of hopeful students against its abrogation and their consequent disappointment in their life-work aided its continuance. As it is now, talent, wealth, learning, influence, paternal rank, and intrigue, each and all have full scope for their greatest efforts in securing the prizes. If these prizes had been held by a tenure as slippery as they are in the American Republic, or obtainable only by canvassing popular votes, the system would surely have failed, for "the game would not have been worth the candle." But in China the throne gives a character of permanency to the Government, which opposes all disorganizing tendencies, and makes it for the interest of every one in office to strengthen the power which gave it to him. This loyalty was remarkably shown in the recent rebellion, in which, during the eighteen years of that terrible carnage and ruin, not one imperial official voluntarily joined the Taipings, while hundreds died resisting them.

We have no space for extracts from the classics which will adequately show their character. They would prove that Chinese youth, as well as those in Christian lands, are taught a higher standard of conduct than they follow. The former are, however, drilled in the very best moral books the language affords; and, if the Proverbs of Solomon and the New Testament were studied as thoroughly in our schools as the "Four Books" are in China, our young men would be better fitted to act their part as good and useful citizens.

In this way literary pursuits have taken precedence of warlike, and no unscrupulous Cæsar or Napoleon has been able to use the army for his own aggrandizement. The army of China is contemptible, certainly, if compared with those of Western nations, and its use is rather like a police, whose powers of protection or oppression are exhibited according to the tempers of those who employ them. But in China the army has not been employed, as it was by those great captains, to destroy the institutions on which it rests; though its weakness and want of discipline often make it a greater evil than good

to the people. But, if the army had become strong and efficient, it would certainly have become a terror in the hands of ambitious monarchs, a drain on the resources of the land, and perhaps a menace to other nations, or finally a destroyer of its own. The officials were taught, when young, what to honor in their rulers; and, now that they hold those stations, they learn that discreet, upright magistrates do receive reward and promotion, and experience has shown them that peace and thrift are the ends and evidence of good government, and the best tests of their own fitness for office.

Another observable result of this republican method of getting the best-educated men into office is the absence of any class of slaves or serfs among the population. Slavery exists in a modified form of corporeal mortgage for debt, and thousands remain in this serfdom for life through one reason or another. But the destruction of a feudal baronage involved the extinction of its correlative, a villein class, and the oppression of poor debtors, as was the case in Rome under the consuls. Only freemen are eligible to enter the concours, but the percentage of slaves is too small to influence the total. To this cause, too, may, perhaps, to a large degree, be ascribed the absence of anything like caste, which has had such bad effects in India.

Before speaking of the religious condition of the Chinese, the evil results and defects of their system of education and competitive examination ought to be noticed. It will require years for them to fully understand wherein it has failed, but happily they have now begun to enter this upward path. The language itself, which has for centuries aided in preserving their institutions, and strengthening national homogeneity amid so many local varieties of speech, is now rather in the way of their progress; for it is impossible for a native to write a treatise on grammar about another language in his own language, through which another Chinese can, unaided, learn to read or speak that language. The Chinese people have therefore had no ready means of learning the best thoughts of other minds. Such being the case, the ignorance of their best educated scholars about other races, ages, and lands, has been their misfortune far more than their fault, and they have suffered the evils of their isolation. One has been an utter ignorance of what would have done them lasting good in morals, sciences, and politics. Neither geography, natural history, mathematics, astronomy, nor history of other lands, now forms part of the curriculum; and the men trained in the classics have therefore grown up with distorted views of their own country. The officials are imbued with conceit, ignorance, and arrogance as to its power, resources, and position in comparison with other nations, and are helpless when met

by greater skill and strength. However, these disadvantages, great as they have been and still are, have mostly been a natural result of their secluded position, and are rapidly yielding to the new influences which are acting upon the people and government. Well will it be for both, if these causes do not disintegrate their ancient economies too fast for the recuperation and preservation of whatever is good in them.

The last point in the Chinese polity which has had great influence in preserving it is the religious beliefs recognized by the people and rulers. There are three sects (san kiao) which are usually called Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism, or Rationalism; the first is a foreign term, and vaguely denotes the belief of the literati generally, including the state religion. These three sects do not interfere with each other, however, and a man may worship at a Buddhist shrine, or join in a Taoist festival, while he accepts all the tenets of Confucius, and worships him on state occasions; much as a lawyer in England may attend a Quaker meeting, or the Governor of a State in America may be a Methodist minister. The ancestral worship is never called a kiao, for everybody observes that at home just as much as he obeys his parents; it is a duty, not a sect.

The state religion of China has had a remarkable history and antiquity; and, though modified somewhat during successive dynasties, has retained its main features during the past three thousand years. The simplicity and purity of this worship have attracted the notice of many foreigners, who have disagreed on many points as to its nature and origin. Their discussions have brought out many most interesting details respecting it; and whoever has visited the great Altar and Temple of Heaven at Peking, where the Emperor and his courtiers worship, must have been impressed with its simple grandeur.

These discussions are not material to the present subject, and it is only needful to indicate two main results. The prime idea in this worship is that the Emperor is Tien-tsz, or Son of Heaven, the coördinate with Heaven and Earth, from whom he directly derives his right and power to rule on earth among mankind, the One Man who is their vicegerent and the third of the trinity (san tsai) of Heaven, Earth, and Man. With these ideas of his exalted position, he claims the homage of all his fellow-men. He can not properly devolve on any other mortal his functions of their high-priest to offer the oblations on the altars of Heaven and Earth at Peking at the two solstices. He is not, therefore, a despot by mere power, as other rulers are, but is so in the ordinance of nature, and the basis of his authority is divine. He is accountable personally to his two superordinate powers for its record and result. If the people

suffer from pestilence or famine he is at fault, and must atone by prayer, sacrifice, and reformation as a disobedient son. One defect in all human government-a sense of responsibility on the part of rulers to the God who ordains the powers that be-has thus been partly met and supplied in China. It has really been a check, too, on their tyranny and extortion; for the very books which contain this state ritual intimate the amenability of the sovereign to the Powers who appointed him to rule, and hint that the people will rise to vindicate themselves. The officials, too, all springing from the people, and knowing their feelings, hesitate to provoke a wrath which has swept away thousands of their number.

The worship of Shangti, or deified Heaven, is confined to the Emperor, for to invade this prerogative would be treasonable, and equivalent to setting up the standard of rebellion. In his capacity of vicegerent, high-priest, and mediator between his subjects and the higher Powers, there are many points of similarity with the assumptions of the Pope at Rome. The effects in China upon the nation have been both negative and positive. One of the negative effects has been to dwarf the state hierarchy to a complete nullity, to prevent the growth of a class which could or did use the power of the monarchy to strengthen its own hold upon the people as their religious advisers, and on the Government as a necessary aid to its efficiency.

We have seen that the popular rights which are so plainly taught in the classics have been inculcated and perpetuated by the common. school education, and that the ancestral worship could not admit the interference of priest, altar, or sacrifice, outside of the door-posts. Yet it is probable that all combined would have been too weak to resist the seductive introduction of a hierarchy in some form, if it had not been that the Emperor himself would not yield his own unapproachable grandeur to any man. Being everything in his own person, it is too much to expect that he is going to vacate or reduce his prerogative, surrender his right to make or degrade gods of every kind for his subjects to worship, weaken his own prestige, or mortify the pride of his fellow worshipers, the high ministers of state. The chains of caste woven in India, the fetters of the Inquisition forged in Spain, the silly rites practiced by the augurs in old Rome, or the horrid cruelties and vile worship once seen in Egypt and Syria, all done under the sanction of the state, have all been wanting along the Yellow River, and none of their evils have hampered the rule of law in China.

The emperors at various times have shown great devotion to the ceremonies and doctrines of the Buddhists and Taoists, and have built costly temples, and supported more priests than ever Jezebel did, but

« AnkstesnisTęsti »