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the teachings of Confucius and Mencius were too well understood among the people to be uprooted or overridden. The complete separation of the state religion from the worship of the common people accounts for the remarkable freedom of belief on religious topics. Mohammedanism and Buddhism, Taoist ceremonies and Lama temples, are all tolerated in a certain way, but none of them have at all interfered with the state religion and the autocracy of the monarch as the Son of Heaven. They are, as every one knows, all essentially idolatrous, and the coming struggle between these various manifestations of error and the revealed truths and requirements of the Bible has only begun to cast its shadow over the land. The more subtile conflict, too, between the preaching of the Cross and faith alone in its Sacrifice for salvation, and reliance on good works, and priestly interference in every form, has not yet begun at all.
The power of Buddhism in China has been owing chiefly to its ability and offer to supply the lack of certainty in the popular notions respecting a future state, and the nature of the gods who govern man and creation. Confucius uttered no speculations about those nnseen things, and ancestral worship confined itself to a belief in the presence of the loved ones, who were ready to accept the homage of their children. That longing of the soul to know something of the life beyond the grave was measurably supplied by the teachings of Sakyamuni and his disciples, and, as was the case with Confucius, was illustrated and enforced by the earnest, virtuous life of their founder. Though the sect did not receive the imperial sanction till about A.D. - 65, these teachings must have gradually grown familiar during the previous age. The conflict of opinions which erelong arose between the definite practical maxims of the Confucian moralists, and the vague speculations, well-defined good works, and hopeful though unproved promises of future well-being, set forth by the Hindoo missionaries, has continued ever since. It is an instructive chapter in human experience, and affords another illustration of the impossibility of man's answering Job’s great question, “But how shall man be just with God ?” The early sages opened no outlook into the blank future, offered no hopes of life, love, happiness, or reunion with the friends gone before, and their disciples necessarilly fell back into helpless fatalism. Buddhism said, Keep my ten commandments, live a life of celibacy and contemplation, pray, fast, and give alms, and according to your works you will become pure, and be rewarded in the serene nirvana to which all life tends. But the Buddhist priesthood had no system of schools to teach their peculiar tenets, and, as there is only one set of books taught in the common schools, the elevating precepts
of the sages brought forth their proper fruit in the tender mind. Poverty, idleness, and vows made by parents in the day of adversity to dedicate a son or a daughter to the life-long service of Buddha, still supply that priesthood with most of its members. The majority are unable to understand their own theological literature, and far more is known about its peculiar tenets in Europe than among the mass of the Chinese. The Confucianist, in his pride of office and learning, may ridicule their mummeries, but in his hour of weakness, pain, and death he turns to them for help, for he has nowhere else to go. Both are ignorant of the life and light revealed in the gospels, and ory out “Who will show us any good ?"
If the mythology of Buddhism was trivial and jejune, as we judge it after comparing it with the beautiful imagery and art of Greece and Egypt, it brought in nothing that was licentious in its rites, or cruel in its sacrifices. Coming from India, where worship of the gods involved the prostitution of women, the adoration of the lingam, and the sacrifice of human beings, Buddhism was remarkably free from all revolting features. If it had nothing to offer the Chinese higher in morals or more exalted or true in its conception of the universe or its Maker, it did not sanction impurity or murder, or elevate such atrocities above the reach of law by making them sacred to the gods. This last cutrage of the Prince of Darkness on the soul of man, so common in Western Asia, has never been known or accepted to any great extent in the Middle Kingdom. The words of Moses (Leviticus xviii, 25, 28), asserting that it was because of these abominations among the Canaanites that they were punished, and that for such things "the land itself vomited out her inhabitants,” may be adduced as one reason why God has preserved the Chinese, who have not practiced them.
But, while it is true that Buddhism gave them a system of precepts and observances that set before them just laws and high motives for right actions, and proportionate rewards for the good works it enjoined, it could not furnish the highest standards, sanctions, and inducements for holy living. On becoming a part of the people, the Buddhists soon entered into their religious life as acknowledged teachers. They adapted their own tenets to the national mythology, took its gods and gave it theirs, acted as mediators and interpreters between men and gods, the living and the dead, and shaped popular belief on all these mysteries. The well-organized hierarchy numbered its members by myriads, and yet history records no successful attempt on its part to usurp political power, or place the priest above the laws. This tendency was always checked by the literati, who really had in the
classics a higher standard of ethical philosophy than the Buddhists, and would not be driven from their position by imperial orders, nor coaxed by specious arguments to yield their ground. Constant discussions on these points have served to keep alive a spirit of inquiry and rivalry, and preserve both from stagnation. Though Buddhism, in its vagaries and will-worship, gave them nothing better than husks, but hypocrisy in place of devotion, taught its own dogmas instead of truth, and left its devotees with no sense of sin against any law, yet its salutary influence on the national life of China can not be denied. It has had a long trial, as well as Confucianism, and both have proved their inability to lead man to a knowledge of God, or give peace to his soul.
It remains, in this estimate of the molding influences on Chinese character, to refer only to Taoism and Mohammedanism. Lao-tsz', the founder of the sect of Rationalists, was a contemporary of Confucius, and one of the most acute and original minds of his nation. The tenets of the two have been taught side by side for twenty-five centuries, and have rather acted as complementary to each other than antagonistic; the first entertaining speculative minds by its intangible subtilties; the other proving its usefulness by telling mankind what they ought to do. Its followers have furnished thousands of volumes no more useful than the treatises of monkish schoolmen, and are now chiefly regarded as adepts in all occult lore, and masters of sorcery and alchemy.
The introduction of Islamism was so gradual that it is not easy to state the date or manner. The trade between China and ports lying on the Arabian Sea early attracted its adherents, and its missionaries came by ships to the seaports, especially to Canton and Hangchow. They likewise formed a large portion of the caravans which went to and fro through Central Asia, and seem to have been received without resistance, if not with favor, until they grew, by natural increase, to be a large and an integral part of the population. Mosques were built, schools taught, pilgrimages made, books printed, and converts were allowed to exercise their rites, without any serious hindrance, almost from first. Yet the tenets of the Prophet have made no real impression on the national life, and the number of his followers forms only a small proportion of the whole. The two great features of the faith, viz., the existence of one only true God, and the wickedness of idolatry, have not been kept hidden; but, though promulgated, they have not been accepted outside of the sect, and have not made the least impression on the state religion. The reasons for this are not far to seek. The rigid rule that the Koran must not be translated has kept it out of the reach of the literati, and the faithful could not even appeal to it in support of their belief, for not one in a myriad knew how to read it. The Chinese could not learn Arabic, and there was no sword hanging over them, as was the case in Persia, to force them into the ranks. The simplicity of the state religion and ancestral worship gave very little handle to iconoclasts to declaim against polytheism and idolatry. The prohibition of pork to all true believers was a senseless injunction among a frugal people which depended largely on swine for meat, and had never felt any the worse, bodily or mentally, for its use; and the inhibition of wine was needless among so temperate a race as the Chinese. Those who liked to keep Friday or other days as fasts, practice circumcision as a symbol of faith, and worship in a temple without images, could do so if they chose; but they must obey the laws of the land, and honor the Emperor, as good subjects. They have done so, and generally speaking have never been molested on account of their faith. Their chief strength lies in the northern part, and the recent struggle in the northwestern provinces, which has cost so many myriads of lives, began almost wholly at the instigation of Turk or Tartar sectaries, and was a simple trial of strength as to who should rule. While cities and towns in Kansuh occupied by them were destroyed in 1860-1870, the two hundred thousand Moslems in Peking remained perfectly quiet, and were unmolested by the authorities.
In this survey of Chinese institutions it has been shown that the empire has owed much of its security to its isolation and the difficulty of large invading armies reaching it. The early ages of feudalism, which developed the national character by sectional rivalries, was succeeded by a great central government founded on popular consent, which molded these states on democratic principles, and prevented both a landed and hereditary aristocracy that could appropriate large tracts of country and engross both power and labor. The eligibility of men from all classes to office, according to their literary attainments, secured on the whole the most cultivated minds for the leading ones, and prevented the domination of mere soldiers over the liberties and property of their countrymen. On the other hand, the struggles of ignorant multitudes, led by designing demagogues to assert their rights by destroying their oppressors, have not resulted in any permanent changes, for such commotions have been riots and not revolutions, no assertion of principles being involved in them. The position of the sovereign, as vicegerent of Heaven and Earth, made him alone responsible to them for the good government of the land, and rendered a priesthood needless. The nature of the ancestral worship, of which the state religion is an outgrowth, likewise called for no priestly officers, either to absolve the worshipers or intercede for them, to explain the holy books, or call on the gods,
much less punish and destroy those who refused compliance. Tlie throne could not gather a class of supporting nobles around its steps, and thus erect an official order, for the system of competitive examinations has already opened the avenues of rank and power to all, by teaching the candidates how to maintain the principles of liberty and equality they had learned from Confucius and Mencius. This absence of an hereditary nobility neutralized the evils and crippled the power of caste and slavery, which would perhaps have grown out of such a form of feudalism. Finally, the great respect paid to parents and superiors, the social status of women, the legal safeguards of life and property, and the possession of a fertile soil, temperate climate, and rich resources—all these taken together appear to satisfactorily account for the permanency and character or Chinese institutions.
All that these institutions need, to secure and promote the highest welfare of the people, as they themselves aver, is their faithful execution in every department of government: and no higher evidence of their remarkable wisdom can be adduced than the general order and peace of the land. When one sees the injustice and oppressions in the courts, the feuds and deadly fights among the clans, the prevalence of lying, ignorance, pollution, and other more serious crimes, and the unscrupulous struggle for a living going on in every rank of life, he wonders that universal anarchy does not destroy the whole machine. But the same truthful expounder of human society, which has been already quoted, furnishes us with a partial solution in the declaration, “The powers that be are ordained of God.” The Chinese seem to have attained the great ends of human government to as high a degree as it is possible for man to go without the knowledge of his revelation. That, in its great truths, rewards or punishments, its hopes, and its stimulus to good acts by faith working by love, has yet to be received by them. The course and results of the struggle between the new and the old in the land of Sinim will form a remarkable chapter in the history of man.
THE PROVERBS AND COMMON SAYINGS OF THE CHINESE.
BY REV. ARTHUR H. SMITH. IT is to be supposed that every one who makes any pretensions to
a knowledge of the Chinese language, will gain some kind of acquaintance with its classical writings. It is not thought necessary to commit them to memory, or to be examined upon their contents, but we should at least know what they are, and what they are about. We cannot expect to make much headway with the Chinese, or with