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European science, and that there are weighty reasons to believe that the compass, gun-powder and printing have been known to them for centuries. As to their internal polity, their morality, their advances in civilization, "shadows, clouds and darkness" still, in a great measure, “rest upon them."
The Jesuits obtained a footing in China towards the close of the sixteenth century, and with their limited means of information, were generally diligent, honest and talented collectors. In making the map of China, in their expeditions with the emperor, and their intercourse with their proselytes, they possessed advantages since enjoyed by none, but they were restricted to certain limits, and cautiously watched by a people and government jealous to excess of foreigners. Their accounts have been often charged with exaggeration and falsehood: yet on comparing their statements with the discoveries of others, (for so every little acquisition of knowledge on the subject may be called) it will be evident that they have spoken in good faith and candour, and that no more error or discrepancy is to be found in them, than would necessarily result from different talents, prejudices, or means of information. True it is they were educated in the shades of the cloister far from the busy haunts of men, and hence, often exhibit an ignorance of human nature, a credulity and love of the marvellous, which impairs the value of their narratives, nor can it be denied that their delight in their successful endeavours for their cause, tempted them in the fulness of feeling, to paint every thing in the most brilliant colours. The grasping ambition so often attributed to the Society of Jesus, seemed to have had little to do in the missions of China. Such men as Ricci, Schaal, Verbiest, Gervillon, Parennin, &c. who, with talents and learning sufficient to have raised them to eminence in any part of Europe, lived persecuted and died poor, could have had no other motive than enthusiastic zeal and disinterested ardour for the propagation of their tenets. Well would it be for the interests of mankind, if all missionaries carried abroad equal attainments; they would leave knowledge, at least, if they failed in leaving Christianity !
Instead of being perunitted, like the missionaries, to view the country, or to have extensive intercourse with the inhabitants, the different European embassies to the Celestial Empire, always surrounded by vigilant guards, have merely enjoyed the roadside prospect and occasional glimpses of a few cities. During the time the Dutch ambassadors, Goyer and Keyser, (1655) were in Pekin, they were not permitted to go out once to gratify their curiosity, and throughout their whole route were attended VOL IV.NO. 7.
by soldiers.* The Russian ambassador, Ismayloff, (1729) was received by a guard at his entrance into China, and a continued surveillance was kept up during his stay; Lange, one of his suite, who was left at Pekin, was still more rigorously watched.t The two English ambassadors, McCartney and Amherst, were quite as cautiously guarded, according to Staunton and Ellis ; or as Anderson, who accompanied Lord McCartney, says, “we entered the empire like paupers, remained in it like prisoners, and quitted it like vagrants !"
So particular are the Chinese, that in the Russian embassy under Ismayloff, the women were refused admittance at the frontier by the conductor, who said “they had women enough in Pekin already; and as there never had been a European woman in China, he could not be answerable for introducing the first without a special order from the emperor.” Lord Amherst's band of music was sent back after it had performed a good part of the journey to the capital. According to Vau Braam, the Dutch embassy under Mr. Titsingh, (1794) was scrupulously watched, and, indeed, the same testimony is furnished by every European inthat country.|| From persons thus held in continued durance, certainly, limited information must be expectedparticularly, as the ambassadors in every instance, (Sir George Staunton excepted, who was joined in the embassy with Lord Amherst,) were profoundly ignorant of the Chinese language. Still the ambassadors were generally men of talents and education, with intelligent observers in their trains, and something has been added by their missions to the previous stock of knowledge. Of the tourists in that region since 1700, Bell of Antermony, who accompanied Ismayloff, is one of the most sensible, impartial and interesting. His clear, easy style, and enumeration of objects in passing the arid steppes of Mongolia, at first seemed to us like an imitation of Xenophon's descriptions of the desert in his march against the Great King, but the resemblance is more probably aided by the perfect similarity of the scenes. His course was nearly that followed by the author at the head of our article, and we have been surprised to find that Mr. Timkowski has often copied him even to the very words.
It is to be regretted that Lord McCartney did not give to the world his own account of his embassy, as it is said he formed a much more favourable idea of China than any of his suite; the specimens given by Dr. Barrow shew that his Lordship was a judicious observer and an elegant writer.* The account of Sir George Leonard Staunton is impartial, abounding in information though soinewhat monotonous. As much cannot be said for Ellis narrative of Lord Amherst's mission. It appears to be the journal of a man of tolerable understanding, without the least talent for description; who keeps his eyes wide open, sets down helter-skelter every thing he sees, and then sends his uncorrected notes to the press with all their imperfections on their head. Van Braam's book is well enough; he was a good agri, culturist, and throws more light on that subject than any of the other travellers. Barrow had science enough, and De Guignes sufficient knowledge of the language to gain much useful information, but they are both so overdone with prejudice, especially the former, that their narratives cannot be read without distrust.
* Nieuhoff-Hist. Gen. des Voyages, v. 280.
Staunton's Embassy to China, ii. 34. Ellis' account, 218.
Some other travellers might be cited, but they have not generally possessed the advantages of those alluded to; as foreigners, particularly engaged in mercantile pursuits, are confined exclusively to their places of destination. We cannot, however, pass over Sonnerat, certainly a man of science, who, shut up in the narrow bounds allotted to strangers in Canton, has ventured to give an account, most profusely wormwooded, of the maoners, customs and state of society in China, with as much confidence as if he had traversed the whole empire.
Among the old writers, as Carpini, Rubruquis, Marco Polo, &c. much curious information respecting China and even Mongolia, may be collected. The most valuable is Marco Polo, a Venetian gentleman, who travelled through those countries in 1250, and gave an account of them, which, independent of its apparent veracity, has been amply corroborated by succeeding authorities, most of which are collected in Marsden's erudite and excellent edition. Indeed, so invariable have been the customs, appearance and general civilization of China, that a few years or a few centuries appear to make no great difference in the applicableness of a description. Still, we repeat, that our knowledge of China is bounded by a few additions to, or corrections of the abundant materials of the Jesuits. We cannot yet dispense with Du Halde, Mailla, Grosier, &c.
With the Chinese language and literature, we have been more particularly acquainted through the labours of Sir George Staunton, Dr. Marsbinan, Messrs. Morrison, Davis, Des Guignes, Remusat, Julien, Klaproth, &c. The translation of the laws of China by Sir George Staunton, has lifted the veil from many portions of their internal polity, bid before in impenetrable darkness, or but dimly shadowed forth. The observation of Gibbon, that “the laws of a nation form the most instructive part of its history” is true to a great extent; yet the bare inspection of a code without explanation, would often entirely misguide as to the genius and spirit of a nation. Laws are frequently passed for particular emergencies, and expire with those emergencies; or for cases that never oceur, obsolete and impracticable clauses still figure among existing regulations, and the most sanguinary enactments are tempered by the discretion and mercy of the executive power. In taking the laws of England for the basis of our jurisprudence, many of the remnants of a barbarous age yet stand as a dead letter on our own code, and many of our early colonial institutions maintain a quiet place in the statute-book, though the causes that gave them birth have long ceased to exist. We believe that by the laws of South-Carolina every citizen is obliged to go to church with his gun on his shoulder, in order to guard against the sudden attacks of the Indians, and that a reward is still offered for the ears of wolves and bears, thereby proving the terror in which the good citizens are kept by the aforesaid sylvan beasts.
* In Barrow's Travels in China, and his Life of Lord McCartney.
We are inclined to think that the most accurate ideas of the private manners of the Chinese are to be drawn from their own novels, of which several have lately been translated, especially the very interesting one of Ju-Kiao-Li. A more correct idea must be given of their feelings, manner of thinking and customs by the Chinese themselves, than could possibly be conveyed by any stranger, however well informed. In all countries, good novels give us the best pictures of the times, after making all allowances for occasional high colouring--they are beautified portraits, but still portraits. We have no doubt that the works of Fielding, Miss Burney, or Miss Edgeworth would afford a clearer insight into English manners in the different periods in which they were written than could be given by scores of intelligent Chinese travellers, with every facility afforded to them, instead of being shackled as all foreigners have been in China. Tothe Jesuits we are also indebted for the most ample details asto Mongolia, which most of our geographical works still make a part of Chinese Tartary, though there is not a Tartar in the whole region, and the language is entirely different from the Tartar dialect. Gerbillon, Verbiest, and those employed by the emperor of China in making the map of that country, viz: Fathers Jartoux, Bonjour and Fridelli, in 1711, possessed opportunities not attainable by others. Indeed, Mongolia, although a part of the Chinese empire, or rather governed by its own princes feudatory to China, has been forbidden to all but the Jesuits, and the Russians, who, by treaty, carry on an extensive overland commerce through it to China. The Russians have also a regular established religious and scientific mission at Pekin, a privilege conceded to no other nation in Europe.
“ On the 14th of June 1728, [states Mr. Timkowski,) a treaty of peace was concluded between Count Vladislavitsch, Russian ambassador extraordinary, and the ministers of China. The fifth article is in the following terms:- The Russians shall henceforth occupy, at Pekin, the kouan or court which they now inhabit. According to the desire of the Russian ambassador, a church shall be built with the assistance of the Chinese government. The priest who now resides there, and the three others who are expected, shall live in the kouan above mentioned. These three priests shall be attached to the same church, and receive the same provisions as the present priest. The Russians shall be permitted to worship their God according to the rites of their religion. Four young students, and two of a more advanced age, acquainted with the Russian and Latin languages, shall also be received into this house, the ambassador wishing to leave them at Pekin to learn the languages of the country. They shall be maintained at the expense of the emperor, and shall be at liberty to return to their own country as soon as they have finished their studies." Vol. i. p. 2.
The students all reside in the kouan, a vast building, destined partly for the use of the Russian embassies, and one portion for the convent; and are obliged to study the Mantchoo and Chinese languages, and to acquire an accurate knowledge of China. They have ample time to accomplish their object, as the residence of each mission is fixed at ten years, but the period is often much protracted. With such advantages we may wonder, with the translator, that the Russians “long since have not made us fully acquainted with every thing relative to the bistory, the institutions, the government, &c. of this great empire, and its extensive dependences."
Mr. Timkowski was appointed to conduct a new mission in 1820, from Kiakhta, on the Russian frontier to the Chinese capital, and to bring back the former mission which had been there since 1808. The new mission consisted of an Archimandrate, who was at the head of it, five other ecclesiastics of an inferior rank, and four young men from twenty-two to twentyseven. There were besides, an inspector of the baggage, a Mongol and a Mantchoo interpreter, and thirty Cossacs to guard the baggage. Ten covered carts, each drawn by three horses, conveyed the members of the mission, and the baggage was carried by camels. Moreover, there were twenty spare camels,