Слике страница

this manner, appear to be of great antiquity. As the only approach to office is through literature, the elements are very generally diffused; the examinations are made by the Hanlin, a kind of Royal Society, established by Kublai Khan, as early as 1200.* Even, according to some writers, bad writing would be sufficient ground for rejecting a candidate. Grosier relates that a "candidate for degrees having made use of an abbreviation in writing the character ma, which signifies horse, had the mortification of seeing his composition, though in other respects excellent, rejected merely on that account, besides being severely rallied by the mandarin, who told him a horse could not walk unless he had all bis legs.”+

The Chinese characters, as is well known, represent ideas and not sounds, which may be exemplified by our numerals, 1, 2, 3, 4, &c. to which all Europeans attach the same ideas, though they call them by different names. The multiplicity of characters required in this method of writing, must, of course, be a great obstruction to the ready attainment of their written language, but the difficulty has been much magnified. Mr. Davis learnt it in two years—Mr. Stanislaus Julian, a pupil of M. Abel Remusat, at Paris, translated Mencius in a year; and of late, instances of its speedy attainment are not rare as a spoken language, it does not appear to be peculiarly bard. Navarette learned to read and preach with facility in two yearswhich agrees with the testimony of Magelhaens. The Russian students, according to Mr. Timkowski, soon learn to speak like Chinese. Yet the English writers have always represented the acquisition of the Chinese language as the labour of a life.

The science of the Chinese scarcely deserves the name. Even their almanacks are calculated by the Portuguese Jesuits, in which the lucky and unlucky days are marked down, and are considered as oracular as the predictions of wind and rain in the almanacks of civilized Europe. An eclipse is enough to throw the whole Celestial Empire into consternation.

“ All the mandarins have to be at their posts in their habits of ceremony: meantime the sound of drums and bells are beard in all the temples, and the people put up prayers to Heaven to obtain the pardon of the Emperor, in case that by any fault he had been the cause of this celestial phenomenon.” Vol. ii. p. 76.

In medicine, they attribute as many virtues to ginseng as Bishop Berkley did to tar water. They pretend that it is a

* Des Guignes' Hist. des Huns. vol. iv. p. 140.

Descript. de la Chine, vol. ji. p. 287.
# Hist. Gen. des Voy. vol. v. 402, vol. vi. 310.

sovereign remedy for debility, caused by excessive labour of body or mind ; that it fortifies the animal spirits ; and, lastly, that it prolongs the life of old people.”

A favourite amusement of the Chinese is the drama, which is spoken of by the ambassadors of Shah Rokh, (1318) and is probably of much greater antiquity with them; yet the companies are not permanent, but wander from place to place, performing in private houses or wherever they can find employment. In the Chinese plays the unities are totally disregarded, and the division into tragedy and comedy is unknown. Scenes, either tragic or comic, are introduced into the developement of the story as nature dictates. The ordinary division of the drama is surely no more required than in novel writing or epic poetry, and the two greatest of modern dramatists, Shakspeare and Schiller, have shown their good sense in departing from general usage, when by doing so, they could exhibit their plots with greater effect.

The Chinese are not invariably yellow or brownish. Some of the women, says Mr. Timkowski, especially among the Mantchoos, have as fine complexions as the handsomest females of Europe. Van Braam speaks of the fair skins and fine colour of the Chinese women, many of whom he says are perfect beauties.* Both sexes dress with elegance in robes of silk and satin, ornamented with rich furs, and even boots of satin : yet they have no pocket handkerchiefs, and employ in lieu of them, pieces of paper. Linen is changed but seldom, and though the bath, contrary to the assertion of some travellers, is known, it is but little used. So that the Chinese, in the words of Barrow, may well be called “a frowzy people.” The dress of the women differs but little from that of the men; their glossy black hair is combed and arranged with singular taste and elegance, richly ornamented with pins of gold or precious stones and beautiful butterflies. The small, compressed feet of their women is confined exclusively to China, for the Mongol and Mantchoo women let their feet attain their natural shape and size. Mr. Timkowski speaks of the perfect seclusion of women, in which most accounts corroborate him. Yet this caution is probably dispensed with on particular occasions, or varies in different provinces. Van Braam saw them by thousands and of high rank, during his journey: they were also seen during McCartney's embassy.t

The much discussed subject of the population of China, is investigated by Mr. Timkowski, and by Mr. Klaproth. The latter of whom gives the following calculation :

* Van Braam's Embassy, v. i. pp. 96, 102, v. ii. p. 136.
+ Van Braam, passim.-Winterbottom's China, p. 372.

Population of China Proper and of Liao Toung, 142,326,734 Population of other countries subject to the Emperor, 12,000,000 Civil Officers,

9,611 Military Officers,

7,552 Effective force of the troops by sea and land,

906,000 Total,

155,249,897 But this cannot be intended for the present population of China, as that was the amount of population by Mr. Klaproth's own showing in 1790, and it must have greatly increased in thirty years of tranquillity.

Among other duties, Mr. Timkowski had been charged by the Russian government with the purchase of Mongol, Mantchoo and Chinese books for the library of the Asiatic department, for the school of Asiatic languages at Irkoutsk, and for the imperial library of Petersburgh ; he was so successful that he collected near fourteen thousand pounds weight, including the books of Father Hyacinth, who returned with him to Russia. This collection was more numerous and valuable than all that had been purchased by the preceding missions in a hundred years. The Chinese, from all accounts, have a very extensive literature; there is a large collection of their books in the king's library at Paris-Sir George Staunton has several thousand volumes, and Funquet, mentioned in Spence's Anecdotes, had more than four thousand volumes. We noticed, as a curious fact, that in the novel of lu-Kiuo-Li, “the library," was one of the rooms of every house mentioned.

On the 15th day of May, 1821, Mr. Timkowski set out for his native country, and passing again through Mongolia, arrived at Kiakhta on the 1st of August.

“ Thus [concludes he] our journey was accomplished: it is really one of the most troublesome, fatiguing, and even dangerous to health that it is possible to make by land. The uniformity of the steppes, and the slow manner in which we traversed them, have, perhaps, given an appearance of monotony to the narrative of our journey, but the reader may feel assured that it is founded solely on truth.” Vol. ii. p.

437. We never saw a book that bore more strongly the impress of truth, and scarcely ever one possessing less interest, though on countries calculated to excite interest; a few favourable specimens for quotations are as rare as green spots in the desert of Gobi. Of course we cannot speak of the style as exhibited in the translation of a translation.

a Julius Von Klaproth, son of the celebrated chemist, who published the French edition, with notes and corrections, is well known as a very irascible, very quarrelsome, and very learned

[ocr errors]

German Orientalist. In Mantchoo, Chinese, &c. perhaps without a rival. He is the author of Asia Polyglotta; an Appendix to the Chinese dictionary of de Guignes ; Memoires relatifs a l'Asie Chrestoma-thie ; and Mantchoo, a geographical, statistical, and historical description of China and its dependencies, &c. His last literary feat that we have heard of, was his demolishing Dr. Schott's edition of Confucius. We could have wished that the English translator had given us a table or explanation of Russian and Chinese weights, measures, distances, &c. which would have much facilitated the reading to English readers.

We will close our article with Mr. Klaproth's account, which is sufficiently curious, of the failure of the last English embassy to China

“Mr. Timkowski is wrong in making a comparison between the last Russian embassy and that of the English in 1816, at the head of which was Lord Amherst. The latter was, indeed, likewise sent back unheard, but, from motives very different from those which caused the dismissal of the other.

“ England is much more favourably situated, with respect to China, than the empire of the Czars. It has never been obliged, by the Chinese to cede a territory which it had occupied, or to sign a disadvantageous treaty. Its conquests in India, though the Court of Pekin pretends to know nothing of them, must necessarily excite some reflections in the Celestial Empire: it has, probably, no inclination to measure its strength with that of the nation which reigns on the seas, and has extended its conquests in India with such astonishing rapidity, that its dominions actually borders on the Chinese Empire.

“On the other hand, the mercantile genius and sound policy of England must remove any apprehensions of the Chinese of being attacked by this power, because a rupture between it and China would immediately be followed by the total ruin of the trade of Canton, which is much more advantageous to the English than the possession of one or two Chinese provinces could be. The occupation of a part of the Chinese territory by the troops of the East-India Company, far from compelling the Court of Pekin to treat with it would infallibly lead to a state of perpetual war; the necessary result would be the ruin of the commerce of a country which has only one great internal communication, namely, the great imperial canal, which the two belligerent parties would be able to destroy, each on its side.

As to the Chinese, they will not break with the English, as long as the dignity of the empire permits it; for the trade of Canton not only produces a great circulation of money in most of the provinces, but also procures the emperor and his ministers a considerable and a certain revenue ; whereas that of Kjakhta which rarely exceeds six millions of francs, is not an object of sufficient importance to interest the Mantchoo government. It does not gratuitously throw obstacles in the way of it, because it is advantageous to Mongolia ; but it attaches so little

[ocr errors]

value to it that it suspends it whenever it thinks itself obliged to punish the Russians.

“For the reasons which I have here pointed out, England, though it has sent embassies and presents to the Son of Heaven, is not considered as a power subject to his authority. Lord McCartney did not submit to the Chinese ceremonial, though such a report was circulated while he was at Pekin. The Chinese endeavoured to obtain, from Lord Amherst, what bis predecessor had refused, but the firmness of Sir George Staunton, and the powerful reasons which he alleged, hindered him from acceding to their demands. The Chinese ministry desisted from its pretensions, and, on the 27th of August, 1816, granted to the English ambassador liberty to appear before the emperor without making the nine prostrations. “A fortnight before they had prepared for him, at Tbian-tsin, a fête, similar to that which was to have been given to Count Golovkin, at Ourga, without requiring from Lord Amherst any thing more than the salutations usual in Europe.

“ The Chinese, therefore, granted every thing to the English ambassador, while they refused every thing to the one sent by the Russians. If the latter did well not to submit to the humiliating ceremony which was required of him, the other acted like a madman, in ruining, by a puerile obstinacy, the success of his mission; an obstinacy the more inconceivable, as he had just gained a complete victory over the pride of the Chinese, who had yielded to him in every particular. The following are the facts.

“ After Lord Amherst had obtained the assurance that the Emperor dispensed him from the Ko-to, the Duke, and the other commissioners sent to receive him, intimated to him the order which they had to conduct him the next day from Tboung tcheou, where he then was, by way of Pekin to Yuan-ming-yuan, a country seat, where the Emperor expected him to give him audience. The ambassador set out from Thoung icheon, on the 28th of August, at four o'clock in the afternoon, in a magnificent landau, drawn by four mules. They reached the place of their destination at half past four the following morning, where they found all the Mandarins in their habits of ceremony. The latter told the English that they were going to be presented to the Emperor immediately. Lord Amherst, alleging extreme fatigue, refused to appear before the Chinese Monarch in his travelling dress, and covered with dust. The Chinese commissioners, thinking that they had not sufficiently explained themselves, respecting the ceremonies to be performed, and imagining that the refusal of the ambassador was founded on the apprehension that he would be compelled to make the nine prostrations, repeated several times the words, ny-men-ty-li, that is to say, your own ceremony is all that is required. Lord Amherst, however, not reflecting that the Emperor and all his court was expecting him, persisted in waiting for his fine clothes, his suite, the presents, and the king of England's letter, which he had forgotten to bring with him in his landani, though such a document ought never to be out of the hands of the person who is entrusted with it. The duke, who was to present him to the Emperor, took him by the arm, saying, "come, at least, into my apartment, where you will be more at ease than here in the crowd; you

« ПретходнаНастави »