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ced; in their endeavours to initiate the Chinese youth in the knowledge and mystery of their language, which is the only requisite attainment for admission to office, and ascension to power.
The necessary qualifications for eligibility to office, likewise demonstrates their profound ignorance, and the total absence of every principle implying science or refinement. The process necessary for the induction of a candidate; is this: being strictly searched by the superintending officers, to prevent the concealment of writings, which would give facility or beauty to their compositions; a theme is given to each, with the requisite implements for writing, and they are shut in separate apartments; within the time limited a discourse must be produced, whose excellence is judged of according to its consonance with these three rules:
That every character be neatly, and accurately formed.
That it be chosen with propriety, and riot used by the common fieofile.
That the same character is not twice expressed in a similar sense, in the same discourse.*
'What principle of science, degree of judgment, or propriety of language is there manifested in these three absurd rules, which indicate not order and classification of thought, adaptation of parts, nor conception of the sublime? These are the three indispensable requisites in the mere formation of a congruous treatise on any topic, and in these we find them wholly wanting. Nor can it be alleged as an objection against this argument, that the above rules related merely to the diction and not to the sense or method of the discourse; for we are told that these were the only tests by which their excellence was determined, and the authors of them promoted. † Besides these characteristics of their writings, betray too palpably on the outside, the character and disposition of the government, which ordains such literary examinations, to allow the truth of them to be dissembled or doubted. In the neat letters or characters, in their not being in vogue among the vulgar, and in not occurring twice in the same
writing, we see distinctly the magnificent, haughty and formal features of the government, and their devoted attention to the exter. nal and ornamental trappings of state, more calculated to inspire awe and admiration, than to be productive of utility and happi
If therefore they have the great age ascribed to them, they must at least be allowed to be old in ignorance, and to have spent their age in useless endeavours to inspire the people with notions of their divine power and wisdons; and neglecting the proper means of approximating to these celestial attributes, by cultivating a love of wisdom, promoting the diffusion of happiness, and protecting the people from oppression.
That the Chinese can exhibit no indubitable proof of their antiquity, is itself sufficiently evictive of the fallacy of their claims; for it is very observable, that every other nation can undoubtedly attest their age, by the memorials they have kept of their youth. Yet the Chinese more vehement than any other people on this subject can adduce only fable to sustain asseveration; and as their vanity is more inflated by this circumstance than any other, it might be expected without extravagance, that they would strive to perpetuate, what yielded such extraordinary gratification; for their pretensions are not peculiar to one age or dynasty, but pervade their history from Fo-hi to Kien-long. It may be said on the opposite side that it was needless to preserve or exhibit evidence, of what the superstitious ignorance of the Chinese, induced them to swallow with avidity, without inquiring into its origin, or doubting of its authenticity; and that it was impossible they could foresee a denial of what they esteemed it a sacrilege to doubt; or not doubting themselves, never apprehended disbelief in others. Yet in reply, it may be emphatically observed, that the scrupulous attention which they devoted to the preservation of more minute circumstances, implies no propensity to disregard less trivial objects; that as knowledge is circumscribed in its bounds, attention to trifles becomes habitual, and that when vanity augments the importance of them, they are kept with sacred care: and if a personage such as their Fo-hi ever had existence, would it not have been as feasible to preserve his slippers, made sacred by the feet of the Son of Heaven, as to save from destruction the jacket of Mahomet?
Even the learned among the Chinese, who by the way have little right to that honourable appellation, cannot agree in one opinion respecting their chronology; some imagine Fo-hi to have been the founder of the monarchy, and that the anterior ages are involved in doubtful obscurity and many carry their origin no higher than the reign of Yao, the fifth emperor from Fo-hi. To express a doubt of its less ancient date, would be to incur death, without the consolation or hope of bettering their condition or dispelling their absurdilies. But the total privation of intellectual energy effectually hiaders the creation of a doubt; and were the most salutary effects to flow from the sacrifice, there coud be found nonc willing to suffer for, though capacitated to judge of the fallacy of their assumed age. It is not therefore surprising to find the jesuits and missionaries, so forcibly insisting on an event, which to have denied or contradicted would have subjected them to banishment, or exposed them to the indignation and insult of the populace.f They joined in an imposition which they could not with safety oppose, and which they imagined would not be credited by any but barbarians, and would be rejected with derision by the scrutinizing reason of refined Europe. That in China, the most extravagant fables shouid be implicitly assented to, will excite admiration in the minds of none the least informed of the condition and state of the people: and when we perceive the terror of death added to the dread of an offended Deity, and evil fate, we should be surprized not to find all acquiescing in a dogmatical belief so early inculcated and so forcibly maintained: but we cannot repress our admiration at the infatuation of those, who not liable to the same evils for disvelief, should adopt opinions as much entitled to credit as the infalli vility of the Romish Church, or the hypothesis of an EMINENT AMERICAN POLITICIAN respecting the VARIETY OF THE HUMAN SPECIES!
There is nothing which has a greater tendency to excite doubt, than the inhibition of inquiry, and investigation of facts; and this in minds before biassed to the reception of such senti
ments: and that opinion propagated, or confirmed by the denunciation of death, may with reason be affirmed to be false and unfounded; for why constrain the mind to believe prescribed sentiments, when they would be embraced with willingness and alacrity, if grounded on truth; though keen sagacity might engage in discussion, and prudent foresight require conviction to be lieve, yet the most captious would be baffled in their objections, were they founded on the immutable basis of truth. But these s0ns of lighi prefer for very obvious reasons, rather to stifle the exertions of understanding and ensure the persuasion of their dogmas, than permit reason to discuss the propriety, of what it might, upon examination, eject as absurd, and condemn as fallacious.
To read the arguments alleged by father Du Halde to evince the antiquity of this people, and not to admire the force of his genius, and the logical nature of his deductions, would indeed betray greater ignorance, and more inhuman insensibility, than we are willing to have attributed to'us: and we accordingly, do sincerely admire the magician-like ease with which he demonstrates their age. Quitting the different systems of their authors, for his infallible notions, he alleges it is certain CHINA was inhabited above 2155 years ante Christ, because it is demonstrable by an eclipse that happened that year, and which is recorded in their astronomical observations in the Chinese history, and other books in the language. We have already stated the reasons which induced us to conclude their total ignorance of asi tronomy; to those we shall now add others, quite as convincing, and prove it highly improbable that they could ever have possessed a knowledge which in the thirteenth century they had whol. ly lost, and which they do not now hold in sufficient abundance to make the aid of foreigners dispensable.
The ceremonies observed on the occasion of an eclipse of cither the sun ór moon imply the grossest ignorance of these phenomena; they imagine the dragon to have seized upon the obscured luminary, and to frighten him from his hold, or to charm him from his prey, they alternately beat the brazen gong, and play their dissonant instruments. Nor is this conduct con
fined to the vulgar; for on an eclipse of the sun which happened in seventeen hundred and ninety-five, the emperor secluded himself from public view for three days, the court for that period went into mourning, and a universal suspension of festivity was strictly maintained through the empire!* And I have been apprised by a respectable gentleman, that when a tempest arises accompanied by thunder and lightning, they hide their heads in the darkest corner, to shelter them from the wrath of the offended gods, whose ire they imagine to be visibly expressed in the fire of the clouds, and the roaring of the thunder!
But independent of their ignorance of astronomy, and the impossibility of their predicting eclipses at that remote period, the argument of Du Halde is extremely futile, as he grounds it on data which cannot be rationally admitted, that the Chinese history is true and legitimate;t nor can the eclipse recorded in their annals, be accepted as testimony, till the disputed veracity of their annals be confuted; and we might with greater discretion believe the cvhole tenor of their story, than the prediction of this phenomenon. Besides it is ascertained by the calculation of a learned astronomer,ł that such an eclipse could not have occured at that time, in the latitude of China; setting apart their incompetency to foretell it. The opinion of sir George Staunton, on this object, whose talents and veracity give conclusive authority to his sentiments, accords with that expressed above; he says: “to judge by the state of astronomical science at this time in China, it is most likely that if the Chinese had been ever able to predict eclipses, it must have been by the means of long and repeated observations, and not by calculation;" and we must either allow them, therefore, a thousand years more than they claim, by which they might have made “long and repeat
* Barrow, 191.
+ That their history is composed chiefly of fables, for a politic purpose, is rendered more probable by their inveterate propensity to falsehood, and their total disregard of truth. Mr. Barrow, speaking on this subject says: They have no proper sense of the obligations of truth. So little scrupulous, are they indeed, with regard to veracity, that they will assert and contradict without blushing, as it may best suit the purpose of the moment." p. 127.