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lines on transparent paper with a pencil; the excellence of which art is estimated as the highest qualification, by the literati of China.* By this process do the youth of China at sixteen, attain an empty knowledge of most of the characters of the language, being totally ignorant of their distinct meaning, and afterwards to learn which, it cannot be reasonably supposed, that less time and labour would be requisite.
It is in viewing such methods of education, and contemplating the inveteracy of fuolish prejudices, in opposition to the healthful advantages of rational system, that the reflective mind is struck with admiration, at the pretentions of a people, to philosophical learning, and high refinement, who are ignorant of the simplest facts, concerning the nature and operations of the hu. man mind; for it cannot be imagined, that endued with this knowledge, they should have chosen a method in direct contrariety to its dictates, and which with all their ineffectual labour, still leaves them in a condition little above, in this respect, their primæval ignorance and barbarity. It is in this particular that we first perceive the systems of that driveling spirit, which incarcerates their minds to a mere detailed acquisition of unprofitable individualities, preventing them from rising to a more general and comprehensive view of human nature, and establishing a method grounded on common principles, and suited to every gradation of capacity. This would be easily effected, by merely reversing their present system. The remembrance of sounds and figures (which is the Chinese method of acquiring their language) abstracted from all sense of what they signify, is surprisingly hard; for to the natural indistinctness and faintness of the notions of sound and figure, even when their signification is understood, is to be added in this instance, the total absence of any primary idea, by which they might have some hold of the mind. If, on the contrary, when learning the sound and figure of their characters, they were also, at the same time, to learn their meaning, the good effects resulting would be inconceivably great; the sound before indistinct and vague, would come to be so associated with the sense, and the sense so blended with the sound, that from the primary and secondary ideas, a double hold would be given to the mind; and the consequent facility of acquisition, would at least save half of the labour and time so foolishly spent in learning sounds, to which they annex no clear notion.
* Du Halde, p. 5.
The Chinese language, according to sir George Staunton, must be ill suited to philosophical disquisitions, and at best, an inconvenient instrument of accurate thought. The follow. ing is the passage from which we draw this conclusion; and as no European has so perfect a knowledge of the subject, the most unbounded reliance may be put in his relation of it. “The principal difficulty,” he says, " in the study of Chinese writings, arises from the general exclusion of the auxiliary particles of colloquial language, that fix the relation between indeclinable words, such as are all those of the Chinese writing. The judgment must be constantly exercised by the student, to supply the absence of such assistance. That judgment must be guided by attention to the manners, customs, laws, and opinions of the Chinese, and to the events and local circumstances of the country, to which the allusions of language perpetually refer." In all languages in which much latitude is allowable in the collocation and arrangement of words, and in which the association between the ideas, or words is proportionately diminished, obscurity is apt to exist;--redundance of metaphor, and remoteness of allusion, beget a similar effect.* If «to supply the absence of the auxiliary particles of colloquial language, the judgment must be constantly exercised and guided,” by such a variety of remote circumstances and events, it is evident that the want of connection, proper to precise language, added to such a confusion of figurative expressions, and the greater part of those so far fetched, must not only render this language extremely obscure, but very frequently unintelligible to the learned who use it. Hence, on the above principles, so sagaciously discovered, and ably established by Mr. Hume and Dr. Carnpbell, the Chinese language must be held utterly unsuitable as an instrument of philosophy.
Though no country can be better adapted to astronomical ob. servations, from the unclouded atmosphere, and serenity of the
* See Campbell's Phil. Rhetoric, v. 2. p. 81. &c.
weather, and every way calculated to carry this science to perfection; yet no nation that has arrived at a mediocrity of knowledge can be more deficient in it. The little progress that they have hitherto reached in it, can be ascribed to no other cause but that dulness of perception, so palpably manifested in all their actions; for as every natural advantage seems to have concurred to render China the observatory of the world, as far as natural gifts could make it, their being so far in the rear of it, must undoubtedly, be owing to the absence of that inventive genius, and subtle penetration, which appears to have been the only ingredient wanting for the purpose. What diminutive knowledge they have acquired of it is to be rather regarded as the mere effect of unavoidable observation, on the passing physical appearances and phenomenæ, and to have accumulated by length of time, than as flowing from any rational curiosity, or spontaneous effort of the mind, prying into the mysteries, and investigating the secrets of nature.* In fine, to all mathematical science they are strangerst further than has been stated; and their knowledge of geography, which has already been mentioned, is consequently inconsiderable, being proportionate to that of astronomy.
In the less profound, and more agreeable parts of science, they are wanting, as in every other. Logic which is essential to the regulation of reason, and to just argumentation, they are wholly devoid of, except what undisciplined nature yields them. And though in every external, they are methodical and formal, to a ridiculous and contemptible degree, yet in that which is essential to a proper use of reason, to accuracy of thought, to perspicuity of discourse, and to the enlargement of the bounds of knowledge, they know nothing of: an invincible evidence of mental imbecility, abasement, and indolence!
It might, however, be speciously alleged by those, who are inclined to think more favourably of this people, than facts bespeak them deserving, that notwithstanding they are destitute of any such science as logic, yet they may have a process of thought, and a mode of intellectual classis, equally as efficient, and as infallible in the result. That such a thing is possible,
* See Staunton, vol. 2. p. 236. Barrow, 195. † Staunton, 241. # 2d part; essay 1.
Ń Du Halde, vol. 3. p. 64.
must be allowed; but by what rule are we to judge of its subsistence, if it be not manifested in their works? The Chinese, it is well known, possess a sufficiency of logic, properly to direct their understandings in the ordinary affairs of life; but farther they cannot reach, nor do they attempt it by aspiring; they cannot by induction, and a chain of propositions in continuity, ascend step by step to general principles, and arrive at hidden, and unimagined truths: consequently they hold not the means of great proficiency in philosophy.
During one age in the same country it rarely occurs that there is a disparity of excellence in the several sciences, and this disparity if at all existing, will be the less the nearer the affinity between the sciences. For the truth of this proposition we appeal to the history of literature, in ancient and modern nations. In consonance with this principle, we find the rhetoric of China, not the least degree paramount to her logic, and her logic in about an equal ratio to her other attainments. Experience and custom, also bear the sceptre in this province, but without bringing it to that degree of improvement, which might be reasonably expected if applied with discernment and propriety; but which it is not possible that the Chinese should exercise, being void of the taste requisite to produce such discernment. Observation and experience of the manner in which the mind is affected by particular parts of a discourse, and its tendency to the desired end, by the impression it makes on the whole, give the models of eloquence, which, by repetition, and correction, become as perfect as so defective a system will admit. Rigid imitation, then, supplies the place of systematic precept, in the formation of an eloquent discourse; and there must consequently be all the imperfection in this method, which variety of copies, by inexpert, or negligent hands naturally produce. Indeed there is no trait in the Chinese character, no method in their education, no disposition to genius, nor no excellency in their sciences, which could induce one to suspect that their rhetoric was concocted to a system, or their eloquence sublimated to perfection. If freedom, as Cicero hath said, as well as those who preceded, and those who followed him, be necessary to beget, nourish, and perfect eloquence, there exists in the Chinese polity, a radical ani insuperable obstacle to its advancement; and in the method of education, which flows in part from the nature of the language, an opake mass of useless and laborious formality, intercepts the beauty and charms of eloquence from the sight of their youth; who compelled to drudge perpetually to form the characters of this cumbersome language, and then to learn their meaning, have as little leisure as genius, to beautify and adorn it. And when it is considered, that the literature and science of China, in their present state of depression and obscurity, require a whole life addicted to study, tó acquire a knowledge of them,* it can scarcely be hoped, that they will hereafter improve, what they now have no leisure to scrutinise and inspect; or that a revolution in their tastes, with which their works now accord, would not be resisted with the same resolution, though not perhaps excite the same dreadful apprehensions, as a revolution in their polity.
Except the therapeutic part, the science of medicine is wholly unknown to the Chinese, and even in that part they have little rational system, and it is far below perfection. In this particular, it unfortunately happens, for the reputation of their wisdom and learning, that they cannot adduce for its deficiency, that panacea for their ignorance, the great lion-fire kindled by the emperor (a barbarous emperor!) Shee-whang tee,t for the destruction of the books of learning, as the writings on medicine, if there were such writings then, were either graciously saved, or accidentally escaped from the common demolition. It is therefore a little wonderful, that the experience and knowledge of so many additional ages, should have had a tendency to depress this science, beneat: the level of excellence of others not near so ancient! The sciences subordinate, and subservient to the perfection of medicine, they are likewise ignorant of; and pharmacy, botany, chemistry, mineralogy, and all others, necessary or incidental to it, are alien from China. A crude and imperfect treatise, entitled, “the natural history of China for the use of medicine," has been published by them; and though its title might be supposed to bespeak its character entire, yet it shows but a diminutive feature of it. In this is detailed, in a heterogenous and superficial manner, the nature
*. Staunton, vol. 2. p. 251. + Two hundred years anterior to the christian epoch.