Immagini della pagina

These Manchu-Chinese, now in our pressed in the “Four Books," is the country, are large and fine-looking, and word of wisdom which commends itself are said to be fair samples of this now to the Chinese mind, and has so people. The complexion is very light commended itself for more than two yellow; and the expression of the faces thousand years. It is no subtle, hidden, most intelligent. The mouth is, per- abstruse mystery, which few can or will haps, the most ill-formed feature. Their understand and accept; but is so simmanners are elegant, and they are said ple, so true, so wise, that no earnest to be scholars in their own country. and true spirit fails to accept it. Briefly This naturally brings us to the most it may be said to consist of rules for striking peculiarity of Chinese govern- the conduct of life, written down by a ment and civilization. It is this—that good and wise teacher; rules based there is there no aristocracy, no feudal upon a consciousness of right, and a system, as in Japan, but that offices of heart in harmony with humanity. The honor and trust are filled throughout man who first enunciated this philosothe Empire by men who have distin- phy of life to the Chinese was the man guished themselves in the schools of the we call Confucius (Kung-fu-tze), born country, and have passed the rigid ex- 551 B. C., died 479 B. C. He was amination prescribed. We should ad- revered in his own lifetime as a wise mit that this is a superior test to that man; he is so reverenced now, not as a of birth or favoritism, such as prevails god. He assumed no divine power, prein most Christian lands. Once in three tended to no supernatural light, but years the students gather at Peking said to men, “Stand by the old truths, from all parts of the Empire to undergo the old virtues which have been from a careful and thorough examination as the beginning; accept them, follow to their claims for places of honor or them !” He did not cry “go forward,” profit. At the last examination some but rather, “look backward, to see the 12,000 students were examined, and as divine truths which God made plain to there are but few prizes, we may ima- our ancestors, and which he has indeed gine the fearful anxiety which may have written in our own hearts." filled their minds. Not until the morning of the day of examination does any Leaving Confucius, who belongs to examiner know what students he may the past, let us try to get a glimpse into have put in his hands; thus every care the great city of Peking of to-day. is taken to guard against improper in- Broad streets, one hundred feet wide, fluences. In a great hall the students run through the Chinese city at right are assembled. In it are some ten thou- angles, upon which are the great shops sand small rooms or cells, each of which where the principal business is done. is to contain one student. Here for The houses are of but one story, built of three days and two nights he remains, gray brick; and often plastered and supplied only with paper, ink, and food, colored. Awnings and booths encroach to write out his answers to the questions upon the street, and much space is proposed. He must see no books and taken up by piles of goods, so arrangel must have speech with no man. The as to attract the eyes of the purchaser. examination lasts for nine days, and but Flags and streamers make all gay; and twice in that time is the student allow tall posts and perpendicular signs are ed to go forth from the hall. Then all covered with extravagant praise of the is ended, and in due time the themes goods which the merchant desires to are pronounced upon, and the position sell. These great streets are thronged of each man becomes, for the time, es- during the busy hours of morning and tablished. Most of the themes, it is evening. They are not paved, and the said, pertain to the literature of the side-streets are narrow and neglected. past, and to the topics of government.

Clouds of dust fill the air during a porThe philosophy of the sages, as ex- tion of the year, and particularly during




[ocr errors]

the winter-months, when not a drop of ply you with the “ Classics " or with a rain falls upon the light alluvial soil. love-song for a few cash ; and here too, Nor are the streets lighted; for after as elsewhere, wretched beggars ply their nightfall few persons go about.

wretched trade, and so wear out their A police, armed with strong whips, wretched lives. endeavors, however, to preserve order A very considerable manufacture and and repress thefts. The fat of sheep trade goes on in lanterns, which are and the oil of seals suffice for lamps. made of every conceivable pattern and Fuel is brought from the coal-mines price. They are often of the finest thirty or forty miles, and on the backs silk, and three or four feet high, exquiof camels. These are most striking and sitely painted, and sometimes ornamentpicturesque, as they are seen in long ed with movable figures. The prices strings of a hundred or more, making range from two hundred dollars each their way across the broad plain. Car- to a few cents. They are carried in the riages like ours do not exist, but small streets, and they are hung in the doors cove carts, without springs, and of houses. About the opening of the drawn by mules, are to be hired in the New Year (February or January) is streets, as are also sedan-chairs. Com- held a “Feast of Lanterns,” which is paratively few ladies are to be seen in one of the gayest and most peculiar of the streets, for it is not "proper" for a

their festivals. lady to be going about alone. The food- It must be known that all this vast shops are, as everywhere, most numer- population of a million and a half of ous; but the shops for clothing ma- human beings live upon the Court of terials are most elegant and spacious. the Emperor. The soil around Peking The materials for clothes are cottons, is a deep alluvial loam, very fertile in silk, crape, linen, and woollen. But the itself, but owing to the scarcity of rain woollen goods are mostly of Russian much irrigation is required. With all manufacture. The shopkeepers are men. the drawbacks of climate, most excellent Tailors are men, and they also make the vegetables of all kinds are produced in clothes for women--except those made great abundance all round Peking, and at home.

farmers raise thirty bushels of wheat to Rice and tea are the great articles of the acre, and other grain in proportion, diet here as in all China ; but beef, mut such as barley, millet, maize, buckton, pork, and chickens, are considerably wheat, &c.; but a large proportion of used ; pork being the principal meat of the food comes from a distance. Nei. the lower classes.

ther is there any commerce, nor are there Unlike our cities, Peking is rife with any but small manufactures. The food rural sounds; for geese, ducks, chickens, and the goods are brought in from the pigs, dogs, cats, and many kinds of more productive parts of China, and birds, are kept alive and in cages for they are paid for by the proceeds of the sale, and their various voices add con- taxes which centre here. siderably to the din of a great city. It is impossible that there should

It is not uncommon to see various not at times be great suffering among avocations carried on in the open street. the poor and degraded ; after a long The barber twangs his tools, and pre- and cold winter, it is not uncommon pares to plat the tails, shave the head, that men perish of want, and now and smooth the eyebrows, &c., &c.; a cook then the body of one who has perished under his broad umbrella fries and thus miserably may be seen in the open stews to tickle the taste of some bungry street. The Government attempts to Chinaman; a fortune-teller is ready to alleviate this suffering by the issuing of tell what he thinks you want to know; food and clothing; but remembering a medical man is not above giving you that opium and samshoo (a kind of a dose in the street for a quarter of a rum) vitiate these people too, we find dollar; an itinerant bookseller will sup- that the recipients of Government aid do exchange their comforts for the cents a day, and the wages of a good delirium of intoxication, and thus per- cook, man or woman, is some $12 a. ish. I have been curious to know how year. This is not very luxurious; and far opium-which has been forced upon as the wages of a good cook in San these people by English commerce—is Francisco is some $300 a-year, we need used in Peking, and find the estimate not wonder if California soon swarms of some members of the Embassy puts with enterprising Chinese, who in a year it at one third of the population. There or so will return millionaires. But will are about one hundred opium-shops in they be better or happier then than now? the whole city where a smoke can be Dress, that most interesting matter, had; but its more common use is at seems not to be regulated by law, but home, and in small quantities. Few, rather by custom. Silk is a favorite they say, use it to excess; but in all wear for men as well as for women ; cases it is pernicious, and the habit and the fashion of garments changes once formed, it is almost impossible to but little from year to year. The sleeve resist it. Intoxicating drinks are made may be wider or narrower, the skirt from millet and from rice; but Mr. longer or shorter, but the violent transSecretary Brown states that in the formations invented in Paris, do not prewhole period of his stay in Peking, be vail in Peking. There is no Palais does not recall a drunken man in the Royal in that city, and women do not streets; and that brawling and figbting astonish the world with clothes in their are never witnessed. Tobacco, too, is Bois de Boulogne, as they do in Paris smoked as with us.

Silk, that most beautiful of fabrics, is I would like to impress it upon our an invention of the Chinese, and from people, men and women too, that in them has spread over the world, until China, where one may suppose

now France rivals and excels them in know something about tea, they drink its production. it very weaka mere infusion sometimes There are many bookshops in Pemade in the cup; so that they drink the king, and many books are sold, mostly spirit or soul of the plant, we the dross, the “Classics" of their sages, of course; or coarser part.

but books of poetry and novels also are Asking one of the most intelligent of much sold and read. One of the Emthe embassy about the most thriving bassy gave me these three names as occupations of Peking, I was told that their most distinguished poets-Li-Puh, pawnbroking and banking were among Too-Foo, Wang-Wee; and when I askthem. Pawnbrokers are rich men ;- ed if they wrote of love, he shook his that does not seem to indicate a good head: “No," he said, “poems about state of society, but the reverse. Bank- love are not written or read by good ers may and do issue paper-money, people, only by the bad.” I gathered which is in common use, redeemable, that these poets wrote of the moral of course, in coin or silver. Cash,” sentiments, and of rural scenes. No the brass-coin of China, is used in small newspapers exist, and the Peking Gatransactions, and Mexican dollars are zette is only printed to give forth the also acceptable; though most of the decrees of the Emperor and the news silver is used in blocks not coined, and of the government. But the larger porgoes by weight.

tion of the men are able to read and A large part of the people-more write, and schools are very common, than half, my informant thinks-live in though they seem not to be a governtheir own houses ; but houses may be mental system. Of the thousands of hired. The rental of an ordinary good unsuccessful • stucents, many take to house is thirty to forty dollars a year; teaching as a profession. A schoolthough soine few are worth, perhaps, room may be under a shed or an awnfour or five hundred. The pay of the ing, and all the furniture needed is a common laboring man is thirty or forty bench and desk for the scholar and a

seat for the master; & good bamboo other fables of this sort may be disposed stick or whip is indispensable. In one of here, “Rats," we have from childcorner of this most primitive school- hood read," are an article of food in house will be found a tablet dedicated China ;” they are so in cases of distress to Confucius and the god of letters. and starvation, not otherwise. “Female The ordinary pay is half a dollar to children are commonly put to death." dollar a-month for each scholar, though This is not true anywhere, as a rule ; in some of the more select schools it is and if true at all, it is only in some of course higher. The “Book of Rites” out-of-the-way and benighted district. contains elaborate and full directions “Worshipping idols prevails in China.” for bringing up and educating children,

This is denied by the Chinese; they say and great pains seems to be given to the idol or image is only a reminder of these. Nurses and governesses must be the God or Spirit, just as our cross is a “mild, affectionate, cheerful, kind, dig- memorial of the Saviour; in that way nified, reserved, and careful in their and in no other. No one believes the conversation.” It is quite clear that the image is a god, or can do any work of a kind of nurses we intrust our children god. So much for these libels, or travto would not do in Peking. Children ellers' stories, which no fair-minded travmust attend carefully to good manners; ellers now credit. they must be attentive, kind, and re- How do they marry in China ? and spectful to their parents and relatives, what is the position of woman? These and, indeed, to all they come in contact vital and interesting questions are anwith ; must be careful of their persons swered in this way: Matches are made and clothes, and must reverence Con- by the parents of the parties, not by the fucius and the higher powers. It is to parties themselves. “Making love," as be feared that many of our children we call it, therefore, is not a fine art in would not be acceptable in China. The Peking. Children are sometimes begreat end of education among the an- trothed at a very early age. There are cient Chinese-and it is much so to-day cases where brokers or go-betweens are -was not to fill the head, “but to disci- made use of, and marriage is the result. pline the heart and purify the affec- The rule is one wife; and she is the tions." Our plan is rather the reverse legal wife and presides over the houseof this. While, therefore, we have worse hold. But other wives are permitted, manners, and ruder natures, we know which may be termed illegal or leftmore, and dare more, and do more; and handed; these rarely exceed one in 90 we shall master the Chinese as we number, but sometimes are two or have the brown-skinned races of Ameri- three. It is not highly reputable, and ca,—whether for their good or our own,

is excused when the first wife proves remains to be seen.

barren. The great desire of every ChiMuch nonsense and many lies have nese is to have children to sweep his been written about the Chinese, among grave and venerate his memory. The them one that their etiquette is most children of the second wives, however, elaborate and absurd ; that the smallest are legal, and have precisely the same thing cannot be done without bowings rights as those of the first. These and backings and ridiculous genuflex- second wives are sometimes bought for ions. The truth is, that the Chinese are money, and are sometimes taken out a well-bred and sensible people, and of the public houses of courtesans ; behave as such; that the manners of a when their beauty or charms have fasChinese gentleman are much like those cinated a man. The sons who marry of a well-bred man any and every- bring the wives to the father's house, where. He is courteous and deferential, where they have their own rooms, but of course; and much more general is this make one household. It is understood kind of man in Peking, it is said, than that women do not quarrel iu Peking, in New York,-more's the pity. A few but the fact needs verification. Most

women do not read, nor is promiscuous rank in life high, let her be condescendvisiting allowed. They go out attend- ing to her inferiors; let her wholly dised by their sons, or by some male rela- card all sorcerers, superstitious nuns, tive. Nor do they go to the theatres and witches; in a word, let her adhere with their husbands; but they may and to propriety, and avoid vice." do have special entertainments. Ac- “Rearing the silk-worm and working complishments, such as dancing and cloth are the most important of the singing, being some of the arts of pub- employments of a female; preparing lic women, it is not reputable for ladies and serving up the food for the houseto do these things. They use white and hold, and setting in order the sacrifices red paint on their faces freely, which follow next, each of which must be does not improve them in the eyes of attended to; after them study and Europeans. These women are said to learning can fill up the time." be amiable, cheerful, and industrious ; All of this, it is expected, will be such virtues their education requires changed with the introduction of occiand such their habits of life seem to dental civilization, &c., &c. We read, produce. These virtues, it is expected, “When the glorious sun of modern civ. we shall receive in large measure, in ilization, the full effulgence of knowlreturn for sewing-machines, india-rub- edge, the benignant influences of maber shoes, and lucifer matches.

chinery, shall penetrate China, then its Small feet are still the fashion to darkness shall vanish, and peace and some extent among the old Chinese of love shall abound.” We read such the upper classes ; but not at all among things as this, and it is even said there the Manchus, who are really the high- are some who believe them. Is it posest race. There is a distinction between sible ? the two races, but they are gradually Asking one of the embassy if he becoming merged into one, and may be thought our ladies handsome, he reexpected to lose their identity, now that plied, “ Yes, very handsome; some of the outside flood is to flow in upon them look like Chinese ladies." These, them. Some book-education is pro- I judged, he considered the beauties. vided for women, and books are pre- Will our ladies take this as a complipared for their use, but in the words of ment to themselves ? While the womLau-Chau, one of their leading writers, en of Peking are in no sense slaves or " " The education of a woman and that degraded into mere servants of man,

are very dissimilar," &c. they live comparatively secluded lives, Woman's influence is according to her and are not expected to, nor do they, moral character. “First, concerning sail out into the open sea of life. It is obedience to her husband and to his asserted, however, that there is less parents. If unmarried, she has duties

dyspepsia in Peking than in New York, towards her parents, and to the wives and less wretchedness. Conjugal infiof her elder brothers; if a principal delity is rare; for even if there were a wife, a woman must have no jealous will, there is no opportunity. feelings; if in straitened circumstances, Vice and crime exist in Peking as she must be contented with her lot; if with us; perhaps not more, though in rich and honorable, she must avoid the rural districts, if we can believe extravagance and haughtiness. These travellers, there is more outright robteach her in times of trouble how to bery. The great vice of the people of maintain her purity, how to give im- Peking is the use of opium, which portance to right principles, how to commerce introduced and English guns observe widowhood, and how to avenge compelled them to accept, against the the murder of a relative.

Is she a

decrees of the Emperor. It vitiates mother, let her teach her children; is character and undermines life. she a stepmother, let her love and have no means of knowing whether cherish her husband's children ; is her its use is or is not on the increase;

of a



« IndietroContinua »