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THE PEKING OBSERVATORY,
By M. W. H. A RR IN GTO N.
See illustrations on page 816.

BOUT two centuries ago a curious and unparalleled event took place in the Chinese court. We will relate it as it is given by Du Haldé, though for the most part in other words than employed by that amiable and pious member of the Society of Jesus. The Emperor KangHee, whose reign of sixty years is one of the most remarkable in Chinese annals, was then in his minority. He was dissatisfied with the guardians placed over him, and having a leaning toward foreign ideas as presented by the Jesuits at his court, he made use of them to throw some discredit on the administration of those with whose services he wished to dispense. It is the astronomical part of this intrigue which relates to the history of the Peking observatory. The Chinese have always been great respecters of astronomy. They had long had a Board of Astronomy attached to the court at Peking. Membership in this board was a high honor, and its almanacs and other predictions were presented to the Emperor and officially distributed over the empire with much formal respect. Indeed, the annual calendar had a high political significance, and acceptance of it on the part of a nation or tribe indicated submission; its rejection, defiance. It had long been known, however, that the predictions in the calendar of the motions and positions of the heavenly bodies were not accurate; and about three centuries before the time of which we speak the board had practically passed into the control of Mohammedans, who broughtinto use the Arabian astronomy of the day. But the Arabian tables, though more correct than the earlier Chinese, had in the course of these three centuries diverged widely from the truth, and the errors had again become glaring— so glaring that an intercalary month had been inserted in the last published almanac when no intercalary month was due. When this became evident Kang-Hee sent for the missionaries, who were then in prison loaded with chains, and had them brought into his august presence—an honor now almost unattainable for a foreigner. They were there confronted with the mandarins of the Astronomical Tribunal, and the Emperor, turning to them with a cheerful countenance, asked them: “Can you”(addressing directly Father Verbiest, an accomplished astronomer) “make it appear whether the calendar agrees with the heavens or not?” Father Verbiest, after gently excusing the short-comings of the official astronomers, replied: “If your Majesty desires to see the experiment, let there be placed in one of the courts a style, a chair, and a table, of what size you please, and I will immediately calculate the projection of the shadow at any hour proposed; by the length of the shadow it will be easy to determine the altitude of the sun, and from the altitude his place in the Zodiac, whence it may be judged whether his true place is marked in the calendar for every day.” iii. expedient pleased the Emperor, and he

already existed.

asked the mandarins if they understood it. They

all denied, except the Mohammedan member of
the tribunal, who claimed to understand it, but he
warned the Emperor that the employment of the
method would be both dangerous to the empire
and below its dignity, and therewith he launched
out into abuse of the Christian religion.
This speech displeased the Emperor, and
changing his countenance, he said to the astrono-
mer: “I have commanded you to forget what is
past, and mind only to prepare a good astrono-
my. Dare you launch out in such a manner in
my presence? Have not you yourself presented

me with several petitions, desiring that able as

tronomers might be searched for throughout the
empire ? Though they have been these four
years sought after, they are not found yet; and
though Ferdinand Verbiest, who understands as-
tronomy perfectly well, was at hand in this very
court, you never mentioned one word of him to
me. Hence you plainly discover yourself to be
a very prejudiced man, and one that does not act
with sincerity.” Then the Emperor, resuming his
cheerful look, asked Verbiest several questions,
and ordered that his experiment should be made.
Without going into details, the experiment was
tried three times with perfect success. The Mo-
hammedan astronomer was found not to under-
stand the method. A rigorous examination of
the calendar and a series of severe tests were
made, all of which proved the remarkable superi-
ority of the Western astronomy. A council was
called, which the Emperor had private reasons for
making of unusual weight and magnificence, and
though the votes were divided through prejudice
against the foreigners and unwillingness to ac-
knowledge error in so important a political doc-
ument as the calendar, yet the majority was in
favor of cutting off the extra and erroneous
month. It was such a melancholy thing to lop
off a whole month that, before the vote was tak-
en, the council sent its chief mandarin to Ver-
biest, and addressed him thus: “Take heed what
you do; you are going to make us contemptible
among the neighboring nations who follow and
respect the Chinese calendar, by letting them
know that we were so grossly mistaken that there
was a necessity of retrenching a whole month
from the present year. Cannot you palliate this
matter, or find some expedient to save our reputa-
tion? If you can, you will do us great service.”
But the father replied that it was not in his pow-
er to reconcile the heavens with their calendar,
and the month was cut off. This was done by
public edict, greatly to the distress of those who
did not understand astronomy, for they objected
to having a month taken out of their lives and
wages, and, furthermore, could not understand
what had been done with the month.
After this signal triumph, Father Verbiest pro-
ceeded to take charge of the Astronomical Tri-
bunal, and his first step was to provide himself
with the means of observation. An observatory
It was located on a square tow-
er, abutting on the inside of the wall, above which
it rose fifteen or twenty feet. The instruments
were elaborate, and were of perhaps Arabian
make, but the father judged them uufit for his
use, and had them replaced by others, six in num-

ber, and very perfectly made, of which five were
made in Peking, and one in Paris—the latter a
present from Louis the Great.
A few years ago an American was made Pro-
fessor of Astronomy in the School of the Chinese
Foreign Office. It was his duty to teach to young
expectant officials, cadets appointed by the gov-
ernment, the sciences of mathematics and astron-
omy, and he was tacitly made, ex officio, the di-
rector of the old observatory. Of his long journey
in a Chinese cart of nearly twenty-four consecu-
tive hours between Tien-tsin and Peking; of the
fact that after the journey he discovered that
there was not a sound spot on his person—he
was sore even behind his ears; of the impression
of antiquity, dreariness, desolation, filth, poverty,
covered over with a wealth of life, color, and
activity, which the city gave to him; of the bright,
sunny weather of those autumn days, for the
autumn weather of Peking cannot be surpassed
anywhere; of the beggar who used to sit by the
professor's gate, happy in the sunshine while
he could listen to the song of the cricket which
he carried with him in a cage, concealed in his
rags at night, but set out on a stone close to him
in the daytime; of the officious attendance of
the body-servant on this son of an Illinois farmer,
who received these attentions with such transpar-
ent awkwardness that he always suspected an
expression of contempt on the impassible face
of his “boy”—of these and many other things, the
impressions of which will remain as vivid mental
pictures to his dying day, we will say nothing
further. This professor had brought with him
a modern telescope of some size, and contem-
plated the founding of another observatory, but
he was none the less interested in the ancient one,
and arranged at an early day for a visit to it.
He set out, therefore, within a few days, one au-
tumn morning, accompanied by a competent in-
terpreter and guide in the person of the foreign
proctor of his school. A missionary visiting in
Peking also went with them. They approached
the observatory from the south side. It is built
on a large tower which abuts on the wall, having
a total height of about fifty feet above the street
below. It seems to be an integral part of the
wall, and was probably built at the same time,
or about two hundred and fifty years ago. The
structure is still in good preservation. Beneath
it runs a street through a tunnel, of which the
marble pavement is still in fair repair. To the
right is an easy access to the top of the wall; to
the left is a low building occupied by the curator,
through which only can access to the town be
gained.
They enter the curator's court, but he does not
recognize the “foreign devil” as his superior, and
refuses to admit the party. Persuasion has no
effect. Money is tried, and seems to have lost
its power—a power better recognized in China
than perhaps anywhere else in the world. The
Chinaman says that the mandarins have forbid-
den entrance to foreigners. He wishes to oblige;
he did oblige a party of foreigners a few days
before, hence a beating by the order of the man-
darins, and he shows as corroborative evidence
a few scratches on his face. The guide professes

to believe that the scratches were given by the
curator's wife; the half-dozen Chinese spectators
are much amused; good-nature prevails; the fee
is doubled, and the obstacles to admission disap-
pear as if by magic.
Passing through several courts they come out
on a larger one, where they find two armillary
spheres which had occupied the observatory tow-
er until replaced by Verbiest. They are both set
for a latitude some degrees south of Peking, and
have therefore undoubtedly been brought from
some point south. They are of gray bronze, and
the ornamental details are very fine; indeed, they
cannot be surpassed anywhere in the world. One
is broken, and both tradition and the style of or-
namentation make it the more ancient of the two.
It is generally agreed that it is not Chinese, and
opinion is divided as to whether it is Arabian
or Hindoo. The dragons are, however, so Chi-
nese that it is easy to believe that it was made
by Chinese orders. The other is yet perfect, and
bears evidence of Chinese manufacture, though
for the reason stated above it is believed to have
been made in some other part of the empire,
where it probably made a part of an observatory
transported perhaps to Peking by order of Kublai.
Other instruments of minor importance—a sun-
dial, water-clock, etc., are housed under the neigh-
boring roofs.
An easy ascent on the north side carries the
visitors to the top of the tower. The number of
the instruments has been increased by two since
Du Haldé's picture was taken, viz., a third armil-
lary sphere and a second quadrant. They are
all of bronze, and have diameters of six or eight
feet. The mechanism is still perfect, and they
still turn on their joints as well as they did two
hundred years ago. The observations were tak-
en through sights. The markings of the divisions
of the circles are fairly accurate, though not as
perfect as the rest of the work. The instru-
ments rest on dragons and clouds of fine work-
manship, and are surrounded by marble steps
convenient for an observer. In one case there
is a movable flight of steps.
The finest instrument of all is the celestial
globe, said to have been presented by Louis the
Great. It figures twenty-eight constellations, and
the individual stars are represented by small pro-
jections on the otherwise smooth surface—the
brightness of the star being indicated by the size
of the projection. The support is especially ad-
mirable, and makes possible, on the spot, a com-
parison between the best French and Chinese or-
nament of the day—a comparison in which the
French do not suffer. The horizon is finely
chased. To the north of it is a quadrant sup-
ported by an arch of clouds. o
This is a neglected observatory. No Chinese
is competent to use it, and foreigners can do
better with modern instruments. Besides its his-
torical interest its usefulness at the present day
is limited to providing a sinecure to several needy
Chinese. In this sort of usefulness it finds nu-
merous counterparts in Peking and all over the
empire, where the monuments of past greatness,
though not always conserved, have always their

COnServatorS. ".

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RIRMESS EVE. See illustration on double-page of Supplement.

IRMESS, which has become here almost synonymous with a | fancy fair held for some charitable purpose, accompanied with music, dancing, tableaux vivants, and the like, was at first the designation of the out-door church festivals celebrated in Holland and Belgium. How rude and riotous these assemblages soon became we know from the pictures of Teniers and other artists who depicted scenes of boorish revelry. Every village used to have its own Kirmess, but now these festivals are restricted to a few towns, and form the chief attraction of the year to the peasantry for miles around. In many cases the Kirmess is so elaborately gotten up, so artistic and striking in every detail, that strangers from all quarters flock to see it. Perhaps the great Kirmess of Antwerp is the most important. It takes place on the 15th of

SAILOR'S WIFE.--FROM THE PAINTING BY G. HAQUETTE,

August, the Feast of the Assumption, and culminates in the grand procession of Notre Dame. The country folks in holiday garb and strangers also come to see the sight, throng the city the day before the great feast, and the streets are impassable. The programme of the Antwerp Kirmess comprises a grand distribution of prizes for archery and rifle-shooting, and the procession of the guilds with their prizes is the opening scene. Each advances with its flag in front and a pole displaying the trophies it has won; in many cases the banners are of velvet, richly embroidered, and the prizes are displayed on velvet cushions. The most striking moment, however, is when the life-size statue of Our Lady is brought forth from the cathedral. It is borne high on the shoulders of six stalwart bearers; its robes are richly embroidered with gold and silver, and the train of gold tinsel is thickly studded with roses. As it moves along to the Grande Place, surrounded with banners, and in clouds of incense, the crowd be

comes denser, and with the quaint gables of the square and the great cathedral porch, forms a picturesque combination, the women with their strange head-dresses of gold plates and Mechlin lace, or in tall straw bonnets and quilled lace caps with long lappets, being a characteristic feature. The feast lasts three days. All the exhibitions are open; there are balls at the theatre, fireworks at the citadel, and dancing in the open air in the Place Verte. As a rule, the Kirmess is devoted to secular amusements rather than to religious observances, and they differ from each other only in magnitude. The term is used for similar gatherings in Germany as well as the Flemish countries. The use of the term in America may be either a tradition or a revival of the old Dutch festivals kept by the early settlers in Manhattan Island ; but the Kirmess is here distinctly an in-door entertainment of a more or less exclusive character, with a charitable motive to justify it.

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