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´╗┐Title: Historic China, and other sketches
Author: Giles, Herbert Allen, 1845-1935
Language: English
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by Herbert A. Giles

"The institutions of a despised people cannot be judged with fairness."

Spencer's Sociology: The Bias of Patriotism.


To Warren William de la Rue,
"As a mark of friendship."


The following _Sketches_ owe their existence chiefly to frequent
peregrinations in Chinese cities, with pencil and note-book in hand.
Some of them were written for my friend Mr. F. H. Balfour of Shanghai,
and by him published in the columns of the _Celestial Empire_. These
have been revised and partly re-written; others appear now for the
first time.

It seems to be generally believed that the Chinese, as a nation, are
an immoral, degraded race; that they are utterly dishonest, cruel, and
in every way depraved; that opium, a more terrible scourge than gin,
is now working frightful ravages in their midst; and that only the
forcible diffusion of Christianity can save the Empire from speedy and
overwhelming ruin. An experience of eight years has taught me that,
with all their faults, the Chinese are a hardworking, sober, and happy
people, occupying an intermediate place between the wealth and
culture, the vice and misery of the West.

H. A. G.

Sutton, Surrey, 1st November 1875.



His Imperial Majesty, Tsai-Shun, deputed by Heaven to reign over all
within the four seas, expired on the evening of Tuesday the 13th
January 1875, aged eighteen years and nine months. He was erroneously
known to foreigners as the Emperor T'ung Chih; but T'ung Chih was
merely the style of his reign, adopted in order that the people should
not profane by vulgar utterance a name they are not even permitted to
write.[*] Until the new monarch, the late Emperor's cousin, had been
duly installed, no word of what had taken place was breathed beyond
the walls of the palace; for dangerous thoughts might have arisen had
it been known that the State was drifting rudderless, a prey to the
wild waves of sedition and lawless outbreak. The accession of a child
to reign under the style of Kuang Hsu was proclaimed before it was
publicly made known that his predecessor had passed away.

    [*] Either one or all of the characters composing an emperor's name
    are altered by the addition or omission of certain component
    parts; as if, for instance, we were to write an Alb_a_rt chain
    merely because Alb_e_rt is the name of the heir-apparent.
    Similarly, a child will never utter or write its father's name;
    and the names of Confucius and Mencius are forbidden to all alike.

Of the personal history of the ill-fated boy who has thus been
prematurely cut off just as he was entering upon manhood and the
actual government of four hundred million souls, we know next to
nothing. His accession as an infant to the dignities of a sensual,
dissipated father, attracted but little attention either in China or
elsewhere; and from that date up to the year 1872, all we heard about
His Majesty was, that he was making good progress in Manchu, or had
hit the target three times out of ten shots at a distance of about
twenty-five yards. He was taught to ride on horseback, though up to
the day of his death he never took part in any great hunting
expeditions, such as were frequently indulged in by earlier emperors
of the present dynasty. He learnt to read and write Chinese, though
what progress he had made in the study of the Classics was of course
only known to his teachers. Painting may or may not have been an
Imperial hobby; but it is quite certain that the drama received more
perhaps than its full share of patronage. The ladies and eunuchs of
the palace are notoriously fond of whiling away much of their
monotonous existence in watching the grave antics of professional
tragedians and laughing at the broad jokes of the low-comedy man, with
his comic voice and funnily-painted face. Listening to the tunes
prescribed by the Book of Ceremonies, and dining in solemn solitary
grandeur off the eight[*] precious kinds of food set apart for the
sovereign, his late Majesty passed his boyhood, until in 1872 he
married the fair A-lu-te, and practically ascended the dragon throne
of his ancestors. Up to that time the Empresses-Dowager, hidden behind
a bamboo screen, had transacted business with the members of the Privy
Council, signing all documents of State with the vermilion pencil for
and on behalf of the young Emperor, but probably without even going
through the formality of asking his assent. The marriage of the
Emperor of China seemed to wake people up from their normal apathy, so
that for a few months European eyes were actually directed towards the
Flowery Land, and the _Illustrated London News_, with praiseworthy
zeal, sent out a special correspondent, whose valuable contributions
to that journal will be a record for ever. The ceremony, however, was
hardly over before a bitter drop rose in the Imperial cup. Barbarians
from beyond the sea came forward to claim the right of personal
interview with the sovereign of all under Heaven. The story of the
first audience is still fresh in our memories; the trivial
difficulties introduced by obstructive statesmen at every stage of the
proceedings, questions of etiquette and precedence raised at every
turn, until finally the _kotow_ was triumphantly rejected and five
bows substituted in its stead. Every one saw the curt paragraph in the
_Peking Gazette_, which notified that on such a day and at such an
hour the foreign envoys had been admitted to an interview with the
Emperor. We all laughed over the silly story so sedulously spread by
the Chinese to every corner of the Empire, that our Minister's knees
had knocked together from terror when Phaeton-like he had obtained his
dangerous request; that he fell down flat in the very presence,
breaking all over into a profuse perspiration, and that the haughty
prince who had acted as his conductor chid him for his want of course,
bestowing upon him the contemptuous nickname of "chicken-feather."

    [*] These are--bears' paws, deers' tail, ducks' tongues, torpedos'
    roe, camels' humps, monkeys' lips, carps' tails, and beef-marrow.

Subsequently, in the spring of 1874, the late Emperor made his great
pilgrimage to worship at the tombs of his ancestors. He had previous
to his marriage performed this filial duty once, but the mausoleum
containing his father's bones was not then completed, and the whole
thing was conducted in a private, unostentatious manner. But on the
last occasion great preparations were made and vast sums spent (on
paper), that nothing might be wanting to render the spectacle as
imposing as money could make it. Royalty was to be seen humbly
performing the same hallowed rites which are demanded of every child,
and which can under no circumstances be delegated to any other person
as long as there is a son or a daughter living. The route along which
His Majesty was to proceed was lined with closely-packed crowds of
loyal subjects, eager to set eyes for once in their lives upon a being
they are taught to regard as the incarnation of divinity; and when the
Sacred Person really burst upon their view, the excitement was beyond
description. Young and old, women and children, fell simultaneously
upon their knees, and tears and sobs mingled with the blessings
showered upon His Majesty by thousands of his simple-minded,
affectionate people.

The next epoch in the life of this youthful monarch occurred a few
months ago. The Son of Heaven[*] had not availed himself of western
science to secure immunity from the most loathsome in the long
category of diseases. He had not been vaccinated, in spite of the
known prevalence of smallpox at Peking during the winter season. True,
it is but a mild form of smallpox that is there common; but it is easy
to imagine what a powerless victim was found in the person of a young
prince enervated by perpetual cooping in the heart of a city, rarely
permitted to leave the palace, and then only in a sedan-chair, called
out of his bed at three o'clock every morning summer or winter, to
transact business that must have had few charms for a boy, and
possessed of no other means of amusement than such as he could derive
from the society of his wife or concubines. Occasional bulletins
announced that the disease was progressing favourably, and latterly it
was signified that His Majesty was rapidly approaching a state of
convalescence. His death, therefore, came both suddenly and
unexpectedly; happily, at a time when China was unfettered by war or
rebellion, and when all the energies of her statesmen could be
employed in averting either one catastrophe or the other. For one
hundred days the Court went into deep mourning, wearing capes of white
fur with the hair outside over long white garments of various stuffs,
lined also with white fur, but of a lighter kind than that of the
capes. Mandarins of high rank use the skin of the white fox for the
latter, but the ordinary official is content with the curly fleece of
the snow-white Mongolian sheep. For one hundred days no male in the
Empire might have his head shaved, and women were supposed to eschew
for the same period all those gaudy head ornaments of which they are
so inordinately fond. At the expiration of this time the Court
mourning was changed to black, which colour, or at any rate something
sombre, will be worn till the close of the year.

    [*] Such terms as "Brother of the Sun and Moon" are altogether
    imaginary, and are quite unknown in China.

For twelve long months there may be no marrying or giving in marriage,
that is among the official classes; the people are let off more
easily, one hundred days being fixed upon as their limit. For a whole
year it is illegal to renew the scrolls of red paper pasted on every
door-post and inscribed with cherished maxims from the sacred books;
except again for non-officials, whose penance is once more cut down to
one hundred days' duration. In these sad times the birth of a son--a
Chinaman's dearest wish on earth--elicits no congratulations from
thronging friends; no red eggs are sent to the lucky parents, and no
joyous feast is provided in return. Merrymaking of all kinds is
forbidden to all classes for the full term of one year, and the
familiar sound of the flute and the guitar is hushed in every
household and in every street.[*] The ordinary Chinese visiting-card
--a piece of red paper about six inches by three, inscribed with its
owner's name in large characters--changes to a dusky brown; and the
very lines on letter paper, usually red, are printed of a dingy blue.
Official seals are also universally stamped in blue instead of the
vermilion or mauve otherwise used according to the rank of the holder.
Red is absolutely tabooed; it is the emblem of mirth and joy, and the
colour of every Chinese maiden's wedding dress. It is an insult to
write a letter to a friend or stranger on a piece of plain white paper
with black ink. Etiquette requires that the columns should be divided
by red lines; or, if not, that a tiny slip of red paper be pasted on
in recognition of the form. For this reason it is that all stamps and
seals in China are _red_--to enable tradesmen, officials, and others
to use any kind of paper, whether it has already some red about it or
not; and every foreigner in China would do well to exact on all
occasions the same formalities from his employes as they would
consider a matter of duty towards one of their own countrymen, however
low he might be in the social scale.

    [*] Mencius. Book v., part ii., ch. 4.

Certain classes of the people will suffer from the observance of these
ceremonies far more severely than others. The peasant may not have his
head shaved for one hundred days--inconvenient, no doubt, for him, but
mild as compared with the fate of thousands of barbers who for three
whole months will not know where to look to gain their daily rice. Yet
there is a large section of the community much worse off than the
barbers, and this comprises everybody connected in any way with the
theatres. Their occupation is gone. For the space of one year neither
public nor private performance is permitted. During that time actors
are outcasts upon the face of the earth, and have no regular means of
getting a livelihood. The lessees of theatres have most likely
feathered their own nests sufficiently well to enable them to last out
the prescribed term without serious inconvenience; but with us, actors
are proverbially improvident, and even in frugal China they are no
exception to the rule.

Officials in the provinces, besides conforming to the above customs in
every detail, are further obliged on receipt of the "sad announcement"
to mourn three times a-day for three days in a particular chapel
devoted to that purpose. There they are supposed to call to mind the
virtues of their late master, and more especially that act of grace
which elevated each to the position he enjoys. Actual tears are
expected as a slight return for the seal of office which has enabled
its possessor to grow rich at the expense too often of a poor and
struggling population. We fancy, however, that the mind of the mourner
is more frequently occupied with thinking how many friends he can
count among the Imperial censors than in dwelling upon the
transcendent bounty of the deceased Emperor.

We sympathise with the bereaved mother who has lost her only child and
the hope of China; but on the other hand if there is little room for
congratulation, there is still less for regret. The nation has been
deprived of its nominal head, a vapid youth of nineteen, who was
content to lie _perdu_ in his harem without making an effort to do a
little governing on his own responsibility. During the ten years that
foreigners have resided within half a mile of his own apartments in
the palace at Peking, he has either betrayed no curiosity to learn
anything at all about them, or has been wanting in resolution to carry
out such a scheme as we can well imagine would have been devised by
some of his bolder and more vigorous ancestors. And now once more the
sceptre has passed into the hands of a child who will grow up, like
the late Emperor, amid the intrigues of a Court composed of women and
eunuchs, utterly unfit for anything like energetic government.

The splendid tomb which has been for the last twelve years in
preparation to receive the Imperial coffin, but which, according to
Chinese custom, may not be completed until death has actually taken
place, will witness the last scene in the career of an unfortunate
young man who could never have been an object of envy even to the
meanest of his people, and who has not left one single monument behind
him by which he will be remembered hereafter.


It is, perhaps, tolerably safe to say that the position of women among
the Chinese is very generally misunderstood. In the squalid huts of
the poor, they are represented as ill-used drudges, drawers of water
and grinders of corn, early to rise and late to bed, their path
through the vale of tears uncheered by a single ray of happiness or
hope, and too often embittered by terrible pangs of starvation and
cold. This picture is unfortunately true in the main; at any rate,
there is sufficient truth about it to account for the element of
sentimental fiction escaping unnoticed, and thus it comes to be
regarded as an axiom that the Chinese woman is low, very low, in the
scale of humanity and civilisation. The women of the poorer classes in
China have to work hard indeed for the bowl of rice and cabbage which
forms their daily food, but not more so than women of their own
station in other countries where the necessaries of life are dearer,
children more numerous, and a drunken husband rather the rule than the
exception. Now the working classes in China are singularly sober;
opium is beyond their means, and few are addicted to the use of
Chinese wine. Both men and women smoke, and enjoy their pipe of
tobacco in the intervals of work; but this seems to be almost their
only luxury. Hence it follows that every cash earned either by the man
or woman goes towards procuring food and clothes instead of enriching
the keepers of grog-shops; besides which the percentage of quarrels
and fights is thus very materially lessened. A great drag on the poor
in China is the family tie, involving as it does not only the support
of aged parents, but a supply of rice to uncles, brothers, and cousins
of remote degrees of relationship, during such time as these may be
out of work. Of course such a system cuts both ways, as the time may
come when the said relatives supply, in their turn, the daily meal;
and the support of parents in a land where poor-rates are unknown, has
tended to place the present high premium on male offspring. Thus,
though there is a great deal of poverty in China, there is very little
absolute destitution, and the few wretched outcasts one does see in
every Chinese town, are almost invariably the once opulent victims of
the opium-pipe or the gaming-table. The relative number of human
beings who suffer from cold and hunger in China is far smaller than in
England, and in this all-important respect, the women of the working
classes are far better off than their European sisters. Wife-beating
is unknown, though power of life and death is, under certain
circumstances, vested in the husband (Penal Code, S. 293); while, on
the other hand, a wife may be punished with a hundred blows for merely
striking her husband, who is also entitled to a divorce (Penal Code,
S. 315). The truth is, that these poor women are, on the whole, very
well treated by their husbands, whom they not unfrequently rule with
as harsh a tongue as that of any western shrew.

In the fanciful houses of the rich, the Chinese woman is regarded with
even more sympathy by foreigners generally than is accorded to her
humbler fellow-countrywoman. She is represented as a mere ornament, or
a soulless, listless machine--something on which the sensual eye of
her opium-smoking lord may rest with pleasure while she prepares the
fumes which will waft him to another hour or so of tipsy
forgetfulness. She knows nothing, she is taught nothing, never leaves
the house, never sees friends, or hears the news; she is,
consequently, devoid of the slightest intellectual effort, and no more
a companion to her husband than the stone dog at his front gate. Now,
although we do not profess much personal acquaintance with the
_gynecee_ of any wealthy Chinese establishment, we think we have
gathered quite enough from reading and conversation to justify us in
regarding the Chinese lady from an entirely different point of
view. In novels, for instance, the heroine is always highly
educated--composes finished verses, and quotes from Confucius; and it
is only fair to suppose that such characters are not purely and wholly
ideal. Besides, most young Chinese girls, whose parents are well off,
are taught to read, though it is true that many content themselves
with being able to read and write a few hundred words. They all learn
and excel in embroidery; the little knick-knacks which hang at every
Chinaman's waist-band being almost always the work of his wife or
sister. Visiting between Chinese ladies is of everyday occurrence, and
on certain fete-days the temples are crowded to overflowing with
"golden lilies"[*] of all shapes and sizes. They give little
dinner-parties to their female relatives and friends, at which they
talk scandal, and brew mischief to their hearts' content. The first
wife sometimes quarrels with the second, and between them they make
the house uncomfortably hot for the unfortunate husband. "Don't you
foreigners also dread the denizens of the inner apartments?" said a
hen-pecked Chinaman one day to us--and we think he was consoled to
hear that viragos are by no means confined to China. One of the
happiest moments a Chinese woman knows, is when the family circle
gathers round husband, brother, or it may be son, and listens with
rapt attention and wondering credulity to a favourite chapter from the
"Dream of the Red Chamber." She believes it every word, and wanders
about these realms of fiction with as much confidence as was ever
placed by western child in the marvellous stories of the "Arabian

    [*] A poetical name for the small feet of Chinese women.


If there is one thing more than another, after the possession of the
thirteen classics, on which the Chinese specially pride themselves, it
is _politeness_. Even had their literature alone not sufficed to place
them far higher in the scale of mental cultivation than the unlettered
barbarian, a knowledge of those important forms and ceremonies which
regulate daily intercourse between man and man, unknown of course to
inhabitants of the outside nations, would have amply justified the
graceful and polished Celestial in arrogating to himself the proud
position he now occupies with so much satisfaction to himself. A few
inquiring natives ask if foreigners have any notion at all of
etiquette, and are always surprised in proportion to their ignorance
to hear that our ideas of ceremony are fully as clumsy and complicated
as their own. It must be well understood that we speak chiefly of the
educated classes, and not of "boys" and compradores who learn in a
very short time both to touch their caps and wipe their noses on their
masters' pocket-handkerchiefs. Our observations will be confined to
members of that vast body of men who pore day and night over the
"Doctrine of the Mean," and whose lips would scorn to utter the
language of birds.

And truly if national greatness may be gauged by the mien and carriage
of its people, China is without doubt entitled to a high place among
the children of men. An official in full costume is a most imposing
figure, and carries himself with great dignity and self-possession,
albeit he is some four or five inches shorter than an average
Englishman. In this respect he owes much to his long dress, which, by
the way, we hope in course of time to see modified; but more to a
close and patient study of an art now almost monopolised in Europe by
aspirants to the triumphs of the stage. There is not a single awkward
movement as the Chinese gentleman bows you into his house, or supplies
you from his own hand with the cup of tea so necessary, as we shall
show, to the harmony of the meeting. Not until his guest is seated
will the host venture to take up his position on the right hand of the
former; and even if in the course of an excited conversation, either
should raise himself, however slightly, from a sitting posture, it
will be the bounden duty of the other to do so too. No gentleman would
sit while his equal stood. Occasionally, where it is not intended to
be over-respectful to a visitor, a servant will bring in the tea, one
cup in each hand. Then standing before his master and guest, he will
cross his arms, serving the latter who is at his right hand with his
left hand, his master with the right. The object of this is to expose
the palm--in Chinese, the _heart_--of either hand to each recipient of
tea. It is a token of fidelity and respect. The tea itself is called
"guest tea," and _is not intended for drinking_. It has a more useful
mission than that of allaying thirst. Alas for the red-haired
barbarian who greedily drinks off his cupful before ten words have
been exchanged, and confirms the unfavourable opinion his host already
entertains of the manners and customs of the West! And yet a little
trouble spent in learning the quaint ceremonies of the Chinese would
have gained him much esteem as an enlightened and tolerant man. For
while despising us outwardly, the Chinese know well enough that
inwardly we despise them, and thus it comes to pass that a voluntary
concession on our part to any of their harmless prejudices is always
gratefully acknowledged. To return, "guest tea" is provided to be used
as a signal by either party that the interview is at an end. A guest
no sooner raises the cup to his lips than a dozen voices shout to his
chair-coolies; so, too, when the master of the house is prevented by
other engagements from playing any longer the part of host. Without
previous warning--unusual except among intimate acquaintances--this
tea should never be touched except as a sign of departure.

Strangers meeting may freely ask each other their names, provinces,
and even prospects; it is not so usual as is generally supposed to
inquire a person's age. It is always a compliment to an old man, who
is justly proud of his years, and takes the curious form of "your
venerable teeth?" but middle-aged men do not as a rule care about the
question and their answers can rarely be depended upon. A man may be
asked the number and sex of his children; also if his father and
mother are still "in the hall," i.e., alive. His wife, however, should
never be alluded to even in the most indirect manner. Friends meeting,
either or both being in sedan-chairs, stop their bearers at once, and
get out with all possible expedition; the same rule applies to
acquaintances meeting on horseback. Spectacles must always be removed
before addressing even the humblest individual--sheer ignorance of
which most important custom has often, we imagine, led to rudeness
from natives towards foreigners, where otherwise extreme courtesy
would have been shown. In such cases a foreigner must yield, or take
the chances of being snubbed; and where neither self-respect or
national dignity is compromised, we recommend him by all means to
adopt the most conciliatory course. Chinese etiquette is a wide field
for the student, and one which, we think, would well repay extensive
and methodical exploration.


The disadvantages of ignoring alike the language and customs of the
Chinese are daily and hourly exemplified in the unsatisfactory
relations which exist as a rule between master and servant. That the
latter almost invariably despise their foreign patrons, and are only
tempted to serve under them by the remunerative nature of the
employment, is a fact too well known to be contradicted, though why
this should be so is a question which effectually puzzles many who are
conscious of treating their native dependants only with extreme
kindness and consideration. The answer, however, is not difficult for
those who possess the merest insight into the workings of the Chinese
mind; for just as every inhabitant of the eighteen provinces believes
China to be the centre of civilisation and power, so does he infer
that his language and customs are the only ones worthy of attention
from native and barbarian alike. The very antagonism of the few
foreign manners and habits he is obliged by his position to cultivate,
tend rather to confirm him in his own sense of superiority than
otherwise. For who but a barbarian would defile the banquet hour "when
the wine mantles in the cups" with a _white_ table-cloth, the badge of
grief and death? How much more elegant the soft _red_ lacquer of the
"eight fairy" table, with all its associations of the bridal hour! The
host, too, at the _head_ of his own board, sitting in what should be
the seat of the most honoured guest, and putting the latter on his
_right_ instead of his left hand! Truly these red-haired barbarians
are the very scum of the earth.

By the time he has arrived at this conclusion our native domestic has
by a direct process of reasoning settled in his mind another important
point, namely, that any practice of the civilities and ceremonies
which Chinese custom exacts from the servant to the master, would be
entirely out of place in reference to the degraded being whom an
accidental command of dollars has invested with the title, though
hardly with the rights, of a patron. Consequently, little acts of
gross rudeness, unperceived of course by the foreigner, characterise
the everyday intercourse of master and servant in China. The house-boy
presents himself for orders, and even waits at table, in short clothes
--an insult no Chinaman would dare to offer to one of his own
countrymen. He meets his master with his tail tied round his head, and
passes him in the street without touching his hat, that is, without
standing still at the side of the street until his master has passed.
He lolls about and scratches his head when receiving instructions,
instead of standing in a respectful attitude with his hands at his
side in a state of rest; enters a room with his shoes down at heel, or
without socks; omits to rise at the approach of his master, mistress,
or their friends, and commits numerous other petty breaches of decorum
which would ensure his instant dismissal from the house of a Chinese
gentleman. We ourselves take a pride in making our servants treat us
with the same degree of outward respect they would show towards native
masters, and we believe that by strictly adhering to this system we
succeed in gaining, to some extent, their esteem. Inasmuch, however,
as foreign susceptibilities are easily shocked on certain points
ignored by Chinamen of no matter what social standing, we have found
it necessary to introduce a special Bill, known in our domestic circle
as the Expectoration Act. Now it is a trite observation that the
Chinese make capital soldiers if they are well commanded, and what is
the head of a large business establishment but the commander-in-chief
of a small army? The efficiency of his force depends far more upon the
moral agencies brought to bear than upon any system of rewards and
punishments human ingenuity can devise; for Chinamen, like other
mortals, love to have their prejudices respected, and fear of shame
and dread of ridicule are as deeply ingrained in their natures as in
those of any nation under the sun. They have a horror of blows, not so
much from the pain inflicted, as from the sense of injury done to
something more elevated than their mere corporeal frames; and a friend
of ours once lost a good servant by merely, in a hasty fit, _throwing
a sock at him_. We therefore think that, considering the vast extent
of the Chinese empire and its innumerable population, all of whom are
constructed mentally more or less on the same model, their language
and customs are deserving of more attention than is generally paid to
them by foreigners in China.


It is an almost universally-received creed that behind the suicidal
prejudices and laughable superstitions of the Chinese there is a
mysterious fund of solid learning hidden away in the uttermost
recesses--far beyond the ken of occidentals--of that _terra
incognita_, Chinese literature. Sinologues darkly hint at elaborate
treatises on the various sciences, impartial histories and candid
biographies, laying at the same time extraordinary stress on the
extreme difficulty of the language in which they are written, and
carefully mentioning the number (sometimes fabulous) of the volumes of
which each is composed. Hence, probably, it results that few students
venture to push their reading beyond novels, and remain during the
whole of their career in a state of darkness as to that literary
wealth of China which enthusiasts delight to compare with her
unexplored mines of metal and coal. Inasmuch, however, as it is not
absolutely necessary to read a book from beginning to end to be able
to form a pretty correct judgment as to its value, so, many students
who are sufficiently advanced to read a novel with ease and without
the help of a teacher, might readily gain an insight into a large
enough number of the most celebrated scientific or historical works to
enable them to comprehend the true worth of the whole of this vast
literature. For vast it undoubtedly is, though our own humble efforts
to appraise it justly, in comparison of course with the other
literatures of the world, brought upon us in the first hours of
discovery that some years of assiduous toil had been positively thrown
away. Sir W. Hamilton, if we recollect rightly, said that by so many
more languages as a man knows, by so many more times is he a man--an
apophthegm of but a shallow kind if all he meant to convey was that an
Englishman who can speak French is also a Frenchman by virtue of his
knowledge of the colloquial. The opening up of new fields of thought
through the medium of a new literature, is a result more worthy the
effort of acquiring a foreign language than sparkling in a _salon_
with the purest imaginable accent; and herein Sir W. Hamilton counted
without Chinese. The greater portion of the "Classics," cherished
tomes to which China thinks even now she owes her intellectual
supremacy over the rest of the world, is open through Dr Legge's
translation to all Englishmen, and those who run may read, weighing it
in the balance and determining its status among the ethical systems
either of the past or present. Had we found as much that is solid in
other departments of Chinese literature, as there is mixed up with the
occasional nonsense and obscurity of the Four Books, our protest would
have taken a milder form; as it is, we think it right to condemn any
and all random assertions which tend to strengthen in the minds of
those who have no opportunity of judging, the belief that China is
possessed of a vast and valuable literature, in which, for aught any
one knows to the contrary, there may lie buried gems of purest ray
serene. Can it be supposed that, if true, nothing of all this has yet
been brought to light? There have been, and are now, foreigners
possessing a much wider knowledge of Chinese literature than many
natives of education, but, strange to say, such translations as have
hitherto been given to the world have been chiefly confined to plays
and novels! We hold that all those whom tastes or circumstances have
led to acquire a knowledge of the Chinese language have a great duty
to perform, and this is to contribute each something to the scanty
quota of translations from Chinese now existing. Let us see what the
poets, historians, and especially the scientific men of China have
produced to justify so many in speaking as they have done, and still
do speak, of her bulky literature. Many, we think, will be deterred by
the grave nonsense or childish superstitions which they dare not
submit to foreign judges as the result of their labours in this
fantastic field; but to withhold such is to leave the public where it
was before, at the mercy of unscrupulous or crazed enthusiasts.

We were led into this train of thought by an article in the _North
China Daily News_ of 10th July 1874, in which the writer speaks of
China as "a luxuriant mental oasis amidst the sterility of Eastern
Asia," and "possessing a literature in vastness and antiquarian value
surpassed by no other." He goes on to say that the translations
hitherto made "have conveyed to us a faint notion of the compass,
variety, solidity, and linguistic beauties of that literature." Such
statements as these admit, unfortunately, of rhetorical support,
sufficient to convince outsiders that at any rate there are two sides
to the question, a conviction which could only be effectually
dispelled by placing before them a few thousand volumes translated
into English, and chosen by the writer of the article himself.[*]
When, however, our enthusiast deals with more realisable facts, and
says that in China "there is no organised book trade, nor publishers'
circulars, nor Quaritch's Catalogues, nor any other catalogues whether
of old or new books for sale," we can assure him he knows nothing at
all about the matter; that there is now lying on our table a very
comprehensive list of new editions of standard works lately published
at a large book-shop in Wu-chang Fu, with the price of each work
attached; and that Mr Wylie, in his "Notes on Chinese Literature,"
devotes five entire pages to the enumeration of some thirty well-known
and voluminous catalogues of ancient and modern works.

    [*] Baron Johannes von Gumpach. Died at Shanghai, 31st July 1875.


A ramble through a native town in China must often have discovered to
the observant foreigner small collections of second-hand books and
pamphlets displayed on some umbrella-shaded stall, or arranged less
pretentiously on the door-step of a temple. If innocent of all claims
to a knowledge of the written language, he may take them for cheap
editions of Confucius, with which literary chair-coolies are wont to
solace their leisure hours; at the worst, some of these myriad novels
of which he has heard so much, and read--in translations--so little.
It possibly never enters our barbarian's head that many of these
itinerant book-sellers are vendors of educational works, much after
the style of Pinnock's Catechisms and other such guides to knowledge.
Buying a handful the other day for a few cash,[*] we were much amused
at the nature of the subjects therein discussed, and the manner in
which they were treated. The first we opened was on Ethnology and
Zoology, and gave an account of the wonderful types of men and beasts
which exist in far-off regions beyond the pale of China and
civilisation. There was the long-legged nation, the people of which
have legs three _chang_ (thirty feet) long to support bodies of no
more than ordinary size, followed by a short account of a cross-legged
race, a term which explains itself. We are next told of a country
where all the inhabitants have a large round hole right through the
middle of their bodies, the officials and wealthy citizens being
easily and comfortably carried _a la_ sedan chair by means of a strong
bamboo pole passed through it. Then there is the feathered or bird
nation, the pictures of which people remind us very much of Lapps and
Greenlanders. A few lines are devoted to a pygmy race of nine-inch
men, also to a people who walk with their bodies at an angle of 45
degrees. There is the one-armed nation, and a three-headed nation,
besides fish-bodied and bird-headed representatives of humanity; last
but not least we have a race of beings without heads at all, their
mouth, eyes, nose, &c., occupying their chests and pit of the stomach!

  "And of the cannibals that each other eat,
  The Anthropophagi, and men whose heads
  Do grow beneath their shoulders."

The little work which contains the above valuable information was
published in 1783, and has consequently been nearly one hundred years
before an enlightened and approving public.

    [*] About 24 cash go to a penny.

Not to dwell upon the remaining portion, devoted to Zoology, and
containing wonderful specimens of various kinds of animals and birds
met with by travellers beyond the Four Seas, we would remark that the
geography of the world, notwithstanding some very fair existing
treatises, is little studied by Chinese at the present day. More works
on topography have been written in Chinese than in probably any other
language, but to say that even these are read is quite another matter.
Geography, properly so called, is almost entirely neglected, and in a
rather extensive circle of literary acquaintances, it has never been
our fortune to meet with a single scholar acquainted with the useful
publications of Catholic or Protestant missionaries--the latter have
not contributed much--except perhaps the mutilated edition of
Verbiest's little handbook.

To describe one is to give a fair idea of all such native works for
the diffusion of knowledge. We found in our little parcel a complete
guide (save the mark!) to the _Fauna_ and _Flora_ of the Celestial
Empire, besides a treatise headed "Philosophy for the Young," in which
children are shown that to work for one's living is better than to be
idle, and that the strength of three men is powerless against _Li_.
Now as _Li_ means "abstract right," and as it is an axiom of Chinese
philosophy that "right in the abstract" does exist, we are gravely
informed that neither the moral or physical violence of any three men
acting in concert can hope to prevail against it. So much for the
state of education in China at the present day, the remedy for which
unwholesome condition will by no means readily be found. From time to
time a few scientific treatises are translated by ambitious members of
the missionary body, but such only tend to swell the pastor's fame
amongst his own immediate flock: they do not advance civilisation one
single step. The very fact of their emanating from a missionary would
of itself be enough to deter the better class of Chinese from
purchasing, or even accepting them as a gift.[*]

    [*] "The principal priest . . . declined the gift of some Christian
    books."--From _Glimpses of Travel in the Middle Kingdom_,
    published in the _Celestial Empire_ of July 3d, 1875.


Roaming in quest of novelty through that mine of marvels, a Chinese
city, we were a witness the other day of a strange but not uncommon
scene. We had halted in front of the stall of a street apothecary,
surgeon, and general practitioner, and were turning over with our eyes
his stock of simples, dragons' teeth, tigers'-claws, and like drugs
used as ingredients in the native pharmacopoeia, when along came a
man, holding his hand up to his jaw, and apparently in great pain. He
sat down by the doctor and explained to him that he was suffering with
the toothache, to get rid of which he would like to have his tooth
removed. The doctor opened his patient's mouth and inspected the
aching tooth; then he took a small phial from his stock of medicines,
and into the palm of his hand he shook a few scruples of a
pink-coloured powder. He next licked his finger and dipped it into the
powder, and inserting this into the man's mouth, rubbed it on the
aching tooth and gum. He repeated this three or four times, and then
concluded by turning the patient's head upside down; when, to the no
small astonishment of many of the bystanders, among whom was
apparently the man himself, the tooth dropped out and fell upon the
ground. The doctor then asked him if he had felt any pain, to which he
replied that he had not, and the payment of a small fee brought the
_seance_ to a close. At our application the tooth was picked up and
very civilly exhibited to us by the owner himself; it was evidently
fresh from a human jaw, though there had not been the slightest
effusion of blood from the man's mouth. The thought had naturally
suggested itself to us that the whole thing was a hoax, and that the
patient was an accomplice; but if so, the doctor was no novice at
sleight of hand, and the expression of astonishment on the other man's
face when he found his tooth gone, was as perfect a specimen of
histrionic emotion as it has ever been our lot to behold.

That night we had visions of a large establishment in Regent Street,
with an enormous placard announcing "Painless Dentistry" over the
door, and crowds of dukes and duchesses mounting and descending our
stairs to have their teeth extracted by some mysterious process
imported from China, and known to ourselves alone. Next day we
proceeded to rummage through our Chinese medical library and see what
we could hunt up on the subject of dentistry. The result of this
search we generously offer to our readers, thus, perhaps, sacrificing
the chance of securing a colossal fortune.

In the "New Collection of Tried Prescriptions," a sort of domestic
medicine published for the use of families in cases of emergency when
no physician is at hand, we find the following remarks:--

Method for Extracting Aching Teeth.

  "A tooth ought not to be taken out, for by doing so the remaining
  teeth will be loosened. If the pain is very acute and interferes
  with eating or drinking, then the tooth may be extracted;
  otherwise, it should be left. Take a bream about ten ounces in
  weight, rip it open and insert 1/10 of an ounce of powdered
  arsenic. Then sew up the body and hang it up in the wind where it
  is not exposed to the sun or accessible to cats and rats. After
  being thus hung for seven days, a kind of hoar-frost will have
  formed upon the scales of the fish. Preserve this, using for each
  tooth about as much as covers one scale. When required, spread it
  on a piece of any kind of plaster, press it with the finger on to
  the aching place, and let it stick there. Then let the patient
  cough, and the tooth will fall out of itself. This prescription
  has been tested by Dr. Wang."

                           Another Method.

  "Take a head of garlic and pound it up to a pulp. Mix it up
  thoroughly with one or two candareens' weight of white dragon's
  bones, and apply it to the suffering part. In a little while the
  tooth will drop out."

It will be noticed that the above descriptions are neither without one
or other of two characteristics always to be found in the composition
of Chinese remedies. In the first recipe, the ingredients are simple
enough, and all this is required is time, seven days being necessary
for its preparation. Now, as it is very unlikely that any one would
collect the "hoar-frost" deposit from the scales of a bream stuffed
with arsenic, in anticipation of a future toothache, and as he would
probably have got well long before the expiration of the seven days if
he set to work to make his medicine only when the tooth began to ache,
the genius of the physician and the efficacy of the recipe are alike
secure from attack. In the second case, the very existence of one of
the drugs mentioned is, to say the least, apocryphal; and although
such can be purchased at the shops of native druggists, any complaint
on the part of a duped patient would be met by the simple answer, that
the white dragon's bones he bought could not possibly have been

A few days after the above incident, we returned to the dentist's
stall, and asked him if he had any powder that would draw out a tooth
by mere application to the gum or to the tooth itself? He replied that
such a powder certainly existed, and was commonly manufactured in all
parts of China, but that he himself was out of it at the moment. He
added, that if we would call again on the 4th of the 4th moon, before
12 o'clock in the day, he should be in a position to satisfy our

In conclusion, we append a quotation from the _China Review_, which
appeared in print after our own sketch was written:--

  "Despite the oft-repeated assertion as to painless, or at least
  easy, dentistry in China, very few people seem prepared to admit
  that teeth are constantly extracted in the way described by (I
  think) a former correspondent of the _Review_. He stated that a
  white powder was rubbed on the gums of the patient, after which
  the tooth was easily pulled from its socket; and this I can
  substantiate, noting, however, that the action of the powder
  (corrosive sublimate) is not quite so rapid as represented. A
  short time since I witnessed an operation of this kind. The
  operator rubbed the powder on the gum as described, but then
  directed the patient to wait a little. After perhaps ten minutes'
  interval, he again rubbed the gum, and then, introducing his thumb
  into the mouth, pressed heavily against the tooth (which was a
  large molar). The man winced for a second as I heard the 'click'
  of the separation, but almost before he could cry out, the dentist
  gripped the tooth with his forefinger and thumb, and with very
  little violence pulled it out. The gum bled considerably, and I
  examined the tooth so as to satisfy myself that there was no
  deception. It had an abscess at the root of the fang, and was
  undoubtedly what it professed to be. When the operation was over,
  the patient washed his mouth out with _cold_ water, paid fifteen
  cash and departed."


In spite of the glowing reports issued annually from various foreign
hospitals for natives, and the undeniable good, though desultory and
practically infinitesimal, that is being worked by these institutions,
we cannot blind ourselves to the fact that western medical science is
not making more rapid strides than many other innovations in the great
struggle against Chinese prejudice and distrust. By far the majority
of our servants and those natives who come most in contact with
foreigners never dream of consulting a European doctor; or if they do,
that is quite as much as can be said, for we may pronounce it a fact
that they never take either his advice or his medicine. They still
prefer to appear with large dabs of green plaster stuck on either
temple, and to drink loathsome concoctions of marvellous drugs,
compounded according to eternal principles laid down many centuries
ago. In serious cases, when they employ their own doctors, they are
apt to mark, as Bacon said, the hits but not the misses; and failure
of human skill is generally regarded as resulting from the
interposition of divine will. Directly, however, a foreigner comes
upon the scene they forget at once that medicine is an uncertain
science, and expect not only a sure but an almost instantaneous
recovery; and, unfortunately, a single failure is quite enough to undo
the good of many months of successful practice. One Chinaman bitterly
complained to us of a foreign doctor, and sweepingly denounced the
whole system of western treatment, because the practitioner alluded to
had failed to cure his mother, aged eighty, of a very severe paralytic
stroke. A certain percentage of natives are annually benefited by
advice and medicine, both of which are provided gratis, and go home to
tell the news and exhibit themselves as living proofs of the _foreign
devils'_ skill; but in many instances their friends either believe
that magical arts have been brought to bear, or that after all a
Chinese doctor would have treated the case with equal success, and
accordingly the number of patients increases in a ratio very
disproportionate to the amount of good really effected. Besides, if
faith in European doctors was truly spreading to any great extent, we
should hear of wealthy Chinamen regularly calling them in and
contributing towards the income of those now in full practice at the
Treaty ports. It is absurd to point to isolated cases in a nation of
several hundred millions, and argue that progress is being made
because General This or Prefect That consented to have an abscess
lanced by a foreign surgeon, and sent him a flowery letter of thanks
with a couple of Chinese hams after the operation. The Chinese as a
people laugh at our medical science, and, we are bound to say, with
some show of justice on their side. They have a medical literature of
considerable extent, and though we may condemn it wholesale as a
farrago of utter nonsense, it is not so to the Chinese, who fondly
regard their knowledge in this branch of science as one among many
precious heirlooms which has come down to them from times of the
remotest antiquity.

We alluded in the last Sketch to a work in eight small volumes called
"New Collection of Tried Prescriptions," a book which answers to our
"Domestic Medicine," and professes to supply well-authenticated
remedies for some of the most common ills that flesh is heir to. This
book gives a fair idea of the principles and practice of medical
science in China. It is divided into sections and subdivided into
chapters under such headings as the _eye_, the _teeth_, the _hand_,
the _leg_, &c. &c. We gave a specimen of the prescriptions herein
brought together in our late remarks upon the methods of extracting
teeth, but it would be doing an injustice to the learning of its
author if we omitted to point out that in this book remedies are
provided, not only for such simple complaints as chilblains or the
stomach-ache, but for all kinds of serious complications arising from
the evil influence of demons or devils. One whole chapter is devoted
to "Extraordinary Diseases," and teaches anxious relatives to give
instant relief in cases of "the face swelling as big as a peck
measure, and little men three feet long appearing in the eyes."
"Seeing one thing as if it were two," would hardly be classed by
London doctors as an extraordinary disease, and is not altogether
unknown even amongst foreigners in China. "Seeing things upside down
after drinking wine," belongs in the same category, and may be cited
in proof of a position take up by most observers, namely, that the
Chinese are a sober people. "Seeing kaleidoscopic views which turn to
beautiful women," "the flesh becoming hard as a stone and sounding
like a bell when tapped," "objecting to eat in company," and such
diseases have each a special prescription offered by the learned Dr
Wang with the utmost gravity, and accepted in good faith by many a
confiding patient.

Chinamen look with suspicion on the sober treatment of the West, where
no joss-stick is burnt, and no paper money is offered on the altar of
some favourite P'u-sa; though, if they knew the whole truth, they
would discover that intercessory prayers for the recovery of sick
persons are considered by many of us to be of equal importance with
the administration of pills and draughts. Further, like our own
agricultural classes, they have no faith in medicine of any kind which
does not make its presence felt not only quickly but powerfully. This
last desire was amply fulfilled in the case of one poor coolie who
applied to an acquaintance of ours for some foreign medicine to cure a
sick headache and bilious attack from which he was suffering. Our
friend immediately bethought himself of a Seidlitz powder; but when
all was ready, the acid in one wine-glass of water and the salt in
another, the devil entered into him, and he gave them to his victim to
drink one after the other. The result was indescribable, for the
mixture _fizzed inside_, and the unfortunate coolie passed such a
_mauvais quart d'heure_ as effectually to cure his experimenting
master from any further indulgence in practical jokes of so extremely
dangerous a nature.


Luxuriating in the "mental oasis" of Chinese literature in general,
and the "New Collection of Tried Prescriptions" in particular, we
have been tempted to carry our researches still further in that
last-mentioned valuable work. It would have been sufficient to establish
the reputation of any European treatise on medical science had it
contained one such simple and efficacious method for extracting teeth
as we gave in our chapter on Dentistry; but Chinese readers are not so
easily satisfied, and it takes something more than mere remedies for
coughs, colds, lumbago, or the gout, to ensure a man a foremost place
among the Galens of China. Even a chapter on "Extraordinary Diseases,"
marvellous indeed in the eyes of the sceptical barbarian, is not
enough for the hungry native mind; and nothing less than a whole
section of the most miraculous remedies and antidotes, for and against
all kinds of unheard-of diseases and poisons, would suffice to stamp
the author as a man of genius, and his work as the offspring of
successful toil in the fields of therapeutic science. Thus it comes
about that the author of the "New Collection of Tried Prescriptions"
gathers together at the close of his last volume such items of
experience in his professional career as he has not been able to
introduce into the body of his book, and from this chapter we purpose
to glean a few of the most striking passages.

To begin with: Mr Darwin will be delighted to hear, if this should
ever meet his eye, that the growth of tails among mankind in China is
not limited to the appendage of hair which reposes gracefully on the
back, and saturates with grease the outer garment of every high or low
born Celestial. Elongation of the spine is, at any rate, common enough
for Dr Wang to treat it as a disease and specify the remedy, which
consists in tying a piece of medicated thread tightly round it, and
tightening the thread from time to time until the tail drops off. In
order, however, to guard against its growing again, a course of
medicine has to be taken, whereby any little irregularities of the
_yin_ or female principle[*] may be corrected, and the unpleasant
tendency at once and for ever checked.

    [*] The symbol of the _yin_ and the _yang_, or male and female
    principles, has been used in the beading of the cover to this
    volume. The dark half is the _yin_, the other the _yang_.

We then come to elaborate directions for the extirpation of all kinds
of parasites, white ants, mosquitoes, &c.; but judging from the
plentiful supply of such pests in every part of China, we can only
conclude that the natives are apathetic as regards these trifles, and
do not suffer the same inconvenience therefrom as the more
delicately-nurtured barbarian. The next heading would somewhat
astonish us, accustomed as we are to the vagaries of Chinese
book-makers, were it not that the section upon which we are engaged is
supposed to contain "miscellaneous" prescriptions, which may include
anything, though it is a somewhat abrupt transition for a grave
medical work to pass from the destruction of insects to a remedy
against _fires_!

"Take three fowl's-eggs, and write at the big end of each the word
_warm_, at the small end the word _beautiful_. Then throw them singly
to the spot where the fire is burning brightest, uttering all the time
'fooshefahrun, fooshefahrun.' The fire will then go out." There are
several other methods, but perhaps this one will be found to answer
the purpose.

Further on we find a most practicable way for pedestrians of
discovering the right direction to pursue at a cross road. "Carry with
you a live tortoise, and when you come to a cross road and do not know
which one to choose, put down the tortoise and follow it. Thus you
will not go wrong." For people who are afraid of seeing bogies at
night, the following is recommended:--"With the middle finger of the
right hand trace on the palm of the left hand the words _I am a
devil_, and close your hand up tight. You will then be able to travel
without fear." Sea-sickness may be prevented by drinking the drippings
from a bamboo punt-pole mixed with boiling water, or by inserting a
lump of burnt mortar from a stove into the hair, without letting
anybody know it is there; also by writing the character _earth_ on the
palm of the hand previous to going on board ship. Ivory may be cleaned
to look like new by using the whey of bean-curd, and rice may be
protected from weevils and maggots by inserting the shell of a crab in
the place where it is kept. The presence of bad air in wells may be
detected by letting a fowl's feather drop down; if it falls straight,
the air is pure; if it circles round and round, poisonous. Danger may
be averted by throwing in a quantity of hot vinegar before descending.
A fire may be kept alight from three to five days without additional
fuel by merely putting a walnut among the live ashes; and a method is
also given to make a candle burn many hours with hardly any
perceptible decrease in size.

We close Dr Wang's "New Collection of Tried Prescriptions" with
mingled feelings of admiration and regret: admiration, not indeed for
the genius of its author, or any new light which may have been let in
upon us during our study of this section of the "mental oasis" of
Chinese literature, but for the indomitable energy and skill of those
who have helped to emancipate us from similar trammels of ignorance
and folly; regret, that a nation which carries within its core the
germs of a transcendent greatness should still remain sunk in the
lowest depths of superstitious gloom.


In a country where money is only obtainable at such an exorbitant rate
of interest as in China, it is but natural that some attempt should be
made to obviate the necessity of appealing to a professional
money-lender. Three per cent. per month is the maximum rate permitted by
Chinese law, which cannot be regarded as excessive if the full risk of
the lender is taken into consideration. He has the security of one or
more "middlemen," generally shopkeepers whose solvency is
unimpeachable; but these gentlemen may, and often do, repudiate their
liability without deigning to explain either why or wherefore. His
course is then not so plain as it ought to be under a system of
government which has had some two thousand years to mature. Creditors
as well as debtors shun the painted portals of the magistrate's
yamen[*] as they would the gates of hell. Above them is traced the
same desperate legend that frightened the soul of Dante when he stood
before the entrance to the infernal regions. Truly there is no hope
for those who enter here. Both sides are _squeezed_ by the gate-keeper
--a very lucrative post in all yamens--before they are allowed to
present their petitions. It then becomes necessary for plaintiff and
defendant alike to go through the process of (in Peking slang) "making
a slit," i.e., making a present of money to the magistrate and his
subordinates proportionate to the interests involved. In many yamens
there is a regular scale of charges, answering to our Table of Fees,
but this is almost always exceeded in practice. The case is then
heard: occasionally, on its merits. We say occasionally, because nine
times out of ten one of the parties bids privately for the benefit of
his honour's good opinions. Sometimes both suitors do this, and then
judgment is knocked down to the highest bidder. The loser departs
incontinently cursing the law and its myrmidons to the very top of his
bent, and perhaps meditating an appeal to a higher court, from which
he is only deterred by prospects of further expense and repeated
failure. As to the successful litigant, he would go on his way
rejoicing, but that he has a duty to perform before which he is not a
free man. The "slit" he made on entering the yamen needs to be
repaired, and on him devolves the necessity of "sewing it up." The
case is then at an end, and the prophecy fulfilled, which says:--

  "The yamen doors are open wide
  To those with _money_ on their side."

    [*] Official and private residence, all in one.

Wiser and more determined creditors take the law into their own hands.
With a tea-pot, a pipe, and a mattress, they proceed to the shop of
the recalcitrant debtor or security as circumstances may dictate, and
there take up their abode until the amount is paid. If inability to
meet the debt has been pleaded, then this self-made bailiff will
insist on taking so much per cent. out of the daily receipts; if it is
a mere case of obstinacy, a desire to shirk a just responsibility, the
place is made so hot for its owner that he is glad to get rid of his
visitor at any price whatever. Were manual violence resorted to, the
interference of the local officials would be absolutely necessary; and
in all cases where personal injuries are an element, their action is
not characterised by the same tyranny and corruption as where only
property is at stake. The chances are that the aggressor would come
off worst.

To protect themselves, however, from such a prohibitive rate of usury
as that mentioned above, Chinese merchants are in the habit of
combining together and forming what are called Loan Societies for the
mutual benefit of all concerned. Such a society may be started in the
first instance by a deposit of so much per member, which sum, in the
absence of a volunteer, is handed over to a manager, elected by a
throw of dice, whose business it is to lay out the money during the
ensuing month to the best possible advantage. Frequently one of the
members, being himself in want of funds, will undertake the job; and
he, in common with all managers, is held responsible for the safety of
the loan. At the end of the month there is a meeting at which the past
manager is bound to produce the entire sum entrusted to his charge,
together with any profits that may have accrued meanwhile. Another
member volunteers, or is elected manager, and so the thing goes on, a
running fund from which any member may borrow, paying interest at a
very low rate indeed. Dividends are never declared, and consequently
some of these clubs are enormously rich; but any member is at liberty
to withdraw whenever he likes, and he takes with him his share of all
moneys in the hands of the Society at the moment of his retirement. To
outsiders, the market rate of interest is charged, or perhaps a trifle
less, but loans are only made upon the very best securities.


In every large Chinese city are to be found several spacious buildings
which are generally reckoned among the sights of the place, and are
known by foreigners under the name of guilds. Globe-trotters visit
them, and admire the maximum of gold-leaf crowded into the minimum of
space, their huge idols, and curious carving; of course passing over
those relics which the natives themselves prize most highly, namely,
sketches and scrolls painted or written by the hand of some departed
celebrity. Foreign merchants regard them with a certain amount of awe,
for they are often made to feel keenly enough the influence which
these institutions exert over every branch of trade. They come into
being in the following manner. If traders from any given province
muster in sufficient numbers at any of the great centres of commerce,
they club together and form a guild. A general subscription is first
levied, land is bought, and the necessary building is erected.
Regulations are then drawn up, and the tariff on goods is fixed, from
which the institution is to derive its future revenue. For all the
staples of trade there are usually separate guilds, mixed
establishments being comparatively rare. It is the business of the
members as a body to see that each individual contributes according to
the amount of merchandise which passes through his hands, and the
books of suspected defaulters are often examined at a moment's notice
and without previous warning. The guild protects its constituents from
commercial frauds by threatening the accused with legal proceedings
which an individual plaintiff would never have dared to suggest; and
the threat is no vain one when a mandarin, however tyrannical and
rapacious, finds himself opposed by a body of united and resolute men.
On the other hand, these guilds deal fairly enough with their own
members, and not only refuse to support a bad case, but insist on just
and equitable dealings with the outside world. To them are frequently
referred questions involving nice points of law or custom, and one of
the chief functions of a guild is that of a court of arbitration. In
addition to this they fix the market rates of all kinds of produce,
and woe be to any one who dares to undersell or otherwise disobey the
injunctions of the guild. If recalcitrant, he is expelled at once from
the fraternity, and should his hour of need arrive he will find no
helping hand stretched out to save him from the clutches of the law.
But if he acknowledges, as he almost always does, his breach of faith,
he is punished according to the printed rules of the corporation. On a
large strip of red paper his name and address are written, the offence
of which he has been convicted, and the fine which the guild has
determined to impose. This latter generally takes the form of a dinner
to all members, to be held on some appointed day and accompanied by a
theatrical entertainment, after which the erring brother is admitted
as before to the enjoyment of those rights and privileges he would
otherwise infallibly have lost.

On certain occasions, such as the birthday of a patron saint, the
guild spends large sums from the public purse in providing a banquet
for its members and hiring a theatrical troupe, with their everlasting
tom-toms, to perform on the permanent stage to be found in every one
of these establishments. The Anhui men celebrate the birthday of Chu
Hsi, the great commentator, whose scholarship has won eternal honours
for his native province; Swatow men hold high festival in memory of
Han Wen-Kung, whose name is among the brightest on the page of Chinese
history. All day long the fun goes on, and as soon as it begins to
grow dusk innumerable paper lanterns are hung in festoons over the
whole building. The crowd increases, farce succeeds farce without a
moment's interval, and many a kettle of steaming wine warms up the
spectators to the proper pitch of enthusiasm and delight. Before
midnight the last song has been sung, a considerable number of people
have quietly dispersed without accident of any kind, and the courtyard
of the guild is once more deserted and still.

It is open to any trader to join the particular institution which
represents his own province or trade without being either proposed,
seconded, or balloted for. He is expected to make some present to the
resources of the guild, in the shape of a new set of glass lanterns, a
pair of valuable scrolls, some new tables, chairs, or in fact anything
that may be needed for either use or ornament. Should he be in want of
money, a loan will generally be issued to him even on doubtful
security. Should he die in an impoverished condition, a coffin is
always provided, the expenses of burial undertaken, and his wife and
children sent to their distant home, with money voted for that purpose
at a general meeting of the members. Were it not for the action of
these guilds in regard to fire, life and property in Chinese cities
would be more in danger than is now the case. Each one has its own
fire-engine, which is brought out at the first alarm, no matter where
or whose the building attacked. If belonging to one of themselves, men
are posted round the scene of the conflagration to prevent looting on
the part of the crowd, and the efforts of the brigade are stimulated
by the reflection that their position and that of the present
sufferers may at any moment be reversed. Picked men are appointed to
perform the most important task of all, that of rescuing from the
flames relics more precious to a respectable Chinaman than all the
jade that K'un-kang has produced. For it often happens that an
obstructive geomancer will reject site after site for the interment of
some deceased relative, or perhaps that the day fixed upon as a lucky
one for the ceremony of burial may be several months after death.
Meanwhile a fire breaks out in the house where the body lies in its
massive, air-tight coffin, and all is confusion and uproar. The first
thought is for the corpse; but who is to lift such a heavy weight and
carry it to a place of safety without the dreaded jolting, almost as
painful to the survivors as would be cremation itself? Such harrowing
thoughts are usually cut short by the entrance of six or eight sturdy
men from the nearest guild, who, armed with the necessary ropes and
poles, bear away the coffin through flame and smoke with the utmost
gentleness and care.


Few probably among our readers have had much experience on the subject
of the present sketch--a Chinese pawnshop. Indeed, for others than
students of the manners and customs of China, there is not much that
is attractive in these haunts of poverty and vice. The same mighty
misery, which is to be seen in England passing in and out of
mysterious-looking doors distinguished by a swinging sign of three
golden balls, is not wanting to the pawnshop in China, though the act
of pledging personal property in order to raise money is regarded more
in the light of a business transaction than it is with us, and less as
one which it is necessary to conceal from the eyes of the world at
large. Nothing is more common than for the owner of a large wardrobe
of furs to pawn them one and all at the beginning of summer and to
leave them there until the beginning of the next winter. The
pawnbrokers in their own interest take the greatest care of all
pledges, which, if not redeemed, will become their own property,
though they repudiate all claims for damage done while in their
possession; and the owner of the goods by payment of the interest
charged is released from all trouble and annoyance.

Pawnshops in China are divided into three classes, one of which has
since the days of the T'ai-p'ings totally disappeared from all parts
over which the tide of rebellion passed. This is the _tien tang_,
where property could be left for three years without forfeit, and to
establish which it was necessary to obtain special authority from the
Board of Revenue in Peking. At present there are the _chih tang_ and
the _ssu ya_, both common to all parts of China, and to these we shall
confine our remarks. The former, which may be considered as the
pawnshop proper, is a private institution as far as its business is
concerned, but licensed on payment of a small fee by the local
officials, and regulated in its workings by certain laws which emanate
from the Emperor himself. A limit of sixteen months is assigned,
within which pledges must be redeemed or they become the property of
the pawnbroker; and the interest charged, formerly four per cent., is
now fixed at three per cent. _per month_. Before the license
above-mentioned can be obtained, security must be provided for the
existence of sufficient capital to guard against a sudden or a
fraudulent collapse. For any article not forthcoming when the owner
desires to redeem it, double the amount of the original loan is
recoverable from the pawnbroker. Should any owner of a pledge chance
to lose his ticket by theft or otherwise, he may proceed to the
pawnshop with two substantial securities, and if he can recollect the
number, date, and amount of the transaction, another ticket is issued
to him with which he may recover his property at once, or at any time
within the original sixteen months. Pawn-tickets are not unseldom
offered as pledges, and are readily received, as the loan is never
more than half the value of the deposit; and tickets thus obtained are
often sold either to a third person or perhaps to the pawnbroker who
issued them in the first instance. Formerly, when the interest payable
was four per cent. per month, it was a standing rule that during the
last three months in every year, i.e., the winter season, pledges
might be redeemed at a diminished rate, so that poor people should
have a better chance of getting back their wadded clothes to protect
them from the inclemency of frost and cold. But since the rate of
interest has been reduced to three per cent. this custom has almost
passed away; its observance is, however, sometimes called for by a
special proclamation of the local magistrate when the necessaries of
life are unusually dear, and the times generally are bad. The
following is a translation of a ticket issued by one of these shops,
which may often be recognised in a Chinese city by the character for
_pawn_ painted on an enormous scale in some conspicuous position:--"In
accordance with instructions from the authorities, interest will be
charged at the rate of three per cent. [per month] for a period of
sixteen months, at the expiration of which the pledge, if not
redeemed, will become the property of the pawnbroker, to be disposed
of as he shall think fit. All damages to the deposit arising from war,
the operations of nature, insects, rats, mildew, &c., to be accepted
by both sides as the will of Heaven. Deposits will be returned on
presentation of the proper ticket without reference to the possession
of it by the applicant." Besides this, the name and address of the
pawnshop, a number, description of the article pledged, amount lent,
and finally the date, are entered in their proper places upon the
ticket, which is stamped as a precaution against forgery with the
private stamp of the pawnshop. Jewels are not received as pledges, and
gold and silver only under certain restrictions.

The other class is not recognised by the authorities, and its very
existence is illegal, though of course winked at by a venial
executive. Shops of this kind, which may be known by the character for
_keep_, are very much frequented by the poor. A more liberal loan is
obtainable than at the licensed pawnbroker's, but on the other hand
the rate of interest charged is very much more severe. Pledges are
only received for three months, and on the ticket issued there is no
stipulation about damage to the deposit. No satisfaction is to be got
in case of fraud or injustice to either side: a magistrate would
refuse to hear a case either for or against one of these unlicensed
shops. They carry on their trade in daily fear of the rowdies who
infest every Chinese town, granting loans to these ruffians on
valueless articles, which in many cases are returned without payment
either of interest or principal, thereby securing themselves from the
disturbances which "bare poles" who have nothing to lose are ever
ready to create at a moment's notice, and which would infallibly hand
them over to the clutches of hungry and rapacious officials. The
counters over which all business is transacted are from six to eight
feet high, strongly made, and of such a nature that to scale them
would be a very difficult matter, and to grab anything with the view
of making a bolt for the street utterly and entirely impossible. In a
Chinese city, where there is no police force to look after the safety
of life and property, and where everybody prefers to let a thief pass
rather than risk being called as a witness before the magistrate, it
becomes necessary to guard against such contingencies as these. As
things are now, pawnshops may be considered the most flourishing
institutions in the country; and in these establishments many even of
the highest officials invest savings squeezed from the districts
entrusted to their paternal care.


Many residents in China are profoundly ignorant of the existence of a
native postal service; and even the few who have heard of such an
institution, are not aware of the comparative safety and speed with
which even a valuable letter may be forwarded from one end of the
Empire to the other. Government despatches are conveyed to their
destinations by a staff of men specially employed for the purpose, and
under the control of the Board of War in Peking. They ride from
station to station at a fair pace, considering the sorry, ill-fed nags
upon which they are mounted; important documents being often carried
to great distances, at a rate of two hundred miles a-day. The people,
however, are not allowed to avail themselves of this means of
communication, but the necessities of trade have driven them to
organise a system of their own.

In any Chinese town of any pretensions whatever, there are sure to be
several "letter offices," each monopolising one or more provinces, to
and from which they make it their special business to convey letters
and small parcels. The safety of whatever is entrusted to their care
is guaranteed, and its value made good if lost; at the same time, the
contents of all packets must be declared at the office where posted,
so that a corresponding premium may be charged for their transmission.
The letter-carriers travel chiefly on foot, sometimes on donkeys, to
be found on all the great highways of China, and which run with
unerring accuracy from one station to another, unaccompanied by any
one except the hirer. There is little danger of the donkeys being
stolen, unless carried off bodily, for heaven and earth could no more
move them from their beaten track than the traveller who, desirous of
making two stages without halting, could induce them to pass the door
of the station they have just arrived at. Carrying about eighty or
ninety pounds weight of mail matter, these men trudge along some five
miles an hour till they reach the extent of their tether; there they
hand over the bag to a fresh man, who starts off, no matter at what
hour of the day or night, and regardless of good or bad weather alike,
till he too has quitted himself of his responsibility by passing on
the bag to a third man. They make a point of never eating a full meal;
they eat themselves, as the Chinese say, six or seven tenths full,
taking food as often as they feel at all hungry, and thus preserve
themselves from getting broken-winded early in life. Recruited from
the strongest and healthiest of the working-classes, it is above all
indispensable that the Chinese letter-carrier should not be afraid of
any ghostly enemy, such as bogies or devils. In this respect they must
be tried men before they are entrusted with a mail; for an ordinary
Chinaman is so instinctively afraid of night and darkness, that the
slightest rustle by the wayside would be enough to make him fling down
the bag and take to his heels as if all the spirits of darkness had
been loosed upon him at one and the same moment.

The scale of charges is very low. The cost of sending a letter from
Peking to Hankow--650 miles, as the crow flies--being no more than
eight cents, or four pence. About thirty per cent. of the postage is
always paid by the sender, to secure the office against imposition and
loss; the balance is recoverable from the person to whom the letter is
addressed. These offices are largely used by merchants in the course
of trade, and bills of exchange are constantly being thus sent, while
the banks forward the foil or other half to the house on which it is
drawn, receipt of which is necessary before the draft can be cashed.
Such documents, together with small packets of sycee, make up a
tolerably valuable bag, and would often fall a prey to the highwaymen
which infest many of the provinces, but that most offices anticipate
these casualties by compounding for a certain annual sum which is paid
regularly to the leader of the gang. For this blackmail the robbers of
the district not only agree to abstain from pilfering themselves, but
also to keep all others from doing so too. The arrangement suits the
local officials admirably, as they escape those pains and penalties
which would be exacted if it came to be known that their rule was too
weak, and their example powerless to keep the district free from the
outrages of thieves and highwaymen. Large firms, which supply carts to
travellers between given points, are also often in the habit of
contracting with the brigands of the neighbourhood for the safe
passage of their customers. In some parts soldiers are told off by the
resident military officials to escort travellers who leave the inns
before daybreak, until there is enough light to secure them against
the dangers of a sudden attack. In others, there are bands of trained
men who hire themselves out in companies of three to five to convey a
string of carts with their dozen passengers across some dangerous part
of the country, where it is known that foot-pads are on the look-out
for unwary travellers. The escort consists of this small number only,
for the reason that each man composing it is supposed to be equal to
five or six robbers, not in mere strength, but in agility and
knowledge of sword-exercise. To accustom themselves to the attacks of
numbers, and to acquire the requisite skill in fighting more than one
adversary at a time, these men practise in the following remarkable
manner. In a lofty barn heavy bags of sand are hung in a circle by
long ropes to the roof, and in the middle of these the student takes
up his position. He then strikes one of the bags a good blow with his
fist, sending it flying to a distance from him, another in the same
way, then another, and so on until he has them all swinging about in
every possible direction. By the time he has hit two or three it is
time to look out for the return of the first, and sometimes two will
come down on him at once from opposite quarters; his part is to be
ready for all emergencies, and keep the whole lot swinging without
ever letting one touch him. If he fails in this, he must not aspire to
escort a traveller over a lonesome plain; and, besides, the ruthless
sand-bag will knock him head over heels into the bargain.


Although native scholars in China have not deemed it worth while to
compile such a work as the "Slang Dictionary," it is no less a fact
that slang occupies quite as important a position in Chinese as in any
language of the West. Thieves have their _argot_, as with us,
intelligible only to each other; and phrases constantly occur, even in
refined conversation, the original of which can be traced infallibly
to the kennel. _Why so much paint?_ is the equivalent of _What a swell
you are!_ and is specially expressive in China, where beneath a
flowered blue silk robe there often peeps out a pair of
salmon-coloured inexpressibles of the same costly material. _They have
put down their barrows_, means that certain men have struck work, and
is peculiarly comprehensible in a country where so much transport is
effected in this laborious way. Barrows are common all over the
Empire, both for the conveyance of goods and passengers; and where
long distances have to be traversed, donkeys are frequently harnessed
in front. The traditional sail is also occasionally used: we ourselves
have seen barrows running before the wind between Tientsin and Taku,
of course with a man pushing behind. _The children have official
business_, is understood to mean they are laid up with the small-pox;
the metaphor implying that their _turn_ has come, just as a turn of
official duty comes round to every Manchu in Peking, and in the same
inevitable way. Vaccination is gradually dispelling this erroneous
notion, but the phrase we have given is not likely to disappear.

A magistrate who has _skinned the place clean_, has extorted every
possible cash from the district committed to his charge--a "father and
mother" of the people, as his grasping honour is called. _That horse
has a mane_, says the Chinese housebreaker, speaking of a wall well
studded at the top with pieces of broken glass or sharp iron spikes.
_You'll have to sprinkle so much water_, urges the friend who advises
you to keep clear of law, likening official greed to dust, which
requires a liberal outlay of water in the shape of banknotes to make
it lie. A _flowery bill_ is understood from one end of China to the
other as that particular kind in which our native servants delight to
indulge, namely, an account charging twice as much for everything as
was really paid, and containing twice as much in quantity as was
actually supplied. A _flowery suit_ is a case in which women play a
prominent part. _You scorched me yesterday_ is a quiet way of
remarking that an appointment was broken, and implying that the rays
of the sun were unpleasantly hot. _Don't pick out the sugar_ is a very
necessary injunction to a servant sent to market to buy food, &c., the
metaphor being taken from a kind of sweet dumpling consumed in great
quantities by rich and poor alike. Another phrase is, _Don't ride the
donkey_, which may be explained by the proverbial dislike of Chinamen
for walking exercise, and the temptation to hire a donkey, and squeeze
the fare out of the money given them for other purposes. _That house
is not clean inside_, signifies that devils and bogies, so dreaded by
the Chinese, have taken up their residence therein; in fact, that the
house is haunted. _He's all rice-water_, i.e., gives one plenty of the
water in which rice has been boiled, but none of the rice itself, is
said of a man who promises much and does nothing. _One load between
the two_ is very commonly said of two men who have married two
sisters. In China, a coolie's "load" consists of two baskets or
bundles slung with ropes to the end of a flat bamboo pole about five
feet in length, and thus carried across the shoulder. Hence the
expression. Apropos of marriage, _the guitar string is broken_, is an
elegant periphrasis by which it is understood that a man's wife is
dead, the verb "to die" being rarely used in conversation, and never
of a relative or friend. He will not _put a new string to his guitar_
is, of course, a continuation of the same idea, more coarsely
expressed as _putting on a new coat_. His father has been _gathered to
the west_--a phrase evidently of Buddhistic import--_is no more, has
gone for a stroll, has bid adieu to the world_, may all be employed to
supply the place of the tabooed verb, which is chiefly used of animals
and plants. After a few days' illness _he kicked_, is a vulgar way of
putting it and analogous to the English slang idiom. The Emperor
_becomes a guest on high_, riding up to heaven on the dragon's back,
with flowers of rhetoric ad nauseam; Buddhist priests _revolve into
emptiness_, i.e., are annihilated; the soul of the Taoist priest
_wings its flight away_.

_Only a candle-end left_ is said of an affair which nears completion;
_red_ and _white matters_ are marriages and deaths, so called from the
colour of the clothes worn on these important occasions. A blushing
person _fires up_, or literally, _ups fire_, according to the Chinese
idiom. To be fond of _blowing_ resembles our modern term _gassing_. A
_lose-money-goods_ is a daughter as compared with a son who can go out
in the world and earn money, whereas a daughter must be provided with
a dowry before any one will marry her. A more genuine metaphor is a
_thousand ounces of silver_; it expresses the real affection Chinese
parents have for their daughters as well as their sons. To _let the
dog out_ is the same as our letting the cat out; to _run against a
nail_ is allied to kicking against the pricks. A man of superficial
knowledge is called _half a bottle of vinegar_, though why vinegar, in
preference to anything else, we have not been able to discover. He has
always _got his gun in his hand_ is a reproach launched at the head of
some confirmed opium debauchee, one of those few reckless smokers to
whom opium is indeed a curse. They have _burnt paper together_, makes
it clear to a Chinese mind that the persons spoken of have gone
through the marriage service, part of which ceremony consists in
burning silver paper, made up to resemble lumps of the pure metal. _We
have split_ is one of those happy idioms which lose nothing in
translation, being word for word the same in both languages, and with
exactly the same meaning. _A crooked stick_ is a man whose
eccentricities keep people from associating freely with him; he won't
lie conveniently in a bundle with the other sticks.

We will bring this short sketch to a close with one more example,
valuable because it is old, because the date at which it came into
existence can be fixed with unerring certainty, and because it is
commonly used in all parts of China, though hardly one educated man in
ten would be able to tell the reason why. A jealous woman is said _to
drink vinegar_, and the origin of the term is as follows:--Fang
Hsuan-ling was the favourite Minister of the Emperor T'ai Tsung, of the
T'ang dynasty. He lived A.D. 578-648. One day his master gave him a
maid of honour from the palace as second wife, but the first or real
wife made the place too hot for the poor girl to live in. Fang
complained to the Emperor, who gave him a bowl of poison, telling him
to offer his troublesome wife the choice between death and peaceable
behaviour for the future. The lady instantly chose the former, and
drank up the bowl of _vinegar_, which the Emperor had substituted to
try her constancy. Subsequently, on his Majesty's recommendation, Fang
sent the young lady back to resume her duties as tire-woman to the
Empress. But the phrase lived, and has survived to this day.


Everybody who has frequented the narrow, dirty streets of a Chinese
town must be familiar with one figure, unusually striking where all is
novel and much is grotesque. It is that of an old man, occasionally
white-bearded, wearing a pair of enormous spectacles set in clumsy
rims of tortoiseshell or silver, and sitting before a small table on
which are displayed a few mysterious-looking tablets inscribed with
characters, paper, pencils, and ink. We are in the presence of a
fortune-teller, a seer, a soothsayer, a vates; or better, a quack who
trusts for his living partly to his own wits, and partly to the want
of them in the credulous numskulls who surround him. These men are
generally old, and sometimes blind. Youth stands but a poor chance
among a people who regard age and wisdom as synonymous terms; and it
seems to be a prevalent belief in China that those to whom everything
in the present is a sealed book, can for this very reason see deeper
and more clearly into the destinies of their fellows. It is not until
age has picked out the straggling beard with silver that the
vaticinations of the seer are likely to spread his reputation far
beyond the limits of the street in which he practises. Younger
competitors must be content to scrape together a precarious existence
by preying on the small fry which pass unheeded through the meshes of
the old man's net. Just as there is no medical diploma necessary for a
doctor in China, so any man may be a fortune-teller who likes to start
business in that particular line. The ranks are recruited generally
from unsuccessful candidates at the public examinations; but all that
is really necessary is the minimum of education, some months' study of
the art, and a good memory. For there really are certain principles
which guide every member of the fraternity. These are derived from
books written on the subject, and are absolutely essential to success,
or nativities cast in two different streets would be so unlike as to
expose the whole system at once. The method is this. A customer takes
his seat in front of the table and consults the wooden tablet on which
is engraved a scale of charges as follows:--

  Foretelling any single event  . . . . . . . .  8 cash
  Foretelling any single event with joss-stick, 16 cash
  Telling a fortune . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 cash
  Telling a fortune in detail . . . . . . . . . 50 cash
  Telling a fortune by reading the stars  . . . 50 cash
  Fixing the marriage day . . . . . . . According to agreement

In case he merely wants an answer on a given subject, he puts his
question and receives the reply at once on a slip of paper. But if he
desires to have his fortune told, he dictates the year, month, day,
and hour of his birth, which are written down by the sage in the
particular characters used by the Chinese to express times and
seasons. From the combinations of these and a careful estimate of the
proportions in which the five elements--gold, wood, water, fire, and
earth--make their appearance, certain results are deduced upon which
details may be grafted according to the fancy of the fortune-teller.
The same combinations of figures, i.e., characters, will always give
the same resultant in the hands of any one who has learned the first
principles of his art; it is only in the reading, the explanation
thereof, that any material difference can be detected between the
reckonings of any two of these philosophers, which amounts to saying
that whoever makes the greatest number of happy hits beyond the mere
technicalities common to all, is esteemed the wisest prophet and will
drive the most flourishing trade.

Fully believing in the Chinese household word which says "Ignorance of
any one thing is always one point to the bad," we have several times
read our destiny through the medium of some dirty old Chinaman. On the
last occasion we received the following advice in return for our 50
cash, paid as per tablet for a destiny in detail:--"Beware the odd
months of this year: you will meet with some dangers and slight
losses. Three male phoenixes (sons) will be accorded to you. Your
present lustrum is not a fortunate one; but it has nearly expired, and
better days are at hand. Fruit cannot thrive in the winter. (We had
placed our birthday in the 12th moon.) Conflicting elements oppose:
towards life's close prepare for trials. Wealth is beyond your grasp;
but nature has marked you out to fill a lofty place." How the above
was extracted from the eight characters which represented the year,
month, day, and hour of our birth, is made perfectly clear by a sum
showing every step in the working of the problem, though we must
confess it appeared to us a humbugging jumble, the most prominent part
of which was the answer. We found among other things that _earth_
predominated in the combination: hence our inability to grasp wealth.
_Water_ was happily deficient, and on this datum we were blessed in
anticipation with three sons, to say nothing of daughters.

And this is the sort of trash that is crammed down the throats of
China's too credulous children--the "babies," as the Mandarins are so
fond of calling them. For this rubbish they freely spend their
hard-earned wages, consulting some favourite prophet on most of their
domestic and other affairs with the utmost gravity and confidence. Few
Chinamen make a money venture without first applying to the oracle,
and certainly never marry without arranging a lucky day for the event.
Ignorance and credulity combine to support a numerous class of the
most consummate adepts in the art of swindling; the supply, however,
is not more than adequate to the demand, albeit they swarm in every
street and thoroughfare of a Chinese city.


Chinamen suffer horribly from _ennui_--especially the first of the
four classes into which the non-official world has been subdivided.[*]
They have no rational amusements wherewith to fill up the intervals of
work. They hate physical exercise; more than that, they despise it as
fit only for the ignorant and low. Yet they have not supplied its
place with anything intellectual, and the most casual observer cannot
fail to notice that China has no national game. Fencing, rowing, and
cricket, are alike unknown; and archery, such as it is, claims the
attention chiefly of candidates for official honours. Within doors
they have chess, but it is not the game Europeans recognise by that
name, nor is it even worthy of being mentioned in the same breath.
There is also another game played with three hundred and sixty black
and white pips on a board containing three hundred and sixty-one
squares, but this is very difficult and known only to the few. It is
said to have been invented by His Majesty the Emperor Yao who lived
about two thousand three hundred and fifty years before Christ, so
that granting an error of a couple of thousand years or so, it is
still a very ancient pastime. Dominoes are known, but not much
patronised; cards, on the other hand, are very common, the favourite
games being those in which almost everything is left to chance. As to
open-air amusements, youths of the baser sort indulge in battledore
and shuttlecock without the battledore, and every resident in China
must have admired the skill with which the foot is used instead, at
this foot-shuttlecock game. Twirling heavy bars round the body, and
gymnastics generally, are practised by the coolie and horse-boy
classes; but the disciple of Confucius, who has already discovered how
"pleasant it is to learn with a constant perseverance and
application,"[+] would stare indeed if asked to lay aside for one
moment that dignified carriage on which so much stress has been laid
by the Master. Besides this, finger-nails an inch and a half long,
guarded with an elaborate silver sheath, are decidedly _impedimenta_
in the way of athletic success. No,--when the daily quantum of reading
has been achieved, a Chinese student has very little to fall back upon
in the way of amusement. He may take a stroll through the town and
look in at the shops, or seek out some friend as _ennuye_ as himself,
and while away an hour over a cup of tea and a pipe. Occasionally a
number of young men will join together and form a kind of literary
club, meeting at certain periods to read essays or poems on subjects
previously agreed upon by all. We heard of one youth who, burning for
the poet's laurel, produced the following quatrain on _snow_, which
had been chosen as the theme for the day:--

  The north-east wind blew clear and bright,
    Each hole was filled up smooth and flat:
  The black dog suddenly grew white,
    The white dog suddenly grew--

"And here," said the poet, "I broke down, not being able to get an
appropriate rhyme to _flat_." A wag who was present suggested _fat_,
pointing out that the dog's increased bulk by the snow falling on his
back fully justified the meaning, and, what is of equal importance in
Chinese poetry, the antithesis.

    [*] Namely, (1) the literati, (2) agriculturists, (3) artisans, and
    (4) merchants or tradesmen.

    [+] The first sentence of the Analects or Confucian Gospels.

Riddles and word-puzzles are largely used for the purpose of killing
time, the nature of the written language offering unlimited facilities
for the formation of the latter. Chinese riddles, by which term we
include conundrums, charades, _et hoc genus omne_, are similar to our
own, and occupy quite as large a space in the literature of the
country. They are generally in doggerel, of which the following may be
taken as a specimen, being like the last a word-for-word

  Little boy red-jacket, whither away?
    To the house with the ivory portals I stray.
  Say will you come back, little red-coat, again?
    My bones will return, but my flesh will remain.

In the present instance the answer is so plain that it is almost
insulting to our readers to mention that it is "a cherry," but this is
by no means the case with all Chinese riddles, many being exceedingly
difficult of solution. So much so that it is customary all over the
Empire to copy out any particularly puzzling conundrum on a paper
lantern, and hang it in the evening at the street door, with the
promise of a reward to any comer who may succeed in unravelling it.
These are called "lamp riddles," and usually turn upon the name of
some tree, fruit, animal, or book, the direction in which the answer
is to be sought being usually specified as a clue.

Were it only in such innocent pastimes as these that the Chinese
indulged, we might praise the simplicity of their morals, and contrast
them favourably with the excitement of European life. But there is
just one more little solace for leisure, and too often business hours,
of which we have not yet spoken. Gambling is, of course, the
distraction to which we allude; a vice ten times more prevalent than
opium-smoking, and proportionately demoralising in its effect upon the
national character. In private life, there is always some stake
however small; take it away, and to a Chinaman the object of playing
any game goes too. In public, the very costermongers who hawk cakes
and fruit about the streets are invariably provided with some means
for determining by a resort to chance how much the purchaser shall
have for his money. Here, it is a bamboo tube full of sticks, with
numbers burnt into the concealed end, from which the customer draws;
at another stall dice are thrown into an earthenware bowl, and so on.
Every hungry coolie would rather take his chance of getting nothing at
all, with the prospect of perhaps obtaining three times his money's
worth, than buy a couple of sausage-rolls and satisfy his appetite in
the legitimate way. The worst feature of gambling in China is the
number of hells opened publicly under the very nose of the magistrate,
all of which drive a flourishing trade in spite of the frequent
_presents_ with which they are obliged to conciliate the venal
official whose duty it is to put them down. To such an extent is the
system carried that any remissness on the part of the keepers of these
dens in conveying a reasonable share of the profits to his honour's
treasury, is met by _a brutum fulmen_ in the shape of a proclamation,
setting forth how "it having come to my ears that, regardless of law,
and in the teeth of my frequent warnings, certain evil-disposed
persons have dared to open public gambling-houses, be it hereby made
known," &c., &c., the whole document being liberally interspersed with
allusions to the men of old, the laws of the reigning dynasty, and
filial piety _a discretion_. The upshot of this is that within
twenty-four hours after its appearance his honour's wrath is appeased,
and croupiers and gamblers go on in the same old round as if nothing
whatever had happened.


Law,[*] as we understand the term, with all its paradoxes and
refinements, is utterly unknown to the Chinese, and it was absolutely
necessary to invent an equivalent for the word "barrister," simply
because no such expression was to be found ready-made in the language.
Further, it would be quite impossible to persuade even the most
enlightened native that the Bar is an honourable profession, and that
its members are men of the highest principles and integrity. They
cannot get it out of their heads that western lawyers must belong to
the same category as a certain disreputable class among themselves, to
be met with in every Chinese town of importance, and generally
residing in the vicinity of a magistrate's or judge's yamen. These
fellows are always ready to undertake for a small remuneration the
conduct of cases, in so far as they are able to do this by the
preparation of skilfully-worded petitions or counter-petitions, and by
otherwise giving their advice. Of course they do not appear in court,
for their very existence is forbidden, but their services are largely
availed of by the people, especially the poor and ignorant. At the
trial, prosecutor and accused must each manage his own case, the
magistrate himself doing all the cross-examination. We say
_prosecutor_ and _accused_ advisedly, for as a matter of fact civil
cases are rare in China, such questions as arise in the way of trade
being almost invariably referred to some leading guild, whose
arbitration is accepted without appeal. Now, we know of no such book
as "Laws of Evidence" in the whole range of Chinese literature; yet we
believe firmly that the intellects which adorn our own bench are not
more keen in discriminating truth from falsehood, and detecting at a
glance the corrupt witness, than the semi-civilised native functionary
--that is, when no silver influences have been brought to bear upon
his judgment. The Chinese have a penal code which, allowing for the
difference in national customs and habits of thought, stands almost
unrivalled; and with this solitary work their legal literature begins
and ends. It is regarded by the people as an inspired book, though few
know much beyond the title, and seems to answer its purpose well.

    [*] Civil law.

But inasmuch as in China as elsewhere _summum jus_ is not infrequently
_summa injuria_, a clever magistrate never hesitates to set aside law
or custom, and deal out Solomonic justice with an unsparing hand,
provided always he can shew that his course is one which _reason_
infallibly dictates. Such an officer wins golden opinions from the
people, and his departure from the neighbourhood is usually signalised
by the presentation of the much-coveted testimonial umbrella. In the
reign of the last Emperor but one, less than twenty years ago, there
was an official of this stamp employed as "second Prefect" in the
department of Han-yang. Many and wonderful are the stories told of his
unerring acumen, and his memory is still fondly cherished by all who
knew him in his days of power. We will quote one from among numerous
traditions of his genius which have survived to the present day.

A poor man, passing through one of the back thoroughfares in Hankow,
came upon a Tls. 50[*] note lying in the road and payable to bearer.
His first impulse was to cash it, but reflecting that the sum was
large and that the loser might be driven in despair to commit suicide,
the consequences of which might be that he himself would perhaps get
into trouble, he determined to wait on the spot for the owner and rest
content with the "thanks money" he was entitled by Chinese custom to
claim as a right. Very shortly he saw a stranger approaching, with his
eyes bent on the ground, evidently in search of something; whereupon
he made up to him and asked at once if anything was the matter.
Explanations followed, and the Tls. 50 note was restored to its lawful
possessor, who, recovering himself instantaneously, asked where the
other one was, and went on to say that he had lost _two_ notes of the
same value, and that on recovery of the other one he would reward the
finder as he deserved, but that unless that was also forthcoming he
should be too great a loser as it was. His benefactor was protesting
strongly against this ungenerous behaviour when the "second Prefect"
happened to come round the corner, who, seeing there was a row,
stopped his chair, and inquired there and then into the merits of the
case. The result was that he took the Tls. 50 note and presented it to
the honest finder, telling him to go on his way rejoicing; while,
turning to the ungrateful loser, he sternly bade him wait till he met
some one who had found _two_ notes of that value, and from him
endeavour to recover his lost property.

    [*] Fifty taels, equal to about 15 pounds.


From the previous sketch it may readily be gathered that the state of
Chinese law, both civil[*] and criminal, is a very important item in
the sum of those obstacles which bar so effectually the admission of
China--not into the cold and uncongenial atmosphere euphuistically
known as the "comity of nations"--but into closer ties of
international intercourse and friendship on a free and equal footing.
For as long as we have ex-territorial rights, and are compelled to
avail ourselves thereof, we can regard the Chinese nation only _de
haut en bas_; while, on the other hand, our very presence under such,
to them abnormal conditions, will continue to be neither more or less
than a humiliating eye-sore. Till foreigners in China can look with
confidence for an equitable administration of justice on the part of
the mandarins, we fear that even science, with all its resources, will
be powerless to do more than pave the way for that wished-for moment
when China and the West will shake hands over all the defeats
sustained by the one, and all the insults offered to the other.

    [*] That is, local custom.

It is in the happily unfrequent cases of homicide where a native and a
foreigner play the principal parts, that certain discrepancies between
Chinese and Western law, rules of procedure and evidence, besides
several other minor points, stand out in the boldest and most
irreconcilable relief. To begin with, the Penal Code and all its
modifications of murder, answering in some respects to our distinction
between murder and manslaughter, is but little known to the people at
large. Nay, the very officials who administer these laws are generally
as grossly ignorant of them as it is possible to be, and in every
judge's yamen in the Empire there are one or two "law experts," who
are always prepared to give chapter and verse at a moment's
notice,--in fact, to guide the judge in delivering a proper verdict,
and one such as must meet with the approbation of his superiors. The
people, on the other hand, know but one leading principle in cases of
murder--a life for a life. Under extenuating circumstances cases of
homicide are compromised frequently enough by money payments, but if
the relatives should steadily refuse to forego their revenge, few
officials would risk their own position by failing to fix the guilt
somewhere. As a rule, it is not difficult to obtain the conviction and
capital punishment of any native, or his substitute, who has murdered
a foreigner, and we might succeed equally well in many instances of
justifiable homicide or manslaughter: it is when the case is reversed
that we call down upon our devoted heads all the indignation of the
Celestial Empire. Of course any European who could be proved to have
murdered a native would be hanged for it; but he may kill him in
self-defence or by accident, in both of which instances the Chinese
would clamour for the extreme penalty of the law. Further, _hearsay_
is evidence in a Chinese court of justice, and if several witnesses
appeared who could only say that some one else told them that the
accused had committed the murder, it would go just as far to
strangling or beheading him, as if they had said they saw the deed
themselves. The accused is, moreover, not only allowed to criminate
himself, but no case being complete without a full confession on the
part of the guilty man, torture might be brought into play to extort
from him the necessary acknowledgment. It is plain, therefore, that
Chinese officials prosecuting on behalf of their injured countrymen,
are quite at sea in an English court, and their case often falling
through for want of proper evidence, they return home cursing the
injustice done to them by the hated barbarians, and longing for the
day which will dawn upon their extermination from the Flowery Land.

On the other hand, the examination of Chinese witnesses, either in a
civil or criminal case, is one of the most trying tests to which the
forbearance of foreign officials is exposed in all the length and
breadth of their intercourse with the slippery denizens of the middle
kingdom. Leaving out of the question the extreme difficulty of the
language, now gradually yielding to methodical and persevering study,
the peculiar bent of the Chinese mind, with all its prejudices and
superstitions, is quite as much an obstacle in the way of eliciting
truth as any offered by the fantastic, but still amenable, varieties
of Chinese syntax. We believe that native officials have the power,
though it does not always harmonise with their interests to exercise
it, of arriving at as just and equitable decisions in the majority of
cases brought before them, as any English magistrate who knows
"Taylor's Law of Evidence" from beginning to end. They accomplish this
by a knowledge of character, unparalleled perhaps in any country on
the globe, which enables them to distinguish readily, and without such
constant recourse to torture as is generally supposed, between the
false and honest witness. The study of mankind in China is, beyond all
doubt--man and his motives for action on every possible occasion, and
under every possible condition. Thus it is, we may remark, that the
Chinese fail to appreciate the efforts made for their good by
missionaries and others, because the motives of such a course are
utterly beyond the reach of native investigation and thought. They are
consequently suspicious of the Greeks--_et dona ferentes_. The
self-denial of missionaries who come out to China to all the hardships
of Oriental life--though, as a facetious writer in the _Shanghai
Courier_ lately remarked, they live in the best houses, and seem to
lead as jolly lives as anybody else out here--to say nothing of
gratuitous medical advice and the free distribution of all kinds of
medicine--all this is entirely incomprehensible to the narrow mind of
the calculating native. Their observations have been confined to
the characters and habits of thought which distinguish their
fellow-countrymen, and with the result above-mentioned; of the
European mind they know absolutely nothing.

As regards the evidence of Chinese taken in a foreign court of
justice, the first difficulty consists generally in swearing the
witnesses. Old books on China, which told great lies without much
danger of conviction, mention cock-killing and saucer-breaking as
among the most binding forms of Chinese oaths. The common formula,
however, which we consider should be adopted in preference to any
hybrid expression invented for the occasion, is an invocation to
heaven and earth to listen to the statements about to be made, and to
punish the witness for any deviation from the truth. This is sensible
enough, and is moreover not without weight among a superstitious
people like the Chinese. The witness then expects the magistrate to
ask him the name of his native district, his own name, his age, the
age of his father and mother (if alive), the maiden name of his wife,
her age, the number and the ages of his children, and many more
questions of similar relevancy and importance, before a single effort
is made towards eliciting any one fact bearing upon the subject under
investigation. With a stereotyped people like the Chinese, it does not
do to ignore these trifles of form and custom; on the contrary, the
witness should rather be allowed to wander at will through such
useless details until he has collected his scattered thoughts, and may
be safely coaxed on to divulge something which partakes more of the
nature of evidence. Under proper treatment, a Chinese witness is by no
means doggedly stubborn or doltishly stupid; he may be either or both
if he has previously been tampered with by native officials, but even
then it is not absolutely impossible to defeat his dishonesty.
Occasionally a question will be put by a foreigner to an
unsophisticated boor, never dreamt of in the philosophy of the latter,
and such as would never have fallen from the lips of one of his own
officials; the answers given under such circumstances are usually
unique of their kind. We know of an instance where a boatman was
asked, in reference to a collision case, at what rate he thought the
tide was running. The witness hesitated, looked up, down, on either
side, and behind him; finally he replied:--"I am a poor boatman; I
only earn one hundred and fifty cash a day, and how can you expect me
to know at what rate the tide was running?"


There are few more loathsome types of character either in the East or
West than the Buddhist priest of China. He is an object of contempt to
the educated among his countrymen, not only as one who has shirked the
cares and responsibilities to which all flesh is heir, but as a
misguided outcast who has voluntarily resigned the glorious title and
privileges of that divinely-gifted being represented by the symbol
_man_. With his own hands he has severed the five sacred ties which
distinguish him from the brute creation, in the hope of some day
attaining what is to most Chinamen a very doubtful immortality. Paying
no taxes and rendering no assistance in the administration of the
Empire, his duty to his sovereign is incomplete. Marrying no wife, his
affinity, the complement of his earthly existence, sinks into a
virgin's grave. Rearing no children, his troubled spirit meets after
death with the same neglect and the same absence of cherished rites
which cast a shadow upon his parents' tomb. Renouncing all fraternal
ties, he deprives himself of the consolation and support of a
brother's love. Detaching himself from the world and its vanities,
friendship spreads its charms for him in vain. Thus he is in no
Chinese sense a man. He has no name, and is frequently shocked by some
western tyro in Chinese who, thinking to pay the everyday compliment
bandied between Chinamen, asks to his intense disgust--"What is your
honourable name?" The unfortunate priest has substituted a "religious
designation" for the patronymic he discarded when parents, brethren,
home, and friends were cast into oblivion at the door of the temple.

But it is not on such mere sentimental grounds that the Chinese nation
has condemned in this wholesale manner the clergy of China. Did the
latter carry out even to a limited extent their vows of celibacy and
Pythagorean principles of diet, they would probably obtain a fair
share of that questionable respect which is meted out to enthusiasts
in most countries on the globe. The Chinese hate them as double-dyed
hypocrites who extort money from the poor and ignorant, work upon the
fears of, and frequently corrupt, their wives or daughters; proclaim
in bold characters at the gates of each temple--"no meat or wine may
enter here"--while all the time they dine off their favourite pork as
often as most Chinamen, and smoke or drink themselves into a state of
beastly intoxication a great deal more so. Opium pipes are to be found
as frequently as not among the effects of these sainted men, who, with
all the abundant leisure at their command, are rarely of sufficient
education to be mentioned in the same breath with an ordinary
graduate. Occasionally there have been exceptions to the rule, but the
phenomenon is seldom met with in modern times. We have read of a lame
old priest so renowned for self-denying liberality that the great
Emperor Ch'ien Lung actually paid him a visit. After some conversation
Ch'ien Lung presented him with a valuable pearl, which the old man
immediately bestowed upon a beggar he espied among the crowd. His
Majesty was somewhat taken aback at this act of rudeness, and asked
him if he always gave away everything in the same manner. On receiving
an affirmative reply, the Emperor added, "Even down to the crutch on
which you lean?" "Ah," said the priest, "it is written that the
superior man does not covet what his friend cannot spare." "But
supposing," said the Emperor, "he was not a superior man." "In that
case," answered the priest, "you could not expect me to be his

Cleanliness, again, is an especial attribute of Buddhism, and in a few
temples in the south there is an attempt to make some show in this
direction; but as regards the person, priests are dirtier if anything
than the humblest members of their flock. It is laughable indeed to
hear them chant the _Ching_, ignorant as ninety-nine per cent. are of
every word they are saying, for of late the study of Sanskrit has been
utterly and entirely neglected. Their duties, however, in this respect
are as much curtailed as possible, except when wafting with their
prayers some spirit of the dead to the realms of bliss above. In such
cases it is a matter of business, a question of money; and the
unctuous air of solemn faith they then put on contrasts curiously with
the bored and sleepy look apparent on their faces as they gabble
through a midnight mass, in the presence of some such limited and
unimportant audience as a single and perhaps a red-haired barbarian.

It is pleasant to dismiss from our thoughts this lying, shameless,
debauched class; and we do so, wondering how Buddhism has retained its
hold so long over an intellectual people possessed of an elaborate
moral code, which has been for centuries the acknowledged standard of
right and wrong, and which condemns all fear or hope of an unknown and
unseen world.


One of the most curious and harmless customs of the Chinese is that of
carefully burning every scrap of paper inscribed with the cherished
characters which, as far as calligraphy goes, justly take precedence
of those of any other language on the globe. Not content with mere
reduction by fire, a conscientious Chinaman will collect the ashes
thus produced, and sealing them up in some earthen vessel, will bury
them deep in the earth or sink them to the bottom of a river. Then
only does he consider that he has fully discharged his duty towards
paper which has by mere accident become as sacred in the eyes of all
good men as the most precious relic of any martyred saint in the
estimation of a Catholic priest. Rich men are constantly in the habit
of paying _chiffoniers_ to collect such remnants of written paper as
they may find lying about the streets, and in all Chinese towns there
are receptacles at the most frequented points where the results of
their labours may be burned. The above facts are pretty generally
known to foreigners in China and elsewhere, but we do not think that
native ideas on the subject have ever been brought forward otherwise
than indirectly. We therefore give the translation of a short essay
published in 1870 by an enthusiastic scholar, and distributed gratis
among his erring countrymen:--

  "From of old down to the present time our sages have devoted
  themselves to the written character--that fairest jewel in heaven
  above or earth beneath. Those, therefore, who are stimulated by a
  thirst for _fame_, strive to attain their end by the excellency of
  their compositions; others, attracted by desire for wealth, pursue
  their object with the help of day-book and ledgers. In both cases
  men would be helpless without a knowledge of the art of writing.
  How, indeed, could despatches be composed, agreements drawn up,
  letters exchanged, and genealogies recorded, but for the
  assistance of the written character? By what means would a man
  chronicle the glory of his ancestors, indite the marriage deed, or
  comfort anxious parents when exiled to a distant land? In what way
  could he secure property to his sons and grandchildren, borrow or
  lend money, enter into partnership, or divide a patrimony, but
  with the testimony of written documents? The very labourer in the
  fields, tenant of a few acres, must have his rights guaranteed in
  black and white; and household servants require more than verbal
  assurance that their wages will not fail to be paid. The
  prescription of the physician, about to call back some suffering
  patient from the gates of death, is taken down with pen and ink;
  and the prognostication of the soothsayer, warning men of evil or
  predicting good fortune, exemplifies in another direction the use
  of the written character. In a word, the art of writing enriches
  and ennobles man, hands him over to life or death, confers upon
  him honours and distinctions, or covers him with abuse and shame.

  "Of late, however, our schools have turned out an arrogant and
  ignorant lot--boys who venture to use old books for wrapping
  parcels or papering windows, for boiling water, or wiping the
  table; boys, I say, who scribble over their books, who write
  characters on wall or door, who chew up the drafts of their poems,
  or throw them away on the ground. Let all such be severely
  punished by their masters that they may be saved, while there is
  yet time, from the wrath of an avenging Heaven. Some men use old
  pawn-tickets for wrapping up things--it may be a cabbage or a
  pound of bean-curd. Others use lottery-tickets of various
  descriptions for wrapping up a picked vegetable or a slice of
  pork, with no thought of the crime they are committing as long as
  there is a cash to be made or saved. So also there are those who
  exchange their old books for pumeloes or ground-nuts, to be
  defiled with the filth of the waste-paper basket, and passed from
  hand to hand like the cheques of the barbarian. Alas, too, for
  women when they go to fairs, for children who are sent to market!
  They cannot read one single character: they know not the priceless
  value of written paper. They drop the wrapping of a parcel in the
  mire for every passer-by to tread under foot. Their crime,
  however, will be laid at the door of those who erred in the first
  instance (i.e., those who sold their old books to the
  shopkeepers). For they hoped to squeeze some profit, infinitesimal
  indeed, out of tattered or incomplete volumes; forgetting in their
  greed that they were dishonouring the sages, and laying up for
  themselves certain calamity. Why then sacrifice so much for such
  trifling gain? How much better a due observance of time-honoured
  custom, ensuring as it would a flow of prosperity continuous and
  everlasting as the waves of the sea! O ye merchants and
  shopkeepers, know that in heaven as on earth written words are
  esteemed precious as the jade, and whatever is marked therewith
  must not be cast aside like stones and tiles. For happiness,
  wealth, honours, distinctions, and old age, may be one and all
  secured by a proper respect for written paper."


Educated Chinamen loudly disclaim any participation in the
superstitious beliefs which, to a European eye, hang like a dark cloud
over an otherwise intellectually free people. There never has been a
State religion in China, and it has always been open to every man to
believe and practise as much or as little as he likes of Buddhism,
Taoism, or Mahomedanism, without legal interference or social stigma
of any kind. Of course it is understood that such observances must be
purely self-regarding, and that directly they assume--as lately in the
case of Mahomedanism--anything of a political character, the Chinese
Government is not slow to protect the unity of the Empire by the best
means in its power. And so, but for the suicidal zeal of Christian
missions and their supporters, who have effected an unnatural
amalgamation of religion and politics, and carried the Bible into
China at the point of the bayonet, the same toleration might now be
accorded to Christianity which the propagators of other religions have
hitherto been permitted to enjoy.

As to religion in China, it is only of the ethics of Confucius that
the State takes any real cognizance. His is what John Stuart Mill
alluded to as "the best wisdom they possess;" and, as he further
observed, the Chinese have secured "that those who have appropriated
most of it shall occupy the posts of honour and power." His maxims are
entirely devoid of the superstitious element. He recognises a
principle of right beyond the ken of man; but though he once said that
this principle was conscious of his existence and his work on earth,
it never entered his head to endow it with anything like retributory
powers. Allusions to an unseen world were received by him with scorn;
and as regards a future state, he has preserved a most discreet
silence. "While you do not know life, how can you know about death?"
was the rebuke he administered to a disciple who urged some utterance
on the problem of most interest to mankind. And yet, in spite of the
extreme healthiness of Confucian ethics, there has grown up, around
both the political and social life of the Chinese, such a tangled maze
of superstition, that it is no wonder if all intellectual advancement
has been first checked, and has then utterly succumbed. The ruling
classes have availed themselves of its irresistible power to give them
a firmer hold over their simple-hearted, credulous subjects; they have
practised it in its grossest forms, and have written volumes in
support of absurdities in which they cannot really have the slightest
faith themselves. It was only a year or two ago that the most powerful
man in China, a distinguished scholar, statesman, and general,
prostrated himself before a diminutive water-snake, in the hope that
by humble intercession with the God of Floods he might bring about a
respite from the cruel miseries which had been caused by inundations
over a wide area of the province of Chihli. The suppliant was no other
than the celebrated Viceroy, Lu Hung-chang, who has recently armed the
forts at the mouth and on the banks of the Peiho with Krupp's best
guns, instead of trusting, as would be consistent, the issue of a
future war to the supernatural efforts of some Chinese Mars.

Turning now to the literature of China, we cannot but be astonished at
the mass of novels which are one and all of the same tendency; in
fact, not only throughout the entire stratum of Chinese fiction, but
even in that of the gravest philosophical speculations, has the
miraculous been introduced as a natural and necessary element. The
following passage, taken from the writings of Han Wen-kung, whose name
has been pronounced to be "one of the most venerated," is a fair
specimen of the trash to be met with at every turn in that trackless,
treeless desert, which for want of a more appropriate term we are
obliged to call the literature of China:--

  "There are some things which possess form but are devoid of sound,
  as for instance jade and stones; others have sound but are without
  form, such as wind and thunder; others again have both form and
  sound, such as men and animals; and lastly, there is a class
  devoid of both, namely, _devils and spirits_."

Descending to the harmless superstition of domestic life, we find that
the cat washing her face is not, as with us, a sign of rain, but that
a stranger is coming. On the other hand, "strangers" in tea portend,
as with us, the arrival of some unlooked-for guest, tall or short, fat
or lean, according to the relative proportions of the prophetic twig.
Aching corns denote the approach of wet weather--we do not quote this
as a superstition--and for a girl to spill water on fowls or dogs will
ensure a downpour of rain on her wedding-day. Any one who hears a crow
caw should shatter his teeth three times and blow; and two brooms
together will bring joy and sorrow at the same time, as a birth and a
death on the same day. "Crows' feet" on the face are called "fishes'
tails," and in young men mean what the widower's peak is supposed to
signify with us.

Superstition is China's worst enemy--a shadow which only the pure
light of science will be able to dispel. There are many amongst us who
would give her more: but they will not succeed.


It is a question of more than ordinary interest to those who regard
the Chinese people as a worthy object of study, What are the
speculations of the working and uneducated classes concerning such
natural phenomena as it is quite impossible for them to ignore? Their
theory of eclipses is well known, foreign ears being periodically
stunned by the gonging of an excited crowd of natives, who are
endeavouring with hideous noises to prevent some imaginary dog of
colossal proportions from banqueting, as the case may be, upon the sun
or moon. At such laughable exhibitions of native ignorance it will be
observed that there is always a fair sprinkling of well-to-do,
educated persons, who not only ought to know better themselves, but
should be making some effort to enlighten their less fortunate
countrymen instead of joining in the din. Such a hold, however, as
superstition on the minds of the best informed in a Chinese community,
that under the influence of any real or supposed danger, philosophy
and Confucius are scattered to the four winds of Heaven, and the
proudest disciple of the Master proves himself after all but a man.

Leaving the literati to take care of themselves, and confining our
attention to the good-tempered, joyous, hospitable working-classes of
China, we find many curious beliefs on subjects familiar among western
nations to every national school-boy. The earth, for instance, is
popularly believed to be square; and the heavens a kind of shell or
covering, studded with stars and revolving round the earth. We
remember once when out of sight of land calling the notice of our
native valet to the masts of a vessel sinking below the horizon. We
pointed out to him that were the earth a perfectly flat surface its
disappearance would not be so comparatively sudden, nor would the ship
appear to sink. But at the last moment, when we felt that conviction
was entering into his soul and that another convert had been made to
the great cause of scientific truth, he calmly replied that it was
written--"Heaven is round, earth is square," and he didn't very well
understand how books could be wrong!

The sun is generally supposed to pass at sunset into the earth, and to
come out next morning at the other side. The moon is supposed to rise
from and set in the ocean. Earthquakes are held to result from
explosions of sulphur in the heart of the earth; rain is said to be
poured down by the Dragon God who usually resides on the other side of
the clouds, and the rainbow is believed to be formed by the breath of
an enormous oyster which lives somewhere in the middle of the sea, far
away from land. Comets and eclipses of the sun are looked upon as
special warnings to the throne, and it is usual for some distinguished
censor to memorialise the Emperor accordingly. The most curious
perhaps of all these popular superstitions are those which refer to
thunder, lightning, and hail, regarded in China as the visitation of
an angry and offended god. In the first place it is supposed that
people are struck by thunder and not by lightning--a belief which was
probably once prevalent in England, as evidenced by the English word
_thunderstruck_. Sir Philip Sydney writes:--"I remained as a man
thunder-stricken." Secondly, death by thunder is regarded as a
punishment for some secret crime committed against human or divine
law, and consequently a man who is not conscious of anything of the
kind faces the elements without fear. Away behind the clouds during a
storm or typhoon sit the God of Thunder armed with his terrible bolts,
and the Goddess of Lightning, holding in her hand a dazzling mirror.
With this last she throws a flash of lightning over the guilty man
that the God of Thunder may see to strike his victim; the pealing
crash which follows is caused by the passage through the air of the
invisible shaft--and the wrongs of Heaven are avenged. Similarly, hail
is looked upon as an instrument of punishment in the hands of the Hail
God, directed only against the crops and possessions of such mortals
as have by their wicked actions exposed themselves to the slow but
certain visitation of divine vengeance.

Each province, nay, each town, has its own particular set of
superstitions on a variety of subjects; the above, however, dealing
with the most important of all natural phenomena, will be found common
to every village and household in the Chinese Empire. The childlike
faith with which such quaint notions are accepted by the people at
large is only equalled by the untiring care with which they are
fostered by the ruling classes, who are well aware of their value in
the government of an excitable people. The Emperor himself prays loud
and long for rain, fine weather, or snow, according as either may be
needed by the suffering crops, and never leaves off until the elements
answer his prayers. But here we are ridiculing a phase of superstition
from which nations with greater advantages than China are not yet
wholly free.


China New Year!--What a suggestive ring have those three words for
"the foreigner in far Cathay."[*] What visions do they conjure up of
ill-served tiffins, of wages forestalled, of petty thefts and
perhaps a burglary; what thoughts of horrid tom-toms and ruthless
fire-crackers, making day hideous as well as night; what apparitions of
gaudily-dressed butlers and smug-faced coolies, their rear brought up
by man's natural enemy in China--the cook, for once in his life clean,
and holding in approved Confucian style[+] some poisonous indigestible
present he calls a cake!

    [*] The title of Mr Medhurst's work.

    [+] "In presenting gifts, his countenance wore a placid appearance."--
    Analects: ch. x.

New Year's Day is the one great annual event in Chinese social and
political life. An Imperial birthday, even an Imperial marriage, pales
before the important hour at which all sublunary affairs are supposed
to start afresh, every account balanced and every debt paid. About ten
days previously the administration of public business is nominally
suspended; offices are closed, official seals carefully wrapped up and
given into the safe keeping of His Honour's or His Excellency's
wife.[*] The holidays last one month, and during that time inaction is
the order of the day, it being forbidden to punish criminals, or even
to stamp, and consequently to write, a despatch on any subject
whatever. The dangerous results, however, that might ensue from a too
liberal observance of the latter prohibition are nearly anticipated by
stamping beforehand a number of blank sheets of paper, so that, if
occasion requires, a communication may be forwarded without delay and
without committing an actual breach of law or custom.

    [*] A universal custom which may be quoted with countless others
    against the degradation-of-women-in-China doctrine.

The New Year is the season of presents. Closely-packed boxes of
Chinese cake, biscuits, and crystallised fruit, are presented as
tributes of respect to the patriarchs of the family; grapes from
Shansi or Shan-tung, hams from Foochow, and lichees from Canton, all
form fitting vehicles for a declaration of friendship or of love. Now,
too, the birthday gifts offered by every official in the Empire to his
immediate superior, are supplemented by further propitiatory
sacrifices to the powers that be, without which tenure of office would
be at once troublesome and insecure. Such are known as _dry_, in
contradistinction to the _water_ presents exchanged between relatives
and friends. The latter are wholly, or at any rate in part, articles
of food prized among the Chinese for their delicacy or rarity, perhaps
both; and so to all appearance are the baskets of choice oranges, &c.,
sent for instance by a District Magistrate with compliments of the
season to His Excellency the Provincial Judge. But the Magistrate and
the Judge know better, for beneath that smiling fruit lie concealed
certain bank-notes or shoes of silver of unimpeachable touch, which
form a unit in the sum of that functionary's income, and enable him in
his turn to ingratiate himself with the all-powerful Viceroy, while he
lays by from year to year a comfortable provision against the time
when sickness or old age may compel him to resign both the duties and
privileges of government.

To "all between the four seas," patrician and plebeian[*] alike, the
New Year is a period of much intensity. On the 23rd or 24th of the
preceding moon it is the duty of every family to bid farewell to the
Spirit of the Hearth, and to return thanks for the protection
vouchsafed during the past year to each member of the household. The
Spirit is about to make his annual journey to heaven, and lest aught
of the disclosures he might make should entail unpleasant
consequences, it is adjudged best that he shall be rendered incapable
of making any disclosures at all. With this view, quantities of a very
sticky sweetmeat are prepared and presented as it were in sacrifice,
on eating which the unwary god finds his lips tightly glued together,
and himself unable to utter a single syllable. Beans are also offered
as fodder for the horse on which he is supposed to ride. On the last
day of the old year he returns and is regaled to his heart's content
on brown sugar and vegetables. This is the time _par excellence_ for
cracker-firing, though, as everybody knows, these abominations begin
some days previously. Every one, however, may not be aware that the
object of letting off these crackers is to rid the place of all the
evil spirits that may have collected together during the twelve months
just over, so that the influences of the young year may be
uncontaminated by their presence. New Year's eve is no season for
sleep: in fact, Chinamen almost think it obligatory on a respectable
son of Han to sit up all night. Indeed, unless his bills are paid, he
would have a poor chance of sleeping even if he wished. His
persevering creditor would not leave his side, but would sit there
threatening and pleading by turns until he got his money or effected a
compromise. Even should it be past twelve o'clock, the wretched debtor
cannot call it New Year's Day until his unwelcome dun has made it so
by blowing out the candle in his lantern. Of course there are
exceptions, but as a rule all accounts in China are squared up before
the old year has become a matter of history and the new year reigns in
its stead. Then, with the first streaks of dawn, begins that incessant
round of visits which is such a distinguishing feature of the whole
proceedings. Dressed out in his very best, official hat and boots,
button and peacock's feather, if lucky enough to possess them,[+]
every individual Chinaman in the Empire goes off to call on all his
relatives and friends. With a thick wad of cards, he presents himself
first at the houses of the elder branches of the family, or visits the
friends of his father; when all the seniors have been disposed of, he
seeks out his own particular cronies, of his own age and standing. If
in the service of his country, he does not omit to call at the yamen
and leave some trifling souvenir of his visit for the officer
immediately in authority over him. Wherever he goes he is always
offered something to eat, a fresh supply of cakes, fruit, and wine,
being brought in for each guest as he arrives. While thus engaged his
father, or perhaps brother, will be doing the honours at home, ready
to take their turn as occasion may serve. "New joy, new joy; get rich,
get rich," is the equivalent of our "Happy New Year," and is bandied
about from mouth to mouth at this festive season, until petty
distinctions of nationality and creed vanish before the conviction
that, at least in matters of sentiment, Chinamen and Europeans meet
upon common ground. Yet there is one solitary exception to the
rule--an unfortunate being whom no one wishes to see prosperous, and
whom nobody greets with the pleasant phrase, "Get rich, get rich." It
is the coffin-maker.

    [*] Chinese society is divided into two classes--officials and

    [+] No matter whether by merit or by purchase.


A great Chinese festival is the Feast of Lanterns, one which is only
second in importance to New Year's Day. Its name is not unfamiliar
even to persons in England who have never visited China, and whose
ideas about the country are limited to a confused jumble of pigtails,
birds'-nest soup, and the _kotow_. Its advent may or may not be
noticed by residents in China; though if they know the date on which
it falls, we imagine that is about as much as is generally known by
foreigners of the Feast of Lanterns.

This festival dates from the time of the Han dynasty, or, in round
numbers, about two thousand years ago. Originally it was a ceremonial
worship in the temple of the First Cause, and lasted from the 13th to
the 16th of the first moon, bringing to a close on the latter date all
the rejoicings, feastings, and visitings consequent upon the New Year.
In those early days it had no claim to its present title, for lanterns
were not used; pious supplicants performed their various acts of
prayer and sacrifice by the light of the full round moon alone. It was
not till some eight hundred years later that art came to the
assistance of nature, and the custom was introduced of illuminating
the streets with many a festoon of those gaudy paper lanterns, without
which now no nocturnal fete is thought complete. Another three hundred
years passed away without change, and then two more days were added to
the duration of the carnival, making it six days in all. For this it
was necessary to obtain the Imperial sanction, and such was ultimately
granted to a man named Ch'ien, in consideration of an equivalent
which, as history hints, might be very readily expressed in taels. The
whole thing now lasts from the 13th of the moon, the day on which it
is customary to light up for the first time, to the 18th inclusive,
when all the fun and jollity is over and the serious business of life
begins anew. The 15th is the great time, work of every kind being as
entirely suspended as it is with us on Christmas Day. At night the
candles are lighted in the lanterns, and crackers are fired in every
direction. The streets are thronged with gaping crowds, and cut-purses
make small fortunes with little or no trouble. There being no
policemen in a Chinese mob, and as the cry of "stop thief" would meet
with no response from the bystanders, a thief has simply to look out
for some simple victim, snatch perhaps his pipe from his hand, or his
pouch from his girdle, and elbow his way off as fast as he can go.

Plenty of lights and plenty of joss-stick would be enough of
themselves to make up a festival for Chinamen; in the present instance
there should be an extra abundance of both, though for reasons not
generally known to uneducated natives. Ask a coolie why he lights
candles and burns joss-stick at the Feast of Lanterns, and he will
probably be unable to reply. The idea is that the spirits of one's
ancestors choose this occasion to come back _dulces revisere natos_,
and that in their honour the hearth should be somewhat more swept and
garnished than usual. Therefore they consume bundle upon bundle of
well-scented joss-stick, that the noses of the spirits may run no risk
of being offended by mundane smells. Candles are lighted, that these
disembodied beings may be able to see their way about; and their sense
of the beautiful is consulted by a tasteful arrangement of the pretty
lamps in which the dirty Chinese dips are concealed. Worship on this
occasion is tolerably promiscuous; the Spirit of the Hearth generally
comes in for his share, and Heaven and Earth are seldom left out in
the cold. One very important part of the fun consists in eating
largely of a kind of cake prepared especially for the occasion. Sugar,
or some sweet mince-meat, is wrapped up in snow-white rice flour until
about the size of a small hen's egg, only perfectly round, and these
are eaten by hundreds in every household. Their shape is typical of a
complete family gathering, for every Chinaman makes an effort to spend
the Feast of Lanterns at home.

Under the mournful circumstances of the late Emperor's death, the 15th
of the 1st Chinese moon was this year (1875) hardly distinguishable
from any other day since the rod of empire passed from the hands of a
boy to those of a baby. No festivities were possible; it was of course
unlawful to hang lamps in any profusion, and all Chinamen have been
prohibited by Imperial edict from wearing their best clothes. The
utmost any one could do in the way of enjoyment was to gorge himself
with the rice-flour balls above-mentioned, and look forward to gayer
times when the days of mourning shall be over.


Many writers on Chinese topics delight to dwell upon the slow but sure
destruction of morals, manners, and men, which is being gradually
effected throughout the Empire by the terrible agency of opium.
Harrowing pictures are drawn of once well-to-do and happy districts
which have been reduced to know the miseries of disease and poverty by
indulgence in the fatal drug. The plague itself could not decimate so
quickly, or war leave half the desolation in its track, as we are told
is the immediate result of forgetting for a few short moments the
cares of life in the enjoyment of a pipe of opium. To such an extent
is this language used, that strangers arriving in China expect to see
nothing less than the stern reality of all the horrors they have heard
described; and they are astonished at the busy, noisy sight of a
Chinese town, the contented, peaceful look of China's villagers, and
the rich crops which are so readily yielded to her husbandmen by many
an acre of incomparable soil. Where, then, is this scourge of which
men speak? Evidently not in the highways, the haunts of commerce, or
in the quiet repose of far-off agricultural hamlets. Bent on search,
and probably determined to discover something, our seeker after truth
is finally conducted to an opium den, one of those miserable hells
upon earth common to every large city on the globe. Here he beholds
the vice in all its hideousness; the gambler, the thief, the beggar,
and such outcasts from the social circle, meet here to worship the god
who grants a short nepenthe from suffering and woe. This, then, is
China, and travellers' tales are but too true. A great nation has
fallen a prey to the insidious drug, and her utter annihilation is but
an affair of time!

We confess, however, we have looked for these signs in vain; but our
patience has been rewarded by the elucidation of facts which have led
us to brighter conclusions than those so generally accepted. We have
not judged China as a nation from the inspection of a few low
opium-shops, or from the half dozen extreme cases of which we may have
been personally cognizant, or which we may have gleaned from the
reports of medical missionaries in charge of hospitals for native
patients. We do not deny that opium is a curse, in so far as a large
number of persons would be better off without it; but comparing its
use as a stimulant with that of alcoholic liquors in the West, we are
bound to admit that the comparison is very much to the disadvantage of
the latter. Where opium kills its hundreds, gin counts its victims by
thousands; and the appalling scenes of drunkenness so common to a
European city are of the rarest occurrence in China. In a country
where the power of corporal punishments is placed by law in the hands
of the husband, wife-beating is unknown; and in a country where an
ardent spirit can be supplied to the people at a low price, _delirium
tremens_ is an untranslateable term. Who ever sees in China a tipsy
man reeling about a crowded thoroughfare, or lying with his head in a
ditch by the side of some country road? The Chinese people are
naturally sober, peaceful, and industrious; they fly from
intoxicating, quarrelsome samshoo, to the more congenial opium-pipe,
which soothes the weary brain, induces sleep, and invigorates the
tired body.

In point of fact, we have failed to find but a tithe of that real vice
which cuts short so many brilliant careers among men who, with all the
advantages of education and refinement, are euphemistically spoken of
as addicted to the habit of "lifting their little fingers." Few
Chinamen seem really to love wine, and opium, by its very price, is
beyond the reach of the blue-coated masses. In some parts, especially
in Formosa, a great quantity is smoked by the well-paid chair-coolies,
to enable them to perform the prodigies of endurance so often required
of them. Two of these fellows will carry an ordinary Chinaman, with
his box of clothes, thirty miles in from eight to ten hours on the
hottest days in summer. They travel between five and six miles an
hour, and on coming to a stage, pass without a moment's delay to the
place where food and opium are awaiting their arrival. After smoking
their allowance and snatching as much rest as the traveller will
permit, they start once more upon the road; and the occupant of the
chair cannot fail to perceive the lightness and elasticity of their
tread, as compared with the dull, tired gait of half an hour before.
They die early, of course; but we have trades in civilised England in
which a man thirty-six years of age is pointed at as a patriarch.

It is also commonly stated that a man who has once begun opium can
never leave it off. This is an entire fallacy. There is a certain
point up to which a smoker may go with impunity, and beyond which he
becomes a lost man in so far as he is unable ever to give up the
practice. Chinamen ask if an opium-smoker has the _yin_ or not;
meaning thereby, has he gradually increased his doses of opium until
he has established a _craving_ for the drug, or is he still a free man
to give it up without endangering his health. Hundreds and thousands
stop short of the _yin_; a few, leaving it far behind them in their
suicidal career, hurry on to premature old age and death. Further,
from one point of view, opium-smoking is a more self-regarding vice
than drunkenness, which entails gout and other evils upon the third
and fourth generation. Posterity can suffer little or nothing at the
hands of the opium-smoker, for to the inveterate smoker all chance of
posterity is denied. This very important result will always act as an
efficient check upon an inordinately extensive use of the drug in
China, where children are regarded as the greatest treasures life has
to give, and blessed is he that has his quiver full.

Indulgence in opium is, moreover, supposed to blunt the moral feelings
of those who indulge; and to a certain extent this is true. If your
servant smokes opium, dismiss him with as little compunction as you
would a drunken coachman; for he can no longer be trusted. His wages
being probably insufficient to supply him with his pipe and leave a
balance for family expenses, he will be driven to squeeze more than
usual, and probably to steal. But to get rid of a writer or a clerk
merely because he is a smoker, however moderate, would be much the
same as dismissing an employe for the heinous offence of drinking two
glasses of beer and a glass of sherry at his dinner-time. An
opium-smoker may be a man of exemplary habits, never even fuddled,
still less stupefied. He may take his pipe because he likes it, or
because it agrees with him; but it does not follow that he must
necessarily make himself, even for the time being, incapable of doing
business. Wine and moonlight were formerly considered indispensables
by Chinese bards; without them, no inspiration, no poetic fire. The
modern poetaster who pens a chaste ode to his mistress's eyebrow,
seeks in the opium-pipe that flow of burning thoughts which his
forefathers drained from the wine-cup. We cannot see that he does
wrong. We believe firmly that a moderate use of the drug is attended
with no dangerous results; and that moderation in all kinds of eating,
drinking, and smoking, is just as common a virtue in China as in
England or anywhere else.[*]

    [*] Sir Edmund Hornley, after nine years' service as chief judge of
    the Supreme Court at Shanghai, delivered an opinion on the anti-
    opium movement in the following remarkable terms:--"Of all the
    nonsense that is talked, there is none greater than that talked
    here and in England about the immorality and impiety of the opium
    trade. It is simply sickening. I have no sympathy with it, neither
    have I any sympathy with the owner of a gin-palace; but as long as
    China permits the growth of opium throughout the length and
    breadth of the land, taxes it, and pockets a large revenue from
    it,--sympathy with her on the subject is simply ludicrous and
    misplaced."--(J. W. Walker v. Malcolm, 28th April 1875.)

    But the following extract from a letter to the _London and China
    Express_, of 5th July 1875, part of which we have ventured to
    reproduce in italics, surpasses, both in fiction and naivete,
    anything it has ever been our lot to read on either side of this
    much-vexed question:--"The fact is, that this tremendous evil is
    utterly beyond the control of politicians, or even
    philanthropists. Nothing but the divine power of Christian life
    can cope with it, and though this process may be slow, it is sure.
    Christian missions alone can deal with the opium traffic, now that
    it has attained such gigantic dimensions, and the despised
    missionaries are solving a problem which to statesmen is
    insoluble. Those, therefore, who recognise the evils of opium-
    smoking will most effectually stay the plague _by supporting
    Christian Protestant Missions in China_.--Yours faithfully,

    "An Old Residenter in China.

    "London, June 28, 1875."


Nowhere can the monotony of exile be more advantageously relieved by
studying dense masses of humanity under novel aspects than in China,
where so much is still unknown, and where the bulk of which is
generally looked upon as fact requires in most cases a leavening
element of truth, in others nothing more nor less than flat
contradiction. The days are gone by for entertaining romances
published as if they were _bona fide_ books of travel, and the opening
of China has enabled residents to smile at the audacity of the too
mendacious Huc. It has enabled them at the same time to view millions
of human beings working out the problem of existence under conditions
which by many persons in England are deemed to be totally incompatible
with the happiness of the human race. They behold all classes in China
labouring seven days in every week, taking holidays as each may
consider expedient with regard both to health and means, but without
the mental and physical demoralisation supposed to be inseparable from
a non-observance of the fourth commandment. They see the unrestricted
sale of spirituous liquors, unaccompanied by the scenes of brutality
and violence which form such a striking contrast to the intellectual
advancement of our age. They notice that charity has no place among
the virtues of the people, and that nobody gives away a cent he could
possibly manage to keep; the apparent result being that every one
recognises the necessity of working for himself, and that the
mendicants of a large Chinese city would barely fill the casual ward
of one of our smallest workhouses. They have a chance of studying a
competitive system many hundred years old, with the certainty of
concluding that, whatever may be its fate in England or elsewhere, it
secures for the government of China the best qualified and most
intelligent men. Amongst other points, the alleged thievishness of the
Chinese is well worth a few moments' consideration, were it only out
of justice to the victims of what we personally consider to be a very
mischievous assertion. For it is a not uncommon saying, even among
Europeans who have lived in China, that the Chinese are a nation of
thieves. In Australia, in California, and in India, Chinamen have
beaten their more luxurious rivals by the noiseless but irresistible
competition of temperance, industry, and thrift: yet they are a nation
of thieves. It becomes then an interesting question how far a low tone
of morality on such an important point is compatible with the
undisputed practice of virtues which have made the fortunes of so many
emigrating Celestials. Now, as regards the amount of theft daily
perpetrated in China, we have been able to form a rough estimate, by
very careful inquiries, as to the number of cases brought periodically
before the notice of a district magistrate or his deputies, and we
have come to a conclusion unfavourable in the extreme to western
civilisation, which has not hesitated to dub China a nation of
thieves. We have taken into consideration the fact that many petty
cases never come into court in China, which, had the offence been
committed in England, would assuredly have been brought to the notice
of a magistrate. We have not forgotten that more robberies are
probably effected in China without detection than in a country where
the police is a well-organised force, and detectives trained men and
keen. We know that in China many cases of theft are compromised, by
the stolen property being restored to its owner on payment of a
certain sum, which is fixed and shared in by the native constable who
acts as middleman between the two parties, and we are fully aware that
under circumstances of hunger or famine, and within due limits, the
abstraction of anything in the shape of food is not considered theft.
With all these considerations in mind, our statistics (save the mark!)
would still compare most favourably with the records of theft
committed over an area in England equal in size and population to that
whence our information was derived. The above refers specially to
professional practice, but when we descend to private life, and view
with an impartial eye the pilfering propensities of servants in China,
we shall have even less cause to rejoice over our boasted morality and
civilisation. In the first place, squeezing of masters by servants is
a recognised system among the Chinese, and is never looked upon in the
light of robbery. It is _commission_ on the purchase of goods, and is
taken into consideration by the servant when seeking a new situation.
Wages are in consequence low; sometimes, as in the case of official
runners and constables, servants have to make their living as best
they can out of the various litigants, very often taking bribes from
both parties. As far as slight raids upon wine, handkerchiefs, English
bacon, or other such luxuries dear to the heart of the Celestial, we
might ask any one who has ever kept house in England if pilfering is
quite unknown among servants there. If it were strictly true that
Chinamen are such thieves as we make them out to be, with our eastern
habits of carelessness and dependence, life in China would be next to
impossible. As it is, people hire servants of whom they know
absolutely nothing, put them in charge of a whole house many rooms in
which are full of tempting kickshaws, go away for a trip to a port
five or six hundred miles distant, and come back to find everything in
its place down to the most utter trifles. Merchants as a rule have
their servants _secured_ by some substantial man, but many do not take
this precaution, for an honest Chinaman usually carries his integrity
written in his face. Confucius gave a wise piece of advice when he
said, "If you employ a man, be not suspicious of him; if you are
suspicious of a man, do not employ him"--and truly foreigners in China
seem to carry out the first half to an almost absurd degree, placing
the most unbounded confidence in natives with whose antecedents they
are almost always unacquainted, and whose very names in nine cases out
of ten they actually do not know! And what is the result of all this?
A few cash extra charged as commission on anything purchased at
shop or market, and a steady consumption of about four dozen
pocket-handkerchiefs per annum. Thefts there are, and always will be,
in China as elsewhere; but there are no better grounds for believing
that the Chinese are a nation of thieves than that their own tradition
is literally true which says, "In the glorious days of old, if
anything was seen lying in the road, nobody would pick it up!" On the
contrary, we believe that theft is not one whit more common in China
than it is in England; and we are fully convinced that the imputation
of being a nation of thieves has been cast, with many others, upon the
Chinese by unscrupulous persons whose business it is to show that
China will never advance without the renovating influence of
Christianity-an opinion from which we here express our most
unqualified dissent.


We have stated our conviction that the Chinese as a nation are not
more addicted to thieving than the inhabitants of many countries for
whom the same excuses are by no means so available. That no
undiscerning persons may be led to regard us as panegyrists of a
stationary civilisation, we hasten to counterbalance our somewhat
laudatory statements by the enunciation of another proposition less
startling, but if anything more literally true. _The Chinese are a
nation of liars._ If innate ideas were possible, the idea of lying
would form the foundation of the Chinese mind. They lie by instinct;
at any rate, they lie from imitation, and improve their powers in this
respect by the most assiduous practice. They seem to prefer lying to
speaking the truth, even when there is no stake at issue; and as for
shame at being found out, the very feeling is unfamiliar to them. The
gravest and most serious works in Chinese literature abound in lies;
their histories lie; and their scientific works lie. Nothing in China
seems to have escaped this taint.

Essentially a people of fiction, the Chinese have given up as much
time to the composition and perusal of romances as any other nation on
the globe; and this phase of lying is harmless enough in its way.
Neither can it be said to interfere with the happiness of foreigners
either in or out of China that Chinese medical, astrological,
geomantic, and such works, pretend to a knowledge of mysteries we know
to be all humbug. On the other hand, they ought to keep their lying to
themselves and for their own special amusement. They have no right to
circulate written and verbal reports that foreigners dig out babies'
eyes and use them in their pharmacopoeia. They have no right to
publish such hideous, loathsome pamphlets, as the one which was some
years ago translated into too faithful English by an American
missionary, who had better have kept his talents to himself, or to
post such inflammatory placards as the one which is placed at the end
of this volume. Self-glorification, when no one suffers therefrom, is
only laughable; and we shall take the liberty of presenting here the
translation of an article which appeared in the _Shun Pao_ of the 19th
September 1874, as a specimen of the manner in which Chinamen delight
to deceive even themselves on certain little points connected with the
honour and glory of China. The writer says:--

  "I saw yesterday in the _Peking Gazette_ of the 10th September
  1874 that the Prince of Kung had been degraded,--a fact received
  with mingled feelings of surprise and regret by natives of the
  Middle and Western kingdoms alike. For looking back to the last
  year of the reign Hsien Feng, we find that not only internal
  trouble had not been set at rest when external difficulties began
  to spring up around us, and war and battle were the order of the
  day. To crown all, His Majesty became a guest in the realm above,
  leaving only a child of tender years, unable to hold in his hands
  the reins of government. Then, with our ruler a youth and affairs
  generally in an unsettled state, sedition within and war without,
  although their Majesties the Empresses-Dowager directed the
  administration of government from behind the bamboo screen, the
  task of wielding the rod of empire must have been arduous indeed.
  Since that time, ten years and more, the Eighteen Provinces have
  been tranquillised; without, _western nations have yielded
  obedience and returned to a state of peace_; within, the empire
  has been fixed on a firm basis and has recovered its former
  vitality. Never, even in the glorious ages of the Chou or Hsia
  dynasties, has our national prosperity been so boundless as it is
  to-day. Whenever I have seen one among the people patting his
  stomach or carolling away in the exuberance of his joy, and have
  asked the cause of his satisfaction, he has replied, 'It is
  because of the loving-kindness of this our dynasty.' I ask what
  and whence is this loving-kindness of which he speaks? He answers
  me, 'It is the beneficent rule of their Majesties the Empresses-
  Dowager; it is the unspeakable felicity vouchsafed by Heaven to
  the Emperor; it is the loyalty and virtue of those in high places,
  of Tseng Kuo-fan, of Li Hung-chang, of Tso Tsung-t'ang.' These,
  however, are all provincial officials. Within the palace we have
  the Empresses-Dowager, and His Majesty the Emperor, toiling away
  from morn till dewy eve; but among the ministers of state who
  transact business, receiving and making known the Imperial will,
  working early and late in the Cabinet, the Prince of Kung takes
  the foremost place; and it is through his agency, as natives and
  foreigners well know, that for many years China has been regaining
  her old status, so that any praise of their Imperial Majesties
  leads naturally on to eulogistic mention of our noble Premier.
  Hearing now that the Prince has incurred his master's displeasure,
  there are none who do not fear lest his previous services may be
  overlooked, hoping at the same time that the Emperor will be
  graciously pleased to take them into consideration and cancel his
  present punishment."

Lying, under any circumstances, is a very venial offence in China; it
is, in fact, no offence at all, for everybody is prepared for lies
from all quarters, and takes them as a matter of course.

It is strange, however, that such a practical people should not have
discovered long ago the mere expediency of telling the truth, in the
same way that they have found mercantile honesty to be unquestionably
the best policy, and that trade is next to impossible without it. But
to argue, as many do, that China is wanting in morality, because she
has adopted a different standard of right and wrong from our own, is,
_mutato nomine_, one of the most ridiculous traits in the character of
the Chinese themselves. They regard us as culpable in the highest
degree because our young men choose their own partners, marry, and set
up establishments for themselves, instead of bringing their wives to
tend their aged parents, and live all together in harmony beneath the
paternal roof. We are superior to the Chinese in our utter abhorrence
of falsehood: in the practice of filial piety they beat us out of the
field. "Spartan virtue" is a household word amongst us, but Sparta's
claims to pre-eminence certainly do not rest upon her children's love
either for honesty or for truth. The profoundest thinker of the
nineteenth century has said that insufficient truthfulness "does more
than any one thing that can be named to keep back civilisation,
virtue, everything on which human happiness, on the largest scale,
depends"--an abstract proposition which cannot be too carefully
studied in connection with the present state of public morality in
China, and the general welfare of the people. Dr Legge, however, whose
logical are apparently in an inverse ratio to his linguistic powers,
rushes wildly into the concrete, and declares that every falsehood
told in China may be traced to the example of Confucius himself. He
acknowledges that "many sayings might be quoted from him, in which
'sincerity' is celebrated as highly and demanded as stringently as
ever it has been by any Christian moralist," yet, on the strength of
two passages in the Analects, and another in the "Family Sayings," he
does not hesitate to say that "the example of him to whom they bow
down as the best and wisest of men, encourages them to act, to
dissemble, to sin." And what are these passages? In the first,
Confucius applauds the modesty of an officer who, after boldly
bringing up the rear on the occasion of a retreat, refused all praise
for his gallant behaviour, attributing his position rather to the
slowness of his horse. In the second, an unwelcome visitor calling on
Confucius, the Master sent out to say he was sick, at the same time
seizing his harpsichord and singing to it, "in order that Pei might
hear him." Dr Legge lays no stress on the last half of this
story--though it is impossible to believe that its meaning can have
escaped his notice altogether. Lastly, when Confucius was once taken
prisoner by the rebels, he was released on condition of not proceeding
to Wei. "Thither, notwithstanding, he continued his route," and when
asked by a disciple whether it was right to violate his oath, he
replied, "It was a forced oath. The spirits do not hear such."

We shall not attempt to defend Confucius on either of these
indictments, taken separately and without reference to his life and
teachings; neither do we wish to temper the accusations we ourselves
have made against the Chinese, of being a nation of liars. But when it
is gravely asserted that the great teacher who made truthfulness and
sincerity his daily texts, is alone responsible for a vicious national
habit which, for aught any one knows to the contrary, may be a growth
of comparatively modern times, we call to mind the Horatian poetaster,
who began his account of the Trojan war with the fable of Leda and the


Suicide, condemned among western nations by human and divine laws
alike, is regarded by the Chinese with very different eyes. Posthumous
honours are even in some cases bestowed upon the victim, where death
was met in a worthy cause. Such would be suicide from grief at the
loss of a beloved parent, or from fear of being forced to break a vow
of eternal celibacy or widowhood. Candidates are for the most part
women, but the ordinary Chinaman occasionally indulges in suicide,
urged by one or other of two potent causes. Either he cannot pay his
debts and dreads the evil hour at the New Year, when coarse-tongued
creditors will throng his door, or he may himself be anxious to settle
a long-standing score of revenge against some one who has been
unfortunate enough to do him an injury. For this purpose he commits
suicide, it may be in the very house of his enemy, but at any rate in
such a manner as will be sure to implicate him and bring him under the
lash of the law. Nor is this difficult to effect in a country where
the ends of justice are not satisfied unless a life is given for a
life, where magistrates are venal, and the laws of evidence lax.
Occasionally a young wife is driven to commit suicide by the harshness
of her mother-in-law, but this is of rare occurrence, as the
consequences are terrible to the family of the guilty woman. The blood
relatives of the deceased repair to the chamber of death, and in the
injured victim's hand they place a broom. They then support the corpse
round the room, making its dead arm move the broom from side to side,
and thus sweep away wealth, happiness, and longevity from the accursed
house for ever.

The following extract from the _Peking Gazette_ of 14th September
1874, being a memorial by the Lieutenant Governor of Kiangsi, will
serve to show--though in this case the act was not consummated--that
under certain circumstances suicide is considered deserving of the
highest praise. In any case, public opinion in China has every little
to say against it:--

  "The magistrate of the Hsin-yu district has reported to me that in
  the second year of the present reign (1863) a young lady, the
  daughter of a petty official, was betrothed to the son of
  an expectant commissioner of the Salt Gabelle, and a day was fixed
  upon for the marriage. The bridegroom, however, fell ill and died,
  on which his _fiancee_ would have gone over to the family to see
  after his interment, and remain there for life as an unmarried
  wife. As it was, her mother would not allow her to do so, but
  beguiled her into waiting till her father, then away on business,
  should return home. Meanwhile, the old lady betrothed her to
  another man belonging to a different family, whereupon she took
  poison and nearly died. On being restored by medical aid, she
  refused food altogether; and it was not until she was permitted to
  carry out her first intentions that she would take nourishment at
  all. Since then she has lived with her father and mother-in-law,
  tending them and her late husband's grandmother with the utmost
  care. They love her dearly, and are thus in a great measure
  consoled for the loss of their son. Long thorns serve her for
  hair-pins;[*] her dress is of cotton cloth; her food consists of
  bitter herbs. Such privations she voluntarily accepts, and among
  her relatives there is not one but respects her.

  "The truth of the above report having been ascertained, I would
  humbly recommend this virtuous lady, although the full time
  prescribed by law has not yet expired,[+] for some mark[:] of Your
  Majesty's approbation." Rescript:--Granted!

    [*] Instead of the elaborate gold and silver ornaments usually worn by
    Chinese women.

    [+] A woman must be a widow before she is thirty years old, and remain
    so for thirty years before she is entitled to the above reward.
    This is both to guard against a possible relapse from her former
    virtuous resolution, and to have some grounds for believing that
    she was prompted so to act more by a sense of right than by any
    ungallant neglect on the part of the other sex.

    [:] Generally a tablet or banner, inscribed with well-chosen words of

The only strange part in this memorial is that the girl's mother was
not censured for trying to prevent her from acting the part of a
virtuous wife and filial daughter-in-law. It is also more than
probable that her early attempts at suicide, rather than any
subsequent household economy or dutiful behaviour, have secured for
this lady the coveted mark of Imperial approbation.

Suicide, while in an unsound state of mind, is rare; insanity itself,
whether temporary or permanent, being extremely uncommon in China.
Neither does the eye detect any of the vast asylums so numerous in
England for the reception of lunatics, idiots, deaf-mutes, cripples,
and the blind. There are a few such institutions here and there, but
not enough to constitute a national feature as with us. They are only
for the poorest of the poor, and are generally of more benefit to
dishonest managers than to anybody else. And yet in the streets of a
Chinese town we see a far less number of "unfortunates" than among our
own highly civilised communities. Blindness is the most common of the
above afflictions, so many losing their sight after an attack of
small-pox. But a Chinaman with a malformation of any kind is very
seldom seen; and, as we have said before, lunacy appears to be almost
unknown. Such suicides as take place are usually well-premeditated
acts, and are committed either out of revenge, or in obedience to the
"despotism of custom." Statistics are impossible, and we offer our
conclusions, founded upon observation alone, subject to whatever
correction more scientific investigators may hereafter be enabled to


Torture is commonly supposed to be practised by Chinese officials upon
each and every occasion that a troublesome criminal is brought before
them. The known necessity they are under of having a prisoner's
confession before any "case" is considered complete, coupled with some
few isolated instances of unusual barbarity which have come to the
notice of foreigners, has probably tended to foster a belief that such
scenes of brutality are daily enacted throughout the length and
breadth of China as would harrow up the soul of any but a soulless
native. The curious part of it all is that Chinamen themselves regard
their laws as the quintessence of leniency, and themselves as the
mildest and most gentle people of all that the sun shines upon in his
daily journey across the earth--and back again under the sea. The
truth lies of course somewhere between these two extremes. For just as
people going up a mountain complain to those they meet coming down of
the bitter cold, and are assured by the latter that the temperature is
really excessively pleasant--so, from a western point of view certain
Chinese customs savour of a cruelty long since forgotten in Europe,
while the Chinese enthusiast proudly compares the penal code of this
the Great Pure dynasty with the scattered laws and unauthorised
atrocities of distant and less civilised ages.

The Han dynasty which lasted from about B.C. 200 to A.D. 200 has been
marked by the historian as the epoch of change. Before that time
punishments of all kinds appear to have been terribly severe, and the
vengeance of the law pursued even the nearest and most distant
relatives of a criminal devoted perhaps to death for some crime in
which they could possibly have had no participation. It was then
determined that in future only rebellion should entail extirpation
upon the families of such seditious offenders, and at the same time
legal punishments were limited to five, viz.: bambooing of two degrees
of severity, banishment to a certain distance for a certain time or
for life, and death. These were, however, frequently exceeded by
independent officers against whose acts it would have been vain to
appeal, and it was not until the Sui dynasty (589-618 A.D.) that
mutilation of the body was absolutely forbidden. It may, indeed, be
said to have survived to the present day in the form of the "lingering
death" which is occasionally prescribed for parricides and matricides,
but that we now know that this hideous fate exists only in words and
form. When it was first held to be inconsistent with reason to mete
out the same punishment to a highway robber who kills a traveller for
his purse, and to the villain who takes away life from the author of
his being, a distinction was instituted accordingly, but we can only
rest in astonishment that any executioner could be found to put such a
horrible law into execution as was devised to meet the requirements of
the case. First an arm was chopped off, then the other; the two legs
in the same way. Two slits were made transversely on the breast, and
the heart was torn out; decapitation finished the proceedings. Now, a
slight gash only is made across each collar-bone, and three gashes
across the breast in the shape of the character meaning _one
thousand_, and indicative of the number of strokes the criminal ought
properly to have received. Decapitation then follows without delay.
The absurd statement in the Shanghai _Daily News_ of the 16th January
last, that this punishment "is the most frightful inflicted, even in
any of the darkest habitations of cruelty, at the present day," is
utterly unworthy of that respectable journal, but only of a piece with
the general ignorance that prevails among foreigners generally on
topics connected with China and the Chinese. At the same time, it may
fairly be pleaded that the error in question was due to
disingenuousness on the part of the translator from the _Peking
Gazette_ who, mentioning that such a sentence had been lately passed
upon two unhappy beings, adds that, "they have been publicly sliced to
death accordingly, with the usual formalities,"--which certainly might
lead a mere outsider to conclude that the horrible decree had actually
been put into execution. We may notice in passing that this so-called
"lingering death" is now almost invariably coupled with the name of
some poor lunatic who in a frenzy of passion has killed either father
or mother, sometimes both. Vide _Peking Gazette_, two or three times
every year. This is one of those pleasant fictions of Chinese official
life, which every one knows and every one winks at. In nine cases out
of ten, the unhappy criminal is not mad at all; but he is always
entered as such in the report of the committing magistrate, who would
otherwise himself be exposed to censure and degradation for not having
brought his district to estimate at their right value the five[*]
cardinal relationships of mankind.

    [*] Between, (1) sovereign and subject, (2) husband and wife, (3)
    parent and child, (4) brothers, and (5) friends.

Under the present dynasty the use of torture is comparatively rare,
and mutilation of the person quite unknown. Criminals are often thrust
into filthy dungeons of the most revolting description, and are there
further secured by a chain; but except in very flagrant cases,
ankle-beating and finger-squeezing, to say nothing of kneeling on
chains and hanging up by the ears, belong rather to the past than to
the present. The wife and children of a rebel chief may pass their
days in peace and quietness; innocent people are no longer made to
suffer with the guilty. A criminal under sentence of death for any
crime except rebellion may save his life and be released from further
punishment, if he can prove that an aged parent depends upon him for
the necessaries of daily existence. The heavy bamboo, under the
infliction of which sufferers not uncommonly died, has given place to
the lighter instrument of punishment, which may be used severely
enough for all practical purposes while it does not endanger life. The
Emperor K'ang Hsi, whose name is inseparably connected with one of the
most valuable lexicons that have ever been compiled, forbade bambooing
across the upper part of the back and shoulders. "Near the surface,"
said this benign father of his people, "lie the liver and the lungs.
For some trivial offence a man might be so punished that these organs
would never recover from the effects of the blows." The ruling system
of bribery has taken away from the bamboo its few remaining terrors
for those whose means are sufficient to influence the hand which lays
it on. Petty offences are chiefly expiated by a small payment of money
to the gaoler, who lets the avenging bamboo fall proportionately
light, or assists the culprit by every means in his power to shirk the
degradation and annoyance of a week in the cangue.[*] These two are
the only ordinary punishments we hear much about; torture, properly so
called, is permitted under certain circumstances, but rarely if ever

    [*] A heavy wooden collar, taken off at night only if the sentence is
    a long one, or on payment of a bribe.

In further support of this most heterodox position, we beg to offer a
translation of two chapters from "Advice to Government Officials," a
native work of much repute all over the Empire:--


  "The infliction of the bamboo is open to abuse in various ways.
  For instance, the knots in the wood may not have been smoothed
  off; blows may be given inside the joints, instead of above the
  knees; the tip end instead of the flat of the bamboo may be used;
  each stroke may be accompanied by a drawing movement of the hand,
  or the same spot may be struck again after the skin has been
  broken, whereby the suffering of the criminal is very much
  increased. Similarly, the 'squeezing' punishment depends entirely
  for its severity on the length of the sticks employed, whether
  these are wet or dry, as well as upon the tightness of the string.
  Such points should be carefully looked to by the magistrate
  himself, and not left to his subordinates. At the time of
  infliction still greater precautions should be taken to prevent
  the possibility of any accident, and where the offence was
  committed under venial circumstances, some part of the punishment
  may be remitted if it is considered that enough has already been
  inflicted. Such punishments as pressing the knees to the ground,
  making prisoners kneel on chains, or burning their legs with hot
  irons, adopted under the specious pretence of not using the
  'squeezing' torture, are among the most barbarous of prohibited
  practices, and are on no account to be allowed."


  "Lu Hsin-wu says, There are five classes of people who must be
  exempted from the punishment of the bamboo. (1) The aged. (2) The
  young. (3) The sick. [It is laid down expressly by statute that
  the aged and the young must not be thus coerced into giving
  evidence, but there is a danger of overlooking this in a moment of
  anger.] (4) The hungry and naked. [For thus to punish a beggar
  half dead with cold and hunger and destitute of friends to nurse
  him afterwards, would be equivalent to killing him outright.] (5)
  Those who have already been beaten. [Whether in a brawl or by
  other officials. A second beating might result in death for which
  the presiding magistrate would be responsible.]

  "There are five classes of people not to be hastily sentenced to
  the bamboo. (1) Members of the Imperial family. [The relatives of
  his Majesty, even though holding no rank, are not, says the
  statute, to be hastily punished in this way. The case must be laid
  before the proper authorities.] (2) Officials. [However low down
  in a scale, they are still part of the scheme of government;
  besides, it affects their good name ever afterwards.] (3)
  Graduates. (4) The official servants of your superiors. [Look out
  for the vase when you throw at the rat. Though you may be actually
  in the right, yet the dignity of your superiors might be
  compromised. A plain statement of the facts should be made out and
  privately handed to the official in question, leaving punishment
  in his hands. But to refrain from such a course through fear of
  the consequences would be weak indeed.] (5) Women.

  "There are also five cases in which temporary suspension of
  punishment is necessary. (1) When the prisoner is under the
  influence of excitement, or (2) anger. [The working classes are an
  obstinate lot and beating only increases their passion, so that
  they would die rather than yield. Arguments should first be used
  to show them their error, and then corporal punishment may be used
  without fear.] (3) Or drink. [A drunken man doesn't know heaven
  from earth, how can he be expected to distinguish right from
  wrong? Besides he feels no pain, and further there is a risk of
  his insulting the magistrate. He ought to be confined until he is
  sober and then punished; but not in a cold place for fear of
  endangering his life.] (4) Or when a man has just completed a
  journey, or (5) when he is out of breath with running.

  "There are also five instances in which it is well for your own
  sake to put off punishment for a time. (1) When you are in a rage.
  (2) When you are drunk. (3) When you are unwell. [For in the
  latter case the system is heated, and not only would you be more
  liable to improper infliction of punishment, but also to lose your
  temper; and thus injury would be done both to yourself and the
  prisoner.] (4) When you can't see your way clearly as to the facts
  of the case. (5) When you can't make up your mind as to the proper
  punishment. [For in difficult cases and when the prisoner in
  question is no ordinary man, it is just as well to look forward a
  little as to how the case is likely to end before you apply the
  bamboo. It would never do to take such measures without some
  consideration, or you might suddenly find that you had by no means
  heard the last of it.]

  "There are three classes of people who should not be beaten in
  addition to what they are to suffer. (1) Those who are to have
  their fingers squeezed. (2) Those who are to have the ankle frame
  applied. (3) Those who are to be exposed in the cangue. [For if
  previously beaten they might be almost unable to move, or their
  sores might not heal, and death might perhaps ensue. The statute
  provides that they shall be beaten on release, but this might
  easily be forgotten in a moment of anger.]

  "There are three instances in which compassion should save the
  prisoners from the bamboo. (1) When the weather is extremely cold
  or hot. (2) When a festival is being celebrated. (3) When the
  prisoner has lately been bereaved. [A man who is mourning for his
  father, mother, wife, or child, should not be punished
  corporeally; it might endanger his life.]

  "There are three cases in which a beating deserved should
  nevertheless be remitted. (1) When one of the litigants is
  considerably older than the other, he should not be beaten. (2)
  When one of the litigants is an official servant, the other should
  not be beaten. [For although the former may be in the right, his
  opponent should be treated with leniency, for fear of people
  saying you protect your Yamen servants; and lest in future, when
  the servant is in the wrong, no one will dare come forward to
  accuse him.] (3) Workmen and others employed by the magistrate
  himself should not be bambooed by him, even if they deserve it.

  "Three kinds of bambooing are forbidden. (1) With the greater
  bamboo. [One stroke of the _greater_ bamboo is counted as ten;
  three with the _middle-sized_, and five with the _smaller_.
  Officials are often too free with, never too chary of, their
  punishments. With the smaller bamboo, used even to excess, life is
  not endangered. Besides, if the punishment is spread over a longer
  time, the magistrate has a longer interval in which to get calm.
  But with the heavy bamboo, there is no saying what injuries might
  be done even with a few blows.] (2) It is forbidden to strike too
  low down. (3) It is forbidden to allow petty officers to use
  unauthorised instruments of punishment. These five preceding
  clauses refer to cases in which there is no doubt that punishment
  ought to be inflicted, but which officials are apt to punish too
  indiscriminately without due investigation of circumstances,
  whereby they infallibly stir up a feeling of discontent and
  insubordination. As regards those instances where punishment is
  deserved but should be temporarily suspended, a remission of part
  or the whole of the sentence may be granted as the magistrate sees
  fit. The great point is to admit an element of compassion, as
  thereby alone the due administration of punishment can be


"Feng-shui" has of late years grown to be such a common expression in
the mouths of foreigners resident in China that it stands no poor
chance of becoming gradually incorporated in the languages of more
than one nation of the West. And yet, in spite of Dr Eitel's little
hand-book, we may venture to assert that a very small percentage of
those who are constantly using this phrase really have a distinct and
correct idea as to the meaning of the words they employ. It is vaguely
known that Feng-shui is a powerful weapon in the hands of Chinese
officials whereby they successfully oppose all innovations which
savour of progress, and preserve unbroken that lethargic sleep in
which China has been wrapt for so many centuries: beyond this all is
mystery and doubt. Some say the natives themselves do not believe in
it; others declare they do; others again think that the masses have
faith, but that enlightened and educated Chinese scout the whole thing
as a bare-faced imposture. Most Chinamen will acknowledge they are
entirely ignorant themselves on the subject, though at the same time
they will take great pains to impress on their hearers that certain
friends, relatives, or acquaintances as the case may be, have devoted
much time and attention to this fascinating study and are downright
professors of the art. They will further express their conviction of
its infallibility, with certain limitations; and assert that there are
occasions in life, when to call in the assistance of Feng-shui is not
only advisable but indispensable to human happiness.

For those who will not be at the trouble of reading for themselves Dr
Eitel's valuable little book, we may explain that Feng is the Chinese
word for _wind_ and Shui for _water_; consequently, Feng-shui is
wind-water; the first half of which, _wind_, cannot be comprehended, the
latter half, _water_, cannot be grasped. It may be defined as a system
of geomancy, by the _science_ of which it is possible to determine the
desirability of sites whether of tombs, houses, or cities, from the
configuration of such natural objects as rivers, trees, and hills, and
to foretell with certainty the fortunes of any family, community, or
individual, according to the spot selected; by the _art_ of which it
is in the power of the geomancer to counteract evil influences by good
ones, to transform straight and noxious outlines into undulating and
propitious curves, rescue whole districts from the devastations of
flood or pestilence, and "scatter plenty o'er a smiling land" which
might otherwise have known the blight of poverty and the pangs of
want. To perform such miracles it is merely necessary to build pagodas
at certain spots and of the proper height, to pile up a heap of
stones, or round off the peak of some hill to which nature's rude hand
has imparted a square and inharmonious aspect. The scenery round any
spot required for building or burial purposes must be in accordance
with certain principles evolved from the brains of the imaginative
founders of the science. It is the business of the geomancer to
discover such sites, to say if a given locality is or is not all that
could be desired on this head, sometimes to correct errors which
ignorant quacks have committed, or rectify inaccuracies which have
escaped the notice even of the most celebrated among the fraternity.
There may be too many trees, so that some must be cut down; or there
may be too few, and it becomes necessary to plant more. Water-courses
may not flow in proper curves; hills may be too high, too low, and of
baleful shapes, or their relative positions one with another may be
radically bad. Any one of these causes may be sufficient in the eyes
of a disciple of Feng-shui to account for the sudden outbreak of a
plague, the gradual or rapid decay of a once flourishing town. The
Feng-shui of a house influences not only the pecuniary fortunes of its
inmates, but determines their general happiness and longevity. There
was a room in the British Legation at Peking in which two persons died
with no great interval of time between each event; and subsequently
one of the students lay there _in articulo mortis_ for many days. The
Chinese then pointed out that a tall chimney had been built opposite
the door leading into this room, thereby vitiating the Feng-shui, and
making the place uninhabitable by mortal man.

From the above most meagre sketch it is easy to understand that if the
natural or artificial configuration of surrounding objects is really
believed by the Chinese to influence the fortunes of a city, a family,
or an individual, they are only reasonably averse to the introduction
of such novelties as railways and telegraph poles, which must
inevitably sweep away their darling superstition--never to rise again.
And they _do_ believe; there can be no doubt of it in the mind of any
one who has taken the trouble to watch. The endless inconvenience a
Chinaman will suffer without a murmur rather than lay the bones of a
dear one in a spot unhallowed by the fiat of the geomancer; the sums
he will subscribe to build a protecting pagoda or destroy some harmful
combination; the pains he will be at to comply with well-known
principles in the construction and arrangement of his private
house--all prove that the iron of Feng-shui has entered into his soul,
and that the creed he has been suckled in is the very reverse of
outworn. The childlike faith of his early years gradually ripens into
a strong and vigorous belief against which ridicule is perhaps the
worst weapon that can possibly be used. Nothing less than years of
contact with foreign nations and deep draughts of that real science
which is even now stealing imperceptibly upon them, will bring the
Chinese to see that Feng-shui is a vain shadow, that it has played its
allotted part in the history of a great nation, and is now only fit to
be classed with such memories of by-gone glory as the supremacy of
China, the bow and arrow, the matchlock, and the junk.


Few things are more noticeable in China than the incessant chattering
kept up by servants, coolies, and members of the working classes. It
is rare to meet a string of porters carrying their heavy burdens along
some country road, who are not jabbering away, one and all, as if in
the very heat of some exciting discussion, and afraid that their
journey will come to an end before their most telling arguments are
exhausted. One wonders what ignorant, illiterate fellows like these
can possibly have to talk about to each other in a country where
beer-shop politics are unknown, where religious disputations leave no
sting behind, and want of communication limits the area of news to
half-a-dozen neighbouring streets in a single agricultural village.
Comparing the uncommunicative deportment of a bevy of English
bricklayers, who will build a house without exchanging much beyond an
occasional pipe-light, with the vivacious gaiety of these
light-hearted sons of Han, the problem becomes interesting enough to
demand a solution of the question--What is it these Chinamen talk
about? And the answer is, _Money_. It may be said they talk, think,
dream of nothing else. They certainly live for little besides the hope
of some day compassing, if not wealth, at any rate a competency. The
temple of Plutus--to be found in every Chinese city--is rarely without
a suppliant; but there is no such hypocrisy in the matter as that of
the Roman petitioner who would pray aloud for virtue and mutter
"gold." And yet a rich man in China is rather an object of pity than
otherwise. He is marked out by the officials as their lawful prey, and
is daily in danger of being called upon to answer some false, some
trumped-up accusation. A subscription list, nominally for a charitable
purpose, for building a bridge, or repairing a road, is sent to him by
a local magistrate, and woe be to him if he does not head it with a
handsome sum. A ruffian may threaten to charge him with murder unless
he will compromise instantly for Tls. 300; and the rich man generally
prefers this course to proving his innocence at a cost of about Tls.
3000. He may be accused of some trivial disregard of prescribed
ceremonies, giving a dinner-party, or arranging the preliminaries of
his son's marriage, before the days of mourning for his own father
have expired. No handle is too slight for the grasp of the greedy
mandarin, especially if he has to do with anything like a recalcitrant
millionaire. But this very mandarin himself, if compelled by age and
infirmities to resign his place, is forced in his turn to yield up
some of the ill-gotten wealth with which he had hoped to secure the
fortunes of his family for many a generation to come. The young hawks
peck out the old hawks' e'en without remorse. The possession of money
is therefore rather a source of anxiety than happiness, though this
doesn't seem to diminish in the slightest degree the Chinaman's
natural craving for as much of it as he can secure. At the same time,
the abominable system of official extortion must go far to crush a
spirit of enterprise which would otherwise most undoubtedly be rife.
Everybody is so afraid of bringing himself within the clutch of the
law, that innovation is quite out of the question.

Neither in the private life of a rich Chinese merchant do we detect
the same keen enjoyment of his wealth as is felt by many an affluent
western, to whom kindly nature has given the intellect to use it
rightly. The former indulges in sumptuous feasts, but he does not
collect around his table men who can only give him wit in return for
his dinner; he rather seeks out men whose purses are as long as his
own, from amongst whose daughters he may select a well-dowried mate
for his dunderheaded son. He accumulates vast wardrobes of silk,
satin, and furs; but he probably could not show a copy of the first
edition of K'ang Hsi, or a single bowl bearing the priceless stamp of
six hundred years ago. These articles are collected chiefly by
scholars, who often go without a meal or two in order to obtain the
coveted specimen; the rich merchant spends his money chiefly on
dinners, dress, and theatrical entertainments, knowing and caring
little or nothing about art. His conversation is also, like that of
his humbler countrymen, confined to one topic; if he is a banker,
rates of exchange haunt him day and night; whatever he is, he lives in
daily dread of the next phase of extortion to which he will be obliged
to open an unwilling purse. How different from the literati of China
who live day by day almost from hand to mouth, eking out a scanty
subsistence by writing scrolls for door-posts, and perhaps presenting
themselves periodically at the public examinations, only to find that
their laboured essays are thrown out amongst the ruck once more! Yet
these last are undeniably the happier of the two. Having no wealth to
excite the rapacious envy of their rulers, they pass through life in
rapt contemplation of the sublime attributes of their Master,
forgetting even the pangs of hunger in the elucidation of some obscure
passage in the Book of Changes, and caring least of all for the idol
of their unlettered brethren, except in so far as it would enable them
to make more extensive purchases of their beloved books, and provide a
more ample supply of the "four jewels" of the scholar. Occasionally to
be seen in the streets, these literary devotees may be known by their
respectable but poverty-stricken appearance, generally by their
spectacles, and always by their stoop, acquired in many years of
incessant toil. These are the men who hate us with so deep a hate, for
we have dared to set up a rival to the lofty position so long occupied
by Confucius alone. If we came in search of trade only, they would
tolerate, because they could understand our motives, and afford to
despise; but to bring our religion with us, to oppose the precepts of
Christ to the immortal apophthegms of the Master, this is altogether
too much for the traditions in which they have been brought up.


It is a lamentable fact that although China has now been open for a
considerable number of years both to trade and travellers, she is
still a sealed book to the majority of intelligent Europeans as
regards her manners and customs, and the mode of life of her people.
Were it not so, such misleading statements as those lately published
by a young gentleman in the service of H.I.M. the Emperor of China,
and professing to give an account of a Chinese dinner, could never
have been served up by half-a-dozen London newspapers as a piece of
valuable information on the habits of Chinamen. There is so much that
is really quaint, interesting, and worthy of record in the social
etiquette observed by the natives of China, that no one with eyes to
see and ears to hear need ever draw upon his imagination in the
slightest degree. We do not imply that this has been done in the
present instance. The writer has only erred through ignorance. He has
doubtless been to a Chinese dinner where he "sat inside a glass door,
and cigars were handed round after the repast," as many other brave
men have been before him,--at Mr Yang's, the celebrated Peking
pawn-broker. But had he been to more than that one, or taken the
trouble to learn something about the subject on which he was writing,
he would have found out that glass doors and cigars are not natural
and necessary adjuncts to a Chinese dinner. They are in fact only to
be found at the houses of natives who have mixed with foreigners and
are in the habit of inviting them to their houses. The topic is an
interesting one, and deserves a somewhat elaborate treatment, both for
its own sake as a study of native customs, and also to aid in
dispelling a host of absurd ideas which have gathered round these
everyday events of Chinese life. For it is an almost universal belief
that Chinamen dine daily upon rats, puppy-dogs, and birds'-nest soup;
whereas the truth is that, save among very poor people, the first is
wholly unknown, and the two last are comparatively expensive dishes.
Dog hams are rather favourite articles of food in the south of China,
but the nests from which the celebrated soup is made are far too
expensive to be generally consumed.

A dinner-party in China is a most methodical affair as regards
precedence among guests, the number of courses, and their general
order and arrangement. We shall endeavour to give a detailed and
accurate account of such a banquet as might be offered to half-a-dozen
friends by a native in easy circumstances. In the first place, no
ladies would be present, but men only would occupy seats at the
square, four-legged "eight fairy" table. Before each there will be
found a pair of chopsticks, a wine-cup, a small saucer for soy, a
two-pronged fork, a spoon, a tiny plate divided into two separate
compartments for melon seeds and almonds, and a pile of small pieces
of paper for cleaning these various articles as required. Arranged
upon the table in four equidistant rows are sixteen small dishes or
saucers which contain four kinds of fresh fruits, four kinds of dried
fruits, four kinds of candied fruits, and four miscellaneous, such as
preserved eggs, slices of ham, a sort of sardine, pickled cabbage, &c.
These four are in the middle, the other twelve being arranged
alternately round them. Wine is produced the first thing, and poured
into small porcelain cups by the giver of the feast himself. It is
polite to make a bow and place one hand at the side of the cup while
this operation is being performed. The host then gives the signal to
drink and the cups are emptied instantaneously, being often turned
bottom upwards as a proof there are no heel-taps. Many Chinamen,
however, cannot stand even a small quantity of wine; and it is no
uncommon thing when the feast is given at an eating-house, to hire one
of the theatrical singing-boys to perform vicariously such heavy
drinking as may be required by custom or exacted by forfeit. The
sixteen small dishes above-mentioned remain on the table during the
whole dinner and may be eaten of promiscuously between courses. Now we
come to the dinner, which may consist of eight large and eight small
courses, six large and six small, eight large and four small, or six
large and four small, according to the means or fancy of the host,
each bowl of food constituting a course being placed in the middle of
the table and dipped into by the guests with chopsticks or spoon as
circumstances may require. The first is the commonest, and we append a
bill of fare of an ordinary Chinese dinner on that scale, each course
coming in its proper place.

     I. Sharks' fins with crab sauce.
        1. Pigeons' eggs stewed with mushrooms.
        2. Sliced sea-slugs in chicken broth with ham.
    II. Wild duck and Shantung cabbage.
        3. Fried fish.
        4. Lumps of pork fat fried in rice flour.
   III. Stewed lily roots.
        5. Chicken mashed to pulp, with ham.
        6. Stewed bamboo shoots.
    IV. Stewed shell-fish.
        7. Fried slices of pheasant.
        8. Mushroom broth.
    Remove--Two dishes of fried pudding, one sweet and the other salt,
        with two dishes of steamed puddings, also one sweet and one
        salt. [These four are put on the table together and with them
        is served a cup of almond gruel.]
     V. Sweetened duck.
    VI. Strips of boned chicken fried in oil.
   VII. Boiled fish (of any kind) with soy.
  VIII. Lumps of parboiled mutton fried in pork-fat.

These last four large courses are put on the table one by one and are
not taken away. Subsequently a fifth, a bowl of soup, is added, and
small basins of rice are served round, over which some of the soup is
poured. The meal is then at an end. A _rince-bouche_ is handed to each
guest and a towel dipped in boiling water but well wrung out. With the
last he mops his face all over, and the effect is much the same as
half a noggin of Exshare diluted with a bottle of Schweppe. Pipes and
tea are now handed round, though this is not the first appearance of
tobacco on the scene. Many Chinamen take a whiff or two at their
hubble-bubbles between almost every course, as they watch the
performance of some broad farce which on grand occasions is always
provided for their entertainment. Opium is served when dinner is over
for such as are addicted to this luxury; and after a few minutes,
spent perhaps in arranging the preliminaries of some future banquet,
the party, which has probably lasted from three to four hours, is no
longer of the present but in the past.


A great deal of trash has been committed to writing by various
foreigners on the subject of female children in China. The prevailing
belief in Europe seems to be that the birth of a daughter is looked
upon as a mournful event in the annals of a Chinese family, and that a
large percentage of the girls born are victims of a wide-spread system
of infanticide, a sufficient number, however, being spared to prevent
the speedy depopulation of the Empire. It became our duty only the
other day to correct a mistake, on the part of a reverend gentleman
who has been some twelve years a missionary in China, bearing on this
very subject. He observed that "the Chinese are always profuse in
their congratulations on the birth of a _son_; but if a girl is born,
the most hearty word they can afford to utter is, 'girls too are
necessary.'" Such a statement is very misleading, and cannot, in these
days of enlightenment on Chinese topics, be allowed to pass
unchallenged. "I hear you have obtained one thousand ounces of gold,"
is perhaps the commonest of those flowery metaphors which the Chinese
delight to bandy on such an auspicious occasion; another being, "You
have a bright pearl in your hand," &c., &c. The truth is that parents
in China are just as fond of all their children as people in other and
more civilised countries, where male children are also eagerly desired
to preserve the family from extinction. The excess in value of the
male over the female is perhaps more strongly marked among the
Chinese, owing of course to the peculiarity of certain national
customs, and not to any want of parental feeling; but, on the other
hand, a very fair share both of care and affection is lavished upon
the daughters either of rich or poor. They are not usually taught to
read as the boys are, because they cannot enter any condition of
public life, and education for mere education's sake would be
considered as waste of time and money by all except very wealthy
parents. Besides, when a daughter is married, not only is it necessary
to provide her with a suitable dowry and trousseau, but she passes
over to the house of her husband, there to adopt his family name in
preference to her own, and contract new obligations to a father- and
mother-in-law she may only have seen once or twice in her life, more
binding in their stringency than those to the father and mother she
has left behind. A son remains by his parents' side in most cases till
death separates them for ever, and on him they rely for that due
performance of burial rites which alone can ensure to their spirits an
eternal rest. When old age or disease comes upon them, a son can go
forth to earn their daily rice, and protect them from poverty, wrong,
and insult, where a daughter would be only an additional encumbrance.
It is no wonder therefore that the birth of a son is hailed with
greater manifestations of joy than is observable among western
nations; at the same time, we must maintain that the natural love of
Chinese parents for their female offspring is not thereby lessened to
any appreciable degree. No _red eggs_ are sent by friends and
relatives on the birth of a daughter as at the advent of the first
boy, the hope and pride of the family; but in other respects the
customs and ceremonies practised on these occasions are very much the
same. On the third day the milk-name is given to the child, and if a
girl her ears are pierced for earrings. A little boiled rice is rubbed
upon the lobe of the ear, which is then subjected to friction between
the finger and thumb until it gets quite numb: it is next pierced with
a needle and thread dipped in oil, the latter being left in the ear.
No blood flows. Boys frequently have one ear pierced, as some people
say, to make them look like little girls; and up to the age of
thirteen or fourteen, girls often wear their hair braided in a tail to
make them look like little boys. But the end of the tail is always
tied with _red_ silk--the differentiating colour between youths and
maids in China. And here we may mention that the colour of the silk
which finishes off a Chinaman's tail differs according to
circumstances. Black is the ordinary colour, often undistinguishable
from the long dresses in which they take such pride; _white_ answers
to deep crape with us, and proclaims that either the father or mother
of the wearer has bid adieu to this sublunary sphere;[*] _green_,
_yellow_, and _blue_, are worn for more distant relatives, or for
parents after the first year of mourning has expired.

    [*] The verb "to die" is rarely used by the Chinese of their
    relatives. Some graceful periphrasis is adapted instead.

We will conclude with a curious custom which, as far as our inquiries
have extended, seems to be universal. The first visitor, stranger,
messenger, coolie, or friend, who comes to the house where a new-born
baby lies, ignorant that such an event has taken place, is on no
account allowed to go away without having first eaten a full meal.
This is done to secure to the child a peaceful and refreshing night's
rest; and as Chinamen are always ready at a moment's notice to dispose
of a feed at somebody else's expense, difficulties are not likely to
arise on a score of a previous dinner.


Books of travel are eagerly read by most classes of Chinese who have
been educated up to the requisite standard, and long journeys have
often been undertaken to distant parts of the Empire, not so much from
a thirst for knowledge or love of a vagrant life, as from a desire to
be enrolled among the numerous contributors to the deathless
literature of the Middle Kingdom. Such travellers start with a full
knowledge of the tastes of their public, and a firm conviction that
unless they can provide sufficiently marvellous stories out of what
they have seen and heard, the fame they covet is not likely to be
accorded. No European reader who occupies himself with these works can
fail to discover that in every single one of them invention is brought
more or less into play; and that when fact is not forthcoming, the
exigencies of the book are supplemented from the convenient resources
of fiction. Of course this makes the accounts of Chinese travellers
almost worthless, and often ridiculous; though strange to say, amongst
the Chinese themselves, even to the grossest absurdities and most
palpable falsehoods, there hardly attaches a breath of that suspicion
which has cast a halo round the name of Bruce.

We have lately come across a book of travels, in six thin quarto
volumes, written by no less a personage than the father of Ch'ung-hou.
It is a very handsome work, being well printed and on good paper,
besides being provided with numerous woodcuts of the scenes and
scenery described in the text. The author, whose name was Lin-ch'ing,
was employed in various important posts; and while rising from the
position of Prefect to that of Acting Governor-General of the two
Kiang, travelled about a good deal, and was somewhat justified in
committing his experiences to paper. We doubt, however, if his
literary efforts are likely to secure him a fraction of the notoriety
which the Tientsin Massacre has conferred upon his son. He never saw
the moon shining upon the water, but away he went and wrote an ode to
the celestial luminary, always introducing a few pathetic lines on the
hardships of travel and the miseries of exile. One chapter is devoted
to the description of a curious rock called the _Loom Rock_. It is
situated in the Luhsi district of the Chang-chou prefecture in Hunan,
and is perfectly inaccessible to man, as it well might be, to judge
from the drawing of it by a native artist. From a little distance,
however, caves are discernible hollowed out in the cliff, and in these
the eye can detect various articles used in housekeeping, such as a
teapot, &c.; and amongst others a _loom_. On a ledge of smooth rock a
boat may be seen, as it were hauled up out of the water. How these got
there, and what is the secret of the place, nobody appears to know,
but our author declares that he saw them with his own eyes. We have
given the above particulars as to the whereabouts of the rock, in the
hope that any European meditating a trip into Hunan may take the
trouble to make some inquiries about this wonderful sight. The late Mr
Margary must have passed close to it in his boat, probably without
being aware of its existence--if indeed it does exist at all.

We cannot refrain from translating verbatim one passage which has
reference to the English, and of which we fancy Ch'ung-hou himself
would be rather ashamed since his visit to the Outside Nations. Here
it is:--

  "When the English barbarians first began to give trouble to the
  Inner Nation, they relied on the strength of their ships and the
  excellence of their guns. It was therefore proposed to build large
  ships and cast heavy cannon in order to oppose them. I
  represented, however, that vessels are not built in a day, and
  pointed out the difficulties in the way of naval warfare. I showed
  that the power of a cannon depends upon the strength of the
  powder, and the strength of the powder upon the sulphur and
  saltpetre; the latter determining the explosive force forwards and
  backwards, and the former, the same force towards either side.
  Therefore to ensure powder being powerful, there should be seven
  parts saltpetre out of ten. The English barbarians have got rattan
  ash which they can use instead of sulphur, but saltpetre is a
  product of China alone. Accordingly, I memorialised His Majesty to
  prohibit the export of saltpetre, and caused some thirty-seven
  thousand pounds to be seized by my subordinates."


Theoretically, the Chinese are fatalists in the fullest sense of the
word. Love of life and a desire to enjoy the precious boon as long as
possible, prevent them from any such extended application of the
principle as would be prejudicial to the welfare of the nation; yet
each man believes that his destiny is pre-ordained, and that the whole
course of his life is mapped out for him with unerring exactitude.
Happily, when the occasion presents itself, his thoughts are generally
too much occupied with the crisis before him, to be able to indulge in
any dangerous speculations on predestination and free-will; his
practice, therefore, is not invariably in harmony with his theory.

On the first page of a Chinese almanack for the current year, we have
a curious woodcut representing a fly, a spider, a bird, a sportsman, a
tiger, and a well. Underneath this strange medley is a legend couched
in the following terms:--"Predestination in all things!" The
letterpress accompanying the picture explains that the spider had just
secured a fat fly, and was on the point of making a meal of him, when
he was espied by a hungry bird which swooped down on both. As the bird
was making off to its nest with this delicious mouthful, a sportsman
who happened to be casting round for a supper, brought it down with
his gun, and was stooping to pick it up, when a tiger, also with an
empty stomach, sprang from behind upon the man, and would there and
then have put an end to the drama, but for an ugly well, on the brink
of which the bird had dropped, and into which the tiger, carried on by
the impetus of his spring, tumbled headlong, taking with him man,
bird, spider, and fly in one fell career to the bottom. This fable
embodies popular ideas in China with regard to predestination, by
virtue of which calamity from time to time overtakes doomed victims,
as a punishment for sins committed in their present or a past state of
existence. Coupled with this belief are many curious sayings and
customs, the latter of which often express in stronger terms than
language the feelings of the people. For instance, at the largest
centre of population in the Eighteen Provinces, there is a regulation
with regard to the porterage by coolies of wine and oil, which
admirably exemplifies the subject under consideration. If on a wet and
stormy day, or when the ground is covered with snow, a coolie laden
with either of the above articles slips and falls, he is held
responsible for any damage that may be done; whereas, if he tumbles
down on a fine day when the streets are dry, and there is no apparent
cause for such an accident, the owner of the goods bears whatever loss
may occur. The idea is that on a wet and slippery day mere exercise of
human caution would be sufficient to avert the disaster, but happening
in bright, dry weather, it becomes indubitably a manifestation of the
will of Heaven. In the same way, an endless run of bad luck or some
fearful and overwhelming calamity, against which no mortal foresight
could guard, is likened to the burning of an _ice-house_, which, from
its very nature, would almost require the interposition of Divine
power to set it in a blaze. In such a case, he who could doubt the
reality of predestination would be ranked, in Chinese eyes, as little
better than a fool. And yet when these emergencies arise we do not
find the Chinese standing still with their hands in their sleeves (for
want of pockets), but working away to stop whatever mischief is going
on, as if after the all the will of Heaven may be made amenable to
human energy. It is only when an inveterate gambler or votary of the
opium-pipe has seen his last chance of solace in this life cut away
from under him, and feels himself utterly unable any longer to stem
the current, that he weakly yields to the force of his destiny, and
borrows a stout rope from a neighbour, or wanders out at night to the
brink of some deep pool never to return again.

There is a charming episode in the second chapter of the "Dream of the
Red Chamber," where the father of Pao-yu is anxious to read the
probable destiny of his infant son. He spreads before the little boy,
then just one year old, all kinds of different things, and declares
that from whichever of these the baby first seizes, he will draw an
omen as to his future career in life. We can imagine how he longed for
his boy to grasp the manly _bow_, in the use of which he might some
day rival the immortal archer Pu:--the _sword_, and live to be
enrolled a fifth among the four great generals of China:--the _pen_,
and under the favouring auspices of the god of literature, rise to
assist the Son of Heaven with his counsels, or write a commentary upon
the Book of Rites. Alas for human hopes! The naughty baby, regardless
alike of his father's wishes and the filial code, passed over all
these glittering instruments of wealth and power, and devoted his
attention exclusively to some hair-pins, pearl-powder, rouge, and a
lot of women's head-ornaments.


Were any wealthy philanthropist to consult us as to the disposal of
his millions with a view to ensure the greatest possible advantages to
the greatest possible number, we should unhesitatingly recommend him
to undertake the publication of a Chinese newspaper, to be sold at a
merely nominal figure per copy. Under skilled foreign guidance, and
with the total exclusion of religious topics, more would be effected
in a few years for the real happiness of China and its ultimate
conversion to western civilisation, than the most hopeful enthusiast
could venture to predict. The _Shun-pao_, edited in Shanghai by Mr
Ernest Major, is doing an incredible amount of good in so far as its
influence extends; but the daily issue of this widely-circulated paper
amounts only to about four thousand copies, or one to every hundred
thousand natives! Missionary publications are absolutely useless, as
they have a very limited sale beyond the circle of converts to the
faith; but a _colporteur_ of religious books informed us the other day
that he was continually being asked for the _Shun-pao_. Now the
_Shun-pao_ owes its success so far to the fact that it is a pure money
speculation, and therefore an undertaking intelligible enough to all
Chinamen. Not only are its columns closed to anything like
proselytising articles, but they are open from time to time to such
tit-bits of the miraculous as are calculated to tickle the native
palate, and swell the number of its subscribers. Therefore, to avert
suspicion, it would be necessary to make a charge, however small,
while at the same time such bogy paragraphs as occasionally appear in
the columns of the _Shun-pao_ might be altogether omitted.

Our attention was called to this matter by a charming description in
the _Shun-pao_ of a late balloon ascent from Calais, which was so
nearly attended with fatal results. Written in a singularly easy
style, and going quite enough into detail on the subject of balloons
generally to give an instructive flavour to its remarks, this article
struck us as being the identical kind of "light science for leisure
hours" so much needed by the Chinese; and it compared most favourably
with a somewhat heavy disquisition on aeronautic topics which appeared
some time back in the _Peking Magazine_, albeit the latter was
accompanied by an elaborate woodcut of a balloon under way. There is
so much that is wonderful in the healthy regions of fact which might
with mutual advantage be imparted to a reading people like the
Chinese, that it is quite unnecessary to descend to the gross, and too
often indecent, absurdities of fiction. Much indeed that is not
actually marvellous might be put into language which would rivet the
attention of Chinese readers. The most elementary knowledge, according
to our standard, is almost always new, even to the profoundest scholar
in native literature: the ignorance of the educated classes is
something appalling. On the other hand, all who have read their
_Shun-pao_ with regularity, even for a few months, are comparatively
enlightened. We heard the other day of a Tao-t'ai who was always
meeting the phrase "International Law" in the above paper, and his
curiosity at length prompted him to make inquiries, and finally to
purchase a copy of Dr Martin's translation of "Wheaton." He
subsequently complained bitterly that much of it was utterly
unintelligible; and judging from our own limited experience of the
translation, we think His Excellency's objection not altogether

Of the domestic life of foreigners, the Chinese, with the exception of
a few servants, know absolutely nothing; and equally little of foreign
manners, customs, or etiquette. We were acquainted with one healthy
Briton who was popularly supposed by the natives with whom he was
thrown in contact to eat a whole leg of mutton every day for dinner;
and a high native functionary, complaining one day of some tipsy
sailors who had been rioting on shore, observed that "he knew
foreigners always got drunk on Sundays, and had the offence been
committed on that day he would have taken no notice of it; but," &c.,
&c. They have vague notions that filial piety is not considered a
virtue in the West, and look upon our system of contracting marriages
as objectionable in the extreme. They think foreigners carry whips and
sticks only for purposes of assault, and we met a man the other day
who had been wearing a watch for years, but was in the habit of never
winding it up till it had run down. This we afterwards found out to be
quite a common custom among the Chinese, it being generally believed
that a watch cannot be wound up whilst going; consequently, many
Chinamen keep two always in use, and it is worth noticing that watches
in China are almost invariably sold in pairs. The term "foreign devil"
is less frequently heard than formerly, and sometimes only for the
want of a better phrase. Mr Alabaster, in one of his journeys in the
interior, was politely addressed by the villagers as _His Excellency
the Devil_. The Chinese settlers in Formosa call themselves "foreign
men," but they call us "foreign things;" for, they argue, if we called
you foreign men, what should we call ourselves? The _Shun-pao_
deserves much credit for its unvarying use of _western_ instead of
_outside_ nations when speaking of foreign powers, but the belief is
still very prevalent that we all come from a number of small islands
scattered round the coast of one great centre, the Middle Kingdom.

And so we might go on multiplying _ad nauseam_ instances of Chinese
ignorance in trivial matters which an ably-conducted journal has it in
its power to dispel. We are so dissimilar from the Chinese in our ways
of life, and so unlike them in dress and facial appearance, that it is
only many years of commercial intercourse on the present familiar
footing which will cause them to regard us as anything but the
barbarians they call us. Red hair and blue eyes may make up what Baron
Hubner would euphemistically describe as the "beau type d'un gentleman
anglais," but when worn with a funny-shaped hat, a short coat, tight
trousers, and a Penang lawyer, the picture produced on the retina of a
Chinese mind is unmistakably that of a "foreign devil."


Of all their cherished ceremonies, there are none the Chinese observe
with more scrupulous exactness than those connected with death and
mourning. We have just heard of the Governor of Kiangsu going into
retirement because of the decease of his mother; and so he will
remain, ineligible to any office, for the space of three years. He
will not shave his head for one hundred days. For forty-nine nights he
will sleep in a hempen garment, with his head resting on a brick and
stretched on the hard ground, by the side of the coffin which holds
the remains of the parent who gave him birth. He will go down upon his
knees and humbly kotow to each friend and relative at their first
meeting after the sad event--a tacit acknowledgment that it was but
his own want of filial piety which brought his beloved mother
prematurely to the grave. To the coolies who bear the coffin to its
resting-place on the slope of some wooded hill, or beneath the shade
of a clump of dark-leaved cypress trees, he will make the same
obeisance. Their lives and properties are at his disposal day and
night; but he now has a favour to ask which no violence could secure,
and pleads that his mother's body may be carried gently, without jar
or concussion of any kind. He will have her laid by the side of his
father, in a coffin which cost perhaps 100 pounds, and repair thither
periodically to appease her departed spirit with votive offerings of
fruit, vegetables, and pork.

Immediately after the decease of a parent, the children and other near
relatives communicate the news to friends living farther off, by what
is called an "announcement of death," which merely states that the
father or mother, as the case may be, has died, and that they, the
survivors, are entirely to blame. With this is sent a "sad report," or
in other words a detailed account of deceased's last illness, how it
originated, what medicine was prescribed and taken, and sundry other
interesting particulars. Their friends reply by sending a present of
money to help defray funeral expenses, a present of food or
joss-stick, or even a detachment of priests to read the prescribed
liturgies over the dead. Sometimes a large scroll is written and
forwarded, inscribed with a few such appropriate words as--"A hero has
gone!" When all these have been received, the members of the bereaved
family issue a printed form of thanks, one copy being left at the
house of each contributor and worded thus:--"This is to express the
thanks of . . . the orphaned son who weeps tears of blood and bows his
head: of . . . the mourning brother who weeps and bows his head: of
. . . the mourning nephew who wipes away his tears and bows his head."

It is well known that all old and even middle-aged people in China
like to have their coffins prepared ready for use. A dutiful son will
see that his parents are thus provided, sometimes many years before
their death, and the old people will invite relatives or friends to
examine and admire both the materials and workmanship, as if it were
some beautiful picture or statue of which they had just cause to be
proud. Upon the coffin is carved an inscription with the name and
titles of its occupant; if a woman, the name of her husband. At the
foot of the coffin are buried two stone tablets face to face; one
bears the name and title of the deceased, and the other a short
account of his life, what year he was born in, what were his
achievements as a scholar, and how many children were born to him.
Periods of mourning are regulated by the degrees of relationship to
the dead. A son wears his white clothes for three years--actually for
twenty-eight months; and a wife mourns her husband for the same
period. The death of a wife, however, calls for only a single year of
grief; for, as the Sacred Edict points out, if your wife dies you can
marry another. The same suffices for brother, sister, or child.
Marriages contracted during these days of mourning are not only
invalid, but the offending parties are punished with a greater or
lesser number of blows according to the gravity of the offence.
Innumerable other petty restrictions are imposed by national or local
custom, which are observed with a certain amount of fidelity, though
instances are not wanting where the whole thing is shirked as
inconvenient and a bore.

Cremation, once the prevailing fashion in China, is now reserved for
the priest of Buddha alone,--that self-made outcast from society,
whose parting soul relies on no fond breast, who has no kith or kin to
shed "those pious drops the closing eye requires;" but who, seated in
an iron chair beneath the miniature pagoda erected in most large
temples for that purpose, passes away in fire and smoke from this vale
of tears and sin to be absorbed in the blissful nothingness of an
eternal Nirvana.


Inquests in China serve, unfortunately, but to illustrate one more
phase of the folly and ignorance which hopelessly overshadow the vast
area of its Empire. For although the Chinese justly regard such
investigations as matters of paramount importance, and the office of
coroner devolves upon a high functionary--the district magistrate--yet
the backward state of science on the one hand, and the necessity the
ruling classes have been under of supplying this deficiency on the
other, have combined to produce at once the most deplorable and the
most laughable results. Two good-sized volumes of "Instructions to
Coroners," beautifully printed on white paper and altogether
handsomely got up, are published under the authority of the
Government, and copies of this book are to be found in the offices of
every magistrate throughout the Empire. It is carefully studied even
by the underlings who play only subordinate parts on such occasions,
and the coroner himself generally carries his private copy with him in
his sedan-chair to the very scene of the inquest. From this work the
following sketch has been compiled, for though it has been our fate to
be present at more than one of the lamentable exhibitions thus
dignified by the name of inquest, and to have had ocular demonstration
of the absurdities there perpetrated, it will be more satisfactory to
stick closely to the text of an officially-recognised book, the
translation of which helped to while away many a leisure hour.

The first chapter opens as follows:--

  "There is nothing more sacred than human life: there is no
  punishment greater than death. A murderer gives life for life: the
  law shows no mercy. But to obviate any regrets which might be
  occasioned by a wrong infliction of such punishment, the validity
  of any confession and the sentence passed are made to depend on a
  satisfactory examination of the wounds. If these are of a _bona
  fide_ nature [i.e., not counterfeit], and the confession of the
  accused tallies therewith, then life may be given for life, that
  those who know the laws may fear them, that crime may become less
  frequent among the people, and due weight be attached to the
  sanctity of human existence. If an inquest is not properly
  conducted, the wrong of the murdered man is not redressed, and new
  wrongs are raised up amongst the living; other lives may be
  sacrificed, and both sides roused to vengeance of which no man can
  foresee the end."

On this it is only necessary to remark that the "validity" of a
confession is an important point in China, since substitutes are
easily procurable at as low a rate as from 20 to 50 pounds a life.

The duties of a Chinese coroner are by no means limited to _post
mortem_ examinations; he visits and examines any one who has been
dangerously wounded, and fixes a date within which the accused is held
responsible for the life of his victim.

  "Murders are rarely the result of premeditation, but can be
  traced, in the majority of cases, to a brawl. The statute which
  treats of wounding in a brawl attaches great weight to the 'death-
  limit,' which means that the wounded man be handed over to the
  accused to be taken care of and provided with medical aid, and
  that a limit of time be fixed, on the expiration of which
  punishment be awarded according to circumstances. Now the
  relatives of a wounded man, unless their ties be of the closest,
  generally desire his death that they may extort money from his
  slayer; but the accused wishes him to live that he himself may
  escape death, and therefore he leaves no means untried to restore
  his victim to health. This institution of the 'death-limit' is a
  merciful endeavour to save the lives of both."

One whole chapter is devoted to a division of the body into vital and
non-vital parts. Of the former there are twenty-two altogether,
sixteen before and six behind; of the latter fifty-six, thirty-six
before and twenty behind. Every coroner provides himself with a form,
drawn up according to these divisions, and on this he enters the
various wounds he finds on the body at the inquest.

  "Do not," say the Instructions, "deterred by the smell of the
  corpse, sit at a distance, your view intercepted by the smoke of
  fumigation, letting the assistants call out the wounds and enter
  them on the form, perhaps to garble what is of importance and to
  give prominence to what is not."

The instructions for the examination of the body from the head
downwards are very explicit, and among them is one sentence by virtue
of which a Chinese judge would have disposed of the Tichborne case
without either hesitation or delay.

  "Examine the cheeks to see whether they have been tattooed or not,
  or whether the marks have been obliterated. In the latter case,
  cut a slip of bamboo and tap the parts; the tattooing will then

In cases where the wounds are not distinctly visible, the following
directions are given:--

  "Spread a poultice of grain, and sprinkle some vinegar upon the
  corpse in the open air. Take a piece of new oiled silk, or a
  transparent oil-cloth umbrella, and hold it between the sun and
  the parts you want to examine. The wounds will then appear. If the
  day is dark or rainy, use live charcoal [instead of the sun].
  Suppose there is no result, then spread over the parts pounded
  white prunes with more grains and vinegar, and examine closely. If
  the result is still imperfect, then take the flesh only of the
  prune, adding cayenne pepper, onions, salt, and grains, and mix it
  up into a cake. Make this very hot, and having first interposed a
  sheet of paper, lay it on the parts. The wound will then appear."

Hot vinegar and grains are always used previous to an examination of
the body to soften it and cause the wounds to appear more distinctly.

  "But in winter, when the corpse is frozen hard, and no amount of
  grains and vinegar, however hot, or clothes piled up, however
  thick, will relax its rigidity, dig a hole in the ground of the
  length and breadth of the body and three feet in depth. Lay in it
  a quantity of fuel and make a roaring fire. Then dash over it
  vinegar, which will create dense volumes of steam, in the middle
  of which place the body with all its dressings right in the hole;
  cover it over with clothes and pour on more hot vinegar all over
  it. At a distance of two or three feet from the hole on either
  side of it light fires, and when you think the heat has thoroughly
  penetrated, take away the fire and remove the body for

It is always a great point with the coroner to secure as soon as
possible the fatal weapon. If a long time has elapsed between the
murder and the inquest, and no traces of blood are visible on the
knife or sword which may have been used, "heat it red hot in a
charcoal fire, and pour over it a quantity of first-rate vinegar. The
stains of blood will at once appear."

The note following this last sentence is still more extraordinary:--

  "An inquest was held on the body of a man who had been murdered on
  the high road, and at first it was thought that the murder had
  been committed by robbers, but on examination the corpse was found
  to be fully clothed and bearing the marks of some ten or more
  wounds from a sickle. The coroner pointed out that robbers kill
  their victims for the sake of booty, which evidently was not the
  case in the present instance, and declared revenge to be at the
  bottom of it all. He then sent for the wife of the murdered man,
  and asked her if her husband had lately quarrelled with anybody.
  She replied No, but stated that there had been some high words
  between her husband and another man to whom he had refused to lend
  money. The coroner at once despatched his runners to the place
  where this man lived, to bid the people of that village produce
  all their sickles without delay, at the same time informing them
  that the concealment of a sickle would be tantamount to a
  confession of guilt. The sickles were accordingly produced, in
  number about eighty, and spread out upon the ground. The season
  being summer there were a great quantity of flies, all of which
  were attracted by one particular sickle. The coroner asked to whom
  this sickle belonged, and lo! it belonged to him with whom the
  murdered man had quarrelled about a loan. On being arrested, he
  denied his guilt; but the coroner pointed to the flies settling
  upon the sickle, attracted by the smell of blood, and the murderer
  bent his head in silent acknowledgment of his crime."

Inquests are often held in China many years after the death of the
victim. Give a Chinese coroner merely the dry and imperfect skeleton
of a man known to have been murdered, and he will generally succeed in
fixing the guilt on some one. To supplement thus by full and open
confession of the accused is a matter of secondary difficulty in a
country where torture may at any moment be brought to bear with
terrible efficacy in the cause of justice and truth. Its application,
however, is extremely rare.

  "Man has three hundred and sixty-five bones, corresponding to the
  number of days it takes the heavens to revolve. The skull of a
  man, from the nape of the neck to the top of the head, consists of
  eight pieces--that of a Ts'ai-chow man, of nine; women's skulls
  are of six pieces. Men have twelve ribs on either side; women have

The above being sufficient to show where the Chinese are with regard
to the structure of the human frame, we will now proceed to the
directions for examining bones, it may be months or even years after

  "For the examination of bones the day should be clear and bright.
  First take clean water and wash them, and then with string tie
  them together in proper order so that a perfect skeleton is
  formed, and lay this on a mat. Then make a hole in the ground,
  five feet long, three feet broad, and two feet deep. Throw into
  this plenty of firewood and charcoal, and keep it burning till the
  ground is thoroughly hot. Clear out the fire and pour in two pints
  of good spirit and five pounds of strong vinegar. Lay the bones
  quickly in the steaming pit and cover well up with rushes, &c. Let
  them remain there for two or three hours until the ground is cold,
  when the coverings may be removed, the bones taken to a convenient
  spot, and examined under a red oil-cloth umbrella.

  "If the day is dark or rainy the 'boiling' method must be adopted.
  Take a large jar and heat in it a quantity of vinegar; then having
  put in plenty of salt and white prunes, boil it altogether with
  the bones, superintending the process yourself. When it is boiling
  fast, take out the bones, wash them in water, and hold up to the
  light. The wounds will be perfectly visible, the blood having
  soaked into the wounded parts, marking them with red or dark blue
  or black.

  "The above method is, however, not the only one. Take a new yellow
  oil-cloth umbrella from Hangchow, hold it over the bones, and
  every particle of wound hidden in the bones will be clearly
  visible. In cases where the bones are old and the wounds have been
  obliterated by long exposure to wind and rain or dulled by
  frequent boilings, it only remains to examine them in the sun
  under a yellow umbrella, which will show the wounds as far as

  "There must be no zinc boiled with the bones or they will become

  "Bones which have passed several times through the process of
  examination become quite white and exactly like uninjured bones;
  in which case, take such as should show wounds and fill them with
  oil. Wait till the oil is oozing out all over, then wipe it off
  and hold the bone up to the light; where there are wounds the oil
  will collect and not pass; the clear parts have not been injured.

  "Another method is to rub some good ink thick and spread it on the
  bone. Let it dry, and then wash it off. Where there are wounds,
  and there only, it will sink into the bone. Or take some new
  cotton wool and pass it over the bone. Wherever there is a wound
  some will be pulled out [by the jagged parts of the bone]."

A whole chapter is devoted to counterfeit wounds, the means of
distinguishing them from real wounds, and the manner in which they are
produced. Section 2 of the thirteenth chapter is on a cognate subject,
namely, to ascertain whether wounds were inflicted before or after

  "If there are several dark-coloured marks on the body, take some
  water and let it fall drop by drop on to them. If they are wounds
  the water will remain without trickling away; if they are not
  wounds, the water will run off. In examining wounds, the finger
  must be used to press down any livid or red spot. If it is a wound
  it will be hard, and on raising the finger will be found of the
  same colour as before.

  "Wounds inflicted on the bone leave a red mark and a slight
  appearance of saturation, and where the bone is broken there will
  be at either end a halo-like trace of blood. Take a bone on which
  there are marks of a wound and hold it up to the light; if these
  are of a fresh-looking red, the wound was afflicted before death
  and penetrated to the bone; but if there is no trace of saturation
  from blood, although there is a wound, if was inflicted after

In a chapter on wounds from kicks, the following curious instructions
are given regarding a "bone-method" of examination:--

  "To depend on the evidence of the bone immediately below the wound
  would be to let many criminals slip through the meshes of the law.
  Where wounds have been thus inflicted, no matter on man or woman,
  the wounds will be visible on the upper half of the body, and not
  on the lower. For instance, they will appear in a male at the
  roots of either the top or bottom teeth, inside; on the right hand
  if the wound was on the left, and _vice versa_; in the middle of
  the wound was central. In women, the wounds will appear on the
  gums right or left as above."

The next extract needs no comment, except perhaps that it forms the
most cherished of all beliefs in the whole range of Chinese medical

  "The bones of parents may be identified by their children in the
  following manner. Let the experimenter cut himself or herself with
  a knife and cause the blood to drip on to the bones; then, if the
  relationship is an actual fact the blood will sink into the bone,
  otherwise it will not. N.B. Should the bones have been washed with
  salt water, even though the relationship exists, yet the blood
  will not soak in. This is a trick to be guarded against

  "It is also said that if parent and child, or husband and wife,
  each cut themselves and let the blood drip into a basin of water
  the two bloods will mix, whereas that of two people not thus
  related will not mix.

  "Where two brothers who may have been separated since childhood
  are desirous of establishing their identity as such, but are
  unable to do so by ordinary means, bid each one cut himself and
  let the blood drip into a basin. If they are really brothers, the
  two bloods will congeal into one; otherwise not. But because fresh
  blood will always congeal with the aid of a little salt or
  vinegar, people often smear the basin over with these to attain
  their own ends and deceive others; therefore, always wash out the
  basin you are going to use or buy a new one from a shop. Thus the
  trick will be defeated.

  "The above method of dropping blood on the bones may be used even
  by a grandchild, desirous of identifying the remains of his
  grandfather; but husband and wife, not being of the same flesh and
  blood, it is absurd to suppose that the blood of one would soak
  into the bones of the other. For such a principle would apply with
  still more force to the case of a child, who had been suckled by a
  foster-mother and had grown up, indebted to her for half its
  existence. With regard to the water method, if the basin used is
  large and full of water, the bloods will be unable to mix from
  being so much diluted; and in the latter case where there is no
  water, if the interval between dropping the two bloods into the
  basin is too long, the first will get cold and they will not mix."

Not content with holding an inquest on the bones of a man who may have
been murdered five years before, a Chinese coroner quite as often
proceeds gravely to examine the wounds of a corpse which has been
reduced to ashes by fire and scattered to the four winds of heaven. No
mere eyewitness would dare to relate the singular process by which
such a result is achieved; but directions exist in black and white, of
which the following is a close translation:--

  "There are some atrocious villains who, when they have murdered
  any one, burn the body and throw the ashes away, so that there are
  no bones to examine. In such cases you must carefully find out at
  what time the murder was committed and where the body was burnt.
  Then, when you know the place, all witnesses agreeing on this
  point, you may proceed without further delay to examine the
  wounds. The mode of procedure is this. Put up your shed near where
  the body was burnt, and make the accused and witnesses point out
  themselves the very spot. Then cut down the grass and weeds
  growing on this spot, and burn large quantities of fuel till the
  place is extremely hot, throwing on several pecks of hempseed. By
  and by brush the place clean, and then, if the body was actually
  burnt in this spot, the oil from the seed will be found to have
  sunk into the ground in the form of a human figure, and wherever
  there were wounds on the dead man, there on this figure the oil
  will be found to have collected together, large or small, square,
  round, long, short, oblique, or straight, exactly as they were
  inflicted. The parts where there were no wounds will be free from
  any such appearances. But supposing you obtain the outline only
  without the necessary detail of the wounds, then scrape away the
  masses of oil, light a brisk fire on the form of the body and
  throw on grains mixed with water. Make the fire burn as fiercely
  as possible, and sprinkle vinegar, instantly covering it over with
  a new well-varnished table. Leave the table on for a little while
  and then take it off for examination. The form of the body will be
  transferred to the table and the wounds will be distinct and clear
  in every particular.

  "If the place is wild and some time has elapsed since the deed was
  done, so that the very murderer does not remember the exact spot,
  inquire carefully in what direction it was with regard to such and
  such a village or temple, and about how far off. If all agree on
  this point, proceed in person to the place, and bid your
  assistants go round about searching for any spots where the grass
  is taller and stronger than usual, marking such with a mark. For
  where a body has been burnt the grass will be darker in hue, more
  luxuriant, and taller than that surrounding it, and will not lose
  these characteristics for a long time, the fat and grease of the
  body sinking down to the roots of the grass and causing the above
  results. If the spot is on a hill, or in a wild place where the
  vegetation is very luxuriant, then you must look for a growth
  about the height of a man. If the burning took place on stony
  ground, the crumbly appearance of the stones must be your guide;
  this simplifies matters immensely."

Such, then, are a few of the absurdities which pass muster among the
credulous people of China as the result of deep scientific research;
but whether the educated classes--more especially those individuals
who devote themselves in the course of their official duties to the
theory and practice of _post mortem_ examinations--can be equally
gulled with the gaping crowd around them, we may safely leave our
readers to decide for themselves.


Section IV. of the valuable work which formed the basis of our
preceding sketch, is devoted to the enumeration of methods for
restoring human life after such casualties as drowning, hanging,
poisoning, &c., some hours and even days after vitality has to all
appearances ceased. We shall quote as before from our own literal

  "Where a man has been hanging from morning to night, even though
  already cold, a recovery may still be effected. Stop up the
  patient's mouth tightly with your hand, and in a little over four
  hours respiration will be restored. _Or_, Take equal parts of
  finely-powdered soap-bean and anemone hepatica, and blow a
  quantity of this--about as much as a bean--into the patient's

  "In all cases where men or women have been hanged, a recovery may
  be effected even if the body has become stiff. You must not cut
  the body down, but, supporting it, untie the rope and lay it down
  in some smooth place on its back with the head propped up. Bend
  the arms and legs gently, and let some one sitting behind pull the
  patient's hair tightly. Straighten the arms, let there be a free
  passage through the wind-pipe, and let two persons blow
  incessantly into the ears through a bamboo tube or reed, rubbing
  the chest all the time with the hand. Take the blood from a live
  fowl's comb, and drop it into the throat and nostrils--the left
  nostril of a woman, the right of a man; also using a cock's comb
  for a man, a hen's for a woman. Re-animation will be immediately
  effected. If respiration has been suspended for a long time, there
  must be plenty of blowing and rubbing; do not think that because
  the body is cold all is necessarily over.

  "Where a man has been in the water a whole night, a recovery may
  still be effected. Break up part of a mud wall and pound it to
  dust; lay the patient thereon on his back, and cover him up with
  the same, excepting only his mouth and eyes. Thus the water will
  be absorbed by the mud, and life will be restored. This method is
  a very sure one, even though the body has become stiff.

  "In cases of injury from scalding, get a large oyster and put it
  in a basin with its mouth upwards somewhere quite away from
  anybody. Wait till its shell opens, and then shake in from a spoon
  a little Borneo camphor, mixed and rubbed into a powder with an
  equal portion of genuine musk. The oyster will then close its
  shell and its flesh will be melted into a liquid. Add a little
  more of the above ingredients, and with a fowl's feather brush it
  over the parts and round the wound, getting nearer and nearer
  every time till at last you brush it into the wound; the pain will
  thus gradually cease. A small oyster will do if a large one is not
  to be had. This is a first-rate prescription.

  "Where a man has fallen into the water in winter, and has quite
  lost all consciousness from cold, if there is the least warmth
  about the chest, life may still be restored. Should the patient
  show the slightest inclination to laugh, stop up his nose and
  mouth at once, or he will soon be unable to leave off, and it will
  be impossible to save him. On no account bring a patient hastily
  to the fire, for the sight of fire will excite him to immoderate
  laughter, and his chance of life is gone.

  "In cases of nightmare, do not at once bring a light, or going
  near call out loudly to the sleeper, but bite his heel or his big
  toe, and gently utter his name. Also spit on his face and give him
  ginger tea to drink; he will then come round. _Or_, Blow into the
  patient's ears through small tubes, pull out fourteen hairs from
  his head, make them into a twist and thrust into his nose. Also,
  give salt and water to drink. Where death has resulted from seeing
  goblins, take the heart of a leek and push it up the patient's
  nostrils--the left for a man, the right for a woman. Look along
  the inner edge of the upper lips for blisters like grains of
  Indian corn, and prick them with a needle."

The work concludes with an antidote against a certain dangerous poison
known as _Ku_, originally discovered by a Buddhist priest and
successfully administered in a great number of cases. Its ingredients,
which comprise two red centipedes--one live and one roasted--must be
put into a mortar and pounded up together either on the 5th of the 5th
moon, the 9th of the 9th moon, or the 8th of the 12th moon, in some
place quite away from women, fowls, and dogs. Pills made from the
paste produced are to be swallowed one by one without mastication. The
preparation of this deadly _Ku_ poison is described in the last
chapter but one of Section III. in the following words:--

  "Take a quantity of insects of all kinds and throw them into a
  vessel of any kind; cover them up and let a year pass away before
  you look at them again. The insects will have killed and eaten
  each other until there is only one survivor, and this one is

In the next chapter we are informed that spinach eaten with tortoise
is poison, as also is shell-fish eaten with venison; that death
frequently results from drinking pond-water which has been poisoned by
snakes, from drinking water which has been used for flowers, or tea
which has stood uncovered through the night, from eating the flesh of
a fowl which has swallowed a centipede, and wearing clothes which have
been soaked with perspiration and dried in the sun. Finally,

  "A case is recorded of a man who tied his victim's hands and feet,
  and forced into his mouth the head of a snake, applying fire at
  the same time to its tail. The snake jumped down the man's throat
  and passed into his stomach, but at the inquest held over the body
  no traces of wounds were found to which death could be attributed.
  Such a crime, however, may be detected by examination of the bones
  which, from the head downwards, will be found entirely of a bright
  red colour, caused by the dispersion of the blood; and moreover,
  the more the bones are scraped away, the brighter in colour do
  they become."

It is difficult to speak of such a book as "Instructions to Coroners"
with anything like becoming gravity, and yet it is one of the most
widely-read and highly-esteemed works in China; so much so, that
native scholars frequently throw it in the teeth of foreigners as one
of their many repertories of real wonder-working science, equal to
anything that comes from the West, if only foreigners would take the
trouble to consult it. To satisfy our own curiosity on the subject we
bought a copy and translated it from beginning to end; but our readers
will perhaps be able to determine its scientific value from the few
quotations given above, and agree with us that it would hardly be
worth while to learn Chinese for the pleasure or profit to be derived
from reading "Instructions to Coroners" in the original character.


The extraordinary feeling of hatred and contempt evinced by the
Chinese nation for missionaries of every denomination who settle in
their country, naturally suggests the question whether Christianity is
likely to prove a boon to China, if, indeed, it ever succeeds in
taking root at all. That under the form of Roman Catholicism, it once
had a chance of becoming the religion of the Empire, and that that
chance was recklessly sacrificed to bigotry and intolerance, is too
well known to be repeated; but that such an opportunity will ever
occur again is quite beyond the bounds, if not of possibility, at any
rate of probability. Missionary prospects are anything but bright in
China just now, in spite of rosily worded "reports," and annual
statistics of persons baptized. A respectable Chinaman will tell you
that only thieves and bad characters who have nothing to lose avail
themselves of baptism, as a means of securing "long nights of
indolence and ease" in the household of some enthusiastic missionary
at from four to ten dollars a month. Educated men will not tolerate
missionaries in their houses, as many have found to their cost; and
the fact cannot be concealed that the foreign community in China
suffers no small inconvenience and incurs considerable danger for a
cause with which a large majority of its members has no sympathy
whatever. It would, however, be invidious to dwell upon the class of
natives who allow themselves to be baptized and pretend to accept
dogmas they most certainly do not understand, or on the mental and
social calibre of numbers of those gentlemen who are sent out to
convert them; we will confine ourselves merely to considering what
practical benefits Christianity would be likely to confer upon the
Chinese at large. And this we may fairly do, not being of those who
hold that all will be damned but the sect of that particular church to
which they themselves happen to belong; but believing that the Chinese
have as good a chance as anybody else of whatever happiness may be in
store for the virtuous, whether they become Christians or whether they
do not.

In the course of eight years' residence in China, we have never met a
drunken man in the streets. Opium-smokers we have seen in all stages
of intoxication; but no drunken brawls, no bruised and bleeding wives.
Would Christianity raise the Chinese to the standard of European
sobriety? Would it bring them to renounce opium, only to replace it
with gin? Would it cause them to become more frugal, to live more
economically than they do now on their bowl of rice and cabbage,
moistened with a drink of tea, and perhaps supplemented with a few
whiffs of the mildest possible tobacco? Would it cause them to be more
industrious than--e.g., the wood-carvers of Ningpo who work daily from
sunrise to dusk, with two short intervals for meals? Would it make
them more filial?--justly renowned as they are for unremitting care of
aged and infirm parents. More fraternal?--where every family is a
small society, each member toiling for the common good, and being sure
of food and shelter if thrown out of work or enfeebled by disease.
More law-abiding?--we appeal to any one who has lived in China, and
mixed with the people. Would it make them more honest?--when many
Europeans confess that for straightforward business they would sooner
deal with Chinamen than with merchants of certain Christian
nationalities we shall not take upon ourselves to name. Should we not
run the risk of sowing seed for future and bloody religious wars on
soil where none now rage? To teach them justice in the administration
of law would be a glorious task indeed, but even that would have its
dark side. Litigation would become the order of the day, and a
rapacious class would spring into existence where lawyers and
barristers are now totally unknown. The striking phenomenon of extreme
wealth side by side with extreme poverty, might be produced in a
country where absolute destitution is at present remarkably rare, and
no one need actually starve; and thus would be developed a fine field
for the practice of that Christian charity which by demoralisation of
the poorer classes so skilfully defeats its own end. We should rejoice
if anything could make Chinamen less cruel to dumb animals, desist
from carrying ducks, geese, and pigs, hanging by their legs to a pole,
feed their hungry dogs, and spare their worn-out beasts of burden. But
pigeon-shooting is unknown, and gag-bearing reins have yet to be
introduced into China; neither have we heard of a poor heathen
Chinaman "skinning a sheep alive." (_Vide Daily Papers of July_ 12,

Last of all, it must not be forgotten that China has already four
great religions flourishing in her midst. There is _Confucianism_,
which, strictly speaking, is not a religion, but a system of
self-culture with a view to the proper government of (1) one's own
family and of (2) the State. It teaches man to be good, and to love
virtue for its own sake, with no fear of punishment for failure, no
hope of reward for success. Is it below Christianity in this?

_Buddhism_, _Taoism_, and _Mahomedanism_, share the patronage of the
illiterate, and serve to satisfy the natural craving in uneducated man
for something supernatural in which to believe and on which to rely.
The _literati_ are sheer materialists: they laugh at the absurdities
of Buddhism, though they sometimes condescend to practise its rites.
They strongly object to the introduction of a new religion, and
successfully oppose it by every means in their power. They urge, and
with justice, that Confucius has laid down an admirable rule of life
in harmony with their own customs, and that the conduct of those who
approximate to this standard would compare not unfavourably with the
practice, as distinguished from the profession, of any religion in the


The following inflammatory placard, which was posted up last year at a
place called Lung-p'ing, near the great tea mart of Hankow, will give
a faint idea of native prejudice against the propagation of
Christianity in China. The original was in verse, and evidently the
work of a highly-educated man:--

  Strange doctrines are speedily to be eradicated:
  The holy teaching of Confucius is now in the ascendant.
  There is but one most sacred religion:
  There can be but one Mean.
  By their great virtue Yao and Shun led the way,
  Alone able to expound the "fickle" and the "slight;"[*]
  Confucius' teachings have not passed away,
  Yet working wonders in secret[+] has long been in vogue.
  Be earnest in practising the ordinary virtues:
  To extend filial piety, brotherly love, loyalty, and
    considerateness, is to benefit one's-self.
  Be careful in your speech,
  And marvels, feats of strength, sedition, and spirits,[:] will
    disappear from conversation.
  I pray you do not listen to unsubstantiated words:
  Then who will dare to deceive the age with soft-sounding phrases.
  Our religion is for all who choose to seek it;
  But we build no chapels to beguile the foolish.
  Our true religion has existed from of old, up to the present day,
    undergoing no change.
  Its true principles include in their application those of the middle
    and outside nations alike.
  Great is the advantage to us!
  Great is the good influence on this generation!
  Of all religions the only true one,
  What false doctrine can compare with it?
  The _stillness_ and _cleanliness_ of Buddhism,
  The _abstruseness_ and _hollow mockery_ of Taoism--
  These are but side-doors compared with ours;
  Fit to be quitted, but not to be entered.
  These are but by-paths compared with ours;
  Fit to be blocked up, but not to be used.
  How then about this one, stranger than Buddhist or Taoist creed?
  With its secret confusion of sexes, unutterable!
  More hurtful than all the dogmas of the other two;
  Spreading far and wide the unfathomable poison of its mysteries.
  Herein you must carefully discriminate,
  And not receive it with belief and veneration.
    Those who now embrace Christ
  Call him Lord of heaven and earth,
  Worshipping him with prayer,
  Deceiving and exciting the foolish,
  Dishonouring the holy teaching of Confucius.
  I laugh at your hero of the cross,
  Who, though sacrificing his life, did not preserve his virtue
  Missions build chapels,
  But the desire to do good works is not natural to them.
  The method of influencing the natures of women
  Is but a trick to further base ends.
  They injure boys by magical arts,
  And commit many atrocious crimes.
  They say their religion is the only true one,
  But their answers are full of prevarication.
  They say their book is the Holy Book,
  But the Old and New Testaments are like the songs of Wei and
  As to the people who are gradually being misled,
  I compassionate their ignorance;
  As to the educated who are thus deceived,
  I am wroth at their want of reflection.
  For these men are not of us;
  We are like the horse and the cow;[@]
  If you associate with them,
  Who will expel these crocodiles and snakes?
  This is a secret grievance of the State,
  A manifest injury to the people!
  Truly it is the eye-sore of the age.
  You quietly look on unconcerned!
  I, musing over the present state of men's hearts,
  Desire to rectify them.
  Alas! the ways of devils are full of guile!
  But man's disposition is naturally pure.
  How then can men willingly walk with devils?
  You, like trees and plants, without understanding,
  Allow the Barbarians to throw into confusion the Flowery Land.
  Is it that no holy and wise men have appeared?
  Under the Chow dynasty, when the barbarians were at the height of
    their arrogance,
  The hand of Confucius and Mencius was laid upon them!
  Under the T'ang when Buddhism was poisoning the age,
  Han and Hsi exterminated them.
  Now these devils are working evil,
  Troubling the villages and market-places where they live.
  Surely many heroes must come forward
  To crush them with the pen of Confucius.
  Turn then and consider
  That were it not for my class[#]
  None would uphold the true religion.
  I say unto you,
  And you should give heed unto me,
  Believe not the nonsense of Redemption,
  Believe not the trickery of the Resurrection.
  Set yourselves to find out the true path,
  And learn to distinguish between man and devil.
  Pass not with loitering step the unknown ford,
  Nor bow the knee before the vicious and the depraved.
  Wait not for Heaven to exterminate them
  To find out that earth has a day for their destruction.
  The shapeless, voiceless imp--
  Why worship him?
  His supernatural, unprincipled nonsense
  Should surely be discarded.
  Ye who think not so,
  When the devils are in your houses
  They will covet your homes,
  And they will take the fingers and arms of your strong ones
  To make claws and teeth for imps.
  They excite people at first by specious talk,
  Not one jot of which is intelligible;
  Then they destroy your reason,
  Making you wander far from the truth.
  You throw over ancestral worship to enjoy none yourselves;
  Your wives and children suffer pollution,
  And you are pointed at with the finger.
  Thus heedlessly you injure eternal principles,
  Embracing filth and treasuring corruption,
  To your endless shame
  And to your everlasting misfortune.
  Finally, if in life your heads escape the axe,
  There will await you the excessive injury of the shroud.[$]
  Judging by the crimes of your lives,
  Your corpses will be cast to scorpions and snakes.
  The devils introduce this doctrine,
  Which grows like plants from seeds;
  Some one must arise to punish them,
  And destroy their religion root and branch.
  Hasten, all of you, to repent,
  And walk in the way of righteousness;
  We truly pity you.
  A warning notice to discard false doctrines!

    [*] The fickle nature of men's minds, and slight regard for the true

    [+] Forbidden by Confucius.

    [:] Avoided by Confucius as topics.

    [!] Licentious.

    [@] The Chinese say horses prefer going against, cows with, the wind.

    [#] The _literati_.

    [$] Missionaries are said to keep the corpses of converts concealed
    from public view between death and interment, that the absence of
    the dead man's eyes may not be detected.


"Surely it is manifest enough that by selecting the evidence, any
society may be relatively blackened, and any other society relatively
whitened."[*] We hope that no such principle of selection can be
traced in the preceding pages. Irritation against traducers of China
and her morality[+] may have occasionally tinged our views with a
somewhat rosy hue; but we have all along felt the danger of this bias,
and have endeavoured to guard against it. We have no wish to exalt
China at the expense of European civilisation, but we cannot blind
ourselves to the fact that her vices have been exaggerated, and her
virtues overlooked. Only the bigoted or ignorant could condemn with
sweeping assertions of immorality a nation of many millions absolutely
free, as the Chinese are, from one such vice as drunkenness; in whose
cities may be seen--what all our legislative and executive skill
cannot secure--streets quiet and deserted after nine or ten o'clock at
night. Add to this industry, frugality, patriotism,[:] and a boundless
respect for the majesty of office: it then only remains for us to
acknowledge that China is after all "a nation of much talent, and, in
some respects, even wisdom."[!]

    [*] Spencer's Sociology: The Bias of Patriotism.

    [+] "The miseries and horrors (?) which are now destroying (?) the
    Chinese Empire are the direct and organic result of the moral
    profligacy of its inhabitants."--_Froude's Short Studies on Great

    [:] "Every patriotic Chinese--and there are millions of such."--_Dr
    Legge to London and China Telegraph_, July 5, 1875.

    [!] Mill's Essay on Liberty.

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