Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]



ART. I.-1. The Chinese Repository. Hongkong, 1851. 2. The Middle Kingdom. By S. Wells Williams. New York,

3. The Chinese and their Rebellions.

Meadows. London, 1856.

By Thomas Taylor

4. The Tea-districts of China and India. By Robert Fortune. London, 1853.

5. China, from a Medical point of view, in 1860 and 1861. By Charles Alexander Gordon, M.D., C.B. London, 1863.

6. Documents Statistiques Officiels sur l'Empire de la Chine. Traduits du Chinois. Par G. Pauthier. Paris, 1841.

7. Annales de la Propagation de la Foi. Lyon. 8. Parliamentary Papers relating to China.

London, 1853

9. Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, Vol. 172. London, 1863.

HE resources and political condition of the Chinese Empire are at the present time subjects of much interest and of very serious importance; and the rapid extension of our respective commercial relations makes it expedient for us to examine with careful attention the capabilities and internal state of a nation with whose prosperity or decay we are becoming most intimately concerned.

In this article we purpose to confine our attention to that part of the empire known to Europeans under the name of China Proper, and to the Chinese as the Central Kingdom; for, although the possessions of the reigning Manchu dynasty embrace immense tracts of country in Central and Northern Asia, these have but very slight influence over the fortunes or condition of China, and we shall therefore dismiss from our consideration the lofty and barren table-lands of Tibet and the sandy wastes and deserts of Mongolia. Manchuria, as being the original seat of those Tartars who are now ruling the empire, has of late been brought into prominent notice; but, as far as the Chinese are concerned, it is only important because it affords an outlet for the superabundant population of the northern maritime provinces.

The geographical situation of China has had a special influence over the character and institutions of its inhabitants. The diffiVol. 115.-No. 229. cult


cult and dangerous land journey across Turkistan and Tibet, and the long sea voyage by the Pacific or Indian Oceans, have hitherto tended to isolate and sever her from all European interests; and even during the most flourishing period of the Roman Empire in the East it was found advisable to neglect the land transit, and to make an island in the Indian Ocean midway between the two empires the common emporium for their respective commerce.

It has thus necessarily happened that the Chinese have been utterly indifferent to, and uninfluenced by, the revolutions of Western nations; and as they found in the wide extent and fertile soil of their own country ample provision for their wants, they had no motives to impel them to seek in other climates the productions so bountifully supplied by their own. In only one particular have the Chinese swerved from their system of selfcentralisation, and it has been reserved for this race of materialists to afford the world the only instance of a people deliberately seeking, borrowing, and adopting the religion of an alien nation.*

The effect of this isolation upon the character and civilisation of the Chinese is precisely what will have been expected. Unaware of the progress of other nations, and therefore ignorant of those principles which caused that progress, they have been satisfied to accept their own laws and institutions as representing the perfection of human wisdom. Thus successive generations have laboured passively and contentedly in the groove traced out for them by their ancestors; and from the husbandman, who patiently ploughs his ground according to the instructions of antiquity, to the aspirant for office, who mechanically studies the precepts of Confucius, the whole nation have been for twentyfour centuries unalterable in their devotion to the maxims of their forefathers.

This almost slavish obedience to fixed rules of conduct has in a densely populated country like China some considerable advantages, and much facilitates the action of government. It has fortunately happened that their early legislators have provided the people with many excellent fiscal and penal laws, and Confucius and his first commentators have supplied some very meritorious maxims for the guidance of their moral natures.

* An emperor of the Han dynasty despatched ambassadors towards the West to discover the true religion, which was supposed to be practised somewhere in that direction. Upon their arrival in Northern India, the ambassadors found the people eagerly embracing the tenets of Fo; satisfied with what they observed, and probably glad of the opportunity of returning home, the Chinese retraced their steps, bringing back with them several priests to spread the new faith. It was in this manner that Buddhism was introduced into China (A.D. 66).


« AnteriorContinuar »