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Dwellings—Description of a large Mansion-Tiling of
External Walls of Peking–Interior Aspect of Tartarian City
-Circuit of the Imperial Wall-Southern or Chinese
The following work owes its origin to a collection of notes which the author made while resident in China; and these notes were compiled for a reason not al. together dissimilar to the motive which a French writer alleges for an undertaking of the same kind " le désir de tout connaître, en étant obligé de le décrire.” A residence of more than twenty years (which terminated in the author succeeding, for some months previous to his final retirement, the late amiable and unfortunate Lord Napier as His Majesty's chief authority in China,) has perhaps been calculated to mature and correct those opinions of the country and people which he had formed, as a very young man, in accompanying Lord Amherst on the embassy to Peking in 1816. If some acquaintance, besides, with the language and literature of the Chinese empire has not been of considerable assistance to him in increasing the extent and accuracy of his information, it must have been his own fault entirely, and not any want of opportunities and means.
It is singular that no general and systematic work on China has ever yet been produced in this country, notwithstanding that our immediate interest in the subject has been vastly greater than that of any other European nation. At the head of travels, both as to date and excellence, stand the authentic account of Lord Macartney's Mission by Staunton, and Barrow's China, to both of which works it will be seen that reference has been more than once made in the following pages. The above authorities have not been
superseded by any thing that has since appeared in the course of thirty or forty years, though the works of Mr. Ellis and Doctor Abel, the results of Lord Amherst's embassy, are of a highly respectable class, and contain much valuable information on those points to which they confine themselves. Still no general account of the Chinese empire has ever issued from the English press; and Père du Halde's compilation has still remained the only methodized source of information on the subject. One century exactly has now elapsed since that voluminous, and in many respects highly valuable work was first printed. A great deal has of necessity become antiquated, and it is not easy for any one who is personally unacquainted with China, to separate the really sound and useful information it contains, from the prejudice which distorts some portions, and the nonsense which encumbers others. Of the last, the endless pages on the “Doctrine of the Pulse” may be taken as one specimen.
It may be interesting to the general reader to see before him, in one view, and in chronological order, most of the miscellaneous works concerning China, which have at different times appeared in various languages. To his original list the writer has added from the Catalogue* of the Oriental Library presented by his venerable friend Mr. Marsden to King's College, where a spacious room has been expressly devoted to its reception.
The earliest in point of date are the Travels of Marco Polo the Venetian, of which a Latin translation was made about the year 1320, and the first edition appeared soon after the invention of the art of printing, in the fifteenth century t.
* Bibliotheca Marsdeniana, p. 172. * The best modern version of this work is in English, co. piously illustrated with notes by Mr. Marsden, 4to. 1818.