« ZurückWeiter »
were sent to remonstrate on the subject, and to invite the Japanese to friendly intercourse, in which a hint at homage seems not to have been forgotten. They were permitted to land, as they were not sent by the hateful Mongols; but no better success appears to have attended their efforts to obtain tribute, although some of the persons employed as envoys were priests of Budh, for whom the Japanese have a respect, on account of their connection with their own national religion. The piracies along the eastern coasts of China were frequently repeated, but they seem to have led to no renewed attempts on the part of the celestial empire to punish or subdue Japan. Some commercial intercourse at present subsists between the two countries, principally carried on in junks from Ningpo and Amoy. The Chinese justly value the real Japan ware above their own inferior manufactures in lacker, and this ware, with copper, seems to be the chief article of inport.
SUMMARY OF CHINESE HISTORY.
SUMMARY OF CHINESE HISTORY.
Earlier history of China mythological—Three Emperors-Five Suve
reigns-Periods of Hea and Shang-of Chow-Confucius--Period of Tsin -First universal Sovereign--Erection of Great Wall-Period of Hanof Three States of Tâug-Power of the Eunuchs—Invention of Printing -Period of Soong--Mongol Tartars-Koblai Khan-Degeneracy of his Successors—who are driveu out by Chinese-Race of Ming-Arrival of Catholic Priests--Manchow Tartars take China-opposed by SeaEmperor Kâng-hy-Kien-looug-First British Embassy-Keaking's last Will-Present Emperor-Catholic Missionaries finally discarded.
Although a laboured history in detail of the Chinese empire is not suited to the character and objects of this work, still a rapid sketch of such revolutions as that country has undergone, more especially in the last Tartar conquest, seems requisite, in order rightly to understand some peculiarities in the customs of the people, and even some changes that have taken place among a race, generally remarkable for the unvarying sameness of its manners and institutions.
Without attempting to deny to China a very high degree of antiquity, it is now pretty universally admitted, on the testimony of the most respectable native historians, that this is a point which has been very much exaggerated. In reference to the earliest traditions of their history, a famous commentator named Choofootse observes, “ It is impossible to give entire credit to the accounts of these remote ages.” China has, in fact, her mythology in common with all other nations, and under this head we must range the persons styled Fohy, Shin-noong, Hoangty, and their
immediate successors, who, like the demigods and heroes of Grecian fable, rescued mankind by their ability or enterprise from the most primitive barbarism, and have since been invested with superhuman attributes. The most extravagant prodigies are related of these persons, and the most incongruous qualities attributed to them ;--according to Swift's receipt for making a hero, who, if his virtues are not reducible to consistency, is to have them laid in a heap
“ National vanity, and a love of the marvellous, have influenced in a similar manner the early history of most other countries, and furnished materials for nursery tales, as soon as the spirit of sober investigation has supplanted that appetite for wonders, which marks the infancy of nations, as well as of individuals*."
The fabulous part of Chinese history commences with Puon-koo, who is represented in a dress of leaves, and concerning whom every thing is wild and obscure. He is said to have been followed by a number of persons with fanciful names, who, in the style of the Hindoo chronology, reigned for thousands of years, until the appearance of Fohy, who, it is said, invented the arts of music, numbers, &c., and taught his subjects to live in a civilized state. He inhabited what is now the northern province of Shensy, anciently the country of Tsin, or Chin, whence some derive the word China, by which the empire has been for ages designated in India. Fohy (often absurdly confounded with Fo, or Budh,) and his two successors are styled the “ Three Emperors," and reputed the inventors of all the arts and accommodations of life. Of these, Shin-noong, or the "divine husbandman,” instructed his people in agriculture; and Hoang-ty divided all the lands into groups of nine equal squares, of which the
* Royal Asiat. Trans. vol. i. Memoir concerning the Chinese.
middle one was to be cultivated in common for the benefit of the state. He is said likewise to have invented the mode of noting the cycle of sixty years, the foundation of the Chinese system of chronology The series of cycles is at least made to extend back to the time in which he is reputed to have lived, about 2,600 years before Christ: but it is obvious that there could be no difficulty in calculating it much farther back than even that, had the inventors so pleased; and this date is therefore no certain proof of antiquity.
To the “ three Emperors” succeeded the “five Sovereigns,” and the designations seem equally arbitrary and fanciful in both cases, being in fact distinctions without a difference. The fictitious character of this early period might be proved in abundance of instances, and it is the worst feature of Du Halde's compilation to set every thing down without comment, and to be filled with general and unmeaning eulogies out of Chinese works, whatever may be the subject of description. He observes that one of these five Sovereigns regulated the Calendar, “ and desired to begin the year on the first day of the month in which the sun should be nearest the 15th degree of Aquarius, for which he is called the author and father of the ephemeris. He chose the time when the sun passes through the middle of this sign, because it is the season in which the earth is adorned with plants, trees renew thrir verdure, and all nature seems re-animated :” this of course must mean the spring season. Now the person alluded to is said to have lived more than 2,000 years before Christ, and, according to the usual mode of calculating the precession of the equinoxes, the sun must have passed through the 15th of Aquarius, in his time, somewhere about the middle of December. In a Chinese historian, this strange blunder is not surprising, and only shows the cha
racter of their earlier records; but it ought to have been corrected in a European work.
Yaou and Shun, the two last of the five Sovereigns, were the patterns of all Chinese Emperors. To Yaou is attributed the intercalation in their lunar year) of an additional lunar month seven times in every nineteen years; the number of days in seven lunations being nearly equal to nineteen multiplied by eleven, which last is the number of days by which the lunar year falls short of the solar. Yaou is said to have set aside his own son, and chosen Shun to be his successor, on account of his virtues. The choice of the reigning Emperor is the rule of succession at the present day, and it is seldom that the eldest son succeeds in preference to the rest. To the age of Shun the Chinese refer their tradition of an extensive flooding of the lands, which by some has been identified with the Mosaic deluge. It was for his merit in draining the country, or drawing off the waters of the great inundation, in which he was employed eight years, that “ Yu the great” was chosen by Shun for his successor.
He commenced the period called Hea, upwards of 2,100 years before Christ. Yu is described as nine cubits in height, and it is stated that“ the skies rained gold for three days;" which certainly (as Dr. Morrison observes) lessens the credit of the history of this period.” In fact the whole of the long space of time included under Hea and Shâng is full of the marvellous. Chow-wâng, however, the last of the Shâng, (about 1,100 years before Christ) was a tyrant, by all accounts, not more remarkable for his cruelty or extravagancies than many other tyrants have been: frequent allusion is made to him in Chinese books, as well as to his wife, and various stories are related of their crimes. One of the Emperor's relations having ventured to remonstrate with him, the cruel monarch ordered his heart to be brought to him for