« ZurückWeiter »
EARLY EUROPEAN INTERCOURSE.
than even his, must be considered to possess a very high degree of interest. We can perceive a remarkable identity between the Chinese, as they are therein described, and the same people as we know them at
sent day, although a period of 1,000 years, nearly, has since elapsed; nor can the occurrence of one or two very remarkable discrepancies be considered as any impugnment of the general veracity of these travellers, where there is, upon the whole, so much of sound and correct information. They have in fact evidently proceeded from some confusion in the original manuscripts, by which observations, that had reference to other countries lying in their route, and which are true of those countries at the present time, have become incorporated with the account of China itself. These Arabians describe a city called Canfu, which was probably Canton, at which place a very ancient mosque exists to this day. The frequency of fires, and the long detention of ships, from various causes, as stated by them, might be related of that emporium of foreign trade even at present. “ This city,” they observe, “stands on a great river, some days distant from the entrance, so that the water here is fresh.” It seems at that time to have been the port allotted to the Arabian merchants who came by sea; and the travellers notice
many unjust dealings with the merchants who traded thither, which having gathered the force of a precedent, there was no grievance, no treatment so bad, but they exercised it upon the foreigners, and the masters of ships.” We learn that the port was at length forsaken, in consequence of the extortions of the mandarins of those days; and “the merchants returned in crowds to Siraf and Oman." It is remarkable that the travellers describe the entrance to the port of Canfu, as the
gates of China,” which may possibly be a translation of Hoo-mun,“ Tiger's gate, or Boca Tigris, as it is called from the Portuguese
These Arabians mention in particular the relief afforded to the people from the public granaries during famine. The salt tax, as it now exists, and the use of tea are thus noticed : -“ The Emperor also reserves to himself the revenues that arise from salt, and from a certain herb, which they drink with hot water, and of which great quantities are sold in all the cities, to the amount of vast sums.” The public imposts are stated to have consisted in duties on salt and tea, with a poll tax, which last has since been commuted into a tax on lands: these Arabians likewise mention the bamboo as the universal panacea in matters of police; and they very correctly describe the Chinese copper money; as well as porcelain; wine made from rice; the maintenance of public teachers in the towns; the idolatry derived from India; and the ignorance of astronomy, in which the Arabians were their first instructors. It is in fact impossible to comprise within our limits all the pertinent remarks, or even a small proportion of the correct information which
may be found in this curious and antique relic of early Arabian enterprise. From the lights which it affords, as well as from other sources of information relating to the first intercourse of the Mahomedans with China, it has with tolerable certainty been inferred, that, previous to the Mongol Tartar conquest, they resorted to that rich country by sea chiefly, and in the character of traders.
Subsequent to the establishment of the Mongol Tartar dynasty by Zenghis Khan, China was visited by the Arab, Ibn Batuta, whose travels have been translated by Professor Lee. He describes very truly the paper circulation instituted by the Mongols, a scheme which subsequently failed, in consequence of the paper being rendered utterly worthless by excessive issues, and the bad faith of the Government, which derived a profit from the circulation. Even at that period, Batuta observes that “ they did not buy or
EARLY EUROPEAN INTERCOURSE.
sell with the dirhem or dinar, for, should any one get these coins into his possession, he would melt them down immediately.” If we may believe him, the Chinese junks in his time sailed as far as Calicut, and he himself embarked in one of them on his voyage to China.
The Mahomedan creed seems to have been established and protected as the religion of a considerable part of the population soon after the Mongol conquest, in the 13th century; and it meets with perfect toleration at the present day, its professors being freely admitted to Government offices, from which Christians are rigidly excluded. There is a considerable mosque at Canton, of great antiquity, and forming, with its pagoda or minaret, a conspicuous object on the approach to the city by the river. Numbers of that persuasion occurred in every part of the route of the two British missions. Some gentlemen of the embassy were walking in 1816 with Dr. Morrison, at a village about fifty miles from Peking, when they observed inscribed, in Chinese, on the lantern of a poor shopman,“ an old Mahomedan,” Being asked whence his progenitors came, the old man answered, “ from the western ocean;" but he could give no further information, except that his family had resided there for five generations. Dr. Morrison met with another near Nanking, holding a Government office, who said that his sect reached China during the Tâng dynasty, or about the period of the visit of those two Arabians, whom we have already noticed, in the ninth century. The same individual stated, that at Kae-foong-foo, in the province of Honan, there were some families of a persuasion denominated by the Chinese, “ the sect that plucks out the sinew;" these, in al probability, must be the Jews mentioned by Grosier, who are said to have reached China as early as 200 years before Christ, in the time of the Han dynasty
In the eighteenth volume of the Lettres edifiantes et
curieuses, there is contained an account of the pains taken by the Jesuits in China to investigate the origin of this remarkable colony of Jews at Kae-foongfoo. The most successful in his researches was Père Gozani, who, in letter dated 1704, thus wrote :“ As regards those who are here called Tiao-kin-kiao, (the sect that extracts the sinew,) two years ago I was going to visit them, under the expectation that they were Jews, and with the hope of finding among them he Old Testament; but as I have no knowledge of the Hebrew language, and met with great difficulties, I abandoned this scheme with the fear of not succeeding. Nevertheless, as you told me that I should oblige you by obtaining any information concerning this people, I have obeyed your directions, and executed them with all the care and exactness of which I was capable. I immediately made them protestations of friendship, to which they readily replied, and had the civility to come to see me. I returned their visit in the le-pai-sou, that is, in their synagogue, where they were all assembled, and where I held with them long conversations. I saw their inscriptions, some of which are in Chinese, and the rest in their own language. They showed me their religious books, and permitted me to enter even into the most secret place of their synagogue, whence they themselves (the commonalty) are excluded. There is a place reserved for the chief of the synagogue, who never enters there except with profound respect. They told me that their ancestors came from a kingdom of the west, called the kingdom of Juda, which Joshua conquered after having departed from Egypt, and passed the Red Sea and the Desert; that the number of Jews who migrated from Egypt was about 600,000 men. They assured me that their alphabet had twentyseven letters, but that they commonly made use of only twenty-two; whic cords ith the declaration of St. Jerome, that the Hebrew has twenty-two
EARLY EUROPEAN INTERCOURSE.
letters, of which five are double. When they read the Bible in their synagogue, they cover the face with a transparent veil, in memory of Moses, who descended from the mountain with his face covered, and who thus published the Decalogue and the Law of God to his people: they read a section every Sabbath-day. Thus the Jews of China, like the Jews of Europe, read all the Law in the course of the year: he who reads places the Ta-king (great sacred book) on the chair of Moses; he has his face covered with a very thin cotton veil; at his side is a prompter, and some paces below a Moula, to correct the prompter should he err. They spoke to me respecting Paradise and Hell in a very foolish way. There is every appearance of what they said being drawn from the Talmud. I spoke to them of the Messiah promised in Scripture, but they were very much surprised at what I said; and when I informed them that his name was Jesus, they replied, that mention was made in the Bible of a holy man named Jesus, who was the son of Sirach: but they knew not the Jesus of whom I spoke*.”
The first Pope who appears to have sent a mission for the conversion of the Tartars or Chinese to the Roman Catholic faith, was Innocent IV. He despatched Giovanni Carpini, a monk, through Russia, in the year 1246, to Baatu Khan, on the banks of the Volga, from whence they were conducted to the Mongol Tartar court, just as the Great Khan was about to be installed. Carpini was astonished by the display of immense treasures, and, having been kindly treated, was sent back with a friendly letter; he was rather pleased than scandalized by the near semblance of the rites of the Chinese Budhists to the forms of Catholic worship, and inferred from thence that they either already were, or would very soon be,
* For further particulars of the Jews in China, see Chinese Repository, vol. iji. p. 172.