« ZurückWeiter »
and confined by the middle joint of the fore-finger being pressed upon it. Their swords are generally ill-made, and their match-locks considered by them as an inferior weapon to the bow and arrow, which they may perhaps be, considering their appearance and make. Some are provided with shields, constructed of rattan turned spirally round a centre.
With regard to the use of artillery, Du Halde observes with apparent reason, that
though the knowledge of gunpowder is very ancient in China, artillery is but modern." It is clear that, as late as 1621, the city of Macao was invited to send three guns to Peking, with men to manage them, against the Tartars; and equally certain that under the last Emperor of the Chinese dynasty, about the year 1636, when the empire was threatened by the Manchows, the Jesuits at Peking were desired by the Emperor to instruct his people in casting some cannon.
But the most successful operator in this way was the famous Ferdinand Verbiest, under whose inspection some hundred pieces of artillery were constructed for the Tartar Emperor Kânghy, towards the end of the seventeenth century. This was made a subject of accusation against the Jesuits at Rome; but they defended themselves by arguing that it promoted the cause of Christianity, by making their services necessary to the Chinese Government. It is certain that, during the course of three centuries, no mission has ever succeeded for a time so well as theirs, but that at present there are not a dozen European missionaries in the interior, among a population estimated at more than 300,000,000 of souls.
The highest military rank is that of a Tseang-keun, or Tartar General, one of whom has charge of the regular troops in Canton province: this post can never be filled by a Chinese, but secondary commands may. Below these are subordinate officers, promoted
PENAL CODE OF CHINA,
in regular order from the lowest grade, according to their physical strength, and their skill in shooting with the bow, combined with the activity and zeal which they may occasionally display in cases of civil commotion or revolt. One very singular feature we must not forget to notice, in regard to the military officers of China. They are all subject to corporal punishment, and very often experience it, together with the punishment of the Cangue, or moveable pillory, consisting of a heavy frame of wood, sometimes upwards of a hundred pounds in weight, with holes for the head and hands. This parental allotment of a certain quantum of flagellation, and personal exposure, is occasionally the fate of the highest officers, and, upon the whole, must be regarded as a very odd way of improving their military character. It must be observed, however, that enterprising courage is not considered as a merit in Chinese tactics. They have a maxim, that“ rash and arrogant soldiers must be defeated,” which may be allowed to contain some truth; and the chief virtue of their strategy is extreme caution and love of craft, not without a large share of perfidy and falsehood; so that to treat with a Chinese General, and expect him to fulfil his engagements, would be altogether a miscalculation.
We may now turn our attention to that very efficient engine, for the control of its vast and densely thronged population, the penal code of China; and this deserves the more particular notice, as affording the best data for correctly estimating the character of the people to whom it has been adapted. The most perfect code of laws in the abstract is unavailing and useless, if not congenial to the dispositions and habits of those for whom it is formed; and, without keeping this in view, we might be apt to deny to the criminal laws of China the share of praise to which they are
justly entitled, after making due abatement for their plain and undeniable defects. The following testimony in their favour, from a very able critique* on Sir George Staunton's version of the Leu-lee, must be considered as praise of a high kind :-" The most remarkable thing in this code is its great reasonableness, clearness, and consistency; the business-like brevity and directness of the various provisions, and the plainness and moderation of the language in which they are expressed. There is nothing here of the monstrous verbiage of most other Asiatic productions; none of the superstitious deliration, the miserable incoherence, the tremendous non-sequiturs and eternal repetitions of those oracular performances; nothing even of the turgid adulation, the accumulated epithets, and fatiguing selfpraise of other Eastern despotisms; but a clear, concise, and distinct series of enactments, savouring throughout of practical judgment and European good sense, and, if not always conformable to our improved notions of expediency in this country, in general approaching to them more nearly than the codes of most other nations."
After this fair tribute, the evident defects of the system, being in some measure those of the state of society in which it originated, may be pointed out. There is, in the first place, a constant meddling with, and anxiety to compel the performance of, those relative duties which are better left to the operation of any other sanctions than positive laws. The evil of this perpetual interference of the law to enforce the practice of virtues, which in great measure cease to be such on being made compulsory, is to diminish their beneficial influence on the mind; and it is on the same principle that compulsory charity, even, has been condemned, (though without sufficient reason,) as it exists among us in the instance of the poor laws.
* Edinburgh Review, August, 1810.