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in Europe have been strangely misled, in their notions of Chinese physiognomy and appearance, by the figures represented on those specimens of manufacture which proceed from Canton, and which are commonly in a style of broad caricature. A Chinese at Peking might as well form an idea of us from some of the performances of Cruikshank. The consequence has been, that a character of silly levity and farce has been associated, in the minds of many persons, with the most steady, considerate, and matter-of-fact people in the world, who in grave matters of business are often a match for the best of Europeans. Their features have perhaps less of the harsh angularity of the Tartar countenance in the south, than at Peking. Among those who are not exposed to the climate, the complexion is fully as fair as that of Spaniards and Portuguese; but the sun has a powerful effect on their skins, and that upper portion of a man's person habitually exposed in the summer is often so different from the remainder, that, when stripped, he looks like the lower half of a European joined on to the upper moiety of an Asiatic. Up to the age of twenty they are often very good-looking, but soon after that period the prominent cheek-bones generally give a harshness to the features, as the roundness of youth wears off. With the progress of age the old men become in most cases extremely ugly, and the old women can only be described by Juvenal:
“ Tales adspice rugas Quales, umbriferos ubi pandit Tabraca saltus, In vetulâ scalpit jam mater simia bucca.”
“ Such wrinkles see, As in an Indian forest's solitude,
Some old ape scrubs amidst her numerous broocl.” A conjecture has already been offered in explanation of the very opposite characters of figure admired in the two sexes. A woman should be ex
tremely slender and fragile in appearance; a man very stout, -not in those proportions that denote muscular strength, and what we call condition,- but corpulent, obese, alderman-like. It is fashionable in both men and women to allow the nails of the left hand to grow to an inordinate length, until they assume an appearance very like the claws of the bradypus, as represented in Sir Charles Bell's work on the “ Hand.” An English gentleman in China reasonably prohibited one of his servants from indulging in this piece of foppery, on the ground that fingers provided with such appendages could not possibly perform any work. The brittleness of the nail rendering it liable to break, they have been known sometimes to protect it, when very long, by means of thin slips of bamboo.
But the most unaccountable species of taste is that mutilation of the women's feet, for which the Chinese are so remarkable; a custom of whose origin there is lio very distinct account, except that it took place about
the close of the Tâng dynasty, or the end of the ninth century of our era. The Tartars have had the good sense not to adopt this artificial deformity, and their ladies wear a shoe like that of the men, except that it has a white sole of still greater thickness. As it would seem next to impossible to refer to any notions of physical beauty, however arbitrary, such shocking mutilation as that produced by the cramping of the foot in early childhood, it may partly be ascribed to the principle which dictates the fashion of long nails. The idea conveyed by these is exemption from labour, and as the small feet make cripples of the women, it is fair to conclude that the idea of gentility which they convey arises from a similar association. That appearance of helplessness, which is induced by the mutilation, they admire extremely, notwithstanding its very usual concomitant of sickliness; and the tottering gait of the poor women, as they hobble along upon the heel of the foot, they compare to the waving of a willow agitated by the breeze. We may add that this odious custom extends lower down in the scale of society than might have been expected from its disabling effect upon those who have to labour for their subsistence. If the custom was first imposed by the tyranny of the men, the women are fully revenged in the diminution of their charms and domestic usefulness,
In no instances have the folly and childishness of a large portion of mankind been more strikingly displayed than in those various, and occasionally very opposite, modes in which they have departed from the standard of nature, and sought distinction even in deformity. Thus, while one race of people crushes the feet of its children, another flattens their heads between two boards; and while we in Europe admire the natural whiteness of the teeth, the Malays file off the enamel, and dye them black, for the all-sufficient
reason that dogs' teeth are white! A New Zealand Chief has his distinctive coat of arms emblazoned on the skin of his face, as well as on his limbs; and an Esquimaux is nothing if he have not bits of stone stuffed through a hole in each cheek. Quite as absurd, and still more mischievous, is the infatuation which, among some Europeans, attaches beauty to that modification of the human figure which resembles the wasp, and compresses the waist until the very ribs have been distorted, and the functions of the vital organs irreparably disordered.
It is an interesting question to investigate how the Chinese are to be ranked with other nations in the comparative scale of civil society. We have already endeavoured to show in part, and have still to show, the considerable moral and political advantages which they actually possess, and which Sir George Staunton has, with his usual knowledge and ability, summed up as attributable “ to the regard paid to the ties of kindred; to the sobriety, industry, and intelligence of the lower classes; to the nearly total absence of feudal rights and privileges; to the equal distribution of landed property; to the indisposition of Government to engage in schemes of foreign warfare and ambition; and to a system of penal laws the most clearly defined, comprehensive, and business-like of any, at least among Asiatics." It would be idl the other hand, to deny that they possess vices and defects peculiar to their own political and social condition.
It has been reasonably argued by the authority above quoted, that “a people whose written language is founded on the most ancient of principles, and the frame of whose government is essentially conformable to the patriarchal system of the first ages, must have segregated themselves from the rest of mankind, before the period at which the symbolic was
superseded by the alphabetic character, and the patriarchal by other forms of government.
The same circumstances of government and language, which denote the untiquity of the Chinese institutions, may, we think, account for their durability. The theory of government combining the pater atque princeps, which has always been the first to present itself to men's minds, if not the best in practice, may be the most plausible in principle; and the system of written characters, which cannot be altered with the readiness of our syllabic words (notoriously the subjects of caprice in most languages), may have given a considerable fixedness to the intellect of China, through the medium of its literature. Any one who has been in the habit of translating into Chinese, knows the difficulty of conveying foreign ideas in an intelligible shape.
There is another primitive characteristic to be noticed in the classification of the four ranks, or orders, into which the com
mmunity of China is divided. These are, in the first place, the learned ; secondly, husbandmen; thirdly, manufacturers; and fourthly, merchants. This arrangement seems sufficiently correct and philosophical, considered with a reference merely to the successive rise of those four orders in the progress of society. In the earliest ages, superior wisdom and knowledge, the result of old age and experience, constitute the principal claim to respect and distinction. As society advances, and as nomadic tribes become fixed to particular spots, they turn their attention to the cultivation of land. With the gradual increase of raw produce, the rise of towns, and the adoption of exchanges between town and country, follow manufactures; and lastly, with the growth of capital and the increase of manufactures, comes commerce, domestic and foreign.
But by the time that a country has reached a certain point of advancement, this pristine arrangement