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(with the exception of the first class) must be considered as merely nominal, and perhaps, in some Jommunities, rather as the inverse order in which the several classes will really stand in relation to each other. The influence of wealth-the consequence arising from superior possessions will have its sway; and as manufactures may become a more fertile source of wealth than tillage, and commerce than manufactures, so the former may impart greater influence to those who pursue them respectively. Accordingly, we find, in China, that the poor cultivator of oneof those small patches, to which the subdivision of inheritances tends to reduce the lands, derives little substantial benefit from the estimation in which his calling is affected to be held; even though the Emperor himself once a year guides the plough. On the other hand, the opulent merchant contrives to obtain the services of those whom he can benefit by his wealth; even the acquaintance and good offices of persons in power, however low the nominal rank assigned to him in the theoretical institutions of the country. At the same time, the class of the learned retain their supremacy far above all, and fill the ranks of government.
Hereditary rank, without merit, is of little value to the possessor, as we have before noticed. The descendants of the Manchow family are ranked in five degrees, which, for that reason only, were distinguished by the Jesuits with the titles of the five orders of European nobility. These imperial descendants wear the yellow girdle, and, without any power whatever, have certain small revenues allotted to them for a subsistence. Of course, as they multiply, some of the remoter branches become reduced to a very indigent condition, when unaided by personal exertion and merit. At the fall of the last Chinese dynasty, a vast number of the ejected family dropped the yellow
REGULATION OF IMPERIAL KINDRED.
girdle, and sought for safety in a private condition. It is said that many of the representatives of the Ming race still remain; one of them was servant to several of the Jesuits; and whenever it shall happen that rebellion succeeds against the Tartars, some of the number may probably be forthcoming.
The imperial relatives of the Tartar line being numerous, and withal, brought up to a life of idleness, are in many cases ignorant, worthless, and dissipated; and it is possibly from some feeling of jealousy, as well as on account of their disorderly character, that they are kept under very strict control. The last British embassy had a specimen of their conduct and manners at Yuen-ming-yuen, as well as of the little ceremony with which they are occasionally treated. When they crowded, with a childish and uncivil curiosity, upon the English party, the principal person among the mandarins seized a whip, and, not satisfied with using that alone, actually kicked out the mob of yellow girdles. In the previous mission of Lord Macartney, Mr. Barrow has related an instance of the meanness of one of these princes of the blood-no less a person than a grandson of the Emperor-who sent him a paltry present, with a broad hint that his gold watch would be acceptable in return.
There are two lines of the imperial house of China ; the first descended from the great conqueror himself, and the second from his collaterals, or his brothers and uncles. The first are called Tsoong-shě*, cestral house," and distinguished by a yellow girdle, and a bridle of the same colour. The second are styled Keolo, (a Tartar word,) and marked by a red sash and bridle. Every thing about their dress and equipage is subject to minute regulation. Some are decorated with the peacock's feather, and others allowed the privilege of the green sedan. There are
* Tsoung-jin Foo.
rules concerning their establishments and retinue, and the number of eunuchs which each may employ. The greatest number of these allowed to any individual is eleven, the chief of whom wears a white ball or button on his cap. For the government of all the members of the imperial kindred there is a court, called the “ office of the ancestral tribe.” This is wholly distinct from the Chinese courts, and has its own laws and usages; and a Wâng (called by the Jesuits regulus, or little king) is president of it.
The principal use of these imperial descendants seems to be the formation of a courtly apanage, to swell the Emperor's state. They are obliged, at the new and full moon, to attend the court, and arrange themselves in order, some within the audience-hall, and some without, at, or rather before daybreak. When the Emperor makes his appearance, they all fall prostrate, and perform their adoration; and it was the party collected for this purpose at daybreak on the 29th August, 1816, which so greatly annoyed the English embassy by their importunate curiosity, and uncourtly rudeness. It is their idle and useless life, and the absence of any motives for exertion, which makes these persons frequently both ignorant and vicious, and extremely troublesome to the Emperor. Many have been ordered away from Peking, and sent to Manchow Tartary, to be placed under the charge of the native chiefs, while others have been sentenced to perpetual solitary confinement. In 1819, one of the imperial clan, wearing a red girdle, found his way to Canton, where he had a relation by affinity officiating as the provincial judge. His plea for quitting the capital was extreme poverty, but the judge did not venture to house him. He was delivered in custody to the local authorities, and packed off again under military escort to Peking, where it is said he was shut up for the remainder of his life.
ROAD OPEN TO TALENT.
These persons are strongly contrasted, in point of intelligence, learning, and every other claim to respect, with the official rulers of China-its real aristocracy. The impartial distribution (with few exceptions) of state offices and magistracies to all who give evidence of superior learning or talent, without regard to birth or possessions, lies probably at the bottom of the greatness and prosperity of the empire. Nothing can be more true than the observations on this subject of the late Dr. Milne, an excellent Chinese scholar: “ This principle has always been maintained; although, as may naturally be supposed, it has often in practice been departed from. Yet the existence of the principle, and its being acted on to a considerable extent, gives every person in China (with the exception of menial servants, the lowest agents of the police, and comedians) a solid reason to be satisfied with the system. They are the ambitious who generally overturn governments; but in China there is a road open to the ambitious, without the dreadful alternative of revolutionizing the country. All that is required of a man is the very reasonable thing, that he should give some proof of the possession of superior talents.
“ The Government affords him every three years, and occasionally oftener, an opportunity of displaying his attainments in a stipulated way; and if it cannot give offices to all, it gives honours, and declares the successful candidate eligible to a situation either civil or military; and finally, to the highest offices of the state, if his merits shall entitle him thereto. The present dynasty has frequently sold commissions both in the civil service and in the army, in order to supply its pecuniary wants; which circumstance gives much dissatisfaction to those who depend on their learning and knowledge for promotion; and this conduct is generally deemed disreputable. Those of the community who are raised above manual labour, or the
drudgery of daily business, are occupied with what gratifies either their laudable emulation, or their vanity and ambition; and from amongst these, when the state wants men, it selects the best talents of the whole country. I submit it, whether the principle and the system, which I have thus slightly exhibited, be not the great secret of the Chinese aggrandizement.”
The superior honours paid to letters over arms must tend to make Chinese ambition run in a peaceful channel. At the annual meetings of the mandarins in the provincial capitals, to perform adoration before the Emperor's shrine, on his birth-day, this difference is shown by the civil officers taking their places to the east (the higher station), and the others to the west. The civil mandarins look upon Confucius as their peculiar patron, and are in fact the high priesthood, whose sole privilege it is to sacrifice at his temples.
The lineal descendants of Confucius also have some hereditary honours. The head of this race is always distinguished by the title of Koong, the highest of the five degrees before mentioned. He repairs to Peking once a year from Keo-fow Hien, in Shantung province, the birth-place of the great philosopher and statesman, and receives certain marks of distinction from the Emperor. Père Bouvet, in 1693, found the Governor of a Chow, or city of the second order, in one of the southern provinces, bearing the same surname, and deriving his descent from the deified teacher of China, but he had earned his office by his learning, and not by his descent. The great limitation in the privileges of the various species of hereditary rank, and the continual subdivision of property among a man's numerous descendants, are the causes which prevent any individual becoming dangerous by his influence or wealth. The true aristocracy of China, its official rulers, are of course a constantly