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FUNERAL RITES.

281

once

was.

perhaps, at their success, brought this as a charge against them, until the point became one of serious controversy and reference to the Pope. His holiness being determined to govern men's consciences at Peking, and supersede the Emperor's authority over his subjects, espoused the bigoted and unwiser part, which of course led to the expulsion of the monks of all varieties, “ black, white, and grey, with all their trumpery,” and prevented those social and political mischiefs which have invariably attended their influence elsewhere. Such a strict persecution of the Romish converts followed, that, after the lapse of about three centuries, the number of them at the present day is as nothing in comparison with what it

The Emperor said of their conduct, “ This surely is as contradictory to reason and social order, as the wild fury of a mad dog.” With reference to one of their miracles (of which they were liberal), he adds, “ it would appear to be a tale which their ingenuity has contrived; and upon this principle what is there we may not readily expect them to say or write ?”

The body of a rich person is generally transported to his native province, however distant, but on the journey it is not permitted to pass through any walled town. We might take a lesson from their wholesome practice of allowing no interments within cities, and of confining them to either hills, or the most barren tracts unavailable for cultivation; thus consulting at once the health and the subsistence of the living. To perform

" the rites at the hills,” is synonymous with the tombs in Chinese. To such sanitory regulations, and to the antiseptic effects attending the constant burning of incense, crackers, &c., in every house, we may principally attribute the remarkable healthiness of Canton and other towns, notwithstanding the drawbacks of a dense population, hot imate,

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low site, indifferent drainage of houses, &c. Indeed, were it not for the comparative coldness of the climate in European cities, where such abominations prevail, the gorging the earth with corpses until it refuses to cover them, and the filling of churches with dead bodies, might work effects, sufficiently evident to all, to expel prejudices which

Sans honorer les morts, fout mourir les vivans." No corpse

is ever allowed to be carried up a landingplace, or to pass through a gateway which can in any way be construed as pertaining to the Emperor, on account of the supposed ill omen, concerning which the Chinese are so particular as seldom even to mention death except by a circumlocution, as to become immortal," that is, in the modified sense of the Budhists.

On the occasion of a deceased officer from a British ship being taken ashore for burial at Macao, the sailors were proceeding with the coffin up the steps leading to the Chinese custom-house, when the inmates of the latter turned out with sticks and staves to prevent them. The sailors being, as usual, quite ready to fight, particularly on an occasion when they supposed some insult was intended to the dead, it is likely that mischief might have ensued, if a person on the spot, who understood the prejudice, and explained it satisfactorily, had not prevented the effects of the misunderstanding.

The importance which the Chinese attach to the spot in which a body should be buried, is sometimes the occasion of extraordinary delay in the performance of the funeral ceremonies. A Hong merchant at Canton, who was the eldest son of the family, and had deferred for various superstitious reasons the interment of his father's body, was prosecuted at law by the next brother, and finally compelled to commit it to the tomb. The principal scruples on these occasions arise

PERIODS OF MOURNING.

283

circumstances relative to the situation and aspect of the sepulchro, a sort of geomantic science, in which the same cheats who profess astrology affect to be adepts. Their calling is a sufficiently secure one, since it is as difficult to prove the negative as the affirmative of those propositions in which they deal; and the dead make no complaints, being on such points, as the doctor in Molière says,“ Les plus honnêtes gens du monde.The choice of a lucky spot is supposed to have a considerable influence on the fortunes of the survivors, and they will sometimes, after the lapse of many years, dig up the bones with care, and remove them to a distant and more favourable site. All tombs are sacred to How-too, “ queen earth,” an expression which has a most singular parallel, not only in the words, but the occasion of their use, in a passage of the Electra of Euripides, where Orestes, invoking the shade of his father at the tomb, adds,

Kai τ' ανασσα, χειρος η διδώμ' εμας*. “ And thou queen earth, to whom I stretch my hands.” The original and strict period of mourning (according to the ritual) is three years for a parent, but this is commonly reduced in practice to thrice nine, or twenty-seven months, during which an officer of the highest rank must retire to his house, unless under a particular dispensation from the Emperor. The full period of three years must elapse before children can marry subsequent to the death of their parents. The colour of mourning is white, and dull grey, or ash, with round buttons of crystal or glass, in lieu of gilt ones; the ornamental ball, denoting rank, is taken from the cap, as well as the tuft of crimson silk which falls over the latter. As the Chinese shave their heads, the neglect and desolation of mourning is indicated by letting the hair grow; for the same reason that some

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* Electr. 677.

nations, who wore their hair long, have shaved it during that period. On the death of the Emperor, the same observances are kept, by his hundreds of millions of subjects, as on the death of the parent of each individual; the whole empire remains unshaven for the space of one hundred days, while the period of mourning apparel lasts longer, and all officers of Government take the ball and crimson silk from their caps. It is said that on the death of Kâng-hy's Empress, four of her maids desired to be buried with her; but that wise monarch would not permit the exercise of this piece of Scythian barbarity, the practice of which he abolished for ever in favour of the more humane and civilized customs of the Chinese.

In regard to the succession to paternal property, the disposal of it by will is restricted except to the legal heirs; and we have seen that, to a very limited extent, there is a law of primogeniture, inasmuch as the eldest son, or he who “buys water," at the funeral rites, has a double portion. More cor rectly speaking, perhaps, the property may be said to descend to the eldest son* in trust for all the younger brothers, over whom he has a considerable authority, and who commonly live together and club their shares, by which means families in this over-peopled country are more easily subsisted than they would otherwise be, and every man's income is made to go the farthest possible. To this usage, and the necessity for it, may be attributed the constant exhortations of the Emperor, in the book of “ Sacred Edicts,” relative to the preservation of union and concord among kindred and their families.

* Leu lee, sec. 78.

MANNERS AND CUSTOMS.

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CHAPTER VIII.

MANNERS AND CUSTOMS.

The New Year-Fireworks-Contrariety of Usages and Notions to our own

-Festivals-Meeting the Spring-Encouragements to Husbandry--Festival for the Dead-Chinese Assumption-Ceremonial Usages-Diplomatic Forms-Feasts and Entertainments-Dinners-Particular descrip tion of one-Asiatic Politeness-Articles of Food and Drink-Taverns and Eating-houses-Amusements-Gambling-Conviviality-Kite-flying --Imperial Hunts--Skaiting at Peking.

moon

There is, perhaps, no people in the world that keeps fewer holidays than the Chinese, among whose overflowing population the introduction of a Romish calendar of saints would be altogether disastrous. Some of their festivals are regulated by the sun, and are therefore fixed, as the winter solstice, and the period for visiting the tombs; but the greater number, being dependent on the moon, become accordingly moveable. The principal, and almost the only universal, season of leisure and rejoicing is the new year, at which time indeed the whole empire may be said to be almost beside itself. On the approach of the new which falls nearest to the point when the sun is in the 15° of Aquarius, (the commencement of the Chinese civil year,) all public offices are closed for some ten days in advance, and the mandarins lock up their seals until the 20th of the first moon. On the night of the last day of the old year, everybody sits up, and at the moment of midnight commences an interininable feu de joie of crackers strung together. Indeed, the consumption of this noisy species of firework is so enormous, that the air becomes absolutely charged with nitre; and a Governor of Canton once in vain endeavoured to suppress it, on the ground of the undue

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