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recognised it as an imperial endowment. A bridge, very tastefully built over an artificial tank, led to an extensive area paved with quarried stones. Though the same architecture reigned in the structure of this larger building as: in the others, we could distinguish a superior taste and a higher finish. The idols were the same, but their votaries were far more numerous ; indeed, this is the largest temple I have ever seen. The halls, being arrayed with all the tinsel of idolatry, presented numerous specimens of Chinese art.
“The colossal images were made of clay, and tolerably well gilt. There were great drums and cylindrical bells in the temple. We were present at the vespers of the priests, which they chanted in the Pâli language, not unlike the Latin service of the Romish church. They held their rosaries in their hands, which rested folded upon their breasts. One of them had a small bell, by the tinkling of which their service was regulated ; and they occasionally beat the drum and large bell to rouse Budha's attention to their prayers. The same words were a hundred times repeated. None of the officiating persons showed any interest in the ceremony, for some were looking around, laughing and joking, while others muttered their prayers. The few people who were present, not to attend the worship, but to gaze at us, did not seem in the least degree to feel the solemnity of the service. Though the government sometimes decries Budhism as a dangerous doctrine, we saw papers stuck up, wherein the people were exhorted to repair to these temples in order to induce Heaven to grant a fertile spring ; and these exhortations were issued by the emperor himself. What inconsistency !
“ On the island are two large and sixty small temples which are all built in the same style ; and the idol of
Kuân-yin holds a prominent station. We were told that upon this spot, not exceeding twelve square miles, 2000 priests were living. No females are allowed to live on the island, nor any layman suffered to reside there, except in the service of the priests. To maintain this numerous train of idlers, lands on the opposite island have been allotted for their use, which they farm out; but as this is still inadequate, they go upon begging expeditions, not only into the surrounding provinces, but even as far as Siam. From its being a place of pilgrimage, also, the priests derive great profits. To every person who visits this island it appears at first like a fairy land, so romantic is everything that meets the eye. Those large inscriptions hewn in solid granite ; the many temples that appear in every direction; the highly picturesque scenery itself, with its many-peaked, riven, and detached rocks; and, above all, a stately mausoleum, the largest which I have ever seen, containing the bones and ashes of thousands of priests, quite bewilder the imagination.” *
* As the Poo-to island closely adjoins Chusan, it was a place of frequent resort to the British during our five years' occupation.
Laou-keun, the Chinese Epicurus — His sect — Fragment of old ro
inance — The philosopher and his wife' – Origin of Voltaire's • Zadig' — Superstitions - Fatalism - Illustrative tale — Charms and talismans — Belief in ghosts illustrated - Omens — Divination.
The third religious or philosophic persuasion that has established itself in China is that of Taou, or of Laoukeun, which was the name, or rather title, of the founder. This person appeared nearly simultaneously with Confucius, by whom he is mentioned about 560 years before the Christian era. As far as can be gathered of the real drift of his doctrines, he seems to have inculcated a contempt of riches and honours, and all worldly distinctions, and to have aimed, like Epicurus, at subduing every passion that could interfere with personal tranquillity and self-enjoyment. As death, however, was something that they could not pretend to despise, his disciples and successors set themselves to work to invent an elixir of long life, or of immortality, and thus became in time a species of alchymists. They have been alternately favoured and persecuted at different periods of Chinese history, but seem to have flourished most'under the Soong dynasty, subsequent to the tenth century of our era, a period when all speculative opinions, and every species of spurious learning, were most in vogue.
The principal commentator on the works of Confucius speaks of Laou-keun, or, as he is sometimes styled, Laoutsze,* with little respect, and calls him “an ignorant good man.” He is there described as a recluse, who was distinguished by his humility, uprightness, simplicity of life, and exemption from cares and passions. He taught and practised a weak inactivity and neglect of the world and its concerns, loving neither fame, nor pleasure, nor business. It is reasonable to suppose that the principal fabric of that doctrine which now distinguishes the professors of the Taou sect was the work of those who succeeded Laoukeun, and made use of his name as the foundation of their system. They call him “ the original ancestor, or founder honoured of heaven;" and the account given of him in popular books is, that he was an incarnation of some superior being, and that there is no age in which he does not come forth among men in human shape. They tell the various names under which he appeared, from the highest period of fabulous antiquity down as late as the sixth century, making in all seven periods. In imitation, perhaps, of the Budhist Triad, the followers of Taou have also their own Triad, which they denominate “the Three pure ones.” This threefold source and supreme ruler is represented as presiding in heaven among the assembled gods, the sun, moon, stars, and constellations, and delivering his name, accompanied by many epithets of benevolence and mercy, to the “great barefooted angel,” to be promulged in the lower world, that, amongst men, all who see and recite that name may attain infinite happiness and complete deliverance from all evil. Their principal scripture is the Taou-tě-king, a Latin version of which exists in the library of the Royal Society.
* The legend says he was born with white hair, and thence called Laou-tsze, “the old infant.”.
+ Morrison's Dictionary, Part I. p. 582.
Besides the practice of alchymy, to which they were led in their search for the elixir of long life, the disciples of Laou-keun have at different times professed the science of magic, and their arts of imposition were, at various periods of Chinese history, practised upon the sovereigns of the country. Under the Tâng dynasty this superstition gained such credit that the title of Tien-sze, “Celestial doctors or teachers,” was conferred on its professors : a superb temple was erected to Laou-keun, and his image placed in it. It is said that the representatives of the head of the sect have still a large establishment in the province of Keang-sy, where numbers flock from all parts to obtain cures for diseases or to learn their destinies. The sect appears, in fact, to have degenerated very much from the character and tenets of the original founder, and many who wear the garb of the Taou-sze are at present little better than cheats and jugglers, professing to have communication with demons. The chief point of distinction in garb between them and the rest of the Chinese is the mode in which they dress their hair, which is fastened at the top of the head by means of a pin or skewer, somewhat after the fashion of the people of Loo-choo. It is by many degrees the least popular or predominant sect of China ; its superstitions now engage only a few of the most ignorant, and the Taou-sze are but rarely seen.
In proof of the puerile nature of the superstitions which have occupied this sect, we may produce an extract from an original Chinese work, the history of the “Three States," in which are detailed the legends relating to the three brothers Chang, who professed the doctrines of the Taou sect, and at the head of an insurrection of rebels, called “Yellow Caps," produced those troubles which ended in the ruin of the Hân dynasty. “ Lew-pei took occasion to steal upon Chang-paou with his whole force,