13 JANUARY 1855, Page 22


THE author of these volumes is known to the world as a Roman Catholic missionary to Central Asia and China ; whose pik,•rimages in Tartary and Thibet have come before the British public in seve- ral forms, abridged or unabridged. So far as travelling is in ques- tion, the present work embraces a palanquin and boat journey from the Northern frontiers of China and Thibet to Canton. When Missionary Hue and his colleague were residing in Thibet, they were arrested by a so-called Chinese "Ambassador "—a function- ary probably resembling our Indian Residents. They were sent by him to Tching-tou-fou, the capital of the province of Sse-tchouen, for final transmission either to Pekin for trial or to Canton for ex- pulsion. The Viceroy of the province deeided upon the latter course. As both he and the Ambassador were goodnatured men, with perhaps some vision of the late English war before their minds, the missionaries were treated as state guests rather than as prisoners. An inferior mandarin attended them ; they were ac- companied by an escort of soldiers ; and their expenses were de- frayed.

The circuitous route by which they were taken carried them along the great Western inland water communications, and through some of the great centres of traffic of this vast empire, as well as over provinces of various climate, soil, and people. Confined to a palanquin, a boat, or a public building, save when they paid a visit to some authority, M. Hue did not enjoy much better means of observation than the European embassies of whose opportuni- ties he speaks rather slightingly. Beyond an occasional interview with some Christians, there are few occurrences to break the mo- notony of so long a journey, save in the interviews the Romish missionaries persisted in forcing upon the Chinese authorities, when they were neglected or insufficiently provided for. Unless the Frenchman's vivacity has exaggerated his conduct on these occasions—which is not improbable—he often behaved with what he truly enough calls audacity. It may be, as he continually in- timates, necessary to carry things with a high hand in China; but his mode of proceeding would in most countries have defeated it- self, or procured its author a worse lodging than he had sometimes to complain about. The great extent of ground traversed brings before the reader the external features of many things animate and inanimate in China. As a picture of the daily life of the Chinese, and of their mode of private travelling, the narrative is inferior to Fortune's "Wander- ings." M. Hue, however, illustrates the observation of the tra- veller by the knowledge of the resident. Familiar with the Chinese language and literature, and having for some years tra- versed the central and Northern parts of China as a missionary, he is practically acquainted with the people. This knowledge he pours into his narrative, making its incidents very often a text. Living mandarins are introduced; and thereupon he discourses about the power, character, and so forth, of the class. When he forces his way into a court of law, and interrupts the proceedings to prefer some grievance of his own, the actual account is connected with a picture of Chinese criminals, laws, and mode of adminis- tration. The physical contrast between one province and another gives rise to an exposition of the great varieties of every kind to be found in the empire. 'A habit, as smoking opium, leads to a dis- cussion on the vicious habits of the Chinese people; and so on. These general inductions respecting the character, manners, insti-

• The Chinese Empire: forming a Sequel to the Work entitled "Recollections of

a Journey through Tartary and Thibcp. ' By Si. Hue, formerly Missionary Apos- tolic in China. In two volumes. Published by Longman and Co.

tntions, and practices of the people, strike us as being the most valuable parts of the work for their matter, and the best in a lite- rary point of view. IL Hue has the 'vivacity oi a Frenchman, but it is not accompanied by strength ; he is fond of reporting inter- views dramatically, without dramatic vigour or actual substance in-his dialogues; and a doubt sometimes arises as to the perfect fidelity of his pictures. In his more general expositions he may tell us some things which we knew before, and he quotes largely frOm authors to be fouhd nearer than China—as Remusat. He has, however, put forward fresher, perhaps newer opinions, as to the Chinese people and empire, than we have yet had. He cer- tainly regards them with the eye of a Frenchman of the nine- teenth century.

Credulity might be expected from a Romish missionary in re- ligious matters ; but, though K. Hue appears somewhat credulous in several things, they have no reference to religion. The prac- tical difficulties he has encountered from the Chinese mind, in his endeavours to spread the faith, have effectually banished anything approaching to eestaties. It is in fact his religious experience which gives him what may be called his point of view. The Chinese, in some things, he considers equal to Europeans. They are a people with many good traits. The theory of their govern- ment and public system is very good, and capable of producing beneficial effects when endowed with vitality; as may be seen in the long duration of their empire, and the many admirable results produced in the olden time. One besetting evil has long attended them, and has now come to a head in universal corruption. They are what some have striven to establish in France, an atheistical government and an atheistical people, looking to nothing but the positive and material, and not only without a thought beyond this life, but without anything to appeal to save their interest or their fear. The multiplicity and cruelty of Chinese punishments have often been censured ; but they are a necessity. Unless the people were restrained in every possible direction by terror, society would be dissolved, as indeed it almost is in some districts. In Burke's language applied to the French Revolutionists, in their system you see the gallows' at the end of every vista. With all this indifference to what is spiritual, the Christians are persecuted; not for their religion, M. Hue says, but politically, as supposed members of one of these secret societies which extend all over the country, and are the great bugbear of the Imperial _Government— not without reason. Perhaps some doubt, however, may be thrown upon M. Hue's broad conclusion merely on the grounds alleged, that the Chinese have reached • the last corruption owing to their irreligion; since the indifference, though not nationally as old as Confucius, is still very ancient. These opinions are continually appearing in the volumes before us, from the preface to the finis. This is a general instance, be- ginning with an Emperor annotating the writings of an Emperor.

"The Christian religion is, of course, not spared by the commentator of the Emperor Khang-hi ; who was very favourably disposed towards the mis- sionaries, but regarded them merely as artists and learned men, from whom he might obtain some advantage for the state ; as the following passage from his successor, Yeang-tching, will tend to prove. The sect of the Lord of Heaven,' he says, a sect that is perpetually talking about heaven and earth, and beings without substance or shadow, this religion also is perverted and corrupt; but as the Europeans who teach it understand as- tronomy and mathematics, the Government has employed them to correct the calendar. It by no means meant, however, to imply by that their religion was good, and you must not believe anything they tell you.' "Such instruction as this, coining from so high a quarter, could not fail to bear fruit, and all belief in spiritual things and a future life has been ac- cordingly extinguished. • "But although they have thus made a tabula rasa of their religious creeds, the ancient denominations have remained, and the Chinese still like to make use of them; but they are now only the memorials of a feeling long since dead. Nothing more clearly indicates this desolating scepticism, than a formula of politeness exchanged letween unknown persons on their first meeting. It is customary to ask to what sublime religion' you belong. One, perhaps, will call himself a Confucian, another a Buddhist, a third a desciple of Lao-tze, a fourth a follower of Mehemet, of whom there are many in China; and then every one begins to pronounce a panegyric on the religion to which he does not belong, as politeness requires; after which they all repeat in chorus, ' Pou-toun-lciao, toun-ly," Religions are many ; reason is one ; we are all brothers.' This phrase is on the lips of every Chinese, and they bandy it from one to the other with the most exquisite urbanity. It is indeed a clear and concise expression of their feeling on religious questions. In their eyes, a worship is merely an affair of taste and fashion, to which no more importance is to be attached than to the colour of your garment. " The government, the literary dame; the whole nation in fact, regard albreligions as things futile and of no interest ; and it may therefore easily be supposed that there reigns in China an incomparable toleration for every kind of worship. The Chinese enjoy, in fact, the most perfect liberty in this respect, provided always that the authorities can be convinced that under pretence of a religious association you are not concealing a political object injurious to the state. For this reason only, as we have said before, the Christians are reproached and persecuted by the magistrates.'

Here is a particular example of the Chinese mind in the ease of one whom the Missionary calls a "really good fellow."

"In one of the principal towns of China, we were for some time in com- munication with a lettered Chinese, who appeared extremely well disposed to embrace Christianity. We had several conferences together, and we studied carefully the most important and difficult points of doctrine ; and finally, by way of complement to our oral instruction, we read some of the best hooks. Our dear catechumen admitted, without any exception, every- thing we advanced; the only difficulty was, he said, the learning by heart the prayers, that every good Christian ought to know, in order to say them morning and evening. As he seemed nevertheless to desire putting off to some indefinite period the moment in which he should declare himself a Christian, every time he came to see us we urged him to do so, and made the most earnest representation of the duty of following the truth, now that he knew where it lay. 'By and by,' said se ; all in good time. One should never be precipitate.' One day, however, he spoke out a little more. Come,' said he, 'let us speak today only wirds conformable to reason. It

ia not good to be too enthusiastic. No doubt, the Christian religion is beau- tiful and sublime ; its doctrine explains, with method and clearness, all that it is necessary for man to know. Whoever has any sense must see that, and will adopt it in his heart in all sincerity : but, after all, one must not think' too much of these things, and increase the cares of life. Now, just consider —we have a body ; how many cares it demands. It must be clothed, fed, and sheltered from the injuries of the weather; its infirmities are great, and its maladies numerous. It is agreed on all hands that health is our most precious good. This body that we see, that we touch, must be taken care of every day and every moment of the day. Now, is not this enough, with- out troubling ourselves about a soul, that we never do see ? The life of man is short and full of misery ; it is made up of a succession of important concerns that follow one another without interruption. Our hearts and our minds are scarcely sufficient for the solicitudes of the present life—is it wise, then, to torment one's self about the future one ? ' " In a notice of the Insurrection of China, some two years ago,t we doubted whether the rebellion offered favourable prospects to Christianity, as some fancied, or to internal reformation. M. Rue goes further than we ventured, in doubting any benefit to Chris- tianity from the movement, and he anticipates nothing but evil to Christians. Upon his system, reform would be as far off' as ever, since the morals would remain the same; though he admits that new ideas have come in with the insurrection, and that this seems to indicate progress.

"But for the present it appears to us difficult to see in the chief of this Chinese insurrection anything else than a kind of Chinese Mehemet, seeking to establish his power by fire and sword, and crying to his fanatical parti- sans, 'There is no God but God, and Tien-te is the younger brother of Jesus Christ.' •

"We must not forget, in fact, that Christianity is in no way concerned in the crisis which the empire is now passing through. The Christians, too wise and prudent to hoist a political standard, are also too few in number to exercise any sensible influence on the affairs of the country, and they have remained neutral. For this reason they have become equally suspected by both parties, and we fear will be hereafter equally exposed to punishment, whichever side may be ultimately victorious. Should the Mantehoo Go- vernment triumph over the insurrection, which already more than once has displayed the cross upon its standards, it will have no mercy on the Chris- tians, and this long struggle will have only served to redouble its suspicions and embitter its wrath : if, on the contrary, Tien-te should gain the victory, and succeed in driving out the ancient conquerors of China, since he claims not only to found a new dynasty but also a new worship, he will, in the intoxication of victory, break through every obstacle that may oppose his projects."

A complaint of the insurrectionists is confirmed by M. Hue, that the literary examination certificates, which alone qualify for office' may now be obtained for money. He also adds a re- finement even upon official corruption. "The literary examinations are, like everything 'else, degenerating and sinking to decay. They have no longer the grave, earnest, impartial charac- ter that was doubtless impressed on them at the time of their institution. The corruption which has spread through everything without exception in China has also found its way among both examiners and examined. The rules that ought to be observed in the examinations are extremely stringent, with a view to prevent any kind of fraud, and discover the true merit of the candidate; but, by certain financial methods' a way has been found to neutralize the effect of these precautions. A rich man can always find out beforehand the subjects proposed for the various compositions ; and, what is worse, even the suffrages of the judges are sold to the highest bidder.

"A student who knows he is not capable of going through the examina- tion, or who has not been able to procure the programme of the questions, coolly goes with a certain sum in his hand to some poor graduate who has the requisite ability, and who merely takes the name of the candidate for honours, assumes his place, and brings him back the diploma. It is a regu- lar branch of industry, which is carried on almost publicly in China ; and the Chinese in their picturesque language, have given to the gentlemen who have obtained their degree in this fashion, the name of crupper bache- lors."

We have oftener than once remarked that many of the Eu- ropean arts, habits, and institutions, may be found in China, per- fect or in their germ.. M. Hue's volumes furnish additional instances. Perfect freedom of locomotion is yet unknown on the Continent of Europe, perfect freedom of association for business purposes is only struggling for existence in England : both are es- tablished in China. Our new model lodging-houses, at once phi- lanthropic and profitable, have been forestalled in the Flowery Land ; and, by the by, at Pekin the vagrants nestle in feathers with a coverlet let down by machinery over all. The beggars form a guild of their own, as in London; the Chinese have loan societies, apparently better than our late establishments—indeed they could not be worse. There is complete liberty of the press in China, with the trifling drawback of a stringent libel law ; and they have "a cheap literature." We are striving as a matter of science to breed salmon artificially : in China, spawn is carried about the country, and shoals of fish are raised by the peasantry for market. The" men of the gaudy banner "—thus the Chinese designate those who sail under the stars and stripes—may be sur- prised to learn that Lynch law is no novelty : till the Celestials got generally corrupted, they punished gamblers as they do in the far West, and they did so lately in primitive places. Modern French Revolutionists may learn that they are nothing to the Chinese, who beat them in their own art. Agitators everywhere should know that the placard has long been adopted in China. We hear a great deal in England, and it is to be feared too justly, about the ob- structive power of subordinates and departments, and the want of capacity or power in the chiefs to overcome them : in that too the Celestials have forestalled us. Whatever else may be decaying in the empire, the " red-tapists " are active and flourishing in their vocation.

"When the magistrates arrive at their mandarinate, they find, fixed at their posts, the interpreters and subaltern functionaries ; who, as they know indis- pensable. about the affairs of the locality, can easily render their services In the amallesteircumstances, the magistrates would be incapable

of acting without the help of these agents, who are, in fact, the real govern- ors.

i Spectator for 1853, page 874.

" The papers relating to all the lawsuits are in their hands ; they alone draw them up, and settle beforehand the tenour of the judgment to be given. The magistrate has only to promulgate in public what they have arranged in private and without his participation. Now, all these immoveable factotums are on the spot; they have with them their relations and friends ; and it is therefore not at all surprising that judicial and administrative affairs are con- ducted chiefly through intrigue and cabal. The tribunals are full of these vampires, incessantly occupied in draining away the substance of the people, fist for the mandarins, and then on their own account and that of their friends. We have often been brought into relation with these gentry ; we have seen them at their dirty work, and we can hardly say whether the sight inspired most indignation or disgust."