31 MARCH 1855, Page 16

FISHBOIIRNE'S IMPRESSIONS OF CHINA. * CAPTAIN FrunionuicE served for some time

in China, and his Im- pressions of the Celestials contain useful and rather striking mat- ter, overlaid by the groundless hopes and headlong reasonings of a sanguine man engaged in riding a hobby. Spite of facts which have passed before his eyes, it is the opinion of Captain Fish- bourne that the present insurrectionary movement in China bids • Impressions of China, and the Present Revolution : its Progress and Prospects. By Captain Fishbourne Commander of the Hermes on her late visit to Nankin. Published by Seeley.

very fair for the success of Protestant Christianity. The principal leader, indeed, if all is true that is reported of him, professes to be

a brother of Jesus, and to have divine revelations, which to Eu- ropean ideas pass even beyond blasphemy. A second chieftain, Yang, openly proclaims himself to be the Holy Ghost. If the rebels have a complete translation of the Bible, which seems doubt- ful, it is Gutzlaff's—a version objected to by some scholars : Captain Fishbourne himself adduces cogent reasons for question- ing the possibility of translating the more peculiarly Christian part of the Scriptures into Chinese till the ideas connected with Christian theology become more familiar to the Chinese mind.

" Owing to the symbolic character of their written language, every new idea must have a new symbol, or a part of the old idea will be imported into and mixed up with any new idea that may be represented by an old symbol; and this will be true in part where the new symbol is made up of old sym- bols: thus, where they wished to express sou', they combined two old sym- bols, as I understand, —that which stands for man; and that which expressed sees '; implying, that the soul was the seeing principle of man : yet this is only an approximation to our idea of soul ; this expresses only what we understand of mind.

" Christians are not yet agreed upon the correct word for rendering God. One class use shin '; others insist that this means simply a spirit, and is applied often to false gods : both these parties, however, are at one in saying that the term used by the Roman Catholics= Tien-chu '—is very defective. '

Captain Fishbourne describes the morals of the insurgents as strict ; their manner more open and manly than that of Chinese in general. It would appear that their arrogance and self-sufficiency are quite as great as those of the present Tartar rulers with the notion of a religious superiority superadded. From whatever source they have got it, the Papal idea of universal dominion is present to their minds ; and though disposed to receive us as fellow religionists, it is somewhat in the light of younger brothers, bound to render respect, if not tribute. Even our author allows that if the insurgents succeed, this disposition may be more difficult to deal with than the same feeling in the present rulers, who have had some of it drubbed out of them. It must not be forgotten that charges of licentiousness and tippling have been brought against one of their leaders. An Imperial address states, that a prisoner, said to be the mysterious Tien-td, confessed that Tae-ping "was moreover addicted to wine and debauchery, having with him thirty- six women." It is possible that the charge is an Imperial scandal; and the horror of "thirty-six" is affectation from a sovereign who keeps five hundred. Still, the number of "female chamberlains" looks suspicions, and reminds one of the veiled prophet, Joe Smith, and other religious impostors.

Dr. Bridgeman, who is better qualified than Captain Fishbourne to judge of the theological opinions of the rebels, from his residence in China, his knowledge of the language, and his professional studies, is far less sanguine and more judicious in his estimate.

"Their government is a theocracy, the development apparently of what is believed by them to be a new dispensation. As in the case of the Israelites under Moses, they regard themselves as directed by one who has been raised up by the Almighty to be the executor of his will on earth. They believe• their body politic to be under the immediate direction of the Deity. Some- times their leaders, they say, are taken up to heaven ; and sometimes the Heavenly Father comes down to them. * * "Christians they may be, in name ; and they are in very deed iconoclasts of the strictest order. They have in their possession probably the entire Bible, both the Old and New Testaments ; and are publishing what is usually known as Gutzlaff's version' of the same. I have said, therefore, that in 'some sort' they may recognize its doctrines. How far their er- rors are to be attributed to errors or defects in that version, is a question which I must not here discuss. Their ideas of the Deity are exceedingly im- perfect. Though they declare plainly that there is • only One True God' yet the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, the equality of the Son with the Father, and many other doctrines generally received by Protestant Chris- tians, as being clearly revealed in the Bible, are by them wholly ignored. True, they have formulas in which some of these doctrines are taught ; but then these are borrowed formulas, and they have used them without com- prehending their true import."

The image-breaking noticed by Dr. Bridgeman is of no particular moment as a proof of Protestantism. The Chinese have no re- ligion, as we understand the word. Any Chinaman would break an image if he had a motive for doing it and were secured from consequences that might arise. The insurgents are unquestionably innovators. They do not wear the long tail, and in various ways they oppose themselves to established modes. They profess a strict moral code ; avoiding opium-smoking, spirit-drinking, and all impurity, which the lower orders may carry out to some extent. From several accounts they seem to have adopted communistic principles as regards goods. However, we know too little of their practices and opinions to speak with certainty as to particular facts, much less to draw general conclusions.

The great object of Captain Fishbourne's work being to uphold the idea that the conversion of China to genuine Christianity is probable if not imminent, a large portion is devoted to opposing or explaining away such facts as we have already alluded to. This is attempted by arguments by no means cogent in themselves; by tedious and now and then stale quotations from the published pro- ductions attributed to the insurgents. This kind of matter pre- dominates far too much in the volume and is neither selected nor arranged with judgment. The reader is called upon to wade through a good deal of matter without obtaining a fair view of the question, or acquiring information proportioned to the drudgery. Neither are some of the Captain's general accounts of the Chinese forming a basis for his subsequent arguments, of a very fresh. kind. We knew already much of what he tells us.

It is otherwise with his original observations. During his service in China he visited the ports that are open to Eu- ropeans by treaty. He was at Shanghai in command of the Hermes during the advance of the rebels upon Nankin and their occupation of the place. He was thus a witness of much that

was going on both among natives and Europeans. He carried Sir George Bonham up the Chiang-kiang-foo, to communicate with 'the rebel chief at Nankin ; seeing much and hearing more on the voyage. He was at Amoy when it was occupied by another class insurgents, nsurgents, to whose objects and principles less attention seems to have been paid, but who are known by the name of the "Triads or Short Sword Society." A. body of these got possession of the place with a total loss of about a dozen lives, some of the deaths being accidental. The Imperialists retired before the Short Sword people, and though reinforced made no attempt to retake the city, till the rebels withdrew from want of ammunition and pro- visions. Although not under such strict discipline as the followers of the Son of Heaven, they behaved pretty well. On the re- entry of the Imperialists with certain pirates whom they had taken into pay, a scene of horrible butchery began.

"Having engaged pirates, the authority was committed to them, to sanc- tion the atrocities that these would certainly commit ; and, as if that were not sufficient, they encouraged them to more than they might other- wise be inclined to, for they promised them six dollars for each head they would bring in. "On the entry of these savages, the first thing they did was to disperse in every direction in search of heads—regardless of any thing save that the people who possessed them should be helpless ; it mattered not to them that they were equally infirm and unoffencling : they had heads—these they wanted.

"All found were brought to the Chinese Admiral ; whose vessel was close to us, so we saw all that was passing. He then issued a mandate for their destruction. At first they began by taking their heads off at the adjoining pier : this soon was fully occupied, and the executioners becoming fatigued, the work proceeded slowly ; therefore an additional set commenced taking their heads off on the sides of the boats. This also proved too slow for them, and they commenced to throw them overboard, tied hand and foot. But this was too much for Europeans ; so missionaries, merchants, sailors, ma- rines, and officers, all rushed in and stopped further proceedings. The man- darins, executioners, staff and all, took themselves off very quickly, for fear of consequences they could not calculate upon, but which they felt they had richly deserved : four hundred poor creatures were saved from destruction ; two hundred and fifty of these were wounded—some with twenty, others less, but more dangerous wounds. Some had their heads nearly severed ; about thirty died. The mandarins then removed their scene of butchery a mile outside the town; and during the next two days, after having obtained possession, they must have taken off upwards of two thousand heads, or otherwise de- stroyed that number of people. For days bodies were floating about the harbour, carried out by one tide and brought back by another, each time not quite so far, so that finally they were only disposed of by being taken to sea. Many on whom sentence of death was not passed had their noses slit or cut off; others the ears cut off, or nailed to a post in the sun, and subject to the injury and insult of the less ill-disposed persons. I could not fail to see that this treatment excited the sympathy of many of the passers-by ; and on one occasion that the ill-treatment of one of them nailed to a post called down upon the individual an execration that made him instantly desist and walk off, The only feeling the brutal pirates evinced was that of disappointment at being deprived (as they said) by us of three thousand dollars.'

The volume concludes with a summary view of the position of the belligerents, and the best course for the English to follow. At first we thought the author was about to advise a treaty i of al- liance with the insurgents in return for assistance, as he s con- fident that they will finally succeed. He lands, however, in smaller but more practical conclusions. He holds that we ought not to pay any duties, but, disregarding both parties, push our trade wherever there is an opening.

"To my mind our course is clear we should have nothing to do with either party till they have decided the question of empire, or until one has arrived at that point when to defer assistance were to injure China by allow- ing disorganization to continue longer.

"Being virtually without a treaty, we can have no difficulty in disre- garding the Tartars equally with the insurgents whom we never recognized, and should push our trade in every direction—up to Shanghai and Peche-li, where our woollens and hardware would meet with a ready though limited sale for the present : we might have furs amongst other things in exchange. "Up the Yang-tse-kiang—certainly as far as Hanchow, the emporium of China—unless we have access thus far into the interior, we cannot expect a sale for either our hardware or machinery, nor an extensive sale for our cotton cloths. With this we may obtain coals in abundance, at a reasonable rate ; and taking it will extend the sale of our products. We should push it at every port."