Herbert A. Giles
Part 3 out of 3
phase of the folly and ignorance which hopelessly overshadow the vast
area of its Empire. For although the Chinese justly regard such
investigations as matters of paramount importance, and the office of
coroner devolves upon a high functionary--the district magistrate--yet
the backward state of science on the one hand, and the necessity the
ruling classes have been under of supplying this deficiency on the
other, have combined to produce at once the most deplorable and the
most laughable results. Two good-sized volumes of "Instructions to
Coroners," beautifully printed on white paper and altogether
handsomely got up, are published under the authority of the
Government, and copies of this book are to be found in the offices of
every magistrate throughout the Empire. It is carefully studied even
by the underlings who play only subordinate parts on such occasions,
and the coroner himself generally carries his private copy with him in
his sedan-chair to the very scene of the inquest. From this work the
following sketch has been compiled, for though it has been our fate to
be present at more than one of the lamentable exhibitions thus
dignified by the name of inquest, and to have had ocular demonstration
of the absurdities there perpetrated, it will be more satisfactory to
stick closely to the text of an officially-recognised book, the
translation of which helped to while away many a leisure hour.
The first chapter opens as follows:--
"There is nothing more sacred than human life: there is no
punishment greater than death. A murderer gives life for life: the
law shows no mercy. But to obviate any regrets which might be
occasioned by a wrong infliction of such punishment, the validity
of any confession and the sentence passed are made to depend on a
satisfactory examination of the wounds. If these are of a /bona
fide/ nature [i.e., not counterfeit], and the confession of the
accused tallies therewith, then life may be given for life, that
those who know the laws may fear them, that crime may become less
frequent among the people, and due weight be attached to the
sanctity of human existence. If an inquest is not properly
conducted, the wrong of the murdered man is not redressed, and new
wrongs are raised up amongst the living; other lives may be
sacrificed, and both sides roused to vengeance of which no man can
foresee the end."
On this it is only necessary to remark that the "validity" of a
confession is an important point in China, since substitutes are
easily procurable at as low a rate as from 20 to 50 pounds a life.
The duties of a Chinese coroner are by no means limited to /post
mortem/ examinations; he visits and examines any one who has been
dangerously wounded, and fixes a date within which the accused is held
responsible for the life of his victim.
"Murders are rarely the result of premeditation, but can be
traced, in the majority of cases, to a brawl. The statute which
treats of wounding in a brawl attaches great weight to the 'death-
limit,' which means that the wounded man be handed over to the
accused to be taken care of and provided with medical aid, and
that a limit of time be fixed, on the expiration of which
punishment be awarded according to circumstances. Now the
relatives of a wounded man, unless their ties be of the closest,
generally desire his death that they may extort money from his
slayer; but the accused wishes him to live that he himself may
escape death, and therefore he leaves no means untried to restore
his victim to health. This institution of the 'death-limit' is a
merciful endeavour to save the lives of both."
One whole chapter is devoted to a division of the body into vital and
non-vital parts. Of the former there are twenty-two altogether,
sixteen before and six behind; of the latter fifty-six, thirty-six
before and twenty behind. Every coroner provides himself with a form,
drawn up according to these divisions, and on this he enters the
various wounds he finds on the body at the inquest.
"Do not," say the Instructions, "deterred by the smell of the
corpse, sit at a distance, your view intercepted by the smoke of
fumigation, letting the assistants call out the wounds and enter
them on the form, perhaps to garble what is of importance and to
give prominence to what is not."
The instructions for the examination of the body from the head
downwards are very explicit, and among them is one sentence by virtue
of which a Chinese judge would have disposed of the Tichborne case
without either hesitation or delay.
"Examine the cheeks to see whether they have been tattooed or not,
or whether the marks have been obliterated. In the latter case,
cut a slip of bamboo and tap the parts; the tattooing will then
In cases where the wounds are not distinctly visible, the following
directions are given:--
"Spread a poultice of grain, and sprinkle some vinegar upon the
corpse in the open air. Take a piece of new oiled silk, or a
transparent oil-cloth umbrella, and hold it between the sun and
the parts you want to examine. The wounds will then appear. If the
day is dark or rainy, use live charcoal [instead of the sun].
Suppose there is no result, then spread over the parts pounded
white prunes with more grains and vinegar, and examine closely. If
the result is still imperfect, then take the flesh only of the
prune, adding cayenne pepper, onions, salt, and grains, and mix it
up into a cake. Make this very hot, and having first interposed a
sheet of paper, lay it on the parts. The wound will then appear."
Hot vinegar and grains are always used previous to an examination of
the body to soften it and cause the wounds to appear more distinctly.
"But in winter, when the corpse is frozen hard, and no amount of
grains and vinegar, however hot, or clothes piled up, however
thick, will relax its rigidity, dig a hole in the ground of the
length and breadth of the body and three feet in depth. Lay in it
a quantity of fuel and make a roaring fire. Then dash over it
vinegar, which will create dense volumes of steam, in the middle
of which place the body with all its dressings right in the hole;
cover it over with clothes and pour on more hot vinegar all over
it. At a distance of two or three feet from the hole on either
side of it light fires, and when you think the heat has thoroughly
penetrated, take away the fire and remove the body for
It is always a great point with the coroner to secure as soon as
possible the fatal weapon. If a long time has elapsed between the
murder and the inquest, and no traces of blood are visible on the
knife or sword which may have been used, "heat it red hot in a
charcoal fire, and pour over it a quantity of first-rate vinegar. The
stains of blood will at once appear."
The note following this last sentence is still more extraordinary:--
"An inquest was held on the body of a man who had been murdered on
the high road, and at first it was thought that the murder had
been committed by robbers, but on examination the corpse was found
to be fully clothed and bearing the marks of some ten or more
wounds from a sickle. The coroner pointed out that robbers kill
their victims for the sake of booty, which evidently was not the
case in the present instance, and declared revenge to be at the
bottom of it all. He then sent for the wife of the murdered man,
and asked her if her husband had lately quarrelled with anybody.
She replied No, but stated that there had been some high words
between her husband and another man to whom he had refused to lend
money. The coroner at once despatched his runners to the place
where this man lived, to bid the people of that village produce
all their sickles without delay, at the same time informing them
that the concealment of a sickle would be tantamount to a
confession of guilt. The sickles were accordingly produced, in
number about eighty, and spread out upon the ground. The season
being summer there were a great quantity of flies, all of which
were attracted by one particular sickle. The coroner asked to whom
this sickle belonged, and lo! it belonged to him with whom the
murdered man had quarrelled about a loan. On being arrested, he
denied his guilt; but the coroner pointed to the flies settling
upon the sickle, attracted by the smell of blood, and the murderer
bent his head in silent acknowledgment of his crime."
Inquests are often held in China many years after the death of the
victim. Give a Chinese coroner merely the dry and imperfect skeleton
of a man known to have been murdered, and he will generally succeed in
fixing the guilt on some one. To supplement thus by full and open
confession of the accused is a matter of secondary difficulty in a
country where torture may at any moment be brought to bear with
terrible efficacy in the cause of justice and truth. Its application,
however, is extremely rare.
"Man has three hundred and sixty-five bones, corresponding to the
number of days it takes the heavens to revolve. The skull of a
man, from the nape of the neck to the top of the head, consists of
eight pieces--that of a Ts'ai-chow man, of nine; women's skulls
are of six pieces. Men have twelve ribs on either side; women have
The above being sufficient to show where the Chinese are with regard
to the structure of the human frame, we will now proceed to the
directions for examining bones, it may be months or even years after
"For the examination of bones the day should be clear and bright.
First take clean water and wash them, and then with string tie
them together in proper order so that a perfect skeleton is
formed, and lay this on a mat. Then make a hole in the ground,
five feet long, three feet broad, and two feet deep. Throw into
this plenty of firewood and charcoal, and keep it burning till the
ground is thoroughly hot. Clear out the fire and pour in two pints
of good spirit and five pounds of strong vinegar. Lay the bones
quickly in the steaming pit and cover well up with rushes, &c. Let
them remain there for two or three hours until the ground is cold,
when the coverings may be removed, the bones taken to a convenient
spot, and examined under a red oil-cloth umbrella.
"If the day is dark or rainy the 'boiling' method must be adopted.
Take a large jar and heat in it a quantity of vinegar; then having
put in plenty of salt and white prunes, boil it altogether with
the bones, superintending the process yourself. When it is boiling
fast, take out the bones, wash them in water, and hold up to the
light. The wounds will be perfectly visible, the blood having
soaked into the wounded parts, marking them with red or dark blue
"The above method is, however, not the only one. Take a new yellow
oil-cloth umbrella from Hangchow, hold it over the bones, and
every particle of wound hidden in the bones will be clearly
visible. In cases where the bones are old and the wounds have been
obliterated by long exposure to wind and rain or dulled by
frequent boilings, it only remains to examine them in the sun
under a yellow umbrella, which will show the wounds as far as
"There must be no zinc boiled with the bones or they will become
"Bones which have passed several times through the process of
examination become quite white and exactly like uninjured bones;
in which case, take such as should show wounds and fill them with
oil. Wait till the oil is oozing out all over, then wipe it off
and hold the bone up to the light; where there are wounds the oil
will collect and not pass; the clear parts have not been injured.
"Another method is to rub some good ink thick and spread it on the
bone. Let it dry, and then wash it off. Where there are wounds,
and there only, it will sink into the bone. Or take some new
cotton wool and pass it over the bone. Wherever there is a wound
some will be pulled out [by the jagged parts of the bone]."
A whole chapter is devoted to counterfeit wounds, the means of
distinguishing them from real wounds, and the manner in which they are
produced. Section 2 of the thirteenth chapter is on a cognate subject,
namely, to ascertain whether wounds were inflicted before or after
"If there are several dark-coloured marks on the body, take some
water and let it fall drop by drop on to them. If they are wounds
the water will remain without trickling away; if they are not
wounds, the water will run off. In examining wounds, the finger
must be used to press down any livid or red spot. If it is a wound
it will be hard, and on raising the finger will be found of the
same colour as before.
"Wounds inflicted on the bone leave a red mark and a slight
appearance of saturation, and where the bone is broken there will
be at either end a halo-like trace of blood. Take a bone on which
there are marks of a wound and hold it up to the light; if these
are of a fresh-looking red, the wound was afflicted before death
and penetrated to the bone; but if there is no trace of saturation
from blood, although there is a wound, if was inflicted after
In a chapter on wounds from kicks, the following curious instructions
are given regarding a "bone-method" of examination:--
"To depend on the evidence of the bone immediately below the wound
would be to let many criminals slip through the meshes of the law.
Where wounds have been thus inflicted, no matter on man or woman,
the wounds will be visible on the upper half of the body, and not
on the lower. For instance, they will appear in a male at the
roots of either the top or bottom teeth, inside; on the right hand
if the wound was on the left, and /vice versa/; in the middle of
the wound was central. In women, the wounds will appear on the
gums right or left as above."
The next extract needs no comment, except perhaps that it forms the
most cherished of all beliefs in the whole range of Chinese medical
"The bones of parents may be identified by their children in the
following manner. Let the experimenter cut himself or herself with
a knife and cause the blood to drip on to the bones; then, if the
relationship is an actual fact the blood will sink into the bone,
otherwise it will not. N.B. Should the bones have been washed with
salt water, even though the relationship exists, yet the blood
will not soak in. This is a trick to be guarded against
"It is also said that if parent and child, or husband and wife,
each cut themselves and let the blood drip into a basin of water
the two bloods will mix, whereas that of two people not thus
related will not mix.
"Where two brothers who may have been separated since childhood
are desirous of establishing their identity as such, but are
unable to do so by ordinary means, bid each one cut himself and
let the blood drip into a basin. If they are really brothers, the
two bloods will congeal into one; otherwise not. But because fresh
blood will always congeal with the aid of a little salt or
vinegar, people often smear the basin over with these to attain
their own ends and deceive others; therefore, always wash out the
basin you are going to use or buy a new one from a shop. Thus the
trick will be defeated.
"The above method of dropping blood on the bones may be used even
by a grandchild, desirous of identifying the remains of his
grandfather; but husband and wife, not being of the same flesh and
blood, it is absurd to suppose that the blood of one would soak
into the bones of the other. For such a principle would apply with
still more force to the case of a child, who had been suckled by a
foster-mother and had grown up, indebted to her for half its
existence. With regard to the water method, if the basin used is
large and full of water, the bloods will be unable to mix from
being so much diluted; and in the latter case where there is no
water, if the interval between dropping the two bloods into the
basin is too long, the first will get cold and they will not mix."
Not content with holding an inquest on the bones of a man who may have
been murdered five years before, a Chinese coroner quite as often
proceeds gravely to examine the wounds of a corpse which has been
reduced to ashes by fire and scattered to the four winds of heaven. No
mere eyewitness would dare to relate the singular process by which
such a result is achieved; but directions exist in black and white, of
which the following is a close translation:--
"There are some atrocious villains who, when they have murdered
any one, burn the body and throw the ashes away, so that there are
no bones to examine. In such cases you must carefully find out at
what time the murder was committed and where the body was burnt.
Then, when you know the place, all witnesses agreeing on this
point, you may proceed without further delay to examine the
wounds. The mode of procedure is this. Put up your shed near where
the body was burnt, and make the accused and witnesses point out
themselves the very spot. Then cut down the grass and weeds
growing on this spot, and burn large quantities of fuel till the
place is extremely hot, throwing on several pecks of hempseed. By
and by brush the place clean, and then, if the body was actually
burnt in this spot, the oil from the seed will be found to have
sunk into the ground in the form of a human figure, and wherever
there were wounds on the dead man, there on this figure the oil
will be found to have collected together, large or small, square,
round, long, short, oblique, or straight, exactly as they were
inflicted. The parts where there were no wounds will be free from
any such appearances. But supposing you obtain the outline only
without the necessary detail of the wounds, then scrape away the
masses of oil, light a brisk fire on the form of the body and
throw on grains mixed with water. Make the fire burn as fiercely
as possible, and sprinkle vinegar, instantly covering it over with
a new well-varnished table. Leave the table on for a little while
and then take it off for examination. The form of the body will be
transferred to the table and the wounds will be distinct and clear
in every particular.
"If the place is wild and some time has elapsed since the deed was
done, so that the very murderer does not remember the exact spot,
inquire carefully in what direction it was with regard to such and
such a village or temple, and about how far off. If all agree on
this point, proceed in person to the place, and bid your
assistants go round about searching for any spots where the grass
is taller and stronger than usual, marking such with a mark. For
where a body has been burnt the grass will be darker in hue, more
luxuriant, and taller than that surrounding it, and will not lose
these characteristics for a long time, the fat and grease of the
body sinking down to the roots of the grass and causing the above
results. If the spot is on a hill, or in a wild place where the
vegetation is very luxuriant, then you must look for a growth
about the height of a man. If the burning took place on stony
ground, the crumbly appearance of the stones must be your guide;
this simplifies matters immensely."
Such, then, are a few of the absurdities which pass muster among the
credulous people of China as the result of deep scientific research;
but whether the educated classes--more especially those individuals
who devote themselves in the course of their official duties to the
theory and practice of /post mortem/ examinations--can be equally
gulled with the gaping crowd around them, we may safely leave our
readers to decide for themselves.
INQUESTS, NO. II
Section IV. of the valuable work which formed the basis of our
preceding sketch, is devoted to the enumeration of methods for
restoring human life after such casualties as drowning, hanging,
poisoning, &c., some hours and even days after vitality has to all
appearances ceased. We shall quote as before from our own literal
"Where a man has been hanging from morning to night, even though
already cold, a recovery may still be effected. Stop up the
patient's mouth tightly with your hand, and in a little over four
hours respiration will be restored. /Or/, Take equal parts of
finely-powdered soap-bean and anemone hepatica, and blow a
quantity of this--about as much as a bean--into the patient's
"In all cases where men or women have been hanged, a recovery may
be effected even if the body has become stiff. You must not cut
the body down, but, supporting it, untie the rope and lay it down
in some smooth place on its back with the head propped up. Bend
the arms and legs gently, and let some one sitting behind pull the
patient's hair tightly. Straighten the arms, let there be a free
passage through the wind-pipe, and let two persons blow
incessantly into the ears through a bamboo tube or reed, rubbing
the chest all the time with the hand. Take the blood from a live
fowl's comb, and drop it into the throat and nostrils--the left
nostril of a woman, the right of a man; also using a cock's comb
for a man, a hen's for a woman. Re-animation will be immediately
effected. If respiration has been suspended for a long time, there
must be plenty of blowing and rubbing; do not think that because
the body is cold all is necessarily over.
"Where a man has been in the water a whole night, a recovery may
still be effected. Break up part of a mud wall and pound it to
dust; lay the patient thereon on his back, and cover him up with
the same, excepting only his mouth and eyes. Thus the water will
be absorbed by the mud, and life will be restored. This method is
a very sure one, even though the body has become stiff.
"In cases of injury from scalding, get a large oyster and put it
in a basin with its mouth upwards somewhere quite away from
anybody. Wait till its shell opens, and then shake in from a spoon
a little Borneo camphor, mixed and rubbed into a powder with an
equal portion of genuine musk. The oyster will then close its
shell and its flesh will be melted into a liquid. Add a little
more of the above ingredients, and with a fowl's feather brush it
over the parts and round the wound, getting nearer and nearer
every time till at last you brush it into the wound; the pain will
thus gradually cease. A small oyster will do if a large one is not
to be had. This is a first-rate prescription.
"Where a man has fallen into the water in winter, and has quite
lost all consciousness from cold, if there is the least warmth
about the chest, life may still be restored. Should the patient
show the slightest inclination to laugh, stop up his nose and
mouth at once, or he will soon be unable to leave off, and it will
be impossible to save him. On no account bring a patient hastily
to the fire, for the sight of fire will excite him to immoderate
laughter, and his chance of life is gone.
"In cases of nightmare, do not at once bring a light, or going
near call out loudly to the sleeper, but bite his heel or his big
toe, and gently utter his name. Also spit on his face and give him
ginger tea to drink; he will then come round. /Or/, Blow into the
patient's ears through small tubes, pull out fourteen hairs from
his head, make them into a twist and thrust into his nose. Also,
give salt and water to drink. Where death has resulted from seeing
goblins, take the heart of a leek and push it up the patient's
nostrils--the left for a man, the right for a woman. Look along
the inner edge of the upper lips for blisters like grains of
Indian corn, and prick them with a needle."
The work concludes with an antidote against a certain dangerous poison
known as /Ku/, originally discovered by a Buddhist priest and
successfully administered in a great number of cases. Its ingredients,
which comprise two red centipedes--one live and one roasted--must be
put into a mortar and pounded up together either on the 5th of the 5th
moon, the 9th of the 9th moon, or the 8th of the 12th moon, in some
place quite away from women, fowls, and dogs. Pills made from the
paste produced are to be swallowed one by one without mastication. The
preparation of this deadly /Ku/ poison is described in the last
chapter but one of Section III. in the following words:--
"Take a quantity of insects of all kinds and throw them into a
vessel of any kind; cover them up and let a year pass away before
you look at them again. The insects will have killed and eaten
each other until there is only one survivor, and this one is
In the next chapter we are informed that spinach eaten with tortoise
is poison, as also is shell-fish eaten with venison; that death
frequently results from drinking pond-water which has been poisoned by
snakes, from drinking water which has been used for flowers, or tea
which has stood uncovered through the night, from eating the flesh of
a fowl which has swallowed a centipede, and wearing clothes which have
been soaked with perspiration and dried in the sun. Finally,
"A case is recorded of a man who tied his victim's hands and feet,
and forced into his mouth the head of a snake, applying fire at
the same time to its tail. The snake jumped down the man's throat
and passed into his stomach, but at the inquest held over the body
no traces of wounds were found to which death could be attributed.
Such a crime, however, may be detected by examination of the bones
which, from the head downwards, will be found entirely of a bright
red colour, caused by the dispersion of the blood; and moreover,
the more the bones are scraped away, the brighter in colour do
It is difficult to speak of such a book as "Instructions to Coroners"
with anything like becoming gravity, and yet it is one of the most
widely-read and highly-esteemed works in China; so much so, that
native scholars frequently throw it in the teeth of foreigners as one
of their many repertories of real wonder-working science, equal to
anything that comes from the West, if only foreigners would take the
trouble to consult it. To satisfy our own curiosity on the subject we
bought a copy and translated it from beginning to end; but our readers
will perhaps be able to determine its scientific value from the few
quotations given above, and agree with us that it would hardly be
worth while to learn Chinese for the pleasure or profit to be derived
from reading "Instructions to Coroners" in the original character.
The extraordinary feeling of hatred and contempt evinced by the
Chinese nation for missionaries of every denomination who settle in
their country, naturally suggests the question whether Christianity is
likely to prove a boon to China, if, indeed, it ever succeeds in
taking root at all. That under the form of Roman Catholicism, it once
had a chance of becoming the religion of the Empire, and that that
chance was recklessly sacrificed to bigotry and intolerance, is too
well known to be repeated; but that such an opportunity will ever
occur again is quite beyond the bounds, if not of possibility, at any
rate of probability. Missionary prospects are anything but bright in
China just now, in spite of rosily worded "reports," and annual
statistics of persons baptized. A respectable Chinaman will tell you
that only thieves and bad characters who have nothing to lose avail
themselves of baptism, as a means of securing "long nights of
indolence and ease" in the household of some enthusiastic missionary
at from four to ten dollars a month. Educated men will not tolerate
missionaries in their houses, as many have found to their cost; and
the fact cannot be concealed that the foreign community in China
suffers no small inconvenience and incurs considerable danger for a
cause with which a large majority of its members has no sympathy
whatever. It would, however, be invidious to dwell upon the class of
natives who allow themselves to be baptized and pretend to accept
dogmas they most certainly do not understand, or on the mental and
social calibre of numbers of those gentlemen who are sent out to
convert them; we will confine ourselves merely to considering what
practical benefits Christianity would be likely to confer upon the
Chinese at large. And this we may fairly do, not being of those who
hold that all will be damned but the sect of that particular church to
which they themselves happen to belong; but believing that the Chinese
have as good a chance as anybody else of whatever happiness may be in
store for the virtuous, whether they become Christians or whether they
In the course of eight years' residence in China, we have never met a
drunken man in the streets. Opium-smokers we have seen in all stages
of intoxication; but no drunken brawls, no bruised and bleeding wives.
Would Christianity raise the Chinese to the standard of European
sobriety? Would it bring them to renounce opium, only to replace it
with gin? Would it cause them to become more frugal, to live more
economically than they do now on their bowl of rice and cabbage,
moistened with a drink of tea, and perhaps supplemented with a few
whiffs of the mildest possible tobacco? Would it cause them to be more
industrious than--e.g., the wood-carvers of Ningpo who work daily from
sunrise to dusk, with two short intervals for meals? Would it make
them more filial?--justly renowned as they are for unremitting care of
aged and infirm parents. More fraternal?--where every family is a
small society, each member toiling for the common good, and being sure
of food and shelter if thrown out of work or enfeebled by disease.
More law-abiding?--we appeal to any one who has lived in China, and
mixed with the people. Would it make them more honest?--when many
Europeans confess that for straightforward business they would sooner
deal with Chinamen than with merchants of certain Christian
nationalities we shall not take upon ourselves to name. Should we not
run the risk of sowing seed for future and bloody religious wars on
soil where none now rage? To teach them justice in the administration
of law would be a glorious task indeed, but even that would have its
dark side. Litigation would become the order of the day, and a
rapacious class would spring into existence where lawyers and
barristers are now totally unknown. The striking phenomenon of extreme
wealth side by side with extreme poverty, might be produced in a
country where absolute destitution is at present remarkably rare, and
no one need actually starve; and thus would be developed a fine field
for the practice of that Christian charity which by demoralisation of
the poorer classes so skilfully defeats its own end. We should rejoice
if anything could make Chinamen less cruel to dumb animals, desist
from carrying ducks, geese, and pigs, hanging by their legs to a pole,
feed their hungry dogs, and spare their worn-out beasts of burden. But
pigeon-shooting is unknown, and gag-bearing reins have yet to be
introduced into China; neither have we heard of a poor heathen
Chinaman "skinning a sheep alive." (/Vide Daily Papers of July/ 12,
Last of all, it must not be forgotten that China has already four
great religions flourishing in her midst. There is /Confucianism/,
which, strictly speaking, is not a religion, but a system of
self-culture with a view to the proper government of (1) one's own
family and of (2) the State. It teaches man to be good, and to love
virtue for its own sake, with no fear of punishment for failure, no
hope of reward for success. Is it below Christianity in this?
/Buddhism/, /Taoism/, and /Mahomedanism/, share the patronage of the
illiterate, and serve to satisfy the natural craving in uneducated man
for something supernatural in which to believe and on which to rely.
The /literati/ are sheer materialists: they laugh at the absurdities
of Buddhism, though they sometimes condescend to practise its rites.
They strongly object to the introduction of a new religion, and
successfully oppose it by every means in their power. They urge, and
with justice, that Confucius has laid down an admirable rule of life
in harmony with their own customs, and that the conduct of those who
approximate to this standard would compare not unfavourably with the
practice, as distinguished from the profession, of any religion in the
The following inflammatory placard, which was posted up last year at a
place called Lung-p'ing, near the great tea mart of Hankow, will give
a faint idea of native prejudice against the propagation of
Christianity in China. The original was in verse, and evidently the
work of a highly-educated man:--
Strange doctrines are speedily to be eradicated:
The holy teaching of Confucius is now in the ascendant.
There is but one most sacred religion:
There can be but one Mean.
By their great virtue Yao and Shun led the way,
Alone able to expound the "fickle" and the "slight;"[*]
Confucius' teachings have not passed away,
Yet working wonders in secret[+] has long been in vogue.
Be earnest in practising the ordinary virtues:
To extend filial piety, brotherly love, loyalty, and
considerateness, is to benefit one's-self.
Be careful in your speech,
And marvels, feats of strength, sedition, and spirits,[:] will
disappear from conversation.
I pray you do not listen to unsubstantiated words:
Then who will dare to deceive the age with soft-sounding phrases.
Our religion is for all who choose to seek it;
But we build no chapels to beguile the foolish.
Our true religion has existed from of old, up to the present day,
undergoing no change.
Its true principles include in their application those of the middle
and outside nations alike.
Great is the advantage to us!
Great is the good influence on this generation!
Of all religions the only true one,
What false doctrine can compare with it?
The /stillness/ and /cleanliness/ of Buddhism,
The /abstruseness/ and /hollow mockery/ of Taoism--
These are but side-doors compared with ours;
Fit to be quitted, but not to be entered.
These are but by-paths compared with ours;
Fit to be blocked up, but not to be used.
How then about this one, stranger than Buddhist or Taoist creed?
With its secret confusion of sexes, unutterable!
More hurtful than all the dogmas of the other two;
Spreading far and wide the unfathomable poison of its mysteries.
Herein you must carefully discriminate,
And not receive it with belief and veneration.
Those who now embrace Christ
Call him Lord of heaven and earth,
Worshipping him with prayer,
Deceiving and exciting the foolish,
Dishonouring the holy teaching of Confucius.
I laugh at your hero of the cross,
Who, though sacrificing his life, did not preserve his virtue
Missions build chapels,
But the desire to do good works is not natural to them.
The method of influencing the natures of women
Is but a trick to further base ends.
They injure boys by magical arts,
And commit many atrocious crimes.
They say their religion is the only true one,
But their answers are full of prevarication.
They say their book is the Holy Book,
But the Old and New Testaments are like the songs of Wei and
As to the people who are gradually being misled,
I compassionate their ignorance;
As to the educated who are thus deceived,
I am wroth at their want of reflection.
For these men are not of us;
We are like the horse and the cow;[@]
If you associate with them,
Who will expel these crocodiles and snakes?
This is a secret grievance of the State,
A manifest injury to the people!
Truly it is the eye-sore of the age.
You quietly look on unconcerned!
I, musing over the present state of men's hearts,
Desire to rectify them.
Alas! the ways of devils are full of guile!
But man's disposition is naturally pure.
How then can men willingly walk with devils?
You, like trees and plants, without understanding,
Allow the Barbarians to throw into confusion the Flowery Land.
Is it that no holy and wise men have appeared?
Under the Chow dynasty, when the barbarians were at the height of
The hand of Confucius and Mencius was laid upon them!
Under the T'ang when Buddhism was poisoning the age,
Han and Hsi exterminated them.
Now these devils are working evil,
Troubling the villages and market-places where they live.
Surely many heroes must come forward
To crush them with the pen of Confucius.
Turn then and consider
That were it not for my class[#]
None would uphold the true religion.
I say unto you,
And you should give heed unto me,
Believe not the nonsense of Redemption,
Believe not the trickery of the Resurrection.
Set yourselves to find out the true path,
And learn to distinguish between man and devil.
Pass not with loitering step the unknown ford,
Nor bow the knee before the vicious and the depraved.
Wait not for Heaven to exterminate them
To find out that earth has a day for their destruction.
The shapeless, voiceless imp--
Why worship him?
His supernatural, unprincipled nonsense
Should surely be discarded.
Ye who think not so,
When the devils are in your houses
They will covet your homes,
And they will take the fingers and arms of your strong ones
To make claws and teeth for imps.
They excite people at first by specious talk,
Not one jot of which is intelligible;
Then they destroy your reason,
Making you wander far from the truth.
You throw over ancestral worship to enjoy none yourselves;
Your wives and children suffer pollution,
And you are pointed at with the finger.
Thus heedlessly you injure eternal principles,
Embracing filth and treasuring corruption,
To your endless shame
And to your everlasting misfortune.
Finally, if in life your heads escape the axe,
There will await you the excessive injury of the shroud.[$]
Judging by the crimes of your lives,
Your corpses will be cast to scorpions and snakes.
The devils introduce this doctrine,
Which grows like plants from seeds;
Some one must arise to punish them,
And destroy their religion root and branch.
Hasten, all of you, to repent,
And walk in the way of righteousness;
We truly pity you.
A warning notice to discard false doctrines!
[*] The fickle nature of men's minds, and slight regard for the true
[+] Forbidden by Confucius.
[:] Avoided by Confucius as topics.
[@] The Chinese say horses prefer going against, cows with, the wind.
[#] The /literati/.
[$] Missionaries are said to keep the corpses of converts concealed
from public view between death and interment, that the absence of
the dead man's eyes may not be detected.
"Surely it is manifest enough that by selecting the evidence, any
society may be relatively blackened, and any other society relatively
whitened."[*] We hope that no such principle of selection can be
traced in the preceding pages. Irritation against traducers of China
and her morality[+] may have occasionally tinged our views with a
somewhat rosy hue; but we have all along felt the danger of this bias,
and have endeavoured to guard against it. We have no wish to exalt
China at the expense of European civilisation, but we cannot blind
ourselves to the fact that her vices have been exaggerated, and her
virtues overlooked. Only the bigoted or ignorant could condemn with
sweeping assertions of immorality a nation of many millions absolutely
free, as the Chinese are, from one such vice as drunkenness; in whose
cities may be seen--what all our legislative and executive skill
cannot secure--streets quiet and deserted after nine or ten o'clock at
night. Add to this industry, frugality, patriotism,[:] and a boundless
respect for the majesty of office: it then only remains for us to
acknowledge that China is after all "a nation of much talent, and, in
some respects, even wisdom."[!]
[*] Spencer's Sociology: The Bias of Patriotism.
[+] "The miseries and horrors (?) which are now destroying (?) the
Chinese Empire are the direct and organic result of the moral
profligacy of its inhabitants."--/Froude's Short Studies on Great
[:] "Every patriotic Chinese--and there are millions of such."--/Dr
Legge to London and China Telegraph/, July 5, 1875.
[!] Mill's Essay on Liberty.
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