Herbert A. Giles, M.A., LL.D.

Part 1 out of 3

Etext prepared by John Bickers,
and Dagny,



Professor of Chinese in the University of Cambridge,
And sometime H.B.M. Consul at Ningpo


The aim of this work is to suggest a rough outline of Chinese
civilization from the earliest times down to the present period of
rapid and startling transition.

It has been written, primarily, for readers who know little or
nothing of China, in the hope that it may succeed in alluring them
to a wider and more methodical survey.


May 12, 1911.




It is a very common thing now-a-days to meet people who are going to
"China," which can be reached by the Siberian railway in fourteen or
fifteen days. This brings us at once to the question--What is meant by
the term China?

Taken in its widest sense, the term includes Mongolia, Manchuria,
Eastern Turkestan, Tibet, and the Eighteen Provinces, the whole being
equivalent to an area of some five million square miles, that is,
considerably more than twice the size of the United States of America.
But for a study of manners and customs and modes of thought of the
Chinese people, we must confine ourselves to that portion of the whole
which is known to the Chinese as the "Eighteen Provinces," and to us
as China Proper. This portion of the empire occupies not quite two-
fifths of the whole, covering an area of somewhat more than a million
and a half square miles. Its chief landmarks may be roughly stated as
Peking, the capital, in the north; Canton, the great commercial
centre, in the south; Shanghai, on the east; and the Tibetan frontier
on the west.

Any one who will take the trouble to look up these four points on a
map, representing as they do central points on the four sides of a
rough square, will soon realize the absurdity of asking a returning
traveller the very much asked question, How do you like China? Fancy
asking a Chinaman, who had spent a year or two in England, how he
liked Europe! Peking, for instance, stands on the same parallel of
latitude as Madrid; whereas Canton coincides similarly with Calcutta.
Within the square indicated by the four points enumerated above will
be found variations of climate, flowers, fruit, vegetables and animals
--not to mention human beings--distributed in very much the same way
as in Europe. The climate of Peking is exceedingly dry and bracing; no
rain, and hardly any snow, falling between October and April. The
really hot weather lasts only for six or eight weeks, about July and
August--and even then the nights are always cool; while for six or
eight weeks between December and February there may be a couple of
feet of ice on the river. Canton, on the other hand, has a tropical
climate, with a long damp enervating summer and a short bleak winter.
The old story runs that snow has only been seen once in Canton, and
then it was thought by the people to be falling cotton-wool.

The northern provinces are remarkable for vast level plains, dotted
with villages, the houses of which are built of mud. In the southern
provinces will be found long stretches of mountain scenery, vying in
loveliness with anything to be seen elsewhere. Monasteries are built
high up on the hills, often on almost inaccessible crags; and there
the well-to-do Chinaman is wont to escape from the fierce heat of the
southern summer. On one particular mountain near Canton, there are
said to be no fewer than one hundred of such monasteries, all of which
reserve apartments for guests, and are glad to be able to add to their
funds by so doing.

In the north of China, Mongolian ponies, splendid mules, and donkeys
are seen in large quantities; also the two-humped camel, which carries
heavy loads across the plains of Mongolia. In the south, until the
advent of the railway, travellers had to choose between the sedan-
chair carried on the shoulders of stalwart coolies, or the slower but
more comfortable house-boat. Before steamers began to ply on the
coast, a candidate for the doctor's degree at the great triennial
examination would take three months to travel from Canton to Peking.
Urgent dispatches, however, were often forwarded by relays of riders
at the rate of two hundred miles a day.

The market in Peking is supplied, among other things, with excellent
mutton from a fat-tailed breed of sheep, chiefly for the largely
Mohammedan population; but the sheep will not live in southern China,
where the goat takes its place. The pig is found everywhere, and
represents beef in our market, the latter being extremely unpalatable
to the ordinary Chinaman, partly perhaps because Confucius forbade men
to slaughter the animal which draws the plough and contributes so much
to the welfare of mankind. The staple food, the "bread" of the people
in the Chinese Empire, is nominally rice; but this is too costly for
the peasant of northern China to import, and he falls back on millet
as its substitute. Apples, pears, grapes, melons, and walnuts grow
abundantly in the north; the southern fruits are the banana, the
orange, the pineapple, the mango, the pomelo, the lichee, and similar
fruits of a more tropical character.

Cold storage has been practised by the Chinese for centuries. Blocks
of ice are cut from the river for that purpose; and on a hot summer's
day a Peking coolie can obtain an iced drink at an almost
infinitesimal cost. Grapes are preserved from autumn until the
following May and June by the simple process of sticking the stalk of
the bunch into a large hard pear, and putting it away carefully in the
ice-house. Even at Ningpo, close to our central point on the eastern
coast of China, thin layers of ice are collected from pools and
ditches, and successfully stored for use in the following summer.

The inhabitants of the coast provinces are distinguished from the
dwellers in the north and in the far interior by a marked alertness of
mind and general temperament. The Chinese themselves declare that
virtue is associated with mountains, wisdom with water, cynically
implying that no one is both virtuous and wise. Between the
inhabitants of the various provinces there is little love lost.
Northerners fear and hate southerners, and the latter hold the former
in infinite scorn and contempt. Thus, when in 1860 the Franco-British
force made for Peking, it was easy enough to secure the services of
any number of Cantonese, who remained as faithful as though the attack
had been directed against some third nationality.

The population of China has never been exactly ascertained. It has
been variously estimated by foreign travellers, Sacharoff, in 1842,
placing the figure at over four hundred millions. The latest census,
taken in 1902, is said to yield a total of four hundred and ten
millions. Perhaps three hundred millions would be a juster estimate;
even that would absorb no less than one-fifth of the human race. From
this total it is easy to calculate that if the Chinese people were to
walk past a given point in single file, the procession would never
end; long before the last of the three hundred millions had passed by,
a new generation would have sprung up to continue the neverending
line. The census, however, is a very old institution with the Chinese;
and we learn that in A.D. 156 the total population of the China of
those days was returned as a little over fifty millions. In more
modern times, the process of taking the census consists in serving out
house-tickets to the head of every household, who is responsible for a
proper return of all the inmates; but as there is no fixed day for
which these tickets are returnable, the results are approximate rather
than exact.

Again, it is not uncommon to hear people talking of the Chinese
language as if it were a single tongue spoken all over China after a
more or less uniform standard. But the fact is that the colloquial is
broken up into at least eight dialects, each so strongly marked as to
constitute eight languages as different to the ear, one from another,
as English, Dutch and German, or French, Spanish, Italian and
Portuguese. A Shanghai man, for instance, is unintelligible to a
Cantonese, and so on. All officials are obliged, and all of the better
educated merchants and others endeavour, if only for business
purposes, to learn something of the dialect spoken at the court of
Peking; and this is what is popularly known as "Mandarin." The written
language remains the same for the whole empire; which merely means
that ideas set down on paper after a uniform system are spoken with
different sounds, just as the Arabic numerals are written uniformly in
England, France and Germany, but are pronounced in a totally different

The only difficulty of the spoken language, of no matter what dialect,
lies in the "tones," which simply means the different intonations
which may be given to one and the same sound, thus producing so many
entirely different meanings. But for these tones, the colloquial of
China would be absurdly easy, inasmuch as there is no such thing as
grammar, in the sense of gender, number, case, mood, tense, or any of
the variations we understand by that term. Many amusing examples are
current of blunders committed by faulty speakers, such as that of the
student who told his servant to bring him a goose, when what he really
wanted was some salt, both goose and salt having the same sound,
/yen/, but quite different intonations. The following specimen has the
advantage of being true. A British official reported to the Foreign
Office that the people of Tientsin were in the habit of shouting after
foreigners, "Mao-tsu, mao-tsu" (pronounced /mowdza/, /ow/ as in
/how/), from which he gathered that they were much struck by the head-
gear of the barbarian. Now, it is a fact that /mao-tsu/, uttered with
a certain intonation, means a hat; but with another intonation, it
means "hairy one," and the latter, referring to the big beards of
foreigners, was the meaning intended to be conveyed. This epithet is
still to be heard, and is often preceded by the adjective "red."

The written characters, known to have been in use for the past three
thousand years, were originally rude pictures, as of men, birds,
horses, dogs, houses, the numerals (one, two, three, four), etc.,
etc., and it is still possible to trace in the modified modern forms
of these characters more or less striking resemblances to the objects
intended. The next step was to put two or more characters together, to
express by their combination an abstract idea, as, for instance, a
/hand/ holding a /rod/ = father; but of course this simple process did
not carry the Chinese very far, and they soon managed to hit on a
joint picture and phonetic system, which enabled them to multiply
characters indefinitely, new compounds being formed for use as
required. It is thus that new characters can still be produced, if
necessary, to express novel objects or ideas. The usual plan, however,
is to combine existing terms in such a way as to suggest what is
wanted. For instance, in preference to inventing a separate character
for the piece of ordnance known as a "mortar," the Chinese, with an
eye to its peculiar pose, gave it the appropriate name of a "frog

Again, just as the natives and the dialects of the various parts of
China differ one from another, although fundamentally the same people
and the same language, so do the manners and customs differ to such an
extent that habits of life and ceremonial regulations which prevail in
one part of the empire do not necessarily prevail in another. Yet once
more it will be found that the differences which appear irreconcilable
at first, do not affect what is essential, but apply rather to matters
of detail. Many travellers and others have described as customs of the
Chinese customs which, as presented, refer to a part of China only,
and not to the whole. For instance, the ornamental ceremonies
connected with marriage vary in different provinces; but there is a
certain ceremony, equivalent in one sense to signing the register,
which is almost essential to every marriage contract. Bride and
bridegroom must kneel down and call God to witness; they also pledge
each other in wine from two cups joined together by a red string. Red
is the colour for joy, as white is the colour for mourning. Chinese
note-paper is always ruled with red lines or stamped with a red
picture. One Chinese official who gave a dinner-party in foreign
style, even went so far as to paste a piece of red paper on to each
dinner-napkin, in order to counteract the unpropitious influence of

Reference has been made above to journeys performed by boat. In
addition to the Yangtsze and the Yellow River or Hoang ho (pronounced
/Hwong haw/), two of the most important rivers in the world, China is
covered with a network of minor streams, which in southern China form
the chief lines of transport. The Yangtsze is nothing more than a huge
navigable river, crossing China Proper from west to east. The Yellow
River, which, with the exception of a great loop to the north, runs on
nearly parallel lines of latitude, has long been known as "China's
Sorrow," and has been responsible for enormous loss of life and
property. Its current is so swift that ordinary navigation is
impossible, and to cross it in boats is an undertaking of considerable
difficulty and danger. It is so called from the yellowness of its
water, caused by the vast quantity of mud which is swept down by its
rapid current to the sea; hence, the common saying, "When the Yellow
River runs clear," as an equivalent of the Greek Kalends. The huge
embankments, built to confine it to a given course, are continually
being forced by any unusual press of extra water, with enormous damage
to property and great loss of life, and from time to time this river
has been known to change its route altogether, suddenly diverging,
almost at a right angle. Up to the year 1851 the mouth of the river
was to the south of the Shantung promontory, about lat. 34 N.; then,
with hardly any warning, it began to flow to the north-east, finding
an outlet to the north of the Shantung promontory, about lat. 38 N.

A certain number of connecting links have been formed between the
chief lines of water communication, in the shape of artificial
cuttings; but there is nothing worthy the name of canal except the
rightly named Grand Canal, called by the Chinese the "river of locks,"
or alternatively the "transport river," because once used to convey
rice from the south to Peking. This gigantic work, designed and
executed in the thirteenth century by the Emperor Kublai Khan,
extended to about six hundred and fifty miles in length, and completed
an almost unbroken water communication between Peking and Canton. As a
wonderful engineering feat it is indeed more than matched by the
famous Great Wall, which dates back to a couple of hundred years
before Christ, and which has been glorified as the last trace of man's
handiwork on the globe to fade from the view of an imaginary person
receding into space. Recent exploration shows that this wall is about
eighteen hundred miles in length, stretching from a point on the
seashore somewhat east of Peking, to the northern frontier of Tibet.
Roughly speaking, it is twenty-two feet in height by twenty feet in
breadth; at intervals of a hundred yards are towers forty feet high,
the whole being built originally of brick, of which in some parts but
mere traces now remain. Nor is this the only great wall; ruins of
other walls on a considerable scale have lately been brought to light,
the object of all being one and the same--to keep back the marauding

Over the length and breadth of their boundless empire, with all its
varying climates and inhabitants, the Chinese people are free to
travel, for business or pleasure, at their own sweet will, and to take
up their abode at any spot without let or hindrance. No passports are
required; neither is any ordinary citizen obliged to possess other
papers of identification. Chinese inns are not exposed to the
annoyance of domicilary visits with reference to their clients for the
time being; and so long as the latter pay their way, and refrain from
molesting others, they will usually be free from molestation
themselves. The Chinese, however, are not fond of travelling; they
love their homes too well, and they further dread the inconveniences
and dangers attached to travel in many other parts of the world.
Boatmen, carters, and innkeepers have all of them bad reputations for
extortionate charges; and the traveller may sometimes happen upon a
"black inn," which is another name for a den of thieves. Still there
have been many who travelled for the sake of beautiful scenery, or in
order to visit famous spots of historical interest; not to mention the
large body of officials who are constantly on the move, passing from
post to post.

Among those who believe that every nation must have reached its
present quarters from some other distant parts of the world, must be
reckoned a few students of the ancient history of China. Coincidences
in language and in manners and customs, mostly of a shadowy character,
have led some to suggest Babylonia as the region from which the
Chinese migrated to the land where they are now found. The Chinese
possess authentic records of an indisputably early past, but
throughout these records there is absolutely no mention, not even a
hint, of any migration of the kind.

Tradition places the Golden Age of China so far back as three thousand
years before Christ; for a sober survey of China's early civilization,
it is not necessary to push further back than the tenth century B.C.
We shall find evidence of such an advanced state of civilization at
that later date as to leave no doubt of a very remote antiquity.

The China of those days, known even then as the Middle Kingdom, was a
mere patch on the empire of to-day. It lay, almost lozenge-shaped,
between the 34th and 40th parallels of latitude north, with the upper
point of the lozenge resting on the modern Peking, and the lower on
Si-an Fu in Shensi, whither the late Empress Dowager fled for safety
during the Boxer rising in 1900. The ancient autocratic Imperial
system had recently been disestablished, and a feudal system had taken
its place. The country was divided up into a number of vassal states
of varying size and importance, ruled each by its own baron, who swore
allegiance to the sovereign of the Royal State. The relations,
however, which came to subsist, as time went on, between these states,
sovereign and vassal alike, as described in contemporary annals, often
remind the reader of the relations which prevailed between the various
political divisions of ancient Greece. The rivalries of Athens and
Sparta, whose capitals were only one hundred and fifty miles apart--
though a perusal of Thucydides makes one feel that at least half the
world was involved--find their exact equivalent in the jealousies and
animosities which stirred the feudal states of ancient China, and in
the disastrous campaigns and bloody battles which the states fought
with one another. We read of chariots and horsemanship; of feats of
arms and deeds of individual heroism; of forced marches, and of night
attacks in which the Chinese soldier was gagged with a kind of wooden
bit, to prevent talking in the ranks; of territory annexed and
reconquered, and of the violent deaths of rival rulers by poison or
the dagger of the assassin.

When the armies of these states went into battle they formed a line,
with the bowmen on the left and the spearmen on the right flank. The
centre was occupied by chariots, each drawn by either three or four
horses harnessed abreast. Swords, daggers, shields, iron-headed clubs
some five to six feet in length and weighing from twelve to fifteen
pounds, huge iron hooks, drums, cymbals, gongs, horns, banners and
streamers innumerable, were also among the equipment of war. Beacon-
fires of wolves' dung were lighted to announce the approach of an
enemy and summon the inhabitants to arms. Quarter was rarely if ever
given, and it was customary to cut the ears from the bodies of the
slain. Parleys were conducted and terms of peace arranged under the
shelter of a banner of truce, upon which two words were inscribed--
"Stop fighting."

The beacon-fires above mentioned, very useful for summoning the feudal
barons to the rescue in case of need, cost one sovereign his throne.
He had a beautiful concubine, for the sake of whose company he
neglected the affairs of government. The lady was of a melancholy
turn, never being seen to smile. She said she loved the sound of rent
silk, and to gratify her whim many fine pieces of silk were torn to
shreds. The king offered a thousand ounces of gold to any one who
would make her laugh; whereupon his chief minister suggested that the
beacon-fires should be lighted to summon the feudal nobles with their
armies, as though the royal house were in danger. The trick succeeded;
for in the hurry-skurry that ensued the impassive girl positively
laughed outright. Later on, when a real attack was made upon the
capital by barbarian hordes, and the beacon-fires were again lighted,
this time in stern reality, there was no response from the insulted
nobles. The king was killed, and his concubine strangled herself.

Meanwhile, a high state of civilization was enjoyed by these feudal
peoples, when not engaged in cutting each other's throats. They lived
in thatched houses constructed of rammed earth and plaster, with
beaten floors on which dry grass was strewn as carpet. Originally
accustomed to sit on mats, they introduced chairs and tables at an
early date; they drank an ardent spirit with their carefully cooked
food, and wore robes of silk. Ballads were sung, and dances were
performed, on ceremonial and festive occasions; hunting and fishing
and agriculture were occupations for the men, while the women employed
themselves in spinning and weaving. There were casters of bronze
vessels, and workers in gold, silver, and iron; jade and other stones
were cut and polished for ornaments. The written language was already
highly developed, being much the same as we now find it. Indeed, the
chief difference lies in the form of the characters, just as an old
English text differs in form from a text of the present day. What we
may call the syntax of the language has remained very much the same;
and phrases from the old ballads of three thousand years ago, which
have passed into the colloquial, are still readily understood, though
of course pronounced according to the requirements of modern speech.
We can no more say how Confucius (551-479 B.C.) pronounced Chinese,
than we can say how Miltiades pronounced Greek when addressing his
soldiers before the battle of Marathon (490 B.C.). The "books" which
were read in ancient China consisted of thin slips of wood or bamboo,
on which the characters were written by means of a pencil of wood or
bamboo, slightly frayed at the end, so as to pick up a coloured liquid
and transfer it to the tablets as required. Until recently, it was
thought that the Chinese scratched their words on tablets of bamboo
with a knife, but now we know that the knife was only used for
scratching out, when a character was wrongly written.

The art of healing was practised among the Chinese in their
pre-historic times, but the earliest efforts of a methodical
character, of which we have any written record, belong to the period
with which we are now dealing. There is indeed a work, entitled "Plain
Questions," which is attributed to a legendary emperor of the Golden
Age, who interrogates one of his ministers on the cause and cure of
all kinds of diseases; as might be expected, it is not of any real
value, nor can its date be carried back beyond a few centuries B.C.

Physicians of the feudal age classified diseases under the four
seasons of the year: headaches and neuralgic affections under
/spring/, skin diseases of all kinds under /summer/, fevers and agues
under /autumn/, and bronchial and pulmonary complaints under /winter/.
They treated the various complaints that fell under these headings by
suitable doses of one or more ingredients taken from the five classes
of drugs, derived from herbs, trees, living creatures, minerals, and
grains, each of which class contained medicines of five flavours, with
special properties: /sour/ for nourishing the bones, /acid/ for
nourishing the muscles, /salt/ for nourishing the blood-vessels,
/bitter/ for nourishing general vitality, and /sweet/ for nourishing
the flesh. The pulse has always been very much to the front in the
treatment of disease; there are at least twenty-four varieties of
pulse with which every doctor is supposed to be familiar, and some
eminent doctors have claimed to distinguish no fewer than seventy-two.
In the "Plain Questions" there is a sentence which points towards the
circulation of the blood,--"All the blood is under the jurisdiction of
the heart," a point beyond which the Chinese never seem to have pushed
their investigations; but of this curious feature in their
civilization, later on.

It was under the feudal system, perhaps a thousand years before
Christ, that the people of China began to possess family names.
Previous to that time there appear to have been tribal or clan names;
these however were not in ordinary use among the individual members of
each clan, who were known by their personal names only, bestowed upon
them in childhood by their parents. Gradually, it became customary to
prefix to the personal name a surname, adopted generally from the name
of the place where the family lived, sometimes from an appellation or
official title of a distinguished ancestor; places in China never take
their names from individuals, as with us, and consequently there are
no such names as Faringdon or Gislingham, the homes of the Fearings or
Gislings of old. Thus, to use English terms, a boy who had been called
"Welcome" by his parents might prefix the name of the place,
Cambridge, where he was born, and call himself Cambridge Welcome, the
surname always coming first in Chinese, as, for instance, in Li Hung-
Chang. The Manchus, it must be remembered, have no surnames; that is
to say, they do not use their clan or family names, but call
themselves by their personal names only.

Chinese surnames, other than place names, are derived from a variety
of sources: from nature, as River, Stone, Cave; from animals, as Bear,
Sheep, Dragon; from birds, as Swallow, Pheasant; from the body, as
Long-ears, Squint-eye; from colours, as Black, White; from trees and
flowers, as Hawthorn, Leaf, Reed, Forest; and others, such as Rich,
East, Sharp, Hope, Duke, Stern, Tepid, Money, etc. By the fifth
century before Christ, the use of surnames had definitely become
established for all classes, whereas in Europe surnames were not known
until about the twelfth century after Christ, and even then were
confined to persons of wealth and position. There is a small Chinese
book, studied by every schoolboy and entitled /The Hundred Surnames/,
the word "hundred" being commonly used in a generally comprehensive
sense. It actually contains about four hundred of the names which
occur most frequently.

About two hundred and twenty years before Christ, the feudal system
came to an end. One aggressive state gradually swallowed up all the
others; and under the rule of its sovereign, China became once more an
empire, and such it has ever since remained. But although always an
empire, the throne, during the past two thousand years, has passed
many times from one house to another.

The extraordinary man who led his state to victory over each rival in
turn, and ultimately mounted the throne to rule over a united China,
finds his best historical counterpart in Napoleon. He called himself
the First Emperor, and began by sending an army of 300,000 men to
fight against an old and dreaded enemy to the north, recently
identified beyond question with the Huns. He dispatched a fleet to
search for some mysterious islands off the coast, thought by some to
be the islands which form Japan. He built the Great Wall, to a great
extent by means of convict labour, malefactors being condemned to long
terms of penal servitude on the works. His copper coinage was so
uniformly good that the cowry disappeared altogether from commerce
during his reign. Above all things he desired to impart a fresh
stimulus to literary effort, but he adopted singularly unfortunate
means to secure this desirable end; for, listening to the insidious
flattery of courtiers, he determined that literature should begin anew
with his reign. He therefore determined to destroy all existing books,
finally deciding to spare those connected with three important
departments of human knowledge: namely, (1) works which taught the
people to plough, sow, reap, and provide food for the race; (2) works
on the use of drugs and on the healing art; and (3) works on the
various methods of foretelling the future which might lead men to act
in accordance with, and not in opposition to, the eternal fitness of
things as seen in the operations of Nature. Stringent orders were
issued accordingly, and many scholars were put to death for concealing
books in the hope that the storm would blow over. Numbers of valuable
works perished in a vast conflagration of books, and the only wonder
is that any were preserved, with the exception of the three classes
specified above.

In 210 B.C. the First Emperor died, and his youngest son was placed
upon the throne with the title of Second Emperor. The latter began by
carrying out the funeral arrangements of his father, as described
about a century later by the first and greatest of China's

"On the 9th moon the First Emperor was buried in Mount Li, which in
the early days of his reign he had caused to be tunnelled and prepared
with that view. Then, when he had consolidated the empire, he employed
his soldiery, to the number of 700,000, to bore down to the Three
Springs (that is, until water was reached), and there a firm
foundation was laid and the sarcophagus placed thereon. Rare objects
and costly jewels were collected from the palaces and from the various
officials, and were carried thither and stored in huge quantities.
Artificers were ordered to construct mechanical crossbows, which, if
any one were to enter, would immediately discharge their arrows. With
the aid of quicksilver, rivers were made--the Yangtsze, the Yellow
River, and the great ocean--the metal being made to flow from one into
the other by machinery. On the roof were delineated the constellations
of the sky, on the floor the geographical divisions of the earth.
Candles were made from the fat of the man-fish (walrus), calculated to
last for a very long time. The Second Emperor said: 'It is not fitting
that the concubines of my late father who are without children should
leave him now;' and accordingly he ordered them to accompany the dead
monarch into the next world, those who thus perished being many in
number. When the internment was completed, some one suggested that the
workmen who had made the machinery and concealed the treasure knew the
great value of the latter, and that the secret would leak out.
Therefore, so soon as the ceremony was over, and the path giving
access to the sarcophagus had been blocked up at its innermost end,
the outside gate at the entrance to this path was let fall, and the
mausoleum was effectually closed, so that not one of the workmen
escaped. Trees and grass were then planted around, that the spot might
look like the rest of the mountain."

The career of the Second Emperor finds an apt parallel in that of
Richard Cromwell, except that the former was put to death, after a
short and inglorious reign. Then followed a dynasty which has left an
indelible mark upon the civilization as well as on the recorded
history of China. A peasant, by mere force of character, succeeded
after a three-years' struggle in establishing himself upon the throne,
206 B.C., and his posterity, known as the House of Han, ruled over
China for four hundred years, accidentally divided into two nearly
equal portions by the Christian era, about which date there occurred a
temporary usurpation of the throne which for some time threatened the
stability of the dynasty in the direct line of succession. To this
date, the more northern Chinese have no prouder title than that of a
"son of Han."

During the whole period of four hundred years the empire cannot be
said to have enjoyed complete tranquillity either at home or abroad.
There were constant wars with the Tartar tribes on the north, against
whom the Great Wall proved to be a somewhat ineffectual barrier. Also
with the Huns, the forbears of the Turks, who once succeeded in
shutting up the founder of the dynasty in one of his own cities, from
which he only escaped by a stratagem to be related in another
connexion. There were in addition wars with Korea, the ultimate
conquest of which led to the discovery of Japan, then at a low level
of civilization and unable to enter into official relations with China
until A.D. 57, when an embassy was sent for the first time. Those who
are accustomed to think of the Chinese as an eminently unwarlike
nation will perhaps be surprised to hear that before the end of the
second century B.C. they had carried their victorious arms far away
into Central Asia, annexing even the Pamirs and Kokand to the empire.
The wild tribes of modern Yunnan were reduced to subjection, and their
territory may further be considered as added from about this period.

At home, the eunuchs gave an immense deal of trouble by their restless
spirit of intrigue; besides which, for nearly twenty years the
Imperial power was in the hands of a famous usurper, named Wang Mang
(pronounced /Wahng Mahng/), who had secured it by the usual means of
treachery and poison, to lose it on the battle-field and himself to
perish shortly afterwards in a revolt of his own soldiery. But the
most remarkable of all events connected with the Han dynasty was the
extended revival of learning and authorship. Texts of the Confucian
Canon were rescued from hiding-places in which they had been concealed
at the risk of death; editing committees were appointed, and immense
efforts were made to repair the mischief sustained by literature at
the hands of the First Emperor. The scholars of the day expounded the
teachings of Confucius as set forth in these texts; and although their
explanations were set aside in the twelfth century, when an entirely
new set of interpretations became (and remain) the accepted standard
for all students, it is mostly due to those early efforts that the
Confucian Canon has exercised such a deep and lasting influence over
the minds of the Chinese people. Unfortunately, it soon became the
fashion to discover old texts, and many works are now in circulation
which have no claim whatever to the antiquity to which they pretend.

During the four hundred years of Han supremacy the march of
civilization went steadily forward. Paper and ink were invented, and
also the camel's-hair brush, both of which gave a great impetus to the
arts of writing and painting, the latter being still in a very
elementary stage. The custom of burying slaves with the dead was
abolished early in the dynasty. The twenty-seven months of mourning
for parents--nominally three years, as is now again the rule--was
reduced to a more manageable period of twenty-seven days. Literary
degrees were first established, and perpetual hereditary rank was
conferred upon the senior descendant of Confucius in the male line,
which has continued in unbroken succession down to the present day.
The head of the Confucian clan is now a duke, and resides in a palace,
taking rank with, if not before, the highest provincial authorities.

The extended military campaigns in Central Asia during this period
brought China into touch with Bactria, then an outlying province of
ancient Greece. From this last source, the Chinese learnt many things
which are now often regarded as of purely native growth. They imported
the grape, and made from it a wine which was in use for many
centuries, disappearing only about two or three hundred years ago.
Formerly dependent on the sun-dial alone, the Chinese now found
themselves in possession of the water-clock, specimens of which are
still to be seen in full working order, whereby the division of the
day into twelve two-hour periods was accurately determined. The
calendar was regulated anew, and the science of music was
reconstructed; in fact, modern Chinese music may be said to
approximate closely to the music of ancient Greece. Because of the
difference of scale, Chinese music does not make any appeal to Western
ears; at any rate, not in the sense in which it appealed to Confucius,
who has left it on record that after listening to a certain melody he
was so affected as not to be able to taste meat for three months.



In the earliest ages of which history professes to take cognizance,
persons who wished to dispose of their goods were obliged to have
recourse to barter. By and by shells were adopted as a medium of
exchange, and then pieces of stamped silk, linen, and deerskin. These
were followed by circular discs of copper, pierced with a round hole,
the forerunners of the ordinary copper coins of a century or two
later, which had square holes, and bore inscriptions, as they still do
in the present day. Money was also cast in the shape of "knives" and
of "trouser," by which names specimens of this early coinage (mostly
fakes) are known to connoisseurs. Some of these were beautifully
finished, and even inlaid with gold. Early in the ninth century, bills
of exchange came into use; and from the middle of the twelve century
paper money became quite common, and is still in general use all over
China, notes being issued in some places for amounts less even than a

Measures of length and capacity were fixed by the Chinese after an
exceedingly simple process. The grain of millet, which is fairly
uniform in size, was taken as the unit of both. Ten of these grains,
laid end-ways, formed the inch, ten of which made a foot, and ten feet
a /chang/. The decimal system has always prevailed in China, with one
curious exception: sixteen ounces make a pound. How this came to be so
does not appear to be known; but in this case it is the pound which is
the unit of weight, and not the lower denomination. The word which for
more than twenty centuries signified "pound" to the Chinese, was
originally the rude picture of an axe-head; and there is no doubt that
axe-heads, being all of the same size, were used in weighing
commodities, and were subsequently split, for convenience's sake, into
sixteen equal parts, each about one-third heavier than the English
ounce. For measures of capacity, we must revert to the millet-grain, a
fixed number of which set the standard for Chinese pints and quarts.
The result of this rule-of-thumb calculation has been that weights and
measures vary all over the empire, although there actually exist an
official foot, pound and pint, as recognized by the Chinese
government. In one and the same city a tailor's foot will differ from
a carpenter's foot, an oilman's pint from a spirit-merchant's pint,
and so on. The final appeal is to local custom.

With the definitive establishment of the monarchy, two hundred years
before the Christian era, a system of government was inaugurated which
has proceeded, so far as essentials are concerned, upon almost uniform
lines down to the present day.

It is an ancient and well-recognized principle in China, that every
inch of soil belongs to the sovereign; consequently, all land is held
on consideration of a land-tax payable to the emperor, and so long as
this tax is forthcoming, the land in question is practically freehold,
and can be passed by sale from hand to hand for a small conveyancing
fee to the local authorities who stamp the deeds. Thus, the foreign
concessions or settlements in China were not sold or parted with in
any way by the Chinese; they were "leased in perpetuity" so long as
the ground-rent is paid, and remain for all municipal and such
purposes under the uncontrolled administration of the nation which
leased them. The land-tax may be regarded as the backbone of Chinese
finance; but although nominally collected at a fixed rate, it is
subject to fluctuations due to bad harvests and like visitations, in
which cases the tax is accepted at a lower rate, in fact at any rate
the people can afford to pay.

The salt and other monopolies, together with the customs, also
contribute an important part of China's revenue. There is the old
native customs service, with its stations and barriers all over the
empire, and the foreign customs service, as established at the treaty
ports only, in order to deal with shipments on foreign vessels trading
with China. The traditional and well-marked lines of taxation are
freely accepted by the people; any attempt, however, to increase the
amounts to be levied, or to introduce new charges of any kind, unless
duly authorized by the people themselves, would be at once sternly
resisted. As a matter of fact, the authorities never run any such
risks. It is customary, when absolutely necessary, and possibly
desirable, to increase old or to introduce new levies, for the local
authorities to invite the leading merchants and others concerned to a
private conference; and only when there is a general consent of all
parties do the officials venture to put forth proclamations saying
that such and such a tax will be increased or imposed, as the case may
be. Any other method may lead to disastrous results. The people refuse
to pay; and coercion is met at once by a general closing of shops and
stoppage of trade, or, in more serious cases, by an attack on the
official residence of the offending mandarin, who soon sees his house
looted and levelled with the ground. In other words, the Chinese
people tax themselves.

The nominal form of government, speaking without reference to the new
constitution which will be dealt with later on, is an irresponsible
autocracy; its institutions are likewise autocratic in form, but
democratic in operation. The philosopher, Mencius (372-289 B.C.),
placed the people first, the gods second, and the sovereign third, in
the scale of national importance; and this classification has sunk
deep into the minds of the Chinese during more than two thousand years
past. What the people in China will not stand is injustice; at the
same time they will live contentedly under harsh laws which they have
at one time or another imposed upon themselves.

Each of the great dynasties has always begun with a Penal Code of its
own, based upon that of the outgoing dynasty, but tending to be more
and more humane in character as time goes on. The punishments in old
days were atrocious in their severity; the Penal Code of the present
dynasty, which came into force some two hundred and fifty years ago,
has been pronounced by competent judges to take a very high rank
indeed. It was introduced to replace a much harsher code which had
been in operation under the Ming dynasty, and contains the nominally
immutable laws of the empire, with such modifications and restrictions
as have been authorized from time to time by Imperial edict. Still
farther back in Chinese history, we come upon punishments of ruthless
cruelty, such as might be expected to prevail in times of lesser
culture and refinement. Two thousand years ago, the Five Punishments
were--branding on the forehead, cutting off the nose, cutting off the
feet, mutilation, and death; for the past two hundred and fifty years,
these have been--beating with the light bamboo, beating with the heavy
bamboo, transportation for a certain period, banishment to a certain
distance, and death, the last being subdivided into strangling and
decapitation, according to the gravity of the offence.

Two actual instruments of torture are mentioned, one for compressing
the ankle-bones, and the other for squeezing the fingers, to be used
if necessary to extort a confession in charges of robbery and
homicide, confession being regarded as essential to the completion of
the record. The application, however, of these tortures is fenced
round in such a way as to impose great responsibility upon the
presiding magistrate; and in addition to the risk of official
impeachment, there is the more dreaded certainty of loss of influence
and of popular esteem. Mention is made in the code of the so-called
"lingering death," according to which first one arm is chopped off,
then the other; the two legs follow in the same way; two slits are
made on the breast, and the heart is torn out; decapitation finishes
the proceedings. It is worthy of note that, although many foreigners
have been present from time to time at public executions, occasionally
when the "lingering death" has been announced, not one has established
it as a fact beyond a doubt that such a process has ever been carried
out. Not only that; it is also well known that condemned criminals are
allowed to purchase of themselves, or through their friends, if they
have any, spirits or opium with which to fortify their courage at the
last moment. There is indeed a tradition that stupefying drinks are
served out by the officials to the batches of malefactors as they pass
to the execution ground at Peking. It would still remain to find
executioners capable of performing in cold blood such a disgusting
operation as the "lingering death" is supposed to be. The ordinary
Chinaman is not a fiend; he does not gloat in his peaceful moments,
when not under the influence of extreme excitement, over bloodshed and

The generally lenient spirit in which the Penal Code of China was
conceived is either widely unknown, or very often ignored. For
instance, during the excessive summer heats certain punishments are
mitigated, and others remitted altogether. Prompt surrender and
acknowledgment of an offence, before it is otherwise discovered,
entitles the offender, with some exceptions, to a full and free
pardon; as also does restitution of stolen property to its owner by a
repentant thief; while a criminal guilty of two or more offences can
be punished only to the extent of the principal charge. Neither are
the near relatives, nor even the servants, of a guilty man, punishable
for concealing his crime and assisting him to escape. Immense
allowances are made for the weakness of human nature, in all of which
may be detected the tempering doctrines of the great Sage. A feudal
baron was boasting to Confucius that in his part of the country the
people were so upright that a son would give evidence against a father
who had stolen a sheep. "With us," replied Confucius, "the father
screens the son, and the son screens the father; that is real
uprightness." To another questioner, a man in high authority, who
complained of the number of thieves, the Master explained that this
was due to the greed of the upper classes. "But for this greed," he
added, "even if you paid people to steal, they would not do so." To
the same man, who inquired his views on capital punishment, Confucius
replied: "What need is there for capital punishment at all? If your
aims are worthy, the people also will be worthy."

There are many other striking features of the Penal Code. No marriage,
for instance, may be contracted during the period of mourning for
parents, which in theory extends to three full years, but in practice
is reckoned at twenty-seven months; neither may musical instruments be
played by near relatives of the dead. During the same period, no
mandarin may hold office, but must retire into private life; though
the observance of this rule is often dispensed with in the case of
high officials whose presence at their posts may be of considerable
importance. In such cases, by special grace of the emperor, the period
of retirement is cut down to three months, or even to one.

The death of an emperor is followed by a long spell of national
tribulation. For one hundred days no man may have his head shaved, and
no woman may wear head ornaments. For twelve months there may be no
marrying or giving in marriage among the official classes, a term
which is reduced to one hundred days for the public at large. The
theatres are supposed to remain closed for a year, but in practice
they shut only for one hundred days. Even thus great hardships are
entailed upon many classes of the community, especially upon actors
and barbers, who might be in danger of actual starvation but for the
common-sense of their rulers coupled with the common rice-pot at home.

The law forbidding marriage between persons of the same surname is
widely, but not universally, in operation. No Smith may marry a Smith;
no Jones may marry a Jones; the reason of course being that all of the
same surname are regarded as members of the same family. However,
there are large districts in certain parts of China where the people
are one and all of the surname, and where it would be a great hardship
--not to mention the impossibility of enforcing the law--if
intermarriages of the kind were prohibited. Consequently, they are
allowed, but only if the contracting parties are so distantly related
that, according to the legal table of affinity, they would not wear
mourning for one another in case of death--in other words, not related
at all. The line of descent is now traced through the males, but there
is reason to believe that in early days, as is found to be often the
case among uncivilized tribes, the important, because more easily
recognizable, parent was the mother. Thus it is illegal for first
cousins of the same surname to marry, and legal if the surnames are
different; in the latter case, however, centuries of experience have
taught the Chinese to frown upon such unions as undesirable in the

The Penal Code forbids water burial, and also cremation; but it is
permitted to the children of a man dying at a great distance to
consume their father's corpse with fire if positively unable to bring
it back for ordinary burial in his native district. The idea is that
with the aid of fire immediate communication is set up with the
spirit-world, and that the spirit of the deceased is thus enabled to
reach his native place, which would be impossible were the corpse to
remain intact. Hence the horror of dying abroad, common to all
Chinese, and only faced if there is a reasonable probability that
their remains will be carried back to the ancestral home.

In spite of the above law, the cremation of Buddhist priests is
universal, and the practice is tolerated without protest. Priests who
are getting on in years, or who are stricken with a mortal disease,
are compelled by rule to move into a certain part of their monastery,
known as the Abode of a Long Old Age, in which they are required--not
to die, for death does not come to a good priest, but--to enter into
Nirvana, which is a sublime state of conscious freedom from all mental
and physical disturbance, not to be adequately described in words. At
death, the priest is placed in a chair, his chin supported by a
crutch, and then put into a wooden box, which on the appointed day is
carried in procession, with streaming banners, through the monastery,
and out into the cremation-ground attached, his brother priests
chanting all the while that portion of the Buddhist liturgies set
apart as the service for the dead, but which being in Pali, not a
single one of them can understand. There have, of course, been many
highly educated priests at one time and another during the long reign
of Buddhism in China; but it is safe to say that they are no longer to
be met with in the present day. The Buddhist liturgies have been
written out in Chinese characters which reproduce the sounds of the
original Indian language, and these the priests learn by heart without
understanding a word of their meaning. The box with the dead man in it
is now hoisted to the top of a funeral pyre, which has been well
drenched with oil, and set alight; and when the fire has burnt out,
the ashes are reverently collected and placed in an urn, which is
finally deposited in a mausoleum kept for that purpose.

Life is remarkably safe in China. No man can be executed until his
name has been submitted to the emperor, which of course means to his
ministers at the capital. The Chinese, however, being, as has been so
often stated, an eminently practical people, understand that certain
cases admit of no delay; and to prevent the inevitable lynching of
such criminals as kidnappers, rebels, and others, caught red-handed,
high officials are entrusted with the power of life and death, which
they can put into immediate operation, always taking upon themselves
full responsibility for their acts. The essential is to allay any
excitement of the populace, and to preserve the public peace.

In the general administration of the law great latitude is allowed,
and injustice is rarely inflicted by a too literal interpretation of
the Code. Stealing is of course a crime, yet no Chinese magistrate
would dream of punishing a hungry man for simple theft of food, even
if such a case were ever brought into court. Cake-sellers keep a sharp
eye on their wares; farmers and market-gardeners form associates for
mutual protection, and woe to the thief who gets caught--his
punishment is short and sharp. Litigation is not encouraged, even by
such facilities as ought to be given to persons suffering wrongs;
there is no bar, or legal profession, and persons who assist
plaintiffs or defendants in the conduct of cases, are treated with
scant courtesy by the presiding magistrate and are lucky if they get
off with nothing worse. The majority of commercial cases come before
the guilds, and are settled without reference to the authorities. The
ordinary Chinese dread a court of justice, as a place in which both
parties manage to lose something. "It is not the big devil," according
to the current saying, "but the little devils" who frighten the suitor
away. This is because official servants receive no salary, but depend
for their livelihood on perquisites and tips; and the Chinese suitor,
who is a party to the system, readily admits that it is necessary "to
sprinkle a little water."

Neither do any officials in China, high or low, receive salaries,
although absurdly inadequate sums are allocated by the Government for
that purpose, for which it is considered prudent not to apply. The
Chinese system is to some extent the reverse of our own. Our officials
collect money and pay it into the Treasury, from which source fixed
sums are returned to them as salaries. In China, the occupants of
petty posts collect revenue in various ways, as taxes or fees, pay
themselves as much as they dare, and hand up the balance to a superior
officer, who in turn pays himself in the same sense, and again hands
up the balance to his superior officer. When the viceroy of a province
is reached, he too keeps what he dares, sending up to the Imperial
exchequer in Peking just enough to satisfy the powers above him. There
is thus a continual check by the higher grade upon the lower, but no
check on such extortion as might be practised upon the tax-payer. The
tax-payer sees to that himself. Speaking generally, it may be said
that this system, in spite of its unsatisfactory character, works
fairly well. Few officials overstep the limits which custom has
assigned to their posts, and those who do generally come to grief. So
that when the dishonesty of the Chinese officials is held up to
reprobation, it should always be remembered that the financial side of
their public service is not surrounded with such formalities and
safeguards as to make robbery of public money difficult, if not almost
impossible. It is, therefore, all the more cheering when we find, as
is frequently the case, retiring or transferred mandarins followed by
the good wishes and affection of the people over whom they have been
set to rule.

Until quite recently, there has been no such thing in China as
municipal administration and rating, and even now such methods are
only being tentatively introduced in large cities where there are a
number of foreign residents. Occupants of houses are popularly
supposed to "sweep the snow from their own doorsteps," but the repair
of roads, bridges, drains, etc., has always been left to the casual
philanthropy of wealthy individuals, who take these opportunities of
satisfying public opinion in regard to the obligations of the rich
towards the poor. Consequently, Chinese cities are left without
efficient lighting, draining, or scavengering; and it is astonishing
how good the health of the people living under these conditions can
be. There is no organized police force; but cities are divided into
wards, and at certain points barriers are drawn across the streets at
night, with perhaps one watchman to each. It is not considered
respectable to be out late at night, and it is not safe to move about
without a lantern, which is carried, for those who can afford the
luxury, by a servant preceding them.

One difference between life in China and life in this country may be
illustrated to a certain extent in the following way. Supposing a
traveller, passing through an English village, to be hit on the head
by a stone. Unless he can point out his assailant, the matter is at an
end. In China, all the injured party has to do is to point out the
village--or, if a town, the ward--in which he was assaulted. Then the
headman of such town or ward is summoned before the authorities and
fined, proportionately to the offence, for allowing rowdy behaviour in
his district. The headman takes good care that he does not pay the
fine himself. In the same way, parents are held responsible for the
acts of their children, and householders for those of their servants.



The Chinese are emphatically not a religious people, though they are
very superstitious. Belief in a God has come down from the remotest
ages, but the old simple creed has been so overlaid by Buddhism as not
to be discernible at the present day. Buddhism is now the dominant
religion of China. It is closely bound up with the lives of the
people, and is a never-failing refuge in sickness or worldly trouble.
It is no longer the subtle doctrine which was originally presented to
the people of India, but something much more clearly defined and
appreciable by the plainest intellect. Buddha is the saviour of the
people through righteousness alone, and Buddhist saints are popularly
supposed to possess intercessory powers. Yet reverence is always
wanting; and crowds will laugh and talk, and buy and sell sweetmeats,
in a Buddhist temple, before the very eyes of the most sacred images.
So long as divine intervention is not required, an ordinary Chinaman
is content to neglect his divinities; but no sooner does sickness or
financial trouble come upon the family, than he will hurry off to
propitiate the gods.

He accomplishes this through the aid of the priests, who receive his
offerings of money, and light candles or incense at the shrine of the
deity to be invoked. Buddhist priests are not popular with the
Chinese, who make fun of their shaven heads, and doubt the sincerity
of their convictions as well as the purity of their lives. "No meat
nor wine may enter here" is a legend inscribed at the gate of most
Buddhist temples, the ordinary diet as served in the refectory being
strictly vegetarian. A tipsy priest, however, is not an altogether
unheard-of combination, and has provided more than one eminent artist
with a subject of an interesting picture.

Yet the ordeal through which a novice must pass before being admitted
to holy orders is a severe tax upon nerve and endurance. In the
process of a long ritual, at least three, or even so many as nine,
pastilles are placed upon the bald scalp of the head. These are then
lighted, and allowed to burn down into the skin until permanent scars
have been formed, the unfortunate novice being supported on both sides
by priests who encourage him all the time to bear what must be
excruciating pain. The fully qualified priest receives a diploma, on
the strength of which he may demand a day and a night's board and
lodging from the priests of any temple all over the empire.

At a very early date Buddhism had already taken a firm hold on the
imagination of Chinese poets and painters, the latter of whom loved to
portray the World-honoured One in a dazzling hue of gold. A poet of
the eighth century A.D., who realized for the first time the inward
meaning of the Law, as it is called, ended a panegyric on Buddhism
with the following lines:--

O thou pure Faith, had I but known thy scope,
The Golden God had long since been my hope!

Taoism is a term often met with in books about China. We are told that
the three religions of the people are Confucianism, Buddhism, and
Taoism, this being the order of precedence assigned to them in A.D.
568. Confucianism is of course not a religion at all, dealing as it
does with duty towards one's neighbour and the affairs of this life
only; and it will be seen that Taoism, in its true sense, has scarcely
a stronger claim. At a very remote day, some say a thousand, and
others six hundred, years before the Christian era, there flourished a
wise man named Lao Tzu, which may be approximately pronounced as
/Loudza/ (/ou/ as in /loud/), and understood to mean the Old
Philosopher. He was a very original thinker, and a number of his
sayings have been preserved to us by ancient authors, whom they had
reached by tradition; that is to say, the Old Philosopher never put
his doctrines into book form. There is indeed in existence a work
which passes under his name, but it is now known to be a forgery, and
is generally discarded by scholars.

The great flaw in the teaching of the Old Philosopher was its
extremely impractical character, its unsuitability to the needs of men
and women engaged in the ordinary avocations of life. In one sense he
was an Anarchist, for he held that the empire would fare better if
there were no government at all, the fact being that violence and
disorder had always been conspicuous even under the best rulers.
Similarly, he argued that we should get along more profitably with
less learning, because then there would be fewer thieves, successful
thieving being the result of mental training. It is not necessary to
follow him to his most famous doctrine, namely, that of doing nothing,
by which means, he declared, everything could be done, the solution of
which puzzle of left everybody to find out for himself. Among his
quaint sayings will be found several maxims of a very different class,
as witness his injunction, "Requite evil with kindness," and "Mighty
is he who conquers himself." Of the latter, the following illustration
is given by a commentator. Two men meeting in the street, one said to
the other, "How fat you have grown!" "Yes," replied his friend, "I
have lately won a battle." "What do you mean?" inquired the former.
"Why, you see," said the latter, "so long as I was at home, reading
about ancient kings, I admired nothing but virtue; then, when I went
out of doors, I was attracted by the charms of wealth and power. These
two feelings fought inside me, and I began to lose flesh; but now love
of virtue has conquered, and I am fat."

The teachings of the Old Philosopher were summed up in the word /Tao/,
pronounced as /tou(t)/, which originally meant a road, a way; and as
applied to doctrines means simply the right way or path of moral
conduct, in which mankind should tread so as to lead correct and
virtuous lives. Later on, when Buddhism was introduced, this Taoism,
with all its paradoxes and subtleties, to which alchemy and the
concoction of an elixir of life had been added, gradually began to
lose its hold upon the people; and in order to stem the tide of
opposition, temples and monasteries were built, a priesthood was
established in imitation of the Buddhists, and all kinds of ceremonies
and observances were taken from Buddhism, until, at the present day,
only those who know can tell one from the other.

Although alchemy, which was introduced from Greece, via Bactria, in
the second century B.C., has long ceased to interest the Chinese
public, who have found out that gold is more easily made from the
sweat of the brow than from copper or lead; and although only a few
silly people now believe that any mixture of drugs will produce an
elixir of life, able to confer immortality upon those who drink it;
nevertheless, Taoism still professes to teach the art of extending
life, if not indefinitely, at any rate to a considerable length. This
art would probably go some way towards extending life under any
circumstances, for it consists chiefly in deep and regular breathing,
preferably of morning air, in swallowing the saliva three times in
every two hours, in adopting certain positions for the body and limbs,
which are also strengthened by gymnastic exercises, and finally, as
borrowed from the Buddhists, in remaining motionless for some hours a
day, the eyes shut, and the mind abstracted as much as possible from
all surrounding influences. The upshot of these and other practices is
the development of "the pure man," on which Chuang Tzu (/Chwongdza/),
a Taoist philosopher of the third and fourth centuries B.C., to be
mentioned again, writes as follows: "But what is a pure man? The pure
men of old acted without calculation, not seeking to secure results.
They laid no plans. Therefore, failing, they had no cause for regret;
succeeding, no cause for congratulation. And thus they could scale
heights without fear; enter water without becoming wet, and fire
without feeling hot. The pure men of old slept without dreams, and
waked without anxiety. They ate without discrimination, breathing deep
breaths. For pure men draw breath from their heels; the vulgar only
from their throats."

Coupled with what may be called intellectual Taoism, as opposed to the
grosser form under which this faith appeals to the people at large, is
a curious theory that human life reaches the earth from some
extraordinarily dazzling centre away in the depths of space, "beyond
the range of conceptions." This centre appears to be the home of
eternal principles, the abode of a First Cause, where perfectly
spotless and pure beings "drink of the spiritual and feed on force,"
and where likeness exists without form. To get back to that state
should be the object of all men, and this is only to be attained by a
process of mental and physical purification prolonged through all
conditions of existence. Then, when body and soul are fitted for the
change, there comes what ordinary mortals call death; and the pure
being closes his eyes, to awake forthwith in his original glory from
the sleep which mortals call life.

For many centuries Buddhism and Taoism were in bitter antagonism.
Sometimes the court was Buddhist, sometimes Taoist; first one faith
was suppressed altogether, then the other; in A.D. 574 both were
abolished in deference to Confucianism, which, however, no emperor has
ever dared to interfere with seriously. At present, all the "three
religions" flourish happily side by side.

The Chinese believe firmly in the existence of spirits, which they
classify simply as good and evil. They do not trouble their heads much
about the former, but they are terribly afraid of the latter. Hideous
devils infest dark corners, and lie in wait to injure unfortunate
passers-by, often for no cause whatever. The spirits of persons who
have been wronged are especially dreaded by those who have done the
wrong. A man who has been defrauded of money will commit suicide,
usually by poison, at the door of the wrongdoer, who will thereby
first fall into the hands of the authorities, and if he escapes in
that quarter, will still have to count with the injured ghost of his
victim. A daughter-in-law will drown or hang herself to get free from,
and also to avenge, the tyranny or cruelty of her husband's mother.
These acts lead at once to family feuds, which sometimes end in
bloodshed; more often in money compensation; and the known risk of
such contingencies operates as a wholesome check upon aggressive
treatment of the weak by the strong.

Divination and fortune-telling have always played a conspicuous part
in ordinary Chinese life. Wise men, of the magician type, sit at
stalls in street and market-place, ready for a small fee to advise
those who consult them on any enterprise to be undertaken, even of the
most trivial kind. The omens can be taken in various ways, as by
calculation based upon books, of which there is quite a literature, or
by drawing lots inscribed with mystic signs, to be interpreted by the
fortune-teller. Even at Buddhist temples may be found two kidney-
shaped pieces of wood, flat on one side and round on the other, which
are thrown into the air before an altar, the results--two flats, two
rounds, or one of each--being interpreted as unfavourable, medium, and
very favourable, respectively.

Of all Chinese superstitions, the one that has been most persistent,
and has exerted the greatest influence upon national life, is the
famous Wind-and-Water system (/feng shui/) of geomancy. According to
the principles which govern this system, and of which quite a special
literature exists, the good or evil fortunes of individuals and the
communities are determined by the various physical aspects and
conditions which surround their everyday life. The shapes of hills,
the presence or absence of water, the position of trees, the height of
buildings, and so forth, are all matters of deep consideration to the
professors of the geomantic art, who thrive on the ignorance of
superstitious clients. They are called in to select propitious sites
for houses and graves; and it often happens that if the fortunes of a
family are failing, a geomancer will be invited to modify in some way
the arrangement of the ancestral graveyard. Houses in a Chinese street
are never built up so as to form a line of uniform height; every now
and again one house must be a little higher or a little lower than its
neighbour, or calamity will certainly ensue. It is impossible to walk
straight into an ordinary middle-class dwelling-house. Just inside the
front door there will be a fixed screen, which forces the visitor to
turn to the right or to the left; the avowed object being to exclude
evil spirits, which can only move in straight lines.

Mention of the ancestral graveyard brings to mind the universal
worship of ancestors, which has been from time immemorial such a
marked feature of Chinese religious life. At death, the spirit of a
man or woman is believed to remain watching over the material
interests of the family to which the deceased had belonged. Offerings
of various kinds, including meat and drink, are from time to time made
to such a spirit, supposed to be particularly resident in an ancestral
hall--or cupboard, as the case may be. These offerings are made for
the special purpose of conciliating the spirit, and of obtaining in
return a liberal share of the blessings and good things of this life.
This is the essential feature of the rite, and this it is which makes
the rite an act of worship pure and simple; so that only superficial
observers could make the mistake of classifying ancestral worship, as
practised in China, with such acts as laying wreaths upon the tombs of
deceased friends and relatives.

With reference to the spirit or soul, the Chinese have held for
centuries past that the soul of every man is twofold; in a popular
acceptation it is sometimes regarded as threefold. One portion is that
which expresses the visible personality, and is permanently attached
to the body; the other has the power of leaving the body, carrying
with it an appearance of physical form, which accounts for a person
being seen in two different places at once. Cases of catalepsy or
trance are explained by the Chinese as the absence from the body of
this portion of the soul, which is also believed to be expelled from
the body by any violent shock or fright. There is a story of a man who
was so terrified at the prospect of immediate execution that his
separable soul left his body, and he found himself sitting on the
eaves of a house, from which point he could see a man bound, and
waiting for the executioner's sword. Just then, a reprieve arrived,
and in a moment he was back again in his body. Mr. Edmund Gosse, who
can hardly have been acquainted with the Chinese view, told a similar
story in his /Father and Son/: "During morning and evening prayers,
which were extremely lengthy and fatiguing, I fancied that one of my
two selves could flit up, and sit clinging to the cornice, and look
down on my other self and the rest of us."

In some parts of China, planchette is frequently resorted to as a
means of reading the future, and adapting one's actions accordingly.
It is a purely professional performance, being carried through
publicly before some altar in a temple, and payment made for the
response. The question is written down on a piece of paper, which is
burnt at the altar apparently before any one could gather knowledge of
its contents; and the answer from the god is forthwith traced on a
tray of sand, word by word, each word being obliterated to make room
for the next, by two men, supposed to be ignorant of the question, who
hold the ends of a V-shaped instrument from the point of which a
little wooden pencil projects at right angles.

Another method of extracting information from the spirits of the
unseen world is nothing more or less than hypnotism, which has long
been known to the Chinese, and is mentioned in literature so far back
as the middle of the seventeenth century. With all the paraphernalia
of altar, candles, incense, etc., a medium is thrown into a hypnotic
condition, during which his body is supposed to be possessed by a
spirit, and every word he may utter to be divinely inspired. An
amusing instance is recorded of a medium who, while under hypnotic
influence, not only blurted out the pecuniary defalcations of certain
men who had been collecting in aid of temple restoration, but went so
far as to admit that he had had some of the money himself.

This same influence is also used in cases of serious illness, but
always secretly, for such practices, as well as dark /seances/ for
communicating with spirits, are strictly forbidden by the Chinese
authorities, who regard the employment of occult means as more likely
to be subversive of morality than to do any good whatever to a sick
person, or to any one else. All secret societies of any sort or kind
are equally under the ban of the law, the assumption--a very
justifiable one--being that the aim of these societies is to upset the
existing order of political and social life. The Heaven-and-Earth
Society is among the most famous, and the most dreaded, partly perhaps
because it has never been entirely suppressed. The lodges of this
fraternity, the oath of fidelity, and the ceremonial of admission,
remind one forcibly of Masonry in the West; but the points of conduct
are merely coincidences, and there does not appear to be any real

Among the most curious of all these institutions is the Golden Orchid
Society, the girl-members of which swear never to marry, and not only
threaten, but positively commit suicide upon any attempt at coercion.
At one time this society became such a serious menace that the
authorities were compelled to adopt severe measures of repression.

Another old-established society is that of the Vegetarians, who eat no
meat and neither smoke nor drink. From their seemingly harmless ranks
it is said that the Boxers of 1900 were largely recruited.

For nearly twenty-five centuries the Chinese have looked to Confucius
for their morals. Various religions have appealed to the spiritual
side of the Chinese mind, and Buddhism has obtained an ascendancy
which will not be easily displaced; but through all this long lapse of
time the morality of China has been under the guidance of their great
teacher, Confucius (551-479 B.C.), affectionately known to them as the
"uncrowned king," and recently raised to the rank of a god.

His doctrines, in the form sometimes of maxims, sometimes of answers
to eager inquirers, were brought together after his death--we do not
know exactly how soon--and have influenced first and last an enormous
proportion of the human race. Confucius taught man's duty to his
neighbour; he taught virtue for virtue's sake, and not for the hope of
reward or fear of punishment; he taught loyalty to the sovereign as
the foundation stone of national prosperity, and filial piety as the
basis of all happiness in the life of the people. As a simple human
moralist he saw clearly the limitations of humanity, and refused to
teach his disciples to return good for evil, as suggested by the Old
Philosopher, declaring without hesitation that evil should be met by
justice. The first systematic writer of Chinese history, who died
about 80 B.C., expressed himself on the position and influence of
Confucius in terms which have been accepted as accurate for twenty
centuries past: "Countless are the princes and prophets that the world
has seen in its time--glorious in life, forgotten in death. But
Confucius, though only a humble member of the cotton-clothed masses,
remains with us after numerous generations. He is the model for such
as would be wise. By all, from the Son of Heaven down to the meanest
student, the supremacy of his principles is freely and fully admitted.
He may indeed be pronounced the divinest of men."

The Son of Heaven is of course the Emperor, who is supposed to be
God's chosen representative on earth, and responsible for the right
conduct and well-being of all committed to his care. Once every year
he proceeds in state to the Temple of Heaven at Peking; and after the
due performance of sacrificial worship he enters alone the central
raised building with circular blue-tiled roof, and there places
himself in communication with the Supreme Being, submitting for
approval or otherwise his stewardship during the preceding twelve
months. Chinese records go so far as to mention letters received from
God. There is a legend of the sixth century A.D., which claims that
God revealed Himself to a hermit in a retired valley, and bestowed on
him a tablet of jade with a mysterious inscription. But there is a
much more circumstantial account of a written communication which in
A.D. 1008 descended from heaven upon mount T'ai, the famous mountain
in Shantung, where a temple has been built to mark the very spot. The
emperor and his courtiers regarded this letter with profound reverence
and awe, which roused the ire of a learned statesman of the day. The
latter pointed out that Confucius, when asked to speak, so that his
disciples might have something to record, had bluntly replied: "Does
God speak? The four seasons pursue their courses and all things are
produced; but does God say anything?" Therefore, he argued, if God
does not speak to us, still less will He write a letter.

The fact that the receipt of such a letter is mentioned in the
dynastic history of the period must not be allowed to discredit in any
way the general truth and accuracy of Chinese annals, which, as
research progresses, are daily found to be far more trustworthy than
was ever expected to be the case. We ourselves do not wholly reject
the old contemporary chronicles of Hoveden and Roger of Wendover
because they mention a letter from Christ on the neglect of the

In Chinese life, social and political alike, filial piety may be
regarded as the keystone of the arch. Take that away, and the
superstructure of centuries crumbles to the ground. When Confucius was
asked by one of his disciples to explain what constituted filial
piety, he replied that it was a difficult obligation to define; while
to another disciple he was able to say without hesitation that the
mere support of parents would be insufficient, inasmuch as food is
what is supplied even to horses and dogs. According to the story-books
for children, the obligation has been interpreted by the people at
large in many different ways. The twenty-four standard examples of
filial children include a son who allowed mosquitoes to feed upon him,
and did not drive them away lest they should go and annoy his parents;
another son who wept so passionately because he could procure no
bamboo shoots for his mother that the gods were touched, and up out of
the ground came some shoots which he gathered and carried home;
another who when carrying buckets of water would slip and fall on
purpose, in order to make his parents laugh; and so on. No wonder that
Confucius found filial piety beyond his powers of definition.

Now for a genuine example. There is a very wonderful novel in which a
very affecting love-story is worked out to a terribly tragic
conclusion. The heroine, a beautiful and fascinating girl, finally
dies of consumption, and the hero, a wayward but none the less
fascinating youth, enters the Buddhist priesthood. A lady, the mother
of a clever young official, was so distressed by the pathos of the
tale that she became quite ill, and doctors prescribed medicines in
vain. At length, when things were becoming serious, the son set to
work and composed a sequel to this novel, in which he resuscitated the
heroine and made the lovers happy by marriage; and in a short time he
had the intense satisfaction of seeing his mother restored to health.

Other forms of filial piety, which bear no relation whatever to the
fanciful fables given above, are commonly practised by all classes. In
consequence of the serious or prolonged illness of parents, it is very
usual for sons and daughters to repair to the municipal temple and
pray that a certain number of years may be cut off their own span of
life and added to that of the sick parents in question.

Let us now pause to take stock of some of the results which have
accrued from the operation and influence of Confucianism during such a
long period, and over such swarming myriads of the human race. It is a
commonplace in the present day to assert that the Chinese are
hardworking, thrifty, and sober--the last-mentioned, by the way, in a
land where drunkenness is not regarded as a crime. Shallow observers
of the globe-trotter type, who have had their pockets picked by
professional thieves in Hong-Kong, and even resident observers who
have not much cultivated their powers of observation and comparison,
will assert that honesty is a virtue denied to the Chinese; but those
who have lived long in China and have more seriously devoted
themselves to discover the truth, may one and all be said to be
arrayed upon the other side. The amount of solid honesty to be met
with in every class, except the professionally criminal class, is
simply astonishing. That the word of the Chinese merchant is as good
as his bond has long since become a household word, and so it is in
other walks of life. With servants from respectable families, the
householder need have no fear for his goods. "Be loyal," says the
native maxim, "to the master whose rice you eat;" and this maxim is
usually fulfilled to the letter. Hence, it is that many foreigners who
have been successful in their business careers, take care to see, on
their final departure from the East, that the old and faithful
servant, often of twenty to thirty years' standing, shall have some
provision for himself and his family. In large establishments,
especially banks, in which great interests are at stake, it is
customary for the Chinese staff to be guaranteed by some wealthy man
(or firm), who deposits securities for a considerable amount, thus
placing the employer in a very favourable position. The properly
chosen Chinese servant who enters the household of a foreigner, is a
being to whom, as suggested above, his master often becomes deeply
attached, and whom he parts with, often after many years of service,
to his everlasting regret. Such a servant has many virtues. He is
noiseless over his work, which he performs efficiently. He can stay up
late, and yet rise early. He lives on the establishment, but in an
out-building. He provides his own food. He rarely wants to absent
himself, and even then will always provide a reliable /locum tenens/.
He studies his master's ways, and learns to anticipate his slightest
wishes. In return for these and other services he expects to get his
wages punctually paid, and to be allowed to charge, without any notice
being taken of the same, a commission on all purchases. This is the
Chinese system, and even a servant absolutely honest in any other way
cannot emancipate himself from its grip. But if treated fairly, he
will not abuse his chance. One curious feature of the system is that
if one master is in a relatively higher position than another, the
former will be charged by his servants slightly more than the latter
by his servants for precisely the same article. Many attempts have
been made by foreigners to break through this "old custom," especially
by offering higher wages; but signal failure has always been the
result, and those masters have invariably succeeded best who have
fallen in with the existing institution, and have tried to make the
best of it.

There is one more, and in many ways the most important, side of a
Chinese servant's character. He will recognize frankly, and without a
pang, the superior position and the rights of his master; but at the
same time, if worth keeping, he will exact from his master the proper
respect due from man to man. It is wholly beside the mark to say that
he will not put up for a moment with the cuffs and kicks so freely
administered to his Indian colleague. A respectable Chinese servant
will often refuse to remain with a master who uses abusive or violent
language, or shows signs of uncontrollable temper. A lucrative place
is as nothing compared with the "loss of face" which he would suffer
in the eyes of his friends; in other words, with his loss of dignity
as a man. If a servant will put up with a blow, the best course is to
dismiss him at once, as worthless and unreliable, if not actually
dangerous. Confucius said: "If you mistrust a man, do not employ him;
if you employ a man, do not mistrust him;" and this will still be
found to be an excellent working rule in dealings with Chinese


A.D. 220-1200

The long-lived and glorious House of Han was brought to a close by the
usual causes. There were palace intrigues and a temporary usurpation
of the throne, eunuchs of course being in the thick of the mischief;
added to which a very serious rebellion broke out, almost as a natural
consequence. First and last there arose three aspirants to the
Imperial yellow, which takes the place of purple in ancient Rome; the
result being that, after some years of hard fighting, China was
divided into three parts, each ruled by one of the three rivals. The
period is known in history as that of the Three Kingdoms, and lasted
from A.D. 220 to A.D. 265. This short space of time was filled,
especially the early years, with stirring deeds of heroism and
marvellous strategical operations, fortune favouring first one of the
three commanders and then another. The whole story of these civil wars
is most graphically told in a famous historical romance composed about
a thousand years afterwards. As in the case of the Waverley novels, a
considerable amount of fiction has been interwoven with truth to make
the narrative more palatable to the general reader; but its basis is
history, and the work is universally regarded among the Chinese
themselves as one of the most valuable productions in the lighter
branches of their literature.

The three to four centuries which follow on the above period were a
time of political and social disorganisation, unfavourable, according
to Chinese writers, to the development of both literature and art. The
House of Chin, which at first held sway over a once more united
empire, was severely harassed by the Tartars on the north, who were in
turn overwhelmed by the House of Toba. The latter ruled for some two
hundred years over northern China, while the southern portions were
governed by several short-lived native dynasties. A few points in
connexion with these times deserve perhaps brief mention.

The old rule of twenty-seven months of mourning for parents was
re-established, and has continued in force down to the present day.
The Japanese sent occasional missions, with tribute; and the Chinese,
who had already in A.D. 240 dispatched an envoy to Japan, repeated the
compliment in 608. An attempt was made to conquer Korea, and envoys
were sent to countries as far off as Siam. Buddhism, which had been
introduced many centuries previously--no one can exactly say when--
began to spread far and wide, and appeared to be firmly established.
In A.D. 399 a Buddhist priest, named Fa Hsien, started from Central
China and travelled to India across the great desert and over the
Hindu Kush, subsequently visiting Patna, Benares, Buddha-Gaya, and
other well-known spots, which he accurately described in the record of
his journey published on his return and still in existence. His object
was to obtain copies of the sacred books, relics and images,
illustrative of the faith; and these he safely conveyed to China by
sea from India, via Ceylon (where he spent three years), and Sumatra,
arriving after an absence of fifteen years.

In the year A.D. 618 the House of T'ang entered upon its glorious
course of three centuries in duration. Under a strong but dissolute
ruler immediately preceding, China had once more become a united
empire, undivided against itself; and although wars and rebellions
were not wanting to disturb the even tenor of its way, the general
picture presented to us under the new dynasty of the T'angs is one of
national peace, prosperity, and progress. The name of this House has
endured, like that of Han, to the present day in the popular language
of the people; for just as the northerners still delight to style
themselves "good sons of Han," so are the southerners still proud to
speak of themselves as "men of T'ang."

One of the chief political events of this period was the usurpation of
power by the Empress Wu--at first, as nominal regent on behalf of a
step-child, the son and heir of her late husband by his first wife,
and afterwards, when she had set aside the step-child, on her own
account. There had been one previous instance of a woman wielding the
Imperial sceptre, namely, the Empress Lu of the Han dynasty, to whom
the Chinese have accorded the title of legitimate ruler, which has not
been allowed to the Empress Wu. The latter, however, was possessed of
much actual ability, mixed with a kind of midsummer madness; and so
long as her great intellectual faculties remained unimpaired, she
ruled, like her successor of some twelve centuries afterwards, with a
rod of iron. In her old age she was deposed and dismissed to private
life, the rightful heir being replaced upon his father's throne.

Among the more extravagant acts of her reign are some which are still
familiar to the people of to-day. Always, even while her husband was
alive, she was present, behind a curtain, at councils and audiences;
after his death she was accustomed to take her place openly among the
ministers of state, wearing a false beard. In 694 she gave herself the
title of Divine Empress, and in 696 she even went so far as to style
herself God Almighty. In her later years she became hopelessly
arrogant and overbearing. No one was allowed to say that the Empress
was fair as a lily or lovely as a rose, but that the lily was fair or
the rose lovely as Her Majesty. She tried to spread the belief that
she was really the Supreme Being by forcing flowers artificially and
then in the presence of her courtiers ordering them to bloom. On one
occasion she commanded some peonies to bloom; and because they did not
instantly obey, she caused every peony in the capital to be pulled up
and burnt, and prohibited the cultivation of peonies ever afterwards.
She further decided to place her sex once and for all on an equality
with man. For that purpose women were admitted to the public
examinations, official posts being conferred upon those who were
successful; and among other things they were excused from kneeling
while giving evidence in courts of justice. This innovation, however,
did not fulfil its promise; and with the disappearance of its vigorous
foundress, the system also disappeared. It was not actually the first
time in Chinese history that the experiment had been tried. An emperor
of the third century A.D. had already opened public life to women, and
it is said that many of them rose to high office; but here too the
system was of short duration, and the old order was soon restored.

Another striking picture of the T'ang dynasty is presented by the
career of an emperor who is usually spoken of as Ming Huang, and who,
after distinguishing himself at several critical junctures, mounted
the throne in 712, in succession to his father, who had abdicated in
his favour. He began with economy, closing the silk factories and
forbidding the palace ladies to wear jewels or embroideries,
considerable quantities of which were actually burnt. He was a warm
patron of literature, and schools were established in every village.
Fond of music, he founded a college for training youth of both sexes
in this art. His love of war and his growing extravagance led to
increased taxation, with the usual consequences in China--discontent
and rebellion. He surrounded himself by a brilliant court, welcoming
men of genius in literature and art; at first for their talents alone,
but finally for their readiness to participate in scenes of revelry
and dissipation provided for the amusement of a favourite concubine,
the ever-famous Yang Kuei-fei (pronounced /Kway-fay/). Eunuchs were
appointed to official posts, and the grossest forms of religious
superstition were encouraged. Women ceased to veil themselves, as of
old. At length, in 755, a serious rebellion broke out, and a year
later the emperor, now an old man of seventy-one, fled before the
storm. He had not proceeded far before his soldiery revolted and
demanded vengeance upon the whole family of the favourite, several
unworthy members of which had been raised to high positions and loaded
with honours. The wretched emperor was forced to order the head eunuch
to strangle his idolized concubine, while the rest of her family
perished at the hands of the troops. He subsequently abdicated in
favour of his son, and spent the last six years of his life in

This tragic story has been exquisitely told in verse by one of China's
foremost poets, who was born only a few years later. He divides his
poem into eight parts, dealing with the /ennui/ of the monarch until
he discovers /beauty/, the /revelry/ of the pair together, followed by
the horrors of /flight/, to end in the misery of /exile/ without her,
the /return/ when the emperor passes again by the fatal spot, /home/
where everything reminds him of her, and finally /spirit-land/. This
last is a figment of the poet's imagination. He pictures the
disconsolate emperor sending a magician to discover Yang Kuei-fei's
whereabouts in the next world, and to bear to her a message of
uninterrupted love. The magician, after a long search, finds her in
one of the Isles of the Blest, and fulfils his commission accordingly.

Her features are fixed and calm, though myriad tears fall,
Wetting a spray of pear-bloom, as it were with the raindrops of
Subduing her emotions, restraining her grief, she tenders thanks
to His Majesty.
Saying how since their parting she had missed his form and voice;
And how, although their love on earth had so soon come to an end,
The days and months among the Blest were still of long duration.
And now she turns and gazes towards the above of mortals,
But cannot discern the Imperial city, lost in the dust and haze.
Then she takes out the old keepsake, tokens of undying love,
A gold hairpin, an enamel brooch, and bids the magician carry
these back.
One half of the hairpin she keeps, and one half of the enamel
Breaking with her hands the yellow gold, and dividing the enamel
in two.
"Tell him," she said, "to be firm of heart, as this gold and
And then in heaven or on earth below we two may meet once more."

The magnificent House of T'ang was succeeded by five insignificant
dynasties, the duration of all of which was crowded into about half a
century. Then, in A.D. 960, began the rule of the Sungs (pronounced
/Soongs/), to last for three hundred years and rival in national peace
and prosperity any other period in the history of China. The nation
had already in a great measure settled down to that state of material
civilization and mental culture in which it has remained to the
present time. To the appliances of ordinary Chinese life it is
probable that but few additions have been made since a very early
date. The dress of the people has indeed undergone several variations,
but the ploughs and hoes, the water-wheels and well-sweeps, the tools
of the artisans, mud huts, carts, junks, chairs, tables, chopsticks,
etc., which we still see in China, are probably very much those of two
thousand years ago. Mencius, of the third century B.C., observed that
written characters had the same form, and axle-trees the same breadth,
all over the empire; and to this day an unaltering uniformity is one
of the chief characteristics of the Chinese people in every department
of life.

In spite, however, of the peaceful aspirations of the House of Sung,
the Kitan Tartars were for ever encroaching upon Chinese territory,
and finally overran and occupied a large part of northern China, with
their capital where Peking now stands. This resulted in an amicable
arrangement to divide the empire, the Kitans retaining their conquests
in the north, from which, after about two hundred years, they were in
turn expelled by the Golden Tartars, who had previously been subject
to them.

Many volumes, rather than pages, would be required to do justice to
the statesmen, soldiers, philosophers, poets, historians, art critics,
and other famous men of this dynasty. It has already been stated that
the interpretation of the Confucian Canon, accepted at the present
day, dates from this period; and it may now be of interest to give a
brief account of another remarkable movement connected with the
dynasty, though in quite a different line.

Wang An-shih (as /shi/ in /shirk/), popularly known as the Reformer,
was born in 1021. In his youth a keen student, his pen seemed to fly
over the paper. He rose to high office; and by the time he was forty-
eight he found himself installed as confidential adviser to the
emperor. He then entered upon a series of startling political reforms,
said to be based upon new and more correct interpretations of portions
of the Confucian Canon, which still remained, so far as explanation
was concerned, just as it had been left by the scholars of the Han
dynasty. This appeal to authority was, of course, a mere blind,
cleverly introduced to satisfy the bulk of the population, who were
always unwilling to move in any direction where no precedent is
forthcoming. One of his schemes, the express object of which was to
decrease taxation and at the same time to increase the revenue, was to
secure a sure and certain market for all products, as follows. From
the produce of a given district, enough was to be set aside (1) for
the payment of taxes, and (2) to supply the wants of the district; (3)
the balance was then to be taken over by the state at a low rate, and
held for a rise or forwarded to some centre where there happened to be
a demand. There would be thus a certainty of market for the farmer,
and an equal certainty for the state to make profits as a middleman.
Another part of this scheme consisted in obligatory advances by the
state to cultivators of land, whether these farmers required the money
or not, the security for the loans being in each case the growing

There was also a system of tithing for military purposes, under which
every family having more than two males was bound to supply one to
serve as a soldier; and in order to keep up a breed of cavalry horses,
every family was compelled to take charge of one, which was provided,
together with its food, by the government. There was a system under
which money payments were substituted for the old-fashioned and
vexatious method of carrying on public works by drafts of forced
labourers; and again another under which warehouses for bartering and
hypothecating goods were established all over the empire.

Of all his innovations the most interesting was that all land was to
be remeasured and an attempt made to secure a more equitable incidence
of taxation. The plan was to divide up the land into equal squares,
and to levy taxes in proportion to the fertility of each. This scheme
proved for various reasons to be unworkable; and the bitter opposition
with which, like all his other measures of reform, it was received by
his opponents, did not conduce to success. Finally, he abolished all
restrictions upon the export of copper, the result being that even the
current copper "cash" were melted down and made into articles for sale
and exportation. A panic ensued, which Wang met by the simple
expedient of doubling the value of each cash. He attempted to reform
the examination system, requiring from the candidate not so much
graces of style as a wide acquaintance with practical subjects.
"Accordingly," says one Chinese author, "even the pupils at the
village schools threw away their text-books of rhetoric, and began to
study primers of history, geography, and political economy"--a
striking anticipation of the movement in vogue to-day. "I have myself
been," he tells us, "an omnivorous reader of books of all kinds, even,
for example, of ancient medical and botanical works. I have, moreover,
dipped into treatises on agriculture and on needlework, all of which I
have found very profitable in aiding me to seize the great scheme of
the Canon itself." But like many other great men, he was in advance of
his age. He fell into disfavour at court, and was dismissed to a
provincial post; and although he was soon recalled, he retired into
private life, shortly afterwards to die, but not before he had seen
the whole of his policy reversed.

His career stands out in marked contrast with that of the great
statesman and philosopher, Chu Hsi (pronounced /Choo Shee/), who
flourished A.D. 1130-1200. His literary output was enormous and his
official career successful; but his chief title to fame rests upon his
merits as a commentator on the Confucian Canon. As has been already
stated, he introduced interpretations either wholly or partly at
variance with those which had been put forth by the scholars of the
Han dynasty, and hitherto received as infallible, thus modifying to a
certain extent the prevailing standard of political and social
morality. His guiding principle was merely one of consistency. He
refused to interpret words in a given passage in one sense, and the
same words occurring elsewhere in another sense. The effect of this
apparently obvious method was magical; and from that date the
teachings of Confucius have been universally understood in the way in
which Chu Hsi said they ought to be understood.

To his influence also must be traced the spirit of materialism which
is so widely spread among educated Chinese. The God in whom Confucius
believed, but whom, as will be seen later on, he can scarcely be said
to have "taught," was a passive rather than an active God, and may be
compared with the God of the Psalms. He was a personal God, as we know
from the ancient character by which He was designated in the written
language of early ages, that character being a rude picture of a man.
This view was entirely set aside by Chu Hsi, who declared in the
plainest terms that the Chinese word for God meant nothing more than
"abstract right;" in other words, God was a principle. It is
impossible to admit such a proposition, which was based on sentiment
and not on sound reasoning. Chu Hsi was emphatically not a man of
religious temperament, and belief in the supernatural was distasteful
to him; he was for a short time under the spell of Buddhism, but threw
that religion over for the orthodoxy of Confucianism. He was,
therefore, anxious to exclude the supernatural altogether from the
revised scheme of moral conduct which he was deducing from the
Confucian Canon, and his interpretation of the word "God" has been
blindly accepted ever since.

When Chu Hsi died, his coffin is said to have taken up a position,
suspended in the air, about three feet from the ground. Whereupon his
son-in-law, falling on his knees beside the bier, reminded the
departed spirit of the great principles of which he had been such a
brilliant exponent in life--and the coffin descended gently to the



The Chinese are very fond of animals, and especially of birds; and on
the whole they may be said to be kind to their animals, though cases
of ill-treatment occur. At the same time it must be carefully
remembered that such quantum of humanity as they may exhibit is
entirely of their own making; there is no law to act persuasively on
brutal natures, and there is no Society for the Prevention of Cruelty
to Animals to see that any such law is enforced. A very large number
of beautiful birds, mostly songless, are found in various parts of
China, and a great variety of fishes in the rivers and on the coast.
Wild animals are represented by the tiger (in both north and south),
the panther and the bear, and even the elephant and the rhinoceros may
be found in the extreme south-west. The wolf and the fox, the latter
dreaded as an uncanny beast, are very widely distributed.

Still less would there be any ground for establishing a Society for
the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the very name of which would
make an ordinary, unsophisticated Chinaman stare. Chinese parents are,
if anything, over-indulgent to their children. The father is, indeed,
popularly known as the "Severe One," and it is a Confucian tradition
that he should not spare the rod and so spoil the child, but he draws
the line at a poker; and although as a father he possesses the power
of life and death over his offspring, such punishments as are
inflicted are usually of the mildest description. The mother, the
"Gentle One," is, speaking broadly, a soft-hearted, sweet-natured
specimen of humanity; one of those women to whom hundreds of Europeans
owe deep debts of gratitude for the care and affection lavished upon
their alien children. In the absence of the Severe One, it falls to
her to chastise when necessary; and we even read of a son who wept,
not because his mother hurt him, but because, owing to her advanced
age, she was no longer able to hit him hard enough!

Among other atrocious libels which have fastened upon the fair fame of
the Chinese people, first and foremost stands the charge of female
infanticide, now happily, though still slowly, fading from the
calculations of those who seek the truth. Fifty years ago it was
generally believed that the Chinese hated their female children, and
got rid of them in early infancy by wholesale murder. It may be
admitted at once that boys are preferred to girls, inasmuch as they
carry on the family line, and see that the worship of ancestors is
regularly performed in due season. Also, because girls require
dowries, which they take away with them for the benefit of other
families than their own; hence the saying, "There is no thief like a
family of five daughters," and the term "lose-money goods," as
jestingly applied to girls, against which may be set another term, "a
thousand ounces of gold," which is commonly used of a daughter. Of
course it is the boy who is specially wanted in a family; and little
boys are often dressed as little girls, in order to deceive the angels
of disease and death, who, it is hoped, may thus pass them over as of
less account.

To return to the belief formerly held that female infanticide was
rampant all over China. The next step was for the honest observer to
admit that it was not known in his own particular district, but to
declare that it was largely practised elsewhere. This view, however,
lost its validity when residents "elsewhere" had to allow that no
traces of infanticide could be found in their neighbourhood; and so
on. Luckily, still greater comfort is to be found in the following
argument,--a rare example of proving a negative--from which it will be
readily seen that female infanticide on any abnormal scale is quite
beyond the bounds of the possible. Those who have even a bowing
acquaintance with Chinese social life will grant that every boy, at
about the age of eighteen, is provided by his parents with a wife.
They must also concede the notorious fact that many well-to-do Chinese
take one or more concubines. The Emperor, indeed, is allowed seventy;
but this number exists only on paper as a regulation maximum. Now, if
every Chinaman has one wife, and many have two, over and above the
host of girls said to be annually sacrificed as worthless babies, it
must follow that the proportion of girls born in China enormously
outnumbers the proportion of boys, whereas in the rest of the world
boys are well known to be always in the majority. After this, it is
perhaps superfluous to state that, apart from the natural love of the
parent, a girl is really, even at a very early age, a marketable
commodity. Girls are sometimes sold into other families to be brought
up as wives for the sons; more often, to be used as servants, under
what is of course a form of slavery, qualified by the important
condition, which can be enforced by law, that when of a marriageable
age, the girl's master shall find her a husband. Illegitimate
children, the source of so much baby-farming and infanticide
elsewhere, are practically unknown in China; and the same may be said
of divorce. A woman cannot legally divorce her husband. In rare cases
she will leave him, and return to her family, in spite of the fact
that he can legally insist upon her return; for she knows well that if
her case is good, the husband will not dare to risk the scandal of an
exposure, not to mention the almost certain vengeance of her affronted
kinsmen. It is also the fear of such vengeance that prevents mothers-
in-law from ill-treating the girls who pass into their new homes
rather as servants than daughters to the husband's mother. Every
woman, as indeed every man, has one final appeal by which to punish an
oppressor. She may commit suicide, there being no canon, legal or
moral, against self-slaughter; and in China, where, contrary to
widespread notions on the subject, human life is held in the highest
degree sacred, this course is sure to entail trouble and expense, and
possibly severe punishment, if the aggrieved parties are not promptly
conciliated by a heavy money payment.

A man may divorce his wife for one of the seven following reasons:--
Want of children, adultery, neglect of his parents, nagging, thieving
(i.e. supplying her own family with his goods, popularly known as
"leakage"), jealous temper and leprosy. To the above, the humanity of
the lawgiver has affixed three qualifying conditions. He may not put
her away on any of the above grounds if she has duly passed through
the period of mourning for his parents; if he has grown rich since
their marriage; if she has no longer any home to which she can return.

Altogether, the Chinese woman has by no means such a bad time as is
generally supposed to be the case. Even in the eye of the law, she has
this advantage over a man, that she cannot be imprisoned except for
high treason and adultery, and is to all intents and purposes exempt
from the punishment of the bamboo. Included in this exemption are the
aged and the young, the sick, the hungry and naked, and those who have
already suffered violence, as in a brawl. Further, in a well-known
handbook, magistrates are advised to postpone, in certain
circumstances, the infliction of corporal punishment; as for instance,
when either the prisoner or they themselves may be under the influence
of excitement, anger or drink.

The bamboo is the only instrument with which physical punishment may
legally be inflicted; and its infliction on a prisoner or recalcitrant
witness, in order to extort evidence, constitutes what has long been
dignified as "torture;" but even that is now, under a changing system,
about to disappear. This must not be taken to mean that torture, in
our sense of the term, has never been applied in China. The real facts
of the case are these. Torture, except as already described, being
constitutionally illegal, no magistrate would venture to resort to it
if there were any chance of his successful impeachment before the
higher authorities, upon which he would be cashiered and his official
career brought abruptly to an end. Torture, therefore, would have no
terrors for the ordinary citizen of good repute and with a backing of
substantial friends; but for the outcast, the rebel, the highway
robber (against whom every man's hand would be), the disreputable
native of a distant province, and also for the outer barbarian (e.g.
the captives at the Summer Palace in 1860), another tale must be told.
No consequences, except perhaps promotion, would follow from too
rigorous treatment in such cases as these.

Resort to the bamboo as a means of extorting the confession of a
prisoner is regarded by the people rather as the magistrate's
confession of his own incapacity. The education of the official, too
easily and too freely turned into ridicule, gives him an insight into
human nature which, coupled with a little experience, renders him
extremely formidable to the shifty criminal or the crafty litigant. As
a rule, he finds no need for the application of pain. There is a
quaint story illustrative of such judicial methods as would be sure to
meet with full approbation in China. A magistrate, who after several
hearings had failed to discover, among a gang accused of murder, what
was essential to the completion of the case, namely, the actual hand
which struck the fatal blow, notified the prisoners that he was about
to invoke the assistance of the spirits, with a view to elicit the
truth. Accordingly, he caused the accused men, dressed in the black
clothes of criminals, to be led into a large barn, and arranged around
it, face to the wall. Having then told them that an accusing angel
would shortly come among them, and mark the back of the guilty man, he
went outside and had the door shut, and the place darkened. After a
short interval, when the door was thrown open, and the men were
summoned to come forth, it was seen directly that one of the number
had a white mark on his back. This man, in order to make all secure,
had turned his back to the wall, not knowing, what the magistrate well
knew, that the wall had been newly white-washed.

As to the punishment of crime by flogging, a sentence of one or two
hundred--even more--blows would seem to be cruel and disgusting;
happily, it may be taken for granted that such ferocious sentences are
executed only in such cases as have been mentioned above. An acute
observer, for many years a member of the municipal police force in
Shanghai, whose duty it was to see that floggings were administered to
Chinese criminals, stated plainly in a public report that the bamboo
is not necessarily a severe ordeal, and that one hundred blows are at
times inflicted so lightly as to leave scarcely a mark behind, though
the recipient howls loudly all the time. Those criminals who have
money can always manage to square the gaoler; and the gaoler has
acquired a certain knack in laying on, the upshot being great cry and
little wool, very satisfactory to the culprit. Even were we to accept
the cruellest estimate in regard to punishment by the bamboo, it would
only go to show that humanitarian feelings in China are lagging
somewhat behind our own. In /The Times/ of March 1, 1811, we read
that, for allowing French prisoners to escape from Dartmoor, three men
of the Nottingham militia were sentenced to receive 900 lashes each,
and that one of them actually received 450 lashes in the presence of
pickets from every regiment in the garrison. On New Year's Day, 1911,
a eunuch attempted to assassinate one of the Imperial Princes. For
this he was sentenced to be beaten to death, some such ferocious
punishment being necessary, in Chinese eyes, to vindicate the majesty
of the law. That end having been attained, the sentence was commuted
to eighty blows with the bamboo and deportation to northern Manchuria.

The Chinese woman often, in mature life, wields enormous influence
over the family, males included, and is a kind of private Empress
Dowager. A man knows, says the proverb, but a woman knows better. As a
widow in early life, her lot is not quite so pleasant. It is not
thought desirable for widows to remarry; but if she remains single,
she becomes "a rudderless boat;" round which gathers much calumny.
Many young women brave public opinion, and enter into second nuptials.
If they are bent upon remarrying, runs the saying, they can no more be
prevented than the sky can be prevented from raining.

The days of "golden lilies," as the artificially small feet of Chinese
women are called, are generally believed to date from the tenth
century A.D., though some writers have endeavoured to place the custom
many centuries earlier. It must always be carefully remembered that
Manchu women--the women of the dynasty which has ruled since 1644--do
not compress their feet. Consequently, the empresses of modern times
have feet of the natural size; neither is the practice in force among
the Hakkas, a race said to have migrated from the north of China to
the south in the thirteenth century; nor among the hill tribes; nor
among the boating population of Canton and elsewhere. Small feet are
thus in no way associated with aristocracy or gentleness of birth;
neither is there any foundation for the generally received opinion
that the Chinese lame their women in this way to keep them from
gadding about. Small-footed women may be seen carrying quite heavy
burdens, and even working in the fields; not to mention that many are
employed as nurses for small children. Another explanation is that
women with bound feet bear finer children and stronger; but the real
reason lies in another direction, quite beyond the scope of this book.
The question of charm may be taken into consideration, for any
Chinaman will bear witness to the seductive effect of a gaily-dressed
girl picking her way on tiny feet some three inches in length, her
swaying movements and delightful appearance of instability conveying a
general sense of delicate grace quite beyond expression in words.

The lady of the tenth century, to whom the origin of small feet is
ascribed, wished to make her own feet like two new moons; but whether
she actually bound them, as at the present day, is purely a matter of
conjecture. The modern style of binding inflicts great pain for a long
time upon the little girls who have to endure it. They become very shy
on the subject, and will on no account show their bare feet, though
Manchu women and others with full-sized feet frequently walk about
unshod, and the boat-girls at Canton and elsewhere never seem to wear
shoes or stockings at all.

The "pigtail," or long plait of hair worn by all Chinamen, for the
abolition of which many advanced reformers are now earnestly pleading,
is an institution of comparatively modern date. It was imposed by the
victorious Manchu-Tartars when they finally established their dynasty
in 1644, not so much as a badge of conquest, still less of servitude,
but as a means of obliterating, so far as possible, the most patent
distinction between the two races, and of unifying the appearance, if
not the aspirations, of the subjects of the Son of Heaven. This
obligation was for some time strenuously resisted by the natives of


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