« PreviousContinue »
carved and gayly painted. On the decks or flat roofs of some of them are constructed gardens, where they sit and smoke amid flowering shrubs, planted in painted porcelain flowerpots. You soon discover also other boats, fitted up
very elegant style, which serves as cafes, where Chinese gentlemen spend their evenings. And still another kind is soon seen, the most gayly decorated of all, which have carved fronts, gayly painted, silken lanterns suspended from their roofs, with looking-glasses, pictures, and verses of an amatory character inscribed on colored paper hanging on their sides. These are called the “Flower Boats,” and are sinks of iniquity. The wretched female inmates, bedizened in tawdry finery, some of them tottering on their little deformed feet, appear at the door or on the decks, beckoning the passer-by, trying to entice him by their allurements to enter. Many of these degraded females are, at an early age, purchased from their parents, for prices varying from five to fifty dollars, and are retained in bondage until worn out by disease and profligacy. They are then turned adrift by their vile owners, with scarcely sufficient covering for their bodies to protect them from the weather, or answer the purposes of common decency. The career of vice is usually commenced at ten years of age, and they seldom live beyond twenty-five years.
But we were exceedingly glad to see that this unabashed profligacy and shame was very much restrained from the bold, daring, and impudent character which the whole thing presented a score of years ago.
Canton was the largest city the Bishop had seen in China, and, dense as populations generally are in China, they are nowhere else so dense as here. The houses are, many of them, two stories high, built of bluish-colored bricks. The streets are cleaner but not wider than usual in China. The foreign residences are on the Island Shameen, separated entirely from the native city by a canal that flows around it. The island is beautiful and has many fine buildings. The only mode of conveyance through the city is by sedan, through narrow streets, crowded, as in other cities, with a motley, noisy multitude, bearing all sorts of burdens and pursuing all sorts of employments. Lepers and beggars with loathsome diseases are numerous.
The wall that surrounds the city is six miles in extent, embracing the “old” and “new” cities, which are divided from each other by another wall. Quite as many of the population live outside the walls as within. The city is dotted all over with temples and pagodas, and has some fine resi. dences. Tinsel and filth are often in immediate contrast, and the rich Chinaman is usually ridiculous for his pride and conceit.
The Bishop visited the Buddhist temple of “the five hundred gods," which has five hundred images of saints or deified disciples of Buddha, arranged on platforms around the temple. They are of life-size, sitting on their folded legs, and each one bears something to indicate the reason for his canonization, such as eyes turned to heaven that are supposed never to have winked, a hand held so steadily out that a bird builds its nest in the hand, etc. The Bishop “next visited the Buddhist temple of horrors, the chief feature of which is ten cells, in which are exhibited the various pains of the Buddhist hell, or purgatory."
The actual scenes are exhibited in clay figures about two thirds life-size. The first cell, about ten feet square, which is about the measurement of each of them, is the hall of judgment, where the poor wretches are tried.
Then came one chamber where a man is receiving from the demons a terrible whipping, being stretched on the ground face downward, by two men, while the third is beating him with a large paddle. The next cell exhibits a criminal fastened in a frame head downward, and being sawn in two, lengthwise. In the next another is suffering the torture of slow burning ; another is supposed to be sitting under a red-hot bell. In the next they are in cages, and some chained with the Chinese cangue; in another they are being beheaded ; and in another they are ground in a mill, and pounded in a mortar. In the next they are boiling a poor fellow in oil, and in the last some poor wretches, for having been guilty of eating beef, are being themselves slowly transformed into oxen. Several figures in this cell present the various steps of this transformation. In all these cells numerous figures of demons are looking on with expressions of diabolical satisfaction, and, strange to say, around the sides of each of the cells are ranged, in scenic manner, mountain and hill-side retreats, on which are seen smaller figures of the good and saved, seeming to take an equal delight in witnessing the pains of the unhappy ones who have missed of paradise. Notwithstanding all these horrors booths are rented out before all these cells, and a lively traffic is carried on, and the priests themselves drive a large trade in selling paper fans, sacrificial money, etc., which are to be burned for the use of these suffering wretches.
Canton is the oldest and most difficult of Chinese mission fields. The vices and aggressions of foreigners, and the animosities engendered by war, seem to have here done their worst. Nevertheless numerous societies are here, doing and daring for Christ, among which are the American Board, the London Missionary Society, our Presbyterian and Baptist Missionary Boards, and the British Wesleyans. This is the field of Rev. George Piercy, who went out to China at his own cost, and by his Christian zeal won over the Wesleyan Missionary Society to adopt him and his work.
Neither from Chinese books nor the masses of China can a clear idea be obtained of the religious systems of the Chinese, if such they possess. Such confused notions as exist in the one, or are found in the other, are well stated by our author. The undefined State religion is not idolatrous, yet the people are idolaters. Our author regards Confucianism as not a system of religion but of morals. Taouism is more spiritual than the native faith, teaching the separate existence of the human soul, and future reward and punishment. But, altered and corrupted as it now is, these doctrines of Taouism have been greatly modified, and made the basis of most absurd opinions and practices.
The author's history of Buddhism, and statement of its doctrines and usages, are of much interest, but that which is most striking is the similarity he traces between this false system and Roman Catholicism. Our author says:
This is one of the first things that arrests the attention of the observing foreigner. He is at once attracted by its great show of temples, monasteries, nunneries, way-side joss-houses, frequent processions, and multiplied festivals. The long-robed and shavenheaded priest, with his slow and measured tread, his pusillanimous air, and his Jesuitical cunning, strikes him as a quite familiar personage. Even when he enters the Buddhist temple or monastery things wear a familiar aspect. The images, the statue of the “Holy Mother," or "Queen of Heaven," with her babe, the walls adorned with paintings, some exhibiting passages in the life of Buddha, but more displaying the adventures of the Holy Mother, the altar, with its numerous vessels and instruments of service, the burning candles, the smoking incense, the ringing bells, the service in a foreign tongue, the prostrations, the mock solemnity, the muttered prayers, and the monotonous chantings, all forcibly remind him of scenes in Romish chapels. Nor will it aid in dispelling the illusion to find here and there, in the different apartments of the establishment, devout-looking priests counting over their beads, and repeating over and over again the same brief sentences, till he fancies he can almost catch the familiar sounds of “Ave Marias” and “Paternosters." A visit to the library will still aid in the delusion, especially when permitted to examine the collection of sacred relics—Buddha's tooth, the bones of the saints, the urns containing the ashes of departed priests, etc.; all sacredly kept and looked upon with the profoundest veneration. Nor will the resemblance be less complete by discovering it to be a great ecclesiastical organization extending its authorities through various countries; having its infallible head in the Grand Lama, its pontifical court, its high functionaries, its priests, its monks and nuns of various schools and orders, its ordinances of celibacy, its holy water, its sales of charms, amulets and indulgences, its masses for the dead, its worship of relics and canonization of saints, and its womanolatry in the worship of Kwanyin, “the Queen of Heaven.”
The history of the earliest efforts to introduce Christianity into China is somewhat obscure. The author dates the first as early as the sixth century by the Nestorians, but traditions of even apostolic preaching in China are still extant. While the Nestorians were yet in the field, Jean de Corvin, and several other Romish monks, entered it, and probably gathered about them a flourishing Christian community. But persecutions broke out under Genghis Khan, and with the fall of the Mongol dynasty, in 1369, all traces of this work disappeared. The Jesuits entered the field later, and were for a time in favor with the earlier emperors of the Tartar dynasty. Theological disputations arose among them, the Chinese became confused as to the relation between ancestral worship and the worship of the saints, and the Pope sought to settle these contests by decrees. This interference the emperor resisted, and plottings and intrigues followed, and the Jesuits were banished. There remained, however, some traces of this work, which became a nucleus of the re-opening of the Romish mission, in 1844. The Roman Catholic Church now reports missions in sixteen provinces, two hundred and fifty-four European missionaries, and one hundred and thirty-eight native priests, and nearly five hundred thousand members. Our author says:
The presence and apparent success of these Romish missionaries is not favorable to the real Christianization of China. As stated in a previous chapter, they are practicing many injustices and much oppression in many parts of China. Their priests are assuming official rank and prerogatives. They act in the character of magistrates, deciding disputes between the so-called members of their Church and other natives, even taking their followers out of the hands of the native authorities and deciding cases of crime or debt according to their own judgment or prejudice. They even in some places assume to arrest natives who are not members of their Church, but who have committed a crime against their members, or fail to pay debts which they owe them.
Under a very unrighteous clause in the French Treaty, by which they were to receive the lands formerly held by the Jesuits in the seventeenth century, they claim large possessions of land which they undoubtedly never held, and large compensations for grounds which it is impossible for them now to recover. All these things tend greatly to increase and intensify in the minds of the Chinese, and especially of the authorities, what is realiy the greatest obstacle to more liberal foreign intercourse and trade, and to more generous treatment of missionaries and their work, which is a fear on the part of the government that the final object of all foreigners in China is to get possession of their government and country. If this fear could be removed from the minds of the Chinese, and they could be made to feel that there are no ulterior plots or schemes, looking to the endangering of their country, or the disruption of their government, all other obstacles would soon give way, and we might have free intercourse in all parts of China to live and trade and preach the Gospel.
No attempt was made to give the Bible to the Chinese till Rev. Joshua Marshman, of the Baptist Missionary Society, attempted it in 1799, but it was not really done till Rev. Robert Morrison, of the London Missionary Society, who began his labors in 1807, accomplished it. The Churches of the United States did not send missionaries till 1830, then the American Board sent Rev. C. C. Bridgeman to Canton, who was followed the next year by Rev. David Abeel, who went to Amoy. In 1833 S. W. Williams went from the same society, and gave forty years to the work. Dr. Peter Parker went out in 1834.
After the opening of the five ports by the treaty which terminated the “opium war," missionaries flowed into China in great numbers, and the work of evangelizing the great empire has been ever since vigorously prosecuted. Our author considers that but twenty-five years of actual mission work has been done in China, and he says:
During that twenty-five years the open ports have been increased from five to sixteen, extending along the whole coast of China, from Canton to Peking, and a thousand miles up the great Yang-tsze-Kiang; and the places where missionaries actually