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THE PRINCIPLES OF THE CHINESE STATE.
RELATIONS BETWEEN THE PAST AND PRESENT OF CHINA - ANTI
QUITY OF THE CHINESE NATION AND GOVERNMENT THE DOCTRINE OF FILIAL PIETY-ADVANCEMENT OF ABLE MEN TO OFFICIAL POSTS-GEOGRAPHICAL ISOLATION OF CHINA-THE CHINESE LANGUAGE POLITICALLY CONSIDERED THE DOCTRINE OF HARMONY-A SUCCESSFUL IDEAL STATE-SYMMETRICAL ONENESS OF THE CHINESE STATE-SAGES, WORTHIES, AND WORTHLESS-CHINESE POLITICAL ACTION FOUNDED ON A CHRISTIAN PRINCIPLETHE HARMONY OF RELATIONSHIPS FEELING AGAINST THE EMPLOYMENT OF FORCE IN GOVERNMENT - RESPECT FOR AGE AND LEARNING EDUCATION UNIVERSAL IN CHINA POSITION AND TITLES OF THE EMPEROR-MUTUAL RESPONSIBILITY.
The fundamental principles of the Chinese State have never yet been fully discussed, and present in themselves, as also in their historical development, a subject of interest and importance.
Without some attention being given to these principles, the history of China must be tolerably unintelligible to Europeans, and so I enter on them briefly, as necessary to a right understanding of the events relating to both the rise and the suppression of the Tai-ping Rebellion.
It would appear very absurd to attempt to explain a modern English political movement by a reference to Jack Cade or the Wars of the Roses, and a French
THE PRINCIPLES OF THE CHINESE STATE.
revolution would not receive much elucidation from a history of the Carlovingian kings; but the early past of China has, for many centuries, been so closely linked to its present, that the half-fabulous Emperors, Yaou, Shun, and the Great Yu, who lived about four thousand years ago, are more really rulers of that country to-day than are its living Manchu sovereigns. Confucius, “the Master,”“ the Throneless King,” “the Instructor of ten thousand generations,” who possessed the most powerful mind that has appeared in the Far East for thirty centuries, and who is regarded by the Chinese with religious veneration, repeatedly disclaimed being more than a transmitter of moral, social, and political truth.* “I am not one,” he said, “who was born in the possession of knowledge; I am only fond of antiquity, and earnest in seeking wisdom there. I do not make, but transmit, believing in and loving the ancients.” One emperor of great note, Che Hoang-te, a sort of Chinese Napoleon, and builder of the Great Wall, made a most vigorous attempt to cut out this reverence for antiquity. He sought to destroy all records written previous to his reign; and, in order to accomplish this end, put nearly five hundred men of letters to death ; but his efforts eventually proved futile. To this day the Chinese State is based upon an inseparable union of political, social, moral, and religious ideas, which existed in a period anterior to the birth of Abraham.
The history of the human race presents no similar phenomenon to this of China, preserving its national unity and its virtual independence for four thousand years, without any serious change in its ruling ideas, in its social civilisation, or in its theory of government.
* See his ‘Analects' Book vii. throughout, in Legge's exlition and translation of the Chinese Classics Hong-Kong, 1865.
ANTIQUITY OF THE CHINESE STATE,
Very many of its dynasties have been violently overthrown, and its external forms of government have slightly varied from age to age; but the principles of its social and political organisation have remained unchanged, despite the most violent attacks upon them both from within and from without. Mongul and Manchu Tartars have effected nominal conquests of the Middle Kingdom, only to adopt its ideas, manners, and institutions, to be absorbed into the mass of “the Black-haired People,”* or, when remaining distinct, to sink into despised feebleness. Elsewhere over Asia and Europe, great empires-Assyrian, Egyptian, Persian, Grecian, Roman, Arabian, and Teutonic-have risen in splendour, holding sway over vast portions of the earth, only to perish in their glory, and sometimes leave nothing but their name behind; while China has steadily pursued its quiet way, enlarging its boundaries and consolidating its unity from above twenty centuries before the Christian era to this year
Nations innumerable have risen and disappeared since the Chinese first presented themselves with most of the marked national characteristics which they possess at the present day. How many pantheons of deities bave been overthrown since Pwan-ku was represented chiselling out earth and heaven! How many languages have found no tongues to utter them since the Chinese monosyllables now used in the British colony of Hong-Kong were first beard ringing on the banks of the Yellow River ! How many characters have men invented to represent their speech since the Chinese produced their system of writing! The more the antiquity and continuousness of this isolated civilisation of the Middle Kingdom is considered, the more interesting does
* The Chinese called themselves by this name in the earliest historical times, having probably displaced tribes of lighter hair.
appear, and the more forcibly does it suggest the idea, that in thus preserving a people from the earliest times, and providing for their independent development, Providence has had in view some great purpose which, as yet, we can only dimly see.
“By a long road,” says a Celestial proverb, “we know a horse's strength; so length of days shows a man's heart.” Judged in that way, Chinese nationality has an overpowering claim to respect, and its most intelligent students have thought much and deeply over the causes of its extraordinary longevity. Sir George Staunton (Preface to his translation of the Penal Code) and the earlier Jesuit missionaries attributed the long duration and stability of the Chinese empire to the influence of the doctrine of filial piety and parental authority, as inculcated by its sages, and universally accepted by the people. Mr Meadows, in his 'Desultory Notes,' asserts that “the long duration of the Chinese is solely and altogether owing to the operation of a principle which the policy of every successive dynasty has practically maintained in a greater or lesser degree, viz., that good government consists in the advancement of men of talents and merits only to the rank and power conferred by official posts ;”—a principle which makes able demagogues rare, by opening a satisfactory path to every man of real talent. Mr R. H. Patterson, in his able essay “on the National Life of China," * lays stress on the geographical isolation of the empire, bounded as it is on the north by vast herbless and wind-swept deserts, on the west by lofty mountain-chains, and on the south and east by a tempestuous sea. To these causes, which must all be admitted as effective, there may be added, on the same level, the peculiar nature of the Chinese
* °Essays in History and Art!
CAUSES OF THE NATIONAL LONGEVITY.
written language, which has served as a very powerful bond of union. The characters of that script represent not sounds, but things and ideas, in the widest sense of the term, and consequently it has stood in great part superior to, and unaffected by, the fluctuations of sound and dialect. Thus, the speech and thought of the Chinese have been kept within certain rigid limits, all the local streams of divergence being turned back, as it were, into the fountain from whence they issued. Over the spoken language, with its frequent changes and corruptions, the written language has stood supreme; so that while a native of Shantung may be unable to understand the spoken words of a Cantonese, they use identical characters in expressing the same meaning. If the Latin races had a single character, like the Chinese for jen, to denote Man, then whether pronounced Homo in Latin, Uômo in Italian, Hombre in Spanish, Homem in Portuguese, or Homme in French, the written word would be the same everywhere among them, and its being so would have a tendency to check diversity of pronunciation, especially among the educated classes. Out of the written language thus universal among these races, there would arise a certain common standard for expressions, both in speech and writing, which would involve or evolve a certain unity, otherwise unattainable, of thought and feeling, that would have an immense influence in sustaining a common nationality.
But it seems to me there has been a deeper influence at work in preserving Chinese nationality than the doctrine of filial piety, the principle of choosing able men for official posts, or the character of the language, and one which underlies all these secondary causes. Dr Williams correctly states that the 'Shoo King,' or Historical Classic, "contains the seeds of all things that are