THE Confucian Classics are the chart by which the rulers of China have endeavoured to navigate the ship of state. It is the best chart ever constructed by man, and perhaps it is not too much to say, with the late Dr. Williams, Dr. Legge, and others, that its authors may have had in some sense a divine guidance. With what success the Chinese have navigated their craft, into what waters they have sailed, and in what direction they are at present steering — these are questions of capital importance now that China is coming into intimate relations with so many Western states, and seems likely in the future to exert an influence increasingly great.

It has been said that "there are six indications or the moral life of a community, any one of which is significant; when they all agree in their testimony they afford an infallible test of its true character. These are:

(1) the condition of industry;

(2) the social habits;

(3) the position of woman and the character of the family;

(4) the organisation of government and the character of the rulers;

(5) the state of public education;

(6) the practical bearing of religious worship on actual life."

In the discussion of the various characteristics of the Chinese which have attracted our notice, each of the foregoing points has been incidentally illustrated, albeit incompletely and without that observance of proportion necessary in a full treatment of these topics. In a survey of the Chinese character the field of view is so extensive that many subjects must be passed by altogether. The characteristics which have been selected are intended merely as points through which have may be drawn to aid in outlining the whole. There are many additional "characteristics" which ought to be included in a full presentation of the Chinese as they are.

The greater part of the illustrative incidents which have been already cited in exemplification of various "characteristics" of the Chinese have been mentioned because they appeared upon examination to be typical. They are like bones of a skeleton, which must be fitted into their place before the whole structure can be seen. It will not do to ignore them, unless perhaps it can be shown that they are not bones at all, but merely plaster-of-Paris imitations. It may indeed be objected that the true place of each separate bone has been mistaken, and that others which are important modifiers of the total result have not been adjusted to their proper places. This criticism, which is a perfectly just one, we not only admit but expressly affirm, declaring that it is not possible to gain a complete idea of the Chinese from selected "characteristics," any more than it is possible to gain a correct idea of a human countenance from descriptive essays on its eyes, its nose, or its chin. But at the same time we must remind the reader that the judgments expressed have not been hastily formed, that they are based upon a mass of observations far in excess of what has been referred to, and that in many cases the opinions might have been made indefinitely stronger, and still have been fully warranted by the facts. These facts are as patent to one who comes within their range as a North China dust-storm, which fills the eyes, the ears, the nostrils, the hair, and the clothing with an almost impalpable powder, often surcharging the atmosphere with electricity, and sometimes rendering lamps necessary at noonday. One may be very wrong in his theory of the causes of this phenomenon, but altogether right in his description of it. But there is this important difference between the observation of physical and of moral phenomena: the former force themselves on the attention of every human being, while the latter are perceived only by those whose opportunities are favourable, and whose faculties are directed towards the things that are to be seen.

The truth is that the phenomena of Chinese life are of a contradictory character, and whoever looks upon one face of the shield, ignoring the other, will infallibly judge erroneously, and yet will never come to a perception of the fact that he is wrong. The union of two apparently irreconcilable views in one concept is not an easy task, but it is often a very necessary one, and nowhere is it more necessary than in China, where it is so difficult to see even one side completely, not to speak of both.

Of the lofty moral quality of Confucianism we have already spoken. That it produces many individuals possessing a high moral character we are prepared to believe. That is what ought to be expected from so excellent a system of morals. But does it produce such characters on any considerable scale, and with any approach to uniformity? The real character of any human being can be discovered by answering three questions: What is his relation to himself? What is his relation to his fellow-men? What is his relation to the object of his worship? Through these three fixed points the circle defining his true position may be drawn. Those who may have followed us thus far know already what replies we find in the Chinese of to-day to these test questions. His relations both to himself and to others are marked by an absence of sincerity, and his relations to others by an absence of altruism; his relations to the objects of his worship are those of a polytheist, a pantheist, and an agnostic.

What the Chinese lack is not intellectual ability. It is not patience, practicality, nor cheerfulness, for in all these qualities they greatly excel. What they do lack is Character and Conscience. Some Chinese officials cannot be tempted by any bribe, and refuse to commit a wrong that will never be found out, because "Heaven knows, earth knows, you know, and I know." But how many Chinese could be found who would resist the pressure brought upon them to recommend for employment a relative who was known to be incompetent? Imagine for a moment the domestic consequences of such resistance, and is it strange that any Chinese should dread to face them? But what Chinese would ever think of carrying theoretical morals into such a region as that? When it is seen what a part parasitism and nepotism play in the administration of China, civil, military, and commercial, is it any wonder that Chinese gate-keepers and constables are not to be depended upon for the honest performance of their duties?

He who wishes to learn the truth about the moral condition of the Chinese can do so by the aid of the Chinese themselves, who, however ready to cover their own shortcomings and those of their friends, are often singularly frank in confessing the weak points in the national character. Some of these descriptions of the Chinese by other Chinese have often served to us as reminders of a conversation upon which Carlyle dwells with evident enjoyment, in one of the volumes of his "Life of Frederick the Great." That monarch had a school-inspector, of whom he was rather fond, and with whom he liked to talk a little. "Well, M. Sulzer, how do your schools get on?" asked the King one day. "How goes our education business?" "Surely, not ill, your Majesty, and much better in late years," answered Sulzer. "In late years, why?" "Well, your Majesty, in former times, the notion being that mankind were naturally inclined to evil, a system of severity prevailed in schools; but now, when we recognise that the inborn inclination of men is rather to good than to evil, schoolmasters have adopted a more generous procedure." "Inclination rather to good!" said Frederick, shaking his old head, with a sad smile. "Alas, dear Sulzer, I see you don't know that damned race of creatures." (Er kennt nicht diese verdammte Race.)

Chinese society resembles some of the scenery in China. At a little distance it appears fair and attractive. Upon a nearer approach, however, there is invariably much that is shabby and repulsive, and the air is full of odours which are not fragrant. No photograph does justice to Chinese scenery, for though photography has been described as "justice without mercy," this is not true of Chinese photography, in which the dirt and the smells are omitted.

There is no country in the world where the symbol denoting happiness is so constantly before the eye as in China. But it requires no long experience to discover that it is a true observation that Chinese happiness is all on the outside. We believe it to be a criticism substantially just that there are no homes in Asia.

In contemplating the theory of Chinese society, and the way in which that theory is reduced to fact, we are often reminded of those stone tablets to be seen at the spot where the principal highways cross streams. The object of these tablets is to preserve in "everlasting remembrance" the names of those by whom the bridges were erected and repaired. Sometimes there are half a dozen such stones in immediate proximity, in various stages of decay. We are much interested in these memorials of former dynasties and of ages long gone by, and inquire for the bridge the building of which they commemorate. "Oh, that," we are told, "disappeared generations ago — no one knows when!"

A few years ago the writer was travelling on the Grand Canal, when a head-wind prevented further progress. Strolling along the bank, we found the peasants busily engaged in planting their fields. It was May, and the appearance of the country was one of great beauty. Any traveller might have admired the minute and untiring industry which cultivated such wide areas as if they were gardens. But a short conversation with these same peasants brought to light the fact that the winter had been to them a time of bitter severity. Floods and drought having in the previous year destroyed the crops, in every village around people had starved to death — nay, were at that moment starving. The magistrates had given a little relief, but it was inadequate, sporadic, and subject to shameful peculations, against which the poor people had no protection and for which there was no redress. Yet nothing of all this appeared upon the surface. Elsewhere the year had been a prosperous one, the harvests abundant and the people content. No memorial in the Peking Gazette, no news item in the foreign journals published in China, had taken account of the facts. But ignorance of these facts on the part of others certainly had no tendency to alter the facts themselves. The people of the district continued to starve, whether other people knew it or not. Even the flat denial of the facts would not prove an adequate measure of relief. A priori reasoning as to what the Chinese ought to be is one thing; careful observation of what they actually are is quite another.

That many of the evils in Chinese society the existence of which we have pointed out are also to be found in Western "nominally Christian lands," we are perfectly aware. Perhaps the reader may have been disappointed not to find a more definite recognition of this fact, and some systematic attempt at comparison and contrast. Such a procedure was in contemplation, but it had to be given up. The writer's acquaintance with any Western country except his own is of an altogether too limited and inadequate character to justify the undertaking, which must for other reasons have failed. Let each reader make his own running comparisons as he proceeds, freeing himself as far as he may be able from "the bias of patriotism," and always giving the Chinese the benefit of the doubt. After such a comparison shall have been made, the very lowest result which we should expect would be the ascertained fact that the face of every Western land is towards the dawning morning of the future, while the face of China is always and everywhere towards the darkness of the remote past. A most pregnant fact, if it is a fact, and one which we beg the reader to ponder well; for how came it about?

The needs of China, let us repeat, are few. They are only Character and Conscience. Nay, they are but one, for Conscience is Character. It was said of a famous maker of pianos that he was "like his own instruments — square, upright, and grand." Does one ever meet any such characters in China?

At the close of the biography of one of the literary men of England, who died but a few years ago, occurs the following passage, written by his wife: "The outside world must judge him as an author, a preacher, a member of society; but they only who lived with him in the intimacy of everyday life at home can tell what he was as a man. Over the real romance of his life, and over the tenderest, loveliest passages in his private letters, a veil must be thrown; but it will not be lifting it too far to say, that if in the highest, closest of earthly relationships, a love that never failed — pure, passionate, for six-and-thirty years — a love which never stooped from its own lofty level to a hasty word, an impatient gesture, or a selfish act, in sickness or in health, in sunshine or in storm, by day or by night, could prove that the age of chivalry has not passed away forever, Charles Kingsley fulfilled the ideal of a 'most true and perfect knight' to the one woman blest with that love in time and to eternity."

The fairest fruit of Christian civilisation is in the beautiful lives which it produces. They are not rare. Hundreds of records of such lives have been produced within the present generation, and there are thousands upon thousands of such lives of which no public record ever appears. Every reader must have known of at least one such life of single-hearted devotion to the good of others, and some have been privileged to know many such, within the range of their own experience. How are these lives to be accounted for, and whence do they draw their inspiration? We have no wish to be unduly sceptical, but after repeated and prolonged consideration of the subject, it is our deliberate conviction that if the forces which make the lives of the Chinese what they are were to produce one such character as Mrs. Kingsley represents her husband to have been, that would be a moral miracle greater than any or all that are recorded in the books of Taoist fables. No human institution can escape from the law, inexorable because divine: "By their fruits ye shall know them." The forces of Confucianism have had an abundant time in which to work out their ultimate results. We believe that they have long since done all that they are capable of doing, and that from them there is no further fruit to be expected. They have achieved all that man alone can do, and more than he has done in any other land, under any other conditions. And after a patient survey of all that China has to offer, the most friendly critic is compelled, reluctantly and sadly, to coincide in the verdict, "The answer to Confucianism is China."

Three mutually inconsistent theories are held in regard to reform in China. First, that it is unnecessary. This is no doubt the view of some of the Chinese themselves, though by no means of all Chinese. It is also the opinion adopted by certain foreigners, who look at China and the Chinese through the mirage of distance. Second, that reform is impossible. This pessimistic conclusion is arrived at by many who have had too much occasion to know the tremendous obstacles which any permanent and real reform must encounter, before it can even be tried. To such persons, the thorough reformation of so vast a body as the Chinese people appears to be a task as hopeless as the galvanising into life of an Egyptian mummy. To us, the second of these views appears only less unreasonable than the first; but if what has been already said fails to make this evident, nothing that could here be added would be sufficient to do so.

To those who are agreed that reform in China is both necessary and possible, the question by what agency that reform is to be brought about is an important one, and it is not surprising that there are several different and inharmonious replies.

At the very outset, we have to face the inquiry. Can China be reformed from within herself? That she can be thus reformed is taken for granted by those of her statesmen who are able to perceive the vital need of reformation. An instance of this assumption occurred in a recent memorial in the Peking Gazette, in which the writer complained of the inhabitants of one of the central provinces as turbulent, and stated that a certain number of competent persons had been appointed to go through the province, to explain to the people the maxims of the Sacred Edicts of K'ang Hsi, by which vigorous measure it was apparently expected that the character of the population would in time be ameliorated. This explanation of moral maxims to the people (originally an imitation of Christian preaching) is a favourite prescription for the amendment of the morals of the time, in spite of the barrenness of results. When it fails, as it always does, there is nothing to be done but to try it over again. That it must fail, is shown by the longest experience, with every modification of circumstances except in the results, which are as nearly as possible uniformly nil. This has been sufficiently shown already in the instructive allegory of the eloquent old man whose limbs were stone.

But if mere precept is inert, it might be expected that example would be more efficient. This topic has also been previously discussed, and we need recur to it only to point out the reason why in the end the best examples always fail to produce the intended results. It is because they have no power to propagate the impulse which gave them hfe. Take, for instance, the case of Chang Chih-tung, formerly Governor of Shansi, where he is reported to have made the most vigorous efforts to put a stop to the practice of opium-smoking among the officials, and opium-raising among the people. How many of his subordinates would honestly co-operate in this effort, and what could possibly be effected without such co-operation? Every foreigner is compelled to recognise his own comparative helplessness in Chinese matters when the intermediaries through whom alone he can act are not in sympathy with his plans for reform. But if a foreigner is comparatively helpless, a Chinese, no matter what his rank, is not less so. The utmost that can be expected is that when his purpose is seen to be inflexibly fixed, the incorruptible official will carry everything before him (so far as external appearances go), as a cat clears an attic of rats, while the cat is there. But the moment the official is removed, almost before he has fairly gone, the rats are back at their work, and everything goes on as before.

That a Chinese statesman should cherish hopes of personally reforming his country is not only creditable to him, but perfectly natural, for he is cognisant of no other way than the one which we have described. An intelligent British official, who knows "the terrible vis inertice of Oriental apathy and fatalism — that dumb stupidity against which Schiller says even the gods are powerless" — and who knows what is involved in permanent "reform," would have been able to predict the result with infallible precision. In referring to certain abuses in southwest China, connected with the production of copper, Mr. Baber remarks: "Before the mines can be adequately worked, Yunnan must be peopled, the Lolos must be fairly treated, roads must be constructed, the facilities offered for navigation by the upper Yang-tse must be improved — in short, China must be civilised. A thousand years would be too short a period to allow of such a consummation, unless some force from without should accelerate the impulse." * To attempt to reform China without "some force from without," is like trying to build a ship in the sea; all the laws of air and water conspire to make it impossible. It is a principle of mechanics that a force that begins and ends in a machine has no power to move it.

*These significant words of the late Mr. Baber have recently received a striking confirmation from a memorial in the Peking Gazette of Angnst, 1890, from T'ang Chiung, Director of Mines in Yunnan, who makes a report in regard to the condition of the works and the output. He states that "a great deal of illicit mining is carried on by the people, and the officials are afraid of the consequences of asserting their rights despotically. A plan has, however, been devised of buying up the copper privately mined by the natives at a low price, and thus taking advantage of the extra labour by a measure at once profitable and popular. In this way the memorialist thinks the mines will work well, and will give no excuse for the intrusion of outsiders." The rescript merely orders the Board of Revenue to "take note."

In a postscript memorial the Director informs the Emperor that ten thousand catties of copper are bought monthly from the illicit workers of the private mines, and that the labourers "are not paid wages, but are supplied with oil and rice." In conclusion he "describes the whole state of the mines as highly satisfactory."

It is not every day that an official of the rank of governor officially informs an Emperor that the laws of his Empire are constantly and deliberately violated by large numbers of persons with whom the magistrates dare not interfere, but whom, on the other hand, they mollify with oil, rice, and a sum of money sufficient to induce them to part with their stolen copper; and that in consequence of this defiance of the Emperor and his officials, the condition of the Emperor's mines is "highly satisfactory." No wonder the Board of Revenue was invited to "take note"! 

Between Tientsin and Peking there is a bend in the Peiho, where the traveller sees half of a ruined temple standing on the brink of the bank. The other half has been washed away. Just below is an elaborate barrier against the water, composed of bundles of reeds tied to stakes. Halt of this has been carried away by the floods. The gods stand exposed to the storms, the land has exposed to inundation, the river is half silted up, a melancholy type of the condition of the Empire. There is classical authority for the dictum that "rotten wood cannot be carved." It must be wholly cut away, and new material grafted upon the old stock. China can never be reformed from within.

It is not long since the idea was widely entertained in the lands of the West that China was to be regenerated by being brought into "the sisterhood of nations." The process by which she was introduced into that "sisterhood" was not indeed such as to give rise to any well-founded hopes of national regeneration as a consequence. And now that the leading nations have had their several representatives at Peking for more than thirty years, what beneficial effect has their presence had upon the evils from which China suffers? The melancholy truth is that the international relations of the great powers are precisely those in which they appear to the least advantage. The Chinese are keen observers; what have they perceived in the conduct of any one of the states of the West to lead to the conviction that those states are actuated by motives more elevated than those which actuate the Empire which they wish to "reform"? And now that China is herself becoming a "power," she has her hands fully occupied in playing off one set of foreign interests against another, without taking lessons of those who are much more concerned in "exploiting" China than in teaching her morals. If China is to be reformed, it will not be done by diplomacy.

There are not wanting those who are firmly persuaded that what is needed by China is not merely admission into the family of nations, but unrestricted intercourse, free trade, and the brotherhood of man. The gospel of commerce is the panacea for China's needs; more ports, more imports, a lower tariff, and no transit taxes. Perhaps we do not hear so much of this now as two or three decades ago, during which time the Chinese have penetrated more fully than before into Australia and the United States, with results not always most favourable to "unrestricted intercourse" and the "brotherhood of man." Have there not also been loud whispers that Chinese tea and Chinese straw-braid have been defective in some desirable qualities, and has not this lack been partly matched by defects in certain articles imported into China from the lands of the West?

As an auxiliary of civilisation, commerce is invaluable, but it is not by itself an instrument of reform. Adam Smith, the great apostle of modem political economy, defined man as "a trading animal"; no two dogs, he says, exchange bones. But supposing they did so, and supposing that in every great city the canine population were to establish a bone exchange, what would be the inevitable effect upon the character of the dogs? The great trading nations of antiquity were not the best nations, but the worst. That the same is not true of their modem successors is certainly not due to their trade, but to wholly different causes. It has been well said that commerce, like Christianity, is cosmical in its aim; but commerce, like the rainbow, always bends towards the pot of gold.

It is sufficient to point to the continent of Africa, with its rum and its slave traffic, each introduced by trading and by Christian nations, and each an unspeakable curse, to show that, taken by itself, there is no reformatory influence in commerce. There are many friends of China well acquainted with her condition, whose prescription is more comprehensive than any of those which we have named. In their view, China needs Western culture, Western science, and what Mr. Meadows called "funded civilisation." The Chinese have been a cultured nation for millenniums. They had already been civilised for ages when our ancestors were rooting in the primeval forests. In China, if anywhere on the globe, that recipe has been faithfully tried. There is in culture as such nothing of a reformatory nature. Culture is selfish. Its conscious or unconscious motto is, "I, rather than you." As we daily perceive in China, where our boasted culture is scouted, there is no scorn like intellectual scorn. If Chinese culture has been unable to exert a due restraining influence upon those who have been so thoroughly steeped in it, is it probable that this result will be attained by a foreign exotic?

Of science the Chinese are unquestionably in the greatest need. They need every modem science for the development of the still latent resources of their mighty Empire. This they are themselves beginning clearly to perceive, and will perceive still more clearly in the immediate future. But is it certain that an acquaintance with science will exert an advantageous moral influence over the Empire? What is the process by which this is to take place? No science lies nearer to our modem advancement than chemistry. Would the spread of a general knowledge of chemistry in China, therefore, be a moral agency for regenerating the people? Would it not rather introduce new and unthought-of possibilities of fraud and violence throughout every department of life? Would it be quite safe, Chinese character being what it is, to diffuse through the Empire, together with an unlimited supply of chemicals, an exact formula for the preparation of every variety of modem explosives?

By "funded civilisation" are meant the material results of the vast development of Western progress. It includes the manifold marvels resulting from steam and electricity. This, we are told, is what China really needs, and it is all that she needs. Railways from every city to every other city, steam navigation on her inland waters, a complete postal system, national banks, coined silver, telegraphs and telephones as nerves of connection — these are to be the visible signs of the new and happy day for China. Perhaps this was the half-formed idea of Chang Chih-tung, when in his memorial on the subject of railways he affirmed that they will do away with many risks incidental to river transport, "such as stealing by the crew." Will the accumulation, then, of funded civilization diminish moral evils? Do railways ensure honesty in their employes, or even in their managers? Have we not read "A Chapter of Erie," showing how that great highway between states was stolen bodily, the stockholders helpless, and "nobody to blame"? And will they do these things better in China than it has as yet been possible to be sure of having them done in England or in America? Is funded civilisation an original cause by itself, or is it the effect of a long train of complex causes, working in slow harmony for great periods of time ? Would the introduction of the ballot-box into China make the Chinese a democratic people, and fit them for republican rule? No more will funded civilisation produce in the Chinese Empire those conditions which accompany it in the West, unless the causes which have produced the conditions in the West are set in motion to produce the like results in China. Those causes are not material, they are moral.

How is it that with the object-lessons of Hongkong, of Shanghai and other treaty ports before them, the Chinese do not introduce "model settlements" into the native cities of China? Because they do not wish for such changes, and would not tolerate them if they were introduced. How is it that with the object-lesson of an honest administration of the Imperial Maritime Customs before their eyes for nearly a third of a century, the government does not adopt such methods elsewhere? Because, in the present condition of China, the adoption of such methods of taxation of Chinese by Chinese is an absolute moral impossibility. British character and conscience have been more than a thousand years in attaining their present development, and they cannot be suddenly taken up by the Chinese for their own, and set in operation, like a Krupp gun from Essen, mounted and ready to be discharged.

The forces which have developed character and conscience in the Anglo-Saxon race are as definite and as certain facts of history as the landing of Julius Caesar in Britain, or the invasion of William the Conqueror. These forces came with Christianity, and they grew with Christianity. In proportion as Christianity roots itself in the popular heart these products flourish, and not otherwise.

Listen for a moment to the great advocate of culture, Matthew Arnold: "Every educated man loves Greece, owes gratitude to Greece. Greece was the lifter-up to the nations of the banner of art and science, as Israel was the lifter-up of the banner of righteousness. Now the world cannot do without art and science. And the lifter-up of the banner of art and science was naturally much occupied with them, and conduct was a plain, homely matter. And this brilliant Greece perished for lack of attention to conduct; for want of conduct, steadiness, character. … Nay, and the victorious revelation now, even now, in this age, when more of beauty and more of knowledge are so much needed, and knowledge at any rate is so highly esteemed — the revelation which rules the world even now is not Greece's revelation, but Judaea's; not the pre-eminence of art and science, but the pre-eminence of righteousness."

In order to reform China the springs of character must be reached and purified, conscience must be practically enthroned, and no longer imprisoned in its own palace like the long line of Japanese Mikados. It is a truth well stated by one of the leading exponents of modem philosophy, that "there is no alchemy by which to get golden conduct from leaden instincts." What China needs is righteousness, and in order to attain it, it is absolutely necessary that she have a knowledge of God and a new conception of man, as well as of the relation of man to God. She needs a new life in every individual soul, in the family, and in society. The manifold needs of China we find, then, to be a single imperative need. It will be met permanently, completely, only by Christian civilisation. 

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