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them, while every year dozens of foreign books on science and medicine are translated into Chinese. The Buddhist religion—not to mention scores of other innovations eagerly welcomed by them—is a foreign faith, while the Taiping rebellion which shook the Empire, and at one time promised to regenerate it, originated in the perusal of a foreign tract, and was fed from the doctrines of the Old Testament Scriptures. The Chinese mind, though their system of government is doubtless sluggish, is not shut to new impressions, and the fact that the people take to them slowly is perhaps no cause for regret, for they will be all the better able to assimilate what they learn. Already, unhappily, they have learned enough, to prefer other nations' goods to ours. A race adroit in all the tricks of commercial knavery is not likely soon to be deceived by cotton plastered with dirt and size. For their own very ancient proverb declares that "the conjuror does not deceive the man who beats the gong!”
It is really from the governing class that the obstacles to Chinese progress come. Mr. Robert Hart, so long the Chinese Inspector-General of Customs, and one of the most powerful men in China, is very desponding over these factors in the history of the Middle Kingdom. Only an infinitesimally small percentage of the officials have a glimmering of what is meant by progress, and a still smaller number are prepared to boldly enter upon the path of reform, or even to take the consequences of an initiative. Indeed, of late years, the example of Japan is often held up as a warning to over-enthusiastic reformers. The Chinese system of competitive examinations, as the tests for every office, is not the best to secure enlightened officials; but of late years even this has been diverged from, the neediness of the Government having induced them in some cases to dispose of offices to the highest bidder, and to encourage the basest intrigues for place and the pelf for the sake of which place is desired. This lamentable result is tersely described in a report from the British Consul at Chefoo, in the province of Shan-tung :—" Large tracts of land,” he remarks, “which might be covered with vines (to which cultivation the climate is peculiarly favourable), as the hills by the Rhine and Moselle, produce nothing but stunted weeds. Rivers which, by a little deepening, might be made highways of commerce and centres of irrigation, wind their way through shallow sands and undrained marshes, carrying their wealth of water to the sea. Noble lakes, which by a little trouble could be made into valuable reservoirs, periodically overflow their banks, and devastate the fields they should fertilise, and choke up the water highways they should keep full and clear. Natural routes, winding through hills of gentle gradients, and of just sufficient altitude to afford good drainage, only requiring a few shovelfuls of the stone that abounds in the neighbourhood to make them into excellent roads, are by neglect utterly impassable at all times by wheeled conveyances, and after a small shower of snow, even by pack mules. A little surreptitious washing of a few streams is all the advantage taken of the rich store of gold in the province; the silver mines have been closed, and the same neglect and obstruction are evinced with regard to the less precious but equally valuable metals, such as tin, lead, iron, and copper. Coal exists all over the province, and
at points whence it could be transported with ease to centres of industry, and to ports in which are anchored many steamers of Chinese and foreign nationality. In a country where thousands starve annually from the cold, where every weed and stick are valuable for fuel, the best of fuel lies on the ground with no one to pick it up, while coal imported from Australia and Japan not only feeds the steamers, but also the furnaces of the native blacksmiths and ironmongers. The fine marble, the granite, the splendid sandstone to be seen stretching hundreds of feet without a Haw, which might erect magnificent palaces, are only carved into a few tombstones, or picked out to build cottages and pigsties. An
industrious and stalwart population, pre-eminently sober and law-abiding, incapable, it is true, of the larger commercial undertakings, such as railways and steamboat companies, without also the high intelligence of our artisans, yet peculiarly apt at the smaller branches of trade, and with a fair skill in the ruder arts, are kept in bondage by ignorance, unrelieved by religious feelings and aspirations, and, under the yoke of bad laws and worse administration, have their intelligence stunted and individuality destroyed; condemned to a state of hand-to-mouth poverty, they enjoy at the best of times but a vegetable prosperity, and on the failure of a single harvest perish by thousands of starvation.”
Add to this, that thousands are leaving the country to settle in the Malay Islands, Australia, and America, and the condition at which China has arrived can be imagined. In
spite of the prejudice and even opposition to him, it is all but certain that before long the industrious Chinaman will become the principal labouring element, not only in America, but in Europe. The European is aristocratic, generally disliking manual toil, and aspires, wherever he can, to anything rather than the obscure life of the
working man." In a few years, as wild lands are being settled up, Europe, and even America, will find itself face to face with the problem of how best it can find hands for handicraft. Then, when the time has arrived, will appear the Chinaman as the deus ex
machina who is to solve the problem. In fifty years steamers will transport, at fabulously low prices, the teeming - Mongols to all parts of the world, and then in European cities will arise Chinese quarters, inhabited by a race who have fixed themselves amongst us as surely as have the Jews; and who at first will create as much discontent and prejudice in their capacity of toilers as have the other Orientals in their chosen role of keen traders in money, and in the most money-making merchandise. Undoubtedly we shall see Chinese workmen in Europe sooner
Europe sooner than we imagine, or than the directors of labour organisations care to conceive.* The Government is essentially patriarchal. The
On this question, see a thoughtful article in Annales de l'Extrême Orient, November, 1879.
Emperor is the father of his people, and is supposed to rule his subjects as a parent rules his children; but though the people are bound to obey the ruler in everything, at the same time their philosophers, from Confucius to Mencius, taught the sacred duty of rebellion, and of even executing the Emperor, when he diverged from the path of rectitude and oppressed the nation. These doctrines the numerous rebellions of China prove to have been attended to. The Emperor is otherwise viewed almost as a divine person—the intermediary between heaven and earth--and to the common people he is a personage so awful, that unless they picture him sitting astride the sacred dragon, he conveys to them no resemblance to anything tangible. He is the “son of Heaven,” the representative of God upon earth; the source of law, office, power, honour, and emolument, and the owner of the soil, the resources and wealth of the whole country. He is the controller of “ Tien-hia”-all under heaven, or “within the four seas;” he is the “lord of ten thousand years,” the "imperial sublime,” the “Kwa jen ”—the “ man who stands by himself”-or “ Kwa kuin,” the “solitary prince,” who represents, or did represent, the embassies which came to him merely as the messengers of “niu-i ” and “wai-i,” the internal and external barbarians coming to do homage to their liege lord. So ignorant are the people of any other nations that they suppose the English only to be a tribe somewhere on the outside of the empire, and therefore that they all know each other. It must not, however, be supposed that the term “foreign devil,” commonly applied to the Europeans and Americans, is intended to be contemptuous. Rather it expresses the wondering awe and mystery with which we are regarded, as is evinced by the fact that a distinguished foreigner is commonly addressed by the title of " His Excellency the Devil." Yet they hardly consider us much superior to fools ; and their country is to them the "middle kingdom,” which occupies four-fifths of the earth, the rest of the world being merely a fringe to it.
“Not one Chinaman in ten thousand,” writes Mr. Hart, “knows anything about the foreigner ; not one Chinaman in a hundred thousand knows anything about foreign inventions and discoveries; and not one in a million acknowledges any superiority in either the condition or the appliances of the West; and of the ten or twenty men in China who really think Western appliances valuable, not one is prepared to boldly advocate their free introduction.” This opinion was given ten years ago, but it is still almost as strictly true as when pronounced.
The present Emperor, Kuangsu, was born in 1871, and is the ninth Emperor of the Tartar dynasty of Tsing, which in the year 1644 succeeded the native dynasty of Ming. The two great departments of state are the “Neko,” or Privy Council, and the “ Chun-chi-chu," or Secretariat of State. The Privy Council consists of three members of Mantchu origin and three Chinese.* The four chief members of the “Neko” are known as actual members, the other two are only assistants. The duties of the Council are to generally regulate the laws and administrative affairs of the empire, and to connsel the Emperor on the high duties of his station ; but of late years it has lost much of its old importance, most of the power having now fallen into the hands of the Secretariat of State, which is composed of the princes of the Imperial house, the members of the different departments of the Privy Council, and of the other administrators in the capital.
* In some works its composition is stated to be nine Mantchus and seven Chinese, but in the latest official lists, where the names of the members of the “Neko" are given, the numbers are as I have adopted them.
It concerns itself mainly with the revision of the Imperial edicts and decisions, and the control of the different civil and military departments. Under the Secretariat are the six ministries or boards, each presided over by two presidents and four vice-presidents, partly Chinese and partly Mantchus, though the composition of the control varies. These ministries are the Boards of War, Punishments, of Offices, Ceremonies, Revenues, and Works. In addition, there are the administrations for subject countries, and those of music, of the censors, and of the military command of Pekin. The censors are inferior but old officers, and are privileged to report any irregularity in the Government departments, and even to criticise the conduct of the Emperor himself. Of late this, like most other departments of the Chinese Government, has fallen into corrupt ways, though now and then some offender in high places is brought to condign punishment through the action of a more than ordinarily active and honest censor. In fact, the “ Tou-ch'a-iuan," or censors' department, may be considered a kind of court of appeal. In addition, there are departments charged with the Imperial ménage, and, above all, with reporting on the different members of the Imperial household, their abilities, marriages, and general behaviour, so that the Emperor may be guided by these notes in the selection of a successor, or in the dignities which he shall give to or take away from them. The Han-lin-iuan, generally known as the " Academy of Pekin,” or Hanlin College, is another institution of Government, for from it are usually selected the ministers, while the important department of Foreign Affairs (or Tsoungli-Yamen) has sprung into existence since China has had intercourse with strangers. The provincial governments are almost autonomous, and theoretically are very perfect; but in reality they are corrupt to the core, the low salaries which the mandarins and other officials get being utterly incapable of paying their expenses without their resorting to the bribes and “squeezes” which are looked upon by every Chinese servant, public or private, as the perquisites of office, and, indeed, to which the people themselves have got so accustomed that they will hardly believe in any other system.
The Chinese revenue is only known by estimates, but according to the best sources of information it averages 79,500,000 taëls,* or about £21,400,000. Up to the year 1874 , China had no national debt, and even now its sole burdens from foreign loan are £627,675, bearing interest at 8 per cent., and secured on the revenue; and though doubtless there is a considerable amount of floating internal debt, yet nothing like the sum which there is in Japan.
The army is composed of twenty-four “ banners” of the imperial guard and of the provincial army, the latter being composed of Chinese alone, while the others are limited mostly to Mantchu Tartars, to which race the present dynasty belongs. In all there may
be about 800,000 Chinese and 271,000 Mantchus, and not over 270,000 of this paper army is organised on the European model. The navy consisted in 1876 of thirty-eight ships of inconsiderable size, but to this fleet there have been lately added several powerful gun-boats, which in any war with a coast-lying nation are capable of inflicting great damage.t
* A Haikwan, or Custom House, taël is about 6s.
Williams: "The Middle Kingdom” (1848); Guetzlaff: “China Opened” (1838); Doolittle : “Social Life of the Chinese” (1865); Pumpelly: “Geological Researches in Northern China" (1866); Edkins: “Religion in China" (1877); Medhurst: “The Foreigner in Far Cathay;” Thomson : “Straits of Malacca ” (1875); “Illustrations of China and its People ; ” Eden : “China” (1876); Douglas and Yule in the Encyclopædia Britannica (1879), &c.