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though children regardless of filial piety might perhaps be regarded as more blameworthy than fathers neglecting their parental duties. In the celebrated “Sacred Edict” of the Emperor Kang-he, the second maxim is, “Respect kindred, in order to display the excellence of harmony.” It is a mistake to suppose, as many European writers have done, that the idea of paternal authority is that on which the Chinese State has been based. The conceptions of a certain complete harmony for all relationships, and of a graduation of authority from Heaven downwards, have determined their views, in regard both to fatherhood and to the government, to such an extent that their peculiar institutions might have sprung up had the black-haired race, by some mysterious means, been brought into existence without the aid of parents at all. There is some difficulty in determining how far, according to the Chinese system, the employment of force is lawful and expedient in preserving the due medium of relationships. Heaven is never spoken of as vindictive, seldom even as moved to anger, but it is considered capable of terrible punitive judgment; and this prerogative, somewhat inconsistently with passages I have quoted, is spoken of as shared by its representatives, the heavenly-appointed rulers of mankind. Against unjust rulers Heaven becomes incensed, decrees their ruin, and sends down calamities on the people as a mark of its displeasure. Even so early as in the “Military Completion,” in the ‘Shoo King,’ we read of “Heaven's exterminating decree” against an offending prince being delivered to “an insignificant one.” Up to this hour the Imperial edicts conclude with the admonition, “tremblingly obey;” stituted as men are, even among so easily-governed a
and it is sufficiently obvious that, con
RESPECT FOR AGE AND LEARNING. 17
race as the Chinese, authority could not be sustained,
filial piety, this reverence for wisdom has afforded the principle of reverence for old age; for, with their confidence in the goodness of human nature, the Celestials cannot but regard the older man, with all his past studies and experiences, as superior to the younger, and specially deserving of veneration. The Throneless King (Confucius) himself said (Analects, ii. 4): “At fifteen, I had my mind bent on learning. At thirty, I stood firm. At forty, I had no doubts. At fifty, I knew the decrees of Heaven. At sixty, my ear was an obedient organ. At seventy, I could follow what my heart desired without transgressing what was right.” This respect for learning and for age is fostered among the Black-haired People by their system of education. It is expressly asserted in the Classics that a knowledge of the doctrine of the due medium may be obtained even by common persons busily occupied in the affairs of life, if their hearts are only right; and it is obvious that a very considerable portion of the sacred writings may be understood and appreciated by persons whose minds are not very highly developed, and who have not devoted the time to study which would be required to gain what is considered a good education in European countries. “Among the countless millions that constitute the empire,” says Sir John Davis, “almost every man can read and write sufficiently for the ordinary purposes of life, and a respectable share of these acquirements goes low down in the scale of society.” And it must be observed that this education is not devoted to inflating the mind with false accounts of contemporary events, with falsifications of history, appeals to class-prejudices, and galvanic attempts at sharpness, such as constitute the intellectual pabulum offered by their newspapers to the labouring classes of America, but to the laws and other institutions of the
POSITION OF THE EMPEROR. I9
Country, the principles on which these laws are based, and to great moral and social truths, having an immediate bearing on practice, and expressed in a beautiful simple way, in sentences of which the mind cannot easily get rid. Hence the ordinary Chinaman takes an interest in the theory, as well as in the practice, of his government; and all the officials of the empire feel themselves in face of an intelligent, and sometimes exceedingly intelligent, public opinion, which they dare not disregard in the absence of a priesthood and of a standing army of any size or value. It is also obvious that this power of the people, this general information existing among them —their respect for learning, their reverence for sages, and their belief that knowledge affords a key to the harmony of relationships—are the real supports of the principle of choosing only able men for office, to which Mr Meadows attaches so much importance. Also proceeding from their ideas in regard to harmony, we have next the Chinese ideas and practice in regard to gradations of rank, mutual responsibility, and mutual surveillance. The Emperor, representing Heaven, is Tien Tsz, Son of Heaven; Kwa Jen, the Solitary Man; Chin, Ourself; Hwang Te, August Sovereign; Hwang Shang, August Loftiness; Tieng Hwang, Celestial August One ; Shing Te, Sacred Sovereign ; and Wan Sui Ye, Father of Ten Thousand Years. But this is in virtue, not of his office, but only of the manner in which he fulfils that office. So far from his being of necessity pater atque princeps, Mencius boldly says:* “The people are the most important element in a nation; the spirits of the land or grain are the next ; the sovereign is the least." Elsewhere he quotes approvingly the words of the Great Declaration in the ‘Shoo King’ —“Heaven sees according as my people see ; Heaven hears according as my people hear.” In the ‘Historical Classic, Thang exclaims in his “Announcement,” “Should any of you myriad states transgress, let the blame rest on me, a single individual; but should I, a single individual, offend, let it not involve you, the multitude of states.” In the “Announcement at Lo,” it is said that “the people come to meet a well-balanced government.” Confucius, who was very fond of inculcating subordination, counterbalanced his advice by his repeated assertion that good government requires no force for its support; and, as Dr Legge says, “he allowed no jus divinum independent of personal virtue and a benevolent rule.” When asked (Analects, B. xii. 8) whether sufficiency of military equipment, sufficiency of food, or the confidence of the people, was most necessary to sustaining a government, he selected the last as most essential, and he declared that the government of a personally correct prince would be effective without the prince issuing orders. Thus the Emperor is properly not so much an absolute ruler as the embodier, recorder, and declarer of the wants and legitimate wishes of his people.
* Book II. part ii. chap. xiv. in the second volume of Legge's edition of the Chinese Classics.
And the whole machinery of government may be viewed not so much as a means for carrying out the Emperor's will, as an organisation by which the wants of the people may be met, and those of their designs which require the exercise of supreme authority be placed in Imperial hands. It is quite true that China, as a nation, may be compared to a vast army under one generalissimo, the Son of Heaven, and that this army is elaborately divided into corps, regiments, and companies paying, or called on to pay, implicit obedience to their immediate leaders; but it is still more necessary to look