תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

land and water, the overthrowing of unjust kings, wise, kind action in family relationships, and the expression of moral doctrines in an intelligible, impressive way—these are the claims to reverence of the heroes of the Chinese Pantheon. The (miscalled) Celestial is a narrow-minded, but exceedingly practical, sort of being. He wants an ordered world, but one ordered only in a certain kind of way. Before his rapt celestial vision lie the fruitful plains of the Great Flowery Land, lively and bright with the normal life of China, guarded on the north by snowy deserts, which are happily far away from him, and on the south by stormy seas, with great winds and waves, which he does not tempt. His ideal is a happy family life, with age benignant, youth reverential, three or four generations living contentedly under the same roof; the fish-pond in front well stocked; grain abundant; tea fragrant; the village harmonised; the school well taught; the young Confucius of the family preparing for competitive examinations; the ancestral tablets going far back, and recording honoured names; the ancestral hall well gilded, and a fit meeting-place for the wise elders; the spirits of deceased ancestors comforted with offerings and loving remembrances, not left to wander friendless in the air; the holidays cheerful, with bright silks and abundance of savoury dishes; the Emperor benevolent ; the people obedient; Foreign Devils far away or reverential; evil appearing only in the forms of impossible demons, and hideous wicked emperors, painted on the walls of his house as a warning to foolish youth ; no change in old customs to perplex the mind; the sacred books reverentially read and remembered ; the present definitely arranged; the fruitage of the past stored ; behind, sages and emperors; around, happy families; beyond, a darkness with which he little con

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

le COL:

CHINESE REBELLIONS. 27

cerns himself, but into which his spirit may occasionally
float a short way on some Buddhist or Tauist idea.
We may now understand the position in which a
Chinaman finds himself when he has very serious reason
to complain of the condition of his country. All the
most revered literature of that country, all the ideas
which have possessed his mind from childhood, and even
the language of the Imperial rescripts of his day, point
to the conclusion that the existing authorities rather
than the people are to blame. I have looked through
the Classics in vain for any indication of a belief that,
where great calamities befall the country, the mass of
the people may be considered as the guilty cause. The
authorities undoubtedly are in the habit of throwing
the blame off themselves, but they do so only by accus-
ing certain sections of the populace of living in guilty
opposition to the will of Heaven, and so cut off from
the rest of the people. The history of China also has
been of such a character as to sustain the notion that
the responsibility of national disaster rests chiefly with
the Government. While admitting the extraordinary
longevity of the Chinese State regarded in its essentials,
we must not leave out of view the fact that its life has
been broken, but also preserved, by innumerable rebel-
lions and changes of dynasty. Revolution is to the
Chinaman something more even than it is to the modern
Parisian. It is, so to speak, the constitutional means of
getting rid of bad governments, and is associated in his
mind with deeds of heroic daring, of noble self-sacrifice,
and with some of the brightest periods of the national
history. De Guignes, in his ‘Tableau de l’Histoire
Ancienne de la Chine, correctly enumerates twenty-two
imperial dynasties, commencing with the Hea, founded
by the Great Yu, and ending with the Ta Tsing, the

present Manchu reigning family; and many of these were overthrown by violence, to the great advantage of China, or of those portions of it over which they reigned. The ‘Historical Classic’ is full of “oaths” and “announcements” and “chastisements” of revolutionary leaders, to whom was delivered “Heaven's exterminating decree" against cruel or too luxurious princes. At a later period the famous Han, Tang, and Sung dynasties, with many others of less note, were founded by revolutionary violence ; and the Ming, or “Bright,” dynasty, which established itself for a time against the Tartars, excited patriotic feelings in the breasts of the Chinese. Thus, the Tai-ping rebellion was no novel phenomenon in the history of China, but had intimate relationship with the national ideas and history; and Hung Sew-tsuen, its leader, was influenced to his terrible and unsuccessful, yet perhaps beneficial, movement, not less by the ideas which float in the Chinese mind than by the actual events which, as we shall presently see, led him up to that movement, on into his terrible career, and to its final catastrophe. In some most important respects the present state of China is very much what it was in the earliest recorded times. The cities exercise but little influence, and power lies in the balance between the Emperor with his Ministers and the country people. Bold warriors, ambitious priests, and designing statesmen play no great part in the national history. It is out of the country people, the innumerable owners of the land, that the ruling power has arisen, and it is their wants that must be attended to. So long as they are well off they are contented with the existing dynasty; but when they suffer greatly then Heaven appoints some one to exterminate the dynasty. This is the leading point in the whole history

DOM, * - THE TARTAR CONQUEST.S. 29

many of is of China. The dynasties are always established by men

talute of lofty virtue and great force of character, perhaps htly leg. aided by able and devoted Ministers; but as generations nd amme, pass away their successors deteriorate in character, and ary leads: finally reach some one who combines debauchery and aligão, cruelty, so that he injures public affairs as much by his At a ho interference as by his neglect. Then comes ruin over ynastião the country; there are signs and portents in the heavrevolution , o, and there rises some patriot to say, like T'ang, Tasy, wii who destroyed the most famous Hea dynasty, “I dread stars to the Supreme Ruler, so I dare not refuse to destroy inese. This the wicked sovereign.” menonini: Such a period in China was that when Hung Sew

jip withik tsuen, the Taiping chief, arose. There were many circumstances which had tended to throw the country

o into a state of disorganisation, causing widespread y the id: mory ; and there were even special circumstances the soul which tended to ascribe the evil to the ruling dynasty, him up to and called upon a patriot to remove it from the throne. and so is As regards the latter point, it is only necessary to note

here that the Imperial family, as is well known, was Manchu. In the thirteenth century the immediate

o t s - - int stätt descendants of Genghis Khan conquered China in a

troik sort of way, and established the Yuen dynasty, which ad o ruled the country till A.D. 1368, but was then overhis * thrown by a native line, the Ming, or “Bright.” This amlins latter reigned till the year 1664; but the last thirty t part II years of their government, which had been moved from emplatio Nanking to Peking, was a continual strife with the g powd tribes of Manchu Tartars on the frontier, and with inattend o, surrection in the interior. In 1664, a native Chinese, intend Le Taiching, entered Peking with his insurgent forces, gaff and on his arrival the last Emperor of the Mings comate the mitted suicide. Le proclaimed himself emperor, but was

[ocr errors]

soon driven from the capital by the Manchu Tartars, who were invited into the country by a Chinese general, Woo San-kwei, who had been defending the frontier against them, but who, looking on the usurpation of the throne by the rebel Le as intolerable, now begged their assistance against the usurper. The Manchus having entered the country had no intention of leaving it. They proclaimed Shun Chi, their chief, Emperor; and in a few years contrived to gain the government of China, and even compelled the people to shave their heads after the Tartar fashion. This was long resisted, especially in the south-east, but after a time all open defiance of the Tartar ceased, though in that part of the country secret societies were formed for the purpose of throwing off the foreign yoke, and defied the power of the Government to extinguish them. The Manchu Government, however, reigned with great moderation and justice up to the end of last century, and in fact on to about 1830; it had become quite Chinese in character, and was chiefly composed of native Chinamen, so that in the beginning of this century resistance to it had almost entirely ceased, or when it existed, was confined to those disorderly classes which, from early times, have infested the innumerable islands which fringe the southern seaboard of the Flowery Land. The Manchus as nominally ruling the country, and supplying the Imperial family at least, were always open, on account of their being Tartars, to an extra share of odium in the event of the Government failing very grossly; but up to 1830 there was no appearance of such failure, except the existence of certain illegal associations in the shape of secret societies, such as that of the Triad and of the Water Lily. There can be no doubt that these societies had some

« הקודםהמשך »