Page images

era. In this fhort period of 71 years we fee, befides the two laft Emperors of the famous dynalty of Tang, five dynafties filling fucceffively the imperial throne, and exhibiting the most odious and barbarous fcenes of perfidy, corruption, rebellion, and carnage, that have ever been known in any nation or period of the world. Nevertheless, in the midft of thefe abominable enormities and diforders, we find examples of heroism and virtue, that adminifter fome little refreshment and confolation to the difgufted reader. These commotions are adapted to remove, at least, fome of the prejudices in favour of the Chinese, to which the accounts of the Miffionaries have given rife; for if we credit the relations of thefe Fathers, we may be led to think that tranquillity, and concord have always reigned in <China, nay, that they are the diftinctive characters of that happy nation. Some examples will rectify the erroneous judgments which many of our Readers may have entertained on this head.

[ocr errors]

Tchao-tfong, who may be confidered as the laft Emperor of the dynasty of Tang, had refolved to reform the government, which was in the greatest diforder; but his moft vigorous en7deavours were infufficient to controul that fpirit of independence which reigned among the governors of the provinces; and when, in China, matters are come to fuch a pass, there is no remedy but the entire deftruction of the reigning dynasty. The eunuchs had acquired fuch á monftrous afcendant as to arrest and depose the Emperor, to place his infant-heir upon the throne, and to strangle all who adhered to the captive Prince. Tchou-ouen came to his affiftance, delivered him from prifon, put to death feveral thousands of the eunuchs-and what then? Why, then, he availed himfelf of the weakness of the Prince to whofe fuccour he was come, maffacred his guards, and put others in their place, who murdered the Prince, and placed on the throne Tchao-fiven-ti, fon of Tchao-tfong, who had no more than the title of Emperor. The brothers of this titular Monarch were invited to a feaft on the borders of a lake, where they were all perfidiously ftrangled, and their carcafes thrown into the water. All these enormities were executed by the order of Tchou ouen, and, that they might not be imputed to him, he gave only a verbal order to the officers who were the inftruments of his barbarity: nay, he went fo far as to order all thefe officers, together with one of his own fons, to be facrificed, in a pretended fit of affliction and defpair: but as he was much fufpected of having brought about the death of the Emperor, he made ufe of the appearance of a comet, which furnifhed him with an opportunity of putting to death a great number of those who cenfured his conduct. At length he forced the young Emperor to abdicate the throne, and to tranf


fer the empire to him by an authentic act. He gave the depofed Emperor a small principality; but about a year after he put him to death, with all his family; and thus ended the dynafty of Tang, in the year 907 of the Chriftian era.

The new Monarch enjoyed, nevertheless, only a part of the empire he had fo perfidiously ufurped. The Tartars called Leao had invaded the northern provinces, and the empire was divided into a multitude of little independent principalities, whofe poffeffors refused to acknowledge the new Emperor. For the hiftorical detail of all thefe events we must refer the Reader to the book-wherein he will find new fcenes of horror in this new dynafty, which was called Heouleang. He will fee the Emperor, who, in 912, had taken the name of Tai-tfou, murdered by a band of affaffins, headed by his own fon, who also put to death his brother, whom his father had defigned for his fucceffor, and was foon after befieged in his palace by another brother, whom he had, treated with perfidy and injuftice. He found means of efcaping with his wife, and the foldier who had been the principal in the murder of his father; and this monster, after killing him and his Emprefs, put an end to his own days. The empire, paffed to another brother called Mo-ti, who was depofed in 923, and graciously killed by one of his friends, to prevent his falling into the hands of his enemies. After this,five dynafties pafs rapidly, in the midst of bloodshed and tumult, Tchouang-tfong, the first of the dynafty of Heou-tang, and the Prince who had dethroned Mo-ti, was wounded, in defending, his palace against rebels, and afterwards poifoned by his Emprefs. Mingt tfong died of grief in the midst of an infurrection. Min-ti, who reigned after him, was ftrangled by order of his own brother, who, to efcape from his enemies, fled into one of the towers of his palace with the two Empreffes and his children, and fet fire to the building, with which they were all confumed, in the year 936. A new dynafty, called Heru-tfin, which produced but two Emperors, poffeffed the throne until 947. The family of Heau-ban ufurped it then, and was dethroned in 950; and that of Heoutcheou held it till the year 959, at which this volume concludes.

[ocr errors]

The eighth volume opens with the grand dynasty of the Song, of which the founder Tai-tfong was proclaimed Emperor in 960, from which epocha China was governed by Princes of the fame family during the courfe of three centuries, though a confiderable extent of its territory was in the hands of the Tartars. Tai-tfong was an excellent Prince; he endeared himself to all his fubjects by his benignity, affability, and fimplicity of manners: he detefted luxury, oftentation, and fraud:-he was diligent and active in the difcharge both of his public and domeftic duties; and he was such a zealous patron of learning, that,

LI 2

that, under his reign, the sciences began to revive, the feminaries of learning were repaired, and the number of writers was never so numerous in China as under this dynafty. This tranquillity, however, was often, in fome degree, interrupted by the Tartars, who poffeffed many of the northern provinces, but the danger was always averted by means of negociation; till the time came when the great revolution was brought about. This will be described in the next volume.

But even this fmiling period of the Chinese empire was difgraced by a multitude of pious frauds and acts of fuperftition. The Emperors of Song were entirely addicted to the fect of Taofe, whofe facred impoftures are well known, particularly their pretenfion to the power of conferring immortality by certain medical preparations. In the year 1008, the Emperor Tchintfong was informed, we are told, by a spirit or vifion, that a book fhould be fent to him from heaven. Accordingly the book arrived, enclosed in a covering of yellow filk, 20 foot long, and fufpended at one of the gates of his palace. The Emperor went to the place, attended by his grandees, received the celeftial book upon his knees, placed it on a magnificent chariot, and read in it a prediction (this was the cream of the jeft) that the family of Song fhould poffefs the empire during feven hundred generations. The book was depofited in a gold box, the Monarch received the compliments of the whole empire on occafion of the celeftial prefent, public rejoicings were celebrated five days fucceffively-and all this farce was concerted between the Emperor and fome of his minifters, in order to amuse the people. Our Author, the good Father DE MAILLA, expreffes great furprize that those who were acquainted with the cheat, behaved, from a principle of policy or adulation, as if they had no fort of doubt about the miracle. Did our Author never hear of the annual exhibition of the blood of St. Januarius at Naples, nor of a thousand other fuch ghostly tricks, daily practifed and constantly applauded by the blind credulity of the multitude, and the courtly complaifance of the more knowing ones?This book gave occafion to a multitude of other miraculous impoftures, between which and acts of fuperftitious credulity, the Chinese Emperors, notwithstanding their boafted knowledge and wisdom, paffed their time. Nay, these moved the fprings of government too often under the dynafty of Song, otherwise remarkable for its having produced great men, and eminent philofophers.

It was under this dynafty that the famous Se-ma-kouang, author of the Grand Hiftory of China, flourished. He, in 1084, prefented that important work to the Emperor, who commended it in the general affembly of the grandees, and admitted its author into the privy-council; where he contributed greatly to reform


reform the government. But the patriotic endeavours of that great and good man, fo eminent for his integrity, genius, affability, mildness, modefty, and dignity of demeanour, occafioned his downfal. He was banished from court, his friends were fent into exile, his papers were deftroyed, and nothing was fpared but his Hiftory of China, entitled, The, tcht,-tong-kien, which was preserved from the flames by the interpofition of one of the Emperor's minifters. Under this fame dynasty lived alfo Tchou-hi, the celebrated philofopher, whofe abridgment of the Hiftory of Se-ma-kouang is the General History, or Grand Annals, entitled, Kang-mo, the translation of which is the subject of this Article. Tchou-hi, alfo, whofe merit was tarnished by fome abfurd fingularities, died in exile, in the year 1200.

While the Emperors were employed about the quarrels and cabals of the literati, the Tartars were gaining new acceffions of power in the empire, and daily extending their territories. The Mongols began to fettle in Tartary; and, in the fucceeding volume, we fhall fee them mafters of all China.


Voyage Pittorefque de la Grece, Sc.-Travels through all the different Parts of Greece, represented in a Series of Engravings. No. III. Large Folio. Paris. 1779.


HOUGH the peculiar merit of this elegant, interesting, and learned publication be, its reprefenting with the greatest accuracy, tafte, and fplendor, the present state of Greece, and the adjacent countries, fo famous in claffic fong, yet the manner in which the noble Author treats his fubject is every way proper to attract the attention, and excite the esteem, both of the philologift and the philofopher. The Author will lofe nothing by the modefty with which he speaks of this elegant and difficult undertaking; he requests but indulgence, he will obtain APPLAUSE. The COUNT DE CHOISEUL looks upon the text as only an acceffory to the engravings, which he confiders as the principal part of the undertaking; nevertheless this text is replete with excellent matter, and discovers a writer perfectly acquainted with the hiftorians, poets, travellers, and geographers, both ancient and modern, who have given accounts or defcriptions of Greece.

This third Number begins with the 21ft plate, which exhibts a View of the City and Ifle of Naxia, anciently called Naxos, and confecrated to the worthip of Bacchus. This conqueror of India, who was worshipped in Egypt under the name of Qfiris, found Ariadne on the coaft of Naxos, where their loves rendered the ifland famous in claffic ftory. In our Author's account of the religious ceremonies inftituted in honour of this divinity,


divinity, we find evident marks of a lively imagination, a phi-' lofophical fpirit, and an extensive knowledge of mythology and history. The worship of Bacchus, according to our Author, was carried from the banks of the Nile into Bcotia by Cadmus, whofe daughter Semele gave him a fecond birth, which promoted his reputation and faved her own. The impofture of Cadmus fhewed, by its fuccefs, that there is no error too abfurd for the credulity of mankind. The Bacchanal feasts celebrated in Greece, and tranfported from thence into Italy, are well known. When inftituted by Orpheus, as a part of his religion, they were remarkable for their purity, though afterwards they were pro-"' scribed at Rome on account of their licentiousness. Had they ́· not been pure in their origin, they would not have obtained the approbation and respect of fo many nations; but when once established, their degenerating from their primitive purity into scenes of voluptuoufnefs, did not immediately occafion their suppression.—They flattered too much the sensual propenfities of mankind, not to be encouraged in the Pagan world: accordingly they were adopted in almost all countries, and in ftead of being celebrated only once a year, they were multiplied and repeated under various forms and denominations, such as the Greater and Leffer Bacchanalia, the Old and the New, the Vernal, Autumnal, Nocturnal, &c. In no place were the facred rites of this deity so zealously performed as in the ifle of Naxos, which pretended to have been the nursery of the jolly god, and disputed that honour with the Caves of Nyssa and Mount Meros. The fertility of this island, and its excellent wine, which Athenæus compares with the nectar of the gods, but which cannot bear transportation, even to the neighbouring ifles, seem to recal to remembrance the refidence and gifts of Bacchus.

The 22d and 23d plates present a drawing of the Geometrical Plan of the Gate of the Temple of Bacchus, and of the Rock on which the Temple was built: thefe are the only ancient remains that are to be found in the island. The number of its inhabitants amounts,to 6000, of which a fifth part are Roman Catholics, and the present Latin Bishop is a descendant of the Venetian Dukes, who were the ancient fovereigns of Naxos. There are feveral convents in the island, of which one belongs to the Jefuits, who ftill remain there, but in a fecular habit. The Greeks and Latins have each their Archbishop, whofe jurifdiction extends to all the Cyclades. There is fomething exceffively ridiculous and abfurd in the dress of the women of Naxos. Inftead of a thin gauze, that veils, but imperfectly, the bosoms of the ladies at Smyrna, the Naxians use a thick covering of velvet, adorned with embroidery and fmall pearls: they wear alfo a clumfy kind of hoop, which disfigures them extremely. Nevertheless, amidst all these marks of an abfurd and whimsical austerity,

« PreviousContinue »