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believe the account of the Jesuits, or not, as we pleased ; but those reverend gentlemen, besides the history of their own praises and progress, furnished us with some Chinese dramas and novels, which have turned out to be genuine. The number of these has latterly been increased; Sir George Staunton has added a translation of their chief book of the law; and thus, from the evidences afforded by books (books, ever the great enlighteners of the earth!) we have been enabled to form at least some good probable guesses at the state of society and knowledge among all the classes of our little-eyed friends; the upshot of which appears to be this ; that they are a people naturally intelligent, humane, and fanciful, who, by reason of an excess of veneration paid to their fathers and forefathers, have been kept for an extraordinary period of time in a state of profound submission to their “ paternal government;" and the consequence has been, that their gentleness has been converted into effeminacy, their intelligence into cunning and trickery, and the whole popular mind rendered 'stationary for centuries. It is impossible not to be sensible of the miniature scale upon which everything proceeds in their novels. They take little sups of wine, little cups of tea; have little feet and eyes; write little poems, and get on in the world by dint of very little tricks. One cannot but fancy them writing with crow-quills, and speaking at the tip of their voice.
At the same time, there is something not unamiable, nor even undignified or unprofound, in that universal sense of the filial duties, of which the government has taken so much advantage. And this has kept alive certain virtues and humanities among them, which would have gone out under any other despotism. A Chinese is taught to have a sort of worship for the authors of his being, and if we mistake not, for their's; perhaps for two or three generations upward. Wherever subsistence is easy, and the temper not excessively bad, this can hardly fail to produce a corresponding tenderness towards the children, at least a mild and considerate treatment. It is true, instances of the reverse, when they do oceur, must be frightful, and give double force to that excess of arrogance and selfish exaction which parents, not overwise, are sometimes guilty of in all countries : for even in China the mistake must be exaspe
rated by an 'instinctive sense of it's contradicting the first laws of nature, which are rather prospective than retrospective, and for an obvious reason, consider rather children than parents. But necesi sity and public opinion must, upon the whole, combine to render the principle of filiality a convenience rather than an abuse; and we have little doubt, that, in their domestic intercourse, the Chinese are prepared to entertain all the gentler sympathies of their nature, subject to those drawbacks which accompany excessive submission of any sort, and which keep them timid, secret, and circumventing. The worst of it is that the paternal system of law is apt, like other dull parents, to mistake anger and bodily correction for good things; and thus the Chinese are the most bastinadoed people on earth.
It is remarkable, that the first account we have of a Chinese paper (for such the Cantón Register may be called) brings with it an instance of this extraordinary reverence inculcated towards parents, of the licence into which their effeminacy leads them, and of the opportunities taken by government to turn the national feeling to its own purposes. At the same time the government itself, not being out of the pale of this feeling, and always making a shew both of its power and humanity, takes into consideration the “ extenuatinga” circumstances of the case, and, though apparently both cruel and unjust, is not more so, it is to be supposed, than it can help. The following is the extract:
“Ho-Nan ProvINCE.-A native of this province, in August 1827, unintentionally caused the death of his own mother. The sentence is, to cut him to pieces by slow degrees. That is, beginning at the less vital parts deliberately, the hands, the fore-arms, the feet, the legs, the thighs, the head, and then stab the trunk to the heart. But there was something extenuating in his case, and the sentence is referred for ratification to Peking. His Majesty has sent it to the Criminal Board.
“The offender, Yaou-a-pa, detected his uncle in incestuous intercourse with his mother, for which his uncle tied him up, and beat him. After which he witnessed his uncle going and spending the whole night in his mother's room. Yaou-a-pa's feelings of anger and indignation were now worked up to the highest pitch. He seized a sickle, and made blows at Yaou-tseih, his dear uncle. The uncle slipped and got behind him, and seized the handle of the sickle, with his arms round his nephew. The mother came behind, and relieved the uncle from his embrace. He fled, and the mother threw her arms round the youth without his being conscious of the change. The struggle continued until the young man overpowered the woman, and wounded her mortally before he was aware that the stroke of the sickle entered his mother's heart.
“On the 21st of August his Majesty's decision in the case of Yaou-a-pa
was received. His sentence is decapitation, after a period of imprisonment; this sentence usually terminates in strangling on a cross, which, leaving the body entire, is regarded as a lesser punishment than beheading. Yaou-tseih, the incestuous uncle, is ordered for immediate
Some amusing specimens of national manners and feeling accompany this tragic story.
The Governor of Canton, a personage of the name of Le, who appears to have newly entered upon his office, is, we are told, “ a gentleman of mild and conciliating manners, easily satisfied with pecuniary offerings, and desirous of tranquillity. In short, he is considered a good governor.”
His Excellency the Hoppo also, whose name is Wan, is a very mild, good-natured man, when he is sober ; but he has an unhappy propensity, like most of the Tartars, to strong liquors; and, when under their influence, he is rather violent and unruly." ..Thus it is under all Imperial Governments. “Let observation," as Johnson says,
with extensive view, ki
Survey mankind from China to Peru, and, besides equally bad poetry written by the critics, it will find that the way to satisfy great men in all countries is to make them pecuniary offerings; and that they are not above the temptation of drinking strong liquors ; upon which occasion the ruler becomes unruly. The Hoppo however is still a God-send, considering he is a Governor; for he is mild when sober: and Le is still better, for he is “ easily satisfied with pecuniary offerings ;" which, as fees appear to be ad libitum in that quarter, is more than you could say of gentlemen in less heathen countries.
The religion of the intelligent classes in China is understood to be
*** The law against parricide stands as follows, in the book translated by Sir George Staunton :
“Any person convicted of a design to kill his or her father or mother, grandfather or grandmother, whether by the father's or mother's side; and any woman convicted of a design to kill her husband's father or mother, grandfather or grandmother, shall, whether the blow is or is not struck in consequence, suffer death by being beheaded. In punishing this criminal design, no distinction shail be made between principals and accessaries, except as far as regards their respective relationships to the persons against whose life the design is entertained. If the murder is committed, all parties concerned therein, and related to the deceased, as above-mentioned, shall suffer death by a slow and painful execution. If the criminal should die in prison, an execution similar in mode shall take place on his body."
deism: but the public one is polytheistical. They have a gunpowder-plot in November - “ in honour of the God of Fire,” with illuminations and street plays; and last summer, thanksgivings · were ordered to the Great Dragon, or God of Water, for visiting the thirsty, province of Pekin with rain.
· MISTAKES IN MATRIMONY. Spain, as well as China, has furnished us this week with a domestic tragedy, arising unfortunately from circumstances much more common. Don Joseph Gutierrez, a married man, an eminent lawyer at Madrid, formed a connexion with “a fair vender of oranges;” which by little and little induced him to desert his house, and neglect his professional duties. Donna Balbina, his wife, at first only addressed to him “simple reproaches;" afterwards, “she had recourse to threats ;” and at length, after an angry discussion, they came to a resolution of living quietly apart, without troubling the law about the matter..
· For some months, Donna Balbina observed the agreement as well as her husband; but all of a sudden she preferred her complaint to the tribunals. The judge, Don Manuel Segovia, a good-natured man, endeavoured to make up the quarrel; the husband consented; but Donna Balbina “having poured on him a volley of invectives,” he “ retracted, and obstinately rejected every overture to a reconciliation.” The Judge indeed decided that they should live together; the fruit-woman was told that she was to offend again on her peril; but Don Joseph did not care. He went living on as before; Donna Balbina renewed her charges again and again, but to no purpose, the proofs failing her; and this forced her to pay the expenses.—At length an ingenious thought struck her. : “Don Joseph had a dog who followed him everywhere. Donna Balbina said to him one day, as he was going out, . Do leave the dog at home,' to which he consented; but the moment he departed she sent for à notary and two alguazils, who had been put at her disposal, and taking the dog with them, they proceeded all four to the quarter called La Cebada, where the dog stopped at the house No. 3, and quitting his mistress, immediately entered it. Donna Balbina and the ministers of the law followed, and found Don Joseph engaged, tête-à-tête, with Louisa.”
With this new fact against her husband, Donna 'Balbina proceeded to the Judge, who refused to listen to the charge; and five days afterwards the poor woman was found dead; assassinated, they say, by Louisa, at the moment she was preparing to pay the Judge another visit. Louisa," after three interrogatories, was condemned to death, asserting her innocence. The sentence was carried to the superior court, and confirmed upon new testimony; and the last intelligence 'was, that it only 'waited to receive the sanction of the King. . .
On the face of this story, here is another instance of the dreadful effects produced by what many people appear to think a very innocent thing,—to wit, a propensity to scolding. A married man forms a connexion, which induces him “to desert his house and neglect his professional duties.” So far, he appears to be the person in error. Indeed, if he has a family, he had no right to neglect his professional duties under any circumstances, if the pursuit of them were necessary to the well-being of the woman he had undertaken to support, and the children she had produced him. But no mention is made of a family; and in the next sentence we learn that the first step taken by the lady was to address to her husband “ simple reproaches.” Now simple reproaches are very simple things; but allowance must be made on all sides, especially on that which conceives itself injured, and which society encourages to think so, however it may have contributed to the misfortune. Gentle methods, nevertheless, it is universally agreed, ought to succeed to reproaches, however just. They are expected equally from husbands and wives. Of these we hear nothing. The next information is, that “ she had recourse to threats ;" and finally, after angry discussions and a sullen agreement to separate (for it could have been nothing else, and was probably the angriest part of the business) she has recourse to the law.
A good-natured lawyer makes his appearance: he endeavours to effect a reconciliation; and the husband is willing. The lady does not appear unwilling, as far as the mere fact of living upon terms with him is concerned; but even with this prospect before her, and apparently in the very relish of it, she proceeds to give him a foretaste of his old bliss by pouring on him " a volley of invectives.”