Page images

amusements, and those of the Chinese in general, (how 3 weakness of mind, scarcely emerging from, or again sailing into, infancy.

The religion of China is either pure theism, or a moral system, without any reference to a superintending power. The religion of the Lama is tolerated by the emperor j and the temple of Heaven and other sacred edifices are supported in Pekin. Our author's descriptions of these temples are in a great measure new and interesting; but, as we cannot select any part with advantage, we must refer to the work itself.

The account os the visit to the emperor's summer palace is new, if, as our author was assured, the internal parts had never been seen by any European. The private apartments of the monarch are small, with some few books, and other curiosities. The account of his favourite cabinet we will transcribe.

* When we had inspected the whole of them, the mandarin ushered us into the favourite cabinet of the emperor, which bears the name of Tien (Heaven). It is indeed the most agreeable place of those that have been shewn us; as well on account of its situation, as of the different views which it commands. Nothing can equal the prospect that the emperor may enjoy when, sitting in his arm-chair, he turns his eyes towards a large window, consisting of a single pane of glass—a prospect of which the reader will himself be able to form an idea from the sequel of this description. This cabinet is in a part of the building situated upon an extensive lake, which washes its walls.

'This lake was the first object that attracted our attention. In the midst of it is an island of considerable magnitude, on. which several buildings have been erected that are dependencies of this im» perial residence, and overshadowed by lofty trees. The island communicates with the adjacent continent by a noble bridge of seventeen arches, built of hewn stone, and standing on the eastern side. This bridge was the next thing that our eyes rested upon.

'Turning to the westward, the sight is gratified by the view of a lake smaller than the former, and only separated from it by a wide road. In the midst of it is a kind of citadel of a circular form, with a handsome edifice in its centre. These two lakes communicate by a channel cut through the road that divides them, while a stone bridge of considerable height, and of a single arch, supplies the defect in the communication by land which that channel occasions.

4 Still further to the westward, and at a great distance, the eye is arrested by two towers standing on the tops of lofty mountains.

* To the north-west stands a magnificent range of edifices belonging to temples, constructed at the foot, in the middle, and upon the summit of a mountain entirely formed by art, with fragmerits of natural rocks, which, independently of the expence of. the buildings, must have cost immense sums, since this kind of stone is only to be found at a great distance from the place. This work seems to represent ;he enterprize of the giants who attempted to scale the Heavens: at least rocks heaped upon rocks recal that undent fiction to the mind. The assemblage of the buildings, and picturesque embellishments of the mountains, afford a view of which the pen can give no adequate idea. It is not then without reason that this cabinet is the favourite apartment of the aged monarch.

'The inside of it is furniflied with a library and shelves, on which are collected all the most valuable and scarce Chinese productions., consisting both of precious stones and antiques; and certainly they are highly deserving of the attention with which we examint'd them.' Vol. ii. p. 9. * .

Descriptions of the temples, seen from this cabinet, follow. The idol of Sensuality, the inhabitant of one of these, seems to be allied to the system of Lama ; and many parts of the Chinese religion are apparently derived from Hindustan. Some; traces, and not flight or accidental ones, of the Jewish dispensation are also pointed out by our author. A follower os the system os iir William Jones would find many supports of it in the volurpes before us.

In this place rope-dancing and tumbling were the chief amusements. To these were added fire-works; but, from apprehension of fire, they were exhibited by day-light, as if there was less danger when fire was less seen. Indeed, the Chiuese, in many respects, are still children. They put on mourning when an ecKpse of the sun or moon occurs, lest ei-»' ther luminary should be devoured by the great dragon; and, having early made some advances in art and in science, they are contented \yith what they possess, thinking every further advance useless.

Our author is of opinion that China will always continue an independent kingdom, from the difficulty of access, and the narrow impracticable roads. He is not aware, that feuds have always existed, and that a foreign ally of one party may soon subdue the whole. In the present state of European tacr tics, the conquest of China would be little more than gaining a battle arainst an undisciplined rabble.

The gentlemen of the embassy at last commenced their return. They proceeded by land till they reached the Yellow River, and then in yachts on the grand canal. The Chinese always pay a respectful attention to a departing visitant; and, our travellers felt no inconvenience that attention could rectify. To follow them minutely, would be difficult and useless; but we will select a few circumstances of some interest.

The embankments which form the canals slope internally, a method always followed by the Chinese, though only practised, even in Holland, for the last forty or fifty years.—The colour of nankin is, we find, that of the cotton. Some years ago, an extraordinary demand induced the manufacturer to mix white cotton, and the colour of the commodity was consequently paler. The Chinese smiled when he was requested to dye it of a deeper hue ; but, the demand lessening, the nankin was restored to its original colour.

The utility of the bamboo is wonderful. Some of the uses to which it is applied are thus mentioned.

'Of every production that grows in the vast extent of the' empire of China, there is undoubtedly none whose utility surpasses that of bamboo, which is employed on every occasion, even as an article of food. Scarcely any thing is to be found in China, either upon land or water, in the composition of which bamboo does not enter, or to the utility of which it does not conduce. From the most valuable articles which serve to adora the apartments of the prince, down to the smallest tool handled by the meanest mechanic, bamboo is sure to find a place. Houses are entirely constructed of it, ai well as all the furniture they contain. In navigation, it is bamboo which furnishes every thing from the line that serves to track the smallest skits, to the cable, that constitutes the security of the largest vessel.

4 This tree, which is propagated with astonishing abundance, and grows with remarkable rapidity when planted in a favourable foil, deserves to be considered as one of the greatest benefits that nature has conferred on the territory of China: the Chinese accordingly shew their gratitude by bringing it more and more into use. I doubt whether the /egetable kingdom in any part of the world affords a substance of such general utility as the bamboo, the qualities of which place it far above my panegyric' Vol. ii. p. tag.

. At the number of rice vessels, which annually pass along the great canal, we are astonished. The emperor is said to have nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine, which make one voyage every year. "The seamen live with their families on board; and the boats are not heavily laden. Œconomy is certainly not consulted in the arrangement.

This journey, on the west of die Yellow Sea, and near the mouths of the principal rivers which fall into the Eastern Ocean, is more interesting than that from Macao to Pekin; for the country is in this part more flourishing, more prosperous, and better cultivated. It was also the usual residence of the prince for some months in the year; since Nankin is said to mean the southern palace, as Pekin implies the northern. But the Tartarian habits pf the present dvnasty have confined the monarch to the latter abode j and in China, where rebellion seems seldom to sleep, he may think himself more secure the more near he is to his Tartarian allies. We will transcribe the description of one of the southern palaces. It will remind our readers of the account given by sir William Chambers, and the inimitable ridicule of the author ot the 'Heroic Epistle.'

• Even in its present state, this place is rendered worthy of attention by the variety of its edifices, by the diversity of the ground interspersed with rocks, by its pavilions, its lakes, its bridges, &c. Every thing is disposed according to a system in which art seems to hide herself in the midst of the irregularities of nature; while the studied confusion of trees, fruit, flowers, and brnmbles, compose a scene that seems due to chance alone. Already the birds enlivened the groves by their songs, and enriched the verdure with their plumage.' Voluptuous summer, when thou hast spread thy charms over the country, what supreme delight must be tasted in this enchanting place!

* No, it is not poflible to give a faithful description of a Chinese villa. Every thing is intermingled, and seems on the point of being confounded; Iput the triumph of genius is to prevent the smallest disorder that might hurt the eye. Every instant a new combination affords a new variety, so much the more agreeable and striking,

-as it has been the less possible to foresee it; the spectator's surprise being constantly kept up, because every moment produces a new scene. Perhaps plans and drawings might give an exact idea of their composition; but what plan can shew the order of that which is only perfect because destitute of all order? What drawing can produce the effect of things which seem so discordant j and how is it possible to introduce into it that life which the different objects borrow from one another ?—Our charming walk lasted an hour and a half.' Vol. ii. p. 138.

The city of Sou-tcheou-fou is represented as handsome and flourishing. It is said to abound with beautiful women; but all the embassador's influence and address could not procure a view of its different curiosities. In this part of the country, where the ground is low, the Chinese have a custom of burning their dead, as they cannot bear the idea of their reposing in a damp uncleanly spot.

Among the miscellaneous remarks, are the accounts of diPfcreiu temples and bridges. The former show, that religion is not wholly neglected; and, though the reigning emperor is often the « numen loci,' yet these buildings still preserve the idea of some superior being. The bridges also, in this.par$ of our author's journey, seem to have been constructed with extraordinary attention, and arc the subject of some curious remarks. The food of the silk-worms, in China, seems to be the common garden mulberry-Cree as this couutrv. Coavcoft are aMb numerous in this route, proving, in our author's words, that the monks must lead a 'most comfortable life'

In this volume, we leave our traveller about the middle of the southern part of the empire, journeying to the south-west, towards Canton. Why the narrative breaks off so abruptly we know not. The volume concludes with an account of the valuable Chinese drawings, procured by M. Van Braam, who is himself a draughtsman of no common abilities. This reminds us of another imperfection. Various views and drawings are referred to, in the course of the work, though we have only a meagre, incomplete, and often incorrect, map. We know not whether this is to be attributed to the French or the English translator: it is at least a defect, which we greatly lament.

In giving a general view of the volumes before us, we must praise the accuracy and fidelity of our traveller, without bestowing any high encomium on his genius or penetration. He hastens on, faithfully describing what he saw, and drawing few inferences. His returning route afforded various opportunities of adding to our knowledge of this singular country; and so far these volumes are a valuable supplement to what has been already related on the subject. The narrative certainly instructs; we could wish to have added that it had highly entertained us.

The New Annual Register, or General Repository of History, Politics, and Literature, for the Year 1798. To which is prefixed, the History of Knowledge, Learning, and Taste, in Great-Britain, during the Reign of King Charles II. Part II. 10s. 6d. Boards. Robinsons. 1799.

.HISTORIANS of recent events are subjected toconfiderabledisadvantages. They are under the necessity of relating, with imperfect documents, many important transactions, of which the motives are not clearly developed, or the particulars fully ascertained. Hence the most probable of their conjectures are not always well-founded, nor are the most plausible of their /tatements strictly accurate. In consequence of this deficiency of early information, the writer of the present work has since found it expedient to take a retrospective view of many of the incidents of the year 1797, that some of the errors of the preceding volume might be corrected, and various imperfections remedied. This attention to the improvement Of an useful work cannot but be pleasing to the public.

The prefixed sketch relates to the philosophical attainments ©f the Biitiih nation during the reign of the second Charles,

« PreviousContinue »