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Great are the Chinese in business. Even
their childish games are all of buying and
selling, the tricks of trade, and how to best
cheat their customers; and so keen are they
it is next to impossible to cheat a Chinese
child, whose trading faculty is developed
to a point not often reached by the adult
Western. The Chinese have always been
forward in mechanical arts, and have had,
as we all know, the germsnever the full fruition
of most of our great discoveries for many
centuries among them. But they have been
conservative, stationary, fossilised, and have
mummified themselves and all about them by
their conceit and stagnant pride. They are
precisely, in all particulars, what they were when
we sent our first embassy to them, with this
sole difference, that Lord Macartney found them
amicable, whereas they are now the reverse,
and that their insolence was more endurable
then than their insolence is now. But slowly as
she has movedso slowly as to be imperceptible
to us by our own knowledge, China has a
past, like the rest of us; and a past which, in
some matters, went beyond the present. Odd
as it sounds, China is absolutely in a state
of decadence with respect to some of its arts,
and the sons have not trodden in their fathers'
steps: in one art, especially decayingthe
porcelain manufacture. The porcelain manufacturers
have lost their cunning, and the old ware
is not equalled by the new. The secret of some
of it is quite lost. The famous sea-green snackle,
called Celadon by Louis the Fifteenth and his
red-heeled shepherds and shepherdesses, is
only to be found now among the Chinese old
curiosity shops; so of the celebrated cream-
coloured porcelain, worth a king's ransom when
of perfect form and the true shade. They say
that the art of these two special wares was
known to but a few, and that the secret died
with the last man of the set. Certain it is, that
the modern productions are infinitely inferior
to the ancient, and that collectors of virtù and
brics-à-bracs would not give a straw for all the
newly-baked cups and saucers in China. It is
comforting to find even a backward movement
in the midst of so much stagnation. If progress
is the best thing, decadence comes next,
as at all events evidencing a kind of life which
the encrusted fossil has not got.

But the fact is, very much in China is
decaying. The clay feet are crumbling at last,
and soon the brazen image will come smashing
to the dust. When our people entered Pekin
they found the whole place in the most wonderfully
ruinous condition. Private houses were
mere hovelsmasses of rottenness flushed over
with a little paint and gilding to make them
look tolerably decent; the public buildings were
even worse, for they were masses of rottenness
without that outside flush of superficial patching.
The board of punishments, and all the
other boards, were tumble-down sheds of lath
and plaster; shams, hollowness, and lies, like
so much else. Everything governmental is
a sham. The tremendous battles fought and
gained by the Tigers, exist but on the papers
given to the king to read; the overwhelming
armies gathered everywhere, and the supplies
necessary to feed and maintain them, are only
so many figures representing the peculations of
the mandarins, but having no existence in
reality; those "troublesome insects," the rebels,
have been exterminatedon paperover and
over again, at the very time, perhaps, when they
were making their most rapid strides towards
supremacy; and we, the red-haired barbarians,
were driven into the sea, or howling in our
chains, when the Tartar generals were fleeing
before us, and the Taku forts were in our hands.
"The one man," as they call their emperor, is
the best deceived man in the empire. Truth
cannot get at him, and if she could, she would
most probably be soundly rated, and sent about
her business as a loveless hag whom nobody
cared to house—"the one man" least of all.
But the Chinese prefer lies to truth. They
would not thank you to be taught that it was
no dog or dragon devouring the sun in an eclipse,
who has to be frightened away by hideous music,
and the drumming of pots and kettles; that
toothache is not caused by a worm gnawing at
the root, nor ophthalmia by a maggot lying
beneath the eyelid; that good luck in life is not
securable by spells and charms; and that the
fatherly character of their government is not
best shown by barbarous punishments and
sanguinary massacres; they prefer to think all this,
instead of learning betterthey prefer darkness
to day. Prayer to them is rolling so many
yards of printed sentences out of a machine,
at so much the yard, and to them Min Joss stands
in the place of penitence and aspiration. With
no mercy in the executive, no truth in the
government, no prayer in the heart, no love for
man, and no fear of God, what can we expect
but cruelty and deceit, Yeh's massacre and
ghosts cheated in the graveyard, a lie accounted
an honourable word, the infernal revelations of
the prisons, and the barbarous torture of
prisoners of war? Tai-ping will perhaps show
us better things in the days of the national
Christianity to come.


WITH flying gleams, the moon of March
Beats on the wind-blown lattices,
Whose Norman casements flame and fade,
Vague lightnings through the chesnut-trees:
With tumult whitening on its skirts,
Rolls, to the west, one thunder cloud;
And, in the blue air overhead,
The stars sit in a golden crowd
As, down the river, flowing fast,
With silence and the night we float,
A glory on the castle walls,
And darkness on our lonely boat.

Far up the levels of the flood,
'Mid branching oak and sycamore,
A dizzy splendour floats and swims
Across the currents to the shore:
Bright, where the waters welter black,
ln brimming spaces, dark and slow,