CLASSICAL AND MISCELLANEOUS LITERATURE—POETRY
The Manchu Dynasty (A.D. 1644-1900)
FOREMOST among the scholars of the present dynasty stands the name of Ku CHIANG (1612-1681). Remaining faithful to the Mings after their final downfall, he changed his name to Ku Yen-wu, and for a long time wandered about the country in disguise. He declined to serve under the Manchus, and supported himself by farming. A profound student, it is recorded that in his wanderings he always carried about with him several horse-loads of books to consult whenever his memory might be at fault. His writings on the Classics, history, topography, and poetry are still highly esteemed. To foreigners he is best known as the author of the Jih Chih Lu, which contains his notes, chiefly on the Classics and history, gathered during a course of reading which extended over thirty years. He also wrote many works upon the ancient sounds and rhymes.
CHU YUNG-SHUN (1617-1689) was delicate as a child, and his mother made him practise the Taoist art of prolonging life indefinitely, which seems to be nothing more than a system of regular breathing with deep inspirations. He was a native of a town in Kiangsu, at the sack of which, by the conquering Tartars, his father perished rather than submit to the new dynasty. In consequence of his father's death he steadily declined to enter upon a public career, and gave up his life to study and teaching. He was the author of commentaries upon the Great Learning and the Doctrine of the Mean, and of other works; but none of these is so famous as his Family Maxims, a little book which, on account of the author's name, has often been attributed to the great commentator Chu Hsi. The piquancy of these maxims disappears in translation, owing as they do much more to literary form than to subject-matter. Here are two specimens:—
"Forget the good deeds you have done; remember the kindnesses you have received."
"Mind your own business, follow out your destiny, live in accord with the age, and leave the rest to God. He who can do this is near indeed."
His own favourite saying was—
"To know what ought to be known, and to do what ought to be done, that is enough. There is no time for anything else."
Three days before his death he struggled into the ancestral hall, and there before the family tablets called the spirits of his forefathers to witness that he had never injured them by word or deed.
LAN TING-YÜAN (1680-1733), better known as Lan Lu-chou, devoted himself as a youth to poetry, literature, and political economy. He accompanied his brother to Formosa as military secretary, and his account of the expedition attracted public attention. Recommended to the Emperor, he became magistrate of P'u-lin, and distinguished himself as much by his just and incorrupt administration as by his literary abilities. He managed, however, to make enemies among his superior officers, and within three years he was impeached for insubordination and thrown into prison. His case was subsequently laid before the Emperor, who not only set him free, but appointed him to be Prefect at Canton, bestowing upon him at the same time some valuable medicine, an autograph copy of verses, a sable robe, some joss-stick, and other coveted marks of Imperial favour. But all was in vain. He died of a broken heart one month after taking up his post. His complete works have been published in twenty small octavo volumes, of which works perhaps the best known of all is a treatise on the proper training of women, which fills two of the above volumes. This is divided under four heads, namely, Virtue, Speech, Personal Appearance, and Duty, an extended education in the intellectual sense not coming within the writer's purview. The chapters are short, and many of them are introduced by some ancient aphorism, forming a convenient peg upon which to hang a moral lesson, copious extracts being made from the work of the Lady Pan of the Han dynasty. A few lines from his preface may be interesting:—
"Good government of the empire depends upon morals; correctness of morals depends upon right ordering of the family; and right ordering of the family depends upon the wife… . If the curtain which divides the men from the women is too thin to keep them apart, misfortune will come to the family and to the State. Purification of morals, from the time of the creation until now, has always come from women. Women are not all alike; some are good and some are bad. For bringing them to a proper uniformity there is nothing like education. In old days both boys and girls were educated … but now the books used no longer exist, and we know not the details of the system… . The education of a woman is not like that of her husband, which may be said to continue daily all through life. For he can always take up a classic or a history, or familiarise himself with the works of miscellaneous writers; whereas a woman's education does not extend beyond ten years, after which she takes upon herself the manifold responsibilities of a household. She is then no longer able to give her undivided attention to books, and cannot investigate thoroughly, the result being that her learning is not sufficiently extensive to enable her to grasp principles. She is, as it were, carried away upon a flood, without hope of return, and it is difficult for her to make any use of the knowledge she has acquired. Surely then a work On the education of women is much to be desired."
This is how one phase of female virtue is illustrated by anecdote:—
"A man having been killed in a brawl, two brothers were arrested for the murder and brought to trial. Each one swore that he personally was the murderer, and that the other was innocent. The judge was thus unable to decide the case, and referred it to the Prince. The Prince bade him summon their mother, and ask which of them had done the deed. 'Punish the younger,' she replied through a flood of tears. 'People are usually more fond of the younger,' observed the judge; 'how is it you wish me to punish him?' 'He is my own child,' answered the woman; 'the elder is the son of my husband's first wife. When my husband died he begged me to take care of the boy, and I promised I would. If now I were to let the elder be punished while the younger escaped, I should be only gratifying my private feelings and wronging the dead. I have no alternative.' And she wept on until her clothes were drenched with tears. Meanwhile the judge reported to the Prince, and the latter, astonished at her magnanimity, pardoned both the accused."
Two more of the above twenty volumes are devoted to the most remarkable of the criminal cases tried by him during his short magisterial career. An extract from the preface (1729) to his complete works, penned by an ardent admirer, will give an idea of the estimation in which these are held:—
"My master's judicial capacity was of a remarkably high order, as though the mantle of Pao Hsiao-su1 had descended upon him. In very difficult cases he would investigate dispassionately and calmly, appearing to possess some unusual method for worming out the truth; so that the most crafty lawyers and the most experienced scoundrels, whom no logic could entangle and no pains intimidate, upon being brought before him, found themselves deserted by their former cunning, and confessed readily without waiting for the application of torture. I, indeed, have often wondered how it is that torture is brought into requisition so much in judicial investigations. For, under the influence of the 'three wooden instruments,'what evidence is there which cannot be elicited?—to say nothing of the danger of a mistake and the unutterable injury thus inflicted upon the departed spirits in the realms below. Now, my master, in investigating and deciding cases, was fearful only lest his people should not obtain a full and fair hearing; he, therefore, argued each point with them quietly and kindly until they were thoroughly committed to a certain position, with no possibility of backing out, and then he decided the case upon its merits as thus set forth. By such means, those who were bambooed had no cause for complaint, while those who were condemned to die died without resenting their sentence; the people were unable to deceive him, and they did not even venture to make the attempt. Thus did he carry out the Confucian doctrine of respecting popular feeling;1 and were all judicial officers to decide cases in the same careful and impartial manner, there would not be a single injured suitor under the canopy of heaven."
The following is a specimen case dealing with the evil effects of superstitious doctrines:—
"The people of the Ch'ao-yang district are great on bogies, and love to talk of spirits and Buddhas. The gentry and their wives devote themselves to Ta Tien, but the women generally of the neighbourhood flock in crowds to the temples to burn incense and adore Buddha, forming an unbroken string along the road. Hence, much ghostly and supernatural nonsense gets spread about; and hence it was that the Hou-t'ien sect came to flourish. I know nothing of the origin of this sect. It was started amongst the Ch'ao-yang people by two men, named Yen and Chou respectively, who said that they had been instructed by a white-bearded Immortal, and who, when an attempt to arrest them was made by a predecessor in office, absconded with their families and remained in concealment. By and by, however, they came back, calling themselves the White Lily or the White Aspen sect. I imagine that White Lily was the real designation, the alteration in name being simply made to deceive. Their 'goddess' was Yen's own wife, and she pretended to be able to summon wind and bring down rain, enslave bogies and exorcise spirits, being assisted in her performances by her paramour, a man named Hu, who called himself the Immortal of Pencil Peak. He used to aid in writing out charms, spirting water, curing diseases, and praying for heirs; and he could enable widows to hold converse with their departed husbands. The whole district was taken in by these people, and went quite mad about them, people travelling from afar to worship them as spiritual guides, and, with many offerings of money, meats, and wines, enrolling themselves as their humble disciples, until one would have said it was market-day in the neighbourhood. I heard of their doings one day as I was returning from the prefectural city. They had already established themselves in a large building to the north of the district; they had opened a preaching-hall, collected several hundred persons together, and for the two previous days had been availing themselves of the services of some play-actors to sing and perform at their banquets. I immediately sent off constables to arrest them; but the constables were afraid of incurring the displeasure of the spirits and being seized by the soldiers of the infernal regions, while so much protection was afforded by various families of wealth and position that the guilty parties succeeded in preventing the arrest of a single one of their number. Therefore I proceeded in person to their establishment, knocked at the door, and seized the goddess, whom I subjected to a searching examination as to the whereabouts of her accomplices; but the interior of the place being, as it was, a perfect maze of passages ramifying in every direction, when I seized a torch and made my way along, even if I did stumble up against any one, they were gone in a moment before I had time to see where. It was a veritable nest of secret villany, and one which I felt ought to be searched to the last corner. Accordingly, from the goddess's bed in a dark and out-of-the-way chamber I dragged forth some ten or a dozen men; while out of the Immortal's bedroom I brought a wooden seal of office belonging to the Lady of the Moon, also a copy of their magic ritual, a quantity of soporifics, wigs, clothes, and ornaments, of the uses of which I was then totally ignorant. I further made a great effort to secure the person of the Immortal himself; and when his friends and rich supporters saw the game was up, they surrendered him over to justice. At his examination he comported himself in a very singular manner, such being indeed the chief means upon which he relied, besides the soporifics and fine dresses, to deceive the eyes and ears of the public. As to his credulous dupes, male and female, when they heard the name of the Lady of the Moon they would be at first somewhat scared; but by and by, seeing that the goddess was certainly a woman, they would begin to regain courage, while the Immortal himself, with his hair dressed out and his face powdered and his skirts fluttering about, hovered round the goddess, and assuming all the airs and graces of a supernatural beauty, soon convinced the spectators that he was really the Lady of the Moon, and quite put them off the scent as to his real sex. Adjourning now to one of the more remote apartments, there would follow worship of Maitrêya Buddha, accompanied by the recital of some sûtra; after which soporific incense would be lighted, and the victims be thrown into a deep sleep. This soporific, or 'soul confuser,' as it is otherwise called, makes people feel tired and sleepy; they are recovered by means of a charm and a draught of cold water. The promised heirs and the interviews with deceased husbands are all supposed to be brought about during the period of trance—for which scandalous impostures the heads of these villains hung up in the streets were scarcely a sufficient punishment. However, reflecting that it would be a great grievance to the people were any of them to find themselves mixed up in such a case just after a bad harvest, and also that among the large number who had become affiliated to this society there would be found many old and respectable families, I determined on a plan which would put an end to the affair without any troublesome esclandre. I burnt all the depositions in which names were given, and took no further steps against the persons named. I ordered the goddess and her paramour to receive their full complement of blows (viz., one hundred), and to be punished with the heavy cangue; and, placing them at the yamên gate, I let the people rail and curse at them, tear their flesh and break their heads, until they passed together into their boasted Paradise. The husband and some ten others of the gang were placed in the cangue, bambooed, or punished in some way; and as for the rest, they were allowed to escape with this one more chance to turn over a new leaf. I confiscated the building, destroyed its disgraceful hiding-places, changed the whole appearance of the place, and made it into a literary institution to be dedicated to five famous heroes of literature. I cleansed and purified it from all taint, and on the 1st and 15th of each moon I would, when at leisure, indulge with the scholars of the district in literary recreations. I formed, in fact, a literary club; and, leasing a plot of ground for cultivation, devoted the returns therefrom to the annual Confucian demonstrations and to the payment of a regular professor. Thus the true doctrine was caused to flourish, and these supernatural doings to disappear from the scene; the public tone was elevated, and the morality of the place vastly improved.
"When the Brigadier-General and the Lieutenant-Governor heard what had been done, they very much commended my action, saying: 'Had this sect not been rooted out, the evil results would have been dire indeed; and had you reported the case in the usual way, praying for the execution of these criminals, your merit would undoubtedly have been great; but now, without selfish regard to your own interests, you have shown yourself unwilling to hunt down more victims than necessary, or to expose those doings in such a manner as to lead to the suicide of the persons implicated. Such care for the fair fame of so many people is deserving of all praise.'"
Although not yet of the same national importance as at the present day, it was still impossible that the foreign question should have escaped the notice of such an observant man as Lan Ting-yüan. He flourished at a time when the spread of the Roman Catholic religion was giving just grounds for apprehension to thoughtful Chinese statesmen. Accordingly, we find amongst his collected works two short notices devoted to a consideration of trade and general intercourse with the various nations of barbarians. They are interesting as the untrammelled views of the greatest living Chinese scholar of the date at which they were written, namely, in 1732. The following is one of these notices:—
"To allow the barbarians to settle at Canton was a mistake. Ever since Macao was given over, in the reign of Chia Ching (1522-1567) of the Ming dynasty, to the red-haired barbarians, all manner of nations have continued without ceasing to flock thither. They build forts and fortifications and dense settlements of houses. Their descendants will overshadow the land, and all the country beyond Hsiang-shan will become a kingdom of devils. 'Red-haired' is a general term for the barbarians of the western islands. Amongst them there are the Dutch, French, Spaniards, Portuguese, English, and Yü-sŭ-la [? Islam], all of which nations are horribly fierce. Wherever they go they spy around with a view to seize on other people's territory. There was Singapore, which was originally a Malay country; the red-haired barbarians went there to trade, and by and by seized it for an emporium of their own. So with the Philippines, which were colonised by the Malays; because the Roman Catholic religion was practised there, the Western foreigners appropriated it in like manner for their own. The Catholic religion is now spreading over China. In Hupeh, Hunan, Honan, Kiangsi, Fuhkien, and Kuangsi, there are very few places whither it has not reached. In the first year of the Emperor Yung Chêng , the Viceroy of Fuhkien, Man Pao, complained that the Western foreigners were preaching their religion and tampering with the people, to the great detriment of the localities in question; and he petitioned that the Roman Catholic chapels in the various provinces might be turned into lecture-rooms and schools, and that all Western foreigners might be sent to Macao, to wait until an opportunity should present itself of sending them back to their own countries. However, the Viceroy of Kuangtung, out of mistaken kindness, memorialised the Throne that such of the barbarians as were old or sick and unwilling to go away might be permitted to remain in the Roman Catholic establishment at Canton, on the condition that if they proselytised, spread their creed, or chaunted their sacred books, they were at once to be punished and sent away. The scheme was an excellent one, but what were the results of it? At present more than 10,000 men have joined the Catholic chapel at Canton, and there is also a department for women, where they have similarly got together about 2000. This is a great insult to China, and seriously injures our national traditions, enough to make every man of feeling grind his teeth with rage. The case by no means admits of 'teaching before punishing.'
"Now these traders come this immense distance with the object of making money. What then is their idea in paying away vast sums in order to attract people to their faith? Thousands upon thousands they get to join them, not being satisfied until they have bought up the whole province. Is it possible to shut one's eyes and stop one's ears, pretending to know nothing about it and making no inquiries whatever? There is an old saying among the people—' Take things in time. A little stream, if not stopped, may become a great river.' How much more precaution is needed, then, when there is a general inundation and men's hearts are restless and disturbed? In Canton the converts to Catholicism are very numerous; those in Macao are in an inexpugnable fortress. There is a constant interchange of arms between the two, and if any trouble like that of the Philippines or Singapore should arise, I cannot say how we should meet it. At the present moment, with a pattern of Imperial virtue on the Throne, whose power and majesty have penetrated into the most distant regions, this foolish design of the barbarians should on no account be tolerated. Wise men will do well to be prepared against the day when it may be necessary for us to retire before them, clearing the country as we go."
The following extract from a letter to a friend was written by Lan Ting-yüan in 1724, and proves that if he objected to Christianity, he was not one whit more inclined to tolerate Buddhism:—
"Of all the eighteen provinces, Chehkiang is the one where Buddhist priests and nuns most abound. In the three prefectures of Hangchow, Chia-hsing, and Huchow there cannot be fewer than several tens of thousands of them, of whom, by the way, not more than one-tenth have willingly taken the vows. The others have been given to the priests when quite little, either because their parents were too poor to keep them, or in return for some act of kindness; and when the children grow up, they are unable to get free. Buddhist nuns are also in most cases bought up when children as a means of making a more extensive show of religion, and are carefully prevented from running away. They are not given in marriage—the desire for which is more or less implanted in every human breast, and exists even amongst prophets and sages. And thus to condemn thousands and ten thousands of human beings to the dull monotony of the cloister, granting that they strictly keep their religious vows, is more than sufficient to seriously interfere with the equilibrium of the universe. Hence floods, famines, and the like catastrophes; to say nothing of the misdeeds of the nuns in question.
… … .
"When I passed through Soochow and Hangchow I saw many disgraceful advertisements that quite took my breath away with their barefaced depravity; and the people there told me that these atrocities were much practised by the denizens of the cloister, which term is simply another name for houses of ill-fame. These cloister folk do a great deal of mischief amongst the populace, wasting the substance of some, and robbing others of their good name."
The Ming Chi Kang Mu, or History of the Ming Dynasty, which had been begun in 1689 by a commission of fifty-eight scholars, was laid before the Emperor only in 1742 by CHANG T'ING-YÜ (1670-1756), a Minister of State and a most learned writer, joint editor of the Book of Rites, Ritual of the Chou Dynasty, the Thirteen Classics, the Twenty-four Histories, Thesaurus of Phraseology, Encyclopædia of Quotations, the Concordance to Literature, &c. This work, however, did not meet with the Imperial approval, and for it was substituted the T'ung Chien Kang Mu San Pien, first published in 1775. Among the chief collaborators of Chang T'ing-yü should be mentioned O-ÊRH-T'AI, the Mongol (d. 1745), and CHU SHIH (1666-1736), both of whom were also voluminous contributors to classical literature.
These were followed by CH'ÊN HUNG-MOU (1695-1771), who, besides being the author of brilliant State papers, was a commentator on the Classics, dealing especially with the Four Books, a writer on miscellaneous topics, and a most successful administrator. He rose to high office, and was noted for always having his room hung round with maps of the province in which he was serving, so that he might become thoroughly familiar with its geography. He was dismissed, however, from the important post of Viceroy of the Two Kuang for alleged incapacity in dealing with a plague of locusts.
YÜAN MEI (1715-1797) is beyond all question the most popular writer of modern times. At the early age of nine he was inspired with a deep love for poetry, and soon became an adept at the art. Graduating in 1739, he was shortly afterwards sent to Kiangnan, and presently became magistrate at Nanking, where he greatly distinguished himself by the vigour and justice of his administration. A serious illness kept him for some time unemployed; and when on recovery he was sent into Shansi, he managed to quarrel with the Viceroy. At the early age of forty he retired from the official arena and led a life of lettered ease in his beautiful garden at Nanking. His letters, which have been published under the title of Hsiao Ts'ang Shan Fang Ch'ih Tu, are extremely witty and amusing, and at the same time are models of style. Many of the best are a trifle coarse, sufficiently so to rank them with some of the eighteenth-century literature on this side of the globe; the salt of all loses its savour in translation. The following are specimens:—
"I have received your letter congratulating me on my present prosperity, and am very much obliged for the same.
"At the end of the letter, however, you mention that you have a tobacco-pouch for me, which shall be sent on as soon as I forward you a stanza. Surely this reminds one of the evil days of the Chous and the Chêngs, when each State took pledges from the other. It certainly is not in keeping with the teaching of the sages, viz., that friends should be the first to give. Why then do you neglect that teaching for the custom of a degraded age?
"If for a tobacco-pouch you insist upon having a stanza, for a hat or a pair of boots you would want at least a poem; while your brother might send me a cloak or a coat, and expect to get a whole epic in return! In this way, the prosperity on which you congratulate me would not count for much.
"Shun Yü-t'an of old sacrificed a bowl of rice and a perch to get a hundred waggons full of grain; he offered little and he wanted much. And have you not heard how a thousand pieces of silk were given for a single word? two beautiful girls for a stanza?—compared with which your tobacco-pouch seems small indeed. It is probably because you are a military man, accustomed to drill soldiers and to reward them with a silver medal when they hit the mark, that you have at last come to regard this as the proper treatment of an old friend.
"Did not Mencius forbid us to presume upon anything adventitious? And if friends may not presume upon their worth or position, how much less upon a tobacco-pouch? For a tobacco-pouch, pretty as it may be, is but the handiwork of a waiting-maid; while my verses, poor as they may be, are the outcome of my intellectual powers. So that to exchange the work of a waiting-maid's fingers for the work of my brain, is a great compliment to the waiting-maid, but a small one to me. Not so if you yourself had cast away spear and sword, and grasping the needle and silk, had turned me out a tobacco-pouch of your own working. Then, had you asked me even for ten stanzas, I would freely have given them. But a great general knows his own strength as well as the enemy's, and it would hardly be proper for me to lure you from men's to women's work, and place on your head a ribboned cap. How then do you venture to treat me as Ts'ao Ts'ao [on his death-bed treated his concubines], by bestowing on me an insignificant tobacco-pouch?
"Having nothing better to do, I have amused myself with these few lines at your expense. If you take them ill, of course I shall never get the pouch. But if you can mend your evil ways, then hurry up with the tobacco-pouch and trust to your luck for the verse."
A friend had sent Yüan Mei a letter with the very unChinese present of a crab and a duck. Two ducks and a crab would have been more conventional, or even two crabs and a duck. And by some mistake or other, the crab arrived by itself. Hence the following banter in reply:—
"To convey a man to a crab is very pleasant for the man, but to convey a crab to a man is pleasant for his whole family. And I know that this night my two sons will often bend their arms like crabs' claws [i.e. in the form of the Chinese salute], wishing you an early success in life.
"In rhyme no duplicates [that is, don't rhyme again the same sound], and don't use two sentences where one will do [in composition]. Besides which, the fact that the duck has not yet turned up shows that you understand well how to 'do one thing at a time.' Not to mention that you cause an old gobbler like myself to stretch out his neck in anticipation of something else to come.
"You remember how the poet Shên beat his rival, all because of that one verse—
'Sigh not for the sinking moon,
The jewel lamp will follow soon.'
Well, your crab is like the sinking moon, while the duck reminds me of the jewel lamp; from which we may infer that you will meet with the same good luck as Shên.
"Again, a crab, even in the presence of the King of the Ocean, has to travel aslant; by which same token I trust that by and by your fame will travel aslant the habitable globe."
Yüan Mei's poetry is much admired and widely read. He is one of the few, very few, poets who have flourished under Manchu rule. Here are some sarcastic lines by him:—
"I've ever thought it passing odd
How all men reverence some God,
And wear their lives out for his sake
And bow their heads until they ache.
'Tis clear to me the Gods are made
Of the same stuff as wind or shade… .
Ah! if they came to every caller,
I'd be the very loudest bawler!"
He could be pathetic enough at times, as he showed in his elegy on a little five-year-old daughter, recalling her baby efforts with the paint-brush, and telling how she cut out clothes from paper, or sat and watched her father engaged in composition. He was also, like all Chinese poets, an ardent lover of nature, and a winter plum-tree in flower, or a gust of wind scattering dead leaves, would set all his poetic fibres thrilling again. It sounds like an anti-climax to add that this brilliant essayist, letter-writer, and composer of finished verse owes perhaps the chief part of his fame to a cookery-book. Yet such is actually the case. Yüan Mei was the Brillat-Savarin of China, and in the art of cooking China stands next to France. His cookery-book is a gossipy little work, written, as only such a scholar could write it, in a style which at once invests the subject with dignity and interest.
"Everything," says Yüan Mei, in his opening chapter, "has its own original constitution, just as each man has certain natural characteristics. If a man's natural abilities are of a low order, Confucius and Mencius themselves would teach him to no purpose. And if an article of food is in itself bad, not even I-ya [the Soyer of China] could cook a flavour into it.
"A ham is a ham; but in point of goodness two hams will be as widely separated as sky and sea. A mackerel is a mackerel; but in point of excellence two mackerel will differ as much as ice and live coals. And other things in the same way. So that the credit of a good dinner should be divided between the cook and the steward—forty per cent, to the steward, and sixty per cent, to the cook.
"Cookery is like matrimony. Two things served together should match. Clear should go with clear, thick with thick, hard with hard, and soft with soft. I have known people mix grated lobster with birds'-nests, and mint with chicken or pork!
"The cooks of to-day think nothing of mixing in one soup the meat of chicken, duck, pig, and goose. But these chickens, ducks, pigs, and geese have doubtless souls. And these souls will most certainly file plaints in the next world on the way they have been treated in this. A good cook will use plenty of different dishes. Each article of food will be made to exhibit its own characteristics, while each made dish will be characterised by one dominant flavour. Then the palate of the gourmand will respond without fail, and the flowers of the soul blossom forth.
"Let salt fish come first, and afterwards food of more negative flavour. Let the heavy precede the light. Let dry dishes precede those with gravy. No flavour must dominate. If a guest eats his fill of savouries, his stomach will be fatigued. Salt flavours must be relieved by bitter or hot tasting foods, in order to restore the palate. Too much wine will make the stomach dull. Sour or sweet food will be required to rouse it again into vigour.
"In winter we should eat beef and mutton. In summer, dried and preserved meats. As for condiments, mustard belongs specially to summer, pepper to winter.
"Don't cut bamboo-shoots [the Chinese equivalent of asparagus] with an oniony knife… . A good cook frequently wipes his knife, frequently changes his cloth, frequently scrapes his board, and frequently washes his hands. If smoke or ashes from his pipe, perspiration-drops from his head, insects from the wall, or smuts from the saucepan get mixed up with the food, though he were a very chef among chefs, yet would men hold their noses and decline.
"Don't make your thick sauces greasy nor your clear ones tasteless. Those who want grease can eat fat pork, while a drink of water is better than something which tastes of nothing at all… . Don't over-salt your soups; for salt can be added to taste, but can never be taken away.
"Don't cat with your ears; by which I mean do not aim at having extraordinary out-of-the-way foods, just to astonish your guests; for that is to eat with your ears, not with the mouth. Bean-curd, if good, is actually nicer than birds'-nest; and better than sea-slugs, which are not first-rate, is a dish of bamboo shoots… .
"The chicken, the pig, the fish, and the duck, these are the four heroes of the table. Sea-slugs and birds' nests have no characteristic flavours of their own. They are but usurpers in the house. I once dined with a friend who gave us birds'-nest in bowls more like vats, holding each about four ounces of the plain-boiled article. The other guests applauded vigorously; but I smiled and said, ' I came here to eat birds'-nest, not to take delivery of it wholesale.'
"Don't eat with your eyes; by which I mean do not cover the table with innumerable dishes and multiply courses indefinitely. For this is to eat with the eyes, and not with the mouth.
"Just as a calligraphist should not overtire his hand nor a poet his brain, so a good cook cannot possibly turn out in one day more than four or five distinct plats. I used to dine with a merchant friend who would put on no less than three removes [sets of eight dishes served separately], and sixteen kinds of sweets, so that by the time we had finished we had got through a total of some forty courses. My host gloried in all this, but when I got home I used to have a bowl of rice-gruel. I felt so hungry.
"To know right from wrong, a man must be sober. And only a sober man can distinguish good flavours from bad. It has been well said that words are inadequate to describe the nuances of taste. How much less then must a stuttering sot be able to appreciate them!
"I have often seen votaries of guess-fingers swallow choice food as though so much sawdust, their minds being preoccupied with their game. Now I say eat first and drink afterwards. By these means the result will be successful in each direction."
Yuan Mei also protests against the troublesome custom of pressing guests to eat, and against the more foolish one of piling up choice pieces on the little saucers used as plates, and even putting them into the guests' mouths, as if they were children or brides, too shy to help themselves.
There was a man in Ch'ang-an, he tells us, who was very fond of giving dinners; but the food was atrocious. One day a guest threw himself on his knees in front of this gentleman and said, "Am I not a friend of yours?"
"You are indeed," replied his host.
"Then I must ask of you a favour," said the guest, "and you must grant it before I rise from my knees."
"Well, what is it?" inquired his host in astonishment.
"Never to invite me to dinner any more!" cried the guest; at which the whole party burst into a loud roar of laughter.
"Into no department of life," says Yüan Mei, "should indifference be allowed to creep; into none less than into the domain of cookery. Cooks are but mean fellows; and if a day is passed without either rewarding or punishing them, that day is surely marked by negligence or carelessness on their part. If badly cooked food is swallowed in silence, such neglect will speedily become a habit. Still, mere rewards and punishments are of no use. If a dish is good, attention should be called to the why and the wherefore. If bad, an effort should be made to discover the cause of the failure.
"I am not much of a wine-drinker, but this makes me all the more particular. Wine is like scholarship: it ripens with age; and it is best from a fresh-opened jar. The top of the wine-jar, the bottom of the teapot, as the saying has it."
In 1783 CH'ÊN HAO-TZŬ, who lived beside the Western Lake at Hangchow, and called himself the Flower Hermit, published a gossipy little work on gardening and country pursuits, under the title of "The Mirror of Flowers." It is the type of a class often to be seen in the hands of Chinese readers. The preface was written by himself:—
"From my youth upwards I have cared for nothing save books and flowers. Twenty-eight thousand days have passed over my head, the greater part of which has been spent in poring over old records, and the remainder in enjoying myself in my garden among plants and birds."
The Chinese excel in horticulture, and the passionate love of flowers which prevails among all classes is quite a national characteristic. A Chinaman, however, has his own particular standpoint. The vulgar nosegay or the plutocratic bouquet would have no charms for him. He can see, with satisfaction, only one flower at a time. His best vases are made to hold a single spray, and large vases usually have covers perforated so as to isolate each specimen. A primrose by the river's brim would be to him a complete poem. If condemned to a sedentary life, he likes to have a flower by his side on the table. He draws enjoyment, even inspiration, from its petals. He will take a flower out for a walk, and stop every now and again to consider the loveliness of its growth. So with birds. It is a common thing on a pleasant evening to meet a Chinaman carrying his birdcage suspended from the end of a short stick. He will stop at some pleasant corner outside the town, and listen with rapture to the bird's song. But to the preface. Our author goes on to say that in his hollow bamboo pillow he always keeps some work on his favourite subject.
"People laugh at me, and say that I am cracked on flowers and a bibliomaniac; but surely study is the proper occupation of a literary man, and as for gardening, that is simply a rest for my brain and a relaxation in my declining years. What does T'ao Ch'ien say?—
'Riches and rank I do not love,
I have no hopes of heaven above.' …
Besides, it is only in hours of leisure that I devote myself to the cultivation of flowers."
Ch'ên Hao-tzŭ then runs through the four seasons, showing how each has its especial charm, contributing to the sum of those pure pleasures which are the best antidote against the ills of old age. He then proceeds to deal with times and seasons, showing what to do under each month, precisely as our own garden-books do. After that come short chapters on all the chief trees, shrubs, and plants of China, with hints how to treat them under diverse circumstances, the whole concluding with a separate section devoted to birds, animals, fishes, and insects. Among these are to be found the crane, peacock, parrot, thrush, kite, quail, mainah, swallow, deer, hare, monkey, dog, cat, squirrel, goldfish—first mentioned by Su Shih,
"Upon the bridge the livelong day
I stand and watch the goldfish play"—
bee, butterfly, glowworm, &c. Altogether there is much to be learnt from this Chinese White of Selborne, and the reader lays down the book feeling that the writer is not far astray when he says, "If a home has not a garden and an old tree, I see not whence the everyday joys of life are to come."
CHAO I (1727-1814) is said to have known several tens of characters when only three years old,—the age at which John Stuart Mill believed that he began Greek. It was not, however, until 1761 that he took his final degree, appearing second on the list. He was really first, but the Emperor put Wang Chieh over his head, in order to encourage men from Shensi, to which province the latter belonged. That Wang Chieh is remembered at all must be set down to the above episode, and not to the two volumes of essays which he left behind him. Chao I wrote a history of the wars of the present dynasty, a collection of notes on the current topics of his day, historical critiques, and other works. He was also a poet, contributing a large volume of verse, from which the following sample of his art is taken:—
"Man is indeed of heavenly birth,
Though seeming earthy of the earth;
The sky is but a denser pall
Of the thin air that covers all.
Just as this air, so is that sky;
Why call this low, and call that high?
"The dewdrop sparkles in the cup—
Note how the eager flowers spring up;
Confine and crib them in a room,
They fade and find an early doom.
So 'tis that at our very feet
The earth and the empyrean meet.
"The babe at birth points heavenward too,
Enveloped by the eternal blue;
As fishes in the water bide,
So heaven surrounds on every side;
Yet men sin on, because they say
Great God in heaven is far away."
The "stop short" was a great favourite with him. His level may be gauged by the following specimen, written as he was setting out to a distant post in the north:—
"See where, like specks of spring-cloud in the sky,
On their long northern route the wild geese fly;
Together o'er the River we will roam… .
Ah! they go towards, and I away from home!"
Here is another in a more humorous vein:—
"The rain had been raining the whole of the day,
And I had been straining and working away… .
What's the trouble, O cook? You've no millet in store?
Well, I've written a book which will buy us some more."
Taken altogether, the poetry of the present dynasty, especially that of the nineteenth century, must be written down as nothing more than artificial verse, with the art not even concealed, but grossly patent to the dullest observer. A collection of extracts from about 2000 representative poets was published in 1857, but it is very dull reading, any thoughts, save the most commonplace, being few and far between. As in every similar collection, a place is assigned to poetesses, of whom FANG WEI-I would perhaps be a favourable example. She came from a good family, and was but newly married to a promising young official when the latter died, and left her a sorrowing and childless widow. Light came to her in the darkness, and disregarding the entreaties of her father and mother, she decided to become a nun, and devote the remainder of her life to the service of Buddha. These are her farewell lines:—
"'Tis common talk how partings sadden life:
There are no partings for us after death.
But let that pass; I, now no more a wife,
Will face fate's issues to my latest breath.
"The north wind whistles thro' the mulberry grove,
Daily and nightly making moan for me;
I look up to the shifting sky above,
No little prattler smiling on my knee.
"Life's sweetest boon is after all to die… .
My weeping parents still are loth to yield;
Yet east and west the callow fledglings fly,
And autumn's herbage wanders far afield.
"What will life bring to me an I should stay?
What will death bring to me an I should go?
These thoughts surge through me in the light of day,
And make me conscious that at last I know."
One of the greatest of the scholars of the present dynasty was YÜAN YÜAN (1764-1849). He took his third degree in 1789, and at the final examination the aged Emperor Ch'ien Lung was so struck with his talents that he exclaimed, "Who would have thought that, after passing my eightieth year, I should find another such man as this one?" He then held many high offices in succession, including the post of Governor of Chehkiang, in which he operated vigorously against the Annamese pirates and Ts'ai Chien, established the tithing system, colleges, schools, and soup-kitchens, besides devoting himself to the preservation of ancient monuments. As Viceroy of the Two Kuang, he frequently came into collision with British interests, and did his best to keep a tight hand over the barbarian merchants. He was a voluminous writer on the Classics, astronomy, archeology, &c., and various important collections were produced under his patronage. Among these may be mentioned the Huang Ch'ing Ching Chieh, containing upwards of 180 separate works, and the Ch'ou Jen Chuan, a biographical dictionary of famous mathematicians of all ages, including Euclid, Newton, and Ricci, the Jesuit Father. He also published a Topography of Kuangtung, specimens of the compositions of more than 5000 poets of Kiangsi, and a large collection of inscriptions on bells and vases. He also edited the Catalogue of the Imperial Library, the large encyclopaedia known as the T'ai P'ing Yü Lan, and other important works.
Two religious works, associated with the Taoism of modern days, which have long been popular throughout China, may fitly be mentioned here. They are not to be bought in shops, but can always be obtained at temples, where large numbers are placed by philanthropists for distribution gratis. The first is the Kan Ying P'ien, or Book of Rewards and Punishments, attributed by the foolish to Lao Tzü himself. Its real date is quite unknown; moderate writers place it in the Sung dynasty, but even that seems far too early. Although nominally of Taoist origin, this work is usually edited in a very pronounced Buddhist setting, the fact being that Taoism and Buddhism are now so mixed up that it is impossible to draw any sharp line of demarcation between the two. As Chu Hsi says, "Buddhism stole the best features of Taoism, and Taoism stole the worst features of Buddhism; it is as though the one stole a jewel from the other, and the loser recouped the loss with a stone." Prefixed to the Kan Ying P'ien will be found Buddhist formulæ for cleansing the mouth and body before beginning to read the text, and appeals to Maitrêya Buddha and Avalôkitêsvara. Married women and girls are advised not to frequent temples to be a spectacle for men. "If you must worship Buddha, worship the two living Buddhas (parents) you have at home; and if you must burn incense, burn it at the family altar." We are further told that there is no time at which this book may not be read; no place in which it may not be read; and no person by whom it may not be read with profit. We are advised to study it when fasting, and not necessarily to shout it aloud, so as to be heard of men, but rather to ponder over it in the heart. The text consists of a commination said to have been uttered by Lao Tzŭ, and directed against evil-doers of all kinds. In the opening paragraphs attention is drawn to various spiritual beings who note down the good deeds and crimes of men, and lengthen or shorten their lives accordingly. Then follows a long list of wicked acts which will inevitably bring retribution in their train. These include the ordinary offences recognised by moral codes all over the world, every form of injustice and oppression, falsehood, and theft, together with not a few others of a more venial character to Western minds. Among the latter are birds'-nesting, stepping across food or human beings, cooking with dirty firewood, spitting at shooting stars and pointing at the rainbow, or even at the sun, moon, and stars. In all these cases, periods will be cut off from the life of the offender, and if his life is exhausted while any guilt still remains unexpiated, the punishment due will be carried on to the account of his descendants.
The second of the two works under consideration is the Yŭ Li Ch'ao Chuan, a description of the Ten Courts of Purgatory in the nether world, through some or all of which every erring soul must pass before being allowed to be born again into this world under another form, or to be permanently transferred to the eternal bliss reserved for the righteous alone.
In the Fifth Court, for instance, the sinners are hurried away by bull-headed, horse-faced demons to a famous terrace, where their physical punishments are aggravated by a view of their old homes:—
"This terrace is curved in front like a bow; it looks east, west, and south. It is eighty-one li from one extreme to the other. The back part is like the string of a bow; it is enclosed by a wall of sharp swords. It is 490 feet high; its sides are knife-blades; and the whole is in sixty-three storeys. No good shade comes to this terrace; neither do those whose balance of good and evil is exact. Wicked souls alone behold their homes close by, and can see and hear what is going on. They hear old and young talking together; they see their last wishes disregarded and their instructions disobeyed. Everything seems to have undergone a change. The property they scraped together with so much trouble is dissipated and gone. The husband thinks of taking another wife; the widow meditates second nuptials. Strangers are in possession of the old estate; there is nothing to divide amongst the children. Debts long since paid are brought again for settlement, and the survivors are called upon to acknowledge claims upon the departed. Debts owed are lost for want of evidence, with endless recriminations, abuse, and general confusion, all of which falls upon the three families of the deceased. They in their anger speak ill of him that is gone. He sees his children become corrupt and his friends fall away. Some, perhaps, for the sake of bygone times, may stroke the coffin and let fall a tear, departing quickly with a cold smile. Worse than that, the wife sees her husband tortured in the yamên; the husband sees his wife victim to some horrible disease, lands gone, houses destroyed by flood or fire, and everything in unutterable confusion—the reward of former sins."
The Sixth Court "is a vast, noisy Gehenna, many leagues in extent, and around it are sixteen wards.
"In the first, the souls are made to kneel for long periods on iron shot. In the second, they are placed up to their necks in filth. In the third, they are pounded till the blood runs out. In the fourth, their mouths are opened with iron pincers and filled full of needles. In the fifth, they are bitten by rats. In the sixth, they are enclosed in a net of thorns and nipped by locusts. In the seventh, they are crushed to a jelly. In the eighth, their skin is lacerated and they are beaten on the raw. In the ninth, their mouths are filled with fire. In the tenth, they are licked by flames. In the eleventh, they are subjected to noisome smells. In the twelfth, they are butted by oxen and trampled 011 by horses. In the thirteenth, their hearts are scratched. In the fourteenth, their heads are rubbed till their skulls come off. In the fifteenth, they are chopped in two at the waist. In the sixteenth, their skin is taken off and rolled up into spills.
"Those discontented ones who rail against heaven and revile earth, who are always finding fault either with the wind, thunder, heat, cold, fine weather, or rain; those who let their tears fall towards the north; who steal the gold from the inside or scrape the gilding from the outside of images; those who take holy names in vain, who show no respect for written paper, who throw down dirt and rubbish near pagodas or temples, who use dirty cook-houses and stoves for preparing the sacrificial meats, who do not abstain from eating beef and dog-flesh; those who have in their possession blasphemous or obscene books and do not destroy them, who obliterate or tear books which teach man to be good, who carve on common articles of household use the symbol of the origin of all things, the Sun and Moon and Seven Stars, the Royal Mother and the God of Longevity on the same article, or representations of any of the Immortals; those who embroider the Svastika on fancy-work, or mark characters on silk, satin, or cloth, on banners, beds, chairs, tables, or any kind of utensil; those who secretly wear clothes adorned with the dragon and the phoenix only to be trampled under foot, who buy up grain and hold until the price is exorbitantly high—all these shall be thrust into the great and noisy Gehenna, there to be examined as to their misdeeds and passed accordingly into one of the sixteen wards, whence, at the expiration of their time, they will be sent for further questioning on to the Seventh Court."
The Tenth Court deals with the final stage of transmigration previous to rebirth in the world. It appears that in primeval ages men could remember their former lives on earth even after having passed through Purgatory, and that wicked persons often took advantage of such knowledge. To remedy this, a Terrace of Oblivion was built, and all shades are now sent thither, and are forced to drink the cup of forgetfulness before they can be born again.
"Whether they swallow much or little it matters not; but sometimes there are perverse devils who altogether refuse to drink. Then beneath their feet sharp blades start up, and a copper tube is forced down their throats, by which means they are compelled to swallow some. When they have drunk, they are raised by the attendants and escorted back by the same path. They are next pushed on to the Bitter Bamboo floating bridge, with torrents of rushing red water on either side. Half-way across they perceive written in large characters on a red cliff on the opposite side the following lines:—
"To be a man is easy, but to act up to one's responsibilities as such is hard;
Yet to be a man once again is perhaps harder still.
"For those who would be born again in some happy state there is no great difficulty;
It is only necessary to keep mouth and heart in harmony."
"When the shades have read these words, they try to jump on shore, but are beaten back into the water by two huge devils. One has on a black official hat and embroidered clothes; in his hand he holds a paper pencil, and over his shoulder he carries a sharp sword. Instruments of torture hang at his waist; fiercely he glares out of his large round eyes and laughs a horrid laugh. His name is Short-Life. The other has a dirty face smeared with blood; he has on a white coat, an abacus in his hand, and a rice-sack over his shoulder. Around his neck hangs a string of paper money; his brow contracts hideously and he utters long sighs. His name is They-have-their-Reward, and his duty is to push the shades into the red water. The wicked and foolish rejoice at the prospect of being born once more as human beings, but the better shades weep and mourn that in life they did not lay up a store of virtuous acts, and thus pass away from the state of mortals for ever. Yet they all rush on to birth like an infatuated or drunken crowd, and again, in their new childhood, hanker after forbidden flavours. Then, regardless of consequences, they begin to destroy life, and thus forfeit all claims to the mercy and compassion of God. They take no thought as to the end that must overtake them; and, finally, they bring themselves once more to the same horrid plight."
1 A Solomonic judge under the Sung dynasty.
1 "In hearing litigations, I am like any other body. What is necessary is to cause the people to have no litigations" (Legge).