Confucianism and Its Rivals, by Herbert A. Giles, , at sacred-texts.com
The eleventh century was not favourable to the growth either of Buddhism or of Taoism. In 1033 the Emperor, who at the age of twenty had just taken over the reins of government, gave orders to stop building or repairing any more temples; and from this date it is noticeable that the two religions no longer wielded quite the same influence at Court as under the Tang dynasty, neither were the people so often confused by those sudden transitions from one faith to the other. A reason for this may be found in the number of remarkable men, ardent supporters of Confucianism, who were the product of this age. There was Chêng Hao, a profound scholar, who soon made his reputation as an official by the suppression of a stone image of Buddha, which had been acquired by some Buddhist monastery, and which was said to emit bright rays, once a year, from its head. Large crowds of men and women were attracted to witness the miracle, and disorderly scenes ensued. Chêng Hao invited the abbot to forward the image to his official residence, alleging that he had been unable to inspect it in
public, the result being that the spiritual manifestation was no longer continued.
There was Wang An-shih, the socialist reformer, who based his economic innovations upon new interpretations of the Confucian Canon, and whose tablet was placed in the Confucian temple, only to be removed a hundred and forty years later, when it was discovered that he had neither written nor done anything to advance the cause for which the temple had been established. As before stated, the Chinese, like other nations, have often been too hasty in their canonizations; but, unlike many other nations who preserve memorials of persons scarcely entitled to national remembrance, the Chinese, sooner or later, admit their mistake, and cancel the injudiciously granted diploma. One striking example belongs to this very time. A statesman, poet, and essayist, whose name, Su Tung-po, is still a household word, and whose writings fascinate all students, died in the year 1101. In 1235, one hundred and thirty-four years afterwards, his tablet was placed in the Confucian temple. It was wrongly so placed; for although his writings may be styled imperishable, they in no way help to demonstrate the truth and value of Confucianism. Yet that tablet remained in its place of honour for over six hundred years, to be removed only so recently as 1845. His views with regard to the old Confucian concept of God may be gathered from a well-known short essay, entitled "The Arbour to Joyful Rain." On his appointment as Governor at a new post, he put his
garden in order and built himself a kiosque near some running water, "intending," as he says, "to use it as a refuge from the business of life. In that very year," he continues, "it rained wheat (see p. 55); and the soothsayers predicted in consequence that the ensuing year would be most prosperous. However, for a whole month no rain fell, and the people became alarmed at the prospect. Then rain fell at intervals, but not in sufficient quantities. At length it poured incessantly for three days. Thereupon, great congratulations were exchanged between officials; tradesmen and traders sang songs of glee in the market-place, while farmers wished each other joy across the furrowed fields. The sorrowful were gladdened; the sick were made whole. And precisely at that moment my kiosque was completed. So I spread a feast there, and invited a number of guests, of whom I inquired, What would have happened if the rain had held off five days longer? There would have been no wheat, was the answer. And what if it had been ten days? I continued; to which they replied that then there would have been no crops at all. And had there been neither harvest of wheat nor of any other grain, said I, a famine must inevitably have ensued. The law courts would have overflowed with litigation. Brigandage and robbery would have been rife. And you and I would have missed the pleasant meeting of to-day beneath this kiosque. But God did not leave the people to perish. Drought has been followed by rain, and to rain it is due that we are enjoying ourselves
here now. Shall we then let its remembrance fade away? I think not; and therefore I have called this kiosque 'The Arbour to Joyful Rain,' and I have added to the record the following verses:
In a very beautiful elegy on Han Wên-kung (p. 212) there are several lines which seem to show that Su Tung-po's belief in a personal God was a very lively and real one. He claims, in highly poetical language, that Han Wên-kung came straight from heaven at birth, almost "trailing clouds of glory."
[paragraph continues] Then, after sketching his brilliant career, not forgetting his attack upon Buddhism
the poet goes on to say,
[paragraph continues] Su Tung-po died in the first year of the twelfth century, which opened with a brief recrudescence of
[paragraph continues] Taoism, and ultimately proved fatal to the continued existence of the old religious belief in a personal God, which, obscured intermittently by Buddhism and Taoism, had still up to this date exercised considerable sway over the minds of the Chinese people. Already, during the eleventh century, a school of metaphysicians had arisen, the leaders of which sought for some more precise solution of the riddle of the universe than had so far been deduced from the Confucian Canon; but it was reserved for the following century to produce, A.D. 1130, one who carried out the movement to such purpose that his name has ever since stood easily first among Chinese philosophers of that or of any other age. A few words are necessary to introduce this very remarkable man.
Chu Fu Tzŭ, as he is popularly called, distinguished himself as a boy by his aptitude for learning, and took the highest degree when only nineteen years of age. In accordance with the usual routine, he was drafted into government employ, and showed considerable success as an administrator. He had previously been suspected of a strong leaning towards Buddhismsome say that he actually became a Buddhist priest; however, by the year 1154, under the guidance of an able teacher, he had seen the error of his ways, and had given himself up to the study of orthodox doctrines. This study he continued all through his career, especially during intervals of forced retirement, until he was finally driven from office by accusations of sedition, magic, breaches of
loyalty and of filial piety, with other similarly absurd charges. He passed the evening of his days in literary pursuits, soothed by the ministrations of a faithful disciple. At his death, his coffin is said to have taken up a position, suspended in the air, about three feet from the ground; until his son-in-law, falling on his knees beside the bier, reminded the departed spirit of the great principles of which he had been such a brilliant exponent in life,and the coffin descended gently to the ground. He had been a most voluminous writer of history, philosophy, and poetry; and he had succeeded in placing himself first among all the commentators on the Confucian Canon. He introduced interpretations either wholly or partly at variance with those which had been put forth by the scholars of the Han dynasty and up to that date received as infallible, thereby modifying to a certain extent the prevailing standard of political and ethical values. He achieved this by the simple process of consistency. He refused to interpret words in any given passage in one sense, and the same words, occurring elsewhere, in another sense. Thus, it has been said that "Shao Yung tried to explain the Canon of Changes by a numerical key, and (another philosopher) Chêng I by the eternal fitness of things; but Chu Fu Tzŭ alone was able to pierce through the meaning and appropriate the thought of the inspired men who composed it."
Under the hand of Chu Fu Tzŭ, the idea of a personal God, the supreme ruler of the universe, disappeared for ever. That no proof of the existence
of such a Being was forthcoming, was quite enough for his materialistic mind; and being unable, like Cardinal Newman, to dispense with logic and to rely solely upon consciousness, he set to work to frame a cosmogony of his own, in which the God of his fathers was degraded to an abstraction. His universe was developed from a state of Nothing, which somehow became consolidated into Unity, the primeval mother-cell, the bipartition of which produced the Yin and the Yang (p. 4), the female and male principles. The interaction of these gave birth to the five elementsearth, wood, water, fire, and metaland through them to all objects, terrestrial and celestial alike. He postulated (1) chi, which appears to be a formative agent, underlying all matter; not actually itself matter, but rather an all-pervading, subtle, imponderable, vivifying fluid which informs all things and makes them what they are; suggestive of, but not identical with, ether. (2) Li, a governing agent, which, like chi, is omnipresent, and determines the relationship of things to the universe and to each other. No two foreign students are at one as to the correct rendering or even the meaning of the terms chi and li; on the other hand, all native scholars seem to reach the same standpoint of interpretation, as gathered, of course, from the writings of Chu Fu Tzŭ. However this may be, it is with the latter term, li, the eternal principle of right, which I have ventured to call a governing agent, that Chu Fu Tzŭ identifies Tien, the God of the Odes, who, as we have seen, is there arrayed
in terrors and punishes the evil-doers among mankind. It is true that Chu Fu Tzŭ recognizes this difficulty, and sometimes speaks as though the evidence of antiquity was too much for his arguments; but when all is said and done, his antitheistic attitude asserts itself, and leaves the student with a God who is nothing more than what we call abstract right, operating through the laws of nature. Hence the outwardly atheistic attitude of the modern Confucianist, fed upon the teachings of Chu Fu Tzŭ, who, ever since his death in A.D. 1200, has been accepted as the one and only authority upon the interpretation of the Canon.
Another important subject which Chu Fu Tzŭ discussed at length with his disciples and others was the nature of man at birth, with direct reference to the statement and arguments of Mencius, based, as we have seen, upon tradition, that man is born good. In dealing with this question, disposed of by Mencius in a few words, we are led into rambling and sometimes inconsistent speculations as to the identity of nature in man, animals, and plants, Chu Fu Tzŭ being on the side of an absolute uniformity of nature throughout the universe; and also as to the character of the goodness with which man is endowed, its permanence even in the presence of evil, the fact that evil must have been developed coincidently with the recognition of goodness, etc., etc. Chu Fu Tzŭ argued that the goodness of man at his birth was like a clear spring of water, which becomes defiled by mud as it flows down the hillside; in spite of
turbidity, the clear water is still there, and will reappear if the mud is allowed to settle. The foreign student, however, will find considerable turbidity, and not a little inconsistency, in these lucubrations, owing perhaps to the elusiveness of the subject as presented in a difficult language, and not to any want of skill on the part of the great Chinese philosopher.
Chu Fu Tzŭ deals with Taoism and Buddhism on not very statesmanlike lines, and his details are often inexact. Having eliminated God, and the supernatural in general, from the Confucian Canon, which was henceforth to be the undisputed guide of the Chinese people, it was not likely that he would regard with satisfaction, or even with indifference, any other doctrines which conflicted, ever so little, with the results of his own labours. From his time onwards, Confucianism certainly occupied a place by itself, beyond reach of cavil or rivalry. Gradually, it came to be understood that religions of all kinds might flourish or might fade, so long as the Confucian teaching was recognized as supreme. This view was emphasized under the Ming dynasty by an ingenious and not provocative rule. Every temple, Buddhist and Taoist, and every mosque throughout the empire, was compelled to exhibit on the altar, or in some equally conspicuous position, a small tablet inscribed with a formula of allegiance to the Emperor, the head of Confucianism, or as we should phrase it, of the established church.
"Taoism," says Chu Fu Tzŭ, "was at first confined
to purity of life and to inaction. These were associated with long life and immortality, which by and by became the sole objects of the cult. Nowadays, they have thought it advisable to adopt a system of magical incantations, and chiefly occupy themselves with exorcism and prayers for blessings. Thus, two radical changes have been made. The Taoists have the writings of Lao Tzŭ and Chuang Tzŭ. They neglected these, and the Buddhists stole them for their own purposes; whereupon the Taoists went off and imitated the sûtras of Buddhism. This is just as if the scions of some wealthy house should be robbed of all their valuables, and then go off and gather up the old pots and pans belonging to the thieves. Buddhist books are full of what Buddha said, and Taoist books are similarly full of what Tao said. Now Buddha was a man, but how does Tao manage to talk? This belief, however, has prevailed for eight or nine centuries past. Taoism began with Lao Tzŭ. Its Trinity of the Three Pure Ones is copied from the Trinity of the Three Persons as taught by Buddhism. By their Trinity the Buddhists mean (1) the spiritual body (of Buddha), (2) his joyful body (showing Buddha rewarded for his virtues), and (3) his fleshly body, under which Buddha appears on earth as a man. The modern schools of Buddhism have divided their Trinity under three images which are placed side by side, thus completely missing the true signification (which is Trinity in Unity); and the adherents of Taoism, wishing to imitate the Buddhists in this particular, worship Lao Tzŭ under
[paragraph continues] (another version of) the Three Pure Ones (see p. 174), namely, (1) as the original revered God, (2) the supreme ruler Tao, and (3) the supreme ruler Lao Tzŭ (in the flesh). Almighty God (that is, Tien) is ranked below these three, which is nothing short of an outrageous usurpation. Moreover, the first two do not represent the spiritual and joyful bodies of Lao Tzŭ, and the two images set up cannot form a Unity with him; while the introduction of the third is an aggravated copy of the mistake made by the Buddhists. Chuang Tzŭ has told us in plain language of the death of Lao Tzŭ, who must now be a spirit; how then can he usurp the place of Almighty God? The doctrines of Buddha and Lao Tzŭ should be altogether abolished; but if this is not possible, then only the teachings of Lao Tzŭ should be tolerated, all shrines in honour of him, or of his disciples and various magicians, to be placed under the control of the directors of Public Worship."
Considering that Chu Fu Tzŭ himself reduced the God of the Confucian Canon to an abstraction, it is curious to see how solicitous he is that the Supreme Being shall not be displaced by the members of the Taoist Trinity. And so it has always been with the most rigid Confucianists; they openly accept Chu Fu Tzŭ's definition of God, but at the back of their minds there generally remains a bias in favour of a more personal Deity. It does not come to every man to reach such intimate apperception of the Divine, as to Shao Yung, the philosopher of the eleventh century, whose attempt to explain the Canon of
[paragraph continues] Changes by numbers has already been noted. Remembering that Christ said (Luke xvii. 20, 21), "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo here! or Lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you," the following stanza by Shao Yung has a veritable ring of inspiration:
[paragraph continues] It is probable that Chu Fu Tzŭ was familiar with the above verse when he formulated his dogma that God is the eternal principle of right. What had been the popular view up to the time of Chu Fu Tzŭ is exhibited in a stanza by Yang I, a precocious boy, also of the eleventh century. On being taken to the top of a pagoda, as is often done in cases of illness, he uttered the following impromptu:
Chu Fu Tzŭ's attacks on Buddhism are very extensive, and although restrained in language, are decidedly searching, especially where he shows that the Buddhists have appropriated so much from the old Taoist philosophers. With one more quotation we will leave this encyclopædic scholar, who found Confucianism a religion, and left it, but for a vital spark, a mere system of ethics. "The aim and
object of the Taoists is to preserve free from injury the physical body. The Buddhists, on the other hand, consider the physical body as of no account, but say that there is a something else, quite distinct from the body, which does not come into being at birth, and is not extinguished at death. The fact is that with the consolidation of (lei (the vital fluid) we have the phenomenon of life; with its dispersion we have the phenomenon of death: and all we can do is to fall in with this. Buddhists and Taoists are both equally in fault."
Chu Fu Tzŭ died in the year 1200. In 1163 a number of Persian Jews, under the superintendence of a Rabbi, had found their way into China and had built a synagogue at Kai-fêng Fu, in Honan. Their simple monotheism was not of the kind to attract much public attention, especially as they adopted the familiar Tien as their equivalent for God; and they seem to have passed almost unnoticed into the general life of the people. It was not until the beginning of the seventeenth century that the presence of Jews in China became known to the western world, when speculation was soon rife as to their identity with the lost tribes of Israel. The story of an earlier arrival of Jews, shortly after the Babylonish captivity, has no foundation in fact.
Ricci, the learned Jesuit missionary, to be mentioned again, then stationed at Peking, one day received a visit from a Chinese official, who claimed to be a co-religionist. It was discovered in conversation that this statement was not substantially exact;
however, the report given by this man of a Jewish colony in Kai-fêng Fu, from which place he had just arrived, induced Ricci to dispatch one of his native Christians thither, to find out how far the story was true. Ricci's messenger brought back several portions of the Pentateuch in Hebrew, but described the Jewish community as very few in number and in the lowest depths of poverty. Several of the Catholic missionaries subsequently visited Kai-fêng Fu; the account given by the native Christian was verified, and further information collected.
Judaism, which was originally known as the religion of Tien chu, that is, of India, the term India being loosely held to include Persia, came to be called the religion of Tiao chin, removing the sinew, in reference to the Jewish preparation of meat, which is thus made kosher, or fit for food. It is probable that the change of name was made in order to keep clear of any association with Roman Catholicism, which was also the Tien chu religion, the latter, differently written, being the term adopted by the Catholics as their rendering of God.
In 1850 an important expedition was organized by Protestant missionaries and others. Two native Christians were sent to Kai-fêng Fu, and by their efforts the question of "Jews in China" was satisfactorily answered once and for all. Besides bringing back portions of the Old Testament in an antique Hebrew form, with vowel points, they had secured copies of certain inscriptions on stone tablets, one of
which is of the very highest interest, and achieves for our knowledge of Judaism a result similar to that which was achieved for Christianity by the discovery of the Nestorian tablet. The Jewish stone is dated 1489, and was set up to record the rebuilding of the synagogue on the spot where a synagogue had stood since the first arrival of the Jews in 1163. The inscription opens with a eulogy of Abraham, the Patriarch who founded the religion of Israel, and who was the nineteenth descendant in direct line from Adam. Here the writer, presumably thinking that the name "Adam" would have no meaning for Chinese ears, identifies him with Pan Ku, the Chinese "first man," already mentioned (p. 176) as a member of the Taoist Trinity under one of its varying forms. Altogether there is the same tendency, as in the case of the Manichæans and Nestorians, to work into the new faith as many as possible of the old familiar elements of Chinese belief. For instance, the spiritual regeneration of Abraham is thus described: "Reflecting upon the ethereal purity of God on high, the most adorable, without peer, that Divine Power who does not speak, and yet causes the four seasons to revolve and all things to be produced (these very words were spoken by Confucius); gazing upon birth in spring, upon growth in summer, upon harvest in autumn, and storage in winter; upon creatures that fly, and creatures that swim, upon animals that move, and vegetation that stands still;how these all flourish and decay, how they bloom and fade, how naturally they grow, undergo change,
and take on form or colour(reflecting and gazing) the Patriarch awakened, as it were from sleep, to the apprehension of this profound mystery. Seeking the true faith, he glorified the one God, serving Him with his whole heart, and revering Him alone; and thus he established our religion, which has endured to the present day."
Moses is next introduced, as one who "by his piety touched the heart of God, and the Bible, in fifty-three books, came into existence of itself." Then, after a warning that "man in his daily life must never for a moment be forgetful of God, but must praise Him in prayer every morning, noon, and evening," we pass into a eulogy of Tao, by which is obviously meant the Tao of early Taoism, and due recognition of which is adopted as belonging to the worship of the true God. This portion, which has no real significance, is followed by a few historical notes of great value. It is here that the year 1163 is recorded as the date of the first arrival of Jews in China. We are also told that in 1279 the old synagogue was rebuilt, and that in 1386 the first Emperor of the Ming dynasty, in carrying out his policy of pacification, presented the Jewish community at Kai-fêng Fu with a piece of ground on which they might live in peace and practise their religion without molestation. At that time, says the tablet, the vestments, ceremonies, and music had been modernized, but the language and movements were still according to the ancient rule. In 1421 permission was given for the synagogue to be repaired, with orders that the
[paragraph continues] Imperial tablet should be set up in the building, as a proof of allegiance in spite of dissimilarity of religion. Several other dates of minor importance are added, and the inscription winds up with a statement that Judaism differs almost imperceptibly from the religion of the literati, with which it is at one in the inculcation of loyalty to the sovereign, respect for ancestors, obedience to parents, and other accepted virtues. It was, indeed, just this fact which told against the success of Judaism. Because of the striking similarity between the God of the Odes and the God of the Old Testament, Judaism attracted but little attention, and has now to all intents and purposes ceased to exist. Further, this religion reached China at a time when the obscuration of a Supreme Being, coupled with the apotheosis of a man, was proceeding at a rapid rate, and which the efforts of a few humble Rabbis would be hardly likely to hinder.
The thirteenth century, which witnessed the final overthrow of the Sung dynasty and the establishment of a Mongol domination under Kublai Khan, is especially associated with the rapid spread of Mahometanism in certain parts of China. With the Mongol armies there was a great influx of Mussulmans, reinforcing the earlier communities which we have already noticed. The numbers of these last may have been recruited by the arrival from time to time of Mahometan traders and others, who settled down in the country; still, it is from the thirteenth century onwards that Mahometans became a large and important religious body in the empire. Like their predecessors
of the eighth century, they too married native wives, from which it results that their descendants of to-day may really be said to have no trace of Arab blood in their veins. All the same, they are extraordinarily attached to their religion, and will not touch pork, although surrounded by a pig-eating people. During the past three hundred years there have been several serious rebellions, which have taxed all the energies of the Chinese government and of their best generals; but in normal times the Mahometan, allowed to practise his religion in his own way, is a law-abiding citizen, and indistinguishable from the rest of his fellow-countrymen.
Simultaneously with the spread of Islam, we have to note the arrival of what was then universally recognized to be orthodox Christianity. By the year 1289 there was already, in what is now Peking, a Christian bishop, whose chief aim, for a time, was to get rid of the remaining traces of that hateful schism, Nestorian Christianity. Considerable headway seems to have been made, in spite of the political troubles which began to set in during the first half of the fourteenth century; but from the final overthrow of the Mongols and the accession of the House of Ming, very little was heard, for two centuries to come, of any foreign religion, with the exception of Buddhism, which now and again showed signs of renewed Court favour. One statesman, in 1488, caused the Imperial collection of Taoist literature to be burnt; and altogether the period was favourable to the dominance of Confucianism, which a hundred years later was to
be confronted by Roman Catholic Christianity, under the guidance of some of the most able men ever attracted to China from the west.
In 1582 the first two Jesuits landed at Canton; they were followed a year later by Ricci, the most distinguished of all the long line of Catholic fathers who have given their lives for service in China, and said to be the only foreigner whose name has ever been mentioned in the dynastic annals. In addition to a variety of scientific work, the skilled performance of which gained for him the intimate patronage of the Emperor, he succeeded in converting to Christianity Hsü Kuang-chi, an eminent scholar who ultimately rose to be a Minister of State. He particularly directed his attention to an attack upon Buddhism, the severity of which attack called forth numerous replies from the better educated of the priesthood, and evoked a controversy in which it was considered that Ricci had the better of his opponents. The question as to the admission of ancestor-worship among Christian rites for native converts did not become acute during Ricci's lifetime; he failed, however, to grasp the true inwardness of the ceremony, and gave his opinion in favour of toleration. Later on, there was division in the Jesuit body on the subject; and the Dominicans and Franciscans, who took the narrower but strictly correct view, laid the matter before the Pope, just at the time when the Ming dynasty was collapsing and the conquering Manchus were taking possession of the empire. Pope Innocent X. decided against the Jesuits, but this decision was
reversed by his successor, Alexander VII.; then under the next three Popes, efforts were made to settle the point satisfactorily to both parties.
There raged, at the same time, another bitter controversy as to the correct term for "God" in Chinese. The Jesuits favoured the use of Tien and Shang Ti, to both of which the Dominicans and Franciscans strenuously objected, declaring that the former represented nothing more than the material sky, and the latter the spirits of deified Emperors instead of the true God. Their term was Tien Chu, "Lord of the Sky," a term which had been applied, some centuries before Christ, though they did not know it, to the first of Eight Spirits, the other seven of which were the Lords of Earth, War, Darkness, Light, the Moon, the Sun, and the Four Seasons; it was also in use among Buddhists as an equivalent for the Brahmin god, Indra. To stand merely at the head of such a list is hardly in keeping with the majesty of that Tien, the One God of the Odes, who with Shang Ti forms a Duality in Unity; and the wonder is that such a term should ever have been adopted. Both the above controversies were submitted by the Jesuits to the Emperor Kang Hsi, than whom, in point of learning and justice, no more fitting arbiter for the second question could well have been found. He decided (1) that there was nothing in the practice of ancestor-worship which was contrary to the teaching and spirit of Christianity, and (2) that the Chinese word Tien was the right and proper equivalent for God, It is no doubt a sound legal maxim that a
litigant shall not be allowed to approbate and reprobate the same instrument; at the risk, however, of violating in a sense this maxim, I am bound to say that I disagree with his Majesty's decision in the first instance, which he was not qualified to give, and agree with it in the second, which is quite another matter.
The upshot of all this squabbling was, first of all, that the Emperor was much affronted when he found that the final Papal decree was against his own views; and secondly, that from this date restrictions were placed upon the freedom of Catholic missionaries, which under later Emperors developed into persecution and attempts to suppress the propaganda altogether. It is generally believed that the Roman Catholic Church had here a real opportunity for the Christianization of China, and lost it. As scholars, the Dominicans and Franciscans could not for a moment compare with the learned Jesuits, and their rejection of Tien as the proper rendering of "God" was a real misfortune; on the other hand, their refusal to let the end justify the means and to admit of rites which they felt were antagonistic to the spirit of their religion, can only redound to their credit.
It remains now to consider what was the religious attitude of the Manchu rulers of China, from the date of their accession to power in 1644 down to the triumph of the republicans in 1912. Beyond a rather vague acquaintance with Buddhism, they do not seem to have entered upon the government of the empire weighted by any serious religious convictions whatever.
[paragraph continues] The second Emperor, Kang Hsi, was a man of unusual capacity, and held very firmly the Erastian doctrine that religion should be subordinated to politics, coupled with a determined opinion that the two should be kept severely apart. He would have nothing to do with any faith which involved supernatural beliefs; but being wise enough to see that it was absolutely necessary for the masses to have some sort of guidance, he fell back upon Confucianism without God, which, of course, was altogether beyond their reach. The Confucian Canon became more than ever the Bible of educated Chinese, to the authority of which all questions were referred; worship in the various temples of Confucius was earnestly performed, and all forms of classical learning were encouraged. The Emperor himself composed sixteen maxims for everyday life, which were issued in 1691 as a Sacred Edict, the name by which they are now known. It was not a new idea; the first Emperor of the Ming dynasty had issued a similar Edict in six maxims, but the latter never had the same vogue as that of the Emperor Kang Hsi. Each of these sixteen maxims consisted of seven words. Under the next Emperor, sixteen short essays were prepared by leading scholars of the day, to amplify and illustrate the meaning of the maxims; these essays, however, being in a highly polished book style, were not readily intelligible to the unlettered, and a further effort was made to paraphrase the whole into something approximating to the colloquial language. For it had been ordained that
this Edict was to be read publicly on the 1st and 15th of every month in all cities and towns throughout the empire.
We are here concerned with but one of these sixteen maxims, from almost all of which, amplification and paraphrase alike, any suggestion of belief in, or reliance upon, a Supreme Being is markedly absent. We are told, indeed, in the amplification of the first maxim, that "filial piety is the law of God," but this seems to be the sole kind of recognition, unsatisfactory as it is, to be met with in the whole work. There are homely proverbs for the people, such as, "If all your life you yield the path, you will not lose even a hundred yards." The rest is Confucianism, in the modern sense of the term: glorification of Confucius, so far, as an inspired teacher, not yet as a god. The seventh of the sixteen maxims is this: "Get rid of heterodoxy, in order to glorify the true doctrine." In the amplification we read, "When man is born into his place in the universe, he has before him only the five relationships, between sovereign and subject, father and son, husband and wife, brother and brother, and friend and friend. These form a path of duty for all, fools and wise alike, to follow. The inspired men and sages of old would have no prying into mysteries or supernatural practices." Then, after denouncing heterodox books, which eat like worms into the life of the people, the writer continues, "Three forms of doctrine have come down to us from antiquity; for in addition to Confucianism, we have Taoism and Buddhism. The
philosopher Chu Fu Tzŭ says, 'The doctrines of Buddhism take no note of anything within the four quarters of the universe, but are concerned only with, the mind. The doctrines of Taoism aim only at preserving physical vitality.' From these impartial words we can see what was the original intention in each case." The amplification goes on to show how, under the cloak of these two religions, abuses have crept in, and evil-disposed persons have combined to perpetrate crimes contrary to public morals. Now comes a more interesting paragraph: "As to the western doctrine which glorifies Tien Chu, the Lord of the Sky (i.e. Roman Catholicism), that too is heterodox; but because its priests are thoroughly conversant with mathematics, the government makes use of them,a point which you soldiers and people should understand." The amplification proceeds to say that all heresies should be dealt with in the same way that robbers, inundations, and fires are dealt with: they should be exterminated.
In the colloquial paraphrase of the above essay, Taoism and Buddhism are denounced in scathing language and held up to ridicule by turns. The graven images, celibacy, fasting, and spiritual promises of the Buddhists, are classed with the exorcism, alchemy, elixir of life, and magical pretensions of the Taoists, as nothing more than ridiculous impostures; and the opportunity is further taken to warn people against the danger of joining secret political societies. Passing on to the strictures upon Christianity, we read, "As to the doctrine of the Lord of the
[paragraph continues] Sky, with its random and unsubstantial talk, that too is not orthodox; but because its priests know all about astronomy and mathematics, the Court makes use of them to construct our calendar. This does not mean to say that their religion is a good one, and you must on no account believe it. The law is very strict in its dealings with these by-path, side-door sects, just as it is with the men and women who practise devil-dances (a form of exorcism), against whom laws and penalties have been enacted." A little further on we have the familiar dogma of the goodness of man at birth: "These heresies and evil teachings seriously injure the bias of the heart; that heart which was given by God to man at his birth, upright and free from wickedness, but which, through greed, has been led astray into wrong paths. For just as the poor want to become some day rich and great, so do the rich and great want to prolong possession of what they have got; they want old age; they want sons and daughters; and what is beyond everything, they want to secure in this life, happiness in the life to come. . . . If you only knew that in everybody's home there are two living Buddhas to be worshipped, what excuse would there be then for going off to worship mountains and for praying for happiness to clay and wooden images? The proverb well says, Stay at home and reverence your parents; why travel afar to burn incense? If you could but grasp the truth, you would know that a bright and happy mind is heaven, and that a dark and gloomy mind is hell. Thus, you would have
your own God, and would not be deceived by false doctrines."
Printed and published all over the empire, the Sacred Edict proved a serious blow to the immediate spread of Christianity. However, it appears that Roman Catholicism soon rallied from the stroke; and although no longer able to profess the faith quite openly, its priests certainly succeeded in gathering together large numbers of converts over a considerable area. For this statement we have the authority of Lan Lu-chou, one of the most distinguished writers of the eighteenth century. In a paper dated 1732, and entitled "Barbarians in the province of Kuangtung," he makes the following remarks: "The Catholic religion is now spreading over China. In the provinces of Hupeh, Hunan, Honan, Kiangsi, Fuhkien, and Kuangsi, there are very few places which it has not reached. In 1723 the Viceroy of Fuhkien 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, until an opportunity should present itself for returning them to their own countries. However, the Viceroy, out of mistaken kindness, memorialized the Throne that such of the barbarians as were old or sick, and unwilling to go away, might be permitted to remain, on condition that if they proselytized, or spread their
creed, or chanted their sacred books, they were at once to be punished and sent away. The scheme was an excellent one, but where are the results of it? At present, more than ten thousand men have joined the Catholic chapel at Canton, and there is also a department for women, where they have similarly got together about two thousand. This is a great insult to China, and seriously injures our national traditions; tis enough to make every man of feeling grind his teeth with rage."
During the opening years of the nineteenth century, Protestant missionaries appeared for the first time upon the scene. For a long period their activities were confined to a very narrow area, in the extreme south, and no attempt was made to follow the Catholic fathers into the interior. Thus, they had little opportunity for proselytizing, and turned their energies to translation. Various immature versions of the Bible, in part or entire, were now produced, of which the less said the better. Even at this late date, it cannot be affirmed with truth that the best translation of the Bible into Chinese reproduces with fidelity the sense and spirit of the original. First of all the "term question" intervened, and made anything like a general harmony impossible; for just as the Catholic orders had quarrelled, so did the Protestant missionaries belonging to different sects quarrel over the selection of a fit and proper rendering for "God," but without the advantage of an infallible Pope to settle the point for them. It was not to be supposed, of course, that the Catholic term would be
adopted; and in that there is small cause for regret. The terms ultimately chosen by the opposing sides were Shang Ti and Shên (or Shin). The former of these we have already considered, and have ranked it second to Tien; as to Shên, it generally represents in Chinese literature those invisible intellectual beings whom we call spirits. It is obvious, therefore, that there must be some difficulty in always restricting the latter term to the One Spirit whom we mean by "God"; indeed, this difficulty was so far appreciated that the word chên, "true," was prefixed: Chên Shên, "the True Spirit." Here again there is an objection; the word chên is specially associated with Taoism, and is employed in designations of Taoist saints, priests, and wizards, as well as in the Taoist term Chên Tsai, the First Cause, which has been adopted by Mahometans as their rendering of "God." In 1847 an attempt was made to produce a satisfactory translation of the Bible by the collaboration of delegates from the various missionary bodies. By 1850 the New Testament was completed; but so strong was the feeling on the subject of terms, that two sets of this translation were printed, with different Chinese renderings for "God" and "Spirit." A further attempt to translate the Old Testament was a failure; at the ninth chapter of Deuteronomy there was a split in the camp, and two of the delegates retired, leaving the work to be completed in 1855 by three of their colleagues who were all, as regards terminology, of the same way of thinking.
The next question that arose was that of style,
which has always been such an important feature of Chinese scholarship. The delegates had aimed at a polished classical style, such as would find favour with the literati, and had to some extent succeeded; but the real meaning was often misinterpreted, and style alone failed to recommend a book which, published without a commentary, was largely unintelligible even to educated readers. Other Protestant missionaries, anxious to get the Bible into the hands of the people, now began to make versions, some of which came out as nearly as possible in colloquial, which, of course, would prevent the literati from even condescending to take a look, and did not prove much more intelligible after all. It still remains to produce an accurate translation of the Bible in a good literary style. The translation should not be slavishly literal, for that would obscure the sense; nor the style too low class, for that would give the impression of a low class book. As there is much misconception on the subject of translation into Chinese, a few explanatory words may be allowed. When a foreigner translates a book into Chinese, he does not take his pen and transfer the thought himself; few foreigners are capable of writing even a simple letter by themselves, and certainly no foreigner has yet seen the light who could attempt, unaided, such a work as the Bible, or indeed any portion of it. What the so-called translator does do, is to engage a more or less educated native, and explain to him, as best he can, in colloquial, the text to be rendered into Chinese. If the foreigner is anything of a scholar, and the text
offers no special difficulties, he will be able to verify to some extent the translation made; but all the beauties, or artifices, or blemishes in the style, will be the work of his native friend, upon whose ability the literary value of the work depends.
At the present day we find China provided with some half-dozen forms of religious influence. The Manchus made Confucianism their sheet-anchor, and placed their reliance wholly upon its preserving power. From the point of view of the educated, Confucianism is based, as we have seen, upon direct revelation, witnessed in the delivery to man, by supernatural means, of the Eight Diagrams and the arrangement of the numerals 1 to 9, on which was founded a system of divination, followed by the later speculations of the Sung philosophers. In 1908, when their mandate was already exhausted, the Manchus foolishly elevated Confucius to the rank of a god, an honour which the old sage himself would have been the very first to repudiate. Still, during all their tenancy of the empire, the Manchus kept Buddhism (an importation) and Taoism (an imitation) well in hand, and away from political aspirations. The function of these two religions was thus only to satisfy
and also to stave off or allay
[paragraph continues] Confucianists will not readily avow any faith in either
one or the other; at the same time, it is customary for all families to visit Buddhist or Taoist templesoften both, and to employ the priestsalso of both, to recite masses for their dead. Exceptional treatment has always been shown to Mahometans, who are regarded as a dangerous element in the State; for instance, because they do not eat pig, they are permitted the use of beef in addition to mutton, although this is contrary to the rule against slaughter of the ploughing ox.
Christianity suffered much from persecution during the nineteenth century. The appearance of Protestantism as an uncompromising opponent of Roman Catholicism, though the same God was worshipped and the same leading doctrines were professed, completely mystified the Chinese, who became more suspicious and more hostile than ever. Roman Catholicism, with its fine cathedrals and ornate ritual, so closely identical in many of its characteristics with Buddhism, has always made a much more effective appeal to the masses; it has also gained, since early days, by presenting a united front instead of being split up, like Protestantism, into many sects, differing from one another in details of doctrine almost as much as the Roman Catholic church differs from any one of them. Lord Kinnaird (Times, Dec. 18, 1913) was right when he said, "The weakness of foreign missions has been that we have carried our home divisions into the field where a united foe must be faced. We have deliberately weakened the mission of the church of the living God by our sectarian bias."
[paragraph continues] Time, too, has been on the side of the Catholics, and they have in consequence a very much larger body of converts. On the other hand, Protestantism was less dreaded by the Manchus. Its missionaries interfered less, though often too much, between the authorities and the people who had become converts. They arrogated to themselves no temporal dignities; whereas in 1899 the Catholics succeeded in obtaining from the Chinese government recognition of the Pope as "Emperor of the Faith," and of their bishops as equals in rank with viceroys and governors of provinces.
Speaking now without distinctions of any kind, it may be said without fear of contradiction, that considering the sacrifice, both of blood and of treasure, the growth of Christianity in China has been disappointing to its supporters. Missionaries have had and still have a difficult row to hoe. They found the Chinese people steeped in superstition, but devoid of any real religious sentiment. The Buddhist masses unquestionably believe in a future statea spiritual reproduction of the present state, from which consciousness is not absent. They have authority for this. A high official named Wang Tan-chih, who flourished in the fourth century A.D., agreed with a friendly Buddhist priest that whoever might die first would return and enlighten the survivor. About a year later, the priest suddenly appeared before Wang and said, "I have lately died. The joys and sorrows of the next world are realities. Hasten to repent, that you may pass among the ranks of the blest."
[paragraph continues] Educated Chinese, however, have no faith in such stories; neither will they accept the early chapters of Genesis, especially now that a distinguished Professor of Divinity (Professor Burkitt) has publicly declared that these chapters contain nothing more than Asiatic folklore. They have difficulties over the divinity of Christwhich is indeed a moot point among European scholarsand over His virgin birth and resurrection, both of which events will be found to have parallels in early Chinese literature. The doctrine of the Trinity, already familiar through Buddhism, naturally forms a severe stumbling-block; the more so to those who discover, or are told, that this important dogma is nowhere mentioned in the Bible, but belongs to a later date.
The Chinese in general are impatient of a weekly day of rest; they do not say grace at meals; they do not understand prayer in our western sense; there is certainly no such thing as "family prayers" from one end of the empire to the other. They will pray at temples, and at fixed dates to the spirits of the dead, but only for benefits to follow. "The maker of images," as the saying goes, "will not pray at all to the gods: he knows what stuff they are made of." When, in 1911, the devoted young medical missionary, Arthur Jackson, lost his life in fighting the plague in Manchuria, the Viceroy offered, at the memorial service, a prayer which ended thus:
All such points, however, fade into insignificance before the three real obstacles to the spread of Christianity in China. These are, first of all, the Confucian dogma that man is born good; secondly, the practice of ancestral worship, which, as has already been shown, is incompatible with Christian doctrine; and thirdly, the rules and practice of filial piety, due directly to the patriarchal system which still obtains in China. It has indeed been seriously urged that the unparalleled continuity of the Chinese nation is a reward for their faithful observance of the fifth commandment. In the face of this deeply implanted sentiment of reverence for parents, it is easy to see what a shock it must give to be told, as in Mark x. 7, 29, 30, that a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife; also, that if a man leaves his father and mother for Christ's sake and the gospel's, he will receive an hundredfold now in this time, and in the world to come eternal life.
In 1913 the Chinese government made application to Christian churches throughout the world for intercession by prayer on behalf of the young Republic. This request was received with acclamation on all sides, and great hopes were aroused by such an unprecedented act; but
and in March 1914, the old religious rites performed by the Manchu Emperors almost to their last days, but not by the people, were re-established by the President. It is already announced that on the 23rd December the Head of the State will resume the annual visit to the so-called Temple of Heaven, and, passing alone into the sacred, circular, blue-domed chamber, will report his shortcomings at what is really considered to be an interview with the Most High. 1 The less impressive parts of the ceremony are to consist of genuflexion and burnt
offerings; and there is now a proviso that every citizen shall be free to worship in his own family, so as to secure uniformity. Unfortunately, ever since the days of Chu Fu Tzŭ, the idea of a Supreme Ruler of the universe has been much obscured for the people at large by the glorification of Confucius. It is true that the term is still familiar in such sayings as, "God's eye is upon you!" "You can deceive man but not God!" "Do your duty, and leave the rest to God!"and many others of the kind; still, what the literati have urged for centuries upon the masses is the veneration of Confucius, and not the fear and love of God.
Mr Balfour asserted in his Gifford Lectures that a world without God is a world in which æsthetic and ethical values are greatly diminished, sublimely indifferent to the fact that æsthetic and ethical values have nowhere been so high-pitched as in China and Japan, where for many centuries past God has been almost a negligible quantity. But if it be true in a general sense, as Mr Balfour claims, that a "theistic setting" in human affairs is for the well-being of mankind, then China has now a chance which should not be missed. The Republic is crying out for a State religion. In the words of a famous Chinese poet,
[paragraph continues] Let the Chinese people be encouraged, by the erection of temples and by forms of prayer, to join in the old unitarian worship of four thousand years
ago. Let them transfer to Tien, God, discarding the Duality caused by the later introduction of Shang Ti, all those thoughts of reverence and gratitude which have been centred so long upon the human, to the neglect of the divine. Their stirring battle-cry would then be, "There is no God but God, and Confucius is His Prophet!" 1
263:1 "On Dec. 23 President Yuan Shih-kai, as head of the nation and therefore as direct successor to the Emperor of China, performed the worship of heaven at the Temple of Heaven in accordance with the old-time ceremonial. The old ritual was closely followed, except that there was no burning of a whole bullock, and the kowtow was dispensed with, the President merely bowing to the altar where emperors prostrated themselves. Also, the emperors used to spend the night before the sacrifice in a hall adjoining the altar in meditation and fasting. President Yuan was not absent from his palace for more than an hour all told.
"He wore a gorgeous dressa kind of "mortar-board" hat tied with purple strings beneath the chin, and adorned with one enormous pearl surrounded by twelve smaller ones arranged in the shape of an ear of rice; a flowing silk robe embroidered with mystic symbols in red and gold; a red silk skirt fringed with gold; and a heavy gold girdle. The attendant officials were hardly less resplendent. All the sacrificial utensils, drums, and gongs of former years were used, arranged with scrupulous attention to due order.
"Accompanied by music, the chanting of supplications, the burning of incense, and many obeisances, the President ascended the marble steps of the great altar, beneath a cloudless sky, and offered, with appropriate ritual, a blue paper inscribed with prayers written in vermilion, a tray containing the blood and hair of a bullock slaughtered the day before, silk, soup, wine, grain, and jade. All except the jade were then burnt in the great brazier adjoining the altar" (London and China Telegraph, Feb. 1, 1915).
265:1 "Mr Annand (a missionary) reports, with regard to the condition of affairs in the northern provinces, that there has been no evidence of the anti-foreign or anti-Christian feeling which was so prevalent a few years ago, but that there has been a very distinct revival of pagan worship and customs, which in the heyday of the 'reformation' had fallen into disfavour. Confucianism also has been resuscitated, and is now supported strenuously by scholars and those in authority, but its revival is only a phase of the present state of unrest" (London and China Telegraph, April 19, 1915).