"To retain laws and customs according to the traditionary manner, and to extend these laws and customs to other lands," was the precept of the founders of the Celestial Empire, as well as of other civilised nations. "But this extension," they added, "is not to be effected by the oratorical powers of single messengers, nor through the force of armed hordes. This renovation, as in every other sound organic growth which forces itself from within, can only take place when the Outer Barbarians, irresistibly compelled by the virtue and majesty of the Son of Heaven, blush for their barbarism, voluntarily obey the image of the Heavenly Father, and become men."
It will be readily understood that a race holding such opinions would undertake no voyage of discovery, and attempt no conquests. Not a single instance occurs daring the entire four thousand years of the history of Eastern Asia, of an individual who had travelled in foreign lands for the purpose of adding to his own information or that of others. The journey of Lao-tse--the founder of the religion of the Taosse--
to the West appears to be a tale deliberately invented for the purpose of connecting his doctrine of the Primitive and Infinite 'Wisdom with that of "The Western Mountain of the Gods," or with Buddhism. The campaigns beyond those limits which Nature has assigned to the Chinese Empire, were undertaken merely through the impulse of self-preservation. Men were compelled, in Central as in Eastern Asia, in Thibet as well as on the banks of the Irawaddy, to anticipate the dangers and invasions which, at a later period, threatened the freedom of the Central Empire, and were frequently obliged to send ambassadors or spies into different Asiatic or European countries to obtain information relating to their situation and nature, as well as the condition of their inhabitants, which could guide them in their subsequent warlike or diplomatic relations with the enemies of the Empire.
This land, so blessed by Nature, attracted not only the barbarian desirous of plunder, but also the merchant, since certain productions, such as silk, tea, and true rhubarb, were found only there. The Chinese Government as well as people, influenced by the precepts of their wise men, received strangers graciously so long as they implicitly obeyed, or in any manner evinced fear and submission, and returned the presents which were offered according to Oriental custom with others of still greater value. All the discoveries and experiences, all the knowledge and information which they thus obtained in their peaceful or warlike relations with foreign
nations, were generally recorded in the last division of the "Year-Books" of their own chronicles, forming, in an historical point of view, an inestimable treasure.
In the first century of our reckoning, the pride and vanity induced by the Chinese social system were partly broken by the gradual progress of Buddhism over all Eastern Asia. He who believed in the divine mission of the son of the King of Kapilapura, must recognise every man as his brother and equal by birth; yes, must strive--for the old Buddhistic faith has this in common with the Christian religion--to extend the joyful mission of salvation to all nations on earth, and, to attain this end, must suffer, like the type of the God incarnate, all earthly pain and persecution. So we find that a number of Buddhist monks and preachers have at distant times wandered to all known and unknown parts of the world, either to obtain information with regard to their distant co-religionists, or to preach the doctrine of their Holy Trinity to unbelievers. The official accounts which these missionaries rendered of their travels, and of which we possess several entire, considered as sources of information with regard to different lands and nations, belong to the most instructive and important part of Chinese literature. From these sources we have derived in a great degree that information which we possess regarding North-eastern Asia and the Western Coasts of America, during centuries which have been hitherto veiled in the deepest obscurity.
Pride and vanity form the basis upon which the Chinese built their peculiar system of information regarding other lands and people. Around "the Flower of the Centre," as their sages teach, dwell rude uncivilised races, which are in reality animals, although they have externally human forms. To these rough brutes they apply all manner of abusive epithets, assigning to them the names of dogs, swine, devils, and savages, according to the four points of the compass whence they came. The occasional inquirers and writers of history among the Europeans who have thought it worth their while to cast a glance upon the as yet fallow fields of Eastern and Central Asiatic history, have blindly followed this limited system, which rests upon the narrowest geographic limits, so that races originally without connection were melted into one and the same people; as, for instance, the numerous tribes of the Tartar family.