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it was still more populous than extensive. The last
computation we know, and that was confined to
the fifteen provinces which compose China, properly
so called, amounted to nearly sixty millions of sen-
sible men; without including veteran soldiers, old

The Chinese. 23

men above sixty, young men under twenty, the
mandarins, the multitude of learned persons, or the
bonzes : much less the women, who are everywhere
in proportion to the other sex, nearly as fourteen to
fifteen, according to the observation of those who
have made the most exact calculations touching the
human species. At this rate, we can hardly suppose
there are fewer than one hundred and fifty millions
of inhabitants in China. Europe contains little more
than a hundred millions, reckoning twenty in
France, twenty-two in Germany, four in Hungary,
ten in the whole extent of Italy, as far as Dalmatia,
eight in Great Britain and Ireland, eight in Spain
and Portugal, ten in European Russia, six in
Poland, as many in Turkey within Europe, Greece,
and the islands, four in Sweden, three in Norway
and Denmark, and about that number in Holland
and the Low Countries. We must not, therefore, be
surprised at the immensity of the Chinese cities;
that Pekin, the new capital of the empire, should be
nearly six leagues in circumference, and contain
about four millions of people; and there was for-
merly a still greater number in Nankin, the ancient
metropolis; or that a million of inhabitants should
live in one village called Quientzeng, where the por-
celain is manufactured.

The forces of this empire, according to the rela-
tions of the most intelligent travellers, consist of a
standing army amounting to eight hundred thousand
men well paid : five hundred and seventy thousand

24 Ancient and Modern History.

horses are maintained, either in the stables or pas-
ture grounds, belonging to the emperor, for the
cavalry in war, the journeys of the court, and the
use of public courtiers. Several missionaries whom
the emperor Canghi, in these latter times, from the
love of science, allowed to approach his person,
relate that they have attended him in those magnifi-
cent hunting excursions into Great Tartary, when
one hundred thousand horsemen and sixty thousand
infantry marched along in order of battle. This is
a custom immemorial in those countries.

The Chinese cities never had any other fortifica-
tions than such as common sense dictated to all
nations, before the use of artillery, namely : a ditch,
rampart, and strong wall with turrets: even since
the Chinese began to use cannon, they have not
imitated the Europeans in the structure of their
fortified places. Other nations have fortified towns :
the Chinese have fortified their whole empire. The
great wall that separates and divides China from
the Tartars, built one hundred and thirty-seven
years before Christ, still remains through an extent
of five hundred leagues, rising to the tops of moun-
tains, descending over precipices, being almost
everywhere twenty feet in thickness, and above
thirty feet high ; a monument superior to the pyra-
mids of Egypt, both in usefulness and immensity.
This bulwark, however, could not hinder the Tar-
tars, in the sequel, from taking advantage of the
internal troubles of China, so as to subdue the

The Chinese. 25

empire. But the constitution of it was neither
weakened nor changed: the country of the con-
querors became part of the empire they had sub-
dued ; and the Manchu Tartars, who are now mas-
ters of China, have only submitted, sword in hand,
to the laws of the country they invaded.

The ordinary revenue of the emperor, according
to the most probable calculations, amounts to two
hundred millions of ounces of silver. It must be
observed, that the ounce of silver is not intrinsically
worth one hundred sols, as the history of China
asserts : for there is no such thing as intrinsic value
in coin: but, rating our silver mark at fifty livres,
the sum will amount to twelve hundred and fifty
millions of French money, as it stood in the year one
thousand seven hundred and forty; I say at this
time, because the arbitrary value of money has
changed but too often in this kingdom ; and perhaps
will change again. This is a circumstance not suffi-
ciently considered by writers, who, being more con-
versant in books than with business, are often very
erroneous in their valuation of foreign money.
The Chinese had gold and silver coin long before
the darics were coined in Persia. The emperor
Canghi had a collection of three thousand different
coins, among which were several ' Indian pieces,
another proof of the antiquity of the arts in Asia ;
but, for a long time, gold has not been used as cur-
rent coin in China ; and is now become a commodity,
as in Holland. Silver no longer passes current, but

26 Ancient and Modern History.

is sold according to its weight and standard : copper
is the only coin that maintains an arbitrary value in
this country. The government, in hard times, paid
in paper ; an expedient since used in more than one
state of Europe; but the Chinese never made use
of public banks, which augment the riches of a
nation by multiplying its credit.

This country, the favorite of nature, possesses
almost all the fruits which have been transplanted
into Europe, and many others which we do not
enjoy. Their lands are covered with corn, rice,
vines, pulse, and trees of every kind ; but the natives
never make wine, being satisfied with a kind of
liquid which they extract from rice. Those precious
insects which produce silk are natives of China,
from whence they were conveyed not a great while
ago to Persia, together with the art of making stuffs
of the down that covers them. These stuffs were so
rare, that even in the days of Justinian, silk was sold
in Europe for its weight in gold. Fine paper of a
shining white has been made by the Chinese from
time immemorial, with the fibre of bamboo cane
boiled in water. We are ignorant of the era at
which they began to manufacture porcelain, and that
fine varnish which the Europeans begin to imitate
with such success. They have, for these two thousand
years, known the art of making glass, though not in
such perfection as it has attained in Europe. About
the same time they invented the art of printing : this,
we know, is the method of engraving letters on

The Chinese. 27

boards of wood, as first practised by Gutenberg
at Mentz, in the fifteenth century. It is brought to
greater perfection in China, where they have not yet
adopted our method of using movable types of cast
metal, though greatly superior to theirs; so much
are they attached to their old customs. The use of
bells, among the Chinese, is of great antiquity.
They have made some progress in chemistry; and,
without becoming good naturalists, invented gun-
powder, though they made no use of it, but at fes-
tivals, in fireworks, an art in which they surpassed
all other nations. The Portuguese, in these latter
ages, taught them the use of artillery; and they
learned the art of casting cannon from the Jesuits.
Though the Chinese did not exercise their talents
in the invention of those destructive instruments,
they deserve no praise from that circumstance, as
they have maintained wars notwithstanding. They
made no further progress in astronomy, than as it
is the science of the eyes, and the fruit of patience.
They observed the heavens with great assiduity;
remarked all the phenomena which appeared, and
transmitted them to posterity. They, like us, divided
the sun's annual course into three hundred and
sixty-five and one-quarter parts : they had a con-
fused idea of the precession of the equinoxes, and the
solstices ; and, what perhaps is still more remark-
able, they divided the months into weeks of seven
days. They still show the instruments used by one
of their famous astronomers, a thousand years

28 Ancient and Modern History.

before the Christian era, in one of their towns
which is but of the third order. Nankin, the ancient
capital, preserves a brass globe, which three men can
hardly clasp in their embrace, sustained upon a cube
of copper that opens : into this, a man is introduced
to turn the globe, on which they have marked the
meridians and parallels. In Pekin, there is an
observatory furnished with astrolabes and armillary
spheres; instruments, which, though inferior to
ours in point of accuracy, serve as illustrious
proofs of that superiority which the Chinese main-
tained over the other nations of Asia. True it is,
though they knew the compass, they did not apply
it to its proper use of directing the course of vessels
at sea. Their navigation was performed along
shore. Possessed of a country that supplies all
their wants, they have no occasion to roam, like the
Europeans, to the ends of the earth. They con-
sidered the compass, as well as gunpowder, in the
light of simple curiosities; nor were they to be
pitied for their simplicity.

It is surprising that this people, so happy at
invention, have never penetrated beyond the ele-
ments of geometry; that in music they are even
ignorant of semitones; and that their astronomy,
with all their other sciences, should be at once so
ancient and imperfect. Nature seems to have
bestowed on this species of men, so different from
the Europeans, organs sufficient to discover all at
once, what was necessary to their happiness, but

The Chinese. 29

incapable to proceed further : we, on the other hand,
were tardy in our discoveries; but then we have
speedily brought everything to perfection. The
credulity with which those people have always
joined the absurdities of judicial astrology to the
true theory of the heavens, is not so surprising.
That superstition was once common to all mankind :
we ourselves have not been long cured of it; so
incident, is error to the human mind.

If we inquire why so many arts and sciences, so
long cultivated without interruption in China, have
nevertheless made so little progress, perhaps we
shall discover two causes that have retarded their
improvement. One is the prodigious respect paid
by these people to everything transmitted from their
progenitors. This invests whatever is antique with
an air of perfection. The other is the nature of
their language, which is the first principle of all
knowledge. The art of communicating ideas by
writing, which should be plain and simple, is with
them a task of the utmost difficulty. Every word is
represented under a different character; and he is
deemed the most learned, who knows the greatest
number of characters. Some studious persons
among the Chinese have grown old before they could
learn to write with facility. What they best know,
cultivate the most, and have brought to the greatest
perfection, is morality, and the study of law. Filial
respect is the foundation of the Chinese government.
Paternal authority is never infringed. A son can-

jo Ancient and Modern History.

not carry on a process against his father, without
the consent of all the relations and friends, and even
of the magistrates. The learned mandarins are con-
sidered as the parents of the cities and provinces,
and the emperor as the common father of the empire.
This idea, rooted in their hearts, has formed, as it
were, one family of this whole immense community.

All the vices exist here as in other countries, but
surely they are more restricted by the curb of laws
consistent and uniform. The learned author of
"Admiral Anson's Voyage " expresses great con-
tempt for China, because the vulgar at Canton
exerted all their artifice to cheat the English. But
are we to judge the government of a mighty nation
by the morals of the populace in its frontier places ?
Pray, what would the Chinese have said of us, had
they suffered shipwreck on our coasts, when the law
of nations in Europe confiscated the effects, and
custom authorized the murder of the owners ?

The continual ceremonies, which, among the
Chinese, lay a restraint on society, and are never
omitted, except among particular friends within
their respective houses, have established through
the whole empire a reserve and decorum, which
invest their behavior with an air of gravity and
sweetness. These qualities extend even to the low-
est of the people. The missionaries relate, that
frequently in the public streets, amidst that embar-
rassment and confusion, which in our country excite
such barbarous clamor, and such brutal quarrels,

The Chinese. 31

they have seen the Chinese peasants throw them-
selves on their knees, to ask pardon of each other
for the stop of carriages, which every one laid to
his own charge, and mutually assist in disengaging
the whole, without noise or tumult.

In other countries, the laws punish the commis-
sion of crimes ; in China they do more ; they recom-
pense the practice of virtue. The report of a gener-
ous and rare action being diffused through a
province, the mandarin is obliged to give notice of
it to the emperor, who bestows some mark of honor
upon him who has so well deserved it. This kind
of morality, this submission to the laws, joined to
the adoration of a Supreme Being, form that religion
which is professed by the emperor and learned men
of China. The emperor has been high priest from
time immemorial. He sacrifices to Tien, the sover-
eign of heaven and of earth. He is said to be the
chief philosopher, and first preacher of the empire.
His edicts are generally instructions and lessons of



CONFUCIUS, who flourished two thousand three hun-
dred years ago, a little before the time of Pythagoras,
established that religion which is founded upon
virtue. He taught and practised it, both in his eleva-
tion and humiliation; sometimes prime minister to

32 Ancient and Modern History.

a king that was tributary to the emperor: some-
times an exile, fugitive, and indigent. During his
life, he had five thousand disciples; and after his
death his doctrine was embraced by the emperors,
the colao, that is, the mandarins, the men of letters,
and all but the lower class of people. His family
still survive; and in a country where there is no
other nobility than that derived from actual service,
it is distinguished from other families, in honor of
its founder. To his own memory they pay all
honor: not those divine honors to which no man
can have any title, but such as are due to a man
who communicated the most rational ideas of the
divinity, which human nature could conceive with-
out the help of revelation. For this reason, Father
Lecomte, and other missionaries affirm, that the
Chinese had knowledge of the true God, when
other nations were sunk in idolatry; and that they
sacrificed to him in the most ancient temple of the
universe. The charge of atheism, which in these
western regions is so liberally thrown at all who
differ from us in point of opinion, has been likewise
urged against the Chinese. Yet none but such
inconsiderate people as we are, in all our disputes
would presume to treat a government as atheistical,
which, in almost every edict, mentions " a Supreme
Being, the father of all nations, who rewards and
punishes according to the rules of eternal justice;
and who has established between himself and his
creatures, a correspondence of prayers and benefits,

The Chinese. 33

faults and chastisements." Their religion, indeed,
does not admit of rewards and punishment to all
eternity; and this very circumstance denotes its
antiquity. Moses himself, in the Pentateuch, has
not mentioned a future state. The Sadducees
among the Jews never believed in immortality ; and
this doctrine did not prevail, until happily established
after the incarnation by the Lord of life and death.
It is supposed, that the men of letters among the
Chinese had no distinct idea of an immaterial God ;
but it was unjust to infer from thence, that they
were atheists. The ancient Egyptians, so famous
for their religion, did not worship Isis and Osiris as
pure spirits. All the deities of antiquity were
adored under a human form ; and what shows the
flagrant injustice of mankind, even among the
Greeks, those were stigmatized with the appellation
of atheists, who did not admit of corporeal deities,
but in the divinity adored a nature unknown, invis-
ible, and incomprehensible.

The famous archbishop Navarrete says, that
according to all the interpreters of the sacred books
in China, " the soul is deemed an aerial, igneous
particle, which, when separated from the body, is
reunited to the substance of the heavens." This is
the very opinion of the Stoics, which Virgil has so
admirably unfolded in the sixth book of the
" -^Eneid." Now, certain it is, neither the writings
of Epictetus, nor the " ^neid," are infected with

atheism. We have calumniated the Chinese, merely
Vol. 24-3

34 Ancient and Modern History.

because they differ from us in their system of meta-
physics. We should rather admire in them two
articles of merit, which at once condemn the super-
stition of the pagans, and the morals of the Chris-
tians. The religion of their learned men was never
dishonored by fables, nor stained with quarrels or
civil wars. In the very act of charging the govern-
ment of that vast empire with atheism, we have been
so inconsistent as to accuse it of idolatry ; an impu-
tation that refutes itself. The great misunderstand-
ing that prevails concerning the rites of the Chinese,
arose from our judging their customs by our own;
for we carry our prejudices, and spirit of conten-
tion along with us, even to the extremities of the
earth. Genuflexion, which among them is a common
compliment, we consider as an act of adoration;
we have likewise mistaken a table for an altar : thus
we may judge of every other circumstance. We
shall see, in its proper place, the manner in which
our missionaries were driven from China, by our
own divisions and disputes.

Some time before the era of Confucius, Loa-kiun
had introduced a sect that believed in evil spirits,
enchantments, and other delusions. Another sect,
resembling that of Epicurus, was received and
opposed in China, five hundred years before Jesus
Christ: but, in the first century of our era, that
country was deluged by the superstition of the
bonzes. They imported from India the idol Fo, or
Foe, which was adored under different names, by the

The Chinese.


Japanese and the Tartars, as a god that descended
upon earth. The worship of this deity was
extremely ridiculous and therefore the better
adapted for the vulgar. This religion arose in
India, about one thousand years before Christ, and
infected all the eastern parts of Asia. This was the
god which the bonzes preached in China, the tala-
poins in Siam, and the lamas in Tartary. It is in
his name they promise eternal life, and that thou-
sands of bonzes devote their lives to exercises of pen-
ance, which are horrible to nature. Some of these
enthusiasts lead their lives stark naked and in
chains ; while others wear huge iron collars that
bend their bodies double, and keep their foreheads
grovelling in the dust. Their fanaticism is infinitely
subdivided. They are supposed to cast out devils,
and to work miracles ; and they sell absolution to
the people. Some mandarins have been reconciled
to this sect; and by an infatuation, which proves
that the same superstition prevails in every country,
they have even been known to undergo the torture
as bonzes, from motives of devotion. It is this very
sect, which in Tartary, has at its head the Dalai-
Lama, a living idol whom they adore ; and this, per-
haps, is the greatest triumph of human superstition.
The Dalai-Lama, as the successor and vicar of the
god Foe, is supposed to be immortal. The priests
keep in reserve a young lama, designed in private
to succeed the sovereign pontiff, and accordingly he
assumes that place, when this, who is deemed

36 Ancient and Modern History.

immortal, happens to die. The Tartar princes never
speak to him except on the bended knee. He is
supreme judge of all points of controversy among
the lamas. In a word, he has been for some time
established on the throne of Thibet, on the west of
China. The emperor receives his ambassadors, and
returns the compliment with very considerable pres-

These sects are tolerated in China, for the use of
the vulgar, as coarse aliment raised for their sub-
sistence ; while the magistrates and persons of edu-
cation, who are in everything distinguished from
the vulgar, feed on a purer substance. Confucius,
however, was grieved at this multitude of errors,
and at the number of idolaters who prevailed in his
time ; the sect of Lao-kiun having introduced many
superstitions among the common people ; insomuch
that he expresses himself thus in one of his books:
" How comes it that we find the ignorant populace
guilty of so many more crimes than the learned?
Because the people are governed by their bonzes."

Indeed many of the learned themselves have fallen
into the error of materialism: but this has had
no effect upon their morality. They think virtue is
so necessary to mankind, and so amiable in itself,
that there is no need for the knowledge of a
God, to make it loved and followed. Besides, we
must not imagine that all the Chinese materialists
are atheists: the first fathers of our own church
believed that God and His angels were corporeal.

The Chinese. 37

It is pretended that about the eighth century, dur-
ing the reign of Charlemagne, the Christian religion
was known in China. We are assured that the mis-
sionaries found in the province of Kingsching, an
inscription in the Syriac and Chinese characters.
This monument, which is to be seen at length in
Kircher, attests, that a holy man called Olopiien,
conducted by the blue clouds, and observing the
blowing of the winds, arrived from Tacin at China
in the year 1092 of the era of the Seleucides, answer-
ing to the year of Christ 636; that as soon as he
reached the suburbs of the imperial city, the emperor
sent a colao to receive him, and caused the Christian
church to be built for his devotion. This inscription
evidently appears to be one of those pious frauds
which always meet with too easy credit: the sage
Navarrete is of the same opinion. The country of
Tacin, the era of the Seleucides, the word Olopiien,
which, though said to be Chinese, resembles a Span-
ish surname, the blue clouds that served as con-
ductors, the Christian church suddenly built at
Pekin for a priest of Palestine, that could not set
foot in China without incurring the penalties of
death : all these circumstances compared, demon-
strate the absurdity of the supposition. Those who
are at such pains to support it, do not reflect that the
priests whose names appear on this pretended monu-
ment were Nestorians ; and therefore they are only
contesting in favor of heretics.

This inscription is of a piece with another found

38 Ancient and Modern History.

in Malabar, saying that St. Thomas arrived in that
country in the quality of a carpenter, with a rule
and stake; and that he carried on his shoulders a
huge beam, as a proof of his mission. There is
plenty of historical truths, without intermingling
such absurd falsities. It is very certain that in the
time of Charlemagne, the Christian religion, as well
as the nations that professed it, were utterly unknown
in China. Jews there certainly were in this empire :
several families of that nation, equally vagrant and
superstitious, had been settled in China two centuries
before the Christian era. There they exercised the
profession of courtiers, which the Jews have fol-
lowed in all parts of the world.

I purposely omit taking a view of Siam, Japan,
and all the other countries towards the east and
south, until I shall come to speak of that period
at which the industry of the Europeans opened an
easy way to the extremities of our hemisphere.



IN following the sun's apparent course, I first
arrive at India, or Indostan, a country not quite so
extensive as China, and better known by the precious
commodities which the industry of merchants has at
all times imported from it, than by any accurate
accounts. An almost continuous chain of mountains
seems to have fixed its limits on the side of China,

The Indies. 39

Tartary, and Persia; and the rest is surrounded
by the sea. Nevertheless, India, on this side the
Ganges, was long subject to the Persians; there-
fore Alexander, the avenger of Greece, and con-
queror of Darius, extended his conquests as far as

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