d. 1894 Terrien de Lacouperie.

The children of China. Written for the children of England online

. (page 11 of 18)
Online Libraryd. 1894 Terrien de LacouperieThe children of China. Written for the children of England → online text (page 11 of 18)
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they are as bad as the}^ can be, they tr}^ to cure them, but as you
will easily imagine, it is often too late then. If a sore breaks, a
doctor will put on what he calls a plaster, really a p)atch of stuff
like pitch, which often makes the sore much worse than it was

There are a great many blind people in China, chiefly because
the doctors do not know how to cure weak or sore eyes. I have
read of a little girl who went to a doctor to see if he could make
her eyes better when they were sore, and what do you think he
did to her ? He got a blunt needle, and picked her j^oor little eye
with it, till he had made a wound a quarter of an inch long ; so it
is no wonder Chinese people go blind, is it? Blind people are
supposed to be able to see things that nobody else can see, and to
tell other people things that are going to happen, so when children
are born blind, or go blind afterwards, they are sent to older blind
people, who teach them how to tell fortunes. It takes them a long
time to learn — till they are thirty years old, and then they can


earn tlieii* own living by fortuue-telling. You will be pleased to
hear that the Bible Society have printed parts of the New Testa-
ment in raised type, on purpose for the blind people in China to
read ; so if only they get this given to them, they can find out
really how to make their own fortunes and how to teach other
people to make theirs, by laying up for themselves/' treasure in
Heaven" ( ). How much have you goi there,

I wonder ? Is your fortune made yet ? Mine is. If yours is all
" laid up " for you, where no one can ever get at it, to take it from
you, then you can give all your thought and care to other people
who have no fortune, except " where moth and rust doth corrupt
and where thieves break through and steal" ( ).

Perhaps if you tell them about your fortune, they will lay one up
for themselves in the same place where yours is. -^_^

Another strange idea in China about sickness is, that there I
are five elements in every person's body — gold (or metal), wood /
(or vegetable), water, fire, and earth, and that as long as tJiere /
is just as much as there ought to be of each of the five, peoj^le will/
be quite well, but that if there is too much of either, there will be
sickness. A Chinese gentleman once said to an English one, " I
used to be so sorry when I saw how much roast meat you ate, but
now I see why it does not hurt you — you drink so much cold
water, and that puts the fire out."

There is a law in China that if a doctor hurts a man so much
that he dies, either with instruments or medicines, he must not be
allowed to be a doctor any longer, and that if he kills his patient
on purpose, he must be beheaded.

If a Chinese man or woman dies, there are a great many
strange things to be done, but they are generally left undone when
children die, or men and women who are not married.

As soon as it is seen that the sick person is really dead, all
the people in the house begin to cry as loudly as they can. The]
spirit of the dead person is supposed to be in the dark, and not to


be able to see the way it has to go, so some candles are lighted as
quickly as possible and put on a chair at the side of the bed ; a
cup of water is put outside the door, so that the spirit ma}^ have a
last drink if he is thirsty. Then a sedan chair, made of bamboo
and j)aper, is burnt, so that he may be able to ride to the spirit-world
instead of walking ; some paper men are burnt to be there to carry
him, and some wine and cakes are sent for their wages ; the food
is not burnt, but only offered up, as the idea is that sj)irits cannot
eat solid food, but that they feed on the essence or smell of it. It
is sup230sed to take a man forty-two days to get to the spirit- world,
and to find out that he has died, A suit of clothes is burnt next,
so that the spirit may look respectable when he arrives in the
spirit-world, and that the police there may treat him like a gentle-
man. A family will often spend nearly all their money in getting
a handsome coffin, to make the spirits believe that their relation
was a very grand man, and must be treated with great respect.
So much is thought of this, that a poor man will sometimes sell
himself to die instead of a rich one who has been condemned to
death, on condition that he may be dressed like a mandarin when
he dies.

Before a dead body is put into a coffin, it has a great many
grave-clothes put on it, sometimes as many as twenty-one gar-
ments, one over the other ; the best are made of red silk lined with
blue, and thickly padded. Then several pieces of cloth are wound
round to keep it all tight, and a mattress and pillow are put in,
so, as you would expect, the coffins have to be very large. They
are very carefully made too, and so heavy that it takes twelve or
sometimes twenty men to carry one. Peoj^le often have their
coffins made long before they die, and keep them either at the
undertaker's or in their own houses ; there are often several to be
seen in one bedroom, belonging to people wdio are alive ; they are
shown to visitors and are thought a great deal of ; a coffin made of
the best wood costs from twenty-five to sixt}^ pounds. It is con-


sidered a mark of great respect for a son to present liis father with
a coffin. The Chinese name for a coffin is ^' Long-Life Wood."

After the coffin-lid is nailed on, all the children of the dead
person, if there are any, go into the ancestral hall and place
there a chair, a table, a footstool, a pair of shoes, and a wooden
frame, on which is hung the pictm-e of the dead man. Incense
is kept burning on the table for seven weeks, and there are also
put on it a pair of candles, a pair of chop-sticks, a bowl to hold
rice, and a cup for wine. The table, chair, and picture are kept
in the room for forty-nine, sixty, or a hundred days ; some families
let them stay for three years. _

The Chinese believe that the king of the spirit- world keeps
a little servant to show the sj^irits the way, so on the corner of
the table they put another pair of chop-sticks and a small bowl
of rice for the servant ; some money is burnt for him too, so that
he may not lead the spirit wrong. This money for the dead is
made of thin paper, cut into square pieces, with a patch of tin-
foil in the middle. Many of the Chinese women spend all their
time in making it ; some of the squares have gold in the middle'
instead of tin. A great deal of it is burnt after any one dies, so
that he may be able to bribe the officers in the spirit-world to
be kind to him, for the Chinese think that in the world of spirits!
things are very much like they are in this world, and you'
remember a great deal of bribery goes on in Chinese prisons
and courts of justice.

Three bowls of rice are offered for the dead man, to comfort
him before he starts on his journey. One of his three souls is
supposed to stay near the table, so early in the morning some
warm water is put there, for him to wash with if he likes, and
twice a day rice and vegetables are brought for him to eat. At
bed-time every one in the house wishes him good-night. If his
wife is alive, she is expected, in some parts of the countr}-, to
kneel for a day and a night at the head of the coffin.




As long as the coffin stays in the house, which is often a
very long tnne, the dead man's sons sleep on some straw near


it, to keep him company through the night, and any visitors
who come to the house bow down before the picture, one of the
family alwa3^s worshipping with them. Some woman of the
family, hidden where no one can see her, cries bitterly wliile
this worship goes on. [

Before the table is taken away, dishes of food, such as pork,
fowls, beans, rice, wine, and tea are placed on it, and the dead
man is supposed to know by this that for the future he will have
to cook his own food, for his friends do not intend to look after
him any longer, but they burn a great deal of paper money so
that he may be able to take care of himself. When the table
is taken away an ancestral tablet is put in its place. This is a
small, four-cornered piece of wood, higher than it is broad, on
which is written the name of the dead man, the date of his birth
and death; and sometimes his office. Every morning and night
the father of the family, or one of the sons, burns incense and
worships before this tablet, and twice every year an offering is
made before it of rice, candles, wine, money — everything that
the spirit could possibly want.

The Chinese believe that after five generations the spirit may
come back to the world in another body, so after that time they
do not worship the tablet. Some of the poor people are obliged
to bury their friends a few days after they die; this is looked
upon as a sign of the very greatest poverty, and is called '' Blood
Burial," because the dead person's blood is supposed not to be
dried up so soon.

In Pekin nobody is allowed to die in a bed, if it can be
helped, for fear the spirit should haunt it afterwards.

When a woman is put in her coffin, a great deal of jewellery
is put on her ; her bracelets are put by her side, but not on her
arms, for fear the spirit should use them as handcuffs for lier.
A mandarin never wears his necklace in his coffin, in case it should
be used as a chain to bind him. No fur is ever put on a dead


body either, for fear the dead person's spnit might make a mistake
and go into one of the animals from which tlie fm* was taken,
thinking it was tlie body that he belonged to.

There are a great many other forms to be gone through when
any one dies, some in one part of the country and some in another,
but I think I have told you quite enough to show you what a
dreary thing death is to the poor Chinese, and how much they need
to be taught of Him who " hath abolished death, and brought life
and immortality to light through the Gospel " ( ).

A funeral is never allowed to take place on an even day
of the month ; it is believed that if this were done, someone else
belonging to the family would die very soon. If a man is rich
enough, he will always be buried in his native place, even if he
died a long way from it. No graves are allowed in cities or

( A Chinese funeral is very noisy. Gongs are beaten, and fire-
works are let off, as the j^rocession goes to the grave, while
servants scatter paper money along the road to keep the evil
spirits busy, so that they shall do no mischief. When the pro-
cession gets to the grave, it is often found that there are a great
many beggars sitting in it, who will not come out till they have
some money given to them ; they will not be satisfied with paper
money either, but will have real cash.

A great many paper things are burnt at the grave for the
dead man, — houses, clothes, furniture, servants, all kinds of things.
While they are being sacrificed, the tablet of the dead man stands
by the gi-ave ; the people all kneel down before it, and the eldest
son prays that the bones and flesh of his father may go into the
earth, but that his spirit may go into the tablet. After the fimeral,
the tablet is taken home and put into a niche that has been got
ready for it in the ancestral hall, where it stays for a long time,
in some places for three years, in others for five. Of the man's
other two spirits, one is supposed to stay in the body, and the



other to go to the spirit- world. If the family of the man is not
rich enough to have an ancestral hall, the tablet is put in the
best room of the house on a shelf.

All the visitors who go to a funeral help to bear the expense
of it.

You see there is no religious service at a funeral. Nobody-
knows anything about Jesus, who said, " I am the Resurrection
and the Life ; he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet
shall he live " ( ). It is all darkness and uncer-

tainty and gloom, as death must always be to those who do not
know Jesus. Is death a gloomy thing to you ? If it is, I can
only say — Seek Jesus ; and when you have found Him, you
will know what those other words mean — " He that liveth and
beUeveth in me shall never die" ( ).




HE religion of Chiaa is, in many ways, among the
strangest in the world. I said religion, but I did not
mean by that that there is only one religion in China ;
there are three chief religions, — Confucianism, Tanism,
and Buddhism, but one strange thing about them is that
many Chinese believe more or less in all three, and
belong to each as much as to the others, though there are a few
who believe in one and not in any other. The learned men and
the mandarins like Confucianism best, while the poor, ignorant
people prefer the other two.

Confucianism, the oldest religion in China, can hardly be
called a religion at all, as it only teaches about man, and about
this life ; not about God, nor about what will happen to men after
death. Buddhism partly makes up for this, as it does teach about
another world, and how it may be prepared for, but it never
teaches that God has anything to do with men while they are in
this world ; Tauism teaches that the earth and the sea and the
sky are all full of gods who care for men while they are alive ; so
you can see how a Chinaman may be a Confucianist, a Buddhist,
and a Tauist all at once, worshipping the gods whose help he
feels he most needs. All his prayers, however, will be selfish,
asking for the things he wants; he will never ask to be made
holy, or to have his sins forgiven ; all he thiuks about is getting
on well in this world.



Yet the Cliinese believe that their souls will live for ever,
and that after death there will be rewards for sorae and punish-
ment for others. Kewards they say are of two kinds, — first to be
saved fi-om punishment, and secondly, to be made greater and
richer the next time they are born into the world, than they were
before ; but as in this world, so in the next, they think that they
can escape punishment by bribing the officers, so the fear of what
they may have to suffer in the next world has very little, if any,
power to keep them from doing wrong in this one. They think
too that they can save money in this world and get it in the next ;
they do not know that God has taught ns, "We brought nothing
into this world, neither may we carry anything out " ( ).

Nobody knows how many temples there are in China. If we
reckon by the number to be found in one city, Ningpo, we may
suppose that there are in China as many as three hundred thou-
sand, built for the worship of men who liave become gods, of whom
about thirty thousand different ones are worshipped ; there are
many temples in different places for the same idol, that is why
there are more temples than gods. Besides these, there are the
temples of the Tauist and Buddhist idols, of which there are
about three hundred thousand more, and temples for the worship
of ancestors, of which there are many more than of any other sort ;
so that we may safely say there are about a million temples in
China, costing altogether about two hundred million pounds, be-
sides all that is spent for sacrifices, and in mending the temples.

Buddhist sacrifices are generally vegetables ; the others are
fowls, fish, or pork ; the food used in sacrifices is afterwards eaten
by the people who offered them. The Chinese never think, in
offering sacrifices, that they are giving something else instead of
themselves, or that the sacrifices have anything to do with sin or
forgiveness ; they only give them as presents to the gods or to
then- dead fidends.

One thing in which the Chinese religion is better than the


Hiutlii is, that there are no wicked gods ; if a man is made a
god, it is a reward for his goodness, so if the people do not
love their gods, at least they respect them.
But now I must tell you ahout


the founder of the religion called Confucianism. He was horn
B.C. 551, in the Province of Shantung, when his father w^as more
than seventy years old. He was of royal descent, and his ances-
tors can he traced hack for 2,700 years before Christ. His father
died before he was three years old, when his mother was left
very poor. We know very little of what happened to Confucius
while he was little, but he tells us himself that by the time he
was fifteen years old he had made up his mind to be learned
and clever. He married when he was about nineteen, and the
next year he had a little boy, whom he named Li, and v/ho
was his only son. At this time his business was to take charge
of some stores of grain ; afterwards he looked after some public

When he was nearly twenty-thre6, he began to teach, not
little boys, but grown-up men, who found out that he was very
wise and learned, and came to ask him questions. He did not
make them pay him much for teaching them, but he would only
help those who reahy wanted to learn. In this same year,
B.C. 528, his mother died, and this was a great trouble to him,
for he loved her very much. He had his father's coffin dug up
out of his grave and carried, with his mother's coffin, to the place
where his ancestors had Hved, and there he buried them both
together, and his scholars raised a monument over the grave.

For the next ten years Confucius went on studying and
teaching. Then a great Chinese minister died, leaving orders that
his son should go to Confucius to be taught, so after this he
was much more famous, and richer too. He visited Pekiu, and


there lie met Lfio-tsze, the founder of the Tauist religion. Then
he returned to his home and went on teaching, thousands of men
coming to learn from him ; they did not live with him, hut came
to him when they wanted advice.

In B.C. 500 Confucius was made the chief magistrate of the
town Chung-tu, and the people there hecame at once so orderly
and well-behaved, that a higher magistrate, the Marquis of Lu,
asked him whether the laws by which he governed this town
would not do for the whole State. Confucius said yes, so he
was raised at once to a higher post, that of Assistant Minister
of Crime ; but his power over the people was so great, that there
was no crime in the State, and no one to be punished, so of
course the State got very great, and all the ministers of the
States round it grew jealous, especially the Marquis of Chi, who
tried by presents to persuade the Marquis of Lu to separate from
Confucius. He succeeded in this, and Confucius soon left the
State, and travelled from one place to another for thirteen years
with some of his disciples, hoping to find a ruler somewhere
who would be wise enough to govern according to his advice,
but in vain. After suffering a great deal of want he came back
to Lu, where the Marquis received him very kindly. Confucius
did no more public work, but spent all his time in reading and

One morning he got up very early, and with his staff walked
about outside his door, saying, "The great mountain must
crumble, tlie strong beam must break, and the wise man wither
away like a plant." After a little time he went into the house
and sat down. One of his disciples had heard what he had said,
and thought to himself, " If the great mountain crumbles, what
shall I lean on? I am afraid the master is going to be ill." Tlien
he too w^ent into the house, and Confucius told him a dream he
had had in the night, which he thought must mean that he was
going to die; and then he said, "There is no wise king, no



priuce in the kiugdom will make me his master, my time has
come to die; " and so it had, for he very soon went to hed, and
seven days after he died, in b.c. 477. His disciples gave him a
very grand funeral ; some of them built tents near his grave
and lived in them for three years.

After Confucius was dead, the Chinese began to find out how
wise he was, and to worship him. In a.d. 57 a law was passed
that sacrifices should be offered to him in all government colleges.


and now there is a temple to him in every large town in the
Empire. In these temples sacrifices are off"ered to Confucius in
spring and autumn. The emperor goes himself at these times
to the royal college at Pekin, and sacrifices to Confucius and his
four chief disciples. There are no images to Confucius, because
the Chinese say that if they made images of him it would be
treating him as if he were no better than any other god, so instead
of an image there is a tablet in the most public place in every


temple, on which is written in gold letters, "The Great and Holy

Confucius said himself that he did not make anew religion, hut
only passed on an old one, which he found out from the old hooks.
He taught a great many wise lessons to his disciples. He was
the first we know of who taught what we call " the Golden Eule."
The Lord Jesus said, *' Whatsoever ye would that men should
do unto you, even so do unto them " ( ). Confucius

never heard of the Bible, and lived five hundred years hefore
Jesus was horn into the world, yet one of his sayings was, " What
you do not want done to yourselves, do not do to others." But
after all, though the two rules sound very much alike, there is more
in what Jesus said than in what Confucius said, for Confucius
only said really, "Do not do an}^ harm to any one," hut Jesus
said, " Do good to every one," and there is that difference between
Confucianism and Christianity ; Confucianism tells people not to
do wrong, Christianity tells them to do right, and teaches them
too how to get the wrong forgiven, and how to get the power to
do right. Confucius could teach neither of these two things, for
he did not know them himself.

Confucius taught nothing at all about what happens to people
after death, except that their souls live on.

The teachings of Confucius are all found in the S-shu, or
"The Four Books," and the Wu-King or "The Five Classics."
The Four Books are : —

Geeat Leaeking, which contains eleven parts, of which
Part I. was written by Confucius ; the ten other parts are all
about Part I.

The Doctrine of the Mean, composed by a grandson of

The Sayings of Confucius, written by his disciples after his

The Teachings of Mencius.


The Five Classics are : —

The Yi-KiN(i, or Book of Changes, which gives the Chinese
stoiy of the creation of the workl and of the changes which it says
are always taking place in Nature.

The Shu-King, the oldest book in China. This is not perfect,
as there are only fifty-eight pieces out of a hundred ; the rest were
destroyed in the great fire I told you about in the History chapter.
It is about the two great Emperors Yao and Shun, whose sayings
Confucius quotes as being patterns of perfection.

The Shih-Kixg, or Book of Odes, contains about a hundi-ed
sacred songs, chosen by Confucius ; every well-educated China-
man can repeat all the most famous ones.

The Ly-King, or Book of Eites, is full of laws about manners
and behaviour, and as the Chinese always act according to this
book, you can understand how it happens that their manners
to-day are just the same as they were two hundred years ago.

Chun-t-sien, or Spring and Autumn, gives the history of Con-
fucius' own time, written by himself. It is called " Spring and
Autumn" because the examples and teaching it gives are said to
be life-giving like spring, and its rebukes withering like autumn.

These nine books teach history, the laws of Grovernment,
biography, poetry, but hardly any religion, and yet they are the
great sacred books of the Chinese.

The chief things Confucius taught about, were what he called
the Five Eelations and the Five Virtues. The Five Eelations are
those between emperor and subject, father and son, liusband and
wife, elder and younger brother, friend and friend ; but you see
the highest relation of all, that between God and man, is left out
altogether. The five virtues are Benevolence, Eighteousness,
Propriety, Knowledge, and Faith, and this is what Confucius
meant by them. Benevolence — what you do not want done to
yourself, do not do to others. Eighteousness — that which your
conscience tells you ought to be done. Propriety — outward forms,

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Online Libraryd. 1894 Terrien de LacouperieThe children of China. Written for the children of England → online text (page 11 of 18)