d. 1894 Terrien de Lacouperie.

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

. (page 13 of 18)
Online Libraryd. 1894 Terrien de LacouperieThe children of China. Written for the children of England → online text (page 13 of 18)
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if we are Christians, we ought to be like lotus-flowers, in the world


and yet unspotted by the world ( ), with sin all

round us, and yet kept from the evil." ( .)

The Buddhists believe in a place like the Purgatory of the
Eoman Catholics, where people are sent after death, to be punished
for their sins and made holy. Tho punishments ai'e — pounding
in a mortar, being sawn in two, or tied to burning pillars. Liars
have their tongues cut out, and thieves are thrown on a hill made
of knives. After being tried in Purgatory, the good people are
sent to Paradise for a time ; the middling ones come back to earth
in other bodies, to be rich and honoured ; the wicked either come
back in the bodies of animals, or are sent to Hell.

The poor Buddhists have really no Heaven, you see, and no
hope worth having. They have no Sabbath either.

There are many Buddhist temples in China and many priests.
Some of the temples are very large and some are small. Some
have monasteries belonging to them, where the priests live, as
many as two hundred together sometimes. Some are built by
private gentlemen, and some by public subscriptions, while some
belong to the Government. You will be glad to hear that two
Chinese gentlemen, who had built temples for Buddha, have given
them up to the missionaries for churches.

There are a great many idols in the Buddhist temples ; most
of them are men who are supposed to have been taken into
Buddha and become part of him ; altogether there are more
than six thousand gods of this kind alone. There are generally
more women than men to be found worshipping in these temples,
and more old women than young ones. The gods' birthdays are
generally the days when most people go to worship them.

The Buddhist priests get their food chiefly by begging. They
shave all the hair off their heads, and in many ways are very much
like Roman Catholic priests. They do not marry, they fast, pray
for the dead, use holy water, and worship relics. They say their
prayers in a language which they do not understand — Sauscrit,


because it is the language iu which Buddha wrote his books.
Mauy people think that a great deal of the religion of the
Buddhists in China was added to the old Buddhism as it came
from India, by the Koman Catholics who went to China hundreds
of 3"ears ago to teach the Chinese. One thing that makes it seem
likely is that among the stores of the Buddhist gods and saints,
there is the history of Jesus, some of it true, some of it made up.
It says He was beaten with 5,400 stripes, that before He w^ent
back to heaven He told His disciples to go everywhere and preach,
and gave them some holy water to wash away the sins of those
who listened to them, and that ten days after this a god came
down from heaven to fetch the mother of Jesus, who was made
queen of heaven and earth, and the guardian of men and women ;
that is just what the Roman Catholics would be likely to add.

There are nunneries for Buddbist women, as well as monas-
teries for men. Little Chinese girls are often sold by their parents
to be nuns, especially if they are born on an unlucky day. Some-
times, w^hen a little girl is born, the fortune-teller says that when
she grows up she will marry a very bad man and alwa3'S be in
trouble, so to make sure that this shall not happen, her father
will make her a nun, for nuns may never marry.

When she is taken to the temple all her hair is shaved off,
and she is dressed in long, loose clothes. When she is old enough,
she is taught to read the Buddhist books, though she does not
know what the, words mean, and to sit cross-legged on a stool ;
while she sits there, her hands must be put together and raised
up to her chin as if she were praying, her eyes must look straight
down to her hands, and she must count her own breathing, to
keep her from thinking of anything but Buddha. Sometimes little
girl nuns are made to sit like this for hours together, and even
all night. They must get up as soon as it is light, and be ready
to chant prayers before an idol when the bell rings ; then they
sweep and dust the temple, and cook the rice for breakfast, and



wait on the older nuns, and afterwards do the sewing or anything
else they are told. If they are at all slow or stupid, they are

When they are a little older they are sent out to beg rice
from door to door, or to ask for money to pay for the temple to
be mended; they also have to wait on the women who come
to worship, light sticks of incense for them, and give them cups


of tea, and so earn a few cash ; at sunset they chant their prayers

In some parts of China the nunneries have been put down
altogether, because the nuns living in them were so wicked that
the people would not give any money or rice to support tlieni ;
in Foo-chow all the nunneries have been closed for this reason.

One way in which women can gain blessings for themselves
in the future world is by what is called " worshipping books" in
this world ; they have to worship all the words in certain sacred


books, oDe after auotlier, bowiug down to an idol at each word ; a
little more tliau one page can be worshipped in a day.

Buddhism is a much worse religion now than it was in the
daj^s of Buddha, or even when it was first brought into China.
Most of the priests now are very ignorant, many of them not being
able to read at all ; this is one reason why educated Chinamen
despise Buddhism. The Buddhist beggars at first were only those
who longed to be wise and holy, and who fancied that by giving
up all they had and becoming beggars, they would grow holier
than others, but now most of them are idle men who like to get
food without working for it. Tlie}^ beg from door to door, each
carrying an earthenware bowl, like a soup-tureen without a cover.
When they get to a door, they do not say anything, but only stand
still. If anyone gives them something, they utter a blessing on
him ; if nothing is. given, they pass on to the next door without

At first nearly all the monks lived in groves or gardens, but
soon rich men began- to build houses for them ; several were built
while Buddha w^as ahve.

The rule about dress is that no monk may have more than
two sets of robes, and that he must never buy nor beg a new one ;
the people are expected to notice when the monks' clothes are
worn out and to give them some more. The onl}^ other things
a priest used to be allow^ed to have for his own, were a girdle, a
begging-bowl, a razor, a needle, and a water-strainer, through
which he must strain all the water he drank, for fear he might
swallow some little animals and so kill them ; but now the priests
often have books, lands, and houses of their owm.

In their public services they sing nearty all the prayers, but
instead of singing together, each monk sings a difi"erent line, so
that they can get through a whole chapter in the time it would
take to sing one line properly. They do not pray because they
want to ask for something, but just for the sake of getting through


a certaiD uuniber of prayers. 1 hope you never pray like that ;
some boys and girls do ! But I am sure they do not get answers to
their prayers, for God always listens to what our hearts say, and
takes no notice of what we say only by our lips, except to be sorry
that we do not mean it. I am sure He would rather 3^ou only
j^rayed one sentence every day really from your heart, than that
you spent a great many hours in asking for what you do not want,
and without thinking of what you are saying. He would rather
you did not ask for anything, than that you should ask that way.

All strict Buddhists live on vegetables, so that they may
not have anything to do with taking life. When a priest dies, his
bod}^ is burnt instead of being buried.

The Chinese Government does not care much about Buddhism
in the south of the empire, but on the north side of the Great
Wall, where the people do not know and think so much, the
Buddhists get on better.

Some people think Buddhism is dying out in China, and
that by-and-bye it will come to an end there altogether. It is
certain that the temples are not kept up as they used to be, and
that the people are not so ready to give their money for building
or mending or ornamenting them.

But China will not be much better, if Buddhism dies out,
and no other religion takes its place. So, if it is true that the
people are losing faith in this false religion, that is only another
reason why we should work harder than ever to send them the
true one.



"" \HIS is a very difficult religiou to explain. The CliiDese
say themselves that they cauuot uuderstaud it, so if
you find it i^uzzles you, you will know that it need not
be because I have described it badly, or because you are
not sharp, but because it is so puzzling.

At first Tauism was not a religion at all, but only
a kind of study or philosophy ; but when Buddhism was
brought into China, the Tauists saw that they would soon come
to nothing if they did not have some temples and i^ublic services
like the Buddhists.

All we know of the j^hilosophy of Tauism is found in a book
called the Tao-Teh-King, written by Laotsze. You remember I
told you Confucius went to see him and had a talk with him. At
that time, b.c. 517, Confucius was thirty-five years old, and
Laotsze eighty-eight. After they had had their talk, Confucius
said to his disciples, " I know how birds can fly, fishes swim, and
animals run ; but the runners ma}' be snared, the swimmer hooked,
and the flyer shot by an arrow. But there is the dragon ; I
cannot tell how he mounts on the wind through the clouds, and
rises to heaven. To-day I have seen Laotsze ; 1 can only com-
pare him to the dragon." I suppose he meant by that that he
could not understand what Laotsze meant when he talked, and
you will not be surprised at that, when i tell you some of the
things he wrote in liis book.


Laotsze himself was as strange as liis writings. He lived at the
capital of the Cliau kings, hut one day he went to the gate leading
out of the state on the north-west. The keeper of the gate said
to him, " You are going away out of sight. I beg you to write
a book for me." So Laotsze wrote his Tao-Teh-King, and then
went away, and nobody ever heard what became of him, or where
he died.

The Tao-Teh-King is all about Tao, which means " The AYay,"
and yet no Chinaman could tell you what Tao is. If you were to
ask twenty, one after another, to explain it to you, they would all
tell you something different, and would all end by saying that
nobcdy ever explained it nor ever wdll.

When we read what Laotsze said himself, when he tried to
explain it, it seems sometimes as though by Tao he must mean
God, but then at other times he said things which make us think
it was something quite different. This is what he says of Tao —
" We look at it, but do not see it, it is named the colourless. We
listen for it and do not hear it, it is named the soundless. Its
upper part is not bright, its lower part is not dark. It is always
at work, and yet it cannot be named. In the end it becomes
nothing, it is Tiio. There was something confused and complete
before the birth of heaven and earth; how still it was and formless;
standing alone, never changing, going everywhere, and in no
danger of being ended, it may be regarded as the mother of all
things. I do not know its name, but I call it the T^io, and if
I must give it a name, I call it ' The Great.' It might appear to
have been before God."

In other parts of the book it seems as though Tao meant the
state in which everybody would be, if they were quite calm and
contented with everything, as Laotsze said they ought to be. He
taught that for a person or thing to be useful, it must be empty.
" Clay," he says, " is made into vessels, but it is its emptiness and
hollowness that make a vessel useful. Doors and windows are


cut out to make rooms, but it is only the empt}^ space betweeu
them that makes tlie room good for anything." For a man to be
empty, so that he can be useful, Laotsze says he must be free
from all selfishness. Doing nothing, being nothing, and wanting
nothing, he thinks is the highest happiness. He says a great deal
too about being humble. AVhen he wants to compare the Tao to
something, he generally chooses water. " The highest goodness,"
he says, "is like water. Water does good to all things, and it
always takes the lowest place, which all men dislike, without
trying to do anything else ; so its nature is like the nature
of Tao."

I am thinking of another Teacher, who not only taught His
disciples to take the lowest place ( ), but who

took it Himself ( ), though His own proper place was

the highest of all. ( .)

In another part of his book Laotsze says, "There are three
precious things, which I prize and hold fast. The first is gentle
compassion, the second economy, the third humility. It is the
way of Tfio not to act selfishly, to manage things without feeling
the trouble of them, to taste without noticing the flavour, to
consider the great as the small and the small as the great, to
return injury with kindness."

Laotsze spoke against war, and against killing a man because
he had killed someone else, but he did not care at all about
learning, or about people getting better, or richer, or wiser ; rather
than this, he thought it would be better if people went back to
what they were at the beginning of the world. He says — "In a
small state with very few people in it, I would so order it that
the people, though they had all kinds of tools, should not care
to use them ; though they had boats and carriages, they should
have no need to ride in them ; though they had soldiers' coats and
weapons, they should not wear or use them. I would make them
return to the use of knotted cords instead of printed letters ; they



should tliiuk their coarse food sweet, their poor houses places
of rest."

Poor Laotsze must have felt very louely, having such strange
thoughts, and not heing ahle to tell anyone what he meant. He
says of himself, "All men look pleased, as if enjoying a feast, as
if mounted on a tower in spring ; I alone am quiet and care for
nothing, my wishes not having yet shown themselves. I am like
an infant that has not yet smiled ; I look forlorn, as if I had
nowhere to go. All others have enough and to spare, I alone look
as if I had lost everything. My mind is that of a stupid man ; I



am in a state of confusion ; I am drifted about as the sea ; I am
carried by the wind, as if I had nowhere to rest. I alone am
different to other men, and what I need is the nursing mother,
that is the Tao."

There are a great many Tauist gods now^, and a great many
temples too ; new temples and new gods are made every year. In
most of the temples, there are three images, called the Tan Cli'ing,
or the three Pure Ones — The Perfect Holy One, the Highest Holy
One, and the Greatest Holy One ; the first, the Chinese sa}', is
the same as Adam, and the second is Laotsze. After these three


tlie greatest is Yii-waug, who manages all the business of the
world, and all the people in it.

Most of the Tauist teachiog is to be found in tracts, which
have a great many wise things in them, borrowed from the Con-
fucian books, mixed up with a great deal of nonsense. One thing
taught in them is, that there are spirits who notice all the wrong
things men do, and make their lives long or short, according to
whether they see few wrong things or many. Some of these spirits
live in the stars, three in the human body (these are the three
souls), and there is one called " The Spirit of the Furnace." These
last four go to Heaven from time to time to tell what they have
seen. A great sin costs twelve years of life, a small one a hundred
days. If a man is very good indeed, he may hope to be immortal,
that is, that his soul may live for ever. If he wants to be
immortal in Heaven, he must be able to prove that he has done
thuieen hundred good deeds ; but if he will be satisfied to be
immortal on earth, that is, to keep on beiug born over and over
again into the world, three hundred good deeds will be enough.

And what do you think the Tauists mean by sins ? Here
is a list of them. Dancing on the last day of the month or year ;
shouting or getting into a passion on the first day of the month
or in the morning ; crying or sj^itting with the face turned to
the north ; sighing, singing, or crying in front of a furnace ; pointing
at a rainbow, or looking for a long time at the sun or moon.
There is a certain time, according to Tauism, appointed for all
men to live ; every one of these sins shortens the time, and when
a man has got to the end of his time, then he dies. So you see
how difficult it must be for the missionaries to persuade these
men that they are sinners, or even to make them understand
what sin is.

If all a man's looks and deeds are good for tliree years, then
he will get blessing ; if they are evil, he will lose blessing.

Tauism teaches too that there is a Purgatory and a Hell ; the



difference between the two being, as the Roman Catholics teach,
that in Hell people stay for ever, but in Purgatory only for a time,
to be punished for their sins ; this belief the Tauists have
borrowed from the Buddhists. In Purgatory they say there are
ten courts ; their place is at the bottom of a great ocean, in the
depths of the earth. If a man repents after he gets to Pm-gatory
and can persuade two others to repent, he will have his punish-
ment shortened. Those who have never sinned go straight to
Heaven when they die. Those who have done just as many good
deeds as bad are born again among men. If there are more bad
deeds than good ones, they go through the courts of Purgatory,
and then are born again. If they behave well after their second
birth, they go to some happy place for a little while, after they die
the second time ; but if their second life is a bad one, they go
through Purgatory again, and then are born into a very miserable
state, and after that go to hell for ever. No women are allowed
in the Tauist heaven, except in the same way as in the Buddhist
religion, after they have been born again as men.

Now I must tell you what the Tauists think will happen to
them in Purgatory. It would take too long to tell you about all
the ten courts, so I will only tell you of one, the ninth. It is
divided into sixteen rooms. In the first of these, the people have
their bones beaten, and their bodies scorched. In the second
their muscles are drawn out and their bones rapped. In the third
ducks eat their hearts. ; In the fourth dogs eat tlieir lungs. In
the fifth they are splashed with hot oil. In the sixth their heads
are crushed in a frame, and their tongues and teeth are pulled out.
In the seventh their brains are taken out and their skulls filled
with hedgehogs. In the eighth then- heads are steamed and their
brains scraped. In the ninth they are dragged about by sheep
till they drop to pieces. In the tenth they are squeezed in a
wooden press and pricked on the head. In the eleventh their
hearts are ground in a mill. In the twelfth boiling water drops


on their bodies. In the thirteenth they are stang by wasps.
In the fonrteentli they are tortured by ants and maggots, then
stewed and wrung out like clothes. In the fifteenth they are
stung by scorpions, and in the sixteenth tormented by snakes.
And this is only one court out of ten ; so you will not wonder
now that the Chinese burn so much money for their friends after
they die, as they think the officers in Purgatory may be bribed
to let them escape some of these tortures. And yet it is not love
for their friends which makes them do so much for them, but
fear that if they are not properly cared for, their spirits will come
back and torment their friends.

There is a head of the Tauist religion in China who has much
the same powder that the Pope has over the Roman Catholics.
His family name is Chang, and his special name, which is passed
on to the one who takes his place when he dies, is Teen-sze, which
means "The Messenger of Heaven." The office has been in this
family ever since the first century after Christ ; the spirit of the
first head is supposed to have been handed down from father to
son all that time, and to be in the man who is now the head.
His palace is in the jDrovince of Kiang-su. He is said to have
power over a certain class of evil spirits which go into the bodies
of women and make them ill. The Teen-sze casts them out for
money ; in his house there are several rows of jars, some people
say as many as a million, in which these evil spirits are supposed
to be shut up.

There are a great many Tauist priests in China. Anyone
who sees a priest can tell whether he is a Tauist or a Buddhist
by his hair; the Buddhists shave it all off; the Tauists either
let it all grow, or shave the sides of the head and plait up the
rest of their hair and twifct it into a coil on the top of the

The idols in Tauist temples are generally small, much smaller
than those in Buddhist temples ; and there are not many women



to be found in them, except that on the gods' birthdays, some of
them go to give presents of money to the priests.

One of the chief Tauist idols is Lu-tsu, the great medicine
god of China. Then there are the three rulers of Heaven, Earth,
and Sea. The Dragon is supposed to reign over the sea, as well
as over lakes, rivers, and ponds ; all the live creatures in the sea
are his subjects. The emperor is often compared to the Dragon ;
his coat of arms is a dragon, and he is spoken of as sitting on
the dragon throne. We know there is really no such thing as
a dragon, but the Chinese think it is a real animal, and some of
them say they have seen it. The earth god's images may be
seen in almost every town and village by the road-side.



HE strange thing about this religion is that the rulers
are the only people who are allowed to take part in it,
the rest of the people have nothing to do with it.

Nobody knows when the State worship began ;
we read of it in the time of Shun, two thousand years
before Christ, so you see it is very old. In after times
very savage things were done. At one time bundles of straw,
made to look like men, were carried to the graves of dead kings
and buried with them as their servants. After this, figures of
painted wood were buried instead of straw ones, and later still
live people were put into the graves with the dead. At the funeral
of Chi-Hwang-ti, one of the kings of the Tsin line, all his wives
and concubines who had had no children, as well as all the work-
men who had made his grave, were buried with him alive ; but
about nine hundred years ago the emperor made a law that no
human beings were ever to be offered as sacrifices, so there have
been none since then.

The rules as to how and when State Worship is to be per-
formed are written in the Book of Rites. In the capital the
emperor and the high officers belonging to the Board of Rites
worship and offer sacrifices of tea and silk, calves, bullocks, sheep,
and pigs, to three diff'erent sets of objects —

1st. To heaven and earth, the sjoirits of the dead kings


of the present line, tlie gods of land and of grain, and the special
guardian gods of the kings of China.

2nd. To the sun and moon, to the spirits of the dead kings
of China belonging to lines before the present one ; to Confucius,
to the gods of agriculture and silk weaving and of the present

3rd. To the gods of medicine, to the spirits of dead statesmen,
and others who have done much for China, to the clouds, winds,
rain, and thunder, as w^ell as to five famous mountains, four seas,
four rivers, and other celebrated places. The emperor wears sky-
blue robes when he worships heaven, and yellow when he worships
earth, red for the sun, and white for the moon ; the princes and
officers wear their usual court dress.

No priests or w^omen are allowed to be present, except when
the goddess of the silk manufacture is worshipj^ed ; then the
empress and the grand ladies of Pekin go into the temple, while

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Online Libraryd. 1894 Terrien de LacouperieThe children of China. Written for the children of England → online text (page 13 of 18)