Copyright
d. 1894 Terrien de Lacouperie.

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

. (page 15 of 18)
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during which the spirits are supposed to be feeding, the eldest son
of each family worships before the tablets, crackers are let off,
then the food and tables are taken away and the party goes home.
At this time the women and children are ornamented with flowers
in their hair. The poor people only burn a basketful of paper
money at their tombs. Even robbers come home at this time of
the year to sacrifice to their ancestors.

Sometimes a piece of ground is bought close to a family tomb,
and different mem hers of the family cultivate it in turns, year by



ANCESTRAL WORSHIP. 251

year, agreeing to pay the cost of the yearly worship from what
they get by this piece of ground.

The reason the Chinese burn so many things for their dead
friends is, that thej^ saj^ w^hen their friends have become invisible
(that is, so that tliey cannot be seen), all that they want mnst be
made invisible too, before it can be of any use to them, and the




WORSHIP BEFORE ANCESTRAL TABLET.



only way to make things invisible is to burn them. If a dead ]nan
has nothing sent to him in this way, the Chinese say he is as
badly off as those who die at sea or in war or in foreign lands, wdio
cannot be fed and clothed by their friends, because no one knows
wdiere they are buried, and therefore cannot get at their spirits.
All these neglected ones have to depend on public charity for all



252 THINGS THAT ARE NOT CELESTIAL.

they want, aud if their needs are uot supplied, they will torment
living peo^^le by making them ill ; so in a Chinese city, at the
gates, by the bridges, at every corner, is to be seen a niche, where
offerings are made to these spirits. The Chinese are much more
ready to give to dead beggars than to living ones, because they do
not give for the sake of doing good to others, but for the sake of
sparing suffering for themselves.

The beginning of the practice of feeding dead beggars was
in the early years of the Ming emperors. One of them lost the
bodies of his father and mother, and was so grieved not to be able
to sacrifice at their tombs, that he ordered all his subjects to
sacrifice three times every year to the spirits of those whose graves
were not known. Some of the priests make a great deal of money
at this time, as they go about making collections to buy food for
the beggar spirits, aud they spend half of what they get and keep
the rest. Some of the people think the priests do this, and do not
see why the beggars sliould not give them the credit of all they
spend on them, so they burn paper monej' before their houses,
instead of giving real monej^ to the priests.

If a man has an only son, and that son becomes a Christian,
think how miserable the father will be ; for to him it means that
not only he himself, but his father and his grandfathers for five
generations back, will be beggar spirits for ever, or at least till
they are born again into the world ; and think too what courage
it would need for an only son to be a Christian and to confess it.
One father whose only son became a Christian, threatened to kill
himself on purpose that he might be able to torment his son from
the spirit world. An only son who becomes a Christian, and
whose father tells of him, is treated as if he were his father's
murderer, and is beheaded. If a man gets to the world of dark-
ness without a head, the ofiicers there are supposed to understand
at once that he has been a bad man, and so will treat him cruelly.
If there has been a war aud some of the soldiers have lost their




ANCESTRAL IVOR SHI Pf*^,„^^^_^^^ 253



beads, their friends will do all they cau to get the heads back, aud
fasten them to the bodies, in the hope that the officers of the spirit
world wdll never find it out ; some have paid as much as a hundred
and fifty pounds for the head of a friend.

Sometimes a man's friends will burn a paper trunk for him,
with a lock and key, to keep his things in, so that the other spirits
shall not steal them ; horses and boats are burnt too, everything
that the man could possibly want. I have some of these very
things in front of me now^, that a lady from China gave me ; I wish
I could show them to you. There are eight different kinds of
caps, tw^elve dresses, three pairs of trousers, eight pairs of shoes
and boots, a bag, a fan, a square thing that looks like a picture,
a snuff bottle, and other things, and all these are on a piece of
paper ten inches long and seven inches broad ; for they are
only little pictures of the things, not the things themselves. I
have some of the paper money too that is burnt for the dead,
little bits about five inches and a half square. More than thirty
million pounds are spent every year in China on offerings for the
dead, and only about severity thousand pounds are spent in a
year on all the Protestant missions in China. That looks as
though people of false religions were more earnest than those of the
true, doesn't it ? It is supposed that half the women of China
spend all their time that is not wanted for house work in making
this paper money (which is called dien) and other things for
the dead.

If a noise is heard at a window at night, though it may be
only the wind, the Chinese think it is a hungry spirit asking for
food. How timid the children must be, if they fancy every
strange noise they hear is a spirit comiug.

Some rich families build ancestral temples, very large and
costly, with shelves round the walls for the tablets to stand on,
one above another, like the seats of a gallery. In some of these
there are ah the tablets of the family for a thousand years back.



254



THINGS THAT ARE NOT CELESTIAL.



lu these temples there are very seldom any tablets for women or
for uumarried men. Sometimes if a young man dies before he
is married, he is betrothed and married after death to a dead
woman, and then one of his brother's sons is reckoned as las son,
and his tablet may be put into the temple.

A great deal of harm is done by this ancestral worship. It
wastes a great deal of money and a great deal of time too ; it
makes the Chinese marry young, for fear of dying without sons ;
it leads them to have concubines for the same reason, and often
makes them stay in China, when if it were not for the fear of
being buried in a foreign country, they would go abroad and their
own country would not be so much too full as it is.




CHAPTER YIII.




FJJNG SHUY.

HIS is another very odd part of the behef of the Chinese,

and one that comes into all their thoughts, and makes

a difference in all their actions. It is rather difficult

to explain too. What wise children you ought to he

by the time you have finished this book, and read about

so many things that clever men cannot understand.

The Chinese descriptions of what is meant by Fung Shuy

are not all alike, — at least, not in everything, but in the chief

points they all agree.

The words " Fung Shuy " mean wind and water ; but
perhaps the word that best describes what the Chinese mean by
Fung Shuy is Juck^ which you know they believe in very much.
Wind and water have something to do with it though. The Chinese
have noticed, as most people have, that nearly all plants seem to
die in winter, and yet somehow find out when summer is near,
and spring up again. Men too feel a change when winter goes
and spring comes, and even if they cannot understand what makes
the difference, they look upon the cause, whatever it may be, as
a good influence. They have noticed too that the wind from the
south brings warmth with it, and with tlie warmth come life and
brightness to plants and animals and men ; while the cold wind
which is known to come from the north, brings barrenness and
death ; so they look upon the cause of the cold as an evil influence.
Therefore they consider these two points, north and south, as the



256 THINGS THAT ARE NOT CELESTIAL.

points of good aucl evil ; the influence from the one (the south)
makes everything fruitful and beautiful, the influence from the
other (the north) brings loss of beauty and fruit, and in the end —
death.

From seeing this, the Chinese say there must be a good
influence always moving gently from the south like air, which will
do good to all living things, if nothing comes in its way to stop
it or disturb it ; so a Chinaman always likes to have his house
facing the south, and would expect to be always in trouble if it
faced the north.

Then, as they see that not only men and animal's but even
plants feel the good influence of the spring, which comes from the
south, they suppose that dead peojDle must feel it too, if their
bodies are placed in such a way that the south wind can always
reach them. When a grave is placed so that it can get the full
force of the south wind, it is said to have good Fung Shuy, and
it is supposed that a family whose graves are placed Hke this,
will get on well in the world, and have plenty of money, honour,
and sons.

If this is what good Fung Shuy means, you will understand
that bad Fung Shuy is just the opposite, — an evil influence from
the north with nothing to stop it, blasting and killing all that it
comes against. A dead man who is not buried according to the
laws of good Fung Shuy, is left to be hurt by the bad Fung Shuy,
which will chill him and make him miserable ; and he in his vexa-
tion at being so treated, will torment his childi'en and grand-
childi'en with ruin, sickness, and death, till the whole family dies
out. Anything that could destroy good Fung Shuy, or make it
divide and go on in two streams instead of one, is bad Fang Shuy.

So you see, if a man wants to get good Fung Shuy for his
house, or his grave, or any other place, he has two chief things to
do, after he has built it facing the south — fii'st, to take everything
out of the way, that would keep the south wind from coming to



FUNG SHUY. 257

it, and secondly to put as much as he can behind it, to keep the
north wind fi'om coming to it, and yon would hardly believe at
first how much trouble this gives, and how it keeps the Chinese
from improving themselves and their country.

Tliere are a great many professors of Fung Slmy, whose
business it is to tell men where to find places to build in with
good Fung Shuy, or how to alter places whose Fung Shuy is bad.
It takes a great many years' study for a man to become a good
professor of Fung Shuy, understanding all about the rules. No
man ever builds a house, or a shop, or a grave, without sending for
one of these men to tell him whether the Fung Shuy is good ; then,
if he does what the professor tells him, and afterwards does not get
on well, he will say the professor did not understand his business,
and he will not employ him again ; but if a man gets on very well
after a 2:)rofessor has told him where to build, that professor will be-
come famous, and hundreds of Chinese will come to him for advice.

It is thought a very good thing to have some water at the
south of a grave or of a house, because without water neither
plants, animals, nor men can live, so now you know why this
funny thing we are talking about is called Fung Shuy.

If a man wants to be quite sure that his family will get on
well after he is dead, he sends for a professor of Fung Shuy to go
with him to find a place for a grave. If they come to a place that
seems nice, they look at the country north and south of it, to see
if there is anything to keep out the north wind and let in the
south, and whether there is any water to the south or not. If it
is all right so far as the wind is concerned, but there is no water,
the man will make a pond in front of the place, but a river or
stream is thought better, because running water does more good
than still water. If there is another grave, or a house, or a hill,
or a clump of trees, or a road running east and west, to the south
of the place, it will prevent good Fung Shuy, so another place
will have to be found.

17



258 THINGS THAT ARE NOT CELESTIAL.

A hilly place is very good for Fung Sliuy, as graves and houses
can generally be made with their backs to the hill, in such a way
that the hill will keep off the north wind ; so the south sides of
hills are generally dotted all over with graves. In flat parts of
the country, trees are used as defenders instead of hills, especially
large trees, with thick, bushy tops. There are many stories told
in China of men that have tried to cut down good Fung Shuy
trees, and whose right arms have been paralysed as a judgment,
even if they have only cut off the lower branches. Rich men,
whose graves are on flat ground, often make hills on the north
side of them, in the shape of a horse-shoe, so that the graves can
be inside them, and so be shielded from the north.

Sometimes shields are fixed on the houses, to give good
Fung Shuy — boards with signs painted on them, which are sup-
posed to bring luck; they are generally put over the doors or
under the windows.

Good Fung Shuy can easily be destroyed. For instance, a
man may build a nice house for himself witli very good Fung
Shuy, the north wdnd all shut out, and nothing in the waj^ to
prevent the south wind coming to it : and then another man maj?-
build a house a little higher than his, farther to the south, and
so spoil his good Fung Shuy, by coming between him and the
south wind ; or a big tree on the north side of his house may blow
down, and so expose him to the north wind. When good Fung
Shuy is destroyed, a broom and a basket may be hung up outside
the house to sweep away the evil from the north. Every boat
carries wdth it a brush for this purpose, fastened to a stick, and
hung up somewhere in the stern.

Men are often brought up before the magistrates because,
while they have been improving their own houses, they have,
sometimes without knowing it, put up something, or taken down
something, by which tliey have interfered with their neighbours'
Fung Shuy.



FUNG SHUY. 26 1

This belief in Fung Sliuy has more to do with the Chinese
way of building houses than anything else, and it is very tiresome
often to foreigners. The Chinese manage all their houses so that
they shall be very low, all about the same height, and with no
chimneys, in order not to disturb each other's Fung Shuy ; then
perhaps an English merchant will come to a Chinese city, and not
understanding, or at all events not caring about Fung Shuy,
will build a big warehouse, which may destroy the good Fung
Shuy of hundreds of houses, or he will build himself a house with
chimneys like ours in England, which will have the same effect.
This is one reason why the Chinese do not like foreigners to come
to China, and why no Chinaman will live next door to a foreigner,
if he can help it.

I think you will easily see too how the belief in Fung Shuy
keeps the Chinese from improving themselves. There is a great
deal of coal in China, deep down in the ground, but the Chinese
will not dig mines and get it out, because they could not do it
without destroying some old graves, or making mounds, which
would spoil somebody's good Fung Shuy. They do not like to
make railways nor put up telegraph wires, because the stations and
the posts would all destroy good Fung Shuy. They cannot build
higher houses for the same reason, and the missionaries are sure
to make a good many people very angry if they build churches
with towers to them. Sometimes after a church or a school has
been built, there will be sickness in the place, or great troubles
maj^ come to a few families, and when thej^ call in the Professor of
Fung Shuy to ask the reason, he will say it is all the "foreign
devils'" doing, and then the people will dislike the foreigners
more than ever, and if they cannot get rid of the building, will put
up a pagoda, a kind of very high temple, which is supposed to
change bad Fung Shu}^ to good for as great a distance all round as
can be seen from the top.



CHAPTER IX.




FORTUXE-TELLIXG.

ORTUNES are told iu all sorts of ways in China, — from
the stars, from table-turning, from spirit-writing, from
the looks of the face, by the palm of the hand, by
drawing lots, by every means that people could possibly
I invent, and everybody believes in what the fortune-
tellers say, from the emperor down to the lowest of his
subjects.

As soon as a child is born, its fortune is told ; a boy cannot go
to school, nor learn a trade, nor be engaged nor married, without
the fortune-tellers having a hand in it. No man will go on a jour-
ney, nor build a house, nor buy a coffin, nor dig a grave, without
the advice of a fortune-teller.

One way of telling fortunes is by " Sticks of Fate," of which
there are sixty-four in a set. They are thin slips of bamboo, on
which are written short sentences, which can be made to mean
almost anything. People who come to have their fortunes told
by means of these sticks, generally come with some particular
question that they want answered ; so they draw one of the
sticks from among the sixty-four, and from what is written on it
the fortune- teller always manages to make up an answer to the
question.

Another way is to write several important words, each on a
thin slip of cardboard, made up into a little roll ; several hundreds
of these are shaken up in a box, then the man who wants his







-TKEfT l-ORTrNF.-TKI.LKI!.



FORTUNE-TELLING. 265

fortune told draws one out, aad the fortune-teller explains what
the word means and what it has to do witli him. Most of the
fortune-tellers are Tauists or Buddhists. They like to keep up
the helief in fortune-telling as much as they can, for the sake of
the money it brings them, for all fortune-tellers must be paid.

One day a fortune-teller came to a missionary, and told him
that he was a Christian and wanted to be baptized. He seemed
to mean all he said, but the missionary told him he could not be
baptized so long as he remained a fortuue-teller, he must give up
his profession and come another time for baptism. The man
went away, and tried to find some other way of earning a living,
but in vain, so he went on telling fortunes.

Again the time came round for examining those who wished
to be baptized, and again the man came to the missionary, more
anxious than ever for baptism. But the missionary said, " No,
not so long as you tell fortunes." He said all he could to persuade
the man to give up his business for Jesus' sake, even if he starved
through it ; the man would not promise, and went away in great
trouble.

The time for the baptisms came, and many Christians were
gathered together for the service. Just as it was going to begin,
the fortune-teller came in, with such a happy look on his face,
and a big bundle in his hand, wrapped in a carpet. He opened
out the bundle, and showed the peoj^le his books and sticks and
other things that he had used for telling fortunes ; it was all he
had in the world to depend upon. He took all the things into the
court-yard and set them on fire, and before the fire had quite gone
out, he was baptized. Of course God took care that he did not
starve. Where does it say in the Bible that if we give up things
for Jesus' sake, we shall get more than we lose, even in this world,
besides getting Heaven by-and-bye ? ( .)



CHAPTER X.




OPIUM. .

THINK this will be the saddest chapter iu the book,
not only because it is on such a sad subject that I have
to write, but also because it is the work of our own
country that is the cause of nearly all the sadness.

For opium is the thing which more than all others

is ruining China, and hindering the missionaries, and

it is the English who send the opium to China, though the

emperor and the people have begged them over and over again

not to send it.

It is made, as perhaps you know, from the juice of a poppy,
which is growm chiefly in India ; the juice is hardened and made
into cakes, and then sent to China. Opium is not generally eaten,
but smoked in a pipe like this. The only people who eat it




(except in very small doses, when there is not time for smoking),
are those who want to kill themselves in the easiest way, for it
only takes a very little to send a man so fast asleep that he wdll
never wake again ; so i)eople generall}^ take it at night, when they



OPIUM 267

go to bed, and by the morning, even if they are not quite dead,
it is too late to do anything for thein.

If a man or woman once begins to smoke opium, it is ahnost
impossible for them ever to give it up. None of them, wlien they
begin, mean to smoke very much, any more than English men and
women mean to be drunkards, when they drink their first glass
of beer or wine, but the habit gets hold of them so quickly, and
every day they want a little more ; and with opium, even more
than with beer and wine, it is the case, that the more people take,
the more they want.

Doctors and missionaries are getting to be less and less hope-
ful of curing those who have formed the habit of opium-smoking,
and it is very difficult to know whether a man is cured or not.
Sometimes men are sent out from a hospital, and everyone thinks
they are cured, but in eight months' time, or sooner, they are
brought back just as bad as ever. I believe none but Christians
have ever been known really to give up opium, after they have
once begun to smoke it. If a man uses it for a fortnight, the
habit gains such power over him, that nothing less than the powder
of God can make it possible for him to give it up, for besides all
the other harm it does, opium makes men so weak in body and
mind that they cannot giA'^e it up. When a man really comes to
Jesus and takes him as his own Saviour, then, because the power
of Jesus is stronger than the power of habit, he is able to give up
opium. There is no habit so strong that the power of God cannot
conquer it ; so if you are one of God's children, and you know of
one bad habit, or two, or even three that you have, do not make
up your mind that you must have them always, but go to God
directly and tell Him all about them, one by one, and ask Him to
conquer them altogether for you, and to be the Master of them
and of you, and then just expect Him to do it, and I know He will.

I must tell you a story about this that I heard a long while
ago, if I can remember it, because it will explain one thing that I



2 68 THINGS THAT ARE NOT CELESTIAL.

waut to sa}^ about habits — It is no use ashing God to cure ns of
had liahits, if we do not really ivant to give tliem iq). There was a
little tiuy boy who had a habit of sucking his thumb. Of course
you are too big to suck your thumb, so first think what your bad
habit is, and put that in the story instead. The little boy's papa
talked to him about it, and told him it was not at all a nice thing
to do ; I think he told him to ask God to cure him of it. Anyhow,
when the little boy prayed that night before going to bed, he said,
"Please, God, make me a good boy, and don't let me suck my
thumb any more ; " but very soon after, his prayer was changed,
and this was the new one — " Please, God, don't make me a good
boy, for I must suck my thumb." You see, it is no use for you
to ask God to cure you of a fault, if all the while you are thinking
that you must keep on doing it, either because you like it too
much, or because you are not quite sure that God can or will cure
it for you.

Years ago it was said that four hundred thousand people died
every year in the Chinese empire from opium-smoking, that is,
that out of every hundred who smoked opium, ninety were killed
by it, most of them in less than twenty years after they began to
smoke it. And it has not got any better since, but much
worse.

Smoking opium gives what the Chinese think is a very
delightful feeling, like going to sleep and having beautiful dreams,
so fairy-like and lovely that as soon as they wake they long to
be asleep again. If they do not keep on taking it, this nice feeling
soon goes, and they begin to be very faint and sick and thirsty,
with a dreadful burning in the throat, and nothing will make them
better except more opium. The longing for it is something so
terrible that no one could even think what it is like who has not
felt it ; if the man does not get any more, he becomes dizzy and
weak, his body aches all over, and before long he dies, unless he
is a very strong man indeed.



OPIUM. 269

The richest men in China have become beggars through
spending all their money in opium ; and wlieu they get to the end
of their money, still they cannot stop, but sell their land, their
houses, their furniture, their own clotheSj their beds, the clothes
of their wives and children, and even their wives and children


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Online Libraryd. 1894 Terrien de LacouperieThe children of China. Written for the children of England → online text (page 15 of 18)