William Elliot Griffis.

A maker of the new Orient : Samuel Robbins Brown, pioneer educator in China, America, and Japan : the story of his life and work online

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taste, and I fear some Japanese spy might see it
and report us as Roman Catholics. She quite
agreed with me and turned it upside down on her
bed in the bedroom. Soon after, the governor
of Kanagawa, with interpreter and suite of
sworded gentry, arrived. The door from her
sitting room opened into the bedroom, and while
her back was turned one of the Japanese slipped
into the bedroom and began to examine the pic-
tures. Soon after this Dr. Hepburn came in,
and while he was showing the pictures, not
knowing what sort of things they were, one of
the Japanese turned up the picture of the Cruci-
fixion. At once they all began to cast glances
at each other and began to ask if that were Jesus.
Dr. H., himself surprised, could only answer that
it was. They asked why they were killing
Jesus, and who were the persons on the right
and left of the picture. Dr. H. explained about
the thieves and the humiliation of Jesus, and
entered considerably into the preaching of Christ
in answer to their questions." Thus he was
providentially obliged to be the first to preach
Christ here, and that to a governor and his

152 A Maker of the New Orient

" The governor's object was to ask that he
might take all the doctor's Chinese books to his
office to examine them, and seemed quite to ex-
pect that Dr. H. would give them up at once,
which the doctor refused to do till he had referred
to the American Consul."

Mr. Brown was gluing chairs together, and
did not go to see the notables, knowing that they
had come to spy out the land. The American
Consul Door at once informed the Japanese
governor that his demand was contrary to treaty
stipulations. " But what we all regard most is
that God has taken the matter out of our mission,
out of our own hands, as it were, and made a pro-
vidential disclosure of our objects in coming here,
quite contrary to our expectations, and in a man-
ner which we should have tried to avoid. I
should much rather have the matter where it is,
in God's hands, than in mine. I fear no ill con-
sequence from it, though we may be watched and
hampered for a while in consequence of this early

No ill consequences ensued. For convenience
and safety, the American minister, Mr. Harris,
gave Dr. Hepburn the nominal appointment of
physician, and Mr. Brown that of chaplain to
the American legation.

At first domiciliary visits were made by the
government officers, to see whether these mission-
aries were dangerous persons, but these after
a while ceased.

Life in a Buddhist Temple 153

Nevertheless, thousands of the suspicious
island-hermits imagined that the mercantile oc-
cupation of sea-ports was only the thin end of
the wedge of conquest by the hated aliens.
Christianity was under ban as a sect accursed by
priests, outlawed by government, and in popular
notion a system of sorcery and diabolical miagic.
Thousands of polished ruffians, gentlemanly
scoundrels, and ferocious patriots, lacking in
information, were quite ready to murder the new-
comers. They considered it a knightly act to
do so — so far had Bushido, or Japanese chivalry,
become a narrow cult. Some even entered the
missionaries' premises in order to assassinate
them, but were disarmed in their minds by what
they saw and heard^ and thus saved from being
fools as well as felons. Indeed, for the improve-
ment of their civilization, the Japanese needed a
native Cervantes quite as much as for purer
religion they needed to profit by the presence of
Christian missionaries.

It was a thrilling experience, when Mr. Brown
took his first ride on the historic Tokaido. It
was not then the " cool sequestered way," nearly
deserted in these days of railroading, but was
the most famous highway of the emipire, gay with
cavalcades and as full of life and color as the
sentimental tramps and voluptuaries, Yajirobe
and Kidahachi, in the delightfully graphic book
''Shanks* Mare" (" Hizakurige "), the wittiest
work in the Japanese language, have described it.

154 A Maker of the New Orient

Mr. Brown found Mr. Harris, the American
minister, living in the fine old Buddhist edifice
of Zempukiji, or the Temple of Virtue and Pros-
perity, about one mile southwest of Shiba. It
belonged to the Shinshiu sect, and the famous
old jinko tree fronting it is said to have been
planted by the illustrious founder, Shinran.
Years afterward Mr. Brown met the same legend
on his journey to the west coast.

On that day of this his first vision of the City
of the Bay Door, a dozen priests were chanting
prayers together with interludes upon bamboo
flutes, interspersing their intonation while read-
ing the sutras. They were slow in movement
and all in unison. The music reminded the
American musician of the ancient Gregorian
measures. He noticed that two parts were
played, " which," said he, '' is the first approach
to harmony I have ever heard in the music of
the East."

The next day the party rode out on horseback
to see the O Shiro, or castle. It was a great
fortified inclosure, five miles in diameter, with
wide moats, causeways, drawbridges, grassy
embankments in the hilly part of the castle and
massive stone walls in the lower portions, with
white ramparts, imposing towers, and all the
striking features of feudal architecture. In the
very heart of the city, in the castle moats, thou-
sands of wild fowl, geese, ducks, and cranes were
feeding quietly, not a gun being allowed to be

Life in a Buddhist Temple 155

fired within the city Hmits of the municipality.
Inside of the great inclosure there were no crowds
of people and comparatively few individual
pedestrians, but there were many daimios, or feu-
dal barons, and their processions. In the country
at large, as it was with the people before Joseph
and Pharaoh, everybody must get down on his
knees at the forerunner's cry, when the nobles
with their trains passed through the towns and
villages. Nevertheless, in Yedo there was one
greater than these daimios, even the Shogun,
and so in the great city the daimios, being vas-
sals of the Yedo ruler, received no such public
homage, while, on the contrary, before the palan-
quin or even the Tycoon's tea- jars or other mov-
ing freight, all must get down on the ground.
Within the castle walls there were no pack
horses or wheeled vehicles to be seen. Yedo was
a city of princes, priests, and people who occu-
pied areas diminishing in extent according to
the order named. While the 364 *' princes "
(daimios) with their thousands of retainers filled
up the larger part of the city, and the temples
and monasteries occupied enormous space, the
people were huddled closely together. On a map
showing ecclesiastical property, old Yedo is
literally " painted red." " I think no other city in
the world," he wrote, *' contains so many places
of worship or so many priests. A temple of
Kuanon, the center of pilgrims from all parts of
the empire, was then so crowded with people

156 A Maker of the New Orient

that we did not attempt to get into it." I{t
required from four to seven guardsmen to get the
party in and out of the crowd. The avenue
between the outer gateway and the temple, one
thousand feet long, was filled on both sides with
shops of toys and curiosities. In a word, this
was the great Asakusa temple.

Dismounting and sending the horses forward
to meet them at a certain point, they embarked
on pleasure boats and descended the Ogawa, or
Great River, of Yedo, passing by the Imperial
storehouses for grain and money. These were
nine long one-storied buildings running back to
the river, divided by canals, which were closed
with gates at the riverside. Many of the man-
sions of the daimios were also visible from the
river. There was scarcely a stone or brick house
in Yedo and but few in the empire. Instead of
the imaginary " stone " or " brick " edifices of
the hasty tourist who had caught a glimpse of
Yedo, *' what appeared so firm to the writer . . .
would scarcely withstand a smart kick from a

The letter describes the features of the mu-
nicipality, the firemen, the landscape, the exceed-
ingly pretty, but very modest, and to an Ameri-
can, utterly cheerless houses, without a pane of
glass or a chimney, and warmed only by a char-
coal brazier, in which the beds were mats or
quilts and in which privacy was almost im-

Life in a Buddhist Temple 157

With Mr. Heusken, the ill-fated young Dutch-
man, secretary of the Legation, afterward cut to
pieces by assassins, he took a long ride of about
twenty miles to the Temple of the Five Hundred
Rakan, or Primitive Disciples of Buddha. It
stood in loneliness, unrepaired after the terrible
earthquake of 1854. The gilded wooden images
had been thrown down by the shock, and though
most of them had been set up again on their
pedestals, yet arms, heads, and legs were lying all
around in confusion. Another visit was made to
Uyeno and Shiba, where were the superb mauso-
leums of the Tokugawa shoguns.

On Sunday, the nth of March, at the request
of the American minister, divine worship and
preaching were held in the American Legation,
the auditors consisting of nine gentlemen from
the legations of Great Britain and the United
States. Mr. Harris gave Chaplain Brown his
Bible, probably the first in the English language
brought (November 30, 1857) to Yedo, and
there statedly read till the 7th of March, 1858.
The text chosen was the first verse of the Bible.
This service was a landmark in the history of
modern Christianity in Japan.

All Things to all Men

All Things to all Men

LIKE his Master and the great apostle to the
nations, Robbins Brown made himself ser-
^ vant unto all that he might gain the more.
Well might he say, " I am become all things to all
men, that I may by all means save some," as the
experiences and incidents recorded in this chapter
will show. Probably it was from this very mo-
tive — desire to be in friendly touch with his fel-
low men, and especially with those who spoke
the English tongue — that he was a freemason,
though more active in the benevolences than in
the ceremonies of the lodge.

At his home in Kanagawa during i860 public
worship and preaching were enjoyed every Sab-
bath, to attend which many English-speaking
persons came over from Yokohama. From the
first Mr. Brown plead for a church edifice so
that the Japanese would not think that foreigners
were atheists. He asked for one thousand dol-
lars to build the first Protestant house of worship
in Japan.

Having studied the possibilities in the ports
about to be opened, including Niigata, he wrote


i62 A Maker of the New Orient

home to the Board, begging for more helpers.
He hoped that Nagasaki might be kept as a
station and Mr. Verbeck be allowed to remain
there. His ideal of a missionary worker among
the keen and intelligent Japanese was very high.
" We want the best men as to respectability,
attainments, and piety that the Church can pro-
duce. . . I may speak freely. No half-educated
man, nor one who has not a good degree of tact
in adapting himself to men of all sorts, nor one
whose piety and enlightened views would not
commend him to the best churches at home . . .
should, in my opinion, be sent to this country.
Above all other natural qualities what is called
good nature, a cheerful, equal, genial tempera-
ment, is desirable here. The Japanese are courte-
ous and polite, very smiling even when they are
counterworking against an enemy, and they will
not be driven. They are very unlike the Chinese
in that respect. They will not bear browbeat-
ing. A good-natured, patient course of treat-
ment accomplishes much more with them than
asperity and blustering."

With what keen insight the new missionary
read the character of the people among whom
he had come; subtly discriminating them from
the Chinese, for example! Only the best ought
to be sent out from home to tell these islanders
of the Infinite Father of all, both theirs and ours.

Ever ready to embrace opportunities to know
more of Japan, he went to Nagasaki on the 28th

All Things to All Men 163

of September in a British steam transport, re-
turning to Kanagawa on the 25th of October by
the U. S. S. S. Hartford. He sailed through
the beautiful Inland Sea, as yet uncut by the keel
of a steamer. Returning by the same route he
visited three tawns on the way, Shimonoseki,
Hiogo, and Osaka, the last two to be opened to
foreign trade and residence January i, 1862.
Thus he saw parts of the country which no
Protestant missionary had yet looked upon. On
deck he interpreted for Captain Lowndes, who
had three Japanese pilots aboard, not one of
whom was able to speak a word of English. He
wrote, " The scene is one of surpassing beauty,
not unlike that of a lake among mountains,
studded with islands which are all inhabited and
cultivated wherever the steepness of their de-
clivities does not prevent it." This was perhaps
the first time that foreign vessels had passed
through the Inland Sea. Half of this delightful
month was spent with Mr. Verbeck in Nagasaki.

The Hartford had not yet become Farragut's
flagship. In the early seventies, long after the
Civil War, he saw again in Japanese waters
la belle frigate, as the French officers called this
superb vessel.

The spirit of romance is necessary to sustain
missionaries of a certain tenuperament, but in
this veteran the sanguine emotions so common to
novices were finely tempered. After surveying
the field he warned his friends in New York not

164 A Maker of the New Orient

to be " too much carried away by the excitement
of the new mission to Japan." They were not
indeed too much interested in it, but perhaps
they were too enthusiastic in their feehngs, " too
much disposed to laud men, and even us poor
missionaries." Having once been in the field to
which he was warned that international sowers
of tares would soon come, he was well aware
that ** the couleur de rose is less appropriate to
the aspect of things in either land than the
couleur de nuit." He knew only too well that
soon would come the emissaries of the synagogue
of Satan to persuade the Japanese that Chris-
tianity was only for children and the ignorant,
and that it was " discredited " at home, — which
we know is, and always has been, true of Christ's
gospel to those who do not believe in Him.

Continuing his investigations into the native
speech and literature, he noticed that despite the
use of the Chinese characters even by children,
and the many words borrowed from Chinese,
" the genius of the two languages is so different
that it is a marvel to me that the one should have
ever been thus wrought into the other . . . yet
these two languages which seem scarcely to have
any ground for affiliation are mixed and com-
pounded into one." Indeed the linguistic labor
of these first pioneers. Brown and Hepburn, at
Kanagawa, was prodigious, almost appalling.
Yet, as usual with this master, he trained up dis-

All Things to All Men 165

The present British minister to Peking, Sir
Ernest M. Satow, one of the greatest of the four
or five great EngHsh-speaking Japanese scholars
in the world, has gladly acknowledged his in-
debtedness to S. R. Brown. On his arrival in
Japan, having entered the British Consular ser-
vice as student interpreter, he was taken by his
fellow student Russell Robertson over to Kana-
gawa to call on Dr. Brown and Dr. Hepburn.
There existed at that time only a rather poor
collection of sentences rendered into Japanese
by the Rev. S. Liggins, and an essay on Japanese
grammar, by Sir Rutherford Alcock, of very little
practical use. Dr. Brown was just then printing
the first sheets of his book " Colloquial Japanese,"
and kindly gave them some spare proofs, and on
these the two young mfen made a start in the
language. This was the beginning of the superb
scholarship in Japanese for which the minister to
China is noted. In October Colonel Neale
sanctioned the arrangement by which Dr. Brown
gave the two young men two hours' teaching
every week. The first book they read under
their teacher was the famous popular sermons of
the Buddhist priest which A. B. Mitford has
given in translation in volume i. of his classic,
*' Tales of Old Japan." These lessons continued
until 1863. In a letter written from the legation
in Peking to the biographer, June 2^ 1901, Sir
Ernest writes : " Dr. Brown's teaching was of
the greatest assistance to me and instilled into

1 66 A Maker of the New Orient

me a taste for Japanese literature, apart from the
study of official documents to which a student
interpreter has to apply himself. He was an
extremely kind and faithful teacher, and without
his help it would have been very difficult to make
any progress with the language, for in thosa
days there existed nothing m the shape of a
colloquial grammar. . . I have the most vivid
recollection of Dr. Brown's kindly countenance,
his fine aquiline nose, bright eyes and the gray
hair, altogether a noble head."

From the second Sunday after his arrival, in
November, 1859, he had begun religious services
with preaching once a day, and these were con-
tinued at Dr. Hepburn's house for about eight
months. In June Rev. John Nevius, from
Ningpo, came over to recruit his wife's health and
relieved him on alternate Sundays. In July, i860,
at the request of English-speaking merchants in
Yokohama, he went across the bay and preached
to a congregation of eight gentlemen. The very
next week a request came for continuous, per-
manent public worship. A room was procured
and the congregation, averaging thirty, occasion-
ally rose over forty. A committee of business
men was appointed to purchase a lot for a church
edifice and procure subscriptions for the building
of a church, and the salary of a chaplain — to be a
clergyman of the Church of England. The
amount raised was over four thousand dol-
lars. Except the French Catholic Church, this

All Things to All Men 167

was the only outward sign of a Christian com-
munity in Yokohama.

The thousand dollars necessary to print " Col-
loquial Japanese " was voluntarily furnished by a
Scottish merchant in Yokohama, while the pas-
sage to and from Shanghai to oversee the print-
ing of the book was given by a Jewish gentle-
man, so that this publication cost the Board

Let us read here an incident told by Mr.
Brown's sister-in-law in 1901 :

" It was said of him at his funeral, by Dr.
Stout, a fellow missionary, that he was equally
popular with foreigners and natives. This was
not, in most cases, considered a compliment, as it
implied a slacking of religious character, but
in Dr. Brown's case it was the result of a
general spirit of fellowship and common sense,
which gave him a common ground with all sorts
of men. One sea captain, returning to this
country, said, " I have found one real mission-
ary — I was very sick, and I think the surgeon
thought I was going off this time. He spoke of
sending for Mr. Brown, whom I had met in
America, but I said, * No, I don't want to see any
missionary.' When he came at first I would
have nothing to say to him, but he had a friendly
way of talking, and when he said, ' Eh, Roger,
have you got any tobacco ? ' that broke the ice,
he could say all he wanted to then."

Amid Wars and Rumors of Wars

Amid Wars and Rumors of War

SO far as visible or statistical results were
concerned during these years at Kana-
gawa, the missionary seemed to count as
little as a coral insect. To the average observer
his work seemed as useless as that of the miner
or foundation layer does to the trivial-minded.
These were dark, sad days during the first half
of the war for the Union at home, and when
Japan also was in the turmoil of coming civil
war; but there were bright days too. Of his
coming helpers, Rev. J. H. and Mrs. Ballagh, he
hoped that " the good Lord will permit us long
to labor together in his cause in this land." That
prayer was answered. The comrades in gospel
service had eighteen years of mutual friendship
in Japan.

One happy surprise was the receipt of a letter
of credit for two hundred pounds sterling, which
Chaplain H. Wood of the U. S. S. S. Powhatcm
had collected at Honolulu.

"It is certainly remarkable," wrote Mr. Brown,
" that the money should have come from such
a source. I well remember the time when the


172 A Maker of the New Orient

first company of missionaries sailed for the Sand-
wich Islands. One of the number was my wife's
first teacher, and I knew her in my childhood
also. Some forty-one years have passed and
what has God wrought? I am in Japan, a
country not then thought of as a possible mis-
sionary field, and there comes from the Christian
kingdom of those then pagan islands the first
donation toward the first mission chapel in this
country. And such a donation too, so large an
amount, is a striking demonstration of the effects
of the gospel upon these islands. . . The con-
trast between 1820 and 1861 amazes me. Surely
the Lord our God has good in store for this

By mid spring of 1861 Mr. Brown had been
three times in Yedo, each time spending a week at
the United States Legation. He rode not fewer
than one hundred miles on horseback in various
directions in and around the city, but saw no
sign of dislike or ill will among the people. All
this was very different from statements of lively
newspaper correspondents. With Dr. Hepburn,
but separately, he was working at a translation
of the Gospel of Mark into Japanese. They had
it repeatedly revised and the Gospel of John was
begun. A knowledge of Chinese was requisite,
for " Chinese is the classic element in the Japa-
nese language." Chinese Christian books were
still called for. His teacher wanted Martin's
" Evidences of Christianity " " to introduce into

Wars and Rumors of War i ']2y

a Japanese school, not, he said, to adopt the faith
of Christians, but to learn what it is and to see
its proof." He made to the Board a proposition
to pubHsh a Christian periodical of some sort in
the common people's language. Two bright
little Japanese girls were being taught daily in
the family school by Miss Adrian.

This was the era of law based on the codes of
China, and he thus pictures some phases of the
native life around him:

" Last week there was an execution by burn-
ing at the stake near Yokohama. The culprit
was an incendiary. Incendiaries are always
punished in this way here. A strong post was
erected in the ground, fastened at the top to a
sapling bent in the form of an arch, so that both
its ends were inserted in the ground. The culprit
was bound to the upright post by cords about the
ankles, below the knees, and about the hips and
neck, his hands having been previously tied
behind him. His feet were some eighteen inches
from the ground. Drugged sakeixxz^ spirit) was
given him to drink before the fire was kindled,
and from appearances I should judge that he was
also strangled by the cord about his neck. The
fire of bamboo and straw was built in a circle
around the post, and at a distance of three or
four feet, so that the body was badly scorched
and blackened with smoke.

"I saw the body hanging there the next day
guarded by a few soldiers, and was told that it

174 A Maker of the New Orient

is customary to expose it thus for three days,
for the sake of the moral effect upon the people.
It is a horrid sight to behold, certainly. It is
said there is to be another execution, by impale-
ment with spears, in a few days. Thousands of
people flocked to the execution ground the other
day, men, women, and children — a promiscuous
crowd. As in other countries, it often happens
that there is much crime committed among the
spectators at such scenes." The reference here
is to the punishment by crucifixion on the bamboo
cross, when two long lances were thrust cross-
wise from thigh to shoulder, the vital parts being
avoided so as to prolong the suffering.

The political clouds were lowering to black-
ness in Japan, portending a storm, and the Yedo
government was pressing the missionaries to
leave Kanagawa to go to Yokohama. At
home, civil war was raging and missionary con-
tributions were falling off. The outlook was not
bright on January i, 1862.

While he was musing the fire burned. Soon
after midday a young gentleman from the British
consulate at Yokohama landed, and calling on
Mr. Brown, handed him a document in behalf of
F. Howard Vyse, Esq., H. B. M. consul, and
twenty-four gentlemen, British, American, and

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Online LibraryWilliam Elliot GriffisA maker of the new Orient : Samuel Robbins Brown, pioneer educator in China, America, and Japan : the story of his life and work → online text (page 7 of 14)