william lighhtfoot visscher.

The Asiatic journal and monthly miscellany online

. (page 19 of 139)
Online Librarywilliam lighhtfoot visscherThe Asiatic journal and monthly miscellany → online text (page 19 of 139)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

ter, which furnish and supply the widow with this kind of courage, are founded
on prejudice. Be it so. Then strip man of his prejudices, civil and religious,
and what is he ?-— A savage. Some writers have attributed the fortitude exhi-
bited by the women on these occasions to mere blind superstitious enthusiasm.
Let them beware how they assume this position. It once drew from a Brahmin
pundit, in the hearing of the writer, the retort,— that such, too, must have
been the source whence the holy martyrs of the Protestant Church in Europe
drew their btrengtb and courage. Those cavillers who have gratuitously denied

Digitized by V^OOQ IC

126 The Women of Hindoaan.^No. Vlt.

the freedom and volition of the victim, have been ahready answered, not by the
writer only, but by innumerous credible witnesses. But there are yet some
more captious persons who, having been compelled to admit that the sacrifice
was in some sort voluntary, that the pledge to the Brahmin had been free, and
the preparations spontaneous, have boldly asserted that the victims, in most
instances, failed of their resolution when brought to the pile, and were thrust
headlong into the flames by the officiating priests; that scarcely a single instance
of willing consummation is on record ; thus denying to them altogether even
the credit of fortitude and consistency. All the accounts which the writer has
been able to collect, furnish him with but one such instanee of vacillation on
the part of the poor victim ; while in numberless instances the resolute perse-
verance through protracted agonies has been almost super-human. It is, more-
over, worthy of remark, that the only credibly reported instance to which the
writer can refer, as an example of compulsioii by the priests, exhibits in the
catastrcyphe a resolute and pertinacious election, a free and persevering endu-
rance, on the part of the victim, which could not be surpassed. It is thus told
by Tavcraier : ^ From Ooa I passed to Mingrella, where there fell out an acci-
dent not to be forgotten. An idolater dying, and the fire being prepared for
the burning of the body, his wife, who had no children, by permission of the
governor came to the fire, and stood among the priests and her kindred, to be
burnt with the body of her deceased husband. As they were taking three turns,
according to custom, round the place where the fire was to be kindled, there
fell of a sudden so violent a shower, that the priests, willing to get put of the
rain, thrust the woman all along into the fire. But the shower was so vehe-
ment, and endured so long a time, that the fire was quenched and the woman
was not burned. About midnight, she arose, and went and knocked at the
door of one of her kinsmen's houses, where Father Zenou and many Hollan-
ders saw her, looking so ghastly and grimly that it was enough to have scared
them. However, the pain that she endured did not to far terrify her but that,
three days after, accompanied by her kindred, she went, and was burned
aceording to her first intention.'* Was not this, however lamentable, however
mistaken the incentive, true heroism ? Putting aside the motive, what won-
derfiil strength of mind and inflexible decision of purpose are here manifested;
and, in the words of the admirable Foster, '* If there have been found some
resolute spirits powerfully asserting themselves in feeble vehicles, it is so
much the better, since this would authorize a hope that, if all the other grand
requisites can be combined, they may form a strong character, in spite of the
counteraction of an unadapted constitution."

The traits of magnanimity and courage here descanted on, have been more
or less of a domestic character ; but the heroines of Hindostan have been
equally distinguished for the majesty of their public characters, and for their
ardent patriotism, when any emergency has drawn them from their seclusion.
The women of India, high and low, are indeed remarkable among oriental
nations for the zeal which they have ever manifested for the national good and
the national honour ; and the proof has been, in their cheerful sacrifice of con-
venience, of property, and of life itself. In times of anarchy and intestine
convulsion, when the energies of experienced warriors and of able councillors
have failed them, the throne of Delhi was repeatedly saved by the courageous,
judicious, and decided interposition of women; of princesses in some instances,
of peasants in others. It were ridiculous to cite names ; they are literally
innumerable; and whether the reader may desire an example of wisdom in

Digitized by LjOOQIC

The Women of Hindodan.—No. VIL 127

council, or of skill and intrepidity in active warfare, let him turn but a few
pages in any one of the voluminous histories of India, ancient or modern, and
be will not fail to find it. The truth of what is here stated is well known, as
regards the females of the courts and those of high birth. Of the patriotic
spirit of the humbler classes, the following is a fair illustration, the writer
having ** turned but a few pages'* of Tavemier, whose book of travels hap-
pened to be before him at the moment : '' A soldier, who was passionately in
love with his wife, and reciprocally beloved by her, had fled from the fight,
not so much out of any fear of death, as out of the consideration of the grief
which it would occasion to his wife, should he leave her a widow. When she
knew the reason of his flight, as soon as he came to the door she shut it
against him, ordering him to be told that she could never acknowledge that
man for a husband who had preferred the love of a woman before his honour ;
that she did not desire to see him any more, as being a stain to the reputation
of her family ; and that she would endeavour to teach her children to have
more courage than their father. The wife continuing firm to her resolution,
the husband, to regain his honour and her affection, returned to the army,
where he so behaved himself, that he became famous, and having highly made
amends for his former cowardice, the door of his house was again set open,
and his wife received him with her former kindness.**

Perhaps the most illustrious heroine whose actions are recorded in the
history of Hindostan, the Empress Neur Jehan, was of lowly origin. Of her
beauty, her accomplishments, her generosity, her energy, diplomatic skill, and
decision of character, the whole world is pretty well informed; but of her con-
duct in action, little comparatively is told. That she was transcendant in this
commanding quality, however, let the following interesting passage from Dow*s
history attest. The scene of action was on the banks of the river Jelum, upon
the high road between Lahore and Cabool. Jehanghir, the emperor, had been
carried away captive by his late vizier, Mohabut Kahn ; and the empress, hav-
ing escaped the rebel's plot, fled to her brother Azuph, then prime minister.
With an utterly inadequate force, they determined to attempt the rescue of
the emperor; a measure full of peril, as will be seen. ^ Azuph began his
march with day. When he came to the bridge, he found it burnt down. He
resolved to ford the river ; but the water was so deep, that many were drowned.
Those who gained the further shore had to fight the enemy at a manifest dis-
advantage. They were cut off as fast as they ascended the bank. A succes-
rion of victims came to the swords of the Rajpoots. The action continued
for some hours. The rear of the imperialists, pressing into the river, pre-
vented the front from retreating. The sultana was not a tame spectator on
the occasion. Mounted on an elephant, she plunged into the stream with her
daughter by her side. The young lady was wounded in the arm, but her mother
pressed forwatd. Three of her elephant-drivers were successively killed, and
the elephant received three wounds on his trunk. Neur Jehan, in the mean
time, emptied four quivers of arrows on the enemy. The Rajpoots pressed
into the stream to sieze her, but the master of her household, mounting the
dephant, turned him away, and carried her out of the river, notwithstanding
her threats and commands." The late Begum Sumroo, who greatly distin-
guished herself in battle, both by her martial skill and by her personal intre-
pidity, was also of low birth. Her cruel and tyrannical disposition, unfortu-
nately, deprive her of that admiration which her heroic conduct would other-
vise have inspired. Alas !

Digitized by LjOOQ IC

1S8 AnaUcia Sinemia.'^No. III.

There have been those who, from the high bark's side,
Ha7e whelmed their enemy in the flashing deep ;
And who have watched to see hit struggling hands,
To hear the sob of death.

In fine, wherever the faculties of the mind and the passions of the heart are
roost quickly and forcibly excited, in national and in private calamity, in the
convulsions of nature or of society, in privation, danger, and anguish ; in all
of these, and, alas! in hatred as in love, women have continimlly evinced
fortitude and strength of resolution surpassing that of men ; and it cannot be
contradicted, that the women of Hindostan are among the foremost in such



The Chinese, for a considerable time, have had their biographical memoirs
of individuals distinguished either in the fabulous or the historic period of
their story; and there are several works containing portraits, as well as
accounts, of the personages of high antiquity. Thus the reader, who turns over
the pages of the San4tae to<hhwuy, will be startled at finding portraits of indi-
viduals, to whom the true and authentic history of Adam would be compara-
tively an affair of yesterday. The biography of the same work is rich in impe-
rial portraits, and in the founder of the sect of F&h, or Budh ; while a host of
seen sang, or savans, warriors, magicians, deities, and demons, figures in its
pages. To these are annexed short descriptions, drawn up in a style eminent for
a laconic conciseness, and containing generally some anecdotes illustrative of
their character. Several of the portraits represent the heroes in particular atti-
tudes, or attended with some of the circumstances which marked their career.

It is not, however, all the biographical works which present such effigies,
although most of them do ; and the preface of one, the Wan seaou tangy* rea-
sons very justly upon the subject :— " To recite, forsooth, the poetry of the
ancients, and to read their works ; to become, as it were, acquainted with
them, without attaining a glimpse of their perfection of character, is a disgrace
to the past; but to recite their poetry, read their works, attain their portraits,
and behold as it were the very men themselves, is it not the very pleasure of
antiquity?" Another work, very similar in its arrangement and pictures, is
the IVoo chwang poo, which gives full-length representations of the most dis-
tinguished personages of the past ; while the saints of the Budh sect are fre-
quently depicted upon the thin transparent leaves of the Indian fig-tree, with
short descriptions. If any Chinese scholar, resident within the limits of the
Celestial Empire, and amply provided with time and materials, would draw up
a Chinese biographical dictionary, it would be no slight means of forwarding
the study of the literature of the country ; for the want of such a work is evi-
dent to all, while the time lost in searching for allusions to personages men-
tioned in their works is almost incalculable. Another work is the Pih niei sin
yungf * a new recital of the hundred beauties,' of which some translations of
portions only have been made into German. It contains, as its name imports,
some extracts relative to female biography ; and in the Neu tsae, * or Female
Genius,' a work also of light literature, are several romances founded on facts,
also illustrative of biography.

• In the T«M tne, p. 3.

Digitized by LjOOQ IC

Biographical PenciUmgi^I%€ Wan uaou tang. 189

The biographical works, it it needless to state, present much greater diffi-
colties to the student, as they recede from the teaou hwa or colloquial style,
and approach nearer to that of the hin^^t^ although not entirely ; and the short
extracts, few eontaiaing more than a page, are filled with allusions to, rather
than accounu of, the personages represented. To the characters, generally in
the same page in which they are depicted, are attached short accounts from
authors relating to the personages ; thus, in the Wan teaou tang, at the des-
cription of 800 wnh (p. 9), who ie represented in a meditative attitude before
two goats, is a quoution from ** the Books of the former Han dynasty, which
say in bis praise, that Coafiicius termed an upright doctor and virtoons man,
bim who destroys his appedtas (body), in order to perfect his virtue; not seeing
his animal propensities at the risk of injuring his virtue ; and who, sent any
where, would not disgrace his prince's commands— such a one was Soo wuh !"
Again, speaking of Yen tsse ling (ibidem, p. 1 1) : '' Like the verdant cloud-capped
mountmn, like the sparkling stream, was the savant's gait ; as the bill lofty,
as the water easy." In mentioning another savant, one of the class of teen
iing, the same work states that '* Choo tsse observes, in praise of this savant,
that he was erect like a mountain, had a countenance like jade, a voice clear
as gold, innate genius, surrounded with the purity of the heaven and bril-
liancy of the sun — like a cloud harmonizing with the wind and producing gentle
rain — an imperial virtue, and integrity in explaining his doctrines."

In one of the early pages of the work occurs an account of a martial charac-
ter, named Heang yu, who flourished during the epoch of the Han dynasty. He
is rather a ferocious-looking personage, and brandishes in his hand a sword, a
kind of fencing more braggart than effectual. The text informs us that '* the
king {wang), who was of the family of Heang, was named Heang yu. The Heang
family, indeed, for a succession of generations, had inhabited and were military
commanders of the kingdom of Tsoo (in Hoo kwang). Their name was derived
from Heang, their locality. From his earliest in£Eincy, he would not learn books
orliteratnroyor become polbhed. When his father upbraided him with it, he re*>
plied, * It is learning enough to know one's name and surname, and there is no
need of study to defeat the enemy; all I want to know is, where to find them out.*
Hii father instructed him in military sciences, and the son, greatly delighted,
soon understood their import, but could not be made to learn anything else. His
father, to avoid his enemies, retired with him into the state of Woo, where
the king grew to the height of eight feet (Chinese), and strong in proportion.
He could raise unassisted a tripod, such as two men carry along upon a pole,
and his constitution exceeded the general run of mankind. In Woo, he col-
lected a large body of followers, being then in his twenty4burth year, and,
following his father's counseb, troubled affairs and elevated himself to power.
On his father^s ruin and death, he avenged himself by routing the army of
Tsin, destroying Han yang, killing his children, and established himself as
the usurper of the Western Tsoo. He was subsequently defeated in an engage-
ment by the emperor Kaou tsoo, of the Han dynasty, and destroyed himself at
the Woo keang (or Black river), in the thirty-first year of his age."

From other sources, we know that his wife, Yu, who is also depicted on a
subsequent page, destroyed herself on account of her husband's, through affec-
tion for her, not setting forth to the war till it was too late. On his march, to
try the force of his officers, he made a cock of iron, which weighed eight hun-
dred pounds, and which was borne by them, and placed on the saddle-bow of
bis horse the head of his beloved wifb. The horse, in crossing the Woo keang,

A$iat.Joum. N.S.VoL.32.No.l2«. S

Digitized by LjOOQ IC

130 Analecta Sinensia, — No. Ill,

seeing the reflection of a human bead in the water, started, and could not be
induced to move ; and Heang yu, afraid of failing into the hands of his ene-
mies, destroyed himself. These circumstances are only alluded to in the bio-
graphical sketches of Heang yu and Yu ke in the Wan teaou tang (p. 3), which
mentions the death of the latter, and places whicli tradition had assigned as
the tomb of her head and body. The lady was one of the four beauties.

As an instance of the independence of character and literary arrogance
assumed by learned persons, the following pencilling of a man of some distinc-
tion is rather amusing. In the short pithy mention made of distinguished cha-
racters under the dynasty, it is stated, ** Yen tszeling, while asleep, placed his
feet in the emperor's stomach :" a kind of footstool not reserved for many
inhabitants of the central flowery kingdom.

" Yen tsze ling was a native of YQh yaou, and early in youth acquired consi-
derable reputation. He travelled and studied together with the emperor She-
tsoo (Kwang wQh), and the emperor would deliberate with him on political
affairs. The emperor, having been told that there was a person dressed in a
sheep-skin fishing in the lake, suspecting it to be Kwang, sent three friends to
entreat him to come, and ultimately got into his chariot, and the same day
arrived at Kwang's house, who was sleeping and did not arise. The emperor
struck him on his stomach, and said, ' Halloo, Tsze ling, why don't you ^et up
and behave properly ?' The other replied, ' When doctors are at rest, why
do you disturb them ?* and went ofl* to fish at Foo chun."* {Wan tea^u tang,

p. 11).

The freaks of this worthy are, however, of not uncommon occurrence ; for
among the host of literary characters, the very galaxy of Chinese talent, the
imperial historiographers, poets, musicians, blue-stockings, &c., occurs a notice
of Soo joo Ian, the lady who invented the revolving verses, the historian Pan
koo, and several others of equaUy distinguished reputation ; besides several '
military heroes, who figure in attitudes similar to that of Hean gyu, mention is
made of Pang kung, a kung, or doctor, who seems to have indulged in seclu-
sion to an excess only met with among ascetic devotees. He lived during the
reign of the after Hans. He is represented dressed very like a Chinese farmer,
and the biographical portion informs us, *^ that the annals of the after Han
dynasty assert that Pang kung, who was a native of Seang yang, in the Southern
Provinces, dwelt to the south of Heen shan, and never entered a city or town.
He and his wife received as their guest the censor of Hing chow, named
Leaou soo, who, many times beseeching him, could not turn him from his pur-
pose, and finally told him, ' You take care of yourself, but how do you do any
good to the empire?' The other smiled : 'The nest of the wild goose,' he
said, ' is built upon the lofty wood, and yet in the morning it obtains a place to
dwell in ; the tortoise's cave is in the deep, and yet in the evening it finds a
place to lie in. Do you not perceive that men, whether resting or stopping,
have their nests and caves, each obtains his dwelling and resting-place, and
provides for himself not the empire?' His wife, as he had left the plough, was
weeding before him, and the censor Soo, pointing it out to him, said, 'If you
lie in a ditch, you will not rise, and how will you hereafter provide for
your family ?' ' The world,' replied Pang, ' in general, provides for them with
difficulty; I provide for them with ease j what they will inherit may not be like
that of others, yet they will not entirely want.' Soo exhorted him, and went

• Yu Foo Chun. Foo meant 'rich/ and chun * spring,' yu *in* or 'at.'— Cf. Morr. Dictionary. If
Foo e*iinianotUienanM of a place, the alliuion is not known. FoorOtn mmoa ' young/ i.e. rich in
yean yet to comCi->Moniion. Tonic PBrt» voce Foo,

Digitized by LjOOQ IC

Biographical PenciUings-^The Wan seaou tang. 131

off Pang afterwards took his wife with him, and ascended the Luh mun shan,
in order to collect medicinal plants without going far for them."

Of Cbing shun kung, there is the following account :— *' This ieen tang
(saTant) was called Haou, and surnamed Pa shun ; at the age of ten he could
Tersify ; and between tweWe and thirteen, dwelt in a college, like an old roan.
When he grew up, he studied, along with Te-e, at Chow yuen kung's. The
plants which grew before Yuen kung's windows were not rooted up. Persons
inquired the reason, saying, * In your house, you should act uniformly, and
before the seen sang's window the plants grow thickly, while they are carefully
plucked up from the steps.' ' Not so,' was the reply ; ' I desire to see the
constructiYe growth of things.' Also, in the pond of water before the village,
he kept sereral little fish, and was constantly looking at them, and when the
meaning of this was asked, ' By seeing things attain their growth, we under-
stand the universal law.' Seay te says : " this savant sat with the dignity of
an image (joo Uang soo), and with his acquaintances was always in a peifect
circle of amity and concord." Fan te also observes : ** the savant's appearance
was sedate, his disposition harmonious, his intention firm, and his conversation
grave; and those beholding him could not fail being inspired with awe ; indeed,
none who saw or had intercourse with him ever left his presence without reve-
rencing him as a man of true learning." He died in the eighth year of the
emperor Yuen ftmg, about A.D. 1085. Wan loo kung wrote as an epitaph on
his tomb, Ming faou, * the enlightened reason.' " {Wan^ &c. p. 11.)

Of Chew yuen kung, there is also the highest encomium in the same work,
both from Choo tsze and also in the descriptive portion. '' In the mind of this
man, the very highest genius was scattered like rays of light." He appears to
have been in his disposition one of the class of men familiarly known, or nick-
named, as '* inquirers of the hills and seekers of the stream." The surprising
memory of Wang wan kung can only be parallelled by that of Niebuhr, the
historian. '* Wang wan kung, who was called Gan shih and Keae poo, was a
Linchow man, and early addicted himself to study ; what he had once seen, he
never forgot till the end of his life; and in literary composition, he wrote as if
his pencils flew." Gaou yang wung chung kung, also named Sew, and surnamed
Yung shuh, Tsuy ung, and Luh yih keu, was a Low ling man ; his father, Wan,
who had taken his doctor's degree, and had been created a judge, died, leaving
him at the age of four. His mother, who was of the Ching family, taught him
his characters by tracing them out for him with a reed upon the ground."
** Although he was obliged to borrow his books from a neighbouring village to
copy, he learnt them by heart, and finally graduated as a bachelor, and rose to
the rank of tutor to the heir apparent, and was complimented by the emperors,
Lin tsung and Ying tsung."

These specimens will show that the Chinese are not ignorant of the utility
of teaching morals by good examples.

Digitized by LjOOQ iC

( 132 )




The general disbursements of these settlements have been greatly and pro-
perly reduced, compared with what they were under the old system of govern-
ment. There remain now only four civil servants of the late Bencoolen esta-
blishment (ail the surviving ones of the Penang list being dead or having
retired), viz. the Governor and three Residents. The office of assistant at
Penang is held by an extra covenanted 'servant of the late Fort Marlborough
establishment, an efficient active man ; that at Malacca by a private gentleman
of Dutch extraction. It will shortly be found that other servants must be
appointed, to fill vacancies as they occur. The Government will discover that
there is little advantage in employing uncovenanted servants in situations of
such trust and importance, and still less profit in sending civilians from Bengal,
whose allowances are so much higher than were those of the local servants.
Sending new and inexperienced men from other presidencies, only causes
change and confusion : they are always endeavouring to undo, under the idea
of improvement, what has been done by their predecessors after deliberate

Online Librarywilliam lighhtfoot visscherThe Asiatic journal and monthly miscellany → online text (page 19 of 139)