Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/754

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not surprised, then, to read the statement of the Abbé Hue that "the whole nation has proclaimed this famous formula, with which everybody is satisfied—the three religions are one. Thus, all the Chinese are at the same time partisans of Confucius, Lao-tze, and Buddha."[1] The institutions and faith which were handed down by Confucius have been embraced by the Taoists, Buddhists, Mohammedans, and Christians, in turn. And it may reasonably be asserted that any form of religion which hopes to prevail in China must permit the practice and belief of their popular superstitions. In the seventeenth century, the Catholic Church was flourishing in China, and made—nominally, at least—many converts. As it grew stronger, however, it became less tolerant of these native ceremonies which it had at first allowed. This produced an immediate discussion between the Emperor and the priests. The matter was referred to the Pope, and Clement XI settled the dispute, and his cause, by decreeing that the Chinese ceremonies should not be permitted the proselytes. The Emperor thereupon banished the missionaries, and upward of one hundred thousand souls were lost to the Church.

This remarkable preservation of the most primitive form of government and religion, in so vast and ancient a nation, well illustrates the law of heredity—that characters which have been long transmitted are more persistent than those of more recent origin. All newer forms have yielded to those ancient institutions and beliefs which originated before their civilization, and, aided by unchanged surroundings, have been developed in a nation composed of a homogeneous people and transmitted by inheritance to the present time.

The practical arts of the Chinese, which have added to the comforts and luxuries of the Western nations, from the time of the Greeks to the present day, will appear, upon consideration, to be unchanged in their effects upon our society, either in the event of an entire exclusion or an unlimited immigration of the people. It would be difficult to imagine a nation, existing for forty-five centuries, having any claim to being called civilized, which had not made many useful discoveries and inventions. This would be still more difficult to understand of a people like the Chinese, whose instincts have always directed them in the paths of peace. So we find that, in the course of centuries, they have made no mean progress in the useful arts, however slow that progress may have been. The Western nations seem to have derived their early knowledge of many useful inventions from the Chinese; among these, not the least important are those mighty engines of civilization—gunpowder, paper, and printing. The history of these inventions, however, but adds another illustration to the different characters of the civilizations of China and Christendom. It shows, equally, their continued adherence to old knowledge, with no disposition to improvement; and our inventive and progressive genius, in

  1. "Chinese Empire," vol. ii, p. 98.