The Chinese Repository/Volume 1/Number 7/Literary Notices

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November 1832

2451952The Chinese Repository, Volume 1, Number 7 — Literary Notices1832


The Catechism of the Shamans; or the laws and regulations of the priesthood of Budha in China; translated from the Chinese original, with notes and illustrations. By Charles Fried. Neumann. 8mo. pp. 152. London; printed for the oriental translation fund, and sold by J. Murray, &c. 1831.

This work is dedicated to Sir George Staunton, Bart, "with profound respect and esteem" by the translator. Sir George is, we believe, one of the most persevering patrons of Chinese literature in Great Britain. And we have heard that he is particularly attentive to continental poor scholars in general, and to sinologues in particular. Of our friend Neumann, too, we cannot but speak in the language of unaffected respect and regard: although we cannot praise him for perfect accuracy, nor yield entire submission to all his German theories. We remember him very well, and always enjoyed his discursive conversation on all subjects, excepting "peculs and catties," to which he had a great aversion. We avow ourselves Neumann's friends, but that shall not prevent our telling him, and the world, (we mean the Chinese reading world—a very small portion of mankind,) what we think of his "Catechism."

In the first place, we object that he has not told us what, in the original, is the name of the book he has translated. We looked over his pamphlet, as critics do, once, and again, and a third time, and after all could find no native name to his catechism. We found, very easily, what he calls "The Breviary of the Shaman," because he gave the name of it both in Chinese and English, "Sha mun jih jung;"—but here, as well as in many other places, he is careless and erroneous in his Chinese spelling; his jung, should be yung; and in other places, his chung should be chwang &c. &c. However these are little faults. We have, by search found out his original, the name of which is Sha-me leuh e,yaou leoh, "an epitome of the most important prohibitions and regulations for Shamans." Our copy is the Chung kan, a new edition; and it contains tsang choo yuen ke so yen—"additional comments, with minute explanations of the causes and rise of things" (or phrases).

This is probably the same edition that the Professor had; but why he has called the ten prohibitory precepts, and twenty-four regulations for personal condnct,—intended, as is said in the book itself, to give dignity and inspire respect,—"A Catechism," we do not know. There is nothing of the catechetical form in the composition. Indeed, we have never seen that form used in any Chinese book. The ten precepts in Mr. N's translation are thus arranged.

1. Thou shalt not kill any living creature.
2. Thou shalt not steal.
3. Thou shalt not be lewd.
4. Thou shalt not do wrong by thy mouth.
5. Thou shalt not drink strong liquors.
6. Thou shalt not perfume the hair on the top of thy head; thou shalt not paint thy body.
7. Thou shalt not behold or hear songs, and pantomimes, and plays; nor shalt thou perform thyself.
8. Thou shalt not sit or lie on a high and large couch.
9. Thou shalt not eat after the time.
10. Thou shalt not have in thy private possession either a metal figure (an idol), or gold, or silver, or any valuable thing.

Such is the Decalogue of the Shamans! The original expressions are more simple than the translation of Mr. N. He has, unnecessarily, added thou to each interdict to make it read like the Decalogue of Moses: as in other places, he very erroneously applies Christian names to what differs materially from the Christian sense, and so blinds his own understanding, and throws dust in the eyes of others, to give colour to his own sceptical theories; such as that, all religions are alike; and to the philosopher all are equally untrue. In this way he uses, Scripture, church, clergy, &c.; and says first, that Budhism is like Roman Catholicism; and next, that it is the Lutheranism of the Hindoo church; whilst another Indian sect, is its Calvinism; and a third its Socinianism. He might, with as much philosophical accuracy, say that every brute biped is like man, because it has feet, and body, head, eyes, mouth, and ears;—which certainly indicate a great deal of similarity. How can a system which talks of Deity as being "nihility," "a something-nothing, or a nothing-something," &c., be compared to any thing either Jewish or Christian! The Chinese wording of the first five interdicts is thus;

1. Puh sha sang, "Do not kill sentient beings."
2. Puh taou, "Do not steal."
3. Puh yin, "Do not marry."
4. Puh wang yu, "Speak not falsely."
5. Puh yin tsew, Drink not wine.

The third, interdicts to the Shamans all sexual intercourse; and these precepts are for the priests, and not for the people, therefore Mr. N.'s translation is wrong. The word he has translated lewd is explained as we have now given it. The Confucianists often laugh at the Buhdists for interdicting marriage; which seems to have induced the commentator to add a note, saying, that this third precept does not apply to those who live at home, in the same sense. It only interdicts those not included among wives and concubines. The fourth interdict forbids, not only saying what is false, but also all bad language calculated to corrupt or injure others; scolding, tale-bearing, &c.

The twenty-four "insipid regulations," as Mr. Neumann calls them, which form the second Book of his catechism are divided into sections which are numbered. We subjoin the heads of the chapters,—"intended to give dignity and inspire respect."

1. Respect to be paid to the great Shamans.
2. Duties to a teacher (or Guru).
3. On going out with a master.
4. Behaviour in public, and
5. At the public table.
6. Concerning the performance of worship.
7. On hearing the law.
8. On studying the sacred Books.
9. On entering the halls of a monastery.
10. Concerning behaviour,on entering the hall for worship.
11. On the transaction of business.
12. On bathing.
13. On entering a privy.
14. On sleeping
15. On sitting round a fire.
16. On behaviour in the sleeping room.
17. On visiting a nunnery.
18. On going to people's houses.
19. On begging for food.
20. On going among the multitude.
21. On going to the market.
22. In nothing, to act for one's self, but to ask permission.
23. On going to a distance or travelling.
24. Concerning utensils and vestments.

Under these twenty-four heads or chapters are many things silly, trivial, mean, and disgusting; neither conferring dignity, nor respectability on the contrivers or performers. Such as;—you must not call a great Shaman by his name; you must not listen by stealth to a great Shaman explaining the law; you must not speak of his faults; you must not sit, but rise up when you see a great Shaman passing by; you must not enter the master's door without thrice making a noise by smacking your fingers; you shall look upon a Hoshang priest as if you saw Budha himself; when you wash your face you must not use much water; you must not blow your nose, nor spit in a temple, in clean rooms, or on the clean ground, or in clean water; you must not laugh much; if you do laugh aloud or yawn, you must hide your mouth with your sleeve; must not form a friendship with a young Shaman boy; whenever you close your hands in prayer you must not let your ten fingers be in disorder; must not put your fingers in your nose; when hearing the law, you must not spit nor cough aloud; you must not blow the dust off the sacred books with your breath; for in the first place, the breath stinks; and in the second place, it shews want of respect; you must not study books of divination, of physiognomy, of medicine, of drawing lots, of astronomy, of geography, of charms, of alchemy, or any magic arts; you must not study poetry; you must not take hold of sacred books with dirty hands; before sacred books you must consider yourself in the presence of Budha, and not joke or laugh.

Such is a specimen of this religion of reason, and the rules of a Shaman Monastery. We will not conduct our readers to the bath, and some other places alluded to above, in the heads of chapters.

Prof. N. has, in general, given the sense of the original; we have observed a few places, however, where he has mistaken it. As for example, in page 109, on hearing the law, the original reads, Puh tih we hwuy, ching hwuy; juh urh chuh kow, "you must not when you don't understand, say you do understand; and what enters the ear, (instantly) utter with the mouth." This Mr. N. translates, thus, "All that enters into your ear, shall not indiscriminately pass out of your mouth; you shall not say what should not be stated before the congregation." Here the sense of the whole paragraph is lost, and he has introduced "a congregation;" whereas there is properly no such thing as a congregation in the whole system. The persons present are all priests and pupils. Mr. N. has taken a sense of hwuy which does not apply here. Morrison 4560 defines it "to unite; to assemble; an association;" thus far congregation would do. But he gives below what shews that hwuy also means to unite thoughts; to associate ideas; to understand. One of Morrison's examples is, hwuy tso, to know or understand how to do a thing.

In page 147 also, the Prof, has quite mistaken the sense. The original reads, yuen lung, yaou kea leang pang—"When travelling to a distance, you must avail yourself of the company of a virtuous friend; Koo jin sin te we tung, puh yuen tseen le kew sze, the "ancients, when the ground of the heart did not understand; did not regard a thousand le, (miles) as too great a distance to go and seek for a teacher." Of this, Mr. N. gives the following version. "With regard to travelling; for visiting a friend who lives far distant, our fore-fathers formed different opinions;—but this is certain, you should not ask the master for permission if your friends or parents live farther off than a thousand le." This is blundering with a vengeance. The phrase, "puh yuen tseen le," seems to have puzzled the Professor; verbally "not distance thousand le,"—but the word distance is used as a verb, or to consider as distant. Mencius has the same expression. The king said to the philosopher, Sow, puh yuen tseen le urh lae—Venerable Sir, you having not thought a thousand miles too great a distance to come hither, &c.

We shall notice only one more place in which the translator misleads his readers. See page 78, the tenth law; "Thou shalt not have in thy private possession either a metal figure (an idol), or gold, or silver, or any valuable thing." The metal figure (an idol) is a perfectly erroneous translation. The two words "sang seang," which Prof. N. takes for a metal figure, would in the Chinese original, seem to mean a living image; but they are explained to be used for some foreign words that crept into the text in passing from India; and the next two words Kin yin, gold and silver, are given to explain the sense of sang seang: so that the metal figure (an idol), should be blotted out of the translation. The original is, "do not grasp hold of gold, or silver, or any precious thing." Idolatry is not at all interdicted in the Catechism of the Shamans.

Thus we have taken a hasty survey of our friend's book. In the conclusion, he thanks the British residents in China, generally, for their kindness to him: and mentions the names of Mr. Dent, and Dr. Morrison in particular. He is not so polite to the Chinese, whom he designates "self-conceited and semi-barbarous," and thinks that a civilized and warlike nation must, "necessarily, in spite of itself extend its empire over them." We for ourselves positively disclaim the wish for any other conquest than that of truth over error.

In closing this article, we have to record, with deep regret, the death of the respectable oriental scholar and sinologue, M. Abel Remusat. He is cut off in the midst of his labours to elucidate the subject of Budhism.

The divine authority and perpetual obligation of the Lord's day. By Daniel Wilson. M. A. Vicar. London: 1831. pp. 206.

A copy of this excellent little book, and one only, so far as we know, has reached China. It is from the pen of that eminent servant of Christ, whose name appears above, as Vicar of Islington; but who is now Dr. Wilson, the Lord Bishop of Calcutta. The work consists of seven sermons, prefaced by a pastoral address, to the inhabitants of the parish of Islington. The whole is dedicated to the Bishop of London, who has distinguished himself as the advocate of the Sabbath, in opposition to the archbishop of Dublin, who has, we think, erred egregiously, by pleading for its abolition, under the Christian dispensation.

The Bishop maintains, that, although subordinate matters concerning the Sabbath of the Jews, and Lord's day of the Christians, have been disputed, it has, in every age, since creation was finished, been a fundamental point, that there should be a day of religious exercise, and holy rest, after six days work. And that the "whole church of Christ, in the proper sense of that term," has maintained this great doctrine.

In studying the subject, Dr. Wilson has omitted no author of any note, belonging to any nation or any church. He is obliged to dissent from eminent writers of his own church, the famous and elegant bishop Taylor; Drs. Ogden and Paley; archbishop Bramhall, and the present archbishop of Dublin, &c.; and he joins with the nonconformist Dr. Owen, who lived in the time of Cromwell; with Jonathan Edwards of New England, who has "defended, the Bishop adds, the change of the sabbath from the last to the first day of the week, in his own lucid and convincing way." "Dr. Dwight, continues the bishop, as well as his illustrious countryman, Edwards, has honored the American school of theology—rapidly rising into importance—with a most convincing and able discussion of the question, in all its branches, both theoretical and practical. This perhaps forms the best of our modern treatises; though it would be unjust to Dr Humphrey of Amherst College, to withold a tribute of praise from his excellent essays."

Dr. Wilson thinks the best single sermons, in a practical point of view, on this important subject, are those of Dean Milner, archdeacon Pott, and Dr. Chalmers "of the Presbyterian church in Scotland; "the last, is in the most powerful and awakening manner of its author, and of itself settles the question." Thus liberal is our author in giving praise where he thinks praise to be due.

The train of argument pursued by the Bishop is, that the Sabbath was appointed by divine command as issued in Paradise; republished in the decalogue or moral law; enforced by the prophets: recognized and vindicated by the Lord of the Sabbath, and his Apostles; and received, and acknowledged in the primitive, and every succeeding age of the church. Thus far Dr. Wilson avoids mentioning the authority of the church of England, in reference to her own members; but in an appendix he states what that is, according to her fixed formularies; and takes occasion to reprove the Rev. Mr. Fellowes, "a clergyman high in station, who notwithstanding the articles, liturgy, and homilies of his church, has attempted, in order to support his non-observance of the Lord's day, to sweep away the ten commandments all together."

In conclusion, we might be asked, how comes it to pass that the Chinese have lost the knowledge of the Sabbath? which we would answer by asking another question, how comes it to pass that the Chinese have lost the knowledge of God himself, and of creation, as well as of the Sabbath? We suppose that an objector would not infer from this fact, that there was no Almighty Creator, though he would have us infer that there was not, originally, any Sabbath.

We sincerely wish the Bishop of Calcutta would reprint his very seasonable book; and let it be circulated widely throughout the East.

* We observe with pleasure, that throughout his work, the Bishop prefers the Old Testament term, Sabbath, and the New Testament one, Lord's day. We have not noticed any where that he uses the word Sunday, except when, by way of reproof, he speaks of "Sunday recreations, the Sunday News papers," &c.