Travels in China, Containing Descriptions, Observations, and Comparisons, Made and Collected in the Course of a Short Residence at the Imperial Palace of Yuen-Min-Yuen, and on a Subsequent Journey thr
by John Barrow
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[Transcriber's Note:

English transliterations for the Greek and Chinese words have been provided. Transliterations have not been provided when a Chinese character is followed by a transliteration in the book.

A few other substitutions have also been used in this version of the text. They are as follows:

[= ] surrounding a vowel indicates that it is a long vowel with a macron (dash) above it.

v surrounding a vowel indicates that vowel has a circumflex above it.

A good number of printer's errors have been corrected, including all those in the Errata. All other spelling and grammar inconsistencies have been retained.

As a final note, the I section of the index contains both I and J entries.]









It is the lot of few to go to PEKIN.




LONDON: Printed by A. Strahan, Printers-Street, FOR T. CADELL AND W. DAVIES, IN THE STRAND. 1804.













Introduction.—General View of what Travellers are likely to meet with in China.—Mistaken Notions entertained with regard to the British Embassy—corrected by the Reception and Treatment of the subsequent Dutch Embassy.—Supposed Points of Failure in the former, as stated by a French Missionary from Pekin, refuted.—Kien Long's Letter to the King of Holland.—Difference of Treatment experienced by the two Embassies explained.—Intrigues of Missionaries in foreign Countries.—Pride and Self-Importance of the Chinese Court.—List of European Embassies, and the Time of their Abode in Pekin.—Conclusion of Preliminary Subject. Page 1


Occurrences and Observations in the Navigation of the Yellow Sea, and the Passage up the Pei-ho, or White River.

Different Testimonies that have been given of the Chinese Character.—Comparison of China with Europe in the sixteenth Century.—Motives of the Missionaries in their Writings.—British Embassy passes the Streights of Formosa.—Appearance of a Ta-fung.—Chu-san Islands.—Instance of Chinese Amplification.—Various Chinese Vessels.—System of their Navigation—their Compass, probably of Scythian Origin—foreign Voyages of.—Traces of Chinese in America—in an Island of the Tartarian Sea—in the Persian Gulph—traded probably as far as Madagascar.—Commerce of the Tyrians.—Reasons for conjecturing that the Hottentots may have derived their Origin from China.—Portrait of a Chinese compared with that of a Hottentot.—Malays of the same descent as the Chinese.—Curious coincidences in the Customs of these and the Sumatrans.—Cingalese of Chinese Origin.—One of the Brigs dispatched to Chu-san for Pilots.—Rapid Currents among the Islands.—Visit to the Governor.—Difficulties in procuring Pilots.—Arbitrary Proceeding of the Governor.—Pilots puzzled with our Compass—Ignorance of—Arrive in the Gulph of Pe-tche-lee.—Visit of two Officers from Court, and their Present—enter the Pei-ho, and embark in convenient Yachts.—Accommodating Conduct of the two Officers.—Profusion of Provisions.—Appearance of the Country—of the People.—Dress of the Women.—Remarks on their small Feet.—Chinese an uncleanly and frowzy People.—Immense Crowds of People and River Craft at Tien-sing.—Decent and prepossessing Conduct of the Multitude.—Musical Air sung by the Rowers of the Yachts.—Favourable in the Chinese Character.—Face and Products of the Country.—Multitudes of People Inhabitants of the Water.—Another Instance of arbitrary Power.—Disembark at Tong Tchoo, and are lodged in a Temple. 25


Journey through the Capital to a Country Villa of the Emperor. Return to Pekin. The Imperial Palace and Gardens of Yuen-min-yuen, and the Parks of Gehol.

Order of Procession from Tong-choo to the Capital.—Crowd assembled on the Occasion.—Appearance of Pekin without and within the Walls.—Some Account of this City.—Proceed to a Country Villa of the Emperor.—Inconveniences of.—Return to Pekin.—Embassador proceeds to Tartary.—Author sent to the Palace of Yuen-min-yuen.—Miserable Lodgings of.—Visit of the President and Members of the Mathematical Tribunal.—Of the Bishop of Pekin, and others.—Gill's Sword-blades.—Hatchett's Carriages.—Scorpion found in a Cask packed at Birmingham.—Portraits of English Nobility.—Effects of Accounts from Tartary on the Officers of State in Pekin.—Emperor's return to the Capital.—Inspects the Presents.—Application of the Embassador for Leave to depart.—Short Account of the Palace and Gardens of Yuen-min-yuen.—Lord Macartney's Description of the Eastern and Western Parks of Gehol.—And his general Remarks on Chinese Landscape Gardening. 87


Sketch of the State of Society in China.—Manners, Customs, Sentiments, and Moral Character of the People.

Condition of Women, a Criterion of the State of Society.—Degraded State of in China.—Domestic Manners unfavourable to Filial Affection.—Parental Authority.—Ill Effects of separating the Sexes.—Social Intercourse unknown, except for gaming. Their Worship solitary.—Feasts of New Year.—Propensity to gaming. Influence of the Laws seem to have destroyed the natural Character of the People.—Made them indifferent, or cruel.—Various Instances of this Remark in public and in private Life.—Remarks on Infanticide.—Perhaps less general than usually thought.—Character of Chinese in Foreign Countries.—Temper and Disposition of the Chinese. Merchants. Cuckoo-Clocks.—Conduct of a Prince of the Blood. Of the Prime Minister. Comparison of the Physical and Moral Characters of the Chinese and Mantchoo Tartars. General Character of the Nation illustrated. 138


Manners and Amusements of the Court—Reception of Embassadors.—Character and private Life of the Emperor—His Eunuchs and Women.

General Character of the Court—Of the buildings about the Palace—Lord Macartney's Account of his Introduction—Of the Celebration of the Emperor's Anniversary Festival—Of a Puppet-Shew—Comedy and Pantomime—Wrestling—Conjuring and Fire-Works—Reception and Entertainment of the Dutch Embassadors from a Manuscript Journal—Observations on the State of the Chinese Stage—Extraordinary Scene in one of their Dramas—Gross and indelicate Exhibitions—Sketch of Kien-Long's Life and Character—Kills his Son by an unlucky Blow—conceives himself immortal—Influence of the Eunuchs at the Tartar Conquest—their present State and Offices—Emperor's Wife, Queens, and Concubines—How disposed of at his Death. 191


Language.—Literature, and the fine Arts.—Sciences.—Mechanics, and Medicine.

Opinion of the Chinese Language being hieroglyphical erroneous.—Doctor Hager's mistakes.—Etymological Comparisons fallacious.—Examples of.—Nature of the Chinese written Character.—Difficulty and Ambiguity of.—Curious Mistake of an eminent Antiquarian.—Mode of acquiring the Character.—Oral Language.—Mantchoo Tartar Alphabet.—Chinese Literature.—Astronomy.—Chronology.—Cycle of sixty Years.—Geography.—Arithmetic.—Chemical Arts.—Cannon and Gunpowder.—Distillation.—Potteries.—Silk Manufactures.—Ivory.—Bamboo.—Paper.—Ink.—Printing.—Mechanics. —Music.—Painting.—Sculpture.—Architecture.—Hotel of the English Embassador in Pekin.—The Great Wall.—The Grand Canal.—Bridges.—Cemeteries.—Natural Philosophy.—Medicine.—Chinese Pharmacopoeia.—Quacks.—Contagious Fevers.—Small-pox.—Opthalmia. —Venereal Disease.—Midwifery.—Surgery.—Doctor Gregory's Opinion of their Medical Knowledge.—Sir William Jones's Opinion of their general Character. 236


Government—Laws—Tenures of Land and Taxes—Revenues—Civil and Military Ranks, and Establishments.

Opinions on which the Executive Authority is grounded.—Principle on which an Emperor of China seldom appears in public.—The Censorate.—Public Departments.—Laws.—Scale of Crimes and Punishments.—Laws regarding Homicide.—Curious Law Case.—No Appeal from Civil Suits.—Defects in the Executive Government.—Duty of Obedience and Power of personal Correction.—Russia and China compared.—Fate of the Prime Minister Ho-chang-tong.—Yearly Calendar and Pekin Gazette, engines of Government.—Freedom of the Press.—Duration of the Government attempted to be explained.—Precautions of Government to prevent Insurrections.—Taxes and Revenues.—Civil and Military Establishments.—Chinese Army, its Numbers and Appointments.—Conduct of the Tartar Government at the Conquest.—Impolitic Change of late Years, and the probable Consequences of it. 357


Conjectures on the Origin of the Chinese.—Their Religious Sects,—Tenets,—and Ceremonies.

Embassy departs from Pekin, and is lodged in a Temple.—Colony from Egypt not necessary to be supposed, in order to account for Egyptian Mythology in China.—Opinions concerning Chinese Origin.—Observations on the Heights of Tartary.—Probably the Resting-place of the Ark of Noah.—Ancients ignorant of the Chinese.—Seres.—First known Intercourse of Foreigners with China.—Jews.—Budhists.—Nestorians.—Mahomedans.—Roman Catholics.—Quarrels of the Jesuits and Dominicans.—Religion of Confucius.—Attached to the Prediction of future Events.—Notions entertained by him of a future State.—Of the Deity.—Doctrine not unlike that of the Stoics.—Ceremonies in Honour of his Memory led to Idolatry.—Misrepresentations of the Missionaries with regard to the Religion of the Chinese.—The Tao-tze or Sons of Immortals.—Their Beverage of Life.—The Disciples of Fo or Budhists.—Comparison of some of the Hindu, Greek, Egyptian, and Chinese Deities.—The Lotos or Nelumbium.—Story of Osiris and Isis, and the Isia compared with the Imperial Ceremony of Ploughing.—Women visit the Temples.—Practical Part of Chinese Religion.—Funeral Obsequies.—Feast of Lanterns.—Obeisance to the Emperor performed in Temples leads to Idolatry.—Primitive Religion lost or corrupted.—Summary of Chinese Religion. 418


Journey from Tong-choo-foo to the Province of Canton.—Face of the Country, and its Productions.—Buildings and other Public Works.—Condition of the People.—State of Agriculture.—Population.

Attentions paid to the Embassy.—Observations on the Climate and Plains of Pe-tche-lee.—Plants of.—Diet and Condition of the People.—Burying-place.—Observation on Chinese Cities.—Trackers of the Yachts.—Entrance of the Grand Canal. The Fishing Corvorant.—Approach to the Yellow River.—Ceremony of crossing this River.—Observations on Canals and Roads.—Improvements of the Country in advancing to the Southward.—Beauty of, near Sau-choo-foo.—Bridge of ninety-one Arches.—Country near Hang-choo-foo.—City of.—Appearance of the Country near the Po-yang Lake.—Observations in Proceeding through Kiang-see.—The Camellia Sesanqua.—Retrospective View of the Climate and Produce, Diet and Condition of the People, of Pe-tche-lee.—Some Observations on the Capital of China.—Province of Shan-tung.—Of Kiang-nan.—Observations on the State of Agriculture in China.—Rice Mills.—Province of Tche-kiang.—Of Kiang-see.—Population of China compared with that of England.—Erroneous Opinions entertained on this Subject.—Comparative Population of a City in China and in England.—Famines accounted for.—Means of Prevention.—Causes of the Populousness of China. 488


Journey through the Province of Canton.—Situation of Foreigners trading to this Port.—Conclusion.

Visible Change in the Character of the People.—Rugged Mountains.—Collieries.—Temple in a Cavern.—Stone Quarries.—Various Plants for Use and Ornament.—Arrive at Canton.—Expence of the Embassy to the Chinese Government.—To the British Nation.—Nature and Inconveniences of the Trade to Canton.—The Armenian and his Pearl.—Impositions of the Officers of Government instanced.—Principal Cause of them is the Ignorance of the Language.—Case of Chinese trading to London.—A Chinese killed by a Seaman of His Majesty's Ship Madras.—Delinquent saved from an ignominious Death, by a proper Mode of Communication with the Government.—Conclusion. 591


Portrait of Van-ta-gin—the Frontispiece. (v. p. 184)

Trading Vessel and Rice Mill to face page 37.

Portraits of a Chinese and a Hottentot to face page 50.

View in the Imperial Park at Gehol to face page 128.

Artillery, between pages 302 and 303 with a guard.

Musical Instruments between pages 314 and 315 with a guard.

Arch of a Bridge to face page 338.

Chinese Village, and Mandarin's Dwelling, to face page 545.


Page 20 line 12. add a between of and crime 23. — 2. for twice read thrice 39. line last, for Mario r. Marco 44. — 26. for Toftanague r. Tootanague 46. — 18. for Geraffe r. Giraffe 81. — 1. add to between master and which 103. — 17. for monuments r. Monument 122. — 7. add the between of and palaces 127. — 3. for ther r. their 142. — 1. for whit r. with 183. — 13. for the r. a 186. — 4. for loose r. lose 224. in the note. for A. Calpurnius r. T. Calpurnius 239. — 13. after cross place X 295. — 20. for numercial r. numerical 394. — 15. for an r. in —— — 16. for in r. on 416. — 1. for blook r. stock 568. — 12. for from r. form —— — — for form r. from 583. — last. for thegr and r. the grand


The sentiments advanced in the present Work, and the point of view in which some of the facts are considered, being so very different from the almost universally received opinion, and some of them from the opinion of those to whose friendship the Author is particularly indebted for various literary communications, he thinks it right to declare, that they are the unbiassed conclusions of his own mind, founded altogether on his own observations; and he trusts that the Public, in considering him alone responsible, will receive them with its usual candour.






Introduction.—General View of what Travellers are likely to meet with in China.—Mistaken Notions entertained with regard to the British Embassy—corrected by the Reception and Treatment of the subsequent Dutch Embassy.—Supposed Points of Failure in the former, as stated by a French Missionary from Pekin, refuted.—Kien Long's Letter to the King of Holland.—Difference of Treatment experienced by the two Embassies explained.—Intrigues of Missionaries in foreign Countries.—Pride and Self-Importance of the Chinese Court.—List of European Embassies, and the Time of their Abode in Pekin.—Conclusion of Preliminary Subject.

It is hardly necessary to observe that, after the able and interesting account of the proceedings and result of the British Embassy to the court of China, by the late Sir George Staunton (who was no less amiable for liberality of sentiment, than remarkable for vigour of intellect) it would be an idle, and, indeed, a superfluous undertaking, in any other person who accompanied the embassy, to dwell on those subjects which have been treated by him in so masterly a manner; or to recapitulate those incidents and transactions, which he has detailed with equal elegance and accuracy.

But, as it will readily occur to every one, there are still many interesting subjects, on which Sir George, from the nature of his work, could only barely touch, and others that did not come within his plan, one great object of which was to unfold the views of the embassy, and to shew that every thing, which could be done, was done, for promoting the interests of the British nation, and supporting the dignity of the British character; the Author of the present work has ventured, though with extreme diffidence, and with the consciousness of the disadvantage under which he must appear after that "Account of the Embassy," to lay before the public the point of view in which he saw the Chinese empire, and the Chinese character. In doing this, the same facts will sometimes necessarily occur, that have already been published, for reasons that it would be needless to mention; but whenever that happens to be the case, they will briefly be repeated, for the purpose of illustrating some position, or for deducing some general inference. Thus, for instance, the document given to the Embassador of the population of China will be noticed, not however under the colour of its being an unquestionably accurate statement, but, on the contrary, to shew that it neither is, nor can be, correct; yet at the same time to endeavour to prove, by facts and analogy, that, contrary to the received opinion, the country is capable of supporting not only three hundred and thirty-three millions of people, but that it might actually afford the means of subsistence to twice that number. The confirmation, indeed, of new and important facts, though very different conclusions be drawn from them, cannot be entirely unacceptable to the reader; for as different persons will generally see the same things in different points of view, so, perhaps, by combining and comparing the different descriptions and colouring that may be given of the same objects, the public is enabled to obtain the most correct notions of such matters as can be learned only from the report of travellers.

With regard to China, if we except the work of Sir George Staunton, and the limited account of Mr. Bell of Antermony, which was not written by himself, it may be considered as unbeaten ground by Britons. We have heard a great deal of Chinese knavery practised at Canton, but, except in the two works abovementioned, we have not yet heard the sentiments of an Englishman at all acquainted with the manners, customs, and character of the Chinese nation. The voluminous communications of the missionaries are by no means satisfactory; and some of their defects will be noticed and accounted for in the course of this work; the chief aim of which will be to shew this extraordinary people in their proper colours, not as their own moral maxims would represent them, but as they really are—to divest the court of the tinsel and the tawdry varnish with which, like the palaces of the Emperor, the missionaries have found it expedient to cover it in their writings; and to endeavour to draw such a sketch of the manners, the state of society, the language, literature and fine arts, the sciences and civil institutions, the religious worship and opinions, the population and progress of agriculture, the civil and moral character of the people, as may enable the reader to settle, in his own mind, the point of rank which China may be considered to hold in the scale of civilized nations.

The stability of the Chinese government; the few changes that have been made in its civil institutions for such a number of ages; the vast extent of empire and immense population, forming one society, guided by the same laws, and governed by the will of a single individual, offer, as Sir George Staunton has observed, "the grandest collective object that can be presented for human contemplation or research." The customs, habits and manners, the wants and resources, the language, sentiments and religious notions, of "the most ancient society and the most populous empire existing amongst men," are, without doubt most interesting subjects for the investigation of the philosopher, and not unworthy the attention of the statesman. But the expectations of the man of science, the artist, or the naturalist, might perhaps be rather disappointed, than their curiosity be gratified, in travelling through this extensive country. It can boast of few works of art, few remains of ancient grandeur. The great wall, that for a time defended its peaceable inhabitants against the attacks of the roving Tartars, the walls of its numerous cities, with their square towers and lofty gates, and here and there an old pagoda, are its only architectural antiquities; and, when these are excepted, there is not perhaps a single building in the whole extent of China that has withstood the action of three centuries. There are no ancient palaces nor other public edifices, no paintings nor pieces of sculpture, to arrest the attention of the traveller, unless it might be from the novelty of their appearance. In travelling over the continent of Europe, and more especially on the classic ground of Italy and Greece, every city, mountain, river, and ruin, are rendered interesting by something on record which concerns them; the theme of some poet, the feat of some philosopher or lawgiver, the scene of some memorable action, they all inspire us with the liveliest sensations, by reviving in the mind those pleasures which the study of their history afforded in early life. To Europeans the history of China has hitherto furnished no materials for such recurrence, and the country itself is therefore incapable of communicating such impressions. In vain should we here look for the massy and stupendous fabrics that appear in the pyramids and the pillars of the ancient Egyptians; the beautiful and symmetrical works of art displayed in the temples of the Greeks; the grand and magnificent remains of Roman architecture; or that combination of convenience and elegance of design which characterize the modern buildings of Europe. In China every city is nearly the same: a quadrangular space of ground is enclosed with walls of stone, of brick, or of earth, all built upon the same plan; the houses within them of the same construction; and the streets, except the principal ones that run from gate to gate, invariably narrow. The temples are, nearly, all alike, of the same awkward design as the dwelling-houses, but on a larger scale; and the objects that are known in Europe by the name of pagodas, are of the same inelegant kind of architecture, from one extremity of the empire to the other, differing only in the number of rounds or stories, and in the materials of which they are constructed. The manners, the dress, the amusements of the people, are nearly the same. Even the surface of the country, as far as regards the fifteen ancient provinces, is subject to little variation, and especially those parts over which the grand inland navigation is carried; the only parts, in fact, that foreigners travelling in China have any chance of visiting.

In this route no very great variety nor number of subjects occur in the department of natural history. Few native plants, and still fewer wild animals, are to be expected in those parts of a country that are populous and well cultivated. Indeed the rapid manner in which the present journey was made, was ill suited for collecting and examining specimens even of those few that did occur.

On these considerations it is hoped that the indulgence of the reader will not be withheld, where information on such points may appear to be defective. A French critic[1] (perhaps without doing him injustice he may be called a hypercritic) who happened to visit Canton for a few months, some fifty years ago, has, with that happy confidence peculiar to his nation, not only pointed out the errors and defects of the information communicated to the world by the English and the Dutch embassies, but has laid down a syllabus of the subjects they ought to have made themselves completely acquainted with, which, instead of seven months, would seem to require a residence of seven years in the country. But the author of the present work rests his confidence in the English critics being less unreasonable in their demands; and that their indulgences will be proportioned to the difficulties that occurred in collecting accurate information. With this reliance, the descriptions, observations, and comparisons, such as they are, he presents to the public, candidly acknowledging that he is actuated rather by the hope of meeting its forbearance, than by the confidence of deserving its approbation.

[1] Monsieur (I beg his pardon) Citoyen Charpentier Cossigny.

Perhaps it may not be thought amiss, before he enters on the more immediate subject of the work, to correct, in this place, a very mistaken notion that prevailed on the return of the embassy, which was, that an unconditional compliance of Lord Macartney with all the humiliating ceremonies which the Chinese might have thought proper to exact from him, would have been productive of results more favourable to the views of the embassy. Assertions of such a general nature are more easily made than refuted, and indeed unworthy of attention; but a letter of a French missionary at Pekin to the chief of the Dutch factory at Canton is deserving of some notice, because it specifies the reasons to which, according to the writer's opinion, was owing the supposed failure of the British embassy. In speaking of this subject he observes, "Never was an embassy deserving of better success! whether it be considered on account of the experience, the wisdom, and the amiable qualities of Lord Macartney and Sir George Staunton; or of the talents, the knowledge, and the circumspect behaviour of the gentlemen who composed their Suite; or of the valuable and curious presents intended for the Emperor—and yet, strange to tell, never was there an embassy that succeeded so ill!

"You may be curious, perhaps, to know the reason of an event so unfavourable and so extraordinary. I will tell you in a few words. These gentlemen, like all strangers, who know China only from books, were ignorant of the manner of proceeding, of the customs and the etiquette of this court; and, to add to their misfortune, they brought with them a Chinese interpreter still less informed than themselves. The consequence of all which was that, in the first place, they came without any presents for the Minister of State, or for the sons of the Emperor. Secondly, they refused to go through the usual ceremony of saluting the Emperor, without offering any satisfactory reason for such refusal. Thirdly, They presented themselves in clothes that were too plain, and too common. Fourthly, They did not use the precaution to fee (graisser la patte) the several persons appointed to the superintendance of their affairs. Fifthly, Their demands were not made in the tone and style of the country. Another reason of their bad success, and, in my mind, the principal one, was owing to the intrigues of a certain missionary, who, imagining that this embassy might be injurious to the interests of his own country, did not fail to excite unfavourable impressions against the English nation."

The points of failure enumerated in this letter of Monsieur Grammont, were so many spurs to the Dutch factory to try their success at the court of Pekin the following year. No sooner did Mr. Van Braam receive this dispatch, by the return of the English embassy to Canton, than he prepared a letter for the Commissaries General at Batavia, in which he informed them, that as it was the intention of the different nations who had factories established in Canton, to send embassadors to the Capital, for the purpose of congratulating the Emperor on his attaining the age of eighty-four years, which would be in the sixtieth year of his reign, he had resolved to proceed on such a mission on the part of the Batavian Republic, and requested that he might be furnished, without delay, with suitable credentials. To this application the Commissaries General, who had been sent out the same year to retrench the expences of the Company in their Indian settlements, and to reform abuses, returned for answer, That, "however low and inadequate their finances might be to admit of extraordinary expences, yet they deemed it expedient not to shew any backwardness in adopting similar measures to those pursued by other Europeans trading to China; and that they had, accordingly, nominated Mr. Titsingh as chief, and himself (Mr. Van Braam) as second Embassador to the Court of China."

Mr. Titsingh lost no time in repairing to Canton, and these two Embassadors, determining to avail themselves of the hints thrown out in Monsieur Grammont's letter, and thereby to avoid splitting on the same rock which, they took for granted, the British Embassador had done, cheerfully submitted to every humiliating ceremony required from them by the Chinese, who, in return, treated them in the most contemptuous and indignant manner. At Canton they were ordered to assist in a solemn procession of Mandarines to a temple in the neighbourhood, and there, before the Emperor's name, painted on cloth, and suspended above the altar, to bow their heads nine times to the ground, in token of gratitude for his great condescension in permitting them to proceed to his presence, in order to offer him tribute. They submitted even to the demands of the state-officers of Canton, that the letter, written by the Commissaries General at Batavia to the Emperor of China, and translated there into the Chinese language, should be broke open, and the contents read by them; and that they should further be allowed to make therein such alterations and additions as they might think proper. The Embassador, resolving not to be wanting in any point of civility, requested to know when he might have the honour of paying his respects to the Viceroy; and received for answer, that the customs of the country did not allow a person in his situation to come within the walls of the Viceroy's palace, but that one of his officers should receive his visit at the gate; which visit to the gate was literally made. Mr. Van Braam, in relating this circumstance in his journal, observes, that the Viceroy "assured his Excellency, he ought not to take his refusal amiss, as the same terms had been prescribed to Lord Macartney the preceding year." Mr. Van Braam knew very well that Lord Macartney never subjected himself to any such refusal; and he knew too, that the same Viceroy accompanied his Lordship in a great part of his journey from the Capital: that he partook of a repast, on the invitation of Lord Macartney, at the British factory; when, for the first time, both Mr. Van Braam and the supercargoes of all the European nations had been permitted to sit down in the presence of one of his rank.

At Pekin they were required to humiliate themselves at least thirty different times, at each of which they were obliged, on their knees, to knock their heads nine times against the ground, which Mr. Van Braam, in his journal, very coolly calls, performing the salute of honour, "faire le salut d'honneur." And they were finally dismissed, with a few paltry pieces of silk, without having once been allowed to open their lips on any kind of business; and without being permitted to see either their friend Grammont, or any other European missionary, except one, who had special leave to make them a visit of half an hour, the day before their departure, in presence of ten or twelve officers of government. On their arrival in this Capital they were lodged, literally, in a stable; under the same cover, and in the same apartment, with a parcel of cart-horses. Mr. Van Braam's own words are, "Nous voil donc notre arrive dans la clbre residence impriale, logs dans une espce d'curie. Nous serions nous attendus une pareille avanture!"

After such a vile reception and degrading treatment of the Dutch Embassy, what advantages can reasonably be expected to accrue from a servile and unconditional compliance with the submissions required by this haughty government? It would rather seem that their exactions are proportioned to the complying temper of the persons with whom they have to treat. For it appears, not only from Mr. Van Braam's own account of the Embassy, but also from two manuscript journals in the Author's possession, one kept by a Dutch gentleman in the suite, and the other by a native Chinese, that the Embassadors from the Batavian Republic were fully prepared to obviate every difficulty that might arise from the supposed points of failure in the British Embassy, as directed to their notice by M. Grammont. In the first place, they not only carried presents for the Ministers of State, but they calmly suffered these gentlemen to trick them out of the only curious and valuable articles among the presents intended for the Emperor, and to substitute others, of a mean and common nature, in their place. Secondly, they not only complied with going through the usual ceremony of saluting the Emperor, but also of saluting the Emperor's name, painted on a piece of silk, at least fifty times, on their journey to and from the Capital: which degrading ceremony they even condescended to perform before the person of the Prime Minister. With regard to the third point, it certainly appears that no expence had been spared in providing themselves with splendid robes for the occasion; but, unfortunately, they had but few opportunities of making use of them, their baggage not arriving at the Capital till many days after they had been there. Nor does it seem that the dress of a foreign Embassador is considered of much consequence in the eyes of the Chinese; for, when these gentlemen wished to excuse themselves from going to court, on account of their dusty and tattered clothes, in which they had performed a most painful journey, the Master of the Ceremonies observed, that it was not their dress, but their persons, which the Emperor, his master, was desirous to see. And, it can hardly be supposed, they would omit observing the fourth article, which, Mr. Grammont is of opinion, was neglected by Lord Macartney. And, in the last place, they stand fully acquitted of any want of humility in the tone and style of their communications, after having allowed their credentials to be new modelled by the officers of Government at Canton; from which city they had also an interpreter, a very proper one, no doubt, appointed to attend them.

Their mission, it is true, was not well calculated for making terms or rejecting proposals. The Chinese were not unacquainted with the declining finances of the Dutch; they knew very well that the embassy had originated in Canton, and that it was accredited only from their superiors in Batavia. In their journey they were harassed beyond measure; sometimes they were lodged in wretched hovels, without furniture and without cover; sometimes they were obliged to pass the night in the open air, when the temperature was below the freezing point; frequently for four and twenty hours they had nothing to eat. Van Braam observes that, owing to the fatigues of the journey, the badness of the victuals, their early rising and exposure to the cold, he lost about five inches in the circumference of his body. Being rather corpulent, and not very expert in performing the Chinese ceremony at their public introduction, his hat happened to fall on the ground, upon which the old Emperor began to laugh. "Thus," says he, "I received a mark of distinction and predilection, such as never Embassador was honoured with before. I confess," continues he, "that the recollection of my sufferings from the cold in waiting so long in the morning, was very much softened by this incident." No man will certainly envy this gentleman's happy turn of mind, in receiving so much satisfaction in being laughed at.

The tone of the Emperor's letter, with which they were dismissed, while it speaks the vain and arrogant sentiments of this haughty government, shews at the same time how well acquainted they were with the circumstances that gave rise to the mission, and the degree of estimation in which they held it. It was written in the Tartar, Chinese, and Latin languages, from the last of which, as rendered by the missionaries, the following is a literal translation. The contents were addressed to the Council of India, but on the outside wrapper, "To the King of Holland." It may serve at the same time as a specimen of Chinese composition.

"I have received from heaven the sceptre of this vast empire. I have reigned for sixty years with glory and happiness; and have established the most profound peace upon the four seas[2] of the said empire, to the benefit of the nations bordering upon them. The fame of my majesty and proofs of my magnificence have found their way into every part of the world, and they constitute the pride and the pleasure of my vast domains.

[2] This expression alludes to the ancient opinion that China was surrounded by the sea, and that the rest of the world was made up of islands. Yet though they now possess a tolerable notion of geography, such is their inveterate adherence to ancient opinion, that they prefer retaining the most absurd errors, rather than change one single sentiment or expression that Confucius has written.

"I consider my own happy empire, and other kingdoms, as one and the same family; the princes and the people are, in my eye, the same men. I condescend to shed my blessings over all, strangers as well as natives; and there is no country, however distant, that has not received instances of my benevolence. Thus, all nations send to do me homage, and to congratulate me incessantly. New and successive Embassadors arrive, some drawn in chariots over land, and others traverse, in their ships, the immensity of the seas. In fact, I attend to nothing but the good administration of my empire. I feel a lively joy in observing the anxiety with which they flock together from every quarter to contemplate and admire the wise administration of my government. I experience the most agreeable satisfaction in participating my happiness with foreign states. I applaud therefore your government, which, although separated from mine by an immense ocean, has not failed to send me congratulatory letters, accompanied with tributary offerings.

"Having perused your letters, I observe that they contain nothing but what I consider as authentic testimonies of your great veneration for me, from whence I conclude that you admire my mode of governing. In fact, you have great reason to applaud me. Since you have carried on your trade at Canton, (and it is now many years,) strangers have always been well treated in my empire; and they have individually been the objects of my love and affection. I might call to witness the Portuguese, the Italians, the English, and others of the same sort of nations, who are all equally esteemed by me, and have all presented me with precious gifts. All have been treated, on my part, after the same manner, and without any partiality. I give abundantly even when those things I received from them are of no value. My manner of doing these things is undoubtedly known in your country.

"Concerning your Embassador, he is not, properly speaking, sent by his King; but you, who are a company of merchants, have supposed yourselves authorized to pay me this respect. Your Sovereign, however, having directed you to chuse a favourable moment of my reign, you have now sent to felicitate me accordingly in the name of your said Sovereign. The sixtieth year of my reign was about to be completed. You, a company, too distant from your Sovereign, could not announce it to him. Interpreting this to be his pleasure, you have undertaken to send, in his name, to do me homage; and I have no doubt this prince is inspired towards me with the same sentiments which I have experienced in you. I have, therefore, received your Embassador as if he had been sent immediately by his King. And I am desirous you should be made acquainted that I have remarked nothing in the person of your Embassador, but what bore testimony of his respect for me, and of his own good conduct.

"I commanded my great officers to introduce him to my presence. I gave him several entertainments, and permitted him to see the grounds and the palaces that are within my vast and magnificent gardens of Yuen-min-yuen. I have so acted that he might feel the effects of my attention, dividing with him the pleasures which the profound peace of my empire allows me to enjoy. I have, moreover, made valuable presents, not only to him, but also to the officers, interpreters, soldiers, and servants of his suite, giving them, besides what is customary, many other articles, as may be seen by the catalogue.

"Your Embassador being about to return to the presence of his sovereign, I have directed him to present to this Prince pieces of silk and other valuable articles to which I have added some antique vases.

"May your King receive my present. May he govern his people with wisdom; and give his sole attention to this grand object, acting always with an upright and sincere heart: and, lastly, may he always cherish the recollection of my beneficence! May this King attentively watch over the affairs of his kingdom. I recommend it to him strongly and earnestly.

"The twenty-fourth day of the first moon of the sixtieth year of the reign of Kien Long."

The very different treatment which the English embassy received at the court of Pekin is easily explained. The Chinese are well informed of the superiority of the English over all other nations by sea; of the great extent of their commerce; of their vast possessions in India which they have long regarded with a jealous eye; and of the character and independent spirit of the nation. They perceived, in the manly and open conduct of Lord Macartney, the representative of a sovereign in no way inferior to the Emperor of China, and they felt the propriety, though they were unwilling to avow it, of exacting only the same token of respect from him towards their sovereign, that one of their own countrymen, of equal rank, should pay to the portrait of his Britannic majesty. It must, however, have been a hard struggle between personal pride, and national importance, before they resolved to reject so fair a proposal, and consent to wave a ceremony which had never, on any former occasion, been dispensed with. It is easy to conceive how strong an impression the refusal of an individual to comply with the ceremonies of the country was likely to make on the minds of the Emperor and his court; how much they must have suffered in their own opinion, and how greatly must their pride have been mortified, to find that by no trick, nor artifice, nor stretch of power, could they prevail on an English Embassador to forego the dignity and respect due to the situation he held at their court, whither they were now convinced he had not come, as was signified in painted letters on the colours of the ships that transported the embassy up the Pei-ho, "to offer tribute to the Emperor of China."

With regard to the intrigues of the Portugueze missionary, mentioned in Mr. Grammont's letter, Lord Macartney was sufficiently aware of them long before his arrival in the capital, and took such measures, in consequence of the information, as were most likely to be effectual in counteracting any influence that he might secretly exert, injurious to the interests of the British nation. But the intrigues of churchmen are not always easily obviated, especially where they are suspicious of their errors being exposed or their ignorance detected. It is a painful truth (and is noticed here with reluctance, on account of the many worthy members of the society) that the ministers of a certain branch of a religion whose distinguishing feature is meekness and forbearance, should have so far perverted the intention of its benevolent author, as to have produced more intrigues, cabals, and persecutions, than even the relentless Mahomedans, whose first article of faith inculcates merit in destroying those of a different persuasion. Their political intrigues and interference in state affairs, have done material injury to the cause of Christianity in almost every country into which their missions have extended.

The malignant spirit of this same Portugueze missionary was not confined to the framing of falsehoods and misrepresentations with regard to the views of the British embassy, but has continued to exert its influence at the court of Pekin, in the same secret and dishonourable way, whenever an opportunity occurred that seemed favourable for raising unwarrantable suspicions in the minds of the Chinese against the English nation. Towards the close of the last war, when it was found expedient to take possession of some of the Portugueze colonies, and an expedition for this purpose was actually sent out to secure the peninsula of Macao, this missionary lost no time in suggesting to the Chinese court, that the designs of the English in getting possession of Macao might be of the same nature as those they had already practised in India; and that if they were once suffered to get footing in the country, China might experience the same fate as Hindostan. Fortunately for the concerns of the British East India Company this officious interference and the malevolent insinuations of Bernardo Almeyda took a very different turn to what he had expected. The intelligence of a hostile force so near the coast of China coming first from an European missionary, implied a neglect in the Viceroy of Canton, and an angry letter was addressed to him from court, ordering him to give immediate and accurate information on the subject. The Viceroy, nettled at the officious zeal of the Portugueze, positively denied the fact of any hostile intention of the English, "who, being a brave people, and terrible in arms, had intimidated the Portugueze at Macao, though without reason, as their ships of war, as usual, came only to protect their ships of commerce against their enemies." When this dispatch of the Viceroy reached Pekin, the Emperor was so exasperated to think that the Court had suffered itself to be misled by an European missionary, that he ordered Almeyda to appear before the master of the household, and on his knees to ask forgiveness of a crime, which, he was told, deserved to be punished with death; and he was dismissed with a caution never more to interfere in the state affairs of China. The whole of this curious transaction is published in the Pekin Gazette of last year; so that the English have gained a considerable degree of reputation by it, so much, indeed, that the Chinese at Canton (and a great deal depends upon their representations) would have no objection to see the English in possession of Macao; for they cordially hate, I believe it is not too much to say they despise, the Portugueze, and they speak with horror of the French. What a moment then is this for England to turn to its advantage!

Independent, however, of the machinations of missionaries, such is the pride and the haughty insolence of the Chinese government, that, in no instance on record, but that of the British embassy, has it ever relaxed from its long established customs, nor acquiesced in any demands of foreign embassadors, whether the tone in which they were made was supplicating or authoritative. The forms of the court they contend to be as immutable as were the laws of the Medes and Persians. Every thing must be conducted by prescriptive usage, and no deviation allowed from the rules which for ages have been established by law, and registered by the council of ordinances; much less the remission of any duty that might derogate from the reverence and respect which are considered to be due to the person of the Emperor.

It may be imagined, then, that an event so new as a refusal to submit to the degrading ceremony required from an embassador, at his public introduction, could not fail of making a very strong impression on the minds of those about the person of his Imperial Majesty; who, as Mr. Van Braam says, were (and without doubt they were) much better satisfied with the complying temper of the Dutch, than with the inflexible pertinacity of the English. Yet, they did not venture to lodge the latter in a stable, nor think proper to persevere in demanding unreasonable homage. Neither was any pique or ill-nature apparent in any single instance, after the departure of the embassy from the capital, but very much the contrary. The officers appointed to conduct it to Canton testified the most earnest desire to please, by a ready attention to every minute circumstance that might add to the comforts of the travellers, or alleviate, if not entirely remove, any little inconvenience. It was a flattering circumstance to the embassador to observe their anxiety for the favourable opinion of a nation they had now begun to think more highly of, and of whom, in measuring with themselves, it was not difficult to perceive, they felt, though too cautious to avow, the superiority.

The British embassy was a measure which it was absolutely necessary to adopt, for reasons that are stated at full length in the first chapter of Sir George Staunton's valuable work, and the foundation it has laid for future advantages more than counterbalances the trifling expence it occasioned to the East India Company, which did not exceed two per cent. on the annual amount of their trade from England to Canton. Those who had formed immoderate expectations must have little understood the laws and customs of China, which admit not the system of mutual intercourse between distant nations, by means of embassadors or resident ministers at the respective courts. Their custom is to receive embassadors with respect and hospitality; to consider them as visitors to the Emperor, and to entertain them accordingly as his particular guests, from the moment they enter the country till they return to the boundaries of his empire. This being necessarily attended with an enormous expence[3], the court of ceremonies has prescribed forty days for the residence of foreign embassadors, either in the capital, or wherever the court may happen to be; though on particular occasions, or by accident, the term may sometimes be extended to double that time.

[3] The expence occasioned to the court of China by the British embassy, will be stated in a subsequent chapter.

Thus by consulting the accounts of the different European embassies that have been sent to China in the two last centuries, it will be found that the residence of none of them was extended to thrice the term fixed by the court of ceremonies, and two of them did not remain the period allowed.

The first embassy sent by the Dutch arrived in Pekin the 17th July 1656, and departed the 16th October following, having remained ninety-one days.

The second Dutch embassy arrived in Pekin the 20th June 1667, and departed the 5th August, having resided forty-six days.

The first Russian embassy arrived at the capital on the 5th November 1692, and left it on the 17th February 1693, having remained there one hundred and six days.

The second Russian embassy arrived at Pekin on the 18th November 1720, and did not leave it till the 2d March 1721, being one hundred and fourteen days.

These two embassies were immediately connected with the commercial concerns of the two nations, which were then transacted in the capital of China, but now confined to the adjoining frontiers.

The Pope's embassy arrived in Pekin on the 15th December 1720, and departed the 24th March 1721, being ninety-nine days.

The Portugueze embassy entered Pekin the 1st May 1753, and left it the 8th June following, being only thirty-nine days.

The British embassy arrived in Pekin the 21st August 1793, and departed the 7th October, being forty-seven days.

The third Dutch embassy entered the capital the 10th January 1795, and left it the 15th February, being thirty-six days.

On the whole, then, it may be concluded, that neither Monsieur Grammont, nor they who conceived that an unconditional and servile compliance, on the part of the British Embassador, would have been productive of more favourable results, were right in their conjectures. On the contrary, it may, perhaps, be rather laid down as a certain consequence, that a tone of submission, and a tame and passive obedience to the degrading demands of this haughty court, serve only to feed its pride, and add to the absurd notions of its own vast importance.


Occurrences and Observations in the Navigation of the Yellow Sea, and the Passage up the Pei-ho, or White River.

Different Testimonies that have been given of the Chinese Character.—Comparison of China with Europe in the sixteenth Century.—Motives of the Missionaries in their Writings.—British Embassy passes the Streights of Formosa.—Appearance of a Ta-fung.—Chu-san Islands.—Instance of Chinese Amplification.—Various Chinese Vessels.—System of their Navigation—their Compass, probably of Scythian Origin—foreign Voyages of.—Traces of Chinese in America—in an Island of the Tartarian Sea—in the Persian Gulph—traded probably as far as Madagascar.—Commerce of the Tyrians.—Reasons for conjecturing that the Hottentots may have derived their Origin from China.—Portrait of a Chinese compared with that of a Hottentot.—Malays of the same descent as the Chinese.—Curious coincidences in the Customs of these and the Sumatrans.—Cingalese of Chinese Origin.—One of the Brigs dispatched to Chu-san for Pilots.—Rapid Currents among the Islands.—Visit to the Governor.—Difficulties in procuring Pilots.—Arbitrary Proceeding of the Governor.—Pilots puzzled with our Compass—Ignorance of—Arrive in the Gulph of Pe-tche-lee.—Visit of two Officers from Court, and their Present—enter the Pei-ho, and embark in convenient Yachts.—Accommodating Conduct of the two Officers.—Profusion of Provisions.—Appearance of the Country—of the People.—Dress of the Women.—Remarks on their small Feet.—Chinese an uncleanly and frowzy People.—Immense Crowds of People and River Craft at Tien-sing.—Decent and prepossessing Conduct of the Multitude.—Musical Air sung by the Rowers of the Yachts.—Favourable Traits in the Chinese Character.—Face and Products of the Country.—Multitudes of People Inhabitants of the Water.—Another Instance of arbitrary Power.—Disembark at Tong Tchoo, and are lodged in a Temple.

"If any man should make a collection of all the inventions, and all the productions, that every nation, which now is, or ever has been, upon the face of the globe, the whole would fall far short, either as to number or quality, of what is to be met with in China." These, or something similar, are the words of the learned Isaac Vossius.

The testimony given by the celebrated authors of the Encyclopdie des Connoissances humaines is almost equally strong: "The Chinese who, by common consent, are superior to all the Asiatic nations, in antiquity, in genius, in the progress of the sciences, in wisdom, in government, and in true philosophy; may, moreover, in the opinion of some authors, enter the lists, on all these points, with the most enlightened nations of Europe."

How flattering, then, and gratifying must it have been to the feelings of those few favoured persons, who had the good fortune to be admitted into the suite of the British Embassador, then preparing to proceed to the court of that Sovereign who held the government of such an extraordinary nation; how greatly must they have enjoyed the prospect of experiencing, in their own persons, all that was virtuous, and powerful, and grand, and magnificent, concentrated in one point—in the city of Pekin!

And if any doubts might have arisen, on consideration that neither the learned Canon of Windsor, nor the celebrated Authors of the Encyclopdie, were ever in China; that the first was wonderfully given to the marvellous, and the latter had no other authorities, than those of the Jesuits, and other missionaries for propagating the Christian faith, yet such doubts were more inclined to yield to the favourable side, as being supported by the almost unanimous concurrence of a multitude of testimonies, contained in the relations that have, at various times, been published not only by the missionaries, but also by some other travellers.

The late Sir William Jones, indeed, who deservedly took the lead in oriental literature, had observed, in speaking of the Chinese, that "By some they have been extolled as the oldest and wisest, as the most learned, and most ingenious, of nations; whilst others have derided their pretensions to antiquity, condemned their government as abominable, and arraigned their manners as inhuman; without allowing them an element of science, or a single art, for which they have not been indebted to some more ancient and more civilized race of men."

It is true, also, the researches of Mr. Pauw, the sagacious philosopher of Berlin, and the narrative of the elegant and impressive writer of Lord Anson's Voyage, convey to the reader's mind no very favourable ideas of the Chinese character; yet, as the enquiries of the one were entered upon in a spirit of controversy, and directed to one single point, and the author, as justly has been observed of him, delights sometimes to take a swim against the stream, many deductions were clearly to be made from the conclusions of Mr. Pauw. And with regard to the Narrative of Mr. Robins, it may be remarked that, to decide upon the general character of the Chinese, from the dealings Lord Anson had with them in the port of Canton, would be as unfair, as it would be thought presumptuous in a foreigner to draw the character of our own nation from a casual visit to Falmouth, Killybeggs, or Aberdeen. The same remark will apply to the accounts given of this nation by Toreen, Osbeck, Sonnerat, and some others, who have visited Canton in trading ships, none of whom were five hundred yards beyond the limits of the European factories.

It would also have been highly illiberal to suppose, that a body of men, remarkable, as the early Jesuit missionaries were thought to be, for probity, talent, and disinterestedness, should studiously sit down to compose fabrications for the mere purpose of deceiving the world. Even Voltaire, who had little partiality for the sacerdotal character, is willing to admit, that their relations ought to be considered as the productions of the most intelligent travellers that have extended and embellished the fields of Science and Philosophy. This remark, with proper allowances being made for the age in which they were written, may perhaps be applied to the narratives of the early missions to China, though not exactly to some others of a more modern date. All the praises bestowed by the former on this nation, the latter, it would seem, have, injudiciously, considered themselves bound to justify; without taking into account the progressive improvements of Europe within the last century and a half.

That China was civilized to a certain degree before most of the nations of Europe, not even Greece excepted, is a fact that will not admit of a doubt; but that it has continued to improve, so as still to vie with many of the present European states, as the missionaries would have it supposed, is not by any means so clear. From the middle to the end of the sixteenth century, compared with Europe in general, it had greatly the superiority, if not in science, at least in arts and manufactures, in the conveniences and the luxuries of life. The Chinese were, at that period, pretty much in the same state in which they still are; and in which they are likely to continue. When the first Europeans visited China, they were astonished to find an universal toleration of religious opinions; to observe Lamas and Tao-tzes, Jews, Persees, and Mahomedans, living quietly together, and each following his own creed without molestation; whilst most of the countries in Europe were, at that time, torn in pieces by religious schisms; and man was labouring with enthusiastic fury to destroy his fellow-creatures, in honour of his Creator, for a slight difference of opinion in matters of no real importance, or even for a different acceptation of a word. In China, every one was allowed to think as he pleased, and to chuse his own religion. The horrid massacre of the Protestants in Paris had terrified all Europe. China knew nothing of internal commotions, but such as were sometimes occasioned by a partial scarcity of grain. The art of improving vegetables by particular modes of culture, was just beginning to be known in Europe. All China, at that time, was comparatively a garden. When the King of France introduced the luxury of silk stockings, which, about eighteen years afterwards, was adopted by Elizabeth of England, the peasantry of the middle provinces of China were clothed in silks from head to foot. At this period, few or none of the little elegancies or conveniences of life were known in Europe; the ladies' toilet had few essences to gratify the sense of smell, or to beautify, for a time, the complexion; the scissars, needles, pen-knives, and other little appendages, were then unknown; and rude and ill-polished skewers usurped the place of pins. In China, the ladies had their needlework, their paint-boxes, their trinkets of ivory, of silver in fillagree, of mother-pearl, and of tortoise-shell. Even the calendar, at this time so defective in Europe, that Pope Gregory was urged to the bold undertaking of leaping over, or annihilating, ten days, was found to be, in China, a national concern, and the particular care of government. Decimal arithmetic, a new and useful discovery of the seventeenth century in Europe, was the only system of arithmetic in use in China. In a word, when the nobility of England were sleeping on straw, a peasant of China had his mat and his pillow; and the man in office enjoyed his silken mattress. One cannot, therefore, be surprized if the impressions made upon these holy men were powerfully felt, or if their descriptions should seem to incline a little towards the marvellous. Nor may perhaps their relations be found to be much embellished, on a fair comparison of the state of China with that of Europe in general, from the year 1560 to the close of the same century.

These religious men, however, might have had their motives for setting this wonderful people in the fairest point of view. The more powerful and magnificent, the more learned and refined they represented this nation to be, the greater would be their triumph in the event of their effecting a change of the national faith. It may also have occurred to them, that common prudence required they should speak favourably, at least, of a nation under whose power and protection they had voluntarily placed themselves for life. There is every reason to suppose, that in general they mean to tell the truth, but by suppressing some part of it, or by telling it in such a manner as if they expected it would one day get back to China in the language of that country, their accounts often appear to be contradictory in themselves. In the same breath that they extol the wonderful strength of filial piety, they speak of the common practices of exposing infants; the strict morality and ceremonious conduct of the people are followed by a list of the most gross debaucheries; the virtues and the philosophy of the learned are explained by their ignorance and their vices; if in one page they speak of the excessive fertility of the country, and the amazing extension of agriculture, in the next, thousands are seen perishing by want; and whilst they extol with admiration the progress they have made in the arts and sciences, they plainly inform us that without the aid of foreigners they can neither cast a cannon, nor calculate an eclipse.

Upon the whole, however, the British embassy left England under a favourable impression of the people it was about to visit. Whether the expectations of all those who composed it, independent of any political consideration, were realized, or ended in disappointment, may partly be collected from the following pages. The opinions they contain are drawn from such incidents and anecdotes as occurred in the course of an eight months' visit and from such as seemed best calculated to illustrate the condition of the people, the national character, and the nature of the government. A short residence in the imperial palace of Yuen-min-yuen, a greater share of liberty than is usually permitted to strangers in this country, with the assistance of some little knowledge of the language, afforded me the means of collecting the facts and observations which I now lay before the public; and in the relation of which I have endeavoured to adhere to that excellent rule of our immortal poet,

——"Nothing extenuate, Nor set down aught in malice."

And as the qualities of good and evil, excellence and mediocrity, in any nation, can only be fairly estimated by a comparison with those of the same kind in others, wherever a similitude or a contrast in the Chinese character or customs with those of any other people ancient or modern occurred to my recollection, I have considered it as not wholly uninteresting to note the relation or disagreement.

The dispatches from China, received by the British Embassador on his arrival at Batavia, communicated the agreeable intelligence that his Imperial Majesty had been pleased, by a public edict, not only to declare his entire satisfaction with the intended embassy, but that he had likewise issued strict orders to the commanding officers of the several ports along the coast of the Yellow Sea, to be particularly careful that Pilots should be ready, at a moment's notice, to conduct the English squadron to Tien-sing, the nearest port to the capital, or to any other which might be considered as more convenient and suitable for the British ships.

By this communication a point of some difficulty was now considered to be removed. It was deemed a desirable circumstance to be furnished with the means of proceeding directly to Pekin through the Yellow Sea, and thus to avoid any intercourse with the port of Canton; as it was well known the principal officers of the government there were prepared to throw every obstacle in the way of the embassy, and if not effectually to prevent, at least to counteract, any representations that might be made at the imperial court, with regard to the abuses that exist in the administration of the public affairs at that place, and more especially to the exactions and impositions to which the commercial establishments are liable of the different nations whose subjects have established factories in this southern emporium of China. It could not be supposed, indeed, that their endeavours would be less exerted, in this particular instance, than on all former occasions of a similar nature.

The navigation of the Yellow Sea, as yet entirely unknown to any European nation, was considered as a subject of some importance, from the information it would afford the means of supplying, and which, on any future occasion, might not only lessen the dangers of an unknown passage, but prevent also much delay by superseding the necessity of running into different ports in search of Chinese Pilots, whom, by experience, we afterwards found to be more dangerous than useful.

We passed through the streight of Formosa without seeing any part of the main land of China, or of the island from whence the streight derives its name, except a high point towards the northern extremity. The weather, indeed, during three successive days, the 25th, 26th, and 27th July was so dark and gloomy, that the eye could scarcely discern the largest objects at the distance of a mile, yet the thermometer was from 80 to 83 the greater part of these days. A heavy and almost incessant fall of rain was accompanied with violent squalls of wind, and frequent bursts of thunder and flashes of lightning; which, with the cross and confused swell in the sea, made the passage not only uncomfortably irksome, but also extremely dangerous, on account of the many islands interspersed in almost every part of the strait.

On the evening of the 25th the sun set in a bank of fog, which made the whole western side of the horizon look like a blaze of fire, and the barometer was observed to have fallen near one third of an inch, which, in these latitudes and at sea, is considered as a certain indication of a change of weather. There were on board some Chinese fishermen who had been driven out to sea in one of the East India company's ships, which we met with in the straits of Sunda. These men assured us that the appearance of the heavens prognosticated one of those tremendous gales of wind which are well known to Europeans by the name of Ty-phoon and which some ingenious and learned men have supposed to be the same as the Typhon of the Egyptians or [Greek: typhn] of the Greeks. The Chinese, however have made use of no mythological allusion in naming this hurricane. They call it Ta-fung which literally signifies a great wind. The wind was certainly high the whole of the night and the following day, the thunder and lightning dreadful, and the variable squalls and rain frequent and heavy; the depth of the sea from 25 to 30 fathoms.

The charts, however, of this passage into the Yellow Sea, constructed by Europeans when the Chinese permitted foreign nations to trade to Chu-san, are considered as sufficiently exact for skilful navigators to avoid the dangerous rocks and islands. By the help of these charts our squadron ventured to stand through the still more intricate and narrow passages of the Chu-san Archipelago, where, in the contracted space of about eight hundred square leagues, the surface of the sea is studded with a cluster, consisting, nearly, of four hundred distinct islands.

These islands appeared to us, in sailing among them, to be mostly uninhabited, extremely barren of trees or shrubs, and many of them destitute even of herbage, or verdure of any kind. In some of the creeks we perceived a number of boats and other small craft, at the upper ends of which were villages composed of mean looking huts, the dwellings most probably of fishermen, as there was no appearance of cultivated ground near them to furnish their inhabitants with the means of subsistence.

The squadron having dropped anchor, we landed on one of the largest of these islands; and walked a very considerable distance before we saw a human being. At length, in descending a valley, in the bottom of which was a small village, we fell in with a young peasant, whom with some difficulty, by means of an interpreter, we engaged in conversation. Embarrassed in thus suddenly meeting with strangers, so different from his own countrymen, in dress, in features, and complexion, his timidity might almost be said to assume the appearance of terror. He soon, however, gained confidence, and became communicative. He assured us that the island on which we were, and of which he was a native, was the best in the whole groupe, and the most populous, except that of Chu-san; the number of its inhabitants being ten thousand souls. It was discovered, however, before we had been long in the country, that when a Chinese made use of the monosyllable van, which in his language signifies ten thousand, he was not to be understood as speaking of a determinate or precise number, but only as making use of a term that implied amplification. A state criminal, for example, is generally condemned to undergo the punishment of being cut into ten thousand pieces; the great wall of China is called the van-lee-tchin, or wall of ten thousand lee, or three thousand English miles, a length just double to that which the most authentic accounts have given of it. But when he means to inform any one that the emperor has ten thousand large vessels, for the purpose of collecting taxes paid in kind, on the grand canal, instead of the monosyllable van he invariably makes use of the expression nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine, as conveying a fixed and definite number, and, in this case, he will be understood to signify literally ten thousand. In this manner, I suppose, we were to understand the population of the island Lo-ang.

At the sight of our large ships, so different in their appearance from any of those belonging to the Chinese, a vast number of boats, issuing from every creek and cove, presently crowded together, in such a manner, and with so little management, as to render it difficult to pass through without danger of oversetting or sinking some of them; a danger, however, to which they seemed quite insensible. Vessels of a larger description, and various in the shape of their hulls and rigging, from twenty tons burden and upwards, to about two hundred tons, were observed in considerable numbers, sailing along the coast of the continent, laden generally with small timber, which was piled to such a height upon their decks, that no extraordinary force of wind would seem to be required to overturn them. Beams of wood, and other pieces that were too long to be received upon the deck of a single ship, were laid across the decks of two vessels lashed together. We saw at least a hundred couple thus laden in one fleet, keeping close in with the coast, in order to be ready, in case of bad weather, to put into the nearest port, being ill calculated to resist a storm at sea. The ships indeed that are destined for longer voyages appear, from their singular construction, to be very unfit to contend with the tempestuous seas of China. The general form of the hull, or body of the ship, above water, is that of the moon when about four days old. The bow, or forepart, is not rounded as in ships of Europe, but is a square flat surface, the same as the stern; without any projecting piece of wood, usually known by the name of cutwater, and without any keel. On each side of the bow a large circular eye is painted, in imitation, I suppose, of that of a fish. The two ends of the ship rise to a prodigious height above the deck. Some carry two, some three, and others four masts. Each of these consists of a single piece of wood, and consequently not capable of being occasionally reduced in length, as those of European ships. The diameter of the mainmast of one of the larger kind of Chinese vessels, such as trade to Batavia, is not less than that of an English man of war of sixty-four guns. And it is fixed in a bed of massive timber laid across the deck. On each mast is a single sail of matting, made from the fibres of the bamboo, and stretched by means of poles of that reed, running across, at the distance of about two feet from each other. These sails are frequently made to furl and unfurl like a fan. When well hoisted up and braced almost fore and aft, or parallel with the sides of the ship, a Chinese vessel will sail within three and a half, or four points of the wind; but they lose all this advantage over ships of Europe by their drifting to leeward, in consequence of the round and clumsy shape of the bottom, and their want of keel. The rudder is so placed, in a large opening of the stern, that it can occasionally be taken up, which is generally done on approaching sands and shallows.

The Chinese, in fact, are equally unskilled in naval architecture, as in the art of navigation. They keep no reckoning at sea, nor possess the least idea of drawing imaginary lines upon the surface of the globe, by the help of which the position of any particular spot may be assigned; in other words, they have no means whatsoever of ascertaining the latitude or the longitude of any place, either by estimation from the distance sailed, or by observation of the heavenly bodies, with instruments for that purpose. Yet they pretend to say, that many of their early navigators made long voyages, in which they were guided by charts of the route, sometimes drawn on paper, and sometimes on the convex surface of large gourds or pumpkins. From this circumstance, some of the Jesuits have inferred, that such charts must have been more correct than those on flat surfaces. If, indeed, the portion of the convex surface, employed for the purpose, was the segment of a sphere, and occupied a space having a comparative relation to that part of the surface of the earth sailed over, the inference might be allowable; but this would be to suppose a degree of knowledge to which, it does not appear, the Chinese had at any time attained, it being among them, in every period of their history, an universally received opinion, that the earth is a square, and that the kingdom of China is placed in the very center of its flat surface.

The present system of Chinese navigation is to keep as near the shore as possible; and never to lose sight of land, unless in voyages that absolutely require it; such as to Japan, Batavia, and Cochin-China. Knowing the bearing, or direction of the port intended to be made, let the wind be fair or foul, they endeavour, as nearly as possible, to keep the head of the ship always pointing towards the port by means of the compass. This instrument, as used in China, has every appearance of originality. The natives know nothing, from history or tradition, of its first introduction or discovery; and the use of the magnet, for indicating the poles of the earth, can be traced, from their records, to a period of time when the greatest part of Europe was in a state of barbarism. It has been conjectured, indeed, that the use of the magnetic needle, in Europe, was first brought from China by the famous traveller Marco Polo the Venetian. Its appearance immediately after his death, or, according to some, while he was yet living, but at all events, in his own country, renders such a conjecture extremely probable. The embassies in which he was employed by Kublai-Khan, and the long voyages he performed by sea, could scarcely have been practicable without the aid of the compass. Be this as it may, the Chinese were, without doubt, well acquainted with this instrument long before the thirteenth century. It is recorded in their best authenticated annals merely as a fact, and not as any extraordinary circumstance, that the Emperor Chung-ko presented an embassador of Cochin-China, who had lost his way in coming by sea, with a Ting-nan-tchin "a needle pointing out the south," the name which it still retains. Even this idea of the seat of magnetic influence, together with the construction of the compass-box, the division of the card into eight principal points, and each of these again subdivided into three, the manner of suspending the needle, and its diminutive size, seldom exceeding in length three quarters of an inch, are all of them strong presumptions of its being an original, and not a borrowed invention.

By some, indeed, it has been conjectured, that the Scythians, in the northern regions of Asia, were acquainted with the polarity of the magnet, in ages antecedent to all history, and that the virtue of this fossil was intended to be meant by the flying arrow, presented to Abaris by Apollo, about the time of the Trojan war, with the help of which he could transport himself wherever he pleased. The abundance of iron ores, and perhaps of native iron, in every part of Tartary, and the very early period of time in which the natives were acquainted with the process of smelting these ores, render the idea not improbable, of the northern nations of Europe, and Asia, (or the Scythians,) being first acquainted with the polarity of the magnet.

Yet even with the assistance of the compass, it is surprizing how the clumsy and ill-constructed vessels of the Chinese can perform so long and dangerous a voyage as that to Batavia. For, besides being thrown out of their course by every contrary wind, their whole construction, and particularly the vast height of their upper works above the water, seems little adapted to oppose those violent tempests that prevail on the China seas, known, as we have already observed, by the name of Ta-fung. These hurricanes sometimes blow with such strength that, according to the assertion of an experienced and intelligent commander of one of the East India Company's ships, "Were it possible to blow ten thousand trumpets, and beat as many drums, on the forecastle of an Indiaman, in the height of a Ta-fung, neither the sound of the one nor the other would be heard by a person on the quarter-deck of the same ship." In fact, vast numbers of Chinese vessels are lost in these heavy gales of wind; and ten or twelve thousand subjects from the port of Canton alone are reckoned to perish annually by shipwreck.

When a ship leaves this port on a foreign voyage, it is considered as an equal chance that she will never return; and when the event proves favourable, a general rejoicing takes place among the friends of all those who had embarked in the hazardous enterprize. Some of these ships are not less than a thousand tons burden, and contain half that number of souls, besides the passengers that leave their country, in the hope of making their fortunes in Batavia and Manilla. A ship is seldom the concern of one man. Sometimes forty or fifty, or even a hundred different merchants purchase a vessel, and divide her into as many compartments as there are partners, so that each knows his own particular place in the ship, which he is at liberty to fit up and to secure as he pleases. He ships his goods, and accompanies them in person, or sends his son, or a near relation, for it rarely happens that they will trust each other with property, where no family connexion exists. Each sleeping place is just the length and breadth of a man, and contains only a small mat, spread on the floor, and a pillow. Behind the compass is generally placed a small temple, with an altar, on which is continually kept burning a spiral taper composed of wax, tallow and sandal-wood dust. This holy flame answers a double purpose; for while the burning of it fulfils an act of piety, its twelve equal divisions serve to measure the twelve portions of time, which make up a complete day. It should seem that the superstitious notions inculcated in the people have led them to suppose, that some particular influence resides in the compass; for, on every appearance of a change in the weather, they burn incense before the magnetic needle.

The losses occasioned among the ships that were employed to transport the taxes paid in kind from the ports of the southern and middle provinces to the northern capital, were so great, at the time of the Tartar Conquest, in the thirteenth century, that the successors of Gengis-Khan were induced to open a direct communication between the two extremes of the empire, by means of the rivers and canals; an undertaking that reflects the highest credit on the Mongul Tartars, and which cannot fail to be regarded with admiration, as long as it shall continue to exist. The Chinese, however, say, that the Tartars only repaired the old works that were fallen into decay.

Six centuries previous to this period, or about the seventh century of the Christian ra, the Chinese merchants, according to the opinion of the learned and ingenious Mr. de Guignes, carried on a trade to the west coast of North America. That, at this time, the promontory of Kamskatka was known to them under the name of Ta-Shan, many of their books of travels sufficiently testify; but their journies thither were generally made by land. One of the missionaries assured me that, in a collection of travels to Kamskatka, by various Chinese, the names of the several Tartar tribes, their manners, customs, and characters, the geographical descriptions of lakes, rivers, and mountains, were too clearly and distinctly noted to be mistaken. It is, however, extremely probable that, as furs and peltry were always in great demand, they might also have some communication with the said promontory from the isles of Jesso, to which they were known to trade with their shipping; and which are only a very short distance from it. Mr. de Guignes, in support of his opinion, quotes the journal of a bonze, as the priests of Fo have usually been called, who sailed eastward from Kamskatka to such a distance as, in his mind, puts it beyond a doubt that the country he arrived at was no other than the coast of California. The Spanish writers, indeed, of the early voyages to this country, make mention of various wrecks of Chinese vessels being found in different parts of the western coast of the New Continent; and they observe that the natives here were, invariably, more civilized than in the interior and eastern parts of America.

Even those on the eastern coast of South America have a very strong resemblance to the Chinese in their persons, though not in their temperament and manners. The Viceroy of the Brazils retains a dozen of these people in his service, as rowers of his barge, with the use of which he one day honoured us, to make the tour of the grand harbour of Rio de Janeiro. We observed the Tartar or Chinese features, particularly the eye, strongly marked in the countenances of these Indians; the copper tinge was rather deeper than the darkest of the Chinese; but their beards being mostly confined to the upper lip and the point of the chin, together with their strong black hair, bore a very near resemblance.

The island of Tcho-ka, or Saghalien, in the Tartarian sea, opposite the mouth of the Amour, has evidently been peopled by the Chinese. When Monsieur la Perouse visited this island, he found the inhabitants clothed in blue nankin, and "the form of their dress differed but little from that of the Chinese; their pipes were Chinese, and of Tootanague; they had long nails; and they saluted by kneeling and prostration, like the Chinese. If," continues the navigator, "they have a common origin with the Tartars and Chinese their separation from these nations must be of very ancient date, for they have no resemblance to them in person, and little in manners." Yet from his own account it appears that both their manners and customs have a very close resemblance.

The Chinese at one period carried on a very considerable commerce with Bussora and other sea-ports in the Persian gulph, particularly Siraff, near which some small islands, as well as several remarkable points and headlands of the coast, still bear Chinese names. In some of the voyages it is observed that a Colony of Chinese had apparently settled in the kingdom of Soffala, the descendants of whom were, in the time of the writers, easily distinguished from the other natives, by the difference of their colour and their features. The early Portuguese navigators also observe that on the island St. Laurence or Madagascar they met with people that resembled the Chinese. That the celebrated traveller Marco Polo visited Madagascar in a Chinese vessel there can be little doubt, unless indeed, like his own countrymen, we chuse rather to reject the probable parts of his narrative as fabulous, and to believe the miracles performed by the Nestorian Christians in Armenia as the only truths in his book.

It is impossible not to consider the notices given by this early traveller as curious, interesting and valuable; and, as far as they regard the empire of China, they bear internal evidence of being generally correct. He sailed from China in a fleet consisting of fourteen ships, each carrying four masts, and having their holds partitioned into separate chambers, some containing thirteen distinct compartments. This is the exact number of divisions into which all the holds of those sea-faring vessels were partitioned that transported the presents and baggage from our own ships in the gulph of Pe-tche-lee into the river Pei-ho; and we observed many hundreds of a still larger description, that are employed in foreign voyages, all carrying four masts; such vessels, our sailors who are remarkable for metamorphosing foreign names, usually called Junks, from Tehuan which signifies a ship; the Tsong-too or viceroy of a province is called by them John Tuck.

Not only the form of the ships, but the circumstances of the voyage taken notice of by this ancient navigator stamp his relation with authenticity. The strong current between Madagascar and Zanzebar rendering it next to impossible for ships to get back to the northward; the black natives on that coast, the products of the country which he enumerates; the true description of the Giraffe or Camelopardalis, at that time considered in Europe as a fabulous animal, are so many and such strong evidences in favour of his narrative, as to leave little doubt that he either was himself upon the east coast of Africa, or that he had received very correct information from his Chinese shipmates concerning it. Yet Doctor Vincent has asserted, in his Periplus of the Erythrean Sea[4], that in the time of this Venetian traveller none but Arab or Malay vessels navigated the Indian Ocean. With all due deference to such high authority I cannot forbear observing that the simple relation of Marco Polo bears internal and irresistible evidence that the fleet of ships in which he sailed were Chinese, of the same kind to all intents and purposes as they now are. Nor have we any reason for doubting the authority of the two Mahomedans who visited China in the ninth century, when they tell us that Chinese ships traded to the Persian gulph at that time. In a chart made under the direction of the Venetian traveller and still preserved in the church of St. Michael de Murano at Venice, the southern part of the continent of Africa is said to be distinctly marked down, though this indeed might have been inserted after the Cape of Good Hope had been doubled by the Portuguese.

[4] In the very next page (202) he however corrects himself, by observing that either the Chinese or Malays navigated as far as Madagascar.

Whether the Prince of Portugal had seen or heard of this chart, or consulted the Arabian Geographers, or had read of the circumnavigation of Africa in the first translation of Herodotus that made its appearance but a few years before the discovery of the southern promontory of this continent by Bartholomew Diaz; or whether the voyages were undertaken at that time on a general plan of discovery, authors seem not to have agreed, but the opinion, I understand, among the Portugueze is that Henry had good grounds for supposing that the circumnavigation of Africa was practicable.

And whether the Phoenicians did or did not, in the earliest periods of history, double the Cape of Good of Hope there is abundant reason for supposing they were well acquainted with the east coast of Africa as far as the Cape of Currents. Nor is it probable that the extent and flourishing condition of the trade and commerce of Tyrus should have been limited to that part of the Indian ocean to the southward of the Red Sea, which is a more difficult navigation than to the northward. That this commerce was extensive we have the authority of the prophet Ezekiel, who, in glowing terms, has painted its final destruction, and who, it may be remarked, is supposed to have lived at the very time the Phoenicians sailed round Africa by order of Necho. "Thy riches and thy fairs, thy merchandise, thy mariners and thy pilots, thy caulkers, and the occupiers of thy merchandize, and all thy men of war that are in thee, and in all thy company which is in the midst of thee, shall fall into the midst of the seas in the day of thy ruin." It is probable therefore that the navigation of the Eastern Seas was known in the earliest periods of history, and there seems to be no reason for supposing that the Chinese should not have had their share in it.

Without, however, making any enquiry into the probability that an ancient intercourse might have subsisted between China and the East coast of Africa, either by convention for commercial purposes, or that Chinese sailors might have been thrown on that coast either in Phoenician, or Arabian, or their own vessels, I happened to observe in a former publication of "Travels in Southern Africa," as a matter of fact, "that the upper lid of the eye of a real Hottentot, as in that of a Chinese, was rounded into the lower on the side next the nose, and that it formed not an angle as in the eye of an European—that from this circumstance they were known in the colony of the Cape by the name of Chinese Hottentots." Further observations have confirmed me in the very striking degree of resemblance between them. Their physical characters agree in almost every point. The form of their persons in the remarkable smallness of the joints and the extremities, their voices and manner of speaking, their temper, their colour and features, and particularly that singular shaped eye rounded in the corner next the nose like the end of an ellipsis, probably of Tartar or Scythian origin, are nearly alike. They also agree in the broad root of the nose; or great distance between the eyes: and in the oblique position of these, which, instead of being horizontal, as is generally the case in European subjects, are depressed towards the nose. A Hottentot who attended me in travelling over Southern Africa was so very like a Chinese servant I had in Canton, both in person, features, manners, and tone of voice, that almost always inadvertently I called him by the name of the latter. Their hair, it is true, and that only differs. This, in a Hottentot, is rather harsh and wiry, than woolly, neither long, nor short, but twisted in hard curling ringlets resembling fringe. I possess not a sufficient degree of skill in physiology to say what kind of hair the offspring would have of a Chinese man and Mozambique woman; much less can I pretend to account for the origin of the Hottentot tribes, insulated on the narrow extremity of a large continent, and differing so remarkably from all their neighbours, or where to look for their primitive stock unless among the Chinese.

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