Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

a perfect paradise. The aged and the young, the rich and the poor, alike hailed him as their benefactor, and delighted to recount his praises.

In the “Shoo-king” of Confucius, there is an account of an extensive flooding which took place in the reign of Yaou,* and which appears to be derived from a tradition concerning the Mosaic deluge. It reads thus :-“ The emperor Yaou" said, “Vast and destructive are the accumulating waters. They have overflowed their bank's, covered the hills, overtopped the loftiest mountains, and are co-extensive with the spacious concave of heaven. Who shall save the people from the calamity?'”

Although it is evident that a flood so vast must have destroyed "all flesh," yet the Chinese historians, having only tradition for their guide, represent Yaou, and his successors, Shun and Yu, as being employed in drawing off the waters of the great inundation. According to their testimony it was effected by Yu; for which reason he was chosen by Shun to be his partner on the throne, and finally his successor. Yu is more celebrated for being the founder of the period, or the dynasty called Hea, which commenced, according to the erroneous chronology of the Chinese, B. c. 2207.

FROM THE HEA TO THE HAN DYNASTY.

When Yu assumed the reins of empire he was ninety-three years of age. He is said to have reigned seven years; and, according to Confucius,

* According to Chinese chronology, this took place B. C. 2291, which is only fifty-seven years later than the generally received date of the deluge of Moses.

with consummate wisdom. With him, indeed, he represents the perfection of princes to have ended. After the reign of Yu, the monarchy became hereditary; and fourteen princes, descended from one Ta-yu, sat upon the throne during four centuries, concerning whom nothing is recorded worthy of note. During that period, it is represented that China was divided amongst a number of feudal chiefs, who either acknowledged the emperor's power, or set him at defiance, according as he was in a condition to exercise authority. There was constant strife between them; and philosophy vainly endeavoured to unite the whole empire under one head. The reign of the Hea, therefore, was inglorious; and it closed with the vicious Keě, who was dethroned by Ching-tang, who became the founder of the Shang dynasty, B.c. 1766.

THE SHANG DYNASTY.

Ching-tang justified his usurpation by a solemn appeal to Shang-te, the Supreme Emperor, or Supreme Being, whence it became, in the sight of the Chinese, the will of Heaven; and he was permitted to sit upon the throne by universal consent. Nor do his after actions exhibit unfitness for empire. He was anxious to recall the age of Yaou, Shun, and Yu, and he laboured diligently to improve the condition and the manners of his people.

It is related, that Ching-tang, on ascending the throne, laid up a large store of grain ; and that a famine, occasioned by drought, happening soon afterwards, he was enabled thereby to act in a bountiful manner towards his subjects. On this account, he is said to have charged himself with

[ocr errors]

1 the sins which had occasioned the calamity, and

by humble confession so to have propitiated the

Deity, that plentiful showers fell upon the parched 3 soil, and the wrath of Heaven was appeased. By

this conduct, Ching-tang established himself on the throne ; and Chinese emperors, from that day to this, have not failed to follow his example. They affect a show of piety to ensure the obedience of their subjects.

The records of the Shang dynasty are very meagre. Twenty-seven princes of the same family seem successively to have occupied the throne within the space of 643 years, but their lives are, for the most part, a mere blank. Of Tae

keă, the successor of Ching-tang, it is said, that 1 he forfeited his claim to the crown by a disorderly

life; of Tae-woo, that he was humane to his people in general, but severe against the mandarins ; and of Pwan-kăng, that he made a desper

ate effort to suppress the aristocracy, by whom -1

the people were in his reign borne down and impoverished. After Pwan-kăng, the authority of the Shang dynasty became more and more slighted; whilst the princes of Chow, by their statesman-like wisdom, became popular, and drew multitudes to their capital.

Such was the state of China about s.c. 1352. Thirty years after, during the reign of Woo-ting, some prosperity was enjoyed by the country, but it ceased at his death. During the tyrannical government of Kang-tsoo, Keă-tsoo, Lin-sin, Kang-ting, and Woo-yih, who oppressed the country for seventy years, a rapid decline of the reigning dynasty was visible. Numbers of their subjects sought a refuge from their tyranny in

[ocr errors]

the neighbouring isles, and it seems probable that from them Japan received its first Chinese colonists.

The succeeding monarchs of the Shang dynasty chose the popular princes of Chow for their prime ministers, and their ruin thereby was sealed. In the reign of Chow-sin the people called upon

W00wong, a son of the prime minister, to depose their king on account of his tyranny and cruelty; and when he saw that, he arrayed himself in his royal robes, and retiring to his palace, set fire to it, and perished in the flames, B.c. 1122.

THE CHOW DYNASTY.

The period of authentic Chinese history may be considered as dating from the race of Chow, that is, about 1000 years b.C.

Before that time the Chinese had no existing records. While this race sat upon the throne, however, Confucius appeared, and he' it was, together with his disciples, who bequeathed to the world various books which relate the early traditions of the country and the annals of their own times. This fact will prove the truth of a previous statement; namely, that before the age of Confucius, the annals of China are fabulous and uncertain. To an attentive observer, indeed, it appears evident that what Confucius related of the Chinese, in remote ages, had reference for the most part to a distinct people. Thus Yaou, Shun, and Yu, seem to have been nearly contemporaneous with the three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and the points of resemblance in their characters afford evidence that they were one and the self-same persons. Thus, also, Fo-hy is to be identified

blett

esec

[ocr errors]

with Noah. Tradition had handed down its uncertain memorials of these Scripture worthies; and

Confucius, whose design was to draw a pattern va

for the imitation of princes, placed them on the prie throne of China, and described them as Chinese 1. patriarchs. How prone the Chinese are to imita

tion, may be seen from the fact that they fabricated e the

a counterpart of Alexander the Great in the person of Tsin-che-hwang-te. But notwithstanding all this, it is clear that the Chinese are, as a nation, the most ancient people in existence, the Jews excepted. Their civilization was coeval with that of the Egyptians; their literature with

that of Greece; and the extension of the emay be pire with that of Persia. Confucius himself tha was nearly contemporary with Herodotus, the

father of Grecian history, to whom he is neither

inferior in talent nor morality. He was one of red those extraordinary men whom the Almighty ha wh: in mercy raised up at divers times to alleviate the

miseries of mankind, by teaching them that to be the happy they must be virtuous.

According to the testimony of Confucius, the new emperor Woo-wong, which signifies literally,

“the martial king,” was without spot or blemb. ish, and a father to his people. His wisdom,

however, does not appear to have equalled his ad goodness. Many feudal states already existed

in the country, and he added others by apportioning territories to the well-deserving statesmen and princes who had lost their patrimony. This

act, though emanating from a spirit of kind1 ness, increased the evils, which had long been

productive of much bloodshed in the empire. For, although the recipients of his bounty may

ract

re

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

na

e

2

« ElőzőTovább »