Mongolian History - The Chinese

As from the great central mass of mankind, the first accumulation of life on our planet, there was parted off into Africa a fragment called the Negro variety, so into eastern Asia there was detached, by those causes which we seek in vain to discover, a second huge fragment, to which has been given the name of the Mongolian variety. Overspreading the great plains of Asia, from the Himalehs to the Sea of Okhotsk, this detachment of the human species may be supposed to have crossed into Japan; to have reached the other islands of the Pacific, and either through these, or by the access at Behring's Straits, to have poured themselves through the great American continent; their peculiarities shading off in their long journey, till the Mongolian was converted into the American Indian. Blumenbach, however, erects the American Indian into a type by himself. Had historians been able to pursue the Negro race into their central African jungles and deserts, they would no doubt have found the general Ethiopic mass breaking up there under the operation of causes connected with climate, soil, food, etc., into vast sections or subdivisions, presenting marked differences from each other; and precisely so was it with the Mongolians. In Central Asia, we find them as Thibetians, Tungusians, Mongols proper; on the eastern coasts, as Mantchous and Chinese; in the adjacent islands, as Japanese, etc.; and nearer the North Pole, as Laplanders, Esquimaux, etc.; all presenting peculiarities of their own. Of these great Mongolian branches circumstances have given a higher degree of development to the Chinese and the Japanese than to the others, which are chiefly nomadic hordes, some under Chinese rule, others independent, roaming over the great pasture lands of Asia, and employed in rearing cattle.

There is every reason to believe that the vast population inhabiting that portion of eastern Asia called China, can boast of a longer antiquity of civilization than almost any other nation of the world, a civilization, however, differing essentially in its character from those which have appeared and disappeared among the Caucasians. This, in fact, is to be observed as the grand difference between the history of the Mongolian and that of the Caucasian variety of the human species, that whereas the former presents us with the best product of Mongolian humanity, in the form of one great permanent civilization - the Chinese extending from century to century, one, the same and solitary, through a period of 3000 or 4000 years; the latter exhibits a succession of civilization - the Chaldean, the Persian, the Grecian, the Roman, the modern European (subdivided into French, English, German, Italian, etc.,) and the Anglo-American; these civilizations, from the remotest Oriental - that is, Chaldean - to the most recent Occidental - that is, the Anglo-American - being a series of waves falling into each other, and driven onward by the same general force. A brief sketch of Chinese history, with a glance at Japan, will therefore discharge all that we owe to the Mongolian race.

Authentic Chinese history does not extend father back than about 800 or 1000 years B.C.; but, as has been the case more or less with all nations, the Chinese imagination has provided itself with a mythological history extending many ages back into the unknown past. Unlike the mythology of the Greeks, but like that of the Indians, the Chinese legends deal in large chronological intervals. First of all, in the beginning of time, was the great Puan-Koo, founder of the Chinese nation, and whose dress was green leaves. After him came Ty-en-Hoang, Ti-Hoang, Gin-Hoang and several other euphonious potentates, each of whom did something towards the building up of the Chinese nation, and each of whom reigned, as was the custom in those grand old times, thousands of years. At length, at a time corresponding to that assigned in Scripture to the life of Noah, came the divine-born Fohi, a man of transcendent faculties, who reigned 115 years, teaching music and the system of symbols, instituting marriage, building walls round cities, creating mandarins, and, in short, establishing the Chinese nation on a basis that could never be shaken. After him came Shin-ning, Whang-ti, etc., until in due time came the good emperors Yao and Shun, in the reign of the latter of whom happened a great flood. By means of canals and drains the assiduous Yu saved the country, and became the successor of Shun. Yu was the first emperor of the ha dynasty, which began about 2100 B.C. After this dynasty came that of Shang, the last of whose emperors, a great tyrant, was deposed (B.C. 1122) by Woo-wong, the founder of the Tchow dynasty.

In this Tchow dynasty, which lasted upwards of 800 years, authentic Chinese history commences. It was during it, and most probably about the year B. a. 484, that the great Con-fu-tse, or Confucius, the founder of the Chinese religion, philosophy, and literature, flourished. In the year B.C. 248, the Tchow dynasty was superseded by that of Tsin, the first of whose kings built the Great Wall of China, to defend the country against the Tartar Nomads. The Tsin dynasty was a short one: it was succeeded in B.C. 206 by the Han dynasty, which lasted till A. D. 238. Then followed a rapid series of dynastic revolutions, by which the nation was frequently broken into parts; and during which the population was considerably changed in character by the irruptions of the nomad hoards of Asia who intermingled with it. Early in the seventh century, a dynasty called that of Tang acceded to power, which ended in 897. After half a century of anarchy, order was restored under the Song dynasty, at the commencement of which, or about the year 950, the art of printing was discovered, five centuries before it was known in Europe. The Song dynasty,' says Schlosser, maintained an intimate connection with Japan, as contrary to all Chinese maxims; the emperors of this dynasty imposed no limits to knowledge, the arts, life, luxury, and commerce with other nations. Their unhappy fate, therefore (on being extinguished with circumstances of special horror by the Mongol conqueror Kublai Khan, A. D. 1281), is held forth as a warning against departing a hairsbreadth from the old customs of the empire. From the time of the destruction of the Song dynasty by the Mongol monarchy, the intercourse between China and Japan was broken, until again the Ming, a native Chinese dynasty (A. D. 1366) restored it. The Mongol rulers made an expedition against Japan, but were unsuccessful. The unfortunate gift which the Japanese received from China was the doctrine of Foe. This doctrine, however, was not the first foreign doctrine or foreign worshipthat came into China. A religion, whose nature we cannot fix probably Buddhism, ere it had assumed the form of Lamaism - was preached in it at an earlier date. About the time of the Tsin dynasty (B.C. 248 - 206), a warlike king had incorporated all China into one and subdued the princes of the various provinces. While he was at war with his subjects, many of the roving hordes to the north of China pressed into the land, and with them appeared missionaries of the religion above mentioned. When peace was restored, the kings of the fore-named dynasty, as also later those of Han and the two following dynasties, extended the kingdom prodigiously, and the western provinces became known to the Greeks and Romans as the land of the Seres. As on the one side Tartary was at that time Chinese, so on the other side the Chinese were connected with India; whence came the Indian religion. It procured many adherents, but yielded at length to the primitive habits of the nations. In consequence of the introduction of the religion of Foe, the immense country fell asunder into two kingdoms. The south and the north had each its sovereign; and the wars of the northern kingdom occasioned the wanderings of the Huns, by whose agency the Roman Empire was destroyed. These kingdoms of the north and south were often afterwards united and again dissevered; great savage hordes roamed around them as at present; but all that had settled, and that dwelt within the Great Wall, submitted to the ancient Chinese civilization. Ghenghis Khan, indeed, whose power was founded on the Turkish and Mongol races, annihilated both kingdoms, and the barbaric element seemed to triumph; but this was changed as soon as his kingdom was divided. Even Kublai, and yet more his immediate followers, much as the Chinese calumniate the Mongol dynasty of Yeven, maintained everything in its ancient condition, with the single exception that they did homage to Lamaism, the altered form of Buddhism. This religion yet prevails, accommodated skillfully, however, to the Chinese mode of existence - a mode which all subsequent conquerors have respected, as the example of the present dynasty proves.' The dynasty alluded to is that of Tatsin Mantchou, a mixed Mongol and Tartar stock, which superseded the native Chinese dynasty of Ming in the year 1644. The present emperor of China is the sixth of the Tatsin dynasty.

From the series of dry facts just given, we arrive at the following definition of China and its civilization: As the Roman Empire was a great temporary aggregation of matured Caucasian humanity, surrounded by and shading off into Caucasian barbarism, so China, a country more extensive than all Europe, and inhabited by a population of more than 800,000,000, is an aggregation of matured Mongolian humanity surrounded by Mongolian barbarism. The difference is this, that while the Roman Empire was only one of several successive aggregations of the Caucasian race, each on an entirely different basis, the Chinese empire has been one permanent exhibition of the only form of civilization possible, among the Mongolians. The Jew, the Greek, the Roman, the Frenchman, the German, the Englishman - these are all types of the matured Caucasian character; but a fully-developed Mongolian has but one type the Chinese. Chinese history does not exhibit a progress of the Mongolian man through a series of stages; it exhibits only a uniform duration of one great civilized Mongolian empire, sometimes expanding so as to extend itself into the surrounding Mongolian barbarism, sometimes contracted by the pressure of that barbarism, sometimes disturbed by infusions of the barbaric element, sometimes shattered within itself by the operation of individual Chinese ambition, but always retaining its essential character. True, in such a vast empire, difference of climate, etc., must give rise to specific differences, so that a Chinese of the north-east is not the same as a Chinese of the southwest; true, also, the Japanese civilization seems to exist as an alternative between which and the Chinese, Providence might share the Mongolian part of our species, were it to remain unmixed; still the general remark. remains undeniable, that from the extremest antiquity to the present day, Mongolian humanity has been able to cast itself but into one essential civilized type. It is an object of peculiar interest, therefore, to us who belong to the multiform and progressive Caucasian race, to obtain a distinct idea of the nature of that permanent form of civilization out of which our Mongolian brothers have never issued, and apparently never wish to issue. Each of our readers being a civilized Caucasian, may be supposed to ask, 6 What sort of a human being is a civilized Mongolian? A study of the Chinese civilization would answer this question. Not so easy would it be for a Chinese to return the compliment, confused as he would be by the multiplicity of the types which the Caucasian man has assumed from the ancient Arab to the modern Anglo-American.

Hitherto little progress has been made in the investigation of the Chinese civilization. Several conclusions of a general character have, however, been. established. We recognise,' says Schlosser, in the institutions of the Chinese, so much praised by the Jesuits, the character of the institutions of all early states; with this difference, that the Chinese mode of life is not a product of hierarchical or theocratic maxims, but a work of the cold understanding. In China, all that subserves the wants of the senses was arranged and developed in the earliest ages; all that concerns the soul or the imagination is yet raw and ill-adjusted; and we behold in the high opinion which the Chinese entertain of themselves and their affairs, a terrible example of what must be the consequence when all behavior proceeds according to prescribed etiquette, when all knowledge and learning is a matter of rote directed to external applications, and the men of learning are so intimately connected with the government, and have their interest so much one with it, that a number of privileged doctors can regulate literature as a state magistrate does weights and measures.' Of the Chinese government the same authority remarks the patriarchal system still lies at the foundation of it. Round the "Son of Heaven," as they name the highest ruler, the wise of the land assemble as round their counselor and organ. So in the provinces (of which there are eighteen or nineteen, each as large as a considerable kingdom), the men of greatest sagacity gather round the presidents; each takes the fashion from his superior, and the lowest give it to the people. Thus one man exercises the sovereignty; a number of learned men gave the law, and invented in very early times a symbolical system of syllabic writing, suitable for their mono syllabic speech, in lieu of their primitive system of hieroglyphics. All business is transacted in writing, with minuteness and pedantry. Their written language is very difficult; and as it is possible in Chinese writing for one to know all the characters of a certain period of time, or of a certain department, and yet be totally unacquainted with those of another department, there is no end to their mechanical acquisition.' It has already been mentioned that Chinese thought has at various times received certain foreign tinctures, chiefly from India; essentially, however, the Chinese mind has remained as it was fixed by Confucius. 'In China,' says Schlosser, a so-named philosophy has accomplished that which in other countries has been accomplished by priests and religions. In the genuine Chinese books of religion, in all their learning and wisdom, God is not thought of; religion, according to the Chinese and their oracle and lawgiver Con-fu-tse, has nothing to do with the imagination, but consists alone in the performance of outward moral duties, and in zeal to further the ends of state. Whatever lies beyond the plain rule of life is either a sort of obscure natural philosophy, or a mere culture for the people, and for any who may feel the want of such a culture. The various forms of worship which have made their way into China are obliged to restrict themselves, to bow to the law, and to make their practices conform; they can arrogate no literature of their own; and, good or bad, must learn to agree with the prevailing atheistic Chinese manner of thought.'

Such are the Chinese, and such have they been for 2000 or 3000 years - a vast people undoubtedly civilized to the highest pitch of which Mongolian humanity is susceptible; of mild disposition; industrious to an extraordinary degree; well-skilled in all the mechanical arts, and possessing a mechanical ingenuity peculiar to themselves; boasting of a language quite singular in its character, and of a vast literature; respectful of usage to such a degree as to do everything by pattern; attentive to the duties and civilities of life, but totally devoid of fervor, originality, or spirituality; and living under a form of government which has been very happily designated a pedantocracy - that is, a hierarchy of erudite persons selected from the population, and appointed by the emperor, according to the proof they give of their capacity, to the various places of public trust. How far these characteristics, or any of them, are inseparable from a Mongolian civilization, would appear more clearly if we knew more of the Japanese. At present, however, there seems little prospect of any reorganization of the Chinese mind, except by means of a Caucasian stimulus applied to it. And what Caucasian stimulus will be sufficient to break up that vast Mongolian mass, and lay it open to the general world-influences? Will the stimulus come from Europe; or from America after its western shores are peopled, and the Anglo-Americans begin to think of crossing the Pacific?