« PreviousContinue »
rows of embrasures, with the muzzles of cannon; but as these cannon are in many cases wooden dummies, they are not so formidable as they appear to be.
The governor of the city bears the title of General of the Nine Gates. The captaincy of each gate is held by one of the imperial princes, who largely increase their income by obtaining something for themselves above the regular tariff from all persons entering the city with goods. Chinese officials make the most of their opportunities, and the deputies who watch the gates, by taking eggs from baskets and lumps of coal from the backs of camels, manage to make their posts very profitable. The gates are all locked at curfew; but a bribe to the Manchoorian guard will procure a ready passage. As regards military defence, the walls and gates are practically useless. For a long period nothing has been spent on them, and a crowd of wretched structures are reared against the ramparts in the extramural suburbs. The garrison of the city consists of the bannermen, descendants of the followers of the various Manchoo chiefs who took part in the conquest of China in 1644. These chiefs built the numerous Fuhs, many of them still handsome, but generally in a ruinous condition. The bannermen are only responsible to their own officers, and not amenable to the civil jurisdiction.
The city is divided by the broad streets that cross it at right angles, as well as by an infinitude of narrow lanes. In the great streets are many shops, with peculiar carved and gilded fronts; a broad pathway runs along in front of the houses; the centre of the street is elevated about two feet, to form a carriage-way, and between this and the footpath, in the busy streets, the thoroughfare is obstructed by a long line of mean-looking huts and shops. The streets are not, in general, paved; in dry weather the dust lies in heaps, and in wet weather the immense quantities of mud make locomotion very difficult. Carts wrecked in two or three feet of mud are in some streets common occurrences.
Proceeding now to describe some of the more prominent edifices and monuments and characteristic scenes of the Chinese capital, we will begin with the Observatory that towers so conspicuously above the south-eastern ramparts to which it is annexed. Seen from the centre of the city, its massive astronomical instruments stand out against the sky like some colossal insect. The present edifice, built under the Ming dynasty, is a square tower about sixty-five feet in height, which replaced an earlier Mongol observatory on the same site. Some large bronze astronomical instruments in the lower courtyard are said to date from the Mongol era. When Kanghi, the second Emperor of the present dynasty, was reigning at Pekin (A.D. 1662-1723), the Jesuits were at intervals in high favour with him. They engraved for him a large map of China from a survey executed by his orders, and under their superintendence larger and more complicated instruments were fabricated for the Observatory. When the Jesuits were expelled, and their property confiscated, this establishment was spared, and everything has remained for over a century as Father Verbiest left it. The old guardian, who dwells at the foot of the tower, is scrupulously forbidden to clean or polish anything for fear of damage. In the courtyard is an ancient water-clock-an arrangement of metal basins, in which the dropping of the water from one to another marked every quarter of an hour on an indicator, in accordance with which the time of day was announced by drum-beat from the adjacent city wall. On the platform of the tower stand eight large instruments for estimating the distances, movements,
magnitude, etc, of the heavenly bodies. They are supported on fantastic bronze-work of winged dragons. The celestial globe, over eight feet in diameter, shows all the stars known in 1650, and visible in the latitude of Pekin.
Very near the Observatory is the University, or Temple of Letters, consisting of a large walled enclosure of about four acres.
Beyond the entrance-gate and adjoining halls
is a large area, subdivided by numerous lanes, lined on each side with cells about four feet square, in which the students sit to write their theses at the examinations. 10,000 of these cells, and additional ones can be added when needed. As many as 14,000 students have been examined at once, though about 6,000 is now the average number. In the centre is a pavilion of three storeys, from which the governor and his colleagues can inspect the whole area, and every precaution is taken to prevent access to the outer world or communication with other students.
The two institutions just described are near the Ha-ta-mên, the south-eastern gate of the northern or Tartar City. From this gate runs due northward the longest street in Pekin. It
is about ninety feet in width, and on each side of the central causeway is a line of booths and eating-houses and temporary shops-a sort of Rag Fair, for second-hand wearing apparel seems the prevailing merchandise dealt in. Cook-shops abound, and are well patronised. The permanent shops beside the street are many of them elegantly carved and richly gilded. The
street we are now describing is the most populous and most commercial of the Tartar City. Very few females, and those only of the lowest class, mingle in the busy crowd. Here and there are seen Lama priests in their yellow robes, with yellow hats turned up with brown fur, surmounted by a crimson silk knob. Amongst the street vendors the charcoal-sellers are conspicuous, carrying piles of their ware in baskets suspended across their shoulders. The beggars, especially near the gate at each end, are terribly annoying, kow-towing and kicking up the dust most persistently. Now and then some great mandarin passes along with Oriental pomp and ceremony. Mounted couriers ride in front; behind his chair, even if
there be no sunshine, march his parasol-bearers. Subordinate members of the tribunal over which he presides follow on either side, with his separate retinue of servants to swell the train.
The simple pedestrian finds it well to walk on the foot-path beside the houses, for the central causeway is crowded with horses and mules and camels, carriages and chariots and chairs. The palanquins and chairs, indeed, especially abound. In Pekin, everybody who is anybody shuns walking, and the chairs are far more comfortable than the springless carriages let on hire. The streets were paved about two centuries ago with fine large paving-stones; these have become much damaged and very irregular in level; no repairs have been attempted, and deep holes are very frequent, yet many of the natives can sit and smoke placidly whilst bumping along on a springless vehicle, with the driver miraculously balancing himself on the shaft.
On the left of this street stands an ancient temple, transformed into the Tribunal of Rites and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It has become historic as the scene of the interviews between Prince Kung (as representative of the fugitive Emperor) and the European plenipotentiaries, and of the signing, on October 25th, 1960, of the treaty of peace that put an end to the war.
The long perspective is broken by four of the triumphal arches, of which there are several in Pekin. These are of stone or wood, covered with sculptures representing fabulous animals, flowers, and birds. To the right of the street, near the ramparts, are the immense buildings, now in a state of complete decay, which were formerly the granaries of Pekin. It is said that they used to contain a store of rice and grain sufficient to supply the capital for eight years. They have been abandoned since the accession of the Manchoo dynasty, and are now only tenanted by beggars and innumerable legions of rats. The northern end of the street terminates at the An-ting Gate, through which the Allies entered in 1860. Very near the gate stands the Temple of Confucius, a beautiful building, which might more accurately be described as a monument consecrated to the tablets of the family of the great sage. In the courtyard are yew-trees centuries old, and beyond rises the circular pagoda, with its marble staircases and its enamelled tile roof of emerald-green. Within the large and splendidly decorated hall are richly carved and gilded memorials of the great sage, presented by successive Emperors. At the entrance are ten drum-shaped blocks of granite, covered with inscriptions in ancient characters, which are said to date from 400 B.C.
Once a year the Emperor of China comes in state to do honour to the great philosopher whose memory is so profoundly revered by one-third of the human race. K'ung Fu-tze ("the Philosopher Kung"), Latinised by the Western world into Confucius, was born in 550 B.C. He came of highest lineage, and could trace back his ancestry to Hang-twi, whose figure dimly appears in the fabulous mists of pre-historie times. But the house of K'ung had fallen on evil times, and Confucius was born in poverty. He lost his father when three years old, and was elucated by his mother, who imbued him with a deep love of moral principle. He became a teacher, travelled over his native country, and familiarised himself with the condition of society in his day, as well as with the ancient writings. His most distinguished follower, Menems, Rys that Confucius appeared at a crisis in the nation's history. "The world had
fallen into decay, and right principles had disappeared. Perverse discourses and offensive deeds were waxen rife. Ministers murdered their rulers, and sons their fathers. Confucius was frightened by what he saw, and he undertook the work of reformation." He did not pretend to originate new doctrines, but to expound the teaching of preceding and neglected sages— always pointing backward to a golden age in the past. When he died, at the age of seventytwo, in 479 B.C., ten years before Socrates was born, he had already become famous. His works unfold a system of moral philosophy founded on the wants and tendencies of human nature. It is based upon the five relations of human life: (1) Emperor and officer; (2) father and son; (3) husband and wife; (4) elder brothers and younger brothers; (5) friend and friend. The relation between God and man is ignored. The five virtues of the Confucian system are Jeu, Yi, Li, Cu, and Sin-Benevolence, Righteousness, Propriety, Knowledge, Faith, the last meaning sincerity of heart and truthfulness. According to Confucius, the knowledge of oneself was the basis of all real advance in knowledge and manners, and many passages in his writings closely approach the Christian standard of morality. "Do not unto others what you would not have them do to you" is the negative phase of the golden rule, and occurs several times in his conversations. "It cannot be denied," says Dr. Williams, "that among much that is commendable there are a few exceptional dogmas among his tenets; but, compared with the precepts of Grecian and Roman sages, the general tendency of his writings is good; while in their general adaptation to the society in which he lived, and their eminently practical character, they exceed those of Western philosophers."
Opposite to the Temple of Confucius is the largest Buddhist monastery and temple in Pekin, generally known as the Temple of the Thousand Lamas. It includes a mass of buildings, fantastic rather than beautiful, brilliant in colouring, and lavishly sculptured. The lamas are of all ages, and the whole establishment forms a kind of metropolitan cathedral. Full choral service is performed, and the chanting by the priests of a sort of liturgy is described as very effective. One of the larger buildings contains a great image of Buddha, sixty feet in height.
In a street farther west stands the noted bell-tower, containing a large bronze bell, which is one of those cast in 1410 by the Emperor Yung-lo. The tower is a square structure with a red roof raised on an arcaded basement storey. The great bell, seen through arches in the upper storey, is the tocsin of Pekin, being used in all cases of sudden alarm. It has never been hung, the sound being drawn out by striking the outside with heavy hammers. Of the other bells cast at the same time, one is over the palace gates, and the third occupies a separate temple outside the walls, and is a remarkable work of art. This bell is fifteen feet in height, and its ears for suspension are ten feet more; it measures eleven feet across the mouth, and is nine inches thick; it is made of the finest bell-metal, and is covered within and without with Chinese characters, comprising eighty-seven sections of the sacred books of the Buddhist religion. These characters were cast with the bell, not cut out afterwards; and it is surprising to think that at that early date the Chinese were able to complete so perfectly this splendid specimen of casting, weighing not less than sixty tons. Father Verbiest, in a letter written 200 years ago, mentions an iron bell which had been cast at the same time as the bronze bells just mentioned, and was lying in a courtyard near