CHINA’S ONLY HOPE

CHAPTER VII THE PROPER SEQUENCE OF THINGS

In order to render China powerful, and at the same time preserve our own institutions, it is absolutely necessary that we should utilize Western knowledge. But unless Chinese learning is made the basis of education, and a Chinese direction given to thought, the strong will become anarchists, and the weak, slaves. Thus the latter end will be worse than the former. The English newspapers have recently been ridiculing us for not reforming, and they state that the teachings of Confucius lie at the bottom of our inflexible conservatism. In this they are greatly mistaken. Those who have translated the Four Books and Five Classics into foreign languages, have missed the true intent of Confucianism by accepting the explanations of inefficient Chinese instructors who know nothing whatever of our doctrine. These newspapers get their information from these translated books, and ridicule what they know nothing about. The superficial Chinese commentaries which pass current for truth, the unconnected, non-cohesive eight-legged essays, the effete philosophies, countless antiquarian works, false but high-sounding poetry of China, are not Confucian learning. And the stereotyped rules of deportment which are prescribed by the ” master of ceremonies,” and followed by Chinese officials, are heresies from the school of Han Fei and Li Sze [10] which had their origin in the stormy times of Ts’in. The vulgar herd of Chinese officials who observe these forms, make a virtue of obstructiveness and cloak their laziness in matters of vital importance by ” quieting the people,” as it is called. On the ground of ” nourishing the constitution of the state,” they continue their malpractices; and it is said that these constitute the Confucian government! We characterize this system as the teaching of Lao Tsz, [11] the tail-ends of previous Dynasties, and the device by which slippery officials carry on their trade. Emphatically, it is not that mode of government recommended by our Great Sage.

Confucian learning consists in the acquisition of extensive literature and the strict observance of what is right; in the profound and careful meditation of the old in order to understand the new; in the making of one’s self the peer of heaven by means of perfect sincerity and thus influencing men in all things for good.

Confucian government consists in rendering honor to whom honor is due, and filial piety to whom filial piety is due; in first providing a sufficiency for the people, and afterward instructing them; in preparing for war in time of peace, and in doing things at the proper time and in the proper manner. Confucius is equal to the thousand sages and the hundred kings. He is the co-equal and the co-worker with heaven and earth in nourishing and transforming men and things. How, then, can it be said that he is like the effete and inoperative “scholar” of to-day, or in any way similar to the pictures drawn of him by Tao Chih [12] and others?

Our scholars to-day should become conversant with the Classics, in order to understand the real intent of the early sages and philosophers in establishing our Religion; and a knowledge of history should be acquired in order to become familiar with our Chinese governmental methods and customs in past generations. The literary relics of our schoolmen should be reviewed to profit withal, in learning and literature. After this is done, our deficiency in books can be supplied from Western sources, and our government ills be cured by Western physicians. In this way, China can derive benefit from foreign countries, without incurring the danger of adopting Western methods that would be prejudicial to her best interests. A person who wishes to become strong and well must first get up an appetite. This obtained, he will enjoy all the good things set before him. To heal a disease the doctor must first make a diagnosis, and afterward prescribe the proper medicine. In like manner a thorough knowledge of Chinese must be obtained before Western learning is introduced.[13] In Western educational institutions a daily study of the Bible is compulsory. This shows a respect for the Christian religion. The students in the lower schools first learn Latin in order to preserve what is ancient; and in order to observe the proper sequence of things, a thorough knowledge of the country’s geography and a general acquaintance with that of other countries is required. The literature of their schools extols the excellence of their ancient Emperors’ governments; and both in public and private the notes of their music swell forth in praise of the bravery and prosperity of the fatherland. These things manifest the patriotism of Western people. If the Chinese student is not versed in Chinese literature he is like a man who does not know his own name. Attempts to govern without a knowledge of Chinese, will be like trying to ride a horse without a bridle, or steer a boat without a rudder. Without a basis of native literature the Chinese who acquires this Western learning, will loath his country in proportion as his scientific knowledge increases; and, although his knowledge may be perfected to a high degree, how can our country employ him if he does not know Chinese?

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