CHAPTER I. BENEFICIAL KNOWLEDGE;
Study begets knowledge and knowledge strength. Confucius says, “Although foolish, one may still obtain a clear perception of things; although weak, one can become strong.” There never yet has been a country which became powerful without knowledge. A man by his own strength alone cannot successfully combat a tiger, but by his intelligence he can devise means to entrap him. The strength of a single man is inadequate to resist a flood, or push down a mountain, but his brain can suggest appliances that will arrest the one and cleave the other. Knowledge is wonderful!
But is it true that Western people are intelligent and that the Chinese are dull? Let us see. The continent of Europe consists of many countries, each confronting the other in hostile array, with no balance of power, and resembling a number of fierce tigers herded together, with dripping jaws, each eagerly awaiting an opportunity to tear and devour. Every effort is made by each to increase its power, and every muscle is strained to the utmost to obtain some advantage over the neighboring country. The rulers call into action every agency that money and means can employ for the attainment of superior strength, and move heaven and earth to accomplish their purpose. Lying near together, the countries of the West are in direct communication with each other by rail and boat; rapid transit furnishes facile communication and produces rapid results. Close and constant competition has wrought a complete change in the aspect of Europe within the last thirty years. Propinquity, armed and watchful, has made European countries what they are to-day: for one will learn extensively from a keen competitor without much effort. In the period of China’s history known as the ” Contending States ” [ a.d. 220], when the countries were amalgamated into one on the east of Asia, our people became very expert in the art of war, but our neighbors were the wild tribes near the sea and the Thibetans of the desert, whose education and government were inferior to our own. The old methods which China used centuries ago to keep these neighbors under control, and which were adequate for those times, have never been changed except for the worse! And we are in contact with the West! What marvel, then, that we find ourselves inferior to foreigners in every respect. If a proper intercourse with Europeans had begun in the reign of the Emperor Kien Lung [about 150 years ago], at which time foreigners were not disdained, the government was stable and no attention was paid to effete counsels; when the ministers had some discernment, and the country was not poverty stricken, we feel confident that an envoy should have been despatched abroad to learn from foreign countries. Had this been done then, the envoy would have returned to put us on our guard and to mortify our silly pride and we might to-day have excelled European countries in every way. What really happened? Towards the close of the reign of Tao Kwang [about 1840], when we began trade with the West, we had recourse to arms, although at that time Europeans were at the height of power and the Chinese people were weak and stupid! China received a crushing blow. Still she would not awake from her stupidity. Then the Taiping Rebellion broke out and China had no time to concern herself about foreigners. It is true that Commissioner Lin began to prepare some books relating to Western countries, but he did not finish them. Afterwards Tsen Wen-cheng sent a few students abroad, but they remained only a short time, and did not complete their education. Wen Wen-chung established the T’ung Wen College in Peking, and proposed the despatch of Chinese consuls to different countries. But he was one, — a man ahead of his times among many truculent and obstructive conservatives.
China received her first warning in Formosa when the aborigines rebelled, the second in the Liu Ch’ieu Islands, the third in Ili, the fourth in Korea, the fifth in Annam and Burmah, and the sixth in the Japanese war, and the country is now in extreme danger. The warnings have been sent by Heaven to open the eyes of the Chinese, and the Chinese officials and people elect to remain blind, stubborn, and proud as of old. What more can we say?
At the present time it is imperative that Chinese rulers should be thoroughly versed in governmental policy, laws, political economy, commerce, etc.; that the farmer should know about the selection of seeds, the adaptation of soil, farming implements, and fertilizers; that the workman should be skilled in the use of the best tools and the selection of materials; that the merchant should seek to discover new lands, to manufacture new goods, and to become acquainted with the state of the markets both at home and abroad; and that the soldier should become familiar with ships, arms, forts, batteries, target-practice, and other subjects. All this is not what is called ” dangerous knowledge ” in the Book of Rites, but is really beneficial to a stable government, and would contribute to education, enrichment, and strength. But China still observes the ” old custom ” along these lines, and is not willing to strive after something useful, because it is novel. If we do not change soon, what will become of us? European knowledge will increase more and more, and Chinese stupidity will become more dense. We shall be marked as the sure prey of the West; foreigners will still trade with us as before, but China will play a losing game, and get only chaff whilst her competitors garner the wheat, and we shall really, if not openly, become the slaves of Westerners. Not only this, the foreigners will suck our blood and, worse than this, pare the flesh from our bones. To end the tragedy they will swallow us down, body and soul, at one great mouthful, and gloat over the deed!
Knowledge alone can save us from destruction, and the literati ought to take the lead in the matter and instruct the farmer, the workman, the merchant, and the soldier in their different spheres; but if the educated class remains ignorant how can this be done? If the Chinese will not learn the true principles of government, all else will be useless. Knowledge is power, and although a country may be weak, still, if it possess but a modicum of knowledge, the enemy will not be able to completely overthrow it; although that country may be in danger, the race will not be extirpated. 
How shall we obtain knowledge? First, put ting away all that is wang; and by this term we mean stubbornness, empty form, and pride. Secondly, we must get rid of keu, that is, our slipshod, drifting habit of depending upon mere fortuity for success. Unless we free ourselves from these, all that is left for the Chinese is to become
” Like dumb, driven cattle,”
or like the grass that is trodden down by man. The strength of foreign countries and the weakness of China have been clearly demonstrated to us within the past three years. The literati at the ports have been reading the Wan Kwoh Kung Pao studying certain works translated by foreigners, and associating with the foreign missionaries. Gradually we have found out that the knowledge possessed by the Chinese cannot compare with that of Western people. Discovering this, there are some who lay the sin of withholding the truth from the people at the door of our former Emperors. For the benefit of these stupid people we offer the following remarks. It is a mistake to assert that Chinese government is founded on the pernicious teaching of Lao Tsz which was adopted in the turbulent reign of the Book Burner, and which may be stated in the words of the founder of Taoism: ” Truth possessed by the government is not to be employed in the enlightenment of the masses, but is to be used to darken their understanding.” The Han Dynasty made every effort to restore the books that Tsin Shi Hwang destroyed; the Emperors honored the Six Classics, advanced able and worthy men of note in their own domains, and sought to profit by the good in other countries. This certainly was not “darkening the understanding ” of the people.
The T’ang dynasty [a.d. 618-905] instituted a system of examinations embracing a study of over fifty theses, and the Sung [a.d. 950-1278] established colleges and military academies in the principal centres. In the third year of the Emperor Hung Wu the triennial examination halls were opened, and in order to pass, the students were required to understand writing, arithmetic, riding, archery, and law, in addition to the Classics. Nor is this befooling the people. From the Sui Dynasty to the present time a knowledge of poetry, in addition to the Classics, has been required, simply to test the capabilities of the recommended candidate. Whilst we admit that this method has its defects, still it is not darkening the understanding of the people. And our own Holy Dynasty, whilst possessing works on mathematics, astronomy, geography, and agriculture, has provided for the translation of foreign books, established manufactories, arsenals, and naval boards, and has frequently sent students to America, England, France, and Germany to study common law, mining, naval, and army tactics, railroading, etc. The Tsung-li Yamen has printed books on law, science, and other subjects, and the Shanghai office has issued over seventy different works that have been translated from foreign sources and that embrace in themselves a library of universal knowledge.
The Court has ever been desirous of breaking the spell of ignorance by which the people are bound, and hopeful that the officials would themselves learn something that would benefit the country; but these have looked upon the new learning with contemptuous disgust and refused to modify their old ideas. Consequently, there has been no widespread translation of books, and no true enlightenment among the people. The greater part of those who went abroad were not bent on learning; hence no real good came of sending them from home. In this way these delinquents recompensed the favor of the Court! Just as an ungrateful and disobedient son, sent to school by his fond parents who spare no expense and begrudge no outlay in providing an abundance of good books and excellent teachers, idles away his time, deceives his instructors, and grows up in ignorance and poverty. In the end he accuses his father and mother of neglect!
Many of our Chinese no doubt extol foreign learning to the skies, and even go so far as to assert that our government and customs do not possess one redeeming feature. Such scoffers we cannot count as human beings. What! cast reproach upon our own fathers and grandfathers, and impute fault to our honored, hoary-headed chiliads? Among all our Chinese Dynasties of Emperors and Kings has there not been one prince who has reigned with conspicuous benevolence? During all these generations has there not been one General, one Minister, one Scholar who deserved the name? And pray what education could Western countries boast of two thousand years ago? And what system of government?