CHAPTER XI RELIGIOUS TOLERATION
Alien doctrines have caused dissension both in Asia and Europe. In the latter country the strife has been waged for mastery by the ambition of men. In China the fight for Confucianism against Taoism and Buddhism has been for principle. We now know what is right, that Confucianism is the pure and holy truth of Heaven and the sum and summit of the Five Relations. Not even the most distant countries can dispute this fact; and yet there are some who fear that our religion will decay, and are casting about for means to conserve it. Our own opinion is, that in order to advance Confucianism we must reform the government and not everlastingly combat other religions. The times are changed now — the present is not the past. Since the treaties were made, the Western Religion has spread over China. Our laws permit it, and the burning of chapels by Chinese is forbidden by our Emperor. In consequence of the murder of missionaries in Shantung, Germany has annexed Kiaochow. Other countries are watching for opportunities to imitate the example in other parts of the Empire. Our condition is one of danger.
The higher class of Chinese should carefully consider the situation and should tolerate the Western Religion as they tolerate Buddhism and Taoism. Why should it injure us? And because Confucianism, as now practised, is inadequate to lift us from the present plight, why retaliate by scoffing at other religions? Not only is such a procedure useless; it is dangerous. For the people imitate their rulers, and the scoundrels and ruffians of China take occasion to create disturbances against foreigners, and without provocation injure them, and thus grieve the heart of our Emperor. The foreigners themselves are aroused against us, and calamity falls like gloom upon the country. How can such men be called patriotic? The Chinese at the ports have found out what kind of people foreigners are. In the interior it is different. The Westerner dressed in his native garb goes through a place and is immediately followed by a crowd of ignorant men and children, who soon begin to call names and throw stones. A mob quickly collects, and who can tell what the consequences will be? The rabble do not consider whether the man is a missionary or not, or whether he is European or American. Without any reason whatever, the innocent man is often beaten by the Chinese, who cannot tell whether he is a custom-house officer, an assistant of some mandarin, a traveller, or a clergyman. All are hustled alike.
This is pure disobedience to the Chinese Emperor’s commands. It is shameful for a couple of hundred Chinese to set upon one or two defenceless foreigners and attack them for naught. It is cowardly, too, and these crowds who are so brave on occasions like these would soon turn tail and flee if pitted against an enemy in war.
So foreigners say the Chinese have no manners. Our own opinion is, that the Chinese who create disturbances are lunatics. Again, we constantly hear awful rumors of missionaries taking out the eyes of the Chinese to prepare strong decoctions of medicine which are said to convert lead into silver. These stupid beliefs have been handed down for generations, and they are utterly false. Eight years ago a report was circulated in Ichang that the eyes of seventy children in a certain school had been gouged out by missionaries. All the Chinese thoroughly believed it, and the authorities were compelled to make an investigation. And what was the result? All the children in that institution were discovered to be perfectly sound — eyes and all — except one. The parents of this little one said that it had been afflicted with smallpox, and its eyes had been injured by the disease. The eyeballs were intact!
In 1896 a rascally Chinese teacher buried the body of a child in the premises of the missionaries in Kiangyin to further some ulterior design against the foreigners. An official investigation was instituted, the whole truth discovered, and the culprit punished. These are recent events, and show that no belief whatever can be put in rumors about foreigners. The Christian Religion has been established for more than a thousand years and propagated in many countries! The new and the old have been in conflict for centuries, and no one outside of China has ever dreamed of setting such rumors afloat. If there had been such awful practices, foreign countries would have been destroyed long ago, and no European could boast of a whole skin. Some simpleton may say that such operations are performed only upon the Chinese. But we know that foreign countries always manufactured an abundant supply of medicines before they had contact with China. Chapels exist in nearly all the provinces of China, and, pray, how could foreign missionaries murder the Chinese in such numbers as would enable them to procure enough eyes without it being universally known? An old saw runs:
“A marble will move about on a smooth surface, but will stop at a hole;
“A lying rumor will flourish among the ignorant, but will stop at common sense.”
Ye long-robed and begirdled Confucianists, it is your office and duty to instruct the ignorant people and not be fools yourselves, lest the men from beyond the seas sneer at you behind your backs!