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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/743

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APRIL, 1882.



TO any one who has thought about the Chinese, the contrast presented by a comparison of their civilization with the civilization of the Western nations must have given rise to frequent speculation as to the cause of so great a difference. Should we be brought into communication with another planet, we could hardly expect to find a people more unlike us than the inhabitants of China. They have existed substantially as at present from, a time long before a single language existed which is spoken to-day in Europe, and even before our classic dead languages were born. While the tribes, nations, and civilizations of the West have come and gone, the Chinese have remained the same, generation after generation and century after century, content always to live and die in the conditions that Fate has imposed upon them in the Middle Kingdom. A century and a half ago Du Halde wrote of their incurable conservatism, "that they have continued the same with regard to the attire, morals, laws, customs, and manners, without deviating in the least from the wise institutions of their ancient legislators."[1] And in our time we are told by the Abbé Huc—than whom no one has had better opportunities from which to judge—that "they seem to have been always living in the same stage of advancement as in the present day."[2] Peaceful occupations, untiring industry, and a careful frugality have characterized the habits of the people in the past as they do in the present. Wars were never justified except to secure peace, and upon the cessation of hostilities the armies eagerly returned to their peaceful pursuits.

The Western nations present a different picture. Our Aryan an-

  1. "History of China," vol. i, p. 237, folio edition, London, 1738.
  2. "Chinese Empire," vol. ii, p. 255, London, 1855.