Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 80.djvu/608

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license or a public ceremony is required. It is left to the individual to make his matrimonial choice within the limits provided by law, and then to celebrate his nupitals in his own way. Should he mistake his rights and marry within one of the prohibited degrees he is subject to punishment. The same attitude is maintained towards divorce. The code specifies the grounds for such a separation, enumerating besides those recognized by us, such delinquencies as "talkativeness," "envious and suspicious temper," "disregard of the husband's parents." Upon any of these the husband may give his wife a bill of divorce. Should he, however, perchance misjudge his own case, he is subject to eighty blows of the bamboo.

An interesting feature of the Chinese ethical system which the code brings into prominence is the idea of mutual responsibility. It is provided that "when the parties to an offense are members of one family, the senior and chief member of that family shall alone be punishable; but if he be upwards of eighty years of age, or totally disabled by his infirmities, the punishment shall fall upon the next in succession," By virtue of this principle, the burden of criminal responsibility has been known to descend from father to son for generations while a litigation was taking its leisurely way through the courts to the Board of Punishments in Peking, and finally to the Emperor, until in the end the penalty fell upon some person born long after the event. Of the same character is the mutual responsibility of persons residing in the same neighborhood. A typical case is where a parricide having been committed, all the houses in the vicinity are demolished, the theory being that the residents have been culpable in failing to exert a better moral influence over the criminal.

A feature of Chinese society which makes for democracy is the almost total absence of such a thing as a hereditary nobility. For over two thousand years the descendants of Confucius have been honored with the title of "Dukes of Kung," and in the same manner the descendants of the famous sea-fighter Koxinga have been distinguished with a hereditary title. But with these exceptions, and with the exception of the imperial family, the only aristocracy recognized generally in China is based on learning, and this is open to the humblest and most powerful upon like terms. The tourist in the provincial capitals is usually shown the examination halls—rows upon rows of tile-roofed sheds divided into cells not more than six feet square. Here every three years the candidates for literary degrees gather from all parts of the province.

Until recently the Chinese classics have been the subject of all examinations. The chancellors selected at random a phrase from the works of some ancient moralist which the students were required to expand into an essay framed on the stilted canons of Chinese literary