Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 87.djvu/85

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DEVELOPMENT OF THE CHINESE

been quite largely negative, for it takes men out of society. Abstract and monotonous contemplation according to definite rules is typical of its techniques. Such inwardness is fatal to the genuine autonomy of higher morality. So far from leading men forward into higher cultural life, it simply burdened them with further groups of customs. Owing to the fact that discrimination has not set in, large numbers, if not all, of the Chinese are at one and the same time Confucianists, Taoists and Buddhists.

In all this the ethical ideal which was emphasized by Confucius and interpreted later by the philosopher Chu has had a profound influence on the majority of the Chinese. It is succinctly expressed in the Great Learning in the following words:

The ancients who wished to promote virtuous conduct throughout the kingdom, first ordered well their own states. Wishing to order well their own states, they first regulated their families. Wishing to regulate their families, they first cultivated their persons. Wishing to cultivate their persons, they first rectified their hearts. Wishing to rectify their hearts, they first sought to be sincere in their thoughts. Wishing to be sincere in their thoughts, they first extended to the utmost their knowledge. Such investigation of knowledge lay in the investigation of things.[1]

This descending series should be approached from below, so that it involves ascent rather than descent. Broad knowledge of self and others is the foundation, and upon this are built in succession sincere thoughts, rectified minds, practise of personal virtue, well regulated families, well ordered states, and finally the promotion of practical virtue throughout the kingdom. Such ideals challenge the admiration of all men and might well stimulate autonomic conduct. Unfortunately, as we have indicated, the whole series rested on a basis of convention, so that it was little more than mere form.

The situation is similar in the instance of the five social relationships—of husband and wife, father and son, brothers, prince and officer, and friends. They do not rest on a rational basis, but have become incrusted with layer upon layer of custom. An illustration or two will serve to elucidate this point.

In case of severe illness of a parent, there has been a generally held belief among the Chinese for thousands of years that a cure can not be effected, unless a piece of the flesh of the son is cooked and then eaten by the parent. Naturally cases of this sort are not everyday occurrences, but they have the sanction of custom and in extreme instances are adopted. References to this have frequently appeared in Chinese papers. Dr. Smith assures us that he has become "personally acquainted with a young man who cut off a slice of his leg to cure his mother and who exhibited the scar with the pardonable pride of an old soldier."[2] He also

  1. "The Great Learning," Introduction, p. 4.
  2. Arthur H. Smith, "Chinese Characteristics," New York, 1894, p. 178.