Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society/Volume 1/Translation of a Chinese Proclamation

III. Singular Proclamation, issued by the Foo-yuen, or Sub-Viceroy, of Canton, December 28, 1822. Translated from the Chinese by the Rev. Dr. Morrison. Communicated by Sir George Thomas Staunton, Bart.

Read June 7, 1823.

Ching, the Foo-yuen, has issued a very long proclamation, exhorting the people, under his government, to industry, and to the practice of all the social virtues. He states his object in eight words: it is, he says, to

"Encourage Industry,
Establish Education,
Praise Virtue, and
Repress Vice."

The effect of which "he hopes will be tranquillity amongst the poor, and the prevalence of good manners and customs."

"Ancient rulers (says the Foo-yuen), thought that, if one man was unreclaimed, it must be some fault in the Ruler." "I commenced life (adds he) as a Che-heen magistrate, and in Canton province I served twenty years. I was removed to Shantung and to Honan; and now I am placed here in the situation of Foo-yuen, bearing also the office of Censor-general, General Adviser of His Imperial Majesty, and a Captain empowered to call forth the army of Canton. Music and women; goods and gains; revelry and avarice have no charms for me. My only, constant unremitted, heedful, anxious desire (which I dare not decline to cherish) is, that I may look on national affairs, as if they were my domestic affairs, and the affairs of the poor people, as if they were my own personal affairs.

"Having had to give thanks to the Wise and Holy One, for appointing me to be the soother of the people, I am well aware that, in all the districts under my government, robberies and thefts prevail, and burn; litigations and imprisonments abound, and multiply. Polite decorum and instruction do not flourish; and the public manners are not substantially good. Without an increased and great effort to correct what is wrong, I shall be unable to console the people; and shall have no hope of rendering a recompense for the favour of my country.

"Beside diligent attention to actual cases that cope before me, and constant deliberation for the public good, I deem it now right, on first alighting from my carriage, amongst you, to draw out a list of the important things I would have attended to; and publish them by way of proclamation, commanding all the government officers, clerks, country gentlemen, soldiers, and poor people, as one body, to yield implicit obedience thereto. Oppose not! A Special (Edict, or) Proclamation."

First Topic.

Encourage the Means of promising Good.

5 Sections.

1. A supply of water is fundamental to the existence of the people. In agriculture, water to irrigate the fields is, to the husbandman, as the arteries and veins of the life-giving fluid. Canton is near to hills and mountains, and the land is dry; so that ten days want of rain raises the complaint of drought. (The Foo-yuen then states what efforts he employed, when he was a magistrate at Nan-keung district, to promote a supply of water).

2. Plant trees: of all nature's gifts there is none more important, than the growth of trees, which neither require to be clothed with your garments, nor to eat your rice.

3. Breed domestic animals.

4. Encourage charity and compassion: nature cannot, eqaulise benefits, and give a complete competence to all, but relies on those, who have the ability to compassionate the poor; and they shall be abundantly rewarded, in their children and grand-children.

5. Honor economy: Canton is a luxurious extravagant province; and of all the districts, Kwang-chow and Chaou-chow are the most so. The vice begins with the retired literati, and passes to the country gentlemen; from them to the rich merchants; and down to the common people, and petty writers and lictors. They desire to have gay shining dwellings; their wives and children adorned with gold and jewels; their food and drink from the seas, and the mountains; their garments to be silks and crapes; their ancestors' halls must, in violation of their proper sphere, have vermillion beams, and doors and pillars—forgetting that Heaven's curse will come on those who affect an enjoyment which does not belong to their place; whereas, in the affluent, charity to the poor, and rescuing the distressed, bring a blessing on posterity for hundreds of years. Besides, the Emperor, who is supreme, and whose riches embrace all the world, encompassed by the four seas, himself sets you an example, &c.

Second Topic.

Establish Instruction.

9 Sections.

1. Teach filial piety, and fidelity: Nature gives to all, whether scholars, farmers, mechanics, or merchants, a connatural sense of the four virtues, expressed by four words:

Filial, Fraternal (duties),
Faithfulness, Truth, &c. &c.

2. Cultivate talent; and schools are the places to foster talent. I hold public schools to be of first importance. Why so slow in assisting, where aid is required!—I will subscribe my salary to assist poor districts to establish public schools; and let the Foo districts subscribe 200 taels, and the Chih-le-Chow districts 150 taels, and the Keen districts 100 taels, and all the local officers according to their ability; and let them take the lead, and induce the country gentlemen to come forward, and manage the concerns, &c.

3. Respect the aged.

4. The gentry are the hope of the poor people: let them instruct them, and guide them, &c.

5. Let the rich, who derived their wealth from their ancestors, assist their poor kindred, &c.

6. Let the poor remember, that poverty or riches are according to the decree of Heaven, and let them be content, &c.

7. Let merchants and traders deal fairly and honestly, &c.

8. Instruct mothers to teach their children. Early instructions are second nature.

9. Since women do not learn to read, let fathers and husbands instruct their wives and daughters, on whom the rise, or ruin, of the family depends. The duties of women are chiefly these; to be dutiful to their husbands' parents, to respect their husbands; to agree with their sisters; to teach their children; to be diligent in weaving and spinning; to prepare repasts of wine and food: these are all. When principles of virtue are established, they will be good wives and mothers, and chaste, and an honour to their family; but if they are indulged, and left uninstructed, they will, one day, become lewd; their virtue be ruined, and their parents be disgraced.

Third Topic.

Address to Magistrates.

7 Sections.

1. Laud and soothe the virtuous distressed, as virgins; those who suffer death rather than a violation of chastity (or martyrs of chastity); unmarried daughters, eminently dutiful to parents; chaste wives; martyrs to a chaste widowhood; wives eminently dutiful to parents: for these persons request imperial honorary banners, &c.

2. Honour filial duty.

3. Respect the aged.

4. Hold up to view the eminently virtuous.

5. Illustrate the good and charitable.

6. Praise, and encourage to correct and benevolent conduct, village elders, and city constables.

7. Give honorary banners to families, that excel in domestic virtues.

Fourth Topic.

7 Sections.

1. Prohibit gaming.

2. Interdict suicide, or making light of one's life. It is the detestable custom of Canton Province, on every slight occasion, for a slight resentment, to commit suicide. And the relatives of the self-murderer view the dead body, as a piece of goods of extraordinary value. They contrive to allege that the deceased committed suicide, in consequence of ill-usage from some rich neighbour, who, to avoid litigation, gives them a sum of money; or, if he refuses, they combine with the police, and commence a prosecution, &c.

When I was at Nan-keung district, in the office of the magistrate, five or six suicides occurred every month, &c.

3. Canton abounding in hills and rivers, it abounds in thefts and robberies, both by individuals, and associated bodies of men—let these be acted against, &c.

4. Vagabond attornies excite litigations, increase and protract them, in numbers infinite, and to periods interminable. The innocent are accused, and the utterly wrong become accusers; they find avaricious and cruel magistrates, and fraudulent police extortioners. Disputes about marriages and lands, are viewed by magistrates as petty affairs, and are given to the management of underlings (and by various forms of legal fraud and oppression, families are ruined, and lives lost), &c. &c.

5. Put down the vicious, who rebel against the higher social relations, and offend against parents, senior brothers, &c.

6. Seize on bandits, who belong to brotherhoods, or to clubs and societies, and who swear attachment to each other.

7. Seize sharpers and vagabonds, who make themselves the terror of the neighbourhood, and who carry weapons about them, and try to get into quarrels, and insult the desolate, and injure the feeble, &c.

If these, my instructions, be but roughly regarded, tranquility will prevail amongst the people; if they are nicely guarded, a complete renovation of the public manners will be the result.

I desire that all my officers, gentry, and common people will not consider this as vague loose moralizing; nor view this document as a paper issued for form's sake; but in deed and in truth respectfully receive it, and act upon it, and the good effects will long be felt, and my hopes will appear to have been substantial, and well founded.

Taou Kwang.

2d Year, 11th Month, 8th Day.

(December 28th 1822.)