Life of Tai-ping-wang (太平王洪秀全) chief of the Chinese insurrection. By J. Milton Mackie. Published 1857. Copy and proofread from Openlibrary, Full version see:
Tai-ping-wang, known in China, previously to the insurrection, under the name of Hung-Siu-tshuen, was born in the year eighteen hundred and thirteen. The place of his birth is a small village in the district of Hwa-hien, and province of Kwang-tung. It is situated in a level, fertile, and very populous rice-growing region, having the White Cloud mountains, near Canton, on its southern horizon, and those of the Nan-ling range on the northern.
Here the family of the Hungs has resided for about a century, it being a branch of a numerous clan of this name, now scattered over the north of Kwang-tung, and one or two other provinces adjoining. From time immemorial, its members have belonged to the class of agriculturists, which, in China, takes rank next after that of the literati. Several of the immediate, as well as of the remote, ancestors of Siu-tshuen having been remarkable both for their virtues and their length of days, he may well be said to be of good blood. His father, Hung-Jang, who died since the commencement of the insurrection, was a venerable old man, who, for many years, had been intrusted with the management of the ancestral estate of the Hung family, and had also held the office of senior of the village, conferred upon him by the free suffrages of its inhabitants.
By his first wife, who was of the Choo tribe, Hung-Jang had two daughters and three sons, Siu-tshuen being the youngest. This name of Siu-tshuen, however, is what is called his "literary name," and was selected by himself after arriving at years of understanding. But at his birth his father called him Phuh.
The house in which Phuh first saw the light, stands in one of the back streets of the village. It is of one story, is built partly of wood and partly of mud, and is covered by a roof of tiles. A narrow door opens from the street into a hall, which has a kitchen and several sleeping apartments on either side, and at the opposite end a family or sitting-room. The whole establishment is scarcely more than thirty-five or forty feet in length, by twelve or fifteen in breadth. But here swarmed three generations of the Hungs, besides half-a-dozen idols, a buffalo, one or more pigs, a small stock of fowls, a couple of dogs, and a cat without a tail.
The young Phuh, however, was by no means confined to these narrow quarters, but spent the greater portion of his early childhood on the margin of a small pond or mud-hole, situated in front of the village, and fed by a considerable part of its drainage. This ill-scented spot being a playground for children, besides a resort for the ducks and geese, the dogs and beggars of the village, Phuh here developed his young muscles in childish sports, and learned such lessons as the rough-and-tumble with both boys and brutes could teach him.
When about four years old, he having been accidentally pushed into the water beyond his depth, and being drawn out by one of the older lads by the queue, his father, from fear of similar accidents either at the pond or the neighboring canal, tied a hollow gourd behind his back, to prevent his being drown-ed. But when the little fellow made his appearance at the play-ground with an appendage so unusual in his native village, though common enough on the rivers, the boys set up a great shout, and so laughed over poor Phuh that he was fain to run for home as fast as his legs could carry him, while the whole posse of brats followed, crying, " Eh ! gourd boy -- gourd boy !"
As the child came blubbering into the presence of his father, the latter relieved his back of the gourd, but laid on in its stead the bamboo. This was Phuh's first whipping. He never forgot it, and said that it did him good -- as was the case, in fact, with a great many similar ones afterwards.
But though the rod was not spared, the father early set his heart upon his youngest-born son. The other boys were brought up to till the ground, but this one was destined, almost from the breast, to be a scholar. Having, it would seem, something like a presentiment of the future greatness of this child of his affections, Hung-Jang often said to his wife that the little Phuh would live to make their old age honorable ; and, fondly stroking the little fellow's queue, as he sat upon his knee, made his boast that it was a full inch longer than that of any boy of the same age in the village.
When Phuh reached the age of seven, he was sent to school. Up to that period the only lessons he had received were those of morality and good-behavior, given him by his parents, and more especially his mother, who was a worthy, kindly woman, and possessed of good common sense. Later in life, her son always spoke of her with the most profound respect, and traced back his earliest moral impressions to the prayers she taught him to repeat before the little idol in the hall of the house, and to the few simple maxims she made him commit to memory from the writings of Confucius.
It was a great day for Phuh, when, having been thoroughly scrubbed, both himself, his breeches, and his tunic, and having had his queue neatly braided down his back by his mother, and tied with a new string, he was presented by his father before the pedagogue of the village, to be enrolled on his list of pupils. A contract was thereupon made between the parties, whereby the master of the rod was to give lessons by the year for a compensation consisting of two dollars in money, fifty pounds of rice, and of tea, salt, lard, and lamp-oil, each, one catty. He was also to supply the necessary paper, ink, and pencils -- Phuh himself furnishing nothing but brains, and they quite empty. When these preliminary formalities had been settled, the son of Hung-Jang was written down a scholar.
The teacher, Ting-Jin, by name, was a member of the lowest class of literati, called siu-tsai. Not having succeeded at an earlier period of life in obtaining official employment from the government, he had for years followed the profession of a pedagogue, and occupied the school-house situated in front of the village, at a little distance from the pond. He was now getting in years ; his queue was gray, a thing rarely seen in China; and he wore a pair of spectacles about the size of tea-cups, heavily framed with tortoise-shell, and firmly tied by strings behind his cerebellum. He was a kindly man, of unwearied patience, and of clear, though limited ideas. If sufficient time were allowed him, he never failed to teach his pupils much that they never could forget ; for he was as systematic in all things as he was slow. Whenever it was necessary, he did not hesitate to enforce the observance of even the minutest rules of the school by a resort to the bamboo, a large number of which useful reeds, of different sizes, were duly arranged on the wall behind his elevated arm-chair. The very sight of these, as, for the first time, Phuh entered the school-room, made his legs tingle. A bamboo stool was assigned the new-comer, and he was directed to occupy a place at a small table around which several other lads were seated. This continued to be his post for three long years, during which he diligently learned the arts of reading, writing, and ciphering. His first studies were in the sounds of the Chinese characters, which he learned by repeating them in a quick, bold tone, after his master. After a time, he was put to copying these characters; and for this purpose, was supplied with a goose of porcelain, containing water, a cake of ink, a small black stone slab, a hair pencil, and paper made of either cotton, or the pith of the bamboo. By pouring a few drops of water on the slab, and then rubbing the cake in it, he formed his ink, as it was needed, and with his pencil copied the characters from slips placed beneath semi-transparent paper. To learn to write and pronounce the Chinese correctly, requires several years of toil, even for a native ; and not until a good deal of progress has been made by the tyro in these preliminary processes is he taught the meaning of words.
When Phuh was not engaged in writing, he sat swinging himself backwards and forwards, and chanting lists of words with their various intonations. The same was done by the dozen or more pupils of whom the school consisted, so that the room was as noisy as ever was Babel. But Ting-Jin had an ear for every pupil, and great as was the din, he rarely failed of hearing and correcting the slightest inaccuracy of intonation or accent.
Month in and month out, Phuh sat chanting on his stool, or copying over and over again the same hieroglyphics, or casting up accounts in his abacus or reckoning-case. Thus, at the end of three years of continual perseverance, he had made considerable progress in learning to read, write, and cipher ; he knew the points of the compass, and the order of the months ; he knew the names of many animals and other natural objects ; he had been well instructed in the moral duties of childhood; had been thoroughly drilled in the divers forms of obeisance and salutation ; was become an expert in chin-chining the images of the gods, and the tablet of Confucius in the school-room; and though in these three years his back had not escaped the bamboo, he had suiffered less from it than the majo-rity of his associates.
About this time, the wife of Hung-Jang dying suddenly, Phuh was removed from school ; the red cord was taken out of his queue ; and, instead of his blue cotton tunic, a white one was put on for mourning.
Hung-Jang, who had been sincerely attached to his wife, showed his affection for her by scrupulously-performing all the ceremonies usual after the death of a member of a family, and doing everything in his power to secure her happiness in the land of the genii. No sooner had the breath left her body than he closed her eyes, put in her mouth a small piece of silver, and going to the top of the house, made a considerable hole in the roof for her seven senses and three souls to escape through. The red lantern which hung suspended outside the house was exchanged for a white one, and a slip of paper, on which were written the name and age of the deceased, was posted up by the door.
The corpse having been duly laid out on the hall-floor in the best clothes of the departed, a Buddhist priest was sent for, who, on payment of a few cash, prayed the one of the three souls, which was believed to be in purgatory, out of that place, and wrote a letter of recommendation which was sent through the fire to the rescued spirit, to enable it to gain admittance into the " paradise of the west."
The fortune-teller of the village, likewise, having been called in, was engaged to look out a propitious spot for the grave. By help of his compasses, and after the careful examination of different kinds of soil, in order to find a sufficiently dry one, this personage selected a burial-place on a barren hill at no great distance from the village. The situation, as he averred, would be highly satisfactory to that one of the souls which was to dwell there, inasmuch as it would have from the eminence a pretty good view of all the water there was in the neighborhood, viz.. the canal and the duck-pond.
The priest and the geomancer were satisfied with a few cash; but it cost the large sum of five or six dollars to purchase a coffin. This was of hard wood, nearly four inches in thickness. After the body had been placed in it, and covered with quick-lime, it was well plastered together and varnished, and was then allowed to remain in the hall three weeks and a day. During this time, the relatives of Hung-Jang frequently came to condole with him, and Phuh was sent around among them to solicit some substantial aid towards defraying the expenses of the funeral.
The day of the interment at length arrived, it having been chosen because it was set down in the calendar as a lucky one. At an early hour, the relatives of the deceased assembled, by invitation, at the house of Hung-Jang, and all moved in procession to the grave. The fortune-teller went before, and was followed by a band of music, consisting of a player on a bamboo flute and a beater of a gong, who together performed a death-march sufficiently mournful. At intervals, this discordant dirge was aided by the wailing of two or three hired mourners, and by the outcries of the bereaved children, Phuh especially being deeply affected on the occasion, although, up to that time, the delight of seeing himself in a white jacket had apparently gone far towards making up for the loss of his mother.
Some person having been sent forward to scatter so-called paper money in the way, in order to satisfy the needs of all evil spirits who might happen to be in the neighborhood, and all hungry ghosts also having been appeased by a feast of meats to which they were summoned by sound of gong, the mourners arrived without hindrance at the place of burial. Thereupon prayers were said; a few drops of samshu were poured out as a libation ; a volley of fire-crackers was let off; and a large amount of paper was burned for the use of the soul in paradise. A house, furniture, wearing apparel, a servant, and a good supply of cash all cut out of paper, were sent through the fire to the other world, together with a writing previously drawn up, and signed in the presence of witnesses, stipulating that the before-mentioned articles of property should, on their arrival in Hades, be duly delivered over to the person whose name was inscribed in the bond.
This ceremony over, the mourners returned to the house of Hung-Jang, where a feast was made of the baked meats which had been offered in sacrifice, and which, by the help of a liberal supply of rice-wine, and samshu, were all readily swallowed, notwithstanding the sacred use which had previously been made of them rendered them as tasteless as the white of an egg.
For thirty days after the decease, the family did little else than mourn -- Phuh, like the rest of the male members, going about with a neglected queue and unshaven head. It was a great relief to him, however, when, at the expiration of that time, he was allowed, in company with his father and brothers, to visit his mother's grave, for the purpose of decking it with plants and flowers. With pious hands they planted the wild white rose, which, in its season, would weave about the head of the conical-shaped mound its garland of purity. Lower down, were set the bulbs of a species of lycoris, which in autumn spreads to the sky a purple to vie with that of the sunset ; while, here and there, were stuck an anemone japonica, that, late in November, when all other flowers are gone, still lingers, and blooms even about the departing footsteps of the year.
After Phuh had mourned six months, and a step-mother had been brought into the house, he returned to school. Ting-Jin, who was much attached to his promising pupil, received him kindly, and, kneeling down before the tablet of Confucius, implored upon his young head the blessing of the great philosopher. A stool was then given him at a table near the master, while in his hands was placed the horn-book of Wang-Pihau, containing the Trimetrical classic, the Millenary Classic, the Five Classics, and the Four Books.
Though somewhat daunted at the sight of all this ancient and ponderous learning, Phuh set himself to the work of conning it with as much patience as was displayed by the good woman, celebrated in Chinese annals, who, wishing for a needle, under-took to make one by rubbing down a crow-bar. He swung himself to and fro more bravely than before, and chanted his sing-song with a loud voice. As from day to day portions of his task were committed to memory, he duly made his bow before his teacher, gave up his book and turning his back to Ting-Jin, with all his bamboos, repeated like a parrot, the, to him, quite unintelligible wisdom of the ancients. Thus, by diligently beating his brains, aided by an occasional blow across his shoulders from master Ting, he had, at the end of a year, hacked the entire horn-book of Wang-Pihau.
Then it was that Ting-Jin first began to instruct his pupil respecting the signification of the words and maxims of which such large supplies had been stored away in his memory. He commenced a course of daily lectures, or comments, which were only less unintelligible to Phuh than the text itself. He explained the doctrines of Confucius by citing those of Mencius, and illustrated whatever might be obscure or important in prose by long recitations from the poets. However, mixed up with all his classical quotations, which were generally fetched from as far back as the days of the Chin or the Chau dynasties, and with certain somewhat metaphysical notions on the subject of morals and politics, which had been taught him in his youth and never changed afterwards, there was not a little that a lad twelve years of age could perfectly comprehend. Thus, in commenting on the sayings of Chu-Hi or Wan-Wang, Phuh would be lectured on the duty of keeping his clothes clean, and his face washed. An explanation of a maxim of Confucius would not be brought to an end without Phuh's being told several times over to honor his father and mother, his elder brothers, and all men in authority. A quotation from Mencius would not fail of giving occasion for Phuh's being re-indoctrinated in such rules of politeness as to make a low bow when he was spoken to by elderly persons, and to chin-chin the gods, and tablets, with pious gestures.
Meanwhile, the persevering son of Hung-Jang still kept on learning to read, write, and reckon in his abacus case, as well as to back the classics. His mind gradually grew, by feeding on the bulky stores of food which were constantly being piled up in it. By the age of fifteen he had committed to memory not only the learned works before-mentioned, but all such portions of Chinese history, and literature, as are commonly taught in the schools. He could write a fair hand, could read with correct tone and accent, and could even construct very tolerable verses. When, therefore, there was nothing more that Ting-Jin could teach his pupil, he sent him home with his benediction on his head, together with a prophecy that he would some day be crowned with the honors of the Han-Lin, or " Forest of Pencils Society." So Phuh left school.
To pass from the school to the paddy-field, was to take a step not exactly in the direction of the " Forest of Pencils Society;" but his father being at that time in straitened circumstances, Phuh was obliged to lend him a hand in farming.
Hung-Jang's plantation was a mere patch of ground ; but the soil being a rich loam, and there being no lack of water for irrigation, it yielded two crops of rice a year, besides one of cabbages and other vegetables. He was the owner, likewise, of a small terrace on a hill near by, where he raised a few sweet potatoes, ground-nuts, and water-melons. So that, what with their rice, their cabbages, their potatoes, their nuts and their melons, helped out by an occasional litter of pigs, a brood of ducks or chickens, a dog now and then, and a chance rat, the Hungs managed to live from hand to mouth, and bring the two ends of the year together.
Every member of the family -- man, woman, and child -- took part in the labors of the field. With scarcely a holiday in all the year, save a few at its commencement, they toiled incessantly from morn till eve. Hung himself held his one-tailed plough, and directed his buffalo with a long bamboo. Both trudged through the field, half-leg deep in mud ; it being necessary, in preparing for the rice-crop, to saturate the soil with water. In harrowing, the buffalo still wallowed through the mire, while Hung rode on the cross-bar ; but in sowing the seed, he was obliged again to wade in up to the calves of his legs. Harvest, in that quick-growing clime, soon following seed-time, there is no intermission of toil. From the paddy-field the laborers go to the terrace, and from the terrace to the paddy-field. The narrow roadsides are constantly clipped for materials to dress the land with ; the bottoms of canals are scraped for mud ; the smaller children of the family are kept on the watch to save the droppings of animals, and, " Lean pensioners upon the traveler's tract, Pick up their nauseous dole.''
From all this disagreeable drudgery, however, Phuh was soon relieved. For, as the season for driving the bullocks and buffaloes of the village pasture came round, it fell to his lot to go and tend them.
Accordingly, with a gay heart, and a book under his arm, he set off for the hill-country, lying a short day's journey northwards. Some of these hills, being annually burnt over, yield a thin grass very grateful to cattle ; while others, less fertile, are over-run with flower-bearing shrubbery. One, situated directly over against that on which the cattle fed, was completely covered with plantations of the single white camellia, from the seeds of which a pleasant vegetable oil is expressed. This shrub, usually growing to the height of six or eight feet, bears a profusion of blossoms, and makes a hill appear at a distance as though covered with snow. In this instance, the soil being a clear red, the contrast of colors was very beautiful.
A favorite position occupied by the young herds-man, was a spot on the hillside, whence he could overlook not only the cattle, but the lower rice-country, and was shaded by a thick clump of the fragrant olive (olia fragrans). There, beneath the graceful leaves and large clusters of flowers, both white and yellow, he sat chanting the moral lessons of the early philosophers, and the odes of the Chinese masters in poesy. He also began to reflect for him-self upon what he had, during so many years, been committing to memory ; and the undigested mass of reading, which had weighed somewhat oppressively upon his brain, was now rapidly being converted into the chyle of thought.
They were the happiest days of his boyhood. Then it was that, taking courage, he finally resolved to attend the next examinations for degrees ; and in his playful moods, as if anticipating the honors of a doctorate in letters, he amused himself with winding about his brows garlands of the sweet-smelling olive branches, regarded in China as emblems of literary merit. These still, thoughtful days, wherein the mind of the young scholar experienced the first burst of imagination and gush of sentiment, were to him as the cool of the evenings to Adam, when he walked with God, or as the nights to Jacob, when he lay dreaming at the foot of the angels' ladder; and when, at the end of the pasturing season, he returned from the hills, such a change had passed over him that his eyes were full of lustre, and his face shone, not altogether unlike that of Moses when he descended from the sacred mountain of the law.
The young herdsman now resumed his labors in the field ; but his mind being filled with ambitious hopes of success at the approaching examinations for literary degrees, he disdained to be called any longer by his milk-name, Phuh, and selected that of Siu-tshuen, which signifies Elegant and Perfect. Every moment of leisure was given to his books. Late at night, or long before the break of day, he might be heard chanting, in a low tone, the sacred lessons of the kings. His essays and verses were written over and over again by the feeble light of a less than farthing candle, which was made of the white wax gathered by his own hands from the wax-trees on the hills. Encouraging his perseverance by the example of students who had attained the highest literary honors in spite of their poverty, he kept in mind how Sung-king, to prevent his head from nodding over the midnight page, tied it up by the queue to a beam ; how Che-jin pored over his book by the light of a glow-worm, and Sun-kang by that reflected from the snow ; how Chu-mai-chin studied his lessons with back bent down by the fire-wood he peddled around the town ; and how Kiang-han, compelled to labor in the fields, conned the Trimetrical Classic, tied to the horn of his buffalo.
He also copied, in a handsome hand, the most approved rules for study laid down in the books, and hung them around the walls of his chamber. They were such as these :
" The purpose which is supported by a determined resolution must succeed."
" Give up the whole mind to the study in hand."
" Every eighteen or twenty days review carefully what you have committed to memory."
" As the power of an army consists more in training than in numbers, so does that of the mind depend more upon its discipline than its knowledge."
" Do not fear being slow in learning ; only fear standing still."
" On the eve of the public examinations avoid reading much, for if not done before, it is then too late."
" Let the duly prepared select a few choice compositions, and imbue his mind with the spirit of them ; he will derive strength from this at the time of trial."
" Let the scholar reflect if, when locked up in examination hall, with nothing but pencils, ink, and paper, he cannot manage his theme, what his distress will be."
Some of the relatives of Siu-tshuen, taking note of his diligence in study, and entertaining high hopes of his literary advancement, now proposed granting him some small pittance, to enable him to take lessons in composition from a celebrated master in a neighboring town. The plan was successfully carried out -- some persons contributing clothing, others provisions, and one a moderate sum of money ; so that, for several months, he enjoyed the benefit of having his essays corrected by a critic much superior to Master Ting.
In Chinese literature, style is more regarded than sense, and is formed on models as artificial as they are antique. To be good, it must have a perfect rhythm. Pointed antitheses and terse phrases are the highest beauties. A close following of the ancient classics is most approved ; while any originality in expression, or even thought, is looked upon as in bad taste.
It was of great moment, therefore, for the young candidate to have the assistance of an accomplished rhetorician in smoothing his verses, balancing his periods, and filling his commonplace book with a good stock of well-turned phrases.
At the age of sixteen, Siu-tshuen, having his mind sufficiently stored with learning, and his style perfected by much practice in composing both prose and verse, set off on that road which, through a vista of examinations and degrees, was to terminate in "the Forest of Pencils Society."
The Chinese literary degrees are four in number. The first of them is called siu-tsai, or " flowering talent ;" the second, ku-jin, or " promoted men ;" the third, tsin-szu, or " entered doctors;" and the fourth, han-lin, or " Forest of Pencils." The applicant who attains to the lowest of these honors, is rewarded by being enrolled among the candidates for employment by the state ; and if successful afterwards in obtaining the others, he is admitted into the imperial academy, and is capable of holding the highest offices in the gift of the emperor. The road to official station is open to all, with the exception of menials, police-agents, and play-actors. All may attend the preliminary examinations, to give proof of their parts ; and it is the theory, at least, of the government, that public honors, trusts, and emoluments, are conferred as a reward of well-tested merit. The many are called, but the few are chosen.
Before going to Canton and becoming a candidate for the degree of siu-tsai, Siu-tshuen was obliged first to submit to a trial of his qualifications in the chief town of the district in which he resided. Thither, accordingly, he went, his heart beating all the way like gongs.
On arriving, he presented himself before the chi-hien, who sat in robes of state in examination hall, assisted by the hioh-ching, or " corrector of learning." At the desk of the clerk Siu-tshuen gave in his name, his father's, his grandfather's, and his great grandfather's, as well as that of his place of residence, and was thereupon allowed to take his position among the crowd of expectants, who sat upon long benches in face of the imposing officials. Never before the judgment-seat of the holy inquisition did culprits so tremble at sight of thumb-screws, as did these tyros on receiving the themes for their trial essays from the magisterial lips of the they toiled at their task, straining after ideas in the sweat of their brows, and scratching their queues in frequent perplexity.
After the essays had been finished and laid before the board of examiners, only about a dozen out of four or five hundred were accepted as satisfactory ; but among the favored few was that of Siu-tshuen. Accordingly his name was duly posted up on the wall, and he was dubbed by the worshipful " teacher of commands" with the honors of hien ming, which signifies “having a name in the village.” Thus was the first step successfully taken by the son of Hung-Jang towards the " Forest of Pencils Society."
Staggering under this load of honors, Siu-tshuen proceeded on his way from the chief town of the district up to the city of the department. Here he was received with still more imposing ceremony, ' and subjected to a still more rigorous examination. The court of learning was held by the prefect him-self, having on his right hand the chancellor, who had come down from Canton, and on his left, the Kiau-shau, or “giver of instructions." In the presence of these dignitaries the themes were given out, and the essays written, as before in the district examination. The number of aspirants, however, was considerably less, the ignoble crowd being barred out by their previous failure. Flushed with recent triumph, they all entered the lists with good courage, though only few came off victors. Among them again was the Elegant and Perfect. Accordingly, his name was once more posted up on the wall ; and he was clothed with the honors of the fu ming, which signifies " having a name in the department."
And now came the third great trial, that for the degree of siu-tsai, or bachelor of arts, at the provincial capital of Canton. Should Siu-tshuen succeed in getting this, he might become a mandarin, with a button in his cap, or even a peacock feather ; and, at least, he would be for ever exempted from the disgraceful punishment of the bamboo, except by order of the chancellor.
To Canton, therefore, he went. The great city amazed the mind and distracted the eyes of the villager ; but with the crowd of candidates he found his way to the hall of the examinations. At the appointed time he presented his credentials, and was subjected to the usual preliminary search, the object of which is to prevent any writings from being smuggled into the room in aid of the tyro put upon his trial. His pockets were duly searched for scraps of learning ; his finger-nails were inspected to see if there were nothing written on them from Confucius; his queue was overhauled, lest there should be tied up in it extracts from commonplace or horn-books ; and even his shoes were taken off, to discover whether passages from the trimetrical, or some other classic, might not be secreted under the soles of his feet, like dispatches in the boots of a spy. However, Siu-tshuen's person passed muster, it being, in fact, as free from any marks of learning as a tabula rasa.
When the candidates had all been thoroughly searched, the themes were given to them, seated pencil in hand, at long, narrow tables. Not heaven itself could now help them, but only their own wits. As careful a watch was set over them as if they had been in the penitentiary. There was a Cerberus stationed at every door, and a bailiff at every wicket; so that a " pony" could no more be passed through, than a camel could go through the eye of a needle. Even the windows were pasted across with strips of paper, which served to exclude the air, of which the poor fags, their very pencils wet with perspiration, were in extremest want.
The Elegant and Perfect did his best that day, but, alas ! whether from having too few ideas or too many, whether from his style or his handwriting not possessing the requisite finish, or from some other cause impossible to be conjectured, his essay was thrown out. Certainly, it was from no fault of master Ting-Jin, who had done his duty faithfully by his pupil, nor of dame nature, who had equally well done hers, but in all probability from the poor boy not being able to grease the queues of the board of examiners. But the son of Hung-Jang might as soon have attempted to raise heaven and earth as to have raised five or six hundred dollars to purchase the degree of " flowering talent." Therefore, there was nothing left for him but to return, crest-fallen, to his father's house, " having a name in the village," and " having a name in the department," but none in Canton.
Siu-Tsuen returned home broken in spirits, but not in purpose. He resolved to compete again at the next triennial examination for the degree of bachelor of arts; to rewrite his odes and essays seven times seven, if necessary ; to review all the books he had studied under the bamboo sticks of master Ting-Jin ; to commence a course of reading which should embrace whatever was most celebrated in the Sz' Ku Tsuen Shu Tsung-muk, or " Catalogue all the books in the four libraries ;" and, though grown slightly dim in the remoter distance, to keep the " Forest of Pencils Society" always before his eyes.
His relatives, also, came to the assistance of one whose talents reflected lustre on all his tribe. They determined to make a schoolmaster of him. A suitable room, accordingly, was furnished by one of them ; books, papers, pencils, ink-stones, black slabs, and porcelain geese, were contributed by others; and a half dozen or more youthful queues were got together, and placed under the pedagogical care of the lately disappointed, but now happy Siu-tshueu. So, in the course of a few weeks after his return from Canton, he saw himself set in authority on a high stool, having tyros under his eye, and a formidable set of new reeds hung up within convenient distance overhead. '
This calling he followed for a number of years, sometimes in his native village, and sometimes in others near by ; listening to the same perpetual sing-song ; correcting over again, day by day, the same recurring blunders ; always patient ; always attentive to his duties ; and said to have been a strict disciplinarian, and to have wielded a pretty stiff bamboo. The years slipped as pleasantly as silently away, while Siu-tshuen lived upon the annual dole of rice, and other small supplies, furnished by his pupils, and devoted every moment of leisure sedulously to his studies.
Of notable external incidents in his career, during this period, there were none. The days dawned and set, and, in all their course, brought no events to the chamber where, on his magisterial stool, sat Siu-tshuen. But in the secret chamber of his mind, on the other hand, much was transpiring which was destined not only to give a tone to his own intellectual and moral character, but also to modify the thought and faith of a large portion of the human family. For at this time it was that he first began to entertain doubts respecting the worship of idols, so much practiced by his countrymen.
His skepticism is said to have been first awakened in this wise : In the year eighteen hundred and thirty-two, there was a great drought in several of the provinces, which gave occasion to both magistrates and people to go upon their knees before the gods for rain. The Emperor, Tau-kwang, " knocking head" before imperial heaven, or Hwang Tien, prayed for rain by public proclamation, promising that if it were in consequence of his own failure well to administer the government, or through the fault of his subordinate officers, that the earth was so afflicted with thirst, he would, for the future, " apply the plumb-line of rectitude more carefully to his actions ;" and, at the same time declaring that, " as he was responsible for keeping the world in order, he felt inexpressibly grieved, alarmed, and frightened, at the long withholding of the vapors, and could not possibly be put off any longer." But no rain followed.
The prefect of Canton, also, his heart "scorched with grief," sent out a summons to all "rain-makers," far and near, inviting them to force the Dragon of the Eastern Sea to send showers upon the earth, and promising both money and honorary tablets to any " priest or such like," who, by any craft or art, would prevail with his snakeship to grant the much-needed relief. Still, it did not rain.
Then, the governor of the province, wearied with going, day after day, in his heavy robes of ceremony, under a tropical sun, to the temple, became angry with the rain-god, who, sitting in the cool of his niche in the wall, paid no sort of attention to the supplications offered with so much loss of perspiration ; and causing a rope to be put around his worth-less neck, had him dragged out into the heat and dust of the street, and there thoroughly sunned, while his excellency sat cooling himself in the shade. Nevertheless, it did not rain.
Meanwhile, the people seconded the efforts of the magistrates. The crowd filled the temples ; fasts were kept ; the southern gates of the cities were shut, to keep out the hot winds and induce moisture ; all prisoners, not in confinement for capital offenses, were let loose, to produce the same result ; and finally, when all these methods failed, the impotent authorities were lampooned by the wits ; and the Buddhist priests, who, bareheaded in the sun, practiced, with wand and cymbal, their incantations for producing showers, were mocked at by the people. But the dragon still sent no rain.
Then, suddenly, it flashed across the mind of Siu-tshuen, as he lay one night on his mat, that rain did not come from the dragon at all, but from the clouds. If the dragon had it under his control, why should he not send it in answer to so much praying? On recalling to mind several very severe droughts, followed by famines, which had occurred within his recollection, he asked himself why, if the supplications and offerings made to the idol were of any avail, they had not produced it before the crops had been nearly or quite ruined ? The only way, it occurred to him, whereby it could be demonstrated that rain followed prayer to the dragon, as effect its cause, would be by keeping a record of a large number of cases, and showing, from actual observation, that the two events were universally connected together. But so far as his own observation had gone, no such natural order of sequences had been found to exist. Accordingly, before rising from his mat, he came fully to the conclusion that the dragon, and all idols like him, were what, among the occidental nations, is called " humbug ;" and the next day he wrote in his commonplace book an argument to show that the rain did not come from any dragon or saurian reptile, but out of the heavens. This, at a later period, was reproduced in his Imperial Declaration, wherein it was proved that rain was caused by clouds ; first, from the testimony of the senses ; secondly, on the authority of Mencius ; and thirdly, by the Ode of the Chow dynasty.
Thus was the great folly of idolatry made plain to the mind of Siu-tshuen; and when, a fortnight afterwards, on the descent of the long delayed showers, the people assembled in front of the village to show their gratitude to the gods by burning off the tail of a live sow, while the animal was held confined in a basket, he felt indignant enough at the silly and cruel superstition to have kicked every idol there was in the village into the duck-pond. Only the fear of the people withheld him.
"There are three things to be desired in this world," say the Chinese, "male progeny, official employment, and long life." Siu-tshuen having now arrived at an age when he began to comprehend the desirableness of these blessings, went one day to his father, and expressed to him his wish to take a wife. But Hung-Jang, who had an eye to the expense involved in such a proceeding, would have preferred his deferring this step for another year or more. He, therefore, suggested to his son that he was yet too young to think of taking upon himself the marital responsibilities; but the latter, though entertaining the most profound respect for his father's opinions, could not be brought to accept this view of the subject.
To change the argument, then, Hung-Jang threw out some of those disparaging views of the sex which prevail in China ; and observed to Siu-tshuen that young men at his time of life generally entertained very exaggerated notions of the value of wives ; for it was very little after all that they were capable of doing, or comprehending. But the young Hung, again making a low bow, begged leave respectfully to differ from his father, and, by permission, recited an extract from a distinguished writer, which, as it happened, he had just committed to memory. "Monkeys," says Luchau, " may be taught to play antics ; dogs to tread a mill ; cats to run round a cylinder; and parrots to recite verses. Since, then, it is manifest that some birds and beasts may be taught to understand human affairs, how much more so may young wives, who after all are human beings ?"
So Hung-Jang, finding the heart of his son set upon immediately dividing his felicity with another, promised to take the subject into consideration, and speak with his wife about it. The father was, in fact, scarcely less anxious for the son to marry than he himself could be ; he had even betrothed him from infancy to a neighbor's daughter, whose death the year preceding had "spilled the tea;" and it was only from the narrowness of his means that he had not before provided for this, his favorite son's settlement. Siu-tshuen himself, however, had laid by a small sum of money out of his salary as a teacher ; and the economical objection being thereby in a measure obviated, it was resolved to make up a match without delay.
There was no difficulty in finding a damsel, once the money raised to pay for her. On the recommendation of his wife, Hung-Jang made selection of the daughter of a respectable rice-planter who lived in a neighboring village, and whose pecuniary means were about the same as his own.
This point having being settled, a mei-jin, or go-between, was called in, who, being a widow some-what advanced in life, knew perfectly well the character and business of every person in the villages near by, and was reputed to be the most skillful match-maker in the whole district of Hwa-hien. This person was sent by Hung-Jang and his eldest son to the father and elder brother of the young woman, to ask her name and the hour of her birth, in order to cast a horoscope, preparatory to making proposals of marriage.
The stars having been found to be favorable to the union, the go-between was further directed to open negotiations for the hand of the young woman, and was authorized to bid as high as twenty dollars for it -- the usual price in Hwa-hien.
These terms were accepted without much haggling. The assent of the party of the second part was duly signified in writing, and some small presents were exchanged between the families. Those sent by Hung-Jang consisted of a ham, a small quantity of vermicelli, fruits, and dried melon seeds, the reception of which was honored by a salute of fire-crackers.
When the day arrived, which had been fixed upon by the go-between for the performance of the marriage ceremony on account of its being a lucky one, the relatives of Hung-Jang assembled at his house before midday, and moved thence in procession to the residence of the father of the bride, in order to fetch her to her new home. The musicians in attendance were the same blower of the flute and beater of the gong who had led the march to the grave of Hung-Jang's first wife. They now played, how-ever, a merry quick-step, while the procession was gay with banners, umbrellas, lanterns, and flambeaux.
On the arrival of the procession at the residence of the bride, she came forth, enveloped in a broad mantle, and an umbrella hat so large as to rest on her shoulders. A wha-hien, or red sedan-chair, being in attendance, she took her seat in it, and was there-upon carefully locked in by a servant, who was instructed to deliver the key into the hands of the bridegroom. This is a precaution always taken in China to prevent any exchange of persons on the way, whereby a gentleman might be defrauded of the lady he had bargained for, and made to espouse another not worth half the money.
A small roasted pig having been placed by the roadside to divert the attention of hungry and evil-disposed hobgoblins, the procession passed to and fro in safety. On its return, Siu-tshuen, attired in a new dress of blue cotton, received his bride at the door, and conducted her directly to his chamber. Then, the mantle and umbrella-hat being removed, he for the first time beheld the woman destined to be his wife.
Fortunately, her appearance was satisfactory. He first examined her face, and found it not destitute of beauty. He then took the measure of her foot, and made it not over five and a quarter inches. The person was sufficiently thin to gratify his taste ; her hair was neatly arranged on the top of her head, with natural flowers in it ; and her tunic and petticoat were well made of good cloth. In short, she was a bargain ; and he felt no disposition to show her back to her sedan, and send her home, with the loss of the twenty dollars which had been paid for her.
This inspection of his prize finished, Siu-tshuen gave way to his female relations, who, on being admitted into the chamber, subjected the new member of the family to a scrutiny still more rigid. They did not find her at all to their mind. Her nose was too high, her cheek-bones too low, and her eyes not sufficiently oblique; her face was too much rouged, and her eye-brows not made black enough ; her foot would do, but her hair had too many white jasmines in it ; and the hang of her petticoat was certainly not what it should be. In fact, the poor thing was quite pulled to pieces. But having the good sense to receive all this captious criticism with good temper, she afterwards was thought better of; and the feeling finally prevailed among the company that if the bridegroom was satisfied, they might as well be so themselves.
The nuptial ceremonies were terminated, not by the benediction of a priest, that not being the custom of the country, but by a great feast, and plenty of tea and whisky. Each guest, on receiving his invitation, had sent in return a sum of money equivalent to the cost of the eatables he might be expected to consume on the occasion, being, on an average, about ten cents. Accordingly, a bountiful table was spread with fish, poultry, vegetables, fruits, and in the midst, the baked pig, brought in from the roadside after it had sufficiently appeased the appetite of the demons.
The supply was not greater than the demand ; for Hung-Jang's house was packed as full of guests as a drum with figs ; and every one of them was dis-posed to get his money's worth. There were, in-deed, no such costly delicacies as birds' nests, sea-slugs, or bear's paws ; as, on the other hand, there were no such vulgar ones as mice, snakes, owls, or small insects. At least, the only exception was a dish of cockroaches, done in castor oil. But besides the eatables, there was a good supply of sam-shu, rice-wine, and tea, of fair quality, though not equal to " old man's eyebrow." The guests drank the bride's health in cups which, when inverted, left not so much as a bead on the rim, and plied the bridegroom, or "new man," with liquor pretty hard up against the limits of sobriety.
So the marriage-day closed with pleasant mirth. The ancestral tablets of the house were duly worshiped; prostrations were gone through with by the young couple before the parents ; and the bride made the usual obeisance to a goose, as an emblem of conjugal fidelity. A ring was presented to her by her female relatives ; while the male gave a lantern to her husband. It then remained only that Hung-Jang should set upon his son's head the cap of manhood, and bestow on him an additional name to mark his connection with the family. This was done with the usual formalities ; and he, who had begun life with the monosyllabic appellation of Phuh, was thenceforth to be known as Hung-Eung-Phuh-Siu-tshuen, having as many titles as a pacha has tails.
A SHORT time after the termination of his honey-moon, Siu-tshuen opened a school in a village about ten miles from home; but his wife remained to assist in the labors of the family.
This village is situated on the shore of a small lake, and is called Water-Lily, from the profusion of lotus plants which float on its waters. Through the summer and autumn, the margin is covered with the broad, green leaves, and showy flowers, with tints white, red, and yellow, of this nelumbium speciosum; while the hills, which rise abruptly from the shore opposite that on which stands the village, are draped with the lilac of the daphne, and the purple of the budlea lindleyana : so that, when to this floral display is added the gaudy and odoriferous beauty of the jasmines, the sweet-briers, the azalias, the magnolias, the oranges, and pomegranates, which fill all the roadside hedges, it may be said of Water-Lily that it well deserves its place in the " central land of flowers."
Indeed, its lake is a picture in miniature of that of Sy-hoo, in the province of Che-keang, so famed in Chinese poetry and fiction, where, within the circumference of six miles of shore, the pleasure-barges vie with the lotus-blossoms, both in gaudiness and in numbers ; where the limpid, glassy waters reflect the fair forms of the belles of Suchau, standing as graceful at the prow as the water-lilies on their stems ; and where, through all the genial season of the year, life is a mere chase after pleasure, which is pursued with sails or oars.
But the sweetly-scented shores of the lake of Water-Lily allured Siu-tshuen to meditation, not to pleasure. When not on a visit to his family, he might often be seen there, refreshing himself after the labors of the day, and having the air of a person lost in his own thoughts. He reflected much at this period on themes connected with religion and government. Indeed, ever since the time when doubts first sprang up in his mind respecting that article in the popular creed which attributes the power of sending rain to the Dragon of the Eastern Sea, his leisure had been principally occupied with examining the different religious and philosophical systems prevalent among his countrymen. By help of that light which lighteth every man that Cometh into the world, though dimmer even than the tapers of the tallow-tree, he read daily in the obscure pages of natural religion, and endeavored to spell out, as best he could, the hidden wisdom of God.
The Chinese are characterized by a remarkable indifference to religious doctrines. The various sects -- Buddhists, Rationalists, Mahometans, and Jews -- enjoy perfect toleration, only because there is no strong attachment among the people to any one of them. " Sing-song -- all the same pigeon," is an adage currently applied to the different religious doctrines ; and even the Emperor Tau-kwang once issued a proclamation, reviewing their several pretensions, and declaring them all to be false.
Still, the vulgar live under the dominion of superstitions of one sort or another, and worship a great number of idols, it matters little by what name called. The adoration of the higher divinities, indeed, such as the visible heavens, the earth, the great temple of ancestors, the gods of land and of grain, being performed by the emperor and chief officers of state, as a court ceremony and pageant, the same is prohibited to the common people, under pain of strangulation or banishment. But there is a legion of inferior gods and genii left them. These exercise authority over every locality, and super-vision over every event of life ; and, in honor of them, all houses have two altars, one in the hall, and one in a niche in the external wall, where a blind faith daily lights its candles and incense-sticks. The consumption of gilt paper, burned at the shrines, is enormous, and creates an active trade in the article throughout the empire. Sacrifices, likewise, of baked meats, and other kinds of food, are offered to all sorts of hungry demons, sprites, and ghosts. Incantations are commonly practiced ; amulets are worn ; lucky and unlucky days are believed in ; and a multitude of ceremonies are attended upon in the temples, where the priests bow their shaven heads to Buddha, and sound their bells and gongs to call the drowsy god's attention.
The Buddhist is the most influential of the different sects. Its priests absolve from sin for a consideration, and teach their votaries to keep a regular score with heaven. They, likewise, gain influence by inculcating the doctrine of a future state of rewards and punishments, which is not insisted upon by the Confucian literati. Their hell consists of eight stories, in which the souls which have been condemned by the ten kings of darkness and judges of the world, are pounded in a mortar, sawn asunder, tied to red-hot pillars of brass, have their tongues cut out, and are pitched headlong upon hills of knife-blades.
The heaven of the good, on the other hand, is a paradise in the west. Therein the bodies of the saints, reproduced from the lotus, are pure and fragrant, their countenances fair and well-formed, their hearts full of wisdom, and without vexation. They dress not, and yet are not cold ; they dress, and yet are not made hot. They eat not, and yet are not hungry ; they eat, and yet are not satiated. They are without pain, irritation, and sickness, and they become not old. They behold the lotus-flowers and gum-trees delightfully waving, like the motion of a vast sheet of embroidered silk. On looking upward, they see the firmament full of to-lo flowers, falling in beautiful confusion like rain. The felicity of that kingdom may justly be called superlative, and the age of its inhabitants is without measure. This is the place called the paradise of the west."
The other sect, most in favor with the common people, is that of the Rationalists, founded by Lautsz'. These derive the origin of all things from the logos, or reason, wherein from eternity they lay infolded, as in a germ. They teach that virtue is best promoted, not by the overcoming of temptation, but by its avoidance ; not by the restraint of passion, but by its annihilation ; not by an active discharge of the duties of life, but by habits of abstraction from worldly affairs ; in short, to use their own phrase, " by stifling their breath, and eating their spirits." But their hold of the popular mind is gained chiefly by the magic arts, whereby they pretend to hold intercourse with, and exercise a control over, the demons of the invisible world. Formerly, they sought much for the philosopher's stone, and the elixir of life, and they still keep up a brisk trade in amulets, go barefooted over ignited charcoal, and produce demoniacal possession, which they call " dancing the god."
Born and brought up in the midst of all this idolatry and superstition, Siu-tshuen, on arriving at the age of understanding, found his mind in the possession of a host of demons. Biit he manfully undertook to expel them. The Dragon of the Eastern Sea was successfully wrestled with, and driven out with all his brood. Welcoming the doubts which, from time to time, arose in his mind, as angels of light coming to his rescue, he persevered in battling with the powers of darkness which over-shadowed his reason, until the cloud of them was almost entirely driven out of his mental firmament.
The light which then shone in it was not, indeed, the sun of Christianity, but the paler orb of natural religion ; or rather, the star of Confucius.
For, now, after years of study, he came to comprehend, and to accept the doctrines of this philosopher, and of his disciples. With them, he believed in a trinity of first principles, the Zi, the chih, and the li. The Zi is primary matter, or the substratum of material qualities ; the chih is the sensible qualities of matter ; and the li is the power of organization. This latter, though inseparable from matter, is immaterial. It is also impersonal. It is universally diffused. A principle of fitness, it acts according to its own predetermined nature, and, without freedom of choice, remunerates both the good and evil in human actions. The three principles exist in combination from eternity, although, logically considered, the li is antecedent to the others ; and in this organized unity they will exist forever.
“Respect the gods, but keep them at a distance," said Confucius ; and the foregoing theory realizes the precept. It is the pantheism of the eastern world, which, in western nations, and modern times, has been reproduced more especially by the Germans. It is a doctrine of necessity, older than Spinoza or Heraclitus, and which prevails through-out China, and all the Orient. Still, it is there generally held in the sense of Confucius, who also taught that fate is of our own making, and happiness the result of our own conduct. “The very moment I desire to be virtuous," says this philosopher, "the attainment is made."
The question of the immortality of the soul has been scarcely entertained by the Confucians. " We know not life," say they; " how, then, can we comprehend death?" They object to the Rationalists, or followers of Lautsz', that their doctrine of a western paradise for souls separated from the body, unfits men for the business and duties of this life by fixing their thoughts on another. " Better," says Confucius, " is it to concentrate happiness in the present moment, than to defer it to a futurity we know not of. All conduct has its reward in this world, either in the person of the individual, or in his posterity, to the third and fourth generation."
As the corner-stone of his system of morals, Confucius laid down the doctrine of the golden mean, the tchong yong. All the original propensities of our nature are good, and evil grows only out of their indulgence to excess. The animal passions are to be gratified, but always in subordination to the higher instincts of reason. Perfection of character results from a fine balance of our natural powers. He who governs himself, is alone capable of governing others, and is the equal of heaven. The wise man perfects his own nature ; and he who is truly benevolent, loves first those who are near, and then those who are afar off.
As in morals, so in politics, the great Confucian principle is : "Avoid extremes." The state is to be governed by the same rules as the individual. All interests are to be balanced. The good of a part of the nation is bound up in, and is to be kept subordinate to, the good of the whole. The system of the family is the model of that of the state ; and, in both, mutual forbearance is to be exercised by all the members, and a perfect subordination maintained of the younger to the elder -- of the inferior to the superior. Only in the reverence of parents and of ancestors, is there safety for either men or nations.
Such, in few words, are the doctrines of the Confucians, who are not so much a religious sect as a political order. They consist mainly of the literati and magistrates of the empire ; have no priests ; and take little part in any kind of public worship, excepting that of ancestors and the sages, and certain religious ceremonies of state.
And such were the views of religion and government which were now gradually displacing in the mind of Siu-tshuen the popular superstitions in which he had been educated.
EVANGELIST, LIANG AFAH.
He that seeketh, findeth. So, Siu-tshuen, after several years of diligent searching after God in the writings of the Confucian philosophers, if haply he might find him, was destined at length to receive a portion of his written Word at the hands of a Christian tract-distributor.
In the year eighteen hundred and thirty-three, leaving his school for a time, he went up to Canton to make another effort to diminish the distance which lay between him and the " Forest of Pencils Society." In this he was again unsuccessful ; but in another way he was abundantly rewarded for his good endeavors.
Before attending the examination, it happened to him, as he was strolling through the streets, to meet with a fortune-teller. Persons of this calling abound in all the great thoroughfares of the large towns, and are much patronized by those who are over-anxious to know the future. Siu-tshuen, being then in this state of mind -- for he was intensely interested in knowing the issue of this second trial for a degree -- could not resist the impulse to take counsel of the soothsayer. Confucius himself had said that the truly sincere are equal to the gods, and foreknow both good and evil. This young disciple, accordingly, who had not yet entirely shaken off the hold of the superstition in which he was born and begotten, became very naturally the dupe of an imagination so strongly excited as to becloud his reason.
So he approached the table where, in a high-backed chair, sat the teller of fortunes. Paying the usual fee, he stated his desire to be to know whether he should obtain the degree of “ Flowering talent," and be finally admitted into the illustrious “ Forest of Pencils Society."
Thereupon the seer, putting on a solemn look, asked him his name. This was written down in full -- Hung-Kung-Phuh-Siu-tshuen. Then, taking up a small bundle of bamboo slips, inscribed with certain characters, the fortune-teller made selection of one of them, and proceeded carefully to write the radical and primitive parts of its character upon the same tablet on which he had before written Siu-tshuen's name. To this analysis of the character was added the hour, day, month, and year ; the five planets ; the different colors ; the human viscera ; and whatever else could well be thought of sufficiently foreign to the purpose.
The cabalistic catalogue completed, the fortune-teller fell to studying it as intently as ever did sybil her leaves. At length, at what seemed to Siu-tshuen the end of full quarter of an hour, the worthy man's brows began to lift, and clear up. Light gradually broke in upon his inquiring mind. He saw the future as in a glass ; and, assuming the look of a man who had " rapped" up a spirit out of purgatory, and had a ghost between his legs under a pine-board table, he eagerly seized his pencil, and wrote the following sentence : -- " You will succeed ; you will be ill ; my respects to your virtuous father."
This finished and handed to Siu-tshuen, the for-tune-teller fell at once out of his seventh heaven, counted over again the cash which had been deposited on his table, and looked around for a new customer with eyes in which shone not the faintest beam of futurity.
As for Siu-tshuen, he went on his way lighter in pocket, but lighter still in heart. To the threshold of the " Forest of Pencils Society" seemed to him but a step.
So elated, in fact, was he, that the next day he returned to satisfy his curiosity with regard to an-other matter. His wife being with child, he wished to know whether she was to bear him a son, or a daughter. But the soothsayer was nowhere to be seen ; and, in his stead, Divine Providence sent a man who proved to Siu-tshuen to be “ more than a prophet," and gave him information far more valuable than that he was speaking for.
This was Liang Afah, a native Evangelist, employed by the London Bible Society to distribute religious books among the young men who came up to Canton to attend the examinations, and who was afterwards remembered by Siu-tshuen as a venerable man, " with large sleeves and a long beard." From his pious hands the young scholar received, without money and without price, a series of tracts on religious subjects, including extracts from the Scriptures, entitled Keuen she leang yen, or " Good words for exhorting the age."
These he took home with him ; read them ; but, not fully comprehending the new ideas, illustrated as they were by many theological terms and phrases hard to be understood, he laid them up on his shelf. There they remained for about ten years undisturbed ; but at the end of that time, some of the seeds, which had fallen upon a prepared soil, sprang up, and bore fruit for the healing of the nation.
SOU, AND TCHONG-KING-HO.
During the next three years, Siu-tshuen floated quietly down the tide of time, with scarcely wind enough astern to fill his main-sail. He passed his days in his school-room, now reopened in his native village, while his wife spent hers in either domestic labors or field-work. The one conceived, from time to time, a new idea, and the other endeavored to bring forth male offspring. In not one instance, however, did she succeed â€” ^the second birth, like the first, proving to be that of a daughter, and constituting about the only event which, during these years, occurred to mar the felicity of Siu-tshuen.
At length, at the end of this period, one of the two occurrences predicted by the Canton fortune-teller came to pass. Siu-tshuen fell ill. His naturally-strong constitution had, for several months preceding, been overtasked -- partly by the labors of his school, but more by his preparations for another examination for the degree of siu-tsai ; and when he returned again from Canton as unsuccessful as before, he reached his father's house only to faint on its threshold. Borne to his mat, he lay there exhausted through the remainder of the day, and at night was seized with a violent fever.
Hung-Jang was sore distressed at this invasion of disease, which, since the death of his wife, had not entered the circle of his family ; and the more so, that the victim selected was his favorite son, whose head he fondly hoped one day to see surmounted with the button of a mandarin. He, therefore, summoned the members of the family together, and proposed to them to call in a physician. This was agreed to -- all cheerfully consenting that the expense should be defrayed from the common funds.
Sortilege being resorted to in order to determine which one of the two principal physicians of the village should be sent for, the lot fell on doctor Ki-hi. This practitioner was to be found at one of the corners of the principal street, beneath a flag fluttering from a pole ; while over against him sat his rival, under an awning decked out with streamers ; and both equally intent on offering to the passers-by their respective nostrums.
Doctor Ki-hi obeyed the summons, and straight-way made his appearance, with drugs and simples, in the house of Hung-Jang. A consultation was then held between the medical man and the family as to the amount of the former's fees, which, after a good many words on both sides, was finally agreed upon, with the proviso, however, of "no cure no pay." This important preliminary matter having been settled to mutual satisfaction, the doctor proceeded to make a thorough examination of the patient's symptoms.
As the diagnosis of the Chinese faculty is made chiefly by feeling the pulse, to the pulse doctor Ki-hi went at once. He felt the pulses in both arms, in each of which there are three, called the inch, the bar, and the cubit. He felt the pulses of the heart and of the liver, in the left arm ; and those of the stomach and of the lungs in the right. But, finally, he hung by the pulse of the heart, in the left wrist. There was found to be the principal irregularity, and the beating was pronounced to be that one of the twenty-four different varieties, which is called ché, or full.
It was a case of fever. The cause of it was either some disagreement of the yang and the Jin, the male and female principles in the system, or the presence of peccant humors, or the agency of evil spirits. The patient, accordingly, must drink a kettle of simples ; must take his water boiled ; must refrain from eating; and must keep to his mat. If all these directions were followed, the cure would be effected in seven days.
Siu-tshuen drank the kettle of simples, as directed, And two days after was much worse, with occasional attacks of delirium. The doctor being again called declared blood-letting to be indicated. This he proposed to effect by means of acupuncture, applied to the calves of the patient's legs, in order to check the upward tendency of the blood, and determine it to the nether parts of the system.
Accordingly, Siu-tshuen, though getting to be rather unmanageable, was prevailed upon to submit his legs to the operation. He consented so far as to place himself on his hands and knees, in a posture sufficiently favorable ; but the moment he felt the instrument prick his skin, he suddenly reared up with both feet, and hitting the doctor in the abdomen, sent him heels-over-head through the door into the hall.
Thereupon, the operation was deferred until the patient should become more free from delirium. But the next day, instead of being able to carry his purpose into execution, the doctor, on opening the door of Siu-tshuen's chamber, found him standing on his head! This was alarming. Doctor Ki-hi began to have fears not only for his patient, but for himself; for, should the disease suddenly come to a fatal issue, he might be sued for malpractice, and, by the laws of the land, lose his money, if not his head.
But he now resolved to try a master-stroke in the practice of the art, let the consequences be what they might. He was of opinion, judging from the symptoms in the case, that the patient, in standing on his head, had dislocated his brain, and that it was absolutely necessary to set it. He, there-fore, bound his head with a band, drawn tightly by two assistants, who held on to the ends, while he struck a violent blow on the intermediate portion with a bamboo. Strange to say, the operation of jarring the brain had a good effect ; and the doctor, on taking his leave, had the satisfaction of seeing his patient sitting up, and in his right mind.
His satisfaction, however, was short-lived; for, as he entered the house the next day, Siu-tshuen, the moment he heard his step in the hall, came leaping out of his room on all fours, his face red as vermilion, his queue on end, and his mouth frothing. Thereupon, the doctor did what he came very near doing the morning before : he took to his heels.
Nor did he stop to haul down his flag from the pole, but hastily gathering together his simples and pill-boxes, made the best of his way to a neighboring village, where he lay hid until he was informed of his patient's recovery.
It now became necessary to call in the services of doctor Vang-sou, who sat beneath the awning decorated with streamers. Doctor Vang-sou came, as requested ; and, on seeing Siu-tshuen, agreed to cure him in seven days, or forfeit of his fees the moiety.
Like doctor Ki-hi, he began with feeling his patient's pulses with very great care and deliberation ; but while doing so, he kept up a running conversation with the wife of Hung-Jang respecting the previous course of the disease, so that by the time he had gone the rounds of the pulses, he had put himself in complete possession of the sayings and doings of his predecessor.
He was then ready for action. The pulse exhibiting the greatest irregularity was declared to be that of the heart; but it was not ché, or full. By no means. It was hong -- overflowing; and the true method of cure was not to let blood, which would be like attempting to stop the boiling of a pot by diminishing the liquor instead of reducing the fire. The remedy indicated was an electuary. He, therefore, proceeded to compound an effectual one, consisting of about sixty different drugs and simples, with strong proportions of ginseng and rhubarb, and ordered them to be all well fried in fat. Of this the patient was to take a mouthful every thirty minutes. So doctor Vang-sou, after having commiserated Siu-tshuen on account of the damage done to the calves of his legs, retired, saying that his electuary would produce a certain, speedy, and complete cure -- though adding, as is the custom of the Chinese faculty, the saving qualification, "if anything on earth can do it.'
Siu-tshuen mended a little, under the influence of the electuary, but, after a day or two, fell off again. The sauce-pan of doctor Vang-sou had no more virtue in it than the kettle of doctor Ki-hi. In fact, at the end of his seven days, the former was obliged to acknowledge that his patient was apparently as far from being cured as at the beginning ; and so, saying there was a medicine for disease, but none for fate, he pocketed his half-fee, and gave over poor Siu-tshuen to the gods.
Left, now, to nature, and to boiled cold water, the sick man improved rapidly. But before the cure was perfected he met with a relapse, and became worse than ever. He then raved by the hour together, and had frequently to be held down by main force. This almost broke the heart of his father, who knew not what to do. To pull the neck of the patient until black and blue, in order to force out the evil spirit within, was the treatment urged by the wife of Hung-Jang ; but Siu-tshuen was even less disposed to submit to this operation than he had been to that of acupuncture. The relatives and neighbors coming in, counseled, some one thing, and some another; this one recommending bears' paws, and the other, tigers' bones, as remedies ; neighbor so-and-so talking of the cures which had been wrought by the bezoar of cows, and the horns of rhinoceroses ; while certain aged beldams told each other stories about still greater wonders done by the scales of pangolins, and the petrifactions of crabs and orthoceras.
But little did all this talk of costly and impossible remedies help the sufferer. For days he lay on his mat, apparently nigh unto death ; and but for having Heaven and a good constitution on his side, he would certainly have reached that bourne whither doctor Vang-sou had very deliberately consigned him.
At length, however, a bright thought occurred to his wife. She remembered to have several times heard her husband speak of doctor Tchong-king-ho, of Water-Lily, as a friend of his, with whom he was in the habit of disputing respecting the doctrines of Confucius and Chu-hé. Now, this doctor Tchong-king-ho had made a reputation and a small fortune by curing a mandarin of distinction, who, in passing through the country, had fallen ill at Water-Lily. If he, therefore, could be induced to pay a visit to his sick friend, all would be well. The proposition was talked over in the family, approved of, and, without loss of time, a sedan-chair was dispatched to Water-Lily for doctor Tchong-king-ho,
Doctor Tchong-king-ho came back in the sedan chair. He was a portly, grave man, who entered the house of Hung-Jang with many bows of ceremony, supporting his steps with a tall bamboo staff, and followed by a servant having a chest of drawers to his back. This piece of furniture was divided into forty small compartments, and contained the doctor's medicines. Siu-tshuen seemed to revive the moment it was set down upon the floor. Like his two predecessors, the Water-Lily doctor began with the pulses. They were all found to be more or less irregular, and especially that of the heart. But this was neither ché, nor hong, but hoa, slippery, and tsou embarrassed, "like a frog entangled in weeds, and unable to get backwards or forwards." Moreover, it was observed that the complexion of the patient and his pulse did not quadrate. This was his worst symptom.
Finally, after having completed the examination of the pulses and countenance of the patient, doctor Tchong-king-ho folded his hands on his breast, and said, " The disease is a fever. It is caused by a disturbance of the natural equilibrium between the hot and the moist elements in the system. Of the three tsiao, or fire-places, situated, one in the heart, one in the sternum, and one in the navel, the superior one has an excess of fuel in it. This dries up the natural moisture of the body, and so accelerates the blood and animal spirits, which follow in its train, that they make about ninety rounds in twenty-four hours ; whereas, they should make but fifty, as is laid down in the treatise on the pulse, written, under the Tsin dynasty, by Ouang-tchou-hoa. The canal, besides, which conveys the moisture from the heart to the upper extremities, and which is called chau chun yn king, is stopped up. A cure, accordingly, can be accomplished only by freeing this canal, in the first place, and then letting, moisture in upon the superior fire-place. My pills will do the one, and a decoction made from the forty simples will do the other."
After having delivered himself of these learned opinions, collected from the forty volumes of the " Golden Mirror of Medical Practice," doctor Tchong-king-ho proceeded gravely to draw out his pill-boxes. From one of these he took six small, silver-coated globules, represented by him to be the very blossom and fragrance of the pharmacopoeia, and to have been prepared by a celebrated practitioner at Canton, who was patronized by both the prefect and the governor of the province. These were a sovereign remedy in all hot diseases, contracted in the hour of Mars, as was the case with that of the patient ; and would infallibly open his canal. Then, by aid of his servant, the doctor opened the forty compartments of his medicine-chest, and took from each a potion of drugs or simples, to form a decoction in accordance with the rules laid down in the pimtsan, or Herbal of Li-Shichin, of the Ming dynasty. Of the simples which were red in color, he took out a large quantity, as they would go directly to the heart; while those of the other colors would operate on the other viscera. He also gave a preference to those which were bitter and sharp in taste, as they were yin, female -- and, like-wise, produced their effect on the region of the heart. The pith of plants, too, was pronounced better in internal distempers than the bark, which was to be used only in diseases of the skin, as the branches were in those of the limbs ; the leaves which were light in weight had a tendency towards the higher organs of the breast, but the heavier wood sank into the kidneys and pit of the stomach ; and, finally, a distinction was made in favor of the upper parts of herbs, which were suited to the upper half of the body, whereas, the roots produced the best effects on the nether extremities. These nice distinctions were pointed out to Hung-Jang and his family, as the different simples were, one by one, taken from the chest of drawers, and deposited in a kettle.
These forty simples having been duly compounded, and directions given for the administration of the decoction, as well as the pills, doctor Tchong-king-ho's work was done. It remained only to assure Hung-Jang that his son would be well in seven days -- to pocket a fee the poor rice-planter could ill afford to pay -- and to depart with his cane, his servant, and his chest of drawers. The exit, as well as the entire service, was done in the very best style of the art, and could scarcely have been surpassed in its decorous gravity by that of doctor Chin-Kwei himself, when he took leave of the patient from whose abdomen he had removed one half its viscera, and who got well, it is recorded in the books, in thirty days afterwards.
Siu-tshuen also got well ; and as his recovery was subsequent to the taking of the learned doctor Tchong-king-ho's medicines, they were considered as having effected the cure. He continued, indeed, to have violent attacks of delirium during the space of nearly a month after the doctor's visit ; but when they ceased, his health returned very rapidly.
The illness of Siu-tshuen was not unto death, but, rather, unto a new and higher life. For, in the course of it, his disordered imagination saw many visions which influenced very beneficially the course of his subsequent career.
On awaking from the first of these delirious dreams, wherein he had beheld himself transported into the midst of a very great company of superior beings, he thought he was going to die, and, calling the family around him, said, " My days are numbered, and I am about to go into the presence of Jen-lo-wang. Alas ! that I have made so poor re-turns to you, my parents, for the numberless blessings you have bestowed upon me. Would that I could live to reflect lustre on your name, and render your old age happy. But my days are finished. I die."
He then fell asleep ; but awoke feeling better, and did not set off for the realms of Jen-lo-wang, the king of Hades, as he had anticipated.
From time to time, these dreams returned, attended frequently with violent paroxysms of madness, when it was only by main strength that his father and brothers could prevent his doing both himself and others serious injury. He then imagined the house filled with demons, or various kinds of animals, such as dragons, and tigers. One day, when laboring more under mental, than physical excitement, he fell into a trance, during which his visions were not only much more connected than usual, but so vivid, that he afterwards distinctly remembered them, and believed them to be realities.
This dream opened with the sight of a very large procession approaching him from a distance. It came on with music, and banners flying ; with lanterns, and lighted torches ; with artificial dragons, and dire chimeras ; escorted by men-at-arms, and mandarins' horsemen ; and preceded by volleys of fire-crackers. When the procession arrived where Siu-tshuen was, a splendid red and gilt sedan-chair was set down before him, and, on entering it, he was borne away as in triumph.
He was then transported into realms of surpassing beauty, which were lighted neither by sun nor moon, but where the atmosphere itself was luminous. The sky was milky blue, with white clouds ; the distant mountains were rose or purple ; the rivers gleamed like molten glass ; the lakes gave back their banks in perfect reflections ; the woodlands were vocal with the songs of in-numerable birds ; and the emerald turf was gorgeous with flowers, which filled the air with sweet odors.
In this paradise the inhabitants were of all ages, but never grew older -- time having no further power over them. They lived in perpetual pleasures. Birds-nest soup and biche-de-mer were on every table; the rice grew spontaneously; the tea was better than "prince's eye-brow ;" the sam-shu was superior to that of Vou-sie and Chao-king ; and the wine equaled that from "over the ocean." The husbandmen had the pleasant fruits of the land for the mere plucking ; the shepherds on the hillsides did nothing all day long but smoke their pipes ; and the mariners who went out upon the lakes, or the great deep, were wafted, by airs imperceptible to sense, whithersoever they would be.
All these immortals were dressed in silks, embroidered with threads of silver and of gold, and were without queues. At their entertainments, dancing-girls, fairer far than those of Suchau, moved in graceful measures to the sounds of flutes and stringed instruments, which, like AEolian lyres, seemed to breathe in the air. The bowers in which these feasts were given, were festooned with natural wreaths of flowers, and draped with climbing plants whose tendrils fell from the lofty branches of the trees till they swept the ground. Fountains kept up their play in them without ceasing, and the gentle sound of falling waters everywhere soothed the ear in the intervals when the gayer music of the air floated away, and was lost in the distance.
With this life of soft delights, so different from that of a schoolmaster among the mortals, Siu-tshuen was enchanted.
But by a change in the scene, he suddenly found himself in the company of an old woman who was enjoying a sorry immortality of mere skin and bones, and who said to him, "Thou dirty man, why hast thou kept company with those lovers of pleasure, and defiled thyself? I must now wash thee clean." Whereupon she conducted him down to the bank of a golden-sanded river, in the cleansing waters of which she washed and scrubbed him, as if he had been a soiled jacket.
When Siu-tshuen came up out of the water, he felt that he was made clean, and seeing on the banks of the river a magnificent palace, with a tower reaching to the sky, he desired to be conducted to it. The old woman replied that, having been washed, he was worthy of being introduced into the palace, and she would lead him thither.
Their way led at first along the river-bank. Besides the gilded domes and thousand minarets of the palace he was approaching, Siu-tshuen beheld with admiration the numerous pleasure-boats which were floating idly down the current of the river. The sound of music was heard from many of them ; and the fish in the pellucid waters seemed to be gam-boling to its measures. They also disported in shoals along the shallow margin of the stream, and many of them, leaping out of the water, made the air flash with phosphorescent light, and the brilliant colors of their scales. Under foot, he trod at every step on flowers which, pressed down in the soft turf, immediately sprang up again from his footsteps; while overhead, a multitude of birds of every hue, and the sweetest notes, warbled their mutual loves ; squirrels, their cheeks full of nuts, chased each other in graceful dalliance from bough to bough; and fantastic apes, hanging by their tails, played games of ball with oranges and cocoa-nuts, like school-boys among the mortals.
As Siu-tshuen passed on, a high-thrown arch admitted him into the gardens of the palace. These lay on the bank of the river, connected, on one side, by bridges, with a number of floating islands that lay moored in the broad current, and, on the other, with a range of distant heights which fell down in a graceful slope to the water. The paths wound, now, through parks of lofty forest-trees; now, through thickets of aromatic shrubbery ; now, through glades where flocks and herds cropt the grass, or lay about in tranquil rumination. Small streams of water, flowing down from the hills, were frequently crossed by bridges which rested on arches. A good many artificial islands and mounds, also, were passed, and much rock-work, with caverns and cascades, but all arranged with such a perfection of art as to rival the handy-work of nature. With these gardens the Fa-tee at Canton, and those of the golden and silver isles, below Nanking, could bear no comparison.
As Siu-tshuen drew nearer to the palace, he began to hear a delicate music, as if proceeding from hundreds of silver bells. On asking his guide whence the sounds proceeded, he was told to look at the minarets on the roofs of the palace. He did so, and there beheld the bells which, suspended from a great number of points, so high as to be almost in-visible, and agitated, from time to time, by the wings of zephyrs floating in the air, sent a chime of silvery melodies down out of mid-heaven to undulate and reecho through all the region round.
Through rows of dwarf trees and shrub peonies, purple, lilac, and deep red ; between borders planted with the fingered citron, the fire-colored rose, and jonquils, the bulb set upside down to make the growth fantastic ; by the side of pools filled with the different varieties of the lotus-lily, with gold fish playing between their stems ; and, amid clusters of blue camellias, yellow azalias, and magnolias red and white, Siu-tshuen wound his way up flight after flight of easy steps until he reached the gates of the celestial palace.
Then the old woman handed him over to the servants in waiting, telling them that he had been made clean ; and these, in turn, took him into one of the inner buildings of the palace, where he was to be subjected to the operation of a change of heart.
There Siu-tshuen found a large company of venerable men assembled including some of the ancient sages, and among them the illustrious surgeon Chin-kwei, who had lived on earth in the Liang dynasty. He had been called in to perform, in the presence of a crowd of worthies, the act of changing the heart of the newly-arrived mortal.
Having his instruments duly arranged, he ordered the patient to make bare his breast. When this had been done, he removed the heart, and neighboring parts, from Siu-tshuen's body in less time than it had taken him to pull off his jacket. An attendant standing by with a celestial and brilliantly-red heart in his hand, doctor Chin-kwei clapped it into the place of the one which had been extracted, and sewed up the wound so cleverly that when Siu-tshuen put on his clothes again, he could no longer discern the scar. The operation was attended with no pain whatsoever.
Siu-tshuen was now allowed to go into the presence of the lord of the palace. A number of the venerable sages, who had been present at the operation of his change of heart, escorted him on his way through the halls and courts of the extensive pile of buildings. Its internal magnificence equaled that of the exterior. Siu-tshuen passed through marble halls beautifully decorated with inlaid stones of great value ; through apartments hung with magnificently-embroidered tapestry ; through others entirely covered with gilding ; and others still, which were stained with the most brilliant colors, and their walls adorned either with paintings, or tablets, exhorting to virtue.
Siu-tshuen was amazed at all this splendor, and came quite confounded into the presence of the lord of the mansion. Venerable in years, having a long golden beard hanging down his breast, and solemnly robed in black, this personage sat upon an elevated throne, and received the stranger with dignity, but much feeling. He was even affected to tears, and briefly said, "All the human beings in the world are created and sustained by me ; yet, though they eat my food and wear my clothing, not one of them all remembers and venerates me ; they even take of my gifts and pervert them to the worship of demons ; they purposely rebel against me, and arouse my anger. Imitate them not."
When the aged lord of the palace had finished this speech, he gave Siu-tshuen a sword, telling him to exterminate the demons with it ; also a seal which should give him power over evil spirits ; and a yellow fruit from the tree of life which was sweet to the taste. Then, exhorting him to take courage for the work it was given him to do, and promising his constant assistance and protection, he dismissed him from his presence.
As Siu-tshuen retired from the palace, he exhorted all whom he met to venerate " the old man." Some acknowledged that they had neglected him, and others said, " Why should we spend our time in worshiping him ? Let us only be merry and drink with our friends." So that even at the very gates of the palace, Siu-tshuen found none whose piety was perfect, not even that of Confucius himself, who had just been reproved from the throne for not having declared the whole truth in his writings.
While conversing with this ancient sage, Siu-tshuen was approached by a person of middle age, whom he afterwards called Jesus, his " elder brother," and who led him away to the top of the tower belonging to the palace. Thence showing him the earth in the distance, he said, " Behold the people in yonder world ; they are wicked in all the thoughts of their hearts."
Thereupon, Siu-tshuen, looking over the face of the earth, saw that it was indeed full of wickedness ; and his eyes not being able to endure the sight of so much iniquity, he awoke from his trance.
XV. HE IS DELIRIOUS AND CHASES DEMONS THROUGH THE EARTH.
When Siu-tshuen awoke from his trance, being fully convinced of the reality of what he had seen in imagination, he arose, tottered into the presence of his father, and, making a low bow, said, " The venerable old man above has commanded that all men shall turn to me, and all treasures shall flow to me."
At these words his father was amazed. He had frequently heard his son talk wildly during his "attacks of delirium ; but he never before had seen him so calm in his excitement, and so serious in his madness. No reply, however, was attempted by the former to language the purport of which he did not at all comprehend ; and the latter, completely overcome by the effort he had made, both physical and mental, immediately returned to his mat.
But the next day, Siu-tshuen was more furious than ever. He leaped about in his narrow room, fighting like a soldier with sword in hand. At the same time he shouted aloud, crying repeatedly, " Tsan jan, tsan jan, tsan ah! tsan ah;" that is, "Slay the demons, slay the demons, slay, slay !"
He was in imagination pursuing the enemies of " the old man," having in one hand the sword which had been given him, and in the other the seal. "Here is one," he cried out, "and there is one; legions of them cannot stand before me." Every-thing within reach was turned topsy-turvy in pursuit of the demons. He hunted for them forty times a day under his mat, on his shelves, in the four corners of his chamber.
"How could these imps dare oppose me ?" he continued to cry out. " I must slay them ; I must slay them. Many hosts cannot resist me."
As in fancy he pressed on in the chase after the fiends, they seemed to undergo various transformations, now flying away as birds, and now leaping like wild beasts. Then, they filled the room in the form of reptiles and creeping things. At one time, he would scatter them like rats and mice ; at another, he would hug them as if they were bears ; or, quietly seating himself, would search for them as for fleas in his blanket. And when these ugly fiends could not be reached with his sword, he held up his seal towards them, at sight of which they fled away, and were no more seen.
Often, on his incursions into the enemy's country, he was accompanied by his " elder brother," Jesus, whose acquaintance he had made in the trance, and who did him much good service. Like a pair of brothers they roamed to and fro in the earth, and swept their course clean of all under heaven that dared to oppose them.
At times, Siu-tshuen, stringing as many demons as he could get on his sword, like snipes on a spit, hurled them by the dozen into the abyss of hell. Then he would laugh aloud, and exclaim, "Aha! they cannot withstand me." The falling imps were caught on the roof of the eight-storied place of torment, which was covered over with spears of great length, and whereon they lay quivering and wriggling like flies stuck through by the pin of a school-boy. By thousands upon thousands were the demons hurled upon the sharp-pointed spears, there left to be judged for their deeds done upon earth, and, after sentence, to be distributed among the different apartments, according as they were to be roasted, or otherwise put to torture. Frequently Siu-tshuen stopped to behold the flames as they curled over the chimney-tops of the infernal furnaces, and listening, heard the bones of the demons crackle like thorns under a pot, and their hides hiss and sputter like steaks on a gridiron.
Thereupon he would rub his hands with glee, and say to himself, " Now will ' the old man' be content with me."
At other times Siu-tshuen, though equally mad, was more calm. Then he would exhort his brothers and all present to join him in the service of the " venerable old man ;" entreating them with tears, and words of reproof. " You have no hearts," he would say, "to venerate the ' old father,' but are in fellowship with the fiends. Indeed, indeed, you have no hearts, no conscience more."
Some person had most of the time to watch at his door, to prevent his running out of the house. He was known through the village as the madman; but when so called, he laughed aloud, and said, " Indeed, I am not mad." He even declared himself to be the Emperor of China, and was much pleased when he was addressed by this title. In his better moods, he occasionally took his pencil, and wrote verses, some of which bear marks of the " fine frenzy" of genuine poetry. The following is a specimen :
''My hand now holds, both in heaven and earth, the power to punish and kill ;
To slay the depraved, and spare the upright ; to relieve the people's distress.
My eyes survey from the north to the south, beyond the rivers and mountains ;
My voice is heard from the east to the west, to the tracts of the sun and the moon.
The dragon expands his claws, as if the road in the clouds were too narrow ;
And when he ascends, why should he fear the bent of the milky-way ?
Then tempest and thunder as music attend, and the foaming waves are excited ;
The flying dragon, the yik-king describes, dwells surely in heaven above."
Meanwhile, Hung-Jang remained sorely distressed on account of his son's illness. He consulted all the doctors and old wives, far and near, but none of their arts could effectually minister to the disease of either the body, or the mind. At last it occurred to him, that this great calamity might have arisen from the circumstance that the geomancer had selected an unlucky spot for the burial of his wife, or some of his kindred. So he called for the fortune-teller and other magicians, and ordered them to go with their compasses to the burial-ground, and by their arts ascertain if any soul had been uncomfortably and improperly buried. They thereupon set off upon this errand, expecting that it would give them all occupation for a month ; and had not Siu-tshuen suddenly become better, it would have gone hard but what they would have disturbed the resting-place of every poor soul on the hillside, and brought the sleeping bones of the four generations of Hungs above ground.
Fortunately Siu-tshuen's recovery prevented this desecration, besides saving the expense of further disinterment-fees. He began to mend from the day when his father found in a crack of the door-post a slip of paper on which was written, in red ink, the following inscription :
“ The noble principles of the heavenly king, the sovereign prince Tshuen.”
So, at the end of forty days, the son of Hung-Jang was restored to health of both body and mind ; and there was an end of his visions.
With his recovery a great change came over Siu-tshuen. His physical system gradually received its final development into manhood, his height being increased, his shoulders broadened, his step becoming more firm, and his presence more imposing. His mind, also, was the subject of a no less marked expansion. A greater liberality characterized his views, as well as more earnestness. He was disposed to converse with men more, and to pore over books less. The aged and the virtuous sought his company to listen to the strange narrative of his visions, which he repeated very cheerfully, and to derive instruction from one whose thoughts had the charm of originality, as well as of earnest sincerity. But the frivolous could take no pleasure in his words, and the vicious hid their faces from his re-proofs.
He now opened, for the second time, his school in Water-Lily; where he taught with more success than ever, as well as mixed more in the society of men, both learned and unlearned. Such were, how-ever, his recollections of “the blossom and fragrance of the pharmacopoeia," which had been administered to him during his illness by doctor Tchong-king-ho, that he avoided intercourse with this learned professor, and never went to renew his disputes with him respecting the doctrines of Confucius, and Chu-hé.
One more attempt, and the last, was now made to obtain a degree at Canton. But it was written in the book of the fates that he should never become a siu-tsai, much less, cross the threshold of the "Forest of Pencils Society." He was to have his brow bound with the golden round of empire, and not with the fragrant olive of letters. Conscious, however, of deserving the latter long before he ever dreamed of being rewarded with the former, an unquenchable ambition to become distinguished, which had before contributed towards prostrating his health, now became the breath of his life, and led to such resolves and efforts as were the almost inevitable precursors of success.
" Divine Providence," it has been profanely said, " is always on the side of the most cannon." But, to bring out of the paddy-fields of Hung-Jang a power to shake the empire of the Manchus, who, for two centuries, had ruled the three hundred millions of the Middle Kingdom, was to accomplish its purposes by an instrumentality as feeble as that of the fishermen who subverted the dominion of classic antiquity, and sat down in the seat of the Caesars.
And the time had now fully come when this humble instrument was to be brought into action. During ten long years the pious tracts of Liang Afah had lain undisturbed on the shelf of Siu-tshuen ; but the dust was at length to be brushed from their covers, and they were to be a light in his path, to lighten him until he should ascend the steps of a throne, and fulfill the divine purpose of converting millions of men from the error of idolatry.
One day, in the year 1843, it happened that a relative of Siu-tshuen, of the Li family, in examining the contents of his book-case, fell upon the Christian tracts, entitled " Good words for exhorting the age." On inquiring respecting their character, he was told by his kinsman that they were strange books, which he had read years ago, but without deriving from them much information, or instruction. The curiosity of Li, however, being excited, he requested permission to take the books home and read them. He was allowed to do so , and after perusal, he returned them, saying that they seemed to him very extraordinary productions, and very different from Chinese writings.
This induced Siu-tshuen to give the tracts a second perusal. He began reading them attentively ; and, as he read, much which before was unintelligible now revealed its meaning. Suddenly, it occurred to him, like a light flashing into a dark place, that there was a correspondence between these books and the visions of his illness. The former were a key and explanation of the latter. They mutually confirmed each other. The “venerable old man" whom he had beheld sitting on the throne was God, the heavenly Father, and the man of " middle age," who had instructed and aided him in exterminating the demons, was Jesus, the Saviour of the world. These demons were the idols worshiped by his countrymen ; and the brothers and sisters, whom he had been directed to spare, were the worshipers themselves.
This confirmation of the reality of his visions filled the heart of Siu-tshuen with joy. His imagination being excited to the highest pitch, he saw the idols of the land already cast down from their shrines, as the demons had been hurled from earth into hell. Straightway, he removed the tablet of Confucius from his school-room, and persuaded his fellow-student, Li, who had caught a portion of his enthusiasm, to throw away his idols. Then, learning from the Christian books the necessity of baptism to salvation, they took a bowl, and poured water, each upon his own head, saying, "Purification from all sin -- putting off the old -- regeneration."
This act performed, Siu-tshuen gave vent to his new emotions by the composition of the following lines on repentance :
" When our transgressions high as heaven rise,
How well to trust in Jesus' full atonement;
We follow not the demons ; we obey
The holy precepts -- worshiping alone
One God, and thus we cultivate our hearts.
The heavenly glories open to our view,
And every being ought to seek thereafter.
I much deplore the miseries of hell.
O turn ye to the fruits of true repentance;
Let not your hearts be led by worldly customs." .
XVII. HE MAKES PROSELYTES AND ORDERS A SWORD.
Siu-Tshuen now began to speak freely with his friends respecting his new belief, adducing his visions, and the Christian books, as reciprocal evidence of their truth. " These books," said he, " are certainly sent purposely by heaven to me, to confirm the truth of my former experiences ; if I had received the books without having gone through the sickness, I should not have dared to believe in them, and on my own account to oppose the customs of the whole world ; if I had merely been sick, but not also received the books, I should have had no further evidence as to the truth of my visions, which might also have been considered as mere productions of a diseased imagination."
In studying these foreign writings Siu-tshuen became most interested in the portions of sacred Scripture which were contained in them, as he found these both easier to be comprehended, and more corroborative of his dreams, than the homilies and arguments of Liang Afah. His interpretations of the text, however, were made to suit his own views. Whenever the personal pronouns occurred in the sacred pages, he referred them to himself ; and the word tshuen, signifying perfect, whole, all, was also understood to be his own name. Thus, where it is written, " Their voice is gone out to the whole world," the country of Tshuen was meant ; and the phrase, " altogether righteous, more to be desired than gold," he read, " Tshuen is righteous, more to be desired than gold." " Who can understand, so as Tshuen, his errors," was another similar reading.
Supplied with such apparently striking proofs of the heavenly origin of his commission to preach against the worship of idols, and in favor of that of the one true God, he declared boldly to his friends, "I have received the immediate commands of God ; the will of heaven rests with me. Although there-by I should meet with calamity, difficulties, and suffering, yet, I am resolved to act. By disobeying the heavenly command, I should only rouse the anger of God ; and are not these books the foundation of all the true doctrines contained in others ?"
His first efforts at gaining proselytes were made among his most intimate friends. Being one day on a visit to his father's house, he went to a neighboring village to talk with one of his associates, who was called P'hang. But this person not only remained stubborn in his unbelief of the new doctrine, derived from strange books and visions, but actually thought that Siu-tshuen was going mad again, and directed a trustworthy man to see him safely home. Not at all disheartened, however, by "the ill success of his attempt on the unbelief of P'hang, the preacher set upon his attendant, as they walked together, and plied him with such earnestness of argumentation and sincerity of conviction, that, before reaching the end of their way, the latter said, "I believe."
This was Siu-tshuen's second convert, Li having been the first. He was named Chun, and was bap-tized in the canal along the pathside by the wash-ing of his head.
With his two intimate friends, Fung Jun-san and Hung-Jin, the success of the new teacher of righteousness was greater than it had been with P'hang. They received his words into willing minds, and were baptized in the school-room of the former ; for both were teachers. But afterwards, thinking them not made sufficiently clean, Siu-tshuen took both down to the canal, and had them thoroughly washed and scrubbed, after the fashion of the old woman who had performed the ceremony upon himself in heaven.
Thereupon, Siu-tshuen removed the idols and tab-lets from the school-rooms of the two converts, and indited the following quartet :
"Besides the God of heaven there is no other God ;
Why do the foolish men take falsehood to be truth ?
Since their primeval heart is altogether lost,
How can they now escape defilement from the dust?"
And to this, Hung-Jin wrote a reply after the Chinese fashion -- "the lines concluding with the same words -- as follows :
"The mighty heavenly Father, he is the one true God.
Idols are made of wood, or moulded from the clod.
We trust that Jesus came to save us who were lost,
That we may soon escape defilement from the dust."
Hung-Jang, more convinced than ever that his son was as great a favorite with the heavenly powers as with himself, embraced the new doctrine, and was baptized, with all his household. But though this event filled the filial heart of Siu-tshuen with the greatest satisfaction, he found numerous skeptics in the circle of his and relatives. Some mocked ; among whom was a siu-tsai, by the name of Wun, who, when exhorted to accept the new views, replied with such ridicule of them that Siu-tshuen left his house in anger, refusing to partake of the fowl which had been killed for him.
Hung-Jin, also, was badly beaten by his elder brother, and driven out of the house, with rent garments, because he had removed the tablet of Confucius from his school-room, and thereby lost all his pupils. But the maltreated young man meekly replied, " Am I not a teacher, and Confucius only a dead man ? Why should I worship him ?"
Finally, the elders of the village, wishing to hold a " feast of lanterns," desired Siu-tshuen and Hung-Jin, who enjoyed the reputation of being the most accomplished poets of the day, to write songs for the occasion; and the converts declining to aid by their pencils in the idolatrous festivity, they were pelted with doggrel by the offended versifiers of the old superstition. Thus arose a brief war of verses, in which the Christian poets seem to have had de-cidedly the best of it, and in the course of which the following reply was composed by Siu-tshuen :
"Not because of evil saying,
Did we disobey your orders ;
We but honor God's commandments--
Act according to bis precepts.
Heaven's and perdition's way
Must be rigidly distinguished.
We dare not, in thoughtless manner,
Hurry through the present life."
The first struggles for the faith having been attended with a considerable degree of success, though many disbelieved, and others stood in fear of the people, Siu-tshuen was encouraged in interpreting those passages in the Old Testament which speak of God's chosen race, as meaning the Chinese, and of the promised possession of the heavenly kingdom as referring to the empire to be reserved for himself and his followers. To prepare himself and his friend Li, therefore, for playing the parts of a Moses and a Joshua, he ordered two swords to be made of the weight of nine pounds English, each ; three and a half feet in length ; and to be inscribed with characters signifying, " Demon-Exterminating Sword."
Thereupon, rejoicing in the anticipated triumph of their faith, they chanted together the following hymn, written by Siu-tshuen :
" With the three-foot sword in our hand,
Do we quiet the sea and the land.
Surrounded by ocean, all forming one clan,
Dwells man in harmonious union.
We seize all the demons, and shut them up
In the depths of the earth ;
We gather the traitors, and let them fall
In the heavenly net.
All the four parts of the world
Depend on the sovereign pole.
The sun, the moon, and the stars.
Join in the chorus of triumph.
The tigers roar, the dragon sings ;
The world is full of light.
When over all great peace prevails,
O, what a state of bliss!”
While the religious enthusiasm of Siu-tshuen mounted so high that, like the Apostle Peter, he demanded a sword, the amount of cash in his pockets was daily running lower and lower. The removal of the tablet of Confucius from the wall of his room had cleared it of pupils, and left his bamboos without a single back to be exercised on. '' No scholars, no rice," is an adage with Chinese professors ; and Siu-tshuen's present experience did not disprove it.
Finding, then, by the poverty to which he was reduced in the course of a few weeks, that preaching in Hwa-hien would not keep him from starvation, and reading, at the same time, in the foreign scriptures, that a prophet is not without honor, save in his own country, and in his own house, he con-ceived the design of setting off on a mission to his relatives in the province of Kwang-si. Two mem-bers of the Hung clan, there resident, had come the previous year on a visit to Hwa-hien, and had carried back the news of the new religion. Siu-tshuen, therefore, resolved to follow in the track of these forerunners. He had never in his life been further from home than Canton, and the journey to the distant mountains of Kwang-si was not without its attractions to the romantic mind of the dweller in the rice-plains. But how to subsist on the way, was the question. This, however, he resolved, by determining that he would trust to Divine Providence, and the trade, which he proposed to take up, of peddling pencils and ink-stones.
Accordingly, taking with him Fung Yun-san, and two others, he started, in the second month of the year eighteen hundred and forty-four, for Kwang-si. With a few pencils and ink-stones in their pockets instead of cash, these humble schoolmasters set off on their errand of proselytism, as poor as the inspired fishermen, when commencing the circuit of Galilee ; but, as they took the first step on their way, the re-cording angel of heaven wrote down in the book of life the names of tens and hundreds of thousands who were to be converted from the worship of idols.
In a few days the travelers reached a district called Clear-far, where resided a branch of the Li family, and where afterwards Hung-Jin had great success in both teaching and baptizing. They prepared the way for his coming ; for they spent nearly a week here, proclaiming the doctrines that men should abstain from idolatry, and worship the one true God, who had sent his Son into the world to save from hell all those who should repent, and believe in his name. Many received their words with faith, and gave them the means of continuing their journey.
With cheerful hearts, therefore, they went on their way from Clear-far ; and Siu-tshuen, as he surveyed the beautiful panorama from the high ground on which stood the village where he had been entertained, gave vent to his delight by chanting his odes, together with the nineteenth, and thirty-third psalms, which he had committed to memory from the volumes of Liang Afah.
It was in the third month that the pilgrims reached the foot of the mountains of Kwang-si. Hitherto they had advanced on their journey without much inconvenience, preaching as they went, and obtaining at least sufficient contributions to supply their daily wants. But as the mountains, inhabited in part by the wild tribes of the Miautsz', now rose in their path, the hearts of the two attendants of Siu-tshuen and Yun-san failed them, and they turned back. But it was not in the nature of either of the others to do this. They bravely breasted the mountain-side, and penetrated, though without a guide, into its narrow defiles and valleys.
The lively air of the elevated region elated the spirits of Siu-tshuen, reminding him of the golden days of his youth, spent in tending herds in the hill-country. Whenever he sat down to rest, the most pleasing reflections arose in his mind as spontaneously as grew the orange-colored fruit of the kum-quat over his head ; and he recalled to memory the saying of Confucius that, "By studying in the retirement of the mountains and water-falls, man returns to the primitive goodness of his nature." Having also a keen enjoyment of the beauties of natural scenery, he took great delight, as he climbed the summits, in turning round to survey the landscape of the plains, lying far lower than any he had before seen. His eye, likewise, was attracted by the noble forest-growth ; and as repeatedly during his journey he had called the attention of Yun-san to the hills completely covered with white camellias, or the yellow azaleas -- to the lakes, and canal-sides, gay with lotus flowers -- and to ravines where the bamboo, both black and yellow, shot up nearly fifty feet in the air its clean, straight stem, with graceful top, and branches waving in the wind -- so now he spoke often of the beauty of the tall pines and oaks, the yews and cypresses, the camphor and the tallow-tree, and also of the fragrant tropical brushwood, including the downy myrtle, with its rose-colored blossoms, the camellia japonicas, of the single red variety, twenty or thirty feet high, and the lovely glycine, climbing to the loftiest tree-tops, and hanging its flowering festoons gracefully from branch to branch. Yun-san, on the other hand, reminded his companion that they were in the midst of that region which supplied the best materials for coffins in the country, and quoted the common saying that, " To render life perfectly happy, it is necessary to be born at Su-chau, in order to be handsome ; to live at Canton, to be luxurious ; and to die in the province of Kwang-si, whose forests yield beautiful wood for coffins."
After four days had been spent in wandering about in the mountains, the two friends fell in with a Chinese schoolmaster, by the name of Kiang, who was teaching in one of the villages of the Miautsz'. This pedagogue, glad to meet with persons of his own profession from the lowlands, not only entertained them cheerfully, and gave them some supplies and directions for the remainder of their journey, but also allowed himself to be converted to their faith.
With renewed strength, then, they resumed their travels ; but they were destined to meet with much fatigue and privation before coming to the end of them. There were but few villages on their route ; and the occasional sheds, kept for the accommodation of wayfarers, rarely furnished them with anything more than a roof, a cup of tea, and, perhaps, a few sugar-cakes. But Siu-tshuen and his companion bravely followed the direction of the Chinese proverb, which says, " What is lacking in food must be made up in water." Of this there was enough ; for all the valleys were threaded by streams, the passing of which was sometimes no easy matter. The bridges, where there were any, consisted of large stones thrown into the water, or trees felled across from bank to bank, or, in some instances, of iron chains with planks to walk upon. But Siu-tshuen followed the path as it crossed the torrents, climbed the steeps, and wound round the precipices, as if it were all a path of faith. The immense and fantastically shaped masses of rock, the deep chasms, the tumbling cascades, the winds sighing in the pines, and the tempest rattling among the crags, all filled his mind with awe, greater even than that he had experienced when walking in his dreams through the gardens and the palace of the Lord of heaven.
At length, at the end of nearly three weeks of wandering through the mountains, during which time the two companions sometimes for twenty-four hours together partook of no other sustenance than roots and berries, and that kind of food commended in the proverb before mentioned, the travelers arrived at Valley-home, the residence of their relative Wang. It was indeed with joy and thanks to God that they shook off the dust of their long and perilous journey at the hospitable threshold of their kinsman, who in turn manifested scarcely less satisfaction on seeing Siu-tshuen and his friend, respecting whom the two clansmen, returned the year before from Hwa-hien, had given him some information. Here the evangelists remained several months, teaching daily the new doctrine to this branch of the tribe of the Hungs. And such was the sincerity with which Siu-tshuen narrated the history of his books and visions, and such the eloquence with which he urged the turning away from idols to the worship of the one true God, and of Jesus his Son, who had made an atonement for the sins of the world, that not only Wang, but several hundred others, believed the good news of salvation from the pains of hell, and were baptized. Siu-tshuen was looked upon as having come down from heaven to reveal unto them the new doctrine. They believed him to be more than a mortal. And this belief was considerably strengthened by the circumstance that a petition, which he wrote in behalf of a son of Wang, who had been unjustly thrown into prison by the local magistrate, had the effect of procuring a release. Only a messenger from heaven, it was thought, could so easily unlock the prison-doors of the petty tyrant of the district ; and the young man himself, by name Wang-ugi, believed in his rescuer as the unbound Peter did in the angel who had delivered him out the hand of Herod.
When at length the tenth month came, Siu-tshu-en directed Yun-san to return to Hwa-hien, purposing himself to remain some time longer. Yun-san accordingly departed ; but being well received at a place on the way, called Thistle-mount, he took up his abode there ; and, during several years, continued, not only teaching, but also preaching with so great success that large numbers were baptized, and a society was established, which became known under the title of " The Congregation of the Worshipers of God."
Soon after, Siu-tshuen himself, having successfully accomplished the object of his mission, left Valley-home; and, returning by a shorter route, reached Hwa-hien before the end of the year. This, however, was not a final leave-taking of his friends in Kwang-si ; for it was destined that the insurrection should commence in this province. But the fullness of time had not yet come.
When, on the return home of Siu-tshuen, it be-came known that he had accomplished the journey to the distant mountains of Kwang-si, and there preached the new doctrine with great success, hrs reputation rose higher than it had ever been before through all the villages in his native district. He was regarded both as a far-traveled man, and the founder of a new religious sect. Many, therefore, who would not listen to his words before he had not been further from home than Canton, now gathered around the missionary who had told the story of his books and dreams in the mountains of the wild Miautsz'. Some, who had been the loudest mockers, gladly submitted their heads to baptism in the canal ; and Siu-tshuen became established as a regular preacher of the foreign righteousness, with a respectable body of followers. He was also successful in reopening his school, which he continued to teach for the space of two years, the boys soon forgetting the tablet of Confucius, the absence of which at first had raised their queues in terror.
During these two years a large number of verses and essays were written by him on the subject of the new religion, the principal of which were afterwards rewritten and published in '' The Imperial Declaration of Tai-ping-wang," under the titles of, " An Ode on the Origin of Virtue and the Saving of the World," “ An Ode on Correctness, " An Essay on the Origin of Virtue, for the Awakening of the Age," and, " Further Exhortations on the Origin of Virtue, for the Awakening of the Age."
In the ode, the poet declares that all men are created with a "natural conscience" to teach them what is right, and that, from the time of Pwan-koo, the first Chinese man, down to that of the three dynasties, which was about two hundred years be-fore Christ, they obeyed it. and worshiped the one true God -- Shang-Teh. He is represented as being the common father of the human family ; and by his decrees, which constitute fate, are all the events of life determined.
" He warms us by his sun, he nourishes us by his rain, He moves the thunder-bolt, he scatters the wind."
“God should be worshiped," continues the poet, "morning and evening ; but the best service which can be rendered him is that of a virtuous life." Virtue is defined, in a Confucian sense, to be correctness, or the avoiding of extremes in desire and conduct ; and the golden rule is adduced as the best practical guide of life.
" Do as you would be done by, and you will always do right." ''If you do not regard small matters, you will at length spoil great virtues.''
Among the vices chiefly condemned, is disobedience to parents, which is declared to be disobedience to God ; and as
" The lamb kneels to reach the teat -- the crow returns the food to its dam, So when men are not equal to brutes, they disgrace their origin."
Another vice which is stigmatized, is lewdness ; for,
'' Those who debauch others, debauch themselves, and they become fiends together."
A third wrong specified, is murder, and the injury of others.
" All under heaven are our brethren. From of old, those who have saved others, have thereby saved themselves. Happiness is of one's own seeking, and is easily obtained.
From of old, those who have injured others, have injured themselves. Misery is of one's own choosing, and is with difficulty avoided."
Other violations of the divine law enumerated are robbery, theft, gambling, and the excessive use of wine and opium.
The prose essays inculcate liberality of sentiment and conduct, not only between man and man, but also between nations. The feuds among clans, and the mutual contempt entertained by different tribes and peoples, proceed from ignorance of each other's character, and from narrow-mindedness.
The general principle is laid down that universality is the only test of truth. The opinions of the day, and of the neighborhood, are to be suspected as contracted and false, unless confirmed by the beliefs of men of all ages, and in all parts of the earth. " When the mind is enlarged, happiness is great," says the essayist ; " but contracted views are like those of a frog at the bottom of a well."
The folly, also, of the superstitious notions of Buddha and Taou are pointed out ; various idolatrous beliefs, which have prevailed at particular times and places, are condemned ; and the good days of Yaou and Shun are praised, when " men, who possessed anything, regarded those who possessed it not ; they aided each other in calamity ; at night no man closed his doors, and no man picked up that which was dropped on the road ; men and women walked on separate paths ; and, in promoting men to office, virtue was chiefly regarded."
Several of these doctrines are illustrated by the following ode.
" God is originally our universal Father ; As the spring to the fountain and the root to the tree, so is he the true origin. Liberal-hearted, he treats one nation like another ; Kindly disposed, he regards the inhabitants of earth and heaven alike. When brutes injure each other, it is still improper ; But when neighbors slay one another, it is far more wicked. Heaven having produced and nourished us all, we should be harmonious ; Let us, then, promote each other's peace, and enjoy tranquillity."
But while occupied with the composition of these writings, there was a secret thought in the bottom of Siu-tshuen's heart, to which he gave no public utterance. This was intrusted only to the ears of his faithful friend Hung-Jin, then a teacher at Clear-far, where he had succeeded in getting a school, by so far compromising his principles as to allow his pupils to worship Confucius, while he did not do it himself. But, being both intelligent and devoted to Siu-tshuen, he was made a confidant of by the latter, who revealed to him the wish, which had sprung up, and was kept hid in his breast, to deliver his countrymen some day from the bondage of the Manchus.
As he reflected how, for two hundred years, these Tartars, though comparatively a handful, had ruled over the native Chinese, still keeping their own race distinct, residing in separate quarters of the cities, and retaining in their hands all the chief offices of the army, and a large proportion of those of the state, his heart burned within him, and he said one day to Jin, " God has divided the kingdoms of the world, and made the ocean to be a boundary for them, just as a father divides his estates among his sons ; every one of whom ought to reverence the will of his father, and quietly manage his own property. Why, now, should these Manchus forcibly enter China, and rob their brothers of their estate ?"
At a later period, he reverted to the subject in a tone of more confidence, saying, " If God will help me to recover our estate, I ought to teach all nations to hold every one its own possessions, without injuring or robbing one another ; we will have intercourse in communicating true principles and wisdom to each other, and receive each other with propriety and politeness ; we will serve together one common heavenly Father, and honor together the doctrines of one common heavenly Brother, the Saviour of the world ; this has been the wish of my heart since the time when my soul was taken up to heaven."
Not long after, Siu-tshuen had a dream, which made considerable impression on his mind, wherein he saw a globe of fire like the sun, hovering over his head, and which became associated in his thoughts with the famous king whose coming, at the end of five hundred years, was foretold by Mencius. Believing this personage to be none other than himself, and that he was destined not only to remove the idols out of the land, but also to expel the Manchus, he composed the following lines upon the subject :
“Now that five hundred years have past,
The true sun moves in sight;
And how shall these poor glowworms dare
To rival it in light ?
On its suspense in heaven's arch
All vapors disappear ;
And as it shines, demons and imps
Are hidden out of fear.
The North and South, the East and West,
To it their homage pay,
And hosts of the barbarian tribes
Are yielding to its sway.
The stars, by its great splendor, in
Obscurity are hurled,
And solely its pure brilliant rays
Illuminate the world."
At this time, Siu-tshuen said nothing to any one, excepting his friend, Hung-Jin, respecting his hope of delivering his countrymen from the yoke of the Tartars, but he often pondered over it in his heart.
Meanwhile, the news was brought to Hwa-hien by one Mou-li-pau, who often came and went between this district and the capital of the province, that a foreign missionary was preaching, at Canton, doctrines similar to those promulgated by Siu-tshuen. And some time after, the same person, having given information to this missionary respecting the new religious sect in Hwa-hien and Kwang-si, brought a letter from the latter's assistant to Siu-tshuen, inviting him to " come and assist him in preaching."
Upon the reception of this invitation, Siu-tshuen, taking with him his friend Hung-Jin, went to Can-ton, and presented himself before the American missionary, Rev. I. J. Roberts.
He was then about thirty-four years of age ; was five feet five inches in height ; and in person was muscular, broad-shouldered, and generally well-proportioned. His hands and feet were small. His head was oval, with regular and decidedly handsome features ; a complexion of the color of an oak-leaf faded ; dark hair, though inclining to brown in the beard; small ears; nose higher than usual in his countrymen ; and eyes black, large, and penetrating the beholder. He had also been endowed by nature with a voice for oratory and command -- it being clear, sonorous, and musical in its intonations. His manners were marked by the polite affability so characteristic of the inhabitants of the "central flowery kingdom ;" though a certain air of self-respect, together with a dash of grave earnestness, did not invite undue familiarity, but rather served to throw about his otherwise attractive presence a circle of deference and ceremony.
Presenting, on his introduction to Mr. Roberts, a detailed account, in writing, of his life and visions, he was received into good fellowship, and intro-duced to a number of persons more or less connect-ed with the mission. The native assistants were directed to explain to him the Word of God more thoroughly; and, at the end of a month, two of them went with him on an excursion to Hwa-hien, where they spent a few days in preaching the Gos-pel to his friends and followers.
After his return to Canton, he remained still another month sitting at the feet of his instructors in Christianity, and making rapid progress in mastering the ideas of a new and higher civilization.
But, being now as poor in this world's goods as he was richly endowed with intellect and imagination, he was desirous of being permanently engaged at the mission as an assistant, and thereby securing the means of support, while he continued to prosecute the study of Christianity. But this coming to the knowledge of the other native assistants, they plotted together to do Siu-tshuen an injury in the estimation of their employer, for fear lest his superior talent might prove the cause of their being supplanted. They, accordingly, instigated the new disciple to make such an application for support as could not consistently be granted. Indeed, his wish to receive baptism being coupled with a proposition to fill the situation of assistant, seems to have awakened some distrust of his integrity in the mind of the missionary, who, not fully appreciating the high qualities of the new convert, and having no presentiment of the great part he was about to play in his country's affairs, deferred the period of his being received into the communion of the church until after he should have served out a longer probation. But this putting of him off did not suit either Siu-tshuen's sense of self-respect, or the reduced state of his finances ; so that he had no choice left but to take his leave of a mission, which could neither appreciate nor employ him.
Though utterly destitute of the means of traveling, this circumstance did not prevent his resolving to make another visit to his converts in Kwang-si. He had not succeeded in gaining admission to the Christian church any more than he had into " The Forest of Pencils Society;" but a strong confidence in his destiny prevented his spirits from being cast down, or the energy of his purpose from being abated.
On his second tour to Kwang-si, Siu-tshuen set off alone. For Hung-Jin had previously returned to Hwa-hien, where, the death of doctor Ki-hi occurring at the time, he at once exchanged his bamboo for the pole and flag of the departed Hippocrates, and, by help of a few odd volumes of the " Golden Mirror of Medical Practice," very soon came to discourse even more learnedly upon acupuncture and decoctions than ever had done his predecessor.
The equipment of Siu-tshuen for a journey of more than two hundred miles, consisted of a string of one hundred cash, given him for his services by the chief assistant of the missionary, and of an extra jacket. With this, and faith in heaven, he went boldly forth. Being too poor, however, to pay for a passage by boat, he was obliged to rely on his legs for conveyance ; and, before going far, he fell among robbers, who stripped him of all superfluous clothing; and relieved his pockets of what small weight of copper cash there was in them. Siu-tshuen then found himself in a very sorry plight for continuing his journey, much more for driving out of the land either idols, or Manchus. Still he had one jacket left, and, knowing that there would be at least plenty of water for food as well as for drink all the way to the mountains, he kept on.
One day, in his extremity, he bethought himself of the prefect of the district of Shau-king, through which he was passing, and resolved to write a petition for assistance, with a statement of who he was, and where he was going. This brought a reply, in which the official took refuge in the technicality that Moi-tszu-siu, the place where Siu-tshuen had dated his petition, was not in his jurisdiction, but within that of the prefect of the adjoining district of Tek-king. But after an interview with the traveler, he was induced so far to modify his refusal as to advance the small sum of four hundred cash.
A few days afterwards, when Siu-tshuen was sitting, well nigh disheartened, on the bank of the Pearl river, a man passed by who said to him : " A broken chord is mended with a line ; and when the boat comes there is a way opened." This remark of the stranger, struck his mind forcibly as an intimation from heaven that he should go forward ; and he resolved, accordingly, to take passage on board the small craft for carrying passengers, then coming in sight.
Siu-tshuen remained squat on the forward deck of this vessel for a couple of days, eating only one meal of rice in twenty-four hours, but reflecting much on the work to be done by him in Kwang-si. At length, some of the passengers, noticing his abstemious habits, and struck by his prepossessing appearance, entered into conversation with him. In reply to their questions, he made known his religious views and experiences, and, there being one or two of the class of the literati on board, he was enabled to gain a favorable hearing for the new doctrines. In proof of it, a small contribution was raised in aid of the prophet in distress, who thus found himself in funds both for defraying the expense of his passage, and for proceeding still further on his travels.
The seven days' voyage on the river left but a small portion of the way to be passed over on foot. Accordingly, Siu-tshuen soon reached Valley-home, but learning there that his friend, Yun-san, was then successfully preaching in Thistle-mount, he immediately went thither to see him. The meeting between the two friends was a happy one ; and Siu-tshueu was delighted to find a congregation of God-worshipers, already numbering upwards of one thousand souls.
SIU-TSHUEN now made Thistle-mount his head-quarters ; and under his earnest preaching the number of the worshipers of God was soon more than doubled. The new doctrine, also, spread to the neighboring departments, more especially those of Liang-chau, Tsin-chau, Yuh-kwei, and Poh-peh, where many learned men and heads of clans were added to the different congregations.
Both the strong-minded and the weak-minded were affected by the prevailing enthusiasm; and mention is made of one good woman, by the name of Yang-yun-kiau, who stated that in the year ting-yew, or eighteen hundred and thirty-seven, her soul, -- during a severe fit of sickness, ascended to heaven, when she heard an " old man" say to her, " After ten years a man will come from the east, and teach the worship of God ; obey him willingly." This aged sister was esteemed such an eminent saint and helper of the good work, that, before the arrival of Siu-tshuen, the proverb had got currency at Thistle-mount that, " All men should study to be like Fung-yun-san, and all women like Yang-yun-kiau."
The mode of worship established at Thistle-mount borrowed most of its forms from Christianity, but still retained some of the practices of the old idolatry. The males and females of the congregation were seated apart from each other. In prayer, all knelt down facing the side of the house whence came the light, and remained, with closed eyes, while some one recited a petition in the name of the whole assembly. God was praised by the singing of a hymn, in which, however, there was but little melody beyond that in the heart. This was followed by an address exhorting to refrain from idolatry ; to repent of sins ; to believe in Jesus, the Saviour of the world; to escape from the pains of hell, and secure the everlasting joys of heaven.
When converts were to be admitted into the congregation, the following were the usual ceremonies : Two burning lamps and three cups of tea were placed upon a table ; when a written confession of sins, together with the names of the neophytes, were read aloud, and this afterwards offered to God by being burned in the flame of the lamps. The question was then asked of the applicants for admission into the congregation, if they promised, " Not to worship evil spirits, not to practice evil things, but to keep the heavenly commandments?" This answered in the affirmative, they knelt down, and the person officiating poured a cup of water over each one's head, saying, " Purification from all former sins, putting off the old, and regeneration." On rising from their knees, they refreshed themselves with a cup of tea from the table, and generally finished the rite of baptism by some further washing of their hands, faces, and breasts -- though many were not satisfied short of a thorough cleansing of the person in a canal or river. Different forms of prayer to be used morning and evening, and at meals, were distributed among the newly-admitted to the congregation ; and, with the exception of the offering up to God of baked meats and other articles of food, at the principal festivals, there were left in the public worship few traces of the former superstitions.
Even Siu-tshuen, himself, had come only gradually to the total disuse of the religious forms and ceremonies in which he had been educated. At first, he had placed the name of God on the wall instead of that of Confucius, and had continued, for a time, the use of burnt paper and incense-sticks ; and when, afterwards, he removed the tablet, as too much savoring of idolatry, his mother-in-law remarked that it was a pity to do so, because, since the name of God had been, set up, they had had good luck, and had added another field to their plantation. He was, therefore, tolerant of those comparatively harmless customs of idolatry, which were, for a time, kept up by the weak in faith ; and contented himself with bringing his followers, as he had been brought himself, gradually to comprehend the more spiritual nature of the new religion.
As the members of the sect went on constantly increasing, its leader at length felt strong enough to make an attack on some of the principal idols of the temples in the vicinity of Thistle-mount.
About that time, it was reported to him that, in the department of Siang-chau, there was a very famous idol, by the name of Kan-wang-ye. During his life, this Kan had been an inhabitant of the department, and had been extremely addicted to the arts of geomancy. When, then, it was told him one day by a magician, that a " bloody burial" would be followed by great prosperity in his family, he immediately went home, and killing his own mother, caused her to be buried in the spot marked out by the compasses. The promised prosperity actually followed ; and, after a life spent in dissipation, the profligate was worshiped as a demon.
Great was the dread which fell upon all the people before the image of this Kan-wang-ye ; so that when once a young lad, possessed by its spirit, stopped the sedan-chair of a district magistrate, and demanded, in the name of the idol, a " dragon robe," the mandarin dared not refuse it. The wardens were even afraid to sleep in the temple ; and when-ever they entered it to light the lamps and burn incense, they beat the gong to prevent Kan-wang-ye from appearing to them. Whoever said a word against him was sure to be instantaneously seized with bowel-complaint, the course of which could be stayed only by acknowledging the power of his god-ship -- at least, such was the popular belief.
But when Siu-tshuen heard of this delusion, his anger was aroused, and he said, " This is the kind of demons I used to exterminate when my soul was wandering in heaven." Then, taking with him Yun-san, Wang-ngi, and a few others, he set off for the temple of Kan-wang-ye.
At the end of the second day, they reached it. On approaching the place, they beheld a number of small temples, scattered over a hillside, with one principal building near the Summit. Up to this wound an avenue shaded by pines, and so arranged as to cross, several times, by ornamental bridges, a small stream, which went singing along its way down from the upper springs. The lotus-lily reposed on a number of artificial pools, on either side ; various plants were trained along the paths in such profusion, that one almost walked on flowers ; and clusters of tropical brushwood, set about in the distance, breathed a soft, aromatic breath over the whole region.
As the smaller temples were inhabited, each, by one or two priests, these were sitting in the cool, of the day under their fig-trees, with none to molest or make afraid, unless it were Kan-wang-ye himself. 'Indeed, this ficus nitida, being a kind of banyan, furnishes, with its dark green leaves and wide-spreading branches, a shade grateful to anchorites, and gave to the temples of this hillside quite as much the look of bowers of pleasure as of retreats of meditation. Similar, too, was the effect of the chime of delicate bells of metal, which, suspended from all the projecting points of the buildings, sent a chorus of pleasing melodies off to the opposite hills, on the wings of every zephyr that chanced to float through the sacred precincts.
Siu-tshuen stopped a moment to contemplate the beauty of the scene ; then, silently praying to God, advanced into the terrible presence of Kan-wang-ye. This was found to be a huge wooden deformity, about ten or twelve feet high, with gilded head and feet. But not fearing his gilt godship, and having bound, hand and foot, the few priests in attendance, Siu-tshuen took a stick, and smote him in the face ; at the same time charging him with the commission of the ten sins following : " First sin, to kill his mother ; second, to despise God ; third, to frighten the hearts of the sons and daughters of God ; fourth, to covet the food of the children of God ; fifth, to force his sister to make the acquaintance of a profligate ; sixth, to disseminate obscene songs between males and females ; seventh, arrogantly to exalt him-self; eighth, to extort money from the people; ninth, to demand a dragon-robe from the mandarin ; tenth, to continue his mischief as a demon."
Thereupon, Siu-tshuen and his friends threw down the image, broke it in pieces, rent its robes, and destroyed the sacrificial vessels of the temple. This task of holy indignation successfully accomplished, the party withdrew; and, escaping pursuit, arrived safely at Thistle-mount.
This daring feat was immediately noised abroad through the district, and a large reward was offered for the apprehension of its perpetrators, but it was afterwards withdrawn, when the demon, speaking by the mouth of a small boy, of whom he had taken possession, said : " The destroyers of idols are sincere men ; you are not able to hurt them ; be content with repairing my image."
The reputation of Siu-tshuen was greatly increased by this act ; and all men stood in awe of him. To commemorate it, he published the following address to the idol :
" I rebuke the Demon Kan-wang by my pencil's quick decree,
He deserves annihilation, and must no more spar'd be.
Mother-slayer, law-transgressor, wilt thou also God deceive ?
As thou didst with many people, make them in thy power believe,
Cursed to hell and struck by lightning, burn and vanish into smoke.
With thy horrid wooden body, dost thou want a dragon cloak?"
Nor was his fame scarcely less augmented by a prophecy, published at that time, respecting another celebrated shrine, called, " The temple of the six caverns." This sacred establishment consisted of several small, but beautiful stalactite caves in the mountains, the entrances to which were ornamented with great care by means of various hanging plants, and festoons of flowers, as well as by the usual trees, gardens, and buildings. But as its groves and caverns had been prostituted to forbidden pleasure, Siu-tshuen wrote a satire upon it, wherein he reproved the loose morals of the people, and declared that the time would speedily arrive, when the images of the temple of the six caverns would be destroyed, as had been that of Kan-wang-ye. And lo ! in a few weeks after, an army of white ants, 150 destructive in that country, invading the temple of the six caverns, devoured its entire wood-work, and ate up all the idols.
But the brethren of the congregation, being emboldened to proceed to great lengths in the demolition of images, the wrath of the idolaters was violently aroused against them. One Wang, a wealthy man of letters, lodged a complaint in the office of the magistrate of Phing-nan, charging that, under pretext of worshiping God, the followers of Siu-tshuen were desecrating temples, and destroying images. Yun-san, and his assistant Lu-liuh, having committed some overt acts in the district, were specially proceeded against ; and, as the magistrate was well plied with bribes by Wang, they were committed to prison.
This occurrence filled the heart of Siu-tshuen with grief; and he asked, " What can be the design of God in making us to suffer persecution ?" He did not know that the blood of martyrs is the seed of the church. But after much sorrowful consideration of the matter, he determined to apply for relief directly to the governor of the two Kwang provinces, Kiying, who had obtained permission from the emperor for natives, as well as foreigners, to profess Christianity ; and, for this purpose, he set off for Canton. Before going, however, he gave expression to his mingled feelings of hope and sadness in the following ode :
" When shall I meet again with faithful brethren,
And preach the word along the ocean's strand ?
When find again true sympathy and virtue,
And joyful tones mingle without restraint ?
Alas ! for noble courage and for honest hearts,
With whom I would restore to peace the universe.
Alas ! from all the quarters of the earth
What men shall stand by me ?
The dragon clouds and tiger winds assemble ;
When shall the hour of congregation come ?
The heavenly law is not to blame.
Has God no more compassion ?
Oh, for one mind from first to last，
What day shall we triumphantly ascend ?”
Meanwhile, the two breakers of images lay in prison. It was in vain that the brethren collected several hundred strings of cash for their liberation ; for Wang had a still longer purse than they. It was to still less purpose that they laid before the mandarin a defense of their doctrines, together with a copy of the ten commandments derived from the Old Testament ; for his worship was perfectly indifferent to all matters pertaining to the gods ; and believing the different religious sects to be substantially the same, he constantly repeated the current saying of, " Sing-song, all the same pigeon."
But, at length, when Yun-san had opened upon him a battery of rhymes, showing in a succession of petitions, nicely worded and measured, first, the malignancy of his accuser, second, his own innocence, third, the plain duty of all men to worship God, the judge began to think he had better get rid of the prisoner as soon as possible ; and, the indignation of Wang and his purse being both alike exhausted, an order was issued for the release of the God-worshipers.
Poor Lu-liuh had been already relieved of his chains by death ; but Yun-san was set at liberty, with the charge, that he should forthwith return to the place of his birth. This he was to do under the escort of two policemen ; but no sooner were they on the road, than he made a set-to upon his attendants with Christian arguments; converted them; and bore them off as trophies to Thistle-mount. Thereupon, he publicly returned thanks to God ; and his followers, after having offered up a sacrifice of horses and oxen, made a great feast on them.
Siu-tshuen, therefore, might well have spared himself the pains of going to Canton, to see the governor ; and the more so, as, on arriving there, he found that his Excellency had just left for Peking. But he had the opportunity of visiting his family in Hwa-hien, where he soon learned the news of the release of Yun-san, and where, after a time, he was made happy by meeting with him.
But though he recovered his friend, Siu-tshuen had experienced the loss of his father. This venerable man had died in his son's absence at the age of seventy-three. He had not lived to see his little Phuh reach the steps of the imperial throne, but he had beheld him grown up to be a schoolmaster, and, at length, the founder of a new religion. The old man, therefore, closed his eyes in peace, having had a glimpse of his favorite son's greatness, as Moses, dying, beheld the promised land from afar. He also departed firm in the new faith, though it had been learned in his old age ; and, calling his children and his grandchildren around his bed, said : “I am now ascending to heaven ; after my decease you must not call any Buddhist priest, nor perform any heathen ceremonies, but merely worship God, and pray to him."
Siu-tshuen mourned sincerely for his father ; and when his friends, pointing to his hair and beard, which had been allowed for some time to grow long, said he must have foreseen the death which had called him to mourning, he did not undeceive them. But the fact was that he had secretly resolved no longer to shave his head, as for the space of two hundred years his countrymen had been compelled to do. in token of submission to their conquerors, the Tartars.
SIU-TSHUEN remained at home nearly a year, mourning for his father, and teaching the Christian doctrines, as he had opportunity. Earlier in life, his conversation had been much admired by his associates for the liveliness of its wit ; now, it became remarked for the earnestness with which it exhorted to virtue, and the severity with which it reproved vice. He spent much time in going from house to house, to talk with his friends on the subject of religion, always walking with measured, decorous pace, and always sitting, it was observed, very erect in his chair, never leaning on one side, or backwards, his feet never crossed, and his hands resting on his knees. In this posture he would remain without change or fatigue, by the hour together. Many listeners, meanwhile, would gather around, and hang on his words ; for he spake like a man inspired of God, and having authority.
The profligate, therefore, fled from his presence ; and some dared not even remain in the same village with him. One Mou, who had been appointed inspector of grounds by the different villages, but who was notorious for his oppression of the poor, was actually deposed by him. For, accusations having been brought against this man of gross misconduct, and these having been confirmed by uniform testimony, Siu-tshuen did not hesitate to sound the gong for calling the heads of families together, and then summon Mou to give an account of himself in their presence. This the guilty inspector did, making humble confession, and asking forgiveness. Where-upon, the villagers, moved to pity, would have continued him in office, but Siu-tshuen replied, "Yesterday I yielded to the wishes of men; but to-day, I follow the rule of Heaven." Accordingly, the evil-doer was deposed, and one Kiang-a-si was appointed in his stead. And so great was the moral ascendancy of this self-constituted judge of wrong-doing, that Mou was obliged to submit to his sentence, and send the usual presents of honor to the man by whom he had been ignominiously driven from office.
Siu-tshuen even went further in his assumption of authority for the suppression of vice ; and caused to be distributed among the heads of families in his clan five wooden rods for the chastisement of wickedness, each one having inscribed on it the particular crime it was to be used for punishing. The inscriptions were these :
"1. Beat the adulterers.
2. Beat the female seducers.
3. Beat the disobedient to parents.
4. Beat thieves, robbers, and gamblers.
5. Beat all vagabonds plotting evil."
Such proceedings as these plainly show that Siu-tshuen was beginning gradually to carry out into acts the conviction, that he had been commissioned by God to destroy the power of wickedness and idolatry in the world, and was fast preparing himself to take the lead not only of a militant sect, but of an armed insurrection. He felt strong in the goodness of his cause, and more and more confident of the support of Heaven.
Indeed, his whole soul was now absorbed in the propagation of the new faith, so that he could no longer submit to the petty care and drudgery of school-keeping. The friends of the cause of God were his friends, and none others. They who worshiped idols were pronounced as senseless as the idols themselves, and were included in the party of the demons whom he had been authorized to exterminate. He earnestly called upon them to repent of their sins, and flee from the wrath to come ; While the believers in God and in Jesus were en-couraged not only to expect happiness in this world, but also to look forward to a paradise of delights beyond the grave. Sometimes these views were urged with great gentleness and affection ; and, at others, with vehement indignation of wrong, and shame at the degradation of the people. The fol-lowing were among his favorite sayings :
" Brethren, be of good cheer, God has the rule of all ; With faithful hearts, and deeds in proof, you rise to heaven's hall."
" Those who live in God, are the sons and daughters of God ; Whencesoever they come, they come from heaven ; Wheresoever they go, they go to heaven."
" Those who worship demons are the slaves of demons : At their birth, by the devil led astray; At their death, by him carried away."
" Too much patience and humility do not suit our present times ; Therewith it would be impossible to manage this perverted generation,"
Excursions to the neighboring villages were now frequently made by Siu-tshuen ; and also to the hill-country, where, when a young man, he had spent many days of profitable meditation. Now, he took delight in calling together the young lads who followed their herds and flocks in these pastures, and telling them of the true God, and of his Son, who had laid down his life for their salvation. Many of his friends and followers, also, came out to the hills to take counsel together, and listen to the field sermons of their prophet. Greatly cheered in heart by these meetings, Siu-tshuen then composed the following ode :
" Heavenly Father, high and supreme, the God of all nations, Who sustains the whole human race with infinite bounty ; In six days thou createdst the world with mountains and waters ; Spendest thy gifts upon men to enjoy in brotherly union. Father, thou art near related to us ; thou expellest the demons ; Gavest thy holy commands to instruct an ignorant people. After thou Jesus hadst sent to give his life as a ransom. Thou didst command Siu-tshuen to proclaim the truth of this doctrine."
The fullness of times was now come ; and contributions of money having been sent in by his friends in Clear-far, Siu-tshuen girded on the " demon-exterminating sword" beneath his tunic, and set off on his last journey to the province of Kwang-si.
It was high time for the master to arrive ; for the house of the God-worshipers was beginning to be rent by dissensions, and dishonored by excesses. Indeed, Siu-tshuen, on his arrival, found that more than one of the five wooden rods recently introduced in Hwa-hien, might, with propriety, be brought into play on the backs of some of the faithful. In place of the former odors of incense-sticks, the air of Thistle-mount was now scented with the fumes of samshu, tobacco, and opium. Siu-tshuen, therefore, began at once with fulminating his decrees against the abuse of these very dangerous gifts of nature. Upon the smoking of opium, he made the following stanza.
" The opium pipe is like a gun, wherewith you wound yourself. How many persons are stretched by it dying upon their pillows ?"
Rice wine he denounced the use of, except in moderation; and though he had himself always been able to stand a pretty stiff glass of it, he now reduced his daily allowance to three cups of the smallest capacity. The excessive use of tobacco also was spoken against, as a sin against Heaven.
But there were excesses to be corrected in religious fervor, no less than in the indulgence of cups and pipes. A number of the new saints had contracted the habit of falling into ecstasies. It often happened during the offering of public prayer, that some of the brethren and sisters were seized with fits, so that they fell to the ground, and their bodies were covered with perspiration. And when the fit was strong upon them, they would utter strange words of prophecy or exhortation, frequently speaking in enigmas and couplets. Some, also, had very singular visions.
Among these subjects of ecstasy, two of the brethren attracted special attention by the very extraordinary nature of their gifts. They were Yang-Siu-tsing and Siau-Chau-kwei. Siau was the gentler of the two spirits, and, when moved irresistibly so to do, exhorted in the name of Jesus. But Yang, whose vanity was much inflated by his union with the congregation, pretended to deliver the commands of God, the Father. Being, besides, naturally clever with his tongue, he exhorted under the ecstatic influence with such prodigality of breath, that he lost the use of his voice for a couple of months. This damaged his repute somewhat ; but on his recovery, he delivered the commandments of God with greater fluency than ever, and foretold future events. Several sick members of the congregation having been unexpectedly restored to health, Yang even got the credit of having driven out the evil spirits ; and finally so far won the confidence of the credulous, that he ventured to offer to redeem any patient from his infirmity, by suffering the pains of the disease in his own person.
Such perversion of doctrines and gifts called for the active interference of Siu-tshuen, who immediately rebuked the false spirits, and claimed for himself and his special favorites the exclusive privilege of communicating with heaven.
It was not long before he had occasion to avail himself of this monopoly of prophecy. Foreseeing that the time for action was drawing nigh, and believing that the year of eighteen hundred and fifty would not pass without the occurrence of serious events in the mountains, he determined to send for his family in Hwa-hien. So strong, indeed, was this conviction in his mind, that he could but regard it as an intimation from heaven ; and gave out, accordingly, that he had been warned of God in the following revelation: " In the thirtieth year of Tau-kwang (1850), will I send down calamities ; those of you who remain steadfast in faith shall be saved, but the unbelievers shall be visited by pestilence. After the eighth month, fields will be left uncultivated, and houses without inhabitants ; therefore, call thou thy own family and relatives hither."
Siu-tshuen did as he was bidden ; and his mother-in-law, his wife and children, and his brothers, with their families, all obeying the call, arrived safely with their property at Thistle-mount.
In the company was also a newly-born son of the prophet, the sight of whom filled the paternal heart with joy greater than could be expressed. And, to add to the father's delight, it was told to him that the birth of this heir of prophecy had not been unattended with prodigies and signs of sympathy on the part of nature. When, on the ninth day of the tenth month of the year eighteen hundred and forty-nine, at the rising of the sun, the male child was born, a large flock of birds, some as large as ravens, and some as small as magpies, hovered about the trees in the vicinity of the house for a month or more ; whereat, the people said that the fowls of the air had come to do homage to the new-born king and prophet.
Moreover, Siu-tshuen's own prophecy came speedily to pass. In the year eighteen hundred and fifty, died the Emperor Tau-kwang; several districts in Kwang-si were visited with pestilential diseases; there was, in many localities, a scarcity of food ; and wars and rumors of wars between the mountainous tribes, as well as between bands of banditti and the soldiers of the government, prevailed at the commencement of this year even more than in the one which had preceded it.
Therefore, the God-worshipers, remembering the words of their chief, revered him as the confidant of Heaven ; and many souls were added to the congregation.
This year was, indeed, destined to mark an era in Chinese annals, and to introduce a series of events which should draw the attention of both government and people to the mountains of Kwang-si.
This range occupies the northern and northwestern parts of the province, separating it from that of Kwei-chau, and is inhabited mostly by aboriginal tribes, who have never been subdued by the Manchus. By the vulgar, these refractory mountaineers are described as " wolf-men," “dog-men," and “ rats of the mountains;" and are said to have tails like monkeys, and to cauterize the feet of their children in order to save the expense of shoes. In point of fact, they are a semi-civilized race, called Puntis, who so prize the freedom of their mountains that the imperial arms have never succeeded in wresting it from them; but who, nevertheless, maintain a kind of truce with their neighbors of the lowlands, buying manufactures, and selling, in return, a great variety of beautiful woods, the growth of their mountains, and large quantities of cassia, more aromatic than that of Ceylon. They live in huts of one story, raised on piles, and stable their domestic animals beneath ; go clad in tunic and breeches, frequently without shoes ; and, disdaining the tonsure of the Tartars, wear their long hair fastened on the top of their heads by a bodkin.
But while these independent tribes have always succeeded in driving back from their strong-holds the invading armies of the government, they have not prevented the more peaceful encroachments of the squatter clans, who, under the name of Hakkas, now divide with them the possession of a certain number of their valleys. Many of these settlers were origin-ally robbers and outlaws, who, to escape the pursuit of the officers of justice, fled to the fastnesses of the mountains, and who, keeping up their predatory habits, were afterwards involved in frequent petty wars with the imperial soldiery, as well as with their neighbors, the Puntis.
In the year eighteen hundred and forty-nine there had broken out such a contest between these two classes of mountaineers, in the Kwei district ; and the Puntis proving victorious, many of the defeated Hakkas fled for refuge to the neighboring God-worshipers of Thistle-mount, who likewise were settlers by origin, though of a better character than the others. Being in no condition to make their own terms, these refugees readily consented to be converted, in return for protection, and the necessary supplies to keep them from starvation. But while they swelled the numbers of the congregation, they also exposed it to the ill-will of the Puntis. In fact, some petty causes of quarrel soon sprang up, though the consequences were not immediately serious, inasmuch as the combined forces of the Hakkas and the God-worshipers were too strong for the other party.
Meanwhile, the local magistrates, intermeddling, manifested a disposition to encourage the Puntis to come to blows with their enemies. At the same time, they recommenced their persecution of the image-breakers ; and Wang, the graduate, resuming the fierceness of his fanaticism, caused Wang-ugi to be again thrown into prison, where he died. The search for robbers, likewise, who had been driven into the mountains by the soldiery, was made the pretext for no little annoyance and injury to the different branches of the congregation.
Thus, what Siu-tshuen had anticipated was about to come to pass. A collision between his followers and the magistrates could not be far off; and, with this conviction weighing upon his mind, he composed the following ode :
" When, in the present time, disturbances abound,
And bands of robbers are, like gathering vapors, found,
We know that Heaven means to raise a valiant hand
To rescue the oppressed, and save our native land.
China was once subdued, but it shall no more fall ;
God ought to be adored, and ultimately will be.
The founder of the Ming in song disclosed his mind ;
The Emperor of Han drank to the furious wind.
From older times, all deeds by energy were done ;
Dark vapors disappear on rising of the sun."
While Siu-tshuen, accompanied by Yun-San, was going the rounds of the villages wherein resided his disciples, exhorting them to make sale of their property, so far as they could, and hold themselves in readiness to assemble at his call in Thistle-mount, both he and his companion came near being arrested by the mandarins. These had resolved to proceed against the two preachers as the head of a secret society, hostile to the government ; but the fact coming to the ears of Yang-Siu-tshin, he sent a party of friends to apprise the chief of his danger, and escort him back to Thistle-mount.
No sooner had the latter returned than he sent word to all his followers to gather around him ; for he knew the time of simple preaching had gone by, and that had arrived for inculcating his doctrines at the head of an armed force. The persecutions experienced, and threatened by the mandarins, having the Puntis as aiders, if not as allies, was his justification in taking this step. He saw that he must either submit to see the congregation scattered, or take the sword, and commence a holy war against the idolaters. This was what he had long secretly purposed to do ; so that he was not taken by surprise by the movement of the mandarins, but was ready for action.
The God-worshipers obeyed the voice of their prophet. They immediately assembled at Thistle-mount, bringing with them their cattle, their provisions, their money, and every kind of movable property, and, for arms, such agricultural implements, and other weapons, as they could lay their hands on. Among those who came at the call, were a number of graduates, and heads of clans, one of whom, by the name of Wei-ching, brought in no less than a thousand retainers. All gave in their individual property to the public treasury, to be used for the daily maintenance of the members of the congregation, each sharing alike.
When a sufficient force had been collected together, Siu-tshuen gave orders for it to move on to the nearest market-town, which was that inhabited by Wang, the persecutor, and where, no opposition being made, the immediate wants of the poor Hakkas, who, in large numbers, had joined the congregation, were supplied out of the well-filled clothing and provision-shops.
Siu-tshuen's first care now was to organize the motley multitude which his orders had brought together, and which consisted of both rich and poor, young and old, male and female of Hakkas, some of whom had not been much better than outlaws ; and of God-worshipers, most of whom were sincere converts to the new faith, and fanatically opposed to the worship of idols ; in all, about seven thousand souls.
To this end, he directed that the two sexes should have no intercourse with each other, but be kept under the separate control of officers, male and female. The principal places of trust he assigned to those of his associates, who had exhibited the most talent, and who had attained the greatest influence in the congregation -- especially Fun-Yun-San, Yang-Siu-tshin, and Siau-chau-kwei. A complete military organization was established ; strict discipline was enjoined ; public prayers were held morning and evening ; and exhortations to faith and good behavior were daily delivered by the chiefs, and others thereto appointed.
In perfecting and carrying out these indispensable arrangements, several months were spent ; the body of the forces moving from one market -town to another in the hill country, as might be most convenient for the obtaining of supplies, and no attack being made upon them by the few troops got together for that purpose by the mandarins.