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Another popular element was the charm of nobleness attached to the monastic life. Self-denial becomes attractive, and not at all difficult to those who are sensible of this charm. The renunciation of the world, and the absorbing occupation of a religious life, seem to many who enter the gates of the monastery a pleasant dream, and very desirable.
Another attractive element in Buddhism has been the social character of the worship. The monks meet for morning and evening prayers in the presence of the images.
To this should be added the agreeableness to the eye of dressed altars, lofty gilt images, and the encouraged belief that they are representative of powerful beings, who will afford substantial protection to the devotee who faithfully discharges his duty as a disciple.
Then there is the doctrine of the Karma. Every act of worship, every Buddhist ceremony, every book of devotion read, every gift to a monastery or a begging priest, every mass for the dead, every invocation of a Buddha or Bodhisattwa, every wish for the good of others, infallibly causes great good, through the necessary operation of the law of cause and effect in the moral sphere.
How far these and other causes have helped to spread Buddhism through the many countries where it now prevails deserves the careful thought of the European student of the history of religions. Next to India itself, China has done more for the development of Buddhist thought than any other Buddhist country. This is a remarkable fact and very useful; showing, as it does, that, judging from the past, the Chinese are susceptible to a very considerable degree of a foreign religion. They will also use intellectual energy in teaching and expanding it. Let any one who doubts this look over Kæinpfer's account of Japanese Buddhism. He will there find nearly all the Chinese sects described in this volume occurring again. They have been transplanted entire with their books and discipline into that island empire,-a striking proof of the vigour of Chinese Buddhism.
Why should they not accept Christianity with the same zeal, and apply to the task of teaching it as much mental force ?
Dr. Draper says, “From this we may also infer how unphilosophical and vain is the expectation of those who would attempt to restore the aged populations of Asia to our state. Their intellectual condition has passed onward never more to return."
My own conviction is, that so far as this theory of despair affects China, it is not warranted. The eras of intellectual expansion in that country may be briefly enumerated in the following way:-After the Chow period, the most famous of all, came that of Han, when classical studies, history, and Tauist philosophy flourished together. Then followed a Buddhist age. Then came an age of poetry and elegant literature, that of the T'ang dynasty. After this came the time of the Sung philosophers, who were most prolific in moral and critical writings tinctured with a peculiarly bad philosophy of nature. The present is an age of classical criticism, a reaction from that of the Sung writers.
We have six distinct periods of intellectual vigour. covering nearly three thousand years, and what do we now see? The intellectual vigour connected with Buddhism and Tauism dead, past any hope of a resurrection. Confucianism is still living, but it is not very strong. The people have an excellent physique, adapting them for
1 Draper's Intellectual Development of Europe, vol. i. p. 57.
various climates. They emigrate extensively. They have at home an autonomous empire of immense dimensions, administered by printed codes of laws, and such a mode of governing as to enable them to keep that empire from falling to pieces in a time of foreign wars and rebellions.
They are not then to be despaired of intellectually. What they need is to be educated in the mass, to be elevated by the diffusion of a living Christianity, to have improvements in the physical condition of the poor, with a system of scientific instruction in every province, and a development of the mineral and manufacturing resources of the country.
No one need despair of the intellectual progress of the people, or of their susceptibility of spiritual development. Christianity fosters mental growth, and the science of the West is eminently stimulating to thought. The descendants of the men whose mariners sailed with the compass seven hundred years ago, and whose schoolmasters were at the same time making use of printed books in education, will not fail to respond to these powerful influences.
That Buddhism has affected Chinese literature and thought to a considerable extent, is shown in the following pages. It taught them charity, but it did not impart a healthy stimulus to the national mind. It made them indeed more sceptical and materialistic than they were before, and weakened their morality.
But since Buddhism has had among the Chinese its age of faith, prompting them to metaphysical authorship, and the formation of schools of religious thought, and also impelling them to undertake distant and perilous journeys, to visit the spots where Shakyamuni passed his life, it must be admitted that there is a very promising prospect for Christianity, and that the beneficial effect on the people must be in proportion to the excellence of the Christian religion.
Perhaps Dr. Draper, in view of the facts contained in this book, would not be unwilling to modify his theory of the necessary decline of nations so far as it appertains to China, or at least allow the people of that country a further tenure of national life, till Christianity and education have had a trial.
The present volume is the fruit of many years' studies. Some parts of it were written nearly twenty-five years ago; nearly all is the fruit of Chinese reading.
Dr. Eitel of Hongkong and Mr. Thomas Watters have since written ably and extensively on the same subjeet. But my mode of treatment differs from theirs, and in my revision it has been an advantage to have the results of their researches before me. My own collection of native books on Buddhism has increased, while my acquaintance with the actual form of this religion in its popular development at the present time has been considerably enlarged.
The facts here collected on the esoteric sects are adapted to throw light on the history of Buddhism in India, and will help, it may be, to define the position of the Jains.
In the section on Feng-shui, I ask attention to the view there given on the influence of Buddhism in producing the modern Chinese doctrine of the physical influences of nature, and the part that, through the Buddhists, India and Greece bave both had in producing the superstitious materialism of the Chinese in its modern shape.
PEKING, October 1879.