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BETWEEN 1662 and 1796 two of China's greatest emperors occupied the throne, with a short intervening reign, each of them for over sixty years. These one hundred and twenty years may be said to have been chiefly devoted to the extension of learning and the glorification of Confucianism. A prodigious amount of literature was produced under the direct patronage of these two monarchs. Besides dictionaries and encyclopædias of various kinds, a vast collection of commentaries upon the Confucian canon was published in 1675, filling no less than one hundred and twenty large volumes. Everything, in fact, was done which, in the words of the Sacred Edict (1670), would tend to “get rid of heterodoxy and exalt the orthodox doctrine.” Yet, during a considerable part of this period of Confucian revival, Roman Catholic missionaries were not only tolerated, but even honored. Such treatment, according to the Paraphrase of the Sacred Edict, was not for any value attached to the religion they
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In 1795 the great emperor Chien Lung, who had received Lord Macartney, abdicated, and three years later he died. He was succeeded by his fifteenth son, known to us as the Emperor Chia Ching, from whose accession may be dated the turning of the tide. The new ruler proved to be dissolute and worthless. In 1803 he was attacked while riding in a sedan-chair through the streets of Peking, and had a narrow escape. This was found to be the result of a family plot, and many of the imperial clansmen suffered for their real or alleged share in it. Ten years later a band of assassins, belonging to a well-known secret society, very nearly succeeded in murdering him in his own palace. The effect of these attempts was to develop the worst sides of his character; he became a mere sensualist, and even gave up the annual hunting expedition, which had always been associated with Manchu energy. Such a man was not likely to do much for the advancement of the great teaching which was founded upon such obligations as filial piety and duty towards one's neighbor. Some few valuable works, aiding to elucidate the Confucian canon, were published during his reign, but there was no more the same imperial stimulus manifesting itself under a variety of forms, such as welcome encouragement, pecuniary assistance, and, last but not least, the supply to deserving books of prefaces written with the vermilion pencil.
Confucianism was not for the moment exposed to any attacks. Roman Catholicism had been scotched by the formal expulsion of its missionaries under the edicts of 1718 and 1724, and Protestants had, so far, not entered upon the field. It was only in 1807 that the Rev. Dr. Morrison, of dictionary fame, went out to Canton; and within a year he retired for safety and the convenience of his work to Macao.
In 1820 the emperor known to us as Tao Kuang, second son of Chia Ching, succeeded to the throne. Ilis courage had saved his father's life on the occasion of the atiаck on the palace in 1813, and he had been at once nained heir apparent. He made a good beginning, and attempted to purify the court; but war with England, and rebellion in various parts of the empire, darkened his reign, and little progress was made. Gradually he learned to hate foreigners, and opposed their claims; and, borrowing a saying some centuries old, he declared that he was not going to allow another man "to snore alongside of his bed."
There was, at any rate, one great Confucianist who flourished during this period, and strove, both by his own works and by the patronage he extended to others, to keep alive the Confucian spirit. I'nder the friendly auspices of Yuan-Yuan (17611849) was produced, in a uniform edition, a collection of more than one hundred and eighty separate treatises on the canon by scholars of the present dynasty. This work fills one hundred and two large volumes, and was intended to be a continuation of the similar collection published in 1675. Of course, every one who is a follower of Confucius may be called a Confucianist, but a man is specially so distinguished by the Chinese if he has contributed to the enormous mass of literature which helps in any way to explain, or sets forth in glowing color and attractive form, the holy teachings of the master.
The active opposition of Commissioner Lin (17851850) to the opium trade, which precipitated the war, was a direct outcome of his careful training in the Confucian school. The question of morality and the appeal to justice which he introduced into his famous letter to the queen, asking her to put a stop to the opium trade, were both based upon the ethics of Confucius. He not only professed his firm adherence to Confucianism, but exhibited in his every-day life a lofty conception of its ideals. He is the one representative of China, during this reign, to whom all foreigners would ungrudgingly accord the title of an honest man and a true patriot.
Tao Kuang was succeeded in 1851 by his fourth son, known to us as the Emperor Hsien Fêng. The reign of the latter is particularly associated with the Tai-ping rebellion, which shook the empire to its foundations, and, but for the presence of General Gordon, would probably have succeed