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imitators, till the empire was even fuller of Buddhist books than of those of native origin. We still have records of the travels and observations of several of those ancient pilgrims, and they testify not only to the religious zeal of their authors, but to the transforming influence which, in some respects at least, and not for the better, Buddhism could exert upon the Chinese mind. While, in the absence of a native Hindu chronology and history, they are valuable contributions to our knowledge of India-as even bare lists of names, of undoubted authenticity and assignable date, would be-they are yet as barren of aught that could interest any but a zealous Buddhist as it was possible to make them. One cannot help sorely regretting that the travelers had not been genuine Chinese, curious, clear-headed, matter-of-fact followers of Confucius, with eyes for something besides temples and topes and footprints of Buddha, with ears open to something other than legends and lying wonders, with interest in something more human than the controversies of the schools of Buddhistic theology: what priceless information might they not then have handed down to us respecting medieval India!-But when we look for distinct effects of Buddhism upon the general national character, we find next to nothing. Confucianism has maintained since, as before, its mastery over the mind of the nation, its first place in the respect and affection of the most enlightened class, and the religious rites it sanctioned are practised as faithfully to-day as two thousand years ago. Buddhist sentiments of human brotherhood have not softened the contempt and dislike with which the son of Han regards the "foreign red-haired devils." Buddhist respect for life, in all its manifestations, has not stopped the slaughter of Chinese swine, fowls, and fish. Buddhism has not redeemed the religious indifferentism of the Chinese, nor taught them to care less for this life and more for another, nor provided new and efficient encouragements to virtue or restraints upon vice. While it has thus been no elevating and ennobling element in the intellectual and moral development of the Chinese people, it cannot be relieved of a heavy responsibility in connection with their religious degradation. It has not only opposed no barrier
to superstition, it has even adopted and encouraged it, and furnished it a channel in which to run its course; and it has occupied the ground, to the exclusion of better influences, which might otherwise have had more efficiency.
To follow in detail the external history of Buddhism in China is not our intention. At times it has enjoyed the smiles of imperial favor; at times it has been severely persecuted, for the discordance of its institutions with the constitution of the state, and its encouragement of idleness and idolatry; yet persecution came too late, and was too fitfully resorted to, to interfere seriously with its prosperity. It has always been frowned upon and discouraged by the wiser and worthier classes, and occupies at present a low and mean position in presence of the public opinion of the empire. China is, indeed, so far as this Buddhistic, that it is full of Buddhist monasteries and temples, and that few of all its inhabitants would hesitate to have recourse to Buddhist ceremonies, or to the services of Buddhist priests, in mere superstition, for help out of trouble, or for the attainment of some coveted good; but in like manner all are Confucians, all are sectaries of Tao. There is no Buddhist church or body of believers, properly speaking, but only a prelacy and priesthood, ignorant and despised, though tolerated and supported.
No small share of the interest which attaches to the history of Buddhism arises from its relation to the history of Christianity in China. In studying the latter, the light cast upon it by the former may not be neglected. The character and the causes of the lasting success which has attended the proselyting labors of the Indian missionaries must be duly appreciated, if we would rightly understand the failure of the repeated and persevering efforts made for the establishment of Christianity within the limits of the empire.
Leaving out of account, as nothing better than a pious fable, the pretended apostolic labors of St. Thomas in China, we recognize in the Nestorians the missionaries who first carried the Bible and Christianity into the remotest East. This sect, pronounced heretical, and cut off from the communion of the western Catholic church, for denying that Mary was the mother
of God as well as the mother of Jesus, and of which the scanty remnants are now themselves the objects of Christian missionary labor-this sect was, for many centuries, the chief representative and the active propagator of Christianity over all the vast continent of Asia. Its missionaries, following at a distance of five or six centuries upon the track of the apostles of Buddhism, preached the Christian faith in almost every country of central and eastern Asia, with equal zeal and success; and it might, had the soil been as receptive and as fertile as that on which fell the seeds of Roman doctrine, have gathered in a harvest not less rich and lasting than was reaped at the same period in Europe. The decay of the Nestorian church in numbers, in power, in energy, in intelligence, has been accompanied by the loss of its records, and almost even of its traditions; and a few scanty notices, gleaned here and there from eastern and western literature, are nearly all the information we possess respecting the labors of its missionaries and their results. When they entered China is not certainly known; it was probably as early as the beginning of the sixth century. The two monks who in the middle of that century brought the eggs of the silk-worm to Constantinople are supposed to have been Nestorians. Happily there has been preserved to our own days one ancient document for the history of the Nestorian missions in China. We refer to the famous monument of Si-ngan-fu, of which the authenticity, long disputed, may now be regarded as fully vindicated. It is an immense marble slab,
about ten feet by six, having its surface covered with a long inscription in Chinese, to which are appended a few lines of ancient Syriac. It contains a summary statement and eulogy of the doctrines of the Illustrious Religion, as the Nestorian faith was denominated, a grateful commemoration of the favors shown it by the emperors of the great Tang dynasty, and a general account of the success which had attended its propagation in the empire. It was prepared and set up A. D. 781, during the reign of the Tang, and its record goes no farther back than to the accession of that dynasty to the throne, or to A. D. 635, when the arrival of a certain Alopun from Syria, and the encouragement extended to him, seem to have made
an era in the history of the mission. The erectors of the monument claim that the votaries of their doctrine were numerous throughout the empire, and that their churches were to be found in every city; and there is no reason to question the justice of these claims: they are fully supported by all the scattered evidences which we are able to derive from other sources of a later date. At the epoch of the Tang, haughty and ignorant exclusiveness had not come to be a fundamental characteristic of Chinese policy: the empire was hardly less open to foreigners than the freest states of modern Europe, and its sailors and merchants bore an active part in a widely extended foreign commerce. We have in our hands the relations of one or two Arab travelers of the ninth century, which show us that for hundreds of years the intercourse between Chinese ports and the marts of India and the Persian Gulf had been lively and constant. Chinese vessels, far exceeding in size those of the western countries, came to the mouth of the Euphrates for the exchange of valuable commodities. Arabs, Persians, and Jews, as well as Christians, were to be found in great numbers in Chinese cities. According to the Chinese annals, the Arabs and Persians were numerous enough in Canton in A. D. 758 to take advantage of the breaking out of a tumult to burn and plunder the city. Arab tourists penetrated to the capital, and had audiences of the emperor, and the accounts they give us of his familiarity with the geography and politics of the West, and of his freedom from prejudice and national vanity, are almost marvelous. Khan-fu, a port better situated than any which has for centuries past been accessible to European commerce, was then the chief resort of the foreigners. The Mohammedans settled there were judged by one of their own number appointed by imperial authority to the office. An attractive picture is drawn by our Arab authorities of the then condition of the empire, of its populousness, its wealth, its fertility, its beauty, of the fineness of its silks and its transparent porcelain, of the justice and equity of its government, and of the universal education of its people-every one learning to read and write, and the poor receiving instruction at the public expense. The picture is not too highly colored; we have said before
that the enlightenment and prosperity of the Chinese empire at this period were not excelled anywhere upon earth. Toward the end of the ninth century, however, a terrible change came over the scene. The ruling dynasty went down, amid tumult, devastation, and massacre. In 877, Khan-fu was besieged and taken by a ferocious rebel chief, and one hundred and twenty thousand Musulmans, Christians, Jews, and Pârsis, are said to have been slaughtered among its inhabitants: we may hope that at least the number is greatly exaggerated. This disaster gave a shock to foreign commerce from which it was slow to recover: for a long time regular intercourse by sea with the West was suspended. The Nestorian missions bore their share in the general suffering of the country; a reinforcement sent out by water in the course of the next century returned, somewhat hastily and faint-heartedly, perhaps, professing to have found no trace of its co-religionists, and announcing that the Christian religion was extinct in China. For a long time the empire was lost sight of and forgotten, as it were, in Europe and the western coasts of Asia; no farther mention of it is to be met with in occidental literature until the thirteenth century.
That the proselyting efforts of the Nestorians in High Asia were not in the meantime intermitted, was attested to the West by dim rumors of a mighty potentate in the distant East, who was both a Christian and a priest-rumors which made their way to Europe in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Our English version of the name by which he was known is Prester John. This was, in fact, an actual personage, the powerful Khan of the Kerait Tatars, converted to Nestorian Christianity early in the eleventh century. The tribe was conquered later by Genghis Khan, and incorporated into the Mongol empire, but its sovereign was still a Christian when Marco Polo passed through his country on the way to China.
The noted traveler whose name we have just mentioned may almost be said to have discovered to Christian Europe the countries of Central and Eastern Asia. His father and uncle, noble merchants of Venice, had found their way to Pekin, the capital of the Mongol emperor Kublai, in 1260: after a brief stay in the country, they were dispatched by Kublai himself upon an