Изображения страниц

motion of a new officer, who has purchased the privilege of fleecing or oppreffing them.

It is a very remarkable circumftance in, this country, that none are acknowledged as Nobility, but the children of Princesses. The King's children are excluded from this rank, unless their mother be a Princefs, which happens rarely. All the edicts of the King are arbitrary, and generally carry the marks of the most abfolute defpotifm. Abuses and misdemeanours of a light nature, which the smallest penalties would be fufficient to prevent, are confidered as atrocious crimes by the nature of the punishment annexed to them. When the King has enacted a law, be fends it to the governors of the provinces, who have it published by a herald in the markets, which are held in the towns and villages of their jurifdiction. The governors of provinces, cities and villages, are judges both in civil and criminal matters; appeals, however, may be lodged from their tribunals to that of the King, who employs every day, feveral hours, in deciding the contests that arife among his fubjects.

Our Author relates fome very fingular cuftoms, that take place in the court of the King of Cacongo. There is, among others, a pofitive law, by which the King is obliged not to touch, with any part of his body, any foreign merchandize, and the obfervation of this law is carried to that degree of rigour, that when the Europeans go to pay their court to this monarch, they are admonished to take all poffible care, that no part of their cloaths may touch his Majefty. The King is alfo obliged to drink a glafs at the end of each caufe which he decides; and he fómetimes decides fifty at a fitting; when his cup-bearer presents the wine, a Ganga, who performs the triple function of phyfician, forcerer and fteward to his Majefty, rings the bell and bawls out, with all his power of lungs, tina foua, i. e. fall proftrate, or fly: upon this, all prefent except the Ganga, fall upon their faces, as it is a general notion that the King would die if he was feen while drinking by any of his fubjects. When his Majefty happens to fall fick, his phyficians begin by publishing his indifpofition through all the kingdom, and then every one is obliged to kill his cock, (only one we fuppofe, if he has three or four.) No body knows the origin of this ridiculous cuftom, which is a matter of pleasantry among the more fenfible people of the country.

The flave-trade is the only branch of commerce which the French cultivate on these coafts. The English draw from the forefts of Jomba every year, a confiderable quantity of logwood, a good dying stuff, though inferior in quality to that of Brazil.

In thefe nations, where the crown is elective, the funeral of the monarch is frequently a scene of conteft and battle; but as



the art of war and the military fpirit, have made as little progrefs among thefe Africans as the other fciences; the battles which happen on the demife of a King are not very bloody. It is true, every citizen who can carry arms, is a foldier "when he pleases, but he is a bad foldier.-When a battle is "to be fought, the troops advance on each fide, without order "or difcipline; and the chiefs who command them, refemble "much more the drivers of a herd, than the generals of an "army."

All the travellers, who have given relations concerning these countries, have obferved a profound filence with refpect to their language; and yet this is an effential object in the hiftorical picture of a people. The plain and ignorant Africans, who are the fubject of this work, fpeak a language, which, according to our Author, is both rich and learned, and bears an analogy to fome ancient languages. "Befide, (fays he) that multipli- . ❝cation of tenfes, which contributes fo greatly to accuracy " and precision in speaking, there is in the language of thefe "Africans, a multiplication of verbs, which tends greatly to "fimplify (if we may use that term) their expreffions. Each

fimple verb has appertaining to it feveral other ve.bs, of " which it is the root; and which, befides the fundamental " and principal fignification that runs through them all, have "each an acceffory meaning, which we can only explain by

paraphrafes: Thus, for example, Sala fignifies to work: "Salila to facilitate any work: Salifia to work with fome one: "Salifila to cause work to be done for fome one's profit: Sazia "to help one to ork: Salanga to have contracted a habit of "working: Salifiana to work for each other: Salauganu to be "capable of working. All the radical verbs of this language "admit of the like modifications; and, by the means of "tain particles and additions, each of these verbs and its progeniture, exprefs, befides the frequency or rarity ❝ action or object in question, its difficulty, facility, and a "other differences. This multiplication of verbs, joined to "the modifications of which they are fufceptible,




inexhauftible fund of riches in a language, and unfor ties, which can only be felt and appreciated by those "ufe it."

As to the article of religion, these Africans acknowledge the existence of two principal deities, the one juft and pericct, and the author of all that is beautiful and good in the overie, which they call Zambi: and the other, the author of the evils which afflict human nature, and whom they ca Zambi a-n'hi, i. e. God of wickedness. As they are period that the good Deity will be always favourable and propitious to them, their only care is employed in appeafing the evil one,


and in averting the effects of his malignity. They are fully convinced, that the Ganga, or Minifters of Religion, have an immediate intercourfe with this latter divinity, and they therefore confult them, in order to come at the knowledge of the fecrets of futurity. They imagine, that by the marvellous virtue of their enchantments, these minifters can render themfelves invifible, and pafs through doors of the hardest wood, nay even of iron. On the other hand, the Ganga encourage the difpofition of this people to fuperftition and idolatry, and, though far from being uniform in the doctrines they teach, yet all agree in declaring the extreme danger of eating partridge, and maintain that the fingers will infallibly drop off from the hands of those who dare make the experiment.

The miffionaries, during their long refidence in this country, have, as they affirm, never met with a single person, who entertained the fmallest hesitation or doubt concerning the immortality of the foul. Accordingly, thefe Africans pay extraordinary honours to the dead, and are much afraid of ghofts and apparitions. As to the deftination of the foul, after the body is diffolved, they believe that it keeps at a perpetual distance from cities and villages, and hovers in the air above woods and forefts, as it pleafeth the Deity. There is, indeed, nothing more capricious and contradictory than many of their notions and rites, relative to inferior divinities and idols; but these may be feen in the generality of voyage-writers, and alfo in the Modern Univerfal Hiftory, which though circumftantial in the defcription of these matters, is not however always exact. This is no reproach to the learned compilers, as they were obliged to draw their relations from jarring materials.


Memoires Concernant l'Hiftorie, les Sciences, les Arts, &c.-Memoirs concerning the Hiftory, Sciences, Arts, Manners, and Cuftoms of the Chinese. By the Miffionaries of Pekin. Vol. I. 4to. Paris 1776.


T length it is to be hoped, that we shall know fomething clear, circumftantial, and interefting about the vast empire of China. The Grand Annals, which we have already mentioned as a new luminary, that is on the point of rifing upon the mifty region of hiftory, and the memoirs now before us, which are likely to be fucceeded by a number of volumes, derived from the fame fource, promife great things to the learned and curious and though promife-keeping is not the habit of the times, (especially with refpect to literary undertakings) yet there is fome probability that they will not be entirely difappointed.

See our Appendix to Rev. Vol. liv. p. 539.


For the prefent collection of memoirs, the Public is indebted to a correfpondence that has been carried on thefe ten years paft, with the miffionaries in China, and with two young Chinefe, whom the defire of being ufeful to their country engaged to leave it for fome time that they might learn, in France, the European languages and fciences. After a refidence of feveral years in France, where they applied themselves with fingular attention to the ftudy of natural philofophy, chemistry, &c. and alfo acquired a confiderable knowledge of trade, manufactures, and the mechanic arts; they returned to China in 1765, carrying with them inftructions and questions, relative to a variety of objects, which the learned and others defired to have elucidated. On their arrival in China, they joined their labours with thofe of the miffionaries; and thus, fince the year 1766, a variety of pieces hath been annually fent, containing anfwers to the queftions that had been propofed to them. Some of these pieces were communicated to the public fome time ago; and, among others, a Treatife concerning the military Art among the Chinese +. The prefent publication is the first of a feries of volumes, which we are allowed to expect from the annual correfpondence of the miffionaries and the two Chinese already mentioned. It contains 1ft, An ample Memoir concerning the Antiquity of the Chinese Nation. 2dly, A letter from Father Amiot, who in anfwer to the questions propofed to him by the Royal Society of London, and in particular, by Mr. Needham, relative to the characters engraven on the famous (fuppofed Egyptian) buft of Turin, gave it as his opinion, that these characters had nothing which refembled the ancient writing of the Chinefe. 3dly, The explication of a monumental Chinese poem, compofed by the prefent Emperor (who adorns fovereignty by his genius and talents) to tranfmit to pofterity, and afcertain the conqueft of the nation of the Eleuths, which was made in the year 1757, with the notes of Father Amiot. 4thly, The hiftorical monument compofed by the fame Emperor, to hand down to future ages the memorable emigration of the Tourgouths, who, in the year 1771, left the coafts of the Cafpian fea and the banks of the Volga, in a body of 500,000 men, women, and children, and fubjected themselves to the dominion of the Emperor of China. And 5thly, The tranflation of two books of great antiquity, the one entitled Ta-hio or

The King of France granted them an annual penfion, and two members of the academy (Mefirs. Briffon and Cadet) were appointed to inftruct them.

+ Printed by Didot at Paris, in 1772. See an account of this work in the Appendix to our 49th Vol. p. 554.


the Grand Science; and the other Tong-yong, or the exa♬ Middle Way, with a preface and notes.

Such are the contents of this first volume; we should be glad to learn who are its editors, that we might know the degree of credit due to these contents, which, confifting almost entirely of matters of fact, require refpectable witneffes to afcertain their authenticity and truth. In the mean time, it will not be improper to pafs in review thefe memoirs, and to give fome account of the principal matters contained in them.

The first Memoir, which treats of the antiquity of the Chinefe empire, is replete with learned researches, and fhews a very extenfive degree of erudition. It is addreffed to Mr. Bertin by one of the two Chinese already mentioned, who fpeaks of himfelf as its author, and fubfcribes to his fhort dedication the name Ko Jes. In this memoir, the great object is to enquire about what time the Chinese monarchy was founded, and its history began. To prepare the way for this interefting enquiry (which iffues in the refutation of M. de Guigne's Egyptian fyftem, and M. Voltaire's ignorant hiftorical pleasantries) the Author, under four preceding articles, fhews how the learned Chinese are at prefent circumstanced for enquiries into a remote antiquity, gives a short account of the ancient monuments and writings, which have escaped the ruins of time,-makes us acquainted with the more recent hiftorians, who have recorded the events of the earliest periods, and mentions the fabulous and romantic ages, through which writers (fond of the marvellous) have carried up the thread of the Chinese history to the creation of the world.

As to the first of these articles, it appears from the observations of our Author or Authors, that the Chinese have fo little curiosity about the events of the first or early periods of their monarchy, that they rarely caft back an eye to a remote antiquity. During the courfe of thirty centuries, the learned have been protected, and the fciences encouraged by the Chinese government, only for the following purposes,-to keep public inftruction on a good footing, to maintain the rules of morality, to regifter the difcoveries of the useful arts, to educate the youth in the knowledge and practice of virtue, and to distinguish in the croud, those who have talents for bufinefs, &c.-Again, the sphere, or (what our Author calls) the atmosphere of the fciences is much lefs extenfive in China than in Europe, and the nation in general gives little attention to what paffes. The women and children are fhut up in their apartments, and their domeftic circle is their univerfe. The artifts, merchants, and all the citizens, except the literati, or those in public pofts, are

* Counsellor of State.


« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »