China and the Chinese







China is popularly supposed to have three religions,—Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism.

The first is not, and never has been, a religion, being nothing more than a system of social and political morality; the second is indeed a religion, but an alien religion; only the last, and the least known, is of native growth.

The Chinese themselves get over the verbal difficulty by calling these the Three Doctrines.

There have been, at various epochs, other religions in China, and some still remain; the above, however, is the classification commonly in use, all other religions having been regarded up to recent times as devoid of spiritual importance.

Mahommedanism appeared in China in 628 A.D., and is there to this day, having more than once threatened the stability of the Empire.

In 631 the Nestorian Christians arrived, to become later on a flourishing sect, though all [144] trace of them, beyond their famous Tablet, has long since vanished.

It has also been established in recent years that the Zoroastrians, and subsequently the Manichæans, were in China in these early centuries, but nothing now remains of them except the name, a specially invented character, which was equally applied to both.

In the twelfth century the Jews had a synagogue at K'ai-fêng Fu, in Central China, but it is not absolutely certain when they first reached the country. Some say, immediately after the Captivity; others put it much later. In 1850 several Hebrew rolls of parts of the Pentateuch, in the square character, with vowel-points, were obtained from the above city. There were then no professing Jews to be found, but in recent years a movement has been set on foot to revive the old faith.

Roman Catholicism may be said to have existed in China since the close of the sixteenth century, though there was actually an Archbishop of Peking, Jean de Montecorvino, who died there in 1330.

In the last year of the eighteenth century the first Protestant missionary arrived. The first [145] American missionaries followed in 1830. They found China, as it is now, nominally under the sway of the Three Doctrines.

So much has been written on Confucianism, and so much more on Buddhism, that I propose to confine myself entirely to Taoism, which seems to have attracted too little the attention of the general public. In fact, a quite recent work, which professes to deal among other things with the history of China, omits all discussion of this particular religion.

Taoism is the religion of Tao; as to what Tao is, or what it means, we are told upon the highest authority that it is quite impossible to say. This does not seem a very hopeful beginning; but

"even the weariest river

Winds somewhere safe to sea,"

and I shall therefore make an effort to set before you a clue, which, I trust, will lead toward at any rate a partial elucidation of the mystery.

At some unknown period in remote antiquity, there appears to have lived a philosopher, known to posterity as Lao Tzŭ, who taught men, among other things, to return good for evil. His parentage, birth, and life have been overloaded [146] in the course of centuries with legend. Finally, he is said to have foreseen a national cataclysm, and to have disappeared into the West, leaving behind him a book, now called the Tao-Tê-Ching, which, for many reasons, he could not possibly have written.

The little we really know of Lao Tzŭ is gathered from traditional utterances of his, scattered here and there in the works of later disciples of his school. Many of these sayings, though by no means all of them, with much other matter of a totally different character, have been brought together in the form of a treatise, and the heterogeneous whole has been ascribed to Lao Tzŭ himself.

Before proceeding with our examination of Tao, it is desirable to show why this work may safely be regarded as a forgery of a later age.

Attempts have been made, by the simple process of interpolation in classical texts, to prove that Lao Tzŭ lived in the same century as that in which Confucius was born; and also that, when the former was a very old man, the two sages met; and further that the interviews ended very much to the astonishment of Confucius. All this, however, has been set aside by [147] the best native scholarship ever produced in China, as the work of later hands.

Further, there was another philosopher of the same name, who really was contemporary with Confucius, and it is held by many Chinese critics that the two have been confused, perhaps with malice aforethought.

We can only say for certain that after Lao Tzŭ came Confucius—at what interval we do not know. Now, in all the works of Confucius, whether as writer or as editor, and throughout all his posthumously published Discourses, there is not a single word of allusion either to Lao Tzŭ or to this treatise. The alleged interviews have been left altogether unnoticed.

One hundred years after Confucius came Mencius, China's second sage. In all his pages of political advice to feudal nobles, and all his conversations with his disciples, much more voluminous than the Discourses of Confucius, there is equally no allusion to Lao Tzŭ, nor to the treatise.

It has been pointed out by an eminent Chinese critic of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, that Mencius spent his life chiefly in attacking the various heterodox systems which then prevailed, [148] such as the extreme altruistic system of Mo Ti and the extreme egoistic system of Yang Chu; and it is urged—in my opinion with overwhelming force—that if the Tao-Tê-Ching had existed in the days of Mencius, it must necessarily have been recognised and treated as a mischievous work, likely to alienate men's minds from the one perfect and orthodox teaching—Confucianism.

Chuang Tzŭ, a philosopher of the fourth century B.C., devoted himself to elucidating and illuminating the teaching of Lao Tzŭ. His work, which has survived to the present day, will shortly occupy our attention. For the moment it is only necessary to say that it contains many of the Master's traditional sayings, but never once mentions a treatise.

In the third century B.C. there lived another famous Taoist writer, Han Fei Tzŭ, who devotes the best part of two whole sections of his work to explaining and illustrating the sayings of Lao Tzŭ. Yet he never mentions the treatise. He deals with many sayings of Lao Tzŭ now to be found in the treatise, but he does not take them in the order in which they now stand, and he introduces several others which do not occur [149] at all in the treatise, having apparently been overlooked by the compiler.

In the second century B.C. there lived another famous Taoist writer, Huai-nan Tzŭ, who devotes a long chapter to illustrating the doctrines of Lao Tzŭ. He never mentions a book.

One hundred years B.C. comes the historian Ssŭ-ma Ch'ien, whose brilliant work, the first of the Dynastic Histories, I have already had occasion to bring to your notice. In his brief memoir of Lao Tzŭ, he does mention a book in five thousand and more characters; but he mentions it in such a way as to make it clear beyond all doubt that he himself could never have seen it; and moreover, in addition to the fact that no date is given, either of the birth or death of Lao Tzŭ, the account is so tinged with the supernatural as to raise a strong suspicion that some part of it did not really come from the pen of the great historian.

About two hundred years later appeared the first Chinese dictionary, already alluded to in a previous lecture. This work was intended as a collection of all the written characters known at date of publication; and we can well imagine [150] that, with Lao Tzŭ's short treatise before him, there would be no difficulty in including all the words found therein. Such, however, is not the case. There are many characters in the treatise which are not to be found in the dictionary, and in one particular instance the omission is very remarkable.

Much other internal evidence against the genuineness of this work might here be adduced. I will content myself with a single, and a ludicrous, item, which shows how carelessly it was pieced together.

Sentences occur in the Tao-Tê-Ching which positively contain, in addition to some actual words by Lao Tzŭ, words from a commentator's explanation, which have been mistaken by the forger for a part of Lao Tzŭ's own utterance.

Add to this the striking fact that the great mass of Chinese critical scholarship is entirely adverse to the claims put forward on behalf of the treatise,—a man who believes in it as the genuine work of Lao Tzŭ being generally regarded among educated Chinese as an amiable crank, much as many people now regard any one who credits the plays of Shakespeare to [151] Lord Bacon,—and I think we may safely dismiss the question without further ado.

It will be more interesting to turn to any sayings of Lao Tzŭ which we can confidently regard as genuine; and those are such as occur in the writings of some of the philosophers above-mentioned, from which they were evidently collected by a pious impostor, and, with the aid of unmistakable padding, were woven into the treatise, of which we may now take a long leave.

Lao Tzŭ imagined the universe to be informed by an omnipresent, omnipotent Principle, which he called Tao. Now this word Tao means primarily "a road," "a way"; and Lao Tzŭ's Principle may therefore be conveniently translated by "the Way."

Fearing, however, some confusion from the use of this term, the philosopher was careful to explain that "the way which can be walked upon is not the eternal Way." But he never tells us definitely what the Way is. In one place he says it cannot find expression in words; in another he says, "Those who know do not tell; those who tell do not know."

The latter saying was used by a famous poet [152] as a weapon of ridicule against the treatise. "If those who know," he argued, "do not tell, how comes it that Lao Tzŭ put his own knowledge into a book of five thousand and more words?"

We are assured, however, by Lao Tzŭ that "just as without going out of doors we can know the whole world, so without looking out of window we can know the Way."

Again we have, "Without moving, you shall know; without looking, you shall see; without doing, you shall achieve."

Meanwhile, we are left to gather from isolated maxims some shadowy idea of what Lao Tzŭ meant by the Way.

It seems to have been a perpetual accommodation of self to one's surroundings, with the minimum of effort, all progress being spontaneous and in the line of least resistance.

From this it is a mere step to doing nothing at all, the famous doctrine of Inaction, with all its paradoxes, which is really the criterion of Lao Tzŭ's philosophy and will be always associated with Lao Tzŭ's name.

Thus he says, "Perfect virtue does nothing, and consequently there is nothing which it does not do."

[153] Again, "The softest things in the world overcome the hardest; that which has no substance enters where there is no crevice."

"Leave all things to take their natural courses, and do not interfere."

"Only he who does nothing for his life's sake can be truly said to value his life."

"Govern a great nation as you would cook a small fish,"—do not overdo it. Do not try to force results. The well-known Greek injunction, "not to go beyond one's destiny," οὐκ ὑπὲρ μόρον, might well have fallen from Lao Tzŭ's lips.

All this is the Way, which Lao Tzŭ tells us is "like the drawing of a bow,—it brings down the high and exalts the low," reducing all things to a uniform plane.

He also says that if the Way prevails on earth, horses will be used for agricultural purposes; if the Way does not prevail, they will be used for war.

Many of Lao Tzŭ's sayings are mere moral maxims for use in everyday life.

"Put yourself behind, and the world will put you in front; put yourself in front, and the world will put you behind."

[154] "To the good I would be good; to the not-good I would also be good, in order to make them good."

All together, with the comparatively few scraps of Lao Tzŭ's wisdom to be found in the treatise, we should be hard put to understand the value of Tao, and still more to find sufficient basis for a philosophical system, were it not for his disciple, Chuang Tzŭ, of the fourth century B.C., who produced a work expanding and illustrating the Way of his great Master, so rich in thought and so brilliant from a literary point of view that, although branded since the triumph of Confucianism with the brand of heterodoxy, it still remains a storehouse of current quotation and a model of composition for all time.

Let us go back to Tao, in which, Chuang Tzŭ tells us, man is born, as fishes are born in water; for, as he says in another place, there is nowhere where Tao is not. But Tao cannot be heard; heard, it is not Tao. It cannot be seen; seen, it is not Tao. It cannot be spoken; spoken, it is not Tao. Although it imparts form, it is itself formless, and cannot therefore have a name, since form precedes name.

[155] The unsubstantiality of Tao is further dwelt upon as follows:—

"Were Tao something which could be presented, there is no man but would present it to his sovereign or to his parents. Could it be imparted or given, there is no man but would impart it to his brother or give it to his child. But this is impossible. For unless there is a suitable endowment within, Tao will not abide; and unless there is outward correctness, Tao will not operate."

It would seem therefore that Tao is something which altogether transcends the physical senses of man and is correspondingly difficult of attainment. Chuang Tzŭ comes thus to the rescue:—

"By absence of thought, by absence of cogitation, Tao may be known. By resting in nothing, by according in nothing, Tao may be approached. By following nothing, by pursuing nothing, Tao may be attained."

What there was before the universe, was Tao. Tao makes things what they are, but is not itself a thing. Nothing can produce Tao; yet everything has Tao within it, and continues to produce it without end.

[156] "Rest in Inaction," says Chuang Tzŭ, "and the world will be good of itself. Cast your slough. Spit forth intelligence. Ignore all differences. Become one with the Infinite. Release your mind. Free your soul. Be vacuous. Be nothing!"

Chuang Tzŭ lays especial emphasis on the cultivation of the natural as opposed to the artificial.

"Horses and oxen have four feet; that is the natural. Put a halter on a horse's head, a string through a bullock's nose; that is the artificial."

"A drunken man who falls out of a cart, though he may suffer, does not die. His bones are the same as other people's; but he meets his accident in a different way. His spirit is in a condition of security. He is not conscious of riding in the cart; neither is he conscious of falling out of it. Ideas of life, death, fear, etc., cannot penetrate his breast; and so he does not suffer from contact with objective existences. And if such security is to be got from wine, how much more is it to be got from Tao?"

The doctrine of Relativity in space and time, [157] which Chuang Tzŭ deduces from Lao Tzŭ's teachings, is largely introduced by the disciple.

"There is nothing under the canopy of Heaven greater than an autumn spikelet. A vast mountain is a small thing. The universe and I came into being together; and all things therein are One.

"In the light of Tao, affirmative is reconciled with negative; objective is identified with subjective. And when subjective and objective are both without their correlates, that is the very axis of Tao. And when that axis passes through the centre at which all infinities converge, positive and negative alike blend into an infinite One."

Thus, morally speaking, we can escape from the world and self, and can reverse and look down upon the world's judgments; while in the speculative region we get behind and beyond the contradictions of ordinary thought and speech. A perfect man is the result. He becomes, as it were, a spiritual being. As Chuang Tzŭ puts it:—

"Were the ocean itself scorched up, he would not feel hot. Were the Milky Way frozen hard, he would not feel cold. Were the mountains [158] to be riven with thunder, and the great deep to be thrown up by storm, he would not tremble. In such case, he would mount upon the clouds of Heaven, and driving the sun and moon before him, would pass beyond the limits of this external world, where death and life have no more victory over man."

We have now an all-embracing One, beyond the limits of this world, and we have man perfected and refined until he is no longer a prey to objective existences. Lao Tzŭ has already hinted at "the Whence, and oh, Heavens, the Whither." He said that to emerge was life, and to return was death. Chuang Tzŭ makes it clear that what man emerges from is some transcendental state in the Infinite; and that to the Infinite he may ultimately return.

"How," he asks, "do I know that love of life is not a delusion after all? How do I know that he who dreads to die is not like a child who has lost the way, and cannot find his home?

"Those who dream of the banquet wake to lamentation and sorrow. Those who dream of lamentation and sorrow wake to join the hunt. While they dream, they do not know that they dream. Some will even interpret the very dream [159] they are dreaming; and only when they awake do they know it was a dream. By and by comes the Great Awakening, and then we find out that this life is really a great dream. Fools think they are awake now, and flatter themselves they know if they are really princes or peasants. Confucius and you are both mere dreams; and I, who say you are dreams,—I am but a dream myself.

"Take no heed," he adds, "of time, nor of right and wrong; but passing into the realm of the Infinite, find your final rest therein."

An abstract Infinite, however, soon ceased to satisfy the natural cravings of the great body of Taoist followers. Chuang Tzŭ had already placed the source of human life beyond the limits of our visible universe; and in order to secure a return thither, it was only necessary to refine away the grossness of our material selves according to the doctrine of the Way. It thus came about that the One, in whose obliterating unity all seemingly opposed conditions were to be indistinguishably blended, began to be regarded as a fixed point of dazzling intellectual luminosity, in remote ether, around which circled for ever and ever, in the supremest glory of [160] motion, the souls of those who had successfully passed through the ordeal of life, and who had left the slough of humanity behind them.

Let me quote some lines from a great Taoist poet, Ssŭ-k'ung T'u, written to support this view. His poem consists of twenty-four stanzas, each twelve lines in length, and each dealing with some well-known phase of Taoist doctrine.

"Expenditure of force leads to outward decay,

Spiritual existence means inward fulness.

Let us revert to Nothing and enter the Absolute,

Hoarding up strength for Energy.

Freighted with eternal principles,

Athwart the mighty void,

Where cloud-masses darken,

And the wind blows ceaseless around,

Beyond the range of conceptions,

Let us gain the Centre,

And there hold fast without violence,

Fed from an inexhaustible supply."

In this, the first, stanza we are warned against taxing, or even using, our physical powers, instead of aiming, as we should, at a purely spiritual existence, by virtue of which we shall ultimately be wafted away to the distant Centre in the Infinite.

"Lo, the Immortal, borne by spirituality,

His hand grasping a lotus-flower,


Away to Time everlasting,

Trackless through the regions of Space!"

These four lines from stanza v give us a glimpse of the liberated mortal on his upward journey. The lotus-flower, which the poet has placed in his hand, is one of those loans from Buddhism to which I shall recur by and by.

"As iron from the mines,

As silver from lead,

So purify thy heart,

Loving the limpid and clean.

Like a clear pool in spring,

With its wondrous mirrored shapes,

So make for the spotless and true,

And riding the moonbeam revert to the Spiritual."

These eight lines from stanza vii, which might be entitled "Smelting," show us the refining process by which spirituality is to be attained.

Seclusion and abandonment of the artificial are also extolled in stanza xv:—

"Following our own bent,

Let us enjoy the Natural, free from curb,

Rich with what comes to hand,

Hoping some day to be with the Infinite.

To build a hut beneath the pines,

With uncovered head to pore over poetry,

Knowing only morning and eve,


But not what season it may be ...

Then, if happiness is ours

Why must there be Action?

If of our own selves we can reach this point,

Can we not be said to have attained?"

Utterances of this kind are responsible for the lives of many Taoist hermits who from time to time have withdrawn from the world, devoting themselves to the pursuit of true happiness, on the mountains.

"After gazing abstractedly upon expression and substance,

The mind returns with a spiritual image,

As when seeking the outlines of waves,

As when painting the glory of spring.

The changing shapes of wind-swept clouds,

The energies of flowers and plants,

The rolling breakers of ocean,

The crags and cliffs of mountains,

All these are like mighty TAO,

Skilfully woven into earthly surroundings ...

To obtain likeness without form

Is not that to possess the man?"

This stanza means that man should become like the contour of waves, like the glory of spring,—something which to a beholder is a mental image, without constant physical form or substance. Then motion supervenes; not motion as we know it, but a transcendental [163] state of revolution in the Infinite. This is the subject of stanza xxiv:—

"Like a whirling water-wheel,

Like rolling pearls,—

Yet how are these worthy to be named?

They are but adaptations for fools.

There is the mighty axis of Earth,

The never resting pole of Heaven;

Let us grasp their clue,

And with them be blended in One,

Beyond the bounds of thought,

Circling for ever in the great Void,

An orbit of a thousand years,—

Yes, this is the key to my theme."

All that might be dignified by the name of pure Taoism ends here. From this point the descent to lower regions is both easy and rapid.

I am not speaking now in a chronological sense, but of the highest intellectual point reached by the doctrines of Taoism, which began to decline long before the writer of this poem, himself a pure Taoist of the tenth century, was born.

The idea mentioned above, that the grosser elements of man's nature might be refined away and immortality attained, seems to have suggested an immortality, not merely in an unseen [164] world, but even in this one, to be secured by an imaginary elixir of life. Certain at any rate it is, that so far back as a century or so before the Christian era, the desire to discover this elixir had become a national craze.

The following story is historical, and dates from about 200 B.C.:—

"A certain person having forwarded some elixir of immortality to the Prince of Ching, it was received as usual by the doorkeeper. 'Is this to be swallowed?' enquired the Chief Warden of the palace. 'It is,' replied the doorkeeper. Thereupon, the Chief Warden purloined and swallowed it. At this, the Prince was exceedingly angry and ordered his immediate execution; but the Chief Warden sent a friend to plead for him, saying, 'Your Highness's servant asked the doorkeeper if the drug was to be swallowed, and as he replied in the affirmative, your servant accordingly swallowed it. The blame rests entirely with the doorkeeper. Besides, if the elixir of life is presented to your Highness, and because your servant swallows it, your Highness slays him, that elixir is clearly the elixir of death; and for your Highness thus to put to death an innocent [165] official is simply for your Highness to be made the sport of men.' The Prince spared his life."

The later Taoist was not content with attempts to compound an elixir. He invented a whole series of physical exercises, consisting mostly of positions, or postures, in which it was necessary to sit or stand, sometimes for an hour or so at a time, in the hope of prolonging life. Such absurdities as swallowing the saliva three times in every two hours were also held to be conducive to long life.

There is perhaps more to be said for a system of deep breathing, especially of morning air, which was added on the strength of the following passage in Chuang Tzŭ:—

"The pure men of old slept without dreams, and waked without anxiety. They ate without discrimination, breathing deep breaths. For pure men draw breath from their uttermost depths; the vulgar only from their throats."

A Chinese official with whom I became acquainted in the island of Formosa was outwardly a Confucianist, but inwardly a Taoist of the deepest dye. He used to practise the above exercises and deep breathing in his spare moments, and strongly urged me to try them. [166] Apparently they were no safeguard against malarial fever, of which he died about a year or so afterward.

Associated closely with the elixir of immortality is the practice of alchemy, which beyond all doubt was an importation from Greece by way of Bactria.

We read in the Historical Record, under date 133 B.C., of a man who appeared at court and persuaded the Emperor that gold could be made out of cinnabar or red sulphide of mercury; and that if dishes made of the gold thus produced were used for food, the result would be prolongation of life, even to immortality. He pretended to be immortal himself; and when he died, as he did within the year, the infatuated Emperor believed, in the words of the historian, "that he was only transfigured and not really dead," and accordingly gave orders to continue the experiments.

For many centuries the attempt to turn base metal into gold occupied a leading place in the researches of Chinese philosophers. Volumes have been written on the subject, and are still studied by a few.

The best-known of these has been attributed [167] to a Taoist hermit who flourished in the second century A.D., and was summoned to court, but refused the invitation, being, as he described himself, a lowly man, living simply, and with no love for power and glory. The work in question was actually mistaken for a commentary on the Book of Changes, mentioned in a former lecture, though it is in reality a treatise upon alchemy, and also upon the concoction of pills of immortality. It was forwarded to me some years ago by a gentleman in America, with a request that I would translate it as a labour of love; but I was obliged to decline what seemed to me a useless task, especially as the book was really written by another man, of the same name as the hermit, who lived more than twelve hundred years later.

The author is said to have ultimately succeeded in compounding these pills of immortality, and to have administered one by way of experiment to a dog, which at once fell down dead. He then swallowed one himself, with the same result; whereupon his elder brother, with firm faith, and undismayed by what he saw before him, swallowed a third pill. The same fate overtook him, and this shook the confidence [168] of a remaining younger brother, who went off to make arrangements for burying the bodies. But by the time he had returned the trio had recovered, and were straightway enrolled among the ranks of the immortals.

As another instance of the rubbish in which the modern Taoist delights to believe, I may quote the story of the Prince of Huai-nan, second century B.C., who is said, after years of patient experiment, to have finally discovered the elixir of life. Immediately on tasting the drug, his body became imponderable, and he began to rise heavenward. Startled probably by this new sensation, he dropped the cup out of which he had been drinking, into the courtyard; whereupon his dogs and poultry finished up the dregs, and were soon sailing up to heaven after him.

It was an easy transition from alchemy and the elixir of life to magic and the black art in general. Those Taoists who, by their manner of life, or their reputed successes in the above two fields of research, attracted public attention, came to be regarded as magicians or wizards, in communication with, and in control of, the unseen powers of darkness. The accounts of their [169] combats with evil spirits, to be found in many of the lower-class novels, are eagerly devoured by the Chinese, who even now frequently call in Taoist priests to exorcise some demon which is supposed to be exerting an evil influence on the family.

As a specimen, there is a story of a young man who had fallen under the influence of a beautiful young girl, when he met a Taoist priest in the street, who started on seeing him, and said that his face showed signs that he had been bewitched. Hurrying home, the young man found his door locked; and on creeping softly up to the window and looking in, he saw a hideous devil, with a green face and jagged teeth like a saw, spreading a human skin on the bed, and painting it with a paint-brush. The devil then threw aside the brush, and giving the skin a shake-out, just as you would a coat, cast it over its shoulders, when lo! there stood the girl.

The story goes on to say that the devil-girl killed the young man, ripping him open and tearing out his heart; after which the priest engaged in terrible conflict with her. Finally—and here we seem to be suddenly transported [170] to the story of the fisherman in the Arabian Nights—she became a dense column of smoke curling up from the ground, and then the priest took from his vest an uncorked gourd, and threw it right into the midst of the smoke. A sucking noise was heard, and the whole column was drawn into the gourd; after which the priest corked it up closely, and carried it away with him.

The search for the elixir of life was too fascinating to be readily given up. It was carried on with more or less vigour for centuries, as we learn from the following Memorial to the Throne, dating from the ninth century A.D., presented by an aggrieved Confucianist:—

"Of late years the court has been overrun by a host of 'professors,' who pretend to have the secret of immortality.

"Now supposing that such beings as immortals really did exist—would they not be likely to hide themselves in deep mountain recesses, far from the ken of man? On the other hand, persons who hang about the vestibules of the rich and great, and brag of their wonderful powers in big words,—what are they more than common adventurers in search of pelf? How should [171] their nonsense be credited, and their drugs devoured? Besides, even medicines to cure bodily ailments are not to be swallowed casually, morning, noon, and night. How much less, then, this poisonous, fiery gold-stone, which the viscera of man must be utterly unable to digest?"

Thus gradually Taoism lost its early simple characteristics associated with the name of Lao Tzŭ. The Tao developed by Chuang Tzŭ, in the light of which all things became one, paved the way for One Concrete Ruler of the universe; and the dazzling centre, far away in space, became the heaven which was to be the resting-place of virtuous mortals after death. Then came Buddhism, with its attractive ritual and its manifold consolations, and put an end once for all to the ancient glories of the teachings of Lao Tzŭ.

The older text-books date the first appearance of Buddhism in China from 67 A.D., when in consequence of a dream the reigning Emperor sent a mission to the West, and was rewarded by obtaining copies of parts of the Canon, brought to China by Kashiapmadunga, an Indian priest, who, after translating a portion into Chinese, fell ill and died.

[172] But we know now that Buddhist monks had already appeared in China so early as 230 B.C. The monks were thrown into prison, but were said to have been released in the night by an angel.

Still, it was not until the third or fourth century of our era that the new religion began to make itself appreciably felt. "When this came about, there ensued a long and fierce struggle between the Buddhists and the Taoists, resulting, after alternating triumphs and defeats on both sides, in that mutual toleration which obtains at the present day.

Each religion began early to borrow from the other. In the words of the philosopher Chu Hsi, of the eleventh century, "Buddhism stole the best features of Taoism; Taoism stole the worst features of Buddhism. It is as though one took a jewel from the other, and the loser recouped the loss with a stone."

From Buddhism the Taoists borrowed their whole scheme of temples, priests, nuns, and ritual. They drew up liturgies to resemble the Buddhist sûtras; and also prayers for the dead. They adopted the idea of a Trinity, consisting of Lao Tzŭ, the mythological Adam of China, and [173] the Ruler of the Universe, before mentioned; and they further appropriated the Buddhist Purgatory with all its frightful terrors and tortures after death.

Nowadays it takes an expert to distinguish between the temples and priests of the two religions, and members of both hierarchies are often simultaneously summoned by persons needing religious consolation or ceremonial of any kind.

The pure and artless Tao of Lao Tzŭ, etherealised by the lofty speculations of Chuang Tzŭ, has long since become the vehicle of base and worthless superstition.




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