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CARVING OF SPHERICAL BALLS AND FANCY ARTICLEs. 141
and smoothed in the same way, and then another, until the whole are completed, each being polished and carved before the next outer one is commenced. It has been supposed by some that these curious toys were made of semispheres nicely luted together, and they have been boiled in oil for hours in order to separate them and solve the mystery of their construction.
Fans and card-cases are carved of wood, ivory, and motherof-pearl in alto-relievo, with an elaborateness which shows the great skill and patience of the workman, and at the same time his bad taste in drawing, the figures, houses, trees, and other objects being grouped in violation of all propriety and perspective. Beautiful ornaments are made by carving roots of plants, branches, gnarled knots, &c., into fantastic groups of birds or animals, the artist taking advantage of the natural form of his material in the arrangement of his figures. Models of pagodas, boats, and houses are also entirely constructed of ivory, even to representing the ornamental roofs, the men working at the oar, and women looking from the balconies. Baskets of elegant shape are woven from ivory splinths; and the shopmen at Canton exhibit a variety of seals, paper-knives, chessmen, counters, combs, &c., exceeding in finish and delicacy the same kind of work found anywhere else in the world. The most elaborate coat of arms, or complicated cypher, will also be imitated by these skilful carvers. The national taste prefers this style of carving on plane surfaces; it is seen on the walls of houses and granite slabs of fences, the woodwork of boat” and shops, and on articles of furniture. Some of it is pretty, but the disproportion and cramped position of the figures detracts from its beauty.
Fancy carved work.
The manufacture of mats for sails of junks and boats, floors, bedding, &c., employs thousands. A sail containing nearly 400 square feet can be obtained for ten dollars. The rolls are largely exported, and still more extensively used in the country for covering packages for shipment. A stouter kind made of barnboo splinths serves as a material for huts, and many other purposes that are elsewhere attained by boards or canvas. Rattans are also worked into mats, chairs, baskets, and other articles of domestic service. Several branches of manufacture have entirely grown up, or been much encouraged by the trade at Canton, among which the preparation of vermilion, beating gold leaf, cutting pearl buttons, weaving and painting fancy window blinds, and the preparation of sweetmeats, are the principal.
It has often been said that the Chinese are so averse to change and improvement, that they obstinately adhere to their own modes at all events, but such is not the case, though they are slow to change. Three new manufactures have been introduced during the present century, viz. that of glass, bronze-work, and Prussian blue. A Chinese sailor introduced the manufacture of the latter, which he had learned thoroughly in London, from which the people now supply themselves. Bronze-work has lately been introduced, and watches and clocks are both extensively manufactured, with the exception of the springs. Fireengines are made at Canton, and sent into the interior. Ships have been built on the European model in a few instances, but there is little encouragement for naval architecture, since native merchants can buy or freight foreign ships at a much cheaper rate than they can build them. Brass cannon were made during the war with England in imitation of pieces taken from a wreck, and the frames of one or two vessels to be worked with wheels by men at a crank, in imitation of steamers, were found on the stocks at Ningpo when the English took the place. The Chinese are not unwilling to adopt foreign improvements when they can see their way clear for a remuneration, but they have not the means, the science, or the inclination to risk many doubtful speculations or experiments. Moreover, it should be observed, that few have taken the trouble to explain or show them the improvements they are supposed to be so disinclined to adopt. Ploughs have been given the farmers near Shanghai, but they would not use them, which, however, may have been as much
REASONS FOR THE INERTNESS OF CHINESE MIND. 143
owing to the want of a proper harness, or a little instruction regarding its use, as to a dislike to take a new article. The general look of Chinese society, in an industrial point of view, is one of its most pleasing aspects. The great body of the people are obliged to engage in manual labor in order to subsist, yet only a trifling proportion of them can be called beggars, while still fewer possess such a degree of wealth that they can live on its income. Property is safe enough to afford assurance to honest toil that it shall generally reap the reward of its labors, but if that toil prosper beyond the usual limits, the avarice of officials and the envy of neighbors easily find a multitude of contrivances to harass and impoverish the fortunate man, and the laws are not executed with such strictness as to deter them. Most of the people derive their subsistence directly from the soil, and such a community is less likely to present strong contrasts in a few very rich, and the mass abjectly poor, than an aristocratic or feudal state. The mechanical arts supply their wants, but having no better models before them, nor any scientific acquaintance with elementary principles and powers applicable to a great number of purposes, these arts have remained stationary. The abundance of labor must be employed, and its cheapness obviates the necessity of finding substitutes in machinery. Under the fostering care of a wise government, many contrivances for abbreviating it might be profitably introduced, such as sawmills, flouring-mills, steamers, &c., but a wise government needs an intelligent people to work upon and with, in order to a harmonious onward progress; and the adoption of even a few things from us might involve so many changes, that even those intelligent natives who saw their advantages, would hesitate in view of the momentous contingencies of a failure. Imitation is a remarkable and well-known trait in Chinese mind, though invention is not altogether wanting; and the former leads them to rest content with what they can get along with, even at some expense of time and waste of labor, where, too, an exhibition of ingenuity and science would perhaps be accompanied with suspicion, expense, or hindrances from both neighbors and rulers. The existence of the germ of so many arts and discoveries, whose development would have brought with them so many advantages, and led to still further discoveries, leads one to inquire the reason why they were not carried out. Setting aside the view, which may properly be taken, that the wonderful discoveries now made in the arts by Europeans form part of God’s great plan for the redemption of the race, the want of mutual confidence, insecurity of property, and debasing effects of heathenism upon the intellect, will explain much of the apathy shown towards improvement. Invention among them has rather lacked encouragement than ceased to exist:-more than that, it has been checked by a suspicious, despotic sway, while no stimulus of necessity has existed to counterbalance and urge it forward, and has been stunted by the mode and materials of education. It was not till religious liberty and discussion arose in Europe, that the inhabitants began to improve in science and arts as well as morals and good government; and when the ennobling and expanding principles of the Bible find their way into Chinese society and mind, it may reasonably be expected they will purify and enlarge.it, and rapid advances be made in the comforts of this life, as well as in adopting the principles and exhibiting the conduct which prove a fitness for the enjoyments of the next.
Science of the Chinese.
THAT enlargement of the mind which results from the collection and investigation of facts, or from extensive reading of books on whose statements reliance can be placed, and which leads to the cultivation of knowledge for its own sake, has no existence in China. Sir John Davis justly observes, the Chinese “set no value on abstract science, apart from some obvious and immediate end of utility;” and he properly compares the actual state of the sciences among them with their condition in Europe previous to the adoption of the inductive mode of investigation. Even their few theories in explanation of the mysteries of nature are devoid of all fancy to make amends for the want of facts and experiments, so that in reading them we are neither amused by their imagination nor instructed by their research. Perhaps the rapid advances made by Europeans, during the last two centuries, in the investigation of nature in all her departments and powers, has made us somewhat impatient of such a parade of nonsense as Chinese books exhibit; while, too, it should not be forgotten that this progress is doubtless owing, in no little degree, to the discipline and strength of mind which the reception and application of the truths of the Bible impart, and which admirably fit it for rigid analysis. The Psalmist says, “The entrance of thy word giveth light, it giveth understanding unto the simple;” and when the mind feels that it has an indisputable basis of truth as a point d'appui, its energies must be more satisfactorily directed than where everything can be called in question. In addition to the general inferiority of Chinese mind to European in genius and imagination, it has moreover been hampered by a language the most tedious and meagre of all tongues, and wearied with a literature abounding in tiresome repetitions and unsatisfaetory theories. Under these conditions, science, either mathematical, physical, or natural, has made few advances, and is now making none. VOL. II. 8