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CHINESE NOTIONS RESPECTING ASTRONOMY. 151
and earth, which rule over the year and its four seasons, and correspond with the kidneys, lungs, heart, liver, and stomach : they are denoted by black, white, red, green, and yellow, and influenced by salt, pungent, bitter, sour, or sweet tastes; the whole forming a chain of causes, acting and reacting through and with each other, whose explanation is peculiarly well fitted in the hands of conjurors for imposing on the people by a show of learning, and hindering their progress in real knowledge. The sun, moon, and planets influence all sublunary events, and especially the life and death of human beings, and changes in their color menace approaching calamities. Alterations in the appearance of the sun announce misfortunes to the state or its head, as revolts, famines, or the death of the emperor; when the moon waxes red, or turns pale, men should be in awe at the unlucky times thus foreomened. The Chinese represent the sun by the figure of a raven in a circle, and the moon by a rabbit on his hind legs pounding rice in a mortar, or by a toad. The last refers to the legend of an ancient beauty, Chang-ngo, who drank the liquor of immortality and straightway ascended to the moon, where she was transformed into a toad, still to be traced in its face. All the stars are ranged into constellations, and an emperor is installed over them, who resides at the north pole; five monarchs, also, live in the five stars in Leo, where is a palace, called Wu Ti tso, or throne of the Five Emperors. In this celestial government, there is also an heir apparent, empresses, sons and daughters, tribunals, and the constellations receive the names of men, animals, and other terrestrial objects. The Dipper, called Peh Tau or Northern Peck, is worshipped as the residence of the fates, where the duration of life, and other events relating to mankind, are measured and meted out. There are many other popular notions on these matters showing the profound ignorance of the people, and how much they need a Novum Organon to set them on the right track. The sun and moon are regarded as the foci of the dual powers, the male and female principles, and the former, as the lord of life, like a great prince, nourishes and bestows his favors, while the moon, his queen, is matched to him. The rainbow is the product of the impure vapors ascending from the earth meeting those descending from the sun. The entire day among the Chinese is divided into twelve hours called shin, commencing at 11 o'clock, P. M.; each hour is named after one of the horary characters, and further subdivided into ninety-six kih, or eighths, each of which is fifteen of our minutes, and receives the same characters. There are various means employed to measure time, but at Canton most of the people reckon its progress by watches and clocks, and follow our divisions in preference to their own. A common substitute for watches are time-sticks, long round pieces of a composition of clay and sawdust, well mixed and wound in a spiral manner; the lapse of time is indicated by its equable slow combustion from one hour mark to another until the whole is consumed, which in the longest is not less than a week. Dials are in common use, and frequently attached to the mariner's compass, by making the string which retains the cover in its place cast a shadow on the face of it; this lesson in dialing, Davis supposes they learned from the Jesuits. Clepsydras of various forms were anciently employed, some of which, from their description, were so disproportionately elegant and costly for such a clumsy mode of noting time, that their beauty more than their use was perhaps the principal object in preparing them. The almanac holds a very important place in China, its preparation having been taken under the special care of the govern-T ment, which looks upon a present of this important publication as one of the highest favors which it can confer on tributary vassals or friendly nations. It is annually published and distributed at Peking, under the direction of a special bureau attached to the Board of Rites, and, by making it a penal offence to issue a counterfeit or pirated edition, the governmental astrologers have monopolized the management of the superstitions of the people in regard to the fortunate or unlucky conjunctions of each day and hour. Besides the cabalistic part of it, the ephemeris also contains tables of the rising of the sun according to the latitudes of the principal places, times of the new and full moon, the beginning and length of the twenty-four terms, eclipses, application of the horary characters, conjunction of the planets, &c. Two or three editions are published for the convenience of the people, the prices of which vary from three to ten cents a copy. No one ventures to be without an almanac, lest he be liable to the greatest misfortunes, and run the imminent hazard of undertaking important events on black-balled days. The Europeans,
POPULAR OPINIONS RESPECTING GEOGRAPHY. 153
who were employed for many years in compiling the calendar, were not allowed to interfere in the astrological part, and it is to the discredit of the Chinese, to aid thus in perpetuating folly and ignorance among the people, when they know that the whole system is false and absurd. Such governments as that of China, however, deem it necessary to uphold ancient superstitions, if they can thereby influence their security, or strengthen the reverence due them. If their astronomical notions are vague, their geographical knowledge is ridiculous. The maps of their own territories are tolerably good, being originally drawn from actual surveys by nine of the Jesuits, between the years 1708–1718, and since that time have been filled up and changed to conform to the alter. ations and divisions. Their full surveys were engraved on copper at Paris, by order of Louis XIV., on sheets, measuring in all over a hundred square feet, and have formed the basis of all subsequent maps. The Chinese are in almost complete ignorance of the form and divisions of the globe, and the size and position of the kingdoms of the earth. Their common maps delineate them very erroneously, not even excepting their own possessions in Mongolia and sli-scattering islands, kingdoms, and continents, as they have heard of their existence, at haphazard in various corners beyond the frontiers. The two Americas and Africa are entirely omitted on most of them, and England, Holland, Portugal, Goa, Luçonia, Bokhara, Germany, France, and India, are arranged along the western side, from north to south, in a series of islands and headlands. The southern and eastern sides are similarly garnished by islands, as Japan, Lewchew, Formosa, Siam, Birmah, Java, the Sulu Islands, and others, while Russia occupies the whole of the northern frontier of their Middle Kingdom. The writings of two or three authors on geography are noticed in Chap. II., the best of which is Lin's translation of Murray, and if this becomes a text-book it will correct some errors. An English gentleman at Shanghai gave a thousand dollars for the purpose of publishing a revised edition of this performance, under the impression that it was entirely a native production. The geographical works of Tsinglai are not quite so erroneous as his astronomical, but the uneducated people, notwithstanding his efforts to teach them better, still generally suppose the earth to be an immense extended stationary plain, or a square solid, around which the heavenly bodies daily revolve. Their notions of its inhabitants are equally whimsical, and would grace the pages of Sir John Mandeville. In some parts of its surface they imagine the inhabitants to be all dwarfs, who tie themselves together in bunches for fear of being carried away by the eagles; in others they are all women, who conceive by looking at their shadows; and in a third kingdom, all the people have holes in their breasts, through which they thrust a pole, when carrying one another from place to place. Charts for the guidance of the navigator, or instruments to aid him in determining his position at sea, the Chinese are nearly or quite destitute of; they have retrograded rather than advanced in navigation, judging from the accounts of Fa-hian, Ibn Batuta, and other travellers, when their vessels frequented the ports in the Persian Gulf and on the Malabar coast, and carried on a large trade with the Archipelago. Itineraries are published, containing the distances between places on the principal thoroughfares throughout the provinces, and also lists of the ports, harbors, and islands on the coast, but nothing like sailing directions accompany the latter, nor maps of the routes illustrate the former. . In the various branches of mensuration and formulae used to describe the dimensions and weight of bodies, they have reached only a practical mediocrity. With a partial knowledge of trigonometry, and no instruments for ascertaining the heights of objects or their distances from the observer, still their lands are well measured, and the area of lots in towns and cities accurately ascertained. The chih or foot is the integer of length, but its standard value cannot be easily ascertained. It is fixed by the Board of Works at 13; in. English, but tradesmen at Canton employ foot measures varying from 14.625 to 14.81 in...; according to the tariff, it is reckoned at 14.1 in. English, and the chang of ten chih at 3++ yds. The chih is subdivided into ten tsun or puntos, and each tsun into ten fån. The decimal division runs through nearly all Chinese weights and measures, and greatly simplifies calculations in them. The lí is used for distances, but the same discrepancy exists regarding its precise length, owing to the various measures of the chih. It is usually reckoned at 1825.55 ft. English, which gives 2.89 li to an English mile; this is based on the estimate of 200 li to a degree, but there were only 180 li
MEASURES OF LENGTH, weight, AND SOLIDITY. 155
to a degree before Europeans came, which increases its length to 2028.39 ft. or 2.6 li to a mile, which is nearer the common estimate. The French missionaries divided the degree into 250 li, each being then exactly 1460.44 ft. English, or one tenth of a French astronomical league, and also into 60 minutes and 60 seconds, to make it correspond to western notation; but this measure has not been adopted in common use. The present rulers have established post-houses over the provinces at intervals of ten li, or about a league. The land measures are the mau and king, the former containing 733.32 sq. yards, or 6.61 of them making an English acre, and a hundred of them a king, which contains 15.13 square acres. Taxes are collected, land is leased, and crops are estimated by the mau and its decimal parts. The linear measures of the Chinese are peculiar, and from the numerous variations found among them at present, it may be inferred that there has never been much uniformity in the standard, or that no legal measures are taken to oblige people to adhere to it.
The weights and measures of the Chinese are 24 in all, but only six are in common use, the rest being either nominal or ancient. The liang, kin, and tan, called tael, catly, and pecul (pron. tale, catti, and pikkl) by foreigners, are the only weights commonly employed in bulky articles, and decimals of the tael in precious substances. The catty is just 14 lbs. av., and the tael is to of it, or 14 oz. av., and the pecul 1334 lbs. The Chinese reckon many articles by weight which among western nations are sold according to their quality, such as wood, silk, oil, whiskey, cloth, grain, poultry, &c., so that it has been humorously observed, that the Chinese sell everything by weight, except eggs and children. Their common measures correspond nearly to our gill, half-pint, pint, and peck, and are used to retail rice, beans, &c. The smaller ones are not very accurately constructed from bamboo joints, but the peck measure or tau, shaped like the frustum of a pyramid, must be officially examined and sealed before it can be used; at Canton it contains 64 catties weight, or 10 shing or pints, and measures 309.57 cubic inches, or about 1.13 gallon. The decimals of a tael called lsien, fin, and li, or mace, candareen, and cash, are employed in reckoning bullion, pearls, gems, drugs, &c.; ten cash making one candareen, ten candareens one mace, &c. The proportions between the Chinese and American moneys and weights is such that so many taels per