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Art I.— Travels in China ; containing Descriptions, Observa
tions, and Comparisons, made and collected in the Course of a short Residence at the Imperial Palace of Yuen-min-yuen, and on a subsequent Journey through the Country from Pekin to Canton. In which it is attempted to appreciate the Rank that this extraordinary Empire may be considered to hold in the Scale of Civilized Nations. By John Barrow, Esq. Late Private Secretary to the Earl of Macartres, and one of his Suite as Ambassador from the King of Great Eritrin io tbt Einperor of China. 4to. 21. 125. 6d. Boards. Cadëll. 1804
AT the time that Europe was waking from the profound sleep of the dark ages, China was, compararively speaking, in a very advanced stage of civilization : The splendour of its monarchy, the order of its government, the learning of its mandarins, the silken dresses of the meanest inhabitants, the stupendous works of art manifested in its immense wall, and a canal traversing the whole empire, struck travellers with the utmost astonishment: and on their return into their own country every thing around them appeared mean and pitiful, while their neighbours received the report of real facts as exaggerated tales, the mere result of an overheated imagination. Succeeding travellers confirmed the reports of their predecessors: the Letters of the Missionaries were perused with eagerness; and men of learning, dissatisfied (and not without reason) with many institutions at home, took delight in expatiating on the excellences of the remote empire of China, but kept studiously out of sight all its defects. During this period Europe was making rapid advances in improvement; but China seems to have been stationary. The improved race viewed this wonderful country with different eyes : the marvellous gradually subsided : its defects became prominent : Crir. Rev. Vol. 5. May, 1805.
and instead of being a model for legislation, morality, and learning, it was suspected to be in every one of these respects inferior to most of the states of our western world.
A factory had been established for a long time by the English East India company in a remote corner of China; but trade is held in great contempt in that country, and the agents of the factory do not seem to have made any attempts to raise its credit. They were contented with their appropriate business to buy and to sell, and to get gain : oftentimes little studious of the means, and whilst they complained of the disposition of the Chinese to fraud, unhappily gave convincing proofs that honesty was not the peculiar attribute of the European character. In China rank is estimated not by birth, or riches, but by learning : and this learning is employed not on a foreign, but in the intricacies of their own very extraordinary and scientific language. To attain a certain degree of proficiency in this language is not difficult : but this seems not to have been aimed at by our agents, who transacted their business through the means of interpreters, and were of course esteemed as fit company for a inandarin of high rank, as an orange barrow girl in this country is for that of a lady of quality.
The trade betweep. England and China became at last a matter of national imporanee. Our merchants laboured under sopii difficulties - and it was supposed that by a solemn embassy to. Peking tlie anteror might embrace at least some of the notions wdiieli'the English are apt to entertain of the greatness of their oto nation, and thence that the trade between the two countries might be carried on upon a more liberal footing. Very great presents were therefore prepared: a mandarin (as the Chinese would say) of high rank was appointed to lay them at tlie foot of the great emperor: permission was given to the embassy to land; and the moment it set foot on Chinese ground, all its expences were, according to the custom of the East, defrayed by the emperor in the most liberal manner. The presents indeed were conveyed not very agreeably to the feelings of the embassy ; for they were preceded by flags denoting them to be tribute to the emperor : and the jealousy of the country towards strangers was an additional mortification, as it prevented in a very great degree every species of intercourse with the natives.
Two accounts of this embassy have been given to the public: the one, according to our author, 'founded on the crude notes of one Æneas Anderson, a livery servant of lord Macartney, vamped up by a London bookseller as a speculation that could not fail ;' the other by the late sir George Staunton, who is said by our author to have been no less amiable for liberality
of sentiment, than remarkable for vigour of intellect; and it would therefore be idle and superfluous in any other person who accompanied the embassy, to dwell on those subjects which have been treated by him in so masterly a manner, or to recapitulate those incidents and transactions which he has detailed with equal elegance and accuracy. The 'vamped up' works of this livery servant,' and the splendid history of sir G. Staunton, are both before the public, which does not look upon those publications with the same eyes as our author : the 'livery servant' having related his simple tale in such a manner, that very little additional information was obtained by the labours of the industrious baronet, who appeared to perform the office of bookdr.sser' to the embassy, not more ably than the gentleman who is supposed to have undertaken the same office for the 'livery servant. An intimation is given, that we may expect that
the information, reflections, and opinions of the ambassador himself may one day be fully communicated to the public, when the present objections to it shall cease, and the moment arrives (which is probably not very distant) that will enable us to act upon the ideas of that nobleman's capacious and enlightened mind, and to prove to the world, that the late embassy, by shewing the character and dignity of the British nation in a new and splendid light to a court and people, in a great measure ignorant of them before, however misrepresented by the jealousy and envy of rivals, or impeded by the counteraction of enemies, has laid an excellent foundation for great future advantages.'
We have not the least doubt that his lordship's reflections will be very entertaining, but cannot anticipate much new information from his intended work. He was nearly as much a prisoner as the rest of his suite; every motion was watched, and the officious complaisance of all around him allowed him only to notice the scenes of nature, but gave him no opportunity of learning any thing with respect to the interior government and manners of the people.
What indeed could be expected, if the notes and reflections of every person in this embassy were ransacked from beginning to end? They land in China, are conveyed directly under the conduct of certain officers to the capital; at which place they arrive on the 21st of August, and quit it on the 7th of October, to be dispatched with equal speed to Canton, without permission to reside in any of the towns, and scarcely deviating a step from the line of their appointed route. It does not appear, that during their stay one single person was ever entertained in the private bouse of a Chinese : wherever they were, apartments were provided for thein, but they could tell as little of the interior of the rich mansions of Pekin, as a foreigner who should lodge in Wapping, and parade a few times from thence to Hyde-park Corner, can tell of the manners of Portman or Cavendish square.
We may easily judge of the real state of the embassy, from an anecdote related very early in the work :-On the day of the emperor's return to the capital, lord Macartney was hurried off at four in the morning to take his stand about twelve miles from the town, that he might pay his obeisance to the emperor as he passed. All the great officers in the state were in the procession, which extended as far as the eye could reach, and the utmost magnificence prevailed in their dresses. The road was lined with spectators, and the embassy was placed on a high bank on the left of the road, where the emperor condescended to notice it by a gracious bow, and sent a message to the ambassador to recommend him to return immediately to Pekin, and not to stop at Yuen-min-yuen. The embassy, tired of standing, and pinched with the cold, were glad to be released from their duty, and galloped along with some of the Tartar cavalry, but deviated from the prescribed route at a little distance from the city, with a view to enter it by a different gate, and so see a little more of the place. The moment they turned aside, the design was detected: a clamour was excited: on galloped the embassy : they got through the gate, but were pursued with such a hue and cry, that they were glad to escape through one of the cross streets leading to their hotel, where they arrived with at least a hundred soldiers at their heels.' Thus these gentlemen, who, an hour or two before, were boasting that whilst all the people around them fell prostrate during the passing of the emperor, they 'bent one knee only to the ground,' discovered, to their complete confusion, that however inclined the government might be to relax in a matter of mere ceremonial, it was determined to adhere rigidly to the more important matter of secluding the strangers from all free intercourse with the natives. The relaxation of the ceremonial is a proof also, that the Chinese are not so bigoted to form as we may imagine: they were contented with the essential; and, if bending the knce was the mark of subjection in the western world, the Pekin gazette would naturally represent, that the embassy did homage to the emperor in its country's custom of bending the knee, and this would be construed into a mark of inferiority, exactly in the same manner as the presents were converted into tribute.
From persons thus confined nothing but general information can be expected, and it is very improbable that any thing should be communicated, which had not reached us from