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race as the inhabitants of the Kurile islands: but so considerable a difference is manifest between them and the Chinese, that the Editor, in his notes, prefers a Tartar to a Chinese parentage. Many of the religious rites, however, are clearly of Hindoo extraction, or from the same source from which Brahminical rites first issued. They pretend to have authentic records from six centuries before Christ, which is really a very moderate leap for the national history of an Oriental people.
Chapter Ill. professes to discuss National Character, Civilization, and Language.' Marco Polo * is said by the Editor, and we believe on good authority, to be the first writer who has made specific mention of Japan, under the name of Zipangu. He did not visit it personally, but derived his information from the Chinese, and adorned his description with accounts of splendor exceeding all that Leo Africanus ever attributed to his cities on the Niger. We believe that the date of the first Portuguese discovery of it is not ascertained to an exact year, but it was between 1533 and 1543. The celebrated Jesuit, Francis Xavier, was one of the early missionaries on this island, where the success of conversion is said to have been more rapid than on any other station; and there is much reason for supposing that such was the case. The circumstances which led to the long persecution of the Christian converts, and the final expulsion of the Portuguese, are stated but loosely by Captain Golownin; and the Editor has not availed himself of all the resources to which he might have applied, in order to render these events more perspicuous. The latter repeats the scandal against the Dutch that, when all Christians were expelled, they assured the Japanese “that they were no Christians, but only Dutchmen.” It can scarcely be doubted that some duplicity was exercised on this occasion; but Kæmpfer attempts to extenuate their conduct, and to defend them against such interpretations of their words.
This apostacy from Christianity, or rather from the Catholicism of the Jesuits, has rendered it difficult to derive any accurate picture of the character of the natives from more early writers.
While the work of conversion went on prosperously, no praises could be too lavish for their moral or intellectual excellence: but, when the plots of the missionaries had recoiled on their own heads, the perfidia plusquam Punica” was alleged by nearly the same persons to be the main characteristic of Japanese character. Captain Golownin considered the people to be sensible, ingenious, compassionate,
* Mr. Marsden's new translation of the travels of this Venetian is now before us, and we intend shortly to make a report of it.
and honest: but, in the opposite scale, he places incontinence, which among them seems to exceed that of any other people as a national failing; and also their timidity. With respect to this latter deficiency, he draws some distinctions so finely in his definition of what constitutes a defect in national courage, that to us he has become nearly unintelligible.
• The Japanese are deficient in only one quality, which we reckon among the virtues, namely, bravery or courage. If the Japanese are timid, this is merely in consequence of the peaceful character of their government, or of the long repose which the nation has enjoyed, or rather of their being unaccustomed to shed blood; but that the whole people are by nature timid is what I can by no means allow, whether I may be right or wrong. Are there not nations, now sunk in the profoundest torpor, whose ancestors were the terror of the world a few centuries back? In my own country a whole village often flies into the woods from a single robber and his brace of pistols, and the same peasants afterwards mount batteries, and storm fortresses which were considered as impregnable. Does the uniform alone make the hero? Is it not rather the innate spirit of bravery? The Japanese, therefore, cannot be said to be naturally cowards.'
If this see-saw passage has any real meaning, it seems to argue that no faculty or habit is natural but such as is hereditary; and also that a man cannot individually be timid, who, when numerically supported, gains confidence. These are positions which it would be idle to refute.
• In respect to the degree of knowledge to be found in the people, the Japanese, comparing one nation with another, are the most enlightened people in the world. Every Japanese is able to read and write, and knows the laws of his country, which are seldom changed, and the most important of which are publicly exposed on large tables in the towns and villages, in the public squares and other places. In agriculture, horticulture, the fishery, the chace, the manufacture of silk and woollen stuffs, of porcelain, and varnished goods, and in the polishing of metals, they are not at all inferior to the Europeans; they are well acquainted with the art of mining, and understand how to make several works in metal. * In the arts of cabinet-making and turnery they are
It may be difficult to separate the original Japanese knowledge from that acquired by intercourse with Europeans, which, in the early stage of our acquaintance with them, was under few restrictions. Thus, for instance, it is perhaps scarcely possible to say, whether they possess the knowledge of gun-powder from the first Portuguese discoverers, or derived it from China, where it is said to have been used long before its discovery in Europe in 1340. Telescopes also are described by Thunberg as in frequent
perfect masters: they are, besides, admirably skilled in the manufacture of all articles belonging to domestic economy. What knowledge can be more useful to the common people? The arts and sciences, indeed, have attained a higher degree of elevation among us; we have men who prescribe their orbits to the heavenly bodies, the Japanese have not; but on the other hand, for one such we have thousands who are unacquainted with every
element of knowledge. We possess in Europe great mathematicians, astronomers, chemists, physicians, &c. such as we must not look for in Japan, though these sciences are not unknown there, as I have already had occasion to mention in my narrative; but those learned men do not make a nation, and, generally speaking, the Japanese have more correct ideas than the lower classes in Europe - I will mention an example. A common soldier, who was one of our guard, one day took a tea-cup, pointed to it, and asked me if I knew that our earth was round, and that Europe and Japan lay in such a situation in respect to each other? (pointing out, at the same time, the respective situations of both upon the globe pretty accurately upon the cup.)* Several other soldiers shewed us geometrical figures, and inquired whether these methods of measuring and dividing the earth were known to us. Every Japanese is acquainted with the medicinal virtues of the various herbs which grow in that climate, and almost every one carries about him the most usual medicines, such as laxatives, emetics, &c. which he immediately uses in case of need. The Japanese have, however, in common with other nations, the ab
use; but with us these were unknown until about 1600. It is
probable, however, that these are strictly an European invention ; as the Portuguese writers, in describing the early voyages, offer not an hint respecting them.
• Early writers assert that the Japanese cultivated no science, purely speculative, except religion, in which and in controversy their clergy were unceasingly employed: but as to metaphysics, mathematics, or even natural philosophy, they knew scarcely any thing respecting them. In short they knew little of astronomy : their architecture was without taste, skill, or order; their epochs, their rudiments of chronology, the manner of dividing time and of reckoning their years, even now are far from giving a high idea of their knowledge of combination and of calculation. Some idea of the uncertainty even of their daily calculations may be drawn from the fact, that the number of hours, from sunrise to sunset, is always the same ; so that the hour consequently varies in length at different times of the year. Ep.'
6 * When Xavier first visited them, they were as he deseribes, ignorant that the world is round, “ignorant of the sun's motion,' (the sainted jesuit manifesting therein a little of his own ignorance) “ of the causes of comets, of the planets, of hail, and similar things,” which, however, they were very anxious to be aequainted with from the holy father's lectures. - Ep.'
surd, and often injurious, prejudice of curing themselves by sympathy, as I have mentioned once before in my narrative,'
Omitting the other remarks on national and individual character, we pass to the chapter on religion, and religious customs.
Japanese toleration is apparently extended to every class of religious worship except Christianity; and the country presents the singular spectacle of a nation not divided into different sects, all comprehended under one general denomination, but into different religions, of which collectively the only generic name would be Paganism. We cannot but suspect, however, that the observations of those who have visited Japan, or written concerning it, have been insufficient to ascertain the real truth relative to this subject. We are always suspicious of an absolute anomaly in human institutions, when the testimony which supports it is of necessity very fallible; and the anomaly would be the greater in a nation which has undoubtedly preserved its unity without any great accession, or diminution, during a vast succession of ages. Captain Golownin speaks of four chief religions independent of each other, and classes the subordinate sects under them: but other writers have made the genera more numerous. The first is the more antient religion, but not the most prevalent.
'1. The most ancient religion in Japan, which is followed by the aboriginal inhabitants of this kingdom; at present, indeed, disfigured in many particulars, and no longer the prevailing religion of the people ; but deserving the first place on account of its an. tiquity. * * The adherents of this religion believe that they have a
prea • * Of this ancient religion, the Jesuits assert that no trace whatever can be found in China: but in Japan it still existed entire two centuries ago, notwithstanding the great progress made by the disciples of Confucius, and the different sects whose principles were introduced from Hindostan and the oriental Archipelago; and, as no trace of the ancient religion of China can be found amongst them, it is thence inferred that they owe no part of their first peopling to the Chinese, otherwise some vestiges must have remained.
But there must be a religion older than this, (unless we believe it a debased remnant of Christianity,) if we are to believe Possevin and Bayle, who assert, upon authority which to them appeared conclusive, that one of the sects in Japan teaches, or rather taught, that there is a sole principle of all things, clear, luminous, incapable of augmentation or diminution, wise, without figure or limits, sovereignly perfect; and yet, strange to tell, destitute of reason and intelligence, without activity, and as tranquil as a man whose attention is fixed upon any particular subject, withREV. JAN. 1820.
preference before the others, because they adore the ancient peculiar divinities called Kami; that is, the immortal spirits, or children of the highest being, who are very numerous. They also adore and pray to saints, who have distinguished themselves by a life agreeable to heaven, uncommon piety, and zeal for religion. They build temples to them, and call them Chadotschi. It is probable that they have not all obtained this honour by their way of life, and their piety; there are saints among them, as the Japanese themselves assured us, who obtained the reputation of sanctity by the intrigues of the clergy for their own advantage. The spiritual emperor is the head and high-priest of this religion : he is the judge of the life of men upon earth, and determines those who are to be received among the number of the saints.'
" 2. The religion derived from the Bramins, transplanted from India to Japan. - In Japan it also teaches the transmigration of souls, or that the souls of men and animals are beings of the same kind, which inhabit sometimes the bodies of men and sometimes those of animals. It therefore forbids them to kill any thing that has life. Besides, this religion very strictly forbids theft, adultery, lies, and drunkenness. These commandments are truly good and wholesome, but all the other rules in respect to abstinence and way of life, which the adherents of this faith must observe, are out thinking of any other. This principle they believe to be in all created beings, and to communicate to them their essence; and into this principle they suppose mankind to dissolve and to return after death.
• Though they believe their gods immortal, yet they do not consider them as existing from all eternity; but say, that in the first motion of chaos, which with them is the principle of all things, the gods were produced by their own invisible power. They suppose all the gods to have appeared at the same moment of time; but they speak also of a succession of celestial spirits, of beings purely spiritual, whom they assert to have been the governors of Japan during a long course of ages. To the earliest of these celestial governors they give metaphorical names ; and they have confused traditions of one having a son who formed a dynasty half gods and half men, from whom the present Japanese are sprung.
• The believers in this ancient religion, or sect of Camis, reckon seven celestial spirits, and fifty-five gods who seem to be the deified emperors of the first and second dynasties; to whom are added a few of the earliest monarchs of the true historical era. But it has been said, that the Japanese are ignorant of metaphysics, a fact which seems corroborated by the faith of the religion, wherein the celestial spirits partake much of material form and quality. It is also their opinion that, at the commencement of all
things, chaos foated in like manner as fish swim about in water for their pleasure. From this chaos something came which resembled a thorn, and which was susceptible of motion and transformation. This thing became a soul and spirit, from whence proceeded the other spirits. Ed.