Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

aboriginal inhabitants of the Burma country, and were expelled by the present race, who were of a Tartar stock. They differ very widely in their habits and appearance from the Burmese, being inferior in form and features to their neighbours; they have no chief, but, in disputes amongst themselves, appeal to a priest, who is reputed to be a descendant from the supreme pontiff: he is termed Passine, and acts as prophet, physician, and legislator. They have no written records, and a very rude form of faith; their chief homage being addressed to a particular tree, under which, at stated periods, they assemble and sacrifice cattle, on which they subsequently feast. Another object of adoration is the aerolite, for which, after a thunder-storm, they make diligent search, and which, when found, they deliver to the priest; by whom it is preserved as an infallible remedy for every disease. Amongst their peculiar notions is that of esteeming merit by animal appetite, and he is the man of most virtue who is the amplest feeder, and drinks to most excess.'

* Calcutta Government Gazette.

CHAPTER III.

Japan.—Bugis and Macassers.—The Daya of Borneo.—Bali.—Java.—Sumatra, the Bataks or Cannibals.—Bedas of Ceylon.—Cochin and Tonquin Chinese.—The Shaman Religion.

JAPAN.

I Have in other places in this work observed that the deities of the Hindu pantheon are, or have been, objects of adoration among the islands of the eastern Archipelago, and the countries on the shores of the China sea. In the island of Bali* the Brahminical religion is still that of the country; and is yet preserved among the mountaineers of Tong'garf in Java. Elsewhere in this wide extent of country it has yielded to the doctrines of Mahomet and Buddha. That it did, however, generally prevail in Java, and to a certain (now unknown) extent in Sumatra, Tonquin China, part of China, and other countries on the eastern confines of Asia there can scarcely be a doubt; and if we may be allowed to place any faith in the descriptions and representations of idols alleged, by early writers on Japan, to have been worshipped in that empire, we may conclude that the Brahminical images, at least, were not unknown, either blended in the worship with those of the Sintu or ancient religion, or introduced anterior to, or with that of Buddha, and the whole subsequently mixed up with each other.

Passing over, for the present, the earlier accounts of Japan, among which we shall find the narratives of the Dutch ambassadors to the Emperor, between 1600 and 1650, and that of Don Rodrigo de Vivero y Velasco, the governor-general of the Philippine Islands, who was wrecked upon the coast, and traversed the country of Japan about the year 1611, we shall arrive at the next authority, Koempfer, the most esteemed for accuracy among

* See Bali. f See Java.

the early writers on that country. He, however, confined himself to stating that the Japanese worshipped a multiplicity of deities, many of whom were deified heroes and emperors; that they also worshipped demons and evil spirits, and believed in witchcraft and sorcery, but that the prevalent worship was that of Buddha, Saka, or Sakya.

It may be here observed, that from about the period of the Dutch embassies up to the present time the empire of Japan has been hermetically closed against European nations, except from a short annual visit of the Dutch, from Batavia to the port of Nangasaki, for the purposes of commerce; but even in these exceptions, so jealous have been the Japanese of European intercourse, that the crews of the vessels during their stay in Nangasaki were confined within the compass of a small insulated spot, and the sails, guns, and rudder taken possession of by the authorities of the port.

Captain Galownin, of the Russian navy, has, however, been an exception of a different description. That officer was taken prisoner under peculiar circumstances, and was conveyed into the interior of the country, where he remained for a considerable time: but he, also, has confined himself to observing, in a few brief and scattered notes, that the Japanese took him and his companions in captivity without reserve into the temples and places of devotion; which he has stated bore an extraordinary resemblance to the Catholic churches, being furnished with numerous images, large and small candlesticks holding tapers, &c. &c.

"They (the Japanese, he adds) are not followers of foreign religions. They, however, give full liberty to a variety of sects, but are quite intolerant to Christianity, on account of the troubles it has occasioned among them. The Catholic priests, who formerly lived in Japan, and enjoyed every possible freedom, preached the Christian faith, and converted a great number of the natives: but, at last, the progress of the new religion (to which, it is alleged, may be added proceedings on the part of its preachers not in accordance with its doctrines) led to a civil war, and caused the complete extirpation of the Christians."

The next account that may be noticed is one entitled to the highest consideration, both from the respectability of its author, and the great estimation of its distinguished narrator, the late Sir T. S. Raffles. That gentleman, in his discourse to the literary society of Java, has observed, that the Japanese are represented, by Dr. Ainslie, to be " a nervous vigorous people, whose bodily and mental powers assimilate much nearer to those of Europe than what is attributed to Asiatics in general. Their features are masculine and perfectly European, with the exception of the small lengthened Tartar eye, which almost universally prevails, and is the only feature of resemblance between them and the Chinese. The complexion is perfectly fair, and, indeed, blooming; the women of the higher classes being equally fair with Europeans, and having the bloom of health more generally prevalent among them than is usually found in Europe.

"For a people who have had very few, if any, external aids, the Japanese cannot but rank high in the scale of civilization. The traits of a vigorous mind are displayed in their proficiency in the sciences, and particularly in metaphysics and judicial astrology. The arts they practise speak for themselves, and are deservedly acknowledged to be in a much higher degree of perfection than among the Chinese, with whom they are by Europeans so frequently confounded; the latter having been stationary at least as long as we have known them, while the slightest impulse seems sufficient to give a determination to the Japanese character, which would progressively improve until it attained the same height of civilization with the European. Nothing indeed is so offensive to the feelings of a Japanese as to be compared, in any one respect, with the Chinese; and the only occasion on which Dr. Ainslie saw the habitual politeness of a Japanese ever surprised into a burst of passion was, when, upon a similitude of the two nations being unguardedly asserted, the latter laid his hand upon his sword!

"The people are said to have a strong inclination to foreign intercourse, notwithstanding the political institutions to the contrary; and perhaps the energy which characterizes the Japanese character cannot be better elucidated than by that extraordinary decision which excluded the world from their shores, and confined within their own limits a people, who had before served as mercenaries throughout all Polynesia, and traded with all nations —themselves adventurous navigators.

*' Unlike the Chinese, the women here are by no means secluded: they associate among themselves like the ladies of Europe. During the residence of Dr. Ainslie, frequent invitations and entertainments were given: on these occasions, and at one in particular, a lady from the coast of Jeddo is represented to have done the honours of the table/with an ease, elegance, and address that would have graced a Parisian. The usual dress of a Japanese woman of middle rank costs perhaps as much as would supply the wardrobe of an European lady for twenty years.

"The Japanese are open to strangers, and, abating the restrictions of their political institutions, a people who seem inclined to throw themselves into the hands of any nation of superior intelligence. They have at the same time a great contempt and disregard of any thing below their own standard of morals and habits, as instanced in the case of the Chinese.

"The mistaken idea of the illiberality of the Japanese in religious matters, seems to have been fully proved. On visiting the great temple on the hills of Nangasaki, the English commissioner was received with marked regard and respect by the venerable patriarch of the northern provinces, eighty years of age, who entertained him most sumptuously. On shewing him round the courts of the temple, one of the English officers present heedlessly exclaimed in surprise, Jasus Christus! The patriarch turning half round, with a placid smile, bowed significantly expressive of ' We know you are Jesus Christus! well, don't obtrude him upon us in our temples, and we remain friends;' and so, with a hearty shake of the hands, these two opposites parted."

We now come to a later writer, whose work, from the high character of its author, is also entitled to the first consideration and respect. M. Klaproth is well known as a Chinese scholar, and professes to have drawn his information respecting Japan from Japanese books at his command; the best authority we can possess, in the absence of actual observation. We may, however, hope to derive, ere long, a still better knowledge of this extra

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »