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THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT
COURT OF CHINA
IN THE YEAR 1816.
BY THE REV. DR. ROBERT MORRISON,
AUTHOR OF THE CHINESE DICTIONARY, GRAMMAR, &c. &c.
AND ATTACHED TO THE EMBASSY
As individuals are improved by an amicable intercourse with each other; and as parts of the same empire are gradually ameliorated in proportion as they have an easy intercourse amongst themselves; so separate and independent nations are mutually benefitted by a liberal and an amicable intercourse. Those governments which with sincere minds endeavour to extend the friendly intercourse of nations, deserve the thanks of mankind. Whilst they pursue the good of their own country, they promote the welfare of the species.
As the productions of human labor, and of the surface of the earth, are exceedingly various, and generally superabundant in one thing, whilst there is a deficiency or a total want of another; it comes to pass that the exchange of commodities, or commercial intercourse, tends to ameliorate the temporal condition of the whole human family.
Human ability being limited, the whole business of a community is best effected by different persons devoting themselves to different parts of the general concern. The agriculturist, the manufacturer, and the merchant, are alike usefully employed; and it is probably as necessary a part of the duty of government to exert its influence with the rulers of foreign nations in behalf of its merchants, as to encourage and protect the agriculturist and manufacturer at home.
Further, as an exchange of commodities, on a small scale, is best effected under an idea of the perfect equality, and reciprocity of the dealers ; not under the relation of slave and master; or a dependant and his lord; so national and commercial intercourse will proceed best under an idea of the equality and reciprocity of the two countries. The idea that the one owes and yields homage to the other is likely to be prejudicial to the fair commercial intercourse between the two nations.
What are called ceremonies, sometimes affect materially the idea of equality. They are not always mere forms and nothing else, but speak a language as intelligible as words ; and it would be just as conclusive to affirm, it is no matter what words are used, words are but wind; as to affirm, it is no matter what ceremonies are submitted to, ceremonies are but mere forms, and nothing else. Some ceremonies are perfectly indifferent, as whether the form of salutation be taking off the hat and bowing the head, or keeping it on and bowing low with the hands folded before the breast; these, the one English, and the other Chinese, are equally good. There is however a difference of submission and devotedness expressed by different postures of the body; and some nations.feel an almost instinctive reluctance to the stronger expressions of submission. As for instance, standing and bowing the head is less than kneeling on one knee; as that is less than kneeling on two knees, and that less again than kneeling on two knees and putting the hands and forehead to the ground, and doing this once, is, in the apprehension of the Chinese, less than doing it three times, or six times, or nine times. Waving the question whether it be proper for one human being to use such strong expressions of submission to another or not, when any, even the strongest of these forms are reciprocal, they do not interfere with the idea of equality, or of mutual independence ; if they are not reciprocally performed, the last of these forms expresses, in the strongest manner, the submission and homage of one person or state to another : and in this light, the Tartar family now on the throne of China considers the ceremony called San-kwei-kew-kow;' thrice kneeling and nine times beating the head against the ground. Those nations of Europe who consider themselves tributary and yielding homage to China, "should perform the Tartar ceremony; those who do not consider themselves so, should not perform the ceremony.
The English Embassador, Lord Macartney, appears to have understood correctly the meaning of the ceremony, and proposed the only alternative, which could enable him to perform it, viz. a Chinese of equal rank performing it to the King of England's picture. Or perhaps a promise from the Chinese Court that should an Embassador ever go from thence to England, he would perform it in the King's presence, might have enabled him to do it.
" It is otherwise called the Kö-tów, which strictly denotes only once kneeling
These remarks will probably convince the reader that the English Government acts as every civilised Government should act, when she endeavours to cultivate a good understanding and liberal intercourse with China ; but since, whilst using those endeavours, she never contemplates yielding homage to China, she still wisely refuses to perform by her Embassador that ceremony which is the expression of homage.
The lowest form by which respect is showed in China at this day is Kung-show, that is, joining both hands and raising them before the breast. The next is Iso-yîh, that is, bowing low with the hands joined. The third is Ta-tseën, bending the knee as if about to kneel. The fourth is Kwei, to kneel. The fifth, Kõ-tow, kneeling and striking the head against the ground. The sixth, San-kow, striking the head three times against the earth before rising from one's knees. The seventh, Lūh-kow, that is, kneeling and striking the forehead three times, rising on one's feet, kneeling down again and striking the head again three times against the earth. The climax is closed by the San-kwei-kewkow, kneeling three different times, and at each time knocking the head thrice against the ground.
Some of the gods of China are entitled only to the San-kow; others to the Lủh-kow; the Teën, (Heaven) and the Emperor are worshipped by the San-kwei-kew-kow. Does the Emperor of China claim divine honors ?
The Embassy announced at Canton.
The British Government, in conjunction with the Honorable the Court of Directors of the East India Company, deeming it expedient to send an Embassy to China, Earl Buckinghamshire, President of the Board of Control, wrote to the Viceroy of Canton to announce the intention of his Royal Highness the Prince Regent. His Lordship's Letter arrived in the close of May 1816. Sir George Staunton, President of the Select Committee, wrote from Macao to inform the Local Government, and to request a proper conveyance to Canton, in order to present the letter. Sir Theophilus Metcalfe, a member of the Committee, Captain Clavel of his Majesty's Ship Orlando, Mr. Morrison, who then acted as translator and secretary for the Chinese department to the Select Committee, and Mr. Daniell, a member of the Company's establishment in China, proceeded to Canton, and requested an audience of