Изображения страниц

troops drew around the devoted spot; the Dutch admiral, fearful of losing his new commercial monopoly, or palliating the act, as warfare only against the allies of Portugal and Antichrist, obeyed the command to bombard the town; and after a heroic resistance, the captured multitude, men, women and children, the entire Christian Church of Japan, was butchered as a hecatomb to Vengeance. “ Over the common grave of the martyrs was set up this impious inscription : So long as the Sun shall warm the Earth, let no Christian be so bold as to come to Japan; and let all know that the King of Spain himself

, or the Christian's God, or the great God of all, if he violate this command, shall pay for it with his head.”

Since this period no foreign intercourse has been tolerated, except a limited trade with China at one or two ports, and the annual arrival of two Dutch vessels. The few Dutch residents are confined to a little island in the harbour, and are subjected to the most irksome and humiliating restrictions. On the regular arrival of the ships, they are dismantled and searched; all munitions of war are taken from them, and every article of merchandise inventoried. The resident director is expected to make a journey, formerly annual, but now quadrennial, to the imperial city, with rich presents for the emperor, and most humiliating ceremonies were imposed. Until 1822, not the slightest intercourse was allowed with the natives on the road; and all the expenses of the journey, including that of the special police, were charged to the Dutch. Since then more liberty of intercourse and observation has been accorded to the embassy. but the harbour regulations are unmitigated. Russia especially, whose territories are contiguous, has persevered in fruitless attempts to open an intercourse. England, during the life-time and influence of Adams at the Japanese court, secured a treaty of astonishing liberality, granting not only the privileges of Japanese citizens, but the immunities and forms of British law, to resident Englisbmen. But the East India Company having been unsuccessful, through some miscalculation, in their first mercantile ventures to Japan. neglected their privileges, until the edict of 1637 rescinded them. Of late years, the field of the whale fisheries has been narrowed from the breadth of the Pacific Ocean to the seas lying along the Asiatic continent, and running northward to the Aleutian straits. Our vessels are frequently in distress for provisions and water. or are even wrecked upon those rocky shores. The Japanese policy bas denied the sufferers all that relief and protection guarantied by international law among all maritime nations. It is to solicit, or insist upon, the recognition of these natural rights of our unfortunate seamen, that the American expedition is sent out. It is a secondary, although important object to secure to our steam navigation on the Pacific a supply of coal, with which Japan abounds, and which is in extensive use throughout the empire.

Referring to the map for an accurate idea of the relative position of these islands and their future commercial importance, we may remark that the four largest islands, Niphon, Kiewsew, Sitkokf, and Jesso, are respectively equal to Great Britain, Sardinia, Corsica, and Ireland. The soil is fertile and well tilled. There is an agricultural law, by which whosoever leaves his grounds uncultivated for the term of one year forfeits the possession. Tobacco, cotton, and silk are extensively raised and manufactured. The mineral wealth of the country is remarkable, and the arts requisite to its development have long been practised. Swords, that rival the boast of Toledo or Damascus; ornamental silver and gold ; luxuries of the richest designs, and even telescopes, barometers, thermometers and similar instruments, at first imported, are now made by native artisans. The policy of the government represses labor-saving inventions, as prejudicial to the interests of the poorer classes.

The coasting and inland trade is immense, proportioned to the density of the population. Cities, or, as they are there deemed, villages, of thousands of inhabitants have grown into each other, until you may travel for miles along the main roads and only know, from the varying names of localities, that all is not one large city. By the best authorities, the population of the capital exceeds that of London, and other cities are peopled in the same ratio. The palaces and public buildings are of great magnificence, many being built of brown stone; but the ordinary material employed in building is timber and bamboo. In the interior of these dwellings cleanliness and order is always insisted upon, and the same regard for purity and elegance marks their personal appearance and general demeanour. The position of woman in Japan is far different from that of the sex in China and other oriental countries, and approaches the freedom and privilege of European manners. Permitted to enjoy unrestrained access to general society, and presiding at home over the hospitalities of her mansion, the Japanese lady passes beneath the tuition of a professional instructor, like the dancing master of our hemisphere, who imparts the science of graceful and accurate preparation of the tea, and its presentation to the guests. The females, moreover, are educated, as well as the other sex.

From the highest down to the very lowest, every Japanese is sent to school. It is said that there are more schools in the empire than in any other country in the world, and that all the peasants and poor people can, at least, read. This is surely a noticeable fact, and a most honourable distinction. The minds of the women are as carefully cultivated as those of the men. Hence, in the array of the most admired poets, historians, and other authors, are found very many females.”

“ The wide diffusion of education, which has been more than once mentioned, is of no recent date. The first of all the missionaries who visited the country, found schools established wherever they went. The sainted Xavier mentions the existence of four · Academies' in the vicinity of Miako, at each of which education was afforded to between three and four thousand pupils; adding, that considerable as these numbers were, they were quite insignificant in comparison with the numbers instructed at an institution near Bandone, and that such institutions were universal throughout the empire.”—P. 311.

“Our officers, who visited the country as late as the year 1845, ascertained that there existed a college at Nangasaki, in which, additionally to the routine of native acquirements, foreign languages were taught.” “ These people possess works of all kinds—historical compositions, geographical and other scientific treatises, books on natural history, voyages and travels, moral philosophy, cyclopædias, dramas, romances, poems, and every component part of a very polite literature.”—P. 311.

“ The Japanese printers keep the market well supplied with cheap, easy books, intended for the instruction of children, or people of the poorer classes. Most of these books are illustrated and explained with frequent wood-cuts, which are engraved on the same wood-blocks with the type. Like the Chinese, they print only on one side of their thin paper. An imperial cyclopædia, printed at Miako, in the spiritual emperor's palace, is copiously embellished with cuts.” “Good almanacs, including the calculation of eclipses, are annually published by the colleges of Jeddo and Miako. It is quite clear that they are skilled in trigonometry and in some of the best principles of civil engineering.”

Paper was introduced into Japan as early as the seventh century, and the art of printing was imported from China ten hundred and fifty years before its discovery in Europe. The alphabet has fortyeight letters, written in two forms, corresponding somewhat to our printed and written forms. The lines of letters run, like the Chinese, from top to bottom of the page; and an affectation of using Chinese words and characters is rapidly obscuring the clearer Japanese pages.

The traditions of the Japanese, like those of most ancient nations, trace their ancestry to the gods; but, from the ordinary indications relied upon in ethnological investigations, they appear to have been one of the primitive colonies of the old Mongol race, emigrating along the northern border of China Proper, and passing from the peninsula of Corea, from island to island, until they settled in Niphon. That they are not of the same race with the Chinese, is shown not only by the difference of their written character, but by the peculiar structure of the language; and the absence in either language of consonants found in the other, creates sounds so different, that they seem to require a different structure of the organs of speech. The purity of the Japanese tongue seems to indicate further that they were the first who traversed the northern Asiatic wilderness, across which they immigrated; or at least that they remained too short a time in contact with any tribes through which they passed to acquire even a few of their idioms. For the same reason, although Japanese historians confess that in early days the Chinese came over in small colonies, and with their learned men introduced their literature and their arts, yet it could not have been before the native language and literature had acquired an independent strength, which could appropriate foreign suggestions without being denationalized.

Emerging from the shadowy realm of fable, the first historical personage in Japanese annals is Syn-Mu, who, binding the barbaric clans under one government, became the foundation at once of the kingly and priestly authority of the empire. Into this new realm he introduced chronology, and the division of the time into years and months, and established the laws and government of the country. He died after a life of a hundred and fifty-six years, a mere infancy compared with the chronicled ages of the celestial emperors in previous and more etherial times. Little is chronicled, except of civil war and various natural phenomena, until the year 78 B. C., when the people appear to have passed more decidedly from the shepherd and hunting life into agricultural pursuits; since then first they planted rice-fields, and fenced them in with ditches, and made fish-ponds in the interior of the islands. It was about this time. also, or nearly contemporary with the advent of our Lord, that the chronicle notes the first building of merchant ships and ships of war.

These emperor-priests, or Mikados, ruling as direct vicegerents of the gods, theoretically absolute, and adored with servile reverence to their persons, and even to their raiment and table-service, were yet, by a strange retribution for their assumption, resulting incidentally, or through the craft of their nobility, gradually shut in from exposure at the head of armies, and finally from all direct and important influence on any but spiritual affairs. To this day, his lineal descendant, confined in his palace from his birth, lives and dies in luxurious imprisonment. The secluded emperors encouraged arts and sciences, and many of them beguiled the loneliness of the royal prison by authorship and literary patronage. A growing distaste for the increasingly irksome honours and confinement of the palace, manifested itself by frequent abdications and retirement to religious contemplation; but still there were candidates enough for the untried honours, and sanguinary massacres of defeated factions secured the throne to victorious rivals. But as the country became civilized, and early superstition less controlling, the feudal chieftains neglected the ancient claims of the emperors, and banded together for their independence. Against their conspiracy the court had no resource, but to entrust the entire command of its military forces to one promising young soldier, with the title of ziogun. Joritomo was the Pepin of Japan. He took advantage of the weakness which superstition forced upon his master, as the European usurper of the imbecility of the Merovingian kings. Only leaving the daïri a control over the spiritual concerns of the empire, he absorbed the entire secular control. Since then the dignity of the ancient line of emperors has degenerated into a mere honorary headship over religious worship, while, amid the luxuries of his palace, his actual power is checked by the surveillance of officers from the secular court.

In the thirteenth century the Japanese empire was threatened with subjugation by the haughty Kublai-Khan, who had just overrun China; but the Providence that guards insular independence shattered the immense armada of several thousand sail, and but three men only of the vast host were spared, and that only to bear to the khan the humiliating tidings. The event is important as having first given rise to that national policy which for nearly two hundred years prohibited all intercourse with foreigners. The authority of the emperors was more and more absorbed by the zioguns, and successive abdications witness the conscious humiliation of the station. The feudal chiefs rebelled against Nobunanga, the reigning ziogun, and the general who defeated the faction upon his return to the capital found the throne occupied by a mere youth. It was a favourable moment. The nobility were divided into factions, each aiming at the regency or the throne itself. Taiku-Sama, sweeping from a distance upon the rival parties, crushed them both, and installed himself the successor of Nobunanga. He sent the restless spirits who could not be broken to die in a foreign war.

He it was who first assumed the title as well as the authority of Kobe, or layemperor, and who, according to Romish historians, confounding the Japanese Christians with one of the political factions, crushed it together with them. The wise energy of this great man is still felt through every part of the machinery of the empire, and for three hundred years the government he moulded has directed and controlled the progressive civilization of a people as eneregtic as the Saxon races with as much ease as it has the stationary civilization of the Chinese. So firmly is the State compacted, and its various interests interlaced, that the Dutch writers, who have had best opportunity of observation, doubt whether any disruption can occur without a quarrel between the lay and spiritual emperors. There is little likelihood of such an occasion, which would arouse the religious fanaticism of the people, so long as the present indifferency is

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »