William H. Seward's Travels around the World

By William Henry Seward; Olive Risley Seward | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII.
RESIDENCE IN PEKING (Continued).

The Decay of China.--The Temple of Heaven.--The Temple of the Earth.--The Tem-
ple of Buddha.--The Chinese Bonzes.--The Temple of Confucius.--The Religion
of China.--A Pleasant Reunion.--The Birds of Peking.--An Official Dilemma.--
Interview with Wan-Siang.--Influence of Burlingame.

November 10th.--We are inclined to think that, while every other nation in the world is advancing toward a higher plane of civilization, China is not merely stationary, but is actually going backward and downward. Is this decline of China a result of the imperfect development of religious truth? The Chinese remain now as they were five thousand years ago, materialists. They worship the heavens, they worship the earth, the sun, and the moon, the planets, and the ocean, besides a multitude of other natural objects and forces. They worship, more than any other creature, their ancestors, who are created beings even if they have an existence after death. Even the philosophy and morals of Confucius have left the Chinese sentiment of his teachings not less material than before. The Chinese have expressed this materialism in erecting great temples--the Temple of Heaven, the Temple of the Earth, and the Temple of the Moon. To the material heaven they ascribe all power, and from it they claim that the emperor, as vicegerent, derives all authority. As Heaven made not only China, but the whole world, so the emperor as vicegerent not only governs the empire, but is rightful ruler of the whole earth. The Temple

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