Page images

The sacred books of the Chinese, called the Kings, are divided into two classes. The first class is iniscellaneous. It is sub-divided into five parts, and contains public anbals, civil and religious ceremonials, and a variely of other subjects. The second, is called the Su-Chu, or the four books; which are moral books, composed by Confucius, or his disciples. They contaiu the whole of the Chinese religion. In the fundamental doctrines of them, may be found the principles of natural law, which the aptient Chinese received from the sons of Noah : they teach the reader to know and reverence the Supreine Being. Like the patriarchs, under the unwritten law, the emperor is both king and pontiff: to him it belongs to offer, at certain times of the year, sacrifice for bis people; to him it belongs to prescribe ceremonies, and to decide on doctrines. This alone can be called the establislied religion of Chiva; all other sects are considered by ihem to be extraneous, false, anil pernicious, and are only tolerated. The Christimu Religion was declared lastal by a public edict; in a subsequent reign, however, it was proscribed.

3. Hinda. The Hindus, or Gentoos, vie with the Chic nese for antiquity. They reckon the duration of the world by four jogues, or distinct ages: the first, tlie Suitee jugue, or age of purity, which is said to have lasted about 3,200,000 years, during which, the life of man was 100,000 years, and his stature, twenty-one Culsits; ilie second, the Tirtah jogue, or the age in which one-third of mankind were reprobate, consisting of 2,100,000 years, when men lived to the age of 10,000 years; the third, the Dwapaar jogue, in which half the human race became depraved ; this'endured 600,000 years, and men's lives were reluced to 1000 years; and fourthly, the Colie jogue, in which, all mankind were corrupted, or rather, diminished. This is the present æra, which they suppose, will subsist for 400,000 years, 5000 of which, are already past. In this period, man's life is limited to 100 years. At the conclusion of this æra, they say, a grand revolution will take place, when the solar system will be consumed by fire, and the elements educed to their constituent atoms. Brimha, the supreme divinity of the Hindus, is often represented on the back of tbese revolutions. He is sometimes figured as a new-born infant, with his toe in his mouth,

[ocr errors]

floating on a camala, or water-flower, and sometimes on a leaf of the plant only, floating upon the vast abyss. Sometimes, he appears to issue from a winding shell; at others, to blow up the mundane foam, with a pipe in his mouth. Of Boudhha, or Budda, the Chinese Fo, the Hindus relate many fables. They pretended, after his deaih, that be liad been born 8000 times, and that he had appeared, successively, under the figure of an ape, a lion, a dragon, an elephant, &c. These were called the incar. nations of Vishnou. At length, he was confounded with the supreme God, and the titles and attributes of the Most High, were ascribed-to a senseless idol. He is also called Amida, and represented with the head of a dog. He sometimes appears issuing from the mouth of a fish, in a princely character. At other times, there is a small half moon on his head, in which are observed cities, moun tains, towers, trees, and a variety of figures.

The Brumins, the descendants of the antient Brachmans, so called froin Brahma, their supreme deity, are the priests among the idolatrous Indians. They are found in Siam, Malabar, China, Coromandel, and most other eastern nations any way civilized, but their chief seat is in Hindustan, or the Mogul's country. They have a language peculiar to themselves called Sanskrit, in which they have several antieut books, written by their great prophet and founder, Brahma; the beda, or Vedam, from which they derive many privileges peculiar io their own order; the Shaster or Shastah, which is their bible; and Puran or Pourane, a history deemed sacred, which they pretend to have been dictated by God himself. There are several orders of Bramins. Those who mix in society are, for the most part corrupt in their morals, and live without either restraint or virtue; believing that the water of the Ganges will washa away all their crimes.

And the others, who live abstracted from the world, abandon themselves to superstition, indolence, and vice.

The murder of female infants formerly existed to a very considerable extent among the Hindus.* This atrocious crime is sometinies perpetrated, and uniformly countenanced by

• This horrible practice, thongh somewliat diminished by the cxertions of the Honourable East India Company, is still prevaleut.

the Bramins, particularly those of Hindustan. • Yet these are the people who, while they affect to take away the life of no living creature, encourage child-murder; who pretend not to stir abroad in the rain, for fear of destroying some of the numerous insects which particularly abound in wet weather; who sweep away the dust before they step, and cover their mouth when they speak, lest some animalcalæ sbould perish through their neglect; who raise hospitals for sick monkeys, and build repositories for hnngry reptiles; whose tenderness' and protection are, in short, extended to every living thing, however vile, except to the unfortunate offspring of their fellow-creatures.'

The Bramins, before they enter the pagod or temple, leave their shoes at the door. Their pagods have three divisions. A vaulted roof supported with stone columns is the first, and is adorned with wowdeu figures of oxen, borses, and elephants. Here, all persons are allowed to come without distinction. The second part is filled with images of men, with many heads and arms, and figures the most grotesque and monstrous. The third is a kind of chancel, which has a very strong gale, always shut ; and here is placed the statue of the god to whose worship the pagod is consecrated. Before the idol, lamps are kept constantly burning, both day and night.

Metempsychosis, or the transmigration of souls, is one of the principal doctrines propagated by the disciples of Fo: and here, we may trace the origin of all those idols which are reverenced in every country, where liis worship is established. Quadrupeds, birds, reptiles, and the vilest animals had temples erected to their houour; and the reason for this shameless idolatry was, the supposition that the soul of the god, inigbt, at one tiine or other, liave inhabit. ed their bodies. These transformations were derived, evidently, from hieroglyphic emblems, and were a faithful counterpart to the symbolic worship in Egypt.

An interesting narrative of theireadful idolatry of the Hindus, is given in Dr. Buchanan's Christian Researches * We

* This work is worthy of the most attentive perusal, and is

Anarinvaluable for the important facts which it developes. rative of the Syrian Christians, tull of interest, formis a part of the book,

cannot refuse our reader the following extract, which is replete with instruction.

Juggernaut, 18th of June.' * I have returned home from witnessing a scene which shall never forget. At twelve o'clock of this day, being the great day of the feast, the Moloch of Hindoostan was brought out of his temple anidst the aeclamations of hundreds of thousands of his worshippers. When the idol was placed op his throne, a shout was raised by the multis tiide such as I had never heard before. It continued equable for a few minutes, and thien gradually died away.

The throne of the idol was placed on a stupendous car or tower about sixty feet in height, resting on wheels which indented the ground deeply, as they turned slowly under the poncierous machine. Attached to it were six cables, of the size and length of a ship's cable, by whichi thie people drew it along' Upon the tower were the priests and satellites of ihe idol, surrounding his throne. The idol is a block of wood, having a frigniful visage painted black, with a distended mouth of a bloody colour. His arms are of gold, and he is dressed in gorgeous apparel. The other tivo idols are of a white and yellow colour. Five elephants preceded the towers, bearing towering flags, dressed in crimson caparisons, and having bells hanging to caparisons, which sounded musically as they moved.

After ilie tower had proceeded some way, a pilgrim announced that he was ready to offer himself a sacrifice to the idol. He laid himself down in the road before the tower as it was moving along, lying on his face, with his arıs stretched forwards. The multitude passed round him, leaving the space clear, and he was crushed to death by the wheels of the tower. A shout of joy was raised to the God. He is said to smile when the libation of the blood is made. The people threw cowries, or small money, on the body of the victim, in approbatiou of the deed. He was left to view a considerable time, and was then carried by the Hurries to the Golgotha, where I have just been viewing his remains. How much I wished that the Proprietors of India Stock could have attended the wheels of Juggernaut, and seen this peculiar source of their revenue,

This procession is thus beautifully described by Southey, in his Curse of Kehama.

A thousand pilgrims strain
Arm, shoulder, breast and thigh, with might and main,

To drag the sacred wain,
And scarce can draw along the enormous load
Prone fall the frantic votaries in its road,

And, calling on the god,
Their self-devoted bodies there they lay

To pave his chariot-way,

On Jaga-naut they call,
The ponderous car rolls on, and crushes all
Through blood and bones it plunghs its dreadful path,
Groans tise unheard; the dying cry

And death and agony
Are trodden under foot by yon mad throng,

Who follow close, and thrust the deadly wheels along. 4. Persian. The mythology of the Parsets or Parsis, supposes that the world has been repeatedly destroyed and repeopled by creatures differently formed, who were sticcessively banished or annihilated for their disobedience to the Supreme Being. The monstrous bird, or griffin Simurgh tells the hero Cahermun, that she had already lived to see the earth filled with creatures seven times, and a perfect void seven tin:es; that this globe was inhabited, before the creation of Adain, by two races of beings called Peris and Dincs ; the former, beautiful and benevolent; the latter, deformed and mischievous. These last are ever rauging over the world to scatter discord and misery. In the Peris we find a resemblance to the faeries of Europe, and the Dives differ but little from the giants and magicians of the middle ages. Incessant wars are waged between the Peris and Dives, and when any of the Peris are taken prisoners, they are shut up in iron cages and hung on trees; there exposed to every blast. When the Peris expect to be conquered, they solicit the aid of some mortal hero: this produces a series of mythological exploits, and furnishes the most diversified machinery, --- highly ornamental to Persic poetry. Tahmuras, one of their most antient monarchs, endeavours to recover the fairy Merjan: he attacks the Dive Demrush in his own cave, and liaving vanquished his opponent, carries off his fair captive in triumpli, accompanied with vast piles of hoarded wealth. Rustan is celebrated for his battles, labours, and adventures, with as much extravagant hyperbole, as Hercules is by the poets

« PreviousContinue »