Justus Doolittle (1824-1880)


with some accounts of their religious, governmental, educational and business customs and opinions
Harper & Brothers, New York, 1865.
Deux volumes, XXXIV+460 et 490 pages, + 150 illustrations.

  • Preface : The reader is invited to the perusal of an original work on the inner life of the most ancient and populous, but least understood and appreciated of nations. In it an attempt is made to describe many of their singular customs and opinions relating to almost all subjects of interest, and also to give their own explanation of the origin or the rationale of some of them. If an undue coloring or prominence has been given to any custom, or a false statement has been made in regard to any subject, no one will regret it more sincerely than the author.
  • Nearly two thirds of the contents of these volumes appeared in 1861–4 in the China Mail, a newspaper published at Hong Kong, in anonymous letters, headed ‘Jottings about the Chinese’. On the writer’s temporarily returning to his native land last year, some of the oldest and most intelligent residents in China, both American and English, strongly recommended the republication of the letters they had seen in a permanent form, in order to supply a manifest want in the books already accessible relating to the Chinese, viz., detailed and reliable information concerning their social and religious practices and sentiments. The published and the unpublished ‘jottings’, accordingly, have been rearranged, abridged, and thrown into the form of chapters. Only three or four chapters — those at the commencement and the close — have been written in this country. If circumstances had favored, a more extensive pruning of words, phrases, and sentences could have been made to advantage. As the work appears, it makes no pretensions to a high literary style, but is a simple and unpolished account of some of the most singular, interesting, and important phases of Chinese life and manners.
  • Though specially relating to Fuhchau and vicinity, the description of many of the social and superstitious customs is generally applicable to other parts of the empire. Such customs in the different provinces sometimes vary as greatly as do the productions of the soil in different latitudes, or the customs prevalent in different countries in Europe; and a book which is equally true in regard to life and manners in all parts of the empire must deal only in vague generalities, and relate to only a few subjects. One of the grave faults of most writers on China is, that what they affirm in general terms of the Chinese is true only of the people living in the part of the country where they made their observations, not of the Chinese as a nation.
    The illustrations are derived chiefly from photographic views, and from pen and ink sketches drawn by Chinese artists.
    The spelling of Chinese terms is principally according to the system adopted at Fuhchau for writing the local dialect. The tonal marks are not always inserted ; the Mandarin sound is given in a few instances.

  • These volumes, it is believed, will reveal to the careful reader many phases of Chinese life and manners which he will admire and commend. But if he should tire with the senseless and useless opinions cherished, and the strange and superstitious customs practiced among all classes of society, let him reflect that for over twenty centuries China has been in bondage to the writings of Confucius and Mencius, and, for nearly the same period, to the religions of Tauism and Buddhism. This fact satisfactorily accounts for many of the absurd, superstitious, and stereotyped opinions and customs prevalent in that empire. Its people need, above all other things, the peculiar influences which the Bible — the great enlightener and enfranchiser — invariably exerts over those who make it their lamp and their law.

Extraits : Volume I : Miscellaneous Superstitions to cure the Sick
Volume II : Four Superstitions for the Benefit of destitute and unfortunate Spirits
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Table des matières

Volume I : Agricultural and domestic matters. — Betrothal and marriage — Married Life and Children — Superstitious treatment of disease — Death, Mourning, and Burial — Ancestral Tablet and ancestral Halls — Priests of the three religions — Popular Gods and Goddesses. Mandarins and their Subordinates — Mandarins and their Subordinates — The State religion — Competitive literary examinations : Chinese anecdotes.

Volume II : Established annual customs and festivals — Singular and popular superstitions — Business Customs — Meritorious or charitable practices — Social Customs : The small bandaged Feet of Females — Female Infanticide — Domestic Slavery — Celebrations of Birthdays — Samshu or Chinese Wine — Giving and receiving Presents — The Tonsure and the Cue — Neighborhoods and Neighborhood Temples — Lepers — Beggars.
Miscellaneous opinions and practices : The Dragon and the Phœnix — Proverbs and Book Phrases — Preparation and Use of Mock-money.— Jugglers — Gamblers — Farces — Sports and Plays — Playacting — Charms and Omens : Charms or Amulets to expel or keep away evil Spirits and unpropitious Influences — Diabolical Charms — Ominous Words and Sentences — Miscellaneous Omens for Good or Evil. — Fortune-telling : Six Methods of Fortune-telling — Explanation of Terms used — Selection of Fortunate Days — Opium and opium-smoking

Irrigation by means of an endless chain-pump - Hulling rice - Carrying bundles of grain - Threshing grain - Plowing with the domesticated buffalo.
Irrigation by means of an endless chain-pump - Hulling rice - Carrying bundles of grain - Threshing grain - Plowing with the domesticated buffalo.


Volume I
Miscellaneous Superstitions to cure the Sick

When the Chinese are sick they oftentimes have recourse to some god or goddess which they suppose has the control of the particular disease with which they are taken. They burn incense before the image, and implore a speedy recovery. If they should recover, the credit is given to the divinity worshiped, and an offering of meats or vegetables is made with more or less pomp, and at great or small expense, according to the standing of the family, and the nature of the vow made at the time of invoking the aid of the god or goddess.

If the person dies, the divinity worshiped is not regarded as to blame, but the thank-offering which would have been rendered in case of recovery is withheld. The death is simply accounted for by saying it is in accordance with the ‘reckoning of Heaven’. They do not seem to regard recovery from illness to be at all connected with the ‘reckoning of Heaven’. If one dies it is because Heaven wills it, or it is according to the decrees of fate. If one recovers it is because the god or goddess which controls the disease wills recovery. It is all to be credited to his or her power and benevolence. They practically ignore the great fact that health and sickness, life and death, are always in accordance with the reckoning of Heaven — are all controlled and governed by the Supreme Disposer of events.

The Chinese, notwithstanding their submission to the reckoning of Heaven, or their belief in the power of the gods and goddesses they have invented and established, make great use of medicine when they are sick. After all, the result is ascribed to Heaven if unpropitious and death ensues, or to the gods if health returns and the sick man recovers. They seem to act and feel as though Heaven were able only to cause one’s death, and that only the gods had the power to rebuke disease and restore to health.

Bringing back the soul of the sick into   his clothes on the bamboo
Bringing back the soul of the sick into his clothes on the bamboo

They endeavor to bring back the departing spirit of the sick man. — When one is very sick, and apparently almost ready to die, as a last resort the following method is sometimes adopted to prevent the death of the sick man, and restore him to health: Several priests of the Tauist sect are engaged to repeat their formulas in a temple for his benefit. At the house, or near it, another ceremony is performed ; sometimes, however, that too is performed in the temple. A bamboo, eight to ten feet long, having fresh green leaves at its little end, is provided. Near this end there often is fastened a white cock. One end of a red cord is tied around the centre of a two-foot measure, and the other end is made fast around the bamboo, among the green leaves. A coat belonging to the sick man, and very recently worn, is suspended on this measure, its ends being put into the arm-holes of the garment. A metallic mirror, having a handle to it, is then tied on this measure in such a manner that it will come a few inches above the shoulders of the garment, in the place where the head of an individual would come were the coat to be worn. Some one of the family takes this bamboo pole and holds it loosely in his grasp in a perpendicular position, standing not far from the house, or in the temple if conveniently near. A priest now begins to call over the name of the sick person, and to ring his bell, and to repeat certain incantations, the object of which is to cause the sick man’s spirit to enter the coat. The white cock and the bright mirror are supposed to perform an important part in effecting this desirable object. After a while the pole is sometimes observed to turn round slowly in the hands of its holder, which circumstance is believed to be a sure proof of the presence of the spirit of the sick man in the coat. At the conclusion of the ceremonies the coat is taken from its place on the bamboo pole, and placed as soon as possible on the body of the sick man, or it is spread over him as he lies on his bed, if he is too sick to allow its being put on properly.

It should have been premised that the spirit of the sick man is supposed to have left his body, and yet to be hovering around in the vicinity. It is supposed also that it can be induced by the performance of the ceremonies above described to return to the coat which has been but recently worn by the person to whom the said spirit belongs ; and, if it but enters the coat, it can be transferred to the body of the sick man, and perhaps be prevailed upon to remain there.

Priest ascending a ladder of knives
Priest ascending a ladder of knives

They hire one to ascend a ladder of knives. — Sometimes a company of Tauist priests are engaged by the family of a sick man to perform their incantations and repeat their formulas for his benefit, accompanied by ascending a ladder of knives. A ladder is extemporized for the occasion, the rounds of which consist of swords or long knives, with the edge upward. At a certain part of the performance, one of the priests, barefooted, ascends this ladder, and, after arriving at the top, he stands there a while and recites some spells for the relief of the sick man. It is thought that the wicked spirits, who take delight in troubling mankind, will see the swords, and will be frightened, not daring to approach the man to do more evil. The gods, too, it is hoped, will thus be influenced to take pity on the afflicted man, and expedite his recovery to accustomed health. This ascending a ladder of knives, compared with some of the other methods above described, for the benefit of a sick person, is seldom practiced, perhaps because of the danger of being injured by the knives on the part of the individuals who engage in it.

They try to propitiate a certain destructive divinity. — When the members of a family are sick one after the other, the sickness is very often attributed to the evil agency of a god called the ‘destroying god’, which is believed to cause diseases in families. The manner in which the Chinese sometimes speak of this subject would lead one to suppose that they imagine there are mysterious and injurious influences existing between and among the members of a family, as from the father toward his son, or the husband toward his wife, etc., very frequently resulting in illness. Some families which are afflicted with repeated and inexplicable sickness, having first made a solemn vow to have a ceremony performed, the object of which is to beg or bribe the god to dissipate or destroy these influences, proceed to have it done as soon as the health of their sick ones will admit. They employ several priests belonging to the Tauist sect. The ceremony lasts, according to the option of the families who employ the priests, from one day and one night to three days and three nights, according to the amount of money they determine to expend on the occasion. They erect a temporary altar out of common tables. On this are arranged various portable images of gods, candlesticks, censers, and implements used in the ceremony. Oftentimes a large amount of meats and vegetables is also offered. The priests chant their liturgy or formularies, ring their bells, and march in concert around the altar. The merit of their performances is all supposed to go to the benefit of the sick, and it is hoped that the ‘destroying’ demon will be prevailed upon to extirpate the baneful influences under his control, letting the sick not only get well, but keep well.

They invite the god of medicine to their house. — If one has very painful ulcers, malignant sores, or inflamed eyes, recourse is often had, by some of his family on his behalf, to a god of medicine, in somewhat the following manner : The friend goes to the temple erected in the god’s honor and for his worship, but, as the god is quite deaf, he must be aroused and interested in an extraordinary way. Some, therefore, rub or tickle one of his ears, and then present their requests, speaking into his organ of hearing thus excited. Others rub the part of the image which corresponds to the part of the body of the sick man which is affected, in order that the god may know precisely where his services are needed. The suppliant, having burned incense and candles before the image of the ‘Doctor’, returns to the home of his relative, the patient, carrying some of the ashes taken from the censer standing before the god, or from the medicine-box of one of his attendants, whose images stand near by. Now these ashes represent the ‘Doctor’, and must therefore be treated with respect and reverence by the family. They are done up in red paper, and placed in the censer belonging to the household, and incense and candles are daily burned before them, accompanied with kneeling and bowing. If the man’s boils or ulcers disappear soon after this, it is attributed to the efficacy of the god of medicine, and the man must make a thank-offering to him in his temple, consisting of five or ten dishes of vegetables (no meats), with the customary burning of candles, incense, and mock-money, rewriting at the same time the ashes which were previously obtained front the temple. This doctor is a Grahamite.


Volume II
Four Superstitions for the Benefit of destitute and unfortunate Spirits

The Chinese seem to cherish kind and charitable feelings toward the unhappy spirits in the Land of Shades. They have therefore invented many ingenious methods by which they fancy they contribute to their comfort. They imagine them to be in want of food, clothing, and spending-money, and they contrive, as they think, to forward these necessary articles to them.

The Chinese believe that the spirits in the other world exercise a great influence over the affairs of this world ; they therefore desire to obtain their friendly aid in the pursuit of health, wealth, or honor. Oftentimes ceremonies are performed as especial acts of thanksgiving to the spirits. Such ceremonies are regarded also as meritorious.

There are four popular customs, called thanksgiving by the use of cakes, presentation of food, mounting the platform, and the universal rescue. A day or two subsequent to the performance of the third and fourth, these is always another ceremony, called a supplementary offering.

It is considered eminently desirable to have these ceremonies performed during the evening, commencing about seven or eight o’clock, and not lasting later than twelve o’clock. The daytime belongs to the male principle of nature, whose influence is more vigorous and powerful than the influence which prevails in the night, belonging to the female principle of nature. The spirits being subject to the female principle, if the ceremonies designed to benefit them should be performed in the daytime, it is feared they would not be able to be present. They perhaps would be unable to overcome the influences which prevail during the day. For the same reason, the performances should close by midnight, because the male influences begin then to abound, or be more powerful.

These ceremonies may be performed at any time during the year ; but, as a general thing, they are observed most numerously during the latter part of the year, commencing with the seventh Chinese month, especially the last three ceremonies. There is a proverb current at this place, which says, ‘from the commencement of the seventh month the Tauist priests need not buy any rice’, implying that they are so constantly employed in the performance of their official functions that they need not be at any expense for food, they being boarded whenever employed. In fact, however, they are not so constantly engaged by the people as the proverb intimates.

Presenting a thank-offering of cakes
Presenting a thank-offering of cakes

Thanksgiving by the Use of Cakes. — This term implies that the performance is made in view of a previous vow, generally by poor families, who can not afford more expensive ceremonies. They do not call any priest to their aid. It takes its name, in part, from a kind of steamed cakes which are used, made out of wheat flour and rice. The whole thank-offering of food very often consists of only the following articles : a plate of these steamed cakes, numbering one hundred and p.093 forty-four, a few pieces of bean-curd, a little white vermicelli, a bowl of rice, a few baked bread-cakes, a bowl of vegetable soup, and three cups of wine. These are arranged sometimes on the ground before the house or shop of the offerer ; sometimes they are placed on a flat, open bamboo vessel, several feet in diameter, which is put on the ground. The offerer usually kneels while he bows his head three times toward these articles, holding lighted incense in his hands, audibly expressing his thanks to the spirits for their past goodness to him, and begging a continuance of their favors. If the thanksgiving is tendered to the destitute spirits in the lower regions on behalf of a child of the offerer, the child is usually made to kneel down three times, and bow toward the things presented. The mock-money and the mock-clothing which had been provided are now set on fire and consumed. The offerer takes a few kernels of the rice, or a cake or two, and puts them into the vegetable soup, which is then poured out on the ground ; or some of the cakes are thrown around on the ground, and a little of the wine is poured on the embers of the mock-money and mock-clothing. He again bows or kneels down three times before the articles, after which every thing except what was thrown down or turned out on the ground is gathered up and taken into the house, where it is consumed by the offerer and his family. This ceremony costs but little money, and its performance requires but a very short time.

Presenting food to the spirits of the dead
Presenting food to the spirits of the dead

Presentation of Food. — This ceremony is more imposing and expensive than the former. The offerer employs two or three Buddhist or Tauist priests to aid him. Offerings are arranged on a table, never on the ground. From three to seven plates of plates of the small steamed cakes are provided ; also several plates of a larger kind, each plate having thirty-six cakes, several plates of fruits, a bucket of boiled rice, a quantity of beancurd, vermicelli, vegetable soup, several bowls of two or three kinds of cake, some paste and clean water, and a sheet of paper placed under the table, three cups of tea if the priests are Buddhists, or three cups of wine if they are Tauists, candles, incense, mock-money, and mock-clothing. One of the priests beats a drum ; another, standing near the table, rings a bell and recites formulas. The offerer kneels down, dressed in his best clothing, and bows three times, muttering his requests to the spirits, who are supposed to have arrived. The whole farce requires an hour or more. At its conclusion, wine and soup are poured out on the ground, or on the ashes of the mock-clothing and mock-money. Some of the cakes are thrown down on the ground. The rest of the eatables are taken away, and are either feasted on by the company or divided among the relatives and friends of the offerer. The priests receive for their services six or eight cents each, besides their meals ; or, if they are not at leisure to remain to the p.095 feast, they may carry away with them some of the cakes and the fruit. The priests employed at the same service are always of the same class, i. e., Buddhists or Tauists, each class having its own manner of conducting the ceremony. They both hope to attain the same object, i. e., furnish destitute spirits in the Land of Shades with some of the necessaries of life.

Mounting the Platform. — This ceremony takes its name from the circumstance that the priests perform their parts while mounted on a platform, not while standing on the ground. This ceremony is much more expensive and showy than the one just described. Sometimes several families of the same clan unite in its celebration at the house of one of their number, each sharing a part of the expense. Six or more priests, either Tauists or Buddhists, are employed, the head priest and the drummer getting double wages.

The platform or altar is prepared in the following manner : Sometimes a low platform of boards is first constructed, and on this two or three ranges or tiers of tables are placed. At other times only tables are used. Sometimes there are two tiers of tables, formed by putting some upon others, in the main room of the house, so that the whole, when finished, looks, from a distance, like two or three great steps, each step being as high as a single table. At other times the tables are arranged on a board platform, not one above another. Oftentimes fifteen or twenty tables are used in making the platform. The highest tier consists, generally, of only one or two tables. Behind the highest table, and behind some other tables of the platform, small stools are placed, which are occupied by the priests during the ceremony. The head priest occupies the highest seat of all. The number of tables used is graduated by the number of priests who are engaged to assist in the performance.

The ceremony is commenced by burning several charms. Some of these are made out of paper, so as to resemble in shape a small square lantern. On the sides of this charm are sometimes written the names of the proprietor, his wife, and children. Another kind consists of paper made into the form of a man sitting on a paper horse. These charms, when burned, are believed, in some way, speedily to inform the Pearly Emperor Supreme Ruler, or Buddha, according as the priests employed are Tauists or Buddhists, of what is being transacted on the earth. They take their positions on their stools, placed behind the tiers of tables, and, having thus mounted the platform, they ring their bells, recite their liturgies, beat the drum, etc.

The food offered to the unfortunate spirits is arranged on a table. Among these edibles are several dishes of meats, vegetables, fruits, steamed cakes, boiled rice, vermicelli, and a vessel containing gruel or salted paste. On the vessel containing gruel are paper or earthen spoons. Under one of the tables there is a half pail of water, covered by a sheet or two of paper. A paper image of a certain divinity is placed on the table, whose business is to control the hungry spirits which come to the feast, and keep them from fighting and quarreling for the food provided for their entertainment. Some call this god the ‘King of the Spirits’. He has ten plates of vegetables placed before him for his eating, if the priests invited to officiate are Buddhist ; but if the priests employed are Tauist, the food provided is principally meats and fruits.

On the upper table of the tiers of the platform there are various idols or images. While the priests are performing their part, the proprietor of the ceremony attends to the candles and incense, or kneels down, bowing toward the ground at the bidding of the priests. At the customary times the mock-money and the mock-clothing are burnt.

Some time during the evening a certain formula is repeated, and a kind of charm, consisting of sheets of paper having pictures of thirty-six orders of spirits on them, is burnt. A certain kind of lighted incense-stick is also put in the food designed for the hungry spirits, and in the ground in front of the house. This formula, and these sheets, and the incense thus arranged, all are supposed to attract the spirits to the place. At the proper time, a few of the cakes, a little of the rice, and some of the vegetable soup are thrown on the ground, designed as a kind of special offering to the spirits. At the close of the performance, some of the food presented to the spirits is prepared for the feast which follows, and the rest of it is often distributed, on the following day, among the neighbors and friends.

It is the custom, on the evening devoted to the celebration of mounting the platform, to have a table covered with various offerings of food placed before the ancestral tablets belonging to the family in whose house the ceremony is performed. Incense, candles, and mock-money are also burnt before these tablets on the occasion. Some families, however, do not make offerings of meats before their tablets, but only five kinds of fruits, incense, and candles.

The reader may wonder why gruel or paste, with spoons, is provided on such an occasion, and why a pail of water, covered with paper, should have been furnished. The water is for the use or the spirits who come to the entertainment. It is sagely surmised that they may desire to refresh themselves by a bath at the end of their journey, and so water is thoughtfully provided. The paper is supposed to answer the purpose of a towel. The paste provided is to supply the peculiar wants of the headless spirits which may find their way to the place. It is believed that there are many spirits which have been unfortunate enough to lose their heads, and as they have no mouth nor teeth, they can not eat as other spirits ; spoons are therefore kindly furnished, by which they may put the paste or gruel into their throats. In this way they are enabled to partake of the food provided for their special use.

Should any reader be inclined to inquire how the ghosts can contrive to come in the night-time, let him understand that the Chinese have invented an ingenious method of lighting the road, so that the spirits may not miss the way, unless exceedingly stupid. They prepare one or more lanterns of a particular kind, and suspend the same in the most proper positions to facilitate the object in view. A large sheet of paper, four or five feet long and three or four feet wide, is made into a kind of bag, open at both ends, by pasting its two sides together. Then a common lantern is put inside of this paper bag, and the whole, when lighted and suspended, constitutes a lantern to guide the spirits to the place where the feast for their benefit has been provided. On the outside various charms are drawn in red ink, for the purpose of attracting and conducting the spirits to the right place. At the end of the performance the lantern is taken down, and the outside paper bag is burnt.

On the evening succeeding, a supplementary offering is provided for the spirits which failed to arrive in season to enjoy the entertainment of mounting the platform. It is feared that, out of the immense number of spirits in the Land of Shades which might desire to be present, there are some whose arrival may be delayed. Some may not have heard of it as soon as others, and would be on the way when it closed ; others which were present perhaps did not get enough. It is also reasonable to suppose that the lame, the blind, the feeble, and the headless might possibly arrive too late. In order not to disappoint or anger these unfortunate ones, a supplementary provision is made. It is, however, comparatively very meagre and cheap.

Second department of the buddhistic hell
Second department of the buddhistic hell

The Universal Rescue. — The universal rescue is the most expensive of the four ; it is also the least commonly observed. It lasts either three, or five, or seven days and nights in succession. In September, 1859, one was held in the city, near the viceroy’s yamun, which lasted seven days and seven nights. Twenty-seven altars were erected in connection with it. Over one hundred priests in all, both Buddhists and Tauists, were employed. The aggregate expense was over eight thousand dollars, which were contributed by the people.

It is seldom performed at the expense of a single family or individual, but generally by contributions collected from the rich men and traders living near the place where it is performed. Some neighborhoods resolve to have a universal rescue performed once every ten, or every five, or every three years. There are probably several tens of this rescue performed in this city and suburbs every year.

Some fifteen or twenty days before the time fixed upon for the beginning of the rescue, a roughly-built house, called the ‘spirit’s house’, is erected near the place. This house is sometimes six or eight feet high, five or six feet deep, and twenty or twenty-five feet long. It is usually divided into five apartments. The middle apartment is devoted to the occupancy of a large paper image of a certain god, made in a sitting posture on a bamboo frame. On one side of this image stands a paper and bamboo image of the tall white devil, and on the other side an image of the short black devil, which two act as assistants of the central divinity. He is represented as having one half of his face white and the other half black. His name indicates that his dominion extends over both the present and the future world. On a table placed in front of the central image is a censer and a pair of candle-sticks, in which incense and candles are theoretically kept burning day and night. The front of this apartment is entirely open, so that every one can see what is within.

Adjoining the middle room, on one side, is a room for the accommodation of gentlemen spirits who may attend the celebration, and on the other side is a room for the use of lady spirits, which facts are made known by notices pasted in front. The two apartments at the ends of the house are devoted to the important use of bathing-rooms for male and for female spirits. The ladies’ bathing-room of course adjoins the ladies’ parlor, and the gentlemen’s bathing-room adjoins the gentlemen’s sitting-room, which is made known to the spirits by appropriate notices. It is very desirable that there should be no scandalous intermingling between the different sexes. In front of the bathing-rooms are usually suspended bamboo screens.

In case the ‘spirit’s house’ consists of only three rooms, the middle room is appropriated to the god and his assistants, as above described, and the other two to the male and the female spirits who may attend, there being no separate rooms provided for bathing.

On the ‘spirit’s house’, in some convenient place, is put up what pretends to be a proclamation from the god occupying the central apartment, giving notice to the hungry and the destitute spirits of the month and day a universal rescue will be commenced, and when an entertainment will be provided for their benefit in the vicinity, and inviting the ‘good gentlemen’ and the ‘faithful ladies’ in the spirit world to be present. They are invited also to take lodgings in the house provided, and are exhorted to behave themselves with propriety.

As the time appointed draws nigh, two or more altars are built up in the form of terraces, of three, or four, or five steps or tiers. These altars are sometimes ingeniously constructed out of tables placed one above another upon a platform raised a foot or two from the ground. At other times they are constructed out of timber and boards. One or more of these altars are under the management of Buddhist priests, who arrange on them idols belonging to their religion. One or more are appropriated by Tauist priests, who arrange on them images belonging to their sect. Each altar has several censers and pairs of candlesticks. The number of altars erected depends on the amount of money to be expended and the time to be occupied in the performance of the universal rescue. If they are numerous enough, on one is arranged the image of the Great King, belonging to the neighboring temple, in the vicinity of which the performance is to be enacted ; on another, the image of the god worshiped in the municipal temples of walled towns ; on another, the images of the Five Rulers ; on another, the images of the Three Emperors. The altars are decked out with embroidered coverings, valuable articles of vertu, and rare and elegant curiosities.

When the universal rescue is performed on a large scale, in connection with it is a place where the punishments inflicted on wicked spirits in the ten departments of hell, according to Buddhistic notions, are represented by small images ; when performed on a small scale, only pictures of these punishments are exhibited. The images and the machinery representing the scenes and the sufferings of hell are made to move when necessary by strings attached, which are pulled by somebody unseen. For example, a spirit is represented as in the act of enduring a flagellation with the bamboo ; another as being fried in a kettle of oil ; another as being pounded in a large mortar ; another as being sawed asunder ; some are undergoing an examination before the judge or ruler of a department ; others are laid on a board full of sharp nails, or thrown on a hill of knives ; while others may be seen in the very act of transmigration, i. e., part of the object is like some animal, and the rest of it is like the human body. Most of these representations are often very coarsely executed, and one not acquainted with the peculiar notions of the Chinese would be at a loss to know what was intended.

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Volume I

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Volume II

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