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Collection « Les auteur(e)s classiques »

The Religious System of China. Volume III (1897)
Extrait: The Influence of Fung-shui on Practical Life


Une édition électronique réalisée à partir du texte de l'ouvrage de Johann Jacob Maria de Groot, The Religious System of China. its ancient forms, evolution, history and present aspect. Manners, customs and social institutions connected therewith. Volume III : Disposal of the Dead : The Grave (second half). Édition originale, E. J. Brill, Leiden, 1897, 640 pages + illustrations. Réimpression : Literature House, Ltd, Taipei, Taiwan, 1964. Une édition réalisée par Pierre Palpant, bénévole, Paris.

EXTRAIT

The Influence of Fung-shui on Practical Life

Quarrels and litigation arising from Fung-shui questions are of daily occurrence in towns. The repairing of a house, the building of a wall or dwelling, especially if it overtops its surroundings, the planting of a pole or cutting down of a tree, in short, any change in the ordinary position of objects may disturb the Fung-shui of the houses and temples in the vicinity and of the whole quarter, and cause the people to be visited by disasters, misery and death. Should any one suddenly fall ill or die, his kindred are immediately ready to impute the cause to somebody who has ventured to make a change in the established order of things, or has made an improvement in his own property, which he had a perfect right to do. Instances are by no means rare of their having stormed his house, demolished his furniture, assailed his person ; sometimes they place the corpse in his bed, with the object of extorting money and avenging themselves by introducing the influences of death into his house. No wonder Chinamen do not repair their houses until they are ready to fall and become uninhabitable.

Fortunately much animosity and contention is prevented from the circumstance that Fung-shui, when disturbed, can be restored in various ways. Professors, if consulted in time, are generally able to suggest some remedy. When a dwelling house is endangered, they usually order the erection of certain fences capable of keeping off or absorbing the shah which are, they think, encroaching upon the good geomantic influences. Among such fences, slabs of granite inscribed with the sentence : ‘This stone dares bear them’, are considered the best, if placed at a proper spot on the premises, or inserted in the outer-wall. Very efficacious are also broad boards with the eight kwa, painted around the figure which is the common representation of the Yang and the Yin constituting unitedly the T‘ai Kih or first creative power in the Universe ; such a board should be placed like a screen in the pathway leading up to the house. Other devices are, to place in front of the house, or on the top of the roof, dragons or lionlike animals of stone or burnt clay ; or to nail down over the main entrance, or at each corner on the outside of the house, a square board with a tiger or a tiger’s head daubed thereon. But this is leading us into the domain of amulets and talismans, which will be treated of in our Second Book.

Also when the Fung-shui of a village, town or valley has been disturbed, there are many means of remedying the evil. We have stated already how the calamitous contours of rocks, mountains or plains may be rectified by skilful manipulations, and turned into instruments of blessing. If an elevation is not high enough, it can be made higher ; a calamitous water-course may be given a favourable turn ; groves may be planted at the back or on the sides of villages and towns as fenders ; tanks and ponds may be dug to counteract obnoxious breaths by the aquatic influences of which they are the depositories ; pagodas may be erected for the same purpose, or piles of stone be made to represent such structures. Temples for the worship of mighty tutelary divinities and even large Buddhist convents generally owe their existence to a desire of the people to confirm the Fung-shui of the environs. The particulars on this head we reserve, however, for other parts of this work, wherein such sanctuaries will be described.

Curious incidents illustrating the ways in which the Chinese endeavour to rectify the Fung-shui of towns or large tracts of country, have been recorded by European residents. Especially instructive are the following, which were communicated by Mr. Yates at the above-mentioned Missionary Conference :

« Local rebellions and other public calamities are often attributed to some object that has destroyed the good Fung-shui, and allowed the murderous spirit (shah) to enter. Take the case of Shanghai. A few years ago, when the rebels left the city, the Fung-shui professors were employed to discover the cause of the disturbance in Fung-shui, and consequently the cause of the local rebellion. Their attention was directed to a large new temple within the north gate, called the Kwang-Foh sze˘. They found on enquiry that the Kwangtung and Fuhkien men were mainly instrumental in rebuilding the temple, and the largest donor was the keeper of a house of ill-fame. As such men are called in common parlance a tortoise, they made strict examination to see if the temple and plot of ground had any resemblance to that disreputable animal. To the astonishment of all, it was found to be a perfect representation of a tortoise travelling South. It was bounded on the four sides by a street and water, with a stone bridge at the four corners, representing the four feet of a tortoise. There was a stone bridge just in front of the temple door, representing his head, and two wells at the door, representing the animal’s eyes, and a large tree in the rear, representing his tail turned up, while the temple itself represented the body of the odious thing. If any thing was wanting to confirm them in their suspicions that that temple, from its resemblance to the tortoise, was the cause of the local rebellion, its name Kwang-Foh sze˘ was quite sufficient to remove all doubts ; for the city was taken by Kwangtung and Fuhkien men, who entered at the North gate, just in the rear of the temple. Now as Kwang-Foh sze˘ was found to be bad Fung-shui, something must be done to correct it. They dare not order it to be pulled down, for it was occupied by the gods. The Fung-shui professors had no difficulty in finding a remedy, both simple and effectual. They decided that to change the name of the temple and put out the eyes of the animal would be quite sufficient to render him incapable of doing further injury. The order was given, and the wells were filled up, and the name of the temple changed to The first Mountain of the City on the river Hu.

Again, about twelve months ago, the merchants within the city of Shanghai became alarmed at the great falling off of business within the walls. The Fung-shui experts were consulted to ascertain the cause. The cause was soon discovered. As the Little North gate was simply a hole in the wall, without the ordinary fender and side entrance, the good influences from the South passed without obstruction into the foreign community, while the evil from the North flowed into the city. The order was given to build the circular wall with a side entrance, which we all know was done without any apparent reason, as there was no danger of an attack from that quarter, it being well defended by the foreign settlements. Unfortunately for the credit of Fung-shui, trade has not revived within the city.

Kü-yung, a city near Nanking, has a history in connection with Fung-shui, well known in the Northern and Central Provinces. Early in the Ming dynasty, a Fung-shui professor discovered that that city would produce an emperor, and that all its population would be mandarins. The Emperor, alarmed at the prospect of being superseded by an appointment of this kind, took steps to have the Fung-shui of that city corrected. It was decreed that the North gate, at which the evil spirit entered, should be built up solid, and remain so, and that the people should devote themselves to other than literary pursuits. It is a well known fact that Fung-shui has kept the North gate of Kü-yang closed for a period of over four hundred years. The people were ordered to choose one of three callings — a barber, a corn cutter or a bamboo root shaver, each of which necessitated the use of sharp edged instruments. It is supposed that the shah spirit never comes near one who uses sharp edged instruments. In confirmation of the fact that such an order was issued, and that it was obeyed, we have ocular demonstration even at this day, seven tenths of the dressers of the dried bamboo shoots, an equally large proportion of the corn cutters in connection with the various bathing establishments, and the same proportion of the barbers of this city and of the many cities in the Central Provinces are known to be Kü-yung men. The monopoly of these trades is readily conceded to them, since it is known to be decreed that they should get their rice in this way.

As every mandarin has the right to erect the official pole in front of his house, these people claimed it, and it was conceded in part. Each travelling barber was allowed to erect his official staff on his box. Any one who will notice a travelling barber going about the streets with his chest of drawers slung on either end of a stick on his shoulder, will observe a rod in front projecting above the stick on his shoulder. This is his official pole, guaranteed to him for all time by the decrees of Fung-shui. Thus, by closing the North gate and dispersing the male population, Kü-yung has been prevented from producing an emperor, and the Empire has been saved.

It seems to us, however, that the above tale about the peculiar vocations of the Kü-yung people savours too much of legend to deserve implicit belief. We have never found anything about this subject in Chinese books, and the custom of the street barbers of carrying an official pole in miniature on their wash-stand is often explained by the Chinese in quite another way.

In his work on The Folk-lore of China, Dennys reports the following incident, taken front a Shanghai newspaper :

« The general excitement caused in Hang-cheu, in common, apparently, with the rest of the province, was some weeks ago intensified by a development of the well known superstition of Fung-shui. A number of people having died in a certain part of the town, enquiries began to be made as to the cause of a mortality somewhat specially localised. But instead of looking to the physical conditions and environments of the district, the good folks of Hang-cheu called in the learning of the geomancers to explain the cause of the evil influence. These worthies were not long in pointing to a range of buildings belonging to one of the American missions, that stood on a hill overlooking the district where the abnormal mortality had prevailed. These buildings, though not high in themselves, were yet elevated by their site above all the surrounding buildings, and thus they interrupted the benign influences of the Fung-shui. The question then came to be, how the evil was to be remedied. The traditional mode of procedure would have been to organise a mob, raise a disturbance, and during its continuance contrive to pull down or burn the obnoxious premises. But, on the one hand, past experience of foreigners has convinced the authorities that this way of dealing with foreign property is sure to entail serious consequences ; while, on the other, the satisfactory results of diplomatic action as illustrated at Peking has gradually inclined them to the suaviter-in-modo policy. Accordingly a number of the gentry were commissioned to proceed to Ningpo and put themselves in communication with the United States Consul on the subject. Arrived in Ningpo, they drew up a petition to that gentleman, setting forth the fears and anxieties which were excited among the common people of Hang-cheu by the disturbance of the Fung-shui occasioned by the mission premises in question, and setting forth the willingness of the authorities to grant them a site and erect buildings on some other site to be agreed on between them and the missionaries, or to pay the missionaries a money equivalent for the surrender of their property. The missionaries, on being communicated with by Dr. Lord, signified their preference of the proposal to grant them an equally eligible site and erect suitable buildings elsewhere, in exchange for their existing property, and this arrangement is now in course of being carried out. No better instance of the difficulties which Fung-shui presents to foreign missionary and commercial enterprise could be adduced.

After this digression to return to the Fung-shui of the resting places of the dead : — a wound inflicted on a grave does not necessarily entail the death of its Fung-shui. That of some graves is so vigorous that it can sustain many an injury without being seriously damaged, nay, even the amputation of a Dragon’s or Tiger’s limb. Of others, on the contrary, the Fung-shui is so frail that the slightest wound is sure to affect its working and bring the whole machine to a standstill. Only professional experts are capable of ascertaining whether the wound is dangerous, and whether a cure is possible. They aver that, as in the case of the human body, the gravity of the injury chiefly depends upon the part affected. The stone, for instance, on which the grave inscription is carved, and the tumulus, are especially vulnerable, they being, as stated before, the chief seat of the manes of the occupant of the grave. Whether a wound is mortal is inferred from its consequences. Should the family be visited by sickness, mortality or a decline in business, or sustain any considerable pecuniary losses, then, after long consultation with one or more learned professors, the death of the Fung-shui is taken for granted. It is then of no use to remove the object which has caused the wound, or to repair the violated tumulus, or to erect a new grave stone in the place of the one that has been knocked to pieces. Indeed, so people argue, neither the extraction of the dagger from the body of a murdered man, nor the patching up of his wounds, can ever restore him to life.

When enough evil has befallen the family to convince them that the wound, inflicted on their grave, is mortal, they generally arrive at the conclusion that the best thing they can do is to ask their professor to look out for another grave, and re-bury the corpse. It not seldom occurs that a professor, eager for business and gain, makes a family believe that one of their graves has entirely lost its good Fung-shui, the corpse having fallen a prey to termites, the skeleton being turned upside down, or the bones lying out of order or topsy turvy in the coffin ; he tells them it is their duty to break the grave up and give the soul a better resting place elsewhere. Still all his logic is powerless so long as the fortunes of the family take no unfavourable turn, for this is the most decisive proof that everything is all right with the Fung-shui. But no sooner does a disaster occur, than the professor’s argument gains attention ; and a few more mishaps suffice to make the family surrender themselves bound hand and foot into his power. When the grave is opened, fortunately for the credit of the Fung-shui and the professor, the correctness of the latter’s statement is often verified by facts. In truth it is a very common occurence in China for termites to built their nests in coffins, or for foxes, rats or other beasts to nestle therein ; besides, the stick of a mountain cockroach or of the professor himself can secretly disarrange the bones so as to insure the triumph of the latter. And even if everything in the grave should be in the best condition, and the bones dry and hard, and the coffin but little affected by decay, the professor has plenty of arguments to prove that the Fung-shui was thoroughly bad. 

It is not necessary to dilate further on Fung-shui and its influence upon social life. The above pages will suffice to show what it really is : — the product of egotism under the guise of filial piety ; a sure criterion that this highest among the national virtues of the Chinese, so often extolled to the skies by European authors, is much less sincere than is generally supposed ; that it is not spontaneous, but calculating ; not generous, but thoroughly selfish. Fung-shui is fetichism applied to the dead and their corporeal remains. It is a hybrid monster, born of the union of filial devotion in its vilest form with blind gropings after natural science. At the outset a benumbed viper, it has, carefully fostered by the nation, developed into a horrid hydra suffocating the whole Empire in its coils and deluging it with its venom throughout its length and breadth.

In fact, as we have stated, wielding its cruel scourge with vigour, it disturbs social peace and order, sowing endless discord among families, clans and villages, and giving rise to quarrels, litigation, contention, incendiarism and bloodshed. It causes the ruin of many families, wasting their fortunes under the pretext of creating fortunes. It constrains the people to keep their dead unburied for months, nay years, in spite of epidemics and contagious diseases, and to exhume them before the process of decay has done its work, thus increasing mortality. But further, Fung-shui interferes with industry and commercial enterprise, as being the ground for refusing many improvements which would be of the greatest advantage to the people. The cutting of a new road or canal, the construction of a new bridge, almost always entails the amputation of a limb of some Celestial Animal, intercepts good, aquatic influences or affects the calculations of geomancers in some way or other, causing entire clans, wards, villages and towns to rise up as one man against the reckless individual whose enterprising spirit presumes to bring misfortune upon them all.

« When, says Dr. Eitel, it was proposed to erect a few telegraph poles, when the construction of a railway was urged upon the Chinese Government, when a mere tramway was suggested to utilize the coal-mines of the interior, Chinese officials would invariably make a police bow and declare the thing impossible on account of Fung-shui. When, thirty years ago, the leading merchants of the Colony of Hongkong endeavoured to place the business part of the town in the so-called Happy Valley, and to make that part of the island the centre of the whole town, they ignominiously failed on account of Fung-shui. When the Hongkong Government cut a road, now known as the Gap, to the Happy Valley, the Chinese community was thrown into a state of abject terror and fright, on account of the disturbance which this amputation of the Dragon’s limbs would cause to the Fung-shui of Hong-kong ; and when many of the engineers, employed at the cutting, died of Hongkong fever, and the foreign houses already built in the Happy Valley had to be deserted on account of malaria, the Chinese triumphantly declared, it was an act of retributory justice on the part of Fung-shui. When Senhor Amaral, the Governor of Macao, who combined with a great passion for constructing roads an unlimited contempt for Fung-shui, interfered with the situation and aspects of Chinese tombs, he was waylaid by Chinese, his head cut off, and the Chinese called this dastardly deed the revenge of Fung-shui.

As a matter of fact, all the books of geomancy re-echo the doctrine of Ch‘ing I-ch‘wen, the philosopher, that, in selecting graves,

« one must not be remiss in avoiding the five following evils : Care must be taken lest some day or other roads are made there, or city walls, canals or ponds ; or lest people of rank and influence appropriate the place to themselves, or agriculture be exercised thereupon.

As a consequence hereof, Fung-shui causes an immense waste of labour in China, for as it prevents in most parts of the Empire the construction of good canals and roads, ships, beasts of burden or carts can only be employed in limited numbers, which necessitates a great use of the human shoulder for the transport of persons and merchandise along paths scarcely passable. Nor is it rare to see hundreds of ships and vessels taking a wide roundabout and difficult circuit, simply because Fung-shui has forbidden a bridge to be built high enough to allow of their passing underneath.

The question will be asked, how is it possible that so large a portion of the human race, though imbued since its childhood with sacred awe for the mysteries of the Universe, has grown up to manhood and hoary old age without arriving at even an elementary knowledge of the true laws of Nature? How is it the Chinese never built up anything better than a speculative system based upon ancient formulæ and mystic diagrams, and amounting to little more than a mechanical play of idle abstractions, a system so unscientific, so puerile, that it can only move us to a smile?

The answer must in the first place be sought in the educational system of the nation. This has always been grounded upon an unbounded reverence for everything which could claim an ancient origin. Whatever the ancients thought, taught and wrought always was in everybody’s eyes the highest truth, sacred and inviolable ; beyond it no other truth ever existed. Thus the classical books, transmitting the ideas and actions of the ancients to posterity, naturally became the exclusive starting point of instruction, both public and private. And the Government being recruited, regularly and systematically, from the classes thus educated, it never could do otherwise than disparage, nay, formally forbid any doctrines and studies arising from other principles ; on the other hand, it never occurred to any one among the people to pursue another line of study, because only the old method opened up any prospect of being admitted into the ranks of the ruling party, which is the highest ambition of every true Chinaman.

So nobody in China has ever thought of studying Nature in that independent matter-of-fact way which alone can reveal to man the secrets of the Universe ; nor have the Chinese tried to make instruments to aid them in the contemplation of the canopy of heaven, the study of the atmosphere, the laws of gravity and hydrostatics. Instead thereof, they have blunted their wits upon conjectural theories, evolving an entire system of natural science from their religious superstitions with respect to the dead in connection with a few rough guesses at Nature occurring in the Classics ; the product being a monstrous medley of religion, superstition, ignorance and philosophy, more strange than was ever hatched by the human brain. It seems never to have occurred to any one, not even to the wisest of the wise, that methodical, independent research might be a better groundwork for big books than the ignorance of the ancients. Chinese sages, by spinning out the dogmatic formulæ of ancient tradition to an infinite length, have succeeded in proving that oceans of wisdom lie hidden in those formulæ. Thus the position of the ancients has been strengthened, so as to render it impregnable, but in the mountains of reasonings not a single grain of common sense is to be found ; and though these sages have obtained places of worship for themselves in the Government temples dedicated to Confucius and the great disciples of his school of learning, thus gaining the highest laurels ever conferred in their country on the human intellect, not one of them has ever enriched the Empire with the simplest rudiment of real, useful knowledge.

Even at present the educational system of China is based, as firmly as ever, upon the principle that the Classics are the sole depositories of true science ; and everything which is not built upon the principles laid down therein, is ignored, or stigmatized as heterodox. And the Government is in the hands of the learned class, as it has always been. Hence Fung-shui is still in the apogee of its power, bearing sway in the mansions of emperors and princes just as in the cabins of the poor. The palace-grounds in the Metropolis and the gorgeous mausolea of the Imperial Family as well as the graves of the lowest class are laid out in accordance with its rescripts. That Fung-shui has a legal status we have seen from the fact that the authorities entertain the claim and give judgment when complaints about the disturbance of the Fung-shui are placed before them.

Fung-shui has even a political status.

« When a rebellion breaks out in any one of the eighteen provinces, the first step taken by the Government is not to raise troops, but invariably to dispatch messengers instructed to find out the ancestral tombs of the several leaders of the rebellion, to open the tombs, scatter their contents to the winds and desecrate the graves in every possible way. For this is supposed to be the surest means of injuring the prospects and marring the possible success of the rebels.

The books make mention of emperors having, no doubt for similar reasons, destroyed the graves of the dynasties they had dethroned. Chwang Tsung, for instance, the first sovereign of the short-lived posterior T‘ang dynasty,

« having destroyed the House of Liang, desired to dig up the grave of T‘ai Tsu, (the founder) of that House, and to hack up his coffin and mutilate the corpse. But (Chang) Ts‘üen-i gave it as his opinion that, though that family had been in overt enmity (with the present emperor), enough retributive justice had been done it by its slaughter and destruction, and that the cutting-up of a coffin and the mutilation of the corpse was not a sublime measure for a sovereign to take as a warning example to the world. Chwang Tsung opined he was right, and merely demolished the gate of the tomb.

There is little doubt that it was not merely rapacity which inspired insurgents to destroy, in the course of centuries, so many imperial tombs, but also a desire to weaken the Throne by depriving it of the indispensable protection of its ancestors. Already in Chapter V we have drawn the attention of our readers to this point and, moreover, stated that, to minimize such dangers, walled cities have, since the Han dynasty, been built in the neighbourhood of the imperial mausolea, and the latter are walled and garrisoned down to the present day. Should European armies have for a second time to march on Peking, it will be worth while trying whether the campaign cannot be shortened and loss of life spared by a military occupation of the burial grounds of the Imperial Family. Indeed, should the Court receive the ultimatum that these tombs will be successively destroyed by barbarian explosives, its belief in Fung-shui will without a doubt force it to submit implicitly to the foreign demands.

By thus making use of the Fung-shui doctrines to harm their enemies, the foreign powers would merely be wielding the same weapon which Chinese statesmen have so frequently and cunningly used against them in times of peace.

« When land had to be ceded to the hated foreigner along the coast of China, as a so-called foreign concession, the Chinese Government invariably selected ground condemned by the best experts in Fung-shui as combining a deadly breath with all those indications of the compass which imply dire calamity to all who settle upon it, even to their children’s children. If the spot had not had to be ceded by treaty, it would have been pointed out to the unsuspecting foreigner as the only one open for sale, and anyhow the ignorant barbarian sceptic would be made the supposed dupe and laughing-stock of the astute Chinaman. Witness, for instance, the views held by intelligent Chinese in regard to the island of Sha-meen, the foreign concession of Canton. It was originally a mud flat in the Canton river in the very worst position known to Fung-shui. It was conceded to the imperious demands of the foreign powers as the best available place of residence for foreigners ; and when it was found that the Canton trade, once so important, would not revive, would not flourish there, in spite of all the efforts of its supporters — when it was discovered that every house built on Shameen was overrun with white ants as soon as built, boldly defying cool tar, carbolic acid and all other foreign appliances — when it was noticed that the English Consul, though a special residence was built for him there, preferred to live two miles off under the protecting shadow of a Pagoda, — this was a clear triumph of Fung-shui and of Chinese statesmanship.

Afterwards, when the barbarians had been settled long enough in the several ports for the Chinese to witness the rise of flourishing mercantile houses, surrounded by buildings and villas which must appear to them to be palaces when compared with their own huts and houses, then a decided change in their ideas as to the stupidity of foreigners in Fung-shui matters came about. Did not the fact that there were never any paupers to be found among them, and that most of them became rich enough to pay to their humblest clerks salaries which, if earned by a Chinaman, would stamp him as a man of wealth, sufficiently prove that they knew all about that noble art? In Amoy many professors have not words enough wherewith to extol the Fung-shui of the foreign houses in the island of Kulangsu. Nearly all of them, they say, are placed under the protection of excellent Tigers and Dragons, and the gardens too are laid out in a way which native experts could hardly improve upon, the groves and trees serving as perfect fenders against obnoxious shah. The Fung-shui of those dwellings is so solid that the inmates need no such cabalistic amulets and talismans as the natives are forced to affix to their own walls and to wear about their bodies in considerable numbers ; they may even regularly clean their houses without fear, whilst the cleansing of a Chinese dwelling would inevitably expulse therefrom the ts‘ai khi or ‘wealth-producing breath’, and so cause the ruin of the in-mates. Last, though not least, it is the good Fung-shui of their buildings which exempts foreigners from the trouble of selecting auspicious days and hours for their enterprises. They never consult a day professor, nor cast a look into an almanac, and yet, even in the hottest summer months when hosts of obnoxious spirits and dangerous breaths innumerable decimate the natives by cholera and other diseases, they look hale and healthy ; and though they recklessly spoil the Fung-shui of many Chinese graves by erecting buildings for trading purposes, dwellings and amusements, they are wonderfully exempt from the disasters sent down by the irritate spirits. How is it then to be believed that foreigners do not know more about Fung-shui than they are willing to tell?

However firmly the foreigners maintain that they are quite ignorant of the art and only characterize it as ridiculous, the Chinese are astute enough to understand that they do so simply to rid themselves of importune questioners anxious to ferret out their valuable secrets. If they know nothing of Fung-shui, it is asked, why do they lay out the graves of all their dead in one plot in Kulangsu, a plot carefully selected on the slope of that marvellous Dragon-head Hill (p. 949) which commands the Fung-shui of the whole island, the town and the harbour ? Why do they place the graves there in uniform straight lines, and surround them with trees and bamboo groves? Why have they, just in the centre of that ground, a queer tower-like building exhibiting lines and contours both mysterious and marvellous ? Why have they walled that cemetery on three sides, thus screening it at the back and the sides from obnoxious shah and leaving open the frontside with the iron railing, exactly as if it were a good Chinese grave? Why have they laid it out in such a wise that at the back there are gently shelving terraces, and in front a large pond in which water-courses converge from the four chief bluffs of the island, everything in strict accordance with Fung-shui? In short, they ask, how can foreigners pretend to know nothing of Fung-shui, when we ourselves see how anxious they are to accumulate their dead in that mysterious, narrow plot which combines everything required for a perfect Fung-shui, thus giving us the clearest evidence that they regard it as the chief palladium of their fortunes?

Fung-shui being most deeply rooted in the minds of the people and firmly entwined with their religious system, in so far as this consists in the worship of ancestors, divinities and saints as exercised at graves, domestic altars and in temples, we cannot expect that it will be eradicated as long as the people remain so totally ignorant of the exact sciences as they have done up to the present. The only power capable of overthrowing it, or weakening its all-pervading influence, is sound natural science. Seeing, however, that neither the ruling classes, nor the people have ever manifested the slightest inclination to make a study of Nature by an experimental and critical survey of its laws, and that a national stagnation has kept their mental culture down at such a low level, it seems hopeless to expect that sound views of natural science will ever be acquired by the Chinese on their own initiative. Perhaps the foreigners may be able to shed some rays of the light of their science upon the Middle Kingdom. But where are the men to be found, willing and able to take upon themselves the Herculean task of educating such a nation, and capable of writing clear and popular explanations of the laws of Nature in that idiomatic, attractive Chinese style which alone finds favour in the eyes of the educated? And even were such men to be found, their attempts would most likely suffer shipwreck from the national ignorance of the written language, for, owing to the fact that this language is extremely difficult to learn, only very few men in every hundred or, more correctly speaking, in every thousand, are able to understand a book. And thus, even though it were granted that the Chinese race is not stamped for ever with the total incapacity to rise to a higher level of mental culture, a complete overthrow and re-organisation of its religion, philosophy, literature, customs and social forms would be required to uproot Fung-shui. In other words : Fung-shui will bear the supreme sway in China as long as China is China, and the Chinese are Chinese.


Retour au texte de l'auteur: Jean-Marc Fontan, sociologue, UQAM Dernière mise à jour de cette page le samedi 10 novembre 2007 7:19
Par Jean-Marie Tremblay, sociologue
professeur de sociologie au Cégep de Chicoutimi.
 
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