In a letter to the Sabbath-school of the Central Reformed Church, Brooklyn, Mr. Talmage thus describes the southern emporium of the province of Fukien:
"Amoy is situated on an island of the same name. The city proper or citadel is about one mile in circumference. Its form is nearly that of a rhomboid or diamond. It is surrounded by a wall about twenty feet in height, and eight or ten feet in thickness, built of large blocks of coarse granite. It has four gates. The outer city, or city outside of the walls, is much more extensive. Its circumference, I suppose, is about six miles.
"The streets are not so wide as the sidewalks in Brooklyn. Some of them are so narrow that, when two persons, walking in opposite directions, meet each other, it is necessary for the one to stop, in order that the other may pass on. The most of the streets are paved with coarse granite blocks, yet on account of the narrowness of the streets, and the want of cleanliness by the great mass of the inhabitants, the streets are usually very filthy.
"This part of Amoy island is rugged and mountainous, and interspersed with large granite rocks. Some of them are of immense size. It is in such a place that the city has been built. Many of these rocks are left in their natural position, and overhang the houses which have been built among them. The ground has not been leveled as in Brooklyn, consequently the greater part of the streets are uneven. Some of them are conducted over the hills by stone steps. Near our residences, one of the public streets ascends a hill by a flight of thirty-six steps. On account of this unevenness of the streets as well as their narrowness a carriage cannot pass through the city of Amoy. Instead of carriages the more wealthy inhabitants use sedan chairs, which are usually borne by two bearers. The higher officers of government, called 'Mandarins,' have four bearers to carry them. The greater part of the inhabitants always travel on foot. The place of carts is supplied by men called 'coolies,' whose employment is to carry burdens. The houses, except along the wharves and a few pawn-shops farther up in the city, are one story.
"There are no churches here, but there are far more temples for the worship of false gods, and the souls of deceased ancestors, than there are churches in Brooklyn.
"Besides these, almost every family has its shrine and idols and ancestral tablets, which last are worshipped with more devotion than the idols. In consequence of their religion the people are degraded and immoral. One-third of all female children born in the city of Amoy are slain. In the villages throughout this whole region, it is supposed that about one-half are destroyed. They do not exhibit sympathy for each other and for those in distress, which is enjoined by the Bible, and which, notwithstanding all its defects, is the glory of Christian communities. I have seen a man dying on the pavement on a street, almost as densely thronged as Broadway, New York, and no one of the passers-by, or of the inhabitants of that part of the street, seemed to notice him or care for him more than if he had been a dog."
DESCRIPTION OF AMOY AND AMOY ISLAND
Another letter to the same congregation a few months later reads:
"The first impression on the mind of an individual in approaching the shores of China from the south, and sailing along the coast, as far north as Amoy, is anything but favorable. So great is the contrast between the lovely scenery and dense vegetation of many of the islands of the Indian Archipelago, and the barren and worn-out hills which line the southern part of the coast of China, that in the whole range of human language it would seem scarcely possible to find a more inappropriate term than the term 'Celestial' whereby to designate this great empire. Neither is this unfavorable opinion removed immediately on landing. The style of building is so inferior, the streets are so narrow and filthy, the countenances of the great mass of the people, at least to a newcomer, are so destitute of intelligent expression, and the bodies and clothing, and habits of the multitudes are so uncleanly, that one is compelled to exclaim in surprise, 'Are these the people who stand at the top of pagan civilization, and who look upon all men as barbarous, except themselves?' Besides, everything looks old. Buildings, temples, even the rocks and the hills have a peculiar appearance of age and seem to be falling into decay. I am happy to say, however, that as we become better acquainted with the country and the people, many of these unfavorable impressions are removed. After passing a little to the north of Amoy, the appearance of the coast entirely changes. Even in this mountainous region we have valleys and plains, which would suffer but little by comparison with any other country for beauty and fertility. I also love the scenery around the city of Amoy very much. The city is situated on the western side of an island of the same name. This part of the island in its general appearance is very similar to the coast of which I have spoken. It is rocky and mountainous and barren. There are, however, among these barren hills many small fertile spots, situated in the ravines and along the watercourses, which on account of their high state of cultivation form a lovely contrast with the surrounding barrenness. Wherever the Chinese, at least in this part of the Empire, can find a watercourse, by cultivation they will turn the most barren soil into a garden. The sides of the ravines are leveled by digging down, and walling up, if necessary, forming terraces or small fields, the one above the other. These small fields are surrounded by a border of impervious clay. The water is conducted into the higher of these terraces, and from them conducted into those which are lower, as the state of the crops may demand. Often a field of paddy may be seen inundated, while the next field below, in which perhaps the sweet potato is growing, is kept perfectly dry. Among the hills there is much of picturesque scenery, and some that is truly sublime. The Buddhists have exhibited an exquisite taste for natural scenery, in selecting such places for the situation of many of their temples."
"Their respect for ancestors is very great, so much so that the species of idolatry which has by far the strongest hold upon their minds is ancestral worship. This is the stronghold by which Satan maintains his supremacy over the minds of the people, and this we may expect will be the last to give way to the power of the Gospel of Christ. One may hold up their gods to ridicule and they will laugh at his remarks, but they do not love to hear the worship of their ancestors spoken against. This worship, after the period of mourning is over, consists chiefly in offering at stated times various articles of food to the spirits of the deceased, and in burning various kinds of paper, as a substitute for money, by which these spirits are supplied with that most convenient article. Natural affection and selfishness unite to strengthen their attachment to this worship. It is as necessary for the happiness of the souls of the dead, in the opinion of the Chinese, as is the saying of the mass in the opinion of a Roman Catholic. Without these attentions the souls of the deceased are in a sort of purgatory; wandering about in want and wretchedness. But if the desire of rendering their ancestors happy be not sufficient to secure attention to these rites, a still more powerful motive addresses itself to their minds. These wandering spirits are supposed capable of bringing misfortune and inflicting injuries on their ungrateful and impious descendants. Thus if a family meet with reverses, the cause is often attributed to the want of attention to the souls of the deceased ancestors, or to the fact that the sites of their graves have not been judiciously selected, and the dissatisfied spirits are taking vengeance for these neglects or mistakes. Another consideration which seems to exert much influence, is that if they neglect the spirits of their ancestors, their descendants may neglect them.
"For the present life they can think of no higher happiness than success in acquiring wealth, and the highest happiness after death consists in having sons to supply the wants of their spirits. These are the two objects that engross the highest aspirations of a Chinaman."
"This will account in part for the barbarous custom of infanticide which prevails to so lamentable an extent among these heathen. Only female infants are destroyed. While the parents are living the son may be of pecuniary advantage to them, and after their death, he can attend to the rites of their souls, and even after his death, through him the parents may have descendants to perform the ancestral rites. A daughter on the contrary, it is supposed, will only prove a burden in a pecuniary point of view, and after she is married she is reckoned to the family of her husband. Her children, also, except her husband otherwise order, are only expected to attend to the spirits of their paternal ancestors."
"Some have denied the existence of the practice of infanticide among the Chinese, or, they have asserted that if it does exist, the practice of it is very unusual. Every village which we visit in this region gives evidence that such persons are not acquainted with this part of the empire. A few days ago a company of us visited the village of Kokia. It is situated on the northern extremity of Amoy Island, and contains, perhaps, two thousand inhabitants. After walking through the village we sat down for a short time under the shade of a large banyan tree. A large concourse of people soon gathered around us to see the foreigners and hear what they had to say. In this crowd we found by counting nearly a hundred boys, and but two or three girls. Also when walking through the village very few girls were to be seen. The custom of binding the feet of the girls, which greatly affects their power of locomotion, would account for more boys being seen than girls, but will not account for the disparity noticed. We therefore inquired the cause of this disparity. They answered with laughter that female children are killed. The same question has been asked again and again at the various villages we have visited and the same answer obtained. This answer is given freely and apparently without any idea that the practice is wicked, until they are taught so by us. The result of this one practice on the morals of the people may readily be imagined. It accustoms the mind to acts of cruelty and it prepares the way for impurity and wickedness in forms that are never dreamed of in Christian countries."
In this connection an extract from Dr. David Abeel's[*] diary may be of value.
[Footnote *: David Abeel was the founder of the American Reformed Mission at Amoy in 1842.]
"Today had a conversation with one of the merchants who come to Kolongsu for trade, on the subject of female infanticide. Assuming a countenance of as much indifference as possible, I asked him how many of his own children he had destroyed: he instantly replied, 'Two.' I asked him whether he had spared any. He said, 'One I have saved.' I then inquired how many brothers he had. 'Eight,' was the answer. I asked him how many children his eldest brother had destroyed. 'Five or six.' I inquired of the second, third and all the rest; some had killed four or five, some two or three, and others had none to destroy. I then asked how many girls were left among them all. 'Three,' was the answer. And how many do you think have been strangled at birth? 'Probably from twelve to seventeen.' I wished to know the standing and employment of his brothers. One, he said, had attained a literary degree at the public examinations; the second was a teacher; one was a sailor; and the rest were petty merchants like himself. Thus, it was evidently not necessity but a cold inhuman calculation of the gains and losses of keeping them, which must have led these men to take the lives of their own offspring.
"Mr. Boone's teacher's sister with her own hand destroyed her first three children successively. The fourth was also a girl, but the mother was afraid to lay violent hands on it, believing it to be one of the previous ones reappearing in a new body."
"The names of the five districts in the Chinchew prefecture are Tong-an, An-khoe, Chin-kiang, Hui-an and Lam-an. Amoy is situated in the Chin-chew prefect.
"From a comparison with many other parts of the country, there is reason to believe that a greater number of children are destroyed at birth in the Tong-an district than in any other of this department, probably more than in any other of this department, probably more than in any other part of the province of equal extent and populousness. In the Tong-an district I have inquired of persons from forty different towns and villages. The number destroyed varies exceedingly in different places, the extremes extending from seventy and eighty percent to ten percent. The average proportion destroyed in all these places amounting to nearly four-tenths or exactly thirty-nine percent.
"In seventeen of these forty towns and villages, my informants declare that one-half or more are deprived of existence at birth.
"From the inhabitants of six places in Chin-kiang, and of four places in Hui-an, if I am correctly informed, the victims of infanticide do not exceed sixteen percent.
"In the seven districts of the Chiang-chiu prefecture the number is rather more than one-fourth or less than three-tenths.
"There is reason to fear that scarcely less than twenty-five percent are suffocated almost at the first breath."
It is altogether probable that this vice is just as prevalent now. The scarcity of girls in nearly all the towns and villages and the exorbitant rates demanded for marriageable daughters in some districts, only render sad confirmation to what Drs. Abeel and Talmage wrote two score and more years ago.
IS CHINA TO BE WON, AND HOW?
Mr. Talmage continues:
"I cannot close this letter without saying a word in reference to our prospects of success. The moral condition of this people, their spiritual apathy, their attachment to the superstitious rites of their ancestors, together with the natural depravity of the human heart, and at the same time their language being one of the most difficult, perhaps the most difficult of acquisition of any spoken language, all combine to forbid, it would seem, all hope of ever Christianizing this empire. But that which is impossible with men is possible with God. He who has commanded us to preach the Gospel to every creature, has connected with it a promise that He will be always with us to the end of the world. The stone cut out without hands, we are told by the prophet, became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. The kingdom which the God of heaven has set up 'shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms and it shall stand for ever.' Thus, whatever may be the prospect before us, according to human reasoning, we have 'a more sure word of prophecy.' Resting upon this we can have no doubt in reference to the complete triumph of the cause of Christ, even over the land of Sinim. In connection with such prophecies and promises we have many facts to encourage us. The people are accessible and friendly, and willing to listen to our doctrines. The superiority of Christianity to their systems of religion, sometimes from conviction and sometimes perhaps only from politeness, they often admit.
"Already a few converts have been gathered into the visible Church, and there are others who are seeking to know the way of life more perfectly. Those who have been received into the Church are letting their light shine. The conduct of some who have heard the truth, reminds us forcibly of the conduct of the woman at the well of Samaria, and of the conduct of Andrew and Philip when they first found the Messias.
"It is thus that this empire and most other heathen countries must be evangelized. The work must be done by the natives. The Church in Christian lands, by her missionaries, can only lay the foundation and render some little assistance in rearing the superstructure. She can never carry forward the work to completion. She can never furnish the heathen nations with missionaries of the cross in sufficient numbers to supply them with pastors, neither is it necessary that she should. The Christian is a light shining in a dark place. Especially is it true among the heathen, that every disciple of Christ is as 'a city set on a hill which cannot be hid.' His neighbors and acquaintances must observe the change in his conduct. He no longer worships their gods. He no longer observes any of their superstitious rites. He is no longer a slave to their immoralities. his example must tell. But many of the converts will have gifts to make known the Gospel, and will eagerly embrace these gifts in order to rescue their dying countrymen. Already have we examples of this. Such converts, also, in some respects, may be more efficient than the missionary. They can go where we cannot, and reach those who are entirely beyond our influence. They are better acquainted with the language. They understand the customs of the people more thoroughly. They remember what were the greatest difficulties and objections which proved the greatest obstacles to their reception of the Gospel, and they know how these difficulties were removed and these objections answered. Besides, they have all the advantages which a native must be expected to possess over a foreigner arising from the prejudices of the people.
"Perhaps it may be necessary to guard against a wrong inference, which might be hastily deduced from the facts just stated. The fact that the natives are to be the principal laborers in evangelizing this empire, does not in the least remove the obligation of the Church to quicken and redouble all her efforts, or supersede the necessity for such efforts. It will be many years before this necessity will cease to exist. The Churches in Christian lands, in resolving to undertake the evangelization of this empire, have engaged in great work. In obedience to the command of their Master they have undertaken to rear a vast superstructure, the foundation of which is to be laid entirely by themselves, and on the erection of which they must bestow their care and assistance. This work has been commenced under favorable auspices, but the foundation cannot yet be said to be laid. More laborers must be sent forth. They should be sent out in multitudes if they can be found. They must acquire the language so that they can communicate freely with the people. They must proclaim the message of the Gospel from house to house, in the highways and market-places, wherever they can find an audience,-until converts are multiplied. Schools must be established, and the doctrines of the Gospel be instilled into the minds of the children and youth. We must have a native ministry instructed and trained up from their childhood according to the doctrines of the Gospel before they will be capable of taking the sole charge of this work. Until all this has taken place the churches may not slacken any of their efforts; nay, to accomplish this there must be an increase of effort beyond all that the churches have ever yet put forth."
During the year 1848 he sent a letter to the Society of Inquiry of the Theological Seminary, New Brunswick, New Jersey.
"It is yet a 'day of small things' with us. Our work thus far has been chiefly of a preparatory nature. This will probably be the case for some time to come. There have been just enough conversions to teach us that God is with us and will own the instrumentality which He Himself has appointed for the salvation of men, and to encourage us not to faint in our work. We have a vast amount of prejudice and superstition to remove -- prejudice and superstition which has been growing and consolidating for forty centuries, and has become an essential ingredient in the character of the people and part of almost every emotion and conception of their minds. At present both officials and people are very friendly, and we are permitted to preach the Gospel without hindrance. But we cannot tell how long this state of things will continue. When the operation of the leaven has become manifest, we must expect opposition. We cannot expect that the great adversary of God and men will relinquish this the strongest hold of his empire on earth, without a mighty struggle. We must yet contend with 'principalities and, powers and spiritual wickedness in high places.'
WORSHIP OF THE EMPEROR.
"The system of idolatry is as closely connected with the civil government of China, I suppose, as ever it was with ancient Rome. The emperor may be called the great High-priest of the nation. He and he only is permitted to offer sacrifice and direct worship to the Supreme Being. The description which Paul has given of the 'man of sin,' with but little variation may be applied to him.
"'He exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he as God, sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.' He has arrogated to himself the title which expresses the highest thought of divinity known to the conceptions of the Chinese mind. He is superior to all gods, except the great Supreme. All others he appoints, designates their business and dethrones them at his pleasure. In the city of Amoy is a temple dedicated to the worship of the emperor and containing a tablet as representative of his person. On certain days of the year the officers of government are required to repair to this temple, and offer that religious homage which is due to God alone. Now to remove these prejudices and superstitions and to carry to the final triumph this warfare, which we must wage with those in 'high places,' will not be the work of a few years. We might well despair of ever possessing the land, where such 'sons of Anak' dwell, were it not that the ark of God is with us and His command has been given, 'Go up and possess it.' But we look to you, my brethren, for assistance and reinforcement in this the cause of our common Lord, not only to fill the places of those who fall at their post or are disabled in the conflict, but also that we may extend our lines and conduct the siege with more effect. If you desire a field where you may find scope and employment for every variety of talent, and where you may prove yourselves faithful soldiers of Jesus Christ, I know of no place whence can come to you a more urgent call than from this vast empire."