XIX.19 How this fusion of Chinese religion, laws, ethos, and manners came about

The legis­la­tors of China had the tran­qui­lity of the empire as the prin­ci­pal object of govern­ment. Subordination see­med to them the best means of main­tai­ning it. With this thought, they belie­ved they must ins­pire res­pect for fathers, and gathe­red all their strength for that. They ins­ti­tu­ted an infi­nite num­ber of rites and cere­mo­nies to honor them during their lives and after their deaths. It was not pos­si­ble to do such honor to dead fathers without being impel­led to honor them while they were alive. The cere­mo­nies for dead fathers had more to do with the reli­gion ; those for living fathers more to do with the laws, the ethos, and the man­ners ; but these were just parts of a sin­gle code, and that code was very exten­sive.

Respect for fathers was neces­sa­rily tied to eve­ry­thing that repre­sen­ted fathers : old men, mas­ters, magis­tra­tes, and the empe­ror. This res­pect for fathers assu­med a return of love for the chil­dren, and conse­quently the same return from the old to the young, from the magis­tra­tes to those who were under them, and from the empe­ror to his sub­jects. All these for­med the rites, and those rites the gene­ral spi­rit of the nation.

You will appre­ciate that the rela­tion­ship which the appa­rently most indif­fe­rent things can have with the fun­da­men­tal cons­ti­tu­tion of China. This empire is sha­ped by the idea of a family govern­ment. If you dimi­nish pater­nal autho­rity, or if you even retrench the cere­mo­nies that express the res­pect one has for it, you wea­ken res­pect for magis­tra­tes who are thought of as fathers ; the magis­tra­tes will no lon­ger have the same atten­tion for the peo­ple they should think of as chil­dren ; the bond of love which exists bet­ween the prince and the sub­jects also will fade. Take away one of these prac­ti­ces, and you shake the state. It is quite indif­fe­rent in itself whe­ther a daugh­ter-in-law rises every mor­ning to go ren­der such-and-such duties to her mother-in-law ; but if we observe the fact that these out­ward prac­ti­ces are a cons­tant remin­der one of a sen­ti­ment it is neces­sary to imprint in every heart, and which from every heart goes to form the spi­rit that governs the empire, you will see that it is indis­pen­sa­ble that this or that par­ti­cu­lar act be per­for­med.