The bare-legged, bare-footed figure in our sketch has travelled many a weary league in carrying on his work. His province is to beg—not for himself, but for the monastery to which he belongs.
Every large establishment of this kind has priests of different ranks and different occupations. Su-preme over all is the abbot, or superior, who has his own private apartments, dines, except on great occasions, at his own table, and enjoys a com-fortable income. His duty is to entertain distinguished visitors of the monastery, to administer its revenues, to watch over the due performance of the services of the sanctuary, and to regulate and enforce its discipline in the priests committed to his authority. In the execution of his duties, he has the benefit of an assistant, as sub-prior, who also has his own private apartments, and who attends to minor matters of detail. Subordinate to the abbot and his assistant are the ordinary priests, the greater part of whom employ their time in lounging about ; some, studiously inclined, frequent the library, and pore over its voluminous contents ; some are engaged in cultivating the fields and tending the forests with which the monastery has been endowed ; some, again, are the cooks of the establishment, and display no mean skill in the preparation of their vegetable cuisine ; others, either singly or in pairs, start forth from time to time on a begging expedition, when money is needed for the repair of the buildings, or when an unusual influx of priests or unpropitious seasons have made the inmates feel the pangs of hunger ; and all, in rotation, take part in the frequent and regular chaunted services before the colossal figures in the central hall.
Buddhism in China is not what it once was in power and influence. The monasteries which we now see were the creation of an age which believed in this religion ; some of them are the monuments of imperial zeal. But this faith seems now to be gradually dying out ; its sacred edifices are falling into decay, and no new temples are rising. The priests are generally uneducated men, and held in great contempt by the gentry. Imperial patronage, too, is wanting ; the present sovereign of the country is either unable or unwilling to raise and endow new foundations, or even to restore and maintain those which his forefathers erected. In the many monasteries which I visited, I can call to mind but few which indicated, by the care bestowed on them and the strict observance of the rules, that there was reality in the members, or which contained men of superior intelligence. Priests of earnest mind will often heave a deep sigh over the degeneracy of the present age. In Buddhism there is no distinct order of " beg-ging friars," but, as need arises, a few are chosen to travel through the country and collect subscriptions. In their journeys they are received and lodged by the brethren in other monasteries, who, by a law of the order, are bound to extend to them for a stated time such, hospitality. They visit alike the houses of the rich and of the poor, and usually bring the artillery of their arguments to bear upon the weaker sex. A wallet at their back receives the contributions of the charitable—generally in the form of a little cooked rice, all animal food being prohibited according to the terms of their religious vow. They are the most strict vegetarians in the world.