Chapters 6-7 of The Spirit of the Laws Book 7 Simplified

The Luxury of China

September 9, 2015

Chapter 6: The Luxury of China

SUMPTUARY laws might be necessary in some governments.

The population may grow so large because of the climate. The uncertainty of food might render a universal application to agriculture extremely necessary.

Luxury, in such countries, is dangerous. This would cause their sumptuary laws to be very severe.

In order, therefore, to be able to judge whether luxury ou ght to be encouraged or proscribed, we should examine, first, what relation there is between the number of people and the facility they have of procur ing subsistence.

English soil produces more grain than is necessary for the local population. This allows them to have some trifling arts, and consequently luxury.

In France, likewise, th ere is corn enough for the support of the husbandman and of the manufacturer. Besides, a foreign trade may bring in so many necessaries, in return for toys, that there is no danger to be apprehended from luxury.

On the contrary, in China, the women are so prolific and their population grows so fast, that the lands thou gh never so much cultivated, are scarcely sufficient to support the inhabitants.

Here, therefore, luxury is pernicious, and the spirit of industry and economy is as requisite as in any republic. They are obliged to pursue the necessary arts, and to shun those of luxury and pleasure.

This is the spirit of the excellent decrees of the Chinese emperors. Our ancestors (says an emperor of the family of the Tangs) held it as a maxim, that, if there was a man who did not work, or a woman that was idle, somebody must suffer cold or hunger in the empire. On this principle, he ordered many of the monasteries of bonzes to be destroyed.

The third emperor of the one-and-twentieth dynasty to whom some precious stones were brought that had been found in a mine, ordered it to be shut up, not choosing to fatigue his people with working for a thing that could neither feed nor clothe them.

Kiayventi says=

So great is our luxury that people adorn with embroidery the shoes of boys and girls whom they are obliged to sell. Is employing so many people in making cloaths for one person the way to prevent a great many from wanting cloaths? There are ten men who eat the fruits of the earth to one employed in agriculture; and is this the means to preserve numbers from wanting nourishment?

## Chapter 7= Fatal Consequences of Luxury in China. China had 22 successive dynasties. It had 22 general revolutions. The three first dynasties lasted a long time because they were wisely administered. The empire had not so great an extent as it afterwards obtained. All those dynasties began very well. Virtue, attention, and vigilance, are necessary in China. These prevailed in the commencement of the dynasties and failed in the end. Their emperors= - were trained up in military toil - had compassed the dethroning of a family immersed in pleasure It was natural, that the emperors should= - adhere to virtue, which they had found so advantageous, and - be afraid of voluptuousness, which they knew had proved so fatal to the family dethroned But, after the three or four first princes, corruption, luxury, indolence, and pleasure, possessed their successors. - They shut themselves up in a palace - Their understanding was impaired - Their life was shortened - The family declined - The grandees rose up - The eunuchs gained credit - none but children were set on the throne - th e palace was at variance with the empire; a lazy set of people, that dwelle d here, ruined the industrious part of the nation; the emperor was killed or destroyed by an usurper, who founded a family, the third or fourth succe ssor of which went and shut himself up in the very same palace.


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