BONZES, a name given to the priests and devo tees of the god Fo, in China, Japan, and Tonquin, and other oriental countries. They are distinguished by different names in the different countries where their superstition prevails. In Siam they are called Talapoins ; in Tartary, Lamas; Ho-chang in China ; and in Japan, Bonzes; by which name they are best known among Europeans. They are exceedingly numerous, and generally live in separate communities, in places wholly consigned to themselves. Splendid apartments are assigned to them in the temples of their god, around which they have rich and exten sive domains. Their pagodas are most numerous in the province of Kiang-Nan, where they are agreeably, situated, and well endowed. In the north of China, on the other hand, the greater part of these pagodas have fallen into ruins. The island Pon-to, near Chusan, is wholly occupied by bonzes, who lead there a recluse life, like monks in a convent. There are also female bonzes, who attach themselves to particular temples, and, like nuns in the Romish church, take a vow of perpetual celibacy. These devotees worship their divinity under a great variety of forms, representing the different animals into which they suppose him to have transmigrated pre vious to his deification. Quadrupeds, birds, repliles, and the vilest animals, had temples, and became ob. jects of public veneration ; because the soul of the god, in his transmigrations and metamorphoses, might have inhabited, their bodies. See Crozier's China, vol. ii. p. 218.
If we may credit the accounts given of them by the European missionaries, the bonzes are the most odious set of impostors that ever disgraced the priest ly character. The hatred which these missionaries naturally entertained against a set of Pagan priests, who were the most violent adversaries of the Chris tian faith, renders it necessary, indeed, to regard their representations with some suspicion. Yet, after every fair allowance that can be made for the exaggerations of prejudice, it is impossible to contemplate the cha racter of the bonzes, without feeling horror for their crimes, and a mingled emotion of contempt and com passion for the credulous and ignorant people who are the dupes of 66: knavery. Among the precepti which they enjoin on all the faithful votaries of Fo, they inculcate, with particular eagerness, deeds of beneficence to the bonzes, as the surest means of reaping the full benefit of their prayers and mortifi cations ; Obtaining the remission of their sins ; and a happy transmigration in a' future life. The Jesuits, who declaim so vehemently against these crafty priests, were never half so accomplished in the arts of hypocrisy and fraud. Their ordinary income must be considerable; for they are consulted in all cases of sorcery, which forms an essential part of every pub lic and private deliberation ; their advice is taken in the most common affairs of life ; and they preside at funerals, and mark out the places of interment suita..
ble to the deceased. From this last office they derive considerable emoluments ; for there is a se cret understanding betwcen them and the proprietors of the ground, who share tin: spoil. Not content, however, with these regular means of subsistence, they have recourse to the lowest and most unwarrant. able tricks, for the purpose of extorting money front the superstitious. " We saw," says M. de Guignes, " at Hang-Tchedu-Fou, upon the borders of the lake Sy-Hou, a pagoda, which contained five hun dred gods. The emperor Kien-Long, then living, was of the number ; and it cannot be doubted, that this deification was advantageous to the pagoda, for it was in the best condition. The bonzes skewed us a well, into the bottom of which they let down a light, to discover to us the trunk of the tree of which the pagoda was constructed. This miraculous tree renewed its branches all the time necessary for the construction of the edifices, and ceased to grow as soon as they were finished." Many of them, who have not the address to ex fort presents by their knavery, endeavour to pro cure them by the humbler method of exciting com passion .by the penances and mortifications which they voluntarily undergo. Sometimes they appear in the squares and public places dragging large and massy chains, which are fastened round their necks, and legs ; sometimes they mangle their bodies, and. cut their flesh with hard flints till they stream with. blood ; and sometimes they carry burning coals upon the tops of their naked •heads. In this situation; they go about from door to door : You see," say they to those whom they supplicate, " what we suf. fer, that we may expiate your .sins ; can you be so hard-hearted as to refuse us a small pittance ?" Fa ther Le Compte mention s a very extraordinary pe• nance, of which he was an eye-witness. .A young and handsome bonze, of the most insinuating address, stood erect in a kind of narrow chair, stuck full of. sharp nails, pointed in such a manner that lie could not move without being wounded. He was convey ed slowly from house to house, and endeavoured to excite the compassion of the people, by declaring, that he had shut himself up in that chair for the good of their souls, and resolved not to quit it till they. had purchased all the nails, the number of which ex ceeded two thousand. Each of these nails, he assured them, would prove a source of numerous blessings to them and their families ; and even to purchase one, would be an act of heroic virtue.