"To retain laws and customs according to the traditionary manner, and to extend these laws and customs to other lands," was the precept of the founders of the Celestial Empire, as well as of other civilised nations. "But this extension," they added, "is not to be effected by the oratorical powers of single messengers, nor through the force of armed hordes. This renovation, as in every other sound organic growth which forces itself from within, can only take place when the Outer Barbarians, irresistibly compelled by the virtue and majesty of the Son of Heaven, blush for their barbarism, voluntarily obey the image of the Heavenly Father, and become men."
It will be readily understood that a race holding such opinions would undertake no voyage of discovery, and attempt no conquests. Not a single instance occurs daring the entire four thousand years of the history of Eastern Asia, of an individual who had travelled in foreign lands for the purpose of adding to his own information or that of others. The journey of Lao-tse--the founder of the religion of the Taosse-- to the West appears to be a tale deliberately invented for the purpose of connecting his doctrine of the Primitive and Infinite 'Wisdom with that of "The Western Mountain of the Gods," or with Buddhism. The campaigns beyond those limits which Nature has assigned to the Chinese Empire, were undertaken merely through the impulse of self-preservation. Men were compelled, in Central as in Eastern Asia, in Thibet as well as on the banks of the Irawaddy, to anticipate the dangers and invasions which, at a later period, threatened the freedom of the Central Empire, and were frequently obliged to send ambassadors or spies into different Asiatic or European countries to obtain information relating to their situation and nature, as well as the condition of their inhabitants, which could guide them in their subsequent warlike or diplomatic relations with the enemies of the Empire.
This land, so blessed by Nature, attracted not only the barbarian desirous of plunder, but also the merchant, since certain productions, such as silk, tea, and true rhubarb, were found only there. The Chinese Government as well as people, influenced by the precepts of their wise men, received strangers graciously so long as they implicitly obeyed, or in any manner evinced fear and submission, and returned the presents which were offered according to Oriental custom with others of still greater value. All the discoveries and experiences, all the knowledge and information which they thus obtained in their peaceful or warlike relations with foreign nations, were generally recorded in the last division of the "Year-Books" of their own chronicles, forming, in an historical point of view, an inestimable treasure.