The present work is an attempt at depicting the Chinese Religious as it is really practised by the nation, and at sketching on a broad scale its influence on Domestic and Social Life. It is the fruit of an intimate contact with the Chinese race for several years.
The plan of this work being essentially different from that hitherto followed by most writers on Chinese Religious and Ethnography, very little material collected by them can enter into its composition. This will stamp the present work as an entirely new production, drawn up independently of all previous writers.
On the arrangements of this work, it is subdivided in Books, each Book dealing with a separate part of the Religious System of China. Each succeeding Book depends on the data supplied by the previous book, so that the whole will form one catena, from which, however, any link may be detached and freely made use of separately. The two first parts of Book I are now before the reader and they may serve to convey a general idea of the method to be pursued to the end of the work.
Each volume was illustrated by zincographical figures and photo-typical plates, all of which have been reproduced from photographs taken by the author himself in China, or from objects collected by him and now in the possession of several museums, the greater part being at the Musée Guimet at Paris.
The book is intended less as a scientific production than as a store-house of facts, carefully gleaned from actual life and expounded by data collected from the literary relics of bygone ages. Many of the explanations given of Practices, Rites and Customs may at first sight seem rash and venturesome. But let the reader in such cases suspend his judgments for a while, as these will afterwards be found to be perfectly justified by facts adduced in other volumes.