In his preface, Maine defines his scope: "...the chief object of the following pages is to indicate some of the earliest ideas of mankind, as they are reflected in Ancient Law, & to point out the relation of these ideas to modern thought."
"Each chapter focuses on a different trade or Chinese pursuit, included are the diviner, the Budhist priest, the wine carrier, the blind seer, the collector of paper scarps, the neddle maker, the tailor, the opium smoker, the match maker, etc. Each chapter is accompanied by a full page line "pen and ink etching" by a "a native artist". The etchings are faithful representations of the Northern Chinese."
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