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Title: Sidelights on Chinese Life
Author: Macgowan, J. (John), -1922
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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SIDELIGHTS ON CHINESE LIFE

      *      *      *      *      *

  BY THE SAME AUTHOR

  The Imperial History of China

  Being the History of the Empire as compiled by the
  Chinese Historians

  _SECOND EDITION NOW READY_

  Enlarged and brought up to date. Royal 8vo, half calf.
  £1 1s. net. To be obtained of

  KEGAN PAUL, TRENCH, TRÜBNER & Co., Limited,
  Dryden House, 43 Gerrard Street, London, W.

      *      *      *      *      *

[Illustration: GOLDEN ISLAND (ON THE YANG-TSE).]


SIDELIGHTS ON CHINESE LIFE

by

REV. J. MACGOWAN

London Missionary Society
Author of "The Imperial History of China,"
"A Dictionary of Amoy Colloquial,"
"Pictures of Southern China," etc.

With Twelve Illustrations in Colour by Montague Smyth
and Thirty-Four Other Illustrations



London
Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co., Limited
Dryden House, 43 Gerrard Street, W.
1907

[All Rights Reserved]

Richard Clay and Sons, Limited
Bread Street Hill, E.C., and
Bungay, Suffolk



CONTENTS


  CHAP.                                                       PAGE

     I. THE CHINAMAN                                             1

    II. FAMILY LIFE                                             21

   III. CHILD LIFE                                              43

    IV. RELIGIOUS FORCES IN CHINA                               65

     V. SERVANTS                                                94

    VI. THE ADAPTABILITY AND TENACITY OF PURPOSE OF THE
        CHINESE                                                112

   VII. AMUSEMENTS                                             131

  VIII. THE FARMER                                             150

    IX. A RAMBLE THROUGH A CHINESE CITY                        175

     X. HADES, OR THE LAND OF SHADOWS                          201

    XI. A CHAPTER ON SOME OF THE MORE SHADY PROFESSIONS
        IN CHINESE LIFE                                        224

   XII. SCHOOLS, SCHOOL-MASTERS, AND SCHOOL-BOOKS              249

  XIII. THE MANDARIN                                           272

   XIV. PEDDLER LIFE IN CHINA                                  296

    XV. THE SEAMY SIDE OF CHINESE LIFE                         322

   XVI. A TRIP THROUGH THE COUNTRY                             346



LIST OF COLOURED PLATES


  GOLDEN ISLAND (ON THE YANG-TSE)                 _Frontispiece_

  AN IMPERIAL CONFUCIAN TEMPLE                   _To face p._ 65

  THE WHITE STAR TEMPLE, NANKIN                    "      "   89

  JUNKS (ON THE YANG-TSE)                          "      "  112

  NETTING FISH                                     "      "  129

  A FARM HOUSE                                     "      "  150

  A HARBOUR SCENE (HONG KONG)                      "      "  158

  CHINESE FARMERS                                  "      "  169

  A TEA HOUSE                                      "      "  225

  A TYPICAL VILLAGE                                "      "  249

  ENTRANCE GATE (NANKIN)                           "      "  272

  CHINESE LOCOMOTION                               "      "  346


UNCOLOURED ILLUSTRATIONS

  A CHINESE GENTLEMAN                            _To face p._  1

  CHINESE EATING RICE AND DRINKING SAMSHU
  (WHISKY)                                         "      "    9

  A JOKE                                           "      "   17

  SOME CHINESE BOYS                                "      "   21

  WOMEN CARRYING BABIES ON THEIR BACKS             "      "   24

  AN OLD LADY                                      "      "   39

  LITTLE URCHINS                                   "      " }
                                                            } 46
  LITTLE LADS                                      "      " }

  STUDIES OF CHINESE BOYS                          "      "   51

  A BOY CARRYING BASKETS                           "      "   56

  A SEDAN CHAIR                                    "      "  117

  PLOUGHING WITH A WATER BUFFALO                   "      "  124

  A PASSENGER BOAT                                 "      " }
                                                            }126
  A BOAT CARRYING SEDAN CHAIR                      "      " }

  A DRAGON BOAT                                    "      "  129

  A STREET SCENE                                   "      "  131

  ACTORS IN COSTUME                                "      "  147

  A BARBER AND HIS CUSTOMER                        "      "  178

  A REFRESHMENT STALL                              "      "  184

  A STREET SCENE                                   "      "  194

  CARRYING A COFFIN                                "      "  201

  A BUDDHIST PRIEST                                "      "  208

  CEMETERIES                                       "      "  216

  A SCHOLAR IN OFFICIAL DRESS                      "      "  258

  A POLICEMAN                                      "      "  280

  A PEDDLER                                        "      " }
                                                            }296
  A SHOEMAKER AT WORK ON THE STREET                "      " }

  A PEDDLER                                        "      "  303

  A WAYSIDE KITCHEN                                "      "  317

  FRUIT-SELLERS GAMBLING                           "      "  327

  A FAMOUS BRIDGE                                  "      "  361



[Illustration: A CHINESE GENTLEMAN.

_To face p. 1._]



Sidelights on Chinese Life



CHAPTER I

THE CHINAMAN

    The Chinaman a puzzle--Oblique methods--Instances given--Mind
    turbid--Shrewd--A bundle of contradictions--No love of truth in the
    abstract--Hypnotizing power of the Chinese, in business, in foreign
    official life--Full of human nature--Inability to be thorough.


The Chinaman's mind is a profound and inexplicable puzzle that many have
vainly endeavoured to solve. He is a mystery not simply to the foreigner,
who has been trained to more open methods of thought, but also to his own
countrymen, who are frequently heard to express their astonishment at some
exhibition of character, that has never occurred to them during the whole
of their oblique life. A Chinese cook who was living in an English family,
and who found life so intolerable through some petty devices and schemes
of his fellow-servants that he was compelled to resign his situation, was
so taken aback at the ingenuity and skill of the manoeuvres that had been
employed to oust him from his employment that, with flashing eyes and a
face flushed with excitement, he said, "I know the Englishman well, I can
accurately gauge his mind, and I can tell exactly how he will usually act;
but my own countrymen are a mystery to me that I do not profess to be able
to comprehend."

This of course was an exaggeration, as there must have been a great deal
in his own people that he must have been quite familiar with. He merely
meant that there were depths in the Celestial mind that even he had never
yet fathomed. Any one who has ever studied the Chinese character must have
come to the conclusion that the instincts and aims of the people of the
Chinese Empire are distinctly the reverse of those that exist in the minds
of the men of the West. An Englishman, for example, prides himself upon
being straightforward and of saying exactly what he believes. A Chinaman
would never dream of taking that position, simply because it is one that
he does not understand, and consequently he could never carry out. A
straight line is something that his mind recoils from, and when he desires
to effect some purpose that he has before him, he prefers an oblique and
winding path by which in a more roundabout manner he hopes to attain his
end.

It may be laid down as a general and axiomatic truth, that it is
impossible from hearing what a Chinaman says to be quite certain of what
he actually means. The reason for this no doubt arises from the fact that
a speaker hardly ever in the first instance touches upon the subject that
he has in his mind, but he will dwell upon two or three others that he
believes have an intimate relation with it, and he concludes that this
subtle line of thought ought to lead the hearer to infer what he has all
the time been driving at. One of my servants, for example, had a grievance
against another also in my employ. He did not dare to complain of him to
me, for he belonged to a powerful clan bordering on his own in the
interior, and if anything unpleasant had happened to this particular
member through any accusation that might be laid against him, they would
have wreaked their vengeance not only upon the man who had troubled him,
but also upon the members of the weaker clan who were connected with him.

The direct method that would have been pursued by a foreigner without any
regard to consequence, because he has no dread of hostile clans, and
because he has the law to protect him in case of need, evidently cannot be
adopted by the aggrieved person here, and so he naturally adopts the
method that he believes will secure him a redress of his wrongs without
any danger to himself or his clan.

He accordingly appears one morning with that blank expressionless visage
with which a Chinaman can conceal his thoughts, and asks permission to
return to his home in the country. He had just got news, he says, that a
brother of his has suddenly become very ill and is not expected to live,
and urgent entreaties have been sent him to come home as speedily as he
can. You are rather startled at this sudden demand to be left at a
moment's notice without a servant who is necessary to carry on the work of
the home; and besides, you have the uncomfortable feeling that this may be
one of those obscure but oblique ways by which the Yellow mind is working
to secure some end that lies concealed within its fathomless recesses.

You ask particulars, but he has none to give. He simply waves before you a
letter covered with strange and weird hieroglyphics, and hands it to you
for inspection, though he is aware that you can no more decipher it than
you could the wedge-shaped symbols of the Assyrian language, and he
declares that he knows no more about the illness of his brother than what
is contained in it. As you cannot read the letter, and moreover you would
get no light from it even if you could, you look him straight in the face
to see if you cannot discover some little ray of light on this perplexing
question; but no, it is just as impenetrable as the document he holds in
his hands as evidence of the bad news he has received from his home. It is
perfectly sphinx-like, and gives no clue to the thoughts that lie behind
it. The eyes are liquid and childlike, and just that touch of sadness that
harmonizes with his sorrowful feelings has laid its lightest shadow over
his features, and you begin to feel that you have been doing the man an
injustice by doubting him.

You have gone through similar processes before, however, and the memory of
them inspires you with caution, so you tell him to go away and you will
think over the matter. You call another of the servants whom you know to
be on good terms with the other, and you ask him if he has heard of the
distressing news that has come to his friend. A flash of surprise like a
streak of lightning out of a clear sky shoots across his face, which he
instantly suppresses, however, and with a calm and unruffled look he says,
"I have not heard that any letter has come, but there may have been one. I
have been busy, you know, doing my work, and so have not been told."

This is decidedly suspicious, for if there is one thing that a Chinaman
cannot do it is to keep a secret. After a little further conversation with
this man he remarks in a very casual off-hand way--

"I have heard that so-and-so had a brother; it is very strange, and I
cannot quite understand this business," and after one or two miscellaneous
remarks he suddenly looks round, goes to the door, and peers up and down
the hall, to assure himself that there is no one looking about. He then
walks on tiptoe to the open window, and gives a rapid glance amongst the
flowers and shrubs in the garden to see that none of his fellow-servants
are there to catch snatches of the conversation, and, still treading like
a cat that scents a rat, he comes up close to you, and whispering in your
ear he utters just one word, "Examine," and then with a face full of
mystery and with the same cat-like motion he vanishes out of the door with
a face covered with smiles, and you feel that you are now on a fair way to
find out the secret of the hieroglyphic letter and the alarming sickness
of the brother.

You "examine" the matter, and you find that the man never had a brother,
that the letter was written by a clansman next door, and that the whole
plot was devised to get you to rectify wrongs without arousing in the
offender a suspicion that he had been informed against. There is
consequently no feud and no vendetta, and after a few strong and forceful
words as to what may happen if people do not behave themselves, the
household returns to its normal state of order and quietness.

In order thoroughly to understand and appreciate the Chinaman, a man must
be possessed of large powers of inference, for it is almost certain that
what lies apparent in his conduct is not the real thing that he has in
view.

One day a Chinaman walked into my study in the free and easy way with
which people enter each other's houses in this land, with a basket of eggs
in his hand. He was a complete stranger to me, but he talked as glibly to
me as though he had been well acquainted with me. He told me that he had
brought me a present, that the eggs had been laid by his own fowls, and
that though they were too small a present to be accepted by one so much
higher than he was, he hoped that I should still condescend to take them
from him. "But I do not know who you are, and moreover I do not see why
you should make me any present at all." "Oh, I merely wished to do myself
the honour of meeting with you, for I have heard others speak with great
respect of you, and my wife and I thought that a few eggs from my own
farm, though not worthy of your acceptance, would be a little token of the
respect in which we hold you."

In spite of all his professions of devotion and esteem for myself, I felt
convinced that he had some favour to ask of me; but, true to the
peculiarity of the Chinese mind, he kept it at first in the background,
and after talking with him for about an hour, and after I had hinted that
I had an engagement that would compel me to leave him, he began to
stammer out that he was in great trouble with some persons in his village,
and as he knew that I had great influence, he had come to me to help him
out of his difficulty. The secret was now out, and the basket of eggs and
the hour's conversation about everything in the world, except the one
subject that he had come miles to discuss with me, were but oblique
methods of leading up to the one important thought that was filling his
mind.

The Chinese as a rule are a highly shrewd and thoughtful people. They are
keen observers of human life as well as of the natural world that lies
around them. It is very striking to notice with what intelligence the
uneducated countryman, who has never had any education, and whose life has
been spent in labours that never call forth any effort of the imagination,
will describe the leaves of the different kinds of trees, the habits and
lives of a great variety of birds in the region around, and the
peculiarities of insect life which they have never studied scientifically,
but simply with that keen power of observation which the Chinese seem
intuitively to possess.

In spite of all this it is quite safe to say that the Chinese mind is
wanting in lucidity, and in the ability of grasping an idea with the same
readiness that a Westerner does. This is specially the case with the
uneducated, and therefore with the great mass of people. You tell a
coolie, for example, to take a letter to the post-office. He has gone
there perhaps a dozen times before. He stands and gazes at you with a
perplexed look, as though you had told him to go to New Zealand. Knowing
this peculiarity of the Chinese mind, you repeat your order, and you ask
him if he knows where the post-office is? The blank look becomes more
confirmed, and he says, "I'll inquire of some one where it is." As you
feel anxious about your letter, you say, "Now tell me what I have asked
you to do." "Asked me to do?" he exclaims, and the dense look deepens on
his face. "Yes, I have asked you to take this letter to the post-office,
the place where you have often gone before. Do you know where it is?"
"I'll inquire," he says briskly, as though it was just beginning to dawn
upon him that he had some idea where the post-office was. He moves away,
and you have doubts in your mind whether your letter may not go astray and
never be posted, when the coolie returns with hasty steps and with an
anxious look on his yellow face, and inquires of you, "Did you say that I
was to take this letter to the post-office?" "I did, and I hope you
understand now where it is." "I'll inquire," he says, and vanishes.

This singular feature in an otherwise intelligent mind is a continual
source of irritation to a foreigner, who has never had any experience of
such turbidity of thought in matters that seem to him to require no
exertion to grasp at once. You say to a man, for example, more for the
purpose perhaps of having something to say than anything else, "How old
are you?" A blank look of amazement comes over his countenance, much as
though you had asked him if he had committed murder. "Do you mean me?" he
asks. "Yes, I mean you; how old are you?" "How old am I?" and now the idea
seems to have filtered into his brain, and the vacant, dazed look is
replaced by a slight smile that ripples over his face, and he tells you
his age. It is no exaggeration to say that all over this great empire,
wherever the above questions have been put, the same comedy has invariably
been gone through in getting a reply to them.

This haziness of thought is especially annoying to the medical men who are
in charge of general hospitals, where all classes of people come for
treatment. One day a woman came to one of these to consult the foreign
physician about her health. She was tall and severe-looking, with a face
that forbade any attempt to trifle with her. She was evidently a person
that never indulged in a joke, for the lines on her countenance were hard
as though they had never been relaxed by any of the pleasantries or
humours of life. You could fancy her being a hard-working, industrious
housewife, but one that neither husband nor children would ever approach
excepting with a certain diffidence and restraint.

Coming to her turn to be treated, the doctor said to her, "What is your
name?" This question always seems to paralyze a Chinaman, so that he never
answers it at once. The woman's face was at once convulsed with amazement,
and her eyes became staring as she gazed intently on the doctor. "You mean
me?" she asked with every line livid with emotion. "Yes, I mean you," he
said; "what is your name?" "You mean my name?" she cried, and she struck
her breast with her open hand to make sure that she was the person he
meant. "Yes, I mean you; so answer me quickly, as I have no time to
waste." "I have no name," she answered, with a pathos that seemed to
tremble through her voice. "No name!" he said. "What do you mean? You must
have a name, everybody has some name or other." "I have no name," she
answered deliberately, whilst she slowly shook her head as if to give
emphasis to her statement. "May I ask," said the doctor, with a smiling
face, "what people generally call you?" "They do not call me anything, for
I have no name," she protested. "Well, when you were a girl what did your
mother call you?" "She called me 'Pearl,'" she said, and now a flash of
sunlight came into her face, as no doubt a vision of by-gone days rose
before her. "Very well," said the doctor, "I shall put your name down as
'Pearl' in my register," though if he had only persevered a little longer
he would no doubt have got the one by which she was commonly known amongst
her neighbours.

One of the reasons that has led the foreigner to entertain the idea
that the Chinaman is incomprehensible arises from the fact that he seems
to be an absolute bundle of contradictions. It is the existence of totally
diverse qualities in the same person that has made one feel that after an
intimate knowledge of him for many years there are still surprises in his
character that show the complex nature of his being, and the difficulty of
predicting what he will do in the future under any circumstances. He would
be a daring man indeed that would take upon himself the _rôle_ of prophet
about any individual, no matter how well he might be acquainted with him.

[Illustration: CHINESE EATING RICE AND DRINKING SAMSHU (WHISKY).

_To face p. 9._]

A coolie, for example, is engaged by you to do general household work. He
comes to you from an inland country where poverty is the prevailing
characteristic of the whole population. Sweet potatoes are the staple food
three times a day, year in, year out, helped down perhaps by salted
turnip, bean curds and pickled beans--for it is only on special occasions
that they have the rare happiness of indulging in the luxury of rice.

He has absolutely nothing excepting what he stands in, and so few cash
that no sooner have you agreed to employ him than he at once asks for an
advance to buy his next meal. The sum you promised him is princely when
compared with what he could earn in his own country, and his mode of
living is on a most luxurious scale, when contrasted with the meagre food
he had in his native village. Now he has rice every day and fish, and
luxuries brought from northern seas, no longer a vision of dreams, but
realities that he indulges in every day.

Now, judging from an English standpoint, one would imagine that this
poverty-stricken Chinaman, whose experience of want has been so real,
would hold on like grim death upon a situation where life has been made so
easy for him. But here comes in one of the surprises that often makes the
Chinese character so inexplicable. A month goes by, and one day with the
silent tread of his shoeless feet he sidles up to you, and he says he
wants to tell you that he is going to leave you. You are astonished, and
you ask him, with a look of wonder on your face, what he means and what he
intends doing? He is not going to do anything, he declares, and he gives
you nine reasons for his conduct, not one of which is the true one, the
tenth and real one being hidden away in that mysterious brain of his, and
he leaves you. A few days hence you see him loafing about with no apparent
means of livelihood, and he is fast reverting to the original potatoes-fed
type that he was when he left his country home.

Another point that is inexplicable in the Chinese is his amazing
credulity. His character is naturally a strong one, his common-sense of
the broad and robust kind. There is hardly any subject in common life
where his opinion is not of a healthy, breezy description. It is one of
the mysteries of the inscrutable Chinaman that at times he seems to be as
credulous as the most unenlightened African that trembles before the
decision of the Obi doctor.

In the early years, when the foreigner was an unknown and dreaded
character, the wildest and most improbable stories were circulated amongst
the common people, and more believed in. A mandarin in a large city in the
northern part of the Empire, where the people were inspired with a dread
lest they were going to be attacked by the English, took advantage of
their credulity by putting out proclamations all over his district, which
informed them that they had no reason whatever to fear the foreigners,
because, as they had no knee-joints, when they fell down they could not
rise up again. This was at once accepted as a truth, and the agitation and
alarm from that time passed entirely away.

About the same time, in a very wide and extended district, a rumour arose
that the missionaries, when any of their converts died, took out their
eyes and made them into opium. The thing was so utterly absurd and the
number of Christians then so very small, that it seemed as though the
monstrous report must speedily die a natural death. But this was not the
case. It spread with remarkable rapidity through towns and villages and
hamlets, and was implicitly believed in not merely by coolies and rough,
uncultivated labourers, but also by scholars of high degree and by great
mandarins, and for more than twenty years it was a prime article of faith
with millions of people.

It is the unexpected that so often happens in Chinese life that has given
such an air of mystery to this strange and wonderful people. The very
opposite virtues and vices seem to flourish and exist in the same
individuals. The Chinese, for example, in ordinary and everyday life have
no sense of truth. It is not that they are any worse than other nations of
the East. The moment you pass through the Suez Canal and have come upon
the confines of the Orient, you realize that truth as it is looked upon in
the West does not exist in all the vast and glowing regions beyond.

You are in a new land, and the atmosphere of straightforward honest
expression of thought has vanished, and now it seems that, except in the
most trivial affairs of life, where concealment is unnecessary, you are in
a world where every one has a mask on, and the great aim is to conceal the
face that lies behind.

The oblique and angular way by which a Chinese loves to express the
intention he has in his mind has no doubt intensified the Oriental
disposition to lie, until now he seems to have absolutely no conscience on
the subject. A Chinese coolie one day made some statement to me that I
knew to be false. I was exceedingly annoyed at this, and so told him, and
yet I could not help being amused, for the look of childish simplicity and
artlessness that beamed over his face was so real and natural that I
could not but admire the perfect acting of this rough, uncultivated
fellow. "You are mistaken," he said to me, "when you accuse me of telling
you a falsehood, for I assure you that I never told a lie in all my life."
I instinctively thought of a picture that appeared in _Punch_ many years
ago, where two rough miners stood by the roadside, one of them having a
kettle in his hand, which was to be given to the one that could tell the
greatest lie. A person comes along who asks them what they are talking
about? When told, he was shocked, and declared that he had never told a
lie in his life, and he was rather taken aback when the kettle was handed
to him, and he was told that he rightly earned it. I thought if only I had
had a kettle at hand I would have passed it over to him and told him the
legend.

Now the contradictory element in the Chinaman's character comes out
particularly strong in connection with this national defect of
untruthfulness. A lie to him has no moral side, it is simply a display of
cleverness, and the more perfectly it succeeds the greater is the applause
it elicits; and yet there are occasions when the Chinaman's word is as
good as his bond, and is as much to be relied upon as that of an
Englishman who may have gained a reputation for integrity and honour.

A Chinese merchant, for example, makes a contract months before to deliver
so many chests of tea at a certain rate. The market in the meanwhile
rises, a dearth has suddenly occurred in the foreign trade, and the buyer
finds that if he keeps his engagements he will lose thousands of dollars.
He never for a moment hesitates as to what he shall do; he does not even
attempt to get the purchaser to make an advance upon the terms agreed to.
The tea comes down the river from the mountain side on which it is grown,
over rapids and down through whirling gorges, and away from the pure
breezes of the hillside, and it is brought to the city where the merchant
lives, and is handed over to him with as scrupulous a care as though he
were being paid the advanced price that the later teas are getting.

It is no uncommon thing for foreign merchants to bear testimony to the
perfect honesty of the Chinese with whom they may have large business
transactions, and one manager of a banking concern even declared in public
that, though business extending over hundreds of millions of taels had
been transacted with Chinese, the bank had never suffered by one single
defaulter. This is all the more extraordinary, and is one of the startling
perplexities in the Chinese character, since we know that in ordinary
business life one has to keep one's weather eye open or he will find
himself cheated most unmercifully.

In spite of the complex nature of the Chinese, and the veiled way in which
that mysterious brain of his works, there is no doubt but that there is a
fascination about him to the men of the West such as none of the other
nations of the East possesses. It is not because he is handsome, for,
taking the ordinary run of Chinese that one sees in the streets, they are
entirely wanting in all the elements of beauty that constitute the
standard of the West.

The features of the face, with the exception of the eyes, have not a
single good one amongst them. The cheek-bones of the typical Chinaman are
high and protruding; the nose is flat, as though the original progenitor
had had his bruised by falling on a fender and had transmitted it
flattened and disfigured through successive generations, and the mouth,
too, is large and sensuous looking. In addition to all this there is a
yellow strain that lies as a foundation colour through all the others that
nature or the burning sun lays on, and the effect is not at all a pleasing
one. That there are really handsome women in common life and amongst the
more refined classes, and that there are good-looking men in all grades of
society is undoubtedly true, but they are by no means common. The great
mass of the people are exceedingly plain-featured and unattractive, and
they are wanting, too, in those delicate and refined graces that of
themselves are sufficient to give a charm even to a personality that is
otherwise anything but pleasing.

The attraction lies in the people themselves, and without any effort on
their side the foreigner feels himself drawn by a kind of hypnotism
towards them. You cannot explain this and you cannot tell the reason why.
A rude, rough-looking coolie comes in, and you do not feel repelled by him
as you would were the person a countryman of your own who had suddenly
appeared out of the slums. A man has cheated you, and you know that he
has, and though you may at first feel indignant, it is not long ere you
are laughing at the whole affair because of the grotesque side that almost
invariably accompanies such a transaction. A person comes to see you about
whom you are suspicious. You stand on your guard, and you put on your
coldest and most reserved air, as you ask him to be seated. The Chinaman
acts as though he were quite oblivious of your state of mind. There is a
smile upon his face that travels over the rough hollows of his expansive
countenance, and spreads to the back of his neck, and seems in some
mysterious way to vanish down his long tail. No amount of coldness can
long resist the eyes that are flashing with good humour and the features
that are lighted up with such a pleasant look. Insensibly you begin to
thaw, and before you are aware of it you are talking with him on the most
friendly terms. You laugh and chat with him, and when he leaves, you
accompany him to the door, and with the usual polite phrase to the parting
guest, you entreat him "to walk slowly, and come again as soon as he can."
Ten minutes after he has gone, your old suspicions revive, and you wonder
at yourself in being such an egregious fool as to give yourself away as
you have done. The fact is, it was the nameless something about the man
that worked the miracle, and now that the bright black eyes have gone, and
the moorland of smile has vanished, and the hypnotism no longer works, you
come back to the old thoughts that you had before, which you are certain
after all are right.

Circumstances of this kind are of exceedingly frequent occurrence. You go
into a bank that has a large business. The manager is an energetic, shrewd
business man. He is full of schemes and plans to promote the interests of
the establishment, and people speak of him as being the cause of the
prosperity that is now giving it a golden reputation. The real man who
lies at the back of all this success is the Chinese compradore. He is a
most unpretentious man, and if you visit him in the little room that he
uses as an office, you would be anything but struck by him. His clothes
are of a very common description, rather slovenly and untidy, and his
shoes are slipshod. He is perhaps smoking a long bamboo pipe of
vile-smelling native tobacco, but this quiet, unassuming Chinaman is the
force that lies behind the business that brings in such large dividends to
the shareholders. He has the whole of the markets in his brain, he knows
which of the clients of the bank are prosperous and which are tottering on
the brink of bankruptcy. He finds out to whom amongst his countrymen loans
may be made with safety, and he will know by a single glance at documents
that have been drawn up in the hieroglyphic language of the Chinese of
what value they are for the purpose of negotiating large monetary
transactions. No bank in China, and no large business firm could exist for
a month without its compradore.

The hypnotic influence of the Chinaman is seen in almost any direction in
which you like to turn. The mistress of a home is as wax in the hands of
her cook, whose words, as far as the table is concerned, are a law that
even she would be very chary of opposing. A foreigner engages a Chinese
teacher, and ere long he comes so thoroughly under his influence that he
will accept every word that he says about Chinese subjects, will repeat
his very mistakes, and will refuse to listen to any criticism that
outsiders may make either regarding his scholarship or his methods of
teaching.

Perhaps the most conspicuous instance of the dominating influence of the
Chinaman is seen in the foreign Consulates. In each of these there is a
Chinese official employed that is called a writer. He is a gentleman and a
member of the literary class. His duties are to write dispatches in
Chinese to the mandarins and to be the one connecting link between the
native authorities and the particular foreign Consul in whose service he
happens to be. All petitions or complaints from the Chinese have to go
through his hands, so that his position is one of great responsibility and
power.

If the Consul happens to be a man of strong, independent character he will
hold his own, and the business of the Consulate will be in a large measure
under his own control. If he is, however, easy-going or of average
intellectual ability, he comes at once under the hypnotizing influence of
the wily self-contained Chinaman, who before long becomes the master
spirit in the office. This fact is so far realized by the leading mandarin
of the place that he actually subsidizes him to influence the policy of
the Consul to be favourable to him. A hostile writer could so easily
influence his mind against the former, and cause such strained diplomatic
relations, that he would incur the resentment of his superiors and be
dismissed from his office.

I have known a case where the whole policy of a Consulate was dictated by
the writer, who was a clever, intriguing scamp. All Chinese documents had
to pass through his hands, and it depended upon the amount of the bribes
received whether any of them got a dispassionate investigation at the
hands of the Consul. His reputation became so bad that he was finally
asked to resign, but he did so with a very comfortable fortune that
enabled him to take a commanding position amongst the leading men in his
neighbourhood.

[Illustration: A JOKE.

_To face p. 17._]

In whatever direction one likes to take the Chinaman, he seems to have an
hypnotic power that secures, if not favour, at least attention. An English
mother takes her little girl, a delicate, fragile little morsel, with blue
eyes and golden hair, and she puts her into the arms of one of her coolies
to amuse and care for her. He is about as ugly-looking a specimen as you
could pick out. He has large, uncouth features and hair unkempt, and the
general air of a rowdy. You would naturally suppose that the
refined-looking little mortal would shrink from him, but nothing of the
kind happens. Her eyes glisten, and she jumps into his arms with alacrity,
and by and by you will see her with one arm round his neck and looking
with pleasure into his face, full of the most perfect content.

There is no doubt but that one secret of the extraordinary power that the
Chinese undoubtedly have is the very large amount of genuine human nature
with which as a race they are endowed. The Chinaman is a person that is
full of fun. It would seem as though a sense of humour lay at the basis of
his character and tinged everything with its subtle influence. A joke with
the Chinaman is a solvent that disperses anger and drives away passion
from the heart, and makes the broad, uncouth faces shine with a light,
like sunbeams playing upon the rugged sides of a hill. If the Chinese had
been a nation of sombre, gloomy people, without a gleam of humour in their
natures, they would have been a positive peril to the world. As it is, the
genial strain that is the woof and warp of the Celestial's being makes him
a person that can win his way into the hearts of strangers, and slowly
dissipate the prejudice that they at first have, because of his homely and
unattractive features, and the yellow hue that tinges his skin with a
most inartistic colour.

He can be very cruel when the passion is upon him, but under ordinary
circumstances he is full of kindness and sympathy, and he will exercise
these qualities in such a genial way that one's heart feels drawn out
towards him. When one gets beyond the outside formalities and into the
inner life of the people, and beyond the crust of selfishness that
heathenism has caused to gather round their hearts, one discovers a fund
of possible human virtues that under the influence of Christianity will
expand and develop so that the nation that the world has been accustomed
to look upon with a smile, and as simply an ingenious puzzle that the West
has never been able to put together, will turn out to be amongst the most
fascinating and most attractive of the peoples of the earth.

There is one feature about the Chinaman that, from a Western point of
view, is a most disappointing one, and that is his apparent inability to
be thorough. The watchword of the West is "thorough," and in every
department of life the aim is to do everything as perfectly as human hands
or brains can make them. Now in China there is no such ideal motive
anywhere to be found. A workman, for example, will make some exquisite
work of art, and yet he will finish off some part that is not obvious to
the eye in the most slovenly and inartistic manner. You order a hardwood
table, to be inlaid with pearl, and after weeks of patient toil and most
elaborate workmanship, that will bear the keenest investigation, you find
the legs, or perhaps the underside of the table, finished off in a
slovenly, careless way, more suited to an article that was intended to be
used in the kitchen. One is being continually provoked by Chinese workmen
bringing in things, that have been ordered, without proper finish. You
remonstrate with them, and they look at you with amazement. They are
amused at your being annoyed at something which the turbidity of the
Yellow brain never discovers as being at all wrong. A broad smile
illumines their faces, and they say, "Oh, well, never mind, for after all
it is a matter of no importance; let it go."

This tendency of the Chinese mind is visible in every direction. You
arrange with a builder for some work to be done. You impress upon him that
the matter is urgent. You give him your reason for thinking this, and he
agrees with you, and you finally settle with him a near day when he will
have his workmen assembled and operations will be begun. As the Chinaman's
brain is apt to work slowly, and it is difficult to get him to grasp a
consecutive statement of any length, you go over the whole thing to him
once more, and finally you make him repeat in his own words the ideas you
wish him to carry out. Everything now seems plain, and although doubts
will flash through your brain, you dismiss them at once as unreasonable,
and you look with certainty to the contract being carried out.

The day arrives and you proceed to the spot, expecting to see a hive of
busy workmen, but not a soul turns up. You send for the builder, and you
ask him how it is that he has broken his agreement with you. He smiles and
looks amused that you should be in such a hurry. He cannot understand it,
for the difference of a day or two, or a week even, is such a trivial
matter in this land, that the Chinese are constantly wondering why a
foreigner gets excited if a thing is not done at the precise time that has
been agreed upon.

The fact is the great Eastern Sun is in his eyes, and his rays have
entered into his blood, and the languor of the Orient is upon him, so that
time marches by and he feels that he dare not attempt to keep step with
it. To be efficient and thorough means intensity, but that the Chinese
race will not attempt. Some writers have predicted that a day may come
when, inspired by a spirit of war, they will flash their swords in a wild
conquest of the West. This is a dream that will never be realized. Both by
instinct and by ages of training, the Chinese are essentially a
peace-loving people. The glory of war is something that does not appeal to
them. Trade, and commerce, and money-making, and peaceful lives are the
ideals of the race. No sooner is a clan fight begun, or a war with another
nation, than the air at once resounds with the cry, "Mediate," "Mediate."
Mediation is in the very blood of the nation, and the man who is a
successful mediator is one that wins a golden reputation for himself.

What the West has to fear is not the warlike spirit of the Chinese, which
has never been a very important factor in their past history, but their
numbers. They are a people that multiply rapidly, but through the
operation of Fung-Shuy and other endless superstitions, the resources of
China have never been allowed to be developed so as to support the huge
population. Large numbers of people have consequently been compelled to go
abroad to earn a living.

These, as far as the native populations have been concerned, have rarely
been desirable immigrants, but this is especially the case with the great
nations of the West. The Chinese are a strong race, and can live in
comfort, and even luxury, on incomes that would mean starvation to
American or Australian workmen. The battle of the future with the Yellow
race will not be fought on any battlefield, but in the labour markets of
the nations that they would invade.



[Illustration: SOME CHINESE BOYS.

_To face p. 21._]


CHAPTER II

FAMILY LIFE

    Chinese character studied in the home--How marriages are arranged in
    China--Love of husband and wife must be concealed--Daughters go out of
    clan, sons remain--Story of a famous community in former
    days--Solidarity of family--Story of general accused of
    treason--Disposal of sons--Occupation of women in
    homes--Wife-beating--Suicides of wives--Women treated as
    inferior--Filial piety, views on--The famous book describing the
    twenty filial sons--Filial piety not extensively carried out by the
    Chinese.


If one desires to understand the Chinese, he must study the family life,
for there we find the secret for much that is amusing and perplexing in
their character. In all the long years of Chinese history, the ideal of
the family has been an exalted one. Ancient sages have dealt with much
eloquence upon it, and it has been made the model upon which the State has
been built up. It is declared in books written on China that the Chinese
Government is a patriarchal one, the meaning of which, put into simpler
language, is that the system by which this vast and ancient Empire is
ruled has been borrowed from any one of the countless homes that exist
throughout the land. It has been plainly stated by Confucius, more than
two thousand years ago, that a man that did not know how to rule his home
was quite unfit to govern a kingdom.

That the family ideal is held in the highest honour by every class of
society is evident from the fact that every one that can by any
possibility scrape together the amount required to be paid to the parents
of the young girl, gets married; whilst for every woman, without any
regard for her personal appearance or even for her infirmities, when the
marriageable age comes round, a marriage is arranged, and she is carried
to her husband's home with as much ceremony as though she were the most
beautiful woman in the land. If a woman does not get married it is her own
fault or that of her family, who for selfish or other reasons fail to make
the necessary arrangements for her, and never because her features are
uncomely or her complexion bad, or because she has some bodily infirmity
that in England would condemn her to a spinster's life, though she lived
to the age of Methuselah.

Let us now take the case of a family, such as one may see anywhere, and
look at the peculiar way in which it is built up and developed in
accordance with the antique methods that seem dear to the Yellow brain in
this land. A young man is going to be married. The parents have decided
that question for him, and they have called in a middle-woman, who does
all the selecting and all the courting that is possible in China, and by
her intrigues and falsehoods, the girl that is to be his bride is settled
for him absolutely, without any power of appeal from the sons or the
parents should they discover by and by that the young lady would be an
undesirable acquisition when she came into their home.

With us it is an accepted axiom that to secure the happiness of the
married couple, there must be love and there must be a thorough
acquaintance with each other. The Chinese hold that all that is Platonic
nonsense, and is the reasoning of a barbaric mind that has never come
under the benign influence of the sages and teachers of the Celestial
Empire. They declare that neither of those two things are requisite, and
they point to China, where marriage is the rule in social life, and where
a Divorce Court does not exist in all the length and breadth of the land,
as a convincing evidence that love at least is not at all a requisite for
marriage. The young man and his wife then begin their married life without
any knowledge of each other. They have never seen each other, and they
have never dared to inquire from their parents what their future partners
were like. To have done so would have filled the hearts of their fathers
and mothers with a shame so intense as to be absolutely unspeakable.

Their first look into the faces of each other, after the bride has been
carried with noise of music and firing of crackers in the crimson chair
into the home of her husband, must be one in which is concentrated the
agony and passion of two hearts, trying to read their fate for the years
that are to come, from what a bashful glance at each other's faces can
tell them. If either of them is disappointed, the wave of despair that
flashes through the heart is hidden behind those sphinx-like faces, and no
quivering of the lips and no glance of the coal-black eyes betrays the
secret that has sprung up within them.

They are both conscious that their marriage is a settled fact and that
there is no possibility of its ever being annulled, and so with the heroic
patience that the Chinese often show in ordinary life, they both determine
to make the best of things, knowing that in time love will grow, and
tender affection for each other will ripen amid the trials and disciplines
of life through which they will have to pass together.

The years go by, and without daring to show by word or look to the rest of
the world that they love each other, the deepest and the purest affection
has sprung up in their hearts. The Chinese language is full of tender
epithets and phrases full of poetry to express the emotions of love, but
the husband and wife may never use any of these excepting behind closed
doors where none can hear them but themselves.

In the course of time the family grows in numbers, and three sons and as
many daughters are born. There was indeed another girl, but as it was
considered that there were enough of them in the family, she was put to
death immediately after her birth, so she was never counted. As the years
rolled by, the children grew up and the boys were sent to school, whilst
the sisters were taught household work, such as cooking, mending and
embroidery. At last, when these latter arrived at the age of eighteen, the
services of middle-women were called into requisition, and they were
severally carried into other clans, for no person may marry a member of
his own, even though these may be counted by the thousands.

After a few years more, the same process was pursued with regard to the
sons, and three young brides were brought into the family circle to add to
its members and to increase its dignity and importance. And here it is
that we see the wide difference in the Oriental and Western conception of
the family. The latter believes in the hiving off of the children and the
formation of new homes, until finally very often only the old father and
mother are left solitary and alone in a house that used to resound the
livelong day with the sounds of laughter and merry voices.

The ideal of the former is to keep the sons in the home. They seldom if
ever leave that to start housekeeping for themselves. The daughters go out
and are lost to the clan, and are no longer looked upon as belonging to
it; but, on the other hand, their places are taken by the brides that come
from other clans, and so the balance is preserved. It is no uncommon thing
to meet with homes where fifty to a hundred people are housed in one
spacious compound, and where four generations of men, with their sons and
grandsons, a motley group where the sires of the home, with their hoary
flowing beards, and the infants in arms live in the common home.

It is recorded in Chinese history, that in early days there was a famous
branch of a well-known clan that numbered several thousand people, the
descendants of nine generations, that were all under the control of the
chieftain of the clan, and lived together in a series of large compounds,
that resembled a miniature walled city. The story went abroad that the
whole of this community lived in the most complete harmony. The men never
had any disagreements and the voices of the women and children were never
known to be raised in angry dispute. The very dogs even, touched by the
general atmosphere of peace that reigned over the miscellaneous crowds
that swarmed in this miniature town, seemed to lay aside their natural
ferocity, and all quarrelling and fighting had disappeared, and they lived
in the utmost harmony and contentment.

[Illustration: A WOMAN CARRYING BABY ON HER BACK.]

[Illustration: A WOMAN CARRYING BABY ON HER BACK.

_To face p. 24._]

Rumours of this wonderful settlement had spread throughout the province,
and had been carried by travellers to the palace of the Emperor. Being
somewhat concerned as to the truth of these, he determined to visit the
place, and see for himself if the facts were really as they were stated.
Accordingly on his next tour to the great mountain Tai-Shan, to worship
God from its summit, which the kings in those days were accustomed to do,
he called at this famous establishment. Never had such a gorgeous retinue
stopped in front of its doors. There was the Emperor in his vermilion
chair, carried by bearers dressed in the royal livery of the same colour.
In front marched a detachment of the Household Guards, great stalwart men,
that had been selected from the bravest that the fighting province of
Hunan could supply. Behind, in a long and splendid train, were the highest
nobles in the land, who were there to attend to the wants of their Lord
and Master, and to see that every strain of anxiety should be removed from
the royal mind. Further in the rear was a small army of servants of every
description, and cooks in abundance prepared to serve upon the imperial
table every delicacy and luxury that China itself could provide, or that
could be procured from other countries.

The prince of the clan received the Emperor on bended knees, and then he
was graciously allowed to stand up and conduct him over his little
kingdom. His Majesty, who had a keen common-sense mind, examined very
minutely into every detail of the life of this unique community.

He was perfectly satisfied with everything that he saw, and just before
leaving, whilst he was having some refreshment, he asked the chief what
system he employed to ensure such perfect order and harmony in such a
large and varied establishment, where even the very dogs seemed to have
caught the infection, and to have lost the quarrelsome disposition natural
to them.

He at once sat down, and taking up a pen he proceeded to fill a page with
Chinese hieroglyphics. Handing it to the Emperor on bended knees, he told
him that he would find there the secret of the source from whence the love
and unity that prevailed was to be found. With a good deal of curiosity
his Majesty glanced over the document. To his astonishment he discovered
that the writing was composed of one hundred identical words, whose
meaning was "Forbearance." "It is by forbearance in a hundred different
ways that this great company of people have arrived at its present
harmony," explained the prince. "Forbearance has been a mighty force with
us, and has helped us all to subdue our passions so that we have been able
to bear with the infirmities of one another."

The Emperor was so pleased that he took his pen and wrote out a sentence
expressive of his admiration for the masterly and statesmanlike manner in
which so large and varied a community had been ruled with such splendid
results to the country, and ordered it to be affixed over the main
entrance, so that every one should know that this great and harmonious
establishment possessed the royal approbation and protection.

It will be thus seen that a family in China has a much larger meaning
than it has with us. It is by no means the narrow thing it is in the West,
but spreads beyond the limits that are tolerated there. It in reality
includes the members of the collateral branches of either the father or
the mother, and these are often spoken of as though they were members of
the same home. A young fellow with whom you are acquainted introduces
another about the same age. You ask him who he is, and without a moment's
hesitation he says that he is his younger brother. For the moment you feel
perplexed, for you know as a fact that he never had a brother. After a
little further probing of the matter, you discover that he is the son of
his father's younger brother, in fact his cousin. You ask him why he did
not say so at the beginning, and thus save all misunderstanding. "But he
is my brother," the man repeats, with an amused stare on his face at the
density of the foreigner.

The intimate union that exists between the family so-called and those
nearest of kin makes a perfect tangle in Chinese relationships, and leads
to some very amusing and ludicrous developments. This is rendered all the
more easy because the Chinese marry young, oftentimes repeatedly, and not
uncommonly late in life, and so it happens that one occasionally meets an
elderly man who addresses as his grandfather a young fellow who is not
half his grandson's age.

The family basis that is thus broadened to include the nearest collateral
branches is real and effective. The tie that binds the various members
together is no merely sentimental bond. A particular member of the family,
for example, becomes wealthy. He has perhaps gone abroad and amassed a
considerable fortune, and he returns to his old home to enjoy it amidst
his kindred. In one sense it is his own to dispose of as he thinks best,
and yet every member of the extended family feels that he has a
proprietary right to the blessings that it brings with it. They gather
round him to give him a hearty welcome, and whilst they do so every heart
throbs with the expectation that any pecuniary difficulties from which
they may have been suffering will be removed as soon as their cases have
been made known to their wealthy relative.

But it is not simply in cases of good fortune that the solidarity of the
family is proved. It is seen most conspicuously when any misfortune comes
on any individual in it. Then all the rest are more or less affected by
it. A man, for instance, breaks the law, and in order to avoid being
arrested, flies from his home. When the officers come to take him they can
find no trace of him. One would naturally suppose that these men would
return and report to the mandarin that the criminal had fled, and that the
whole process of law would be stayed until the culprit himself could be
apprehended, but that is not so. They proceed to arrest any male member of
the family that they can lay their hands upon, whether it be a brother or
a cousin or a son, and carry him to the mandarin, who keeps him in prison
until the real offender has been caught.

An Englishman would say that is unjust, and if he were present when the
policeman made his capture he might possibly protest against the
illegality of the seizure. They would simply assure him that they were
quite within their rights. The man they had arrested, they would say, was
a member of the offender's family, and as they were all in the eye of the
Chinese law responsible for each other, they were quite justified in
arresting any one in it, and keeping him in prison until their relative
who had broken the law was either captured or had delivered himself up to
justice.

The laws of China are all based upon the assumption of the solidarity of
the family, and that in its prosperity or adversity all members of it must
take their share. Chinese history abounds with the most terrible
instances of the operation of this law.

On one occasion, a general in command of a division of the army, fancying
that he had been slighted by the Emperor because he had not been rewarded
as he thought his services deserved, began to intrigue against the dynasty
and to plot for its overthrow. As he was a famous man and had rendered
signal services to the State in many a brilliant campaign, it was some
time before any suspicion of his treasonable designs were at all
entertained by any one. At length, rumours faint and uncertain began to be
whispered about. These grew in intensity, until ere long the proofs of the
terrible conspiracy were so clear and definite that there could be no
question as to the man's guilt. He had been betrayed by a confederate who
was deep in his confidence, and who was terrified at the fearful
consequences that would happen to him were his guilt discovered. He
consequently determined to save himself by the sacrifice of his friend. In
the small hours of a dark and stormy night a small body of chosen troops
surrounded the house of the general, who was seized and hurried off to the
execution ground, where by torchlight his cries and his sorrows, as far as
this world was concerned, were speedily put an end to.

But the tragedy had only begun with the death of the unfortunate
conspirator. Revolution is a word of such a dread import in China, that it
can be expiated only by the death of the offender and by every member of
his family. As the general was a noted man, the Emperor decided that four
generations on the father's side and four on the mother's, in all eight
generations of absolutely innocent people, should be slaughtered without
any trial and without any opportunity of defending themselves.

The murderous edict was at once drawn up and signed by the vermilion pen,
and soldiers were sent out post haste to execute the decree, lest any of
the unfortunate victims should escape. And so it came to pass that eight
generations of people, without distinction of age or sex, were set upon
and ruthlessly murdered. The old man whose footsteps were tottering to the
grave, and the baby still in its mother's arms; the matron in the midst of
her family, and the young girls full of spirits and with the expectation
of many happy years before them, without a moment's warning were hacked
and stabbed to death, until not a single member of the clan was left alive
to tell the tale.

A Chinese family is in some respects a very interesting sight. The parents
in this land are passionately fond of their children, especially the boys,
and deny themselves for their sakes, and indulge them to such an extent
that many of the lads when they grow up become anything but a credit to
their homes. In the well-to-do families, the sons go to school from the
time they are seven or eight till they are fifteen or sixteen, when, if
they are not planning to be scholars, arrangements are made for them to go
into business, and they become clerks or book-keepers or assistants in
shops.

When the home is a poor one, the lads begin their life at a very early
age; there is no schooling planned for them. As soon as they can handle a
rake, they are sent out to collect firewood for the home. By and by, as
they grow in strength, a pair of baskets and a bamboo carrying-pole are
given them, and their life as coolies may be now said to have begun. The
coolie in China may be said to be the unbought slave that does the rough
and menial work of the Empire, and in large numbers of cases performs the
labours that the beasts of burden do in our home lands.

The girls until they are five or six are allowed to run about the house
and amuse themselves with the simple enjoyments that childhood is so
ingenious in inventing. After that comes the serious business of
foot-binding, when for several years they have to endure the most
agonizing pains during the hideous process of maiming and distorting the
feet, a procedure that nature never ceases for a single day to protest
against. There is no question but that whilst this cruel custom is so
dreadful that there is no language strong enough to condemn it, it has
undoubtedly had the effect of developing in the woman's character a heroic
fortitude, and a power of endurance that enables her to bear up against
many of the ills and trials that women are called upon to suffer during
the course of their lives.

From the standpoint of the West, a girl's life in China is a very
monotonous one. She has no dolls to while away her idle moments. She never
goes out to school, where she might meet other girls and give free play to
her exuberant spirits on the playground, or enjoy the fun and jollity that
girlhood knows so well how to appreciate. She may never take a walk, or
stroll out in the moonlight, or ramble along the seashore, or race up and
down the hillside. Her place is in the home, in the stuffy, ill-ventilated
rooms, where she eats out her heart in the dreary monotonous life to which
custom condemns her, and where her sole view of the great world outside is
through the narrow doors through which, when no one is looking, she may
catch a glimpse of the moving panorama that passes by them.

No wonder that the one day that to her is full of romance and poetry is
that on which the troupe of actors erect their boards right in front of
her house, and perform some comedy that fills every one with fits of
laughter, and lets her see a phase of life that she never dreamt existed
until these merry rogues acted it with such realistic power before her.
The passion for theatricals in China is a symptom of the unrest and
absolute weariness at the intolerable sameness that characterizes heathen
life in this land.

After a careful study of the family life of this great people, one
reluctantly comes to the conclusion that it is anything but a happy one.
The main cause for this is the absence of mutual love when the married
life begins, and the lower position that the woman occupies in the
estimation of the men everywhere. That there are happy homes where hearts
are knit to each other by true devotion and affection is undoubtedly the
case, but they are the exception and by no means the rule.

One very unpleasant evidence of this is the frequency with which
wife-beating is carried on by all classes. The Chinese, who adopt ten when
they wish to give any idea of comparative numbers, declare that in six or
seven families out of ten the husbands regularly beat their wives. Sixty
or seventy per cent of the husbands treating their wives in this rough and
brutal manner is a terrible commentary upon the home life of the Chinese,
and yet no one, as far as my observation goes, ever expresses any
condemnation of the custom. It seems to be considered as an inalienable
right that has come down from the ancient past, before the civilization of
the sages had begun to touch their forefathers with their humane
teachings, and with the intense conservatism of the Chinese, the husbands
continue to exercise it, whilst the great public looks on and takes no
step to stop the barbarous custom.

That the wives have never consented to this unwomanly and savage treatment
is evident from the fact of the large numbers of suicides amongst them
that occur annually in any given area that one may select at random. A
village is startled with the report that a woman has thrown herself into a
well. Some one happening to pass by at the moment observed the poor
creature with flushed face and flaming eyes throw herself headlong into
it. At once every one is mad with excitement. The women run shouting and
screaming to each other, expressing their loud commiseration; the men move
along with sphinx-like faces to see if help can be rendered, and the dogs
tear about yelping and barking and having free fights with each other.

The unfortunate woman is hauled out of the well with her long hair
dishevelled and streaming with water, and with a look of terror on her
face, as though death, when she came face to face with it, had filled her
with an unspeakable horror. She is quite dead, and so amid noise and
uproar and the wailing of her children, who have heard the terrible news,
she is carried to her home. It seems that she had had a few words with her
husband, and being high-spirited and independent, she had answered him in
a way that had been hurtful to his dignity as a man, and seizing a heavy
piece of wood, he had beaten her most unmercifully, without any thought as
to where the blows fell. With her body bruised and with her heart
breaking, and with her sense of womanhood utterly crushed out of her, she
determined that she would hide her disgrace in the well, and in doing so
would avenge herself most thoroughly on the man who had so injured her.
Her husband in his desolate home, though he might feel no sorrow for the
woman he had wronged, would be made to realize what a grievous mistake he
had made when he found that he had to attend to the details of the home
management that had hitherto been left to her care.

It must not be supposed that the Chinese husbands because they beat their
wives do not love them, for that is not the case. Looking at the Chinese
home in a rough and general way, one is struck with the fact that there is
really a great deal of mutual affection shown both by the husband and the
wife for one another. It is less demonstrative than with the peoples of
the West. Oriental thought and tradition are against the open
demonstration of the love that they feel for each other, still it is
unquestionably the fact that the great majority of the homes in this land
are bound together by a true and a solid affection.

The Chinaman, stolid and unemotional looking, has within him a world of
passion waiting till something rouses it, and then it breaks forth like
one of his own typhoons, reckless of what it may destroy. But beside this
fiery volcanic nature, that leads men who are accustomed to beat their
wives into the most cruel treatment of them, he is moved by forces that
would never influence us; so much so that the forty per cent. that treat
their wives with courtesy and respect are occasionally influenced to join
the ranks of the wife-beaters, simply to avoid the imputation that they
are afraid of them and dare not use the stick to them.

In that most charming and humorous book, _The Chinese Empire_, written by
Abbé Huc, he describes a scene that seems incredible, but which is a true
portrait of what frequently takes place throughout the country. He tells
of a man who was really fond of his wife and who for two or three years
lived on the most affectionate terms with her. He noticed that smiles
passed over the yellow visages of some of the young fellows that he was
acquainted with whenever they passed each other on the street. Flashes of
fun, too, made the black eyes of others gleam, as though the laughter
within them was too great to be suppressed. Furtive glances, too, were
cast upon him by men who seemed anxious not to catch his eye.

He was perplexed at these cryptic signs and tried to get an explanation.
At last one day, a kind friend enlightened him, and explained to him the
mysterious conduct of his neighbours, who, he said, were exceedingly
amused because he had never beaten his wife, and the only reason they
could think of was because he was afraid of her.

There is nothing in the world that a Chinaman dreads so much as being
laughed at. He can stand a great deal, but that stirs his soul in a way
that transforms the solemn, staid-looking Celestial into a raging wild
beast. "If that is all my neighbours have to be amused at," he said,
whilst passion was tearing his soul with a perfect storm of fury, "I can
soon prove to them that they are utterly mistaken, and I will show them in
a most convincing manner that they have been so."

Without a moment's delay he hastened home, and seizing the first heavy
implement that lay handy, he began to belabour his wife with it, with such
terrible effect that soon the air resounded with the shrieks and cries of
the unhappy woman. When the passion had died down, he confessed that he
had done wrong, but nothing could save his wife, for the injuries he had
inflicted on her had been so severe that in two or three days she died in
the greatest agony.

Chinese law in many respects is as curious as the Chinese mind. In civil
offences, it refuses to take the initiative, and if no complaints are put
before the mandarin, the most outrageous crimes, that in England would at
once set in motion the whole machinery of the law until ample justice had
been done upon the criminal, are left without any punishment. In this case
there was no one to bring any complaint before the authorities; for what
was the crime? A man had beaten his wife, but sixty per cent. of the
husbands throughout the Empire do that habitually. Public opinion had
nothing to say against him excepting that he had carried his beating a
little too far, for which he was a fool, for he would be simply so much
out of pocket when he came to purchase another wife.

The poor woman was dead, dead of a broken heart, dead from the awful
injuries that she had sustained, simply that her husband's face might be
preserved in the estimation of his neighbours; and now not a word of
sympathy for her, not a tear was shed, and scarcely a shadow passed over
the face of any one, as she travelled through unutterable sorrow into the
unknown land.

The inferior position that a woman holds in the estimation of the men is
shown in their absolute indifference to her when she happens to fall
sick. She is allowed to drag on in pain and weariness for weeks and
months, and the expense of a doctor and the medicines he might prescribe
are not entertained until she gets so seriously ill that without medical
aid she would inevitably die. A doctor is then called in to diagnose her
case, but one has a grim suspicion that the main factor in the husband's
willingness to sacrifice a few cash for his wife, was not any inordinate
love for her, but dread lest she should die and he would have to be out of
pocket in providing himself with another.

A Chinese doctor whose opinion I was one day asking with regard to this
very question, assured me that in his medical practice he had found the
men invariably opposed to the spending of money on their wives when they
were ill. "I was on one occasion," he said, "attending a country-woman for
some complaint. It was not a serious case, but it was such that if no
remedy had been applied, it might have grown into one that would have
caused her considerable inconvenience. I sent in my bill to the husband
for my attendance and for the medicines I had supplied, but he refused to
pay. It only came to forty cash (about a penny), but he declared that he
had not called me in, and therefore he would not accept my account. The
woman I knew had no money, and so I told her I would not charge her."

The Chinese family is supposed to be bound together by a virtue that is
unique in China, and which has never been looked upon with the same
reverence by any other country in the world as in it. I refer to filial
piety. There is no question but that this as an ideal virtue has been held
up before the nation during the whole length of its existence. Confucius
immortalized the subject by writing a book on it, and though it is wanting
in the nerve and vigour of his other classical works, because it is from
his pen it has through successive generations exercised a marvellous
influence in keeping up the national belief in this virtue amongst all
classes of society, from the Emperor on the throne down to the poorest
beggar that sits with sore legs and tattered garments by the roadside,
though his own parents perhaps years ago drove him on to the streets, and
because of his badness refused to recognize him as their son.

The utterance of the word "Hsiau," has an electrical effect upon any
Chinaman in whose hearing it is mentioned. The ordinary citizen will
discourse with you by the hour upon its beauties, and he will enlarge upon
the excellence and nobility of the children that carry it out in ordinary
life, especially when great obstacles exist in the performance of it. The
man upon whose face profligate is plainly written with the pen of whisky
and opium hears the word "Hsiau," and a softened look passes over it, and
his eyes lose their hardness, and any goodness that lay in his heart is
for the moment supreme. In fact, I have never yet met any one, scoundrel
or honest man, who has not been moved more or less by the mention of this
universally reverenced virtue.

Next in importance to the brochure of Confucius on filial piety is a book
quite as widely known, which is entitled _The Twenty-four Examples of
Filial Piety_. A brief account of twenty-four famous instances of devotion
to parents under various trying circumstances are given, and these are
printed age after age, and read eagerly by the people.

They are certainly most amusing reading, and they give the impression that
whatever other qualities the Chinaman may possess, he is endowed with a
strain of romance and poetry that explains how popular he can be when he
lets himself go. One story tells of a man who was looked upon as a model
for filial piety. His family consisted of his mother, himself and wife,
and a little infant son. Quite unexpectedly his mother falls dangerously
ill and is unable to eat any food. Distressed beyond measure at this, and
fearing lest she should die, he kills his child, and the milk that his
wife used to give to the little one is now absorbed by the sick mother.

This deed is evidently so pleasing to Heaven, that whilst he is digging a
grave in which to bury his murdered child, he suddenly comes upon a bar of
gold, which he at once accepts as a special present to himself for his
filial piety. Whilst he is congratulating himself on the good fortune that
has befallen him, he hears a cry from the mat in which he had wrapped his
son, and to his delight he finds that he has come to life again, without
any of the marks upon him to show the brutal treatment he had received
from his father. Returning home with the gold and the baby in his arms, a
fresh delightful surprise awaits him, for his mother comes to the door to
meet him, perfectly restored to health--another special favour from Heaven
to reward him for his devotion to her.

Another of these twenty-four is a young lad, who acts in such a way as to
excite the admiration of all who read his story. His mother had died and
his father married a second wife, who was exceedingly unkind to him. She
had a son of her own by a previous marriage, upon whom she lavished all
the love of her heart. After years of ill-treatment, his father one day
quite unexpectedly discovers the true state of the case, when he is so
enraged that he drives his wife and her beloved son from his home, and he
declares that he will never have anything more to do with them.

It is at this juncture that the filial piety that has immortalized the
young fellow's name is conspicuously manifested. He so pleads with his
father to forgive his stepmother that he is permitted to go and bring her
home again, though he is quite conscious that her return means sorrow to
himself.

[Illustration: AN OLD LADY.

_To face p. 39._]

He has successfully performed his mission, when lingering on the road he
is seized by a band of robbers, who decide, for reasons not stated, to
murder him. The stepmother hears of this, and filled with remorse and with
gratitude too, she takes her own son to the robbers' camp and offers them
him in exchange for the other, to be killed in his stead. The thieves are
so impressed with the noble self-denial of both stepmother and stepson,
that they all agree to abandon their evil lives and to become honest
citizens of the Empire, which they proceed to do at once, and the band is
broken up.

One of the most famous amongst the twenty-four heroes, however, is one
whose name it would seem to any one but a Chinaman ought to be covered
with infamy, instead of being inscribed on the roll of fame, and held up
for the admiration of the whole Empire. His name is Ting-lan, and it is
told of him that for many years he cruelly beat and ill-treated his
mother. One day he happened to be on the hillside caring for his flock of
goats, when he saw a young kid kneel down by its mothers side to drink. He
was so struck with this beautifully submissive action of the animal, that
he was led to think of how different had been his own conduct to his
mother. A wave of repentance swept over his heart, and he determined that
his whole future life should be an atonement for the wrongs he had done
her.

Just at this moment the old lady appeared coming over the hill towards
him, when Ting-lan, his heart filled with his good resolutions, ran
eagerly in her direction, to kneel down before her to confess his sins and
to tell her how he had determined to be a dutiful son in the future. The
mother, knowing nothing of the change of heart that had come over him, and
thinking that he was rushing at her to beat her, turned and fled in hot
haste, and threw herself into a deep and rapid river that flowed near by.

Her son, terrified and distressed beyond measure, jumped in after her in
his endeavour to save her, but all in vain. The fast-flowing stream had
claimed her as its victim, and no trace of the unhappy mother could be
found in the turbid waters that hid her from the gaze of her weeping son.
By and by there seemed to rise from the very spot where his mother had
disappeared a flat oblong piece of wood, which he seized upon eagerly as
the only memento that remained of her, and on this he had engraved her
name and the date of her death. Popular tradition holds that the first use
of the Ancestral Tablets, which are believed to contain the spirits of the
dead and which are worshipped twice a year by the living descendants,
began from this time and from this circumstance. If this is so, which is
extremely doubtful, then it may be said that Ting-lan was the originator
of a form of worship that is more powerful and more deep-seated than any
other in the whole of the Empire.

When the Chinese are asked how it is that such an unworthy character as
Ting-lan could be admitted into such a renowned gallery of national
worthies, the only reply you get is, "Oh, he repented, you know," as if
that were enough to condone years of cruel treatment of his mother, and
quite sufficient to entitle him to a more than common place amongst the
great moral teachers of his country. One cannot conceive of any other
nation in the world but the Chinese being willing to canonize such a very
doubtful character as Ting-lan.

The mere fact that there has been such a high ideal of filial piety
maintained from the very earliest days of Chinese history has been of
incalculable service to the Empire. It is an ideal that every one accepts,
and it must be admitted that but for it society in general and the home in
particular would have degenerated more than they have done in the passage
of the centuries. That there are as fine examples of filial piety to-day
as any of those recorded in the popular book that has been quoted is
unquestionable, but they are rare. A boy to be filial must be dutiful and
submissive, he must neither gamble nor smoke opium; whatever wages he
earns he must hand over to his parents; he must support them in old age,
and when they die he must perform the regular services to the spirits in
the grave and in the Ancestral Tablet, and in the Ancestral Hall.

From examination that I have made, the prevailing testimony is that not
more than one or two per cent, of the sons of the present day are in any
true sense filial. You speak to a young man about filial piety. His face
is leaden-hued, and has all the marks of the dissipated opium smoker. His
face lights up and he becomes eloquent as he expatiates on the virtue. You
examine into his home life, and you find that he is leaving his old
parents upon the very verge of destitution. He has borrowed money on the
farm, and he has carried off the best of the goods in the home and pawned
them. This man represents a large class who are all enthusiastic, in the
abstract, about filial piety, but who look on whilst the old father is
slaving himself to death, but who will not lift a finger to keep the wolf
away from the door.

You meet another young fellow who is not an opium smoker. He has the
appearance of robust health. He lives well and generously, for his salary
is an ample one. The ruddy hue on his face becomes tinged with a brighter
colour, as you talk with him about the duty of sons towards their parents,
and you feel now that you have a genuine case of filial piety such as
might be enrolled amongst the famous twenty-four. You ask him casually how
much he sends home regularly to the old folks in their country home. A
shadow falls over his face, he stammers and hesitates, and mumbles out
something about his expenses being so heavy that he has not been able to
spare anything out of his salary; but he says, and his face brightens up
as he does so, "I am going to send some as soon as I draw my next money."
For the moment he means to do this, but he never does.

That filial piety exists in China, in the books of its sages, in its light
literature, and in a deep sentiment imbedded in the hearts of all classes
of society, is a fact that no one who knows anything of this strange and
perplexing land can dispute. It is just as true, however, that in actual
practice it is no more prevalent here than it is in England or America, if
quite so much, and that the reputation that China has obtained for the
carrying out of this virtue is one that she does not deserve.



CHAPTER III

CHILD LIFE

    Passion amongst the Chinese for sons--Rejoicings at the birth of a
    son--Sorrow at the birth of a girl--Birth of an heir to the
    throne--The Great Forgiveness--Polite phrase for a girl--Amusements of
    childhood--Home training to lie and swear--Going to school of the
    boys--Books they read--Binding of girls' feet--Origin of this
    custom--Evils connected with it--Chinese love for home.


There is no nation that is fonder of children than the Chinese. They have
a perfect passion for them, and it is, very rarely that a family can be
found without one or more of them in it. If there are none born into it,
arrangements are made to supply that deficiency by buying some, for the
Chinese seem to have a perfect dread of a childless home. If a man has the
means, he will buy several sons, who are treated as though they were his
own, and, when they grow up, they will inherit his property, and have all
the privileges that are given to those that were born in the family.

It is this passion for children that makes a man marry more than one wife.
He desires to surround himself with those who will perpetuate his name,
and who when he is dead will come to the tomb and make offerings to his
spirit, that shall in some mysterious way reach him in the dark world, and
which shall be a source of comfort to him in the gloom and shadow that
surround him there.

A childless wife in China is a person to be profoundly pitied. She is
looked down upon by her mother-in-law, who is anxious to have the dignity
and the reputation of the home maintained by the birth of a grandson, who
some day in the future, dressed in sackcloth, will act as chief mourner,
when his father shall be carried to his long home and laid to rest amongst
the hills. The neighbours, too, have an undisguised contempt for her,
which they show in only too brutal a manner, when some row takes place and
they have a chance of telling each other what their private opinion is
with regard to one another.

The worst is, her own husband begins to treat her with coldness and
neglect, when the time goes by and the home still remains without a son.
If he is very sympathetic he will buy one and make her a present of him,
though she will never occupy the place in his affections that she would if
the child were her own. If his nature is of a coarser grain, he will bring
in a second wife, who will usurp her position in the home, and make her
life one long-continued misery.

When a son is born into the family there are great rejoicings amongst
every member of it. The one most concerned in the matter, the mother, has
had her fears and anxieties for many a day, and her heart has throbbed
with doubt and fear as she has asked whether the little one is a boy or a
girl, and when she has been told it is a son, the terror has gone out of
her heart, and a sense of supreme joy has filled her with immense content.
Her position in the home and in the street or village in which she lives
is now an established one. Her husband's affections are bound to her, the
hectoring, domineering tone of the mother-in-law is softened down, and she
has a recognized place in the home that will never be questioned, whilst
she can now look into the faces of the wives and mothers of the
neighbourhood with a consciousness that no thrill of contempt will ever
taint their thought of her.

As for the father, he walks about as proud as a turkey-cock, although
according to Chinese etiquette he assumes an air of indifference as though
nothing special had happened, whilst all the time under those stolid
features that are as undemonstrative as a tombstone, a world of passion
and joyous feeling and romantic thoughts are playing their sweet music
around his heart.

And now, congratulations pour in from every quarter upon this most happy
event of the arrival of a son. It would indeed for the moment appear as
though such a thing had not happened for years, and that the coming of a
baby boy was something so rare as to transport the family and all the
numerous relatives, and even the nearest neighbours, with such feelings of
gladness, that these could only be expressed by the most exaggerated
expressions of joy at the wonderful event.

The little mite is but a speck in the great ocean of babyhood that fills
this land with its swarms of children, and yet, happily for it, it is
welcomed as though it were the only one in the Empire, and faces are
wreathed in smiles, and the choicest phrases are culled out of the
language of poetry, and minds are set to work to invent new phrases by
which to express the gladness of soul that men feel at the coming of the
little one into the world.

Let us peep for a moment into the home; it is a middle-class one, and
presents the usual untidy, slovenly and unswept appearance that is
characteristic of every such one in the country. But to-day an air of
peculiar happiness seems to pervade the house that makes one forget the
dust, and the litter, and the atmosphere of discomfort that makes a
foreigner feel as though he dare not sit down, whenever he enters any
ordinary dwelling-house. The faces are all lighted up with smiles, and
every one is prepared to say something pleasant. By and by an elderly
woman comes in with a strapping black-haired girl, her daughter, by her
side. They have come to see the baby, and they have brought with them a
fowl, a special gift for the young mother, who for the next month will
need some nourishing food. Shortly after two or three more drop in with
presents of pigs' feet, and vermicelli, and hemp oil in which the dainties
are to be fried. All these articles are supposed to be exceedingly
nutritious and exactly suited to one in the condition of the mother.

It is a pleasant picture to look upon. The great Eastern sun outside is
doing his best to flood the world with his beams, and he sends his rays
flashing into the home, and he lights the faces of the women as with
animated conversation they discuss how babies should be treated and how
the mother should be nursed to keep off the evil spirits that at this
particular crisis are roaming out seeking to find a chance of bringing
disaster upon the family, and of carrying off the infant son that has
brought happiness to the parents.

The scene presented to us on a similar occasion in the homes of the very
poor is of a very different character from the one just described. Whilst
the father and the mother have a joy as deep and as profound as that
experienced by those who are better off, they have no visits from friends
that troop in with presents and with loving greetings, and no anxiety is
shown as to whether the baby shall ever grow up to be a great man, or
whether the mother shall be so cared for that no mishap may befall her.
The poor have no time for such luxuries, and so the arrival of a son and
heir to the toils and sorrows of his parents usually makes little
difference in the daily routine of the home. A tiny stranger has arrived
with his pathetic appeal for the loving care and support of his mother,
but the poor mother has to carry on her daily duties just the same as
before, and no surprise is excited when she appears in the fields on the
very same day and performs some of the heavy duties connected with the
cultivation of their little farm.

[Illustration: LITTLE LADS.]

[Illustration: LITTLE URCHINS.

_To face p. 46._]

The birth of a son is hailed with delight in every home in China, from the
highest to the lowest. In the palace of the Emperor, when the heir to
the throne is born, there are rejoicings that extend from the capital to
the furthest extent of the Empire, and every mother's heart goes out in
sympathy and gladness for the queen who has given a ruler to sit on the
Dragon Throne. The birth of this Royal Son has brought such happiness to
the Imperial Home that it is felt that it ought to be commemorated by a
special act of grace that would bring freedom and deliverance to large
numbers of the most unhappy of the Emperor's subjects.

This is called the "Great Forgiveness," because no sooner is it known that
the Empress has borne a son, than an edict is issued, stamped with the
vermilion seal, and dispatched to the viceroys and great mandarins in
every province and department of the Empire, ordering them to at once
release certain classes of prisoners who are confined in prison, and who
without this royal clemency might lie confined within their dingy cells
for years to come without any hope of release. This is a noble act, and
all connected with the coming of a little son, who has only just opened
his eyes to the light of heaven, and who yet has had the happiness of
flinging wide the prison doors and of setting free countless numbers of
men and women, who otherwise would have pined and fretted within their
dungeons till hope had died out of their hearts, and, filled with despair,
they had closed their eyes upon life.

Let us now try and picture another scene. The little one, long expected
and long speculated about, that has filled the fancy of the mother, and
that has helped to weave a story of romance in the mind of the father,
turns out after all to be not a boy, but a girl--only a girl. The visions
die away, and the poetry loses its romance, and becomes the commonest
prose, when it is found that the stranger is a girl. It is quite safe to
make the assertion that in all the countless homes that exist in the huge
population of China not one of them is prepared to welcome a girl or to
feel that she could ever take the place of a boy.

We become convinced of this when we look upon the scene that I am
endeavouring to picture, for it is a typical one, and the ages have
stereotyped it, as one of the correct photographs of social life in this
land.

No sooner is it announced that the child is a girl than a kind of dismay
falls upon the household. The father's face becomes darkened with a scowl
that shows the passion that is raging in his heart. His very love for his
wife is for the moment turned into bitterness, for he considers that she
has wronged him and brought disgrace upon the home.

The mother, instead of being loyal to her sex and gathering the little one
to her bosom, as she would have done had it been a boy, thrusts it
indignantly from her and refuses even to look at it. She now begins to
weep and sob out her sorrow in tears and bitter expressions at the bad
fate that is clouding her life. The baby has been wrapped up hastily and
thrown with contempt upon a bench in the room, where, uncared for and
despised, as something that has brought bad luck into the home, she sends
forth her wailing cry without its once touching the mother near by.

It is at this particular period in the little girl's history that the
greatest peril to her life arises, for it is just at this point that so
many take their last look at the world and vanish into darkness. With a
mad passion of disappointment in the hearts of both parents, it is so easy
to snap the thread of the little life, and sweep away the sorrow and the
shame from their home.

On one occasion we had a nurse in our family. She was a woman of a great
deal of character, modest in her demeanour and a willing and untiring
worker. Her name was the one thing about her that was peculiar, and that
in Chinese meant "Picked up." It was a most unusual one, and I felt that
there was a history connected with it that would reveal some incident in
her early life. Anxious to learn what that was, I said to her one day,
"What an extraordinary name you have. How did it come about that your
mother gave it you?"

A smile lighted up her plain features, whilst she exclaimed, "I can easily
explain that. The name was given me very soon after my birth, in
remembrance of a rather tragic affair in which, as my mother believed,
Heaven interfered to preserve my life. The evening I was born, both my
father and mother were so distressed at my being a girl, that in a fit of
anger the former seized hold upon me and threw me out into the open
courtyard in front of our house. Fortunately it was the height of summer,
and the night air was hot and scorching, and so as I lay there all night
long, I received no injury from the wind that blew over me.

"At dawn next morning, my father came out for something, and was
astonished to find that I was still alive. He had expected that the fall
on the hard stone slabs that paved the courtyard and the long exposure
would have killed me. He was a very superstitious man, and so he believed
that my escape from death had been due to the intervention of Heaven, and
that it was designed by it that my life should be preserved. Impressed
with this idea, he picked me up and carried me to my mother, who took me
to her heart and decided that I should not be destroyed. In memory of that
eventful night, and my father's rescue of me next morning, I was called,
'Picked up.'"

There is no doubt but that countless baby girls have thus disappeared
within the first two or three hours of their birth, when the unnatural
passion of the parents has been excited by anger and disappointment. If
they are spared long enough to let that cool down, and the child still
lives, the voice of nature begins to be heard, and the mother will ask
for the little one to be given her, and from that moment there will be no
more talk of putting it to death.

Under the most favourable circumstances, and where it has been decided to
rear the child, no congratulations are ever uttered by any one on her
birth. To do so would be considered so grim a joke that it would be looked
upon as an insult so marked and so offensive that a perpetual feud would
be engendered that would never be dissolved as long as life lasted.

The neighbours who have been on the alert with their congratulations all
ready to offer to the happy parents in the event of a son being born, are
placed in the most awkward position, and they get out of it as deftly as
they can by the use of polite phrases and airy nothings of which the
Chinese language has such an abundance. In these attempts no one would
ever dream of using the common word "Girl." That would grate harshly on
the ears of those whose sensitive feelings are only too ready to think
that some reflection is intended by a reference to their daughter. A
polite phrase is used instead, which means "A thousand pieces of gold," a
title which by a subtle species of legerdemain lifts the poor forlorn
little mite, who has barely escaped drowning or suffocating, into the
region of an heiress with a large fortune with which to begin her life.

The early years of a child seem on the whole to be happy ones. In the
swarms of children that one sees almost anywhere, one gets the impression
that on the whole they thoroughly enjoy themselves. They run about and
romp and dance and gambol very much as a similar number of English
children would do on the village green, or in the streets and lanes of a
home city.

The Chinese are far from being a gloomy race of people. Their hearts are
full of fun and vigorous life, and this is seen in the sturdy urchins that
race about with each other and that fill the air with their merry sounds
of childish laughter.

[Illustration: STUDIES OF CHINESE BOYS.

_To face p. 51._]

With very young children this is all the more remarkable since so little
is provided for their amusement. Such things as pictures or story-books or
toys in the large and profuse sense with which our nurseries are supplied
in England, do not exist in this land. Childhood is left very much to its
own resources to find out the means of passing the time pleasantly. It is
pathetic to watch how, with the fewest and simplest materials, the little
ones will pass the day, with apparently perfect contentment. The method
most popular, because it involves no expense, is the making of mud pies,
and the building of miniature houses with broken pieces of tiles that can
be picked up from the streets.

The parents never seem to consider it a part of their duty to suggest
means of recreation for their children. The mothers are intensely ignorant
and slovenly, and are too occupied with their household duties to have any
time to devote to the education or amusement of their little ones, and so
they are allowed to grow up very much as nature or their surroundings
mould them, until the time has arrived, for the boys at least, when they
must enter school, and come under the discipline of a school-master.

It is interesting at this point to consider what are the moral restraints
that are at the command of the parents to train up their children to be
good and honest citizens of the Empire. Apart from the natural conscience
which no amount of heathenism can entirely eradicate, and the lofty ideals
which their sages and teachers in olden times sent forth as beautiful
spirits to permeate and wander through succeeding generations, the family
has no influence whatsoever in guiding the little ones into a noble and
virtuous life.

How could one expect that it should? There is absolutely no religion in
it, for the occasional worship of the idols, when some favour is requested
from them or some sorrow to be averted, has no moral effect upon a single
member of the home. The idols are supposed to be mysterious forces that
have great power in the supernatural world, who have to be bribed and
coaxed not to send down evil upon men, for whom in their inmost hearts it
is believed that they have a natural antipathy. They are never appealed to
as loving or caring for men. There is nothing that will bring a smile over
the yellow face sooner than to ask a man if the idols love men. It is a
question that is so brimming over with fun to a Chinaman that it is
irresistible in its effects, and the soberest face will be wreathed with
smiles whenever it is put.

There is no Bible, of course, and not a single book in the home, and if
there were the mothers could not read them. It will be seen, then, that
the machinery in the West for the training of the children does not exist
out here. There is no God, no churches, no Sunday or Sunday schools, no
pictures, and no special literature to influence the minds of the young to
withstand the evil forces that grow rank and wild all around them in
whatever grade of society they may happen to be.

It may be said without any exaggeration that it is in the home that the
children learn the evils that cling to them all their lives, and that it
is the mothers that are the principal teachers of them. Lying, for
example, as a fine art is one that is indoctrinated by the mothers'
example. It is upon it that they mainly depend for the governing of their
children. As a rule there is no proper discipline in the home, and no
attempt made to make the children obey promptly any order that is given.
The result is that the mother, who has most to do with them, depends
largely upon loud-voiced threatenings and an occasional beating when her
passion gets the control over her, though this latter is rare, since the
Chinese parents really love their children, and seldom resort to this
severe method of curbing the unruly or high spirits of their offspring.

The great weapon in her armoury in the earlier days of her children's
lives is a technical expression that is known in every family of
"Deceiving the Children." One day a visitor called upon a family with
which he was acquainted. The lady of the house was in and so also was her
little son of four or five years of age, a bright, interesting child, with
snapping black eyes, and as full of life as a healthy child could be.

During the conversation the child got restless and was inclined to get
into mischief. He was approaching a corner of the room, when his mother
called out in a loud, excited voice, "Don't go there, there is a huge rat
waiting for you, that will pounce out upon you, and tear out your eyes."
The little fellow, with terror depicted upon his face and with an agonized
cry, made a bee-line to the opposite side of the room, and crouched near
his mother in the most abject terror.

After a while, having nothing to do, he began to move about in what his
mother considered forbidden paths, when once more, with a shriek that had
assumed a natural look of alarm, she shouted in her loudest tones, "Come
away quickly, don't go there; there is a black snake hiding in the corner.
It will bite you, and you will die in a few minutes." Again a wild look of
horror on the little fellow's face, and a sudden rush to his mother's side
to escape the deadly serpent that was lying in wait for him, and sobs of
agony broke from him as he clung to her for protection.

After a while he once more, with the restlessness of childhood, began to
move about in search of something to amuse himself with, and was once more
getting on ground that his mother considered unsafe, when again, with red,
excited face and shrill tones she yelled out, "Why do you go there? Don't
you know there is a devil hiding round the corner that has a great love
for the flesh of a young boy, and he will seize you and devour you, and
crunch your bones with his great teeth?"

At this juncture the gentleman said to the mother, "How is it that you
have in a very short time deceived your son three times by telling him
that something will happen that you know cannot possibly occur? Are you
not afraid of teaching him to be a liar? He will find out in time that
what you say cannot be relied upon, and then he will lose faith in you and
learn to regard lying as a thing of no importance."

The woman's face became suffused with smiles, and then she broke out into
laughter, which for some time she could not suppress. "Oh," she said, "I
did not think of all the terrible things that you talk of so seriously. I
merely wanted to keep the little fellow quiet. I knew that he would not
obey me if I simply asked him to be a good boy, and so I thought I would
frighten him. Everybody uses this plan in China, and I don't see that
there is any harm in it."

Another exceedingly injurious habit that is learned in the home is
swearing. It seems an incredible thing, but it is no doubt a fact that
every one swears in China, without distinction of sex or position in
society. The rough coolies that one meets with on the roads interlard
their ordinary conversation with the foulest expressions, but only let two
of them fall out with each other, and there will be such a torrent of
obscenity and such a bombardment of one another by filthy epithets that
one recoils with disgust at the degrading terms that flow from their lips.

You are standing talking to a fine, scholarly gentleman. His home near by
is a perfect mansion as compared with the hovels that press up against the
wall that surrounds his property. You are charmed with his manner, so
elegant and refined is he in his conversation with you. His talk, too, is
high toned, and shows that he has been imbued with the ethics of the great
sage Confucius, who drew a wonderful picture of the ideal man, that he
called "The son of a King," and that he has been studying his lineaments
so that he might copy him in his own life.

All at once two coolies come along with a steady run, bearing between them
a great heavy pig, that squeals and grunts with pain from the ropes that
cut into its feet. The road is rough and uneven, and they make a false
step and bump heavily against the scholar, who falls to the ground. The
transformation that takes place in this refined and gentlemanly person is
instantaneous and amazing. His company manners have fled, the picture of
the ideal man has vanished from his brain, and he now stands on the level
of the most profane coolie, that has never read Confucius, and has never
studied etiquette of any kind. The language that flows from him is obscene
and so filthy, and of such a Sodom and Gomorrah character that you turn
away from him in absolute loathing as a man that would pollute and
contaminate you by his very presence.

Two women have a difference, and, like all Chinese quarrels, it has to be
fought out in the open street, where every one can hear and decide for
himself the merits of the case. They begin with a few desultory remarks,
not very highly complimentary, and with just sufficient edge in them to
show that each of them means war to the knife, and that they are now
fleshing their swords for the real encounter that is imminent. By and by a
single word is shot like a poisoned arrow by one of them that inflames the
other to madness. The flood-gates are now open, and there pour from the
lips of each a perfect cataract of foul and obscene language, that makes
many of the bystanders, whose minds are stored with these very terms,
actually shudder with a vague sense of abhorrence.

Now all this is learned in the home. The first notes of this terrible
language were first heard from father and mother, but mainly from the
latter. In her anger and passion she will hurl epithets at her daughter
that will describe her as one of the vilest of her sex, whilst the boys,
from the awful terms she uses about them, might be the very refuse and
offscourings of the earth. The little ones can say nothing, but they store
up in the innermost recesses of their minds these awful phrases, to be
used as the years go by when passion stirs up the fiercest elements of the
heart into wild bursts of fury.

And thus the years go by for both boys and girls, with nothing very
eventful in the lives of either, until they are about eight. The Chinese
are not an idle race of people, and as soon as the little ones can put
their hands to anything, their small services are utilized for the general
benefit of the home. If they are poor, the boys go out and gather grass
and fallen twigs to be used as firewood, whilst the girls help as far as
they can in the ordinary duties of the household.

Their main occupation, however, is play, and the most of their hours are
devoted to that. Chinese children develop slowly. Neither in intelligence
nor in physical development are they at all equal to the boys and girls in
England, so up till they are ten years of age it is considered that their
services are of no material value to the family, and that their time is
best spent by doing nothing but running wild.

At about eight preparations are made for the lad to go to school. Terms
are made with the school-master of the nearest school, a certain number of
books splashed and dotted over with mysterious-looking hieroglyphics are
bought, and one morning at early dawn, just as the pale grey light begins
to colour the landscape, the little fellow finds his way along the silent
road to the school-house. Here for six or seven years he will spend the
best part of his days in the study of books that contain the ideals of the
nation.

[Illustration: A BOY CARRYING BASKETS.

_To face p. 56._]

They are the driest of dry books, and were really written for scholarly
men, and for men of thought, whose thinking powers were considerably
developed. There is not a single story in their pages. No child or woman's
voice is heard from beginning to end, and no laughter, and no sob of pain,
or any touch of the finer qualities of the human heart.

The boy begins at eight not with "Jack and Jill," or the "House that Jack
built," or with any nursery rhyme that would appeal to a child's
imagination, but with the solemn statements on high ethical questions that
some of the greatest thinkers and teachers of China have produced. Some
idea of the style of the books that these little urchins have to grind at,
may be gathered from the fact that the first book that is put into the
hands of that eight-year-old scholar is called _The Three Words Classic_,
from the fact that each sentence is made up of three words rhythmically
set. It is about as crabbed and as profound a piece of writing as exists
in the whole language. Its first sentence makes a dogmatic statement which
has not been generally accepted in China, viz. "Man by nature is
originally good." Just imagine a boy of ten, accustomed till to-day to run
as wild as a climbing plant, that creeps up trees, or over ruined walls,
or down the side of a precipice, brought face to face with a statement
like this, instead of the conventional one, "My dog," or "His cat," that
confronts the English lad as he first enters the domain of learning.

Try and conceive the wear and tear upon a child's spirit in having for
years to shout and scream out at the top of his voice, as Chinese scholars
do, such profound teaching as the above, and you will then have caught a
glimpse of the steep and precipitous way along which these eight-year
scholars have to travel in their pursuit after knowledge. A more dreary
system of education, where imagination and humour, and poetry and romance,
and all the finer emotions of the soul are rigorously excluded, it would
be impossible to conceive than that which every Chinese scholar has to go
through in every school throughout the Empire to-day.

And so the years go by, childhood is being slowly left behind, and young
manhood comes with its own responsibilities and its own ambitions. It is a
dreary road along which the young scholar travels. He gets no knowledge of
life that will make him tender and sympathetic with his fellow-men in
their sins or their sorrows. He acquires a profound contempt for every
other country but his own. His natural hardness and selfishness of heart
are intensified by a pride that nothing can soften, whilst his antipathy
to any change or progress either in his own village or in his country is
deeply rooted and the adoption of new ideas or liberal thoughts is
considered a heresy so abominable as to brand any one that adopts it with
the terrible name of "Barbarian," a term from which every self-respecting
Chinaman shrinks as from a plague.

With the leaving of school, childhood has passed away, and now the lads
will have to select the occupations they are going to pursue in the
future. Some elect to be scholars, especially if they have shown
proficiency in their studies, and they finally join the great army of
school-masters that are required for the countless schools throughout the
country. Others become clerks in business houses, but as arithmetic is not
a branch of school education, they are obliged to pay a small premium and
learn the use of the abacus or counting boards, in one of the cash shops
in the town. Others, again, engage themselves as book-keepers or shop
assistants, or in some of the many employments that are open to young men
who can read and write.

Not a few of them drift into evil habits and finally become opium-smokers
and gamblers. If they are clever scamps, which this class usually are,
they turn their attention to medicine, and gathering together a few herbs
they travel through the country as strolling doctors, professing to cure
every disease to which the human frame is heir, and living a most
precarious and, on the whole, a very wretched life.

About the same time that the great change takes place in the experience of
the boy, the girl too comes to a point where the easy conditions under
which she has hitherto lived suddenly stop and the great trial of her life
begins. I refer to foot-binding.

In every home that professes to any respectability, foot-binding is an
absolutely essential thing for the girls in it. To neglect this would be
to confound them with slave girls, whose feet are never bound, and with
the children of the very lowest classes whose poverty would not admit of
their adopting this polite custom. It has been found by a very large
experience that a girl must be eight years old before her feet will bear
the tremendous strain that is put upon them, in the effort to destroy the
handiwork of nature.

It is true that in some of the more wealthy homes, where a very small foot
is a sign of blue blood, they begin as soon as the girl is six to put her
to the torture, but this is not the general rule. By the time the girl is
eight, the bones of the feet have become sufficiently hardened to bear the
incessant pressure that is put upon them to contract the feet into such a
small compass that they will go into a shoe of two or three inches in
length.

The process begins by turning all the toes, except the large one, on to
the sole of the foot. This of course is a slow but an exceedingly painful
one. It is continued week after week and month after month for several
years until the toes have been thrown back, at the expense of the instep,
which is made to bulge out by the pressure of the bandages; until finally
the "Golden lilies," as these unsightly objects are called, are complete,
and the poor girl is a veritable cripple for life.

The cruelty that is practised upon these poor children during the initial
operation of binding is very severe. The first few weeks are so very
trying that attempts are made by the girls to tear the bandages from their
aching, tortured feet. This is resisted by their mothers, who have to
resort to brutal methods to keep the little hands from endeavouring to
relieve themselves of the pain that has become intolerable.

Tears and shrieks and groans that last all day long, and are heard through
the sobs of the poor things, as sleep, restless and disturbed, comes to
try and make them forget the agony they are enduring, are the constant
experiences in that unhappy home.

The girl begs and entreats the mother to loosen the bandages a little so
that the agonizing pain may be diminished, and life may become somewhat
more tolerable. The only reply is a tighter wrench upon them, and a
strain, that were not nature so elastic, would send the poor thing mad.
The morrow comes and the rebandaging takes place. For an instant, as the
feet are relieved of the old bandages, and they are shown inflamed and
discoloured, a momentary relief is felt by the poor girl who has slept in
fitful dozes during the past night, but the moment they are rebound by the
new ones, a cry of horror proceeds from her as though a raw sore had been
touched, and the house resounds with her screams, whilst the mother,
apparently untouched by the agony of her daughter, proceeds with her
revolting task, as though she had no heart and no feeling left in her
heathen soul.

This terrible martyrdom goes on with scarcely any alleviation for three or
four years, the poor victim to fashion suffering acutely all the time.
There are moments often repeated when the poor child actually quivers all
over from excruciating pain, and it would seem as though flesh and blood
could no longer endure the frightful strain put upon her, but must
dissolve in tears and groans and unutterable agony.

Foot-binding is one of the most senseless and cruel customs it is possible
to imagine. Its origin is dimly hidden in the maze and mist of the past,
and no one can say positively how it originated. Tradition holds that it
arose in the palace of an Emperor, who had a most beautiful concubine, but
whose feet were deformed. To hide their defect they were so manipulated
that their glaring deformity was concealed, and the ladies of the court in
order to gain her favour bandaged their own in such a manner as to be an
exact imitation of those of the royal favourite. From that time, it is
said, the insane and hideous custom began to spread from the court into
the capital, and from there it began to be copied by the women of the
Empire.

The popular legend makes this woman to be T'a Ki, the famous concubine of
Show Sin, the last ruler of the famous Chow Dynasty (B.C. 1146). She is
said to have been the most beautiful woman that ever lived, but to have
been inhuman and vicious beyond anything that human language can express.
She was the cause of the fall of the dynasty, a dynasty in which was
enshrined the great names of Confucius, Mencius, Tau-tze the founder of
Tauism, and Wu Wang.

To account for the fatal influence of this famous beauty, it is declared
that she was a fox fairy, who had assumed the form of a woman in order to
be able to hurry on the ruin of China. In the transformation everything
was changed but her feet, and in order to disguise these she had to resort
to the most ingenious methods. To curry favour with her the
ladies-in-waiting in the palace bound theirs to imitate the appearance of
hers, and so the custom of foot-binding was commenced that has lasted all
these ages.

This legend has become part of the national faith and is firmly believed
in by every one. Of course it is absurd, and one that originated in an
after age, but with the innate love of the Chinese for the mysterious and
the supernatural, it is transmitted age after age as though it were part
of authentic history.[1]

Foot-binding is a lifelong misery even after the first few years during
which the feet are being tortured into such a hideous mass of deformity
that no women will willingly show them to any one. Nature never becomes
reconciled to the cruel caricature they present. She continues to make a
vigorous protest by pains and suffering that more or less last as long as
life itself. The bandages may never be loosed even for a single day, for
nature, as if on the eternal watch, would at once begin to revert to the
original size and shape with which she was born, and the feet would
gradually return to their original shape, though with marks of the cruel
treatment to which they have been exposed, and which can never be entirely
effaced, no matter how long the owner may live.

The girls are employed in household duties, in learning to embroider, to
weave cotton cloth, to make their own shoes, and to learn all kinds of
sewing. The years pass on, and when they reach the age of sixteen their
childhood begins to vanish, and womanhood, with its responsibilities and
its stern demand that the girls shall leave their own clan and become
members of others, looms up before them. The transition stage may be
delayed for a year or two, but when a girl gets to be eighteen it is
considered ample time for her to open her wings and to fly for ever from
the parent home.

We have thus taken a very rough and bird's-eye view of Child Life in
China. There are countless details that might have been gone into, but
they would have required an entire book for themselves. The main outline
that has been given will suffice to convey a very general idea of the
kind of life that the black-eyed children of the Empire have to go
through.

There is one thing about which there can be no manner of doubt, and that
is that the children never forget the home in which they were reared. The
home is to the Chinese what the country is to the most devoted patriot of
other nationalities. The home is larger and dearer than the nation. It is
the one thought that is always enshrined in his inmost heart, and which
never dies out. A Chinaman went abroad and lived for a quarter of a
century in Australia. He married an Irish woman, had several almond-eyed
daughters, who had caught the brogue of their mother and might have been
emigrants from Cork or Kerry. He had a thriving money-making business, he
possessed a vote, and he was a man of substance in the community.

One day the home hunger came upon him. He handed over his business to his
wife and daughters, took his balance out of the bank and returned to his
home in China. This was situated by the edge of the sea on a sand dune,
the most forlorn and mouldy-looking place one could possibly imagine. He
regained his spirits as soon as his feet touched the desolate spot that
lay within a few yards of the home where his childhood was spent, and
nothing could induce him ever to think of returning to the far-off land
where the family he had left behind him were living.

A strong and vigorous coolie showed symptoms of being far from well.
Physically there seemed nothing the matter with him. Gradually he lost his
appetite and his spirits. He occasionally acted as though his mind was
affected. One day he said to his master, "I must go home. I feel very ill,
but I am convinced that no medicine that I can take will cure me. Let me
go home." The _mal du pays_ of the Switzer was upon him, and when
permission was given him, his eye brightened and his step became elastic,
and by the time he reached the old homestead every trace of disease had
entirely vanished.

A man becomes a mandarin and is sent to another part of the Empire. He is
gradually advanced in rank until he becomes a Viceroy of two Provinces,
and rules over thirty millions of people. He marries, and has sons and
daughters, and he amasses property in the place where his greatest honours
have come to him.

He never has time to get away to his ancestral home, which is more than a
thousand miles distant, but it is never out of his thoughts, and when he
dies full of honours and wealth, his coffin is carried to his far-off
village where he was born, and he is laid to his final rest almost in
sight of the house in which his boyhood was passed.

The Americans are greatly distressed because when the Chinese come to
their country they do not bring their wives and families with them. The
fact is to do so would be opposed to the spirit and genius of their race.
It would tend to alienate them from their home, which they intend to
revisit as soon as ever they can, and to finally lay their bones amongst
their kindred there. Every merchant and scholar, every coolie that lands
with but the clothes he has on his back, every spendthrift and
opium-smoker and gambler, and every millionaire of the Yellow race in the
United States has one dream that never dies out of his brain, and that is
the picture of his home, which either in life or in death it is his
unalterable purpose to visit. To move their families and become denizens
of their adopted country would be to run counter to one of the strongest
instincts of their race.



[Illustration: AN IMPERIAL CONFUCIAN TEMPLE.]


CHAPTER IV

RELIGIOUS FORCES IN CHINA

    Chinese efforts to propitiate their gods--Figures of men on roofs of
    houses--Stone tiger--Fung-Shuy--The "Mountain City"--The county of
    "Peaceful Streams"--Density of population--The "dead hand"--Ancestral
    worship--Idolatry--Koan-Yin--Heaven--Description of a scene in a
    popular temple.


The Chinese are an exceedingly superstitious people, but they are capable
of being intelligently religious when they become acquainted with the
truths of the Gospel. Until then all their offerings and ceremonies and
ritual are performed, either to avert the sorrows that the supernatural
beings might bring upon them, or for the purpose of putting the minds of
their gods into such a pleasing state of satisfaction that they will be
ready to send sons into the family and prosperity into the business, and
riches and honour and a continued stream of blessings upon the home. The
spirits and the gods of all denominations are credited with having
unlimited wealth at their command, which they can dispose of to any one
who has gained their favour, without in the least degree impoverishing
themselves. They are also believed to be high-spirited, easily offended
and vindictive, and careless as to the moral qualities of those who
worship them. The great thing is to keep these capricious beings in a good
humour by making them constant offerings, which though comparatively
valueless in themselves, by some sort of a hocus-pocus during the process
of reaching the idols, become worth large sums of money to them.

Evidences of superstition abound in almost any direction in which one may
turn. Looking at the roofs of the houses, one is struck with the large
numbers of miniature figures of men, in all kinds of fantastic shapes and
attitudes, armed with bows with which they seem to be shooting at the sky.
These are supposed to be fighting with the invisible forces that are
flying through the air, seeking for opportunities to descend into the
houses and to bring plague or pestilence upon the people residing within
them. Were it not for these little warriors it is believed that human life
could not exist, and the homes that are now happy and prosperous would be
filled with mourning and lamentation.

Walking along a straight street that terminates in another that is at
right angles to it, one is surprised at seeing in the wall of the house at
the extreme end of this road a rough slab of stone about three feet high
and one in breadth, with the three words cut into it, "I dare defy." Where
the road is winding, or deviates from the straight, no such stone is ever
found.

The reason for its existence at all is simply a superstitious belief that
everywhere prevails that evil spirits who are at war with mankind have
special power to work mischief along roads that have no turnings in them.
Mad with glee, they fly swifter than the wind along them, and woe betide
anything that lies in their course whilst they are careering along. It is
for this reason that the owners of the house that abuts on this racecourse
of the gods hasten to put up the stone with its three-worded inscription
in order to avoid the baleful effects of their coming full tilt against
it. Some calamity, they believe, would certainly be the result, but no
sooner do the spirits see the words "I dare defy," than, paralyzed with
fear, and trembling at the mystic words that have struck terror into them,
they fly in disorder from the scene.

The Chinese on the whole are endowed with broad common-sense, and in
anything that has to do with money-making or with commercial matters they
are as wideawake and as shrewd as a canny Scotsman or a Yorkshireman.
They are gifted, too, with a keen sense of humour, and yet when they come
to deal with the question of spirits and ghosts and ogres, they seem to
lose their reasoning faculties, and to believe in the most outrageous
things that a mind with an ordinary power of perception of the ludicrous
would shrink from admitting.

Quietly sauntering along by a road that skirts a hill, a rock is pointed
out that plays an important part in the fortunes of the town that may be
seen stretching away over the plain in front of us. Looked at from a
certain angle it certainly conveys to one the impression that it is a huge
crouching tiger. It has a defiant look about it, and an air of alertness,
as though some enemy were about, that it must be on its guard against. Its
gaze is fixed on the smokeless city, from which no sound can be heard and
which would seem to be a veritable abode of the dead.

It turns out that this great stone brute that nature has so deftly
chiselled is the presiding genius of the city that lies so silently in
front. The Chinese believe that objects in natural life which, by a freak
of fortune, have any resemblance to bird or beast are inhabited by the
spirits of that animal, and have all the natural powers of such, only in a
greatly intensified degree. The physical strength of the tiger and its
naturally ferocious character make it an object of dread, and so when a
district is found to possess the figure of such, only in an immensely
exaggerated size, then it is seized upon as the embodiment of physical and
supernatural forces that can be used for the protection of a city or
sometimes of a whole region many miles square.

In this particular instance, the stone tiger, with its massive jaws and
huge body that seems to be vibrating with nervous energy, is looked upon
as the real protector of the town and region which it overlooks. Through
its mysterious influence plague and pestilence are kept away, and trade
prospers, and twin sons appear in certain families, and boys are born and
the ratio of girls is kept down, whilst a general air of prosperity
pervades the city and the villages and hamlets on the plain beyond. This
is not the casual belief of a few cranks. It is the profound conviction of
the scholars and literary men, who are the leaders of thought. It is also
one of the articles in the creed of the working men, and of the coolies
and labourers, and it is tenaciously held by every woman in all the
region. If any one should have the daring to suggest that this impostor of
a tiger should be blown up by dynamite to see what it was made of, he
would be looked upon as a dangerous heretic who ought to be put into a
lunatic asylum, only there does not happen to be such a thing in the whole
of China.

This form of superstition meets one in every direction, and is popularly
called "Fung-Shuy," which means "Wind and water," chiefly, I presume,
because in the province of the natural world these are the two agencies
that seem to have a tremendous power in producing changes on the earth's
surface.

We have another instance of its dominating influence in this beautiful
valley before us. More exquisite scenery one could hardly find in the
whole of China than that which has been grouped here by Nature's artistic
hand. A mountain stream runs right through the centre of it, and night and
day the sounds of its music break upon the air. The hamlets and villages
scattered over it add to the beauty of the scene, for they give the charm
of life to the silent forces that lie around.

The most beautiful feature about the whole, however, is the hills, which
group themselves so artistically around this charming valley. They seem
like colossal walls that mighty heroes built in ancient days to turn it
into a city of which they should form the battlements. So obviously does
this seem to have been the purpose, that the place has been called the
"Mountain City." Now the stone of which these hills are composed is a
beautiful granite, that is specially adapted for house-building, and one
would naturally imagine that the houses in the valley and in the city
which lies just over the hills would all be built of the stone that is
found in such abundance around.

But such was not the case. A tradition has come down from the past that
underneath these hills are mighty spirits who would never tolerate that
the granite they contained should ever be quarried, and that should any
one dare to lay a chisel upon these rocks they would send disease and
death upon the valley and exterminate every human being in it.

The result was that all the stone that was used in this region had to be
carried up the river from some place fifty or sixty miles distant, where
the geomancers had declared that no spirits were to be found. Such is the
force of superstition that all the rocks and boulders and stones of this
region are absolutely safe from the chisel of the mason, and the people
prefer to go to the expense of importing the material for their homes and
bridges, rather than incur the anger of the spirits, who would use all the
terrible power they possess to avenge themselves upon them.

Superstition has been a most potent force during the whole course of
Chinese history in preventing the development of the nation. The mineral
resources of the country are exceedingly abundant, and if they had been
rightly exploited, would have been the means of enriching great masses of
people who are now in extreme poverty. To understand this let us come in
imagination to one district in the county of "The Peaceful Streams." As we
stand gazing upon the scene before us, we are struck with the grandeur and
magnificence of its scenery. In the far-off distance the mountains are
piled up, one range higher than another, till the last with its lofty
peaks seems to be resting against the sky.

In the foreground are countless hills along whose sides the tea plants
flourish, and there are undulating plains, and miniature valleys, and
gently flowing streams that have come from the distant mountains, and
which have lost a good deal of their passion as they have travelled away
from them. The soil is poor, and the farmers have to expend the severest
toil upon it to be able to extract out of it enough to keep their families
from starvation. The struggle for existence is so severe that large
numbers every year have to leave their homes and their farms and emigrate
to other countries, where they hope to make sufficient money to be able in
the course of a few years to return to the old homesteads and start a new
life of independence and comfort.

Now, but for a wretched superstition, this region ought to be one of the
richest in China, and its people should be living in affluence; and
instead of having to desert the land and being scattered in Singapore, and
Penang and the Malay Peninsula, toiling to save their ancestral homes from
perishing through poverty, every man would be called back in hot haste to
share in the wealth that would be enough to enrich ten times the number of
people that now exist on the land struggling to make ends meet.

The land that stretches before us is rich in coal, and one hill at least
contains such a large percentage of the finest iron, that one engineer who
examined it reported that there was enough of the ore in it to "supply the
whole world for a thousand years," and still it would remain unexhausted.
Expert after expert has visited this region, and with unvarying unanimity
they have declared that seams of coal abound throughout it that if worked
would turn this poverty-stricken district into one of the great workshops
of the South of China, and would give employment not only to its own
population, but also to large numbers from the adjoining counties.

Now the one controlling reason why this great natural wealth, that God has
put into the soil of this beautiful county for the service of man, is left
untouched is because it is believed that there are huge slimy dragons who
lie age after age guarding the treasures of coal and iron, and that any
attempt to take them from them would end in the destruction of the people
of the whole region. The pickaxe and the shovel and the dynamite would
disturb their slumbers, and, filled with passion and mad with anger, they
would hurl plague and sickness and calamities upon the unfortunate
dwellers on the land. These unseen terrors, more potent than hunger and
poverty and famine, have kept the mines unopened and the iron from being
smelted, and have driven thousands of people into exile, very few
comparatively of whom have ever come back to look upon the land of great
mountains and peaceful streams, where untold riches lay ready for the
gathering.

China is a country that is distinguished for its dense population.
Wherever you travel you never seem to be able to get away from the human
Celestial. The great cities and market towns and public thoroughfares
present a never-ending succession of Chinese forms and faces that becomes
absolutely monotonous. It is natural to expect them in these great centres
of population, but you go into the most out-of-the-way places, and even
there you are confronted with the same perplexing problem.

You wish, for example, to be alone, absolutely alone for a time, where no
Mongolian visage with its acres of features and its yellow bilious-looking
smile shall gaze upon you. There is a hill near by that you believe to be
entirely deserted, and you think if you could only get up there, the
desire of your heart would be gratified.

You walk briskly down the street, as though you were projecting a good
long constitutional, in order that no one may be mad enough to think of
following you. By and by you make a sudden flank movement that takes you
into a lane leading off from the main road. Casting hurried glances back
on the way you have just travelled to see that no one is watching you, you
make rapid strategic doubles in the direction of the hill, till you find
yourself calmly and with a contented mind slowly rising higher and higher,
until at last you have fairly left all traces of human life behind you,
and you are actually alone.

Seating yourself on a grassy mound, you look out on the broad expanse
before you, and you breathe a sigh of content. No mechanical sounds of
voices, as though they were being ground out by some creaking machinery,
fall upon your ears. You hear the sighing of the wind and you see the
grasses waving their heads as though they would talk in dumb show with
you. You look down at the river, that winds like a silver thread along the
plain, and you feel that this contact with nature is a most delightful
break on the eternal monotony of faces that may suggest humour and pathos
and lurking fun behind a yellow exterior, but never beauty.

All at once you receive a shock. You catch the gleam of an eye through an
opening in two or three bushes that you never dreamed of concealing
anything human behind them. You are startled, for you feel that the
Chinaman has outwitted you. You turn round and cast suspicious glances
towards a hedge, where wild flowers are growing and that you thought to be
the very picture of sylvan solitude, and you see several figures dodging
behind it.

The delightful sense of being alone vanishes, and you realize that that is
an impossibility in China. You stand up disgusted, but with the feeling of
amusement predominant, and one after another comes out of his
hiding-place, where the black, piercing eyes have been scanning your
every movement for the last ten minutes, and at least a dozen ungainly
forms creep up to you and with smiling faces try to make friends with you.

Now, mighty and overwhelming though the living force of Chinese life may
be, it is an undoubted fact that the dead and sleeping nation, as a
religious factor, in many respects controls and dominates the living tides
of men that impress us so vividly with their vast numbers. Even the casual
traveller in China cannot help but be impressed with the way in which the
graves of the dead thrust themselves upon the attention of the living.
There is no getting away from them. The mountain sides very often are so
thickly covered with them that one has to tread upon them if one would
pass from one part to another. Every uncultivated spot on the lower levels
has been eagerly seized upon as spaces where to bury the dead. Even the
cultivated fields have been invaded by them, and mounds right in the
centre of some diminutive rice or potato patches show how the little farm
has been narrowed down in order to make room for some members of the
family that have passed away. These graves thrust themselves up to the
edge of the great roads, and seem to be prevented from grasping even them
only by the incessant march of the countless feet that hurry along them
from dawn till dark. The clearings and little hills outside the cities
that cannot be used for cultivation are all seized upon as unprotected
cemeteries for the dead, and the little mounds like tidal waves advance up
to the very edge of the walls of the town, and are stayed in their
progress only by these huge bulwarks.

But it is not simply by the signs that appeal to the eye that one gets an
idea which is apt to appal one of the vast problem of the dead in China.
In countless houses throughout the land, and more especially in those of
the rich, one is astonished to find how many lie in their coffins,
hermetically sealed, for weeks and months, without being buried. It is a
most gruesome sight, and would give an Englishman the shivers to have the
dead in the next room for many months and sometimes for years.

Now, it is an unquestionable fact that the "dead hand" is a most mighty
and a most potent factor in the religious life of the people of China. All
the gods and goddesses that are worshipped throughout the Empire are not
believed to have the same influence over human life in sending misery or
in bestowing happiness as the dead members of a family have in regard to
their relatives that are still alive on the earth. A man, for example,
dies. He was a poor worthless fellow when he left the earth, and his life
was a constant record of failure and incapacity. He never accomplished
anything, and he was a mere nonentity not only in society but also in his
own home till the very last. All that is changed now, and as he lies in
his tomb he has acquired a new power that, in conjunction with the unseen
forces that are supposed to gather round the grave, will enable him to
pour riches and power upon the home he has left.

The dead to-day all over China hold the living within their grip. They are
believed in some mysterious way of having the ability to change the
destinies of a family. They can raise it from poverty and meanness to
wealth and to the most exalted position, but if they are neglected and
offerings are not made to them at the regular seasons, they will take away
houses and lands from it, and turn the members of it into beggars.

A man died in a certain village. He was so poor that a grave was dug for
him by the roadside and he was buried with but the scantiest of ceremony.
He had never shown any ability in the whole course of his life, and he
seemed in no way different from the ordinary commonplace looking men that
one meets in shoals anywhere.

The eldest son who buried him was a young man of exceptional ability. He
was rough and overbearing in his manners and a very unpleasant man to have
to oppose, but he had the keen passion of the trader, and seemed to know
by instinct every phase of the market, and what it was safe for him to
speculate in. As he had no capital of his own, he was compelled to begin
his life at the very bottom and to work his way up. This he did with great
success, so that in the course of time he amassed a considerable fortune,
and his name was known as that of one of the merchant princes in the
region in which he lived.

Now, this man's steady rise from poverty to wealth was not put down to his
own ability or to any skill that he had shown in the management of his
business affairs, but almost entirely to the old father who lay buried at
the crossroads. It was he, the son believed, that guided the golden stream
that flowed into his life, and it was his mysterious hand that had so
prospered the combinations which the son had made, that the firm was built
up till it was distinguished for the magnitude of its transactions. So
convinced was he of this that he would never allow the grave to be
touched, and he would never have a stone put up to show to whom this
common-looking, neglected mound of earth belonged. He was afraid lest
careless hands should break the spell that hung around it, and perhaps
annoy the old man so that the run of prosperity should be broken, and in
anger he should send misfortune instead.

Countless instances could be given similar to the above, all illustrating
the profound faith that the Chinese have in the power of the dead to
influence the fortunes of the living either for weal or for woe. From this
has arisen the most powerful cult, ancestor worship, that at present
exists in China. Its root lies neither in reverence nor in affection for
the dead, but in selfishness and in dread. The kindly ties and the tender
affection that used to bind men together when they were in the world and
to knit their hearts in a loving union seem to vanish, and the living are
only oppressed with a sense of the mystery of the dead, and a fear lest
they should do anything that might incur their displeasure and so bring
misery upon the home.

Looked at from a sentimental point of view, ancestor worship seems to be
very beautiful and very attractive, but it is not really so. The unselfish
love that is the charm that binds the members of a family to each other,
and the willingness to endure and suffer for each other, are entirely
absent in the worship that the living offer to their dead friends. The
bond that binds them now is a vague and a misty one, and exists solely
because there are hopes that lands and houses and wealth may come in some
mysterious way from the unseen land, and sorrow and pain and disaster may
be driven from the home. It is no wonder that this worship has such a
powerful hold on the faith and practice of the Chinese, when it is
considered how much that men hold dear is involved in it. It is the
greatest religious force in the land, and will survive in some form or
other even when all the others that are at present recognized have passed
away from the hearts of the people.

We now turn to what to a casual onlooker might naturally seem to be the
dominant and most powerful factor in the religious life of the people of
this Empire of China, and that is idolatry. This popular and universal
form of worship meets one everywhere and is practised by every class and
condition of people throughout the country. The rich and the poor, the
learned and the unlearned, the common coolie who earns his living in the
streets and the most learned scholar who has risen to the highest rank in
his profession, men and women of all grades, good, bad, and indifferent,
all more or less believe in the idols and worship them.

That this is so, is evident from the almost universal presence of the
idols. Every house has at least one, which is the household god of the
family, whilst the more religious and devout will have several others as
well. Then the cities abound with temples dedicated to certain well-known
gods that have been built, some of them at great expense, and are kept in
constant repair by the free-will offerings of the people. The villages,
too, not to be outdone by the towns, have each of them at least one public
temple where the people can make their offerings to their patron god, and
where on the birthday of the idol the whole population gather to witness
the play which is performed in honour of it.

Then, again, there are monasteries scattered very liberally through the
provinces, some of them so large that they will have over a hundred
resident priests, all engaged in the one duty of chanting the praises of
the various gods in them, and in superintending the worship of the throngs
of people who crowd to such places to make their offerings to the
different idols. There are also numerous nunneries where women devote
their lives exclusively to the service of the Goddess of Mercy, and spend
their years in trying to get from her the peace of mind they have not been
able to obtain in their own homes. The inhabitants of these establishments
are nearly always widows whose homes are unhappy, or married women who,
dissatisfied with life, and with the consent of their husbands, have
retired to the quiet and solitude of these retreats, in the hope that by
prayer and meditation the unrest of spirit that has made life intolerable
may be exchanged for one of calmness and contentment.

In addition to the above, there are mountain temples that abound in all
the hilly regions, and little shrines built by the roadsides, where
passing travellers may offer up their devotions to the gods enshrined
within them, and a multitude of devices for drawing the attention of men
and women to the duty of remembering the services they ought to pay to
the gods of the land they live in. The more one studies this question, the
more one is impressed with the fact that idolatry is a huge system that
completely covers the whole of the Empire with its ramifications. If the
faith of the Chinese is to be measured by the money that they are willing
to put out for its support, then it must be profound indeed. When one
considers the innumerable number of temples of all sizes and description
that meet one in every direction, and that the expense of building them
and keeping them in repair falls entirely upon the people, one cannot but
be struck with the sacrifices they are willing to make for the sake of
their gods. But when one considers further that the huge armies of
Buddhist and Tauist priests who are connected with these religious
establishments are all supported by voluntary gifts freely bestowed upon
them, one stands amazed at the amount of money that must be annually
expended throughout the Empire upon a system that has no State endowment,
but which depends entirely upon the spontaneous offerings of the people at
large for its very existence.

But it is now time to go into detail with regard to the working of
idolatry in order to understand what is its exact effect on the masses who
practise it, and in order to make the picture as vivid as possible, I
shall first describe how the home is affected by this form of religion.
Any house taken at random will do equally well for our purpose, for, like
the Chinese themselves, they are all built on the same general model, and
a description of one would do for all the rest.

As we pass through the courtyard and enter in at the front door which
stands open all day long, no matter what the weather may be, the first
thing that we catch sight of is an oblong table on which is seated the
family idol. The most popular and the most generally worshipped is
Kwan-Yin, or the Goddess of Mercy. Her face is placid, and there is a
look of tenderness about it that has won the hearts of the millions of
China so that in nearly every home in the land her image is found as the
one conspicuous object towards which all hearts are drawn.

Her whole attitude and the air of benevolence that sits so naturally upon
her agree well with the beautiful story we have of her life, and the
reason why she, an Indian woman, should have become almost the national
goddess of the Chinese nation.

Kwan-Yin was the daughter of an Indian prince, and as a child she showed
herself to be possessed of a most loving heart. As a girl she used to run
in and out of the houses of the common people that stood near her father's
palace, and she was so distressed at the sights of poverty and sorrow that
she constantly witnessed that she made a vow that when she became a woman
she would never marry, but would devote her life to alleviate the miseries
that the women of India were compelled to endure.

This vow she carried out to the very letter, and her days were spent in
ministering to the wants and ailments of women, no matter how low in
society they happened to be. Her fame spread far and near, and the story
of her devotion and self-denial touched every one that heard it. With true
Oriental imagination people declared that she was a fairy that had been
born into the world in human shape, for never had such tenderness and
compassion been shown by any human being, and therefore her home must
originally have been amongst the gods and the goddesses that lived in the
land of eternal sunshine, where no shadow ever fell upon their hearts to
dim the happiness that perpetually filled their lives.

When she died it was felt that such a woman should be deified, and that
her name and image should be added to the list of those that were
worshipped by the nation. The story of this beautiful life somehow or
other travelled over the mountains and plains and deserts that divide
India from China, and the "Black-haired race" became so enamoured with it,
that those who heard it declared that she was worthy, even though she were
a foreigner, of being placed amongst the gods that they trusted in. With
wonderful rapidity her cult was adopted by all classes, but especially by
the women, till to-day her image is found in nearly every home in the
Middle Kingdom.

The recognized place where the idol is enshrined is in the living-room of
the family. It thus becomes a silent member of the home and a witness of
the daily life of its worshippers. It seems to be treated with but scant
courtesy, however, for no care whatever is bestowed upon it, and the dust
that comes in at the doors, and that rises from the earthen floors, falls
thickly on its head and makes it have a grimy, disreputable appearance.
The furniture in the room and the table on which the idol rests may be
cleaned and dusted, but no damp cloth may ever be used to relieve it of
the dust that has accumulated upon it, lest it should consider itself
insulted by such familiarity and express its resentment by sending down
some calamity upon the family. The gods are believed to be very human, and
to be liable to fits of passion, and to be very anxious to maintain their
dignity, and to be cruel and merciless with those that offend against
them.

A general theory with regard to the idols is that they have to be
propitiated in order that they may exercise their power in the protection
of the home. For this reason they are never formally approached on any
occasion without at the very least an offering of incense or of paper
money burned in front of the idol, which it is believed find their way to
the spirit of the god, who can appropriate and use them for his own
benefit. It is customary on the days of the new and full moon to burn a
number of sticks of incense, just to keep the idol in a good humour, on
the principle that a man makes a present to another, in the hope that
should circumstances demand it, he will show himself friendly when he is
appealed to.

The one great occasion in the year when the idol is worshipped with great
ceremony is its birthday. Then special preparations are made to do it
honour, and offerings of roast fowl and duck and boiled ducks' eggs, and
certain vegetables, are placed in front of it, and it is called upon to
partake of the good things that its worshippers present to it. In the more
wealthy homes, where money is plentiful, in addition to the usual
offerings of food, the head of the house will engage a band of
play-actors, and selecting some popular piece, he will have it performed
in the courtyard right in front of the idol, so that it can be amused by
the merry performers and be made to remember its birthday with feelings of
pleasure and satisfaction.

There is one feature about idolatry that is very striking, and that is
that it never proposes to have any effect on character. The theory seems
to be that its help is only available when men are in trouble or want to
get rich, or when they wish to be avenged on an enemy, or the business is
failing and they desire that it should prosper, and so be relieved from
the dread of poverty in the future. There may be a thousand things in the
same line as these, and it is believed that the idols have resources at
their command that enables them to meet all such contingencies in human
life and to fill men's hearts with content.

The idols, however, are never supposed to have any influence for good on
the characters of those that worship them. A man never feels that as he
has just been making an offering to the household god, he must therefore
be a better man. Such a thought never occurs to a Chinaman. The connection
between a lavish service to the idols and a life altered for the better is
never dreamed of in this land. A man, for example, is an opium-smoker, and
every day the habit grows upon him till at last he is perfectly powerless
under its grip. He becomes indisposed to work and gradually the home
becomes impoverished. The opium craving that comes over a man when the
hour for smoking arrives is so intolerable that at all hazards it must be
satisfied, but this man has stripped his home of everything he can pawn,
and now only a bare and desolate house is left, and his wife is almost
starving. Driven almost to despair by the awful pains that fill every
joint and muscle of his body with the most exquisite agonies, he sells his
wife, and she, only too glad to escape her wretched life, willingly
consents.

Now, during the whole time that this gradual descent in the man's
character has been going on, the idol has been a daily witness of his
conduct, but it has never entered the thoughts of the opium-smoker that
the god that sits on the oblong table and gazes calmly upon him without a
wink cares anything at all whether he smokes or not, or is concerned in
the slightest degree whether he lives a moral life, or whether he wrecks
it by the grossest iniquities.

I once said to a man who looked like an animated skeleton, though not half
so cheerful, "Are you not afraid that the idol that is so close to you,
and that sees how wretchedly you are living, may punish you for the great
wrongs you are committing?" He smiled a grim and sickly smile, as though I
was perpetrating a huge joke, and he was vastly amused at it. The idol had
no concern with human character, and it was only a barbarian that would
ever dream in his unsophisticated nature that such a thing was possible.

Again, a mistress of a home, who was a devout and earnest believer in the
Goddess of Mercy, had a young slave girl about fourteen years of age.
Whilst drawn by the beautiful and benevolent-looking face of Kwan-Yin to a
keener belief and worship of her, she was daily treating this poor child
in the most savage and brutal manner. Her body and her legs were all
covered with scars caused by the beatings she had received. One of her
eyes was nearly torn out of the socket, and she was brought to the
hospital, so maimed and wounded that the doctor feared she could never be
cured.

It never occurred to this cruel woman that the savage way in which she was
murdering her slave girl, in the very presence of an idol who owed her
power to the reputation she had universally gained for mercy and
compassion, would so set the goddess against her that her prayers and her
offerings would be rejected. What had her conduct got to do with the
favour of the goddess? Absolutely nothing. The gods have no concern about
human motives and mundane morality. They have other things to attend to,
and certainly no time to give to such complex questions, and so men and
women are left very much to themselves, and if in the cycles of time
retribution comes upon men for their evil lives, it is not the gods and
the goddesses that men worship that will see to the ordering of that.

That the Chinese have profound faith in their idols is a fact that cannot
for a moment be questioned. China is a nation of idolaters, and neither
learning nor intelligence nor high birth tends to quench the belief that
has come down from the past that these wooden gods have a power of
interfering in human life, and of being able to bestow blessings or to
send down curses upon men.

There are times, however, in the life of the people when the gods seem to
vanish out of their sight, and they turn to a great power which they call
Heaven for deliverance or protection. In the very earliest days of Chinese
history, ages before idolatry was introduced into China from India (A.D.
61), there is no doubt but that the people worshipped the true God. In the
course of time the word for God became mixed up with certain heroes that
were deified by successive emperors, and so the monotheistic craving of
the nation took refuge in the word Heaven. The Chinese character for that
is composed of two words, "one" and "great." The combination then means,
"The One Great," which truly expresses the thought that men have of the
Great and the Mighty One whose power is absolute and whose decisions are
final throughout the whole of creation.

That this belief is no mere abstract one is seen in many instances in
ordinary life where men appeal directly to Heaven instead of to the idols.
The country, for example, is suffering from the want of rain. Months have
gone by and the rainy season has come and passed away without the usual
rainfall, the crops are withering in the fields, and there is a prospect
of hunger and famine unless the clouds send down of their richness and
revive the drooping forces of nature.

The priests of a certain temple notify that on a certain day a procession
will be formed to march through the city to beseech Heaven to pour down
the much-needed rain upon the land. The people gladly respond to this
appeal, and on the day appointed, scholars dressed in their long robes,
and priests in their yellow dresses, and the common people in the clothes
that they wear only on special occasions, all turn out and join in the
long line that winds its way along the narrow unsavoury streets to
intercede with Heaven, that it will send down copious showers on the
thirsty earth.

One singular feature in this public demonstration is the attendance of the
idols. They are brought out from their temples and carried in the solemn
procession to join with the people in the universal prayer for rain. Every
ten yards or so the slowly-moving line makes a halt, and every one kneels
down and a piteous cry is raised to Heaven, that it would have pity upon
the land, so that the crops may not perish and the poor may not die of
hunger and starvation. It is intensely interesting to watch the long line
of suppliants at this stage in their supplications. Many of them, in order
to show the intensity of their purpose, have come dressed in sackcloth;
others who are musical have brought their instruments with them, and as
they walk with a solemn step they play a sombre funereal air that is
intended to show to Heaven with what sorrow their hearts are filled at the
calamity that threatens to overwhelm the people if the rain is withheld.

Now the music is stopped and the whole procession is on its knees, and
even the idols, as it were, with silent supplications join in the mournful
confession of sin and in the agonized entreaties to Heaven to have pity
upon the people.

Heaven is recognized as being supreme in power. In the mottoes that the
Chinese paste on their doorposts and lintels at the beginning of the year
are several that show the popular thought on this great subject. "May
Heaven send down upon our home peace and happiness": "Life and Death,
adversity and happiness are all decided by Heaven": "Honour and wealth as
well as poverty and lowly station are in the hands of Heaven": "Men may
plan, but it is Heaven that decides what the result shall be."

There is no reference to the idols here. In fact, when Heaven is mentioned
they are never referred to as having any authority in the great movements
and principles by which human life is controlled and influenced. Heaven to
the Chinese is a great impersonal power, so far exalted and so mysterious
that in despair they have adopted the idols as a means by which they can
communicate with the unseen. And yet there are occasions when men seem to
lose their dread of Heaven, and they appeal to it, as Christians do to
God. Heaven, for instance, is believed to have a stern sense of justice
and of righteousness. It is also the redresser of wrongs, which it
invariably puts right, upholding the innocent and bringing swift judgment
on the guilty. Its government is one that is founded on great principles
of right, that work automatically in the destruction of all that is evil
and in the furtherance of all that is good.

There are many times in the life of this people when Heaven becomes to
them a veritable Person, who can hear their cry when they are in distress
and who, they believe, is ready to vindicate their character when it has
been unjustly assailed.

One day, in passing through one of the side streets of a great town, a
crowd was observed standing with a kind of shocked look upon their faces
gazing upon a woman that seemed to be raving mad. It turned out that she
was a poor woman living down the street, who had gone to assist in the
household work of the family opposite to where she was now standing. Some
trifling thing had been missed in the house, and she had been accused of
stealing it. She defended herself passionately and with all the eloquence
at her command, but without avail. Being originally of a high temper and
of a hasty, fiery disposition, she was enraged beyond measure not only at
the false accusation that had been levelled against her, but also because
the woman refused to accept her defence of herself, and still reiterated
her firm conviction that it was she that had stolen the missing articles.

Feeling that there was no other way of clearing her character except by
appealing to Heaven, she rushed out into the street, and letting down her
long hair till it fell in thick tresses over her shoulders, she looked up
at the sky where the Power she called Heaven was, and she poured out the
grievance that was filling her heart almost to bursting. She told how she
had been falsely accused, and how every attempt to right herself had been
listened to with scorn and contempt. Then with tears streaming down her
face, she called upon Heaven to avenge her and show to the neighbourhood
that she was guiltless of the charges that had been made against her. With
a rush and a torrent of imprecations that positively made one shudder she
then prayed "The Great One" to hurl down upon the woman that had injured
her all the miseries and woes that poor human nature has ever been called
upon to endure. Her vocabulary of evils was amazing in its luxuriance, and
as each was shot forth from her passionate lips, some of the onlookers
actually shuddered with horror at the awful sorrows that she wished her
enemy to have to suffer.

In studying the religious forces that are in operation amongst the
Chinese, one is deeply impressed with the illogical position that is
maintained in regard to each of them. "Fung-Shuy," for example, especially
when it is acting in conjunction with the graves of the dead, is declared
to be able to fill a home with boundless wealth, and to secure that sons
shall be born into the family and the highest honours of the State be
bestowed upon the sons and grandsons. The idols again are credited with
the most marvellous powers. They can get men out of scrapes, and they can
build up businesses so that colossal fortunes shall be made. They can fill
the desolate homes with troops of children. They have the power, when they
are enraged at the neglect of the people of any particular district in
paying them proper honour, of sending cholera and deadly fevers that shall
carry them off by the hundreds. All these are firmly believed in by
priests and gentle-faced looking nuns, and fortune-tellers will all prove
to you that the popular faith is founded in philosophy and experience. You
retort to all the laboured arguments of these various interested parties
by asking them whether it is not a fact that life and death, and
prosperity and adversity, and kingly honours as well as the meanest
station in society, are all decided by Heaven, and that they are its
special gift. There never is any other answer to that question but one,
and yet five minutes after the same person will be as enthusiastic as ever
in his glorification of the idols, and in his profound belief that some
favourite god has the power of bestowing every blessing that the heart
longs to possess.

I have described the idol in the home, and I will conclude now by giving a
description of a temple scene such as may be witnessed on the birthday of
the chief idol or on the first or the fifteenth of the moon, which days
are supposed to be specially lucky for those who wish to make their
offerings to the gods.

The temple I am about to describe is situated on a rising hill that has an
outlook of great natural beauty. Immediately below it and stretching
considerably in the distance is a large city containing over one hundred
thousand inhabitants, that live in the confined streets that look from the
temple like narrow arteries along which the human tide ebbs and flows
without cessation. Beyond the town there runs an arm of the sea, dotted
with numerous islets and sparkling with the rays of the great Eastern sun,
which he flashes on islands and capes, and the sails of the junks that are
passing up and down from the inland waters to the coast. Further on and
completely filling up the background are ranges of mountains with the
great shadows resting on them and their lofty peaks bathed in sunlight,
whilst here and there the floating clouds rest like beautiful crowns upon
the summits of some that tower the highest amongst them towards the blue
sky.

The scene in the temple and its surroundings was very charming and
attractive, for the sun shone upon the temple, and played amongst the
solemn-looking pine-trees, and sent his rays down courtyards that seemed
to delight in shadow, till everything appeared to be laughing for very
joy. Even the idols looked as though they had caught the spirit of the
day, and the "God of War" appeared to be less stern and bloodthirsty than
was his wont, and the "God of Literature" had put on a light and jaunty
air, hardly in keeping with the profound subjects that ever claim his
attention.

[Illustration: THE WHITE STAR TEMPLE (NANKIN).]

But see! here come the people from the great city below, slowly winding
their way up the stone steps that the feet of countless worshippers in the
years gone by have worn smooth and thin. Some few are coming with purposes
intent upon appealing to the "Goddess of Mercy," for their faces are
sombre, and the shadows of troubles from which they hope the idol may
deliver them, cover them with a sad and sorrowful aspect. Others, again,
have come for an outing and to get out of their monotonous surroundings,
to catch a glimpse of the far-off hills, and to see the sun as he puts
forth his powers to turn the world into a thing of beauty.

Here is a jolly little party that has almost reached the top. It consists
of an old lady whose hair is completely grey, but whose face is made
beautiful by as sunny a smile as ever lighted up a human face. With her
are two lads, evidently her grandsons, full of life and fun, and wild with
the excitement that the mountain air has put into their blood. They race
and chase each other up and down the steps, and round the huge boulders
that lie on the roadside, and they dodge behind the old granny, who seems
as if she would like to be a girl again and join them in their mad romps.

Whilst she is standing taking breath, and gazing with rapture upon the
distant hills flooded with great waves of light, and upon the waters of
the sea that are sparkling with sunbeams, a woman of about forty with slow
and sorrowful motion climbs up the steep ascent. She has a slave girl with
her, and she leans one hand upon her shoulder to support her as she walks.
She is a widow, and evidently has some sorrowful story that she is going
to tell the goddess. One is struck with the pallor of her face, and the
utterly hopeless air that rests on every feature in it. She hardly looks
at the pleasant-looking old lady, but passes up with downcast eyes till
she reaches the open space that is in front of the temple.

Immediately behind these people I have been describing, there appears a
party of young fellows of the better class. They are well dressed, and
have an air of refinement about them. There is no sign of trouble or
sorrow among them, for they laugh and chat and joke with each other,
whilst the road resounds with the echo of their merry voices. Their visit
to the temple to-day is merely one of pleasure. The streets below are
grimy and evil smelling, and in order to have some object in view they
have determined to spend the afternoon in a picnic to the well-known
temple on the mountain side.

The temple as a whole consists not simply of one large room where the
image of the goddess is enshrined, but is made up of a number of smaller
buildings connected with each other in a cunning and artistic fashion by
winding ways that nature seems to have devised in order to add to the
attractions of the place. In each of these lesser temples there are placed
images of some of the more commonly worshipped idols, a veritable kind of
Pantheon where each visitor can find the particular god that he deems the
most suitable for his individual requirements. Leading to these various
buildings, there are little grottoes, and covered pathways, and natural
adjustments of rocks, in which stone seats and granite tables have been
arranged, and where the crowds of worshippers, tired with their climb up
the mountain path and anxious to get out of the glare of the great sun,
can sit and enjoy the refreshing coolness that these recesses in the
hillside naturally give.

But let us take our stand a little to the side of the goddess and watch
the worshippers as they come in turn and take their position in front of
her to offer their petitions to her. The widow with the sorrowful face,
whom we saw climbing the hill, without one thought of the glorious scenery
that filled the landscape with its beauty, comes in with the shadow
deepening on her face, and lifting up her folded hands in the attitude of
devotion to the goddess begins to mutter to her the story of the trouble
that is weighing on her heart. The sight is truly a most pathetic one. The
face is in agony, and the eyes are turned with an intensity of gaze upon
the calm face of the wooden image before her. The faith expressed in the
impassioned look is profound, for it would seem as though her whole soul
was absorbed in the telling of her story and in her wish to touch the
heart of the placid image of the goddess.

After a few minutes, anxious to know what the answer of the idol is going
to be, she takes up two pieces of bamboo that are lying on the table in
front of it, and throws them up in the air. With a clatter they fall on to
the tiled floor, and by the way they lie she learns that her prayer has
been granted, and that the goddess will give her the desire of her heart.
A smile like a flash of sunlight in a winter sky fleets across her pale
thin face, and one can see what a sweet one it might be, were her heart
relieved of the sorrow that has painted it with such sombre colours.

Her place is taken by another who has been standing by waiting her turn.
Evidently her business is not a very pressing one, or such as to cause her
much trouble at heart, for after a few seconds of muttering she tosses up
with almost an irreverent fling the two divining bits of bamboo, and looks
with a casual air at the position they take on the floor. The answer they
give is No--her prayer is not granted--so with a bow to the goddess, and a
kind of pout upon her lips, she passes out into the open air. Her matter
could not have been of any importance whatever, for in a moment she is
laughing and gossiping with her friends, as though her visit to the
goddess had been a joke that was now ended.

And so one after another come and take their stand before the idol. Some
have a free-and-easy air about them, whilst others are intense and
impassioned. Some accept at once the answer of the goddess as final,
whilst others again continue to fling up the two coarse pieces of bamboo
until they give the reply that they wish to have. One young lad about
eighteen attracts my attention. For fully a minute, with calm and
untroubled face, his lips keep moving and his gaze is concentrated on
Kwan-Yin. I ask him when he is finished what he has been asking of her. "I
have been out of employment for some time," he replies, "and I have been
round to several temples and entreated the gods there to find me a place;
but they have done nothing for me, so I thought I would come here and see
if I should be more successful with the idol of this temple."

As the evening sun began to set behind the mass of clouds that seemed to
gather on the Western mountains to catch the last glimpse of him before he
disappeared, we began to descend the hill. Numbers of those that I had
seen standing with devout faces and uplifted hands before the idol were
fellow-travellers. Others, again, who had ascended the hill for an outing,
and whom I had watched sitting in the grottoes, eating peanuts, and deftly
cracking dried melon seeds, and sipping tea, moved down at the same time.
The wooden gods were left behind in the gathering gloom of their shrines,
and the only figures they saw were the opium-visaged priests that flitted
about like ghosts. The people at any rate had had a pleasant day, and a
breath of pure air, and a vision of nature in her most beautiful aspect,
but nothing more. "What have you gained to-day in your appeal to the
goddess?" I asked of a man that I had seen very devout in his prayers. He
looked at me with a quick and searching glance. "You ask me what answer I
have got to my petition to the goddess?" he said. "Yes," I replied, "that
is what I want to know from you." "Well, you have asked me more than I can
tell you. The whole question of the idols is a profoundly mysterious one
that no one can fathom. Whether they do or can help people is something I
cannot tell. I worship them because my fathers did so before me, and if
they were satisfied, so must I be. The whole thing is a mystery," and he
passed on with the look of a man who was puzzled with a problem that he
could not solve, and that look is a permanent one on the face of the
nation to-day.



CHAPTER V

SERVANTS

    General character of servants--The duties and perquisites of the
    cook--Taking account with cook--His oblique ideas of morality--The
    boy, his duties, etc.--The way that small things mysteriously
    disappear in a house--Percentages--The servant question.


The general experience of Englishmen in China with regard to the servants
is, taking it all in all, a pleasant one. The average intelligence of the
class of men and women that are employed is a fairly good one. They
consequently learn their work easily, and as they are industrious and
moved by a sense of fidelity they render such very pleasant services that
when families have to return to England, they think with regret of the
home life they have left behind them in that far-off land, which owed a
good deal of its charm to the cheerful and willing service rendered by the
servants in it.

It must not be inferred that there never is any friction. That would be to
assume a state of things that could be found nowhere in the wide world.
Disagreements do happen and collisions do take place, but these are but as
it were the occasional clouds in a sky that is usually sunny, and besides
there is so much of the grotesque mingled with the unpleasant, that after
the affair is over and the irritation has subsided one is more inclined to
laugh at the whole affair than to be angry.

If there is a family, the servants usually required are a cook, a table
boy, a water coolie to carry water, and an amah or nurse, who will help
with the children, if there are any, look after the bedrooms, and do any
mending that may be needed. The most important amongst them all is the
cook, for the comfort of a home depends in a very large measure upon him,
so the great aim of every housewife is to secure a man who knows his work
well, is clean, and is fairly honest. If such a one as this can be
secured, there will never be any disposition to get rid of him, even
though he may have serious faults that it requires considerable patience
to endure.

As soon as it is known that you wish to engage a cook, you have almost an
immediate application for the situation. You gaze upon the applicant with
a good deal of anxiety, and if it were possible you would like to read
into his very heart to know what kind of a character he is. Is he
good-tempered, or is he touchy and masterful, and, like most Chinese, does
he want his own way? You scan his face to see if you can catch a glimpse
of the soul within, but it is as expressionless as a statue. The control
that a Chinaman has over his features is one of the mysteries of this
wonderful people. He has so schooled them, that when he likes they will
show no trace of what is going on in his mind.

You inquire of him if he knows how to cook. If he is a really clever
artist, he will reply, "A little." There is a double motive in saying
this. It is a sign of pride, and it also secures him in the future from
any very serious criticism of the mistress, for if he should fail to
please her in any particular dish, he will remind her that he warned her
when she was engaging him that he did not profess to be an adept in
cooking.

All the time you have been questioning him he has been looking at you with
those black, piercing eyes of his and trying to read you. Are you shrewd
and wideawake, or are you so green that you can be cheated with your eyes
open? Are you acquainted with the wiles of the Chinese mind, or will you
accept everything you are told as though it were gospel truth? Will you
watch everything that is going on in your kitchen, or will you leave the
full control in his hands? These are some of the questions that flash
through the Yellow brain, and before he quits you he will have formed a
very accurate idea of the kind of mistress you are to whom he has engaged
himself.

There is one thing that is quite settled, and that is from the moment of
his engagement the one great aim of his life is to make as much money as
he can out of the situation he has just gained. His facilities for doing
so are very great, for the custom in the East is for the cook to purchase
all the daily food that is used in the family. The mistress never does
this. It would be impossible for her to rise every morning by daylight and
go into the narrow ill-smelling streets and buy from the farmers as they
bring in their produce from the country in the early dawn. There are
months in the year, besides, when the heat is so intense and the rays of
the sun are so scorching that she would not dare to venture out to make
her purchases. The result is, the duty of buying is left to the cook, and
as his conscience is an exceedingly elastic one, it may easily be
conceived what an opportunity this gives him of making money.

In the art of doing this every Chinaman is an adept. He begins to learn it
when he is a boy. His mother sends him out when he is a small lad to buy
some simple thing for the home. He returns with the article minus ten per
cent., which he considers his lawful commission, though he is careful not
to let his mother know, and with this he plays pitch-and-toss with other
youthful gamblers in the street. As he grows in years, he becomes more
expert in the art of extracting commissions from every sum entrusted to
his care, and now that he has become a cook a golden field is opened up
before him, where his gains are only bounded by the ignorance or
carelessness of his employer.

As it is impossible for his mistress to follow him down the narrow,
crowded streets where the provisions for the day are to be bought, he has
a wide field for the exercise of his ingenuity as to how much extra he is
to charge for everything he buys. She does not know the market rates, and
therefore within certain very undefined limits she is at his mercy.

It is as good as a play to watch the progress of the taking an account of
the purchases for any particular day, and to see how the wily Chinaman,
with his childlike, innocent-looking face, and the Englishwoman with her
open-hearted, guileless disposition, settle such a difficult financial
problem.

The latter seats herself at the table with her account-book open and with
pen in hand. She is restless and uneasy, for she is conscious that she is
going to be cheated, and that she herself will have to register the
figures that will ensure her own defeat. The Oriental stands some way off,
with head slightly drooping and with a face that might have been that of a
saint. With a calmness and simplicity of manner, as though he were stating
one of Heaven's eternal principles, he mentions the first item of his
account. There is no faltering or hesitation in his accent, or any sign of
guile, though it is precisely fifty per cent. more than he actually paid
for the article he has mentioned.

The lady moves restlessly in her seat. Her heart is beginning to swell
with indignation, for she is positive that she is being overcharged. She
has no proof, however, and with her Occidental training that it is not
right to bring an accusation unless supported by some evidence, she puts
down the lying figures. The Oriental looks on without the shadow of a
smile, though with his sense of humour bubbling up within him, he is
conscious of the huge comedy that is being played. He has scored his first
success, but to let his face show that would be to throw victory from him
when it was just within his grasp.

Another and another item is given, as though they were quotations from his
own sacred classics, each one as mendacious as the first, and the scribe,
conscious that with every additional figure sums are being stolen from her
own pocket and transferred to the cook's, nervously writes them down,
though her heart is vigorously protesting all the time. The only protest
she can make is an indignant "Too dear, too dear by far," which the
Oriental listens to unmoved, and as though they were eulogies upon his
honesty.

At length one sum, that she has certain information about, that is a
hundred per cent. over the market price is given her, without a quaver in
his voice. She at once asks him, with a ring of passion that up to this
time she has managed to suppress, how it is that he dares to charge her
just double of what he gave. The Chinaman is equal to the occasion. No
man, indeed, in this great Empire is ever at a loss for an answer on the
spot to the most awkward question that may be put to him. An Occidental
will stammer and hesitate when a difficulty of this kind occurs, and the
scarlet flush that will flash over his face will announce his confusion.
An Oriental will instantly become more calm. His eyes will melt into
gentleness, and his face assume the appearance of one that is absorbed in
some great moral problem that he is endeavouring to solve.

The cook looks at the lady in gentle wonder. The charge has steadied him,
and made him more tranquil and composed. "What does the mistress mean?" he
asks. His face is childlike in its assumption of innocence. "Do you really
think I would cheat you? I may be poor," he continues, "but I am honest,
and if you only go to the market and inquire the price of goods, you will
find that I am charging exactly what I paid." "Well," she triumphantly
replies, "I have been there already, and I find you have charged me just
double the market rate."

This seems to be a crushing answer, but it only serves to bring out the
true resources of the Chinese mind. Instead of being flustered with this
decided evidence of his guilt, he becomes more self-possessed. "It is
quite true," he says, "that such goods can be bought at the price you
name, but they are inferior articles, and such as would not be accepted by
you, were I to buy them for you. You always want the best, and I would
never dream of purchasing such things. I can get them for you at the price
you mention, but you must not complain if they are not as good as you are
used to."

The lady is determined not to be beaten, so she puts down the price at
half that he has named, the cook meanwhile protesting that he is a loser,
and that himself and family will have to suffer.

But it is not simply in the matter of overcharges that the cook finds a
large field open to him for successful financial operations. Overweights
are also a fruitful source of revenue to him. When he goes to market he
always carries with him his steelyard, and every purchase that is made is
weighed with it.

Chinese law has never legislated with regard to weights and measures, and
no inspector ever goes round to see that the public is not cheated when
they make their purchases. The consequence is that every man that can
possibly afford it carries his own steelyard, in order to check the
tradesmen who might be inclined to give them short measure. The cook would
no more dream of going out to market without his steelyard than he would
think of going without his fan in the dog days. It is his _vade mecum_ by
which he can measure his gains, for when he returns home he reports to the
mistress that he has bought so many ounces more than he really has, and
the money she pays him for these mythical weights is so much pure gain
that he pockets.

If the lady, however, takes a pride in the management of her household and
is anxious to keep down expenses, she will insist that every article that
the cook buys shall be brought and weighed in her presence before she pays
for it. This home is not an ideal one for a cook. He has, however, to
submit to the inevitable, but he at once sets his wits to work to
circumvent her by ingenious ways and dogged perseverance in his plans,
such as no watchfulness on her part will ever enable her entirely to
frustrate. There is no profession in China like a cook's for developing
the inventive faculties or for stimulating the imagination.

The mistress in self-defence gets a steelyard. Without that she would be
at the mercy of the man whose whole aim in life is now to circumvent her,
and circumvent her he will, or the Yellow brain will have lost its
cunning. Some of his schemes are most ingenious. For example, he is told
one day to go out and buy a fowl. He goes to the market, and secures one
after an immense amount of haggling and carries it home.

After he has got there he proceeds to cram down its throat some very
common stuff, till its crop is as full as it can contain. This is to
increase its weight and consequently his gains, for the animal is sold at
so much an ounce.

The cook brings the fowl to be weighed, with a look of the sweetest
simplicity on his face. Such a thing as guile could never exist behind
such a bland and childlike countenance as his. The mistress, who is up to
all his dodges, is unmoved by the seraphic air his face wears. She feels
the fowl that is hanging by its legs from the hook on the steelyard, and
she remarks how thin it is, and then points to the distended crop, and
asks him what he means by such cruelty, and how he dares to try and cheat
her by such a transparent device. The cook at once assumes an air of
surprise, and looks at the swollen crop with the utmost indignation. "Oh!"
he exclaims in a truly theatrical tone, "I have been cheated. This was
done in the shop, and, as it was dimly lighted, I did not perceive how I
was being taken in. I shall give that man that sold me the fowl a piece of
my mind when I next see him."

The lady is accustomed to such tricks as this, and she says, "I shall
deduct two ounces from the weight you have given me." The man puts on an
injured air and in a plaintive voice says, "You surely do not wish me to
be a loser by my purchase, I am a poor man and I cannot afford that." The
lady, however, is firm, and by and by his usually placid look once more
overspreads his sphinx-like countenance, whilst his admiration for his
mistress' ability is vastly increased.

One day a cook brought in a round of beef to his mistress to be weighed.
There was an ingenuous look about him that disarmed suspicion. There was
evidently no deception there, and she was just about to accept it, when
the instinct of suspicion that lingers in the mind whenever you have to do
with the Chinese about money prompted her to say, "Undo the string that
ties this beef and let me see inside." A sudden flush ran through the
man's face, and he hesitated for a moment to carry out her orders, but
knowing that any delay would only excite her anger, he cut the string,
when out rolled a stone of fully half-a-pound in weight. A look of
surprise and indignation swept across the face of his mistress, for even
she, with all her knowledge of the fertility of the Chinese brain, had
never dreamed of such a cunning device to cheat her.

She looked at the cook with flashing eyes, but he was apparently unmoved.
No flush of shame mantled his cheeks. Instead of that an innocent air
crept over his countenance, and a look of wonder stole into his eyes, as
he exclaimed, "Dear me, however did that stone get there? The people of
the shop must have put it in whilst my head was turned. How dishonest of
them! I really must give up dealing with them. The principles of Heaven
are evidently unknown to them." The withering tones of indignation uttered
by his mistress seemed to make no impression upon him, and he left her
presence, muttering to himself, "How wrong of that butcher to cheat me as
he has done to-day, and to cause me to lose face, and to make me a
laughing-stock to every one that may hear this story."

The steelyard is an invention that is intended to promote honest dealing.
It is sometimes, however, the unconscious instrument of a systematic
deceit, which is all the more effective because it is so entirely
unsuspected. On one occasion a young fellow had been engaged as cook. He
was a man of engaging manners, with a pleasant open face, and a winning
disposition that made one unconsciously have great faith in him. He was
consequently greatly trusted by his employers, though they never forgot
the terrible temptations to which as a cook he was exposed.

It seemed that after a while the spell of money spun its subtle web over
him, and he succumbed to its fatal fascination. With the implicit faith
that his mistress had in him, the opportunity for making money on all his
purchases became enlarged. This led him into gambling, and as the gambler
nearly always loses, he had to look around for some method that would give
him a larger revenue than could be secured by his squeezes on the articles
he bought every day for the use of the home.

In this dilemma, a bright idea occurred to him; he would so manipulate the
steelyard that it should serve his purpose, and enable him to pay his
gambling debts, and still give him funds to pursue his favourite vice. He
accordingly filed off two ounces from the iron weight attached to it, and
which acted as a counterpoise to the goods that were being weighed at the
other end of the yard, and by a single stroke he secured to himself twelve
and a half per cent. on every purchase that he made.

The mistress had no suspicion of this deep-laid scheme, for she never
dreamed of testing the iron weight, and the cook with guileless looks and
childlike smiles gathered in his gains, feeling confident that he had now
struck a mine that would never be exhausted. But a Nemesis was at hand,
and one day his treachery was revealed by a person with whom he had
quarrelled, when he was instantly dismissed as a man with a mind too
original and too dangerous to be allowed to hold any position in the
household for the future.

From the above it will have been inferred that the difficulty of
controlling a cook in China is one that no foreigner ever hopes to cope
with successfully, and the same thing only in a milder form exists with
regard to all the other servants that are employed in the running of a
home in this land. If the Chinaman was less expert in disguising his
thoughts, the matter would be simpler. Ages of practice, however, have
taught them to conceal their feelings from the keenest scrutiny to which
they may be subjected. Looks and language, which in other peoples are
usually an index to the condition of the mind, are in their case no guide
whatsoever.

The boy, for example, who really is a full-grown man, comes to you one
morning, and in a low, melodious voice informs you that he wishes you to
engage another servant, as he is compelled to leave you. You are
surprised, for no intimation of anything of the kind has come to you till
the present moment. You ask him why this sudden decision, and if there is
anything in the home with which he is dissatisfied. He says, "No, you have
been very kind to me, and I am exceedingly unwilling to leave you, but I
have had a letter from my father, and he is very urgent that I should go
home as quickly as I can. The fact is," he continues, "he is getting old,
and he needs my help on the farm, and I must ask you to let me go."

He tells his story in such an easy, natural manner, that you are inclined
to believe him, though lingering doubts will run through your mind. You
remember that his family is desperately poor, and depend very largely upon
this son for the wages he earns to keep them from starvation. You are
perplexed to know what to do, but finally you pay him the wages due to
him, and with many bows and a genial smile lighting up his yellow
features, he bids you good-bye.

Not long after he has gone, the true secret of his desire to leave his
employ comes out. The letter from his father, and the need of his help on
the farm, are myths that his fertile imagination conjured up, and never
had any existence in fact. The real truth is he had a row with the water
coolie, who comes from a village in the country contiguous to his own, and
who belongs to a more powerful clan than his. He dreads any further
collision with this man, who might send word to his relatives there, who
would speedily take measures to avenge their wrongs on their weaker
neighbours, and so, to save himself and the family, he resigns.

Chinese servants, taking them all in all, may be considered to be honest.
It is true that from a ten commandments point of view, and the higher
morality we have been accustomed to in England, they cannot in a strict
sense be said to be so. Of course they have never heard of the Decalogue,
and therefore they cannot be blamed for not knowing what it demands. The
training they have been subjected to during the past two thousand years
has taught them to look with very different eyes upon certain subjects
from what ours do.

Overcharges, for example, and skilful manipulations of the steelyard to
make it lie, are not considered so much moral defects as tokens of an
unusually active brain. A man who does not know how to do such things is
not looked upon as one who has a higher standard of life, but one who is,
in the expressive language of the vernacular, "idiotically honest." It is
not a question of conscience with such a man, but rather a lack of brain
power, which has made him less mentally fit for those keen and rapid
movements of thought that are essential in the conflict of mind with mind.

It is not simply, however, in the question of overcharges and the
manipulating the steelyard that the servants' ideas of morality differ
materially from our own. There are a good many other points where they
certainly look with leniency upon certain questionable actions that we
should never dream of doing. Small things, for example, of comparatively
little value, will mysteriously disappear. The Chinese would repudiate the
idea that they were stolen. They simply vanished, and no trace is left of
them. A kerosine tin, for example, has been emptied and placed in the yard
for a short time. The mistress is aware of the peculiar idiosyncrasies of
the Chinese with regard to articles of the kind, and she keeps a sharp
look out upon it. She happens to have to go to another part of the house
for a few minutes, and when she returns it is gone. She calls each of the
servants, and asks them all where is it. They all feign surprise, and
remark to each other about the daring of the man that had carried it off.
"Very remarkable," says one. "Why, I saw it myself only a moment ago!
Where can it have got to?" "The men of the present day are not to be
compared with those of ancient times," remarks another sententiously, as
though he were one of the sages of China. They gather round the spot where
the tin stood and peer into the ground, as though some sprite had
bewitched it into the earth.

The acting of the servants on this occasion is inimitable. Not only is the
one that absorbed it present, but each of the others knows that he is the
culprit; yet not a twinkle of the eye, nor a movement in the muscles of
the face of any one of them can be discerned to show that they are either
moved by the absurdity of the matter, or indignant that the honesty of the
whole should be called in question by the act of one of them.

Again, a half-dozen empty bottles are left on a table. One by one they
slowly disappear, and nobody knows where they have gone, though the
itinerant rag merchant who makes his daily rounds could tell you exactly
how much he gave for them, and from whom he bought them. If there is one
thing, however, more than another that has a fascination for the Chinese,
it is a pocket-handkerchief.

The nation as a whole knows nothing of this useful article. The ancient
worthies that founded the Empire never dreamt of such luxuries. Their
descendants, however, have taken to it with an avidity that is perfectly
amazing, and whenever they can get a chance they quietly absorb them. You
buy a dozen and have them marked with the blackest of indelible ink. The
identity of those handkerchiefs can never be disputed, so you feel
satisfied that you will have a fair service out of them.

A week passes by, and you suddenly find two of them have vanished. You are
staggered, for you remember that handkerchiefs have a fatal facility for
disappearing. You put off the decision of the question by assuming they
have gone to the wash, or they are hidden away in some of your pockets,
and they will turn up by and by. Another week goes by, and others vanish,
till in the course of no very long period only one is left. You question
the servants, but blank and child-looking faces meet you at every inquiry
that you make.

It is never suggested that the cat has walked off with them, as might be
in England, where all kinds of unspeakable immoralities are put down to
that animal. Chinese civilization has never yet produced a cat that has
got the reputation of the same species in the West. Everybody simply
denies that he ever saw the handkerchiefs, or knew indeed that they
existed; and yet it is quite probable that if you were to visit their
homes, you would find the lady members of their families sporting them on
all public occasions, and making their female members green with envy
because they could not have the same.

Now, it must not be inferred that the Chinese servants are systematic
thieves, because they are not. With regard to the more valuable things in
a house, they may be said to be strictly honest. Articles of considerable
value, such as clocks, opera-glasses, and ornaments for the mantelpiece,
one need never have any anxiety about. They would fetch much more than
some of the other things that are bound, by a law as unvarying as that of
the Medes and Persians, to disappear, but they are as safe in the rooms as
though a policeman's eye was constantly upon them. What are the mental
processes a Chinaman goes through to enable him with a good conscience to
appropriate something worth a dozen cents or so, whilst he would scorn the
idea of walking off with any of the more valuable property of his master,
is a mystery to the foreigner. Perhaps he could hardly analyze his own
feelings on the subject. His love for the indirect and curvilinear method
of approaching a subject may have had some influence in making him unable
to decide the question even for himself.

There is one subject that must not be omitted in this discussion of the
servants, and that is the percentages they claim upon everything that the
dealers from outside bring into the house. These are quite distinct from
those that the cook makes in his purchases, and he never lays claim for
any share in them. Although they are perquisites that are supposed never
to come to the ears of their superiors, and are strictly private
transactions, they do in a certain sense seriously affect the pockets of
their masters.

The baker and the milkman, for instance, have to pay the boy ten per
cent. at the end of the month when they receive payment for the goods they
have supplied, whilst the washerman is more severely taxed, for, in
addition to the above tax, he has to wash all his clothes for nothing. No
tradesman attempts to evade these impositions, for he well knows that were
he to do so, the boy would so manipulate matters that he would lose the
custom of the house, which would at once be transferred to a rival that
could offer more.

On one occasion a milkman was being coerced into increasing the percentage
that he had been accustomed to pay. He declared that he could not possibly
afford to do so, as his profits were so scanty. The boy became silent, but
there was a gleam in his eyes that boded no good to the milkman. Next
morning the latter as usual brought round the daily bottle of milk for the
house. The boy placed it beside the hot kitchen range and, when the family
assembled for breakfast, he brought the milk to his mistress and showed
her that it had gone bad. When he was asked the reason for this, he
assured her it was the milkman's fault, whose milk was of a decidedly
inferior character; and as for his cows, they were well known to give only
adulterated milk at the best. The lady is naturally indignant, and at once
asks him if he cannot get another man to supply the home with milk. "Oh!
yes, I have number one man, milk number one good, can do." He is directed
to see if he could not get sufficient immediately to do for breakfast,
which he declares can be easily done. This he can well guarantee, as he
has already a man outside just waiting to be called. He produces a bottle
of milk, which it would appear he came by accidentally, though the whole
thing is planned and engineered by the boy. The milk turns out to be so
excellent that the whole family is charmed with it. It has a rich creamy
look about it, such as they have not seen since they left England, and
which they will not probably see the like of for many a day to come. It
has the look and taste of milk, and has no suspicion of the pump about it,
and so the tea this morning has not tasted so nice since they know not
when.

Imperative orders are issued that the old milkman who had dared to bring
such inferior milk should be at once dismissed and the new one taken on,
and so the deep-laid scheme of the boy has succeeded, and his increased
percentage secured. From this moment the services of the pump will come
into requisition, and the old sky-blue hue will colour every bottle of
milk that comes into the house.

Chinese servants as a rule never accept a situation under a foreigner
simply for the wages that are offered them. These usually are higher than
could be got in a purely Chinese home. It is the fat percentages that are
the main attraction, for by these the salary will often be increased as
much as fifty per cent. A Chinaman is ever on the look-out for these, and
like the eagle in the sky can scent his prey from afar.

You have had occasion, for example, to dismiss your boy. The news spreads
in the most rapid and unexplained manner. There are no registry offices
that are interested in supplying servants. Not an hour has passed by,
however, before you are told that two men want to see you. "Ah! the new
boy," you mutter, as you walk out to see them. One of the two is your
cook, and a glance shows you that the other is the expectant boy.

The cook does all the talking, whilst the other looks nervous and
uncomfortable. He moves uneasily from one foot to the other, gives now and
then a short, dry cough, all signs of that species of nervousness that a
man feels when some important question is going to be decided. He hangs
his head, and his black, piercing eyes seem absorbed in his contemplation
of the ground, but in the meanwhile he is reading your character and
figuring up in his own mind how much he is going to make and whether he
is likely to get on with you.

The cook seems to be in the happiest of moods. His face is wreathed in
smiles, and his speech is adorned with Oriental similes that excite poetic
thoughts in your mind, if it is capable of such. He knows that you are in
want of a boy, he says. Boys are difficult to be got: they are at a
premium just now. Good capable ones are not to be obtained at any price,
but as good luck would have it, here is one that has just turned up, a
very paragon in his way, and one that would suit the master down to the
ground.

You look at the man with a critical eye, but you get but very little out
of that sphinx-looking face of his. Does he understand his work? you
weakly ask the cook, more for something to say than for any hope of
obtaining any exact knowledge about the man before you. "Certainly he
does," he replies, with a toss of his head in the air and a wave of his
right hand as though he had just demonstrated a problem in Euclid, and was
ending with the triumphant formula, Q.E.D.

After some further questioning, you ask the cook if he is prepared to
stand security for the man and be responsible for his honesty. He is
evidently ready to do so, for he at once strikes an attitude, slaps his
breast with his open palm, and with gleaming eyes and impassioned look he
says, "This is my affair; I will guarantee the man that he is a good and a
safe one, and you may accept him as a servant without any fear."

You are satisfied, and you at once take him on. The cook is also pleased,
for the man will have to pay him the heavy percentage of one-half of his
month's salary for the service he has just rendered him.

The servant question is a most interesting one for watching the play of
thought and the subtle and unexpected ways in which the Yellow brain
works. It is at times a very irritating one, and is apt to give one
distorted views of the whole Chinese race, and to cause one to make
sweeping statements about the general incapacity of the whole nation. In
one's saner moments one will freely confess that the home servants are on
the whole less obliging and more exacting than the same class out here.
There is besides the ludicrous element in the Chinese, that always takes
off the edge of almost any unpleasantness. Even when one is most annoyed
there is something so funny about the way in which a Chinaman acts, that
one's anger is most likely to explode in laughter. There is one thing
highly in their favour, and that is their great love and tenderness for
children. Taking them all in all, any one who has had large experience of
the servants in China can honestly declare that on the whole they are a
faithful and satisfactory class of people.



CHAPTER VI

THE ADAPTABILITY AND TENACITY OF PURPOSE OF THE CHINESE

    Can live and thrive in any climate--Absence of nerves--Bear pain
    heroically--Great staying power--A long ride through the
    country--Dogged inflexibility of ordinary Chinese--Contempt for other
    countries.


The strength of the Chinaman lies in his power to adapt himself to the
circumstances in which he may be situated. Place him in a northern climate
where the sun's rays have lost their fire, and where the snow falls
thickly and the ice lays its wintry hand upon the forces of nature, and he
will thrive as though he had descended from an ancestry that had always
lived in a frozen region. Transport him to the torrid zone, where the sun
is a great ball of molten flame, where the air is as hot as though it had
crossed a volcano, and where the one thought is how to get cool in this
intolerable maddening heat, and he will move about with an ease and a
comfort just as if a sultry climate was the very thing that his system
demanded.

He is so cosmopolitan in his nature that it seems to be a matter of
indifference where he may be or what his environment. He will travel along
lofty peaks, where the snows of successive winters lie unmelted, or he
will sleep in a grass hut where the fever-bearing mosquitoes will feast
upon him the livelong night to the sound of their own music, and he will
emerge from it next morning with a face that shows that the clouds of
anopheles have left him a victor on the field. He will descend into the
sultry tin mines of Siam, and at night he will stretch himself on the
hard, uneven ground, with a clod for his pillow, and he will rise as
refreshed as though he had slept on a bed of down.

[Illustration: JUNKS (ON THE YANG-TSE RIVER).]

You meet the Chinaman everywhere under the most varied circumstances, and
he seems natural in every one of them. He walks about in an easy,
unsurprised way, a first-class passenger in a crack mail steamer, or he
curls himself up in a native river boat, in a space where no human being
but himself could live an hour, and he sleeps a dreamless sleep the
livelong night in a fetid atmosphere that would give an Occidental
typhoid, from which he would perhaps never recover. Whatever the social
condition of the Chinaman may be, whether merchant, or coolie, or artisan,
one becomes conscious that behind those harsh and unæsthetic features
there is a strength of physique and a latent power of endurance that seems
to make him independent of climate, and impervious to microbes, germs,
bacteria, and all the other scientific scourges that seem to exist for the
destruction of all human life excepting the Chinese.

One advantage the Celestial has over the Occidental is what may be called
his absence of nerves. The rush and race and competition of the West have
never yet touched the East. The Orient is sober and measured, and never in
a hurry. An Englishman, were all other signs wanting, could easily be
distinguished, as he walks along the road, by his rapid stride, the jerky
movements of his arms, and the nervous poise of his head, all so different
from the unemotional crowd around him, who seem to think that they have an
eternity before them in which to finish their walk, and so they need not
hurry.

There is no doubt but that this absence of nerves is a very important
factor in enabling the Chinaman to adapt himself so readily to the
circumstances in which he may be placed. Take the matter of pain. He bears
it with the composure of a saint. The heroic never seems to come out so
grandly in him, as when he is bearing some awful suffering that only a
martyr could endure. I have seen a man come into a hospital with an
abscess that must have been giving him torture. His face was drawn, and
its yellow hue had turned to a slightly livid colour, but there were no
other signs that he was in agony. The surgeon drove his knife deep into
the inflamed mass, but only the word "ai Ya," uttered with a prolonged
emphasis, and the twisting up of the muscles of one side of his face,
showed that he was conscious of any pain. An Occidental of the same class
would most probably have howled, and perhaps a couple of assistants would
have been required to hold him whilst the doctor was operating.

It is this same absence of nerves that enables the Chinese to bear
suffering of any kind with a patience and fortitude that is perfectly
Spartan. He will live from one year's end to another on food that seems
utterly inadequate for human use; he will slave at the severest toil, with
no Sunday to break its wearisome monotony, and no change to give the mind
rest; and he will go on with the duties of life with a sturdy tread and
with a meditative mystic look on his face, that reminds one of those
images of Buddha that one sees so frequently in the Chinese monasteries or
temples.

The staying power of the Chinese seems unlimited. The strong, square
frames with which nature has endowed them are models of strength. They are
not graceful, neither are the lines of beauty conspicuous either in face
or form, but for endurance there is nothing to surpass them anywhere
throughout the world.

On one occasion, I had to make a journey to a large city some twenty miles
or more distant. It was in the hottest days in summer, when the
temperature was over ninety in the shade. I engaged two chair-bearers to
carry me, who were taken at random from the nearest chair shop, where such
men wait to be hired. There was nothing to distinguish them from the
ordinary men who get their living by carrying chairs. They had the look of
the farmer class from which they were taken, and were as dull and as
uninteresting as shabby clothes and tanned and bronzed faces could make
them. They had a mean and insignificant appearance, being not more than
five feet and a half in height, and the blue colour in their garments,
which is so popular with the Chinese, gave them a commonplace look that
did not raise one's opinion of them.

We started very early in the morning, just before the light of the dawn
had touched the darkness that covered the land with its shadows. We had
not gone far before the men began to show their mettle. With the heavy
chair upon their shoulders, they kept on at a steady swing of over three
miles an hour, in spite of the fact that the roads were simply footpaths,
that had been worn into ruts and hollows by the feet of countless
travellers and by the wear and tear of storm and rain.

The first hour's travelling was comparatively cool, for the sun had not
risen above the mountain tops to flash his fiery rays upon the world
around us. The scene at this time was full of beauty. The earth lay
clothed in a dim, subdued, cloisterlike light that gave it an air of
mystery. The rice in the fields looked shy and modest as it appeared to be
hiding itself amid the shadows that still rested upon the earth. The
clumps of trees took fantastic and grotesque shapes, and seemed like
spectres that had come out to travel during the uncanny hours of night and
had dallied too long by the way. But most beautiful of all were the hills
in a blue thin haze that clung to them, and turned the rocks and boulders
into seeming fortresses and castles, behind which one could fancy gallant
knights and armed soldiers kept watch and ward.

After a time, the sun rose with fire in his face and flashed his molten
rays across the land, till everything glowed beneath their touch, and made
life a misery. My men, however, strode on through the scorching air, with
as firm a step as though they were on a Highland range with the purple
heather at their feet. The sun blazed down upon their bare shaven heads
till it seemed as though I should have a sunstroke out of sheer sympathy
from looking at the glare that flashed about them; but on they went, their
bodies steaming with perspiration, but with overflowing spirits that made
them catch the humours they met by the way, which now and again sent them
into uproarious fits of laughter.

The hours went by, and with a tread like fate they marched on along the
burning roads, through villages and across flooded plains, till at last we
reached the great city. It was a little after midday when we passed
through the great gates that gave us entrance into the narrow streets,
where the crowds jostled each other, and where the tide of human life
flowed in a perpetual stream.

After transacting our business, I spoke to the men about returning. This
was a most unusual proceeding, for one such journey was universally
considered to be enough for one day. The day, however, was young, and the
heat in the city, where the crowded houses kept away the breeze, made it a
perfect oven where men could scarcely breathe, and where the mosquitoes
revelled in the luxuries that the half-dressed people afforded them.

I asked them whether they could engage fresh men to carry me back, for I
never dreamed of suggesting that they might be able to do so. "What need
is there," they replied, "to search for other bearers, when you have us,
who are perfectly willing to make the return journey with you?" As they
said this, their eyes perfectly danced with delight at the prospect of
earning two days' wages in one.

[Illustration: A SEDAN CHAIR.

_To face p. 117._]

I was perfectly delighted at this, for I knew the men by this time to be
pleasant, good-tempered fellows, who would play me no tricks by the way,
and then they were going home, and would not dally by the journey as
strangers might be tempted to do. Preparations were at once made to start
back immediately. The chair was brought round to the door, and the men
with beaming faces and as fresh-looking as though they had done nothing
all day, started back on the long weary journey of fully twenty miles.

Once more we were retracing our way through the long, winding streets of
the city, and then we emerged through the gates into the open country
beyond. A haze of heat lay upon the fields and on the hills. The afternoon
sun, still breathing out fire, glared into the chair and shone upon my
face and played upon the bare skulls of the bearers. Surely that fierce
heat would break their spirit, for I began to feel limp and fagged, though
the only exertion I had to make was to try and keep cool by fanning
myself.

As the afternoon went on, the steps of the bearers became less elastic,
and when we rested at the regular stopping-places, they were less eager in
resuming their journey. Beyond this, they seemed as vigorous as ever, and
forged their way through villages, and past market towns, and round the
foot of hills glowing with amber colours that were flung there with the
lavish hand of the fast-descending sun.

We reached home long after darkness had settled on the landscape, and had
blotted out the hills around which the clouds had gathered to let the sun
paint his evening pictures. We could hear the rustling of the rice, as the
night wind sighed amongst it, and sometimes we would be startled by the
sudden looming up of trees like huge fantastic spectres that had escaped
from the land of darkness to terrify men by their presence.

Travelling in the dark was not an easy matter, for we had to pick our way
over narrow uneven pathways, and across broken dilapidated bridges, and
over stepping-stones in a mountain brook, till finally, worn out and
wearied to death, we stumbled down the dark street that led to our home,
and there I threw myself into the first chair I could find, utterly
exhausted by a journey that few men would undertake even in the coldest
days in winter.

The chair-bearers, after a few whiffs at their bamboo pipes, started to
light the furnace and cook their supper. All the weariness they had shown
during the last hour or two seemed to have vanished, and they laughed and
chatted about the incidents on the road and the funny sights they had
seen. One chopped the wood, whilst the other washed the rice and poured it
into the cauldron, and prepared the vegetables they were to eat with it.

No one looking in casually upon the scene and listening to the merry
voices and to the animated conversation of these men would ever have
dreamed that they had travelled fully fifty miles, carrying two hundred
pounds' weight upon their shoulders, through the blazing heat of an
Eastern summer day.

In one's dealing with the Chinese one is continually being reminded of the
strain of dogged inflexibility that runs throughout the character of
nearly every individual that one comes in contact with. It is not simply
occasional instances that one runs up against. It is in the race, and
there is no doubt but that it is this force that has given it such a
strength that it has been able to stand the wear and tear of ages and to
be as strong physically as it was a thousand years ago.

Of course there are differences. There are strong men and there are weak
men. There are those whose wills are as firm and unbending as the granite
hills around. There are others, again, whose temperaments are of an easy,
yielding description, and one is apt to imagine that they can be moulded
this way or that at the will of another. Up to a certain extent this is
true, and yet one soon discovers that even with them, when the true temper
of the man is tested, there is a tenacity of will that nothing seems to be
able to shake.

A man, for example, comes in to see you. He is common looking, with a face
hardened and battered by toil. His clothes, which are shabby and well
worn, consist of the ordinary blue cotton cloth that in its dull and dingy
colour helps to give a mean and uninteresting look to the wearer. If the
nation would but depart from the eternal tradition that has come steadily
down the ages in regard to its clothing and would take some hints from
nature, whose varied moods make her look so charming, how different would
these unæsthetic people appear from what they do now!

His face is a weak one, and there are lines about his mouth that in an
Englishman would indicate a want of will. Your idea of the man is a very
low one, and you ask him with as much politeness as your poor opinion of
him will permit you, what he wants with you.

In a hesitating, nervous kind of way, he informs you that he has ventured
to come and ask a favour of you. It is a very important one, he says, and
as he knows no one that is so kind as you are or who has so much influence
as you have, he has taken the liberty to address himself to you and he
hopes that you will not refuse his request.

You find as he tells his story that he wants you to use your good offices
to get his son into employment in a responsible firm in the town. You are
startled, for you do not know any one in the said firm, and moreover you
have no knowledge of the young man either as to his character or
abilities. You try and impress upon the father that it is impossible for
you to help him in the matter, because you really have no influence with
any one responsible in the house of business to which he refers, and that
therefore he had better apply to some one else who has the ability to help
him.

The man in a weak kind of way appears to agree with you, expresses his
appreciation of your kindness in so pleasantly listening to him, and bids
you good-bye, and any one not acquainted with the Chinese character would
certainly come to the conclusion that the whole incident was at an end and
nothing more would be heard of it.

To-morrow morning you are engaged, say, in writing when the same man is
ushered into your room by your "boy," and he in a timid, hesitating way
expresses a wish to say a few words to you. In his hand he carries a fowl,
with its legs tied and its head hanging down, and as this is the usual way
in which such animals are carried in China, it seems to recognize the
universal custom and to utter no protest against the indignity to which it
is exposed.

Without referring to it, he lays it down in a corner of the room, and
proceeds to make his request for his son in precisely the same language
that he had done the previous day. Your statement then that you had no
influence in the firm mentioned was considered by him to be a pleasant and
refined way of showing your displeasure that a present had not been made
you, and so to-day he is atoning for this by bringing you the fowl that
lies fluttering on the ground.

You try and make him understand that you really cannot help him, that you
would do so if you could, and you insist upon his taking away his present,
as you absolutely refuse to accept it. He agrees with all you say,
expresses his admiration at your disinterested and generous conduct, is
quite sure that you cannot help him, and finally leaves you holding the
fowl which you have forced upon him in his hand, and declaring that he is
afraid you are angry with him since you refuse his gift, which he declares
he knows is too small to be accepted by a person of your position and
character. You happen to go out half-an-hour after and you see the
identical fowl lying in the yard struggling to get free, and with a look
of pain and misery in consequence of its legs having been tied so tight
and because of the cramped position in which it has been compelled to lie
so long.

You call the "boy" and you ask him why the man has not taken the fowl
away, as you had positively refused to accept it. "Oh! it would never do,"
he replies with an anxious look that pushes its way through its permanent
sphinx-like veneer, "for the man to take back the trifling present that he
has made you. He would have lost 'face,' for people would say that you
were angry with him for making you such an insignificant gift that you
could not possibly receive it."

Next morning the man once more appears, but this time accompanied by a
person well known to you. After a few complimentary remarks, the newcomer
introduces the man, and begs of you to use your influence to get his son
the employment about which he has already spoken to you. You state the
case fully to him and explain that it is quite a mistake to imagine that
you can assist him in the way he wishes. Both men listen with the most
wrapt attention to what you say, and by smiles and vigorous nods of the
head seem to believe in every word you speak. By and by they leave, and
you feel convinced that the incident is at an end, and that you will hear
nothing more of it.

In the afternoon of the same day, the man turns up once more, with a
smiling countenance and a look of supreme satisfaction upon it. He holds a
letter in his hand which he delivers to you with the air of a man who is
delivering a pleasant ultimatum that will settle the whole question in a
manner satisfactory to all. It is from an Englishman who has been
approached on the subject, and he asks me to do what I can to get the old
fellow's son into a firm where he has been told I have some influence.

You are getting annoyed by this time, not simply because all your
protestations have not been believed, but because you see that the dogged
persistence that lies rooted in the Chinese character will not allow the
matter to drop until you have either given him a piece of your mind, more
forcible than polite, or taken some plan to carry out his wishes. After a
few minutes' consideration, you remember that an acquaintance of your own
has business relationships with the firm in question, so you at once write
a note to him and request him as a great favour to exert himself to
introduce the son of the bearer to the manager of a certain business house
with which he is intimately concerned. Having sealed it up, you hand it
over to the man, and direct him to take it to your friend, who may
possibly be able to assist him in procuring the employment he wishes for
his son.

The very next day, he once more appears, but this time with two fowls, a
small basket of oranges and a tiny box of tea, and also with the most
profuse thanks for getting his son that situation. You tell him that you
have had nothing to do with that, and that if he is inclined to make
presents, he had better take them to the friend who has really engineered
the business. If the Chinese could only see the humour there is in a wink,
there is no doubt but that he would express his feelings by one just now,
but as he has never been taught the subtle part that the eye can take in
conveying a joke, he simply smiles prodigiously, clasps his own hands
instead of yours and leaves you with a profusion of the most elegant and
polite phrases, such as the great Sage of China penned more than two
thousand years ago for the guidance of people in contingencies such as
this.

It must be perfectly understood that the man never believed from the very
first that you could not have got that situation for his son, if you had
been so disposed, and the fact that you procured it for him at last proved
that. Your writing the letter and sending it to a friend were but little
subtle by-plays to save your "face." Acting like that is something
inexpressibly dear to the Chinese, who are always posing before each
other, and exhausting their histrionic powers to produce certain effects
that shall redound to their credit. The one thing that was really to be
admired in this Chinaman was the tenacity of purpose that caused him never
to falter until he had gained the object that he had in his mind.

This distinguishing virtue in the Chinaman has unquestionably been a very
large factor in the building up of their Empire, and yet on the other hand
it is just as true that it has been one of the most powerful forces in
preventing its progress and development.

The very persistence of character that made the Yellow race build the
Great Wall of China and extend their conquests from their original home on
the banks of the Yellow River, until the whole of the vast extent of
territory embraced within the eighteen provinces has been subdued by them,
has made them cling to old traditions and customs with a tenacity that has
stayed the progress of new ideas, and has prevented them from adopting new
methods that would have benefited both the people and the Empire.

The Chinese within certain limits are practical common-sense people and
keenly alive to anything that will improve their worldly condition, but
the moment they scent an innovation they recoil from it as though it were
an enemy that was going to destroy them.

Illustrations of this abound everywhere. Take the farmer, for example. He
has been accustomed to plough his fields with an old-fashioned implement
that was devised ages before the Christian era. It is of the exact pattern
that it was when it issued from the brain of the man who is credited with
having thought it out. Through countless ages it has done the work of the
Empire, but time has left it absolutely untouched, and if the inventor
could come to life to-day he would see that the old clumsy thing that he
had hastily thought out when the fathers of the race, tired of their
wanderings, settled down on the banks of the mighty river that met them as
they wandered eastwards, had never changed with the advancing fortunes of
their children, but was identical in every detail with the one with which
they began their first ploughing in the far-off misty ages of the past.

You talk to a Chinese farmer about the wonderful ploughs of the West, and
how sometimes they were driven by steam, and in a few hours acres of land
would be ready for the harrow. His eyes flash, for he is a farmer to the
very tips of his fingers, and he thinks of the days of toil that it takes
him to accomplish the very same thing, and for the moment he would like to
have some of those ploughs to upturn the hard and rugged soil that his own
antiquated implement seems so helpless to break through. He has a vision
for a moment of how the monotony and drudgery of labour might be exchanged
for a time of comparative rest, when nature in response to a new impulse
should yield the fruits of the soil with a more generous hand. But the
vision quickly dies out of his imagination, and the old conservative
instinct flashes once more through his brain, and so the old plough and
the hoe that have done the work of the centuries are more firmly fixed in
his imagination than ever they were before.

[Illustration: PLOUGHING WITH A WATER BUFFALO.

_To face p. 124._]

One of the great results of the intense tenacity of purpose that
characterizes the Chinese is to repress original thought. From their very
loyalty to the discoveries and inventions of past ages, they have
become merely imitators, and any one who should dare to deviate from
well-established lines on any subject would be looked upon as a man
dangerous to the well-being of the Empire. It may be confidently asserted
that for a thousand years no new thought or original ideas that have
quickened the pulse in this old country have been propounded by any one of
its vast or varied population. Whilst the West has been seething with
excitement and new continents have been discovered and society has been
upheaved by vast discoveries, this great nation has been going on in its
easy-going, sleepy way, content with the half-dozen or so of meagre ideas
with which it started its career ages ago.

The Chinese are a proud people, and look down with supreme contempt upon
every country outside of their own. They are very impartial in this and
make no exceptions, for they call them all by a term that has been
generally translated "Barbarian," and which really means uncivilized,
untaught, idiotic, and wanting in refinement; and yet after one has got
over the first excitement caused by the odd and grotesque sights that
Chinese life and scenes afford to the Westerner, there comes a sense of
oppression at the absolute monotony that prevails in every department of
life, and all as the result of the one idea of being true to established
ideals. A man, for example, builds a house. There is no use asking him
what is the plan he is going to adopt. That was settled for him a good
many centuries ago, and though slight variations are allowed to meet the
peculiar requirements of the land, the essential idea is scrupulously
retained by every builder throughout the eighteen provinces. It is for
this reason that the profession of architect is unknown in this land, and
the sacred plan upon which every house is built is conserved with as much
fidelity by the people of this Empire as though it were a great moral
principle that lay at the root of all noble action and that had been
specially revealed from Heaven for the guidance of the nation.

You travel up a river and you expect to find great diversities in the
population, that has deserted the land and taken up its permanent
habitation on the water, but the same inflexible devotion to ancient
ideals is just as marked as it is on shore.

Here is a typical boat that belongs to the fisher class. Let us examine it
for a moment, for I can promise that we shall get a glimpse into the
mysteries of Chinese life and see how men and women can lead what seems to
be a merry, happy existence in the closest possible quarters. It is twelve
feet long and five feet wide in the centre, and tapers slightly as you
approach the bows. It is divided into three distinct divisions, the front
part being the open space from which the nets are cast when they are
fishing. In one sense it might be called the workshop of the family, for
besides the manoeuvring with the nets, any odd jobs that are required to
be done in connection with their mode of life are performed on this part
of the boat. The centre is the family residence, and performs the part of
sitting-room, dining-room, and bedroom, and is covered in with thick
bamboo matting that is capable of resisting the heaviest rain. The hinder
section is the family kitchen, where all the meals are cooked, and where,
too, the steerer stands when he is guiding the boat.

The family in this particular craft consists of an elderly fisherman and
his wife, a grown-up son with his wife and two little ones, six people in
all, and as though the space were too ample for these, they have
improvised at the extreme bows a small pigsty, where a pig that will add
to the comforts of the home when it is ready for the market, lies
apparently contented with its narrow and confined surroundings. It will
never move from its home till it is carried to the butcher. The old couple
are weather-beaten and their faces are covered with the wrinkles that
advancing age has put into them, but they are perfectly content with their
life, and though they take a ramble now and again on shore when they wish
to buy anything or when they want to look at some theatricals, they return
to their home with as much zest as though it were a spacious house in
which every accommodation was provided for their comfort.

[Illustration: A BOAT CARRYING A SEDAN CHAIR.]

[Illustration: A PASSENGER BOAT.

_To face p. 126._]

There is really, after all, no mystery in this. Fifty or sixty years ago
they were both born upon a boat of the precise size and shape of the one
they are now living in. The old lady with the wrinkled features, and the
eyes of which the flash and the sparkle have died out, and with the raven
locks that have turned to grey, came here forty years ago as a bride, from
a neighbouring boat, amid the sounds of fire-crackers and the chorus of
congratulations that the Chinese are always prepared to give the
newly-made wife.

The young fellow that received her then as his future wife was the pick
out of all the fisher lads in the fishing fleet of that time, but he, too,
is old now. Yet both husband and wife are content, for their home is a
happy one. Have they not their own son to care for them in their declining
years, and to save them from sorrow and hunger now that their strength is
not what it used to be?

The son is indeed a man to be proud of by a Chinese father. He has the
look of a man who can hold his own in the world, and though utterly
uneducated, his face has a semi-refined appearance, that speaks of a
tender heart and of a mind that would easily be influenced for good. His
young wife has a face that it is a pleasure to look upon. It is not by any
means a beautiful one, for there is not a single feature in it that could
by the widest charity be called pretty, and yet it is just such a one that
has an attraction about it, that it wins men's homage though every canon
of beauty is defied by it. She has high cheek-bones and a large mouth, and
a nose that is as far removed from the Grecian as it is possible to be
conceived, but her eyes are bright and sparkling, and it seems as though
the spirit of fun lay close behind them, for there is a perpetual
suggestion of laughter in them. Her face, too, browned with the great
Eastern sun, is a most kindly and pleasing one, and smiles at the least
provocation ripple over it, and fill it with sunshine or shadows, as the
mood happens to take her.

She and her young husband are busy hoisting the nets high up on a bamboo
pole to have them aired and dried in the sun. The youngest child, which is
but a baby, is strapped on her back, where he is sound asleep, the motions
of the mother acting as a cradle would do in lulling him into
forgetfulness of everything around him. The other child is a little over
two, with a round, chubby face and large, staring black eyes, that look
upon you with wonder as you make various signs of friendliness to him. He
is stationed in the "sitting-room," to be out of the way of the workers,
and to guard against his moving beyond certain limits and tumbling
overboard, a good strong string has been tied to one of his legs, which
effectually prevents any such accidents happening to him.

The old father, calm and placid looking, is sitting on his heels near the
tiller smoking a long bamboo pipe. This mode of resting is a most popular
one amongst the middle and lower classes of the Chinese, but one which an
Englishman could not endure for five minutes without considerable
discomfort. His wife is fussing about the diminutive kitchen, getting
ready the meal for the family, and deftly cooking the rice and the salted
turnips and the pickled cabbage that are the principal features in the
daily meal of vast numbers of the Chinese.

[Illustration: NETTING FISH FROM THE SHORE.]

The above is an attempt to describe the kind of boat that a certain class
of people who get their living by fishing in inland waters everywhere use.
They are absolute facsimiles of each other. The question often arises, how
is it they are all so identical? Why should not some of them be, say, a
foot or two longer, and a few inches wider, so as to anticipate the needs
of a growing family?

Such a thought never occurs to a Chinaman, or if it does, it is at once
rejected as heterodox, or as treason to the original designer. A profound
sense of the benefits conferred upon them by the man who had the brain to
devise such a boat, though an Englishman would have the daring to think
that any idiot could devise a much better one in five minutes, will
prevent this nation from ever venturing to think it possible that any
change could be made in it that would improve it in one single respect.

The fishermen are absolutely content. They spend their lives on these
boats. Men are married upon them, and children are born upon them and grow
up to be men and women, and men lie down and die upon them, and from them
they are carried to their long homes on the shore, which during their
lifetime they have looked upon as a place where they had no inheritance,
but which perforce would have to give them a narrow space when they had
finished with life, in which to hide them away from the world.

The boats I have described are but a sample of the multitude of ways in
which the Chinese are circumscribed and prevented by forces greater than
the enactment of special laws from making progress in their national life.
There are signs at the present moment that China is awakening and that the
dead hand of the past is being lifted. It will be long, however, before
the new movement will permeate into the villages and into the more
retired and out-of-the-way places of the Empire, where under the shadow
of lofty mountains, and out of the lines where human thought and human
traffic are most vigorous, men cling to the traditions of the past. But
that the movement will spread and finally change the whole character of
the country, there is not the least shadow of a doubt.



[Illustration: A STREET SCENE.

_To face p. 131._]


CHAPTER VII

AMUSEMENTS

    Chinese a laughter-loving people--Fond of society--Sources of
    amusements few--No seaside outings or holidays--New Year's
    time--Dragon boat festival--Feast of Tombs--Theatricals--Battledore
    and shuttlecock--Kites--Punch and Judy.


The Chinese are a laughter-loving people, and their broad,
unæsthetic-looking faces seem to have been made with a wide and generous
area, in order to allow their latent humour to have plenty of scope for
its expansion.

No matter what a Chinaman does, there always seems to be a comical element
about it that provokes one to smile. With other nationalities, when
certain unpleasant things are done, one is inclined to be roused to sudden
passion and to strong and vigorous language, and a feeling of indignation
that takes a long time to die out. With a Chinaman the experience is quite
different. He does something most aggravating, and your mind is filled
with the deepest resentment, and you feel as though you could never
forgive him. You look with indignation upon the man who has offended you.
As you gaze at him, the subtle humour that somehow or other seems to lie
about his yellow homely features grips you, and you find a smile rising to
your face and your anger explodes in laughter.

There are no people in the world that seem to have such a hypnotizing
power over the men of the West as the Chinese. It is not their beauty or
their eloquence, nor the fascinating way in which they talk, but in the
large amount of human nature they all possess, and in the strain of humour
that seems to run through them as music does through an exquisite piece of
poetry.

From this it may be easily believed that they are fond of laughter and
merriment and the bright and joyous side of things, and social
intercourse, and plenty of company, and loud-sounding music and firing of
crackers. The solitary feeling that makes an Englishman like to be alone,
and shut himself up day after day in a house by himself and not care to
see visitors, is something that is quite incomprehensible to a Chinaman.

A man rents a house, for example, and he finds that in the other rooms
that are built round an open courtyard there are one or two other families
already residing. He welcomes this as one of the advantages that the house
he has taken possesses. He comes in with smiling face, and remarks how
very cheerful everything is. His wife stands by his side and expresses her
pleasure that there are so many people close by them, so that they need
not feel dull or lonely. They are both received with overflowing
expressions of welcome, and are assured that their coming is an immense
comfort, and will make their homes much more cheery and enjoyable than
they would be without them.

Their love for their fellow-kind is a passion with the Chinese, and they
seem to be able to stand an amount of noise and loud talking and screaming
babies and barking of dogs, such as would send an Englishman off his head.

Now, many of the sources of amusement that are open to the people of the
West have no existence in this country whatever. They have no Sunday on
which they can lay aside the eternal round of work, and forget for one day
that life is a treadmill which never stops its grinding. There are no
stated holidays, when people rush off to the seaside or to the moors or to
some fishing stream, where midst the hills they can forget the heat and
pressure of the city. The legislators of China have never dreamed that any
one needed a vacation. The school-boys, indeed, after eleven months of
cramped school life have been thought worthy of a month's holidays at the
end of the year, but the grown-up people have to work. Without that, large
sections of the community under present conditions would starve.

The most serious thing of all, however, is the illiterate character of the
people. It has been reckoned by competent critics that only ten, or at the
most fifteen, millions out of the four hundred can read. The result is
that, excepting in the houses of the favoured few, there are no books or
magazines or pictures, or, in fact, literature of any kind in the vast
majority of the homes into which one may enter. What this means for the
young people, full of restlessness and with an immense fund of animal
spirits, may be more easily imagined than understood.

In their idle hours or during the dark nights of winter, they are thrown
upon their own resources, and as these are extremely limited, it is no
wonder that the young fellows take to the only things that they can think
of to while the hours away, and that is gambling and opium smoking.

Of course, for the nation at large, these two forms would not meet the
demand there is in human nature for some sources of amusement that shall
be harmless. There are troops of children, in this land so prolific in
little ones, who have to be amused with laughter and smiling faces, and
feasts, and outings on the hills, and visits to relatives. There are
equally large numbers of young girls, who must have the monotonous life in
which they are compelled to live in their narrow homes changed from the
unending routine that confronts them almost every day of their lives.

In order to satisfy this demand for recreation, there are certain forms of
amusement that have become popular throughout the country, and which, to a
limited extent, do meet the needs of the case. They may be roughly divided
into two classes.

The first of these is the great festivals, that are religiously observed
by the people of the whole Empire. The most important amongst these is the
New Year's holiday. The feasting and jollity really extend over three
days, though, as is natural, it is the first one that stands out the most
conspicuous of them all.

On this day all business is suspended, and for once during the year China
puts on a Sunday look, for the shops are all closed, with the exception of
those that deal in shoes and stockings, which by a licence that has come
down from the distant past, are permitted to sell their wares, even though
it is a New Year's day.

Every one is dressed in his very best, and the women put on their gayest
and most attractive garments. The children, too, decked out in clothes
that have been carefully folded and put away in boxes for this special
occasion, appear early in the morning, with faces full of joy and eyes
sparkling with delight, ready for all the fun and enjoyment that the day
is going to bring them.

The male members of the household go and pay visits to their friends,
whilst the ladies stay at home and entertain the neighbours or relatives
that may be calling upon them. It seems to be the object of every one to
be as nice and agreeable to each other as they can be. No unlucky words
must be uttered, for they might bring sorrow and disaster during the
coming year, and so one sees everywhere pleasant, smiling faces, whilst
the air resounds with kindly greetings and with wishes for prosperity and
happiness.

Even the very houses put on a festal appearance, and bright red papers on
the lintel silently join with the well-wishers in their loving
congratulations to all and sundry, by themselves offering up a prayer to
Heaven to send down blessings upon the home within.

It is the custom on this festal day of the year to paste bright red papers
on the lintel and on both sideposts of the door, on which have been
inscribed in large Chinese characters a wish for some form of happiness to
be bestowed upon all that live within. "May the five happinesses descend
upon the home." "May Heaven bestow peace and happiness, and may clouds of
trade gather round the business carried on here." "May righteousness have
its fullest accomplishment in this home." "May the days of Shun and the
times of Yau (two ancient rulers of China, when it is believed that the
country attained its greatest prosperity) be the experience of this home."

The above are quotations from some of the thousands of gaudy-looking
strips of paper that deck the houses and give an air of gladness to the
scene. Every house in the town, and even the temples of the gods have some
pasted over the front doors. For three days the feasting and the visiting
and the congratulations go on, and then the people go back to the old
humdrum style of things, and to the steady grind and wear and tear of
life, but in the meanwhile there has been a delightful break in the
eternal monotony that has made things look so grey, and that has put so
many shadows into the everyday working life of this patient people.

Another great festival is one that is held wherever there is a sea or a
river or a stream on which a boat may be floated. This is called the
"Feast of the Dragon Boat," and is held in honour of an ancient statesman
who committed suicide in the river Mi Lo. The story is that one of the
feudal states into which China was then divided, named Tau, was prospering
under the wise guidance of Ku Yuan, who was the Prime Minister of its
Prince. The people were happy, and peace and plenty made the state a good
one to live in. Suddenly, through the machinations of a rival, the ruler
was tempted into evil courses, Ku Yuan was dismissed, and adversity loomed
in the distance for the country.

Unwilling to be a spectator of the sorrows that were coming on the people,
Ku Yuan threw himself into the river and perished. As soon as the news of
his death was known, boats were sent out to search the river for his body,
but days went by, and it was never recovered. So grieved was the nation at
his loss, that it was determined that the anniversary of his death should
be commemorated by boat races, in which the fiction should be kept up that
the boats were not simply racing, but were in search of the long-lost
body. The death happened about B.C. 314, but though ages have elapsed, and
revolution after revolution have torn and convulsed the country to its
very foundations, the custom is as keenly kept to-day as though it had
only just lately been established.

It is, indeed, one of the most popular festivals of the year, and is
looked forward to for weeks before it takes place, and during the three
days on which it is being kept, the whole place is full of excitement. It
has been our good fortune on several occasions to witness the gatherings
of the people who have assembled on a famous estuary to watch the racing
of the boats in their mad search for the body of Ku Yuan.

This happens at the beginning of the Chinese fifth moon, which corresponds
with about the middle of our June. The weather then is hot and the sun is
bright, though rain often falls during some part of the three days, as
though Heaven were weeping for the sad fate of the lost minister.

Nearly every one of the population who can possibly get away from their
duties deserts the town and hastens to the seashore to witness the moving
scene on the water. As it gets towards noon, strings of people may be seen
wending their way in the direction of the harbour. There are young men,
full of life and merriment, and with their black eyes flashing with
excitement, for the dulness of the dingy, evil-smelling town is going to
be forgotten amidst the salt sea breezes that have blown over many a
hundred leagues of ocean.

There are old ladies, with the young girls of their families chattering
and laughing about them, glad to get out of the narrow homes in which they
are usually confined to gaze upon the life of the streets and to look upon
the strange faces of the people that are hurrying on to the great
gathering by the seaside.

Wherever one looks one sees signs that the Dragon Boat Races are the great
thought that is upon every heart. The peddlers are going to have a royal
time of it, and see how, with flushed faces, they are rushing on with
their goods to the hungry crowds on the hills and rising grounds by the
sea shore. Here is a man with two great baskets balanced on a bamboo pole
that rests on his shoulder. They are full of all kinds of cakes, just
fresh from the oven, and some of them that have the appetizing name of
"mouth-melters" seem longing to be bought, so that they may show how crisp
and luscious they are, and how suited for such a holiday as this.

Following hard upon his heels, for the street is too narrow to allow of
two such men walking abreast, comes the "Sweet and Sour" man, with his two
loads heaped up with all kinds of goodies, such as every one likes to
indulge in on a huge picnic such as the town is keeping on this bright,
sunshiny day.

This popular street-dealer in toothsome and, to the younger generation at
least, fascinating luxuries, has prepared himself to meet the large demand
of the crowds, who at a merry time like this will be more reckless of
their cash than they would be on ordinary occasions. He has sugared orange
lobes, and pine apple cut into dainty succulent little mouthfuls. He has
also crab apples from the far North, crushed and flattened, but just as
sweet as sugar can make them. These and other varieties of fruit that
have no English names are pierced with thin slips of bamboo, which the
buyer can hold between two of his fingers and drop each piece into his
mouth without soiling his fingers.

Then for the sours, he has pickled olives, and rich luxurious-looking
arbutus berries, that in the distance look like strawberries, and delicate
little plums, and sliced peaches, and limes with the green of the trees
still upon them. Every one can take his choice, and whether he likes
sweets or sours he can put his hand into his pocket and select the kind
that suits him best.

And now the crowds have gathered by the seaside; and what a scene of
delight and joy it is to the men and women and children, who have been for
weeks "cribbed and cabined and confined" in their homes, in the narrow
streets and alleyways, where the green fields are never seen and where the
sight of the sun is what they see of him as he passes overhead, as he
pours down his fiery scorching rays upon the unsavoury, vile-smelling
streets below!

There is hardly a sombre-looking face amongst them all, for the spirit of
the day is upon every one. They present a most interesting and beautiful
appearance; usually only men are seen in any numbers on the streets, but
to-day women are quite as numerous as the men, and their gay and showy
coloured dresses relieve the sombre blue in which the sterner sex delight
to array themselves.

All at once the hum of voices is hushed and all eyes are turned in the
direction of the sea, for there the Dragon Boats have suddenly made their
appearance, each one madly striving to beat the other as they both race on
towards a junk anchored in the stream, from which flags and many-coloured
streamers float in the breeze, and which has been appointed to be the goal
towards which the boats must race.

[Illustration: A DRAGON BOAT.

_To face p. 129._]

The Dragon Boats are long and narrow, and only just wide enough to
allow two men to sit side by side and use their paddles to propel the
boat. The number that is commonly employed in one of them is sixty, not
including the coxswain, who stands in the stern holding a long oar with
which he steers his way through the crowds of boats that have come with
their passengers to get a good look at the races.

The effect of these sixty men paddling with all their might is very
striking, and puts one in mind of a huge centipede, though the Chinese,
with more imagination and more poetry, have likened it to the fabulous
dragon that plays so large a part in the mythology and superstition of the
nation.

The festivities continue for three days, and the inhabitants of the city
with unabated zeal gather by the seashore to laugh and joke and gossip,
and to look at the blue sky and to see the sea tossing and foaming under
the pressure of South-West Monsoon.

With the conclusion of the sports, the great masses of people that lined
the hills and eminences near the edge of the sea melt away down the narrow
arteries that constitute the principal streets of the town. They slowly
vanish down the winding alleyways that seem to be like runs that lead to
the burrows where the Chinese, as dense as rabbits in their lodges, pass
their lives with little to vary the monotony excepting these joyous
occasions that break in upon the dulness and greyness of their everyday
experience.

Another festival that helps to divert the minds and thoughts of the vast
majority of the people is the "Feast of Tombs." This has its serious side
as well as its pleasant one, and many a heart pours out its sorrows in
tears and heartrending cries over the loved ones that have vanished into
the dark world, whilst others, again, gather round the graves to hold
fellowship, in spirit at least, with those whom they believe are conscious
of their presence, and who can in some way or other affect the fortunes of
the living.

Once a year the whole population turns out to visit the family graves. The
wear and tear of wind and rain during the twelve months have flattened
them down and given them a neglected and disordered look. They need
repairing and returfing, and so with loving hearts the relatives wend
their way amongst the countless tombs that cover the hillside to the ones
that belong to them, and with their hoes they dig about and fix them up to
bear the brunt of storms of rain and fierce typhoons for another year.

Another purpose of this yearly visit to the graves is to secure their
rights to the ones that belong to them. For this purpose each family
scatters paper money over them and bind them down with stones lest the
wind should blow them away. They thus advertise to every one that the
owners are still living and will resent any attempt of others to
appropriate them. China is a country so densely populated that it is
sometimes difficult to find resting-places for the dead. If a grave is
left for a year or two without these symbols of ownership, some poor
family who has not the means to purchase a piece of ground for their dead
will pounce upon it, and use it for themselves. They are pretty safe in
doing this, for if no papers mark the grave at the "Feast of Tombs" it is
almost certain that the old family has died out, and not a single one is
left to care for it at the annual festival.

It is a very pretty and interesting sight to see the hillsides dotted with
the countless figures that are moving about on them, making their
offerings to the spirits, and doing up the graves that have become
dilapidated during the year.

But see, here is a family group that has just arrived, and as they fairly
represent the hundreds that have come on the same errand, a description of
them will give a fairly correct idea of what the "Feast of Tombs" means to
the people throughout the Chinese Empire. It consists of a father and
mother and one sturdy little fellow and a sister somewhat younger than
himself. The father has a hoe over his shoulder, whilst the mother carries
a basket which contains a variety of cakes, and several bundles of white
and yellow paper money. The hoe is at once set to work to repair the
damage that the weather has done to the grave, whilst the children romp
about and gather wild flowers to take with them to their home that lies
hidden in the town that seems to be creeping along the base of the hill on
which they are standing.

It is the old grandfather's grave, and for over three years he has lain on
this quiet hillside, with only the sound of the wild wind blowing across
it and the cry of the hawks as they hover high up in the air looking with
their keen eyes for their prey, to disturb the perpetual stillness that
reigns here the whole year through.

When they have done their work, and the new sods have been beaten well
down on the top and sides of the grave to enable it to stand another
year's wear and tear, the cakes are taken out of the basket, and laid out
in front where the spirit can see them. Then a little bottle with whisky
in it is brought forth, and three diminutive cups holding about a
tablespoonful each are filled with it and placed beside the cakes. Finally
a small piece of boiled pork that has lain snugly at the bottom of the
basket is taken out and laid carefully amongst the other good things.

Everything is ready now for the offering to be presented to the old
grandfather, and the family stand up, and with hands clasped bow before
the grave as though the old gentleman were in the flesh standing in front
of them, and could hear every word that is said to him.

The scene now becomes most realistic and pathetic. The father, with a face
full of intensity and eyes lighted with passion, tells the dead man how
lately troubles have come upon the home, and how trade has been so bad
that it has been a continual struggle to make ends meet. "Things have been
so different," he continues, "since you left us; we have missed your wise
counsels, and when cases of perplexity have arisen we have longed to have
you with us, so that we could go to you and you would tell us what to do.
We now appeal to you to come to our rescue; we are your children, and
unless you use the mysterious power you possess to deliver us, the family
will be dispersed, and then when the 'Feast of Tombs' comes round, there
will be no one to appear before your grave to make the offerings to your
spirit. Come, father, come: see, we your children, with bowed heads and
with hope in our hearts, appeal to you to change the fortunes of our home,
and send prosperity to it."

After the worship has been concluded, the cakes and the pork are laid out
in picnic fashion on the grass and the family gathers around them, and
they laugh and chat, and the youngsters break out into boisterous mirth.
Everything around them conduces to clear away the shadows from their
hearts. The stifling air of the city has vanished, and the smells and the
monotonous surroundings, and here the purest forces of nature combine to
lift their thoughts out of the narrow ruts in which they have been
running.

And is it any marvel that this should happen? The sun shining in an
unclouded sky has filled the wide landscape with his beauty, as though
to-day he would cheer the hearts of the hundreds that dot the mountain
side. The hilltops are ablaze with his glory, and his rays dart across the
sea, and play fairy antics amongst the trees, and flash upon the graves
where countless generations lie buried, as though they would break the
gloom that rests upon them and point to a brighter day when the bands of
death would be for ever unloosed and the dead should rise again.

The birds, too, as if in the luxuriance of their joy sing their songs, fly
from branch to branch and hover about, whilst the kingfishers with their
brilliant plumage skim about in the hollows, where streamlets trickle down
the mountain side.

It is a joyous day indeed, and to the children is as full of happiness as
it can contain. The grasses and the wild flowers, and the wide expanse of
sunshine instead of the narrow court where their home lies, and the
freedom to skip and dance to their very hearts' content fill every moment
with the most supreme delight, the minutes pass only too quickly, and
their only regret is that they cannot live out there for ever.

In the midst of these delights the time seems to fly as though the sun
were racing down the great vault of heaven. Gradually the shadows begin to
lengthen, and to lie deep and thick in the valleys and underneath the
projecting cliffs, whilst the glory that still rests on the summit of the
mountain, and on the solitary peaks, begins to be dimmed with the coming
twilight creeping through it.

The time at last comes when the countless groups scattered so
picturesquely amongst the newly-fashioned graves, where their loved ones
rest, should begin to move homeward. The sun goes down quickly in this
land, and the fast-fading light gives warning that if they would reach the
city before darkness falls upon it, they must not linger too long on this
delightful mountain side.

The little family we have described slowly and unwillingly begin to make
preparations to tear themselves away from the spot where they had spent
such a pleasant day. There is but little preparation indeed needed, for
the basket that had contained the good things is empty. Just one more
scamper by the little ones and one last look at the grave where the old
grandfather lies, who has been feasted with the delicacies that are
believed will satisfy his hunger till the coming round of the next feast,
and then they descend, winding their way amongst the trim-looking mounds
decked with paper money, till they reach the large road that leads to the
town below.

About the same time, the whole face of the hills begin to be alive with
moving groups. The glory has faded from the summits, and now a grey light
with a touch of sadness in it is spreading over the landscape. The golden
ripples on the sea have toned down and have put on the sombre air of
twilight. The birds have all fled, and the great hawks that hovered far up
in the sky have flown away, whilst the flash of the kingfisher has ceased
with the setting of the sun. The holiday is over, but for many a day will
the toilers in the narrow streets, and the women and the children in their
poor untidy homes, have visions of glorious sunlight, and lights and
shadows chasing each other, like school-boys, up and down the hillsides
and right up to their very summits, and the fresh breezes, and the
pleasant picnics beside the graves of the dead.

There are several other festivals, such as the Feast of Lanterns, and the
Seventh Moon Festival, when all over the Empire tables are set with
abundance of food for the spirits of the dead world, who have no living
friends in this. The most expensive plays, too, are performed for the
enjoyment of the hungry, wandering ghosts, who have been let loose by the
prince of that gloomy land for one month to try and get some recreation
and comfort in this upper world.

Whilst the ravenous spirits are supposed to enjoy the food that has been
so abundantly provided for them, and to look with delight upon the actors
that are putting forth their best artistic talent in order to amuse them,
it is the people who provide these entertainments that really enjoy this
month of feasting. The food that has been provided for the troops of
hungry spirits that hover invisibly in the air, is diminished neither in
quality nor in quantity, and a merry time the town has in disposing of the
good things which nominally they have provided for the guests from the
lower regions, but which they have arranged should be eaten by friends and
relatives who have been specially invited beforehand.

It is the same with the theatricals. The highest talent has been engaged,
and the most amusing and comical plays have been selected from the actors'
repertory, but whilst they profess to be moved by a desire to entertain
the ghosts, it is their own amusement and pleasure they are thinking about
all the time. "What would happen," I asked a broad-faced, jolly-looking
Chinaman, "if the spirits were really to come and eat up the numerous
dishes that you have laid out for their special benefit?"

"They would never have a chance of doing so again," he promptly replied,
"for we should take very good care never to make any offerings to them
again in the future."

Whilst the great festivals provide large sources of recreation, there is
one other form of amusement that to the Chinese is most popular and most
fascinating, and that is theatricals. As these are expensive the common
people would never be able to indulge in them were it not the custom to
have them performed in the open air, where everybody that likes may come
and look to their hearts' content, without being asked to contribute
anything toward the expenses.

The birthday of an idol, for example, comes round, and to please it and
its worshippers, a troupe of actors are engaged, the stage is erected in
the large open space in front of the temple, and the performance is held
where the god can keep its eye upon it, and the whole neighbourhood can be
accommodated to witness the play. As the idol's birthday is everywhere
known, there is no need to advertise, and so the people come trooping
from all directions with the certainty of having a most enjoyable time,
and of being made to forget the worries and cares of life in the living
drama that is depicted with such wonderful power by these native actors.

A rich man wishes to celebrate his birthday, and of course to do that he
must have a play. A feast there will be as well, but there would be no
_éclat_ and no jollity and no letting the whole neighbourhood know of the
happy event so well as can be done by having a good rousing performance by
some well-known actors, whose fame has travelled far and near.

A stage is at once erected right in front of the great man's door, and the
beating of a drum and the shrill notes of the fife advertise the
neighbours that the troupe has arrived and is at the point of beginning to
act. The news spreads like wildfire, and by the time the men have fairly
begun, people may be seen streaming in from all directions to witness for
nothing something that is inexpressibly dear to the Chinese heart.

And this is not something that is to last merely for an hour or two.
Chinese plays are not such trivial things that they can be finished off in
so short a time as that. The men begin the production of some popular
comedy at noon. They play on till the evening is drawing near, when there
is an intermission of an hour or so for the actors and the people to cook
their rice. By the time this is finished, night has set in and the work of
the day is over. Great flaring lamps are lighted that defy the wind, the
drums are beaten, the shrill musical instruments fill the air with their
weird sounds, and men and women and children, carrying their own stools
with them, hurry with beaming faces towards what might be figuratively
called the "Palace of Delights," and take up their position in front of
the stage to enjoy the scene that is going to be acted.

[Illustration: ACTORS IN COSTUME.

_To face p. 147._]

The hours pass by and the great lamps flare in the night wind, and the
actors, as they get more and more into the spirit of the comedy they are
performing, become filled with enthusiasm, and with impassioned gestures,
and with the very voices and tones of the characters they are personating,
keep their audience spellbound in their attention.

The hours still move on, but the interest never flags. The rapid strokes
on the drum in some of the exciting scenes, and the shrill falsetto tones
of the actors, and the bursts of laughter as the crowd is convulsed by the
dry humour that runs through the piece, wake the silence of the night, and
people living near by, who could not leave their homes, are startled out
of their first sleep by the unwonted sounds that wake up the echoes of the
night.

Midnight strikes, but there is no sign that the play is near its end, or
that the audience dreams of moving from the uncomfortable seats that each
one has extemporized for himself. The small hours begin to lengthen and it
would seem time for the women at least to be in their homes. The stern and
strict etiquette of the country forbids women to mingle with men, but when
a play is being acted, etiquette is flung to the winds, and the wives and
the young maidens sit on into unseemly hours, forgetful of the nation's
ideals.

The wind becomes chiller and the darkness of the East deeper and denser,
but still the merriment grows more fast and furious, when suddenly, as if
with the wave of an enchanter's wand, a thin streak of light touches the
border of the thick curtain that has fallen on the world, and ere long the
dawn dyes the eastern sky with its colours and night begins to fly before
the coming day.

This is the signal for the play to stop. The actors, weary with their long
night's work, descend quickly from the stage, whilst the audience, with
pale faces and worn looks, hurry away to their homes to cook their rice
and prepare for a long sleep to make up for the loss of it during the
night.

It has been a merry time for them all, and the blue feeling that had been
gathering round their hearts and made them have long faces and caused them
to be unpleasant in their homes, has vanished in the laughter that caused
them almost to split their sides. A celebrated humorist has declared that
if he could have but one laugh a month, the whole character of his life
would be changed. During the pleasant hours in which the actors beguiled
the time, they must have laughed scores of times, and the memory of those
jokes will linger in their brains for many a week to come, and make them
look on their sorry surroundings with a lighter and a more cheerful heart.

I have in the above mentioned the chief source of amusement, but I have by
no means exhausted all that the Chinese have devised wherewith to while
away the hours that would hang heavy on their hands. There are tops and
kites, some of which represent birds fighting in the air, which old men
with hoary heads may now and again be seen flying as well as the younger
generation. There is also the popular game of shuttlecock, played not,
however, with battledores, but with the sides of the soles of the shoes,
and done so expertly that the shuttlecock will be kept flying in the air
for several minutes at a time. There is also Punch and Judy, and puppet
shows that have a fascination about them because of the ingenious and
marvellous way with which the operator causes the figures to imitate the
motions of actual life, simply by a deft movement of the strings attached
to their limbs.

Another and less informal way of getting amusement is in gossip and
chatting with friends and neighbours. There is nothing stiff or formal
about the Chinese. It requires very little introduction to make people
acquainted with each other, and their powers of conversation are so great
that with apparently nothing to say they are able to talk and laugh and
spin yarns that make the time pass both rapidly and pleasantly.

The Chinese are a humorous and jolly race of people and absolutely
misrepresented, excepting in their mere physical appearance, in the
popular pictures that appear of them on the tea-chests and in facetious
literature. If they had not been, they would not have borne the strain of
thousands of years of dulness and poverty and fierce struggles for
existence that have tried to crush all life out of them so well as they
have done. The position that they hold to-day in the Far East is a signal
proof of the vitality and the determined pluck that have carried the
Yellow race through the revolutions[2] that during the past centuries have
rent and shattered the Chinese Empire.



CHAPTER VIII

THE FARMER

    Society divided into four classes--Farmers stand high in the
    estimation of the nation--Poverty of the Chinese--Money lending and
    borrowing--Small farms--Cause of poverty--Sell daughters to meet
    debts--Farmers have to engage in various occupations to meet the
    necessities of life--Some become coolies--Some chair-bearers--Some
    emigrate--Chinese farmer second to none in the world--Implements
    few--His knowledge of manures--Description of rice culture--Tried by
    droughts--System of tenant farming--Method of paying their landlords.


In the four great divisions into which the Chinese have roughly divided
the whole of society, viz. scholars, farmers, artisans, and traders, the
one that holds the highest place for usefulness is undoubtedly the farmer.
The fact that the scholar is placed first shows the high estimation that
the nation has always entertained for learning. This is not a modern idea
that has gradually sprung up with the growth of civilization. It was
started at the very dawn of the country's history, for the men that have
really been the moulders and fashioners of the Empire were scholars whose
writings still continue to influence the thoughts and habits of the
people.

What Confucius thinks, no literary man, and much less the great unwashed,
would ever dare to dispute. In great moral questions the maxims he has
transmitted for twenty-five centuries are accepted by all as the very
inspirations of Heaven, whilst in matters of government and the guiding of
the affairs of the nation, the great principles that he and Mencius have
enunciated for the ruling of a people have been accepted by nearly every
ruler that has ever sat on the Dragon throne.

[Illustration: A FARM HOUSE.]

It is for this reason that the only aristocracy that exists in China
is that of learning. Wealthy tradesmen or artisans have no right to become
members of it, and the only possible way by which they can enter the
privileged circle is by buying literary degrees and passing themselves off
as scholars. This is sometimes done when the Government is in want of
funds, for the rich merchants are willing to pay fabulous sums for the
honour they gain by being allowed to wear the hat and button of a
mandarin, and to attend receptions where only the literati are permitted
to be present.

Next in rank and in importance are the farmers, who in their own special
line are no less honourable than the scholars. One of the great kings in
the remote times of Chinese history was a man who was taken direct from
the plough, to be a colleague with the famous Yau, a fact that has shed a
lustre upon the calling of the husbandman ever since. One of the very
greatest names in history was a farmer who subsequently sat upon the
Dragon throne, and the rulers of the various dynasties that since his time
have governed China, have all seemed to think that the farmer king has
left them a legacy in the land which was to be as much one of the glories
of the throne as any other that has descended to them through the long
range of the past centuries.

Every year, as the spring time comes round, and Nature proclaims to the
world in the awakening of tree and herb and flower that she is going to
begin her work for the year, the Emperor comes out of his palace with his
retinue of ministers and high officials, and guides a plough across a
field that has been prepared for his royal coming. By this act he assumes
the leadership in the agricultural work of the nation, and just as he
stands on the sacred hill by the Temple of Heaven once in the year and
becomes the High Priest for his people, so in this annual ceremony he is
for the moment the supreme farmer that would invite the golden harvests
that are to be reaped by and by, and which will fill the homes throughout
the wide extent of his Empire with abundance and prosperity.

The great mass of the farmers in China own their own land, which has in
the main descended from father to son for many generations, though in
consequence of the poverty of the people a very large amount of buying and
selling of farms is constantly going on all over the country. The
absolutely insolvent character of Chinese society is to the foreigner one
of the most remarkable features about it, and one that contains so many
perplexing elements, that after many an effort to solve it he drops it as
a puzzle to which he can find no answer.

It may be assumed as an undoubted fact that fully seven-tenths of the
whole nation are in hopeless debt, from which they will never be able to
release themselves as long as they live. Another tenth owe money, and
though these have the means of freeing themselves whenever their bills
become due, the tendency to borrow seems to have become so inwrought into
the very blood and fibre of a Chinaman that he cannot resist doing so on
the least provocation. The remaining fifth are the men of means that have
capital at their disposal, and who are the money-lenders to any one that
can give the least shred of security that the interest and capital will be
forthcoming at the particular times that are agreed upon.

But even these last are borrowers as well as lenders. No Chinaman would
ever dream of possessing money and not putting it out to interest. It
would be considered the sheerest waste to let it lie idle for a single
day, and so they are continually on the look-out for impecunious people to
whom they can lend with safety. In addition to this, he will borrow at a
certain interest, and then relend at a higher rate, and so money keeps
flowing backwards and forwards into his coffers, and though he loses
occasionally, his gains are so large and on the whole so certain, that his
wealth slowly but surely increases, whilst the seven-tenths I have already
spoken of become more and more hopelessly involved.

There are several reasons why the farming population should be so much at
the mercy of the money-lenders, though it must be understood that these
are not a special class of people that get their living by letting out
money at any extravagant rate of interest. Every man or woman that has a
spare dollar, at once becomes a money-lender, so that the creditors to
whom they are in debt are those in the same position in life, but who are
fortunate in having a little more spare cash at their disposal.

The smallness of the great mass of the farms is one great disposing cause
why their owners are always in such a perilous financial position. Under
ordinary favourable circumstances, these small farmers can work their
holdings so that they can make ends meet. Still, even then there is only a
very small margin left for the contingencies that this Eastern climate and
its great red-hot fiery sun are always producing. Should there be a
deficiency in the rainfall, and the rice be left in a waterless field, or
should the great typhoons blow with hurricane force, and the flood-gates
of Heaven be opened so that the growing crops shall be beaten down and
submerged beneath the deluge of waters, then indeed the condition of the
farmer is pitiable in the extreme.

There is no resource left them but to borrow, and with the fatal facility
of the Chinese for adopting this plan to relieve their immediate
necessities, they resort to it with a carelessness of spirit that is
perfectly astonishing to a Westerner. An Englishman, for example, with an
ordinary sense of honour will shrink from borrowing money, unless he has
in his mind some definite plan of being able to repay it at some period
in the near future. A Chinaman's mind being afflicted with turbidity is
not troubled with thoughts of this kind. He seems to be able to grasp but
one idea at a time, and that is that he is desperately pressed for money,
and that by bringing along the deeds of his farm, and depositing them with
a rich neighbour, sufficient money will be advanced him to meet his needs.
Beyond that he does not take the trouble to think, but he hopes that in
some indefinite way he will be able to pay the debt and redeem his deeds.

The light and airy way with which a man will borrow sums that he must know
he can never hope to repay is most charming for its naïve simplicity,
especially when the high rate of interest that is demanded everywhere is
considered. Twelve per cent. is a moderate charge, and is asked where the
securities are of a first-rate character. Where these are slightly
doubtful, double amount is demanded and obtained, and even as much as
thirty-three per cent. is paid by persons who are in great straits, and
who wish to be accommodated for a short period of time. An ordinary farmer
that borrows at this ruinous rate of interest, unless he has a series of
exceptionally good years during which his crops have been most abundant
and luxuriant, can hardly hope to pay anything beyond that, and happy will
he be indeed if he has not occasionally to add some of the unpaid interest
to the original sum he borrowed, and thus add to the liabilities that he
is unable to discharge now.

This widespread existence of debt, which I may say is just as prevalent in
the cities as in the rural districts, is the cause of a great deal of
suffering, especially amongst the farmers, and comes very heavily upon the
girls. A farmer, for example, borrows fifty dollars (£5) from a well-to-do
man, with the stipulation that fifteen per cent. be paid for the use of
the money. When the time comes for the payment of the interest there is
not a spare dollar in the house. The year has been a bad one, and sickness
has been in the home and medicines have had to be bought. The result is,
all the money that had been gradually put aside to give to the
money-lender has vanished. The creditor insists, however, upon being paid;
he will not be put off, and when he is assured that they have no possible
way of raising money before the taking in of the next crop, he quietly
points to their little daughter, that with the guilelessness of childhood
is amusing herself in her own childish, simple way, whilst the discussion
is going on with her father and mother, about the money that has fallen
due.

This child is a sweet-faced little girl of about eight years old. She has
large black eyes, and a round fat little face, and a merry smile that
flashes across it and that gives it such a sunny look that she seems like
a sunbeam as she darts in and out of the house in the course of her
childish gambols. Both the father and the mother understand exactly what
the money-lender means by that significant motion, and without any further
discussion they promise that if he will come again in three days more,
they will pay not only the interest due to him, but the fifty dollars they
had borrowed from him.

Next morning the little girl, who is their only child, is asked if she
would not like to go into the great city a few miles away, and see the
sights and buy some rare toys that she knows can be got there. She dances
for very joy at the idea, and after breakfast she sets out in high glee
with her father to see the wonderful things in that great town and to
bring back a present for her mother, who bids good-bye to her with
tear-dimmed eyes, and a weight upon her heart as she takes a last
lingering look at her little one that she knows she will never set eyes
upon again.

Upon their arrival in the city, the father, instead of visiting the
toy-shops, makes his way to a large imposing-looking mansion where a
wealthy family resides, and after some bargaining the little girl is sold
to them to become their slave, and to be their absolute property to treat
and dispose of as they may deem right. When this transaction is finished
and seventy dollars have been transferred to the father, he tells his
little girl, who has been looking with wondering gaze at the glories of
the house to which she had been brought, to rest awhile and he will call
for her by and by when he has seen to some little business that he has to
do in a neighbouring street. She little dreams as he goes out of the great
door that she will never see him again, and never more will her mother's
eyes look down upon her with the light of affection beaming in them, nor
ever again will she see the flash of love illumining her face as she runs
to her with some childish grievance or some question that she wishes her
to answer. She is a slave now and has lost her freedom, and her new master
can dispose of her as he thinks best; and all this she suffers that the
debts of the home may be paid and the homestead may be saved from passing
into other hands.

The Chinese farms as a rule are small. This is almost entirely due to the
custom that prevails in China of the land being divided amongst the sons
when the father dies. The constant subdivision that has been going on
during the centuries of the past has resulted in the great diminishing in
the size of the holdings, and the leaving of many of the rural population
without any land at all.

There are of course many rich landowners who have invested their capital
in land, and who have a superabundance of it. Where the native banks are
uncertain and the modes of investment few and precarious, it has been
found that to buy up farms brings in after all the highest interest, and
is more to be relied upon than any other method of disposing of surplus
funds.

A large number of farms are just large enough to support a family, say,
of four or five people, but should the seasons be unfavourable, and the
crops be parched by the fiery-faced sun and gradually be scorched to death
in the fields, then sorrow comes upon the home, and the money-lender has
to be sought to give relief. A still more considerable number of farms are
too small even under the very best conditions to support the family. The
fields are too few, though cultivated with the deft and cunning hand of
the Chinese farmer, to produce food enough for the home, and so plans have
to be thought of by which the deficiency may be met, and food and clothes
provided for the wife and the little ones.

It is this widespread condition of affairs that has made the farmer in
this land one of the handiest men in all the four great divisions into
which society has been divided. The pressing needs of his home, and the
absolute necessity for some mode of increasing his income if he would keep
it together, have taxed his wits to the very utmost, and consequently have
developed his thought and his ingenuity.

Some of them open little shops, where they sell miscellaneous articles
that do not require a large capital to the neighbours and others who do
not care for travelling as far as the neighbouring city to make such small
purchases. Others, again, who have no money whatever to invest in even
such small enterprises as these, start for some great centre of trade and
there act as coolies. They become the beasts of burden of the whole city.
Their muscles have been toughened by toil on their farms and their minds
have been developed in their struggle with nature, so that they become
valuable auxiliaries in doing the heavy work connected with the business
of the town.

The favourite resorts of these farmers that are striving to keep a home
above their heads, are the great shipping ports, where foreign vessels
bring their cargoes from the four corners of the earth. Here labour is
abundant and better paid, and consequently the chances of saving money
considerably greater.

In Shanghai, for example, and Hongkong, the two greatest shipping ports in
this extreme East, it is intensely interesting to watch how the farmers
flock to them, to do the rough and dangerous work of loading and unloading
the steamers and sailing ships that come in almost daily from their ocean
voyages. Thousands of them congregate on the wharves and jetties waiting
to be called off to the ships that are lying in the stream. Usually they
are a rough-looking crowd, and, judged by a similar class of men that are
seen in our home ports, they would seem to be of a much inferior character
to those that we are accustomed to see there.

They are poorly clad, and their clothes are of such an unpicturesque
description and so badly fitting and usually so full of patches, that they
give one the impression that they must be the very refuse of the
neighbourhoods from which they have come. If they were Englishmen, we
would call them loafers and tramps who had gathered round the dock gates,
not really to get work, but to pose as members of the unemployed in order
that charity might be doled out to them.

But every man there is a _bona fide_ farmer, who has so studied the
mysteries of nature that he is able to wring her secrets out of her, and
cause the fields to be covered with luxuriant crops. They nearly all have
farms, and the wives and children are working them whilst they are away,
and living on the barest subsistence that will keep body and soul together
until they return with their hard-earned gains to drive away the wolf from
the door, and to satisfy the inexorable money-lender, who will have
nothing less than his pound of flesh.

[Illustration: A HARBOUR SCENE (HONG KONG).]

And bravely do the men toil at the work that is to bring independence to
their homes. Down in the deep holds of the great ships, with but small
intermissions the livelong day, the huge bales of goods are swung by
sturdy arms that seem made of iron into the lighters alongside, and at
last as the sun shows signs of setting, the men wipe the dripping
perspiration from their faces, and with laughter and jokes that show the
unconquerable pluck of these brave fellows they quit their work for the
day.

Other farmers, again, have heard of the golden legends that have been
wafted to them from the Straits and Java and Borneo, and from Sumatra,
which have told of the fortunes that are to be made there by men who are
willing to work. Those lands are to the Chinese what the fabled country
that was said to contain the Golden Fleece was to the Grecian heroes that
set sail to gain possession of it for themselves. They feel that if they
linger in their homes, poverty and hunger must be the lot from which there
is no escape, and so, leaving their farms to be worked by the women, they
set their faces towards the setting sun, and with their brains dancing
with visions of fortunes that they are to discover there, they start on
the long journey, in the hopes that in a very few years they will return
with money sufficient to pay off their debts, and with enough left to
enable them to live in comfort the rest of their lives. And so the lands
that lie about the equator, and the countless islands that look straight
up at the sun, and the Malay Peninsula, where the forests cover the land
and countless myriads of mosquitoes sing their high-keyed songs, men from
the great Empire of China abound throughout them all. They make the roads,
and they dig in the tin mines, and they pull the jinrickshaws, and they
seem to be the great workers everywhere. Who are these men that thrust
themselves so prominently upon the notice of the stranger and the
traveller? They surely must be the refuse of the land from which they have
come, for here they are the hewers of wood and the drawers of water. They
are nothing of the kind, for nearly every man you see is a farmer in that
great Empire of China, and through the stress of poverty and the desire to
save his home from distress, he has come to do any work, no matter how
menial, that will enable him to accumulate enough to return to his beloved
home to bring succour to those who are enduring whilst he is away.

The farmer is truly the handy man of China, for he seems to be able to
turn his hand to almost anything, and to succeed fairly well in whatever
he touches. He can turn sailor at a moment's notice, and he seems as
familiar amongst the ropes and in the management of the helm as he is
amongst the growing grain, that appears to recognize his presence and to
rustle and whisper with gladness as he passes unconcernedly with the air
of a master down through its midst. All the great fleets of boats that
cast their shadows upon the mighty rivers of China are manned and worked
by farmers, who, when their voyages are over, return home it may be for a
shorter or longer period, and aid the wives in the management of the few
fields, that they manage with the same tact and cunning touch of hand as
their husbands would do were they not compelled to go afield to earn
something to eke out the scanty produce that they are able to get out of
their farms.

The stranger from abroad travelling by the native boats that sail, say, up
the Yangtze for a thousand miles or more, is struck with the intelligence
and activity and pleasant, sociable character of the men that work the
boat. He is with them for weeks together, and he admires the quiet,
efficient way in which they manage the sails, or get out on the bank and
tow her against the stream when there is a head wind or perhaps a dead
calm. He never once suspects that they never spent any time as apprentices
in learning their business, but that every one of them, even including the
captain, is a born farmer, and that his real vocation is to till the
lands that his fathers have transmitted to him.

A picnic party is organized to ascend a mountain that rears its lofty head
above the plain that lies at its feet. The gentlemen can walk, but the
ladies must have sedan chairs to carry them up the narrow pathways trodden
by the feet of the buffaloes, and by those of the woodcutters who climb up
high on the hillsides to cut down fuel for the homes in the villages
below. The ordinary chair-bearers accustomed to carry on the level roads
would be no use on these rough and rocky ribands of pathways, that only
men who are surefooted and have the wind to mount up steep inclines could
travel with safety.

In this emergency a number of farmer lads are engaged, and though they do
not carry the chair as scientifically as the regular carriers, they will
fly up the steepest hill, and jump over chasms, and surmount boulders in a
way that these latter would never attempt. The process is a little rough
and one is apt to get somewhat shaken, but there is never any danger of
the men falling or of their precipitating their fare over the edge of a
precipice into the yawning ravine beneath.

Where the villages are near the great thoroughfares, the carrying of sedan
chairs is a very favourite method with the farmers of earning a few extra
cash to help to meet the expenses of the home. After the crops have been
gathered in, and the rush of work is over, they are accustomed to stand at
various points on the roadside, and watch for the coming of sedan chairs
that may be passing up or down. No sooner do they come opposite them than
they call out and ask the bearers whether they do not wish to engage some
one to give them a rest for a few miles and to carry their burden for
them. If the men they address have been carrying for some hours and have
grown weary, negotiations ensue which end in their dropping the chair on
the road, and its being hoisted on to the shoulders of the new men, who,
full of vigour and anxious to get their job finished, rush on like
racehorses over the rough, uneven road.

The payment for this toilsome labour is of the most meagre and
unsatisfactory description. One day I was travelling over one of these
great thoroughfares, and the men that were carrying me were becoming
somewhat exhausted. The road, which had been very much left to nature to
repair, was in a shockingly bad condition. It ran, moreover, through a
very hilly country, and sometimes it wound up the sides of hills, and
again it descended by rough, circuitous windings into the valley far
beneath. The men had the greatest difficulty in keeping from falling. The
chair on their shoulders was heavy, and the road was strewed with stones,
and tiny waterways that the rains and the streams from the hills had cut
into it had to be jumped. Very often I had to hold my breath in terror
lest in passing over the face of a sloping rock the men's feet should
slip, and I should find myself rolling down the hillside into a miniature
rapid that fretted and foamed as it whirled and tossed in its wild career
towards the plain below.

My two bearers, who would have trotted along on an even road with only an
occasional grunt, or a muttered expression as to the hardness of their lot
in life, broke into expressions of disgust as the various difficulties of
the way came one by one upon them; still they struggled manfully on, till
finally we reached a small oasis in the hills, where a few houses
embowered amid splendid banyan-trees offered refreshments to the
travelling public as well as to our panting, perspiring chair-bearers, who
dragged their weary limbs under the shadow of the great boughs of the
trees, and dropping the chair in the middle of the road, threw themselves
utterly exhausted and worn out on the benches that had been provided for
those who intended to purchase refreshments before they proceeded further
on their journey.

After sitting for a moment listless and drooping, with apparently no
strength to utter a word, one of my men held up his hand deftly fashioned
into the shape of a bowl, when the shopkeeper, who had kept a keen eye
upon the newcomers as possible customers, at once dipped out a bowlful of
steaming rice from a huge cauldron that was kept on the boil, and placed
it within the bowl-shaped fingers with a pair of chopsticks laid across
it, ready for the immediate use of the weary coolie. At the same time he
placed before him a tiny little platter in which were some nicely browned
strips of fried bean curds to act as appetizer to the rice, and to arouse
his flagging appetite.

After a few minutes of solemn stillness, when the only sounds that were
heard from the weary men were the music of the chopsticks and the
satisfied sighs as the rice was driven down their throats by the two
"nimble boys" (a pleasant title given by the Chinese to the chopsticks),
the faces of the men began to lighten up. The weary look vanished, smiles
covered the yellow visages, and soon jokes were cracked and bantering
language was tossed from table to table, until the air rang with the
echoes of their laughter.

At this juncture two farmers stepped out from a number who were hanging
about in a listless fashion, and asked my men if they did not wish to hire
for the next stage, which was about three miles long. At first they
pretended that they did not, but that was simply bluff and intended to
knock the price down. After some noisy discussion, the men said they would
carry for forty-five cash. It must be remembered here that one cash is the
thousandth part of two shillings. My men objected that the sum asked was
extravagant, and offered ten less. Another wordy contest ensued, when the
farmers came down to forty, whilst my men came up to thirty-eight.

Both sides refused to budge an inch, so my chair was once more hoisted
upon the shoulders of the chair coolies, and we issued from beneath the
branches of the banyan into the glare of the great sun, and the weary
march along the toilsome roads was once more begun. We had proceeded on
our journey fully a third of a mile, and the whole incident had passed
from my mind, when loud sounds of voices calling out were heard behind. In
an instant my men let the chair slip from their shoulders on to the road,
and stood quietly within the bamboo poles, as though they were expecting
some one. "What is the matter," I asked, "and why do you stop?" "Oh," one
of them replied, with a twinkle in his eyes, "the farmers have consented
to carry you this stage for thirty-eight cash, and so we are going to have
a rest."

By this time the men had come up, and putting on their straw sandals to
protect their feet from the rough stones, tightened their girdles, twisted
their tails round the crowns of their heads, and tossing the chair on to
their brawny shoulders, they started with a run on their three-mile race.
They might have been chair coolies all their lives, considering the easy
manner in which they manipulated the chair, and the perfect way in which
they kept step, and yet they were simple farmers, whose lives are spent in
the cultivation of the soil, but whose poverty has compelled them to
devise some rough methods to enable them to drive the wolf from their
doors. Some idea of the strain that has been put upon them may be gathered
from the fact that these men were willing to carry me for three miles and
walk back the same distance for the trifling sum of thirty-eight cash,
which was to be equally divided between the two, and which would thus give
each one a little under a halfpenny.

The Chinese farmer stands second to none in all the world. It would seem,
indeed, as though nature recognized in him a master hand, and that she
responded to his touch, and poured out her riches in willing obedience to
a mind that understood her and had learned her secrets. There is
nothing in the world of agriculture that a Chinese farmer does
not understand--that is, as far as the products of this land are
concerned--and he seems to know the peculiarities of each, and their moods
and their whims, and to be able to coax them to show their best face when
the time of the harvesting comes round.

This is all the more remarkable since he has really so few implements with
which to work the marvels he produces. These are the hoe, the plough, and
the harrow, and beyond these the Chinese farmer never dreams of desiring
any other. The first of these seems never to be out of his hands, for it
is the one upon which he relies the most, and the one that is really the
most effective implement that he possesses for the cultivation of the
soil. It really takes the place of the spade in England, though the latter
is never put to such extensive and general uses as the hoe. The Chinaman
can do anything with it but make it speak. A farmer well on in years can
easily be recognized amidst a number of working men by the curve his hands
have taken from holding the hoe in the many years of toil in his fields
with it.

With it, if he is a poor man and has no oxen to plough the ground, he
turns up the soil where he is going to plant his crops, and with it he
deftly, and with a turn of his wrist, levels out the surface so that it is
made ready for the seed. With a broad-bladed hoe he dips to the bottom of
a stream or of a pond, and he draws up the soft mud that had gathered
there, and with a dexterous swing he flings the dripping hoeful on to his
field near by to increase its richness by this new deposit. The stump of a
tree will send out its roots wandering for moisture underneath a choice
little plot where his potatoes are growing, and the farmer feels that
these are an infringement upon the rights of the plants that look to him
for protection. He seizes his hoe, and with a few sturdy strokes of its
keen, sharp edge driven into its very heart in a short time the stump has
vanished, and the roots have ceased tapping the moisture that the potato
tubers require for their own growth.

But it would take up too much space to describe all the thousand and one
ways in which this truly national implement is used by the farmers of
China. It is quite enough to say that without it they would be left quite
helpless, and if the agriculture of the country was to be carried on, some
other implement equally serviceable would have to be devised to take its
place. The plough and the harrow are of secondary importance to the hoe,
but still they occupy a prominent position in the agricultural economy of
the nation. They are of course antiquated, for they have come down from
the remote past untouched by any inventive genius during the long
centuries that have elapsed since they were devised in the early dawn of
Chinese history. To alter them, or even to make a suggestion that they
could be improved in any way, would be such a monstrous heresy that the
nation's hair would turn grey, and would cause the spirits of their
ancestors such misery and shame that there is no knowing what calamities
they might send upon the Empire to avenge their wrongs.

The ability of the farmer in this country is measured by the crops he is
able to produce. China is an old country, and for countless generations
the teeming populations have had to get their living out of the land.
There is no rest given it, for one rarely sees any of the fields being
allowed to lie fallow in order to give them time for recuperation. The
pressure of the hungry mouths is upon it, and to satisfy the needs of the
people they must go on indefinitely producing sustenance for them. It is
here where the genius of the Chinese farmer comes in. If hungry stomachs
can only be satisfied by a supply of food, so the impoverished, famished
land can be made to bear the strain upon its resources by putting into it
a liberal supply of manures.

This, after all, is the true secret of abundant crops. The land, in the
South of China at least, is mostly of a poor and indifferent character.
Along the courses of rivers and in the alluvial valleys it is rich enough,
and produces splendid crops year after year. But when you get beyond
these, and come into the hilly regions, you touch upon territories that
are exceedingly reluctant, excepting when they are liberally supplied with
manures, to produce crops that are worth the gathering.

The Chinese farmer has no scientific knowledge as to how he should best
develop his farm, but he knows by experience that unless the land is
coaxed and petted with an ample supply of manures, no acquaintance with
the art of farming will avail to cover it with the harvests that will keep
his family from hunger, and that will still leave a margin to be sold in
the market to bring enough to meet the incidental expenses of the home.

The list of fertilizers in China is a very brief one, and bones and
beancake are two important ones in it, but the one that stands the first
and foremost in the estimation of the farmers throughout the country is
nightsoil. This is the one that is universally used because it is the
cheapest, and also because it is the only really available one. The system
by which that important manure is collected and distributed is a
thoroughly perfect one, and ages of practice has made the managers of this
intricate business so well up in it that there is never any hitch in it.
The towns and cities, and any place indeed where a considerable population
has collected, are so relieved of their accumulations that the Government
is never called upon to interfere, nor are sanitary inspectors ever
appointed to see to their cleanliness or to prevent the people from
suffering from insanitary conditions.

A regular trade is carried on between the towns and the farms that lie in
all directions around them in this particular manure, and the farmers'
wives, who are the principal carriers of it, will come into town in the
early morning and carry it miles away to their houses in all directions
throughout the country places. On one occasion I had started out from a
large city of at least a hundred thousand people and had got a few miles
from it, when I overtook twenty or thirty young farmers' wives carrying
their purchases in buckets slung on bamboo poles resting on their
shoulders, and a merrier set of women it would have been difficult to have
met with.

They seemed quite unconcerned at the heavy loads they had to carry or the
miles that still lay between them and their homes, nor did they appear to
consider that there was any disgrace in having to perform the duties they
were doing. They seemed, indeed, to forget all about the toil they had to
endure, for they laughed and chatted and joked with each other till the
road echoed with the sound of their merry voices. The exercise, which was
severe, did not seem to fatigue them, for their eyes twinkled with humour
and their brown faces were covered with smiles, and they looked so good
humoured and full of pleasant thoughts that it was really a treat to look
upon them. Every day these women would come into the city until they had
carried enough to their little holdings to suffice for the crop they were
going to put in, and then they would have a respite until that had been
gathered and it was time to make preparations for the next one.

In the South of China there are two great crops in the year, that absorb
the greater part of the energies of the farmers whilst they are in the
fields. These consist of the rice which is the staple food for all classes
of society, and which occupies the place in the social economy of the
Chinese that wheat does in that of the English. The first is gathered in
July and the second in November, and from the time that the first crop is
put in during the month of April, until the second one is garnered, it may
be positively asserted that there is a continued tension on the mind of
the farmer.

[Illustration: CHINESE FARMERS.]

The planting of the rice is not the simple thing that the cultivation of
wheat is. This latter is sown in land that has been carefully prepared for
it, and after that it is left very much to nature to do the rest. The rain
falls, and the sun shines and the dews lay their diamond drops on the
growing grain, and the farmer looks at the miracles of changes that are
wrought upon it, until golden-hued he puts the sickle in and gathers it
into his barns. With the rice there is no such luxurious rest or waiting.

He first of all sows his seed in a plot of land that is full of water, and
they fall into the soft oozy mud at the bottom and take root. As the
little spires pierce above the surface, they have the most exquisite
light-green that the eye has ever been pleased to look upon. They grow up
rapidly with an airy look about them as though they were conscious that
the farmer is depending upon them for the whole of his rice crop during
this season. They do indeed constitute the stock from which he draws the
materials to fill his empty fields waiting to be planted with rice plants.

After they have grown to the height of five or six inches they are all
pulled up by the roots, and in little bundles of four or five they are
replanted in the larger fields that have been prepared for them, each
bundle standing apart from the rest about three or four inches. And now
the race of life begins with the several little bunches that have their
roots submerged in water, and their emerald pointed leaves looking up at
the blue sky. They started life together and grew up side by side, and now
marshalled in groups they are not rivals, but friendly competitors in the
race to show which shall give the best of beauty and power to the farmer
who is caring for them.

From this day until the hour when they are cut down golden-hued, there
must be no faltering in the care that is bestowed upon them. The water in
the field must always be kept up to a certain level, for should that fail
the serried ranks of rice would soon show how keenly they felt its loss,
by their drooping heads and distressed-looking manner, as the great sun
beat down upon them, and seemed to paralyze them with his scorching rays.
Water must be led in some way into the field, or if there is a stream
running close by, the endless water-wheel must be set in motion until
little rivulets have flowed in, and the gaping cracks in the mud are
closed up, and the thirsty roots have drunk their fill, and the drooping
stalks once more stand up erect and look the sun in the face without
flinching.

Every now and again, too, the farmer must walk between the marshalled
ranks and with his hands tenderly feel at the roots of each separate bunch
of the growing rice to remove any impediment there may be to the free
access of water to them. These roots seem like spoiled children that need
petting and coaxing and humouring in order to be willing to send up the
vital forces through the stalks above so as to help them to produce the
healthy heads of grain that are to give delight to the farmer when he
comes to gather in the harvest.

In addition to this precious crop that needs so much attention, the
cultivator has others that claim his thoughts and time. These are the
beans that are used in the manufacture of soy and in the making of bean
curds that are considered so important as condiments to be eaten with the
rice. There are also the sweet potatoes which in some of the poorer
counties are the staple food of all but the well-to-do. There are also
various kinds of vegetables which the Chinese are most expert in growing,
but the cultivation of these is considered as pastime when compared with
the incessant care and labour that have to be bestowed on the rice crop
from the very first day that the seed is cast upon the waters until the
moment when the fields are allowed to run dry, and the golden-hued stalks
rear their heads in the air with no more anxiety as to whether the rain
shall ever fall again or not.

The one element that causes the farmer most distress in his cultivation of
the rice is the uncertainty of the weather. When the rainy season has been
one in which abundance of rain has been poured down upon the earth, so
that the fountains that lie beneath the wells and close by the ponds are
filled to overflowing, then his mind is comparatively at rest. He knows
there is a perennial supply that can constantly be drawn upon, when the
water begins to ebb away in the fields where the rice is growing. Should
the showers that the thunderstorms pour down occasionally from the clouds
that gather so quickly in the sky come with any kind of regularity, his
mind is still more relieved, and he can think with equanimity of the day
that is coming when he will gather his precious crop into his garner.

Such an experience, however, as this is not one that falls very often to
the lot of the anxious farmer. The rainy seasons are apt to be capricious,
and to withhold the rich stores of rain and moisture without which not
only his rice, but his beans and his potatoes will be scorched in the
field and will wither and perish before his very eyes. It is pitiful to
watch the efforts that he has to make to try and preserve his crops from
destruction when the year is a dry one.

The days go by, and every morning his first looks are towards the hills
around which the clouds have gathered during the night. There seems a
great promise in the dense masses that have gathered around some lofty
peak, and it is hoped that to-day at last, after weary days of expecting,
the rain that is to save the crops will come down in abundant showers. The
sun by and by rises in a great red orb of scorching heat, and his rays
flash as though they had come straight from a furnace, and they touch the
clouds that have taken refuge on the hills, and slowly they vanish into
thin air and are gone.

Another day of heat, and the sun in a cloudless sky draws up the water
that is standing at the feet of the rice, and he looks upon the ponds and
they dissolve in vapour, and he touches the vines of the sweet potatoes
with his breath and they turn pale with anguish, and the tubers within the
ridges wither up and die for want of moisture. Days and sometimes weeks of
this go by, till one wonders at the vitality of nature that can endure
such a fiery ordeal and have anything left to tell the tale.

It is on such occasions as these that the profoundest grief and sorrow are
felt by the farmers. The dried-up ponds are dug still deeper to reach any
reserve of the precious fluid that may have sunk below the surface, and in
order to secure that none of that shall be absorbed by the sun, they carry
on their operations about the hours of midnight, when the air has become
slightly cooler, and when every drop of water can be saved for the dying
crops near by. It very often occurs that the farmers of a whole district
will be out in the dark nights, and with their hoes are busily engaged in
turning up every available spot of ground to discover whether there is any
water below. Where the ponds border on each other's fields, the fiercest
struggles will frequently take place for the possession of the discovered
treasure, and the night air will resound with the noise of battle, and
wounded men will be carried to their homes to add to the bitterness and
the grief that have already thrown their shadows there.

In the earlier part of this chapter it was stated that in consequence of
the custom of dividing the farms amongst the sons and not handing them
over to the eldest, as is done in England, a great many of them are too
small to support even a small family, whilst many of what might be called
the younger sons are left without any land whatever. It has become the
custom with many such people to rent lands from others who have a surplus
of such on their hands. It is the custom for rich men to invest their
money in the purchase of farms, which they let out to others to cultivate,
and taking one year with another they find this is a very profitable way
of disposing of the ready money they have at their command.

The system of letting out their lands is thoroughly Oriental and quite
different from that which is in vogue in the West. The landlords do not
charge any rent, but they share the produce with the tenant. This seems a
most equitable arrangement, for when the years are good both tenant and
owner mutually reap the benefit, whilst in the seasons when a scarcity of
rain prevents the ground from producing as much as it legitimately ought
to do, both parties share in the sorrow of diminished crops.

The rule that prevails very generally is for the landlord to take half the
crop after it has been gathered. The tenant provides seed, manure, and
labour, and for his use of the land he hands over a half of all that it
produces. It is very interesting to watch the proceedings that take place
when the times comes for harvesting the various kinds of crops during the
year. The tenant, with his wife and sons, if he has any, repairs to the
field where the grain is ready for the sickle. It is a time of great
rejoicing, as it is in all countries, and the months of labour and anxiety
are for the time being forgotten in the joy of the golden grain that is
now waiting to be gathered.

But another figure is there, who takes no share in the harvesting. He is
well dressed and does not have the air of a farmer about him. He has
taken his seat on a bank or some place where he can keep his eye upon the
whole of the joyous proceedings that are being carried on. Upon inquiry we
find that he is an agent of the landlord, and has come to receive his half
of the contents of the field. He has bags with him to put his share in,
and when the rice is cut and at once threshed on the field, the half is
duly measured and handed over to him.

By this arrangement all arrears of rent are avoided, and the distress of
feeling in debt to one's landlord is never experienced by the farmers of
China. That their life is an anxious and a troubled one, I have shown very
fully, and that sometimes their crops are too small to meet the needs of
the family. These are inevitable in the very nature of things, but there
is one thing that they are never troubled with, and that is excessive
rents. Rack-renting is a thing from which they are mercifully preserved,
and it is one sign of the common-sense of the Chinese, and of their
instinct for fair play both for landlord and tenant, that the present
system was initiated ages ago, and is still carried out all over the
country.



CHAPTER IX

A RAMBLE THROUGH A CHINESE CITY

    Peculiarities of a Chinese town--Narrow streets--Smells--Mean-looking
    buildings--One storey--Description of a silk shop--Uncleanness the
    rule--Sights on the streets--Itinerant kitchen--Crowds on the
    streets--No rows--A mandarin and his retinue--Beggars--Fish
    market--Shoe street--No public-houses--An opium den.


The sight of a Chinese city is something that one never forgets, for there
are so many features about it that are absolutely new, that our minds are
so impressed by what we see that a photograph of them is engraven upon our
memories that will never be erased. Our conceptions of a city are those
that we have gathered from those that we have seen in England, and we
picture to ourselves wide streets with pavements on each side, where the
foot passengers walk in comfort without having to jostle each other. We
see, too, in imagination lofty houses, built with a certain degree of
regularity and with taste about them. Cleanliness, too, is one of the
things that we remember as being associated with it, whilst policemen day
and night patrol the streets and preserve order amongst the people that
travel along them. Cabs, and trams, and omnibuses crowded with passengers
are the conspicuous objects that are to be met with in any moderate-sized
towns in the homeland.

Now, all the above things are absent from any part of a Chinese city that
one may happen to visit in any portion of the Empire. This statement is
made with a good deal of confidence, for, unlike the cities of the West,
which all vary more or less one from another, the Chinese towns are very
much facsimiles of each other, and when you have seen one, you may
confidently assert you have a very true conception of what all the rest
are like.

The ideal city was drawn in the brain of the designers and builders of the
first one in the remote and misty past of Chinese History, and the
spectacle evidently has seemed so sublime and overpowering to the
succeeding generations of Chinese that no original genius has appeared
since then to dare to suggest anything better. And so every city is built
upon the same model throughout the length and breadth of the land, and
whilst some are larger and more imposing than others, the plan of the
walls and the configuration of the streets, and the architecture of the
houses are pretty much the same everywhere.

But here is a town close at hand, and so, without waiting to discuss the
theory of a Chinese city, let us boldly enter in and see with our own eyes
exactly what it is like.

The first street we travel along gives us a shock.

Instead of the broad and spacious roadway along which the traffic is
carried, we come into a narrow, dingy-looking artery which at its extreme
breadth is not wider than twelve feet, and even that is not all available
for the use of those that have to pass up and down it. The shopkeepers on
both sides have put out their counters, on which they expose their goods,
so that only five or six feet are left free for the use of the public.

This particular street which we are now in is not an exceptional one, in
fact it is one of the principal ones in the town, and therefore is a very
fair sample of what the business quarter is like. If we were to diverge
down the side streets that run into it we should find them all much
narrower, more forbidding, more dingy and very much dirtier.

We have not advanced far in our walk before we begin to be conscious of
peculiar odours that seem to be the heritage of the East. The air is never
fresh, but at corners of the street and indentations in the houses, and
on the spots not actually in use, there are always accumulations of refuse
and garbage that fester in the sun and send out the most abominable
smells. But these are healthy and playful when compared with others that
now and again seem to strike one as if with a sledge-hammer and paralyze
one for the moment.

These are caused by the foulness of the drain that lies underneath the
centre of the street. As the roads are so narrow and are occupied by
houses on both sides, the only available place for the drainage of the
city is right through the middle of the roadway.

There is no Public Board of Works to superintend the construction of
these, and as the Chinese as a race have very hazy and elementary ideas as
to the necessity for drains of any kind, it may easily be imagined how
badly they make them. The result is that gases generate and evil smells
collect for which there is no escape excepting through the cracks of the
stone slabs that pave the streets. Never has there yet been a writer with
the genius to describe these. It is simply enough to say that they have
the concentrated essence of the ages in them. They trace back their
ancestry to the times that are lost in myth and fairy tales, and they
would look with disdain upon any of the modern smells, just as an
aristocrat that holds his title from the times of the Conqueror would gaze
with scorn upon some upstart, whose father sold soap and was knighted for
the wealth he had amassed.

It is astonishing that the people that live in the houses near by are not
carried off by typhoid or other deadly fevers, but they are not. They
have, on the other hand, a lively, healthy look about them as though they
lived in some country place, where the air comes fresh from the mountain
near by and where they breathe a wholesome stock of ozone all the year
round.

The fact of the matter is the Chinese have no belief in the word
infection. There is nothing in this huge cumbrous language to express the
idea of germ, bacillus and such like, and so when some terrible odour from
a drain that is seething and frothing in the sun, such as would knock off
the head of a water buffalo, the Chinese puckers up his nose for an
instant and then puts on that childlike smile with which he so often
adorns his countenance, and attends to his business without any more fuss.

Now, this is one of the best streets in the town, and contains goods to
the value of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Some of the wealthiest
merchants in the town have their places of business in it, and yet there
is not one to be compared with any ordinary shop that one meets with in
any of the ordinary streets that abound in our cities in the West.

They have all a comparatively mean-looking appearance. They are only one
storey high and have no fronts in them. When the shutters are taken down
in the morning, the whole of the interior is at once laid bare to the
public gaze, and as only the poorer shops attempt to display the goods
they have for sale, one can see nothing but rolls on the shelves, and
drawers tightly closed, and a number of Chinamen lounging about in a free
and easy way, who are really clerks, but who act with a freedom that would
ensure them being packed off at a moment's notice by any vigilant
shop-walker in a good business house in England.

But here is a silk shop that it will be interesting to visit. It is one of
the best in the whole town, and it is said to contain specimens from all
the famous silk-producing districts in the Empire. It does not seem to
have anything in it, beyond what one sees lying on the shelves, carefully
wrapped up in paper as though the great purpose was to conceal
everything from the gaze of the public. We find our progress impeded by a
large counter within which the clerks lounge about, and as purchasers are
never supposed to sit down, we have to stand on the outside of this, as no
chairs of any kind have been provided, not even for the women, when they
come to buy. Ladies of course never by any chance come out shopping, so
the great majority of the customers are men, and occasionally elderly
women of the middle class, who are not supposed to need to sit down.

[Illustration: A BARBER AND HIS CUSTOMER.

_To face p. 178._]

The appearance of a foreigner causes a commotion, and a
responsible-looking man steps forward with a hesitating manner, evidently
questioning with himself how he is to address you, since he knows nothing
but his own mother-tongue. You inform him, however, in Chinese, that you
have come to look at his silks, and at once his countenance clears, and a
look of pleasure flashes into his eyes and across the wide and expansive
area of his Mongolian features.

The clerks, too, without any apparent restraint from their master's
presence, crowd around and make remarks about your personal appearance,
and criticize your dress, and give their opinion about the way in which
you pronounce Chinese. In the meanwhile two or three have been dispatched
to an inner room, where the precious silks are kept, and they soon appear
with a dozen rolls or so carefully wrapped in paper, and tied with string
to keep the dust and the sunlight from getting to them.

As each one is unrolled, you gaze with absolute delight upon the exquisite
colours that flash upon your sight. Here you have one piece of a delicate
creamy white, that seems too pure to be touched without being defiled.
Next to it is another of a beautiful rose pink, a colour that the
designers must have caught from some rose that had just opened its petals
to the sun, and so as the men deftly unwind the various rolls you have
displayed before you the whole array of colours that the Chinese weavers
have woven into their fabrics, and for the moment the unæsthetic-looking
Chinaman becomes sublimed in your imagination, because of the marvellous
power with which he has reproduced the various hues of nature in the rolls
of silk that are deftly unfolded before you.

The silk you have been examining is of an inferior quality and will not
cost more than sixpence a foot, the standard measure with the Chinese, as
they know nothing of yards in any of their measurements. You ask to see
some of their more expensive articles, and soon the clerks return with
specimens from the looms of Canton, Hangchow, and Soochow, each with its
own distinctive characteristics, and so exquisitely beautiful that you
stand gazing upon them all with admiring looks, and with words that are
quite inadequate to express your high sense of the workmanship displayed
upon them. The amazing thing is to understand how the weavers, in their
poor tumble-down cottages, and with looms so cumbersome and antiquated
that they might have come out of the Ark, could have produced such
exquisite specimens of art as these rolls of silk undoubtedly are.

We pass along this narrow unsavoury street, when we turn into one of the
smaller ones that run into it. The shops here are of a decidedly meaner
character, being inhabited by a much poorer class of people. In plan,
however, they are very similar to the ones in the street we have already
described. There are no fronts to them, and everything that goes on in
them can be distinctly seen and heard by the passers-by. There is this
decided difference in them, that the back part of the shop is the home of
the family that are carrying on the business, which is never the case with
the better ones.

Fortunately the Chinese do not believe in the privacy of the home as we
do. They do not mind having the whole details of their daily experiences
seen by every one that cares to look. How they live, what they eat, and
even the family jars that we try and hush up from the public are things
that seem to be common property, and not to belong exclusively to this
particular family who are most concerned.

The impression one gets from a look into these miserable homes is that the
Chinese idea of comfort differs essentially from our own, and that they
can put up with a vast amount of discomfort such as would drive an
Englishman mad. Their houses are filthily dirty and untidy. The wife after
a few weeks of married life loses the trim, neat appearance she had as a
young girl. She drops naturally into the slattern ways of the women who
are her neighbours, and ere long dust and dirt and cobwebs, and frowsy and
untidy garments, are the leading features of the home.

It would be unwise to infer from this state of things that the Chinese are
unhappy, or that they are conscious that their surroundings have something
in them to induce melancholy or discontent. The ideal of the West is
cleanliness, a thing that the East never seems to aim at, or to even dream
of. This great city through which we are walking is an example of this
latter statement. Its streets are unswept from one year's end to the
other. Heaps of rubbish festering and fermenting in the sun and exhaling
the most unpleasant odours meet you at every turn. The drains are badly
made and left absolutely to themselves until, choked up, they are opened
up for repairs, when the hidden compressed effluvia send their noxious
vapours into the homes around.

The people are highly uncleanly in their persons. They never bathe, and
even in the homes of the rich the bath tub is an unknown luxury. The face
and hands are about the only parts of the body that on ordinary occasions
ever make the acquaintance of water. Their clothes, too, from a Western
standpoint, are anything but satisfactory. They are frowsy and wanting in
the crisp cleanliness that a liberal supply of soap and water impart to
them. There are always certain garments that are worn day after day and
week after week, that men never dream of cleansing in any way whatever.
The lower you go down in the scale of life, the more conspicuous is this
disregard of cleanliness, and yet it does not seem to affect either the
general health or spirits of the people. They are a laughter-loving race,
and jokes and funny stories and everything that would raise a smile to the
face find a ready echo in their hearts. The fact that they are surrounded
by dust and dirt and untidiness such as would put the shivers into any
ordinary Englishman, and dim for the time being the very light of life,
have no seeming effect upon this long-lived race.

The people of this town appear to be endowed either with very good
appetites, or to have very defective arrangements at home for supplying
the wants of the inner man, for there seems to be an altogether
extravagant number of itinerant kitchens with food already cooked
stationed at various corners where the traffic is the greatest, to cater
at once to the public appetite.

Here is one close at hand, and as we have a few minutes to spare let us
draw near and see what it is like. It consists of two wooden stands which
can be slung on to the ends of a stout bamboo pole and carried at a
moment's notice in any direction that suits the owner. Where trade is
brisk at any particular spot, he remains there until his customers desert
him, and then, shouldering his miniature eating-house, he goes off at a
quick trot to the localities where the hungry are most likely to
congregate.

On one of the stands there is a large rice pan which is filled with rice
that is kept just on the boil by a fire that burns underneath. The heat
must be so modulated that it will never blaze into a flame, for to allow
it to do that would be fatal to the success of the enterprise. The
Chinese, who are connoisseurs in the art of cooking rice, can never
tolerate it being boiled to a pulp. The grains must to a certain extent
retain their individuality, and though boiled to the very heart, there
must be no loss of that. The man who would wish to be popular must have
learned the secret of how to please the taste of the most critical. The
other stand is a kind of rough dresser, where the condiments that are to
allure a pleasant passage to the rice are tastefully set out. These are
salted turnips of a brown, leathery look, and the most popular, because
very cheap, of all the various articles that the Chinese eat with their
rice. There are also bean curds and cucumbers pickled crisp and juicy, and
celery and lettuce, and salted beans and plates of various kinds of fish,
and different kinds of soy, which are sprinkled with a sparing hand over
the bowl of rice to give it a flavour in order to induce an appetite with
the first sip that the customer takes of the savoury compound.

It is interesting to watch the deft way with which the man fulfils the
orders that are given him. He first of all ladles out enough rice from the
pan to nearly fill one of the bowls that lies turned upside down on the
dresser. He then selects with his chopsticks a bit of salted turnip and
drops it into the very centre of the steaming rice. Then once more, with
the eye of a connoisseur, he picks up a bit of crisp pickled cucumber
about the size of a bean and drops it on the top. If his customer is
extravagant and is going in for luxuries, he selects a tiny sprat that
lies cooked and ready for use, and places it in a tempting position just
within the lip of the basin, and resting on the rice as though it were in
its native element. A little savoury soy is then sprinkled over the whole,
a pair of chopsticks are daintily laid crosswise over the steaming
compound, and the man whose mouth has been watering all the time this
process has been going on takes it with eager hands, and without any delay
proceeds to satisfy his appetite, and all for the modest sum of a little
over a halfpenny.

Several men are seated on their heels round this peripatetic kitchen,
shovelling down with their chopsticks the good things contained in their
bowls. It does not seem at all strange to any one that they should thus in
the sight of all the passers-by and without tables or chairs be willing to
be seen eating on the public streets. The free-and-easy methods of Eastern
life, as well as the intensely sociable character of the Chinese mind,
make many things possible here that would be considered highly improper in
the West.

The scene before us is a thoroughly Oriental one and in some respects a
very picturesque one. The narrow street only six feet wide, packed as it
were with human life, is a splendid place from which to view the various
items of which the life of the city is composed. Here is a scholar in his
long gown, threadbare and showing signs of decay. Amidst the crowd of
passers-by we should never mistake him for anything but what he is. His
face has that keen intellectual look that the students of this Empire
usually have. Though poor, he has a proud and haughty air, as though he
felt himself higher than any of the crowd that brushes up against him.
Coming close behind him is a farmer, rough and unsophisticated, with the
sun burnt into his face, and with the air of a man who never opened a book
in his life except the ancient one of nature which he has studied to such
a purpose that he can read her secrets and can extract such crops from her
as make his fields laugh for very gladness. Following on is a countryman
whose home lies at the foot of the hills in the near distance. He is
carrying a huge load of brushwood balanced on the ends of a bamboo pole
slung across his shoulders, which he is carrying to the market to be sold
as firewood. He occupies more than half the roadway, and when he swings
his burden from one tired shoulder to the other, the width of the street
is only just enough to contain it. He passes along, however, at a steady
trot as though the town belonged to him. His loud cries, "Clear the way,"
"Get to the side," "I'll bump against you," are uttered with an air of
authority as though some royal edict had given him the authority to take
possession of the road in this masterful manner.

[Illustration: A REFRESHMENT STALL.

_To face p. 184._]

It is amusing to watch the good-natured way in which the ebbing and
flowing crowds yield to this man from the hills. Every one gets out of his
way, and even the scholar, with pride and contempt in his heart for the
unlearned masses, stands meekly at the side of the road and crushes
himself up against a counter to let the imperious seller of firewood pass
by. No thanks are given and none are asked, and as the tide of men close
up behind him, we can hear coming down the air, "I'll bump you," "I'll
bump you," "Go to the side," "Fly, fly," until the sounds so masterfully
given and so meekly obeyed are lost in the distance.

In looking at this moving panorama there is one thing that is strikingly
conspicuous, and that is the good-natured, easy, tolerant way with which
they treat each other on the street. It would seem as though every man,
the moment he got on it, had determined that forbearance shall be the word
that should guide his conduct in his treatment of every one that he meets.
Just think of it: a roadway of five or six feet wide, along which constant
cross currents of people, of all kinds and conditions, are travelling, and
yet no collisions, or at least so rarely that they are not enough to be
quoted. Business men, clerks, coolies, opium-smokers, thieves and
vagabonds, country bumpkins and elegant and refined scholars, all with an
instinctive sense of the rights of others, yield to the necessities of the
road, and bear with infinite good nature whatever inconveniences may
arise, and treat each other with patience and courtesy.

As we have been watching the motley crowds passing and repassing before
us, the man with the kitchen has been doing a roaring business. Customers
have come and gone with most pleasing succession, and the heap of cash
that he has received in payment for the savoury bowls of rice has grown
into a little mound, and as he looks at it his eyes glisten with pleasure.
All at once there is a sudden and mysterious change in his attitude.
Instead of standing with a benevolent look upon the group sitting on their
haunches round his eating-house, he becomes agitated, and hastily bidding
his customers to hurry up, he begins to make preparations for an immediate
move. The men gulp down their rice, the bowls are hurriedly piled up on
the dresser, and before one can hardly realize what is taking place the
kitchen has been shouldered, and he has disappeared at a jog-trot amid a
stream of people that have engulfed him and his belongings.

Whilst we are wondering what it is that has caused this sudden panic and
collapse in a business that was so prosperous, we hear the clang of the
slow and measured beatings of gongs. Higher, too, than the voices around
us there comes trailing on the air, as though unwilling to leave the
locality from which it started, the sound of the word I-O in a crescendo
note, but which finally dies away in a slowly decreasing volume till it
finally vanishes in silence. There is now an agitated movement amongst the
crowds in the street before us. Some seem full of hesitation, as though
undecided what to do; others assume a perplexed air and look about for
some opening into which they may escape. A sedan chair, that comes
lumbering up with the shouts that the bearers usually indulge in to get
the people to make way for them, comes up, but no sooner is the sound of
I-O heard than the men hastily retrace their steps and disappear in the
opposite direction from which they were coming.

The beating of the gongs, and the prolonged wailing sound I-O, in the
meanwhile advance rapidly in our direction, when all at once, all
indecision on the part of the passers-by vanishes, and every man flattens
himself up against the outstanding shop counters, drops his queue that has
been twisted round his head, lets fall his hands by his side and assumes a
look of humility and respect. The centre of the street is in a moment
deserted, and there bursts into view a mandarin with his retinue.

The first members of it who come swaggering down the empty lane are the
men that fill the air with the sound of I-O, in order to warn the crowds
ahead of the coming of the great man. They are a most villainous-looking
set of men, and seem as though they might have been picked up out of the
slums and gutters for the special duty of to-day. At first sight one is
inclined to burst into a loud fit of laughter, for to a Westerner they
have a most comical and ludicrous appearance. Each one has a tall hat on
his head, shaped very much like a fool's cap, but set on awry to meet the
contingencies of their tails that are twisted round their heads. This
makes them look like clowns that have come on to the street from some
neighbouring circus to amuse the populace. A closer look at them, however,
soon dispels that idea, for in their hands they carry long rattans, which
they wield menacingly as though waiting for a chance to let them fall
heavily on the shoulders of some unwary one who is transgressing the rules
of the road and thus showing disrespect to his Excellency. They have a
truculent look as they furtively glance over the silent walls of human
beings that line the roadway, and a discontented, sullen frown overcasts
their faces as they find no chance to use their despotic power on the
person of any unfortunate one.

Immediately behind them comes another set of men, quite as evil-looking,
with chains in their hands. These have a proud and haughty mien, as though
the supreme authority of the town rested in their hands. Should any one be
unwise enough to dispute that for a moment, he would find himself
instantly bound and shackled, and bundled off to prison, where ample time
would be given him to review his temerity.

Coming closely behind these scamps, the luxurious chair of the mandarin,
carried by eight bearers, fills the vacant space in the street. He is the
mayor of the town, and for all practical purposes the supreme power in it.
He is an ideal-looking official, for he is large and massive in
appearance, whilst he has that stern and uncompromising look that is
supposed to be necessary in any magistrate who would hope to keep his
subjects in order. He has a stern and forbidding aspect, as though he were
on his way to the execution ground to have some criminal decapitated. This
is the kind of air that the mandarins put on when they appear in public.
In the course of many years' experience, I have never once seen any one of
them, from the highest to the lowest, with a smile on his face or a look
of sympathy for the people whilst he was being carried officially through
the streets. In a few seconds the procession has passed by, and the human
stream again flows along its ancient channel, and the life of the street
is once more resumed.

We saunter along again closer to humanity than the most crowded city in
the West, except on some great festival, could let one have. The sensation
is not in every respect a pleasant one. The ancient odours of China assert
themselves and will be felt, whilst the aroma of unwashed garments and
persons that never used a bath, gives a delicate taint to the air that is
purely Oriental.

But whilst moving slowly on and carefully guarding lest our feet should
trip against the uneven slabs of stone with which the road is so badly
paved, a strange procession of men catches our eye and at once arrests our
footsteps. We count them one by one, and there are just ten of them, as
gruesome and unsavoury a collection of human beings as could be made were
the whole city to be ransacked to find their equal.

They are beggarmen, and are taking advantage of the privilege allowed them
by a custom that goes back into the remote past, of soliciting alms from
the shopkeepers on the days of the new and full moon. They are
perambulating the streets and visiting every shop that lies in their way,
and almost demanding from each their accustomed toll of one cash each. A
cash, I may remind the reader, is the one-thousandth part of two
shillings.

They walk in a string, each man behind the other. The leading one in this
particular set is an old man, with wrinkled face and hair turned to grey.
His clothes are in rags and tatters, and so dirty that one would not care
to touch them even with a long pole. He is a thorough gipsy in look, and
there is a vigour about his sharp-set features and a flash in his
coal-black eyes that show him to be a person of considerable independence
of thought.

Close behind him is another with his hand resting on his shoulder, and
depending upon him to guide him through the streets. He is quite blind,
and it is most pathetic to see how he raises his head up towards the sky,
as though the sun in some mysterious way could impart light to the deep
sockets where his eyeballs ought to be. Following close on his heels is a
jolly musical beggar, whose soul, amidst all his dirt and squalor, is
touched with the spirit of music. He has an old banjo, with two strings,
that he uses in his profession, and as he moves along his fingers strike
the chords, and the first notes of a Chinese ballad sound out with a lilt
that for a moment seems to relieve the tragic look that this weird
procession has.

Behind this Orpheus of the band come several ragamuffin degraded specimens
of the begging fraternity, the last of whom holds a bamboo stick, which a
blind man, who brings up the rear, holds in his left hand to act for him
in the place of eyes. As each one comes to the shop door the owner stands
ready with a cash for each one, which he hastily puts into his hand and
motions him on.

There is no attempt to evade this poor-rate which custom has decided shall
be paid. Were any man so mad as to defy the unsavoury crowd, he would soon
be brought to his senses in a way that he would not forget for many a long
day. They would stand around his counter till the cash was paid, and they
would in turns appeal to his pity, and then call down the imprecations of
Heaven upon his head because of the hardness of his heart.

No one in the meantime would dare to come near his shop. His customers
would be so terrified by the dirt and smells of the diseased and unwashed
crowd that they would take their custom for the time being elsewhere, and
when, finally worn out by the noise and disorder at his door, he gave the
cash, he would find perhaps that some of his wares had been so damaged by
the mere presence of these filthy beggars, that he had lost far more than
he would have gained if he had come out victorious in his contest with
them.

It is only on two days in the month that the beggars are allowed the
privilege of collecting their tax from the shopkeepers, for these latter
have originally compounded with their king for a regular payment, which
prevents them from being annoyed with their visits at any other time. As
soon as the amount has been settled a printed form, with the picture of a
gourd on it, is pasted over the door, and no beggar will dare to approach
it for the purpose of asking alms. There are many specimens of humanity in
China that, through destitution and in the bare struggle for existence,
have to go through want and hunger and intense suffering both of mind and
body, but for real degradation and acute acquaintance with the pains and
penalties of poverty there is no one to be compared with the beggarman in
this land. The beggar in the West is a royal personage when compared with
him, clothed in purple and fine linen, and living sumptuously. He is often
able to lay by money, and cases have been not infrequent that when he has
died sovereigns and bank-notes have been found stitched in various parts
of his garments.

Such an experience in China is absolutely unknown. A beggar here is really
poor, and always close up to the border line across which is starvation.
Besides, he is nearly always diseased. A beggar, except he is a wandering
minstrel, would fail to charm the solitary cash that is usually thrown at
him, unless he had some glaring disease that would excite pity. The
stock-in-trade of the begging fraternity is some hideous sore, or twisted
legs or sightless eyes, or some abnormal deformity that disqualifies the
person from gaining a living by manual labour. And then, too, the hovel
into which he crawls when night drives him from the streets is something
unspeakable for its wretchedness and discomfort. The beggars' camp is
filthy, and so unsavoury that it may never be pitched within the precincts
of the city, but is always erected in some open space outside its walls,
where its smells and abominations may not contaminate the rest of society.

As we wander aimlessly along, only anxious to witness the sights that an
Oriental town gives in such striking contrast to the cities of the West,
we come upon a street where there is an unusual bustle, and a sound of
many voices and loud tones, as though men were quarrelling. One accustomed
to Chinese life would never make the mistake of imagining from these signs
that there was any trouble going on. They are simply evidences of
increased activity. The Chinese are fond of noise and high-toned speaking,
and clash of voice, and bawling to each other. They have absolutely never
properly learned the art of whispering. Two men are carrying a heavy
burden on a common bamboo pole through the streets, and they shout in a
rhythmical strain that can be heard a hundred yards in the distance. A
play is being performed, and from the very beginning to the end, the drum
keeps beating and the cymbals clash, and drown the actors' voices at those
points where it would be supposed the greatest silence would be required.
And so in many other things, it would seem as though noise were an
essential for the performance of any effective work in China.

The sounds we hear are evidences that we have come upon one of the busiest
streets in the town. It is the fish market for the whole city, and as we
move slowly along it we begin to understand how it is that such loud tones
caught our ear a minute or two ago. Here are great brawny fellows with
sleeves tucked up, and the sea breezes, as it would seem, blowing on their
faces. In loud voices, as though they were trying to outbellow the roar of
the storm where the fishes were caught, they cry up the superior quality
of the catch they are displaying for sale. Others are chaffering with
their customers, for no true Chinaman ever gives the price that is first
asked of him, and with jest and banter he gradually comes down to the sum
which he finally means to take.

The very best fish in the whole town are to be found in this street, for
the moment that the fishing boats come in from sea, the very choicest of
their catch is hurried off by men who are interested in the trade and
brought to the dealers here. It is interesting to stroll along and watch
the ingenious way in which the fish is presented in the most attractive
way to the various kinds of purchasers.

Here is a heap of the less expensive kind such as the poorer classes can
afford to buy. They look like magnified sprats, and a man stands by and
continues to sprinkle them with salt water, and he does this in such a
deft way that they present a sparkling appearance as though they had just
been brought out of the sea and were fresh and full of life. Close by are
some splendid mackerel that were caught this morning, and they lie with a
stiff and dignified air, as though they resented being laid out here to
the public gaze. Some of them have already been cut into slices and
customers are trying to beat down the dealer to a more reasonable price.
It is noticeable that the most of those who are bargaining for the fish
have brought their own steelyards to weigh their purchases, as they
evidently have no faith in the honesty of the one belonging to the shop.

Further on we notice a young shark, that seems very much out of place, and
altogether plays a mean and inglorious part for an animal that takes so
conspicuous a place amongst the dwellers in the sea. Close beside it is a
native fish that evidently has been too long out of the water to add to
its market value, and so it has to be doctored to induce customers to look
upon it with favour. To carry out this idea, it has been cut in two, and
the ends have been ingeniously smeared with pig's blood to make it appear
to the uninitiated that it has only just ceased to live, and the red
streaks show where its own life-blood has just ceased to ebb out. Yet this
simple and childlike deception is plain to every one that comes to buy,
and no one is taken in by it. It is one of the devices of the trade, that
some clever scamp invented in the past when the forefathers of the race
were more ingenuous and more easily taken in than men are to-day, and so
the trick is kept up, in order that the inventor of it, wherever he may be
to-day, may not "lose face" in the eyes of his descendants.

After we emerge from this busy and unsavoury market, where the odour of
decaying fish mingles with the national and purely Chinese exhalations of
the drains, which here are peculiarly foul, we turn into a narrow street,
where the passengers are few, and the shops have a dull, semi-respectable
look about them. They have no counters outside of them, and so the whole
street, which is about five feet in width, is entirely available for foot
passengers. We discover to our astonishment that every shop in it sells
shoes. It is in fact the great centre of the shoe trade for the town, and
also for the country districts for many miles outside of it.

At first sight it would seem that this placing of a considerable number of
shoe shops side by side would interfere with the trade of each, but the
Chinese think differently, and the result has proved that they are right.
Instead of diminishing the business of each it has had actually the very
opposite effect. When people want shoes, they have not to wander all over
the city in search of a shoemaker. They make their way to this particular
street, the first shop that takes their fancy they step into, and they are
soon served with what they require.

This plan is especially serviceable to the countryman, who looks upon the
town very much as a country bumpkin does at home, when he leaves his
fields and green lanes for the busy streets of a great city. He wants a
pair of shoes, say, for his wedding day, and the village shoemaker has not
sufficient style to suit him for such a great occasion. He must go away to
the great city where the latest fashions in shoes are to be found, and
where he can purchase a pair that will be the envy of every young man who
shall attend the joyful ceremony. But how amid the maze of narrow streets
shall he find a shop where he shall be able to make his selection? He
would be lost in the windings and intricacies of the labyrinths along
which the streams of human life pour incessantly the livelong day, and
in inquiring for such he might be recognized as a greenhorn by some
sharper, who would soon relieve him of his spare cash. The fact that the
shoe shops are all in one street renders it easy for him to inquire his
way there, where without delay he will be served with the very article he
requires.

[Illustration: A STREET SCENE.

_To face p. 194._]

In our stroll through the city, there is one feature about it that has
been most noticeable, and that is its freedom from rows and disorders. It
contains fully two hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants, and yet there
is not a single policeman patrolling any of its streets during either the
day or the night. No doubt this is due in a large measure to the
law-abiding character of the Chinese. They are essentially peacemakers,
for not only do they avoid breaking the peace themselves, but they also
exert themselves most vigorously to put an end to any row that may be
started amongst others. The result is the disgraceful scenes that often
disfigure the streets of the West are of very rare occurrence in any of
the cities of this great Empire.

There is no doubt but that one potent reason for this is the absence of
the public-house. Fortunately that is an unknown institution in this land,
and consequently the mad excesses and wild disorders and terrible rows
both in private and on the public streets that are the result of the use
of alcohol are never seen anywhere throughout the country.

Whilst we have been sauntering around, we have noticed one particular kind
of building that differs from all the others about it. It is not a private
dwelling-house, and yet it has none of the signs that it is a shop, where
goods of some special description may be purchased. Its front is not open
like those next door to it so that the public can see what is going on
inside. Its aim, indeed, seems to be to conceal from the passers-by the
movements of the people within, whilst at the same time intimating that
any one that likes to enter may do so freely.

Every window is closed up so that one can get no glimpse of what is going
on behind them. The door, indeed, stands wide open, but hanging about two
feet in front of it is a bamboo screen that effectually guards the secrets
of the house. Any attempt to peer inside will be ineffectual, for the
utmost that can be seen beyond the sentinel screen is the posts of the
door that are but the outer works of the fortress beyond.

As we stand speculating why this house and others that we have seen of a
similar character during our stroll should be so different from the rest,
a man approaches in a furtive manner, with head cast down as though he
were ashamed, and glides in a ghost-like manner into the opening behind
the screen and vanishes into the dark interior. We caught but a glimpse of
him, but what we did see did not favourably impress us. His clothes were
greasy and dilapidated looking, and his face wore a leaden hue as though
his blood had been transmuted by some chemical process into a colour that
nature would never recognize as a product of her own. He was a man, we
should judge, that we should not care to have much to do with, for there
seemed to be a shadow on his life, and he was not anxious to get into the
sunshine where men could have a good look at him.

Hardly has he disappeared when a man still in the prime of life, with
slightly stooping shoulders and the same dull colour in his cheeks and on
his lips, advances quickly to the screen, dives behind it, and except for
a momentary shadow that falls upon the doorway, disappears at once from
sight.

We begin to speculate as to what kind of a place this is that pretends to
have a huge secret from the public, and what is the nature of the goods
that it supplies to men that have one characteristic at least that seems
common to them all. It cannot be a pawn shop, for the two men had no
parcels with them, and besides, the "Uncle" in China does this business
openly and hangs no screen in front of his door to conceal his operations
from the public. Whilst these thoughts run through our own mind, a young
fellow of about twenty hurries up with an impetuous rush as though he were
racing to catch a train, and after a quick glance up and down the street
plunges behind the screen and is gone.

Our curiosity is excited. This man differs from the two that preceded him
in that he has no leaden hue, but the evident desire to avoid being seen
going into the place is just as strong as it was in the case of the others
that came before him. We feel we must investigate, and so we cautiously
get within the screen and peer into a dimly-lighted room that lies right
in front of us. No sooner have we got to the doorway than a sickening,
oppressive odour at once reveals to us the secret of the place. It is an
opium den.

We advance into the room and the fumes are so dense that we feel inclined
to retreat, but we are inquisitive, and we should like to have a glimpse
at what at the present moment may be called the curse of China. We find
the owner seated in front of a little desk where he keeps the opium all
ready for the use of his customers. In the dimly-lighted room and in this
dull and drowsy atmosphere he seems just the man to preside over a place
where men lose their manhood, and where the ties of nature and of kindred
dissolve before the touch of an enchanter that no writer of fairy stories
has ever had the genius to imagine.

His face is thin and emaciated and his Mongolian high cheek-bones jut out
like rugged cliffs that have been beaten bare by the storms. A leaden hue
overspreads his parchment-like skin, and his eyes have lost their flash
and are so dull and listless-looking that they might have been made with
balls of opium fashioned by some cunning hand to imitate the creation of
nature. His fingers are long and attenuated and stained with the dye that
the opium has put into them, and they are deftly measuring out into tiny
little cups, in anticipation of coming customers, the various amounts that
he knows by experience each may need.

With a ghastly smile that would have suited a corpse he invited us to be
seated, for he knew at a glance that we were no opium smokers, but had
wandered in simply out of curiosity, and with no intention of smoking.

As we complied with his request we noticed that the three men who had
preceded us were already curled up, each one on his own particular bench,
busily manipulating the opium and with infinite pains thrusting it with a
knitting-like needle into the narrow opening in the bowl of his pipe. He
then held it close to the flame of a small lamp, and as it gradually
melted, he drew a long breath, and the essence of the opium travelled in a
cloud to his brain, while at the same moment he expelled the smoke from
his mouth.

"You do not seem to be particularly busy just now," we remarked, as we
noticed a considerable number of empty benches in the room, all set out
and ready for immediate use.

"No," he replied, "this is our slack time, as it is still early in the
afternoon. We shall have to wait till night falls before our regular
customers will begin to drop in, and then we shall be busy until the small
hours of the morning. You know," he continued, "that the ideal time for
the opium smoker is the night time, when the duties of the day are over,
and when, free from care or anxiety of any kind, he may dream and while
away the hours under the soothing influence of the pipe."

"How is it, then, that these three have come so much earlier in the day
than is the custom with opium smokers?" we ask him.

"Oh! these are exceptionally hard smokers," he replies, "and so they
cannot wait for the usual evening hours when the others assemble to allay
the craving that comes upon them. Look at that young fellow over there,
with what feverish eagerness he is filling his pipe and taking in long
draughts of the opium. When he came in just now he appeared to be wild
with pain and every bone throbbed with agony, and every joint seemed as if
it would dissolve amidst intolerable suffering.

"The man on the next bench to him is one of the heaviest smokers in the
town, and can take as much as would poison two or three beginners. He has
smoked over thirty years, and now he seems to have lost all will of his
own, and all ambition for anything, excepting the one passionate desire to
get the opium when the craving creeps into his bones. At one time he was
fairly well to do, but now he is a poor man. Everything he possessed was
gradually disposed of to get him his daily amount of opium. His business
of course was neglected and failed to support the family. By and by he had
to sell his little son to get money to satisfy his craving, and when that
was spent he disposed of his wife, and now the child is in one part of the
town and his mother in another; and a happy release it was for them both,"
he added with a grim smile, "for the man is hopeless and could never have
supported them.

"Opium," he continued as he fixed his lacklustre eyes upon me, "is an
imperious master and treats its subjects like slaves. It first of all
comes with gentle touch as though it were full of the tenderest love for
man. Then in a few weeks, when it has got its grip upon the man, it shows
itself to be the cruelest taskmaster that ever drove men to a lingering
death. It knows that no one in the world can allay the intolerable craving
that comes over a man's life but itself, and as though it were playing
with a man's soul, it demands that before relief is given the dose must be
increased. It has no pity or remorse. It will see the home wretched and
the girls sold into slavery, and the boys calling another man father, and
the wife in the home of a stranger, rather than remit a single pain or
give one hour's release from the agony with which the opium tortures both
body and soul.

"By the way," he added suddenly, as though the subject were too painful
for him and he had been rehearsing his own life's experience, "is it not
true that opium was brought to China by you English? How cruel of your
people," he said with a passionate flash in his eyes, "to bring such
wretchedness upon a nation that never did them any wrong!"

The subject had taken an unlooked-for turn, and in that dimly-lighted room
and with three men lying with ghastly upturned faces on the benches and
the man gazing with ghoul-like features upon us, we felt that the opium
question had entered upon a tragic phase that we were not prepared to
discuss. Bidding the man a hasty good-bye, we passed out of the reeky,
vile-smelling room past the screen, and into the open air, and though the
ancient aroma of China was in it, it seemed as though we had got into the
green fields and the fresh breezes were blowing over us, and we had
escaped from a prison where we should have been stifled with a poison that
would have killed us.



[Illustration: CARRYING A COFFIN.

_To face p. 201._]


CHAPTER X

HADES, OR THE LAND OF SHADOWS

    Death a great problem that has been studied by the Chinese--Attempts
    to solve the mystery--Conception of the Dark World--A counterpart of
    China--Story of the scholar--Other life a continuation of
    this--Doctrine of retribution--Metempsychosis--Modifications of this
    great doctrine possible--The stories of the witch--Happiness of the
    dead influenced by the condition of the graves--No babies in the Land
    of Shadows.


The great problem of death is one that has oppressed the Chinese people in
all ages with its profound mystery, and has cast its shadow upon the
thought and life of the nation. The great sage of China, Confucius,
discoursed eloquently upon Heaven and its great principles, and has left
on record statements about it that cause those who can read below the
surface to see in the picture he has drawn a dim and shadowy vision of the
true God. He discoursed also about the duties of life and the human
relationships with such broad and statesmanlike views that twenty-five
centuries have passed by since they were first penned, and yet the Empire
accepts them to-day as the very inspiration of genius.

The subject of death was one that he would never discuss. He had evidently
pondered over it, but had found it too full of mystery for him to grapple
with, and he was too honest to pretend to be able to lay down any rules by
which the anxious seeker could find comfort when he came to stand face to
face with this grim enemy of our race. One of his disciples said to him
one day, "Master, I venture to ask you to tell us something about death."
Confucius replied, "Whilst we do not know sufficiently of life, how can we
know anything about death?"

A most pathetic commentary on the national feeling of helplessness with
regard to the question of death is seen in the graves that form so
conspicuous an object in any landscape that may be seen in any part of
China. The overwhelming population that must have peopled the plains and
valleys and mountain sides of this great country may in no uncertain
manner be estimated from the prodigious number of tombs that project
themselves upon one's attention everywhere. The one marked feature about
every one of these is the utter absence of any indication that the living
have any conception of where the dead have gone to. The gravestones are
absolutely silent on this point. In Christian cemeteries they speak with
affection of those that are gone, and they predict a joyful union in the
future, whilst some of them at least declare with confidence the happy lot
in the unseen world of beloved ones that have been snatched away by death
from those who have been left mourning their loss here.

A Chinese tombstone is usually stereotyped in the cold and dreary
statement it has to make about those who lie beneath it. On the top is the
name of the dynasty or of the place where the person was born, then in a
perpendicular line in the centre of it is the sex and family name of the
deceased. To the left, in smaller letters, is the name of their sons, and
positively nothing else. There is no loving record of their virtues, and
no hope expressed as to any meeting them in the future. They seem to have
dropped completely out of life, as far as any mention is made of them. It
is true that in the worship at the graves on the "Feast of Tombs," and in
the ancestral temples on the anniversary of their death, they are spoken
to as though they were still living; but they are approached on those
occasions not in the loving and affectionate way that was done when they
were alive, but rather as spirits that must be propitiated in order to
send blessings on their former homes, or coaxed into good humour so as to
cause them to refrain from hurling calamities upon the friends whom they
have left behind them.

But whilst death is a secret that none may fathom, it has not led men to
give up in despair the hopes of solving it. The Chinese, whilst feeling
themselves unable to find out what lies behind it, have built up a
mythical and yet at the same time a very human conception of what the
"Shadowy World" is supposed to be like. Having nothing to guide them in
their thoughts but the world of matter around them, they have imagined
that Hades is an exact counterpart of China, and that it has its emperor
and great and small mandarins, and provinces and counties with exactly the
same names that these have in the actual and visible lands of the
Celestial Empire.

That this is the conception of the thinkers and writers of this country is
evident from one of the fairy stories contained in a popular work which
gives a large number of exciting and wonderful incidents where the fairies
are the principal actors in the stirring events that are recorded.

In this it is told how that a certain scholar became seriously ill, and it
became evident that unless some great change took place, he would soon
die. As he lay in great pain and weariness on his bed, a man of stately
and dignified appearance, and one that he had no recollection of ever
having seen before, suddenly stood in the doorway of his bedroom, and,
saluting him with a pleasant smile, invited him to rise and go with him.
"I have a horse outside ready to carry you," he said, "and I want you to
accompany me on a journey that I wish you to take with me." "But I am too
ill to get up," the scholar said. "I feel so weak that I can hardly lift
my hand, and to attempt to travel would certainly end in failure." "Oh!
no," gently said the stranger, who was really a fairy, "with my assistance
I think you will be able to manage it," and taking him by the hand, he
tenderly raised him from the bed and led him with slow and faltering
footsteps into the open space in front of the house, where a white horse,
beautifully caparisoned, awaited his coming.

No sooner had he mounted on its back than his disease seemed in an instant
to vanish from him, and he felt himself light-hearted, and with a keen
appreciation of the beautiful scenery through which they were passing. It
seemed, however, very singular to him that he could not recognize ever
having seen it before. It was all new and strange, and it had a beauty and
a fascination about it that he had never experienced in any of his
previous travels.

After some hours, they came to a magnificent city, whose walls towered
high like those that might belong to the capital of an empire. Passing
through one of its lofty gates, he noticed how wide its streets were, and
how crowds thronged them, though they seemed shadowy and unreal, and there
was a silence and a gloom about them that he had never seen in any city
that he had ever visited before. After winding in and out through these
spacious thoroughfares, they came at last to what seemed to the scholar
like a royal palace, so grand and imposing was its appearance.

Entering through its massive doors, and ascending numerous flights of
stone stairways, he was led by his guide into a magnificent
reception-room, where a number of what looked like mandarins of high
official rank were sitting as though they awaited his coming. The chief
one amongst them had a kingly air about him, and it seemed to him that he
strongly resembled the pictures he had often seen of the King of the
Shadowy World. Pointing him to a seat close by a table on which were paper
and pens and ink, and at which another scholar was seated, a subject for
examination was given them both, upon which they were to write an essay.

As soon as they were finished they were handed up to the royal-looking
personage, who after carefully examining them both, decided that the one
written by our scholar was decidedly the best, and was worthy of the
highest commendation and praise. "In consideration of the talent you have
shown, and your evident ability to do useful service for the State, I
appoint you to be the prefect in a certain city in the Province of Honan,"
said the kingly president.

The scholar now realized for the first time that he was really dead, and
that the noble-looking man that had been examining him was after all the
King of the Shadowy World. Trembling at the truth that had just burst upon
him, his thoughts flew back like a flash of lightning to his widowed
mother, and, rising from his seat, he pleaded with passionate earnestness
with the King to give him back his life and allow him to return to earth
and live as long as his mother, so that he might comfort and care for her
in her declining years.

His Majesty was deeply moved with this exhibition of filial piety, and
turning to one of the men sitting on the bench asked him to bring him the
"Book of Life and Death," in which the destined hour of every human
being's life was recorded, in order that he might see how many years the
mother had still to live. Turning to the page where her birth and death
were recorded he found that she had still nine years to live.

Turning to the filial son he said, "Your prayer is granted, and for nine
more years a fresh lease of life will be given you, and the man who has
been examined with you to-day shall act in your place as prefect, till you
can return and take up your post in Honan."

This is a very pretty story, and we could wish that it were one that was
founded on fact. The reason for quoting it here is to show how the other
world is considered to be the exact counterpart of this, only life there
is filled with gloom, for the shadows of a sunless land rest upon every
department of society, and take away the joyousness and the hope that the
bright sun shining in a cloudless sky is apt to impart to men living in
this upper world.

The conception that China should be the ideal that ought to be followed
when the "World of Shadows" was devised as an abode for the dead, has been
carried out not simply in the arrangement that has been made with regard
to its territorial and political divisions. Even society has been mapped
out on the same lines as those we see in what may be called the
Mother-country. The same businesses and callings are carried on by the
dead as those they pursued when they were alive on earth, for it is an
extraordinary fact that the inhabitants of the dark land have managed to
be clothed with the same bodies that they had when in life, and whilst
these are mouldering in the graves on the hillsides they seem in some
mysterious way to have regained possession of them when they reached the
other shore, and with the instinct of industry that is deep in the Chinese
race, they no sooner get there than without any loss of continuity they
begin to carry on the trades or professions that occupied them when they
were in life.

The carpenter, for example, continues as soon as he can get his breath in
the other world his old trade by which he has been lately earning his
living. No one ever supposes that either enterprise or ambition will
induce him to desire to enter upon any other line of life. The blacksmith
with his brawny arms, and his muscles as hard almost as the metal that he
has been working on, will naturally find his way to the smithy, and in
that darkened land where only an evening light ever penetrates, the sparks
will again be made to fly, and the red-hot metal, which glows with a
brighter light in the subdued and gloomy atmosphere, will as of yore yield
to his sturdy strokes and take the shape that he has in his mind.

The man in high position here will naturally gravitate, by a conservative
law that secures the continuity of life, into the same social position
there, whilst the men and women in the humbler ranks will just as
certainly move into similar spheres when they pass the narrow bourne that
divides the two lands from each other.

There is, of course, a great deal of vague statement and often a
contrariety of opinion with regard to the other world and how things are
carried on there. In such a profound subject and where speculation only
can be relied upon for any thought upon the question, it is evident that
the popular beliefs must often be at fault to explain difficulties that
arise in the logical carrying out of any theories that may be held on a
matter of such vast moment to the countless millions of this Empire.

There are certain leading ideas that men generally have about the World of
Shadows and the condition of the men and women there, and when they are
confronted with difficulties of details, they are either silent as to how
these are to be explained, or they boldly acknowledge that they can
suggest no solution to them, and they go on holding them precisely as they
did before the objections were raised. The turbidity of mind that is
constitutional in a Chinaman, enables him to accept theories which are
often in themselves self-contradictory, and in a Westerner would so shake
his faith in them that he would infallibly reject them before long. The
idols, for example, have so many vulnerable points about them, that these
have simply to be stated to be at once accepted, but this does not seem to
undermine the faith of their worshippers in them. They will laugh with the
objector, and will even suggest points that he had not thought of, and yet
they will be as earnest and devoted in their belief in them as though no
suspicion had ever been raised concerning them.

In addition to the belief already stated that Hades is but a continuation
of the Chinese Empire in its social and political aspects and conditions,
there is another one, most mysterious and most fateful, that is held by
the masses, and that is that where retribution had not been visited upon
the transgressor in this life for the evils he has committed, it will be
meted out to him in full measure by the King of the Land of Shadows when
he comes within his jurisdiction.

This is a Buddhist idea that came to this country with the idols from
India. It is true that the thought was dimly foreshadowed in the teachings
of the early sages, who declared that "virtue had its rewards, and vice
its retribution, and that if neither the rewards nor the retribution had
yet been meted out, it was because the time had not yet arrived for such
action." It was seen, however, that good men often died in sorrow, and
their noble life had not been rewarded as the sages declared it would be,
whilst men who had passed their lives in the commission of great wrongs,
accumulated great wealth, had sons and daughters born to them, and finally
died without the prediction of the great teachers of the nation being
verified.

The Buddhist doctrine about retribution in the next life filled up the
space that had been left undefined by the sages, and men everywhere have
accepted it as a solution of the difficulty. The teachers of this faith
are most emphatic in the way in which they preach it, and in many of the
Buddhist temples there are gruesome and realistic pictures of the various
kinds of tortures to which these men are condemned in the prisons or hells
that are kept in Hades for the special benefit of the men and women that
have violated the principles of Heaven during their stay on earth. These
are forcible reminders to the wicked and ungodly who will not repent and
abandon their evil lives, that even though they escape the consequences of
their misdeeds here, a day will surely come when in the prisons of the
Land of Shadows they will pay the full penalty for the wrongs they have
committed in their previous existence.

[Illustration: A BUDDHIST PRIEST.

_To face p. 208._]

Now, it is evident that at an early stage in human thought, the idea of
men and women suffering such terrible torments in the prison-houses of the
under world touched men with infinite compassion, and a new doctrine was
conceived that was intended to mitigate the horrors connected with the
retribution for wrong-doing. This was the famous theory of metempsychosis,
which has permeated the whole of the East, and has made a permanent
impression upon every one of the native religions.

Metempsychosis, as it is understood in China, declares that every adult
sixteen years after entering the Land of Shadows is allowed to depart to
be born again into some position on earth. There is a general release to
every one, good, bad, and indifferent, and once more they may return to
the upper world and be relieved from the pain and gloom of that sunless
realm.

But even in this great act of mercy the ideas with regard to retribution
for evil and reward for virtue are sedulously maintained. The bad man who
is let out of the hideous prison in which he has been confined is not to
be allowed to escape the consequences of his previous vicious life. He is
allowed to return to the world again, but he will appear perhaps in the
shape of a pig or a dog, or some other of the lower animals.

It is for this reason that the Buddhists are so opposed to the taking of
animal life. The animal upon whose flesh they are feeding may have been
when he lived before on the earth a notorious criminal, who for his
iniquities has been degraded by being transformed into, say, a buffalo.
Wrong-doing is a serious matter, and though released from the pains of
hell and allowed back again to earth, the criminal must pay the penalty in
the debased condition in which he is allowed to live once more amongst
men. A cock that is waking the morn with his shrill and defiant cries may
have been a man that a few years ago lived in another part of the Empire,
and who for his wickedness has been condemned to take the shape of the
animal whose voice fills the barnyard with its echoes. It may take a good
many births before these two individuals shall have expiated the crimes
they committed, and shall be allowed again the dignity of appearing
amongst mankind on earth.

Even in regard to the criminals who are undergoing the extreme tortures
that the King of the Land of Shadows knows how to inflict, the thought of
mercy comes in to break upon the monotony of their suffering. Every year
for the whole of August their prison doors are opened and their chains and
fetters are unloosed, the great entrance to the upper world is thrown wide
open, and they are allowed their freedom to wander once more at their own
will wherever they like throughout the whole of the Chinese Empire. So
firmly is this belief held by the people of this country, that during the
whole of their seventh month in every town and city and almost every
village in China, tables are spread out in the open with every ordinary
luxury that usually appeals to the Chinese tastes. There are roast
chickens and ducks, and ducks' eggs, and a variety of savoury vegetables,
delicately cooked and browned, so that the very look of them makes the
mouth water. These are left for hours where only the blue sky looks down
upon them, and the hungry spirits that have been famished in their
prison-houses tearing up and down, with invisible forms, through the air,
feast and feast again upon the good things that the benevolent have spread
out for their use.

The Buddhist Church has devised a system by which it can give deliverance
to the imprisoned souls without waiting for the seventh moon. They have
invented a service which is called "The breaking open the prison doors,"
and consists of chanting certain rituals, and going through a lot of
mummery, as the result of which the person for whom the service is
performed suddenly finds the torturer stay his hand, the saw that had
been ruthlessly grinding through his limbs gently and tenderly removed
from his body, and with a polite bow he is ushered through the prison
gates into the Shadowy Land outside to wander at his own free will, until
the sixteen years are up, and he is reborn again into the world in that
particular shape that the King may think that he deserves.

This process is a very expensive one and brings in a considerable revenue
to the Church, especially when the person who is incarcerated has wealthy
relatives on earth. This service reminds one of the practice of which
Roman Catholic priests were accused at the time of the Reformation,--of
professing, for a consideration, to lighten the pains and sorrows of those
in purgatory, which was one of the principal abuses denounced by the
Reformers in Germany in the sixteenth century, and has actually been said
to have been borrowed from the Buddhists.

With regard to the men who have lived the average life, or who have
distinguished themselves for their nobility of character in their previous
state of existence, the King sees that they shall be properly rewarded
when they pass away from under his jurisdiction. Some of the more noted
are born to be kings or mandarins, or men with lofty titles that shall
bring them great honours and emoluments. Others, again, become sages or
statesmen and famous literary characters, whose writings will influence a
nation for many generations. The ordinary rank and file compose the usual
members of society that one finds throughout the towns and villages of the
Empire, and who are the steady law-abiding citizens upon whom the
Government mainly depends for the preservation of law and order.

The usual time of sixteen years that the popular theory gives before a
person is again reincarnated into the world may in special circumstances
be very considerably shortened. A man or woman, for example, enters the
Land of Shadows with a first-class reputation. In some mysterious way the
King knows his whole history and is prepared to treat him liberally. After
watching his conduct for some time, and marking that he still continues to
exhibit the same admirable features that made him a power before he died,
he hastens on his rebirth, considering what a loss society in the upper
world would suffer from his absence. He is therefore sent back into the
world, but never into the same locality from which he originally came. The
recollection, moreover, of the scenes and sights and strange mysterious
experiences that he passes through in that gloomy, sunless land are all
blotted out from his memory. No story is ever told of that life by any one
of the countless millions that have come under the sway of "Yam-lo," the
Yama of the Hindoos and the mighty King of Hades, and though men have
implicit faith in the myth that the Buddhist Church has propagated, never
in the history of the past has any one hinted at any personal experience
that he has passed through in any of the many periods in which he must
have been a dweller in the land of gloom and twilight.

There is, indeed, the story of an adventure connected with the Shadowy
Land that puts one in mind of the Greek hero, who went down to Tartarus in
search of his beloved wife who had been torn from him by death, but it
appears in a book of fairy tales, and as the writer was a man of a
romantic turn of mind no one is inclined to take his statement as sober
history.

The story describes how a certain young man had become enamoured of a
certain damsel who had bewitched him with her black eyes and her
fascinating manners. He had seen her one day as she passed along the
street with some girl friends, and he had been so entranced with her
beauty, that he had fallen desperately in love with her. So fully had he
made up his mind that he could never dream of ever having any one else for
his wife, that he was making arrangements to engage a middle-woman to
discuss the question of marriage, when he was told that the girl had been
taken suddenly very ill, and in a few hours she had died.

The news distressed him beyond measure and almost broke his heart.
Pondering over his great sorrow he determined that he would descend into
the Dark World and try and discover in what part of China the woman that
he had fallen in love with would appear when "Yam-lo" decided to let her
return again to earth. With the licence of the romancer, the writer of the
fiction declared that he successfully accomplished his purpose, and that
the dread King, touched by the devotion he had shown, not only shortened
the time of residence of the girl within his dominions, but also managed
in some way or other to let him see the "Book of Life and Death," where
the exact date of her rebirth was recorded and the locality where she was
to reside. The lover returned to earth, though the writer does not explain
how he could do that without a rebirth, which would have obliterated all
knowledge of the past, and would have quenched his passion for the girl.
At any rate, he leaves the Land of Shadows, and, guided by the information
he had obtained there, he proceeds directly to the new home into which she
has been born, and after various adventures that belong to the region of
fancy and romance she becomes his wife.

No sober writer has ever dared to suggest that the men and women who have
travelled into the unknown and mysterious land where perpetual shadows
rest, and where the gloomy torture chambers for the unrepentant criminals
and transgressors of this world are to be found, ever whisper the secret
of what they have seen when they are once more born again into the world.
The mystery has been well preserved by the ages, and the Buddhist Church
has discreetly kept its own counsel about a matter that every one longs to
penetrate, but which countless multitudes for a thousand generations have
with absolute unanimity refused to say one word about.

This is all the more remarkable because there is a most passionate desire
amongst the living to find out what the inhabitants of the gloomy land are
doing, and there is a class of women who get their living by professing to
be able to penetrate the mystery and describe what is going on there.
These persons resemble very much the Witch of Endor, who is recorded to
have called forth the prophet Samuel from the invisible world to predict
the calamity that was going to fall upon King Saul in the battle to take
place on the morrow.

These women are utterly illiterate, and belong to what may be called the
lower middle class of society. They are shrewd and clever, and have a
rough persuasive manner with them that commands the belief of the less
intelligent women that resort to them to learn about the relatives and
friends that have been removed by death. There is the most profound faith
in their utterances, for though they do make mistakes and say things about
the deceased that are contrary to fact, they so often hit upon real facts
that the inquirer, astonished that they should know something that was
supposed to be a family secret, at once jumps to the conclusion that they
must certainly be inspired by the spirits.

Some of the more famous of these witches are constantly being resorted to
by sorrowing relatives, so that they make a very comfortable living,
whilst a few lay by money and in time become quite wealthy. But I will
here describe one or two cases that have come under my own knowledge as
having actually occurred. A lady in respectable society had lost her
daughter, who was eighteen years of age. Both the girl and her mother were
devotedly attached to each other. The latter, anxious to know how the
loved one was faring in the dark country where no sun or moon or stars
ever shone, called in a witch that she might describe to her the condition
of her daughter.

The witch having seated herself, the ancestral tablet that was believed to
contain the spirit of the dead maiden was placed upon a high table and
several sticks of incense were burned in front of it. The mother then in a
loud, clear voice called out the name of her daughter, her age, and the
date on which she had died, and she entreated her to come and reply to the
questions that the witch was now going to put to her.

The woman, who had been sitting with a stern and stolid looking face as
though wrapped in spiritual meditation, now addressed the girl who it was
believed had obeyed the summons of the mother. "Is your name Pearl?"
"Yes." "Did you die on such a date and were you eighteen years of age
then?" These questions are asked in order to identify her, and to prevent
her from being confused with any other vagrant spirit that might have
wandered here in order to play a trick upon her.

"Now tell me," the witch continues, "how are you in the world of darkness,
and whether you are happy in your life there." "Oh! I am pretty well," is
the answer that comes at once in reply to these questions, "but I cannot
say that I am very happy. I am continually thinking of how distressed my
mother is at my death. I know that she is thinking of me morning, noon and
night, and that her heart is full of sorrow because she feels that she
will never see me again. With regard to my condition in this gloomy land,
it is not all that I could wish, but it is on the whole bearable. I am
living in the house that mother had made for me and that was burned at my
grave, so that in that respect I have nothing to complain of."

The question of what friends she has made, is answered by the statement
that she lives very much alone and that she knows hardly any one, but that
her father, who came into the Land of Shadows some time before her,
occasionally visits her, though, singular to say, she makes no suggestion
about planning to live with him. It would seem from the popular, though
somewhat vague ideas on this subject, that relatives keep strictly apart
from each other in that mysterious country, and though they do now and
again come and see each other, the intimate relationships that they
sustained with one another whilst they were on earth are almost entirely
broken off in that other country.

Another very important question was now put to her, viz. "Do you find that
your grave is dry or wet?" and she at once replied that she has been quite
satisfied as far as that is concerned, for that her mother has evidently
taken great pains that the rain or running streams from the higher ground
above it shall not flow in upon it. It would seem that the Chinese hold
that in some mysterious way the condition of the dead is very largely
affected by the wetness or dryness of the grave in which they have been
buried. This explains the extreme care with which they select the spots in
which to lay their friends that have departed this life.

There is a class of men called geomancers, who get their living by giving
their professional opinion as to the suitability or otherwise of plots of
land that people have in view to use as graves. There are certain
conditions that these must fulfil, or else they will be rejected. One of
these is that they must be dry. This specially the case in the South of
China, where a wet piece of land would attract the white ants, and in a
very short space of time the coffin would be eaten up by them, and worms
and noxious insects would then have free access to the body.

But, independent of this disastrous result, damp seems to be a potent
factor that affects the happiness of the departed, which not only renders
their life more miserable in the other world, but which also induces them
in revenge for the want of care of the living to send all kinds of
misfortunes upon the homes they have left.

[Illustration: CEMETERIES.

_To face p. 216._]

The mother at this stage asked the witch to describe what her daughter
looks like. Taking a black cloth which is usually one of her
paraphernalia, she puts it on her head, letting it droop down over the
face, and getting into an assumed kind of trance, she begins in a slow and
solemn chant to describe the scenes that she pretends she sees in the Land
of Shadows. "The country that lies before me," she says, "is a gloomy one,
and there is no sun to be seen. Shadows lie everywhere, and an air of
depression rests upon the hills and on the plains that stretch before my
vision. I see men and women passing up and down the roads, but they all
look like spectres, for there is no laughter on their faces, and no signs
of joy about them. They seem to be oppressed with a sense of their
desolate condition. But wait! here is the figure of a young girl standing
by a bridge looking into the sullen stream that is flowing rapidly and
with scarcely a sound underneath it. She is about eighteen years of age,
and though her face is pale and has caught the colour of the land in which
she lives, she does not seem to be in bad health. Her house, which is on
the bank of the river, is a very pleasant one and has a courtyard, a
guest-room, and a bedroom. She has a pleasant face, and one that could be
very sunny did she not live in so gloomy a country. She has a spray of
jessamine in her hair, and her dress is put on with exquisite taste." "Ah!
that is my daughter indeed," exclaims the mother. "Jessamine was her
favourite flower, and she was always so neat about her person, and had
such fine taste about her dresses," and here, overcome with the sad
thoughts that filled her heart, her tears began to flow and she sobbed
forth the bitterness of her heart in words of anguish and despair.

This was the end of the witch's visions, and having received her fee of
about twopence, she went off with a smiling face to explore the mysteries
of the Land of Shadows for the benefit of other sorrowing ones whose
sight could only reach to the scenes and people of this world.

Many of the scenes in which these second-sighted women engage are really
most interesting, and supposing for the moment that the pictures described
are inventions of their own--which, of course, they indignantly deny--they
usually manage to import into them a fine sense of poetical justice that
one would hardly expect from minds so illiterate and so untutored as they
always possess.

On one occasion a wealthy man invited one of these women to his home to
call up a vision of his father, who had died a few months before. It will
make the story more plain by explaining that the old man had been a
mandarin, who had been notorious everywhere wherever he had held office
for his avaricious, grasping disposition. His ability to accept bribes was
immense, and no case came before him but was finally decided not on its
own merits, but by the amount that either the prosecutor or the defendant
was able to give him.

When he died he had a grand funeral, and houses and wives and concubines,
and male and female slaves, fashioned at great expense in paper, were
burned at the grave, which by some mysterious and unexplained way were to
follow him into the Land of Shadows, where he could set up house on the
same princely scale that he had been accustomed to on earth. Nothing had
been neglected that money could purchase to make his life in the Dark
World as thorough a success as it was possible to ensure, for in addition
to a complete suite of furniture and kitchen utensils, and the providing
even of a dog to guard the house from robbers, immense quantities of
ingots of gold and silver, and piles of dollars and copper, all in paper,
were dispatched by a fiery way into the land of gloom to prevent him from
suffering any hardships that money could prevent.

It was felt in his late home that everything had been done that religion
or money could suggest, for not only had every convenience for living a
high-class life been lavishly provided, in paper, but Buddhist priests had
been engaged to perform the most elaborate services to deliver him from
the pains and sufferings of the infernal prisons, in case Yam-lo should
have decided to have him imprisoned in one of them. These last had cost
them thousands of dollars, which they had willingly spent, however, since
they had been solemnly assured by the priests that their relative had been
safely delivered from the horrors of the gaol in which he had been
confined.

The witch having arrived, the ancestral tablets of the deceased mandarin,
elaborately carved and chased with gold, were placed on a magnificent
black wood table. Incense sticks were then lighted, and the usual
questions identifying the spirit were asked and satisfactorily settled.
This preliminary is a very essential one, for it has often been discovered
that the inhabitants of the Land of Shadows retain many of the
peculiarities of character that they had in the land of the living, and
the witches are frequently taken in by vagrant spirits, who assume the
name of others in order to obtain the offerings that are being presented
to their friends in the other world.

The witch being satisfied that the spirit of the dead mandarin was really
in the tablet before her, asked him if he was happy in the dark land, when
it burst out into sorrowful complaints about the utter wretchedness of the
life he was leading. Yam-lo, because of his exactions and disregard of the
claims of justice when he was a ruler, had condemned him for his sins to
be a chair-bearer, and his days were now spent in the severest toil, and
at night he was tortured with cold, for he had not enough clothes to put
on to keep out the damp air that struck a chill into his very bones.

"But did you not receive the mansion I burned for you," broke out the son
in an excited tone, "and the servants, and the thousands of gold and
silver, that would have enriched you until you were released from that
terrible land by being born again into the world of men?" "I have received
nothing of all the offerings you made me," the father replied, "for Yam-lo
intercepted them, because my life had been such a bad one, and he declared
that I deserved to suffer misery and degradation; and so I am working as a
chair coolie, bearing hardships and sorrow every day of my life."

"And is there nothing we can do for you?" asked the son. "Yes, there is
one thing that will be of great service to me, in my present miserable
condition. Buy two hundred pairs of straw sandals, such as chair-bearers
wear, and send them to me at once; also a few rain hats to keep me from
the wet. My feet are cut and lacerated with the rough roads, and I am
continually wet through with the rain that seems to be always falling in
this gloomy land, so that my life is one continued misery." With the
promise that these things would be burned and sent to him, the _séance_
ended, and the family were left to mourn the sufferings of the man who had
brought upon himself such a terrible fate through his passion for money,
and because he had wished to enrich his family so that they should not
know what want was after he had been taken away from them.

As might have been expected, there is a great diversity of opinion with
regard to the dwellers in the Land of Shadows. Some hold that relatives do
not know each other there, whilst even those who dispute this theory still
believe that whilst they may visit each other occasionally, they never
dream of reuniting the scattered members of a family and living together
as they used to do before death divided them.

The general theory that after the lapse of sixteen years men and women are
released and allowed to return to earth is subject to a good many
modifications. A person of high moral character, for example, and one who
has gained the approbation of the stern and inflexible Yam-lo by
uprightness of life, is sent back many years sooner than the allotted
time. Young boys and girls, unless they have developed decidedly vicious
tendencies, are dismissed after a very short probation, to begin again the
experiment of life that had been so rudely interrupted by the cruel enemy
of our race.

It is a remarkable fact that there are no babies in that gloomy under
world, for never having done any wrong against society, no sooner do they
die than Yam-lo sends them back to life to begin once more their struggle
with evil, by which their characters are to be developed, and, after a
number of births, they may become the teachers and the sages of future
generations.

This doctrine of metempsychosis has its fascination for a good many
people, for where the future would otherwise be a dark, mysterious thing,
with no ray of light to break the solemn darkness that broods over it,
this breaks its awful monotony and gives men hope of escape from its
mystery and power. A colonel was one day haranguing his soldiers just as
they were about to engage the enemy. With the natural timidity of the
Chinese soldier, they showed symptoms of alarm, and he was afraid that,
carried away by their fears, they would incontinently bolt with the first
sound of the bullets flying about their ears. What motive could he bring
before them to induce them bravely to meet death? He could not appeal to
their love of their country, for that does not exist in the hearts either
of the common people or in the army. Neither could he bring forward high
and lofty incentives from their religion, for though of a deeply religious
nature, there is not a single system of belief in China for which any one,
man or woman, would be willing to lay down their lives.

Looking at them with steadfast gaze, he said, "Soldiers, let me exhort you
to be courageous in the presence of the foe to-day. You are better men
than they are, and if you only stand firm they will fly in terror before
you. Do not be afraid to die, for though you fall during the fight,
remember that in sixteen years hence you will be men once more on earth,
and for your valour Yam-lo may send you back to high positions in your
country's service."

A poor incentive this to induce men to risk their lives on the
battlefield, but it was the highest that this officer could think of, for
the shout of "King and country" would have failed to inspire them, and
idolatry produces no enthusiasm to raise a war cry at the sound of which
death would cease to have any terrors.

One day a poor woman was bending over her baby that lay dead upon the bed.
The home was wretched and forlorn and showed signs of the greatest
poverty. There was not a single comfort in it, and to add to its utter
desolateness death had come and taken away the little joy that filled the
mother's heart. Never had the house seemed so dreary as to-day, for the
smile that used to fill her heart with sunlight and the childish voice
that had thrilled her soul with the sweetest music, both had died out in
the solemn stillness and silence of a sleep that would never know an
awakening. "Oh, my dear little one!" said the heartbroken mother. "I shall
never see you more, and your sweet laugh will never again fill me with
gladness. Your life has been a short one, and very little happiness in it,
for we are so poor that we could not give you the comforts I should have
liked. And now my hope is that when you are born into the world once more,
it will be into a family where they will be rich enough to give you every
luxury, and where you will grow up to be a great scholar; and though I
shall never see you, or be able to share in your good fortune, still as
long as I live my thoughts will go out to you, where in some unknown part
of China you will be living a happier life than you were able to do with
me."

The whole conception of the Land of Shadows and of the doctrine of
metempsychosis are a most pathetic attempt to penetrate the profound
mystery that lies about death and the unknown future. Where no revelation
from God has reached men on these two profound and mysterious subjects,
they are bound to fashion out for themselves some theory that will be an
attempt at least to solve some of the perplexities that the heart can
never get rid of until some light has been thrown upon them. The Chinese
theories are oftentimes vague and contradictory, and when they are put to
the touch of logic, they fail utterly before its tests. They are as brave
an effort, however, as has ever been made by any heathen people to
construct a system that shall try and satisfy the cravings of the human
heart about the unknown. They are profoundly human, and an exalted vein of
righteousness runs throughout them. There is no paltering with evil, and
no elevation of vice or impurity, and even their ideal ruler of the Land
of Shadows, stern and severe as he is represented to be, can always unbend
before the exhibition of goodness in any of the spirits under his
control.



CHAPTER XI

A CHAPTER ON SOME OF THE MORE SHADY PROFESSIONS IN CHINESE LIFE

    The geomancer--Description of--Instances of his
    profession--Fung-Shuy--Laws of geomancy--The quack--His
    methods--Instances given--Disreputable character of the
    story-teller--Examples of his stories--Kung-Ming--The story of the
    prince and concubine--The interpreter of the gods--Mode of
    selection--Depraved character.


There are certain trades and professions in this Empire that are looked
upon by the Chinese with respect, because they all represent an honourable
attempt of men to earn their living in a straightforward and honest way.
As in England, some of these are looked upon with more respect than
others, and men pride themselves, just as in the countries of the West, on
the higher local standing that their trade or profession gives them in the
eyes of the community. Outside of the Government officials, there are
practically only two respectable classes of professions, viz. the
school-master and the doctor. There are of course others, such as the
geomancer, the pettifogging lawyer, the priests, and members of the
theatrical professions, and those who get their living in connection with
the idols, but these are all looked upon with a suspicion that their
morality is not of the highest, and consequently society refuses to accord
to them the respect and honour that they spontaneously give either to the
scholar or to the _bona fide_ medical man.

This chapter will be devoted to an account of some of the more well-known
professions that belong to this doubtful category of professional men, and
the first that I shall take is the geomancer. This man is a product of the
beliefs that the Chinese have regarding the dead, and also with regard
to the malign and evil spirits that are supposed to people the air and to
be always on the lookout to bring sorrow and calamities wherever the
unwary have not taken measures to frustrate their evil designs. In spite
of their high-sounding beliefs that life and death are all arranged and
settled by Heaven, the Chinese universally hold that the ground in which a
man is buried has much to do with his happiness in the Land of Shadows,
and also with his ability to benefit the members of his family that still
remain in the land of the living.

[Illustration: A TEA HOUSE.]

The study of this subject has become an exact science with the Chinese,
and there are men that spend their lives in mastering its principles, and
they become so familiar with them that they are constantly employed in
pointing out the precise spots where the dead may be buried so as to
secure the highest benefit both to them and to the living.

The poorest and the commonest amongst the people have not the means of
engaging these professors of the geomantic art, neither have they the
funds to buy expensive plots of ground where the "Fung-Shuy," as it is
popularly called, works with a strong and imperial will to summon to
itself the forces in nature that will secure wealth and fortune and
worldly honours to all that are connected with it. Their homes are narrow
and will barely suffice to accommodate the living, and so the dead have to
be hurried away and laid in any piece of ground on the side of a hill that
some benevolent individual may make them a present of.

Persons with any means and with a spare room where the dead may be laid
for a few days, would never dream of burying any of their relatives
without engaging a geomancer to examine all the available vacant plots of
ground that may be in the market for sale, and in giving his professional
opinion as to which of them would be likely to satisfy the feelings of
the dead and bring the greatest prosperity to the home they had left
behind them.

It would seem that according to the laws of geomancy, a low position where
the soil is damp, and where the rains would be allowed to settle, is one
of the very worst that could possibly be selected for the burial of the
dead. It would mean that in the South, at least, before very long, white
ants, captivated and allured by the scent of wood, would come in their
myriads and attack the coffin. As they can do no work without moisture,
the damp and sodden soil would supply them with an abundance of that, and
the working members of the great army would continue their labours with a
perseverance and an industry that would soon riddle the abode of the dead
so that only the merest and flimsiest shell of the coffin would survive
after the attacks made on it.

This it is believed the dead resent with a fierce and bitter feeling that
seems to set them in the wildest hostility to the friends who are
responsible for this state of things, and in the Land of Shadows they plan
how they shall be revenged upon those who have shown so little feeling for
them, as to bury them in such a position.

The professors of "Fung-Shuy" are careful to prohibit all permanently damp
localities, or where the drainage is so imperfect that during the rainy
season, when for weeks the annual rains pour down in more or less
continuous torrents from the heavens, the grave must be thoroughly sodden
with the wet. They know that then, unless the grave is dug in a situation
where the water will easily drain off, the most disastrous results will
happen to the coffin, such as would bring lasting mischief both to the
living and the dead.

There are several things that according to geomantic laws are essential to
the making up of a good grave or Fung-Shuy. The first of these is, it must
be dry. Next, it must have a wide and if possible a charming outlook, for
there is nothing that the dead dislike so much as to be confined in their
view by high walls, or by mounds, or elevations that would limit them in
looking at the landscape that stretches out before them in the distance.
Any proximity of large trees is considered to be specially obnoxious to
the occupants of graves. It seems that the waving of the branches during a
storm, and the sighing of the winds through them, produce such doleful
sensations that the spirits are apt to get irritated, and by and by to
vent their wrath by hurling calamities on the living.

The gentlemen that get their living by catering for the dead have all
these things to keep in mind when they are in search of a place where the
dead are finally to be laid. Proceeding to the hills with their large
compass in hand, which is inscribed with cabalistic characters and lines
and divisions that mark off the cardinal points with a precision that
would be needed to guide an ironclad across the ocean, they cast their
eyes across the landscape, and with the look of experts they take in at a
glance the general features that combine to make any particular spot a
Fung-Shuy, where the dead will have all the consolations that external
circumstances can afford them. It would seem, indeed, as though these
demanded very much what the living would like to have if they had the
choice. A wide and extensive scenery with mountains in the distance, and
hills standing as sentinels to the right and the left; also grassy mounds
sloping down towards a stream that fills the air with its music as it
travels on in graceful curves and loses itself amongst the ravines in the
distance. These are the ideal elements that go to form a Fung-Shuy where a
king might be laid with the certainty of finding complete rest.

Whether it is their training that has developed the artistic element in
these geomancers or not it is impossible to declare definitely. There is
one thing, however, that one may be quite sure of, and that is, they have
the keenest instinct in at once pitching upon the most romantic and the
most exquisite spots in a landscape as the places where they declare the
dead may alone with safety be buried. As a result of this, one continually
is struck with the way in which the graves have been constructed on points
of a hill or a mountain, where the widest outlook may be observed from
them. They may be looking over a wide expanse of fertile plains, or
peering along some mighty ravines, or catching a vision of a
far-stretching sea, but in each case they are there not by any accident,
but in obedience to the decision of the geomancers, who selected them with
a special view to the beauties of the location where the dead were to be
buried.

There is one point on which all geomancers are agreed, and that is that
wherever any natural object has the shape or appearance, say, of a man or
of some of the more intelligent or powerful of the brute creation, you
have there a collection of the strongest forces of nature which will all
work for the welfare of everything that lies within their influence. Such
objects as these make the finest Fung-Shuy, for there is nothing in the
whole range of natural scenery that can in any way be compared to them.

On one occasion there was a civil war being carried on between two
powerful clans. Scores on each side armed with guns and pitchforks, and
any deadly weapon that could be got hold of, made fierce forays against
each other, and inflamed with passion risked their lives in their mad
desire to kill their enemies. In one of the houses that lay on the
borderland of the fight a man had recently died, and fearful lest the
attacking party should set fire to the building and so burn the coffin
with the corpse inside, a number of the relatives made a rush with it from
the house, and in a cleft of the rock that went by the name of the
"Crow's Beak," they placed the coffin in the narrow opening. It was so
called because in the distance it exactly resembled the mouth of a crow as
it looks when it is perched motionless on a branch. Hastily thrusting it
into the very mouth of the bird, they flew down the narrow path that led
to the village, and taking up their arms they again joined in the battle
that was going on.

After hostilities had ceased and peace was proclaimed between the two
parties, a geomancer was called to find a lucky spot in which they might
bury the man who for the time being had been thrust with so little
ceremony into the "Crow's Beak." He belonged to a well-to-do family, and
they could afford to engage the services of such a man. On their way to a
specified locality where a suitable place was likely to be obtained they
passed along the foot of the hill which contained the "Crow's Beak."
Casting his eyes up towards it, this gentleman caught sight of the coffin,
and in the greatest excitement exclaimed, "There is no need of our
proceeding any further, for you have already laid the dead in the finest
Fung-Shuy that could be obtained in all this district. The coffin is in
the very place of power, and if you value the comfort of your deceased
relative and the honour and prosperity of your family you will not remove
it from the place it now occupies."

This advice was attended to with the greatest possible care, and the
strange spectacle was seen of a coffin perched up in this rift in the rock
instead of being laid away in mother earth, where it would have been
sheltered from the storms of wind and rain that now and again battered
around it. Very singular to say, from the very day that the dead man was
placed in the "Crow's Beak," prosperity seemed to come to the house he had
left, and for many years wealth and honours flowed in without cessation
upon his friends and relatives. As the sons grew up they became
distinguished scholars and took high positions in the service of the
Government. That in itself was enough to ensure that the family should be
enriched, for the posts they held were so lucrative that fortunes must
come to those in possession of them. The family finally became of such
importance, and held so much landed property in the neighbourhood, that
its influence became supreme in the whole of that region. All this was
ascribed to the coffin in the "Crow's Beak," and the members of the clan
guarded that with the most scrupulous care, lest any outsider should
interfere with it or surreptitiously displace it by the body of a person
belonging to another clan, when the good fortune would pass away from the
family and flow into that of another.

Whilst the geomantic art is a recognized one and is believed in by the
whole of the nation, the professors of it are not held in the highest
esteem by the community at large. There is so much room for lying and
deception in their statements about the plots of land that they may
recommend that it is felt by the public generally that their honour and
their veracity are not of the highest character, and that when an
opportunity is presented them of making money, they will seize upon it
without any regard to the fact that they may be violating the principle of
truth and equity.

The next person that I shall attempt to describe is the "quack" or
strolling doctor.

If ever there was a people in the world that believed in doctors it is the
Chinese, in fact they seem in themselves to be a nation where every one
has more or less a knowledge of medicine. Learned and unlearned alike
profess to be able to understand almost every disease that the Chinese
race are subject to, and to have nostrums of their own that will cure
those that are afflicted. It is this fatal facility for diagnosing disease
and for suggesting remedies that crowds the medical profession with so
many incompetent practitioners in this land.

The State takes no cognizance of the men who profess to keep society in
good health, and then it is so easy to put on a long gown, look profound,
and ape the airs of a literary man, and be transformed in the twinkling of
an eye into a regular doctor, who is prepared to treat any disease under
the sun, with the confidence of a President of the College of Surgeons in
England. No study is required to be a doctor. There are certain traditions
floating amongst society as to how a number of diseases should be treated.
These are stored up in the mind. Then there are well-recognized books that
have been written in former days by famous physicians with prescriptions
for an unlimited number of diseases, and there are also secrets how to
treat special ailments that have been transmitted through several
generations in some particular family, and are never allowed to leak out
to the general public.

All these are sources to which the man who aspires to be a doctor can
apply, and by a careful study of which he may get such a knowledge of the
Chinese herbarium that he will be able to deal with simple and elementary
cases with some degree of success. He must also have unbounded cheek, a
fluent tongue, and a natural eloquence that will win its way to men's
hearts and fill them with a confidence in his skill that they will never
think of questioning his ability to deal with their particular ailments,
no matter how difficult or complicated they may be. Of these three
elements nearly every Chinaman has an abundant supply, so as a doctor he
starts business with a stock-in-trade that are most valuable assets in
dealing with the troubles of his countrymen.

But my business now is not with the regular practitioner, but with that
medical species that is popularly known as the strolling doctor. And now
let me give a description of a typical specimen of this Bohemian
representative of the medical faculty in this land. In nine cases out of
ten he is a degenerated member of the literary class. He is a man of good
ability and well versed in the classical writings of China. He has always
been wanting, however, in character, and consequently managers of schools
became chary of engaging him as a teacher in any of them. His roving and
unsteady habits really disqualified him for the long hours demanded of him
in Chinese school life. He would teach a few days and gain the approbation
of the parents by the scholarly way in which he would read and explain the
profound statements of Confucius and Mencius, and then, to the great
delight of the lads, he would wander away, impelled by the vagrant
instinct that was in his very blood, and not appear in the school-room
again for perhaps several weeks.

To add to his disqualifications he became an opium smoker. He was not
induced to do this by a purely evil spirit, but rather because life was
dreary and unsatisfactory, and he hoped in the solace and blandishments of
that dangerous drug the monotony of life would be broken by an occasional
glimpse into the realms of Elysium. The parents became still more opposed
to the idea of sending their boys to a school that had him as their
teacher, and so he found himself without employment and without any means
of satisfying the craving that came upon him morning and evening, and
which refused to be banished until the fumes of the opium had filled his
brain with visions and dreams of such bewildering beauty that the pains
and sorrows of earth seemed to have vanished, and he was in a realm where
mortal feet had never trodden and sighing and tears were utterly unknown.

As he had no resources of his own to fall back upon and the doors of every
school-house were shut upon him, the only means of making a livelihood
now was to turn travelling doctor. This was a very simple proceeding, as
it required but very little capital, for his whole stock-in-trade could be
laid in for a few shillings. Besides a scanty supply of herbs, second-hand
teeth, etc., he had to provide himself with a banner on which was
inscribed the diseases he was able to cure, and the wide renown he had
achieved wherever he went for the marvellous cases of recovery from
dangerous sicknesses that had been affected by his patent medicines and by
his skill in treating disease.

And now behold the man as he starts upon his travels, that will take him
wherever the fortune of the day may lead him. His face is a sharp and a
shrewd-looking one. His eyes are bright and piercing, but they are
restless, and speak of a mind that is ill at ease and is continually
discussing the question how the needs of life are to be met. One looking
at him would not say that he was a bad man, but the opium pallor that
rests upon his features would not incline one to put him down as a saint.
In spite of his bad luck and his low fortunes, it is evident that a sense
of humour is strong within him, and that the comical side of life still
appeals to him; for when he smiles it is not an artificial lighting up of
the countenance, but a veritable flash from a heart that still knows how
to laugh in spite of the misfortunes he has brought upon himself.

The travelling doctor does not care much for the cities. There are too
many of the regular practitioners there who are called in regularly by
their patients; still one does occasionally see one of them now and again
passing along the crowded thoroughfares, casting wistful glances at the
open doors and the people that are lounging about them, in the hopes of
picking up a case that may give him the means of providing himself with a
meal and the money to pay his lodging-house bill during the night.

The places where they appear most in their element are in the country
fairs, where great crowds of country bumpkins and farmers and
unsophisticated people gather either for business or for pleasure. Here he
has no rival and no competitor, for the regular doctor would as much
disdain to set up his stand in any such places as a first-class doctor in
London would wheel a barrow to some of the slums or great thoroughfares in
it, and display his medicines to induce the public to patronize him.

Fortunately for the quack, the country abounds in just such gatherings.
The very large villages have one every second or fifth day. The farmers in
the district know this, and they come with their produce and their cattle
to sell to those who are in need of such. Young fellows, too, wishing for
some change from the monotony of country life, come to get some enjoyment,
for all kinds of entertainments are prepared by itinerant caterers for the
amusement of the public, and for a few hours they forget the _ennui_ and
mouldiness of their daily experience, and, having laughed at the funny
things they have seen, they return with lightened hearts to their homes.
Every day in the year, in a large district, there are scores of fairs that
the people in the neighbourhood can attend, and it is to these that the
gamblers, and puppet shows, and Punch and Judys, and conjurors resort, in
the certainty that there will always be a crowd ready to be entertained,
and with none of the highly critical notions that the townspeople are
accustomed to indulge in. The strolling doctor selects a suitable place
where he can best display the various articles that he hopes will attract
those who may be in need of his services. Perhaps it is under the great
boughs of a banyan-tree that cast their leafy shade between the people and
the great red-hot sun, or it may be on the steps of a temple, where the
grim and solemn-looking idol looks out complacently on the crowd that
gathers to listen to the eloquence of the doctor.

Gathered closely around him are his medicines that he is going to
prescribe for his coming patients. These consist of dried roots, and
withered-looking stalks cut from bushes on the hillside, and various kinds
of grasses, that seem fit only to be swept into the gutter as useless
rubbish. There is one little mound that he builds up with deft and careful
fingers, as though he relied much upon its component parts for his success
to-day. It is a gruesome sight, for on looking at it carefully, one finds
it to consist of a considerable number of teeth in a pretty good state of
preservation that have been extracted from patients in days gone by, and
that have still sufficient vitality in them to enable them to do service
in other people's mouths for some years to come.

Slowly the crowd gathers in the front of the doctor, who soon shows how
profound is his knowledge of human nature by the way in which he
captivates the attention of the rustics, who gaze at him with open mouths,
and wonder what great scholar is this that has come with such a flow of
eloquence, and such an amazing knowledge of medicine, to deliver men from
diseases that the local doctors have not been able to cure.

Whilst he is talking, a man rushes up with face flushed and eyes
congested, with both hands holding one side of his face. He is evidently
in the greatest anguish, for, oblivious of what the crowd may think, he
fills the air with his groans and breaks out into agonized cries that show
the extreme pain from which he is suffering. With a piteous look up into
the face of the quack, he slowly opens his mouth, and, pointing to the
interior with mute but eloquent language that every one understands, he
asks if he can do anything for him.

The doctor, with a complacent smile that shows that he perfectly
understands the case and will instantly relieve him, whips up an old rusty
pair of forceps that lies conveniently at hand, and before the man can
realize what he is about to do, he has taken a grip of the offending molar
and is dragging the patient about, howling and screaming because of the
agony he is enduring, and at the same time holding on to the doctor's hand
to try and get him to unloose his hold upon the tooth.

At last, after one tremendous pull, the man staggers back, and the quack,
holding the forceps in the air with the tooth enclosed within its fangs,
excites the admiration of the whole crowd, who with open mouths and wonder
on their faces, express themselves delighted with the skill of the doctor.
This open-air dentistry has an immediate effect in instilling confidence
in those who have witnessed it, for several people at once apply for the
herbs that he has for sale, and a few others consult him upon the various
complaints from which they are suffering.

The fees for these, however, are so small that he begins to feel that his
receipts are so insignificant, that he is apprehensive whether he will
have enough to pay even for his lodgings during the night, without
considering the good round sum he will require for the purchase of the
opium, without which he would have to spend the night sleepless and in the
greatest possible agonies. In order to bring in the cash to meet these
demands he determines upon a ruse. Amongst the crowd is a well-dressed
farmer who is evidently absorbed in admiration at the eloquence of the
doctor, and keeps his eyes fixed upon him as he discourses upon the
virtues of his medicines. That he is well to do is manifest from the whole
look of the man. Fixing his eyes upon him steadily for a few seconds, the
doctor says, "My friend, I hope you will excuse the liberty I am taking
with you, and not be offended at anything I may say to you. My knowledge
of diseases and their symptoms enables me to see that you are on the verge
of a very serious illness, and that unless you take speedy measures to
avert it, your life will be in the greatest danger."

Every eye was now turned upon the countryman, and looks of sympathy begin
to flash over their faces as each one fancies he can detect symptoms of
the threatened disease. The man himself is paralyzed with terror, for the
Chinese are an exceedingly superstitious people, and are easily influenced
by vague fears into a belief of what may be absolutely unreasonable and
absurd. He trembles in every limb, and the perspiration breaks out in
beads on his forehead. The people nudge each other, and point to these
symptoms as evidence of the clearsightedness and ability of the doctor.

The latter, who feels that he is master of the situation, says to the
trembling farmer, "Put out your tongue." The mere sight of the red healthy
organ that is shot out in an agony of fear is quite enough to prove to any
one who has half an eye for such things, that he is in the most robust
health, but there is not one amongst these country bumpkins that knows
anything about tongues as indicators of disease. "You see, my friends,"
says the quack, taking the crowd as it were into his confidence, "how true
it was when I declared that this poor fellow was on the point of having a
very serious illness. Look at his tongue," and here every one gazes at it
intently, as though he sees blue death in that exceedingly healthy organ,
"and just mark how the symptoms of the coming disaster are plainly
outlined upon it. He should see a doctor at once about his case, who, if
he knows his profession only tolerably well, will be able to take such
measures that the disease may be stopped. It will be rather expensive to
have this done, for the particular medicine required in this case is a
very rare one, and consequently a high price will have to be paid for it."

By this time the feelings of the farmer are wound up to the highest
pitch. He already feels himself getting ill, and he can feel the grip of
the disease fastening upon him by slow degrees. He has become so
hysterical that he is ready to believe anything that this scamp says.
"Doctor," he cries out, "I quite believe what you say about my going to be
ill, for I feel the disease you have spoken of has already begun to work
upon me. Have you the medicine you just now spoke of as essential in my
case? If you have, I need not apply to any one else. Why delay? Let me
have it at once, so that I may take it and be relieved from the terrible
feeling that oppresses me now."

The quack's eyes gleam with delight as he realizes that his little
financial scheme has succeeded so well. "I certainly have the medicine,"
he said, "and I can give you a dose at once that will give you instant
relief," and, taking up a folded paper that contained some white powder,
he pours a few grains upon the man's extended tongue, and tells him to
swallow it. Pausing for a short time after it had disappeared with a gulp
down the man's throat, he asks him how he feels. "Very much better," he
replies; "in fact I feel cured, for the distressing sensation that I had
has almost entirely disappeared." A fee is paid by the farmer that makes
the quack's heart leap for joy, whilst the farmer, with elastic steps and
a radiant face, starts off for his home, to tell how he has been saved
just in time from a calamity that might have imperilled his life.

The strolling doctor's profession, which is the last resort of the
dissipated Bohemian literary man, is in some respects a picturesque and
amusing method of getting a living. A book could be well written on this
one subject alone, and if it were composed by one who could enter heartily
into the spirit of the thing, it would be a most entertaining and amusing
one. There is no doubt but that one would get from it a most realistic
picture of the common life of the Chinese such as has never yet been
written. The humorous and the grotesque would abound in it, and tragedy
and comedy would follow each other in rapid succession as the experiences
of these flotsam and jetsam of human society were recorded in it. Men
write ponderous tomes upon China that generally are insufferably dry, and
that give the West an idea that the Chinaman is an absurd, bizarre kind of
individual, and that the main features about him are a pigtail and a pair
of chopsticks. The fact of the matter is, he is brimful of wit and humour,
and is just packed with as much human nature as one would meet with in any
other part of the world. If the Chinese could only jump to the idea of
having a Punch of their own it would be so filled with jokes and
witticisms, though Oriental ones, that not even the famous English weekly
would be able to surpass it for true wit and humour.

The next professional that I shall try to depict is the public
story-teller. This man, as in the case of the strolling doctor, is almost
always a man with a certain amount of talent, and with a literary cast of
mind that has inclined him to study the ancient writings of China, but
more particularly those that deal with fiction and romance. The literature
of China is particularly rich in works of this latter description, and
those who are fond of exciting adventures and hairbreadth escapes, and
dark and mysterious plots, will find a large field in the countless models
that have come down from the past for their satisfaction and
entertainment.

A man sometimes becomes so saturated with the stories he has read that he
feels himself competent to entertain a crowd, whilst he describes in a
graphic and realistic manner the men and women that are depicted in some
famous novel. Few men do this, however, unless they are driven by hard
necessity; for a story-teller, though popular with the masses, is not held
in high respect, but is looked upon as a man who has failed in the more
respectable walks of life, and has taken to this simply because it is the
only way left him by which he can lead a lazy, indolent life, and earn
just enough to supply him with opium and the small amount of daily food
that his opium-drenched system will allow him to take.

The story-teller, or, as he is popularly called by the Chinese, "The
Narrator of Ancient Things," is really the historian of the common people.
Without him, the history of the past, and the story of the great men that
lived in ancient times, and the deeds of heroism, and the revolutions of
dynasties, would all be lost in oblivion. The great mass of the Chinese
are absolutely illiterate, and cannot read the books that contain the
stories of the past. The story-teller comes in to supply the lack of
learning, and he recounts the tales of great battles that were fought in
the dawn of Chinese history, and he tells of the struggles that the Empire
has had with the warlike tribes that lay along the northern frontiers of
China, and in vivid word-painting he describes the heroes and sages that
have played so mighty a part in the building up of the Middle Kingdom. It
is entirely due to him that the past lives in the thought and imagination
of the men of to-day, and that men's blood is fired and their passions
moved at the thought of the great deeds that their fathers in days gone by
were able to accomplish.

These men are accustomed to come out every afternoon when the weather
permits and take their positions in some well-known public resort, and
recount their stories to the groups of people that very soon gather round
to listen to them. Their favourite place is in front of some popular
temple towards which the roads converge, and where incessant streams of
people pass and repass without ever ceasing their flow. Some of these are
always sure to stop awhile and listen to the stirring tales that never
seem to lose their attraction for the Chinaman.

Some of the most popular of these are taken from a standard work, half
fiction and half history, called _The Three Kingdoms_. This book contains
a description of the times when three great rivals, occupying three
different sections of the country, were contending for the mastery with
each other (A.D. 221). It is written in a very delightful style, and is
crammed full of adventures of the most exciting and romantic description
from the first page to the very end.

The hero that shines most conspicuously in this historical novel is
Kung-Ming, the beau ideal general and warrior, and the audience is never
weary of listening to the exciting stories of his adventures, whilst he
was striving to uphold the falling fortunes of his royal master. One of
these is exceedingly popular, as it deserves to be, since it illustrates
the fertility of Kung-Ming's mind in his ingenious devices in carrying on
the war with the two rival leaders with whom he was contending.

On one occasion he had sent on a large army that he had collected to fight
with a rival general who was nearly as able as himself, whilst he followed
behind, hoping to reach it before the enemy came into contact with it. He
was proceeding leisurely along, when he was suddenly disturbed by a rush
of defeated soldiers who were flying in the utmost disorder as though
pursued by a successful foe. He found to his dismay that these were his
own men, who had been routed and dispersed by the opposing army; and so
thoroughly had they been demoralized by their defeat that all the
influence and prestige that he possessed had no power to stay their
flight, or to induce them to gather round his standard and once more
follow him to meet the enemy.

The panic indeed was so universal and the fear of the pursuing enemy so
great, that he was deserted by every one excepting two of the most devoted
of his followers, and with these he retreated to the city of Han-chung
that lay some miles away in the rear. Entering into this, he ordered the
city gates to be thrown wide open, whilst he and his two friends took up
their position on the city wall with guitars in their hands, and there, as
though they were celebrating a great victory, they sang songs and played
the most lively airs on their instruments.

Before long the first ranks of the advancing foe appeared in the distance,
and ere long the whole army, with banners flying and trumpets braying and
with every sign of exultation, rapidly advanced in the direction of the
city with the certainty of capturing it without a blow. As the troops drew
near, what was their astonishment to find that the gates were flung wide
open, whilst Kung-Ming, the redoubtable general, was seen playing the
guitar on the walls of the town in full view of the whole army.

The general immediately ordered a halt of all the troops under his
command, and rode forward with his staff to examine into this remarkable
state of things. The city gates truly were thrown wide open, but not a
soldier could be seen either there or upon the ramparts, neither was there
any sign of defence whatsoever. All that could be seen was Kung-Ming
sitting with a gay and festive air on one of the towers, twanging his
guitar and singing one of the national songs of the time. As the general
gazed in the utmost perplexity the notes of the music vibrated through the
air, and the loud tones of Kung-Ming, heard above the highest strains,
reached the listening soldiers as they stood to their arms.

There was something mysterious about these open gates, and the musical
entertainment that could only have been prepared for the enemy. Kung-Ming
had always been noted for the fertility of his resources, and now he had
evidently thought out a deep-laid scheme to involve his enemies in utter
ruin.

The general was a man of consummate ability, but he recognized that in
military tactics he was no match for the man that was singing so blithely
on the walls above him. Fearful lest his army should be involved in some
terrible disaster by the wily foe with whom he had to contend, he gave
orders to retreat, and every man under his command felt that he was not
safe until some miles had been placed between him and the famous general
who had been entertaining them in so strange and unlooked-for a manner.

Thus by this famous ruse Kung-Ming saved his town for his master, and at
the same time gave him an opportunity of gathering together his forces for
a new campaign with his enemies. The story has come down the ages, and
to-day is perpetuated in the language in the well-known proverb,
"Kung-Ming offered the empty city to his enemy," which is often applied to
clinch an argument about something that is happening in daily life.

Another story is told that is always listened to with wrapt attention, and
it is that of a Prince that ruled in the far-off distant times who was
often in collision with the Barbarians that lived just outside the
frontiers of the Empire. He was a valiant man and greatly beloved by his
feudal barons and earls that owed him military service, and who were bound
to call together their retainers and follow him to the field whenever they
were summoned by him to active service.

After a time he came completely under the fascination of a beautiful
concubine whom he had in his harem. Through her influence he neglected the
duties of the State, and the greatest disorders prevailed throughout it.
The wild and warlike tribes across the border who used to be restrained
by the firm hand of the Prince, now made incessant raids into his
dominions and ravaged the lands of the people, and murdered or carried off
into slavery many of the inhabitants, without any action being taken to
punish the marauders or to protect the people against their inroads.

Several years went by and frequent appeals were made to their ruler to
take up arms and drive back the robbers into the wilds and steppes of
their native land, but the fatal influence of the court beauty had made
him careless whether his people were protected or not. At length the
predatory excursions of the Mongols and the Kins and the Huns, the roving
migratory tribes that found China such a fruitful field for plunder and
robbery, became so incessant and so destructive to his dominions that he
was compelled to organize an expedition to drive them across the border.

Lighting the beacon fires throughout the State, which was the usual signal
for the assembling of the feudal chiefs to repair to the capital with
their various quotas of men and arms, there was soon assembled a
formidable force prepared to follow their Prince wherever he desired to
lead them against the enemies of their country. On the morning of the day
on which the army was to start to punish the robbers who were desolating
the northern districts of his dominions, a select body of the chiefs had
an interview with their ruler, and they declared that not a soldier would
obey the orders to march until he had consented to grant them one request,
and that was that he should order the instant execution of the concubine
who had wrought such injury to the State, and that her head should be
handed over to them, so that they might be sure that she had really been
put to death.

The Prince, who was desperately in love with the unfortunate woman, at
first resolutely refused to do what they asked. As the very existence of
the State, as they believed, depended upon its being granted, they were
firm in their determination not to march against the enemy until the
bloody deed had been carried out. After holding out for several days, and
finding that the leaders were inexorable, the executioner was sent into
the palace, and soon the head of the famous beauty was delivered to the
barons, and the army took its march to avenge the wrongs that the wild and
lawless tribes had so long inflicted upon the country.

The story-teller has an inexhaustible store of adventures, and romances,
and love scenes, and great episodes in history upon which to draw. He has
also the free use of his pictorial powers in drawing the scenes and
pictures with which he would stir the imagination and the enthusiasm of
his audiences. Many of these men are real artists in their profession, and
they can hold their hearers spellbound whilst they give a realistic
picture of some stirring event that happened ages ago, or of some great
catastrophe in which a dynasty disappeared amidst scenes of carnage and
bloodshed, and the new one came in to the sound of music and amidst the
rejoicings of a nation. They are, however, a vulgar, dissipated set of
men, and though they do occasionally get inspired with their subjects and
rise to high flights of eloquence, there is not a single noble feature
about them. It is not love for their art that makes them reproduce the
comedies and tragedies of the past, but an irrepressible longing for the
opium, which has put its leaden hues on their faces, and its fierce and
unholy craving into their hearts.

There is another profession that ought to stand the very highest amongst
all the honourable occupations that give men employment in this land, and
that is the one that might in a rough and general way be called that of
"interpreter of the gods." This individual occupies the position he does
not by any human choice, but by the special selection of the idol for whom
he is to act. A vacancy, say, occurs in a particular temple, and a man
must be appointed who can report to the worshippers the answers that the
god has to give them to the particular petitions they have made to it.
Without such a man the idol is dumb. It has a mouth, but it cannot speak;
it has eyes, but they look out of wooden sockets, and no tears of sympathy
have ever been known to fall from them; and it has a face with human
features, but no story, the most pathetic that was ever told in the
hearing of man, has ever been known to cause it to be suffused with
emotion or to touch the cold and passionless features with a touch of
pity.

The man that aspires to occupy this high position must go through a
certain ordeal before he can be accepted by the temple authorities as the
one whom the idol is willing to employ to be the medium by which it shall
communicate its purposes to the people. A certain weird ceremony is
performed in front of the god during some dark night, when only a candle
or two show the idol surrounded by the mystery of darkness. Incantations
are slowly chanted, and invocations made to the wooden image to inspire
the man that stands motionless in front of it. The tap of a drum now and
again sounds as a kind of bass note to the higher notes of the reciter of
the vague and mystic language that is supposed to move the idol to a
manifestation of its will.

After an hour or so of this monotonous dirge and occasional tapping of the
drum, which is evidently meant to quicken the decision of the god, the man
who has been as silent and as motionless as a statue begins to slightly
sway from side to side. The taps on the drum now become more rapid and
more vigorous, and ere long the wretched man becomes convulsed and falls
on the ground as though he were in a fit.

The scene is ended, and the god, it is believed, has entered and taken
possession of the man, and now whenever he speaks officially he does so as
its inspired oracle, and his utterances are accepted as though they had
been spoken by the idol itself.

One would naturally imagine that candidates for this exalted position
would come from among men of culture and refinement, and that the highest
in the land would eagerly desire a position where they would be so
thoroughly in communication with the supernatural and be recognized by
their countrymen as worthy of the highest places in the religion of the
masses. But this is not the case. No scholar would ever dream of demeaning
himself and of rendering himself contemptible in the eyes of the literary
classes by consenting to become an interpreter of the gods. No respectable
citizen would agree either for himself or for any member of his family to
degrade himself by accepting such a position.

The men that actually are employed are opium-smokers who have lost their
property in their indulgence of the popular vice, and as a last resort
have come to the point of bearing the stigma and the disgrace connected
with the office in order to get the gains that come to them when they are
doing duty in the temple. If by some accident they should not have
acquired the habit of opium-smoking, then it may be taken for granted that
they are persons of no moral standing in the community--gamblers, loafers,
or hangers-on to the outskirts of society, and such like.

Such are the men that assume the sacred office of being so inspired by the
gods that they shall be qualified to carry messages from the invisible
world to those who are in sorrow and distress, and who can find comfort
only in the thought that the unseen powers are working on their behalf.
That their new position does not affect in the slightest degree their
moral character is seen by the lives they lead after they have undergone
the process of being specially inspired by the idols to qualify for the
delicate office of interpreting their very thoughts to their worshippers.

They are lazy and idle and profligate. Their leisure time, which is
extensive, is spent in gambling and in occupations entirely unsuited to
their sacred character. They have been known to make excursions during the
darkness of the night when honest men are in their beds and dig up
people's potatoes, or, if no obstacles occur, to despoil a farmer's
henroost of all the birds in it. There certainly is a Nemesis that attends
the irregular lives of these regular clergy of the idols, for they have
not only an evil reputation, but according to popular report death invades
their families until one after another is taken away and the home becomes
extinct. That this happens often enough to warrant the tradition is quite
evident to those who have studied the question. It is also a remarkable
fact, that whilst these men who are the ministers of the idols are looked
down upon with contempt, the gods who select and employ them are never
censured by the public or considered to be involved in the evils of their
servants.

It is a strange system that allows men of a low and depraved character to
be the chief actors in the spiritual movements of a nation, but it is on a
par with the fact that in the worship of the idols, goodness or
reformation in heart or life is never required from a single worshipper.
The bad man brings his offering without any promise that there will be a
change in his life, and it is apparently accepted just as freely as that
of another whose reputation stands high amongst all classes of the
community. This latter fact is a sufficient explanation of how it is
possible for such men as now act as interpreters of the gods to be
tolerated in the service of the temples at all.



[Illustration: A TYPICAL VILLAGE.]


CHAPTER XII

SCHOOLS, SCHOOL-MASTERS, AND SCHOOL-BOOKS

    Chinese passionately fond of education--Reverence for printed or
    written words--State makes no laws for the education of the
    people--The school-house and the school-master--System of
    teaching--Boys first learn sound of words--After years of study learn
    the meaning of each character--Small percentage of readers in
    China--One set of school-books in every school in the Empire--The
    _Three Word Classic_--The "Four Books" and the "Five Classics," with
    analyses.


There is no nation in the world that has a more passionate and earnest
desire for education than the Chinese. In the four great divisions into
which all society has been roughly divided, the scholar is placed at the
head of the list, as the one that is considered most worthy of honour.
Outside of official rank, the highest title that the Chinese have in the
whole of their language is bestowed upon the school-master. He may be a
man so poor that he has hardly enough money to buy food for himself and
his family, and his clothes may be of the plainest and the meanest
description, and yet he has a title given him that is never bestowed upon
any of the three other classes. A man might be a millionaire and rolling
in wealth, but if he were simply a merchant or a tradesman, the coveted
title that the poorest scholar gets would never be given to him, even by
the most loyal of his friends or by the meanest servant in his employ.

The reverence that the nation has for learning has induced a sentimental
and what might seem to be a superstitious regard for the mere written or
printed word. Even that dead form is held to be so sacred that it may not
be misused or treated with contempt or indifference. A very common sight
in a Chinese street is to see a man with a basket slung over his shoulder
on which is inscribed two large characters which mean "Have pity on the
writing." His eyes are kept steadily on the roadway, and on any nook or
cranny by the side, and he eagerly pounces on any scraps of paper, no
matter how frayed or dirty, and places them in his basket. Occasionally he
catches sight of a broken piece of pottery or a fragment of a rice bowl on
which are some of the precious characters that were burnt into them when
they were being manufactured. These also are picked up and reverently laid
aside with the pieces of paper that have been rescued from the feet of the
passers-by.

You stop the man and you ask him what he means by picking up this rubbish
on the street, and he tells you that he is employed by benevolent persons
who cannot bear the thought of seeing the sacred characters that were
invented by the sages and that had been the cause of China's greatness
trodden under foot of men. And so he is gathering all that he can find on
the streets, and at a certain time with due ceremony the whole will be
burnt, and be thus saved from the dishonour that had been put upon them.

The devotion to education is not a mere sentimental one, but one that has
covered this great Empire with schoolhouses, for in all the towns and
cities and in all the larger villages even the people have established the
common schools in which the children of the locality may receive an
education. There are no such things as Government schools, neither are
there private ones. It is true that rich men sometimes engage teachers for
their sons and have the tuition carried on in their own homes, but what
may be called the common schools of the country are managed and supported
entirely by the elders or leading men in the various localities in which
they exist.

The State takes no cognizance whatever of the educational efforts of the
people, neither is it called upon to spend a cash in upholding the
institutions that are in existence for the teaching of the youth of the
country. The people have from time immemorial taken these duties upon
themselves, and they have willingly borne the responsibility of raising
the funds that have been necessary for the successful carrying on of the
schools.

The usual practice is at the close of the year for the leaders, say, of a
village to meet together and discuss the question of the next year's
school. They have already canvassed the parents who have sons, and
ascertained how many of them will attend and how much they are willing to
contribute towards the teacher's salary. They are thus in a position to
know whether they have sufficient funds to invite a first-class man to
take charge of the school, or whether they will have to be content with an
inferior scholar instead.

This question being settled, the next point is to secure the
school-master. If there happens to be one belonging to the village, or one
connected in any way with the leading men, the difficulty is then very
much simplified, but if an unknown man is to be engaged, then it may mean
endless complications for a whole year. He may turn out to be an
opium-smoker, or he may be a vagabond and rarely be seen within the walls
of the school-house; for when once he is engaged the people have no
redress whatever, but must tolerate all his misdeeds and pay him the
salary agreed upon without a murmur or a complaint to him personally. Any
attempt on the part of the villagers to compel him to carry out his
contract faithfully would simply end in their being censured and fined by
the mandarin for daring to assert themselves against one of the
highly-privileged classes in China. We will suppose, however, that a
fairly respectable man has been obtained, and that all the arrangements
for opening the school have been satisfactorily made. The usual time for
the commencement of the school year is three or four days after the "Feast
of Lanterns," which takes place about the middle of February.

The school-house is usually situated in a central part of the village, and
consists of a school-room capable of accommodating twenty or thirty
scholars, a small bedroom for the teacher, and a diminutive kitchen also
for his special use. The managers provide him with a four-poster, a high
oblong table and a few chairs, and also a mosquito-net to be used during
the warm weather when those plagues of the East carry on their campaign
with such unceasing vigour against all animal life. They also place a
table and chair in the school-room, which are to be for his own exclusive
use, but beyond these they leave the furnishing of the place to the
individual scholars, who bring their own stools and tables with them on
the day that the studies begin. On the table are an inkstone, a diminutive
water-bottle, two or three camel's-hair pens or brushes, a stick of Indian
ink, and last, though not least, a good solid piece of bamboo with which
the refractory and the indolent will frequently make acquaintance during
the coming months of the session. There are also a miniature teapot and
Lilliputian teacups, all deftly placed on a lacquer tray, ready for use
whenever the master feels that he would like to refresh himself with a few
sips of the popular beverage that "cheers but not inebriates."

The school life of a boy in China would seem to one who has not been
brought up in Western methods as a dreary and intolerable one, and such as
would take the heart out of any English lad and make him hate the very
sight of books as long as he lived. The duties of the day begin at a very
early hour, and with certain intermissions for meals last until the
evening shades have entered the school-room and blurred the faces of the
books so that the strange, weird-looking words cannot be recognized one
from the other.

The little fellows have to rise as the dawn begins to fling its grey and
trembling light across the darkness that clouds the earth, and to send its
kindly messages into the homes of rich and poor. Feeling the terror of the
master upon them, they quickly jump out of bed, and with no time to wash
their faces or to brush their hair, they hurry along the various paths
that lead to the school, where they find the teacher waiting for them, and
with a frown upon his face if they should happen to be a few minutes late.

The lads never enter the school-room without a feeling of restraint. It is
considered that a cold and haughty kind of bearing on the part of the
master is essential in order to maintain the discipline of the school.
There is, therefore, very seldom if ever any feeling of affection or
devotion between the scholars and him. To them he appears to have no
kindliness of heart and no human sympathies, nor any lovable thought for
any one of them. He is simply there as a kind of living machine to teach
these youngsters this huge Chinese language, but as for sentiment or any
tender feeling for them, that is utterly out of the question.

The method in which the studies are carried on is the very reverse of what
is demanded and insisted upon in the home schools. There the great aim is
to secure not only perfect order but as complete silence as possible. When
there is anything like noise in the school-room it means that the lads are
talking with each other and not studying their lessons. An English lad can
best master these by thinking over them, and in silence committing to
memory the various thoughts or problems that may be contained in the book
he is called upon to study.

Now it seems impossible for any Chinese boy to impress upon his mind's eye
the intricate and apparently meaningless strokes that make up the ordinary
Chinese word. He seems to be able to do this only by bawling them at the
very top of his voice. Efforts have been made to get the scholars in a
school to learn them without raising their voices, but failure has always
been the result. The consequence is, that silence amongst the lads is most
displeasing to a Chinese school-master, and a stern, severe look from him
will set them all off into shouts so deafening that only one great uproar
can be heard resounding through the building, each lad seeming only to be
contending with all the rest to see if he cannot outshout them all. The
drudgery of learning to recognize the Chinese words is something that
cannot be appreciated by a Western student. With English words, for
example, each one is composed of so many letters, has a definite sound and
definite meanings, and after a time, if a boy fails to remember any
particular one, he simply spells it, and at once sound comes tripping back
to his recollection. There is no such easy process to the grasping of the
Chinese characters. Each one is a solemn, hard-featured picture that
stands apart by itself and has no connecting link with any other one in
the language. You cannot reason out what shall be the sound or meaning of
any one word by analogy, for each one is complete in itself and has a
solitary entity of its own. A page of Chinese print gives one the
impression that one has lighted upon a series of cryptic puzzles that the
inventor has made as intricate and involved as the complex and oblique
mind of the Chinese could make them.

The Chinese school-masters throughout the country having realized that to
grasp the sounds of these weird and unromantic figures and the meaning
that lies concealed behind them would be an absolute impossibility for the
youth of the country, have divided up the great attempt into two distinct
efforts. The first thing, therefore, that a lad has to do when he goes to
school is to shout out in all the various tones of the gamut the names of
these ancient, hoary-headed symbols, and at the same time to impress upon
his memory the picture of each one, with its dots and curves and minute up
and down strokes, that it shall be a living picture that his mind can call
up at any moment that he hears its name pronounced.

The primary process goes on for about five years, during which time he has
read through most of his school-books. With one's notions that one has got
from English school life it is impossible at first to realize the
stupendous work that is involved in this dreary way of being educated. The
boy comes to school at early dawn, and he is kept at his desk, with the
exception of his meal hours, till night is throwing its shadows over the
earth. There is no intermission and no racing about the playground at
certain intervals to break in upon the eternal monotony of grinding study.
The playground is a Western institution that has never found its way into
the East. The lads have no time for such inventions that would interfere
with work. Life out here is serious and life is earnest, for the
school-boy at least, and no frivolous methods must be allowed to stay the
studies of this gigantic language.

The whole day, therefore, is spent in acquiring the sounds and the look of
each particular word, without having the remotest idea what they mean. He
comes the next day and the same grinding goes on. The spring passes into
summer and summer into autumn, and one day is like another in its weary
monotony, and the sounds in growing numbers clang and ring within his
brain, and the weird little pictures are hung up in the picture gallery of
his mind, but they tell him no story, neither do they suggest the poetry
and romance that often lie hidden within so many of them.

This fearful kind of treadmill education goes on for four or five years
with boys of ordinary intelligence, but for three or four with lads of
exceptional abilities and fine memories, who have the faculty of
remembering both the sounds and the faces of the thousands of characters
that they meet with in their school-books. During all those precious years
when the intellects of the lads are just in that stage when they are open
to development and expansion, they are bound and contracted by a
miserable system that has kept this nation from advancing in thought and
from claiming the position amongst the nations of the world that it would
have been entitled to had a wider liberty been given it in the training of
its youth.

The cruel thing about it is that though of extreme age, having been
started in the famous Han Dynasty (B.C. 296-A.D. 23), it is in no sense an
outcome of the teaching of the sages. There is ample evidence from Chinese
documents to show that the common schools were conducted in the time, say,
of Confucius (B.C. 550) more as they are carried on in Western lands, and
that even girls were instructed in the _Book of Odes_, one of the stiffest
of the sacred classics, and that books were read not simply in the
mechanical way that they have been for two thousand years, but because of
the interest of the subjects that were discussed in them.

The years have gone slowly by and nature in successive seasons has poured
out of the bounties of an untrammelled heart the riches that have filled
men's hearts with gladness, but the school-house has continued to be the
prison-house where thought was never allowed to blossom, and where the
possibilities of the human heart were crushed and cramped beneath an iron
system that made the spirit of romance and fairy tale and adventure die
out of the youthful manhood of the nation.

At last the morning came to our scholar when the teacher began to explain
the meaning of the strange old-world pictures that stood in columns down
the pages of his books. Their names were all known and their faces were
very familiar, for with many a sigh, and sometimes almost with breaking
heart they had been read and reread, until every lineament in their
wizened faces had been printed on the pupil's hearts. And what a
revelation was the rendering made by the stern master who had simply been
the corrector of wrong sounds, the cold, severe tyrant of the school who
had never seemed to feel one touch of sympathy for the young hearts under
his control.

Many of the dry and colourless pictures under the touch of this stern and
apparently cold-blooded teacher became instinct with life, and human faces
peered through them, and the voices of men that lived ages ago could be
heard speaking in the language of to-day, exhorting the scholars to a
noble and a virtuous ambition. Others, again, exhaled the fragrance of the
fields and the perfume of flowers, whilst one could hear the rustling of
the corn as the breeze swept over it, and could see in imagination the
mountains with their sun-crowned summits and the shadows chasing each
other like school-boys along their rugged sides.

The whole of Chinese history that had lain within the cold and lifeless
grasp of these square little puzzles which he had looked upon with
unutterable loathing for five years, now under the magic touch of the
teacher's hand began to tell the story of the past. He now heard for the
first time of the great revolutions that had changed the destinies of
proud dynasties, and listened to the clang of battle, and the mighty
heroes who had figured in the nation's life centuries ago now seemed to
march by, and he appeared to be able to catch a glimpse of their faces and
to compare the pictures of them that he had imagined in his mind with the
reality now before him.

One very unhappy result of compelling the boys to spend four or five years
in merely learning the sounds of the words, and in familiarizing them with
their look without at the same time acquiring a knowledge of their
meaning, is to greatly reduce the number of those who can read any book
that is put before them as is the case in the West. Fully sixty per cent.
of the lads that enter the common schools leave before they reach the
second stage. There are many reasons for this, but the chief one is a
financial one. The parents are poor, and so when a boy reaches a certain
age his services may be required to help in the support of the family, or
a good situation is offered that does not demand much education, and the
lad is glad of any excuse that will take him away from the heartbreaking
drudgery of simply learning sounds; and so he jumps for joy when his books
are thrown aside, and as he realizes that he is never more required to
enter the school-room again.

All these boys have acquired a certain smattering of knowledge, which,
however, is absolutely useless to them for the purpose of enabling them to
read. One constantly meets with men that can read a page of a book who
have not the remotest idea of what the meaning of the passage is. This is
because they left school before the second stage in their education was
reached, and therefore for all practical purposes they are no better off
than those who have never received any instruction when they were lads.
The mandarins are accustomed to put out proclamations about anything they
wish to order or to instruct the people under their charge. These are
posted up in prominent places throughout the town, and knots of men gather
round them who seem to be able to read fluently the strange
mysterious-looking symbols that compose them. You ask a man who is reading
one of these to explain to you what the mandarin wishes to be done. He
says he really cannot tell you, for when he was at school he never got
further than the initial stage of learning to recognize the characters
with the names that belong to them, and therefore he is unable to explain
to you what the mandarin is forbidding or what regulations he is issuing
for the conduct of the people.

[Illustration: A SCHOLAR IN OFFICIAL DRESS.

_To face p. 258._]

The consequence of this utterly insane plan of education is that for a
civilized country such as China claims to be, the people are grossly
ignorant and uneducated. Taking the population at four hundred millions,
and say half of these are women who may safely be said to have never
been to any school when they were girls, that leaves two hundred millions
of men to be considered. Sinologues who have been well qualified to deal
with the subject, after serious calculations have come to the conclusion
that not more than fifteen millions of readers exist throughout the length
and breadth of the land. These include men who have a mere smattering of
education, but who know enough to be book-keepers and accountants, and
doctors who can write their own prescriptions, and shopkeepers who can
make out their bills, but in such misshapen and uncouth hieroglyphics that
they would make Confucius shudder with disgust were he allowed to visit
the earth, and see what caricatures these men have made of the marvellous
inventions of the darkest ages of China.

Fifteen millions is to my mind a most liberal estimate of the readers of
this country. Why writers on China should have persistently represented
the people of this land as being highly educated is a mystery to those who
profess to be only moderately acquainted with the subject. The country is
illiterate, grossly illiterate, and as a result is festering with pride
and with contempt for every other nation outside of the Middle Kingdom.
There is just now going on throughout the country, however, a tremendous
awakening, and the rush after education on Western lines is one in which
all classes of society are united. The old obsolete system is doomed, and
the youth of the future will be no more subject to the pain and the
weariness and the heartbreaking that countless generations of the young
manhood of the country have had to endure in the past.

We now come to the school-books of the nation, for though there never has
been an Educational Board in China, and none of the dynasties that have
successively sat on the Dragon Throne of this Empire have ever legislated
with regard to the teaching of the youth of the land, there has always
existed but one set of books that are the text books in every school
throughout the country, and which have been used in every scholastic
institution that has ever existed in the long ages of the past. The
Chinaman is thoroughgoing in his conservatism. He has never weakened on
that subject. Even in his smells he is the rankest Tory that ever lived.
The odours that reek through the streets, and send their aroma down the
alleyways, and gently mingle in the atmosphere of the homes, have nothing
modern in them, but are the lineal descendants of a long line of ancestors
that vanish from sight in the mist and obscurity of a remote past.

As a result of this national instinct, no teacher has ever had the
hardihood to propose that there should be any alteration in the books that
should be used in the instruction either of the young or of the more
advanced pupils who may be planning for literary honours. This is all the
more remarkable considering the wide extent of territory of the Chinese
Empire, and of the varieties of languages that are used by the people.

The Chinese are generally spoken of as one race, and so they are in the
great outstanding features that constitute them one distinct nation, and
yet they are divided off from one another in many large regions by
dialects so different from each other, that the people occupying them
cannot understand the languages that are spoken in those outside of their
own.

It would have seemed that such radical differences as those produced by
what is practically a foreign language would have led to different methods
and different ideals as to the management of their schools, but they have
not. You pass along the great plains where the fertility of the soil has
given prosperity to the people, and you examine the schools and you find
one set of text books in every one. You travel over mountain ranges where
the people are having a severe struggle for existence and where a
language is spoken that needs an interpreter before you can enter into
conversation with them. You enter into their village schools and you find
the same familiar books, but the names given to the strange weird-looking
little pictures are so different from those they call them on the other
side of the mountains that you cannot recognize them. You pass up the
great Yang-tze, the "Son of the Ocean," and you step out of your boats a
few hundred miles apart from the last place you rested at, and you
discover that every locality has its own dialect. You make your way to the
nearest school, and still the same books meet your eye, with just the same
dog-eared, uninviting appearance that they present in any latitude or
longitude of the Empire in which you may meet them. You listen to see if
you can catch the tones in which the lads scream out at the top of their
voices the uncouth metallic tones in which they call out the names of the
pictures that fill the pages of their books, but they change in every
place you visit, and your mind is filled with a kind of wonder at the
immense variety of tones and dialects in which the students of this vast
country ring the changes on the books that for countless ages have been
the only ones from which they have had to study.

With regard to these school-books it has to be stated that there has never
been any attempt made to render them attractive to the children that use
them. In England the very reverse of this is the case. They are printed as
a rule on clean white paper, and in a type that is so distinct that the
pupils have never to strain their eyes to make out the letterpress. In
addition to this, most of the books are illustrated with beautiful
pictures that give a fascination to the pages, whilst they help the
scholars to grasp the meaning of the subjects that they have to study.

Now in China there is nothing done to ease the sorrows of the lads in
their grappling with this huge language of cryptic pictures that refuse to
have their meanings explored excepting after years of most painful study.
The books are printed upon the very poorest paper in order to lessen the
cost. The words, too, are often blurred and indistinct, for the wooden
blocks from which they are printed are generally so worn by years of use,
that the delicate strokes and minute touches with the pen, and the
involved and complicated interweaving of straight and waving lines that go
to the making up of the old-world-looking pictures, get frayed and broken
in the printing, so that it requires a practised eye to distinguish some
of them from others that have a natural likeness.

The pages of these books present a most dreary and uninviting appearance.
They are never lightened by any pictures, and no artist has ever attempted
to vary the dreariness of school life by any sketches from nature or any
scene from human life. It is no wonder that the artistic faculty in the
Chinaman has been developed in a grotesque and unrealistic fashion, or
that nature seems to be made to be conformed to the stiff and formal
characters upon which the eyes of the youth of China have to look during
the early years when the artistic element is waiting to be moulded into
those finer shapes that will produce the great pictures that are seen in
the West. Art in China has never had any room in which to play her part in
the development of the mind, or in training the fancies and the
imagination of men. The artist in this land is a man that draws his scenes
by rule and compass, and he would lose caste were he to violate certain
canons that must be observed in the drawing of a landscape or in the pose
or attitude of the human figure. He never dreams of going out into the
fields or of sitting on a hillside and of trying to reproduce the scene
that lies stretched before him. There is no freedom and no losing of
oneself in the inspiration of the moment, when forgetful of rules and
mastered by the subtle forces that have touched his dreams into action, he
shall produce something that no man has ever done before him. The chill of
the years is upon him, when he was compelled, at the very time when his
soul was in the process of formation, to keep his gaze upon those square
unartistic hieroglyphics, and crushing down all the poetry and all the
romance that lay dormant in his nature, to take these as the highest
ideals for all his conceptions of art in the future.

The first book that is put into the hands of the young scholar is called
the _Three Word Classic_, because it is written in stanzas of three words
each. It would naturally be supposed that this book was of the simplest
and most elementary character, and suited for the immature minds and
brains of the lads who are called upon to study it. In the West this would
certainly have been the case, but the East, with its metaphysical trend of
thought and tendency to mysticism, refuses to consider that it has to come
down to the level of the young who are just beginning their studies, and
whose minds can grasp only the commonest and the most everyday thoughts.

The result is there is not to-day a single child's book in China, and no
fairy stories for children, and no household rhymes that can be bought at
the booksellers, and put into the hands of the little ones in the nursery.
The books in this land are for grown-up men, and demand thought and study
and ponderous commentaries in order to be understood; and yet it is these
very same that are put into the hands of a youth of tender years when he
begins to grapple with this gigantic system of mystic pictures that
contain the thoughts and passions and feelings of the Chinese race.

The _Three Word Classic_ is a very admirable instance of the beau ideal
kind of book that the educationist of this land puts into the hands of a
boy, say, of eight or nine years of age. It begins by saying--

    "Man at birth,
    His Nature's virtuous,
    All natures alike,
    Vary by experience.
    Formerly Mencius' mother
    Chose her locality,
    Son refused study
    She severed web," etc.

The meaning of this passage when put into a little more diffuse language
is that when a child is born his heart is naturally good and inclined to
virtue. All children in fact come into the world with natures very much
like each other, and that it is only as they grow up and come under the
influence of surrounding circumstances that they do not all turn out good.
It is not men's natures that are corrupt, but it is the influence of evil
companions and bad training that lead so many astray, and prevent men from
following the bent that is in every man's mind towards virtue.

To illustrate this, the case of the great philosopher Mencius is described
with some minuteness. It appears that he had a mother who was a woman of
great force of character. She was determined that her son should grow up
to be a great man, but in order to secure this it was essential that his
surroundings should be such as would be helpful to the carrying out of
this ambition of the mother's heart. Three times did she remove from the
localities she had chosen for her home, because the neighbours were not up
to the moral standard that would qualify them to be proper examples for
her son.

At length having found the home that satisfied her, she discovered to her
sorrow that Mencius was not inclined to work up to her ideal. He was a
high-spirited lad and full of animal spirits, and preferred to be flying
kites or spinning tops, or tossing the shuttlecock from one to another
with the side of his shoe, to serious study with his books. She was a
brave woman was this mother of the future philosopher. She was quite alone
in the world, for her husband was dead and her relatives lived far away,
and her only source of livelihood was the loom on which she wove the webs
that she disposed of in the nearest market town.

At length the crisis came. One day she had been begging and entreating her
son to be a good boy and give his heart to his studies. He did not seem
moved, however, by her passionate appeals, and in her agony of spirit, and
feeling that life had no charm for her, she grasped a knife that lay by
and began to cut and mangle the web she was weaving. Mencius was so
horrified at this proceeding of his mother, and so cut to the heart that
his conduct should have driven her to such an act of despair, that with
tears in his eyes he promised that he would never trouble her again with
any misconduct of his. From that day he was completely changed. With heart
and soul he entered into his studies. He became a distinguished scholar,
and finally produced works that have moulded and influenced the thinkers
of this nation from his own times (B.C. 372-289) down to the present.

Other examples are given in this famous school-book of men who, desiring
to conform to the high principles that lie embedded in the soul of every
child at birth, have fought manfully against external circumstances and
have come out successful in the end. It is told of one man who
subsequently became very distinguished, that when he was a young man he
was so poor that he had no money to buy oil with which to study after
dark. So determined, however, was he that his evenings should not be
wasted, that he hit upon the ingenious plan of catching a number of
fireflies, and from the light they threw out he kept up his reading as
late into the night as he desired. Another man equally poor used to take
his book out on a winter's night, and by the lights of the snow that fell
on it pursue his studies after all the rest of the family were buried in
slumber.

The next book that follows hard upon the _Three Word Classic_ is the
_Classic on Filial Piety_, a book that was written by the great sage
Confucius, and is a voluminous disquisition upon the duties and virtues of
honouring one's parents. There is no doubt but that the profound respect
that the Chinese have for the doctrine of filial piety has been fostered
in the nation by this work having been for so many centuries the
school-book of the children in all the schools throughout the length and
breadth of the land.

Although in practical life one looks often in vain for a large and general
carrying out of the principles laid down by Confucius, there is no doubt
that there is such a universal acceptance of this divinely commanded
virtue that the effect on the nation has been extremely beneficial. The
ideal is in the air and permeates human life at every point, and though
men through the infirmities of their fallen nature often transgress the
teachings of the sages on this point, there is still a vast amount of
restraint that is put upon the passions of men's hearts in their treatment
of their parents.

Before the _Classic on Filial Piety_ has been read through, the youthful
pupils are introduced to the study of the masterpieces of the great
writers and thinkers of the nation. There are no gradual and easy stages
that are to land them finally into the abstruse style and profound
thinking of the books that have really shaped the life and thought of the
Chinese race. In England there are innumerable stepping-stones between the
story of Jack and Jill and Macaulay's _History of England_, and boys of
ten or eleven would never be called upon to attempt the study of the
latter. The lads of China, however, are not treated with the same
indulgence, for they are put to the study of books that test the thinking
powers of the wisest and the most distinguished scholars in the land. A
brief statement of the teaching of these will show what is the kind of
studies that the youth in China has for a long course of centuries been
compelled to submit to.

The first in order of the "Four Books" that is put into the hands of the
pupils is _The Great Learning_. The leading thoughts that are discussed in
it are how men are to control themselves so that they may become useful
members of society; how they are to manage their families so that peace
may be preserved in the home and the sons and daughters turn out well; and
lastly, the best methods of governing a state so that the highest
happiness may be secured to all its inhabitants. These three points that
affect the whole of society in some form or other, may well be considered
the greatest kind of learning that any man might desire to master.

The next is _The Doctrine of the Mean_, a book that is insufferably dull
and monotonous, but is filled with arguments to show that men should not
rush into extremes, but should pursue the middle path in every undertaking
in which they may engage. It is one of the most difficult of the "Four
Books" to understand, but its main drift is that which has been indicated
above. Following on this confessedly difficult work are the writings of
Mencius, to whom reference has been made in the previous pages. This
philosopher was a most practical and a most genial kind of writer. To him
belongs the honour of defining what he calls the five virtues that are
eternal in their character, viz. love, righteousness, courtesy, a wise
appreciation of life, and sincerity. He dwells, however, more fully on the
two first, and shows how in the management of a state they are most
important factors, without which it must eventually come to destruction.

The fourth book is called the _Analects_, or it might be termed the Table
Talk of Confucius, for it is largely made up of brief and pithy
utterances of the great sage whilst conversing with the various characters
that appear in its pages. Like Mencius, he has had the distinction of
marking out a fivefold relationship that has been accepted by succeeding
ages as a very masterpiece of thought and genius. These are the relation
between sovereign and people, between parents and children, between
husband and wife, between elder and younger brothers, and between friend
and friend. These are discussed very fully, and it is shown that the
divisions that Confucius made, if properly recognized and carried out,
would secure happiness and prosperity to all the people of any country or
state.

There are two figures, however, in this interesting work that are of
surpassing interest, and that have had a profound effect on the character
and thought of the nation ever since. These are what Confucius calls "The
Son of a King," and "The Small Man." The former of these is the conception
in the mind of the great sage of what he deemed to be the ideal man. It is
not, however, one born in a palace and heir to a throne. He might first
have seen the light of day in a cottage, and have spent all his life
there. The conception was of a man of princely mind, who acted as though
he were really the son of a king and was destined one day to rule an
Empire. His thoughts were all noble, and no shadow of anything mean or
despicable ever fell upon his soul. "The Small Man" was the very reverse
of this. He was common and mean in all that he did. No lofty thought ever
crossed his mind, and no ambition to excel in the finer qualities that
make up the beautiful life ever lifted him up for a moment from the low
level in which he constantly lived. If Confucius had never written another
word, but had been simply content to have flashed this inspiration of
genius in the pictures he has drawn of these two characters upon the
coming centuries, he would have done incalculable service to his race.

Following on the "Four Books" there come in quick succession the "Five
Classics," which are given to the boys to read. The first of these is the
_Book of Poetry_, which contains the national songs that were sung by the
fathers of the race, as well as those used on royal and solemn occasions,
such as when some great function was being performed in the presence of
the sovereign, or when in the ancestral halls the members of the clans
were assembled to offer sacrifices to the spirits of their ancestors. From
a Western standpoint they are insufferably dull as a whole, for they are
wanting in passion and intensity, and never seem to be able to stir men
into enthusiasm or to set the blood on fire.

The next in order of study is the _Book of History_, which contains the
brief record of some of the leading events that took place in the first
five dynasties that ruled over the Chinese race from B.C. 2357, down to
the year B.C. 627.[3] Then comes the _Record of Ceremonies_, which
contains minute directions how to act with ceremonious politeness to the
members of one's own family, to strangers, to those in authority, and to
any one that one may meet in society under every and any conditions
whatsoever.

It is most amusing to read of the minute directions that are given in this
manual of etiquette with regard to the way in which parents should be
treated by their children. "Boys and girls who are still under age ought
to rise from their beds at dawn and wash their hands and rinse their
mouths, and carefully comb their hair. They should then hasten to the
bedroom of their parents and inquire if they are in need of any
refreshment. If they are, they must at once proceed to the kitchen and
provide something savoury for them to partake of, and they must stand by
with heads slightly lowered in token of profound respect whilst they are
eating the food they have prepared for them."

Rules even are laid down as to how the children should act when a father,
for example, has been doing something that needs reproof. "When he has
been in error the son must point this out in an exceedingly humble manner,
in a gentle tone and a countenance on which there must not be the shadow
of a frown. If the father refuses to listen, the son must become still
more dutiful than he has ever been, until finding that any unpleasant
feeling has passed away he must again with great respect point out what he
considers ought to be rectified in his conduct, and try and show him the
injury he is doing to the department, district, village or neighbourhood
in which he lives. Should the father be so enraged at this as to beat his
son till the blood flows down, he must not dare to harbour the least
resentment against him, but must serve him with increased respect and
reverence."

The fourth of the "Five Classics" is called the _Record of the Spring and
Autumn_, and was composed by Confucius. His object in writing it was to
give a narrative of events in continuation of the history contained in the
_Book of History_ mentioned above. He desired also to give the nation a
lasting monument of himself, for he seemed to be haunted with an idea that
if he did not leave some record of himself, his name and his memory would
perish from the face of the earth.

His narrative of events extends from B.C. 722-480, but the whole thing has
been done in the most inartistic fashion. The sentences are brief and
matter of fact, and whether it be an atrocious murder or a deed of heroism
that is recorded, the author is careful to conceal what his own views are
with regard to them. No details are given and no opinion expressed, the
facts are simply recorded, and that is all; and yet Confucius declared
that it would be by the _Records of the Spring and Autumn_ that
succeeding ages would either honour or condemn him, a prediction that was
bound never to be fulfilled.

The last of the "Five Classics" is the _Book of Changes_, the most
mysterious and the most unfathomable of all the books in the Chinese
language. It consists of sixty-four short essays, and is founded upon the
same number of lineal figures, each made up of six lines, some of which
are whole and some are divided. From these figures are evolved all kinds
of theories on moral, social, and spiritualistic questions. It is the
happy hunting-ground of fortune-tellers, who can predict from the peculiar
way in which the lines happen to be placed in relation to each other
whether prosperity is to come into a man's life, or whether misery and
sorrow are to close it in disaster.

In the above I have given a very rough and general summary of the
school-books that the youth of China have had to study from the earliest
days down to the present. The common subjects that are taught in the
schools at home, such as arithmetic, geography, grammar, and such like,
have no place in the schools of this country. The result is that the whole
nation is grossly ignorant of every other country outside of their own,
and this has engendered conceit and contempt and an arrogant spirit for
countries that stand in the van of civilization in the West.

But a mighty change is even now working in this old Empire, and men are
beginning to realize that the system of education that has so far been in
existence is a radically defective one, and must be displaced by those
that are more in a line with the ones that have raised the West to such a
high pitch of learning in so many departments of study. There is just now
a tremendous thirst for Western education, and the nation seems prepared
to abandon the old conservative systems that have been such a hindrance to
the advance of thought in the past.



CHAPTER XIII

THE MANDARIN

    Mandarins' great power--Ambition of every father that son should be a
    mandarin--A famous Prime Minister--Description of a mandarin of a
    county--His three titles--Clever method of squeezing complainant and
    defendant--A typical case--Crime not noticed until officially brought
    before the notice of the mandarin--Violations of law by mandarins for
    the purpose of squeezing--Methods of judicial procedure--Torture used
    to cause confession--Mandarins allowed large discretionary powers in
    their decisions--Two typical instances.


Any man who is in office under the Government is called a mandarin. It
must be understood, however, that he is actually in its service to get
this honourable title for whilst many, through courtesy, are addressed as
mandarins, it is only those who are in the _bonâ fide_ employment of the
country that really can be considered as such.

The mandarins as a class are the privileged men of the Empire. They have
large and extensive powers. In the exercise of their functions a wide
discretion is allowed them, and in their decisions as magistrates, whilst
they have to keep themselves within certain general laws recognized as the
statutes of the dynasty, they are left very much to their own wit and
common-sense as to how they shall reach the conclusions they may finally
come to. In addition to the above, the mandarins have almost unlimited
opportunities of making money and of enriching themselves and their
families.

[Illustration: ENTRANCE GATE (NANKIN).]

This latter has a fascination for the Chinaman, which explains the intense
longing that every youth, who has any ambitions for the future, has to
some day become a mandarin. I presume there is hardly a son born in this
wide Empire, about whom the father does not at once begin to have his
dreams. He pictures to himself the time when the little fellow whose
cries are awakening new echoes in the home shall have taken his degree and
have qualified himself for some Government appointment. His visions widen
and he sees him advanced from one post to another, and growing in power
and in wealth, until he finally returns to his ancestral home to build a
magnificent mansion and to enrich every member of it.

As the mandarins all spring from the people, without any reference to
class or social position, the dreams that the parents often have about
their sons are not the fairy creations of fancy like those of Aladdin's
wonderful lamp, but in countless instances are real romances that are more
marvellous than any writer of fiction has ever conceived. In one of my
travels in the interior of China in passing along a great thoroughfare, I
came upon a magnificent grave. I saw at once it was the tomb of a man that
had been a great mandarin, for only such could possibly have had such a
splendid monument erected in connection with his last resting place.

The tomb, that stood high and conspicuous far back from the highway along
which a constant stream of travellers passed to and fro, was situated at
the end of a great avenue flanked on both sides by huge stone figures
larger than life. The whole was intended to represent the official
residence and court of a high mandarin. There were stone lions guarding
the approaches to where the great official was supposed to be visiting,
and granite horses with their riders waiting patiently for the coming of
their lord, and stone footmen who had been standing for more than a
century for one whose footsteps would never again be heard by human ears.

There was quite a romantic story connected with this grave. Nearly two
hundred years ago, the ground occupied by it was a poor little farm,
cultivated by a family who could barely get enough out of it to keep body
and soul together. A son was born, and as the lad grew up, the parents
seeing that he was a child of uncommon natural abilities, determined that
he should be a scholar, and that he should retrieve the glories of his
house which tradition declared had in former years been most conspicuous,
and should bring back the good fortune which had been vanishing slowly
from their home.

He was accordingly kept at school when he should have been helping on the
farm or going out as a labourer to earn a few cash to ease the poverty
that held the family within its grip. To do this meant a struggle for them
all, and ceaseless self-denial both for the parents and for the young
scholar himself, but after years of a stern struggle to keep the wolf from
the door, the faith and patience of them all were rewarded by the success
of the son.

He passed his examinations with such brilliant success, that he was soon
made a mandarin, and he was appointed to the control of a rich county
where he had ample opportunities of showing the Government how well fitted
he was to rule. From this time the shadow that had rested on his home
lifted, for he was now in a position to send sufficient money to his
parents to enable them to live in luxury. The old house, battered by the
weather and falling into decay, was rebuilt and enlarged. Fresh fields
were bought and added to the farm, and servants and field hands were
employed to gather in the harvests that filled their home with abundance.

In the meanwhile the son had been advanced from one post to another, until
finally he was summoned to the capital by the Emperor and made Prime
Minister. During these years his wealth had been accumulating, until now
he had a large fortune at his command, which, true to Chinese nature and
to Chinese traditions, he had sent to his old home, and which he had spent
largely in the purchase of lands which he added to his own, and of farms
which he let out to farmers, who had lost their own, to cultivate for
him.

At length the time came for him to die, and with the strong passion for
his home where he was reared that supplies the place of patriotism to the
Chinese, he made arrangements that his body should be carried to the place
where he was born, and should be buried in one of the fields in sight of
his old home, where his grave could be cared for, and where his spirit
could be sacrificed to by the members of his own family.

This meant a journey of over a thousand miles, over great plains and up
and down hills and mountains, and across wide rivers, and months of steady
journeying for a large retinue that would have to follow the dead
statesman in a kind of triumphal march across the Empire.

At length the great procession reached the place where the illustrious
dead was to be laid. The whole country round had gathered to witness the
proceedings, for never before, in this region at least, had such a
magnificent funeral been witnessed by any one. There were civil mandarins
of various ranks, dressed in their official robes, with their retinues and
attendants and gorgeous sedan chairs. There were also the highest military
mandarins of the province, with long lines of soldiers, that had been
ordered by imperial edict to do honour to the dead by their presence.

And now the coffin was lowered into the grave amid the blare of trumpets
and the loud wailing of the mourners dressed in sackcloth, whilst crowds
gazed on the scene from every little rising ground, and the proud and
haughty officials pondered with solemn faces upon the honour that had been
done that day to a man who had risen from such a humble condition in life.

One would have imagined that as the mandarins, or rulers of the country,
are all recruited from the ranks of the people, they would naturally be
in sympathy with them, and would do their utmost to deliver them from the
tyranny and oppression from which they too often suffer, but this is not
the case. The fact is the mandarins, as a whole, are the great curse of
the nation. They are rapacious and exacting. They have no regard for
justice or mercy, when these conflict with their own self-interests, and
they are the bitter opponents of any plans of reform, knowing that the
carrying out of such would endanger their own vested interests, and
deprive them of the arbitrary powers they now possess.

In order to give the reader some practical idea of what are the duties and
responsibilities of a mandarin, I propose to select one and describe him
as graphically as I can, so that one may have a picture of him before the
mind's eye. For this purpose, I shall take the "County Mandarin," for
though there are many others that are superior to him in rank, there is
not one whose duties are so multifarious, or who is so responsible for the
order and good government of his district as he is.

He has three titles by which he is equally well known throughout the whole
of the Empire. The first of these is the "County Mandarin," because he is
the chief official in it, and his authority is the predominant one
throughout the whole of the county. Even in cases where his immediate
superior wishes any action to be carried out within his jurisdiction, he
has to request the county mandarin to see it executed. The second of his
titles is "The man that knows the County," from the fact that it is
assumed that he is so intimately acquainted with everything that goes on
within his district that nothing can possibly happen in it without his
being thoroughly cognizant of it. This assumption of course is an utterly
ridiculous one, as it would be manifestly absurd to suppose that any
mortal man could know what is happening by day or night throughout a
large county. The title, however, which has come down from the past, and
which the man accepted when he took office, serves to make him responsible
for all that goes on within his jurisdiction. The theory of the Chinese
Government that every one in some way or other is responsible for what may
take place in society, enables it to at once put its finger on the person
who has to be dealt with in the case of any infraction of the law, though
he himself may not be the individual who has committed the offence.

A murder, for example, is committed during the darkness of the night. It
was done in some alleyway and there is no trace of those who killed the
man. The bailiff of the ward is summoned to appear before the local
mandarin, and he is asked if he has apprehended the murderer. He makes the
excuse that the whole thing happened during the night when the whole city
was asleep, and therefore he could not possibly be cognizant of what all
the scamps and ruffians were doing when honest men were in their beds and
were fast asleep.

That excuse, which would at once be accepted in England, would be laughed
at in China, and the bailiff would be reminded that it was his business to
know everything that went on in his ward, and very likely he would receive
a hundred blows to refresh his memory, and the promise of as many more if
the culprit were not captured within a certain limited time. By this same
doctrine of responsibility, "The man that knows the County" is held by the
Government to be one that must bear on his shoulders the consequences of
whatever may happen in any part of the county over which he rules.

A third title that is given to the official I am describing is, "The
mandarin that is the Father and Mother of the People." This term is a very
pretty one and is given to no other official. It is intended to indicate
the very intimate relationship that exists between him and his people,
and the tender concern that he ought to have for their welfare. As the
child runs to its mother in time of trouble and gets comfort from her
sympathy, so the people of a county turn to this mandarin, when they are
threatened with injustice or oppression, and so he, in the spirit of a
father when he sees his own son in distress, bends all his energies to
protect and comfort them. This is a beautiful theory, which the ancient
legislators of this country in some moment of inspiration conceived, but
the actual fact is that in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, instead of
being a father or a mother, he is more like a hungry tiger that desires to
dig its claws into the flesh of a lamb, to satisfy its appetite upon it.

The mandarin whom I am describing has just received an appointment to the
county, say, of "Eternal Spring," for which he has paid the modest sum of
a thousand pounds to the high official who had the disposal of the office.
He is an ambitious man, and his great aim is not only speedily to recoup
himself this initial outlay, but also to lay by a considerable sum to
carry with him to his ancestral home and enable him to live in easy
circumstances for some years to come. As his term of office lasts only
three years and his salary is not more than three hundred a year, it would
seem that he would require to be a conjuror to accomplish these two
objects in the limited time at his command.

That he can do, and in the great majority of cases actually does perform,
such remarkable financial legerdemain is a fact that is entirely due to
the vicious system on which the whole civil service in China is based. It
is perfectly understood by the Government that when a mandarin is
appointed to any official position under it, the squeezes he has to pay
for it, and the inadequate salary he will receive for his services, are
all to be met and supplemented by what he can wring out of the people.
This system is as old as the nation, and has become so inwrought and
worked into its very fibre, that a new creation of national life would
seem to be essential before it could be eradicated from the body politic.
When the mandarin arrives at his Yamen, which is his residence and the
place where all the official business of the county is transacted, he is
met by the whole staff of men who are to assist him in the arduous duties
that fall to him as the chief magistrate in the large district he has been
appointed to rule. These consist of a private secretary, an interpreter, a
number of writers who write dispatches and conduct any correspondence that
may arise, a large body of policemen, or runners as they are generally
called in the East, and a dozen disreputable-looking men who form the
retinue of the mandarin, when he is called out to settle disturbances in
any part of his large field, or adjudicate on cases that have to be tried
on the spot.

Nominally he is responsible for all the salaries that this great crowd of
men receive, and one wonders how he manages to pay them all out of his
three hundred a year. The real fact of the case is, the only man that
receives any salary from him is his private secretary. All the rest
purchase the privilege of being employed in his service, and give the
whole of their time free simply for being permitted to extract out of the
people who come to engage in lawsuits, or from those who have fallen
within the grip of the law, fees and squeezes and perquisites enough to
give them a very good permanent income.

It is very interesting to watch the way in which these gentry carry on
their official work, and how as ministers of justice in executing the
decisions of the mandarin their one aim seems to be to extract as much out
of the pockets of the people they are operating on as it is possible for
them to do.

A farmer, for example, comes one day into the Yamen to lay a complaint
against a rich neighbour who has taken forcible possession of some of his
fields. He produces the deeds of his lands, and shows how they have been
in his family for several generations and that they have never been
alienated either by sale or by mortgage. The rich man has simply taken
forcible possession of them because he belongs to a formidable clan, he
declares, and not because he has any right to the fields.

The runners are delighted with this case, for the fact that there is a
rich man in it makes it certain that some of his dollars will be
transferred to their pockets. The complaint is formally accepted by the
mandarin, and the court fees having been paid, a warrant is issued for the
arrest of the man who has been accused.

The runners or policemen start out on their journey with light and joyous
hearts. The road that leads away from the main thoroughfare takes them
through rice fields, and skirts the foothills, and runs through villages,
until at last it brings them by a narrow pathway to the house of the rich
man they have come to arrest.

The whole village is excited by the arrival of these messengers of the
law, for they are always a sign of ill omen, and the only man that can
face them without being terrified is the man who knows that he has the
means to satisfy their cupidity and to thus avoid being roughly handled by
them. A crowd as if by magic silently gathers round the open door through
which the runners have entered, and the women from the neighbouring houses
collect in excited knots, and with flushed faces discuss the wonderful
news of their village life.

The rich man, with as calm and as indifferent a manner as he can assume,
though his heart is beating fast, comes out into the courtyard where the
runners are standing and politely asks them what is their business with
him. They tell him they have a warrant for his arrest for seizing some
fields that belong to one of his neighbours, and the mandarin has
ordered them to bring him to his court to be tried for the offence.

[Illustration: A POLICEMAN.

_To face p. 280._]

Whilst the warrant is being read, the accused has had time to collect his
wits. He of course denies the accusation, and politely asks the men to be
seated. At the same time he calls the cook, and declaring that they must
be tired and hungry after their long walk, he orders him to at once get
dinner ready for them, and in a whisper he gives him a hint that he does
not wish him to spare any expense in providing such a meal as will put
them in the best humour possible.

The runners freely protest that they have no time to delay, that their
orders are imperative, and that the "Father and Mother of his People" is
impatiently awaiting their return. This of course is all put on, for
dinner is just the one thing they have been looking forward to; so
pretending to yield to the entreaties of their host, they at once make
themselves at home. They smoke their pipes and then laugh and chat with
the members of the household, just as though they had been invited guests,
and not policemen who had come to carry off the head of it to prison.

After a time, when they have got into a comfortable humour with each
other, the rich man takes the head runner aside, and after a few minutes
of earnest conversation and the slipping of a few dollars into his hand,
an air of increased geniality seems to have suddenly sprung up between him
and his uninvited guests. They are now most polite and deferential to him,
and the swaggering, bullying manner natural to them is replaced by a
childlike gentleness that is really most touching. Dinner over, instead of
incontinently grabbing him by the tail and hauling him along the road as
their instinct would prompt them in the case of any of the common people,
they part from him with smiles and bows and high-flown compliments, whilst
the culprit actually stands at his door, and ostentatiously, for the
benefit of the man who has accused him of stealing his fields, entreats
them not to leave him too soon, and assures them that his heart will be
desolated if they do not come quickly and pay him another visit.

When they reach the Yamen, the "Man that knows the County" demands of them
where their prisoner is. They have their story all ready, and they explain
that when they reached his home they could find no trace of him, and that
without any explanation to his friends he had disappeared and they could
not find him. They declare, however, that they are keeping an eye upon the
family, who they are convinced are hiding his movements, and that before
long they will be able to arrest him and bring him before the magistrate.
There is no doubt but that both the "Man that knows the County" and these
scamps whose faces are dyed with the opium hue, all had their tongues in
their cheeks whilst this fable was being rehearsed. Both sides know that
the whole thing is a farce, but seeing that the original idea was devised
by the thinkers and humorists that lived when the history of the nation
was in twilight, it would not do for their far-off descendants to give the
show away, and so with solemn faces they play out the thing, as though a
tragedy and not a comedy were being enacted.

The runners have scarcely left the house, when the rich man hastens, as
fast as he can hurry, to the city, and enters his reply to the accusation
that has been laid against him. He denies that _in toto_, and produces
deeds, that have been so deftly manufactured that they have the impress of
a hundred years upon them, and which he declares prove decisively that the
fields in question belong to him, and have come to him in proper legal
succession from his forefathers.

He is careful, however, after he has put in his plea, to find out some
relatives of the "Father and Mother of the People" who have followed him
from his distant home for occasions like this, with whom he confers. An
earnest but not an unduly prolonged conversation takes place, when a
certain sum of money changes hands, which is destined to find its way into
the pocket of the mandarin, and whose purpose is to give him such a clear
and profound grasp of the case that he will have no difficulty in deciding
that the accusation against the rich man has been a trumped-up one.

Ten days go by and no further proceedings have been taken. The
complainant, well aware of the cause of this, scrapes together as large a
sum as he can possibly afford, and by the same underground method sends it
to the "Man that knows the County," with the hope that he will be able to
see the justice of his case and give him back his fields. At the same time
he enters what in legal phraseology is called a hurrying petition, the
object of which is to hasten the action of the mandarin so as to finish up
the case without delay.

Upon the receipt of this, an order is issued to the runners to go and
arrest the accused with all possible dispatch and bring him to the Yamen
so that he may be tried. The previous farce such as I have already
described is once more gone through. The runners are received with lavish
hospitality and a certain number of dollars are transferred to their
pockets, that put a smile on their features that lights them all up and
that spreads away to the back of their necks, till it finally vanishes
down their tails into thin air. On their return to the Yamen they report
that the man is still away from home, and though they have made diligent
inquiries they have not yet been able to trace his whereabouts.

And so the case goes on, bribes being paid by both sides that go to swell
the gains of the "Father and Mother of his People," whilst fees also are
squeezed out of them by the runners, who, as in some difficult cases in
Chancery in England, grow fat upon the spoils that they extract out of
both the complainant and defendant. Finally, after many months of
vexatious delays, when the whole hungry tribe in the Yamen see that no
more money can be got out of either side, the case is tried, when some
compromise is suggested and the parties leave the court fully convinced
that there is no such thing as justice in China.

The mandarins in this land take a very Oriental idea of what their duty is
in regard to crime. They act upon the principle that unless it is legally
brought before them, and a complaint is entered in their court, they will
take no cognizance of it. Two large and wealthy villages have a quarrel, a
very common thing in China. The feud grows and the passions become excited
till finally they determine to take up arms and settle the case by a
fight. To get the aid of the supernatural on their behalf, each side
appeals to the village god, that is the patron of the clan, to know
whether it approves of the taking up of arms. Almost invariably the idol
does so, and in addition promises to give their side victory in the coming
struggle.

All the old rusty jingals are brought out and furbished up; gunpowder is
bought, and spears and cruel-looking pronged instruments that have been
hidden away when there was no occasion for them, are thrown into the
common stock and are served out to the young bloods who have been getting
blue-mouldy for want of a beating.

Fighting now goes on every day, and other villages round about take sides
with one of the parties, till sometimes as many as thirty, divided into
different camps, are at open war with each other. Fields are desolated,
and crops are ruthlessly destroyed. All this time the "Father and Mother
of his People" knows exactly what is going on, but as he has never been
officially informed of it, he acts on the assumption that the district
where men are being murdered is at absolute peace. Not a soldier is sent
to apprehend the lawbreakers, and no notice whatever is taken of the fact
that combatants are being seized and subjected to the most horrible
tortures, whilst they can get no redress from the constituted authorities
who ought to protect them.

The fact of the matter is the mandarin is simply waiting his time, and
when that arrives he will come in force and rake in the golden harvest
that awaits him. In these clan fights it invariably happens that after a
time both sides become tired of the whole business, and mediators are
appointed to bring the two sides to terms with each other. This process
goes on smoothly until the question as to how much blood-money should be
paid for those who have been killed on each side arises. Where an even
number have fallen in the struggle the solution of the difficulty is an
easy one, but when the number of the slain is greater on one side than on
the other, it is in nearly every case necessary to appeal to the mandarin
to get him to use his authority to settle the matter. It is then that he
finds his opportunity of making a lot of money out of both the belligerent
parties. They have broken the law, he tells them, by carrying on war in
his Majesty's dominions, and he must fine them for daring to take this
liberty. In many cases he has been known to return to his Yamen thousands
of dollars richer than when he left it.

In the question of crime, the democracy is allowed a much larger liberty
than is the case in the West. With the exception of rebellion, or any
overt act against the Government, a Chinaman may commit the most atrocious
misdemeanours without being held responsible to the authorities, unless,
indeed, some formal complaint has been made against him. Murder, for
example, is a crime that in nine cases out of ten is always settled by the
families concerned, by a payment of blood-money. They will fight and
wrangle, and discuss for days together as to the compensation that is
demanded, but when once the amount has been settled and paid the whole
thing is finished, and society never dreams that the murderer owes
anything to it, or that he ought to atone to it for the injury he has done
it in killing one of the members of it.

It is interesting to observe how the mandarin, with his impecunious staff,
who all represent the majesty of law in this Empire, systematically assist
certain classes of people to evade the law of the land, in consideration
of a regular payment being made to allow them to do so. Take gambling, for
instance. The gambling instinct is one of the strongest passions by which
the whole of the Chinese race may be said to be moved. There is no class
exempt from it. The rich and the poor, the men of learning in common with
the coolie who earns his living on the streets, refined ladies and the
wives and daughters of the labouring classes, all have this passion in
their blood. This is so well recognized by their rulers that gambling is
strictly forbidden throughout the Empire. There are standing laws against
it which forbid the indulgence of it in any form whatsoever. There is only
one exception to this, and that is during the first three days in the new
year. Then the nation gambles openly, and tables are placed on the
streets, around which crowds of men gather; and in the homes the women,
forgetful of their duties, are so absorbed over their cards and dice that
until the fourth day, when the gambling must stop, they seem to be driven
with as mad a passion for gain as are the men on the streets.

Now the mandarin and his low-class, opium-dyed gang of followers take
advantage of this terrible weakness of the people to make money out of it;
and so a stranger to the ways of China would be immensely astonished to
find that in the market towns, and especially in those where regular fairs
are held, gambling shops where games of chance are played openly before
the public everywhere exist, and crowds of country bumpkins, drawn by the
universal passion, gather round the tables and, forgetful of time, lose
all sense of everything else, and become absorbed in the changing figures
of the board that bring them either fortune or despair.

You naturally ask how it is that in a country where gambling is so
strictly forbidden, that here is a shop entirely given up to that vice,
and that openly and in sight of the crowds that usually flock to a fair,
the place is packed with men who make no attempt at disguising what they
are engaged in. You will soon discover that the owner of the place pays a
certain settled sum into the Yamen that is divided amongst the "Man that
knows the County" and his disreputable set of underlings; and should any
policeman happen to have official business in the fair, and were passing
along the street and saw the eager, noisy gamblers gathered round the
tables, he would profess the utmost ignorance as to what was going on in
that disreputable place. Should any of the more respectable inhabitants
make a formal complaint against the betting and gambling fraternity, the
magistrate would appear to be filled with indignation, and runners would
be sent to apprehend the lawbreakers to bring them before him to be
punished according to law. They would find, however, when they arrived
that every trace of gambling had been removed, and only perhaps a young
lad would be found, with an innocent-looking face, selling peanuts and
candies. The fact is, before they started with their warrant from the
mandarin, they sent on a swift-footed messenger ahead of them to warn the
men they were coming, and telling them to clear out.

China is a country full of lofty ideas. These are found in the writings of
the sages. They are pasted up in crimson strips of paper on the doorposts
of the houses and shops in every city in the Empire. They are found
staring at one over the temples of the gods, and on the lofty doors of
the Yamens, so that one would suppose that these latter were churches
where the highest morality and the profoundest of theological teachings
were being daily expounded. There is no place indeed that is considered so
bad that a public sense of decency would demand that they should be
excluded from it. Low, miserable opium dens, and houses of ill-fame, and
gambling hells, and homes that are the abode of thieves are adorned with
the most exquisite sentences full of the highest morality, and seemingly
culled with the greatest care from the vast repertory that the language
contains, as if to condemn the very vices that are rampant within.

One would imagine that these beautiful and choice epitomes of all the
virtues would have made the Chinese a highly moral and virtuous people,
but they have not done so. The exquisite sentences that give you a thrill
as you read them for the first time, stare down upon the inmates and upon
the passers-by without the remotest apparent effect upon any one. The
opium-hued runner, and the mandarin whose sole aim is to enrich himself,
pass in and out of the Yamen with sentences that extol righteousness and
benevolences as the highest virtues, but the Yamen remains unchanged, and
continues to be the abode of the greatest villainies. It is an undoubted
fact that it has the worst reputation for roguery and cheating and
chicanery, and the violation of all justice, of any other place throughout
the kingdom.

This is no new development of modern times, but has been in existence from
ages immemorial.[4] It is not, moreover, the result of any class
legislation, for all the mandarins spring from the masses, and therefore
all their vices and defects are inherited from them. There needs a
renovation of the whole social fabric to make men honest in life, and to
cause them to refrain from the practice of things that would never be
tolerated in the common life of the Englishman of to-day. The methods of
judicial procedure in China are entirely different from those in the West.
There is no jury, no summoning and questioning of witnesses, and no
lawyers to defend their clients or to expound the law, so as to deliver
them from any penalties they might have incurred. Everything is left in
the hands of the judge, who takes whatever view may seem to him to be the
best in the case, and to decide without any reference to law books or
statutes or to legal precedents.

A case, for example, is going to be tried. A man is accused of robbing a
grave, one of the most heinous crimes of which a Chinaman can be guilty.
As it is one of the axioms of Chinese law that an accused person is
assumed to be guilty, he is brought in forcibly and with brutal roughness
by some of the runners, wildly declaring that he is absolutely guiltless
of the offence with which he is charged.

This protestation is, of course, taken as a kind of joke that every
prisoner is accustomed to make, so he is forcibly bumped down on to his
knees, whilst his head is made to strike the ground with a sound that is
heard throughout the court. The judge looks on him with a stern and solemn
visage, and enlarges on the enormity of his crime. He must be guilty, for
how otherwise would he be here charged with this offence? The mandarin
calls upon him to confess, but as he refuses to do this, but, on the
contrary, adheres to his statement that he is innocent, a signal is given
to the runners, who proceed to beat him most unmercifully, till his cries
ring throughout the building, and he calls in the most piteous tones to
all present to bear witness that he never committed the crime with which
he is charged. After a time, seeing that he remains obstinate, the
castigation is stopped, and the man, bleeding and wounded, is dragged out
by his tail by the runners and thrown into a dismal dungeon, with some
dirty straw in a corner, and where he can consider whether he will confess
as the mandarin commands him, or whether he will consent to endure the
barbarous treatment he will receive till he does.

A few days pass by, and he is again dragged into the court and the same
process is repeated, until at last, exhausted by his sufferings and unable
to endure the horrible tortures to which he is subjected, he finally
confesses that he did rob the grave. This is exactly what the mandarin has
been manoeuvring for, for according to Chinese common law procedure, no
prisoner can be condemned, and there can be no execution of his sentence,
until he has signed with his own hand his confession that he is guilty. It
would seem to the unsophisticated mind of the Barbarian that has never
been enlightened by the civilizing influences of the sages, that criminal
law would find itself at a complete standstill, seeing that no man would
be willing to sign his own condemnation.

This, however, is an utter mistake. The mandarin has ways and means of
persuading a refractory prisoner to make just the very confession that
will justify him in punishing him to the full extent that he believes he
deserves. There is the prison where a man may be slowly starved, and
chains and manacles, and stout bamboo rods wielded by sturdy brawny arms
that no touch of pity ever weakens. These can be used with such steady,
unfaltering perseverance that life becomes intolerable, and the poor
fellow would be ready to sign a hundred criminating documents rather than
continue to endure the tortures that are inflicted upon him.

In the above accounts of the methods of judicial procedure in China, I
have selected cases that are of constant occurrence throughout the Empire.
How a nation with such a system of judicature has managed not only to
exist, but also to retain a vitality such as China has to-day, is a marvel
that testifies to the law-abiding character of the Chinese race. The
mandarin of to-day is about as mean and as ignoble a specimen of a ruler
as can be conceived, but he has always been the same. He is a product of
the ages. All the teachings of the sages in which he is an adept, have
never been able to produce a better. The people universally hate and
loathe him. He is the synonym for oppression, injustice, and cupidity, and
yet when a man rises from the ranks and is numbered amongst this
aristocracy of power, he never remembers the loathing of the people for
this class, whose name is distasteful to all honest men. It is quite true
that one does occasionally meet with a high-minded and honourable
mandarin, but he is simply an exception that proves the rule. The love and
devotion that the people manifest to such an exceptional character as this
only shows what a longing men have for those to rule over them who shall
exhibit in their lives some of the higher virtues by which human life is
adorned.

The mandarin being untrammelled by juries or by precedents or by statute
books, and often having to depend upon his own mother wit to find out the
truth in some intricate case that comes before him, is accustomed to use
independent and original methods that would shock the legal mind of our
judges in England. Not so in this land, where they are applauded by those
who hear of them as being exceedingly ingenious and as showing the subtle
character of the minds of those who devised them. A description of some of
these may be interesting to the reader.

On one occasion a farmer was going to market with two huge bundles of
firewood that balanced on a bamboo pole he was to carry on his shoulder
from his farm to the neighbouring market town. Just before leaving, his
wife thrust some yards of cotton cloth that she had woven into one of the
bundles, and asked him to take them to the draper's and dispose of them
for her at the best price he could get for them.

Arriving at the town, he applied at the house of a rich scholar to whom he
had been accustomed to sell, and asked if he wanted to buy any firewood.
Finding that he did, he saw that the bundles were duly weighed and paid
for; when, walking down the narrow, ill-paved street and congratulating
himself that he had disposed of his wood so easily, he suddenly remembered
that he had forgotten all about the cloth that had been hidden in one of
them. Hastily retracing his steps, he explained to the purchaser that
there was some cotton cloth belonging to his wife concealed amongst the
wood, and he would be infinitely obliged to him if he would kindly take it
out and give it to him.

The man protested that it was quite a mistake to say that there was any
cloth in either of the bundles. They had both been taken to pieces, but
nothing of the kind was found in them. He must have dropped it by the way,
or his wife may at the last have forgotten to put it in.

The farmer, perfectly certain that the cloth was in the possession of the
rich man, and seeing no way of obtaining redress, wended his way to the
Yamen of the mandarin to ask his advice on the matter. This man happened
to be one whose reputation for ferreting out crime was the admiration of
all the country round. He listened to the farmer's story very attentively,
and after a few pertinent questions he sent one of his runners and ordered
the suspected man to come and see him at once. When he came he vigorously
denied that the cloth was amongst the wood he had bought, and he declared
that the farmer had trumped up this false charge against him and ought to
be severely punished. "The Man that knows the County" seemed to sympathize
with all that he said, and rather inclined to side with him against the
poor farmer. "Is it at all likely, your Excellency," he said, "that I, a
wealthy man, would do such a mean and dishonourable act as to rob a man of
an article only worth two or three shillings in value?"

In reply to this, the mandarin begged to be excused for a moment, and
going into a side room he called one of his runners, and told him to go to
the wife of the rich man and tell her that her husband had confessed that
they had the piece of cloth in their possession, and that she was to hand
it over to the runner, who would bring it to the mandarin. Fully believing
this story, she brought the stolen cloth out of the hiding place where it
had been placed for concealment, and handed it over to the policeman. It
may be easily understood how utterly dumfounded the culprit was when the
runner walked in with the stolen cloth in his hand, and how delighted the
farmer was when it was handed over to him by the "Father and Mother of his
People." Turning to the rich man, the mandarin addressed him in very stern
language upon the meanness of his offence. "I do not like to send you to
prison," he continued, "for that would degrade you in the sight of the
people and the members of your family. My Yamen is out of repair, and if
you will call a builder and have it thoroughly overhauled, I shall be
willing to let you off any further punishment." As this would cost him
fully a hundred pounds, it will be quite evident that he paid dearly for
trying to rob the farmer of his cloth.

One day a mandarin was being carried along a certain road in his sedan
chair, when a man who had been having a quarrel with another appealed to
him to defend him against an attempt that was being made to wrong him. He
explained that as he was walking along the road, it began to rain, and
seeing a stranger who had no umbrella he offered to share his with him as
far as they went together. Now when they were about to part, the man
claimed that the umbrella was his, and had forcibly taken it away from
him. "The Man who knows the County" declared that it was rather a
difficult case to settle, because there was no outside evidence to be got
to help him to a decision. There was simply one man's word against the
other, so he decided that the umbrella should be cut in two and a half
given to each.

There was no appeal against this action of the mandarin, and so the men
went off, with the hacked and mangled pieces of the umbrella, much to the
amusement of the crowd that had gathered to witness this impromptu trial
on the road. They had not gone many yards ahead when the official called
one of his runners, and ordered him to follow the two men, listen to their
conversation, and mark which one of them was most severe in his
condemnation of his judgment. He was then to apprehend them both and bring
them to his Yamen, where he would give his final decision on the matter.

In a short time both men were brought into court, when the runner reported
that the man that claimed that the umbrella was originally his, and that
out of good nature had shared it with the other, was most indignant at
what he called the unjust decision of the judge. The other individual, on
the other hand, treated the whole thing as a joke, and highly applauded
the conduct of the mandarin. "The Father and Mother of his People"
addressed the latter in the severest terms. He spoke of his ingratitude
and baseness of heart in returning a kindness in such a dastardly way as
he had done, and he ordered him to buy a new umbrella and give it to the
man he had wronged as a punishment for his offence. He issued also an
order that he should be made to wear the cangue[5] for a fortnight, and
that he should be made to parade up and down in front of the house of the
man he had maligned during the day, and be shut up in prison during the
night. This decision gave great satisfaction to every one excepting the
man who was so seriously affected by it.

If money could only be eliminated out of the life of a mandarin he would
cease to be the despicable character he often is. In their private life
they are kind and hospitable and have the courtly manners of gentlemen. In
their public capacity, when a bribe is not in view, they have a desire as
a rule to do justice in the cases that are brought before them. In some
respects they are much to be pitied. As no man may be a higher official in
his own province, it follows that he has to live far away from his home
and his friends, amongst people strange to him, who often speak a
different language from his own. It is true that his wife and children
accompany him to his new position, but they never cease to long to be back
again at the place where their kindred dwell. To be a mandarin means power
and the facility for acquiring a fortune, but it means also exile for the
time being from the ancestral home, and constant danger of being involved
with the higher authorities should any of his mistakes or his misdeeds be
brought to light.



CHAPTER XIV

PEDDLER LIFE IN CHINA

    The Chinese thrifty--Nothing wasted--Besides regular shopkeepers,
    there are itinerant dealers--The "candy man"--His various kinds of
    sweets--The "sweets and sours man"--The cloth peddler--Describe him
    minutely--The pork peddler--The jewellery peddler--The fortune-teller.


The Chinese are a thrifty race. Stern necessity and a widespread poverty
that has placed vast masses of them on the very borderland of starvation,
have compelled the nation to exercise economies such as are absolutely
unknown in the richer lands of the West. We get some idea of the narrow
line that divides countless numbers of people from absolute want, by the
fact that with regard to food there is nothing of that ever wasted in
China. "Wilful waste brings woeful want" is a proverb that Chinese in
common life would have great difficulty in understanding, or indeed in any
rank of society. The famines that have in all ages desolated great regions
in China, and the desperate struggle that is constantly going on for
simply enough to eat, have surrounded food as it were with a halo, that
would make it seem like sacrilege to misuse what we should throw away as
useless or positively hurtful.

[Illustration: A PEDDLER.]

[Illustration: A SHOEMAKER AT WORK ON THE STREET.

_To face p. 296._]

On one occasion, I was travelling in the interior, when I was disturbed by
a violent explosion of wrath on the part of the captain of the boat. He
was evidently incensed beyond measure with one of the members of the crew,
and he used the strongest language in condemnation of him. They were all
gathered round the great rice pan having their evening meal, and with
every mouthful that was taken out of the bowl that contained the condiment
to go with their rice, the anger of the captain blazed out in a fresh
burst of indignation. "What is the matter," I at last asked, "and why are
you making such a row over your meal?" "Matter!" he replied, "there is a
great deal of matter, that is quite enough to make one as angry as I am.
Do you see this man?" he said, pointing with his chopsticks to the
delinquent upon whom his wrath was being expended. "I sent him this
afternoon to the market to buy some oysters to eat with our rice this
evening, and he had not the sense or the nose to buy good ones. He allowed
the dealer to cheat him most egregiously, for the oysters are not simply
tainted--which would not have seriously mattered--they are positively
stinking, and the taste is so offensive that we can hardly get them down
without being sick." "But are you really going to eat them?" I asked, with
a look of consternation on my face. "Eat them! of course we are; you would
not have us waste the food, would you? We have paid for it, and we
certainly could not afford to lose our money," and the whole crew went on
popping the unsavoury, unhealthy morsels into their mouths, grumbling all
the time at the man who was the cause of their discomfort, but who in
order to cover his mistake pretended to be perfectly satisfied with the
almost putrid oysters that one could smell from a distance.

The preciousness of food and the jealous care that is taken not only of
what is wholesome and appetizing, but also of what would be rejected by
our poor in England as positively uneatable, show unmistakably how near
the greater part of the nation is to the ragged edge of destitution and
want. The result is that the desire to maintain life in the fierce
struggle that the masses have for mere existence has made the Chinese
amongst the most industrious people in the world. Mere poverty alone would
not have developed this feature in the national character, had there not
been a deep instinct of industry in the race which has tended to develop
industrial habits that permeate every class of society.

The whole population of China has been roughly divided by one of its great
thinkers into four classes, the scholars, the farmers, the workmen, and
the tradesmen. As the last-named produce nothing, but simply deal in
articles that other hands have manufactured, they stand the lowest in the
estimation of the public, and are deemed of less service to the community
than any of the other three. The scholar is the thinker without whom no
State can ever rise in intelligence or in civilization. The farmer is the
man that tills the soil and produces the food of the nation. Without him
the people would perish, or revert to their primitive state when they were
compelled to hunt the wild beasts in the forests and live a wretched,
precarious life. The workman supplies society with everything that is
needed for the necessities or the luxuries of everyday life, and
transforms by his skill the raw material into the thousand and one forms
that are needed for the comfort of the persons or the homes of the entire
nation.

The tradesman is neither an originator nor an inventor, and his
contribution, therefore, to the assets of the country is not to be
compared to those that the three other classes are continually making for
the benefit of the community. In spite, however, of the inferior position
that is assigned to him, the tradesman occupies a very prominent position
in the public eye, for the Chinaman, in addition to all his other
qualifications, is a man who is imbued with a passion for trade.

The towns and cities of the Empire are full of shops, and men with as keen
wits as can be found in any country in the world are constantly on the
alert as to how they shall make their business boom. The fairs and
markets, too, that are regularly held all over the kingdom, are popular
gatherings where the farmers can indulge in the national love for driving
a bargain.

Outside of the regular traders, however, who have capital and business
places where they can carry on their trade, there is a vast army of
peddlers who are everywhere to be met with, and are a recognized
institution, supplying a distinct want that the regular shopkeepers are
not always prepared to do.

The first of these that I shall describe is the "candy man." This
itinerant dealer in sweets is one of the most popular of all the men that
are to be found appealing to the public for a living. His outfit consists
of two baskets on which boards are placed, where he daintily arranges the
delicacies that are to prove so attractive to old and young, that the
stock that he has laid in may soon be turned into hard cash. He will then
be able to return home with his heart full of gladness because of the
speed with which he has been able to dispose of his fascinating goods.
From past experience he knows exactly where to place his baskets with
their tempting wares, so that he may be within easy call of those that are
likely to become customers of his. It is usually under the spreading
branches of a great banyan, where loungers congregate to catch the breezes
that are ever wandering about beneath the huge boughs that stretch out
almost horizontally as though to shield those that seek their shelter from
the great, hot, blazing sun. Or he takes his stand at the junction of two
or more roads where people are constantly passing, and near which he may
know there are a good many children living.

No sooner has he settled upon the spot where he hopes to commence business
than he ostentatiously makes a clanking sound with a huge pair of shears,
that are very much like those that the tailors use for cutting in England,
but which he employs to cut off lengths of toffy for those who would buy
from him. The sound of these jangling shears acts like magic upon all the
youngsters within hearing distance, and with mouths watering they gather
round his baskets to gaze in rapture upon the array of good things, so
temptingly laid out, that he has for sale.

Most of the lads have a few cash with them, but they delay buying because
they have not yet quite made up their minds what they are going to invest
in, and besides, it gives them an air of importance to keep the man
waiting; which he does with the greatest good nature, knowing that any
sign of impatience would drive his customers away, whilst with patience
and tact he is sure of drawing from their pockets every cash that they
possess.

His stock-in-trade consists of great slabs of what the Americans call
peanut candy. This is made, as the name indicates, from a combination of
the best white sugar and peanuts. These are boiled together in a great
cauldron, and stirred and stirred, till they are thoroughly mixed and the
now consistent mixture has been cooked, so that it can be emptied on a
board. It is then allowed to cool somewhat, when it is rolled by a wooden
roller to a certain thickness, after which it is ready to be eaten.

The combination of the sugar and the peanuts makes a very pleasant and
succulent compound. The latter gives a nutty flavour to the former, whilst
the sugar imparts some of its own essence to the nuts, and a mixture of
flavours is produced that is popular amongst all classes.

In addition to the candy, the peddler has also a very delicate sweet that
is less substantial, but none the less popular because a larger amount can
be bought for the same money. The material out of which it is made is
moist sugar, as white as the manufacturers can produce it. This is put
into a large pan and boiled over a slow fire. After a certain time it is
turned by the heat into a very consistent and a very sticky substance. At
the proper moment this is taken out of the pan and transferred to a board,
where it is moulded with deft and knowing fingers into a length of two or
three yards.

Then begins a most peculiar process that is to change the whole character
of the material before us. It is first of all stretched with a cunning
hand just as far as it will go without actually snapping. It is then
doubled back on itself and pulled again to the breaking-point, and so on
time after time until the work is done.

During this peculiar manipulation, the sweet has undergone a remarkable
change. From a dark, almost black colour, it has been turned into a golden
hue, and from being dense and heavy it is light and flaky, so that when it
is cut into lengths for sale, each one looks like a stalactite that might
have been taken out of Fingal's Cave. A bite from one of these crumbles at
once in the mouth and a crackling sound is heard and a beautiful aroma is
perceived, and before one has hardly had time to realize it, the sweet has
dissolved.

Another thing that the eager eyes of the little fellows catch amongst the
dainties is molasses candy, made in the orthodox home fashion, but cut
into little squares and sold for just one cash apiece, which is about the
thousandth part of two shillings. This is cheap and therefore popular, for
it will stand a good deal of sucking before it disappears, which is a
consideration with the generality of the buyers, for their finances are
not usually in a very flourishing condition.

Besides the above there is real sugar candy, not in sticks, but in lumps
as they have come from the sugar refinery. There are also a great variety
of sugar-coated combinations that all have their patrons, and as the
little knots of purchasers come in from different directions at the
well-known call of the peddler, one marks how varied are the tastes of the
lads by the way in which they select the articles they like from those
laid out so temptingly on the boards that contain his stock.

Another very popular peripatetic merchant is the man who is popularly
known as the seller of "sweets and sours." Like the man already described,
the people that patronize him the most are the children, though a goodly
proportion of his sales is made to persons of all ages. His goods consist
entirely of fruits prepared in such tempting and fascinating ways that the
general public is ready to put their hands in their pockets at the sound
of the little bell that announces the presence of this popular caterer to
the public taste.

He has quite an assortment of all the most popular fruits that are known
in Chinese life. He has the arbutus, which at a rough glance appears very
much like a strawberry, though it is really essentially different, for it
has a large stone, and even when it is fully ripe it has a decidedly tart
taste about it. He has these in several distinct forms, so as to meet the
wishes of those who vary in their views as to how the fruit should be
eaten. Some have been prepared with the slightest dash of sugar, so that
the sour and sweet are so nicely adjusted that both can be distinctly
perceived as it is slowly eaten by the purchaser. Some, again, have been
so deluged with sugar, that the naturally acid flavour has almost
vanished, and there remains but a remnant of the old nature left to modify
the ultra-sweetness of the sugar. Others, again, have been dried in the
sun until nearly all the juice has vanished. They have then been steeped
in brine, and the combination of salt and tart that is the result has a
fascination for some that one can hardly understand.

All these are strung on thin slips of bamboo in fives, and the buyer
holding these in his fingers can slip them off one by one into his mouth
without soiling his fingers. Three or four cash is the usual price for
this delicacy.

In addition to these, there are plums from the country districts, and
luscious-looking peaches and large fat mangoes all drenched in sugar,
which has not only preserved them from decaying, but has also added a
new flavour to each of them, which is specially attractive to those that
favour any particular kind. Again, amongst the collection there is one
fruit that always finds a ready market--the dwarf apples that are brought
by the steamers and the huge merchant junks from Tientsin and Newchang in
the far North of China.

[Illustration: A PEDDLER.

_To face p. 303._]

When they are thoroughly ripe they are rosy cheeked, and resemble the
Baldwins that come from America and are sold by the barrowmen in London
and in different parts of England, only they are diminutive, for they are
only about the fourth of the size of the ordinary English apple. These are
crushed flat, and the whole are allowed to lie in sugar until they are
entirely permeated with it. They are then strung on the bamboo sticks and
are always the chief attractions that the "sweets and sours" man has to
offer to the public. As they come from a great distance, and have been
rendered more perishable by the long journey they have had to travel, they
are a great deal dearer than the other local productions, and so it is
only those who have a larger command of money that can afford to purchase
them.

This peddler has attractions that never fail to draw around him a group
both of old and young, who usually enjoy their purchases on the spot. Some
stand and chat with each other as they slowly crush the sweet and
toothsome morsel between their teeth. Others, again, of a more meditative
turn of mind, take the favourite posture of sitting on their heels, and
give the whole force of their minds to the enjoying of the flavours
contained in their favourite fruits. The buzz of conversation and the
ready wit of the peddler, and the passing crowds that would like to join
in but have not the time, and the great sun flashing down his rays upon
the scene, all combine to make such gatherings as these very picturesque
and very attractive to look upon.

Another well-known peddler who is very popular with the housewives is the
cloth-seller. His is a form that is easily recognized, as he daily goes
his round up and down the district that use and wont has made him consider
to be especially his own. It is very possible, indeed, that he may have
bought the right from the man that preceded him, just as with us a doctor
purchases a practice and becomes the rightful successor to the man who is
retiring.

He is distinguished by the fact that he carries all his stock on one of
his shoulders. To carry it anywhere else would seem in the conservative
eyes of the Chinese to disqualify him for his profession. As the burden he
has to bear is usually over one hundred pounds in weight, it would seem an
impossibility for any man unless he were a Sandow to continue day after
day and for many hours in each to support such an enormous weight as this.
But the fact is that they do so, and without apparently any very great
effort. The men as a rule are small and wiry, and as they move along at a
steady trot, without any panting or perspiring, one is apt to imagine that
the goods they are carrying are not nearly so heavy as they really are.

In order to cater for the wants of the women of the houses of his
district, he has to have with him specimens of every kind of dress goods
that they are likely to require, and in addition a liberal supply of the
more common stuffs that are worn by the poorer classes. These stocks he
must have on hand, for he must take advantage of the immediate wants of
his clients, and the impression that his eloquence makes upon them at the
time, to dispose of his wares. Were he to depend upon their taking
to-morrow what he has not ready for them now, he might find that their
mood had changed or they were short of cash when he returned with the
goods, and so his sales would be lost.

This cloth peddler is really a most advanced man, and a true pioneer in
promoting liberal ideas with regard to dress. The Chinese one
_beau-idéal_ with regard to that is the blue cotton cloth. Just as bread
in England is the staple article of the food of the masses, so that in
China is the one eternal type of what is considered the proper kind of
material with which to clothe the nation. The common people everywhere
make that the basis of their dress. The farmers all dress in this
distressingly dull-coloured material. The common coolies and workmen of
every grade in life, following the national instinct, seldom wear anything
else. It is only the well-to-do or the very rich that emerge out of this
universal worship of the blue cotton, and adopt silks or satins as their
common wear.

The women, it is true, have a few bright colours in addition to the blue
in which they appear when they are fully dressed and on holiday occasions,
but for ordinary and common everyday life the blue cotton asserts its
mastery, and holds its own against everything else.

Now this peddler is slowly causing a revolution in the ideals of the women
at least. In order to advance his business he brings the newest patterns
and the most attractive goods that enterprising merchants, both native and
foreign, are introducing from the West. He has no large stocks in hand
that he must dispose of before he can bring in new and fashionable
materials. All that he possesses, or nearly so, he carries with him on his
shoulder, and when they are disposed of, he simply goes to the merchant
and selects other goods that he has found by experience will catch the eye
of the younger women and girls that he meets on his round, and induce them
to buy from him.

The great aid that this man gets in his introduction of new ideas amongst
the women no doubt is Christianity. This has worked a perfect revolution
in family life wherever it has been received. Not only is the condition of
the women ameliorated, but their position is distinctly elevated. They
are not left to the tender mercies of heathen society to be treated with
the indignities to which they are constantly liable. The Church is always
behind them to stand out in their defence when any wrong is going to be
inflicted on them. A new power has come into the land that demands rights
for them that no legislation in the past and no tradition has ever dreamed
of asking.

In addition to all this, there are the new methods that a faith in the
gospel has developed. The custom that amounts almost to a law in China is
that young women shall not be seen on the streets. They must remain
indoors till they are married, and afterwards till they are getting on in
years. One of the most remarkable features about the streets and roads is
the few women that are seen upon them. Elderly women, with perhaps girls
under ten, and slave women, are to be met with, but maidens and young
married wives are a rare sight either on the public thoroughfares or on
the by-ways in the country places.

The morals of China, in spite of the high ideals that have been
transmitted by the sages, and that have permeated into every section of
the people, are not sufficiently elevated to permit women the freedom that
they have in Christian lands. Now Christianity has already begun to work a
remarkable change in delivering the women of China from the bondage that
an idolatrous system had imposed upon them. Whether young or old they are
required to attend church on Sundays. No distinctions are allowed. The
young girl of eighteen, that would never be seen out of the doors for
years, the newly-married wife, the maiden that has just been betrothed, in
common with elderly ladies whose sons and daughters are grown up, and the
old grandmothers that travel as they like, all are expected to attend at
the regular services, and no dispensation excepting absolute necessity
will be given to allow them not to be present.

Sunday at present is the happiest day in the week for the Christian women.
They get out of their narrow, confined houses into the sunlight. They meet
large numbers of their own sex in the church. They see new faces and get
fresh ideas, and broader views of life. They look at the various styles of
dresses, and the result is that on the morrow, when the peddler comes
round, he will get orders for new kinds of materials that they would never
have dreamed of had they not seen how pretty and becoming they looked on
the women they had met in the church.

But listen! there is the blast of a conch shell, blown by a man whose
lungs are sound, and who knows how to manipulate it so that he shall
produce the greatest volume of noise, and send it echoing along the
street. No need to ask who the man is, for every one is perfectly aware
that it is the pork peddler who is drawing near, and now every housewife
who is preparing dinner begins to count her cash to see if she can afford
the luxury of pork to-day.

Pork to a Chinaman is what beef is to an Englishman. Excepting in the
ports and in those centres where Europeans congregate, beef is but very
rarely seen. In the interior of China, pork shops abound in every city in
the Empire, but one would have to look long before he could find a beef
shop. By a thoroughly conservative and orthodox Chinese the killing of
cattle in order to sell their flesh for food is considered highly immoral.
He would tell you that these animals help in the tilling of the soil, that
therefore they are the producers of the food of the nation, and as a
matter of gratitude for their services they should be saved from the
indignity of being slaughtered for food. That is the way in which an
orthodox Confucianist would talk when the question of eating beef might be
the subject of conversation.

There are no such metaphysical discussions with regard to the pig, or
indeed any other animal that is used for food. Swine have precisely the
same animal properties that they have in any other country, and those
brought up in this extreme Eastern land might be transported to the cabins
of the Irish and they would never discover that a "furriner" had invaded
their homes.

As a domestic animal the pig has the same unpleasant habits that he has in
the British Isles. He likes to wallow in the mud, and feed on garbage and
other insanitary matter that a horse or a cow would absolutely refuse to
touch. He is on the whole a quiet and inoffensive animal, and in his
restless peregrinations after food he does not care to interfere with the
comfort or liberty of his neighbours. But let his usual meal time come
round, and if his mistress has neglected to fill his trough with something
strengthening, he will squeal and grunt and make such a fuss and a
disturbance that for the peace of the household speedy steps will have to
be taken to satisfy his hunger.

Were it not for his low and ungentlemanly habits, the pig would doubtless
have been the national emblem of the Chinese, instead of the mysterious
and inscrutable dragon, and poets would have sung his praises, and artists
would have immortalized him in their paintings. There was too little
romance, however, about him to allow of such an honour being put upon him,
but there is no question that he is the most popular animal in the whole
of the eighteen provinces. The only word in the language for flesh meat is
one that means pork, and throughout the four hundred millions of people,
the one popular dish that makes all eyes glisten about meal times is the
one that is composed of some preparation of the succulent flesh of this
animal.

The pork peddler, as already intimated, is known by the powerful blasts
that he blows from a sea shell. His outfit is of the simplest. It consists
of two baskets, on one of which a board is spread, and the pork is laid
out in a dainty fashion so as to tempt the intending purchasers to buy
what they want. In the other are thrown odds and ends, for the peddler has
really no need for it, as its main idea is to form a kind of balance so
that he may be able to carry his load with comfort from the bamboo pole
that rests on one of his shoulders.

Lying beside the pork is a large chopper, with which he cuts off the
pieces that his customers may desire, and a steelyard for weighing his
sales. As he rests his apparatus in front of some houses, he is soon
surrounded by a little knot of people, some of them with private
steelyards of their own, in order to test whether the peddler's has not
been doctored, so as to cheat them of their due weight.

Sometimes when the peddler has had his pork watered there is great
dissatisfaction, and no one will buy from him unless he sells at a
considerably reduced price. This watering is a vicious custom that
prevails largely amongst all butchers, and is intended to make it possible
to sell the meat at a lower rate to the very poor. The way it is managed
is to pump a quantity of water down the main arteries of the animal
immediately after it is killed until the whole animal is saturated with
it. As this injection of water drives out the blood, the flesh has a pale,
anæmic look that tells the secret, and the aim of the peddler is to
conceal this from the public by plastering the flesh over with the blood
that flowed from the body when the animal was killed. This is the
universal practice of the trade, though it does not deceive a single
person, nor can it give the healthy look to the pork that the unwatered
meat has.

No doubt this wretched system exists because the peddler can sell cheaper,
and as cash are few and precious amongst the poor, the national delicacy
would certainly be less attainable by large numbers of them were they to
have to pay the higher price that is demanded for the unwatered article.

It is very amusing to watch the group that has gathered round the peddler,
and to note how keen the Chinese are in everything where bargaining is
concerned. The instinct of trade is deep seated within them, and they seem
to have a positive enjoyment in the mere chaffering and bargaining, and in
the final victory of a few cash that would seem to us such a trifling gain
that we would not condescend to spend any time over the transaction. Here
is a man that is evidently an important one, for he comes up with a
dignified air and with his steelyard in his hand, as though he were going
to buy the whole of the peddler's stock-in-trade. After many
uncomplimentary remarks about the pork, and declaring that it is of very
poor quality and would be found tough in the eating, he selects a piece
that seems to have caught his eye, and he requests the man to cut that off
for him.

He does so, weighs it with his steelyard, and in doing this he allows
himself the liberal margin of the sixteenth of an ounce, so as to add to
his profits and to save himself from any loss in the weight. The purchaser
has an eagle eye, and watches this weighing with a very suspicious glance.
The Chinese are adepts in manipulating the steelyard, so as to make it
weigh heavier or lighter according as they desire. Besides, as there is no
standard to which the dealers must conform, and no inspectors of weights
and measures to help to keep them honest, there is constant friction
between buyers and sellers as to the true weight of the article that is
being disposed of.

The man says, "Let me weigh the pork," and fixing it on the hook that is
attached to his steelyard, he declares after a very careful manipulation
of the instrument that it is lighter by two-sixteenths than the peddler
was going to charge him for. This results in a wordy contest between the
two men, and a weighing and reweighing by each, and an appeal to the
crowd, and even to Heaven itself, as to the justice of each man's
statement. Finally the dispute is settled by splitting the difference,
which probably gives the true weight of the pork, and the people who sided
with the purchaser, because of the prospective contests they are going to
have with the peddler when they have their purchases weighed, declare that
the principles of Heaven have been vindicated, and now every one ought to
be satisfied. As the whole amount in dispute amounted to about one-sixth
of a penny, and the time spent in adjusting the matter occupied fully ten
minutes, whilst numerous appeals to heaven and earth and to the
consciences of the peddler and the purchaser were pointedly made to them
by the onlookers, it did really seem ludicrous and hardly worth the candle
to go through such an amount of fuss for so small a sum as was involved
either way.

After the question is settled amicably, and both parties have saved their
face, the peddler ties the pork with a rush, gathered from the banks of
some mountain stream, deftly makes a loop to act as a handle, and hands it
to the man. Immediately an elderly woman from a neighbouring house selects
a piece which weighs exactly two ounces, and for this she hands him cash
to the value of about three halfpence. There is no paper needed to wrap it
in, for the rush again comes into requisition, and with the loop in her
forefingers she bears it away without any danger of violating the
proprieties, or of soiling the meat by the dust that might have gathered
on her hands.

Another very popular peddler is the middle-aged woman who goes round with
a very unpretending-looking basket that contains all kinds of jewellery,
such as women in the middle and upper classes are accustomed to wear. All
these may be purchased at any of the goldsmiths' shops in the city, but as
the younger women are not allowed to go out and visit these for
themselves, they gladly welcome the travelling jeweller, from whose store
they can pick and choose the precise ornaments they wish to buy.

Articles of jewellery hold an important place in the dress of the Chinese
women. As they do not wear hats or bonnets in the coldest weather, or when
the sun in all his strength is pouring forth his fiery rays in the height
of summer, a woman is never supposed to be completely dressed unless she
has a certain number of golden or silver hairpins stuck in her hair, and
bracelets on her wrists. In addition to these she must have some sprays of
flowers, either natural or artificial, before she is dressed well enough
to receive visitors or go outside of her own door. The laws of etiquette
are very severe on this point, and even amongst the lowest classes, a
woman who is old enough to go out on business of any kind must wear her
earrings and have flowers in her hair, unless she wishes to be looked upon
with a great deal of suspicion.

The articles of jewellery are of a very miscellaneous character. Those
used on the head are long, dagger-looking pins, made of gold and inlaid
with kingfisher's feathers. They are meant really to add to the beauty of
the coiffure, and not to keep their hair from falling down, for that is
tied with red silk and plastered with unguents, so that it needs no
further aid to keep it in position.

Next in importance to these are the bracelets that figure very largely in
the toilette of the women of all classes. They are chiefly made of gold
and silver and jadestone, and vary in prices from a few shillings up to as
many pounds.

The rich indulge in very expensive ones and wear several on each arm. The
poorer women are pleased if they can afford to get one silver one, whilst
those in the lowest ranks never dream of aspiring to any such luxury.

The earrings are things that every woman wears no matter what her position
in life may be. When a girl is five or six years old her ears are bored.
This is done if possible on the tenth day of the tenth moon, as that is
the one lucky day in the year when it is believed that no inflammation of
the ears will follow from the process. In order to fully insure that,
however, the needle that has been used for the operation must be thrown
down the nearest well.

The fashion of the earrings varies in different localities, and if one is
very observant, he will be able to tell the district to which a woman
belongs by looking at the shape and size of her earrings. In one
particular county with which the writer is familiar, the earring assumes
enormous dimensions, being several inches in diameter; so large are they
indeed that a child that is being nursed can easily pass its arm through
one of them without any inconvenience to the mother or danger to itself.

Now the peddler has a large field in the countless homes in a considerable
district in which to carry on her operations. She is usually a woman with
a very fluent and persuasive tongue, who knows the foibles of women and
their love for finery. She has a large stock of jewellery which she
exhibits with such consummate art that women are inveigled into buying
what they do not really need, and which they had no intention of
purchasing.

The sight, however, of so many attractive works of art proves so
irresistible that this clever dealer manages to dispose to those who can
afford it many of the articles she has in her basket. The result is that
some of these peddlers make in the course of years quite little fortunes,
which enable them to spend their declining years in comfort and in
comparative affluence.

One of these women, with whom I was acquainted, was the wife of a
silversmith who had a shop in one of the principal streets of a very
populous city. The business was a prosperous one, for the shop had a good
reputation and the master of it was a man who knew his trade well and
could produce goods that could not be surpassed by any other shop in the
town. The true secret of the prosperity, however, lay not with the sales
that were made over the counter, but with those that were effected by the
wife. She was very plain and far from prepossessing in appearance, and
utterly uneducated, for the family had risen from very humble
circumstances. She was a woman, however, of great natural abilities, with
shrewd common-sense, and she had the power of presenting anything she had
to say in a forceful, eloquent manner that was very convincing.

She decided to take up the _rôle_ of peddler, so as to increase their
trade by disposing of a larger number of goods than could be done in the
shop. That she was willing to do this showed her strong and independent
character, for a woman that pursues this calling must be prepared for a
great many rebuffs, as it is not held in the highest honour by the
community at large. She persevered in her intention, and the result was
that she kept the business of the shop at high pressure in order to be
able to supply her with the requisite amount of goods that she was able
constantly to dispose of, and in the course of years from a Chinese point
of view they became quite rich.

Another peddler with less ambitious aims than the one just described is
the man that gets his living by coming round to the various houses where
he has got to be known, and buying the tinfoil that remains as an ash
after the paper money has been burned to wooden images. The Chinese
believe that the idols in order to be induced to do any service for the
worshippers must be bribed by presents of money. A moderate amount of the
current coin of the realm they are willing to expend in this way, but it
must be limited, and so in order to make the gods believe that they are
giving them vast sums, they have invented a system of paper notes,
representing ingots and gold coins and common cash all done up in
hundreds. Tinfoil beaten as thin almost as it will bear, is used to
represent the more precious metals. In its natural colour it is supposed
to be silver, and a yellow tinge is given to it when the worshipper wishes
to propitiate the idol with gold. These different coloured pieces of
tinfoil are pasted on coarse paper of a settled size and are then burned
in the presence of the idol, who is credited with not having sense enough
to know that it is being cheated. If a hundred pieces representing a
hundred dollars are presented, then the god is believed to be so much the
richer by that amount, and that it has stored them away in its unseen
treasury where countless sums of money are being accumulated. If a hundred
pieces of gold are burned, the idol is then supposed to be all the more
pleased and to be ready to send down blessings on the worshipper.

After the paper has been burned the tinfoil falls down amongst the ashes
and is carefully collected by the priest of the temple, who in time sells
the collection to the tin-beater, who can utilize the material for future
service with the idols. In some of the more popular shrines, where the
gods have the reputation of being able to bestow large favours on those
who worship them, the income derived from this burned and shrivelled
tinfoil is very considerable. There is one famous temple that at times is
visited by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, who all burn more or less of
this paper money, and where the sale of the scorched and apparently
useless tinfoil brings in thousands of dollars a year.

The peddler I am describing has nothing to do with the buying of the
refuse tinfoil in the temples. That is kept in the hands of the
authorities in each, who dispose of it to meet their current expenses.
Where his business lies is amongst the families that are situated within
his round. These are accustomed all more or less to offer bribes of money
to their household gods whenever they wish to obtain any favour from them.
With the thrift of the Chinese they always carefully pick out from the
ashes what the gods were cheated into believing were precious pieces of
gold and silver. The next day when the peddler makes his rounds they are
sold for a few cash to him, and thus they perform the double service of
bribing the gods and of putting money into their own pockets.

Of late this man has added to the original idea of being a collector of
burnt tinfoil, the name by which he is popularly known amongst the
Chinese, by also acting as a rag and bone merchant. As was remarked at the
beginning of this chapter, nothing is wasted in China, and what would be
thrown into the dust heap in England and carried away next day by the dust
cart, is here carefully set aside and kept to be sold to this peddler. A
sardine tin, for example, has been opened, and it seems now to be only an
incumbrance and of absolutely no value. The Chinaman thinks differently,
for he puts it away on a shelf in his kitchen, and when the cry of the
collector of burnt tinfoil is heard heralding his approach, it is taken
down and in consideration of a few cash is added to his collection of what
seems useless rubbish.

A chicken is killed and all the feathers are sedulously preserved, and
even the very bones that are left after it has been eaten are collected
and put aside to be sold on the morrow. All kerosene tins and empty
bottles, unless carefully watched by the mistress, will disappear
mysteriously and no one appears to know where they have vanished to; but
the peddler, if he would consent to reveal all he knows about them, could
tell exactly where they are and how much he has gained by their sale.

[Illustration: A WAYSIDE KITCHEN.

_To face p. 317._]

It is a very singular thing that the characters of the various kinds of
peddler seem to be influenced by the particular business in which each of
them is concerned. The pork peddler has a bluff and breezy air about him,
and he sends forth his blasts from his shell as though he were the
advance guard of an invading army. The seller of "sweets and sours" is
distinguished by a pleasing countenance on which a winning smile seems
perpetually to rest. His association with children and his constant effort
to win their confidence have no doubt been largely instrumental in giving
this pleasant character to his face. The cloth peddler, on the other hand,
has a severe and dignified countenance, as though he were conscious of the
responsibility that belonged to him in being the interpreter as it were of
the fashions, and the introducer of foreign goods into a land that was
accustomed to look upon any one as a traitor to his country that had any
traffic with anything associated with the "Outer Barbarian."

The profession of the collector of burnt tinfoil has unquestionably had a
demoralizing effect upon him. He is usually pale and thin, with the air of
a man of broken-down fortunes. He walks along with a timid, shrinking air,
as though he scented a policeman at every turn in the road, and when he
looks at you it is with a kind of side glance, apparently fearful lest if
he looked you straight in the face you would discover the depravity that
is deep down in his heart.

Beside the above that I have attempted to describe there are many other
kinds of peddlers who are equally interesting in their way. There are, for
example, the vegetable seller, and the fruiterer, and the peddler that
deals exclusively in needles and threads and tapes. There are also the
peddlers with the travelling kitchen, and the one that may be found on the
streets at all hours of the night with pork rissoles for the special
benefit of opium smokers, who have a weakness for delicacies of this sort.
There are, again, the peddlers who are only to be found from about nine
o'clock in the evening up almost to the time when the dawn threatens to
disperse the shadows of the night. These men are to be found at street
corners with portable stoves and a plentiful supply of hot rice. Some of
them attempt to cater not simply to the hunger of the late wanderers on
the streets, but also to their fastidious appetites, for they have
prepared good stocks of vermicelli, and a very pleasant combination of
soft-boiled rice and oysters, so as to tempt those who would otherwise be
inclined to hurry on their way homewards.

There is one man who though he does not strictly belong to the class I
have been discussing, yet as his life is spent on the street in his
endeavour to make a living, I shall attempt to describe, and that is the
fortune-teller. He is to be found in a niche on some great thoroughfare,
where the crowds are passing incessantly the livelong day, and where he is
just out of the crush of the living tide that surges just outside of him.
His stock-in-trade is about a dozen bamboo slips with enigmatic sentences
carved on each of them, that to the mind of the man who can read into the
mysteries of the unknown land contain the clues to the story of each one
that applies to him to have their future revealed to him or her. He has
also a Java sparrow enclosed within a diminutive cage, that is believed to
be the interpreter of the spirits in helping to unfold in some slight
measure the secrets they hold about the men on earth.

Here is a man, for example, who comes out of the crowd with an
anxious-looking face and a deep shadow resting upon it that has driven all
the sunlight and joy out of it. The fortune-teller is at once all
attention, whilst the sparrow from interested motives of its own cocks up
its head and takes a kind of knowing glance at the customer. The man,
evidently distressed at the subject that is occupying his mind, pours
forth in voluble and vivid language the story of his woes. It seems that
he and a neighbour are having a lawsuit about the house in which he is now
living. This man he declares to be a thoroughly unprincipled one, who has
no conscience and does not know what the fear of Heaven means. He has
claimed the house as his own, though he has not the slightest particle of
right to it; but as he belongs to a powerful clan and has plenty of money
at his command, he is afraid that might will prevail and he will lose his
property, and thus be deprived of his home. He explains that the case has
gone before the local mandarin, but as he has not the means to bribe him
and the smaller officials under him, whilst his opponent is making lavish
presents to them all, he is fearful that when the matter comes to be tried
the decision of the judge will be in favour of his enemy. What he would
like to know now is, is there any likelihood of his gaining his case. If
the fortune-teller could only give him any light on that subject that
would relieve his mind he would be infinitely obliged to him.

These fortune-tellers are keen judges of human nature, and they know that
men like to have pleasant answers to their requests, and so they
manipulate them so that, like the Delphic Oracles, they can be interpreted
either favourably or the reverse according as they eventually turn out.
This man listens with the utmost attention, with a keen look on his face,
and as the story becomes more intense, he sways his head from side to side
as though he were deeply moved at its recital.

When it is finished he throws down the twelve divining slips of bamboo on
to a little board on his knee, and asks the inquirer whether he wishes to
have the assistance of the bird in his case, for this will involve him in
a slight extra expense. Having expressed his willingness, the door of the
little cage is opened, and the bird, that has been looking with a wistful
eye on the whole of the proceedings, hops out and touches one of the slips
with its beak, as though the spirits had commissioned it to select that
particular one as containing their answer to the man's request to be
allowed to peer into the future.

The bird waits for a moment whilst the fortune-teller drops a grain of
rice in front of it, which it instantly picks up, and disappearing again
into its cage, it begins to preen its feathers whilst it keeps a watchful
look on the passers-by, in hopes evidently that it may again soon be
called upon to earn another grain of rice.

The fortune-teller now takes up the slip, and reading aloud the
inscription on it, he declares that there is no doubt but that he will be
successful in his lawsuit, that Heaven will intervene to frustrate the
malice of his enemy, and that he may go home with his mind at ease. To a
Westerner the statement on the bamboo is exceedingly vague. It declares
that the river which has been flowing amongst the hills and has been lost
to view, is again appearing round the curve of a mountain cape, and will
soon flow up to the very feet of the eager onlooker. The river is supposed
to be the case that has been giving the man perplexity, and its vanishing
out of sight the anxiety he has had as to its ultimate issue. Its sudden
turn into sight when it seemed to be lost is an indication that the affair
will turn out prosperously.

Should, however, judgment be given against him, the fortune-teller will
free himself from blame by declaring that he had misread the sign given by
the returning stream, as it really was a good omen that the spirits had
given in favour of his enemy, who was finally to remain victor in the
contest for the house.

No sooner has this man gone, than a young fellow of about twenty steps up
and says that he would like to get some indication from the spirits about
a question that is giving him some anxiety. He had obtained a situation in
the town with an employer of labour, who had a reputation for ill-treating
the people that were in his service. He was very anxious, he said, for
some employment, but he would prefer to be without any for some time
longer, rather than suffer harsh treatment and be compelled to leave. Was
it safe, therefore, for him under these circumstances to accept the offer
that had been made him, or should he reject it?

Again the slips were thrown carelessly on to the board, and the sparrow,
that had been watching the young fellow whilst he was telling his story,
being let out of its cage, touched one of the bamboo slips with its beak,
and then waited for the grain of rice that was dropped in front of it.
Looking carefully at the inscription, he once more proceeded in a
mysterious and enigmatic way to say what the spirits advised to be done in
the matter. This was so vague and unsatisfactory, that the young man
declared that he would not risk the trouble that he might have if he
decided to accept the billet that had been offered to him, that he would
just make up his mind now to reject it; and with a smile on his face and a
few pleasant words of thanks, he disappeared in the crowd that was passing
and repassing in front of them.

With this man I will close my chapter, though there are many others who
get their living in the streets whose stories are just as interesting as
his, illustrating the peculiar modes of thought of an idolatrous people,
and the strenuous nature of their life in trying to satisfy their
spiritual and physical necessities.



CHAPTER XV

THE SEAMY SIDE OF CHINESE LIFE

    Some of the moral aspects of the Chinese--Their religion takes no
    cognizance of men's lives--Heaven looks after great moral
    questions--Objectionable features of Chinese
    society--Unchaste--Foul-mouthed--Passion for gambling--Instances
    given--Lawless classes numerous--Opium vice--Evil results.


The comparatively elevated moral condition of Chinese society is very
often a source of pleasure and at the same time of perplexity to strangers
who have lived long amongst them, and who have narrowly watched them in
their social and domestic life. This state of things has not been produced
by the popular form of religion that is practised amongst them, for that
never seems to influence their lives in the slightest degree. A man, for
example, of notoriously bad character will come and make the most lavish
offerings to a certain idol in whom he has the most implicit faith. He
will stand in a most reverent manner before it, and he will beseech it to
bestow blessings upon him and his home, and to save him from calamity and
suffering, and when he turns to go home he is just the same man as he was
before he came into the temple.

The idols are not supposed to have anything to do with character. The
thief, and the prodigal, and the gambler join in the crowd that wind their
way up the hillside to the shrine, say, of the Goddess of Mercy, and they
burn their incense and make their offerings to the benevolent-looking
idol, whilst she, with a smile that seems to be struggling through her
gentle features, looks apparently with complacency upon them all alike,
and the hardened sinner and the shy, shrinking young wife are both treated
as though they were the same in her eyes.

There are two forces, quite outside of any of those that are supposed to
exist in the common religion of the people, that exercise a tremendous
influence for righteousness in all the various phases of Chinese life, and
are usually referred to as The Principles of Heaven. This phrase is used
whenever any question of morals is at stake, or perhaps some principle of
righteousness is involved, and it has a potency about it that nothing in
the whole range of Chinese thought could in any way equal.

An idol is never appealed to to confirm some statement about which there
may be a dispute, but Heaven is, and it is felt that when this is done,
the person who has dared to call upon that great name to be a witness as
it were to the truth of what has been said, he is not to be lightly
disbelieved. Heaven has eyes, it is commonly asserted, and when a person
recklessly holds up his hand to Heaven and asks it to attest to something
he knows to be false, it is confidently believed that ere long some signal
manifestation of its anger will be witnessed in the disasters that will be
hurled upon him and his family.

Any violations of the great law of justice or any injury done to another
man's character are things that Heaven is supposed to look upon with a
very jealous eye, and it is its part to see that due punishment shall be
inflicted upon the transgressor when the proper time comes. The writings
of Confucius and Mencius, the two great sages of China, have done much to
keep alive this idea, and as these really are a kind of Bible to the
nation, the influence they have exerted upon the scholars and thinkers of
each generation, and through them upon the people at large, has been on
the whole of a most beneficial kind.

Now it is very extraordinary, that whilst it is firmly believed that in
cases of conscience, or in matters that involve great moral questions,
Heaven always interferes to punish the wrongdoer, no one thinks that any
vices that a man may commit for his own personal gratification are looked
upon as improper by this great Power, or that it will take the trouble of
inquiring into his conduct and of meting out either rewards or punishment
for it.

The result is a very lax state of morality in regard to what may be called
the social virtues. Heaven is a great impersonal Power, that in some
mysterious way rectifies injustice, and avenges human wrongs, and at the
cry of a city pours down rain upon a district that has been parched and
dried up by drought. Life and death are decided by it, as well as the
wretchedness and happiness of mankind, but the fatherly instincts that are
deep in the heart of the true God are not considered to have any place in
this great and dread Force, and unless men come into collision with the
laws that it has established for the governance of the world, it leaves
them to work out their lives as best they may.

The passions of men, therefore, have a very wide scope for their
operations, and the consequence is the Chinese are anything but a highly
moral race of people. That they are less so than other Eastern peoples is
very seriously to be doubted, for wherever men feel themselves
unrestrained excepting by an impersonal Force that does not question too
closely the daily life of a man, the home virtues as practised by the true
Christian are sure to be neglected and ignored.

With regard to the Chinese, the facts above stated are abundantly verified
by the records of the hospitals that have been opened by foreigners
throughout the country for the treatment of the sick, and also by the
elaborate system that is in existence in every town and city, as well as
in the market places and even in the larger villages throughout the
Empire, to meet the social evil that everywhere exists.

There is one thing that mitigates somewhat the terrible tragedy of this
widespread disregard for chastity, and that is that it is sedulously kept
in the background, and the public gaze is never allowed to rest upon it.
Day or night one might pass throughout the public thoroughfares, and
along the less frequented side streets, or into the lowest slums of a
great city, and yet no sign of anything wrong either on the streets or in
the dwelling-houses could be discovered by the most critical eye.

One of the ideals of Chinese life is purity. It is sung about in their
ancient songs, and is the theme of the great poets who composed their
lyrics and their epic poems in the centuries that have fled. It is the one
element that goes to the making of a sage, and no man who is deficient in
this beautiful grace can ever hope to win the homage and respect of his
fellow-men. It is this ideal virtue that seems to permeate the atmosphere
in which men live with its impalpable touch that has made the nation
desire to hide the grossness of their lives from one another, and to put
on an air of innocence that they do not possess.

The immoral tendency of the Chinese mind is seen in a variety of ways. One
very offensive one to a person who is acquainted with the language is the
obscene character of the swearing that the people indulge in as a matter
of common usage. It is quite safe to say that everybody in China, learned
or unlearned, refined or unrefined, lady or gentleman, does habitually use
bad language, and it is particularly painful to have to listen to the
loathsome expressions that people hurl at each other when they are in a
passion and wish to cut into the very soul of the person with whom they
may be at variance. In passing along the street, one now and again comes
upon a group that has been attracted by a quarrel, say, between two women,
who, inflamed by passion, use the most degraded language, and for the time
being ignore their sex, and seem to be utterly regardless of the number of
people that are silent witnesses of their depravity.

Another insight that one gets into the unrefined character of the Chinese
mind is the kind of plays that are popular with the masses. As the
theatricals are performed on the streets, in front of some heathen temple,
or on some open space where the crowds can congregate to witness the
performance, one gets a lurid view of the workings of the Chinese mind by
observing the kind of pieces that most suit the popular taste, and which
will draw the largest audiences. It is an undoubted fact that, putting
aside the historical plays, which from their nature are the very purest
that are presented on the stage, the pieces that are most attractive and
most sought after are such as would never be tolerated in any of the
Western theatres. These seem to have a wonderful fascination for the
playgoers, and men and women will sit during the long hours of an evening
and right away past midnight, and will listen to the words of a play and
to the innuendoes of the actors that any person with a chaste mind would
fly from in utter loathing and disgust.

Another very objectionable feature in Chinese life is the passion that
every one seems to have for gambling. There are sections of people in
England who are as much addicted to this vice as are the Chinese, but
there are vast numbers who have never had anything to do with games of
chance, and who would be horrified if they were asked to do so. Now, in
this land there is no class of people similar to those. High and low, rich
and poor, seem to have the gambling spirit in their very blood, and, like
the craving in the opium smoker, that must be satisfied at all hazards, so
the cards and the dice must be fingered to allay the passion that is
burning within their hearts.

[Illustration: FRUIT-SELLERS GAMBLING.

_To face p. 327._]

That this vice affects not simply certain classes within the Empire is
evident from the fact that the wealthy men who have no need to increase
the huge fortunes they have at their command are amongst the most
determined gamblers in the community. Gain is not the sole purpose of such
men, when they spend days and nights with the cards in their hands, and
everything else is forgotten in the mad excitement that the varied
fortunes of the game brings to the players. Not long since, the chief
mandarin of a district that contained several large counties, and who was
immensely rich, became so enthralled with the gambling mania that he
utterly neglected his official duties, and spent his whole time with a
number of wealthy men in playing the various games of chance that are so
well known to the Chinese. The Viceroy of the province got to know in some
way or another of his disgraceful conduct, and not only dismissed him from
his office, but also got the sanction of the authorities in Peking to
decide that he should never be allowed to hold any position under the
Government in the future, and so his official life came to a sudden and
disastrous termination. That this ignominious close to the ambitions of a
life will have any effect in delivering him from the craving for
excitement that has got such a grip upon him, is extremely improbable. His
curt dismissal and his reduction to the ranks of the common people will no
doubt have a beneficial effect upon the mandarins throughout the province,
for he was a well-known man, and was a member of a family that had within
it officials of the highest possible distinction.

This fatal tendency of the Chinese for gambling is fully realized by the
rulers of the country, and the most stringent measures have been adopted
by them to repress it. That they have been only moderately successful is
not to be wondered at, for the passion within the hearts of the people is
like a stream that has been dammed up, and that by and by scatters
everything before it, and carries destruction in its mad career. Wherever
a vigorous mandarin holds rule and the gambling laws are carried out with
a certain amount of strictness, the people are afraid openly to indulge in
the national propensity. Where, however, an easy-going official and
perhaps a gambler himself holds the reins of office, then the people,
feeling the curb removed, plunge with wild excitement into the gambling
fray, and neglecting every other business in life, give themselves wholly
to the cards and the dice.

On one occasion, in a certain district, an opium-smoking mandarin whose
brains were dazed and muddled with his midnight orgies allowed the law to
be very loosely administered within his jurisdiction. His runners or
policemen took advantage of the situation to earn a little extra money by
receiving bribes from the owners of gambling houses, and to wink at the
trade that was being carried on by them. Immunity from police inspection
not only gave encouragement to these gentry, but at the same time struck
as if with a whip the slumbering passion in the hearts of the community
and roused it into a fury.

It soon became known that the Yamen was not to be feared, and that there
were no penalties against the infraction of the gambling statutes, for the
mandarin's soul was steeped in opium, and all his executive staff were
gathering in a golden harvest that prevented them from seeing how the
people were breaking the laws. One firm, having literally bribed every
official, including even the mandarin himself, had the audacity to open a
large gambling establishment, and to announce publicly that a particular
form of gaming was going to be carried on in it, and to invite the public
to come and purchase their tickets from them.

The system that was proposed was one that was exceedingly popular with the
Chinese, but it had been so demoralizing in its effects, that it had been
repeatedly suppressed at various times by the authorities. It consisted of
thirty-six well-known gambling words, one of which was selected by the
head of the concern and concealed within a series of small boxes, which
were to be opened in the presence of a committee, on a certain drawing
day, when all those who had tickets with the lucky word would be rewarded
by certain specified prizes in money, far in excess of the sums they had
originally paid for them.

The whole country for miles round was in the wildest excitement about this
lottery business. The great question with nearly every one was what word
should they speculate on, for with the gambling mania strongly aroused
within them, every one wanted to take his chance of gaining the coveted
prize. Soothsayers and fortune-tellers were consulted to see if by their
jugglery they could not reveal the word that had been hidden away so
carefully so that none should know its secret. Men and women in large
numbers visited the various idol shrines in the region and made vows to
gods of valuable offerings if they would but disclose to them the unknown
Chinese character that was going to bring wealth to those that should
purchase the lucky ticket.

There was one large temple, famous for the potency of the idols that were
enshrined in it, and every evening for weeks before the drawing hundreds
of men and women used to repair to it in the hopes that the idols would
reveal to them in their dreams during the stillness of the night which
word they should select as the right one. Singular to say, some declared
that they got such clear illuminations from the idols that they proceeded
to buy tickets which subsequently gave them the coveted prizes.

After a time society became so disorganized that the whole thing was put a
stop to, and gambling was more sternly forbidden than ever. The
Government, however, is conscious that it cannot be absolutely prohibited,
and so three days of grace are given, when every one is allowed to gamble
to his very heart's content without any fear from any one. The first
begins on the Chinese New Year's Day, when the whole of the Empire is
having a holiday. All work is suspended and the shops are closed, so that
for one day at least in the year the towns and cities have a genuine
Sunday look about them.

In all the public thoroughfares tables are set up, where the crowds may
gather and throw their dice and venture their cash, and look with their
solemn, unemotional faces upon the varying fortunes of the games, as
their money that they have hoarded up for the occasion passes into the
possession of the winner, and they are left penniless. The chances are all
in favour of the man that runs the concerns, but an occasional success
where ten times the amount risked is gathered in by the delighted winner,
so stirs the gambling instincts that they keep putting down their money on
the board, hoping in every throw of the dice to woo fortune to their side.

Another decidedly unpleasant feature about the Chinese is the hazy and
indefinite ideas they have generally with regard to _meum_ and _tuum_.
They are wanting in that straightforward honesty that is the
characteristic of the typical Englishman. There is no typical Chinaman
that corresponds to him. It is quite true that in certain business
relationships a Chinaman's word is as good as his bond, and that contracts
entered into by leading Chinese firms are faithfully carried out, even
though they may be large losers by the transactions. This is not the
result of a profound instinct for honesty, but rather the carrying out of
a commercial code of honour, the infraction of which would cause them to
lose face amongst business men, and thus imperil the credit of their
firms. These very men that would be willing to bankrupt themselves rather
than disavow some business engagement that had turned out badly, will
under other circumstances act very much like the rest of their countrymen
and take advantage of you for their own benefit, and fleece you
unmercifully.

The first and most practical experience one has of this deteriorated moral
character in the nation is with one's cook, who sets himself
systematically to cheat upon every article he has to buy for the home
use.[6] As he has the purchasing of everything required from the Chinese
market, it may easily be imagined what a field he has for gradually
making his fortune out of the unsuspicious foreigner. He will charge just
as much per cent. extra upon every article as he thinks he can safely do
without raising the ire of his employer. He does not call this stealing.
It goes under the more euphonious designation of earning, for to steal
would mean that he was a thief, and that he would never under any
circumstances consent to be. If you were to ask him if in his daily
purchases he earns anything upon them, a pleasant smile would flash over
his yellow countenance and he could deny that he did, but in such a way as
to confess in a shy and ingenuous manner that he did. If, however, you
were to ask him if he stole from his master, he would be filled with
indignation, and anger would flash from his eyes, whilst he would
indignantly repudiate the idea that he had ever stolen from any one in his
life. Universal custom and the inbred instinct of the Chinaman to earn an
honest penny whenever the opportunity may occur has given the nation
decidedly low ideas of morality, and has led the people into huge systems
of overreaching each other that have had the effect of dulling the
conscience and of lowering the moral standard.

The transition from stealing in what might be called a legitimate and
recognized way into downright theft and burglary is not a very difficult
one. The fabled days of the times of Confucius have long since passed away
when no man needed to shut his door at night when the family retired to
rest, and no one felt any concern about his purse that he may have
accidentally dropped on the road, since he would simply have to go back
over the way he had travelled and he would find it on the exact spot where
it had accidentally fallen from him. The nation has fallen upon degenerate
times since then, for locks and bars and bolts and walls that would seem
to be meant to act as fortifications are now all required by those who
have any property that would be worth the carrying off.

This fact is most conspicuous in the houses of the rich, who are apt to
keep considerable sums of money in them, and who thus tempt the cupidity
of the thieves in the neighbourhood, and even of those that live at a
distance, who will come suddenly one dark night in considerable force and
in one fell swoop carry off all the valuables in them.

The pawn shops, that are known to contain all kinds of precious property
that are held as pledges for money lent on them, have to be built strong
enough to resist the organized attack of desperate bands of robbers. They
are in fact miniature fortresses, with walls of granite slabs that would
resist a battering-ram, and iron plated doors, and jingals placed inside
the doors ready to resist an onslaught of the thieving mob of ruffians. As
these are under the special protection of the mandarins, it shows the
lawless character of the Chinese robber fraternity, that they dare to
assemble in such numbers to attack such formidable buildings as they are,
and yet such things are by no means uncommon.

One stormy, cloudy night when the inmates have retired to rest, and there
is no suspicion of anything unusual going to take place, the sudden
barking of dogs, that seem mad with excitement, arouses the sleepers from
their slumbers. Peering through the narrow stone slits of the windows
upstairs, they catch a glimpse of a large number of dark figures moving
restlessly about. Immediately the whole establishment is alive. The place
is going to be attacked, and now with cries of terror and alarm every one
hastens to his post to repel the onslaught of these midnight marauders.
The battle is sharp and fierce, and there is none to bring aid to the
defenders, for the neighbours, though they hear the sounds of firing, and
the shouts of the ruffians and the screams of the terrified women inside
the pawn shop that startle the midnight air, dare not come to the rescue,
for the robbers are not in a mood to spare any one that dares to interfere
with the carrying out of their plans.

After some hours of conflict, the main door is battered in with axes and
the robbers intent only on plunder decamp with their huge spoils, that
will enable them to gamble to their hearts' content, and to steep their
senses in opium for many a long day to come. They have so effectually
concealed their identity that all investigations made by the mandarins or
by detectives specially employed by the firm, fail entirely to discover
who the midnight thieves were that so successfully raided the wealthy
establishment.

The processes of law are so uncertain in China that there is a positive
temptation to the criminal classes to indulge in all manner of nefarious
schemes that are for the detriment of society. The mandarin of a certain
county, who is declared, in the poetic language so often employed by the
Chinese, to be "The Father and Mother of his People," happens to be a
weak, vacillating character, or his few senses have been saturated with
opium so that he is quite incompetent to see to the government of his
district.

The lawless characters within it, who might have been restrained by a firm
and vigorous hand, now assert themselves, and the large clans with their
powerful followings domineer and oppress the weaker ones. Travellers are
stopped on the highways, or carried off and shut up and tortured until
they are redeemed by their friends by the payment of a heavy ransom.

The river that may run through this unhappy region is infested with
pirates who sally out at night and capture the trading junks that may be
lying at anchor in some snug bay where they have taken refuge for safety.
They also land their men at the villages along the banks and raid and
plunder the defenceless inhabitants, and when the morning comes there is
despair in the hearts of those who have been deprived of their all, for
they know that no redress will ever be obtained from the mandarin, who is
the cause of the lawlessness that prevails on the land and along the
streams and away down to the river's mouth, where it pours its waters into
the ocean.

Wherever there is an efficient executive, the men who prey upon society
are compelled for the time being to take to honest courses to earn a
living for themselves and their families. It is very interesting to watch
how a whole district may be kept in order and laws obeyed and confidence
restored by the action of one vigorous mandarin. On one occasion a certain
region was in a most disturbed condition. Travellers passing through it
did so at the greatest risk of being seized and held to ransom. They were
compelled to go in companies for the sake of the protection that numbers
would give them, and even then they had to pay the headmen of a certain
large and turbulent village stipulated fees for passes that would carry
them for a few miles on their journey without being molested by other
blackmailers. Even the very poorest in going from one place to another
were called upon to pay a few cash before they were allowed to proceed,
and men were stationed outside the village to collect the toll from every
one that passed by.

There were loud grumblings and complaints at this distressing state of
things, but no steps were taken by the local authorities to put an end to
it. The lawbreakers were rich enough to bribe the mandarins and every
member of their Yamens, so that the story of their misdeeds was quietly
ignored and they were allowed to grow rich on their illegal exactions.

After a time a new general was appointed to take military charge of the
whole district. He was an exceedingly active and intelligent official, and
had the reputation of being impervious to a bribe. A tremor of excitement
ran through the ranks of the blackmailers when they heard of his
appointment, but they contented themselves with the idea, that if he could
not be reached by money, his subordinates, whose livelihood depended upon
such perquisites as they were prepared to give them, would certainly not
refuse the liberal sums they could have for the asking.

The general soon found what a disgraceful condition his district was in,
and he quietly took measures to restore law and order in it. He knew that
he could get no reliable information from the members of his own Yamen, so
he used to go out every evening after dark in various disguises and mingle
with the people. He would sit in the tea shops and hobnob with coolies, or
he would enter the restaurants and converse with the more staid and
respectable citizens and glean from their conversation information upon
all manner of subjects that would be serviceable to him in his government
of the people.

He found that the greatest disorders existed and that it would require
very stern and decided measures to put an end to them. He got a complete
history, too, of the particular village that had become so notorious for
its exactions, with the names of its leading men and all their cruelties
to the victims that had been seized in order to extract large sums out of
them. He knew that these very men had spies even in his own Yamen who were
ready to report any action that he might be going to take with respect to
them, and therefore he had to keep his plans a profound secret even from
his most confidential advisers.

At length after weeks of patient waiting, during which the suspicions of
the lawbreakers were lulled to sleep, he decided upon immediate action. He
had not informed any of his officers what he was going to do, neither had
any of his troops the slightest suspicion that anything special was going
to take place. Rousing the camp at midnight, he ordered five hundred men
to prepare for instantly marching to a destination that he would reveal to
no one. Taking the lead, the troops, who had been commanded to keep the
most profound silence, glided like spectres through the dark and gloomy
streets till they reached one of the great gates of the city. These were
thrown open at the command of the general, and the soldiers trooped along
the high road wondering what was the meaning of this midnight march and
what scheme was working in the fertile brain of their leader.

Ten miles had been travelled and darkness still lay upon the land, and the
trees and the houses, as they suddenly loomed up, looked like ghosts that
had wandered out of "The Land of Shadows," and were waiting for the dawn
to return to their dreary abodes in that sunless world. Suddenly the order
was whispered through the ranks to halt, and in tones of stern command the
soldiers were ordered to surround the village that lay in the profoundest
stillness at their side. They were to see that no one of its people were
allowed to escape, and that for every one that managed to do so the life
of the soldier on guard would have to pay the forfeit. The men knew too
well the temper of their general to imagine that this was an idle threat.

With noiseless tread each man took up the station assigned to him by his
officer, and the whole command stood in breathless silence until the dawn
in the east lifted up the curtain of the night and revealed the village to
them. A detachment of men were marched into it, and half-a-dozen of the
leading men of the clan were seized and marched to an open space outside
of it, where the general was standing with some of his officers. The
executioner with bared arm and gleaming sword awaited but the word of
command, and six heads rolled on to the ground and the tragedy was over.
The bugles sounded and the men fell into their ranks, and almost before
the whole of the village had time to rub their eyes to assure themselves
that they were awake, the avengers of law were hurrying back to the city
they had left at midnight.

The effect of this stern act of justice was perfectly magical in its
effects. The news spread with the rapidity of lightning through the length
and breadth of this famous general's jurisdiction. With the fall of those
heads, every trace of lawlessness vanished from the great clans that had
been terrorizing society. Men could now travel freely without any danger
of molestation, and even in the darkness of the night no one dared to lay
his hand upon a member even of the weakest of the clans. The fear of the
general was in the hearts of the transgressors, for conscience made
cowards of them all, and stories were circulated about the almost
supernatural knowledge that he had of men's doings, and which every one
implicitly believed in.

And so during the term of his office there was an end to blackmailing, and
the region became as peaceful as though the gamblers had burnt their cards
and had taken to reading religious books, and the opium smokers had become
reformed, and the passion for unlawful gains had died out of the hearts of
the men who had made it impossible for honest men to travel freely either
for business or for pleasure very far from their own doors. But whilst
this was the case, there was no real reformation in the hearts of a single
one of those who had made society unsafe for men and women who wished to
live a law-abiding life. They were simply afraid of the man that had the
instant power of life and death, and who without trial of judge or jury,
and without the fear of any superior court to call in question his
decisions, could hand over a person at a moment's notice to the man who
held the gleaming sword, and who with one stroke of it could decide in two
seconds a matter that lawyers in England would wrangle over for months.

The lawless classes in China form a considerable percentage of the whole
population. They are ruthless and cruel, and in the carrying out of their
fell purposes they show but little consideration for the lives or property
of those whom they may select to be their victims. There is a general
impression in Western lands that the idolatrous races of people living in
the East are a simple-minded folk, with but few passions and generous and
tender-hearted to each other. They are supposed to lead a sunny life, and
imitating the luxuriance of nature that the great sun continually spurs
into action by his fiery heat, to have the widest sympathies with
everything human. This is an ideal picture that could only have been drawn
by the vivid forces of imagination. China is no Eden of this kind, and it
may be accepted as a general truth that where men have lost the knowledge
of God, and are not drawn into a noble life by an impression of His purity
and tenderness which He wishes reproduced in the lives of the world, men's
own conceptions of what a noble life ought to be will always fall far
short of the Divine.

The best days for China were in the ancient past, according to the sacred
books of the nation, when God and Heaven were the prominent words in the
religious life of the people, and when the idols had not yet come from
India to lower the conceptions of the Divine. With the gradual
disappearance of God, as a personal Power, from the thinking of the people
there came the lower standard of morality that has its legitimate
successor in the types we see in modern life.

We are told that three centuries after Confucius wrote his lofty system of
ethics, though even he began to give evidence that he was losing touch
with a personal God that the illustrious sages whose writings he professed
to be editing undoubtedly had, the nation had practically adopted the
worship of nature, and made their offerings to the spirits of the
mountains and of the streams that flowed through the land and brought
fertility in their train. Morality, however, had in the meanwhile
degenerated, and one has but to read the history of China[7] to see how
the baser passions that influence men in the present day were very much
in evidence in those primitive times.

An incident in the life of one of the most famous Emperors that lived two
centuries before Christ will confirm my statement on this head. Some time
before his death he had a tomb built for himself that was constructed on a
royal and a magnificent scale. It was really an underground palace and
furnished in a style that suited the exalted ideas of the man who was
designing it. It was furnished with every necessary for a luxurious life,
and vast stores of gold and silver and precious jewels were deposited in
strong rooms that no robber bands could break into.

Magnificent suites of apartments were constructed that were fit to
entertain a kingly company, for the Emperor when he died and was buried in
this great sepulchre did not mean to be the only occupant of it. He had
planned that some of his favourites from his harem should accompany him,
and that men-servants and maid-servants and hosts of attendants should be
shut up with him in the gloomy underground mansion. He could not bear the
thought of being alone. He desired that life in some mysterious way should
be continued in "The Land of Shadows" very much as it had been in the one
he was forced to relinquish.

His one concern in the midst of all this preparation for another life was
the feeling that the great wealth that he had stored in the new palace
would excite the cupidity of the thieves and the gamblers and blackmailers
that had begun to exist in that early stage of the nation's history. He
accordingly called in the cleverest and the most cunning artificers in
brass and iron and asked them to make locks of such ingenious and subtle
designs that no housebreaker would ever be able to open them. They were
also to construct full-sized figures of men in metal, standing with bow
and arrow in hand in front of the door by which the palace was to be
entered. A touch of the intruder's foot on a secret spring would cause
the mechanism of these dumb sentinels to work, and in a moment the deadly
arrows would be shot into his body and he would fall lifeless on the very
threshold. The safeguards against invasion of the tomb after the Emperor
was laid to rest in it were complete, for none knew the secret of the
locks or of the silent figures that stood ready with their arrows to slay
the robber but the artificer that designed them, and in order to secure
that none should ever learn it from him, he was quietly put to death one
morning after he had fully explained to the Emperor the details of his
wonderful invention.

Another feature about Chinese life that is sadly illustrative of its seamy
character is the prevalence of the opium habit, and the saddest feature
about this is the fact that it is not a native vice, one indigenous to the
soil, that has grown up as the result of some peculiarity of temperament
of the Chinese, but is an import that was first brought into the country
and made an article of trade by an English company of merchants, viz. the
East India Company.

One of the most unfortunate days for this old Empire was that on which the
ships of that famous Company sailed up the Pearl river with their
consignment of a drug that was to prove more disastrous and more fatal to
its people than all the revolutions that during the past centuries have
deluged this land with blood, or all the epidemics that have at various
times swept like destroying angels through the ranks of society.

People who have been jealous of English honour have tried to prove that
the opium was in common use amongst the Chinese before the ships of
England appeared before Canton with their deadly cargoes, but this is an
absolute mistake. Isolated travellers from India may have brought some for
their own individual consumption, but the drug was unknown and unused by
the Chinese people. That this statement is true is proved by the fact that
there is no word in the language of this people for opium, for the only
one that has ever existed is the one that attempts to give the sound of
the foreign name that those who produced it in other lands gave it. If the
thing had been an indigenous product, the Chinese would have had a name
for it that would have had no flavour of a foreign land.

It has been a most disastrous thing for China that the one nation that has
championed opium and has made treaties for its sale in this land, and that
in the interests of its merchants and for the sake of its Indian revenue,
insisted upon these treaties being carried out, should be England. If it
had been a smaller Power the Chinese Government might have successfully
resisted the attempt to force upon it a trade that was inevitably bound to
degrade and demoralize its people. But England, the mighty power of the
West, whose guns had thundered over Canton, and had waked the echoes of
the Yangtze, and had even sounded through the capital of the Empire, was
one that China dared not contend with, and so it has come to pass that the
country that has always professed to be the refuge of the oppressed and
the freer of the slave, has been the one to bind the shackles of opium on
a people that, whilst they have fallen under its spell, yet feel the
profoundest indignation against the Power whose legislation has helped to
enslave them.

Opium in China is sometimes compared to the drinking habit in England, and
terrible though the latter is, men have become so accustomed to the sight
of it, that it is apt to be looked upon with considerable leniency. People
in the highest positions in the land have drink upon their tables, without
any one commenting unfavourably, except perhaps the members of the
temperance party. Clergymen, highly respectable heads of families,
philanthropists, and men who are prominent in society for their
benevolence, all feel that they are doing no wrong by using in moderation
wines and spirits themselves, and by offering them to their friends or
guests who may be visiting them. Many honestly believe that a moderate use
of wine is not only allowable, but is also highly beneficial for the
health, an idea that is largely believed in by the medical faculty, who
are apt to recommend their patients to use it, whenever their health
becomes impaired.

Now, supposing that the moderate and daily use of liquors for, say six
months, would so enchain and bind a man or woman that they must, at all
costs, have their daily allowance of drink that they have been accustomed
to, and that if they were denied it they would be mad with pain, and so
racked with agony that they could neither rest nor sleep until the awful
craving had been dulled by a draught of wine or spirits, how would society
look upon the use of beverages that in so brief a time would bring about
so terrible a tragedy? It is quite safe to say that in a vast number of
homes where to-day they are used with the utmost lightheartedness, they
would be excluded with the most feverish and jealous care as enemies with
whom there could be no compromise.

Let us suppose, for example, a family of six, the father and mother, two
sons and two daughters. Every day, twice a day, at lunch and at dinner,
one or two glasses of wine are drunk at each meal. This goes on steadily
for six months, and then it is proposed that for the future there shall be
no more drinking. This is agreed to; but, as the evening advances, it is
found that a strange and mysterious restlessness has taken possession of
the whole family. They cannot sit long, but are impelled to move about.
Gnawing pains rack the bones and render life intolerable.

Retiring to rest for the night is absolutely useless, for it is found
impossible to remain for more than a few minutes quiet; and besides, the
mental faculties are so active and the eyes so wide awake, that sleep is
the very last thing that the imagination can think of. It is soon
discovered that the only thing that will restore the normal tone to both
body or mind is a copious draught of wine or a bumper of brandy and soda;
when, after a few minutes, the restlessness gradually vanishes, the pains
and aches slowly subside from the bones and muscles of the body, and a
perfect peace reigns where before mind and body were both racked in a
fierce conflict with an unseen foe.

Now this is an imaginary and highly impossible picture with regard to the
effects of alcohol, but it is one that is extremely applicable to the
opium smoker. Let a Chinaman steadily smoke opium for six months and he
can no longer call his life his own. He cannot let a single day go by
without taking the amount that will relieve the tension and the strain
that are put on his physical forces at a certain hour every day when the
craving for the drug creeps over him. He must then have the pipe to inhale
its fumes, or the agony and oppression will be so great that he will be in
the greatest torture.

There is no such a thing as temperance in opium as there is in the
indulgence of intoxicating liquors. Unless a man is a confirmed drunkard
he can abstain for a longer or a shorter time from them without any very
serious inconvenience, but such liberty is never accorded to the opium
smoker. After a daily use for six months, he may never have a day off, but
as the hours pass by he is reminded by the enemy that creeps over him, and
that fills him with pains and languor, that he must light his pipe.
Sometimes in cases of severe illness his usual dose must be doubled before
his torture is relieved, and when it comes to pass that he does not wish
to smoke, it is then known that a stronger than opium is going to claim
him as its victim.

If a man has plenty of means he lays in a supply, and when the time comes
round for him to take it, which it does with the inflexibility and cruelty
of fate, he reclines on a couch and fills and refills his pipe, and draws
in one volume of fume after another until the pains that have gripped
every bone in his body loose their hold, and the craving that has brought
a shadow over his life, and blotted out sun and moon and stars, and that
has shut out of his heart his home and his wife and his children, and has
given him a vision only of his own wretched self, slowly disappears, and
he finally drops into a childlike sleep. He rises perfectly free from pain
or weariness, but he is oppressed with the thought that twice every day he
has to go through this terrible experience, and that never as long as he
lives will he ever be a free man again. There is a release for every one
that desires it; but the price to be paid is so great and the agony to be
endured so intolerable that but very few of those upon whom opium has laid
its grip would dare to attempt to free himself from its shackles.

If the opium smoker is a poor man, then indeed the lot of the home is a
miserable one. At all costs he must have his pipe at the regular time, no
matter who else may suffer. His wife and children may go without food, but
he must be supplied. One article after another is sold to buy the opium,
until the house is so bare that there is nothing left to be disposed of.
Then one of the children disappears, for a childless man in another part
of the city has bought it, and it now belongs to him. One after another
vanishes in the same way, till no one is left except his wife. At last
when all the funds have gone and there are no more little ones to dispose
of, negotiations are entered into with a middle-woman, and his wife too is
no longer to be found in her wretched home, for she has become the spouse
of another man, and the miserable opium smoker is left alone, content with
the thought that for the present, at least, he has got the funds to enable
him to satisfy the craving and to keep off the horrors that would make his
life one long torture.

In the middle classes where the husband is an opium smoker, and where the
means are at hand to supply the daily needs of this cruel and exacting
tyrant, things go on tolerably smoothly, for opium does not send men into
wild and insane fits such as alcohol does, but it deadens the senses and
puts them to sleep, and it tends on the whole to repress the fighting
passions of a man.

The indirect influence of opium is very disastrous in its results, for it
is in a large measure the producer of some of the dangerous classes that
prey upon society. When a man has spent all and sold any little property
that he may have possessed, he then joins the ranks of the thieves and of
the gamblers, and henceforth he seems to live only for the one great
purpose of grasping from any quarter that may be ready to his hand, the
means of satisfying the inexorable craving that comes upon him twice every
day.

This terrible evil exists throughout the length and breadth of the Empire,
and there is no power outside of Christianity that seems to be able to
cope with it. Human affection, and sense of honour, and pride of race, all
succumb before the touch of opium. The Church of Christ in China alone
possesses the one motive that will enable the victim to bear the agony of
giving up the habit, or that will restrain the man that is tempted from
indulging in it, and that is supreme affection and fidelity to Christ his
Saviour. The same mysterious power that has touched the men of other lands
into the most intense and unwavering devotion to Him, has in countless
instances kept men in this old Empire of China from the seductions of the
pipe, and has made them bear heroically and without flinching the bitter
pains that opium makes its victims endure before it will loose its grasp
upon them.



CHAPTER XVI

A TRIP THROUGH THE COUNTRY

    Preparations for the journey--Headman of sedan--chair shop--Fares
    settled--Morning scene--Chinese disregard of time--Start on
    journey--Scenery--Rice-fields--Great roads and small
    roads--Refreshment places by roadside--Villages on line of
    travel--Crops--Arrive at river--Description of a famous bridge--River
    boat--Gorges--Sugar canes--Sugar factory--Anchor boat.


Two of us had for some time been planning a trip into the interior. We
were anxious to see the tea growing on the mountain sides and to travel up
some of the rivers that for ages have been pouring their waters to the
plain, and up and down which the tides of life have for long centuries
flowed incessantly. The day had at length arrived when we could carry this
purpose into effect, and we were looking forward with pleasure to the
varied scenes and experiences through which we should have to pass.

The preparation for a journey differs essentially in this land from the
same thing in England. Here we have to provide plates and cups and saucers
as well as knives and forks, for such things are never used by the
Chinese, as a few bowls and chopsticks are all that are ever seen in any
home in China. We must also take our own bedding and blankets, as the
Chinese ideas of cleanliness are such as to make us chary of using any of
theirs. It is also necessary to lay in a moderate stock of tinned meats,
so as to provide for certain contingencies when anything beyond potatoes
and rice may not be procurable in some of the districts through which we
shall have to pass.

[Illustration: CHINESE LOCOMOTION.]

Having stocked our provision basket with the various articles that were
absolutely necessary for our comfort by the way, and having seen to our
bedding and inserted amongst the blankets a few choice books to enable
us to while away some of the dull hours that we were sure to have on the
journey, we had to arrange for the chairs that were to carry us for the
next few days.

We accordingly sent for the headman of the nearest chair establishment to
settle with him the rates we were to pay for the chair-bearers. This is a
question of no small difficulty, for these men have an evil reputation for
being dishonest, and unless they are carefully watched, one is certain of
being cheated by them. The man who shortly appeared in obedience to our
summons well sustained the character that his class have everywhere
obtained. He had a frowsy look about him as though he had been sleeping
all night in his clothes and had not washed for many a long day. That of
itself would not be a very serious indictment against him, for the
disregard of soap and water is no test whatever of a person's character in
China. There was something about the man's face that led us to form no
very high opinion of him. In the first place he was an opium smoker. That
could be seen from the leaden hue that had driven out nature's colours
from his face, and also from something nameless in the eyes that the opium
with its subtle alchemy had put into them. In the next there was a low and
cunning look about him that made you feel that you were in the presence of
a man whose ideas of morality had never been fashioned on the high
principles of Confucius and Mencius, or indeed of any of the other sages
who have been models to the people of this Empire.

After a considerable discussion and beating down of prices, it was finally
settled that we were to pay for one chair with its two bearers at the rate
of about five pence a league,[8] with a specified sum for the days when we
rested by the way, either because it was Sunday or for any other special
reason that might induce us to loiter on the journey. As we were anxious
to start early in order to reach a certain stopping-place where there was
a well-known Chinese inn, we stipulated that the bearers with their chairs
should appear next morning at daylight, when we would have everything
ready to make an immediate start.

True to this arrangement we had packed up and had breakfasted before any
sign of the coming sun could be seen in the eastern sky, and we kept
looking out to see when the dawn would disperse the darkness that lay on
the earth, and we could start on our journey. By and by the great
banyan-tree near by that looked like a weird and uncanny mass of shadow,
denser and blacker than those that concealed everything from view,
suddenly and as if with the touch of an enchanter's hand began to assume a
tangible shape, and great boughs swung into view, and countless branches
with their evergreen leaves came out of the night as if to greet the day
with their smiles. Soon the light had flashed across the fields and on to
the tops of houses, and had touched the summits of the hills with its
glory and had driven away the last lingering shadows from the landscape,
and another day had broken on the world.

Impatiently we waited for the coming of the chairs, but the minutes passed
by, and the sun rose higher and higher, and his rays flashed amongst the
forest of leaves that sprung from boughs and branches of the venerable
banyan, but still no sign of them or the bearers. We had been long enough
in China to realize that time to a Chinaman is of no importance whatever,
and that the difference of an hour or two in any engagement that is made
is a matter so trifling as not to be considered worthy of mention. Still
with true Occidental pertinacity and training we clung to the idea that
because the daylight had been mentioned and had been agreed to as the time
when the men should put in an appearance, the men, of course with the same
exact ideas of time that we had, would promptly appear as soon as the
first flush tinged the sky in the east.

The foreigner in dealing with the Chinese always forgets that they are
usually accustomed to look at things from a different standpoint from
ourselves, and that their minds are more turbid and less keen than ours.
Daylight, for example, with us has a definite meaning, but with a Chinaman
represents a time that begins with the dawn and with the indolence of the
East may extend to seven or eight o'clock.

By and by, and just as the clock was striking eight, the men came
sauntering up the street smoking their bamboo pipes and chatting and
joking with each other. They seemed to be perfectly unconscious that they
were fully two hours late, and they tossed the chairs on the ground with
an air as though they were in advance of their time and were anxious to be
on the road.

They seemed to be mightily taken aback when we asked them, with a good
deal of indignation in our tones, why they had not kept to the agreement
of coming to us at daylight. "But we have come at daylight," they replied,
with amazement in their looks; "what is it now but daylight?" We speedily
showed them from the current use of the word daylight, that that event
happened more than two hours ago, and that by this time we ought to have
been at least five miles on our journey.

They all seemed really surprised that the present moment could not be
fairly called daylight, but with the readiness of the Chinese in repartee
one of them said, "We really had to rise before daylight to be here now,
for we had to cook our rice and have breakfast, for the work before us is
no light one, and we dare not undertake it on an empty stomach. Then we
had to smoke our usual quantity of opium. Until we had done that we dare
not attempt the long journey that we have before us to-day. You blame us
for being late, but just think of what we have had to do before we could
come here. We had to cook our own breakfast and eat it, and that took up
some time. Then we had to get our opium pipes in working order, and slowly
manipulate the opium, and that you know is not like tobacco that you can
take a few whiffs of and the thing is finished. We had then to lie on the
opium-bench for some time till the drowsiness passed away and we had
recovered our senses. How could we come earlier with all these things to
do? You decided that we should come at daylight, and here we are. Did you
expect us to come without having had our breakfast? You are no slight
weight to carry, you know, and if we had done so, we should have had to
drop you on the road before we had been an hour on our journey."

The Chinaman has a wonderful facility for putting the best face upon a bad
argument. He has the most ingenious ways of presenting his view of the
matter, so that by and by he will have turned the tables, and he will make
it appear that he has been altogether right whilst you have been
absolutely in the wrong. His favourite method is to confuse the issues,
and the Chinese, with their turbid way of looking at things, continually
fall into the snare, and having accepted his premises they must perforce
accept also his conclusions. Here were these rough, noisy chair-bearers
insisting that they had acted upon our agreement to come at daylight,
though the sun was high in the heavens and it was getting close upon nine
o'clock. They ignored all our attempts to prove that the hour of daylight
had passed some hours ago by simply insisting that we were wrong. The
hypnotic influence of assertions made confidently and persistently began
to have its effect on our mind. Were we really labouring under a mistake,
and were the broad daylight and the great sun that glared down upon us
simply visions of the imagination? We felt that if we did not stop the
discussion we should soon be consenting to all they said, so we got into
our chairs and with a peremptory wave of the hand ordered them to go on.

With smiling faces and with an air of victory in their voices, they lifted
the poles on to their shoulders and commenced the long journey of twenty
miles that lay before us. When the bearers are strong and know their work,
and when they have got into step with each other, the motion of the chair
is a very pleasant one and the time passes by very quickly.

This latter is in a great measure due to the constantly changing scenes
that meet one by the way. After leaving the city we emerged into the open
country, where we had ample evidence of the skill with which the farmer
cultivates his fields. He seems, indeed, to have penetrated into the
secrets of nature and to have learned how to manipulate his fields, and
how to coax and win the various kinds of seeds that he plants that they
shall all respond to the efforts he puts forth and gladden his heart with
their fruitful harvests.

The Chinese farmer is a most unæsthetic, most uninteresting looking
character, and strikes one as far inferior to the rosy-cheeked,
jolly-looking specimens that till our lands in England. He has altogether
a mean appearance and does not at first sight induce us to have any high
respect for him. His dress is against him. It is made of sombre-looking
blue cotton cloth, slouchily made, and usually anything but clean. He
absolutely neglects his toilette, and his face and hands show an ingrained
dislike to water. Whether as the result of hard work or of exposure to the
sun, which burns like X Rays into his skin, his countenance in a
comparatively early stage becomes furrowed with wrinkles, and in time he
gets prematurely old looking.

It is when you become acquainted with him, and chat with him, that these
external disadvantages seem to vanish from your thoughts, and you realize
that here you have a man who has held deep communion with nature, and who
knows her so well that she responds to his touch, and pours with no
unwilling hand out of the abundance of her treasury the riches that are to
fill the homes with gladness and content.

The fields that we are now passing through are an evidence of the skill
and ingenuity of the farmers. They are all covered with luxuriant crops of
rice, and as the sun shines down upon the heads that have just issued from
their leafy enclosures, and his rays flash upon the water at their feet,
making it to sparkle and glisten as so many diamond points that reflect
his glory, the sight is one that the eye never gets tired of looking upon.
One is led to reflect in gazing upon these fields with what exquisite
beauty and with what marvellous detail God fashions the growing grain so
that it shall come with as perfect and divine a form as His great Master
Mind can devise it.

As far as the eye can reach there is little else to be seen but rice. One
sees it down in the hollows where the little rivulets flow, and where they
have left their trace in the deeper green and the ranker growth of the
crops near by. On the rising ground one's eye is caught with the lifelike,
graceful motions that the passing breeze with the art of a master makes
the stalks that stand so thickly side by side perform. Like the waves
breaking on the shore, one never wearies looking at them, for they vary
with every gust of wind, so that they never become monotonous.

The only exception to this universal growth of the rice are fields of
sweet potatoes that occupy grounds where the water cannot reach. As this
is an essential for the cultivation of rice, which must stand in it during
the whole time of its growth, until within a few days of its being
harvested, other kinds of crops have to be planted in what are called "the
dry fields." These are mainly sweet potatoes, though various others are
also cultivated in them.

Here, for example, is a small plot of land that we are passing by, which
illustrates not only the ingenuity of the Chinese farmer, but also shows
the varied purposes to which "the dry fields" may be put. There are no
fewer than three distinct crops growing harmoniously side by side on it.
There are peanuts with their short, insignificant growth and their tiny
yellow flowers that seem the very embodiment of retiring modesty. Out of
their very midst there spring up the sturdy millet-stalks, with their
lofty ambitions that would make them stretch far beyond the humble leaves
and flowers at their feet; and last, but not the least important, there is
a crop of sweet potatoes that will quietly survive when the other two have
been gathered, and will gladden the hearts of the farmers after the others
have been garnered.

As we travel on, we notice how very bad the roads are. We are on what is
called the "Great Road," for it is a great thoroughfare, and for more than
two thousand miles it runs over great plains, and winds up and down hills
and mountains, and crosses great rivers and countless streams, and
penetrates great and populous cities, and yet, excepting at occasional
places, it never averages more than ten feet wide. It seems, too, to be in
a chronic state of disrepair. The rains fall, and the storms and the
typhoons spend their fury on it, and try their very utmost to obliterate
it. The countless feet, too, of weary travellers, and of coolies with
burdened shoulders, and chair-bearers with their weighty fares tread it
down and fill it with ruts, and wear away the stones, and disfigure its
surface with heights and hollows that make travelling in the rainy season
a serious trial to those who have to journey along it.

If this be the case with the "Great Roads" it may easily be imagined what
the character of the "Small Roads" must be. These latter are practically
but footpaths that exist like a huge network throughout the Empire, and
are reserved for the local traffic that goes on between village and
village, and between market town and market town, and whilst on the whole
they aim at being as straight and as direct as possible, they are from the
very nature of the case generally very winding and roundabout. Fields have
to be crossed and private property has to be invaded, and so the traveller
has to accommodate himself to the necessities of the case, and follow the
windings and the turnings by which the least damage may be done to those
whose farms or homesteads have been invaded by those who never dream of
paying any compensation for the liberty they have taken.

In travelling on these "Great Roads," one finds that about every two miles
or so apart there are recognized stages or resting-places where
refreshments of a very primitive kind may be obtained, and where men
wearied with the strain of walking, or oppressed with the great flaring,
scorching sun may find some respite from the strain that has been put upon
them.

But here is one of these stages, and as the rule of the road demands that
the chair-bearers shall stop at it, we shall be able to see for ourselves
exactly what they are like. At first sight it has a very tempting,
picturesque appearance. Several magnificent banyan-trees send out huge
spreading boughs, which, with their great forest of leaves, cast a most
refreshing shade over the road and over the eating-houses that stand by
the wayside. These latter are of the simplest and most elementary kind,
and consist of one large room that is practically a kitchen, where the
rice and the sweet potatoes are cooked and where the owner and his wife
carry out the orders that their customers may give them.

In front of this are small tables and rough wooden benches for the
accommodation of those who wish to have refreshment. No sooner do our men
drop their chairs on the road, than they stagger to one of these tables,
and, at a kind of masonic sign that is easily read, a bowl of smoking-hot
rice is put into the hands of each, a pair of chop-sticks are grasped from
a hollow bamboo receptacle on the table, and without a word it is quickly
being shovelled down their throats. It is not until at least half the
basin has been emptied that signs of contentment escape from them, and the
innate humour, which has been crushed by the pain and weariness on the
road, finds expression in laughter and in humorous conversation that fills
the air with merry sounds that linger among the branches and wander down
along the road into the great glare beyond where the shadows of the banyan
lie.

In order to ease ourselves from the cramped position we have had to
maintain in the chair, we get out and stretch our legs, and finally sit
down on one of the benches and watch the moving life that passes and
repasses in front of us.

Here is a young fellow that has just staggered out of the sunlight into
the shadow, and he lets down his burden from his shoulder as though he
were tearing off the skin and places it carefully within a few feet of us.
He must be about twenty-five, and is as good a specimen of a man as one
would find in a day's journey. His face is flushed and excited, and he has
a strained look upon it as though he had been bearing a pressure that had
become simply unendurable.

"How far have you travelled with your load?" we asked him.

"One hundred and fifty miles," he replied, "and I have thirty more before
I reach the end of my journey."

"What is its weight?" I inquire of him.

"It is a hundred and fifty pounds at the very least," he said, and he cast
a wistful, anxious look upon the huge burden that he had carried so far.

"But why engage to bear so heavy a load? A hundred pounds ought to have
been your limit, for so long a journey," I continued.

"I could not afford to carry less," he quickly replied; "I am paid so much
a pound, and I have to pay my own expenses. I have to eat often," he
explained, "or I should break down. I have to pay for my bed at night, and
I must have a certain amount over to take home to my wife and family. If I
were to reduce the weight I could not do that, and so I am compelled to
put every pound into my load that I can possibly carry in order that my
family may not suffer."

But here comes a sedan chair that has come in with a rush whilst we have
been talking. The bearers are both young strapping fellows, and we can
tell from the hot flush on their faces that the strain upon them is a
severe one. They are too proud, however, to acknowledge that, and instead
of letting the chair down gently, they give it a toss in the air as though
it were a plaything, and with a jaunty air they drop it on to the ground.
They then begin to chaff some of the other bearers that are seated on the
tables, and in a leisurely, easy way saunter to a seat as though it were a
matter of perfect indifference whether they had any refreshment or not.
The keeper of the eating-house, however, knows exactly the requirements of
these two brave young fellows, and so he quietly slips a bowl into the
hand of each, and, in spite of their feigned unconcern, they are soon
shovelling down great mouthfuls of the hot savoury rice.

As we sit looking at the shifting scene that passes like a moving panorama
before us, we are impressed with the pathetic side that seems to us to be
the prominent one. The passers-by are nearly all representatives of the
working classes, and even they come from the poorer stratum. Some of them
are men from a distance, as may be seen by their dust-soiled garments and
their air of weariness. Others are farmers who have been to the
neighbouring city to dispose of their farm produce, whilst not a few are
nondescripts, the waifs and strays that heathen society tosses up, whose
hold upon life is always a precarious one, and who may any day be landed
amongst the beggar class to fight and struggle for existence as best they
may.

Now and again a man in easier circumstances may be detected by the
independent swing of his walk, and by the jolly look that illumines his
broad, but unæsthetic features. There are young fellows, too, who, full of
exuberant spirits, lark and joke with each other, and make the air ring
with their laughter, but there are only too many with a shadow on their
faces that tells of an inner life where the heart throbs with a hidden
pain. For one thing, at least, the Chinaman is a man to be greatly admired
for the patience and the heroism with which he bears the ills and the
disappointments of life. It is not because he is of a callous nature, or
that he is insensible to the human touches that sweep over the spirit of
other races, and make the heart break down in tears. It is simply because
he has a wonderful power of self-restraint; and because pain and distress
are inevitable as he considers, he hides within his bosom, under a face
that absolutely refuses to let out his secret, the sorrow that amongst us
we could not disguise.

The chair-bearers have had their bowl of rice. They have seized a handful
of peanuts which lie in little mounds on the table, and are hastily
cracking their shells, and as they pick their kernels out they propel them
with a jerk into their mouths. Finally they fill their diminutive bamboo
pipes with tobacco, and after three or four good long whiffs, they call
out in a cheery voice, "Now let us go." The chair is swung up on to their
shoulders, they shuffle their feet until they get into step, and then,
with a steady trot, they start for the next stage that lies two or three
miles ahead.

Our way lies across a plain that is thickly dotted with villages. These at
a distance have a very charming appearance, and remind one very much of
similar places in the homeland. They are nearly always embowered amongst
great stately trees, that the forefathers planted when the foundations of
the new home were laid. They have grown since then, and now beneath their
spreading branches only a pointed roof or a whitewashed gable can be
caught sight of through the rifts in the foliage of the trees.

The plain is a populous one, and the road on which we are travelling being
a great thoroughfare, little market towns have sprung up on it. If there
is one thing more than another that these impress upon a stranger from the
West it is the absolute want of taste that the Chinese show in the
building of their houses and in the laying out of their streets.
Broken-down shanties, badly kept houses, streets that reek with smells,
people dressed in an untidy and slovenly manner, and with hands and faces
that very rarely become acquainted with soap and water; these are the
common sights that meet one wherever he travels in this great land of
China. The country has an old and worn-out look about it, and seems as
though it needed whitewashing and renovating; whilst the people as a whole
require washing and scrubbing and a liberal use of "Sunlight Soap," to
remove the grimy, dusty accumulations that rest upon them wherever you
meet them.

Our journey so far has taken us through a very fertile district, and
luxuriant crops of rice testify not only to the excellence of the land,
but also to the skill of the farmers in the wise methods they have learned
to employ in the cultivation of the land. That they succeed so well is no
doubt due to the long and assiduous care that the nation has given to
agriculture. From time immemorial the farmer has held a high position in
the estimation of the nation. One of the most honoured amongst their
ancient kings was a man that was taken from the plough, and was made a
co-ruler with a man that, for the probity of his reign, has always been
spoken of in the annals of the empire as a sage.

The Chinese, therefore, have had long experience in the art of cultivating
the soil, and out of this has been developed the touch in their fingers
that nature recognizes and responds to so readily. They seem to have no
trouble in making things grow. Apparently without any effort they plough
their land and scatter their seed with careless hand, and granting that
the rain falls with tolerable regularity, everything springs up just as
they have planned.

After passing through a number of villages and hamlets, and small market
towns, all frowsy and slattern-looking, and pervaded with the Oriental bad
smells wherever a human habitation exists, we came late in the afternoon
to the mouth of a wide river, where our land journey was to end, and where
we were to continue it by boat until we should reach our destination.

In order to get to our boat, which we had arranged should meet us at this
place, we had to cross the bridge that spanned the river here to get to
the other side where it lay awaiting us. This bridge is a famous one, and
is a very fine specimen of what the Chinese builders can do in the
construction of such. It consists of about twenty-five spans, the widest
of which is sixty-five feet, whilst the others vary somewhat in their
measurements.

As the river flows here with a very rapid current, and moreover is liable
to sudden rises after heavy rains in the interior, it was essential, in
the erecting of this bridge, that it should be built so strongly that it
would be able to stand not only the wear and tear of the ever-flowing
river, but also the mighty strain of the deluge of waters that comes
roaring down the gorges that lie above it either after some tempest, or in
consequence of an unusual downpour during the rainy season in the spring.

The great width between each pier was not a matter of choice but of
necessity. To have placed them any nearer to each other might have risked
their being swept away by the river tide, which when swollen by the storms
of summer rolls down with prodigious volume and force over the very spot
where the bridge had to be built. It was also equally necessary that the
slabs of stone that composed the roadway of the bridge should be
enormously heavy, so that they might be able to resist the impetus of the
flood that would at times roll over them and yet not be strong enough to
lift them from their positions and hurl them down the river.

It was a bold design and one seemingly impossible of achievement, and yet
it has been done. Many of the slabs are seventy feet long, six feet in
thickness and about four feet in width. As you slowly tread your way over
them and try and pace out their length, they appear Titanic in their
dimensions, and the question that is most often in the mouths of the
visitors who have come to witness this great engineering feat is how ever
did the builders manage two hundred years ago not simply to cut such huge
blocks of granite from the mountain side, but also to place them in the
position they have occupied for two centuries at least.

This question is one that was easily answered by the untaught architects,
who, without any other guidance than their own common-sense and their
general knowledge of building, had undertaken to throw a bridge over a
stream that depended for its moods on the changeful, fitful temper of
the elements. They first of all built their piers in the river when the
water was at its lowest. They waited till the winter months, when the
north-east monsoon had driven the winds in wild confusion far down into
the South, and the mountain streams were dry, and the current flowed in a
sluggish, indolent stream.

[Illustration: A FAMOUS BRIDGE.

_To face p. 361._]

They then began to quarry out the mighty slabs that were to make the
roadway of the bridge, and that should be so weighty as to be able to
resist the fierce onrush of waters when the river, maddened by the storms,
flung itself down the gorges and, flecked with foam, careered in wild
confusion towards the sea.

The hills near by that ran down to the very edge of the water abounded
with stone exactly suited for the purpose, and as the proper lengths were
chiselled out of the hillsides, they were deftly slid down on rollers and
placed on rafts that were moored by the edge of the shore. Here they were
allowed to rest in peace and quietness until some great downpour filled
the rivulets and the mountain streams and the thousand and one tributaries
that sent their gurgling, gathering forces to swell the waters of the main
river.

Men with keen and eager watch marked the rise of the tide, and when it was
found that the flood had risen higher than the tops of the piers, the huge
rafts with their mighty cargoes were skilfully guided down the flowing
river, and the slabs having been moored in the position they were to
occupy as parts of the roadway of the bridge, the workmen waited for the
fall of the waters, when they each subsided into the exact place they were
intended to fill. The river itself was thus made the engineering force by
which at a comparative little cost and at no very great expense of labour,
those huge masses of stone, that no hydraulic power in the world could
have lifted into position, were placed in the very simplest manner where
they have remained for more than two hundred years.

We found the boat we had ordered waiting for us by the river side, nestled
under a great clump of bamboos, that stretched their feathery, graceful
branches right over it as though they would cast their protecting shadow
over the place where it lay.

At this point our land journey ends, but before going on board we have to
settle with our chair-bearers, and, as is universally the case in China,
to part with these usually demands a little diplomacy. In spite of the
fact that we had agreed upon the sum we were to pay them at the end of the
journey, they were very insistent that we should make them a present in
addition. This is one of the traditions of the profession, that "wine
money," as the tax is called, should be demanded from every fare they
carry. If the day is stormy and the roads bad, amidst the loudly expressed
complaints of the bearers at their sorrows and miseries, there will be
continually heard the comforting assurances uttered by themselves, that at
the end of the journey the present of the "wine money" will be a very
liberal one. They repeat this so often that they finally come to consider
that they are entitled to the sum they have mentioned, and when the
stipulated fare has been handed over to them, they will assume an injured
air as though they were being defrauded, and they will demand the "wine
money" as a right which may not be denied them.

As they had been very nice during the journey, we made them a present of
one hundred cash, equal to about twopence halfpenny, with which they
expressed themselves highly pleased, and declared that we had hearts that
knew the sorrows that chair-bearers had to endure, and that we were
tender-heated enough to sympathize with them in a way they could
understand.

It would have seemed from this that our parting from these men was going
to be a very pleasant and a very amicable one, but those who are
acquainted with the wiles of this class of men will easily understand
that this outward expression of good-will did not mean that they were not
going to try and squeeze some more money out of us. The usual way in which
payment is made is in copper cash. These are made up in hundreds, and ten
of these are so strung together that they form a string of a thousand. In
ordinary transactions these are accepted at their full value of nine
hundred and ninety eight, two being deducted to pay for the string on
which the whole are strung.

The chair-bearers for private reasons of their own refuse to accept these
strings of cash until they have all been counted over and the five per
cent. of bad ones that custom allows have all been eliminated. They
insist, too, that the counting of these unwieldy coins shall be done on
the ground and by themselves. Each string of one hundred was accordingly
unloosed and cast upon the ground, and with the deft fingers of these
unscrupulous bearers not only were the spurious cash spotted and laid
aside in a heap by themselves, but a few of the really good ones were also
abstracted in such a clever fashion that no one could catch the motion of
their nimble fingers. In the dispute about the disappearance of the cash,
one of the men was observed putting his bare toes on two or three that lay
together and grasping them with them. He then quietly and naturally drew
up his leg behind his back, and in an easy, unsuspicious way removed them
and concealed them in his hand.

We felt that there would be no credit in disputing about the stolen cash,
for the whole amount did not come to more than a little over a penny, so
the men departed highly pleased with the cumshaw (present) that had been
given them and with the few cash that they had been able to abstract under
our very noses.

We had no sooner got on board than the large sail was hoisted, and the men
taking to their oars we were soon speeding away at a tolerably quick rate
on our journey up the river. Our boat was a very comfortable one, and it
was quite a relief after being cramped up in the chair to be able to
stretch one's legs and to indulge in a lounge or sometimes to take a walk
along the bank of the river.

The boat was about twenty feet in length and five or six in width at the
centre. It was divided into four sections. There was the bow, where the
men stood when they rowed or hoisted the sail. Next to this was a room
that was used as sitting-room, bedroom and dining-room. Further aft was a
diminutive space where the servants could lie, and in the stern was the
section where the steersman stood and guided the boat. It served also as a
kitchen, for all the meals were prepared here, and at night, after the
boat was anchored, the crew of four men lay upon the planks of the deck,
and covering themselves with their wadded quilts, slept soundly till the
dawn called them again to their work.

As the wind freshened our boat rushed through a narrow gorge, where the
hills, beautifully wooded down to the very water's edge, presented a most
charming and picturesque view. It was not an extensive one, and so we soon
emerged from it into an extensive plain which was in the highest state of
cultivation. This was rendered possible by this noble river that flowed
through the very centre of it. The farmers had taken advantage of this,
and with great ingenuity had managed to train the waters so that they
should flow into the fields far beyond the banks on either side of the
river, and flood the fields of rice.

The effect of all this was seen in the luxuriant crops of rice that could
be seen stretching far into the distance. It would seem indeed as though
they were conscious of the boundless supply of water that ran on in an
endless stream close within sight. There was a deeper colour in the
dark-green hue with which they were tinged, and a sturdier and more
independent growth, than where the grain was dependent on the rainfall or
on the ponds that had been filled during the rainy season and that were
intended to be the supplies from which they were to draw when there was a
dearth of rain.

There is one feature in the cultivation of this plain that is but rarely
seen in any other district. You might travel for fifty miles in any
direction you please, and you would never be able to catch a trace of it.
I refer to the numerous clumps of sugar cane that occupy every little bit
of rising ground, where the water would not lie so as to bear a crop of
rice. Scattered over the great area of this extensive valley, they seem
like sentinels placed to guard the growing grain that looks so beautiful
in the great sheets of water that gleam and glisten in the sun's rays at
its feet.

There is something special in the soil of this region that is favourable
to the cultivation of this plant, for the sugar that is produced in this
district is famous, and it finds a ready market not only in far-off
distant places in China, but also in countries beyond the limits of the
Empire. The amount of sugar actually raised is large enough to form an
industry that is of sufficient importance to give employment to
considerable numbers of the people in the towns and villages on the plain.

But here is a village, right on the water's edge, that is evidently a
centre of the trade, where we shall be able to get a good idea of the
processes through which the sugar has to go before it is ready for the
market. We stop our boat, and climbing the grassy bank and crossing the
path that runs close along the river side, we come at once into a scene of
the greatest activity. Men and women and young lads are gathered round the
sugar-crusher, which is being turned by a huge water buffalo, which with
slow and ponderous tread and with a look of oppression in its large liquid
eyes travels round and round in a perpetual circle, causing the pair of
huge stones to revolve in the same direction and to crush the canes that
are thrust in between them by the feeders.

Underneath the crushers is a drain into which the juice from the canes
drops and which conveys it into a large vat that stands ready to receive
it. The liquid in this is of a very dark colour, very sticky, and has a
strong resemblance to treacle. So intense has been the pressure of the
crushers upon the canes, that after they have come out from between the
revolving stones, not a particle of moisture is left in any of them, and
they are no longer of any use except for firewood.

This treacly substance is then put into earthenware jars of the shape of a
pyramid with a slight perforation at the apex and turned upside down and
allowed to drain. The sugar at the broader end is covered with a layer of
damp mud from the river, and the moisture from it is allowed to soak
through the mass. The result is the whole becomes refined, and there
remains, after a certain time has been allowed for the process to work, a
light-coloured specimen of soft brown sugar.

A further stage is reached by boiling the brown sugar in huge iron pans
and pouring the liquid into coarse jars, the whole of whose interiors have
been threaded backward and forward with coarse string. By the wonderful
alchemy of nature these have the power of crystallizing the boiling
liquid, and the result is a brown sugar candy, that whilst it is wanting
in the golden hue and the delicate fascinations of the English article, it
is just as toothsome and a great deal less expensive; for a catty (1-1/3
lb.) of the very best can be purchased in any of the shops that deal in
such articles for about three pence halfpenny.

We leave the sugar factory, and proceed up the river, but as the sun has
gone down beyond the mountains, and the shadows fall thickly upon the
darkening waters, the captain chooses a place where he will anchor for the
night. Just ahead of us there are a number of junks that have already
lowered their sails and let down their anchors, and towards them our boat
is steered. In a few minutes we too have joined company with them, and
form part of the little fleet that will safely defy any attempt of river
thieves to molest us.

The scene on the river is just now a very pleasing one. Boats of various
sizes and descriptions are making vigorous efforts to reach their
destination at villages on the river. The glory of the setting sun that
tipped the mountains in the near distance is gradually dying out, and the
deep shadows settle on their sides, making them look grand and gloomy. The
crows that have wandered far during the day in search of food, warned by
the waning light, are hurrying in flocks up the river and from across the
plain in the direction of the great tree upon which they are accustomed to
roost during the night. The sounds of human voices from the boats anchored
near us come to us with a pleasant sense of companionship as the night
deepens on the river. The laughter at some side-splitting joke, the noisy
discussion of some disputed point--for the Chinese never can talk in a low
voice--the voice of some mother hushing her little one to sleep, all fill
the air with a music of its own, and seem to be a pleasant ending to the
events of the day. A spice of mystery, too, is added, for some of the
crows that have been abroad, heedless of time, have delayed their return
till darkness has almost settled on the land. Attracted by the lights of
the boats they fly close over our heads so that we can hear the whirr of
their wings, and then with a rush like an arrow from a bow they dash with
the speed of lightning into the night and are gone, leaving an uncanny
feeling in our minds, as though we had been visited by spirits from the
vasty deep.

Supper ended, the Chinese sit for a short time smoking their pipes and
chatting indifferently upon any subject that may turn up, but before long
the captain takes a look at the sky to see what weather may be expected.
He then examines his cable to see whether the anchor is holding or not,
and having satisfied himself that there is no danger of his boat drifting
during the night, he utters the welcome order, "Now let us sleep," and in
a few minutes the crew are in the land of dreams, from which they will not
return until the dawn with its silent touch brings them back once more to
a busy working world.

We do not feel inclined to retire so soon as these boatmen, who have been
trained to early hours. The evening is too young, and besides the beauty
of the night scenery has an attraction for us that banishes the thought of
sleep from us. We sit out on the bow of the boat and become absorbed in
the beauty of the scene, which is lost to the sleeping world. The clouds
that had been flying across the sky during the day have all vanished, and
now the heavens are bright with stars that seem to shine with unwonted
brilliance. The mountains on which we have gazed all the day long look now
like sleeping giants hiding themselves in the gloom of night and invested
with an air of mystery as we try in vain to catch an outline of them. The
people on the boats are all asleep, and only an occasional sound from a
restless child can be heard coming from them. Everything is silent but the
flowing river, and this ebbs on with ceaseless motion, and as if to remind
us of its presence swishes up against us, and with inarticulate language
gives us a cheery hail and then passes on. We go on dreaming, for the
stars and the land lying in the vague mystery of night, and the undefined
forms of the mountains and the ceaseless voices that nature utters all
night long lay their spell upon us. By and by a dreamy, drowsy feeling
creeps over us, and we retire to our cabin, and soon with the lullaby of
the river that murmurs its music alongside our boat, we lose all sense of
the world outside.


THE END

_Richard Clay & Sons, Limited, London and Bungay._



FOOTNOTES:

[1] See Macgowan's _Imperial History of China_, where T'a Ki is discussed,
in the chapter on the Chow Dynasty.

[2] For an account of these see Macgowan's _Imperial History of China_.

[3] See Macgowan's _Imperial History of China_ for fuller information on
this book.

[4] See Macgowan's _Imperial History of China_, passim.

[5] The cangue is a huge wooden collar which is fastened about the neck.
It is so broad that the man cannot feed himself, neither can he frighten
away a mosquito that may settle on his nose, nor can he sleep comfortably
whilst he wears it. He is usually made to parade near the place where his
offence was committed, as an object lesson to others.

[6] See Chapter on "Servants" for a disquisition on this point.

[7] See Macgowan's _Imperial History of China_, passim.

[8] A league in China is equal to ten Chinese miles. With the want of
precision, however, of the Chinese in their weights and measures, a league
is a very variable denomination. On what are called the "Great Roads,"
that is on a great thoroughfare, the length is as stated above, but on
cross-country roads, where the farmers are great walkers, a league may
sometimes extend to as much as ten English miles. The fact is, as we have
often found by experience, the length of a league depends very much upon
the measuring capacity of a man's mind, for it is a rare thing to get a
number of people to agree as to the exact distance between one place and
another.





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