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food of the people,” something a British rarely live beyond forty-five or fifty. The colonial governor must never do.
term of a chair-bearer is eight years, that Though the farmer thriftily combs his of a rickshaw-runner four years; for the harvest-field, every foot of the short stub- rest of his life he is an invalid. Moreover, ble is gone over again by poor women and carriers and chair-bearers are afflicted with children, who are content if in a day's varicose veins and aneurisms because the gleaning they can gather a handful of constant tension of the muscles interferes wheat-heads to keep them alive the mor- with the return circulation of the blood. row. On the Hong-Kong water-front the A woman physician in Fuhkien who had path of the coolies carrying produce be- examined some scores of carrying coolies tween warehouse and junk is lined with told me she found only two who were free tattered women, most of them with a baby from the heart trouble caused by burdenon the back. Where bags of beans or rice bearing. are in transit, a dozen wait with basket In Canton, city of a million without a and brush to sweep up the grains dropped wheel or a beast of burden, even the carefrom the sacks. On a wharf where crude less eye marks in the porters that throng sugar is being repacked squat sixty women the streets the plain signs of overstrain: scraping the inside of the discarded sacks, faces pale and haggard, with the drawn while others run by the bearer, if his sack and flat look of utter exhaustion; eyes leaks a little, to catch the particles as they pain-pinched, or astare and unseeing with fall. When sugar is being unloaded, a mob supreme effort; jaw sagging; mouth open of gleaners swarm upon the lighter the from weariness. The dog-trot, the whismoment the last sack leaves and eagerly' tling breath, the clenched teeth, the scrape from the gang-plank and the deck streaming face of those under a burden of the sugar mixed with dirt, that for two from one to two hundredweight that must hours has been trampled into a muck by be borne, are as eloquent of ebbing life as the bare feet of twoscore coolies trotting a jetting artery. At rest the porter often back and forth across a dusty road.
leans or droops with a corpse-like sag that Haunted by the fear of starving, men betrays utter depletion of vital energy. spend themselves recklessly for the sake of In a few years the face becomes a wrinkled, a wage. It is true that the Chinese are pain-stiffened mask, the veins of the upper still in the handicrafts stage, and the ar- leg stand out like great cords, a frightful tisans one sees busy on their own account net of varicose veins blemishes the calf, in the little workshops along the street go lumps appear at the back of the neck or their own pace. The 'smiths in iron, tin, down the spine, and the shoulders are copper, brass, and silver, the carvers of covered with thick pads of callous under ivory, amber, tortoise-shell, onyx, and jade, a livid skin. Inevitably the children of the workers in wood, rattan, lacquer, wax, the people are drawn into these cogs at the and feathers, the weavers of linen, cotton, age of ten or twelve, and not one boy in and silk -all seem, despite their long eight can be spared till he has learned to hours, less breathless and driven, less prodi- read. gal in their expenditure of life energy, than There are a number of miscellaneous many of the operatives in our machine in- facts that hint how close the masses live to dustries, who feel the spur of piece wage, the edge of subsistence. The brass cash, the team work, and "speeding up." Still, it is most popular coin in China, is worth the obvious that those in certain occupations
certain occupations twentieth of a cent; but as this has been are literally killing themselves by their found too valuable to meet all the needs of exertions. The treadmill coolies who the people, oblong bits of bamboo circulate propel the stern-wheelers on the West in some provinces at the value of half a River admittedly shorten their lives. cash. A Western firm that wishes to Nearly all the lumber used in China is entice the masses with its wares must make hand-sawed, and the sawyers are exhausted a grade of extra cheapness for the China early. The planers of boards, the marble
The British-American Tobacco polishers, the brass filers, the cotton Auff- Company puts up a package of twenty ers, the treaders who work the big rice- cigarettes that sells for two cents. The polishing pestles, are building their coffins. Standard Oil Company sells by the million Physicians agree that carrying coolies a lamp that costs eleven cents and retails, chimney and all, for eight and a half cents. inch and imploring the by-passers to drop Incredibly small are the portions prepared alms into his basket. It held four cash! for sale by the huckster. Two cubic In Canton the Government furnishes inches of bean curd, four walnuts, five lepers two cents a day, which will buy peanuts, fifteen roasted beans, twenty two bowls of cooked rice; for other needs melon-seeds, make a portion. The melon- the lepers must beg. Ax and bamboo vender's stand is decked out with wedges are retained in punishment, and prison of insipid melon the size of two fingers. reform is halted by the consideration that The householder leaves the butcher's stall unless the way of the transgressor is made with a morsel of pork, the pluck of a fowl, Ainty, there are people miserable enough and a strip of fish as big as a sardine, tied to commit crime for the bare sake of prison together with a blade of grass. In Anhwei fare. Not long ago the commissioner of the query corresponding to “How do you customs at a great south China port-a make your living ?” is “How do you get foreigner, of course, -impressed by the through the day?" On taking leave of his fact that every summer the bubonic plague host, it is manners for the guest to thank there carried off about ten thousand Chihim expressly for the food he has provided. nese, planned a rigid quarantine against Careful observers say that four fifths of those ports from which the plague was the conversation among common Chinese. liable to be brought. When he sought the relates to food.
coöperation of the Chinese authorities, the Comfort is scarce as well as food. The taotai objected on the ground that there city coolie sleeps on a plank in an airless were too many Chinese anyway, and that, kennel on a filthy lane with a block for a by thinning them out and making room for pillow and a quilt for a cover. When in the rest, the plague was a blessing in disa south China hospital the beds were pro- guise. The project was dropped, and last vided with springs and mattresses, supplied summer again the plague ravaged the city by a philanthropic American, all the pa- like a fire. But the taotai was not unreatients were found next morning sleeping sonable. After all, it is better to die on the floor. After being used to a board quickly by plague than slowly by starvacovered with a mat, they could not get tion; and, as things now are, if fewer their proper slumber on a soft bed.
Chinese perished by disease, more would be Necessity makes the wits fertile in de
swept away by famine. vising new ways of earning a living. In In a press so desperate, if a man stumsome localities people place about the floors bles, he is not likely to get up again. I of their chambers and living-rooms flea- have heard of several cases where an emtraps, tiny joints of bamboo with a bit of ployee, dismissed for incompetence or açomatic glue at the bottom which attracts fault, returned starving again and again, and holds fast the vermin. Recently in because nowhere could he find work. In Szechuen-where there is a proverb, “The China you should move slowly in getting sooner you get a son, the sooner you get rid of an incompetent. Ruthless dismissal, happiness" --some wight has been enter- such as we tolerate, is bitterly resented and prising enough to begin going about from leads to extreme unpopularity. Again, no house to house cleaning the dead feas and one attempts to stand alone, seeing the lone dried glue from the traps and rebaiting man is almost sure to go under. The son them with fresh glue. For this service he of Han dares not cut himself off from his charges each house one twentieth of a family, his clan, or his gild, for they cent!
throw him the life-line by which he can The great number hanging on to exist- pull himself up if his foot slips. Students ence "by the eyelashes" and dropping into in the schools are strong in mass action, the abyss at a gossamer's touch cheapens strikes, walkouts, etc., for their action, life. "Yan to meng ping" ("Many men however silly or perverse, is always unanilife cheap"), reply the West River water
The sensible lad never thinks of men when reproached for leaving a sick holding out against the folly of his fellows. comrade on the shore to die. In a The whole bidding of his experience has thronged six-foot street I beheld a shriv- been “Conform or starve.” Likewise no eled, horribly twisted leper on his back, duty is impressed like that of standing by hitching himself along sidewise inch by your kinsmen. The official, the arsenal superintendent, or the business manager of and clever in the arts and crafts. Nor a college, when he divides the jobs within have they been dragged down into their his gift among his poor relatives is obeying pit of wolfish competition by wasteful the most imperative ethics he knows. vices. Opium-smoking and gambling do,
It is an axiom with the Chinese that indeed, ruin many a home, but it is certain anything is better than a fight. They that, even for untainted families and comurge compromise even upon the wronged munities, the plane of living is far lower man and blame him who contends stub- than in Western countries. They are not bornly for all his rights. This dread of victims of the rapacity of their rulers, for having trouble is reasonable in their cir- if their Government does little for them, cumstances. When a boat is so crowded it exacts little. In good times its fiscal that the gunwale is scarce a hand's-breadth claims are far from crushing. The basic above the water, a scuffle must be avoided conditions of prosperity, liberty of person at all costs, and each is expected to put up and security of property, are well estabwith a great deal before breaking the lished. There is, to be sure, no security peace.
for industrial investments; but property In their outlook on life most Chinese in land and in goods is reasonably well are rank materialists. They ply the stran- protected. Nor is the lot of the masses ger with questions as to his income, his due to exploitation. In the cities there is means, the cost of his belongings. They a sprinkling of rich, but out in the province cannily offer paper money instead of real one may travel for weeks and see no sign money at the graves of their dead, and sac- of a wealthy class-no 'mansion or fine rifice paper images of the valuables that
country place, no costume or equipage beonce were burned in the funeral-pyre. fitting the rich. There are great stretches They pray only for material benefits, never of fertile agricultural country where the for spiritual blessings; and they compare struggle for subsistence is stern, and yet shrewdly the luck-bringing powers of dif- the cultivator owns his land and impleferent josses and altars. Some sorry little ments and pays tribute to no man. backwoods shrine will get a reputation for For a grinding mass-poverty that cananswering prayer, and presently there will not be matched in the Occident there rebe half a cord of tablets heaped about it, mains but one general cause, namely, the testimonials to its success. If a drouth crowding of population upon the means of continues after fervent prayers for rain, subsistence. Why this people should so the resentful cultivators smash the idol. behave more than other peoples, why this Yet no one who comes into close touch gifted race should so recklessly multiply with the Chinese deems this utilitarianism as to condemn itself to a sordid struggle a race trait. They are, in fact, capable of for a bare existence, can be understood only the highest idealism. Among the few who when one understands the constitution of have come near to the thought of Buddha the Chinese family. or Jesus one finds faces saintlike in their It is believed that unless twice a year depth of spirituality. The materialism is certain rites are performed and paper imposed by hard economic conditions. It money is burned at a man's grave by a is the product of an age-long anxiety about male descendant, his spirit and the spirits to-morrow's rice and is not to be counter- of his fathers will wander forlorn in the acted by the influence of the petty propor- spirit world, “begging rice” of other spirtion the circumstances of which lift them its. Hence Mencius taught "there are above sordid anxieties.
three things which are unfilial; and to Most of the stock explanations of na- have no posterity is the greatest of them." tional poverty throw no light on the con- It is a man's first concern, therefore, to dition of the Chinese. They are not im- assure the succession in the male line. He poverished by the niggardliness of the soil, not only wants a number of sons, but, for China is one of the most bountiful since life is not long in China and the seats occupied by man. Their state is not making of a suitable match for a son is the the just recompense of sloth, for no people parent's prerogative, he wants to see his is better broken to heavy, unremitting toil. sons settled as soon as possible. Before The trouble is not lack of intelligence in his son is twenty-one he provides him with their work, for they are skilful farmers a wife as a matter of course, and the young couple live with him till the son can fend did the parish relief guaranteed under the for himself. There is none of our feeling old poor law of England. that a young man should not marry till he The burden of the child on the parent can support a family. This wholesome is lighter than with us, while the benefit pecuniary check on reproduction seems expected from the male child is much wholly wanting. The son's marriage is greater. Lacking our opportunities for the parents' affair, not his; for they pick saving and investment, the Chinese relv the girl and provide the home. In the col- upon the earnings of their sons to keep leges one out of twenty or ten, but some- them in their old age. A man looks upon times even one out of five, of the students his sons as his old-age pension. A girl is married, and not infrequently there are baby may be drowned or sold, a boy never. fathers among the members of the gradua- In a society so patriarchal that a teacher ting class.
forty years old with a family still turns As the bride should be younger than the over his monthly salary to his father as a groom, early marriage for sons makes early matter of common duty, the parents of one marriage for daughters. The average age son are pitied, while the parents of many of Chinese girls at marriage appears to be sons are congratulated. sixteen or seventeen years, although some Moreover, the very atmosphere of China put it at fifteen. In the cities reached by is charged with appreciation of progeny. foreign influence the age has advanced. From time immemorial, the things considIn Peking it is said to be eighteen, in ered most worth while have been posterity, Shanghai twenty, in Wu-chau twenty, in learning, and riches, in the order named. Swatow sixteen or eighteen, in Chungking This judgment of a remote epoch when seventeen or eighteen, where formerly it there was room for all survives into a time was fourteen or fifteen. Schooling, too, when the land groans under its burden of postpones marriage to about twenty, but population. So a man is still envied for not one girl in two thousand is in a gram- the number of descendants in the male mar school.
About two years ago the line who will walk in his funeral train. board of education at Peking ruled that Grandchildren and, still more, greatstudents in the government schools should grandchildren are counted the special not marry under twenty in the case of blessing of Heaven. girls and twenty-two in the case of boys. Hence a veritable passion to have off
At twenty virtually all girls save pros- spring, more offspring—as many as possititutes are wives, and nine tenths of the ble. I am told that in Kwangtung the young men are husbands.
women are so eager for many children that in the Orient the generations come at that a mother places her suckling with a least a third closer together than they do wet-nurse so as to shorten the interval bein the Occident. Even if their average
tween births. In the Occident there are family were no larger than ours, they can plenty of parents willing to unload their outbreed us, for they get in four genera- superfluous children upon an institution, tions while we are rearing three. But whereas a Chinese parent never gives up a their families are larger because their pro- male child until he is in sore straits, and duction of children is not affected by cer- he reclaims it the moment he is able. The tain considerations which weigh with us. boy is a partly paid-up old-age-endowmentClan ties are so strong that if a poor man policy that will not lapse if he can help it. cannot feed his children, he can get fellow- What children's home with us would dare clansmen to adopt some of them. Thanks undertake, as does the Asile de la Sainteto ancestor-worship, there is a great deal Enfance among 320,000 Chinese in Hongmore adopting than we can imagine. In Kong, to care for all children offered, and fact, the demand for boys to be adopted by to give them back at the parents' convecouples who have no son has been eager nience? enough to call into being a brisk kidnap- With us a rich man may not lawfully ping trade that is giving trouble to the beget and rear more children than one Shanghai authorities. Then there are wife can bear him. In China the concufunds left by bygone clansmen for the re- bine has a legal status, her issue is legitilief of necessitous members. These stimu- mate, and a man may contribute to the late procreative recklessness precisely as population his children by as many women