Puslapio vaizdai

food of the people," something a British colonial governor must never do.

Though the farmer thriftily combs his harvest-field, every foot of the short stubble is gone over again by poor women and children, who are content if in a day's gleaning they can gather a handful of wheat-heads to keep them alive the morrow. On the Hong-Kong water-front the path of the coolies carrying produce between warehouse and junk is lined with tattered women, most of them with a baby on the back. Where bags of beans or rice are in transit, a dozen wait with basket and brush to sweep up the grains dropped from the sacks. On a wharf where crude sugar is being repacked squat sixty women scraping the inside of the discarded sacks, while others run by the bearer, if his sack leaks a little, to catch the particles as they fall. When sugar is being unloaded, a mob of gleaners swarm upon the lighter the moment the last sack leaves and eagerly scrape from the gang-plank and the deck the sugar mixed with dirt, that for two hours has been trampled into a muck by the bare feet of twoscore coolies trotting back and forth across a dusty road.

Haunted by the fear of starving, men spend themselves recklessly for the sake of a wage. It is true that the Chinese are still in the handicrafts stage, and the artisans one sees busy on their own account in the little workshops along the street go their own pace. The 'smiths in iron, tin, copper, brass, and silver, the carvers of ivory, amber, tortoise-shell, onyx, and jade, the workers in wood, rattan, lacquer, wax, and feathers, the weavers of linen, cotton, and silk-all seem, despite their long hours, less breathless and driven, less prodigal in their expenditure of life energy, than many of the operatives in our machine industries, who feel the spur of piece wage, team work, and "speeding up." Still, it is obvious that those in certain occupations are literally killing themselves by their exertions. The treadmill coolies who propel the stern-wheelers on the West River admittedly shorten their lives. Nearly all the lumber used in China is hand-sawed, and the sawyers are exhausted early. The planers of boards, the marble polishers, the brass filers, the cotton fluffers, the treaders who work the big ricepolishing pestles, are building their coffins. Physicians agree that carrying coolies


rarely live beyond forty-five or fifty. The term of a chair-bearer is eight years, that of a rickshaw-runner four years; for the rest of his life he is an invalid. Moreover, carriers and chair-bearers are afflicted with varicose veins and aneurisms because the constant tension of the muscles interferes with the return circulation of the blood. A woman physician in Fuhkien who had examined some scores of carrying coolies told me she found only two who were free from the heart trouble caused by burdenbearing.

In Canton, city of a million without a wheel or a beast of burden, even the careless eye marks in the porters that throng the streets the plain signs of overstrain: faces pale and haggard, with the drawn and flat look of utter exhaustion; eyes pain-pinched, or astare and unseeing with supreme effort; jaw sagging; mouth open from weariness. The dog-trot, the whistling breath, the clenched teeth, the streaming face of those under a burden of from one to two hundredweight that must be borne, are as eloquent of ebbing life as a jetting artery. At rest the porter often leans or droops with a corpse-like sag that betrays utter depletion of vital energy. In a few years the face becomes a wrinkled, pain-stiffened mask, the veins of the upper leg stand out like great cords, a frightful net of varicose veins blemishes the calf, lumps appear at the back of the neck or down the spine, and the shoulders are covered with thick pads of callous under a livid skin. Inevitably the children of the people are drawn into these cogs at the age of ten or twelve, and not one boy in eight can be spared till he has learned to read.

There are a number of miscellaneous facts that hint how close the masses live to the edge of subsistence. The brass cash, the most popular coin in China, is worth the twentieth of a cent; but as this has been found too valuable to meet all the needs of the people, oblong bits of bamboo circulate in some provinces at the value of half a cash. A Western firm that wishes to entice the masses with its wares must make a grade of extra cheapness for the China trade. The British-American Tobacco Company puts up a package of twenty cigarettes that sells for two cents. The Standard Oil Company sells by the million a lamp that costs eleven cents and retails,

chimney and all, for eight and a half cents. Incredibly small are the portions prepared for sale by the huckster. Two cubic inches of bean curd, four walnuts, five peanuts, fifteen roasted beans, twenty melon-seeds, make a portion. The melonvender's stand is decked out with wedges of insipid melon the size of two fingers. The householder leaves the butcher's stall with a morsel of pork, the pluck of a fowl, and a strip of fish as big as a sardine, tied together with a blade of grass. In Anhwei the query corresponding to "How do you make your living?" is "How do you get through the day?" On taking leave of his host, it is manners for the guest to thank him expressly for the food he has provided. Careful observers say that four fifths of the conversation among common Chinese. relates to food.

Comfort is scarce as well as food. The city coolie sleeps on a plank in an airless kennel on a filthy lane with a block for a pillow and a quilt for a cover. When in a south China hospital the beds were provided with springs and mattresses, supplied by a philanthropic American, all the patients were found next morning sleeping on the floor. After being used to a board covered with a mat, they could not get their proper slumber on a soft bed.

Necessity makes the wits fertile in devising new ways of earning a living. In some localities people place about the floors of their chambers and living-rooms fleatraps, tiny joints of bamboo with a bit of aromatic glue at the bottom which attracts and holds fast the vermin. Recently in Szechuen-where there is a proverb, "The sooner you get a son, the sooner you get happiness"-some wight has been enterprising enough to begin going about from house to house cleaning the dead fleas and dried glue from the traps and rebaiting them with fresh glue. For this service he charges each house one twentieth of a cent!

The great number hanging on to existence "by the eyelashes" and dropping into the abyss at a gossamer's touch cheapens life. "Yan to meng ping" ("Many men life cheap"), reply the West River watermen when reproached for leaving a sick comrade on the shore to die. In a thronged six-foot street I beheld a shriveled, horribly twisted leper on his back, hitching himself along sidewise inch by

inch and imploring the by-passers to drop alms into his basket. It held four cash! In Canton the Government furnishes lepers two cents a day, which will buy two bowls of cooked rice; for other needs the lepers must beg. Ax and bamboo are retained in punishment, and prison reform is halted by the consideration that unless the way of the transgressor is made flinty, there are people miserable enough to commit crime for the bare sake of prison fare. Not long ago the commissioner of customs at a great south China port—a foreigner, of course, -impressed by the fact that every summer the bubonic plague there carried off about ten thousand Chinese, planned a rigid quarantine against those ports from which the plague was liable to be brought. When he sought the coöperation of the Chinese authorities, the taotai objected on the ground that there were too many Chinese anyway, and that, by thinning them out and making room for the rest, the plague was a blessing in disguise. The project was dropped, and last summer again the plague ravaged the city like a fire. But the taotai was not unreasonable. After all, it is better to die quickly by plague than slowly by starvation; and, as things now are, if fewer Chinese perished by disease, more would be swept away by famine.

In a press so desperate, if a man stumbles, he is not likely to get up again. I have heard of several cases where an employee, dismissed for incompetence or fault, returned starving again and again, because nowhere could he find work. In China you should move slowly in getting rid of an incompetent. Ruthless dismissal, such as we tolerate, is bitterly resented and leads to extreme unpopularity. Again, no one attempts to stand alone, seeing the lone man is almost sure to go under. The son of Han dares not cut himself off from his family, his clan, or his gild, for they throw him the life-line by which he can pull himself up if his foot slips. Students in the schools are strong in mass action, strikes, walkouts, etc., for their action, however silly or perverse, is always unanimous. The sensible lad never thinks of holding out against the folly of his fellows. The whole bidding of his experience has been "Conform or starve." Likewise no duty is impressed like that of standing by your kinsmen. The official, the arsenal

superintendent, or the business manager of a college, when he divides the jobs within his gift among his poor relatives is obeying the most imperative ethics he knows.

It is an axiom with the Chinese that anything is better than a fight. They urge compromise even upon the wronged man and blame him who contends stubbornly for all his rights. This dread of having trouble is reasonable in their circumstances. When a boat is so crowded that the gunwale is scarce a hand's-breadth above the water, a scuffle must be avoided at all costs, and each is expected to put up with a great deal before breaking the peace.

In their outlook on life most Chinese are rank materialists. They ply the stranger with questions as to his income, his means, the cost of his belongings. They cannily offer paper money instead of real money at the graves of their dead, and sacrifice paper images of the valuables that once were burned in the funeral-pyre. They pray only for material benefits, never for spiritual blessings; and they compare shrewdly the luck-bringing powers of different josses and altars. Some sorry little backwoods shrine will get a reputation for answering prayer, and presently there will be half a cord of tablets heaped about it, testimonials to its success. If a drouth continues after fervent prayers for rain, the resentful cultivators smash the idol. Yet no one who comes into close touch with the Chinese deems this utilitarianism a race trait. They are, in fact, capable of the highest idealism. Among the few who have come near to the thought of Buddha or Jesus one finds faces saintlike in their depth of spirituality. The materialism is imposed by hard economic conditions. It is the product of an age-long anxiety about to-morrow's rice and is not to be counteracted by the influence of the petty proportion the circumstances of which lift them above sordid anxieties.

Most of the stock explanations of national poverty throw no light on the condition of the Chinese. They are not impoverished by the niggardliness of the soil, for China is one of the most bountiful seats occupied by man. Their state is not the just recompense of sloth, for no people is better broken to heavy, unremitting toil. The trouble is not lack of intelligence in their work, for they are skilful farmers


and clever in the arts and crafts. have they been dragged down into their pit of wolfish competition by wasteful vices. Opium-smoking and gambling do, indeed, ruin many a home, but it is certain that, even for untainted families and communities, the plane of living is far lower than in Western countries. They are not victims of the rapacity of their rulers, for if their Government does little for them, it exacts little. In good times its fiscal claims are far from crushing. The basic conditions of prosperity, liberty of person and security of property, are well established. There is, to be sure, no security for industrial investments; but property in land and in goods is reasonably well protected. Nor is the lot of the masses due to exploitation. In the cities there is a sprinkling of rich, but out in the province one may travel for weeks and see no sign of a wealthy class-no mansion or fine country place, no costume or equipage befitting the rich. There are great stretches of fertile agricultural country where the struggle for subsistence is stern, and yet the cultivator owns his land and implements and pays tribute to no man.

For a grinding mass-poverty that cannot be matched in the Occident there remains but one general cause, namely, the crowding of population upon the means of subsistence. Why this people should so behave more than other peoples, why this gifted race should so recklessly multiply as to condemn itself to a sordid struggle for a bare existence, can be understood only when one understands the constitution of the Chinese family.

It is believed that unless twice a year certain rites are performed and paper money is burned at a man's grave by a male descendant, his spirit and the spirits of his fathers will wander forlorn in the spirit world, "begging rice" of other spirits. Hence Mencius taught "there are three things which are unfilial; and to have no posterity is the greatest of them." It is a man's first concern, therefore, to assure the succession in the male line. He not only wants a number of sons, but, since life is not long in China and the making of a suitable match for a son is the parent's prerogative, he wants to see his sons settled as soon as possible. Before his son is twenty-one he provides him with a wife as a matter of course, and the young

couple live with him till the son can fend for himself. There is none of our feeling that a young man should not marry till he can support a family. This wholesome pecuniary check on reproduction seems wholly wanting. The son's marriage is the parents' affair, not his; for they pick the girl and provide the home. In the colleges one out of twenty or ten, but sometimes even one out of five, of the students is married, and not infrequently there are fathers among the members of the graduating class.

As the bride should be younger than the groom, early marriage for sons makes early marriage for daughters. The average age of Chinese girls at marriage appears to be sixteen or seventeen years, although some put it at fifteen. In the cities reached by foreign influence the age has advanced. In Peking it is said to be eighteen, in Shanghai twenty, in Wu-chau twenty, in Swatow sixteen or eighteen, in Chungking seventeen or eighteen, where formerly it was fourteen or fifteen. Schooling, too, postpones marriage to about twenty, but not one girl in two thousand is in a grammar school. About two years ago the board of education at Peking ruled that students in the government schools should not marry under twenty in the case of girls and twenty-two in the case of boys.


At twenty virtually all girls save prostitutes are wives, and nine tenths of the young men are husbands. This means that in the Orient the generations come at least a third closer together than they do in the Occident. Even if their average family were no larger than ours, they can outbreed us, for they get in four generations while we are rearing three. their families are larger because their production of children is not affected by certain considerations which weigh with us. Clan ties are so strong that if a poor man cannot feed his children, he can get fellowclansmen to adopt some of them. Thanks to ancestor-worship, there is a great deal more adopting than we can imagine. In fact, the demand for boys to be adopted by couples who have no son has been eager enough to call into being a brisk kidnapping trade that is giving trouble to the Shanghai authorities. Then there are funds left by bygone clansmen for the relief of necessitous members. These stimulate procreative recklessness precisely as


did the parish relief guaranteed under the old poor law of England.

The burden of the child on the parent is lighter than with us, while the benefit expected from the male child is much greater. Lacking our opportunities for saving and investment, the Chinese relv upon the earnings of their sons to keep them in their old age. A man looks upon his sons as his old-age pension. A girl baby may be drowned or sold, a boy never. In a society so patriarchal that a teacher forty years old with a family still turns over his monthly salary to his father as a matter of common duty, the parents of one son are pitied, while the parents of many sons are congratulated.

Moreover, the very atmosphere of China is charged with appreciation of progeny. From time immemorial, the things considered most worth while have been posterity, learning, and riches, in the order named. This judgment of a remote epoch when there was room for all survives into a time when the land groans under its burden of population. So a man is still envied for the number of descendants in the male line who will walk in his funeral train. Grandchildren and, still more, greatgrandchildren are counted the special blessing of Heaven.

Hence a veritable passion to have offspring, more offspring-as many as possible. I am told that in Kwangtung the women are so eager for many children that a mother places her suckling with a wet-nurse so as to shorten the interval between births. In the Occident there are plenty of parents willing to unload their superfluous children upon an institution, whereas a Chinese parent never gives up a male child until he is in sore straits, and he reclaims it the moment he is able. The boy is a partly paid-up old-age-endowmentpolicy that will not lapse if he can help it. What children's home with us would dare undertake, as does the Asile de la SainteEnfance among 320,000 Chinese in HongKong, to care for all children offered, and to give them back at the parents' convenience?

With us a rich man may not lawfully beget and rear more children than one wife can bear him. In China the concubine has a legal status, her issue is legitimate, and a man may contribute to the population his children by as many women

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