« AnkstesnisTęsti »
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. But 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 rely 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
as he cares to take to himself. With us one sixth of the women between thirty and thirty-five are unmarried. In China not one woman in a thousand remains a spinster, so that nearly all the female reproductive capacity of each generation is utilized in child-bearing.
Thus all things conspire to encourage the Chinese to multiply freely without paying heed to the economic prospect. The domestic system is a snare, and no Malthus has ever startled China out of her deep satisfaction with her domestic system. She believes that whatever may be wrong with her, her family is all right, and dreams of teaching the anarchic West filial piety and true propriety in the relations of the sexes. It has never occurred to the thinkers of the yellow race that the rate of multiplication is one of the great factors in determining the plane on which the masses live. Point out this axiom of political economy to a scholar, and he meets it with such saws as "One more bowlful out of a big ricetub makes no difference," "There is always food for a chicken," "The only son will starve" (i.e., will be a ne'er-do-well). Or he may argue that there can be no relation between density and poverty by citing big villages in which people are better off than in neighboring little villages!
If people will blindly breed when there is no longer room to raise more food, the penalty must fall somewhere. The deaths will somehow contrive to balance the births. It is a mercy that in China the strain comes in the years of infancy, instead of later on dragging down great numbers of adults into a state of semi-starvation in order to thin them out sufficiently. The mortality among infants is well-nigh incredible. This woman has borne eleven children, and all are dead; that one is the mother of seven, all dying young; another has only two left out of eleven; another four left out of twelve. Such were the cases that occurred offhand to my informants. One missionary canvassed his district and found that nine children out of ten never grew up. Dr. McCartney of Chungking, after twenty years of practice, estimates that from seventy-five to eighty-five per cent. of the children born there die before the end of the second year. The returns from Hong-Kong for 1909 show that the number of children dying under one year of age is eighty-seven
per cent. of the number of births within the year. The first census of Formosa seems to show that nearly half of the children born to the Chinese there die within six months.
Not all this appalling loss is the result of poverty. The proportion of weakly infants is large, probably owing to the immaturity of the mothers. The use of milk is unknown in China, and so the babe that cannot be suckled is doomed. Even when it can, the ignorant mother starts it too early on adult food. In some parts they stuff the mouth of the week-old infant with a certain indigestible cake. The slaughter of the innocents by mothers who know nothing of how to care for the child is ghastly. About the sixth and seventh years there is an unusual mortality among girls, owing to the practice of foot-binding.
Still, much of the child mortality is the direct consequence of economic pressure. A girl is only a burden, for she marries. before she is of use to her parents and is lost into her husband's family. Small wonder, then, that probably one female infant in ten is done away with at birth. Again, when the family is already large, the parents despair of raising the child, and it perishes from neglect. In Hu-peh a man explaining that two of his children have died. will say: "Tiu lio liang ko hai tsi" ("I have been relieved of two children"). Another factor is lack of sufficient good food, which also makes many children very small for their age. The heavy losses from measles, scarlet fever, and smallpox are closely connected with overcrowding.
For adults over-population not only spells privation and drudgery, but it means a life averaging about fifteen years shorter than ours. Small wonder, indeed, for in some places human beings are so thick that the earth is literally foul from them. Unwittingly they poison the ground, they poison the water, they poison the air, they poison the growing crops. And while most of them have enough to eat, little has been reserved from the sordid food quest. Here are people with standards, unquestionably civilized, peaceable, industrious, filial, polite, faithful to their contracts, heedful of the rights of others; yet their lives are dreary and squalid, for most of their margins have been swept into the hopper for the production of population. Two coarse, blue cotton garments clothe them.
summer the children go naked, and the men strip to the waist. Thatched mud hut, no chimney, smoke-blackened walls, unglazed windows, rude, unpainted stools, a grimy table, dirt floors, where the pig and the fowls dispute for scraps, and for bed a mud kang with a frazzled mat on it. No woods, grass, or flowers; no wood floors, carpets, curtains, wall-paper, table-cloths, or ornaments; no books, pictures, newspapers, or musical instruments; no sports or amusements, few festivals or social gatherings: but everywhere children, naked, sprawling, squirming, crawling, tumbling in the dust-the one possession of which the poorest family has an abundance, and to which other possessions and interests are fanatically sacrificed.
A newspaper paragraph notes that the herdmen for a country district of eleven square miles in Anhwei return 14,000 souls, nearly 1300 to the square mile, or two to the acre! Yet it would be an error to assume that at any given moment all parts of China are saturated with people. In Shansi thirty-odd years ago seven tenths of the inhabitants perished from famine, and the vacant spaces and the crumbling walls that often meet the eye there show that the gaps have never been quite filled. Since the opening of the railroad to Tai-yuan, the capital, wanderers from man-stifled Shan-tung are filtering into the province. The same is true of Shen-si, which, besides losing five million of its people in the Mohammedan uprising of the seventies, lost three tenths of its people by famine in 1900. Kan-su, Yunnan, and Kwangsi have never fully recovered from the massacres following great rebellions, and one often comes on land, once cultivated, that has reverted to wilderness. The slaughters of the Taipings left an abiding mark on Kiang-su and Che-kiang. Kwangtung and Fuhkien, the maritime provinces of the South, have been relieved by emigration. The tide first set in to Formosa and California, later it turned to the Dutch Indies, Malay, Indo-China, Singapore, the Philippines, Burma, Siam, Borneo, and Australia. About ten millions are settled outside of China, with the result of greatly mitigating the struggle for existence in these provinces. Within recent years $9,000,000 has flowed into the Sanning district, from which the first Kwangtung men went out
to California and to Singapore. It has all been brought back or sent back by emigrants. An equal amount is remitted annually through Amoy by Fuhkien men. The fine burnt-brick farm-houses with stone foundations, the paved threshingfloors, and the stately ancestral halls that astonish one in the rural villages along the coast of Fuhkien, are due to remittances from emigrants. In the tiger-haunted, wooded hills thirty miles from Fu-chau one comes on terraces proving former cultivation of soils which it is no longer necessary to till.
The near future of population in China may be predicted with some confidence. Within our time the Chinese will be served by a government on the Western model. Rebellions will cease, for grievances will be redressed in time, or else the standing army will nip uprisings in the bud. When a net of railways enables a paternal government to rush the surplus of one province to feed the starving in another, famines will end. The opium demon is already well-nigh throttled. The confining walls of the city will be razed to allow the pent-up people to spread. Wide streets, parks, and sewers will be provided. Filtered water will be within reach of all. A university-trained medical profession will grapple with disease. Everywhere health officers will make war on rats and mosquitos, as to-day in Hong-Kong. Epidemics will be fought with quarantine and serum and isolation hospitals. Milk will be available, and mothers will be instructed how to care for their infants. In response to such life-saving activities, the death-rate in China ought to decline from the present height of fifty or sixty per thousand to the point it has already reached in a modernized Japan, namely, twenty per thousand.
But to lower the birth-rate in equal degree, that, alas! is quite another matter. The factors responsible for the present fecundity of fifty-five or sixty per thousand -three times that of the American stock and nowhere matched in the white man's world, unless it be in certain districts in Russia and certain parishes in French Canada-will not yield so readily. It may easily take the rest of this century to overcome ancestor-worship, early marriage, the passion for big families, and the inferior position of the wife. For at least a generation or two China will produce people
rapidly, in the Oriental way, who will die off slowly in the Occidental way. When the death-rate has been planed down to twenty, the birth-rate will still be more than double, and the total will be growing at the rate of over two per cent. a year. Even with the aid of scientific agriculture it is of course impossible to make the crops of China feed such an increase. It must emigrate or starve. It is the outward thrust of surplus Japanese that is to-day producing dramatic political results in Korea and Manchuria. In forty or fifty years there will come a powerful out
ward thrust of surplus Chinese on ten times this scale. With a third of the adults able to read, with daily newspapers thrilling the remotest village with tidings of the great world, eighteen provinces will be pouring forth emigrants instead of two. To Mexico, Central and South America, Southeastern Asia, Asia-Minor, Africa, and even Europe, the blackhaired bread-seekers will stream; and then "What shall we do with the Chinese?" from being in turn a Californian, an Australian, a Canadian, and a South African question, will become a world question.
I have ridden the wind,
I have ridden the ghosts that flee
From the vaults of death like a chilling
Is the world laid bare
Ether and star and clod
Until I wind to the brink and find
But the cry, "Beyond lies God!"
It calls me and ever calls me,
Of thoughts too strong to tame,
I have ridden the wind,
I have ridden the stars,
I have ridden the force that flies
And each to each allies.
That a thought may dare
To gallop, mine has trod,
Only to stand at last on the strand
Where just beyond lies God.