Puslapio vaizdai
[ocr errors]

were altogether in the Chinese Calendar Fifth Moon and Twentysixth Day'-thus exhibiting an unconscious blending of the 'Cat's head and Rat's tail' (E). We had now upon our hands the formidable enterprise of waiting upon' some ninety persons from the village of P'ang Chia Chuang, and in addition a wholly indefinite number of Church-members, liable to range anywhere from an hundred, to twice that number. Such an undertaking, sufficiently appalling at any time, was doubly so while we were still in the lingering agonies of settling after removing, and under the limitation as to time. But every diffficulty may be in some way surmounted ( 過不去的河).

"The Chinese have a Chinese way,

In all they think, and do, and say."

[ocr errors]

The best method of getting anything done in China, is to get the Chinese to do it. Accordingly, several days beforehand, several of the leading villagers were invited (on Queen Esther's plan) to a preliminary banquet on a very small scale, in my study. When they had eaten and drunk, Mr. Porter and I appeared with our modest little Petition, which was perfectly understood in advance, and which could not be refused (用人的手短吃人的口短). This was the drift of our remarks: 'Kind Friends, we may be able to preach to a multitude, but we do not know how to entertain them suitably at a Feast; we may perhaps cure the world,' but we certainly can not cook for it. We, therefore ask you having gone so far, to go still farther. The Competent execute the Incompetent enjoy the advantage; the Competent toil-the Incompetent rest' (*.***). All that we know how to do, is to look on (M); and we must therefore invite you to waste your hearts in our behalf.' To this, of course, they blandly responded that what little they might be able to do, would be gladly done, &c., &c.; and then demanded to know what kind of a Feast we wished to give. Embarassing inquiry, planted with hedgerows of thorns on either hand! Should we reply that we desired the very best (E), twelve bowls to table, and all of acme quality— who dare give such an order as that? On the contrary, how could one venture to answer that he wished the cheapest meal known to Chinese culinary art? Who dare say that? For, as one of these Managers insinuatingly observed, this is a matter in which the Shepherd's Reputation is at stake, that is to say, where one's Face-(compendious character in Chinese!) is to be exhibited (). In China if one is to show Face at all, he would do well to show as much as he can or has, or else keep it altogether out of view. Of three roads choose the middle one' (ET). It was therefore decided



that a Medium Feast (4), i.e. ten bowls to a table was about what was required.

The next thing to be settled was the size and shape of the MatTabernacle to be erected in the yard, in front of our houses. A form was agreed upon, in which both villagers and Church-members should dine in one Common Hall, with a view to good-fellowship. This fixed, we withdrew, and from that time we were literally mere spectators.

The three men who thus took upon their broad shoulders, our enterprise, deserve a word of description. One of them was formerly in the employ of the Yamên as Inquisitor for Smuggled Salt (), a disreputable business which he gave up. He is always to the fore in village affairs. He is an applicant for baptism. This man was Superintendent of the Kitchen, over the Head Cooks (of whom there were two) assistant cooks, coolies, &c., &c., attending to the endless details in this department, and responsible for the preservation of good order.

The second, a Village Rich Man (E), is the head of an Oil Mill in the place, with a capital of many thousand taels. This establishment has for years bought nearly all our sycee, without any occasion for our going out of town for a market. For many years this rich and busy man, was upon a strictly business footing with us. It is only within the past two years that he has become positively friendly. This change of front is probably entirely due to his obligations to Mr. Porter, and to his medicines. It is the Curing of the World which, to the hard-headed and practical Chinese, gives, after all, the best illustration and the most convincing of one's 'Virtue.' Upon this man came the heaviest load of all, for his part was to be Quartermaster General, and to see that there was enough (pregnant word) of everything. To assist him in his arduous labors, three or four persons were appointed Custodians of Stores () which must be watched day and night. Nothing was received or given out without being entered on an account. Even the Cooks are under the orders of the Commissaries, who give out so much for so many persons--eight being reckoned as one 'Feast,' which is the Chinese social eating Unit.

The third Superintendent was set to 'serve tables,' and benches, and charged with the general external arrangements. His history is a Romance. When a mere lad, poverty drove him from home without a cash. He drifted into a situation where he attracted the notice of a discerning Official, and became at length the companion and friend of a young Manchoo lad. When the latter became an Official, this man was his vade mecum, or sine qua non, and so continued through all the stages of a rapid and lofty promotion. The Manchoo Official when he

died, had become Governor General of the Two Kuang (). He was the famous Jui Lin (). Our friend, long his Steward, had of course amassed a handsome fortune, and on the Chinese plan, he returned with it to his native village, laid away his elegant robes, watches, curios, &c.-except for special occasions like this-and settled down to the obscure life of a hard working farmer. His property joins us to the north, our only near neighbor, and he is the only Chinese we have yet met, who in dealing with Foreigners is perfectly willing to give more than he takes. He was one of the leading men in the village movement. As he knows the world well, and invariably speaks in the highest terms of all the Christianity he has seen, his word has naturally great weight.

Four days in advance of the Feast, the Village Cook appeared in the yard, with one or two assistants, and a lot of mud bricks, and proceeded with amazing celerity to build his cooking range. This consisted of nothing, but a row of half a dozen hexagonal openings, over which a kettle could be set, Chimneys there were none, yet the smoke escaped somewhere, and the draft was strong. When it afterwards became necessary to have a hotter fire, and to burn anthracite coal (E), twenty minutes' work with the same simple materials, sufficed to put up a furnace with a strong draft (and no chimney), and without a fragment of iron for a grate, which for the uses of getting a high heat in a small space, and in a short time, was, as one of the assistants simply, (and truthfully) remarked; "A great deal better than those iron stoves of yours!!" with the additional advantage of costing nothing. In the desirable art of accomplishing almost everything, by means of almost nothing, the Chinese probably excel the entire

human race.

These, it will be observed, were the labors of the Cook. Imagine a Western Delmonico invited to superintend your Daughter's wedding breakfast, making his appearance the week before in his shirt-sleeves, with a spade and pick-axe, preparatory to putting up a Dutch-oven in your back-yard! The day before the Feast, while the cooking was in full blast, the mat-shed over the kitchen suddenly caught fire, and for a few moments there was some danger that this, as well as the main structures might be wholly consumed, the consequences of which would have been most serious. Fortunately, a great deal of yelling, and a little water put out the fire.

The day of the Feast had been fixed for Tuesday. Towards the close of the preceding week, affairs took a turn which plunged us into most unexpected difficulties, from quarters the most unanticipated. The news of the extraordinary performances to take place at P'ang

Chia Chuang had spread far and wide, repeated at every Fair, and perhaps magnified at each repetition. Many supposed that a Theatrical Performance-the inevitable Chinese vent for great joy-was to be given. The first intimation that outsiders concerned themselves in the affair, came from the nearest village to the south, about a mile distant, where we have a few Church-members. Returning from the Sunday meeting already referred to, they mentioned to their fellow-townsmen the proposed Tablet. Several of the latter at once exclaimed: "How is it that you have a part, and we have none ?" To this the obvious reply was that the first parties were in the Church, while the others were not. Yet with no consultation with any one, these irrepressible persons who resembled Banquo's Ghost, inasmuch as they would not down,' calmly ordered a Tablet on their own account, the entire village apparently coöperating, and afterwards sent us word of what they had done. The most inexperienced in Chinese affairs could appreciate the dilemma-to those able to see into and through them, it was abundantly obvious that here lay slumbering a whole herd of wild White Elephants and Trojan Horses. The motive alleged for the gift, was gratitude for Famine Relief, and also for Medical Mercies. The intention was no doubt excellent, but the occasion was inopportune. Vainly did we struggle to shake them off-sent them back again and again to reconsider the matter, pointing out the stress under which we already were for time, the size of our present undertaking, &c. But all to no purpose; these people had resolved to present a Tablet, and a Tablet they would present, whatever we might say or do. We were now filled with terror no longer secret, for this last affair threatened completely to swamp us. In dealing with a subject of this sort, Chinese and Foreign ideas are so utterly irreconcilable, that the latter must be utterly dismissed and extinguished. To present a person with a gift which cost, say $5, and then to take its 'equivalent' in food costing $25, would seem to us (unless the affair were a Minister's Donation Party) a most surprising proceeding. Foreigners would even the matter, by sending half a dozen persons to represent all, as is the mode in presentations to Magistrates, &c., but this method does not prevail in this country. A whole village will assess themselves fifteen cash each, and purchase a quantity of paltry toys, for the son of some rich man's old age, and he must entertain them in a handsome style. Perhaps he is glad to do so, and perhaps he secretly curses them and their toys. So generally. It is therefore no matter of surprise that this third Tablet, actually added about sixty to the number of our guests, nearly all total strangers! The Quartermaster was in despair, and was obliged to double many of his preparations, and to send off to

distant places for reinforcements of provisions. No one who has not been House-keeper to a village (and a Chinese village too) can properly appreciate the difficulties of this exigency. Long before this matter had been adjusted, applications from still other villagers, also bent on Tablet-bearing, began to come forward. Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes, would have been a suitable motto for them all. In the village to the west of us, for example, where we once had about a dozen members who deserted us for the Roman Catholics, we now found the leader of the secession movement desiring to return to us, bringing a Tablet as a Wave Offering! The latter was positively declined. He himself, however, insisted upon coming to the Feast, as one of our Church-members! In another village, one of the most obstinately heathen in the whole region, and where we have only one member, we learned that the Village Gong was beaten, and the men summoned to a Town-meeting under some trees in front of a Temple. It was stated that "all the other villages are presenting Tablets to these Shepherds, and why not we ?" Gratitude for Famine Relief-never previously hinted at-was the reason given. A Colporteur of ours who heard the noise, arrived just in time to persuade them to await further instructions, by which means they were adroitly nipped in the bud. The Village of K'u shui p'u (*) is the one in which the persons live, against whom the Tê Chou Magistrate brought his infamous libels. against our Church, accusations which, however, no one ever believed. This village, which is a very large one, also insisted upon presenting its Tablet, in which both Chinese and Mohammedans were united. When this project was broached, and the power families were consulted, some of them declared that they would most assuredly contribute to such a Tablet, even if it involved breaking up their kettles and selling the iron(), a proverbial expression for extremity.

Straws of this sort show that some latent gratitude for Famine Relief, a gratitude to which Chinese custom does not ordinarily give much expression, does nevertheless exist. All these offers, as well as others, to the number of six or eight, were absolutely declined. The slightest encouragement would doubtless have multiplied them indefinitely, as Famine Relief extended to about 120 villages, and Medical Relief is beyond all computation. The Chinese are a most gregarious race, and much of this kind of action is due to the sheepish instinct of blindly following a leader (~*6**). With judicious manipulation, the very same persons might often be led up either to a Tablet or to a Mob. Only less honorable than a Tablet, is the Scroll Couplet. These were offered from an unknown numbers of villages, all such offers being declined, (although in some cases the materials

« AnkstesnisTęsti »