Herbert A. Giles, M.A., LL.D.

Part 2 out of 3

Amoy, Swatow, and elsewhere in that neighbourhood. At length, when
compelled to yield, it is said that they sullenly wound their queues
round their heads and covered them with turbans, which are still worn
by natives of those parts.

The peculiar custom of shaving the head in front, and allowing the
hair to grow long behind, is said to have been adopted by the Manchus
out of affectionate gratitude to the horse, an animal which has played
an all-important part in the history and achievements of the race.
This view is greatly reinforced by the cut of the modern official
sleeves, which hang down, concealing the hands, and are shaped exactly
like a pair of horse's hoofs.

In many respects the Manchu conquerors left the Chinese to follow
their own customs. No attempt was made to coerce Chinese women, who
dress their hair in styles totally different from that of the Manchu
women; there are, too, some tolerated differences between the dress of
the Manchu and Chinese men, but these are such as readily escape
notice. Neither was any attempt made in the opening years of the
conquest to interfere with foot-binding by Chinese women; but in 1664
an edict was issued forbidding the practice. Readers may draw their
own conclusions, when it is added that four years after the edict was
withdrawn. Hopes are now widely and earnestly entertained that with
the dawn of the new era, this cruel custom will become a thing of the
past; it is, however, to be feared that those who have been urging on
this desirable reform may be, like all reformers, a little too
sanguine of immediate success, and that a comparatively long period
will have to go by before the last traces of foot-binding disappear
altogether. Meanwhile, it seems that the Government has taken the
important step of refusing admission to the public schools of all
girls whose feet are bound.

The disappearance of the queue is another thing altogether. It is not
a native Chinese institution; there would be no violation of any
cherished tradition of antiquity if it were once and for ever
discarded. On the contrary, if the Chinese do not intend to follow the
Japanese and take to foreign clothes, there might be a return to the
old style of doing the hair. The former dress of the Japanese was one
of the numerous items borrowed by them from China; it was indeed the
national dress of the Chinese for some three hundred years, between
A.D. 600-900. One little difficulty will vanish with the queue. A
Chinese coolie will tie his tail round his head when engaged on work
in which he requires to keep it out of the way, and the habit has
become of real importance with the use of modern machinery; but on the
arrival of his master, he should at once drop it, out of respect, a
piece of politeness not always exhibited in the presence of a foreign
employer. The agitation, now in progress, for the final abolition of
the queue may be due to one or all of the following reasons.
Intelligent Chinese may have come to realize that the fashion is
cumbrous and out of date. Sensitive Chinese may fear that it makes
them ridiculous in the eyes of foreigners. Political Chinese, who
would gladly see the re-establishment of a native dynasty, may look to
its disappearance as the first step towards throwing off the Manchu

On the whole, the ruling Manchus have shown themselves very careful
not to wound the susceptibilities of their Chinese subjects. Besides
allowing the women to retain their own costume, and the dead, men and
women alike, to be buried in the costume of the previous dynasty, it
was agreed from the very first that no Chinese concubines should be
taken into the Palace. This last condition seems to be a concession
pure and simple to the conquered; there is little doubt, however, that
the wily Manchus were only too ready to exclude a very dangerous
possibility of political intrigue.



The Chinese people reverence above all things literature and learning;
they hate war, bearing in mind the saying of Mencius, "There is no
such thing as a /righteous/ war; we can only assert that some wars are
better than others;" and they love trade and the finesse of the
market-place. China can boast many great soldiers, in modern as well
as in ancient days; but anything like a proper appreciation of the
military arm is of quite recent growth. "Good iron is not used for
nails, nor good men for soldiers," says the proverb; and again, "One
stroke of the civilian's pen reduces the military official to abject
submission." On the other hand, it is admitted that "Civilians give
the empire peace, and soldiers give it security."

Chinese parents have never, until recent days, willingly trained their
sons for the army. They have always wished their boys to follow the
stereotyped literary curriculum, and then, after passing successfully
through the great competitive examinations, to rise to high civil
office in the state. A good deal of ridicule has been heaped of late
on the Chinese competitive examination, the subjects of which were
drawn exclusively from the Confucian Canon, and included a knowledge
of ancient history, of a comprehensive scheme of morality, initiated
by Confucius, and further elaborated by Mencius (372-289 B.C.), of the
ballads and ceremonial rites of three thousand years ago, and of an
aptitude for essay-writing and the composition of verse. The whole
curriculum may be fitly compared with such an education as was given
to William Pitt and others among our own great statesmen, in which an
ability to read the Greek and Roman classics, coupled with an intimate
knowledge of the Peloponnesian War, carried the student about as far
as it was considered necessary for him to go. The Chinese course, too,
has certainly brought to the front in its time a great many eminent
men, who have held their own in diplomacy, if not in warfare, with the
subtlest intellects of the West.

Their system of competitive examinations has indeed served the Chinese
well. It is the brightest spot in the whole administration, being
absolutely above suspicion, such as attaches to other departments of
the state. Attempts have been made from time to time to gain admission
by improper means to the list of successful candidates, and it would
be absurd to say that not one has ever succeeded; the risk, however,
is too great, for the penalty on detection may be death.

The ordeal itself is exceedingly severe, as well for the examiners as
for the candidates. At the provincial examinations, held once in every
third year, an Imperial Commissioner, popularly known as the Grand
Examiner, is sent down from Peking. On arrival, his residence is
formally sealed up, and extraordinary precautions are taken to prevent
friends of intending candidates from approaching him in any way. There
is no age limit, and men of quite mature years are to be found
competing against youths hardly out of their teens; indeed, there is
an authenticated case of a man who successfully graduated at the age
of seventy-two. Many compete year after year, until at length they
decide to give it up as a bad job.

At an early hour on the appointed day the candidates begin to
assemble, and by and by the great gates of the examination hall are
thrown open, and heralds shriek out the names of those who are to
enter. Each one answers in turn as his name is called, and receives
from the attendants a roll of paper marked with the number of the open
cell he is to occupy in one of the long alleys into which the
examination hall is divided. Other writing materials, as well as food,
he carries with him in a basket, which is always carefully searched at
the door, and in which "sleeve" editions of the classics have
sometimes been found. When all have taken their seats, the Grand
Examiner burns incense, and closes the entrance gates, through which
no one will be allowed to pass, either in or out, dead or alive, until
the end of the third day, when the first of the three sessions is at
an end, and the candidates are released for the night. In case of
death, not unusual where ten or twelve thousand persons are cooped up
day and night in a confined space, the corpse is hoisted over the
wall; and this would be done even if it were that of the Grand
Examiner himself, whose place would then be taken by the chief
Assistant Examiner, who is also appointed by the Emperor, and
accompanies the Grand Examiner from Peking.

The long strain of three bouts of three days each has often been found
sufficient to unhinge the reason, with a variety of distressing
consequences, the least perhaps of which may be seen in a regular
percentage of blank papers handed in. On one occasion, a man handed in
a copy of his last will and testament; on another, not very long ago,
the mental balance of the Grand Examiner gave way, and a painful scene
ensued. He tore up a number of the papers already handed in, and bit
and kicked every one who came near him, until he was finally secured
and bound hand and foot in his chair. A candidate once presented
himself dressed in woman's clothes, with his face highly rouged and
powdered, as is the custom. He was arrested at the entrance gate, and
quietly sent home to his friends.

Overwork, in the feverish desire to get into the Government service,
is certainly responsible for the mental break-down of a large
proportion of the comparatively few lunatics found in China. There
being no lunatic asylums in the empire, it is difficult to form
anything like an exact estimate of their number; it can only be said,
what is equally true of cripples or deformed persons, that it is very
rare to meet them in the streets or even to hear of their existence.

As a further measure of precaution against corrupt practices at
examinations, the papers handed in by the candidates are all copied
out in red ink, and only these copies are submitted to the examiners.
The difficulty therefore of obtaining favourable treatment, on the
score of either bribery or friendship, is very much increased. The
Chinese, who make no attempt to conceal or excuse, in fact rather
exaggerate any corruption in their public service generally, do not
hesitate to declare with striking unanimity that the conduct of their
examination system is above suspicion, and there appears to be no
valid reason why we should not accept this conclusion.

The whole system is now undergoing certain modifications, which, if
wisely introduced, should serve only to strengthen the national
character. The Confucian teachings, which are of the very highest
order of morality, and which have moulded the Chinese people for so
many centuries, helping perhaps to give them a cohesion and stability
remarkable among the nations of the world, should not be lightly cast
aside. A scientific training, enabling us to annihilate time and
space, to extend indefinitely the uses and advantages of matter in all
its forms, and to mitigate the burden of suffering which is laid upon
the greater portion of the human race, still requires to be
effectively supplemented by a moral training, to teach man his duty
towards his neighbour. From the point of view of science, the Chinese
are, of course, wholly out of date, though it is only within the past
hundred and fifty years that the West has so decisively outstripped
the East. If we go back to the fifteenth century, we shall find that
the standard of civilization, as the term is usually understood, was
still much higher in China than in Europe; while Marco Polo, the
famous Venetian traveller of the thirteenth century, who actually
lived twenty-four years in China, and served as an official under
Kublai Khan, has left it on record that the magnificence of Chinese
cities, and the splendour of the Chinese court, outrivalled anything
he had ever seen or heard of.

Pushing farther back into antiquity, we easily reach a time when the
inhabitants of the Middle Kingdom "held learning in high esteem, while
our own painted forefathers were running naked and houseless in the
woods, and living on berries and raw meat." In inventive, mechanical
and engineering aptitudes the Chinese have always excelled; as witness
--only to mention a few--the art of printing (/see below/); their
water-wheels and other clever appliances for irrigation; their
wonderful bridges (not to mention the Great Wall); the "taxicab," or
carriage fitted with a machine for recording the distance traversed,
the earliest notice of which takes us back to the fourth century A.D.;
the system of fingerprints for personal identification, recorded in
the seventh century A.D.; the carved ivory balls which contain even so
many as nine or ten other balls, of diminishing size, one within
another; a chariot carrying a figure which always pointed south,
recorded as in existence at a very early date, though unfortunately
the specifications which have came down to us from later dates will
not work out, as in the case of the "taxicab." The story goes that
this chariot was invented about 1100 B.C., by a wonderful hero of the
day, in order to enable an ambassador, who had come to the court of
China from a far distant country in the south, to find his way
expeditiously home. The compass proper the Chinese cannot claim; it
was probably introduced into China by the Arabs at a comparatively
late date, and has been confused with the south-pointing chariot of
earlier ages. As to gunpowder, something of that nature appears to
have been used for fireworks in the seventh century; and something of
the nature of a gun is first heard of during the Mongol campaigns of
the thirteenth century; but firearms were not systematically employed
until the fifteenth century. Add to the above the art of casting
bronze, brought to a high pitch of excellence seven or eight centuries
before the Christian era, if not earlier; the production of silk,
mentioned by Mencius (372-289 B.C.) as necessary for the comfort of
old age; the cultivation of the tea-plant from time immemorial; also
the discovery and manufacture of porcelain some sixteen centuries ago,
subsequently brought to a perfection which leaves all European
attempts hopelessly out-classed.

In many instances the Chinese seem to have been so near and yet so
far. There is a distinct tradition of flying cars at a very remote
date; and rough woodcuts have been handed down for many centuries,
showing a car containing two passengers, flying through the clouds and
apparently propelled by wheels of a screw pattern, set at right angles
to the direction in which the travellers are proceeding. But there is
not a scrap of evidence to show what was the motive power which turned
the wheels. Similarly, iron ships are mentioned in Chinese literature
so far back as the tenth century, only, however, to be ridiculed as an
impossibility; the circulation of the blood is hinted at; added to
which is the marvellous anticipation of anaesthetics as applied to
surgery, to be mentioned later on, an idea which also remained barren
of results for something like sixteen centuries, until Western science
stepped in and secured the prize. Here it may be fairly argued that,
considering the national repugnance to mutilation of the body in any
form, it could hardly be expected that the Chinese would seek to
facilitate a process to which they so strongly object.

In the domain of painting, we are only just beginning to awake to the
fact that in this direction the Chinese have reached heights denied to
all save artists of supreme power, and that their art was already on a
lofty level many centuries before our own great representatives had
begun to put brush to canvas. Without going so far back as the famous
picture in the British Museum, by an artist of the fourth and fifth
centuries A.D., the point may perhaps be emphasized by quotation from
the words of a leading art-critic, referring to painters of the tenth
and eleventh centuries:--"To the Sung artists and poets, mountains
were a passion, as to Wordsworth. The landscape art thus founded, and
continued by the Japanese in the fifteenth century, must rank as the
greatest school of landscape which the world has seen. It is the
imaginative picturing of what is most elemental and most august in
Nature--liberating visions of storm or peace among abrupt peaks,
plunging torrents, trembling reed-beds--and though having a fantastic
side for its weakness, can never have the reproach of pretty tameness
and mere fidelity which form too often the only ideal of Western

Great Chinese artists unite in dismissing fidelity to outline as of
little importance compared with reproduction of the spirit of the
object painted. To paint a tree successfully, it is necessary to
produce not merely shape and colour but the vitality and "soul" of the
original. Until with the last two or three centuries, nature itself
was always appealed to as the one source of true inspiration; then
came the artist of the studio, since which time Chinese art has
languished, while Japanese art, learned at the feet of Chinese artists
from the fourteenth century onwards, has come into prominent notice,
and is now, with extraordinary versatility, attempting to assimilate
the ideals of the West.

The following words were written by a Chinese painter of the fifth

"To gaze upon the clouds of autumn, a soaring exaltation in the soul;
to feel the spring breeze stirring wild exultant thoughts;--what is
there in the possession of gold and gems to compare with delights like
these? And then, to unroll the portfolio and spread the silk, and to
transfer to it the glories of flood and fell, the green forest, the
blowing winds, the white water of the rushing cascade, as with a turn
of the hand a divine influence descends upon the scene. . . . These
are the joys of painting."

Just as in poetry, so in pictorial art, the artist avoids giving full
expression to his theme, and leaving nothing for the spectator to
supply by his own imaginative powers. "Suggestion" is the key-note to
both the above arts; and in both, "Impressionism" has been also at the
command of the gifted, centuries before the term had passed into the
English language.

Literature and art are indeed very closely associated in China. Every
literary man is supposed to be more or less a painter, or a musician
of sorts; failing personal skill, it would go without saying that he
was a critic, or at the lowest a lover, of one or the other art, or of
both. All Chinese men, women and children seem to love flowers; and
the poetry which has gathered around the blossoms of plum and almond
alone would form a not inconsiderable library of itself. Yet a
European bouquet would appear to a man of culture as little short of a
monstrosity; for to enjoy flowers, a Chinaman must see only a single
spray at a time. The poorly paid clerk will bring with him to his
office in the morning some trifling bud, which he will stick into a
tiny vase of water, and place beside him on his desk. The owner of
what may be a whole gallery of pictures will invite you to tea,
followed by an inspection of his treasures; but on the same afternoon
he will only produce perhaps a single specimen, and scout the idea
that any one could call for more. If a long landscape, it will be
gradually unwound from its roller, and a portion at a time will be
submitted for the enjoyment and criticism of his visitors; if a
religious or historical picture, or a picture of birds or flowers, of
which the whole effort must be viewed in its completeness, it will be
studied in various senses, during the intervals between a chat and a
cup of tea. Such concentration is absolutely essential, in the eyes of
the Chinese critic, to a true interpretation of the artist's meaning,
and to a just appreciation of his success.

The marvellous old stories of grapes painted by Zeuxis of ancient
Greece, so naturally that birds came to peck at them; and of the
curtain painted by Parrhasius which Zeuxis himself tried to pull
aside; and of the horse by Apelles at which another horse neighed--all
these find their counterparts in the literature of Chinese art. One
painter, in quite early days, painted a perch and hung it over a river
bank, when there was immediately a rush of otters to secure it.
Another painted the creases on cotton clothes so exactly that the
clothes looked as if they had just come from the wash. Another
produced pictures of cats which would keep a place free from rats. All
these efforts were capped by those of another artist, whose picture of
the North Wind made people feel cold, while his picture of the South
Wind made people feel hot. Such exaggerations are not altogether
without their value; they suggest that Chinese art must have reached a
high level, and this has recently been shown to be nothing more than
the truth, by the splendid exhibition of Chinese pictures recently on
view in the British Museum.

The literary activities of the Chinese, and their output of
literature, have always been on a colossal scale; and of course it is
entirely due to the early invention of printing that, although a very
large number of works have disappeared, still an enormous bulk has
survived the ravages of war, rebellion and fire.

This art was rather developed than invented. There is no date, within
a margin even of half a century either way, at which we can say that
printing was invented. The germ is perhaps to be found in the
engraving of seals, which have been used by the Chinese as far back as
we can go with anything like historical certainty, and also of stone
tablets from which rubbings were taken, the most important of these
being the forty-six tablets on which five of the sacred books of
Confucianism were engraved about A.D. 170, and of which portions still
remain. However this may be, it was during the sixth century A.D. that
the idea of taking impressions on paper from wooden blocks seems to
have arisen, chiefly in connexion with religious pictures and tracts.
It was not widely applied to the production of books in general until
A.D. 932, when the Confucian Canon was so printed for the first time;
from which point onwards the extension of the art moved with rapid

It is very noticeable that the Chinese, who are extraordinarily averse
to novelties, and can hardly be induced to consider any innovations,
when once convinced of their real utility, waste no further time in
securing to themselves all the advantages which may accrue. This was
forcibly illustrated in regard to the introduction of the telegraph,
against which the Chinese had set their faces, partly because of the
disturbance of geomantic influences caused by the tall telegraph
poles, and partly because they sincerely doubted that the wires could
achieve the results claimed. But when it was discovered that some wily
Cantonese had learnt over the telegraph the names of the three highest
graduates at the Peking triennial examination, weeks before the names
could be known in Canton by the usual route, and had enriched himself
by buying up the tickets bearing those names in the great lotteries
which are always held in connexion with this event, Chinese opposition
went down like a house of cards; and the only question with many of
the literati was whether, at some remote date, the Chinese had not
invented telegraphy themselves.

Moveable types of baked clay were invented about A.D. 1043, and some
centuries later they were made of wood and of copper or lead; but they
have never gained the favour accorded to block-printing, by which most
of the great literary works have been produced. The newspapers of
modern days are all printed from moveable types, and also many
translations of foreign books, prepared to meet the increasing demand
for Western learning. The Chinese have always been a great reading
people, systematic education culminating in competitive examinations
for students going back to the second century A.D. This is perhaps a
suitable place for explaining that the famous /Peking Gazette/, often
said to be the oldest newspaper in the world, is not really a
newspaper at all, in that it contains no news in our sense of the
term. It is a record only of court movements, list of promoted
officials, with a few selected memorials and edicts. It is published
daily, but was not printed until the fifteenth century.

Every Chinese boy may be said to have his chance. The slightest sign
of a capacity for book-learning is watched for, even among the
poorest. Besides the opportunity of free schools, a clever boy will
soon find a patron; and in many cases, the funds for carrying on a
curriculum, and for entering the first of the great competitions, will
be subscribed in the district, on which the candidate will confer a
lasting honour by his success. A promising young graduate, who has won
his first degree with honours, is at once an object of importance to
wealthy fathers who desire to secure him as a son-in-law, and who will
see that money is not wanting to carry him triumphantly up the
official ladder. Boys without any gifts of the kind required, remain
to fill the humbler positions; those who advance to a certain point
are drafted into trade; while hosts of others who just fall short of
the highest, become tutors in private families, schoolmasters,
doctors, fortune-tellers, geomancers, and booksellers' hacks.

Of high-class Chinese literature, it is not possible to give even the
faintest idea in the space at disposal. It must suffice to say that
all branches are adequately represented, histories, biographies,
philosophy, poetry and essays on all manner of subjects, offering a
wide field even to the most insatiate reader.

And here a remark may be interjected, which is very necessary for the
information of those who wish to form a true estimate of the Chinese
people. Throughout the Confucian Canon, a collection of ancient works
on which the moral code of the Chinese is based, there is not a single
word which could give offence, even to the most sensitive, on
questions of delicacy and decency. That is surely saying a good deal,
but it is not all; precisely the same may be affirmed of what is
mentioned above as high-class Chinese literature, which is pure enough
to satisfy the most strait-laced. Chinese poetry, of which there is in
existence a huge mass, will be searched in vain for suggestions of
impropriety, for sly innuendo, and for the other tricks of the
unclean. This extraordinary purity of language is all the more
remarkable from the fact that, until recent years, the education of
women has not been at all general, though many particular instances
are recorded of women who have themselves achieved success in literary
pursuits. It is only when we come to the novel, to the short story, or
to the anecdote, which are not usually written in high-class style,
and are therefore not recognized as literature proper, that this
exalted standard is no longer always maintained.

There are, indeed, a great number of novels, chiefly historical and
religious, in which the aims of the writers are on a sufficiently high
level to keep them clear of what is popularly known as pornography or
pig-writing; still, when all is said and done, there remains a balance
of writing curiously in contrast with the great bulk of Chinese
literature proper. As to the novel, the long story with a worked-out
plot, this is not really a local product. It seems to have come along
with the Mongols from Central Asia, when they conquered China in the
thirteenth century, and established their short-lived dynasty. Some
novels, in spite of their low moral tone, are exceedingly well written
and clever, graphic in description, and dramatic in episode; but it is
curious that no writer of the first rank has ever attached his name to
a novel, and that the authorship of all the cleverest is a matter of
entire uncertainty.

The low-class novel is purposely pitched in a style that will be
easily understood; but even so, there is a great deal of word- and
phrase-skipping to be done by many illiterate readers, who are quite
satisfied if they can extract the general sense as they go along. The
book-language, as cultivated by the best writers, is to be freely
understood only by those who have stocked their minds well with the
extensive phraseology which has been gradually created by eminent men
during the past twenty-five centuries, and with historical and
biographical allusions and references of all sorts and things. A word
or two, suggesting some apposite allusion, will often greatly enhance
the beauty of a composition for the connoisseur, but will fall flat on
the ears of those to whom the quotation is unknown. Simple objects in
everyday life often receive quaint names, as handed down in
literature, with which it is necessary to be familiar. For instance, a
"fairy umbrella" means a mushroom; a "gentleman of the beam" is a
burglar, because a burglar was once caught sitting on one of the open
beams inside a Chinese roof; a "slender waist" is a wasp; the "throat
olive" is the "Adam's apple"--which, by the way, is an excellent
illustration from the opposite point of view; "eyebrow notes" means
notes at the top of a page; "cap words" is sometimes used for
"preface;" the "sweeper-away of care" is wine; "golden balls" are
oranges; the "golden tray" is the moon; a "two-haired man" is a grey-
beard; the "hundred holes" is a beehive; "instead of the moon" is a
lantern; "instead of steps" is a horse; "the man with the wooden
skirt" is a shopman; to "scatter sleep" means to give hush-money; and
so on, almost /ad infinitum/.

Chinese medical literature is on a very voluminous scale, medicine
having always occupied a high place in the estimation of the people,
in spite of the fact that its practice has always been left to any one
who might choose to take it up. Surgery, even of an elementary kind,
has never had a chance; for the Chinese are extremely loath to suffer
any interference with their bodies, believing, in accordance with
Confucian dogma, that as they received them from their parents, so
they should carry them into the presence of their ancestors in the
next world. Medicine, as still practised in China, may be compared
with the European art of a couple of centuries ago, and its
exceedingly doubtful results are fully appreciated by patients at
large. "No medicine," says one proverb, "is better than a middling
doctor;" while another points out that "Many sons of clever doctors
die of disease."

Legend, however, tells us of an extraordinary physician of the fifth
century B.C. who was able to see into the viscera of his patients--an
apparent anticipation of the X-rays--and who, by his intimate
knowledge of the human pulse, effected many astounding cures. We also
read of an eminent physician of the second and third centuries A.D.
who did add surgery to this other qualifications. He was skilled in
the use of acupuncture and cautery; but if these failed he would
render his patient unconscious by a dose of hashish, and then operate
surgically. He is said to have diagnosed a case of diseased bowels by
the pulse alone, and then to have cured it by operation. He offered to
cure the headaches of a famous military commander of the day by
opening his skull under hashish; but the offer was rudely declined.
This story serves to show, in spite of its marvellous setting, that
the idea of administering an anaesthetic to carry out a surgical
operation must be credited, so far as priority goes, to the Chinese,
since the book in which the above account is given cannot have been
composed later than the twelfth century A.D.



Chinese philosophy covers altogether too large a field to be dealt
with, even in outline, on a scale suitable to this volume; only a few
of its chief features can possibly be exhibited in the space at

Beginning with moral philosophy, we are confronted at once with what
was in early days an extremely vexed question; not perhaps entirely
set at rest even now, but allowed to remain in suspense amid the
universal acceptance of Confucian teachings. Confucius himself taught
in no indistinct terms that man is born good, and that he becomes evil
only by contact with evil surroundings. He does not enlarge upon this
dogma, but states it baldly as a natural law, little anticipating that
within a couple of centuries it was to be called seriously in
question. It remained for his great follower, Mencius, born a hundred
years later, to defend the proposition against all comers, and
especially against one of no mean standing, the philosopher Kao
(/Cow/). Kao declared that righteousness is only to be got out of
man's nature in the same way that good cups and bowls are to be got
out of a block of willow wood, namely, by care in fashioning them.
Improper workmanship would produce bad results; good workmanship, on
the other hand, would produce good results. In plain words, the nature
of man at birth is neither good nor bad; and what it becomes
afterwards depends entirely upon what influences have been brought to
bear and in what surroundings it has come to maturity. Mencius met
this argument by showing that in the process of extracting cups and
bowls from a block of wood, the wood as a block is destroyed, and he
pointed out that, according to such reasoning, man's nature would also
be destroyed in the process of getting righteousness out of it.

Again, Kao maintained that man's nature has as little concern with
good or evil as water has with east or west; for water will flow
indifferently either one way or the other, according to the conditions
in each case. If there is freedom on the east, it will flow east; if
there is freedom on the west, it will flow west; and so with human
nature, which will move similarly in the direction of either good or
evil. In reply, Mencius freely admitted that water would flow either
east or west; but he asked if it would flow indifferently up or down.
He then declared that the bent of human nature towards good is
precisely like the tendency of water to flow down and not up. You can
force water to jump up, he said, by striking it, and by mechanical
appliances you can make it flow to the top of a hill; but what you do
in such cases is entirely contrary to the nature of water, and is
merely the result of violence, such violence, in fact, as is brought
into play when man's nature is bent towards evil.

"That which men get at birth," said Kao, "is their nature," implying
that all natures were the same, just as the whiteness of a white
feather is the same as the whiteness of white snow; whereupon Mencius
showed that on this principle the nature of a dog would be the same as
that of a an ox, or the nature of an ox the same as that of a man.
Finally, Mencius declared that for whatever evil men may commit, their
natures can in nowise be blamed. In prosperous times, he argued, men
are mostly good, whereas in times of scarcity the opposite is the
case; these two conditions, however, are not to be charged against the
natures with which God sent them into the world, but against the
circumstances in which the individuals in question have been situated.

The question, however, of man's original nature was not set
permanently at rest by the arguments of Mencius. A philosopher, named
Hsun Tzu (/Sheundza/), who flourished not very much later than
Mencius, came forward with the theory that so far from being good
according to Confucius, or even neutral according to Kao, the nature
of man at birth is positively evil. He supports this view by the
following arguments. From his earliest years, man is actuated by a
love of gain for his own personal enjoyment. His conduct is
distinguished by selfishness and combativeness. He becomes a slave to
envy, hatred, and other passions. The restraint of law, and the
influence and guidance of teachers, are absolutely necessary to good
government and the well-being of social life. Just as wood must be
subjected to pressure in order to make it straight, and metal must be
subjected to the grindstone in order to make it sharp, so must the
nature of man be subjected to training and education in order to
obtain from it the virtues of justice and self-sacrifice which
characterize the best of the human race. It is impossible to maintain
that man's nature is good in the same sense that his eyes see and his
ears hear; for in the latter there is no alternative. An eye which
does not see, is not an eye; an ear which does not hear, is not an
ear. This proves that whereas seeing and hearing are natural to man,
goodness is artificial and acquired. Just as a potter produces a dish
or a carpenter a bench, working on some material before them, so do
the sages and teachers of mankind produce righteousness by working
upon the nature of man, which they transform in the same way that the
potter transforms the clay or the carpenter the wood. We cannot
believe that God has favourites, and deals unkindly with others. How,
then, is it that some men are evil while others are good? The answer
is, that the former follow their natural disposition, while the latter
submit to restraints and follow the guidance of their teachers. It is
indeed true that any one may become a hero, but all men do not
necessarily become heroes, nor is there any method by which they can
be forced to do so. If a man is endowed with a capacity for
improvement, and is placed in the hands of good teachers, associating
at the same time with friends whose actions display such virtues as
self-sacrifice, truth, kindness, and so forth, he will naturally
imbibe principles which will raise him to the same standard; whereas,
if he consorts with evil livers, he will be a daily witness of deceit,
corruption, and general impurity of conduct, and will gradually lapse
into the same course of life. If you do not know your son, says the
proverb, look at his friends.

The next step was taken by the philosopher Yang Hsiung (/Sheeyoong/),
53 B.C. to A.D. 18. He started a theory which occupies a middle place
between the last two theories discussed above, teaching that the
nature of man at birth is neither wholly good nor wholly evil, but a
mixture of both, and that development in either direction depends
altogether on environment. A compromise in matters of faith is not
nearly so picturesque as an extreme, and Yang's attempted solution has
attracted but scant attention, though always mentioned with respect.
The same may also be said of another attempt to smooth obvious
difficulties in the way of accepting either of the two extremes or the
middle course proposed by Yang Hsiung. The famous Han Yu, to be
mentioned again shortly, was a pillar and prop of Confucianism. He
flourished between A.D. 768 and 824, and performed such lasting
services in what was to him the cause of truth, that his tablet has
been placed in the Confucian temple, an honour reserved only for those
whose orthodoxy is beyond suspicion. Yet he ventured upon an attempt
to modify this important dogma, taking care all the time to appear as
if he were criticizing Mencius rather than Confucius, on whom, of
course, the real responsibility rests. He declared, solely upon his
own authority, that the nature of man is not uniform but divided into
three grades--namely, highest, middle, and lowest. Thus, natures of
the highest grade are good, wholly good, and nothing but good; natures
of the lowest grade are evil, wholly evil, and nothing but evil; while
natures of the middle grade may, under right direction, rise to the
highest grade, or, under wrong direction, sink to the lowest.

Another question, much debated in the age of Mencius, arose out of the
rival statements of two almost contemporary philosophers, Mo Ti (/Maw
Tee) and Yang Chu. The former taught a system of mutual and
consequently universal love as a cure for all the ills arising from
misgovernment and want of social harmony. He pointed out, with much
truth, that if the feudal states would leave one another alone,
families cease to quarrel, and thieves cease to steal, while sovereign
and subject lived on terms of benevolence and loyalty, and fathers and
sons on terms of kindness and filial piety--then indeed the empire
would be well governed. But beyond suggesting the influence of
teachers in the prohibition of hatred and the encouragement of mutual
love, our philosopher does little or nothing to aid us in reaching
such a desirable consummation.

The doctrine of Yang Chu is summed up as "every man for himself," and
is therefore diametrically opposed to that of Mo Ti. A questioner one
day asked him if he would consent to part with a single hair in order
to benefit the whole world. Yang Chu replied that a single hair could
be of no possible benefit to the world; and on being further pressed
to say what he would do if a hair were really of such benefit, it is
stated that he gave no answer. On the strength of this story, Mencius
said: "Yang's principle was, every man for himself. Though by plucking
out a single hair he might have benefited the whole world, he would
not have done so. Mo's system was universal love. If by taking off
every hair from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot he could
have benefited the empire, he would have done so. Neither of these two
doctrines is sound; a middle course is the right one."

The origin of the visible universe is a question on which Chinese
philosophers have very naturally been led to speculate. Legend
provides us with a weird being named P'an Ku, who came into existence,
no one can quite say how, endowed with perfect knowledge, his function
being to set the gradually developing universe in order. He is often
represented pictorially with a huge adze in his hand, and engaged in
constructing the world out of the matter which has just begun to take
shape. With his death the detailed part of creation appeared. His
breath became the wind; his voice, the thunder; his left eye, the sun;
his right eye, the moon; his blood yielded rivers; his hair grew into
trees and plants; his flesh became the soil; his sweat descended as
rain; and the parasites which infested his body were the forerunners
of the human race. This sort of stuff, however, could only appeal to
the illiterate; for intellectual and educated persons something more
was required. And so it came about that a system, based originally
upon the quite incomprehensible Book of Changes, generally regarded as
the oldest portion of the Confucian Canon, was gradually elaborated
and brought to a finite state during the eleventh and twelfth
centuries of our era. According to this system, there was a time,
almost beyond the reach of expression in figures, when nothing at all
existed. In the period which followed, there came into existence,
spontaneously, a principle, which after another lapse of time resolved
itself into two principles with entirely opposite characteristics. One
of these principles represented light, heat, masculinity, and similar
phenomena classed as positive; the other represented darkness, cold,
femininity, and other phenomena classed as negative. The interaction
of these two principles in duly adjusted proportions produced the five
elements, earth, fire, water, wood, and metal; and with their
assistance all Nature as we see it around us was easily and rapidly
developed. Such is the Confucian theory, at any rate so called, for it
cannot be shown that Confucius ever entertained these notions, and his
alleged connexion with the Canon of Changes is itself of doubtful

Chuang Tzu (/Chwongdza/), a philosopher of the third and fourth
centuries B.C., who was not only a mystic but also a moralist and a
social reformer, has something to say on the subject: "If there is
existence, there must have been non-existence. And if there was a time
when nothing existed, then there must have been a time before that,
when even nothing did not exist. Then when nothing came into
existence, could one really say whether it belonged to existence or

"Nothing" was rather a favourite term with Chuang Tzu for the exercise
of his wit. Light asked Nothing, saying: "Do you, sir, exist, or do
you not exist?" But getting no answer to his question, Light set to
work to watch for the appearance of Nothing. Hidden, vacuous--all day
long he looked but could not see it, listened but could not hear it,
grasped at but could not seize it. "Bravo!" cried Light; "who can
equal this? I can get to be nothing [meaning darkness], but I can't
get to be not nothing."

Confucius would have nothing to say on the subject of death and a
future state; his theme was consistently this life and its
obligations, and he regarded speculation on the unknown as sheer waste
of time. When one of three friends died and Confucius sent a disciple
to condole with the other two, the disciple found them sitting by the
side of the corpse, merrily singing and playing on the lute. They
professed the then comparatively new faith which taught that life was
a dream and death the awakening. They believed that at death the pure
man "mounts to heaven, and roaming through the clouds, passes beyond
the limits of space, oblivious of existence, for ever and ever without
end." When the shocked disciple reported what he had seen, Confucius
said, "These men travel beyond the rule of life; I travel within it.
Consequently, our paths do not meet; and I was wrong in sending you to
mourn. They look on life as a huge tumour from which death sets them
free. All the same they know not where they were before birth, nor
where they will be after death. They ignore their passions. They take
no account of their ears and eyes. Backwards and forwards through all
eternity, they do not admit a beginning or an end. They stroll beyond
the dust and dirt of mortality, to wander in the realms of inaction.
How should such men trouble themselves with the conventionalities of
this world, or care what people may think of them?"

Life comes, says Chuang Tzu, and cannot be declined; it goes, and
cannot be stopped. But alas, the world thinks that to nourish the
physical frame is enough to preserve life. Although not enough, it
must still be done; this cannot be neglected. For if one is to neglect
the physical frame, better far to retire at once from the world, since
by renouncing the world one gets rid of the cares of the world. There
is, however, the vitality which informs the physical frame; that must
be equally an object of incessant care. Then he whose physical frame
is perfect and whose vitality remains in its original purity--he is
one with God. Man passes through this sublunary life as a sunbeam
passes through a crack; here one moment, and gone the next. Neither
are there any not equally subject to the ingress and egress of
mortality. One modification brings life; then comes another, and there
is death. Living creatures cry out; human beings feel sorrow. The bow-
case is slipped off; the clothes'-bag is dropped; and in the confusion
the soul wings its flight, and the body follows, on the great journey

Attention has already been drawn to this necessary cultivation of the
physical frame, and Chuan Tzu gives an instance of the extent to which
it was carried. There was a certain man whose nose was covered with a
very hard scab, which was at the same time no thicker than a fly's
wing. He sent for a stonemason to chip it off; and the latter plied
his adze with great dexterity while the patient sat absolutely rigid,
without moving a muscle, and let him chip. When the scab was all off,
the nose was found to be quite uninjured. Such skill was of course
soon noised abroad, and a feudal prince, who also had a scab on his
nose, sent for the mason to take it off. The mason, however, declined
to try, alleging that the success did not depend so much upon the
skill of the operator as upon the mental control of the patient by
which the physical frame became as it were a perfectly inanimate

Contemporary with Chuang Tzu, but of a very different school of
thought, was the philosopher Hui Tzu (/Hooeydza/). He was particularly
fond of the quibbles which so delighted the sophists or unsound
reasoners of ancient Greece. Chuang Tzu admits that he was a man of
many ideas, and that his works would fill five carts--this, it must be
remembered, because they were written on slips of wood tied together
by a string run through eyelets. But he adds that Hui Tzu's doctrines
are paradoxical, and his terms used ambiguously. Hui Tzu argued, for
instance, that such abstractions as hardness and whiteness were
separate existences, of which the mind could only be conscious
separately, one at a time. He declared that there are feathers in a
new-laid egg, because they ultimately appear on the chick. He
maintained that fire is not hot; it is the man who feels hot. That the
eye does not see; it is the man who sees. That compasses will not make
a circle; it is the man. That a bay horse and a dun cow are three;
because taken separately they are two, and taken together they are
one: two and one make three. That a motherless colt never had a
mother; when it had a mother, it was not motherless. That if you take
a stick a foot long and every day cut it in half, you will never come
to the end of it.

Of what use, asked his great rival, is Hui Tzu to the world? His
efforts can only be compared with those of a gadfly or a mosquito. He
makes a noise to drown an echo. He is like a man running a race with
his own shadow.

When Chuang Tzu was about to die, his disciples expressed a wish to
give him a splendid funeral. But Chuang Tzu said: "With heaven and
earth for my coffin and my shell; with the sun, moon and stars as my
burial regalia; and with all creation to escort me to my grave,--are
not my funeral paraphernalia ready to hand?" "We fear," argued the
disciples, "lest the carrion kite should eat the body of our Master;"
to which Chuang Tzu replied: "Above ground I shall be food for kites;
below ground for mole-crickets and ants. Why rob one to feed the

Life in China is not wholly made up of book-learning and commerce. The
earliest Chinese records exhibit the people as following the chase in
the wake of the great nobles, more as a sport than as the serious
business it must have been in still more remote ages; and the first
emperors of the present dynasty were also notable sportsmen, who
organized periodical hunting-tours on a scale of considerable

Hawking was practised at least so far back as a century before Christ;
for we have a note on a man of that period who "loved to gallop after
wily animals with horse and dog, or follow up with falcon the pheasant
and the hare." The sport may be seen in northern China at the present
day. A hare is put up, and a couple of native greyhounds are
dispatched after it; these animals, however, would soon be distanced
by the hare, which can run straight away from them without doubling,
but for the sudden descent of the falcon, and a blow from its claw,
often stunning the hare at the first attempt, and enabling the dogs to
come up.

Sportsmen who have to make their living by the business frequently
descend to methods which are sometimes very ingenious, and more
remunerative than the gun, but can hardly be classified as sport.
Thus, a man in search of wild duck will mark down a flock settled on
some shallow sheet of water. He will then put a crate over his head
and shoulders, and gradually approach the flock as though the crate
were drifting on the surface. Once among them, he puts out a hand
under water, seizes hold of a duck's legs, and rapidly pulls the bird
down. The sudden disappearance of a colleague does not seem to trouble
its companions, and in a short time a very considerable bag has been
obtained. Tradition says that Confucius was fond of sport, but would
never let fly at birds sitting; which, considering that his weapon was
a bow-and-arrow, must be set down as a marvel of self-restraint.

Scores of Chinese poets have dwelt upon the joys of angling, and
fishing is widely carried on over the inland waters; but the rod,
except as a matter of pure sport, has given place to the businesslike
net. The account of the use of fishing cormorants was formerly
regarded as a traveller's tale. It is quite true, however, that small
rafts carrying several of these birds, with a fisherman gently
sculling at the stern, may be seen on the rivers of southern China.
The cormorant seizes a passing fish, and the fisherman takes the fish
from its beak. The bird is trained with a ring round its neck, which
prevents it from swallowing the prey; while for each capture it is
rewarded with a small piece of fish. Well-trained cormorants can be
trusted to fish without the restraint of the ring. Confucius, again,
is said to have been fond of fishing, but he would not use a net; and
there was another sage of antiquity who would not even use a hook, but
fished with a straight piece of iron, apparently thinking that the
advantage would be an unfair one as against the resources of the fish;
and declaring openly that he would only take such fish as wished to be
caught. By such simple narratives do the Chinese strive to convey
great truths to childish ears.

Many sports were once common in China which have long since passed out
of the national life, and exist only in the record of books. Among
these may be mentioned "butting," a very ancient pastime, mentioned in
history two centuries before the Christian era. The sport consisted in
putting an ox-skin, horns and all, over the head, and then trying to
knock one's adversary out of time by butting at him after the fashion
of bulls, the result being, as the history of a thousand years later
tells us, "smashed heads, broken arms, and blood running in the Palace

The art of boxing, which included wrestling, had been practised by the
Chinese several centuries before butting was introduced. Its most
accomplished exponents were subsequently found among the priests of a
Buddhist monastery, built about A.D. 500; and it was undoubtedly from
their successors that the Japanese acquired a knowledge of the modern
/jiu-jitsu/, which is simply the equivalent of the old Chinese term
meaning "gentle art." A few words from a chapter on "boxing" in a
military work of the sixteenth century will give some idea of the
scope of the Chinese sport.

"The body must be quick to move, the hands quick to take advantage,
and the legs lightly planted but firm, so as to advance or retire with
effect. In the flying leap of the leg lies the skill of the art; in
turning the adversary upside down lies its ferocity; in planting a
straight blow with the fist lies its rapidity; and in deftly holding
the adversary face upwards lies its gentleness."

Football was played in China at a very early date; originally, with a
ball stuffed full of hair; from the fifth century A.D., with an
inflated bladder covered with leather. A picture of the goal, which is
something like a triumphal arch, has come down to us, and also the
technical names and positions of the players; even more than seventy
kinds of kicks are enumerated, but the actual rules of the game are
not known. It is recorded by one writer that "the winners were
rewarded with flowers, fruit and wine, and even with silver bowls and
brocades, while the captain of the losing team was flogged, and
suffered other indignities." The game, which had disappeared for some
centuries, is now being revived in Chinese schools and colleges under
the control of foreigners, and finds great favour with the rising

Polo is first mentioned in Chinese literature under the year A.D. 710,
the reference being to a game played before the Emperor and his court.
The game was very much in vogue for a long period, and even women were
taught to play--on donkey-back. The Kitan Tartars were the most
skilful players; it is doubtful if the game originated with them, or
if it was introduced from Persia, with which country China had
relations at a very early date. A statesman of the tenth century,
disgusted at the way in which the Emperor played polo to excess,
presented a long memorial, urging his Majesty to discontinue the
practice. The reasons given for this advice were three in number. "(1)
When sovereign and subject play together, there must be contention. If
the sovereign wins, the subject is ashamed; if the former loses, the
latter exults. (2) To jump on a horse and swing a mallet, galloping
here and there, with no distinctions of rank, but only eager to be
first and win, is destructive of all ceremony between sovereign and
subject. (3) To make light of the responsibilities of empire, and run
even the remotest risk of an accident, is to disregard obligations to
the state and to her Imperial Majesty the Empress."

It has always been recognized that the chief duty of a statesman is to
advise his master without fear or favour, and to protest loudly and
openly against any course which is likely to be disadvantageous to the
commonwealth, or to bring discredit on the court. It has also been
always understood that such protests are made entirely at the risk of
the statesman in question, who must be prepared to pay with his head
for counsels which may be stigmatized as unpatriotic, though in
reality they may be nothing more than unpalatable at the moment.

In the year A.D. 814 the Emperor, who had become a devout Buddhist,
made arrangements for receiving with extravagant honours a bone of
Buddha, which had been forwarded from India to be preserved as a
relic. This was too much for Han Yu (already mentioned), the leading
statesman of the day, who was a man of the people, raised by his own
genius, and who, to make things worse, had already been banished
eleven years previously for presenting an offensive Memorial on the
subject of tax-collection, for which he had been forgiven and
recalled. He promptly sent in a respectful but bitter denunciation of
Buddha and all his works, and entreated his Majesty not to stain the
Confucian purity of thought by tolerating such a degrading exhibition
as that proposed. But for the intercession of friends, the answer to
this bold memorial would have been death; as it was he was banished to
the neighbourhood of the modern Swatow, then a wild and barbarous
region, hardly incorporated into the Empire. There he set himself to
civilize the rude inhabitants, until soon recalled and once more
reinstated in office; and to this day there is a shrine dedicated to
his memory, containing the following inscription: "Wherever he passed,
he purified."

Another great statesman, who flourished over two hundred years later,
and also several times suffered banishment, in an inscription to the
honour and glory of his predecessor, put down the following words:
"Truth began to be obscured and literature to fade; supernatural
religions sprang up on all sides, and many eminent scholars failed to
oppose their advance, until Han Yu, the cotton-clothed, arose and
blasted them with his derisive sneer."

Since the fourteenth century there has existed a definite
organization, known as the Censorate, the members of which, who are
called the "ears and eyes" of the sovereign, make it their business to
report adversely upon any course adopted by the Government in the name
of the Emperor, or by any individual statesman, which seems to call
for disapproval. The reproving Censor is nominally entitled to
complete immunity from punishment; but in practice he knows that he
cannot count too much upon either justice or mercy. If he concludes
that his words will be unforgivable, he hands in his memorial, and
draws public attention forthwith by committing suicide on the spot.

To be allowed to commit suicide, and not to suffer the indignity of a
public execution, is a privilege sometimes extended to a high official
whose life has become forfeit under circumstances which do not call
for special degradation. A silken cord is forwarded from the Emperor
to the official in question, who at once puts an end to his life,
though not necessarily by strangulation. He may take poison, as is
usually the case, and this is called "swallowing gold." For a long
time it was believed that Chinese high officials really did swallow
gold, which in view of its non-poisonous character gave rise to an
idea that gold-leaf was employed, the leaf being inhaled and so
causing suffocation. Some simple folk, Chinese as well as foreigners,
believe this now, although native authorities have pointed out that
workmen employed in the extraction of gold often steal pieces and
swallow them, without any serious consequences whatever. Another
explanation, which has also the advantage of being the true one, is
that "swallowing gold" is one of the roundabout phrases in which the
Chinese delight to express painful or repulsive subjects. No emperor
ever "dies," he becomes "a guest on high." No son will say that his
parents are "dead;" but merely that "they are not." The death of an
official is expressed by "he is drawing no salary;" of an ordinary man
it may be said that "he has become an ancient," very much in the same
way that we say "he has joined the majority." A corpse in a coffin is
in its "long home;" when buried, it is in "the city of old age," or on
"the terrace of night." To say grossly, then, that a man took poison
would be an offence to ears polite.



To return, after a long digression. The age of manly sport, as above
described, has long passed away; and the only hope is for a revival
under the changing conditions of modern China. Some few athletic
exercises have survived; and until recently, archery, in which the
Tartars have always excelled, was regarded almost as a semi-divine
accomplishment. Kite-flying has reached a high level of skill. Clever
little "messengers" have been devised, which run up the string,
carrying fire-crackers which explode at a great height. There is a
game of shuttlecock, without the battledore, for which the feet are
used as a substitute; and "diavolo," recently introduced into Europe,
is an ancient Chinese pastime. A few Manchus, too, may be seen skating
during the long northern winter, but the modern inhabitant of the
Flowery Land, be he Manchu or Chinese, much prefers an indoor game to
anything else, especially when, as is universally the case, a stake of
money is involved.

Gambling is indeed a very marked feature of Chinese life. A child
buying a cake will often go double or quits with the stall-keeper, to
see if he is to have two cakes or nothing, the question being settled
by a throw of dice in a bowl. Of the interval allowed for meals, a
gang of coolies will devote a portion to a game of cards. The cards
used are smaller than the European pack, and of course differently
marked; they were the invention of a lady of the Palace in the tenth
century, who substituted imitation leaves of gilt paper for real
leaves, which had previously been adopted for playing some kind of
game. There are also various games played with chequers, some of great
antiquity; and there is chess, that is to say, a game so little
differing from our chess as to leave no doubt as to the common origin
of both. In all of these the money element comes in; and it is not too
much to say that more homes are broken up, and more misery caused by
this truly national vice than can be attributed to any other cause.

For pleasure pure and simple, independent of gains and losses, the
theatre occupies the warmest place in every Chinaman's heart. If
gambling is a national vice in China, the drama must be set off as the
national recreation. Life would be unthinkable to the vast majority if
its monotony were not broken by the periodical performance of stage-
plays. It is from this source that a certain familiarity with the
great historical episodes of the past may be pleasantly picked up over
a pipe and a cup of tea; while the farce, occasionally perhaps erring
on the side of breadth, affords plenty of merriment to the laughter-
loving crowd.

Ability to make Chinamen laugh is a great asset; and a foreigner who
carries this about with him will find it stand him in much better
stead than a revolver. When, many years ago, a vessel was wrecked on
the coast of Formosa, the crew and passengers were at once seized, and
confined for some time in a building, where traces of their
inscriptions could be seen up to quite a recent date. At length, they
were all taken out for execution; but before the ghastly order was
carried out, one of the number so amused everybody by cutting capers
and turning head over heels, that the presiding mandarin said he was a
funny fellow, and positively allowed him to escape.

With regard to the farce itself, it is not so much the actual wit of
the dialogue which carries away the audience as the refined skill of
the actor, who has to pass through many trials before he is considered
to be fit for the stage. Beginning as quite a boy, in addition to
committing to memory a large number of plays--not merely his own part,
but the whole play--he has to undergo a severe physical training, part
of which consists in standing for an hour every day with his mouth
wide open, to inhale the morning air. He is taught to sing, to walk,
to strut, and to perform a variety of gymnastic exercises, such as
standing on his head, or turning somersaults. His first classification
is as male or female actor, no women having been allowed to perform
since the days of the Emperor Ch'ien Lung (A.D. 1736-1796), whose
mother was an actress, just as in Shakespeare's time the parts for
women were always taken by young men or boys. When once this is
settled, it only remains to enrol him as tragedian, comedian, low-
comedy actor, walking gentleman or lady, and similar parts, according
to his capabilities.

It is not too much to say that women are very little missed on the
Chinese stage. The make-up of the actor is so perfect, and his
imitation of the feminine voice and manner, down to the smallest
detail, even to the small feet, is so exact in every point, that he
would be a clever observer who could positively detect impersonation
by a man.

Generally speaking, a Chinese actor has many more difficulties to face
than his colleague in the West. In addition to the expression of all
shades of feeling, from mirth to melancholy, the former has to keep up
a perpetual make-believe in another sense, which is further great
strain upon his nerves. There being no scenery, no furniture, and no
appointments of any except the slenderest kind upon the stage, he has
to create in the minds of his audience a belief that all these missing
accessories are nevertheless before their eyes. A general comes upon
the scene, with a whip in his hand, and a studied movement not only
suggests that he is dismounting from a horse, but outlines the animal
itself. In the same manner, he remounts and rides off again; while
some other actor speaks from the top of a small table, which is
forthwith transfigured, and becomes to all intents and purposes a

Many of those who might be apt to smile at the simple Chinese mind
which can tolerate such absurdities in the way of make-believe,
require to be reminded that the stage in the days of Queen Elizabeth
was worked on very much the same lines. Sir Philip Sidney tells us
that the scene of an imagined garden with imagined flowers had to do
duty at one time for an imagined shipwreck, and at another for an
imagined battlefield, the spectator in the latter case being helped
out by two opposing soldiers armed with swords and bucklers. Even
Shakespeare, in the Prologue to his play of /Henry V/, speaks of
imagining one man to be an army of a thousand, and says:--

Think, when we talk of horses that you see them
Printing their proud hoofs i' the receiving earth;
For 'tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings.

Here, then, is good authority for the quaint system that still
prevails in China.

Hundreds of Chinese pilgrims annually went their weary way to the top
of Mount Omi in the province of Ssuch'uan, and gaze downward from a
sheer and lofty precipice to view a huge circular belt of light, which
is called the Glory of Buddha. Some see it, some do not; the Chinese
say that the whole thing is a question of faith. In a somewhat similar
sense, the dramatic enthusiast sees before him such beings of the mind
as the genuine actor is able to call up. The Philistine cannot reach
this pitch; but he is sharp enough to see other things which to the
eye of the sympathetic spectator are absolutely non-existent. Some of
the latter will be enumerated below.

The Chinese stage has no curtain; and the orchestra is on the stage
itself, behind the actors. There is no prompter and no call-boy. Stage
footmen wait at the sides to carry in screens, small tables, and an
odd chair or two, to represent houses, city walls, and so on, or hand
cups of tea to the actors when their throats become dry from
vociferous singing, which is always in falsetto. All this in the face
of the audience. Dead people get up and walk off the stage; or while
lying dead, contrive to alter their facial expression, and then get up
and carry themselves off. There is no interval between one play and
the next following, which probably gives rise to the erroneous belief
that Chinese plays are long, the fact being that they are very short.
According to the Penal Code, there may be no impersonation of emperors
and empresses of past ages, but this clause is now held to refer
solely to the present dynasty.

For the man in the street and his children, there are to be seen
everywhere in China where a sufficient number of people gather
together, Punch-and-Judy shows of quite a high class in point of skill
and general attractiveness. These shows are variously traced back to
the eighth and second centuries B.C., and to the seventh century A.D.,
even the latest of which periods would considerably antedate the
appearance of performing marionettes in this country or on the
Continent. Associated with the second century B.C., the story runs
that the Emperor of the day was closely besieged by a terrible Hun
chieftain, who was accompanied by his wife. It occurred to one of his
Majesty's staff to exhibit on the walls of the town, in full view of
the enemy, a number of manikins, dressed up to a deceptive resemblance
to beautiful girls. The wife of the Hun chieftain then persuaded her
husband to draw off his forces, and the Emperor escaped.

By the Chinese marionettes, little plays on familiar subjects are
performed; many are of a more serious turn than the loves of Mr.
Punch, while others again are of the knock-about style so dear to the
ordinary boy and girl. Besides such entertainments as these, the
streets of a Chinese city offer other shows to those who desire to be
amused. An acrobat, a rope-dancer or a conjurer will take up a pitch
right in the middle of the roadway, and the traffic has to get on as
best it can. A theatrical stage will sometimes completely block a
street, and even foot-passengers will have to find their way round.
There is also the public story-reader, who for his own sake will
choose a convenient spot near to some busy thoroughfare; and there, to
an assembled crowd, he will read out, not in the difficult book-
language, but in the colloquial dialect of the place, stories of war
and heroism, soldiers led to night-attacks with wooden bits in their
mouths to prevent them from talking in the ranks, the victory of the
loyal and the rout and slaughter of the rebel. Or it may be a tale of
giants, goblins and wizards; the bewitching of promising young men by
lovely maidens who turn out to be really foxes in disguise, ending as
usual in the triumph of virtue and the discomfiture of vice. The fixed
eyes and open mouths of the crowd, listening with rapt attention, is a
sight which, once seen, is not easily forgotten.

For the ordinary man, China is simply peopled with bogies and devils,
the spirits of the wicked or of those unfortunate enough not to secure
decent burial with all its accompanying worship and rites. These
creatures, whose bodies cast no shadow, lurk in dark corners, ready to
pounce on some unwary passer-by and possibly tear out his heart. Many
a Confucianist, sturdy in his faith that "devils only exist for those
who believe in them," will hesitate to visit by night a lonely spot,
or even to enter a disused tumbledown building by day. Some of the
stories told are certainly well fitted to make a deep impression upon
young and highly-strung nerves. For instance, one man who was too fond
of the bottle placed some liquor alongside his bed, to be drunk during
the night. On stretching out his hand to reach the flask, he was
seized by a demon, and dragged gradually into the earth. In response
to his shrieks, his relatives and neighbours only arrived in time to
see the ground close over his head, just as though he had fallen into

From this story it will be rightly gathered that the Chinese mostly
sleep on the ground floor. In Peking, houses of more than one storey
are absolutely barred; the reason being that each house is built round
a courtyard, which usually has trees in it, and in which the ladies of
the establishment delight to sit and sew, and take the air and all the
exercise they can manage to get.

Another blood-curdling story is that of four travellers who arrived by
night at an inn, but could obtain no other accommodation than a room
in which was lying the corpse of the landlord's daughter-in-law. Three
of the four were soon snoring; the fourth, however, remained awake,
and very soon heard a creaking of the trestles on which was the dead
body dressed out in paper robes, ready for burial. To his horror he
saw the girl get up, and go and breathe on his companions; so by the
time she came to him he had his head tucked well under the bedclothes.
After a little while he kicked one of the others; but finding that his
friend did not move, he suddenly grabbed his own trousers and made a
bolt for the door. In a moment the corpse was up and after him,
following him down the street, and gaining gradually on him, no one
coming to the rescue in spite of his loud shrieks as he ran. So he
slipped behind a tree, and dodged right and left, the infuriated
corpse also dodging right and left, and making violent efforts to get
him. At length, the girl made a rush forward with one arm on each
side, in the hope of thus grabbing her victim. The traveller, however,
fell backwards and escaped her clutch, while she remained rigidly
embracing the tree. By and by he was found senseless on the ground;
and the corpse was removed from the tree, but with great difficulty,
as the fingers were buried in the bark so deep that the nails were not
even visible. The other three travellers were found dead in their

Periodical feasting may be regarded as another form of amusement by
which the Chinese seek to relieve the monotony of life. They have
never reserved one day in seven for absolute rest, though of late
years Chinese merchants connected with foreign trade have to some
extent fallen in with the observance of Sunday. Quite a number of days
during the year are set apart as public holidays, but no one is
obliged to keep them as such, unless he likes, with one important
exception. The festival of the New Year cannot be ignored by any one.
For about ten days before this date, and twenty days after it, the
public offices are closed and no business is transacted, the seal of
each official is handed over for safe keeping to the official's wife,
a fact which helps to dispose of the libel that women in China are the
down-trodden creatures they are often represented to be. All debts
have to be paid and accounts squared by midnight on the last day of
the old year. A few nights previously, offerings of an excessively
sticky sweetmeat are made to the Spirit of the Hearth, one of whose
functions is that of an accusing angel. The Spirit is then on the
point of starting for his annual visit to heaven, and lest any of the
disclosures he might make should entail unpleasant consequences, it is
adjudged best that he shall be rendered incapable of making any
disclosures at all. The unwary god finds his lips tightly glued
together, and is unable to utter a single word. Meanwhile, fire-
crackers are being everywhere let off on a colossal scale, the object
being to frighten away the evil spirits which have collected during
the past twelve months, and to begin the year afresh. The day itself
is devoted to calling, in one's best clothes, on relatives, friends
and official superiors, for all of whom it is customary to leave a
present. The relatives and friends receive "wet" gifts, such as fruit
or cakes; officials also receive wet gifts, but underneath the top
layer will be found something "dry," in the shape of silver or bank-
notes. Everybody salutes everybody with the conventional saying, "New
joy, new joy; get rich, get rich!" Yet here again, as in all things
Chinese, we find a striking exception to this good-natured rule. No
one says "Get rich, get rich!" to the undertaker.

A high authority (on other matters) has recently stated that the
Chinese calendar "begins just when the Emperor chooses to say it
shall. He is like the captain of a ship, who says of the hour, 'Make
it so,' and it is so." The truth is that New Year's Day is determined
by the Astronomical Board, according to fixed rules, just as Easter is
determined; and it may fall on any day between the 21st of January and
the 20th of February, but neither before the former date nor after the
latter date, in spite even of the most threatening orders from the
Palace. This book will indeed have been written in vain if the reader
lays it down without having realized that no such wanton interference
on the part of their rulers would be tolerated by the Chinese people.
But we are wandering away from merry-making and festivity.

In their daily life the Chinese are extremely moderate eaters and
mostly tea-drinkers, even the wealthy confining themselves to few and
simple dishes of pork, fowl, or fish, with the ever-present
accompaniment of rice. The puppy-dog, on which the people are
popularly believed to live, as the French on frogs, is a stall-fed
animal, and has always been, and still is, an article of food; but the
consumption of dog-flesh is really very restricted, and many thousands
of Chinamen have never tasted dog in their lives. According to the
popular classification of foods, those who live on vegetables get
strong, those who live on meat become brave, those who live on grain
acquire wisdom, and those who live on air become divine.

At banquets the scene changes, and course after course of curiously
compounded and highly spiced dishes, cooked as only Chinese cooks know
how, are placed before the guests. The wine, too, goes merrily round;
bumpers are drunk at short intervals, and the wine-cups are held
upside down, to show that there are no heel-taps. Forfeits are exacted
over the game of "guess-fingers," for failure to cap a verse, or for
any other equally sufficient (or insufficient) reason; and the penalty
is an extra bumper for the loser.

This lively picture requires, perhaps, a little further explanation.
Chinese "wine" is an ardent spirit distilled from rice, and is
modified in various ways so as to produce certain brands, some of
which are of quite moderate strength, and really may be classed as
wine. It is always drunk hot, the heat being supplied by vessels of
boiling water, in which the pewter wine-flasks are kept standing. The
wine-cups are small, and it is possible to drink a good many of them
without feeling in the least overcome. Even so, many diners now refuse
to touch wine at all, the excuse always being that it flushes the face
uncomfortably. Perhaps they fear an undeserved imputation of
drunkenness, remembering their own cynical saying: "A bottle-nosed man
may be a tee-totaller, but no one will believe it. To judge from their
histories and their poetry, the Chinese seem once upon a time to have
been a fairly tipsy nation: now-a-days, the truth lies the other way.
An official who died A.D. 639, and was the originator of epitaphs in
China, wrote his own, as follows:--

Fu I loved the green hills and white clouds . . .
Alas! he died of drink!

There are exceptions, no doubt, as to every rule in every country; but
such sights as drunken men tumbling about the streets, or lying
senseless by the roadside, are not to be seen in China. "It is not
wine," says the proverb, "which makes a man drunk; it is the man

Even at banquets, which are often very rich and costly, unnecessary
expense is by no means encouraged. Dishes of fruit, of a kind which no
one would wish to eat, and which are placed on the table for show or
ornament, are simply clever imitations in painted wood, and pass from
banquet to banquet as part of the ordinary paraphernalia of a feast;
no one is deceived. The same form of open and above-board deception
appears in many other ways. There are societies organized for visiting
in a comfortable style of pilgrimage some famous mountain of historic
interest. Names are put down, and money is collected; and then the
party starts off by boat or in sedan-chairs, as the case may be. On
arriving at the mountain, there is a grand feast, and after the
picnic, for such it is, every one goes home again. That is the real
thing; now for the imitation. Names are put down, and money is
collected, as before; but the funds are spent over a feast at home,
alongside of a paper mountain.

Another of these deceptions, which deceive nobody, is one which might
be usefully adapted to life in other countries. A Chinaman meeting in
the street a friend, and having no leisure to stop and talk, or
perhaps meeting some one with whom he may be unwilling to talk, will
promptly put up his open fan to screen his face, and pass on. The
suggestion is that, wishing to pass without notice, he fails to see
the person in question, and it would be a serious breach of decorum on
the part of the latter to ignore the hint thus conveyed.

Japan, who may be said to have borrowed the civilization of China,
lock, stock and barrel--her literature, her moral code, her arts, her
sciences, her manners and customs, her ceremonial, and even her
national dress--invented the folding fan, which in the early part of
the fifteenth century formed part of the tribute sent from Korea to
Peking, and even later was looked upon by the Chinese as quite a
curiosity. In the early ages, fans were made of feathers, as still at
the present day; but the more modern fan of native origin is a light
frame of bamboo, wood or ivory, round or otherwise, over which silk is
stretched, offering a convenient medium for the inscription of poems,
or for paintings, as exchanged between friend and friend.

The same innocent form of deception, which deceives nobody, is carried
out when two officials, seated in sedan-chairs, have to pass one
another. If they are of about equal rank, etiquette demands that they
should alight from their chairs, and perform mutual salutations. To
obviate the extreme inconvenience of this rule, large wooden fans are
carried in all processions of the kind, and these are hastily thrust
between the passing officials, so that neither becomes aware of the
other's existence on the scene. The case is different when one of the
two is of higher rank. The official of inferior grade is bound to stop
and get out of his chair while his superior passes by, though even now
he has a chance of escape; he hears the gong beaten to clear the way
for the great man, whose rank he can tell from the number of
consecutive blows given; and hurriedly turns off down a side street.

An historical instance of substituting the shadow for the reality is
that of the great general Ts'ao Ts'ao, third century A.D., who for
some breach of the law sentenced himself to death, but satisfied his
sense of justice by cutting off his hair. An emperor of the sixth
century, who was a devout Buddhist, and therefore unable to
countenance any destruction of life, had all the sacrificial animals
made of dough.

The opium question, which will claim a few words later on, has been
exhaustively threshed out; and in view of the contradictory statements
for and against the habit of opium smoking, it is recognized that any
conclusion, satisfactory to both parties, is a very remote
possibility. The Chinese themselves, who are chiefly interested in the
argument, have lately come to a very definite conclusion, which is
that opium has to go; and it seems that in spite of almost invincible
obstacles, the sincerity and patriotism which are being infused into
the movement will certainly, sooner or later, achieve the desired end.
It is perhaps worth noting that in the Decree of 1906, which ordered
the abolition of opium smoking, the old Empress Dowager, who was
herself over sixty and a moderate smoker, inserted a clause excusing
from the operation of the new law all persons already more than sixty
years of age.


THE MONGOLS, 1260-1368

Lack of patriotism is often hurled by foreigners as a reproach to the
Chinese. The charge cannot be substantiated, any more than it could be
if directed against some nation in Europe. If willingness to sacrifice
everything, including life itself, may be taken as a fair test of
genuine patriotism, then it will be found, if historical records be
not ignored, that China has furnished numberless brilliant examples of
true patriots who chose to die rather than suffer dishonour to
themselves or to their country. A single instance must suffice.

The time is the close of the thirteenth century, when the Mongols
under Kublai Khan were steadily dispossessing the once glorious and
powerful House of Sung, and placing the empire of China under alien
rule. Disaster followed disaster, until almost the last army of the
Sungs was cut to pieces, and the famous statesman and general in
command, Wen (pronounced /One/) T'ien-hsian, fell into the hands of
the Mongols. He was ordered, but refused, to write and advise
capitulation, and every effort was subsequently made to induce him to
own allegiance to the conquerors. He was kept in prison for three
years. "My dungeon," he wrote, "is lighted by the will-o'-the-wisp
alone; no breath of spring cheers the murky solitude in which I dwell.
Exposed to mist and dew, I had many times thought to die; and yet,
through the seasons of two revolving years, disease hovered around me
in vain. The dank, unhealthy soil to me became Paradise itself. For
there was that within me which misfortune could not steal away; and so
I remained firm, gazing at the white clouds floating over my head, and
bearing in my heart a sorrow boundless as the sky."

At length he was summoned into the presence of Kublai Khan, who said
to him, "What is it you want?" "By the grace of the Sung Emperor," he
replied, "I became His Majesty's Minister. I cannot serve two masters.
I only ask to die." Accordingly, he was executed, meeting his death
with composure, and making an obeisance in the direction of the old
capital. His last words were, "My work is finished." Compare this with
the quiet death-bed of another statesman, who flourished in the
previous century. He had advised an enormous cession of territory to
the Tartars, and had brought about the execution of a patriot soldier,
who wished to recover it at all costs. He was loaded with honours, and
on the very night he died he was raised to the rank of Prince. He was
even canonized, after the usual custom, as Loyalty Manifested, on a
mistaken estimate of his career; but fifty years later his title was
changed to False and Foul and his honours were cancelled, while the
people at large took his degraded name for use as an alternative to

Two names of quite recent patriots deserve to be recorded here as a
tribute to their earnest devotion to the real interests of their
country, and incidentally for the far-reaching consequences of their
heroic act, which probably saved the lives of many foreigners in
various parts of China. It was during the Boxer troubles in Peking, at
the beginning of the siege of the legations, that Yuan Ch'ang and Hsu
Ching-ch'eng, two high Chinese officials, ventured to memorialize the
Empress Dowager upon the fatal policy, and even criminality, of the
whole proceedings, imploring her Majesty at a meeting of the Grand
Council to reconsider her intention of issuing orders for the
extermination of all foreigners. In spite of their remonstrances, a
decree was issued to that effect and forwarded to the high authorities
of the various provinces; but it failed to accomplish what had been
intended, for these two heroes, taking their lives in their hands, had
altered the words "slay all foreigners" into "protect all foreigners."
Some five to six weeks later, when the siege was drawing to a close,
the alteration was discovered; and next day those two men were
hurriedly beheaded, meeting death with such firmness and fortitude as
only true patriotism could inspire.

The Mongols found it no easy task to dispossess the House of Sung,
which had many warm adherents to its cause. It was in 1206 that
Genghis Khan began to make arrangements for a projected invasion of
China, and by 1214 he was master of all the enemy's territory north of
the Yellow River, except Peking. He then made peace with the Golden
Tartar emperor of northern China; but his suspicions were soon
aroused, and hostilities were renewed. In 1227 he died, while
conducting a campaign in Central Asia; and it remained for his
vigorous grandson, Kublai Khan, to complete the conquest of China more
than half a century afterwards. So early as 1260, Kublai was able to
proclaim himself emperor at Xanadu, which means Imperial Capital, and
lay about one hundred and eighty miles north of modern Peking, where,
in those days known as Khan-baligh (Marco Polo's Cambaluc), he
established himself four years later; but twenty years of severe
fighting had still to pass away before the empire was finally subdued.
The Sung troops were gradually driven south, contesting every inch of
ground with a dogged resistance born of patriotic endeavour. In 1278
Canton was taken, and the heroic Wen T'ien-hsiang was captured through
the treachery of a subordinate. In 1279 the last stronghold of the
Sungs was beleaguered by land and sea. Shut up in their ships which
they formed into a compact mass and fortified with towers and
breastworks, the patriots, deprived of fresh water, harassed by
attacks during the day and by fire-ships at night, maintained the
unequal struggle for a month. But when, after a hard day's fighting,
the Sung commander found himself left with only sixteen vessels, he
fled up a creek. His retreat was cut off; and then at length
despairing of his country, he bade his wife and children throw
themselves overboard. He himself, taking the young emperor on his
back, followed their example, and thus brought the great Sung dynasty
to an end.

The grandeur of Kublai Khan's reign may be gathered from the pages of
Marco Polo, in which, too, allusion is made to Bayan, the skilful
general to whom so much of the military success of the Mongols was
due. Korea, Burma, and Annam became dependencies of China, and
continued to send tribute as such even up to quite modern times.
Hardly so successful was Kublai Khan's huge naval expedition against
Japan, which, in point of number of ships and men, the insular
character of the enemy's country, the chastisement intended, and the
total loss of the fleet in a storm, aided by the stubborn resistance
offered by the Japanese themselves--suggests a very obvious comparison
with the object and fate of the Spanish Armada.

Among the more peaceful developments of Mongol rule at this epoch may
be mentioned the introduction of a written character for the Mongol
language. It was the work of a Tibetan priest, named Baschpa, and was
based upon the written language of a nation known as the Ouigours
(akin to the Turks), which had in turn been based upon Syraic, and is
written in vertical lines connected by ligatures. Similarly, until
1599 there was no written Manchu language; a script, based upon the
Mongol, was then devised, also in vertical lines or columns like
Chinese, but read from left to right.

Under Kublai Khan the calendar was revised, and the Imperial Academy
was opened; the Yellow River was explored to its source, and bank-
notes were made current. The Emperor himself was an ardent Buddhist,
but he took care that proper honours were paid to Confucius; on the
other hand, he issued orders that all Taoist literature of the baser
kind was to be destroyed. Behind all this there was extortionate
taxation, a form of oppression the Chinese have never learned to
tolerate, and discontent led to disorder. Kublai's grandson was for a
time an honest ruler and tried to stem the tide, but by 1368 the
mandate of the Mongols was exhausted. They were an alien race, and the
Chinese were glad to get rid of them.

Chinese soldiers are often stigmatized as arrant cowards, who run away
at the slightest provocation, their first thought being for the safety
of their own skins. No doubt Chinese soldiers do run away--sometimes;
at other times they fight to the death, as has been amply proved over
and over again. It is the old story of marking the hits and not the
misses. A great deal depends upon sufficiency and regularity of pay.
Soldiers with pay in arrear, half clad, hungry, and ill armed, as has
frequently been the case in Chinese campaigns, cannot be expected to
do much for the flag. Given the reverse of these conditions, things
would be likely to go badly with the enemy, whosoever he might be.

Underneath a mask of complete facial stolidity, the Chinese conceal
one of the most exciteable temperaments to be found in any race, as
will soon be discovered by watching an ordinary street row between a
couple of men, or still better, women. A Chinese crowd of men--women
keep away--is a good-tempered and orderly mob, partly because not
inflamed by drink, when out to enjoy the Feast of the Lanterns, or to
watch the twinkling lamps float down a river to light the wandering
ghosts of the drowned on the night of their All Souls' Day, sacred to
the memory of the dead; but a rumour, a mere whisper, the more
baseless often the more potent, will transform these law-abiding
people into a crowd of fiends. In times when popular feeling runs
high, as when large numbers of men were said to be deprived suddenly
and mysteriously of their queues, or when the word went round, as it
has done on more occasions than one, that foreigners were kidnapping
children in order to use their eyes for medicine,--in such times the
masses, incited by those who ought to know better, get completely out
of hand.

A curious and tragic instance of this excitability occurred some years
ago. The viceroy of a province had succeeded in organizing a
contingent of foreign-drilled troops, under the guidance and
leadership of two qualified foreign instructors. After some time had
elapsed, and it was thought that the troops were sufficiently trained
to make a good show, it was arranged that a sham fight should be held
in the presence of the viceroy himself. The men were divided into two
bodies under the two foreign commanders, and in the course of
operations one body had to defend a village, while the other had to
attack it. When the time came to capture the village at the point of
the bayonet, both sides lost their heads; there was a fierce hand-to-
hand fight in stern reality, and before this could be effectively
stopped four men had been killed outright and sixteen badly wounded.

Considering how squalid many Chinese homes are, it is all the more
astonishing to find such deep attachment to them. There exists in the
language a definite word for /home/, in its fullest English sense. As
a written character, it is supposed to picture the idea of a family,
the component parts being a "roof" with "three persons" underneath.
There is, indeed, another and more fanciful explanation of this
character, namely, that it is composed of a "roof" with a "pig"
underneath, the forms for "three men" and "pig" being sufficiently
alike at any rate to justify the suggestion. This analysis would not
be altogether out of place in China any more than in Ireland; but as a
matter of fact the balance of evidence is in favour of the "three
men," which number, it may be remarked, is that which technically
constitutes a crowd.

Whatever may be the literary view of the word "home," it is quite
certain that to the ordinary Chinaman there is no place like it. "One
mile away from home is not so good as being in it," says a proverb
with a punning turn which cannot be brought out in English. Another
says, "Every day is happy at home, every moment miserable abroad." It
may therefore be profitable to look inside a Chinese home, if only to
discover wherein its attractiveness lies.

All such homes are arranged more or less on the patriarchal system;
that is to say, at the head of the establishment are a father and
mother, who rank equally so far as their juniors are concerned; the
mother receiving precisely the same share of deference in life, and of
ancestral worship after death, as the father. The children grow up;
wives are sought for the boys, and husbands for the girls, at about
the ages of eighteen and sixteen, respectively. The former bring their
wives into the paternal home; the latter belong, from the day of their
marriage, to the paternal homes of their husbands. Bachelors and old
maids have no place in the Chinese scheme of life. Theoretically,
bride and bridegroom are not supposed to see each other until the
wedding-day, when the girl's veil is lifted on her arrival at her
father-in-law's house; in practice, the young people usually manage to
get at least a glimpse of one another, usually with the connivance of
their elders. Thus the family expands, and one of the greatest
happinesses which can befall a Chinaman is to have "five generations
in the hall." Owing to early marriage, this is not nearly so uncommon
as it is in Western countries. There is an authentic record of an old
statesman who had so many descendants that when they came to
congratulate him on his birthdays, he was quite unable to remember all
their names, and could only bow as they passed in line before him.

As to income and expenditure, the earnings of the various members go
into a common purse, out of which expenses are paid. Every one has a
right to food and shelter; and so it is that if some are out of work,
the strain is not individually felt; they take their rations as usual.
On the death of the father, it is not at all uncommon for the mother
to take up the reins, though it is more usual for the eldest son to
take his place. Sometimes, after the death of the mother--and then it
is accounted a bad day for the family fortunes--the brothers cannot
agree; the property is divided, and each son sets up for himself, a
proceeding which is forbidden by the Penal Code during the parents'
lifetime. Meanwhile, any member of the family who should disgrace
himself in any way, as by becoming an inveterate gambler and
permanently neglecting his work, or by developing the opium vice to
great excess, would be formally cast out, his name being struck off
the ancestral register. Men of this stamp generally sink lower and
lower, until they swell the ranks of professional beggars, to die
perhaps in a ditch; but such cases are happily of rare occurrence.

In the ordinary peaceful family, regulated according to Confucian
principles of filial piety, fraternal love, and loyalty to the
sovereign, we find love of home exalted to a passion; and bitter is
the day of leave-taking for a long absence, as when a successful son
starts to take up his official appointment at a distant post. The
latter, not being able to hold office in his native province, may have
a long and sometimes dangerous journey to make, possibly to the other
end of the empire. In any case, years must elapse before he can
revisit "the mulberry and the elm"--the garden he leaves behind. He
may take his "old woman" and family with him, or they may follow later
on; as another alternative, the "old woman" with the children may
remain permanently in the ancestral home, while the husband carries on
his official career alone. Under such circumstances as the last-
mentioned, no one, including his own wife, is shocked if he consoles
himself with a "small old woman," whom he picks up at his new place of
abode. The "small old woman" is indeed often introduced into families
where the "principal old woman" fails to contribute the first of "the
three blessings of which every one desires to have plenty," namely,
sons, money, and life. Instances are not uncommon of the wife herself
urging this course upon her husband; and but for this system the
family line would often come to an end, failing recourse to another
system, namely, adoption, which is also brought into play when all
hope of a lineal descendant is abandoned.

Whether she has children or not, the principal wife--the only wife, in
fact--never loses her supremacy as the head of the household. The late
Empress Dowager was originally a concubine; by virtue of motherhood
she was raised to the rank of Western Empress, but never legitimately
took precedence of the wife, whose superiority was indicated by her
title of Eastern Empress, the east being more honourable than the
west. The emperor always sits with his face towards the south.

The story of Sung Hung, a statesman who flourished about the time of
the Christian era, pleasantly illustrates a chivalrous side of the
Chinese character. This man raised himself from a humble station in
life to be a minister of state, and was subsequently ennobled as
marquis. The emperor then wished him to put away his wife, who was a
woman of the people, and marry a princess; to which he nobly replied:
"Sire, the partner of my porridge days shall never go down from my

Of the miseries of exile from the ancestral home, lurid pictures have
been drawn by many poets and others. One man, ordered from some soft
southern climate to a post in the colder north, will complain that the
spring with its flowers is too late in arriving; another "cannot stand
the water and earth," by which is meant that the climate does not
agree with him; a third is satisfied with his surroundings, but is
still a constant sufferer from home-sickness. Such a one was the poet
who wrote the following lines:--

Away to the east lie fair forests of trees,
From the flowers on the west comes a scent-laden breeze,
Yet my eyes daily turn to my far-away home,
Beyond the broad river, its waves and its foam.

And such, too, is the note of innumerable songs in exile, written for
the most part by officials stationed in distant parts of the empire;
sometimes by exiles in a harsher sense, namely, those persons who have
been banished to the frontier for disaffection, maladministration of
government, and like offences. A bright particular gem in Chinese
literature, referring to love of home, was the work of a young poet
who received an appointment as magistrate, but threw it up after a
tenure of only eighty-three days, declaring that he could not "crook
the hinges of his back for five pecks of rice a day," that being the
regulation pay of his office. It was written to celebrate his own
return, and runs as follows:--

"Homewards I bend my steps. My fields, my gardens, are choked with
weeds: should I not go? My soul has led a bondsman's life: why should
I remain to pine? But I will waste no grief upon the past: I will
devote my energies to the future. I have not wandered far astray. I
feel that I am on the right track once again.

"Lightly, lightly, speeds my boat along, my garments fluttering to the
gentle breeze. I inquire my route as I go. I grudge the slowness of
the dawning day. From afar I descry by old home, and joyfully press
onwards in my haste. The servants rush forth to meet me: my children
cluster at the gate. The place is a wilderness; but there is the old
pine-tree and my chrysanthemums. I take the little ones by the hand,
and pass in. Wine is brought in full bottles, and I pour out in
brimming cups. I gaze out at my favourite branches. I loll against the
window in my new-found freedom. I look at the sweet children on my

"And now I take my pleasure in my garden. There is a gate, but it is
rarely opened. I lean on my staff as I wander about or sit down to
rest. I raise my head and contemplate the lovely scene. Clouds rise,
unwilling, from the bottom of the hills: the weary bird seeks its nest
again. Shadows vanish, but still I linger round my lonely pine. Home
once more! I'll have no friendships to distract me hence. The times
are out of joint for me; and what have I to seek from men? In the pure
enjoyment of the family circle I will pass my days, cheering my idle
hours with lute and book. My husbandmen will tell me when spring-time
is nigh, and when there will be work in the furrowed fields. Thither I
shall repair by cart or by boat, through the deep gorge, over the
dizzy cliff, trees bursting merrily into leaf, the streamlet swelling
from its tiny source. Glad is this renewal of life in due season: but
for me, I rejoice that my journey is over. Ah, how short a time it is
that we are here! Why, then, not set our hearts at rest, ceasing to
trouble whether we remain or go? What boots it to wear out the soul
with anxious thoughts? I want not wealth: I want not power: heaven is
beyond my hopes. Then let me stroll through the bright hours, as they
pass, in my garden among my flowers; or I will mount the hill and sing
my song, or weave my verse beside the limpid brook. Thus will I work
out my allotted span, content with the appointments of Fate, my spirit
free from care."

Besides contributing a large amount of beautiful poetry, this author
provided his own funeral oration, the earliest which has come down to
us, written just before his death in A.D. 427. Funeral orations are
not only pronounced by some friend at the grave, but are further
solemnly consumed by fire, in the belief that they will thus reach the
world of spirits, and be a joy and an honour to the deceased, in the
same sense that paper houses, horses, sedan-chairs, and similar
articles, are burnt for the use of the dead.


MINGS AND CH'INGS, 1368-1911

The first half of the fourteenth century, which witnessed the gradual
decline of Mongol influence and power, was further marked by the birth
of a humble individual destined to achieve a new departure in the
history of the empire. At the age of seventeen, Chu Yuan-chang lost
both his parents and an elder brother. It was a year of famine, and
they died from want of food. He had no money to buy coffins, and was
forced to bury them in straw. He then, as a last resource, decided to
enter the Buddhist priesthood, and accordingly enrolled himself as a
novice; but together with the other novices, he was soon dismissed,
the priests being unable to provide even for their own wants. After
this he wandered about, and finally joined a party of rebels commanded
by one of his own uncles. Rapidly rising to the highest military rank,
he gradually found himself at the head of a huge army, and by 1368 was
master of so many provinces that he proclaimed himself first emperor
of the Great Ming dynasty, under the title of Hung (/Hoong/) Wu, and
fixed his capital at Nanking. In addition to his military genius, he
showed almost equal skill in the administration of the empire, and
also became a liberal patron of literature and education. He organized
the present system of examinations, now in a transition state;
restored the native Chinese style of dress as worn under the T'ang
dynasty, which is still the costume seen on the stage; published a
Penal Code of mitigated severity; drew up a kind of Domesday Book
under which taxation was regulated; and fixed the coinage upon a
proper basis, government notes and copper /cash/ being equally
current. Eunuchs were prohibited from holding official posts, and
Buddhism and Taoism were both made state religions.

This truly great monarch died in 1398, and was succeeded by a
grandson, whose very receding forehead had been a source of much
annoyance to his grandfather, though the boy grew up clever and could
make good verses. The first act of this new emperor was to dispossess
his uncles of various important posts held by them; but this was not
tolerated by one of them, who had already made himself conspicuous by
his talents, and he promptly threw off his allegiance. In the war
which ensued, victory attended his arms throughout, and at length he
entered Nanking, the capital, in triumph. And now begins one of those
romantic episodes which from time to time lend an unusual interest to
the dry bones of Chinese history. In the confusion which followed upon
the entry of troops into his palace, the young and defeated emperor
vanished, and was never seen again; although in after years pretenders
started up on more than one occasion, and obtained the support of many
in their efforts to recover the throne. It is supposed that the
fugitive made his way to the distant province of Yunnan in the garb of
a Buddhist priest, left to him, so the story runs, by his grandfather.
After nearly forty years of wandering, he is said to have gone to
Peking and to have lived in seclusion in the palace there until his
death. He was recognized by a eunuch from a mole on his left foot, but
the eunuch was afraid to reveal his identity.

The victorious uncle mounted the throne in the year 1403, under the
now famous title of Yung Lo (/Yoong Law/), and soon showed that he
could govern as well as he could fight. He brought immigrants from
populous provinces to repeople the districts which had been laid waste
by war. Peking was built, and in 1421 the seat of government was
transferred thither, where it has remained ever since. A new Penal
Code was drawn up. Various military expeditions were despatched
against the Tartars, and missions under the charge of eunuchs were
sent to Java, Sumatra, Siam, and even reached Ceylon and the Red Sea.
The day of doubt in regard to the general accuracy of Chinese annals
has gone by; were it otherwise, a recent (1911) discovery in Ceylon
would tend to dispel suspicion on one point. A tablet has just been
unearthed at Galle, bearing an inscription in Arabic, Chinese and
Tamil. The Arabic is beyond decipherment, but enough is left of the
Chinese to show that the tablet was erected in 1409 to commemorate a
visit by the eunuch Cheng Ho, who passed several times backwards and
forwards over that route. In 1411 the same eunuch was sent as envoy to
Japan, and narrowly escaped with his life.

The emperor was a warm patron of literature, and succeeded in bringing
about the achievement of the most gigantic literary task that the
world has ever seen. He employed a huge staff of scholars to compile
an encyclopaedia which should contain within the compass of a single
work all that had ever been written in the four departments of (1) the
Confucian Canon, (2) history, (3) philosophy, and (4) general
literature, including astronomy, geography, cosmogony, medicine,
divination, Buddhism, Taoism, handicrafts and arts. The completed
work, over which a small army of scholars--more than two thousand in
all--had spent five years, ran to no fewer than 22,877 sections, to
which must be added an index occupying 60 sections. The whole was
bound up (Chinese style) in 11,000 volumes, averaging over half-an-
inch in thickness, and measuring one foot eight inches in length by
one foot in breadth. Thus, if all these were laid flat one upon
another, the column so formed would rise considerably higher than the
very top of St. Paul's. Further, each section contains about twenty
leaves, making a total of 917,480 pages for the whole work, with a
grand total of 366,000,000 words. Taking 100 Chinese words as the
equivalent of 130 English, due to the greater condensation of Chinese
literary style, it will be found that even the mighty river of the
/Encyclopedia Britannica/ "shrinks to a rill" when compared with this
overwhelming specimen of Chinese industry.

It was never printed; even a Chinese emperor, and enthusiastic patron
of literature to boot, recoiled before the enormous cost of cutting
such a work on blocks. It was however transcribed for printing, and
there appear to have been at one time three copies in existence. Two
of these perished at Nanking with the downfall of the dynasty in 1644,
and the third was in great part destroyed in Peking during the siege
of the Legations in 1900. Odd volumes have been preserved, and bear
ample witness to the extraordinary character of the achievement.

This emperor was an ardent Buddhist, and the priests of that religion
were raised to high positions and exerted considerable influence at
court. In times of famine there were loud complaints that some ten
thousand priests were living comfortably at Peking, while the people
of several provinces were reduced to eating bark and grass.

The porcelain of the Ming dynasty is famous all over the world. Early
in the sixteenth century a great impetus was given to the art, owing
to the extravagant patronage of the court, which was not allowed to
pass without openly expressed remonstrance. The practice of the
pictorial art was very widely extended, and the list of Ming painters
is endless, containing as it does over twelve hundred names, some few
of which stand for a high level of success.

Towards the close of the sixteenth century the Portuguese appeared
upon the scene, and settled themselves at Macao, the ownership of
which has been a bone of contention between China and Portugal ever
since. It is a delightful spot, with an excellent climate, not very
far from Canton, and was for some time the residence of the renowned
poet Camoens. Not far from Macao lies the island of Sancian, where St.
Francois Xavier died. He was the first Roman Catholic missionary of
more modern times to China, but he never set foot on the mainland.
Native maps mark the existence of "Saint's Grave" upon the island,
though he was actually buried at Goa. There had previously been a
Roman Catholic bishop in Peking so far back as the thirteenth century,
from which date it seems likely that Catholic converts have had a
continuous footing in the empire.

In 1583, Matteo Ricci, the most famous of all missionaries who have
ever reached China, came upon the scene at Canton, and finally, in
1601, after years of strenuous effort succeeded in installing himself
at Peking, with the warm support of the emperor himself, dying there
in 1610. Besides reforming the calendar and teaching geography and
science in general, he made a fierce attack upon Buddhism, at the same
time wisely leaving Confucianism alone. He was the first to become
aware of the presence in China of a Jewish colony, which had been
founded in 1163. It was from his writings that truer notions of
Chinese civilization than had hitherto prevailed, began to spread in
the West. "Mat. Riccius the Jesuite," says Burton in his /Anatomy of
Melancholy/ (1651), "and some others, relate of the industry of the
Chinaes most populous countreys, not a beggar, or an idle person to be
seen, and how by that means they prosper and flourish."

In 1625 an important find was made. A large tablet, with a long
inscription in Chinese and a shorter one in Syraic, was discovered in
central China. The inscription, in an excellent state of preservation,
showed that the tablet had been set up in A.D. 781 by Nestorian
missionaries, and gave a general idea of the object and scope of the
Christian religion. The genuineness of this tablet was for many years
in dispute--Voltaire, Renan, and others of lesser fame, regarding it
as a pious fraud--but has now been established beyond any possibility
of doubt; its value indeed is so great that an attempt was made quite
recently to carry it off to America. Nestorian Christianity is
mentioned by Marco Polo, but disappears altogether after the
thirteenth century, without leaving any trace in Chinese literature of
its once flourishing condition.

The last emperor of the Ming dynasty meant well, but succumbed to the
stress of circumstances. Eunuchs and over-taxation brought about the
stereotyped consequence--rebellion; rebellion, too, headed by an able
commander, whose successive victories soon enabled him to assume the
Imperial title. In the capital all was confusion. The treasury was
empty; the garrison were too few to man the walls; and the ministers
were anxious to secure each his own safety. On April 9, 1644, Peking
fell. During the previous night the emperor, who had refused to flee,
slew the eldest princess, commanded the empress to commit suicide, and
sent his three sons into hiding. At dawn the bell was struck for the
court to assemble; but no one came. His Majesty then ascended the Coal
Hill in the palace grounds, and wrote a last decree on the lapel of
his robe: "WE, poor in virtue and of contemptible personality, have
incurred the wrath of God on high. My ministers have deceived me. I am
ashamed to meet my ancestors; and therefore I myself take off my
crown, and with my hair covering my face await dismemberment at the
hands of the rebels. Do not hurt a single one of my people." He then
hanged himself, as also did one faithful eunuch; and his body,
together with that of the empress, was reverently encoffined by the

So ended the Ming dynasty, of glorious memory, but not in favour of
the rebel commander, who was driven out of Peking by the Manchus and
was ultimately slain by local militia in a distant province.

The subjugation of the empire by the victors, who had the disadvantage
of being an alien race, was effected with comparative ease and
rapidity. It was carried out by a military occupation of the country,
which has survived the original necessity, and is part of the system
of government at the present day. Garrisons of Tartar troops were
stationed at various important centres of population, each under the
command of an officer of the highest military grade, whose duty it was
to co-operate with, and at the same time watch and act as a check
upon, the high authorities employed in the civil administration. Those
Tartar garrisons still occupy the same positions; and the descendants
of the first battalions, with occasional reinforcements from Peking,
live side by side and in perfect harmony with the strictly Chinese
populations, though the two races do not intermarry except in very
rare cases. These Bannermen, as they are called, in reference to eight
banners or corps under which they are marshalled, may be known by
their square heavy faces, which contrast strongly with the sharper and
more astute-looking physiognomies of the Chinese. They speak the
dialect of Peking, now regarded as the official or "mandarin"
language, just as the dialect of Nanking was, so long as that city
remained the capital of the empire.

In many respects the conquering Tartars have been themselves conquered
by the people over whom they set themselves to rule. They have adopted
the language, written and colloquial, of China; and they are fully as
proud as the purest-blooded Chinese of the vast literature and
glorious traditions of those past dynasties of which they have made
themselves joint heirs. Manchu, the language of the conquerors, is
still kept alive at Peking. By a fiction, it is supposed to be the
language of the sovereign; but the emperors of China have now in their
youth to make a study of Manchu, and so do the official interpreters
and others whose duty it is to translate from Chinese into Manchu all
documents submitted to what is called the "sacred glance" of His
Majesty. In a similar sense, until quite a recent date, skill in
archery was required of every Bannerman; and it was undoubtedly a
great wrench when the once fatally effective weapon was consigned to
an unmerited oblivion. But though Bannermen can no longer shoot with
the bow and arrow, they still continue to draw monthly allowances from
state funds, as an hereditary right obtained by conquest.

Of the nine emperors of the Manchu, or Great Ch'ing dynasty, who have
already occupied the dragon throne and have become "guests on high,"
two are deserving of special mention as fit to be ranked among the
wisest and best rulers the world has ever known. The Emperor K'ang Hsi
(/Khahng Shee/) began his reign in 1662 and continued it for sixty-one
years, a division of time which has been in vogue for many centuries
past. He treated the Jesuit Fathers with kindness and distinction, and
availed himself in many ways of their scientific knowledge. He was an
extraordinarily generous and successful patron of literature. His name
is inseparably connected with the standard dictionary of the Chinese
language, which was produced under his immediate supervision. It


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