Part 2 out of 2
The foot on which her finger happened to rest when she said "out"
was excluded from the ring. Again she repeated the rhyme
excluding a foot with each repetition till all but one were out.
Up to this point all the children were in a nervous quiver
waiting to see which foot would be left, but now the fun
began, for they took the shoe off and every one slapped
that unfortunate foot. This was done with good-natured
vigor but without intention to hurt. It was amusing to see
the children squirm as they neared the end of the game.
This game finished, the little girl called out:
"Pat your hands and knees."
The girls sat down in pairs and, after the style of "Bean
Porridge Hot," clapped hands to the following rhyme:
Pat your hands and knees,
On January first,
The old lady likes to go a sightseeing most.
Pat your hands and knees,
On February second,
The old lady likes a piece of candy it is reckoned.
Pat your hands and knees,
On March the third,
The old lady likes a Canton pipe I have heard.
Pat your hands and knees,
On April fourth,
The old lady likes bony fish from the north.
Pat your hands and knees,
The fifth of May,
The old lady likes sweet potatoes every day.
Pat your hands and knees,
The sixth of June,
The old lady eats fat pork with a spoon.
Pat your hands and knees,
The seventh of July,
The old lady likes to eat a fat chicken pie.
Pat your hands and knees,
On August eight,
The old lady likes to see the lotus flowers straight.
Pat your hands and knees,
The old lady likes to drink good hot wine.
Pat your hands and knees,
The old lady, you and I, may meet hope again.
This we afterwards discovered is very widely known throughout the
north of China.
The foregoing are a few of the games played by the
children in Peking. In that one city we have collected
more than seventy-five different games, and have no reason
to believe we have secured even a small proportion of what
are played there. Games played in Central and South China
are different, partly because of climatic conditions, partly
because of the character of the people. There, as here, the
games of children are but reproductions of the employments
of their parents. They play at farming, carpentry, house-
keeping, storekeeping, or whatever employments their
parents happen to be engaged in. Indeed, in addition to
the games common to a larger part of the country, there
are many which are local, and depend upon the employment
of the parents or the people.
THE TOYS CHILDREN PLAY WITH
One day while sitting at table, with our little girl, nineteen
months old, on her mother's knee near by, we picked up
her rubber doll and began to whip it violently. The child
first looked frightened, then severe, then burst into tears and
plead with her mother not to "let papa whip dolly."
Few people realize how much toys become a part of the
life of the children who play with them. They are often
looked upon as nothing more than "playthings for children."
This is a very narrow view of their uses and
relationships. There is a philosophy underlying the
production of toys as old as the world and as broad as life, a
philosophy which, until recent years, has been little studied
Playthings are as necessary a constituent of human life as
food or medicine, and contribute in a like manner to the
health and development of the race. Like the science of
cooking and healing, the business of toy-making has been
driven by the stern teacher, necessity, to a rapid
self-development for the general good of the little men and women
in whose interests they are made.
They are the tools with which children ply their trades;
the instruments with which they carry on their professions;
the goods which they buy and sell in their business, and the
paraphernalia with which they conduct their toy society.
They are more than this. They are the animals which serve
them, the associates who entertain them, the children who
comfort them and bring joy to the mimic home.
Toys are nature's first teachers. The child with his little
shovels, spades and hoes, learns his first lessons in
agriculture; with his hammer and nails, he gets his first
lessons in the various trades; and the bias of the life of many a
child of larger growth has come from the toys with which he
played. Into his flower garden the father of Linnaeus
introduced his son during his infancy, and "this little garden
undoubtedly created that taste in the child which afterwards
made him the first botanist and naturalist of his age, if not
of his race."
No experiments in any chemical laboratory will excite
more wonder or be carried on with more interest, than those
which the boy performs with his pipe and basin of soapy
water. The little girl's mud pies and other sham confectionery
furnish her first lessons in the art of preparing food.
Her toy dinners and playhouse teas offer her the first
experiences in the entertainment of guests. With her dolls,
the domestic relations and affections.
No science has ever originatedmand been carried to any
degree of perfection in Asia. There is no reason why this
statement should cause the noses of Europeans and Americans
to twitch in derision and pride, for there is another fact
equally momentous in favor of the Asiatics,--viz., no religion
that originated outside of Asia has ever been carried to any
degree of perfection.
The above facts will indicate that we need not hope to
find the business of toy-making, or the science of child-
education in a very advanced state in China--the most
Asiatic country of Asia. Child's play and toy-making have
been organized into a business and a science in Europe, as
astronomy, which had been studied so long in Asia, was
developed into a science by the Greeks. And so we find
that what is taught in the kindergarten of the West is
learned in the streets of the East; and the toys which are
manufactured in great Occidental business establishments,
are made by poor women in Oriental homes, and the same
mistakes are made by the one as by the other.
The same whistle by which the cock crows, enables the
dog to bark, the baby to cry, the horse to neigh, the sheep
to bleat and the cow to low, just as in our own rubber
goods. The same end is accomplished in the one case as in
the other. The two, three or twenty cash doll does for the
Chinese girl what the two, three or twenty dollar one does
for her antipodal sister,--develops the instinct of motherhood,
besides standing a greater amount of rough handling.
Nevertheless it usually comes to the same deplorable end,
departing this world, bereft of its arms and legs, without
going through the tedious process of a surgical operation.
Chinese toys are less varied, less complicated, less true to
the original, and less expensive than those of the West,--
more perhaps like the toys of a century or two ago. Nevertheless
they are toys, and in the hands of boys and girls,
the drum goes "rub-a-dub," the horn "toots," and the
whistle squeaks. The "gingham dog and calico cat," besides
a score of other animals more nearly related to the soil
of their native place--being made of clay--express themselves
in the language of the particular whistle which happens
to have been placed within them. All this is to the
entire satisfaction of "little Miss Muffet" and "little boy
Blue," just as they do in other lands.
When the children grow older they have tops to spin that
whistle as good a whistle, and buzzers to buzz that buzz as
good a buzz, and music balls to roll, and music carts to pull,
that emit sounds as much to their satisfaction, as anything
that ministered to the childish tastes of our grandfathers;
and these become as much a part of their business and their
life as if they were living, talking beings. Furthermore,
their dolls are as much their children as they themselves are
the offspring of their parents.
Chinese toys embrace only those which involve no intricate
scientific principles. The music boxes of the West are
unknown in China except as they are imported. The
Chinese know nothing about dolls which open and shut
their eyes, simple as this principle is, nor of toys which are
self-propelling by some mysterious spring secreted within,
because, forsooth, they know nothing about making the spring.
There are some principles, however, which, though they
may not understand, they are nevertheless able to utilize;
such, for instance, as the expansion of air by heat, and the
creation of air currents. This principle is utilized in
lanterns. In the top of these is a paper wheel attached to a
cross-bar on the ends of which are suspended paper men
and women together with animals of all kinds making a
very interesting merry-go-round. These lantern-figures
correspond to the sawyers, borers, blacksmiths, washers
and others which twenty or more years ago were on top of
the stove of every corner grocery or country post-office.
When we began the study of Chinese toys our first move
was to call in a Chinese friend whom we thought we could
trust, and who could buy toys at a very reasonable rate,
and sent him out to purchase specimens of every variety of
toys he could find in the city of Peking. We ordered him
the first day to buy nothing but rattles, because the rattle
is the first toy that attracts the attention of the child.
In the evening Mr. Hsin returned with a good-sized
basket full of rattles. Some were tin in the form of small
cylinders, with handles in which were small pebbles: others
were shaped like pails; and others like cooking pots and pans.
Some of the most attractive were hollow wood balls,
baskets, pails and bottles, gorgeously painted, with long
handles, necks, or bails. The paint was soon transferred
from the face of the toy to that of the first child that
happened to play with it, which child was of course, our own
The most common rattles representing various kinds of
fowls and animals known and unknown are made of clay.
Others are in the form of fat little priests that make one
think of Santa Claus, or little roly-poly children that look
like the little folks who play with them.
As the child grows larger the favorite rattle is a drum-
shaped piece of bamboo or other wood, with skin--not
infrequently fish skin, stretched over the two ends, and a long
handle attached. On the sides are two stout strings with
beads on the ends, which, when the rattle is turned in the
hand, strike on the drum heads. These rattles of brass or
tin as well as bamboo, are in imitation of those carried by
We said to Mr. Hsin, "Foreigners say the Chinese do not
have dolls, how is that?"
"They have lots of them," he answered in the stereotyped way.
"Then to-morrow buy samples of all the dolls you can find."
"All?" he asked with some surprise.
"Yes, all. We want to know just what kind of dolls they have."
The next evening Mr. Hsin came in with an immense
load of dolls. He had large, small, and middle sized rag dolls,
on which the nose was sewed, the ears pasted, and the
eyes and other features painted. They were rude, but as
interesting to children as other more natural and more
expensive ones, as we discovered by giving one of them to
our little girl. In not a few instances Western children
have become much more firmly attached to their Chinese
cloth dolls than any that can be found for them in America
He had a number of others both large and small with
paper mache heads, leather bodies, and clay arms and legs.
The body was like a bellows in which a reed whistle was
placed, that enabled the baby to cry in the same tone as the
toy dog barks or the cock crows. They had "real hair" in
spots on their head similar to those on the child, and they
were dressed in the same kind of clothing as that used on the
baby in summer-time, viz., a chest-protector and a pair of
shoes or trousers.
Mr. Hsin then took out a small package in which was
wrapped a half-dozen or more "little people," as they are
called, by the Chinese, with paper heads, hands and feet,
exquisitely painted, and their clothing of the finest silk.
Attached to the head of each was a silk string by which the
"little people" are hung upon the wall as a decoration.
"But what are these, Mr. Hsin?" we asked. "These are not dolls."
"No," he answered, "these are cloth animals. The children play
with these at the same time they play with dolls."
He had gone beyond our instructions. He had brought
us a large collection of camels made of cloth the color of
the camel's skin, with little bunches of hair on the head,
neck, hump and the joints of the legs, similar to those on the
camel when it is shedding its coat in the springtime. He had
elephants made of a grayish kind of cloth on which were
harnesses similar to those supposed to be necessary for those
animals. He had bears with bits of hair on neck and tail
and a leading string in the nose; horses painted with spots
of white and red, matched only by the most remarkable
animals in a circus; monkeys with black beads for eyes, and
long tails; lions, tigers, and leopards, with large, savage,
black, glass eyes, with manes or tails suited to each, and
properly crooked by a wire extending to the tip. And
finally he laid the bogi-boo, a nondescript with a head on
each end much like the head of a lion or tiger. When not
used as a plaything, this served the purpose of a pillow.
"Do the Chinese have no other kinds of toy animals?" we inquired.
"Yes," he answered, "I'll bring them to-morrow."
The following evening he brought us a collection of clay
toys too extensive to enumerate. There were horses, cows,
camels, mules, deer, and a host of others the original of which
has never been found except in the imagination of the people.
He had women riding donkeys followed by drivers, men riding
horses and shooting or throwing a spear at a fleeing tiger, and
women with babies in their arms while grandmother amused them
with rattles, and father lay near by smoking an opium pipe.
From the bottom of his basket he brought forth a nuber of small
"What are in those?"
"These are clay insects."
They were among the best clay work we have seen in
China. There were tumble-bugs, grasshoppers, large beetles,
mantis, praying mantis, toads and scorpions, together with others
never seen outside of China, and some never seen at all, the legs
and feelers all being made of wire.
In another package he had a dozen dancing dolls. They
were made of clay, were an inch and a half long, dressed
with paper, and had small wires protruding the sixteenth of
an inch below the bottom of the skirt. He put them all on
a brass tray, the edge of which he struck with a small stick
to make it vibrate, thus causing the dancers to turn round
and round in every direction.
The next package contained a number of clay beggars.
Two were fighting, one about to smash his clay pot over
the other's head: another had his pot on his head for a lark,
a third was eating from his, while others were carrying theirs
in their hand. One had a sore leg to which he called attention
with open mouth and pain expressed in every feature.
From another package he brought out a number of
jumping jacks, imitations as it seemed of things Japanese.
There were monkey acrobats made of clay, wire and skin,
fastened to a small slip of bamboo. A doll fastened to a
stick, with cymbals in its hands would clash the cymbals,
when its queue was pulled. Finally there was a large
dragon which satisfied its raging appetite by feeding upon
two or three little clay men specially prepared for his
But, perhaps, among the most interesting of his toys were his
clay whistles. Some of these burnt or sun-dried toys were
hollow and in the shape of birds, beasts and insects. When blown
into, they would emit the shrillest kind of a whistle. In others
a reed whistle had been placed similar to those in the dolls, and
these usually had a bellows to blow them. Whether cock or hen,
dog or child, they all crowed, barked, cackled, or cried in the
"What will you get to-morrow?"
"Drums, knives, and tops," said Mr. Hsin. He was being paid by
the day for spending our money, and so had his plans well laid.
The following evening he brought a large collection of toy drums,
some of which were in the shape of a barrel, both in their length
and in being bulged out at the middle. On the ends were painted
gay pictures of men and women clad in battle-array or festive
garments, making the drum a work of art as well as an instrument
of torture to those who are disturbed by noises about the house.
He had large knives covered with bright paint which could easily
be washed off, and tridents, with loose plates or cymbals, which
make a noise to frighten the enemy.
The tops Mr. Hsin had collected were by far the most interesting.
Chinese tops are second to none made. They are simple, being made
of bamboo, are spun with a string, and when properly operated
emit a shrill whistle.
The ice top, without a stem, and simply a block of wood in shape
of a top, is spun with a string, but is kept going by whipping.
Another toy which foreigners call a top is entirely different
from anything we see in the West. The Chinese call it
a K'ung chung, while the top is called t'o lo. It is
constructed of two pieces of bamboo, each of which is made
like a top, and then joined by a carefully turned axle, each
end being of equal weight, and looking not unlike the
wheels of a cart. It is then spun by a string, which is
wound once around the axle and attached to two sticks.
A good performer is able to spin it in a great variety of
ways, tossing it under and over his foot, spinning it with
the sticks behind him, and at times throwing it up into the
air twenty or thirty feet and catching it as it comes down.
The principle upon which it is operated is the quick jerking
of one of the sticks while the other is allowed to be loose.
"To-morrow," said Mr. Hsin, as he ceased spinning the top, "I
will get you some toy carts."
The Chinese cart has been described as a Saratoga trunk
on two wheels. This is, however, only one form--that of
the passenger cart. There are many others, and all of them
are used as patterns of toy carts. They all have a kind of
music-box attachment, operated by the turning of the axle
to which the wheels of the toys, as well as those of some of
the real carts, are fixed.
The toy carts are made of tin, wood and clay. Some of
them are very simple, having paper covers, while others
possess the whole paraphernalia of the street carts. When
the mule of the toy cart is unhitched and unharnessed, he
looks like a very respectable mule. Nevertheless, instead of
devouring food, he becomes the prey of insects. Usually
he appears the second season, if he lasts that long, bereft of
mane and tail, as well as a large portion of his skin.
The flat carts have a revolving peg sticking up through
the centre, on which a small clay image is placed which
turns with the stick. Others are placed on wires on the
two sides, to represent the driver and the passengers.
These in Peking are the omnibus carts. Running from the east gate
of the Imperial city to the front gate, and in other parts of the
city as well, there are street carts corresponding to the omnibus
or street cars of the West. These start at intervals of ten
minutes, more or less, with eight or ten persons on a cart, the
fare being only a few cash. Toy carts of this kind have six or
eight clay images to represent the passengers.
Mr. Hsin brought out from the bottom of his basket a
number of neatly made little pug dogs, and pressing upon a
bellows in their body caused them to bark, just as the hen
cackled a few days before.
What we have described formed only a small portion of
the toys Mr. Hsin brought. Cheap clay toys of all kinds
are hawked about the street by a man who sells them at a
fifth or a tenth of a cent apiece. With him is often found
a candy-blower, who with a reed and a bowl of taffy-
candy is ready to blow a man, a chicken, a horse and cart,
a corn ear, or anything else the child wants, as a glass-
blower would blow a bottle or a lamp chimney. The child
plays with his prize until he tires of it and then he eats it.
It was on a bright spring afternoon that a Chinese official and
his little boy called at our home on Filial Piety Lane, in
The dresses of father and child were exactly alike--as
though they had been twins, boots of black velvet or satin,
blue silk trousers, a long blue silk garment, a waistcoat of
blue brocade, and a black satin skullcap--the child was in
every respect, even to the dignity of his bearing, a vest-
pocket edition of his father.
He had a T'ao of books which I recognized as the Fifteen
Magic Blocks, one of the most ingenious, if not the most
remarkable, books I have ever seen.
A T'ao is two or any number of volumes of a book wrapped in a
single cover. In this case it was two volumes. In the inside of
the cover there was a depression three inches square in which was
kept a piece of lead, wood or pasteboard, divided into fifteen
pieces as in the following illustration.
These blocks are all in pairs except one, which is a rhomboid.
They are all exactly proportional, having their sides either
half-inch, inch, inch and a half, or two inches in length.
They are not used as are the blocks in our kindergarten
simply to make geometrical figures, but rather to illustrate
such facts of history as will have a moral influence, or be an
intellectual stimulus to the child.
He may build houses with them, or make such ancient or
modern ornaments, or household utensils, as may suit his
fancy; but the primary object of the blocks and the books,
is to impress upon the child's mind, in the most forcible
way possible, the leading facts of history, poetry, mythology
or morals; while the houses, boats and other things are
simply side issues.
The first illustration the child constructed for me, for I
desired him to teach me how it was done, was a dragon horse, and
when I asked him to explain it, he said that it represented the
animal seen by Fu Hsi, the original ancestor of the Chinese
people, emerging from the Meng river, bearing upon its back a map
on which were fifty-five spots, representing the male and female
principles of nature, and which the sage used to construct what
are called the eight diagrams.
The child tossed the blocks off into a pile and then constructed
a tortoise which he said was seen by Yu, the Chinese Noah, coming
out of the Lo river, while he was draining off the floods. On its
back was a design which he used as a pattern for the nine
divisions of his empire.
These two incidents are referred to by Confucius, and are among
the first learned by every Chinese child.
I looked through the book and noticed that many of the
designs were for the amusement of the children, as well
as to develop their ingenuity. In the two volumes of the
T'ao he had only the outlines of the pictures which he
readily constructed with the blocks. But he had with him
also a small volume which was a key to the designs having
lines indicating how each block was placed. This he had
purchased for a few cash. Much of the interest of the book,
however, attached to the puzzling character of the pictures.
There was one with a verse attached somewhat like the following:
The old wife drew a chess-board
On the cover of a book,
While the child transformed a needle
Into a fishing-hook.
Chinese literature is full of examples of men and women
who applied themselves to their books with untiring
diligence. Some tied their hair to the beam of their humble
cottage so that when they nodded with sleepiness the jerk
would awake them and they might return to their books.
Others slept upon globular pillows that when they
became so restless as to move and cause the pillow to roll
from under their head they might get up and study.
The child once more took the blocks and illustrated how one who
was so poor as to be unable to furnish himself with candles,
confined a fire-fly in a gauze lantern using that instead of a
lamp. At the same time he explained that another who was perhaps
not able to afford the gauze lantern, studied by the light of a
"K'ang Heng," said the child, as he put the blocks together in a
new form, "had a still better way, as well as more economical.
His house was built of clay, and as the window of his neighbor's
house was immediately opposite, he chiseled a hole through his
wall and thus took advantage of his neighbor's light.
"Sun K'ang's method was very good for winter," continued the
child as he rearranged the blocks, "but I do not know what he
would do in summer. He studied by the light reflected from the
"Perhaps," he went on as he changed the form, "he followed
the example of another who studied by the pale light of the
"What does that represent?" I asked him pointing to a child with
a bowl in his hand who looked as if he might have been going to
"Oh, that boy is going to buy wine."
The Chinese have never yet realized what a national evil
liquor may become. They have little wine shops in the
great cities, but they have no drinking houses corresponding
to the saloon, and it is not uncommon to see a child going
to the wine shop to fetch a bowl of wine. The Buddhist
priest indulges with the same moderation as the official class
or gentry. Indeed most of the drunkenness we read about
in Chinese books is that of poets and philosophers, and in
them it is, if not commended, at least not condemned.
The attitude of literature towards them is much like that of
Thackeray towards the gentlemen of his day.
The child constructed the picture of a Buddhist priest, who, with
staff in hand, and a mug of wine, was viewing the beautiful
mountains in the distance. He then changed it to one in which an
intoxicated man was leaning on a boy's shoulder, the inscription
to which said: "Any one is willing to assist a drunken man to
"This," he went on as he changed his blocks, "is a picture of Li
Pei, China's greatest poet. He lived more than a thousand years
ago. This represents the closing scene in his life. He was
crossing the river in a boat, and in a drunken effort to
get the moon's reflection from the water, he fell overboard
and was drowned." The child pointed to the sail at the
same time, repeating the following:
The sail being set,
He tried to get,
The moon from out the main.
I noticed a large number of boat scenes and induced the
child to construct some of them for me, which he was quite
willing to do, explaining them as he went as readily as our
children would explain Old Mother Hubbard or the Old
Woman who Lived in her Shoe, by seeing the illustrations.
Constructing one he repeated a verse somewhat like the following:
Alone the fisherman sat,
In his boat by the river's brink,
In the chill and cold and snow,
To fish, and fish, and think.
Then he turned over to two on opposite pages, and as he
constructed them he repeated in turn:
In a stream ten thousand li in length
He bathes his feet at night,
While on a mount he waves his arms,
Ten thousand feet in height.
The ten thousand li in one couplet corresponds to the
ten thousand feet in the other, while the bathing of the
feet corresponds to the waving of the arms. Couplets of
this kind are always attractive to the Chinese child as well
as to the scholar, and poems and essays are replete with
The child enjoyed making the pictures. I tried to make
one, but found it very difficult. I was not familiar with the
blocks. It is different now, I have learned how to make
them. Then it seemed as if it would be impossible ever to
do so. When I had failed to make the picture I turned them
over to him. In a moment it was done.
"Who is it?" I asked.
"Chang Ch'i, the poet," he answered. "Whenever he went for a walk
he took with him a child who carried a bag in which to put the
poems he happened to write. In this illustration he stands with
his head bent forward and his hands behind his back lost in
thought, while the lad stands near with the bag."
We have given in another chapter the story of the great
traveller, Chang Ch'ien, and his search for the source of the
In one of the illustrations the child represented him in his boat
in a way not very different from that of the artist.
Another quotation from one of the poets was illustrated as
Last night a meeting I arranged,
Ere I my lamp did light,
Nor while I crossed the ferry feared,
Or wind or rain or night.
The child's eyes sparkled as he turned to some of those
illustrating children at play, and as he constructed one which
represents two children swinging their arms and running,
See the children at their
Gathering flowers by the
"They are gathering pussy-willows," he added.
In another he represented a child standing before the
front gate, where he had knocked in vain to gain admission.
As he completed it he said, pointing to the apricot
over the door:
Ten times he knocked upon the gate,
But nine, they opened not,
Above the wall he plainly saw,
A ripe, red apricot.
He continued to represent quotations from the poets and explain
them as he went along.
There was one which indicated that some one was ascending
the steps to the jade platform on which the dust had settled
as it does on everything in Peking; at the same time the
verse told us that
Step by step we reach the platform,
All of jade of purest green,
Call a child to come and sweep it,
But he cannot sweep it clean.
"You know," he went on, "the cottages of many of the
poets were near the beautiful lakes in central China, in the
wild heights of the mountains, or upon the banks of some
flowing stream. In this one the pavilion of the poet is on
the bank of the river, and we are told that,
In his cottage sat the poet
Thinking, as the moon went by,
That the moonlight on the water,
Made the water like the sky."
Changing it somewhat he made a cottage of a different kind. This
was not made for the picture's sake, but to illustrate a sentence
it was designed to impress upon the child's mind. The quotation
is somewhat as follows:
The ringing of the evening bells,
The moon a crescent splendid,
The rustling of the swallow's wings
Betoken winter ended.
The child looked up at me significantly as he turned to
one which represented a Buddhist priest. I expected something of
a joke at the priest's expense as in the nursery rhymes and
games, but there was none. That would injure the sale of the
book. The inscription told us that "a Buddhist lantern will
reflect light enough to illuminate the whole universe."
Turning to the next page we found a priest sitting in
front of the temple in the act of beating his wooden drum,
while the poet exclaims:
O crystal pool and silvery moon,
So clear and pure thou art,
There's nought to which thou wilt compare
Except a Buddha's heart.
The child next directed our attention to various kinds of
flowers, more especially the marigold. A man in a boat rows with
one hand while he points backward to the blossoming marigold,
while in another picture the poet tells us that,
Along the eastern wall,
We pluck the marigold,
While on the south horizon,
The mountain we behold.
"What is that?" I asked as he turned to a picture of an old man
riding on a cow.
"That is Laotze, the founder of Taoism, crossing the frontier at
the Han Ku Pass between Shansi and Shensi, riding upon a cow.
Nobody knows where he went."
There were other pictures of Taoist patriarchs keeping sheep. By
their magic power they turned the sheep into stones when they
were tired watching them, and again the inscriptions told us,
"the stones became sheep at his call." Still others represented
them in search of the elixir of life, while in others they
were riding on a snail.
The object of thus bringing in incidents from all these
Buddhist, Taoist, Confucian, and other sources is that by
catering to all classes the book may have wide distribution, and
whatever the Confucianist may say, it must be admitted that the
other religions have a strong hold upon the popular mind.
The last twenty-six illustrations in Vol. I represent various
incidents in the life, history and employments of women.
The first of these is an ancient empress "weaving at night by her
Another represents a woman in her boat and we are told that,
"leaving her oar she leisurely sang a song entitled, 'Plucking
the Caltrops.' "
Another represents a woman "wearing a pomegranate-colored
dress riding a pear-blossom colored horse." A peculiar
combination to say the least.
The fisherman's wife is represented in her boat, "making her
toilet at dawn using the water as a mirror." While we are assured
also that the woman sitting upon her veranda "finds it very
difficult to thread her needle by the pale light of the moon,"
which fact, few, I think, would question.
In one of the pictures "a beautiful maiden, in the bright
moonlight, came beneath the trees." This is evidently contrary to
Chinese ideas of propriety, for the Classic for girls tells us
that a maiden should not go out at night except in company with a
servant bearing a lantern. As it was bright moonlight, however,
let us hope she was excusable.
This sauntering about in the court is not uncommon if we believe
what the books say, for in the next picture we are told that:
As near the middle summer-house,
The maiden sauntered by,
Upon the jade pin in her hair
There lit a dragon-fly.
The next illustration represented the wife of the famous poet
Ssu-Ma Hsiang-Ju in her husband's wine shop.
This poet fell in love with the widowed daughter of a wealthy
merchant, the result of which was that the young couple eloped
and were married; and as the daughter was disinherited by her
irate parent, she was compelled to wait on customers in her
husband's wine shop, which she did without complaint. In spite of
their imprudent conduct, and for the time, its unhappy results,
as soon as the poet had become so famous as to be summoned to
court, the stern father relented, and, as it was a case of
undoubted affection, which the Chinese readily appreciate they
have always had the sympathy of the whole Chinese people.
One of the most popular women in Chinese history is Mu Lan, the
A Chinese Joan of Arc. Her father, a great general, being too old
to take charge of his troops, and her brothers too young, she
dressed herself in boy's clothing, enrolled herself in the army,
mounted her father's trusty steed, and led his soldiers to
battle, thus bringing honor to herself and renown upon her
We have already seen how diligent some of the ancient worthies
were in their study. This, however, is not universal, for we are
told the mother of Liu Kung-cho, in order to stimulate her son to
study took pills made of bear's gall and bitter herbs, to show
her sympathy with her boy and lead him to feel that she was
willing to endure bitterness as well as he.
The last of these examples of noble women is that of the wife of
Liang Hung, a poor philosopher of some two thousand years ago. An
effort was made to engage him to Meng Kuang, the daughter of a
rich family, whose lack of beauty was more than balanced by her
remarkable intelligence. The old philosopher feared that family
pride might cause domestic infelicity. The girl on her part
steadfastly refused to marry any one else, declaring that unless
she married Liang Hung, she would not marry at all. This
unexpected constancy touched the old man's heart and he married
her. She dressed in the most common clothing, always prepared
his food with her own hand, and to show her affection and
respect never presented him with the rice-bowl without raising it
to the level of her eyebrows, as in the illustration.
It may be interesting to see some of the ornaments and
utensils the child made with his blocks. I shall therefore
add three, a pair of scissors, a teapot, and a seal with a
Such is in general the character of the book the official's
little boy had with him. I afterwards secured several copies
for myself and learned to make all the pictures first shown
me by the child, and I discovered that it is but one of
several forms of what we may call kindergarten work, that
it has gone through many editions, and is very widely
distributed. My own set contains 216 illustrations such as I
CHILDREN'S SHOWS AND ENTERTAINMENTS
My little girl came running into my study greatly excited
"Papa, the monkey show, the monkey show. We want the monkey show,
may we have it?"
Now if you had but one little girl, and she wanted a monkey show
to come into your own court and perform for her and her little
friends for half an hour, the cost of which was the modest sum of
five cents, what would you do?
You would do as I did, no doubt, go out with the little girl,
call in the passing showman and allow him to perform, which would
serve the triple purpose of furnishing relaxation and instruction
for yourself, entertainment for the children, and business for
This however proved to be not the monkey show but Punch and Judy,
a species of entertainment for children, the exact counterpart of
our own entertainment of that name. It may be of interest to
young readers to know how this show originated, and I doubt not
it will be a surprise to some older ones to know that it dates
back to about the year 1000 B. C.
We are told that while the Emperor Mu of the Chou dynasty was
making a tour of his empire, a skillful mechanic, Yen Shih by
name, was brought into his presence and entertained him and the
women of his seraglio with a dance performed by automaton
figures, which were capable not only of rhythmical movements of
their limbs, but of accompanying their movements with songs.
During and at the close of the performance, the puppets cast such
significant glances at the ladies as to anger the monarch, and he
ordered the execution of the originator of the play.
The mechanic however ripped open the puppets, and proved to his
astonished majesty that they were only artificial objects, and
instead of being executed he was allowed to repeat his
performance. This was the origin of the play in China which
corresponds to Punch and Judy in Europe and America.
To the question which naturally arises as to how the play was
carried to the West, I reply, it may not have been carried to
Europe at all, but have originated there. From marked
similarities in the two plays however, and more especially in the
methods of their production, we may suppose that the Chinese
Punch and Judy was carried to Europe in the following way:
Among the many traders who visited Central Asia while it was
under the government of the family of Genghis Khan, were two
Venetian brothers, Maffeo and Nicolo Polo, whose wondering
disposition and trading interests led them as far as the court of
the Great Khan, where they remained in the most intimate
relations with Kublai for some time, and were finally sent back
to Italy with a request that one hundred European scholars be
sent to China to instruct them in the arts of Europe.
This request was never carried out, but the two returned
to the Khan's court with young Marco, the son of one of
them, who remained with the Mongol Emperor for seventeen years,
during which time he had a better opportunity of observing their
customs than perhaps any other foreigner since his time. His
final return to Italy was in 1295, and a year or two later, he
wrote and revised his book of travels.
The art of printing in Europe was discovered in 1438, and the
first edition of Marco Polo's travels was printed about 1550-59.
Our Punch and Judy was invented by Silvio Fiorillo an Italian
dramatist before the year 1600. I have found no reference to the
play in Marco Polo's works, nevertheless, one cannot but think
that, if not a written, at least an oral, communication of the
play may have been carried to Europe by him or some other of the
Italian traders or travellers. The two plays are very similar,
even to the tones of the man who works the puppets.
In passing the school court on one occasion I saw the
students gathered in a crowd under the shade of the trees.
A small tent was pitched, on the front of which was a little
stage. A manager stood behind the screen from which
position he worked a number of puppets in the form of
men, women, children, horses and dragons. These were
suspended by black threads as I afterwards discovered from
small sticks or a framework which the manager manipulated
behind the screen. When one finished its part of the
performance, it either walked off the stage, or the stick was
fastened in such a way as to leave it in a position conducive
to the amusement of the crowd. These were puppet shows, and were
put through entire performances or plays, the manager doing the
talking as in Punch and Judy.
After the performance several of the students passed around the
hat, each person present giving one-fifth or one-tenth of a cent.
As I came from school one afternoon, the children had called in
from the street a showman with a number of trained mice. He had
erected a little scaffolding just inside the gateway, at one side
of which there was a small rope ladder, and this with the
inevitable gong, and the small boxes in which the mice were kept
constituted his entire outfit.
In the boxes he had what seemed to be cotton from the milk-weed
which furnished a nest for the mice. These he took from their
little boxes one by one, stroked them tenderly, while he
explained what this particular mouse would do, put each one on
the rope ladder, which they ascended, and performed the tricks
expected of them. These were going through a pagoda, drawing
water, creeping through a tube, wearing a criminal's collar,
turning a tread-mill, or working some other equally simple trick.
At times the mice had to be directed by a small stick in the
hands of the manager, but they were carefully trained, kindly
treated, and much appreciated by the children.
Although less attractive, there is no other show which impresses
itself so forcibly on the child's mind as the monkey, dog and
The dog was the first to perform. Four hoops were placed on the
corners of a square, ten feet apart. The dog walked around
through these hoops, first through each in order, then turning
went through each twice, then through one and retracing his steps
went through the one last passed through.
The showman drove an iron peg in the ground on which were two
blocks representing millstones. To the upper one was a lever by
which the dog with his nose turned the top millstone as if
grinding flour. He was hitched to a wheelbarrow, the handles of
which were held by the monkey, who pushed while the dog pulled.
The most interesting part of the performance, however, was by the
monkey. Various kinds of hats and false faces were kept in a box
which he opened and secured. He stalked about with a cane in his
hand, or crosswise back of his neck, turned handsprings, went
through various trapeze performances, such as hanging by his
legs, tail, chin, and hands, or was whirled around in the air.
The leading strap of the monkey was finally tied to the belt of
the sheep which was led away to some distance and let go. The
monkey bounded upon its back and held fast to the wool, while the
sheep ran with all its speed to the showman, who held a basin of
broom-corn seed as a bait. This was repeated as often as the
children desired, which ended the show. Time,--half an hour;
spectators,--all who desired to witness it; price,--five cents.
The showmen in China are somewhat like the tramps and beggars in
other countries. When they find a place where there are children
who enjoy shows, each tells the other, and they all call around
Our next show was an exhibition given by a man with a trained
The animal had two rings in his nose, to one of which was
fastened a leading string or strap, and to the other, while
performing, a large chain. A man stood on one end of the chain,
and the manager, with a long-handled ladle, or with his hand,
gave the bear small pieces of bread or other food after each
trick he performed.
The first trick was walking on his hind feet as if dancing. But
more amusing than this to the children was to see him turn
summersaults both forward and backward. These were repeated
several times because they were easily done, and added to the
length of time the show continued.
Children, however, begin to appreciate at an early age what
is difficult and what easy, and it was not until he took a
carrying-pole six feet long, put the middle of it upon his
forehead and set it whirling with his paws, that they began to
"That's good," "That's hard to do," and other expressions
of a like nature.
They enjoyed seeing him stand on his front feet, or on his
head with his hind feet kicking the air, but they enjoyed
still more seeing him put on the wooden collar of a convict
and twirl it around his neck. The manager gave him some
bread and then tried to induce him to take it off, but he
whined for more bread and refused to do so. Finally he
took off the collar, and when they tried to take it from him
he put it on again. When he took it off the next time and
offered it to them they refused to receive it, but tried to get
him to put it on, which he stubbornly refused to do, and
finally threw it away.
His last trick was to sit down upon his haunches, stick up one of
his hind feet, and twirl a knife six feet long upon it as he had
twirled the carrying-pole upon his head. The manager said he
would wrestle with the men, but this was a side issue and only
done when extra money was added to the regular price, which was
One of the most common showmen seen on the streets of Peking,
goes about with a framework upon his shoulder in the shape of a
sled, the runners of which are turned up at both ends. It seemed
to me to be less interesting than the other shows, but as it is
more common, the children probably look upon it with more favor,
and the children are the final critics of all things for the
The show was given by a man and two boys, one of whom
impersonated a girl. Small feet, like the bound feet of a girl,
were strapped on like stilts, his own being covered by wide
trousers, and he and the boy sang songs and danced to the music
of the drum and cymbals in the hands of the showman.
The second part of the performance was a boat ride on dry land.
The girl got into the frame, let down around it a piece of cloth
which was fastened to the top, and took hold of the frame in such
a way as to carry it easily. The boy, with a long stick, pushed
as if starting the boat, and then pulled as if rowing, and with
every pull of the oar, the girl ran a few steps, making it appear
that the boat shot forward. All the while the boy sang a
boat-song or a love-ditty to his sweetheart.
Again the scene changed. The head and hind parts of a papier
mache horse were fastened to the "tomboy" in such a way as to
make it appear that she was riding; a cloth was let down to hide
her feet, and they ran to and fro, one in one direction and the
other in the other, she jerking her unmanageable steed, and he
singing songs, and all to the music of the drum and the cymbals.
It sometimes happens that while the girl rides the horse, the boy
goes beside her in the boat, the rapidity and character of their
movements being governed by the music of the manager.
The best part of the whole performance was that which goes by the
name of the lion show. The girl took off her small feet and
girl's clothes and became a boy again. One of the boys stood up
in front and put on an apron of woven grass, while the other bent
forward and clutched hold of his belt. A large papier mache head
of a lion was put on the front boy, to which was attached a
covering of woven grass large enough to cover them both, while a
long tail of the same material was stuck into a framework
fastened to the belt of the hinder boy.
The manager beat the drum, the lion stalked about the court,
keeping step to the music, turning its large head in every
direction and opening and shutting its mouth, much to the
amusement of the children.
There is probably no country in the world that has more
travelling shows specially prepared for the entertainment of
children than China. Scarcely a day passes that we do not hear
the drum or the gong of the showmen going to and fro, or standing
at our court gate waiting to be called in.
"How is that?"
"Can you do it?" asked the sleight-of-hand performer, as he
rolled a little red ball between his finger and thumb, pitched it
up, caught it as it came down, half closed his hand and blew into
it, opened his hand and the ball had disappeared.
He picked up another ball, tossed it up, caught it in his
mouth, dropped it into his hand, and it mysteriously disappeared.
The juggler was seated on the ground with a piece of blue cloth
spread out before him, on which were three cups, and five little
red wax balls nearly as large as cranberries.
He continued to toss the wax balls about until they had all
disappeared. We watched him closely, but could not discover where
they had gone. He then arose, took a small portion of my coat
sleeve between his thumb and finger, began rubbing them together,
and by and by, one of the balls appeared between his digits. He
picked at a small boy's ear and got another of the balls. He blew
his nose and another dropped upon the cloth. He slapped the top
of his head and one dropped out of his mouth, and he took the
fifth from a boy's hair.
He then changed his method. He placed the cups' mouths down upon
the cloth, and under one of them put the five little balls. When
he placed the cup we watched carefully; there were no balls under
it. When he raised it up, behold, there were the five little
He removed the cups from one place to another, and asked us to
guess which cup the balls were under, but we were always wrong.
There was a large company of us, ranging from children of three
to old men and women of seventy-five, and from Chinese schoolboys
to a bishop of the church, but none of us could discover how he
Later, however, I learned how the trick was performed. As he
raised the cup with his thumb and forefinger, he inserted two
other fingers under, gathered up all the balls between them and
placed them under the cup as he put it down. While in making the
balls disappear, he concealed them either in his mouth or between
The Chinese have a saying:
In selecting his balls from north to south,
The magician cannot leave his mouth;
And in rolling his balls, you understand,
He must have them hidden in his hand.
Of quite a different character are the jugglers with plates
and bowls. Not only children, but many of a larger growth
delight to watch these. Our only way of learning about them was
to call them into our court as the Chinese call them to theirs,
and that is what we did.
The performer first put a plate on the top of a trident and
set it whirling. In this whirling condition he put the trident
on his forehead where he balanced it, the trident whirling
with the plate as though boring into his skull.
He next took a bamboo pole six feet long, with a nail in
the end on which he set the plate whirling. The plate, of
course, had a small indentation to keep it in its place on the
nail. He raised the plate in the air and inserted into the
first pole another of equal length, then another and still
another, which put the plate whirling in the air thirty feet
Thus whirling he balanced it on his hand, on his arm, on his
thumb, on his forehead, and finally in his mouth, after which he
tossed the plate up, threw the pole aside and caught it as it
came down. The old manager standing by received the pole, but as
he saw the plate tossed up, he fell flat upon the earth,
screaming lest the plate be broken.
This same performer set a bowl whirling on the end of a
chop-stick. Then tossing the bowl up he caught it inverted
on the chop-stick, and made it whirl as rapidly as possible. In
this condition he tossed it up ten, then fifteen, then twenty or
more feet into the air catching it on the chop-stick as it came
He then changed the process. He tossed the bowl a foot
high, and struck it with the other chop-stick one, two, three,
four or five times before it came down, and this he did so
rapidly and regularly as to make it sound almost like
music. There is a record of one of the ancient poets who
was able to play a tune with his bowl and chop-sticks
after having finished his meal. He may have done it in this way.
This trick seemed a very difficult performance. It excited
the children, and some of the older persons clapped their
hands and exclaimed, "Very good, very good." But when
he tossed it only a foot high and let go the chop-stick, making
it change ends, and catching the bowl, they were ready
for a general applause. In striking the bowl and thus
manipulating his chop-sticks, his hands moved almost as
rapidly as those of an expert pianist.
"Can you toss the knives?" piped up one of the children
who had seen a juggler perform this difficult feat.
The man picked up two large knives about a foot long and began
tossing them with one hand. While this was going on a third knife
was handed him and he kept them going with both hands. At times
he threw them under his leg or behind his back, and at other
times pitched them up twenty feet high, whirling them as rapidly
as possible and catching them by the handles as they came down.
While doing this he passed one of the knives to the attendant who
gave him a bowl, and he kept the bowl and two knives going. Then
he gave the attendant another knife and received a ball, and the
knife, the ball and the bowl together, the ball and bowl at times
moving as though the former were glued to the bottom of the
These were not all the tricks he could perform but they
were all he would perform in addition to his bear show for
twelve cents--for this was the man with the bear--so the
children allowed him to go.
Some weeks later they called in a different bear show. This bear
was larger and a better performer, but his tricks were about the
The juggler in addition to doing all we have already described
performed also the following tricks.
He first put one end of an iron rod fifteen inches long in his
mouth. On this he placed a small revolving frame three by six
inches. He set a bowl whirling on the end of a bamboo splint
fifteen inches long, the other end of which he rested on one side
of the frame, balancing the whole in his mouth.
While the bowl continued whirling, he took the frame off
the rod, stuck the bamboo in a hole in the frame an inch
from the end, resting the other end of the frame on the rod,
brought the bowl over so as to obtain a centre of gravity
and thus balanced it.
He took two small tridents a foot or more in length, put
the end of the handle of one in his mouth, set the bowl
whirling on the end of the handle of the other, rested the
middle prong of one on the middle prong of the other and
let it whirl with the bowl. Afterwards he set the prong of
the whirling trident on the edge of the other and let it whirl.
He took two long curved boar's teeth which were fastened on the
ends of two sticks, one a foot long, the other six inches. The
one he held in his mouth, the other having a hole diagonally
through the stick, he inserted a chop-stick making an angle of
seventy degrees. He set the bowl whirling on the end of the
chop-stick, rested one tooth on the other, in the indentation and
they whirled like a brace and bit.
Finally he took a spiral wire having a straight point on
each end. This he called a dead dragon. He set the bowl
whirling on one end, placing the other on the small frame
already referred to. As the spiral wire began to turn as
though boring, he called it a living dragon. These feats of
balancing excited much wonder and merriment on the part
of the children.
The juggler then took an iron trident with a handle four
and a half feet long and an inch and a half thick, and,
pitching it up into the air, caught it on his right arm as it
came down. He allowed it to roll down his right arm, across his
back, and along his left arm, and as he turned his body he kept
the trident rolling around crossing his back and breast and
giving it a new impetus with each arm. The trident had on it two
cymbal-shaped iron plates which kept up a constant rattling.
This showman had with him three boy acrobats whose skill he
proceeded to show.
"Pitch the balls," he said.
The largest of the three boys fastened a cushioned band, on which
was a leather cup, around his head, the cup being on his forehead
just between his eyes.
He took two wooden balls, two and a half inches in diameter,
tossed them in the air twenty feet high, catching them in the cup
as they came down. The shape of the cup was such as to hold the
balls by suction when they fell. He never once missed. This is
the most dangerous looking of all the tricks I have seen jugglers
"Shooting stars," said the showman.
The boy tossed aside his cup and balls and took a string six feet
long, on the two ends of which were fastened wooden balls two
and a half inches in diameter. He set the balls whirling in
opposite directions until they moved so rapidly as to stretch the
string, which he then held in the middle with finger and thumb
and by a simple motion of the hand kept the balls whirling.
He was an expert, and changed the swinging of the balls
in as many different ways as an expert club-swinger could
"Boy acrobats," called out the manager, as the manipulator of the
"shooting stars" bowed himself out amid the applause of the
The two smaller boys threw off their coats, hitched up
their trousers--always a part of the performance whether
necessary or not--and began the high kick, high jump,
handspring, somersault, wagon wheel, ending with hand-
spring, and bending backwards until their heads touched
One of them stood on two benches a foot high, put a
handkerchief on the ground, and bending backwards, picked
it up with his teeth.
The two boys then clasped each other around the waist,
as in the illustration, and each threw the other back over his
head a dozen times or more.
Exit the bear show with the boy acrobats, enter the old
woman juggler with her husband who beats the gong.
This was one of the most interesting performances I have
ever seen in China, perhaps because so unexpected.
The old woman had small, bound feet. She lay flat on her
back, stuck up her feet, and her husband put a crock a foot
in diameter and a foot and a half deep upon them. She set
it rolling on her feet until it whirled like a cylinder. She
tossed it up in such a way as to have it light bottom side up
on her "lillies," in which position she kept it whirling.
Tossing it once more it came down on the side, and again
tossing it she caught it right side up on her small feet,
keeping it whirling all the time.
 Small feet of the Chinese woman.
My surprise was so great that I gave the old woman ten
cents for performing this single trick.
The tricks of sleight-of-hand performers are well-nigh
without number. Some of them are easily understood,--surprising,
however, to children--and often interesting to grown people,
while others are very clever and not so easily understood.
Instead of the hat from which innumerable small packages
are taken, the Chinese magician had two hollow cylinders,
which exactly fit into each other, that he took out of a box
and placed upon a cylindrical chest, and from these two
cylinders--each of which he repeatedly showed us as being
without top or bottom and empty--he took a dinner of
a dozen courses.
He called upon the baker to bring bread, the grocer to
bring vegetables, and after each call he took out of the
cylinders the thing called for. He finally called the wine
shop to bring wine, and removing both cylinders, he
exposed to the surprised children a large crock of wine.
As he brought out dish after dish, the children looked in
open-mouthed wonder, and asked papa, mama or nurse,
where he got them all, for they evidently were not in the
cylinders. But papa saw him all the time manipulating the
crock in the cylinder which he did not show, and he knew
that all these things were taken from and then returned to
this crock, while instead of being full of wine, he had only
a cup of wine in a false lid which exactly fitted the mouth
of the crock, and made it seem full.
When he had put away his crock and cylinders, he produced what
seemed to be two empty cups.
He presented them to us to show that they were empty,
then putting them mouth to mouth, and placing them on
the ground, he left them a moment, when with a "presto
change," and a wave of the hand, he removed the top cup
and revealed to the astonished children and some of the
children of a larger growth, a cup full of water with two or
three little fish or frogs therein.
On inquiry I was told that he had the under cup covered
with a thin film of water-colored material, and that as he
removed the top cup he removed also the film which left the
fish or frogs exposed to view.
This same juggler performed many tricks of producing
great dishes of water from under his garments, the mere
enumeration of which, might prove to be tiresome.
I was walking along the street one day near the mouth of
Filial Piety Lane where a large company of men and children
were watching a juggler, and from the trick I thought it worth
while to invite him in for the amusement of the children. He
promised to come about four o clock, which he did.
He first proceeded to eat a hat full of yellow paper, after
which, with a gag and a little puff, he pulled from his mouth
a tube of paper of the same color five or six yards long.
This was very skillfully performed and for a long time I
was not able to understand how he did it. But after awhile
I discovered that with the last mouthful of paper he put in a
small roll, the centre of which he started by puffing, and
this he pulled out in a long tube. He did it with so many
groanings and with such pain in the region of the stomach,
that attention was directed either to his stomach or the roll,
and taken away from his mouth.
"I shall eat these needles," said he, as he held up half a
dozen needles, "and then eat this thread, after which I shall
He did so. He grated his teeth together causing a sound
much like that of breaking needles. He pretended to swallow
them, working his tongue back and forth in his tightly
closed mouth, after which he drew forth the thread on
which all the needles were strung.
He had a number of small white bone needles which he
stuck into his nose and pulled out of his eyes, or which he
pushed up under his upper lip and took out of his eyes or
vice versa. How he performed the above trick I was not
able to discover. He seemed to put them through the tear
duct, but whether he did or not I cannot say. How he got
them from his mouth to his eyes unless he had punctured a
passage beneath the skin, is still to me a mystery.
His last trick was to swallow a sword fifteen inches long.
The sword was straight with a round point and dull edges.
There was no deception about this. He was an old man
and his front, upper teeth were badly worn away by the
constant rasping of the not over-smooth sword. He simply
put it in his mouth, threw back his head and stuck it down
his throat to his stomach.
STORIES TOLD TO CHILDREN
One hot summer afternoon as I lay in the hammock trying
to take a nap after a hard forenoon's work and a hearty
lunch, I heard the same old nurse who had told me my first
Chinese Mother Goose Rhymes, telling the following story
to the same little boy to whom she had repeated the "Mouse
and the Candlestick."
She told him that the Chinese call the Milky Way the
Heavenly River, and that the Spinning Girl referred to in the
story is none other than the beautiful big star in Lyra which
we call Vega, while the Cow-herd is Altair in Aquila.
THE HEAVENLY RIVER, WITH THE PEOPLE WHO DWELL THEREON.
Once upon a time there dwelt a beautiful maiden in a
quiet little village on the shore of the Heavenly River.
Her name was Vega, but the people of China have always
called her the Spinning Maiden, because of her faithfulness
to her work, for though days, and months, and years passed
away, she never left her loom.
Her diligence so moved the heart of her grandfather, the
King of Heaven, that he determined to give her a vacation,
which she at once decided to spend upon the earth.
In a village near where the maiden dwelt there was a
young man named Altair, whom the Chinese call the Cow-herd.
Now the Cow-herd was in love with the Spinning Girl, but
she was always so intent upon her work as never to give
him an opportunity to confess his affection, but now he
determined to follow her to earth, and, if possible, win her for
He followed her through the green fields and shady
groves, but never dared approach her or tell her of his love.
At last, however, the time came. He discovered her
bathing in a limpid stream, the banks of which were
carpeted with flowers, while myriad boughs of blossoming
peach and cherry trees hid her from all the world but him.
He secretly crept near and stole away and hid her garments made
of silken gauze and finely woven linen, making
it alike impossible for her to resist his suit or to return to
her celestial home.
She yielded to the Cow-herd and soon became his wife,
and as the years passed by a boy and girl were born to them,
little star children, twins, such as are seen near by the
Spinning Girl in her heavenly home to-day.
One day she went to her husband, and, bowing low, requested that
he return the clothes he had hid away, and he, thinking the
presence of the children a sufficient guaranty for her remaining
in his home, told her he had put them in an old, dry well hard by
the place where she had been bathing.
No sooner had she secured them than the aspect of their
home was changed. The Cow-herd's wife once more became
the Spinning Girl and hied her to her heavenly abode.
It so happened that her husband had a piece of cow-skin which
gave him power over earth and air. Snatching up this, with his
ox-goad, he followed in the footsteps of his fleeing wife.
Arriving at their heavenly home the happy couple sought
the joys of married life. The Spinning Girl gave up her loom,
and the Cow-herd his cattle, until their negligence annoyed
the King of Heaven, and he repented having let her leave
her loom. He called upon the Western Royal Mother for
advice. After consultation they decided that the two should
be separated. The Queen, with a single stroke of her great
silver hairpin, drew a line across the heavens, and from
that time the Heavenly River has flowed between them, and
they are destined to dwell forever on the two sides of the
What had seemed to the youthful pair the promise of
perpetual joy, became a condition of unending grief. They
were on the two sides of a bridgeless river, in plain sight of
each other, but forever debarred from hearing the voice or
pressing the land of the one beloved, doomed to perpetual
toil unlit by any ray of joy or hope.
Their evident affection and unhappy condition moved the
heart of His Majesty, and caused him to allow them to visit
each other once with each revolving year,--on the seventh
day of the seventh moon. But permission was not enough,
for as they looked upon the foaming waters of the turbulent
stream, they could but weep for their wretched condition,
for no bridge united its two banks, nor was it allowed that
any structure be built which would mar the contour of the
In their helplessness the magpies came to their rescue. At
early morn on the seventh day of the seventh moon, these
beautiful birds gathered in great flocks about the home of
the maiden, and hovering wing to wing above the river,
made a bridge across which her dainty feet might carry her
in safety. But when the time for separation came, the two
wept bitterly, and their tears falling in copious showers are
the cause of the heavy rains which fall at that season of the
From time immemorial it has been known that the Yellow
River is neither more nor less than a prolongation of the
Milky Way, soiled by earthly contact and contamination, and
that the homes of the Spinning Maiden and the Cow-herd
are the centres of two of the numerous villages that adorn its
banks. It is not to be wondered at, however, that in an evil and
skeptical world there should be many who doubt these facts.
On this account, and to forever settle the dispute, the
great traveller and explorer, Chang Ch'ien, undertook to
discover the source of the Yellow River. He first transformed
the trunk of a great tree into a boat, provided himself with the
necessities of life and started on his journey.
Days passed into weeks, and weeks became months as he sailed up
the murky waters of the turbid stream. But the farther he went
the clearer the waters became until it seemed as if they were
flowing over a bed of pure, white limestone. Village after
village was passed both on his right hand and on his left, and
many were the strange sights that met his gaze. The fields became
more verdant, the flowers more beautiful, the scenery more
gorgeous, and the people more like nymphs and fairies. The color
of the clouds and the atmosphere was of a richer, softer hue;
while the breezes which wafted his frail bark were milder and
gentler than any he had known before.
Despairing at last of reaching the source he stopped at a
village where he saw a maiden spinning and a young man
leading an ox to drink. He alighted from his boat and inquired of
the girl the name of the place, but she, without making reply,
tossed him her shuttle, telling him to return to his home and
inquire of the astrologer, who would inform him where he received
it, if he but told him when.
He returned and presented the shuttle to the noted
astrologer Chun Ping, informing him at the same time where,
when and from whom he had received it. The latter consulted
his observations and calculations and discovered that
on the day and hour when the shuttle had been given to
the traveller he had observed a wandering star enter and
leave the villages of the Spinning Girl and the Cow-herd,
which proved beyond doubt that the Yellow River is the
prolongation of the Milky Way, while the points of light
which we call stars, are the inhabitants of Heaven pursuing
callings similar to our own.
Chang Ch'ien made another important discovery, namely,
that the celestials, understanding the seasons better than
we, turn the shining dome in such a way as to make the
Heavenly River indicate the seasons of the year, and so the
Whene'er the Milky Way you spy,
Diagonal across the sky,
The egg-plant you may safely eat,
And all your friends to melons treat.
But when divided towards the west,
You'll need your trousers and your vest
When like a horn you see it float;
You'll need your trousers and your coat.
It is unnecessary to state that I did not go to sleep while
the old nurse was telling the story of the Heavenly River.
The child sat on his little stool, his elbows on his knees
and his chin resting in his hands, listening with open lips
and eyes sparkling with interest. To the old nurse it was
real. The spinning girl and the cow-herd were living
persons. The flowers bloomed,--we could almost smell their
odor,--and the gentle breezes seemed to fan our cheeks.
She had told the story so often that she believed it, and she
imparted to us her own interest.
"Nurse," said the child, "tell me about
" 'THE MAN IN THE MOON.' "
"The man in the moon," said the old nurse, "is called
Wu Kang. He was skilled in all the arts of the genii, and
was accustomed to play before them whenever opportunity
offered or occasion required.
"Once it turned out that his performances were displeasing
to the spirits, and for this offense he was banished
to the moon, and condemned to perpetual toil in hewing
down the cinnamon trees which grow there in great abundance.
At every blow of the axe he made an incision, but
only to see it close up when the axe was withdrawn.
"He had another duty, however, a duty which was at
times irksome, but one which on the whole was more
pleasant than any that falls to men or spirits,--the duty
indicated by the proverb that 'matches are made in the
"It was his lot to bind together the feet of all those on
earth who are destined to a betrothal, and in the performance
of this duty, he was often compelled to return to
earth. When doing so he came as an old man with long
white hair and beard, with a book in his hand in which he
had written the matrimonial alliances of all mankind. He
also carried a wallet which contains a ball of invisible cord
with which he ties together the feet of all those who are
destined to be man and wife, and the destinies which he
announces it is impossible to avoid.
"On one occasion he came to the town of Sung, and
while sitting in the moonlight, turning over the leaves of
his book of destinies, he was asked by Wei Ku, who
happened to be passing, who was destined to become his
bride. The old man consulted his records, as he answered:
'Your wife is the daughter of an old woman named Ch'en
who sells vegetables in yonder shop.'
"Having heard this, Wei Ku went the next day to look
about him and if possible to get a glimpse of the one to
whom the old man referred, but he discovered that the
only child the old woman had was an ill-favored one of
two years which she carried in her arms. He hired an
assassin to murder the infant, but the blow was badly
aimed and left only a scar on the child's eyebrow.
"Fourteen years afterwards, Wei Ku married a beautiful
maiden of sixteen whose only defect was a scar above the
eye, and on inquiries he discovered that she was the one
foretold by the Old Man of the Moon, and he recalled the
proverb that 'Matches are made in heaven, and the bond of
fate is sealed in the moon.' "
"Nurse, tell me about the land of the big people,"
whereupon the nurse told him of
THE LAND OF GIANTS.
"There was in ancient times a country east of Korea which
was called the land of the giants. It was celebrated for its
length rather than for its width, being bounded on all sides
by great mountain ranges, the like of which cannot be found
in other countries. It extends for thousands of miles along
the deep passes between the mountains, at the entrance to
which there are great iron gates, easily closed, but very
difficult to open.
"Many armies have made war upon the giants, among
which none have been more celebrated than those of Korea,
which embraces in its standing army alone many thousands
of men, but thus far they have never been conquered.
"Nor is this to be wondered at, for besides their great iron
gates, and numerous fortifications, the men are thirty feet
tall according to our measurement, have teeth like a saw,
hooked claws, and bodies covered with long black hair.
"They live upon the flesh of fowls and wild beasts which
are found in abundance in the mountain fastnesses, but they
do not cook their food. They are very fond of human
flesh, but they confine themselves to the flesh of enemies
slain in battle, and do not eat the flesh of their own people,
even though they be hostile, as this is contrary to the law
of the land.
"Their women are as large and fierce as the men, but their
duties are confined to the preparation of extra clothing for
winter wear, for although they are covered with hair it is
insufficient to protect them from the winter's cold."
While the old nurse was relating the tale of the giants I
could not but wonder whether there was not some relation
between that and the Brobdingnagians I had read about in
my youth. But I was not given much time to think. This
seemed to have been a story day, for the nurse had hardly
finished the tale till the child said:
"Now tell me about the country of the little people," and she
related the story of
THE LAND OF DWARFS.
"The country of the little people is in the west, where
the sun goes down.
"Once upon a time a company of Persian merchants were
making a journey, when by a strange mishap they lost their
way and came to the land of the little people. They were
at first surprised, and then delighted, for they discovered
that the country was not only densely populated with these
little people, who were not more than three feet high, but
that it was rich in all kinds of precious stones and rare and
"They discovered also that during the season of planting
and harvesting, they were in constant terror lest the great
multitude of cranes, which are without number in that
region, should swoop down upon them and eat both them
and their crops. They soon learned, however, that the little
people were under the protecting care of the Roman Empire,
whose interest in them was great, and her arm mighty, and
they were thus guarded from all evil influences as well as
from all danger. Nor was this a wholly unselfish interest
on the part of the Roman power, for the little people
repaid her with rich presents of the most costly gems,--
pearls, diamonds, rubies and other precious stones."
I need not say I was beginning to be surprised at the
number of tales the old woman told which corresponded
to those I had been accustomed to read and hear in my
childhood, nor was my surprise lessened when at his request
she told him how
THE SUN WENT BACKWARD.
"Once upon a time Lu Yang-kung was engaged in battle with Han
Kou-nan, and they continued fighting until nearly sundown. The
former was getting the better of the battle, but feared he would
lose it unless they fought to a finish before the close of day.
The sun was near the horizon, and the battle was not yet ended,
and the former, pointing his lance at the King of Day caused him
to move backward ten miles in his course."
"When did that happen?" inquired the child.
"The Chinese say it happened about three thousand years ago,"
replied the old nurse.
"Now tell me about the man who went to the fire star."
The old woman hesitated a moment as though she was trying to
recall something and then told him the story of
MARS, THE GOD OF WAR.
"Once upon a time there was a great rebel whose name
was Ch'ih Yu. He was the first great rebel that ever lived
in China. He did not want to obey the chief ruler, and
invented for himself warlike weapons, thinking that in this
way he might overthrow the government and place himself
upon the throne.
"He had eighty-one brothers, of whom he was the leader. They had
human speech, but bodies of beasts, foreheads of iron, and fed
upon the dust of the earth.
"When the time for the battle came, he called upon the
Chief of the Wind and the Master of the Rain to assist him,
and there arose a great tempest. But the Chief sent the
Daughter of Heaven to quell the storm, and then seized and
slew the rebel. His spirit ascended to the Fire-Star (Mars)
--the embodiment of which he was while upon earth,--
where it resides and influences the conduct of warfare even
to the present time."
"Tell me the story of the man who went to the mountain
to gather fire-wood and did not come home for such a
The old nurse began a story which as it progressed
reminded me of
RIP VAN WINKLE.
"A long time ago there lived a man named Wang Chih,
which in our language means 'the stuff of which kings
are made.' In spite of his name, however, he was only a
common husbandman, spending his summers in plowing,
planting and harvesting, and his winters in gathering
fertilizers upon the highways, and fire-wood in the mountains.
"On one occasion he wandered into the mountains of
Ch'u Chou, his axe upon his shoulder, hoping to find more
and better fire-wood than could be found upon his own
scanty acres, or the adjoining plain. While in the
mountains he came upon a number of aged men, in a beautiful
mountain grotto, intently engaged in a game of chess.
Wang was a good chess-player himself, and for the time
forgot his errand. He laid down his axe, stood silently
watching them, and in a very few moments was deeply
interested in the game.
"It was while he was thus watching them that one of
the old men, without looking up from the game, gave him
what seemed to be a date seed, telling him at the same time
to put it in his mouth. He did so, but no sooner had he
tasted it, than he lost all consciousness of hunger and thirst,
and continued to stand watching the players and the progress
of the game, thinking nothing of the flight of time.
"At last one of the old men said to him:
" 'You have been here a long time, ought you not to go home?'
"This aroused him from his reverie, and he seemed to
awake as from a dream, his interest in the game passed
away, and he attempted to pick up his axe, but found that
it was covered with rust and the handle had moulded away.
But while this called his attention to the fact that time had
passed, he felt not the burden of years.
"When he returned to the plain, and to what had formerly been his
home, he discovered that not only years but centuries had passed
away since he had left for the mountains, and that his relatives
and friends had all crossed to the 'Yellow Springs,' while all
records of his departure had long since been forgotten, and he
alone remained a relic of the past.
"He wandered up and down inquiring of the oldest people of all
the villages, but could discover no link which bound him to the
"He returned to the mountain grotto, devoted himself to
the study of the occult principles of the 'Old Philosopher'
until the material elements of his mortal frame were gradually
evaporated or sublimated, and without having passed
through the change which men call death, he became an
immortal spirit returning whence he came."
Just as the old woman finished this story, my teacher,
who always took a nap after lunch, ascended the steps.
"Ah, the story of Wang Chih."
"Do you know any of these stories?" I asked him as I sat down
"All children learn these stories in their youth," he
answered, and then as if fearing I would try to induce him to
tell them to me he continued, "but nurses always tell these
stories better than any one else, because they tell them so
often to the children, for whom alone they were made."