Part 2 out of 3
the magnates do so. They see that dukes and other peers are created
in Europe, and that the partners in the big, wealthy firms over there,
are called "merchant princes", and so to outdo them,
they arrogate to themselves a still higher title. Hence there are
railroad kings, copper kings, tobacco kings, etc. It is, however,
manifestly improper and incongruous that the people should possess
a higher title than their President, who is the head of the nation.
To make it even, I would suggest that the title "President"
be changed to "Emperor", for the following reasons: First,
it would not only do away with the impropriety of the chief magistrate
of the nation assuming a name below that of some of his people,
but it would place him on a level with the highest ruler of any nation
on the face of the earth. I have often heard the remark
that the President of the United States is no more than a common citizen,
elected for four years, and that on the expiration of his term
he reverts to his former humble status of a private citizen;
that he has nothing in common with the dignified majesty of an Emperor;
but were the highest official of the United States to be in future
officially known as Emperor, all these depreciatory remarks would fall
to the ground. There is no reason whatever why he should not be so styled,
as, by virtue of his high office, he possesses almost as much power
as the most aristocratic ruler of any nation. Secondly,
it would clearly demonstrate the sovereign power of the people;
a people who could make and unmake an Emperor, would certainly
be highly respected. Thirdly, the United States sends ambassadors
to Germany, Austria, Russia, etc. According to international law,
ambassadors have what is called the representative character,
that is, they represent their sovereign by whom they are delegated,
and are entitled to the same honors to which their constituent
would be entitled were he personally present. In a Republic
where the head of the State is only a citizen and the sovereign is the people,
it is only by a stretch of imagination that its ambassador can be said
to represent the person of his sovereign. Now it would be much more
in consonance with the dignified character of an American ambassador
to be the representative of an Emperor than of a simple President.
The name of Emperor may be distasteful to some, but may not a new meaning
be given to it? A word usually has several definitions.
Now, if Congress were to pass a law authorizing the chief magistrate
of the United States of America to be styled Emperor, such designation to mean
nothing more than the word "President", the title would soon be understood
in that sense. There is no reason in history or philology why
the word "Emperor" should never mean anything other than a hereditary ruler.
I make this suggestion seriously, and hope it will be adopted.
Marriage laws in the United States, as I understand them,
are more elastic than those in Europe. In England, until a few years ago,
a man could not contract a legal marriage with his deceased wife's sister,
although he could marry the betrothed wife of his deceased brother.
It is curious to compare the Chinese view of these two cases.
Marriage with a deceased wife's sister is, in China, not only lawful,
but quite common, while to marry a dead brother's betrothed
is strictly prohibited. Doubtless in the United States
both are recognized as legal. I was not, however, prepared to hear,
and when I did hear it, I could not at first believe
that a man is permitted to marry his deceased son's wife.
Let me quote from the "China Press" which has special facilities
for obtaining news from America. "Boston, March 24.
The engagement of Mrs. Katherine M. B., widow of Charles A. B.,
and daughter of George C. F., chairman of the ........, Board of ........,
to her father-in-law, Frank A. B., of ........, became known to-day.
Charles A. B. was killed at the ........ Road crossing in ........
on March 29, 1910, by a locomotive which struck a carriage
in which he was driving to the First Congregational Church,
to serve as best man at the wedding of Miss H. R. F.,
another daughter of S. F., to L. G. B. of ........ His wife,
who was in the carriage with him and was to have been matron at the wedding,
was severely injured. Her mother-in-law, Mrs. Frank A. B.,
died some months later."* I suppose the marriage has since been consummated.
If a father is permitted to marry his deceased son's wife,
in fairness a son should be allowed to marry his deceased father's wife.
I presume that there is a law in the United States or in some of the states
against marriages within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity and affinity,
but I confess that the more I study the subject the more I am confused
as to what is or what is not within the prohibited degrees.
* The names of the parties and places were given in full in the "China Press".
In China the law on this subject is extremely rigid, and consequently
its infraction is exceedingly rare; I have, as a matter of fact,
never heard of the marriage laws in China being broken.
In "Liao Chai", a famous collection of Chinese tales, it is recorded
that a young widow married her son and moved to another part of the country,
so that their identity and relationship should be concealed.
They seemed to have lived very happily together. After many years,
when they had had children and grandchildren, their true relationship was
accidentally discovered. A complaint was laid before the local authorities.
After a long deliberation and careful review of the case, and to eradicate
such "unnatural offspring", as they were termed, it was decided
that the two offenders, and all their children and grandchildren
should be burned to death, which sentence was duly carried out.
I doubt if the story is authentic. It was probably fabricated by the author
that it might serve as a warning. The sentence, if true, was too severe;
the offspring who were innocent contributories to the crime deserved pity
rather than punishment; the judgment passed on the real offenders
was also unduly harsh. My object in citing this unsavory tale
is to show the different views held in regard to incestuous marriage in China
with its serious consequences.
It is commonly supposed that all men are born equal, and that
the United States is the land of perfect equality. Now let us see
if this is really so. There are men born into high stations of life,
or into wealthy families, with "silver spoons" in their mouths;
while there are others ushered into this world by parents who are paupers
and who cannot support them. Then there are people born with wit and wisdom,
while others are perfect fools. Again there are some
who are brought to this life with strong and healthy constitutions,
while others are weak and sickly. Thus it is plain that men
are not born equal, either physically, intellectually, or socially.
I do not know how my American friends account for this undoubted fact,
but the Chinese doctrine of previous lives, of which the present
are but the continuation, seems to afford a satisfactory explanation.
However, this doctrine of equality and independence has done immense good.
It has, as a rule, caused men to think independently, and not to servilely
follow the thoughts and ideas of others, who may be quite wrong.
It has encouraged invention, and new discoveries in science and art.
It has enabled men to develop industries and to expand trade.
New York and Chicago, for example, could not have become
such huge and prosperous cities within comparatively short periods,
but for their free and wise institutions. In countries where personal liberty
is unknown, and the rights of person and property are curtailed,
people do not exert themselves to improve their environments,
but are content to remain quiet and inactive.
By the constitution of the State of California it is declared
that "all men are free and independent". It must be conceded
that the American people enjoy a greater amount of freedom and independence
than other people. But are they perfectly free, and are they
really independent? Are they not swayed in politics by their "bosses",
and do not many of them act and vote as their bosses dictate?
In society are they not bound by conventionalities and,
dare they infringe the strict rules laid down by the society leaders?
In the matter of dress also are they not slaves, abjectly following
new-fangled fashions imported from Paris? In domestic circles are not
many husbands hen-pecked by their wives, because they, and not the men,
rule the roost? Are not many women practically governed by their husbands,
whose word is their law? The eager hunger for "the almighty dollar"
leads most Americans to sacrifice their time, health, and liberty
in the acquisition of wealth, and, alas, when they have acquired it,
they find that their health is broken, and that they themselves
are almost ready for the grave. Ought a free and independent people
to live after this fashion?
In every well organized community it is essential that people should obey
all laws and regulations which are enacted for the greatest good
of the greatest number. In domestic circles they should willingly subordinate
their own wishes to the wishes of others, for the sake of peace,
concord and happiness. Happy that people whose laws and conditions
are such that they can enjoy the greatest amount of freedom
in regard to person and property, compatible with the general peace
and good order of the community, and if I should be asked my opinion,
notwithstanding all that I have above said concerning the United States,
I should have to acknowledge that I believe that America
is one of the few nations which have fairly well approximated
the high ideal of a well-governed country.
Chapter 8. American Manners
Much has been written and more said about American manners,
or rather the American lack of manners. Americans have frequently
been criticized for their bad breeding, and many sarcastic references
to American deportment have been made in my presence. I have even been told,
I do not know how true it is, that European diplomats dislike being stationed
in America, because of their aversion to the American way of doing things.
Much too has been written and said about Chinese manners,
not only by foreigners but also by Chinese. One of the classics,
which our youth have to know by heart, is practically devoted
entirely to manners. There has also been much adverse criticism
of our manners or our excess of manners, though I have never heard
that any diplomats have, on this account, objected to being sent to China.
We Chinese are therefore in the same boat as the Americans.
In regard to manners neither of us find much favor with foreigners,
though for diametrically opposite reasons: the Americans are accused
of observing too few formalities, and we of being too formal.
The Americans are direct and straight-forward. They will tell you
to your face that they like you, and occasionally they also have
very little hesitation in telling you that they do not like you.
They say frankly just what they think. It is immaterial to them
that their remarks are personal, complimentary or otherwise.
I have had members of my own family complimented on their good looks
as if they were children. In this respect Americans differ greatly
from the English. The English adhere with meticulous care
to the rule of avoiding everything personal. They are very much afraid
of rudeness on the one hand, and of insincerity or flattery on the other.
Even in the matter of such a harmless affair as a compliment to a foreigner
on his knowledge of English, they will precede it with a request for pardon,
and speak in a half-apologetic manner, as if complimenting
were something personal. The English and the Americans are closely related,
they have much in common, but they also differ widely,
and in nothing is the difference more conspicuous than in their conduct.
I have noticed curiously enough that English Colonials,
especially in such particulars as speech and manners,
follow their quondam sister colony, rather than the mother country.
And this, not only in Canada, where the phenomenon might
be explained by climatic, geographic, and historic reasons,
but also in such antipodean places as Australia and South Africa,
which are so far away as to apparently have very little in common
either with America or with each other. Nevertheless, whatever the reason,
the transplanted Englishman, whether in the arctics or the tropics,
whether in the Northern or the Southern Hemisphere,
seems to develop a type quite different from the original stock,
yet always resembling his fellow emigrants.
The directness of Americans is seen not only in what they say
but in the way they say it. They come directly to the point,
without much preface or introduction, much less is there any circumlocution
or "beating about the bush". When they come to see you they say their say
and then take their departure, moreover they say it in the most terse,
concise and unambiguous manner. In this respect what a contrast they are
to us! We always approach each other with preliminary greetings.
Then we talk of the weather, of politics or friends, of anything, in fact,
which is as far as possible from the object of the visit.
Only after this introduction do we broach the subject uppermost in our minds,
and throughout the conversation polite courtesies are exchanged
whenever the opportunity arises. These elaborate preludes and interludes may,
to the strenuous ever-in-a-hurry American, seem useless and superfluous,
but they serve a good purpose. Like the common courtesies
and civilities of life they pave the way for the speakers,
especially if they are strangers; they improve their tempers,
and place them generally on terms of mutual understanding.
It is said that some years ago a Foreign Consul in China,
having a serious complaint to make on behalf of his national,
called on the Taotai, the highest local authority in the port.
He found the Chinese official so genial and polite that
after half an hour's conversation, he advised the complainant
to settle the matter amicably without troubling the Chinese officials
about the matter. A good deal may be said in behalf of both systems.
The American practice has at least the merit of saving time,
an all important object with the American people. When we recall
that this remarkable nation will spend millions of dollars
to build a tunnel under a river, or to shorten a curve in a railroad,
merely that they may save two or three minutes, we are not surprised
at the abruptness of their speech. I, as a matter of fact,
when thinking of their time-saving and abrupt manner of address,
have been somewhat puzzled to account for that peculiar drawl of theirs.
Very slowly and deliberately they enunciate each word and syllable
with long-drawn emphasis, punctuating their sentences with pauses,
some short and some long. It is almost an effort to follow a story
of any length -- the beginning often becomes cold before the end is reached.
It seems to me that if Americans would speed up their speech after the fashion
of their English cousins, who speak two or three times as quickly,
they would save many minutes every day, and would find the habit
not only more efficacious, but much more economical than many
of their time-saving machines and tunnels. I offer this suggestion
to the great American nation for what it is worth, and I know
they will receive it in the spirit in which it is made,
for they have the saving sense of humor.
Some people are ridiculously sensitive. Some years ago, at a certain place,
a big dinner was given in honor of a notable who was passing through
the district. A Chinese, prominent in local affairs, who had received
an invitation, discovered that though he would sit among the honored guests
he would be placed below one or two whom he thought he ought to be above,
and who, he therefore considered, would be usurping his rightful position.
In disgust he refused to attend the dinner, which, excepting for what
he imagined was a breach of manners, he would have been very pleased
to have attended. Americans are much more sensible.
They are not a bit sensitive, especially in small matters.
Either they are broad-minded enough to rise above unworthy trifles,
or else their good Americanism prevents their squabbling
over questions of precedence, at the dinner table or elsewhere.
Americans act up to their Declaration of Independence,
especially the principle it enunciates concerning the equality of man.
They lay so much importance on this that they do not confine its application
to legal rights, but extend it even to social intercourse. In fact,
I think this doctrine is the basis of the so-called American manners.
All men are deemed socially equal, whether as friend and friend,
as President and citizen, as employer and employee, as master and servant,
or as parent and child. Their relationship may be such
that one is entitled to demand, and the other to render,
certain acts of obedience, and a certain amount of respect,
but outside that they are on the same level. This is doubtless a rebellion
against all the social ideas and prejudices of the old world,
but it is perhaps only what might be looked for in a new country,
full of robust and ambitious manhood, disdainful of all traditions
which in the least savor of monarchy or hierarchy, and eager to blaze
as new a path for itself in the social as it has succeeded
in accomplishing in the political world. Combined with this
is the American characteristic of saving time. Time is precious to all of us,
but to Americans it is particularly so. We all wish to save time,
but the Americans care much more about it than the rest of us.
Then there are different notions about this question of saving time,
different notions of what wastes time and what does not,
and much which the old world regards as politeness and good manners
Americans consider as sheer waste of time. Time is, they think,
far too precious to be occupied with ceremonies which appear
empty and meaningless. It can, they say, be much more profitably filled
with other and more useful occupations. In any discussion of American manners
it would be unfair to leave out of consideration their indifference
to ceremony and their highly developed sense of the value of time,
but in saying this I do not forget that many Americans are devout ritualists,
and that these find both comfort and pleasure in ceremony,
which suggests that after all there is something to be said for the Chinese
who have raised correct deportment almost to the rank of a religion.
The youth of America have not unnaturally caught the spirit of their elders,
so that even children consider themselves as almost on a par
with their parents, as almost on the same plane of equality;
but the parents, on the other hand, also treat them as if they were equals,
and allow them the utmost freedom. While a Chinese child
renders unquestioning obedience to his parents' orders,
such obedience as a soldier yields to his superior officer,
the American child must have the whys and the wherefores
duly explained to him, and the reason for his obedience made clear.
It is not his parent that he obeys, but expediency and the dictates of reason.
Here we see the clear-headed, sound, common-sense business man in the making.
The early training of the boy has laid the foundation for the future man.
The child too has no compunction in correcting a parent even before strangers,
and what is stranger still the parent accepts the correction in good part,
and sometimes even with thanks. A parent is often interrupted
in the course of a narrative, or discussion, by a small piping voice,
setting right, or what it believes to be right, some date, place, or fact,
and the parent, after a word of encouragement or thanks, proceeds.
How different is our rule that a child is not to speak until spoken to!
In Chinese official life under the old regime it was not etiquette
for one official to contradict another, especially when
they were unequal in rank. When a high official expressed views
which his subordinates did not endorse, they could not candidly
give their opinion, but had to remain silent. I remember that
some years ago some of my colleagues and I had an audience
with a very high official, and when I expressed my dissent
from some of the views of that high functionary, he rebuked me severely.
Afterward he called me to him privately, and spoke to me somewhat as follows:
"What you said just now was quite correct. I was wrong,
and I will adopt your views, but you must not contradict me
in the presence of other people. Do not do it again."
There is of course much to be said for and against each system,
and perhaps a blend of the two would give good results.
Anyhow, we can trace in American customs that spirit of equality
which pervades the whole of American society, and observe the germs
of self-reliance and independence so characteristic of Americans,
whether men, women, or children.
Even the domestic servant does not lose this precious American heritage
of equality. I have nothing to say against that worthy individual,
the American servant (if one can be found); on the contrary,
none is more faithful or more efficient. But in some respects he is unique
among the servants of the world. He does not see that there is any inequality
between him and his master. His master, or should I say, his employer,
pays him certain wages to do certain work, and he does it,
but outside the bounds of this contract, they are still man and man,
citizen and citizen. It is all beautifully, delightfully legal.
The washerwoman is the "wash-lady", and is just as much a lady
as her mistress. The word "servant" is not applied to domestics,
"help" is used instead, very much in the same way that Canada and Australia
are no longer English "colonies", but "self-governing dominions".
We of the old world are accustomed to regard domestic service
as a profession in which the members work for advancement,
without much thought of ever changing their position.
A few clever persons may ultimately adopt another profession,
and, according to our antiquated conservative ways of thinking,
rise higher in the social scale, but, for the large majority,
the dignity of a butler, or a housekeeper is the height of ambition,
the crowning point in their career. Not so the American servant.
Strictly speaking there are no servants in America. The man, or the woman
as the case may be, who happens for the moment to be your servant,
is only servant for the time being. He has no intention
of making domestic service his profession, of being a servant
for the whole of his life. To have to be subject to the will of others,
even to the small extent to which American servants are subordinate,
is offensive to an American's pride of citizenship, it is contrary to
his conception of American equality. He is a servant only for the time,
and until he finds something better to do. He accepts a menial position
only as a stepping stone to some more independent employment.
Is it to be wondered at that American servants have different manners
from their brethren in other countries? When foreigners find
that American servants are not like servants in their own country,
they should not resent their behavior: it does not denote disrespect,
it is only the outcrop of their natural independence and aspirations.
All titles of nobility are by the Constitution expressly forbidden.
Even titles of honor or courtesy are but rarely used. "Honorable" is used
to designate members of Congress; and for a few Americans, such as
the President and the Ambassadors, the title "Excellency" is permitted. Yet,
whether it is because the persons entitled to be so addressed do not think
that even these mild titles are consistent with American democracy,
or because the American public feels awkward in employing such stilted
terms of address, they are not often used. I remember that on one occasion
a much respected Chief Executive, on my proposing, in accordance with
diplomatic usage and precedent, to address him as "Your Excellency",
begged me to substitute instead "Mr. President". The plain democratic "Mr."
suits the democratic American taste much better than any other title,
and is applied equally to the President of the Republic and to his coachman.
Indeed the plain name John Smith, without even "Mr.", not only gives
no offense, where some higher title might be employed, but fits just as well,
and is in fact often used. Even prominent and distinguished men
do not resent nicknames; for example, the celebrated person
whose name is so intimately connected with that delight
of American children and grown-ups -- the "Teddy Bear".
This characteristic, like so many other American characteristics,
is due not only to the love of equality and independence,
but also to the dislike of any waste of time.
In countries where there are elaborate rules of etiquette
concerning titles and forms of address, none but a Master of Ceremonies
can hope to be thoroughly familiar with them, or to be able
to address the distinguished people without withholding from them
their due share of high-sounding titles and epithets;
and, be it whispered, these same distinguished people,
however broad-minded and magnanimous they may be in other respects,
are sometimes extremely sensitive in this respect.
And even after one has mastered all the rules and forms,
and can appreciate and distinguish the various nice shades which exist
between "His Serene Highness", "His Highness", "His Royal Highness",
and "His Imperial Highness", or between "Rt. Rev." and "Most Rev.",
one has yet to learn what titles a particular person has,
and with what particular form of address he should be approached,
an impossible task even for a Master of Ceremonies,
unless he always has in his pocket a Burke's Peerage to tell him who's who.
What a waste of time, what an inconvenience, and what an unnecessary amount
of irritation and annoyance all this causes. How much better
to be able to address any person you meet simply as Mr. So-and-So,
without unwittingly treading on somebody's sensitive corns!
Americans have shown their common sense in doing away with titles altogether,
an example which the sister Republic of China is following.
An illustrious name loses nothing for having to stand by itself
without prefixes and suffixes, handles and tails. Mr. Gladstone
was no less himself for not prefixing his name with Earl,
and the other titles to which it would have entitled him,
as he could have done had he not declined the so-called honor.
Indeed, like the "Great Commoner", he, if that were possible,
endeared himself the more to his countrymen because of his refusal. A name,
which is great without resorting to the borrowed light of titles and honors,
is greater than any possible suffix or affix which could be appended to it.
In conclusion, American manners are but an instance or result of
the two predominant American characteristics to which I have already referred,
and which reappear in so many other things American.
A love of independence and of equality, early inculcated,
and a keen abhorrence of waste of time, engendered by the conditions
and circumstances of a new country, serve to explain practically all
the manners and mannerisms of Americans. Even the familiar spectacle
of men walking with their hands deep in their trousers' pockets,
or sitting with their legs crossed needs no other explanation,
and to suggest that, because Americans have some habits
which are peculiarly their own, they are either inferior or unmanly,
would be to do them a grave injustice.
Few people are more warm-hearted, genial, and sociable than the Americans.
I do not dwell on this, because it is quite unnecessary. The fact
is perfectly familiar to all who have the slightest knowledge of them.
Their kindness and warmth to strangers are particularly pleasant,
and are much appreciated by their visitors. In some other countries,
the people, though not unsociable, surround themselves with so much reserve
that strangers are at first chilled and repulsed, although there are
no pleasanter or more hospitable persons anywhere to be found
when once you have broken the ice, and learned to know them;
but it is the stranger who must make the first advances,
for they themselves will make no effort to become acquainted,
and their manner is such as to discourage any efforts on the part
of the visitor. You may travel with them for hours in the same car,
sit opposite to them, and all the while they will shelter themselves
behind a newspaper, the broad sheets of which effectively prohibit
any attempts at closer acquaintance. The following instance,
culled from a personal experience, is an illustration. I was a law student
at Lincoln's Inn, London, where there is a splendid law library for the use
of the students and members of the Inn. I used to go there almost every day
to pursue my legal studies, and generally sat in the same quiet corner.
The seat on the opposite side of the table was usually occupied
by another law student. For months we sat opposite each other
without exchanging a word. I thought I was too formal and reserved,
so I endeavored to improve matters by occasionally looking up at him
as if about to address him, but every time I did so he looked down
as though he did not wish to see me. Finally I gave up the attempt.
This is the general habit with English gentlemen. They will not speak
to a stranger without a proper introduction; but in the case I have mentioned
surely the rule would have been more honored by a breach
than by the observance. Seeing that we were fellow students,
it might have been presumed that we were gentlemen and on an equal footing.
How different are the manners of the American! You can hardly take a walk,
or go for any distance in a train, without being addressed by a stranger,
and not infrequently making a friend. In some countries
the fact that you are a foreigner only thickens the ice,
in America it thaws it. This delightful trait in the American character
is also traceable to the same cause as that which has helped us to explain
the other peculiarities which have been mentioned. To good Americans,
not only are the citizens of America born equal, but the citizens of the world
are also born equal.
Chapter 9. American Women
It is rather bold on my part to take up this subject. It is a path
where "fools rush in where angels fear to tread". No matter what I say
it is sure to provoke criticism, but having frequently been asked
by my lady friends to give my opinion of American women, and having given
my solemn promise that if I ever should write my impressions of America
I would do so, it would be a serious "breach of promise" if I should now
break my word.
In general there are three classes of women: first, those who wish
to be praised; secondly, those who wish to be adversely criticized
and condemned; and thirdly, those who are simply curious to hear
what others think of them. American women do not as a rule belong
to either the first or the second class, but a large majority of them
may be ranged under class three. They wish to know what other people
honestly think of them and to hear their candid views.
They are progressive people who desire to improve their defects
whenever they are pointed out to them. That being the case
I must not swerve from my duty of sitting in a high court of justice
to pass judgment on them.
To begin with, the American women are in some respects dissimilar to the women
of other nations. I find them sprightly, talkative and well informed.
They can converse on any subject with ease and resource,
showing that they have a good all-round education. Often have I derived
considerable information from them. The persistence with which
they stick to their opinions is remarkable. Once, when I had a lady visitor
at my Legation in Washington, after several matters had been discussed
we commenced talking about women's rights. I was in favor of giving women
more rights than they are enjoying, but on some points I did not go so far
as my lady friend; after arguing with me for several hours,
she, seeing that I did not coincide with all her views,
threatened that she would not leave my house until I had fully digested
all her points, and had become converted to her views.
I have observed that many American women marry foreigners,
but that an American rarely has a foreign wife. It may be said
that foreigners marry American girls for their money, while American women
marry distinguished foreigners for their titles. This may have been true
in some cases, but other causes than such sordid motives must be looked for.
It is the attractiveness and the beauty of the American girls
which enable them to capture so many foreign husbands.
Their pleasant manners and winsome nature predispose a person in their favor,
and with their well-grounded education and ready fund of knowledge,
they easily win any gentleman with marital propensities.
Had I been single when I first visited America I too might have been a victim
-- no wonder then that American men prefer American wives.
Once I was an involuntary match-maker. Some years ago,
during my first mission in Washington, I was invited to attend
the wedding of the daughter of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
When I entered the breakfast room, I saw the bridesmaids
and a number of young men. Going up to one of the bridesmaids
whom I had previously met, and who was the daughter of a Senator,
I asked her when it would be her turn to become a bride.
She modestly said that she did not know, as she had not yet had an offer.
Turning to the group of young men who were in the room,
I jocularly remarked to one of them, "This is a beautiful lady,
would you not like to marry her?" He replied, "I shall be most delighted to."
Then I said to the young lady, "Will you accept his offer?"
She seemed slightly embarrassed and said something to the effect
that as she did not know the gentleman she could not give a definite answer.
After a few days I met the young lady at an "At Home" party
when she scolded me for being so blunt with her before the young men.
I told her I was actuated by the best of motives, and a few months later
I received an invitation from the young lady's parents
inviting me to be present at their daughter's marriage.
I thought I would go and find out whether the bridegroom was the young man
whom I had introduced to the young lady, and as soon as I entered the house,
the mother of the bride, to my agreeable surprise, informed me
that it was I who had first brought the young couple together,
and both the bride and bridegroom heartily thanked me for my good offices.
One very conspicuous feature in the character of American women
is their self-control and independence. As soon as a girl grows up
she is allowed to do what she pleases, without the control of her parents.
It is a common occurrence to see a young lady travelling alone
without either a companion or a chaperon. Travelling on one occasion
from San Francisco to Washington I met a young lady on the train
who was still in her teens. She told me that she was going to New York
to embark on a steamer for Germany, with the intention of entering
a German college. She was undertaking this long journey alone.
Such an incident would be impossible in China; even in England,
or indeed in any European country, I hardly believe that
a respectable young girl would be allowed to take such a journey
without some trusty friend to look after her. But in America
this is a common occurrence, and it is a credit to the administration,
and speaks volumes for the good government of the country,
that for sensible wide-awake American girls such undertakings
are perfectly safe.
This notion of independence and freedom has modified the relation
of children to their parents. Instead of children being required
to show respect and filial obedience, the obligation of mutual love and esteem
is cultivated. Parents would not think of ordering a girl or a boy
to do anything, however reasonable; in all matters they treat them
as their equals and friends; nor would a girl submit to an arbitrary order
from her mother, for she does not regard her as a superior,
but as her friend and companion. I find it is a common practice
among American girls to engage themselves in marriage
without consulting their parents. Once I had a serious talk on this subject
with a young couple who were betrothed. I asked them if they had the consent
of their parents. They both answered emphatically that it was not necessary,
and that it was their business and not their parents'.
I told them that although it was their business, they might have shown
some respect to their parents by consulting them before committing themselves
to this important transaction. They answered that they did not agree with me,
and as it concerned their own happiness alone, they had a perfect right
to decide the matter for themselves. This shows the extreme limit
to which the Americans carry their theory of independence. Unless I am
greatly mistaken, I fear this is a typical and not an isolated case.
I believe that in many cases, after they had made up their minds to marry,
the young people would inform their respective parents of their engagement,
but I question if they would subordinate their own wishes
to the will of their parents, or ask their consent to their engagement.
Now let us see how all this is managed in China. Here the parties
most interested have no voice in the matter. The parents,
through their friends, or sometimes through the professional match-makers,
arrange the marriage, but only after the most strict and diligent inquiries
as to the character, position, and suitability of temper and disposition
of the persons for whom the marriage contract is being prepared.
This is sometimes done with the knowledge of the interested parties,
but very often they are not consulted. After an engagement is thus made
it cannot be broken off, not even by the young people themselves,
even though he or she may plead that the arrangement was made without
his or her knowledge or consent. The engagement is considered by all parties
as a solemn compact. On the wedding day, in nine cases out of ten,
the bride and bridegroom meet each other for the first time,
and yet they live contentedly, and quite often even happily together.
Divorces in China are exceedingly rare. This is accounted for
by the fact that through the wise control of their parents
the children are properly mated. In saying this I do not wish to be supposed
to be advocating the introduction of the Chinese system into America.
I would, however, point out that the independent and thoughtless way
in which the American young people take on themselves the marriage vow
does not as a rule result in suitable companionships.
When a girl falls in love with a young man she is unable to perceive
his shortcomings and vices, and when, after living together for a few months,
she begins to find them out, it is alas too late. If, previous to
her engagement, she had taken her mother into her confidence,
and asked her to use her good offices to find out the character
of the young man whom she favored, a fatal and unhappy mistake
might have been avoided. Without interfering, in the least,
with the liberty or free choice, I should think it would be a good policy
if all young Americans, before definitely committing themselves
to a promise of marriage, would at least consult their mothers,
and ask them to make private and confidential inquiries as to the disposition,
as well as to the moral and physical fitness of the young man or lady
whom they contemplate marrying. Mothers are naturally concerned
about the welfare and happiness of their offspring, and could be trusted
in most cases to make careful, impartial and conscientious inquiries
as to whether the girl or man was really a worthy and suitable life partner
for their children. If this step were generally taken
many an unfortunate union would be avoided. It was after this fashion
that I reasoned with the young people mentioned above,
but they did not agree with me, and I had to conclude that love is blind.
Before leaving this subject I would add that the system of marriage
which has been in vogue in China for so many centuries has been
somewhat changed within the last few years. This is due to the new spirit
which has been gradually growing. Young people begin to exert their rights,
and will not allow parents to choose their life partners
without their consent. Instances of girls choosing their own husbands
have come to my knowledge, and they did not occur during leap-year.
But I sincerely hope that our Chinese youth will not go to the same lengths
as the young people of America.
The manner in which a son treats his parents in the United States
is diametrically opposed to our Chinese doctrine, handed down to us
from time immemorial. "Honor thy father and thy mother"
is an injunction of Moses which all Christians profess to observe,
but which, or so it appears to a Confucianist, all equally forget.
The Confucian creed lays it down as the essential duty of children
that they shall not only honor and obey their fathers and their mothers,
but that they are in duty bound to support them. The reason is that
as their parents brought them into the world, reared and educated them,
the children should make them some return for their trouble and care.
The view of this question which is taken in America seems to be
very strange to me. Once I heard a young American argue in this way.
He said, gravely and seriously, that as he was brought into this world
by his parents without his consent, it was their duty to rear him
in a proper way, but that it was no part of his duty to support them.
I was very much astounded at this statement. In China such a son
would be despised, and if he neglected to maintain his parents he would
be punished. I do not believe that the extreme views of this young man
are universally accepted in America, but I am inclined to think
that the duties of children toward their parents are somewhat ill-defined.
American parents do not apparently expect their children to support them,
because, as a rule they are, if not rich, at least in
comfortable circumstances; and even if they are not, they would rather
work for their livelihood than burden their children and hinder their success
by relying on them for pecuniary aid. It may have escaped my observation,
but, so far as I know, it is not the custom for young people
to provide for their parents. There was, however, one exceptional case
which came to my knowledge. Some years ago a young Senator in Washington,
who was famous for his eloquence, had his father living with him.
His father was eighty years of age, and though in robust health was a cripple,
and so had to depend on him for support. I was informed that he and his wife
were very kind to him. Many young men treat their parents
kindly and affectionately, but they do it more as a favor than as a duty;
in fact, as between equals.
In connection with this subject I may mention that as soon as a son marries,
however young and inexperienced he may be, he leaves his parents' roof.
He and his bride will set up a separate establishment so that
they can do as they please without the supervision of their parents.
The latter do not object, as it gives the young folk an opportunity
to gain experience in keeping house. Young wives have a horror
of having their mothers-in-law reside with them; if it be necessary
to have an elderly lady as a companion they always endeavor
to get their own mothers.
American women are ambitious and versatile, and can readily
apply themselves to any task with ease. They are not only employed
in stores and mercantile houses but are engaged in different professions.
There is scarcely any store in America where there are not some women
employed as typists, clerks, or accountants. I am told that
they are more steady than men. Even in the learned professions they
successfully compete with the men. Some years ago the Attorney-Generalship
of one of the states became vacant. Two candidates appeared;
one was a gentleman and the other a young lady lawyer.
They both sought election; the gentleman secured a small majority,
but in the end the lady lawyer conquered, for she soon became the wife
of the Attorney-General, her former opponent during the election campaign,
and after her marriage she practically carried on the work of her husband.
Some years later her husband retired from practice in order to farm,
and she continued to carry on the law practice. Does not this indicate
that the intellect of the American woman is equal, if not superior,
to that of the men? American women are good conversationalists,
and many of them are eloquent and endowed with "the gift of the gab".
One of the cleverest and wittiest speeches I have ever heard
was from a woman who spoke at a public meeting on a public question.
They are also good writers. Such women as Mrs. Ella Wheeler Wilcox,
Mrs. Mary N. Foote Henderson, Mrs. Elizabeth Towne and many others,
are a great credit to their sex. The writings of such women
show their profound insight and wide culture. Naturally such women
cannot be expected to play second fiddle. They exercise great influence,
and when married "they rule the roost". It should be mentioned
that their husbands submit willingly to their tactful rule,
and gladly obey their commands without feeling that they are servants.
I would advise any married woman who complains of her husband
being unruly and unpleasant to take a lesson from the ladies of America.
They are vivacious, bright, loquacious and less reserved than European ladies.
In social functions they can be easily recognized. If, however,
an American lady marries a foreigner and lives abroad,
she soon loses her national characteristics. Once on board a steamer
I had an American lady as a fellow passenger; from her reserved manner
I mistook her for an English lady, and it was only after some days
that I discovered she was born in America, but that she had been
living in England for many years with her English husband.
There is one fault I find with American women, if it can be so called,
and that is their inquisitiveness; I know that this is a common fault
with all women, but it is most conspicuous in the Americans.
They have the knack of finding out things without your being aware of it,
and if they should want to know your history they will learn all about it
after a few minutes' conversation. They are good detectives,
and I think they should be employed in that line more than they are.
A nation's reputation depends upon the general character of its women,
for they form at least half, if not more, of the population.
In this respect America stands high, for the American woman is lively,
open-hearted and ingenuous; she is also fearless, independent,
and is almost without restraint. She is easily accessible to high and low,
and friendly to all, but woe to the man who should misunderstand
the pure and high character of an American girl, and attempt to take liberties
with her. To a stranger, and especially to an Oriental, she is a puzzle.
Some years ago I had to disabuse a false notion of a countryman of mine
respecting a lady's behavior toward him. The keen observer will find that
the American girl, having been educated in schools and colleges with boys,
naturally acts more freely than her sisters in other countries,
where great restraint is imposed upon them. Her actions may be considered
as perilously near to the border of masculinity, yet she is as far
from either coarseness or low thoughts as is the North from the South Pole.
The Chinese lady is as pure as her American sister, but she is brought up
in a different way; her exclusion keeps her indoors,
and she has practically no opportunity of associating with male friends.
A bird which has been confined in a cage for a long time, will,
when the door is opened, fly far away and perhaps never return,
but if it has been tamed and allowed to go in and out of its cage
as it pleases it will not go far, but will always come back in the evening.
When my countrywomen are allowed more freedom they will not abuse it,
but it will take some little time to educate them up to
the American standards.
Chapter 10. American Costumes
Fashion is the work of the devil. When he made up his mind to enslave mankind
he found in fashion his most effective weapon. Fashion enthralls man,
it deprives him of his freedom; it is the most autocratic dictator,
its mandate being obeyed by all classes, high and low, without exception.
Every season it issues new decrees, and no matter how ludicrous they are,
everyone submits forthwith. The fashions of this season
are changed in the next. Look, for example, at women's hats; some years ago
the "merry widow" which was about two or three feet in diameter,
was all the rage, and the larger it became the more fashionable it was.
Sometimes the wearer could hardly go through a doorway.
Then came the hat crowned with birds' feathers, some ladies even placing
the complete bird on their hats -- a most ridiculous exhibition of bad taste.
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals should take up
the question of the destruction of birds for their plumage,
and agitate until the law makes it illegal to wear a bird on a hat.
Some may say that if people kill animals and birds for food
they might just as well wear a dead bird on their hats, if they wish
to be so silly, although the large majority of America's population,
I am sorry to find, sincerely believe meat to be a necessary article of diet;
yet who will claim that a dead bird on a hat is an indispensable article
of wearing apparel? Why do we dress at all? First, I suppose,
for protection against cold and heat; secondly, for comfort; thirdly,
for decency; and, fourthly, for ornament. Now does the dress of Americans
meet these requirements?
First, as regards the weather, does woman's dress protect her from the cold?
The fact that a large number of persons daily suffer from colds
arouses the suspicion that their dress is at fault. The body is neither
equally nor evenly covered, the upper portion being as a rule nearly bare,
or very thinly clad, so that the slightest exposure to a draught,
or a sudden change of temperature, subjects the wearer
to the unpleasant experience of catching cold, unless she is
so physically robust and healthy that she can resist all the dangers
to which her clothing, or rather her lack of clothing, subjects her.
Indeed ladies' dress, instead of affording protection sometimes
endangers their lives. The following extract from the "London Times"
-- and the facts cannot be doubted -- is a warning to the fair sex.
"The strong gale which swept over Bradford resulted in
an extraordinary accident by which a girl lost her life.
Mary Bailey, aged 16, the daughter of an electrician,
who is a pupil at the Hanson Secondary School, was in the school yard
when she was suddenly lifted up into the air by a violent gust of wind
which got under her clothes converting them into a sort of parachute.
After being carried to a height estimated by spectators at 20 feet,
she turned over in the air and fell to the ground striking the concreted floor
of the yard with great force. She was terribly injured and died
half an hour later." Had the poor girl been wearing Chinese clothing
this terrible occurrence could not have happened; her life would not
have been sacrificed to fashion.
As to the second point, comfort, I do not believe that the wearer of
a fashionable costume is either comfortable or contented. I will say nothing
of the unnecessary garments which the average woman affects,
but let us see what can be said for the tight corset binding the waist.
So far from being comfortable it must be most inconvenient,
a sort of perpetual penance and it is certainly injurious to the health.
I feel confident that physicians will support me in my belief
that the death-rate among American women would be less
if corset and other tight lacing were abolished. I have known of instances
where tight lacing for the ballroom has caused the death of enceinte women.
As to the third object, decency, I am not convinced that the American dress
fulfils this object. When I say American dress, I include also
the clothing worn by Europeans for both are practically the same.
It may be a matter of education, but from the Oriental point of view
we would prefer that ladies' dresses should be worn more loosely,
so that the figure should be less prominent. I am aware that this is a view
which my American friends do not share. It is very curious
that what is considered as indecent in one country is thought to be
quite proper in another. During the hot summers in the Province of Kiangsu
the working women avoid the inconveniences and chills of perspiration
by going about their work with nothing on the upper part of their bodies,
except a chest protector to cover the breasts; in Western countries
women would never think of doing this, even during a season of extreme heat;
yet they do not object, even in the depth of winter,
to uncovering their shoulders as low as possible when attending
a dinner-party, a ball, or the theater. I remember the case
of a Chinese rice-pounder in Hongkong who was arrested
and taken to the Police Court on a charge of indecency.
To enable him to do his work better he had dispensed with all his clothing
excepting a loin cloth; for this he was sentenced to pay a fine of $2,
or, in default of payment to be imprisoned for a week.
The English Magistrate, in imposing the fine, lectured him severely,
remarking that in a civilized community such primitive manners
could not be tolerated, as they were both barbarous and indecent.
When he said this did he think of the way the women of his country dress
when they go to a ball?
It must be remembered that modesty is wholly a matter
of conventionality and custom. Competent observers have testified
that savages who have been accustomed to nudity all their lives
are covered with shame when made to put on clothing for the first time.
They exhibit as much confusion as a civilized person would
if compelled to strip naked in public. In the words of a competent authority
on this subject: "The facts appear to prove that the feeling of shame,
far from being the cause of man's covering his body is, on the contrary,
a result of this custom; and that the covering, if not used
as a protection from the climate, owes its origin, at least in many cases,
to the desire of men and women to make themselves attractive."
Strange as it may seem, it is nevertheless true, that a figure partially clad
appears more indecent than one that is perfectly nude.
The fourth object of clothes is ornament, but ornaments should be harmless,
not only to the wearer, but also to other people; yet from
the following paragraph, copied from one of the daily newspapers,
it does not appear that they are.
"London, May 7. The death of a girl from blood-poisoning caused by a hatpin
penetrating her nose was inquired into at Stockport, Cheshire, yesterday.
The deceased was Mary Elizabeth Thornton, aged twenty-four, daughter of
a Stockport tradesman. The father said that on Saturday evening, April 20,
his daughter was speaking to a friend, Mrs. Pickford, outside the shop.
On the following Monday she complained of her nose being sore.
Next day she again complained and said, "It must be the hatpin."
While talking to Mrs. Pickford, she explained, Mrs. Pickford's baby
stumbled on the footpath. They both stooped to pick it up,
and a hatpin in Mrs. Pickford's hat caught her in the nostril.
His daughter gradually got worse and died on Saturday last. Mrs. Pickford,
wife of a paper merchant, said that some minutes after the deceased
had picked up the child she said, "Do you know, I scratched my nose
on your hatpin?" Mrs. Pickford was wearing the hatpin in court.
It projected two inches from the hat and was about twelve inches in length.
Dr. Howie Smith said that septic inflammation was set up
as a result of the wound, and travelling to the brain caused meningitis.
The coroner said that not many cases came before coroners
in which death was directly traceable to the hatpin but there must be
a very large number of cases in which the hatpin caused injury,
in some cases loss of sight. It was no uncommon sight to see
these deadly weapons protruding three or four inches from the hat.
In Hamburg women were compelled by statute to put shields or protectors
on the points of hatpins. In England nothing had been done,
but this case showed that it was high time something was done.
If women insisted on wearing hatpins they should take precaution
of wearing also a shield or protector which would prevent them
inflicting injury on other people. The jury returned a verdict
of accidental death, and expressed their opinion that long hatpins
ought to be done away with or their points protected."
To wear jewels, necklaces of brilliants, precious stones and pearls,
or ribbons with brilliants round the hair is a pleasing custom and
a pretty sight. But to see a lady wearing a long gown trailing on the ground
does not impress me as being elegant, though I understand the ladies
in Europe and America think otherwise. It would almost seem
as if their conceptions of beauty depended on the length of their skirts.
In a ballroom one sometimes finds it very difficult not to tread
on the ladies' skirts, and on ceremonial occasions each lady has two page boys
to hold up the train of her dress. It is impossible to teach an Oriental
to appreciate this sort of thing. Certainly skirts which are not made
either for utility or comfort, and which fashion changes,
add nothing to the wearer's beauty; especially does this remark apply
to the "hobble skirt", with its impediment to free movement of the legs.
The ungainly "hobble skirt" compels the wearer to walk carefully
and with short steps, and when she dances she has to lift up her dress.
Now the latest fashion seems to be the "slashed skirt" which, however,
has the advantage of keeping the lower hem of the skirt clean.
Doubtless this, in turn, will give place to other novelties.
A Chinese lady, Doctor Ya Mei-kin, who has been educated in America,
adopted while there the American attire, but as soon as she returned to China
she resumed her own native dress. Let us hear what she has to say
on this subject. Speaking of Western civilization she said:
"If we keep our own mode of life it is not for the sake of blind conservatism.
We are more logical in our ways than the average European imagines.
I wear for instance this `ao' dress as you see, cut in one piece
and allowing the limbs free play -- because it is manifestly
a more rational and comfortable attire than your fashionable skirt from Paris.
On the other hand we are ready to assimilate such notions from the West
as will really prove beneficial to us." Beauty is a matter of education:
when you have become accustomed to anything, however quaint or queer,
you will not think it so after a while. When I first went abroad
and saw young girls going about in the streets with their hair falling loose
over their shoulders, I was a little shocked. I thought how careless
their parents must be to allow their girls to go out in that untidy state.
Later, finding that it was the fashion, I changed my mind,
until by degrees I came to think that it looked quite nice;
thus do conventionality and custom change one's opinions.
But it should be remembered that no custom or conventionality
which sanctions the distorting of nature, or which interferes with
the free exercise of any member of the body, can ever be called beautiful.
It has always been a great wonder to me that American and European ladies
who are by no means slow to help forward any movement for reform,
have taken no active steps to improve the uncouth and injurious style
of their own clothes. How can they expect to be granted the privileges of men
until they show their superiority by freeing themselves from
the enthrallment of the conventionalities of fashion?
Men's dress is by no means superior to the women's. It is so tight
that it causes the wearer to suffer from the heat much more than is necessary,
and I am certain that many cases of sunstroke have been chiefly due
to tight clothing. I must admire the courage of Dr. Mary Walker,
an American lady, who has adopted man's costume, but I wonder that,
with her singular independence and ingenuity she has not introduced
a better form of dress, instead of slavishly adopting the garb of the men.
I speak from experience. When I was a law student in England,
in deference to the opinion of my English friends, I discarded Chinese clothes
in favor of the European dress, but I soon found it very uncomfortable.
In the winter it was not warm enough, but in summer it was too warm
because it was so tight. Then I had trouble with the shoes.
They gave me the most distressing corns. When, on returning to China,
I resumed my own national costume my corns disappeared,
and I had no more colds. I do not contend that the Chinese dress is perfect,
but I have no hesitation in affirming that it is more comfortable and,
according to my views, very much prettier than the American fashions.
It is superior to any other kind of dress that I have known.
To appreciate the benefits to be derived from comfortable clothing,
you have to wear it for a while. Dress should not restrain
the free movement of every part of the body, neither should it be so tight
as to hinder in any way the free circulation of the blood,
or to interfere with the process of evaporation through the skin.
I cannot understand why Americans, who are correct and cautious
about most things, are so very careless of their own personal comfort
in the matter of clothing. Is anything more important than that
which concerns their health and comfort? Why should they continue wearing
clothes which retard their movements, and which are so inconvenient
that they expose the wearers to constant risk and danger?
How can they consistently call themselves independent
while they servilely follow the mandates of the dressmakers
who periodically make money by inventing new fashions
necessitating new clothes? Brave Americans, wake up! Assert your freedom!
It would be very bold, and indeed impertinent, on my part
to suggest to my American friends that they should adopt the Chinese costume.
It has much to recommend it, but I must candidly confess
that it might be improved. Why not convene an international congress
to decide as to the best form of dress for men and women?
Male and female delegates from all over the world might be invited,
and samples of all kinds of costumes exhibited. Out of them all
let those which are considered the best for men and most suitable for women
be recommended, with such improvements as the congress may deem necessary.
The advantages of a universal uniformity of costumes would be far-reaching.
There would be no further occasion for any one to look askance at another,
as has frequently happened when some stranger has been seen
wearing what was considered an uncomely or unsuitable garb;
universal uniformity of costume would also tend to draw people
closer together, and to make them more friendly. Uniforms and badges
promote brotherhood. I have enough faith in the American people to believe
that my humble suggestion will receive their favorable consideration
and that in due time it will be carried into effect.
Chapter 11. American versus Chinese Civilization
This is a big subject. Its exhaustive treatment would require a large volume.
In a little chapter such as this I have no intention of doing more
than to cast a glance at its cuff buttons and some of the frills on its shirt.
Those who want a thesis must look elsewhere.
Now what is Civilization? According to Webster it is "the act of civilizing
or the state of being civilized; national culture; refinement."
"Civilization began with the domestication of animals,"
says Alfred Russell Wallace, but whether for the animal that was domesticated
or for the man domesticating it is not clear. In a way the remark
probably applies to both, for the commencement of culture,
or the beginning of civilization, was our reclamation from a savage state.
Burke says: "Our manners, our civilization, and all the good things
connected with manners and civilization have in this European world of ours
depended for ages upon two principles -- the spirit of a gentleman,
and the spirit of religion." We often hear people, especially Westerners,
calling themselves "highly civilized", and to some extent
they have good grounds for their claim, but do they really manifest
the qualifications mentioned by Burke? Are they indeed
so "highly civilized" as to be in all respects worthy paragons
to the so-called semi-civilized nations? Have not some of their policies
been such as can be characterized only as crooked and selfish actions
which less civilized peoples would not have thought of?
I believe that every disinterested reader will be able to supply
confirmatory illustrations for himself, but I will enforce the point
by giving a few Chinese ideals of a truly civilized man:
"He guards his body as if holding jade"; i.e., he will not contaminate himself
with mental or moral filth.
"He does not gratify his appetite, nor in his dwelling place
does he seek ease"; i.e., he uses the physical without being submerged by it.
"Without weapons he will not attack a tiger, nor will he dare to cross a river
without a boat"; in other words he will never ruin himself and his family
by purely speculative practices.
He will "send charcoal in a snowstorm, but he will not add flowers
to embroidery", meaning that he renders timely assistance when necessary,
but does not curry favor by presents to those who do not need them.
Our most honored heroes are said to have made their virtue "brilliant"
and one of them engraved on his bath-tub the axiom --
"If you can renovate yourself one day, do so from day to day.
Let there be daily renovation." Our ideal for the ruler is that
the regulation of the state must commence with his regulation of himself.
It is too often forgotten that civilization, like religion,
originally came from the East. Long before Europe and America
were civilized, yea while they were still in a state of barbarism,
there were nations in the East, including China, superior to them
in manners, in education, and in government; possessed of a literature
equal to any, and of arts and sciences totally unknown in the West.
Self-preservation and self-interest make all men restless,
and so Eastern peoples gradually moved to the West taking their knowledge
with them; Western people who came into close contact with them
learned their civilization. This fusion of East and West
was the beginning of Western civilization.
A Chinese proverb compares a pupil who excels his teacher to the color green,
which originates with blue but is superior to it. This may aptly be applied
to Westerners, for they originally learned literature, science, and other arts
from the East; but they have proven apt pupils and have excelled
their old masters. I wish I could find an apothegm concerning
a former master who went back to school and surpassed his clever pupil.
The non-existence of such a maxim probably indicates that no such case
has as yet occurred, but that by no means proves that it never will.
Coming now to particulars I would say that one of the distinguishing features
in the American people which I much admire is their
earnestness and perseverance. When they decide to take up anything,
whether it be an invention or the investigation of a difficult problem,
they display indomitable perseverance and patience. Mr. Edison, for example,
sleeps, it is said, in his factory and is inaccessible for days
when he has a problem to solve, frequently even forgetting food and sleep.
I can only compare him to our sage Confucius, who,
hearing a charming piece of music which he wanted to study,
became so engrossed in it that for many days he forgot to eat,
while for three months he did not know the taste of meat.
The dauntless courage of the aviators, not only in America,
but in Europe also, is a wonderful thing. "The toll of the air",
in the shape of fatal accidents from aviation, mounts into the hundreds,
and yet men are undeterred in the pursuit of their investigations.
With such intrepidity, perseverance, and genius, it is merely
a question of time, and I hope it will not be long, when the art of flying,
either by aeroplanes or airships, will be perfectly safe.
When that time arrives I mean to make an air trip to America,
and I anticipate pleasures from the novel experience such as I do not get
from travelling by land or sea.
The remarkable genius for organization observable anywhere in America
arouses the visitor's enthusiastic admiration. One visits a mercantile office
where a number of men are working at different desks in a large room,
and marvels at the quiet and systematic manner in which
they perform their tasks; or one goes to a big bank and is amazed
at the large number of customers ever going in and coming out.
It is difficult to calculate the enormous amount of business
transacted every hour, yet all is done with perfect organization
and a proper division of labor, so that any information required
is furnished by the manager or by a clerk, at a moment's notice.
I have often been in these places, and the calm, quiet, earnest way
in which the employees performed their tasks was beyond praise.
It showed that the heads who organized and were directing the institutions
had a firm grasp of multiplex details.
We Chinese have a reputation for being good business men.
When in business on our own account, or in partnership with a few friends,
we succeed marvelously well; but we have yet much to learn
regarding large concerns such as corporations or joint stock companies.
This is not to be wondered at, for joint stock companies and corporations
as conducted in the West were unknown in China before the advent
of foreign merchants in our midst. Since then a few joint stock companies
have been started in Hongkong, Shanghai, and other ports;
these have been carried on by Chinese exclusively, but the managers have not
as yet mastered the systematic Western methods of conducting such concerns.
Even unpractised and inexpert eyes can see great room for improvement
in the management of these businesses. Here, I must admit,
the Japanese are ahead of us. Take, for instance, the Yokohama Specie Bank:
it has a paid-up capital of Yen 30,000,000 and has branches and agencies
not only in all the important towns in Japan, but also in different ports
in China, London, New York, San Francisco, Honolulu, Bombay, Calcutta
and other places. It is conducted in the latest and most approved
scientific fashion; its reports and accounts, published half-yearly,
reveal the exact state of the concern's financial position
and incidentally show that it makes enormous profits. True,
several Chinese banks of a private or official nature have been established,
and some of them have been doing a fair business, but candor compels me to say
that they are not conducted as scientifically as is the Yokohama Specie Bank,
or most American banks. Corporations and joint stock companies
are still in their infancy in China; but Chinese merchants and bankers,
profiting by the mistakes of the past, will doubtless gradually improve
their systems, so that in the future there will be less and less cause
to find fault with them.
One system which has been in vogue within the last ten or twenty years
in America, and which has lately figured much in the limelight,
is that of "Trusts". Here, again, it is only the ingenuity of Americans
which could have brought the system to such gigantic proportions
as to make it possible for it to wield an immense influence over trade,
not only in America but in other countries also. The main object of the Trust
seems to be to combine several companies under one direction,
so as to economize expenses, regulate production and the price of commodities
by destroying competition. Its advocates declare their policy to be
productive of good to the world, inasmuch as it secures regular supplies
of commodities of the best kind at fair and reasonable prices.
On the other hand, its opponents contend that Trusts are injurious to
the real interests of the public, as small companies cannot compete with them,
and without healthy competition the consumer always suffers.
Where experts differ it were perhaps wiser for me not to express an opinion
lest I should show no more wisdom than the boy who argued
that lobsters were black and not red because he had often seen them
swimming about on the seashore, but was confuted by his friend
who said he knew they were red and not black for he had seen them
on his father's dinner table.
The fact, however, which remains indisputable, is the immense power of wealth.
No one boycotts money. It is something no one seems to get enough of.
I have never heard that multi-millionaires like Carnegie or Rockefeller
ever expressed regrets at not being poor, even though they seem more eager
to give money away than to make it. Most people in America are desirous
for money, and rush every day to their business with no other thought
than to accumulate it quickly. Their love of money leaves them scarcely time
to eat, to drink, or to sleep; waking or sleeping they think of nothing else.
Wealth is their goal and when they reach it they will probably be
still unsatisfied. The Chinese are, of course, not averse to wealth.
They can enjoy the jingling coin as much as anyone,
but money is not their only thought. They carry on their business
calmly and quietly, and they are very patient. I trust they will
always retain these habits and never feel any temptation
to imitate the Americans in their mad chase after money.
There is, however, one American characteristic my countrymen
might learn with profit, and that is the recognition of the fact
that punctuality is the soul of business. Americans know this;
it is one cause of their success. Make an appointment with an American
and you will find him in his office at the appointed time.
Everything to be done by him during the course of the day has its fixed hour,
and hence he is able to accomplish a greater amount of work in a given time
than many others. Chinese, unfortunately, have no adequate conceptions
of the value of time. This is due, perhaps, to our mode of reckoning.
In the West a day is divided into twenty-four hours, and each hour
into sixty minutes, but in China it has been for centuries the custom
to divide day and night into twelve (shih) "periods" of two hours each,
so that an appointment is not made for a particular minute,
as in America, but for one or other of these two-hour periods.
This has created ingrained habits of unpunctuality which clocks and watches
and contact with foreigners are slow to remove. The time-keeping railway is,
however, working a revolution, especially in places
where there is only one train a day, and a man who misses that
has to wait for the morrow before he can resume his journey.
Some years ago a luncheon -- "tiffin" we call it in China --
was given in my honor at a Peking restaurant by a couple of friends;
the hour was fixed at noon sharp. I arrived on the stroke of twelve,
but found that not only were none of the guests there,
but that even the hosts themselves were absent. As I had several engagements
I did not wait, but I ordered a few dishes and ate what I required.
None of the hosts had made their appearance by the time I had finished,
so I left with a request to the waiter that he would convey my thanks.
Knowing the unpunctuality of our people, the conveners of a public meeting
will often tell the Chinese that it will begin an hour or two before
the set time, whereas foreigners are notified of the exact hour.
Not being aware of this device I once attended a conference
at the appointed time, only to find that I had to wait for over an hour.
I protested that in future I should be treated as a foreigner in this regard.
As civilized people have always found it necessary to wear clothes
I ought not to omit a reference to them here, but in view of what has already
been said in the previous chapter I shall at this juncture content myself
with quoting Mrs. M. S. G. Nichols, an English lady who has written
on this subject. She characterizes the clothing of men as unbeautiful,
but she principally devotes her attention to the dress of women.
I quote the following from her book:* "The relation of a woman's dress
to her health is seldom considered, still less is it contemplated
as to its effect upon the health of her children; yet everyone must see
that all that concerns the mothers of our race is important.
The clothing of woman should be regarded in every aspect if we wish to see
its effect upon her health, and consequently upon the health of her offspring.
The usual way is to consider the beauty or fashion of dress first,
its comfort and healthfulness afterward, if at all.
We must reverse this method. First, use, then beauty, flowing from,
or in harmony with, use. That is the true law of life" (p. 14).
On page 23 she continues: "A great deal more clothing is worn by women
in some of fashion's phases than is needed for warmth,
and mostly in the form of heavy skirts dragging down upon the hips.
The heavy trailing skirts also are burdens upon the spine.
Such evils of women's clothes, especially in view of maternity,
can hardly be over-estimated. The pains and perils that attend birth
are heightened, if not caused, by improper clothing.
The nerves of the spine and the maternal system of nerves
become diseased together." And on page 32 she writes:
"When I first went to an evening party in a fashionable town,
I was shocked at seeing ladies with low dresses, and I cannot even now
like to see a man, justly called a rake, looking at the half-exposed bosom
of a lady. There is no doubt that too much clothing is an evil,
as well as too little; but clothing that swelters or leaves us with a cold
are both lesser evils than the exposure of esoteric charms
to stir the already heated blood of the `roue'. What we have to do,
as far as fashion and the public opinion it forms will allow,
is to suit our clothing to our climate, and to be truly modest and healthful
in our attire." Mrs. Nichols, speaking from her own experience,
has naturally devoted her book largely to a condemnation of woman's dress,
but man's dress as worn in the West is just as bad. The dreadful high collar
and tight clothes which are donned all the year round,
irrespective of the weather, must be very uncomfortable.
Men wear nearly the same kind of clothing at all seasons of the year.
That might be tolerated in the frigid or temperate zones,
but should not the style be changed in the tropical heat of summer common to
the Eastern countries? I did not notice that men made much difference
in their dress in summer; I have seen them, when the thermometer was ranging
between 80 and 90, wearing a singlet shirt, waistcoat and coat.
The coat may not have been as thick as that worn in winter,
still it was made of serge, wool or some similarly unsuitable stuff.
However hot the weather might be it was seldom that anyone was to be seen
on the street without a coat. No wonder we frequently hear of deaths
from sunstroke or heat, a fatality almost unknown among the Chinese.**
* "The Clothes Question Considered in its Relation
to Beauty, Comfort and Health", by Mrs. M. S. G. Nichols.
Published in London, 32 Fopstone Road, Earl's Court, S.W.
** There have been a few cases of Chinese workmen who through carelessness
have exposed themselves by working in the sun; but such cases are rare.
Chinese dress changes with the seasons, varying from the thickest fur
to the lightest gauze. In winter we wear fur or garments lined with
cotton wadding; in spring we don a lighter fur or some other thinner garment;
in summer we use silk, gauze or grass cloth, according to the weather.
Our fashions are set by the weather; not by the arbitrary decrees
of dressmakers and tailors from Peking or elsewhere.
The number of deaths in America and in Europe every year,
resulting from following the fashion must, I fear, be considerable,
although of course no doctor would dare in his death certificate
to assign unsuitable clothing as the cause of the decease of a patient.
Even in the matter of dressing, and in this twentieth century,
"might is right". In the opinion of an impartial observer
the dress of man is queer, and that of woman, uncouth;
but as all nations in Europe and America are wearing the same kind of dress,
mighty Conventionality is extending its influence, so that even
some natives of the East have discarded their national dress
in favor of the uglier Western attire. If the newly adopted dress were,
if no better than, at least equal to, the old one in beauty and comfort,
it might be sanctioned for the sake of uniformity, as suggested
in the previous chapter; but when it is otherwise why should we imitate?
Why should the world assume a depressing monotony of costume?
Why should we allow nature's diversities to disappear?
Formerly a Chinese student when returning from Europe or America
at once resumed his national dress, for if he dared to continue
to favor the Western garb he was looked upon as a "half-foreign devil".
Since the establishment of the Chinese Republic in 1911,
this sentiment has entirely changed, and the inelegant foreign dress
is no longer considered fantastic; on the contrary it has become a fashion,
not only in cities where foreigners are numerous, but even in
interior towns and villages where they are seldom seen.
Chinese ladies, like their Japanese sisters, have not yet,
to their credit be it said, become obsessed by this new fashion,
which shows that they have more common sense than some men.
I have, however, seen a few young and foolish girls imitating
the foreign dress of Western women. Indeed this craze for Western fashion
has even caught hold of our legislators in Peking, who, having fallen under
the spell of clothes, in solemn conclave decided that the frock coat,
with the tall-top hat, should in future be the official uniform;
and the swallow-tail coat with a white shirt front the evening dress in China.
I need hardly say that this action of the Peking Parliament
aroused universal surprise and indignation. How could the scholars and gentry
of the interior, where foreign tailors are unknown, be expected to dress
in frock coats at formal ceremonies, or to attend public entertainments
in swallow-tails? Public meetings were held to discuss the subject,
and the new style of dress was condemned as unsuitable. At the same time
it was thought by many that the present dresses of men and women
leave much room for improvement. It should be mentioned
that as soon as it was known that the dress uniform was under discussion
in Parliament, the silk, hat and other trades guilds, imitating the habits
of the wide-world which always everywhere considers self first,
fearing that the contemplated change in dress might injuriously affect
their respective interests, sent delegates to Peking to "lobby" the members
to "go slow" and not to introduce too radical changes.
The result was that in addition to the two forms of dress above mentioned,
two more patterns were authorized, one for man's ordinary wear
and the other for women, both following Chinese styles,
but all to be made of home-manufactured material. This was to soothe
the ruffled feelings of the manufacturers and traders,
for in purchasing a foreign suit some of the materials at least,
if not all, must be of foreign origin or foreign make.
During a recent visit to Peking I protested against this novel fashion,
and submitted a memorandum to President Yuan with a request
that it should be transmitted to Parliament. My suggestion is that
the frock-coat and evening-dress regulation should be optional,
and that the Chinese dress uniform as sketched by me in my memorandum
should be adopted as an alternative. I am in hopes that my suggestion
will be favorably considered. The point I have taken
is that Chinese diplomats and others who go abroad should,
in order to avoid curiosity, and for the sake of uniformity,
adopt Western dress, and that those who are at home,
if they prefer the ugly change, should be at liberty to adopt it,
but that it should not be compulsory on others who object
to suffering from cold in winter, or to being liable to sunstroke in summer.
I have taken this middle course in order to satisfy both sides;
for it would be difficult to induce Parliament to abolish or alter
what has been so recently fixed by them. The Chinese dress,
as is well known all over the world, is superior to that worn
by civilized people in the West, and the recent change favored by the Chinese
is deplored by most foreigners in China. The following paragraph,
written by a foreign merchant and published in one of the Shanghai papers,
expresses the opinion of almost all intelligent foreigners on this subject:
"Some time back the world was jubilant over the news that among
the great reforms adopted in China was the discarding of the Chinese tunic,
that great typical national costume. `They are indeed getting civilized,'
said the gossip; and one and all admired the energy displayed
by the resolute Young China in coming into line with the CIVILIZED world,
adopting even our uncomfortable, anti-hygienic and anti-esthetic costume.
"Foreign `fashioned' tailor shops, hat stores, shoemakers, etc.,
sprang up all over the country. When I passed through Canton
in September last, I could not help noticing also that
those typical streets lined with boat-shaped, high-soled shoes,
had been replaced by foreign-style boot and shoemakers.
"Undoubtedly the reform was gaining ground and the Chinese
would have to be in the future depicted dressed up as a Caucasian.
"In my simplicity I sincerely confess I could not but deplore
the passing away of the century-old tunic, so esthetic, so comfortable,
so rich, so typical of the race. In my heart I was sorry for the change,
as to my conception it was not in the dress where the Chinese had
to seek reform. . . ."
I agree with this writer that it is not in the domain of dress
that we Chinese should learn from the Western peoples.
There are many things in China which could be very well improved
but certainly not dress.
Chapter 12. American versus Chinese Civilization (Continued)
The question has often been asked "Which are the civilized nations?"
And the answer has been, "All Europe and America." To the query,
"What about the nations in the East?" the answer has been made
that with the exception of Japan, who has now become a great civilized power,
the other nations are more or less civilized. When the matter
is further pressed and it is asked, "What about China?" the general reply is,
"She is semi-civilized," or in other words, not so civilized
as the nations in the West.
Before pronouncing such an opinion justifiable, let us consider
the plain facts. I take it that civilization inculcates culture,
refinement, humane conduct, fair dealing and just treatment.
Amiel says, "Civilization is first and foremost a moral thing."
There is no doubt that the human race, especially in the West,
has improved wonderfully within the last century. Many inventions
and discoveries have been made, and men are now able to enjoy comforts
which could not have been obtained before.
From a material point of view we have certainly progressed,
but do the "civilized" people in the West live longer
than the so-called semi-civilized races? Have they succeeded
in prolonging their lives? Are they happier than others?
I should like to hear their answers. Is it not a fact
that Americans are more liable to catch cold than Asiatics;
with the least change of air, and with the slightest appearance of an epidemic
are they not more easily infected than Asiatics? If so, why?
With their genius for invention why have they not discovered means
to safeguard themselves so that they can live longer on this earth?
Again, can Americans say that they are happier than the Chinese?
From personal observation I have formed the opinion that the Chinese
are more contented than Americans, and on the whole happier;
and certainly one meets more old people in China than in America.
Since the United States of America is rich, well governed,
and provided with more material comforts than China,
Americans, one would think, should be happier than we are, but are they?
Are there not many in their midst who are friendless and penurious?
In China no man is without friends, or if he is, it is his own fault.
"Virtue is never friendless," said Confucius, and, as society is constituted
in China, this is literally true. If this is not so in America
I fear there is something wrong with that boasted civilization,
and that their material triumphs over the physical forces of nature have been
paid dearly for by a loss of insight into her profound spiritualities.
Perhaps some will understand when I quote Lao Tsze's address to Confucius
on "Simplicity". "The chaff from winnowing will blind a man.
Mosquitoes will bite a man and keep him awake all night, and so it is
with all the talk of yours about charity and duty to one's neighbor,
it drives one crazy. Sir, strive to keep the world in its original simplicity
-- why so much fuss? The wind blows as it listeth,
so let virtue establish itself. The swan is white without a daily bath,
and the raven is black without dyeing itself. When the pond is dry
and the fishes are gasping for breath it is of no use to moisten them
with a little water or a little sprinkling. Compared to their original
and simple condition in the pond and the rivers it is nothing."
Henry Ward Beecher says, "Wealth may not produce civilization,
but civilization produces money," and in my opinion while wealth may be used
to promote happiness and health it as often injures both.
Happiness is the product of liberality, intelligence and service to others,
and the reflex of happiness is health. My contention is that the people who
possess these good qualities in the greatest degree are the most civilized.
Now civilization, as mentioned in the previous chapter,
was born in the East and travelled westward. The law of nature is spiral,
and inasmuch as Eastern civilization taught the people of the West,
so Western civilization, which is based upon principles native to the East,
will return to its original source. No nation can now remain
shut up within itself without intercourse with other nations;
the East and the West can no longer exist separate and apart.
The new facilities for transportation and travel by land and water
bring all nations, European, American, Asiatic and African,
next door to each other, and when the art of aviation is more advanced
and people travel in the air as safely as they now cross oceans,
the relationships of nations will become still closer.
What effect will this have on mankind? The first effect will be,
I should say, greater stability. As interests become common,
destructive combats will vanish. All alike will be interested in peace.
It is a gratifying sign that within recent years the people of America
have taken a prominent part in peace movements, and have inaugurated
peace congresses, the members of which represent different sections
of the country. Annual gatherings of this order must do much to prevent war
and to perpetuate peace, by turning people's thoughts in the right direction.
Take, for instance, the Lake Mohonk Conference on International Arbitration,
which was started by a private gentleman, Mr. A. K. Smiley,
who was wont every year to invite prominent officials and others
to his beautiful summer place at Lake Mohonk for a conference.
He has passed away, to the regret of his many friends,
but the good movement still continues, and the nineteenth annual conference
was held under the auspices of his brother, Mr. Daniel Smiley.
Among those present, there were not only eminent Americans,
such as Dr. C. W. Eliot, President Emeritus of Harvard University,
Ex-American Ambassador C. Tower, Dr. J. Taylor, President of Vassar College,
and Dr. Lyman Abbott, but distinguished foreigners such as J. A. Baker, M.P.,
of England, Herr Heinrich York Steiner, of Vienna, and many others.
Among the large number of people who support this kind of movement,
and the number is increasing every day, the name of Mr. Andrew Carnegie
stands out very prominently. This benevolent gentleman is a most vigorous
advocate of International Peace, and has spent most of his time and money
for that purpose. He has given ten million dollars (gold)
for the purpose of establishing the Carnegie Peace Fund; the first paragraph
in his long letter to the trustees is worthy of reproduction,
as it expresses his strong convictions:
"I have transferred to you," he says, "as Trustees of the Carnegie Peace Fund,
ten million dollars of five per cent. mortgage bonds, the revenue of which
is to be administered by you to hasten the abolition of international war,
the foulest blot upon our civilization. Although we no longer
eat our fellowmen nor torture our prisoners, nor sack cities,
killing their inhabitants, we still kill each other in war like barbarians.
Only wild beasts are excusable for doing that in this the Twentieth Century
of the Christian era, for the crime of war is inherent,
since it decides not in favor of the right, but always of the strong.
The nation is criminal which refuses arbitration and drives its adversary
to a tribunal which knows nothing of righteous judgment."
I am glad to say that I am familiar with many American magazines and journals
which are regularly published to advocate peace, and I have no doubt
that in every country similar movements are stirring,
for the nations are beginning to realize the disastrous effects of war.
If I am not mistaken, however, Americans are the most active in this matter.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, whose members belong
to nearly every nation, is a significant index of the spirit of the times.
Yet what an irony of fate that while people are so active
in perpetuating peace they cannot preserve it. Look at the recent wars
in Europe, first between Italy and Turkey, and afterward in the Balkans,
to say nothing of disturbances in China and other parts of the world.
It is just like warning a child not to take poison and then allowing him
to swallow it and die. Sensible men should consider this question
calmly and seriously. We all agree as to the wickedness of war
and yet we war with one another; we do not like war yet we cannot help war.
There is surely some hidden defect in the way we have been brought up.
Is not the slogan of nationality, to a great extent, the root of the evil?
Every schoolboy and schoolgirl is taught the duty of devotion,
or strong attachment, to his or her own country, and every statesman
or public man preaches the doctrine of loyalty to one's native land;
while the man who dares to render service to another country,
the interests of which are opposed to the interests of his own land,
is denounced a traitor. In such cases the individual is never allowed
an opinion as to the right or wrong of the dispute. He is expected
to support his own country and to cry at all times, "Our country,
right or wrong." A politician's best chance to secure votes
is to gloss over the faults of his own party or nation,
to dilate on the wickedness of his neighbors and to exhort his compatriots
to be loyal to their national flag. Can it be wondered at
that men who are imbued with such doctrines become selfish and narrow-minded
and are easily involved in quarrels with other nations?
Patriotism is, of course, the national life. Twenty-four centuries ago,
speaking in the Greek Colony of Naxos, Pythagoras described this emotion
in the following eloquent passage: "Listen, my children, to what the State
should be to the good citizen. It is more than father or mother,
it is more than husband or wife, it is more than child or friend.
The State is the father and mother of all, is the wife of the husband
and the husband of the wife. The family is good, and good is the joy
of the man in wife and in son. But greater is the State, which is
the protector of all, without which the home would be ravaged and destroyed.
Dear to the good man is the honor of the woman who bore him,
dear the honor of the wife whose children cling to his knees;
but dearer should be the honor of the State that keeps safe
the wife and the child. It is the State from which comes all
that makes your life prosperous, and gives you beauty and safety.
Within the State are built up the arts, which make the difference
between the barbarian and the man. If the brave man dies gladly
for the hearthstone, far more gladly should he die for the State."
But only when the State seeks the good of the governed,
for said Pythagoras on another occasion: "Organized society exists for
the happiness and welfare of its members; and where it fails to secure these
it stands ipso facto condemned."
But to-day should the State be at war with another,
and any citizen or section of citizens believe their own country wrong
and the opposing nation wronged, they dare not say so,
or if they do they run great risk of being punished for treason.
Men and women though no longer bought and sold in the market place
are subjected to subtler forms of serfdom. In most European countries
they are obliged to fight whether they will or not, and irrespective
of their private convictions about the dispute; even though, as is the case
in some European countries, they may be citizens from compulsion
rather than choice, they are not free to abstain from active participation
in the quarrel. Chinese rebellions are said to "live on loot",
i.e., on the forcible confiscation of private property, but is that worse
than winning battles on the forcible deprivation of personal liberty?
This is nationalism gone mad! It fosters the desire for territory grabbing
and illustrates a fundamental difference between the Orient and the Occident.
With us government is based on the consent of the governed
in a way that the Westerner can hardly understand, for his passion to expand
is chronic. Small nations which are over-populated want territory
for their surplus population; great nations desire territory to extend
their trade, and when there are several great powers to divide the spoil
they distribute it among themselves and call it "spheres of influence",
and all in honor of the god Commerce. In China the fundamentals
of our social system are brotherhood and the dignity of labor.
What, I ask, is the advantage of adding to national territory?
Let us examine the question calmly. If a town or a province is seized
the conqueror has to keep a large army to maintain peace and order,
and unless the people are well disposed to the new authority
there will be constant trouble and friction. All this, I may say, in passing,
is opposed to our Confucian code which bases everything on reason
and abhors violence. We would rather argue with a mob and find out,
if possible, its point of view, than fire on it. We have yet to be convinced
that good results flow from the use of the sword and the cannon.
Western nations know no other compulsion.
If, however, the acquisition of new territory arises from a desire
to develop the country and to introduce the most modern and improved
systems of government, without ulterior intentions, then it is beyond praise,
but I fear that such disinterested actions are rare.
The nearest approach to such high principle is the purchase
of the Philippine Islands by the United States. I call it "purchase"
because the United States Government paid a good price for the Islands
after having seized the territory. The intentions of the Government
were well known at the time. Since her acquisition of those Islands,
America has been doing her best to develop their resources
and expand their trade. Administrative and judicial reforms
have been introduced, liberal education has been given to the natives,
who are being trained for self-government. It has been repeatedly
and authoritatively declared by the United States that as soon as
they are competent to govern themselves without danger of disturbances,
and are able to establish a stable government, America will grant
independence to those islands. I believe that when the proper time comes
she will fulfill her word, and thus set a noble example to the world.
The British in Hongkong afford an illustration of a different order,
proving the truth of my contention that, excepting as a sphere
for the exercise of altruism, the acquisition of new territories
is an illusive gain. When Hongkong was ceded to Great Britain
at the conclusion of a war in which China was defeated,
it was a bare island containing only a few fishermen's huts.
In order to make it a trading port and encourage people to live there,
the British Government spent large sums of money year after year
for its improvement and development, and through the wise administration
of the local Government every facility was afforded for free trade.
It is now a prosperous British colony with a population of nearly
half a million. But what have been the advantages to Great Britain?
Financially she has been a great loser, for the Island which she received
at the close of her war with China was for many years a great drain
on her national treasury. Now Hongkong is a self-supporting colony,
but what benefits do the British enjoy there that do not belong
to everyone else? The colony is open to all foreigners, and every right
which a British merchant has is equally shared with everyone else.
According to the census of 1911, out of a population of 456,739
only 12,075 were non-Chinese, of whom a small portion were British;
the rest were Chinese. Thus the prosperity of that colony
depends upon the Chinese who, it is needless to say, are in possession
of all the privileges that are enjoyed by British residents.
It should be noticed that the number of foreign firms and stores
(i.e., non-British) have been and are increasing, while big British hongs
are less numerous than before. Financially, the British people
have certainly not been gainers by the acquisition of that colony.
Of course I shall be told that it adds to the prestige of Great Britain,
but this is an empty, bumptious boast dearly paid for
by the British tax-payer.
From an economic and moral point of view, however, I must admit
that a great deal of good has been done by the British Government in Hongkong.
It has provided the Chinese with an actual working model
of a Western system of government which, notwithstanding many difficulties,
has succeeded in transforming a barren island into a prosperous town,
which is now the largest shipping port in China. The impartial
administration of law and the humane treatment of criminals
cannot but excite admiration and gain the confidence of the natives.
If the British Government, in acquiring the desert island, had for its purpose
the instruction of the natives in a modern system of government,
she is to be sincerely congratulated, but it is feared that her motives
were less altruistic.
These remarks apply equally, if not with greater force, to the other colonies
or possessions in China under the control of European Powers,
as well as to the other colonies of the British Empire, such as Australia,
New Zealand, Canada, and others which are called "self-governing dominions".
The Imperial Government feels very tender toward these colonists,
and practically they are allowed to manage their affairs as they like.
Since they are so generously treated and enjoy the protection
of so great a power, there is no fear that these self-governing dominions
will ever become independent of their mother country; but if they ever
should do so, it is most improbable that she would declare war against them,
as the British people have grown wiser since their experience with
the American colonists. British statesmen have been awakened to the necessity
of winning the good-will of their colonists, and within recent years
have adopted the policy of inviting the Colonial premiers to London
to discuss questions affecting Imperial and Colonial interests.
Imperial federation seems to be growing popular with the British
and it is probable that in the future England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland
will each have its own parliament, with an Imperial Parliament,
sitting at Westminster, containing representatives from all parts
of the British Empire, but America is the only nation
which has added to her responsibilities with the avowed purpose
of making semi-civilized tribes independent, self-governing colonies,
and America is almost the only great power that has never occupied
or held territory in China.
Let me ask again what is the object of nations seeking new possessions?
Is it for the purpose of trade? If so, the object can be obtained
without acquiring territory. In these days of enlightenment
anyone can go to any country and trade without restriction,
and in the British colonies the alien is in the same position as the native.
He is not hampered by "permits" or other "red-tape" methods. Is it for
the purpose of emigration? In Europe, America and all the British colonies,
so far as I know, white people, unless they are paupers or undesirables,
can emigrate to any country and after a short period become naturalized.
Some statesmen would say that it is necessary for a great power
to have naval bases or coaling stations in several parts of the world.
This presupposes preparations for war; but if international peace
were maintained, such possessions would be useless and the money
spent on them wasted. In any case it is unproductive expenditure.
It is the fashion for politicians (and I am sorry to find them supported
by eminent statesmen) to preach the doctrine of armaments; they allege
that in order to preserve peace it is necessary to be prepared for war,
that a nation with a large army or navy commands respect,
and that her word carries weight. This argument cuts both ways,
for a nation occupying such a commanding position may be unreasonable
and a terror to weaker nations. If this high-toned doctrine continues
where will it end? We shall soon see every nation arming to the teeth
for the sake of her national honor and safety, and draining her treasury
for the purpose of building dreadnaughts and providing armaments.
When such a state of things exists can international peace be perpetuated?
Will not occasion be found to test those war implements and to utilize
the naval and military men? When you purchase a knife don't you expect
to use it? Mr. Lloyd George, the English Chancellor of the Exchequer,
in a speech in which he lamented the ever-increasing but unnecessary
expenditure on armaments, said in Parliament: "I feel confident
that it will end in a great disaster -- I won't say to this country,
though it is just possible that it may end in a disaster here."
A man with a revolver sometimes invites attack, lest what was at first
intended only for a defense should become a menace.
When discussing the craze of the Western nations for adding to
their territories I said that white people can emigrate to any foreign country
that they please, but it is not so with the yellow race. It has been
asserted with authority that some countries are reserved exclusively
for the white races, and with this object in view laws have been enacted
prohibiting the natives of Asia from becoming naturalized citizens,
besides imposing very strict and almost prohibitory regulations
regarding their admission. Those who support such a policy hold that they,
the white people, are superior to the yellow people in intellect,
in education, in taste, and in habits, and that the yellow people
are unworthy to associate with them. Yet in China we have manners,
we have arts, we have morals, and we have managed a fairly large society
for thousands of years without the bitter class hatreds, class divisions,
and class struggles that have marred the fair progress of the West.
We have not enslaved our lives to wealth. We like luxury but we like
other things better. We love life more than chasing imitations of life.
Our differences of color, like our differences of speech, are accidental,
they are due to climatic and other influences. We came originally
from one stock. We all started evenly, Heaven has no favorites.
Man alone has made differences between man and man, and the yellow man
is no whit inferior to the white people in intelligence.
During the Russo-Japan War was it not the yellow race that displayed
the superior intelligence? I am sometimes almost tempted to say
that Asia will have to civilize the West over again.
I am not bitter or sarcastic, but I do contend that there are yet many things
that the white races have to learn from their colored brethren.
In India, in China, and in Japan there are institutions which have a stability
unknown outside Asia. Religion has apparently little influence
on Western civilization; it is the corner-stone of society
in all Asiatic civilizations. The result is that the colored races
place morality in the place assigned by their more practical white confreres
to economic propositions. We think, as we contemplate the West,
that white people do not understand comfort because they have no leisure
to enjoy contentment; THEY measure life by accumulation, WE by morality.
Family ties are stronger with the so-called colored races
than they are among the more irresponsible white races;
consequently the social sense is keener among the former
and much individual suffering is avoided. We have our vices,
but these are not peculiar to US; and, at least, we have the merit
of being easily governed. Wherever there are Chinese colonies
the general verdict is: "The Chinese make good citizens."
This is what the late Sir Robert Hart, to whom China owes
her Customs organization, said about us:
"They (the Chinese) are well-behaved, law-abiding, intelligent,
economical, and industrious; they can learn anything and do anything;
they are punctiliously polite, they worship talent,
and they believe in right so firmly that they scorn to think
it requires to be supported or enforced by might; they delight in literature,
and everywhere they have their literary clubs and coteries
for learning and discussing each other's essays and verses;
they possess and practise an admirable system of ethics,
and they are generous, charitable, and fond of good work;
they never forget a favor, they make rich return for any kindness,
and though they know money will buy service, a man must be more than wealthy
to win esteem and respect; they are practical, teachable,
and wonderfully gifted with common sense; they are excellent artisans,
reliable workmen, and of a good faith that everyone acknowledges and admires
in their commercial dealings; in no country that is or was,
has the commandment `Honor thy father and thy mother',
been so religiously obeyed, or so fully and without exception given effect to,
and it is in fact the keynote of their family, social,
official and national life, and because it is so their days are long
in the land God has given them."
The cry of "America for the Americans" or "Australia for the Australians"
is most illogical, for those people were not the original owners of the soil;
with far greater reason we in the far East might shout,
"China for the Chinese", "Japan for the Japanese". I will quote
Mr. T. S. Sutton, English Secretary of the Chinese-American League of Justice,
on this point. "The most asinine whine in the world," he says,
"is that of `America for the Americans' or `China for the Chinese', etc.
It is the hissing slogan of greed, fear, envy, selfishness,
ignorance and prejudice. No man, no human being who calls himself a man,
no Christian, no sane or reasonable person, should or could ever be guilty
of uttering that despicable wail. God made the world for all men,
and if God has any preference, if God is any respecter of persons,
He must surely favor the Chinese, for He has made more of them
than of any other people on the globe. `America for the aboriginal Indians'
was once the cry. Then when the English came over it changed
to `America for the English', later `America for the Puritans',
and around New Orleans they cried `America for the French'. In Pennsylvania
the slogan was `America for the Dutch', etc., but the truth remains
that God has set aside America as `the melting pot' of the world,
the land to which all people may come, and from which there has arisen,
and will continue to rise, a great mixed race, a cosmopolitan nation that may,
if it is not misled by prejudice and ignorance, yet lead the world."
Although Mr. Sutton's phraseology is somewhat strong,
his arguments are sound and unanswerable.
I now pass to some less controversial aspects of my theme,
and note a praiseworthy custom that is practically unknown in the Far East.
I refer to the habit of international marriages which are not only common
in cosmopolitan America but are of daily occurrence in Europe also,
among ordinary people as well as the royal families of Europe,
so that nearly all the European courts are related one to the other.
This is a good omen for a permanent world-peace. There have been
some marriages of Asiatics with Europeans and Americans,
and they should be encouraged. Everything that brings
the East and West together and helps each to understand the other better,
is good. The offspring from such mixed unions inherit the good points
of both sides. The head master of the Queen's College in Hongkong,
where there are hundreds of boys of different nationalities studying together,
once told me that formerly at the yearly examination
the prizes were nearly all won by the Chinese students,
but that in later years when Eurasian boys were admitted,
they beat the Chinese and all the others, and generally came out the best.
Not only in school but in business also they have turned out well.
It is well known that the richest man in Hongkong is a Eurasian.
It is said that the father of Aguinaldo, the well-known Philippine leader,
was a Chinese. There is no doubt that mixed marriages of the white
with the yellow races will be productive of good to both sides.
But do Chinese really make good husbands? my lady friends ask.
I will cite the case of an American lady. Some years ago
a Chinese called on me at my Legation in Washington accompanied by
an American lady and a girl. The lady was introduced to me as his wife
and the girl as his daughter; I naturally supposed that the lady
was the girl's mother, but she told me that the girl was the daughter
of her late intimate friend, and that after her death, knowing that
the child's father had been a good and affectionate husband to her friend,
she had gladly become his second wife, and adopted his daughter.
Those who believe in reincarnation (and I hope most of my readers do,
as it is a clue to many mysteries) understand that when people
are reincarnated they are not always born in the same country or continent
as that in which they lived in their previous life. I have an impression
that in one of my former existences I was born and brought up
in the United States. In saying this I do not express the slightest regrets
at having now been born in Asia. I only wish to give a hint
to those white people who advocate an exclusive policy
that in their next life they may be born in Asia or Africa,
and that the injury they are now inflicting on the yellow people
they may themselves have to suffer in another life.
While admitting that we Chinese have our faults and that in some matters
we have much to learn, especially from the Americans, we at least possess
one moral quality, magnanimity, while the primal virtues of industry, economy,
obedience, and love of peace, combined with a "moderation in all things",
are also common among us. Our people have frequently
been slighted or ill-treated but we entertain no revengeful spirit,
and are willing to forget. We believe that in the end
right will conquer might. Innumerable as have been the disputes
between Chinese and foreigners it can at least be said,
without going into details, that we have not, in the first instance,
been the aggressors. Let me supply a local illustration showing how
our faults are always exaggerated. Western people are fond of horse-racing.
In Shanghai they have secured from the Chinese a large piece of ground
where they hold race meetings twice a year, but no Chinese are allowed
on the grand-stand during the race days. They are provided with
a separate entrance, and a separate enclosure, as though they were
the victims of some infectious disease. I have been told that a few years ago
a Chinese gentleman took some Chinese ladies into the grand-stand
and that they misbehaved; hence this discriminatory treatment of Chinese.
It is proper that steps should be taken to preserve order and decency
in public places, but is it fair to interdict the people of a nation
on account of the misconduct of two or three? Suppose it had been Germans
who had misbehaved themselves (which is not likely), would the race club
have dared to exclude Germans from sharing with other nations
the pleasures of the races?
In contrast with this, let us see what the Chinese have done.
Having learned the game of horse-racing from the foreigners in China,
and not being allowed to participate, they have formed their own race club,
and, with intention, have called it the "International Recreation Club".
This Club has purchased a large tract of land at Kiangwan,
about five miles from Shanghai, and has turned it into a race-course,
considerably larger than that in Shanghai. When a race meeting is held there,
IT IS OPEN TO FOREIGNERS AS WELL AS CHINESE, in fact complimentary tickets
have even been sent to the members of the foreign race club inviting
their attendance. Half of the members of the race committee are foreigners;
while foreigners and Chinese act jointly as stewards and judges;
the ponies that run are owned by foreigners as well as by Chinese,
and Chinese jockeys compete with foreign jockeys in all the events.
A most pleasing feature of these races is the very manifest
cordial good feeling which prevails throughout the races there.
The Chinese have been dubbed "semi-civilized and heathenish",
but the "International Recreation Club" and the Kiangwan race-course
display an absence of any desire to retaliate and sentiments of
international friendship such as it would, perhaps, be difficult to parallel.
Should such people be denied admission into Australia, Canada,
or the United States? Would not the exclusionists in those countries
profit by association with them?
The immigration laws in force in Australia are, I am informed,
even more strict and more severe than those in the United States.
They amount to almost total prohibition; for they are directed
not only against Chinese laborers but are so operated
that the Chinese merchant and student are also practically refused admission.
In the course of a lecture delivered in England by Mrs. Annie Besant in 1912
on "The citizenship of colored races in the British Empire",
while condemning the race prejudices of her own people, she brought out a fact
which will be interesting to my readers, especially to the Australians.
She says, "In Australia a very curious change is taking place.
Color has very much deepened in that clime, and the Australian has become
very yellow; so that it becomes a problem whether, after a time,
the people would be allowed to live in their own country.
The white people are far more colored than are some Indians."
In the face of this plain fact is it not time, for their own sake,
that the Australians should drop their cry against yellow people
and induce their Parliament to abolish, or at least to modify,
their immigration laws with regard to the yellow race?
Australians are anxious to extend their trade, and they have sent
commercial commissioners to Japan and other Eastern countries
with the view to developing and expanding commerce. Mr. J. B. Suttor,
Special Commissioner of New South Wales, has published
the following advertisement:
"NEW SOUTH WALES. The Land of Reward for Capital Commerce and Industry.
Specially subsidized steamers now giving direct service between Sydney,
THE PREMIER COMMERCIAL CENTER OF AUSTRALIA, AND SHANGHAI.
Thus offering special facilities for Commerce and Tourists.
NEW SOUTH WALES PRODUCTS ARE STANDARDS OF EXCELLENCE."
Commerce and friendship go together, but how Australians
can expect to develop trade in a country whose people are not allowed
to come to visit her shores even for the purposes of trade,
passes my comprehension. Perhaps, having heard so much
of the forgiving and magnanimous spirit of the Chinese,
Australians expect the Chinese to greet them with smiles
and to trade with them, while being kicked in return.
I believe in the doctrine of the universal brotherhood of men.
It is contrary to the law (God) of creation that some people
should shut out other people from portions of the earth solely from motives
of selfishness and jealousy; the injury caused by such selfish acts
will sooner or later react on the doers. "Every man is his own ancestor.
We are preparing for the days that come, and we are what we are to-day
on account of what has gone before." The dog-in-the-manger policy
develops doggish instincts in those who practise it; and, after all,
civilization without kindness and justice is not worth having.
In conclusion, I will let the English poet, William Wordsworth,
state "Nature's case".
Listen to these noble lines from the ninth canto of his "Excursion".
"Alas! what differs more than man from man,
And whence that difference? Whence but from himself?
For see the universal Race endowed
With the same upright form. The sun is fixed
And the infinite magnificence of heaven
Fixed, within reach of every human eye;
The sleepless ocean murmurs for all years;
The vernal field infuses fresh delight
Into all hearts. Throughout the world of sense,
Even as an object is sublime or fair,
That object is laid open to the view
Without reserve or veil; and as a power
Is salutary, or an influence sweet,
Are each and all enabled to perceive
That power, that influence, by impartial law,