Part 3 out of 3
Gifts nobler are vouchsafed alike to all;
Reason, and, with that reason, smiles and tears;
Imagination, freedom in the will;
Conscience to guide and check; and death to be
Foretasted, immortality conceived
By all -- a blissful immortality,
To them whose holiness on earth shall make
The Spirit capable of heaven, assured.
..............................The smoke ascends
To Heaven as lightly from the cottage hearth
As from the haughtiest palace. He whose soul
Ponders this true equality, may walk
The fields of earth with gratitude and hope;
Yet, in that meditation, will he find
Motive to sadder grief, as we have found;
Lamenting ancient virtues overthrown,
And for the injustice grieving, that hath made
So wide a difference between man and man."
Chapter 13. Dinners, Banquets, Etc.
Dinner, as we all know, indicates a certain hour and a certain habit
whose aim is the nourishment of the body, and a deliverance from hunger;
but in our modern civilized life it possesses other purposes also.
Man is a gregarious animal, and when he takes his food he likes company;
from this peculiarity there has sprung up the custom of dinner parties.
In attending dinner parties, however, the guests as a rule do not
seek sustenance, they only go to them when they have nothing else to do,
and many scarcely touch the food that is laid before them.
Their object is to do honor to the host and hostess, not to eat,
but to be entertained by pleasant and congenial conversation.
Nevertheless, the host, at whose invitation the company has assembled,
is expected to provide a great abundance and a large variety of savory dishes,
as well as a good supply of choice wines. Flesh and wine are indispensable,
even though the entertainers eschew both in their private life,
and most of the guests daily consume too much of each.
Few have the courage to part with conventional practices
when arranging a social function.
American chefs are excellent caterers, and well know how to please
the tastes of the American people. They concentrate on the art
of providing dainty dishes, and human ingenuity is heavily taxed by them
in their efforts to invent new gustatory delicacies.
The dishes which they place before each guest are so numerous that even
a gourmand must leave some untouched. At a fashionable dinner no one
can possibly taste, much less eat, everything that is placed before him,
yet the food is all so nicely cooked and served in so appetizing a manner,
that it is difficult to resist the temptation at least to sample it;
when you have done this, however, you will continue eating
until all has been finished, but your stomach will probably be a sad sufferer,
groaning grievously on the following day on account of the frolic
of your palate. This ill-mated pair, although both are chiefly interested
in food, seldom seem to agree. I must not omit to mention however
that the number of courses served at an American millionaire's dinner
is after all less numerous than those furnished at a Chinese feast.
When a Chinese gentleman asks his friends to dine with him
the menu may include anywhere from thirty to fifty or a hundred courses;
but many of the dishes are only intended for show. The guests are
not expected to eat everything on the table, or even to taste every delicacy,
unless, indeed, they specially desire to do so. Again,
we don't eat so heartily as do the Americans, but content ourselves
with one or two mouthfuls from each set of dishes,
and allow appreciable intervals to elapse between courses,
during which we make merry, smoke, and otherwise enjoy the company.
This is a distinct advantage in favor of China.
In Europe and America, dessert forms the last course at dinner;
in China this is served first. I do not know which is the better way.
Chinese are ever ready to accept the best from every quarter,
and so many of us have recently adopted the Western practice
regarding dessert, while still retaining the ancient Chinese custom,
so that now we eat sweetmeats and fruit at the beginning, during dinner,
and at the end. This happy combination of Eastern and Western practices is,
I submit, worthy of expansion and extension. If it were to become universal
it would help to discourage the present unwholesome habit,
for it is nothing more than a habit, of devouring flesh.
One of the dishes indispensable at a fashionable American dinner
is the terrapin. Those who eat these things say that their flesh
has a most agreeable and delicate flavor, and that their gelatinous
skinny necks and fins are delicious, but apparently the most palatable tidbits
pall the taste in time, for it is said that about forty years ago
terrapins were so abundant and cheap that workmen in their agreement
with their employers stipulated that terrapin should not be supplied
at their dinner table more than three times a week. Since then terrapins
have become so rare that no stylish dinner ever takes place without this dish.
Oysters are another Western sine qua non, and are always served raw.
I wonder how many ladies and gentlemen who swallow these mollusca
with such evident relish know that they are veritable scavengers,
which pick up and swallow every dirty thing in the water.
A friend of mine after taking a few of them on one occasion,
had to leave the table and go home; he was ill afterward for several days.
One cannot be too careful as to what one eats. The United States
has a Pure Food Department, but I think it might learn a great deal
that it does not know if it were to send a commission to China
to study life in the Buddhist monasteries, where only sanitary, healthful food
is consumed. It is always a surprise to me that people are so indifferent
to the kind of food they take. Public health officers are useful officials,
but when we have become more civilized each individual
will be his own health officer.
Some of the well-known Chinese dishes are very relishable
and should not be overlooked by chefs and dinner hostesses.
I refer to the sharks' fins, and birds' nest -- the Eastern counterpart
of the Western piece de resistance -- the terrapin.
From a hygienic point of view sharks' fins may not be considered
as very desirable, seeing they are part of the shark,
but they are certainly not worse, and are perhaps better,
than what is called the "high and tender" pheasant,
and other flesh foods which are constantly found on Western dining tables,
and which are so readily eaten by connoisseurs. Birds' nest soup
is far superior to turtle soup, and I have the opinion
of an American chemist who analyzed it, that it is innocuous
and minus the injurious uric acid generated by animal flesh,
the cause of rheumatic and similar painful complaints.
The "chop suey" supplied in the Chinese restaurants in New York, Chicago,
and other places, seems to be a favorite dish with the American public.
It shows the similarity of our tastes, and encourages me to expect
that some of my recommendations will be accepted.
Will some one inform me why so many varieties of wines are always served
on American tables, and why the sparkling champagne is never avoidable?
Wealthy families will spare neither pains nor expense
to spread most sumptuous dinners, and it has been reported
that the cost of an entertainment given by one rich lady
amounted to twenty thousand pounds sterling, although, as I have said,
eating is the last thing for which the guests assemble.
I do not suppose that many will agree with me, but in my opinion
it would be much more agreeable, and improve the general conversation,
if all drinks of an intoxicating nature were abolished from the dining table.
It is gratifying to know that there are some families (may the number increase
every day!) where intoxicating liquors are never seen on their tables.
The first instance of this sort that came under my notice was in the home
of that excellent woman, Mrs. M. F. Henderson, who is an ardent advocate
of diet reform and teetotalism. Mr. William Jennings Bryan,
the Secretary of State, has set a noble example, as from newspaper reports
it appears that he gave a farewell dinner to Ambassador Bryce,
without champagne or other alcoholic drinks. He has a loyal supporter
in Shanghai, in the person of the American Consul-General, Dr. A. P. Wilder,
who, to the great regret of everybody who knows him in this port,
is retiring from the service on account of ill-health. Dr. Wilder
is very popular and figures largely in the social life of the community,
but Dr. Wilder is a staunch opponent of alcohol, and through his influence
wines at public dinners are always treated as extras.
So long as the liquor traffic is so extensively and profitably carried on in
Europe and America, and so long as the consumption of alcohol is so enormous,
so long will there be a difference of opinion as to its ill effects,
but in this matter, by means of its State Prohibition Laws,
America is setting an example to the world. In no other country are there
such extensive tracts without alcohol as the "Dry States" of America.
China, who is waging war on opium, recognizes in this fact
a kindred, active moral force which is absent elsewhere,
and, shaking hands with her sister republic across the seas,
hopes that she will some day be as free of alcoholic poisons
as China herself hopes to be of opium. Every vice, however, has its defense.
Some years ago I met a famous Dutch artist in Peking, who,
though still in the prime of life, was obliged to lay aside his work
for a few days each month, due to an occasional attack of rheumatism.
I found he was fond of his cup, though I did not understand
that he was an immoderate drinker. I discoursed to him somewhat lengthily
about the evil effects of drink, and showed him that unless he was willing
to give up all intoxicating liquor, his rheumatism would never give him up.
He listened attentively, pondered for a few minutes, and then gave
this characteristic answer: "I admit the soundness of your argument
but I enjoy my glass exceedingly; if I were to follow your advice
I should be deprived of a lot of pleasure. Indeed, I would rather have
the rheumatic pains, which disappear after two or three days,
and continue to enjoy my alcoholic drinks, than endure the misery
of doing without them." I warned him that in course of time
his rheumatism would be longer in duration and attack him more frequently,
if he continued to ignore its warnings and to play with what, for him,
was certainly poison. When anyone has a habit, be it injurious or otherwise,
it is not easy to persuade him to abandon it.
"The Aristocracy of Health" written by the talented Mrs. Henderson
is an admirable work. I owe much to it. The facts and arguments
adduced against tobacco smoking, strong drink and poisonous foods,
are set forth in such a clear and convincing manner,
that soon after reading it I became a teetotaler and "sanitarian"*
and began at once to reap the benefits. I felt that I ought not to keep
such a good thing to myself, but that I should preach the doctrine
far and wide. I soon found, however, that it was an impossible task
to try to save men from themselves, and I acquired the unenviable sobriquet
of "crank"; but I was not dismayed. From my native friends
I turned to the foreign community in Peking, thinking that the latter
would possess better judgment, appreciate and be converted
to the sanitarian doctrine. Among the foreigners I appealed to,
one was a distinguished diplomat, and the other a gentleman
in the Chinese service, with a world-wide reputation.
Both were elderly and in delicate health, and it was my earnest hope
that by reading Mrs. Henderson's book, which was sent to them,
they would be convinced of their errors and turn over a new leaf --
I was disappointed. Both, in returning the book, made substantially
the same answer. "Mrs. Henderson's work is very interesting,
but at my time of life it is not advisable to change life-long habits.
I eat flesh moderately, and never drink much wine." They both seemed
to overlook the crucial problem as to whether or not animal food
contains hurtful poison. If it does, it should not be eaten at all.
We never hear of sensible people taking arsenic, strychnine,
or other poisons, in moderation, but many foolish women, I believe,
take arsenic to pale their complexions, while others, both men and women,
take strychnine in combination with other drugs, as a tonic,
but will anyone argue that these substances are foods?
The rule of moderation is applicable to things which are nutritious,
or at least harmless, but not to noxious foods, however small
the quantity of poison they may contain.
* I have never been a smoker and have always eschewed tobacco,
cigarettes, etc.; though for a short while to oblige friends
I occasionally accepted a cigarette, now I firmly refuse
everything of the sort.
Pleasant conversation at the dinner table is always enjoyable,
and a good talker is always welcome, but I often wonder why Americans,
who generally are so quick to improve opportunity,
and are noted for their freedom from traditional conventionalisms,
do not make a more systematic use of the general love of good conversation.
Anyone who is a witty conversationalist, with a large fund of anecdote,
is sure to be asked by every dinner host to help to entertain the guests,
but if the company be large the favorite can be enjoyed by only a few,
and those who are too far away to hear, or who are just near enough
to hear a part but not all, are likely to feel aggrieved.
They cannot hear what is amusing the rest, while the talk elsewhere
prevents their talking as they would if there were no interruptions.
A raconteur generally monopolizes half the company,
and leaves the other half out in the cold. This might be avoided
if talkers were engaged to entertain the whole company during dinner,
as pianists are now sometimes engaged to play to them after dinner.
Or, the entertainment might be varied by engaging a good professional reciter
to reproduce literary gems, comic or otherwise. I am sure the result
would bring more general satisfaction to the guests
than the present method of leaving them to entertain themselves.
Chinese employ singing girls; Japanese, geishas to talk, sing or dance.
The ideal would here again seem to be an amalgamation of East and West.
It is difficult for a mixed crowd to be always agreeable,
even in the congenial atmosphere of a good feast, unless the guests
have been selected with a view to their opinions rather than
to their social standing. Place a number of people whose ideas are common,
with a difference, around a well-spread table and there will be no lack
of good, earnest, instructive conversation. Most men and women
can talk well if they have the right sort of listeners.
If the hearer is unsympathetic the best talker becomes dumb.
Hosts who remember this will always be appreciated.
As a rule, a dinner conversation is seldom worth remembering,
which is a pity. Man, the most sensible of all animals, can talk nonsense
better than all the rest of his tribe. Perhaps the flow of words
may be as steady as the eastward flow of the Yang-tse-Kiang in my own country,
but the memory only retains a recollection of a vague, undefined -- what?
The conversation like the flavors provided by the cooks has been evanescent.
Why should not hostesses make as much effort to stimulate
the minds of their guests as they do to gratify their palates?
What a boon it would be to many a bashful man, sitting next to a lady
with whom he has nothing in common, if some public entertainer
during the dinner relieved him from the necessity of always thinking
of what he should say next? How much more he could enjoy
the tasty dishes his hostess had provided; and as for the lady --
what a number of suppressed yawns she might have avoided.
To take great pains and spend large sums to provide nice food
for people who cannot enjoy it because they have to talk to one another,
seems a pity. Let one man talk to the rest and leave them leisure to eat,
is my suggestion.
The opportunities afforded at the dining table may be turned
to many useful purposes. Of course not all are ill-paired,
and many young men and ladies meet, sit side by side, engage in a friendly,
pleasant conversation, renew their acquaintance at other times,
and finally merge their separate paths in the highway of marriage.
Perhaps China might borrow a leaf from this custom and substitute
dinner parties for go-betweens. The dinner-party method, however,
has its dangers as well as its advantages -- it depends on the point of view.
Personal peculiarities and defects, if any, can be easily detected
by the way in which the conversation is carried on, and the manner in which
the food is handled. It has sometimes happened that the affianced
have cancelled their engagement after a dinner party. On the other hand,
matters of great import can often be arranged at the dinner table better
than anywhere else. Commercial transactions involving millions of dollars
have frequently been settled while the parties were sipping champagne;
even international problems, ending in elaborate negotiations and treaties,
have been first discussed with the afterdinner cigar.
The atmosphere of good friendship and equality, engendered by
a well-furnished room, good cheer, pleasant company, and a genial hostess,
disarms prejudice, removes barriers, melts reserve, and disposes one to see
that there is another side to every question.
In China when people have quarreled their friends generally
invite them to dinner, where the matters in dispute are amicably arranged.
These are called "peace dinners". I would recommend that
a similar expedient should be adopted in America; many a knotty point
could be disposed of by a friendly discussion at the dinner table.
If international disputes were always arranged in this way
the representatives of nations having complaints against each other
might more often than now discover unexpected ways of adjusting
their differences. Why should such matters invariably be remanded
to formal conferences and set speeches? The preliminaries, at least,
would probably be better arranged at dinner parties and social functions.
Eating has always been associated with friendship. "To eat salt" with an Arab
forms a most binding contract. Even "the serpent" in the book of Genesis
commenced his acquaintance with Eve by suggesting a meal.
It almost seems as if there were certain unwritten laws in American society,
assigning certain functions to certain days in the week.
I do not believe Americans are superstitious, but I found that Thursday
was greatly in favor. I remember on one occasion that Mrs. Grant,
widow of the late President, sent an invitation to my wife and myself
to dine at her house some Thursday evening; this was three weeks in advance,
and we readily accepted her invitation. After our acceptance,
about a dozen invitations came for that same Thursday, all of which we had,
of course, to decline. Curiously enough we received no invitations
for any other day during that week, and just before that eventful Thursday
we received a letter from Mrs. Grant cancelling the invitation on account of
the death of one of her relations, so that we had to dine at home after all.
Now we Chinese make no such distinctions between days.
Every day of the week is equally good; in order however to avoid clashing
with other peoples' engagements, we generally fix Fridays
for our receptions or dinners, but there is not among the Chinese
an entertainment season as there is in Washington, and other great cities,
when everybody in good society is busy attending or giving
"At Homes", tea parties or dinners. I frequently attended
"At Homes" or tea parties in half-a-dozen places or more in one afternoon,
but no one can dine during the same evening in more than one place.
In this respect America might learn a lesson from China. We can accept
half-a-dozen invitations to dinner for one evening; all we have to do
is to go to each place in turn, partake of one or two dishes,
excuse ourselves to the host and then go somewhere else.
By this means we avoid the seeming rudeness of a declination,
and escape the ill feelings which are frequently created in the West
by invitations being refused. The Chinese method makes possible
the cultivation of democratic friendships without violating
aristocratic instincts, and for candidates at election times
it would prove an agreeable method by which to make new friends.
We are less rigid than Americans about dropping in and taking
a mouthful or two at dinner, even without a special invitation.*
* Since writing the above, I have heard from an American lady
that "progressive dinners" have recently been introduced
by the idle and rich set of young people in New York.
The modus operandi is that several dinners will, by arrangement,
be given on a certain day, and the guests will go to each house alternately,
eating one or two dishes only and remaining at the last house for fruit.
I can hardly believe this, but my friend assures me it is a fact.
It seems that eating is turned into play, and to appreciate the fun,
I would like to be one of the actors.
Washington officials and diplomats usually give large entertainments.
The arranging of the seats at the dinner table is a delicate matter,
as the rule of precedence has to be observed, and inattention to the rule,
by placing a wrong seat for a gentleman or lady who is entitled
to a higher place, may be considered as a slight. It is at
such functions as these that the professional story-teller,
the good reciter, the clever reader, the perfect entertainer
would make the natural selfish reserve of mankind less apparent.
Fashionable people, who entertain a good deal, are, I understand,
often puzzled to know how to provide novelties. In addition to
the suggestions I have made, may I be pardoned another?
There are many good cooks in the U.S.A. Why not commission these
to sometimes prepare a recherche Chinese dinner, with the food served
in bowls instead of plates, and with chop-sticks ("nimble lads" we call them)
for show, but forks and spoons for use. I see no reason why Chinese meals
should not become fashionable in America, as Western preparations
are frequently favored by the Elite in China. One marked difference
between the two styles is the manner in which the Chinese purveyor
throws his most delicate flavors into strong relief by prefacing it
with a diet which is insipid, harsh or pungent. Contrasts add zest
to everything human, be it dining, working, playing, or wooing.
This suggests an occasional, toothsome vegetarian repast
as a set-off to the same round of fish, flesh, fowl and wine fumes.
No people in the world can prepare such delicious vegetarian banquets
as a Chinese culinary artist.
A banquet is a more formal affair than the dinner parties
I have been discussing. It is generally gotten up to celebrate
some special event, such as the conclusion of some important business,
or the birthday of some national hero like Washington, Lincoln, or Grant;
or the Chambers of Commerce and Associations of different trades
in the important cities of America will hold their annual meetings
to hear a report and discuss the businesses transacted during the year,
winding up by holding a large banquet.
The food supplied on these occasions is by no means superior
to that given at private dinners, yet everybody is glad to be invited.
It is the inevitable rule that speeches follow the eating, and people attend,
not for the sake of the food, but for the privilege of hearing others talk.
Indeed, except for the opportunity of talking, or hearing others talk,
people would probably prefer a quiet meal at home.
Speakers with a reputation, orators, statesmen, or foreign diplomats
are frequently invited, and sometimes eminent men from other countries
are the guests of honor. These functions occur every year,
and the Foreign Ministers with whose countries the Associations
have commercial relations are generally present.
The topics discussed are nearly always the same, and it is not easy
to speak at one of these gatherings without going over the same ground
as that covered on previous occasions. I remember that a colleague of mine
who was a clever diplomat, and for whom I had great respect,
once when asked to make an after-dinner speech, reluctantly rose and,
as far as I can remember, spoke to the following effect:
"Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, I thank your Association for inviting me
to this splendid banquet, but as I had the honor of speaking at your banquet
last year I have nothing more to add, and I refer you to that speech;"
he then sat down. The novelty of his remarks, of course, won him applause,
but I should like to know what the company really thought of him.
For my part, I praised his wisdom, for he diplomatically rebuked
all whose only interest is that which has its birth with the day
and disappears with the night.
Banquets and dinners in America, as in China, are, however,
often far removed from frivolities. Statesmen sometimes
select these opportunities for a pronouncement of their policy,
even the President of the nation may occasionally think it advisable
to do this. Speeches delivered on such occasions are generally reported
in all the newspapers, and, of course, discussed by all sorts of people,
the wise and the otherwise, so that the speaker has to be
very careful as to what he says. Our President confines himself
to the more formal procedure of issuing an official mandate, the same in kind,
though differing in expression, as an American President's Inaugural Address,
or one of his Messages to Congress.
Commercial men do not understand and are impatient with the restrictions
which hedge round a Foreign Minister, and in their anxiety to get speakers
they will look anywhere. On one occasion I received an invitation
to go to Canada to attend a banquet at a Commercial Club
in one of the principal Canadian cities. It would have given me
great pleasure to be able to comply with this request,
as I had not then visited that country, but, contrary to inclination,
I had to decline. I was accredited as Minister to Washington,
and did not feel at liberty to visit another country
without the special permission of my Home Government.
Public speaking, like any other art, has to be cultivated.
However scholarly a man may be, and however clever he may be
in private conversation, when called upon to speak in public
he may sometimes make a very poor impression. I have known
highly placed foreign officials, with deserved reputations
for wisdom and ability, who were shockingly poor speakers at banquets.
They would hesitate and almost stammer, and would prove quite incapable
of expressing their thoughts in any sensible or intelligent manner.
In this respect, personal observations have convinced me that Americans,
as a rule, are better speakers than. . . . (I will not mention
the nationality in my mind, it might give offense.) An American,
who, without previous notice, is called upon to speak,
generally acquits himself creditably. He is nearly always witty,
appreciative, and frank. This is due, I believe, to the thorough-going nature
of his education: he is taught to be self-confident, to believe in
his own ability to create, to express his opinions without fear.
A diffident and retiring man, whose chief characteristic is extreme modesty,
is not likely to be a good speaker; but Americans are free from this weakness.
Far be it from me to suggest that there are no good speakers
in other countries. America can by no means claim a monopoly of orators;
there are many elsewhere whose sage sayings and forcible logic
are appreciated by all who hear or read them; but, on the whole,
Americans excel others in the readiness of their wit,
and their power to make a good extempore speech on any subject,
without opportunity for preparation.
Neither is the fair sex in America behind the men in this matter.
I have heard some most excellent speeches by women, speeches which
would do credit to an orator; but they labor under a disadvantage.
The female voice is soft and low, it is not easily heard in a large room,
and consequently the audience sometimes does not appreciate lady speakers
to the extent that they deserve. However, I know a lady who possesses
a powerful, masculine voice, and who is a very popular speaker,
but she is an exception. Anyhow I believe the worst speaker,
male or female, could improve by practising private declamation,
and awakening to the importance of articulation, modulation, and -- the pause.
Another class of social functions are "At Homes", tea parties, and receptions.
The number of guests invited to these is almost unlimited,
it may be one or two dozen, or one or two dozen hundreds.
The purpose of these is usually to meet some distinguished stranger,
some guest in the house, or the newly married daughter of the hostess.
It is impossible for the host or hostess to remember all those who attend,
or even all who have been invited to attend; generally visitors
leave their cards, although many do not even observe this rule,
but walk right in as if they owned the house. When a newcomer is introduced
his name is scarcely audible, and before the hostess,
or the distinguished guest, has exchanged more than one or two words with him,
another stranger comes along, so that it is quite excusable
if the next time the hosts meet these people they do not recognize them.
In China a new fashion is now in vogue; new acquaintances exchange cards.
If this custom should be adopted in America there would be less complaints
about new friends receiving the cold shoulder from those who they thought
should have known them.
In large receptions, such as those mentioned above, however spacious
the reception hall, in a great many instances there is not even standing room
for all who attend. It requires but little imagination to understand
the condition of the atmosphere when there is no proper ventilation.
Now, what always astonished me was, that although the parlor might be crowded
with ladies and gentlemen, all the windows were, as a rule, kept closed,
with the result that the place was full of vitiated air.
Frequently after a short time I have had to slip away
when I would willingly have remained longer to enjoy the charming company.
If I had done so, however, I should have taken into my lungs
a large amount of the obnoxious atmosphere exhaled from
hundreds of other persons in the room, to the injury of my health,
and no one can give his fellows his best unless his health is hearty.
No wonder we often hear of a host or hostess being unwell
after a big function. Their feelings on the morning after
are often the reverse of "good-will to men", and the cause
is not a lowered moral heartiness but a weakened physical body
through breathing too much air exhaled from other people's lungs.
When man understands, he will make "good health" a religious duty.
In connection with this I quote Dr. J. H. Kellogg,
the eminent physician and Superintendent of the Battle Creek Sanitarium.
In his book, "The Living Temple"*, the doctor speaks as follows
on the importance of breathing pure air: "The purpose of breathing
is to obtain from the air a supply of oxygen, which the blood takes up
and carries to the tissues. Oxygen is one of the most essential
of all the materials required for the support of life. . . .
The amount of oxygen necessarily required for this purpose
is about one and one-fourth cubic inches for each breath. . . .
In place of the one and one-fourth cubic inches of oxygen
taken into the blood, a cubic inch of carbonic acid gas is given off,
and along with it are thrown off various other still more poisonous substances
which find a natural exit through the lungs. The amount of these
combined poisons thrown off with a single breath is sufficient to contaminate,
and render unfit to breathe, three cubic feet, or three-fourths of a barrel,
of air. Counting an average of twenty breaths a minute
for children and adults, the amount of air contaminated per minute would be
three times twenty or sixty cubic feet, or one cubic foot a second. . . .
Every one should become intelligent in relation to the matter of ventilation,
and should appreciate its importance. Vast and irreparable injury
frequently results from the confinement of several scores
or hundreds of people in a schoolroom, church, or lecture room,
without adequate means of removing the impurities thrown off
from their lungs and bodies. The same air being breathed over and over
becomes densely charged with poisons, which render the blood impure,
lessen the bodily resistance, and induce susceptibility to taking cold,
and to infection with the germs of pneumonia, consumption,
and other infectious diseases, which are always present
in a very crowded audience room. Suppose, for example,
a thousand persons are seated in a room forty feet in width,
sixty in length, and fifteen in height: how long a time would elapse
before the air of such a room would become unfit for further respiration?
Remembering that each person spoils one foot of air every second,
it is clear that one thousand cubic feet of air will be contaminated for
every second that the room is occupied. To ascertain the number of seconds
which would elapse before the entire air contained in the room
will be contaminated, so that it is unfit for further breathing,
we have only to divide the cubic contents of the room by one thousand.
Multiplying, we have 60*40*15 equals 36,000, the number of cubic feet.
This, divided by one thousand, gives thirty-six as the number of seconds.
Thus it appears that with closed doors and windows,
breath poisoning of the audience would begin at the end of thirty-six seconds,
or less than one minute. The condition of the air in such a room
at the end of an hour cannot be adequately pictured in words,
and yet hundreds of audiences are daily subjected to just
such inhumane treatment through ignorance."
* "The Living Temple", by J. H. Kellogg, pp. 282 et al.
Published by Good Health Publishing Co., Battle Creek, Mich., U.S.A.
The above remarks apply not only to churches, lecture rooms, and other
public places, but also with equal force to offices and family houses.
I should like to know how many persons pay even a little attention
to this important subject of pure air breathing? You go to an office,
whether large or small, and you find all the windows closed,
although there are half-a-dozen or more persons working in the room.
No wonder that managers, clerks, and other office workers often break down
and require a holiday to recuperate their impaired health at the seaside,
When you call at a private residence you will find the same thing,
all the windows closed. It is true that there are not so many persons
in the room as in an office, but if your sense of smell is keen
you will notice that the air has close, stuffy exhalations,
which surely cannot be sanitary. If you venture to suggest
that one of the windows be opened the lady of the house
will at once tell you that you will be in a draught and catch cold.
It is a matter of daily occurrence to find a number of persons
dining in a room where there is no opening for the contaminated air
to leak out, or for the fresh air to come in. After dinner
the gentlemen adjourn to the library to enjoy the sweet perfumes of smoking
for an hour or so with closed windows. What a picture would be presented
if the bacteria in the air could be sketched, enlarged,
and thrown on a screen, or better still shown in a cinematograph,
but apparently gentlemen do not mind anything so long as they can inhale
the pernicious tobacco fumes.
It is a common practice, I fear, to keep the windows of the bedroom closed,
except in hot weather. I have often suggested to friends that,
for the sake of their health, they should at least keep one of the windows,
if not more, open during the night, but they have pooh-poohed the idea
on account of that bugaboo -- a draught. It is one of the mysteries
of the age that people should be willing to breathe second-hand air
when there is so much pure, fresh air out of doors to be had for nothing;
after inhaling and exhaling the same air over and over again
all through the night it is not strange that they rise in the morning
languid and dull instead of being refreshed and in high spirits.
No one who is deprived of a sufficiency of fresh air
can long remain efficient. Health is the cornerstone of success.
I hear many nowadays talking of Eugenics. Eugenics was founded ten years ago
by Sir Francis Galton, who defined it thus: "The study of agencies
under control that may improve or impair the racial qualities of
future generations, either physically or mentally." The University of London
has adopted this definition, where a chair of Eugenics has been founded.
This science is undoubtedly of the first importance,
but what advantage is good birth if afterward life is poisoned with foul air?
A dust-laden atmosphere is a germ-laden atmosphere,
therefore physicians prescribe for tubercular convalescents
conditions in which the air is 90% free from dust. However,
the air of the city has been scientifically proven to be as pure
as the air of the country. All that is necessary to secure proper lung food
is plenty of it, -- houses so constructed that the air inside
shall be free to go out and the air outside to come in.
Air in a closed cage must be mischievous, and what are ill-ventilated rooms
but vicious air cages, in which mischiefs of all sorts breed?
America professes to believe in publicity, and what is "publicity"
but the open window and the open door? Practise this philosophy
and it will be easy to keep on the sunny side of the street
and to discourage the glooms. The joys fly in at open windows.
Chapter 14. Theaters
The ideal of China is sincerity but an actor is a pretender.
He appears to be what he is not. Now our ancient wise men felt
that pretense of any sort must have a dangerous reactionary influence
on the character. If a man learns how to be a clever actor on the stage
he may be a skilled deceiver in other walks of life. Moreover,
no one to whom sincerity is as the gums are to the teeth,
would wish to acquire the art of acting as though he were some one else.
Hence actors in China have from ancient times been looked down upon.
Actresses, until the last decade or so, were unknown in China,
and a boy who became an actor could never afterward occupy
any position of honor. He, his children and his grandchildren
might be farmers, merchants or soldiers, but they could never be teachers,
literary men or officials. The Chinese feeling for sincerity,
amounting almost to worship, has caused the profession of an actor in China
to be considered a very low one, and so until the new regime
the actor was always debarred from attending any literary examination,
and was also deprived of the privilege of obtaining official appointment;
in fact he was considered an outcast of society. No respectable
Chinese family would think of allowing their son to go on the stage.
As a natural consequent the members of the Chinese stage have, as a rule,
been men who were as much below the level of moral respectability
as conventionalism had already adjudged them to be below the level
of social respectability. Regard anyone as a mirror with a cracked face
and he will soon justify your opinion of him. If the morals of Chinese actors
will not bear investigation it is probably due to the social ostracism
to which they have always been subjected. The same phenomenon may be seen in
connection with Buddhism. As soon as Buddhism in China ceased to be a power
the priests became a despised class and being despised
they have often given occasion to others to despise them.
I am aware that quite a different view is held of the stage
in America and Europe, and that actors and actresses
are placed on an equal footing with other members of society.
This does not, of course, mean that either America or Europe
lays less stress on sincerity than China, but simply that we have developed
in different ways. I have heard of the old "morality plays",
I know that English drama, like the Egyptian, Greek, and Indian,
had its origin in religion, but this alone will not explain
the different attitude assumed toward actors in the West
from that taken up in China.* I am inclined to think that the reason
why actors are not despised in the West as they are in China
is because the West considers first the utility of pleasure,
and the East the supremacy of sincerity. Here, as is so frequently the case,
apparent differences are largely differences of emphasis.
The West would seem to emphasize the beauty of the desire to please
where Chinese consider the effect on character or business.
The expensive dinners which no one eats and which I discussed
in a previous chapter are an illustration. No one in China
would spend money in this fashion excepting for some definite purpose.
* In his discussion of actors, Wu Tingfang does not seem to be aware
that the idealization of actors in the West is comparatively recent,
and that historically, and even now in some parts of society,
actors and the acting profession have been looked down upon in the West
for many of the same reasons he gives for the same phenomenon in China.
-- A. R. L., 1996.
We Chinese like to flatter, and to openly praise to their faces
those whom we admire. Most Westerners, would, I think,
please rather than admire; most men and women in America and Europe
enjoy applause more than instruction. This recognition
of the delicate pleasure of being able to please some one else
naturally attracts quite a different type to the Western stage
from the material usually found in Chinese dramatic companies,
and in a society where everyone acknowledges the beauty of pleasing another,
the position of the actor naturally becomes both envied and desirable.
When therefore a man or woman succeeds on the European or American stage
he or she is looked up to and welcomed in fashionable society,
e.g., Henry Irving had the entree to the highest society,
and his portrait was always found among the notables. Newspapers published
long notices of his stage performances, and when he died he received
as great honors as England could give. During his lifetime he enjoyed
the royal favor of Queen Victoria, who conferred a knighthood upon him.
After his death his biography was published and read by thousands.
All this is quite contrary to the spirit of the Chinese who,
no matter how clever a man may be as an actor, can never forget
that he is a pretender and that the cleverer he is the greater care exists
for guarding one's self against his tricks.
Actresses are no less respected and honored in the West,
whereas in China there are positively no respectable women on the stage.
Yet in the West it is a common occurrence to hear of marriages of actresses
to bankers, merchants, and millionaires. Even ballet-girls have become
duchesses by marriage. The stage is considered a noble profession. Often,
when a girl has a good voice, nothing will satisfy her but a stage career.
A situation such as this is very difficult for a Chinese to analyze.
The average Chinese woman lacks the imagination, the self-abandon,
the courage which must be necessary before a girl can think of herself
as standing alone in a bright light before a large audience waiting
to see her dance or hear her sing. Chinese actresses were quite unknown
until very recently, and the few that may be now found on the Chinese stage
were nearly all of questionable character before they entered the theater.
In the northern part of China some good Chinese women may be found
in circuses, but these belong to the working class and take up the circus life
with their husbands and brothers for a livelihood.
The actresses of the West are different. They are drawn to the stage for
the sake of art; and it must be their splendid daring as much as their beauty
which induces wealthy men, and even some of the nobility,
to marry these women. Man loves courage and respects all who are brave enough
to fight for their own. In a world where self-love (not selfishness)
is highly esteemed, manhood, or the power of self-assertion,
whether in man or woman, naturally becomes a fascinating virtue.
No one likes to be colleague to a coward. The millionaires and others
who have married actresses -- and as actresses make plenty of money
they are not likely to be willing to marry poor men --
meet many women in society as beautiful as the women they see on the stage,
but society women lack the supreme courage and daring of the stage girl.
Thus, very often the pretty, though less educated, ballet-girl,
wins the man whom her more refined and less self-assertive sister --
the ordinary society girl -- is sorry to lose.
The suffragettes are too intent just now on getting "Votes for Women"
to listen to proposals of marriage, but when they succeed in obtaining
universal suffrage I should think they would have little difficulty
in obtaining brave husbands, for the suffragettes have courage.
These women, however, are serious, and I do not think that men in the West,
judging from what I have seen, like very serious wives.
So perhaps after all the ballet-girl and actresses will have more chances
in the marriage (I had almost written money) market than the suffragettes.
I may be mistaken in my theories. I have never had the opportunity
of discussing the matter with a millionaire or an actress,
nor have I talked about the stage with any of the ladies
who make it their home, but unless it is their superb independence
and their ability to throw off care and to act their part
which attract men who are looking for wives, I cannot account
for so many actresses marrying so well.
What, however, we may ask, is the object of the theater? Is it not amusement?
But when a serious play ending tragically is put on the boards
is that amusement? The feelings of the audience after witnessing such a play
must be far from pleasant, and sometimes even moody;
yet tragedies are popular, and many will pay a high price
to see a well-known actor commit most objectionable imitation-crimes
on the stage. A few weeks before this chapter was written
a number of men of different nationalities were punished
for being present at a cockfight in Shanghai. Mexican and Spanish bullfights
would not be permitted in the United States, and yet it is a question
whether the birds or the animals who take part in these fights
really suffer very much. They are in a state of ferocious exaltation,
and are more concerned about killing their opponents
than about their own hurts. Soldiers have been seriously wounded
without knowing anything about it until the excitement of the battle
had died away. Why then forbid cockfighting or bull-baiting?
They would be popular amusements if allowed. It is certain that animals
that are driven long distances along dirty roads, cattle, sheep, and fowl
that are cooped up for many weary hours in railway trucks,
simply that they may reach a distant market and be slaughtered
to gratify perverted human appetites, really suffer more than the cock or bull
who may be killed or wounded in a fight with others of his own kind.
What about the sufferings of pugilists who take part in the prize-fights,
in which so many thousands in the United States delight? It cannot be pity,
therefore, for the birds or beasts, which makes the authorities
forbid cockfighting and bull-baiting. It must be that although these
are exhibitions of courage and skill, the exhibition is degrading
to the spectators and to those who urge the creatures to fight.
But what is the difference, so far as the spectator is concerned,
between watching a combat between animals or birds and following
a vivid dramatization of cruelty on the stage? In the latter case
the mental sufferings which are portrayed are frequently more harrowing
than the details of any bull- or cockfight. Such representation, therefore,
unless a very clear moral lesson or warning is emblazoned throughout the play,
must have the effect of making actors, actresses and spectators
less sympathetic with suffering. Familiarity breeds insensibility.
What I have said of melodrama applies also, though in a lesser degree,
to books, and should be a warning to parents to exercise proper supervision
of their children's reading.
Far be it from me to disparage the work of the playwright;
the plot is often well laid and the actors, especially the prima-donna,
execute their parts admirably. I am considering the matter, at the moment,
from the view-point of a play-goer. What benefit does he receive
from witnessing a tragedy? In his home and his office has he not enough
to engage his serious attention, and to frequently worry his mind?
Is it worth his while to dress and spend an evening watching a performance
which, however skilfully played, will make him no happier than before?
It is a characteristic of those who are fond of sensational plays
that they do not mind watching the tragical ending of a hero or a heroine,
and all for the sake of amusement. Young people and children
are not likely to get good impressions from this sort of thing.
It has even been said that murders have been committed by youngsters
who had been taken by their parents to see a realistic melodrama.
It is dangerous to allow young people of tender age to see such plays.
The juvenile mind is not ripe enough to form correct judgments.
Some time ago I read in one of the American papers that a boy
had killed his father with a knife, on seeing him ill-treat his mother
when in a state of intoxication. It appeared that the lad had witnessed
a dramatic tragedy in a theater, and in killing his father
considered he was doing a heroic act. He could, by the same rule,
have been inspired to a noble act of self-sacrifice.
After all, the main question is, does a sensational play exercise
a beneficial or a pernicious influence over the audience? If the reader
will consider the matter impartially he should not have any difficulty
in coming to a right conclusion.
Theatrical performances should afford amusement and excite mirth,
as well as give instruction. People who visit theaters
desire to be entertained and to pass the time pleasantly.
Anything which excites mirth and laughter is always welcomed by an audience.
But a serious piece from which humor has been excluded,
is calculated, even when played with sympathetic feeling and skill,
to create a sense of gravity among the spectators, which, to say the least,
can hardly be restful to jaded nerves. Yet when composing his plays
the playwright should never lose sight of the moral.
Of course he has to pay attention to the arrangement
of the different parts of the plot and the characters represented,
but while it is important that each act and every scene
should be harmoniously and properly set, and that the characters
should be adapted to the piece as a whole, it is none the less important
that a moral should be enforced by it. The practical lesson
to be learned from the play should never be lost sight of.
In Chinese plays the moral is always prominent. The villain is punished,
virtue is rewarded, while the majority of the plays are historical.
All healthy-minded people will desire to see a play end with virtue rewarded,
and vice vanquished. Those who want it otherwise are unnatural
and possess short views of life. Either in this life or in some other,
each receives according to his deserts, and this lesson
should always be taught by the play. Yet from all the clever dramas
which have been written and acted on the Western stage from time to time
what a very small percentage of moral lessons can be drawn,
while too many of them have unfortunately been of an objectionable nature.
Nearly everyone reads novels, especially the younger folk;
to many of these a visit to a theater is like reading a novel,
excepting that the performance makes everything more realistic.
A piece with a good moral cannot therefore fail to make
an excellent impression on the audience while at the same time
affording them amusement.
I am somewhat surprised that the churches, ethical societies
and reform associations in America do not more clearly appreciate
the valuable aid they might receive from the stage. I have been told
that some churches pay their singers more than their preachers,
which shows that they have some idea of the value of good art.
Why not go a step further and preach through a play? This does not mean
that there should be no fun but that the moral should be well thrust home.
I have heard of preachers who make jokes while preaching,
so that it should not be so very difficult to act interesting sermons
which would elevate, even if they did not amuse. People who went to church
to see a theater would not expect the same entertainment
as those who go to the theater simply for a laugh.
In China we do not expend as much energy as Americans and Europeans
in trying to make other people good. We try to be good ourselves
and believe that our good example, like a pure fragrance, will influence
others to be likewise. We think practice is as good as precept,
and, if I may say so without being supposed to be critical of a race
different from my own, the thought has sometimes suggested itself to me
that Americans are so intent on doing good to others,
and on making others good, that they accomplish less than they would
if their actions and intentions were less direct and obvious.
I cannot here explain all I mean, but if my readers will study what
Li Yu and Chuang Tsz have to say about "Spontaneity" and "Not Interfering",
I think they will understand my thought. The theater, as I have already said,
was in several countries religious in its origin; why not use it
to elevate people indirectly? The ultimate effect, because more natural,
might be better and truer than more direct persuasion. Pulpit appeals,
I am given to understand, are sometimes very personal.
Since writing the above I have seen a newspaper notice of
a dramatic performance in the Ethical Church, Queen's Road, Bayswater, London.
The Ethical Church believes "in everything that makes life sweet and human"
and the management state that they believe -- "the best trend
of dramatic opinion to-day points not only to the transformation of theaters
into centers of social enlightenment and moral elevation,
but also to the transformation of the churches into centers
for the imaginative presentation, by means of all the arts combined,
of the deeper truths and meanings of life." Personally,
I do not know anything about this society, but surely
there is nothing out of harmony with Christianity in these professions,
and I am glad to find here an alliance between the two greatest factors in
the development of Western thought and culture -- the church and the theater.
The newspaper article to which I have referred was describing
the "old morality play, Everyman" which had been performed in the church.
The visitor who was somewhat critical, and apparently unused
to seeing the theater in a church, wrote of the performance thus:
"Both the music and the dressing of the play were perfect,
and from the moment that Death entered clad in blue stuff
with immense blue wings upon his shoulders, and the trump in his hand,
and stopped Everyman, a gorgeous figure in crimson robes and jewelled turban,
with the question, `Who goes so gaily by?' the play was performed
with an impressiveness that never faltered.
"The heaviest burden, of course, falls on Everyman, and the artist
who played this part seemed to me, though I am no dramatic critic,
to have caught the atmosphere and the spirit of the play.
His performance, indeed, was very wonderful from the moment when
he offers Death a thousand boons if only the dread summons may be delayed,
to that final tense scene, when, stripped of his outer robe,
he says his closing prayers, hesitates for a moment to turn back,
though the dread angel is there by his side, and then follows
the beckoning hand of Good Deeds, a figure splendidly robed
in flowing draperies of crimson and with a wonderfully expressive mobile face.
"At the conclusion of the play Dr. Stanton Colt addressed a few words
to the enthusiastic audience, `Forsake thy pride, for it will
profit thee nothing,' he quoted, `If we could but remember this more carefully
and also the fact that nothing save our good deeds shall ever go with us
into that other World, surely it would help us to a holier and better life.
Earthly things have their place and should have a due regard paid to them,
but we must not forget the jewel of our souls.'"
I have, of course, heard of the "Passion Play" at Oberammergau in Germany
where the life of Jesus Christ is periodically represented on the stage,
but I say nothing about this, for, so far as I know, it is not performed
in America, and I have not seen it; but I may note in passing
that in China theaters are generally associated with the gods in the temples,
and that the moral the play is meant to teach is always well driven home
into the minds of the audience. We have not, however,
ventured to introduce any of our sages to theater audiences.
The theater in China is a much simpler affair than in America.
The residents in a locality unite and erect a large stage
of bamboo and matting, the bamboo poles are tied with strips of rattan,
and all the material of the stage, excepting the rattan,
can be used over again when it is taken down. Most of the audience
stand in front of the stage and in the open air, the theater generally being
in front of the temple; and the play, which often occupies three or four days,
is often performed in honor of the god's birthday. There is no curtain,
and there are no stage accessories. The audience is thus enabled
to concentrate its whole attention on the acting. Female parts
are played by men, and everything is beautifully simple. There is no attempt
to produce such elaborate effects as I have seen in the West,
and of course nothing at all resembling the pantomime,
which frequently requires mechanical arts. A newspaper paragraph
caught my eye while thinking of this subject. I reproduce it.
"The Century Theater in New York City has special apparatus
for producing wind effects, thunder and lightning simultaneously.
The wind machine consists of a drum with slats which are rotated
over an apron of corded silk, which produces the whistling sound of wind;
the lightning is produced by powdered magnesium electrically ignited;
thunder is simulated by rolling a thousand pounds of stone, junk and chain
down a chute ending in an iron plate, followed by half-a-dozen cannon balls
and supplemented by the deafening notes of a thunder drum."
Although, however, Chinese play-goers do not demand
the expensive outfits and stage sceneries of the West, I must note here
that not even on the American stage have I seen such gorgeous costumes,
or robes of so rich a hue and displaying such glittering gold ornaments
and graceful feathers, as I have seen on the simple Chinese stage
I have just described. Western fashions are having a tendency
in our ports and larger cities to modify some things that I have stated
about Chinese theatrical performances, but the point I wish especially
to impress on my readers is that theatrical performances in China,
while amusing and interesting, are seldom melodramatic,
and as I look back on my experiences in the United States,
I cannot but think that the good people there are making a mistake
in not utilizing the human natural love for excitement and the drama
as a subsidiary moral investment. And, of course, all I have said of theaters
applies with equal force to moving-picture shows.
Chapter 15. Opera and Musical Entertainments
Opera is a form of entertainment which, though very popular
in America and England, does not appeal to me. I know that those
who are fond of music love to attend it, and that the boxes in an opera house
are generally engaged by the fashionable set for the whole season beforehand.
I have seen members of the "four hundred" in their boxes
in a New York opera house; they have been distinguished
by their magnificent toilettes and brilliant jewelry; but I have been thinking
of the Chinese drama, which, like the old Greek play, is also based on music,
and Chinese music with its soft and plaintive airs is a very different thing
from the music of grand opera. Chinese music could not be represented
on Western instruments, the intervals between the notes being different.
Chinese singing is generally "recitative" accompanied by long notes, broken,
or sudden chords from the orchestra. It differs widely from Western music,
but its effects are wonderful. One of our writers has thus described
music he once heard: "Softly, as the murmur of whispered words;
now loud and soft together, like the patter of pearls and pearlets
dropping upon a marble dish. Or liquid, like the warbling of the mango-bird
in the bush; trickling like the streamlet on its downward course.
And then like the torrent, stilled by the grip of frost,
so for a moment was the music lulled, in a passion too deep for words."
That this famous description of the effects of music which I have borrowed
from Mr. Dyer Ball's "Things Chinese" is not exaggerated,
anyone who knows China may confirm by personal observation
of the keen enjoyment an unlearned, common day laborer will find
in playing a single lute all by himself for hours beneath the moon
on a warm summer evening, with no one listening but the trees
and the flitting insects; but it requires a practised ear
to appreciate singing and a good voice. On one occasion
I went to an opera house in London to hear the world-renowned Madame Patti.
The place was so crowded, and the atmosphere so close,
that I felt very uncomfortable and I am ashamed to acknowledge
that I had to leave before she had finished. If I had been educated
to appreciate that sort of music no doubt I would have comprehended
her singing better, and, however uncomfortable, I should no doubt
have remained to the end of the entertainment.
While writing this chapter it happened that the following news from New York
was published in the local papers in Shanghai. It should be interesting
to my readers, especially to those who are lovers of music.
"`Yellow music' will be the next novelty to startle and lure
this blase town; amusement forecasters already see in the offing
a Fall invasion of the mysterious Chinese airs which are now having
such a vogue in London under the general term of `yellow music'.
"The time was when Americans and occidentals in general
laughed at Chinese music, but this was due to their own ignorance
of its full import and to the fact that they heard only
the dirges of a Chinese funeral procession or the brassy noises
that feature a celestial festival. They did not have opportunity
to be enthralled by the throaty, vibrant melodies --
at once so lovingly seductive and harshly compelling --
by which Chinese poets and lovers have revealed their thoughts
and won their quest for centuries. The stirring tom-tom,
if not the ragtime which sets the occidental capering to-day,
was common to the Chinese three or four hundred years ago.
They heard it from the wild Tartars and Mongols -- heard it and rejected it,
because it was primitive, untamed, and not to be compared
with their own carefully controlled melodies. Mr. Emerson Whithorne,
the famous British composer, who is an authority on oriental music,
made this statement to the London music lovers last week:
"`The popularity of Chinese music is still in its childhood.
From now on it will grow rapidly. Chinese music has no literature,
as we understand that term, but none can say that it has not
most captivating melodies. To the artistic temperament, in particular,
it appeals enormously, and well-known artists -- musicians, painters,
and so on -- say that it affects them in quite an extraordinary way.'"
Chinese music from an occidental standpoint has been unjustly described
as "clashing cymbals, twanging guitars, harsh flageolets, and shrill flutes,
ear-splitting and headache-producing to the foreigner."
Such general condemnation shows deplorable ignorance.*
The writer had apparently never attended an official service
in honor of Confucius, held biennially during the whole of the Ching dynasty
at 3 A.M. The "stone chimes", consisting of sonorous stones varying in tone
and hanging in frames, which were played on those solemn occasions,
have a haunting melody such as can be heard nowhere else.
China, I believe, is the only country that has produced music from stones.
It is naturally gratifying to me to hear that Chinese airs are now having
a vogue in London, and that they will soon be heard in New York.
It will take some little time for Westerners to learn to listen intelligently
to our melodies which, being always in unison, in one key and in one movement,
are apt at first to sound as wearisome and monotonous
as Madame Patti's complicated notes did to me, but when they understand them
they will have found a new delight in life.
* Wu Tingfang is quite correct to deplore this statement as a description
of Chinese music. However, in all fairness, it is an accurate description
of how a Western ear first hears CERTAIN types of Chinese music.
After successive hearings this impression will fly away, but until then
CERTAIN types are reminiscent of two alley-cats fighting in a garbage can.
This is not meant as a degrading comment, any more so than Wu Tingfang's
comments on opera. Some music is an acquired taste, and after acquirement,
its beauty becomes not only recognizable but inescapable.
Certain other types of Chinese music can easily be appreciated
on the first hearing. -- A. R. L., 1996.
Although we Chinese do not divide our plays into comedies and tragedies
there is frequently a good deal of humor on the Chinese stage; yet we have
nothing in China corresponding to the popular musical comedy of the West.
A musical comedy is really a series of vaudeville performances strung together
by the feeblest of plots. The essence seems to be catchy songs,
pretty dances, and comic dialogue. The plot is apparently immaterial,
its only excuse for existence being to give a certain order of sequence
to the aforesaid songs, dances, and dialogues. That, indeed,
is the only object for the playwright's introducing any plot at all,
hence he does not much care whether it is logical or even within
the bounds of probability. The play-goers, I think, care even less.
They go to hear the songs, see the dances, laugh at the dialogues,
and indulge in frivolous frivolities; what do they want with a plot,
much less a moral? Chinese vaudeville takes the form
of clever tumbling tricks which I think are much preferable
to the sensuous, curious, and self-revealing dances one sees in the West.
Although musical comedy, or, more properly speaking, musical farce,
is becoming more and more popular in both Europe and America
it is also becoming proportionately more farcical; although in many theaters
it is staged as often as the more serious drama, in some having
exclusive dominion; and although theater managers find that these plays
draw bigger crowds and fill their houses better than any other,
in the large cities running for over a year, I cannot help regarding
this feature of theatrical life as so much theatrical chaos.
It lacks culture, and is sometimes both bizarre and neurotic.
I do not object to patter, smart give and take, in which the comical angles
of life are exposed, if it is brilliant; neither have I anything to say
against light comedy in which the ridiculous side of things is portrayed.
This sort of entertainment may help men who have spent a busy day,
crowded with anxious moments, and weighted with serious responsibilities,
but exhibitions which make men on their way home talk not of art,
or of music, or of wit, but of "the little girl who wore a little black net"
are distinctly to be condemned. Even the class who think it waste of time
to think, and who go to the theater only to "laugh awfully",
are not helped by this sort of entertainment. Such songs as the following,
which I have culled from the `Play Pictorial', a monthly published in London,
must in time pall the taste of even the shallow-minded.
"Can't you spare a glance?
Have we got a chance?
You've got a knowing pair of eyes;
When it's 2 to 1
It isn't much fun,"
This is what she soon replies:
"Oh, won't you buy a race-card,
And take a tip from me?
If you want to find a winner,
It's easy as can be
When the Cupid stakes are starting,
Your heads are all awhirl,
And my tip to-day
Is a bit each way
On the race-card girl."
Yet this, apparently, is the sort of thing which appeals
to the modern American who wants amusement of the lightest kind,
amusement which appeals to the eye and ear with the lightest possible tax
on his already over-burdened brain. He certainly cannot complain
that his wishes have not been faithfully fulfilled. It may be due
to my ignorance of English, but the song I have just quoted seems to me silly,
and I do not think any "ragtime music" could make it worth singing.
Of course many songs and plays in the music halls are such
as afford innocent mirth, but it has to be confessed
that there are other things of a different type which it is not wise
for respectable families to take the young to see.
I would not like to say all I think of this feature of Western civilization,
but I may quote an Englishman without giving offense. Writing in
the `Metropolitan Magazine', Louis Sherwin says: "There is not a doubt
that the so-called `high-brow dancer' has had a lot to do
with the bare-legged epidemic that rages upon the comic-opera stage to-day.
Nothing could be further removed from musical comedy than the art
of such women as Isadora Duncan and Maude Allen. To inform Miss Duncan
that she has been the means of making nudity popular in musical farce
would beyond question incur the lady's very reasonable wrath.
But it is none the less true. When the bare-legged classic dancer
made her appearance in opera houses, and on concert platforms
with symphony orchestras, it was the cue for every chorus girl
with an ambition to undress in public. First of all
we had a plague of Salomes. Then the musical comedy producers,
following their usual custom of religiously avoiding anything original,
began to send the pony ballets and soubrettes on the stages
without their hosiery and with their knees clad in nothing
but a coat of whitewash (sometimes they even forgot to put on the whitewash,
and then the sight was horrible). The human form divine,
with few exceptions, is a devilish spectacle unless it is properly made up.
Some twenty years from now managers will discover what audiences found out
months ago, that a chorus girl's bare leg is infinitely less beautiful
than the same leg when duly disguised by petticoats and things."
Chapter 16. Conjuring and Circuses
After what I have said as to the position of the actor in China my readers
will not be surprised at my saying that the performance of a conjuror
should not be encouraged. What pleasure can there be in being tricked?
It may be a great display of dexterity to turn water into wine,
to seem to cut off a person's head, to appear to swallow swords,
to escape from locked handcuffs, and to perform the various cabinet tricks,
but cleverness does not alter the fact that after all it is only deception
cunningly contrived and performed in such a way as to evade discovery.
It appears right to many because it is called "legerdemain" and "conjuring"
but in reality it is exactly the same thing as that by which
the successful card-sharper strips his victims, viz., such quickness of hand
that the eye is deceived. Should we encourage such artful devices?
History tells many stories as to the way in which people
have been kept in superstitious bondage by illusions and magic,
and if it be now held to be right to deceive for fun
how can it be held to have been wrong to deceive for religion?
Those who made the people believe through practising deception
doubtless believed the trick to be less harmful than unbelief. I contend,
therefore, that people who go to see conjuring performances derive
no good from them, but that, on the contrary, they are apt to be impressed
with the idea that to practise deception is to show praiseworthy skill.
It is strange how many people pay money to others to deceive them.
More than ever before, people to-day actually enjoy being cheated.
If the tricks were clumsily devised and easily detected
there would be no attraction, but the cleverer and more puzzling the trick
the more eagerly people flock to see it.
Christian preachers and moralists could do well to take up this matter
and discourage people from frequenting the exhibitions of tricksters.
There are doubtless many laws in nature yet undiscovered, and a few persons
undoubtedly possess abnormal powers. This makes the cultivation
of the love of trickery the more dangerous. It prevents the truth
from being perceived. It enables charlatans to find dupes,
and causes the real magician to be applauded as a legerdemainist.
This is what the New Testament tells us happened in the case of Jesus Christ.
His miracles failed to convince because the people had for a long time
loved those who could deceive them cleverly.* The people said to him,
"Thou hast a devil," and others warned them after his death saying,
"That deceiver said while he was yet alive `After three days
I will rise again.'" When people are taught not only to marvel
at the marvelous but to be indifferent to its falsehoods
they lose the power of discrimination, and are apt to take
the true for the false, the real for the unreal.
* This is a rather unorthodox view, but nonetheless interesting,
especially as it pertains to his following statements. -- A. R. L., 1996.
For an evening's healthy enjoyment I believe a circus is as good a place
as can be found anywhere. The air there is not close and vitiated
as in a theater; you can spend two or three hours comfortably
without inhaling noxious atmospheres. It is interesting to note
that the circus is perhaps the only form of ancient entertainment
which has retained something of its pristine simplicity.
To-day, as in the old Roman circuses, tiers of seats run round the course,
which in the larger circuses is still in the form of an ellipse,
with its vertical axis, where the horses and performers enter, cut away.
But the modern world has nothing in this connection to compare
with the Circus Maximus of Rome, which, according to Pliny,
held a quarter of a million spectators. It is singular, however,
that while the old Roman circuses were held in permanent buildings,
modern circuses are mostly travelling exhibitions in temporary erections.
In some respects the entertainment offered has degenerated with the change,
for we have to-day nothing in the circus to correspond to
the thrilling chariot races in which the old Romans delighted.
I wonder that in these days of restless search for novelties some one
does not re-introduce the Roman chariot race under the old conditions,
and with a reproduction of the old surroundings. It would be
as interesting and as exciting as, and certainly less dangerous than,
polo played in automobiles, which I understand is one of the latest fads
in the West. A modern horse-race, with its skill, daring and picturesqueness,
is the only modern entertainment comparable to the gorgeous races
of the Romans.
The exhibition of skillful feats of horsemanship and acrobatic displays
by juvenile actors, rope-dancing, high vaulting and other
daring gymnastic feats seen in any of our present-day circuses
are interesting, but not new. The Romans had many clever tight-rope walkers,
and I do not think they used the long pole loaded at the ends
to enable them to maintain their equilibrium, as do some later performers.
Japanese tumblers are very popular and some of their tricks clever,
but I think the Western public would find Chinese acrobats
a pleasant diversion. With practice, it would seem as if
when taken in hand during its supple years there is nothing
that cannot be done with the human body. Sometimes it almost appears
as if it were boneless, so well are people able by practice
to make use of their limbs to accomplish feats which astonish
ordinary persons whose limbs are less pliable.
The trapeze gives opportunity for the display of very clever exhibition,
of strength and agility; at first sight the gymnast would appear to be flying
from one cross-bar to the other, and when watching such flights
I have asked myself: "If a person can do that, why cannot he fly?"
Perhaps human beings will some day be seen flying about in the air like birds.
It only requires an extension of the trapeze "stunt". Travelling in the air
by means of airships or aeroplanes is tame sport in comparison
with bird-like flights, whether with or without artificial wings.
There are many advantages in being able to travel in the air.
One is a clear and pure atmosphere such as cannot be obtained
in a railway car, or in a cabin on board a ship; another is
the opportunity afforded of looking down on this earth, seeing it
as in a panorama, with the people looking like ants. Such an experience
must broaden the mental outlook of the privileged spectator,
and enable him to guess how fragmentary and perverted must be
our restricted view of things in general. There is, however,
danger of using such opportunities for selfish and mischievous purposes.
A wicked man might throw a bomb or do some other wicked nonsense
just as some one else, who really sees things as they are
and not as they seem to be, might employ his superior knowledge
to benefit himself and injure his fellows; but the mention of the trapeze
and its bird-like performers has diverted me from my theme.
I suppose that a reference to the circus would be incomplete which overlooked
the clowns, those poor survivals of a professional class of jesters
who played what appears to have been a necessary part in society
in ruder days, when amusements were less refined and less numerous.
The Chinese have never felt the need of professional foolers,
and I cannot say that I admire the circus clown, but the intelligence
which careful training develops in the horse, the dog, etc.,
interests me a good deal. An instance of this came under my own observation
during a recent visit to Shanghai of "Fillis' Circus". Mr. Fillis had a mare
which for many years had acted the part of the horse of a highway robber.
The robber, flying from his enemies, urges the animal beyond its strength,
and the scene culminated with the dying horse being carried from the arena
to the great grief of its master. When this entertainment
was given in Shanghai this horse -- "Black Bess" -- fell sick.
A tonic was administered in the shape of the lively tune
which the band always played as she was about to enter the arena
and play her part as the highwayman's mare. The animal made
pitiable attempts to rise, and her inability to do so apparently suggested
to the intelligent creature the dying scene she had so often played.
She lay down and relaxed, prepared to die in reality. The attendants,
ignorant of the manner in which the horse had let herself go,
tried to lift her, but in her relaxed condition her bowels split --
Black Bess had acted her part for the last time.
Chapter 17. Sports
Perhaps in nothing do the Chinese differ from their Western friends
in the matter of amusements more than in regard to sports.
The Chinese would never think of assembling in thousands
just to see a game played. We are not modernized enough
to care to spend half a day watching others play. When we are tired of work
we like to do our own playing. Our national game is the shuttlecock,
which we toss from one to another over our shoulders,
hitting the shuttlecock with the flat soles of the shoes we are wearing.
Sometimes we hit with one part of the foot, sometimes with another,
according to the rules of the game. This, like kite-flying,
is a great amusement among men and boys.
We have nothing corresponding to tennis and other Western ball games,
nor, indeed, any game in which the opposite sexes join.
Archery was a health-giving exercise of which modern ideas of war robbed us.
The same baneful influence has caused the old-fashioned
healthful gymnastic exercises with heavy weights to be discarded.
I have seen young men on board ocean-going steamers
throwing heavy bags of sand to one another as a pastime.
This, though excellent practice, hardly equals our ancient athletic feats
with the bow or the heavy weight. Western sports have been introduced
into some mission and other schools in China, but I much doubt
if they will ever be really popular among my people. They are too violent,
and, from the oriental standpoint, lacking in dignity.
Yet, when Chinese residing abroad do take up Western athletic sports
they prove themselves the equals of all competitors, as witness
their success in the Manila Olympiad, and the name the baseball players
from the Hawaiian Islands Chinese University made for themselves
when they visited America. Nevertheless, were the average Chinese
told that many people buy the daily paper in the West
simply to see the result of some game, and that a sporting journalism
flourishes there, i.e., papers devoted entirely to sport,
they would regard the statement as itself a pleasant sport.
Personally, I think we might learn much from the West in regard to sports.
They certainly increase the physical and mental faculties,
and for this reason, if for no other, deserve to be warmly supported.
China suffers because her youths have never been trained to team-work.
We should be a more united people if as boys and young men
we learned to take part in games which took the form of a contest,
in which, while each contestant does his best for his own side,
the winning or losing of the game is not considered so important
as the pleasure of the exercise. I think a great deal
of the manliness which I have admired in the West must be attributed
to the natural love of healthy sport for sport's sake.
Games honestly and fairly played inculcate the virtues of honor, candidness,
and chivalry, of which America has produced many worthy specimens.
When one side is defeated the winner does not exult over
his defeated opponents but attributes his victory to an accident;
I have seen the defeated crew in a boat race applauding
their winning opponents. It is a noble example for the defeated contestants
to give credit to and to applaud the winner, an example which
I hope will be followed by my countrymen.
As an ardent believer in the natural, healthy and compassionate life
I was interested to find in the Encyclopaedia Britannica
how frequently vegetarians have been winners in athletic sports.*
They won the Berlin to Dresden walking match, a distance of 125 miles,
the Carwardine Cup (100 miles) and Dibble Shield (6 hours)
cycling races (1901-02), the amateur championship of England
in tennis (four successive years up to 1902) and racquets (1902),
the cycling championship of India (three years), half-mile running
championship of Scotland (1896), world's amateur cycle records
for all times from four hours to thirteen hours (1902),
100 miles championship Yorkshire Road Club (1899, 1901),
tennis gold medal (five times). I have not access to later statistics
on this subject but I know that it is the reverse of truth to say,
as Professor Gautier, of the Sarbonne, a Catholic foundation in Paris,
recently said, that vegetarians "suffer from lack of energy
and weakened will power." The above facts disprove it,
and as against Prof. Gautier, I quote Dr. J. H. Kellogg,
the eminent physician and Superintendent of Battle Creek Sanitarium
in Michigan, U.S.A., who has been a strict vegetarian for many years and who,
though over sixty years of age, is as strong and vigorous as a man of forty;
he told me that he worked sixteen hours daily without the least fatigue.
Mrs. Annie Besant, President of the Theosophical Society,
is another example. I am credibly informed that she has been
a vegetarian for at least thirty-five years and that it is doubtful
if any flesh-eater who is sixty-five can equal her in energy.
Whatever else vegetarians may lack they are not lacking
in powers of endurance.
* E. B., 9th ed., vol. 33, p. 649.
It is needless for me to say that hunting, or, as it is called, "sport",
is entirely opposed to my idea of the fitness of things.
I do not see why it should not be as interesting to shoot at "clay pigeons"
as to kill living birds; and why moving targets are not
as suitable a recreation as running animals. "The pleasures of the chase"
are no doubt fascinating, but when one remembers that
these so-called pleasures are memories we have brought with us
from the time when we were savages and hunted for the sake of food,
no one can be proud of still possessing such tastes.
To say that hunters to-day only kill to eat would be denied indignantly
by every true sportsman. That the quarry is sometimes eaten afterward
is but an incident in the game; the splendid outdoor exercise
which the hunt provides can easily be found in other ways without inflicting
the fear, distress, and pain which the hunted animals endure.
It is a sad commentary on the stage at which humanity still is
that even royalty, to whom we look for virtuous examples,
seldom misses an opportunity to hunt. When a man has a strong hobby
he is unable to see its evil side even though in other respects
he may be humane and kind-hearted. Thus the sorry spectacle is presented
of highly civilized and humane people displaying their courage
by hunting and attacking wild animals, not only in their own native country
but in foreign lands as well. Such personages are, I regret to have to add,
not unknown in the United States.
The fact that hunting has been followed from time immemorial,
that the ancient Egyptians, Assyrians, and Babylonians
indulged in this pastime, does not make it any more suitable an occupation
for us to-day. The good qualities of temper and patience
which hunting demands are equally well developed by athletic sports.
I understand that a good hunting establishment will cost as much as
$10,000 (2000 Pounds) a year. Surely those who can afford so much on luxuries
could find a more refined amusement in yachting and similar recreations.
To sail a yacht successfully in half a gale of wind, is, I should imagine,
more venturesome, more exciting, and a pastime requiring a manifestation
of more of the qualities of daring, than shooting a frightened animal
from the safe retreat of the saddle of a trusty horse;
and not even the hunt of the wild beast can equal in true sportsmanship
a contest with the wind and the waves, for it is only occasionally
that a beast shows fight because he is wounded, and even then
man is well protected by his gun; but whether yachting or swimming
the sportsman's attitude of watchfulness is uninterrupted.
I fancy it is convention and custom, rather than conviction
of the superiority of the sport, that has given hunting its pre-eminence.
It is on record that four thousand years ago the ancient emperors of China
started periodically on hunting expeditions. They thus sought relief from
the monotony of life in those days; in the days of the Stuarts, in England,
royalty found pleasure in shows which were childish and even immoral.
Of course in barbarous countries all savages used to hunt for food.
For them hunting was an economic necessity, and it is no slander
to say that the modern hunt is a relic of barbarism.
It is, indeed, a matter of surprise to me that this cruel practice
has not ceased, but still exists in this twentieth century.
It goes without saying that hunting means killing the defenseless,
inflicting misery and death on the helpless; even if it be admitted
that there is some justification for killing a ferocious and dangerous animal,
why should we take pleasure in hunting and killing the fox,
the deer, the hare, the otter, and similar creatures?
People who hunt boast of their bravery and fearlessness,
and to show their intrepidity and excellent shooting
they go to the wilderness and other countries to carry on their "sport".
I admire their fearless courage but I am compelled to express my opinion
that such actions are not consistent with those of a good-hearted
Still less excuse is there for the practice of shooting.
What right have we to wantonly kill these harmless and defenseless birds
flying in the air? I once watched pigeon shooting at a famous watering place,
the poor birds were allowed to fly from the trap-holes simply that
they might be ruthlessly killed or maimed. That was wanton cruelty;
to reprobate too strongly such revolting barbarity is almost impossible.
I am glad to say that such cruel practices did not come under my observation
during my residence in the States, and I hope that they are not American vices
but are prohibited by law. No country, with the least claim to civilization,
should allow such things, and our descendants will be astonished
that people calling themselves civilized should have indulged
in such wholesale and gratuitous atrocities. When people allow animals
to be murdered -- for it is nothing but murder -- for the sake of sport,
they ought not to be surprised that men are murdered by criminals
for reasons which seem to them good and sufficient.
An animal has as much right to its life as man has to his.
Both may be called upon to sacrifice life for the sake of some greater good
to a greater number, but by what manner of reasoning can killing for
killing's sake be justified? Does the superior cunning and intellect of man
warrant his taking life for fun? Then, should a race superior to humanity
ever appear on the earth, man would have no just cause of complaint
if he were killed off for its amusement. There formerly existed in India
a "well-organized confederacy of professional assassins" called Thugs,
who worshipped the goddess Kali with human lives. They murdered according to
"rigidly prescribed forms" and for religious reasons. The English,
when they came into power in India, naturally took vigorous measures
to stamp out Thuggeeism; but from a higher point of view
than our own little selves, is there after all so much difference
between the ordinary sportsman and the fanatic Thuggee? If there be,
the balance is rather in favor of the latter, for the Thug at least had
the sanction of religion, while the hunter has nothing to excuse his cruelty
beyond the lust of killing. I do not understand why the humane societies,
such as "The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals",
are so supine in regard to these practices. The Chinese
are frequently accused of being cruel to animals, but I think
that those who are living in glass houses should not throw stones.
In this connection I would remark that birds are shot not only
for pleasure and for their flesh, but in some cases for their plumage,
and women who wear hats adorned with birds' feathers, do, though indirectly,
encourage the slaughter of the innocent. Once a Chinese was arrested
by the police in Hongkong for cruelty to a rat. It appeared that the rat
had committed great havoc in his household, stealing and damaging
various articles of food; when at last it was caught the man nailed its feet
to a board, as a warning to other rats. For this he was brought
before the English Magistrate, who imposed a penalty of ten dollars.
He was astonished, and pleaded that the rat deserved death,
on account of the serious havoc committed in his house.
The Magistrate told him that he ought to have instantly killed the rat,
and not to have tortured it. The amazed offender paid his fine,
but murmured that he did not see the justice of the British Court
in not allowing him to punish the rat as he chose, while foreigners in China
were allowed the privilege of shooting innocent birds without molestation.
I must confess, people are not always consistent.
The Peace Societies should take up this matter, for hunting
is an imitation of war and an apprenticeship to it.
It certainly can find no justification in any of the great world religions,
and not even the British, or the Germans, who idolize soldiers,
would immortalize a man simply because he was a hunter.
From whatever point the subject be viewed it seems undeniable
that hunting is only a survival of savagery.