(1894 version) Chinese Characteristics CHAPTER XXI. THE ABSENCE OF SYMPATHY


ATTENTION has been directed to that aspect of Chinese life which is represented by the term "benevolence," the very first of the so-called Constant Virtues. Benevolence is well-wishing.  Sympathy is fellow-feeling. Our present object, having premised that the Chinese do practise a certain amount of benevolence, is to illustrate the proposition that they are conspicuous for a deficiency of sympathy.

It must ever be borne in mind that the population of China is dense. The disasters of flood and famine are of periodical occurrence in almost all parts of the Empire. The Chinese desire for posterity is so overmastering a passion that circumstances which ought to operate as an effectual check upon population, and which in many other countries would do so, appear to be in China relatively inefficient for that purpose. The very poorest people continue to marry their children at an early age, and these children bring up large families, just as if there were any provision for their maintenance. The result of these and other causes is that a large proportion of the population lives, in the most literal sense, from hand to mouth. This may be said to be the universal condition of day-labourers, and it is a condition from which there appears to be no possibility of escape. No foreigner can long deal with the ordinary Chinese whom he everywhere meets, without at once becoming aware of the fact that hardly any one has any ready money. The moment that anything whatever is to be done, the first demand is for cash, that those who are to do it may get something to eat, the presumption being that as yet they have had nothing. It is often very hard even for well-to-do people to raise the most moderate sums of money when it suddenly becomes necessary to do so. There is a most significant expression commonly employed on such occasions, which speaks of a man who is obliged to collect a sum with which to prosecute a lawsuit, to arrange for a funeral, and the like, as "putting through a famine," that is, acting like a starving person, in the urgency and persistency of his demands for help. None but those who are well off ever expect to be able to manage affairs of this sort without assistance. Hopeless poverty is the most prominent fact in the Chinese Empire, and the bearing of this fact upon the relations of the people to one another must be evident to the most careless observer. The result of the pressure for the means of subsistence, and of the habits which this pressure cultivates and fixes, even after the immediate demand is no longer urgent, is to bring life down to a hard materialistic basis, in which there are but two prominent facts. Money and food are twin foci of the Chinese ellipse, and it is about them as centres that the whole social life of the people revolves.

The deep poverty of the masses of the people of the Chinese Empire, and the terrible struggle constantly going on to secure even the barest subsistence, have familiarised them with the most pitiable exhibitions of suffering of every conceivable variety. Whatever might be the benevolent impulses of any Chinese, he is from the nature of the case wholly helpless to relieve even a thousandth part of the misery which he sees about him all the time — misery multiplied many times in any year of special distress. A thoughtful Chinese must recognise the utter futility of the means which are employed to alleviate distress, whether by individual kindness or by government interference. All these methods, even when taken at their best, amount simply to a treatment of the symptoms, and do absolutely nothing towards removing disease. Their operation is akin to that of societies which should distribute small pieces of ice among the victims of typhoid fever — so many ounces to each patient, with no hospitals, no dieting, no medicine, and no nursing. It is not, therefore, strange that the Chinese are not in practical ways more benevolent, but rather that, with the total lack of system, of prevision, and of supervision, benevolence continues at all. We are familiar with the phenomenon of the effect, upon the most cultivated persons, of constant contact with misery which they have no power either to hinder or to help, for this is illustrated in every modern war. The first sight of blood causes a sinking of the epigastric nerves, and makes an indelible impression; but this soon wears away, and is succeeded by a comparative callousness, which, even to him who experiences it, is a perpetual surprise. In China there is always a social war, and every one is too accustomed to its sickening effects to give them more than a momentary attention.

One of the manifestations of Chinese lack of sympathy is their attitude towards those who are in any way physically deformed. According to the popular belief, the lame, the blind, especially those who are blind of but one eye, the deaf, the bald, the cross-eyed, are all persons to be avoided. It appears to be the assumption that since the physical nature is defective, the moral nature must be so likewise. So far as our observation extends, such persons are not treated with cruelty, but they excite very little of that sympathy which in Western lands is so freely and so spontaneously extended. They are looked upon as having been overtaken by a punishment for some secret sin, a theory exactly accordant with that of the ancient Jews.

The person who is so unfortunate as to be branded with some natural defect or some acquired blemish will not go long without being reminded of the fact. One of the mildest forms of this practice is that in which the peculiarity is employed as a description in such a way as to attract to it pubic attention. "Great elder brother with the pockmarks," says an attendant in a dispensary to a patient, "from what village do you come?" It will not be singular if the man whose eyes are afflicted with strabismus hears an observation to the effect that "when the eyes look asquint, the heart is askew"; or if the man who has no hair is reminded that "out of ten bald men, nine are deceitful, and the other would be so also, were he not dumb." Such freaks of nature as albinos form an unceasing butt for a species of cheap wit, which appears never for an instant to be intermitted. The unfortunate possessor of peculiarities like this must resign himself (or herself) to a lifetime of this treatment, and happy will he be if his temperament admits of his listening to such talk in perpetual reiteration without becoming by turns furious and sullen.

The same excess of frankness is displayed towards those who exhibit any mental defects. "This boy," remarks a bystander, "is idiotic." The lad is probably not at all "idiotic," but his undeveloped mind may easily become blighted by the constant repetition in his presence of the proposition that he has no mind at all. This is the universal method of treating all patients afflicted with nervous diseases, or indeed with any other. All their peculiarities, the details of their behaviour, the method in which the disease is supposed to have originated, the symptoms which attend its exacerbations, are all public property, and are all detailed in the presence of the patient, who must be thoroughly accustomed to hearing himself described as "crazy," "half-witted," "besotted in his intellect," etc., etc.

Among a people to whom the birth of male children is so vital a matter, it is not surprising that the fact of childlessness is a constant occasion of reproach and taunts, just as in the ancient days, when it was said of the mother of the prophet Samuel that "her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret." If it is supposed for any reason, or without reason, that a mother has quietly smothered one of her children, it will not be strange if the announcement of the same is publicly made to a stranger.

One of the most characteristic methods in which the Chinese lack of sympathy is manifested is in the treatment which brides receive on their wedding-day. They are often very young, are always timid, and are naturally terror-stricken at being suddenly thrust among strangers. Customs vary widely, but there seems to be a general indifference to the feelings of the poor child thus exposed to the public gaze. In some places it is allowable for any one who chooses to turn back the curtains of the chair and stare at her. In other regions, the unmarried girls find it a source of keen enjoyment to post themselves at a convenient position as the bride passes, to throw upon her handfuls of hay-seed or chaff, which will obstinately adhere to her carefully oiled hair for a long time. Upon her emergence from the chair at the house of her new parents, she is subjected to the same kind of criticism as a newly bought horse, with what feelings on her part it is not difficult to imagine.

Side by side with the punctilious ceremony which is so dear to the Chinese heart is the apparent inability to perceive that some things must be disagreeable to other persons, and should for that reason be avoided. A Chinese friend, who had not the smallest idea of saying what would be deficient in politeness, remarked to the writer that when he first saw foreigners it seemed most extraordinary that they should have beards that reached all round their faces just like those of monkeys, but he added, reassuringly, "I am quite used to it now!" The teacher who is asked in the presence of his pupils as to their capacity, replies before them all that the one nearest the door is much the brightest, and will be a graduate by the time he is twenty years of age, but the two at the next table are certainly the stupidest children he ever saw. That such observations have any reflex effect upon the pupils, never for a moment enters into the thought of any one.

The whole family life of the Chinese illustrates their lack of sympathy. While there are great differences in different households, and while from the nature of the case generalisation is precarious, it is easy to see that most Chinese homes which are seen at all are by no means happy homes. It is impossible that they should be so, for they are deficient in that unity of feeling which to us seems so essential to real home life. A Chinese family is generally an association of individuals who are indissolubly tied together, having many of their interests the same, and many of them very different. The result is not our idea of a home, and it is not sympathy.

Daughters in China are from the beginning of their existence more or less unwelcome. This fact has a most important bearing on their whole subsequent career, and furnishes many significant illustrations of the absence of sympathy.

Mothers and daughters who pass their days in the narrow confinement of a Chinese court under the conditions of Chinese life, are not likely to lack topics of disagreement, in which abusive language is indulged in with a freedom which the unconstraint of everyday life tends to promote. It is a popular saying, full of significance to those who know Chinese homes, that a mother cannot by reviling her own daughter make her cease to be her own daughter! When a daughter is once married she is regarded as having no more relations with her family than those which are inseparable from com- munity of origin. There is a deep-seated reason for omitting daughters from all family registers. She is no longer our daughter, but the daughter-in-law of some one else. Human nature will assert itself in requiring visits to the mother's home, at more or less frequent intervals, according to the local usage. In some districts these visits are very numerous and very prolonged, while in others the custom seems to be to make them as few as possible, and liable to almost complete suspension for long periods in case of a death in the family. But whatever the details of usage, the principle holds good that the daughter-in-law belongs to the family of which she has become a part. When she goes to her mother's home, she goes on a strictly business basis. She takes with her it may be a quantity of sewing for her husband's family, which the wife's family must help her get through with. She is accompanied on each of these visits by as many of her children as possible, both to have her take care of them and to have them out of the way when she is not at hand to look after them, and most especially to have them fed at the expense of the family of the maternal grandmother for as long a time as possible. In regions where visits of this sort are frequent, and where there are many daughters in a family, their constant raids on the old home are a source of perpetual terror to the whole family, and a serious tax on the common resources. For this reason these visits are often discouraged by the fathers and the brothers, while secretly favoured by the mothers. But as local custom fixes for them certain epochs, such as a definite date after the New- Year, special feast-days, etc., the visits cannot be interdicted.

When the daughter-in-law returns to her mother-in-law, it is true of her, as the adage says of a thief, that she never comes back empty-handed. She must take a present of some sort for her mother-in-law, generally food. Neglect of this established rite, or inability to comply with it, will soon result in dramatic scenes. If the daughter is married into a family which is poor, or which has become so, and if she has brothers who are married, she will find that her visits to her mother are, in the language of the physicians, "contra-indicated." There is war between the daughters-in-law of a family and the married sisters of the same family, like that between the Philistines and the children of Israel, each regarding the territory as peculiarly its own, and the other party as interlopers. If the daughters-in-law are strong enough to do so, they will, like the Philistines, levy a tax upon the enemy whom they cannot altogether exterminate or drive out. A daughter-in-law is regarded as a servant for the whole family, which is precisely her position, and in getting a servant it is obviously desirable to get one who is strong and well grown, and who has already been taught the domestic accomplishments of cooking, sewing, and whatever industries may be the means of livelihood in that particular region, rather than a child who has little strength or capacity. Thus we have known of a case where a buxom young woman of twenty was married to a slip of a boy literally only half her age, and in the early years of their wedded life she had the pleasure of nursing him through the smallpox, which is considered as a disease of infancy.

The woes of daughters-in-law in China should form the subject rather for a chapter than for a brief paragraph. When it is remembered that all Chinese women marry, and generally marry young, being for a considerable part of their lives under the absolute control of a mother-in-law, some faint conception may be gained of the intolerable miseries of those daughters-in-law who live in families where they are abused. Parents can do absolutely nothing to protect their married daughters, other than remonstrating with the families into which they have married, and exacting an expensive funeral if the daughters should be actually driven to suicide. If a husband should seriously injure or even kill his wife, he might escape all legal consequences by representing that she was "unfilial" to his parents. Suicides of young wives are, we must repeat, excessively frequent, and in some regions scarcely a group of villages can be found where they have not recently taken place. What can be more pitiful than a mother's reproaches to a married daughter who has attempted suicide and been rescued: "Why didn't you die when you had a chance?" The Governor of Honan, in a memorial published in the Peking Gazette a few years ago, showed incidentally that while there is responsibility in the eye of the law for the murder of a child by a parent, this is rendered nugatory by the provision that even if a married woman should wilfully and maliciously murder her young daughter-in-law, the murderess may ransom herself by a money payment. The case reported was that in which a woman had burned the girl who was reared to become her son's wife with incense sticks, then roasted her cheeks with red-hot pincers, and finally boiled her to death with kettlefuls of scalding water. Other similar instances are referred to in the same memorial, the source of which places its authenticity beyond doubt. Such extreme barbarities are probably rare, but the cases of cruel treatment which are so aggravated as to lead to suicide, or to an attempt at suicide, are so frequent as to excite little more than passing comment. The writer is personally acquainted with many families in which these occurrences have taken place.

The lot of Chinese concubines is one of exceeding bitterness. The homes in which they are to be found — happily relatively few in number — are the scenes of incessant bickerings and open warfare. "The magistrate of the city in which I live," writes a resident of China of long experience, "was a wealthy man, a great scholar, a doctor of literature, an able administrator, well acquainted with the good teachings of the Classics; but he would lie and curse and rob, and torture people to any extent to gratify his evil passions. One of his concubines ran away; she was captured, brought back, stripped, hung up to a beam by her feet, and cruelly and severely beaten."

In a country like China the poor have no time to be sick. Ailments of women and children are apt to be treated by the men of the family as of no consequence, and are constantly allowed to run into incurable maladies, because there was no time to attend to them, or because the man "could not afford it." As we have noticed in speaking of filial piety, it is a constituent part of the theory that the younger are relatively of little account. They are valued principally for what they may become, and not for what they are. Thus the practice of most Western lands is in China reversed. The youngest of three travellers is proverbially made to take the brunt of all hardships. The youngest servant is uniformly the common drudge of the rest. In the grinding poverty of the mass of the people, it is not strange that the spirit even of a Chinese boy often rebels against the sharp limitations to which he finds himself pinned, and that he not infrequently runs away. The boy who has made up his mind to go will seldom fail to find some slight thread by which he may attach himself to some one else. The causes for this behaviour on the part of boys are various, but so far as we have observed, the harsh treatment of others is by far the most common. In a case of this sort, a boy recently recovered from a run of typhus fever, being possessed by the hearty appetite common to such patients, and finding the coarse black bread of the family fare hard eating, went to a local market and indulged in the luxury of expending cash to the value of about twenty cents. For this he was severely reproved by his father, upon which the lad ran away to Manchuria, an unfailing resort of lads all over the northeastern provinces, and was never heard of again.

It was a saying of George D. Prentice, that man was the principal object in creation, woman being merely "a side issue." The phrase is a literal expression of the position of a wife in a Chinese family. The object had in view in matrimony by the family of the girl is to get rid of supporting her. The object on the part of the husband's family is to propagate that family. These objects are not in themselves open to criticism, except on the ground of a too complete occupation of the field of human motives. But in China no one indulges in any illusions on the subject.

That which is true of the marriages of those in the ordinary walks of life is pre-eminently true of the poorer classes. It is a common observation in regard to a widow who has remarried, that "now she will not starve." It is a popular proverb that a second husband and a second wife are husband and wife only as long as there is anything to eat; when the food-supply fails each shifts for himself. In times of famine relief cases have often been observed where the husband simply abandons the wife and the children, leaving them to pick up a wretched subsistence or to starve. In many instances daughters-in-law were sent back to their mothers' family to be supported or starved as the event might be. "She is your daughter, take care of her yourself." In other cases where special food was given by distributers of famine relief to women who were nursing small infants, it was sometimes found that this allowance had been taken from the women and devoured by the men, although these instances were probably exceptional.

While it would be obviously unfair to judge a people only by the phenomena of such years as those of great famine, there is an important sense in which such occasions are a species of touchstone by which the underlying principles of social life may be ascertained with more accuracy and certainty than on ordinary occasions. The sale of wives and of children in China is a practice not confined to years of peculiar distress, but during those years it is carried on to an extent which throws all ordinary transactions of this nature into insignificance. It is perfectly well known to those acquainted with the facts, that during several recent years in many districts stricken with famine, the sale of women and children was conducted as openly as that of mules and donkeys, the only essential difference being that the former were not driven to market. During the great famine of 1878, which extended over nearly all parts of the three most northern provinces, as well as further south, so extensive a traffic sprung up in women and girls who were exported to the central provinces that in some places it was difficult to hire a cart, as they had all been engaged in the transportation of the newly purchased females to the regions where they were to be disposed of. In these cases young women were taken from a region where they were in a condition of starvation, and where the population was too redundant, to a region which had been depopulated by rebels, and where for many years wives had been hard to procure. It is one of the most melancholy features of this strange state of affairs, that the enforced sales of members of Chinese families to distant provinces was probably the best thing for all parties, and perhaps the only way in which the lives, both of those who were sold as well as the lives of those who sold them, could be preserved.

We have referred to the common neglect of sickness in the family because the victims are "only women and children." Smallpox, which in Western lands we regard as a terrible scourge, is so constant a visitor in China that the people never expect to be free from its ravages. But it is not much thought of, because its victims are mainly children! It is exceedingly common to meet with persons who have lost the sight of both eyes in consequence of this disease. The comparative disregard of the value of infant life is displayed in ways which we should by no means have expected from the Chinese, who object so strongly to the mutilation of the human body. Young children are often either not buried at all, an ordinary expression for their death being the phrase "thrown out," or if rolled in a mat, they are so loosely covered that they soon fall a prey to dogs. In some places the horrible custom prevails of crushing the body of a deceased infant into an indistinguishable mass, in order to prevent the "devil" which inhabited it from returning to vex the family!

While the Chinese are so indifferent to smallpox, our fear of which they fail to appreciate, they have a similar dread of typhus and typhoid fevers, which are regarded much as we regard the scarlet fever. It is very difficult to get proper attention, or any attention at all, if one happens to be taken with either of these diseases when away from home. To all appeals for help it is a conclusive reply, "That disease is contagious." While this is true to some extent of many fevers, it is perhaps most conspicuous in a terrible scourge found in some of the valleys of Yunnan, and described by Mr. Baber: * "The sufferer is soon seized with extreme weakness, followed in a few hours by agonising aches in every part of the body; delirium shortly ensues, and in nine cases out of ten the result is fatal." According to the native accounts: "All parts of the sick-room are occupied by devils; even the tables and mattresses writhe about and utter voices, and offer intelligible replies to all who question them. Few, however, venture into the chamber. The missionary assured me that the patient is, in most cases, deserted like a leper, for fear of contagion. If an elder member of the family is attacked, the best attention he receives is to be placed in a solitary room with a vessel of water by his side. The door is secured, and a pole laid near it, with which twice a day the anxious relatives, cautiously peering in, poke and prod the sick person to discover if he retains any symptoms of life."

(* "Travels and Researches in Western China.")

Among a people of so mild a disposition as the Chinese there must be a great deal of domestic kindness of which nothing is seen or heard. Sickness and trouble are peculiarly adapted to call out the best side of human nature, and in a foreign hospital for Chinese we have witnessed many instances of devotion not merely on the part of parents towards children, or children towards parents, but of wives towards husbands and also of husbands towards wives. The same thing is even more common among strangers towards one another. Many a Chinese mother nursing an infant will give of her overflowing abundance to a motherless child which else might starve.

Unwillingness to give help to others, unless there is some special reason for doing so, is a trait that runs through Chinese social relations in multifold manifestations. It is a common and in many cases a perfectly valid excuse which is made when a bright boy is advised to try to learn to read a little, although he has no opportunity to go to school, that no one will tell him the characters, although there may be plenty of reading men within reach who have abundant leisure. The very mention of such an ambition is certain to excite unmeasured ridicule on the part of those who have had the longest experience of Chinese schools, as if they were saying: "By what right does this fellow think to take a short cut, and pick up in a few months what cost us years of toil, and then was forgotten in half the time which we took to get it? Let him hire a teacher for himself as we did." It is very rare indeed to meet with a genuine case of one who has anything which can be called a knowledge of characters, even of the most elementary description, which he has "picked up" for himself, though such cases do occasionally occur.

The general omission to do anything for the relief of the drowning strikes every foreigner in China. A few years ago a foreign steamship was burned in the Yang-tze River, and the crowds of Chinese who gathered to witness the event did little or nothing to rescue the passengers and crew. As fast as they made their way to the shore many of them were robbed even of the clothing which they had on, and some were murdered outright. Yet it should be remarked in connection with such atrocities as this, that it is not so very long ago that wrecking was a profession in England. On the other hand, in the autumn of 1892 a large British steamer went ashore on the China coast, and both the local fishermen and the officials did everything in their power to rescue and relieve the survivors. It remains true, however, that there is in China a general callousness to the many cases of distress which are to be seen almost everywhere, especially along lines of travel. It is a common proverb that to be poor at home is not to be counted as poverty, but to be poor when on the high-road, away from home, will cost a man his life.

It is in travelling in China that the absence of helpful kindness on the part of the people towards strangers is perhaps most conspicuous. When the summer rains have made all land travel almost impossible, he whose circumstances make travel a necessity will find that "heaven, earth, and man" are a threefold harmony in combination against him. No one will inform him that the road which he has taken will presently end in a quagmire. If you choose to drive into a morass, it is no business of the contiguous tax-payers. We have spoken of the neglect of Chinese highways. When the traveller has been plunged into one of the sloughs with which all such roads at certain seasons abound, and finds it impossible to extricate himself, a great crowd of persons will rapidly gather from somewhere, " their hands in their sleeves, and idly gazing," as the saying goes. It is not until a definite bargain has been made with them that any one of these bystanders, no matter how numerous, will lift a finger to help one in any particular. Not only so, but it is a constant practice on such occasions for the local rustics to dig deep pits in difficult places, with the express purpose of trapping the traveller, that he may be obliged to employ these same rustics to help the traveller out! When there is any doubt as to the road in such places, one might as well plunge forward, disregarding the cautions of those native to the spot, since one can never be sure that the directions given are not designed to hinder rather than help.

We have heard of one instance in which a foreign family, moving into an interior city of China, was welcomed with apparent cordiality by the people, the neighbours even volunteering to lend them articles for housekeeping until such time as they might be able to procure an outfit of their own. Other examples there doubtless are, but it is well known that these are wholly exceptional. By far the most usual reception is total indifference on the part of the people, except so far as curiosity is excited to see what the new-comers are like ; a spirit of cupidity to make the most of the fat geese whom fate has sent thither to be plucked ; and sullen hostility. In the case of foreigners who may have been reduced to distress, we have never heard of any assistance voluntarily given by Chinese, though of course there may have been such cases. We have known of instances in which sailors have attempted the journey overland from Tientsin to Chefoo, and from Canton to Swatow, and during the whole time of their travel they were never once given a lodging or a mouthful of food.

It is often difficult, and frequently impossible, for those who are taking a dead body home to secure admission to an inn. We have known a case of this sort where the brother of the deceased was obliged to stand guard all night in the street, because the landlord would not allow the coffin to come within the gate. An extortionate price is exacted for ferrying a corpse over a river, and we have been cognisant of several instances in which a dead body has been doubled up into a parcel and tied with mat wrappings, to make it appear like merchandise, to avoid suspicion. It was reported during a recent severe winter in Shantung, that the keeper of an inn in the city of Wei Hsien refused to allow several travellers who were half dead with cold to enter his inn, lest they should die there, but turned them into the street, where they all froze to death!

There are some crimes committed in China for which the perpetrators are often not prosecuted before a magistrate, partly on account of the difficulty and expense of securing a conviction, and partly because of the shame of publicity. Many cases of adultery are thus dealt with by the law of private revenge. The offender is attacked by a large band of men, on the familiar Chinese principle that "where there are many persons, their prestige is great." Sometimes the man's legs are broken, sometimes his arms, and very often his eyes are destroyed by rubbing into them quicklime. The writer has known several instances of this sort, and they are certainly not uncommon. A very intelligent Chinese, himself not unfamiliar with Occidental ways of thought, upon hearing a foreigner remonstrate against this practice as a refinement of cruelty, expressed unfeigned surprise, and remarked that in China such a mode of dealing with a criminal is thought to be "extremely mild," as he is thus merely maimed for life, when he really ought to be killed!

"What do you keep coming here to eat for?" said a sister-in-law to her husband's brother, who had been away for several years, and having got into trouble had had his eyes rubbed out with quicklime. "We have no place for you. If you want something hard, here is a knife; and if you want something soft, there is a rope; so get along with you." This conversation was mentioned incidentally by an incurably blind man, as an explanation of his desire to get a little sight if that were possible, but if not, he intimated that either the "hard" or the "soft" could be made to adjust his difficulties. It is rare to hear of any instances in which the victim of such outrages succeeds in getting a complaint heard before a magistrate. The evidence against him would be overwhelming, and nine officials out of ten would probably consider that the man who had been thus dealt with deserved it all, and more. Even if the man were to win his case, he would be no better off than before, but rather the worse, as the irritation of his neighbours would only be increased, and his wife would not be safe.

It must be understood that despite the sacredness of human life in China, there are circumstances in which it is worth very little. One of the crimes which are most exasperating to the Chinese is theft. In a crowded population -always on the edge of ruin, this is regarded as a menace to society only less serious than murder. In a time of famine relief one of the distributers found an insane woman, who had become a kleptomaniac, chained to a huge mill-stone as if she were a mad dog. If a person becomes known as a thief or in other ways is a public nuisance, he is in danger of being made away with by a summary process, not differing essentially from the vigilance committees of the early days of California. Sometimes this is done by stabbing, but the method most frequently adopted is burying alive. Doubtless there are those who suppose this expression to be a mere figure of speech, as when (according to some) one is said "to swallow gold." It is, on the contrary, a very serious reality. The writer is acquainted with four persons who were threatened with death in this form. In two instances they were bound as a preliminary, and in one case the pit was actually dug, and in all cases the burial was only prevented by the intervention of some older member of the attacking party. In another instance, occurring in a village where the writer is well acquainted, a young man who was known to be insane was an incorrigible thief. A party of the villagers belonging to his own family only "consulted"(!) with his mother, and as the result of their deliberations he was bound, a hole made in the ice covering the river flowing near the village, and the youth was dropped in.

During the years in which the refluent waves of the great T'ai-p'ing rebellion overspread so large a part of China, the excitement was everywhere intense. At such times a stranger had but to be suspected to be seized, and subjected to a rigorous examination. If he could give no account of himself which was satisfactory to his captors, it went hard with him. Within a few hundred yards of the spot at which these lines are written two such tragedies occurred, little more than twenty years ago. The magistrates found themselves almost powerless to enforce the laws, and issued semi-official notifications to the people to seize all suspicious characters. The villagers saw a man coming on a horse, who looked as if he were a native of another province, and who failed to give adequate explanations of his antecedents. His bedding being found to be full of articles of jewellery, which he had evidently plundered from somewhere, the man was tied up, a pit was dug, and the victim tumbled into it. While this was going on another was seen racing across the fields in a terrified manner, and it needed but the suggestion of some bystander that he was probably an accomplice, to secure for the second victim the same fate as the first. In some cases the strangers were compelled to dig their own graves. Any native of the provinces of China principally affected by the lawlessness of those lawless times, old enough to recollect the circumstances, will testify that instances of this sort were too numerous to be remembered or counted. In the epoch of terror caused by a mysterious cutting off of cues, in the year 1877, an intense panic seemed to pervade a large part of the Empire, and there can be no doubt that many persons who were suspected were made away with in this manner. Such periods of panic, however, under certain conditions, are common to all races, and must not be laid to the charge of the Chinese as a unique phenomenon.

One of the most striking of all the many exhibitions of the Chinese lack of sympathy is to be found in their cruelty. It is popularly believed by the Chinese that the Mohammedans in China are more cruel than the Chinese themselves. However this may be, there can be no doubt in the mind of any one who knows the Chinese that they display an indifference to the sufferings of others which is probably not to be matched in any other civilised country. Though children at home are almost wholly ungoverned, yet the moment their career of education is begun the reign of mildness ceases. The "Trimetrical Classic," the most general of the minor text-books of the Empire, contains a line to the effect that to teach without severity is a fault in a teacher. While this motto is very variously acted upon, according to the temperament of the pedagogue and the obtuseness of his pupils, great harshness is certainly common. We have seen a scholar fresh from a preceptor who was struggling to induct his pupils into the mysteries of examination essays, when the former presented the appearance of having been through a street fight, his head covered with wounds and streaming with blood. It is not rare that pupils are thrown into fits from the abuse which they receive from angry teachers. On the other hand, it is not unusual for mothers whose children are so unfortunate as to be subject to fits, to beat them in those paroxysms, as an expression of the extreme disgust which such inconvenient attacks excite. It is not difficult to perceive that mothers who can beat children because they fall into convulsions will treat any of their children with cruelty when irritated by special provocation.

Another example of, "absence of sympathy" on the part of the Chinese is their system of punishments. It is not easy, from an examination of the legal code of the Empire, to ascertain what is and what is not in accordance with law, for custom seems to have sanctioned many deviations from the letter of the statutes. One of the most significant of these is the enormous number of blows with the bamboo which are constantly resorted to, often ten times the number named in the law, and sometimes one hundred times as many. We have no space even to mention the dreadful tortures which are inflicted upon Chinese prisoners in the name of justice. They may be found enumerated in any good work on China, such as "The Middle Kingdom," or "Huc's Travels." The latter author mentions seeing prisoners on the way to the yamen, with their hands nailed to the cart in which they were conveyed, because the constables had forgotten to bring fetters. Nothing so illustrates the proposition that though the Chinese have "bowels," they certainly have no "mercies," as the deliberate, routine cruelty with which all Chinese prisoners are treated who cannot pay for their exemption. A few years ago the press of Shanghai chronicled the infliction upon two old prisoners in the yamen of the District Magistrate of that city of a sentence for levying blackmail on a new prisoner. They received between two thousand and three thousand blows with the bamboo, and had their ankles broken with an iron hammer. Is it strange that the Chinese adage advises the dead to keep out of hell and the living to keep out of yamens? *

*A Chinese who is practising law in the United States, Mr. Hang Yen-chang, in an article on the administration of the law in China, published in a leading religions journal, quotes what has been hereinbefore said of the Chinese "absence of nerves," remarking that the punishments of the Chinese are not regarded by themselves as cruel. While we are unable to agree with this view, it must not be forgotten that the Chinese being what they are, their laws and their customs being as they are, it would probably be wholly impracticable to introduce any essential amelioration of their punishments without a thoroughgoing reformation of the Chinese people as individuals. Physical force cannot safely be abandoned until some moral force is at hand adequate to take its place. 

Since the preceding paragraphs were written an unexpected confirmation of some of the statements made has appeared from a most unimpeachable source. The following is an extract from a translation of the Peking Gazette of February 7, 1888: "The Governor of Yunnan states that in some of the country districts of that province the villagers have a horrible custom of burning to death any man caught stealing corn or fruits in the fields. They at the same time compel the man's relations to sign a document, giving their consent to what is done, and then make them light the fire with their own hands, so as to deter them from lodging a complaint afterwards. Sometimes the horrible penalty is exacted for the breaking of a single branch or stalk, or even false accusations are made, and men put to death out of spite. This terrible practice, which seems incredible when heard, came into use during the time of the Yunnan rebellion; and the constant efforts of the authorities have not succeeded in extirpating it since."

Native Chinese newspapers have within a few years contained detailed accounts of an enforced suttee practised in a district near Foochow. Widows are compelled to strangle themselves, and their bodies are then burned, after which ornamental portals are erected to their virtuous memory! Magistrates have in vain endeavoured to stop this cruel custom, but their success has been only local and temporary.

China has many needs, among which her leading statesmen place armies, navies, and arsenals. To her foreign well-wishers it is plain that she needs a currency, railways, and scientific instruction. But does not a deeper diagnosis of the conditions of the Empire indicate that one of her profoundest needs is more human sympathy? She needs to feel with childhood that sympathy which for eighteen centuries has been one of the choicest possessions of races and peoples which once knew it not. She needs to feel sympathy for wives and for mothers, a sympathy which eighteen centuries have done so much to develop and to deepen. She needs to feel sympathy for man as man, to learn that quality of mercy which droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven, twice blest in blessing him that gives and him that takes — that divine compassion which Seneca declared to be "a vice of the mind," but which the influence of Christianity has cultivated until it has become the fairest plant that ever bloomed upon the earth, the virtue in the exercise of which man most resembles God.

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