(1894 version) Chinese Characteristics CHAPTER XXIV. MUTUAL SUSPICION


IT is an indisputable truth that without a certain amount of mutual confidence it is impossible for mankind to exist in an organised society, especially in a society so highly organised and so complex as that of China. Assuming this as an axiom, it is not the less necessary to direct our attention to a series of phenomena, which, however inharmonious they may appear with our theory, are sufficiently real to those who are acquainted with China. Much of what we shall have to say of the mutual suspicion of the Chinese is by no means peculiar to this people; it is rather a trait which they share in common with all Orientals, the manifestations of which are doubtless much modified by the genius of Chinese institutions. The whole subject is intimately connected with that of mutual responsibility, already discussed. Nothing is more likely to excite the suspicion not of the Chinese only but of any human being, than the danger that he may be held to account for something which has no concern whatever with himself, but the consequences of which may be most serious.

The first manifestation which attracts a stranger's attention of the chronic suspicion prevailing in China is the existence in all parts of the Empire of lofty walls which enclose all cities. The fact that the word for city is in Chinese the equivalent for a walled city, is as significant as the fact that in the Latin language the word which denoted army also meant drill or practice. The laws of the Empire require that every city shall be enclosed by a wall of a specified height. Like other laws this statute is much neglected in the letter, for there are many cities the walls of which are allowed to crumble into such decay that they are no protection whatever, and we know of one district city invested by the T'ai-p'ing rebels and occupied by them for many months, the walls of which, although utterly destroyed, were not restored at all for more than a decade afterwards. Many cities have only a feeble mud rampart, quite inadequate to keep out even the native dogs, which climb over it at will. But in all these cases the occasion of these lapses from the ideal state of things is simply the poverty of the country. Whenever there is an alarm of trouble, the first step is to repair the walls. The execution of such repairs affords a convenient way in which to fine officials or others who have made themselves too rich in too short a time.

The firm foundation on which rest all the many city walls in China is the distrust which the government entertains of the people. However the Emperor may be in theory the father of his people, and his subordinates called "father and mother officials," all parties understand perfectly that these are purely technical terms, like plus and minus, and that the real relation between the people and their rulers is that between children and a stepfather. The whole history of China appears to be dotted with rebellions, most of which might apparently have been prevented by proper action on the part of the general government if taken in time. The government does not expect to act in time. Perhaps it does not wish to do so, or perhaps it is prevented from doing so. Meantime, the people slowly rise, as the government knew they would, and the officials promptly retire within these ready-made fortifications, like a turtle into its shell or a hedgehog within its ball of quills, and the disturbance is left to the slow adjustment of the troops.

The lofty walls which enclose all premises in Chinese, as in other Oriental cities and towns, are another exemplification of the same traits of suspicion. If it is embarrassing for a foreigner to know how to speak to a Chinese of such places as London or New York, without unintentionally conveying the notion that they are "walled cities," it is not less difficult to make Chinese who may be interested in Western lands understand how it can be that in those countries people often have about their premises no enclosures whatever. The immediate, although unwarranted, inference on the part of the Chinese is that in such countries there must be no bad characters of any kind.

The almost universal massing of the rural Chinese population in villages, which are in reality miniature cities, is another illustration of mutual suspicion. The object is protection, not from a foreign enemy, but from one another. The only exceptions to this agglomeration of Chinese dwellings with which we are acquainted, is in the case of some mountainous regions where the land is so barren that it is incapable of supporting more than one or two families, the people being so poor that they have no dread of thieves, and the province of Szechuan, in which, as Mr. Baber mentions, "the farmer and his work-people live, it may be said, invariably in farm-houses on their land, and the tendency is to the separation rather than to the congregation of dwellings." If this exception to the general rule was made because the expectation of peace in that remote province was thought to be greater than in others, as Baron von Richthofen suggested, it has proved, as Mr. Baber remarks, an expectation which has suffered many and grievous disappointments, especially — although after a long-previous peace — in the days of the T'ai-p'ing rebels.

A most significant illustration of the Chinese — and also Oriental — suspicion found in social life is to be seen in the theory and practice in regard to woman. What that theory is is sufficiently well known. An entire chapter would scarcely do justice to this branch of the subject. As soon as they come to the age of puberty, girls are proverbially a commodity as "dangerous as smuggled salt." When once they are betrothed they are kept far more secluded than before. The smallest and most innocent circumstance is sufficient to start vicious and malevolent gossip, and it is a social axiom that scandals cluster about a widow's door. While Chinese women have incomparably more liberty than their sisters in Turkey or in India,* Chinese respect for women cannot be rated as high. Universal ignorance on the part of women, universal subordination, the existence of polygamy and concubinage these are not good preparations for that respect for womanhood which is one of the fairest characteristics of Western civilisation. It would be easy to cite popular expressions in illustration of the views which the Chinese hold of women in general, and which may be regarded as the generalisations of long experience. She is spoken of as if it were her nature to be mean, short-sighted, and not to be trusted — she is considered to be an incarnation of jealousy, as in the phrase, "it is impossible to be more jealous than a woman," where the word "jealous" suggests, and is intended to suggest, another word with the same sound, but meaning "poisonous." This theory is well embodied in a verse of ancient Chinese poetry, of which the following lines are a translation:  

"The serpent's mouth in the green bamboo,

The yellow hornet's caudal dart;  

Little the injury these can do;  

More venomous far is a. woman's heart."  

* The existence of this liberty, is not, however, to be judged of by superficial indications. A lady who resided for some years in the Indian city of Delhi, and subsequently at the capital of the province of Shansi, remarked that fewer Chinese women were ordinarily to be seen upon the streets of the latter city, than Indian women upon the streets of the former one. Yet this circumstance does not at all conflict with the truth of the statement to which this note is appended.

These views are incidentally exemplified with a fine and unconscious impartiality in the very structure of the Chinese language, in a manner to which attention has been often directed. An excellent scholar in Chinese, in response to a request from the writer, examined with care a list of one hundred and thirty-five of the more common characters which are written with the radical denoting woman, and found that fourteen of them conveyed a meaning which might be classed as good, such as the words "good," "skilful," and the like; of the remainder, thirty-five are bad, and eighty-six indifferent in meaning. But those classed as bad contain some of the most disreputable words in the whole language. The radical for woman combined with that denoting shield signifies "deceitful, fraudulent, villainous, traitorous, selfish"; while three women in combination convey the ideas of "fornication, adultery, seduction, to intrigue."

There are said to be two reasons why people do not trust one another: first, because they do not know one another, and second, because they do. The Chinese think that they have each of these reasons for mistrust, and they act accordingly. While the Chinese are gifted with a capacity for combination which at times seems to suggest the union of chemical atoms, it is easy to ascertain by careful inquiry at the proper sources and at the proper times, that the Chinese do not by any means trust one another in the implicit way which the external phenomena might imply. Members of the same family are constantly the victims of mutual suspicion, which is fanned by the women who have married into the family, and who as sisters-in-law are able to do much, and who frequently do what they can, to foment jealousy between their husbands in regard to the division of the proceeds of the common labour.

Not to enlarge upon this aspect of domestic life, which by itself might occupy a chapter, we pass to the notice of the same general state of things among those who are not united by the complex ties of Chinese family life. A company of servants in a family often stand to one another in a relation of what may be called armed neutrality, that is, if they have not been introduced by some one who is responsible for them all. If anything comes out to the disadvantage of any one of them, his first question to himself is not, "How did the master find that out?" but "Who told him of me?" Even if the servant is well aware that his guilt has been proved, his first thought will be to show that some other servant had a grudge against him. We have known a Chinese woman to change colour and leave a room in great dudgeon on hearing loud voices in the yard, because she supposed that as there was an angry discussion, it must be about her, whereas the matter was in relation to a pile of millet stalks bought for fuel, for which a dealer demanded too high a price.

It is this kind of suspicion which fans the fires of dissension that are almost sure to arise when a servant has been unexpectedly discharged. He suspects every one but himself, is certain that some one has been speaking ill of him, insists upon being told the allegations against him, although he knows that there are half a score of reasons, any of which would justify his immediate dismissal. His "face" must be secured, and his suspicious nature must be gratified. These occurrences take place in Chinese families as well as in foreign families with Chinese servants, but not in the same degree, because a Chinese servant has learned how far he can impose upon the good-nature of the foreigner, as he would never think of doing in the case of a Chinese master. It is for this reason that so many foreigners have in their employ Chinese servants whom they ought to have discharged long ago, and would have discharged if they had dared. They know that the mere proposal of such a thing will be the stirring up of a hornet's nest, the central figure of which will be the accused and "disgraced" servant, and they have not the courage to make a strike for liberty, lest in the case of failure their condition should be worse than before.

There is a story of an Austrian city which was besieged by the Turks in the middle ages, and which was just on the point of capture. At a critical moment an Austrian girl bethought herself of a number of bee-hives, which she at once brought and tumbled over the wall on the Turks, now almost up to the parapet. The result was a speedy descent on the part of the Turks, and the saving of the city. The tactics of a Chinese often resemble that of the Austrian maiden, and his success is frequently as signal, for this kind of a disturbance is such that, as a Latin professor said of a storm, one would much rather "face it per alium" than "face it per se." No wonder that the adage runs, "If you employ one, do not suspect him; if you suspect him, do not employ him." The Chinese way in such cases is simply to close one's eyes and to pretend that one does not see, but for a foreigner this may not be so simple and easy to achieve.

We find it necessary to impress upon our children, when they come to be of an age to mingle in the world on their own account, that it is well not to be too confiding in strangers. This kind of caution does not need to be conveyed to the Chinese in their early years, for it is taken in with their mother's milk. It is a proverb that one man should not enter a temple, and that two men should not look together into a well. And why, we inquire in surprise, should one man not enter a temple court alone? Because the priest may take advantage of the opportunity to make away with him! Two men should not gaze into a well, for if one of them is in debt to the other, or has in his possession something which the other wants, that other may seize the occasion to push his companion into the well!

Another class of examples of mutual suspicion are those arising in the ordinary affairs of everyday life. There is a freedom and an absence of constraint in Western lands which in China is conspicuously absent. To us it seems a matter of course that the simplest way to do a thing is for that reason the best. But in China there are different and quite other factors of which account must be taken. While this is true in regard to everything, it is most felt in regard to two matters which form the warp and woof of the lives of most Chinese money and food. It is very difficult to convince a Chinese that a sum of money, which may have been put into the hands of another to be divided between many persons, has been divided according to the theoretical plan, for he has no experience of any divisions of this sort, and he has had extended experience of divisions in which various deductions in the shape of squeezes were the prominent features. In like manner, it is very hard to make an arrangement by which one Chinese shall have charge of the food provision for others, in which, if close inquiry is made, it shall not appear that those who receive the food suppose that the one who provides it is retaining a certain proportion for his own use. The dissatisfaction in such cases may possibly be wholly suppressed, but there is no reason to think that the suspicion is absent because it does not manifest itself upon the surface. Indeed, it is only a foreigner who would raise the question at all, for the Chinese expect this state of things as surely as they reckon on friction in machinery, and with equal reason.

It is the custom of waiters in Chinese inns, upon leaving the room of a guest who has just paid his bill, to shout out each item of the account, not in order to sound the praises of him who has spent most money — as some travellers have supposed — but for the much more practical purpose of letting the other waiters know that the one who thus publicly declares the receipts is not secreting a portion of the gratuity, or "wine-money," which they invariably expect.

If any matter is to be accomplished which requires consultation and adjustment, it will not do in China, as it might in any Western land, to send a mere message to be delivered at the home of the person concerned, to the effect that such and such terms could be arranged. The principal must go himself, and he must see the principal on the other side. If the latter should not be at home, the visit must be repeated until he is found, for otherwise no one would be sure that the matter had not been distorted in its transmission through other media.

Frequent references have been made to the social solidarity of the Chinese. In some cases the whole family or clan all seem to have their fingers in the particular pie belonging to some individual of the family. But into such affairs a person with a different surname is, if he be a wise person, careful not to intrude any of his fingers, lest they be burned. It is indeed a proverb that it is hard to give advice to one whose surname is different from one's own. What does this fellow mean by mixing himself up in my affairs? He must have an object, and it is taken for granted that the object is not a good one. If this is true of those who are life-long neighbours and friends, how much more is it true of those who are mere outsiders, and who have no special relations to the persons addressed.

The character meaning "outside," has in China a scope and a significance which can only be comprehended by degrees. The same kind of objection which is made to a foreigner because he comes from an "outside" country, is made to a villager because he comes from an "outside" village. This is true with much greater emphasis if the outsider comes from no one knows where, and wants no one knows what. "Who knows what drug this fellow has in his gourd?" is the inevitable inquiry of the prudent Chinese in regard to a fresh arrival.

If a traveller happens to get astray and arrives at a village after dark, particularly if the hour is late, he will often find that no one will even come out of his house to give a simple direction. Under these circumstances the writer once wandered around for several hours, unable to get one of the many Chinese who were offered a reward for acting as a guide even to listen to the proposal.

All scholars in Chinese schools spend their time in shouting out their lessons at the top of their voices, to the great injury of their vocal organs, and to the almost complete distraction of the foreigner. This is "old-time custom," but if the inquiry for the reason be relentlessly pushed, one is told that without this audible assurance the teacher would suspect that his pupils were not devoting their exclusive attention to their lessons. The singular practice of making each scholar turn his back upon the teacher during the recitation is likewise due to the desire of the teacher to be certain that the pupil is not furtively glancing at the book held in the master's hand!

It is not every form of civilisation which emphasises the duty of entertaining strangers. Many of the proverbs of Solomon in regard to caution towards strangers gain a new meaning after actual contact with Orientals, but the Chinese have carried their caution to a point which it would be hard to surpass. A Chinese teacher employed by a foreigner to pick up children's ballads and sayings heard a little boy singing a nonsense song which was new to the teacher, who asked the little fellow to repeat the words, whereupon the child fled terror-stricken and was seen no more. He was a typical product of Chinese environment. If a man has become insane and has strayed away from home, and his friends scour the countryside, hoping to hear something of him, they know very well that the chances of finding traces of him are slight. If he has been at a particular place, but has disappeared, the natural inquiry of his pursuers would be, What did you do with him? This might lead to trouble, so the safest way, and the one sure to be adopted if the inquirer is a stranger, is to assume total ignorance of the whole affair.

The same thing will not seldom happen, as we have learned by experience, when a Chinese stranger tries to find a man who is well known. In a case of this sort, a man whose appearance indicated him to be a native of an adjacent province inquired his way to the village of a man of whom he was in quest. But on his arrival he was disappointed to find that the whole village was unanimous in the affirmation that no such man was known there, and that he had never even been heard of. This wholesale falsehood was not concocted by any deliberate prevision, for which there was no opportunity, but was simultaneously adopted by a whole villageful of people, with the same unerring instinct which leads the prairie-dog to dive into its hole when some unfamiliar object is sighted.

In all instances of this kind, the slight variations of local dialect afford an infallible test of the general region from which one hails. A countryman who meets others will be examined by them as to his abode and its distance from a great number of other places, as if to make sure that he is not deceiving them. In the same manner, scholars are not content with inquiring of a professed literary graduate when he "entered," but he will not improbably be cross-examined upon the theme of his essay, and how he treated it. In this way it is not difficult, and is very common, to expose a fraud. It is hopeless for a man to claim to be a native of a district the pronunciation of which differs by ever so little from his own, for his speech bewrayeth him. Not only will a stranger find it hard to get a clue to the whereabouts of a man, his possible business with whom excites instantaneous and general suspicion, but the same thing may be true, as we have also had repeated occasion to know, in regard to a whole village. The writer once sent several Chinese to look up certain other Chinese who had been for a long time in a foreign hospital under treatment. Very few of them could be found at all. In one case a man who ventured to hold conversation with the strangers gave his surname only, which was that of a large clan, but positively refused to reveal his name, or "style." In another instance, a village of which the messengers were in search persistently retreated before them, like an ignus fatuus, and at last all traces of it disappeared, without its having been found at all! Yet once the strangers were probably within a mile or two of it, and in the case just referred to, the stranger who could not find the man for whom he was looking, proved to have been within ten rods of his dwelling at the time he was baffled.

The writer is acquainted with an elderly man who has a well-to-do neighbour with whom he was formerly associated in one of the secret sects so common in China. On asking him about this neighbour, whose house was at a little distance from his own, it turned out that the two men, who had grown up together and had passed more than sixty years in proximity, never met. "And why was this?" "Because the other man is getting old and does not go out much." "Why, then, do you not sometimes go to see him and talk over old times? Are you not on good terms? "The person addressed smiled the smile of conscious superiority, and shook his head. "Yes," he said, "we are on good terms enough, but he is well off, and I am poor, and if I were to go there it would make talk. Folks would say. What is he coming here for?"

A conspicuous illustration of the instinctive recognition by the Chinese of the existence of their own mutual suspicion is found in the reluctance to be left alone in a room. If this should happen, a guest will not improbably exhibit a restless demeanour and will perhaps stroll out into the passage, as much as to say, "Do not suspect me; I did not take your things, as you see; I put them behind me." The same thing is sometimes observed when a self-respecting Chinese calls upon a foreigner.

Nothing is so certain to excite the most violent suspicion on the part of the Chinese as the death of a person under circumstances which are in some respects peculiar. A typical example of this is the death of a married daughter. Although, as already mentioned, the parents are powerless to protect her while she lives, they are in some degree masters of the situation when she has died, provided that there is anything to which any suspicion can be made to attach itself. Her suicide is an occasion on which the girl's parents no longer adopt their proverbial position of holding down the head, but, on the contrary, hold their head erect, and virtually impose their own terms. The refusal to come to an understanding with the family of the girl under such circumstances would be punished by a long and vexatious lawsuit, the motive for which would be in the first instance revenge, but the main issue of which would eventually be the preservation of the "face" of the girl's family.

There is an ancient saying in China, that when one is walking through an orchard where pears are grown it is well not to adjust one's cap, and when passing through a melon patch it is not the time to lace one's shoes. These sage aphorisms represent a generalised truth. In Chinese social life it is strictly necessary to walk softly, and one cannot be too careful. This is the reason why the Chinese are so constitutionally reticent at times which seem to us so ill-chosen. They know as we cannot that the smallest spark may kindle a fire that shall sweep a thousand acres.

The commercial life of the Chinese illustrates their mutual suspicion in a great variety of ways. Neither buyer nor seller trusts the other, and each for that reason thinks that his interests are subserved by putting his affairs for the time being out of his own hands into those of a third person who is strictly neutral, because his percentage will only be obtained by the completion of the bargain. No transaction is considered as made at all, until "bargain money" has been paid. If the matter is a more comprehensive one, something must be put into writing, for "talk is empty, while the mark of a pen is final."

The chaotic condition of the silver market in China is due partly to the deep-seated suspicion which cash-shops entertain for their customers, and which customers cherish towards the cash-shops, in each case with the best grounds. Every chopped dollar in south China, every chopped piece of chopped silver in any part of China, is a witness to the suspicious nature of this great and commercial people; keen as they are to effect a trade, they are keener still in their reluctance to do so. The very fact that a customer, whether Chinese or foreign makes no difference, wishes to sell silver after dark is of itself suspicious, and it will not be surprising if every shop in the city should successively impart the sage advice to wait till tomorrow.

The banking system of China appears to be very comprehensive and intricate, and we know from Marco Polo that bank-bills have been in use from a very ancient period. But they are not by any means universal in their occurrence, and all of them appear to be exceedingly limited in the range of their circulation. The banks of two cities ten miles apart will not receive each other's bills, and for a very good reason.

The high rate of Chinese interest, ranging from twenty-four to thirty-six or more per cent., is a proof of the lack of mutual confidence. The larger part of this extortionate exaction does not represent payment for the use of money, but insurance on risk, which is very great. The almost total lack of such forms of investments as we are so familiar with in Western lands is due not more to the lack of development of the resources of the Empire, than to the general mistrust of one another among the people. "The affairs of life hinge upon confidence," and it is for this reason that a large class of affairs in China will for a long time to come be dissociated from their hinges, to the great detriment of the interests of the people.

A curious example of Chinese commercial suspicion was afforded a few years ago by a paragraph in the newspapers, giving an account of the condition of things in the Chinese colony in the city of New York. The Chinese organisation probably does not differ from that of other cities where the Chinese have established themselves. They have a Municipal Government of their own, and twelve leading Chinese are the officers thereof. They keep the money and the papers of the Municipality in a huge iron safe, and to insure absolute safety the safe is locked with twelve ponderous brass (Chinese) padlocks all in a row, instead of the intricate and beautiful combination locks used in the New York banks. Each one of the twelve members of the Chinese Board of Aldermen has a key to one of these padlocks, and when the safe is opened all twelve of them must be on hand, each to attend to the unlocking of his own padlock. One of these distinguished aldermen having inopportunely died, the affairs of the Municipality were thrown into the utmost confusion. The key to his padlock could not be found, and if it had been found no one would have ventured to take the place of the deceased, through a superstitious fear that the dead man would be jealous of his successor, and would remove him by the same disease of which he himself had died. Even the funeral bills could not be paid until a special election had taken place to fill the vacancy. This little incident is indeed a window through which those who choose to do so may see some of the prominent traits of the Chinese character clearly illustrated — capacity for organisation, commercial ability, mutual suspicion, unlimited credulity, and tacit contempt for the institutions and inventions of the men of the West.

The structure of the Chinese government contains many examples of the effects of lack of confidence. Eunuchs are an essentially Asiatic instance in point, and they are supposed to have existed in China from very ancient times; but during the present dynasty this dangerous class of persons has been dealt with in a very practical way by the Manchus, and deprived of the power to do the same mischief as in past ages. Another example of the provision for that suspicion which must inevitably arise when such inharmonious elements as the conquerors and the conquered are to be co-ordinated in high places, is the singular combination of Manchus and Chinese in the administration of the government, as well as the arrangement by which the president of one of the Six Boards may be the vice-president of another. By these checks and balances the equilibrium of the state machinery has been preserved. The censorate furnishes another illustration of the same thing, on an extended and important scale.

Those whose knowledge of the interior workings of the Chinese administration entitles their opinions to weight, assure us that the same mutual suspicion which we have seen to be characteristic of the social life of the Chinese is equally characteristic of their official life. It could not indeed be otherwise. Chinese nature being what it is, high officials cannot but be jealous of those below them, for it is from that quarter that their rivals are to be dreaded. The lower officials, on the other hand, are not less suspicious of those above them, for it is from that quarter that their removal may be at any moment effected. There seems the best reason to believe that both the higher and the lower officials alike are more or less jealous of the large and powerful literary class, and the officials are uniformly suspicious of the people. This last state of mind is well warranted by what is known of the multitudinous semi-political sects, with which the whole Empire is honeycombed. A District Magistrate will pounce down upon the annual gathering of a temperance society such as the well-known Tsai-li, which merely forbids opium, wine, and tobacco, and turn over their anticipated feast to the voracious "wolves and tigers" of his yamen, not because it is proved that the designs of the Tsai-li Society are treasonable, but because it has been officially assumed long since that they must be so. All secret societies are treasonable, and this among the rest. This generalised suspicion settles the whole question, and whenever occasion arises the government interposes, seizes the leaders, banishes or exterminates them, and thus for the moment allays its suspicions.

It is obvious that so powerful a principle as the one which we are considering must be a strong reinforcement of that innate conservatism which has been already discussed, to prevent the adoption of what is new. The census which is occasionally called for by the government does not occur with sufficient frequency to make it familiar to the Chinese, even in name. It always excites an immediate suspicion that some ulterior end is in view. How real this suspicion is, is illustrated by an incident which occurred in a village next to the one in which the writer lived. One of two brothers, hearing that a new census had been ordered, took it for granted that it signified compulsory emigration. It is customary in such cases to leave one brother at home to look after the graves of the ancestors, but the younger of the two, foreseeing that he must go, promptly proceeded to save himself from the fatigues of a long journey by committing suicide, thus check-mating the government.

It is a mixture of suspicion and of conservatism which has made the path of the young Chinese who were educated in the United States such a bed of thorns from the time of their return to the present day; it is the same fell combination which shows itself in opposition to the inevitable introduction of railways into China. Suspicion of the motives of the government will long prevent the reforms which China needs. More than thirty years ago, when the importance of the issue of small silver coinage was pointed out to a distinguished statesman in Peking, he replied — with great truth — that it would never do to attempt to change the currency of the Empire. "Were it to be tried, the people would immediately suppose that the government gained some advantage by it, and it would not work."

Great obstacles are invariably thrown in the way of the opening of mines, which, if properly worked, might make China what she ought to be, a rich country. The "earth dragon" below ground, and peculation and suspicion above it, are as yet too much for anything more than the most rudimentary steps of progress in this most essential direction. No matter how great advantages may be or how obvious, it is almost impossible to get new things introduced when an all-pervading suspicion frowns upon them. The late Dr. Nevius, who did so much at Chefoo for the cultivation of a high grade of foreign fruits in China, fruits which visibly yield an enormous profit, was obliged to contend against this suspicion at every step, and one less patient and less philanthropic would have "abandoned the project in disgust. When profits are once assured this state of things of course gradually disappears. But it is very real when inquiries are set on foot like those by the Imperial Maritime Customs in regard to the raising of silk-worms or tea. How can those who are interested in these matters possibly believe, in defiance of all the accumulated experience of past ages, that the object of these inquiries is not a tax, but the promotion of production and the increase of the profits of skilled labour? Who ever heard of such a thing, and who can believe it when he does hear it? The attitude of the Chinese mind towards such projects as this may be expressed in the old Dutch proverb, "Good-morrow to you all, as the fox said when he leaped into the goose-pen!"

It remains to speak of the special relations of this topic to foreigners. The profound suspicion with which foreigners are regarded is often accompanied by, and perhaps largely due to, a belief, deep-rooted and ineradicable, that foreigners are able to do the most impossible things with the greatest ease. If a foreigner walks out in a place where he has not been often seen, it is inferred that he is inspecting feng-shui of the district. If he surveys a river, he is determining the existence of precious metals. He is supposed to be able to see some distance into the earth, and to have his eyes on whatever is best worth taking away. If he engages in famine relief, it is not thought too much to suppose that the ultimate object must be to carry off a large part of the population of the district, to be disposed of in foreign lands. It is by reason of these opinions on feng-shui that the presence of foreigners on the walls of Chinese cities has so often led to disturbances, and that the height of foreign buildings in China must be as carefully regulated as the location of a frontier of the Empire. The belief in the uniformity of nature appears to be totally lacking in China. Mr. Baber mentions a saying in Szechuan of a certain hill, that opium grows without, and coal within. But this is not simply a notion of the ignorant, for Professor Pumpelly declares that one of the high officials in Peking told him the same thing, and used the statement as an argument against the too rapid removal of coal deposits, the rate of the growth of which is unknown. It is said that the late statesman Wen Hsiang, having read Dr. Martin's "Evidences of Christianity," was asked what he thought of it, to which he replied that the scientific part of the work he was prepared to accept, but the religious sections, in which the affirmation is made that the earth revolves around the sun, were more than he could believe!

The whole subject of the entrance of foreigners into China is beyond the Chinese intellect in its present state of development. Seeing Baron von Richthofen ride over the country in what appeared to the people of Szechuan a vague and purposeless manner, they imagined him to be a fugitive from some disastrous battle. Many a Chinese, who has afterwards come to understand the foreign barbarian all too well, has at first sight of his form, especially if he chanced to be tall, been seized with secret terror. Many Chinese women are persuaded that if they once voluntarily enter a foreigner's dwelling the fatal spell will work, and they will be bewitched; if they are at last prevailed upon to enter, they will not on any account step on the threshold, nor look into a mirror when it may be offered to their sight, for thus they would betray away their safety.

A few years ago a young Chinese scholar from an interior province, where foreigners were practically unknown, was engaged with some difficulty to come to the premises of the writer to assist a new-comer in acquiring the language. He remained a few weeks, when he recollected that his mother was very much in need of his filial care, and left, promising to return at a fixed date, but was seen no more. During all the time that he was on the foreigner's premises, this astute Confucianist never once took a sip of tea, which was brought to him regularly by the servants, nor ate a meal on the place, lest he should imbibe besotment. When a foreign envelope was handed to him by another teacher, that he might enclose the letter which he had written to his mother assuring her that thus far he was safe, and when it was shown him how this same envelope was self-sealing, a little moisture being applied by the tongue, his presence of mind did not for an instant forsake him, and he blandly requested the other teacher to do the sealing, as he was not expert at it.

It is this frame of mind which leads to the persistent notions in regard to Chinese books printed by foreigners. There is a widespread conviction that they are drugged, and the smell of printer's ink is frequently identified as that of the "bewildering drug" which is embodied in their composition. Sometimes one hears that it is only necessary to read one of these books, and forthwith he is a slave to foreigners. A slightly different point of view was that taken by a lad of whom we have heard, who, having read a little way in one of these tracts, threw it down in terror and ran home, telling his friends that if one should read that book and tell a lie, he would inevitably go to hell! Sometimes colporteurs have found it impossible to give away these books, not, as might be supposed, because of any hostility to the contents, of which nothing was known and for which nothing was cared, but because it was feared that the gift would be made the basis on which to levy a kind of blackmail, in a manner with which the Chinese are only too familiar.

The same presupposition leads to a panic if a foreigner injudiciously attempts to take down the names of Chinese children, a simple process which has been known to be eminently successful in breaking up a prospective school. The system of romanising Chinese characters must in its initial stages meet this objection and suspicion. Why should a foreigner wish to teach his pupils to write in such a way that their friends at home cannot read what they say? All the explanations in the world will not suffice to make this clear to a suspicious old Chinese who knows that what has been good enough for the generations that have come before his children is good enough for them, and much better than the invention of some foreigner of unknown antecedents. It may almost be said that a general objection is entertained to anything which a foreigner proposes, and often for the apparent reason that he proposes it. The trait of "flexible inflexibility" leads your Chinese friend to assure you in the blandest but most unmistakable terms, that your proposal is very admirable and very preposterous.

Sarcasm is a weapon which, in the hands of a foreigner, is not at all to the taste of the Chinese. A foreigner whose knowledge of Chinese was by no means equal to the demands which he wished to make upon it, in a fit of deep disgust at some sin of omission or commission on the part of one of his servants, called him in English a "humbug." "Deep ranklea in his side the fatal dart," and at the earliest opportunity the servant begged of a lady whose Chinese was fully equal to the tax upon it, to be told what the dreadful word meant which had been thus applied to him. The mandarins who seized upon the blocks of Mr. Thorn's translation of "Aesop's Fables" were in the same frame of mind as the Peking servant. These officials could not help perceiving in the talking geese, tigers, foxes, and lions some recondite meaning which could be best nipped in the bud by suppressing the entire edition.

Some of the most persistent instances of Chinese suspicion towards foreigners are manifested in connection with the many hospitals and dispensaries now scattered over so large a part of China. Amid the vast number of patients there are many who exhibit an implicit faith and a touching confidence in the good-will and the skill of the foreign physician. But there are many others, of whose feelings we know much less, except as the result of careful inquiry, who continue to believe the most irrational rumours in regard to the extraction of eyes and hearts for medicine, the irresistible propensity of the surgeon to reduce his patients to mince-meat, and the fearful disposition said to be made of Chinese children in the depths of foreign cellars. A year or two of experience of the widespread benefits of such an institution might be expected to dissipate such idle rumours as the wind disperses a mist; but they continue to flourish side by side with tens of thousands of successful treatments, as mould thrives in warm damp spots during the month of August.

The whole history of foreign intercourse with China is a history of suspicion and prevarication on the part of the Chinese, while it doubtless has not been free from grave faults on the side of foreigners. It is a weary history to retrace, and its lessons may be relegated to those who are charged with the often thankless task of conducting such negotiations. But as it often happens that private persons are obliged to be their own diplomats in China, it is well to know how it should be done. We will give a sample case which is an excellent illustration. The question was about the renting of some premises in an interior city, to which a local official on various grounds took exception. The foreigner presented himself at the interview which had been arranged, clad in the Chinese dress, and armed with the necessary materials for writing. After the preliminary conversation the foreigner slowly opened his writing materials, adjusted his paper, shook out his pen, examined his ink, with an air of intense preoccupation. The Chinese official was watching this performance with the keenest interest and the liveliest curiosity. "What are you doing?" he inquired. The foreigner explained that he was simply getting his writing materials in order — "only that and nothing more." "Writing materials! What for?" "To take down your answers," was the reply. The official hastened to assure his foreign guest that this extremity would by no means be called for, as the premises could be secured! How could this magistrate be sure where he should next hear of this mysterious document, the contents of which he could not possibly know?

China is a country which abounds in wild rumours, often of a character to fill the heart with dread. Within the past few years such a state of things has been reported among the Chinese in Singapore that coolies positively refused to travel a certain street after dark, on account of the imminent danger of having their heads suddenly and mysteriously cut off. The Empire is probably never free from such epochs of horror; to those concerned the terrors are as real as those of the French Revolution to the Parisians of 1789. Infinite credulity and mutual suspicion are the elements of the soil in which these tearful rumours thrive, and on which they fatten. When they have to do with foreigners, long and painful experience has shown that they must not be despised, but must be taken in the early stages of their development. None of them could do serious harm if the local officials were only sincerely interested to stamp them out. In their ultimate outcome, when they have been suffered to grow unchecked, these rumours result in such atrocities as the Tientsin massacre. All parts of China are well adapted to their rapid development, and there is scarcely a province where they have not in some form occurred. For the complete removal of these outbreaks, the time element is as necessary as for the results of geologic epochs. The best way to prevent their occurrence is to convince the Chinese, by irrefragable object-lessons, that foreigners are the sincere well-wishers of the Chinese. This simple proposition once firmly established, then for the first time will it be true that "within the four seas, all are brethren."  

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