(1894 version) Chinese Characteristics CHAPTER XXV. THE ABSENCE OF SINCERITY


THE Chinese ideograph which is commonly translated "sincerity" is composed of the radicals denoting man and words. Its meaning lies upon the surface. It is the last in the series of the Five Constant Virtues enumerated by the Chinese, and in the opinion of many who are well acquainted with them it is in fact about the last virtue which in the Celestial Empire is likely to be met with on any considerable scale. Many who know the Chinese will agree with the observation of Professor Kidd, who, after speaking of the Chinese doctrine of "sincerity," continues: " But if this virtue had been chosen as a national characteristic, not only to be set at defiance in practice, but to form the most striking contrast to existing manners, a more appropriate one than sincerity could not have been found. So opposed is the public and private character of the Chinese to genuine sincerity, that an enemy might have selected it as ironically descriptive of their conduct in contrast with their pretensions. Falsehood, duplicity, insincerity, and obsequious accommodation to favourable circumstances are national features remarkably prominent." How far this judgment is justified by the facts of Chinese life we may be able better to decide when we shall have considered those facts in detail.

We have assumed that it is a reasonable theory, and one which we believe is supported by the opinion of competent scholars, that the Chinese of the present day do not differ to any great extent from the Chinese of antiquity. There can hardly be a doubt that the standard of the Chinese and the present standard of Western nations as to what ought to be called sincerity differ widely. He who peruses the Chinese Classics with a discerning eye will be able to read between the lines much indirection, prevarication, and falsehood which are not distinctly expressed. He will also find the Chinese opinion of Occidental openness condensed into the significant expression, "Straightforwardness without the rules of propriety becomes rudeness." To an Occidental there is a significance in the incident related of Confucius and Ju-pei, as found in the Confucian "Analects," which is not at all apprehensible to a Confucianist. The following is the passage, from Legge's translation: "Ju-pei wished to see Confucius, but Confucius declined to see him on the ground of being sick. When the bearer of this message went out at the door, Confucius took his harpsichord, and sang to it, in order that Ju-pei might hear." The object of Confucius was to avoid the disagreeable task of saying that the character of Ju-pei was not such that Confucius wished to meet him, and he took this characteristically Chinese way to do it.

The example of Confucius in this matter was followed by Mencius. Being a guest in a certain kingdom he was invited to court, but hoping that the king would honour him by the first call, Mencius alleged sickness, and the next day, to show that this was a mere excuse made a call elsewhere. The officer with whom Mencius spent the night held a long conversation with the Sage as to the merits of this proceeding, but the discussion between them turns exclusively on the question of propriety and precedent, and no reference whatever to the morality of lying for the sake of convenience. There is no apparent reason to suppose that this point was ever thought of by any of the persons concerned, any more than it is by a modern Confucian teacher who explains the passage to his pupils.

There is no doubt that the ancient Chinese were far in advance of their contemporaries in many other lands in the instinct of preserving records of the past. Their histories, however prolix, are undoubtedly comprehensive. Many Western writers seem to feel the greatest admiration for Chinese histories, and place unrestricted confidence in their statements. The following paragraph is taken from an essay by Dr. J. Singer, lector of the University of Vienna, translated and published in the China Review, July, 1888: "Scientific criticism has long ago recognised and in ever-increasing extent proved the historical reliability of the ancient documents of China. Richthofen, for instance, the latest and most thorough-going explorer of China, in discussing the surprisingly contradictory elements which make up the character of the Chinese as a people, contrasts their strict truthfulness in recording historical events and their earnestness in the search for correct knowledge, whenever statistical facts are concerned, with that absolute and generally sanctioned license in lying and dissimulation which prevails everywhere in China, in popular intercourse and in diplomatic negotiations." It should be borne distinctly in mind that historical accuracy may be exhibited in two widely different lines: the narration of events in due order and proportion, and the explanation of those events by an analysis of character and motives. It is said by those who have looked into Chinese histories most extensively, that while in the former particular these works are no doubt far in advance of the times in which they were written, in the latter particular they are by no means adapted to carry the impression of that scrupulosity which Dr. Singer supposes. Without expressing any opinion on a subject of which we have no special knowledge, we will merely call attention to the singular, if not unprecedented, circumstance that a nation which is affirmed to indulge in a license for lying, can at the same time furnish successive generations of historiographers who are reverent of the truth. Do not the same passions which have distorted the history of other lands operate in China? Do not the same causes produce in China the same effects as in the rest of the world?

It is important to bear in mind that not only is the teaching of Confucianism greatly defective in the particular noted, but the practice of the great Master himself is not such as to commend historical fidelity. Dr. Legge, who does not lay much stress on " certain charges which have been made from unimportant incidents in the Sage's career," attaches great importance to the manner in which Confucius handled his materials in the "Spring and Autumn Annals," a work which contains the record of the kingdom of Lu for two hundred and forty-two years, down to within two years of Confucius' death. The following paragraphs are taken from Dr. Legge's lecture on Confucianism, published in his volume on "The Religions of China": "Mencius regarded the Ch'un Ch'iu ["Spring and Autumn Annals"] as the greatest of the Master's achievements, and says that its appearance struck terror into rebellious ministers and unfilial sons. The author himself had a similar opinion of it, and said that it was from it men would know him, and also (some of them) condemn him. Was his own heart misgiving him when he thus spoke of men condemning him for the Ch'un Ch'iu? The fact is that the annals are astonishingly meagre, and not only so, but evasive and deceptive. 'The Ch'un Ch'iu' says Kung Yang, who commented on it, and supplemented it within a century after its composition, conceals [the truth] out of regard to the high in rank, to kinship, and to men of worth.' And I have shown in the fifth volume of my 'Chinese Classics' that this 'concealing' covers all the ground embraced in our three English words — ignoring, concealing, and misrepresenting. What shall we say to these things?… I often wish that I could cut the knot by denying the genuineness and authenticity of the 'Spring and Autumn' as we now have it; but the chain of evidence that binds it to the hand and pencil of Confucius in the close of his life is very strong. And if a foreign student take so violent a method to enable him to look at the character of the philosopher without this flaw of historical untruthfulness, the governors of China and the majority of its scholars will have no sympathy with him, and no compassion for his mental distress. Truthfulness was one of the subjects that Confucius often insisted on with his disciples; but the Ch'un Ch'iu has led his countrymen to conceal the truth from themselves and others wherever they think it would injuriously affect the reputation of the Empire or of its sages."

We have just seen that those who claim truthfulness for the Chinese in their histories are ready enough to admit that in China truth is confined to histories. It is of course impossible to prove that every Chinese will lie, and we have no wish to do so if it were possible. The strongest testimony on this point can be gathered from the Chinese themselves, whenever their consciences have been sufficiently awakened and their attention directed to the matter. Such persons are frequently heard to say of their race, as the South Sea Island chief said of his: "As soon as we open our mouths a lie is born." To us, however, it does not seem that the Chinese lie for the sake of lying, as some have supposed, but mainly for the sake of certain advantages not otherwise to be had. "Incapable of speaking the truth," says Mr. Baber, "they are equally incapable of believing it." A friend of the writer received a visit from a Chinese lad who had learned English, and who wished to add to his vocabulary an expression meaning "You lie." He was told the phrase, but cautioned not to use it to a foreigner, as the result would certainly be that he would be knocked down. He expressed unfeigned surprise at this strange announcement, for to his mind the words conveyed a meaning as harmless as the remark, "You are humbugging me." Mr. Cooke, the China correspondent of the London Times in 1857, speaking of the antipathy of Occidentals to be called liars, observes: "But if you say the same thing to a Chinaman, you arouse in him no sense of outrage, no sentiment of degradation. He does not deny the fact. His answer is, 'I should not dare to lie to your Excellency.' To say to a Chinaman, 'You are an habitual liar, and you are meditating a he at this moment,' is like saying to an Englishman, 'You are a confirmed punster, and I am satisfied you have some horrible pun in your head at this moment.'"

The ordinary speech of the Chinese is so full of insincerity, which yet does not rise to the dignity of falsehood, that it is very difficult to learn the truth in almost any case. In China it is literally true that a fact is the hardest thing in the world to get. One never feels sure that he has been told the whole of anything. Even where a person is seeking your help, as, for example, in a lawsuit, and wishes to put his case entirely in your hands, nothing is more probable than that you will discover subsequently that several important particulars have been suppressed, apparently from the general instinct of prevarication and not of malice prepense, since the person himself must be the only loser by the suppression. The whole of anything does not come out till afterwards, no matter at what point you take it up. A person who is well acquainted with the Chinese will not feel that he understands a matter because he has heard all about it, but will rather take the items which he has heard and combine them with others, and finally call a council of the Chinese whom he trusts most and hold a kind of inquest over these alleged facts to ascertain what their real bearing probably is.

Lack of sincerity, combined with the suspicion which has been already discussed, accounts for the fact that a Chinese will often talk for a very great length of time, saying practically nothing whatever. Much of the incomprehensibility of the Chinese, so far as foreigners are concerned, is due to their insincerity. We cannot be sure what they are after. We always feel that there is more behind. It is for this reason that when a Chinese comes to you and whispers to you mysteriously something about another Chinese in whom you are much interested, you are not unlikely to experience a sinking sensation in the pit of the stomach. You are uncertain whether the one who is speaking is telling the truth, or whether the character of the one of whom he is speaking has caved in. One never has any assurance that a Chinese ultimatum is ultimate. This proposition, so easily stated, contains in itself the germ of multitudinous anxieties for the trader, the traveller, and the diplomatist.

The real reason for anything is hardly ever to be expected, and even when it has been, given, one cannot be sure of this fact. Every Chinese, the uneducated not less than others, is by nature a kind of cuttle-fish capable of distilling any amount of turbid ink, into which he can retreat with the utmost safety' so far as pursuit is concerned. If you are interviewed on a journey and invited to contribute to the travelling-expenses of some impecunious individual who hopes to exploit a new field, your attendant does not say, as you would do, "Your expenses are none of my affair, begone with you!" but "with a smile that is child-like and bland," he explains that your allowance of money is barely sufficient for your own use, and so you will be deprived of the pleasure of contributing to your fellow-traveller. We have seldom met a Chinese gate-keeper who would say to a Chinese crowd, as a foreigner tells him to do, "You cannot come in here," but he will observe instead, that they must not come in, because the big dog will bite them if they do.

There are few Chinese who have any well-developed conscience on the subject of keeping an engagement. This characteristic is connected with their talent for misunderstanding, and with their disregard of time. But whatever the real reason for the failure, it is interesting to see what a variety of alleged reasons exist for it. The Chinese in general resemble the man who, being accused of having broken his promise, replied that it was of no consequence, as he could make another just as good. If it is a fault for which he is reproved, promises of amendment flow in limpid streams from his lips. His acknowledgments of wrong are complete — in fact, too complete, and leave nothing to be desired but sincerity.

A Chinese teacher who was employed in inditing and commenting upon Chinese aphorisms, after writing down a fine sentiment of the ancients, made an annotation to the effect that one should never refuse a request in an abrupt manner, but should, on the contrary, grant it in form, although with no intention to do so in substance. "Put him off till to-morrow, and then until another to-morrow. Thus," he remarked in his note, "you comfort his heart!" So far as we know the principle here avowed is the one which is generally acted upon by the Chinese who have debts for which payment is sought. No one expects to collect his debt at the time that he applies for it, and he is not disappointed; but he is told most positively that he will get it the next time, and the next, and the next.

One of the ways in which the native insincerity of the Chinese is most characteristically manifested is their demeanour towards children, who are taught to be insincere without consciousness of the fact either on their own part or on the part of those who teach them. Before he is old enough to talk, and when he can attach only the vaguest significance to the words which he hears, a child is told that unless he does as he is bid some terrific object, said to be concealed in the sleeve of a grown person, will catch him. It is not uncommon for foreigners to be put in the place of the unknown monster, and this fact alone would be sufficient to account for all the bad words which we frequently hear applied to ourselves. Why should not children who may have been affrighted with our vague terrors when they were young, hoot us in the streets as soon as they have grown large enough to perceive that we are not dangerous but only ridiculous?

The carter who is annoyed by the urchins in the street yelling after his foreign passenger, shouts to them that he will capture several of them, tie them on behind his cart and carry them off. The boatman under like provocation contents himself with the observation that he will pour scalding water upon them. The expressions, "I'll beat you," "I'll kill you," are understood by a Chinese child of some experience to constitute an ellipsis for "Stop that!"

There is in Chinese a whole vocabulary of words which are indispensable to one who wishes to pose as a " polite " person, words in which whatever belongs to the speaker is treated with scorn and contempt, and whatever relates to the person addressed is honourable. The "polite " Chinese will refer to his wife, if driven to the extremity of referring to her at all, as his " dull thorn," or in some similar elegant figure of speech, while the rustic, who grasps at the substance of "politeness," although ignorant of its formal expression, perhaps alludes to the companion of his joys and sorrows as his "stinking woman." This trait of Chinese etiquette is not inaptly presented in one of their own tales, in which a visitor is represented as calling clad in his best robes, and seated in the reception-room awaiting the arrival of his host. A rat which had been disporting itself upon the beams above, insinuating its nose into a jar of oil which was put there for safe-keeping, frightened at the sudden intrusion of the caller, ran away, and in so doing upset the oil-jar, which fell directly on the caller, striking him a severe blow, and ruining his elegant garments with the saturation of the oil. Just as the face of the guest was purple with rage at this disaster, the host entered, when the proper salutations were performed, after which the guest proceeded to explain the situation, "As I entered your honourable apartment and seated myself under your honourable beam, I inadvertently terrified your honourable rat, which fled and upset your honourable oil-jar upon my mean and insignificant clothing, which is the reason of my contemptible appearance in your honourable presence."

That very few foreigners can ever bring themselves to give Chinese invitations in a Chinese way, goes without saying. It requires long practice to bow cordially to a Chinese crowd as one goes to a meal, and remark blandly, "Please all sit down and eat," or to sweep a cup of tea in a semicircle just as it is raised to the lips, and, addressing one's self to the multitude, observe with gravity, " Please all drink." Not less real is the moral difficulty of exclaiming at suitable situations, "K'o-t'ou, K'o-t'ou," signifying, "I can, may, must, might, could, would, or should" (as the case may be) "give you a prostration"; or of occasionally interjecting the observation, "I ought to be beaten, I ought to be killed," meaning that I have offended against some detail of the rules of etiquette ; or of stopping in the midst of a horseback ride, upon meeting a casual acquaintance, and proposing to him, ''I will get off and you shall mount," quite irrespective of the direction in which you may be travelling, or the general irrationality of the procedure. Yet the most ignorant and uncultivated Chinese will frequently give these invitations with an air, which, as already remarked, extorts admiration from the most unsympathetic Occidental, who pays the unconscious tribute of him who cannot to him who can. Such little ceremonies, as we have had repeated occasion to observe, are enforced contributions on the part of individuals to society at large, that friction may be diminished, and he who refuses to contribute will be punished in a manner not the less real because it is oblique. Thus a carter who neglects to take his cue down from his head and descend from his cart when he has occasion to inquire the way, will not improbably be given a wrong direction, and reviled besides.

To be able to determine what is the proper thing to be done when Orientals offer presents, is in itself a science, and perhaps as much so in China as in other countries. Some things must not be accepted at all, while others must not be altogether refused, and there is generally a broad debatable land, in regard to which a foreigner can be sure of nothing except that, left to his own judgment, he will almost infallibly do the wrong thing. In general, offers of presents are to be suspected, especially those which are in any particular extraordinary. Of this class are those which are tendered on the occasion of the birth of a son in reference to which the classical dictum, "I fear the Greeks, even bearing gifts," is universally and perennially appropriate. There is always something behind such an offer, and, as the homely Chinese proverb says of a rat dragging a shovel, the "larger end is the one that is behind," or, in other words, what is (virtually) required in return is much greater than what is given.

Of the hollowness of these offers many foreigners in China have had experience. We have ourselves had occasion to be but too familiar with the details of a case in which a theatrical exhibition was offered to a few foreigners by a Chinese village, as a mark of respect, of course with the implied understanding that it should be duly acknowledged by suitable feasts. When this honour was definitely declined, it was proposed to devote the funds, or rather a small part of them, to the construction of a building for public use, which, in the case of the first village, was actually done. No sooner was this agreed upon than eleven other villages, also deeply smitten with gratitude for famine relief and medical help, proceeded to send deputations to make on their part formal offers of theatrical exhibitions, which they were perfectly aware would be and must be declined. The representatives of each village received the intelligence of the refusal of these honours with the same sad surprise, each of them offered to divert the funds in question to the public building already referred to, and each one of them allowed the matter to drop at that point, and no further reference whatever was ever made to it by any one of them!

It is not foreigners only who are beset in this way. Rich Chinese who have had the misfortune to be made happy, are sometimes visited by their neighbours with congratulatory gifts of a trifling character, such as toys for a new-born heir, presents the total value of which is practically nothing, but which must be acknowledged by a feast — the invariable and always appropriate Chinese response. It is on occasions like this that the most inexpert in Chinese affairs learns to appreciate the accuracy of the Chinese aphorism, which observes, "When one is eating one's own, he eats till the tears come; but when he is eating the food of others, he eats till the perspiration flows." It frequently happens under such conditions that the host is obliged to assume the most cordial appearance of welcome, when he is inwardly fuming with rage which cannot possibly be expressed without the loss of his "face," which would be even more deadly than the loss of the food.

This suggests that large class of expressions which come under the general designation of "face-talk." That much of the external decorum with which foreigners are treated by Chinese in their employ, especially in large cities, is a mere external veneer, is easily seen by contrasting the behaviour of the same persons in public and in private. It is said that a Chinese teacher who is a model of the proprieties at his foreign master's house, is not unlikely to "cut him dead" if he meets the same master on the streets of Peking, for the reason that to notice him at that time would lead to a public recognition of the fact that the Chinese pundit is in some way indebted to the foreign barbarian for replenishing the rice-bowl of the Chinese — a circumstance which, however notorious, must not be formally admitted, especially in public. It is very common for a number of Chinese, on entering a room where there is a foreigner, to salute all the Chinese in the room by turn, and totally ignore the foreigner. A Chinese teacher is not unlikely to flatter his foreign pupil with the information that his ear is remarkably correct and his pronunciation almost perfect, and that he will soon surpass all his contemporaries in the acquisition of the language, while at the very same time the peculiar errors of the pupil are not improbably matter of sport between the teacher and his companions. In general, it may be taken for granted that the last person to set one right in matters of Chinese speech is the teacher who is employed for that purpose.

One of the ways in which the formal and hollow politeness of the Chinese manifests itself, is in voluntary offers to do what it is very desirable should be done, but which others cannot or will not undertake. If the offer comes to nothing we should not be disappointed, for it is not improbable that it was made with the definite knowledge that it could not be carried out, but the "face" of the friend who made the offer is assured. In like manner, if there is a dispute as to the amount of money to be paid at an inn, your carter will probably come forward as arbitrator, and decide that he will make up the difference himself, which he does by taking the amount required from your cash-bag. Or if he were to pay the money from his own funds, he would bring in his bill for the same, and if he was reminded that he offered of his own accord to make it up, he would reply, "Do you expect the man who attends the funeral to be buried in the coffin too?"

There is a great deal of real modesty in China notwithstanding appearances to the contrary, but it cannot for a moment be doubted that there is likewise a great deal of mock modesty, both on the part of men and of women. It is very common to hear it said of some disagreeable matter, that it is wholly unmentionable, that the words are totally unutterable, etc., when all parties are perfectly aware that this is a mere form denoting reluctance to express an opinion. The very persons who use this high-toned language would be ready enough to employ the foulest expressions of vituperation whenever they were excited by anger.

False modesty is matched by a false sympathy, which consists of empty words; but for this the Chinese are not to be blamed, as they have no adequate material out of which sympathy for others can be developed in any considerable quantities and for any length of time. But empty sympathy is not so repugnant to good taste as that mockery of sympathy and of all true feeling which contemplates death with boisterous merriment. Mr. Baber mentions a Szechuan coolie who burst into a delighted laugh at the spectacle of two dogs devouring a corpse on the tow-path. Mr. Meadows tells us that his Chinese teacher laughed till he held his sides at the amusing death of his most constant companion. It is no explanation of these strange exhibitions, often observed in the case of parents at the death of children of whom they were fond, that long grief has dried up its external expression, for there is a wide distinction between a silent grief and that rude mockery of natural feeling which offends the instincts of mankind.

It is, as we have had occasion to remark, several hundred years since foreigners began to have commercial relations with the Chinese. There have been multiplied testimonies to the business honesty of those with whom these relations have been held. Without generalising to a degree which might be precarious, it is safe to say that there must be a good basis for testimonies of this sort. As a specimen of what these testimonies are, we may quote the words of Mr. Cameron, Manager of the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank, on occasion of his farewell to Shanghai: "I have referred to the high commercial standing of the foreign community. The Chinese are in no way behind us ourselves in that respect; in fact, I know of no people in the world I would sooner trust than the Chinese merchant and banker. Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but to show that I have good reasons for making such a strong statement, I may mention that for the last twenty-five years the bank has been doing a very large business with Chinese in Shanghai, amounting, I should say, to hundreds of millions of taels, and we have never yet met with a defaulting Chinaman." Perhaps the best commentary on the statement just quoted is the fact that within three years after it was made, a Chinese compradore of the same bank in Hongkong so crippled it by losses for which it did not appear that there was any security that a million dollars were subtracted from the annual profits.

Whether there is an essential difference between Chinese business as conducted by wholesale and that by retail, we have no means of knowing. But without abating in the least from the value of the testimonies to which reference has been made, it is a fair question whether a large part of results noted are not due to the admirable system of mutual responsibility already described — a system which Western nations would do well to imitate. It is only natural that foreigners doing business with the Chinese should avail themselves to the fullest extent of such commercial safeguards as exist, and for such results as are thus attained the Chinese are unquestionably entitled to the fullest credit. Yet after all such acknowledgments are made, it remains true, as testified by a vast array of witnesses, and by wide and long observation, that the commerce of the Chinese is a gigantic example of the national insincerity.

An interesting essay has been written by one who knew of what he was affirming, on the process by which in ordinary trade two Chinese each succeed in cheating the other. The relation of two such individuals is generally the relation between Jacob and Laban, or, as the Chinese phrase runs, it is the iron brush meeting the brass wash-dish. It is a popular proverb that to put a lad into trade is to ruin him. False weights, false measures, false currency, and false goods — these are phenomena from which it is difficult to escape in China. Even in the great establishments which put up conspicuous signs, notifying the public that they will here find "goods genuine, prices real," "positively no two prices," the state of things does not correspond to the surface seeming. We by no means intend to affirm such a proposition as that there is no honesty to be found in China, but only that, so far as our experience and observation go, it is literally impossible to be sure of finding it anywhere. How can it be otherwise with a people who have so little regard for truth? A well-dressed scholar who meets a foreigner is not ashamed to affirm in reply to a question, that he cannot read, and then when a little book has been handed him to look at, he does not hesitate to slink away in the crowd without paying the three cash which is the cost. He has no sense of shame at such a proceeding, but rather a thrill of joy that he has circumvented the silly foreigner, who has so little astuteness as to trust a total stranger. It is very common for a man who is buying from a foreigner to give a cash less than the proper amount, alleging that he has not another cash with him. When he is informed that there is one in his ear at the moment, he takes it out with reluctance, feeling that he has been defrauded. In like manner a man who has spent ''an old half-day" in trying to get something free of cost, on the ground that he is totally without money, will at last draw forth a string of a thousand cash, hand it to you with an air of melancholy, and request you to take out the proper amount. But if he is believed, and gets something for nothing, he departs with a keen joy in his heart, like that of one who has slain a serpent.

The solidarity of Chinese society finds one of its manifestations in the constant habit of borrowing what belongs to a relative, with or without a notification of the intention so to do. Many of the articles thus "borrowed" are at once put in pawn, and if they are wanted again the owners must redeem them. A Chinese boy in a mission school was detected in stealing money from the single lady who had charge of the scholars' rooms. Upon being confronted with irrefragable proof of his guilt, he explained, with, sobs, that when at home he had always been in the habit of stealing from his mother, and that his foreign teacher was so much like an own mother to him that he was betrayed into stealing from her too!

While it is undoubtedly true that many of the evils which are so conspicuous in Chinese social life are to be found also in Western lands, it is of the utmost importance clearly to perceive the points of essential contrast. One of these we take to be that already mentioned, in that insincerity in China, while not always to be met with, is always to be looked for. Instances of this have been already cited in speaking of other topics, and others might be referred to at almost any length.

An interesting volume remains to be written by some one who has the requisite knowledge, on the theory and practice of Chinese squeezes — a practice which extends from the Emperor on his throne to the lowest beggar in the Empire. With that practical sagacity for which they are so deservedly noted, the Chinese have reduced this business to a perfect system, which can no more be escaped than one can escape the pressure of the atmosphere. Vicious and demoralising as the system is, it is not easy to see how it can be done away with, except by a complete reorganisation of the Empire. The result of this state of things, and of the characteristics of the Chinese which have led to it, is that it is very difficult for a foreigner to have to do with the Chinese in a practical way, and on any extended scale, and yet contrive to preserve his reputation — should he be so fortunate as to have one — as a "superior man." It is a proverb constantly quoted, and self-verifying, that carters, boatmen, inn-keepers, coolies, and middlemen, irrespective of any specific offence, all deserve to be killed on general principles. The relation of this class of persons and others like them to foreigners is peculiar, for it is known that foreigners will consent to a great deal of imposition rather than have a social typhoon, for which they generally lack both the taste and the talent; yet it is by the social typhoon that, in case of any supposed breach of equity on the part of Chinese towards Chinese, the social atmosphere is brought at last to a state of equilibrium.

He must be a rare man who has no blind side upon which those Chinese who choose to do so cannot get. Not to be too suspicious and not to be too confiding is a rare illustration of the golden mean. If one exhibits that just disapprobation towards insincerity which it seems to demand, the Chinese, who are shrewd judges of human nature, set it down to our discredit as a mark of "temper"; while if we maintain the placid demeanour of a Buddha absorbed in his Nirvana, a demeanour which is not easy for all temperaments at all times, we are at once marked as fit subjects for further and indefinite exactions. That was a typical Chinese who, being in foreign employ, saw one day a peddler on the street, vending little clay images of foreigners, cleverly executed and in appropriate costume. Stopping for a moment to examine them, he said to the dealer in images, "Ah, you play with these toys; I play with the real things."

It is unnecessary to do more than to allude in passing to the fact that the Chinese government, so far as it is knowable, appears to be a gigantic example of the trait which we are discussing. Instances axe to be found in the entire history of foreign relations with China, and one might almost say in all that is known of the relations of Chinese officials to the people. A single but compendious illustration is to be found in those virtuous proclamations which are issued with such unfailing regularity, in such superlative abundance, with such felicity of diction, on all varieties of subjects and from all grades of officials. One thing only is lacking, namely, reality, for these fine commands are not intended to be enforced. This is quite understood by all concerned, and on this point there are no illusions. "The life and state papers of a Chinese statesman, like the Confessions of Rousseau, abound in the finest sentiments and the foulest deeds. He cuts off ten thousand heads, and cites a passage from Mencius about the sanctity of human life. He pockets the money given him to repair an embankment and thus inundates a province, and he deplores the land lost to the cultivator of the soil. He makes a treaty which he secretly declares to be only a deception for the moment, and he declaims against the crime of perjury." Doubtless there may be pure-minded and upright officials in China, but it is very hard to find them, and from the nature of their environment they are utterly helpless to accomplish the good which they may have at heart. When we compare the actual condition of those who have had the best opportunity to become acquainted with the Chinese Classics, with the teachings of these Classics, we gain a vivid conception of how practically inert they have been to bring society to their high standard.

"How many Chinese have you ever known whom you would implicitly trust?" This question must be understood to relate only to those who have come under no influences outside of regular Chinese education. Different replies will be given by different persons according to their experience, and according to their standard of judging of Chinese character. Most foreigners would probably reply, "A very few," "Six or eight," "A dozen," as the case may be. Occasionally the answer will be, "A great many, more than I can remember.'' But we must believe that intelligent and discriminating observers who can truthfully give the latter reply are exceedingly few in number.

It is always prudent to observe what things a people take for granted, and to act accordingly. As we have seen in the discussion of mutual suspicion as a factor in Chinese social life, the Chinese take it for granted that they are not to trust others, for reasons which they well understand. It is precisely this state of things which makes the future of China so full of uncertainty. The governing class as a whole is not the best but the worst in the Empire. An intelligent Taotai remarked to a foreigner that "the officials under the Emperor are all bad men and ought to be killed, but it would be of no use to kill us, as the next incumbents would be just as bad as we." The serpent, as the Chinese adage runs, knows his own hole, and it is a significant fact that the official class in China is profoundly distrusted by the class next below it, the mercantile. They know that the so-called "reformation" is but a superficial shell, which will soon scale off. A Chinese mason spending a vast amount of time smoothing the outside of chimneys and roofs which he has built badly with untempered mortar, and which he knows will smoke and leak at the first opportunity, is a type of many things in China.

There is wealth enough in China to develop the resources of the Empire, if there were but the confidence, without which timid capital will not emerge from its hiding-place. There is learning enough in China for all its needs. There is no lack of talent of every description. But without mutual confidence, based upon real sincerity of purpose, all these are insufficient for the regeneration of the Empire.

A few years ago the writer was consulted by an intelligent Chinese in regard to the possibility of doing something for the relief of a district that has great trouble with its wells, which are made in the usual Chinese way, and bricked up by a wall begun from the top and lowered as the well is deepened. But in this particular locality the soil is of such a character that after a time the whole ground sinks, taking the well and its brick lining with it, leaving only a hole, which eventually caves in and becomes dry. Like the attempt to remedy the evils of this unfortunate district in the province of Chihli is any prescription to cure the ills from which China is suffering, and has long suffered, which does not go deep enough to reach the roots of character. All superficial treatment will prove at last to be but burying cart-loads of excellent material in a Slough of Despond.

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