INFLEXIBILITY.THE first knowledge which we acquire of the
Chinese is derived from our servants. Unconsciously to themselves, and not
always to our satisfaction, they are our earliest teachers in the native
character, and the lessons thus learned we often find it hard to forget. But in
proportion as our experience of the Chinese becomes broad, we discover that the
conclusions to which we had been insensibly impelled by our dealings with a
very narrow circle of servants are strikingly confirmed by our wider knowledge,
for there is a sense in which every Chinese may be...
CHAPTER VIII.THE TALENT
FOR INDIRECTION. ONE of the intellectual habits upon which
we Anglo-Saxons pride ourselves most is that of going directly to the marrow of
a subject, and when we have reached it saying exactly what we mean.
Considerable abatements must no doubt be made in any claim set up for such a
habit, when we consider the usages of polite society and those of diplomacy, yet
it still remains substantially true that the instinct of rectilinearity is the
governing one, albeit considerably modified by special circumstances. No very
long acquaintance is required with any Asiatic...
CHAPTER VII. THE TALENT FOR MISUNDERSTANDING. THIS remarkable gift of the Chinese people
is first observed when the foreigner knows enough of the language to employ it
as a vehicle of thought. To his pained surprise, he finds that he is not
understood. He therefore returns to his studies with augmented diligence, and
at the end of a series of years is able to venture with confidence to accost
the general public, or any individual thereof, on miscellaneous topics. If the
person addressed is a total stranger, especially if he has never before met a
foreigner, the speaker will have opportu...
CHAPTER VI THE DISREGARD OF ACCURACY. THE first impression which a stranger
receives of the Chinese is that of uniformity. Their physiognomy appears to be
all of one type, they all seem to be clad in one perpetual blue, the "hinges"
of the national eye do not look as if they were "put on straight,"
and the resemblance between one Chinese cue and another is the likeness between
a pair of peas from the same pod. But in a very brief experience the most
unobservant traveller learns that, whatever else may be predicated of the
Chinese, a dead level of uniformity cannot be safely assumed. The...
CHINESE CHARACTERISTICSCHAPTER V. THE DISREGARD OF TIMEIT is a maxim of the developed civilisation
of our day, that "time is money." The complicated arrangements of modern
life are such that a business man in business hours is able to do an amount and
variety of business which, in the past century, would have required the
expenditure of time indefinitely greater. Steam and electricity have
accomplished this change, and it is a change for which the Anglo-Saxon race was
prepared beforehand by its constitutional tendencies. Whatever may have been
the habits of our ancestors when they had l...
CHINESE CHARACTERISTICSCHAPTER IV. POLITENESS ''THERE are two quite different aspects in
which the politeness of the Chinese, and of Oriental peoples generally, may be
viewed — the one of appreciation, the other of criticism. The Anglo-Saxon, as
we are fond of reminding ourselves, has, no doubt, many virtues, and among them
is to be found a very large percentage of fortiter
in re, but a very small percentage of
suaviter in modo. When, therefore, we
come to the Orient, and find the vast populations of the immense Asiatic
continent so greatly our superiors in the art of lubricating the f...