IN what we have now to say, it must be premised at the outset that all that is affirmed of Chinese indifference to comfort and convenience respects not Oriental but Occidental standards, the principal object being to show how totally different those standards are. 

Let us first direct our attention for a moment to the Chinese dress. In speaking of Chinese contempt for foreigners, we have already had occasion to mention that Western modes of apparel have very little which is attractive to the Chinese; we are now forced to admit that the converse is equally true. To us it certainly appears singular that a great nation should become reconciled to such an unnatural custom as shaving off the entire front part of the head, leaving that exposed which nature evidently intended should be protected. But since the Chinese were driven to adopt this custom at the point of the sword, and since, as already remarked, it has become a sign and a test of loyalty, it need be no further noticed in this connection than to call attention to the undoubted fact that the Chinese themselves do not recognise any discomfort from the practice, and would probably be exceedingly unwilling to revert to the Ming Dynasty tonsure. 

The same considerations do not apply to the Chinese habit of going bareheaded at almost all seasons of the year, and especially in summer. The whole nation moves about in the blistering heats of the summer months holding one arm aloft, with an open fan held at such an angle as to obstruct a portion of the rays of the sun. Those who at any part of their lives hold an umbrella in their hands to ward off heat, must constitute but a small part of the population. While men do often wear hats upon certain provocation, Chinese women, so far as we have observed, have no other kind of head-dress than that which, however great its failure viewed from the unsympathetic Western standpoint, is intended to be ornamental. One of the very few requisites for comfort, according to Chinese ideas, is a fan, — that is to say, in the season when it is possible to use such an accessory to comfort. It is not uncommon in the summer to see coolies, almost or quite devoid of clothing, struggling to track a heavy salt-junk up-stream, vigorously fanning themselves meanwhile. Even beggars frequently brandish broken fans. 

It is one of the unaccountable phenomena of Chinese civilisation that this people, which is supposed to have been originally pastoral, and which certainly shows a high degree of ingenuity in making use of the gifts of nature, has never learned to weave wool in such a way as to employ it as clothing. The only exceptions to this general statement of which we are aware relate to the western parts of the Empire, where, to a certain extent, woollen fabrics are manufactured. But it is most extraordinary that the art of making such goods should not have become general, in view of the great numbers of sheep which are to be seen, especially in the mountainous regions. 

It is believed that in ancient times, before cotton was introduced, garments were made of some other vegetable fibres, such as rushes. However this may be, it is certain that the nation as a whole is at present absolutely dependent upon cotton. In those parts of the Empire where the winter cold is severe, the people wear an amount of wadded clothing almost sufficient to double the bulk of their bodies. A child clad in this costume, if he happens to fall down, is often as utterly unable to rise as if he had been' strapped into a cask. Of the discomfort of such clumsy dress we never hear the Chinese complain. The discomfort is in the want of it. It is certain, however, that no Anglo-Saxon would willingly tolerate the disabilities of such an attire, if he could by any possibility be relieved of it. 

In connection with the heavy clothing of winter must be mentioned the total lack of any kind of underclothing. To us it seems difficult to support existence without woollen undergarments, frequently changed. The Chinese are conscious of no such need. Their burdensome wadded clothes hang around their bodies like so many bags, leaving yawning spaces through which the cold penetrates to the flesh, but they do not mind this circumstance, although ready to admit that it is not ideal. An old man of sixty-six, who complained that his circulation was torpid, was presented with a foreign undershirt, but told to keep it on every day, to avoid taking cold. A day or two later it was ascertained that he had taken it off, as he was "roasted to death." 

Chinese shoes are made of cloth, and are always porous, absorbing moisture on the smallest provocation. Whenever the weather is cold this keeps the feet more or less chilled all the time. The Chinese have, indeed, a kind of oiled boots which are designed to keep out the dampness, but, like many other conveniences, on account of the expense, the use of them is restricted to a very few. The same is true of umbrellas as a protection against rain. They are luxuries, and are by no means regarded as necessities. Chinese who are obliged to be exposed to the weather do not as a rule think it important, certainly not necessary, to change their clothes when they have become thoroughly wet, and do not seem to find the inconvenience of allowing their garments to dry upon them at all a serious one. While the Chinese admire foreign gloves, they have none of their own, and while clumsy mittens are not unknown, even in the extreme north they are rarely seen. 

One of the most annoying characteristics of Chinese costume, as seen from the foreign standpoint, is the absence of pockets. The average Westerner requires a great number of these to meet his needs. He demands breast-pockets in his coats for his memorandum books, pockets behind for his handkerchiefs, pockets in his vest for pencil, tooth-pick, etc., as well as for his watch, and in other accessible positions for the accommodation of his pocket-knife, his bunch of keys, and his wallet. If the foreigner is also provided with a pocket-comb, a folding foot-rule, a cork-screw, a boot-buttoner, a pair of tweezers, a minute compass, a folding pair of scissors, a pin-ball, a pocket mirror, and a fountain pen, it will not mark him out as a singular exception to his race. Having become accustomed to the constant use of these articles, he cannot dispense with them. The Chinese, on the other hand, has few or none of such things; if he were presented with them he would not know where to put them. If he has a handkerchief it is thrust into his bosom, and so also is a child which he may have to carry around. If he has a paper of some importance, he carefully unties the strap which confines his trousers to his ankle, inserts the paper, and goes on his way. If he wears outside drawers, he simply tucks in the paper without untying anything. In either case, if the band loosens without his knowledge, the paper is lost — a constant occurrence. Other depositaries of such articles are the folds of the long sleeves when turned back, the crown of a turned-up hat, or the space between the cap and the head. Many Chinese make a practice of ensuring a convenient, although a somewhat exiguous, supply of ready money, by always sticking a cash in one ear. The main dependence for security of articles carried, is the girdle, to which a small purse, the tobacco pouch and pipe, and similar objects, are attached. If the girdle should work loose, the articles are liable to be lost. Keys, moustache-combs, and a few ancient cash are attached to some prominent button of the jacket, and each removal of this garment involves care-taking to prevent the loss of the appendages. 

If the daily dress of the ordinary Chinese seems to us objectionable, his nocturnal costume is at least free from criticism on the score of complexity, for he simply strips to the skin, wraps himself in his quilt, and sleeps the sleep of the just. Night-dress he or she has none. It is indeed recorded that Confucius "required his sleeping-dress to be half as long again as his body." It is supposed, however, that the reference in this passage is to a robe which the Master wore when he was fasting, and not to an ordinary night-dress ; but it is at all events certain that modern Chinese do not imitate him in his night-robe, and do not fast if they can avoid it. Even new-bom babes, whose skins are exceedingly sensitive to the least changes of temperature, are carelessly laid under the bedclothes, which are thrown back whenever the mother wishes to exhibit the infant to spectators. The sudden chill which this absurd practice occasions, is thought by competent judges to be quite sufficient to account for the very large number of Chinese infants who, before completing the first month of their existence, die in convulsions. When children have grown larger, instead of being provided with diapers, they are in some regions clad in a pair of bifurcated bags partly filled with sand or earth, the mere idea of which is sufficient to fill the breast of tender-hearted Western mothers with horror. Weighted with these strange equipments, the poor child is at first rooted to one spot like the frog which was "loaded" with buck-shot. In the particular districts where this custom prevails, it is common to speak of a person who exhibits small practical knowledge, as one who has not yet been taken out of his "earth-trousers "! 

Chinese indifference to what we mean by comfort is exhibited as much in their houses as in their dress. In order to establish this proposition, it is necessary to take account not of the dwellings of the poor, who are forced to exist as they can, but rather of the habitations of those whose circumstances enable them to do as they please. The Chinese do not care for the shade of trees about their houses, but much prefer poles covered with mats. Those who are unable to afford such a luxury, however, and who might easily have a grateful shade-tree in their courtyard, do not plant anything of this sort, but content themselves with pomegranates or some other merely ornamental shrubs. When, owing to the fierce heat, the yard is intolerable, the occupants go and sit in the street, and when that is insufferable they retire to their houses again. Few houses have a north door opposite the main entrance on the south side. Such an arrangement would produce a draught, and somewhat diminish the miseries of the dog-days. When asked why such a convenience is not more common, the frequent reply is that "We do not have north doors!" 

North of the thirty-seventh parallel of latitude, the common sleeping-place of the Chinese is the k'ang, a raised "brick-bed" composed of adobe bricks, and heated by the fire used for cooking. If there happens to be no fire, die cold earth appears to a foreigner the acme of discomfort. If the fire happens to be too great, he wakes in the latter part of the night, feeling that he is undergoing a process of roasting. In any event, the degree of heat will not be continuous throughout the night. The whole family is huddled together on this terrace. The material of which it is composed becomes infested with insects, and even if the adobe bricks are annually removed there is no way to secure immunity from these unwelcome guests, which are fixed occupants of the walls of all classes of dwellings. 

Other universally prevalent animal infestations there are, INDIFFERENCE TO COMFORT AND CONVENIENCE 131 with which most Chinese are very familiar, but there are few who seem to regard parasites as a preventable evil, even if they are recognised as an evil at all. The nets which are used to keep winged torments at bay, are beyond the means of all but a small proportion even of the city population, and, so far as we know, are rarely heard of elsewhere. Sand-flies and mosquitoes are indeed felt to be a serious nuisance, and occasionally faint efforts are made to expel them by burning aromatic weeds, but such pests do not annoy the Chinese a thousandth part as much as they annoy us. 

One of the typical instances of different standards of comfort is in the conception of what a pillow ought to be. In Western lands, a pillow is a bag of feathers adjusted to support the head. In China a pillow is a support for the neck, either a small stool of bamboo, a block of wood, or more commonly a brick. No Occidental could use a Chinese pillow in a Chinese way without torture, and it is not less certain that no Chinese would tolerate under his head for ten minutes the bags which we use for that purpose. 

We have spoken of the singular fact that the Chinese do not to any extent weave wool. It is still more unaccountable that they take no apparent interest in the feathers which they pluck in such vast quantities from the fowls which they consume. It would be exceedingly easy to make up wadded bedding by employing feathers, and the cost of the feathers would be little or nothing, since they are allowed to blow away as beneath the notice even of the strict economy of the Chinese. Yet, aside from sale to foreigners, we do not know of any use to which such feathers are at present put, except that the larger ones are loosely tied to sticks to serve as dusters, and in western China, feathers are sometimes thickly sprinkled on growing wheat and beans, to prevent their being eaten by animals turned out to forage for themselves. 

To an Occidental the ideal bed is at once elastic and firm. 132 CHINESE CHARy4CTERJSTICS The best example of such is perhaps that made from what is known as woven wire, which in recent years has come into such general use. But when one of the finest hospitals in China was furnished with these luxurious appliances, the kindhearted physician who had planned for them was disgusted to find that, as soon as his back was turned, those patients who were strong enough to do so crawled from their elastic beds down upon the floor, where they felt at home! 

Chinese houses are nearly always ill-lighted at night. The native vegetable oils are exceedingly disagreeable to the smell, and only afford sufficient illumination to make darkness visible. The great advantages of kerosene are indeed recognised, but in spite of them it is still true that throughout enormous areas the oil made from beans, cotton-seed, and peanuts continues to be used long after kerosene has been known, simply from the force of conservative inertia, backed by profound indifference to the greater comfort of being able to see clearly, as compared with being able to see scarcely at all. 

Chinese furniture strikes a Westerner as being clumsy and uncomfortable. Instead of the broad benches on which our ancestors used to recline, the Chinese are generally content with very narrow ones, and it will not be surprising if some of the legs are loose, or are so placed as to tip off the unwary person who seats himself when there is no one at the other end. The Chinese are the only Asiatic nation using chairs, but according to our ideas Chinese chairs are models of discomfort. Some of them are made on a pattern which prevailed in England in the days of Queen Elizabeth or Queen Anne, tall, straight of back, and inordinately angular. The more common ones are shaped so as to accommodate persons who weigh about two hundred and fifty pounds, but the strength of the chairs is by no means proportioned to the magnitude, and they soon fall to pieces. 

The greatest objections which Westerners have to Chinese dwellings are undoubtedly the dampness and the cold. The radical error in the construction of buildings, is that which economises in the foundation. The inevitable and permanent result is dampness. Floors of earth or of imperfectly burned brick are to most foreigners not only sources of great discomfort, but are extremely prejudicial to health. Not less annoying are the loose doors, resting on pivots. The double leaves of these doors admit the cold air at each side at the top and at the bottom. Even if the cracks are pasted up with stout paper, a door is but an imperfect protection against the bitter winter weather, because it is almost impossible to teach Chinese to keep an outside door shut. The notice which a business man posted on his office door, "Everybody shuts the doors but you," would be a gross falsehood in China, where nobody shuts a door. The frames of doors, both to houses and to yards, are often made so low that a person of average stature must at each passage either bow his head or bump it. 

Chinese paper windows will not keep out wind, rain, sun, heat, or dust. Window-shutters are not very common, and when they exist are often unused. 

Most Chinese houses have only one cooking-boiler, a large concave iron bowl, with a capacity of several gallons. But one kind of food is generally cooked at a time, and when a meal is in preparation hot water is not to be had. The stalks and grass which are the fuel must be incessantly pushed under the low kettle by a person squatting or sprawling in front of the small flue. Almost all cooking is done in this way. Steam and often smoke fill the room to an extent adapted to blind and strangle a foreigner, but the Chinese seem to be indifferent to these evils, although aware that serious diseases of the eye are a common consequence. 

A Chinese dwelling in winter always appears to a Westerner a thesaurus of discomfort, on account of the absence of artificial heat. The vast majority of the people, even where the winters are severe, have no other heat than that modicum obtained from the fuel burned in cooking, and conveyed to the k'ang. The Chinese so highly appreciate the comfort of a k'ang that the women sometimes speak of it as their "own mother." But while it is indeed the point of minimum discomfort in the establishment, to Occidentals who wish to feel positive heat from some source diffusing itself in grateful currents all over the body, a Chinese k'ang on a cold night is a very inadequate substitute for the "chimney-comer" or for the stove. In regions where coal is accessible, it is indeed employed as fuel, but as compared with the whole country these districts are very limited, and the smoke always escapes into the room, which becomes gradually filled with carbonic acid gas. Charcoal is very sparingly used even by those who are in good circumstances, and the danger from its incautious use, like that from the use of coal, is very great. The houses are so uncomfortable that even at home if the weather is cold the inmates often wear all the clothes they can put on. When abroad they have no more to add. "Are you cold?" we ask them. "Of course," is the constant reply. They have never been artificially warmed, in an Occidental sense, during their whole lives. In the winter their blood seems to be like water in the rivers, congealed at the surface, and only moving with a sluggish current underneath. Considering these characteristics of Chinese dwellings, it is no wonder that a certain Taotai who had been abroad remarked that in the United States the prisoners in jail had quarters more comfortable than his yamen. 

We have already had occasion to point out the Chinese indifference to crowding and noise. As soon as the weather becomes cold the Chinese huddle together as a matter of course, in order to keep warm. Even in the depth of the dog-days, it is not uncommon to see boats loaded with such numbers of passengers that there must be barely room to sit or to lie. No Westerners would tolerate such crowding, yet the Chinese do not appear to mind it. Occidentals like to have their dwellings at a little distance from those of the nearest neighbours, for ventilation and for privacy. The Chinese know nothing either of ventilation or of privacy, and they do not seem to appreciate these conditions when they are realised. Every little Chinese village is built on the plan of a city without any plan. In other words, the dwellings are huddled together as if land were excessively valuable. The inevitable effect is to raise the price of land, just as in a city, though for quite different reasons. Hence narrow courts, cramped accommodations, unhealthful overcrowding, even where there is abundant space to be had close at hand and at a moderate rate. 

A Chinese guest at a Chinese inn enjoys the bustle which is concomitant upon the arrival of a long train of carts, and falls asleep as soon as he has bolted his evening meal. His fellow-traveller from Western climes lies awake half the night listening to the champing of three-score mules, varied by kicks and squeals that last as long as he keeps his consciousness. These sounds are alternated by the beating of a huge wooden rattle, and by the yelping of a large force of dogs. It is not uncommon to see as many as fifty donkeys in one inn-yard, and the pandemonium which they occasion at night can be but faintly imagined. The Chinese, as M. Huc has mentioned, are not unaware that the braying of this animal can be stopped by suspending a brick to its tail, but repeated inquiries fail to elicit information of a single instance in which the thing has been actually done. The explanation is simply that a Chinese does not particularly care whether fifty donkeys bray singly, simultaneously, or not at all. No Occidental would be likely to remain neutral on such a question. That this feeling is not confined to any particular stratum of the Chinese social scale might be inferred from the circumstance that the wife of the leading statesman of China had at one time in the vice-regal yamen about one hundred cats! 

The Buddhist religion is responsible for the reluctance of the Chinese to put an end to the wretched existence of the pariah dogs with which all Chinese cities are infested, yet the trait of character thus exhibited is not so much Chinese as Oriental. Mr. J. Ross Browne, who was once Minister from the United States to China, published an entertaining volume of travels in the East, adorned with drawings of his own. One of these represented what appeared to be a congress of all varieties of lean and mangy dogs, which was offered as "a general view of Constantinople.'' The same cut would do good service as a sketch of many Chinese cities. The Chinese do not appear to experience any serious discomfort from the reckless and irrepressible barking of this vast army of curs, nor do they take much account of the really great dangers arising from mad dogs, which are not infrequently encountered. Under such circumstances, the remedy adopted is often that of binding some of the hair of the dog into the wound which it has caused, a curious analogy to the practice which must have originated our proverb that "the hair of the same dog will cure." The death of the dog does not seem to be any part of the object in view. 

Most of the instances already adduced relate to Chinese indifference to comfort. It would not be difficult to cite as many more which bear upon disregard of convenience, but a few examples will be sufficient. The Chinese pride themselves upon being a literary nation; in fact, the literary nation of the world. Pens, paper, ink, and ink-slabs are called the "four precious things," and their presence constitutes a "literary apartment." It is remarkable that not one of these four indispensable articles is carried about the person. They are by no means sure to be at hand when wanted, and al' four of them are utterly useless without a fifth substance, to wit, water, which is required for rubbing up the ink. The pen cannot be used without considerable previous manipulation to soften its delicate hairs; it is very liable to be injured by inexpert handling, and lasts but a comparatively short time. The Chinese have no substitute for the pen, such as lead-pencils, nor if they had them would they be able to keep them in repair, since they have no penknives, and no pockets in which to carry them. We have previously endeavoured, in speaking of the economy of the Chinese, to do justice to their great skill in accomplishing excellent results with very inadequate means, but it is not the less true that such labour-saving devices as are so constantly met in Western lands are unknown in China. In a modern hotel in the Occident one has but to push something or to pull something and he gets whatever he wants — hot or cold water, lights, heat, service. But the finest hostelry in the Eighteen Provinces, like all inferior places of accommodation, obliges its guest, whenever he is conscious of an unsupplied need, to go to the outer door of his apartment and yell at the top of his voice, vainly hoping to be heard for his much speaking. 

Many articles constantly required by the Chinese are not to be had on demand, but only when the dealer in the same happens to make his irregular appearance. At all other times one might as well find himself dropped in the interior of the Soudan, so far as the supply of current wants is concerned. In the city every one carries a lantern at night, yet in some cities, at least, lanterns are to be had only when the peddler brings them around, and those who want them buy at such times, as we do of a milkman or a dealer in fresh yeast. That percentage of the whole population which lives in Chinese cities cannot be a large one, and in the country this limitation of traffic is the rule and not the exception. In some districts, for example, it is customary to sell timber for house-building in the second moon, and the same logs are often dragged about the country from one large fair to another, till they are either sold, or taken back to their point of departure. But should any inexperienced person be so rash as to wish to buy timber in the fifth moon, he will soon ascertain why the wisest of Orientals remarked that "there is a time to every purpose under the heaven." 

In speaking of economy we have mentioned that as most Chinese tools are not to be had in a completed state, the customer buys the parts and has them united to suit himself, which does not comport with our conception of convenience. 

The writer once instructed a servant to buy a hatchet for splitting wood. There was none to be had, but he returned instead with fourteen large (imported) horse-shoes, which a blacksmith hammered into something resembling a miner's pick, to which a carpenter affixed a handle, the total cost being much greater than that of a good foreign axe! 

Few inconveniences of the Celestial Empire make upon the Western mind a more speedy and a more indelible impression than the entire absence of "sanitation." Whenever there has been an attempt made to accomplish something in the way of drainage, as in Peking, the resultant evils are very much greater than those which they were designed to cure. No matter how long one has lived in China, he remains in a condition of mental suspense, unable to decide that most interesting question so often raised. Which is the filthiest city in the Empire? A visitor from one of the northern provinces boasted to a resident in Amoy that, in offensiveness to the senses, no city in south China could equal those of the north. With a view to decide this moot point, the city of Amoy was extensively traversed, and found to be unexpectedly clean that is, for a Chinese city. Jealous for the pre-eminence of his adopted home, the Amoy resident claimed that he was taken at a disadvantage, as a heavy rain had recently done much to wash the streets! The traveller thinks he has found the worst Chinese city when he has inspected Foochow; he is certain of it when he visits Ningpo, and doubly sure on arriving in Tientsin. Yet, after all, it will not be strange if he heartily recants when he reviews with candour and impartiality the claims of Peking! 

The three points upon which the Occidental mind is sure to' lay principal stress when contemplating the inconveniences of Chinese civilisation, are the absence of postal facilities, the state of the roads, and the condition of the currency. Private companies do of course exist, by which letters and parcels may be transmitted from certain places in China to certain other places, but their functions are exceedingly limited, and compared with the whole Empire, the areas which they accommodate are but trifling. Of Chinese roads we have already spoken, when discussing the absence of public spirit. There is a road many miles in length cut through a mountain in Shantung, which is so narrow that carts cannot pass one another. Guards are stationed at each end, and traffic is only allowed in one direction in the forenoon, and in the other during the afternoon! It is because the Chinese costume especially Chinese shoes — is what has been described, and because Chinese roads are what we know them to be, that whenever the weather is bad the Chinese confine themselves to their dwellings. In Western lands we speak of an unintelligent person as one who does not know enough to go in when it rains, but in China one should rather say of such a person that he does not know enough to stay in when it rains. 

One of the most common characters in the Chinese language, used to denote imperative necessity, is composed of two parts, which signify "stopped by the rain." With the possible exception of official service, the idea that any human being has functions the discharge of which can be harmonised with the rapid precipitation of moisture in the outer atmosphere, is one that can only be introduced to most Chinese skulls by a process of trepanning. Not even public business is necessarily urgent, the proverb to the contrary notwithstanding. We have heard of a Chinese fort of undoubted strength, in a most important position, armed with the most elaborate muniments of war, such as Krupp guns, and provided with foreign drilled troops, where on occasion of a rain every one of the sentries judiciously retired to the guard-houses, leaving not a single man anywhere in sight. They were "stopped by the rain"! The Tientsin massacre of 1870 might have been quadrupled in atrocity, but for a timely rain which deterred the desperadoes already on their way to the Settlement. A portable shower would be one of the most perfect defences which a foreign traveller in the hostile parts of China could desire. We are confident that a steady stream of cold water delivered from a two-inch nozzle would, within five minutes of solar time, disperse the most violent mob ever seen by a foreigner in China. Grape-shot would be far less effectual, for many would stop to gather up the spent shot, while cold water is something for which every Chinese from the Han Dynasty downwards entertains the same aversion as does a cat. Externally or internally administered, he regards it as equally fatal. 

The subject of Chinese currency demands not a brief paragraph, but a comprehensive essay, or rather a volume. Its chaotic eccentricities would drive any Occidental nation to madness in a single generation, or more probably such gigantic evils would speedily work their own cure. In speaking of the disregard of accuracy we have mentioned a few of the more prominent annoyances. A hundred cash are not a hundred, and a thousand cash are not a thousand, but some other and totally uncertain number, to be ascertained only by experience. In wide regions of the Empire one cash counts for two ; that is, it does so in numbers above twenty, so that when one hears that he is to be paid five hundred cash he understands that he will receive two hundred and fifty pieces, less the local abatement, which perpetually shifts in different places. There is a constant intermixture of small or spurious cash, leading to inevitable disputes between dealers in any commodity. At irregular intervals the local magistrates become impressed with the evil of this debasement of the currency, and issue stern proclamations against it. This gives the swarm of underlings in the magistrate's yam6n an opportunity to levy squeezes on all the cash-shops in the district, and to make the transaction of all business more or less difficult. Prices at once rise to meet the temporary necessity for pure cash. As soon as the paying ore in this vein is exhausted — and it is not worked to any extent — the bad cash returns, but prices do not fall. Thus the irrepressible law by which the worse currency drives out the better, is never for an instant suspended. The condition of the cash becomes worse and worse, until, as in some parts of the province of Honan, every one goes to market with two entirely distinct sets of cash, one of which is the ordinary mixture of good with bad, and the other is composed exclusively of counterfeit pieces. Certain articles are paid for with the spurious cash only. But in regard to other commodities, this is matter of special bargain, and accordingly there is for these articles a double market price. 

Chinese cash is emphatically "filthy lucre." It cannot be handled without contamination. The strings, of five hundred or a thousand (nominal) pieces, are exceedingly liable to break, which involves great trouble in recounting and re-tying. There is no uniformity of weight in the current copper cash, but all is both bulky and heavy. Cash to the value of a Mexican dollar weigh not less than eight pounds avoirdupois. A few hundred cash are all that any one can carry about in the little bags which are suspended for this purpose from the girdle. If it is desired to use a larger sum than a few strings, the transportation becomes a serious matter. The losses on transactions in ingots of silver are always great, and the person who uses them is inevitably cheated both in buying and in selling. If he employs the bills of cash-shops, the difficulty is not greatly relieved, since those of one region are either wholly uncurrent in another region not far away, or will be taken only at a heavy discount, while the person who at last takes them to be redeemed has in prospect a certain battle with the harpies of the shop by which the bills were issued, as to the quality of the cash which is to be paid for them. Under these grave disabilities, the wonder is that the Chinese are able to do any business at all; and yet, as we daily perceive, they are so accustomed to these annoyances that their burden appears scarcely felt, and the only serious complaint on this score comes from foreigners. 

It is very common for the traveller through a Chinese village to see a donkey lying at full length, and attached to a post by a strong strap passed about his neck. But instead of adjusting himself to the length of his strap, the beast frequently drags himself to the utmost limit of his tether, and reclines with his head at an angle of forty-five degrees, his neck stretched in such a way as to threaten the dislocation of the cervical vertebrae. We wonder why he does not break his neck, and still more what pleasure there can be in the apparent attempt to do so. No Occidental donkey would behave in such a way. The reader who has followed us thus far through these inadequate illustrations of our topic will bear in mind that the Chinese race, though apparently in a condition of semi-strangulation, seems to itself comparatively comfortable, which is but to say that the Chinese standard of comfort and convenience, and the standard to which we are accustomed, are widely variant, which is the proposition with which we began. The Chinese has learned to accommodate himself to his environment. To such inconveniences as he encounters, he submits with exemplary patience, well knowing them to be inevitable. 

It is not unusual to hear persons who have considerable acquaintance with the Chinese and their ways, especially in the aspects to which our attention has just been drawn, affirm that the Chinese are not civilised. This very superficial and erroneous judgment is due to an unphilosophical confounding of civilisation and comfort. In considering the present condition of China, which is much what it was three centuries ago, it is well to look upon the changes through which we ourselves have passed, for thus only can we arrive at a just comparison. We cannot think of the England of Milton, Shakespeare, and Elizabeth as an uncivilised country, but nothing is more certain than that to the most of us it would now prove to be intolerable. 

It is superfluous to allude to the manifold and complex causes which have brought about such astonishing changes in the British Islands within the past three centuries. Yet more wonderful is the radical revolution which within the last fifty years has taken place in the standard of comfort and convenience. If we were compelled to return to the crude ways of our great-grandfathers and grandfathers, it might be a question whether life for us would be worth living. Times have changed, and we have changed with them. In China, on the contrary, times have not changed, and neither have the people. The standard of comfort and convenience is the same now as it has been for centuries. When new conditions arise, these standards will inevitably alter. That they will ever be the same as those to which we have become accustomed is, however, to be neither expected nor desired.       

Related articles:


Start the discussion...

To Leave a Comment or reply to posts please log in