ELLEN N. LAMOTTE Author of "The Backwash of War"
ILLUSTRATED WITH PHOTOGRAPHS
NEW YORK THE CENTURY CO. 1919
Copyright, 1919, by The Century Co.
Published, May, 1919
Two classes of books are written about China by two classes of people. There are books written by people who have spent the night in China, as it were, superficial and amusing, full of the tinkling of temple bells; and there are other books written by people who have spent years in China and who know it well,—ponderous books, full of absolute information, heavy and unreadable. Books of the first class get one nowhere. They are delightful and entertaining, but one feels their irresponsible authorship. Books of the second class get one nowhere, for one cannot read them; they are too didactic and dull. The only people who might read them do not read them, for they also are possessed of deep, fundamental knowledge of China, and their views agree in no slightest particular with the views set forth by the learned scholars and theorists.
This book falls into neither of these two classes, except perhaps in the irresponsibility of its author. It is compounded of gossip,—the flying gossip or dust of Peking. Take it lightly; blow off such dust as may happen to stick to you. For authentic information turn to the heavy volumes written by the acknowledged students of international politics.
ELLEN N. LA MOTTE.
The writer wishes to thank the following friends who have been kind enough to lend the photographs used in the illustrations: Warren R. Austin, F. C. Hitchcock, Margaret Frieder, T. Severin and Rachel Snow.
LETTERS WRITTEN OCTOBER AND NOVEMBER, 1916
I POOR OLD CHINA 3
II PEKING 13
III CIVILIZATION 24
IV RACE ANTAGONISMS 29
V SPHERES OF INFLUENCE 39
VI ON THE SACREDNESS OF FOREIGNERS 50
VII DONKEYS GENERALLY 61
VIII ADVISERS AND ADVICE 71
IX CHINESE HOUSES 77
X HOW IT'S DONE IN CHINA 86
XI THE LAO-HSI-KAI OUTRAGE 94
XII THE LAO-HSI-KAI AFFAIR 101
XIII THE LAO-HSI-KAI "INCIDENT" 108
LETTERS WRITTEN FEBRUARY AND MARCH, 1917
I THE RETURN TO PEKING 115
II THE OPIUM SCANDAL 124
III THE WALRUS AND THE CARPENTER 132
IV CHINA'S COURSE CLEAR 139
V FEAR OF THE PLUNGE 145
VI A DUST-STORM 150
VII A BOWL OF PORRIDGE 164
VIII FROM A SCRAP-BOOK 172
IX THE GERMAN REPLY 182
X DUST AND GOSSIP 189
XI DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS BROKEN 198
XII WALKING ON THE WALL 202
XIII MEETING THE PRESIDENT OF CHINA 208
XIV GREAT BRITAIN'S TWELVE DEMANDS 220
XV CONCLUSION 229
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Loading coolies at Wei-Hei-Wei Frontispiece
FACING PAGE Map 3
Camel caravan, Peking 21
Peking cart 32
Fruit stall in the bazaar 33
Entrance gate to compound of Chinese house 84
Compound of Chinese house 85
Chinese funeral 120
Chinese funeral 121
Vice-President Feng Kuo-Chang 128
View of Peking 129
Village outside walls of Peking 204
Fortune teller 205
President Li Yuan-Hung 216
Entrance to Winter Palace 217
POOR OLD CHINA
When I came away last August, you said you wanted me to tell you about our travels, particularly about China. Like most Americans, you have a lurking sentimental feeling about China, a latent sympathy and interest based on colossal ignorance. Very well, I will write you as fully as I can. Two months ago my ignorance was fully as overwhelming as yours, but it is being rapidly dispelled. So I'll try to do the same for you, as you said I might. Rash of you, I call it.
I'll take it that you have just about heard that China is on the map, and occupies a big portion of it. You know that she has a ruler of some kind in place of the old empress dowager who died a few years ago. Come to think of it, the ruler is a president, and China is a republic. Vaguely you may remember that she became a republic about five years ago, after a revolution. Also, in the same vague way, you may have heard that the country is old and rich and peaceful, with about four hundred million inhabitants; and beyond that you do not go. Sufficient. I'll go no further, either.
After six weeks in Japan, we set out for Peking, going by way of Korea. On the boat from Kobe to Shimonoseki, passing through the famous Inland Sea of Japan,—which, by the way, reminds one of the eastern shore of Maryland,—we met a young Englishman returning to Shanghai. We three, being the only first-class passengers on the boat, naturally fell into conversation. He said he had been in the East for ten years, engaged in business in Shanghai, so we at once dashed into the subject of Oriental politics. Being quite ignorant of Eastern affairs, but having heard vaguely of certain phases of them, we asked if he could tell us the meaning of "sphere of influence." The Orient seems full of spheres of influence, particularly China.
"How do the European nations acquire these 'spheres of influence' in China?" I asked. "Do they ask the Chinese Government to give them to them?—to set apart certain territory, certain provinces, and give them commercial and trading rights to these areas?"
"Ask the Chinese Government?" repeated the young man, scornfully. "Ask the Chinese? I should say not! The European powers just arrange it among themselves, each decides what provinces it wants, agrees not to trespass upon the spheres of influence of one another, and then they just notify China."
"Just notify China?" I exclaimed. "You mean they don't consult China at all and find out whether she's willing or not? You mean they just decide the matter among themselves, partition out the country as they like, select such territory as they happen to fancy, and then just notify China?"
"That's the idea," he returned; "virtually that's all there is to it. Choose what they want and then just notify China."
"Dear me!" said I.
I'm glad we met that young man. I like things put simply, in words of one syllable, within range of the understanding. Moreover, incredible as it seems, what he told us is true. Oh, of course, as I've found out since, there are treaties and things to be signed after China has been notified. She is then compelled to ratify these treaties or agreements; it looks better. Forced to sign them at the pistol's point, as it were. However, this ratification of treaties is more for the benefit of the European powers than for China. Having staked out their claims, they officially record them; that's all. And you know what used to happen in our country during the good old days of the "forty-niners" if some one jumped another's claim.
To show to what extent poor old China is under the "influence" of the great European powers, I shall have to give you a few statistics; otherwise you won't believe me. The total area of the Chinese Republic is about 4,300,000 square miles. The spheres of influence of some of the important nations are as follows:
England: Tibet 533,000
Provinces of Yangtse Valley 362,000
Total 1,199,000 or 27.8%
Russia: Outer Mongolia 1,000,000
Three-quarters of Manchuria 273,000
Total 1,821,000 or 42.3%
France: Yunnan 146,700 or 3.4%
Germany: Shan-tung 55,000 or 1.3%
Japan: South Manchuria 90,000
Eastern Inner Mongolia 50,000
Total 186,000 or 4.3%
Total area under foreign influence 79%
Don't forget these figures; turn back to them from time to time to refresh your memory. But remember one thing: it is not customary to speak of anything but of Japanese aggression. Whenever Japan acquires another square mile of territory, forestalling some one else, the fact is heralded round the world, and the predatory tendencies of Japan are denounced as a menace to the world. But publicity is not given to the predatory tendencies of other powers. They are all in agreement with one another, and nothing is said; a conspiracy of silence surrounds their actions, and the facts are smothered, not a hint of them getting abroad. The Western nations are in accord, and the Orient—China—belongs to them. But with Japan it is different. So in future, when you hear that Japan has her eye on China, is attempting to gobble up China, remember that, compared with Europe's total, Japan's holdings are very small indeed. The loudest outcries against Japanese encroachments come from those nations that possess the widest spheres of influence. The nation that claims forty-two per cent. of China, and the nation that claims twenty-seven per cent. of China are loudest in their denunciations of the nation that possesses (plus the former German holdings) less than six.
Our first actual contact with a sphere of influence at work came about in this wise: After we had spent two or three weeks in Korea, we took the train from Seoul to Peking, a two-days' journey. In these exciting days it is hard to do without newspapers, and at Mukden, where we had a five-hours' wait, we came across a funny little sheet called "The Manchuria Daily News." It was a nice little paper; that is, if you are sufficiently cosmopolitan to be emancipated from American standards. It was ten by fifteen inches in size,—comfortable to hold, at any rate,—with three pages of news and advertisements, and one blank page for which nothing was forthcoming. Tucked in among advertisements of mineral waters, European groceries, foreign banking-houses, and railway announcements was an item. But for our young man on the boat, I shouldn't have known what it meant. We read:
ALLIES PROTEST TO CHINA
Great Britain, France and Russia have lodged their respective protests with China on the ground that the Sino-American railway loan agreement recently concluded, infringes upon their acquired rights. The Russian contention is that the construction of the railway from Fengchen to Ninghsia conflicts with the 1899 Russo-Chinese Secret Treaty. The British point out that the Hangchow-Wenchow railway under scheme is a violation of the Anglo-Chinese Treaty re Hunan and Kwanghsi, and that the proposed railway constitutes a trespass on the British preferential right to build railways. The French Government, on behalf of Belgium, argues that the Lanchow-Ninghsia line encroaches upon the Sino-Belgian Treaty re the Haichow-Lanchow Railway, and that the railway connecting Hangchow with Nanning intrudes upon the French sphere of influence.
There you have it! China needing a railway, an American firm willing to build a railway, and Russia, England, France, and even poor little Belgium blocking the scheme. All of them busy with a tremendous war on their hands, draining all their resources of both time and money, yet able to keep a sharp eye on China to see that she doesn't get any improvements that are not of their making. And after the war is over, how many years will it be before they are sufficiently recovered financially to undertake such an expenditure? China must just wait, I suppose.
On each side of the rocking railway carriage stretched vast arid plains, sprinkled with innumerable villages consisting of mud houses. The fields were cut across in every direction by dirt roads, unpaved, full of deep ruts and holes. At times these roads were sunk far below the level of the fields, worn deep into the earth by the traffic of centuries; so deep in places that the tops of the blue-hooded carts were also below the level of the fields. Yet these roads afford the only means of communication with the immense interior provinces of China—these sunken roads and the rivers.
Just then we passed a procession of camels, and for a moment I forgot all about the article in "The Manchuria Daily News." Who wouldn't, seeing camels on the landscape! A whole long caravan of them, several hundred, all heavily laden, and moving in slow, majestic dignity at the rate of two miles an hour! Coming in from some unknown region of the great Mongolian plains, the method of transportation employed for thousands of years! Yes, undoubtedly, China needs railways; but she can't have any more at present, for she has no money to construct them herself, and the great nations who claim seventy-nine per cent. of her soil haven't time at present to build them for her. And they object to letting America do it. A sphere of influence is a dog in the manger.
Here we are in Peking at last, the beautiful, barbaric capital of China, the great, gorgeous capital of Asia. For Peking is the capital of Asia, of the whole Orient, the center of the stormy politics of the Far East. We are established at the Grand Hotel des Wagons-Lits, called locally the "Bed-Wagon Hotel," or, as the marines say, the "Wagon Slits." It is the most interesting hotel in the world, too, where the nations of the world meet, rub elbows, consult together, and plan to "do" one another and China, too. It is entertaining to sit in the dark, shabby lounge and watch the passers-by, or to dine in the big, shabby, gilded dining-room, and see the various types gathered there, talking together over big events, or over little events that have big consequences. Peking is not a commercial city, not a business center; it is not filled with drummers or traveling-men or small fry of that kind, such as you find in Shanghai and lesser places. It is the diplomatic and political center of the Orient, and here are the people who are at the top of things, no matter how shady the things. At least it is the top man in the concern who is here to promote its interests.
Here are the big concession-hunters of all nationalities, with headquarters in the hotel, ready to sit tight for a period of weeks or months or as long as it may take to wheedle or bribe or threaten the Chinese Government into granting them what they wish—a railroad, a bank, a mine, a treaty port. Over in a corner of the lounge sits a so-called princess, a Chinese lady, very modern, very chic, very European as to clothes, who was formerly one of the ladies-in-waiting to the old empress dowager. And, by the way, it took a woman to hold China together. Next to her sits a young Chinese gentleman, said to be the grandson of one of the old prime ministers, a slim, dapper youth, spectacled and intelligent. I may say that the lady is almost completely surrounded by the young man, but no one gives them more than a passing glance. We do, because we are new-comers, but the others are used to it. The British adviser to the Chinese Government passes, a tall, distinguished, gray-haired man, talking with a burly Englishman, hunter of big game, but now, according to rumor, a member of the secret service. Concession-hunters and business men sit about in groups, representatives of great commercial and banking firms from all over the world. A minister from some legation drops in; there are curio-buyers from Europe, with a sprinkling of tourists, and a tired-looking, sallow group of anemic men and women who have just come up from Manila on an army transport.
The approach to Peking is tremendously impressive. Lying in an arid plain, the great, gray walls, with their magnificent towers, rise dignified and majestic. Over the tops of the walls nothing is to be seen. There are no skyscrapers within; no house is higher than the surrounding, defending ramparts. Peking is divided into several areas, each called a city, each city surrounded by its own walls. There is the great, populous Chinese City, where only the Chinese dwell. The Tartar, or Manchu, City has several subdivisions. It contains the legation quarter, and all the foreign legations are clustered together in a small, compact area, surrounded by a small wall for defensive purposes. Beyond the legation quarter, on all sides, extends the Tartar City itself. Foreigners also live in this part of Peking, and, as far as I can see, always hold themselves in readiness to dash to the protection of their legation if anything goes wrong. They tell one that it is quite safe, that nothing can go wrong, that the Boxer troubles can never be repeated; but all the same, they always appear to have a bag packed and a ladder leaning against the compound walls in case of emergency. Which gives life in Peking a delightful flavor of suspense and excitement.
Also within the Tartar City lies the Imperial City, inclosed by towering red walls, and within that lies the Forbidden City, residence of the rulers of China, containing the palaces, and the dwelling-places of the mandarins. Now, except for certain parts of the Forbidden City, such as the palace of the President, Li Yuan Hung, the city is no longer forbidden. It is open to the public, and the public may come and go at will; coolies, hucksters, beggars, foreigners—all may move freely within the sacred precincts where formerly none but the high and mighty might venture.
The streets are marvelous. Those in the legation quarter are well paved, European, and stupid; but those in the Chinese and Tartar cities are full of excitement. A few are wide, but the majority are narrow, winding alleys, and all alike are packed and crowded with people and animals and vehicles of all kinds. Walking is a matter of shoving oneself through the throng, dodging under camels' noses, avoiding wheelbarrows, bumping against donkeys, standing aside to let officials' carriages go by,—antiquated European carriages, very shabby but surrounded by outriders, mounted on shaggy Mongolian ponies, who gallop ahead and clear the way. The horses can't be guided from behind; the coachman sits on the box and holds the reins and looks impressive, but the real work is done by the mafu or groom. When it comes to turning a corner, passing a camel-train, or other obstacle, the mafu is obliged to leap down from his seat, seize the bridle, and lead the horses round whatever obstruction there may be. At other times, when not leading the horses, the mafu sits on the box and shouts to clear the way. I tell you, progress in a carriage is a noisy affair,—what with the rattling of the old vehicle, the clanking of the brass-mounted harness, the yells and screams of the groom, and the yells and shouts of the crowds refusing to give way. It's barbaric, but has a certain style and swing.
Don't think there is any speed to a carriage. Oh, no. Despite the noise and rattle and apparent progress, the progress itself is very slow. At the rate of two miles an hour, possibly. We went out for a drive in the minister's carriage the other day, a comfortable victoria, drawn by a pair of very fat, very sorrel horses, and we skimmed along, as I say, at the rate of two miles an hour when the going was good. All we passed were the pedestrians,—a few of them,—and we usually found ourselves tailing along behind a camel-train or waiting for a wheelbarrow to get out of the way. In the side streets, or hutungs, we shouted ourselves along at a snail's pace, cleaving the dense throngs of inattentive citizens, whose right to the middle of the road was as great as ours, and who didn't purpose to be disturbed. Once on turning a corner, the groom pulled the bridle off one of the horses. Off it slipped into his hand, and the horse tossed his head and ran. The mafu yelled, the coachman yelled, every one else yelled, and for a few moments there was intense excitement. Later on, that same afternoon, we went out to tea somewhere, this time going by rickshaw. In comparison to the speed of a carriage, the pace of a rickshaw-runner is prodigious. We were positively dizzy.
There is a great difference between the speed of the rickshaw-runners in Tokyo and in Peking. In Japan they go rather slowly, and refuse to overexert themselves, and quite right, too; but here they go at top speed. There are such enormous numbers of them, and competition is so keen, that the swift young runners make capital of their strength. It is pathetic to see broken-down old coolies, panting and blowing, making painful efforts to compete with the younger men. I am not yet used to being taken about by man-power. It seems wrong somehow, demoralizing, for one human being to place himself in that humiliating relation to another, to become a draft animal, to be forced to lower himself to the level of an ox or an ass. It must have an insidious, demoralizing effect, too, upon the persons who ride in these little vehicles. I am not yet used to seeing able-bodied young foreigners, especially men, being pulled about by thin, tired, exhausted coolies. I feel ashamed every time I enter a rickshaw and contrast my well-being with that of the ragged boy between the shafts. I suppose I shall get over this feeling, think no more about it than any one else does, but at present it is new to me. Every time we leave the hotel, twenty boys dash forward, all clamoring for us; and if we decide to walk, twenty disappointed, half-starved boys wheel their little buggies back to the curb again and wait. Well, what can one do? They are so desperately poor! One way or the other, it seems all wrong.
We got caught in a block in the Chinese City the other day. At the intersection of two cross streets, narrow little hutungs about eight feet wide, four streams of traffic collided, and got hopelessly entangled in a yelling, unyielding snarl. From one direction came a camel-train from Mongolia; from another, three or four blue-hooded, long-axled, Peking carts. Along a third street came a group of water-carriers and wheelbarrows, and from the fourth half a dozen rickshaws. All met, and in a moment became thoroughly mixed up. There being no traffic regulation of any kind, no right of way of any sort, there was no idea in the mind of any one but that of his unalterable right to go ahead. It was pandemonium in a minute, with yells and curses, pushing and blows, men whacking one another and the beasts indiscriminately. Over the tops of the blue-hooded carts the tall camels raised their scornful heads, and surveyed the commotion with aloof disdain. In all the world there is nothing so arrogant and haughty as a camel, and they regarded from their supercilious height the petty quarreling of man. In fifteen minutes, however, the snarl cleared itself up, and it was the camels who first managed to slither by, after which each vehicle unwound itself from the mess and passed on.
You know, the lobby of this hotel seems a little like that block of traffic. There is such a heterogeneous massing of nationalities and of people within these shabby walls—officials, soldiers, concession-hunters, tourists, attaches, journalists, explorers. All those camels, coolies, rickshaw-boys, and water-carriers each felt that he had the right of way; and so all these people think that they have the right of way in China. There must be a hundred different opinions about China in these corridors of the hotel. I'll see what I can discover.
The longer we stay here, the more we are impressed with the fact that in China there is no sympathy for the Allies. The atmosphere is not at all pro-German, however. There is no special feeling for the Central powers any more than there is for the Entente Allies. It can best be described as neutrality, or, rather, complete indifference as to which group wins. Coming as we have direct from France,—two years of France in war-time,—it is very curious to find ourselves plunged into this atmosphere of total indifference to the outcome and objects of the war. We have gathered these impressions from many talks with the Chinese and from a diligent perusal of Chinese papers,—papers printed in English, but owned and edited by the Chinese, and which may therefore be said to reflect their sentiments. Also we have talked with many foreigners who have lived in China for a long time, who have many Chinese friends and acquaintances, and understand the Chinese point of view, and these also tell us that China has no sympathy with the Allies or with any other powers.
The explanation is not hard to find. Despite what foreigners may think of them, the Chinese are by no means fools. They possess the wisdom of the ages,—of their own peculiar kind. They have had a long experience with foreigners, saddening and enriching, and cynicism is the outgrowth of such experience. China has suffered at the hands of the great powers, has suffered at the hands of England, Russia, France, and Germany alike. She is virtually in the position of a vassal state, not to any one of these nations but to all of them, and they have pillaged and despoiled her for a century and a half. To one of them she owes the curse of opium, which was forced upon her for commercial reasons—a curse which she is about ready to throw off. She is weak and corrupt, but it is to the advantage of her foreign masters to keep her in a state of weakness and corruption. At the present moment she is paying huge indemnities to various European powers as compensation for the losses they sustained during the Boxer uprising in 1900, the Boxer trouble being an attempt on the part of China to rid herself of the foreign invader. To one of these countries, Russia, she is paying an indemnity part of which consists of the expenses of thousands of troops which had no existence except on paper. It is hardly possible for the Chinese to believe, in the light of their own experience, that the various European nations at death-grips in this war are actuated by the noble sentiments they profess to be fighting for. The assurances from Europe, cabled daily to the Chinese press, that the Allies are fighting for liberty, for justice, for civilization, for the protection of small nations, mean nothing to the Chinese. Such professions leave them cold. To the Oriental mind this gigantic struggle is between a nation who is mistress of the world (and the world's markets) and a nation who wishes to become mistress of the world (and the world's markets). With seventy-nine per cent. of her territory under foreign control, China can hardly believe in the disinterested motives of the fighting nations.
The other day I saw a little incident on the street that puts the case in a nutshell. Two big Mongolian dogs were locked together in a fight to the death. Each had the other in a death-grip, and they rolled over and over in the dust, surrounded by a great crowd of people who stood by indifferently and watched them fight it out. This is the attitude of China toward the European War, the attitude of the calm, indifferent spectator.
The structure of civilization that Europe has erected for itself is imposing and beautiful. We in America are confronted with the facade of this great building, and beheld from our side of the Atlantic it looks magnificent and superb. Even when we enter it in Europe, and behold its many ramifications, we still have cause to admire. But there is a back side to this structure of civilization; there are outbuildings, slums, and alleys not visible from the front. These back on the Orient, and the rear view of the structure of European civilization, seen from the Orient, is not imposing at all. The sweepings and refuse of Western civilization and Western morality are dumped out upon the Orient, where they do not show.
It is a crisp, cold morning, but nothing to what it will be, they tell us, when the autumn is over, and the bitter winter settles down upon North China. After all, come to think of it, we are abutting on two extremely Northern provinces, Manchuria and Mongolia, and these adjoin Siberia, which all the world knows is cold. So this sharp October day, with its brilliant blue sky and hard, glittering sunshine, is only a foretaste of the weather that will come later.
To-day we went into the Chinese City and visited a native department store. At the best speed of our rickshaw-boys we passed out of the Chi'en Men, the principal gate, and once beyond the towering, embattled wall that separates the Chinese from the Tartar City, we lost ourselves in the maze of narrow, winding streets that open on all sides from the main road leading from the Chi'en Men, which, by the way, has been in the possession of the American troops since the Boxer uprising. In the narrow hutungs our progress was slow; we literally shoved our way through crowds of rickshaws and thousands of pedestrians, and as there are no sidewalks, we were alternately scraping the walls and shop fronts on one hand, or locking wheels with Peking carts on the other, and feeling the warm breath of a camel or donkey down our necks whenever the traffic brought us to a halt. Finally our boys stopped before a large building about three stories high, emblazoned with gold dragons, and with gorgeous red and yellow banners and flags all over the front of it. It stood some distance back from the street, and the wide courtyard in front was filled and crowded with the carts and carriages of the high-class women who had gone inside to shop.
I have already told you that Chinese horses can't be driven; they must be led along with great show and shouting. Well, when they stop they can't even be trusted to stay in harness; they must be unharnessed and removed to a place of safety. Therefore the courtyard of this department store presented a unique appearance, filled with twenty or thirty Peking carts, empty, tilted back on their haunches, with shafts gaping toward heaven. Also, the horses had been removed from innumerable little coupes of ancient date, with the superstructure all of glass, so that the occupant within is completely visible from all sides, like a fish in an aquarium. Horses and mules, in gorgeous, glittering harness, were carefully stood apart, or were being led up and down in the crowded courtyard to cool off. Though why cool off, after a dash through the streets at two miles an hour or less, I couldn't see. However, here they all were,—great, high white horses, shaggy Mongolian ponies, and magnificent mules, the latter by far the most superb animals I've ever seen. I am not much at heights, but the mules were enormously tall, enormously heavy, very beautiful beasts, white, red, yellow, and black, and sleek with unlimited polishing and grooming. They were clad—that's the only word—in heavy, barbaric harness, mounted with huge brass buckles, and in some cases the leather was studded with jade, carnelian, and other semi-precious stones.
Style? There's nothing on Fifth Avenue to touch it. Do you think a ten-thousand-dollar automobile is handsome? It's nothing to a Peking cart, with its huge, sleek mule and glittering harness. I tell you, the Chinese have the style of the world; the rest of us are but imitators. In comparison, our motors are merest upstarts. But you must picture a Peking cart, of beautifully polished wood, natural color, and a heavy wooden body covered with a big blue hood. The owner rides inside, on cushions, and on each shaft sits a servant, one to hold the reins, the other to yell and jump off and run forward to press his weight on the shaft to lessen the jar to the occupant whenever a bad bit of road presents itself. They say that this old custom, due to the discomfort and jolting of the springless carts, is the reason why the horses are not trained to round corners or go over bad bits of road alone. From time immemorial it has been the duty of the groom to run forward and throw his weight on the shafts to lessen the jolts; therefore he is the real, the important driver. In front of the blue-linen hood hangs a curtain, and the two side windows are also carefully curtained, with screens which permit the occupant to see out but not to be seen from without. Thus do high-class mandarins protect themselves, save themselves from having to descend whenever they meet a mandarin of equal or higher rank and prostrate themselves in the dust before him. Also, the longer the axle, the further it projects beyond the hub of the wheel, the higher the rank of the owner; it denotes his right to occupy the road. The rims of the wheels are spiked: big nails project all round, indicating the mandarin's right to tear up the road. It's all splendid and barbaric; no mawkish sentiment about it.
So we entered the department store through rows and rows, very neat and orderly, of upturned carts and antiquated coupes, and mules and horses and a courtyard full of liveried servants. Inside, it still looked barbaric, with its magnificent display of rich silks and furs. Great skins of tiger, panther, leopard, wildcat, sable, were hanging in profusion on all sides, interspersed with costly embroideries, wonderful brocades, and all the magnificence and color of the gorgeous East. It was the idea of Kwong, our pet rickshaw-boy, to bring us here and we soon found that foreigners were not expected and not wanted. No one of the suave shop attendants could speak English, nor did they make the slightest attempt to wait on us. We wandered round, rather desolate, followed by looks of curiosity and disdain on the part of the clerks, and the wholly undisguised amusement and contempt of the high-class Chinese and Manchu women, who, with their liveried servants, were making the rounds of the various floors. In the store it was noisy and cheerful, the atmosphere cold and close except in the neighborhood of a few big red-hot stoves, which gave forth a local heat. Chinese women, not high-class, attired in satin trousers, sat about at small tables drinking tea and smoking cigarettes, tea and cigarettes being furnished free at innumerable little tables on every floor. As we passed, they giggled and nudged one another. Can't you imagine a Chinese lady in satin trousers passing through a great American department store and being remarked upon? To them we were equally queer, and they made no attempt to disguise the fact. There was none of that servile deference one finds among the hotel servants and the rickshaw-boys, or of the extreme politeness of the upper-class Chinese whom we had met at the legations and elsewhere. To these people we were nothing but foreigners, and down at heart foreigners excite nothing but amusement or hostility. That conservative, gossiping throng of Orientals had a good, firm opinion of us, and it wasn't complimentary. We were interlopers and intruders, and had no business in that pukkah Chinese shop. We were glad to get out and to make our purchases in some kindlier atmosphere.
How can I reconcile this impression with previous ones, of the docility and servility we had previously encountered? Docility and subserviency are necessary in dealing with the conquering foreigner, but in such places and on such occasions when those qualities are not required, we get an impression of the real feelings of the Chinese. I believe they feel toward us very much as we should feel toward them, or toward any other nation that claimed us as a vassal state. For one country to be under the "influence" of another, for any nation to assert a "benevolent protectorate" over another, is to engender the hostility of the state so patronized. Very well, it stands to reason. Foreigners have been patting China on the head for a long time, and repeated pats don't always produce a callous; sometimes they produce profound irritation.
This country is so enormous, so chaotic, one is so aware of the strength underlying its calm, submissive exterior, that one feels that some day this latent strength will break through and disclose itself. In trying to describe all these feelings at random, day by day as they come, I am not trying to sort them out and classify them and present them in an orderly manner. You must see them with me, and feel them with me from day to day, and do your own thinking later. That English boy on the boat coming over to China told us this. We asked him if he had enjoyed his vacation in Japan.
"Not much," he replied. "I don't care for the Japanese; they don't compare with the Chinese."
"What's the difference?" I asked.
He pondered a moment.
"I'll sum it up for you like this," he answered. "In Japan they treat you as an equal; in China they treat you as a superior."
That's it, I believe. Race antagonism all the way through. China is a conquered country. She doesn't dare show resentment or insist upon equality. Whatever her private opinion may be, she is helpless, and she must treat her conquerors with deference as superiors. But Japan has never been conquered by the foreigner. She is the only nation among all the nations of the Orient that has never been trodden underfoot by the European. She has never been subjugated and never been drugged. And, curious coincidence, she has reached a level with the foremost powers of the world, and holds the rank of a first-class nation. All this without having had the blessings of European civilization conferred upon her by a conqueror! She has snatched here and there, has imitated, even excelled, certain qualities and propensities of the white man, but has never been blighted by having Western civilization forced upon her. That's the rub. Japan is a striking example to the rest of Asia; her success is a striking commentary on the value of independence. She has attained eminence without the assistance of the great powers. And of the value of this assistance, conferred by the great powers upon the other nations of Asia—enough said.
SPHERES OF INFLUENCE
We are beginning to know a lot of people in Peking, for we were launched upon Peking society the other night when we dined at the American legation. It was the first dinner party we have been to in several years, as we have been living quietly in Paris since the beginning of the war, and there are no such things as dinners or parties in Paris in these distressful days. However, knowing that we were coming to the Orient, and having shrewd ideas that possibly we might be invited out, and therefore would need a proper dress, E—— and I each had one made, a good one. Strange and unusual sensation to get into them; neither of us could tell the back from the front! They looked alike from both aspects, and felt equally uncomfortable either way. We tried them on both ways and got no light from the experience, and then laid them on the bed and looked at them ruminatively, all the while the clock moving toward eight and no decision reached.
Finally, we concluded that if there was as little difference between back and front as that, it couldn't matter much. Which shows you how little we have been wearing evening clothes in the last two years, and how unaccustomed to them we are. So, as I say, we dined at the legation the other night, with our dresses on hind-side before, for all we knew, and neither of us was troubled at all. Had a delightful time, too, and met many interesting people. The dinner was in honor of the general in charge of our army in the Philippines, and we also met Admiral von Hinze, the German minister. The Dutch minister and his wife were there, too. As America is neutral, it is necessary to entertain the various diplomats as usual, but naturally they can't all dine at the legation on the same evening. Sheep and goats, as it were, one dinner to the Allied representatives, the next to the representatives of the Central powers. Much nice sorting is required, and they tell us that in consequence of the war Peking society is rift in twain. This is all very well when it happens in a big community, but when it happens in such a limited little society as Peking, all walled in together within the narrow inclosure of the legation quarter,—walled in literally, also, in the fullest sense, with soldiers from the guards of the various legations patrolling the walls and mounting guard day and night,—such a situation results in great tension and embarrassment all round. There was not one word of war talk during the dinner; it was tacitly avoided, by common consent.
Well, as I said, after that dinner the other night, people began to be very nice to us and to invite us out. The one safe subject for discussion is Chinese politics, in which every one is interested and of which every one knows a lot. At least, I don't know that they really know, but they say they do, and speak as if they do, and become emphatic if you doubt them, and altogether they dispense a wonderful lot of news, whatever its value. Rumors! There was never in the world such a place for rumors as Peking. We thought Paris was the hotbed of rumors during the last two years of the war—Paris with its censored press, suppressed speech, and general military rule, so that all one lives on are the rumors that never get into the papers; but Peking is stupendous. Here the rumors simply fly, and the corridors of the old Wagons-Lits Hotel seems to be the pivotal spot of the whirlwind. Sooner or later every one in Peking seems to drop into the hotel on some pretext or other, as if it were a club, and the lounge is so thick with news and rumor and gossip that you can lean up against them and not fall down. All absolutely true, authentic, unquestionable, and to-morrow all flatly contradicted by another set equally veracious, startling, and imposing. Never mind. Who are we, to question the truth of them? All we can do is to drink them in day by day, modify and change our opinions on the morrow, and enjoy ourselves with such thrills as one gets nowhere else in the civilized world.
On top of it all we have the newspapers. There are three or four in English, one in French, and the rest in the vernacular. The most interesting is "The Peking Gazette," since it represents the pure Chinese point of view. Printed in English, it is owned and edited by the Chinese, and gives their side of the story. The editor is a delightful man, Chinese, an Oxford graduate, fiery, intense, alert, ever on the defensive for China's rights and speaking in no uncertain tones on that subject, leaving one in no doubt as to his attitude on a decision concerning China's welfare when opposed to the welfare of a European nation that wishes to "do" China. "The Daily News" is the organ of the Allied powers, and presents things from the point of view of the Western nations; consequently there is perpetual warfare between the "Gazette" and the "News," the perpetual clash between Chinese and foreign interests. Only on one subject do they agree—their hatred of Japan. For the Chinese do not like Japan any more than they like any other would-be conqueror. And the Europeans do not like Japan, who is their great commercial rival, a rival that can market her products without going half-way round the world. Consequently the "News" attacks Japan, while the "Gazette" attacks impartially all invaders who seek the subjection of China. It is amusing. When the "Gazette" attacks Japan, a chorus of praise from the European organs. When it attacks predatory tendencies manifested by European nations, a chorus of denunciation from the European organs. But the editor fights ahead, regardless of praise or blame, with a single purpose in view, the preservation of China's sovereignty.
A few days ago this article appeared in the "Gazette," an amplification of the little paragraph in that diminutive newspaper "The Manchuria Daily News" of which I wrote you. Said the "Gazette," under a bold head-line in large type:
CHINA IN FETTERS
Foreign writers are wont to complain that nothing in the sense of real work is being done in this country. This, of course, is a misleading statement, although much that ought to be done is left undone. And one of the principal reasons for this state of things is revealed in what begins to look like the development of a scandalous opposition to American enterprise in China. Owing to the war putting a stop to the financing of public undertakings in China by European capitalists and contractors, a powerful American organization has turned its attention to this country and in an entirely business sense has secured contracts for the construction of certain railroads in China. The transaction involves the expenditure of $200,000,000 of American money, a considerable portion of which will be spent for labor and other things. It is admitted that there is absolutely nothing like "politics" in the deal. The same remark applies with greater force to the American loan for the conservency of a portion of the Grand Canal. And yet we have Japan, Russia, France, Great Britain, and even Belgium—a country that ought at least to know what not to do to a state struggling to preserve its elementary rights of existence—trying to interfere with the construction of necessary public works in this country, simply because America can do what these other people cannot now do.
"China in Fetters"—a significant term for a Chinese newspaper to use. It would seem as if these spheres of influence had become linked together into a chain for throttling purposes. I tried to tell you the other day about them, but please listen to a little further explanation. In the lobby of the hotel I found a journalist who knows things, who had been in China many years.
"Explain to me," I asked him, "all over, from the very beginning, what these things mean."
"The country which claims such a sphere," he began patiently, "claims for itself the right to develop that territory."
"Suppose," I interrupted, "the Chinese themselves should wish to develop this territory,—to open up a gold-mine, to build a railway,—would they be allowed to do so?"
"Certainly, if they have the money."
"But if they haven't the money, if they must borrow?"
"Then they must borrow from the power which claims the territory."
"But if for some reason that power can't lend it to them,—can't spare it, as is the case with all Europe at present,—or if for some other reason does not wish to lend it, what then?"
He shrugged his shoulders.
"Fineesh! China can't borrow money from one power to 'start something' in the sphere of influence claimed by another."
Apropos of all this there's a good story at present going the rounds of Peking. The head of a certain great corporation, out here seeking a concession from the Chinese Government, appeared before the Chinese officials one day and made his request. The officials, in their gorgeous robes, were all seated round a large table on which was spread a map of China. It was a wonderful large map, but all colored in different colors, some parts red, some blue, others yellow, and so on. Behind the chairs of the Chinese officials stood the representatives of the various European powers—British, French, Russian, all of them. Our American laid his finger on that part of the map colored red.
"I'll do the work here," he said to the Chinese.
"Excuse me," interrupted a representative of a foreign government, "you can't go there. That red part of China belongs to Great Britain."
"Very well. I'll go here," said the American, indicating the blue part of the map.
"Excuse me," said another European gentleman, "you can't do it there. That part of China belongs to Russia."
"Here, then," continued the American, laying his finger on a green spot. "This will do."
Another suave alert diplomatic gentleman stepped forth.
"That," he said regretfully, "is French."
So it went on all over the map. The Chinese officials sat silent, while one European representative after another stepped forward with his objections. Finally, in exasperation, the American turned to the silent Chinese and asked:
"Where the hell is China?"
[Footnote 1: America has neither a concession nor a sphere of influence in all China.]
ON THE SACREDNESS OF FOREIGNERS
You know, I can't believe that it is good for us,—Americans, Europeans, foreigners of all sorts,—to feel ourselves so sacred as we feel in China. Whatever we do, we are always right, no matter how wrong we may be. We always have the right of way, the privilege of walking over the Chinese, and to this privilege they must submit. Our sacredness is not due to admiration for or belief in us. Quite the contrary. It is due to a deep sense of fear of the consequences should they attempt to check or curb our activities or inclinations. The relations between a subject people and their conquerors is fundamentally immoral, and demoralizing to both. A few years ago motors made their appearance in Peking; there are not many even to-day. But there are no speed regulations, and they dash through the crowded streets as rapidly as they choose. After a number of accidents the Chinese sought to establish a speed-limit law, but this was positively objected to by one of the foreign ministers, who said that he did not intend to have his liberty interfered with by the Chinese!
Throughout China are the foreign concessions, small holdings of land which belong to the various European nations. In each of the treaty ports these concessions are established,—Russian, English, French, German,—and although they lie in the heart of a Chinese city, they are absolutely the property of the Russians, English, French, or Germans, as the case may be. The Chinese have no authority or control over them, and are unable to regulate them in any way. This brings about a very difficult situation for the Chinese. For example, the opium traffic. On Chinese soil the sale of opium is strictly prohibited; yet it is freely sold in the foreign concessions, and the Chinese are powerless to prevent it. At present they are making a determined and gallant fight against the opium habit, which was forced upon them by Great Britain as the result of two successful opium wars, and legalized by treaties that, to say the least, were extorted from the helpless Chinese. The ratification of these treaties made it all right for Great Britain to import opium as freely as she liked. Well, ten years ago, after a century and a half of opium traffic, poor old China made a stand against this evil and determined to overcome it. She entered into a contract with Great Britain, by the terms of which England agreed to decrease her opium imports year by year, for a period of ten years, in proportion as China decreased, year by year, her poppy cultivation. Both sides have kept the faith, and the end of the bargain will be celebrated by rejoicing (Chinese) on April 1, 1917, when the ten-year contract expires.
It has been a colossal struggle against almost overwhelming odds. For a nation as weak, as unwieldy, as corrupt as China to undertake such a stupendous task seems almost inconceivable. Accurate statistics are not available, but it would seem that one-half of the Chinese were in the grip of this vice. In some provinces about ninety per cent. of the officials were addicted to opium-smoking, and in all provinces a huge percentage of the people were addicts. Anyway, China has made this gigantic effort to get rid of opium, and she has almost succeeded; April 1 of next year will see the end of the whole sordid business. But no assistance has been given her in this enormous task; she has accomplished it alone. During this ten-years' struggle she has had to contend not only against the inclinations of her drug-sodden people but against the fact that her people could procure opium freely in the foreign concessions, over which the Chinese have no control.
The bargain between China and Great Britain, however, has been lived up to. The Chinese began to plant poppies when they were unable to curb or suppress the British imports. As long as the vice was to be fastened upon the country by treaties, they shrewdly decided that at least all the money spent for opium should not go out of the country; therefore they started in on poppy cultivation on their own account. But this native cultivation has been almost entirely suppressed in the last ten years, and the supplies of both native and foreign opium will reach the vanishing-point on April 1, 1917. But it seems pretty hard to realize that the foreign governments have given China no assistance in this struggle. It is too lucrative a trade. The Peking papers are already talking of the great day, only six months distant, when China will have freed herself from this curse. We are determined to be here in Peking to witness the celebration.
But that brings me back to my starting-point, the fact that foreigners are not subject to Chinese laws. In his own concession the foreigner is amenable to the laws of his own country. If on Chinese soil he violates Chinese law, all that the Chinese can do is to hand him to his nearest consul, who may or may not punish him. And this immunity from responsibility, this arrogant privilege of doing as one likes on Chinese soil, with very small chance of being brought to book for it, has a demoralizing influence upon the average foreigner who comes out here. Between ourselves, the class of foreigners who come to China don't amount to much. "Beach-combers" they were called in the good old days—adventurers, gamblers, shady characters of all sorts, and pretty well dwarfed ethically. But no matter what they did, they were usually supported by their various governments, and the result to-day is a well-defined fear of the foreigner, a desire to sidestep him, to stand from under. It seems rather cowardly, this cringing attitude on the part of the Chinese, but it is the result of a century of experience with the ethics of the West. Brave men, unarmed, have been known to throw up their hands in the presence of a bandit.
An amusing thing happened to-day. After tiffin E—— and I went out in our rickshaws, trying to find a shop where we could buy camel's-hair blankets. And, by the way, there aren't any, so we had a fruitless quest. We each have our own rickshaw now, hired by the month at twenty dollars (Mexican) apiece. It seems miserably cheap, yet they tell us that we have paid five dollars more than the usual rate. It was pathetic when we chose our boys the other day—chose two out of a crowd of thirty or more that presented themselves. The disappointment of the others was pitiable. Competition is keen, and it means much to these boys to know they have an assured income rather than haphazard, precarious employment. My boy is called Kwong, and is a wonderful little runner, much faster than E——'s boy.
By this time we are much attached to them, and our days usually end up at the bazaar out on Morrison Street, that marvelous bazaar where everything made in North China is for sale—furs, silks, jade, jewels, sweetmeats, everything. But it is to the sweet-stalls that we always go, where wonderful Chinese candies and sugared fruits are for sale. We first change a dollar into pennies, and then all four of us eat our way from stall to stall—sesame candy, sugared walnuts, sugary plums on straws. It's wonderful. Germs? Maybe, but we don't care. I am sick of germs, of the emphasis that every one at home places on them. It's restful to get into a country where there aren't any, or at least people don't know about them. The trouble with America is that every one is so busy thinking of clean streets, clean garbage-cans, the possibilities of disease contained in impure food, that much of the beauty and comfort of life is lost. Life is not all in length.
Well, as I say, with our visit to the bazaar reserved for the end of the afternoon, we went into the Chinese City in search of camel's-hair blankets. Soon we turned aside from the big high-street, and dived into one of the narrow, winding, unpaved lanes of the native city, which only the rickshaw-boys can negotiate. Presently, in this maze of narrow streets, we met the usual block; a dozen rickshaws from opposite directions encountered one another, and each claimed the right of way. When an alley is six feet wide, there is neither right nor way, and voluble conversation ensued, mounting rapidly into screams and curses. Coolies and passengers alike took part in the discussion, and as we were the only foreigners, we felt handicapped by our lack of language. The storm of yells mounted higher and higher, when suddenly the crowd gave way a little, and E——'s boy managed to slide through, while Kwong, pulling me, slipped close behind.
Indignity! It seems the passage had been cleared for a young Chinese gentleman, clad in gorgeous brocade, an official, perhaps, since he had all the marks of wealth and position. As we ran past, into the space opened for him, the young official leaned forward and shouted some insult into Kwong's ear, and Kwong made some furious retort. Instantly the young official jumped from his rickshaw, dashed up to Kwong, and struck him between the eyes. Poor little Kwong staggered, and dropped the shafts, and I leaped out and caught the wrists of the young gentleman just as he was aiming another blow at my unhappy boy. What happened? While I held firmly pinioned the hands of the young gentleman, Kwong recovered, and proceeded to deal the official a series of stunning blows! He would have fallen except for my hold on his wrists.
"Kwong, stop it! Behave yourself!" I shouted, and released the official in order to seize Kwong. Whereupon the young gentleman pounded Kwong anew. I was unable to hold the hands of both; could seize only one at a time, and my part soon resolved itself into pinioning one belligerent while the other struck him! A silly role, I must say. Impartially holding up first one, then the other, for punishment! At a modest estimate, I should say that one half the population of Peking swarmed out of adjacent lanes and burrows to see the excitement, and amidst the pandemonium of yells I heard some one shouting in English: "Police house! Police house!" The finish came when E——'s boy came to the rescue with a hearty kick to the young man, after which the fighters broke away, and every one took to their rickshaws and made off with all speed.
It was too much. To go out on a peaceful shopping expedition, and become involved in a free-for-all fight! Some one of us lost face by that episode, whether the official, Kwong, or myself, I'm not sure. There wasn't much prestige to the whole thing. Just one fact stands out clearly amidst that maze of swift events. At the end of the street, about fifty feet beyond that wild mob, stood a Chinese policeman. One hasty look he gave to the affair, and seeing that some foreign ladies were involved, he decided to keep out of it. He kept his back turned the entire time, with his hands tight in the pockets of his padded trousers.
It's all delightful here every moment of the day. The excitement begins every morning at breakfast with the unfolding of "The Peking Gazette." I come down-stairs early, when the corridors are being swept and dusted by the China-boys in their long blue coats, and receive a series of "Morning, Missy's" on my way to the breakfast-room, the nice, warm breakfast-room, with oilcloth-covered floor, and everything else simple accordingly. There is gilding in the big dining-room, but the breakfast-room is as simple as a New England boarding-house. One boy pulls out my chair, another opens my napkin,—they look after you well here,—and a third boy, the regular waiter, leans over and says, "Pollidge, Missy?" and a moment later brings a big bowl of porridge and a can of cream. There is nothing but tinned milk and cream in China, for there are no cows. There is no room to pasture cows or to feed them, for one cow can eat as much food as twenty people, so no land can be devoted to such superfluities as that. One of the legations has a cow, however, and people who stand in well with the legation can have such milk as there may be over and above the legation's needs. But the Wagons-Lits Hotel is not on that list, and, as I say, tinned cream is all that I get for my "pollidge." But it is very good indeed, these chilly October mornings. After all, what does food matter? Peking is so rich in other things!
To-day at breakfast, with the "Gazette" propped against the coffee-pot, I began my usual search for news. Found it, too, in a moment, in the editorial column. A fairly long leader, entitled, "The Shanghai Opium Combine: Frantic Efforts to Secure Further Privileges in China," caused me to forget "pollidge" and everything else, and to read hastily to the end. As I told you the other day, the opium traffic in China is to come to an end in six months. Well, this article says that the Shanghai Opium Combine, the combination of a dozen British firms with headquarters in Shanghai, is making frantic efforts to prolong the time limit for the sale of opium, to extend it for another nine months. The excuse offered is that the combine has not sufficient time between this and April 1, 1917, to sell off its remaining stocks of opium, and in consequence it is appealing to the British authorities to bring pressure upon the Chinese Government to extend the time by nine months. According to the "Gazette," the combine has "worked hard to induce the local British consul-general once more to enlist his sympathies for the Opium combine; but, happily, the latter has peremptorily declined to do anything of the sort. It is reliably reported that the British Minister at Peking, Sir John Jordan, was similarly approached, and the latter has equally refused to recognize the combine any longer. As a last resort, they telegraphed to the London Foreign Office for support, in their desire to compel either the Chinese Government or the local Municipal Council [at Shanghai] to aid them to secure their nine-months' privilege. The decision of the London Foreign Office is awaited with feverish interest, although it is considered doubtful whether any good result can be achieved."
Think of China's position—having to await with "feverish interest" the decision of the British Government as to whether or not it will be possible for China to suppress the opium traffic at the end of the ten-years' agreement! The sale and manufacture of opium is a monopoly of the British Government, just as vodka was a monopoly of the Russian Government at the beginning of the war. The Shanghai Opium Combine is the distributing agent of this British opium, and until the beginning of this ten-years' struggle China was an important customer. The loss of revenue to the British Government through the closure of the Chinese market is a very serious item. And these rumblings, these hints of pressure being brought to bear upon China, are pretty ugly. Anyway, the "Gazette" is aroused to the danger, and the "Gazette" is nothing if not outspoken, and will give the matter full publicity if anything goes wrong. Only it makes one uneasy. Poor old China!
We went on such a pleasant expedition to-day. It was arranged last night on receipt of an informal note from Dr. Reinsch, our minister, asking if we would go with him on a donkey-trip to a temple in the hills outside Peking. Out came our khaki clothes, bought for just such an emergency, for nothing is more appropriate for a donkey-ride than our khaki skirts and breeches and leggings.
There are two railway stations in Peking, usually spoken of as "the station" and "the other station." From "the station" trains run down to Shanghai or up into Manchuria and Mukden, and connect with the Trans-Siberian and other far-away, thrilling places. The "other station" takes one out into the country somewhere, to various outlying spots in the hills, and it was to one of these places that we were bound. When we arrived we found the other members of the party waiting for us. We were all early, ahead of time, for Chinese trains have certain idiosyncrasies that must be reckoned with. Scheduled to start at a certain hour, they frequently leave five or ten minutes ahead of time, or whenever the guard thinks that no more people are coming. All six of our party found ourselves at the station well ahead of time, having been warned of this peculiarity of Chinese railways. Dr. Reinsch's two servants were on hand to buy the tickets and to carry large and imposing lunch-baskets. Soon we were all installed in an antiquated railway-carriage, first class by courtesy only, with half an hour's ride before us.
Pandemonium greeted us when we alighted on the platform of a dusty little station—a small house solitary upon the vast plain. Pandemonium came from the donkey-drivers who were expecting us, thirty or forty at least, each one dragging forward a reluctant donkey, praising its merits and himself as donkey-driver, and disparaging all the other donkeys and drivers and battling for our helpless persons. What can you do when a towering coolie takes a firm clutch on your arm, and, with an equally firm grip on his donkey's bridle, drags you and the donkey together and is about to lift you on the animal's back, when you are suddenly jerked in an opposite direction by an equally firm hand and confront another stubborn and reluctant donkey and are about to be boosted upon that, when you are clutched from the rear and meet a third possibility! Mercifully, our khaki clothes were new and strong and stood the jerking and hauling without giving way at a single seam. Out of the melee peace was finally restored. Some one got me, and the others also were captured, the yells finally died down, and we set off over the plains, all mounted on donkeys much too small. Saddles? Not at all. A square seat, about as wide and unyielding as a table-top, was strapped securely to each donkey, and to this seat we clung, with no secureness at all. An exceedingly wide seat it was, with stirrups dangling somewhere out of reach, and which could not be reached even by the widest effort to straddle that square wide pad. Behind each donkey ran its owner, flicking its heels with a long-lashed whip, urging it to a speed likely to pitch one off at any minute.
Do you think donkeys are sure-footed? I had thought so up to this time. By no means. These little beasts stumbled constantly, their little ankles having been so strained by the heavy burdens they ordinarily carry that they seemed to give way at every step. We had eleven miles of this, over a rough, uneven road, across the dusty plain, mounting gradually toward the hills through loose and rolling stones. It was a gray day, with rain threatening, and when we finally reached our temple, Je Tai Ssu, the rain began in a steady drizzle, and steadily continued.
The temple was most interesting. We stiffly rolled off our donkeys, and wandered through the multitude of courtyards, in and out of the many buildings, filled with fine carving and beautiful color. A few priests were at hand, deferential but unobtrusive, and when we finally sat down to lunch at a big table placed in the courtyard before the main temple, they surrounded us silently, filled with curiosity. The boys had placed our table under a tree, which did something, but not much, to shelter us from the rain that fell during the meal, dripping through the bare branches. Below us spread a magnificent vista of more hills, a great, far-reaching panorama, with the old Summer Palace in the distance. In all directions we could see temples perching on the distant hills—temples which are no longer used as such but are the summer homes of the foreign residents of Peking. They were all pointed out to us. Over yonder was Mr. So-and-So's temple; beyond, on that hilltop, was Mrs. So-and-So's, all occupied during the summer months by foreigners who escape from Peking in the hot weather. At once we became fired with a desire to rent one, too. Thirty Mexican dollars a season, a hundred Mexican dollars a year; not exorbitant, surely!
Besides the priests, the pariah dogs, or "wonks," watched our meal with intense interest. They stood by in a silent circle, monks and wonks, and our gay tiffin proceeded undisturbed except by the pattering rain. But the rain was increasing in violence, so we left soon after the meal, and it was far from easy to straddle our donkeys again and retrace our way across the stones and sand. From time to time we dismounted and tried to walk, but it was difficult to keep pace with our galloping animals, eager to return home. Time was pressing, so we were finally obliged to ride, becoming stiffer and sorer every minute. In single file as we had come, we made our way back. Presently I heard a sort of flumping sound behind me, and I turned, to see E—— and her donkey lying side by side in the road, motionless. Dr. Reinsch jumped off his animal, I rolled off mine, and we both ran back to the bundles of khaki and fur lying together at full length.
"Are you hurt?" I asked anxiously.
"Mercy no!" replied E——, contentedly. "Leave me alone! Most comfortable position I've been in all day!"
ADVISERS AND ADVICE
There is another quaint custom here, which, its far as I know, is unique in the history of international relations. That is the custom of giving advice to China. Any country can do it, apparently. Any country that thinks China would be benefited by a little disinterested and helpful counsel can see that she gets it—and that she pays for it, too. Any person who wishes a lucrative position can get his government to appoint him as an "adviser" to China, and his government will see to it that China pays him a salary. As far as I know, China does not ask for this advice; it is thrust upon her unsought. But she must pay for the privilege, whether she likes it or not. So over they come, these various "advisers" from various foreign nations, and settle down here in Peking as the official adviser of this and that, and draw their salaries from this bankrupt old government. The China Year Book for 1916 gives a list of twenty-five such advisers, British, American, French, Russian, Dutch, German, Italian, Japanese, Danish, Belgian, and Swedish. There is the political adviser to the President; to the ministry of finance; in connection with the five-power loan; to the ministry of war; on police matters; to the ministry of communications; legal advice; advice on the preparation of the constitution; advice to the bureau of forestry, and to the mining department of the ministry of agriculture and commerce. In addition to all this paid "advice," there is of course the unpaid, voluntary "advice," equally disinterested and helpful, of the various foreign legations in Peking. No wonder the poor old Chinese Government is distraught and, as some one said last evening, in a state of anarchy. Who wouldn't be in the circumstances? I wonder how long Washington would tolerate such a string of "advisers," all appointed willy-nilly, and paid for by the American Government. They say that some one once wrote a book entitled, "Advising China to Death," but it was never published. Some one advised against it, probably.
Another thing that China is not allowed to do is to regulate her customs duties. This poor old country, rich as she is or as she might become, has virtually no revenue, for she is allowed to have but a nominal tariff. There is no use in developing her industries, she can't protect them, or hedge them in with any sort of protective tariff. It is not allowed. She must first consult with some seventeen different powers if she wishes to raise the duty on a single item. And if one power that does not import a certain article into China is willing to have a duty laid on that article, this decision will not be agreeable to another power that imports a lot of it. So it goes. It is pretty hard to find seventeen powers all in accord. The great nations allow old China just enough revenue to return to them in the shape of Boxer indemnities; nothing more.
Oh, disabuse your mind of the fact that China is a sovereign state! She is bound hand and foot, helpless, mortgaged up to the hilt. Every foreigner in China knows it, and the Chinese know it themselves only too well. It seems such a farce to give them the courtesy title of sovereignty. I don't think you realize, never having been in this country, what a farce it really is. I am not able to write you a learned book. All I can do is to write you these letters, which are surely devoid of all legal verbiage, because I don't know any. If I were a scholar, a student of international politics, I would wrap all my statements in fine, well-chosen language, quoting treaties and acts and agreements and all the rest of it, and you wouldn't know what it all meant. I can only give you the facts as they disclose themselves to me from day to day. I can also tell you that every one over here—all the foreigners I mean—laugh at China and ridicule her and make fun of her weak, corrupt government, of her inertia and helplessness, and think what she gets is good enough for her.
I grow so tired of all this talk about the corruptness of the Chinese! They are corrupt, all the officials, or the greater part of them. But you don't hear much about those who corrupt them. Why? Because it suits the great Western nations to keep this government in a state of weakness, of indecision, of susceptibility to bribes and threats; it makes China easier to control. The one ray of hope for China lies in the fact that there are so many foreign nations trying to gain control of her. One could do it, two could do it, three could do it, but a dozen! China plays off one greedy predatory power against another. One "adviser" arranges everything nicely in the interests of his country, and then what does the "corrupt" Chinese official do? Runs off and tattles it all to some other "adviser," whose interests will be damaged if the advice of Number One goes through. It is a tremendous game, each foreign power striving to cut the ground from under the next foreign power and to gain the ascendency for itself. Diplomatic Peking is a great, silent battle-ground; on the surface Oriental politeness and suave political courtesies but underneath a seething sea of strife.
The Chinese attitude toward all this reminds me of a story I heard long ago. Two negroes were discussing a negro girl.
"Trus' dat niggah?" said one; "trus' dat niggah? I wouldn't trus' her 'hind a cornstalk!"
Yes, many of the Chinese are corrupt. They have their price. For example, the old palace in the Forbidden City is now a museum, holding one of the most superb collections of Chinese treasures in the world, all that remains from the imperial go-downs. This collection is not catalogued, however, and every few months the exhibits are changed and others substituted; for the collection is too large, they say, for everything to be kept on view at one time. At such times as the exhibits are changed, current Peking gossip has it, certain of the finest treasures disappear. They are said to find their way into the currents of trade, to enrich the museums of Europe and America. Put this down as you like, however, the conventional explanation for this is that the Chinese are so corrupt!
We are really, seriously looking for a house in Peking, in which to set up a Peking cart, a white mule, a camel, and a Mongolian dog! That shows what the Orient does to one in a few short weeks, how it changes one's whole point of view. A month ago neither of us had any idea of staying in Peking for more than two or three weeks; we had intended to stop long enough to see the obvious things, temples and such, and then go down to the tropics for the winter. Now we are on the verge of giving up our trip to Angkor and of settling right here—I was almost going to say for life! And all in a few short weeks!
There is so much beauty and style in a Chinese house, and most of the people we know have them, and we are becoming tired of being "tourists." Let me describe these Chinese houses. Each "house" consists of anywhere from two to a hundred little separate one-story buildings, the whole collection inclosed by a stone wall, ten feet high, with broken glass on top. Within this compound, or surrounding and protecting wall, the various houses are arranged symmetrically in squares, built around courtyards that open into one another. They are laid off with beautiful balance, and the courtyards, large or small, are usually paved with stone. Sometimes trees are planted in them, or bridges and rock gardens and peony mountains are made. The finer and more numerous the houses, the more beautiful and elaborate the architecture of these separate, single buildings, the larger and more elaborate the courtyards, the more filled they are with trees, lilac-bushes, stone bridges, and other charming details. As one enters the compound, the building facing one is the residence of the mandarin himself. Back of it lies the house of his "number-one" wife, and back of that, each surrounded by its own courtyard, are the houses of his other wives and of the various members of his family. All are quite separate one from the other, yet all are connected by passages leading through moon-gates in the dividing walls, one courtyard opening into another in orderly, yet rather confusing, profusion. However, we are not looking for anything grand and imposing—a palace or the abode of some old mandarin. We know several people who live in such stately homes, but we shall be satisfied with a simpler house, consisting of fewer buildings and fewer courtyards.
Inside the compounds, these various separate buildings are divided by invisible partitions into "rooms." In the ceiling one sees arrangements by which a wall can be built in, a screen adjusted,—a big carved screen,—or some sort of partition erected by which the house can be further subdivided. These possibilities for subdivision, whether by elaborately carved woodwork or by simple paper screens, are described as rooms, whether partitioned off as such or left open as one big one. Therefore one rents one's house according to the number of rooms it may be divided into, whether the division is made or not. We find we cannot possibly live in a house of less than twelve rooms, or four by ordinary reckoning. One house (three rooms) for E——, one for me, one for a salon, one for the dining-room. This makes four rooms, European calculation, twelve according to Chinese, and leaves nothing for guest-rooms, trunk-rooms, a study, or anything of the kind. Therefore, all joking aside, a house of a hundred rooms might do for us nicely!
How lovely they are, these one-story stone houses, with their tiled roofs, red lacquered doors, fine, delicate carvings on the window-lattices, and all the rest of it! The floors are of stone, but foreigners have wooden floors laid down. The winters are bitter here, and before these Chinese houses can be made comfortable according to Western ideas, much must be done to them. Some foreigners put in glass windows in place of the thick, cottony paper windows of the Chinese. The paper windows shut out the cold, it is true, but, being opaque, they also shut out the sunlight. And how gorgeously they are furnished! Such ebony chairs, such wonderful carved tables! Now and then we meet some one who has picked up an old opium divan, a magnificent, huge bench of carved ebony, with marble seat and marble back, very deep, capable of holding two people lying crosswise at full length, with room for the smoker's table between them. Only, the opium tables have been dispensed with, and their place is taken by cushions of beautiful brocade, of rich embroidery, which add something of warmth and comfort to the enormous couch. Mind you, all this furniture can be bought very cheap. To live Chinese fashion is not expensive at all, despite the impression of magnificence and luxury, which is rather overwhelming. When one considers that the most ordinary Chinese things are sold in America at a profit of three or four hundred per cent., the outlay for Chinese furniture in Peking is not great.
As to heating, stoves do it. Every room—I mean every one of these separate buildings—is heated by its stove; a good big one, too. Russian stoves are found here and there, and any one who possesses a Russian stove is well equipped to withstand the bitterest winter. Now and then open fireplaces are introduced, but the big stoves go on functioning just the same.
These Chinese houses are charming from the outside. You wind your way along a narrow, unpaved street, or hutung,—a street full of little open-air shops, cook-shops, stalls of various kinds, and then come upon a high, blank wall, with a pair of stone lions at the gateway and an enormous red lacquer gate, heavily barred, and that's your house. The gateman opens to your ring, and as the big doors swing back you see nothing of the courtyard or of the houses within the inclosure; you are confronted by the devil screen, a high stone wall about fifteen feet long and ten feet high. This devil screen blocks the evil spirits that fly in when the compound gates are opened—the blind evil spirits, that can fly only in straight paths, and hence crash against the devil screen when they enter. As to yourself, the gateman leads you round the screen, and across the compound to the master's house. Along the compound wall that gives on the street are the servants' quarters, the house for the rickshaws, the stables for the big mules and the Peking carts, and the house of the gateman. Life is none too secure in these compounds. Robbers abound, and scale the walls, and slip from the roofs of adjacent buildings into the compounds. Every household is in a constant state of alertness, of defense. Broken glass covers the tops of the walls, and in the courtyards Mongolian watch-dogs guard the premises, huge, fierce, long-haired creatures, like a woolly mastiff. Through the day they are chained, but at night they are unloosed. Oh, there is not only style but excitement in living in a native house in Peking! We have looked at a good many Chinese houses, but can't quite make up our minds about renting one. If we decide to stay, it will mean that we must give up our trip to Angkor, and it was to make that trip that we came out to the Orient!
Not every foreigner lives in a Chinese house, however. There are a few European ones, scattered about the Tartar City, looking so out of place, so insignificant and ugly! The foreigners who live here a long time seem to like them, however. They tell us that after a time China gets on one's nerves. Chinese things become utterly distasteful, and one becomes so sick of Chinese art and architecture and furniture that one must approximate a home like those of one's own country. Therefore there are a certain number of these "foreign-style" houses to be found, furnished with golden oak furniture, ugly and commonplace to a degree. I don't know how a long residence in Peking would affect us. At present we are too newly arrived, too enthusiastic, to feel any sympathy with this point of view. Let me add that when a foreign-style house is furnished with a few Chinese articles tucked in a background of mission furniture, the result is disastrous. One lady we met, who possesses such a house, recognized the humor of the situation.
"I know," she explained; "it's just Eurasian."
We are undecided. If we take a house and settle down, we must give up our nice, warm little rooms at the old Wagons-Lits, forgo all the amusing gossip of the lobby, told in such frankness by the interesting people who know things, or think they do. They say housekeeping is not difficult here. You engage a "number-one boy," who engages the rest of the servants, and any one of the servants who finds himself overworked engages as many more servants as he may require; but that is not your lookout. The compound is full of retainers, and the kitchen as well, but you don't have to pay for them. They eat you out of house and home, squeeze you at every possible point, but add an air of the picturesque and of prosperity to the establishment. Housekeeping here is a throw-back to the Middle Ages, with a baronial hall filled with feudal retainers. And all for the price, except for the "squeeze," of one servant in America!
HOW IT'S DONE IN CHINA
We have got to Peking at just the right moment—right for us, that is, but one of the wrong moments for poor old China. These cycles of Cathay, I may mention, are filled with such moments for China, and this is just another of the long series, another of the occasions on which she is plundered. Only here we are, by the greatest of luck, to see how it's done. Could anything have been more fortunate? Wait; I'll tell you about it. You will hardly believe it. We should not have been able to believe it, either, if it had not taken place under our very noses.
Day before yesterday four of us went up to see the Ming tombs and the Great Wall. Everything is so exciting in Peking that we could hardly bear to absent ourselves from it even for two days; but, having come all the way out to China, it seemed as if we really ought to see the Great Wall. I won't describe our trip. You can read descriptions of the wall in any book; all I can say is that it took two days to get there and back, and that we set off on the expedition most reluctantly. E——'s theory is that it's best to get all the sights crossed off as soon as possible, so that we can enjoy ourselves with a clear mind. I had a presentiment that something would go wrong if we left Peking for such a long time, left China alone to her fate, as it were, for forty-eight hours. But E—— and the others thought this was as good a time as any, so in spite of our misgivings, we took advantage of what seemed like a quiet moment and slipped off on our excursion, to get it over with.
When we returned on Monday afternoon, we found the whole place rocking with excitement, boiling with rage and resentment, simply seething with fury and indignation. The hotel was ablaze. The moment we pushed open the big front door and entered—tired, dusty, and very shabby in our khaki clothes—we were pounced upon and asked what we thought of it. Thought of what? Well, this. Night before last—the 19th of October, to be exact—the French had grabbed three hundred and thirty-three acres in the heart of Tientsin. The attack, or charge, or party of occupation, whatever you choose to call it, was led in person by the French charge d'affaires, at the head of a band of French soldiers. They seized and arrested all the Chinese soldiers on duty in the district, put them in prison, and in the name of the Republic of France annexed three hundred and thirty-three acres of Chinese soil to the overseas dominion of the great republic!
Let me explain what this means. Tientsin is a large city, nearly as large as Peking, with about a million inhabitants. It is only two hours distant from Peking, by rail, and is the most important seaport of North China,—the port of Peking. Until the railway was built, a few years ago, the only way to reach Peking (other than by a long overland journey) was to come to Tientsin by boat, and thence to Peking by cart or chair. In spite of the new railway, Tientsin still retains its old importance as the seaport for North China, and is a trade center of the first rank. To seize three hundred and thirty-three acres in such an important city as this, was an act of no small significance. The annexed land, containing wharfage, streets, houses, shops, and the revenue from such, makes a goodly haul. Really, from the French point of view, it was a neat, thrifty stroke of business, or of diplomacy, or of international politics, whatever you choose to call it.
But from the Chinese point of view it is different. How are they taking it, the Chinese? How are they behaving? Well, in spite of the fact that the East is East and the West is West, that the Chinese are nothing but a yellow race and heathen at that, their feelings and reactions seem very similar to what I imagine ours would be in similar circumstances—I mean, if France should suddenly "claim" and "annex" three hundred and thirty-three acres of ground in the heart of Boston or New York. Their newspapers have broken out into flaring head-lines an inch high, and are wild in their denunciations of what they term an outrage; an infamous, high-handed act, a wanton, deliberate theft of territory from a peaceful and friendly country. Really, these Chinese newspapers seem to be describing the business in much the same words, with much the same force and fury and resentment, as our American papers probably would employ in describing such an episode if it took place in some American city. Only, our head-lines would probably be a little larger. However, the Chinese newspapers do very well, and what type they have seems to convey their meaning—rage and indignation. Mass meetings of protest against this outrage are being held in Peking, in Tientsin, in all the provinces, in fact; the governors of the different provinces are sending in telegrams; societies and organizations are telegraphing to the Peking government; the whole country is wild with resentment and is sending delegations and messages and protests to the poor old wabbly Chinese Government, urging it to "act." To act; that is, to tell the French Government to hand back to China this "acquired" land. What the outcome will be, I don't know. Apparently the supine, terror-stricken Chinese Government cannot act, doesn't dare. Three days have now passed, and the French are still sitting tight, holding to their fruits of victory, facing an enraged but helpless country. And they will probably continue to sit tight till the matter blows over.
I was eager to find out what constituted the French claim to this particular piece of territory, called Lao Hsi Kai. The French already possess a large concession in Tientsin, and why they should have wished to enlarge it, particularly in such a summary manner, I was anxious to discover. Their excuse is this: they asked for this Lao Hsi Kai area as long ago as 1902. That's all. Asked for it years ago, and have been "claiming" it ever since. Have been asking for it at intervals during all these years. When the first request was made, in 1902, the ruling official in Tientsin considered it so insolent that he tore up the note and threw it into the scrap-basket, disdaining a reply. Since then, whenever the request has been repeated, the Chinese Government has played for time, has deferred the answer, delayed the decision, shilly-shallied, avoided the issue by every means. This is the classic custom of the Chinese when confronted with an unpleasant decision,—to play for time, to postpone the inevitable, in the vain hope that something will turn up meanwhile, some new condition arise to divert the attention of the "powers that prey." Occasionally this method works but not always. Not in this case, anyway. When a European power asks for a thing, it is merely asserting its divine right.
We have talked to many people about this Lao Hsi Kai business, people of all ranks and all nationalities—diplomats, old residents, journalists, business men—and not one of them has made any attempt to justify or defend the action. Without exception, they say it is an outrage, and totally unwarranted,—at the very least, a most shocking political blunder. None of them, however, has come forward to the aid of the Chinese. A curious conspiracy of silence seems to reign,—not silence in one sense, for every one is talking freely with most undiplomatic candor, and in private every one condemns what France has done, yet not a voice is raised in public protest. The Chinese alone are doing their own protesting; and much good it seems to do them!
THE LAO-HSI-KAI OUTRAGE
A week has passed since the French "acquired" Lao Hsi Kai, and the situation remains unchanged. The French still sit tight, waiting for the storm to blow over; the Chinese continue to hold their protest meetings, to send in their delegations and requests to the central government to act; the government sits supine, afraid to budge; and the newspapers continue to rave. It is all most interesting. The "Gazette" devotes almost its entire eight pages to what it calls the "OUTRAGE" and hasn't decreased the size of its type one bit. If it had larger letters, it would probably use them. I should think that by this time, after such long and painful experience with foreign powers, it would have laid in a stock suitable to such occasions.
The "Gazette" is an annoying sort of newspaper,—annoying, that is, to the powers that prey. Under the caption "Madness or War," in the biggest head-lines it has, it insists upon describing this Lao Hsi Kai affair as the most Belgium-like thing that has happened since the invasion of Belgium. Alike in principle, if not in extent. Whipped up into a white heat of fury, it draws, over and over again, the most disconcerting parallels.
And all this week it has continued to be irritating, referring constantly to Belgium, and harping upon the Allies' ideals,—the preservation of civilization, liberty, justice, and the rights of small, weak nations. The "Gazette" insists that these ideals should be applied to China, forgetting, apparently, that while China is weak, she is not small!