Arthur John Hubbard.

The fate of empires; being an inquiry into the stability of civilisation online

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times its fiscal claims are far from crushing. The
basic conditions of prosperity, liberty of person
and security of property, are well established.
There is, to be sure, no security for industrial
investments; but property in land and goods is
reasonably well protected. Nor is the lot of the
masses due to exploitation. In the cities there
is a sprinkling of rich, but out in the provinces
one may travel for weeks and see no sign of a
wealthy class no mansion or fine country-place,
no costume or equipage befitting the rich. There
are great stretches of fertile agricultural country
where the struggle for subsistence is stern, and
yet the cultivator owns his land and implements
and pays tribute to no man."

" For a grinding mass-poverty that cannot be
matched in the Occident there remains but one
general cause, namely, the crowding of population
upon the means of subsistence " (p. 437).

"The traveller who, in dismay at the stories
of the dirt and vermin of native inns, plans to
camp in the cleanly open is incredulous when he
is told that there is no room to pitch a tent. Yet
such is the case in two-thirds of China. He will
find no roadside, no commons, no waste land, no
pasture, no groves or orchards, not even a door-



yard or a cow-pen. Save the threshing-floor,
every outdoor spot fit to spread a blanket on is
growing something" (p. 430).

** In one sense it is true that China is cultivated
' like a garden,' for every lump is broken up, every
weed is destroyed, and every plant is tended like
a baby. So far, however, as the ' garden ' calls up
visions of pleasure and delight, it does not apply.
In county after county you will not see alto-
gether a rood of land reserved for recreation or
pleasure ..." (p. 430).

''No weed or stalk escapes the bamboo rake
of the autumnal fuel-gatherer. The grass tufts on
the rough slopes are dug up by the roots. The
sickle reaps the grain close to the ground, for
straw and chaff are needed to burn under the rice-
kettle. The leaves of the trees are a crop to be
carefully gathered. One never sees a rotting stump
or a mossy log. Bundles of brush, carried miles
on the human back, heat the brick-kiln and the
potter's furnace. After the last trees have been
taken, the far and forbidding heights are scaled
by lads with axe and mattock to cut down or dig
up the seedlings that, if left alone, would reclothe
the devastated ridges " (p. 433).

"A Chinese city has no sewers, nor does it
greatly need them. Long before sunrise, tank-
boats from the farms have crept through the city
by a network of canals, and by the time the
foreigner has finished his morning coffee, a legion
of scavengers have collected for the encouragement
of the crops that which we cast into our sewers.
After a rain, countrymen with buckets prowl about


the streets scooping black mud out of hollows and
gutters or dipping liquid filth from the wayside
sinks. A highway traversed by two hundred
carts a day is as free from filth as a garden path,
for the neighbouring farmers patrol it with basket
and rake.

"No natural resource is too trifling to be turned
to account by the teeming population. The sea
is raked and strained for edible plunder. Seaweed
and kelp have a place in the larder. Great quan-
tities of shell-fish no bigger than one's finger-nail
are opened and made to yield a food that finds
its way far inland. The fungus that springs up
in the grass after a rain is eaten. Fried sweet-
potato vines furnish the poor man's table. The
roadside ditches are bailed out for the sake of
fishes no longer than one's finger " (p. 433).

"The silkworms are eaten after the cocoon
has been unwound from them. After their work
is done, horses, donkeys, mules, and camels become
butcher's meat. The cow or pig that has died
a natural death is not disdained " (p. 433).

" In Canton dressed rats and cats are exposed
for sale. Our boatmen cleaned and ate the head,
feet, and entrails of the fowls used by our cook.
Scenting a possible opening for a tannery, the
governor of Hong-Kong once set on foot an in-
quiry as to what became of the skins of the
innumerable pigs slaughtered in the colony. He
learned that they were all made up as * marine
delicacy ' and sold among the Chinese " (p. 433).

" Haunted by the fear of starving, men spend
themselves recklessly for the sake of a wage. It


is true that the Chinese are still in the handicrafts
stage, and the artisans one sees busy on their own
account in the little workshops along the street
go their own pace " (p. 435).

'* Still it is obvious that those in certain occu-
pations are literally killing themselves by their
exertions. The treadmill coolies who propel the
stern-wheelers on the West River admittedly
shorten their lives. Nearly all the lumber used
in China is hand-sawed, and the sawyers are ex-
hausted early. The planers of boards, the marble
polishers, the brass-filers, the cotton-flufFers, the
treaders who use the big rice-polishing pestles,
are building their coffins. Physicians agree that
carrying coolies rarely live beyond forty-five or
fifty. The term of a chair-bearer is eight years,
that of a rickshaw-runner four years ; for the rest
of his life he is an invalid" (p. 435).

" In Canton, city of a million without a wheel
or beast of burden, even the careless eye marks
in the porters that throng the streets the plain
signs of overstrain. . . . The dog-trot, the whisthng
breath, the clenched teeth, the streaming face of
those under a burden of from one to two hundred-
weight that must be borne, are as eloquent of
ebbing life as a jetting artery. At rest the porter
often leans or droops with a corpse-like sag that
betrays utter depletion of vital energy" (p. 435).

"There are a number of miscellaneous facts
that hint how close the masses live to the edge
of subsistence. The brass cash, the most popular
coin in China, is worth the twentieth part of a
cent ; but as this has been found too valuable to


meet aU the needs of the people, oblong bits of
bamboo circulate in some provinces at the value
of half a cash" (p. 435).

"Incredibly small are the portions prepared
for sale by the huckster. Two cubic inches of
curd, four w^alnuts, five peanuts, fifteen roasted
beans, twenty melon seeds, make a portion. The
melon- vender's stand is decked out with wedges
of insipid melon the size of two fingers. The
householder leaves the butcher's stall with a
morsel of pork, the pluck of a fowl, and a strip
of fish as big as a sardine, tied together with a
blade of grass. . . . Careful observers say that
four-fifths of the conversation among common
Chinese relates to food. . . . Axe and bamboo
are retained in punishment, and prison reform is
halted by the consideration that unless the way of
the transgressor is made flinty, there are people
miserable enough to commit crime for the bare
sake of prison fare " (p. 436).

" Here are people with standards, unquestion-
ably civilised, peaceable, industrious, filial, polite,
faithful to their contracts, heedful of the rights of
others ; yet their lives are dreary and squalid, for
most of their margins have been swept into the
hopper for the production of population. Two
coarse blue cotton garments clothe them. In
summer the children go naked, and the men strip
to the waist. Thatched mud hut, no chimney,
smoke-blackened walls, unglazed windows, rude
unpainted stools, a grimy table, dirt floors, where
the pig and the fowls dispute for scraps, and for
bed a mud kang with a frazzled mat on it. No


wood, grass, or flowers ; no wood floors, carpets,
curtains, wall-papers, table-cloths, or ornaments;
no books, pictures, newspapers, or musical instru-
ments ; no sports or amusements, few festivals or
social gatherings ; but everywhere children, naked,
sprawling, squirming, crawling, tumbling in the
dust the one possession of which the poorest
family has an abundance, and to which other
possessions and interests are fanatically sacrificed "
(pp. 439-440).

Professor Ross's description reads like an
account of a people who have reverted to the
methods of instinctive life. The deliberate re-
duction of existence to the lowest level of possible
endurance suggests to the Western mind that
China must be filled by a population that is
devoid of Reason. Nevertheless, no mistake could
be greater than that. The men and women whose
lives are spent under the conditions detailed above
are possessed of high ability, and we venture to
say that their average development, both physical
and intellectual, is superior to that of the average
white man. In stature they are at least equal
to that of the European, and, to watch a group
of almost naked coolies working in the tropics
is to see the mask-like Chinese face set upon
graceful, athletic forms that might belong to
Apollo or Hercules. It is not easy to find
statistics giving their cranial capacity as compared
with others. But it has been stated, in an article
in the Pall Mall Gazette of 19th January, 1883,
that "the only statistics of Chinese brain- weight
available show them to exceed all other nations


in this respect. The average brain- weight of the
males reached 50^ ounces, and that of the females
45 1 ounces. This is an average not attained, so
far as yet known, by any other nation, it being
fully 6 ounces above that of the average negro,
and IJ ounces above the European."

Intellectually they are even less easily esti-
mated. Careless of the State, with no desire for
the advance of scientific knowledge, averse from the
co-operation involved in the management of large
industrial undertakings, they are not to be judged
by our standards: their ideals are not ours, and
their thoughts are alien to us. But, when a .fair
contest of wits occurs between a Chinaman and
a white man, it is generally the latter who

If the power of Reason is not wanting among
them, it follows that the voluntary creation and
stoical endurance of a toilworn system of life
springs from supra-rational considerations, and that
the sordid social life of the Chinese bears witness
to nobility of individual character. It is true
that the narrow creed leads to a straitened exist-
ence, but if willingness to incur supra-rational
self-sacrifice be taken as the measure of the
religious capacity of a people, then the Chinese
must be classed as one profoundly moved by the
sense of cosmocentric duty. We may see further
evidence of this capacity among those Chinese who,
with a wider conception of cosmocentric duty,
perceive that all conduct is significant, and see
that social duty and racial duty are complementary
to one another, each, as was pointed out on pages


82 and 91, coming into operation at the point where
the other would begin to be destructive if it stood
alone. The faces of the Chinese Christians often
wear an expression of saint-like spirituality, and
their constancy under persecution at the hands
of an exclusively racial civilisation has been
worthy to take rank by the side of that dis-
played by the Christians of the Roman Empire
under the persecutions of an exclusively social



It would be difficult to exaggerate the importance
of the fact that the formation of the Chinese family
is strictly agnatic. The conception of a direct
ancestry reaching from an immeasurable past,
and followed by equally direct lines of descent
extending to an incalculable future, is one that
fires the imagination and gives an importance to
the family that can only be realised faintly and
with difficulty by any one who is merely acquainted
with cognation. But even this is not all. Taoism
itself takes nothing into account except the family ;
and, as we have seen, requires the long thin line of
relationship that is provided by agnation.

Chinese civilisation, accordingly, is so organised
that the agnatic family stands supreme, and every
other institution is contributory to it. The Chinese
mind, usually so incomprehensible to a white man,
becomes perfectly clear so long as the latter re-
members that the agnatic family is the beginning
and end of Chinese thought and action.

Bearing this in mind, it is strange to observe
that racial duty is carried out, and the Race main-
tained and magnified, only in spite of enormous
current difficulties and disadvantages created by
neglect of the complementary social duties.


Thus the want of any social element in the
Chinese conception of Hiao leads to the enfeeble-
ment of Society as a whole, as well as to the im-
poverishment of the individual life. The State and
the feeling of patriotism count for very little. The
difference in ideals between the West and the East
is illustrated by the fact that the European who
"dies for his country" has behaved in a manner
that is unintelligible to a Chinaman, because his
family is not directly benefited is, indeed, dam-
aged by the loss of one of its members. But when
a Chinaman, in consideration of so much paid to
his family, consents to be executed as a substitute
for a condemned criminal, and is held in honour
for doing it, then it is the white man's turn to be
bewildered. The State, in fact, only exists for the
sake of the family, and is not, as in the West,
ancillary to Society. Its impotence, both at home
and in the passing international politics of the day,
is the natural consequence.

To the same cause we must attribute the
Chinese paralysis in scientific research, and their
failure in large industrial undertakings. These
phenomena do not arise from lack of intellectual
ability, but from want of will. In each form of
enterprise the reward is doubtful, and, even at the
best, is not confined to any one family. They
make no appeal to the Chinese mind and ambition.
Learning indeed is honoured, but the Chinese
classics are devoted to the cult of Hiao.

The feebleness of the State is the first source of
disaster. The Chinese official, for instance, uses
his office to enrich his family, for his sense of duty


extends no further ; and the State, even if it had
the will, is too weak to prevent him from doing
so. The result is that every kind of injustice and
maladministration is rife. This, in its turn, leads
to a popular spirit of turbulence that breaks out at
intervals in rebellion and civil war. The racial
destruction that results is stupendous. Professor
Ross {op. cit.) says, that " Shansi lost five millions
in the Mohammedan uprising of the seventies. . . .
Kan-Su, Yunnan, and Kwang-Si have never fully
recovered from the massacres following great rebel-
lions. ..." The civil war that we call the Tae-
ping Rebellion led to an amount of destruction
that defies any calculation that is even approxi-
mately exact. Beginning in 1850 and coming
to an end in 1864, it lasted for fourteen years,
and is estimated to have cost China 20,000,000
to 50,000,000 of population. Had such events
occurred in Europe, the minimum estimate would
be represented by the massacre of all the inhabit-
ants of Spain and Portugal, and the maximum
would be more than equivalent to the exter-
mination of the entire population of the United
Kingdom. We are better acquainted with the
facts of the Taeping Rebellion than with those
of any other, but again and again, Chinese history
is marked by slaughter on a huge but unknown
scale. Kiang-Se and Chekiang still show the
marks of the Taeping massacres, but all these
appalling losses make only a transient mark on the
great flood of Chinese life.

Again, the weakness of the State is seen in the
shocking mortality that follows in the train of


famine. The people live so close to the edge of
subsistence that there is practically no margin.
The bad season immediately brings starvation upon
the scenes a contingency for which no provision
is made. " In Shansi thirty odd years ago," says
Professor Ross {loc. cit,), "seven-tenths of the
population perished from famine, and . . . S hen- Si
. . . lost three-tenths of its people by famine in
1900." But the effect of famine is as transient as
that of massacre ; presently the onward march is

The neglect of science and sanitation is another
source of destruction. The infant mortality is well-
nigh incredible. Professor Ross {loc. cit.) says that
'* Dr. M'Cartney of Chang - King, after twenty
years of practice, estimates that from seventy-five
to eighty-five per cent, of the children born there
die before the end of the second year. The returns
from Hong-Kong for 1900 show that the number
of children dying under one year of age is eighty-
seven per cent, of the number of births within the
year. The first census of Formosa seems to show
that nearly half of the children born to the Chinese
there die within six months." Still, the whole of
this mortality is not due to want of sanitation.
To quote again from the same article : " Pasture
or meadow there is none, for land is too precious
to be used in growing food for animals. . . . The
cows and water-buffaloes never taste grass, except
when they are taken out on a tether by an old
granny, and allowed to browse by the woodside
and the ditches, or along the terraces of the rice-
fields" (p. 430). *'The use of milk is unknown


in China, and so the babe that cannot be suckled
is doomed " (p, 439).

In addition to this, perhaps one female in ten
is deliberately done away with at birth. This ex-
posure of female infants must not, however, be
confounded with the infanticide that prevailed in
the Roman Empire. Like all other Chinese
customs, it is governed by the interest of the
family. Until she is old enough to be useful, a
girl is a burden on the resources of the home;
for, on her marriage, she passes entirely out of
the family in which she was born. The payment
that her husband makes on her wedding repre-
sents the cost of her upbringing, and so it depends
on circumstances to determine whether or no it is
to the family interest to preserve a female infant.
Sometimes the same consideration operates in
another manner. The writer was acquainted
with a family belonging to the river-population.
In their sampan was a merry little girl, no rela-
tion to the other children, but living as one of
them. Ten or twelve years before, while sailing
near the river-bank, the mother observed a deserted
female infant. One of her little boys was then
two or three years old, and she rapidly made up
her mind that it would cost less to rescue and
rear the infant as his future wife, than it would
to buy him a wife eventually. The family interest
had guided her.

The result is that virtually every girl of twenty
is married, and that the "position of women" in
China is assured. As may be readily imagined,
the place of the mother in an agnatic family is one


of much domestic dignity and honour. Thus, even
the ghastly infant mortaUty cannot stay the Chinese
racial progress.

Disease destroys the adult also ; and, on the
average, the adult life is about fifteen years shorter
than among ourselves. China is the abiding-place
of plague, and its plains are haunted by ague
ague, too, that is not of a benign type. In his
own person the writer bears evidence of its viru-
lent and persistent character.

Plague was destructive in the Roman Empire,
and the damage remained. It has not been less
destructive in China, but the damage is repaired.
The same remark applies also to malarial fever.
The appearance of ague has been suggested as
the cause of the depopulation of both Greece and
Rome, and the suggestion has received the en-
dorsement of one so eminent as Sir Ronald Ross,
F.R.S.^ But if the Greek and Roman races did
not recover from the ravages of malaria, it was
only because other and deeper causes were at
work. Ague is but one of the many destruc-
tive influences that the Chinese race defies with

So immense is the power of their unrestricted
birthrate that war, plague, pestilence, and famine
cannot prevail against it. The narrow Chinese
conception of cosmocentric duty, although it in-
volves Society in the horrible conditions that we

* See Malaria : A neglected Factor in the History of Greece and Rome.
By W. H. S. Jones, M.A., with an introduction by Major Ronald
E.OSB, F.B.S., and a concluding chapter by G. G. Ellett, M.B.
London : Macmillan.


have described, nevertheless demonstrates our con-
tention that obedience to supra-rational considera-
tions is successful in the preservation of racial life
and the permanance of civilisation. It has con-
ferred perpetuity upon the Chinese race and civi-
lisation a civilisation that has persisted so long,
and whose origin is so remote, that no chronicle
runs to the contrary. It confers upon them to-day
a population of from 300,000,000 to 400,000,000.
If they are venerable on account of their antiquity,
so also are they awe-inspiring on account of their
magnitude and latent power to-day. They have,
if they chose to do so, only to lift their hand to
seize the hegemony of the world. But they do
not choose to do so; imperial rule is not their

Assiduous only for the family, to them is super-
added a permanent civilisation and the inviolability
of the race. Thus we watch them moving, in
myriads and millions, towards an end that they
do not seek, and a destiny that none can see.

If we turn to other examples of long racial
persistence, w^e find, invariably, that supra- rational
motive occupies a dominant position in their
history. We cannot do more than make a brief
reference to two : the persistence of the Jew, and
the long continuance of the ancient Egyptian
civilisation. The Jew, unchanged from anti-
quity, has never surrendered the expectation that
makes his race indestructible the hope that the
bringer of a divinely - ordered world will arise,
sooner or later, among his children. The Jewish
Law, quite outspoken on racial topics, is only the


expression of the pathetic vision that lights up the
hfe of the Jew.

The Egyptian, his old-world foe, only survives
in the Coptic Christians of to-day. Yet we need
not wonder that their civilisation remained un-
broken for 4000 years and more, when we re-
member how large a space their religion occupied
in their lives. And those who, marvelling and
hushed, have traversed the pillared solemnity of
Karnac and of Thebes, know well among the wall-
sculptures, the oft-repeated representation of Min,
the God of generation. The figure of the phallic
Deity, impressive as it may be to a reflective
mind, is unpresentable amid the proprieties of
to-day; but, to the Egyptian he was one of the
Greater Gods. Moreover, he stood alone among
these great ones in that to sin against him was
to draw down retribution. His emblem is the
scourge. One-armed single of purpose he
carries aloft the ever-ready thongs.

He is not less active among the nations of
to-day; those that incur his chastisement still
die beneath his blows. Of the company of the
Greater Gods of Egypt there is one whose power
has not waned. He is Min, the Scourge-bearer.



" Jesus, upon whom be Peace, said : ' The world is a bridge :
pass over it, but do not build upon it.'"

Inscription on bridge at Fatekpur Sikri.

Rome and China have furnished us with illustra-
tions of opposite extremes: the one with an
example of social splendour and racial failure, the
other with an example of social degradation and
racial persistence.

The conditions that obtained under the Roman
Empire have shown that Reason is deadly to the
Race, and that geocentric religion exercises no
^restraint over its destructive influence. The broad
^ fact is, indeed, that in the whole range of history
^'in every age, and throughout all the world there
^ is no record of an enduring civilisation that rested
y on Instinct alone ; on Reason alone ; on any com-
S bination of the two ; or upon any Religion that
t^' served their purposes. Passing, however, beyond
these agencies, we have found in Chinese life an
example showing the prepotence of the supra-
rational method over that of pure Reason. The
example, it is true, is incomplete as an illustration
of the whole method of Religious Motive, for
Tao-ism, making no attempt to deal with the

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Online LibraryArthur John HubbardThe fate of empires; being an inquiry into the stability of civilisation → online text (page 11 of 14)