Edward Harper Parker.

China, her history, diplomacy, and commerce, from the earliest times to the present day online

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is not really bad, and from my experience of
Chinese officials I should say that the majority
of them are men no worse than American
" bosses,"' — ^that is, mere hacks or hirelings of a
corrupt growth, with as m.uch "conscience" as
their system vouchsafes. Purchase of official
rank, and even of office, has been sadly on the
increase ever since China began to get into
trouble with rebels and Europeans ; even now,
under the republic, though substantive office
can no longer be bought, and the nine " button "-



A.D. 1902-1917] MANDARINS GALORE 187

ranks no longer exist, it is impossible to deny that
jobbery is more in evidence than competency.

The serio-comic descriptions of office juggling
I gave in the first editions of this work are amply
borne out by the scathing denunciations of the
" three good viceroys," who, after the " Boxer "
war, drew up a thorough scheme of reform ; the
men who saved China were Liu K'un-yih, Chang
Chi-tung, and Yuan Shi-k'ai. The tentative re-
forms of the last-named at Tientsin (1902-1907)
really provided effective models for the whole of
China.

Although the essence of provincial government
thus consists in the Men and the four (now two)
big men at the top of the tree, there are certain
intermediaries who, in spite of recent drastic
changes, cannot be ignored. Each group of two
or more Men used to be under a/w, or city of the
first class, and each province had from five to
ten fu. I will not confuse the reader"V/ith too
much definition. Suffice it to say that a fu
city had no real existence of its own, butwas
always within the walls of one or more of its
own Men. Thus Lii-chou Fu in An Hwei,
which has under it five Men, was really the Lloh-
fei Men city where Li Hung-chang was born. In
a few cases, as for instance that of Kwang-chou
Fu (Canton city), there were and are two head Men
within one set of walls ; but the warrants of each
are limited in their run by an imaginary dividing
line ; — much to the comfort of local thieves. In
one case, the enormous city of Su-chou Fu
(Soochow), there were actually three head Men,
i.e. three prcetoria or yamens ^ and three rulers,
within one wall ; but of course only the triple
head of the one body was there : the Hinter-
lands, or territories subject to each one, spread
out like three fans in different directions. It is

^ " Yamm" (standard-gate) is now almost abolished in favour
of hung-shu or " public office."



188 THE GOVERNMENT [chap, viii

necessary to mention this in 1917, because nearly
all existing maps, despite republican changes,
exhibit cities graded under the now extinct
system.

The duties of afu (usually called a " prefect ")
were as unsolid and abstract as his territory.
I have sat and talked with many a fu, but I
never understood what they did (beyond re-
hearing as judges in the second instance), except
act as a conduit-pipe for several Men ; just as
the archdeacon has been humorously defined
as an ecclesiastical dignitary performing archi-
diaconal functions, so was the fu a territorial
dignitary performing prefectural functions. All
routine orders from above came to the Men
through the fu, and conversely with the routine
reports. The " head " fu and the " head " Men,
when in one city with the highest provincial au-
thorities, had to melden gehorsamst, or " report,"
every morning. In a few cases the fu had some
special and real business, custom, salt, mercan-
tile, or other, confided to him in addition to
his nebulous supervisory functions. The notori-
ous reformer K'ang Yu-wei pointed out to the
luckless young Emperor in 1898 that all officials
except the Men were useless excrescences, and
ought to be abolished. No wonder the " profi-
teers" of the day hounded the man from Peking, —
and thus indirectly the Emperor from his throne,
and the dynasty from its " tripod." As a matter
of fact the Republic has totally expunged all fu
throughout the Dominion.

Above the fu, again, there was a still more
modern and still more indefinite division and
official called the tao, who had not even the
loan of a walled town to live in ; and there never
was such a place as even a theoretical tao city.
Like the/w, he was, and at this moment perhaps
still is, a conduit ; but a much busier man, always



A.D. 1917] NEBULOUS OFFICIALS 189

provided with special duties ; for instance at
nearly all the treaty-ports the tao or taotai (with
whom a consul ranks by treaty) manages foreign
affairs. His yamen (now kung-shu) may be within
the walls of a city or anywhere else. There were
several grades of tao : there was the simple '* cir-
cuit intendant " ; then there was the " intendant
having a say in military matters," the " customs
intendant," and so on. Besides these executive
taOy there v/ere also others in charge of grain
transport and salt gabelle ; but these formed no
part of the regular administration. However,
the Republic began by abolishing all tao (except
those required under foreign treaty) ; then it
reintroduced them under the literary name of
kwan-cW ah ; then it changed the name to tao-yin ;
and now, as I write, I witness the extraordinary
spectacle of a tao-yin officially reporting that
he (and all his kind) is a useless humbug, and
ought to be abolished ; under these circum-
stances I fail to see what honest President Li
can do but knock the hydra on the head once
for all. I do not touch upon the assistant
administrative officials, outdoor and indoor,
attached to each district. Like the Japanese
artist who, with a few dashes of his brush,
leaves, a general impression of landscape to be
gathered from a few daubs, so do I, in my im-
perfect way, select a few leading features in
order to convey to non-specialist readers a
picture which their minds may rapidly take in
without undue fatigue. The provincial admini-
stration system of China is still in a state of
flux, doubt, and restless, not to say meddlesome
change, and it would be unsafe to count upon
permanency any farther than as above.



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Online LibraryEdward Harper ParkerChina, her history, diplomacy, and commerce, from the earliest times to the present day → online text (page 17 of 35)