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T 1 O

The Real
Chinese Question


Chester Holcombe

For many years Interpreter, Secretary of Legation, and
Acting Minister of the United States at Pekin.

Author of " The Real Chinaman," etc.





Copyright, 1900,

3D .5


THAT is a charitable rule of life which bids us
take every man at his best. It is, however, wiser
and safer to study each individual as thoroughly
as circumstances will permit, and then to strike
a balance between good and evil traits of char-
acter, accepting the result as a basis for judgment
and action, so far as he is concerned. The same
rule may be broadened with safety, and applied
to nations or races. If, in such use, it serves no
other purpose, it will, at least, act as a corrective
to ignorant prejudice, and to that most common
fault, pre judgment.

There is much force, and a wide range of
applicability, to that French saying : " Les absens
ont tou jours tort" the absent are always in the
wrong. Their story is seldom fairly told, the
motives and causes which led to any particular
conduct are seldom brought into a plain light,
and judgment goes against them by misrepresen-
tation or default. This rule of common practice
is, also, not less applicable to nations and races
than to individual members of the human family.


The Chinese, whether the term be used as
referring to persons of the race, or to the nation,
or to the government of the nation, have suffered
enormously from it. They have been " the
absent" in the past. And one has only to glance
at the columns of the daily press, or to read some
more serious articles in magazine literature, to
realize how closely the French quotation applies
to them. Any statement, any tale, however in-
coherent, absurd, grotesque, or self-contradictory,
is accepted, if it only be applied to the Chinese.
The Travels of Gulliver, fairy tales, and the
Wonderful Adventures of Mother Hubbard's
Dog all sink into the most insipid and unexciting,
matter-of-fact prose when brought into contrast
with current stories about the Chinese.

It is not merely in the tales and fictitious de-
scriptions, such as may serve to while away an
idle hour, that they have suffered, and that wrong
has been done to them. In matters of the gravest
importance, in those upon which turn the issues
of peace or war, upon which national existence
may hang, the Chinese have been " the absent,"
and have been judged and found guilty, either
upon no statement, or the enemies' statement, of
their case. For until recently, at least, the
Chinese have also been silent. They have been


unable, or have not cared, to defend themselves
or maintain their cause before the great Western
world of thinking men and women. They have
failed to recognize the power which this body
holds to control and direct the actions of govern-
ments, and which it has been known, upon occa-
sion, to exercise. Hence, everything has gone
against them.

By way of example, it is not possible to believe
that if the fair-minded and generous-spirited
men and women of Great Britain had been accu-
rately and plainly informed of the facts; if they
had known what ruin was being wrought upon
the Chinese ; if they had been made at all familiar
with the arguments, protests, and appeals of the
Imperial Government, and with its bitter opposi-
tion; if they had understood the infamous purpose
for which British soldiers and British ships of
war were sent to China, and used there, and
blood was shed, and lives wasted if they could
have been made to see all these things, it is not
possible to believe that their government would
have been allowed to persist in the opium traffic,
and to work such a cruel wrong upon China. But
China was " absent." And China was silent
when she should have appealed to a larger audi-
ence than the ministers, who cared little for


appeals and protests; she should have appealed
to a power higher than the Throne, to the power
behind it.

Chinese statesmen have been fond of saying
that " China is a slumbering dragon." Of late
China has been, not that, perhaps, but a dragon
not fully awake to his danger and the necessities
of his condition. Long outside the whirl of
modern life, but being gradually drawn within it,
he has neither adjusted himself to the situation
nor realized its demands. And he can only com-
plain in a language which the world does not

Too much has been written about China from
a purely foreign standpoint. The shelves are full
of books notably English telling with great
detail and much ingenuity what China wants,
what China desires, and what is best for China,
with the sole object of promoting the interests
ofJBritish commerce, and thwarting the possible
designs of Russia, and every other Power. But
regarding what China needs, for China's sake, the
world of literature is markedly silent. It hardly
need be said that volumes, written either in
defence or elaboration of some foreign policy, are
seldom or never just and fair to the Chinese.
They are not written in order to describe how
the natives of the empire feel, what they desire,


nor what they say. Nor are they written to give
broad and general views of any question from
the native standpoint, as well as from that of the
foreigner. Upon the contrary, everything is
focused down to a single point of view, and that
of foreign interest and profit.

The result is most unfortunate, as the present
situation must plainly show. A cyclone, a vol-
cano, an earthquake, or by any other fearful
name that it may be called, has suddenly burst
into terrible activity in the Chinese Empire, ac-
companied with horrors and agonies which no
man dare describe. Tens of thousands of un-
offending men and women and helpless children
have been slain. Millions upon millions of money
have been wasted in brutal riot, and as much
more in the effort to suppress it, and none can
yet see the end. The_contmued^ existence _of
China as a nation hangs quivering in the balance.

And yet, in these days of quick communication
and, what may be termed, universal information ;
when everybody is supposed to know everything ;
when every nook and cranny of the world have
been invaded and explored ; when floods of books
and avalanches of newspapers cover the earth,
telling everything that is true and much that is
not ; when the contents of this globe have ceased
to be matters of speculation, and men have turned

viii PR K FACE

their eyes to Mars and other planets in such
times as these, in the presence of such a hideous
catastrophe as the uprising of an immense race
of men in frenzied defiance of all Western na-
tions, the great masses of the most intelligent and
best-informed in those nations are gazing at each
other in astonishment, wondering what has been
the cause of it all.

Whereas, any fair knowledge of events and
influences at work in China during the past sixty
years, knowledge which involved even a moderate
acquaintance with the Chinese side of the history,
no less than the foreign, would cause wonder, not
at the outbreak, but that it had delayed so long.
Better than that, such just information would
have prevented the outbreak, by destroying the

It is the purpose of this volume to bring before
the thoughtful and fair-minded public some
portions of the history referred to, and to explain
certain forces and influences which operate in
China to give those who may read it an oppor-
tunity to realize how certain events and certain
lines of Western policy must have appeared to
and have affected the Chinese. In doing this, it
may help to furnish a wiser and safer basis for
judgment and decision of the real Chinese ques-


The volume apologizes for and defends no one,
least of all the Chinese. It states facts, some of
which are painful and humiliating, but which
ought to be stated, and which are neither exag-
gerated nor overdrawn. It appeals not for China,
but for fair play.


September 15, 1900.





Insufficient grounds of prejudice, I. Friction
and conflict result from misconception of Chinese
character, 2. Importance of better understand-
ing, 3. Empire not in condition of anarchy, 3.
Chinese satisfied with form of government, 4.
Much freedom of action permitted, 4. Chinese
obedient and fond of order, 4. Orderly disposition
of Chinese in United States, 5. Prefer their own
systems, 6. Will not allow others to decide for
them, 6. Chinese and foreigners at cross pur-
poses, 7. Chinese resent being imposed upon or
treated as children, 8. Shanghai-Woosung Rail-
way, 8. Restrictions upon foreign commerce, 12.
Source of trouble and dispute, 12. Chinese side
of question, 13. Forces discrimination against
Chinese, 13. Interferes with Government rev-
enue, 15. Foreign revenue used to pay foreign
loans, 16. Lekin tax, 16. Opposition to foreign
improvements not due to bigotry and superstition,
16. Object to employment of foreigners, 17. Chi-
nese labor question, 17. Silk filatures at Shanghai,
20. Railway from Tientsin to Peking, 24. China-
man docile but stubborn, 26. Exceedingly sensi-
tive, 27. Similar in essential characteristics to
Anglo-Saxons, 28.




Chinese a conundrum, 30. A man and yet a
child, 30. Many modern theories and ideas tested
in China centuries ago, 31. Radical yet conserva-
tive, 32. Slow yet rapid, 32. Resents unsought
advice, 33. Practical and capable of close dis-
crimination, 35. Logical reasoner, 36. Anger at
hypothecation of lekin tax, 36. Difficult to analyze
Chinese down to original characteristics, 40. Are
his peculiar ways and practices signs of a first or
second childhood? 42. Chinese have fixed system
for everything, 43. Fond of argument, 45. Always
ready with natural, or forced, explanation, 47.
Highly cultivated aesthetic taste, 48. Care of cem-
eteries, 49. High standard of literary taste, 50.
Moderation the root idea of Confucianism, 51.
Grave points of weakness, 51. Acts mainly as a
repressive force, 53. Unexpected and frenzied out-
breaks the result, 53. Examples, 54. Causes of
anti-foreign outbreaks, 55. Chinese cherish secret
grudges, 56. Explanation of Boxer movement, 56.
Chinese punctilious in courtesy, 57. Exacting in
personal rights, 58. Generous and public spirited,
58. Bridges and temples, 58. His good-nature is
the weaker side of the Chinaman, 58. Chinese not
a decadent race, 59.


Prominent in all Chinese affairs, 61. Member-
ship open to all, 61. Constitutes immense literary



THE CHINESE LITERATI continued 61-89

aristocracy, 62. Are the brains of the nation and
leaders in public opinion, 63. Impractical course
of study, 64. Grotesque when compared with mod-
ern knowledge, 64. Cannot estimate number of
living members, 66. Sketch of examinations, 66.
Chinese eager for membership, 68. No certain
ground for sweeping charges of corruption in
examinations, 69. System of value in the past,
70. Four grades in Chinese social scale, 70.
Graduates debarred from menial employment, 71.
Many literati unable to secure official positions,
72. Unemployed, they form a large and danger-
ous body, 75. Two civil service rules, 75. " Ex-
pectant " officials, 76. " Searchers," 77. Literati
as teachers and physicians, 78. As story-tellers,
79. As fortune-tellers, 80. Difficult to be held
in check, 81. Origin of Confucianism as a cult, 82.
System of morals rather than religion, 83. Literati
the champions of the system, 84. Opposed to
change, 85. Source of much of the anti-foreign
sentiment, 87. Responsible for many anti-foreign
outbreaks, 88.



Chinese power of organization, 90. Peculiar
form of clannishness, 90. Develops pride and pro-
vincialism, 91. Sources of clanship of locality, 92.
Peking phases, 93. Combinations against Canton-
ese, 94. Clan divisions not of serious importance,
95. Chinese a chemical compound, 96. Commer-
cial and labor combinations, 96. Provincial clubs



CHINESE SOCIETIES continued 901 14

or guilds, 98. Local mutual aid societies, 99.
Temperance societies, 100. Secret social frater-
nities, loo. Absurd fictions regarding secret politi-
cal combinations, 101. First appearance in China,
102. Little scope for politics in China, 103. No
desire for change of government, 104. Satisfied
with Manchu rule, 105. Little precaution taken
against revolt, 106. Preventive measures, 107.
" White Lily " sect, 108. Interdicted by Emperor
Shun Chih, 109. Change of name, no. Action
of Hong Kong authorities, no. Secret societies
little cause of anxiety to government, no. " Ke
Lao Huei," or " Society of Elder Brothers," in.
Not a military conspiracy, 112. " Tai Ping Re-
bellion," 112. Author a disappointed malcontent,
113. The Boxer movement, 114.



Chinese Board of War, 115. Scope of duties,

115. Post-office system and " Bureau of Victories,"

116. Officers of Board of War, 116. Incapacity of
members, 117. Board of War a barnacle office,
118. No intelligent officers available, 119. China
has no army, 119. Description of Peking, 120.
Under military control, 122. Form of organiza-
tion, 122. Manchu soldiers, 123. Frauds in pay
and rations, 124. Raids upon the Treasury, 125.
Vices of soldiers, 126. Management of military
affairs has drifted away from Peking, 127. Flexi-
bility in government system, 127. Aside from



THE CHINESE ARMY AND NAVY continued 115-147

Manchu soldiers, entire military system is pro-
vincial, 128. Utter lack of uniformity, 129. Re-
sultant troubles, 129. Northern and southern
superintendents of coast defense, 130. Li Hung
Chang notable leader in military affairs, 132. In-
terference and opposition, 132. Agents for sale of
military and naval supplies, 133. Influence and
bribery, 134. Unfamiliarity with modern arms,
135. Lack of trained officers and disciplined sol-
diers, 136. Chinese educational mission to the
United States, 137. Plan sought for Chinese Mili-
tary School, 137. Unsatisfactory efforts to secure
foreign military and naval instructors, 138. Com-
petition among foreign Powers, 139. Two foreign
military officers at Tientsin, 140. German officers
at Nanking, 141. Any success due to Viceroy Li,

143. Chinese navy, 143. The " Osborne Flotilla,"

144. Chinese make good soldiers, 145. Possible
size of Chinese army, 146. Last days of brave old
Admiral Ting, 146.


Hostile comment upon his work, 148. Claim
that civilization and commerce should precede him,
149. Chinese possess high standard of morals, 150.
Foreign objector to presence of young women in
China as missionaries, 151. Mistaken notions of
Chinese about social relations of foreigners, 152.
Value of missionary homes as object lessons, 152.
Views of Chinese official, 153. Work among Chi-
nese women, 154. Missionaries not the cause of



THE MISSIONARY continued 148-177

anti-foreign feeling, 155. Literati indifferent to
missionaries, but hate them as foreigners, 156.
Why mob violence is more frequently directed
against missionaries, 157. Complaint not against
natives because they become Christians, but that
they become foreigners, 158. Missionaries not
smuggled into the interior, 159. French treaty of
1858, 159. Foreign Powers protect them only as
citizens, 161. Questionable wisdom of "Article of
Toleration," 162. No occasion to argue question
of interior residence, 163. Conceded as a favor by
China, 164. Reparation for injuries, in China and
elsewhere, 165. No complaint against Protestant
missionaries as a class, 166. Valuable courtesies
shown to missionaries by Chinese officials, 167.
Chinese policy in religious matters uniformly tol-
erant, 169. The Nestorian faith, 170. Roman
Catholic missions, 171. Chinese policy compared
with that of certain Western Powers, 173. Mis-
sionaries not pugnacious, 174. Valuable services
to commerce and civilization, 175. No wisdom in
abandonment of nationality, 176. Missionaries
rapidly gaining ground in China, 177.


Beginnings of commerce with China, 178. Early
diplomatic missions, 178. Exchange of commod-
ities, 179. Chinese engineers, physicians, and as-
trologers in Persia, 179. Diplomatic intercourse,
180. Trade at Canton, 180. East India Company



DIPLOMACY IN CHINA continued 178-215

and " Hong Merchants," 180. Right Honorable
Lord Napier, 181. Insulting and bombastic corre
spondence, 182. Ignorance of Chinese, 184.
American and French missions, 186. Struggle
over right of residence at Peking, 187. War of
1858-60, 187. Chinese objections to diplomatic rela-
tions, 188. Commerce not connected with diplo-
macy, 189. Chinese conceit, 190. Audience ques-
tion, 191. The Tsung li Yamen, 192. Appoint-
ments to membership in it, 193. Chinese diffi-
culties, 194. Invariable courtesy of Chinese, 197.
Diplomatic trickeries, 199. Macao and the Portu-
guese treaty, 200. Chinese lack of good faith, 201.
Interference with rights of sovereignty, 202.
Chung Hou and treaty of St. Petersburg, 203. Re-
fusal to sign Japanese treaty, 204. Action of
French Government in Tonquin, 205. Great Brit-
ain and Chefoo Convention, 205. Diplomat an edu-
cator, 206. Disregard of native prejudices, 206.
Difficulties of language and interpretation, 208.
French minister and Tsung li Yamen, 209. French
vessels-of-war at Foochow, 210. Unskilled in in-
ternational law, 212. Inevitable difficulties, 213.
Personal equation large factor in Chinese diplo-
macy, 214.


Universal love of home, 216. Beneficent results,
217. Transfer of allegiance difficult and slow,
217. Determine Chinese opinion of foreigners by
foreign opinion of Chinese, 218. Comparison of



tinued 216-249

ideas, 219. Narrow grounds of Chinese opinion,
221. Ignorance concerning Western races, 221.
Roman description of ancient Chinese, 222. Char-
acter of Europeans who visited China, 222. Dutch
at Canton in 1506, 223. Chinese judge the many by
the few, 223. Cowardly and obsequious demeanor
of some, 225. Dutch at Peking in 1795, 225. Su-
pernatural gifts attributed to foreigners, 226.
Boxer movement, 228. Possible origin of idea,
228. Buddhist and Christian rivalry, 229. Chinese
policy of seclusion, 230. Chinese originally invited
foreign intercourse, 231. Unwelcome knowledge of
past sixty years, 232. Chinese judge from their
own standpoint, 233. Western atmosphere re-
pugnant to Chinese, 234. Unaccustomed to world
of to-day, 235. Partition of China, 236. Selfish
advice and purposes, 237. Japanese position, 237.
Characteristic incident, 238. Resent foreign air
and conduct, 239. Unreasonable demands and criti-
cisms, 242. Spheres of influence, 242. Failures of
justice, 243. Injudicious conduct of Roman Catho-
lic missionaries, 248. Anti-foreign feeling chronic
and universal, 249.

OPIUM 250-288

Modern China begins with 1842, 250. Opium war
and treaty of Nanking, 250. Inception of foreign
relations unfortunate, 251. Prejudice caused by
opium traffic, 251. Chinese names of drug, 252.
First knowledge of poppy, 252. Penalties for use



OPIUM continued 250-288

of opium, 252. Not used prior to 1775, 253. Early
efforts to smuggle opium, 253. British East India
Company monopoly, 253. Importation prohibited,
254. Growth of contraband traffic, 254. Spread
of trade in opium, 255. British Government silent,
256. Increased efforts to suppress smuggling, 257.
British Government favors the illicit trade, 257.
Condition of opium trade in 1838, 258. Appoint-
ment and orders of Commissioner Lin, 259. His
energetic action, 259. His correspondence with
Captain Elliott, 260. Surrender and destruction
of opium at Canton, 261. Failure of efforts of
Commissioner, 262. Attitude of British authorities,
262. Blockade of and war at Canton, 263. Sir
Henry Pottinger and Chinese Commissioners, 264.
English merchants protest to Sir Robert Peel, 266.
Growth of illegal traffic, 267. Hypocritical action
of Great Britain, 268. War of 1860, 269. Sir John
Bowring and case of the " Arrow," 269. Profits
of British Crown from opium, 270. Amount of
opium traffic, 271. False assertions that China was
indifferent, 272. Absurd pretence of harmless
character of the vice, 273. Deadly effects of opium
smoking, 274. China cowed and humiliated, 276.
Pleads for suppression of traffic, 277. Result of
formal appeal to British Queen, 278. Protest of
January, 1875, 280. Action of Great Britain on
Chef oo Convention, 281. United States treaty of
1880, 281. Correspondence between China and
Great Britain, which Christian and which heathen,
282. Spread of poppy cultivation in China, 283.
Opium traffic enemy to honest commerce, 284. All
foreigners suffer, 287. Modern Great Chinese
Wall, 288.




Chinese fear absorption of empire, 289. Proud of
their country, 290. Memorial from Governor of
Canton to Emperor, 290. Suspicion of foreigners,

291. Conduct of early Europeans in China, 291.
Dutch at Macao, Pescadore Islands, Amoy, and
Formosa, 292. Portuguese at Ningpo and Macao,

292. Source of annoyance and trouble, 293. Coolie
trade and " fan tan " at Macao, 293. Great Britain
at Hong Kong, 293. Depot and headquarters of
opium smugglers, 294. Real character of Hong
Kong trade, 295. Lord Charles Beresford on
opium smuggling from Hong Kong, 296. Chinese
sentiment toward Russia, 297. Russian diplomat-
ists, 298. China and Japan, 299. Results of war
with Japan, 300. France in China, 300. Connec-
tion between Catholic missionary troubles and
designs of France, 301. French course unjustifi-
able, 301. No trade, no marine, no interests in
China, 302. French not natural colonists, 302.
No points of natural contact with Chinese, 303.
Germany's opportunity, 303. How sacrificed, 304.
Maintenance of balance of power is graduated
spoliation, 305. Foreign concessions, 306. British
concession at Shanghai, 307. French Legation at
Peking, 308. French concession at Shanghai, 308.
Another form of spoliation, 311. Lord Charles
Beresford upon the practice, 312. Influence of
such acts upon Chinese, 313. Destructive of trade,





Chinese dynasties, 316. Genghis and Kublai
Khan, 316. Grand Canal, 317. Secret of success
of Manchu dynasty, 318. Narcotism of Chinese
rulers, 318. Origin of Chinese race, 319. Not a
mixed race, 320. No intermingling of blood, 320.
Eurasians, 321. Chinese uniform and identical in
racial traits, 322. Clans and quarrels, 323. Differ-
ences of dialect, 324. No geographical lines of
demarcation, 326. China shut away from other
nations, 326. Chinese Empire one great hive of
commerce, 327. Official travel and intercourse,

328. Chinese such a type as might be expected,

329. Modern Rip Van Winkle, 331. Dismember-
ment of China, 331. No sound arguments favoring
the scheme, 331. Real motive is plunder, 332.
Reason for British attitude, 332. Good ground for
complaints against Chinese administration, 333.
Easy and efficient measures of remedy at hand,
334. Concerted action of great Powers, 334.
Rivalries in China, 335. Lord Charles Beresford
upon foreign policy in China, 336. Archibald R.
Colquhoun, 338. Harold E. Gorst, 338. Great
Britain, Russia, foreign loan, and Wei Hai Wei,
338. European Powers at fault for troubles in
China, 340. Policy of the United States, 342. Re-
sults of quiet and friendly methods, 343. Argu-
ments against partition, 344. No solvent found for
the Chinaman, 345. Lack of success of Western
Powers in governing Oriental races, 346. Great
Britain in India, 346. Chinese able to govern
themselves, 348. Peace of Europe depends upon
the integrity of Chinese Empire, 349.




Not the concern of outsiders, 352. Natural but
dangerous to meddle, 352. Sweeping reforms
necessary, 354. Examples of corruption, 355-360.

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