d. 1894 Terrien de Lacouperie.

The children of China. Written for the children of England online

. (page 10 of 18)
Online Libraryd. 1894 Terrien de LacouperieThe children of China. Written for the children of England → online text (page 10 of 18)
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killed as soon as they are born, because nobody wants them, and
even their fathers and mothers would rather kill them than have
to spend money on their food and clothes. More baby-girls are
killed in the southern provinces than in the northern, because


there are more poor people iu the south tliau iu the north. They
are generally killed by being thrown into a tub of water, or a stream,
with something tied to them to make them sink, just as people in
England drown little kittens ; or else they are burned alive, which
is much more cruel; it is generally their fathers who kiU them. In
some parts of China even rich people kill their little girls, when
they have as many as they care to keep. This is the reason why
in some places there are so many more boys than girls.

There was one Chinese father, a blacksmith, who had two
little daughters one after the other, who were both taken ill when
they were quite little, and both died. By-and-bye a third little
girl was born, and the father and mother made up their minds that
it must be the same spirit that was in the other two babies, who
had come back in the third, and that it must be a wicked spirit,
as both the other babies had died. So the father collected a great
pile of wood, and made a big fire on his forge, and then put his
own little baby on the top, and stood by and watched it till it was
burnt to a cinder ; then he tied a stone to it, and threw it into a

There was another little baby girl, whose mother did not want
her, just because she was a girl and not a boy ; so she left her on
the floor all night, and took no notice of her. In the morning the
father came into the room, and when he saw the baby, he went to
fetch some water to drown it ; but while he was gone, a poor
woman came in, and saw what was going to happen ; so when the
father came back, she asked him not to kill the baby for a little
while, and then she went away to a lady missionary, who she knew
was very fond of children, and told her about it. The lady came
directly and asked the father to give the baby to her, instead of
drowning it, which he was quite ready to do, as he only wanted to
get rid of it. 80 the lady took it "to her own house, and fed it and
dressed it, and took care of it, but it very soon died. A little
while after, the same woman came to the lady with another story


about a father aud mother who wanted to sell their little gui, and
who meant, if nobody would buy her, to take her to some hills, and
leave her there to be eaten by wild dogs. This time, instead of
taking the baby to her own house, the lady said she would pay the
woman if she would nurse the baby for her ; so she did, and this
one did not die.

Another father, as soon as he found he had a little girl, laid
her on the ground and covered her over with a large dish, and
left her there to cry till she was smothered and died.

There are a great many dead children to be seen in China,
besides those who have been killed. Sometimes they are wrapped
up in mats and thrown into the river, or outside the walls of
cities ; sometimes they are hung from branches of trees, and
sometimes thrown into a baby-house — that is, a small building
with a hole in the side, built on purpose to put dead babies in.

The reason of this custom is a very strange one. When a
baby dies, it is supposed that its father or grandfather had not
paid his debts, and that the man to whom the money was owing
had died, and his spirit had come back in the baby to trouble the
family who had not paid him, by giving the care and expense of
a sick baby to nurse ; and that after doing this the spirit had gone
back home, leaviiDg the dead baby behind. So though the baby's
friends may take great care of it while it is ill, not being sure it
is an enemy, directty it is dead it is taken out of the house,
without a coifin, and thrown away. As it is carried out, the
house is swept, crackers are fired and gongs are beaten to frighten
the spirit, and keep it from coming back.

Some fathers and mothers, who do not want to kill their
little girls aud yet do not care to keep them, sell them to other
fathers and mothers to be mves for their sons. They are generally
sold when they are between three and ten years old, and live with
the people who buy them as if they were their children. The
price of a little girl is generally eight shillings for every year she


has lived, if she is vevij Httle, but if she is old enough to work
she will he more expensive. If a little girl has poor parents and
lives with them till she is married, they exp%ct her husband's
parents to pay them for having fed her and clothed her so long,
so that really parents may be said to buy wives for their sons.

_A Chinese child is not generally allowed to sit on a chair
till it is four months old; then it is supposed to need to be
taught how to sit ; this is done by covering the seat with soft
candy, so that the child sticks to it. I do not know whether
this is done all over China ; most likely not, but it is done in the
province of Fukien.

When the child is old enough to eat, it has boiled rice in
a basin and eats it with a spoon ; when it is three or four years
old, it begins to eat with chopsticks.

When a boy is about three months old, he has several things
placed in front of him — a pair of scales, a pair of shears, a
measure, a mirror, a pencil, some ink, paper, books, and other
things, and from what he first touches people say what he is going
to be when he grows up. If he puts his hand on a book or a pen,
they say he wiU be a great scholar ; if he touches the scales, they
suppose he will get rich in business ; and so on with the other

The very first thing a child is taught, is to worship idols
and the spirits of its dead relations, by moving its hands up and
down a few times. There is one goddess, called " Mother,'"' who
is supposed to take particular care of children till they are sixteen
years old; her birthday is kept on the fifteenth day of the first
month ; she is worshipped \r^ women all over China.

Children are taught to work almost as soon as they can
walk, and to work hard too, so that they are much too grave for
children —more like little men and women. Sometimes when a
visitor comes to a house, he asks to see the little boys ; then they
are sent for, and as soon as they come into the room, they kneel


down before the visitor, and knock their heads on the floor
several times, and then they get up and stand facing him, but
some distance off. All this is considered respectful, and very
great care is taken to teach Chinese children how to behave.

They have very few games or toys to play with when they
are little, but as soon as they go to school, they are told that
they must hehave like gentlemen, that they must not run and
jump, but walk soberly, and obey their teachers ; so it is not very
strange that they soon begin to copy men in bad things, and
learn to gamble with cards and dominoes, and anything that
can be gambled with. For the Chinese are terrible gamblers ;
if they have nothing else left, they will "even gamble with their
wives and their children, and then themselves, promising that if
the men they are 'playing with should be the winners, they will
give themselves to be their slaves !

Still cards and dominoes are not the only toys that boys and
men play with, though I do not think women and girls play with
anything else. The Chinese are the best makers and flyers of
kites in the world. They make them of all shapes, and so cleverly
that at a very little distance you could not tell the difference
between a real bird and a kite in the shape of a bird. They use
cords to fly them with, put through a round hole in such a way that
while they are in the air they make a noise like humming-tops.

The}^ I)lay several games with shuttlecocks too, but instead
of using a battledore they use their feet. One way of playing is
by kicking the shuttlecock behind them with the sole of the foot,
and then turning round so quickly that they can kick it again
before it drops ; that must be rather difficult, I think. Just go
out in the garden and try, if it doesn't rain, and see if you can
do it. They can keep up a shuttlecock in another way too for
as many as a hundred, or even two hundred kicks, by kicking
first with one foot and then with the other, now in front and
now behind.


They play at tip-cat too, and snobs or five-stones, and mud-
rubbing. Now, you cannot guess what that is. Five boys play
together ; one of them stoops down, and under his long dress
rubs one finger in the mud ; then the other four boys guess which
finger it was, but the one that guesses right loses instead of
canning, and has to drum gently with his fists on the backs of
the other four, which makes what they think a very nice feeling.
I expect you would think that rather poor fun. Would you like
a Chinese cricket-match any better, I wonder ? Not if you care
very much for English cricket matches. In a Chinese cricket-
match only two can play at once, and this is how it is fought.
The boys have a small bamboo tube, open at both ends, and each
has a stock of live crickets. One boy puts his cricket into the
tube at one end, and the other boy puts his in at the other, head
first. The crickets run up the tube and meet in the middle, and
then they fight. The ends of the tube are kept blocked up until
one cricket runs away, and as there is not room for them to pass
each other, the one that runs back to the end of the tube is the
beaten one, and the boy to wdiom the other belonged has won
the game.

They play " Puss-in-the- corner " too, only they call it " Four
Corners," and at chess and puzzles ; and in the tea-shops and at
public entertainments there are jugglers, musicians. Punch and
Judy shows, and marionettes.

As long as their parents are alive Chinese sons and daughters
obey them in everything. A grown-up man must not think of
choosing for himself what trade he will follow, or what woman
he will marry ; his father and mother settle it all for him. He does
not keep his own wages either, nor even spend his own money
without their consent ; at least, this is the rule, but the parents
often ask the sons what they would like, and let them have their
own way in many things.



CHINESE boy generally begins to learn to read when

j he is six or seven years old ; he goes to school when

he is ten, aud stays till he is fourteen or fifteen. There

is a very ancient law that every town and village must

have a school. In large towns there are night schools

for those who are at work in the day.

The schools open very early in the day, about seven o'clock,

and go on till four or five in the afternoon ; how would you like

such long hours as that ?

When a little boy begins to go to school, he also begins to
dress like a man, and to think himself very big indeed. The first
time he goes to school he takes with him two candles, three
sticks of incense, two pieces of paper money, worth about a half-
penny each, and three sheets of paper with pictures of clothes
on them. When he gets to the school he goes to the tablet of
Confucius, which stands in nearly every schoolroom in China, and
in front of this he lights his candles and burns his incense and
afterwards his paper, which he thinks will go to Confucius in the
form of money aud clothes. Then he bows down before the
schoolmaster four times. This is done, not only on first going to
school, but also on coming back after the holidays.

There is no propej' time allowed for dinner, but when the
master tells a boy he may go, he walks home and eats some rice


and comes back again directly ; Lis dinner only takes a very
few minutes to eat.

And what lessons does lie learn ? you will want to know.
The very first thing a Chinese boy learns (but then most of them
learn this before they go to school) is a few of the chief signs,
just as you begin with A, B, C. Most likely he will learn them
out of a book with pictures to show what the signs mean. Next
will come a little lesson in rhyme, which he will have to learn
by heart, and then he will begin a book called " The Three
Character Classic," which will also have to be learnt by heart.
This is the first little bit of the book put into English : —

" Wlien men are born their nature is good. Naturally men are
alike, but habit makes them differ ; if they are not taught, their
nature will change." That is very different from what we learn
out of the Bible, that men are born in sin ( ), and that

they cannot be good, unless they get good hearts ( ).

It takes a boy about two months to learn through this book
and most of that time will be spent in learning it and saying it.
The first hour at school in the morning is generally spent in
repeating the last lesson learned the day before ; then the boy
will learn another piece, and in the afternoon he will first repeat
what he learned in the morning, and then learn some more.

After the "Three Character Classic" comes the "Thousand
Character Classic," which was written for rather a funny reason.
A great mandarin in the reign of the Tsin Kings had ofi'ended
his sovereign and was going to be beheaded ; but the king sent
him word that he would forgive him, if he would write a good,
sensible book with a tliousand difierent signs in it, without ever
using the same sign more than once, — a very difficult task. The
man was so anxious not to be killed, that he set to work at once
and wrote the book, and the king was so pleased with it, that he
forgave the man, and let him be a mandarin again.

The next book to be learned is a veiy strange one for a



school-book. I expect yon would think it wasting time to learn
ont of it, for there is nothing in it hut a list of Chinese surnames.
You remember I told you there are only about two hundred


different ones altogether. The most common surname of all is


Now the boy is ready to begin " The Four Books " that I
told you about before, and I think you will understand without
my telling j^ou any more, what else he will have to do, if he means


to be a clever mau. Of course lie must learn to write, aud this
lie will be taught in a copy-book, but not like yours. I expect
you had a copy on the top line of your book, and you had to write
some more like it below with a pen or pencil ; but a Chinese boy
learns to write with a brush, and he writes on paper that he can
see through, with the copy underneath it, so that he writes over
the copy instead of below it ; he has very large signs to begin
with and smaller ones afterwards. When he can do this quite
neatly, he will have to do without the copy underneath ; instead
of it, there will only be a piece of paper, ruled in squares, and in
these squares he will have to make the signs from memory.

Instead of a slate, he has a board painted w^hite, and when he
has written his exercise and had it corrected, he washes it off.

So you see Chinese school-boys spend nearly all their time in
learning and repeating ; they do not even understand the meaning
of the words they learn, and the teacher never explains them till
the boys know the books right through. It must be rather dull
work learning like that. There are no lessons in geography
or arithmetic, languages, music or drawing, very little of the
history of China, and none of that of any other countr3^

The lessons are all learned aloud, so think what a noisy j)lace
a Chinese schoolroom must be. The boys all stand round the
master at first wdth their books open ; he reads a few words, and
the boys repeat them with him till they know the names of all
the signs in the lesson ; then they go to then- places and shout
it, not all together, but each for himself, till they all know it ; I
think it would make your heads ache to sit with them for an hour.

When a boy knows his piece, he does what he calls " Backing
the Book," what you would call saying his lesson. Instead of
standing mtli his face to the teacher, he turns his back to him,
so that he shall not be able to see the book ; but shall I tell you
w^hat he does instead, if he can manage it ? He agrees with
another boy that he will hold bis book so that the other can see


tlie lesson he is sayiug, on condition that the other boy will do
the same for him, so there is plenty of cheating in Chinese schools.

The schools in China are generally small ; there are not often
more than thirty boys in one school. They have no playground,
and what you would think still worse, I expect, hardly any
holidays. There is no weekly day of rest either, so they just
go on at school, day after day, seven days in every week, only on
a great festival day they get a holiday, and they have a few weeks
when the New Year begins, that is all. Now, if you are an
English school-boy and think you have a hard time of it, and
are a little inclined to grumble sometimes, because the lessons are
hard, and the master is strict, and the holidays are not half long
enough, just think how much better off you are than a Chinese
schoolboy, and instead of grumbling again, work as hard as ever
you can, and take as much pains to be a clever boy, as the Chinese
scholars generally do.

A few very good directions are given to boys when they go
to school. They are told not to say things with their mouths, while
their minds are thinking of something else, and not to be satisfied
with half understanding a thing, but to ask that it may be
explained. There is very little punishing in Chinese schools :
instead of punishing the boys for being naughty, the masters
praise them for being good, and try to persuade them to be better
still. I think that is how God likes }li8 scholars to work, not
because they are afraid of being punished if they do badly, but
because they know He will be pleased if they do well, and the
very happiest thing in the world is to please God.

If a boy will not be persuaded, but keeps on being naughty,
he is made to stay on his knees before his seat, or else at the
door, till a stick of incense, which he holds in his hand, has burned
down to a certain point. Whipping is not tried until everything
else has failed. Sometimes the master will strike a boy's head
with his knuckles; if that does no good, he beats his hands and


his back with a piece of wood ; if the bo}^ is still naughty, the
master lays hiin across his knees, and beats him with a bamboo.
Another punishment is to make a boy hold a vessel quite full of
water on his head, and whip him if he spills any.

There are plenty of children's books in China ; most of them
are full of stories of boys who studied hard and became great
men, or of loving sons who got on well in life, because they were
good to their parents.

And what about the girls ? In a very few places there are
schools for girls, taught by female teachers ; but generally girls are
not sent to school at all, and even the missionaries' wives often
have to pay them to come to their schools, because the mothers
say they cannot afford to do without the children's work, and
the fathers say that girls are hard enough to manage when they
are not taught, and would be still worse if they were. Sometimes,
however, the richer parents will let their daughters be taught at
home, especially if they have a private teacher for their sons,
instead of sending them to school ; then they will let the girls
study with the boys till they are thirteen or fourteen years old.
The old books say that women and girls ought only to learn to
behave well and to look after the house, but that they should
never open a book, or if they forget that they are only girls and
open one, the}' must not read it, but shut it up directly. Are
you not sorry for the poor little girls ? and would you not like
to do something for them ?




HINESE doctors are very strange people, you will
think, and they do very strange things to their patients,
because they have such strange thoughts about sick-
ness. They believe it is always caused by the anger
of a god or else of a spirit ; so when anyone is taken
ill, the first thing his friends do is to try to find out
which of these two causes has made him ill. If they think it is
a god who has done it, they offer sacrifices, to j^ersuade him to
make the sick man well again. If they think it is an evil spirit,
they send for a priest to drive it out.

Diseases that seem to settle in a place — epidemics we call
them — are said to be arranged by five gods, called " The Five
Emperors." A common way of frightening a child is to tell it
that the Five Emperors will catch it ; there are a great many
temples where j)eople go to pray and sacrifice to these gods

AVheu any member of a family begins to be ill, his relations
sacrifice before the ancestral tablets, in case it may be one of
his dead relations who is troubling him. If he does not get
better after this, they send for a priest, to tell them whether it
is the spirit of one of his relations who is making him ill, or a
beggar spirit, who is trying this way of getting food and clothes.
If the priest says it is a relation's spirit, they put a great deal of
money before the ancestral tablets ; if he says it is a beggar spirit,
they burn paper money outside the street door.


Every person is supposed to have three souls, one in his head,
one in his chest, and one in his feet, so if a sick man gets uncon-
scious, or his feet grow cohl, the reason is said to be that one ot
his souls has left the body, or has been caught by a wandering
spirit, so one of his relations goes outside the door with a lantern
and a dress belonging to the sick man, and calls to the spirit to
come back.

There are no good Chinese doctors. In England, you know,
it takes a gentleman a long time and a great deal of trouble to
be a doctor, and he will have to pass a great many examinations
before he may order medicine for sick people ; but if a Chinaman
wants to be a doctor, he can do it without learning anything, and
many Chinese doctors keep a shop where they sell medicines —
such strange medicines, too : tigers' bones, goats'[horns and blood,
boiled and ground and made into cakes, and other things just as
funny. Many of the medicines are tied up in little packets, only
holding one dose each, and on the outside is written what disease
they wall cure.

Another idea is that for a disease in the upper part of the
body, such as a headache or stiff neck, the proper medicine to
take is the top part of a plant ; for a disease in the middle part
of the body, such as side-ache or a pain in the back, a Chinese
doctor would give the middle part of a plant ; while for corns or
chilblains on the feet, he would give the root of the plant — that
is an easy way of doctoring, is it not ? However, in spite of
these strange notions, Chinese doctors generally know a good
deal about herbs, so that they are often able to cure small diseases
very quickly, and even foreigners go to ask their advice if they
are only poorly, and not seriously ill. They tliiuk a great deal
of sleep too, and say that ten nights of sleep will not make up
for one night of lying awake.

But they know nothing about the insides of people's l)odies,
because they would never thiuk of cutting up a dead man, or


even a dead animal, to see liow they are made ; and if a man had
a very bad leg, he would much rather die and keep his leg on, than
have it taken off and keep alive, because he would expect that if
he died with only one leg, he would only have one in the next
world, so few Chinamen would ever think of letting an}^ part of
their body be cut off, however much diseased it was. People who
belong to the Buddhist religion will sometimes burn their fingers,
and even their arms and legs, to give them to Buddha, but then
they expect a great reward for this. In places where Europeans
are known, some of the less bigoted Chinese are beginning now to
consent to have operations performed on them, if they cannot be
kept alive without.

The Chinese suffer very much from sores, partly because they
are so dirty ; and the doctors, instead of trying to make them
better, very often try to make them worse, so that they shall have
them as patients for a long time and get more money ; then when

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Online Libraryd. 1894 Terrien de LacouperieThe children of China. Written for the children of England → online text (page 10 of 18)