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The Long-Lived Empire


From a iwintiiig on eilk by Li 8bih C'liuan.


The Long-Lived Empire


Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore

Author of "Jinrikisha Days in Japan," and
"Java: The Garden of the East"

New York
The Century Co.


Copyright, 1899, 1900, by
The Century Co.

The DeVinne Press.








In adding to the long list of books about China,
one .can only hope to give another individual expe-
rience and point of view, to add new testimony to
that so abundantly offered. No one can cover the
whole field, give the only key, or utter the last word ;
and during seven visits to China in the last fifteen
years, the mystery of its people and the enigma of
its future have only increased. It is such an impos-
sible, incomprehensible country that one labors vainly
to show it clearly to others. To the hypercritical
residents of treaty ports, aU writers have gone astray
among the plainest Chinese facts ; but as these same
critics often controvert one another, the outsider can
claim a certain privilege, while at the same time beg-
ging their indulgence for his views.

Every effort has been made to attain accuracy, but
in the face of so much conflicting testimony, of so
many contradictory statements, no one can expect
general indorsement. The chaos of all things Chinese
is well illustrated in the spelling or transliteration of
the characters for place-names. One finds Chifu and
Chefoo used with equal authority ; Chili, Chihli, or
Dshy-ly; Taku or Dagu; Kau-lung or Kowloou.


Each European spells according to the genius of his
own language, and in several instances general Eng-
lish usage does not agree with the form or forms
given by Consul Playfair in his '' Geographical Dic-
tionary." The majority of sinologues are agreed that
the English spelling or trunshteration of place-names
used by the Imperial Maritime Customs on letter-heads
and postal canceling-stamps should be accepted by
foreigners in China. There is no society among Chi-
nese literati for the Romanization or uniform trans-
literation of Chinese characters ; and Chinese delegates
to international Oriental congresses in Europe are
usually silent, wliile German, Enghsh, and French
sinologues argue ferventl}' for or against te or teh, or
other fundamental syllables. The Twelfth Oriental
Congress at Rome, in 1899, left this transliteration
still an unfinished question, although, as one of the
secretaries of Section IV, it was my privilege to make
record of two long sessions of excited debate.

I have a great indebtedness to acknowledge to the
many authors whose works are quoted and referred to
in this volume, and to many residents in treat}' ports
whose courtesies and hospitalities relieved the depres-
sion which Chinese environment and the discouraging
state of China, the nation, too often cause.

E. R. S.

WAsni\(iT()\, D. C,

March 31, 1000.



I. The Degenerate Empire 1

II. The Edge of Chihli ..... 13

III. Tientsin 20

IV. Shanhaikwan 30

V, As Marco Polo Went 50

VI. Pei-ching, the Northern Capital . . 61

VII. The Tatar City of Kublai Khan . . .85

VIII. Imperial, Purple Peking .... 102

IX. The Decadence OF the Manchus . . .117

X. TszE Hsi An the Great 127

XI. The Strangers' Quarter 143

XII. Christian Missions 158

XIII. Tatar Fus and Fairs 1G6

XIV. Chinese Peking 188

XV. Without the Walls 201

XVI. The Environs of Peking .... 215

XVII. The Great Wall of China 227

XVIII. The Valley of the Ming Tombs . . . 250

XIX. Suburban Temples 266

XX. To Shanghai 275

XXI. The Great Bore of Hangchow .... 294



XXII. In a Provincial Yamun 319

XXIII. The Lower Yangtsze 333

XXIV. The Eiver of Fragrant Tea-fields . . 353
XXV. A Thousand Miles up the Yangtsze . . 377

XXVI. A KwATszE ON the Yangtsze . . 406

XXVII. The City of Canton 430

XXVm. The Chinese New Year 444


The Empress Dowager— Showing Costume before

Twenty-five Years of Age . . . Frontispiece
From a painting on silk by Li Shili Ch'uan.


Hunting-eagles Bound for Manchuria . . . .33

The Sea-shore End of the Great "Wall ... 41

Debris of the Great Wall of China . . . .45

A Manchurian Samovar 49

Native Boats on the Pei-ho River 53

"Walls of Peking, with Continuous Stream of Camels 63

"Walls of Peking, and Moat in "Winter ... 63

Map of Peking 67

Pailow at the "West End of Legation Street . . 71

The Manchu Head-dress 75

A Peking Cart 79

Porcelain Pailow before the Hall of Classics . . 89

British Tourist in Disguise 95

Sun-dial at the Hall of Classics 99

The "V^iceroy Li Hung Chang 113

A Manchu Hair-pin, Back View 129

Kang Yu "Wei '. ... 137

From " Harper's Weekly"

Fruit-stall in Front of the French Legation . , 147

At the Old Fu 169




Trained Birds 177

Feather-dusters for Sale— Entrance-gate of Lung-

FU-SSU 181

Honeyed Crab-apples 184

Pigeon Whistles ........ 187

Chrysanthemum Gardener 211

Chrysanthemum Garden— Winter Quarters . 211

Coal Mining and Transportation 217

A Caravan Outside the Walls of Peking . . . 229

In the Nankou Pass 235

The Pa-ta-ling Gate 241

The Great Wall . . .245

Catching Singing Insects 257

Chinese Inn near Peking 263

A Suburban Canal 283

In Old Shanghai 289

A Marble Bridge 296

Map of Hangchow Bay to Tsien-tang River, with
Waterways from Shanghai to Haininvj, Hang-
chow . . 301

The Great Bore 305

Junks Riding in on the After-rush . . .311

On the Bank 323

TjITtle Orphan Island, in the Yangtsze below Lake

PoYANG 343

In the <1k?:en-tea Country AROUND Lake PovANG . 349
The Native Bind, Hankow, at Low Water . . .361
Approach and Masonry Front ok Cavi; Temple near

Ichang 381

The Foreign Settlkment of Ichang and Tiir; Graveyard

Golf-links 387



Stepping the Mast at Ichang 391

Otter-fishing at Ichang 395

Valley behind Ichang; Flooded Rice-fields; Ichang

Pagoda on the River-bank in the Distance . 399

Sails in the Gorge of Ichang, with a Red Life-boat in

the Foreground 403

Trackers on the Upper Yangtsze 409

Descending Ta Dung Rapids 413

Old Wrinkles, the Fo'c's'le Cook 418

Entrance of Ichang Gorge, Upper End .... 427
In the Temple of the Five Hundred Genii . . . 435
The Execution-ground at Canton .... 439
Five-storied Pagoda on City Wall, Canton . . . 443

A Canton Street 445

The Crooked Bamboo, Fa-Ti Gardens, Canton . . 449
The Creek between Shameen and the Native City,
Canton , 453






JHINA has been an old country for forty
centuries. It has been dying of old age
and senile decay for all of this century ;
its vitality running low, heart-stilling
and soul-benumbing, slowly ossifying
for this hundred years. During this wonderful cen-
tury of Western progress it has swung slowly to
a standstill, to a state of arrested existence, then ret-
rograded, and the world watches now for the last
symptoms and extinction.

But it lives, nevertheless, the ancestor kingdom
of all the world, the long-lived, undying empire.
Since time prehistoric, its vitality has often ebbed
low in recurring cycles, its history has often been re-
peated in these ages since it gave civilization, arts,
letters, languages to the Far East, saw ephemeral
Persia and Macedon, Babylonia, Assyria, Egypt,
Greece, and Rome rise and fall, watched them built
up and broken up, while it endured.
1 1


This present " break-up of China," a catch-phrase
wiiich has lately roused Occidental interest and anx-
iety, is an old story, very often repeated in this oldest
surviviii«^ empire of the world, an old-new subject
fittingly dismissed in Colonel Yide's small foot-note
thirty years ago : " It has broken up before."

Such a crisis, a mere break-up or change of dy-
nasty, is nothing new to Confucius's people, and China
will continue to break up at intervals for thousands
of more years to come ; the Chinese remaining the
one same, homogeneous, unchanging, incomprehensi-
ble people— the Chinese, only the Chinese, forever
tlie Chinese, no matter under what alien flag they
toil, by what outer people they are conquered, or be-
nevolently protected in inalienable spheres of influ-
ence. The physical endurance and vitality of the
people as a race are no more remarkable than the
endurance of the nation, of the body politic known as
China, the survival of the decayed, crumbling, honey-
combed old empire long after it should have logically
ceased to hold together or exist.

Defying age and time and progress and the harsh
impact of Western civilization, China continues, and
will continue, to be China— whether "for the Chi-
nese " only some centuries can tell. That same shib-
l)oleth of tlie handful of reformers to-day, ''China for
tlie Chinese," is thousands of j'ears old, too, heard
each time the em])ire was exploited by northern Ta-
tars, each time a native dynasty arose. It is raised
now, as time-honored custom ordains, when yet an-
other Tatar coiKpu'i-or advances from the north, and
vital tlinists are Ix-iiii:- dealt from the south, the east.


and the west. There was a worse state prevailing
when Confucius wandered from state to state, trying
to rouse the rulers and people, and time may have
only swung round again for another great moral
teacher to rise up, scourge and lead this certainly
chosen people.

The Occident is fortunate in assisting at one of the
many great downfalls, but it need not assume that
this is at all the end, the absolute and final ruin, the
last wreck and crash of the old empire, of its curious,
four-thousand-year-old civilization, all because the
present parvenu Manchu dynasty happens to fall. " It
has broken up before."

One may see now the same ancient, original China,
the same conditions as in the middle ages; and he
may have every theory upset, every sense and senti-
ment offended, by an old civilization in rank decay.
This spectacle awaits one everywhere in the eighteen
provinces, and will continue to, through the years, as
historical plays continue for days in a Chinese the-
ater. The spectator need not hasten to his seat be-
cause the curtain has risen. The present ''break-up"
will be more than a long- running trilogy on the
world's stage, and the audiences will go in and out
many times before the curtain falls on even this
Manchu interlude in the empire drama.

The world, our crude, young, boisterous Western
side of it, has only begun to discover Asia. Since
there are no more new worlds to conquer, it must
grapple with the oldest one. The Oriental is the
problem of the century to come, as man was the ques-
tion of the eighteenth century, and woman the mys-


tery of the one just closed. Our Western world only
discovered actual China in the year 1894, after the
battle of the Yalu River and the other sweeping victo-
ries of the Japanese war. Before that war, an imagi-
nary, fantastic, picturesque, spectacular, and bizarre
sort of a bogy China had haunted European minds
—that indefinable, romantic specter, the Yellow Peril,
that no lessons of previous military campaigns, nor
repeated exposures, could lay. The world wanted to
be humbugged about China. It hugged its delusions
to the last moment of absurdity, read fairy and Mun-
chausen tales, and was deaf to what Gordon and Yule
and Wilson distinctly said.

" One cannot but wonder, " said Abbe Hue, " how
people in Europe could ever take it into their heads
that China was a kind of vast academy peopled with
sages and philosophers. . . . The Celestial Empire
has much more resemblance to an immense fair,
where, amid a perpetual flux and reflux of buyers
and sellers, of brokers, loungers, and thieves, you see
in all quarters stages and mountebanks, jokers and
comedians, lal^oring uninterruptedly to amuse the

"W^ien Oriental met Oriental in 1894, the bubble of
China burst, its measure was taken, and the huge
Humpty-Dumpty of the Far East, General Wilson's
" boneless giant," fell, and relegated the Yellow Peril
of militant Europe's nightmares to the consideration
of comic journals only.

No Occidental ever saw within or understood the
working of tlie yellow brain, which starts from and
arrives at a different point by reverse and inverse


processes we can neither follow nor comprehend. No
one knows or ever will really know the Chinese— the
heart and soul and springs of thought of the most
incomprehensible, unfathomable, inscrutable, contra-
dictory, logical, and illogical people on earth. Of all
Orientals, no race is so alien. Not a memory nor a
custom, not a tradition nor an idea, not a root-word
nor a symbol of any kind associates our past with
their past. There is little sympathy, no kinship nor
common feeling, and never affection possible between
the Anglo-Saxon and the Chinese. Nothing in Chinese
character or traits appeals warmly to our hearts or
imagination, nothing touches; and of all the people
of earth they most entirely lack " soul," charm, mag-
netism, attractiveness. We may yield them an intel-
lectual admiration on some grounds, but no warmer
pulse beats for them. There are chiefly points of con-
tradiction between them and ourselves.

Their very numbers and sameness appal one, the
frightful likeness of any one individual to all the
other three hundred odd millions of his own people.
Everywhere, from end to end of the vast empire, one
finds them cast in the same unvaiying physical and
mental mold— the same yellow skin, hard features,
and harsh, mechanical voice ; the same houses, graves,
and clothes ; the same prejudices, superstitions, and
customs ; the same selfish conservatism, blind worship
of precedent and antiquity ; a monotony, unanim-
ity, and repetition of life, character, and incident,
that offend one almost to resentment. Everywhere
on their tenth of the globe, from the edge of Siberia
to the end of Cochin China, the same ignoble queue


and the senseless cotton shoe are worn ; everywhere
this fifth of the human race is sunk in dirt and dis-
order, decadent, degenerate, indifferent to a fallen
estate, consumed with conceit, selfish, vain, cowardly,
and superstitious, without imagination, sentiment,
chivalry, or sense of humor, combating with most
zeal anything that would alter conditions even for
the better, indifferent as to who rules or usurps the
throne. There is no word or written character for
patriotism in the language, hardly good ground in
their minds and hearts for planting the seed of that
sentiment, but there are one hundred and fifty ways
of writing the cliaracters for good luck and long life.
And yet in no country have political martyrs ever
died more nobly and unselfishly than those reformers
executed at Peking in 1898. Although Mongol, Ming,
and Manchu won the empire by arms, the soldier is
despised, as much the butt of dramatists as the priest.
There is no respect or consideration for woman, who
is a despised, inferior, and soulless creature, a chat-
tel ; yet three times in these last forty years the
dragon throne has been seized and the country hur-
ried on to ruin by the same high-tempered, strong-
willed, vindictive old Manchu dowager odalisk.

It is a land of contradictions, puzzles, mysteries,
enigmas. Chinese character is only the more com-
plex, intricate, baffling, ijiscrntable, and exasperating
eacli time and the longer it confronts one. Whatever
decision one arrives at, he is soon given reason to
retreat from it.

I gave up the conundrum of this people, abjured
" that oilskin mystery, tlie Cliinaman," more devoutly


each day of six visits to China, and on the seventh
visit the questions were that many times the more
baffling. One can both agree and disagree with the
four-day tourist, who sums up the Chinese convin-
cingly, with brutal, practical, skeptical common sense,
and can echo his irreverent and wholesale condemna-
tion and contempt when he has once seen the land
and the revolting conditions in which the people live.
One agrees and disagrees, too, with the sinologues,
who are usually sinophiles, that the Chinese are the
one great race and fine flower of all Asia, a superior
people, the world's greatest and earliest teachers, its
future leaders and rulers, the chosen people; China
a vast reserve reservoir of humanity to repeople and
revive decadent, dying Europe ; the Chinese destined
tounderlive, override, and outdo all the pale races ; the
whole hope of humanity bound up in this yellow people.
Everything seems dead, dying, ruined, or going to
decay in this greatest empire of one race and people.
There seems no living spring nor beating heart in the
inert mass. Religion, morality, literature, the arts
and finer industries are all at least comatose. Their
three great religions are dead ; two systems of ignoble
superstitions live. Literature is a fossil thing, all hol-
low form and artifice, the empty shell of dead con-
ventions. The arts have died, the genius of the race
has fled. They have lost the powers they once com-
manded, and have acquired no new ones. Tliere is
little joy, light-heartedness, or laughter in the race,
and their greatest virtue, filial piety, is demoralized,
degraded by the soulless, craven cult of ancestor-
worship. China in its present stage, with the desper-


ate problems it presents, is a melancholy and depressing
place, intensely interesting, full of "questions," but not
enjoyable in enjoyment's literal sense.

While India and Japan, on either side of it, overflow
with tourists the year round, and railways, hotels,
couriers, guides, and guide-books minister to this an-
nual army, China, although open to foreign trade
many years before the adjacent islands, lacks all this
life and industry. Neither Murray nor Baedeker has
penetrated the empire,— they have no need to; none
calls them,— and Cook has only touched the edge of it
at Canton. No pleasure-travelers make a tour of
China, and the round-the-world tourist, the commonly
and contemptuously termed ''globe-trotter" of the
Far East, usually sees Shanghai during the few hours
his steamer anchors at Wusung ; "■ does " Canton as
an excursion from imperial, model, British Hong-
kong, and vies with his fellow-tourists in extravagant
descriptions of its general offensiveness, and the haste
with which he leaves it.

In the spring and autumn there are a few tourists in
Peking, but they are not a twentieth, not a fiftieth,
of the travelers who pass the coasts of China on the
grand round of the globe. No inducements are
offered, no jn'ovision is made, for the tourist in China ;
nothing ministers to, no one caters to, his wants and
needs. The foreign residents in treaty ports look
coldly and listen ])atiently to those who wish to ti'avel
in the interior, and a tourist's zeal oozes away in their
presence. Every dejiarture from railway or steam-
ship routes is like a journey of ex])l<)ration ; })nt
without the excitement, surprises, and rewards of real


discovery, one's energy soon lags in the opening of
personal routes, and one longs to be on a beaten track,
to have a coupon ticket, to be personally conducted
in flocks. The hostility of the people, combined with
a certain fraternity and equality ; the close shoulder-
ing and elbowing of the filthy crowds whose solid,
stolid, bovine stare, continued for hours, unpleasantly
mesmerizes one ; the inevitable wrangling, haggling,
and bribing before one can get in or out of any show-
place, and the awful Chinese voice— in fact, the whole
scheme and plan of the world Chinese — wear upon one,
'' get upon one's nerves," in a way and to a degree
difficult to explain. Then nothing Chinese seems
worth seeing ; one has only a frantic, irrational desire
to get away from it, to escape it, to return to civili-
zation, decency, cleanliness, quiet, and order. The
mere tourist, the traveler without an errand or an ob-
ject beyond entertainment, finds that inner China
does not entertain, amuse, please, or soothe him
enough to balance the discomforts. He soon feels
that he must go, and China's edge is paved with broken
intentions, travelers' plans and itineraries abandoned
with zeal. He may be surprised by many things,
deeply interested, but admiration is a reserve senti-
ment, not often called upon in the course of any
tour. '' Better fifty years of Europe than a cycle of
Cathay " understates too eloquently.

The bibliography of China is so extensive that it
should be the best-known country of the East. Since
"Marco Polo, Friar Odoric, Ibn Batuta, and Rashuddin,
a legion of travelers have written ; but Marco Polo
and these others without Colonel Yule would be less


known to the Western world than Omar without
Fitzgerald, and Colonel Yule's commentaries upon
the Venetian and the other early visitors furnish a
small encyclopedia of things Chinese. The '^ Lettres
Edifiantes " of the Jesuit priests and their memoirs
are a storehouse of contemporary history. With the
opening of China, a little group of scholarly mis-
sionaries began their literary labors, and there have
resulted the standard dictionaries and grammars
and inniimerable translations of the Chinese classics.
Those two solid volumes, " The Middle Kingdom, "
by the American scholar and missionary. Dr. Wells
Williams, hold all of China, and are the treasury for
everything— histor}-, topography, literature, customs,
philosophy, religion, and arts. Archdeacon Gray has
described the social life and customs of the Cantonese,
and Dr. Doolittle those of the Fu-kien people. No-
thing can ever displace Dr. Arthur Smith's " Chinese
Characteristics," the keenest and most appreciative
study of the Chinese human being yet made ; and
his "Chinese Village" is a worthy sequel. Other
Protestant teachers who made notable contributions
are Edkins, Macgowan, Parker, Hart, Milne, Moule,
Morrison, ]Martin, Williamson, Holconibe, and Reid.

Abbe Hue remains first of all travelers in this cen-
tury, his narrative being as vivid and true, as piquant,
to-day as a half-(;entury ago. After the abbe, the
best books of pure travel, the most interesting nar-
ratives, liave been written by women — jNIiss Gordon-
Cumniiiig and ]Mrs. Bisliop.

The Britisli consular service in China is a long roll
of literarv honor, the line of scholars and WTiters


beginning with that most eminent pioneer, Sir Thomas
Wade, by whose method the sinologues of this gener-
ation acquired the Chinese language. Sir Harry
Parkes, Sir Chaloner Alabaster, Sir Robert Hart,
Messrs. Hosie, Baber, Parker, Watters, Margary,
Grosvenor, Bourne, Douglass, Legge, Giles, and Bush-
ell have worthily continued the literary traditions of
that eminent service.

The direct, practical, clear-headed, straightforward
account of China given by the American soldier,
General James H. Wilson, is the most interesting
book for the general reader, and the best contribu-
tion by any military man, while Sir Charles Beres-
ford's broadly compiled yellow book puts commercial
and military China in the clearest light. Political
writers— Lord Curzon, Henry Norman, Messrs. Boul-
ger, Chirol, Colquhoun, Gorst, Gundry, Krausse, and
Morrison— have presented every phase of each Chi-
nese question as it rose, while the reviews and cur-
rent literature teem with discussions of the '^ open
door" and the envied spheres.

Chinese art has been epitomized in M. Paleologue's
admirable handbook, ''L'Art Cliinois." M. Grandi-
dieiT's ".La Ceraniique Chinois," Mr. Hippisley's ''Cata-
logue of Chinese Porcelains" (written for the United
States National Museum), Dr. Bushell's superb " Ori-
ental Porcelain" (the catalogue of the collection of
Mr, W. T. Walters of Baltimore, and a unique ex-
ample of the art of book-making), Mr. Golland's
''Chinese Porcelains," and Mr. Heber Bishop's ex-
haustive work on jade, leave little to be said in the
field of art.


French, German, and Russian writers in lesser

Online LibraryEliza Ruhamah ScidmoreChina, the long-lived empire → online text (page 1 of 24)