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would recognize the absurdity of their pretension
if the rival claim were properly presented.

What Taine wrote of certain of the gaudier
churches of Italy: "Des casinos a 1' usage des
cervelles imaginatives," is not a mere rhetorical
slur, but a better description than any that I
can give of these pagoda temples of Burma.
\Vhile in Rangoon I spent most of my time in
the bazaars and in the precincts of the great
Shwe Dagon Pagoda, INIonks, nuns, priests,
shopkeepers, jugglers, peddlers and pilgrims
were coming and going there all day. No ca-
sino in Europe can show a greater vairiety of
visitors. This pagoda is said to contain actual
relics of Buddha, and pilgrims come from all
over the Eastern world, from India, Siam, Korea,
to worship here. I saw Hindus, Siamese, Jap-
anese, Koreans, Chinese there, all in one morn-
ing; and the sick and diseased carried in chairs
and litters, from what far-off regions I know not,
were there too. It was almost painful to see the
excitement, the awe, the scared expression on the
faces of some of the pilgrims, as they made theu'
way slowly, and with frequent obeisances, tow-
ard the shrine; while others listen with wonder
in their eyes, as a guide describes glibly the
meaning of the frescoes on the beams and panels
of the wooden roofs, which cover the long stairs.



JOHN CHINAMAN 377

They have not been weaned from an abject
behef in God in the East, and I am not sure that
this is not the real cleavage between us. There
must be a mighty difference between the races
who believe in God and the races who invent
Him.

If the reader will look at a map, he will see
that the Bay of Bengal, which is a part of the
Indian Ocean really, which reaches up between
Ceylon and India on the west, and the Straits
Settlements, Siam and Burma on the east, has
two ports, Ceylon and Singapore, at each end
roughly of the surrounding land. These two
ports are the switch-boards for all the going and
coming between East and West. Ten thousand
vessels, with a tonnage of over ten million tons,
come and go here at Singapore in a year, and
some fifteen thousand native craft besides.
Bound north or south, east or west, you start
from, or change, or call in passing, at Ceylon or
at Singapore, and if it be Singapore, as in my
case, when you get there you can almost step off
on to the equator.

WTiy that imaginary line attracts so much at-
tention is hard to explain. Twice when I have
crossed it, we were all eager to know just when
we should cross, as though we expected a bump
or jar of some sort; and the passengers on the



378 THE WEST IN THE EAST

Tara which carried us from Rangoon to Singa-
pore seemed to feel that nearness to the equator
added in some way to one's dignity.

To those who only read of the plague as a de-
vouring monster too distant for menace to one-
self, it is startling to be obliged to appear before
a doctor for examination before embarking, and
to be threatened with a heavy fine by the au-
thorities at Singapore, if one fails to appear regu-
larly each day, for a certain number of days, to
assure the health officer that one is not carrying
about the germs of disease. Evidently warnings
were out all along the coast, that the monster
was preparing for the outbreak, which some six
months later began its ravages in Manchuria.
Even a strong man looks at his tongue, feels his
pulse, watches his appetite for those few days of
examination, with absorbing and anxious in-
terest.

At Singapore with its two hundred and thirty
thousand inhabitants, of w^hom all but some ten
thousand are Asiatics, one touches the fringe of
China and the Chinese. The area of China is
one-third the whole of Asia and half as large
again as all Europe, and the population of
China is half that of all Asia and about equal
to the total population of Europe. No wonder
they spill over all along these coasts, and the



JOHN CHINAMAN 379

traveller realizes that the Chinese are a migratory
people, and so far as one can see a welcome ad-
dition to the working population everywhere.

There are large communities of Chinese at
Cholen, Penang, Singapore, Bangkok, Hong-
kong, and at Rangoon, Mandalay, Batavia, and
Manila. They become not only the shop-
keepers and retailers, but they manage steam-
ships, own mines and mills, and even supply cap-
ital for joint-stock companies. There are more
Chinese than Malays in the Malay States; there
are some three millions of them in Siam; they
are the preponderating power in French Cochin-
China and Tonking, and out of a population
of 320,000 in Hongkong 310,000 are Chinese;
while in the Philippine Islands, despite the
Chinese Exclusion Act, applied to the Philip-
pines in 1902, there are some 50,000 Chinese in
the islands, and 25,000 Americans and Euro-
peans.

Given the opportunity afforded by equal laws,
fair taxation, absence of "squeeze," the short
name for oflScial embezzlement, and they become
in other countries not merely hard-working and
economically living coolies, but merchants, ship-
owners, owners and workers of mines, bankers,
and rank in their commercial integrity with the
best. All over the Far East, and wherever in



380 THE A\1EST IN THE EAST

the West we have deaUngs with the Chinese,
there is nothing but praise of their punctiHous
honesty and honor as traders. They are a peo-
ple of great physical adaptability. All climates
seem to suit them and they are equally at home in
Siberia, in India, in South America, or in Can-
ada ; and even in the days before American con-
trol, when Panama was a death-trap, they went
there.

The Malay is a gentleman, a gentleman of the
kind described by an English groom: *"Ad hall
the hinstincts of a gentleman, 'unts, wears a top-
'at, and lives hout 'Eadingly way!" The Ma-
lay loves idleness and fine clothes, and upsets
the dictum of Voltaire completely: "Le repos est
une bonne chose, mais I'ennui est son frere," for
he is apparently never tired or bored by idleness.
I suppose somewhere and sometimes he works,
but in the few days I was in and about Singa-
pore, I never detected him in any form of useful
activity. Perhaps the women support the men;
at all events the Malays have asserted the primi-
tive rights of man, and it is the men who strut
in the fine feathers. To see a Malay in a hy-
brid costume of East and West with a bowler
hat on the side of his head, and a cigar in the
comer of his mouth, taking the air of an even-
ing drawn by a sweating Chinese, is to see an



JOHN CHINAMAN 381

economic puzzle indeed. How he procures the
wherewithal, and how he asserts his right to ride,
is a mystery hidden away beneath the bowler
hat. Even my English friend, with a rubber
plantation in the interior, could give no satis-
factory explanation.

It is the Chinese who do all the work. A
Chinese in the shafts of a jinrickisha w trundled
me to the hotel at Singapore, a Chinese showed
me to my room, a Chinese waited on me in the
dining-room, and a Chinese made me at home
when I wandered into the Singapore Club.

I have tested my own training and traditions,
my principles and my prejudices carefully, and I
believe honestly, but I can give no reason better
than mere instinct for my racial likes and dis-
likes. To me the Chinese are by far the most
agreeable people in the East, but I should find
it hard to give any comprehensive analysis of
Indians, Malays, Burmese, Japanese, Koreans,
and Chinese to account for this preference. I
know them to be cruel, lecherous, wily, rapacious,
and of abounding patience in what we consider
wrong-doing, and notwithstanding all that, I
seem to detect something virile and independent
about them; some quality of playing the game
the way we play it, that is lacking in the others.

Almost every afternoon when it got cool enough



382 1 HE ^TOST IN THE EAST

for a walk, I wended my way down the long
street by the water-front, till I came to the
swarming Chinese quarter, and there I watched
them buying, selling, gambling, eating, and
sleeping. The coolies eat in the street. There
is a long row of out-of-door restaurants consist-
ing of a long table, w ith benches on three sides,
and piles of food and bowls and chop-sticks.
The proprietor fills the bowl of his customer
with steaming rice, adds bits of dried fish, and
vegetables, and perhaps puppy-meat, — and why
not, since Hippocrates himself held that the
flesh of puppies was equal to that of birds, —
and then begins a race between the appetite and
the chop-sticks, aptly called "nimble-sons,"
which would do credit to an accomplished pres-
tidigitator.

One fat old Chinese boniface, behind one of
these restaurant tables, in his blue night-gown
costume, and jaunty wide-awake hat, two sizes
too small for him, on his head, used to grin ap-
preciatively at me, and no doubt cracked all
sorts of jokes at my expense with his gobbling
guests, to judge from his winks to them and at
me, and the smiles and chatter that followed.
If I had been sure of my digestion, I should have
joined the party, just for the jollity and good-
fellowship.



JOHN CHINAMAN 383

Better-informed travellers than I, have re-
marked upon this Chinese characteristic of
cheerfulness, their tolerance of disagreeable
things, their invincible contentment, their good-
humor under every kind of discomfort, and
under the severest bodily toil ; as one writer puts
it: '*They seem to have acquired a national habit
of looking upon the bright side." After the
listlessness, the lack of physical endurance, the
furtive impudence of the southern Indians,
the Chinese struck me as being positively jolly.
That this is a racial trait is evidenced by the
difference between the Ghurkhas in India, who
are really Mongolians, and all other Indians.
They too love a joke, a good story, and are
invincibly cheerful, and many Englishmen say,
the best soldiers in India. If this be true, one
wonders why some day the Chinese may not
recover from their present classification of
human value, which puts the scholar first, the
farmer next, the artisan next, and the mer-
chant and the soldier last; and give the man of
action his proper place in the social hierarchy.

It is all very well to dream as long as dreams
are not your master; all very well to think so
long as thoughts are not your aim, as Kipling
well says; for neither dreams nor thoughts are
more than glistening colored bubbles unless they



384 THE A\^ST IN THE EAST

be translated into belief and action. When one
sees Chinese school-boys of all ages drilling and
marching and carrying real guns ; when one sees
a well-equipped mountain-battery out for exer-
cise and practice, as I did, one gets a notion
that the Chinese are indeed making ready for
action. The great wall of China was begun
before the Christian era and was building for
seventeen hundred years, but the Chinese move
more quickly now.

Unfortunately for my plans, the Chinese on
the Yangtse River were indulging in a mo-
mentary dislike of missions and missionaries,
and translating their prejudices into murders and
bonfires, just at the time that I arrived in Hong-
kong. The Yangtse River is navigable by bat-
tle-ships for two hundred and thirty miles, or
as far up as Nanking, and as far as Han-Kow
by vessels of considerable size, and is the Missis-
sippi River trade route of China. It takes its
rise in the far-off mountains of Thibet, and is
some three thousand miles in length, and navi-
gable for about two thousand miles. Instead of
going from Hongkong to Shanghai, and then up
this great Yangtse River to Han-Kow, and then
across country to Peking, I was obliged to leave
this interesting journey for more peaceful times.
I suppose a civilization cutting its teeth, on the



JOHN CHINAMAN 38.5

way from one stage of growth to another, must
necessarily behave in a fretful and sometimes
violent manner ; and just at the time I was
wondering and dreaming over the possibility of
a Chinese nation armed and in action, a fraction
of the population turned to breaking heads and
burning meeting-houses, forcing the authorities
to refuse permission to travellers to journey in
that direction.

To those of us who know something of the be-
havior of the European troops during the Boxer
troubles, of the cruelties of Cossacks and Jap-
anese and others; of the killing of men, women
and children; of the rifling of graves, and the
breaking open of cofiins to get at the money that
the Chinese bury with their dead, and the use
of these coffins as dining-tables ; to those of us
who know these things, there is little excuse to
be made, and small reason for surprise when the
Chinese indulge in similar atrocities. Perhaps
there is something of the Tartar in all of us when
we are scratched deep enough. \Miat the Chi-
nese saw of us on our way to relieve Peking was
not calculated to impress them with our gen-
tleness, our honesty, or our qualifications to pose
as examples of a higher form of civilization.

For my personal acquaintance with the Chi-
nese, I was obliged, therefore, to content myself



386 THE WEST IN THE EAST

with what I saw of them along the coast, and at
Hongkong, Canton, and in Manchuria.

I know of nothing more destructive of the
sense of proportion than a map unaccompanied
by a time-table. It was three weeks or more
before I reached Hongkong from Calcutta, a
journey which looks much shorter on the map.
But steamers do not always connect to suit one's
personal itinerary, and where they do there may
be no accommodation for the pilgrim, who travels
not according to Cook but as his fancy dictates.

Hongkong in the language of diplomacy was
ceded: in plain English, was taken, in 1842, by
the British from the Chinese. Whether the
quarrel was a matter of opium trading, or of
unwarranted aggression on the part of the Chi-
nese, does not concern us here, and had best
be left to the limbo of academic discussion. At
all events British governing here has accom-
plished what both the Chinese and the British
may well be proud to show to the rest of the
world. Sixty years ago it was a convenient nest
for the daring Cantonese pirates; and then, as
still to-day, the Cantonese were reckoned the
most turbulent, restless, and daring population
in all China.

WTiat Sir William des Voeux, a former gov-
ernor, writes of Hongkong is all true, and the



JOHN CHINAMAN 387

description might be even more brightly colored
without exaggeration. "Long lines of quays
and wharves, large warehouses teeming with
merchandise, shops stocked with all the luxuries,
as well as the needs of two civilizations; in the
European quarter a fine town-hall, stately banks,
and other buildings of stone; In the Chinese
quarter houses, constructed after a pattern pecu-
liar to China, of almost equally solid materials,
but packed so closely together and thronged so
densely as to be in this respect probably without
parallel in the world (one hundred thousand peo-
ple live within a certain district not exceeding
half a square mile In area), and finally streets
stretching for miles, abounding with carriages
(drawn for the most part not by animals but by
men), and teeming with a busy population, in
the centre of the town chiefly European, but
toward the west and east almost exclusively
Chinese. . . . And when it is further remembered
that the Chinese, whose labor and enterprise
under British auspices have largely assisted in
this development, have been under no com-
pulsion, but have come here as free men, at-
tracted by liberal Institutions, equitable treat-
ment, and the justice of our rule; when all this
is taken into account, it may be doubted whether
the evidences of material and moral achieve-



388 THE WEST IN THE EAST

ment, presented as it were in a focus, make any-
where a more forcible appeal to eye and imagi-
nation." AMiat the English have accomplished
here and elsewhere; what we Americans have
done in improving the Philippine Islands, and
the almost fairy-like change that has been
WTOught by the American army engineers and
surgeons in the canal district at Panama, stand
out as imperishable monuments, not merely of
our honorable intentions, but of our unequalled
efficiency as altruistic governors of alien peoples
and of strange lands. Nor Rome, nor any
modern power, can point to such colossal suc-
cesses in brotherly helpfulness, untainted by
even the suspicion of corruption.

It was my privilege to travel across Siberia
with the present Governor of Hongkong, Sir
Frederick Lugard. He told me something of
his plans for a university at Hongkong. Sir
Frederick is the kind of advocate of peace in
whom one believes. Bearing many wounds as
the result of his soldiering, and of his successful
campaigns for peace and orderliness in Uganda,
he is now fostering the splendid peace plan of
an international university at Hongkong.

Why does not some American of wealth, who
believes in peace rather than in self-advertising,
give a handsome sum of money for the founda-



JOHN CHINAMAN 389

tion of one or more chairs to be filled by Ameri-
can professors in this university, which is al-
ready under way, the foundation-stone having
been laid last year? An iVmerican chair of
History of Commerce, or of Ethnic Religions, to
be filled, say two years at a time, by a lecturer
chosen from among the many American scholars
who are interested in furthering a better under-
standing between the East and the West; this
would be a worthy gift indeed from the American
nation, which has already assured the Chinese
of our belief in fair-play by the generous return
to China of an overpayment for losses during
the Boxer uprising. The Chinese have been no
less gracious to us. China sent her first general
Embassy to foreign countries in 1868. Her "En-
voy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary "
was the Hon. Anson Burlingame, accompanied
by two Chinese, who appear as "Associated High
Envoys and Ministers." The wording of the
United States Treaty of 1868, and the diplomatic
correspondence at the time, show, therefore, that
China confided to an American the task of
framing new treaties, and of representing her in
the delicate negotiations dealing with her rela-
tions with foreign nations.

As early as 1785 we sent a trading-ship to
China, and the first half of the nineteenth cen-
tury saw, what the Chinese still call our country.



390 THE WEST IN THE EAST

the '* flowery flag," on the fastest sailing-ships
afloat, in Chinese ports. By the Treaty of
Washington in 1868 we disclaimed all intention
of interfering in Chinese affairs, and down to
this present time we have taken the attitude of
fair-play as between other nations and China,
and what is more to the point, of fair-play for
China as well. Such a gift would not only be
a direct and permanent means of promoting that
sympathetic understanding which makes for
peace, but it would be at the same time another
link between the one hundred and forty millions
of us who speak the English language. The
gift of half a million dollars for such a purpose
would mean that the voice of America's picked
scholarship would be heard for generations by
the chosen students of China. That would be
indeed worth while.

I was intending to write of four aspects of
Hongkong which won my interest. First, of
course, of her neighbor Canton ; then of the un-
equalled collection of Chinese porcelain of Sir
Paul Chater; next of the charm of the "Peak,"
and then of Sir Frederick Lugard, and his plans
for an international university now under way.
It is significant that the university plan ran
away with my pen first, as soon as I found
myself writing of Hongkong; and I should
consider it a year's hard travel, and hard work



JOHN CHINAMAN 391

well paid for, if one of my many countrymen,
with the means at his command, should be
tempted to pledge America's co-operation in this
wise method of linking East and West together
in the only bonds that are lasting, those of in-
tellectual sympathy and mutual understanding.

The "Peak," so called, in Hongkong is the
hill overlooking the harbor, which has been
sown and planted till it is the garden as well as
the residential part of the town. A funicular
railway lifts you to the top, and once there, par-
ticularly of a starlight night, with the hundreds
of lights twinkling on the vessels in the harbor
below; for it is one of the great harbors of the
world, and one constantly filled with craft of all
kinds; the picture takes its place, and remains
in the memory, alongside the wonderful harbor
at Rio de Janeiro ; the harbor at San Francisco ;
and the fabulous and mythical aspect of New
York harbor, with its extortionate demands upon
credulity, when one sees the high buildings
looming behind the Statue of Liberty, at dusk
or at dawn.

Whatever may be the gastronomic limitations
of the stewards of the steamship lines in this
quarter of the world, Sir Paul Chater is not
hampered by them. I will not say that his
luncheon was equal to the treasures of porce-



392 THE ^VEST IN THE EAST

lain which he showed me, but it was in keeping
with them. For years he has been buying and
sifting, and with all China knowing that he
stood ready as a purchaser of anything rare and
beautiful. As a result his collection of Chinese
porcelains is to other collections, whether public
or private, as are the prints of a college fresh-
man to the engravings in the British Museum.
And what a revelation of the Chinese it is, to see
here these wonders of their deftness, their purity
of style, their feeling for color, in their days of
artistic supremacy, in the middle of the seven-
teenth century.

A people of such industry, of such cheerfulness,
of such endurance, of such commercial and ar-
tistic prowess: how is it, one asks oneself, that
they remain so behind in the competitive race of
the nations ? The honesty and uprightness of
Chinese merchants and bankers is as prover-
bial throughout the world as is the shiftiness
and untrustworthiness of the Japanese of the
same class; while on the other hand, the official
corruption in China spreads throughout the land
like a gangrene, eating away at all national en-
terprises, and maiming the industrial hands and
feet, in every effort to move.

This strange difference between the commer-
cial code and the official code in China is



JOHN CHINAMAN 393

confusing. The merchant's word is as good
as his bond, while the official all over China
lives openly upon "squeeze." No government
official is intended to, or can possibly live upon,
his pay. The old-time, and by far the easiest,
method for an autocratic rule is to farm out the
taxes, to demand a certain sum of the officials
appointed, and to leave it to them to get what
they can for themselves. This was once the
way in India and in Japan, and later in Rome
and in France. Indeed, the historical memory
need not be long to recall the days when the
British House of Commons was bought and
sold like a flock of sheep; and the ominous
growl: *'To the victors belong the spoils" is still
heard, though sotto voce, in America to-day.

I suppose there is no business man in our
country who would not jump at the chance to
take over our post-office department, with its ex-
clusive privileges, prepared to make a fortune.

It is no doubt honestly conducted, so far as
pilfering is concerned, but the offices and officials
therein are all political spoils. The tenure is
uncertain, there is no reward for efficiency, and
no temptation to work harder than bare neces-
sity requires. There is no barefaced *' squeeze,"
but the government is cheated all over the coun-
try by perfunctory labor, by skimped hours of



394 THE ^^^ST IN THE EAST

work, and by the lack of enthusiasm of those
who feel themselves to be working for a soulless
monster with no means and no intention of re-
warding personal efficiency and devotion. In a
fashion, we farm out to the victorious political
party this opportunity to repay its adherents
and its workers, and waste enormous sums on
what is practically mortpay. No one doubts
for a moment that if our post-office department
were managed as is the Pennsylvania Rail-
road, for example, with every employee chosen
and kept and rewarded for efficiency and ability,
there would be dividends instead of deficits.

We need not, therefore, throw up our hands
in horror at the Chinese. In an attenuated, but
still perceptible form, the philosophy of Chinese
"squeeze" exists to-day in the bureaucracy of
every government in Europe and in the Ameri-
cas. What Chinese gentlemen would think of



Online LibraryPrice CollierThe West in the East from an American point of view → online text (page 21 of 29)