Copyright
Price Collier.

The West in the East from an American point of view online

. (page 28 of 29)
Online LibraryPrice CollierThe West in the East from an American point of view → online text (page 28 of 29)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


snipe and ginger, the red bean soup, various
dishes of eggs, the edible ferns, and the preserved
fruits were excellent; and what with English,
French, and a little German, for some of my
fellow-guests spoke one language, some another,
the conversational ball was kept rolling. The
men were all intelligent, all interested in their
work, and all studiously polite to the only
stranger present. Not even the large banquet
in Tokio, where I met the Prime-Minister and
the famous General Kuroki, of Yalu River fame,
and many other celebrities, was more interesting.
It seemed to be the wish of the Japanese offi-
cials that I should see everything, and although
the intention to annex Korea was denied, while
even then the preparations were under way, I
believe it is not the habit of diplomats and offi-
cials anywhere to play the pomegranate, and
open the mouth so freely that one may see the
contents of their hearts.

The comfortable route for those going from
Japan to Moscow, via the Trans-Siberian rail-
way, is to cross the Sea of Japan from Tsuruga
to Vladivostock, where the train starts; or one
may go to Dalny (Port Arthur) and take a train
there straight to Kharbin and join the train
there; or one may go all the way by train from



THINGS JAPANESE 509

Peking to Kharbin. If you wish to see the
heart of the Eastern question of to-day, however,
you will cross the Yalu River on the northern
border of Korea, and crawl along to Mukden,
on what remains of General Kuroki's crazy little
military railway, two feet six inches gauge, and
take the train there to Kharbin.

Leaving Seoul at nine in the morning, I ar-
rived at New Wiju at a little after eleven at
night. In order to be sure of the train next
morning, a Chinese junk was hired to take us
across the Yalu River, and the night was spent
in a Chinese inn at Antung-Shien. The next
morning at half-past seven we bundled into a
small box-car ten feet long, five feet wide, and
seven feet high, and with a band of all sorts,
including Chinese, Manchus, Japanese, drawn
by a diminutive locomotive engine built, I
noticed, by the Baldwin Locomotive Company,
we started.

I still look back upon that journey with sur-
prise and gratitude. The railway is of the
portable kind that can be laid quickly, and
there is no pretence of permanency ; on the con-
trary, there were ominous and frequent indica-
tions of a tendency to disappear entirely. The
embankments are hastily thrown up, the bridges
are of logs loosely spiked together, and when



510 TIIE ^^^ST IN THE EAST

one gets ii glimpse of the line from the car-
window, it looks like a ribbon carelessly thrown
across valleys, beside streams, and around moun-
tains. Often it seemed that we should roll
backward dowTi a mountain, or that a shaky
bridge would give a last shake and let us through
into a torrent below ; but the doughty little loco-
motive puffed, and wheezed, and grunted, and
pulled us along somehow. I saw forests that
mean a fortune, miles and miles of arable lands
that mean food, and I was told of mines of cop-
per and coal. We hardly travelled as fast as a
well-horsed road coach; we stopped wherever
there was a passenger; we picked up and de-
posited all sorts of freight; the seats were of
wood with no cushions; and when, as happened
from time to time, there w^ere nine Japanese or
Chinese packed in the small carriage with me,
the situation was uncomfortable.

On such a crazy little line there is no travel at
night, and at sunset we halt at Sokakua and
spend the night in another Manchurian inn.
All through China and Japan, and wherever
Japanese influence extends, you can get a hot
bath, and at these resting-places I tumbled into
a hot bath and out, and into bed ; and one is too
tired to know whether one is uncomfortable or
not.



TPIINGS JAPANESE 511

Thirty miles from Mukden we reach Sakyoshi,
where the broad-gauge road has arrived on its
way to the Yalu River. To change into a car
of average size, and to move along at average
speed, and to have a seat all to oneself, seemed
the height of luxurious travel. It is like the
change into a smoothly driven carriage, on a
good road, from a jaunting-car in Tipperary, in
rainy weather, with a broken-down thorough-
bred betw^een the shafts, and a casual Irishman
handling the reins.

Even the dii'ty hotel in Mukden, to which we
are driven by a yelling Manchu, over roads of
mud and negligently placed boulders, seemed a
haven of rest after that railway journey, which I
may safely say is the worst railway journey in
the world. Mukden is an old Tartar town,
surrounded by a high wall, with wide gateways
and watch-towers. The population consists of
some 250,000, including 5,000 Japanese, and
about 150 Europeans. The Manchus, both
men and women, are stalwart-looking people;
and the women, with their coarsely dyed cheeks,
and the mirrors glittering in theu' carefully and
intricately dressed hair, are as independent, as
they walk the streets, as the men. Mukden was
the capital of the INIanchu dynasty until the ]\Ian-
chus marched west and conquered Peking. Even



512 THE WEST IN THE EAST

now the palace is kept open, and in some sort
of repair, and there is a complete equipment of
officials. The present administration is in the
hands of a governor-general, who is also the
military governor. Eight months after my visit
the plague played havoc in Mukden and the
surrounding country. It is not to be wondered
at. Within these walls live a quarter of a million
people, disdaining all sanitary precautions, the
streets deep in mud or dust, the shops and
houses crowded together so that one might walk
from roof to roof, and the contents of the shops,
and of the open booths which line the streets,
exposed to the flying dust. They are a noisy
lot too, and from dawn till night the raucous
and piercing cries of the peddlers through the
streets, the rumbling of the heavy Pekinese
carts, the chatter of the crowds, make the place
a very bedlam.

Escorted by the Japanese military attache, I
was shown the palace buildings and the tombs
of the founders of the Manchu dynasty. The
palace buildings are empty, and the grounds neg-
lected, though there is a small army of Manchu
soldiers, police, and servants about. The beau-
tifully lacquered walls and floors, the roofs of
many-colored tiles; and many treasures, such as
jewelled weapons and richly embroidered gar-



THINGS JAPANESE 513

ments, red lacquer ware, carved ivory, jade and
bronze, are still to be seen. I was told by a
fnend, recently from Peking, that the buildings
here were as elaborate as those in Peking. To
us, with our test of comfort, palaces whether in
Japan, China, or Korea look barren, cold and
stiff, however clean and polished and delicately
ornamented they may be.

Much more elaborate are the tombs of these
gentry than were their homes. A broad avenue
paved with large blocks of stone, and lined on
each side with huge lions, horses, elephants, and
griffins in stone, leads to the tombs, with their
pagoda-roofs, the edges tilted up, as though
architecture had taken to the foppery of brushing
up the ends of its mustaches. In one of them
was a stone tortoise of enormous size, on which
was a tablet with the virtues and accomplish-
ments of the deceased graven thereon.

The next day I attended a banquet given in
honor of the anniversary of the Japanese Red
Cross Society. We assembled in an anteroom,
Japanese officers and officials, the Manchu
governor of the province, mandarins in their
short coats with long sleeves, and their bell-
shaped helmets with different-colored horse-hair
plumes, and there we were served with tea and
cigarettes, and made profound bows to one



514 THE W^ST IN THE EAST

another. Later we marched out in procession
to the music of a really first-rate Chinese brass
band, through a crowd of five or six hundred
guests. On a raised |)latform, with some ten
Chinese and Japanese officials, I sat, looking,
I trust, as solemn as they. There followed
speeches, the Manchu governor lifting his robes
and taking his manuscript out of his right boot-
leg when he was called upon; and there was
much applauding and much shouting of Ban-
zais. After this we sat down at long tables to a
luncheon, supplied with dozens of dishes, some
of them very elaborate, and accompanied w^ith
generous amounts of champagne. We had been
at it for three hours when the real performance
began, with dancing and sword-play and sing-
ing on a stage in front of us. It was evident that
the governor was bored by these rather tepid
amusements, and even I was but mildly inter-
ested. He called an officer to his side, who
thereupon whispered a word in the ear of the
Japanese presiding officer, and to my horror,
but to my intense relief, he arose in the middle
of the performance, and followed by his oflScers
and attendants, stalked out of the grounds, got
into his carriage, and left. With admiration for
his coolness and courage, I turned my back upon
the Japanese performer on the stage who was



THINGS JAPANESE 51.5

just then standing upon one leg, holding fans in
her teeth, her hair, her hands, and between her
toes, and followed the yellow gentleman out. It
was all done quietly, with dignity and ease; and
the Japanese bowing and scraping as he left,
made him appear all the more the gentleman of
the occasion.

That night, on a sleeping-car built by the
Pullman Company, drawn by a locomotive built
by the American Locomotive Company, I left
Mukden for Kharbin. In the dining-car the
next morning I had a capital breakfast. At
Chang-Chung, where we arrived at 6 a. m., the
Japanese control of the railway lire ends and
the Russian control begins. At eleven o'clock
the Russian train with Russian soldiers, guards,
and conductors rolled into the station. The
Russians looked enormous, as the;\ 'stepped off
the train, beside the Japanese officii вАҐ; from the
other train. One of them carried a sword as
long as the Japanese station-master. After these
many months I was in the hands of white
men again. It is hard to explain or describe
the positive delight one experiences. I can only
say I was tempted to shake hands with them all.
At half-past eight that night we arrived at Khar-
bin. They call Kliarbin the Paris of the East!
It only shows how completely the point of view



516 THE ^\'EST IN THE EAST




Online LibraryPrice CollierThe West in the East from an American point of view → online text (page 28 of 29)