Yan Phou Lee.

When I was a boy in China online

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Worse still follows, when the musicians turn from
instrumental to vocal music, and one of them gives
you a solo with that falsetto-pitch which is meant
to imitate a female voice.

While the crowd of people are enjoying the differ-
ent sights and sounds in the pavilions, inside the
temple various ceremonies are going on. The
temple itself, entirely new, is finely decorated with
both permanent and temporary ornamentations.
Among the first are frescos and wood-carvings and
figures in bas-relief ; among the second, banners,
flower-baskets and pictures. Buddhist priests are
praying to Buddha in the central hall, while in the
back hall, where the shrine of the chief deity is


situated, flocks of worshiper-. Hit to and fro mak-
ing offerings of food, lighting candle S, and burning
incen There is no scene in China more ani-

mated. Kvenhody who has any religion in him
COmes to worship and to ask some favor of the god.
and each person leaves more 01 less money \\ith
the keepers of the temple. In my native city festi-
vals similar to this occur two or three times in the
week in different parts of the town. ( >f course the
schools are kept open on such festal days, other-
wise little study could he accomplished. Scliool-
boys go to the shows in the evening and girls too.
sometimes, go by themselves to enjoy the sights

But there are holidays which may be called
national, since they are observed all over the


l-'irst and most important are the New Year holi-
days, which are celebrated with as much eclat as
unceasing tiring of pyrotechnics, calls of ceremony
and universal good-will and joy will contribute.
Debts are paid up at the end of the year, and for
ihe first week or two little or no business is trans-
acted. Every one gives himself up to jollity. Chil-


dren, on such days, are surfeited with sweetmeats,
and holes are made in their holiday clothes by burn-
ing fire-crackers. Largesses are bestowed upon
both children and servants, while beggars are also
remembered, so that this season is really the most
joyous of the year the time when charity is most
charitable and benevolence assumes a more benevo-
lent aspect.

Next, in order of time, comes the Feast of Lan-
terns. The main feature of this fete, as the name
implies, is a procession with lanterns of all shapes
and kinds. Soon after nightfall, men and boys get
in line, each carrying upon a bamboo pole a great
paper bird, or quadruped, or fish, inside of which
candles are lit. Very fantastic shapes sometimes
are seen, and mythological books are ransacked to
procure strange creatures.

Imagine three or four hundred of these lanterns
passing before you, all brilliant with rich colors.
Sandal-wood is burnt in censers carried in small
movable pavilions, while bands of music mingle
their racket with the applause of the spectators
and the jokes of the men in the procession.

CHl.\r-:si. HOLIDAYS. 79

Last of all an immense ;-nd terrible clr.i.
about forty feet in length is borne along supported
on bamboo poles by a do/en or twenty mm.

There is .mother procession similar to this in the
fourth month, only it takes place in the daytime
instead of at night, and the large number and
\ ariety of lanterns are wantin

In the fifth month are held the dragon-boat
races, These boats are narrow and long, capable
of holding about one hundred men sitting one
behind the other. Each one carries a paddle, and
the boat i- so made that it can go just as well back-
wards as forwards. The direction devolves upon the
men in the ends of the boat. In the centre the idol
from whose ward or district the boat hails, sits
enthroned with an immense umbrella of red silk to
keep the sun from tanning his complexion. A
band of music accompanies each boat. By its
warlike clangor it encourages the racers, while its
drum beats the time for the stroke. Banners are
given after the race, as spoils of victory, to be
placed in the temple of the patron deity. The
scene on the rivers on such an occasion is very


animated and the cheers of the spectators from the
different districts attest their interest.

In the eighth month comes the Festival of the
Moon, answering to the Harvest Festival in West-
ern countries. What are called "moon-cakes " are
sold at this season. If the year has been product-
ive there will be a great deal of rejoicing. Pres-
ents are interchanged at this time as also at other
festival seasons. As the moon becomes gradually
full there appears in it to the Chinese eye a man
who is climbing a tree. The full moon is greeted
with much ceremony, and the night on which the
luminary appears its brightest is passed in feast-
ing and rejoicing.



THE Chinese are passionately fond of stories
ami .story-telling. On the public streets
and squares, professional story-tellers congregate
Imin noon to midnight, going over the achieve-
ments of a hero or portraying the despair of a lover.
They recite with a dramatic power not to be ex-
pected from their sluggish movements and stolid

All classes indulge in this favorite pastime. The
dignified scholar relishes a good story as much as
a child in the lap a fairy tale. Story-books in the
language can be counted by the tens of thousands.
The subjects are historical or romantic; of war,
of love, of magic and enchantment. Some of the
legends are really beautiful and are as interesting

as a good English novel. There is one book which



is the unfailing delight of all classes ; I mean the
History of the Three Kingdoms. It is an historical
novel in twenty volumes, illustrated with wood-cuts.
For arrangement of details, delineation of charac-
ter and elegance of diction, I have found few books
in English its equal. It is, in one sense, an epic
in prose. When a boy, I used to enjoy hearing
passages of it read or explained.

Books of ballads are to be found in every house-
hold. Our ladies take great delight in learning to
sing them to their own music, music which is not
printed in the books, but suggests itself as they
recite or sing. Ballad singers are found on all the
public squares where they earn their living by
passing around the basket at each crisis of the
story. The spectators are eager to hear the rest,
of course, and so will be more easily induced to pay.

There are no story-books which children can
read and enjoy, since it takes them so long to
learn the characters. But picture books are some-
times given to children. Still they are not made
specially for them as they are in this country ; and
colored pictures are too costly to be put into


drcn's hands because they must be drawn by hand,
painted by artists. So Chinese hoy-, and -'iris
lack those, facilities for enjoyment in picture-books
\vhic Ii American and Knglish children luive in so
great abundant

To give an idea of the stories which are moM
eagerly listened to, let me tell you one myself
which may be taken as a fair sample of the shorter
ones. It has the advantage of being true and
every whit reliable. For want of a more appropri-
ate title I will call it :


My fellow-townsman Chang was a scholar, who,
having obtained his M. A. degree, took up the pro-
fession of law, for his success in which he was dis-
liked by his neighbors in Fragrant Hills. The time
came when it behooved him to go to Pekin for the
purpose of passing examination for the doctor's
degree. Accordingly, with three hundred dollars
in his three trunks, many books and " skinning
papers," he went to Canton to obtain documents
of identification. Pending the issue of these, he


stopped at an inn, resolved to set out to Pekin
by steamer as soon as possible. In the next
room, separated from his simply by a wooden
partition, lodged two gentlemen, who, by their
Northern dialect, declared themselves strangers,
and who appeared to be on the same errand as
himself. He overheard them more than once
quarrelling about a rich widow who had ended the
prescribed twenty-seven months of mourning and
was taking active measures to change her lonely
condition. Filled with curiosity, Mr. Chang panted
to know more ; so dropping into their room one
day, after duly introducing himself, he said, " For
days I have heard you disputing over a marriage
affair. Pray, will you enlighten my understanding
by telling me the interesting facts in the case ?"

" With pleasure, sir," answered the elder of the
two ; "you see there lives near here a pretty widow
whose husband, a trader from Kiang-si, had the
bad taste to leave her an immense fortune at his
death. Now, as she has no children, she is anx-
ious to marry again. But she will marry none ex-
cept a scholar of distinguished merit, a man of fine


character and suitable age, money being evidently
no object to her. When \\r learned thai, \\e both
wanted to offer ourselves and explains why ue
have disturbed your serenity in such an unseemly
niaiiiKT. Hut yesterday we heard from a go-he-
tween that she had set her heart mi marrviiiL! a


native of this province. So we are out of the

ra- e.'

- ich a man," said ( 'hang, " is not hard to find.
I kn\v one now, not a //from here, who can fulfil
these conditions. Do you think there is any chance
for a worthless person like me ? '

" You do yourself injustice." said the younger
man. u 1 am sure she ouidn to feel honored 1>\ an


alliance with a scholar of your blooming talent.
If you wish to try your luck, I can tell you where
the go-between lives. YYill you have the goodncs-,
to precede us ? "

Arrived at the entrance of a cottage, the two
took their leave. Mr. (.'hang knocked at the door.
It was opened by the matchmaker herself. She
was a woman of the poorer class, dressed in home-
spun linen, having feet that had evidently borne


the tortures of binding in vain, for they were still
as large as Nature could have made them.

Mr. Chang stated the purpose of his visit ; upon
which the woman confirmed what he had heard,
moreover, adding that the lady was fastidious and
would want to see him before consenting to marry
him. Chang said he was glad of an interview.
He agreed to reward the matchmaker richly in
case of success. After appointing the next morn-
ing for the ordeal, he wended his way back to the
inn, feeling decidedly elated with his diplomacy.

The next morning saw him dressed in his best
silk gown and adorned with a beard trimmed for
the occasion. The wily matchmaker was waiting
for him, and soon started with him on their errand.
A little after, they paused at the door of an ele-
gant mansion, which by its size and decorations,
gave evidence of the wealth and rank of its occu-

A servant ushered them into the reception-room
and went in to announce their arrival. While
waiting, Chang feasted his legal eyes on beautiful
pictures, mahogany furniture and costly curios,


while his ears Wi liarmed \vitli the

"clink, clink, clink," <>f the silver dollars which
were l>r'm_; weighed in the next room. Servants
flitted to and fro, earn in- ptS "i la-s ot

money. <)ur law\er's heart ordinarily v. < mid li;ue
softened at the sight of money, but on this o<
sion it fairly melted. His love for the pretty
widow increased in warmth with every bag of
money added to the pile.

In the midst of his enchanting reverie, the lady
entered supported by two servants. He was more
than surprised by her appearance. Her face \\
full and round and she had the daintiest little
feel you ever saw. He had been led to expect
good looks, but not beauty like this. Meeting
his eye bent on her in admiration, she looked down
in modesty, and, having presented him a cup of tea,
she withdrew, not having uttered a word, according
to etiquette.

The go-between followed her and after a little
while, which seemed a cycle to the expectant lover,
she reappeared, beaming with smiles, announcing
their success. In a word, the lady was so pleased


with Chang's appearance that she had decided to
accept him. She begged him to move into her
house that he might superintend the preparations
for the wedding.

He readily assented ; then hurried back to the ho-
tel with a heart full of love for the beautiful widow
and benevolent intent towards her silver dollars.
To say that he trod on air is to speak within
bounds. His soul was electrified with joy.

The hotel bill paid, his effects were carried " to
his house." An elegant room was given him for
his temporary occupancy. A delicate lunch of
sweetmeats and pastry was served, after which the
lady sent word to ask if he would condescend to buy
a fan for her. It was only to be had in one place.

"Certainly," said Chang, and set out in search
of the store. But it was a search for the " blessed
isles." After beating around the dense city for
some hours, he returned hungry and crestfallen.

But greater disasters awaited him. He found to
his dismay the door of the house locked from the
outside. " What does it mean ? " he muttered. He
knocked, pushed, kicked ; but in vain. All was


still within. Now thoroughly frightened, he inquired
at a store opposite. "Why, sir, this house was
rented together, with its furniture, by a family
named L<uv. They nm\e<l off this afternoon.
Nothing had has happened, I hope?'

" No! no! " said Chang, his head all in a whirl,
and staggered out. That night he spent at the old
inn minus three trunks, three hundred dollars,
many books and "skinning papers."

The next morning he found the two strangers.
( )n seeing them, the potential energy of his pent-up
raw became kinetic. lie c<mld have kicked the


two M. A.'s ten feet with an initial velocity of one
hundred and fifty pounds per second, but he did
not, for he was a lawyer. So he gave vent to
abusive epithets and terrific denunciation. They
declared their innocence and advised him to open
the flood-gates of his wrath upon the go-between.

Chang saw that he was only wasting words on
them, so he went off to seek that worthy person,
having no idea of finding her at home. Hut she-
was-, much to his surprise, and coolly inquired how
he liked his new home. " New home ! You wretch !


A fine match you have made for me ! I will have
you arrested. I will have you punished for con-

She asserted her innocence. Indeed " she hoped
to be thunder-struck if she had done wrong in pro-
curing for him a pretty wife and a big fortune."

Words ran high ; neighbors rushed in, to whom
both the belligerents appealed. Chang then began
a recital of his wrong. He was interrupted by the
matchmaker. " Oh, is that all ! '" said she, " why,
now I remember what Lady Low said the other
day that her father was sick and she was liable to
be summoned to his bedside at any time. If you
wish it I'll take you to your father-in-law's ; but I
must have ten dollars for my trouble. As soon as
you see her, you are to give me the money, do you
promise ? " Chang groaned assent, seeing no better
mode of procedure.

She led him into the audience hall of a large
house and pointed to an elegantly attired lady in the
women's apartments. " There she is ! See her ? ' :

Sure enough, it was the modest Lady Low.
Chang handed the matchmaker the money, with


which she walked <>lV. lie hesitated what !< do
next. There was n<> servant near to whom he
Could speak, lust thru the ladv caught si-ht of
him and .sinilrd. ( >h that smile ! It \\as worthy


of ;he Sirens. Jusl as lit- raised his hand to
beckon to her, an old gentleman Came OUl of an
adjoining room. " What is this ? " he cried. " Are
you addressing my wife ? Help! thieves: rubbers!
murder ! '

( >ut rushed a troop of seryants. Now ily !
Chang, lly for your life '. \'cs, he llew, nor paused
till he j^ot to the inn where he learned that his
neighbors had set sail. I le also found the cunning


inatclunaker absent. Now reali/inu; how com-
plctely he was sold, and that the (offenders could
not be punished, while he himself was liable to be
arrested for trespa.s.sini;- in a man's house and at-
tempting to destroy his domestic happiness, he
sailed for Fragrant Hills in a state of mind far
from tranquil.

The story got abroad and the whole town grinned
from ear to ear, while even his own friends enjoyed
his discomfiture.



ABOUT forty years ago, there came to this
country under the auspices of the Rev. Dr.
Brown, an American missionary in China, a Chi-
nese youth - - who was destined to exert a potent
influence on the future of the Chinese Empire.
Many have heard of him or read about him ; his
name is Yung Wing. Inspired by a lofty ambi-
tion, he worked his way through preparatory school
and college, graduating from Yale in 1854 with
high honors.

He went back to China soon after his gradua-
tion and engaged in business at Shanghai. But
business with the incidental pleasure of money
making, did not entirely absorb his attention.
China was at that time having troublesome diplo-
matic negotiations with foreign powers, and was


Ih >\V I WLN I' 'lu Ml tNGHAI. 93

being taken advantage of right and left for want .f
men in ottice who understood the customs, the
laws and the civili/alion of Western r<>untri<

Dr. Win-, indignant at the wrongs which China
had suffered .ind was .suffering at the hands of so-
called "Christian" and " enlightened ' nations,
sought for a remedy, and conceived the brilliant
project of educating a number of Chinese boys in
America for future service at the government ex-

lie made his plan known to prominent Chinese
officials. At first he met with no sympathy, no
encouragement. Still, he persevered ; and after
twelve years of patient waiting and active labor,
he succeeded in convincing two of the most pow-
erful ministers at the court of Pekin of the feasi-
bility of his scheme. In consequence, an edict v.
ied bv the emperor to enforce its execution.

A school was established at Shanghai to receive
candidates, and announcement made that the gov-
ernment had appropriated a large sum of money
to educate one hundred and twenty boys in America,
who were to be sent in four detachments, in four


successive years, beginning with 1872 ; and that a
candidate, on his election after a term of probation
at the school, should have the cadet's button and
rank conferred on him ; and that after fifteen years
of residence in America, during which period the
government promised to defray all expenses and
exercise parental care over the youths, they were
to return for entrance into its service.

Such an offer was un-heard-of. People doubt-
less were dazzled by its splendor, as many as came
in view of it. But as no newspapers existed there,
excepting at Pekin and some of the treaty ports
the news did not spread far. Only faint and vague
rumors reached the inland towns. Hence, com
paratively few candidates presented themselves
and these hailed, for the most part, from the mari-
time provinces. In fact, parents were not over-
eager to send their sons away so far, for so long a
time, and to a land unknown to them, the inhabi-
tants of which they heard and believed were bar

A cousin of mine, however, who was in business
then at Shanghai, thought differently ; and was


not deterred by any such considerations. He
came home with glowing a< c"iints >f tin- new
movement ; and SO painted the golden pro -p.
of the SUi ' In- persuaded my

mother to let me go. I was then t\vol\ * years old ;
my father had died three years before and my
mother had assumed the sole charge of IHT three
sons. l!ut she was not ^<>in^ to totve me to -o,
whether willing or unwiHiiii; ; and so left the mat-
ter to me to decide.

I was more or le-,s adventurous in disposition.
A chance to see the world was just what I wanted.
I said yes without hesitation. My mother, if she
had any mis^ivin-'s, wisely kept them to herself ;
and, like a brave woman who has resolved to deny
herself for the ^ood of her child, she set to work
to prepare me for the journey to Shanghai.

For a whole month, 1 reveled at the sight of new
clothes that were made for me. 1'Yiends and rel-
atives made presents of food for the voyage, swi
meats predominating. At last, after bidding fare-
well to all my uncles, aunts and cousins, with others
of my kith and kin, I paid my last respects to my



mother in the conventional way. I did not em-
brace her and kiss her. O no ! that would have
been un-Chinese and undignified. What I actually
did was to bow my head four times to the ground
upon my knees. She tried to appear cheerful, but
I could see that her eyes were moistened with
tears. I did not think much of it then, but I re-
membered it in after-time. Ah ! a mother's love
is strong wherever it is found. She gave me some
pocket-money and bade me be a good boy and
write often.

With those words ringing in my ears and the
memory of that sad face fresh in my mind, I walked
briskly by the side of my cousin down to the wharf
at which the junk was moored, which vessel, of a
style well-known by picture to American boys and
girls, was to carry us to Hongkong, whence we ex-
pected to take steamer for Shanghai. We sailed
down the narrow river with a stiff breeze in our
favor, after offerings had been made to the river-
god, and the gong had announced to the world
that "we were off."

The river was so serpentine with its numerous

now r wr.\ P TO 1 ii.\\;iiAi. 97

fiends that tin- mm often had to take a run on the
hanks to pull the hoat ahr The MUI wan just

tiu-iivj; the western cloud-castles with trims. >n
and i;old and as v. a further and further from

the town a pain rama < 'f ; I befi >re

OUreyCS, Mountains and .stream, and ll.-lds wavy
with golden i;rain, and towering pagodas, all
gemmed by the set tin;;" sun, < omp. >srd this kalei-
doscopic scene, IUit I had no heart to enjoy it. I
was homesick for the first time in my liff. A
sense of solitude, of desolation - a feeling of 1<
possessed me and I retired into the small cabin
to weep unseen. He fore Ion-', a tossing of the boat
announced the awful presm. e of the sea, and soon
after I reali/ed what .seasickness meant.

\\"e arrived at Hon^kon^ the next morning. It
was a wonderful place to me. I never wearied
with gazing at the vessels, which were of all sorts
and all nationalities. The foreigners too were
strange sijrhts. How I stared at them and won-


dered how they could move with their "strait-
jackets and tiidit pantaloons ! '

I had an adventure which I can never for


My cousin left me behind with friends while he
went to the theatre. I inwardly rebelled at this
treatment, and, against the advice of the people
at the store where we stayed, set out in that strange
place to find the theatre, taking the money which
my mother had given me to buy a ticket. I walked
quite a distance, stopping frequently to gaze at
the show windows and at the foreigners, till I came
upon one at last. Although I had seen theatrical
performances before, I had never been in a per-
manent theatre, so I was determined to enjoy my
new experience. But alas ! no enjoyment came to
me. I felt uneasy the whole time and looked all
over the auditory to see if my cousin was there.
But he was nowhere to be seen. Scared and trem-
bling for the consequences, I left the building before
the grand climax when one hero was to distinguish
himself by killing another and went my way back
to the store. My cousin returned before long and,
being informed of my escapade gave me a sound
whipping. In two days we went on board a steamer
and arrived at Shanghai after a four days' journey
from Hong-kong, without any incident or accident.



ON our arrival at Shanghai, my cousin took
me to see our aunt whose husband was a
comprador in an American tea warehouse. A
comprador is usually found in every foreign hong
or firm. He acts as interpreter and also as agent
for the company. He has a corps of accountants

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Online LibraryYan Phou LeeWhen I was a boy in China → online text (page 4 of 5)