From the fort the pathway led us through a beautiful country. We met numbers of sedan chairs, borne by two coolies, or three, according to the importance of the traveller. There were Chinese gentlemen mounted on ponies or mules; there were strings of coolies swinging along under prodigious loads of salt and coal, and huge bales of raw cotton. Buffaloes with slow and painful steps were ploughing the paddy fields, the water up to their middles—the primitive plough and share guided by half-naked Chinamen. Along the road there are inns and tea-houses every mile or two, for this is one of the most frequented roadways of China. At one good-sized village my cook signed to me to dismount; the mafoo and pony were paid off, and I sat down in an inn, and was served with an excellent dish of rice and minced beef. The inn was crowded and open to the street. Despite my Chinese dress anyone could see that I was a foreigner, but I was not far enough away from Chungking to excite much curiosity. The other diners treated me with every courtesy; they offered me of their dishes, and addressed me in Chinese—a compliment which I repaid by thanking them blandly in English.
Now I went on, on foot, though I had difficulty in keeping pace with my men. Behind the village we climbed a very steep hill by interminable steps, and passed under an archway at the summit. Descending the hill, my cook engaged in a controversy with a thin lad whom he had hired to carry his load a stage. The dispute waxed warm, and, while they stopped to argue it out at leisure, I went on. My cook, engaged through the kind offices of the Inland Mission, was a man of strong convictions; and in the last I saw of the dispute he was pulling the unfortunate coolie downhill by the pigtail. When he overtook me he was alone and smiling cheerfully, well satisfied with himself for having settled that little dispute. The road became more level, and we got over the ground quickly.
Late in the evening I was led into a crowded inn in a large village, where we were to stay the night. We had come twenty-seven miles, and had begun well. I was shown into a room with three straw-covered wooden bedsteads, a rough table, lit by a lighted taper in a saucer of oil, a rough seat, and the naked earth floor. Hot water was brought me to wash with and tea to drink, and my man prepared me an excellent supper. My baggage was in the corner; it consisted of two light bamboo boxes with Chinese padlocks, a bamboo hamper, and a roll of bedding covered with oilcloth. An oilcloth is indispensable to the traveller in China, for placed next the straw on a Chinese bed it is impassable to bugs. And during all my journey in China I was never disturbed in my sleep by this unpleasant pest. Bugs in China are sufficiently numerous, but their numbers cannot be compared with the gregarious hosts that disturb the traveller in Spain.
My last night in Spain was spent in Cadiz, the most charming city in the peninsula. I had lost the last boat off to the steamer, on which I was a passenger; it was late at night, and I knew of no inn near the landing. At midnight, as I was walking in the Plaza, called after that revered monarch, Queen Isabel II., I was spoken to at the door of a fonda, and asked if I wanted a bedroom. It was the taberna "La Valenciana." I was delighted; it was the very thing I was looking for, I said. The innkeeper had just one room unoccupied, and he showed me upstairs into a plain, homely apartment, which I was pleased to engage for the night. "Que usted descanse bien" (may you sleep well), said the landlord, and left me. Keeping the candle burning I tumbled into bed, for I was very tired, but jumped out almost immediately, despite my fatigue. I turned down the clothes, and saw the bugs gathering in the centre from all parts of the bed. I collected a dozen or two, and put them in a basin of water, and, dressing myself, went out on the landing and called the landlord.
He came up yawning.
"Sir," he said, "do you wish anything?"
"Nothing; but it is impossible, absolutely impossible, for me to sleep in that bed."
"But why, senor?"
"Because it is full of bugs."
"Oh no, sir, that cannot be, that cannot be; there is not a bug in the house."
"But I have seen them."
"You must be mistaken; it is impossible that there can be a bug in the house."
"But I have caught some."
"It makes twenty years that I live in this house, and never have I seen such a thing."
"Pardon me, but will you do me the favour to look at this basin?"
"Sir, you are right, you are completely right; it is the weather; every bed in Cadiz is now full of them."
In the morning, and every morning, we were away at daylight, and walked some miles before breakfast. All the way to Suifu the road is a paved causeway, 3 feet 6 inches to 6 feet wide, laid down with dressed flags of stone; and here, at least, it cannot be alleged, as the Chinese proverb would have it, that their roads are "good for ten years and bad for ten hundred." There are, of course, no fences; the main road picks its way through the cultivated fields; no traveller ever thinks of trespassing from the roadway, nor did I ever see any question of trespass between neighbours. In this law-abiding country the peasantry conspicuously follow the Confucian maxim taught in China four hundred years before Christ, "Do not unto others what you would not have others do unto you." Every rood of ground is under tillage.
Hills are everywhere terraced like the seats of an amphitheatre, each terrace being irrigated from the one below it by a small stream of water, drawn up an inclined plain by a continuous chain bucket, worked with a windlass by either hand or foot. The poppy is everywhere abundant and well tended; there are fields of winter wheat, and pink-flowered beans, and beautiful patches of golden rape-seed. Dotted over the landscape are pretty Szechuen farmhouses in groves of trees. Splendid banyan trees give grateful shelter to the traveller. Of this country it could be written as a Chinese traveller wrote of England, "their fertile hills, adorned with the richest luxuriance, resemble in the outline of their summits the arched eyebrows of a fair woman."
The country is well populated, and a continuous stream of people is moving along the road. Grand memorial arches span the roadway, many of them notable efforts of monumental skill, with columns and architraves carved with elephants and deer, and flowers and peacocks, and the Imperial seven-tailed dragon of China. Chinese art is seen at its best in this rich province.
I lived, of course, in the common Chinese inn, ate Chinese food, and was everywhere treated with courtesy and good nature; but at first I found it trying to be such an object of curiosity; to have to do all things in unsecluded publicity; to have to push my way through streets thronged by the curious to see the foreigner. My meals I ate in the presence of the street before gaping crowds. When they came too close I told them politely in English to keep back a little, and they did so if I illustrated my words by gesture. When I scratched my head and they saw the spurious pigtail, they smiled; when I flicked the dust off the table with my pigtail, they laughed hilariously.
The wayside inns are usually at the side of an arcade of grass and bamboo stretched above the main road. Two or three ponies are usually waiting here for hire, and expectant coolies are eager to offer their services. In engaging a pony you make an offer casually, as if you had no desire in the world of its being accepted, and then walk on as if you had no intention whatever of riding for the next month. The mafoo demands more, but will come down; you stick to your offer, though prepared to increase it; so demand and offer you exchange with the mafoo till the width of the village is between you, and your voices are almost out of hearing, when you come to terms.
Suppose I wanted a chair to give me a rest for a few miles—it was usually slung under the rafters—Laokwang (my cook) unobserved by anyone but me pointed to it with his thumb inquiringly. I nodded assent and apparently nothing more happened and the conversation, of which I was quite ignorant, continued. We left together on foot, my man still maintaining a crescendo conversation with the inn people till well away. When almost out of hearing he called out something and an answer came faintly back from the distance. It was his ultimatum as regards price and its acceptance—they had been bargaining all the time. My man motioned to me to wait, said the one word "chiaodza" (sedan chair) and in a few moments the chair of bamboo and wicker came rapidly down the road carried by two bearers. They put down the chair before me and bowed to me; I took my seat and was borne easily and pleasantly along at four miles an hour at a charge of less than one penny a mile.
My men received nearly 400 cash a day each; but from time to time they sweated their contract to unemployed coolies and had their loads carried for so little as sixty cash (one penny halfpenny), for two-thirds of a day's journey.
At nightfall we always reached some large village or town where my cook selected the best inn for my resting place, the best inn in such cases being usually the one which promised him the largest squeeze. All the towns through which the road passes swarm with inns, for there is an immense floating population to provide for. Competition is keen. Touts stand at the doorway of every inn, who excitedly waylay the traveller and cry the merits of their houses. At the counter inside the entrance, piles of pukais (the warm Chinese bedding), are stacked for hire—few of the travellers carry their own bedding. The inns are sufficiently comfortable. The bedrooms are in one or two stories and are arranged round one or more, or a succession of courts. The cheapness is to be commended. For supper, bed, and light, tea during the night and tea before starting in the morning, and various little comforts, such as hot water for washing, the total charge for the six nights of my journey from Chungking to Suifu was 840 cash (1s. 9d.).
Rice was my staple article of diet; eggs, fowls, and vegetables were also abundant and cheap; but I avoided pork which is the flesh universally eaten throughout China by all but the Mohammedans and vegetarians. In case of emergency I had a few tins of foreign stores with me. I made it a point never to drink water—I drank tea. No Chinaman ever drinks anything cold. Every half hour or hour he can reach an inn or teahouse where tea can be infused for him in a few minutes. The price of a bowl of tea with a pinch of tea-leaves, filled and refilled with hot water ad lib, is two cash—equal to the twentieth part of one penny. Pork has its weight largely added to by being injected with water, the point of the syringe being passed into a large vein; this is usually described as the Chinese method of "watering stock."
On the third day we were at Yuenchuan, sixty-three miles from Chungking. On the 5th, we passed through Luchow, one of the richest and most populous cities on the Upper Yangtse, and at noon next day we again reached the Yangtse at the Temple of the Goddess of Mercy, two miles down the river from the large town of Lanchihsien. According to my interpretation of the gesticulations of Laokwang, we were then forty miles from Suifu, and a beautiful sunny afternoon before us, in which to easily cover one half the distance. But I must reckon with my guide. He wished to remain here; I wished to go on; but as I could not understand his Chinese explanation, nor advance any protest except in English, of which he was innocent, I could only look aggrieved and make a virtue of a necessity. He did, however, convey to me his solemn assurance that to-morrow (ming tien) he would conduct me into Suifu before sunset. An elderly Chinaman, who had given us the advantage of his company at various inns during the last three days, here entered into the conversation, produced his watch, and, with his hand over his heart, which, in a Chinaman, is in the centre of the breast-bone, added his sacred asseveration to my guide's. So I stayed. We were quite a friendly party travelling together.
In the middle of the night a light was flashed into our room and a voice pealed out an alarm that awoke even my two Chinese, who always obligingly slept in the same room with me. I had protested against their doing so, but they mistook my expostulation for approbation. We rose at once, and came down the steep bank to a boat that was lying stern to shore showing a light. I was charmed to get such an early start, and construed the indications into a ferry boat to take me across the river, whence we would go by a short route into Suifu. The boat was loaded with sugar and had a crew of two men and three boys. There was an awning over the cargo, but most of the space under it was already occupied by twelve amiable Chinese, among whom were six promiscuous friends, who had kept with us for several stages, and had, I imagine, derived some pecuniary advantages from my company. Yet this was not a ferry boat, but a passenger boat engaged especially for me to carry me to Suifu before nightfall. The Chinese passengers had courteously projected their companionship upon the inarticulate stranger. An elderly gentleman, with huge goggles and long nails, whose fingers were stained with opium, was the pacificator of the party, and calmed the frequent wranglings in which the other eighteen Chinese engaged with much earnestness.
Well, this boat—a leaky, heavy, old tub that had to be tracked nearly all the way—carried me the forty miles to Suifu within contract time. The boatmen on board worked sixteen hours without any rest except at two hasty meals; the frayed towrope never parted at any rapid, and only once did our boat get entangled with any other. Towards sundown we were abreast of the fine pagoda of Suifu, and a little later were at the landing. The city is on a high, level shelf of land with high hills behind it. It lies in the angle of bifurcation formed by the Yangtse river (here known as the "River of Golden Sand"), going west, and the Min, or Chentu river, going north to Chentu, the capital city of the province. I landed below the southern wall, and said good-bye to my companions. Climbing up the bank into the city, I passed by a busy thoroughfare to the pretty home of the Inland Mission, where I received a kind welcome from the gentleman and lady who conduct the mission, and a charming English girl, also in the mission, who lives with them.
THE CITY OF SUIFU—THE CHINA INLAND MISSION, WITH SOME GENERAL REMARKS ABOUT MISSIONARIES IN CHINA.
At Suifu I rested a day in order to engage new coolies to go with me to Chaotong in Yunnan Province, distant 290 miles. Neither of my two Chungking men would re-engage to go further. Yet in Chungking Laokwang the cook had declared that he was prepared to go with me all the way to Talifu. But now he feared the loneliness of the road to Chaotong. The way, he said, was mountainous and little trodden, and robbers would see the smallness of our party and "come down and stab us." I was then glad that I had not paid him the retaining fee he had asked in Chungking to take me to Tali.
I called upon the famous Catholic missionaries, the Provicaire Moutot and Pere Beraud, saw the more important sights and visited some newly-arrived missionaries of the American Board of Missions. Four of the Americans were living together. I called with the Inland missionary at a time when they were at dinner. We were shown into the drawing-room, where the most conspicuous ornament was a painted scroll with a well executed drawing of the poppy in flower, a circumstance which would confirm the belief of the Chinese who saw it, that the poppy is held in veneration by foreigners. While we waited we heard the noise of dinner gradually cease, and then the door opened and one of the single ladies entered. She was fierce to look at, tall as a grenadier, with a stride like a camel; she was picking her teeth with a hairpin. She courteously expressed her regret that she could not invite us to dinner. "Waal now," she said, looking at us from under her spectacles, "ahm real sorry I caan't ask you to have somethin' to eat, but we've just finished, and I guess there ain't nothin' left."
Fourteen American missionaries were lately imported into Suifu in one shipment. Most of them are from Chicago. One of their earliest efforts will be to translate into Chinese Mr. Stead's "If Christ came to Chicago," in order the better to demonstrate to the Chinese the lofty standard of morality, virtue, probity, and honour attained by the Christian community that sent them to China to enlighten the poor benighted heathen in this land of darkness.
Szechuen is a Catholic stronghold. There are nominally one hundred thousand Catholics in the province, representing the labours of many French missionaries for a period of rather more than two hundred years. Actually, however, there are only sixty thousand Chinese in the province who could be called Catholics. To use the words of the Provicaire, the Chinese are "trop materialistes" to become Christian, and, as they are all "liars and robbers," the faith is not easily propagated amongst them. Rarely have I met two more charming men than these brave missionaries. French, they told me, I speak with the "vrai accent parisien," a compliment which I have no doubt is true, though it conflicts with my experience in Paris, where most of the true Parisians to whom I spoke in their own language gave me the same look of intelligence that I observe in the Chinaman when I address him in English. Pere Moutot has been twenty-three years in China—six years at the sacred Mount Omi, and seventeen years in Suifu; Pere Beraud has been twenty-three years in Suifu. They both speak Chinese to perfection, and have been co-workers with the bishop in the production of a Mandarin-French dictionary just published at Sicawei; they dress as Chinese, and live as Chinese in handsome mission premises built in Chinese style. There is a pretty chapel in the compound with scrolls and memorial tablets presented by Chinese Catholics, a school for boys attended by fifty ragamuffins, a nunnery and girls' school, and a fit residence for the venerable bishop. When showing me the chapel, the Provicaire told me of the visit of one of Our Lord's Apostles to Suifu. He seemed to have no doubt himself of the truth of the story. Tradition says that St. Thomas came to China, and, if further proof were wanting, there is the black image of Tamo worshipped to this day in many of the temples of Szechuen. Scholars, however, identify this image and its marked Hindoo features with that of the Buddhist evangelist Tamo, who is known to have visited China in the sixth century.
In Suifu there is a branch of the China Inland Mission under an enthusiastic young missionary, who was formerly a French polisher in Hereford. He is helped by an amiable wife and by a charming English girl scarcely out of her teens. The missionary's work has, he tells me, been "abundantly blessed,"—he has baptised six converts in the last three years. A fine type of man is this missionary, brave and self-reliant, sympathetic and self-denying, hopeful and self-satisfied. His views as a missionary are well-defined. I give them in his own words:—"Those Chinese who have never heard the Gospel will be judged by the Almighty as He thinks fit"—a contention which does not admit of dispute—"but those Chinese who have heard the Christian doctrine, and still steel their hearts against the Holy Ghost, will assuredly go to hell; there is no help for them, they can believe and they won't; had they believed, their reward would be eternal; they refuse to believe and their punishment will be eternal." But the destruction that awaits the Chinese must be pointed out to them with becoming gentleness, in accordance with the teaching of the Rev. S. F. Woodin, of the American Baptist Mission, Foochow, who says:—"There are occasions when we must speak that awful word 'hell,' but this should always be done in a spirit of earnest love." (Records of the Shanghai Missionary Conference, 1877, p. 91.) It was a curious study to observe the equanimity with which this good-natured man contemplates the work he has done in China, when to obtain six dubious conversions he has on his own confession sent some thousands of unoffending Chinese en enfer bouillir eternellement.
But, if the teaching of this good missionary is unwelcome to the Chinese, and there are hundreds in China who teach as he does, how infinitely more distasteful must be the teaching of both the Founder and the Secretary of the Mission which sent him to China.
"They are God's lost ones who are in China," says Mr. C. L. Morgan, editor of The Christian, "and God cares for them and yearns over them." (China's Millions, 1879, p. 94.) "The millions of Chinese," (who have never heard the Gospel,) says Mr. B. Broomhall, secretary of the China Inland Mission, and editor of China's Millions, "where are they going, what is to be their future? What is to be their condition beyond the grave? Oh, tremendous question! It is an awful thing to contemplate—but they perish; that is what God says." ("Evangelisation of the World," p. 70.) "The heathen are all guilty in God's eyes; as guilty they perish." (Id., 101.) "Do we believe that these millions are without hope in the next world? We turn the leaves of God's Word in vain, for there we find no hope; not only that, but positive words to the contrary. Yes! we believe it." (Id., p. 199.)
The Rev. Dr. Hudson Taylor, the distinguished Founder of the Mission, certainly believes it, and has frequently stated his belief in public. Ancestral worship is the keystone of the religion of the Chinese; "the keystone also of China's social fabric." And "the worship springs," says the Rev. W. A. P. Martin, D.D., LL.D., of the Tung Wen College, Peking, "from some of the best principles of human nature. The first conception of a life beyond the grave was, it is thought, suggested by a desire to commune with deceased parents." ("The Worship of Ancestors—a plea for toleration.") But Dr. Hudson Taylor condemned bitterly this plea for toleration. "Ancestral worship," he said (it was at the Shanghai Missionary Conference of May, 1890), "Ancestral worship is idolatry from beginning to end, the whole of it, and everything connected with it." China's religion is idolatry, the Chinese are universally idolatrous, and the fate that befalls idolaters is carefully pointed out by Dr. Taylor:—"Their part is in the lake of fire."
"These millions of China," I quote again from Dr. Taylor, "These millions of China" (who have never heard the Gospel), "are unsaved. Oh! my dear friends, may I say one word about that condition? The Bible says of the heathen, that they are without hope; will you say there is good hope for them of whom the Word of God says, 'they are without hope, without God in the world'?" (Missionary Conference of 1888, Records, i., 176.)
"There are those who know more about the state of the heathen than did the Apostle Paul, who wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, 'They that sin without law, perish without law,' nay, there are those who are not afraid to contradict the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him to shew unto His servants, in which He solemnly affirms that 'idolators and all liars, their part shall be in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone.' Such being the state of the unsaved of China, do not their urgent needs claim from us that with agonising eagerness we should hasten to proclaim everywhere the message through which alone deliverance can be found?" (Ut supra, ii., 31.)
Look then at the enormous difficulty which the six hundred and eleven missionaries, of the China Inland Mission, raise up against themselves, the majority of whom are presumably in agreement with the teaching of their director, Dr. Hudson Taylor. They tell the Chinese inquirer that his unconverted father, who never heard the Gospel, has, like Confucius, perished eternally. But the chief of all virtues in China is filial piety; the strongest emotion that can move the heart of a Chinaman is the supreme desire to follow in the footsteps of his father. Conversion with him means not only eternal separation from the father who gave him life, but the "immediate liberation of his ancestors to a life of beggary, to inflict sickness and all manner of evil on the neighbourhood."
I believe that it is now universally recognised that the most difficult of all missionary fields—incomparably the most difficult—is China. Difficulties assail the missionary at every step; and every honest man, whether his views be broad or high or low, must sympathise with the earnest efforts the missionaries are making for the good and advancement of the Chinese.
Look for example at the difficulty there is in telling a Chinese, who has been taught to regard the love of his parents as his chief duty, as his forefathers have been taught for hundreds of generations before him—the difficulty there is in explaining to him, in his own language, the words of Christ, "If any man come to Me and hate not his father, he cannot be My disciple. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father."
In the patriarchal system of government which prevails in China, the most awful crime that a son can commit, is to kill his parent, either father or mother. And this is said to be, though the description is no doubt abundantly exaggerated, the punishment of his crime. He is put to death by the "Ling chi," or "degrading and slow process," and his younger brothers are beheaded; his house is razed to the ground and the earth under it dug up several feet deep; his neighbours are severely punished; his principal teacher is decapitated; the district magistrate is deprived of his office; and the higher officials of the province degraded three degrees in rank.
Such is the enormity of the crime of parricide in China; yet it is to the Chinese who approves of the severity of this punishment that the missionary has to preach, "And the children shall rise up against their parents and cause them to be put to death."
The China Inland Mission, as a body of courageous workers, brave travellers, unselfish and kindly men endowed with every manly virtue that can command our admiration, is worthy of all the praise that can be bestowed on it. Most of its members are men who have been saved after reaching maturity, and delicately-nurtured emotional girls with heightened religious feelings.
Too often entirely ignorant of the history of China, a mighty nation which has "witnessed the rise to glory and the decay of Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and Rome, and still remains the only monument of ages long bygone," of its manners and polity, customs and religions, and of the extraordinary difficulties in the acquirement of its language, too often forgetful that the Chinese are a people whose "prepossessions and prejudices and cherished judgments are the growth of millenniums," they come to China hoping that miraculous assistance will aid them in their exposition of the Christian doctrine, in language which is too often impenetrable darkness to its hearers.
"They are God's lost ones who are in China, and God cares for them and yearns over them," and men who were in England respectable artisans, with an imperfect hold of their own language, come to China, in response to the "wail of the dying millions," to stay this "awful ruin of souls," who, at the rate of 33,000 a day, are "perishing without hope, having sinned without law."
Six months after their arrival they write to China's Millions: "Now for the news! Glorious news this time! Our services crowded! Such bright intelligent faces! So eager to hear the good news! They seemed to drink in every word, and to listen as if they were afraid that a word might be lost." Five years later they write: "The first convert in Siao Wong Miao was a young man named Sengleping, a matseller. He was very earnest in his efforts to spread the Gospel, but about the beginning of the year he became insane. The poor man lost his reason, but not his piety." (China's Millions, iv., 5, 95, and 143).
A young English girl at this mission, who has been more than a year in China, tells me that she has never felt the Lord so near her as she has since she came to China, nor ever realised so entirely His abundant goodness. Poor thing, it made me sad to talk to her. In England she lived in a bright and happy home with brothers and sisters, in a charming climate. She was always well and full of life and vigour, surrounded by all that can make life worth living. In China she is never well; she is almost forgetting what is the sensation of health; she is anaemic and apprehensive; she has nervous headaches and neuralgia; she can have no pleasure, no amusement whatever; her only relaxation is taking her temperature; her only diversion a prayer meeting. She is cooped up in a Chinese house in the unchanging society of a married couple—the only exercise she can permit herself is a prison-like walk along the top of the city at the back of the mission. Her lover, a refined English gentleman who is also in the mission, lives a week's journey away, in Chungking, a depressing fever-stricken city where the sun is never seen from November to June, and blazes with unendurable fierceness from July to October. In England he was full of strength and vigour, fond of boating and a good lawn-tennis player. In China he is always ill, anaemic, wasted, and dyspeptic, constantly subject to low forms of fever, and destitute of appetite. But more agonising than his bad health is the horrible reality of the unavailing sacrifice he is making—no converts but "outcasts subsidised to forsake their family altars;" no reward but the ultimate one which his noble self-devotion is laying up for himself in Heaven. No man with a healthy brain can discern "Blessing" in the work of these two missionaries, nor be blind to the fact that it is the reverse of worshipful to return effusive thanks to the great Almighty, "who yearns over the Chinese, His lost ones," for "vouchsafing the abundant mercies" of a harvest of six doubtful converts as the work of three missionaries for three years.
There are 180,000 people in Suifu, and, as is the case with Chinese cities, a larger area than that under habitation is occupied by the public graveyard outside the city, which covers the hill slopes for miles and miles. The number of opium-smokers is so large that the question is not, who does smoke opium, but who doesn't. In the mission street alone, besides the Inland Mission, the Buddhist Temple, Mohammedan Mosque, and Roman Catholic Mission, there are eight opium-houses. Every bank, silk shop, and hong, of any pretension whatever, throughout the city, has its opium-room, with the lamp always lit ready for the guest. Opium-rooms are as common as smoking rooms are with us. A whiff of opium rather than a nip of whisky is the preliminary to business in Western China.
An immensely rich city is Suifu with every advantage of position, on a great waterway in the heart of a district rich in coal and minerals and inexhaustible subterranean reservoirs of brine. Silks and furs and silverwork, medicines, opium and whitewax, are the chief articles of export, and as, fortunately for us, Western China can grow but little cotton, the most important imports are Manchester goods.
Szechuen is by far the richest province of the eighteen that constitute the Middle Kingdom. Its present Viceroy, Liu, is a native of Anhwei; he is, therefore, a countryman of Li Hung Chang to whom he is related by marriage, his daughter having married Li Hung Chang's nephew. Its provincial Treasurer is believed to occupy the richest post held by any official in the empire. It is worth noticing that the present provincial Treasurer, Kung Chao-yuan, has just been made (1894) Minister Plenipotentiary to Great Britain, France, Italy, Belgium, Sweden and Norway, and one can well believe how intense was his chagrin when he received this appointment from the "Imperial Supreme" compelling him, as it did, to forsake the tombs of his ancestors—to leave China for England on a fixed salary, and vacate the most coveted post in the empire, a post where the opportunities of personal enrichment are simply illimitable.
In Suifu there are two magistrates, both with important yamens. The Fu magistrate is the "Father of the City," the Hsien magistrate is the "Mother of the City;" and the "Mother of the City" largely favours the export opium trade. When Protestant missionaries first came to the city in 1888 and 1889 there was little friendliness shown to them. Folk would cry after the missionary, "There goes the foreigner that eats children," and children would be hurriedly hidden, as if from fear. These taunts were at first disregarded. But there came a time when living children were brought to the mission for sale as food; whereupon the mission made formal complaint in the yamen, and the Fu at once issued a proclamation checking the absurd tales about the foreigners, and ordering the citizens, under many pains and penalties, to treat the foreigners with respect. There has been no trouble since, and, as we walked through the crowded streets, I could see nothing but friendly indifference. Reference to this and other sorrows is made in the missionary's report to China's Millions, November, 1893:—
"Soon after this trial had passed away (the rumours of baby eating), still more painful internal sorrow arose. One of the members, who had been baptised three years before and had been useful as a preacher of the Gospel, fell into grievous sin, and had to be excluded from Church fellowship. Then a little later a very promising inquirer, who had been cured of opium-smoking and appeared to be growing in grace, fell again under its power. While still under a cloud he was suddenly removed during the cholera visitation."
The China Inland Mission has pleasant quarters close under the city wall. Their pretty chapel opens into the street, and displays prominently the proclamation of the Emperor concerning the treaty rights of foreign missionaries. Seven children, all of whom are girls, are boarded on the premises, and are being brought up as Christians. They are pretty, bright children, the eldest, a girl of fourteen, particularly so. All are large-footed, and they are to be married to Christian converts. When this fact becomes known it is hoped that more young Chinamen than at present may be emulous to be converted. All seven are foundlings from Chungking where, wrapped in brown paper, they were at different times dropped over the wall into the Mission compound. They have been carefully reared by the Mission.
At the boys' school fifty smart boys, all heathens, were at their lessons. They were learning different subjects, and were teaching their ears the "tones" by reading at the top of their voices. The noise was awful. None but a Chinese boy could study in such a din. In China, when the lesson is finished, the class is silent; noise, therefore, is the indication of work in a Chinese school—not silence.
The schoolmaster was a ragged-looking loafer, dressed in grey. He was in mourning, and had been unshaven for forty-two days in consequence of the death of his father. This was an important day of mourning, because on this day, the forty-second after his death, his dead father became, for the first time, aware of his own decease. A week later, on the forty-ninth day, the funeral rites would cease.
SUIFU TO CHAOTONG, WITH SOME REMARKS ON THE PROVINCE OF YUNNAN—CHINESE PORTERS, POSTAL ARRANGEMENTS, AND BANKS.
I engaged three new men in Suifu, who undertook to take me to Chaotong, 290 miles, in thirteen days, special inducement being held out to them in the shape of a reward of one shilling each to do the journey in eleven days. Their pay was to be seven shillings and threepence each, apart from the bonus, and of course they had to find themselves. They brought me from the coolie-hong, where they were engaged, an agreement signed by the hong-master, which was to be returned to them in Chaotong, and remitted to their master as a receipt for my safe delivery.
Every condition detailed in the agreement they faithfully carried out, and they took me to Chaotong in ten days and a half, though the ordinary time is fourteen days.
One of the three was a convert, one of the six surviving converts made by the aggregate Inland Mission of Suifu in six years. He was an excellent good fellow, rather dull of wits, but a credit to the Mission. To him was intrusted the paying away of my money—he carried no load. When he wanted money he was to show me his empty hands, and say "Muta tsien! muta tsien!" (I have no money! I have no money!).
I knew that perfect confidence could be placed in the convert, apart from the reason of his conversion, because he had a father living in Suifu. Were he to rob me or do me a wrong and run away, we could arrest his father and have him detained in the yamen prison till his son returned. Nothing in China gives one greater protection against fraud and injury than the law which holds a father responsible for the wrongdoing of his son, or, where there is no father, an elder son culpable for the misdeed of the younger.
On the morning of March 22nd we started for Chaotong in Yunnan province. The Inland Missionary and a Brother from the American Baptist Mission kindly came with me for the first thirteen miles. My route lay west on the north bank of the Yangtse, but later, after crossing the Yangtse, would be nearly south to Chaotong.
Shortly before leaving, the chairen or yamen-runner—the policeman, that is to say—sent by the Magistrate to shadow me to Tak-wan-hsien, called at the Mission to request that the interpreter would kindly remind the traveller, who did not speak Chinese, that it was customary to give wine-money to the chairen at the end of the journey. The request was reasonable. All the way from Chungking I had been accompanied by yamen-runners without knowing it. The chairen is sent partly for the protection of the traveller, but mainly for the protection of the Magistrate; for, should a traveller provided with a passport receive any injury, the Magistrate of the district would be liable to degradation. It was arranged, therefore, with the convert that, on our arrival in Tak-wan-hsien, I was to give the chairen, if satisfied with his services, 200 cash (five pence); but, if he said "gowshun! gowshun!" (a little more! a little more!) with sufficient persistence, I was to increase the reward gradually to sevenpence halfpenny. This was to be the limit; and the chairen, I was assured, would consider this a generous return for accompanying me 227 miles over one of the most mountainous roads in China.
It was a pleasant walk along the river-bank in the fertile alluvial, where the poppy in white flower and tobacco were growing, and where fields of yellow rape-seed alternated with beds of rushes—the rape-seed yielding the oil, and the rushes the rushlights of Chinese lamps. Flocks of wild geese were within easy shot on the sandbanks—the "peaceful geese," whose virtues are extolled by every Chinaman. They live in pairs, and, if one dies, its mate will be for ever faithful to its memory. Such virtue is worthy of being recorded on the arch which here spans the roadway, whose Chinese characters, Shen (holy), Chi (will), show that it was erected by the holy decree of the Emperor to perpetuate the memory of some widow who never remarried.
As we walked along the missionary gave instructions to my men. "In my grace I had given them very light loads; hurry and they would be richly rewarded"—one shilling extra for doing fourteen stages in eleven days.
At an inn, under the branches of a banyan tree, we sat down and had a cup of tea. While we waited, a hawker came and sat near us. He was peddling live cats. In one of his two baskets was a cat that bore a curious resemblance to a tortoise-shell tabby, that till a week ago had been a pet in the Inland Mission. It had disappeared mysteriously; it had died, the Chinese servant said; and here it was reincarnated.
At the market town the missionaries left me to go on alone with my three men. I had seventeen miles still to go before night.
It was midday, and the sun was hot, so a chair was arranged for to take me the seventeen miles to Anpien. It was to cost 320 cash (eightpence), but, just before leaving, the grasping coolies refused to carry me for less than 340 cash. "Walk on," said the missionary, "and teach them a Christian lesson," so I walked seventeen miles in the sun to rebuke them for their avarice and save one halfpenny. In the evening I am afraid that I was hardly in the frame of mind requisite for conducting an evangelical meeting.
Anpien is a considerable town. It is on the Yangtse River just below where it bifurcates into two rivers, one of which goes north-west, the other south-west. Streets of temporary houses are built down by the river; they form the winter suburb, and disappear in the summer when the river rises in consequence of the melting of the snows in its mountain sources. At an excellent inn, with a noisy restaurant on the first floor, good accommodation was given me. No sooner was I seated than a chairen came from the yamen to ask for my Chinese visiting card; but he did not ask for my passport, though I had brought with me twenty-five copies besides the original.
At daybreak a chair was ready, and I was carried to the River, where a ferry boat was in waiting to take us across below the junction. Then we started on our journey towards the south, along the right bank of the Laowatan branch of the Yangtse. The road was a tracking path cut into the face of the cliff; it was narrow, steep, winding, and slippery. There was only just room for the chair to pass, and at the sudden turns it had often to be canted to one side to permit of its passage. We were high above the river in the mountain gorges. The comfort of the traveller in a chair along this road depends entirely upon the sureness of foot of his two bearers—a false step, and chair and traveller would tumble down the cliff into the foaming river below. Deep and narrow was the mountain river, and it roared like a cataract, yet down the passage a long narrow junk, swarming with passengers, was racing, its oars and bow-sweep worked by a score of sailors singing in chorus. The boat appeared, passed down the reach, and was out of sight in a moment; a single error, the slightest confusion, and it would have been smashed in fragments on the rocks and the river strewn with corpses.
We did a good stage before breakfast. Every few li where the steepness of the valley side permits it, there are straw-thatched, bamboo and plaster inns. Here rice is kept in wooden bins all ready steaming hot for the use of travellers; good tea is brewed in a few minutes; the tables and chopsticks are sufficiently clean.
Leaving the river, we crossed over the mountains by a short cut to the river again, and at a wayside inn, much frequented by Chinese, the chair stage finished. I wished to do some writing, and sat down at one of the tables. A crowd gathered round me, and were much interested. One elderly Chinese with huge glasses, a wag in his own way, seeing that I did not speak Chinese, thought to make me understand and divert the crowd by the loudness of his speech, and, insisting that I was deaf, yelled into my ears in tones that shook the tympanum. I told the foolish fellow, in English, that the less he talked the better I could understand him; but he persisted, and poked his face almost into mine, but withdrew it and hobbled off in umbrage when I drew the attention of the bystanders to the absurd capacity of his mouth, which was larger than any mule's.
I must admit that my knowledge of Chinese was very scanty, so scanty indeed as to be almost non-existent. What few words I knew were rarely intelligible; but, as Mrs. General Baynes, when staying at Boulogne, found Hindostanee to be of great help in speaking French, so did I discover that English was of great assistance to me in conversing in Chinese. Remonstrance was thus made much more effective. Whenever I was in a difficulty, or the crowd too obtrusive, I had only to say a few grave sentences in English, and I was master of the situation. This method of speaking often reminded me of that employed by a Cornish lady of high family whose husband was a colleague of mine in Spain. She had been many years in Andalusia, but had never succeeded in mastering Spanish. At a dinner party given by this lady, at which I was present, she thus addressed her Spanish servant, who did not "possess" a single word of English: "Bring me," she said in an angry aside, "bring me the cuchillo with the black-handled heft," adding, as she turned to us and thumped her fist on the table, while the servant stood still mystified, "D—— the language! I wish I had never learnt it."
The inn, where the sedan left me, was built over the pathway, which was here a narrow track, two feet six inches wide. Mountain coolies on the road were passing in single file through the inn, their backs bending under their huge burdens. Pigs and fowls and dogs, and a stray cat, were foraging for crumbs under the table. Through the open doorways you saw the paddy-fields under water and the terraced hills, with every arable yard under cultivation. The air was hot and enervating. "The country of the clouds," as the Chinese term the province of Szechuen, does not belie its name. An elderly woman was in charge of the oven, and toddled about on her deformed feet as if she were walking on her heels. Her husband, the innkeeper, brought us hot water every few minutes to keep our tea basins full. "Na kaishui lai" (bring hot water), you heard on all sides. A heap of bedding was in one corner of the room, in another were a number of rolls of straw mattresses; a hollow joint of bamboo was filled with chopsticks for the common use, into another bamboo the innkeeper slipped his takings of copper cash. Hanging from the rafters were strings of straw sandals for the poor, and hemp sandals for moneyed wayfarers like the writer. The people who stood round, and those seated at the tables, were friendly and respectful, and plied my men with questions concerning their master. And I did hope that the convert was not tempted to backslide and swerve from the truth in his answers.
My men were now anxious to push on. Over a mountainous country of surpassing beauty, I continued my journey on foot to Fan-yien-tsen, and rested there for the night, having done two days' journey in one.
On March 24th we were all day toiling over the mountains, climbing and descending wooded steeps, through groves of pine, with an ever-changing landscape before us, beautiful with running water, with cascades and waterfalls tumbling down into the river, with magnificent glens and gorges, and picturesque temples on the mountain tops. At night we were at the village of Tanto, on the river, having crossed, a few li before, over the boundary which separates the province of Szechuen from the province of Yunnan.
From Tanto the path up the gorges leads across a rocky mountain creek in a defile of the mountains. In England this creek would be spanned by a bridge; but the poor heathen, in China, how do they find their way across the stream? By a bridge also. They have spanned the torrent with a powerful iron suspension bridge, 100 feet long by ten feet broad, swung between two massive buttresses and approached under handsome temple-archways.
Mists clothe the mountains—the air is confined between these walls of rock and stone. Population is scanty, but there is cultivation wherever possible. Villages sparsely distributed along the mountain path have water trained to them in bamboo conduits from tarns on the hillside. Each house has its own supply, and there is no attempt to provide for the common good. Besides other reasons, it would interfere with the trade of the water-carriers, who all day long are toiling up from the river.
The mountain slope does not permit a greater width of building space than on each side of the one main street. And on market days this street is almost impassable, being thronged with traffickers, and blocked with stalls and wares. Coal is for sale, both pure and mixed with clay in briquettes, and salt in blocks almost as black as coal, and three times as heavy, and piles of drugs—a medley of bones, horns, roots, leaves, and minerals—and raw cotton and cotton yarn from Wuchang and Bombay, and finished goods from Manchester. At one of the villages there was a chair for hire, and, knowing how difficult was the country, I was willing to pay the amount asked—namely, 7d. for nearly seven miles; but my friend the convert, who arranged these things, considered that between the 5d. he offered and the 7d. they asked the discrepancy was too great, and after some acrimonious bargaining it was decided that I should continue on foot, my man indicating to me by gestures, in a most sarcastic way, that the "chiaodza" men had failed to overreach him.
At Sengki-ping it rained all through the night, and I had to sleep under my umbrella because of a solution in the continuity of the roof immediately above my pillow. And it rained all the day following; but my men, eager to earn their reward of one shilling, pushed on through the slush. It was hard work following the slippery path above the river. Few rivers in the world flow between more majestic banks than these, towering as they do a thousand feet above the water. Clad with thick mountain scrub, that has firm foothold, the mountains offer but a poor harvest to the peasant; yet even here high up on the precipitous sides of the cliffs, ledges that seem inaccessible are sown with wheat or peas, and, if the soil be deep enough, with the baneful poppy. As we plodded on through the mud and rain, we overtook a poor lad painfully limping along with the help of a stick. He was a bright lad, who unbound his leg and showed me a large swelling above the knee. He spoke to me, though I did not understand him, but with sturdy independence did not ask for alms, and when I had seen his leg he bound it up again and limped on. Meeting him a little later at an inn, where he was sitting at a table with nothing before him to eat, I gave him a handful of cash which I had put in my pocket for him. He thanked me by raising his clasped hands, and said something, I knew not what, as I hurried on. A little while afterwards I stopped to have my breakfast, when the boy passed. As soon as he saw me he fell down upon his knees and "kotow'd" to me, with every mark of the liveliest gratitude. I felt touched by the poor fellow's gratitude—he could not have been more than fifteen—and mean, to think that the benefaction, which in his eyes appeared so generous, was little more than one penny. There can be no doubt that I gained merit by this action, for this very afternoon as I was on the track a large stone the size of a shell from a 50-ton gun fell from the crag above me, struck the rock within two paces of me, and shot past into the river. A few feet nearer and it would have blotted out the life of one whom the profession could ill spare. We camped at Laowatan.
A chair with three bearers was waiting for me in the morning, so that I left the town of Laowatan in a manner befitting my rank. The town had risen to see me leave, and I went down the street amid serried ranks of spectators. We crossed the river by a wonderful suspension bridge, 250 feet long and 12 feet broad, formed of linked bars of wrought iron. It shows stability, strength, and delicacy of design, and is a remarkable work to have been done by the untutored barbarians of this land of night. We ascended the steep incline opposite, and passed the likin barrier, but at a turn in the road, higher still in the mountain, a woman emerged from her cottage and blocked our path. Nor could the chair pass till my foremost bearer had reluctantly given her a string of cash. "With money you can move the gods," say the Chinese; "without it you can't move a man."
For miles we mounted upwards. We were now in Yunnan, "south of the clouds"—in Szechuen we were always under the clouds—the sun was warm, the air dry and crisp. Ponies passed us in long droves; often there were eighty ponies in a single drove. All were heavily laden with copper and lead, were nozzled to keep them off the grass, and picked their way down the rocky path of steps with the agility and sureness of foot of mountain goats. Time was beaten for them on musical gongs, and the echoes rang among the mountains. Many were decorated with red flags and tufts, and with plumes of the Amherst pheasant. These were official pack animals, which were franked through the likin barriers without examination.
The path, rising to the height of the watershed, where at a great elevation we gain a distant view of water, descends by the counterslope once more to the river Laowatan. A wonderful ravine, a mountain riven perpendicularly in twain, here gives passage to the river, and in full view of this we rested at the little town of Taoshakwan, with the roar of the river hundreds of feet below us. Midway up the face of the precipice opposite there is a sight worth seeing; a mass of coffin boards, caught in a fault in the precipice, have been lying there for untold generations, having been originally carried there by the "ancient flying-men who are now extinct."
A poor little town is Taoshakwan, with a poor little yamen with pretentious tigers painted on its outflanking wall, with a poor little temple, and gods in sad disrepair; but with an admirable inn, with a charming verandah facing a scene of alpine magnificence.
We were entering a district of great poverty. At Tchih-li-pu, where we arrived at midday the next day, the houses are poor, the people poverty-stricken and ill-clad, the hotel dirty, and my room the worst I had yet slept in. The road is a well-worn path flagged in places, uneven, and irregular, following at varying heights the upward course of the tortuous river. The country is bald; it is grand but lonely; vegetation is scanty and houses are few; we have left the prosperity of Szechuen, and are in the midst of the poverty of Yunnan. Farmhouses there are at rare intervals, amid occasional patches of cultivation; there are square white-washed watch towers in groves of sacred trees; there are a few tombstones, and an occasional rudely carved god to guard the way. There are poor mud and bamboo inns with grass roofs, and dirty tables set out with half a dozen bowls of tea, and with ovens for the use of travellers. Food we had now to bring with us, and only at the larger towns where the stages terminate could we expect to find food for sale. The tea is inferior, and we had to be content with maize meal, bean curds, rice roasted in sugar, and sweet gelatinous cakes made from the waste of maize meal. Rice can only be bought in the large towns. It is not kept in roadside inns ready steaming hot for use, as it is in Szechuen. Rarely there are sweet potatoes; there are eggs, however, in abundance, one hundred for a shilling (500 cash), but the coolies cannot eat them because of their dearness. A large bowl of rice costs four cash, an egg five cash, and the Chinaman strikes a balance in his mind and sees more nourishment in one bowl of rice than in three eggs. Of meat there is pork—pork in plenty, and pork only. Pigs and dogs are the scavengers of China. None of the carnivora are more omnivorous than the Chinese. "A Chinaman has the most unscrupulous stomach in the world," says Meadows; "he will eat anything from the root to the leaf, and from the hide to the entrails." He will not even despise the flesh of dog that has died a natural death. During the awful famine in Shansi of 1876-1879 starving men fought to the death for the bodies of dogs that had fattened on the corpses of their dead countrymen. Mutton is sometimes for sale in Mohammedan shops, and beef also, but it must not be imagined that either sheep or ox is killed for its flesh, unless on the point of death from starvation or disease. And the beef is not from the ox but from the water buffalo. Sugar can be bought only in the larger towns; salt can be purchased everywhere.
Beggars there are in numbers, skulking about almost naked, with unkempt hair and no queue, with a small basket for gathering garbage and a staff to keep away dogs. Only beggars carry sticks in China, and it is only the beggars that need beware of dogs. To carry a stick in China for protection against dogs is like carrying a red flag to scare away bulls. Dogs in China are lowly organised; they are not discriminating animals; and, despite the luxurious splendour of my Chinese dress—it cost more than seven shillings—dogs frequently mistook my calling. In Szechuen, as we passed through the towns, there was competition among the inns to obtain our custom. Hotel runners were there to shout to all the world the superior merits of their establishments. But here in Yunnan it is different. There is barely inn accommodation for the road traffic, and the innkeepers are either too apathetic or too shamefaced to call the attention of the traveller to their poor, dirty accommodation houses.
In Szechuen, one of the most flourishing of trades is that of the monumental mason and carver in stone. Huge monoliths are there cut from the boulders which have been dislodged from the mountains, dressed and finished in situ, and then removed to the spot where they are to be erected. The Chinese thus pursue a practice different from that of the Westerns, who bring the undressed stone from the quarry and carve it in the studio. With the Chinese the difficulty is one of transport—the finished work is obviously lighter than the unhewn block. In Yunnan, up to the present, I had seen no mason at work, for no masonry was needed. Houses built of stone were falling into ruin, and only thatched, mud-plastered, bamboo and wood houses were being built in their places.
At Laowatan I told my Christian to hire me a chair for thirty or forty li, and he did so, but the chair, instead of carrying me the shorter distance, carried me the whole day. The following day the chair kept company with me, and as I had not ordered it, I naturally walked; but the third day also the chair haunted me, and then I discovered that my admirable guide had engaged the chair not for thirty or forty li, as I had instructed him in my best Chinese, but for three hundred and sixty li, for four days' stages of ninety li each. He had made the agreement "out of consideration for me," and his own pocket; he had made an agreement which gave him wider scope for a little private arrangement of his own with the chair-coolies. For two days I was paying fifteen cash a li for a chair and walking alongside of it charmed by the good humour of the coolies, and unaware that they were laughing in their sleeves at my folly. Trifling mistakes like this are inevitable to one who travels in China without an interpreter.
My two coolies were capital fellows, full of good humour, cheerful, and untiring. The elder was disposed to be argumentative with his countrymen, but he could not quarrel. Nature had given him an uncontrollable stutter, and, if he tried to speak quickly, spasm seized his tongue, and he had to break into a laugh. Few men in China, I think, could be more curiously constructed than this coolie. He was all neck; his chin was simply an upward prolongation of his neck like a second "Adam's apple." Both were very pleasant companions. They were naturally in good humour, for they were well paid, and their loads, as loads are in China, were almost insignificant; I had only asked them to carry sixty-seven pounds each.
We, who live amid the advantages of Western civilisation, can hardly realise how enormous are the weights borne by those human beasts of burthen, our brothers in China. The common fast-travelling coolie of Szechuen contracts to carry eighty catties (107lbs.), forty miles a day over difficult country. But the weight-carrying coolie, travelling shorter distances, carries far heavier loads than that. There are porters, says Du Halde, who will carry 160 of our pounds, ten leagues a day. The coolies, engaged in carrying the compressed cakes of Szechuen tea into Thibet, travel over mountain passes 7000 feet above their starting place; yet there are those among them, says Von Richthofen, who carry 324 catties (432lbs.). A package of tea is called a "pao" and varies in weight from eleven to eighteen catties, yet Baber has often seen coolies carrying eighteen of the eighteen-catty pao (the "Yachou pao") and on one occasion twenty-two, in other words Baber has often seen coolies with more than 400lbs. on their backs. Under these enormous loads they travel from six to seven miles a day. The average load of the Thibetan tea-carrier is, says Gill, from 240lbs. to 264lbs. Gill constantly saw "little boys carrying 120lbs." Bundles of calico weigh fifty-five catties each (73-1/3lbs.), and three bundles are the average load. Salt is solid, hard, metallic, and of high specific gravity, yet I have seen men ambling along the road, under loads that a strong Englishman could with difficulty raise from the ground. The average load of salt, coal, copper, zinc, and tin is 200lbs. Gill met coolies carrying logs, 200lbs. in weight, ten miles a day; and 200lbs., the Consul in Chungking told me, is the average weight carried by the cloth-porters between Wanhsien and Chentu, the capital.
Mountain coolies, such as the tea-carriers, bear the weight of their burden on their shoulders, carrying it as we do a knapsack, not in the ordinary Chinese way, with a pliant carrying pole. They are all provided with a short staff, which has a transverse handle curved like a boomerang, and with this they ease the weight off the back, while standing at rest.
We were still ascending the valley, which became more difficult of passage every day. Hamlets are built where there is scarce foothold in the detritus, below perpendicular escarpments of rock, cut clean like the facades of a Gothic temple. A tributary of the river is crossed by an admirable stone bridge of two arches, with a central pier and cut-water of magnificent boldness and strength, and with two images of lions guarding its abutment. Just below the branch the main stream can be crossed by a traveller, if he be brave enough to venture, in a bamboo loop-cradle, and be drawn across the stream on a powerful bamboo cable slung from bank to bank.
We rested by the bridge and refreshed ourselves, for above us was an ascent whose steepness my stuttering coolie indicated to me by fixing my walking stick in the ground, almost perpendicularly, and running his finger up the side. He did not exaggerate. A zigzag path set with stone steps has been cut in the vertical ascent, and up this we toiled for hours. At the base of the escalade my men sublet their loads to spare coolies who were waiting there in numbers for the purpose, and climbed up with me empty-handed. At every few turns there were rest-houses where one could get tea and shelter from the hot sun. The village of Tak-wan-leo is at the summit; it is a village of some little importance and commands a noble view of mountain, valley, and river. Its largest hong is the coffin-maker's, which is always filled with shells of the thickest timber that money can buy.
Stress is laid in China upon the necessity of a secure resting-place after death. The filial affection of a son can do no more thoughtful act than present a coffin to his father, to prove to him how composedly he will lie after he is dead. And nothing will a father in China show the stranger with more pride than the coffin-boards presented to him by his dutiful son.
Tak-wan-leo is the highest point on the road between Suifu and Chaotong. For centuries it has been known to the Chinese as the highest point; how, then, with their defective appliances did they arrive at so accurate a determination? Twenty li beyond the village the stage ends at the town of Tawantzu, where I had good quarters in the pavilion of an old temple. The shrine was thick with the dust of years; the three gods were dishevelled and mutilated; no sheaves of joss sticks were smouldering on the altar. The steps led down into manure heaps and a piggery, into a garden rank and waste, which yet commands an outlook over mountain and river worthy of the greatest of temples.
On March 30th I reached Tak-wan-hsien, the day's stage having been seventy li (twenty-three and one-third miles). I was carried all the way by three chair-coolies in a heavy chair in steady rain that made the unpaved track as slippery as ice—and this over the dizzy heights of a mountain pathway of extraordinary irregularity. Never slipping, never making a mistake, the three coolies bore the chair with my thirteen stone, easily and without straining. From time to time they rested a minute or two to take a whiff of tobacco; they were always in good humour, and finished the day as strong and fresh as when they began it. Within an hour of their arrival all these three men were lying on their sides in the room opposite to mine, with their opium-pipes and little wooden vials of opium before them, all three engaged in rolling and heating in their opium-lamps treacly pellets of opium. Then they had their daily smoke of opium. "They were ruining themselves body and soul." Two of the men were past middle age; the third was a strapping young fellow of twenty-five. They may have only recently acquired the habit, I had no means of asking them; but those who know Western China will tell you that it is almost certain that the two elder men had used the opium-pipe as a stimulant since they were as young as their companion. All three men were physically well-developed, with large frames, showing unusual muscular strength and endurance, and differed, indeed, from those resurrected corpses whose fleshless figures, drawn by imaginative Chinese artists, we have known for years to be typical of our poor lost brothers—the opium-smoking millions of China. For their work to-day, work that few men out of China would be capable of attempting, the three coolies were paid sevenpence each, out of which they found themselves, and had to pay as well one penny each for the hire of the chair.
On arriving at the inn in Tak-wan-hsien my estimable comrade, one of the six surviving converts of Suifu, indicated to me that his cash belt was empty—up the road he could not produce a single cash for me to give a beggar—and pointing in turn to the bag where I kept my silver, to the ceiling and to his heart, he conveyed to me the pious assurance that if I would give him some silver from the bag he would bring me back the true change, on his honour, so witness Heaven! I gave him two lumps of silver which I made him understand were worth 3420 cash; he went away, and after a suspicious absence returned quite gleefully with 3050 cash, the bank, no doubt, having detained the remainder pending the declaration of a bogus dividend. But he also brought back with him what was better than cash, some nutritious maize-meal cakes, which proved a welcome change from the everlasting rice. They were as large as an English scone, and cost two cash apiece, that is to say, for one shilling I could buy twenty dozen.
Money in Western China consists of solid ingots of silver, and copper cash. The silver is in lumps of one tael or more each, the tael being a Chinese ounce and equivalent roughly to between 1400 and 1500 cash. Speaking generally a tael was worth, during my journey, three shillings, that is to say, forty cash were equivalent to one penny. There are bankers in every town, and the Chinese methods of banking, it is well known, are but little inferior to our own. From Hankow to Chungking my money was remitted by draft through a Chinese bank. West from Chungking the money may be sent by draft, by telegraph, or in bullion, as you choose. I carried some silver with me; the rest I put up in a package and handed to a native post in Chungking, which undertook to deliver it intact to me at Yunnan city, 700 miles away, within a specified time. By my declaring its contents and paying the registration fee, a mere trifle, the post guaranteed its safe delivery, and engaged to make good any loss. Money is thus remitted in Western China with complete confidence and security. My money arrived, I may add, in Yunnan at the time agreed upon, but after I had left for Talifu. As there is a telegraph line between Yunnan and Tali, the money was forwarded by telegraph and awaited my arrival in Tali.
There are no less than four native post-offices between Chungking and Suifu. All the post-offices transmit parcels, as well as letters and bullion, at very moderate charges. The distance is 230 miles, and the charges are fifty cash (1-1/4d.) the catty (1-1/3lb.), or any part thereof; thus a single letter pays fifty cash, a catty's weight of letters paying no more than a single letter.
From Chungking to Yunnan city, a distance of 630 miles, letters pay two hundred cash (fivepence) each; packages of one catty, or under, pay three hundred and fifty cash; while for silver bullion there is a special fee of three hundred and fifty cash for every ten taels, equivalent to ninepence for thirty shillings, or two-and-a-half per cent., which includes postage registration, guarantee, and insurance.
Tak-wan-hsien is a town of some importance, and was formerly the seat of the French missionary bishop. It is a walled town, ranking as a Hsien city, with a Hsien magistrate as its chief ruler. There are 10,000 people (more or less), within the walls, but the city is poor, and its poverty is but a reflex of the district. Its mud wall is crumbling; its houses of mud and wood are falling; the streets are ill-paved and the people ill-clad.
THE CITY OF CHAOTONG, WITH SOME REMARKS ON ITS POVERTY, INFANTICIDE, SELLING FEMALE CHILDREN INTO SLAVERY, TORTURES, AND THE CHINESE INSENSIBILITY TO PAIN.
By the following day we had crossed the mountains, and were walking along the level upland that leads to the plain of Chaotong. And on Sunday, April 1st, we reached the city. Cedars, held sacred, with shrines in the shelter of their branches, dot the plain; peach-trees and pear-trees were now in full bloom; the harvest was ripening in the fields. There were black-faced sheep in abundance, red cattle with short horns, and the ubiquitous water-buffalo. Over the level roads primitive carts, drawn by red oxen, were rumbling in the dust. There were mud villages, poor and falling into ruins; there were everywhere signs of poverty and famine. Children ran about naked, or in rags. We passed the likin-barrier, known by its white flag, and I was not even asked for my visiting card, nor were my boxes looked into—they were as beggarly as the district—but poor carriers were detained, and a few cash unjustly wrung from them. At a crowded teahouse, a few miles from the city, we waited for the stragglers, while many wayfarers gathered in to see me. Prices were ranging higher. Tea here was 4 cash, and not 2 cash as hitherto. But even this charge was not excessive. In Canton one day, after a weary journey on foot through the crowded streets, I was taken to a five-storied pagoda overlooking the city. At the topmost story tea was brought me, and I drank a dozen cups, and was asked threepence in payment. I thought that the cheapest refreshment I ever had. Yet here I was served as abundantly with better tea at a charge compared with which the Canton charge was twenty-five times greater. Previously in this province the price I had paid for tea in comparison with the price at Canton was as one to fifty.
Early in the afternoon we passed through the south gate into Chaotong, and, picking our way through the streets, were led to the comfortable home of the Bible Christian Mission, where I was kindly received by the Rev. Frank Dymond, and welcomed as a brother missionary of whose arrival he had been advised. Services were ended, but the neighbours dropped in to see the stranger, and ask my exalted age, my honourable name, and my dignified business; they hoped to be able to congratulate me upon being a man of virtue, the father of many sons; asked how many thousands of pieces of silver I had (daughters), and how long I proposed to permit my dignified presence to remain in their mean and contemptible city.
Mr. Dymond is a Devonshire man, and that evening he gave me for tea Devonshire cream and blackberry jam made in Chaotong, and native oatmeal cakes, than which I never tasted any better in Scotland.
Chaotong is a walled Fu city with 40,000 inhabitants. Roman Catholics have been established here for many years, and the Bible Christian Mission, which is affiliated to the China Inland Mission, has been working here since 1887.
There were formerly five missionaries; there are now only two, and one of these was absent. The missionary in charge, Mr. Frank Dymond, is one of the most agreeable men I met in China, broad-minded, sympathetic and earnest—universally honoured and respected by all the district. Since the mission was opened three converts have been baptised, one of whom is in Szechuen, another is in Tongchuan, and the third has been gathered to his fathers. The harvest has not been abundant, but there are now six promising inquirers, and the missionary is not discouraged. The mission premises are built on land which cost two hundred and ninety taels, and are well situated not far from the south gate, the chief yamens, the temples, and the French Mission. People are friendly, but manifest dangerously little interest in their salvation.
At Chaotong I had entered upon a district that had been devastated by recurring seasons of plague and famine. Last year more than 5000 people are believed to have died from starvation in the town and its immediate neighbourhood. The numbers are appalling, but doubt must always be thrown upon statistics derived from Chinese sources. The Chinese and Japanese disregard of accuracy is characteristic of all Orientals. Beggars were so numerous, and became such a menace to the community, that their suppression was called for; they were driven from the streets, and confined within the walls of the temple and grounds beyond the south gate, and fed by common charity. Huddled together in rags and misery, they took famine fever and perished by hundreds. Seventy dead were carried from the temple in one day. Of 5000 poor wretches who crossed the temple threshold, the Chinese say that 2000 never came out alive. For four years past the harvests had been very bad, but there was now hope of a better time coming. Opportune rains had fallen, and the opium crop was good. More than anything else the district depends for its prosperity upon the opium crop—if the crop is good, money is plentiful. Maize-cobs last harvest were four times the size of those of the previous harvest, when they were no larger than one's finger. Wheat and beans were forward; the coming rice crop gave every hope of being a good one. Food was still dear, and all prices were high, because rice was scarce and dear, and it is the price of rice which regulates the market. In a good year one sheng of rice (6-2/3lbs.) costs thirty-five cash (less than one penny), it now costs 110 cash. The normal price of maize is sixteen cash the sheng, it now cost sixty-five cash the sheng. To make things worse, the weight of the sheng had been reduced with the times from twelve catties to five catties, and at the same time the relation of cash to silver had fallen from 1640 to 1250 cash the tael.
The selling of its female children into slavery is the chief sorrow of this famine-stricken district. During last year it is estimated, or rather, it is stated by the Chinese, that no less than three thousand children from this neighbourhood, chiefly female children and a few boys, were sold to dealers and carried like poultry in baskets to the capital. At ordinary times the price for girls is one tael (three shillings) for every year of their age, thus a girl of five costs fifteen shillings, of ten, thirty shillings, but in time of famine children, to speak brutally, become a drug in the market. Female children were now offering at from three shillings and fourpence to six shillings each. You could buy as many as you cared to, you might even obtain them for nothing if you would enter into an agreement with the father, which he had no means of enforcing, to take care of his child, and clothe and feed her, and rear her kindly. Starving mothers would come to the mission beseeching the foreign teachers to take their babies and save them from the fate that was otherwise inevitable.
Girls are bought in Chaotong up to the age of twenty, and there is always a ready market for those above the age of puberty; prices then vary according to the measure of the girl's beauty, an important feature being the smallness of her feet. They are sold in the capital for wives and yatows; they are rarely sold into prostitution. Two important factors in the demand for them are the large preponderance in the number of males at the capital, and the prevalence there of goitre or thick neck, a deformity which is absent from the district of Chaotong. Infanticide in a starving city like this is dreadfully common. "For the parents, seeing their children must be doomed to poverty, think it better at once to let the soul escape in search of a more happy asylum than to linger in one condemned to want and wretchedness." The infanticide is, however, exclusively confined to the destruction of female children, the sons being permitted to live in order to continue the ancestral sacrifices.
One mother I met, who was employed by the mission, told the missionary in ordinary conversation that she had suffocated in turn three of her female children within a few days of birth; and, when a fourth was born, so enraged was her husband to discover that it was also a girl that he seized it by the legs and struck it against the wall and killed it.
Dead children, and often living infants, are thrown out on the common among the gravemounds, and may be seen there any morning being gnawed by dogs. Mr. Tremberth of the Bible Christian Mission, leaving by the south gate early one morning, disturbed a dog eating a still living child that had been thrown over the wall during the night. Its little arm was crunched and stript of flesh, and it was whining inarticulately—it died almost immediately. A man came to see me, who for a long time used to heap up merit for himself in heaven by acting as a city scavenger. Early every morning he went round the city picking up dead dogs and dead cats in order to bury them decently—who could tell, perhaps the soul of his grandfather had found habitation in that cat? While he was doing this pious work, never a morning passed that he did not find a dead child, and usually three or four. The dead of the poor people are roughly buried near the surface and eaten by dogs.
An instance of the undoubted truth of the doctrine of transmigration occurred recently in Chaotong and is worth recording. A cow was killed near the south gate on whose intestine—and this fact can be attested by all who saw it—was written plainly and unmistakably the character "Wong," which proved, they told me, that the soul of one whose name was Wong had returned to earth in the body of that cow.
I stayed two days in Chaotong, and strolled in pleasant company through the city. Close to the Mission is the yamen of the Chentai or Brigadier-General, the Military Governor of this portion of the province, and a little further is the more crowded yamen of the Fu Magistrate. Here, as in all yamens, the detached wall or fixed screen of stone facing the entrance is painted with the gigantic representation of a mythical monster in red trying to swallow the sun—the Chinese illustration of the French saying "prendre la lune avec les dents." It is the warning against covetousness, the exhortation against squeezing, and is as little likely to be attended to by the magistrate here as it would be by his brother in Chicago. We visited the Confucian Temple among the trees and the examination hall close by, and another yamen, and the Temple of the God of Riches. In the yamen, at the time of our visit, a young official, seated in his four-bearer chair, was waiting in the outer court; he had sent in his visiting card, and attended the pleasure of his superior officer. China may be uncivilised and may yearn for the missionaries, but there was refined etiquette in China, and an interchange of many of the pleasantest courtesies of modern civilisation, when we noble Britons were grubbing in the forest, painted savages with a clout.
As we went out of the west gate, I was shown the spot where a few days before a young woman, taken in adultery, was done to death in a cage amid a crowd of spectators, who witnessed her agony for three days. She had to stand on tiptoe in the cage, her head projecting through a hole in the roof, and here she had to remain until death by exhaustion or strangulation ensued, or till some kind friend, seeking to accumulate merit in heaven, passed into her mouth sufficient opium to poison her, and so end her struggles.
On the gate itself a man not so long ago was nailed with red-hot nails hammered through his wrists above the hands. In this way he was exposed in turn at each of the four gates of the city, so that every man, woman, and child could see his torture. He survived four days, having unsuccessfully attempted to shorten his pain by beating his head against the woodwork, an attempt which was frustrated by padding the woodwork. This man had murdered and robbed two travellers on the high road, and, as things are in China, his punishment was not too severe.
No people are more cruel in their punishments than the Chinese, and obviously the reason is that the sensory nervous system of a Chinaman is either blunted or of arrested development. Can anyone doubt this who witnesses the stoicism with which a Chinaman can endure physical pain when sustaining surgical operation without chloroform, the comfort with which he can thrive amid foul and penetrating smells, the calmness with which he can sleep amid the noise of gunfire and crackers, drums and tomtoms, and the indifference with which he contemplates the sufferings of lower animals, and the infliction of tortures on higher?
Every text-book on China devotes a special chapter to the subject of punishment. Mutilation is extremely common. Often I met men who had been deprived of their ears—they had lost them, they explained, in battle facing the enemy! It is a common punishment to sever the hamstrings or to break the ankle-bones, especially in the case of prisoners who have attempted to escape. And I remember that when I was in Shanghai, Mr. Tsai, the Mixed Court Magistrate, was reproved by the papers because he had from the bench expressed his regret that the foreign law of Shanghai did not permit him to punish in this way a prisoner who had twice succeeded in breaking from gaol. The hand is cut off for theft, as it was in England not so many years ago. I have seen men with the tendon of Achilles cut out, and it is worth noting that the Chinese say that this "acquired deformity" can be cured by the transplantation in the seat of injury of the tendon of a sheep. One embellishment of the Chinese punishment of flogging might with good effect be introduced into England. After a Chinese flagellation, the culprit is compelled to go down on his knees and humbly thank the magistrate for the trouble he has been put to to correct his morals.
There is a branch of the Missions Etrangeres de Paris in Chaotong. I called at the mission and saw their school of fifteen children, and their tiny little church. One priest lives here solitary and alone; he was reading, when I entered, the famous Chinese story, "The Three Kingdoms." He gave me a kindly welcome, and was pleased to talk in his own tongue. An excellent bottle of rich wine was produced, and over the glass the Father painted with voluble energy the evil qualities of the people whom he has left his beautiful home in the Midi of France to lead to Rome. "No Chinaman can resist temptation; all are thieves. Justice depends on the richness of the accused. Victory in a court of justice is to the richer. Talk to the Chinese of Religion, of a God, of Heaven or Hell, and they yawn; speak to them of business and they are all attention. If you ever hear of a Chinaman who is not a thief and a liar, do not believe it, Monsieur Morrison, do not believe it, they are thieves and liars every one."
For eight years the priest had been in China devoting his best energies to the propagation of his religion. And sorry had been his recompense. The best Christian in the mission had lately broken into the mission house and stolen everything valuable he could lay his impious hands on. Remembrance of this infamy rankled in his bosom and impelled him to this expansive panegyric on Chinese virtue.
Some four months ago the good father was away on a holiday, visiting a missionary brother in an adjoining town. In his absence the mission was entered through a rift made in the wall, and three hundred taels of silver, all the money to the last sou that he possessed, were stolen. Suspicion fell upon a Christian, who was not only an active Catholic himself, but whose fathers before him had been Catholics for generations. It was learned that his wife had some of the money, and that the thief was on his way to Suifu with the remainder. There was great difficulty in inducing the yamen to take action, but at last the wife was arrested. She protested that she knew nothing; but, having been triced up by the wrists joined behind her back, she soon came to reason, and cried out that, if the magistrate would release her hands, she would confess all. Two hundred taels were seized in her house and restored to the priest, and the culprit, her husband, followed to Tak-wan-hsien by the satellites of the yamen, was there arrested, and was now in prison awaiting punishment. The goods he purchased were likewise seized and were now with the poor father.