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100 Years Ago: November 1920

 

This is the seventieth installment in my series of reviews of one-hundred-year-old National Geographic magazines.

 

 

If only this magazine came with a map supplement it would have been referred to as the “China Number”.  It contains five articles, all related to China.  Unfortunately, there is no map, surprisingly, not even a sketch map of China in this issue.  The first article this month is entitled “Peking, the City of the Unexpected”, and was written by James Arthur Muller.  It contains eighteen black-and-white photographs, five of which are full-page in size.

Unlike other Chinese cities, which were crowded, with narrow streets and huddled shops, Peking had broad avenues three miles long, crossed by other broad avenues three miles long, making squares as regular as those of a chessboard.  This design had been emulated in modern cities like Chicago, Denver, and Philadelphia.  The city was not like other Chinese cities due to the fact that it was not built by Chinamen; it was a Tatar city.  Adventurous barbarians from the north, the Tatar lived in the saddle upon the steppes and plains.  They needed roominess.  It was not just the length, breath, and regularity of the streets that surprised the author, but the traffic upon them.  Every street was alive with beasts and vehicles.  Down tree-lined center roads autos, cabs, rickshaws, and bicycles sped past slow-moving catafalques and crimson wedding processions.  On each side, between sidewalk and trees, along a highway of dirt went people on muleback; soldiers on Manchurian ponies; triplets of ponies hauling load of bricks, lumber, coal and pottery; portly gentlemen on diminutive asses; Peking carts; and caravans of camels out of the north. The author asked the reader to imagine a city where camels went up and down the streets on legitimate business, not a circus parade.  If one strolled down Hatamen Street after breakfast, the visitor would find the shaggy, brown beasts on their knees, blinking in the morning sun and chewing their cuds.  There were dozens and dozens lining the sidewalk, up and down the street.  Eventually the drivers came forth, threw their empty sacks between the humps of the animals, roused them, and led them off down the street.  They walked slowly and softly, in single file, out beneath the great stone arches of Hata Gate, then westward beside the buttresses of the city wall.  Almost as fascinating as the camels were the carts of Peking, or rather the beasts that pulled them.  They included ponies, mules, asses, and nondescript creatures that were neither pony, mule or ass, but some subtle mixture of them all.  One historian of China spoke of the ancient Tatars as possessing horses, asses, mules, and “other peculiar breeds of the equine family”.  These ancient other breeds still trotted about the Tatar city in 1920.

The buildings were no less surprising to Mr. Muller as were the streets, traffic, carts, and camels.  He expected majestic temples and palaces when he entered the imposing South Gate, but found the broad, straight highways of the city lined with insignificant one-story shops or gray, windowless, one-story houses, or long stretches of dull-red plastered fence wall.  The streets of Peking had neither skyline nor cornices.  Were it not for the great traffic upon the streets, Peking would have reminded the traveler of an American mining town.  As soon as the author entered a gateway through one of the gray or dingy brick-red walls, he came suddenly and unexpectedly upon a palace, silent in the sun, yet shouting aloud in the brilliance of its color – crimson columns, friezes of gold on green, wide-flaring roofs of yellow, all above a triple-terraced platform of marble, white like snow.  Through another gateway, he came upon a many-courted temple, where hundreds of lamas droned chants before a Buddha.  Another gateway led to a wooded park, where emperors once took their pleasures, where century-old cedars shaded pathways and lakes.  Shrines were nestled in mulberry groves, and upon hillocks were Buddhist topes.  From their marble bases the author saw miles and miles of the city’s gray roofs and, in the middle a blotch of yellow, the Forbidden City.  This was where the emperor dwelt with his sons and daughters, wives and concubines.  Even the foreigners in Peking fell into the habit of surrounding themselves with blank, expressionless walls, so that behind such barriers were found not only temples and parks but colleges, churches, and legation buildings.

The unexpected was the essence of Chinese architecture.  One could never get a complete view of a temple or a yamen unless there were some hill or tower or city wall nearby from which to view it.  On level ground only the outer wall and the entrance were visible, and when those were passed only the first court could be seen, with its more elaborate entrance to the second; and so on through the third, fourth, and fifth, on up to maybe a seventh courtyard, each complete in itself, with a central building, through which one passed to the court beyond, each building larger, higher, and more decorated than the last.  This arrangement produced sudden and increasing wonder and allowed the architect to work up to a climax through a series of surprising effects.  While some of the smaller buildings appeared cramped and huddled, others seemed cozy and pleasing.  In Peking there was a fine spaciousness in the courtyards.  Combined with massive structures, dignity of line and simple barbaric coloring, the view took the author’s breath away.  He admired its strength and power.  This was especially true of the imperial palace, which was perhaps the most effectively arranged group of buildings in all of China.  Gateway after gateway, each gate a palace in itself, pillared, roofed, and buttressed, led into a wide-lying courtyard whose placid expanse dwarfed ancient trees around its edge into seeming shrubs.  Each court was a unit of grandeur and magnificence in itself, but also an integral member of a series leading up to the marble-terraced courtyard of the great throne hall.

While the imperial palace was the finest architectural ensemble in the capital, it was the Temple of Heaven, or, as the Chinese called it, “The Happy Year Hall” that the author found a single building in which the simple dignity of Chinese architecture was at its best.  It was perhaps the most frequently pictured building it China.  Every Chinese photographer displayed it in his window; every vendor of postcards featured it; every book on China reproduced it; it was probably the one thing Chinese that most Westerners had seen.  Yet the author felt photographs did not do the building justice.  In them it appeared squat, plump, and heavy, while in reality it was strong, gracious, and mighty.  The temple stood on a vast platform, its base above the treetops.  Above the platform was a threefold marble terrace, white and circular; then red columns, green-gold friezes, and three flaring, circular roofs.  The roof tiles were not yellow like the imperial palace, but a deep, deep blue.  The author felt that the insistence of surprise in Chinese architecture ruined and chance of grandeur.  The temple was in a huge park, but the temple approaches were so clouded and cluttered with gateways that nothing of the temple itself was seen until one stumbled upon it through the last gate.

Another of the unexpected treasures of Peking was the dragon screen.  It was barely mentioned in some guidebooks and not mentioned at all in others.  It was hidden behind a hillock in the winter palace grounds.  Most visitors to Peking walked within a hundred yards of it and never dreamed of its existence.  It was a wall, perhaps twenty feet tall and a hundred feet long, faced completely with tile cast to represent nine life-size dragons in bas-relief.  They were of various colors – yellow, purple, buff, maroon, and orange – dancing gaily above emerald billows against a pale-blue sky.  Most sculpted Chinese dragons are angular and lifeless, but there was vigor and audacity in the spring and twist of the lithe bodies.  They leapt, whirled, lunged, and writhed; it seemed to the author that they would tumble off the screen.  He felt the portrayal of movement a masterpiece.  Another thing Mr. Muller found unexpected was its people.  The first surprising custom among them was that the women wore skirts.  While that was the custom in America, eastern Asia was the land of the trousered women.  Like western women they also “painted their faces”.  These were the Manchu women.  The Manchu men, descendants of the roving Tatars, went futilely about the spacious city of their fathers balancing trick birds upon their wrists.  Now that the empire was no more, their only occupation, that of ruling it, was gone.  They were masters of the capital.  It was a significant illustration of the age-old ability of the Chinese to absorb and enervate their conquered.

There were among the Chinese those who equally caused the author astonishment as he was by the Manchu dwellers.  Although Peking was the recognized center of the reactionary North, it was, none the less, the center of the New China.  In palaces, government offices, and barracks which surround the city, gangs who had plundered the Chinese people since the overthrow of the monarchy were still to be found.  But the age-long Chinese tradition of having the center of government also serve as the center of learning had, in spite of reactionary rulers, filled the Capital with thousands of eager students.  There were the Peking University, a first-class American mission institution; the University of Peking, an equally high-grade government school; the new Chin Hwa College; and a score or more of lesser schools.  It was among the students and teachers of Peking, particularly among those of the universities, that the recent liberal movement in China started.  Despite wholesale arrests by corrupt officials that movement continued to spread throughout the land until, for the first time in Chinese history, there was a really united public opinion, directed not only against foreign aggression, but against Chinese governmental peculation as well.  Peking was the source and center of this forward-looking movement for reform.  Potentially, those colleges and technical schools were the future of the Orient.

Most tourist came to Peking in search of the romance and glamour of antiquity.  They could see schools, churches, and hospitals at home.  It was the Lama temple, the Confucian hall of classics, or the Taoist shrine which they sought.  In the abundance of such relics Peking, above all Chinese cities, was the queen.  In the great Lama temple in the northwest corner of the city, with its seven sun-lit courtyards and its hundred deities, one saw on any morning sixty yellow-coated novices droning the morning lesson, cross-legged, before the many-handed God of Mercy, or six monks in purple palliums celebrating a Buddhist mass with rice out of a silver bowl and wine from a gold-mounted chalice fashioned from a human skull.  The smoke of incense filled the nostrils of the placid Buddhists who sat above the high altar.  Countless little cup-shaped lamps were lighted, and to the accompaniment of drums, gongs, and cymbals, the monotone of the celebrants rose to a wild, weird chant.  These lamas, who represented the Buddhism of Tibet, ministered chiefly to the Mongols of the North.  Just across the street from the Buddhist temple was the quiet, shady close of the temple of Confucius, wherein were neither monks nor idols.  There the master was represented by a simple wooden tablet bearing the letters of his name.  It was little more exalted than the tablets of four other notable philosophers and twelve disciples who shared the hall with him, or the seventy-two famous scholars whose names were recorded in the long, low building on the sides of the court.  To this memorial to China’s men of learning came educators and officials on the spring and autumn equinox to offer sacrifice.  The ceremony was not one of worship, but one of grateful remembrance of the author and his followers.

While the Lama temple stood for the decadent worship of the Mongols and Manchus, and the Confucian temple for the cult of Chinese scholars, it was in the Taoist temples that one found the traditions of folk superstitions still alive.  There firecrackers were lit before the God of Valor, paper ingots of gold were burned before the God of Wealth, and joss-sticks offered to the Guardian of the Eastern Mountain.  There, also, at the New year season, were fairs and, if the temple grounds were large enough, horse races.  Enterprising restaurateurs set up matting booths along the course.  Holiday-makers sipped tea and ate peanuts and bread while watching the men of the North race on mules and ponies.  Meanwhile the temple courts were filled with jugglers, magicians, and vendors who sold everything from figs, cigarettes, and candied rice-balls to fans, ribbons, mirrors, and jewelry.  There were peep-shows and professional storytellers.  Likewise, those temple courtyards were used by merchants on bazaar day to sell their wares, not only to the populace, but also to tourists: vases of cloisonne, beads of amber, bottles of jade, painted lanterns of silk, and embroideries.  Sinuous dragons of gold, peach blossoms of pink, and butterflies of every hue were wrought upon silks of blue, green, and crimson.  Now that China was a republic, Mandarin coats, court dresses, and whole Manchu wardrobes had found their way into the hands of those dealers.  They had learned the Western tastes and had converted much of clothing into table runners and piano scarfs.  Far less costly were the toys.  These toys showed that the children of China were just like children the world over: flutes and drums, tops, dolls, jointed bamboo dragons wriggling on a stick, and stuffed animals including a fuzzy little dog that barked when squeezed.

If the children of China were like those of the West, the author felt the grownups could not be as different as he and Westerners of his time imagined.  Indeed, in Peking he found what he referred to as “bits of the most extraordinary social modernity”.  His host took him to call on a noted Chinese physician.  The doctor was away working as part of the anti-opium movement, so his wife received them.  Mr. Muller found it extraordinary that a Chinese woman would host two gentlemen in the absence of her husband.  It was considered modern for a wife to even be present when her husband received guests.  Mrs. Tsen acted the hostess as well as any socially experienced hostess of the West.  She poured tea, and when the conversation turned to music she went to the piano and showed the author how an ancient Chinese melody could be expressed in Western notation.  She even sang for her guests.  She told how her home had become the gathering place for young professionals after returning from study abroad.  She pointed to a phonograph in the corner and said that she and her husband hosted dances for their young Chinese friends.  The author claimed he had to pinch himself to be sure he was in China, and in the heart of the conservative North.  Phonograph dances within four hours of the Great Wall!  After that, nothing could surprise him.

Mr. Muller described his impression of the city as initial disappointment, followed by surprise, then delight and admiration.   When he left the city gates and went to the western hills, he was surprised and delighted, but never disappointed.  He felt it was due to him hearing so much about Peking, but nothing about the countryside.  He expected nothing but, in spite of their barrenness, the hills were altogether lovely.  The author felt half the charm of Peking was not the city itself but its surroundings.  Shrine upon shrine, palace upon palace, lied outside the city walls.  They dotted the surrounding plain; they nested on nearby wooded knolls; they lodged in the crevasses of the hills.  The treeless hills billowed like clouds; verdant and velvety in summer; in winter bare and red-brown, deepening into purple at twilight.  When the author passed his first, rash judgement on the city, his host took him to the hills to let him get a better perspective.  On the morning after his arrival, they boarded two rickshaws and loaded their quilts and blankets into a third, for travelers carry their beds with them.  Off they went, three and a half miles to the western gate, then seven more over the willow-shaded highway to the Mountain of Ten Thousand Ancients, a pleasant wooded hillock, deep green against the bare brown of the winter hills.  Before it was a broad lake and upon its slopes stood the famous Summer Palace.  Though several centuries more recent than Kublai Khan, it was indeed the stately pleasure dome of the poet’s imaginings.  It was a graceful, spiry, triple-roofed pavilion set upon a massive four-square base of stone.  It towered above porticos, kiosks, summer houses, grottos, and labyrinthine passages.  There were islands and lily pond, bridges of marble, and grotesque dragons cast in bronze.  The ice on the lake was three feet thick, but the sun shone brightly illuminating golden roofs, and deepening the foliage of pine and cedar.  Upon the hilltop, behind and above the palace, was a temple all of glazed tiles, mottled green and yellow, that glowed like a jeweled crown.

The wintery weather coupled with the one-dollar admission fee gave the whole vast enclosure to themselves.  It was the first time since arriving in China that the author could enjoy a meal in peace without a “concourse of the curious”.  It was all so pleasant and sunny and spacious and peaceful.  He did find the idea of marble boat absurd, but there it was, built by the late Empress Dowager as a pleasure house upon the lake.  They took to their rickshaws again in the afternoon and trotted for the hills for seven miles more, past the Jade Fountain Pagoda, past leisurely camel trains, beyond the high road, under the shadow of beacon towers marching in single file, at half-mile intervals, out over the hill crests.  Those towers played a role in a “boy who cried wolf” legend.  An emperor had the towers lit to cheer up a sad woman whom he loved.  Horsemen and warriors flocked to the emperor only to find it was a false alarm.  Later, when the Tatars broke over the wall, the towers were lit but the soldiers did not come.  The city was taken and the emperor slain.  They crossed the line of towers, ran along a rough, pebbly lane to the foot of the brown hills; then up a short avenue of ancient cedars, into the courtyard of the Sleeping Buddha.  There in the central hall of worship, he reclined upon his elbow, a bronze figure twenty feet long.  It was this temple, or rather the enclosure beyond the main building, which the Princeton Center had leased as a vacation home.  There were tennis courts, swimming pools, a modern kitchen and dining room, and space for several scores of cots.  In spite of those innovations, a few monks still burned incense daily before the slumbering statue.

After supper with the Sleeping Buddha, they crawled into their blanket bags and tried to follow his example.  Their bedroom was a small summer building, with the front opened, and perched high upon a rock among the pine tops.  It had been the shine of Kwan Yin, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy.  When the Princetonians moved in, the monks moved her out and buried her in the hillside behind the shrine.  The next morning the sun shone brightly in the cold, dry winter of north China.  Again, they set out behind their indefatigable rickshaw men, first to Pi Yun Ssu, the Temple of the Green Jade Clouds.  It was the loveliest temple in the north, a cube of pure white marble set in a grove of white-stemmed pines.  Then they turned toward the city again by a route different from that by which they came.  It took them past the ruins of the Old Summer Palace, destroyed by the Anglo-French punitive expedition of 1860.  What was once a magnificent imperial residence had been rendered a place of heaps, with broken arches and shattered pillars.  Built in the eighteenth century in the style of Versailles, it was planned by Jesuit fathers, then in high favor at the imperial court.  For Mr. Muller, it was the most unexpected of the many unexpected things he saw on his journey, to come upon a Renaissance portal or a cluster of ionic columns among the ruins of a Chinese emperor’s pleasure house.  Adjacent to those remains stood the Chin Hwa College, with modern equipment, library, assembly hall, gymnasium, and science buildings.  It was built and maintained by that portion of the Boxer indemnity which the United States gave back to China.  That one small repayment had generated boundless admiration of the U. S. among the Chinese.  The author pondered why nations didn’t deal with one another in the same generous fashion.

A week later, Mr. Muller went out again from the city, that time to visit the Great Wall.  It was his childhood dream to see that last fence of the universe, the Great Wall of China.  He never thought that he would ride to it and through it in a modern railroad train.  The world had surely gotten small to him when travel agencies in Peking advertise a day trip to the great Wall.  He walked atop the wall and looked out on the dusty brown plains of the north where Tatar horsemen once swarmed toward the pass.  He watched trains of pack-mules straggle through the great stone gateways, their backs ladened with merchandise as were the backs of pack-mules two thousand years ago.  Like so much of Peking, the Great Wall was, at first, a disappointment to the author.  It was small.  In some places it was only twenty feet tall and as many broad.  In comparison, the city walls of Peking were twice as high and, at the base, thrice as broad, with huge ten-story towers at each corner.  It was only after he climbed out of the pass and followed the wall for a half an hour that he began to understand.  Away it went before him, and behind him, up the topmost ridges of the hills – bending, swinging, climbing, leaping like the supple, agile dragons of the palace garden screen.  It undulated, it swayed, it marched before, it took the curve of the hills like a swift automobile.  On and on and on it went, across the farthest gully, and beyond the farthest peak.  Where mountains blended into clouds, it was there; where the last horizon vanished, it was there.  The author remembered that construction of the wall began two hundred years before Christ, and was added to throughout the centuries, until it compassed fifteen hundred miles.  At strategic points, such as Nankow Pass, there were once five great loops with miles of country between, so if one were taken, the next might be defended, and every hundred yards there was a watchtower.  It was at once the most daring, the most colossal, and the most graceful architectural concept which the mind of ancient man was given to fulfill.  The sheer audacity of the thing was staggering.

On the way to the train station for the trip to the Great Wall, the author and his host hired two rickshaws.  The coolie pulling the author’s rickshaw was older and couldn’t keep up.  To make the train the author had to flag down another rickshaw.  His host told him to pay the old man four coppers, which the author did.  The man gave a resigned, pitiful smile that haunted Mr. Muller.  He felt guilt but his host told him that rickshaw men understood that if they weren’t fast enough, they would be dismissed.  It was that unexpected smile at misfortune that made life bearable for millions of Chinese.  The author wondered whether it was that same smile which made progress in China so difficult.  Regardless of that, Mr. Muller paid generously rickshaw fares in memory of that old fellow who took him four coppers worth toward the Great Wall.

 

 

The second article in the months issue is entitled “The Eden of the Flower Republic” and was written by Dr. Joseph Beech.  Of its “34 Illustrations” documented on the cover, eighteen are black-and-white photographs, of which seven are full-page in size.  The remaining images are the “Sixteen Pages of Illustrations in Full Color” also documented on the cover.  They are full-page, colorized black-and-white photographs.  The colors are not as crisp and deep as color photos and tend to have more pastel hues.

A thousand miles from the coast of China the Yangtze River, which in Chinese meant “The Child of the Ocean”, in its passage through the outer rim of central Asia’s mountain system had carved, in surpassing beauty and majestic grandeur, the five gorges of the upper Yangtze, rightly called the gateway to West China.  They stretched from Ichang to Kweichow, a distance of 125 miles.  Dr. Beech was impressed by the gorges’ massive walls, crowned with cathedral domes that companioned with the clouds.  The river, too, impressed him, with its succession of rapids and treacherous whirlpools that took a heavy toll of life and merchandise from those who entered.  Such was the country which the first Western traveler, Marco Polo, who visited the country in the thirteenth century, described as a cultivated garden with great cities.  A more recent visitor called “Sze-chuan the Beautiful, the richest and most populous and altogether the most picturesque part of China”.  For many centuries and until 1920, the journey from Ichang to Chung-king, a distance of 500 miles, required a full month and sometimes two.  It was made by native junks pulled along in the manner of old-fashion canal-boat, but, instead of the tow-path mule, by a crew of twenty to sixty men tugging on the shore end of a bamboo hawser sometimes fully one-half mile in length.  The work was arduous and dangerous.  Sometimes they were seen scrambling over rocks and boulders that seemed impossible for men to travel.  They were seen cling to the sides of cliffs, or on all fours, gripping fast to rock or shore.

As this article was being written, dynamite was blasting a safer course, and fourteen-knot steamers made the journey in forty steaming hours.  The devils of the waters, as those rivermen believed, had won their victories also, for a large German commercial steamer lied buried in 120 feet of water at the entrance to one of the gorges.  The author foresaw the coming of the railroad to Sze-chuan due to its commercial value.  The first rail line to reach the province would reap the benefits and garner much profit.  The French had long planned to extend their Tongking-Yunnan line northwest to Chung-king and Cheng-tu.  A Belgian syndicate had contracted for a line southwest from Singan to Cheng-tu, which would connect the province to the railway system of northeast China and Manchuria.  The Four-nation Hu-Kwang agreement, in which America had a share, called for a line from Hankow to Cheng-tu.  A company of American engineers had completed a survey of that last line and construction had started on it.  When completed, a traveler could have supper in Ichang, breakfast in Chung-king, and lunch in Cheng-tu.  Time, in the West, flew by rapidly, but in the Orient it was glacial.  The author lamented that the coming of the railroad would, by saving time, cause one of the great pilgrimages to be lost.  To him, the experience of the journey was just as important as the destination.  Gone would be that growing sense of grandeur and majesty as one moved through those gorges to their climax at Woosang Gorge.  No longer would there be the thrill of danger; or the songs and prayers of the boatmen; or the firecrackers used to scare demons into loosen their grip on the boat in the rapids; or the smell of incense burned as a favor to the gods.  Mostly, the author regretted the sights along the river and the thirty-day races with boats bearing another flag.

Dr. Beech found Chung-king a walled city of about 600,000 people, situated at the confluence of the Yangtze and the Kia-ling rivers.  Despite being 1,500 miles from the coast and 1,000 feet above sea level, it was made an open seaport by foreign treaty,  In 1920 it was the head of steam navigation for nearly a dozen steamers, the seat of maritime customs for the West, the point of distribution for all western-borne commerce, and the assembly depot for all shipments to other parts of China and foreign lands.  Chief exports to America included paint oil, medicines, bristles, feathers, and hides; and manufactured goods such as silks, satins, and crepes.  Confined between its two rivers, that city, like New York, was growing into the air.  It had no suburbs to relieve its surplus population.  Property value had doubled, or even tripled since 1910.  That made it profitable to erect fine, foreign buildings.  The English, French, Germans, Japanese, and Americans had gunboats anchored along its rivers and were competing for its trade, with the English in the lead.  The U. S. trade was represented in kerosene, sewing-machines, cigarettes, patent medicines, hardware, and nails.

From Chung-king northwestward 300 miles to Cheng-tu, the author traveled by sedan-chair.  They were borne on the shoulders of two, three, and even four bearers.  The rich could afford four men, the portly required them.  In addition to the bearer, the traveler required a coolie to bear his cot and bedding, another to carry his food, and an attendant to cook it.  A small party easily became a regiment, and if an armed escort accompanied it, as was usual, the party resembled an army.  Beyond the walls of Chung-king the author’s party entered the city of the dead.  They passed square-built tombs of the Ming period.  Nearby were the crowded lines of public graves for beggars and the very poor.  Far away to the top of the hill, about four miles distance, were the regulation mounds of Chinese graves, with here and there beautifully carved, terraced mausoleums.  A more orderly section of broad extent was reserved for Mohammedan graves, for they made up a sizable portion of the city’s population.  Above that cemetery ran telegraph lines, and the Cheng-tu Railway was planned to tunnel under it.  Factories and homes were pushing the graves further from the city, something that twenty-five years before would had incited a riot.  The Sze-chuanese had from of old had been expert stone-workers.  That was evident by the many tombs, homes, and places of defense carved deep into the rocky cliff along the rivers.  Their Chinese conquerors had inherited that art along with their land.  The country abounded in carved stone bridges and memorial arches of massive proportions ornately wrought in stone.  Dr. Beech saw no monuments for any warriors, but several for virtuous widows, who refused to remarry after their husbands died.  West China was sometimes called “The Land of the Pagoda”, for every city had its towering sentinel from three to seventeen stories in height.  They were placed upon some eminence overlooking the town they protected.  They were built to exert some influence upon the feng suei – the spirits of wind and wave that brought prosperity and warded off disaster.

Out from the crush and hum of the city, and past the quite camp of the dead, the author came to the country.  It was not like the country of the Western world, but rather a mass of terraces paddy fields and farm gardens, with people always in sight. People were the only feature of the landscape he could not leave behind.  The author decided to study the inhabitants of Sze-chuan.  They were a diverse people.  Dr. Beech valued them over the rich mineral deposits and tilled land as the province’s prime asset and interest.  Four epochs marked the Sze-chuanese and helped explain them.  First was the slow retreat of the ancient aborigines up into the mountains of the west and south and the occupation of the fertile lands by the Chinese.  Second was the ruthless Chinese wars, culminating in the ravages of the tyrant Chang, who left many of its cities desolated and its fields without inhabitants.  Third was the repopulation of the region by emigrants from the north, central, and southeastern China, who with the remaining Chinese and aboriginal inhabitants, and with Mohammedans from western Asia, formed the composite “Chinese, with a difference”.  And fourth was the contact with Christian ideas which the author saw as a period of reform and revolution, a transition from the old order to the New China of his day, and the promise of tomorrow.  It was this complex human amalgam that occupied the eastern half of the province.

The western part of Sze-chuan might well have been called the Museum of the Human Races.  Here were to be found the surviving remnants in the struggle for existence who the author called the “Tribesmen”.  The author crossed the Min River and moved west toward the snow-covered mountains.  He saw the shambled homes of those people in ravines and upon cliffs.  The Chinese called them “The Eighteen Nations”, but there were many more nations, or tribes, with their own kings, councils, or feudal lords, independent or semi-independent of each other and of the Chinese.  Among the tribesmen were found representatives of all branches of the human family, and some of them, especially the dwarf peoples, were believed to be of very ancient origin.  Further west were the Tibetans, who had spread their religious ideas among many of the tribesmen.  Litang, the best known of the border lamaseries, was situated in one of the mountain passes on the roof of the world, 14,000 feet up.  There in that sparsely settled country, there were about 3,000 lamas crowded together.  Their chief virtue was bigotry and they enjoyed robbing people.

Returning to the big road to Cheng-tu, Dr. Beech stopped for a swift-moving army of carriers, each bearing his minimum load of 106 pounds, and on a journey of thirty miles.  Nothing was on wheels.  Not a wheeled vehicle was seen in all West China, except the wheelbarrow, near Cheng-tu.  Thousands of tons of commerce passed over those highways annually, all on the backs of men.  Near centers of population, the city’s sewage and water was also carried on their backs.  The coal and other minerals from the mountains, the building material for cities, the wood on the hills, the grain of the plains, and even the pigs on route to market, all had rode on the back of man.  The reason was economic.  Man was the most efficient machine, and the cheapest animal.  It was cheaper to wear men down than to keep roads up.  Sharing with those carriers the burden of the nation’s life was the proverbial “Man of the Hoe”.  The poor tenant usually gave up half his crop for rent of his acre.  Often, he would own his own implements and a water buffalo, which he plowed his and his neighbor’s fields.  In return his neighbor assisted during seed time and harvest.  Still others, especially on the rich Cheng-tu plain, were wealthy farmers, who lived in fine homes and tilled the soil with the aid of sons, grandsons, and servants.  To those farmers was given the task of feeding a nation of sixty million people; for Sze-chuan, isolated by mountains, had to be self-sustaining.  One half of the province’s 81,000 square mile area was too mountainous to cultivate, so those sixty million people were sustained on an area less than one half that of Texas.  Added to that condition the lack of scientific knowledge, the primitive implements, and the need for fertilizer, it was little short of a miracle that this task was accomplished.

The farmer had, however, a temperate climate all year and rich naturally soil, abundant rainfall, and a never-failing supply of water from the meting snows on the mountains nearby.  He produced nearly every vegetable and grain found in America, and several which were strange to us.  Apples were few and poor in quality, but the persimmon and orange were second to none and produced in great quantity.  One thousand oranges on the upper Yangtze could be purchased for 50 cents.  The farmer knew little of the science of gardening, but much of its methods.  By interplanting, especially beans and peas; by crop rotation; and by fertilization via the sowing of vetch in the fallow season, he managed to keep his fields rich and raised two to six crops per year.  He had made Sze-chuan, known as the Garden of Asia, “the land where famine never comes”.  Rice was the master crop, and was used by the tenant farmer to pay his rent.  In early spring he plowed his fields and prayed for rains to flood them by offering incense to the god of the garden, whose shrine was built nearby.  When rain and gods failed him, he set to work with foot-treadle pumps raising water into his terraced fields.  Because the field was under water the rice farmer hoed and weeded barefoot, with his toes.  He also pulled weeds and cast them on the road to be trodden underfoot.  At harvest time, the farmers worked together.  The rice was cut with a sickle, gathered in bundles, and the grain beaten out by striking it upon slats in the center of a large bin which was pulled along after the threshers.  Dried upon bamboo mats, rolled and cleaned, it was ready to be shipped to market.

About midway between Chung-king and Chang-tu the author noted the long trains of salt carriers from the renowned salt industry of Tszliu-ching, which meant “Flowing Well”.  Its origin was lost in antiquity, being first mentioned in the reign of the Minor Han Dynasty (A. D. 221-263).  With its forest of derricks, it resembled an oil boom town.  The wells were drilled by foot-power to a depth of 2,400 feet for brine.  Some were also drilled for natural gas, which was used for the evaporation of the brine.  Salt was an unfailing source of government revenue and its production was jealously guarded to prevent monopoly.  The proprietor of a salt well could not own a gas well or evaporation plant.  Likewise, the owner of a gas well or an evaporation plant could not engage in the other branches of the industry.  There were no longer flowing wells; the brine being lifted in bamboo buckets about fifty feet in length and four to five inches in diameter powered by water buffalo.  The magnitude of the industry could be gleaned from the fact that every Chinese family demanded their weekly pound of salt.  Many tons were exported each month to other provinces.

Returning to the Big Road and passing without comment its towns and cities, located about ten miles apart, Dr. Beech arrived at Cheng-tu, the Perfect Capital, a vice-regal city of half a million people.  It ruled over Sze-chaun and Tibet.  It was surrounded by a finely constructed brick wall, 35 to 40 feet in height, with a thickness at the top of 20 feet and a circumference of more than nine miles.  It was an ancient capital; its first recorded wall being built 2,315 years prior.  Marco Polo described it as a trinity of cities beautifully embellished.  Its approaches being carved marble bridges which spanned its moat.  Its wall being nearly 20 miles in circumference, enclosing a population of more than a million, and was surrounded by rows of hibiscus trees, which in autumn bloom made it the “Embroidered City”, a name that had long outlived the wall and its trees.  The amount of labor it took to erect that wall was staggering.  Historic record showed that one eight-mile extension required and army of 100,000 men and 9,600,000 work-days.  Cheng-tu had given its name to the plain on which it stood.  That plain was said to have one of the finest and most ancient irrigation systems in the world.  It was perfected about 200 B. C. by Li Ping, who had become the patron saint of Cheng-tu.  He divided the Min River into three delta systems of rivers and canals, which radiated to all parts of the 80-mile plain.  The waters were united again in two main streams, which left the plain to the southwest and southeast, the Min and Lin rivers.

Among the fertile plain with its teeming millions, and the cities with their ancient culture, arose a modern institution.  Americans were familiar with the work done by the American colleges at Constantinople and Beirut; but the Author felt that the work of Christian colleges in the Far East was not generally recognized.  Many Chinamen who had been trained at those colleges had taken high places in society.  When the Manchu Dynasty was overthrown, China flounder seeking to establish a new government.  A small group of men trained in Christian and American colleges became the Jefferson and Hamilton of the Chinese Constitution.  They converted the ancient monarchy into a modern democracy.  Students from those colleges went on to become leaders in industry as well as government – iron and steel, railways, telegraph, cabinet positions, and judgeships.  Ignorance, which breed superstition, was not confined to China, but it had found its worst enemy in a Christian education.  Many gods had fallen, and customs that were hitherto respected were now despised.  Women were no longer slaves.  The binding of feet was actively being dissuaded.  Women in useful service had come with the new order.

 

 

The third article this month is entitled “The World’s Ancient Porcelain Center” and was written by Frank B. Lenz.  It contains seventeen black-and-white photographs taken by the author.  Only one of those photographs is full-page in size.

China was a land of contradictions.  It was the land of literature, art, and scholarship; but was also the land of ignorance, superstition, and misery.  It was the country made famous by the printing-press, the mariner’s compass, the Great Wall, tea, silk, jade, paper, and ancient porcelain; but it was also the home of plague, famine, intrigue, flood, graft, and corruption.  Conservative of the conservatives; it was also a radical among radicals.  Nothing was permanent in China but change.  Industrially the country was in the same state as Europe prior to the industrial revolution.  In the larger cities modern machinery was being used, but the rest of China had yet to learn the value of the machine.  The only factor that allowed China to compete in a commercial way with the rest of the world was the cheapness of its labor.  It had been repeatedly said that the cheapest and most abundant thing in the country was human life.  The common man of the farm or city was the coolie, properly called “k’u li”, meaning strength.  A full 80% of China’s vast population was forced to labor hard, barehanded, for a mere physical existence.  No modern inventions; no machines had come to set them free.  The economic problem was tragic, and were it not for its natural characteristic of patience, China would have been in the throes of a bloody revolution.

The greatest industrial city of China was not one of the Treaty ports, where the direct influence of Western progress was felt, but the bustling interior city of Ching-teh-chen in the Kiangsi Province.  It was the famous porcelain and pottery center of the nation, and indeed the original home of the porcelain industry of the world.  There were few cities in America or Europe that were so completely given over to a single industry as that one.  Though the methods of production were primitive, the city must be classed as an industrial center.  It was Mr. Lenz’s privilege to visit that conservative, but interesting, old place and see with his own eyes the process of pottery-making from beginning to end.  Chinaware was simply a ware made of clay and named for the country that first produced it.  Whether it was a green tile from a temple roof, a dish, a vase, or a painted ornament, it all had a tracible connection to Ching-teh-chen.  In China, Ching-teh-chen and porcelain were synonymous.

The author’s journey to Ching-teh-chen began in Shanghai.  He travelled up the Yangtze River to Kiukiang, north of the Po Yang Lake.  From Kiukiang he took a train to Nanchang, the capital of the province.  That rail trip could be made in a day, barring accidents, although the distance was only 90 miles.  Nanchang had many fine porcelain shops, all supplied by the porcelain city.  The distance from Nanchang to Ching-teh-chen was 120 miles, but the journey took more time than a trip from New York to San Francisco.  He crossed the east end of the Po Yang Lake and pushed up the North River into the heart of the mountains, to a point not far from the Anhwei border.  He traveled in a small, rickety steam-launch, which was completely covered with a cargo of human freight. After crossing the lake, the launch reached the mouth of the river and the city of Raochow.  There he was transferred to a small, but comfortable houseboat.  After an hour’s delay to procure supplies, he set out upstream.  An unarmed soldier steered the boat while three boatmen paddled, poled, and pulled the craft into the higher reaches of the stream.  After an interval of rowing, they would then rest by getting out and towing the boat from shore using a rope tied to the mast while the soldier steered the craft away from shore.  The boat was 40 feet long and was divided into three sections, each large enough for two mattresses.  There was a charcoal stove in the stern, and the food supply consisted of ample rice, eggs, fish, several kinds of vegetables, and tea.  The author enjoyed the fresh air and quiet after spending time in Chinese cities.

Late in the afternoon of the second day of the boat trip, the author first caught sight of the smoke issuing from the chimneys of scores of kilns.  It seemed to him out of place in that country province.  The first view one got of any Chinese city was the bold outline of a tower or temple, but not here.  The city was situated between the mouths of two rivers which flowed into the North River, one from the east and one from the west.  The town was abundantly supplied with fresh, clean water, in contrast to the muddy yellow of the Yangtze and of the Po Yang Lake.  Beautiful hills surrounded the city; the ones to the east rose to a height of two thousand feet.  The river banks were dotted with pine and camphor trees, with occasional groves of bamboo added to the charm of the place.  Cheng-teh-chen, “Town of Scenic Virtue”, was one of the four largest towns of China.  Technically, it was a town because it had no wall.  It was a busy industrial city of 300,000 people, two-thirds of which were engaged in the production and sale of porcelain.  Longfellow wrote romantically about it in his poem “Keramos”.  Historically, it dates back to the Han Dynasty, 220 A. D.  That was when the first records of porcelain production had been found.  Two main streets, about three miles long and contouring to the river, comprised the principal thoroughfares.  The city was about a mile wide.  Furnaces, warehouses, shops, and homes were crowded together in a hopeless tangle.  Great mounds of chipped and defective porcelain and broken dishes were piled high along the river bank.  Those dumps were 30 or 40 feet thick and represented the accumulations of centuries.  From a highpoint to the west, the author counted 78 big yellow smokestacks, about half of the city’s total.  In its heyday, Ching-teh-chen boasted several thousand kilns.

The most unusual feature of the city was its conservatism.  “Bu k’ai t’ung” (not open to communication) was heard everywhere.  Although China was home to the printing press, there was not a single newspaper, either daily or weekly, published in that city of more than a quarter of a million inhabitants.  The magistrates opposed paying for a newspaper out of fear of its political influence.  The town was devoid of electric lights or telephones, and the few rickshaw drivers were fighting for their existence.  The guile had petitioned the Chamber of Commerce to abolish the rickshaw, complaining that they impeded traffic.  The author saw signs of progress.  Three Protestant churches had been built, and the Catholic Church had been in Ching-teh-chen for 60 years.  A park by a lotus-covered lake was erected by a liberal-minded magistrate.  Within two years it had developed into a social center, with industrial museum, restaurant, arbors, open paths, and walks.  The Orphan Asylum, really an abandoned baby girl asylum, was an important feature of the city.  During the previous year, 245 baby girls were received by the institution through a small door in a revolving barrel near the front gate. Later, those girls would be sent out into the homes of the city to become wives and servants of the well-to-do class.  The city had twenty-two schools enrolling about 2,000 pupils of grammar-grade age.  The Chamber of Commerce was housed in a modern foreign-style building, and was headed by a merchant-scholar of much executive ability.

The geographic location of Ching-teh-chen was not accidental.  It became the pottery center of the country centuries ago because of the enormous quantities of excellent clay in the district around Po Yang Lake.  More than a dozen kinds of excellent clay were found in the neighborhood of the lake.  The chief places from which the hard paste came were Nan K’an, Yu Kan, Tung Keng, and C’hi Men.  At C’hi Men, just across the border in Anhwei Province, there was a whole mountain of fine white clay.  Two very descript words were used in referring to the composition of porcelain – “c’hi ku” or porcelain bone, and “c’hi ro” or porcelain flesh.  The former gave strength and brittleness while the latter added resilience and toughness.  Unless the clay was mixed in the proper proportions it either sagged or cracked when placed in the furnace.  “Bone” clay, or China clay, was kaolin, a substance derived from decomposed feldspar or granite.  The “flesh” clay was a white, fusible material made from a mixture of feldspar and quartz.  All clay was shipped to Ching-teh-chen in soft, white bricks in small, flat-bottomed boats.  Thousands of boatmen were engaged in this work.  After the clays were cleaned, sifted, and refined they were kneaded together in varying proportions.  Then the wet lump of clay was placed on the knob of the potter’s wheel.  The potter deftly fashioned a plate, bowl, or vase on the revolving wheel.  The piece was then placed on a long tray.  Handles and other decorations, made with molds, were added, then allowed to dry.  The under-glaze decorations were then painted on in basic colors like blue and red.  The glaze was then applied and the piece was ready for the furnace.

Porcelain placed in the kiln to be fired had to be protected in strong clay cylinders called saggers.  Those trays were used three to six times before they were scrapped.  Each piece of porcelain was placed on a round chip of clay sprinkled with straw ashes.  That prevented the fusing of the item to the sagger.  The fuel for the furnaces were straw and wood.  Coal was tried but it discolored the porcelain.  Straw was used only for the coarser ware.  The fuel problem was a very acute one due to the scarcity of wood.  The surrounding hills had been deforested and firewood had to be shipped on boat from sources 200 to 300 miles away.  The kilns were large, egg-shaped ovens of brown brick, fifty feet long and twelve feet high.  Because of the intense heat, the kilns and chimneys were rebuilt annually.  Every piece of porcelain was placed in the furnace with precision according to the temperature needed for complete firing.  The furnace, when full, was entirely bricked up and its contents kept at a temperature between 1,600 to 2,000 degrees centigrade, usually for a night and a day.  After that, the kiln was allowed to cool and in time the porcelain was removed.  One kiln was large enough to keep nine or ten factories in operation.  If more elaborate colorings were used, further burning in a smaller kiln took place.  The artist often spent weeks, or even months, completing a single piece.

Porcelain was classified by shape.  Round ware was called “yuan c’hi” and included cups, bowls, saucers, and plates.  Irregular rounds were “tso c’hi” and included things like teapots and vases.  Irregular ware “tiao hsiang” and included images, statues, and representations of trees and other objects.  Factories were classified by the shapes of the pieces they produced.  One might only produce bowls while another only made teapots.  One group of families, near the Fukien Guide Hall, made only images and statues of gods.  Among that collection the author noted some obscene pieces.  There was only one plant which produced all varieties of porcelain and pottery, the Kiangsi Porcelain Company.  It was organized on a modern basis without foreign connections.  Among its four hundred employees were one hundred who formerly worked for the Imperial Pottery.  With the downfall of the Ching Dynasty in 1911, the Kiangsi Porcelain Company took over the famous old factory.  The Imperial Pottery had a long and noble history. It was established in the Sung Dynasty (960-1279 A. D.), and down through the centuries each succeeding emperor gave it support.  It was part of Yuan Shih K’ai’s imperial plans to reopen it on his ascendance to the throne.  That dream was cut short by his sudden death.  Though the empire no longer existed, porcelain was still used in large quantities by officials in Peking.

There was no unemployment in Ching-teh-chen.  Work was plentiful, but conditions were bad.  Long hours, poor food, no rest days, and unsanitary living conditions caused a great deal of dissatisfaction among the laborers.  Workers were classified, first by the part of the country from which they came – Ching-teh-chen, Anhwei, and all other provinces.  They were further formed into guilds, according to the kind of work upon which they were engaged.  Strikes were not infrequent, but they seldom resorted to violence.  The Chamber of Commerce was a regular mediator.  Many women worked in various forms of porcelain production, including painting, engraving, and lettering.  The apprentice system prevailed throughout the industry, as in every trade in China.  Wages ranged from ten cents to one dollar per day, Mexican, for potters and molders.  That included food and room.  The artist’s wage ranged from twelve cents to three dollars, according to the number and quality of the pieces produced.  There was a strict time limit on artists; if he worked too long his fellow workers would beat him. About $5,000,000 worth of porcelain and pottery was shipped out of Chen-teh-chen each year.  Every piece was hauled down the river in small boats to Raochow.  From there it was reshipped in large junks to Shanghai and other cities.  Most of it was used domestically, the Chinese not much involved in international trade.

Perhaps the most popular design of porcelain with foreigners was the “ling lung”, or rice pattern found in dishes, cups, and bowls.  The Chinese had learned the art of producing foreign-style dinner sets in that pattern and were finding a ready market for them.  Patient skill and much time were required for the making of the rice pattern.  The wet clay was formed into a crude cup or plate on the potter’s wheel.  After drying, it was scraped with a curved knife and then kernel-shaped holes skillfully cut into it using a flexible steel lancet. The author had thought that the holes were made by pressing rice into the wet clay, but was proven wrong.  Next the under-glaze was painted onto the piece.  With decorations finished, the glazing fluid was applied, either by dipping or with a brush.  The operation was repeated about thirty times, with an interval for drying, until all the holes were filled.  Only five or six coats could be applied each day.  The piece was then fired in the usual manner.  When it came out of the furnace, the filled holes stood out in beautiful translucent designs.  The firm that exported the largest quantity of porcelain was a Chinese company in New York City.  Each piece was carefully packed by hand in rice straw and packed in large boxes.  Those boxes were made in Ching-teh-chen, labeled in Chinese and English, and shipped directly to New York.

The impression the author took from that teeming industrial city was the primitiveness of the methods used.  In not a single shop or factory was a modern machine found.  Not even the simplest mechanical devices like using belts to turn multiple wheels could be seen.  Every piece of porcelain was made by hand, or by foot.  Yet Mr. Lenz was amazed at the quantity produced by those patient workmen with their obsolete methods and crude devices.  New ideas came slowly to interior China, but with the planned opening of the Nanking-Nanchang Railway, Ching-teh-chen should assume a position of commercial influence.  The enormous clay deposits coupled with cheap labor, and tweaked by the magic hand of modern engineering, could make the city’s future far outshine her ancient glory.

 

 

The fourth article in this month’s issue is entitled “The Man in the Street in China” and was written by Guy Magee, Jr.  It has the subtitle “Some Characteristics of the Greatest Undeveloped Market in the World of Today”.  The article contains fifteen black-and-white photographs taken by the author, none of which are full-page in size.

With four hundred million people, China offered great opportunity.  It had an established market, abundant cheap labor, and a desire to earn.  Little was known about the “man in the street”.  In numbers he was second only to the agricultural class, but as a market for foreign development he stood first.  Many misconceptions were prevalent regarding the Chinaman.  They did not “all look alike”.  Besides physical appearance, they had diverse occupations, and intellectual attainments.  They felt themselves differentiated from one another.  The Chinese had a physical and cultural individuality comparable with that of any other nation.  In China the variations of type from north to south were so marked that the author compared them to geologic strata.  Each stratum resolved itself into numerous less clearly defined secondary strata.  In a like manner the east and west racial belts were made up of weakly defined groups.  In coastal or mid-China, omitting the west or highlands, four distinct types, or strata, stood out between Manchuria in the north to Cochin in the south, i.e. between Peking and Hong Kong: 1) North of the Yellow River the Manchus predominated, they were tall, large-bone, stolid types; 2) Just south of the Yellow River original Chinese mixed with Manchu modifying their characteristics, they were not as tall or large-boned as their northern neighbors; 3) Further south was the Yangtze Valley, where up to the middle of the nineteenth century contained a type distinct from the northern Manchu and the southern Chinese, social upheaval destabilized the existing blend and a new one was evolving; and 4) South of the Yangtze Valley were the native Chinese, they had a slight, graceful stature.

The type occupying the Yangtze Valley was the largest, the most accessible, and the best known to the foreigner.  In that large group there was far less homogeneity than the other three.  This diversity was the result of two causes, one natural and one artificial.  The natural cause was the intermarriage of the northern Manchus with the southern Chinese.  The artificial cause was the Taiping Rebellion.  With the aid of fire and famine, more than forty million people perished in the rebellion.  Millions slain were replaced by the invaders.  The march of the rebels was from west to east down the Yangtze Valley.  Some people fled north, some south, and some east.  Upon reaching the sea, the pursuers and pursued struggled and the battlelines were pushed back west until it spent itself.  The people settled down and started intermarrying again.  In 1920, the inhabitants of the lower Yangtze basin were largely an average of all the former types between Siberia and Cochin China and east of the Himalayas.  This blend of components did noy vary greatly from the type before the rebellion.

Mr. Magee then discussed his photographs which he described as typical of “the man in the street” of the larger cities of the Yangtze Valley.  He referenced several to make points for things he discussed.  Adults, especially women, were shy and superstitious.  They resented being photographed.  When money failed to procure a pose, the author resorted to trickery.  He would face at right angles to his target, thus allaying suspicion.  Lack of self-consciousness was a Chinese characteristic.  Life was standardized and there was nothing to startle him.  Changing social conditions sometimes caught us unaware.  In the Orient such an occurrence heretofore had been unknown.  The generalizations between Oriental and Occidental were mostly superficial, and the differences were more apparent than real.  It was a truism that “human nature was much the same the world over”.  The Chinese were as much boulevardiers as the Parisians.  They would have a full meal in full view of the passing crowds.  The author described the people in one photo as stolid, with a physique suggesting the racial mixture of the Yangtze Valley.  The apparel was no different than that of the clerks and coolies employed in small shops.  Most Chinese frown at being photograph, and only those who were familiar with foreigners, such as railway workers, would smile.  The author continued describing in great detail photos along with background information – a pair of wheelbarrow coolies, children staring at the camera in curiosity, a small street entertainer, a fortuneteller, and a derelict.

There were two classes of occupations in China, the creative and the non-creative, the former had a decided preference over the latter.  The Chinese social system had many defects; its endurance was due to its several good qualities.  First in the list of the creative group stood the farmer.  He took precedence over all others.  Then followed the trades – cook, carpenter, mason, smith, etc.  On the other side were the military, actors, barbers, police, and the like.  A non-creative occupation was looked upon as a sign of mental or physical inferiority.  For a long period of Chinese history organized police were unnecessary.  They were in 1920, but only those mentally or physically unfit were available.  In “closed” cities they were scarcely uniformed and having next to no authority.  On the streets of the foreign concessions the Sikh were wonderfully efficient at policing.

Commercial competition in China was along national line.  It required a careful study and a long residence for a commercial agent to be able to introduce a new product.  A market once gained, however, tended to perpetuate itself.  The Chinese were always in the market for a bargain.  They were economical, not sentimental, buyers.  The lack of a little local knowledge had frequently led to large commercial loss.  An example was an order for electrical equipment for a tramway in a southern city.  After operation commenced, it was found that the controllers were too high for the motormen.  Platforms were provided, but European competitors were quick to introduce controllers of the right height, through which they secured that company’s subsequent business.

 

 

The fifth and final article in this month’s issue is entitled “Shifting Scenes on the Stage of New China”.  It has no byline, thus being an editorial.  The article contains four black-and-white photographs, with one of them being full-page in size.

Understanding the unrest and political chaos in China was impossible without some knowledge of its history.  The form of government under the empire could be compared to that of Alexander the Great’s after he had conquered the world.  The Emperor stood at the head of a country divided into independent separate provinces, each ruled by a satrap, or governor.  All they were required to do was to send their allotted quota to the national treasury and insure peace within their province.  Those satraps, and their aides, were part of the mandarinate, or civil-service class, which monopolized the educated element of the nation.  There was no need for education in any other walk of life.  Held together at first by a strong alien ruling house which they despised, members of the mandarinate later came to support the Manchus as the government upon which they depended for their station in life.  A government retained the confidence of the people as long as it was maintained in the interest of the governed and not its own employees.  In the latter days of the empire the mandarinate failed at that task. Distrust grew, rebellion followed.  For years public works went unrepaired and no new works were started.

In 1894 China’s armies were defeated by the Japanese.  The nation not only lost important territory but also had to borrow to pay its war costs.  The broker nations demanded concessions.  Between 1896 and 1898 Russia got Dalny, Germany got Tsingtau, Great Britain got Wei-hai-wei, and France got Kuang-chau-wan.  In 1900 the so-called “Boxer Uprising” occurred.  It began as an attack on the Manchu Dynasty but the rulers skillfully diverted that wrath from themselves to the foreigners.  This allowed them a reprieve, if only for a few years.  The Manchus tried to centralize the government by building a national railway, but it was too late.  Most people were against this centralization which led to overt acts of hostility.  Those plotting revolution took advantage.  In 1911 came the short revolution which within three months brought about the abdication of the Manchus.  They turned the government over to Yuan Shih-K’ai, a leader of the strongest party in the mandarinate.  With the Manchu House gone all that was left was the mandarinate – the priests of the temple – and the common people, who were content but uneducated, and uninterested in governing.  The mandarinate class was composed of scholars of the old educational system.  The new generation contained scholars educated abroad, who returned to China with Western ideas.  They formed a third class of Chinese.  That younger generation organized the successful revolution, but the Manchus handed the government over to the older generation.

By 1912, that led to conflict.  The mandarinate wanted a monarchy but the younger generation wanted democracy, while the common folk stayed neutral.  Twice in 1916, the mandarinate attempted, and failed, to establish a monarchy, first under Yuan Shih-K’ai, and then by restoring the Manchus.  Meanwhile, the young scholars were becoming doctors, teachers, lawyers, and engineers.  There was a fourth class, the laboring proletariat, in China known as coolies.  The coolies had been profoundly affected by the changes.  They had their opium taken away from them, leaving them dissatisfied.  The opium growers had their money crop burned.  Those facts, coupled with the increase in shipping during the previous sixty years and the shifting of trade routes, left many coolies who worked in transportation on the old routes being thrown out of work.  They formed a floating labor force that preyed upon the landed population.  A further complicating factor in the situation was the fact that among the Chinese provincial loyalty was strong, much like “States’ Rights” in America.  There were two main factions within the mandarinate and the struggle between them, with shifting allegiances of the classes and provinces continued to 1920.  The mandarinate were still in control, one faction in thee north, the other in the south, with central China neutral, but there was still an opposition led by Sun Yat-sen, T’ang Shao-yi, and Wu Ting-fang.

 

 

Tom Wilson

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As always - well done Tom!

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