previous
next

1.17. Chinese, under the same conditions, much like ourselves.

It is all a question of environment.

My belief and constant assertion is that if all mankind were from babyhood upward fed alike, clothed alike, housed alike, educated alike, and brought up alike in every respect, there would be very little more difference between nations than there is now between members of the same community; that if the Chinese, for example, were brought up in an English community, were fed, clothed, housed, and spoke the English language, and were brought up and educated as English, there would be very little difference between them and us. Many examples of this could be cited by those who have observed the Chinese that have been born and brought up among the Christians in the British colonies. I will mention two that have come under my observation.

A few years ago I met a Chinaman just opposite my place in Bourke-street, Melbourne. Something suggested to me that he could speak English. Addressing him, I asked, “Can you speak English?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “Come inside, and let us have a talk.” I took him to my office and he handed me his card, “Rev. Cheok Hong Cheong.” I had an hour's conversation with him. I found him intelligent, well-educated, and well informed generally; a man, I believe, of ten thousand, as the world goes. Mr. Cheong has a pure-bred Chinese wife, and several sons, well-educated. A few days after I spoke to him I saw in the Argus that his eldest son had taken the highest prize at Trinity College, Melbourne. I employed two of his boys for some time; one remained in charge of our tea-room until he grew into manhood, and is now in business for himself. I found them well-educated, well-behaved, and quite equal to other employees. Mr. Cheong himself was born near Canton, China, received a thorough English and Christian education, and has for many years been in charge of the Episcopalian Mission to the Chinese of Victoria. He has delivered many eloquent addresses to large audiences in the Town Hall, Melbourne, and elsewhere. He is an enthusiastic denouncer of the opium habit and traffic, and many years ago delivered addresses on the subject to influential audiences at Exeter Hall, and in the Banqueting Room of the English Parliament. At a lecture delivered by him in the Town Hall, Melbourne, in 1893, Sir J. B. Patterson, the then Premier, who presided, in introducing him to the audience, said—“When the audience heard Mr. Cheong discourse upon the early ages of China they would be more than delighted, as they would hear speak a Chinese gentleman of the highest education and elevated mind. When in England a little while ago Mr. Cheong had spoken at the Exeter Hall, and the people who had the good fortune to hear him were astonished at his wealth of imagery, his command of the English language, and his superb accent, and they grew most enthusiastic. Mr. Cheong's mission in London has proved a gigantic success, and they should be proud of him.” Mr. Cheong has


  ― 21 ―
now five grown-up sons and one daughter. His eldest son has just been ordained as a minister of the Church of England, and I believe intends to do mission work in Victoria. At the University he took a scholarship and an unprecedented number of prizes. The other children also took many prizes during their school days. In fact, I doubt if any family in Victoria can show more prizes earned than the Cheong family. The intense industry and severe school examinations which have prevailed in China for hundreds of years have hereditarily expanded the Chinese brain, and given it a capacity for study which is amazing. Of course at present in China the Chinese to a large extent waste this latent power by learning a lot of useless etiquette and other rubbish, but the power of learning is there all the same, and when properly applied later will probably astonish the world. I believe, if you were to take 100 Chinese boys and 100 European boys and give them the same opportunities at school, that such is the application and mental capacity of the Chinese boys that in the matter of prize taking they would come out easily first. The Japanese are the same in their close application to and ease of learning. When in Japan I asked a missionary schoolmaster, who had taught a great number of pupils, what he thought of their aptness in learning. His answer was, that “they were very bright and learned easily, and that in this respect they were quite equal to European and American children.” Now anywhere where the Chinese and Japanese students have competed fairly in schools and colleges in Europe and America they have shown themselves quite equal to their Western compeers. And the Japanese have shown to the world what they are capable of when they fully set their minds to it, and the Chinese will probably soon do the same. Mr. Cheong is actively carrying on his mission work, but of late years he has bought a large fruit farm at Croydon in a beautiful situation, where he now resides with his family, and where they find plenty of hard work to do, and do it. Mrs. Cheong has the features of a Chinese woman, but she works, and speaks, and acts like any good English woman, and is much interested in and devoted to helping in the mission work, teaching English to the Chinese, teaching in the Sunday school, visiting and comforting the sick, and other good works. A few months ago I had a rather curious experience with respect to the similarity of the Chinese character and our own. Mr. Cheong had invited Mrs. Cole and myself to come out and visit his homestead. We accordingly went, and remained all day until after dark, when some of the family got the buggy ready to drive us to Croydon station. The driver and my wife got up on to the front seat and I got up on the back one. One young man, whom I thought to be one of the Cheongs, got up beside me. We drove on, but as it was quite dark I could not see his face, and as he went on talking about various things just like an Englishman, I thought I must have been mistaken. “This cannot be a Chinaman; probably it is some Englishman that they have to help them to pick fruit or work on the farm.” I put several questions to him, and these were answered just as an Englishman would answer them, and I positively believed I was talking to an Englishman until we came to a lamp on the station, and then I saw the Chinese features of Joshua Cheong. What he said, the way he said it, and the tone of his voice were exactly English, and after that special and striking experience no amount of prejudice and false reasoning can convince me that there is any radical, natural difference between the intellect of the Chinese and that of the English under the same conditions.

The other Chinaman whom I shall mention as an illustration of the oneness of mankind is Mr. Quong Tart, of Sydney. He was born in Canton in 1850, and died in Sydney in 1903. When quite a child he was brought to New South Wales, and reared in an English family. He was a very social, very benevolent, very popular, and highly-respected man. I once walked with him out to his home at Ashfield, and numbers that we met seemed to know him, and gave him a friendly greeting. He seems to have been universally known and universally liked. I have heard it remarked that, although a Chinaman, he was the best liked man in Sydney. When a robber made a murderous attack upon him in his office two or three years ago, universal sympathy was felt for him, and a number of prominent citizens immediately took in hand the raising of a testimonial, and presented it to him as demonstrative of the great esteem in which he was held. When he died men felt that there was a public loss. A large number of letters and telegrams of sympathy were sent to his widow and family from all ranks and conditions of people, including the State Governor, the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, members of Parliament, judges, heads of public bodies and institutions, etc. His funeral was one of the largest ever seen in Sydney. Many came by special and other trains; great multitudes lined the streets and blocked the railway station, and 1,500 people walked in procession behind the coffin. A great number of floral tributes were sent to lie upon the grave. The press spoke of him in feeling and commendatory terms. The Sydney Daily Telegraph said, “Few names were better known locally or more highly esteemed than that of deceased.” The Sydney Morning Hereld said, “Mr. Tart was in the best sense of the word a good citizen. His assistance was always forthcoming for a good cause. Between the Chinese citizens and the general community he stood as a kind of connecting link, highly respected by both.” The Town and Country Journal said, “No more genuine or wide-spread regret, probably, would be occasioned by the news of the death of any citizen than will be caused by the announcement that Mr. Quong Tart, the popular Chinese merchant, of Sydney, has joined the great majority..... In losing Mr. Tart, Sydney has lost a citizen who always acted up to citizenship in the highest sense of the word.” And now, who was this Mr. Quong Tart? He


  ― 22 ―
was only a Chinaman; but by education and association he had become one of us, and like unto the best of us. He was not an imposing-looking man, he was not a wealthy man, he was not a pretentious man; but he was a sociable, a benevolent, and a worthy man. A good Chinaman, brown in colour it is true, but in intellect, heart, and soul, in no way different from a good white man. The people of Sydney felt this, and they respected, loved, and honoured him accordingly.

previous
next