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1.1. The Chinese Not Understood.

The Chinese have not been fairly appreciated by the western nations, because they have not been understood; they are certainly the least understood of all the great nations of the earth. If all that has been written of them were to be collected into one great work, it would form a very curious and contradictory collection; but through the extreme difficulty of understanding their strange language, religions, manners, customs, laws, and ways of looking at things, more has been written against them than in favour of them. It is only natural that a people, who during the last 4, 000 years, have lived apart from the rest of the world, should evolve or develop a form of civilisation considerably different from our own. This the Chinese have done; and although, in main essentials, the products of the human mind are the same in Christendom and China, yet a great number of minor ideas and variations of detail have grown up, and it is this makes it so difficult at first for us to understand the Chinese or for them to understand us. But eminent, unprejudiced and observant men, who have lived in China for many years, tell us that, repellent as the Chinaman frequently is at first, when you come to know him and understand his way of looking at things, you are frequently astonished at and instructed by his striking and peculiar wisdom. Many of the residents in China will not attempt to try to understand the Chinese, but keep themselves aloof from them, although they make their living and fortunes out of them. On board of an outward-bound steamer, I came across a wealthy lady and her husband, who had lived 37 years in Shanghai, and, thinking this a lucky opportunity to have a good talk about the character of the Chinese, I asked the lady what was her opinion of them. She answered that she knew nothing about them, only that the men made good servants, and the women were good, kind nurses. She had lived 37 years in Shanghai, and yet had never been into the adjoining native city of 300, 000 inhabitants! At Shanghai it is not considered proper for Westerns to visit the native city, and you are warned that if you do so you must not speak of it or let it be known, unless you wish to be shunned by “Society.”

The Hon. Chester Holcombe, in “The Real Chinese Question,” says—“It is easier to call the Chinaman a heathen than to understand him. That he has eyes queerly shaped and located, eats with chopsticks, dresses his hair into a queue, and wears his shirt outside of his trousers, are held, by the large majority of people, to furnish ample grounds for the application of this offensive term. Yet our own ancestors braided their hair and wore it as he does. And the relative arrangement of the garments named is not a matter of either morals, intellect, or religion. Thus the petty abuse of him is largely the result of ignorance.”

The author of “Twelve Years in China, by a British Resident,” says—“On my first arrival in China, thirteen years ago, the contrariety of the native modes of doing anything struck me as most amusing, and a long list of the ‘opposites’ of the Chinese manner and character to ours was soon made out; but on giving deeper study to the subject, there is less reason to be proud of the general superiority of the European means than to feel abashed at our ideas of vaunted perfection.”

Mr. Walton, in “The Chinese and the Present Crisis,” (1900), says—“The more I see of the Chinese the better I like them.”

Mr. John A. Turner, in his account of Hong Kong, (1894), says—“Conspicuous among the virtues of the Chinese we may note their cheerfulness, industry, and temperateness. Dr. Legge says that he thought better of them, morally and socially, when he left them, than when he first went among them thirty years before.”

The Rev. Hudson Taylor, the eminent founder of the enormous China Inland Mission, who has been into every province of China, has 800 white missionaries under him besides great numbers of native ones, who has laboured in this vast field 50 years, and whose experience of the Chinese, in a moral and religious sense, must be greater than that of any other man, has formed a good opinion of them, and in a lecture in Melbourne not long ago, as the result of his long and vast experience, he uttered these emphatic words, “I love the Chinese.”

Rev. E. J. Dukes, in his “Everyday Life in China,” says— “Two things we venture to affirm: first, that the mass of the people will be appreciated the more highly the better they are known; and secondly, that the higher the personal character of the critic, whether


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missionary or layman, the more favourable is his estimate
. There are men of exacting and jaundiced temperament in every class who are never pleased and always suspicious. But almost without exception, as far as our observation has gone, the merchants and others residing in China who live consistent religious lives, are admirers of the Chinese, and the missionaries who are doing their work with the best temper and success are the men who hold the natives in the highest esteem, finding not only much to admire, but even much to love. Only two or three missionaries have we ever known who did not hold the Chinese in general respect; and in the writer's humble judgment it would have been best for the mission cause for those brethren to retire from the field.”

An equally good opinion is held by high political authorities who have had long experience in dealing with the Chinese. Being one day in Walsh and Kelly's book emporium at Yokohama, I asked the manager what he thought of a new book, just published by Sir Robert Hart, on the Chinese. He answered that it had the usual fault of books written by men who had been any length of time in China—it was too favourable to the Chinese; that men who had been long with the Chinese seemed to take the Chinese view of things and write favourably of them. Sir Robert Hart, Sir Claude Macdonald (late British Minister to China), Sir Henry Blake (Governor of Hong Kong), and Sir Frank Swettenham (late Governor of the Straits Settlements), all of whom have great experience and knowledge of the Chinese, are accused of this favourable leaning toward them. Can we have better evidence than this of the sterling value of the Chinese?

The population of Hong Kong consists of about 300,000 Chinese and less than 10,000 English and other foreigners, and Sir Henry Blake has given great offence to “Society” by trying to do justice to the Chinese.

The Rev. J. L. Nevius, in his “China and the Chinese” (1869), says—“General views relating to the Chinese character and civilization, formed in foreign communities in China by those who are unacquainted with the Chinese language, should be received with a great deal of hesitation.… In the open ports, where a large foreign commerce has sprung up, an immense number of Chinese congregate from the interior. Many or most of them are adventurers separated from the restraining influences of their families and from home society, who come to these places to engage in the general scramble for wealth. As it is but too common for foreigners, in their treatment of native servants or employees, to be haughty, harsh, and overbearing, Chinamen of independence and selfrespect generally prefer to be employed by their own people, and are consequently not numerous in the open ports.… The Chinese being every day brought into contact with drunken sailors, swearing sea-captains, and unscrupulous traders from the West, new lessons are constantly learned from them in the school of duplicity and immorality.… Thus the associations and influences of the foreign community tend to deterioration and demoralization. The Chinese of this class are no fitting type of their race, and foreigners who have only associated with them, and that solely through the medium of the ‘Pidgeon-English,’ are very imperfectly qualified to give an opinion from personal experience and observation of the character, morals, and ideas of the people generally.”

The Rt. Rev. Monseigneur Reynaud, Vicar-Apostolic of the District of Thcé-Kiang, in concluding his little book, “Another China,” (1897), says—“Some of our readers may think, after perusing these pages, that I am myself a little bit too much of a Chinaman. Whether this be a matter for praise or reproach, I do not deny that I really love China as my adopted country where I hope to live and die. I found China far more beautiful and better in general than I had ever expected, and in the midst of so many ill-conditioned pagans, I have met with such numbers of simple and honest souls, that my trials and disappointments have been alleviated by much consolation. Few missionaries will contradict this assertion, as China is a land of exile which they love, and which they rarely leave without regret.”

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