previous
next

1.4. Testimonies to Intelligence.

Hon. Chester Holcombe in “The Real Chinese Question,” says:—“The Chinaman has strongly developed reasoning faculties. He has his own ideas, and is quite fond of searching down to the bottom of things. Among the educated and official classes of the Chinese there is found as high an average of logical and reasoning ability as elsewhere in the world.”

Mr. J. W. Robertson-Scott, in “The People of China” (1900), says—“No doubt Europe has much to teach the Chinese in the art of war, in pure science, and in mechanical and other arts. But apart from these, which the Chinese people do not consider as necessaries of life, Europe cannot teach them much; while it has something to learn from them. Their code of ethics is as high as ours, and their system of local government (by parish councils) had, until the first intrusion of Europeans, a durability which every Western nation must admire and envy.”




  ― 5 ―

Mr. W. H. Medhurst, Her B. M.'s Consul at Shanghai in 1872, said—“There is no more intelligent and manageable creature than the Chinaman, so long as he is treated with justice and firmness, and his prejudices are to a reasonable extent humoured.”

The Rev. Dr. Condit in his “Chinaman as we see Him, and Fifty Years of Work for Him,” quotes the Rev. Dr. Platt as follows—“We have much to learn from this potent, painstaking people, and this wondrous juxtaposition of the two great races has a double mission involved in it. We are not dealing with a dull, stupid, besotted people, but with a keen, energetic, intellectual race, and whatever differences of opinion may exist in regard to the social or civil aspects of the questions involved in this commingling of the nations, there can be but one opinion in reference to the industrial and educational tendencies of the Mongolian mind.”

“Hutchinson's Living Races” (1901), says—“Common sense and practicality are strongly developed traits in the character of the people. The Chinaman thinks nothing is worthy of serious regard but that which is visibly useful or materially beneficial. His arts and sciences, his poems and romances, his religions and philosophies, all revolve around and minister to the needs and pleasures of his daily life. On a given solid base the Chinese will produce astonishing results, giving proof of tireless industry, ingenuity and perseverance.”

One writer says—“Another point in regard to the Chinese is the powerful memory produced in them by hard labour at the learning of the language and classics through countless generations. One traveller met a native telegraphic clerk who could instantly give the word indicated by any one of the 10,000 numbers, each of four figures, in the Chinese telegraphic code!”

Rev. Gilbert Reid, in “Peeps into China” (1888), says—“The Chinese have unsurpassed memories, and many pupils in the Mission schools can recite most of the New Testament.”

The Rev. A. H. Smith, in “Chinese Characteristics,” says —“It is due to the instinct of economy that it is generally impossible to buy any tool ready-made. You get the parts in a ‘raw’ shape, and adjust the handles, etc., yourselves. It is generally cheaper to do this for one's self than to have it done, and as every one takes this view of it, nothing is to be had ready-made..... There are none which make insignificant materials go further than the Chinese. They seem to be able to do almost everything by means of almost nothing, and this is a characteristic generally of their productions, whether simple or complex. It applies as well to their iron-foundries, on a minute scale of completeness in a small yard, as to a cooking-range of strong and perfect draft, made in an hour out of a pile of mud bricks, lasting indefinitely, operating perfectly, and costing nothing..... Taken as a whole, the Chinese seem abundantly able to hold their own with any race now extant, and they certainly exhibit no weakness of the intellectual powers, nor any tendency to such a weakness.”

The Rev. Dr. Allen, from 40 years' direct and extensive experience with the Chinese, said to me—“The Chinese are very clever.—Whatever I have got to do a Chinaman will take it out of my hands and do it better.”

The author of “Twelve Years in China, by a British Resident” (1860), says—“It is most interesting to watch the development of the Chinese character when associated with European affairs. For several years many Chinese have been employed in steamboats as deputy engineers and stokers, and have given great satisfaction, their sobriety and carefulness being quite exemplary. As pilots of steam-boats and foreign-rigged vessels they are excellent; quickly learn sea-terms; and many can ‘handle a vessel’ in first-rate style. Those employed in yachts about the Canton river understand their business so well that full charge is given over to them in regattas. As oarsmen they are second to none, after a little practice; and the style with which some practised crews pull is well worth seeing. In Canton there are several boys who pull sculls in tiny wager boats through a crowded river steadily, and with perfect confidence. As boat-builders, few can equal the Chinese. They will build a racing cutter, or a wager boat, as light and true as Biffin or Searle; the amateurs in Canton getting ‘the lines’ from England, or improving upon them. The boat-house in Canton, before the war with Yeh, had as fine a show of racing-boats as any single establishment in the world. As ship-carpenters, when under foreign superintendence, it would be difficult to find better workmen; and lately, some who have been employed in setting up iron steamers, speedily learnt to perfection the art of riveting..... A ship-captain, who took home some Fokien boatmen as sailors, said, on his return, that they were the best men in his ship. It would be well worth the consideration of Her Majesty's Government to employ Chinese as firemen and supernumeraries in steam-boats while cruising within the tropics on the east side of the Cape of Good Hope. With proper training they would make excellent sailors, and there would be little difficulty in making good soldiers of them. The day may come when China, or a part of it, may undergo the fate of India, and be under the rule of the Anglo-Saxon race, governed by a second East India Company. The opportunity at any rate will not be wanting. Chinese ‘Sepoys’ would astonish the world if well led; and from what we have seen of the bravery of the celestials under plucky leaders, Asia may congratulate herself on the peace-policy of China, for with its teeming millions there would be armies sufficient to rival the conquests of the most ambitious monarchs, especially if science had fair play in China. As assistants to medical men in hospitals, as warehouse-keepers or shopmen, as mechanics, wood-engravers, stewards, and cooks, with proper teaching they become exceedingly useful. With a little looking after they make capital grooms, and will keep a horse in first-rate condition. It would be difficult to find better gardeners, when they have been well-trained, and it would be well worth the attention of the colonists in Australia and New Zealand to get labourers of this kind from China.”

Mr. Harold E. Gorst, in his book “China” (1899), says:— “In constitution he is tougher than any European, and can endure without a murmur fatigue which to an English labourer would be unsupportable and injurious. His skill in various handicrafts makes him capable of learning the most delicate and complicated kinds of machine work with the greatest rapidity and aptitude. The ingenious contrivances commonly used by native artisans have fitted him to readily grasp the more intricate details of European machinery; and the intelligent Chinese mechanic is qualified to became an engineer after an apprenticeship which would be considered astonishingly brief in this country.”




  ― 6 ―

The Rev. J. L. Nevius, in “China and the Chinese” (1869), says:—“The intellectuality of the Chinese is made evident by so many obvious and weighty facts, that it seems strange that persons of ordinary intelligence and information should ever have questioned it. We have before us a system of government and code of laws which will bear favourable comparison with those of European nations, and have elicited a generous tribute of admiration and praise from our most competent and reliable writers. The practical wisdom and foresight of those who constructed this system, are evinced by the fact that it has stood the test of time,.… that it has bound together under one common rule a population to which the world affords no parallel, and given a degree of prosperity and wealth which may well challengs our wonder..... She may well point with pride to her authentic history, reaching back through more than 30 centuries; to her extensive literature, containing many works of sterling and permanent value; to her thoroughly elaborated language, possessed of a remarkable power of expression; to her list of scholars and her proficiency in belles lettres. If these do not constitute evidences of intellectuality, it would be difficult to say where such evidence is to be found, or on what basis we ourselves will rest our claim to intellectual superiority.… There have been but few opportunities of comparing the intellectual capacity of the Chinese with our own..... Only a very small number of the Mongolian race have been educated in our institutions of learning, but they have uniformly acquitted themselves not only creditably but with honour.… Wherever they have had an opportunity to compete with us on the same ground, and with equal advantages, they have shown that the difference between them and us in intellectuality is so slight, if it exists at all, that it does not become us to say much about it.”

Mr. Archibald R. Colquhoun says in “China in Transformation,” (1898)—“The intellectual capacity of the Chinese may rank with the best in Western Countries. Their own literary studies, in which memory plays the important part, prove the nation to be capable of prodigious achievements in that direction..... When pitted against European students in school or college, the Chinese is in no respect inferior to his western contemporaries, and, whether in mathematics and applied science, or in metaphysics and speculative thought, he is capable of holding his own against all competitors. In considering the future of the Chinese race, therefore, we have this enormous double fund of capacity to reckon with—capacity of muscle and capacity of brains; and we have only to imagine the quantitative value of such aggregate of nervous force, when brought into contact with the active spirit and the mechanical and mental appliances of the West, to picture to ourselves a future for China, which will astonish and may appal the world.”

Ratzel, in his “History of Mankind” (1897), says—“It is not denied that among the Chinese one often has to do with wonderfully acute minds endowed with a patience and a capacity for getting to the bottom of things, which in undertakings of a practical kind may often replace creative force. According to Syrski the Chinese rustic, viewed from the practical side, can see farther into things than the European. Statesmen like Elgin or Grant hold that western diplomatists must get into the way of regarding Orientals as their equals.”

China has had many eminent statesmen, but the peculiar conservative and restrictive Government which, in the course of ages, has grown up in that country, has generally discountenanced and suppressed native talent. If a man makes a progressive movement in China, he is always liable to be disgraced and punished, and may-be, to lose his head; consequently, if he would succeed at all, he must shape his actions by and within the confines of Chinese conservative and diplomatic methods. This was particularly illustrated in the person of that mighty intellect, Li Hung Chang. He was great, very great, but held down by the incubus of Chinese conservatism and general modes of action. After that great warrior and statesman, General Grant, had travelled round the world, he said to Mr. Young, the late minister to China, “During my travels I have seen four great men, Bismark, Beaconsfield, Gambetta, and Li Hung Chang, and I will not undertake to say that Li is not the greatest of the four.”—And remember, reader, this man was a Chinaman.

previous
next