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1.6. Chinese a Sober People.

The Chinese are one of the most sober peoples on the face of the earth. I don't think that among all the many thousands of Chinamen I have seen in my life, I ever saw a drunken one.

Mr. E. H. Parker, in his work on “China” (1901), says— “Temperance in self-supply is a Chinese virtue; in that respect we are inferior to them in even a disgusting degree. Drunkenness is so rare, that it is not regarded as a vice at all, but rather as good form, to get tipsy at a feast..... Strong drink is sometimes disapproved of in political or economic philosophy because it causes anger, and a waste of good grain; never because men get drunk.”

Mr. Cobbold, in his “Pictures of the Chinese at Home” (1860), says—“China is emphatically a sober country; though her wine is cheap, sound, and good, though there is no tax upon it, and no restriction whatever in its sale or manufacture, though nearly all persons, both men and women, of all classes, freely use it, but few comparatively drink to excess. A drunkard reeling through the streets—which is a very common disfigurement of life in our cities—is a rare sight, even in her great seaport towns. During a residence of many years, at one of these seaports, I can only call to mind a very few instances of intoxication.”

Mr. Moris A. Winter, in his “North China” (1892), says— “There is no visible drunkenness in the interior of China; in the parts, at least, I have visited I have not seen a drunken man. I have scarcely seen a Chinaman taking anything stronger than the weakest of weak tea or hot water. The Chinese never think of drinking cold water.”

The Rev. E. J. Dukes, in his “Everyday Life in China,” says—“Few Christians realise as they should the effect produced upon the minds of intelligent heathen visitors to our shores by what they are obliged to witness in our large towns. In their innocence, the kindly supporters of missions think that it must do the ‘poor heathen’ so much good to come to England and see how much better we are than they. Would that it were possible for them to be so impressed! But these same ‘poor heathen’ are too often shocked by what they see and hear. The misery of the poor, the foulness of the slums, the number of murders recorded in our newspapers, the blazoning of licentiousness upon our streets, the prodigious figures of the ‘national drink bill’, and the number of drunkards,—these things startle and amaze the heathen who come to England believing it to be an example for the world! The attachés of the Chinese Embassy have expressed themselves on these points as strongly as their politeness will allow. A well-known missionary and scholar asked Ambassador Kwoh what he thought of England. He replied, ‘It is a fine country, and your people are very ingenious, but their immorality is very lamentable; it is a pity they have not become possessed of right principles; vice is very common in many forms; I cannot admire the low standard of propriety and goodness which characterizes your great country.’ That is the opinion formed of us by a man we call a heathen! In continuing the conversation the learned missionary was obliged to confess that he had seen more drunken men in walking from a railway station in a certain northern city to the steamer quay than drunken Chinamen during thirty years' residence in China..... Notwithstanding all their faults, we are weary of hearing them defamed, ridiculed, and underrated by persons who have gathered their information from the idle tattle of sailors who have looked at crowds of dirty coolies at the ports of China, or have conversed with merchants and others who never knew a sentence of Chinese, and never entered a town or village if they could help it; or, what is worse, have been misled by statements of the ‘hoodlums’ and American ‘politicians and carpet-baggers’ of San Francisco. Over against every vice with which we can charge the Chinamen, we can bring a counter-charge against large masses of our own countrymen. Thank God, we do not lie so much, nor do we smoke opium, nor treat our women badly; but we have among us a hundred thousand known drunkards, besides all the secret tipplers.”

Louis Figuier, in his “Human Race,” referring to the Chinese, says—“Drunkenness, as understood in Europe, is one of the least of their vices. The use of grape wine was forbidden, centuries ago, by some of their emperors, who tore up all the vine-trees in China. This interdiction having been taken off under the Manchu dynasty, grapes are grown for the use of the table.”

In the same way, about seventy years ago, an emperor of China attempted to stamp out the use of opium as a growing curse to the people, and ordered two million pounds worth to be thrown into the sea. This led to a terrible war with Great Britain, who, on behalf of her merchants in Europe and India, was interested in a continuance of the trade. From that time to the present, about 400 million pounds worth of opium has been sent from India into China, but, of late years, the Chinese, seeing that they could not stop the foreign importation of the man-tempting poison, are growing it in considerable quantities themselves.

Respecting the production and use of all the chief stimulants and narcotics used by man throughout the world, of which alcohol, tobacco, opium, and tea are the four principal, I beg to refer the reader to the appendix at the end of this book.

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