previous
next

1.7. Chinese a Peaceable and Law Abiding People.

Mr. Julian Thomas, speaking of Northern China, says— “Never, amongst people claiming the highest civilization, have I seen country life more calm, peaceful, and prosperous, Village life in Northern China appears as happy as anywhere in the world.”

The Author of “The Inhabitants of the World,” says— “Personal violence is very rare among them, whether in private or in public. The fact is, the people in general take an interest in preventing it, and do not remain callous lookers-on or pass by on the other side when a quarrel is proceeding.”

Rev. E.J. Dukes in his “Everyday Life in China,” says, “The Chinaman loves peace and quietness, and is singularly gentle. He shrinks from beginning a quarrel of his own, and stands in terrible fear of being mixed up in those of his neighbours. The ‘Three Happinesses’ are long life, wealth, and a family of sons. If he is allowed to earn his living quietly, and to bring up a family who in their turn will provide for him, he is perfectly content. The average Chinaman is remarkably temperate and moderate in his habits and opinions. Centuries and millenniums of very fair ethical instruction, especially in the duty of sobriety in act and word (the favourite exhortation of Confucius and his followers), have done as much for the


  ― 10 ―
Chinese as could be expected. Geniality, good temper, sociability, affectionateness, and hospitality are characteristic of the mass of the people. One is constantly struck with the freedom from constraint among them. A merrier, more jovial and contented people do not exist under heaven.”

Mr. Joaquin Miller, speaking of the Chinese in California, says— “In conclusion, let me say I never saw a drunken Chinaman. I never saw a Chinese beggar. I never knew, or heard of, a lazy one. I sat as County Judge of Grant County, Oregon, for four years, where the miners had sold out to the Chinese to such an extent that the larger half of the mining properties were Chinese. Yet in all that time there was not one criminal case involving a Chinaman, and but one civil one, and in the latter case a white man was finally indicted by his fellow-citizens for perjury.”

The Venerable Archdeacon A.E. Moule (a China missionary of 30 years), in his “New China and the Old,” speaking of the inhabitants of Shanghai, 1891, says— “The order in the densely-crowded streets is singularly good, cases of drunkenness and riotous assault being unfortunately confined for the most part to European or American sailors on leave from the ships in port.”

Mr. G. Tradescant Lay, author of “The Chinese as They Are,” (1841), says— “Social feeling, or good humour, mildness of disposition, and a good natured propensity to share in the mirth and hilarity of others, are seen wherever we meet with a company of Chinese. We behold shops as we pass crowded with workmen, ofttimes pursuing different occupations, in perfect harmony with each other. We take a passage on board their junks, and we see that, whether at work or play, in dressing their food, or sharing a meal, a good understanding prevails. If argument, or a contested point of right, awaken a storm of voices, it is soon blown over; the discord ceases, and all is peace again. To live in society is the meat and drink of a Chinaman; in a company of his fellows he is something,— by himself, nothing.”

Hon. Chester Holcombe, in his “Real Chinese Question,” says— “In point of fact, the Chinese are governed less than almost any nation in the world. So long as they pay their taxes, and violate none of the requirements of the moral code they are not disturbed by the authorities. A thousand and one official inspections, interferences; and exactions, common everywhere in America and Europe, are quite unknown in China. Some of them might, perhaps, be wisely introduced, but the Chinaman has never been guided, vexed, or harassed by them. He is, by nature and education, obedient to law and fond of good order. The teachings of Confucius, and the sacred edicts of the wise Emperor, Kang Hsi, both taught everywhere and to every subject, have had an immense and valuable influence in this direction. In evidence of the law-abiding disposition of the Chinese, let the fact be noted that, in the face of an intense and universal anti-foreign feeling, foreigners have for many years travelled alone and unprotected into every part of the empire, and have, almost invariably, met with politeness, civility, and kind treatment. If a correspondingly bitter hatred of Chinese existed in the United States, how long, and to what extent, would it be prudent or safe for any of them to roam through our large cities and rural communities? Another fact, not sufficiently well recognized, furnishes evidence in the same direction. The Chinese immigrants to this country belong almost exclusively to the lowest class of their people, and are familiarly described, in their own land, as being, each, ‘half fisherman and half pirate.’ Yet a careful examination of the criminal and police records of any city in the United States will show a smaller percentage of disorderly Chinese —smaller in proportion to the total number of residents of that race— than of any foreign nationality which is to be found amongst us.”

The Rev. A. H. Smith, a missionary of twenty-two years' standing, in his “Chinese Characteristics,” says— “One of the many admirable qualities of the Chinese is their innate respect for law. Whether this element in their character is the effect of their institutions, or the cause of them, we do not know. But what we do know is that the Chinese are by nature and by education a law-abiding people. Reference has been already made to this trait in speaking of the national virtue of patience. .....We must confess to a decided conviction that human life is safer in a Chinese city than in an American city— safer in Pekin than in New York. We believe it to be safer for a foreigner to traverse the interior of china than for a Chinese to traverse the interior of the United States. ..... It is after the preliminary paroxysms of ch'i have had opportunity to subside, that the work of the ‘peace-talker’ —that useful factor in Chinese social life—is accomplished. Sometimes these most essential individuals are so deeply impressed with the necessity of peace, that even when the matter is not one which concerns them personally, they are willing to go from one to the other making prostrations now to this side and now to that, in the interests of harmony. ..... But generally speaking, every Chinese lawsuit calls out upon each side the omnipresent peace-talker, whose services are invaluable. Millions of lawsuits are thus strangled before they reach the fatal stage. In a village numbering a thousand families, the writer was informed that for more than a generation there had not been a single lawsuit, owing to the restraining influence of a leading man who had a position in the yamên of the District Magistrate.… It is the peaceable quality of the Chinese which makes him a valuable social unit. He loves order and respects law, even when it is not in itself respectable. Of all Asiatic peoples, the Chinese are probably the most easily governed, when governed on lines to which they are accustomed. Doubtless there are other forms of civilisation which are in many or in most respects superior to that of China, but perhaps there are few which would sustain the tension to which Chinese society has for ages been subject, and it may be that there is none better entitled to claim the benediction once pronounced upon the peace-makers.”

The author of “Cassell's Peoples of the World,” says— “The peaceful and orderly character of the Chinese is most remarkable. Whatever the faults of the system of government may be, it has, at all events, as Montesquien remarked, had the power of making ‘mild and gentle dispositions, of maintaining peace and good order, and of banishing all the vices which spring from an asperity of temper.’ There is not a more good-humoured people on the face of the earth than the Chinese, nor a more peaceable one. These qualities are all inculcated by their rulers; and in the sixteen lectures periodically delivered to the people there is one ‘On Union and Concord among Kindred,‘another ‘On Mutual Forbearance,’ and a third ‘On Reconciling Animosities.’ ..... In every department of the Government of China, the civil power is also considered superior to the military;


  ― 11 ―
without this there could be no free or good government. The pen in China, if not more powerful, is yet more respected than the sword; letters always go before arms, so that the ambition of a Chinese runs in a very peaceful channel.”

During the last 50 years the convictions per thousand of the Chinese in Australia have been less than half those of the white people, and lately a good number of these convictions have been for the newly-invented CRIME OF INDUSTRY.

The making of one Chinaman “a factory” and some of our other prejudiced laws are about equally strange and funny with some of the American laws about the removing of Chinese remains, satirized by the humourist as follows:—

previous
next