previous
next

1.9. Chinese a Cheerful People.

Mr. Pierre Leroy-Beaulieu, in “The Awakening of the East” (1900), says— “They always seem very happy, complain very little, thoroughly enjoy their few pleasures, and apparently absolutely ignore their troubles. This happy spirit of resignation explains why the Chinese, notwithstanding their poverty, are one of the most contented people in the world, and consequently one of the happiest.”

The author of “The Children of China” (1884), says— “The villagers are always happy and contented, unless there is a flood or a famine.”

Ellen F. Clark, in the “Century Magazine,” November, 1896, says— “The Chinese are a merry, fun-loving people, in spite of their general air of indifference in the presence of strangers. They race up and down stairs, sometimes through the streets, on a frolic, every man laughing till he is out of breath, pulling cues, stealing hats, and playing all kinds of practical jokes on one another. ..... Some of the keenest and purest humour and some of the wittiest sallies I have ever heard have fallen from the lips of Chinamen in lower New York.”

Mr. Archibald R. Colquhoun in “China in Transformation” (1898), says— “Every traveller, every one who has had opportunity of observing them, testifies to their unfailing good humour under every kind of discomfort and under the severest bodily toil. Their cheerfulness is undaunted; neither cold or heat, neither hunger or fatigue, has power to depress them, nor does misfortune or natural calamity or sickness provoke them to repine. As Giles says, ‘They seem to have acquired a national habit of looking upon the bright side.’.... Now, to put the merits of such a placid temper on the lowest utilitarian ground, consider what an economy of nervous friction is implied in a working life passed in such a happy frame of mind Is it not alone a source of wealth to the people who possess it?”

The Rev A. H. Smith, in “Chinese Characteristics,” says —“But the terms ‘patience’ and ‘perseverance’ by no means cover the whole field of the Chinese virtues in this direction. We must also take account of their quietness of mind in conditions often very unfavourable to it, and of that chronic state of good spirits which we designate by the term ‘cheerfulness.’ … He is what he calls ‘heaven-endowed’ with a talent for industry, for peace, and for social order. He is gifted with a matchless patience, and with unparalleled forbearance under ills the causes of which are perceived to be beyond his reach. The cheerfulness of the Chinese, which we must regard as a national characteristic, is intimately connected with their contentedness of mind. To be happy is more than they expect, but, unlike us, they are generally willing to be as happy as they can. Inordinate fastidiousness is not a common Chinese failing. They are generally model guests. Any place will do, any food is good enough for them. Even the multitudes who are insufficiently clothed and inadequately fed, preserve their serenity of spirit in a way which to us appears marvellous. An almost universal illustration of Chinese cheerfulness is to be found in their sociability, in striking contrast to the glum exclusiveness so often characteristic of the Anglo-Saxon. One of the main enjoyments of the Chinese seems to be chatting with one another, and whether they are old friends or perfect strangers makes very little difference.… Perhaps it is in time of sickness that the innate cheerfulness of the Chinese disposition shows to most advantage. As a rule, they take the most optimistic view, or, at all events, wish to seem to do so, both of their own condition and of that of others. Their cheery hopefulness often does not forsake them even in physical weakness and in extreme pain. We have known multitudes of cases where Chinese patients, suffering from every variety of disease, frequently in deep poverty, not always adequately nourished, at a distance from their homes, sometimes neglected or even abandoned by their relatives, and with no ray of hope for the future visible, yet maintained a cheerful equanimity of temper, which was a constant, albeit an unintentional, rebuke to the nervous impatience which, under like circumstances, would be sure to characterise the Anglo-Saxon.”

previous
next