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1.10. Chinese a Patient People.

Dr. S. Wells Williams, in “The Middle Kingdom” (1883), speaking of the Chinese famine of 1878, says— “When brought to the starving settlements, grain was promptly doled out in exchange for the tickets, and to the lasting credit of the Chinese character it must here be noticed that not a single raid upon the provisions or resort to force in any way has been recorded of these famished multitudes.”

Hon. Chester Holcombe, in “The Real Chinese Question,” says— “The Chinaman is, by nature, quiet, docile, well-behaved, and very much given to the good habit of minding his own business. It is, however, nothing short of dangerous to infer, from the possession of these qualities, that he may be easily forced or driven. No race upon earth can be more stubborn when angered, or aroused to what is believed to be a defence of its rights. Then he is capable of an unlimited, though sometimes passive, resistance. And, at other times,


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he is capable of any amount of determined effort and of self-sacrifice.… With unimportant differences, with greater habit and capacity for the concealment of his preferences and dislikes, the Chinaman is exactly the same sort of man as the American or Englishman would be under like circumstances and conditions. And the hundreds of millions of the race hate and fear all ‘men from the West’ exactly as, and for the same reasons that, would cause us to hate the Chinese were the situation reversed. Only they bear their real and fancied wrongs with greater patience and quietness than we should. Before any person passes sweeping condemnation upon the Chinese, he ought, if he chooses to be fair and just, to apply that wise advice: ‘Put yourself in his place.”

Mr. Harold E. Gorst, in his book “China” (1899), says— “It is a mistake to suppose that the Chinese easily allow themselves to be oppressed. They are long-suffering and patient to a certain point, and possess a great sense of submission to authority. But magistrates cannot make themselves obnoxious to the population in general without drawing upon themselves their active resentment, frequently expressed by acts of violence. Unpopular officials are, in fact, often driven out of their mandarinate by main force.”

The Rev. Charles Gutzlaff (1834) says—“But with all these wants, real or imaginary, the Chinese are a contented people, not destitute of real cheerfulness. Only when their craving appetite cannot be satisfied and the hideous spectre of starvation invades their cottages, do they fall into sullen despair; but so long as they have anything to ea, be it even grass or leaves, they retain their good spirits. The author has often seen them seated around a dish of thin potato soup and a basin of boiled grass, with as great satisfaction as if they partook of the dainties of the royal table.”

Mr. Sheridan P. Read, ex- United States Consul at Tientsin, in “Century Magazine,” October, 1900, says—“He [the foreign merchant in China] need rarely leave his office, as the Chinese merchant cails daily in the hope of getting orders; and although he may not be successful for 6 months, and even at the end of that time the order be only a small one, he never evinces impatience, disappointment, or chagrin, but is a shining example of the ‘try, try again’ rule.”

The Right Rev. H. Potter, in an article on “Chinese Traits and Western Blunders,” in the “Century Magazine,” October, 1900, says—“Chinese imperturbability is surely without its equal. The stolidity of our own native Indians [N. Amer.] has been supposed to be pre-eminent, but anyone who has seen the Chinese in their own land will recognize, I think, another, and, in its way, a much higher quality than this, for ordinarily there is no sullenness in it, but rather a bland and beaming, if often irritating, good nature, which is as fine as it is exasperating.” [After describing the manner in which some Americans threw about a pile of goods they could not get at their own price, even throwing them at the Chinese owner's head, he says] “Through the whole odious scene, the shop-keeper was unmoved, and his placid and serene dignity undisturbed. One who realized what such self-command might easily cost could not but realize also what an element of power it must needs be in the race and people that possessed it.”

The Rev. A. H. Smith, in “Chinese Characteristics,” says— “Among a dense population like that of the Chinese Empire, life is often reduced to its very lowest terms, and those terms are literally a ‘struggle for existence.’ .... It is well for the Chinese that they are gifted with the capacity not to worry, for, taking the race as a whole, there are comparatively few who do not have some very practical reason for deep anxiety. Vast districts of this fertile Empire are periodically subject to drought, flood, and, in consequence, to famine. Social calamities, such as lawsuits, and disasters even more dreaded because indefinite, overhang the head of thousands, but this fact would never be discovered by the observer … That quality of Chinese patience which to us seems the most noteworthy of all, is its capacity to wait without complaint and to bear with calm endurance. It has been said that the true way to test the real disposition of a human being is to study his behaviour when he is cold, wet and hungry. It is in his staying qualities that the Chinese excels the world. Of that quiet persistence which impels a Chinese student to keep on year after year attending the examinations, until he either takes his degree at the age of ninety or dies in the effort, mention has been already made. No rewards that are likely to ensue, nor any that are possible, will of themselves account for this extraordinary perseverance. … It has always been thought to be a powerful argument for the immortality of the soul, that its finest powers often find in this life no fit opportunity for expansion. If this be a valid argument, is there not reason to infer that the unequalled patient endurance of the Chinese race must have been designed for some nobler purpose than merely to enable them to bear with fortitude the ordinary ills of life and the miseries of gradual starvation? If it be the teaching of history that the fittest survive, then surely a race with such a gift, backed by a splendid vitality, must have before it a great future.”

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