previous
next

1.12. Chinese a Kindly People.

The Hon. C. Holcombe, in “The Real Chinese Question,” says—“They are, in the main, kindly and charitable in their relations with each other. The extent to which mutual assistance is rendered among the very poor is remarkable. They are, at least, not behind their fellows in other lands in this regard. They are generous and public-spirited, giving liberally to works of all sorts for the common good. … The weaker side of the Chinaman is that of his good nature. He will resent and refuse a claim or demand, but gracefully yield in the same matter when shaped as a request or a favour.” The Chinese have ever shown themselves a kind sympathetic people in Australia by liberally subscribing to hospitals and other charitable institutions and causes.

Bishop Reynaud, in “Another China,” speaks of the benevolence of the Chinese, of their orphanages, almshouses, asylums for widows, dispensaries, etc., and continues—“There are numbers of dispensaries where patients are treated gratuitously, and druggists' where medicines can be sold to the poor at a cheaper rate, or are given for nothing. In the free schools the children are taught the classics of their country. Coffins, undertakers, and cemeteries, are provided for dead paupers, or strangers, as well as places where the dead can be kept until removed by their relations to their own district. Moreover, men are employed to keep the public cemeteries in good order. Other societies look after travellers, as well as after the lighting, cleansing and paving of streets and high roads; they repair or construct bridges and ferry boats, or build kiosques on a good site, at stated distances, where one can find fresh tea benches, and often magnificent scenery to admire. The poor are never forgotten. At the beginning of winter, the benevolent associations distribute bowls of rice, clothes, and sometimes money. In several places hot rice can be had every day at public stoves. On New Year's Eve at Ning-Po, the leading people of the town assemble the poor in the high street, to give them clothes, rice, and two small rouleaus each in the form of ‘cash.’ Some societies undertake the care of dikes and canals, while others, in fertile seasons, collect quantities of provisions to be sold cheaply in periods of scarcity, and money even is lent without interest, to enable the very poor to gain a livelihood..... These good works prove that there is some feeling of philanthropy among these people, and everywhere the missionaries constantly meet with souls, who, as Tertullian would say, are ‘naturally Christians, since they comprehend the spirit of charity.’ ”

In Corner's “China,” (1853), it says—“The care that is taken to make a provision for the poor in time of need, by laying up stores of grain in every province, constitutes a main feature of the Chinese policy; and, according to the ancient laws, is one of the chief duties of the sovereign, who is enjoined by Confucius, the revered instructor of both the prince and his people, to take care that the lands are cultivated so as to produce the necessaries of life for all; to attend to the fisheries and planting of trees; to be moderate in imposing taxes; to see that the means of instruction are furnished for every class; but above all, to assist the people in times of scarcity, as a father would provide for the wants of his children.”

The Rev. A. H. Smith, in “Chinese Characteristics,” says —“Among the kinds of benevolence which have commended themselves to the Chinese may be named the establishment of foundling hospitals, refuges for lepers and for the aged, and free schools. The vast soup-kitchens, which are set up anywhere and everywhere when some great flood or famine calls for them, are familiar phenomena, as well as the donation of winter clothing to those who are destitute. It is not the Government only which engages in these enterprises, but the people also co-operate in a highly creditable manner, and instances are not uncommon in which large sums have been thus judiciously expended.”

It may be said that we must not call the Chinese a kind people, because of the cruel massacres of the missionaries and native Christians in the Boxer rising. But that class of religious and race massacre has occurred at some time or other in every country of the world. I need not enumerate them, the list would be too long, and the reader will remember many; but these chance and frenzical massacres do not prove the total and everlasting unkindness of any race. In most countries the persecution and slaughtering is generally done by a few mistaken bigots leading on the ignorant mob. But, even during those persecutions, many acts of kindness were shown by the more humane, and now that the deplorable frenzy of the bigots is over, life is as safe in China as it is in Christendom. The following pathetic incident shows kindness in both Chinese man and woman.

Mr. V. P. Ambler, writing from Shansi, China, as reported in “China's Millions,” January 1901, says—“I would like to tell you of one incident which touched me not a little. We saw a little boy at Pao-ting, and Mr. Lowrie told us his story. During the persecution last year many of the dear native Christians were killed and tortured. On one occasion when some of them were going out to be executed, a woman was led out. She had two dear little ones with her, a boy and a girl. The woman was known to be a good woman. One of the Yamen chief chair-bearers, a heathen, was so moved at the sight, that at great risk of his own life, he rushed through the crowd and snatched the children from the mother's arms and


  ― 14 ―
disappeared. Just before the execution of the mother, she made a request. Might she take one look at the face of the man who had taken her children? The man came forward from the crowd. The mother gazed on his face—it was a kind face, and the tears stood in his eyes. The mother was satisfied that her precious children would be safe; now she was ready to die; and soon her spirit went to join those faithful ones who had laid down their lives before her. The children are well, and in Mr. Lowrie's charge; the man was most kind to them.”

All alike are Human, even the Savage Boxer

The following is recorded in “China's Millions,” September 1901, respecting the escape of the missionaries, Mr. and Mrs. C. H. S. Green and their two little children, Vera and John— “Early in August our hiding-place was suddenly surrounded by a band of armed Boxers, and the cries of those children were piteous to hear; they pierced us through and through. When we told them that very soon, perhaps, they would be with Jesus, it seemed to quiet all their fears, and they were quite restful and happy to know that they would go and be with Jesus, Whom they loved. For some unknown reason the men did not kill us, but took us as prisoners to the capital —Pao-t'ing Fu. On the way darling little Vera touched the hearts of those men; she played with them and she talked with them, and they sometimes bought her a piece of watermelon, or a few nuts, or a cake. The Chinese mandarin at Pao-t'ing Fu decided to send us down to Tien-tsin. But we were really handed over to a band of Boxers. However, God had his purpose for us, and he used this darling little child to save our lives. She had won the hearts of those people. They made us leave the boat and get on the bank, and as we stopped on the bank this dear child turned round, and in her Chinese way, put her little hands together and gave them a Chinese bow and thanked them. What did we see? Why we saw tears roll down the cheeks of the head Boxer of all, and the boats glided by and we were left standing on the bank of the river.”

The Rev. J. Macgowan, in “Pictures of Southern China, says—“There is much that we do not admire in the Chinese, but there is far more that we do. They are a kind-hearted, and, in the country districts at least, a simple-minded people. The true way to test this is to live amongst them, but especially to travel with them. It has been our good fortune to do both, and we can distinctly declare that the vague and grotesque ideas which we had formerly entertained of the Chinese have vanished, and that now we regard them with a warm and friendly feeling, which no lapse of time will ever be able to obliterate. In the many journeys we have made into the interior we have found, as a rule, that the men engaged to accompany us have not only turned out to be full of kindly sympathies, but also intensely loyal in the way they have discharged their duties. They had often to perform the most laborious services, sometimes under a burning sun, frequently along roads that it was a pain to travel; but no word of complaint and no grumbling, except in a quaint and humorous way, would be heard from them. Our comfort and happiness were the things that seemed supreme in their minds, and it appeared to matter little what should happen to themselves, when they should get their meals, or where retire to rest. Their one prevailing thought was for us, and how we should be secured from anything that would add to our discomfort.”

Of course many special acts of Chinese kindness could be given. I will quote a couple. Mr. J. A. Turner, in his “Kwang Tung” (1894), says—“That the Chinese are capable of generosity also was shown in 1891, when it was found that a coolie in Shanghai had kept in his house, for ten years, a foreigner named Thomas Marshall, who was an ex-journalist and paralysed, sharing with him his food, and taking him out for rides in his rickshaw, till he died. After inquiry into the truth of these facts, the foreign community made a subscription to set him up in business.”

The following is from the Argus of June 13th, 1904:—“The maligned Chinese.—Speaking yesterday at a Pleasant Sunday Afternoon meeting, held at Collingwood Town-hall, in aid of Dr. Singleton's dispensary, Senator M'Gregor related an experience which rendered it impossible for him to feel any animosity towards the Chinese at least. In 1878 he nearly lost his eyesight, as the result of being struck by the branch of a falling tree in the South Australian bush. He was unable to do anything for himself, being practically blind, and he found it necessary to take a steamer to Adelaide to secure hospital treatment. There were 11 white and one Chinese passenger on board, and the Chinese was the only man who took the slightest notice of him. He gave the invalid every care and attention..... Senator M'Gregor described how the Chinese had taken him to the hospital, refusing any recompense, but contenting himself with the remark, ‘No; me no want money. When you see my countlyman all same like you are now, you do all same to him. That all lightee.’ ‘We have no feelings of animosity towards coloured aliens,’ concluded Senator M'Gregor. ‘What we do, we do because we think it is in the interests of the community and of these people themselves.’ ” These are the words of a Senator bound to the White Australia policy, yet the fact remains that the Chinaman was the kindest man of them all; but even the Senator would exclude his good Samaritan's countrymen from this vast country as undesirabies.

The following pathetic episode is related in a little serial entitled “The Philistine,” issued in America, 1904—“In San Francisco lived a lawyer, age, say sixty—rich in money, rich in intellect—a business man with many interests. This lawyer resided in his bachelor apartments, with a Chinese servant named ‘Sam.’ Sam and his master had been together for fifteen years. The servant knew the wants of his employer as though he were his other self; no orders were necessary. If there was to be company—one guest, or a hundred—Sam was told the number, that was all, and everything was provided. This servant was cook, valet, watchman, friend. No stray, unwished-for visitor ever reached the master to rob him of his rest when at home. If extra help was wanted, Sam secured it; he bought what was needed; and when the lawyer awakened in the morning, it was to the singing of a tiny music box with a clock attachment, set for seven o‘clock. The bath was ready; a clean shirt was there on the dresser, with studs and buttons in place; collar and scarf were near; the suit of clothes desired, hung over a chair; the right pair of shoes, polished like a mirror, were at hand, and on the mantle was a half-blown rose, with the dew still upon it, for a buttonaire; down stairs, the breakfast, hot and savory, awaited. When the good man was ready to go to his office, silent as a shadow stood Sam in the hallway, with overcoat, hat and cane in hand. If the weather was threatening, an umbrella was substituted for the cane; the door was opened, and the master


  ― 15 ―
departed.—When he returned at night, on his approach, the door swung wide.—Sam never took a vacation; he seemed not to either eat or sleep. He was always near when needed; he disappeared when he should. He knew nothing, and he knew everything. For weeks, scarcely a word might pass between these two men, they understood each other so well.— The lawyer grew to have a great affection for his servant. He paid him a hundred dollars a month, and tried to devise other ways to show his gratitude, but Sam wanted nothing, not even thanks. All he desired was the privilege to serve.—But one morning as Sam poured his master's coffee, he said quietly, without a shade of emotion on his yellow face: ‘Next week I leave you.’ The lawyer smiled. ‘Next week I leave you,’ repeated the Chinaman; ‘I hire for you better man.’ The lawyer set down his cup of coffee—he looked at the white-robed servant—he felt the man was in earnest. ‘So you are going to leave me—I do not pay you enough, eh? That Dr. Sanders who was here—he knows what a treasure you are. Don't be a fool, Sam; I'll make it a hundred and fifty a month —say no more!’ ‘Next week I leave you—I go to China,’ said the servant impassively. ‘Oh, I see; you are going back for a wife—all right, bring her here—you will return in two months! I do not object; bring your wife here—there is work for two to keep this place in order—the place is lonely, anyway. I'll see the Collector of the Port myself and arrange your passage papers.’ ‘I go to China next week—I need no papers—I never come back,’ said the man, with exasperating calmness and persistance. ‘By God, you shall not go!’ said the lawyer. ‘By God, I will!’ answered the Chinaman. It was the first time in all their experience together that the servant had used such language, or such a tone towards his master. The lawyer pushed his chair back, and after an instant, said, quietly: ‘Sam, you must forgive me, I spoke quickly—I do not own you—but tell me, what have I done— why do you leave me this way, you know I need you?’ ‘I will not tell you why I go—you laugh.’ ‘No, I shall not laugh.’ ‘You will.’ ‘I say, I will not!’ ‘Very well: I go to China to die!’ ‘Nonsense, you can die here. Haven't I agreed to send your body back, if you die before I do?’ ‘I die in four weeks, two days!’ ‘What!’ ‘My brother, he in prison. He twenty-six; I fifty. He have wife and baby. In China, they accept any man of same family instead to die. I go to China, give my money to my brother—he live, I die!’ The next day, a new Chinaman appeared as servant in the lawyer's household. In a week, this new servant knew everything, and nothing, just like Sam. Sam disappeared, without saying good-bye. He went to China and was beheaded, four weeks and two days from the day he broke the news of his intent to go. His brother was set free. And the lawyer's household goes along about as usual, save when the master calls for ‘Sam,’ when he should say ‘Charlie’; then there comes a kind of clutch at his heart, but he says nothing.”

If a man in China is condemned to die, the law allows any male of his family who may offer himself to be substituted for him. The above is one of the instances of this brotherly self-sacrifice. Now, I hold, that the people who are capable of such acts of heavenly principle and devotion as this are equal to any on earth, and that it is unfair, inhuman, and unwise to reject and revile them because their features, and colour, and manners, and language, and religion, etc., (the product of a different environment) are somewhat different from our own.

previous
next